Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Friday, June 12, 2015
Sacrifice isn’t a very popular word in our culture. Usually, it’s associated with religion, often in a rather barbaric context. However, sacrifice is something we all deal with in our lives. We must make choices, giving up one thing for something we believe is better, or perhaps just more convenient. Contrary to what you might hear, no one can have it all. We spend more time at work at the expense of personal time, or we focus on family and maybe don’t get quite as far down our career path. Even seemingly smaller everyday choices involve tradeoff. Do I take a much needed break after a long day at the office, chilling on the sofa for a while? Or do I give my body the exercise it requires, even if I don’t really feel like it today? This blog entry isn’t meant to be a complaint; it’s just a way for me to get better perspective on my preparations for RAAM. Maybe it will also give you an idea of what it takes to undertake such a goal.
The physical training has been tough, but surprisingly it hasn’t been the hardest part of getting RAAM ready. I’ve worked out regularly for years, and so I simply segued into a RAAM-specific training program beginning January 1. I’ll admit that it wasn’t the most pleasant thing to trudge out the door time after time this past winter to ride in the cold, dark, and/or rain. However, it generally wasn’t too bad once I got out there.
Long distances don’t bother me. I think I’m naturally suited for endurance exercise, but I’ve also approached it in a smart way. I’ve ramped up my mileage over several years. Although I had no idea I would ultimately be part of RAAM, this has been an ideal way to prepare. Since January, I’ve simply ridden even farther and more frequently and done some event-specific training (i.e., RAAM blocks). It’s been enjoyable for the most part, but it’s not something I could keep up indefinitely, even if I wanted to. My family (except for Robert) doesn’t understand any of this. Recently, my father was telling me about a conversation he had with my brother-in-law. The two of them were concerned that maybe I’m overdoing it on my training. I assured Daddy that I’m not. This is a short-term project in the grand scheme of things, and I’m just doing what I have to in order to get ready for RAAM. If you’re not an endurance athlete, you can’t understand what it’s like to have such a huge training load, much less why you’d even take it on.
The biggest challenge of RAAM has been the lack of time to do much besides work and train (and go to church on Sunday morning if I’m in town). I feel like I’m hardly at home. Clean laundry stays piled up; I usually just pull things from the stack as I need them. I’m somewhat of a neatnik, and so the house generally stays picked up, but it’s never as clean as I like it. I do cook almost every night, but that’s because good nutrition is a priority for Robert and me, and we cherish our time together in the evening. And don’t think that Robert doesn’t pull his weight around the house. He’s always done his fair share of housework. It’s just that right now I’m not able to keep up with my usual tasks. My RAAM teammates are experiencing the same thing. As Jennifer put it, “Some things just aren’t getting done right now.”
I’ve really been missing reading. I’m about a month behind on newspapers. I suppose I should just give up on that and start fresh after RAAM. Additionally, I haven’t read nearly as many books this year as normal. At least I still have audiobooks for my commute to work.
If I don’t have time to read, you can believe I don’t have time to watch TV! I haven’t watched anything since January, except snippets of Family Feud when I’m lifting weights in my basement. I love Steve Harvey!
|Last year I had a blast going to a taping of Family Feud in Atlanta!|
By the way, I’ll bet I can count on both hands the number of times I’ve even sat on the sofa since January 1. I had my sofa recovered right at the first of the year. The few times I have lain down on it, it has been so comfy! I love the new fabric, too, a pattern with leaves and frogs. Here’s to getting better acquainted with my sofa following RAAM!
Besides my personal activities, I’ve also had to curtail my community and volunteer activities. Early in the year, I was asked to do a theme meal cooking class, once a week for three weeks. I was thrilled, but I’m glad I was able to do it before my training schedule got so intense. Even in late January/early February, it was a stretch to adequately prepare for and teach the classes. More recently, I was asked to serve on a local board in my community. It’s a very worthwhile cause that I would like to support, but I told them I wouldn’t be available until at least July. I have trouble saying “no,” and so this is a good indicator of just how busy RAAM is keeping me.
A few months ago, Robert was looking at my training data on Strava. He commented on how many hours I was putting in, as much as 20 or so per week. I knew that I was riding a lot of miles, but to put it in terms of hours really struck me. Training for RAAM is like having a part-time job on top of my full-time job. And that doesn’t even account for the numerous hours of planning and logistics that go into RAAM.
