Friday, April 30, 2010

Stare Down with a Barred Owl

Was home from an after school video shoot with my students with plenty of daylight left and temps still around 70 degrees, which was sweet. I headed out to the powerline trails to do some exploring on the mountain bike.

The powerline trails are challenging to ride, due to the steep drops and climbs. Some are smooth enough you can fly down pretty easily, but some are pretty rocky and require some maneuvering. Really fun to ride.

At one stretch, the main trail goes off the powerlines and into the woods. Soon afterwards, a large bird perched low swooped out about 10 feet in front of me and up into a nearby branch, and saw it was a barred owl. I put on the brakes, and we stared at each other for a good 30 seconds before he took off further into the woods. So cool to look a creature like that right in the eye, especially for a long period of time.

Found the trail that led back to the powerlines, which I hadn't been on before. Once back at the powerlines, I saw a trail on the other side and a snowmobile trail sign said it led to Alfred, the town just south of where I live. Probably not too far off, will have to explore that soon, but heading back the way I came would give me the mileage I was going for and also a sure way home, so I did just that.

Mountain biked 9.5 miles @ 7.7 mph/avg (19.4 mph/max).
Trails, some technical sections.
Very hilly.
Around 70 degrees, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Good Monday

Had the past week off for spring break, so going back is always a bit tough, even if you truly love your job like I do. The day went well, and when all was said and done, it looked like the rain was going to hold off to possibly get in a ride this afternoon, which I hadn't expected.

One thing stood in the way: A trip to the DMV to renew my driver's license. However, I was out of there in less than 45 minutes, enabling me plenty of time to get in a ride. Nice.

I had wanted to try to connect two trails that dissect the powerline trails, but failed to do so. They had logged a large section of the woods, making the trails hard to find at times So, that slowed the pace some. However, while cruising slowly at times trying to figure out where to go, I practiced doing bunny hops and made some good progress. Much harder to do with platform pedals, but I think I got it down now.

Good ride, and with rain a bit more inevitable tomorrow it makes it easier to take a needed rest day. My rides haven't been all that long compared to many mountain bikers, but the routes are pretty technical and doing them nearly daily has been enough to wear me out (in a good way).

And the foot continues to improve. I'm only feeling barely any discomfort at best now, but much of the time I sincerely feel nothing, which is obviously good.

Mountain biked 8.0 miles @ 8.3 mph/avg (18.8 mph/max)
Technical trails, one section of dirt road (mile uphill climb).
Very hilly.
Upper 50s, partly to mostly cloudy.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hills and Pedals

Good ride today, doing an eight mile loop I normally run. Highlight was making it up a long, steep hill without taking my feet off the pedals. I did this with Jim's bike before, but the advantage with his bike was with lower gears and also clips on the pedals (enabling more power on the upstroke). Doing it with harder gears (I have eight as opposed to 24) and platform pedals was more of a challenge, and I did it relatively easily today.

Speaking of platform pedals, I think I'll stick with them, at least for now. I've really grown used to them, and really like not having to clip in and out. A lot of what I've been riding is really technical, so that's a huge plus when I have to quickly put a foot down. I've ordered a pair of shin guards to give some added protection in case my feet do slip, but I really like the trade off of not being locked in.

Mountain biked 8.7 miles @ 8.3 mph/avg (22.0 mph/max)
Technical trails and fireroads.
Very hilly.
Upper 50s to lower 60s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two Rides - Bradbury and Local

Headed up to Bradbury this morning. Was a real treat to ride the trails there for the first time. I've run on them dozens of times, but it was interesting to get a taste from a mountain biking perspective.

I hit the east side trails, taking the Lanzo Trail to Old Tuttle Road, but throwing in the twisty single track extension. Wow. Tough. But fun.

Had to drop down to the 24th gear (aka two feet, to walk with the bike.. a little slang I read the other day that I thought was quite clever) going up the Old Tuttle Road path, as it was very muddy and hard to ride up. However, once up, I enjoyed a rolling decent along the Ginn and Fox East trails. Met up with Knights Wood and then hit the dreaded "O" Trail.

The "O" trail is annoying enough to run on since it twists and turns ridiculously. Biking it was also a big challenge. Super tough. I busted quite a few times and had to walk quite a few sections. It was really slow going, but also fun.

