Hiatus: we’re taking one

Hello, all.
As summer is nearing, deadlines and graduation are looming on the horizon, too.
I love posting here and I love hearing from you, but as my college career comes to a close, wrapping up loose ends is becoming overwhelming and time to do things I love (like posting here) is nonexistent.
So, I’ll be taking a break from posting here until after school is done.
I won’t leave forever, I promise. I would just rather post worthwhile things that are deserving of your time than fluffy pieces just to keep my reader stats up.
I’m not saying I won’t post if something comes up, but those may be few and far between for the next few weeks.
I look forward to having more opportunities to write here and make this blog what it should be, and I just don’t have the time to do that now.
I’ll be back in a few weeks! Look for me mid-May!

Keep riding!

Friday Night Social: meet and greet your new city councilors!

Friday nights at District Bicycles is always a good time. We hang out, eat snacks and talk about… well, everything under the sun.
Today, we will meet the newly elected Stillwater city councilors, Pat Darlington and Miguel Najera.
Both have expressed an interest in cycling and a hope that the city can become more involved in bicycle education, trails and events.
Here’s a little about who you’ll meet tonight.
Pat Darlington

Pat Darlington

Pat Darlington

Pat is a Stillwater local, mother and grandmother, is active on the Stillwater School Board and Library Board, was instrumental in developing Oakcreek Community – a senior cohousing complex –  and is a licensed psychologist in Stillwater.

Her views on cycling: When I reached out to Pat to see what she thought about cycling, where it belongs in the community, how the city could be better involved in cycling and her thoughts on cycling events, she responded with this email:
“I would like to see a shift of bike/hiking/ walking trails out of Parks & Rec into the Transportation Dept. I think this would contribute to a perception shift that biking and walking are means of transportation rather than “just” recreational.
Safe biking routes, driver and biker education and infrastructure (smooth roads, good traffic/crossing lights/ good bike “parking” spaces, etc) that supports biking/walking/running are all pieces to be worked on. I think events that bring bicyclers into town are very valuable. Cooperation with several entities–convention and visitors bureau, city departments, YMCA, retail, hotel, etc…. My primary “agenda” includes thinking outside the box of our own specific departments…and thinking outside the box for entertaining, sport, cultural, etc ideas.”
You can check out her campaign website here.

Miguel Najera

Miguel Najera

Miguel Najera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel grew up in Ponca City and moved to Stillwater to go to Oklahoma State University. He majored in political science and minored in emergency management and sociology. He and his wife were married last summer, and they attend Countryside Baptist Church. Miguel works with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Insurance Company and enjoys playing racquetball at the YMCA.
His views on cycling: I spent half an hour on the phone with Miguel, talking about cycling in the city and how we can improve it, how the city can become more involved and what he thinks about cycling events.
He said he thinks that cycling education for cyclists and drivers is very important, noting that many cyclists who are also students (who generally use a bicycle to get to and from campus) don’t understand the rules of the road and can create dangerous situations; he also noted that drivers sometimes get unnerved when they see cyclists on the road, and that education on both sides would be a great improvement.
He said he thinks cycling events like the Land Run 100 and Freewheel are a great idea; they bring hundreds, if not thousands, of people to the city to spend money and time in the community. If they have a memorable, good experience, they might think of Stillwater the next time they want to move somewhere or look for a job in a different city.
He said the more people on bicycles and the fewer people in cars on Oklahoma roads, the better because it creates a healthier, tighter community.
You can check out his campaign website here.

So, show up to District Bicycles, 120 W. Seventh Ave., at 5:30, with your favorite snack to share, and get ready to meet your new city councilors! Let’s show them what an awesome cycling community we are! I’ll see you there!

Keep riding!

City Council Elections: results

The results are in! Here are the final tallies, but I’ll spell it out for you, too.

Seat Three: Out of 2,034 votes, Pat Darlington pulled in 1,713 votes, accounting for 84.2 percent, beating out Jay Jibu Kuruvilla, who had 321 votes, or 15.8 percent.

Seat Four: Out of 2,008 votes, Miguel Najera pulled in 1,172 votes, accounting for 58.4 percent, beating out incumbent Cody Scott, who had 826 votes, with 41.6 percent.

Congratulations to the newly elected councilors, and thanks to all of you who made this possible! Voting really does matter!

