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Best day ever?!! Greg Davis and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

Best day ever?!! Greg Davis and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

I’ve been trying to think of a good analogy about buying a bike since last night, and the best I’ve come up with is shoes.  I briefly entertained one based on eating spaghetti at Fazolis versus eating spaghetti in Italy, but it fell apart after I ate dinner and was no longer so fixated on food.  So wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah…

Buying a bike is a lot like buying shoes.  Maybe you stroll past the clearance rack and you see a cute pair of pumps at 80% off and they’re not your size but they’re kinda close so you buy them.  Then you wear them to the wedding reception and you’re miserable all night. By the time the DJ starts playing “Old Time Rock and Roll,” your “great buy” shoes are under the table and you’re wearing a hole in your pantyhose.  And the shoes?  They’re going straight to the back of your closet never to be seen again.

Listen, I understand the temptation to look for a used bike or to go out to Walmart and buy something for $200.   I really do.  My first bike as an adult was bought second hand, but as it happens, I just got extremely lucky and could make it work for a while.  When I bought it though, I didn’t know what a difference the right bike could make.

It's me and my bike again! Notice the matching Bontrager jersey!

It’s me and my bike again! Notice the matching Bontrager jersey!

The past couple of weeks, at least 4 different people have asked me to be on the lookout for used bikes for them.  I’m not saying there might not be a decent used bike out there for all of you, but buying used is much harder than buying new if you really want to get lots of use out of your new bike.  If you don’t want to banish your bike to the back of your garage like a pair of clearance shoes to the back of your closet, you’ve got to find a bike that fits YOU!

Let’s put it in perspective.  I rode my bike 2500 miles last year.  If I average 15 mph, hat’s 166 hours in the saddle.  6.94 DAYS on my bike.  Do you think I could have done that on a bike if it wasn’t super comfortable and built for me?!?!

Even if you don’t plan on riding thousands of miles, it’s easy to see you’ll get more enjoyment and more use out of a bike that works with your body instead of against it.

Your best bet is to go to a bike shop with knowledgeable people and learn about what type of bike you should buy.  There are two shops here in Quincy.  My personal endorsement goes to Madison Davis, a Trek retailer.   Gamemasters also has a nice department though, and carries Specialized bikes.

People can (and have) written whole books on choosing the right bike, but let me give you my two cent guide on what you need to do if you want to start riding road with me this year.

  1. I organized a Bridge to Bridge (Quincy to Hannibal and back) ride for the 4th of July, and despite the high temps, attendance was GREAT!  I'm so happy so many people came out for this and I hope we do it again next year!

    I organized a Bridge to Bridge (Quincy to Hannibal and back) ride for the 4th of July, and despite the high temps, attendance was GREAT! I’m so happy so many people came out for this and I hope we do it again next year!

    Get measured.  DO NOT just go a-Googling and find some height chart on the internet.  Your friendly bike shop will measure you for free and will tell you what size you need.  It’s worth noting that different brands measure bikes in different ways.  For example, I ride a 52 cm Trek or a Medium Women’s Specialized.

  2. Think about your goals.  Are you going to ride some 10-20 mile routes or do you hope to work your way up to riding centuries (100 miles)?  Do you want to be able to tow cargo and camp?  Or do you want to race and try triathlons?  If you’re just club riding and aren’t going super long distances,  things like carbon seat posts (which reduce road noise) might not really be worth the extra cost for you.  Buy the options you need!
  3.  Think about your budget.  Yes, I know. This is the least fun part.  If my budget was unlimited, I’d buy a beautiful Trek Project One Domane and I would customize the paint job myself and have all the bells and whistles.  But alas, my pocketbook has limits.
  4. Are you a lady???  In road bikes, the main differences in a women’s specific bike are the length of the top tube (from your seat post to your handle bars) and the angle at which you sit on the bike.   There are very good graphics on the Trek website that illustrate this. The advantage to a women’s fit bike is that you won’t be reaching as far to the handle bars and therefore will put less strain on your back and shoulders.  If you’ve got a nice long torso, this might not be an issue for you, but for me, the women’s fit really feels nice.  The disadvantages of women’s design are that the women’s bike geometry isn’t as aggressive (which is important to racers) and they tend to feature pastel colors or flower graphics.   The girly color/graphic package is a whole other rant though.
  5. Don’t fear the saddle!  I’ve seen it before.  People take one look at those skinny, rock hard saddles on road bikes and demand that it’s switched out to something with gel in it.  Don’t do it, my friend!  I should probably write a whole other blog post about saddles, but the short story is: they can be measured too.   You sit your cute little bottom on a piece of foam, the foam measures your sit bones, and then you get the right size saddle for you.  Let the bike shop show you how to position your saddle for maximum comfort and in just a few rides, you’ll like a road bike saddle too.
  6. Understand your bike and what it’s made of.  I suggest this blog post which I wrote last year on the subject!
I never get tired of bike pictures.

I never get tired of bike pictures.

In conclusion- even if you don’t buy a new bike, start your research by looking at new bikes.  If you know what you want is a Trek 1.2 in 54 cm, you can go look for that bike.  Then you can do your comparison pricing and see if it’s worthwhile to buy used.

