• Category Archives Bicycling
  • Seattle to Portland 2015 ride

    I did it! I successfully finished this year’s annual 10,000-rider Seattle to Portland bike ride! And I have no idea how to sum up the two days of 206 miles.

    We are serious athletes.

    First of all, most of the steps in this pre-ride blog post did happen. I never really threw a hissy fit, though. The closest I came was when I desperately needed Advil for my neck around mile 60 on the second day, and Michaela stopped when she would have preferred to keep rolling (me too, though, because we were in a great pace line).

    Second, riding with Michaela was an absolute blast. She got hangry (hungry + angry) at one point and was apparently considering killing and eating me, but she refrained. She did then eat the innards of three turkey sandwiches at the lunch stop, so she clearly wanted meat…

    Third, I don’t know how to write about the ride. Unlike a running race report, I am not about to bore all of us with how long it took to ride each of the 206 miles. However, both days’ rides were faster than my first century ride in May — even though the first day was almost 102 miles and the second day was 104 miles.

    Training: Well, considering that my first-ever century ride was two months before STP (as this ride is known), I guess my mileage increased? Honestly, though, I was VERY undertrained compared to what most people may think. It’s hard for me to ride on week days, and I haven’t gone to gym spin classes since, um, February? Three weeks before STP, I rode 63 miles (of hills) on Saturday and 50 miles (plus a flat tire) on Sunday. The next weekend I had company who didn’t bring his bike, so I kept Saturday to 28 miles — and then Sunday was a failure of only 10 miles because it was incredibly windy and I just couldn’t mentally deal with it after nearly being blown over by a big rig. The Friday before STP was a work holiday for Independence Day, Michaela came to town, and we had a group ride of 60 miles. And that was it for my training. I guess you could say I am a consistent but determined under-trainer.

    Pre-ride photo, in full denial about the 206 miles.

    Pre-ride: I drove 11 hours to Portland on Thursday, then drove three hours to Seattle on Friday. I highly recommend audio books for road trips. Friday night, we went out to dinner with a few of Michaela’s friends, and then she packed.

    Saturday morning: We woke up around 4:30 a.m. with Michaela saying, “Why is everybody meowing?!” This is what happens when one owns three cats… We drove three miles to the start (because it would be all uphill with backpacks on our way home, and we weren’t having any of that). Well, that was a mess and took about an hour to get in to the parking lot. First lesson learned for next time! Comedic moment #1: A guy’s bike apparently came off the rack on his car at a stoplight. How that happened was beyond us, and then Michaela realized the guy was wearing his bicycle helmet while trying to fix it. Safety first?!

    We got started around 6 a.m., after happening to meet up with Karin and Greg, which is kind of impressive in a sea of thousands of riders, most wearing spandex and bike helmets. The riders start in waves to prevent total chaos, and we got started without incident. I later talked to a guy who started within a few minutes of us, and he saw a bunch of people falling over; I missed all of that.

    We went up a few hills that really seemed like nothing to this “I live on hilly routes and have no choice” rider. We wound through some nondescript parts of Seattle while my nerves and excitement calmed down. I have no idea what we saw, actually.

    Photo booth water stop. I refrained from trying to ride my bike with those glasses.

    Somewhere after mile 50, we wound up on well-traveled roads with a lot of cars. The shoulder got narrower and the big trucks seemed to get bigger. And then we reached Joint Base Lewis McChord, a massive military base that has six — yes, six — exits along Interstate 5. (Those of us who know about Fort Lewis and are confused: it’s the same place.) It was the first year riders could enter the base, and it was the most welcome relief EVER from that vehicle traffic. The roads were smooth and wide, the traffic was non-existent, and soldiers were standing at intervals, welcoming us and making sure we didn’t go into the areas that had signs warning about live ammo.

    The lunch stop was inside the base, in a big area surrounded by vintage airplanes and signs reading “Do not lean bikes against planes!”

    When being watched by the military, obey the signs!

    Michaela ate her several sandwich innards (no gluten-free substitutes at this ride, unfortunately), and all was well.

    Planes at JBLM
    Again, bicycling is serious work.

    We rolled into the town of Centralia, Washington 101-plus miles later. Ride time was 6:50, for a pace of 14.8 miles per hour. I was pleasantly surprised, and I also really liked the creamsicles they were handing us.

    Halfway done.

    We got the bags we had left in a truck in Seattle, and then hauled ourselves back onto our bicycles to ride 1.4 miles to a motel. A lot of people camp, but both of us wanted real beds and showers that were not in a truck. On our ride to the motel, we came across a giant pencil. This was actually one of four roadside attractions I had printed out and hoped to see on my road trip, and I may have gotten deliriously excited about it…

    Delirious bicyclist meets a very large pencil.

    Dinner was at Denny’s, because it was the only thing in walking distance that seemed safe. (Definition of walking distance in this case: Travel 0.5 miles on foot but find short-cuts through parking lots. Avoid making eye contact with the yelling meth head.) Let me tell you, salad and a cheeseburger and hash browns from Denny’s were AMAZING. Michaela was able to get breakfast to go, because our room had a refrigerator and microwave. That worked well, and I now highly recommend Denny’s for cyclists.

    Sunday: Time to do the “ride 100-plus miles” thing all over again. We got back on our bikes with some moaning, rode 1.4 miles to the start, and felt a bit better once we got ridof our backpacks. My knee and neck were hurting, and two spots had chafed the previous day despite my best attempts (those shorts are not going to be used again for rides longer than 40ish miles). But at some point, Michaela took this series of photos (I’m cut off in the thumbnail previews; apologies for making you click on the full pictures). I have no idea what was going on. Maybe I was channelling my inner t-rex?

    The scenery was gorgeous. I don’t take photos while riding, since my phone is in a ziplock bag and I would probably drop the phone, fall over, and have blurry photos for my troubles. But just imagine quiet country farms, lots of greenery, and rolling roads with little to no vehicle traffic on an early Sunday morning.

    About 30 miles into the ride, my knee stopped hurting for good. My chafing had calmed (better shorts this day), so my neck was the only cranky part remaining. The cyclists were more scattered today, since there were various Saturday night stopping points ranging from miles 102 to 140. We began latching onto pace lines and watched the speed pick up. Michaela had more food this day, so she didn’t have any canibalistic thoughts.

    Bicycling photos look slightly less appalling than running photos.

    Then we reached the Lewis & Clark bridge, where we had to wait for a motorcycle escort (Michaela had been quite excited about the “escort”). The bridge design has supports that are big bumps for bicycles, and a volunteer had instructions: “Secure your water bottles and personal belongings. Watch for the bottles that have already been dropped along the way.” Ummm, wasn’t it a bit late to secure my bottles? How was I going to do that? Eat them?! Up the bridge we went, where one woman was apparently afraid of heights and began hyperventilating and making very, uh, awkward gasping sounds. I, meanwhile, was THAT rider who was passing people uphill and saying, “I love this!” The bridge goes over a big river with massive stacks of logs along the banks, and Michaela and I both said at the same time, “Look at all the lumber!” Then we started laughing, because clearly we’d been in close proximity for quite a while. We reached the top of the bridge and began flying down the other side. The side had big metal plates that were clearly the cause of bottle/item loss, and I saw a lot of travel-sized sunscreen bottles. Personally, I had an absolute blast on that bridge.