I was talking with my friend Brigette, who has crewed and raced in RAAM before. I told her that I think I have a little understanding of what a young Olympic hopeful goes through, training so diligently with no time for anything else but school. Brigette appreciated that sentiment, but she said that she thinks RAAM is harder. A young person training for the Olympics has other people taking care of feeding them, paying the bills, etc. Also, they don’t have to plan their own event. RAAM provides the basic structure and rules, but my team has to recruit and train our crew, arrange the RV and minivans that will follow us across the country, gather bicycle gear and other equipment, and make our own travel arrangements for the start and finish – not to mention, do a bunch of fundraising!
Robert and I were engaged for a year before we got married. I enjoyed planning our wedding very much, but it took a great deal of my time and energy during those months. Getting ready for RAAM has seemed even more intense; it’s so daily. For example, one evening last week I thought I might have a rare opportunity to relax a little because I only had a one-hour ride on my training schedule. However, between running errands after work (including picking up my bike from the shop after its RAAM tune-up!) and trying to recruit a few last minute RAAM crew members, the evening was gone. I was lucky to get seven hours of sleep (i.e., not enough, as usual).
I don’t see my circumstances as unique. I know that we all have lots going on; much of my activity happens to be cycling focused. Besides, any stress I’ve been feeling is nothing compared to people with real problems. As I train and do RAAM, I’m trying to remember the young victims of domestic minor sex trafficking being helped by Wellspring Living, my RAAM team’s charity partner. I hope that my team’s efforts do even a little to make their lives better.
Also, I certainly don’t intend to glorify busyness. As I headed out on my 162-mile training ride a couple of weekends ago, I thought about how much I wanted to stay home and get caught up on laundry – I kid you not. But I soon settled into that meditative quality of a long ride, pondering the give and take of our lives. Right now, RAAM is good. After RAAM, life will be in better balance again. I look forward to reading, kayaking, spending time with my dogs, enjoying being at home, and just…being.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.
Posted by Betty Jean at 4:18 AM
Monday, June 8, 2015
Expect adventure, indeed! Yesterday five of us – Daniel, Ian, Neil, Robert (Newcomer), and I – embarked on this recently created permanent route. It’s a ride we won’t soon forget.
With RAAM taking up a good portion of this month, I was glad to be able to keep up my R-12 goal. I was even gladder when several of my rando buddies said they would like to join me on this permanent. Daniel, Ian, and Robert are frequent riding companions of mine, but it was a real treat when Neil said he would like to come along. Although Neil cautioned me up front that he would be slower than the rest of us, it was so great simply to see him back on the bike. He’s had several broken bones in the past year and has fought back courageously. That would be quite a feat for anyone, but Neil is about 70 years old!
June is the perfect time to do the Peaches & Lakes 200K permanent because it’s during peak peach season. The first control after the start was at Dickey Farms in Musella. They have peaches, peach products (most importantly, peach ice cream!), and other fresh produce. Daniel created the Peaches & Lakes route. Originally, he wanted to run the course in the opposite direction, making the peach ice cream stop the last one of the day, but Dickey Farms isn’t open late enough in the day to make that work. Fortunately, they open at 8:00 A.M. on Sunday morning. We arrived around 8:30 after our 7:00 ride start in Thomaston.
A lot of my Macon cycling friends have talked for years about how they ride to Musella for peach ice cream, but this was my first chance to do so. When we arrived yesterday, the soft-serve peach ice cream wasn’t quite ready. They asked if we’d like frozen peach ice cream instead, which suited us fine. We sat in rocking chairs, enjoying the deliciousness of a beautiful, not-quite-summer morning:
After a few minutes, they told us the soft-serve was ready and asked if we’d like to top off our ice cream. Yes, please! The soft-serve was even peachier tasting than the frozen ice cream. The guys and I had a brief discussion (a la Alton Brown on Good Eats) about the scientific principles that made this so.
Before we left, I had to make good on my life rule of never passing up a photo opp where you stick your face in something:
I had Daniel take the picture. Last month during the Jimmy Carter 300K permanent, Robert had proven himself to be a less-than-optimal photographer at the control in Andersonville. I kidded Robert about the photo he took of me then:
Robert, the concept is to take the photo straight on, as if the person actually is the object in the photo opp. In Robert’s defense, when he arrived in Andersonville last month, he was pretty worn out. I don’t think he knew up from down at that point.
