Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekend Recap Part I: Surprise Party!

Something happened this weekend that was just incredible. I walked into Nikki and Eric's apartment on Sunday evening expecting a casual dinner with them. But they guided me into their living room to find my parents and many of my friends hiding in the corner. They may have yelled "surprise" but in my blurred memory of the moment, they were all just standing there smiling at me. I was incredibly confused and looked to Nikki for an explanation. She (and Eric) had thrown me this awesome surprise going away and good luck party for my bike trip!

Here is a video of the surprise. My favorite part is when I say "oh my god" over N&E's new china cabinet and Nikki says "Ohhh my GOD" thinking I've already seen everyone in the living room! Also, I am an incredibly awkward surprisee. I just stood there in silence for 5 seconds waiting for an explanation!

This video makes me so happy. I have watched it about 500 times.

They did the party potluck style and had everyone bring a dish from a different state that I'd be riding through. So the menu was full of the following:

Washington: Clams by Eric
Idaho: Homemade potato chips by Joshua
Montana: Buffalo Sausage by Chris
Wyoming: Cowboy Pasta by Sarah and Breck
South Dakota: Milk by Trader Joe's
Iowa: Corn and tomato salad by the Shaws
Illinois: Popcorn made in Chicago by Kate
Indiana: Hoosier pie by Hadley and Danny
Ohio: Cheese by Nikki and Eric
Pennsylvania: Philly cheesesteak dip by Jenny and Brendon
Maryland: Crab dip by Dana
D.C.: Funfetti cake by Nikki

The food was all so amazing and, to top it off, Nikki made a funfetti cake (which is our classic cake) from scratch! I know that making cakes with flour and sugar is extremely challenging so I am really impressed by how delicious this one was!

Just when I thought that I have the best friends ever and couldnt ask for more, Nikki sat me down with a big blue gift bag and told me that everyone at the party, and some who couldn't attend, had chipped in to get me a going away present that would come in handy during 3,600 miles of biking. A new, very comfy, bike seat that matches my bike perfectly! So, in spite of all the sweat and grease, it looks like this summer will be stylish after all. And my mom gave me her hand-me-down Keane bike sandals which are the best and most comfortable ones on the market.

A little later, Nikki pulled me into her bedroom and gave me a beautiful, but durable enough to wear all summer, cuff bracelet with the coordinates of Anacortes Park (our starting point) on the outside and of Washington, DC (our end point) on the inside. She also gave me a heartfelt letter of love and encouragement with inspiring quotes about biking inside. I love the uniqueness and symbolism of this bracelet and I plan to wear it every day of the summer!

I am completely in awe of all the kindness and thought that went into this party. It never occurred to me that my trip would warrant an official goodbye gathering and that made it the very best kind of surprise. This weekend, with the party and a long bike ride in the heat, made the bike trip feel closer and more real than ever. I am becoming more aware of what a huge deal this is and I owe that, in large part, to the recognition from great friends like Nikki and all those who came or contributed on Sunday.

It also started to sink in how hard it will be to leave these people for so long. My excitement for the trip has hogged all of my attention and, as my departure gets so close, I am becoming more aware of how much I'll miss people. 


I am still in disbelief that the whole night was real and I can't say thank you enough. I feel so lucky for having the best and most supportive friends.

Cheers to adventure and friendship and love and support!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bike America: FOOD

I am leaving for Bike America exactly three weeks from today and that terrifies and thrills me all at the same time. There seem like a million hurdles to jump at work to get me to June 13 but I know that it will come before I know it. This post is designed to be all about the food that I'll eat on my two month journey but, to be honest, I don't feel qualified to tell you much more than "I WILL EAT A LOT".

Here's what I do know:

  • We are budgeting to spend the same amount of money on food that we spend in our ever day lives.
  • We will buy most of our food in grocery stores, every 2-3 days, and haul it around in a cooler.
  • We will cook most of our meals at camp sites so I'm expecting many of them to be hearty and not so gourmet.
  • We will clean up well and put all leftovers away so that we aren't attacked by bears (my #1 fear). Also because we believe in LNT.
Here are some typical meals I'm envisioning:
  • Breakfast: granola, yogurt, cheese and bread, fruit, peanut butter on everything.
  • Lunch: Peanut butter and banana sandwiches, leftovers from dinner the night before, fruit, granola bars, gu, veggies, turkey sandwiches, gorp (aka. trail mix).
  • Dinner: hot dogs, veggie burgers, canned beans, grilled corn, grilled veggies chili, hamburger and veggie hash, camper's pizza, grilled cheese.
  • Dessert: S'mores (obvi), dough boys

And here are some resources for finding creative camping meals:
Our access to a car will allow us to go to a grocery store every few days and re-stock our food. We have a plug-in beverage heater that will use the car battery to make coffee and hot water every morning. Other than that, though, it's all about the campfire. 

