Fixing Flats

Remember that somewhat grim long ride I had a couple of weeks ago? The one with the pink running shoes, the neon coral lipgloss and, worst of all, the flat tyre I couldn’t fix and how I had to get a taxi to a bike shop to fix it? I learned many lessons that day.

  1. Neon coral lipgloss is not for me.
  2. I needed to woman up and swap cycling in running shoes for clip-in shoes.
  3. I needed to learn to fix a flat tyre.
Trying to fix the puncture

Trying to fix the puncture

 

The lipgloss has been retired. The cycling shoes are now being worn and I’m clipping in like a boss. But I’ve been procrastinating BIG STYLE about learning how to fix a tyre. I’ve been too tired, I’ve had too much studying to do, it’s been too hot, I’ve had too much wine…you name it, I’ve used it as an excuse. And every week, when I’ve set out for my long rides, I’ve cursed myself for tempting fate and have wondered if THIS is the week I regret my inaction.

Yesterday, I cycled 80 miles – my penultimate long ride. I knew I needed to tackle this puncture malarky, so on Thursday night, despite being tired and despite the hot temperatures and the humidity, I buckled down. I got out my book with its step by step guide, I found a guide on youtube and I tackled the back wheel, because punctures are always on the back wheel, aren’t they!

It went okay. I was pouring sweat from the effort (and the humidity) but I managed to take off my wheel, take out my inner tube, put it back in, re-inflate the wheel and put it back on the bike. I was triumphant and felt much more confident.

Just as well.

I woke up at 5am yesterday, and went into the living room where my Long Ride kit was all laid out. I got dressed, sorted out my food and my drinks and went to pump up my tyres. The back tyre, the one I’d ‘fixed’ was spot on. Hard as nails. I was thrilled. My front tyre? Flat as a pancake.

I have no idea why this had happened. So I took a deep breath and set about fixing an actual puncture! Wheel off, inner tube out. BIG hole in it. Checked the tyre to see if there was anything that had caused it, couldn’t feel a thing. Checked again. Nothing. Put in a new inner tube, re-inflated it, put it back on the bike and pumped it up. It took me a few minutes, at least a quarter of the time it had taken me the night before!

Practising is worth it, people!!!

Sunrise yesterday morning. Worth the early start.

Sunrise yesterday morning. Worth the early start.

I haven’t blogged much about my long rides because they’re not very interesting. I have one main route, due to safety, and I increase the distance by adding loops along its length. I’ve done 2 x 75 milers and now one 80, and something feels like it’s starting to shift. I feel stronger. Things don’t hurt as much at the end, and I feel like I have more gas in the tank as I finish. I’m really encouraged.

Next week is 85 miles (or 90, what do you think??) and then a taper…and it’s not long now till the big day! Yippee…I am ready to have DONE it and to be running again!

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IT Band ‘fun’!

Yesterday evening, I got back from a run with a massive grin on my face and a real sense of achievement. I’d run more miles in that last week than I had for months. Prepare to be underwhelmed…but I ran 20 miles last week.

Yeah, I know that’s nothing, but it was also a LOT.

I’ve had two main obstacles to running lately. The first has been my focus on September’s century ride, so whilst that’s frustrating in terms of running, it’s understandable and it’s been a sacrifice I’ve been prepared to make.

All the neon!

All the neon!

 

The second obstacle has been some not insignificant IT band pain. It started a few weeks ago at mile 4 of a 6 miler. A ‘pain’ in my left glute (aka buttock). Maybe not a pain but the stinging burn of my IT band. That only increased over the next few runs, and then the pain would linger for the remainder of the day after my run. I knew that I needed to be very careful – this could sideline me for a long time.

There are a few potential reasons for this. Angela has pointed out that when we start running, our cardiovascular system improves quite rapidly so our ‘fitness’ increases significantly. However our muscular-skeletal system does not improve at the same speed, so our hearts want to run harder and longer but our bodies aren’t yet ready to support it. I wonder if the IT band issues might be caused by that. I’ve been doing a lot of cycle training so my cardio fitness is in good shape, but my running muscles are NOT as strong as they used to be. So maybe I’ve overworked them.

The other potential reason is my shoes. I’ve been running in the Hoka Cliftons for a year now. I LOVE them. Well, I loved the first model. But when I started running in the Clifton 2s a few months ago, I immediately noted that the toe box was much bigger and the whole shoe felt too big. I should have sent them back, in retrospect but I didn’t. I know that I need a fairly tight toe box or my foot rolls around a lot – this has caused issues in the past. Were these loose Hokas to blame for my IT band?

The Hoka Clifton 1s...

The Hoka Clifton 1s… the good guys

 

So I cut my runs down to 4 miles. I cut my speed down even more. I’ve done some stretching and even a little rolling. I swapped my Hokas for some old (almost unworn) Asics with a much tighter toe box. And the pain is going away. On tonight’s 6 miler, I felt the IT band at Mile 2.5 but it didn’t hurt very much at all, didn’t get worse and my running was still comfortable.

I’m signed up for a half-marathon in November in Sacramento. I was hoping to PR but I’m  holding fire on the training and the speed work till I’m running pain free. There will be other half-marathons but not if I’m injured!

