Monday, July 27, 2015

On the Horizon - Bikepacking!

Both kids will be at camps next week so Owen and I have a whole week to ourselves. Instead of going on a relaxing vacation, however, we are going to load up our bikes and go on a bikepacking trip!

We don't have a tent, sleeping bags or equipment to make food along the way so we are going to stay at hotels along our route. This sort of bike touring is commonly called "credit card travel" - as in you use your credit card to pay for accommodation and food along the way. That said, we will be packing clothes and other things so will get a taste for what it's like to carry things on our bikes.

Our plan is to drop Ryan off at camp on Sunday in Shell Lake, Wisconsin. We'll leave our van at his camp and bike northwest to Siren where we'll pick up the Gandy Dancer bike trail that goes north along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. We'll bike that to Superior then take another bike trail from Superior back down to Shell Lake. I figure we'll bike about 200 miles in four to five days (Sunday will be a short day as we won't leave until mid-afternoon. Thursday will be a shorter day as we need to be back in Shell Lake well before evening). I've never been on a multi-day ride so it will be interesting to see how my body holds up!

As for equipment...

Bikes: Owen will be riding his 2013 Salsa Mukluk 2 and I'll be riding my 2013 Salsa Vaya 2. Both bikes have two bottle cages so we'll have two bike bottles each. We'll also have a bike pump on each bike. I have a bike computer on my Vaya. Both bikes will have headlights mounted on the handlebars and we both have clip on tail lights.

Bike Bags in which to carry our stuff: 

  • We purchased Revelate seat bags from Milltown Cycles for both of our bikes to put our clothes in. Owen got a bigger bag than mine because he has more room for it on his Mukluk than I do on my extra small Vaya. The seat bags expand out to carry a ton of stuff! Owen's bag is the Viscacha and mine is the Pika.  
  • We'll both have handlebar bags (not sure of the brands on these - we've had them for ages) for our toiletries and first aid stuff.
  • Owen will carry spare tubes, patch kit and bike gear in a Banjo Brothers frame pack
  • I have a Bontrager "Pro Speed Box" bag that sits on my top tube near my handlebars. My iPhone and some snacks will go in this bag
  • Owen will probably have a Revelate "feed bag" on his Mukluk in which to carry his iPhone and snacks

We brought the bikes inside in the air conditioning so we could try on our new bike bags and check our equipment. Here's Owen's Mukluk (the fat tire bike in the back) and my Vaya

What will we bring?

We've learned to pack light from all of our trips in our little Pacer and, before that, our Christen Eagle (the Eagle had almost no baggage space - I had to fly with a duffle bag between my feet). That said, we'll be packing even lighter for the bike trip.

This is my tentative plan for clothing.

I'll wear:

  • bike shorts (Terry Bella shorts)
  • jersey
  • sports bra
  • Smart Wool socks
  • bike shoes
  • bike gloves - fingerless
  • sunglasses
  • bike helmet

I'll pack:

  • one pair pants that zip off into shorts (Kuhl brand)
  • two short sleeve shirts
  • one lightweight jacket
  • extra pair Smart Wool socks
  • underwear (4 or 5 pair)
  • bra (one that packs flat)
  • sandals
  • extra jersey
  • pajamas (lightweight knee length t-shirt thing - might leave behind depending on space)
We're considering:
  • I'm giving some thought to bringing a swim suit since we'll be surrounded by lakes and I'm sure it would feel good to swim at the end of a long day of biking. But I think the suit will not make it.
  • I'm also giving some thought to bringing a spare pair of bike shorts. That said another option is I'm thinking about bringing some really thin panty liners to stick on my chamois to keep my shorts a bit more hygienic. Not sure on that yet.
  • Owen is wondering if we should bring ponchos for rain. We have some that pack up really small
As for other stuff we'll pack - I don't plan to bring much for personal items. Since we're staying in hotels/motels I can (hopefully) plan on finding soap and shampoo in the room so don't need to pack things like that. I should be able to fit most of my stuff in a quart sized zip-lock baggie.

