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Hi! This is [personal profile] antimony/antimony's biking and recipe journal. It's mirrored on LiveJournal, but if linking, please link the Dreamwidth version.

I'm never sure what to say in bios; my current readership is a few friends, and y'all know who I am. But since I just submitted this to the RUSA blog feed, and thus might get some new faces: I'm a 30-something randonneuse (long-distance cyclist) who loves to cook, although my job as a software engineer leaves me with far less time and energy than I'd like for both riding and cooking. My ride reports and recipes were hard to re-find in the midst of my other posts, plus long-format picture-heavy posts were kind of not fitting into my personal blog. So: separate blog.

My real name is Sarah; with that information and the rides I've described, my full name is easily discoverable but I'll request that it not be posted as searchable text in comments. Thanks!

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/479.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]


Actual ride report coming when I have pictures sorted out etc. But it's Tuesday and I already feel pretty good post-400k, which is just awesome. No hand numbness (had a fair bit the one other 400 I did), no muscle aches that aren't the usual sort of DOMS from pushing a bit hard, tiny bit of chafing that has already healed.

So yeah, I'm back, I hit my big goal for this season, and I'm going to be putting together a training plan for the full series for next year.

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/10703.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]


Shimano, why do the screws on your brake pads suck so much? whyyyyyyy?

yeah, I know, I owe y'all a post on the DART and the 200k that wasn't, and one on Raid Rockingham. And one on spinach fatayer (lebanese spinach pies) and kibbe, because those recipes came out really well. :)

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/10267.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]


still got it

Last weekend was the NER 200k -- first in the series, a hilly jaunt up into some really pretty parts of southern New Hampshire and I really wasn't sure how this was going to go.

One of the reasons I love these rides is the exhilaration of, 115 miles into a ride, asking your tired body if it has some speed left in it, and having it answer YES. There's nothing quite like it.

That's it, that's the ride report. Well, and 12:24, which means I finished with more than an hour left, which isn't my 11:13 finish of two years ago, but isn't bad at all.

Next up: my first team event, a 200k ride to Portland with friends old and new.

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/10219.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]

slow, steady, social

Worry: unnecessary. We had a beautiful day for the NER 107k, a great crowd (evidently registration skyrocketed at the last minute when the weather forecasts cleared up), and the course was its usual hilly self.

I dithered some more after my previous post about riding to the start vs driving, and decided that if there was any way I'd be ready for the 200k, I needed to ride. So I did. Up at too-early-o'clock, breakfast 1 at home, and I was off on my way. In Lexington another rider passed me, and then slowed up to ask if I was headed to the ride; we had a nice chat on the way there. Passed two more people stopped by the side of the road but clearly heading that way, and then tons of people were there when I arrived at ~7:40 -- lots of people I knew, lots I didn't, and the now-familiar feeling of "ack how do I answer that" when people innocently ask me how I've been. "Undertrained", I answer, mostly. And then we're off.

I let the packs I can usually hang onto for a while go; not this time. I don't even know that I could have burned a lot of matches to keep up with them at all, but I'm not going to try. So a few miles down the road, I'm surprised to find I've acquired a small posse. A little three-person group, with two other riders with similar climbing abilities. A woman I met on the Honey 100 last year (whose SO was out on the course far enough ahead we didn't spot him on the out-and-back section), and a guy I hadn't met before, whose name I did not commit to memory, but who kept us entertained by identifying birdsong. Neither had done the ride before, so I got to impart wisdom of where the worst hills were. We weren't making terribly fast time, but we weren't in any danger of missing control times, and while a group always stops more (you have to stop whenever *anyone* needs to), none of us wanted to dilly-dally either. We chatted and spun and the miles flew by.

It was fun seeing the sport through new eyes -- my compatriots were impressed at how friendly everyone was, waving us upwards while they cruised down the out-and-back section to Stirling. (I was reminded of this past summers' PBP first-finisher, who soloed off the front before Brest and did the entire return on his own; 6000 people waving at him since he was the only one going the other way.) We got going before a bunch of people who'd arrived before us, and got to play yo-yo with a big group on the way back, adding to the party-bus feel of the whole ride. One of them was the rider who did his first 200k at my overnight ride last year; I was thrilled to see him back again, and we chatted for a bit before he dropped me on a hill. And I tried to convince anyone who would listen to come back for the 200k in three weeks.