 

City Council: bicycle-friendly candidates

April 1 brings elections to Stillwater. Now before you start on how city council elections aren’t a big deal, they’re just as important as presidential elections. Have you SEEN Parks and Rec? If not, check it out.
Anyway, if you haven’t already decided who you are going to vote for – and you should vote, regardless of who you vote for – let me try to sway you toward a couple.
City Council seats 3 and 4 are up for grabs. Newcomer Miguel Najera is running against incumbent Cody Scott for seat 3. Seat 4 has come down to Stillwater local Pat Darlington and OSU student Jay Kuruvilla.
I reached out to the newcomers to find out who thought what about bicycling in Stillwater, and I heard back from Najera and Darlington .
Miguel Najera, running for seat 3, said he hugely in favor of bicycling in Stillwater, adding that we need to expand bicycle lanes to more of the city. He said he thinks that cycling events will bring great things to the city, and said if elected, he will do everything he can to help make Freewheel, an annual bicycle tour of Oklahoma that is stopping in Stillwater for the first time in 20 years this year, the best stop on the tour. He said he thinks the city needs more/better bicycle education for cyclists and drivers on the roads.
Pat Darlington, running for seat 4, said she would like to see an expansion of bicycle, walking and hiking trails around Stillwater because that would help create the idea that these things are modes of transportation, not just recreation; she said she wants to move the bicycle/walking/hiking tails out of the Parks and Recreation department and into the department of Transportation. She said that entities within the city government and local advocates working together will make the city a better place for cycling and the community as a whole.

In case you hadn’t figured out, I’m endorsing Miguel Najera for seat 3 and Pat Darlington for seat 4.

Get out the vote!

 

Road Safety: the basics

I rode a fabulous group ride today. Great company, easy distance (10 miles), good speed. It was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I noticed a few things about group rides, though.
When you’re riding with more than a few people, it’s easy to get distracted by conversations, the scenery, not running into the person in front of you, etc., and harder to concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
So here are a few road safety tips I thought might be helpful. Keith Reed and I discussed these and he posted something similar on his blog.

1. Bike lanes. They’re there for us, so let’s use them. I understand it’s a little more difficult to stay in a bike lane when there are many riders. However, on main roads with lots of traffic, it’s a safety issue to stay within the bike lane. When there are multiple lanes, it can be permissible to stray into traffic lanes, but I would advise slower/newer riders to stay in the bike lanes as much as possible.
2. Traffic. It’s everywhere, and when riding on the road, cyclists need to keep a third eye – and ear – out for vehicles passing and turning around us.
3. Car back! This could be the most important call for cyclists. This notifies cyclists that a vehicle is approaching from behind and that cyclists should get over as far right as safe to allow the vehicle to pass safely to the left. Again, in multi-lane roads without bike lanes, keep the right lane and allow the car to pass in the left. If you have one lane, form a single file line and let the car pass.
I noticed today that some riders didn’t fall into single file and instead stayed in a clump, at least two – sometimes three – abreast, and I noticed a few cars didn’t quite give the three feet provided by law (which is on the driver).
I cannot stress the importance of going single file when cars come around. A line is easier to pass, while a clump of riders is unpredictable and gives the impression that they may not even realize the driver is nearing, setting the stage for an unpredictable and stressful situation.
4. Traffic lights. When stopping at a traffic light, watch the cross lights to for an indication of when your light will turn green. When you see the cross lights go yellow, prepare to set off by clipping in and/or getting ready to pedal when your light turns green. If you wait for your light to go green before starting that process, it takes more time and is generally more stressful as you struggle to get across the intersection in a timely fashion, which could result in chaos, falling over and general embarrassment.

Help your fellow riders. You ride as a group, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep an eye out.

Keep riding!

Land Run 100: pigs, prayer and too much GU

I participated in my first Land Run 100 on Saturday. I had planned to ride last year and ended up just being a support crew because of time constraints, but this year I was able to make the time commitment.
I trained and trained and trained for this ride, but in February, my left knee started giving me problems. Like, couldn’t ride my bike more than five miles problems. So there went my training rides for the last month before the race. We adjusted my seat and cleats about a billion times, and with every adjustment, my knee hurt worse, faster.
Finally, I went to my dad (a bone and muscle doctor) and he figured out what was going on. Apparently, I have an old injury from my basketball and track days (yes, I was athletic at some point in my life) and the ligaments in my knee and ankle are loose, which has given my fibia the freedom to move wherever the heck it wants. Let me tell you. It is painful.
So my dad put the fibia back in place on the Sunday before Land Run, I got a knee brace and laid off the bike until Friday. I rode around town with no pain all day and helped with race registration Friday night. Then I went home and noticed my left ankle was twice the size of my right ankle. I thought that was weird, because it didn’t hurt and my ankle hadn’t been giving me any problems. So I iced down my joints and prayed for the best.