My Vaya equipped with bags
Here's a tentative list of personal items I'll carry in my handlebar bag:
  • travel toothbrush
  • small tube of toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • small thing of liquid Castile soap
  • spray on hair conditioner (so I can actually comb through my hair after I shower)
  • comb
  • contact lenses (I'm bringing daily disposables)
  • my glasses
  • vitamins/melatonin/ibuprofin
  • maybe some BB cream
  • lip gloss (Burts Bees)
  • Icy Hot
  • maybe a small container of lotion
  • pen & small notebook
  • elastic ankle support (for my left foot - for my plantar fasciitis)
  • racquet ball (also for my left foot - rolling the ball under my arch works out the muscles on the bottom of my foot)

Stuff Owen and I will share that will go in my handlebar bag:

  • sunscreen
  • small thing of aloe vera (for potential sunburn)
  • bug spray (likely some Off wipes I found - easier to pack)
  • hand/body wipes (great for quick clean ups along the trail)
  • Benadryl cream (for bug bites)
  • hand sanitizer (I have a small spray container)
  • a travel towel - most likely bringing. I think it could come in handy
As for other stuff
  • We'll carry some food (meat sticks, Clif bars, nuts) and will purchase these things along the way as they are pretty easy to find in convenience stores
  • I'll bring a container of Nuun electrolyte tablets (tri-berry flavor
  • I like to have Clif Shot bloks on hand (Mountain Berry flavor)
  • several pant leg straps that double as straps to fasten stuff onto our bikes, if need be
  • lightweight bike lock
Well, that's the tentative lineup of equipment, clothing and personal items. We'll pack up our bikes with everything and go on a ride to test everything before we head out on our trip. 

To those of you who bikepack, does it look like we are missing any essential items? Let me know! We still have time to make adjustments before we head out on our trip!

Friday, July 24, 2015

X-Ray Follow up

This post was also published on my Writing Space blog as X-Ray Follow up.
I figured I should write a quick post to follow up on my X is for X-Ray post to let you all know what’s going on with my heel pain.
I went to the podiatrist and have the official diagnosis of Plantar Fasciitis and Peroneal Tendon Injury in my left foot. The bone spur I have in my left heel has likely been growing for several years but probably isn’t contributing much to my heel pain. That said, I’ve been stretching that foot a lot and may have been irritating the tissue around the spur which would contribute to the pain. It’s likely that the root of the pain came from clipping in and out of my bike pedals so I have loosened the tension on my pedals a lot so that clipping in/out is much easier to do. Other than that, I’ve had a tendency to carry my left shoulder higher than my right. I’m not doing that so much now but that might have also caused me to be off balance and put undue pressure on my left side.
So, what am I to do? Rest. Ice. Stretches. Wear good shoes. Biking is a fine form of exercise. Yay! In addition to what the doctor ordered, I’m stepping up healing with other care therapies to give myself a better chance of getting back on my feet.
I work with a wonderful bodywork person, Shari Setchell of Body Eclectic and have found that she can actually make my pain go away when she does work on the muscles in my leg so I’m seeing her every week or two weeks for awhile. She is also helping me figure out how to keep my body in balance so that I don’t keep having pain. I decided to get back to my chiropractor and have her make sure my back is aligned properly just in case alignment issues have been contributing. My spine was a bit out of whack so am glad I got back in there. I also see an acupuncturist so am having her do both needle work and muscle work on my left foot and leg when I’m in for my regular appointment.
The pain in my left heel is not gone but things have improved a lot. I’m optimistic that my heel will heal.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

