Ride Report 1

After last week’s post I made an executive decision to round up the ride reports and plop them into the Sunday verbings so my friends won’t disown me. We ride three days a week, so here are the reports from our most recent outings.

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Training

Last year Brian decided to ride in The Dehydrator, a multi-distance bicycle ride set up each July to benefit the local high school band. Being a former band nerd myself, I felt it’d be a fun thing to do together and signed up with him. We ended up having a great time, even though we had to go the shortest distance to accommodate my healing innards, and we knew we would participate again this year. We started our training a bit later than optimal this time due to my pants-wetting terror of being chased by large bitey dogs, but we’re making great progress.

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Priorities

Getting Organized
I love to organize things. Books, files, documents, rooms, you name it. I can track huge projects and barf out complete status reports within ten minutes of any request. So why does prioritizing my own personal crap make my brain feel like a pretzel? Specifically, I’m referring to exercising and writing, and how to cram them back into a fairly full schedule while still getting enough sleep to avoid becoming the epicenter of mayhem. This goal has proven difficult to hit, but I’m happy to say I’m making decent progress.

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Harpy Unplugged

Photo Credit: Brian Landis

My cabin fever hit critical mass early last week. I told Brian I really needed to unplug, get out of town, and hear the wind through the trees for a couple of days. After recovering from his shock, he agreed wholeheartedly. Brian loves to camp. I do and I don’t. I do love laying in the tent, looking up at the sky through the screen and listening to the birds. I don’t love stinging insects that make me injure myself in my frantic attempts to run away from them. I’ve always had this intensely frustrating fear and it’s always screwed up my favorite outdoor activities, but the need to get out of my head outweighed the buzzing terror.

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Brr! It’s Cowd.

Plant sprout in snow

[My poor little garlic shoots are snowed under, except for this one hardy fellow.]

Our birds and plants have absolutely no idea what’s going on. In early January, we were bathed in 70 degree temperatures and covered by clear, sunny skies: a warm blanket of Solar Love. Late February has been a whirling dervish of ice, wind, and gray: an iron maiden of Frigid Hate. I’m ready for Spring.

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Random Friday: So Cold

Featured Image: The Cliffs of Brover by Brian Landis (Creative Commons License)

My Fitbit craves steps like the Evil Dead crave souls, so I’ve been out to walk every day this week in spite of the weather. Freezing my butt off in these unusually low temps has taught me a few things.

I’m Part Xenomorph
It’s true! Walking into a north wind with a 5ºF wind chill makes my eyes water constantly. The tears freeze to my glasses and become impossible to remove. This crap is like acid etching loopy patterns into my specs. While I’m pleased to confirm I’m not 100% human, trying to remove acid tears from my lenses is a pain. I should have sprung for the premium coating.

I am an alien queen!
I am an alien queen!

Addendum: on our walk to work this morning I mentioned to Brian that the church bells sounded like they were playing God Save the Queen. Right there on the sidewalk he started singing, “Our lord xenomorph, you burst forth from meeeeeeee!” This is why I love him.

Arthritis Sucks
My hands took a big fat leap down the suck hole this winter, no doubt aided by the huge temperature swings we’ve experienced. Jerk joints don’t want to work when it’s this cold, so I might have to rethink my plan to move up north in the future or start writing by dictation. On the plus side, if it gets too bad I can get this software and then be able to truthfully say I’m training my dragon.

Cheekbones and Collars!
Cheekbones and Collars!

Sherlock Needs to Hurry Up
I’m referring to the TV show, of course. Brian found it for me last year and I promptly binged us through all the episodes. NEED MOAR NOW. You’re wondering how this is related to the weather? I have a wool pea coat with a high collar that I always wear when it’s horrifically cold. Since watching Sherlock, every time I raise the collar I remember John saying, “You, being all mysterious, with your cheekbones and turning your coat collar up so you look cool,” and I titter.

Spring Also Needs to Hurry Up
The forecast for today is 27ºF with an 80% chance of snow. As I was drifting off last night the ever-present ringing in my ears took on the pattern of cicadas buzzing in the trees. I am definitely ready for spring.

It’s been a weird week, but I’ll label it a win and get on with my business. At least tomorrow actually IS Saturday.

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How to Tweak Your Daily Routine

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working to change my morning routine. The goal is to get up early and sneak in a workout before my day gets rolling and I have to focus on braining for a living. The reality has turned out to be a bit of a challenge.

