Taking it to the Road

I used to be one of those drivers.  One of the ones that saw cyclists biking on the road when there was a sidewalk six feet over and started mentally telling them to get off the road and over to where they belong.

That was before I started cycling.

I see the driving/cycling world now in a whole new light.  I got a road bike last year – not a top of the line road bike, but a used decent road bike so I wouldn’t have to compete in triathlons/duathlons in my mountain bike any more – after three of them and with plenty of plans for more it was time.  The first time I decided I was going to ride to work – a short five miles – I was still of the thought that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk.  I quickly learned the error of my thinking and began to mentally apologize to all the cyclists I silently berated over time.  Thankfully I wasn’t one of *those* drivers who actually yelled at cyclists…I’ll get to that.  So without further ado here are some reasons why I, and many others, cycle on the road as opposed to the sidewalk, in case you were once like me wondering WHY?:

1. It is MUCH safer!  Period.  From the research I have found, the risk of an accident while riding on the sidewalk is 2-9 times higher than when you cycle on the road.  A couple reasons for this: one, drivers are not looking for fast traffic coming down the sidewalk when they pull up to intersections (even when you have a “walk” symbol) or the end of a driveway.  They typically don’t do what they should, that is to pull up to the sidewalk, look both ways and then proceed further out to get a better view before turning.  If you are on the sidewalk you are more likely to get hit.  You’ll also not be seen by drivers turning from the road into driveways or onto other roads.  Number two, you are putting yourself and pedestrians at risk of danger.  If there are pedestrians on the sidewalk, which there usually are during the summer months, you should be cycling at pedestrian pace and if I’m trying to get somewhere on my bike it is because I can go faster than I can on foot.  It is dangerous to fly by pedestrians who are walking/running, especially if you have to weave in and out of multiple people.

2. Sidewalks, at least around my neck of the woods, are inconsistent.  They start, they stop, they cross the road, they are often in conditions much worse than the roads I’m riding on (and Michigan roads can be BAD).  There is no way for me to get to my job, five miles away, using exclusively sidewalks.  Its dangerous to have to suddenly dash into the roadway from a sidewalk that abruptly ends.  Not to mention I don’t wan to incur damage to my bike from poorly maintained sidewalks.

3. In some places, riding on sidewalks is illegal because they are for pedestrians.  Not in my area, but there are reasons why it is illegal in many places.

4. I know many drivers get upset that we don’t hug the shoulder, but there are reasons for that too.  If we hug the shoulder we risk riding on debris that can cause blow outs AND hugging the shoulder enables you to buzz by super close.  We appreciate it if you give us  a bit of room, so we will ride to the left a little bit into the lane so you have to acknowledge us and give us the safe space we need.  I know you are usually driving faster than us and it can be annoying to have to move over a couple feet, I get it, but usually it isn’t that big of a deal to get by us.  If there is a lot of traffic we’ll try to be as courteous as possible and find a place to move over for a moment to give you a little extra room so you can get by, but if there isn’t an opportunity for a moment, please have a little patience.  You’ll get by us faster than you will that reallyyyy slow moving car that annoys you and you just can’t get by during rush hour.

So there you have it.  A few good reasons why I won’t be moving over to the sidewalk when I’m biking to work or out for a workout.  Maybe if I’m on my mountain bike heading the quarter mile into town to the farmers market I’ll use the sidewalk, but if I’m on my road bike to get somewhere, I’ll see you on the road!

PS.  No amount of rude yelling at me from out your car window will make me get onto the sidewalk.  It is just impolite and I’ll simply think you are a big ol’ meanie that should try to be in my cycling shoes just once.

PSS.  I try to use a bit of common sense as well and recognize there are some (or a lot) of roads around here that just aren’t good for cycling because they are narrow, super congested, etc.  I’ll avoid them for your sake as well as mine.

PSSS.  I know cyclists have a responsibility to obey laws and such and some don’t…but that is a different topic itself.

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Race Roundup: Grosse Ile Duathlon

I realize I have been pretty lax on writing.  Maybe it was due to the fact that I recently bought a house and everything that goes on with it.  Perhaps because I have been traveling quite a bit for my job with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship over the past month and a half (I have spent most of a week outside of San Diego, two weeks in northern Michigan and the better part of a week in Pittsburgh…all fabulous, but they’ve kept me busy!).  Or perhaps at other times it’s because I just plain forget to when I have the time (but you know we always remember when we are running around and don’t have a spare second!).

My fitness movement (aka…exercise, working out, running, etc) has been pretty limited as of late.  The past five or six weeks I’ve been having some health issues (aka chest pain) that we haven’t figure out yet…maybe more on that later!  I see a specialist tomorrow so hopefully we can figure this out and I can get back to doing what I like to do.

In the meantime I did do a duathlon – early on in the whole health fiasco.  I almost didn’t do it, but my rational was this: 1. I paid $60 for it and I’m too cheap to let it go 2. I’ve been talking smack with a workout partner for a good 6 months and we’ve been running the numbers to see who would win…to not compete would mean a forfeit and an automatic win for him and 3. I knew there would be EMS on site and if I dropped (as morbid as that sounds) at least they would be there to revive me!  So down to Grosse Ile I went.

