STP #5

Five 1-day STP's in a row!

Five 1-day STP’s in a row!

Really, it is amazing that a person can get from Seattle to Portland completely under her own power in a single day. The bicycle is a marvel of mechanical efficiency. Which is to say that Saturday was my fifth STP ride in a row. Each year it gets easier in certain respects, yet each year I look back the next day and think “really?!?! I did that?!?! Wow!”

And even more impressive than the fact that I got to Portland under my own power, is that about 10,000 people did the same thing, spread between one and two-day riders. It’s pretty neat.

Anyway, the annual endurance tradition went well. You may recall that last year saw us dealing with temperatures well into the 90’s. With the heat wave that we’ve been having, I was worried about a repeat. But it was cloudy with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s–my power weather.

The flip side was that we did not have the usual tailwind (last year’s was especially impressive), but instead had a slight headwind. We grumbled quite a bit about it, but I’ll still take this year’s weather over last year’s. And despite the big difference in wind, we got to Portland at about the same time as last year–that’s how much extra time the heat took out of us in longer rest stops, and having to keep our effort level low while riding.

This year was an interesting experience for me in the differing fitnesses on the bike.

After doing this four times, I didn’t have any doubt about my ability to finish, barring freak accidents. But it is true that this year, I have fewer long (80 mile plus) rides under my belt that in previous years. But I’ve also been feeling really strong, and have smashed some personal best times on hills that I have ridden up dozens of times.

So STP turned out pretty much how one might expect. The things on the bike that are more durational fitness-related were barking at me a little–for me, my wrists and neck, mostly. Yet I was overall riding really strongly. For example, I went up “The Hill” in Puyallup about 15% faster than before, without feeling like I was working any harder. And 140 miles in, I felt like I was flying, and collected quite a paceline of people happy to draft me–but later on, I looked back and they were gone. I wasn’t trying to ride them off my wheel, I just felt good and was going.

There are a couple sections that tend to be lows for me, and they were again. But I overall felt better and stronger on the ride–enough so that I didn’t mind that my neck and wrists were a little annoyed with me.

A piece of information that I got at the finish line was that I was the 44th woman to cross the line. Now, mind you, I don’t know how many women do the ride in one day, so I don’t exactly know what that number means–but my hunch is that it’s something to feel good about!

We had a great time on the ride, and were pretty happy to be done!

We had a great time on the ride, and were pretty happy to be done!

In other news, a cold derailed me from my plans to ride on Mt Rainier last weekend, which I’m still bummed about. I’m going to see if I can squeeze that in this week. And the tail end of the cold also interrupted my Tenth of the Tour run–I was doing ok, but woke up the day before STP feeling not so great again, and decided that I was better off getting as much rest as I could. Luckily I felt good again on Saturday for STP. I’m bummed about all of that, but I made the right decisions. I’m going to keep as much of the Tenth of the Tour going as I can, just as a way to keep me biking, even if I won’t get “credit” for having done the whole thing.

And I’m going to try to get rid of this lingering congestion and cough!

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Artist Point

TLDR: I biked up to Artist Point on Mt. Baker with my dad. It went well. Mountains are scenic. I plan to bike more.

One of the views down the road from Artist Point

Between important life/work stuff, and a fun little bout of the food poisoning, I haven’t done much ambitious on the bike lately. Operation Train For The Dolomites 2.0 is a little behind schedule.

I did manage get in a ride over to my favorite place, Zoo Hill. The first time up that of the season is a really good way to reconsider your choices in life.

I’ve also been commuting and errand-running a lot, and trying to really push it on some of those rides–a sort of disorganized form of interval training. Despite the lack of long, epic rides lately, I’ve been feeling really strong, and have smashed some personal bests on my commute. (When you’ve gone up a hill over 100 times, a personal best on it means something.)

So I’ve been liking to tell myself that I’m in a decent place fitness-wise, stronger than this time last year. And I had no problems on some longer/more difficult rides I did earlier in the year, so it’s good right?

