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“Rolling” Hills?

Spring may finally have arrived in southern New England, though, as has been characteristic the last few years, we’ve gone straight from a disappointing winter into early summer, apparently somewhere between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

Friday, I finally said “Y’know what? I’m a cyclist. Why aren’t I riding my bike more?”

Answering, I said “Uh, ’cause it’s cold-ish, and may rain?”

“But I live in New England. Possibly the only place on the planet with weather that can make a person whinier about the weather than old England. There are places where it is much, much warmer. And places where it is much, much colder. Sure, it’s not 75 and sunny all the time, but who wants to put up with Californians? Point is, you could ride outside almost 330 days of the year and be in no risk of the weather killing you. On the other 30 days, you can almost certainly get in a few miles of XC skiing. Bad weather is an entering argument, but shape means you can treasure the amazeballs days. And you can’t get shape by whining.”

“Self, you make an excellent point. Giddyup.”

Friday, I was back from a trip to our Nation’s capital, trodding the halls of power, and weaving my way among the throngs of teenagers from the heartland out in DC to see that socialism can actually build a pretty good lifestyle; that walkable cities with transit are pretty stinking cool, and that robust public support for the arts and humanities provides a really interesting way to spend a few days wandering among the collective artifacts that have shaped our history, our art, our sense of self, and our technology.

Mostly, tho, it looked like almost any middle school outing – the adults pretending that they had a shred of cool; the children actively ignoring anyone over 18, the vendors trying desperately to pry hard earned spending money out of the kids’ wallets in exchange for red, white, and blue trinkets made in China.

But the runs was good. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that without hesitation; this week felt like a breakthrough. Cranking out 6 on Sunday, and hopefully running one of the legs of the Vermont City Marathon Relay next weekend. Woot.

Enough running, tho. What I really want to talk about is the bike.

There are few things quite so transcendent as the first few rides in the spring, regardless of one’s state of training coming out of a deep winter. The combination of the turn from grey of deep winter, to the brown of mud and very early spring, to the first hints of color from the daffodils and tulips, the first greens from the skunk cabbage and elephants’ ears and fiddleheads. The sounds – the first spring peepers; the hoot of the owls, the deeper ribbets of the leopard and bull frogs, and the terrifying screeching of the fisher cats. The smells – from the damp of melting ice and snow, the earth as it starts to wake, the dead skunk that’s been under a snow pile or frozen mid-puetrificaiton for six months, and finally the flowers and grasses, and blooming trees – amazing.

Then there’s the transition of bikes – last ride on the winter bike, with the bullet proof tires to ensure that cinders don’t end your ride prematurely with a tire change in freezing rain (or a call to a significant other, more likely). The first time when you, against better judgement, take out the summer bike, with the good wheels and tires out on roads that might not be completely salt and cinder free and feel again the joy of a beautiful bike under your seat…

I’d made that first ride on the good bike back in April – we had a couple weeks of steady rain, with one 40 degree sunny day that fell on a weekend. I could tell that the fitness wasn’t where I want it to be, but the bike absolutely did not let down.

Fast forward back to this weekend. Friday, my afternoon meetings were cancelled, and, well, I cashed in some hard earned leave in order to ride my bike around Newport.

The ride was, actually pretty good – breezy and cool, but not cold. Shorts, wool jersey, and wool undershirt kept me pretty comfy. I’ve been letting my hair grow – managing bangs that stuck out under my helmet was more of a PITA than I anticipated; but partly, I didn’t want to stop in order to rearrange my helmet.

Having ridden around Newport for a while, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the winds, and figuring if I should do Ocean Drive counterclockwise or clockwise. Today was a counterclockwise day, which meant I started out by heading through downtown. It’s the start of tourist season, but the road improvements aren’t yet finished, so closures and construction made it a bear.

I’ll also never quite understand why the middle of downtown is a two-lane, dead straight, divided highway for like half a mile, with only two pedestrian crossings. This is not shared-use friendly design. Were I on the Newport town council, I’d open every meeting by proposing cutting this down to two lanes, and relclaiming the other half for mixed-use commercial/residential to help out with the bike-able/transit housing shortage for both Salve Regina and the NAVSTA.

Anyway, fought against the wind until I hit Brenton Point State Park, then crushed it eastbound on Ocean Ave. The one gripe I had was the dude on the e-bike who stayed JUST out of touch – wished I’d caught him to have a draft on the way back.

When I hit the end of Ocean Drive, I thought about going back, but a mile into the wind on legs that aren’t yet accustomed to riding, and I turned around, rode past the Gilded Age 1.0 mansions, wishing that the robber barons of today had the common courtesy to place their unbalanced gains on such public display, and took the short way back home. 21 miles and happy.