This I know for sure, I like duathlons MUCH more than triathlons.  If you’ve read my triathlon post you’d know that I’m not a huge fan of the water.  Not. At. All.  The duathlon is much more my speed, AND I can be competitive in it…not saying I’m throwing in the towel on tri’s at all…I simply like du’s more and might stick to them this season due to my lack of time in the water.  I don’t know that I’ve been in the water (outside of dipping into a lake on a HOT Memorial Day) since last June.

So a duathlon (for those of you reading this and thinking a duath…what??) consists of a run, then a bike, then a run.  This particular duathlon happened to consist of a 5k (3.1 mile) run a 20k (12.4 mile) bike and another 5k run.  I hadn’t done much in the three weeks leading up to the duathlon because of my traveling, but outside of the chest problems was feeling alright approaching it.

3 Disciplines, an organization that runs triathlons and duathlons around my neck of the woods, puts on well organized events…I’d recommend any of their events to anyone.  And they always have good post-race food!

First 5k: I felt pretty strong for the kind of training I put it (which was pathetically too little) and came through about 8 minute pace.  The course, although it was supposed to be a certified 5k was .1 miles to long…we were all pretty sure of that – after all, I’m not that bad a pacing myself and dropping from an 8ish minute mile to a 9ish minute mile the last mile was just not possible. I appreciated that most of the run was gravel/dirt.

Bike: I felt good on the bike – I wished I could have put in a little extra time in the saddle leading up to the race, but did fine all things considering.  I knew that if my training partner didn’t catch me before the 6th mile I had this race in the bag.  Mile number 6 came and went, then 7, then 8 and so on until I hit the transition area once again.  He never caught me.  I was a bit worried, maybe he crashed, maybe he got a flat, but off on the run I went.

Second 5k: I felt a bit funky on the last run.  Maybe I was being hyper sensitive, but I ran it much more conservatively, running a bit slower than 9 minute pace.  I finished the race feeling like I needed to throw up, not a normal feeling for me since I didn’t tap out my energy sources…but I headed to the food table to get something in my stomach.  After eating something I felt better and began looking for my training partner.

About seventeen minutes after me he crossed the finish line.  No flat tires, no crashes.  His run just wasn’t strong enough to put him in a position to catch me on the bike.  I think he was slightly surprised.  I can’t say that I was. 😉  I ended up winning my age group – there were five of us.  I felt pretty good about that.

And now I have a heavy glass that says first place to put in my cupboard to remind me that I love duathlons!

Race number 4?  I’m behind.  I’ll work on that.

Eleven stand outs from two thousand eleven

Being sick and missing church on the first day of the new year was definitely not on my calendar or in my plans, but alas here I am.  Instead of wallowing in self pity I’m taking the opportunity of some quiet time while my hubby is off at church to reflect on the past year and process (not something I do naturally) and then look forward and make some goals for 2012. I couldn’t think of a few words to sum up a year so full of challenges, joys, disappointments, accomplishments and such but there were some things from the year that seemed to stand out.  So without further ado…may I present 11 stand outs from the year that was 2011:

1. Dan finally got an engineering job!!!  This was probably the single biggest joy from this past year – after nearly two years of not having a job in the engineering field and wondering what in the world God was up to Dan got a job – six miles from our apartment even!

2. I was accepted into InterVarsity Christian Fellowship‘s chapter planting cohort and transitioned from staffing an established chapter at a four year university to planting a new InterVarsity chapter at a community college…and then spent the last four months beginning to establish the chapter at the college.  It has been an incredible journey so far!

3. I completed my third triathlon – for some that is no biggie, but for me the fact that I got into the water yet again was an accomplishment.  I haven’t given up on it.  It is something that doesn’t come easily to me nor naturally and so persevering in it has brought me joy and a sense of accomplishment.

4. I have taken risks in evangelism that I never thought I would ever take…and I have found great joy in it!!  Some of my favorite times on campus have been at our question tables or talking to random students who have lots of questions about Jesus.

5. I have tapped into my creative side a bit more and have come to enjoy creating.  I have started painting, crafting, making, sewing and journaling again.

6. Some of the best uses of my time have been getting involved more with our church – Auburn Hills Christian Center – getting plugged in and developing relationships there and going on dates with my hubby.

7. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my family – particularly canoeing up north (never thought I’d see the day that dad flipped his canoe!)

8. Fundraising for the ministry I do with InterVarsity has continued to be a challenge.  I have been seeing a bit of progress over the past month, but it has come slowly and has been emotionally challenging and difficult for me.

9. I haven’t been as consistent or deep in my times with Jesus as I should be or want to be – my times in prayer have particularly come in spurts instead of being steady and consistent.

10. I have wrestled with confidence, particularly in the area of chapter planting…stepping out with authority…and in fundraising.  It has been an area the past few months that I have been praying through and working through.

11. Movement – this year, more than others in recent history has been marked by more physical movement – in running/cycling/circuit training in particular with a healthy dose of hiking (Shenandoah and Dolly Sods wilderness was fabulous!) skiing, climbing and all manner of things outdoors.

