Running – seriously this time

For years, a full marathon continues to sit at the top of my bucket list. I get the feeling that this will be much more achievable next year if I get a half in this year and substantially build my base. It is my agenda to be moved by mid spring to a home much closer to one of the best trails in the state. Living less than a half mile from it will remove excuses to get out there both on my feet when running and on my bike for excellent cross training opportunities. While I have used this trail a dozen or more times for good bike rides, it is a 25-30 minute drive from my apartment so not ultimately convenient. Living 1/2 mile from it takes that excuse off the table. One of the issues I have with my current apartment is that to run, I need to run through an area that is not the safest area. To address that, I could get in my car and drive but I’ve found that to be the reason I’m not running.

As 2016 starts, I find myself joining the hoards of people headed back to the gym after a long absence. The thing is, I haven’t been absent that much. I have pretty much skipped the mid-week workouts and only have been hitting the gym on one of the two weekend days. My intent this year is to get back to running consistently. I have been doing a Runner’s World 45 minute treadmill workout for most of my runs. It allows me to run without killing my knees and, generally, feel good when I’m done. The one thing about that workout is that it starts with 5 full minutes of running – and I find that difficult to do when not properly warmed up. But, I work through that and move through it. There is a 4-minute run, followed by a minute of walking, then a 5-minute run. Those about kill me, but it’s time to set hitting them as a goal over the next month or two.

One concern I have regarding running both a half and a full marathon is that I plan on doing the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method. Finding a group for long runs will require that I find another group using similar methods. But whe running o. My own, using my gymboss timer is challenging at times because I cannot hear it or feel the vibration at times, and it is set to a solid number of minutes in and with the intervals. That said, in the gym, the timer works very well. I have no idea how the Galloway method works with group long runs. I guess I’ll figure that out!

Air Line State Park rail trail ride

While not my first ride of the year, this was my longest. A co-worker (George) and I took off from his house and drove to the start, about 20 miles away. We headed south on this beautifully maintained trail (there are always a few spots with exceptions). We took our time and enjoyed the late afternoon ride. We didn’t hit the trail until almost 4:30 which allowed the weather to cool a bit. The biggest challenge was the shaded part on the return trip, especially where it was wet. Riding this with a road bike left no room for error when negotiating the ruts that were occasionally present. The shadows were becoming longer so the sunglasses came off to better see the road vs. the shadows.

Air Line Trail

Rail trail in Air Line State Park

Finally back on the bike

An upstream shot of the Connecticut River, taken from the Windsor Locks Canal Trail trailhead

An upstream shot of the Connecticut River, taken from the Windsor Locks Canal Trail trailhead

I finally got things settled enough with my new apartment that I took advantage of the beautiful, late summer / early fall weather and went exploring on my bike on Sunday. The bridge pictured here is about a mile from my new place, and takes you from the eastern shore of the CT River to the western shore. While a busy road, it has a nice bike path on the side (separate) that has a path into the parking lot for the Windsor Locks Canal Trail.

Once in the parking lot, you cross through a small gate, over the canal and onto the path that runs between the canal and the river. It is just under 5 miles in length, so not too long, but run really close to the river in many parts. The river is mostly calm at this point, and there are are a few spots with benches that allow you to sit and watch the river and wildlife. A friend from work told me that they close the trail for a few weeks each year while the eagles nesting near there are sitting on their eggs or after the eaglets are born – presumably in the spring.

There were not too many people on the trail, surprising given the gorgeous weather – I guess many were home sitting on their butts, watching other people do athletic things (AKA watching football). When all was said and done, I rode 19 miles – not bad after a long stint of not riding at all. Now my legs are a bit sore, and I’m paying for weeks of inactivity. But, I loved the ride and pushed myself further than I thought I would The bonus was finding this trail which I will use for some upcoming fall runs – at least until they close the park for the winter!

Once again, I was happy to discover such a gem of a place practically in my backyard!

First organized ride of the year

Today, I am joining my first MeetUp organized ride of the year. The first one was last Saturday, but I was already in Orlando when the ride started. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and really testing out my new Specialized Roubaix bike. I purchased the bike in March, after bonuses were distributed. This was more expensive than I originally thought I’d spend, but fell in love with the bike during a couple of test rides.

I’ve ridden about 8 miles on one ride, but never as far as this, and not this far outside since last fall. The weather should be gorgeous with a high of 70 today so in the 50s and 60s for the ride. It’ll be sunny all day, at least once the rest of the fog burns off. I will need to get the bike adjusted once I have a few more rides under my belt, but needed to wait until the weather was better. The roads are still a mess, but cleanup has started and big potholes should be filled soon. The deep freeze this winter did a number on the roads, causing the moisture way under the roadways to freeze, ultimately pushing up through the roads. Today should be interesting with a large (30+) group finding and avoiding the potholes.

My 100MPH bike trainer ride

I purchased a little-used stationary bike trainer from a co-worker this fall. While I had no idea if this would work with my current bike, I know that it will work with my soon-to-be-purchased new road bike. I took the trainer out once to look at it, but quickly put it back in the box until I had more time. Since I’m still on vacation, I decided that yesterday was the day to set it up.

