Sunday, February 26, 2012

Velodrome Country


I wasn't sure that I would get back here. I was here to attend a fund raiser for Jake Grecco, a 7-year old battling brain cancer -- he's also the son of my 4th cousin, Stacey Lowmaster. After the fund raiser when Stacey asked if we would like to meet Jake, all cycling was off. Jake trumps cycling every time.

L-R: Gary Gravina, Betsy Sherry, Stacey Lowmaster (back), Jake Grecco (front), Barry Sherry.
Can you tell how we really feel?
After a wonderful morning visiting Jake and his family, then saying goodbye to my sister, Betsy, I realized I still had just enough time to return and finish yesterday's ride. It was windy but not with the unsafe gusts of yesterday.

Velodrome at Trexlertown, Pa.

The route, downloaded to my Garmin, proved to be one with lots of turns. I had no idea where I was going - In Garmin We Trust.

I retraced yesterday's route for six miles and then went down new roads. I had hoped to ride 26 miles without putting a foot down but when I came to a beautiful barn I knew I had to stop to take some pictures.

Longswamp B&B

I found a unique shed with implements attached to the outside. I asked permission "to come aboard." The owner was very pleased that I asked permission to photograph his shed and glad that I found it interesting.

Near Kutztown I realized I was in Amish Country. I passed an Amish wood working shop then met a group of cyclists coming in the opposite direction. They had good form but wore no helmets. They were on road bikes but wore no "fancy" cycling clothes. Then I realized they were young Amish men returning from church. I wanted a photo but respected their beliefs and simply waved. And they waved back.

Amish Church
I turned down a country road and spotted two women with three large dogs. And I had to go past them. I love dogs but still remember my encounter in 2010 in which two Rottweillers tried to get to know me better. I didn't want to pedal past them and trigger a chase reaction. Well, a chase and bite reaction.

One of my furry legged friends

I slowed then called out "safe to pass?" One of the women said it was although the three dogs were running loose. They may have had different ideas. So I stopped. The women gathered up the dogs and two of them came over to sniff me and say hello. We were friends.

Two of my Three New Furry Friends

At this point I was about three miles from the finish. I just pedaled home thankful for another day on the bike.

Hotel in Bowers, Pa.
After returning home, I found out from my cousin, Doug Sherry, that I had passed about two miles from his house. I feel so bad. Next time he better have food waiting.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Safe, Unsafe, or Stupid


We, or at least I, have a saying: There are three types of riding - "Safe, unsafe, and stupid." 

And often the line between unsafe riding and stupid riding is blurred.

I came to Trexlertown, Pa. which is home to the famous Valley Preferred Cycling Center's Velodrome. It was cold (38 degrees) and windy (winds steady 30-40 mph with gusts even higher). I had budgeted time to ride before meeting my sister, Betsy, in Allentown.

Velodrome - All locked up

Snow was blowing. The roads were clear so the snow wasn't sticking but it was blowing. And here in the mecca of east coast cycling, I saw no one.

I took my time. Ten minutes passed. The van was shaking from the wind and I could feel the cold air blowing in. I didn't want to go but yet...

...I was here and it was time to MAN UP!!

Then I saw three cyclists arrive and that was my cue. If they could ride, I had no excuses. I kitted up and headed off. I had briefly thought about asking to join them but figured they were stronger than me. Plus I am nursing a torn meniscus so I didn't need to push it to keep up.

I headed off into the wind. And it was strong. I had downloaded a ride that was on with just the right distance (28 miles) and turns (a bunch) to be interesting. After 3-4 miles of fighting the winds I saw three cyclists coming at me and they were soft pedaling. It was the three guys that had been in the parking lot.

Windy. And cold.

My thought only turned to how slow they were going, with the wind, and me kicking myself knowing I could stay with them. I regretted not going with them.

I then hit the open road unprotected by houses or trees; just open fields. The winds were howling. At times they were incredibly loud and other times there was an eerie silence.

Down the road a gust hit me and almost caused me to crash. I fought with both hands to steer and although I stayed upright, I had been blown across both lanes of the country road. Had another car been passing me, or another one been coming from the opposite direction, I would have been in a crash with an automobile. It was scary that I could not steer the bike in a straight line. Nor could I hear cars coming because the winds were howling so loud.

