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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Half marathon training is going...slowly.  After a strong start, I've had a couple weeks of skipped runs and lagging paces (hmmm...could there be a connection there? lol).  Today's 9 miles was tough, with the last couple miles being pretty ugly.  One problem is that I've been worn out and super busy with starting back in the classroom (well, getting my classroom ready and all the beginning of school meetings we endure enjoy), but the bigger issue is that my heart isn't in running right now.  I'd much much rather be on my bike.

All of my bikes have been getting some use lately.  I ride my cross bike when I ride with the boys, and I did a Trailnet ride last Sunday (50 miles of pavement sure goes by more quickly than gravel or singletrack!) on my road bike. I spent part of the time riding with friends and part just cruising along on my own.  It was fun to ride faster than usual and feel strong, and I've gotten braver on paved hills. At one point I hit 36 mph (on a downhill), not all that fast for other people but super fast for me.  And I wasn't even whimpering!

I'm completely in love with my mountain bike right now though.  I've been riding a bunch at our local trails, and all that familiarity is making me much more confident and comfortable.  Usually when I ride my mountain bike I spend as much time feeling a little sick to my stomach as I do enjoying myself, but lately it's a blast. I've managed to bring up my average pace 2.5 mph over where it was at the beginning of the month.  I've gotten a little obsessed with Strava.  It's interesting to see how I measure up to other people, but it's really cool to be able to compare my own times on certain segments and see the improvement...and it's a great incentive to get back out and see if I can move up in the standings.  Unfortunately, that also means I'm riding instead of stopping to take pictures, making my blog a little boring.

Luckily, Saturday was a NOT boring day on the bike! Chuck, Lori, Dave, and I set to ride some gravel and search out a trail Chuck had seen on Strava (it's contagious).  We rode down the Hamburg Trail (strava segment) to the Katy Trail and then had to do some hunting for the beginning of the lost trail.  Chuck was armed with a topo map, but it was Lori's sharp eyes that spotted the way.

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I don't know how he missed it.
The trail, which I think at one point in the far past was some kind of old gravel road, was seriously overgrown and had a lot of brush and trees fallen across it.  Chuck mentioned maybe coming back another time, but we weren't having any of that.  We were up for an adventure. We did a little riding and a lot of hike-a-bike, and Chuck did a great job of being spiderweb sweeper and brush clearer.

Trail? Once upon a time. I love these old overgrown roads.
You can kind of tell that there was a road here at one point.
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About to get back on the bike...for a minute or so...
We found an old cemetery along the road.  It'll make a great addition to the next edition of our Graveyard Gravel Grinder. There's so much history hidden in the conservation area from the time before the government took over the area for a munitions plant.

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The inscription is all in German.
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Lori, myself, and Dave
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How much fun is this?? There were times you couldn't see anything of the trail. I was laughing like a little kid.
The Francis Howell cemetery was also along our path, though this one is much better maintained.  We found this gravestone for a man who'd served in the War of 1812! One stone was for a man who'd been born in 1762...before the US was even a country! So cool. I kept thinking of all these neat projects I could do revolving around these old tombstones if I taught older kids.

Rode by an old cemetery. This stone was for a care ran of the War of 1812. So much history!

After our exploring was done, we finished our morning with a gravel ride at Busch Wildlife and ended up with 24 miles for the day. Since the Thunder Rolls (next weekend!!!) bike legs are all gravel and we'll surely spend plenty of time traipsing through weeds and woods, we could chalk the day up as great AR training...and seriously fun times. I'm so glad to have friends whose adventure spirit pulls me along to all kinds of cool places like this.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ahhh summer...

My summer is fast seeping away; in fact, I've spent the past two days in optional inservices with one more to go tomorrow, but I've tried to cram as much into the last bit as possible.

There was last Thursday's mountain bike ride with my friend Theresa, when we had a great 5ish mile ride before I got a flat tire.  No problem, I had everything to fix it...back in my car a couple miles away. :-/

"Eh, I never get flats...I'll just leave my pump in the car..." #mtb #badjudgementcall
"Eh, I never get flats...I'll just leave the pump in the car..."
Friday I ran 4 really unpleasant miles, and the only bright spot there was the hope that I was getting my bad run out of the way.  And then there was Saturday's 8 mile run, where I focused on just running nice and easy and was logging 11:xx minute miles for the first half.  At the midpoint, I decided to try running nice and easy just a little faster. Much better.

