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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Rain: More fun than you’d think

This is a somewhat late ride report (ride was June 24th), but I’m combining it with my July 2nd ride, because they’re on a similar topic.

When I left my house to head to the bike trail, it was partly cloudy and relatively cool.  The forecast was calling for scattered showers, but the radar was clear.  I rode south on the trail, with the intent of doing 30 miles (thirteen going south, then turning around and riding 15 miles north, then doing the two miles south back to the car).  It was gradually becoming more overcast, though it does this fairly often and doesn’t actually rain.  I wasn’t so lucky.  I was probably 8 miles down the trail when it started raining.  At first it was a sprinkle, which I rode through, but gradually turned into a heavy shower.  Now, I had never ridden in rain up until this point, and was not sure my dry-only (as suggested by the manufacturer) tires could handle this.  I contemplated turning around, but decided that the best course of action would be to get to the trailhead that marks my turn-around for 24-mile rides and wait out the rain at the picnic shelter.

When I got there, I was rather…wet.  And very glad I’d bought the Castelli Prologo jersey with the black body rather than the white one!  Unfortunately, this particular jersey has a white stripe up the center, and I don’t have fenders, so the “rooster tail” from the rain got my jersey rather dirty.  Could have been much, much worse.  (Never mind the unfortunate display that might have resulted from a wet white jersey.)  My back was wet (I’m pretty sure I voided the warranty on my cell phone), my shorts were wet, my shoes were wet, and my socks were wet.    While under the picnic shelter drying out, I took the opportunity to rearrange my seat bag so I could fit my cell phone in it.   I think I was there for five or ten minutes before it finally let up.  When I left, instead of turning around, I decided to finish my intended ride, or at least the initial 26 miles of it.

The mile-long section of trail south of this point has an S-shaped curve in it, followed by a concrete-paved bridge (rather than asphalt).  I don’t particularly like this section of trail, even in dry weather.  The curve is a little tighter than I like, necessitating checking to see if anyone’s coming in the opposite direction, then riding in the middle of the trail at 9mph.  This was even less fun in the rain, but I survived.  It cleared up a bit as I headed north from my turn-around point, but clouded up again as I arrived back at the parking lot.  I stopped for a bathroom break, and by the time I got back out, it was raining– heavily–again.  I spent about ten minutes under a tree chatting with another cyclist while we waited for the rain to ease up.  It slowed to a shower, and we both decided that it looked like it was going to stop in the next few minutes, so we headed out in opposite directions.

It didn’t stop.  I was planning on only riding two more miles up to get in my four for a total of 30, but on this particular section of north-bound trail, my bike computer picks up some major interference, so it has a tendency to underestimate my mileage.   Since I couldn’t see the mile markers painted on the trail, I just rode up to the next major intersection and turned around.    Southbound, my computer is accurate for some reason, and I can simply do some mental math to figure out how far I rode.   It turned out I had ridden an extra four miles, for a total of 34.  On this last leg, it rained for all but the last mile…and then I got dripped on by all the trees lining the trail.  By the time I got back, I was freezing.  I stripped off my shoes and socks at the car and changed into my spare shoes, then bought myself a pulled pork sandwich and potato salad from one of the restaurants nearby.  I also picked up a latte from the Starbucks on the way home to warm me up…having the heating on in the car helped too!

All in all, apart from the wet chamois, it was actually a lot of fun.  My tires held up better than I expected in the rain, but if I were to make a habit of this, I’d have to get new tires.  The Kriteriums don’t shed water fast enough for my liking.  I backed off a bit on speed, which is probably a good thing, but kept up a pretty good pace. I think I might also need some better clothing.   I was freezing in a regular jersey.  One of these days, I might buy a nice wool one, since wool retains its warmth even when wet.

I got another chance to ride in the rain on July 2.  It was my bike’s “birthday” ride (I bought her on July 2, 2009, you see), and I took her out for a 24-mile ride.  It was horrendously humid when I got out (7:30am).  I was on my way home when it started drizzling–just a few drops at first.  I probably would have missed most of it had I not had to stop to tweak my saddle.  I did have a nice conversation with a few people who were heading out for their ride while I did so, though.  It got steadily heavier, but certainly wasn’t nearly as bad as my first rain ride.  I made the mistake, again, of wearing a jersey with a lot of white on the back.  Hello dirt!  (Luckily, it came out.)

I had to clean the bike after that ride, though.   (I didn’t clean her after my July 2nd ride because she is now at the bike shop with a creaky bottom bracket.)  Well, I left it until that Sunday, since I used it as a recovery day.  Unlike my last attempt at cleaning the bike, I have figured out the secret to using the Park Tool chain cleaner, so it was somewhat less messy.  And she’s all pretty and shiny again! (Except the chain rings.  I don’t think there’s a good way to clean them without taking them off, and that’s beyond my skills at this point.*) Here’s the pretty and clean and shiny bike:

This never happens.  (Though it might happen somewhat more frequently now that I’m riding more often…and will presumably get caught in the rain a few more times!)

*Well, I could probably take them off.  Getting them back on (in a manner that renders the bike rideable) is a different thing all together…

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Memorial Day Weekend Ride: The report–with pictures!

My riding this year has been somewhat curtailed by the more-than-typical Cincinnati weather.  We had a very wet and cool spring that suddenly got very hot.  I’m not very heat-tolerant at all.  If it would stay below 80F year-round, I’d be happy.  Memorial Day weekend was in the 90s, and while it was a good opportunity to get some riding in, I had to get up early to be able to take advantage.

