Sunday, October 24, 2010

Regular Riding

I aimed to ride to work every day last week. It was cold but otherwise beautiful. Very little rain. And I felt inspired again. On Monday, though, Josh suggested that we join some of his coworkers Wednesday night in volunteering at the food bank. The food bank is on Taylor street in NE DC so the logistics of me riding to work, riding to the food bank, and then somehow getting my bike home were pretty inconceivable. So I opted for the metro and met Josh, who drove in that day, at Touchstone before heading over. It was, of course, worth not riding for this. We hope to make it a monthly thing. But I am also determined to commute by bike for an entire week straight. Despite all my riding this summer, I have yet to ride a full week. This week it can't happen either because I am busy Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. As it gets colder, it may become harder and harder to accomplish but I will certainly try. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Countours of a Country

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

-Earnest Hemingway

This is why I have had to dispel the common misconception on many occasions that Iowa is flat. Of course, most people that said this to me had never been to Iowa but assumed that, being near Indiana and Illinois, it was as flat as the rest of the middle west. I am so glad I learned the hard way, and fun way, that Iowa is, in fact, a state of rolling hills.

This is also why I want to Ride The Rockies with Joyce next summer. We all know that the state of Colorado is either as flat as Kansas or as steep and mountainous as they come. Well, "Ride The Rockies" implies that you'll be in the mountainous part which I've driven through and skied many times. But I want to learn the contours of the land better, to sweat and coast through the mountain ranges. And I just want to spend a week with Joyce. If we could survive Potters Hill, and the rest of "Little Switzerland", we can call ourselves mildly prepared for some rocky mountain range bike riding.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Creaky Joints and Laziness

When I think of myself getting older, I only think about how I age mentally and emotionally, how my actions and my opinions mature. But I never think about the physical effects of aging. I guess I still imagine myself to be that seventeen year old soccer star who could run and sprint and tackle for ninety minutes straight, who endured two practices a day during pre-season in august, who was just young and fit and never injured or in much pain. Now I'm not seventeen. I'm only 23 so I know I don't have much to complain about. I still sit cross-legged for hours at a time and run 8k without training for it. But I feel different. I feel a little more creaky. I feel more stress in my joints and I feel scared that it's all downhill from here.

Over the summer, when training for Ragbrai, my left knee started to hurt me some. This was, in part, due to my seat height that I just couldn't seem to get right. It didn't hurt too much while I was riding but I'd feel the effects afterward. I would sit with my knee bent for a long time and when I'd straighten it to stand up, there were little pains and I couldn't put much weight on my leg at first. When I'd complain about it, Josh would say "See, now you know how it feels." Because he is an old fart, always having problems with his knees and shins. He's in a vicious cycle because he thinks if he loses weight, his joints will hurt a lot less. But he's got to do some more hardcore exercising for the weight to come off. And it hurts so he runs less far and takes more breaks during sports. So the cycle turns. Anyway, I always make fun of him for complaining. Because he's twenty five and he needs to get over himself. But now here I was, 23 and in the same boat. I worried this would be an issue on Ragbrai but I must have adjusted my seat properly because it ended up not bothering me.

So all was good until last Tuesday when I went for a run with Nikki and Hadley along the hilly sidewalks of DC. These girls are serious runners, each training for a half marathon in March, so I was in over my head. The only reason I jumped ship was because I was scheduled to run an 8k on Sunday with Ingrid that I hadn't trained for in the slightest. When I asked Nikki how far the route she'd mapped was, she said "um, it's like four something". This should have been my first clue that she was lying because google maps gives you the exact distance of any route. But I liked my veil of ignorance and, not having run since Labor Day weekend, four miles was more than enough for me. During the last mile, they revealed to me that we were really running 5.3 miles. And it wasn't bad at all except for all the dumb pain my body was in. I could have kept breathing for miles but my entire left leg was throbbing in pain. It started in my knee, probably around mile three, and by the end my ankle was feeling the effects of pounding on concrete as well. But we finished and it was comforting to know I could run five miles and that, if everything stopped hurting by Sunday, I could successfully complete the 8k.