So…this week, I’ve run four times, I’ve covered 20 miles, my IT band pain is significantly decreased and I am really happy. Sometimes, very unimpressive achievements are pretty exciting for the girl involved.

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Fight, fight, fight!!! Running vs Cycling!

This used to be a running blog.

You may have noticed that it’s not so much about running at the moment, it’s all about cycling. That’s because I’m training for the 100-mile Surf City Aids Ride in September and that is taking up all my attention, and definitely taking up all my time.

I have to be honest, I miss running so much! I was out on my bike last week and saw two bunches of girls out running Woodside trails and my heart ached a bit to be with them. This is a good thing, as I was having an unenthusiastic spell with running  a few months ago and I’m so happy that I WANT to run again! But for the moment, I’ll have to hold my horses – whilst I’m trying to run 3 times/week at the moment, cycling is necessarily taking priority.

The more I get into cycling, the more I find I compare it to running, sometimes favourably, sometimes less so. I thought it might be fun to do a face off – running vs cycling and see how they stack up.

In the blue corner…running.

In the red corner…cycling

DING!!

Round One. How much time does it take?

There is a clear winner here…running!! I used to think that fitting my 2-hour ‘long run’ into a busy week was a challenge. I will NEVER think that again. My rides at the moment (being slow) are 7 hours long, and likely to increase to 8 1/2 before I’m done. This is HARD to fit in to my life and I have become a little resentful of the time it’s taken me away from my family.     Winner = running!

Round Two. How easy is it to get out the door?

Once again, running wins. Pull on some clothes, get some good shoes and a sports bra and you’re off. It takes HOURS to get out the door for a long ride. Pump tyres, check puncture kit is all there, find all the clothes etc, water bottles, snacks…and there’s always something I forget. Like chamois cream.     Winner = running!

So much stuff!

So much stuff!

Round Three. How safe do I feel?

Where I live is very safe so I have never felt in danger when I run. Only when I run trails do I feel edgy about my environment, and that’s due to big cats and big snakes.

However, I do not feel entirely safe in the roads of the peninsula. It’s densely populated, people drive fast and are not particularly cyclist-friendly. I feel like I’ve heard about many more cyclist accidents here than I did in the UK. I get back from each ride thanking God that I’m safe.    Winner = running!

Round Four. How much chafing is there?

Both sports have caused chafing but neither need to have done so if I’d used something. Lack of Body Glide meant my British thighs suffered some painful chafing a few times when running but lack of chamois cream meant that there was chafing in areas where no lady wants to chafe!  It’s a draw! A painful draw!

Round Five. How cute is the clothing?

Cycling clothes are quite ugly. We’ve discussed jerseys, but also padded shorts are not flattering and the shoes are ugly too. But cycling clothes have pockets in the small of my back and I LOVE that, I’d love more clothes to have pockets there especially when I start teaching in September!

But there’s a clear winner. Running clothes are really cute, which is why I have far too many of them.  Winner = running!

My favourite outfit, inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge against a California sky!

My favourite outfit, inspired by the Golden Gate Bridge against a California sky!

Round Six. How fast can you go?

Cycling wins!  You know that bit at mile 7 of half-marathon and you’ve still got 6.1 long, slow miles to churn out and it feels like you’ll be running FOREVER?? Those last 6 miles FLY by on a bike, it’s a joy to watch them tick off on your computer! I never quite get over the buzz of watching those miles mount up quickly! Winner = cycling!

Round Seven. Health benefits.

Both activities are super healthy – good for cardiovascular health and overall fitness. But how do they stack up?

Running is weight-bearing so helps build strong bones. It burns more calories per minute. However it is potentially harder on joints and one article suggests it’s more likely to cause injuries. It definitely leads to more muscle soreness than cycling.

Cycling is gentler on joints. It apparently builds more muscle in the legs. It’s low impact so you can go for longer. My personal experience is that it’s kinder on the bowels that running – no ‘bush stops’ for me when cycling. I’d also suggest that for ‘that time of the month’ cycling is a preferable activity. I had no trouble cycling then, whereas running can be uncomfortable, if not painful!!

I read a number of online articles for this question…and basically, apart from the info above, the general consensus was they’re both awesome, pick the one you love or, better still…do both.  It’s a draw!!!

For your pleasure.

For your pleasure.

Round Eight. How much fun is it?

I actually enjoy how running feels but cycling definitely wins this category. It’s like flying. It’s so smooth and elegant and graceful. I particularly love cycling with the Dude – somehow it makes me feel like a mama tiger loping along next to her cub. There’s nothing like feeling your legs turning and your bike speeding along underneath you.                Winner = cycling!

Round Nine. Is it a friendly crowd?

This is a hard one. Years of running have given me a great bunch of running friends but I only have one amazing cycling friend because I’m so new at the sport that I haven’t had the chance to meet many yet. Also, cycling is full of whippets in fancy kit on fancy bikes who are snooty and unfriendly. They often don’t reply to my smile or greeting, and there are a lot of fairly obnoxious rich people cycling around the peninsula.

