Archive for the ‘Liz’s Journal’ Category

Midwinter Musings

Sunday, February 12th, 2017
Skier Liz

It takes years to become competent but the muscle memory is always there

I am always amazed that on my first day of skiing every year, I’ve remembered how to make those delicious carved turns. One might think that after months of doing other sports, there would be an awkward transition back to skillfully sliding down a snowy slope. But that’s not true. Without fail, the muscle memory kicks in every year, and within the first two or three turns, I am thrilled by the speed and the ready availability of my skiing skills.

During this extra rainy winter of 2016-2017, I’ve ridden a couple hundred miles  on my bicycle  mounted on a trainer in the garage. We rode outside for the first time today, a sunny February weekend when we’d managed to resist the call of the  Lake Tahoe slopes. Setting out, I was confident in my aerobic endurance. But early in the ride, I found myself thinking that a person needs more than muscle memory to get back in the saddle in the Great Outdoors. I was forced to recognize that my drafting and bike handling skills were slightly regressed. On the first two hills of significance, I totally blew my gear shifting. I knew that last year I’d come up with a special hill approach that helped me improve my times, but today I could not remember what that was.

My all-season trusty steed both indoors and outdoors

So I must conclude that unlike my experience with skiing, when I set out for a early-season bike ride, besides recalling the muscle memory of the basic skills, I have to use my brain, too, because riding on streets and with other bikers requires a lot more strategic thinking and mid-ride planning.

Still, what a glorious day, and what a glorious way to get out and play! But you’ll find me on the ski slopes next weekend.

Dan’s 50th Class Reunion and Gorge Hiking

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

P1020830

Here are photos from the week-long trip we took to Le Roy and upstate New York in July of 2016:

  1. of 3: Reunion Weekend, New York
  2. of 3: Kiddy Demolition Derby!
  3. of 3: Gorgeous Gorges of the Finger Lakes

Bike Touring in Italy, Fortresses in Croatia!

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Here are our travel photos from this wonderful vacation we took in May and June of 2016:

1 of 6: Puglia People and Places
2 of 6: Bicycling Puglia
3 of 6: R&R in Polignano a Mare and Bari, Italy
4 of 6: Two Days in Dubrovnik 
5 of 6: Croatian Coast from a Bus Window
6 of 6: Stupendous Split

The Five Thousand Mile View

Saturday, April 9th, 2016
5,000 miles and counting. No more white sidewalls and no more white handlebar tape. (It'll look cleaner more of the time!)

5,000 miles and counting. No more white sidewalls and no more white handlebar tape. (It’ll look cleaner more of the time!)

Anybody who read my early biking days posts will understand my delight to have passed the 5,000 mile milestone. As a little reward, I bought new tires and will soon be riding with an upgraded computer.

What have I learned since 2013? A couple things.

Being in great shape is simply is not enough to keep up. I can build strength and endurance with all the leg presses, chin ups and top-to-bottom ski runs I want, but as serious biking season approaches, I know I’m still the most likely rider in my (sneakily) competitive group to bring up the rear on the flats and downhills. My new cycling computer will track my speed, time and  distance as before but will also capture heart rate (one less readout on the handlebars) and revolutions per minute. For RPMs, the guiding rule is that fast spinning combined with proper shifting (every hill is a learning experience) should  keep my legs fresher longer. We’ll see!

Distracted biking, oh no! Where fear once compelled me to stay focused on my surroundings, now I find myself processing work issues, mulling over a foreign language, or imagining some wonderful or difficult future. For me, this is actually a form of blindness.  I am constantly reminded that it’s bad for me because my day-to-day job tasks are all related to safety: I work with a global facility management group’s safety team; write and share corporate communications about health, environment and safety; and provide editorial support for incident investigations to determine the root causes of workforce injuries. Not following procedures and mental slips are the two prevalent human performance issues behind almost every accident.

The stoplight dilemma. More experienced road bikers assess an upcoming street intersection with the expectation that the light will stay green. If it’s not a high-risk gamble to ignore a yellow light or run a red, they’ll do it. Despite the negative of being dropped by whoever I’m riding with, this is one area where I do retain my feeling of vulnerability.  As a distracted rider already, I am much safer with the instant decision-making of having a rule to always follow: red means stop. And for me, yellow from about 3 car lengths back also means stop (easy to anticipate if you scan the cross traffic streets). Riding alone, that’s not a problem. But on group rides or even with one co-rider, if I decide to set aside my safety rules and give away that power, I may end up getting hit by a car.