    We got in more pace lines, at one point behind two guys from a Georgia team, with peaches on the tops of their helmets. One woman was singing “Zip a dee doo dah!” on her steel bike, and we’d pass her uphill but she’d annihilate us downhill.

    We reached Portland, where we had both heard that the ride seems to take forever. It also suddenly got warm, with a hot breeze. We went up the St. John’s Bridge, which we had both started to fear because it comes around mile 190 and I had heard that people are walking their bikes up it because they’re so tired. Well, we had no problems (but did see a few people walking), and that’s when we knew we were going to make it. However, now we feared that we’d make it all this way, only to do something like crash at a stoplight at mile 199. That didn’t happen, but we did hit Every Single Red Light. It was so incredibly frustrating, especially watching our average speed drop when we both just wanted to give it everything we had left.

    The last two blocks were lined with cheering, screaming spectators. It was like a marathon finish line, only I noticed it a bit more this time because I wasn’t as delirious. We passed under a big “Finish” arch and came to a sudden stop because everyone ahead of us was stopping. So, now I have official finisher photos with my foot on the ground… Ride time was 104ish miles in 6:44, for an average pace of 15.7 miles per hour. For perspective about that last aggravating part, it took us 20 minutes to ride the last four miles.

    We did it!

    Then we went to collect our bags, which was a SEA. The bags were in lines based on bib number, but my small-ish rust-colored backpack wasn’t immediately obvious in the 8,000-bib-number range. I started to get annoyed, but then I had a realization: We had ridden fast enough that all of these bags hadn’t yet been claimed by riders! There are no chip timers or official finishing times, but that baggage room told me that thousands of people hadn’t been there yet. Yes, thousands.

    That's me in the back, looking for my bag.

    We dropped our bikes off at a truck that would take them back to Seattle, collected our free cups, and went to wolf down free burritos and Nuun.

    Not pictured: Matching shorts that are back-ordered.

    Then we went to our Kimpton hotel, where Michaela has listed my title as Commander. Because she is Michaela, they had a bottle of chilled champagne and a congratulatory note in our room. And because we are very normal human beings, we had to wear the hotel room robes.

    Doesn't everyone wear a bike helmet while drinking champagne and wearing a hotel room robe?

    And then we walked over to Clyde Common, where we ate fancy cashews and olives and popcorn and salad and scallops and drinks. Because what else do you do after riding 206 miles? Well, aside from talking about how “next time we should try to do it in one day”…

  • STP prep

    According to an email I received from the folks at the Cascade Bicycle Club, it’s almost time for a big bike ride I’ve alluded to in a few blog posts. That bike ride happens to be the Seattle to Portland ride, often known as STP. It’s a 206-mile ride in which 10,000 awesome, possibly insane people ride bicycles from Seattle to — you guessed it — Portland. According to my work Outlook calendar and the messages with friends, yes, the trip is rapidly approaching. Never mind the fact that I’m under-trained — how about all the prep for the actual event?! Let’s see here…


    1. Unpack from July 4 weekend shenanigans. Do laundry. Pack a lot of bags.
    2. Do all the normal pre-trip stuff, such as stopping the mail, watering the plant, paying the bills, taking out the trash, running the dishwasher, unplugging some appliances.
    3. Drive to Seattle. This was a mild decision-making circus of its own, which at one point involved a refundable Amtrak ticket and a friend driving one way. But the decision was finally made that I would drive north for many hours on Thursday, with a stop/stay in Portland for one night.
    4. Oh, right, find a place to stay in Portland on Thursday night.
    5. Meet up with a friend in Portland on Friday morning.
    6. Drive from Portland to Seattle, meet up with Michaela, go to ride check-in.
    7. Eat early dinner.
    8. Charge Garmin and phone.
    9. Don’t oversleep, because we want to start early Saturday, since it’s supposed to get hot and we’ll be riding for a Very Long Time.

    Ride Day 1:

    1. Liberally apply sunscreen and chamois cream.
    2. Put on shorts, sports bra, jersey, gloves, helmet, sunglasses, socks, bike shoes. If needed, wear arm and knee warmers.
    3. Fill two water bottles with Gu Roctane and water.
    4. Fill jersey pockets with 10 gels, two more packets of Gu Roctane drink, phone (in ziplock bag), ID/credit card/cash (also in a ziplock bag), sunscreen, travel-sized chamois cream.
    5. Top off air in tires, and make sure my travel pump is securely in place. Make sure my bike bag contains two spare tubes, tire levers and multi-tool.
    6. Fasten race bib to jersey and number to bike/helmet/wherever it’s supposed to go so they let me into the military base along the route.
    7. Drop two nights’ bags at the start line, making sure my phone/Garmin chargers are in the first night’s bag.
    8. Actually start riding after all of this.
    9. Eat a Gu gel every 10 miles, most of them non-caffeinated. Yes, this sounds insane to some people, but it works for me and solid food does not. (I get light-headed, apparently because my body is too busy digesting food, rather than sending blood to my head.) Eat some fruit at the rest stops.
    10. Get through two bottles of Gu Roctane by mile 50, preferably with additional water by then, too.
    11. Keep drinking. Use the port-a-potties to encourage myself to drink (TMI?).
    12. Reapply sunscreen. And chamois cream (maybe TMI, but it’s also something important).
    13. Stop somewhere around mile 100, get night bag from a truck, find our hotel.
    14. Probably discover that I didn’t pack something. Since we do not have a car and are tired, oh well!
    15. Eat dinner.
    16. Charge Garmin and phone.

    Ride Day 2:

    1. Wake up and ask myself why I thought it was a good idea to get back on my bike for a repeat of yesterday.
    2. Repeat steps 1-6 and steps 8-12 from Day 1.
    3. At some point, reach a low point and throw a hissy fit, which I will feel terribly about for a long time afterward.
    4. Arrive in Portland. Promptly take a terrible finish-line photo and post it to every possible social media outlet.
    5. Drop bike off at a truck, in exchange for my bags and some food.
    6. Make our way to the hotel, probably via Uber or cab.
    7. Find an alcoholic beverage. And food.
    8. Sleep.

    Post ride:

    1. Return to the finish line Monday morning, to board a bus that takes us back to Seattle.
    2. Get off the bus three hours later, retrieve bikes, and thank Michaela profusely for having a bike rack that holds two bikes, and for buying parking so we don’t have to ride a few miles with all of our stuff.
    3. Do laundry. Oh, blessed laundry. (I love doing laundry. Yes, I am weird.)
    4. Actually do NOT get on the bike.
    5. Remember that I have another rapidly disappearing countdown, which requires that I go for a run.

