Saturday, 24 October 2009

Ain't no pretty here

I completed my slowest 200k ever today - bully for me. Included in today's route is a section of road with which I have a most curious relationship. I have ridden Issaquah-Fall City Road many many times and never well. My efforts on that climb from Fall City up and over the lump between it and Issaquah range from the low end of Embarrassingly Pathetic to a high end of Merely Pitiful. Those rare times in my cycling career during which I've gained some kind of climbing acumen (read about 2 days in total) have never coincided with riding this road. I always arrive at the bottom in a state of trepidation. I grovel and tuck my tail firmly between my legs never daring to raise my eyes. It regards me with true and undisguised disdain. As I move up the road quickly exhausting my supply of low gears I am forced to rise out of the saddle to maintain some sort of forward momentum. This effort it greeted by a derisive snort. I somehow claw my way forward while gravity gains strength with each pedal stroke. The bit of asphalt just passed over now attaches itself like velcro to my butt trying to pull me back. I begin to whimper and whine and degrade myself in every way possible in hopes of appeasing the road and somehow gain that little section that likes to pretend it is the top. I begin to rejoice in my success and am quickly slapped back down to my natural level. The road tilts up again. I begin to despair but salvation comes in the form of a caterpillar or a slug or, on very bad days, some road kill that calls out "on your left" as it slips effortlessly by me seeking higher ground. The road is momentarily distracted or perhaps has become so bored with me that I begin to make headway. Yes, the end is in sight. I have triumphed (?) once again! Take that you old so and so - until we meet again!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Visiting Open Gardens

One of the things I was really looking forward to on this visit to the UK was visiting gardens. Being summer (well, British summer anyway) it is the height of open garden season. The National Gardens Scheme (founded in 1927 and patronized by HRH The Prince of Wales) raises funds by opening gardens to the public. The funds support several health and garden-related charities. On Sunday July 12 we set out to take part in this charming tradition.

We had 2 gardens on our list to visit that day and the first was just outside one of our favorite villages, Dogmersfield. We started with a country walk planned to circle around and deliver us to Whispers (name of the house) just in time for its opening. It was a dry and comfortable day and we enjoyed our usual walk routine of starting off with a plan and then diverting from it until we were lost. At one point I stopped to take a panoramic video to illustrate how the public footpaths actually pass through different fields and properties so that you are walking well away from towns, houses, and roads at times.

We arrived at Whispers just a bit after opening, purchased our entry, and entered a real beauty of a private garden. John, the owner, is a former nurseryman who used to own the next door property. When this property went on market he didn't want to see someone build something he might not like next door and he wanted a retirement project so he and his wife purchased it, built a new home, and set about creating a real paradise. Of course "teas" were for sale featuring homemade cakes provided by friends and family for purchase. We wandered the garden and sat on the back patio enjoying our tea and the gorgeous water feature which drained magically under the flagstones and got a chance to talk to John for a bit. He was a wonderful character and reminded us a lot of Robin's dad.

We tore ourselves away from the garden and teas to make our way to our 2nd garden for the day at Farleigh House just outside Farleigh Wallop. This property is the family seat of the Earl and Duchess of Portsmouth so we knew this garden might have a different feel than Whispers. It is a very nice property and an impressive house but we both felt we preferred the personal touch and care of Whispers.

The teas offered at Farleigh House were in the barn down the road. We stopped in there and felt
the clear demarcation of the public having tea in the barn as opposed to sharing in it with the owners on the patio was a bit too much for our American sensibilities so we skipped the tea! Uppity revolutionists we!