This post has inspired me to compile a little camping cookbook so that we have easy access to some of the best and easiest recipes in this collection. That should also help keep variety and health as priorities. I will try and share progress as I put the cookbook together but the best thing may be for me to re-tell my campfire cooking stories after the trip is over and I have some valuable experience to share.

And if you have any valuable campsite cooking experience to share, I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Scenes From My Morning Bike Ride

Having worked late for a meeting last night, I took a few hours of comp time this morning and went on a quick bike ride around DC. I set my alarm for 7:30, hoping to sqeeze in 1.5-2 hours of riding and picture taking. I had lent my camera to my Dad over the weekend and was excited to have it back and play around with it.

Somehow, I slept through my alarm and woke up at 8:13. With 2 hours and 47 minutes to kill before I was expected at work, I rushed out the door and squeezed in about an hour and fifteen minutes on my bike. I stopped a few times along the way so I ended up riding 13.26 miles at an average speed of about 14.7 mph. The sky was gray but the temperature was perfect and it was a great way to start my day. Enjoy some of my morning views around the city, and in Virginia.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weekend Recap: Competition and Sweating

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography

This weekend was a beautiful one and I had plenty of time to do lots of sweating which felt really great after my three days off last week. Most of this sweating involved competition.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography

It started with my soccer game on Saturday afternoon. It was the first round of playoffs and we, the #3 ranked team, were playing the #1 ranked team. The winner would go on to play in the league final immediately after the game. We dominated, as we often do, but we had very much trouble scoring, as we always do. We missed a million chances, hitting the post too many times, and lost 1-0 on a silly goal. So we missed the opportunity to play for the championship and sweat hard for an extra hour. But there's always next year... hopefully.

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography

Photo by Josh Bassett Photography

Saturday night, I kept competing, when my friends pulled out catch phrase at a party. If you have never played catch phrase, you must do so asap. It is one of the easiest, most transportable, fun and competitive [board] games. It is perfect for an all-night game night or for a party pre-game. My team won 2 of 3 games. Yes, that is important information for me to share in a post about competition. I'm competitive, can you tell?

Sunday morning I rolled out of bed and went to frisbee. With only 6 other players on the field, I knew I was in for a good workout. We played three games and my team lost two, both in overtime. By the end, I was caked in a delicious combination of sweat, sunscreen and dirt. But my legs were craving a better burn and my face was craving a self-made breeze. So I changed my shorts, in the middle of a crowded rock creek park field, sent Josh home with my cleats, and hopped on Charlie (my bike) for 20.74 blissful miles up and down hill. I rode up Beach drive and continued on an unfamiliar route up a long and hard hill that landed me next the the Mormon Temple.

 Then I turned around, sped back down the hill, and headed home. According to my pretty new bike computer, I averaged 15.4 MPH. I'm pleased with that considering I spent some time on trails slowly navigating among people and rode up a good number of short and long hills. Though I do love to compete, this bike ride, during which I had no one to race but myself, turned out to be my best sweat session of the weekend. If the going ever gets tough on my 3,000 mile ride (which I guarantee you, it will), I will think about those 20 solo miles during which I did little else besides pedal and daydream about the adventure ahead. It was beautiful and I came home with 23,209 grease tattoos to show for it.

 How was your weekend? Full of blissful sunshine and sweating, I hope!

Friday, May 18, 2012


I'm reading this book called Born to Run, have you heard of it? It is pretty popular among runners and for very good reason. I've been wanting to read it forever but just finally got around to it and it is truly changing my life. Granted, every good book I read is my favorite book at the time and usually consumes a good part of my life. But every page of this book has an unusual way of inspiring and baffling me at the same time. I think it is one that not only runners, but all human beings should read. It is absolutely incredible what our bodies are capable of. I will hold off on reviewing the book before I even finish it but I will tell you now that I am convinced I was born to run.

Yesterday, I was feeling frustrated because I had had various things get in the way of working out for the three days prior. I had un-finalized plans with Ingrid to go on a bike ride and/or get dinner. When she said that her impending move would prevent her from spending a few hours on a bike, I agreed to just get dinner but refused to give up the opportunity for a good sweat. I decided to finish a run at her apartment, from which we'd walk to Dupont for food.

I set out a little before six and I had in mind that I should run to the Capitol. It is over four miles from my apartment and I hadn't run more than five and a half since my half marathon two months ago. As I train for my big bike ride, running has been more of a filler workout when I don't have a full hour or more to devote to spinning or biking. Unless, of course, I have the pleasure of running with Nikki, in which case it is a social activity. But yesterday, I felt like setting out and just running forever. I looked it up and a run from my apartment to the capitol and back to Ingrid's apartment would be about seven miles. At the beginning, I tried really hard to get over my slight feeling like I had an obligation to run those seven miles because I was guilty of not having exercised in three days.