    And that only takes me through the first five days of the epic adventure that has become “STP and beyond.” The next part of the trip ranges from what will hopefully be my first jet ski adventure to the sadness of finally seeing my fire-ravaged hometown. (Who there wants to put me up for a night, too?)

    I’m already tired after writing all this.

  • Biking in Kona

    Of all the various things I’ve done in Hawaii, biking has never been one of them. Put on spandex and climb on a bike rather than sit on a beach or hike around a volcano? Nahhhh, no thanks. But last month, I learned that it’s actually a lot more pleasant than I’d expected, and the logistics were also easier than I feared. So, if you’re planning a trip to the Big Island and feel like getting a taste of what those crazy Ironman people do, read on. Or just scroll down for the pictures; you know who you are.

    A bit of history: I think this can all be blamed on marathons. You see, more than once, I found myself looking at my training schedule and seeing “14 miles” on the plan for a Saturday when I would be in Hawaii. Running in humidity sucks. Running in blazing sun sucks. But I did it — more than once. Then I ran a marathon in Hawaii, because I am an idiot.

    And you know what? Compared to running a marathon in Hawaii, other things don’t seem so crazy. Bicycling, for instance, would offer a breeze because I’d be going faster! OK, so maybe this is just my way of justifying the craziness because I’m signed up for a big, scary ride in July and didn’t want to go for a whole week without riding a bike. I briefly pondered gyms and whether their bikes would be terrible, and then I concluded that I’d rather run another marathon in Hawaii than spend several hours on an unknown gym bike. And that says a LOT, because I have no plans to run another marathon in Hawaii.

    Enough rambling. I fired up the Google machine, along with the Yelp machine, and found that Bike Works Kona has lots of rental bikes, as well as solid reviews.  They even have online rental reservations — that actually work! I telephoned them just because you can never be too sure about Hawaii (things there run on “island time”), and they sounded just fine. I made a reservation online, promptly got an email confirmation, and then got a reminder one week before my rental date. A month later, I’ve had no spam. I also haven’t been paid for all of this awesome advertising that will be seen by millions upon millions of blog readers.

    I got to the bike shop on a Friday afternoon, and it took me a while to find it because it was up a steep drive behind some other buildings. I can’t speak to their Waikoloa location (which I hear doesn’t have as much selection of extra stuff), but this shop had a LOT of options. They’re ready for Type A triathletes who are stressed out and focused on Ironman training — I had brought my own gel, drink and chamois cream, but this place had every brand and flavor I use, plus a ton of other products. They also sell their bottles at half price to people renting bikes, so I got an insulated bottle for $7.50, mayyyybe because it perfectly matches my bike, has a nice top and says “Kona” on it…

    My bike was parked near the counter, waiting for me. I had brought my measurements, so they set the bike up to match them as closely as they could, put my pedals on it, found a helmet that fit me, gave me a tool bag, took an imprint of my credit card as insurance but did not actually charge it (that was nice — no $2,000 charge sitting there until I returned the bike), and I was on my way out the door. I pedaled around the parking lot, but it was just fine so I didn’t need adjustments they also offered for free.

    Their rates are in 24-hour periods, so I originally had the idea of riding Friday afternoon for 25ish miles, then riding longer Saturday morning. Well, it was hot, so I lazily nixed that idea and instead went to happy hour, where I happened to chat for awhile with two guys who recognized me from the bike shop — as it goes in my world.

    Saturday morning, I was up before dawn and driving downtown. I parked in the Target parking lot near the highway, and before long I was heading north.

    I had researched routes, but honestly, I knew from the beginning what I wanted to do: ride the Ironman route. The marathon I ran covered just about all of the ground that the athletes do in their marathon, so now I could experience their bike route. Plus, it’s straight out on a highway that has very wide shoulders, and is undoubtedly the safest place on the island to ride. This hideous website has some other ideas, and you can find more on your route-planning site of choice.

    Looking back up the road -- in the path of world champions.

    I got to Waikoloa 24 miles later, where I refilled my water and reapplied sunscreen. Then I headed back. I had entertained the idea of riding all the way to Hawi, where the Ironman racers turn around, for a full 100 miles. But the rental bike’s seat was not ideal (should have brought my own), and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of being 50 miles away from Kona on my first-ever ride there. I did have two spare tubes with me (and luckily didn’t need either one), but I also didn’t know when the wind would pick up; whenever it did, that could be a rough crosswind.

    To my pleasant surprise, the ride back was faster. There was no crosswind, and I passed a couple cyclists — who then passed me when I stopped at a “scenic overview” for an obligatory picture.

    My view for dozens of miles.

    Since I didn’t want to end up with only 48 miles, I detoured down into the Energy Lab, where the Ironman marathon goes and where my marathon had not — now I could do that part of the course! While there, I had a whole conversation with a grieving recent widower who’s a cyclist from Portland. Again, that is normal in my world.

    Beach at the Energy Lab

    I finally got back to the car, and realized that I had parked near a fast food place. Hello, easily accessible bathroom in which to change and wipe all the bugs off me! Then I returned the bike to the shop, got iced 100% Kona coffee, and felt like a million bucks. (Side note: if coffee says it’s “Kona coffee” but doesn’t give the percentage, it means they used a small amount of rejected Kona beans. You’re better off getting something else. Coffee plantation tours in Kona are really cool, and I highly recommend them.)

    Now that I’ve done the “rent a bike in Kona” thing, will I do it again? Absolutely! Honestly, if you’re a cyclist or triathlete who’s thinking of flying your bike to Kona for training, take a look at the options Kona Bike Works offers. Their fees are cheaper than the airline bike baggage fees, and then you don’t have to deal with a giant bike box. Next time, depending on my training/running/life/Hawaii schedule, I’ll probably rent a bike for two days, because it doesn’t cost much more. And maybe I’ll try the hills…

    But for now, I’ll just leave a sunset photo. Because you can’t go to Hawaii and not see the sun set over the ocean.

  • Wine County Century ride report

    “I made it up that hill. Oh my god, I did it. I’m actually going to finish!”

    After 92 miles of cycling and 4,000 feet of climbing, I crested the top of the last big hill on a May afternoon. I gasped for air as my cadence increased down the backside of Chalk Hill (and maybe also gasping as I realized I knew that the word “cadence” meant “how fast I’m pedaling”). I had dreaded that hill for months, worrying that it would crush my spirits because it came so far into the ride. I feared that I would stop halfway up, that I might crash if I couldn’t unclip from my pedals in time, and that I would have to be picked up in a crew van and driven to a medical tent at the finish line. I rarely cuss, but when I reached the top of that hill, whispered expletives flew: “I f***ing did it. Holy sh*t. I god-d**n did it. I’m going to finish a century ride.”