Everything stopped hurting within a day or two and I ran fine on Sunday. Not fast because I was in less, but similar, pain. It took me 49.05 minutes to be the 229th person to cross the finish line. Six years ago this would have been atrocious but, today, I am satisfied. Back in the day my stamina was simply a matter of how much breath I had... I could run and push until I was on the verge of vomiting. And being on the verge of vomiting was my only cue to stop. So it is really frustrating to exercise now and know that I could keep going if it wasn't for the stomach cramps or the achy legs.

I still have yet to determine whether the pain will subside if I continue to run and my body gets used to it. Or if I'm truly too old to do what I used to and the pounding will hurt no matter how frequently I run. Either way, I need to keep this body young and in good health as long as I can. That is why I agreed to run with my superstar running friends again tomorrow after work. That is why I biked to work today. And that is why I want to bike tomorrow and the next day and every day that it doesn't rain. I will not fear the cold or let laziness prevail.

I try to love running and I do enjoy it when I'm in good company and/or fortunate enough to do it in a pretty setting. But, to be honest, I wouldn't run if not for exercise. My senior year of college I started running a lot again and I lost at least 10 lbs. I also felt really fit and the endorphins were great. And that is why I run. I like to have a hobby that science claims will make me happier but I'm just as vein as the next girl and the skinniness is a real added bonus. But I also like to have a hobby that I love and I have that in biking. I would still bike if it was bad for me. I really love it. Especially when it is on an open country road or through a path in the woods. It is hard to LOVE love it when there are a million cars around and I'm stressed about getting to work on time. But it's not like I LOVE love walking to the metro and crowding in with a bunch of sweaty commuters either. So what is my problem? Why have I been so lazy? I don't know and I'm going to put an end to it. Next time you see me I'm going to be fit and my body will be as young as ever. Unless, of course, you see me every day or you are running with me tomorrow and then you'll probably see me walking around with an ace bandage on my knee.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shaw Love

Remember that emotional blog I wrote in July about my Uncle who broke his foot, his wife who couldn't drive to Iowa and ride Ragbrai without him, their two daughters who I used to be close with and hadn't seen in 2-3 years, and their entire family that I missed dearly? Well, believe it or not, this writing made a difference in my own little world. My Vermonsters decided to plan a visit to DC and end the long absence that has defined our relationships the past few years. I like to think that reading my blog played a role in inspiring them to plan this trip, which happened last weekend and was positive in all ways but one. The beautiful, 80 degree October weather made for a great weekend but it confirmed Katy's determination that DC shouldn't be on her list of places she may want to move after graduation. She says that she has to live somewhere that she can comfortably be outside during the summer. I'm like, "and you think you can comfortably be outside for more than a few seconds in the winter in Boston or Chicago?!" But she's from Vermont so I think she has special blood. These Vermonsters at heart may not want to live in DC but they sure can make the most of any visit.

On Saturday, both fams (minus Nathan) rode our bikes to Georgetown where we had coffee and snacks and chilled in the sun. We then rode to Stead Field on P Street where Katy and I played in a soccer game while our families watched. A pack of seven is hard to keep track of on the Crescent Trail on a Saturday morning, and even harder to keep track of on the streets of DC. But we did it. We had lunch at a place on 17th street that was unmemorable so I don't know it's name. The parents rode their bikes home while the girls opted for the metro. Katy and I were beat up from futbol and Em had a hurt knee from a frisbee tournament so she didn't want to push it. We left our feng shui mark at the Dupont Circle north entrance and then attempted to bring three bikes on the metro. We were successful in that we got them all on, but we cheated by entering different doors. That night, Nathan came home, as did my Nana, and we all ate chinese food and watched a very upsetting gator game.

Saturday was Charlie and Lucy's second ride together, I on Charlie and Katy on Lucy. Lucy got an additional workout on Sunday when Katy rode her downtown a second time to participate in a Climate Change rally by the white house. She went with Sandy, Tony and Joann. Sandy took them off the beaten path, guiding them home uphill on the Rock Creek Park trail. It was Lucy's first time on this trail so it is worth noting. She and Katy were worn out by the end and disturbed at the signs indicating that sewage runoff may overflow into the creek and, eventually, pollute the ocean. So to save the environment: stop climate change and restructure our city's sewage runoff systems. Emily and Nathan and I stayed home to decorate a cake for my Nana's 87th birthday dinner that night.