If you’re wondering about my bike and the thought process I went through to buy it…

I have a Trek 3.1 WSD Madone.  I bought it because:

  1. It’s an entry level carbon bike.  Carbon is a tough material and it’s good at reducing road noise.  It’s lighter than aluminum and since I knew I’d be a long distance rider, I thought carbon was the right choice for me.
  2. I almost bought a Lexa, which is an aluminum bike with carbon seat posts and forks. I probably would have been happy on this bike too (and would have saved some money) but I knew I loved to cycle by this point because I had already put over 1000 miles on a steel bike.  So, I decided I wanted to get the best I could afford so that I wouldn’t want to upgrade in just a few years.  I wanted something that could grow with me.
  3. My bike has 105 Shimano shifters/derauillers etc.  That’s the middle of the Shimano line.  I don’t feel like I’m a biker who has to count every little ounce yet, so I didn’t want to upgrade to the Ultegra or Dura-Ace level sets, which are extremely light weight but also very pricey.
  4. I’ve got a short torso, so Women’s Specific Design was the right choice for me.  It’s plenty aggressive for the type of riding I do.
  5. The base price of the bike I picked is right around $2000.  After adding pedals, shoes, a helmet, computer, etc, it was more of course, but I didn’t purchase all of the accessories all at once.  It’s worth it in the long run!
  6. Trek and Specialized (and other major brands) often offer financing on bikes, and I took advantage of that.  I believe I had zero interest for 12 months or something.  It was a great deal.
  7. Most importantly: I have never regretted a dime I spent on buying the right bike. I love The Dream Machine! 
This is the 2013 Lexa.  It's a nice bike!

This is the 2013 Lexa. It’s a nice bike!

If I had to make a recommendation for a good all-around bike at a good price for anyone just getting started, I think I would recommend the Trek 1.2 (called a Lexa for women).  It’s their aluminum road bike with carbon fork and seat post and it’s a good compromise between the features of a more expensive full carbon bike and the aluminum frame.  (The Specialized equivalent is called an Allez. Other brands make something similar.  Felt and Giant are good brands to check out but you can’t buy them locally.)  The 1.2 is a great quality bike you can ride in the club rides, take on a triathlon, or commute to work on.  The 1.2 list price is $999 (and the 1.1 is $799.  This is a solid aluminum bike.)

So, there you have it.  Buy a bike! Come ride with me!!  I PROMISE cycling will make you smile.

Pre-Climb at registration!

Pre-Climb at registration!

This past weekend my husband, Justin, my friends Jeremy and Adam, and I all participated in the Fight for Air Climb to benefit the American Lung Association.  I’d like to start this race recap with a great big THANK YOU to the friends and family that made donations to our team.  With your help, we raised over $600 to help the mission of the American Lung Association.  The ALA supports anything and everything lung related- including research, smoking prevention and cessation programs and screening programs for cancer, asthma, and rare lung diseases.

I decided to form a team for this event back in October after a good friend suffered a spontaneous lung collapse. Then my dad was diagnosed with primary lung cancer.  What can I say?  It was a bad month for lungs.  As members joined my team, we added some “reasons to climb” for friends and family with conditions including asthma, sarcoidosis and a recent lung transplant recipient.  The one thing we know is this: no one should have to fight to breathe!

ALA Fight for Air Climb events are held at prominent skyscrapers and stadiums throughout the country. Participants basically just climb the stairs as fast as they can- kind of like a vertical road race!  There are different categories at each race including a first responder division where firefighters and other first responders run the stairs in 70 lbs of full gear, and a category called “The Ultimate Climb,” where climbers complete the course as many times as they can within a set time limit.

The Hilton in Springfield, IL

The Hilton in Springfield, IL

We signed up for the regular single climb in the Springfield, IL event.  So, on a cold Saturday morning, we made our way over to the tallest building in Springfield: the 34 story Hilton hotel.  The Hilton sticks out like a sore thumb in downtown.  There’s just no other building around it even half so tall.  It really adds to the intimidation factor to see this one tower dominate the skyline.

We arrived about 45 minutes before our scheduled climb time and went straight to registration.  I get the feeling that locals took advantage of the early registration the night before, because it took no time at all to get in, get our numbers and our tech shirts, and get ready to climb.  And it was good that registration was so fast, because the event was running ahead of schedule and our wave was already being called.

The volunteers directed us toward the basement where we got chip timers for our shoes and where we saw the beginning of the climb.  Yep.  It was just a regular old stairwell.  The team before us exchanged high-fives and took off up the stairs.  We didn’t know really what to do, so we all kind of stretched our calves out for a minute and then walked up to the door.  A very nice volunteer checked off our numbers and then we were off!

The stairwell is pretty narrow, so our team took off more or less single file.  I could hear Adam hootin’ and hollerin’ as we began… and so could everyone else in the stairwell!  You have to love his enthusiasm echoing through the halls!

Personally, I didn’t have any expectations for how long climbing this building would take me.  I just kind of took off as fast as I could go without tripping over my own feet and started knocking out floors.  I didn’t do much stair training for this event since I’m in the middle of my half marathon training plans, but I figured the cardio should transfer… right?