    May 2 was redemption in several ways. In October, I bailed out of a century ride. This year, I spent a serious amount of money on a road bike and committed to a century ride with my friends Michaela and Arvan. My training was the bare minimum but there would be no backing out this time, and now that it’s over, I admit that I was more than a little worried. However, I was also determined — I really wanted to chase down this goal.

    OK, enough rambling. Now I’m going to write about Saturday’s Wine Country Century in a bit more orderly fashion. If you want the short version: I finished in 7 hours and 3 minutes, and it’s a good thing because Michaela and I are signed up for a ride that’s, um, twice as long.

    I drove up to Santa Rosa on Friday afternoon, which is never a good time to drive through the Bay Area. It took me 2 hours, 35 minutes to drive 86 miles — that’s a whopping average speed of 33 mph, despite being on freeways. When I finally arrived, I was hungry and angry. Michaela stuck a Kona Brewing beer in my hand, because she is a very wise and good friend. We were staying with friends Thai and Josh, and their 4-month-old baby also calmed me down. Things were starting to look up.

    See all those traffic warning signs? I was in them. All of them.
    Cuteness helps ease traffic PTSD. Not pictured: beer.

    We drove to the ride check-in so we wouldn’t have to deal with that in the morning, and that’s where things took another good turn: I was given bib number 5050. My first reaction: “It should be 5150″ (California’s legal code for crazy). My second reaction: “Oh look, it’s my odds of finishing!” Funny enough, even though I enjoy number games, I never thought of the “50+50=100, the number of miles I will conquer” idea. A MUCH more hardcore numbers nerd pointed that out, and I must say that it’s much more optimistic. Dinner was at BJ’s Brewing, with a personal deep dish pizza and a beer. All was well in my world.

    "Look! My odds of finishing!"

    On Saturday morning I woke up before the alarm. It was very similar to a marathon morning, only with padded shorts. We drove to the ride start, parked with no troubles at all, topped off the air in our tires, put our race numbers on our bikes, fastened our helmets, and got some guy to take a picture. And then we were on our way.

    This is how Michaela, Layla and Arvan ride 100 miles.

    The air was chilly and the sky was completely overcast to the point of being slightly misty. I recently used an REI coupon to buy some new sunglasses whose lenses automatically go from clear to dark, depending on the light. They’re one of my better $60 purchases in the past year, and I was so glad I could see in that gray light. We were surrounded by fellow riders, and Arvan was already in excellent form: “To our right, we have a vineyard. To our left, we also have a vineyard,” he said in his best tour guide voice.

    We got through a couple stoplights and around mile 3 I ate my first gel. For those who don’t care about this stuff, I’ll get all the nutrition jabber out of the way in this paragraph so you can skip ahead. I have a terrible time with solid foods on the bike, and the only thing I’ve been able to guess is that my slow-moving blood just can’t be tied up digesting food in my stomach, or else there isn’t enough blood to get to my head and keep me from getting dizzy. However, my stomach itself is rock solid and I don’t mind Gu gels that have 100 calories each, and Gu Roctane drink that has 240 calories per bottle. I buy lemon lime gels (no caffeine) by the 24-pack box with my Marathon Maniacs discount at runningwarehouse.com, and I get Roctane drink either there or on sale at nashbar.com. I intersperse a few caramel macchiato and salted caramel gels (with caffeine) for the occasional extra boost and change of flavor. On Saturday, I successfully ate a gel every 10 miles without fail, for a total of NINE GELS. I drank 3.5 bottles (24 ounces each) of Gu Roctane. I also ate about six strawberries total at the aid stations, and because the lunch stop was longer, I risked a slice of turkey lunch meat, half a slice of cheese, and some pickle slices. My fueling was a success.

    Terrible scenery, huh?

    The first hill started around mile 16 and went to around mile 19.5. (Here’s a map of the course. For some reason, the organizers’ page isn’t working anymore.) My friend Deanne recently moved and her new house is steps away from the course. She was excited to wake up early and come outside and cheer for me, which is pretty amazing and I’m not sure what I’ve done to have such a good friend in my corner for a dozen years now. Even her husband, who works nights and is NOT a morning person, insisted that she wake him up. Knowing she would be there is what made me less fearful of the climb. The funny thing is, I was riding up the hill in a line of cyclists going a bit slower than I would have, so when I reached the top I still had several gears left. I reached the top and began flying down, but realized the long downhill might send me sailing past Deanne. But I did see her, and somehow waved while braking without falling over.

    You guys, Deanne had made a sign! And she’d even put pictures of Michaela, Arvan and me on that sign! Poor Arvan with his zero percent body fat was shivering in the cold, so once we took some pictures, we hit the road again. Between seeing Deanne and her sign, and the long downhill, I was basically high as a kite. We rolled into the first rest stop five miles later, where Arvan’s shivering may have registered on the Richter Scale.

    If you do not have a Deanne on your side, you're missing out.

    Then we had the Green Valley Road climb, which I hadn’t really heard about until our friend Josh was talking about it Friday night. He said it was the toughest hill for him when he did this ride a few years ago. And Michaela said she’d never ridden all the way up it without walking. I wasn’t sure what to think until I reached it, and before I knew it I was at the top. I stopped to catch my breath and wait for Michaela and Arvan (they are smart and pace themselves up hills, while I charge up them until my lungs collapse). There were a whole bunch of hardcore riders who’d also stopped there, and I wasn’t gasping any more than the rest of them. For the first time in my brief cycling life, I actually felt that I might be able to do this. I didn’t have too long to think about it, though, because Arvan and Michaela arrived — and Michaela had ridden up the whole thing without walking. We were all checking off small victories.


    The ride had 2,500 cyclists between the 120-mile, 100-mile, 62-mile and 35-mile routes. I hoped I wouldn’t see anybody crash or get hurt, but what I wasn’t expecting was to see an oncoming SUV nearly rear-end a car in front of it. Instead, the SUV went careening off the side of the road, down a steep embankment, and somehow landed upright next to a vineyard. It was going so fast that it kept driving on the narrow strip of dirt beside the vines. A girl just in front of me diddn’t even understood what happened, so we chatted in shock for a few minutes. Then we came to the next rest stop, which was a nice chance to get my heart rate back down to normal. I’m so glad that SUV didn’t hit the car and send it flying into us.

    Lunch view. (Sadly, I didn't take any pictures of the vineyards along the ride.)

    The lunch stop was at mile 72, and by then my neck was screaming at me. Since we were going to take our time there, I took the opportunity to lay flat on my back and try to relax my neck. It didn’t do a lot of good, but I also reapplied sunscreen and finally took off my arm warmers (the weather had been fantastic). Mom, I’m pleased to report that I did not get sunburnt!

    I have no idea why those men are wearing those outfits.

