Freezing Saddles 2016

(website) (forum)
2015: 293 miles in 45 days
2016: 282 miles in 48 days

  • All of my rides were either commutes or running errands.
  • I biked to work more times this year (5 times, compared to only twice last year).
  • I managed not to get majorly sick this time, which is a plus.
  • The studded tires mostly worked. Putting them on was a pain- I ripped my hands on the studs, and messed up my derailleurs. Riding on them when there was no snow/ice on the ground was not pleasant, either. If I use them again, I would either put them on a winter beater bike or buy separate wheels for them so that I can put them on my bike more easily.
  • Wearing a mask did help on the really cold days.
  • MG wrote up a very nice interview.
  • I didn’t enjoy my experience nearly as much as I did last year, though. I will likely not participate again. I will, as always, keep riding throughout the winter.

I took photos on Instagram. I’m particularly proud of the shots I took that chronicled the lengthening of the days.

A Few Thoughts on Freezing Saddles 2015

bike in snow
Freezing Saddles is a friendly competition by the Washington Area Bike Forum (aka Bike Arlington Forum). Basically, you bike from January 1st to the last day of winter (March 19). You gain points for every day and every mile you ride. You are assigned a team, and the team and individual with the most points win. Other prizes are given for side-bets and for any kind of dubious honor one can think up, such as the longest ride, or the lowest average miles.

It’s a fun way to encourage people to keep riding throughout the winter. It’s also an opportunity for statistics geeks to go nuts and parse the data in every which way possible. So, with that in mind, let me present a few pointless stats of my own.
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Bicycling vs. Running

I suppose it’s not quite fair to compare the two, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far in training for a run versus training for a ride.

1. I recognize my limitations in running better than I do in biking.
After multiple injuries and difficulty in breathing from running, I am less apt to push myself. On one hand, I’m less prone to injury, and train more gradually. On the other hand, I have much less confidence in my abilities as a runner.

I seem to willfully ignore my limitations as a bicyclist. I can blame whatever problems I have on the bicycle, or I can fool myself into thinking that coasting and taking breaks can keep me going indefinitely. I can push myself much harder on the bike, and sometimes with deleterious effects.

2. Fueling is completely different for each activity.
After a long ride, I am ravenous and want to eat all the things. I need to replenish my fluids right away, lest I become dehydrated. After a run, I am not at all hungry or thirsty until much later. I forgot this, and after Thursday’s run, ate a granola bar because I thought I had to. Big mistake– that bar sat like a rock in my stomach for the rest of the morning.

3. Bicycling is a more social activity for me.
I like biking on my own, and I do that fairly often, but I think it’s more fun when I’m with friends who enjoy bicycling too. Running is still not altogether fun for me, and although I like running with R, I don’t think I can run in a large group. That stems partly from my lack of confidence in keeping up, and also in that I feel like I should suffer alone.

4. And yet, running improves my mood better than bicycling.
I’m not quite sure why this is. Perhaps running at the current distance and speed is the perfect setting for an endorphin rush for me, and I run out of energy from pushing myself too hard on the bike? I don’t know, but as long as I can stay healthy, I’ll continue to run on a regular basis.

An Epic Ride: Epilogue

Mile 40

It’s a little over two weeks since our trip ended. Since then, the government has re-opened, and I’m back at work. I’m still frantically trying to catch up on things, which has been complicated by moving to a new house. My arm and knee have more or less healed, and I’m back to commuting on the bike, with occasional coffeeneuring trips.
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Lessons Learned From the Thurmont Thump

I’m pleased to report some progress.

New saddle is comfortable. The Terry Liberator X saddle works great for long rides. A big difference there. I was sore, but not in pain like last time.

New top tube bag= easy access to food. I bought a Detours Slice bag, which makes it easier for me to use while riding. It opens and closes with a zipper, and I was able to fish out Shot Bloks and a Larabar with one gloved hand. Nice.

Fueling up. I had a good dinner the night before. I took small bites of energy bars and Shot Bloks while on the bike, a quick stop for a sandwich, and followed everything with a Tums chaser. My energy (and mental state) was more or less constant throughout, and I managed to keep the heartburn at bay this time. I stayed well hydrated.

