Category Archives: Cycling

Still Riding

I haven’t posted about cycling here in ages, but I’m still out there riding, off and on. Of course, it’s much trickier to ride now that there is a toddler in the house. Hobgoblin and I go on rides together MUCH less often than we used to. And it’s also tricky to ride when you’re getting ready to move, and then moving, and then recovering from the move, as we did last spring and early summer. I didn’t ride at all from last October until this April, and then I didn’t ride regularly until June. But in the last couple months I’ve ridden at least twice each week and in the last few weeks I’ve ridden four times a week. I’m nearing 1,000 miles for the year, which is pitiful given that my best year was nearly 6,400 miles. But still. Riding is as important to me as ever, even if I don’t do it as much; I always feel better when I’ve ridden and I love getting in shape. The few moments when I feel strong out on the road are wonderful.

About racing, though … I don’t miss racing at all, and I’m not sure if I’ll do it again next year or in whatever year I feel I’m finally in good enough shape. If I don’t like it, I shouldn’t do it, right? Yes, but. It provides great motivation and a goal to work toward, it makes me really, really strong, and my friends do it and pressure me into doing it. I can be hopeless when it comes to certain kinds of peer pressure.

But that’s not a worry for now, as I’m far, far from racing shape. Now I am just happy to be out there riding, watching the seasons change.


Filed under Cycling

Bike and baby updates

I haven’t written here about cycling in a long time, but that’s not because I haven’t been riding. I have ridden over 2,100 miles so far this year, which doesn’t strike me as bad for a year in which I gave birth! I began riding in the middle of March, and have ridden more or less steadily since then, with some breaks for travel and busyness. I’d say my fitness is decent as far as recreational riding goes, but I’m far from being ready to race. I’m not sure if I will race next year or not. I want to keep riding through the fall and winter, but I don’t know if I will have time or energy to do the kind of riding that’s necessary to prepare for racing. I will just wait and see, and in the meantime, I’m enjoying getting out on my bike in the cooler fall weather.

The hard thing, though, is that I am doing much more riding by myself than I used to. A few times during the summer Hobgoblin and I hired a babysitter so we could go riding together, but that babysitter is no longer in the area, and now that summer’s over we are busier and need babysitters for other reasons. So he and I usually take turns riding while the other watches the baby, which is fine, but sometimes without someone to ride with, I lose my motivation. I can ride with other friends occasionally, but that’s sometimes hard to arrange. So I ride by myself and think about how lucky I am to be able to get out at all, what with a new baby and a full-time job.

Cormac is doing great, although even now as I type, I’m listening to him play upstairs in his crib when he should be taking a nap. Some days he is a good napper, but many days he is not, and he will frequently take 20-30 minutes to fall asleep, then sleep for 20-30 minutes, and then be ready to play again for another couple hours. I think 20-minute naps are marvelous for myself, but would prefer that my baby would sleep a little longer.

But I won’t complain about his napping, because he is a fantastic sleeper at night. We plop him in bed between 6:30 and 7:00 in the evening, and he sleeps until 5:30 or 6:00 most mornings. That’s a long stretch of time. He is an easy baby to take care of; he is happy and cheerful and fun to play with. He is very close to crawling, at which point we will spend our days chasing him around the house. It should be fun! Here’s a recent photo:



Filed under Cycling, Life

Cycling update — with horses!

We had a beautiful weekend here in Connecticut, sunny with temperatures in the 60s and low 70s, and I was fortunate to be able to ride Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Sadly, my riding is not up to the level it was last year, and it’s not likely ever to reach that level this year, given the various interruptions I’m facing. (Although some of the interruptions are good ones — only 1 1/2 weeks until Ireland!) But still, I’m enjoying myself. I ride some on my own but often with friends, and I’ve found that riding a bike is a great context in which to have a conversation. It gives me at least an hour to talk, although often much longer, and it’s a low pressure situation: it’s not awkward if you’re not talking the entire time, because you’re busy doing something else: riding. You are free to be quiet and ride if you want. Or you can talk the entire time, and the interruptions — getting out of the way of traffic, letting a loud truck go by — don’t matter much. In fact, they offer time to think about the conversation and plan what to say next. The interruptions also make it easy to bring up a new topic without awkwardness. Conversations are also much more fun when you are pumped full of adrenaline. Everyone is wittier and laughter comes much more quickly when you’ve been working hard and are feeling both pleasantly tired and full of energy.

Yesterday’s group ride was an odd one, though. It was 60 very hilly miles, and I rode with four other people, including Hobgoblin. About halfway through, I was riding with a friend about a quarter mile ahead of the others, and we passed three horses and two riders coming from the other direction. I didn’t think much of it — we were in horse farm country. A couple minutes later, though, I heard a clopping noise behind me. My first thought was that someone’s bike was making some very strange noises, but then I realized that it was a horse. My second thought was that it was strange for a rider to be galloping down the left side of the road, into oncoming traffic and uncomfortably close to me. Then the horse passed me, at top speed, and I realized it had no rider. And then another horse galloped past me, also at top speed, also with no rider. My friend started to panic, and we pulled over to the side of the road as she told me horror stories about friends getting kicked by horses. We looked back, and fortunately there were no more horses galloping at us. We waited for the other riders to catch up, but they didn’t appear. Finally a woman on a horse — thankfully fully under her control — came along and told us there had been a bad accident. She rode on without giving us any more information than that.

This time I panicked along with my friend. I have heard way too often about bad accidents and cyclists, and, unfortunately, Hobgoblin tends to be accident prone. If anyone is going to have a run-in with a horse while riding a bike, it quite possibly could be him. I was having visions of horse/cyclist run-ins, ambulances, concussions, broken bones, everything you can imagine. We headed back down the road trying to keep calm, and you can understand my relief when I saw the entire group all upright, everyone’s bike in working order. It turns out the horses had gotten spooked by the cyclists behind me. One of them had thrown its rider, and it and one of the other horses took off down the road. Everyone watched as they galloped toward my friend and I, yelling at us to get out of the way, but we couldn’t hear anything. Fortunately, the horses weren’t interested in knocking us down. Unfortunately, the woman thrown from her horse was hit hard enough to crack her helmet, although she didn’t want help and seemed to be okay.

We felt concerned for the woman who had taken the fall, but the situation felt so bizarre we rode the rest of the way home laughing. I kept saying I know this is horse country, but I never expected to be chased by them! It’s really kind of funny the way strange things happen to you when you spend hours out on your bike. There’s no way of knowing what any ride will bring. I have learned, though, to steer well clear of horses out on the road, no matter how calm they seem.


Filed under Cycling

Wheels of Change

This weekend I had the pleasure of reading a book about women and cycling called Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) by Sue Macy. It’s a wonderful book. It’s a fast read, at only 96 pages with lots of pictures and not a lot of text; it’s aimed at a young adult market, but great for anybody interested in the subject.