Delightful Reading for Writers

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

The long evenings of summertime are a special treat during the weekend because my favorite way to relax after a day of ninja gardening or vigorous hiking or biking is to stretch out on my chaise lounge in our natural backyard habitat for a couple of hours of escape through reading. My well-stocked Kindle is truly my best friend when it comes to winding down.

From Amazon

The Little Paris Bookshop

Before the vacation season is over, I want to recommend two books that will be particularly appealing to writers. First, I was totally enchanted by the literary, romantic, travel and philosophical warmth woven through The Little Paris Bookshop, operating (fictionally) on a big, old floating barge. Besides a delicious story with compelling plot twists, pages at the back contain recipes from the region in France where much of the book took place. Following that you’ll find a list of “reading prescriptions” to suit the needs of a human soul — and this book suits just about all.

Amazon cover

Defining the Wind

Second, I believe it was a writing colleague who recommended I read Defining the Wind: The Beaufort Scale and How a 19th-Century Admiral Turned Science into Poetry. The book’s author is a journalist who became obsessed with the life and times of a man who used his keen observational skills, artistic ability, compulsion to categorize, and concise writing to describe what ship captains would find on entering the harbors he visited at the height of Great Britain’s sea explorations. I’ve just started it and it’s clear this book will become a special favorite.

Travel to South America Through Photos

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
Dan and Liz on Glacier Gray

Dan and Liz on Glacier Gray

Dan and I took two weeks to trek and hike near the ice fields and granite towers in the Andes of Chile and Argentina’s Patagonia National Park. Our final week was warming up on the beaches of Uruguay near Montevideo and Punta Este. It was very difficult to select the best of over 1200 photos between the two of us, but here are four password-free albums we hope you’ll enjoy.

Slideshow mode is hidden in the drop down arrow at top right of the initial view. Click Slideshow to read our travel story in photo captions.

Patagonia Trekking
Glacier Grey
Trekking Argentina’s Patagonia
Uruguay and Buenos Aires

60 Mile Loop – Am I Ready?

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Tomorrow (9/20/14), Dan and I will ride the medium distance loop of the Veterans Victory Velo (V3) fund raiser. Sixty miles is farther than I have ever ridden on my road bike so far. The hilly 52-mile route I did a month ago didn’t trash me, so I’m not too worried.

2014 has been a great year of advancements for me, especially when I look back at my prior bike-related posts.

My off-bike workouts have evolved

I’ve made some adjustments in the gym based on what I’m reading online and what I’m hearing and seeing when I ride with others. It must be working because on routes with lots of uphill climbing, I manage to keep up with fit-looking guys near the front of the pack who want to know how many gears I have on my bike and how I’m training.

  • Hip flexors: I added incline sit ups performed without curving my spine.
  • Upper glutes: I recently added straight leg dead lifts with a light bar bell because I tend to get a burning tiredness in that area.
  • Low back, side waist and abdomen: I do “torso curls” in every direction. I used to skip these but I’ve found that engaging my core on the bike really gives me a stability and efficiency boost.
  • Quads and hamstrings: I continue to rely on balance lunges (front-to-back without touching down in between.) These are great for preventing soreness and maintaining core, balance and strength year-round.

Less death grip on the handlebars

When I feel comfortable with the traffic and roadway, I am able to grab a drink of water, do turn signals, swipe at my wind-caused tears and scratch my nose! That has taken a long time. But on long, steep downhills, my hands feel so stressed by the weight of my torso and constant braking that I feel off-balance, and then I brake even more.  (Fortunately the V3 route map shows easy hills so I shouldn’t drop too far behind Dan’s pace line pack.)

Managing an erratic heart rate

This has been tricky. During early season rides, I’d check my heart rate monitor after a hard effort and see numbers as high as 225! I did not feel awful or overly breathless, but I was concerned.

Two tricks seem to be keeping my heart beat at more reasonable levels (160-185 max when working hard). I learned if I pull over and take a 2-minute rest by the roadside I can “reboot” it back into normal ranges for the rest of the ride. Which means the pack will indeed leave me behind. The last two rides, I decreased my pre-ride coffee intake to no more than 5-6 ounces and my heart rate behaved very well. I’ve always been overstimulated by caffeine.

