bikingandbaking: me as a teenager in a tie-dye shirt on a bike (tie dye)
So, lately, it being the beginning of base-building season, I've been casting around for things to do other than sit on a trainer for hours. (And a bunch of that; football season is a blessing.) And I've tried two things I had fairly negative associations with -- running, and tonight, yoga. More on the running later; I've mostly found that if I can let go of expectations about speed and just run that it can be a nice change of pace.

But yoga was something I bounced off of once and never thought I'd go back. I even cannibalized my yoga block to make ankle blocks for canoeing. [ profile] dphilli1 and I took a class, years back, at the Woburn Y, which was just not the class I needed. One of the biggest issues was child's pose -- I found it excruciating, and the class, as a beginners' class, spent a lot of time in it. It was also the "alternative" if you couldn't do a pose, and the teacher couldn't believe someone was having trouble with it.

No, that Y teacher just didn't have any idea how to modify it for large-breasted and/or large-bellied humans; I need to move my knees way out to be able to breathe, and that is considered a safe/appropriate/whatever modification. I also didn't have nearly enough ankle flexibility -- it took months of diligent stretching years later for me to gain that. And I didn't do that for yoga, I did it for canoeing.

I'm not sure if this teacher would know the modifications; but I knew them, and we spent most of the rest time in table pose, anyway, which is a great place for me to hang out. And when I modified another pose, she was great about catching my eye and smiling/otherwise encouraging that, rather than a glaring correction. (She does do corrections without asking, which I don't mind but some people do, apparently; this was a thing I found looking for info on why child's pose sucked for me.) There were only a few strangulation-by-boob poses in the class, hurrah, and they were all ones where I could get something out of going to the point before my airways get squashed.

This class was a recovery-yoga class (Recovery Yoga for Cyclists at the Arlington Center), so it felt very "easy" -- there were a few poses intended for strengthening, but mostly it was stretching/lengthening. I wasn't really sure how much use the class had been until I hopped onto my bike for the ride home.

Oh. My spine was straight, my shoulders were down, and my legs had lost the congested feeling they'd had on the way over. Now, the headwind on the way over hadn't helped (the wind had died down by the end of class, so I wasn't getting a tailwind home), but my body felt very different. I even lifted my hands off the handlebars for a few seconds with the feeling that I could eventually learn to no-hands the Brompton -- and then put them back down because I was not on an appropriate street for experiments. Instead I just sat upright and tall and came home and set my computer up so that I could continue to sit properly while typing this.

And I have tea and samosas and homemade cranberry-pistachio baklava. (What, you want the recipe? It's not perfect -- I still haven't found the perfect baklava recipe, so I'd just recommend starting with your perfect baklava, and using 1/3 cranberries, 2/3 pistachios for the nut mixture, cutting the sugar in the filling back a bit, adding cardamom if it doesn't already have some, and using orange juice or grapefruit juice for any water in the syrup. And send me your perfect baklava recipe. :))
bikingandbaking: photo of an old 80's exercise bike (spin spin spin (there is a season))
I doubt I'll make all 7/7 for the coffeeneuring challenge; I refrained from going out in the absolute muck that was last weekend's weather, especially not when I have a new spin bike at home. And I was out of town running support for [ profile] dphilli1's first ultramarathon last weekend, which involved plenty of biking and a lot of Dunkin Donuts finest products, but not actually simultaneously.

Instead, I have my own challenge for myself: all miles are good miles.

AKA take your bicycle to work month. It's pitch-dark for my entire commute now, and I just don't enjoy it -- too much dark + heavy traffic = stress. I could ride to work, especially right now after the time change, since it's full light in the mornings, but that would require a magical transformation into Morning Person Sarah. Which if it hasn't happened by now, ain't happening. I've done the morning ride a few times, and once I'm five miles from home I'm a happy commuter, but getting out the door is rough.

Instead, I'm doing what the Brompton does best: going multimodal. I'm pledging to myself to just take the bike with me every day. I don't have to ride it -- if it's truly miserable out I can take it on all forms of transport I normally take to work. But on a normal day, I'll rack up close to 5 miles in bits and pieces. And when the T is a complete failure, or if I want to run errands, I'll have it with me. It's not a lot of miles, and they're not especially hilly, but they add up.

So far -- 4/5 days this week, and the 1/5 without it was when I had to drive into work. Including running to Chinatown after voting, and a very, very wet race against a super-slow orange-line for my bus home yesterday. (I did not make the usual departure time for the bus, but neither did the bus.)

Except for the rain, it's been nice. Riding little bits to ride little bits, not as a failure option for not feeling like riding all the way home. Am hoping to keep this up at least as long as the roads aren't too icy for little unstudded tires to ride on.
bikingandbaking: close-up of strawberries and rhubarb in sugar syrup (strawberry-rhubarb)
SO I AM BEHIND, anyone surprised? Nope. So I'll try to catch up a little.

These past two weekends have been Full Of Things; this has not been great for getting out on the bike, but the coffeeneuring challenge is great for making me find at least a few minutes here and there; in this case, going two places by bike when I might have borrowed [ profile] dphilli1's car.

Oh, and the annual Eggplant Party. So there's a recipe or two here as well.

Coffeeneuring #2: late night ramble )
Coffeeneuring #3: the bean-buying exception )
Continuing the theme of technicalities count were my eggplant party dishes; both used the eggplant more as filler than as primary ingredient, although you could taste it in both if you were looking for it, and it was a significant textural component.

