I should be studying…

but sometimes I just a need break. And yes, writing can be a break for me—fun writing anyway, so I believe a little update to the blog is in order!ferrisbueller_069pyxurz

It’s Labor Day weekend and school is out, but really it just began two weeks ago, so I sort of feel like I’m skipping out with Ferris Bueller. What a great opportunity to log some serious mileage on the bike though…well, that would be the case if I hadn’t crashed my bike the previous weekend.

Yes, I finally got my first (road) bike crash over with. It’s always when, not if it will happen. The story goes something like this:

Kristine has actually been coming out with me on the Saturday ride with Pearland Cycling Club (yay!), and last weekend I talked her into doing the full 60 mile route. Everything was going great until about 20 miles in when a little chihuahua ran toward the group determined to claim the entire road as his turf.tumblr_lo25n9EVPA1qgnp30o1_500_large

You gotta give the little guy credit for being brave. Not really a smart thing to do though as we were bearing down on him at 20+ mph. I went off the front attempting to chase him off the road; however, I cut it too close and my front wheel slid over the edge coming out from under me quicker than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking competition. I don’t even remember actually hitting the ground, but I remember vividly the excruciatingly long slide across the chip seal surface as it ripped layers of skin off my shoulder, hip, elbow, and fingers. Kristine was behind and saw the whole thing happen. She said I slammed on the ground hard, then just slid while I was stuck on my left side.

Another element to this story is that I just got a new bike only a couple of weeks prior. My old Tarmac frame was cracked which the mechanics noticed while installing some new components I had bought. What was going to be an upgraded crank set, rear derailleur, front derailleur, and brake calipers, turned into a new frame as well. Fortunately, Specialized honored their warranty and not only sent me a replacement for free, but they also upgraded me to a Venge frame. Very cool!

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It was also fortunate the new frame and components were undamaged in the crash. The left shifter got a little scratch on it, but otherwise there was no damage—not even the saddle or bar tape was torn!

After the crash, I took a little time to lick my wounds (not literally of course) and collect my thoughts. Physiologically speaking, I just waited for the adrenaline and the shock to wear off. We also waited for an animal control officer to show up to ensure the dog owners were cited for failure to keep their dog on a leash or behind a fence. The group was really great and stayed with us to make sure I was OK. I sent them on their way while Kristine and I got back on the bike and rode home. It was painful, but at the same time it felt good to finish the ride.14107863_10153718260191631_5690632712564917285_o

They say the shower after a crash hurts something fierce. I can confirm that. They also say things are more sore after the second day. I can also confirm that. A week later and my road rash is healing nicely. My hip and elbow are still sore, so that any motion that involves twisting my torso or laying down happens slower than a Sunday afternoon, but it is getting better. I also have some pain in my lower back, which ties into the sore hip, so I have schedule a massage with my good buddy Noel. Anyone looking for a massage should absolutely schedule with him; he is excellent at what he does. Stop procrastinating and treat yourself to a massage already!

Although I am sore from the crash a week later, we still got out there and rode with the club this weekend. I am staying disciplined and working back up to the high mileage and intensity after healing, so for now we kept it around 40 miles. It may not be the Labor Day weekend of riding I envisioned, but we always manage to make the most of it.

As a bonus, I have an opportunity to get ahead on school work for the Fall semester. This will be my final semester and it is a busy one with classes like Biology, Comp II, Statistical Methods of Psychology, and Public Speaking among others. I’m looking forward to wrapping up my degree and putting in my application soon, but I’m also a little sad that it has gone by so fast. I have really enjoyed my time in school, the people I have met, and the great professors who I have become friends with.

Until next time, stay safe friends, and enjoy your Labor (hopefully free) Day weekend!

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Why We Do This

As our tires hummed against the surface of the road, our legs fighting to keep the pedals moving, the brutal cross winds threatening to drive us into the ditch with each passing gust, I began to question why are we seemingly so eager to put ourselves through an agonizingly painful experience with friends. Are we really just some sick individuals or is there something more to it?

My get your ass out of bed alarm went off this morning, but I had forgotten why I set it. Thinking there was no school or work today, I said “what the heck is this thing thinking waking me up at this hour on a Saturday??” Apparently I turned it off completely; it was 30 minutes later when Kristine rolled over and asked if I’m still planning to ride. <insert expletive!> There is nothing like a mad rush to make a bike ride. Our weather forecast looks terrible for the next four days, so it was no time to excuse missing a good ride.