    After the lunch stop, Michaela’s hip was hurting and so was my neck. That’s when I thought about a buddy of mine, Virginia. She’s been going through chemotherapy treatment for something like 18 months, and her latest scans showed that she needs an even more aggressive form of chemo. In March, her husband Hal was diagnosed with cancer. Virginia is one of the hardest-charging people I’ve ever met, and I told myself, “Riding 100 miles and having some neck pain is nothing compared to the double-whammy cancer fights Virginia has on her hands. I GET to do this, I CHOSE to do this, and I’m surrounded by all this gorgeous scenery.”

    I hadn’t looked at the route map very closely, other than to know where the dreaded hills were. The rest stop locations were definitely an afterthought, since I was really only using them to refill my water bottles. I thought the lunch stop at mile 72 was the last aid station of the day. But at mile 82, when I had been a bad friend and ridden away from Michaela and then stopped to wait for her, a guy told me there was a rest stop two miles ahead that was stocked with Coke and ice. Cold soda suddenly sounded like the best thing on earth, and I told Michaela when she came zipping along. She was surprised, too, and I vowed that if the guy was wrong and there was no rest stop with Coke, I would actually backtrack the miles just to hunt him down and knock him off his bike. Believe me, I was serious.

    Luckily for that guy, there really was an aid station at mile 84. And they had cups to fill with ice and Coke. I drank a cup, and I swear that it tasted better than any $300 meal in a five-star restaurant can ever taste.

    What a rest stop entrance looks like.

    And then came Chalk Hill. The hill I’d dreaded for months. The hill that I feared would crush my dreams. By then the crowds of riders were very thin and sparse. But when I reached the hill, I immediately passed about half a dozen riders. “Uh oh, I’m charging up this hill way too fast,” I thought to myself. I kept going, and it was honestly longer than I had hoped and how others had made it out to be. But it did come to an end before I did, and I really can’t quite describe that feeling of accomplishment. That’s when those rare whisper-gasped expletives came out, and that’s when I knew for the first time all day that I really was going to finish the ride.

    In December 2008, I reached mile 23 of my first marathon. I still distinctly remember being on a highway in Tucson, Arizona and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m actually going to run a marathon.” Until then, I hadn’t known if I could really do it. Seven-plus years later, I recognized that feeling once again: I, the person who had excuse notes to get out of PE classes and was always picked last in games at recess, was going to finish a crazy athletic event.

    We entered the Santa Rosa city limits and were greeted by nice roads and bike lanes. “Well, these roads are about 97 miles too late,” I said. The ride route was absolutely gorgeous, with countless green vineyards everywhere, but the roads of Napa and Sonoma counties leave a lot to be desired. At one point, I found myself braking down a straight hill just because the bumpy road was so jarring.

    At mile 99, we reached the finish line. I believe we cussed again. There was NO WAY I could end this ride at mile 99. I had come to ride 100 miles and, dammit, I was going to ride 100 miles. Michaela’s watch registered 99.2 miles (she switch-backed up a hill, while hard-headed Layla charged straight up). So, around the parking lot we rode. “This is so dumb right now,” Michaela said, and I just started laughing, because it was so true.

    Finally, 100 miles appeared on my watch. I hit the “stop” button. I had finally done what I failed to do in October. This was revenge, and it felt so good. Thai and baby Oliver were at the finish line. So was Greg, whose cycling and ultra-running feats make mine look like 5k’s. I tell you, friendly faces at a finish line are the best things ever. I got some food, and that first bite of potato salad was simply amazing — it wasn’t sweet gel or sports drink!


    Recovery was easier than most of my marathons, although I was more tired. The next day, walking upstairs was very tiring, but it was a lot easier than walking downstairs after a marathon. Sunday evening, though, I got chilled despite it being 72 degrees in my apartment. I went to sleep with all the blankets, then awoke around midnight completely drenched in sweat. I wondered if I was getting sick, but that never happened; I guess my body was just trying to regulate itself after all those hours on the bike. I had low energy and needed more sleep over the next few nights, but it wasn’t bad, really.

    I still wanted to get back on my bike, which is a very good thing — Michaela and I MAY possibly have signed ourselves up for a little ride in July…. It MAY be 203 miles in two days from Seattle to Portland, and it MAY have 10,000 riders… And that’s why I can now say that I had a lot more hinging on this century ride than I told people. If I failed, that bigger ride would be in serious jeopardy and my spirits would be crushed. But I succeeded, and I’m now back out on my bike. Seattle, I’m coming for you.

    I do have one post script. As I type this 10 days later, Hal is now home in hospice care. My little bike ride certainly couldn’t stop his cancer from spreading. But I’m so glad I got on my phone after the ride, opened up the Facebook app, told my friends I’d conquered the ride, and said, “Virginia and Hal, this was for you.” We all need to live life as well and as fully as we can, or else it’s an injustice to those who cannot.

  • Biking, take two

    Last fall, I was planning to attempt a century (100-mile) bike ride. It was a way of distracting myself from all the unhappiness in my life: I’d been unable to run pain-free for a year, I’d had my heart broken, I’d failed at multiple things, and I was just generally feeling that life was a bummer. Two weeks before that planned century ride, I wrote here about a demoralizing “last long ride” and how much doubt I had. I got a lot of encouraging responses (many of them on Facebook, unfortunately, so they’re not preserved on that post).

    Well, I never wrote a follow-up post, but I didn’t do the century ride. I couldn’t face the idea of failing yet another thing. I know that sounds so negative, and it is, but when the day of the ride came and I wasn’t out there, I felt fine with my decision. Yes, I probably would have finished the ride through sheer determination. But if I hadn’t been able to finish, nobody would have been there to pick me up off the ground and tell me it was OK. I’ve only ever dropped out of one running race, which was the right decision but I hated it so much and was so very upset at myself. Fortunately, I had my friend Katie there to pick me up off the ground. This time, I didn’t know anybody at the century ride, and it wasn’t near where any friends live.

    So, yeah, I didn’t do the ride. But wait! This is not actually a negative blog post! Since I have a million photos, here are a few to hint at what’s to come (if you don’t already know, which you probably already do, since my readership is not exactly vast).

    Let's make some tweaks.
    Skinny road tires.
    Many hills await...

    You see, I did keep bicycling — certainly less than when I was trying to cram for a century ride on a hybrid bike, but I didn’t stop riding. Somewhere along the way, I’d discovered that I could eventually reach that mind-calming feeling I get when I run. Granted, it takes 30 miles on wheels instead of a few miles on foot, but it’s such a relief when I do reach that point.

    Last fall, I’d also been road bike shopping but hadn’t found a bike in my price range that made me want to hand over my precious dollars. Meanwhile, do you have any idea how much there is to learn about bikes?! I knew more than the average bike newbie because I am surrounded by triathletes, and because I have ridden for fun since childhood, but I didn’t know how to shift gears on road handlebars. (I’m still not entirely sure that a “cassette” is anything more than the device by which I used to listen to Amy Grant. Oh wait, the device in this example would be the Sony Walkman, so the cassette would be, hmmm, yeah, I’ll stop there.) I remember being intimidated by running stores when I first took up running, but let me tell you, they are NOTHING compared to bike shops. Also, the shoes are funnier looking.

