BikeMS Training update #12: All trained up and ready to go!

Wow, I can’t believe next weekend is when I ride the Bike MS: Pedal to the Point in northern Ohio. It’s a 180 mile bike ride over two days.  The ride goes right through the best part of Ohio: the flat part and the part that I lived in for 18 years of my life. I can’t wait to ride in temperatures no higher than the mid-80s (according to the current forecast). It will be quite the change from the Austin summer heat.

This is my 5th year riding a Bike MS ride and my first time riding in northern Ohio.  With one week to go, I am at 40% of my fundraising goal.  Can you pitch in to help me meet by goal by making a donation to the MS Society? Every little bit helps. I continue to participate in this event because I’ve seen too many friends and family affected by the disease and I hope to see a cure in my lifetime.

Today I completed my last training ride, bringing my total riding distance over the last 12 weeks to 1,586 miles. Whew! On Saturday’s ride I knew that I was ready when I averaged 16.5 mph for a 75 mile ride with hills and a bit of wind. On the second half of the ride I was in “the zone” – riding was effortless and I was lost in my surroundings. It was a great day for a bike ride. My chosen route combined aspects of the Tres Burritos ride from last weekend and my long ride out Parmer Lane the weekend before. Riding out Parmer Lane, especially after getting past the heavier traffic, is a great way to spend a weekend morning.

A Texas country road

The sunflowers are still blooming. I passed a whole field of them on Saturday!

Beautiful shiny horses hanging out by the road

 

My Sunday ride ended up being 35 miles and I road a reverse route of last Sunday’s ride around a local golf course. After getting home, I started on bike maintenance so that I could get my bike packaged up for its travel to Ohio.

After cleaning the entire thing, including the chain rings, I was covered in grease. I also replaced my front brake pads which were quite worn. To disassemble my bike, I had to do the following things:

  • Remove my seat and handle bar bags
  • Remove the bottle cages
  • Remove both tires and deflate the tubes
  • Remove the skewers from the wheels
  • Remove the pedals
  • Remove the bike computer
  • Remove the seat (after I marked its height with masking tape)
  • Remove the handle bars (also after marking with tape)

Next I used a combination of foam tubes and bubble wrap to wrap up the bike safe and sound (or at least I hope it will be safe and sound). All the pieces then went into my hard-sided bike case and were strapped down with a combination of velcro and tape. When finished, it was hard to believe that there was a bicycle under there:

All wrapped up and ready to go.

Bon voyage, ma bicyclette!

My bike leaves Monday morning via FedEx (Bikeflights.com is how I set up the shipping). She arrives in Ohio on Thursday. I arrive in Ohio late Wednesday night. I’ll miss you old friend! I guess I’ll actually have to drive to work Monday, Tuesday, AND Wednesday, ugh.

 

Stay tuned for photos of the Pedal to the Point (and please consider a donation)!

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Glass Sculpting at East Side Glass Studio

Last weekend, I attended another event sponsored by Women.Design.Build. This time it was a glass sculpting class at East Side Glass Studio.  What exactly is glass sculpting you ask? Well, I also didn’t know until I did it myself (with a lot of help).

East Side Glass is conveniently located next to Hops & Grain Brewery and they are often open at the same time on Saturdays, advertising the afternoon as “Hot Glass, Cold Beer” because you can taste some beer in the taproom and watch a glass blowing demonstration in the studio, all in the same day. Which is all to say, OF COURSE I sampled some beer before heading to the glass sculpting event.

All the beers to choose from at Hops and Grain. Look at those cool glass tap handles!

After sampling the beers, we all headed over to the East Side Glass Studio where Christina from Women.Design.Build kicked off the event.

Christina (left) from Women.Design.Build and Shara (middle) and Leigh (right), owners and operators of East Side Glass.

We started out with a demo from Leigh and Shara showing us what they would do to get our glass ready to be “sculpted” and how we would actually sculpt the glass with large metal shears. After that, we all took turns in the hot seat snipping away at our glass creations.

After getting enough molten glass at the end of a metal rod, Leigh and Shara would use the table to turn the molten glass so that it would have a nice globe shape. You’ll notice the two giant fire-filled ovens on the side of the studio. I’m not entirely sure what they were for, but it seems one was used when first creating the molten glass and the second was used after the molten glass had started to cool a bit and they needed to heat it back up.

