Sunday, March 18, 2012


Saturday, January 7, 2012

In with the new for two zero one two.

In the last few years since writing in this blog, I left off with my status as a serious, amateur, yet dedicated (SAD) cyclist. In that time I have become more or less of each of all three at various times. I finally took the step from only participating in fake race/alley cat/weirdo unsanctioned events to competing in organized bike racing. And since I started racing, and I've learned a lot. Firstly, a few new acronyms and phrases:

DNF= Did Not Finish

DNS = Did not start

DFL = Dead Fucking Last

FTW= For the Win

Podiumed= 1-3 place. Yes, athletes have verbalized this word.

Dick Spot= First place out of the money/prizes/podium (Usually 4th or 6th)

HTFU= Harden The Fuck Up (Online 'cross blogger ramble to Cyclocross rally mantra)

Secondly, I've learned that I am a poor excuse for an athlete. The past two years, I've performed somewhere in between below average and terrible. From this I have also learned that it really sucks, in a deep-down, hurty stingy, I-hate-myself kind of way, to be truly crap on a bike. This year I'm trying something else. Something different and shockingly new for me. I'm going to try...trying.

I've prioritized my races. I've developed a training plan. I've hired a coach. I've dusted off the heart-rate monitor. I've even gone so far as general calisthenics. I'm in deep, dig-to-China-barehanded deep. Next time you see me, don't mind the dirty fingernails.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer schedule

It's 89 degrees in my house. My pants are damp in conspicuous regions from sweat, my kitchen is infested with fruit flies, and the stagnant air in my bedroom does little to dissipate the odors wafting from my darling canines. Summer, like most everything else, is easy for me to hate.

But it's not all bad, because coinciding with the unyielding rise in temperature is the generous increase in daylight hours, and thus an increase in choices for exactly when to go out for a ride. Basically there are four temporal choices which a road ride may occur; early morning, mid-morning, mid-day, and late afternoon/early evening. All have benefits and consequences, some of which I shall enlighten you of now.

The early morning ride.

This ride leaves at 6:00AM, 6:30AM, or 7:00 AM, or some other square and unholy hour, at a spot three miles from your house. And notice I said leaves at, not meets at. Morning riders are antsy- they have things to do during the day, and this little ride is just one of them. Usually that thing that people have to do is go to work, and people with jobs are responsible types that get irritated when you show up late balancing a half-chewed bagel and coffee on your handlebars, so don't bother dawdling. They are especially irate when you bail. Don't bail on these people, or they will stop answering your "u riding tomrw?" text messages altogether.

Pros: Punctual, ride before the heat sets in, ride gets home early, ride leaves before most bozos wake up, feel accomplished for rest of day

Cons: You'd rather be sleeping, everyone is uptight, morning drivers haven't had their coffee yet.

The mid-morning ride.

This ride leaves at nine or ten o'clock. If this ride is on a weekend, the turnout might me huge. No matter if you're riding alone or with a group, you are never without company. This is the time of day when most people ride, as they have had their 8 hours of beauty sleep followed by a restful slow morning that probably included reading the paper, eating fiber cereal, evacuating bowels, and meditated to the crackling sounds of self-satisfaction. On these rides people are awake and genial and eager to race you up a hill, whether they know you or not, and whether your like it or not.

Pros: Get to sleep in, legs feel better, morning humidity dissipates, everyone's not in a hurry.

Cons: Must navigate every basketball-short-and-iPod-wearing bike rider before getting out of town, must navigate weekend-warriors though suburbs.

The Mid-Day ride.

This ride can be similar to the mid-morning one, but with fewer organized rides leaving so late. The humidity is lower but the sun is beating down at highest intensity, so this ride is optimal for getting that pro-looking cycling jersey bicep tan line.

Pros: Fewer people on road, if you're on this ride you probably didn't have to work that day, can make it home with plenty of time to shower before dinner.

