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It’s been too long!!

What a crazy 7 and a half months it’s been, both in terms of cycling and otherwise! Let’s just say it included a bike break down in traffic (luckily with no injuries or falls!), completing and defending Ph.D. exams, a new bike acquisition (to replace the broken one), and our car suddenly and unexpectedly bursting into flames (at least bikes don’t do that!).

I’ve been riding as much as I can now that the weather’s warmed up, and I can’t wait until this quarter ends so that I can get more time in the saddle. I’m training for a 100km (about 64 miles) ride in July, and I’m SO excited!

For now, here’s a recent poem I wrote about cycling.

Ride Anyway

I.
For a moment, you agree with them.
At the end of a long day,
at the end of a long week,
the muscle you have left is barely enough
to push off of the couch,
stand
and wait
to see if you have reached the point of dizzy, delirious exhaustion.

Not
quite
yet.

And so,
as you wriggle into spandex,
zip up your jersey
velcro your gloves, clip your chinstrap into place,
you remember the blooming outside, the cottonwood swirling around you.
You plod up the stairs to get a handkerchief to clear lungs and nose,
and you agree with them.
For a singular moment, you become an echo,
Why are you doing this to yourself?

As you coax the water bottle into the cage,
you notice your thighs, the undeniable
muscle boasting itself above the outside of each knee.
You’re learning your body from the legs up.
And your legs

want to move.

II.
On the street, as you slip your feet into cages,
you think of the next step.
Clipless.
The scar tissue in your right knee twinges,
reminding you of the crash two years ago.
The next step, it says,
requires falling.

But in the saddle, there is no doubt –
only the desire to lock yourself in here,
to be more thoroughly attached.

You exhale their questions, the moment of doubt,
the exhaustion, the scar tissue, the terrorjoy of speed and falling.
You exhale your legs like tree trunks, and the whirling puffs of cottonwood,
because always, with that first push,
that first (r)evolution,
you are home again.

And so you ride anyway.

 

©2012, Sarah T. Carnahan
Please do not distribute or share poem outside of this blog post without permission.

FML

After the rainiest April in Ohio’s recorded history, during which it rained 23 out of the 30 days of the month, here’s our five-day forecast:

TEARS.

I win!!!

I totally just bought this bike.

Yesssssss. Here’s how it went down. Inventories were running low, so I decided that if I was going to get a bike, now’s the time to do it, as it would save me money in the long run. I may end up needing to borrow some money from my parents, but perhaps not. We’ll see.

I got it at Performance Bikes, and I must say, I was quite pleased with them. There was no pressure to purchase, and they didn’t make me feel like they were judging me for being a pretty new cyclist. They also didn’t try to sell me more than they needed. I went in saying that I was considering the Fuji Newest 1.0 or 2.0, but I didn’t want to buy more than I needed. The salesperson told me the 2.0 – which is the somewhat cheaper model – would be fine for my needs. (The Newest models go from 1.0-4.0.) So, on sale, it was $650, which is less than I thought I was going to spend. And, it’s really a $1000 bike, but yay for year-end sales!!

It’s not *quite* as aesthetically pleasing as the 1.0, but I feel more comfortable with the amount of money I spent. Also, Performance Bikes offers free lifetime adjustments on any new bikes purchased at their stores. Sweet deal!

Turns out my frame size was an xsmall, not just a small. (Unless they’re specifically marked as women’s models, road bikes are generally sized for men. Yay, male-dominated sport!) I test road an xsmall in the 1.0, and it was a great fit. They had to order it online to get that frame size in the 2.0, and *there were only five left*. That sealed the deal. So, I paid for it today, and they said they should get it later this week, then they’re going to build it up and give me a call.

Squeeeeeee!!!!!!!

Oh! Also, on the bike path today, I once again saw The Piano Peddler. Today he was actually playing the keyboard *while* riding. I also saw a fellow riding along writing on a notepad while riding. He, however, was swerving ALL over the bike path. Impressive, dude, but NOT cool!

Road Bike Blues

I got the blues.

The road-bike blues.

I got the my-knee-done-broke-down-and-I-can’t-ride-my-road-bike blues.

I got the my-knee-done broke-and-I-can’t-ride-my-road-bike-and-I’m-broke-as-a-joke-and-I-can’t-afford-a-new-one blues.

Okay. Admittedly, that might be a bit dramatic.