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Stuff and Things

Okay, two things: (1) holy crap, it’s already October and (2) I’m feeling updatey. While celebrating the former, because we are so over these summer temperatures that won’t go away, I feel like the beginning of October is a good time to stop and take a look at where we are. Also, this update is part of my ongoing effort to get stuff out more quickly. The amount of time I take to put these things together is just appalling to me, so I’m training myself to remember that nothing is ever perfect and not all content has to be earth shattering. So here are the current goings-on in Harpyville and other things that are important to me at the moment.

Recovery
The post-surgical timeline is cruising along pretty well, all things considered. My innards still get sore at odd times of the day and I still get tired stupid easy, but I’m improving. A few weeks ago a hideous amalgamation of strep throat and the Cold from Hell moved in and slowed me down considerably. It also completely screwed up my fitness goals for the year, but we can move those forward. There’s plenty of time to add cycling distance before the weather gets too cold, and then we can move back into the gym. At this point I’ll just be glad to stop feeling like semi-sentient Jello.

October
Talking about recovery makes me think about what caused the need for it. We’re now six months out from the loss, and Bunzilla would have been due on the 26th. Getting to sleep has been a challenge every night for the past few months thanks to the surreal games of What Could Have Been that my brain likes to play when the sun goes down. These games have intensified as that date draws near. They also like to hit while I’m out grocery shopping, which is really annoying. So far I’ve managed not to have a meltdown in public, but it’s been close. Something tells me Halloween is going to be extra weird this year.

Work

Secret bonus flower!

Work has been patchy over the past year, which was a blessing when I needed time off for health and then something to keep my traitorous brain occupied. A new possibility is on the horizon and it would be a welcome addition to current gigs. I’ve also been easing into a new routine to get more writing done for you lovely people and to be more productive each day. Brian has been helping me a lot with this, both by example (seriously, he’s awesome) and with ideas for stuff to tackle. You’ll be seeing some interesting projects here in the nearish future.

Garden
My garden has been the main benefit of our bipolar weather. I have to stop and take pictures almost every morning because the flowers are blooming riotously and changing color with each bloom. Yesterday we discovered we even have a secret bonus flower growing beneath one of our bird feeders. I was a bit surprised to see a morning glory that far from the house, let alone blooming after getting mowed last week, but there it was. Between the planters he built and the natural beds he cultivated, Brian has built me the prettiest garden in town this year. It makes me happy every time I go outside.

I realize this update is a bit all over the place, but it’s an accurate account of me at the moment. I’ve never had anything that could be described as a “train of thought.” My process looks more like a kid playing Frogger because the connections don’t make sense to anyone else. That’s a subject for another post, though. It’s time to go walk in the garden and feed our uppity blue jays.

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Hiking!

Last Wednesday when we were out bike adventuring in our favorite recreation area, Brian and I decided to hoof it down one of the walking trails just to see where it went. We discovered an old spring pavilion and a little waterfall flowing into a creek full of darting minnows. The walk was so lovely we knew we had to return soon with our backpacks and hiking boots to explore more of the trails. “Soon” wound up being Saturday.

Exhibit A: Ow.


We began from the Nature Center, having chosen to start with the easy main trail and all its moderately hilly/rocky loops for a total around three miles. Speed wasn’t our focus; there were too many interesting signs identifying vegetation that we both wanted to stop and read. Besides, you can’t hurry adventure. We hit the first loop around seven minutes in. Three minutes after that my foot got caught on a root and I face-planted into the hillside (Exhibit A). Once I stopped laughing long enough to get up, we continued on our merry way. Leave it to me to crater on the first loop.

The loops themselves were fascinating. We had learned from a short film at the Nature Center that the trails cross through ecotomes where forest transitions into grassland, and these areas are weirdly pretty (Exhibit B).

Exhibit B: Prairie Loop ecotome.
Exhibit C: Pretty!

Seeing cacti among the prairie grasses and wildflowers is too cool. While I did take a few pictures of the first two loops, most of them were fairly craptacular. Exhibit C is the one good shot from the ecotome flowers. Back under the canopy we were surrounded by a variety of elm, oak, dogwood, maple, and even the occasional sycamore. With the weather beginning to turn, the breezes on these trail sections carry the pleasant smell of acorns and fallen leaves. For me that scent is right up there with honeysuckle on the happy scale.

Eventually we made it back to the Nature Center, where we stopped for a break and Brian was conscripted to take photos for a large group of women also out adventuring that day. After eating our lunch of PBJs and pretzels in the company of a pink-nosed feral forest cat, we decided to go hike another three-mile trail around the small lake nearby. The entire path around this lake is paved, but some of the hills on the far side are just gnarly, so it still made for a good hike. I got a couple of nice shots here (Exhibits D and E), and was able to pay more attention to the wildlife because I didn’t have to focus so much on where my feet were going.