Planning for 5-6 hours of fuel and hydration

I’ve never bonked on a long ride (up to 3  hours so far), but that doesn’t mean I am immune. With help from Dan and some biker friends, I’m daring to go off the Zone diet on bike days to avoid that. I have had leg cramps at a stop light, and jumped out of bed with horrendously painful calf cramps two times in the past week.

If I’m really serious about getting enough water tomorrow, I’ll wear my bulky Camelback to make sure I sip water every 15 minutes–saving the bottle mounted to my bike frame for chugging electrolytes at stop lights. I’ll pack spare tablets to add at the rest stop refills. High-carb snacks on the list are Cliff Blocks, Cliff Bars and Beans.

Skills that will come in handy someday if not tomorrow

After swearing I’d NEVER be comfortable drafting in a pace line, I have experienced the benefits a few times this summer. I sometimes dare to get my front wheel close enough to see what gear the person ahead is using, but I can’t sustain it for very long. What an incentive, though! That brief respite from leg effort is a dangling carrot I’m now determined to pursue whenever possible.

I continue to be slow on most down hills, though I’ve upped my maximum historic speed to 32 mph. I brake before almost all corners because I don’t trust centrifugal force enough to relax and tip the bike. I need lots more experience doing the nimble weight transitions that result in fast back-to-back S-curves. I’m not even that good making tight-radius turns on the flats.

V3 here I come. Wish me luck!

Local Rite of Passage and a Biking Milestone

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Every weekend is another opportunity to test my legs and lungs.

Road cyclists who live in the East Bay area of Northern California like to test their fitness and skill  by riding up and down Mount Diablo. It’s 3,848 feet high, and on a clear day, you can see the Sierra Nevada range across the Central Valley from its peak. A year ago, I swore I’d never ride on that curvy road with its long climb up and fast ride down. This is big time biking: it’s part of the Amgen Tour of California every year.

Mt. Diablo

Mt. Diablo

But there I was with Dan and my fellow Team Chevron riders on a foggy morning in July. We headed east and began to climb. I was worried on the ascent because I had no experience with a long climb like that. How much is in the tank? What if I can’t make the pedals go around?

I was relieved to make my objective for this first time, the junction of South Gate with North Gate roads. I was proud and jubilant! After a brief rest, I watched just about every body else head up for the final third of the climb, which culminates in a brutally steep but short strech to the very top. After supporting me as I made my first (partial) ascent up the hill, Dan rode away with them.

Aftermath of success.

Aftermath of success.

On the long descent, I tried not to brake continuously, but my hands did get tired and I stopped to shake out my arms at a pull out. I was alone except for the two or three guys who whizzed past me.

The following weekend, as Dan joined Team Chevron on a 35-mile loop that included Altamont and Patterson Passes, I was eager to check my progress on something I’d ridden after only 4 months on my new bike a year ago, the hills on Calaveras Road.  I rode the full 32-mile route on my own (with lots of company from bikers I didn’t know). In solidarity with Dan’s harder ride, I also biked the steep hill at the end, which I’d skipped last year.

Braking down that hill felt stressful, and I confess I got off and walked down the S-curve.It’s a struggle to get my fingertips out that far to squeeze the brakes, and the weight on my hands and stress on my thumb is considerable. I think I need to add another pair of shims to bring the brake levers closer.

On the ride back, I practiced banked turns on the curves, standing on the pedals to pass people for the few uphills, and getting into the drops.  I felt amazingly good. I rewarded myself with Ooie Gooie chocolate cake as soon as I got home!

Finally Old Enough for the Draft

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

FBPostWith over 1700 miles logged, it’s time to share my latest biking revelations. I didn’t dare hope for this so soon, but my Year of Fear is gradually fading from memory. These days I even dare to brag in Facebook.

My main goal last year was to desensitize myself to the intimidating aspects of riding on streets next to fast-moving cars. I still have plenty of skills to master: hand signals, drinking from my water bottle, and fast cornering. But these weren’t at all approachable with my whole body tightened up with tension. I don’t know how many times I had to remind myself, “Don’t strangle the handlebars!” “Quit hunching!” “Pretend you’re relaxed!” (helpful to my skate students). I know it’s not safe to get too relaxed in the face of these dangers, so lately I’ve had to add “Pay attention, be here now!” when I notice I’m daydreaming.

As 2013 saw the shorter days of fall, I returned to my favorite morning spin class. The noise has always bothered me. I made the mistake of researching the issue of ear damage caused by the high decibels so common in group exercise classes.  When I learned typical music volume matches that of a chainsaw, my attitude began to sour. After two more classes trying out ridiculous-looking ear protection, I finally vowed, “No more indoors spinning for me!”

