Archive for August, 2009

When it Rains it Pours.

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

The guy on the phone asked how long the house was.  “Thirty feet,” Ginny replied.

In the background she could hear the other guy.  “No, not the width.  The length.”

We had to laugh at that.  It seems no one lives in 1200-square-foot houses with two bedrooms and one bath anymore.  And a length of 30 feet.  Yeah, I know.  We’re behind the times.

She was calling about shingles.  We couldn’t put it off anymore.  We had to put a new roof on.

A few days later the new shingles arrived.

shingles awaiting installation

shingles awaiting installation

Don and Brett would be showing up early on Sunday to install the new roof.  In the meantime we had a pretty good – but certainly not remarkable – rain on Friday night and early Saturday.  That was fine with me, as I was working on an article deadline for Sport Rider magazine.  Ginny was in the living room reading and I was in the den with my laptop at hand when we hear – and feel – a heavy crash.  The shaking through the house was severe enough that I thought a tree had come down on us.

True enough, a very large tree limb had come down, but it missed the house.  Just barely.

Sunday suddenly became a very busy day.

Errant Tree Limb

Errant Tree Limb

You can’t really see it, but the limb is sheared at the trunk of the tree.  It’s held there only by the tension and weight of the limb.  The small shed behind it gives some scale for how large it is.

The View Towards the House

The View Towards the House

Here’s looking towards the house.  The wooden well housing was miraculously spared.

View from the Side

View from the Side

This view from the side shows how long and extensive the limb was.

View from the Deck

View from the Deck

The limb came all the way to the house, as apparent in this shot.  But although leaves and branches hit the deck, none of the heavy parts of the limb did.  Lucky!

Cleaning Up

Cleaning Up

Pretty much the same view, after a few hours of cutting.

Jeff's Chainsaw

Jeff's Chainsaw

Roofers at Work

Roofers at Work

Meanwhile, Andrew, Don, and Brett (and Zachary, not in the picture), worked on replacing the roof.

A Busy Day!

A Busy Day!

An awful lot going on in one day…

Long Odds

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

It seemed timely when the flyer came in the mail last week.  The Fauquier Free Clinic will be holding its 12th annual bicycle tour fundraiser in September.  The flyer described how there are several different rides one can choose from – all-paved distances of 12, 35, or 60 miles; or “mixed terrain” routes of either 20 or 30 miles.  It struck me that this might be an opportunity for me to further explore this bicycling thing, given my recent time and interest in it.

I don’t have a mountain bike or hybrid, so I immediately ruled out the gravel road stuff.  And of the paved rides, the 12 miler is simply a pleasant little ride for “recreational” cyclists – too short and too easy.  The 60-miler, on the other hand, is too long and too serious.  No way I’d be able to do that in a month.  Right there in the middle, though, is that 35-miler.  That might just work.

Or not.

Today I downloaded the route into my motorcycle GPS, climbed onto the Harley, and went to take a look.  I took my time, deliberately envisioning what the route would be like on a bicycle.  Imagining how pedaling it would feel.

It’s a beautiful route, I’ll give it that.  Mostly secluded, with rustic views all over the place.

Only thing, I don’t think I’d be looking at the scenery very much.

It’s not the distance.  Thirty five miles is pretty doable for most anyone with a modicum of fitness, after all.  No, the killer on this ride is the hills.  Lots and lots of them.  Enough that they morph that 35-mile distance into something probably closer to a 70-100 mile effort, were it a flat course.

To put that in perspective, cyclists often point to a “century” – a hundred mile ride – the same way that runners target a marathon.  Neither is something that one does lightly or without a great deal of training.

With a little more than a month until the ride, that would give me 8 weeks of training on my bicycle – starting from a base of zero.

Not very promising…

Rough Ride 35 Miler

Rough Ride 35 Miler

Here’s the link to the ride:

Going Clipless

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Among road bicyclists, probably the first clue that someone might be halfway serious about the sport isn’t the colorful jersey they’re probably wearing.  No, it’s when you look down at their pedals and instead of seeing that big flat platform where your feet go that we all remember from when we were kids – you see instead a small chunk of metal which seems impossibly small to serve the purposes of pedaling a bicycle.

You’re looking at a “clipless” pedal.

I won’t pretend I’m anything approaching serious.  I still suck in all the ways that “roadies” might ever measure themselves.  But what started out simply as a way to get a little exercise… has morphed into something else entirely.  What that is, what it will end up being, I can’t say.  But I’m going with the flow.  And the flow told me to do this.

There are a handful of different kinds of clipless bicycle pedals.  After doing a week’s worth of research, I chose Speedplay Light Actions.

There’s some wisdom associated with clipless pedals.  The most prominent being… you’re going to fall down a time or two while you’re getting used to them.  Your feet are essentially locked into place on the pedals – not unlike a ski boot to a ski – and you disconnect them by rotating your heel out.  Sounds simple.  And it is.  But it’s not quite as quick or as easy as simply lifting your foot off of a conventional pedal and sometimes you end up coming to a stop with your feet still glued to the bike.