So, I saw the physical therapist today. She twisted my knee all around, had me do some exercises, did some electrotherapy and said that it’s my ligament that’s hurting. (NOT my meniscus, which is a good thing.) The issue is that she doesn’t know *why* it’s hurting. It could be a number of things, but none of them are clearly the cause. It could be that I have a fairly high arch and my shoes aren’t supportive enough, but she doubts it (because it’s really pretty normal). It could be that I have (insert fancy medical term here), which means my knees hyper-extend a bit and my knee caps go in a bit, but she says it’s fairly common in women and it’s not bad enough to explain the knee pain.

It could be from the incident earlier this summer where a pedestrian forced me to fall over with my bike to avoid hitting them. She said I might have tweaked my knee when that happened and it could have causes some scar tissue to build up on the ligament, which is now hurting. It could also be because my current road bike doesn’t fit me very well. The knee pain started fairly shortly after switching to that bike. So, she wants me to lay off the road bike (I can still ride my hybrid) until I see her again next week to see if that makes a difference.

So for now, it’s exercises, no road bike, avoiding lots of stairs, trying not to bend my knee more than 90 degrees, and we’ll wait and see. She might also do an ultrasound next week to break up any scar tissue that might be in there. We’re going to give it a few weeks, and if the pain doesn’t go away, she’ll have me see the sports med doctor.

I don’t think it’ll come to that, though. The electrotherapy actually helped a bit; no aching at all when I got off my bike or after walking around campus.Win!

This does mean I’m right about the fact that I can’t stick with my current road bike long term. The good news is that my parents offered to lend me some money toward a new road bike. I’m still not positive I’ll be able to swing the rest, but it at least puts it in the realm of the possible. I’m going to test ride a couple of Fujis this weekend, check out the fit of them, etc.

And yes. That is a Blues Brothers cycling jersey.

My bubble has been decimated.

Disappointed?

Yeah. Me too.

Bad, bad news. It looks like our car needs about $2000 of work. We have to get it done, because we need the car to get to our obligations (i.e. work, meetings, etc.). It’s worth it to put the money into the car, but it sucks. It sucks a lot.

It means being really frugal this quarter. It means not going to the National Women’s Studies Association annual conference, and thus, not seeing a couple of my closest friends whom I sorely miss. It means being more anxious about money than we already are.

But what does this have to with cycling?

It also means no new road bike. At least, not for a while. I wanted to buy it this quarter because I could get it at such a great discount. And, realistically speaking, I need a new road bike if I’m going to do distance rides next summer. I need one that fits me so that I don’t injure or strain anything while riding. And I need one in time to train, which means I need it by next spring. But next spring, they may no longer have the discounted 2010 models. So, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

I’m incredibly disappointed. I can’t even find the words. There’s the deep disappointment, of course, that not getting the bike brings. I had been looking forward to this for months. But then, there is (was) the symbolism of allowing myself to spend $800 on a new road bike.

– The purchase of the bike was a grand reward for working incredibly hard to balance grad school and self-care, to take care of myself and my body despite being in a setting that does not really promote self-care or balance.

– The purchase of the bike was symbolic of the excitement of actually being so dedicated to a sport, to finding an athletic activity that I do because I really love it and am passionate about it.

– The purchase of the bike was representative of my commitment to cycling and dedicating time to something that I love – to something that I do out of sheer enjoyment, something really for myself now. In this moment.

– The bike was to be representative of working toward a goal on so many levels – cycling in a healthy way, making time for something that makes me feel so good regardless of the constant pressures of grad school to work all the time, dedicating the money from my graduate teaching fellowship to the bike as a symbol of my commitment to this and to keeping this in my life.

And, intellectually speaking, I know that not purchasing this bike as planned doesn’t mean any of these things will fall by the wayside. I can still be excited about cycling (though at this very moment it’s hard to feel anything but disappointment). I can still be serious about cycling. I can remain determined to keep it as a part of balanced self-care. I can still be a part of the cycling community in Columbus.

Intellectually, I still know that all of those things are true. Emotionally, this is a severe blow.

