Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More than halfway there!

I've been more worried about meeting my fundraising goal for the ride ($1,100) than about the actual biking-over-300-miles bit. I'm not much for asking people for money and this instance is a rare exception because the cause is so damn worthy. So it is with great relief and gratitude that I note that as of today, my total donations have reached $720...more than halfway to my goal!

I made another big push this last week and it seems to really be paying off. I'm hopeful that between further feet-on-the-ground efforts and the big Aporia show on the 7th, I'll be able to meet (and maybe even top?) my goal. And many, many thanks to the good people who've been helping me out in various ways.

Oh yeah, in case you haven't heard, my band (Aporia) is playing a fabulous rock-em-sock-em gig on Saturday, July 7th to help raise funds for the ride. It's at the Mercury Players Theatre rehearsal warehouse (930 Fair Oaks Ave. in Madison, near the intersection with E. Washington and directly across Fair Oaks from Gardner's Bakery) and starts at 7pm. Minimum donation of $5 at the door, but folks are of course welcome to give more if they can!

For more info, visit or just contact me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Saturday was a very good day. Instead of driving all the way out to Cross Plains for the official training ride, me and another rider got together with two of our friends for our own trip. We went from Madison out to Cambridge and back, passing through a few other small towns along the way. You can see our route map here. Ended up hitting a total of 45 miles almost exactly, which is officially the longest bike ride I've done yet (though I'm told this only equals the shortest day of the ride). The good news is that my body didn't shut down on me the next day, which is very reassuring.

We used one of the routes on the ACT V website and ended up loving it (except for one small stretch of road that was covered in fine gravel, but that's not their fault). Many of the roads traveled are very out-of-the-way country routes, but most of them were amazingly well-paved. There are few things better on a ride than gliding smoothly down a traffic-free road surrounded by bright red barns, golden fields of wheat and wild flowers on a mostly sunny summer day.

I was informed by one of my fellow riders that Wisconsin boasts the most paved roads of any state in the country. For bikers, that's great news. Apparently this fun fact has to do with the dairy industry getting together back in the day and deciding to lobby the crap out of the state government for more paved roads leading to and from the many dairies. This makes perfect business sense when you think about what Wisconsin winters are usually like.

There were plenty of very decent hills on this route to keep us on our toes, so to speak, and I'm happy to report that none of them completely killed me. Between the better bike and the slowly improving lungs and legs, I think I'm getting a decent handle on my arch nemesis, the hill. Even so, I will always prefer a good downhill rush. And it's likely I'll never wear a polka-dotted jersey, anyway, so oh well.
We stopped in Cambridge for lunch, getting sandwiches and delicious pastries from a local bakery on Main Street. The prices were extremely reasonable and the food delicious. We ate outside in a little park and watched the people out shopping, which is apparently one of Cambridge's big draws. Then, after some more stretching, we jumped in the saddle and headed off back toward Madison.

A few tips for anyone taking this route by bike:

1) The turn off from Door Creek Rd. to Koshkonong Rd. is missing its sign. Just be on the look out for the only road that goes left at the mileage where the turn is supposed to be.

2) Prairie Rd. is absolutely beautiful: new pavement, smooth, straight, level and pretty much free of traffic. Enjoy!

3) There is a stretch of Ridge Rd. (or West Ridge, I forget) that is covered in fine, loose gravel. You can navigate it just fine on road tires, just be aware and be careful.

4) At the beginning of County Rd. PQ, you'll start seeing signs that say the road is closed ahead. It is closed, but only once you're actually inside the town limits of Cambridge. At this point, it's just a short portage over the construction to get you and your bike back to where the street continues.

5) The bakery on Main St. in Cambridge is delicious and affordable. They have kringle.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Outside World

All you hear about places like Iran, day in and day out, are things like "expanding their nuclear program," "supporting terrorists in Iraq," and other such generally unpleasant and anti-social things. You start to forget that people live in these demonized places, people like you and me--that is, until you stumble onto things like this: - and then you remember.

I'd like someone to paint one of these murals or stencils on George W. Bush's bedroom door, so that he sees it every morning and every night. Not that it'd get through his seemingly skull-only head.

When there's nothing left but rubble, the graffiti artists will cover it all with color.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Maiden Voyage

The storms that had been threatening yesterday up and dissolved before hitting Madison, so I got my ride in after all. Though it was pretty hot out, I didn't die too badly. Rolled my new, built-with-love Surly Crosscheck out into the sun and took off down the Capitol City Trail. I actually followed the whole thing this time instead of cutting in on Seminole Highway and liked this route much, much better. Now that the trail is fully connected with itself over by the Kohl Center, you stay on a bike trail the whole time instead of having to contend with traffic on Seminole.

I'm still having issues with long, slow ascents, especially when they come after a series of other hills. And I've now been informed that this years' ACT route has been officially set and it's to be the hilliest route they've ever done. Blast! I was aware that my hill-taking ability needed some work before, but now I've really got to buckle down and train the crap out of them. I am less than enthusiastic about this, but I'm determined nonetheless.

We outfitted the new bike with a ride computer, too, which I like a great deal. Good to get a sense of how much work I'm doing and if there is any improvement from one ride to the next. The computer also told me that this particular route is exactly (I'm not kidding, down to the last decimal point) 21 miles from my front door back to my front door. A very solid ride, but I really need to get out on one of the 40 milers soon. There's supposed to be a training ride this Saturday that'll be 20-40 miles (depending on the option you choose) and also hill-specific. Sounds as though it'll suit my needs just fine.

That is if I don't pass out in the middle of it.

Now I just need to find a good name for my new ride....

