Bike MS training update April 20 – 21, 2013

As I mentioned last week, I’ve started training for Bike MS: Ride the Rim. This is my sixth year participating in a Bike MS, and the first time I’ve done a ride in Texas that’s not the BP MS150. I’m very excited for this ride, it starts in Canyon and loops around the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the US. I’ve always wanted to see it. If you’re able, please consider making a donation to the MS Society in support of my participation.

This past Sunday I rode in the Austin Autism Awareness ride up in Georgetown, Texas. The first half of the ride was quite dreary and colder than I planned for. The wind picked up pretty quickly and the roads were very bumpy in places. After my GoPro camera mount broke the previous weekend, I tried out a new mount so I got plenty of pictures again. Unfortunately the mount wouldn’t stay tight, so I’m again looking for a new option.

While waiting for the start, it sure seemed like the sun was coming out!

While waiting for the start, it sure seemed like the sun was coming out!

On our way out of the park to start the ride.

On our way out of the park to start the ride.

An old hall, basically in the middle of nowhere.

An old hall, basically in the middle of nowhere.

Two riders in matching outfits.

Two riders in matching outfits.

Lots of flatness on the first part of the ride.

Lots of flatness on the first part of the ride.

The clouds kept the temperature down through much of the ride.

The clouds kept the temperature down through much of the ride.

We rode through lots of farm fields.

We rode through lots of farm fields.

Eventually the clouds broke up. There were plenty of wildflowers.

Eventually the clouds broke up. There were plenty of wildflowers.

Can you see the bluebonnets in the field?

Can you see the bluebonnets in the field?

Riding back into the park.

Riding back into the park.

A nice little party set up at the finish line and plenty of spectators to cheer for us at the end!

A nice little party set up at the finish line and plenty of spectators to cheer for us at the end!

It’s that time again… training season!

For the sixth year in a row, I’m kicking off bike training season with the goal of riding in a Bike MS event to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. For my first three years, I rode the BP MS150 from Houston to Austin since it’s so close to home. My next two years were the Escape to the Lake in western Pennsylvania and then the Pedal to the Point in northern Ohio. I really enjoyed the smaller size of these last two rides, so this year I’m doing a smaller ride in Texas called Ride the Rim out in Canyon, TX on June 22nd – 23rd. I’ve chosen this ride because it goes around the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the US, which I’ve always wanted to visit. This year’s ride is a bit different because the mileage is less. The first day is 100 miles and the second day is 25 miles with a bus ride into the Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the middle. Typically the second day of a Bike MS ride is anywhere from 50 – 80 miles and definitely does not include a bus ride! Because we have to drive far to get to the Palo Duro Canyon, we may just do some hiking or mountain biking on Sunday.

That’s a long paragraph to say that I officially kicked off training season this past Saturday by riding a charity ride with my husband called the Tour De Vineyard at the Vineyard at Florence. After riding 43.5 miles, we had lunch at the Vineyard and bought a ticket to the Texas Wine Festival so that we could taste many delicious wines.

On Sunday, I ran the Austin 10/20, a 10 mile running race near my house that had 20 live bands along the course. Despite not being able to complete my training plan, I am happy with my race performance.

My training updates this year will have more photos than previous years because I now have a GoPro Hero 3 camera that can be easily mounted to my bike handlebars.


The ride started on a temperate morning with thin clouds high in the sky.

My husband was riding a slightly shorter route, but we started out together.

My husband was riding a slightly shorter route, but we started out together.


After I took a wrong turn (along with about half of the other riders) I caught back up with my husband and surprised him.

After I took a wrong turn (along with about half of the other riders) I caught back up with my husband and surprised him.

Off and on the sun came out during the ride.

Off and on the sun came out during the ride.

Yes, Texas is big sky country...

Yes, Texas is big sky country…


The little town of Florence.

The little town of Florence.

Unfortunately, the handlebar mount broke half way through the ride... so I could just hold the camera and take a picture.

Unfortunately, the handlebar mount broke half way through the ride… so I could just hold the camera and take a picture.

Don't worry, it was perfectly safe.

Don’t worry, it was perfectly safe.