This was stupid. I guess it took me to realize that it was stupid to know that it was unsafe. And it was unsafe. At that point I decided I had to return. 

I turned around determined to retrace some of my route but also to follow road signs for the shortest way back to the start. And then I discovered why my three friends were going slow even with a tail wind. They couldn't hold their bikes in a straight line. I thought a tail wind was a reward for fighting the wind but today it was no reward.

In a year in which all my rides thus far went a minimum of 16 miles, I had to cut this off at 11 for which I was thankful. I was smart enough to park the bike knowing I can ride another day.

Now stupid riding was yesterday. Bob Ryan had forecast a high of 70 degrees and I came prepared for 70 degrees. It never got out of the 50s and I headed out for a ride in the pouring rain. Stupid.

I went around Hains Point and was soaked. What was the point? I hadn't done a ride all year less than 16 miles and riding in the cold rain became a matter of pride. I couldn't let this be the shortest ride of the year. So I suffered on. Yesterday was stupid.

Today -- today was simply unsafe. It is why it was the shortest ride of the year although in a few days when I start evening rides I will go shorter.

This area is beautiful. I would like to return some other day but without these winter winds.

Friday, February 17, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons Go For a Bike Ride


Well, here I go again.

But this doesn't suck. Cancer sucks.

My knee has been hurting, especially when walking or running. I don't remember a traumatic injury - in fact, I don't think there was one. But it was always worse after I played Ultimate (sometimes incorrectly called Ultimate Frisbee). Since there wasn't an injury I just have to think how long this has been bothering me. Probably about 10 weeks.

I sucked it up. I took a deep breath. I manned up. I went to see my doctor.

My doctor did some range of motion tests and diagnosed it: Torn meniscus.

After the doctor visit I went for a bike ride. There is nothing better to clear the mind and just enjoy the ride. And it was a day that I went over 500 miles for the year -- on February 17.
Usually I have 100 miles or less by this date. My fast start? Maybe too good to be true.

I have no answers. I do have fear. Fear that at age 65 I will not be able to walk. 

I had foot surgeries in 2003 and 2004. And a torn meniscus in 2006.

Wonder what this means?
I have some cycling goals for 2012 -- Ride the Rockies. Mount Washington. Now I don't know.
But my doctor says cycling is the best thing I can do. So I will continue to ride. Even though it hurts.
I'm frustrated. I don't know what's next. But when life gives you lemons, go for a bike ride.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Best Ref in the World


While making a presentation about her experience at the last summer's Women's World Cup in Germany, Kari Seitz looked at me and asked, "are you a cyclist?"

I didn't hear anymore she said after that. If you want to get on my good side, just ask me if I'm a cyclist. Here I was in a referee workshop and she recognized me as a cyclist. I wasn't wearing spandex and she didn't see my legs. She saw a cyclist's body - no upper body, strong legs.

Or did she see my phone with its collection of jerseys on the covers?

"Did you bike up Alpe d'Huez?," she asked.

Damn. It was my phone. My phone gave me away.

But Kari Seitz, who is certainly the best female referee in the world, settled into a conversation with me about cycling. And she is a cyclist.

One of these refs is the best referee in the world
Kari told me that if she had retired from refereeing a couple of years ago she would have jumped right into racing. And I'm sure she would have been very good. To be a FIFA Referee you have to be near-world class in both sprinting and endurance running. Plus you have to be a good ref too.

I was able to tell her about my ride up Alpe d'Huez. I told her I have gone over 50 mph on my bike and she one-upped me. She has gone over 60 mph. On a tandem. Her husband is a Cat-2 racer and while they have their own bikes they also have a tandem.

Kari told me they like to go out for recreational rides on their bike and they often see some racer types intent on overtaking them. She said she has a signal and right before they get passed, they put the hammer down and leave them in the dust. She smiled as she talked about how demoralized it leaves them.

While I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn't ride today, meeting Kari Seitz and talking about cycling was a trade off I would make any day.