Top of the Hilton with our medals!

Top of the Hilton with our medals!

Wrong! Well, maybe the cardio transferred some, but it was still harder than I expected.  I think it was around the 6th floor where I first felt winded.  It was a surprise to be that out of breath!  There wasn’t anything else to do but keep going though, so that’s what I did, albeit a little more slowly.

Some other women from the team before me were also finding this climb a little harder than expected and were taking a break on a landing.  I high-fived them and yelled out something encouraging as I passed.  Through the climb I passed several other groups- getting around them was not always easy in the little stairwell- but everyone seemed like they were having a good time.

I looked up somewhere around floor 20 and was really proud of myself.  This was going pretty fast, even if I was winded!

My Fight for Air Climb Medal

My Fight for Air Climb Medal

There were volunteers standing at some of the doorways along the way up handing out water or yelling encouragement, and the man at the 28th floor yelled out that I was almost there!  I scurried up the last couple of steps and then it was over.  My time for the climb was 7:30.

The rest of my team were already there waiting for me at the top.  My husband put up our team’s best time: a scorching 4:35.  Adam ended in 5:00 flat, and Jeremy came in at 5:20.  It was kind of strange to be done with an event so quickly.  We didn’t quite know what to do with ourselves… so we snapped a few pictures and headed to one of the best restaurants in Springfield, D’arcy’s Pint, for a victory beer.

The event was a fun time for a good cause. It was also incredibly well-run and well-staffed with helpful volunteers   We all decided if we did this again next year, we’d try the Ultimate Climb.  Our friend Brian Pahlmann participated in this grueling event last year and logged 11 climbs in an hour.  Amazing! I also think it would be fun to try the same event in Chicago at the Sears Tower.  It’s, ya know, just a little more iconic than the Springfield Hilton.

If we do that though, we’re going to need to really train.  Stair climbing is some serious exercise, and I can tell that I need to work on my VO2 Max if I’m going to dart up the 110 stories of the Sears Tower next year!

Birthday Sweets

It's not just my birthday, but also my friend Tim's too! We went for a flight yesterday :)

It’s not just my birthday, but also my friend Tim’s too! We went for a flight yesterday 🙂

I’ve only got a minute for a blog today and I don’t mean to gush, but I just thought I had to say something about my birthday and the phenomenon that is Facebook birthday messages.

Sitting here at noon with a zillion quick birthday wishes from friends far and wide has really been great.

Each name brings smiles and memories of adventures big and small.  I remember us in chemistry class together or climbing that mountain or paddling that river or running that race or cycling that ride.  I remember the time you said something funny and we laughed for a half an hour.  I remember the hugs and the tears when that sadness touched our lives.  I remember the fist-pumps, woohoos and high fives of our accomplishments.  And I remember the songs we played on our guitars and the nights we stayed up long enough to see the sun rise.

So thanks, friends and readers, for remembering me for a moment today.  Your quick Facebook message reminds me of you, and you are truly a gift – on my birthday or any day.

The Calendar

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Hey Adventure Foot readers!

You must be wondering what I’ve got on my docket for the first half of 2013! Okay, maybe you were and maybe you weren’t.  But I’mma share the list with you anyway.  The important thing to know about these events is: YOU are invited!   So hop on a bike, lace up your shoes or grab a paddle and follow your Adventure Foot this year!

February 2013

Feb. 16     Fight for Air Stair Climb, Springfield, IL- to benefit the American Lung Association

March 2013

March 30      Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon or 10K, Lexington, KY

April 2013

April 6      Allerton Trails Half Marathon Monticello, IL or 10K to benefit Make a Wish Foundation

April 6     Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon, Springfield, IL (I’m not doing this one, but if you’re looking for a  nearby half marathon that’s affordable, you should check this one out!)

April 13     Race for HOPE 5K, Palmyra, MO  To raise awareness of suicide risk.

April 20     Abe’s Mini or Sprint Triathlon, Lake Springfield, IL

May 2013

May 4  Quad Cities Bike Club Tailwind Century

May 11/12  TOSRV– Columbus, OH to Portsmouth, OH and back. Tour of the Scioto River Valley- Century or half options each day.

May 18     Bridge the Gap Quincy, IL  5K, 10K and Half Marathon to benefit Med Assist

May 25/26     Pedaler’s Jamboree  Columbia, MO  Bike on the Katy trail for two days… with lots of live music!  I’m actually planning on pedaling the entire Katy Trail this weekend- but I’ll catch the Jamboree in the middle section.

June 2013

June 8/9  TOMRV– Starts in Bettendorf, IA 2 day cycling event with Century or shorter routes. Read blog from last year! 

 

As always, all of these events can be found on my events calendar.

Other things, both big and small, I hope to do this year:

 

  • Explore Maquoketa Caves State Park

 

  • Ride Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park

 

  • Ride my bike to Mark Twain Cave and get them to let me explore “off tour.”

 

  • Kayak.  A lot!  And get people to kayak with me.  And enter another kayak race.

