There is nothing better than going for a ride on a beautiful, clear, crisp morning after another week of rain.
My ride today was wonderful but very slow! Why? It seemed as though every time I came around a bend, turned my head, looked up or looked back, there was something awesome to see. So I had to stop and take photos even though they show only a hint of what you experience out there. Photos can’t give you the feel in the air. Photos never reproduce the phenomenal colors that change from moment to moment. Photos don’t show you how the flowers dance in the breeze. Photos don’t let you smell the fresh air. But photos do their best to capture the moments so you can remember all those other things.
There is nothing better than seeing the mustard and other flowers popping up everywhere to create their magnificent tapestry. Spring is definitely right around the corner and I am beginning to feel the days left to train tick tock away.
There is nothing better than seeing the impressive, elaborate wineries guarding the hillsides awaiting their throngs of visitors. I’m just not sure why I keep riding PAST them.
How does one stay fit for cycling in the off-season? OK – in (Napa) California, there is no “off-season.” Most years it doesn’t rain too much, nor does it get too cold. I’ve lived in places where most people don’t go outside, much less cycle, between October and May because there is usually snow on the ground and it’s so cold you have to use a hair dryer to thaw the locks on your car. I’ve ridden in those conditions – mainly because I could, and probably because I thought I could prove something to myself – what that was; I’m not quite sure. Now that I’m much older and hopefully somewhat wiser, I don’t have to prove to myself that I can ride in nasty weather. I still do at times, though, just because I want to, and this year has given me plenty of opportunities.
So if I don’t feel like riding in the cold or rain, what do I do/use? And do I cross-train at all? These are the varied ways I stay fit all winter (and year) long.
Running. I never used to like running. At least not as an activity on its own. Sure I ran. I’ve been an athlete for as long as I can remember. My sports mostly involved short sprints, though. Basketball, volleyball, and softball were what I played. Basketball was my favorite except for all the suicide sprints done over the years! Flash forward to three years ago when I started this journey back to me. I thought I should try running. Ha, ha! I could barely make it a quarter of a mile without stopping to walk. Now I run 3.5 to 5 miles every time out, and I have even run 10 and 15 miles to date! My most enjoyable jaunts are those I do with my buds from St. John’s Lutheran on Saturday mornings. We all go at our own pace, and everyone is supportive of each other. And they’ve made running downright fun!
Indoor spinning. I think riding my stationary bike has helped me ride stronger outdoors. I generally do short HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions when indoors. I have a trusty old Schwinn that I’ve used for years. It’s comfortable to me. It tracks just the basic things like time, pace, and distance. And it offers good levels of resistance. Once I get back outside, I notice my cadence is faster, and I’m quicker on the hills.
Elliptical. I don’t often use this machine, but when I get bored with the exercise bike, it’s nice to be able to change it up a bit. I used it more last year after I injured my knee while running and it was extremely helpful in letting me continue to exercise while not putting undue stress on the joint.
Gym/Therapy Balls. How could I not use these? I ask my patients to exercise with them, so shouldn’t I do the same? You can do some great core strengthening and balance training. Add a 10-20 pound medicine ball, and you’ve got a fantastic workout.
Body Blade. This is a device created by a physical therapist back in the early 90’s. We had some in the clinic, and I have had one at home ever since. It uses vibration and inertia to produce rapid contractions. For just a few minutes a day, it translates into great toning and core stabilization.
Edge Suspension Trainer. I have used my suspension trainer extensively. I love doing functional exercises using your body as weight versus non-functional weight machines. And as you’ve probably noticed by now, I really believe in core stability, and the suspension trainer simultaneously develops that, along with strength, and flexibility.
Free weights. I still use free weights for basic strengthening. I use an adjustable system, though. We have a PowerBlock dumbbell set which adjusts from 5 to 45 pounds on each dumbbell. Plenty for me!
Stairs. There is a stairwell not too far from my office at work, and I have taken to running the stairs every few hours during the day. Not too long ago, I could hardly walk up the three flights (56 steps) without being totally out of breath. Now I routinely run up/down ten times before I quit.
There you have it. My winter routine. I can’t wait for the days to be longer, the sun to be out and the roads to be dry. That first century of the year is calling my name. Soon. Very soon! Ride on!
After weeks of cold (for California) and rain, it was finally dry and a bit warmer, so it was time to head back to the hills! Back to where this big ole’ adventure began – Partrick Road.
I say my adventure began there because about five months ago I was deciding on my next personal cycling challenge. I had completed a couple of 24-hour challenges over the summer, and I was looking for the next big thing. So I threw down the gauntlet and said I would ride the hills surrounding Napa Valley. I started with Partrick Road since it’s pretty close to where I live (about two and a half miles). Of course, it turns out; it is one of the toughest too. It’s not the longest route, but it gets pretty steep (14% grade) in parts. Once I made it to the top without expiring, I thought “Hey, if I can do that, I think I can ride over the Sierras. I finished the Markleeville Death Ride 26 years ago, after all!” That got me thinking about riding across America. It had been my dream years ago, and now I thought maybe it’s still possible.
It struck me that I only have four more months of training and then it’s put up or shut up time. That’s why I needed to get back to the hills! I have to say, though; this ride was easier than the first. Thank goodness my workouts have been paying off! It was also one of my most enjoyable climbs. The sun felt great! The views were spectacular. There were so many different animals out to greet me at every turn. And of course, the decent was magical!
Pond overlook lean
Bay overlook lean
Basking in the sun lean
What a great day! I think I’ll be back on Partrick Road soon.
