Early season progress

A few weeks ago (wow, it was nearly a month ago!), I managed to get out for my first 40-mile ride of the year…and my third ever of that length.

It was a beautiful day, sunny with highs in the 60s or low 70s–perfect riding weather.  So I took advantage of it and headed out, aiming for about 30 miles.  Since my new parking spot (a little park near the trail that lets me ride after classes on weekdays so that I can avoid the roads to The Park at rush hour) results in a ride to Xenia that’s about 14 miles shorter, I decided to do some exploring of the northern section of Xenia-Cincinnati section of the Little Miami trail.

Creekside Trail

This was taken in roughly the same area as one of the pictures in the previous post. Talk about greening up!

Caboose at Xenia Station

Little Miami Trail, heading south from Xenia

I like taking my camera along with me on rides.  It does nothing for my ride time (and average speed, according to my computer!), but I like being able to go back and look at the pictures, as well as exercise my amateur interest in botany.

A violet! One of my favorite flowers.

A somewhat nicer example, probably a mile down the trail from the first.

I have no idea what this is, apart from yellow.

I don't know what these are either, but they like growing in low places in partial sun.

It took me a long time to snap this picture. The wind wouldn't cooperate!


I don't know what this bush is, but I stopped next to it and it turned out to be full of bees. I took this and got out of there as quickly as possible.

I also just like taking pictures of the scenery, and sometimes artsy pictures because I can.

I think this may be the reason for the number of bugs...

Railroad leftovers


Somewhere south of Spring Valley

My temporary riding buddy disappearing into the distance. He turned around later, and on his way back told me to watch out for all the gnats up ahead.

I got a little caught up in the exploring, it seems, and found myself looking for mile markers!  (I no longer use my computer, due to the fact that Creekside pretty much follows the power lines and so I get a lot of interference.) Apparently, the mile markers aren’t painted at regular intervals, so they went from 2.3 to 6 to 8 to 9.5 miles south of Xenia. I told myself I’d turn around at 10.  Well, 10 wasn’t marked. But:

My turnaround point.

Travelling north. Farmland south of Spring Valley.

A stowaway!

Main drag through Spring Valley? This intersection is weird.

Not far from Xenia...but at least ten miles from the car!

Notice how different the light is in that last picture?  I was not expecting the ride to take quite that long.  I ended up stopping at McDonald’s for some quick carbs and what one may consider protein, and yet still had room for Dairy Queen on the way home from the parking lot.  The good news is that I was not horribly sore the next day; I was just sore.

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Hello again…

I’ve just come off the tail end of a really rough quarter.  The good news is that my 4.0 is safe, I made my trainer time goals for December and February (but missed January’s by four hours), and made my downwardly-revised goal of 800 miles for 2011. 2012’s goal: 1000.

I took some time off studying for my finals and went for a little ride…which turned into a 33-miler.  Here are some pictures from my study break:

These were, of course, taken before the arrival of the absurdly early spring…which happened a few days later.

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Indoor Cycling Challenge Update

My progress thus far in the Team Estrogen Indoor Cycling Challenge:

Goal Time: 10 hours

Total as of 12/11/11:  4:07. (41%, approximately)

Days ridden: 8/11

I’ve been trying to mix it up as much as my abdominal muscle will allow. I tried resistance intervals on Saturday (each interval being as long as one Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged episode, for 28 minutes total), and it appears that it isn’t healed enough yet to let me do resistance intervals without pain.  Mostly, I’ve been pushing a relatively low gear for anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour.  I added a 1-leg drill (to both strengthen my left leg and spare my right side a bit) in there today.   I think I’m going to keep doing that, as I know there’s a big discrepancy there…