Frozen peas and asparagus spears to the rescue!

Frozen peas and asparagus spears to the rescue!

My parents got to town early Saturday morning and my dad taped my ankle into immobility and added a brace for good measure.
I felt pretty good at the starting line. It was finally happening! I’d thought and thought about riding the Land Run, and then lived in fear for the past month because I thought I wouldn’t be able to ride at all. I went back and forth between visions of finishing the race in tears, my leg the size of a tree trunk, but victorious, and visions of barely making it to Ingalls before my knee gave out and I had to call for help.
But at the starting line, I told myself that I would ride as far as I could. No set goals. Just one pedal after another, one mile after another. If “as far as I could” got me to Carney or even back to Stillwater, I would be happy.
So we set off.

You can see my striped All-City jersey on the right, and Austin Turner in the blue windbreaker ahead of me.

You can see my striped All-City jersey on the right, and Austin Turner in the blue windbreaker ahead of me.

I took it easy, quickly falling to the back of the pack, because I didn’t want to stress my knee too early. Before we hit Ingalls, which is 10 miles out, I felt that familiar dull ache creeping in to the lateral side of my knee, but I determined that I wouldn’t give up until I got past Mount Vernon Road, about 15 miles out.
As a personal point of interest, I don’t pray as much as I probably should, but God and I had a real talk on 19th. I started praying with every pedal stroke. I rolled through Ingalls and made it up Blowup Hill, sucking down a couple of Salted Caramel GUs for good measure. I’m not on GU’s payroll, but those things are amazing.
I pressed on, praying and cursing every time my knee let me know it wasn’t happy.
As I neared Mount Vernon, I started listening to my knee and pushing a little harder in my pedal stroke. And you know what?
My knee didn’t hurt.
Sure, I felt the occasional twinges when I moved wrong, but I decided that it was enough to keep going.
From there on, every mile was an adventure. I kept praying and listening to my knee, half expecting for it to explode at any moment. I didn’t go as fast as I normally could have, and I walked my bike up hills that normally wouldn’t be a problem, but I kept going.
I did most of the ride by myself. I lost the pack early, but I played leap frog with a couple of guys until they turned off on the 50 mile option.
I was looking forward to the Brethren hill, and I was also a little terrified. If I was going to crash, it would probably happen on the way down.
I was heading up the hills before turning onto Brethren (I don’t remember the road name) and I heard a car coming up behind me so I tried to get over to the side. It got real soupy and I got real sideways and fell, scraping up my leg really good. It was my first crash to draw blood.

I poured plenty of peroxide on this and I was surprised by two things: how much it bubbled and how much it hurt. I had been under the impression my whole life that peroxide doesn't sting. MY LIFE IS A LIE.

I poured plenty of peroxide on this and I was surprised by two things: how much it bubbled and how much it hurt. I had been under the impression my whole life that peroxide doesn’t sting. MY LIFE IS A LIE.