One of the things that has fueled my love of cycling over the years is having experiences that remind me that there is a lot of good in humanity. I was intending/hoping to write about them as I cross America later this year but last week this notion was jump started for me and I have to share it!
While I was riding my half century through the back roads of Fairfield, Vacaville and Dixon, somehow, I lost my Fitbit when the band apparently broke. Mind you, I was not one to readily jump on the fitness tracker bandwagon in the first place so I might not have cared that it was gone. Last year though, Fitbit issued their Blaze model. I liked the look of it (I have to be somewhat stylish, after all) and I needed a replacement watch so on the bandwagon I jumped. It has helped me increase my activity throughout the day, keeps me on time for things, gives me alerts from my phone and gives me information about my fitness level that I never knew I’d be interested in. So when I lost it, I was actually sad. I figured it was gone forever. Even if someone found it, they would have a nice, fairly new, fitness tracker to use. Here’s where the story gets good…
Earlier in the day, my nephew needed my help with something and he texted me. His phone number was not programmed in my phone to show his name, so it just came through as a number. Jump to that evening when he texted me again saying that someone texted him that a Fitbit was found with that number in the alert history. I then texted the number explaining that I had lost a Fitbit earlier in the day while riding over in Solano County. The person who found it and texted us was more than happy to return it to me, saying that it was still in great condition (minus half a band). We exchanged information and it turned out that we both work in healthcare. Tom J. is a pharmacist in Fairfield, where I happen to work a few times a week (for a different organization). We met up and the Fitbit is back on my wrist!
I’ve seen some of the best and some of the worst of humanity out there and Tom J. definitely goes in the column with the best. My heart is full.
It was finally dry and a bit warmer this weekend, so I was able to set out on a longer ride. California has had a lot of really cold and rainy days since Christmas. Not really whining…I am from upstate New York after all, but it has been tough to commit to longer, endurance type rides. This weekend, I set out to test the route I’ll take to head out of town in June (unless I decide to go South). It ended up being a half century that ended in Dixon, CA. I definitely could have ridden farther/longer, but I had a dinner date to get back for. You might wonder how I got back home since it was 50 miles one way. Well, I also tested my sag wagon, AKA, Ken. It worked beautifully too! He followed my progress on my tracker and knew exactly when and where I stopped. Since he went shopping for new shoes at the factory stores nearby, he picked me up with no trouble at all. More ride details can be found at 01/14/17 Ride.
People often ask if I ever enjoy the rides and stop to smell the roses so to speak. I always do! How can you not enjoy riding through the Napa Valley and surrounding areas? That’s why you’ll see plenty of photos to follow along with me. Besides, photography is one of my other hobbies. Most of the photos on my rides are just taken on my iPhone. It does a pretty decent job and they’re easy to upload. These are from my ride today…
California State Prison
The prison pic is for my running buddies since allegedly, I was contributing to the delinquency of a runner (since I chose to ride). CSP (California State Prison) was serendipitously on my route. The first pic is one of those that just fits in the WTF category.
I rode to church this morning – a mere 8 miles – but it was cold by California standards! It was right around 40 degrees F so had to bundle up. I ran into my bud Aaron Comfort Dog . Not sure what he thought of my face mask, but I stayed warm!
Training for a cross-country ride is interesting. What do you do when you live in Napa, CA at 33 feet above sea level? How are my lungs going to like riding over the Sierra and Rocky mountain passes? And I don’t really have time to go to the mountains every week to train. Next best thing? You have a loving husband and daughter (aka – The Sag Waggoneers) who give you an Elevation Training Mask for Christmas. So far, it’s been great. I used it during my Festive 500 rides and even on the flats it made me work pretty hard. And I sound really cool. It is somewhat disturbing to small children when they see me, though. Stay tuned…
The mustard is blooming in the Napa Valley so I figure it’s time to get off my duff and start sharing my cycling adventures that so many of you are clamoring for. Besides, it’s raining (something we don’t often experience here) so I don’t think I’ll be out riding a century this weekend!
As you may or may not know, I will be riding my bike across the country (USA) sometime around June, 2017. This has been a dream of mine for a long time. When I was in my twenties (yes- young and stupid), I rode obsessively. I rode at least 40 miles every day and usually 100 or more on weekends. I had a goal of riding cross-country, but didn’t have the time or logistical support at the time. The best I could do was ride from Hammond, Indiana, where I worked/lived to Herkimer, NY, where my parents still lived and I was born and raised. It was about 1700 miles round trip and a friend and I completed it in 8 days. Note the really cool 1st generation Bell biker helmets!
I moved to CA shortly after that ride, eventually met my husband and gave birth to a beautiful daughter. I stopped riding for years. With significant changes to my exercise routine, my health suffered over time. About 3 years ago, I decided to “journey back to me.” I started running, riding again, doing other cross training activities and changed my eating habits @Whole30.
Once riding long distance became part of my arsenal again, I got the itch! I decided that since I live in CA, and my extended family lives in MA, it’s a perfect set up for a coast to coast ride. To make it even more meaningful, I’ll be raising awareness and funds for Multiple Sclerosis research through Bike the US for MS. So…here we go! If it moves you, follow my training and eventual big ride adventures here. I’ll try to give you a taste of what it’s like and maybe spark something in you to follow your dreams too.
* BTW – I haven’t been compensated in any way for any products or services that are mentioned in my blog. I also don’t get paid to write this blog. If I do mention or link to a product or service from time to time, it will be because I happen to personally use it and like it. I won’t generally mention something I don’t like – I’ll leave those judgments up to you. And if I am ever lucky enough to receive something free that I talk about, I’ll let you know.