Rollers. Humidity. Rain. Hiking. Plus, a job!

There’s rain here. And it’s hot rain. It gets bad like that here in Blacksburg. It’s bizarre when you have to wear shorts and a tanktop to go running in 70+ degree rain; can’t tell the sweat from the storm! Ha, ha!

I have been a busy little bee, though. Buzz-buzz-buzzzzzzz …

Last week was my official first week back on track with Tri training. (Yes, I know it’s late in the season. There’s been lots going on that I gave priority to.) I am surprised at how good my base actually is. I thank the century ride back in April and the numerous spinning classes all winter. From there, I’ve just been maintaining the fitness level with a variety of workouts.

Last week, I added in all the “real” swimming, biking, and running. Feeling tired would be a good description of how things are going. Tired as in “is it nap time?” tired. I like those days. I got a few double-up days of biking and swimming with running every morning (short and easy 2 miles w/the dog in tow). So far, I’ve only required a few naps and a lot of early bedtimes! (I have to admit, it’s making it tough to call home to talk to folks on the left coast when I’m passed out by their dinner time. Ha, ha!)

Last week was eventful, though. Let me tell you about it …

I got lots of cycling in and with various groups of riders. Wednesday was the NRVBA Social ride which was pretty demanding. Friday was a “SAYG (Slow As Your Grandmother)” ride with the VT Cycling Team, which was intimidating. Saturday was the Huckleberry Pie and Strawberry Shortcake ride with a mixed group of recreational cyclists, which was exhilarating. Sunday was a short 5-mile hike up Dragon’s Tooth with VTSFFC (the VT Science Fiction and Fantasy Club), which was divergent. Each of these experiences was really unique unto itself. I don’t dare judge as any of these events as “good” or “bad.” It’s not so simple as that; I’ll paraphrase a friend who noted aloud that every experience and person I meet has something to offer me should I choose to see it, accept it, and to take it with me. That’s pretty much how I’ve been approaching everything as of late. Plus, as Libor says, it’s about attitude.

I’ve already talked about the NRVBA Social Ride. I’m going to briefly mention the SAYG (say, “sag”) ride with the VT Cycling Team. I didn’t realize several things about riding with a well-established clique. I had emailed the ride leader, VT Cycling Team president Kevin Crosby, prior to showing up to ask if it would be okay for me to attend and whether or not I could bring some potentially interested friends. Crosby was warm, welcoming, and friendly. That remained the same when Josh, Kevin Smith, and I showed up. After that, well … only one other person was all that nice or receptive to us neophytes.

First off, I wasn’t aware that team cycling rides–even the slow ones–are fashion shows. I was wearing my nothing-special Nashbar and Performance clothing attire, and I haven’t switched my cleats to my Sidi shoes yet, so I’m still spinning around in my MTB shoes. I show up and realize that everyone has a Cervelo, Felt, Trek, or Litespeed bike. They all look professional in their expensive team jerseys and fancy skinsuits. And wait … is that right? Oh, yeah, it appears that they all have their own sponsors on their jerseys, too. Shit. Hmmmm … I think we’re a bit in over our heads here. Egads.

I heard whispers from some of them, “Are they cyclists?” “He’s got a Peugot.” “Oh, god. They’re not riding with us, are they?” This was starting to look very bad for us.

Crosby was too kind to turn us away. Instead, he sent the team on and made it a point to be our personal guide and chatting buddy for the entire trip. At some point we acquired another team cyclist, Matt Phillips, to keep us company. The ride wasn’t difficult (we did the Merrimac, involving some small rolling hills) and the pace was quite slow (12.8 mph). The ride itself wasn’t a workout, but it was informational. It was also uncomfortable whenever we regrouped with the rest of the riders. They despised us, that much you could tell.

In all, I think that those of us willing to have a welcoming and open mind got something out of it. Josh learned to ride and shift the loaner bike that Kevin had given him. He also got a taste of what cycling could become (at the higher levels of “seriousness”). Kevin seemed to be somewhat bored, but was glad to learn another trail/ride. I was busy establishing social contacts and gathering information about cycling and racing, joining the team, etc.

What I got out of it was that the VT Cycling Team consists of the club and the team. You don’t have to race to be a part of the club roster. The number of females racing (in general and for VT) is so small, however, that just having women compete and finish garners points for the team. Crosby pretty much said, “We always need more women. If you can finish, it helps us out a lot. Please consider it–we’ll train you … It wasn’t that long ago that I was a neophyte, so I do my best to try to be encouraging to newer riders. The SAYG rides are good social venues and a good chance for more inexperienced riders to interact with some of the “serious” riders, at least that’s what I’d like to envision them being … There are other women who would be good for you to get in touch with. I’ll send you their emails.”