Today was a good test of the happy story I was telling myself. I drove out to Glacier, WA with my dad, to do the 24 mile ride up to Artist Point on Mt. Baker. The ride is about 12 miles of rolling terrain that is generally up, then 12 miles of up. From 1000′ to 5000′ but with about 4500′ of total elevation gain on the way up. For bonus fun, the switchbacks at the top are steeper than the rest of the climb.

I had done this ride once two years ago, as part of a 300k brevet put on by the Seattle Randonneurs. At that point, I had only done one mountain ride before, climbing Chinook Pass from Enumclaw. I really wasn’t sure if I was even capable of getting to the top of Artist Point.

I made it two years ago, but it hurt. Among other things, I had a hard time keeping up with fueling, which I realized when I noticed my thoughts had stopped making sense, and it was all I could do to hang my head down and stare at my cyclometer as it ticked off 1/100 of a mile increments. Very. Slowly. I nearly cried with relief when I got to the top. I didn’t notice much of the (what I now know is) amazing scenery on the way up.

…And this year, with no mountain climbs under my belt yet, and a sub-optimal and haphazard “training” program so far?

It felt easy! I felt great the whole way up–cheerful, lucid, peppy!

At the top. Told you I felt good–and my dad had fun too!

The 24 miles took me 2:20, which was 14 minutes faster than two years ago. Not a huge speed increase if you consider what I’ve done in the past two years–but actually pretty significant given how easy the climb felt this time, and how hard it was last time.

In fact, I was having so much fun, I not only rode to the top, but then rode back down to the bottom of the switchbacks (the part that nearly broke my soul last time) and rode back up with my dad. Or at least that’s what I meant to do–I got in a conversation with a friendly, chatty Forest Service volunteer, and my dad took off without me. I chased because it felt fun to go hard, and though I didn’t catch him (if only the climb were slightly longer!), I scooted up those switchbacks pretty quickly. And it felt good.

The descent was great–I stopped a few times to take pictures, and then tucked in and charged into the really unnecessary headwind that plagued the lower, flatter section.

Yay mountains!

Yay mountain streams!

Back at my car, my cyclometer claimed 51 miles and 5,600′ of elevation gain. So a respectable ride. And I still felt good–I happily could have kept biking had that been on the menu, though I didn’t mind that instead, changing into clean clothes was what was on the menu.

This is all good news, not just for the Dolomites, but also because we are less than two weeks out from STP.

AND…

I am exactly one month away from RAMROD–150 miles, 10,000′ elevation gain. After volunteering last year, and doing my own version of the ride, I am now doing the real deal. And after today, I feel like I’m in an ok place, training-wise. Especially considering the training effect of STP, and that next weekend. Ian and I are planning to repeat last year’s Mt Rainier fun of Sunrise+Chinook.

So between now and then, probably nothing too crazy bike-wise, just normal daily riding. I guess that means nothing much to report on the goals front this week. Except bike up Mt. Rainier. I think that’s probably enough.

Hello, Haleakala!

Short Version: We continued the tradition of freezing our butts off on vacation, and rode up Mt Haleakala in Maui. Because who goes to Hawaii to be warm?!?! 36 miles riding continuously up, to 10,023 feet, where the air is very thin. Then roll back down to sea level and breathe again. Some photos (as usual, if you click to embiggen, they’re embetter):

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At the top of Haleakala, with the crater (or, more properly, erosional valley…) in the background. We figured our jerseys from the Cinghiale trip were appropriate for such a ride.

 

Another view, the Big Island in the background. You really feel on top of the world up there.

Another view, the Big Island in the background. You really feel on top of the world up there.

 

Obligatory elevation sign photo. We really did it!

Obligatory elevation sign photo. We did it!

 

Better shot of the moon-scape crater without us in the way messing up the view.

Better shot of the moon-scape crater without us in the way messing up the view.