Lemme tell you folks, if you’re reading my blog and not taking a little time to search the blog-o-sphere for other wonderful authors, you’re just flat missing out.  But I’ll get back to that in a minute…

I’ve been blogging for nigh on 2 years now and you know what the best part about it has been?  It’s when I meet people who have followed their Adventure Foot and tried something I recommended!

I've been saying, "To wit" instead of "For example" because I've been watching a lot of Archer.

I’ve been saying, “To wit” instead of “For example” because I’ve been watching a lot of Archer.

To wit:

Two thanksgivings ago I was at the Quincy YMCA Turkey Run running the 10K.   Before the race started, a woman jogged up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You’re Laura!” and I said… “I am! Yay!”

Okay… that may not be an exact recount of the encounter, but bear with me.  She went on to explain that she’d read my blogs about how I’d just recently taken up running and about the upcoming Turkey Run.  She had always struggled with weight and she was worried that her kids were already struggling too.  Then she decided that the Turkey Run was as good an event as any to get started on being a healthier family.   She pointed out her husband and two kids standing in the parking lot waiting for the start of the 5K and then thanked me for inspiring them.  I was flabbergasted.  I thanked her profusely for letting me know her story.  And I smiled through my entire 10K knowing that a whole family was taking a chance on trying something new and difficult because of something I’d written.

And another time…

Weather+Distance=Adventure (So says blogger Clinton Begley) Biking+Thunderstorm also equals Danger!

Biking+Thunderstorm=Danger! Also, Adventure. 🙂

Somewhere out in the middle of an 80 mile day on RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) a gentleman riding behind me commented on my Quincy Bike Club jersey.  “Hey, Quincy, Illinois! I read a blog from someone who lives there!” he said.  I first looked at him sideways because I assumed maybe he was someone I knew giving me a hard time.  But no!  He actually turned out to be from somewhere near Rockford, IL and when he pointed out my jersey, he didn’t even know that I was the blogger in question!  We rode side-by-side for the next ten or so miles and he told me that he’d been down in Quincy not that long ago and done the Liberty ride on my recommendation.  Crazy, right? 40,000 cyclists at RAGBRAI and I manage to meet one who both read my blog and tried a ride I talked about.

Anyhow… where was I going with this?

Right! Other bloggers!

I read and follow a smattering of blogs, mostly here on WordPress.  And I absolutely love hearing about other people’s adventures!  And I bet it would make them as happy as I was in the stories above to find out that they’ve inspired me.  So, here’s a shout-out to some other bloggers who have excited me, informed me or made me smile.  Click the links, my friends.  You will not be sorry.

T-Rex Runner... a very cool blog!

T-Rex Runner… a very cool blog!

T-Rex Runner: She runs, she’s funny, and she overcomes adversity.  This blog: http://trexrunner.com/2013/01/28/small-changes-for-big-results-or-smaller-thighs/#comment-3209  is the reason I wrote this blog today.  It’s also inspired me to try squats and lunges in the office so as to be in shape for bike season.

All Seasons Cyclist: http://allseasonscyclist.com   If you need to know about GEAR or nutrition for cycling… this should be your first stop.

Brian Pahlmann: http://personalbesttrainingandcoaching.blogspot.com/  If you’re looking for a blog by a guy who simply knows his stuff, this one is it.  Brian is a USA Cycling Coach, a personal trainer, a running coach… and a great guy!  He’s new to blogging, but he’s got a lot of great information to share and I’m looking forward to learning more from him.

Jared Busen, Willy “Natureboy” Syndram, and Laura Paulo: These three people are all ultra-runners.  They run HUGE distances- I’m talking hundreds of miles in a weekend.  But that’s not what I think is most special about them.  What’s most special is they run unimaginable distances and make you believe you can do it too.  Really.  Read and be inspired.    Jared’s is (I’m linking you to my favorite article… it’s about him running with me… hehe)  http://runhappens.com/love-the-hills/   Willy’s is http://runningwithnatureboy.wordpress.com/ and Laura’s is http://ultrarunninggirl.blogspot.ca/?m=1

Body by Brenda http://bodybybrendat.com/ This friend and blogger went from a morbidly-obese smoker to a super fit and inspirational model of healthy living.  She once fireman carried me across an MMA studio.  She’s awesome.

Dan’s Marathon: http://dans-marathon.com/ This guy is on a quest to run a marathon or a half in all 50 states. I like his race reports and his writing style.  Before I sign up for a race, I look to see if Dan’s done it first to learn more.

Ray Heisey: http://rayheisey.com/  Another great blogger always full of bicycle adventures and bicycle advice! Love it!

Clinton securing our gear for my first time rock rappeling!

Clinton securing our gear for my first time rock rappeling!

Clintergalactic: Saving perhaps the best for last, if you click on no other link today, click this one: http://punqroqclimber.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/finding/  Clinton is a dear friend of mine, but even if he weren’t  I would be a fan of his writing.  I get lost in the scenes he describes.  Read the article I’ve linked you to and tell me you can’t taste the salt on the reel or hear the ping of pistol shots on empty beer cans.  Clinton doesn’t post often, but the quality of every post is worth the wait. When he finally writes a book about his adventures (and he will) I will be first in line.