Mountain biked 6.8 miles @ 4.7 mph/avg (14.4 mph/max)
Mostly highly technical, twisty single track.
Very hilly.
Mid 50s to lower 60s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Even though the ride at Bradbury was a lot of work, I was a bit disappointed by the low mileage, so I figured I'd do another ride this afternoon.

I hit the trails to the dirt road along the dump, which is a long steep climb. I biked it last week, and had to walk a part or two of it. Not today, feet were on the pedals the whole climb up. Was quite proud of that.

Reached the top and hit the snowmobile trail along the powerlines, enjoying a pretty fast descent. Took the trails the rest of the way home. Easier trails than this morning and also shorter, so it was a good second ride.

Really glad I can mountain bike until the foot gets better. It's still slowly improving, and will get there eventually.

Mountain biked 5.1 miles @ 9.8 mph/avg (19.8 mph/max)
Trails and dirt roads.
Very hilly.
Mid 60s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chadbourne Ridge

Awesome weather today! Took the bike out for a spin on some local trails. I had toyed with the idea of heading up to Bradbury Mountain to ride there today, but yesterday was a busy day with heading down to Boston for the day to go to the Red Sox game (they won in the 12th inning... great game!) so opted to just stay local.

I took some technical trails up Chadbourne Ridge, with a gradual overall climb throughout with the occasional dip and steeper climb. Good fun, but I was pretty tired by the time I got to the top. I opted to take some roads for part of the way back, and it was fun flying down the ridge at close to 30 mph (fast for me). Met back up with the trails and finished the ride home. Good day.

Mountain biked 15.6 miles @ 8.9 mph/avg (29.4 mph/max, on roads).
Technical trails, some sections of dirt and paved roads.
Very hilly.
Upper 50s to near 70, sunny, partly cloudy.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Short Ride

Just had time to squeeze in a very short ride this morning before I head down to Boston for the day to see the Red Sox play tonight. However, the ride was sweet. After a pretty grueling climb up a fire road, my bike really showed what it could do on a long, technical downhill section. I'm really growing to appreciate it's low center of gravity. Very easy to maneuver, and that confidence leads to better speed. Not that I was flying or anything, but still.

Mountain biked 3.9 miles @ 8.3 mph/avg (19.3/mph max)
Very hilly.
Fire roads and technical trails.
Lower 50s, sunny.
Shorts, short sleeved shirt.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Around Ten

Did around 10 slow miles on the bike. Half of which was around the Bates campus just tooling around while Lily ran her track workout. The other half on some trails along the Androscoggin River at a slow pace while she did her cooldown run.

Biked around 10 miles @ a slow pace.
Paved sidewalks (campus) and pretty gentle trails (river).
Slightly hilly.
Lower to upper 50s, sunny.
Shorts, fleece jacket (campus), short sleeved shirt.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting Familiar With the Bike

Able to do a longer ride on the new (to me) bike this morning. My impressions continue to be very positive. It is a little heavy, but the trade-off is it's bombproof. Strangely though, despite the weight this bike is incredibly nimble and maneuverable, more than any other mountain bike I have ever ridden. I think this is due in large part to the downward sloping top tube, making it easier to sway the bike around. With that comes a lot of confidence on technical sections where it's easy to move around rocks and roots, or simply launch off of them (big fun).

As I mentioned yesterday, the bike came with platform pedals. I thought this was odd at first, but I did some research and found that platforms are pretty common on freeride bikes. Big advantage obviously is not being trapped to the pedals and in one instance today, as the bike slid sideways on loose gravel I was able to quickly put my foot down I knew that was a plus. Had I been clipped or strapped in I would have definitely tumbled over sideways since it happened so fast. However, another time I launched off the edge of a bridge that had about a foot drop and as I landed, my foot came off. Thankfully, my shin was spared. So, advantages and disadvantages to both, but I may invest in some hybrid clipless/platform pedals so I can do both.

Foot continues to improve. The biking isn't aggravating it whatsoever, and I think my return to running date of June 1st might be a bit conservative, thankfully. May try a short run in mid-May but will play things by ear. Just glad I can at least bike until then.