I’ve been trying to mix my material up too.  It’s generally against my principles to buy Sufferfest or Spinervals or any of the rest of those video training things.  (I’m of the sort that would yell at the TV/computer, saying “See, I’m getting off my bike right now and there’s nothing you can do about it!  Screw you!”  The fact that I’m broke lets me continue in this vein.) That does put me in a pinch as to what to watch/listen to.  I did resistance intervals/climbing practice (before this whole abdominal muscle thing happened) to a playlist on my iPod.  I can do short (15 minutes) gear-pushing workouts to music.  For half-hour workouts, an episode of Dad’s Army, Blackadder, or The Thin Blue Line work reasonably well.  If I want to go longer than that, I think I’m going to stick to watching documentaries.  (Though my 1-hour block was in fact two episodes of Dad’s Army.)  I also found that Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged works nicely for intervals.  I did my resistance intervals on Saturday using it as my watching material, with each interval being the length of an episode (5-7 minutes).   I also used it for part of my workout today: 1 episode warmup, followed by one episode of one-leg drill (alternating 1 min of solely using one leg and one minute of using both, with my right foot clipped out), then a half-hour episode of Dad’s Army.

I’d like to be able to ride outside before the year’s over (or the good weather, whichever comes first), but I’m not confident in my ability not to push too hard upon getting out there, and then having to make my way back home with an angry muscle.  I’m staying inside until that heals.  Unfortunately, riding the trainer is a chore rather than fun.  At least it’s some kind of activity, I suppose, and it’ll make me a stronger cyclist once I get back outside.

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Stash Expansion

Knit Picks had a Cyber Monday sale.  I broke my yarn diet rules and bought more.  I’m justifying it because there are some things I wanted that were discontinued and/or on sale.  Four skeins of lace-weight, and eleven(!) skeins of sock yarn, and two circular needles.


I bought another 2 skeins of Imagination in Wild West (see this post for pictures–the dyelots look pretty close).  I also bought two skeins of the discontinued Munchkin colorway:

Based on the Knit Picks photo, I was not expecting these eye-searing colors.  Ouch.  I’m not sure whether dyeing over them with dilute grape Kool-Aid is the answer: It’ll tone down that red and green, but I’m a little concerned about creating some strange muddy color because of all that yellow.  Clown barf it shall remain, then.

I bought yet another skein of Stroll Handpainted in Tiger (also discontinued).  I have Skew in mind for one, and a second pair of Aquaphobia for the other.  This new one seems to have a lot more brown in it than the first.

I could not get a good picture, for some reason.  I bought some Felici (their self-striping yarn) in two different colors, Rainbow and Chochineal.  Guess which is which.

On the less-crazy side, I bought 2 skeins of plain Stroll Sport. Color: Jackrabbit Heather.

These will become socks for my dad. I think this was the only yarn I bought that wasn’t on sale.


Two skeins of Shadow (100% merino) in Foxtrot Heather, and two skeins of Shimmer (70% baby alpaca, 30% silk) in Sherry.  I have no idea what the Shadow wants to be just yet, but I think the Shimmer is becoming a scarf-sized Clapotis.

Shadow--Foxtrot Heather


A close-up.

The Shimmer, with the alpaca content, is going to work up into a nice, lightweight, warm scarf.  I can’t wait!

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What I’ve been up to: By the Numbers.

I must apologize for not blogging since August 2nd.  I haven’t really been in “writing” mode for various reasons.  I’ll try to post more often. (I promise I have a “food” post in the works as we speak.) Here’s a numerical run-down of what I’ve been up to since I last posted:

  • Sweaters finished: 1
  • Socks finished: 0
  • Additional knitting projects started: 2 (a scarf, and mom’s Christmas present)
  • Graded grad school courses taken: 3
  • A’s received: 3
  • Miles ridden: 424.69
  • Trips to emergency room resulting in missed final exam: 1

And in more detail:

Cycling: I rode 219.76 miles between August 4th and August 28th.  I managed to break my 40-mile mental barrier by riding 44 miles (and spending the last 10 desperately looking for a restroom) on the 11th.  I checked out a new trail, and it turns out I still suck at climbing hills.  I found that I’m finally able to eat while riding and can reach down and grab my water bottle, though actually being able to drink from it and put it back is still beyond me.

Then I moved. Being unfamiliar with the area, my riding was somewhat curtailed, and I’d ride loops (1.5 miles each) around the neighborhood.  This got boring very quickly.    I finally found the bike trail (and it is lovely! Lovely smooth pavement!), but could not make myself get out there to any significant extent.  My combined total for September and October was 62.93 miles.  Yikes.  For some reason (probably the unseasonably nice weather and approaching finals), I managed to get myself into gear in November.  I started the month (quite by accident) by riding 46 miles…after not putting in any significant time on the bike for two months.  I’m not sure how I made it back from Somewhere South of Yellow Springs, OH, but I’m pretty sure I have never been happier to see a McDonald’s.

