14 08 2012

For the past two weekends, it has seemed like Bill and I have been playing a game of dodge ball rain with the storm clouds when trying to get in a bike ride.

I’ve learned that in Florida, it is actually possible to maneuver your way away from and/or around rain storms. Or you just get rained on for a little and then it clears as quickly as it started.

Last Sunday, we ventured up to the Suncoast Trail with a goal to ride at least 50 miles. We couldn’t leave home without properly fueling, so I made some blueberry yogurt and orange infused pancakes. Man oh man were they tasty! Next time you make pancakes, add a little orange zest. Trust me. It’s delicious!

On our drive to the trailhead, it started to downpour. Just great. We’re going to drive 30 minutes only to turn back around and drive home. But thankfully, it was a “typical” Florida storm, and by the time we parked the car and got geared up, the rain had stopped. Yeah!

So, we hopped on our bikes and hit the trail. We rode up about 12ish miles, but the clouds were looking very ominous up ahead. I was fearful we were headed straight for a huge downpour, so I told Bill that we should turn around. So, we headed back towards our car. Heading that direction, the sky was blue, so we discussed biking to the car, turning around, and doing the loop again if the storm had cleared out. Unfortunately, we were about two miles from the car and we saw more storm clouds ahead. Crap. We looked behind us, and saw blue sky. So, we turned back around and rode in that direction.

We dodged the rain that these clouds brought!

A few miles later, the trail splits off to a little park. There’s a 6.5 mile trail that takes you to the park entrance. So, we decided to ride that way, which would also take us away from the highway that paralleled the trail, and away from the storm clouds.

There were no other cyclists (maybe one?) on this section of the trail, but we did see some other signs of life.

A turtle!

I think we saw about 3 or 4 of these guys throughout our ride.

We also rode within feet of some deer. Unfortunately, the time I tried to get a picture I wasn’t fast enough! Can you see the brown spot in the center of the picture below? That’s a deer!

After riding this part of the trail for 13 miles (6.5 each way), we hit the main trail again and decided to keep on riding. We were feeling good, had the trail mostly to ourselves, and the overcast sky made the temperature bearable. We laid down a few more miles, and Bill pointed to look off the side of the trail. Armadillos!! There were five of these little guys crawling around. I thought they were actually kinda cute.

Though not as cute as the guy trying to lure them to come closer. 🙂

When they started to scurry away, Bill and I got back on our bikes to finish our ride. The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for a failure on my part to keep my electrolytes up. At around mile 60, I started to feel ill. I had taken salt tabs, and was drinking plenty of water and eating Gus and gels, but I just started feeling nauseous. So we slowed down tremendously and stopped at the rest area 2 miles from the car. I drank some Gu Brew and sat for a few minutes before I felt ready to continue. We slowly rode the last two miles back to the car and then I drank up some Gatorade. I still wasn’t feeling 100% until we stopped for some Chipotle and I drank some Coke. I used to turn up my nose when people told me that Coke was the drink of choice after a triathlon or marathon; now I usually bring a can with me to long training sessions and races.

When it was all said and done, Bill and I had ridden 63.5 miles.

That’s a PDR for me! Yeah baby!

This past weekend, Bill and I had grand plans to get in a good long bike ride. We weren’t going to do 60, but we decided to get in a good solid 40. We drove to a five mile long, quiet road which dead ended into cow pasture.

To the left of this there’s a research center, and on the same road there’s a hospital and a gated community. So random.

We figured we’d do four loops, and then go for a little run. When we started our second loop, I saw clouds rolling in. We heard thunder as we rode away from the storm, and when we turned around, I feared that we’d be in the pouring rain when we got back to the car.

Thankfully, it appeared that the storm was passing off to our west (south? east? not sure which direction). But unfortunately, Bill and I were both feeling kinda crappy on the ride. We thought about pushing through, but opted to go for a short jog before the storm hit. By short jog, I mean we only went half a mile. Wah wah. Neither of us were feeling the run either, and we worried about leaving the bikes tied to the truck while we ran. So, we threw in the towel and went home. A 20 mile ride and a half mile run ain’t so bad, right?

We were almost home when the sky opened up. I was relieved we didn’t get caught in that! Later, we caught sight of a rainbow that filled the sky. I wish I had the ability to take a panoramic shot, because it was a full rainbow!

Two weekends and two bike rides, both of which we managed to walk away from having dodged the rain. I’d say that is a win in my book!