The trainer is a Kinetic by Kurt Road Machine model. My co-worker included a Kinetic Turntable Riser Ring to allow for a more level ride, with some ability to simulate a slight incline. After dragging the trainer to the basement and printing the manual, I put it together and figured out how to attach my bike. I replaced the rear axle (what I now know is called the skewer) with a new one purchased from Amazon for about $10.

When looking back on the metrics from my ride, the numbers are way off. 37 MPH average – I don’t think so. 100+ MPH max speed – not even on a motorcycle. At least the time was right – 46 minutes of solid effort. For that, my butt was sore and my legs almost numb immediately after I got off the bike. It does prove that I need to stretch more (consistent problem) and ride more. Hopefully, I will do many more rides like this over the winter and be in solid shape to be outside on my bike come spring.

43 miles

Yesterday, I went on my second organized bike ride of the year with the Casual Bikers East meetup group. There were almost 25 of us in all, and most were what I believe regulars with the group. There was to be a faster and slower group that would naturally form as the ride progressed. The two organizers are married and provided a cue sheet that proved to be both accurate and helpful. Since I don’t have a cue sheet holder, I simply stuffed my printed sheet into a sandwich ziploc bag and put that under the belt of my iFitness phone holder. It was sufficient, although not overly efficient since I almost dropped the sheet twice.

We took off from the parking lot of the elementary school nearest my home. I rode there since attaching the bike rack to the car would have taken me longer than just riding to the lot. I wasn’t quite sure how to dress since it started in the low 40s and was supposed to climb into the upper 50s when the ride concluded. So bike shorts without leg warmers, a short sleeved bike jersey, and arm warmers were the key. I should have swapped out my summer riding gloves for my winter ones, but decided that I could get my hands warm easily if they were freezing. After a few miles of riding, the hands were fine and I was one of the few not overdressed for the ride.

One thing that I don’t have is a pack that can take extras. If I had started with my leg warmers, I would have stripped them off with no place to stash them. This needs to be one of the items I need to get next. The fuel that I took for the ride proved to be insufficient for the energy used on the ride. I had just one gu packet and another Bulu nutrition packet that came in last month’s box. It was specifically for women, but mid-way through the ride with no other choice, I downed it with joy. I also have just a single water bottle holder on my bike so had juSt a single bottle of water. I had dropped a couple of Nun tablets into it before leaving, so was at least replacing some of the electrolytes I was losing in the effort.

As the ride progressed, I was riding with a coworker who lives in town and we became the slower group. Jeff, one of the organizers, rides in the back while his wife Sharon rides in the front, fast group. We had miles of great conversation and I came away with a contact to replace my propane fireplace. When all was said and done, we rode about 43 miles and averaged about 13.5 MPH – at the upper end of the 12-14 MPH pace we were targeting. I was sore a bit, but mostly just wiped out from the effort. I was also proud of the effort I put forth on the ride and, especially, on the hills. When I replace my heavy hybrid bike next year, I will be able to make this distance without a much effort and just may end up in the faster group before too much time passes!



Organized bike ride

Yesterday, I went on my first organized bike ride of the year. The local Parks & Rec department organizes a couple of these each year in coordination with a local bike shop. There were actually two rides – a longer, 40+ mile ride at a fast pace and a shorter 20-ish mile ride at a moderate to slow pace. Given that this was my first ride in months, I wisely opted for the shorter ride. Before leaving, I almost decided to go out on my own because I felt very unsure of what to wear (the weather was in between hot and cold) and felt a bit weirded out by the fact that I would know no one. However, an acquaintance of mine told me that I needed to meet others doing the things I enjoy. I’m glad that I listened and went on the ride.

We met at The Bike Shop in town around 9:30 for a 10 AM departure. We were scheduled to hit the farmer’s market near my house as one of the last stops, so I just rode to the bike store and would head home from there. Traffic from my house to the bike store isn’t conducive to riding (without a long detour), so thought it was the best route. There were a handful of riders at the store when I arrived and many more showed up as time progressed. There was a chance to meet others before departing and I felt much more comfortable with the wide range of experience in the group. At 10, we departed.

We made a few stops along the way. First stop was a small cupcake shop (that I didn’t know existed) for a bathroom break and to regroup. We restarted a few minutes later for a long stretch that included the long up and back part of the Hartford Marathon course through South Windsor. The Hartford Marathon is next weekend. It’s still on my bucket list but, as I’ve posted previously, is not on my agenda for this year.

So we ended up with about 15 miles of riding in all before I headed home, so about 17 in all for me. While not a long or fast ride, I met some nice people and learned about a group called Casual Bikers which will afford me the opportunity for more rides in the future.

Now if I could just get my left hamstring to quit screaming at me…


Bike to Work Day

Yesterday, I rode the 22 miles home from work on back roads with a co-worker. George and I scheduled this more than a month ago based on the fact that this was the annual Bike to Work Day. While I was looking forward to the ride, I was a bit nervous considering I have done almost no cycling in 2013. I have been running, both on the treadmill and on roads and trails around home, so knew that my overall leg fitness wasn’t going to be a problem. What was in question, was if the hills I drove were really as steep as they were in my head when it came to reality. And then that pesky task of unclipping at a busy intersection.