However…I have met really nice, chatty cycling people at my cake stops, other riders on my 100k ride were really nice and I only conquered Page Mill Road, our local brute of a hill, because one lovely lady got chatting as we slogged up and literally dragged me up it, encouraging me and challenging me. With more time, I’m confident I will find my cycling friends! It’s a draw!!

I will take a long time to find cycling ladies that begin to compare to these chicks!

I will take a long time to find cycling ladies that begin to compare to these chicks!

 

Round Ten.  How happy does it make me?

I can’t choose a winner because I love them both. Running through the redwoods is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. Running with your friends somewhere beautiful is just a joy. But cycling feels like flying. Cycling across the Alps years ago was a magical adventure. Touring with the Dude the other week was so special. Both sports make me super-happy. It’s a draw!

And the verdict is…

With 8 points vs 6, running is the clear winner! However that’s primarily because it fits better into my lifestyle at the moment (time) and because where I live doesn’t provide the safest cycling.

But writing this list, which is totally tongue in cheek, made me realise that I love both sports. I would HATE to have to choose one. I want both. I am both a runner with a cycling problem and a cyclist with a running problem and I do not want that to change. In addition they compliment each other really well – once this century ride is done, I probably won’t do more of them but I DO want to continue riding and do more 100k rides. I definitely want to keep this variety in my fitness routines.

The real winner therefore….is me!

Euphoria!

Euphoria!

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Redwood Reset Running

Guess what – this is a post about running and not cycling! It’s been a while, hasn’t it!

I HAVE been running a little over the past few weeks whilst I focus on cycle-training, but not much. And boy, I have MISSED running. When I’m out cycling and I see a few girls out running trails, my heart aches to be running. One good thing about century training is that it’s reigniting my running mojo BIG style!

One issue I’ve had lately is that at about M4 of my 6 mile runs, I’ve developed a ‘pain’ in my IT band, on the left of my bum. I’ve been careful of it, I don’t want it to get worse. I wonder if my Cliftons are to blame. I am currently running in the Clifton 2 and the toe box is notably wider than its predecessor. Wide toe-boxes make my feet roll around, and that’s not good, so I’ll be running shorter distances in different shoes for a week or two.

Anyway. Yesterday, I went for a run and it was great. It was the Dude’s first day in Kindergarten. This wasn’t quite as big a milestone for him as for other children because he was in TK last year so I feel like he ‘started’ school last year. But it marked the end of the summer holidays and a new chapter. I don’t start volunteering at preschool for a few more weeks so I have a short period when I can get some training in, which will be awesome.

So I marked the start of Kindergarten with a reset run in my much-loved but rarely visited Huddart Park. I met up with a friend from church, M, who has just moved to the area. I was really looking forward to getting to know her better and introducing her to the joys of redwood forest running!

huddart redwoods

The trouble is…M is  a gazelle. She’s all long golden limbs. Me? I’m a terrier. Short, stumpy legs that bound along, tongue hanging out with excitement. So basically, imagine a gazelle being followed by a terrier and that’s what we looked like.

huddart redwoods

It was a lovely run. We did about 4 1/2 miles which, on trails and hills, was enough for me. We ran up Dean trail and down Crystal Springs. There was no chatting uphill but plenty of chatting downhill, and it was great. We stumbled on a mummy deer with two very young fawns, and that was magical.

huddart redwoods

We followed our run with cake and coffee and much talking at the Woodside Bakery. I pop in there every week at the moment when riding my bike and today, the barista recognized me and we had a good chat. Clearly my cake habit is now well-known in Woodside! My animal analogy held fast in the cafe too…my gazelle friend grazed elegantly, my terrier self wolfed the cake down in three mouthfuls.

It was awesome to be back on the trails. There’s nothing like them!

huddart redwoods

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Review: Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling

I was in a second-hand book shop the other week and stumbled on ‘Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling’ by Selene Yeager. It was $5, worth a shot so I bought it, read it and thought it might be worth reviewing here.

The Title

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room straight away. ‘Every Woman’s Guide to Cycling’. I’m really not sure why it has to be every woman who reads this book. It’s a good book (more on this below) and it’s actually flipping useful for every PERSON. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be entitled ‘Every Newbie’s Guide to Cycling’ and have an additional chapter for women specific sections. But there you go. At least the woman on the cover isn’t wearing pink and looks like she might be a good cyclist.

Someone wanted to model the book for you

Someone wanted to model the book for you

 

What’s in the book?

On the whole, I thought this book was pretty good. It covers:

  • buying a bike
  • what gear you need and what you don’t
  • training basics
  • specific training plans for different goals
  • a section on racing
  • fuelling and nutrition
  • health benefits
  • basic mechanics
  • fitting cycling into your life

Bits I loved

The bit that really stood out to me was the training plans. I’ve not found a good training plan for my century ride so had to make one up – there’s a decent plan in this book although the layout is a little clunky. There are also training plans for time trials, a century, preseason training and weight loss. I really appreciated them.

I also liked the step-by-step puncture repair guide which was the clearest I’ve seen , the comprehensive how-to-fuel-healthily section and the guides on how to do basics like descend quickly and corner safely. I also loved that they specifically mentioned trail running as a good cross-training exercise!

Bits I wasn’t so keen on

Nothing really.