Back in the Saddle

Well, well, well. Hello again. I’ve been absent because I was on a most wonderful vacation. First, Luke and I went to visit my family in Maine. It included seeing their new house and new companion animals (Johb the dog and Maybe the cat), seeing every member of my mom’s side of the family, and seeing my brother and meeting his new boyfriend. It also included multiple trips to Farmington (my undergrad town/school) and Nezinscot Farm, and lots of lake swimming for Luke, while I stayed happily warm and dry. Luke also got to go visit his mom in New Hampshire, which included lots of 4-wheeling. (I’ve already assured him that, yes, when we move back to Maine and have some land, we can get a 4-wheeler.) After Maine, we went to stay for a night at Farm Sanctuary, in upstate New York. It was an amazing experience, and we’re both hoping to go back for longer next year. it’s located in Watkins Glen, NY, and it looks like there’s a pretty stellar state park there. That part of the trip included a lovely little cabin, pigs, cows, goats, rabbits, roosters, hens, sheep, cats, turkeys, vegan soft-serve ice cream, and a freaking delicious vegan continental breakfast.

One thing my vacation did not include? Cycling. Sadness. This was for a number of reasons:

A) Luke and I have yet to have the money to splurge on a bike rack that is sturdy enough to take our bikes from Ohio to Maine. However, this will happen before next year. We’re determined.

B) The bike that was most readily available for me was my Dad’s 10-year old Roadmaster mountain bike. Even though I’ve become a bit of a bike snob (I admit it), I debated giving it a shot. But then Dad mentioned that “You can’t go very far before the chain pops off;” I decided to steer clear, since cycling is something I do to increase enjoyment in my life, not frustration.

C) The ladder on my aunt and uncle’s raft shanked me on the first day of my visit, slicing my foot open in a way that made it too painful to put pressure on it. This would have made peddling a challenge. (It actually still hurts a bit to pedal now, though it’s more of an annoyance than pain.)

Hence, circumstance dictated that I go without cycling for about 10 days.  I.freaking.missed.it. I was very much looking forward to my bike ride yesterday, our first full day home. However, I was also having a really hard time being back in Columbus. Columbus is a pretty neutral place. It’s not the best place I’ve lived (that would be Maine), but it’s certainly not the worst. It’s just that – I’m not a city girl. And after 10 days of small towns in Maine and upstate NY, I found being back in a city jarring and alienating, to say the least. I’m also not particularly suited to the Midwest, or sub(urban) sprawl with all of its concrete and cars. I hoped my bike ride would help, and would make me feel a bit more connected to nature (via the bike path). But, as much as I love cycling, it’s not a panacea. Hoping that my bike ride would somehow magically transform central Ohio into central Maine was perhaps a bit too much to ask of my favorite hobby. Also, the bike path was crammed with decked-out Buckeye fans who were biking to the football game yesterday. They weren’t quite of this caliber:

But some were close. That wasn’t super helpful in terms of needing some healing/magic via cycling. (However, in retrospect, the scene of these fans on bikes is pretty freaking amusing, and I may take my camera to the bike path before the next home game. Maybe. If I need some adventure. But probably not.)

Today’s ride was much better. I felt back in my cycling groove, and the ride was very enjoyable. I even decided to ride on the streets on my way home. (I also had the experience of getting run into the shoulder by a motorcycle. I shall now be purchasing my “3 Feet Please” backpack, since school’s starting up so I’ll be commuting more.)

I also arrived home to find that the bike that I want has finally dropped in price since they’re phasing out the 2010 models. I need this bike because asap  because I’m slightly concerned about my right knee. I seem to have pulled a muscle, and I suspect that it’s because my current road bike doesn’t fit me as well as it could. However, I’m not sure that it’s completely that because it started hurting about a week before I went on vacation, and taking time off from cycling didn’t fix it. I’m getting my doctor to check it out on Wednesday.

Right now, for my new bike, I’m planning on getting a 2010 Fuji Newest 1.0, which is a nice entry-level road bike. (Family, don’t freak out. I’ll be paying about half of the listed price. My extra fellowship should pretty much cover the cost – yay!) It’s a lot of bike for the price, and it’s gotten good reviews. Also, supposedly the Tiagra shifters are a “must,” and they perform well for a long time. I haven’t gotten to test ride one yet. I’m hoping to go to Performance Bicycle within the next week or two to try one out. Fingers crossed! I’m also toying with the idea of a Specialized Dolce Elite, but it’s a bit pricier (and I’d only remotely consider it if I could get it on an insane end-of-year sale) and I don’t like the styling as much, so hopefully the Fuji will work. I certainly love my Fuji Crosstown hybrid; I think of that bike as my pleasure craft, while my road bike means business. And my new road bike will mean even more business!

If any of you have any thoughts and/or reviews on road bikes, cycling, or life in general, I’d love to hear!