Within a mile after leaving Dickey Farms, Ian’s rear derailleur cable broke. A lot of randonneurs are MacGyver-like, carrying all kinds of tools and pieces of equipment to address potential mechanicals. Daniel usually has a spare cable but didn’t have one yesterday. Ian could have limped along for the rest of the ride with only the two gears afforded him by his front derailleur, but fixing the broken cable was much more preferable. We were entering some of my regular riding territory, where many of my cycling friends live, and I tried to think of ones close to our route. I called one friend, who didn’t answer. Daniel commented that it was about church time. Therefore, I tried to think of cycling friends who are heathens. Ha ha!
Just then two angels rode up on their bicycles, my cycling friends John Eddlemon and Dan Groselle. They were on their way to get some peach ice cream. When we explained Ian’s predicament, they offered to take us to a friend’s house only a mile or so up the road. Their friend is a mechanic who works on competition jet skis and motocross bikes. They said he can fix anything. Sure enough, he was able to get Ian going. He repurposed a motocross brake cable, grinding down one end to make it fit into the derailleur cable housing. How ingenious is that?
We were thankful to be back on our way. I always love riding on new roads, but it was also fun to ride on so many familiar roads on this permanent. They included parts of my Tuesday night group ride, my winter group training rides, and my bicycle commuting route.
Everything was going along swimmingly until we reached Juliette, where a train was blocking the railroad crossing. Reportedly, it had been there for several hours. There was no easy way around it; we would have had to ride many miles out of the way in either direction. We came up with a simpler solution. We crawled under one of the train cars with our bicycles! We really weren’t supposed to do that, but we didn’t want to be delayed any longer than possible. (Like brevets, permanents have a time limit.) I’m just glad that the railcar right at the crossing had a relatively high clearance.
Neil had been behind us for almost the entire ride, and we were concerned about his ability to crawl under the train when he got there. We tried to call and text him but didn’t get an answer. Juliette was a control anyway, and so we hoped Neil would get to the railroad tracks while the rest of us were eating lunch.
We had thought we might eat at the famous Whistle Stop Café (from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes), but there’s always a wait. I was mildly disappointed not to get any fried green tomatoes, but that made me anticipate even more the Green Tomato Casserole that I planned to cook that evening. Green tomatoes – they’re not just for frying! (See recipe below.)
Instead, we went to another restaurant, Romeo’s in Juliette:
We had some tasty Paninis and quite a few pitchers of water.
As we were ready to leave Juliette, we saw Neil on the other side of the stopped train. He said he would have been able to crawl under, but by that time, a railroad official and a sheriff’s deputy were keeping people from going under the train. I called my sweet husband Robert, who graciously came down from Monticello (not too far away) to portage Neil around. Wouldn’t you know it – when Robert and Neil got back to the other side of the railroad tracks after driving way around, the train had moved! By the way, Daniel (permanent owner and coordinator with RUSA for this route) gave Neil a time allowance for the train delay since this was totally beyond his control.
The afternoon was now quite warm – the warmest day we’ve had so far this year. We all were drinking lots of fluids as we continued our ride. The next control was a convenience store at High Falls Lake. I got some Gatorade and was amused by their current sales promotion:
Yeah, I need this.
Daniel is prone to cramping, and the heat exacerbated it. He had salt sideburns, and you could even see a light coating of salt on his jersey! He loads up with electrolytes, pickles, mustard, V-8, and anything else with a high sodium content, but they don’t completely eliminate his cramps. He’s quite a trooper.
My front shifter went out about 90 miles into the ride. Fortunately, I was able to keep up with the others just fine even with only my small front chain ring. (I was grateful every time we came to a climb!) I have Di2 (electronic) shifters. Ian ribbed me about my newfangled technology because he’s much more old-school when it comes to bicycle parts. He said that he had been teetering on the brink of switching to Di2, but no way would he do so now. Particularly since I just had a thorough bicycle tune-up to prepare for RAAM, I assured him that it was simply my carelessness in forgetting to charge my shifter battery. This did, in fact, turn out to be the case. Shimano recommends charging its Di2 shifters about every two months, but I don’t always remember that I’ve been riding way more miles than the average cyclist. I’m reminded of my husband teasing me some years ago, “You know better than to take what you would do and extrapolate it to the normal population.”
This 200K took me longer to do than any previously, but that’s because we spent more time than usual at the controls. Daniel had said that this is a ride to be savored, and that we did. When we were actually riding, we rode fairly fast (ride time = 7:26 hours, average speed = 17.5 mph). Even with the extra bits of excitement, it was still a peachy ride.
