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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.
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Some friends on the ride- this is at the top of an enormous hill we called “The Weigh Station.”

You can’t hear much besides your heart pounding in your chest and the wheels against the pavement when you’re struggling up a really great hill.  You’ve got to will your legs to keep going when your quads are on fire, the chain rings can’t get any smaller, and the top is nowhere in sight. Every movement is controlled and measured to transfer the most power from your hips to the pedals.  You’d probably smile thinking about the coming view from the top if you had the spare muscle power to turn the corners of your mouth up, but you don’t.

My husband calls hills like that, “paying the toll” for the view and there are a lot of things like that in life: times where hard work and focus can take you to the top of some hill where the view is simply awe-inspiring.  And in that moment you breathe deeply and fill your chest with rarefied air before taking the well-earned ride down the other side.

But what about the other part of the ride we cyclists don’t like to talk about?  Besides the fast flat roads, the tough hills and the beautiful controlled descents, what about those occasional patches of sand at the bottom of the hill?  Your back tire suddenly finds no purchase and slides out behind you.  The speed that exhilarated you a moment ago suddenly turns sinister and threatens to tear you down and throw you to the solid pavement. Your hard fought control is wrestled away from you for a moment  and all you can do is hold on tight and hope that gravity and centripetal motion are on your side today and that maybe you’ll come out the other side no worse for the wear.  Or at least that’s what you’d hope for if you had time to do anything but react; which you don’t.

2012 TOMRV

2012 TOMRV

I recently had a life experience that made me feel like I hit a patch of sand going 35 miles an hour.  It was a moment of pure beauty followed by forced surrender of control and rapid deceleration that terrified me.

But you know what?

I held on tight and made it through to the other side.  I’m clear and in the flat now, and my heart is pounding in my ears and I’m well aware of the other ways the slide could have ended, but hey, I’m going to be okay.  And as much as I’d love to tell you that I’d learned lessons about looking out for and avoiding patches of sand, what I really have to tell you is that you can’t anticipate what’s coming at the bottom of every hill. When you’re in that slide and you feel your wheel come around on you, you just have to ride it through.

I may be in danger of over-playing my metaphor here, but it’s important to know that in the times the slide ends badly and you need help peeling yourself off the ground and repairing your busted up bike or body, it’s good to be on the ride with friends.

I know I’m glad I’m on the ride with friends.

And if their tires hit a patch of sand, I hope they’re glad they’re on the ride with me too.

 

 

*The story I used as metaphor in this blog owes its very real origins to a hill near Mississippi Palisades State Park and a patch of sand I encountered on a ride called TOMRV (Tour of the Mississippi River Valley).  TOMRV will be held June 8-9, 2013 and I can’t wait to do it again.

 

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TOMRV Day 2- Laura, Justin, Stephen, Jen and Tony (left to right)

You know in the movie Forest Gump the way Tom Hanks describes all the ways that it rained in Vietnam (big rain, fat rain, stinging rain…) or how Bubba described all the ways to fix shrimp (boiled shrimp, shrimp gumbo, shrimp stew…)??  That’s the same sort of list I’d make to describe the hills of the 35th Annual Tour of the Mississsippi River Valley ride.

There were big hills, long hills, steep hills, false flat hills, round hills, hills with bumps, hills with more hills on top of them, barbequed hills… oh wait.  Strike that last one.  You get the point though. It was hilly.

TOMRV Route Map

The ride is presented by the Quad Cities Cycling Club and this was Justin and my first year to participate.  The ride gives you the option of doing 108 miles Saturday and 89 miles Sunday, or doing 70 miles Saturday and 50 miles Sunday.  Justin and I had originally signed up for the longer ride, but since he’s been fighting some IT band issues since he ran the Bridge the Gap Half Marathon (he placed 3rd in his age division!) a few weeks ago  and since we knew it was a tough route, we decided to check down and do the shorter route.  That was probably a good move for our first time at this event.

Crossing one of the first bridges of the day.

The ride started from the town of Preston, Iowa early Saturday morning.  We’d taken advantage of the Friday night check-in, so we had everything we needed to just air up our tires and get on the road when  we arrived at 7:30 am.  High temperatures were supposed to be in the 90s, so we figured getting going early was the best move.