That’s when you get to absorb some of that wisdom.

It didn’t take me long.  Having installed my shiny new pedals on my bike and having attached the cleats to my new cycling shoes, I figured I’d just spin around the upper loop on my gravel driveway a few times.  That’s when I discovered that the unclipping procedure was not as intuitively obvious as I first assumed it must be.  Splat.  Down into the gravel hard enough to knock my chain off.

Slightly banged up, but undeterred, I took off on my evening training ride last night.  I had some initial difficulty leading out on the slight uphill incline in my yard – clipping into the first pedal is done from a standstill, of course; but then you have to clip the other one in after you’ve gotten moving.  My unclipped foot slipped off the pedal and I banged my perineum on the bike’s top tube.  Hurt like hell.

But once I was past that little drama, it all got better.  I spent an hour down in Warrenton Lakes getting a few miles in and practicing clipping and unclipping.

I’ll get this.

Speedplay Pedal

Speedplay Pedal

Road Cycling Shoes w/cleats

Road Cycling Shoes w/cleats


Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

My legs ache. Like I knew they would.

On Sunday I repeated Saturday’s early morning bicycle ride – the loop on Blackwell with the killer hill. Except I did it in the early afternoon, after the morning rain had cleared and the sun had come back out and the roads had dried.

And then last night I added half again to the mileage I’ve been riding in recent days. You normally wouldn’t do that, but with the embarrassingly small base from which I’m beginning I knew it would be okay.

Except that it would hurt.

The start of a bicycle ride is just like a run – it sucks for the first couple of miles while your muscles slowly warm up. Your body has a reluctant torpor to it, a dull feeling of not wanting to do this. And your legs pointedly remind you that they’re still tired from yesterday. But then it slowly gets better as the sheen of sweat builds across your body. Sometimes a lot better.

My rides during this getting-started phase have been marked by a press to incrementally increase distance and pace. My heart rate has averaged within 10-15 beats of my heart’s maximum. That’s too high.

So I dialed it back just a bit, riding with just a hint of deliberateness.

The epiphany came late in the ride, when I was into a distance I’ve not seen before this year. When I should have been getting more and more tired. When my speed should have been slowly declining. When I should have been riding in lower and lower gears, sapped by fatigue.

Instead, I got stronger.

It’s the first time I’ve ever felt that on a bicycle. When the burn in your legs and the heaving of your lungs after a hard climb give way, not to growing fatigue, but to renewed strength. You coast for a few seconds. Then you click into an easier gear and just spin easy for a little bit. It only takes moments. Then your legs recover. You click back up into a higher gear, rolling steady now, pressing to keep your speed up. And then on the next rise you lift up out of the saddle and are surprised by how great it all feels. How strong you feel.

There’s a miracle in there somewhere.

Today, my legs ache. It’ll be a rest day.

2 Wheels… But Not on a Motorcycle

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

A mile into the ride I break out of the canopy of trees and into the early-morning sun.  The mist rises from the field to my right and the flat angle of the sun lights it from the side, imparting to it a look of faint mystery.  The air seems unusually clear for the first day of August.  But then it is very early, not yet even 7.  Not yet time for the sun to bake the humidity into a hard haze.  Maybe it’s because I’m not wearing sunglasses, but looking at the awakening world with naked eyes.

Slightly chilled when I began the first coasting descent just a few hundred feet from my driveway, where my ride began, I’m feeling better now as my muscles warm to the task.  This is the first long uphill grade and as the road rises in front of me I shift down into the lower gears.  The burning in my legs grows, but it’s not too bad.  Nothing like the awful pain that the hill on Blackwell will throw at me in five miles.  I laugh at myself and pull my mind away from that torment to come and simply savor the surprise of how pretty everything is.  I’ve done it on a motorcycle, of course.  Loved the early morning quiet and solitude and newness of everything.  But this is the first time I’ve ever taken a bicycle out so early.

I was a runner once.  That ended when I began working where I do now – the long commute and the necessarily long days.  But I remember it.

One of the things I remember was that training days begat more training days; while missed training days led to more missed training days.

Put a string of evening runs together, in other words, and you’ll have no trouble convincing yourself to get out there tomorrow when you get home from work.  But let a few days slip by without one… and the excuses become seductive.

Same thing on a bike.

I’ve fiddle farted around with road bicycles for years.  It’s a sport I’ve always enjoyed, they being a cousin to the motorcycles which have long colored my life.  But I’ve never really given them a serious shake.  I’ve always just done a little ride here, a little ride there.  I never once put a string of training days together.

Until now.  In the past eight days I’ve ridden my bicycle six times, slowly increasing my speed and distance.

I’m having a good time.  We’ll see where it goes…

After the Ride

After the Ride