    I won’t go into detail about all the shops I went to between September and December, or all the web articles I read more than once because they didn’t make sense until I started test riding bikes. Craig’s List and I became close pals, as I checked several times a week for bikes in my size. (If you’re bike shopping, factor in the cost of a tune-up and maybe having to replace tires, etc.) I reached a point where I was tired of shopping, and I concluded that I wouldn’t get everything I wanted in a bike. I wanted good components but I also wanted carbon, and the ideal combo was out of my price range.

    Then the new year arrived. I did my taxes and saw that I’d be getting money back, and learned that I’d get a bonus, and I had gotten some money for Christmas and my birthday. I was thinking about the things I wanted out of the year, and bigger bicycle adventures were still on my wish list. So I went back to the bike stores and the internet research, looking a bit beyond my price range. If a few additional hundred dollars could make the difference, I knew it would be the smart choice. Like a car, once you buy a bike, you won’t be able to resell it for the same price, so it’s best to get something you’ll be happy with for a while. I went back to one bike shop and began thinking seriously about a bike in the higher price range, even though it wasn’t a women’s bike so the reach was kind of long. And then, while pondering, I went to another shop.

    At that shop, I found The Bike.

    The funny and possibly absurd thing is that I’m pretty sure I test rode that same bike last summer, in my second outing to a bike store. I vaguely remember them putting me on a couple bikes to test and then, “just to see the difference,” they put me on this full carbon bike with mostly Ultegra components. The ride was so smooth, and the shifting was so much better, and the angle of the hoods (the handlebar-things) fit my hands so much better. And it was out of my price range. So, if my memory is correct and it’s the same bike, those sneaky salespeople and this very bike are responsible for making me find fault with every other bike I tested for the next umpteen months.

    Before the new helmet, new cages and new saddlebag. And when everything was still green.

    Maybe because it’s not fully Ultegra components (brakes are Shimano 105, which is actually what I had decided to settle on for the whole bike), the bike dropped in price from last summer. It’s also a 2013 model, so by January 2015, the shop owners really needed to get that bike off the sales floor. The price drop plus my increased price range combined to make it within range. They dropped the price a bit more, I got them to put new handlebar tape on it, and we had a deal.

    On February 20, my new bike came home. It was my most expensive purchase since I bought my car nearly 11 years ago, but I’m very glad I waited until I could increase my budget a little bit to get (almost) everything I wanted. I’ve since put almost 400 miles on the bike, I’ve gotten matching bottle cages, I bought a very-overdue new (yes, matching) helmet, and I finally bought new sunglasses that have lighter lenses (my $17 4-year-old ones were fine in bright sunlight, but they were downright risky in lower light because I couldn’t see — hooray for REI dividends and coupons).

    I’ve also had my first-ever flat tire, despite putting 2,100 miles on my other bike’s original tires and tubes. I was by myself, at mile 48, five miles from home in a bad cell phone area where I couldn’t google “how to change a bike tube.” Remarkably, a failed tire-changing lesson from three years ago apparently sank into my subconsciousness, and I successfully changed my own tube without help. That was quite empowering, I must say.

    Cruising around my old college campus on a visit. That building is where I spent most of my waking (and sleeping) hours. Ah, journalism life.
    Sadly, I never biked when I was at school there.

    This last weekend, six months after the ride I talked about at the beginning of this long-winded blog post, I rode 76.5 miles. Once again, I was gearing up for an attempt at a century ride. The ride got long, the weather got hot, and at one point I felt pretty low. But I was able to rally, and I finished the ride with a feeling of “I did that!” rather than “I don’t know if I can do it.”

    The century ride is in 10 days and is harder than the one I’d planned to do last October. But I’ll have friends there. I’ll have a bike that weighs 17ish pounds instead of 28 pounds (though I have not lost the weight I was supposed to lose, so that kind of negates it). Since January 1, I’ve cycled 944 miles and I’ll cross the 1,000-mile point before the century ride. It’s not much compared to all the triathletes I know and I won’t be setting any speed records, but it’s more than I’ve ever done.

    Plus, I want to go out and face scary things, which is a much different mental place than I was in last fall. That is probably the biggest difference, bike included.

    The next time I mention my bike here, I hope it’s because we rode 100 miles in one day.

  • Untrained and unsure

    Last weekend, I set out on a bike ride. The weather at that point was lovely, and I even wore arm warmers in the crisp early fall air. I felt good, I took in the various scenery, and the miles rolled by. I had planned out an 85-mile route, which would beat my previous longest distance of 75 miles. I had planned to ride a couple new-to-me roads, see new things, and complete the final ride before I attempted a century (100 mile) ride.

    I even started writing a blog post in my head. It would have gone something like this: “I haven’t mentioned it a lot, but in two weeks I will attempt to do a century ride. I don’t have a road bike and I’m nervous about riding with a lot of people, but today I rode 86 miles. I crawled up big hills and careened back down them. I passed windmills and cows and uptight drivers. I burnt a bunch of calories, tried not to get sunburnt, and barely conquered my stairs when I got home.”

    That blog post vanished at mile 41, when I reached the top of a hill (which wasn’t even the beginning of a five-mile climb). I managed to unclip, stop, plant both feet on the ground and get my head down before everything went completely dark. I knew what was happening, because I’d had it happen to me in races a couple years ago: my heart rate got so high that the blood just didn’t get to my head anymore. It happens when I push harder than I’m trained, and dehydration is a contributing factor (something I battle a lot).

    According to my text message timestamps, I spent 19 minutes on the side of the road. My mental repetitions of “don’t pass out, don’t pass out” worked, as did hanging upside down while holding onto my bike for dear life. From my upside-down viewpoint, I could see down the hill when other cyclists were approaching, so I was able to lift my head up in time and say, “Yep!” when they asked if I was okay (as cyclists always ask any rider who is stopped).

    But my 86-mile day was done. At that point, I was 26 miles from home and the day was warming up quickly. I consulted my phone for the shortest way home, and then had to keep stopping every few miles because my brain couldn’t remember anything. At one point, a guy asked me for directions to the train station, and I realized later that my wrong directions mean he is probably still lost…

    Anyway, I made it home, crawled up the stairs in what was by then 91-degree weather, and collapsed inside my front door. I peeled off clothes right there on the tile floor, not caring about the sweat like I normally do. I was defeated.

    Today, the last weekend before that century ride, was another “blah” ride. I’ve had a week to sit myself down and clean up my diet, but I have not. I’d had a week to do a bunch of solid cardio workouts, but I did, um, one. While I do suspect a different medical issue is affecting me a little, it’s not enough to be a valid excuse. Simply put, I’ve failed to train properly.