Green Tomato Casserole
6 green tomatoes, sliced ¼ to 1/3 inch thick
Salt and pepper
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange half of tomato slices in a single layer in in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with half the cheese. Repeat layers. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes, until the liquid reduces to a sauce and the cheese is lightly browned.
Yield: 8 servings
|I had only 4 tomatoes, and so I made a smaller casserole.|
Here’s a bonus recipe! You know how you get really hungry the day after a long ride? My cycling friend Chad Davies says that the critter is after you. This is a good way to keep the critter away.
Mix up some dry roasted peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips in a Ziploc bag. Place in your jersey pocket for a long ride. You can eat some along the way, but make sure not to eat all of it. The chocolate chips will melt and make a big gooey mess:
After the ride, let the mixture cool to room temperature. The next day, break it into chunks and eat it like candy.
Posted by Betty Jean at 6:03 PM
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
My office is too far from home to commute by bicycle very often. However, once a year during National Bike to Work Week is manageable. I started this tradition for myself two years ago. This year I expanded my bicycle commuting as part of my RAAM training, riding to and from work once a week for six weeks. Today was the last time on my training schedule. Although it’s been a slight pain (getting up even earlier than usual, taking extra food and clothes to the office the day before, etc.), I’m kind of sad that it’s over until next year’s National Bike to Work Week. So, a commemoration is in order.
I take a different route to work via bicycle than by car to avoid the heaviest traffic. By bicycle, it’s 36 miles from home to work and 44 miles from work to home. That’s because I always get lost on the way home. Ha ha! No, actually it’s because of River North, a gated community a few miles from my office. The entrance on my morning commute has a guard gate with no guard, making it easy to ride through the gap at the crossing arm. Coming home is a different story, however. The end of River North closer to my office does have a guard on duty, who won’t let cyclists through. We’re such riffraff, you know. River North has one of the few bridges across the Ocmulgee River in the vicinity. Because I can’t go that way on the ride home, I have to take a different route – 8 miles longer – across another bridge while still staying off of the busiest roads. It’s not that I mind the additional mileage so much; it’s the principle of the thing. Oh well, a little extra training never hurt.
I have to leave home before sunrise:
My randonneuring gear comes in handy to ride safely in the dark and at twilight: front and rear bicycle lights, reflective vest, and reflective ankle bands. Soon after I begin riding, the sun comes up.
I’ve come to particularly enjoy my morning bicycle commute. It’s so peaceful, and the roads have little traffic. This is my favorite time of year, too. The morning sunlight through the lush greenery; the songs of various birds; and the scents of honeysuckle, magnolias, mimosas, and gardenias are a feast for the senses.
My morning route also has a little adventure – a two-mile dirt section:
It’s a relatively easy section for a road bike, definitely worth it because the rest of the route is so good.
It takes me slightly over 2 hours to reach my office. I eat a Clif Bar on the way to keep my energy up, and I drink a bottle of Heed. Interestingly, I’ve noticed that I have to stop for nature breaks at almost the same points on my route every time.
A few highlights from my morning commutes:
- Making the mobile speed detector in River North flash one time because I was exceeding the speed limit (31 mph in a 30-mph zone)
- Hearing train whistles. I only got caught by a train one time.
At the end of the work day, I leave as soon as I can after 5:00 because it takes me about 2½ hours to get home, and I want to arrive before sunset. I have another Clif Bar and bottle of Heed for the ride home.
Although my afternoon route is longer than my morning one, it takes me through the beautiful Piedmont Wildlife Refuge (PWR):
I commonly see songbirds, turkeys, turtles, and deer on my commutes, but I had an especially memorable encounter a couple of weeks ago. I was pedaling on Round Oak-Juliette Road, the main paved road through the PWR. A deer began running parallel to me and then crossed the road just a few feet in front of me. I slowed down, looking for a second one. Sure enough, here came her friend. The second deer ran even closer in front of me, her eyes wide as saucers in fear. She was so scared that as she approached the far side of the pavement, she tripped and tumbled down the embankment! Fortunately, she was OK and scurried off into the woods. I had no idea that deer could be klutzes, too.
Other views from the ride home:
|Railroad as seen from Highway 11, taken from my nature break hidey hole|
|Mimosa, Queen Anne's lace, and another wildflower in the fading evening light|
A few times Robert (sweet husband) has ridden from our house until he meets me, accompanying me on the rest of my route. That always makes for an extra good ride.
The sun is sinking as I finish the last few miles. It’s kind of cool to get to see sunrise and sunset on the same day from my bicycle.
Posted by Betty Jean at 6:54 PM