Morning/afternoon #run #halfmarathontraining #mcttrails
I ran to Jacob's baseball game, so I'm sure it was a real treat for my lucky husband to sit by my stinky self.

It's encouraging to be at 8 miles and not limping. Hopefully slowly, steadily building mileage will keep my hip happy. I didn't feel great when I finished, but I felt good.  Good enough to run another 6 miles the next day on the trails at Castlewood.  Man, I love those trails. :)

Monday we set out on another bicycling adventure to fulfill the last "unplugged" activity we had left to do: mini golf!


The nearest miniature golf course is at a little fun park 7.5 miles away, so Jacob, Nathan, and I rode bikes to get there.

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Scenes from our trip
It was hot, and big brothers can be annoying, so there was at least one minor meltdown on the way.  To add to the fun, Nathan's handlebars were super loose.  Luckily, I have just the bike tool for that.  Unluckily...it was back on the counter.  Doh!

Once we were safely at the golf course, mini golf was fun for the first couple holes until Jacob kept struggling. It was fun again once we stopped keeping score.  The ride back had its challenges as Jacob started getting uncomfortable on his bike seat by the time we were at the 10 mile mark; luckily, he and Jeff were going to St. Louis Rams training camp, so he got an early pickup.

Since Tuesday was my last day home this week, I wanted to make sure we did something fun together.  I asked Jacob if he wanted to ride to the park here in town, but he wanted to go to the park we'd passed through on our way to go golfing.  "Um...that's a 7.5 mile ride, you know," I reminded him.

"I know.  Let's go to that one."

So away we went for the second straight day.  As "fun" as the previous day had been between bickering brothers and saddlesore whining, I wasn't so sure what I was in for, but we had a great time.

New distance PR for my 9 year old! 15 miles! #mcttrails  #bike #family #summer

The ride went more quickly than the previous day, and the "fights" took the form of who can ride one handed longer (Nathan), who can grab more leaves from overhanging branches, who can spit further, and who can pass whom.  As much as Jacob gets irritated by his brothers, he sure likes to copy what they do.

We played for about an hour at the park before turning around and heading back.  Unlike Monday's return trip, this one went smoothly.  After watching his big brother ride long stretches with no hands, Jacob started trying to as well, and before I knew it he was riding hands-free for 5-10 seconds at a time (officially -- and easily -- eclipsing me).  Distracted by his new ability, Jacob didn't even think about being uncomfortable.  He ended up the day with a total of 15.6 miles.  We celebrated his new distance PR with ice cream...the perfect treat for a hot day.

He definitely doesn't love the bike like I do.   Whether it's adventuring with friends, attempting to get through a section of singletrack without tears, admiring the surprising beauty of Kansas even as I (temporarily) vow never to ride there again, or spending time with my kids, for me, bicycling is as much about the journey as the destination.  It's as much about having done as getting there.  For Jacob, it's all about where we're going, and he's learned that I'm much more likely to say yes to an idea if a bike ride is involved.  Win - win. :)

Now we just need to figure out a time to fit in one more Katy Trail overnight this year.  I think Nathan's even signed on for this one. If only I had a little more summer to work with... 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Long time gone (and a winner)

First off, winners for the Race Across the Sky giveaway are Marcia, Patrick, and Kovas.  Email me your addresses, please, so I can pass them on to the publisher.

Otherwise, geez...it's been two weeks since I blogged about anything but the giveaway.  I barely know where to start.  Since we're trying to pay off all these crazy medical bills from Nathan's surgery, it's been a small summer.  Other than Jeff and J's trip to Colorado and my little trip to Kansas, we've stuck pretty close to home and enjoyed day trips and the benefits of our bikes and Y membership.  While my summer hasn't been too exciting (unless you count the excitement of looking at facebook pictures of what seems like everyone in the area's trips to Colorado this year), it has been full of peace of mind from not overspending.

So...in July, I...

Read books.  A lot of books.  Here's the list of what I remember reading in July:

Benediction (Kent Haruf) - Good, but a better read is Plainsong, by the same author.
Take a Seat (Dominic Gill) - OK, but better books about adventure by bike are Jill Homer's Be Brave, Be    Strong or Joe Kurmaskie's Momentum is Your Friend
Eat and Run (Scott Jurek) - Liked it, didn't love it.
In the Long Run (Jim Axelrod) - Good (thanks, Andrea!)
Storming Heaven (Kyle Mills) - Good
Race Across the Sky (Derek Sherman) - Good
Juliet, Naked (Nick Hornby) - Loved it. Got two more of his books at the library.
11/22/63 (Stephen King) - Loved it.
The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult) - Loved it.
The Man Who Cycled the World (Mark Beaumont) - Good (thanks, Aaron!)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal  (Christopher Moore) - Loved it.

