Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sunday Funday

Vacation, Day 1: Up at 9 a.m. for a 25-mile bike ride with my step-dad (I had to talk him down from 50 miles), followed by boating on the Susquehanna River and camping out there at night.  Now that's how you start a vacation!  :D

We arrived in Pennsylvania on Saturday evening, and after a good night's rest, I was up on Sunday at 8 a.m. for some hot coffee and a pre-ride breakfast of peanut butter toast with a banana sliced on top.  That's actually the tried and trusted breakfast that I eat before big races, and since we had a lengthy ride coupled with hills planned, I knew I needed to fuel up.  After a quick check of our bikes and filling up our tires, we were off!

My step-dad bought his bike this past spring, and he's become an avid rider in just a few short months.  He eventually increased his mileage, riding over 100 miles a week, and even finished a 78-mile race earlier this month (with over 8 mountains, and one was a Category 3... no big deal).  He has his own bike repair shop set up downstairs, and although I've owned my bike for over three years, he probably definitely knows more about maintenance and repairs than I do.  At 58 years old young, he's quite the cyclist, and I was excited to ride the PA countryside alongside him.  :)

Ready to ride

 Rollin' out

The ride was indescribably beautiful.  The weather was perfect - cool to start, sunny with a slight breeze, and hotter just as we finished.  We rode on country roads and wove through little towns, east to Penn's Creek along the water and on a more highly trafficked highway into Mifflinburg.  Every now and then I would yell to Jack, "I'm stopping to take a picture!"  It was too beautiful not to photograph, and I knew I had to capture one of the coolest rides I'd ever been on.

One of many farm-lined roads

Jack briefly steered us off our route to show me this gravestone from 1780!  How cool!  It says that the man was killed by Indians in the area. 

Strike a pose :)

Jack taking in the scenery and looking legit in his Dogfish Head jersey

I slammed on my brakes to photograph this lovely lily pad pond

Scared a few toads away with this shot ;)

The ride truly made me appreciate cycling even more.  Unless you've climbed up a hill, shifting and shifting to keep your cadence up and struggling to keep your forward momentum, you can't fully appreciate the power that your body has on a bike and the work that goes into climbing a hill.  I was definitely nervous before the ride, mainly because I knew I would encounter some steep climbs, and I basically had no experience riding on that kind of terrain.  My rides in Indiana consist of two areas: the Monon Trail, full of intersections and pedestrian traffic, and flat roads in the country.  Out here, it's a different story.  I loved learning how to climb - from the momentum that you build up on the approach, to shifting at the right time (I even used my front derailleur!), and cresting the hill, all while staying in the saddle.  It made me realize that your bike provides everything you need to get up tough hills, and you should work through all of your gears to get there.  At the top of each hill, my step-dad would say, "Now, really let loose!" And boy were we flying!  My "oh shit" button was around 30 mph - I'd see 30 on my speedometer, and my reflexes made me hit the brakes.  ;)  I eventually hit 33.4, and his max was nearly 43!  Going that fast was yet another thing that I had never experienced on my bike, and despite feeling a little scared at first, once I got used to it, the speed felt awesome.  I kept thinking, "This is riding."

It doesn't get much more beautiful than that.

We hopped on the Rail Trail in Mifflinburg - an 8-mile stretch of what used to be historic, inactive railroad tracks is now a half-pavement, half-gravel trail from Mifflinburg to Lewisburg

Probably the coolest moment of the ride was climbing our last hill (that felt like a mountain) and seeing this sight at the top - an Amish Church with horses and buggies lined along the fence.  

So picturesque

There's something that cycling gives me that no other sport or form of exercise can create for me.  As much as I enjoy running, when I pass a cyclist, I usually wish I was biking instead.  You can cover so much distance on a bike, and you can go nearly anywhere, on any kind of terrain, alone or with fellow riders.  Cycling makes me feel alive because it pushes me to my physical limits, but it also gives me a sense of peacefulness at the same time.  On this ride in particular, as we rode by fields under the wide open sky, I felt incredibly connected to the earth.  Don't get me wrong, by the end of the ride (which, by the way, turned out to be 30 miles instead of 25), I was sweaty, hungry, and my legs were shot.  But I felt confident that I had successfully ridden some legitimate hills, and I loved that I was able to enjoy my first morning of vacation on a beautiful ride in the Pennsylvania countryside.  Jack is already planning our next rides this week - one with "real mountains," and a 50-miler.  After Sunday's ride, I think I can handle it.  ;)

P.S. Happy birthday to my wonderful Mom!!! :)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Road Trippin' (Pennsylvania or Bust)

It's finally here - the week of my summer vacation to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania! My little brother and I are on the road as I type! :)
(We miss you, Colin! Goal to leave was 6 a.m., and we left at 9. Typical.)