The pictures themselves were wonderful: pictures of cool old bicycles, of old advertisements for bikes and cycling gear, of women on their bikes, of the clothes women wore while riding. I’ve always wanted posters of women cyclists from back in the early days of cycling, although I haven’t yet collected any, and I saw tons of images in this book that would be perfect for the purpose.

The text, although short, is fascinating. It focuses on the last couple decades of the nineteenth century when the bicycle first became popular and when women began riding, often as a way to find more freedom and independence. Macy first discusses the invention of the bicycle, and then moves on to debates over the safety, propriety, and morality of women riding. Some writers applauded the new opportunities for exercise and freedom the bicycle offered women, while others worried about what women might get up to with that new freedom or whether they would bother to attend church anymore if they could be out cycling instead. Some tried to regulate and monitor women’s behavior on the bicycle, as did, for example, an article from the Omaha Daily Bee from 1895 with a list of “Don’ts for Women Wheelers.” Some “don’ts” from this list include:

  • Don’t be a fright.
  • Don’t carry a flask.
  • Don’t attempt a “century.”
  • Don’t say, “Feel my muscle.”
  • Don’t criticize people’s “legs.”
  • Don’t boast of your long rides.
  • Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
  • Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  • Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?”
  • Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”

If it weren’t for the rule about not going to church in your bicycle costume, I’d be tempted to break every one of these rules, just for the fun of it. But I really can’t go to church in a bicycle costume, at least not a modern-day “costume.” I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “Don’t be a fright,” either.

Macy has a chapter on clothes for cycling and how cycling influenced the movement toward more comfortable clothing for women. The was a debate about the acceptability and aesthetics of the above-mentioned bloomers, but there was such a strong backlash against them, they didn’t last long. Cycling did encourage shorter skirts and fewer layers of bulky undergarments, however.

My favorite section was the one on women racers. There were women from the 1880s and 1890s whose riding and racing puts me to shame — and they did it on heavy, clunky bikes and without spandex. Louise Armaindo, for example, rode 1,050 miles in six days, on a 1/8-mile track. Dora Reinhart rode 17,196 miles in one year, riding centuries for days in a row, including a stretch of 10 days and another of 20 when she rode a century every day. In 1894, Annie Cohen Kopchovsky rode much of the way around the world, setting off with no money and only two lessons in bicycle riding. Some women were fiercely competitive: Jane Yatman and Jane Lindsay battled to see who could ride the most miles in the least number of hours. Lindsay eventually won with an 800-mile ride done in 91 hours, 48 minutes.

It makes me hurt just to think about it. These women are an inspiration.

There’s so much that’s interesting in this book, but it only scratches the surface and I wish it were longer. But that’s my only complaint. If you’re at all interested in cycling and/or women’s history, I highly recommend it.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Nonfiction

Weekend report and book list

I had a lovely weekend chock full of bike racing, but the downside is that I didn’t have much time to read. Oh, well. Much as I’d love to have more hours in the day (or to need less sleep), that’s not the case, and sadly I can’t do everything, so now and then something has to go. Reading is never something I set aside for long, as I start to get antsy and to feel scattered if I don’t read at least a little. I’m going to try to squeeze in an hour or two tonight, if I don’t fall asleep first.

I rode in two bike races, one on Saturday and one today. The Saturday race took place in Coxsackie, New York (where do they get these names??), a two hour drive from home. The race was divided into only three fields, which means women rode with men, which means I didn’t have much hope of placing well. Some women are fast enough to keep up with the guys, but I’m not quite there yet. Or rather, I’m faster than some of the guys, but not all 75 or so of them out there yesterday. The race was seven laps, 42 miles total. I stayed with the pack for the first lap and a half, and then dropped off the back after taking a corner badly and slowing down too much. After that, I rode with a handful of other people up until the very last lap when I left one rider behind, another left me behind, and I was by myself for the last six miles. Let me tell you, those six miles were long. But I got a fabulously good workout in, with my heart rate pretty much as high as I can possibly hold it for over two hours. That’s serious work.

Today was the local race, and after the two+ hours of yesterday, 45 minutes at top speed seemed awfully short. As I wrote last week, my weakness is positioning myself close to the front of the pack, as opposed to the very back, and I did better this week staying in the right place. I was a little too far back heading into the final sprint, but I passed some people right at the very end and ended up getting 15th place. To put that in context, there were probably 35-40 riders out there. Considering that I was entirely off the back last week, that’s not too bad.

But now on to my book list. Litlove recently listed her “Top 10 Books I Absolutely Had to Have — But Still Haven’t Read.” That sounds like the perfect meme for me, especially at a time when I’m not reading as much as I’d like. After I make the list, it’s off to pick up a book and head for the couch.

  1. What comes to mind immediately is essay collections, especially Zadie Smith’s Changing my Mind. I got this last fall and thought I would dive in immediately. Yeah, still waiting.
  2. I’m also collecting essays about essays, or books that discuss the essay from a theoretical standpoint. Collecting, not reading. They include The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay by Carl Klaus, Reading Essays: An Invitation by Douglas Atkins, and Truth in Nonfiction by David Lazar.
  3. The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 2. I read the first volume several years ago, and thought it made great before-bed reading. I could read only a page or two and still feel as though I’d gotten something out of it. But I haven’t gotten any farther.
  4. George Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody. Remember a while back when somebody described bloggers as “Pooterish” (main character in the novel) and some bloggers claimed the title proudly? I said I wanted to read the source, so I got the book.
  5. Colette, Cheri and The Last of Cheri. I’ve needed to read Colette forever! And maybe I will this year, since she’s on the the official TBR list for 2011 (on the right).
  6. I have a whole collection of Romantic biographies I had to have but have yet to read. I have gotten to Richard Holmes’s very long biography of Coleridge, but I still need to read Stanley Plumly’s Posthumous Keats, The Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth by Francis Wilson, Shelley: The Pursuit by Richard Holmes, The Friendship: Wordsworth and Coleridge by Adam Sisman, and Being Shelley: The Poet’s Search for Himself, by Ann Wroe. Oh, and I really want Daisy Hay’s Young Romantics.
  7. Another whole collection, this time of David Foster Wallace books, including Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, Oblivion: Stories, Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, and Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will. Not to mention David Lipsky’s book on Wallace, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.
  8. Rebecca West novels, including The Birds Fall Down, Cousin Rosamund, and This Real Night. I also really want The Return of the Solder, but perhaps I should resist for now?
  9. Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams. Somehow I became convinced a while back that I would like her and had to have one of her books.
  10. Letter collections including the letters of Jane Austen, Charles Lamb, and John Keats.

Some day I will read all of these, I swear!


Filed under Books, Cycling

Bike Racing!

This year has been all over the place as far as riding is concerned. I rode steadily for the first few weeks of the year, and then really awful weather hit, and I stopped riding entirely for almost four weeks. Then I started, then I stopped, and now I’ve started again. And today was my first race! No, I was not really prepared for it. I’m in the worst shape for March that I’ve been in in a long time. But the race went okay anyway. It was 20 laps long, and the pack stayed together most of the way. I stayed with the rest of the riders until lap 18, and then I dropped back a bit climbing the short hill on the course, and I couldn’t catch back on. I finished, but I did the last two laps on my own.