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Photo credit: Rosanna Campos

Today marks three weekends in a row that I have made the group ride! It feels good to be on the road with friends again. But why do we wake up to only put ourselves in so much pain? The accomplishment of surviving a group ride with fellow hammer heads and not getting dropped—even though I nearly did on several occasions today—is a good feeling indeed. It was extremely difficult during the ride to prevent my brain from finding any excuse to drop and just let the pain stop. It is incredible the amount of mental power it takes to tolerate just a few more minutes of pain in order to stay with the group. We push our bodies further than sometimes we ever thought possible, and when that happens we learn more about ourselves each time.

In my last post I confessed that I had gained some weight; however, I have since lost a little weight and increased some muscle mass. The gym is helping with muscle definition, but the miles on the bike have helped the weight come off. I’m still aiming to build more muscle definition, but one benefit I am already experiencing is from squats. I noticed an improvement on the bike having strengthened my hamstrings and glutes, which have always been a weak point for me by contributing to a muscle imbalance as they worked against my stronger quads. More to come, but it is exciting to see results taking shape. My weakness now is stretching and rolling out my IT bands. Maybe some yoga in my future?

So, the next time you’re hurting on a group ride and asking why we do this, just remember that what we treasure most is not given to us, it is what we work for the hardest. Keep fighting that wind, those tired legs, and that brain trying to persuade you to give up. Tell yourself to hang on for just another minute, another mile, and another ride.

California Vacation

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When we visit a beautiful place, it’s always hard to come home, no matter how good it does feel to be safely home. The long lines at the airport and the inconsiderate person who jams their seat back into your knees on the airplane is all worth it when given the opportunity to visit California.

We stayed in the Sonoma area for four days, followed by three days in San Francisco. This was my second trip to California, having been to San Diego about two years ago. I really enjoyed California on my first visit; this trip would also prove to be rewarding. However, I much prefer San Diego weather. I didn’t realize how chilly northern California was in late May to early June!

We landed in San Francisco and drove a rental car to a beautiful home rented through Airbnb. It turned out to be a really nice area with a spectacular view of the valley below. Although not technically in Sonoma or Napa, it was within reach after a drive equivalent to the distance across Houston—minus the chemical plants and smog of course.

I was looking forward to the next few days in which we would tour the area, and of course drink some wine! I didn’t bring my bike on this trip, but I did bring my gear so that a bike rental was possible.

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Delicious and oh so bad pastry from Bouchon Bakery.

Yountville is a quaint little town nestled between Napa and St. Helena where we enjoyed fine dining and delicious pastries at Bouchon Bakery. I can highly recommend the cream cheese blueberry jam pastry which I had already begun to devour as the picture here shows. North of Yountville, we toured several wineries, including Beringer and Inglenook. I personally love a red zinfandel, so it was quite pleasant to relax outside with a glass of wine on these beautiful vineyards.

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Obligatory picture of grapes!

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It was hard to contain my excitement about the chance to ride in California again. I had mapped out a challenging route that included a lot of climbing. The ride was a blast, but some of the climbs were extremely hard and very steep, which caught me by surprise when I struggled to get over them. I rented the bike in Yountville and rode to our house in Novato. It ended up being 60 miles with about 4,800 feet of climbing. You can view my ride data here and watch a video of my ride below. The following picture gives you an idea of the elevation and gradient profile over the route, with the hardest and steepest sections at the beginning.

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On Monday morning, we packed up and drove into San Francisco. This was quite an experience to see such steep hills in the middle of an urban environment. After settling into a new house, also rented through AirBnB, we headed out to explore the city. Of course I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get a panoramic picture of the Bay Bridge.

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IMG_3260We walked 4 miles observing the diverse cultures throughout the city, though admittedly I was more excited to reach the bike shop! I finally reached my destination after what seemed like 20 miles of walking to rent another bike, this frame fitting me much better than the first. I planned to ride 100 miles down to La Honda the following day. While riding the bike to the house that evening, I found Filbert Street, one of the steepest in the city at 31.5% gradient.

lombard6This seemed like such a cool challenge to climb. I was pedaling in the smallest gear I had while standing up and leaning as far forward as I could, yet the front wheel was STILL lifting off of the ground as the bike rocked from side to side! It was a unique and scary experience. I couldn’t have stopped if I wanted to or else I would have crashed right there, and then likely slid to the bottom of the hill. You know it’s steep when the side walk has stairs in it!