It may be too ‘light’ for experienced cyclists but I’ve seen MUCH worse ‘beginners guides’ than this one and I think there is stuff in this that would benefit more experienced riders. But here, ‘light’ doesn’t mean ‘fluffy’ and I hugely appreciated that! The author assumes you want to ride your bike properly and well as a sport, and I liked that.

In summary

I’d totally recommend this for people new to cycling or for those getting more into it and needing training plans and nutrition advice. It would be just as good for guys as well.

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Cycling the Iron Horse trail

This week the Dude and I went out for a micro-adventure –  his first ever bike tour.

Before his arrival, the Husband and I were majorly into bike touring. We took a month off to cycle across Europe but we also did shorter trip around Europe and in India, we really loved it. In fact, the one thing that I miss about Europe (apart from friends and family of course) is the ability to go cycle touring. We miss the quiet country roads – roads here are very busy and we don’t feel safe taking the Dude out on them. If we’d stayed in Europe, I know we would have been touring with him in the Netherlands in his trailer when he was still a baby!

When we were in Yellowstone, there were cycling tourists everywhere and we were constantly yelling ‘tourer’ as we saw them loaded up and pedaling along. It made me ache to tour and luckily it made the Dude really want to go for his first tour as well. I thought it would be lovely to fit in one last adventure before school starts next week, so we started planning.

About 45 mins away by car, in the East Bay, is the Iron Horse trail, which stretches 20 miles from Dublin in the south to Concord in the north. It’s not very pretty but it’s paved, totally car free and flat, thus perfect for our requirements. So a plan was hatched. The Husband would drop us at Daly City BART station before work. We’d train it to Dublin, ride 10 miles to Danville, stay overnight, ride 10 miles the next day to Concord and then BART it back to Daly City for when the Husband finished work. We booked a lovely, well-priced airbnb in Danville and bought a map on which we plotted playgrounds and ice-cream shops along the route. If it all went totally tits up, the Husband could easily drive over to rescue us.

The Dude was very keen to carry something on his bike. If it’s a tour, he told me, I have to carry something. However his bike is only little and racks didn’t fit, so we bought a robust handlebar bag, loaded it up with the puncture repair kits and sun cream and that met his required qualifications for touring. The day before, we checked the bikes, pumped the tires and packed. Everything fitted in my rack bag, I didn’t need panniers and we were ready.

Chickmunk was guest of honour on this tour

Chickmunk was guest of honour on this tour

Day 1

It was a very excited pair that the Husband dropped off at 7.30am at Daly City BART station. We easily got our bikes on the train and settled down for the hour-long journey, eating breakfast en route. The Dude was quite overwhelmed to be going UNDER WATER in a train! Eventually we got to Dublin – the Iron Horse Trail starts just outside the station, it was ridiculously easy to get started.

bikes tour

On BART, ready to roll

The plan was to cycle roughly 10 miles from Dublin to Danville. The trail was pretty much perfect throughout – flat, well-paved, car free. I’d wondered if it would feel a bit dodgy in places but it was well-used and I felt very safe. We passed through residential neighborhoods on what used to be an old train line, turned into trail in the 80s. There were no inspiring mountain vistas but it was prettier than I’d expected.

dude cycling iron horse

Our first stop was Boone Acres Park, about a mile off the trail in San Ramon where we had a little play, before heading back north. Our second stop was ice-cream (I use ice-cream a lot as a valid parenting technique) which kind of shockingly turned out to be our lunch. The Dude was cycling well but I realized quickly that goals every two miles or so were what he needed to keep going. Our second park was in south Danville – Osage Park. It was lovely, and he got playing with some local children, for which I was really grateful. We spent a good hour there. Back on the trail, we crossed one of the west-to-east roads and, out of the car, a little hand waved and a voice shouted – it was one of the Dude’s new buddies waving at him. His little face lit up, it was gorgeous.

We arrived in Danville at about 2pm. Danville is rather nice – quite posh, filled with gorgeous shops. We had drinks and fruit in a cafe until it was time for us to cycle the mile  to our airbnb. It was described as a ‘cosy casita’ and the Dude was obsessed with calling it this. It was really nice, hosted by a delightful family, and it had a pool, so we did some swimming and some resting before cycling back into Danville for dinner.

IMG_9177

Drinks for the tourers…

IMG_9179

Day 2

We woke about 7am and prepared to head out at 8am, but were waylaid by our hostess offering to make us pancakes. Never wanting to turn down pancakes, we accepted and spent an hour or so with her and her family. Really lovely people, such a great start to the day.

The Iron Horse Trail heading north out of Danville was really pretty. Shaded by trees, it was green and cool and rammed with fit, wealthy Danvillites running and cycling. Really nice community feel. Our first park stop was Hap Magee Ranch which was a flipping gorgeous park just off the trail.

danville

The Iron Horse trail is an old railway line – this is Danville station

dude cycling iron

Still smiling on day 2

 

Our planned ice-cream stop in Alamo was closed (aagh) so we decided to press on to Walnut Creek. I had no food with us at this point (bad planning) and the Dude got low on energy, but we luckily found a pack of Gu chomps that the Husband had given us, and munching on those got us into Walnut Creek and to the Wholefoods next to the trail. We got pizza, berries and drinks and sat resting for a bit.