The burgers were based on this recipe from The Tolerant Vegan, whose site I'd never seen before but looks like it has a lot of delicious things. I wanted something bean-heavy but not lentil-based -- lentils are hit or miss for me. So this one, with its white beans and hummus sounded great.

Since this was for the Eggplant Party (i.e. potluck), I made sliders instead of full-sized burgers. I also doubled the recipe and made a few modifications, but it's not that different from the original.
Baked Eggplant Sliders )
Eggplant Muhammara-ish Dip and Mint-Cucumber Lebneh Tzatziki )

Next weekend, hopefully I'll get out for a decent ride on Sunday.


Oct. 4th, 2014 03:19 pm
bikingandbaking: me as a teenager in a tie-dye shirt on a bike (tie dye)
This is not the Vermont Fall Classic writeup -- for now, have a flickr album of that.

Like the onset of evening, fall is a time when it's kind of hard to keep riding; in the dead of winter or the middle of the night, the only way to ride is to just ride, but in the fall, it's kind of suddenly dreary. I haven't been riding as much; have been jogging a bit, but that's another post.

A prominent randonneuring blogger had a solution: the coffeeneuring challenge. Get out every weekend for coffee for seven weeks (or more precisely, 7 times in 7 weeks; 2-for-1s some weekends are OK.)

It's also a good way for me to try to get more regular about blogging things quickly rather than sitting on them FOREVER. Though not having a smartphone makes it harder, as I have to cart my camera around and upload stuff manually.

  1. Where: Diesel Cafe, Somerville, MA
  2. When: October 4th, 2014
  3. Drink: Green Tea Latte with soymilk, plus breakfast (not pictured as I'd already eaten it by the time I got out the camera).
  4. Bike Friendliness: A+ See picture above: the parking space directly outside it is now a bike rack, all year round. Taking the Brompton in was a bit of a pain as it was more packed than it's usual hordes on Saturday morning, as there'd been a 5k road race that morning. But I found a seat where I could tuck it under one of the long tables.
  5. Total Mileage: 6.8, apparently! Yes, I uploaded it to Strava. Was kind of curious how fast I go in relaxed errand-running mode, especially since the ride home was after getting a massage and I was a bit loopy.
I need an icon with the Brompton! Not today, though. Maybe for the next coffeeneur post.
bikingandbaking: photo of the front of a canoe in the water (canoe)
[So this ride report is somewhat belated; I kept meaning to do it but life has been stressing me out, and it's weirdly hard to write a report about feeling awesome when...not.]

One of the things I think I've mentioned before is what I find scenic: some things fit the standard definitions -- sun-dappled shady backroads (especially with the elusive bonus of glass-smooth pavement), quaint New England villages, etc. And one not: I would much rather see for miles by looking out over water than from a hillcrest; all of the hilltops look the same to me after a few, whereas water always looks different.

So a 200k heading up along the shore from Beverly sounded perfect. I'd been feeling blah and not riding much since DNFing the preride for the Ashburnham/Petersham 200k, but I started commuting again and figured a nice flat 200k would be great.
It was... )
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
Since I have explained this twice now to [ profile] dphilli1, I might as well put it up onlye. So you accidentally hit stop/start instead of lap halfway through a ride/run: here's how to fix it.

Step one: upload the rides to Garmin Connect. They've just changed their interface and I had to set it back to Classic to find anything, so I expect if I tell you how to find stuff it will be useless shortly when they force us all to the new view. But all of these features should be there.

Open each of the activities you want to combine in Garmin Connect. Export them to TCX, and remember the order they go in. (You can rename the files to "one.tcx", "two.tcx" etc as you download -- I do, and that's what I'll call the files.)

Open "one.tcx" and "two.tcx" in a decently functional text editor (Wordpad, TextWrangler, emacs). These are XML files (syntax very much like HTML). Go to the end of "one.tcx" and scroll back up until you find a line that says </Lap>. Put a blank line after it, and go to "two.tcx". In this file, delete everything before the first <Lap> (no /, just Lap). Go to the end and delete everything after the last </Lap>. Select all, and copy it onto the blank line you put in "one.tcx". Repeat as needed, adding the later rides onto the end of the first.

Save the file, and upload manually to wherever you want your data to go -- Strava, etc. You may lose some metadata -- I lose the temperature data from my rides when I do this.
bikingandbaking: close-up of strawberries and rhubarb in sugar syrup (strawberry-rhubarb)
This is both bike post and recipe post: since I didn't feel quite ready for the Boston 600k, I decided to run support. And, because it's what I do, I baked. At least two people asked about the recipe, so I figured I should post it.

The version I brought was the double-batch option (see instructions) using the vegan ingrediant choices. It tastes about the same vegan/not vegan -- mainly the topping will either taste like butter or not. :)

Blueberry Coffee Cake )
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike from the front (seven)
The first tough thing about the 400k was the start: it started at 4am. This meant getting up at 2am, which meant trying to get a decent amount of sleep, first. I got maybe 3 or 4 hours, which would have to be good enough. I also almost forgot that I'd gotten up 2 hours before the start, not 2.5, and with an hour gentle ride out there, I needed to leave earlier than 3am to get checked in. Whoops. I scrambled out the door at 2:45 and was on my way without forgetting anything.