 

Long version:

During a cold snap around Thanksgiving, Ian couldn’t take it any more. He looked at our gobs of frequent flyer miles, and started researching flight options to Maui. So, post-Christmas, we headed out for four days in tropical warmth. To our amusement, another cold snap settled in to Seattle right as we left…

Beaches and tropical paradise are nice and all, but we wouldn’t want to enjoy ourselves too much on vacation, so we looked into the options for bicycling up Mt Haleakala. It’s supposedly the longest paved, continuous climb in the world.

The climb goes from sea level to 10,023 feet with just a couple flat or downhill sections so brief if you blinked you’d miss them. I quibbled with the “continuous” label for the climb because of these, but Ian said I was being silly.

At any rate, it looked like the good options were to rent road bikes from Maui Cyclery, or sign up to do a supported ride with them, their schedule permitting. Their schedule did permit, so we opted for the latter, meaning that an angel named Ed drove up, periodically stopping and offering us and a couple others food, water, and encouragement.

It also meant we could pack all sorts of “just in case” gear for the descent, and then choose what the conditions merited once we got up to 6500′ (Ed had to leave off there because commercial operations aren’t allowed past the National Park entrance, after some people on downhill-only bike tours died…)

Sure, we could have done the ride on our own, lots of people do, but it sure was nice to have the support of someone else taking care of our water and food and gear. The less you have to carry on your bike uphill, the better. Not to mention that Ed was nice, fun, and encouraging. Thanks Ed and Maui Cyclery!

Pre-trip, as usual I dealt with my anxiety about this epic and difficult ride by reading as many accounts as I could of it. The ride sounded really hard–but also like something that I could do. There are a couple brief steep sections (best of all is the final steep kicker at the very end when there is no air to breathe, and you are so ready to be done. That’s a fun little treat…) but the grade overall isn’t that steep. It certainly wasn’t as steep as a bunch of the climbs we did this summer. The trick is that it just keeps going.

For 36 miles.

To over 10,000 feet.

But though I’m not the fastest person on a bike around, I am decent at pacing myself so that I can keep going. That seemed like one of the keys to this ride–calm and steady.

The other key was what I couldn’t control: the weather. At any time of the year, you can encounter gale-force winds, freezing rain, impenetrable fog, or sunshine and warmth. We got the latter. We had about as good weather as one could possibly have for this: sunny, warm, and barely any wind.

To contrast, here is us at the summit two days later (the overnight gusts to 70mph had calmed down, but even the people who work there were noting that it was a pretty windy day):

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A slightly breezy day.

It was hard to stand up in the wind that day. Much less walk into it. Much less bike into it. As we drove up, we passed several cyclists making the ascent that day–I have huge respect for them. This was an unbelievably difficult ride in calm weather, and I don’t think I would have made it had we been riding up that day.

Meanwhile, two days earlier in calm weather, we picked up bikes at Maui Cyclery (titanium Litespeeds, if you’re curious. In an instance of epic unfairness, my bike had a compact double with great low end gearing, but Ian’s had a triple crankset with even better low end gearing. I really could have used those couple extra gears he had…) and after some time getting set up, headed uphill at around 8:45AM.

And about 5 minutes later, Ian decided his saddle was too low, rode a little longer, decided it really was too too low, and turned around for the shop to get it raised and get a multi-tool in case he needed to adjust it again. The bikes were really nice, but a rental just isn’t the same as your own.

Also, I know that if I rent a bike again in the future for a ride of any length, I need to bring my own saddle. I’ll save you the details.

It’s Maui–it seems a little ridiculous to state that the ride was beautiful. Duh. You go through a variety of landscapes–small town, farmland, forest, grassland, volcanic moonscape, and so on.

Not only is the landscape around you beautiful, but pretty soon, so are the views out over the landscape. The beginning of the ride is a pretty gentle ascent (most of the ride is a pretty gentle ascent–but in the beginning, it still feels like a gentle ascent too), but it’s steady.