I felt great, if slow, until about the same time as we stopped at the Harvard General Store for a snack and to use the facilities; my legs were done having any extra energy at that point. Which actually wasn't far off schedule for this early in the season; it was just that my "fast speed" and my "slow speed" were both slower than usual. My friends pulled ahead of me on the final hill, but we rejoined after the Stow descent, which I was glad I was comfortable taking at speed; I wasn't sure how nervy I was going to be on descents after the crash a month ago, and I love that descent. Didn't PR it, but that's primarily because I wasn't hammering the slightly gentler sections, I was just letting gravity do all the work.

Bird-dude did start pulling away from our little group, but just as he did, my other companions' SO showed up to see how she was doing. So he pulled us along for a bit, until I started pulling away from them; I felt kind of bad -- we'd spent the whole ride together and finishing together would be fun, but my neck was starting to cramp and I wanted to get off the bike for a bit, and the finish would be the place to do so. All the stoplights through Concord seemed to be on Team Finish Together, though, so we stayed within sight of each other, if not in an actual pack.

My finish time was 6:17ish, which is slower than even my first year doing this ride, but that's OK. It was perhaps the most *fun* I've had on it, too. I'm not really ready for the 200k, but I'll take my own advice: if you're smiling at the finish, do the next ride. I plan to, and I plan on dithering over driving to the start again (prediction: I will dither dither dither and then ride out again.)

(I have, however, refrained from taking the other piece of advice I doled out, which was that back-to-back rides are great training; while my legs feel great today (yay!), my butt is really quite sore, and my neck has cramped up. Which is half being an overstressed software engineer and half lack of core strength. I'll ride tomorrow, on the spin bike as it's supposed to rain and I hate rainy commutes; I don't mind rainy brevets but I hate rush hour traffic in bad weather.)

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/9939.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]

anxiety, dreams, goals?

I've had a lot of pre-ride jitters manifest as anxiety dreams, but I'm not sure I've ever had them before a 100k. I've had two this week. (I don't remember exactly what they entailed now, and dream descriptions are generally only interesting to the dreamer, but I woke up and distinctly realized they were anxiety dreams about the 100k.)

I'm still vastly out of shape, although I my brain is fairly confident that, barring really awful weather (I'm not doing 90 miles in driving sleet this year), or the flu that's going around the office, that I can gut out 68 familiar miles. I just...haven't ridden that far in a long time. My shoulder is OK, my hand is OK, I have been riding some, but it seems daunting in a way it hasn't since before my first populaire.

It's longer if I add the to/from to the total; I might drive to the start, I might not. It seems wrong, somehow, not to ride out there. (dphilli1 alas has had to bail out even before the day-of; his ankle has gone from keeping him from running (hence biking!) to no biking either. He wasn't up for 90, so the plan was to drive. We'll see. I need to decide, like, yesterday. Probably I'll ride out there, and if I have to, call for a ride home afterward.

I also need to hook up a new cyclocomputer -- the old one's mount cracked in the crash, and it's been in my handlebar bag since -- still registering miles but no longer on the bars. We'll see if that happens before the ride either; it's not like I'll be trying to set any personal speed records.

I'm tentatively looking at the rest of the season, too; I'll know more once I've knocked out 68/90 miles where my body stands. Even without the cancer and the crash it was not shaping up as a terribly good off-season; new responsibilities at work have been keeping me busy and I've lost the hang of making time to hit the gym again. I am definitely looking forward to doing my first team event -- a flat 200k dart should be a great way to do that. The big question is what if the 200k goes well. If it goes poorly, the answer is clear; do more 200ks. If it goes close to as well as in 2014, though, do I dare more? Somewhere in the midst of fear and uncertainty and mortality rates, I put PBP 2019 on my calendar; there's no time like the present to get back into the habit of being in brevet shape. But I need some confidence-boosting successes right now, more than I need challenges. Hopefully Saturday will be the former.

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/9662.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]

picking myself up off the ground

BANG! went my rear tire.

THUD! went the rest of me into the pavement.

Ow. I peeled myself off the ground; nothing hurt any more than it already did, and took stock. Some of the contents of my handlebar bag were spread across the street; my left contact was somehow stuck in my eyelashes. The road was quiet and empty; I had enough time to pull off a glove and stick my contact back in my eye before dragging everything off the side of the road.

The road rash was starting to sting; I found a decent place to prop the bike up and started pulling out the things I'd need to change a tire and extracted the wheel. Then I went looking for what had blown the tire as I pushed the bead down into the well (stupid tubeless-ready rims!). It wasn't hard to find; a two-inch-long rift down the center of the rubber. Well, shit. That wasn't a tube change, that was a phone call. My triumphant return; my journey out of Purgatory; my bookend to what has possibly been the shittiest chapter of my life to date; it was abruptly over.

