First Time Mountain Biking

5 09 2013

My boyfriend Bill has been mountain biking for YEARS. He was really into it when he lived out west, and spent countless hours roaring down mountains and jumping over obstacles. When I met him, it was clear that mountain biking had been a huge part of his life and still was- though, as you can imagine, biking in California and Nevada is WAY different than biking in Florida. Regardless, he still got out and rode whenever he could, though it was mostly powering through town, hopping over parking blocks, off curbs, and down steps.


Unfortunately, Bill and I had never really ridden together because a) I didn’t have a bike to ride and b) having never been,  I was pretty stinkin scared. Well, that all changed this weekend when my friend Chris invited us to go mountain biking! Chris’s friends had an extra bike (or two) that they brought along as we headed up to Croom in the Withlacoochee State Forest (insert puns now).


As we drove up to Croom, my mind was trying to wrap itself around what exactly I was about to do. I’d never been mountain biking before and all my “real” riding experience has been on road, so I was trying to figure out exactly how this mountain biking thing works. Not the whole pedaling part (duh), but when I go for a ride on my tri bike, I’ve got in mind exactly how far I’m going for the day, approximately what my pace will be, and what I can expect to see on the road/paved trail I’m riding.  It’s a pretty predictable workout. But with mountain biking, I was clueless- Were we going to ride a certain distance? For a certain amount of time? Chris and Bill assured me that I would be fine, and we’d really go by how the group was feeling.



We got all geared up and hit the trail, and within the first 10 feet there was a tiny uphill with some big roots sticking out. I hadn’t down shifted in time, and as soon as I hit the incline, I knew I wasn’t going to make it over. I hopped off and walked it over the tiny hill. Great. That was a baby hill and I had to get off and walk. This is going to suck.  No sooner did I get over the hill, when I saw Blake stopped. His chain had snapped and was in need of repair or he wouldn’t be riding today. Thankfully, Chris #2 had tools and was able to fix up the bike. While the bike was being fixed, Bill gave me a few pointers, reminding me to shift often, anticipate the hills, and stand up and sit back on the down hills. Ok, I can do this. 


We got started again and I felt myself gripping the handle bars until my knuckles turned white. I will not fall. I will not fall. There were a lot of sharp-ish curves in the trail and then all of the sudden I was riding down a small hill. I’m pretty sure I screamed, and I started to feel the same way I felt when I was climbing the Golden Staircase– terrified. Bill kept talking to me, saying encouraging things to calm me down. I was so focused on the ground that I don’t really recall everything he said, just that he was being a super boyfriend.

IMG_8509As we were riding, some of the guys were talking about the Drunken Monkey. I wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about-sounds like a tropical bar to me- but I soon found out. Basically, the Drunken Monkey is a part of the trail where there are some more challenging hills. Unfortunately, Chris #2 (our trail expert) didn’t really know where the easier trail met back up with the harder trail, so we all went together on the harder trail. Gulp. Actually it wasn’t that bad- well, it wasn’t that bad because I walked/ran the bike up/down the steepest of the hills. This girl did not want to get injured!


As the ride went on, I started to get more comfortable on the bike, and actually rode down some of the tinier hills. I only fell off the bike once, and thankfully it was in some sand and I was going slow. There were a few other sections where the trail split into a hard section and an easy section, and I took the easier section with at least one other person each time. Several hours after we started, we made it back to the car in one piece, exhausted!


The only real casualty of the day had been Blake’s bike, whose chain snapped several more times along the trail, and then finally it wasn’t fixable anymore. He scootered the last few miles on the trail, and when we got back to the paved trail, he was towed back by some of the guys.


When it was all said and done, I think went about 16 miles, but man, it was a tough 16! My whole body hurt from that ride!

Did I have fun? My response to that has to be: I think so? During the ride, I was petrified of falling or hitting a tree. And though the downhills were probably some of the more exciting parts of the ride, I think the scared feeling trumped the “ooh this is fun” feeling. I think if I get more comfortable on the bike it will be more enjoyable, but for right now, I definitely like road biking better than mountain biking.

Question of the day: Have you ever been mountain biking? What was your experience like?






Courage to Tri

23 08 2013

So, it’s kinda sorta been awhile since I’ve raced a triathlon. I did an early season sprint to kick off my season, but I’ve spent what most people would consider prime racing season training.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely wanted to hit the “register” button-but most of the time I just couldn’t bring myself to dish out $90+ for a sprint triathlon in the blazing summer heat of Florida. I’d rather train with my friends so I can go into my 70.3 as prepared as possible.


Two weeks ago, I did an open water swim with Beth, Meghann, Meghan, and Dee at Sand Key Park in Clearwater. Beth mentioned that she would be doing the Courage to Tri sprint on this beach at the end of August. Curious, I asked how much it cost to register, and she told me they just had a registration “party” at the Outspokin stores and you could register for only $50! Now that’s definitely a price I’d pay for a sprint. So I went home and began to fill out the online registration.