Ran. Training for the MO Cowbell half marathon in October has me actually being more consistent and training (that said, I skipped Wednesday's 6-mile tempo run and substituted a sluggish four today). All street running, all on my own.  I don't even know who I am, but I miss the trails and my friends.  That said, the gradual ramping up of mileage has been successful so far with few complaints from my hip.  Of course, 9 miles has been the danger zone, so I guess we'll see if the success continues in a couple of weeks.

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His first road rash...
Rode my bike with Jacob. We've logged a lot of small commuting miles with a minimum of trauma. I think we only drove to the pool once; the rest of our trips have been via bike.  To the library, to the pool, to the local university for bowling...for that last trip I estimated the distance to be 4-5 miles.  Jacob told me, "Eh...as long as it's less than 12 miles it'll be fine." Love that kid!

Amazing how dirty you can get NOT riding your bike. Major singletrack wimpiness on display today. #mtb #bike #trails
Bringing a little of Lost Valley home with me.
Gone mountain biking. Call me the bipolar bicyclist.  One week I love it and feel confident (well, confident-er), the next I'm freaking out and walking things I've ridden plenty of times in the past.  In the past two weeks I've ridden our local singletrack twice and felt OK, ridden Lost Valley twice (had a great time the first ride and wanted to curl up in a fetal position on the second), and made a return trip to the Middle Fork section of the Ozark Trail.

Middle Fork...a rare non-rocky stretch. #mtb #ozarktrail
Middle Fork 
Isn't it pretty?  Most of it doesn't look like that.  I mean, it's beautiful there, but the majority of the trail is covered in rock.  I'd kind of forgotten that until we actually started riding, and then I rode with a knot of fear until I mentally warmed up (which seems to take considerably longer than the physical warming up).  Once I relaxed a little I started to have fun, and despite the fact that the guys regularly had to stop for me to catch up, I managed to hold my apologies to only one or two.  I'm so thankful to have friends who are patient and encouraging...and who keep inviting me even though they KNOW they'll be stuck waiting on me.

The things you find on an old #gravel road. #chevy #bike #middlefork
We found this cool old truck on the side of the road.
We rode about 12 miles down the trail and then took gravel roads back to the cars.  Thanks to all of the Dirty Kanza gravel training we did, I felt confident on this section and had kept up with my nutrition well enough that I still had plenty of energy.  We hopped back onto the trail for the last few miles, and of course the things that seemed so intimidating on the way in seemed much less scary on the way out.  I definitely want to get back down there and ride the whole trail.

Registered for a race. The Thunder Rolls 24 hour adventure race is in just three weeks.  After last year's river hiking, rappelling, yellow jacket fleeing, ascending failing, butt kicking good time, I couldn't bear to miss out.  Team Virtus is fielding two teams this year (and one new bet), so that means at least double the fun.

Made a list of all the upcoming races I want to do. Fall/winter is going to be an expensive time...good thing I saved so much this summer! Here's what I remember that I want to do in the next few months:

Aug. 24 - Thunder Rolls 24 hour adventure race
Sept. 8 - Cyclocross
Sept. 22 - Cyclocross
Sept. 28 - Berryman 12 hour adventure race
Oct. 5 - Cyclocross? (ok, that's probably not going to happen with the half marathon the next day)
Oct. 6 - MO Cowbell half marathon
Oct. 19 - Perfect 10 Rogaine (10 hour orienteering meet)
Oct. 20 - Ride the Rivers century
Nov. 10 - Skippo 30K trail race

You'll notice there are a couple of back-to-back events.  I probably won't race CX the day before the half marathon, but who knows.  I was all excited about doing the century on Oct. 20 -- it was my first century way back in 2009, and I still have never actually ridden a century on my road bike -- until I realized it was the day after the rogaine.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that.  I really want to do them both, but it would require a 2.5 hour drive back to the St. Louis area after racing for 10 hours so I could get up early the next day and ride 100 miles.  As much as I don't want to turn around and go home right after the race...it's kind of appealing to do something like that back-to-back.  So maybe I'll see what money looks like closer to October.  Regardless, in the next few months there'll be no shortage of things to write about!