Leigh turns the molten glass at the end of a metal rod so that it will have a round shape.

While the molten glass was being prepared, one of the workshop participants would assume the “hot seat” and grab the large metal shears. Shara or Leigh would bring over the molten glass for each of us to cut away at. While we cut it, they continued to rotate the rod so that the glass would not fall over to one side. It kind of reminded me of toasting marshmallows – when they were gooey inside you had to spin the stick to keep them from falling off.

Got my shears, ready to sculpt!

Cindy creates a masterpiece

Kristen from MakeATX snips away.

After we were done sculpting, Leigh and Shara would heat the glass a bit more and then use some sort of large tweezer looking tool to start to remove the glass from the rod.

Leigh starts the process of removing the glass sculpture from the rod.

Then, they would heat it again and use some clippers to further crimp the glass on the rod and then cool it a bit in front of a fan.

Glass being cooled by a fan.

Next, they placed the glass on the table, knocked the rod with something metal and the glass sculpture would break off in a controlled fashion. They heated up the breakage point with a torch and then we used something they called a brake pad to smooth out any rough edges.

Ready to apply the brake pad.

My glass sculpture ended up being long and thin. I think it looks like a piece of coral.  After using the brake pad, Leigh and Shara donned large oven type mitts and covered up exposed skin so that they could place the glass in a super hot oven. The oven started at something like 970 degrees and slowly brought the temperature down so that the glass wouldn’t crack. Glass doesn’t appreciate large temperature changes.

After I brought my sculpture home, I decided that in order to display it in its best light, I needed to mount it to something. After a bit of brainstorming and some ideas from my husband, I found an appropriately sized orange rock from our landscaping to use with the glass sculpture. After cleaning the rock I used gorilla glue to attach the glass to the rock and used a rubber band to hold the pieces together while the glue dried. Gorilla glue expands as it dries so after it was cured, I used a box cutter to cut off the extra glue.  I think I might use my water colors to give my sculpture a bit of pastel color down the road so that it matches the room that I end up displaying it in.

My sculpture after gluing it to a rock

View #2

While at the workshop, I took some time to browse the studio where Leigh and Shara display their glasswork. I saw many awesome pieces, so I encourage you to check it out sometime!

Kitty glasses! Kitties are the best.

Awesome glass sculpture. Love the tribal feel to it.

Very delicate glass tree, set on a shelf way above my head. I just love the shape.

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Bike MS Training update #11: Longest ride of the year (so far)

Two weeks from now I’ll have completed the 2012 Bike MS: Pedal to the Point in northern Ohio. It’s a 180 mile bike ride over two days.  The ride goes right through the best part of Ohio: the flat part and the part that I lived in for 18 years of my life. This is my 5th year riding a Bike MS ride and my first time riding in northern Ohio. I can’t wait to make the trip. I have one more training weekend to go. Next Sunday evening I’ll be disassembling my bike, packing it into a bike case, and trusting its care to FedEx so that I can have it for the ride.  If you’re able, please consider supporting my participation by making a donation to the MS Society. Every little bit helps. I continue to participate in this event because I’ve seen too many friends and family affected by the disease and I hope to see a cure in my lifetime.

This weekend I participated in the Tres Burritos ride sponsored by Bicycle Sport Shop, a very friendly and supportive local bike shop here in Austin. I chose the “Go the distance” route which left from their Parmer Lane shop, about 9 miles from my house. The longest “distance” route was only 60 miles so I knew I needed to add miles in order to continue to follow my training plans. With that in mind, I set out from my home on my bike at 6:35 am (!!) to make it to the shop in time to check in before we rolled out at 7:30 am. I made it in plenty of time. The morning was humid but nice.

At 6:45 am, the sun is just rising over the cars on Mopac

I don’t have many photos to share from Saturday’s ride for good reason. I got caught up in the intermediate pace group a number of times. In a pace group you ride close together to take advantage of the aerodynamics of the group and therefore it requires concentration and no one-handed picture taking while riding your bike. I made it out to Andice, TX in good time mostly on my own. The rest stop was at the Andice General Store and I paused there to grab some snacks and fill up on water and ice from the gigantic water reservoir and ice chest.