I made it down Brethren without incident.
Somewhere on Perrotte Road another rider passed me and offered to let me sit on his wheel for a while. The wind was getting stronger and I was averaging about 7 mph. I hung with him for a couple of miles but he dropped me when we crossed HWY 105.
So continue down Perrotte Road alone. That was probably my lowest point. I was getting tired and eating everything in my feedbag – GUs, Stinger Waffles, Shotblox, etc. The lack of training was really getting to me, so I got off and walked again.
After a while I continued on and came across one of the Jeep crew going the other direction. He opened the door and warned me watch out for the pigs.
I said thanks and kept going, and then thought, “Pigs? WTF?!”
I envisioned a swarm of rabid pigs in the bushes, waiting to take my leg off. I pedaled quietly, watching both sides of the wooded road for signs of swine. I didn’t know how many to expect. Were they cute little pink pigs you see in movies, or were they wild boars with evil tusks?
I remembered the scene in Old Yeller where the kid gets pulled into the herd of wild pigs and his leg gets chewed up, and I was certain it would happen to me.
I topped a low hill and there they were. They weren’t pink and they weren’t boars, but if pink pigs and wild boars had babies, these would be them. Dirty, fat jowled things without tusks but full of menace. I tried to imagine what pig teeth looked like, but thought better of it.
There was one on each side of the road and they looked up at me with their beady evil eyes as I neared. I watched both as I quietly shifted up a couple of gears in case I needed to make a quick get away. I knew to kick dogs that rushed my wheels, but I wasn’t sure what pig protocol was.
I tried to not look at either one for too long – prolonged eye contact could incite them or something, you know?
I passed the first one and glanced over my shoulder as I passed the second. They were both facing me and staring hard.
I decided that was the time to get out of there and I cranked hard, praying my knee wouldn’t give out and please God protect me from those crazy effing pigs.
To wrap this story up, I survived the pigs and kept eating GUs. I started getting a little queasy from all the nutrition and looked forward to the turkey sandwich waiting for me at Carney. 
I had been warned of the false sense of accomplishment that would come with nearing Carney. You think you’re there about 7 miles before you’re actually there.
I was the last one on the course (surprise surprise) and one of the Jeeps was following me 
into town. I felt bad because I was managing 7 mph most of the time and 13 on downhills, but I didn’t hear him complaining.
I started getting discouraged again and I looked at the time. I knew I was close on distance and time, but I wasn’t sure. It was 2:02. I had missed the checkpoint but I decided to ride into town anyway. I walked up a hill and saw a million more hills. I waved the Jeep forward and called it a day.
As we drove that last hilly mile into Careny, I realized that if I hadn’t quit where I did, I would have quit on the next hill.
My parents were waiting for me at the checkpoint. The trunk was open and there was the turkey sandwich, waiting for me with a can of Coke and a jar of dill pickles. I didn’t say anything to anyone – I just crammed as much of that sandwich into my face as I could.

Even thought I didn’t finish the race, Austin and the rest of my Gravel Grinding friends did, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They worked hard and deserved that finish line. I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t finish. I made it farther than I ever thought I would.
This race was a day of firsts. First crash to draw blood and the first time to pee on the side of the road. I guess I’m a real Gravel Grinder now.
The next step is to get my knee fixed and start training for next year, because I’m going to cross the finish line in 2015.

And since you read this far, here are the race results!

Keep riding!

Land Run 100: get ready!

It’s looming fast on the horizon and if you’re like most of us who claim to be gravel grinders,  you’re freaking out just a little bit. Between live and the snow and arctic temperatures that have plagued Oklahoma for the past couple of weeks (or the threat thereof), there hasn’t been much time for training.
But we are past the point of freaking out and to the point of gearing up, whether we are ready or not (I know I have my hesitations but I will be at the starting line, I promise!).
Bobby Wintle, race-planner extraordinaire, sent out an itinerary for the weekend, but here’s a broken down version for your viewing pleasure.
Friday
3 p.m. – 20 mile gravel ride leaving from the new shop, 120 W. 7th Ave.
5 p.m. – Registration packet pickup at the shop. Also. Free beer.
5 p.m. – 7 p.m. – Raffle to support Ainsley Peters, who has been valiantly battling leukemia since August. Check out her story here.
6 p.m. – Riders meeting at the shop. This is where you learn a little more about the course you’ll be riding.
7 p.m. – Sending off Arthur Elias, an avid runner who plans to complete the course on foot in 24 hours.
7 p.m. – Drawing raffle tickets after we send off Arthur.

Saturday
6 a.m. – Registration packet pickup
6 a.m. – 7:30 a.m. – Drop bag service. Bring your bag for the Carney checkpoint and we will get it there for you. Make sure you can quickly identify your bag out of the millions that will be there.
8 a.m. – Land Run 100 begins! 
2 p.m. – Carney checkpoint closes. If you don’t make it there before 2, make sure you can have someone pick you up from Carney.
5 p.m. – ??? – Block party. There will be food, beer and music and we can party all night long. Check out the Facebook event here.

Check out the Stillwater Gravel Grinders website for the GPS files – get them loaded and ready.

Now, if you’re like me, this is your first big official fancy ride/race/thing, and we can use all the pro tips we can get.
What do you – I’m looking at you, seasoned riders – suggest for us newbies?
I know I plan on eating a giant turkey sandwich somewhere in there, but that’s all I know.
What are your pro tips?