Although it was great seeing San Francisco that first day, I knew the entire second day would be spent on the bike as the ride out to La Honda is quite a haul with a lot of climbing. It was definitely worth it though, with stunning scenery and challenging mountain climbs and descents. I rode 105 miles and climbed just over 9,000 feet. You can see the route and data here and the elevation profile below.

Screenshot 2015-06-05 10.56.40I tried to stop and take pictures and video often, but I also had to navigate with my phone. I felt good for the first half of the ride and over the mountains, but I was really struggling on the trek home. The wind kicked up adding insult to injury as I attempted to finish the ride. I was determined to do it, even though I haven’t actually gone 100 miles in quite a while…not to mention with all of that climbing too. At the end of the day, I was tired and my legs hurt bad, but it was totally the good kind of hurt.

Reflecting back, you could say that I missed out on some of the touristy things to do in San Francisco, but I’m having a hard time believing that I truly missed anything. I look forward to seeing more of the state in the future, but for now I can say that once again California has been good to us and provided a wonderful vacation experience.

Boston Marathon and Vacation

While boarding the plane, I have to admit to the excitement of taking my first trip to the east coast. We flew into Boston with plans to pick up a rental car, then drive to New Hampshire where we would stay with some close friends for a couple of days. boston-landing

One thing to consider if you go to Boston and get a rental car: as soon as you leave the airport, you’re ejected right onto a tollway that goes through a long tunnel. GPS signals typically don’t work underground—go figure, so don’t make the mistake we did! Be sure you know what exit you’re taking before going into the tunnel.

We stopped at a bike shop before leaving the city to pick up some CO2 cartridges since I was able to bring my bike on this trip, but naturally compressed gas is not allowed on the plane. After the quick detour, we made it up to New Hampshire without any major problems; except for the the fact that it was still WINTER up there! Bear in mind that I am a native (south) Texan who can wear flip-flops year round. The next morning dropped down to 25F; nevertheless, I was determined to ride. I put the bike together and headed out on a 60 mile ride through New Hampshire, just crossing the state line into Vermont before turning back. Because it was still so cold, the trees didn’t have leaves on them yet, and in fact there was snow on the ground in some places!

There was a good amount of elevation with some decent climbs along the way which was a nice treat for me. Overall it was a great day on the bike exploring a different part of the country. Below are pictures from my adventure.

 

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Picturesque!

 

 

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Just to prove it was cold, obligatory snow picture.

 

 

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Nice climb here with a flowing creek on the left side.

 

 

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Love historic covered bridges.

 

 

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Bienvenue to New Hampshire. On my way back from Vermont.

 

 

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Fitzwilliam: The quaint small town we visited with friends.

After a couple of days, we drove back to Boston and moved into our hotel room for the remainder of our stay. Kristine was getting really excited about the marathon. We used the subway to get around the city, but we mostly just took it easy until race day. We spent some time at the running expo, which was big and exciting as you might expect for such a big event. Kristine got all taped up with KT tape hoping her hip would hold out through the race which was still causing some pain. We also did the pasta dinner the night before the race. I wouldn’t recommend it. The food was bland—basically noodles and spaghetti sauce. Although it was included for runners, family members had to pay to join the dinner. Topping that off, we stood in a line that wrapped around 3 blocks for nearly an hour just to get our food. Next time we’ll make reservations for sushi.

 

The day before her race I was lucky enough to get a ride in around Boston in the morning. I just wanted to explore the city, so I went easy and took lots of pictures. The route traversed through downtown, MIT, Harvard, and back to the hotel. Here’s some pictures from that ride.

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Race day!

RacedayAfter all the training and hard work, the big day had finally arrived! The morning air was crisp and cold, but the afternoon forecast was expected to be warm and sunny. Kristine had to wear some old warm clothes over her running outfit which could be discarded at the start of the race. The classic ‘California Raisins’ sweater was the choice of the day. Sad to see that one go!

Unlike Houston, the runners are transported on school buses from Boston Common out of town to the starting point in Hopkinton. They run a direct route back into the city, so it wasn’t practical for me to see her during the race. Although I had my bike with me, we opted not to try that this year. As they were loading the buses, I gave her one last kiss and wished her the best of luck. I told her she had this, and this was her time to shine. Just enjoy the moment.984056_10152065093421631_8095361839667973647_n

All I could think about as I watched her leave was how proud of her I was. I said to myself, “my sweetie is running in Boston!!”