Do you see those animals among the trees? They’re elk!

And turkeys!

And turkeys!

Finally towards the end of the ride we got to see some bluebonnets.

Finally towards the end of the ride we got to see some bluebonnets along the side of the road.



And some pink winecups

Shortly thereafter, we were back at the winery!

Shortly thereafter, we were back at the winery!









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Mission Complete: Pedal to the Point 2012

Well, I’m back in Austin now. This past weekend I rode the 2012 BikeMS: Pedal to the Point in northern Ohio. The route goes from Brunswick to Sandusky, Ohio and back again. I had a great time while I was there, spending time with my family and some close friends that I don’t see nearly often enough.

This was my 5th year riding in a BikeMS event. So far this year, I’ve raised $1,110 for the MS Society (it’s not too late to donate). During the ride, I rode through my old high school stomping grounds. In fact, I even rode by the houses of my two closest high school friends. Overall, the ride was nice although it lacked some of the excitement of the BP MS 150 from Houston to Austin and the Escape to the Lake in western Pennsylvania. The lack of excitement was made up by having a great crew of supporters see me off at the start line, meet me at rest stops, and cheer for me at the finish. Throughout the ride I got to spend time with my wonderful husband Carl who accompanied me to Ohio, my Mom & Darrell, my Dad & Ellen, and my Uncle Jim.

We arrived in Cleveland late Wednesday night after a delayed flight in Austin almost made us miss our connection in DFW. By some miracle, our checked luggage actually made it on the plane and showed up in Cleveland with us. Last year on my BikeMS trip, the same situation was much worse when I was without my luggage for more than 24 hours after landing.

Thursday my bike was delivered to a FedEx office so we picked it up and I assembled it.

Need to transport large things? The trunk of a ’99 Chrysler Concord swallowed up the large bike case with room to spare.

Yep, the bike parts were all still in the case upon arriving in Ohio.

Unpacking and assembling my bike.

Thursday evening we enjoyed a nice dinner and a few beers at Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland with my Dad & Ellen. Carl and I try to make it to the Brewery at least once during every Ohio visit. I even picked up a new bike jersey in the gift shop while we were there.

Friday afternoon we headed to packet pickup in Brunswick where I got my rider numbers, route map, and t-shirt.

Showing off the t-shirt.

Friday evening we enjoyed a smorgasbord of fresh Ohio food including amazing tomatoes and cucumbers from my Mom’s garden and sweet corn from a local farm. The company was great as three friends and their families joined us for a cookout and some relaxation the evening before my ride.

Bright and early on Saturday morning my Mom and Carl drove me out to the start line in Brunswick. We rolled out at 7:20 am after a delay while the organizers were waiting for the ride celebrity, Phil Keoghan from the Amazing Race, to make the opening remarks.

Waiting for Phil Keoghan at the start line.

A mass of riders pouring out of the start line.

There I go!

On Saturday, the weather was quite nice, if a bit on the hot side for Ohio. I was ok with the heat. The route only had a few hills, although some of them were steep, none of them lasted for very long. A few roads had more traffic than I expected but I didn’t encounter any angry drivers. In fact, a few times drivers gave me a thumbs-up as they went by.

As always, I rode the extra loop so that Saturday would be a 100 mile ride. The extra loop was called the “Kent Clapp Extra Lap” in honor of Kent Clapp, CEO of Medical Mutual of Ohio, who died in a chartered plane crash in December 2009, along with his fiancé. Medical Mutual has been sponsoring a BikeMS team since 2008. My first rest stop of the day was at mile 40 on the extra lap. I received a wrist band indicating the extra distance I rode. Carl, Mom, and Darrell met me at the rest stop.

Riding out of my first rest stop, in front of a field of corn.

My photo crew hid out a few miles from the rest stop and snapped my photo as I rode through a tunnel of trees.

Seen on my bike: Scenic Ohio back road with wildflowers.

I proceeded to ride through many roads extremely familiar to me, even going by houses of friends from high school as we cut across Lagrange, Ohio, my hometown for a number of years. During this section, I got caught up in a friendly pace group and was making great time. I lost them at the lunch stop because I continued to the next rest stop where my crew was waiting for me again.