Cons: Other people have jobs and so rounding up riding partners may prove difficult, asphalt is radiating heat, painful mid-ride realization that most tan lines start off as sunburns

The later afternoon/early evening ride.

This ride leaves at five or six o'clock PM, usually after work time. It's a nice way to unwind after an especially stupid day pushing buttons, answering questions, and fending off various forms of attempted idiocy (work). This ride is great! You meet up with your group of friends or cycling buddies, loop through the park for an hour or two, and go home stoked. Pay no mind that you haven't eaten since noon and your hands are shaking from hypoglycemia, or that it's rush hour in a major metropolitan city where they give out road rage with license renewals. The man just took eight hours from you, those last few belong solely to you!

Pros: Get a ride in before dark, stress relief after work, sleep better at night

Cons: Automobile traffic rush hour, low blood sugar, little energy to shower before dinner thus incurring wrath of loved-one who just prepared a delicious meal for the two of you and wants nothing more than to hear about your day without smelling sweat and soggy chamios...

I have to hit the hay early tonight, I've got an early ride tomorrow morning.

Happy riding.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Accessory damage

Mountain biking is probably the most laid back sort of cycling sport. It is the rare time when showing up to a ride wearing cut-off shorts and a t-shirt isn't frowned upon, when rest breaks are encouraged, or asking to turn around to do a hill again isn't a totally asinine request. Skill and confidence are far more important than equipment and accessories when blasting down rocky descents, hopping 0ver logs, and winding through twisting forest single track.

Mountain biking, like a hippie cousin, is also the most mystical and metaphysical of bicycle sports. Oftentimes the trails leave things with you. Overwhelming exhaustion, cuts and bruises are common parting gifts. Usually the trails leave you invigorated, determined, and totally stoked on shredding more gnar tomorrow; and perhaps even a transcendental sense of peace coupled with feelings of oneness and communion with nature stay with you on the journey home.

Usually though, mountain biking leaves dirt, mud, twigs, sand, detritus, and horse droppings with you, on you, and in you. Each earthy morsel travels its own special journey to end up lodged in your chain, grips, shorts, down your shirt, in your eyes and between your teeth. The dirt permeates every open fiber, sticks to every moist surface, and sandblasts chunks of skin off- depending how you land in it. Dirt is an enduring accessory.

Dirt pants however, only last as long as your next shower.

Happy riding.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Four days off

Sometimes, riding feels like a chore. Times when the alarm goes off at six, and the sun is barely tiptoeing across the roof of early morning clouds, and the crust in your eyes is hardened to a cement-like texture; times when the realization hits that drooling on a pillow is an infinitely more enticing way to spend the morning than wheezing and floundering up a couple of hills. Or when you have been riding seemingly every day without enough rest, and your muscles cramp or twitch or puff like a startled cat at the thought of another day on the bike. Sometimes, as absurd as it may seem, you want time away from the bicycle.

And then there are times when you are forcefully dragged away from it. Typically the persistence of compulsory commitments is enough to substantially whittle time riding. And weather is a common culprit, as testing your physical limits is tenuous enough without being blinded and soaked by a storm. But sometimes, something unique hinders riding plans. Perhaps a morning off during the holy month of somethingorother is in order. Or maybe that festering saddle sore still hasn't healed up. And even once in a while (hopefully only once, or never if you’re lucky) during the humid summer months, hearty and seething bacteria ascend your urethrea, colonize your fleshy cylindrical urinary meatus, and inflict such tortuous pain upon your saddle-region that even the mere thought of swinging a leg over a bicycle sends spasms throughout the entirety of your alimentary canal.

At least it wasn't swine flu.

Happy riding.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weekend at Burnies

Like blacking out at a raging party and slowly recovering details bit by bit of the night before, the Philadelphia Pro race has slowly revealed itself over the last month. Because chronology, like blacking out, is overrated, I've decided to make mention of the events- no matter how tardy.