Mt. biked 13.3 miles @ 8.9 mph/avg (21.9 mph/max)
Technical trails and fire roads.
Very hilly.
Upper 40s to mid 50s, partly cloudy.
Shorts, windbreaker (shed after four miles), long sleeved shirt.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Yellow Dart

There's nothing like getting a sweet deal. I headed to the Gorham Bike and Ski shop this morning in hopes of finding a decent bike at a good price at their bike swap. I think I scored. Behold, The Yellow Dart!

I really wanted a hardtail with decent front suspension and disc brakes, and as they were bringing the bikes out, I found a used Specialized P.2 that caught my eye. I was glad I got there early. They were bringing the bikes out to the tent and after scoping this one out, I kept my hand on it to claim it away from the gathering masses of other bargain seekers until they officially opened.

Forgive my ignorance here, as I know very little about mountain biking, but this bike at least looked very rugged and in good shape and I knew Specialized bikes were a good brand. I also really liked the price. I did a quick search on my Android phone and saw what it went for new. Whoa. I was getting it for about a third to a quarter of what it would cost new, so that was awesome.

Took it out for a quick spin, and was super impressed. Front suspension on it is awesome. Lots of travel and really made the ride very comfortable. It maneuvered extremely well, and I felt very, very comfortable on it. Fits me perfectly. The disc brakes also stop on a dime, even when wet and muddy. I've never ridden a bike with disc brakes before, so that was a huge treat. Big difference. Rugged protection on the front cog also. Seems like I could chunk this bike off a high cliff and it'd still be fine.

What I really like about it also is that there is no front derailleur. Just a rear one. The eight speeds are probably more than plenty. I always thought 21 or 24 speeds were overkill and have always overthought which gear to be in as a result. If the eight are spaced out enough like this one, it's probably just fine and you save weight. It's also one less thing to go wrong. On the initial ride I really liked the gear ratios and they shifted right on.

I took it out for just a quick 4.6 mile spin. Will give it a bit of a bigger test tomorrow, but will still be careful because the pedals are platforms (not used to those) and I also need to continue to mind the foot. Speaking of which, it continues to improve slowly but nicely. I'm off the pneumatic boot and there's only a slight, dull soreness at this point. Good news!

Mountain biked 4.6 miles @ 11.1 mph/avg (17.6 mph/max)
Slightly hilly.
Lower 50s, overcast, light rain.
Shorts, fleece jacket, short sleeved shirt.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Quick Nine on the Bike

Explored some new trails and fire roads near my house this afternoon. Was able to make the connections to trails I knew about and create a few new possible routes for biking and running as a result.

Foot continues to improve, albeit slowly. I've still been wearing the pneumatic boot to work but otherwise I've been weening myself off it (I walk around quite a bit at work). Hopefully I'll be off the boot by next week, but will continue to play things by ear.

Mountain biked 9.2 miles @ 8.9 mph/avg (21.6 mph/max).
Fireroads and snowmobile trails, one short section of paved road (half a mile?).
Very hilly.
Lower 50s, sunny.
Shorts, windbreaker, short sleeved shirt.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More Mountain Bike Adventures

Sunny morning, so hopped on the bike for a workout and to explore some trails. My foot held up okay on the last bike ride a few days ago. However, it did seem to aggravate it a little. Not much, just a little, and not a big deal. But still, I wanted to see if I could improve that.

I thought it'd do some good to wear a more rigid shoe. Last time, I wore my Asics Trails Attacks which are pretty flexible, so I opted for the Brooks Cascadia 3's which are super stiff in comparison, along with an old SuperFeet insole that would also minimize flex. This worked extremely well, along with taking it easy and not hammering up any uphills. Did not aggravate the foot in the slightest. Very happy about that.

So, the ride... I took the abandoned railroad bed for most of the way down to the Saco River, but did have to hit the roads at times after taking some side trails and losing the way. Once I reached the river, it was the same deal on the way back.

Highlight was seeing a horse drawn carriage two farmers were riding on the trail. This was no frou-frou carriage like you see hauling around tourists at Central Park, it was used for work and was something you'd see on Little House on the Prairie. I encountered them on a muddy stretch that I was having trouble riding through anyway, so I gladly moved aside and exchanged hellos as they went by.

Great ride, and very muddy. I'm rediscovering how much biking works the quads. Holy crap, mine are still sore as I type this. Good stuff!