Why PA? Well, my mom grew up there, and my brothers and I have been going there at least twice a year since we were born. You could say that it's our second home, especially because my mom and step-dad live there now, back in her hometown, along with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Pennsylvania will always hold a special place in my heart. It's given me countless childhood memories full of... summer days filled with tree climbing and slip 'n sliding, family reunions, my first bee sting, spitting watermelon seeds down the hill in my grandmother's backyard, making homemade ice cream, discovering abandoned forts in the woods, riding the log ride at Knoebel's with my grandfather, baking pies with my grandmother, getting electrocuted trying to pet my friend's horses through an electric fence, and camping and learning to fish at our family cabin, to name a few. ;) I could go on and on. Pennsylvania is a breathtakingly beautiful state full of rolling hills and endless countryside. I cherish every day that I get to spend there, and when I leave, I count down the days until I return. So here's to a 10-hour road trip followed by a week full of family traditions & some good ole fun in the sun! :D

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Week of Firsts & Triathlon Love

This past week sure was an exciting one!  My boyfriend began a new job with an extremely successful company, I started teaching spinning classes at my gym and finished the week by competing in my second triathlon of the 2012 season on Saturday.

I originally joined the YMCA in 2008 after I started working at a law firm in downtown Indianapolis.  As much as I wish I enjoyed morning workouts, I never feel awake enough to put full effort into my workouts in the morning (plus I'm just not a morning person in general!).  So, I started packing a gym bag and heading to the Y straight from work.  Our employee parking lot just so happens to be the gym's parking lot, so it couldn't be more convenient to go straight there.  As I've mentioned before, my commute is a long one, and I've found that no matter how intent I am on going for a run or getting in a good kick-boxing sesh, if I come home to change, it just doesn't happen.  I'm down for the count once I step foot in the front door.  I am much more successful and consistent with my weekly workouts if I start them immediately upon leaving the office.  Along with becoming fitter, I've met truly great friends through the YMCA, and now I look forward to going there every day, even if it's to kick my own butt.  ;)

The YMCA at the Athenaeum in Indy

Shortly after joining, I decided to try something I had never done before - spinning!  I remember thinking two things during my first class: I am going to have a heart attack, and this is freaking awesome.  Sidenote: walking up and down stairs after that first class was quite challenging.  ;)  If you've never been to a cycle class, here's what you can expect.  The classes are usually 60 minutes of intense cardio set to music, and each song is a different "set."  So, for one song you're climbing out of the saddle at a hard resistance, and then you're sprinting on and off for another.  The classes can vary by gym and by each instructor's personal style and taste in music, but that's the general gist.  Did I mention it's awesome?!  :)  No, really, it is.  That class alone got me back in shape, and at the same time, I discovered how much I love cycling.  I trained for my first triathlon in that class and eventually bought a road bike.  Cycling is hands-down my soul mate workout, as my friends like to say.  Call me crazy, but I love every sweaty, heart-pumping minute of it.  I've been taking cycling classes for years now, and I feel SO fortunate to be able to teach a form of exercise that I love and believe in.  I feel like it's an opportunity to pay it forward and give to others what the YMCA has given to me.

The awesome gym where I teach, the YMCA Indy Bike Hub! 
As you can see, it's truly in the heart of the city :)

The view from my bike in the sweet cycling studio.  Check out those windows! 

My very first class was this past Tuesday, and even though I was extremely excited, I was also pretty nervous.  Who wouldn't be?!  It's like public speaking, except while working out, which is definitely not an easy task.  My nerves subsided once I got going and felt more comfortable, and the class went smoothly from there.  My one and only rider that day gave me some great feedback and encouragement and even said he'd be back for more, so I was pleased.  My second class was on Thursday, and that time around I had five people show up to spin with me!  They all rode hard and made it a great class.  You may not know it when you're participating in a class, but your energy and the synergy of the group really creates an electricity in the air that you can see and feel when you're teaching.  I definitely felt that energy on Thursday, and it made me excited to continue improving as an instructor and to hopefully teach a FULL class someday soon. 