Some things to think about:
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Some Ramblings About Riding Mt. Vernon

sign for Mt. Vernon
This was my first time riding the Mt. Vernon Trail– in the daylight. I’ve done parts of it, but only at night. I figured I should get to know the trail during the day. Some thoughts:

-It’s really pretty, even in the wintertime. I’m envious that this is Rootchopper’s commute. He pointed out the eagle’s nests– and as if on cue, we saw a bald eagle fly into one. Magical.

-I got lost a couple of times– getting out of Old Town Alexandria, and getting out of Jones Point Park. I know I tend to be directionally challenged, but I do think the signage could be better. Many thanks to Justin for pointing me in the right direction.

-Oh, and why do I not go to Old Town more often? Seriously– so easy to get to by bike.

-There was a downed tree near the end of the trail, which I attempted to go around. Unfortunately, there was mud on the side of the trail, and I slipped and fell. I was happy to discover that 1) I slipped in soft mud instead of hard pavement, and 2) that my feet will come out of the pedals in an accident. Still, falling was embarrassing.

-It’s not my heart, it’s heartburn. At mile zero, I stopped to eat a Clif Mojo bar. On my return ride, I started feeling that familiar burning in my chest. I looked at my heart rate monitor, and I wasn’t even close to being at threshold level. So now I know, and I guess I need to eat Tums on every ride. It hurt me all the way home.

-I’m still amazed by how much of the area I haven’t seen. So much to explore!

-It was great to meet up with Mr. T in DC and Jerdlngr. So great to meet up with Bike DC folks!

-I meant to just ride for the morning, but instead I made a day of it. And it was a great day.

Rootchopper’s account is here.

Lessons Learned on the Populaire 2013

First, the good stuff:

I like the Tricross for riding randonneuring rides. This was my first time riding with the Tricross, and it was generally a good experience. I like being a little more upright, and the 700x28c tires greatly reduced the vibrations from the uneven roads. I definitely like having a triple chainring, although I think my triple on Tricross has higher gear ratios than my Dolce– I’d have to check. I’ll write more about riding the Tricross in another post.

I like my rack bag for carrying things. Also for another post, the rack bag I used seems to hold enough stuff for a ride, including a change of shoes, a jersey, half a sandwich, snacks, and bike stuff. Aside from the rattling of my rear light (which I need to fix), I didn’t even know it was there.

I think I like riding in the winter. I was surprised to discover that I didn’t need my inhaler at all for this ride. No allergies!

Stuff I need to work on:

I desperately need a new saddle and pedals. I’ve decided I don’t like the saddle I’ve been using for the past year for long rides, and I’m done with the half-platform, half-clipless pedals. I need a saddle that doesn’t hurt my butt, and I need to adjust the clips so that my knees don’t hurt. I’m going to swap those out soon.

I need to learn how to eat on the bike. This sounds stupid, but I was annoyed by not being able to easily open the top tube bag to get to my food while riding. I had to take off my glove (which was difficult enough), rip open the bag, and fish out the snack without dropping it or losing control of the bike. Part of the problem with the bag itself is that it’s designed for a right-hander, and I am left-handed. The rest involves me developing the skill to get into the bag itself. I may need a new bag as well.

I am not going to get better with hills without training. This is by far the biggest lesson. This is now my fourth randonneuring ride, and I should know by now that although I may have the capability of handling flat roads, I do not for hills. The only way to get better at hills is to practice riding hills. There is no alternative. I still need to get a heart monitor and find out what’s going on with my heart rate.

Consider doing permanents. At my current level of fitness, there is no way I can do a hilly brevet without feeling sick, and that’s just not fun. This 66-mile populaire pushed me to the limit without breaking me entirely, which makes me think that I should stick to shorter distances for hilly rides. I was thinking of doing more populaires and permanents, and possibly working towards the P-12 award. The only drawback is that I would have to figure out how to do one. (My schedule does not seem to coincide with Crista’s, unfortunately.) If I can get my act together to do one next month, I will.

Got to keep working.