After seeing her off, I met up with our friends from New Hampshire who had come in to the city to watch Kristine race. We made our way near the finish line where we must have stood there for over 3 hours waiting to see Kristine finish. It was simply incredible to see how many people get involved in this event. It’s like nothing else. The streets were jam packed with people!

We finally got a spot right on the fence where we could practically touch the runners finishing. It was shortly after when we saw Kristine coming across the finish line. What a sight! She made it, and faster than we expected! She’s now a Boston marathon finisher!! How cool is that!?

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BostonMedal

That night we enjoyed a nice sushi dinner with some sweet treats from Mike’s Pastry. We relaxed and planned to explore the city together the following day.

After nearly a week away from home, we were looking forward to getting back. It was really a positive trip and already we’re thinking about returning to visit our friends in New Hampshire this fall to see the changing colors. What a sight that must be!

Bike Around the Bay (2012)

This year’s Bike Around the Bay was a success! Nearly 1,000 riders registered for 180 miles of cycling over two days. This was my first time to attend, and after completing it, I’m already considering it again next year. The support was great and the rest stops were stocked with plenty of food and drinks, as well as great volunteers. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this great ride! I’m very grateful for the work the Galveston Bay Foundation does and I’m excited to see the bike ride was so popular.

Day 1 was very windy from the south. This meant we faced a headwind and crosswind all day. Naturally the first day was the longest we faced, just shy of 100 miles. I met up with Luke and Matt at this ride. We worked together all day fighting the wind and passing slower riders. The wind was brutal over that distance. Normally you do a century, half upwind and half downwind, so you get some relief at least. It was a good first taste into what a state or country tour might be like. You have a destination to pedal to, regardless of the wind direction.

Heading south to Anahuac in the morning hours, I noticed a string of riders had latched on to us while we were sharing pulls at the front. None of us wanted to ride in a pace line with people we didn’t know for fear of crashes. We had been working hard for a while up front to keep our own pace up as more riders latched on to the back. We slowed down for a bit and decided to let them work for a while. Leaving plenty of room between us, we hung back to recover. When we were up front, we were pacing a steady 20-21 mph. As soon as we quit working, the pace dropped to 17 mph. We didn’t have an interest in being on the bike all day, so we ended up at the front again in short order. I looked over to Matt and said, “hold on..!”. Without sprinting, I put the power down – 22, 24, 27, 30 mph… Looking back, just us three now. That’s how we stayed out of trouble!

After hours in the wind, we finally reached the ferry near the end of the ride, which takes us to Galveston Island. We still had to ride just under 10 miles to finish. It included a stretch down the seawall with a lane closed off for us. Although we were tired, it was a lot of fun pushing hard to finish up the ride. With the finish line in sight, I hear Matt grab a bigger gear and start sprinting for it. Of course I couldn’t let that go, so I’m doing the same. My legs didn’t want anything to do with a sprint after pulling so hard down the seawall, so Matt killed me. Come to find out, only 11 riders came in before we did, which explains why so few were on the ferry. Of course it’s not a race though!

Day 2 started out better than expected. My legs were still fresh enough to push pretty hard for a second day. The wind was also to our advantage out of the south, giving us a tailwind for most of the day. Although it wasn’t as strong, we were happy to have it! Day two heads north up the west side of Galveston Bay. This is the side I live on, so I was familiar with nearly every road we took. When we approached the 146 Dickinson Bayou bridge, I told Matt and Luke I intended to go for the KOM on the bridge climb. They were awesome to give me a great lead out which saw me tie the current KOM! Our legs hurt pretty good after that. It became a process of just turning one pedal over the next. The quicker you do it, the faster we get home! I think we were probably too worn out from the first day to bother with pictures or video on Sunday.

Luke and I had planned on riding to his house instead of the finish line since it wasn’t far between the two. As a result, our second day was a little shorter than the full route, but we had the convenience of riding straight home without the hassle of a car. Thanks to Claire for driving our personal SAG!

What a weekend though! I failed to mention after the first day, we all met up for beers and burgers at the Spot in Galveston. Amazing burgers there!! And well deserved for us all!