Sunday, June 17, 2007

John Muir MtB Trails

Another day of cross-training. Yesterday, Nick and I drove out to the southern unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest for a few hours of mountain biking. After a brief "detour" courtesy of Google Maps being a bit outdated, we found our way to the trail head. Pro tip: Just use the directions provided on the park's website (or use WORBA's resources), they're much more straight-forward and the drive along Hwy 12 is far more scenic than taking I-94, which we did on the way out.

The John Muir Trails are one set out of two (including the Emma Carlin Trails) maintained by WORBA within the southern kettles. They are superbly cared for and extremely fun to ride. There are trail loops for all skill levels, too, though once again we managed to accidentally wander on to one of the intermediate trails. Overall, it's a different kind of ride than Blue Mounds. Here, the emphasis is on maneuverability and speed, whereas at Blue Mounds it was all about obstacles.

The trails vary from nicely hard packed, smooth dirt (with excellent rock and dirt embankments along steeper edges and curves) to patches of rocks and roots and the occasional sand pit. I hate sand pits. For a novice like me, maintaining your line through soft, movable sand is near impossible. I ended up doing a lot of swerving, putting my foot down for stability and just plain walking it whenever we hit a significant stretch of the stuff.

But my most glorious moment of the ride came when my ego and sense of a good time up and blackjacked my ability to see the trail for what it was. At one point, the single track split into a "high road" and a "low road," with the latter being a regular path and the former being a small drop. Naturally, I wanted to make full use of my awesome bike and take the drop. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that the bottom of the drop was nothing but a big sand pit. So I built up some speed, picked up my front tire and went for the jump. My front tire planted hard in the sand and the whole bike simply stopped moving. Thankfully, instead of doing a full-on endo, which is what my body was trying to do, I threw myself off to the left at the last second and took the fall on my leg and arm. I much prefer some scrapes there as opposed to landing on my head.

I dusted off as much of the sand as I could and we continued merrily on our way. There were a few nerve-wracking descents over roots and rocks that nearly toppled us a few times, but I'm happy to say that my panic instinct is slowly but surely being crushed under a sense of challenge and joy. If I put enough power into the bike and then just let it do it's job, things tend to end well.

A word about the bike: I am extremely fortunate to have the ride at all. It's a Mongoose Amasa hardtail, a model usually only available in Europe (I know, I'm just so dang fancy). We were very, very lucky in knowing someone with connections to a bike-related company that did a sort of year-end clearance on show-room models for employees and their families and friends. I won't tell you the price we got it for, but suffice to say it was an insane deal. And it's a great bike. The tires on this thing are huge.

After getting good and sweaty/dirty (it was a solid 86 degrees out), we made our way over to the nearby La Grange General Store for refreshments. I can't recommend this place enough to anyone who comes out to the park. Whether you're there for the mountain or road biking, hiking, whatever, a stop by this place is a must. I can only assume the store is run by health nuts of a sort. There's a small bike shop (to buy and to rent) attached, and the store itself sells various local brews, wines, organic juices and snacks, tofu, etc., and there's a deli where you can buy sandwiches and baked goods. I tried the cheese pita, made to order with my choice of veggies and cheese. The thing was absolutely delicious. You can also get ice cream there, but after an onslaught of boyscouts there wasn't much left.

It was a great day. Hot but not too hot, awesome trails, improvements in my ability to ride them, a good wipe out, delicious food and, as always, top-notch company. You'll need a state parks pass (generally just good to have) and a trail pass. The trail passes are just $8 for a single person for the day. You can buy both of them at the trail head.

Today is supposed to be my first ride on my new road bike. At the moment, I'm waiting for the radar to clear up and then I'll head out to tackle the longer version of the Capitol City Loop. Then, next weekend, it's time to up the ante and go for the long distance action.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Indoor Cycling and New Bikes

I am so freakin' excited. The bike we've been working on building (well, mostly Nick, because he's too awesome for words) is finally done. Took it over to the good folks at Revolution Cycles for a tune-up and they were fairly impressed. Now all that remains is for me to buy the proper stem and handlebars and a blessedly women specific saddle. That won't stop me from riding it with spare parts until then, though. Pictures forthcoming, of course.

Yesterday I took my first "indoor cycling" class (it's not spinning, I was told) courtesy of some ACT Ride hook-ups with Zoned 4 Fitness. I wanted to get a better idea of just how out-of-shape I still am (and, y'know, try to improve my technique, I guess). They have many fancy CycleOps bikes, which are indeed quite nice. If I had lots of dollars, I'd probably own one for training over the winter and on those days I just can't bring myself to go outside (storms or overwhelming heat, things like that).

The session was good and sweaty, even if my bum knees were weak and feeble. Once I was warmed up, I did a great deal better. Seems it takes me a little extra doin' than most folks to really get warmed up, but I'm reminding myself that this isn't a competition. The most important thing for me to do is continue, slowly but surely, to build up the strength and endurance in my legs (and lungs) without re-injuring anything.

It's harder than it sounds. I've always been a bit, shall we say, "competitive" by nature, so realizing that it would be really very bad for me to push myself like I used to is hard to cement in my brain sometimes. This whole patellofemoral thing is rough, but things do seem to be improving.

So they put us through our paces, gave us tips about good pedal stroke, cadence, etc. And though their choice of inspirational tunes was a tad...sketchy...I felt good about the whole thing and grateful to have had the chance to try it out (free of charge, no less!).

This weekend, if all goes well, will involve one day of mountain biking adventures and one day on the road. And lots of stretching.

So much stretching.
The Lost Albatross