Before you’ve really even done much of the ride, you’ve already ascended a long ways, and can see northwest out past Paia to the ocean, the view already looking like an aerial photograph. Whatever tropical magic it is, the angle of the light, the temperature of the water, whatever, the ocean is that magical tropical blue, and the breaking waves that are so impressive close up are just a pencil line of white outlining the coast.

And a little bit further on, you can see across the isthmus connecting the older mountains of West Maui and the newer mass formed by Haleakala, all the way to the ocean on the southwest. And the peaks of West Maui start to look about eye-level.

Looking out towards West Maui from near the summit. (Taken on the day we drove up. Because there wasn't much extra fiddle-fiddle going on the day we biked.)

Looking out towards West Maui from near the summit. (Taken on the day we drove up. Because there wasn’t much extra fiddle-faddle going on the day we biked.)

Another fun part about the ascent was that, until the 6,500 foot mark, you can wave at all the groups of downhill cyclists, and feel pretty bad-ass that you’re biking in the other direction. This downhill Haleakala cycling is a big tourist attraction on Maui.

Some outfits pick you up at your resort at 2AM, drive you up to the summit to watch the sunrise (and nearly freeze to death), then drive back out of the park to 6,500 feet, and put you on some sort of upright cruiser or mountain bike with squealing brakes and a full-face motorcycle helmet, and follow a guide back down to sea-level. Other tours omit the sunrise, and just let you off at 6,500 feet at a more reasonable time of day.

Some people love it. Some people have gotten seriously injured or killed doing it (hence the Park not letting them start their rides from the summit any more). Instead of completely bad-mouthing the experience, I’ll just say it’s not my thing.

But thanks to these tours, there’s a lot of awareness of cyclists on the road to Haleakala. And the guides know what it means when you’re biking the other way–they cheer you on as they lead their group down, as do some of the people on the tour. Occasionally I gave in to the impulse, and cheerfully called out to them “you’re going the wrong way!”

But scenery, views, and other cyclists aside, it’s a daunting climb. Normally when I get to the half-way point of a climb, I start to feel a sense of accomplishment, and get more optimistic about it, as I can start telling myself that I’ve already completed more than I have left to do.

But when I passed the 5,000 foot mark, I had a hard time convincing myself that there wasn’t so much left, comparatively speaking. After all, the remaining 5,000 feet still counted as a REALLY BIG CLIMB!

For perspective, Haleakala is somewhat comparable to climbing Hurricane Ridge, one of my big rides of the summer, twice. Without any break in the middle for descending back to the bottom. And the second time, you’re already really tired, and now you can’t breathe either.

This post is too long, so here's a nice random bit of West Maui from another day.

This post is too long, so here’s a nice random bit of West Maui from another day.

From about 5,500 feet to the Visitor Center at 7,000 feet, I was really feeling the magnitude of what I still had left to do, and not feeling like I was making much progress. And the switchbacks in that section are a bit steeper overall than most of the rest of the ride. I never went to my dark place on this ride, but this was the hardest section for me.

At 7,000 feet, something flipped for me. I only had three 1,000-foot climbs remaining, which seemed completely doable. 1,000 feet is still a chunk of climbing, but it’s a chunk that is conceptually manageable–and only three of them. That I could do!

And I did. One key for me to those last 3,000 feet was focusing on a couple hundred feet at a time. That’s not much climbing, and it makes a measurable dent in each 1,000-foot chunk.

Another key was never to push so hard that I needed to take a deep breath. Because the air just wasn’t there. Which wasn’t a problem–as long as I didn’t need to breathe that hard.

So, yeah, I didn’t set any land speed records over those last 3,000 feet…

Through all of this, I could also look out and down onto mountains of West Maui, and even the clouds. It was an incredible sensation. Mind-blowing doesn’t even get there.

More West Maui :)

More West Maui 🙂

So yes, biking up Haleakala is a pretty insane thing to do, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a reason to do it. It’s not the same in a car–as I know because we drove up two days later. You get the same views, but not the same opportunity to study them and their evolution, nor the sense of ownership and accomplishment.