Saturday morning is kind of a blur to me.  Let’s see.  The very beginning wasn’t bad and we warmed up on some low hills.  No big deal.  Then there was a nice section of rolling hills, and they were tough, but still not so bad if you got enough momentum going.  Almost immediately we got to cross a couple of pretty bridges with great views of the rivers (I think the first was causeway near Sabula and the second was the steel-grate bridge over the Mississippi into Illinois) and I really enjoyed the views at both of these locations.  When we hit the first SAG stop at Mississippi Palisades State Park (about 20 miles into the ride), I felt pretty good about everything.  I ate a banana and some grapes, some peanut butter on a bagel, and a little pile of fig newtons and we were on our way.

Here’s the thing about being in the bottom of river valleys: you’re going to have to climb out of them at some point.  The first major climbs of the route were not far down the road from the SAG stop.   They were tough but manageable- I don’t think I slipped into my easiest gear in this stretch.  But then…

We turned onto Blackjack Road: home of the Chestnut Mountain.  This little monster tried to warn us with a sign that said, “Ski Area Ahead,” but we didn’t listen.   Those hills meant business.  While at home, there are only 3 hills that come to mind that have me in my easiest gear- there were at least three climbs in this little stretch that had me there.   I did a little search on Google and found someone else’s GPS map of the ride- I bet you can spot the hills I’m talking about! http://ridewithgps.com/trips/313472

TOMRV Day One Climb. I wish I could credit the guy who made the GPS maps, but it doesn’t say on his website 😦

On the top of Chestnut Mountain… evidently near the Schwarz farm 🙂

This section was also home of the hill known as “The Wall.”  It’s one steep, mean, quarter mile climb.  Nothing to do but sit and spin for this one, guys.   Justin made it up to the top, but I ended up stopping in the middle with my heart rate that felt redlined… I walked a few steps and then thought to myself, “hell no, I’m not walking,” got back on and struggled up the thing.  It was super tough, but at least it was short.  At the top of the mountain, we were rewarded with gorgeous views over the river valley and a nice stretch of flat road to enjoy.  Justin started calling the hills “paying the toll for the view.”

I spent much of the remainder of both days of the ride deciding which was more difficult: short steep climbs or long low ones.  I think in the end, the one I like better is the one I’m not on when I’m thinking about it!

Justin and I on the Sebula Bridge over the Mississippi

Anyhow, it’s worth mentioning that when you climb up a crazy thing like Chestnut Mountain, you will eventually have to ride down it too- and ride down we did- at speeds well over 40 mph.  I hit a personal speed record of 45 miles an hour.  It was terrifying.  No, awesome! Or maybe terrifying.  But awesome!  Lol.

I believe it was at the second SAG stop that my college friend Marinan and her husband spotted me.  We caught up a while, soaked up some shade, ate some much needed food and the headed off for the next section.  Marinan has done TOMRV several times (6 I think?? ) so she knew that the route didn’t get any easier as we approached Galena and then Dubuque, but I had no idea what was still in store!

So, normally, I’d keep describing the route in detail but I’m going to give you cliff notes of the rest of day one:

–          There were bike races the same day in Galena that shared our course for a couple of miles and Justin and I were passed by the race peloton at one point.  It was amazing to see those tightly packed riders heading past us at those speeds.  I just tried to stay to the right and stay out of the way.

–          There was another huge climb and steep decent not far after Galena where I got over 40 mph.

Marinan and I spell out IOWA at the top of Victory Hill

–          We caught up with another friend, Stephen Rogers, at a SAG stop in a town called Menominee.  Steven did the longer routes both days- the only one of my friends to accomplish this.

–          At mile 60, we entered Wisconsin.  I didn’t find out that we’d been to Wisconsin until after the ride.  They should put up a welcome sign.  Silly Wisconsin.

–          There was another ridiculous hill carved into the bluffs 10 or so miles from the end of the ride.  Justin asked Stephen Rogers if this hill had a name like the other hills, so Stephen, taking a cue from a sign he just saw, dubbed the hill “The Weigh Station.”  We also met a guy we called Texas there.  Texas rode the rest of the way in with us.