My journal holds further reflections and processing…but it has been helpful to look over the past  year and then think about goals for the coming year.  What have been some accomplishments/challenges for you in the past year?  Look for the next post for tips on goal setting and my goals for the coming year!

If you don’t succeed…tri, tri again.

I can remember my first triathlon experience.  My brother and I decided to complete one together the summer after my senior year of high school (in 2005).  I remember us being pretty stoked for it – but also nervous as all get out for the swim.  I really don’t think we knew what we were doing.  I went to the local YMCA once before the triathlon to practice swimming and quickly discovered that I really didn’t know how to swim…I could doggy paddle and backstroke, but those were the extent of my swimming skills.  I thought “eh, I’ll just wing it.”  Bad decision.  Bad decision to “wing” a half mile swim.  I got out of the water feeling grateful that I avoided drowning.  Looking back I really have no clue how I made it…I truly don’t.  I used my sister’s mountain bike…it was too small for me, but the gears worked which was more than I could say of the bike I owned.  That was pretty horrible.  However, I excelled in the run!  Although last in my age group in both the swim and the bike, I was first in the run…after all, I was going to college on a cross country scholarship.  And so my first triathlon went.  I came out of the water saying “I will never do that again” but when I crossed the finish line, I somehow knew I would.

Fast forward four years to the summer of ’09, the summer after I graduated college.  Somehow I got it in my head that I would like to do another triathlon.  I had somewhat learned how to swim freestyle.  Running injuries forced me to hit the pool and I quickly tired of pool running so I started to try to imitate the swimmers and thus learning how to swim in a way.  I thought I would do significantly better in the swim and the four years since my first triathlon had largely erased the horrors of the first tri swim in my mind.  I was wrong.  I didn’t do much better (okay, I took four minutes off my time, but taking into consideration the fact that most people swim it in half my time wasn’t much consolation) and all the memories came flooding back of feeling like I would never make it out of the water.  I saw life guards in this triathlon handing out noodles to swimmers for support…I was determined that I would NOT be one of those people…I would do it on my own, thank you.  The bike went significantly better, however.  I still had a mountain bike, but it was a nicer one, properly fitted to my height…I think I landed somewhere in the middle for that bike.  It was a fast bike too…flat and fast.  The run went just was well – I passed people and felt good.  If only I didn’t have that swim to mar the memories.  It started pouring as I got out of the water…how appropriate.  The swim became my nemesis.

Two years passed…summer of 2011.  Yesterday morning to be exact.  My third triathlon.  It was kind of on a whim, but somewhat pre-meditated.  I’ve been swimming.  I even learned how to breaststroke a few months ago and a friend had been giving me some pointers and tips.  I had planned on one earlier in the week, but the drive to get there coupled with the entry fee discouraged me so I started looking for another one.  I found one on the same lake that I would be staying on for the weekend as I threw a friend a bachelorette party.  Bingo.  I didn’t have to drive but to the other side of the lake, I still had to pay the entry fee, but the swim was shorter.  Instead of swimming 800 meters I’d only have to swim 500.  Jackpot…that sealed the deal for me.  Sunday morning came and I had surprisingly gotten a decent amount of sleep.  I was nervous as usual, but I knew I had been swimming so the swim would go much better than my previous two.  The horn sounded and I was off in the water.  The first 200 meters…not so bad and then it hit.  I couldn’t see the bottom like I could in the pool, the shifting water threw me off and I was tired from keeping my head out to see where I was going.  I felt like it was the longest swim in the world.  The last half of the swim I fell off my intended pace like you would not believe.  It wasn’t fun.  I hated it, why did I sign up for it….I was on my back again because to put my face in the water would mean I couldn’t see anything.  I didn’t understand how I could swim so horribly when clearly I am a better swimmer than I was for the first two.  I finally made it out of the water and onto my bike.  No problem…except my bike is in desperate need of a tune up and my hardest gears were grinding and causing some problems.  It probably slowed me down a bit.  And the bike ride…that hill in the last two or three miles…it was big.  I had bike it before, oddly enough, with a friend the summer before so I knew it was coming.  It gave me confidence that I needed to power up it a bit better than some fared.  I even felt great on the run…aside from desperately having to go to the bathroom!  Haha!  I finished and the girls from the party cheered me on.

That swim…my nemesis.  I finished the tri thinking that maybe I should give it up.  I would never conquer the swim and I should just quit with the triathlons and stick to road races and duathlons.  I can’t swim well…I can’t afford a tri or road bike, it just isn’t my cup of  tea…but then I look at the results.  Second in my age group with that kind of swim time?  Granted most triathletesare over the age of 30 and so my competition isn’t as stiff…but it is still competition.  I think about how challenging it is mentally and physically…what 5k or even 10k would give me that kind of mental and physical challenge?  The simple fact is…they can’t.  So I’ll tri again…and I’ll keep tri-ing…until someday I conquer my nemesis.

Oh it feels good to be done! Anchor Bay Triathlon '09