IMG_9196

Pushing on, we went through busy Walnut Creek to Civic Park for a play. I knew we had to be on the 3.27 train home, so we pressed on through Pleasant Hill and over a very cool bridge and finally into Concord. To be honest, I misjudged it here. The trail is a good 4 miles from the BART station along a busy, fairly unpleasant road. We cycled on the pavement/sidewalk so were safe enough but I regret not ending the ride in Pleasant Hill, where the station was next to the trail. My little man was fading by the end, so much so that he decided he didn’t want to go to one last park but rather sit quietly on the train home.

me dude cycling touring iron horse

No Dude was punched in the staging of this photo, despite appearances

So proud of these little chickmunks

So proud of these little chickmunks

I planned on us doing about 20 miles over the two days, but didn’t include side-trips to parks or the distance from the trail to our ‘cosy casita’ or to the BART station in Concord. On Day 1, we did 16.8 miles, on Day 2 we did 15 miles. Not bad for a 5 1/2 year old on a single-speed bike!

Despite his tiredness at the end, the Dude had the most amazing time. As he pointed out later, he didn’t moan once. No complaining at all. He honestly loved the whole experience. It was pretty magical for me as well. When I was pregnant, the Husband and I excitedly talked about how we’d be able to tour with our little man – these two days were literally a dream come true and I admit that I had a bit of a cry at one point because I just felt so very lucky to be doing this with him. I missed the Husband a lot on this trip – he should have been there with us.

me dude cycling iron horse

Personally, it was so SO good to be touring again. No garmins, no goal paces…just the joy of cycling along in the sunshine, taking photos, stopping to say hi to stray cats and enjoying time outside. Cycle touring is one of my favourite things to do and this weekend, I remembered why. I love my road bike but I LOVE Liesl, my touring bike. We’ve been together for about 8 years – we’ve toured India and Europe together, we’ve pulled a baby in a trailer, a toddler on a seat, a boy in a weehoo and now we took that little boy touring himself. It was really special.

Liesl

The rose garden at Osage Park, Danville

When we got home, after showers, there was one final thing to do – to present the ‘yellow jersey’ to the coolest little cyclist in California. He was pretty chuffed.

Practicalities – the Iron Horse Trail

In terms of the Iron Horse Trail, it was perfect for our needs. It’s not the most beautiful of trail but it wasn’t unattractive at all. It was flat,  well maintained and well sign-posted. There are no bathrooms on the trail at all but roads cross the trail very frequently and there are nearly always bathrooms nearby. I am so grateful to the East Bay Parks people for maintaining this trail, so flipping lucky.

I wondered about which direction to ride it in – often there’s a headwind going north. Layla advised that I risk the headwind as it’s ever-so-slightly downhill heading north. I think she was right but I don’t think it’s a big decision in any case.

The Dude is already asking about our next tour! Cool, eh?

maps cycling

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July favourites

July was great! So busy but also so much fun. It seemed like it lasted forever and that was a good thing! This is what I loved last month.

Studying

My summer course was a bit of a let-down. It was too easy. I know that sounds all humblebraggy (Ooh, I’m so clever, it was so easy) but I worked my socks off last semester, the teaching was great and I learned loads. Not so for the summer course. I was grateful for the light workload, but disappointed I didn’t learn a lot of things I’d hoped it would teach me. Oh well – three more credits. Four more courses to go.

Reading

I managed three books this month.

The Breakaway is the autobiography of Nicole Cooke, one of the UK’s most successful cyclists. Not heard of her? That’s the point. She talked a lot about the challenges she’d had in her career by NOT being part of the fantastically successful British Cycling project but by paving her own way. She spoke harshly of drug-cheats in cycling and the impact it has on women’s cycling in particular. It’s not a comfy read but it’s a good one. One thing that it made me reflect was that I don’t watch much women’s sport. I LOVE cycling but I NEVER watch women’s cycling. Similarly, until last month, the UK never watched women’s football/soccer. Talking about it with the Husband, he pointed out that if women really believe in women’s sport and want to see it flourish and grow, we need to watch more of it. Because where the audience is, the sponsorship and money will go. So I’m resolving to watch more women’s sport!

Junction, Utah by Rebecca Lawton is set in Utah so I read it on our road trip. I like to read books set where I’m traveling. The reviews on amazon were excellent and the novel started brilliantly but it turned into a bit of a melodramatic saga between a lonely, widowed,introspective cowboy and a wild, untamable river-rafting-guide girl. Lots of eye-rolling.

Somewhere near the real-life Junction, Utah

Somewhere near the real-life Junction, Utah

In the Mountains is by Elizabeth von Arnim, who wrote the BEAUTIFUL Enchanted April. (If you haven’t read that novel, pick it up today and read it. So lovely). I LOVED this short little novel – the writing is so very beautiful as she describes returning to her mountain cabin in the Alps just after WW1, heartbroken and empty from the grief of losing everyone she loved and how the peace and beauty she finds up there starts her healing. The writing is BEAUTIFUL and I really really loved this. Currently my book of the year!