–          The decent going into Dubuque was one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen from my bike.  I wish I could show you a photo, but it wouldn’t do it justice anyway.

Justin enjoying a Fat Tire at the beer tent after Day One

–          The beautiful decent was followed by the second-steepest climb of the day- which also was the last quarter mile of the route.  I was so hot and tired by the time I got here, that it was really hard for me.  Half way up, Justin and Steven (who had already made the climb) started cheering me on, and at the top, Marinan was waiting for me to sing our college victory song: The Hawkeye Victory Polka.  (AKA “In Heaven There is No Beer!”)  It was a great moment.

–          The total elevation change for Day 1 of the Preston (shorter) start was +6554 ft. / -6365 ft.  Whoa. No wonder my quads were on fire.

–           At the top of Victory Hill (which is what I’m now calling it) was Clark College- our host for the night.  We enjoyed 2 Fat Tires apiece at the beer tent while we were waiting for two other friends to make it in from the long route.  Tony and Jen rolled up and we went and showered while they had a beer.  We dropped off our bikes in the tennis courts (all of those bikes in that tiny space made these the most valuable tennis courts ever!! )

–          Then we all went to the banquet!  I pretty much ate everything in sight.  Pasta, chicken, veggies, some really good coleslaw, corn, carrot cake…  Maybe it was just the heat and the exertion, but we all scarfed down a ton of food.

Most $ in a tennis court ever.

–          The accommodations we had signed up for were just sleeping bag space on the floor.  If we do this ride again, this wouldn’t be my pick because I had a hard time dealing with that many people moving around, snoring, turning on flashlights and the like.  Next go around, we’ll probably camp in a tent outside because it looked like fun and I imagine it would be quieter.  Barring that, I’d try to get one of the dorm rooms with beds.

Panoramic view near Bellview Iowa on Day 2

Day 2

I could hear people moving around and getting ready to go before light was even peaking in the window.  The heat had been pretty bad on Day 1 and was expected to be worse for Sunday so I guess everyone wanted to get an early start.  I was really exhausted from a long, restless night though, so I laid around as long as I could.  We packed up, dropped off our bags, retrieved our bikes and were ready to hit the road for Day 2.

Tony shows off his vintage Nishiki bike…

So Day 2 was 50 miles.  That’s chump-change for Justin and I anymore.  I mean, we do that distance regularly with no problem.  In fact, I had made plans for after the 50 mile ride (visiting a nearby cave) since I figured we’d be done in just a few hours.  But what I didn’t know was that Day 2’s climbs were even more gnarly than Day 1.

Justin, Jen, Tony, Stephen and I decided to ride as a group on Day 2.  We climbed a couple of decent hills coming out of Dubuque and had another beautiful, fast decent on to the floor of the valley (I got very comfortable with 35 mph on this ride. That’s pretty darned fast for me at home) but after that the climbs got crazy.

On the Mississippi River near Bellview, Iowa

And the crazy climbs? They were *not* helped at all by the straight-from-the-South headwind that started at about 10 mph in the morning but grew to 20+ mph by afternoon.  Every time you would crest a hill the wind would scream over the top and threaten to blow you back down.  In the late afternoon the wind was so strong that we’d have to downshift in the flats and even down some hills.  Talk about a momentum killer!  Anyway… what was I talking about? Oh, right, just the three hardest climbs ever…

The first climb out of the valley lasted for 1.7 miles and had an insane 7% grade in places.  Then we went back down.  The next climb out of the valley lasted almost 2 full miles and had a max of 6.8% grade.    I’m not kidding you- those were the toughest, slowest 10 miles I have ever done on my bike.  Then the last major valley climb was over the majority of a 4 mile stretch (one little downhill in the middle) and, frankly, I’m lucky to still have legs after the thing.  I stopped 3 times (walked none) to catch my breath and to make another go at that last climb.  It was so, so hard but I’m so, so glad we did it.  See GPS here http://ridewithgps.com/trips/313470

Day 2

More beautiful vistas were in store at the top of each one of these climbs, and the downhills all were over much too quickly.  I kept thinking that I’d never enjoyed a Midwestern landscape as much as I did at the top of these glacier-carved hills, but I’d never struggled uphill for a half an hour to earn a view either.

