Friday, September 13, 2013

Becoming a Biker

I have never really enjoyed cycling.  For me, it's a way to get from Point A to Point B that is a bit faster than running and a bit slower than driving, although that really depends on traffic and lights and parking.  Bike riding makes my butt hurt, and road bikes specifically make my neck and wrists hurt.  I have obtained some amazing bruises from falling off bikes while clipped in to the pedals.  (Can one even "fall off" when one is still attached to the bicycle?)  Bike riding and I just don't get along.

However, there's the little issue about it being a good cross-training exercise to strengthen knees for running.  And then there's that other issue where there are some great races that involve biking, like triathlons.  And Iron Man.  That one is a vague aspiration that I think maybe possibly I would like to do, one day.  Maybe.  But there's this whole biking problem!!

Several of my family members are getting pretty serious with biking, so I hear about it a lot.  I went to an REI seminar in early 2013 that was specifically about biking for women, and I learned about the difference in how bike seats are made to accommodate a female body as opposed to a male body.  This kind of started the wheels turning, and I asked myself whether I was so uncomfortable perhaps because I was riding bikes that flat out did not fit me at all!

So a few weeks ago I took the first big step and bought myself a new bike.  (The last time I got my own bike was in fifth grade.  I still have it.  My knees pretty much whack my chin with every pedal.)  I did not want top of the line, but I also didn't want a crummy beater either.  So I ended up with a Fuji Absolute hybrid.  According to my personal bike "experts," Fuji is a respectable company.  The only bike name I know is Huffy, so I'll have to take their word on that.  It's a fairly light bicycle, which is amazing compared to the ten-ton monstrosity I've struggled occasionally to ride over the past few years.  It doesn't have a special seat or pedals or anything, but if I stick with this, I'm sure I'll make some changes.  For now, it's the first step to have a bike that is the right height and length and weight for me to be comfortable.

I brought my new bike home and it sat in the garage looking new and shiny for over a week.  I actually RAN from my house to my office twice before I finally decided to try riding the bike!!  But I did finally take the new bike out and we have now survived three commutes together.  I enjoy that I can get in additional workouts when I would usually be sitting in traffic, and I think my legs will thank me when they stop complaining about being tired.  Perhaps this is the beginning of a beautiful bicycling relationship...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ragnar Relay Cape Cod 2013 in Review

One and done ... despite the many obstacles that we hurdled to cross the finish line at the New England Relay, that introduction to long-distance relay racing was enough to get me hooked.  I was a bit burnt out on being the team captain and primary logistician and recruiter and planner and coordinator, so I kept my fingers crossed that some other crazy person out there (because 99% of my friends think these types of brainstorms are literally insane) would need a runner.  And finally an offer came through!  The friend of a co-worker tried to recruit her for a Ragnar Relay.  She wisely pointed out that he should be recruiting me instead.  So he did.  And I turned around a recruited the other half of our team because we were way short on runners and I was not about to do a NER Part 2!

The first weekend in May 2013 found me huddled on a windy, chilly, cloudy beach near Hull, Massachusetts with three friends and six strangers preparing to send off our first runner in Ragnar Relay Cape Cod.  I believe only two of us had done a long-distance relay previously, but all of us were unbaptized Ragnarians.  The Ragnar Nation is pretty huge in the U.S., so it was exciting to see what their races are all about!  And I must say, they do have the system figured out.  Despite the huge numbers of vans and people, there really weren't any snafus or traffic jams.  (At least none over which Ragnar had any control.  There's not much to be done when there's only one highway that goes out to the end of Cape Cod, and all the weekenders want to use it along with the Ragnarians!)

As I said, the race started in Hull.  It was a brisk morning.  We weren't quite prepared for such chilly weather.  The course then wound its way south along the coast through lovely country neighborhoods and rural areas with stereotypical New England charm.  Van 1 handed over to Van 2 in Plymouth after a jaunt through the historic downtown, including a sprint past the famous Plymouth Rock.  Van 2 then got to enjoy some lovely scenery on the Cape Cod Canal, where they passed back to Van 1 right at dusk.  Time to bust out the disco belts and reflective vests and blinking lights and head lamps and let the night games begin!