There was more grooved pavement on the way out, yuck, but I got to the start without incident and got checked in with plenty of time. Then a brief description of the detours and changes to the route since last year -- three bridges were out, and the leg back in the middle of the night had had a detour added to the organizer's house, where we'd have an additional place to refuel after rural MA/NH had turned the lights out. This added 9 miles to the minimum required, and between that and my terrible last training ride, I bid farewell to my super-sekrit stretch goal of finishing under 24 hours. The goals left were two: one, to finish, and two, hopefully to do so in just under 25 hours, hitting precalculated time goals that required me to stay focused but seemed achievable.

And then it was 4am and we were off, the small pack quickly stretching itself out into a string of taillights in the dark. I didn't try as hard to hang on to anyone as I had on the 200k, and didn't go blazing out quite as fast. I did, however, hit New Boston in the same amount of time, exactly on schedule. I stopped long enough to add water to my bottles and chug a coke (hooray, caffeine) and be back on the road by exactly my goal time to arrive there: 8am. 4 hours, 51 miles. Unlike the 200k, it was still early morning, since we'd started 4 hours earlier. Riders were scattered all over the little town green and the gazebo; I'd caught up to the pack I'd lost before dawn.

A few miles down the road, Emily (who is faster than I am but had stayed at the New Boston stop longer) caught up to me, and we chatted while riding through a very pretty (and flat) section. She's easy to ride with; I have a lot of trouble chatting while riding some times/with some people; my audio processing kind of sucks, and riding takes a lot of attention. But we had a good chat, and then more of the pack caught up with us and passed us. "Let's catch up and draft", she said, and I knew where this would go; we caught up, and I immediately fell back off the back. That was fine; the hills were coming up, and I wanted to tackle them alone.

It had also started to heat up. I started going through gatorade at about a water-bottle full per ten miles, which would continue until dark. The cue sheet called out shops quite frequently, so unlike on the 300k, I wasn't worried about not finding anywhere to fill up. There were either 3 or 4 big hills on this section, I couldn't remember which; only the last was steep enough I knew I'd need to walk. The first was the prettiest:

photo of canterbury shaker village

To turn, turn, will be our delight 'til by turning, turning we come round right.

up alongside Canterbury Shaker Village. I was slow, but steady, climbing up it, and felt pretty good.

Then the heat kicked in, and we left the pretty quiet road for a major thoroughfare and the next two (yes, there were four) climbs. Yuck. This was the stretch that was notoriously hated. I'd caught up to the pack leaving a store again, but immediately got stuck behind a passing motorcycle convoy and then stopped myself, dragging my bike into a Dunkies for 10 minutes of airconditioning and a frozen sugar concoction.

The next two climbs, the less said about them the better. It was hot, I was tired, and I clawed my way up them. It was probably the lowest point I had on the ride; there was a lot left to go, and the heat was really bringing me down. Finally the last climb hit, where we turned off onto a smaller road, and I'd planned to walk it all along, so I could hop off and be right on schedule. Another rider on a fixed-gear pulled up alongside me and did the same, though his legs were longer and thus he pulled away as we both walked. :) Then it was a short downhill into Meredith to the halfway-ish stop. (It wasn't quite halfway, but close enough.) Tons of people were still there, and I was still right on schedule and could sit down for a few minutes for another coke and some conversation.

I still got remarks about being speedy at the stop, though, and left before the small pack. It's my one talent at brevet-riding, I guess? Also, if I stayed too long, I'd never get going again, especially in the mid-day heat. We got off the big roads pretty quickly, and hit my absolute-favorite stretch -- Route 132, winding and gently rolling through the countryside, with no big hills and lots of shade. It couldn't last, but the next road at least had the shade and the pretty winding rural countryside, just now with steep, uphill rollers. We rolled past lots of dams and lakes and rivers, over a covered bridge and through little towns; bucolic New England at its finest. The pack and I played leapfrog as they used their greater speed to earn them rest stops along the way, until they finally splintered themselves apart and passed me one by one. Dark was just falling when I pulled into the dinner stop.

I'd put on the plan that I needed to leave dinner by 10; I'd arrived at 9:20, so everything was great. I took off my shoes and had a real break for the first time. Then, at 9:50, it was time to play leapfrog what I expected to be one last time, and set out on my own.

Ten miles down the road, just as I started the climb that would go up past Crotched Mountain Ski Resort, I downshifted and the bike upshifted. What? My right bar-end shifter had done something funny, and was now insisting on snapping into my smallest rear gear. Oh, crap. I couldn't ride the rest of the ride in that gear; it was way too hard to turn. There are ways to turn a bike into a singlespeed, or otherwise tweak a derailler, but my mind went blank, and I poked at the shifter for a few minutes, trying to will it back into functioning.

This was when leaving early was my salvation; headlights blazed up behind me. Emily and the rest of the little pack were there, and took a look at it. It looked loose; Emily suggested just trying to tighten it. I offered that I was OK with one gear in the back as long as it was in the middle of the range; she said that'd be easy, but we tried tightening it first. Click. It was indexing, sort of. I looked at it later -- I had, in fact, the three middle gears of the cassette (17/19/21), and that was it. Plus the front (50/34) which was working fine. Plenty, really. Lots more than Emily on her fixed gear, or the other two fixed/singlespeeds on the course. They all cheerfully wished me good luck, and sped off uphill.

I'd been close to calling to abandon when they'd appeared, just because while my legs were OK, I'd been having one of those cyclical low points that happen in any long ride, and I had felt overwhelmed by trying to do my own repairs in the dark, roadside. I'd read lots of stories of randonneuring jerry-rigging, but I hadn't expected to have to put them into action already. But I'd also wanted to keep going -- I just wasn't sure if I could get the bike in a state where it'd be possible.