Time to back up. I was riding home from Purgatory chasm; dphilli1 goes down there for his volunteer SAR team meetings on a regular basis. I've tagged along before; the last time was in November, trying to hang onto some fitness over the winter before the holidays. That was a nice ride; the only annoyance was the same as many recent rides; nagging pain and sweating off bandaids on a cracked left thumbnail.

All three of you or so who read this regularly know where that went -- it wasn't an infection on that nail, it was the big scary C - cancer, and instead of riding in this irregularly warm winter, I was recovering from multiple surgeries and the emotional rollercoaster of being diagnosed and operated on and then cleared to go back to life as normal, minus the last joint of my left thumb and eight perfectly healthy lymph nodes. So this ride was a symbol. I'd gotten back in the saddle with a gentle cruise on my spin bike first. Then a friendly ride with C.; then hitting the spin bike for sprints and multimodal commuting with the Brompton; then finally a harder ride with David. But I hadn't ridden my road bike on my own yet.

It was a good ride, for 42 miles.

The emotional rollercoaster echoed the terrain; at one point I was tearing up, and not due to the wind. At others, I was grinning like I hadn't in months. I was writing my joyous blog post, filled with ever-more-ambitious plans for the season, in my head with each turn homeward, as the miles flew by. The hills felt pretty good; the downhills better, and for the first time doing this route I didn't miss the turn up Candy Hill Road in Sudbury. I celebrated by standing and powering up it and then flying down it, a little too fast when there was a curve and a stop sign at the bottom. I started braking, my back tire started to squirm, and we're back to the beginning of the post.

It was a good ride, period.

I'm a little battered, a little bruised, but I'm OK. I'm a little slower, having lost a bunch of fitness, and I'll probably be a little overly-cautious on descents for a while, but I'll get it back. I can change a tire with one and a half thumbs, as long as the tire is worth changing. I can ride. I will ride.

And now I should go prop my left arm up because I landed on it funny, not because it's recovering from surgery, and get some sleep. I'll do the season-goals post later. For now, it's enough that I am picking myself up, dusting myself off, and getting back on the bike.

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/9455.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]

beware of the dirt bike

Here comes the dirt bike
Beware of the dirt bike
Because I hear they're coming to our town

When I bought my Seven, there was one thing I said I didn't want and was never planning to do with the bike. And that was get into dirt riding/gravel grinders. I had an old rigid MTB (my Nishiki) with racks and fenders that loved gentle offroading and I was happy to keep any dirt rides in the touring/slow toodles camp. Not for fast riding, or even the closest approximation of "fast" I can manage.

The paint was barely dry on my new darling when I took it on the Middlesex Canal Tour, for which it was overkill, speed/efficiency-wise (this was more a city bikes tooling along at 10mph between informative stops sort of ride), but it was new and I wanted to ride it. And then we turned off the pavement onto trails, and the bike...rode just ducky. On little 23mm tires pumped up to rock-hard. Sure, I wasn't going very fast, which helped, but the handling was fine. Hrm, I said. I'm still not doing gravel grinders, I added.

At my first brevet, up in Burlington Vermont, one of the experienced riders, Frank kept trying to convince me to come back up for the Fall Classic. I still couldn't imagine doing that much dirt on the road bike, and I couldn't quite imagine doing brevet speed and distances on my Nishiki. He did make it sound like fun, though. And he was the first (of many) randonneurs to be very welcoming of my newcomer self -- to just assume I would succeed at anything I tried. I didn't, however, try the Fall Classic that year.

All hail the dirt bike
Philosopher dirt bike
Silence as we gathered round
We saw the word and we're on our way

The next year, though, when it rolled around, I was itching for a little vacation, Burlington was beautiful when I last went, and a weekend trip for good food and a little bike ride (for me) and dirt road run (for dphilli1) sounded ideal. The 114k edition, not the 200k, since I wasn't really sure I could hold brevet speed on dirt and hills.

Once I started riding, though, I didn't much care if I DNFed, although I was trying hard not to. It was just simply wonderful to be out there.


You can get scenery and stay on pavement, but willing to go off it yields some of the most marvelously quiet places to ride. Well, quiet except for the skittering of dirt under tires. I talked to myself about trust a lot on this ride. Trust your tires, I said. Trust your brakes, I said. Trust your legs, I said, and go. I bombed down descents one razor's edge of reflex ahead of the dirt sliding under me; I hauled the bike around trying to scrape myself up hills without spinning out. I walked, some, of course. It's me. And I made time and stopped for photos. (I've linked the album before, but now you have context.)