I know I could have done better if I had ridden smarter. Bike racing is just as much about tactics and positioning as it is about fitness, and I’m not good at all at tactics and positioning. So when my fitness is just so-so, I’m kind of screwed. I spent most of the race at or near the back of the pack, which puts me in danger of getting dropped, especially on the hill, where lack of fitness really shows. If I had been closer to the front of the pack, slowing down on the hill wouldn’t have mattered as much because I would still have been with the rest of the riders and wouldn’t have had to catch up. It’s having to catch up that’s a problem.

The thing is, I dislike racing enough that I’m not motivated to work on tactics and positioning. I had three teammates to ride with today, and one other woman who is sort of an honorary teammate, plus a bunch of other women from other teams that I am acquaintances with, and all that is fun. The social aspect is the real reason to race, I think — that, along with gaining fitness. I don’t do it because I’m driven to win. So … I stay at the back of the pack. Whatever.

I am excited about getting strong again, though. The real, real reason to race is to get strong so that I can do fast group rides. For me, that’s where the fun lies: riding the cupcake loop, the Lake Waramaug loop, the ridiculous 150-mile Massachusetts loop, and doing these rides with friends. There’s little that’s more fun than riding fast with a bunch of friends, full of adrenaline, laughing and joking, enjoying the Connecticut countryside. I’m hoping for a lot of rides like that this year.

Here’s a picture of my teammates and I at the start line shortly before the race started. I’m second from the right.


Filed under Cycling

Random thoughts for a Friday

Is it Friday? I have to double-check because I’ve completely lost track of the days lately. My teaching schedule this semester is Monday-Wednesday (and then Thursday-Sunday are for grading and teaching my online class), but this week my classes on Tuesday and Wednesday got canceled because of bad weather. Last week my Wednesday classes were canceled. So I’m in the middle of the semester now, with a remarkable amount of time on my hands. Things will change next week — unless we get more snow days, of course — but for now I’m enjoying my peace and quiet.

I’m enjoying it except for the fact that I can’t ride my bike, or I choose not to ride in the only way that feels safe right now: indoors. I hate riding indoors. Sadly, all the snow and ice we’ve gotten lately has utterly destroyed the roads for riding; even now when we have some sun to dry the roads out, I don’t feel comfortable riding because the snow drifts have encroached on the roads so much they are extremely narrow, after already being quite narrow to begin with. So I’ve gone almost two weeks now without getting on my bike, which is not good at all, since bike races begin in March. But … whatever. I don’t take the races all that seriously, and I’ll train again when I can. I have the whole year ahead of me in which to ride some crazy miles, and I’ll get back to it when I can.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the chance to be a little lazy and to do more reading (and shoveling — my arms ache from the effort of trying to get ice off the driveway yesterday). I have two books I hope to write about soon, Janet Malcolm’s book about Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, Two Lives, and Kevin Brockmeier’s new novel The Illumination. I’ve also continued with my reread of the Anne of Green Gables series, and I’m enjoying Anne’s House of Dreams very much. I also recently started a collection of nature essays by Edward Hoagland, Sex and the River Styx, and soon I’ll begin Carlos Fuentes’s new novel Destiny and Desire. I’m not fond of that overly dramatic title, but we’ll see about the book itself.

And now I’m thinking about Litlove’s question about which books I would most like to reread. I think I’d put the following on my list:

  • All of Austen’s novels. These are ones I’ve reread already, except for Northanger Abbey, so perhaps that one should be next. I’ve had a hankering lately to read Persuasion, though.
  • George Eliot’s novels, especially Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. Actually, those are two I’ve already reread, so I should start with some others, perhaps The Mill on the Floss. I suppose when it comes to rereading, I’m most drawn to long Victorian novels. Also,
  • Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, especially Anna Karenina (I used to do a lot more rereading than I do now — I’ve read this one twice) and Crime and Punishment.
  • Obviously the Anne of Green Gables books and also as far as YA books go, Phillip Pullman and the Little House books. Also Betsy/Tacy books.
  • For something more contemporary, Infinite Jest. I don’t know that I’ll do it soon, but I’ve been hankering to reread it. I’ve loaned my copy out to a friend, so I won’t be able to read it for a while, but perhaps this summer? I’d happily reread Wallace’s essays as well.
  • Virginia Woolf. I’m slowly reading and rereading my way through her books.
  • Other Victorian novels: The Moonstone, any of Thomas Hardy’s books, anything by the Brontes.
  • I’ve been thinking about rereading Nicholson Baker’s book U&I. I read it quite a long time ago and remember being amazed by it, and I want that experience again.
  • I’ve hardly read any Dorothy Sayers at all, but I’d happily reread what I’ve read, and I plan to read more.
  • Nabokov. I’ve read Lolita and Pale Fire, and will happily reread both. In fact, I’ve read Pale Fire twice already.
  • I could happily reread anything by E.M. Forster, and I’ve read quite a lot of his books by now.

I’m sure there are others, but that’s what comes to mind for now. I actually do more rereading than I thought, even these days when I’m doing less than I used to. With my new ereader and all those free classics, I might do even more.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life

Favorite books, 2010

It’s time to make my list of favorite books from 2010 before we get too far into 2011. This time I will use categories rather than simply a top ten list, since my favorite books are all so different.

  • Book I enjoyed most of any genre: David Foster Wallace’s  A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I love his essayistic style.Love it.
  • Favorite fiction: Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist. Yes, this book was on my favorites list from last year, but I liked the book so much I read it again, and the second time was in 2010. Yay! Also, Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies, Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End, Rosamund Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, May Sarton’s A Small Room, and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad.
  • Favorite mystery/crime novels: Patricia Highsmith’sThe Talented Mr. Ripley. That book is still freaking me out. Also, Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, not for the plot (at all!) but for the writing. Best funny mystery novels: Sarah Caudwell’s Thus was Adonis Murdered and David Markson’s Epitaph for a Tramp and Epitaph for a Dead Beat.
  • Biggest surprises in fiction: I didn’t expect to love Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd as much as I did, but I really did love it. And Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars was good in a thoughtful way I didn’t expect.
  • Favorite classics: My reread of Emma was awesome, of course, and I really enjoyed The Perpetual Curate by Margaret Oliphant. It was great to finally read Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as well.
  • Best nonfiction: For biography, Richard Holmes’s Coleridge: Darker Reflections. I missed Coleridge when I finished reading. For essays, finishing Montaigne was great, of course, and Lawrence Weschler’s Vermeer in Bosnia was wonderful. I enjoyed Emily Fox Gordon’s Book of Days: Personal Essays greatly as well. Also in nonfiction, Jenny Diski’s book The Sixties was really good.
  • Poetry: I read only two volumes of poetry this year, but they were both memorable: Faber’s 80th anniversary edition of Ted Hughes, and the poems of T’ao Ch’ien.
  • Other books I liked: Samuel Beckett’s novel Molloy, I Too Am Here: Selections from the Letters of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room, and John Williams’s Stoner.
  • Biggest challenge: Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. A challenge indeed.
  • Biggest disappointments: I didn’t enjoy Balzac’s novel Cousin Bette at all, and I thought I would. Also, Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett’s Death Rites was a disappointment. I didn’t dislike it as much as my book group did, but still, I hoped to like it better.