One of the hills goes from the US Headquarters for Lego, past a few prisons, both in Enfield, CT, and down a long hill as you pass into Massachusetts. Of course, I would be riding UP that same long hill. I almost never drive home that way, although I do take those roads into my office occasionally. The hill turned out to be only a slight hill, with a very mild, consistent climb component for all of five minutes.

My bike is a Trek 7500 hybrid, with a fairly heavy frame, a bit over ten years old. I’ve kept it is good mechanical shape considering it was basically unridden for almost seven years after it was purchased. A few years back and after relocating to Connecticut, I found a deal for Tolland Bicycle – half-price, pre-season tune up. Since my daughter was taking violin lessons at UConn once per week, I drove by the front door of that shop every week. I had started with cycling (spin) classes at my local YMCA, so had the notion to start to actually ride my bike that had been sitting idle for the past 7 years. I had the tune up, purchased spin / cycling shoes, and swapped out my regular pedals for clips. Eventually, I had what I thought was enough experience to try the clips outside of the stationary bike at the Y and rode a time or two outside. My first experience was terrifying to say the least.

I eventually found out about the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, a mature rail trail less than 15 miles west of me, just past Bradley International Airport. Several co-workers told me that it was a fantastic bike trail, fairly flat, and a great way to cover 15 – 30 miles with minimal traffic on most weekends. I started riding there and on the first weekend of riding, found out that I was a complete, inexperienced klutz when it came to clipping and, more importantly, unclipping. I think my clips weren’t quite adjusted correctly, taking extra effort and twisting to quickly unclip. Several bloody knees and bloody wrists later, I finally got the hang of it; maybe the clips became worn-in. Yesterday, I unclipped at intersections with the unemotional ease of an experienced rider. It still takes me a few rotations of the pedals to get fully clipped in, but it no longer worries me that I’ll just fall over at an intersection due to my inability to unclip quickly and before I come to a complete stop.

Overall, the ride home yesterday was a complete success. While I’m not sure I could ride both in and home on the same day, the single direction travel was well worth the effort and will absolutely be repeated!

So Many Changes

It’s been a long time – although I have been doing anything but sitting still – just not blogging.

I have been slowly getting back into running, cycling, and doing strength work. Over the summer, I have not been consistent, but have been inconsistently regular with my activities. I know that sounds strange, but I’ve taken 37+ mile bike rides, run a few times outdoors and many times inside on a treadmill, started lifting again via a circuit at the YMCA, and even run a few times outside. We have been very busy with Sue’s travel, getting our youngest off to college, and lately, getting my mother in law to agree to move back to Connecticut from Georgia. Sometimes I get tired just by thinking about it.

One good thing is that I won a free training session at my gym that I’m taking advantage of early next month. While I have been lifting, it’s been at my own whim. This will allow me to get some actual instruction on a strength circuit with machines outside of my Y.

Biking Adventures

I have been going to the gym a few times each week as the schedule allows, mostly spending time on the treadmill. I haven’t felt good all week – mostly allergies, so haven’t done anything since Sunday. On Sunday, I went on my first group cycle ride ever. There is a group in town called theSouth Windsor Walk and Wheel Ways. A group of around 30 people from all ages (10 – 70+) started at the high school and rode a big loop around part of town for a total of 12.8 miles. The ride was mostly flat, done at a leisurely pace, and with one big break and another one to re-group and allow recovery from the one large hill. Not knowing many in town, this was a good opportunity to socialize with a few healthy-minded individuals, mostly who have lived here their entire lives. Here’s a link to my ride as provided by a new biking app, Strava: I did get a flat on my rear tire at about the halfway point, but had a very experienced rider help me change it quickly. There was some teamwork involved to get the tire changed, then catch up with the lead group at the top of the hill.

I have also re-visited the Farmington Canals Heritage Trail for the first time since October when we had the snowstorm that downed trees throughout Connecticut. The trail has been cleaned up, with just a few indications that there was even a storm. Small trees are permanently bent over from the heavy, wet snow breaking the fibers of the trunk in October. The trail had many people riding, a good many more running, and even a few roller blading. This was a serious ride for me, done in prep for a 34 mile ride scheduled for under two weeks in the future. The 34 mile United Way ride was cancelled the next day, so prep was for naught, other than the obvious benefit of a great ride that whipped my legs into shape. I rode a bit over 34 miles on this relatively flat trail, taking a long break at the halfway point – the bridge over the Farmington River. The weather was overcast and could have started raining at any point.

While stopped on the bridge over the river, I caught the end of a high school crew race, plus had the opportunity to sit and take in the beauty near the river. The above pic was taken using Pro HDR for my iPhone which does a bit of evaluation of the scene, then takes two pics of varying exposures and stitches them together. The clouds were just calling for an infrared filter, so I applied that within the app and saved it. I’m always amazed that such a remarkable ability it packed within a phone that is almost always with me. I can now look at that photo, know that it was taken during a long bike ride, and remember the joy that the ride brought. At the end, I was tired, but was happy to have just gotten out there.