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 5:45-6:45 p.m., lend me your legs and come spin with me!  :D

Another major highlight of my week was participating in the Triton Brewing Series Muncie Triathlon on Saturday.  When I have a race on the horizon, it's in the forefront of my mind all week.  I made sure to rest (especially because I'm still recovering from that nasty cold), eat the right things to really fuel my body, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  

A typical lunch

My go-to dinner at Noodles & Company - Bangkok Curry with tofu and a side salad
[Anyone who knows me could attest to the fact that I don't like to eat out a lot, mainly because I like to cook meals myself and actually see all of the ingredients.  When I do eat out, I look up the nutrition facts beforehand so that I can make an informed decision about what to order.  Most places have healthy options.  It's just a matter of finding those items on the menu.]

The morning of the race started bright dark and early with a 4 a.m. wake up call and meeting up with my friend and fellow tri-warrior Maria at 5 a.m.  We loaded our bikes and various gear into her sweet Jeep, and off we went to Selma, Indiana.

My chauffeur for the day ;)

One benefit of getting up so early to race: witnessing some beautiful sunrises

The sun coming up over the reservoir 

We arrived at 6:30 a.m., picked up our race packets, got our arms and legs marked, and began setting up in transition.  The transition area is essentially home base during the race.  Everyone's bikes are racked, and you lay out your shoes, race belt, fuel gels, waterbottles, etc. in a small designated area.  The order of a triathlon is swim, bike, run, and you return to transition after the swim to grab your bike, and then a second time to re-rack your bike and switch your gear before the run.  Transition is often referred to as the fourth sport of a triathlon because the goal is to get in and get out as fast as possible, since the time spent there is included in your overall race time.  Sometimes I'm fast in transition, and other times I've looked at my final times and realized I nearly took a nap in transition.  It's so important that I literally practice changing my shoes and switching my gear in my own driveway when I'm training just to get a feel for how fast I should be moving.  I'd eventually like to race sock-less and switch out my lace-up shoes for shoes that I can just slip on, but those items are on my tri gear wish list for now.  :)

My setup

Transition filling up

Ready to race!

Spinning is my soul mate workout, and triathlons are my soul mate race.  This race was either my 7th or 8th triathlon - I've done a handful over the past few years and have lost count! - but I still felt a sense of complete awe at the start of this race.  There's just nothing else like 'em.  There is so much respect and camaraderie between the athletes.  As you're setting up, you're chatting with others about the race course, and as you're standing line in for the port-o-let, you're wishing each other a fun and safe race.  Between labored breaths, you're saying, "Nice job!" and "Almost there!" to fellow runners, even as they're passing you.  You cheer each other on.  There's a strong sense of unity as you stand in line with your feet in the sand, looking out at the water, because whether you're doing the sprint or 70.3 miles, you're all in this together.  I always feel as though I'm riding on a roller coaster approaching its first descent when I'm waiting to start the race.  Your adrenaline is pumping, and you're full of nervous excitement as you visualize what you're about to experience and accomplish.  Triathlons are one of those crazy human events.  Sometimes I'm not sure why I willingly sign up for something that inevitably evokes pain, but during each race, I'm reminded that it's because it makes me feel ALIVE.

 Tri buddies :)

 Maria heading out on the run portion of her first Olympic Tri

Looking strong in the last quarter mile of her 6.2 mile run!  Heading UPHILL towards the finish!

I'll take one of these, please ;)
Someday I'll own a Cervelo... 

Shot of the chute - I saw a runner remove his hat as he was running under the flag

All finished and all smiles!  (I know you're jealous of my sweet sunglasses.) 
Maria KILLED it!  Olympic for her (sub-three hours!!), sprint for me.  
Can't wait for our next big race together - the Lifetime Chicago Triathlon in August!

All in all, the race was a success.  Even though my time was a little slow, I still had a BLAST throughout the entire race.  My advice to newbie triathletes is always to have fun!  Don't get me wrong, each race is a challenge (as it should be).  There are times when you get kicked in the head, get a mouthful of lake water, nearly fall into other riders as you're dismounting at the transition line, and deal with side cramps on the run, but overall, each race is truly a blast.  This race was no different.  The water was warm, the bike route was full of rolling hills around the reservoir, and the run was a nice out-and-back close to the water.  A few years ago, I received an email from a dear college friend asking if anyone would be interested in trying a triathlon with her, and I'm SO glad that I said yes!  It's become such a huge passion of mine, and I'm looking forward to the rest of this season and many, many more races in years to come.  Whatever you do, say YES to trying something new.  What do you have to lose?  I can only think of things that I've gained by doing triathlons: friends, memories, fitness, and continually pushing myself to new limits.  Now that's what I call living.  :)

Do you recognize the girl in pink on the left? ;)