Mountain biked 16.0 miles @ 9.5 mph/avg (23.6 mph max, but that was on a section of road).
Abandoned railroad bed for most of the way, and some more technical snowmobile paths. Some roads.
Moderately hilly.
Mid 50s, sunny.
Shorts, long sleeved shirt.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Steak in Front of a Starving Dog

With all of the injuries the past few years, diversifying my training seems more and more like a good idea. I've really had my eye on mountain biking lately. I'll be buying my own soon, but until then, my buddy Jim loaned me his.

I picked up said bike yesterday, but told myself I wouldn't ride it until this weekend. I've been wearing the walking boot all week, and it's definitely making a difference and I'd like to start weening myself off of it soon. I wondered if the biking would aggravate the foot, and thought by this weekend I'd be more comfortable at giving it a try and finding out.

However, staring at that bike yesterday and this morning before work was too much and I totally caved. I got home, changed, and took the bike out. The plan was to stick to the easier trails and fire roads in the woods behind my house. I did just that, however, a few sections were much more technical than I had anticipated. I quickly learned that technical trails that are relatively easy to run on are much harder when on a bike.

Before one such section I brought the bike to a stop, forgetting my feet were in the clips and tumbled sideways and fell right into a huge mud puddle. I was prepared for the fall though, so aside from getting muddy and wet, no harm done.

And the rest of the ride was great. It took some getting used to having to shift gears and all of that jazz, but that'll come back to me in time. I really enjoyed it.

All in all, I don't think it'll aggravate my foot as long as I don't hammer on the uphills. I just got off and walked the steeper sections to avoid doing that today, and it seemed to go well. I'm hesitant to say it went totally fine, as the pain sometimes isn't felt until several hours later. But, if this can continue pain free, I'll be able to keep my sanity until I can run again. But I definitely plan on doing quite a bit of mountain biking still even when I heal up.

Mountain biked 6.5 miles @ 8.5 mph/avg (20.5 mph/max)
Fire roads and technical snowmobile trails.
Very hilly.
Lower 50s, overcast.
Shorts, windbreaker (shed halfway through), short sleeved shirt.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Second Stress Fracture in a Year?

So I'm now pretty sure the foot problem is stress fracture related. I saw my sports chiro guy, Dr. Jamie, on Thursday and he did some work that helped clear out some of the other aches in my foot and at that point it was feeling pretty okay.

However, a three mile test run the next day helped verify a pain right on the bone (top of the foot, metatarsal) that grew increasingly painful as the run went on. I was glad that Dr. Jamie had worked on the foot the day prior, as I think the other aches were making it hard to pinpoint the source of the pain. But with those out of the way, it made it pretty apparent it's a stress fracture.

So, what next? Well, for now, I don't plan on getting x-rays. What's the point? This NY Times article underscores it pretty nicely. A doctor who is a runner is quoted in the article as saying the following in regards to seeing a doctor for certain running injuries:

“I think most folks should not go, because most general doctors don’t know a lot about running injuries,” he said, adding, “Most docs, often even the good sports docs, then will just tell you to stop running anyway, so the first thing is to stop running yourself.”


I don't feel like going through the charade of paying a $25 copay to allow my primary care doctor to lecture me on running too much, then paying an additional $25 for x-rays, and then fighting with him to get a referral to a sports doc to get another opinion (two previous running injuries were misdiagnosed by the primary care doc). Then, pay another $25 copay to the sports doc on top of dealing with all of the hassle.

No thanks. I can think of better ways to spend $50-$75, and better ways to spend my time. And sure, I could get another primary care doc, but I also don't feel like dealing with the annoyance of researching a decent one and taking a chance that another will be like the one I have now.

So to go through all of that knowing they will simply say to rest it 6-8 weeks just doesn't seem worthwhile when I plan on taking that course of action anyway. I'm also wearing my walking boot again, and plan on doing so for a week or two to help keep pressure off of my foot.

I'm also finally realizing that I get hurt too often and need to spread my training around even more. Mountain biking is likely going to be my next option. So I'll be fine, and something like this isn't going to stop me. I might cut back on my running mileage for a while in favor of other activities, but by hopefully spreading things around some, everything will work out great in the long term.