Tony at lunch!

We stopped in the picturesque riverside town of Bellveiw for lunch, where we once again were all quite ravenous.  We bypassed the Casey’s gas station where many bikers seemed to have stopped and found a lovely café in downtown Bellview that was serving a Biker’s Brunch.  We were treated to a leisurely and delicious meal before hitting the road. *My lunch, if you’re curious, was this terrific open-faced turkey sandwich on pumpernickel topped with charred tomatoes, béchamel (French-style milk sauce) and locally grown basil.

This is a pic from day one- all of us flashing W for the “Weigh Station” hill!

What else can I say about day 2?  It was great.  There were more hills, more climb, and more wind than I thought you could squeeze into 50 miles in the Midwest, but hey, we made it through just fine.  Catching up with my friends from far away and sharing a bicycle adventure made the weekend (and the sore quads I had on Monday) completely worth it.

The Quad Cities Bike Club deserves lots of credit for wonderful SAG stops, friendly volunteers, and a tough course that challenged every rider there.

And the views- earned the hard way- are something I’ll never be able to adequately describe;  their beauty makes me believe that the same farm-dotted landscape that inspired artists like Grant Wood will be around a long time to come.

As for my bike and I?  We’re feeling quite confident about our chances to complete the 500 miles of the Register’s Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) which, as I write, is only 37 days away.   I’ve also vowed to never complain about the two hills on State Street or the ones coming up Hampshire again, because I’ve met their big brothers who live up river and are much worse!

Thanks for a great ride TOMRV!  See you next year!

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Hey readers!  Here are today’s headlines…

Saturday: Unitarian Church Plant, Book, Bake Sale

Last year, people stood in the rain to get in to this sale! It's just that good... 🙂

40TH ANNUAL SALE – APRIL 21, 2012, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

I attended this sale last year and came home with enough flowers to fill my yard, a homemade rhubarb pie to fill my tummy, and a few vintage books to fill my mind.  What more could a body ask for?!  This cash/check-only fundraiser is a whole neighborhood event, and you don’t have to belong to the church.  Besides flowering and decorative plants, the sale had vegetable and herb plants as well.    I also got in a great conversation about heirloom tomatoes with a gentleman who’d written a book on Illinois varietal veggies.

Sunday: Earth Day Clean Up of Gardner Park

I already blogged about this- so go read it!  Better yet, just come to the park on Sunday with a pair of gardening gloves an Earth Day spirit!

Registration is Now Open…

For a bunch of great summer events.  If your calendar isn’t filling up yet, you’ve come to the right place…

–   Bridge the Gap to Health is a Quincy favorite and has options of 5K, 10K and half marathon distances.

–   The Hannibal Cannibal is an area tradition over the 4th of July weekend- and features 5K and 10K distances.

–  The Quad Cities Cycling Club’s Tail Wind Century (100 miles) is May 5th. This event has 6 planned routes, and the morning of the event, the club checks out where the wind is coming from and chooses the route that’s most likely to provide a tailwind the whole way! What a fun concept for a ride!

–  Mt. Sterling Mid-Spring Walk is May 5th in Brown County and is presented by the Railsplitter Wanderers Club.  The Railsplitter Wanderers Volkssport Association is a recreational association dedicated to promoting physical fitness through participation in volkssporting-walking, biking, swimming, and skiing.  The term “Volkssport” means “Sport of the (common) People”  in German, is a nation-wide organization.   This event is sanctioned by the American Volkssport Association (AVA) and is free and open to the public.

–  34th Annual Strawberry Strut– in Carthage, IL features a 1 or 5 mile fitness run and is being run this year in memory of one of the event’s founders, Phil Clark.

–  TOMRV (Tour of the Mississippi River Valley) Cycling Event.  2 days, 200 miles, 12,000 feet of climb.   June 9/10.  Whoa.

So… where would you find a calendar with all of this information all the time?

Just click the “Events” page here on Adventure Foot!

Have something to add to the calendar? Leave a comment here or on Facebook and I’ll add it!!

I hope to see you out and about at some of these great area events!

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