Monday meant Great Falls hike/walk, Newseum visit, Josh's return from Gainesville, competitive scrabble, creating a new word for Miriam Webster, and a Sandor-cooked dinner complete with funny conversation that never would have been age-appropriate the last time we were all together four years earlier. The weekend flew by, as good times always do. Tuesday morning Katy went back to Bowdoin, Emily to Colgate, and Tony and Joann and Mia (the pup) to Burlington. I have little reminders of them in my home and my car, though, every day finding an unfamiliar bracelet, contact sollution, laptop case, sunglasses, or earings, that I'm sure they've left for me as little mementos of their visit.

It's interesting, we are older now and life is different. I'm not going to lie, it was weird to hear Katy discuss graduating college and interviewing for jobs. And it was even weirder to see Emily drink a beer. I don't really notice myself growing up because it's happening every second. And I see Nathan often enough that his aging goes unnoticed for the most part. But the difference between Emily as a freshman in high school and as a freshman in college was noticeable and it really made me think. Think about how cool it is how much we've been through together, how much trouble we all got in, how many ridiculous things we did to entertain ourselves through the years. How our relationships are different now that we aren't really kids anymore and how, as adults, we'll entertain ourselves in different ways than we used to. But how I want us to have new experiences together, how I want to keep doing ridiculous things, and how I don't want so much time to have gone by next time I see these girls and their parents who have always meant so much to me. This weekend, my mom was telling us how she wasn't close to her cousins growing up because her parents didn't care much to visit with her aunt and uncle. She said, "If the adults don't get along then the kids won't really have the opportunity to get to know each other." Well, I hope that we all get along as adults and that our kids have the opportunity to get to know each other. I hope they'll make speed bumps out of potting soil, i hope they'll waste all my milk trying to make their own eggnog, I hope they'll burn a hole in someone's carpet while designing a fashion show, and I hope they'll waste lots and lots of chewing on lettuce. Because that's what we did and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


On a completely unrelated note, Josh and Carrie met exactly four years ago today. They were at a party in the Courtyards, where they were both basically living at the time. Carrie had just been told by a guy she was dating that he wasn't really interested in her. So she was wandering the apartment complex looking for her friend Joyce and, as fate would have it, she ran into Josh and had a few brief minutes of tipsy flirting. They said their goodbyes and wouldn't meet again until a few hours later when she ran into him as he left the apartment complex carrying a pizza box.

If you've ever met Josh and never heard about this pizza box, then you might be missing out. I won't spoil all the fun but I'll paraphrase by saying that he was brutally beat up for this pizza by four huge frat guys in a neon who were nothing but stupid kids looking for a fight. Josh and Carrie didn't meet for another two weeks when their love would blossom and it wasn't until months later that they put the puzzle pieces together and realized that the pizza box night was the night of their first encounter.

Well, four years later, they are still happy and they spent the night eating delicious pizza and drinking half-off wine at Rosemary's Thyme in Dupont. They talked about practical things like their jobs and their "five year plans". They talked about silly things like winning the lottery and boys with chest hair. And they talked about nostalgic things like how much has changed in four years and how four years is SO FREAKING LONG but how fast it has flown by.

On the way home, Carrie would normally have made Josh be a gentleman and carry the leftover pizza. But, given the historic events of Oct. 6ths past, she carried it herself. There were no frat boys or bloody noses to ruin this night. There was pizza, there was flirting, and there was love. And whoa this is life.