I only made two videos of this ride because I only recorded on the first day. On top of that, I forgot to clean the camera lens like a bone head, so the images weren’t great. I don’t have any other events planned for this year, but I intend to continue training through the winter so I can race next season.

Visiting the Texas Hill Country

Heading off on a solo hill country ride!

I can’t believe its been this long since I’ve posted to my blog, but I’ve been so busy with both work and training that I just haven’t had the time to post nor much news to post about. I came down with a stomach bug a month ago and had to skip plans to attend a charity ride and the criterium in San Antonio.

After recovering from the stomach bug, I had to get back in form which took a good week, so I’ve since been focusing on improving my fitness and bike skills further before committing to any races in the short term. I’m currently logging 10+ hours a week on the bike and last week I got in just over 12 hours! That is a first for me and involved riding 6 days of the week.

The Memorial Park Crit Series was initially cancelled after the city of Houston changed their minds about allowing us to race in the park. It has since been renamed to Moving Periodically Criteriums which will be moving to different venues throughout the summer months. I’ve been talking about racing in some of those, but I still haven’t made it to one. I just need to get out there and suffer in these weekly crits to get faster which I intend to do beginning in July. Of course I will post my race reports and results here when I do attend, but nothing is official on the schedule right now.

In other news, and what this entry is primarily about… I finally made it up to the hill country this past weekend and rode in significant terrain for the first time ever! It is just gorgeous up there and a great challenge compared to the flats. I did really well with the exception of two steep hills I tried to conquer which I failed to get up. The first was Fulton Ranch Road which has an elevation gain of 214 feet with an average road grade of 13%. Parts of it were as steep as 18-21%. I needed one or two more gears to make it happen, and perhaps some stronger legs and heart!

The other hill was a road called Climbing Way, in Wimberley, Texas. With the exception of these two hills, I succeeded at climbing everything thrown my way. The day ended with 4,333 feet of climbing over 83 miles with an average speed of 15.3 mph.

If you’re ever in that neck of the woods, I highly recommend both Fulton Ranch Road and Climbing Way as tough challenges with some really steep grades. I definitely have a whole new respect for cyclists who tackle hills and mountains all the time.

I had my video camera with me and got lots of great footage from my solo ride through the hill country. However, I made the mistake of going up there on my 23mm tires. The roads were very rough for most of the route, so I’m going back next time with 25’s, hoping that will make it a bit more tolerable. The great scenery and terrain challenges made it worthwhile though and I can’t wait to go back and try to conquer the two hills I failed at.

I’ll leave you with pictures of myself before and after the ride, as well as a link to my ride data and the video footage from my ride. As always, thank you for following my progress!

Ride Data: >>http://connect.garmin.com/activity/192449079<<

Riding the wheels off!

It’s been a little while since my last post, so here is a quick update.

I’ve really picked up my bike mileage and I’ve been riding with SCCC a lot. This week I did the Paperclip ride for the first time, which is a fast, take no prisoners type of ride. Here is a screen shot from Strava with data from that ride:

I was told to expect getting dropped at some point and sure enough I got dropped! It was fair weather, but windy and when I got stuck on the back unable to find the draft in the echelon, I got dropped as the pace increased. At times we were pushing 25 mph into the wind and I hear the group who made it to the turn around point was pushing 35 mph downwind. Here’s two videos from the Paperclip, before and after getting dropped.

So, the past two weeks I’ve logged over 150 miles each week, and this week I’ve already logged 171 miles. Some charts showing distance and time below:

Not to completely forget my running, I finished a 3.35 mile run on Wednesday at a casual pace. After the run I applied ice to my achillies tendon for good measure and I left my compression socks on for a couple of hours afterward. Next day, no problems! I’m also using the foam roller for my IT band and stretching it really good, so I’m not having any major problems with that either. In fact, since I started the stretching routine specifically for the IT band, I would venture to say it’s getting better, all be it slow given how much mileage I’m logging on the bike.

Things are going really well and I’m having a lot of fun riding with SCCC. I’m still planning to participate in the Houston Grand Crit this coming May, but I am watching the weather. I’m not sure I will race if it’s raining. Probably not wise for my first race anyway!

Thanks for reading my boring blog I’m sure, but I at least hope it’s kept you up to date with the happenings in my athletic life.

Take care my friends! Get out and enjoy this lovely spring weather!!