X is for X-Ray

This post was published in a slightly different format on my Writing Space blog as X is for X-Ray. The information in X is for X-Ray pertains to my bicycling life so I am posting it here at Idyllwild as well. 
Yeah, I know that writing about X-Rays for day “X” of an A to Z Blogging challenge is predictable because “x-ray” is the first thing people think of when they think of a word starting with X. Thing is, I really do have a reason to write about x-rays because I had two of them taken today. So, even though I was hoping to come up with something really swell for my “X” day it makes more sense for me to write about what is on my mind – and today that’s x-rays of my left heel.
Here’s the deal – I’ve been struggling with ankle and heel pain on and off for, well, about a year now. I haven’t been too worried about it because the pain hasn’t been consistent or that bad. It started out with some muscle discomfort in my left ankle and I found that ankle to be less mobile than the right one. When I first had the pain I figured I hurt it somehow – maybe even from repeatedly clipping out of my left pedal on my bike (I clip out of my left pedal more often than my right because that’s the foot I put down at stop signs and the like). Chiropractic care and stretching/strengthening the ankle helped it somewhat and sometimes I pretty much forgot about the pain.
In the past months, however, the pain has moved from my ankle more into my heel making it hurt to walk. Still, I haven’t thought much about it figuring the pain would go away with time. But it kept getting worse and I found myself limping around quite a bit and in pain more often than not. I’d get sharp stabs of pain in my heel and also had a constant ache. This past weekend I was in so much pain I was even crying.
I don’t like limping and crying and certainly don’t like moving around slower than full speed. I figured I’d better get into the doctor to see if there was something structurally wrong with my foot that was causing the pain so I got myself in to the doctor.
Guess what? There is something wrong. I have a fairly large bone spur on the bottom of my left heel and a smaller one on the back of my heel.
Here's the x-ray of my left heel as well as some helpful red arrows pointing out details
Heel spurs (according to WebMD) are “caused by strains on foot muscles and ligaments, stretching of the plantar fascia, and repeated tearing of the membrane that covers the heel bone.” My theory is that my spurs may have grown because I’ve been doing more aerobic exercise in the past several months and because I’ve been riding my Vaya a lot. My Vaya’s pedals are really hard to clip out of and doing so has been putting a lot of strain on my foot. I didn’t realize how hard it was to clip out of them until I rode my road bike last week. I can clip out of those pedals easily with almost no strain to my ankle (time to make an adjustment to the Vaya’s pedals!) whereas clipping out of the Vaya is always hard.
I’m guessing that the repeated strain on my left ankle and increased impact on the bottom of the foot from aerobic exercise have aggravated things to the heel spur level of ailments. That’s my theory, anyway. I’m no expert. I just know that it’s difficult to walk and I’m in almost constant pain and I’m tired of being in pain. It’s good to know that there’s a reason for the pain, at least, and that the x-rays show no signs of arthritis. In fact, I think my foot bones look pretty nice!
As for what’s next, I’m going to see a podiatrist to see what he has to say.

    Monday, July 6, 2015

    Riotgrrravel Reflections

    This blog entry also appears on my Writing Space blog as R is for Riotgrrravel Reflections.

    Two weeks ago, on June 20th, I rode Riotgrrravel, a gravel race/ride for women and am happy to say that I completed the 30 mile ride. Riotgrrravel is very well organized ride meant to introduce women to gravel racing. The ride is organized and put on by an awesome woman named Ellie and her family. Ellie started the ride just last year (I rode Riotgrrravel last year and wrote about my experience on my Idyllwild blog) and I’m so glad she did it again this year.
    Here we are at race start just about ready to go! From left to right: Lisa, Joy, Me & Katy. 
    Last year the weather was stellar but the route had to be changed practically moments before race start because of flooding in the days previous to the race. This year the roads weren’t flooded but the morning of the race thunderstorms moved in. We woke up that morning thinking the ride would be cancelled due to the thunderstorms but the rain cleared out before start time and the roads ended up just a bit tacky instead of sloppy for the race and the ride was a GO!
    Gorgeous scenery along the route
    About 200 people were registered to ride the race but because of the uncertainty about the weather and road conditions, only 60 some people actually showed up to ride the 50 mile and 30 mile routes (20 rode the 50 miler & 40 rode the 30 miler).  Given how many people didn’t even show, it’s a great accomplishment to have shown up and finished. I rode with my “gravel gal” friends Lisa, Katy & Joy and we crossed the finish line together in 3 hours, 29 minutes and 39 seconds (a solid 10.6 mph – I believe we were in 23rd place). My Box of Frogs biking friends, Kate and Victoria, were also on the ride and finished 17 minutes before we did. After the ride my gravel gal pals and I ate pastries and lunch at a bakery. And then we got shakes at the Dairy Store. And we laughed and talked and had a good time as we ate and as we drove home.