Soul-crushing dirt bike
Self-propelled dirt bike
You see I never thought I'd understand
Till that bike took me by the hand
Now I ride

Now I find myself pulling up Bing Maps (which, not always accurately, shows dirt roads, unlike Google maps), and poking at routes. I throw a little dirt in here and there when designing routes, although I refrained from adding any to the nightride. (Though a permanent version of that course with dirt might be in the works, or a free-route perm with paved/unpaved alternates.)

After tweaking my knee futzed up my brevet schedule, I went looking for consolation-prize rides, and one popped out. We bought a rack for the car and I dragged David up to New Hampshire to try and ride Raid Rockingham, which is pretty much an ideal beginners gravel-grind -- it's not especially hilly, it's not a far schlep from Boston, and it has an easy short-cut down from ~60mi to ~40 if necessary.

That, alas, did not go quite as planned.

raid rockingham

I almost threw on my big saddlebag with a spare tire, because I wasn't sure how rough the roads were, and because after the 300k tire debacle I was feeling touchy about tires. I didn't, though, because I hadn't had any dirt-related tire shenanigans, ever, and was pretty confident I'd be OK. That turned out to be true. David's tires, though, were another story. They were beefy 'cross-ish/city-ish tires, but they weren't new any more, and a few miles after he'd dropped me on a hill, I came across him looking dismally at his bike. He'd shredded a sidewall, and was dubious about his ability to fix it. I think we could have, if we'd kept at it, but after blowing the first spare tube before we'd found the real problem (and setting his ears ringing) and then having the patched original tire not hold air when we put it in to a makeshift-booted tire, he wasn't ready to try a third time. So I rode on to the aid station, alerted the sag wagon, and then rode back to the start to meet him (after some no-cell-reception shenanigans and miscommunications). Hopefully he'll still be willing to go the next time I drag him on one of these.

Thwarted again, I started thinking about other rides. We'd be going up to the White Mountains, and I wasn't really sure I wanted to do a big epic hillstravaganza -- but given that our hotel was basically at the top of Crawford Notch, my options were: East: drop down and then climb back up the notch, which definitely qualified as big hills, West: go quite a ways on busy 302 and then come back on it, with nice roads in the middle and a variety of hilliness options, or to go North, which meant dirt. And meant one major named climb -- Jefferson Notch, but didn't mean a really LONG hill. The questionable part was the other hilly dirt road -- Old Cherry Mountain, which had no google-maps photos and the only ride reports came from mountain bikers heading all the way up to the summit; I'd just be taking the road and not the spur trail/ex-road to the summit.

I learned two lessons on this ride: one, how low I can push below the recommended tire pressures and not pinch flat. Two: bring bug spray. Riding, you're going fast enough, generally, that bugs aren't an issue. When you're changing a tire by a picturesque but mosquito-filled mountain swamp, this is not true. I was a little worried -- I was only three miles in, Old Cherry Mountain Road was generally nice, but I'd used up one of my two spares and I hadn't been able to find the cause of the puncture -- I was assuming pinchflat based on the fact I'd dropped my pressures from the usual in expectation of much dirt, but I wasn't able to get the tube to hold enough air temporarily to find the hole. I put the new one in, ratcheted it back to recommended ranges with my tiny pump (<3 my Lezyne micro floor drive pump), and it was fine the rest of the way. I was up and over the rest of the outbound leg quickly, and onto the one flat bit. That was actually the least-pleasant part:

valley road

While the scenery was bucolic, the gravel was rough, and the fact that my Seven is not, in fact, a gravel grinder or a 'cross bike was making itself known. It's a great bike, and handles this crap as nicely as an endurance road bike can, but it's not its home turf. And a deerfly facebombed me and stung me on the neck, which hurt way more than it should. So I was really quite happy to turn onto the notch road, which was about as perfect as dirt roads could be, except for the up-half-a-mountain bit. I gave directions to some lost tourists looking for the trailhead parking lot at the top of the notch, and tried not to think about how much more quickly they'd get up there.

But the climb was, as of then, pleasant. It followed a little brook upwards, occasionally acquiring pavement as it bridged the water, and if there's one constant I like in rides, it's water. It slowly got steeper and steeper, stairstepping a bit. I told myself that maybe this was the steepest bit and the notch was just past that bend, and pushed; no, the notch was at least a mile and a half in my future. I tried to stay on the bike, past the point I'd do so on a brevet; I didn't have far to go once up and over, after all. The faster I went, too, the fewer bugs could land; somewhere around 4-5mph the mosquitos start to be able to catch up to me. But eventually I ground to a halt, and started walking the steep bits and hopping back on as soon as it flattened out enough to do so; the road continued to be some of the nicest dirt imaginable, which helped. At last I came around the bend where the steep kicker really starts, and from there it wasn't far to a point where I was looking around for the fancy National Forest notch sign. I even went back and forth a bit in the notch looking for it, but alas, no photo op presented itself. Might have been behind one of the parked cars; the trailhead parking had spilled out onto the road-sides for a quarter-mile in either direction.