And already one of those women (a former Tri-girl, too) has contacted me. Things are looking good. You’ve gotta’ start somewhere …

The Huckleberry Pie ride on Saturday was nutso, but in a good way. Rollers. They go steeply up, then steeply down, then up, then down, up, down, up, down, up, down … does it ever stop? I find the rollers exhausting. We don’t have much in the way of rollers back in Chico, CA. We have flats, uphill, or downhill. Wait, there is Centerville which is mostly uphill with some pretend rollers going downhill in parts. In all seriousness, though, I thought my lungs might burst through my ribcage at certain points. And when my lungs weren’t flaring, my hamstrings were.

I was having difficulty keeping a decent cadence going and in keeping it steady. I’m not used to this! On one little hill (and it wasn’t particularly long or steep) I was too spent to continue pedaling. I had a hamstring cramp forming and didn’t really want to give it a chance to take hold, so I hopped off and ran up the hill. Ha, ha! That seemed to work just fine. The cramp subsized and I was able to breathe. A woman a little ways behind me good-naturedly shouted, “Hey, that’s not cycling!”

“Hey, I’m not a cyclist! I’m a triathlete! Running is fair game!” I shot back smiling.

Again, I noticed that everyone I was riding with had a triple crank. (I don’t. I’ve got a double. Uffda!) Several of the other riders remarked on that fact, “Ooooo … you only have a double? You might want a triple. ‘Round here, there’s no shame in a triple.” Indeed, but when the cost of replacing the crank and the cassette, etc. is more than the cost of my bike, well … I can just tough it out. Besides, I did all the rest of the cycling just fine that day, even if I was a little bit slower and a little more out-of-breath than everyone else! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I’m so there.

Josh went along, too, but he started from the Strawberry Shortcake ride in Christiansburg (11 miles less). The group of nine all rode over to Riner, VA to eat at this little hole-in-the-wall-buffalo-meats restaurant run by the sweetest (and deafest) old man and his family. I purchased the strawberry shortcake and Josh bought an apple cobbler and we feed each other half of our respective desserts while chatting all the while. It was a lot of fun. After that, we all cycled towards home through some more rollers and then there were two good, long, solid climbs uphill. Too many turns and highways later to remember, we were back in Christiansburg where I decided to call it quits for the day and to ride home in the car with Josh. Checking the cyclometer revealed that I had travelled 40.41 miles of rolling terrain at an average pace of 14.6 mph. Not bad, I’m thinking.

Come Sunday, Josh and I decided to venture out with about five of the VT Science-Fiction and Fantasy Club (VTSFFC, say “vits-fick”) members. The trek was a simple and easy hike up one of the “mountains” around here. (One thing I’ve noticed about the mountains is that they aren’t really all that big. They’re also really round on top. Round, as in not spikey or pointy. All of the peaks look as though they have been sanded down and then covered in a flocking of green felt. It’s pretty, but rather odd-looking for someone who’s used to pointy crags and the angular joinings of the Sierra Nevadas.)

Okay, first off I’ll clarify: Yes, I’m one of those people. I love the Sci-Fi channel. I do like Star Trek. I enjoy Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m just starting to read Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Maybe I’m not just a tri-geek girl; maybe I’m a quad-geek girl: three-parts athletics geek, one-part book geek. Eh, sounds about right to me, anyway. I wouldn’t be going for a Ph.D. if I didn’t enjoy this kind of thing.

It ended up being a fun, sociable hike. The members are really nice and genuine people. The hike itself took a lot longer than I thought it ought to (we were pushing 5 hours for 5 miles), but it was a good chance to socialize. Plus, I could justify the day as an “Active Rest Day” which was probably good since my hip flexor has started to make itself aware again (not good). If they plan future hikes, I’d be game to go.

And last, but most certainly not least, I got a part-time job! As of July 7th, I am officially a Circulation Specialist at the Christiansburg Library! HOORAY! I’m actually very excited! I get to work with people, computers, books, and in the future I’m likely to have the opportunity to work with the Training and Programs Director to help organize, setup, and conduct workshops, meetings, and seminars. I know it doesn’t sound all that exciting to everyone else, but I’m ecstatic because this is an opportunity for me to be involved in the community doing something with my skill set that won’t require enormous amounts of energy or stress! Already, I know I’ll love working with Pam and Cindy. Best of all, the job is flexible and allows me to focus on my studies and my graduate assistantship during the week. This job will be my ticket out of debt and a ticket to more tri gear (in time). Things are going very, very well!