Riding on the Suncoast Trail

22 05 2012

Last week, there was a rainstorm that cancelled my normal Wednesday swim practice. So I decided instead to do my grocery shopping (no logic behind that), and on my way check out the new bike shop in town, Cycle Sport Concepts. I knew my bike needed a tune up, so I wanted to stop in and see how long it would take to get it back.

(image from here)

I walked in to the bright, spacious store, and was immediately greeted by a few folks that worked there. I told them I was just checking them out, and asked how long it would take for a tune up. I know it’s prime season for biking, so I was expecting them to say at least 2 weeks. When they said 24-48 hours, I told them I’d be back the next day! I also took some time to browse around all the fabulous Specialized gear. My current bike shoes are Specialized, and they fit my feet nicely. However, they are mountain bike shoes, and I’ve been thinking about getting some tri shoes for some time now. I talked to the gentleman who had greeted me about the tri shoes, and decided to try on a pair. The man helping me (I’m so bad with names!) was really thorough and explained to me the ins and outs of bike shoe fits. When it was all said and done, I walked out the door with these sexy shoes:

I immediately went home and put my old cleats on the new shoes so that I could ride on the trainer. Unfortunately, my trainer was stripping my back tire, so I said forget about it!

On Thursday, I took my bike in for the tune up, and chatted with the guys about bike pedals. My pedals were pretty rusty, so I knew I wanted to replace them too. At a suggestion from Felipe, I decided to go with the Keo Look pedals (<– mine were cheaper at the store), and asked the guys to put  them on the bike.

Friday after work, I showed up at the shop, and my bike was all tuned up, ready to go, new pedals and all!

24 hour turn around and great customer service? Heck yes! I’ll definitely be back!

I was super pleased with the service that I got at Cycle Sport Concepts. Everyone was really friendly, and they did a great job on my bike. I know the store is still really new, so there weren’t a ton of customers in there and they could (and did) actually take the time to talk to me. I hope it stays like this, even after they get busy (which I hope they do!).

I couldn’t wait to get in a ride, but I had plans on Friday night, so I told myself I’d get a long ride in on Saturday. I was going to trek into St. Pete to do the St. Pete Mad Dogs (tri club) ride on Saturday morning, but I opted to sleep in a little and go solo when I woke up.

I rolled out of bed and made myself some zucchini bread oatmeal (without the oats).

I followed Tina’s recipe, but I added in about half of a zucchini, finely grated, and a big dash of cinnamon. Topped with maple syrup, this was great fuel for my ride. However, I still love real oatmeal; the texture of the no oat oatmeal is a little mushy- it needs the oats for chewiness!

After breakfast, I drove up to the very northern part of Hillsborough County to the southernmost trail head of the Suncoast Trail.

I really wanted to get in a long ride with minimal stopping, so when I saw that this trail was 41 miles long, I knew this would be the place for me. Basically, this trail runs parallel to a highway, separated by a tall fence and varying amounts of grass. It’s flat as a pancake and there is minimal shade. It basically looks like this the whole way (or at least the part that I rode):

(Highway is on the left) There are a few places to stop and sit along the way, and a few water stops. But, they warn you that there won’t be places for water and that you need to be prepared! I came prepared with water and Acellerade, but did stop to refill at my halfway point.

When it was all said and done, I went the furthest I’ve gone on my bike this season:

Not bad, not bad 🙂 And I’m happy to report the shoes were pretty good:-) I liked how they fit, and they were mostly comfortable, but I started to get a blister right below my ankle, where the shoe was rubbing. I hope that’s just a new shoe thing that will work itself out when I break them in…

I had a good ride, and on the way back I was able to get in some pretty good speed. However, those long, flat rides are kinda boring. And it was hot. I do have myself to blame a little for that since I started late in the morning, but I guess I’ll need to get used to training in the heat anyhow. I’m glad I went up there, and it will probably be where I do a lot of my rides, but it really made me miss biking in DC. I feel like there were so many options for rides in DC. There were a bunch of trails, or you could drive out a bit further and hit some rural areas. DC has a lot of shaded paths too. Oh, and in DC, I could bike to a number of good trail heads.  Here, I feel like there’s one place I can bike- Davis Island. There, I have to ride loops (kinda like Haines Point rides in DC). To get to any other trails, like this one, I have to drive at least 30 minutes. Boo.

But, I’ll make these trails work for me for sure. And, I’ll head over to the Mad Dog ride in St. Pete/Clearwater, because that goes close to the beach. I’ll take a flat ride where I can breathe in salty air any day!