Monday, May 26, 2014

A 50 mile bike ride and a spectacular hike

The cycling adventures continue.  My foot continues to hurt (or not) each day, with no rhyme or reason that I can figure out.  This week it felt fine for 3 days and then randomly started hurting again.  We had tried ultrasound at PT, and it didn't seem to help, so the PT made me some orthotics and told me to come back if they pinch/rub/don't work.  Gotta give them a few weeks to know if they are helping or not though.  If they don't work, it seems that injection is my only remaining option.  Yay fun.

Meanwhile, my back has been adjusting to life on a road bike.  Of my 4 rides last week, 2 were longer rides. One was 31 miles and the other was 50.  The 50 mile ride on Saturday took me south into Monroe County and then back to Greenbrier.  Lots of gorgeous scenery on that ride, it was a really nice day.  I'm still enjoying exploring new roads on my bike.  Eventually I will have exhausted all the possibilities and I'll have to start repeating long rides, but for now I'm going to enjoy new scenery as often as possible.

Sunday I went hiking with 2 friends.  We went to Devil's Marbleyard, near Natural Bridge, VA.  I went hiking there at the end of December, but it was cold and gray and the pictures didn't turn out too spectacular.  This time though, was spectacularly gorgeous.  The weather was perfect, the trees were green, and the sky was blue.  Perfection.
Sunlight through the trees.

My hiking buddies.

Check out that view!

Queen of the Mountain!

Friday, May 23, 2014

May 22 Concert

Last night a friend and I performed at the Irish Pub down the street from me.  We did a few songs there at a fundraiser several months ago, and were invited to come back for a full concert.  We worked very hard over the last 2 months to prepare 30 songs, and were really excited to perform.  Sadly, there were a lot of other things going on last night, and very few people were able to attend.  We are very grateful to the handful of people that were able to show up and support us!  We are looking forward to performing again sometime this summer or fall.  I figure the bright side to not having much of an audience is that we can use all of the same songs again!

One of my super awesome friends recorded each song on my camera for me.  I am going to upload as many as I can, but the first one took 6+ hours to I expect it to be a long time before I manage to get all the songs up!

Here is our first song : "Dark Blue" by Jack's Mannequin


Here's another song : "Still Fighting It" by Ben Folds of my favorites to sing:
"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Frustrations...and a new bike!

What a week.  Monday wasn't too bad.  Too busy to ride that day.  Tuesday, I set out for a nice 20+ miler, but 8 miles in, on a quiet country road, my crappy rear derailleur malfunctioned and long-story-short I ended up with a broken chain. 8 miles from home.  At 4:30 on a Tuesday afternoon.  I spent about 5 minutes going through my phone trying to figure out who I could call that would not only be available to rescue me, but also have a car that could transport my bike.  Luckily, one of my good friends who also cycles and has a bike rack on his car, was able to come get me.

Broken bike...with the chain lying on the ground.

To add to my frustration, after I got home I opened some mail from the insurance company to discover that the physical therapy place "may bill me up to $105 for each visit."  I'm not even going to go back and try to count how many visits I've had to that place...but I'm dreading the day that bill comes in the mail. That cost, plus the fact that my foot is not showing any improvement, is really discouraging.

Back to Broken Bike...I just put a bunch of money into it a couple of weeks ago, new tires, a new front derailleur, and a couple of random little maintenance things it needed.  I was going to get the whole shifting system replaced, because it needed it, but it turned out that the rear derailleur was built into the bike frame in such a way that it could not be replaced.  So I had to make do with really unreliable shifting.  While that bike was getting worked on, I borrowed a road bike from the shop.  The road bike took a lot of getting used to, drop handlebars make me feel really off balance, as well as putting a lot of pressure on my back where it's weak/out of alignment from an old injury.  Once I learned that my bike was not ever going to be very efficient, I toyed with the idea of buying the road bike.  I didn't really want to spend the money, but I also wanted a bike that wouldn't constantly be needing tweaks and repairs.

The decision was made for me when my bike decided to malfunction and die 8 miles from home.  I'm going to get it fixed at some point, because it is kinder to my back and because I can take it on the river trail, unlike a road bike.  But, if I'm going to continue biking a lot, I need a reliable bike.  So, I picked up the road bike the next day.  For keeps.