At any rate, we made the summit. The last little kicker of steepness wasn’t as bad as I worried. I won’t say it was pretty getting up it, but it was more of the same slog of just-keep-going, but even slower.

I almost had a tragic tale to tell, as negotiating the turn from the poorly placed curb cut to the path to the very top exceeded my bike-handling skills at the moment. But all’s well that ends well, or so they say.

One fun part of biking to the summit is that you become a minor celebrity up there. People gawk and ask about the ride and act generally impressed with you. One nice woman–another athlete who does (I believe) trail running and other such extreme things, and so could really understand the effort we had just put in–insisted on taking lots of photos for us, with different parts of the view as backgrounds. Thanks, nice woman whose name we didn’t get!

Great as all that is, the prospect of a shower and real food beckons seductively. But at 10,023 feet, even a fast descent will still take a while. So we didn’t linger too much at the top, somewhat anxious to be done with the day.

The descent was really spectacular. At first I was pretty cautious, as I was on an unfamiliar bike (and my lower back was cramping up, the brakes didn’t feel as grippy as mine, and my wrists were fatigued and sore).

But, especially after a stop to stretch out our backs and other bits at the Visitor’s Center, at which point I was able to adjust the brakes a bit too, my confidence grew. The rental bikes actually handled great on the descent, and the road was beautifully constructed and banked for descending. Even getting a flat tire around 4,500 feet couldn’t put much of a damper in the fun of the descent. (Also, thanks to the guy in the Castelli kit who stopped to make sure we had everything we needed, and helped us committed pump-users with the CO2 cartridge the rental bike had in case of a flat.)

Afterward, Ian commented that he would come back to do that ride again just to do the descent–and this from someone who doesn’t always consider descending to be very fun. It really was that good. Or, I should say, it really was that good on well-handling road bikes, after earning every inch of the descent by climbing it.

I found a better shot of the view out to West Maui. I'm too lazy to rearrange the photos in the post, so I'm just adding this one in here.

I found a better shot of the view out to West Maui. I’m too lazy to rearrange the photos in the post, so I’m just adding this one in here.

Nope, those downhill tours really aren’t my thing.

We made it in to town, happily rolling past several blocks of backed up car traffic (I will own the gleeful cackle I let out when we went past a car that had refused to go around us for quite a while–when we were biking on the shoulder–and then after turning onto a road without a shoulder, got upset and zoomed by in a huff, veering out into oncoming traffic unnecessarily to get around us…)

And then one of the best parts of a ride like this–a life-affirming shower, clean clothes, and DINNER!

We spent most of the rest of the evening discussing what a crazy, amazing, difficult, fun, crazy thing that had been to do. The phrase “I can’t believe we just did that!!!” was uttered more than once.

Riding up Mt Haleakala is definitely the most difficult ride I’ve done–but as far as personal challenge, much easier rides have been much harder for me.

This was a ride I felt that I had the tools to be able to do. The first time I rode up Zoo Hill, I spent the whole two days before with waves of adrenaline and cold sweats sweeping over me, not even knowing if I could make it. I started this blog to help deal with my anxiety that, in signing up for the Cinghiale Dolomites trip, I had gotten in way over my head.

One of the great things about the last couple years of cycling has been not so much the growth in my abilities on the bike, but the growth in my confidence in my abilities and what I can accomplish on the bike.

After all, there has to be some reason that I keep on doing stupid things like shivering with cold on top of a mountain when visiting Hawaii to get away from the cold.

In all seriousness, it was an amazing day. Challenging, fun, and really really astonishingly beautiful. I’m not exactly sure I would recommend doing it… But it was so worth doing.

Not from the ride, but a representative sample of beautiful Maui-ness

Not from the ride, but a representative sample of beautiful Maui-ness

 

The biggest single climb I've ever done, to the highest altitude I've ever been at not in an airplane.

The biggest single climb I’ve ever done, to the highest altitude I’ve ever been at not in an airplane.