Graduate school: I must say, I appreciate the ratio of effort to outcome at this new place.  In many ways, despite being graduate school, I don’t feel it’s that much harder than undergrad.  The evening classes, however, are horrible.  The quarter system was a bit of a shock–I’m used to semesters.  The quarter system means more work when classes are in session, but you get longer breaks.  Being a grad student, though, I don’t get a break, because I’m supposed to be in the lab.  My new advisor, however, is pretty laid back about when we come in.  We’re actually mostly cleaning the lab right now.  (Actually, my new advisor is pretty awesome all around…much better than my last stint in a lab.)

The intersection of grad school and cycling: Cycling is the best stress relief I have ever encountered.  It requires you to focus on the immediate: The car at the intersection ahead, the stick in the road, what gear you need to be in to take on that hill.  Your concentration needs to shift outward, rather than on whatever thoughts have been crowding your head.  When there aren’t cars or sticks or hills (or even when there are), the endorphin release and the sun on your skin do wonders for your mood–not to mention the self-esteem boost from completing a hard ride.

It was with this last goal in mind–the self-esteem boost–that I went out on a reasonably warm, but cloudy and very windy Sunday before my one written final.  I sprinted between windbreaks (in the form of tree-lined sections), spending much of my time in a high gear to feel stable in crosswinds.  Apparently, this resulted in damaging an abdominal muscle.  I rolled over Tuesday morning (exam day) and must have damaged it further, because I ended up spending two hours in horrible pain, and another five in the emergency room waiting for the doctors to tell me whether or not I had gallstones.  I came back with a splitting headache, and in no fit state to take the final.

The professor was very good about it (even if he DID tell the whole class that I was in the ER). (It was funny and sweet how concerned most of the department was…since everyone seemed to know about it!)  I took the exam that Friday, and everything was good.  Straight A’s.

It turns out I re-strained it (or something) on a post-Thanksgiving ride.  This means I’m off the outside bike and will have to put the bike on the trainer for the time being.  Just as well–for the month of December I’m participating in an indoor cycling challenge. My goal is ten hours of trainer time.  Much of that will be gentle spinning or one-legged drills to strengthen my left leg (as well as to spare the injured muscle on my right side).

Will my attention span (and a certain muscle) let me get to that goal?  Only time shall tell…

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July…will August be better?

I started July with a goal of 200 miles for the month. I know there are people who ride that in a week, but that’s plenty for me right now. Thanks to the heat wave, bike maintenance issues (but I now have a new bottom bracket!) and a lack of transportation (and the fact that my neighborhood has zero shade), I revised that to “let’s just try to beat last month’s mileage.” That didn’t happen either. I ended the month with a total of 150. My rides this month were shorter, and there were some weeks I didn’t ride. Hopefully August will be a little kinder to me, with no emergency bike surgery and slightly less horrible weather.

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June…on to July!

Total miles for June: 162.  Longest ride: 34.  Shortest: 3. What I learned this month: Riding in high humidity is not fun, especially if you’re riding somewhere without shade.  (That was my three-mile ride.  I tootled around my neighborhood for a little bit and went home.)  Riding in the rain, however, is actually more fun than you’d think.  Cleaning the bike afterward, less so.  If I’m going to continue to ride in the rain, I need new tires.  (Well, Shannon took care of that for me.  Thank you!)  Finally, a new saddle can make a world of difference.  I can take my hands off the bars, which is something I have never been able to do up until now.  I’m still not at a point where I can grab water bottles or take things out of my jersey pockets, but I’m slowly gaining confidence. This is the first year I’ve put some serious miles on the bike, and even so, I’m still really at a mid-first season level in terms of mileage.  I’m still in the neighborhood of 20-30 miles.  Right now I’m a little unwilling to do too much (since I burned myself out last year), and since I got a new saddle, my knees have been somewhat unhappy for the first few miles.

My goal is 200 for July.  Let’s see if I can manage it.


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