Now I had it working well enough, and the confident good wishes of the crowd ringing in my ears -- they thought I'd be fine, so I couldn't think less, could I? I set off uphill, too. That climb wasn't too bad; if it were early in a ride it would have been nothing at all, and it wasn't long until I'd crested it.

Then came the part I'd have missed if I'd given up: bombing down the glass-smooth brand-new pavement of the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike (a lofty, storied name for a quiet, small road slicing a perfectly straight line through the countryside). It was glorious. The world stood still and I blazed a path through it. All good things must come to an end, and eventually the pavement turned back into the usual patchwork and the road tilted uphill again, but I was also now on somewhat familiar ground -- the 200k had done this bit, and while I'd climbed this section without walking then, I'd planned to walk it on the 400k. Without my lowest gears, there was no question; I hoofed it up the first steep rise, and then got back on for the rest of the hill.

Near the top, I saw blinking. Uh oh. The pack had stopped; Sanjay had gotten ill, and wasn't sure he could continue. We were about to crest the climb and go into a long, long downhill-to-flat section, and we talked him into taking it a few miles at a time. It was the first time I'd ridden in a pack at night, and it was a nice change. We were going slowly enough I didn't have to struggle to keep up, but only just slower than I would have gone myself, so I could sit in the pack and really rest while not losing any time. We got Sanjay to a well-lit parking lot, whereupon the ride organizer showed up to give him a ride (perfect timing). And then everyone was off like a shot. I realized almost instantly that if I tried to hang on, I'd cook myself, with only 40 mostly-flat miles to go. I could smell the barn, but I still had to get there, and I was going to have to walk anything above a ~5-6% grade with my current gearing and energy. I still got to the last stop with everyone still there, and left quickly; I'd lost 15 minutes to the derailleur fix, and I had arrived exactly 15 minutes behind my schedule. Which, all told, was pretty darn good, but dawdling wasn't going to help.

The last stretch was a bit of a slog; these were mostly-familiar roads from the 200k (both outbound and inbound) and the 400k outbound, but everything looked different at night, and I kept poking my GPS to make sure I was really still on course. A car full of teenage girls shrieked past -- What are you DOING?, which was a fair question -- alone, on a bike, at 2am or so. The sky began to lighten, and I started pouring on what speed I had left; I spun-spun-spun my highest available gear through Concord, and did my last bit of walking on the cruel little hill on Virginia road, after you spot the finish line through a barbed-wire fence and an airstrip, and then I was done. 25:14 -- modulo the mechanical issues, I'd done exactly what I'd set out to do. It was just about perfect.

I did, however, call [ profile] dphilli1 for a ride home, because that mile or so of grooved pavement sounded worse than it probably would have been, and I knew he'd already be awake.

A lot of people say the 400 is the hardest distance, but I found it the most satisfying, and a lot of fun. Yes, there were low points, but they passed quickly, and there were so many wonderful bits.

By the numbers:
25:14 total time, 22:14 moving time (which doesn't always include hill-walking)
11.7 moving average speed (again, including some but not all walking)
breaking down by leg into: 13.6/11.8/10.9/11.2/11.2. I need to improve my average speed, but my endurance is good.

I also had to laugh when I uploaded the ride to Strava; there are still so few women using it that I took a Queen of The Mountain...walking up the last hill before Meredith.
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike in front of a statue of an apple (baldwin monument)
So: the New England Randonneurs 400k. These randonneuring rides form a sequence -- 200k, 300k, 400k, 600k, and then there are the big event rides after the main series, that are generally 1000k or 1200k or even longer.

My goal this year was to see how the series went, and how far I could go. After the 200k and 300k I realized that I wasn't yet fast enough to get any sleep on the local hilly 600k (which is the first of the rides to have a sleep stop), and that trying to ride it straight through sounded like a recipe for both running out of time at about the 450k mark and being too discouraged to try again next year. So I decided to focus on having a really good 400k and to aim for the full series next year.

I was nervous going into this ride, more so than before the 300k. I'd put new fenders and tires on the bike a couple weeks before, and the weekend before the 400k I went out on a shakedown ride. I'd intended to do a solo 200k, and mapped out a gently rolling ride up to Essex, NH, with lots of nice places to stop.

Then I actually set out on the ride. Ugh. My legs felt dead, dead, dead. I stopped again and again to make sure nothing was rubbing -- the new fenders and tires are a very tight fit. Nope, no rubbing. I was on familiar favorite roads to begin with, and I was just slow. The new tires did feel better than the old on grooved pavement, which had eaten a section that is normally one of my favorite stretches. But nothing can make grooved pavement feel good. I stopped and took a picture to take a break from the rumble.

photo of a bike in front of a stone monument depicting an apple

More whining alleviated by pretty pictures )
Alas. 85 miles round-trip, and I never got into a groove, and my average speed reflected it. I was also still having trouble with the GPS, so rather than try to do a second ride the next day, I took it back to REI for a replacement, and hoped I (and my equipment) would be ready for the next weekend.

Next up: the actual ride!