It’s not so bad riding at near-freezing temps. I learned that layering up in a neck gaitor, extra gloves, and fleece tights and vest works just fine for cold-weather commuting. When the days were at their shortest, I was still able to get just enough daylight before and after work to be safe, attaching a flasher to my handlebars and saddle for extra visibility. Once it became light enough, I found an hour-long morning commute I’m still enjoying this summer. It has a very wide bike path where I can safely practice lifting my hands off the handlebars and drinking from my water bottle. The route also has several long hills, both up and down, where I work on efficient shifting and try hard to resist braking on the fast descents.

Bike2Work2014LiznDanThe best indicator of my 2014 biking progress is that Dan and I are now riding together on the weekends. He’s shown me many of his favorite routes and for the most part, I am able to keep up. In the past few weeks, we have completed two 30+ rides with Team Chevron. (Thus my Facebook brag above.)

Riding behind Dan last weekend, I found myself thinking, “Why isn’t he pedaling harder? I’m gonna have to pass him! Those two guys up ahead are going to leave us in the dust!” And then I realized what was happening: I was drafting! I’ve always sworn I would never feel safe enough to get that close (and I never did on inline skates). But 25-30 miles into a long ride where I’m trying desperately not to be dropped by “the big boys,” my legs don’t care about my fears. I never realized how nice it could be to spend a few moments soft pedaling while the burn in my muscles gets a chance to subside. And actually, our wheels weren’t that close, just close enough.

And that’s where I am now:  just close enough to taste the bright future promised by my sexagenarian fitness program.

Our Excellent Active New Zealand Adventure

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

To celebrate our 30th anniversary, Dan and I decided it would be cool to take a summer ski vacation, so we scheduled a visit to New Zealand from August 13 through September 5, 2013. Per Dan’s well-planned but flexible itinerary, we followed the ski trip with sight seeing, hiking and wine tasting on the South Island, and a brief stay in Auckland.

As you’ll see from the albums (a combination of our best photos), New Zealand is a gorgeous country, especially for outdoorsy, adventurous types.

  • The montage link shows the whole album on a scrollable page in Google+.
  • Click any photo on the page to see it enlarged with a caption.
  • Click Slideshow below, then the enlarged photo’s Slideshow link  to follow our journey hands-free.
 Dan skiing at Treble Cone   NZ Skiing Album – Montage or Slideshow

Our Ski Safari was in the New Zealand Southern Alps. The snow and skiing conditions were marginal, but guide Burto and our group of 11 kept things interesting (new love, disgruntled room mates, hangovers, and a noisy tryst in a hostel with paper-thin walls).
 Milford Sound  

NZ Milford Sound – Montage or Slideshow

On our ski rest day, some of us joined a day trip from Queenstown to the famous Milford Sound, starting off with a bus tour, and then taking a ferry west to where the sound meets the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.

 NZ Kaikoura   NZ Kaikoura Hike and Fur Seals – Montage or Slideshow

After skiing, we rented a car and drove up the coast to Kaikoura, a gem on the Pacific where hikers are rewarded with stupendous views of nature, sea wildlife, and peacefully grazing livestock.
 
 NZ wine country  
NZ Wine Region – Montage or Slideshow

Further up the east coast we stopped for a couple days to visit the wineries of the Marlborough region, famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. I loved our bike ride through the vineyards and was glad to survive our day-long tasting tour.

 NZ Queen Charlotte   NZ Queen Charlotte Sound – Montage or Slideshow
Next stop was Picton, our launching point for a 3-day hike on the ridges overlooking Queen Charlotte Sound, made famous by Captain Cook as an R&R stop. The hiking and accommodations were great, though we had to take a water taxi and miss out on kayaking due to winter weather.
 NZ Driving tour   NZ Drive/Hike Northern Mountains – Montage or Slideshow

We took the scenic route (aka “Divorce Drive”) to Nelson for an overnight stay, bought the best kiwis ever, then made a loop through the beautiful mountains, enjoying scenic hikes along the way.
 
 NZ Auckland   NZ Auckland – Montage or Slideshow

We spent three days in Auckland, just enough time to explore downtown, hike on an island formed by a volcano 600 years ago, explore a museum, and dine elegantly to celebrate the end of a great trip.
 NZCool   NZ Cool – Montage or Slideshow

Just a few final shots of things that impressed me about New Zealand.