When I got to the payment page, the race fee was $95, not the $50 I was hoping for. Wah wah. So I scrapped my plan to register, and started considering Crystal River #3.

A few days later, I received an email from one of the many local running/triathlon email lists I’m on, advertising the $50 registration for Courage to Tri if you registered at one of the Outspokin stores. HECK YEA! I live two minutes from their south Tampa location, so after my long ride on Saturday, I popped in and signed up.

So, this weekend I’ll be racing the 1/3 mile swim, 13 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run in the Courage to Tri! I’m excited to race- it’s been too long!  Catch ya later with a race report!

Two Bike Lessons

4 03 2013

This weekend, it was quite chilly here in Florida. For real, it got into the 40s!

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 10.58.53 PM

Yeah, see the note: “Most recent high temperature much below average”?  Brr!

Despite the below normal temperatures, Jess and I decided to tough it out and go for a ride on Saturday over at our usual spot near Alafia. The high was only 60 for the day, so we bundled up and left around 10:30 to head out for our ride. When we got out of the car, the first thing we noticed was the wind. This was not going to be a fun ride. We tried to get pumped up by thinking about how our competition for Ocala was probably not out on the roads today. This was going to make us stronger!

Once we got moving, it actually wasn’t so bad. Our plan was to ride easy for the first hour and then ride steady for the second. Our normal route takes us down Carlton Lake Road and then we make a right onto 674. When we made that right turn- holy head wind!  There were a few gusts coupled with big trucks flying by which caused me to hold on for dear life, for fear I’d get blown over! We pushed hard and finally got to our left turn onto 579. I think we both breathed a sigh of relief when we got there.

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 10.16.21 PM

Shortly after our turn Jess looked down at her tire. Uh oh, she was starting to go flat. No big deal, I’ve got a flat kit! I hopped off my bike and dug into the empty water bottle that holds my kit. Tube, check. Levers, check. CO2 cartridge, check…uh, where’s the nozzle for the CO2? Crap. It must have fallen out somewhere! I guess we won’t be changing the flat…Since there was really nothing else for us to do, we decided to head back towards the car, hoping that the leak was slow enough that Jess could make it.

We weren’t quite halfway back when we looked at Jess’s tire and it was nearly down the the wheel. We decided that I’d ride back to my car and she’d find a safe place to sit and wait for me to pick her up. I took off, since I didn’t want to leave her too long and the wind was picking up. I made a left to head back to the car and BAM, another head wind. I looked down at my watch and saw how slow I was going and willed myself to push harder. I didn’t like leaving Jess alone, especially not in this cold weather! After what seemed like forever, I saw my car. I hopped out, threw my bike in the trunk and headed back to where I’d left her. I found her safely off the road with a smile on her face. I think the flat was a blessing in disguise- it was getting windier (the Weather Channel said up to 20mph winds!) and it was still pretty cloudy. We drove back in the warmth of the car and decided we both need to make sure that one of us has a complete flat kit when we go on these long rides out in the “country.”

Sunday was still pretty chilly, and I wasn’t really in the running mood. I’m getting over a cold, and my head and lungs just weren’t ready for a run outside. So I decided it was as good a time as any to hop on my trainer. I really don’t like riding on my trainer, mostly because it’s boring and every time I had tried to ride it last year, my back tire melted and stuck to the resistance wheel…which made for a really jerky and unpleasant ride.

Outspokin Bicycles just opened a new shop in South Tampa, so I went in the other day to check it out. I purchased a special trainer tire and “chopping block” (a riser for the front tire to keep it in place and bring it up to the same height as the back tire) in hopes that this would motivate me to get on the trainer. 


I forgot how hard it is to change a tire. Oh. my. goodness. I sat on the floor for a good half hour pushing and pulling and trying to get that darn thing onto the wheel. I worked up a sweat trying to get it on!


The last part is the hardest!

Finally, I got the whole thing on, only to realize that I forgot to put the tube in first. Doh! I’m out of practice, okay? So I took the tire off, put the tube in, and tried once again. This time, it wasn’t quite as hard. It was still pretty difficult, and  I’m sure my hands are going to be sore tomorrow. I guess it was a good lesson in tire changing.


I set up my computer in front of my bike, turned on a surfing video on Netflix and pedaled away. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Maybe I was excited because the new tire wasn’t melting and I could finally get a trainer ride in, after owning the thing for over a year and hardly using it. And watching Kelly Slater surf down the face of an enormous wave in Tahiti didn’t hurt either 😉 Regardless, I’m happy that I got it all set up and working well. Now I have no excuses for not biking more!


Despite a few bumps in the road, the weekend actually turned out to be quite productive in terms of biking. I learned the importance of having a flat kit, I changed a tire, and I got in an hour of biking on both Saturday and Sunday. Now it’s time to get my butt in gear! After all, I’ve got a race in less than three weeks!