Jul. 6th, 2014 02:06 pm
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (lucky number 51)
The longer I don't write ride reports, the more self-conscious I feel about posting them. So the posts I owe y'all (and myself, for future reference) are:

1. The 400k (which should be up later today)
2. The Westfield Spring 200k DNF
3. The 300k
4. A post on risk-taking and philosophy (possibly combined with #1)
5. A post on being fat and riding anyway
6. Strawberry Shortcake
7. Reposting some other old recipes to make them easier to find than back in my untagged personal journal

I'm going to skip catching up and talk about the 400k today, because it's still fresh.
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
Last weekend, [ profile] dphilli1 had a race out in Charlemont, so I tagged along. I'd been neglecting doing hill-climbing training, and it kind of showed in how I felt on the 200k, so I figured there were two options:

1. Ride home from Charlemont, a 200k, in what was predicted to be heavy rain. Not especially hilly, mile-for-mile, although nothing resembling flat.

2. Put together a hill ride in the area, finishing about the same time David would be done. Given that this is the land of D2R2[1], the only challenge would be keeping it mostly on paved roads, since none of the online mapping sites reliably show improved vs. unimproved roads, and there's a lot of dirt out there. Still predicted to be in heavy rain, but I'd only be out in it for 40 miles or so.

I went with the latter, which was by far the most fun I've had climbing hills on a bike. It didn't hurt that the predicted rain all dumped on us on the drive out there, and by the time I set out the roads were dry and the sun was out.

Definitely so much better than doing hill repeats, which I did today. Ugh. (I don't actually go repeat the same exact climb; I have a loop that takes me up a whole bunch of local hills in a row, but it's definitely a workout ride and not actually scenic.)

image of a hilly road on a sunny day

cut for lots of photos )

[1] If you don't want to click the link, this is the Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnee, a notoriously hilly, mostly dirt road organized ride.
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike from the front (seven)
First things first: I have absolutely no pictures from either ride. Just those in my memory. (Which is partly why this report will be so detailed; to pin those images to my mental scrapbook, but alas, I cannot share them with you. I'll link some other people's photos at the end, though.)

The first ride of the weekend was the biggie. The Boston 200K up into New Hampshire to New Boston, which would be my longest ride, ever (I was going to say second-longest, and then I realized that I cannot add. 127.5 mile brevet + 22.5 miles total to and from the start = 150, not 140. I think I'm glad I was thinking second-longest the entire day.) It would also be second-hilliest (and that figure I'm sure of.) Plus, after taking 46 minutes off my time on the 100K, which is hilly, I was aiming to do this fast.

Fast for me, at least.

So I latched on to a quick pack heading outbound... )

11 hours, 16 minutes. 12.4 (ish -- I didn't have data for the whole thing) mph rolling average. Over two hours built up over the limit; if this were a longer ride, I could have sat down for a meal and a real rest and still been well off. That was the goal.

I took it easy on the way home, and was entirely sure I was going to wake up when my alarm went off in the morning and blow off the second ride in favor of sleep.

I woke up an hour and half before my alarm... )
bikingandbaking: close-up of strawberries and rhubarb in sugar syrup (strawberry-rhubarb)
This was achieved by taking a few non-Passover crisp recipes and improvising; all of the Passover recipes were going for more cobbler-y ideas with just matzoh meal, rather than having chunks to stand in for oatmeal. Also, many had nuts, which sounds like a great idea, but I wasn't sure what the allergy situation was with the attendees.

1 bag cranberries (IIRC 12 oz)
5 granny smith apples (use at least 2 more next time), peeled and sliced
scant 1/2 cup sugar (use 1/3 cup next time)
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom

3 matzoh, crumbled
1/2 cup matzoh meal
1 cup brown sugar or sucanat
pinch salt
2/3 cup salted butter, melted.

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x13 pan. Mix all filling ingredients and lay out in pan (basically make sure there isn't an apple corner and a cranberry corner).

Mix topping ingredients except butter, then pour butter over and mix. Sprinkle on filling.

Bake at 375 for at least 30 minutes or until topping has browned a bit.

Much, much better served ASAP as the topping gets soggy because matzoh has amazing hydroscopic powers. (I tasted a little bit of the topping when it came out of the oven.) It was still good the next day at Seder, though.
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
The ride today wasn't the first RUSA kilometers of 2014*, but it was the big glitzy kickoff ride for the Boston Brevet Series. I'm hoping to do the entire series; this was the warm-up. For those of you whose ears I haven't talked off already about these rides, the series (as specified by the Audax Club Parisien, the organizing body, because French sport is French), is a 200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K, all done as effectively non-stop rides. You can sleep if you want, but the clock doesn't stop.

The 100K today was a warm-up and an easier introduction to how the rides work, with 68 miles to ride and a time limit of 7 hours 8 minutes. Also an introduction to the fact that these are "scenic", which is a euphemism for "hilly". Here, it's easier to show you:

A gentleman (not sure if he was on the Populaire or not -- there were a lot of people riding out there because the weather was so nice) asked after I photographed my bike if I wanted one of me**.

The route is a really nice one, even if you think riding on the clock is silly or unappealing; it takes mostly back roads out to apple-orchard country in Bolton, then swings up to Sterling and back, and then meanders through Harvard for a bit racking up hills. The ride back gets busy through Concord; it takes the direct route back ([ profile] ron_newman, this is the way we came back from that Harvard ride), but it's not bad, and would be a good place to stop for ice cream if one is not on the clock. The Sterling out and back (which is the least pretty part) can be cut off and a lunch stop added in at Bolton Orchards or Nashoba winery, which I've done quite a few times for fun. Some day I'll take a real camera with me when not on the clock.