Mom and I in the line for water.

One thing disappointing about this ride was the rest stops. They only had two water stations and so long lines would form as cyclists waited to get water. Besides a good fruit selection, the snacks at the rest stops were mostly unhealthy and not something I would eat while riding a bike.

My rest stop supporters. They even brought me pretzels and a pickle!

Seen on my bike: Old bridge.

I planned my next stop to be one at an orchard that also has a winery. It was packed with cyclists and had huge water lines. Luckily here I met my Dad and Ellen who had water for me in their truck. During a venture into the orchard store, I bought some homemade jam and kettle corn and was given a slice of ice cold watermelon, ice cold cantaloupe, and a handful of popcorn. The cantaloupe in particular was amazing. I can’t ever get cantaloupe that good in Texas 😦

More rest stop supporters!

The ride was a little tough-going after that stop. I was hot and tired and the wind had picked up. I was mostly passing people because I had caught up with the folks riding the shorter route.

Seen on my bike: Large greenhouse out in the country.

Seen on my bike: Fruit orchard!

I eventually reached the finish line for Saturday after riding 101 miles. The finish line was marked with blue flags and balloons and loud music.

Riding across the finish line on Saturday!

The finish balloons.

Saturday evening we stayed in little camping cabins with my Dad and Ellen only a few miles away from the finish line. We had dinner and drinks at Mon Ami winery, which was quite good. I knew from the start that Sunday’s forecast was for an 80% chance of thunderstorms. We were surprised when the storms started around 8:30 pm Saturday evening. The wind picked up and there was a lot of thunder and lightening while we hunkered down in the cabins. It rained, but it was by no means a torrential downpour, thankfully.

Sunday morning I woke bright and early and checked the weather map. There didn’t appear to be any rain in sight although the forecast still said 80% chance of rain. I was hopeful that by putting my rain jacket in my jersey pocket I would deter the rain.  We loaded my bike up into the truck, drove the to start line and I joined the route right at 7 am. It was a nice morning, if a bit damp and windy. I got caught up in an extremely fast pace group for a while which helped me reach my first planned stop at mile 30 at a small park in Wakeman, Ohio rather quickly. By then I knew I was most likely going to get rained on. There were very dark clouds behind me so I was just trying to ride out in front of the clouds as fast as I could.

Seen on the bike: Sunday morning country road. I was near these two riders for a while both on Saturday and Sunday.

Seen on the bike: Apple orchard and a gloomy sky.

Soon after the rest stop, I picked up yet another pace group who invited me to join them as they tried to out run the rain. Unfortunately that did not work and soon a steady rain began. I never saw lightening thankfully. There was wind but it wasn’t terrible and the rain was not so heavy that we couldn’t ride in it. However, I did start to see a number of bike crashes mostly from people riding in groups. Once your wheels are wet, your brakes don’t work well at all and you have to be very careful. If you need to brake in a group I can see how this would lead to a crash. I was thankful that after riding by the lunch stop most of the groups of riders stopped and I was on my own on the route. Not that I entirely wanted to ride alone, but I was nervous about crashing.

At my next rest stop I was met by my Mom, Darrell, and my uncle who made the trip in from Pennsylvania to see me. By that time I was drenched. My Mom was volunteering at the stop which was near her house. They had plenty of volunteers so after I stopped she headed for the finish to see me there.

Seen on the bike: I saw rider #1 on both Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday he was sporting a top VIP fundraiser jersey which was pretty awesome. On Saturday, he was riding with a young teenage rider, showing her the ropes of the ride.

While the rain relented for a while, it picked up again after the rest stop. The rain stopped again closer to the finish. The last 10 miles or so of the route felt like some sort of punishment. First we turned straight south into a nasty headwind for a number of miles. Then we turned out of the headwind going east and went up a loooooonnnnngggg slow hill capped with a short steep segment where a few other riders were walking their bikes. We then turned onto a road in desperate need of repair. Constant potholes, many of them large enough to put your tire in, were quite scary. It was like navigating a maze. Eventually I turned off into the smooth school grounds and ended up at the finish line with my cheering section. I rode 84 miles.