So there you go! Read!! It’s good for you.   And also PLEASE leave comments on my blogs.  Let me know your thoughts. For gosh sakes, let me know if you try any of the things I blog about.  PLEASE! /begging 

thanks-for-reading

Adventure Feet!

Adventure Feet on the ski lift!

In our little corner of Central Illinois, winter sports just aren’t high on our to-do list.  Really, I spend most of the winter trying to squeeze the proverbial square peg in a round hole by bundling up in 46bazzillion layers and riding my bike like it’s June anyway.  The lack of winter sports in our area isn’t too surprising though, as large quantities of snow are hard to come by and are almost always accompanied by a glaze of ice which makes a cup of hot cocoa and a movie sound better than most things you’d want to do outside.  But not so very far away… 4.5 hours from Quincy by car… exists a little pocket of wintertime fun tucked in the glacier-carved hills of northwest Illinois…

SKI TRIP!

Most of the gang!

Some of the gang! L-R: Adam, Jeff, Sarah, Sara, Laura and Justin

This past weekend I followed my Adventure Foot and took a trip with my husband and 12 of our friends to Galena, IL to check out the skiing and snowboarding at Chestnut Mountain.  Today is not Chestnut Mountain’s debut on my blog however.  If you recall, I biked up this very hill in June of last year during the Tour of the Mississippi River Valley bike ride (TOMRV).  I believe the exact thought I had was, “If you see a sign while on your bike that says “ski area ahead,” you really should consider turning around.”  But I digress…

Justin and I on the slopes around midday.

Justin and I on the slopes around midday.

This trip was a dual birthday celebration for my husband and our friend Jeff, so we decided to make it extra special.  Jeff found a wonderful vacation rental home [read: with a hot tub] in Galena, and we all made our way up north after work on Friday. It was early to bed, early to rise for us, and after a surprisingly winding and hilly road, we made it to the Chestnut Mountain lodge to grab our rental gear and lift passes.

Chestnut Mountain has 19 trails on 220 acres overlooking the Mississippi River.  The longest trail boasts a drop of 475 feet.  Now…I know you’re thinking “I’ve been to Colorado where 475 feet is the run-off for the bunny slope,” but in Illinois, this is respectable.

Weekend lift tickets are $40 for a day or $78 for two days, and gear rental of either boarding or ski equipment is $32.  Rates are slightly less during the week and they also have special rates in the evenings.  A neat feature of the rentals is that if you rent, say, a snowboard to try but don’t end up liking it, it’s only $5 to switch to skis instead.  Helmet rental is $8.  Lessons are available for $20 an hour in a group or a $50 for a private lesson.

This trip was only my third time skiing, and much like my previous outings, the worst part was sitting in the locker room sweating and trying to wrestle ski boots on.  In no time though, we stepped outside into the beautiful day, ready to roll.

About the beautiful day: it was over 40 degrees outside.  That’s not ideal.  Sure, it’s nice to not be so cold, but the mostly man-made snow was awfully slushy and got worse throughout the day.  At times, the slush was nice for me because it slowed me down a little, but at other times, it caused everything to be extra slippery and skiers would gouge the slopes making bizarre trench hazards.

Sara and her awesome snowboard!

Sara and her awesome snowboard!

Our group had mixed experience with skiing, so some of the more experienced members headed off to the blue trails while I tested my legs out on the bunny slope.  A pair of safe rides down the cotton-tail-trail and two trips up the moving carpet later, and I decided to go on one of the larger trails.

The first beginner trail was called, “Old Man.”  This trail butted up against the bunny slope in the beginning and then dog-legged to the left down the mountain.  I started out okay, but took the first turn down the steeper slope faster than I expected and ended up wiping out and sliding on my belly for ten feet.  My husband, who is much better at this than I am, skied over and helped me up, and we hit the trail again.   My friend Sara was right behind us on her snowboard and was finding her legs too.

Just before the steepest part of the trail there was a member of the ski patrol holding a “slide zone” sign which the slushy conditions necessitated.  I skied over by him, clearly a little shaken by my fall, and asked how I could avoid another fall in this slippery area.  His answer? Make the mountain bigger! He said to take long, sweeping passes more horizontally across the slope (while watching for other skiers, of course) and that it would help me not feel so out of control on the slush.

So that’s what I did.  And we made it safely (and slowly) to the bottom of the slope.  My husband and I waited in a relatively short line for the ski lift and headed back up the mountain to try some more trails.

We had lunch around noon at the restaurant inside the lodge.  I imagine locals bring their own food when they ski because eating at the lodge is very expensive, but I suppose that’s to be expected at a resort.

Some friends from Iowa City joined us too. Chestnut is only about 2 hours 15 minutes from IC!

Some friends from Iowa City joined us too. Chestnut is only about 2 hours 15 minutes from IC! L-R Jordan, Becky, Justin and Laura

After lunch, I made an equipment swap and upgraded to a half-size bigger pair of boots. This was the best decision I’d made all day, because I had more mobility in the larger boots.  Note to self: never suffer in ill-fitting equipment!