Though I also usually cut off some of the Harvard hills, because they're kind of gratuitous, and only some of them have really pretty views of Mt. Wachusett (it's in the background of the photo above, although it's not obvious). Which we did not have to climb today, although looking at Strava apparently a couple of the fast guys realized how close they were, and added 20-ish miles to zip out and up it and back onto the course, which cracks me up. I do keep the big swoopy Stow Road descent, because that is worth climbing up to at least that high.

Even with the gratuitous photography stop, it was a fast ride. (For me.) I was hoping to get close to 5:30 for the ride, and pulled in at 5:15! Whee! I am rapidly approaching if not already at the point where my legs are a machine for turning food into miles, and I feel like I can go indefinitely as long as I stop to eat and stretch. My lower back is not quite there yet, but it's getting stronger.

There were a couple people injured; I saw a police car whiz by with lights on, and all I could think was "please don't be a bike, please don't be us" and it was, but no major injuries and the tandem team in question finished the ride not long after I did -- I gather it was an interaction/dodging a pedestrian or possibly a dog, not a car. I didn't stop, not because I was going for speed but because there were a bunch of people stopped already from the pack they were riding with, and the police and a fire truck had already arrived.

*There is a post about DNFing the ride I was packing for in my last post here, but this is not that post. Later. I have tl;dr to use it to springboard into about trying hard things and sometimes failing at them.

** There is also a post about being visible as a heavier woman riding, which is why I posted this picture even if I'm self-conscious about it. But IDK if I will ever actually write that post.
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
This is mostly for my own reference, because I am tired of running around the house thinking I've probably forgotten something. And I have my first 200k of the season tomorrow, and am not really feeling up to it, but I'm going to give it a whirl anyway. So I might as well make myself a list, so that I don't forget anything at 4:30am.

packing list... )
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
1/4 cup hibiscus flowers, brewed in 4 cups water
1/2 tsp regular iodized salt
1/2 tsp light salt
2 cups tropical juice blend (~50% juice, 50% real-sugar water)

Put all ingredients in a big pitcher, dilute with about an equal amount water or more. This is on the salty side, because I sweat salty. The use of juice that isn't 100% juice is intentional -- I had been doing some 100% juice and some sugar water before, but I found a bunch of tasty juice blends that use real sugar and not HFCS at one of the middle eastern markets near Haymarket.

The hibiscus gives it that fruit-punch flavor and color without being full of chemicals, and makes it taste less diluted than it is.

However, I've mostly been using Skratch Labs drink mix (pineapple flavor) because I'm too lazy to brew iced tea up ahead of time.
bikingandbaking: me as a teenager in a tie-dye shirt on a bike (tie dye)
If you don't talk to your cat about catnip, who will?

Sadly, I do not have a picture of this sign outside a veterinarians' office, because I passed it while merging into a rotary.

And, also, my camera batteries were apparently kaput, so if I had stopped I would have been sorely disappointed.

It was a ride of entertaining signs, howling wind, and way too much traffic (though all of it friendly), running up to the Reading REI to return something. Of course, this is never really a way to save money, as I always find something else there I "need". This time, a new reflective vest and yet another chain-cleaning brush because I always feel guilty about how filthy I tend to leave my bikes. I do always wipe off the grit with a rag, but a lot of people really, really get their steeds clean. I...mostly am just OK with replacing parts more often, but every once in a while I feel the need to buy more cleaning things that will likely end up in the bottom of my gear trunk.

But the main thing I was pondering as I rode was: Places that I go to usually via freeway in the car always seem too far away to bike.

Which is silly.

It's kind of ridiculous how close Reading is, but I always drive via 93&128, so it's two freeways away, and thus Far Away.

On surface streets, it's pretty much exactly 10 miles. I went a little further on the way back because I decided to try to avoid downtown Wakefield, since it was a madhouse on the way out.

Instead of avoiding traffic, though, I managed to take a wrong turn and hit the Woburn Mall traffic monstrosity, plus the actual Woburn town center. Alas. Traffic was still courteous about letting me through, which was a nice change of pace. I didn't quite go past my old workplace, but near enough to spend part of the ride home thinking about how my commute from my current house to my old job would have been a really nice year-round commute, if I'd ever lived here and worked there at the same time and been in shape to do 5 miles at non-sweating pace. Which I am now, easily, but I hadn't learned to slow down then. There's an art to that -- moving quickly enough to get some place in good time, but never letting the heart really get pounding and the pores opening. Today, I didn't bother keeping under that, although I wasn't trying to go fast, either.

In summary: yay, spring! Yay, running errands without a car!
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
Finally had a chance to get to Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe and get the weekend-only chilled noodles, too. Yum.

The ride rolled out a few minutes late, me fighting to get my GPS to start (and I managed to fail to start it recording, but it did give me friendly beepy prompts that were about 95% correct). I do need to figure out why it sometimes decides I'm on the wrong road when I'm not, but it's mostly really nice.

But I didn't need it at all, because I hooked onto the tail of the giant group as it launched itself up the Mass Ave hill, and stayed on. I'd been expecting to get dropped there and to have a great, solo, ride, perhaps seeing some people on their way out of the lunch stop. Nope. The group strung out, but I ended up in a pack of 6-or-8 (a pack of two came and went). Specifically, a pack of 6 including the route designer, so there was really no possibility of getting lost.

Riding a brevet-style ride in a group was a different experience; I am not super-used to pack riding, although I did a women's group ride with Landry's last summer. I'm never sure when it's OK to pass and when it's not in these loose pack confederacies. (We did do a little paceline work with the Landry's group ride, and while that's tough, the rules are clear and I know how to do it. This wasn't a paceline, but a chatting amoeba slithering up and down the rolling hills.)