Glorious cold water

After that stop, I headed west into a decent headwind on a bumpy road. After crossing 183 with the assistance of an off-duty sheriff keeping a watchful eye on traffic, I headed into an area with some short rolling hills. At that point, the intermediate pace group passed me and because of their aerodynamic assistance, I was able to ride with them for quite some time, which made my speed increase considerably. I rode in this group of about 20 – 25 men for quite some time before being ejected out the back on some hills where I couldn’t build up as much speed as larger men on nice light bikes. During that time I realized what riding in the peloton must be like. Smelly! I could no longer smell the nice fresh air any longer and could only smell sweatiness. Thanks guys.

I made it back to the rest stop in Andice for another fuel stop. I caught the pace group again which had dwindled in number and rode with them for much longer, until about 12 miles remained at which point the riders stopped at a rest stop and I kept going. I knew I wanted to get back to Bicycle Sport Shop as early as possible so that I could grab my t-shirt and tacos and then ride the 9 miles home.  The pace groups make riding in wind so much easier and I was very grateful for their assistance. I am not fast or strong enough to lead a group that fast in the wind so I was sure to keep to the middle or back of the group to avoid getting caught in the lead position.

After making it back to Bicycle Sport Shop, I picked up my event t-shirt and two free veggie tacos from One Taco. With 9 miles to ride before making it home, I didn’t want to eat my tacos yet, so I rearranged all my stuff so that I could put both the tacos and my t-shirt into my jersey pockets. I’m sure I looked ridiculous from behind but it was well worth it. Those tacos were delicious! I ended up riding 79 miles that day. I expect that this is my peak training distance for this season.

 

On Sunday I planned to sleep in (and I did, kinda) but was still on my bike by 7:45 am because my body is so used to waking up early these days. It was another nice morning, although breezier than Saturday. I rode a more residential route so my pace was lower. It was also shadier. Part of my ride was in the Balcones Country Club area. I love riding through some of the older neighborhoods like this one in northwest Austin. The houses have interesting and eclectic architecture and are shaded by huge trees. My ride ended at 36 miles. A very good riding weekend.

Early morning view of the Balcones golf course

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Bike MS Training update #10: It’s about the numbers

This weekend was relatively uneventful as far as training goes. I was in Texas, I didn’t get rained on, and I didn’t crash. Success! So, I’d like to sum up some numbers for you.

  • 3: Weeks until I fly to Ohio for BikeMS: Pedal to the Point.
  • 184: Miles I’ll ride August 4th – 5th.
  • 400,000: The number of Americans who have MS.
  • 6,444: Dollars I’ve raised for the MS Society with your help over the last four years.
  • 5: The number of BikeMS events I’ll have participated in after completing the Pedal to the Point.  If you’re able, please consider supporting my participation by making a donation to the MS Society.  I’ve seen too many friends and family affected by the disease so I continue to choose to participate in these events.
  • 1,250: Miles I’ve ridden in training for this year’s BikeMS.
  • 320: Additional miles I’ll ride before the event.
  • 36: Miles I rode this Saturday.
  • 167: Number of cyclists I saw during Saturday’s ride. That’s almost 5 per mile! I saw cyclists on road bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, and even a folding bike!
  • 200: Americans diagnosed with MS every week.
  • 75: Miles I rode Sunday.
  • 3: Number of new roads I checked out during Sunday’s ride.
  • 17%: How far I am to my $1,000 fundraising goal for this year. Can you help me meet my goal?

During Saturday’s ride, I made a pit stop at Bicycle Sport Shop on Parmer Lane for a rear derailler adjustment. While I was waiting, I admired these candy-colored cruiser bikes. Want!

 

I started Sunday’s ride at 7 am. Good morning sun!

While checking out a new road, I got to do a bit of off-road riding on my road bike while I traversed this dirt patch.

A new road that I checked out. Nice and smooth with good views.

Free water! It was even cold. This place was a life saver during Sunday’s ride because I managed to run out of water, even with my planned water stop.

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A fig roundup

Well, our giant fig tree has hit a second round of ripening figs so in addition to giving them away, I’ve been making a wide variety of yummy fig recipes. Here’s a roundup of the non-baked goods I’ve recently created.

Fig Infused Vodka

For this, I peeled and chopped figs, added them to a mason jar along with a split vanilla bean, and covered them with Tito’s Vodka. I let the mixture marinate in the fridge for two weeks before straining out the figs. We tried one drink recipe with the vodka but it wasn’t super good. Anyone have good fig drink recipes? Please let me know in the comments!