The group of us spread out over the mountain- some people took on the hardest trails, some stuck to medium or easy ones.  The bravest thing I did all day was to go down “Rookie’s Ridge” which runs alongside of some jumps, and I skied up the side of the jumps and back into the bowl a few times. I thought that was just the best!   I also tried out the little slalom course and finally felt like a real skier whooshing back and forth between the markers.

All in all, the entire group had a lot of fun regardless of skiing skill level.  Despite being so nearby, being in the hills of Galena seemed like a real vacation.

My favorite store in Galena

My favorite store in Galena

I should mention that downtown Galena is very cute and shouldn’t be passed by if you head up for a ski trip.  My favorite shop there is called Fever River Outfitters.  This shop is an outdoorsperson’s paradise.  They carry great kayak, cycling and general outdoor items as well as a nice line of merino wool tech gear.  They are one of the sponsors of the Fever River Triathlon, which I’d really like to participate in this year.  In addition to Fever River, there are lots of great specialty food shops, gift shops, a brewery and several bistros in downtown Galena.  It’s a fun place to spend a whole afternoon if you’re not on the slopes.

skitrails

nufit-headerJust before I sat down to write this blog, I stumbled across an article about how 1/5 South Korean women have had some kind of plastic surgery.  Often it’s to lighten their skin, widen and round their eyes, and even to shave their jaw bones to make their chins come to a heart-shaped point rather than look square.  They basically want to look more western and go to great lengths to achieve this arbitrary standard of beauty.

original

From the gawker.com article on South Koreans and plastic surgery.

I think the knee-jerk reaction to an article like that is, “Thank god we don’t live in a crazy country where those kind of extremes are so common!”  But really when you think about it, American women do go to some pretty amazing extremes and hold ourselves up against standards of beauty that are pretty much impossible.

Some of the things we’d like to change about ourselves can be addressed in healthy ways.  Each time we eat some veggies and not a Snickers, we’re making a healthy choice to change the way we look and feel.  Each time we choose a bike ride over a TV show or a video game, we’re choosing to honor ourselves and add to our fitness.   And all that’s great, but too many women, especially young women, get so caught up in the pursuit of beauty that it becomes destructive.  These women might be suffering from diseases like anorexia, bulimia, or depression.  They might have internal struggles with weight and beauty that cause a lifetime of self-doubt that affect every facet of their lives from relationships to careers.

Prevention of those kind of struggles is exactly why I’ve never more strongly endorsed a program than the one I’m about to tell you about.

A local fitness facility called NuFit for You is offering a new pilot program called the Mirror Image Project.   Owner of NuFit Angie Asmann explained, “The purpose of the project is to focus on building healthy body image and self-esteem in women of all ages. Total wellness starts from within. We plan on revolutionizing the way women view themselves internally and externally, and to raise awareness on what a healthy women is supposed to look and feel like.”

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A local mother/daughter pair who will be participating in the program. Also: some of my best friends!!

This initial program is designed for mothers with daughters ages 8 to 12 years old.  The best part is that the program will be FREE for these mothers and daughters.

“8-12 years old is a crucial time for young women,” Asmann explains.  “It’s when they’re really developing a sense of who they are and who they want to be.  It’s the right time to teach them positivity about who they are.”

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Tiffaney Rains, of NuFit

The program will be led by Tiffaney Rains, a personal trainer and Master’s Degree in Community Counseling candidate at Quincy University.  She’ll be teaching classes on Understanding Self Image, Learning about yourself, Media Messages and Myths, Beauty Within and  Positive Self Image Lifestyle Choices.   The course begins February 3rd and lasts for 6 weeks (meets every Sunday 7pm).

If you know a mother/daughter pair who would benefit from these important classes, DO NOT DELAY!   Since I was writing this blog today, I talked the NuFit crew into extending the deadline to apply to the program through Monday, Jan. 21st at 8 AM!   All you or the mother need to do to apply is write a paragraph about why you should be considered for the Mirror Image Project and email it to angie@nufitforyou.com   This first program will be limited to between 6 and 8 mother/daughter pairs. (I should say, if you’re an aunt/niece or … you know, any other arrangement of important woman to important young woman, I’m sure you can apply too.)

I think it’s wonderful that NuFit is helping young women to find their voices and believe in their own beauty.  I hope this program really blossoms and that all the women of the area can learn just a little more self-confidence because of it.

“Throughout a daughter’s childhood, mother and daughter become like mirrors for each other’s sense of self.”  – Doctor Laura Arens Fuerstein, author of “My Mother, My Mirror.”

Baby it's cold outside!

Baby it’s cold outside!

I had a conversation with myself recently:

It’s cold outside.

Well it’s winter.  What’d you expect?

But I wanna go for a bike ride!

So go for a bike ride!

But it’s so coooooooold!

Suck it up! You’ve got a hat!

…And that conversation went on in my head for about a half an hour when I finally gave in and decided that I’d bundle up and try it out.  My hubby aired up the tires to the Dream Machine while I put on 2 Under Armor Cold Gear shirts, a pair of medium weight tights, a pair of fleece pants and a pair of wind pants (Yeah, I wore 3 pairs of pants.  If I had some fancy cold weather tights, I would have done that.  But I don’t, so I layered.)   I also donned a neoprene face mask, a fleece ear wrap, my helmet, 2 pairs of gloves, and my new neoprene toe covers. Oh, and my coat.