Saturday was like the actual day of summer that we’re going to get this year, apparently. Fortunately, our troop had enough adults at the Zombie Camporee that I was able to break free for some miles. Reminded me of EVERYTHING i love about riding in eastern CT. Highlights:

  • The corner of Plains Road and Under the Mountain Road in Franklin – no real sign, just two roads coming together in a wood, in which case I couldn’t tell which one was the less traveled…
  • Robinson Hill Road – Nutmeggers didn’t know sarcasm – if a road has “Hill” in the name, it’s going to be a hill. That said, Robinson Hill Road is extreme even for this rule. I rolled into it at about 10 miles, so should have been plenty warmed up, and should have been able to crush this. More later
  • Jerusalem Road – On the east bank of the Shetucket River. One of the quintessential New England roads – forest, farms, homes. Two lanes, next to no traffic, turns and whoop-de-doo hills. Short climbs to crush – man.
  • A “town” every 5 miles or so, which is great to catch the breath.

Chris Case had a pretty good bit capturing much of this in a reprint at the end of this month’s VeloNews. You get to read about it, I get to live it.

Anyway, enough. Got three weeks to finish up school for this quarter, and, as always, I’m way behind the eight ball.

50 days, 100 miles is the goal

Days: 1/50

Mileage: 4/100

The last couple of years, my little brother (in Oklahoma) and me (in New England) have been participating in the Runner’s World Run Streak (#RWRunStreak), in that, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we’ve headed out and ran at least one mile each day. Last year, we stretched it to two miles/day, and that felt kinda right.

Well, I was doin’ some cypherin’ this morning, and it hit me that New Year’s Day is exactly 50 days from today. And, I’m more than a little behind on my run goal for the year (not having rescoped goals when I tweaked my ankle at the Vermont City Marathon Relay), so the idea that, if I add 100 miles by the end of the calendar year, I’ll still be looking pretty good – end up at about 550 miles for the year – not quite the 600 I’d hoped*, but close enough that 3 months of spotty running means it’s a doable goal for the next year.

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Anyway, today was an AMAZING run day. Started with the scout troop dressing downtown Mystic with flags for Veterans’ Day; boxed up food for town social services at church, and got to take the dog for a stroll in the sunshine with my lovely wife.

Brunch: Cider Donut Toad-in-a-donut-hole.

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Yes, that is a cider donut, split down the middle, and an egg fried in each donut-hole. I’ve been doing this for a couple years with stale donuts from the cider mill down the way, and I’m still not sure if I like it. But, I do know there’s a there-there, even if it’s retiring to sell food at the county fair once I figure out how to make this delicious.

Oh, and I knocked off a beautiful four miler after an after-brunch nap:

I should do a “review”, but one of the things that’s been transformational for me has been going back to a Suunto watch – the heart rate band display has been a GREAT way for me to keep easy runs easy, so I don’t break myself.

* Consolation is that I should easily clear my bike and swim goals…

Think I’m gonna make it (Run)

#RWRunStreak, the Runner’s World Run Streak, is in full effect. I’m feeling strong, have only had one 10 PM run, and much like my experience last year, I’m finding that, strangely, running EVERY day instead of every other (or worse) actually makes me feel less sore than alternating. I’m sure it means that I’m actually getting stronger, or if I’m setting up for injury later.

Regardless, you can track my progress towards the end of year goal here:

I’m iffy on the bike and swim goals; if I cross the line heading stronger, I’ll link to them, too.

Vermont City Marathon 2017 Pre-Game

Back up in Burlington for another Vermont City Marathon. This time it’s different.

I’ve been going through a rebuilding since coming down with lyme disease last summer. Coupled with starting to be a “man of a certain age”, with a fondness for beer and cheese – well, let’s just say that I think my midlife crisis has centered on my midsection. Had a minor surgery a week ago to fix a minor nag I’ve had for a while; got cleared back on the bike and sneakers this week.

Fitness? Seems all over the place. I had a great streak with the Runner’s World daily challenge, and then a pretty good run with Zwift over the winter. Spring hit, and I’ve been tied up with work and school.

Thoughts on an almost lost summer

So, back in May, I found a tick. Went to the doc, got the Lyme Disease prophylaxis, and thought not much of it.

Did my first triathlon in a while at the Mystic Triathlon; not in great shape, but racing felt AWESOME – really brought out the desire to fly, and I thought I was on track for a great summer.

Went for 4 days on the Long Trail in June, and had one of the scouts need to be medevac’d due to vomiting and generally feeling terrible. Turned out, he had Lyme. Trip felt great for me; and was happy, healthy.

Vacation in Stowe was AMAZING as always; possibly the best week of the year by far, though my conditioning didn’t really reflect the effort I’d put in. Not sure why.

Immediately after vacation, I had a work trip to Honolulu. The first couple days I was there, my right knee swelled up, which is odd, because that’s like the only joint in my legs I haven’t had an issue with. But, it felt better when I ran, so I went with it. Plenty of good running laps of the canal, and a rented bike from Island Triathlon & Bike lead to two AWESOME days of riding.