In following climatic patterns (which as any sort of outdoorsy type you must), it is worth pointing out that in the Northeastern U.S., for the entire months of May and June, it rained most every day. It was a season of stifled riding plans, or when one dared venture out; of constant drive train cleaning, chain lubing, and dirt-stripe having. (Dirt stripes are when the rear wheel kicks up water and mud on your rear in a stripe, often resembling a skunk pelt).

However, for the big race weekend, the stars and prevailing winds and asteroid belts aligned to provide two consecutive days of sunshine. This, along with the race festivities, made for double the reason to celebrate. As the race goes on for hours upon hours, it is customary in Philadelphia to scout out a prime picnic spot early in the morning to set up the traditional array of alcoholic beverages, food, shade tents, grills, and dogs. This is to ensure that everyone is entertained in the 12 minute windows of waiting for the peloton go by again.

This year I joined the masses setting up camp on Lemon Hill, a shady park that borders one of the few hills the cyclists must climb. The hill becomes infested with members from all factions, sects, and denominations of cyclist.

After the race was over, the park slowly emptied out- as all food and drink must be consumed before departing. Apparently during this time, some people are so inspired/intoxicated that they decide they must partake in some of the glory for themselves. It so happened that a group of khaki-clad young men decided to challenge my boyfriend and some other young male friends of mine- unbeknownst to Them, a group of accomplished racers- to a sprint race up the hill; the prize being a case of beer, their female partners honor, and reaffirmed manliness. It was a classic tale of Us VS. Them, and while team Them did show impressive facial expressions, team Us dominated the podium.

With my honor secured, it was time to cool off. At this point of the day, the mature adults of team Us, along with myself, wrestled in a public water fountain for a few hours before going home to nurse the weekend's accrued sunburns.

Happy riding.
(Race photos by A. Rodzinski and Zack D.)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Party Time

The life of a serious dedicated amateur recreational cyclist is rife with social obligations. If there is anything that cyclists enjoy more than riding, it is talking about cycling with others who ride. The third and fourth things that cyclists like most are eating food and drinking alcohol. The fifth, sixth and seventh-place activities that cyclists enjoy most involve various combinations of entertainment media, reproductive organs, and illicit substances (cyclists love to eat mushrooms and listen to NPR while getting their bikini-lines waxed).

Tonight I will be partaking in a social event involving only items 1-4. Many teams, representatives, and supporting others of the "industry" are descending upon Philadelphia this weekend as there will be a giant Pro race held here this Sunday. Because of my prominence, eminence, and success in the cycling industry in the area, I have been invited to attend a super exclusive party tonight.

In celebration and anticipation of the race, Bicycle Therapy will be hosting Team Ouch including but likely not in attendance Floyd Landis. Aside from the fact that I work at this shop and thus was invited by default, and that the party is completely open to whomever feels like dropping in, I'm honored and flattered to attend. Plus, it means I get out of work two hours early tonight.

Bring on the Pros!

Happy Riding.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pour Les Filles!

Bicycles, as contraptions, are liberating. As transportation, they free folks from the binds of bus or subway schedules, oft obviate automotive obligations, and exempt those from the worthlessness of walking. Bicycles, as sporting good devices for cycling, may also be such. Riding alone may be from necessity or prerogative, and can be every bit as cardiovascularly challenging as riding with others. Sometimes, a long solitary ride can be relaxing, and possibly even therapeutic. Most times however, riding alone is horribly boring, dangerous, and regarded as to be avoided at all costs.

This is where the need for riding partners comes in. Fortunately for me, I work at a shop which has employed many like-minded and enthusiastic cyclists. Unfortunately for them however, I am much slower, less fit, and smell worse than them; which is another reason I end up riding in the back a lot. Also lending to why I'm a bit slower is the fact that I happen to be female. There are many incredibly strong and fast women out there, I am simply not one of them (yet).

It is difficult to convince non-cyclists to invest mountains of money into a play toy that forces them to both wear Lycra and exercise, as they could take up modest-appareled sports like jogging or play toys like Wii Fit for much less money and commitment. Typically one avoids the process of conversion altogether and instead seeks to find like-minded and/or similarly fit cyclists with which to ride.