Back in the Saddle Again…

Just a quick follow-up from Sunday that I did get out for a ride yesterday. It was nothing epic (to Mercer Island, around it in both directions, and back), but was a beautiful, fun ride. And it was fun afterwards to look at my ride data and find out that I set a personal record going around the island–I was feeling strong and fast as I rode, and it wasn’t an illusion!

And because part of what got me out there was public accountability, now I’m going to publicly mention that tomorrow needs to have serious hills in it. So I think I am stuck with going out to Issaquah and up and down Zoo Hill and/or Squak Mountain. Oh well.

Goals for the week of 8/4

I finished off last week strong: yesterday we drove out to Port Angeles and did the Ride the Hurricane event. As much fun as I had biking up Hurricane Ridge a couple weeks ago, it didn’t even compare to getting to do the ride with no cars. It was also nice to have someone to drive back with afterwards and talk about how great the ride was.

And now for this week… I continue to have real life intrude with work and some house projects. Also, as amazing as rides on Rainier and Hurricane Ridge are, they are a full-day commitment of travel and energy. I think that this week I’d like to do some rides that I don’t have to drive to.

So, this week’s goals, which are imprecise and a little underwhelming:

Monday and Tuesday, house stuff.

Wednesday, work stuff and a daytime baseball game, but I can at least bike to the work stuff and game, and perhaps do some scenic route wandering to and from.

Thursday, work stuff in the AM, but then I think I’ll either bike to and around Mercer Island, or maybe Bainbridge Island.

Friday, either a bigger ride, or take dance class in the morning and a smaller ride.

Saturday, a decent ride should be possible–hopefully Ian and I can get out for a ride together, so we’ll just have to see what we’re interested in.

Sunday, ditto.

That’s all folks, time to get to work!

Goals for the week of 7/28, miscellany

So I have completed the Tenth of the Tour (woo hoo!), and the Rapha Rising challenge (that one was a push…)–now what?

So: goals for the week of 7/28. First off, it turns out there are other things in my life–projects and chores–that need to get done, so some of that is in order for this week.

Secondly, I did a lot of riding in the last three weeks, and a lot of climbing in the last week, and my legs are tired! Today and tomorrow are rest days, and for doing non-strenuous projects and chores…

Though a computer crisis (I’m very unimpressed with Sony and their laptop quality control) has somewhat derailed the first goal, it has abetted the second, as I have been sitting around waiting on computer stuff. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing with my time, but I’ll count it towards my rest goal I guess, and call it good.

Thirdly, Wednesday I’ll be riding my bike on Mt Rainier again!!!! I enjoyed myself so much last time, and I’m really looking forward to being back there. Then I’m staying overnight and volunteering for RAMROD Thursday morning. Despite having to get up incredibly early for this (I’m not even willing to type the numbers of the o’ clock I’ll be starting at…), I’m looking forward to it also. I have been the beneficiary of fabulous volunteers at a number of events, and it will be good to give back a bit.

Lastly, on Sunday, depending on weather and life, as mentioned before we might do Ride the Hurricane.

And some navel-gazing miscellany:

Kicking around in my head is the awareness that, as much as this blog has already been really useful for me in setting goals and holding myself accountable, there are also much more systematic training programs that I could be following. I could have a professional cycling coach draw up a plan for me. I could get a power meter, and do targeted intervals. I could push myself harder more often.

Kicking around in my head also is that I have the tendency to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Just because I could be training better, could be improving more, doesn’t mean that what I am doing is worthless. (And this is a concept that I sometimes have a hard time with.)

I have gotten a lot stronger this year. I can see this both in absolute results, with steadily improving times on roads I do often, and in my attitude. I’m not having as much energy sapped by the worry that I can’t do something.

I really enjoy getting better on the bike, and I also enjoy enjoying myself on the bike. Sometimes those things intersect, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s fun to push myself as hard as I can up a hill, sometimes it just isn’t. And when it isn’t, I usually don’t. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit up and admire the scenery.