The key issue is that, while my average speed had me able to stay with the group, I was, as usual, the slowest climber. Not by a horrible amount, but by a significant bit on anything other than a little short-steep rise. I was sprinting to take the climbs at my top speed so that people didn't have to wait for me too long, but it was tough. Especially since I was braking on the downhills a lot to keep with the pack in the opposite direction. (240ish pounds (me + bike + gear) is a lot of momentum, and I usually take more advantage of it.) I did open 'er out a bit near the end, because I was getting tired, and if I got ahead, I could sit back, coast, and have some sports drink, which I wasn't getting many chances to do otherwise.

I did tell them repeatedly they didn't need to wait, but since I was almost keeping up, I let them continue; I'm not sure exactly how to politely pry a group loose if I really don't want to keep up any more. In this case, I was happy to ride with them if they really didn't mind waiting; but I couldn't tell, and it made me a bit self-conscious. Especially when I was asked if I needed sugar -- no, I wasn't bonking, I'd just had a snack, I just am that slow uphill. None of them tried to chit-chat while I was climbing, which was very helpful; I have had people do so, thinking they're being friendly, but I get stressed out because I either need to slow down to be able to parse their speech and say something in return, or I need to ignore them rudely.

At least I got a couple of positive remarks, which helped me not be too self-conscious -- one compliment to my handling skills downhill, and the gentleman who usually hung back and bridged back to the group with me did, I think honestly, compliment my speed just post-hill on the flats -- as I work hills, I mostly seem to find what happens is that I get better at being ready to keep on trucking with no rest after one. Which is good, since on this kind of group expedition, I'm the one who doesn't get a rest (unless I pull ahead on the downhill to get it).

I do have to credit the group with me getting the chilled noodles -- a few minutes after I ordered mine, the SOLD OUT sign went up (they only have a limited amount each weekend). I wouldn't have made it in time for them on my own. The noodles themselves were wonderful, as were the little chunks of gluten; the sauce was a little too vinegary for me but nice and spicy without being overwhelming. I'll try the garlic noodle next time.

My legs were pleasantly prepared from riding the trainer and not doing much else; the only things that hurt were one: cramps of the PMS variety and two: not enough time in the actual saddle means a sore undercarriage. That's one thing commuting is very good for; my usual route is too traffic-y to really push the pace, but I spend a lot of time toughening up my skin.

The route itself was wonderful, though Eastern MA roads right now are terrible. The route on ridewithgps for download/cue sheet printing, if anyone cares to ride part or all of it, and Velouria of Lovely Bicycle has a great description with beautiful pictures from a previous group permanent ride (that I was not on). It's possible to get out there from greater Camberville mostly on bike paths, which would make a fun friendly expedition some time.

Ride stats: 62.02 miles @ 12.6mph for the populaire itself. Total for the day was about 76. Time of record for the populaire was 5:50, although if I'd rushed inside and immediately found the person taking the cards rather than fussing with my GPS and chatting with people it would have been under 5:45. Rolling time was just under 5 hours at 4:58 or so.
bikingandbaking: photo of my road bike with a tag reading "51" on it (Default)
The Shore By Night 200K began in the foyer of a bike shop in New Jersey. Or, for me, by loading up the car and driving the Usual Route from Boston down to near-Philadelphia. Except that despite doing this a zillion times, I missed the turnoff for 684. I'd already started making navigational errors and I wasn't even on the bike yet! I got back on track, got down there in time to wander around Cranbury and find some dinner, and get everything set up before it got dark out. Most of the people knew each other, so I stood around feeling awkward and occasionally making conversation until it was 10PM -- time to fire up our lights and get out there.

As with the previous 200K, a batch of us slower riders were first to kick our bikes out onto the pavement and head down the road, alongside one not-slow rider in a shiny white velomobile that kept looking like a car out of the corner of my eye. There weren't any hills in the first bit, so we strung out only slowly, chatting in little clumps. When one of the only hills hit at mile 8, I cruised up it with everyone else; my hill work has been helping. Well, that and the really fast folks had already dropped the rest of us. I settled in with a small group, chatting, of all things, about how to get more women into engineering. [Edit, March 2014: There's a still a longer post I'd like to write about that convo, but I haven't yet.] They were going just slightly faster than I'd go on my own, but within my comfort zone for distance -- i.e. at the pace I can't quite force myself to do without anything for motivation, but I can hold for quite a while. Until I needed a snack, and then I fell off the back. On my first populaire, I failed that test -- I skipped food and hung on, and that wasn't the right thing to do. This time, I'd done that right, but I was now on my own, navigating in the dark rather than chasing taillights of people familiar with the route.

Which was, after all, part of the point of this ride -- learning to navigate and make sure I was comfortable alone at night on unfamiliar roads. And I genuinely like riding alone, even if I also like riding with people. A few miiles later came the first control, where the group I'd been dropped from was just finishing up. It was hot, and I'd gone through a bottle and a half in the dark, so I bought some gatorade and headed out. I was on-schedule and on-track; I wasn't sure really how long it was going to take, but I was aiming to drop 30+ minutes from my previous 200K, which had included a 40-min ferry wait/ride and significantly more hills, but had been in the daytime in cool weather. I'd covered 30 miles in just over 2 hours, which is fast for me.