Watching

We watched the Tour de France every day and we loved it. It was particularly lovely because the Dude really got into it this year – he had a fantasy team as we did and it was so much fun sharing it with him. Less fun was explaining about ‘special medicine’ and cheating. The swines, they take the magic out of everything.

We watched American Sniper. Not as merica as we expected and actually pretty thought provoking. And then we rewatched Pretty Woman and I’d totally forgotten how beautiful and sweet this movie is! We started the new ‘Flashdance‘ – I loved the opening credits and the mass line-dancing scene but apart from that, it was dreadful.

Cooking

I looked after three five-year-olds one afternoon and decided we should do some baking. But my cupboards were pretty bare so we ended up making this applesauce cake. We actually made THREE of them, one each. It was fun and the cake was good.

If you’re feeling hippyish, these lentil ‘meatballs’ were delish! I made a huge batch and froze them, using them as my alternative when my boys eat meat.

Visiting

Apart from all the amazing things we were lucky enough to see on our roadtrip, we visited the Oakland Museum of California this month. It was my second visit, but it was enough to remind me that this is by far the best museum in the Bay Area. We followed it, as is traditional, with ice-cream at Lush Gelato in Piedmont. Their basil gelato was honestly like sitting in Florence people-watching and the Dude’s strawberry gelato was definitely the best strawberry ice-cream we’ve ever eaten. Delish.

I got to be an exhibit

I got to be an exhibit

Obsessing

I didn’t have much time to obsess this month due to studying, hanging out with the Dude, going on holiday and helping at Vacation Bible Camp at church. The only thing that I got a little obsessive over was camping. At the end of the month, we had two nights camping down in Santa Cruz which was a really lovely little break full of salt air and splashing in the ocean.

The downside of urban camping...is wifi!

Using a drawing app on Daddy’s computer…but yes, he SHOULD be climbing trees and getting mucky!

Looking Forward To

We have one more week in before the Dude starts school – we’re going to be making the most of them! We have his first ever mini ‘bike tour’ planned for this week!

I have two more weeks in August before my next course starts – my new lecturer has excellent reviews, I’m really excited about studying again!

Cycling – this month will be the bulk of my distance training for Surf City Aids Ride. I’m looking forward to getting at it.

Sneak preview of Sunday's Tour de Peninsula, report to come!

Running – I ran a scandalous 43 miles in July.  That’s fine, I focussed on cycling, but I was still a bit horrified and I REALLY want to run a bit more this month. As I hoped, the enforced hiatus from running is making me miss it loads (and appreciate it more). I’m aiming for 80 miles this month, let’s see how it goes.

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‘Race’ Report: The Tour de Peninsula 100k

On Sunday, I rode my first organised bike ride. In the UK they’re called ‘sportives’ but I don’t think they’re called that here. The Tour de Peninsula was very local to me and covers many of the roads I usually cycle. There was a 20 mile, 31 mile, 56 mile and 63 mile (100km) option. I was to ride the 100k.

Clearly I could have ridden this route any weekend without paying for it but I wanted to do this because I wanted to get experience of what an organised ride would be like, prior to September’s century. What were ride logistics like? How is the route marked? What’s it like to ride in a pack? What would aid stations be like? And also, my lovely friend Kat from church was also riding it, so I knew I’d get good company for the duration.

Going into the ride, I was surprisingly nervous… much more nervous than I’d be for a big running race. It was all the unknowns that made me nervous – the questions I wanted to find answers to. In addition, the distance was new and it was a very hilly route. I was particularly nervous about whether or not to ride it clipped in. I had a short ride clipped in with the Dude on Tuesday and it went well – but there’s a great difference between clipping in at 5-year-old pace for 5 miles and clipping in for 65 miles up some giant hills. The night before, I got everything ready, packing both running shoes and cycling shoes. We’d see.

I was up at 5am. Made some scrambled eggs. Pumped up Margarita’s tyres and snuck out the house at 6am. At this point, my stomach started freaking out (nerves) requiring an urgent loo stop en route and then, once I got to Coyote Point, a frantic dash to the loo there as well. I was super-nervous. I calmed down once I bumped into Kat and her massive grin. We picked up my number – should it go on the front or the back? Apparently I could choose. Weird. And I also chose to ride clipped in. I visited the on-site mechanic who loosened the cleats for me to make it easier to clip in and out, and decided to suck it up and give it a shot.

This big smile made the nerves disappear

This big smile made the nerves disappear

I’m always intimidated by other runners at races and for bike events it was even worse. Everyone seemed VERY capable and experienced. There were a lot of VERY expensive bikes around. We cycled over to the starting chute and positioned ourselves towards the back. A guy cycled over, failed to unclip and toppled over before the ride even began. That made me feel better. There was a countdown and we were off.

I was literally shaking from nerves and adrenaline here! Couldn't stop talking.

I was literally shaking from nerves and adrenaline here! Couldn’t stop talking.