Crossing the finish!

Cheering section at the finish line!

Cheering section, part 2.

The finish was largely absent of spectators. I’m not sure if I was just early or if this ride just doesn’t get many spectators. Definitely different from my previous four BikeMS events.

I realized that I’m 4 for 5 when it comes to rain during a BikeMS weekend:

  • 2008 BP MS150: No rain!
  • 2009 BP MS150: Saturday rained / flooded out
  • 2010 BPMS150: Big storm Saturday night left me unable to sleep. Sunday was misty and the lack of sleep greatly affected my ride.
  • 2011 Escape to the Lake: Threatened rain Saturday. It started as soon as I crossed the finish. Rain overnight and Sunday was cold and misty on the bike.
  • 2012 Pedal to the Point: Saturday night rain, steady rain on Sunday.
  • 2013: Don’t know what event I’ll participate in, but already crossing my fingers for a lack of rain 🙂

I had a great ride both days despite the rain and really enjoyed the route. I think I had a smile on my face for the majority of Saturday’s ride because it was so nice to ride in areas familiar while knowing that loved ones were cheering me on.

So, to those of you who donated this year:


I know that you were thinking of me and most likely saw my Facebook and Twitter updates for the ride. Your support is greatly appreciated! I’m so thankful to have such generous family and friends.

If you’d like to donate, there’s still time! Head over to my fundraising page.

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 ( 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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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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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.

Bike MS training update #8: A rainy dam(n) loop

Chalk up another eventful weekend training for the 2012 Bike MS: Pedal to the Point in northern Ohio. It’s a month away! If you’re able, please consider supporting my participation by making a donation to the MS Society.

On Saturday, my husband and I attended a hands-on baking rye bread class at Whole Foods Market downtown. It started at 10 am so in order to get in a training ride, I headed out at 7 am. It was a great morning for a ride and after 32 miles I ended up downtown. This week I purchased a new helmet, my first super nice bike helmet. The airflow and weight difference were amazing. My supportive husband met me at Whole Foods with a change of clothes so that I could attend class in normal clothes rather than spandex.

Waiting at Whole Foods in my new helmet

Me and my rye bread

On Sunday we had some friends visit from out of town and we planned to meet them for a lunch date. I wanted to leave early enough to ride 65 – 70 miles before we met for lunch at 12:30. Once again, I headed out at 7 am. I knew we were due to get some wind out of the south so I decided to ride a dam loop which puts the headwind early and a tailwind on the way home. I ride Parmer Lane, Anderson Mill, 620 (past Lake Travis), Bee Cave Rd, and Loop 360 for my dam loop. There was a chance of rain according to the forecast but no rain on the radar when I left.

A dreary morning but a great view

The start of the Mansfield Dam

I didn’t get a picture of riding next to the dam itself due to speed and the attention necessary for a safe ride at that point, but you can see a nice ariel view of the dam and bridge on the LCRA website.

Poor low Lake Travis

After my first rest stop at mile 37 I realized that there was no way I was going to avoid being rained on. I could just see the cloudiness and rain to the east. Very soon after, I was drenched. The initial down pour was fairly heavy. The worst part was the rain drops in the eyes affecting my vision. I pulled over and sat under a bank drive through while the rain subsided. I was not the only cyclist I saw out in the rain. After that point it only rained lightly on me a few more times, but the road were wet everywhere. Luckily there was no thunder and not really any extra wind. Because the dam loop is quite hilly, I had to be extra cautious to make sure that I could stop if needed. Road bike brakes are pretty bad in wet conditions. I was able to make it through my training ride in time to dry and clean my dirty self for lunch, putting me at 68 miles Sunday for a grand total of 100 for the weekend and 150 for the week.

Stay tuned for next week’s update where I travel to a new and exotic locale for some bike training.

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Bike MS training update #7: Wait, how far did I just ride?

Unintentionally, this weekend became my first 100+ mile bike training weekend of the season. Unintentionally because my training plan (and what I planned in my head) had me riding 90 – 95 miles this weekend. Instead, I finished at 106 miles.