I like doing my favorites this way, because I can name lots more books!

Now for a word about my year in cycling. I rode a grand total of 6,597 miles during 2010 and a total of 409 hours (more than an hour a day!). All those miles were outdoors. My mileage in 2009, which was a record at that time, was 5,097. The funny thing about this year is that I didn’t set out to ride a lot of miles. I would have been perfectly happy riding fewer than I did in 2009. I wanted to ride exactly what I felt like riding. That’s just what I did, but apparently what I wanted to do was to ride an awful, awful lot. It was training with my Ironman friend that made the difference; she needed to go on 3,4,5,6-hour rides, and I was happy to go along. She’s not training for an Ironman in the upcoming year, so I may ride less, although I do have two other friends who will be training for an Ironman, so maybe I need to do some rides with them!


Filed under Books, Cycling, Lists


First an update on cycling, with both good and bad news. The good news is that I’ve been riding a ton and have now passed 6,000 miles since January 1st. That’s a record that smashes last year’s total of just over 5,000 miles, and it’s not even December yet. It’s getting colder here, but that just means adding more layers before I head out.

The bad news is that my thyroid has become hyperactive again, so I probably shouldn’t be riding at all, although my doctor didn’t say to back off (and I didn’t ask). The back story here is that my thyroid went bad a little over three years ago; I had a hard month or two, and since then have felt pretty much normal. About a month ago, I started feeling badly again, although nothing as extreme as when I first became sick. But it’s discouraging to be feeling badly at all, when all I want to do is to ride a lot and ride fast. So I ride, but I take it easy and go slowly. Eventually medication will get everything back in line, and then I’ll ride fast again.

As for books, well, I bought a few more the other day. I wasn’t planning on it, but I found myself in two bookstores, and what else could I do? Hobgoblin and I drove to Winchester, Virginia, to visit family for Thanksgiving, and on Friday, to entertain ourselves, we all explored the city, including the Winchester Book Gallery, where I found a copy of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book for the next Slaves of Golconda discussion. The store was small, but had a great selection for its size. After that, we found Blue Plate Books, a nice used bookstore, where I bought Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale, Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (short stories), Lauren Slater’s Lying (a memoir), and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which I wasn’t planning on buying, but I found it for $11 and thought why not?

I’ve been buying books like crazy lately, but have had time to read too; right now I’m immersed in Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies, a novel about a boarding school in Dublin. It’s absorbing, and I’ve been glad to have a little more time than usual to focus on it. I’ve also begun reading Virginia Woolf’s The Common Reader, or rather, re-reading it. It’s fabulous, just as I remembered. I’m about 150 pages from the end of Gravity’s Rainbow, which I’ve decided is not so fabulous. Or rather, it’s genius, brilliant, amazing, etc., but I don’t like the experience of reading it. I’m sticking with it, though, because I’m not going to let that thing beat me!


Filed under Books, Cycling

Cycling update: Pedal for Paws

Things have been fairly quiet on the bike lately; after my epic 150-mile ride on Labor Day, I’ve slowed the pace of my riding a bit. I’ve done a few long rides since then, including a 72-mile ride and an 85-mile ride, but I haven’t ridden as often, averaging probably 2 rides a week for the last month. I like to have a stretch of at least a few weeks where I don’t ride at all, or ride minimally, in order to give my mind and body a chance to rest. I don’t want to get burnt out. Ideally, by the end of this period, I’ll be longing to start riding more once again.

So I’m thinking the next couple weeks will work well for a rest, and the timing is right because I had a great opportunity to do a challenging end-of-season ride last weekend to wrap the year up. (I’m not talking about wrapping things up for 2010 — I’ll be riding seriously again in November and December — I just mean wrapping up the racing/heavy-duty riding season.) On Saturday, Hobgoblin and I attended a charity ride organized by my friend and fellow-blogger, Debby from She Knits by the Seashore, and her husband Chris, from The Suitcase of Courage. They organized it to benefit Forgotten Felines, an animal shelter for cats and kittens, where Debby volunteers. Debby came up with the idea a year ago or so, and I’ve spent the last year in awe of her as she has gone about planning everything in a supremely organized and careful way. Let’s just say that event planning is NOT one of my strengths, so I admire those who take it on and succeed.

And everything worked out wonderfully. The turnout was twice what everyone expected, the weather was gorgeous (it was a beautiful weekend sandwiched between horrible rain storms), and all the riders were happy. Hobgoblin and I showed up a little on the late side so we could ride with Chris and another cycling friend, Aki, from Sprinter della Casa, and after waiting a bit for them to return from making sure the road signs clearly marked the route, we set off on the 50-mile loop. We were under a bit of time pressure, since we wanted to return in time to hear the band that was playing for lunch, so we set off at a brisk pace.

It was the time pressure that made us go fast, but also the fact that Hobgoblin had fresh legs and wanted to ride hard. So, as we rode along the beautiful Connecticut coastline, the three of us worked hard to stay on Hobgoblin’s wheel. I had to remind myself to look around so I wouldn’t miss the view, because otherwise, I would have spent the time staring in dismay at my heart rate monitor, which was telling me I’d better slow down if I wanted to keep riding for another couple hours. Eventually our pace moderated a little, but only a little — once you set out at a fast pace, it’s hard to pull back and slow down. And I didn’t want to slow down because I was having so much fun riding with three people who know what they are doing on a bike — how to ride in a pace line, how to ride hard while staying safe, how to communicate and keep the group together. We sprinted for town line signs, a tradition whose source I don’t know, but one we follow regularly on all our long rides. The trick for someone like me, who can’t out-sprint three male bike racers, is to catch the rest of the group by surprise by being the first to spot a sign, so I spent the ride surreptitiously looking ahead for the green signs marking a new town. I managed to take a couple of the sprints that way. Most of the ride I was right on the edge of what I’m capable of — working very hard on the short hills, recovering on the downhills, and spending as much time as I could drafting on the flats, to keep my heart rate down. By the last hour, my legs started to ache, and at the end of the ride the ache was pretty pronounced. I was ready to get off the bike, but it’s immensely satisfying to get off the bike having pushed just about as hard as I can.

It’s also satisfying to hold my own with the guys, riders who can trounce me in a bike race but with whom I’m a little more evenly-matched on a longer ride in a more relaxed setting. I hate being the slow-poke woman, the one all the guys have to wait up for (even though I don’t mind at all waiting up for other people), and nobody had to wait up for me this time.