My next triathlon is right around the corner - next Saturday - but for now, it's time for a little relaxation in the sun :D

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Bike Ride a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

Happy Sunday!  It's an absolutely beautiful day here.  The sun is shining, it's nearly 80 degrees, and there's a warm breeze a-blowin'.  I LOVE weekends.  Who doesn't?  It's time away from the office and the stresses of the daily grind, and there are endless possibilities for fun times.  Confession: I'm a night owl.  I used to love staying up late on the weekends and sleeping WAY in, I'm talking noon, but nowadays my routine has changed dramatically.  I love filling my weekends to the brim, starting at 9 a.m.  I finally realized that getting up at nine on a weekend IS sleeping in, and I get to enjoy a few morning hours before the day really takes off.  These days, my weekends are usually filled with brunch, bike rides, runs, or hot yoga, followed by lots of time enjoying the great outdoors, with a side of laundry.  ;)  This weekend, despite feeling a little under the weather, was no exception.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  My boyfriend and I have become (for better or worse) frequenters of an amazing breakfast place called Le Peep, a national franchise that proudly displays the tagline, "The Best Breakfast Food in the World."  I have a few other rivals for brunch on my list, but this place is in my top three.  Their coffee is SO good that I actually look forward to that first hot cup o' joe more than my actual breakfast. ;)

Dutch Apple Oatmeal with blueberries, brown sugar, and a wheat English muffin on the side - coffee not pictured ;) 

Unfortunately, I came down with a pretty nasty cold this past week, so I was barely able to taste anything on this plate.  The most annoying part of this cold was that it completely zapped my taste buds and my sense of smell.  I couldn't even taste coffee!  It was just hot.  I added sugar to my cup and then realized that I should have just had it black, since I was basically just drinking it for caffeine.  Womp.  The good news is that my taste buds have since returned!

The rest of my day was pretty low-key due to a serious sinus headache, but when Sunday rolled around, I knew that I wanted to keep my plans with my dear friend and workout pal Maria.  We had planned a potentially longer workout with a bike + swim combo tentatively penciled in, but a bike ride seemed like the best way for me to get movin' again after taking a few days off.  We set out on the trusty Monon Trail near her abode and rode north for a bit, then looped back after a warm-up so that she could buy a helmet, as her boyfriend had accidentally taken hers in her car, and decided to venture off the beaten path a bit on some main roads.  There was a nice bike lane for about... a quarter of a mile, so we carefully shared the open roads with the cars.  Sometimes I wish there was a bike-only path or road because as much as I LOVE the Monon, it's downright dangerous.  I'm constantly slowing down and then getting back up to speed after zig-zagging my way through runners, strollers, and dogs on leashes (that I've almost gotten wrapped up in more times than I care to remember).  Like I said, I love the Monon, and the shade and beautiful scenery always makes for a beautiful, satisfying ride.  However, if you own a road bike, then you know there's nothing like really letting your legs go to hit 20+ mph consistently.  That being said, I loved mixing it up and using both the Trail and the roads for a great short distance ride this morning.  

Awesome pro-biking sign in front of The Bike Line in Broad Ripple :)
Please note that I regrettably experience #3: "Each U.S. rush-hour commuter spends an average of 50 hours a year stuck in traffic." (!) #commutingsucks

These two go hand-in-hand: "25% of all trips are made within a mile of the home." 
"Just three hours of bicycling per week can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%"

Our sweet rides 

Cycling pals :D Love this girl!
(Check her out at!)

An apple A bike ride a day keeps the doctor away!

I must admit that I didn't JUMP out of bed this morning to go ride.  I kept asking myself if working out at all was a good idea considering that I was still pretty congested.  But, after Maria said, "Should help you feel a bit better" in a pre-ride text, I decided to  Sometimes you just have to get back on the horse (or bike) and jump back into your normal routine, even if you're not yet feeling 100%.  After feeling sub-par all week and missing my workouts because I was literally down for the count/out of it from polishing off an ENTIRE bottle of DayQuil (true story), I got moving again.  And boy did it ever feel good to get some fresh air on my bike and MOVE my body.  Maria was right after all, and I think I'm finally kicking this cold to the dust with a little help from my trusty bike and my biking partner.  ;)

My lovely lunch

Spicy tuna sushi rolls, salad with broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and avocado (with Bolthouse Farms French Yogurt dressing), and a side o' fresh grapes

Now to tackle some laundry... though I'm sure I'll venture outside again before the weekend's over.  ;)

Here's to making the most of the weekend!
Enjoy your SUNday :)