Super Human

After several weeks of not riding more than a mile or two at a time, I finally rode to work and back on Friday. It was a ride, normal and refreshing. The ride home was really a ride. A friend from high school asked me early in the week if I wanted to go to the B-CC homecoming game on Friday night. This was our high school's homecoming game. On Monday, this sounded like a fun idea. I talked to Josh about it and he thought we were going. On Friday, I was skeptical and decided that happy hour in Bethesda was far favorable to a night reliving my self-concsious days of partying behind my parents back and living up to everyone else's expectations when all I knew about football was that there was a quarterback and yellow field goals. This game ended up not being full of the weirdness I thought it was and I was really glad I went. Just watching live football is really nice sometimes. Especially in the cold... that's not something I had much of the past four years. The point is that I stayed at work until 5:30, when Josh called me and told me that he thought we were going to the game and that it started in an hour. He had left a work golf outing (yes, we're serious adults now) to get home in time for it so I wasn't getting out of it. I had to rush home and I did. It was fall so I sweat but not too much. As I rode by a woman walking her dog, another dog cam running up to them to play. She yelled frantically, saying something about being scared of dogs. I shook it off because who is scared of dogs, walking their own dog down the street. But as I rode off she continued screaming to the house the dog came from for the owners to "CALL YOUR DOG". I feel bad I never stopped to help. I felt bad for the next ten minutes. But, really, why are you walking a dog if you're afraid of them?! And how can you expect people to stop for you and believe that you are afraid? It was sad but the dog that approached them was harmless and I'm sure she was fine. And, what can I say, I was in a hurry.

Not as much of a hurry as I was in the next morning though, as I rode to Adam's Morgan from my Bethesda apartment. I had quite the busy day ahead of me. Crafty Bastards, an annual art fair on 18th street started at 10 am. My soccer game started at 11:30 and I was supposed to arrive for warm-up at 11 am. And Josh and I were leaving immediately after the game to drive out to Castleton, VA to spend the weekend with our friends Julie and Kevin. I was determined to attend Crafty Bastards for the first time so I had an hour to do it. Ingrid and I made plans to meet at 9:45 to make the most of it. Of course, I was unprepared for the weekend and packed the morning of. I didn't leave by 9am, as planned, and, instead, called Ingrid at 9:25 to say I was on my way. I told her I'd be there at 10 which was a stretch/lie because it takes me 35 minutes to ride to work (at Van Ness) every morning. I was riding to 18th Street and Kalorama, 2.4 miles past Van Ness which, at 15 miles per hour, would add 10 minutes to my ride. So, leaving at 9:25, I would get there at 10:10. Why is all this obnoxious, on-the-dot math necessary? Because I am here to brag about how I did this ride in UNDER 30 minutes on that sunny Saturday morning. It was like those instances you read about when moms get superhuman strength and lift cars or concrete to save their dying babies. Well the clock was my concrete and Crafty Bastards was my dying baby. I put my heart and soul into that ride, I rode the majority of it on Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues among speedy cars, and I rode an average of 18 or 20 miles per hour. And I got there in 30 minutes and my baby came alive because instead of getting there at 10:10 and leaving at 11, I got there at 9:50 and left at 11:10. That extra thirty minutes made a world of difference. Not really, but it let me see how I can push myself. And I rode on the streets and wasn't afraid. It was Saturday morning so the road was nothing like it is at 8:30 am on weekday mornings, at which time I'll continue to use the sidewalk, but, in a crunch, I know I can run with the cars.

Ingrid and I left the arts late and barely made it to our game on time. We lost, as usual, and it sucked. Because we know we're good and we kill ourselves to play well and play like a team. But we have guys with egos and we don't pass enough and our offense can't score. So we lose and that's our story. But it's ok because Josh and I left for the county where we went apple picking, cooked grass-fed lamb from Mount Vernon farm, drank lots and lots of pumpkin beer and watched some disappointing football. Kevin, who just bought a new bike off craigslist, a 10 speed Peugot, requested that I bring my bike and that we go for a ride. We ended up riding around the farm on Sunday morning, on hilly and grassy gravel roads/fields. This wasn't exactly a bike ride but it was a party for Lucy and her new friend (Kevin, does your bike have a name?). Man, what gorgeous scenery and weather and people. I'd like to go back there, get off the farm, and ride those country roads like they've never been ridden before.

Here are some pictures of the weekend.