My plan was originally to ride 15-20 miles Saturday, then take Sunday off (or take a very short ride around the neighborhood), then follow on Monday with a longer ride.  That didn’t happen.  My sister called home and asked to be picked up on Friday.  Turns out that the poor thing had bronchitis.  She spent Friday night at home, keeping my mom and I awake with her coughing.  (My dad, of course, was blissfully asleep through the whole thing.)  I probably got about three hours of sleep when my alarm went off.  I shut it off and went back to sleep for an hour.   I decided against riding on the trail due to parking concerns (and the heat on the way home), and rode around the neighborhood for a little bit, spending a lot of that time fiddling with my bike computer.  I didn’t ride Monday, either, because I felt lazy.  (I’m allowed, right?)

I did, however, slip in an ~24-mile ride on Sunday morning.  After a harrowing drive there (impatient driver on a twisting road in deep shade), I got out of the parking lot at 7:30.  I did manage to make myself ride over the railroad tracks again, and confirmed that it isn’t a comfortable experience.  There were twigs all over the place from a week of large thunderstorms.  I’m surprised there weren’t larger branches!  It started out cool, but warmed up fast.  I wound up splashing water on my upper arms to keep cool–on the first half of the ride! (Very effective, by the way.)  I also found that oatmeal is not a good pre-ride meal.  It doesn’t get into my system fast enough.

As one can imagine, there were quite a number of people out, from the spandex-clad racer types, to more casual spandex-wearers like myself, and plenty of people who have no desire to imagine themselves in spandex.  There were also plenty of joggers and dog-walkers out.  Since this is a terminally polite city, most people are nice about giving you space, provided you give them a heads-up.

Around mile 11, I had an encounter with a deer.  It had probably been spooked by people behind it, and as I came around a corner it came running toward me.  I stopped.  It stopped and we stared at each other for a second like, well, deer in headlights.  Then a pair of cyclists came from behind it and it fled into the trees.  I got hit by a tiny blue butterfly, I had a tiger swallowtail as a riding buddy for a bit (it decided I was a good salt source, I guess). All in all, good ride.  I hit up Starbucks on the drive home for some quick caffeine and sugar. 😀

Unlike my other rides, I took my camera with me and took pictures:

This is just a section of trail that I thought would make a nice picture.  I wanted to take another one focused on the archway of trees in the distance, but then a bunch of cyclists appeared and I didn’t want them to think I was weird or anything.

Part of the bridge over the Little Miami River.  You can see the river through the trees.  The bridge is the bit in the foreground.

The Little Miami, from the middle of the bridge, facing west (I think).  This wasn’t the smartest place to take a picture (even though it’s the best place for a picture), because the bridge is only wide enough for two cyclists to pass.  I took this and got out of there.

Anyone want to climb a hill?  I didn’t!

Trail crossing.  I thought it made a nicer picture when I took it.

Park that acted as my turn-around.  Also has handy restrooms!

Part of the little display commemorating Camp Dennison (the plaque is off to the left, out of the picture).  It was a Civil War training camp and hospital–the Little Miami Railroad (which later became the bike trail!) was nearby and would have provided easy access to materials and to Cincinnati itself in the event of an attack.  The camp was deactivated after the war and many of the materials were reused in surrounding buildings.  There is a civil war museum (probably containing the surviving headquarters) which is somewhat away from the trail.

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Pink Crazy-making Socks are DONE.

Okay, they’ve been done for several days now, but I only just got around to uploading the pictures to Ravelry.  I can put them up here too!

Here they are:

Pattern: Bamboo Socks by Wendy D. Johnson, size M

Yarn: Southwest Trading Company TOFUtsies (50% wool, 25% soy, 22% cotton, 3% chitin), color 733 (mix of pinks, fuchsia, purple)

Needles: Knit Picks nickel-plated DPNs, US 0 (2.0mm)

Modifications: Knit cuff-down, flap heel

I really don’t like this yarn.  It’s a pain in the neck to work with.  Whoever wrote the ball band was clearly a very tight knitter.  I’m using US 0, and the ball band recommends US 1-2.5.  (I realize I’m a rather loose knitter (ahem), but still.)  I also find it splitty, though I was working with relatively sharp needles.  Okay, I’ve worked with other yarns that behave like this (the Online Supersocke comes to mind), but one final characteristic of the yarn makes it worse than the Supersocke.  The Supersocke was superwash wool and nylon.  This yarn has cotton content, which means it has less stretch, so it’s somewhat harder to work with.  My biggest pet peeve with this stuff, though, is that it has these very short color repeats and a white wrap that obscures most stitch patterns.  From the distance I took the pictures, you can’t see the stitch pattern.  Here’s a close-up:

See why it's called "Bamboo"?

The stitch pattern was pretty easy to memorize, once I figured out how to split it (almost) evenly over four DPNs.  (It was written for two circs.)   These were almost good mindless knitting socks, except that because of the way the stitches were divided up across the needles, all but one needle would begin with a purl stitch.   This meant that if I wasn’t careful, I’d end up with accidental yarn overs.  Combined with the splitty nature of the yarn, and dropping stitches for no reason (only to discover them rows later!), they weren’t actually all that mindless.  There’s a reason I dubbed them the “Crazy-making Socks.”

Know what the worst part of this is?  I still have 1.3 skeins of this stuff left!   I might make Kaibashira out of some of the rest of it.  What I’m going to do with the remainder, I don’t know, as it won’t take acid dyes (Kool-aid) as well as normal sock yarn due the cotton content.

One more stray sock to go before I can start on the new yarn!

To my cyclist readers: Worry not, there will be bike content soon!

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