The next section got a lot busier; we'd hit the shoreline. Which was pretty, but even at 2 am not deserted. Got called a bitch twice by passersby (one motorist, one pedestrian), and a few unnecessary honks, but no close encounters of the vehicular kind, and I gave the weaving-possibly-drunk cyclists on cruiser bikes a wide berth as I passed. There was a brutal headwind, and I played leapfrog for a bit with another rider until I decided that I wanted to put my head down and hammer through the open windy bit.

Then I made my only actual navigation error (as opposed to a few was-that-the-street-yes-it-was-turn-around overshoots) and went right past the road to the control. A train was going past, parallel to the road, and I was distracted. I realized my error fairly quickly, but thought I saw the street ahead -- nope, something else starting with a B and having about the right number of letters. Turned around, and the street was a) much better signed coming that way and b) the pack I'd been dropped from 40 miles back, who'd stopped to help with a tire change somewhere along the way, plus the guy I'd passed, reached the intersection almost simultaneously. Evidently they'd seen me overshoot, but couldn't shout that far. It only added a mile, and since it added exactly a mile by the odometer, cue sheet math wouldn't be too bad for the rest of the ride.

We pulled into the control as a big crowd, and everyone else went in and ensconced themselves catching up on stories. I filled up my bottles, had a snack, and was antsy to get going, while they seemed more and more comfortably motionless as time went on, so I headed out.

The next section had my only equipment snafu -- my helmet light, for reading the cue sheet, was not up to all-night running. It was fading, fast. At first, I could hold the paper up close and read it, then I could take it off and hold it by the cue sheet, but it wasn't going to make it that way, and I was having to stop at every turn and fuss with a light that wasn't going to last much longer. I'll figure out something better next time; for this one, I pulled out my backup headlight, hoped its waterproofness claims were true, and stuffed it down my cleavage. I still had to stop at turns to pull it out and read the cue, but it was a quick operation.

Dawn broke, slowly but steadily, not long after I'd gotten back into the swing of things after the lighting follies. I stopped to put away the spare light and have a snack, timing it precisely for the group to catch up to me and all look worried and ask if I was OK, off on the side of the road. Heh. I hopped on and caught up to them as they strung out -- they'd clearly stuck together in the dark, but now that it was light, were starting to split back up. Dawn had given me more energy, and I wasn't having any trouble keeping up as we headed to the final control. Back in the land of Wawas -- I'm not, actually, sure that I was ever in one while at Swat, but they were a fixture of the landscape. Evidently this is a common control, since the clerk said "you guys are in here every week" before looking a little askance when I said we were "almost done -- less than thirty miles to go". Yeah, my perspective, it has shifted.

Again, most people were lollygagging, and I saddled up, after getting a mild suggestion about increasing my cadence. For once, it was done in a friendly fashion, so I shrugged and reminded myself to spin more over the last 30 miles. I also switched off my headlight, which, at my power levels, did make a noticeable difference. I was flying, or at least it felt like it, through the last, slightly rolling, section. My goal of 10:30 had long been blown, though, but when I realized I'd be finishing just after 11 hours at my current pace, I kicked it up past cruising speed. Besides, I was curious to see if I could really do a faster pace after riding over a hundred miles.

I could. I was slowing down a lot for the tiny hills, not trying to power up them, but running ~18mph on the flats, fairly comfortably. The last two miles, I flat-out sprinted, pulling in at 8:58am, for a total of 10:58, and amusing the volunteers as I pulled up too out of breath to talk, just as I'd done on the Boston 107K. Most people don't sprint the finish on these. It's fun, though. I like proving that there's still gas in the tank, and ending with that little adrenaline high.

The less said about the drive back, the better; I did end up having to stop and get a hotel room for a nap somewhere in CT -- I'd forgotten how soporific driving is, but I wasn't tired enough to be able to sleep in a boiling-hot car, nor comfortable just finding some shady grass by a parking lot and passing out in public. So a hotel it was. Being able to shower was really nice, too. Next time, I'll know.

So -- lessons learned:
1. Need a different cue-reading light. Going to try the petzl e+light next, since it has a real on-off switch. Which would also make it good to take whenever a certain someone wants me to have a headlamp but I hate cycling through the blink-modes.
2. Don't half-ass the chamois cream application when it's that hot out -- got chafing somewhere that usually isn't an issue, although I'll leave it at that. [Edit, later: My saddle position slipped somewhere around this time, so it might have been less chamois and more positioning.]
3. Hotel.
4. Night riding at brevet pace is great fun and not difficult, even with a fairly twisty course.

Next stop: 300K. Which will be next year; I don't think I'm close to strong enough for the hills on the Petersburg 300K out in Western MA yet.

Ride stats: moving time was 9:55, average 12.8. That's faster than I thought when I saw the total; it's so easy to spend a huge amount of time stopped. Still 1mph slower than on the CRW spring century, which had 1.5x the climbing according to RWGPS but was also pretty flat.
bikingandbaking: close-up of strawberries and rhubarb in sugar syrup (strawberry-rhubarb)

This is one of the recipes I've posted elsewhere, and am consolidating here. Backdated to Thanksgiving 2012, since that's when the picture is from.
The original original recipe came from a cookbook put out by the Church of Christ in Utica, Ohio. Then my Aunt Darlene got her hands on it, tweaked it around, and made it every year at Thanksgiving. It was a) one of the few vegetarian dishes, so I loved it just for that, but b) also really delicious.

And then I tweaked it again, mostly to fit what I tend to have around the house (yoghurt instead of sour cream), but it’s still basically her recipe.

Aunt Darlene’s Corn Pudding )
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