A major exception to the conversion rule is in the case of romantic partners. As cycling tends to be an obsessive and hugely time-consuming endeavor, riding together can serve as a way of spending time with the loved one (the bike) and the boy/girlfriend at the same time. Cycling is hopelessly male dominated, and having the sport introduced with patience and understanding by a loved one can foster a real passion and devotion. Unfortunately many male cyclists are competitive, infantile jerks who think nothing of becoming frustrated at or completely dropping their novice girlfriends on rides, which only further intimidates and alienates them from the sport.

Thankfully I do not speak from experience, as I have the good fortune of not being romantically attached to a turd. Yet many other female potential cyclists are not afforded this luxury, and hence are put off and delay serious riding or training. Usually I employ a system of apathy in regards to the goings-on of others, but this directly affects me because finding like-minded women to ride with on a continual basis has proven difficult. So along with prodding, pressuring, and demanding that all my male cyclist friends immediately purchase bikes and equipment for their partners so that I can have more women to ride with, I have decided to take the "Field of Dreams" approach in creating my very own women-only road ride.

The powers that be at Bicycle Therapy in Philadelphia have agreed to let me start up a women's ride from their shop every Saturday morning. It starts this Saturday, and will be every Saturday from now on, weather permitting. I have pre-ridden it multiple times, mapped the route, and spread the word. I have built it. I just hope they come.

Happy riding.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bicycle baby face.

Lately it may have seemed as if I've left this blog to die of exposure like a post-partum sow rejecting the runt of the litter. I wish to confirm that this is simply not the case. It's just that like said sow's teats, I've been extremely busy, sore, and engorged. To summarize from March to nowish, I have ridden some odd rides, took (and passed) multiple exams, resumed bike-shop work, signed up for and backed out of my first race, signed up for and raced poorly in my first race, accrued a few new scars, moved my place of residence, and built up no less than two new bicycles. The next few posts will shoddily attempt to catch up.

To ensure that Spring would indeed sloppily erupt, I had to endure the final Philadelphia Spring Classic. With my last sorry attempt haunting me like a ghost from Pacman, I knew I had to release the spirits by tending to unfinished business. No matter how brutal the pain, how crappy the weather, or how bad of a hair-day I was having that day, I vowed to finish the next race.

The day started out atypically. It was a confounding fifty degrees (a heat wave by Classics standards), and even more shocking, I kept up with the pack and even felt somewhat physically capable. I should have known better and sensed that the fates/pacman ghosts had something sinister in store for me. But I didn't. I rode fast, clueless and joyously, so oblivious in fact that during a swift descent which went under a dark bridge I completely neglected to register a large and quite deep pot-hole. In the darkness of the tunnel, my front wheel dove. I was launched over handlebars into opposing traffic, landing fingers, arms, shoulders, and hip onto the gritty and decidedly hard pavement.

Terror and confusion jolted me upright. I shooed the tweeting birds flying in circles over my head away, and swung one leg over my bicycle attempting to clip back in. It was then that I noticed my bars pointing to nine o'clock, my brake levers at opposite angles, and the lack of skin on the left side of my body. I hobbled to the side of the road pushing my bike in defeat and saw Big Al, in his pink-clad heroic glory, coming to the rescue. He was wide-eyed and feared for my safety, but as feeling or sensation hadn't returned to my body yet, all I could focus on was my crumpled and disfigured bicycle. I presented it to him, which he dutifully whisked away to straighten out while I limped uphill walking off the stun of the crash. After a few minutes of tinkering, my bicycle was again road ready. Al was still terrified, but I had a seriously awesome endorphin rush which was goading me to keep riding.

We made our way through the tangle of wood which leads to Pennypack park, a planned stop along the way. While we regrouped, my endorphin rush dissipated. I was left with multiple aching bits and pieces and the pervasive sting of sweaty road rash. At this point the Classic was at the half-way point; riding home defeated would have taken as long as finishing the race, and would have been infinitely more boring. So when everyone started to leave, I resolved to follow.