So now it’s a couple weeks of rest, and then I start up again, gearing up for winter riding and spring races (unless, of course, I retire from bike racing, which is always a possibility!).


Filed under Cycling

Current Reading

Teaching two online courses this semester is turning into a whole lot of computer time, which makes it hard to get other computer-related things done, since I don’t like being on the computer all day if I can help it. But today is one of those days where there was no avoiding being on the computer nonstop. This, by the way, is how I find time to ride my bike so much during the week — I spend my weekends catching up on work I neglected all week long. Often weekends mean long stretches of school work punctuated by occasional bike rides, with the evenings devoted to reading or friends. It’s not a perfect system, but it works okay.

So, I’m nearing the end of Margaret Oliphant’s The Perpetual Curate. It’s an engrossing story of the sort that’s anxiety-inducing because everything goes horribly wrong for the main character all at once, and I want to keep reading to see how he’s going to straighten everything out. He’s a victim of misunderstandings and petty resentments, and, since this is a Victorian novel, his honor, pride, and sense of propriety keep him from fixing things quickly. I’ve read enough 18th and 19th century novels to understand the exquisite sense of rightness and wrongness the characters have, but sometimes it’s just sort of hard to believe.

Next up as far as novels go is Alicia Gimenez-Bartlett’s Death Rites, which is the next book for my mystery book group — my choice. I picked it because I wanted us to read something not British or American and because several bloggers I know have enjoyed it, but other than that, I know little about it and so am curious to see how it goes.

I’m also in the middle of Lawrence Weschler’s essay collection Vermeer in Bosnia, which I remember hearing about on NPR quite a few years ago. I bought the book also a number of years ago, and am only now finally getting to it. There is a wide variety of essays in the book; my favorite so far has been the title essay, which opens the collection and is part of a group of three pieces on art and war. There are also essays on three Polish Holocaust survivors, or the children of survivors, and now I’m in the middle of some more personal essays on family. They are all thoughtful and smart, and I’m enjoying Weschler’s voice and sensibility.

And, as part of my on-going, life-long, never-ending quest to read tons and tons of essays, some of them in chronological order, I’ve picked up Francis Bacon’s essays. Bacon is not going to be one of my favorite essayists, I already know, but I want to read him for the sake of understanding the genre fully. So, Bacon it is, and then Sir Thomas Browne.


Filed under Books, Cycling

A century and a half

Hobgoblin has decided lately that he wants to ride super-long rides, as in really extra, super-duper long rides, as in training for races that are over 500 miles long. I don’t plan to be a part of any of this, but I’m up for some more reasonable distance challenges. So when Hobgoblin proposed that we get a group together to ride 150 miles on Labor Day, I agreed, albeit nervously. I rode 130 miles once, maybe seven years ago. I was in bad pain and crying by the end of that ride. In the years following, I’ve ridden 100 miles many times, usually a time or two each year, although this year I’d upped that to three times, with quite a few rides in the 70-90 range. I’m now at nearly 5,000 miles on the year. But still, 150 miles was something new.

So we got a group together and set out yesterday morning at 7:00. We left with eight people, although some were planning on cutting the ride short and doing 80-90 miles. We set out north, through the small city I live near and up into the countryside. I love riding north because the landscape there is beautiful in a way that’s different from the beauty of my area. I love the way that my area is densely wooded with little hills tightly packed together, so you feel hidden away, covered by the branches and leaves that form a canopy over the narrow roads. The landscape up north is much more open, with more farms and fields, so you can get a view of neighboring hills and low-lying mountains.

As we rode north we stopped at little villages to buy baked good, candy bars, and Gatorade to fuel us on our way. Eventually three of our group split off leaving us with five to head even further north, up into Massachusetts, to climb one of the nastiest hills you’ll ever meet. It’s one of those hills that just keeps going; you think you’ve reached the top, you go around a corner, and there is more hill waiting for you. This happens again and again. But we made it to the top and had a lovely downhill stretch to ride, and then we were heading back south again, back into Connecticut. We stopped four times total, at around mile 35, 68, 93, and 117.

And we made it back home again, after 8 hours and 14 minutes. I couldn’t believe how easy it felt — relatively speaking, of course, relative to how it could have felt. My legs started to protest during the last five miles, but I think that was at least partly psychological, as my legs knew they had a break coming very soon. My upper back and neck were sore, but the breaks we took helped; I took the opportunity to stretch and move as much as possible, and that made the pain go away, at least for a while.

It was a fast ride for me — just a touch under 18 mph. There is no way I could ride that fast on my own, but with some friends to draft on and to motivate me (and with good long sections of flat road), it was possible.

So today I’m not moving much. My legs aren’t sore, though, just tired. I don’t have plans to do the ride again right now, although I think it’s likely I’ll get talked into it before too long.


Filed under Cycling

Cycling update

Much of the story of my cycling year so far I can tell using just a few numbers:

  • Total yearly mileage 2007 (the first year I have a full record): 4,226
  • Total yearly mileage 2008: 4,339
  • Total yearly mileage 2009: 5,097
  • Total mileage so far in 2010 (as of August 17th): 4,393

So yeah, I’ve been riding a lot this year. I’m on track to crush last year’s record, and I’ve already beaten my records from the previous two years.

This was the year I was going to forget about mileage goals and just ride as much as I wanted to. And that’s exactly what I’ve done. But instead of riding less than last year, I’ve ridden much more. I’m still not riding with any kind of mileage goal in mind (or any goal at all, of whatever sort), but it turns out that when I decide to ride just as much as I want to and no more, I end up riding a ton.

It doesn’t hurt that I’m spending much of my training time riding with my cycling BFF, who completed one Ironman triathlon in July and is doing another one in October. That means a lot of miles. A lot. I suppose if I have one goal this year, it’s to keep enough fitness so that I can keep up with her. These days that means I’m working pretty hard, but it’s so much fun, it’s exactly what I want to do.

As for races, I haven’t done one in quite a while. I did the six training races in March and April that I usually do, I did three road races, and then I did a few summer training races and that’s it. And I’ve liked the way it’s worked out. I haven’t given up racing entirely, but I’ve slowed down the pace a lot, focused on just a handful of races, and spent the rest of the time just riding. I may follow a similar method next year.


Filed under Cycling


I’ve been a bad blogger lately, and I’m this close to saying I’m going to take a blogging break so I can stop thinking about it for a while, but then I think, oh, I can manage to write something short, an updating kind of post, and maybe that will keep me going until I get some time and motivation back? Perhaps. We’ll see.

So, updates. I went on a lovely, 90-mile ride today with Hobgoblin, my cycling BFF, and two other guys, both good riders. Actually, it’s amazing anybody showed up for the ride at all, because this is how Hobgoblin advertised it in an email to our cycling club:

Terrible, ugly ride.  Five hours of pain, misery, and horror.  Expect bad attitudes, elitist snobbery, and open mockery of your bike-handling abilities.  Lots of climbing, bad roads filled with potholes, and strict pacelines.  We’re heading north to Lake Waramaug and Kent, so no sniveling about the route.   If you want to put yourself through this torture, be ready to roll from the shop at 8:30 on Sunday, May 2.