Exhibit D: Nifty marsh area. Also, Brian’s elbow.

 

 

Exhibit E: Lake view from the top of the gnarly hills.


Exhibit F: So green! Photo credit to Brian Landis.

Back on the first loop we had come across two armadillos rooting around in the leaves. One of them crossed the trail not three feet in front of us and appeared to give zero cares that we were in the vicinity. On the lake path we were able to see many more birds, including ducks, cardinals, ravens, mockingbirds, and jays. We were escorted by a few cute little striped lizards with red tails on the far side of the lake, and there we also found the prettiest snake I’ve ever seen (Exhibit F). He crossed the path in front of us and we stopped to watch him pass. Also, dragonflies. Dragonflies everywhere. We even got checked out by a few bees and I managed not to have a runaway.

When we got back in the car to go home we were hot, sticky, itchy, scraped, sore, and slightly bloody. When I was a kid, those were the hallmarks of an excellent day. Turns out they still are.

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The Ride

This post has been a long time coming. It’s my own fault. I let my brain go on vacation for a few months while I tried to get back into the work groove and have had a hard time getting it to re-fire. Some days it’s as uncooperative as my bod. Some days one works while the other isn’t interested, and some days both are firing on all cylinders. The latter are not as common as I’d like at this point, but recovery isn’t always a linear process. It’s a bumpy, frustrating, rewarding pain in the ass. The rewarding part is what I want to focus on today.

Overall, I’ve had a pretty smooth, complication-free recovery. The surgeon cleared me to resume normal activities at my six-week checkup after surgery, so we decided to celebrate that weekend with a bike ride to see how it felt. We went a little over seven miles up some gnarly hills. While it wore me out, being able to push myself that far felt rather awesome. Given that performance, we figured I could probably handle the 10-mile route of The Dehydrator, the annual ride to support the Duncan Band Boosters, which was scheduled a little less than a month away. We had been planning to join this ride since last year and were excited that we wouldn’t have to skip it after all.

Training began immediately. We started riding several times a week, going a little farther each time while working on cadence and speed. Having a goal to meet and something to look forward to were good for my brain and, along with the exercise, helped me heal. I was having a difficult time keeping up with Brian on our training runs, though. When we first started to ride a few years ago, we bought a couple of “comfort” bikes from Walmart, and they were great to get us going. Then last year I bought Brian a Giant Roam commuter hybrid for his birthday and haven’t been able to catch him since. My old Schwinn was definitely comfortable, but it was not built for anything resembling speed.

So, as an extra bonus and birthday gift two weeks before my birthday, Brian bought me my own Giant commuter bike (a Rove) for the big ride. He had been saving up all year to take me to the bike shop and the surprise blew me away. This bike is sleek, light, and fast. I love it. Remember when you were a kid and your best friend let you ride his new bike while his mom wasn’t looking? Riding my Rove feels like that. The stupid grin on my face every time I get on it should be sufficient proof. Our training rides for the week and a half before the Dehydrator were made of pure wheeeeeee. I felt like I’d been fired out of a slingshot.

Me and the Rove out gallivanting with hubs this past Wednesday.

 

We were both excited when the day finally came, even picking up our rider packets the night before because I was paranoid about being late. We got up at 5:00 a.m. to make sure we were fueled and ready to go for the 7:00 a.m. start. The morning was unusually gorgeous for late July as we pulled into a half-filled parking lot just after 6:00. The sun rose over a fairly large herd of enthusiastic cyclists preparing for the different routes ranging from 10 miles to 82. The array of bikes and fancy road gear kept us entertained until it was time to line up for the start. We listened to the mayor welcome everyone, the band director thank us for our support, and a few other announcements (sadly no one said “gentlemen start your engines”), and then we were off!

I had been nervous about riding in a group with hundreds of other cyclists, but that actually turned out to be the best part. Everyone gave each other plenty of space, so being in that huge pack at the beginning fostered a feeling of good-natured solidarity. Nobody was in a hurry. And, to be honest, it gave me a brief little thrill to pretend I was in a race as all the long-distance riders went whizzing past me on their road bikes. Brian and I didn’t see many other people on the short route, but it was a beautiful morning for a ride and the ladies at the way-station cheered us on as we rolled past the halfway point.

We hung around after finishing our route and found out when we went in for the luncheon that I had even won a door prize (free bike maintenance, woo)! So, in addition to giving me free stuff, the Dehydrator got me out of the house, out of my head, and back into the world after a pretty crappy few months. Talk about doubly rewarding. And neither of us are super social people, but we really enjoyed feeling like a part of something positive at that ride. The experience is worth repeating, so next year will see us going for one of the longer routes!

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