    So now I sit here on my couch on a Sunday evening while the San Francisco Giants give everything they have in the National League Championship Series. I’m struggling with whether I should attempt the century ride, because I do not have the strength to deal with yet another failure right now. Exactly one year ago today, my IT band gave out. Since then, my life has been a string of one failure after another, one bad decision after another. I trusted my leg, I trusted people, and I trusted my gut — and they all rejected me fully and completely.  I still want to do the century ride, but I know that’s probably my gut talking, which also means that I should probably make the opposite decision.

    I went back and read this post full of good advice about facing the fear of failure. One line jumped out at me: “You only regret the things you didn’t do.” That makes me want to do the century ride, and I know I will probably attempt it next weekend. But I can’t stop thinking: “If I hadn’t run those races on my injured leg, maybe I could run now. If I hadn’t followed what I mistakenly thought was happiness, maybe I wouldn’t feel so unhappy now.” So I wonder: Should I NOT do this century ride, so I don’t risk failure? I don’t know, but I guess I’ll have an answer by Saturday morning.

  • 2014 goal check-in: September

    September came and went, but it was 97 degrees yesterday. In October. San Francisco, where homes don’t have air conditioning, was 90 — and people there wear tank tops when it reaches 65 degrees… Anyway, here’s how September shaped up in the year’s goals department.

    1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. My IT band was behaving. And then it was not. I did log 31.91 miles on foot in September.

    4: Do a century bike ride: I’m registered for one. More on that later.

    6. Bike at least 700 1,500 miles (increased the goal since I met it in July): I rode 488.09 miles in September, which beat my previous monthly record (384) by 104 miles! Wow! That puts me at 1,692.32 miles of cycling for the year, so that goal is definitely met.

    The best ride of the month was when I took a day off work and hung out in Sacramento with Michaela, who was in town to visit her family. We rode 50 miles (flattest route I’ve ridden in four years), and it was so nice to have company. It was an out-and-back route so there was no way to get lost, right? Wrong! After all, this is Layla we are talking about. Mile 47 found us in a sketchy part of the city that Michaela summed up best as the “crack parade.” We survived, of course. Good times.

    Good view on a Friday
    We are great at selfies.

    Near the end of the month, I rode 75 miles, which was another big milestone.  I ate this afterward, because I am that awesome.

    7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went to the gym 12 times in September, which puts me at 67 trips to go for the year. Yeah, that won’t happen in the next three months.

    8. Read at least one book a month: I read “The Lazarus Project” by Aleksandar Hemon, and it was just “OK.” It’s been sitting on my bookshelves for awhile; I found it on sale somewhere around the time the movie came out, so I figured I would read it first. Well, it turns out that the movie has nothing to do with the book — and I never did see the movie. The book had a cool plot idea, about an immigrant in the early 1900s who is shot by the Chicago police chief, and decades later a writer sets out to find out what really happened. I slogged through it and at the end thought, “Um, nothing happened.”

    9. Cook dinner more often: I tried a recipe that involved a cheese sauce and avocado, so it should be amazing, right? Well, I can’t for the life of me make a cheese sauce and had to throw out the entire gloppy mess. That was extremely frustrating and demoralizing. At the end of the month, though, I decided to try “real” stir fry with a sauce, rather than my years-old method of just just cooking everything and adding soy sauce at the end. I used corn starch, and it actually dissolved and thickened (though the beef was slightly overcooked, though that has nothing to do with the sauce)!! So, why can’t I just use corn starch in cheese sauce, since I can never get it to work with flour? I assume there is a reason, and I don’t feel like wasting more cheese and TWO avocados on such an experiment.

    10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I did this most of the time, but I’ve had some sleep issues lately. I toss and turn, get up and walk around, get back in bed, and then I can’t get up the next morning. And then I don’t go to the gym before work, which I like doing. Argh, bad cycle.

    11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I’m still down overall, but not to where I need to be. More argh.

    12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope!

    13. Find a cheaper place to live: Nope! Honestly, I don’t see this one happening. Here’s a fun/sad article about San Francisco rent compared to elsewhere, told in terms of food.

    And, just for fun, here’s a photo taken in the Oakland hills. Not surprisingly, Berkeley is nearby.

    Volvo overshadowing a Smart Car

  • 2014 goal check-in: August

    It’s September?! How did that happen?? Well, September 1 was 95 degrees, so the summer certainly isn’t gone. Okay, let’s move along to a progress report on the year’s goals.

    1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. Someday, my IT band will behave.

    4: Do a century bike ride: I went on some ridiculous rides in August, so this goal might be doable. First there was the 42-miler that had more than 2,500 feet of climbing, much to my surprise — I had NO idea that was going to happen! One week later, I rode 56 miles. And one week after that, I rode 62 miles to meet the 100k milestone — that was a big confidence boost toward the “ride 100 miles” goal. I finished off August with a 57-mile ride that had 3,280 feet of climbing, which is about the same elevation gain as the century ride I’m considering. So, I’m cautiously optimistic.

    On the technical side, the opinion of most people is that I should not attempt a century ride on my hybrid bike, though random cyclists actually compliment me on my hill-climbing “on that bike” EVERY SINGLE TIME I’m out riding. (Determination is a funny thing, I guess.) However, there’s the cost factor. I’ve test-ridden some road bikes and determined that, because my current bike is quite good, there is no point in buying anything less than a carbon bike. They’re expensive, and of course my small hands require better/more expensive shifters. (Shimano Tiagras sent me zipping back to the bike store, cutting the test ride short because they actually hurt — of course the more expensive Shimano Ultegras were just fine…) So, I’m kind of inclined to just keep riding my hybrid, though of course now it needs $100 of maintenance within the next month. Sigh.

    In addition to griping about the price of bikes, I wear 3-year-old $17 non-cycling sunglasses from Target.

    6. Bike at least 700 miles: Last month I met and thus increased this goal to 1,500 miles. I rode 384.05 miles in August, which is definitely a new record for me! That puts me at 1,204.23 miles for the year.

    I've been riding these brown, aka "golden," hills of California. (Great riding, actually. Few cars or stoplights.)

    7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: I went 15 times in August, which would put me way over my goal if I did that every month. Alas, I did not. I need 79 more gym trips to meet the goal, and that won’t happen, especially with trying to get outside miles on the bike. But at least I’m trending the right direction!

    8. Read at least one book a month: I read “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore,” which was a fun book with a creative plot. It’s about a guy in San Francisco (which helped me picture the setting) who gets a job at a very strange bookstore, and he sets out to find out why it’s full of strange books that are only borrowed by strange people. Bonus fun thing: The blurb on the inside back jacket says the author “splits his time between San Francisco and the internet.” I would love to describe myself that way on a book jacket!

    9. Cook dinner more often: I mostly failed at this one.

    Stir-fry with instant quinoa.

    But can I show you a couple other food pictures instead? Michaela, Himanshu and I had the full tasting paired with beer meal, and the next day we had original Irish coffees. If you want to find food, Michaela is your girl.