Would you show up for that ride? I certainly wouldn’t, if I weren’t married to the writer. Even knowing the tone was joking, I’d be afraid. But the “terrible” ride was really great, and we weren’t mean to each other at all. There was, as it turns out, lots of climbing, tons of potholes, and we did ride in a paceline, but our attitudes stayed upbeat. Any mockery aimed at each other was of the affectionate sort.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about giving up bike racing, haven’t I? Yeah, I have. But … it hasn’t happened yet. In fact, I recently applied for and got an upgrade to Category 3 (racers start in Category 4 for women and Category 5 for men, and work their way up the categories as they do well in races). This upgrade is both exciting and frightening — exciting because it’s an acknowledgment that I’ve done well as a racer, and frightening because my races will now be faster and longer. For example, next weekend’s race has the Women Cat 4 riders racing 24 miles, while all other women (Cat 1-3 and pro riders) race 48 miles. So not only will I be racing with Cat 3 riders, but also with 1s, 2s, and pros, and I’ll be racing twice as long. Let’s just say I’ll probably be hanging on to the pack for dear life.

I have no idea what will happen in the race, but I do know I’m riding farther and faster this year than I ever have before. So far this year I’ve ridden 2,165 miles, probably 500-600 more miles than usual, and in April alone I rode 640 miles. I didn’t plan on riding this much; it just sort of happened. And it’s fun.

As for reading, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and if I get my act together this week, I’d like to post on it. My mystery book group met yesterday and had a great discussion, as usual. Right now I’m eagerly awaiting hearing what our next book will be.

This past week I’ve been working my way through Jane Austen’s Emma. I got inspired to pick it up after watching the new BBC miniseries and enjoying it greatly. What happened is that while I liked the liveliness of the interaction between Emma and Mr. Knightley in the film, I wasn’t sure it was an accurate adaptation of the text, so I decided to reread the book and see (I’ve read the book multiple times — so many times I’ve lost count). It turns out the film is pretty accurate, and I’m beginning to think that my idea of Mr. Knightley has always been too serious and solemn. He is definitely fatherly in a way that seems a little odd in a romantic hero, but he’s also very sociable, witty, and amusing.

I’m not sure about the film’s portrayal of the flirtation between Emma and Frank Churchill, but I’ll withhold judgment until I get to that part in the book.

And that’s about it. You can see why I’m not blogging much, as it’s often a matter of deciding between reading and blogging, and I desperately need to read.


Filed under Books, Cycling

Bike maintenance and a reading slump

Let me just say that as much I love riding my bike, I do not love taking care of my bike. Cleaning it is always an ordeal, one that leaves me with cuts and scrapes on my hands and black grease under my fingernails (and often on my arms and legs as well). Tonight I needed to put two new tires on, and the whole thing was an utter failure. After some struggle I pried the tires off, put new tubes in, and pried the tires back on (and banged up my knuckles in the process). That was okay. But when I tried to pump up the tubes, they wouldn’t hold air. It turns out I punctured the tubes at some point while trying to get the tires on. In one case the tube got pinched, and in another some mysterious small, sharp metal object got in between the tire and tube and ruined everything. Sigh. Poor Hobgoblin got tired of listening to my complaints and curses and finally stepped in to finish up the job for me. Poor Muttboy was so stressed by the whole scene that he couldn’t eat his milkbone. I got grease on my jeans and on my t-shirt and had to scrub my arm so hard to get the grease off that I practically made myself bleed.

I should be better at this by now, but I’m just not.

I did go on a great 75-mile ride yesterday, however, with two other women on my racing team. We are well matched in terms of strength, and we had fun riding hard and enjoying the beautiful, sunny day. I have now made a good start on my summer cycling tan: I have an inch of burnt skin on my wrist, the part that’s exposed between my arm warmers and my cycling gloves. I also have about five inches of tanned skin on the lower part of my calves and shins, the part that’s between my knee warmers and my socks. I’m working on a pretty sharp line on my arms below my shoulders as well. I’m ready for the beach, right?

As for reading, it’s been up and down. I finished Jane Gardam’s novel Old Filth and was disappointed. When I last wrote about it here, I was enjoying it a lot, but immediately after I wrote that post, I hit a section where there were a number of odd coincidences, the plot took a turn I didn’t like, and all the sudden the characters felt unfamiliar. I never quite recovered after that. I was knocked out of the world of the book, all the sudden wondering whether I was reading it properly. The story just didn’t ring true to me anymore.

That said, though, the premise of the book is very interesting, and I’m guessing not everyone will have the reaction I had above. The novel deals with the vestiges of British colonialism, telling the story of a young boy growing up in Malay and left to the “natives” for his upbringing. His mother died shortly after giving birth and his father did his best to lose himself in his work, so it was only his aunt who paid him any attention. Eventually he was sent off to England to be raised by strangers, unfortunately, as it turns out, cruel and abusive ones, and after that he went to boarding school. It’s an absolutely awful childhood, one full of neglect and abuse. It seems like a fairly common one, however, since many British children growing up in the colonies were sent back to England by their parents who hoped they could get a good education and learn how to be properly English.

The main character, Edward Feathers, grows up to become a lawyer and then a judge, working for a while in Hong Kong (hence the “FILTH” acronym: Failed in London, Try Hong Kong), and then retiring in England, which is where we meet him. The present-day action of the novel takes place during Edward’s retirement, with lengthy flashbacks to his younger years. Gradually, we discover the full extent of everything that happened to him.

I liked the back-and-forth narration (in fact, it’s when the novel paused for a lengthy period in the present day that it started to falter), the gradual revelation of Edward’s life story, and the glimpse the novel gives into colonial culture. I just wish the narrative pacing had been better and that the characters had remained convincing throughout.

Because I seemed to be having a hard time with literary fiction (Old Filth and Vertigo leaving me underwhelmed), I decided to try a mystery novel and picked up Elizabeth George’s Payment in Blood. I did much better with that one, enjoying it a lot. Then this afternoon I just finished Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I surprised myself by totally loving. At this point, I’m hoping I’m out of the short reading slump I was in, and now I have the fun of choosing something new.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Fiction

Crazy weekend bicycle racing

Okay, now I’m tired. I did my super, awful, horrible, extremely long race yesterday, and then I got up this morning and went out to race again. And I got two top ten finishes!

Yesterday’s race, The Tour of the Battenkill was the hardest ride I’ve ever done. I’ve been on more difficult courses before, but I’ve never worked that hard for that long. The course was 62 miles with some long hills and something like 10 miles of dirt roads, and it took me 3 hours and 30 minutes to finish. Much of that time I was working as hard as I could.

