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.
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…