Peeled and chopped fig

Figs and a vanilla bean infusing in Tito’s Vodka

Straining the figs after two weeks

The final product – fig vodka!

Fig Balsamic Reduction

A friend at work taught me this trick. Take ripe (or almost overripe) figs, chop them up and soak them in balsamic vinegar overnight. The next day, simmer the mixture until it has reduced somewhat. The balsamic should coat a spoon dipped into the mixture. Strain the figs and enjoy in any food that you might use balsamic. So far, I’ve found it’s tasty to drizzle fig balsamic on broiled figs with cheese or onto a fig, cheese, and onion sandwich. Yum!

Figs soaking in balsamic

After reducing the figs and balsamic

The final product! I’ve already made a second batch to refill my bottle.

Fig Compote

I got the idea for fig compote from this roundup of 10 quick fig recipes.  Here’s what I used:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (next time, I would only use 1/4 cup sugar)
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Vanilla extract (my homemade kind)
  • Smattering of whole cloves
  • Sprinkle of ground ginger
  • Lots of figs. If the skin was green, I cut it off. If red, I left it on because it was softer. As the mixture cooked, I had to add more figs to get the compote to thicken to a reasonable consistency.

I combined all of these ingredients and simmered for a long time. After I felt it was finished, I refrigerated half of the mixture and froze the other half. It would be good as a pancake topping or with bread / bagel and cream cheese. It is very sweet, so next time I will reduce the sugar.

Sugar and spice and everything nice

Cooking figs

Cooked and ready to eat fig compote!

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Fueling those long rides

One thing that’s a bit different about my training rides for Bike MS this year is that my stomach is very finicky. I suspect this may have to do with the increased heat and less sleep I’ve been dealing with during this training season. The less sleep part has to do with trying to get out super early to avoid as much of the extreme heat as I can.  During the long rides where I have no choice but to eat during the ride, I find that my stomach tries to tell me that it doesn’t really want to eat. Of course, If I were to ride 50 or more miles without consuming any calories you’d find me passed out on the side of the road somewhere.

From years past, I know that I can’t consume gatorade or any other run of the mill “sports drink”. My stomach immediately turns when I try to drink these things. Just drinking water can get a bit old though. Lately I’ve found that both PureSport and Nuun hydration tabs aren’t too bad. The flavors are a bit lacking in my opinion (and PureSport is hard to find). At some point last year I read a post from someone that whipped up their own all natural sports beverage so lately I’ve been doing this as well. Plus, I’m able to use black tea and rumors have it that caffeine can be beneficial for athletes.

My “au natural” sports drink recipe:

Fill a bike water bottle with the following:

  • 1/3 Brewed black tea, chilled (I prefer to use Earl Grey)
  • 1/3 Lemonade (I’ve been using Santa Cruz Organic Peach Lemonade)
  • 1/3 Water
  • A dollop of honey (We prefer Round Rock Honey, made locally)

Shake vigorously. I like to freeze the mixture overnight and enjoy it in a slushy state during my ride the next morning.

While it’s good that I’m consuming calories through my sports drink, it’s also necessary to eat. Previously, I would usually eat my favorite Clif Bar during a ride (the peanut butter pretzel mojo bar) and maybe some honey stinger energy chews, both organic / natural products. I still eat these but decided to try eating even simpler foods during my ride to help out my stomach. I’ve lately been packing a back of pretzels along with some granola bars I made myself. To make the granola bars, I mixed and matched two recipes, one from gettin’ fresh and another from Kitchen Konfidence.

I made two flavors, raisin and cranberry pistachio.

Very simple chewy granola bars::

  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 3/4 cups honey
  • 1 -1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Cinnamon and ginger to taste (or your other favorite spices)
  • Chopped raisins or cranberries
  • Chopped nuts (Optional – I used pistachios with the cranberry flavor)
  • A dash of salt

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Bring the honey and vanilla to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add to dry ingredients to combine.

Form the mixture into logs and place on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Careful not to over bake, you don’t want the bottom to be overcooked (trust me).

The flavor is rather mellow, which is good when I’m on my bike and dealing with a picky stomach. I’ve been storing these bars in the freezer and just remove one or two the night before my ride. They go down easy and seem to be a decent fuel for my long rides.