I started off in a pack of something like 40 racers, and we rode together for the first five miles or so, until we got to the first dirt section (the first of eight). At that point somebody in front of me crashed; I don’t know what happened exactly, but I was far enough behind it to be able to swerve off to the left and ride around the fallen riders. It always feels cruel to ride around people who have just crashed, but that’s what you do, if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it. I found myself a bit behind the main pack at that point, but with some effort I caught back on, and on we went.

Things were fine for the next five miles or so until we came to the first big hill, at which point a group of about six riders opened up a gap on the pack. I left some slower riders behind me, and as I crested the hill, I looked around to see who was left to ride with. I’m not entirely sure how things happened, but eventually I ended up riding with three other women, one of whom was my teammate, and then we caught up with two women from the front group who were starting to fall back, and the next thing I knew I was in a group of six and there were four riders up the road. That’s how things stayed for a long time after that. Eventually my group of six got a paceline going (where riders ride in a line, and one person leads for a while before moving to the left and dropping back to take their place at the end of the line to let someone else lead before they, too, drop back, and so on), and we rode that way for miles. For a little while the leading group of four stayed within sight, and we tried to catch them, but we just couldn’t do it.

The race stayed that way until one woman dropped away on a hard hill, and then another woman’s chain fell off and she had to stop to fix it, and I was left with a group of three other riders.

I think the hardest part of the race was watching the miles go by, slowly. I was happy to get to the halfway point, around 31 miles, but that left me with another 31 to go, which would take me over an hour and a half. Hitting mile 40 was great, but there was still another 20; hitting 50 was wonderful, but at that point I was beginning to get seriously tired. Around mile 55 my calf muscles were threatening to cramp, and around mile 60 my quad muscles were going. Thank God I only had two miles left at that point. I was still with the three other riders, including my teammate, going around the last corner into the finish line, and I would have loved to finish ahead of at least the riders on other teams, but I had only enough left to get me to the finish. Still, that got me 8th place, and let me tell you, I’m happy with that. Once I stopped riding, my muscles let me know just how unhappy they were, and I realized that I hadn’t had enough to eat or drink on the ride. So when Hobgoblin, who had just finished his own race, bought us cheeseburgers, I ate mine as fast as I could, and it was probably the best-tasting burger I’ve ever had.

Oh, and 8th place was enough to win me some prize money, so I came home $20 richer. The scenery we rode through was gorgeous — upstate New York hills — but, sad to say, I didn’t see much of it. I was too focused on staying just behind the rider in front of me and on looking out for potholes to take a moment to glance at the hills and farmland. Perhaps someday I’ll ride up there again, and this time do a more leisurely tour of the area.

Last night I tried to decide whether to ride in this morning’s race, which I had already registered and paid for, and I thought, well, I might as well try, and if it doesn’t go well, I can always drop out with a very good excuse. So I got up this morning and set out on my warm-up ride. I felt okay — a little wobbly on the small hills near my house, but okay. When the race started, my plan was to stay in the pack and draft as much as possible to conserve energy. That’s basically what I did, although at one point when the field was riding a little slowly I launched a short attack, just because I felt like I could. The further I got into the race, the looser my legs felt, and the more I thought, hey, this isn’t so bad! And then the last lap was there — surprisingly fast, only 45 minutes into the race after yesterday’s 3 1/2 hours — and I found myself in a decent position at the bottom of the hill leading into the finish line, so I passed a few riders on the hill and ended up in 9th place.

Phew! I’ve never raced two days in a row before, although this something a lot of bike racers do regularly; I had always thought I would be too tired the second day, but the truth is, it wasn’t so bad. If I tried to race tomorrow, things might not work out so well, but tomorrow is a rest day. And I need it because now I’m tired!


Filed under Cycling

Reading and riding notes

First about cycling: yesterday I went on a wonderful, epic bike ride with Hobgoblin and eight or so other people, up north into an area with all the hills and dirt roads you could want. All the hills and dirt roads you could want if you happen to be looking for those things, which, amazingly enough, I sort of am. Just to be clear — this wasn’t a mountain bike ride; instead, we were seeking out dirt roads to ride our road bikes on. I heard one person yell out “road bikes?!” in an amazed voice as he passed us in his car on a particularly nasty stretch.

The reason we were looking for such a course to ride on is this, the Tour of the Battenkill, a fairly well-known Pro/Am race that people travel from all over to compete in. It’s famous for being a brutal course — hilly, and with long sections of dirt roads. The race is this Saturday, and I’m a little frightened.

The ride yesterday was tons of fun, though; I love how after going over a horrifyingly frightening stretch with deep gullies and large chunks of gravel that send my wheels sliding all over the place, the regular sections of dirt roads with just plain old dirt come to seem easy. I was zipping down the hills at 20 mph or more, flying over potholes and feeling okay.

BUT, the forecast for the race this weekend calls for rain, both the day before and the day of the race. What will it be like to ride in mud? I’m frightened, as I said. Very frightened. I’ll let you know how it goes. Secretly, I’m hoping to come down with the flu or something between now and Saturday.

Now on to books: I’m happily in the middle of Jane Gardam’s 2004 novel Old Filth. A look at Wikipedia tells me this is her 23rd novel, after publishing her first in 1971, and she also has eleven collections of short stories. She is someone I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for blogging, though; I can add her to the long list of writers I’ve learned about that way. The term “Old Filth” refers to the main character, Sir Edward Feathers, who made up the acronym FILTH, which stands for “Failed in London, Try Hong Kong.” The novel is set in contemporary times, when Filth (as people consistently call him) is an old man. The present-day setting becomes a kind of frame narrative, as the novel takes us back in time to tell of Filth’s childhood and adulthood, spent partly in England and partly in Hong Kong. So far the story is interesting and well-told, and the writing is sharp and funny.

I picked this up after setting aside Rebecca Goldstein’s book 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, which sounded very interesting as an idea-driven, philosophical novel. The chapters are each named after an argument for the existence of God, and the story is about a psychology professor who unexpectedly finds himself famous after publishing a book on religion that hit a cultural nerve. All this sounded good, but after reading the first chapter, I wasn’t hugely impressed. The story and the main character didn’t captivate me, and I got a little worried looking at the 400 or so pages left to read. So back to the library it went. I do want to read some of Goldstein’s nonfiction, though; she has a book on the philosopher Spinoza that sounds interesting.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Fiction

The Racing Season Begins!

Sigh. Spring is just about here, and this week has been particularly warm and beautiful, with temperatures in the 60s and lots of sunshine. Spring is wonderful. I’ve been thinking about how spring is almost as much fun as summer because there is so much possibility ahead of me and so much room for planning and dreaming. When summer, the end of school, and more free time arrive, it’s great, but I start getting anxious about using the time well and about how it will end before I know it. Right now I’m still in the middle of the semester and I’m working hard, but the end is in sight, not quite here yet, but on the horizon. I have much to look forward to and none of it has begun yet.