This summer hasn’t been as methodical as it could have been, but it’s been a lot of fun so far. I was looking back at my to-do rides of the summer post, and realized that I’ve done most of them, and had a blast in the process! Despite growing up here, there are a number of amazing places I had never been until I biked their roads in the last couple months. (And that includes some in-city nooks and crannies…)

Even though it’s important to me to get better, nothing is depending on it. It’s not my job. And even though I have a lot invested in this Italy trip, if I’m not feeling it, I can stay in the hotel for the day, or hop in the follow van, or turn around and  head back down the mountain. So why suffer more than I find entertaining to suffer?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that on the bike I’d rather do a mediocre job of getting better than do a mediocre job of having fun. So far, so good.

PS: our house has too many stairs. By which I mean it has stairs.

Accidental genius–goals for the week of 7/14

Because I’m sure that all my readers are astute, observant, and good-looking (right?!?!), you likely will have noticed that I am posting my goals for the week of 7/14 considerably after the 14th. That is my accidental genius. You see, by stating my goals for the week at the end of the week, I can be sure to have accomplished them! Genius!

So, without further ado, my goals for the week of 7/14:

Take a rest day on Tuesday: accomplished!

Recover from STP: accomplished!

Continue getting my Tenth of the Tour miles in: accomplished! (So far.)

Starting Saturday, add more climbing back in, both on general principles, and as part of the Rapha Rising challenge (basically, climb a lot between July 19 and 27): whoops, here’s where the accidental nature of my genius shows, as I am writing this too early to report that I accomplished that goal. (Or to have a completely different goal in its place… Like lie horizontal on the couch for at least an hour…)

Anyway, this week has been a series of pretty piddly rides–getting miles in, but without ambition or extra credit. But what a difference challenging riding followed by an off day can make–I have felt strong and energetic the last couple days, and it’s not just my imagination. On a number of in-city climbs that I do regularly, I have set some personal bests, or been very close to a personal best time, and it has felt easy!

So, it will probably be another piddly day tomorrow, and then pushing myself this weekend and through the week. I think Hurricane Ridge will make an appearance soon…

And because the friendship between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen is about the awesomest thing ever–

Click to see more photos of them! (Scroll down)

Click to see more photos of them! (Scroll down)

BTW, goals for the week of 7/7–TotT, STP

So the Tenth of the Tour challenge continues this week, with goal mileage each day of around 20 miles, give or take.

Now, 20 miles can mean a lot of things–hill repeats up Squak Mountain for instance, or a relaxed flat spin around Alki with a coffee break in the middle. I’m going to incline towards the latter this week, both as recovery from yesterday (though I felt surprisingly good on this morning’s 25-mile ride for morning coffee and croissant), and to make sure I’m rested and fresh on Saturday, because I intend to spend the evening relaxing over a cold beverage after a little jaunt on my bike down to Portland, aka STP.

The 204 miles for the day will definitely cover my TotT Saturday goal mileage, with a little to spare, even…

Yay! Saturday will be my 4th Seattle-To-Portland ride, and I have had a blast each year. Sure, there are rides that are more scenic, or that are on less trafficked roads, or whatever. But nothing can compare to the delightful craziness of thousands of people sharing your insanity.

It’s also been a fun barometer of my progress on the bike, as each STP marks one more year of cycling under my belt. The first year I was nervous for months in advance, and very carefully following a training schedule (hmmm, sounds like this year re: Italy). I made it to Portland in pretty good shape, but it was definitely A Big Challenge.

The second year, I knew I could do it, wasn’t as rigorous about training, but was just out on my bike a fair amount. I was faster and the ride was easier. (STP is described as a flat route. It definitely helped the second year to know that there are some rolling hills in the second half, and steep ramps up to bridges. They aren’t too bad by any means, but when your mindset is flat, they are a rude surprise…)

Last year, I didn’t specifically train for STP at all, just did a kept riding, and added some new challenges, like the Wenatchee Apple Century that I enjoy so much. Again, I was faster and the ride was easier. The difficulty of a ride like this is mental as well as physical, and though I was definitely in better physical shape, the confidence I had last year was a great help too.