I wasn't very disappointed by the lack of sign, though. Well, I thought, I'll just have to go back and climb it again some time. Maybe next year. Some day I'll get all the way to the top without walking.

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/8765.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]


Designing cycling routes is an interesting challenge; with the various online mapping tools, we know a LOT more about roads we've never ridden, and playing armchair quarterback with routes can be fun.

I'm running a ride in about two months, and thus it was time to put my money where my mouth was, in terms of commenting on routes. Now, brevet rules mean that the way you go should be the shortest reasonable-to-bike route. And therein lies the rub. What's reasonable to expect people to ride? How much can you push that if there's a much nicer road nearby?

My first thought: this will be fun! One of the things I like about biking rather than running is that you can really GO PLACES, so most of the routes I've written for myself don't meander much -- they point themselves in a direction and head mostly straight there.

My second thought: wow, there are a lot of roads! Lots of easy ways to shave a tenth of a mile here if you're willing to be super-fussy about directions.

My thoughts now: good grief, this is tough. The bones of the route haven't changed since I first laid them down, but there's these little epicenters of WHAT DO I DO. Mostly near the end -- there are a lot of ways to get from Ipswich to Lexington, all of them a few miles longer or shorter, and they're all mostly nice roads punctuated by deeply annoying intersections. For example, crossing route 1 has a few options -- one that adds a bit of mileage and goes under, without actually crossing the road at all. This would be my preference on a daytime ride, but it adds a bunch of fast turns in a row, including some that are hard to describe on a cue sheet. One is the one on the draft, which crosses the same place the CRW spring century does -- at a light, with good visibility in all directions, and a Dunkin Donuts with a restroom that will be open by the time slower riders are coming through. All the others don't have lights, most are uphill (and thus makes crossing time slower), and/or have poor visibility. The bike path has a push-to-flash light, but it's dirt and I was hoping to avoid that on this particular ride. Too many choices, all of them reasonable. We'll see what RUSA says.

I also determined that while it's tough to shortcut my basic route through a section, if you completely rewrite that section from scratch and take a different choice very early on, it drops it by ~3 miles. ARGH. (Getting around the Mishawum area, where freeways and train tracks mean that you either go north or south of a wide area. North was my preference; south is shorter. It's not quite a straight-up shortcut, because you really have to know the area and plan ahead, but it's possible.) North has the pretty photo op in my icon and a few of my favorite roads; south is perhaps actually nicer in total.

On top of all this, since it's a night ride, I want to minimize turns and especially minimize confusing turns; T intersections are great, because you know you're at the right place when the road you're on dead-ends at the right mileage. Etc.

I'm sure I'll have more deep thoughts once I've gotten the route approved, and once people have ridden it, eek.

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/8615.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]

double-header weekend

So the last time I posted, I was cranky after DNFing the 300k. I dithered for a few days over trying to head out to Westfield to ride their Bash Bish 300k, and the bike was in the shop with ETA unknown, trying to troubleshoot the ongoing chainsuck issues.

And then I landed wrong playing DDR and twisted my bad knee. Welp, decision made. I don't play DDR much right before events I care about; while it's fun and a really good workout it's a lot more injury-risking than most things. And my knees were probably a bit on the overstressed side anyway from ramping mileage up too much. It also wasn't healing quickly enough for me to get enough miles in before the 400k. So, alas, this is not going to be my year for my first full series.

Having decided that, though, opened up more opportunities for fun rides -- am thinking of doing Raid Rockingham, the same weekend as the NJ 600k, which looks like fun and I might be able to convince dphilli1 to come along. And to focus my energies on maybe getting a little faster, rather than purely on building endurance.

The bike arrived home last weekend, with a happier drivetrain and new fenders. The latter were not actually exactly planned; I asked about what my various fender options were, especially if there were any that would make 28mm tires less of a tight fit, and somehow that translated into the shop going ahead and installing a set, which were not quite right and I had to turn around halfway home and have them tweaked. Once tweaked, though, they're nicely larger than my old ones.

So without goals, just for fun, I did two shorter rides this weekend.

A hill montage and hanging onto a fast group...Collapse )

[This entry was originally posted at http://bikingandbaking.dreamwidth.org/8402.html. Please comment wherever is most convenient, but please use the DreamWidth version if sharing/linking.]