I’ll admit: it was a lot of work.

A picture I took of an eagle a few days before this ride but in the same area.

A picture I took of an eagle a few days before this ride but in the same area.

But then I rolled my bike out passed my snow covered lawn onto the slightly-icy street, hopped on, took off towards the river, and was immediately glad I’d talked myself into going!  Afterall, the day was sunny, and most of the ice was confined to the edges of the streets or occasional bad corners, so it wasn’t that bad outside. Once I reached the river road, it was smooth sailing and I cruised along.

I decided to ride a route most Quincy cyclists would be familiar with- the Knaphide Loop- and it was a great choice for the day.   I spotted no fewer than 5 bald eagles, probably a half dozen red tail hawks and even a triplet of kestrels all out hunting.  One of the red tails had a fish so big in tow that he couldn’t seem to make it higher than a couple of feet off the ground and occasionally had to land in the field and rest.  I followed him a while.  He really didn’t like me so close, but then again, he wasn’t going to leave his prize either, so he tolerated me for a while.

The 34 degree weather didn’t bother me much.  In fact, when I was heading North, I was almost overheating. I especially enjoyed my double pair of gloves.  I’ve been putting a pair of rubberized football receiver gloves over a cheap pair of cotton gloves and they’re just the right combination of wind-proof and warm while still being nice and thin.

Here's a picture of the complete get-up. Stylish, I know.

Here’s a picture of the complete get-up. Stylish, I know.

By the time I turned back to the South, a pretty decent breeze had picked up (an aside: can I ever go riding on the bottom road without a South wind!?!??!) and for the first time I felt a little chilled.  To combat the cold, I just pedaled harder, and before I knew it I was back in town.  I even stopped at River Skate, Quincy’s new outdoor ice rink, to say hello to my friend Chris before heading back up the bluff hill towards home.

It was a great solo ride and I was happy to get outside and enjoy the day.

What I learned is that it’s sometimes more work to talk yourself into going out the door on a cold day, but just like any other day, you’re going to be happy you found a reason to say YES to your Adventure Foot.

2012-milesThis little bike ride happened to be on December 30th and was my last bike ride of 2012.  It made my total miles this year 2504.  That’s well over double my 1230 miles registered in 2011 when I started this whole cycling thing.  As a matter of fact, that’s like leaving my house, biking to San Francisco then taking the coast up to Portland.  My 2013 plan? I guess I’ll just keep on riding.

It’s about time for New Year’s Resolutions again… so READ this article then take the Meatless Monday Pledge! It’s good for you- and Paul McCartney agrees!

Adventure Foot

I’m a big Beatles fan, but not every song the “Four” write is Fab.  I submit exhibit A:

Okay, this one isn’t “Hey Jude” caliber, but I love the message nonetheless.  McCartney is a champion of the worldwide Meatless Monday movement.  Sir Paul is a rather famous vegetarian himself, but I think he realizes that strict vegetarianism isn’t a lifestyle everyone is going to choose.  Rather than suggest

everyone go straight from hamburgers to celery, Paul suggests we all just take one day a week and declare it a meat-free holiday!

Personally, I love this idea.  My husband and I started Meatless Mondays last year (for the most part…) and I liked it so much that I generally try to stay meat free 2 days a week now.  There are so many good reasons to give this a try:

  1. Your Health!  Eating more veggies is good for us in all…

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Remember these?

Remember these?

My friend Doug calls them my Mad Lib Friends.

“I know a (girl/guy) who lives in (insert a location) who does (insert an unusual hobby or occupation.)

I can’t remember the friend or occupation that I mentioned that started the phenomenon, but I notice myself doing it a lot since he pointed it out.

“I know a guy in Georgia that runs 500 mile foot races and lives on the Appalachian Trail.” 

“I know a couple in Montana who rode their bikes past a herd of Bison while watching a geyser erupt.”

“I know a girl in California who works for the USGS determining worst case scenarios for Cascade volcano eruptions.”

“I know an engineer in Peoria who raises bees and chickens and helped me install my water heater.”   

“I know a dude in Memphis who looks like a friendlier version of Colonel Sanders and makes a living as a horologist.”

It’s not that I feel the need to name drop or anything.  It’s that I’ve been truly blessed to have an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances with incredibly interesting lives.  I love to meet people who are passionate about something- poetry, rafting, knitting, music, cycling… it really doesn’t matter to me.  Any time someone is excited about their hobby and wants to share it with me, I’m just thrilled. I’m curious.  I’m ready for adventure!

It was in the company one of my “Mad Lib Friends” that I found myself this Tuesday evening.

“I know a doctor in Quincy who likes to cycle, jam on his guitar, and who is a pilot with his own plane.”

One of our Second String jam sessions. L-R is Ivan, Justin Sievert, Tim Smith, me and Rodney Hart.

One of our Second String jam sessions. L-R is Ivan, Justin Sievert, Tim Smith, me and Rodney Hart.