    10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I nailed this most nights. I also managed to get to the gym before 5 a.m. sometimes. Note: The weight machine crowds at 5 a.m. are non-existent; the 5 p.m. crowds are definitely alive and well.

    11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: I gained back one of the pounds I lost in July, which really isn’t much at all, percentage-wise. But that took me a pound in the opposite direction of goal weight (she says while eating pretzel M&Ms…)

    12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope. But I’ve already decided I’m fine with missing this goal.

    13. Find a cheaper place to live: No progress at all. I’m still completely lost. Just for oh-so-much-cheer, here’s an August article about the median cost of homes in the Bay Area. I didn’t renew my Pandora subscription, thus saving $36 for the year, so now I hear occasional ads. They recently had one for homes in my area “starting in the low $800’s!” and I just laughed and thought, “If I won’t pay $36 to get rid of ads for a year, what makes you think I have $800,000 for a home?!”

    I guess the trick is to just keep looking for the rays of light.

    No Instagram filters needed for this sunrise.

  • 2014 goal check-in: July

    Well. July, for lack of better words, was terrible. But that’s not the point of this blog post, so let’s move along and see how those goals for the year are going.

    1-3, and 5: Running-related goals. You can’t really meet lofty goals if you’ve spent the year injured.

    4: Do a century bike ride: I had figured this goal was also elusive, but biking no longer hurts my leg so this may actually happen. I did my first 50-mile bike ride in July, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. (It probably helps that the plan was 40 miles, so I didn’t have the daunting “new longest distance” thing hanging over my head until I missed a turn and decided to go for it.) I’d like to go road bike shopping, but my hybrid works, so I might just save my pennies for now. Thoughts? Here’s my current bike, which is certainly the best bike I’ve ever had so I don’t really know what I’m missing…

    6. Bike at least 700 miles: I met this goal on July 19. Hooray, one goal out of 13! I think, since one of my other goals was to run 1,500 miles this year, I’m going to see if I can get to 1,500 biking miles instead. July’s total cycling mileage was 146, putting me at 820.18 miles for the year.

    I took no bicycling photos, but here is one with Michaela who took 43 minutes off her previous best half-Ironman time.

    7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Um, yeah. I still have 94 gym trips remaining this year to meet that goal, which would mean 19 times per month. It’s a lot nicer outside…

    8. Read at least one book a month: I escaped into two books in July. I really enjoyed “A Fierce Radiance” by Lauren Belfer, and it was a perfect book I could crawl into and temporarily hide from my unpleasant world. Set in WWII, it’s a fictionalized account of the discovery of penicillin, and it involves some romance, some drama and some history. It’s also a good reminder that we live in times where medicine exists to cure us — less than 100 years ago, that wasn’t the case. I also plowed through a John Grisham book I hadn’t read, “The Litigators.” I always like a good Grisham novel or movie, but this one was just meh. The characters were only so-so, and the plot was the same old “underdog lawyer fights to survive” thing.

    9. Cook dinner more often: I didn’t do a lot of cooking in July, partly because I didn’t do a lot of eating in July. But I did attempt to make pizza for the first time. Conclusions: Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough makes a LOT of pizza, and it’s super sticky so maybe I should try rolling it out with oil instead of flour next time, as a Twitter friend suggested. The dough was kind of thick, but recipe was unique: Taco pizza. Nope, you didn’t misread that.

    Terrible picture of actually tasty taco pizza. The "sauce" is refried-bean-based.

    10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: I nailed this at least 25 of the 31 days. I discovered that if you can’t eat, your body hibernates. (It also gets really cold, which saved me some air conditioning costs.)

    11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: Related to number 10, by mid-July I was back down to my pre-injury weight, and this was proven both by my own “off by several pounds” scale as well as at the doctor’s office last week. Now to keep those pounds off and shed a bit more weight, and I’ll be at “goal race weight” (whenever I can race again).

    12. Blog an average of twice a week: Haha, it’s pretty clear that this won’t happen in 2014. I’m okay with that, because I’d rather have a few posts that get a lot of great public and private feedback (like this one from July) than a bunch of “I wrote this to meet a quota” posts.

    13. Find a cheaper place to live: I actually thought I had this figured out, but that plan was pulled out from under me. I need a new plan, but in the meantime I’m thinking of canceling my expensive cable and getting a Netflix membership. However, there goes live TV, including sports. Any thoughts on that, as well?

    And, since this post is a bit mundane, here’s a lesson from July: No matter what happens, the sun will keep rising and setting.

  • 2014 goal check-in: April, May & June

    Okay, goals for the year, as of the end of June. (Yes, I know we are more than halfway through July now.) My first five goals were all running-related, plus a century bike ride. They won’t happen due to injury, so I’m not rehashing them here.

    6. Bike at least 700 miles: I rode 92.53 miles in April, 39.5 miles in May and 38.15 miles in June. That puts me at 674.18 miles for the year. Spoiler alert: As I write this, I have already passed my original goal, so I guess now I’ll just see how far I go over it.

    7. Go to the gym at least 150 times this year: Well, I still have 107 more trips to the gym to meet that goal, which would mean 18 trips a month through December…

    8. Read at least one book a month: I read “Broken Harbor” by Tana French in April — I love her deep mystery novels set in Ireland, but though this one did keep me captivated and wanting to know what happened next, it dragged at times and wasn’t as good as her others. In May, I read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed — it was fun to read about the Pacific Crest Trail that runs through California, past my hometown, and through Oregon, but for all the rave reviews this book gets, I expected a bit more. And in June I read “A Child Called It” by Dave Pelzer — it gives an inside view about the horrors foster kids face, and the fact that they are very emotionally damaged but can be saved.

    9. Cook dinner more often: This was hit and miss. These bell peppers stuffed with quinoa, black beans, corn, cheddar jack cheese, feta cheese and some seasonings were great, but I didn’t like the mushy bell peppers (ate the leftovers without the peppers). I also made my own oven fries and potato soup — yes, I like potatoes.

    10. Go to bed at 10 p.m.: This was also hit and miss. I had planned to write a separate post about how I didn’t have my iPhone near my bed for all of Lent, but the short version is that it definitely got me to bed on time.

    11. Get down to XXX amount of pounds: As of the end of June, this had not changed, and had actually gone the wrong direction.

    12. Blog an average of twice a week: Nope, didn’t happen. April had one post, May had none, June had two. I’m not apologizing or beating myself up for it, since I make $0 off this blog.

    13. Find a cheaper place to live: Here’s another “Bay Area rents are too high” article, which I never seem to have any trouble finding — actually, I never go looking for them, so I imagine there are dozens more out there.

    And here’s another article about a San Francisco home that went on the market for $2 million, got six offers in one week all above asking price, and sold for $3.4 million. Another kicker: In 1994, the house went into foreclosure and sold for $145,000.