This year? Well, a couple days ago, Ian looked up from what he was doing and asked “STP is next week, right?” I thought for a moment and said “oh, yeah, it is.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the ride–it’s a blast!!–but I am not anxiously watching the calendar, worrying about my ability to complete it. I have to continue to avoid crashes or ride-ending mechanical problems, as it’s not a sure thing until the ride is over. But it’s a nifty feeling to think “ride to Portland in a day? Sure, I can do that!”

One more goal for the week: sit down with my calendar and figure out how many more times I can get myself to Mt Rainier this summer!

Week done…and next week?

This week was bittersweet. My students on Bainbridge Island had their end-of-year performances, and they did some fabulous work. That part was pretty sweet. And it made me want to be in the studio with them, building on the progress they’ve made. Instead, I had to say goodbye to the graduating seniors, and send the rest of them off on summer break. That’s a bit bitter.

But then again, I’m on summer break!

Amidst the whirlwind of performances, Ian dragged me around on the bike both Saturday morning and this morning–tootling around Bainbridge Island yesterday, then Squak Mountain as promised for today. And as promised, he disappeared off into the distance on Squak Mountain. (And frequently on Bainbridge too). I love being right.

But now, down to business–time to commit to what I’m going to do this week. In writing. And I’m feeling indecisive. Sigh.

So let’s be sensible about this, and go in non-chronological order:

Saturday, the Big Kahuna of the week. Ian and I are planning on going to Mt. Rainier and biking up to Sunrise and then up Chinook Pass. It’ll just be 50 miles or so, but two pretty significant up-a-mountain experiences. Wahoo!

If the print's too small to read, that's over 5,000 feet of elevation gain in less than 50 miles. This won't hurt at all, no siree...

If the print’s too small to read, that’s over 5,000 feet of elevation gain in less than 50 miles. This won’t hurt at all, no siree…

Tuesday, a rest day. I’ll be teaching in the morning, and in the afternoon, in pursuit of the all-important rest and hydration, might find myself sitting down with a beverage and watching USA vs. Belgium. Hey, training requires sacrifices.

Monday, the weather looks good, and I think going up to Camano Island could be pretty spectacular. That means getting in the car for a while, bleh, but I think the alternative is hill repeats up Squak or something similar. So yeah, Camano sounds pretty good.

Wednesday, I think that I’m stuck with hill repeats up Squak. Or to be a little wild and crazy, I could alternate Squak and Zoo a couple times.

That leaves Thursday and Friday, which will probably need to be days of easy, flat riding to keep my legs loose before the Big Kahuna.

So, I think that’s a wrap!

And really, if you’ve made it all the way through this post, which is basically me narcissistically talking to myself, you deserve a prize or something. No prizes here, but there is an awesome joke: “What did the snail say when he got on the turtle’s back?” “Wheeeeee!”

Now aren’t you glad you read all the way through!

Goals for the week of 6/23

This week is going to be a pretty modest week, biking-wise. My students on Bainbridge Island are performing all week, so I’m over there a fair amount teaching warm-up classes and attending performances. It’s a great week, but one that takes a lot of energy, especially mental energy.

So other than biking to work and back (and maybe a little around-the-island biking), we’ll call this a recovery week. Or something.

Still, I should be able to get a bit of a ride in on Thursday afternoon, and Friday is also looking good for riding. So what to do?

Thursday might be another good day to do a Sights of Seattle day.

Friday, if the weather is nice, could be a good day for Camano Island. Or if I wake up and really don’t want to get into the car, I could go around Mercer Island a couple times, perhaps getting there via the south end of Lake Washington. Note to self: the Leschi Starbucks is closed in the afternoons for remodeling.

Then on Sunday, I think I’ve talked Ian into going out and doing Squak Mountain with me. Because nothing boosts one’s morale like struggling up a difficult hill, and watching someone else disappear into the distance with ease.

And, since I feel like this has been a boring post, a kitten:

kitten