And then there’s the racing season. I love going to the races. It’s exciting, it’s dramatic, there are people to see, conversations to have, stories to tell. There’s standing out in the warm spring sun, and also in the cold spring rain, the latter of which is not nearly as fun as the former, but which is enjoyable in its own character-building way. I’m not so sure I love the actual racing part, though, as I’ve written about here again and again. It’s stressful in a way I don’t like. I don’t like the competition or the worry about crashes. I don’t like the feeling of not having done well. And yet I’m always there at the line, each and every week, ready for a little more of the stress and competition and danger. I may well give up racing one of these seasons, but apparently I’m not quite there yet.

I’ve raced twice so far and both races have gone well. In the first one there were maybe 25 riders and most of us stayed together the entire time. A few people tried to attack off the front to shake things up a little bit, but they never got anywhere. The race ended in a pack sprint, and I got 13th place. That was fine, but I could do better, I think, if I were better about fighting for position in the pack during the last lap, so I’m in a good position to sprint. But it’s exactly that kind of fight I don’t like.

Last Sunday’s race was an odd one. It was a rainy day, and while it didn’t rain during the race, it rained during my warm-up, so I was wet and cold when the race started. That was no worry, though, because racing always warms me up enough to be comfortable. One woman attacked early on and spent quite a few laps off the front, but the pack caught her eventually and we were together up until the last seven laps (out of 22 total). At that point, three women attacked. I tried to grab their wheels but couldn’t and so fell back with the rest of the group, at which point we spent the last laps arguing about who was going to pull out front and into the wind. Most people were taking their turns out front, but one woman absolutely refused to do her part. Tempers flared, people yelled at the woman, she yelled back, and it got ugly. And then we were at the end. The pack was very small, hardly a pack at all, and so it wasn’t hard to get myself in a good position to head up the final hill. I started sprinting in third position, which is an excellent place to be, and I was able to pass the two riders ahead of me (including the woman who refused to play nice) and win the field sprint, taking fourth overall (and winning a little bit of prize money). It was my best showing at this race, and I was pleased.

I had fun during that sprint, but it wasn’t enough to make me completely enthusiastic about racing. What I am enthusiastic about is regular old riding, of which I have been doing a lot. I’ve ridden over 1,200 miles so far this year, all outdoors, in all kinds of weather, and I don’t think I’ve done a ride I haven’t enjoyed.


Filed under Cycling, Life

An absurdly good day

If I ever start to feel bad about my life in any way, I need to remember that now and then I’m able to have days like the one I had today. I’m almost embarrassed to describe it, it was so decadent.

I don’t have classes on Fridays (most faculty members don’t at my school), and I usually spend it working on grading and preparing for classes. But since I’m willing to work (from home) on Saturday and Sunday — and often I have to to get everything done — I can sometimes not do any work at all on Friday. And that was the case today.

I woke up at 8:00 — and right there I realize I’m admitting something that might make people jealous, although the truth is that my teaching schedule is an evening one, so I tend to stay up late and wake up late — and got ready to go on a bike ride. Hobgoblin and I had plans to ride with my cycling BFF (that’s how she referred to me today). We were out the door at 9:00, and although it was only 24 degrees at the time, the temperature was on the way up (to the mid-30s). We rode the beach loop, which, as Emily noted once, sounds like an easy, short spin, although it’s actually a 50-mile loop, largely downhill the way there and largely uphill the way back, three hours total.

Although it was chilly, the day was lovely — perfectly sunny and clear. We dodged a few patches of ice, but mostly the roads were dry. The highlight of the trip, as always, was a stop at Crumbs bakery for a cupcake, and I got my favorite, a very boring but yummy vanilla one, even though Hobgoblin told me it has something like 700 calories. Oh, well — I burned way more calories than that. I think we made a little bit of a scene in the cupcake shop, with our silly-looking clothing and our loud laughter. But it’s so easy to laugh when we’re pumped full of adrenaline, and that’s one of my favorite things about cycling — when I’m with other people and we’re all feeling good, everything everybody says is funny.

After the ride and after a shower and a quick lunch, I was off to the masseuse. Hobgoblin bought me a gift certificate for an hour-long massage for my birthday, and I’d made an appointment for this afternoon. I know massage is a great thing to help my muscles recover from the stress of training, but I’m reluctant to spend the money on it because it seems so self-indulgent. So I’m happy to have someone else spend the money on it for me. It was lovely.

And then it was late afternoon and time for my chiropractic appointment. I know not everyone likes going to the chiropractor, but I love it. It’s a chance to have someone massage my shoulders (again), crack my neck, ask me how I’m doing, give me some attention, and generally indulge me for a while. I’ve been seeing my chiropractor for a few years now, and she’s become a little bit like a friend.

And then it was off to the local drive-in burger joint, the Sycamore, a 50s diner that’s not just 50s-themed, but actually from the 50s. I had a bacon cheeseburger. Yum.

And then I had my weekly Friday evening yoga class. It’s a fairly slow-moving, stretchy class, not at all like power yoga, and it’s the kind of class I can do fine in even if I’ve ridden my bike for 50 miles already that day. The teacher is great and many of the students know each other and are very friendly, so it has an upbeat, light atmosphere. We’re all serious yoga students, but we don’t take the whole thing too, too seriously.

And now I’m home, doing a bit of blogging and planning to pick up some books. Now is that not an absurdly good day, or what?


Filed under Cycling, Life


  • Today happens to be my birthday. 36 still counts as mid-30s, right? It’s not such a bad place to be, I think. My day was fairly low key; it’s a busy teaching day for me, so Hobgoblin and I will celebrate more tomorrow. He did give me my present today, which is a Garmin bike computer with GPS (this one, if you are interested), which will be lots of fun to use on bike rides and for training. He also got me a gift certificate for a massage at the local massage place in town. Yay!
  • I got some books as well. A friend of mine sent me a whole stack, including The Old Religion by David Mamet, The Public Image by Muriel Spark, Shroud by John Banville, and Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson. This last one I’ve already read but didn’t own, so now I have my own copy.
  • Oh, and I got home from work today to find that Hobgoblin brought home cupcakes! I had one tonight and will have another tomorrow. Yum.
  • In other news, I have now finished Stevie Smith’s Novel on Yellow Paper and am trying to figure out what I will say about it for the Slaves of Golconda discussion this weekend. I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.
  • This means it’s time to pick a new novel. I’m not entirely sure what that will be, but I’m thinking maybe Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. A friend of mine said she has been enjoying it a lot, and I think I might read along with her.
  • Another friend recently lent me Sarah Vowell’s book The Wordy Shipmates. The back cover says “To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Sarah Vowell investigates what that means — and what it should mean. What was this great political enterprise all about? Who were these people who  are considered the philosophical, spiritual, and moral ancestors of our nation? What Vowell discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoe-buckles-and-corn reputation might suggest.” Sounds interesting, right?
  • And now I’m off to watch another episode of Brideshead Revisited. Three more to go.


Filed under Books, Cycling, Life