The first mile headed down the Bay Trail and onto the roads. It was fairly busy but we rode steadily, let people pass us and before long we were heading into San Mateo. Through the town centre we had our own dedicated lane, which really helped. There were lots of lights so I focussed on unclipping my right foot in good time, and we made it through town and up the 7 mile hill to the Ralston Bike Path. There was an aid station at the top, we stopped to drink and then plunged down the bike path to Canada Road. Canada was a lovely 7 mile stretch where we were able to get cycling steadily, talking non-stop. The miles flew by with Kat’s excellent company. There was one guy riding the whole thing (63 miles) on a unicycle – we passed him a few times before passing him for good, I really hope he survived!

Eventually we got to Woodside and started the ride up Kings Mountain. At this point, we were temporalily joined by a local bike club out on their ride. All of a sudden, the road was FULL of cyclists…it was like I was in the Tour de France. I was totally surrounded and just kept frnatically pedalling, if I touched the brakes, we’d all DIE!!! I’ve always wondered how it feels to be completely swallowed up by the peloton, well now I know and it was most scary.

That's me in the middle.

That’s me in the middle.

Kings Mountain was LONG and steady. All conversation stopped and we were surrounded by the panting breath of cyclists. We ground our way up and eventually got to the top. There’s a t-junction at the very top and on the other side of the road was an aid station. I was concentrating on checking out the traffic to be able to cross the road, suddenly realised I hadn’t unclipped…and squealed loudly as I toppled over to the side. I scraped my knee and bashed my boob but nothing dreadful. I did exclaim ‘Ow, my boob’ in front of the hundred or so lycra-clad men watching from the aid station. Great. Whilst we were at the aid station, at least two other cyclists got to the top and fell over, which made me feel better. Note to self – be sure to unclip at the top of hills.

tour peninsula

Foggy and chilly on Skyline

Next came a seven mile stretch down Skyline. I didn’t enjoy this. It was fast and downhill, the road was gravelly, it was damp and both cyclists and cars were fast. I was pretty scared and rode very cautiously. I was very slow but I’d rather be slow and alive so I am unrepentant.  We plunged down West La Honda Rd. This was magical – a lovely little road through redwoods and then opening out with pretty views. I felt much safer going downhill here so got some good speed up, and loved this stretch. We expected the climb back up to Alice’s to be brutal but it was actually pretty easy and we were jubilant to reach the top again. We plunged down the descent back to Woodside. It was very fast and curvy but I was feeling pretty confident so I rode much faster. I was still very slow compared to other riders but I really enjoyed this descent.

Back through Woodside, back along Canada and up to Ralston. 20 miles to go. Feeling good although my neck and shoulders were aching. We cycled up to Crystal Springs – this was the 5th hill and my legs were tiring. We appreciated the flattish stretch along the reservoir but had to step aside for an ambulance to come flying past. Two groups of riders came past later, wheeling fallen comrades bikes – that was sobering. The climb out of Crystal Springs was brutal but we then had three spectacular downhill miles to Millbrae, a dedicated lane through the Millbrae traffic and then finally the three easy miles along the bay back to Coyote Point. We’d made it. We squealed with excitement as we crossed the line!! We’d done it!

Sneak preview of Sunday's Tour de Peninsula, report to come!

I did it!

IMG_1139

She did it too!

There was no free food at the end, which surprised me, but a local retailer was selling good food cheaply so we filled our faces and limped round the little expo before hugging goodbye. I cycled two extra miles to make it to the necessary 65 miles I had to cover this weekend and drove home to my boys.

All in all, I think it went well. I felt pretty strong throughout, although I am very slow so I don’t mean to imply ‘strong’ means ‘fast’. We averaged 11mph on this ride, which is crazy slow although with 4,700 ft of climbing, I’m not surprised. I was VERY happy that I clipped in and only fell once, I count that as a real big step forward as a cyclist. And I LOVED Kat’s company – the miles flew by as we chatted, it was so much more pleasurable than riding alone.

Although I have nothing to compare it to,  I was hugely impressed by the organisation of this ride. There were plentiful aid stations, all with a lot of food and drink. The volunteers were absolutely wonderful, so smily and encouraging. At every junction there was a volunteer with a flag so it was impossible to get lost, and also lots of route-markings as a back up. I was really impressed with it as an event and would heartily recommend it to local cyclists! We got a really nice free cotton t-shirt that I really liked! The only extra I’d suggest would be a free buffet at the end, even if it was just bagels/doughnuts etc.

All in all, an excellent morning, with a scraped knee, a big thigh bruise and a sore boob as souvenirs! 7 weeks to go to Surf City!

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Faking ultra!

Last Sunday, I had the total pleasure of supporting three of my favourite crazy cat ladies as they ran the Big Basin 50k. It was a very bittersweet day because two of them, Jess and Kate both left the Bay Area on Thursday, moving to different parts of the country. I’ll be honest, I love these girls. I love running with them and I was not/am not ready to let them go. It was also the wonderful Jen‘s first 50k. She had trained hard and well for this race. So it was going to be a Big Day.

Jen had mentioned that her boyfriend, T, would be running a stretch with her. So I emailed Jess earlier in the week saying we’d be there to cheer her on and if she wanted me to run a bit with her, I’d love to. This was basically saying ‘Please can I join in the fun and pretend to be an ultra runner too?’ but luckily she thought I was being selfless and sacrificial and said yes! The race was basically three sections. 15 miles to Big Basin State Park, a 5 mile loop back to the aid station there and then 10 miles to the end. I’d be running the loop.