New Bike 

My back has not been happy with me since I got the new bike.  I was only able to do short rides, and it was really painful to stand up straight as I got off the bike because my back was locked into position.  I took yesterday off to let my back rest, and then today I went out for a long ride.  I stood up on a lot of little hills that I would normally sit for, and spent some time on the straight bars instead of in the drops or on the hoods, and that helped take pressure off my back.  I ended up getting 34 miles today, which I was not expecting to be able to do, so I was happy about that. With today's ride, I doubled my mileage for the week, ending up at 67.7 miles.  My back is sore, but it wasn't as bad during the ride as it had been earlier in the week. I'm going back to the bike shop tomorrow to really get fitted to the bike, I think the seat needs to come forward a bit, and we may change the stem as well.  Hopefully I will soon be as comfortable on this bike as I was on Broken Bike, and I can get back to exploring and finding out just how far I can ride.  

On the bright side, New Bike makes mountain climbs seem like a joke compared to how they felt on Broken Bike.  So much easier!  It helps having reliable shifting.  The old one rarely let me use the smallest chain ring in the front.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cycling Explorations

Since I need to take time off from running, and I can't stand to not exercise regularly, I have had to embrace this whole cycling thing.  It was frustrating at first, because I didn't have the right muscle to ride with the same intensity that I was used to putting into my runs.  But after a few weeks, I have gotten much stronger, and am able to get a satisfying workout out of a bike ride.  It can still be hard to find the time for bike rides of a decent length, but I seem to be finding it.  I thought I was busy when I was running 30-45 miles a day, and now I find myself biking an hour or two, often longer on weekends.  Somehow it seems to fit in.  And on the days when it doesn't, I ride hard for 30 minutes or so.

My favorite part about cycling is that it takes me places my runs don't.  I am seeing parts of the area that I have never seen before, and since spring time has finally arrived in the Greenbrier Valley, the scenery is gorgeous, and often breathtaking.  The one-lane roads through farmland have very little traffic, but lots of cows and beautiful green fields.

I don't like stopping in the middle of a workout, so I don't have pictures of any of the scenery, except for today.  Today, the road I took turned unexpectedly into a dirt/gravel road.  Having already been chased by two different pairs of dogs, I really didn't want to turn around and backtrack.  So I took my chances that the map was correct and that the road would in fact continue to the next road I planned to take, and I stuck with it.  Parts of the road were decent, parts of it were very rutted and rocky and muddy.  But thankfully, my tires handled it beautifully.  I was rather angry about the state of the road, and desperately hoping I wouldn't end up lost, but as I looked around, it was so peaceful.  And every now and then I would get a glimpse of a breathtaking view as I wound my way up and down a mountain.  I had to break my no-stopping rule to snap a few pictures.
This was a part where the gravel road was relatively smooth.  
I love green trees and blue sky, such perfect weather!

Almost Heaven, West Virginia. 
What a view.

Eventually, the dirt road came to a T with a paved road.  With no street signs.  So I had to guess...up hill or down hill.  It wasn't how I remembered it looking on the map, but it turns out I hadn't looked closely enough at the map.  I knew that the place I was headed was most likely downhill, since it's near the river, so I chose downhill.   It turned out that where I had thought the road I started on continued straight and I needed to turn off to the left, it actually didn't go straight. The road I was on continued to the right, the one I had planned to turn off onto, was to the right.  I have no idea why that intersection wasn't labeled, but good thing I have a decent sense of direction! In the end, the road I took spit me out on a two lane road that was also unlabeled, but which I knew had to be the next road I wanted, Highway 63.  So, I made it home without actually getting lost, even though I felt lost for about half of the ride.  Adventuring is fun on weekends when I have the time for it!  Especially when the weather cooperates.

Yesterday, I went for my longest ride so far.  40 miles.  It didn't have any significant mountain climbs, so it wasn't particularly difficult, just long.  I actually felt like I could have kept going.  The only reason I didn't, was because the skies opened up and it started pouring when I was about 7 miles from home.  So, I got drenched.  It stopped raining right around the time I got back into town, which made it tempting to continue riding, but in the end the desire to get warm and dry won and I headed straight home.

Last week, I rode 90 miles, which I felt was pretty impressive for a busy person who has just picked up this new cycling hobby.  This week, I made a goal of hitting 90 again.  And then I hit a grand total of 118.9 miles for the week.  I would continue this quest to see how many miles I can ride in one week, but this coming week is looking pretty busy, so I suspect it will be a lower mileage week.  Time will tell.