Yum, raisins

Oats and spices

Ready to bake

Bake and ready to eat

Bike MS Training Update #9: Riding from Texas to Iowa

That’s right, I rode to Iowa. Ok, I rode in a car from Texas to Iowa, but I did take my bike with me. My husband and I traveled up there to his family’s farm to celebrate his parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. The farm is just outside of Northwood, Iowa, a few miles south of the Minnesota border. While not all of Iowa is flat, north central Iowa is so I was excited to pack up my bike into the trunk of our car to take along with us. The event that I’m training for is only four weeks away so being able to continue my training during our trip was great. My training is for the 2012 Bike MS: Pedal to the Point in northern Ohio. It’s a 175 mile bike ride over two days.  If you’re able, please consider supporting my participation by making a donation to the MS Society. This is my 5th year bike riding to raise money for the MS Society. I’ve seen too many friends and family affected by the disease.

Before making the trip, I planned for my rides by requesting an Iowa bike map from the department of transportation. It was super helpful and up to date. It also arrived the day before we left. I used that map to chart out my routes along the very grid-like roads. The map was also key because on Google maps I couldn’t necessarily tell which roads were gravel and which were paved. There are many gravel roads in Iowa. My route on Friday ended up being a 75 mile loop. I planned to ride east and south at the beginning because the wind was forecasted out of the south / south east. Last week was amazingly hot for Iowa, hitting 100 degrees or more so it was basically the same weather I cope with in Texas. Friday morning I set out at 7 am and headed east of Northwood.

Setting out in the morning towards the sun on a flat road.

The first half of my ride consisted of my staring in wonder at all of the windmills. I’ve seen plenty of windmills in west Texas, but never from a bike and so close to me. The wind wasn’t too strong and about half of the windmills weren’t spinning. My assumption is that the grid didn’t need or couldn’t handle the power at that time, so some of the windmills were turned off. In Texas, the windmills typically go as far as you can see in places. In Iowa, they were more contained. I assume that individual small farms have installed the windmills while in Texas, they are installed on the HUGE ranches that stretch for many miles.

Windmills on both sides of the road.

A common site: a corn field, farm buildings, and windmills.

This small Iowa river is bigger than any river I see in Texas.

Around mile 48, I stopped in the small town of St. Ansgar to refill my water bottles and to enjoy a few minutes off of the bike while eating a granola bar. I sat on a bench located along the main street and took a few pictures.

Small town hardware store

Buildings in the main part of town. The red one is from 1891!

During the ride, I missed two turns due to unmarked roads. Luckily I was able to use the Iowa biking map to correct my mistakes before too long. Because not many roads were paved it was pretty easy to figure out that if it was paved, it was my turn.

Confusing sign on the road I was supposed to turn on but was unmarked. Made me think it was a dead end!

My second stop for water and a banana was a tiny market in Grafton, IA. I knew I wanted to ride through Grafton because my Mom lives in Grafton, Ohio!

Look Ma, I’m in Grafton!

Grafton also had some old buildings. The market shared the same space as the post office.

It was lucky that Grafton had a market, which I didn’t know in advance, because I managed not to pack enough food for the ride. Grafton was around mile 55 of the route. I finished my ride at 12:15. The last hour and a half was just plain hot but I still enjoyed every minute of it.

 

On Saturday morning, I was able to get out for a short 35 mile ride. The weather had cooled considerably and brought with it a stronger wind out of the north. When I left, I had some concern that it might rain.

The first thing I did was turn north into the wind on a road that I thought would take me into Minnesota. It took me right to the border and turned to gravel.

See, I rode to Minnesota! And then turned around.

I then turned south and completed a loop back to the farm. I passed the local grass airstrip where tiny planes take off, I imagine to spread water or chemicals on fields. The clouds are rather ominous in this picture, but they had all burned away by the time I finished my ride. It was a perfect way to start the day of the party.

The grassy runway

 

Riding in Iowa was better than I had even imagined. It was mostly flat except for long, low hills, the roads were amazingly well kept, and the drivers were very courteous. Not only did they move all the way over into the left lane to pass me, but many even gave a friendly wave. The waves from Texas drivers tend to be the unfriendly kind.  I wouldn’t hesitate to ride there again.