But then I settled into a groove and I just ran. I kept thinking of all the wild (real-life) characters in my book who run 100 miles on the regular. Of the fact I'm learning that maybe there's a way to prevent running from killing my knees and ankles and feet and so on. That maybe I finish a run because I tell myself I'm tired and I think that I should be done when my body is really capable of going so much further. Of the stories of runners who wait for the so-called "beast", the wall of the agony of a run or race, to come just so they can overcome the pain and the obstacle.

I don't want to turn this into major cheesefest. I'm still the same person with the same body and I'm not going to set out to run 20 miles tomorrow with this new idea that I'm invincible. But I am in awe of the tales in this book and they have made me want to push harder and run farther. So I ran 8.7 miles last night.

This picture is confusing but I'll explain: I ran .4 miles before my garmin picked up satellite and then I ran 4.02 miles from there to the capitol. My garmin died when I got to the capitol and I conveniently had my phone on me so I turned on NikePlusGPS app thingy. I ran 2.56 miles from the capitol to Ingrid's apartment. We walked to and ate Sweet Green in Dupont Circle and then talked until it got dark. Then it was time to go and, being suited up in my tempo shorts and asics, it seemed only natural that I run the 1.7 miles home. So it was nearly nine miles on the books for a Thursday night. I know that nine miles may seem like nothing to the marathon and ultra runners out there. But, to me, it's more about the way I ran those miles. It was somehow so much easier and less significant than a run of that distance has ever seemed in training for a race. And it is twice as far as almost every run I've done in the past two months. And I didn't care about my pace, I never felt like I needed to be done, and I had fun. My legs are sore today, proving that biking and running do use very different muscles, and my foot hurts a little, but I still feel great.

It's a long story and you may be shaking your head at my infatuation with this book and my random long run. But I don't care, here is all that I'm really trying to say:

  1. The human body is ridiculous and unbelievable and I love mine so much. Love yours too. Get out there and see what it can do. It will probably surprise you.
  2. Read born to run.
  3. Go to Sweet Green and get the May salad. It is the best seasonal salad I've ever had there (mesclun, green beans, grilled onions, goat cheese, candied pecans, lemon sqeeze, pesto dressing). Trust me.

Have you read born to run? Did it change your life or am I crazy? When was the last time your body did something that surprised you?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bike America: Training

Five or six months ago, Josh and I were talking about my trip and I said something to the effect of "I don't need to train, I could start riding my bike across America tomorrow and be fine." I know this makes me sound full of it but I still believe it's true. Riding a bike is hard work but it's not so hard that a young, in-shape person can't do it (for miles and miles on end) if they try. That being said, I knew that training for this ride was very important for two reasons:

1. For the sake of my butt, neck, and hands.
2. During the first week or two, an un-trained body would survive but would likely be pretty miserable.

The problem was that I didn't know exactly how to train aside from staying fit and riding my bike a little more frequently. So that's what I have done. It's not like training for a running race where you build up mileage, you time your splits, and you focus on speed. The most important things to build and maintain in training are strong-as-shit legs, a hard butt and hands (for sitting on a bike seat and leaning on handlebars), and a familiarity with breathing hard.

I didn't create a training plan. I have simply been motivated by the excitement of the trip and a desire to be in tip-top shape when it begins. To put it simply, my training has been a non-scientific, un-planned combination of spinning, running, biking, frisbee, gym classes and soccer. There has been a lot of variety, which there won't be over the summer, but it's kept me from burning out and it has motivated me to be excited about exercise every single day.

Last week, I shared this image to give you a sense of what my weekly workouts have looked like. If you love to sweat in a million different ways, you are beginning a cross-country bike trip, and you want my advice on how to train, here is what my typical week has looked like in preparation for my ride:

But remember, I have no credibility yet in saying that this works. Only time will tell.

Honestly, I'm not one for following a super strict schedule. I'm sure any professional athlete would tell you otherwise but, in my opinion, the best way to train is to be excited about what you're training for and, naturally, it will motivate you. If you couldn't already tell, I am beyond excited about the journey that begins June 14. And that has made me strong in my training without my always knowing it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Weekend Recap: Mom Time

Photo by Josh

After a relaxing Saturday of soccer, a picnic in the park, and a night on the couch, I was perfectly ready to wake up early on Sunday morning and dedicate 100% of my day to my wonderful mother. I got on my bike at 9AM and rode 7 fast miles down beach drive to meet them in MD and continue riding to church together.

We rode home and then to lunch with my brother.

portabella, butternut squash and goat cheese on a sandwich? yes please!

We rode to the bike shop where we picked up extra spokes of various sizes, several unusual tools and chain lube, and a new bike computer for me. We rode home and spent a few hours replacing tape, tuning up our bikes, and setting up my computer.

It was a nice preview of what I expect the summer to be like. Riding, maintenance, sunshine, food, and quality family time. While many mothers might have liked to spend a day in their honor relaxing, Betsy Shaw prefers to be busy and active. It was a perfect mothers day for my perfect mother!

I hope it's not too late to do some weekend reminiscing! Tell me, how was your weekend?