My friend Tim is a physical therapist by trade and a downright interesting guy by nature. I think we first met in the Quincy Bicycle Club on one of the larger group rides, but lately he’s been hanging out with my husband and I at our local music store’s jam sessions.   The loose jam sessions include musicians of all skill-levels.  We gather and the Second String Music store comes alive with classic rock, oldies, country and contemporary music.  Everyone plays and sings and has a great time.

Sometime during one of the great conversations that a pause in a jam session tends to facilitate, Tim and I got talking about ourselves and he told me he was a pilot and he’d recently gone in with some other friends and bought a plane.  I lit up with interest and explained that during college, I’d had the opportunity to ride with the Civil Air Patrol and learn a little about flying.  I’d always wanted to complete more formal training and get a license.

That’s why, late Tuesday afternoon when Tim sent me a message that said, “I’m taking the plane up- feel like going for a flight?” I nearly fell out of my work chair trying to type, “yessssssss!”

Tim and I stand next to his Cherokee

Tim and I stand next to his Cherokee

We met out at the airport after work in the cold, crisp early evening and I watched with interest as Tim went through the preflight checklist.  It’s been since 2002 that I flew with the CAP, but each time he’d mention a term, a little bell would go off in my head signaling, “Oh yeah, I remember that!”  VORs and headings, air speed indicators, trim, run-up… the words swam around my head and tried to reassemble themselves after a decade of rust.

(On a related note… can it really have been ten years since 2002?)

Pretty soon the preflight checklist was done, the propeller was cycled and we were headed down runway 3-1.

I was likely grinning like an idiot (as I’m apt to do) but I could tell Tim was just as excited to break the bonds of earth for a moment and get out of town.  Once he leveled the plane off around 3,000 feet, he said, “Okay, take her where you want to go!”

Quincy Regional Airport

Quincy Regional Airport

At first, I was uncharacteristically nervous and I daintily turned the plane towards the river.  It was a windy night and the plane danced around a little when the wind caught it right and I kept searching my mind for the things I used to know.

I asked lots of questions about what we were seeing on the dials and Tim was happy to explain.  He especially enjoyed showing me all the awesome tricks his Garmin could do- like bringing up nearest airfields, pointing us directly to where we wanted to go, and even showing glide plains for landings with poor visibility.

(Another aside: in 2002, the Cessna that I flew in had a GPS unit but it was nowhere near as cool as this Garmin.  Back then, the GPS pretty just displayed point A to point B.  Isn’t technology grand?!)

In no time at all, Tim and I had arrived somewhere over Hannibal, MO and he challenged me to spot the airfield.  Once the beacon was in sight, he pressed the call button on the steering yolk and “lit the runway.”  Evidently at uncontrolled airports, the major runway lights don’t stay on all the time, and a pilot can turn them on from the air.  It was like the coolest version ever of The Clapper!

(ooooh… another dated reference. Remember? “Clap on! Clap off! Clap on, clap off- the clapper!”  *sigh* This blog is making me feel old.)

We left Hannibal airspace and decided our next destination would be Pittsfield, IL.  Tim deftly turned the little craft to the northeast and we rolled through the crystal sky right facing the constellations of Orion and Gemini.

Orion the Hunter

Orion the Hunter

I pointed out the constellations, the Andromeda galaxy and Jupiter and after a while Tim asked how I knew all of these things.  And I replied simply, “Well, I love science!”

The rest of the flight continued on like that. Tim taught me more about flying, I taught him more about astronomy, and we soon were headed home.  As he circled around the airport, my mind circled around an idea I’d always known but had never really fleshed out.  By the time he called out, “Quincy traffic, Cherokee 16253 headed on final approach runway 3-1 (?) Full stop, Quincy,” I had it figured out.  It’s the whole key to my Adventure Foot.

People are really interesting!

I know that doesn’t sound like a groundbreaking idea, but let me explain.

Whether it’s Tim and his plane, David and his bees, Clint and Ryan taking me rappelling, my friend Cindy and yoga (blog coming soon…), or any other of the many people who I’ve had the pleasure of sharing an activity with, they all have one thing in common: they are passionate about something.  And passionate people are always passionate about sharing their favorite adventure with anyone who wants to learn.

Which brings me to my last point before this rambling gets out of hand: if there’s just one purpose to this blog it’s to show you how much fun it can be to take your Adventure Foot out the door and try something new.  Don’t let excuses or fear stop you from going. 

People, for example, will say to me that all of the cycling looks really fun but they know that I cycle hundreds of miles sometimes, so they don’t want to go out and try it with me for fear that they’ll be no good.  Don’t be silly!  It wasn’t that long ago that I got my first bike as an adult.  And I’d love to show you why cycling is the best thing that ever happened to wheels! Just because I can ride a long way doesn’t mean I can’t go for a leisurely ride with you sometime.  And maybe you’ll love it as much as I do and you’ll get great and someday you’ll take a beginner out and… well, you see where this is going.

So make it a New Year’s resolution! Try new things! Have an adventure!  And talk to people… because they’re all interesting and have a lot to teach you!