    The self supported ride was full of good gravel, gorgeous scenery and awesome women (and some awesome men). I’m really glad I rode the ride this year. But, I’ve got to say, I found the ride really frustrating simply because I didn’t do as well as I hoped I would. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives here – but it might be helpful for someone to read this anyway (or maybe simply because it’s therapeutic for me to write about it).
    I had figured the 30 mile Riotgrrravel would be relatively easy compared to the 60 mile Box of Frogs ride I completed two weeks previous. That ride was a grand gravel/mud/tar/slippery sludge adventure that was terribly difficult. I rode most of Box of Frogs with Kate and Victoria, however, and somehow we chatted and pedaled our way through it all. I had also figured that since two of our group were new to gravel racing and I had oh so much “experience” because I’d ridden two gravel rides already (Box of Frogs and Riotgrrravel) and have been riding for several years, that I would maybe even be sort of a leader in our little group of gravel gals.
    Well, those were nice thoughts, anyway. Turns out the ride was not easy and I was not at all a leader as the rest of my group had to wait for me several times so I could catch up.
    Gravel, lots of gravel, and my gravel gal friends on the road ahead. 
    We started out the ride and got rolling right away. We had headwinds right off and and I quickly fell behind our group of four. We’ve ridden together on training rides and I thought I would have no trouble keeping up with the group. Maybe they are more charged with race adrenaline, I thought (whereas I wasn’t thinking race as much as ride and set off at my normal pace). Maybe they are simply stronger than I am. Whatever the case, I was behind, not far – but far enough that I got discouraged a bit. So I told myself, “that’s okay. This is your pace. You know you can finish the ride at this pace. It’s okay if they go on ahead” and I kept on pedaling.

    But the headwinds were hard to pedal against and I felt tired from the get go. Mentally I just didn’t feel with it. I felt tired (I really didn’t sleep much the night before so I know that didn’t help). And, within the first few miles, I noticed my (ahem) “lady parts” were getting sore. It is not normal for me to be sore so I was puzzled then realized I was way heavier on my hands and front of my seat than I usually am, probably because I was tired and kinda collapsing forward. I did my best to shift my weight back and kept on pedaling.
    About then, oh, we were just five miles into the race, I suppose, the helpful little voice that told myself I was riding at my own pace and it was okay that people were ahead of me started saying not so nice things to myself like, “you’re too slow” and “it sucks to ride alone” but then I’d try to offset those thoughts with nicer things and remind myself that I was riding my own ride and I just was having one of those off days and I knew that if I just kept pedaling I’d finish.
    Lisa dropped back and rode with me for awhile. Then I decided I needed to stop and rest. That was a smart move. I sat in the shade and ate a Clif Bar. Then I cried rather ridiculously for awhile and told Lisa I was so disappointed in myself and that I was pretty sure I was the last person on the course (the brain is a liar – I was far from last. And what does it matter, anyway?) and that she and the gals should just go on ahead and I’d finish on my own. I haven’t cried on a ride in years. I thought I was over that. I guess not.
    Lisa said all sorts of nice things and we rode on. Then we caught up with Katy and Joy at an intersection where they, and several other people who were resting there, got to see me fall as I came to a stop because I was so tired I couldn’t manage to clip out of my pedals. I have never done that. It’s rather embarrassing. At least I didn’t cry! Oh, I didn’t really get hurt, either, just a bit of a scrape on my knee.
    We rode on. Looking back, I estimate we had nasty headwinds or quartering headwinds at least 75% of the time. I am not a fan of headwinds. Sometimes I rode with my friends, sometimes I fell behind. I kept pedaling. And tried to say nice things to myself. But the ride was really, really, hard for me.
    That said. I kept pedaling and I had some fun with my gravel gal pals. We took some pictures. We crossed the finish line together. And, I cried again because I was just so glad to have finished.
    After the ride, after scarfing down some candy bars nicely provided by volunteers from Hope Lutheran Church (they opened their church and parking lot to us as a ride start location – thank you!), I talked to Kate and Victoria about how hard the ride was for me. We talked about nutrition both pre-ride and during the ride to see if that might have been a factor (not a whole lot different but I did lack in energy chews which I found to be helpful on Box of Frogs). We talked about the F-ING headwinds and decided they were a huge factor. I felt better after talking to Kate and Victoria. Ultimately we chalked up my not so great of a ride because I was tired and lacked mental and physical energy and ran out of happy thoughts to something pretty simply – I was having one of those days. They happen.
    But here’s the thing – even when you’re having one of those days you keep on pedaling and finish the ride anyway. Partially because no one is there to pick you up but mostly because you set out to finish a ride so you finish it. And that’s what I did. I set out to ride Riotgrrravel and I finished the ride. Yay!
    The Gravel Gals (from l to r: Me, Lisa, Joy & Katy) crossing the finish line of Riotgrrravel 2015!