Dan and Big Al towed me the next 14 miles to the liberty bell, the final stopping point, and where I ended the previous Classic. I didn't know the route from here, so it was dire that I hang on. However I wasn't aware that this last section (from the Bell to "the wall", through Forbidden Drive (4 miles of dirt), and to the finish) is treated as a ten mile sprinting party. As I was not wearing my party dress, I hopelessly fell off the back and watched the pack drift rabidly away from me, like a lycra-clad reenactment of my high school years.

I knew that the ride had to go west to ride up a large hill, "The Wall", before doubling back east and dropping onto the dirt path, so by my calculations I figured that by cutting that out, I'd meet them somewhere on Forbidden drive. I turned out to be entirely correct, and after being engulfed and spat out by the lead group, I was able to hang on with some stragglers all the way to the finish.

At the finish there were barefoot, candy-colored spandex wearing exhausted sweaty people rolling in grass, imbibing alcoholic beverages, and confusing passers-by. It was my kind of social gathering. The winner was awarded a highly coveted Bicycle Baby kit, and social good times were had by all. For team spirit, Al also awarded me with bicycle baby regalia (leftover kits that wouldn't fit anyone else).

Happy riding.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Classically Trained

With winter's wrath waning, whisperings mentioning a triplicate of early vernal events, The Spring Classics, whipped 'round, effectively whetting my two-wheeled appetite. With mere pieces dictated to various peers, "Meet at ten/dress for snow/ Road bike with fat tires or 'cross bike recommended/canned fish optional", some detective work was in order. What are these rides? Who are these people? Road bikes though single track? Why sardines?

Since all modern detective work begins with Google, I promptly entered the phrase "Spring Classics Philadelphia Bikes", and returned with a lot of crap about baseball, some blog mumblings, and an entry dated 2002 from Bilenky Cycleworks featuring a Mr. Allan Rodzinski (Which I recommend reading in its entirety). Recognizing the name and further proving that yes, it's a small (bicycle) world after all, I discovered I was merely one friend removed from him on facebook, which I swiftly remedied by adding him. I also employed serious legwork, as I stopped by no less than two bike shops to ask people what they knew about these rides.

The reactions were rife with fear and venerable awe, with stories bordering on legendary folklore. What I found was that The Spring Classics have gone on for the past 24 years and occur on three consecutive Sundays, from the last weekend in February to the first two weekends of March. The rides employ miserable weather, forests, valleys, hills, mud, Big Al's house, snack breaks, lunch breaks, photo-op stops, and very, very high speeds in an oddly paced 5 hour battle for nothing but bragging rights and this kit:

With that description, my dedication was solidified. As I only started to hear about the Classics after the first one, I made my debut on part 2, March 1st. It was a windy 30 degrees, with a blizzard threat for later that night, so I dressed appropriately and generously applied socks. Dan and I arrived at the Water Tower park around 10:20, thinking we were late. We were in fact precisely on time, as in Spring Classics land "starts at 10" really means "race starts at 10:52".
The ride begins with a winding ramble through suburban North Philly/ Mt. Airy/ Jenkintown and on to Pennypack Park, then down to Center City, and back up through Manayunk and the Wissahickon, and back to the start. Here's one of the few photos with me in it from that day:

As this photo is small and because lycra tends to make everyone look the same, I have attempted to use my vast expertise in photo editing to enlarge the portion with me:

As enlarging digital photos distorts and pixellates them, I have taken further steps in photo-editing in order to clearly see my facial expression:

After hours of serious leg cramping, being dropped, flatting out, and being dropped again, I made it to the meeting stop at Independence Hall (35-40 miles of the 55), ate half of a soft pretzel, and realized every piece of my being was either throbbing with pain or was frozen. At this point I was sufficiently miserable and utterly demoralized, and so I went home and took a nap in lieu of finishing.

It was the best ride so far this year.

Happy (face) riding,