Big Basin - not unattractive!

Big Basin – not unattractive!

We got to Big Basin at about 11.30, with Jess expecting to get to the aid station at about 12.15. We had a great time at the aid station, cowbelling runners as they came through. Jen’s boyfriend T arrived and joined the Pacer Party.  And more or less on time, Jess ran in. Sweaty hugs all round. She was running with a new friend the girls had made that morning, also called Jen (Jen K from now on) so she got a sweaty hug too. However the news on our original Jen was not good. She was struggling already and Jess was worried she’d drop out. This would be unbearable! T headed off back up the trail to find his girl, and Jess, Jen K and I started up the trail for the loop.

Pacer Party of 2

Pacer Party of 2

Jess and Jen K arrive at the aid station

Jess and Jen K arrive at the aid station

It was pretty much bliss. They’d already done 15 miles so I was definitely able to keep up. There was an enormous 2 mile hill which we speed-hiked. This also allowed us to talk so there was a LOT of chatting and laughing as we worked our way up the beast. There was one (now funny) incident when Jess thought she saw a snake in the grass – she squealed and leaped sideways, which meant Jen K and I also squealed and leaped sideways. It may have been a snake but when we had a look, there was nothing to see.

Eventually we hit the top and started running along beautiful downhill singletrack through the magical Big Basin redwoods. It was gorgeous and Jess and I both got a bit weepy about this being our last run together for a long time. My highlight was when a family of hikers cheered us on. They clearly thought I was an ultra runner too. So I just faked it, thanked them and ran on! And somehow, before I was ready, we found ourselves back at the aid station. My pacer-duties were over.

Jess and Jen K headed off down the trail for the 10 miles to the finish line. The Husband  had an update on Jen – she was low and struggling, but fighting on. She was currently out on the loop with T. So we piled in the car and drove across some mountains to the finish line on the ocean.

Kate was already there – she’d switched at the last minute to the marathon so we got to hug her, feed her snacks and hang out a bit. We cowbelled the finishers and I got to meet a lovely lady who knew me from the blog – I missed your name, but if you’re reading this, hi and congratulations again on your awesome race! We walked up to the spot where the runners came out of the trails and towards the finish line and before too long, Jess and Jen K came barreling down like stars. Lots of cowbelling, lots of screaming and then the two badass chicks crossed the line. Super-proud.

Jen K and Jess cross the line!

Jen K and Jess cross the line!

And then came the agonising wait for Jen to finish. T had joined us by then, and with 20 minutes or so before the cut-off, he set off back up the trail to find Jen. We hung round at the bottom cheering people on. It got to 11 minutes to the cut-off. Then it got to 5 minutes. My nails started being chewed.

And then suddenly she appeared on the trail. We went crazy. I have never seen Jen look so completely exhausted and drained but we screamed a lot about beating the cut-off and the poor girl pushed on to finish. She crossed the line and basically stopped still for a long time and got hugged by T. It was very sweet.

Totally creepered this photo of the two of them being lovely

Totally creepered this photo of the two of them being lovely

Once she’d recovered, we all drove to Half Moon Bay and ate mexican food. We supporters were starving – the runners seemed less hungry.

These girls!

I was so incredibly proud of these girls. Proud of Kate for deciding calmly that it wasn’t her day for 50k so she’d ‘just do the marathon’ and having the self-confidence to do it and be content. Proud of Jess for basically nailing the 50k and looking happy every time I saw her. Proud of our new Jen K for fitting into our little gang of cat ladies like she was born to it and for totally demolishing her first 50k. And proud of the awesome, tenacious, badass Jen for fighting through the many dark miles and finishing what she set out to do.

And then we had to say goodbye. Tears. More tears in the car on the way home. But also a lot of gratitude (cattitude?) for the runs we’ve had and looking forward to runs in new locations in the future.

Photobombed!

Photobombed!

Well done, ultra babes!

xxx

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Balcony Camping

Last weekend, we had been hoping to go camping, but in the end, we couldn’t make it. The Dude and I were disappointed (well, I was, really) and so we decided to camp in our back garden. Except we don’t HAVE a back garden, we only have a balcony known as High Garden. But that couldn’t stop us!

So we emptied High Garden out, borrowed and put up a 2-man tent, decorated it to within an inch of its life and then camped out!  It would have been horribly cramped in the tent with the three of us, so the Husband sacrificially declared that he would sleep sadly alone in our big bed and leave me and the Dude to camp out!

Ramsden Basecamp With a deer and a basil forest

Ramsden Basecamp
With a deer and a basil forest

As it got dark, it got more magical.

camping

 

We cooked s’mores as is traditional – except that we had to melt the marshmallows on our camping stove down in the communal area of our complex. Not quite as chilled as over a campfire, but pretty fun.

camping

We tried to persuade Charlie to join us, but he was having none of it!

camping

So this is just a little post to say that even if you can’t go camping somewhere beautiful and inspirational, sometimes you can have a lot of fun just camping wherever’s possible.

Home is where you pitch your tent…sometimes literally :)

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