But, I got home, the knee swelled up, and the lethargy I felt was stronger than the usual 6 hour Hawaii jetlag. So, I went in to see the doc, who, given the tick earlier in the year, said we ought to start the antibiotics, and take the test.

The test came back positive for Lyme, so I’ve got that going for me.

The course of Doxycycline seems to be working well; most days my head is clear, my knee doesn’t ACHE, though it is still tender. I went for a (REALLY SHORT) bike ride this morning, and had no lungs, though that might just be neglect.

Poop.

One Step Forward, stutter step back

So, it’s time for my semi-annual mile and a half test. Still nursing the tendon pull in the left foot, and a twitchy right knee to boot. I did one more run last week – out ‘n’ back at Bluff Point. First two miles were great, then – well, not bad, but not good.

Took the rest of the week off.

Sunday afternoon – I’d decided just to kind of phone in the semi-annual test. Jog it, y’know, nice and easy. So, I did.

Long story short, I’m not terribly upset. “Phoning in” 1.5 miles on the track ended up being 8 minute miles. Which isn’t bad. Plus, I didn’t wake up this morning feeling hurt. So, I’ve got that going for me.

Anyway, it’s been a kind of tough summer, but in the whole first-world problem type of tough. I didn’t run or bike nearly so much as I wanted to, but I spent most of a week backpacking on the Long Trail, spent a week in Vermont on vacation with the family, spent a week at scout camp, and spent a month on a ship in the Arctic. Mileage is way, way down, but weight’s not up.

Now I need to get focused; buckle down for the winter, and come out of the other side stronger and healthier than ever.

Not Dead Yet (again)

It’s been a frustrating spring. Cold, wet, blah, blah, blah.

    Something’s up with my left foot. Started training for a marathon to be named later, and sometime in mid-March, felt a pop midway through a 10 miler. Left foot felt really, really tender. Ran another mile on it, then walked about 3 to get home. (Probably should have called the wife for a pickup). Since then, the foot’s swelled up for about two days every time I run, and really starts to hurt at about 4 miles. (Probably should go see a doctor) Bleh. Want to run
    So, don’t use aluminum bolts to hold a rack to a frame if you anticipate carrying anything resembling a normal work load (computer, notebook, change of clothes, lunch) on a regular basis. The one aluminum bolt I had on my commuter snapped earlier this winter. Tried to use an “easy-out” to pull the aluminum out of the steel frame, and ended up with a really, really smooth hole. So, now I’m terrified because I’m about to re-thread the hole. Worst case – need to put in a helicoil, but had to source a tap.

Anyway, it’d be really easy to be down, I think. BUT!

Snuck out for a quick ride after a storm on Sunday afternoon, and, without really trying to hammer, cranked out 6 PRs and two personal seconds on a loop I ride pretty frequently.

Not bad for an aging, fat dude.

Clarity

There’s nothing quite like the first few really clear, cold mornings in New England. The leaves are off the trees, and clear sky stretches from horizon to horizon. Late autumn mornings start slowly and drag on, until the sun creeps far enough above the horizon to throw everything into sharp resolve – shadows snapped sharp, the cold air making the bright visuals stand out.

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Woke up early enough this morning to take the mountain bike out to Bluff Point for a loop. It’s been a long, long while since I’d ridden fat tires on loose soil, and for a little while, I was 13 again, barreling through the trees, branches whipping and grabbing my clothes. I don’t know if it was just enthusiasm, but I was clearing stuff I hadn’t previously cleared, and on a couple of the downhills, just felt absolutely like flying.

The ride was too short (Stupid work). But the bike’s in the car, and there’s only 30 days of less daylight until we start heading back to the endless days of endless light we call summer around here.

Great things afoot at the Jank household – need to write more later.

Middle summer night’s dreams

Great summer so far. I’ve worked a total of 7 days since June. Mostly vacation, part sequester, part taking care of teeth and checkups. (No cavities, good cholesterol, 10 pounds overweight)

Back from Scout Camp this evening. A whole week without beer. Somehow, I survived. Solid work through the end of the year, though. Not sure how I’m going to handle it.

Sad I missed D and Dianna at the Kelley race at Ocean Beach this weekend, but hope I can catch some folks at New Haven or the Hartford Marathon.

April Fool

Brilliant run today.

We’re in the funny time of year where there are three phases of weather.

  • Cold and grey, which is fine, ’cause as we all know, April showers bring roads free of sand and salt.
  • Or it’s brilliant blue skies and freaking freezing, ’cause the folks up in Canadia are still trying to pawn off their excess of winter onto us good, hard working Americans, forcing us to burn more fossil fuels
  • Or, it’s just brilliant. Warm, verdant and green, and a beautiful respite from winter before humidity and tourists set in for the summer.