Now, if you’re asking yourself why I would subject myself to riding more than 100 miles in the hottest Texas weekend so far this year, the answer is that I’m training for Bike MS: Pedal to the Point in August. For the past 5 years I’ve ridden in one of these events to raise funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society because the disease has affected a number of people in my life throughout the years. Each year it seems I learn of another friend or family member touched by the disease. I hope that researchers can find a cure for MS. I’ve kicked off my fundraising, as I do every year, by personally donating to the MS Society. If you are able, please also consider making a donation to the society. They use the money to provide programs and services to people living with MS as well to fund cutting-edge research.

So, back to my weekend training shenanigans. On Saturday morning, at 6:40 am (!!) I set out on my bike. I left as early as I could drag myself out of bed because I knew it would be hot hot hot. At 6:40, it was amazingly pleasant outside. In fact, the ride overall on Saturday wasn’t nearly as hot as I expected. I started north on Parmer Lane with the intention of doing a “Dam Loop”, a route that is damn hilly and passes the Mansfield Dam out by Lake Travis. This past week my hamstring has been bothering me and after about 10 miles out Parmer, I decided not to make the turn out towards the dam.  Instead, I decided to ride out to Andice, TX which involves hills, but less of them. To get to Andice, you have to ride to the end of Parmer Lane and then make a turn on to ranch road 2338.

Good morning, sun!

A stream seen from a bridge

On my way to the end of Parmer, I made friends with a nice gentleman and we chatted about different bike rides we done. He is training for the Hotter ‘n Hell 100 which lives up to its name from what I hear.  We split ways at the end of Parmer Lane when I turned out towards Andice. At that point, my odometer read 30 miles, I knew I needed water, and was pretty sure Andice wasn’t too far down the road where I could replenish at the general store. Sigh. Andice was more than 5 miles away.

The Andice General Store in my sight!

And more importantly, it was CLOSED. Austin cyclists: the Andice General Store opens at 8 am M – F and 10 am on the weekend. I was there at 9 am. Right after I pulled up, a large group of cyclists from the team in training showed up, also mightily disappointed. Luckily, someone found a spicket on the back of the building that I reluctantly used to fill my bottle. There really isn’t any other water source for many many miles.

Oh Andice General Store, how you have forsaken me.

Instead of turning around and going back directly the way that I came, I knew that there were back roads that would get me back to Parmer Lane. They were quite pleasant to ride on with almost no traffic and lots of shade.

A nice smooth, shady road.

One of the best parts of riding on Saturday was the very minimal wind I encountered. Even when the headwind started to pick up on my way back, it was still minimal and actually necessary to keep me cool-ish. It was just a great morning for riding in Austin. I ended up riding 69 miles for the day, a bit longer than I expected.

Someone turned off the wind!

Later that afternoon we went to the packet pickup for the Urban Assault Ride put on by New Belgium Brewing and stopped for a delicious treat at Bananarchy. Chocolate covered frozen bananas with toppings? Yes, please!

A well deserved amazingly delicious treat

And that brings me to Sunday’s ride. My husband and I participated in the Austin Urban Assault Ride. Last year’s Urban Assault Ride was about 18 miles when we finished. In order to get extra miles in, I rode the 13 miles to the start line at Fiesta Garden Park. To do this, I left at 6:20 am. It was noticeably hotter and more humid than Saturday despite the sun not even being up yet.

The ride is a lot of fun. You have to ride to different checkpoints and perform obstacles in order to collect a bead that proved that you completed that obstacle. You also have to figure out the location of two mystery checkpoints. The obstacles included fun things like riding a bike while catching loops with a foam sword, jumping into a pool and collecting rubber duckies, riding an adult big wheel, and sitting on a skateboard and being towed by a bike. The husband and I were able to easily figure out mystery point 1, where we got the clue for mystery point 2. I thought I knew the second mystery point but was wrong, leading us to check a few locations before figuring it out. Also, we somehow skipped a checkpoint on our ride and had to back track to avoid a huge penalty. Because of our failures, I ended up riding 37 miles for the day, also longer than I had planned. Oh well, we did have beer at the finish line. Next year we hope our friends / partners in crime for the UAR will be riding with us again.

Everyone lined up and ready to race!

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