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

After Robin knocked off work on Friday, July 10 we, along with Brian and his son Harrison, headed up to Hampton Court Palace - the favorite crib of Henry VIII (after basically stealing it from Cardinal Wolsey - it's good to be the king!). Brian and Harrison went to visit the palace while Robin and I were there to attend the world's biggest annual flower show. Robin got a bit itchy at first as the crowds around the 6 themed gardens for the 6 wives of Henry VIII were a crush but things cleared out away from there and we happily wandered around enjoying the display gardens, nursery booths, and vendors. Here are 2 of the queen themed display gardens:

We sat in on a floral arranging presentation and one of the displays there was a sweet "tea" made completely from flowers:

An interesting p
art of the show was dodging the "wheelie boxes" that so many of the show attendees had to carry their purchases. When I stopped to take a picture of these 3 ladies with their wheelie boxes the one on left caught me in the act and came over to chat. I said "they look handy by they seem a menace" and she agreed and said they had just bought them out of self-defence! Walking amongst the crowds it would be very easy to trip over their boxes as they trailed behind them.

I really liked the display gardens in the sustainability area. One that featured a water fountain coming out of a wall-mounted Royal Mail box and another edging fences made from woven willow:

After the flow
er show closed up we wandered a bit on the grounds of the palace which looked much nicer than when I visited them in the winter time:

As we left and returned to the car we were kicking ourselves for not thinking ahead like many of the others and bringing along our table, chairs, tea sets, and snacks and cakes to enjoy before heading back home! We made up for it by stopping into one of my favorite pubs, The Swan in Ash Vale, for dinner.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Finding a new rhythm

Robin and I have been in England since mid-June and it has taken me a while to figure out my daily "routine". Just before we left home I got 2 new contract jobs lined up but had kind of put them on hold while we did some work on the garage (repairs and painting) and I tried to make up for a whole spring of neglect in the yard and garden. We have a wonderful housesitter this time who is an avid gardener (and horticulturist by training) so I wanted something she could get into and maintain (and as a bonus have some homegrown vegetables awaiting our return!).

The first week and a half here Robin was working 2n
d shift and we both struggled with sleeping since it is getting light here around 4:30am and we are used to getting up early anyway. This week he switched to first shift which suits our personal styles better especially for these long summer days.

I am finding a completely different rhythm of life here this time around. My first long trip here I was training for Ironman Canada which gave me a very structured schedule and the 2nd and 3rd trips I was fortunate enough to make fast friends with first Brenda and then Rachel (other Boeing spouses) giving me some wonderful pals to explore and play with. Rachel was due to come this time as well and I was very much looking forward to spending time with her again but her mother became gravely ill and she instead went to Tennessee to spend her last days with her. A blessing for both of them. After getting the apartment set up the way we like I got stuck in with a daily work schedule trying to get a firmer handle on the more demanding of my new jobs (still working on that!) and this week I have incorporated an exercise routine as well so finally I am in a groove.

So, what exciting things have we been up to since we got here?

We've done a couple of nice walks with Steve - one to a beerfest and another past one of my favorite houses - Dipley Mill. I'
ve only ever seen Dipley Mill zooming by on the road on our bikes so taking a walk that actually went around 3 sides of the property was a treat. Here we are on the little humpy bridge in front of Dipley Mill.
and a photo of the house and garden. We pretty much think our place will be looking like this soon...

Over the weekend we drove to Wales to watch the British Cycling Road Race Championships. We arrived on Saturday just in time to see the Junior Men finish their race and then the Women had their race in the afternoon. The women's' race ended with 2 circuits of the town and we found a great place to see them pass by a couple of times and then got to the finish line to see Nicole Cooke take her 9th consecutive national title and 10th altogether. Nicole is also the reigning Olympic and World Champion and is Welsh so we were very surprised at the lack of crowd there to witness the event. I had deliberately reserved a B&B in a neighboring town to avoid what I assumed would be a zoo in the host town of Abergavenny. A few pictures of the day:

The start/finish in town:

The start of the Women's Race - that's Nicole in white and the world champion stripes:

Walking around Monmouth Robin liked this wonderful 4-story skinny building:

Sunday was the men's race and there were a few more people around but still not at all what we expected with big names like David Millar, Bradley Wiggins, and Mark Cavendish - all big Tour riders. We stayed in the lovely town of Monmouth, visited the ever-present local castle ruins, had a great dinner, got a bit lost on a walk, and had time the next morning to drive to Skenfrith and ride the 13 miles to Abergavenny. We watched the start and then headed out to catch the action on the big climb up and over Iron Mountain. That's where we finally saw some crowds as many people drove and rode to the top. We got there early at about noon and decided to go to the nearby pub for some lunch. I made the mistake of skipping the prepackaged sandwich and ordered the jacket potato (that's a baked potato back home). The result - we missed the race going by! Oh well, back down the mountain and into town to catch the 10 finishing circuits which were very exciting and then the finish.

At the start line for the Men's race one of the neutral support mechanics is put to work before the race starts:

Here are some folks riding to the top of Iron Mountain to catch the action:

The view from Iron Mountain over the southern Welsh countryside:

The longtime race leader on the finishing circuits - cruel fate dictated he ended 4th on the day:

We b
oth thought the ride back to the car might be a bit of a grind but the quiet road over the rolling hills with the fabulous views of the Welsh hillsides dotted with farms and sheep was very enjoyable. Back in Skenfrith the ruined castle was now a bustling local craft fair with lots of folks out enjoying the warm and sunny afternoon. Two boys were hitting a tennis ball against the side of the castle - how casual is that?

Back in Farnborough on Monday evening I grilled some sausages from the organic farm shop and Robin fixed some greens then proceeded to eat THREE of the sausages which he immediately regretted. He was sick for the next 2 days! I did my best to nurse him and he seems back to his usual self now. No pictures to share of that you'll be thankful to know!

So, life goes on here with extensive coverage of Wimbledon on the telly and the Tour de France starting this weekend seeing us spending a bit more time on our fannies than we should! Pair that with my complete lack of will power when in comes to the plethora of high quality cakes and goodies here and I'll be having a hard time wearing anything but a (large) sack soon!

As I've been typing this Serena Williams has been playing her semi-final match against Elena Dementieva and she just won a very tough match! Oops - it has taken me a day to get the pictures loaded and since then now Venus Williams won her semi-final making a Williams' Sisters Final on Saturday and tonight Andy Roddick upset British favorite Andy Murray and will meet Roger Federer on Sunday. GREAT tennis watching and a guarantee of at least 1 and possibly 2 American Wimbledon Champions this year!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

How Goeth the Proclamation?

Signs 2 and 3 have come to pass. Sign 1 experienceth issues. The battle against the dark forces continues and I shall triumph in the end.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


The reign of the Queen of the Failed Endeavor ends today. You shall count three signs over the next week which shall serve as proof. The number of the counting shall be three and three is the number thou shalt count. Precedence for the counting hath been set here:

The first sign shalt be the arrival of a 2009 Kestrel Talon. The Talon shalt endeavor to fill the mighty shoes of the Kestrel SCI.

The second sign shalt be the overcoming of the obstacles set forth by those naughty in our sight (Boeing and British Airways) to securith a seat on an airplane bound for the British Isles.

The third sign shalt be the finalizing of lodgings for visiting family members in August.
Let it be so.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Staying up all night

When was the last time you stayed up all night? and why? Now in my 5th decade on earth the reasons to stay up all night have changed since my teens and twenties. Back then the only time I would stay up all night would be either to finish a paper or project for school or to party. These days I am either doing a long bike event or I am at the hospital with my mom. Staying up all night is weird if you are the standard daytime person. 24 hour places like hospitals and even convenience stores don't seem to really notice that they are out of step with the rest of the world. They carry on as if most of those around them aren't snoozing peacefully in their beds respecting the circadian rhythms of their bodies.

Last weekend I rode the Fleche Northwest put on by my club, SIR. My team captain, Geoff Swarts did a great writeup so for the full story go here:

Amy et Amis Fleche Team in Westport around 11pm. Nice how I managed to get on a team with 4 tall guys eh??? Notice the stylish matching reflective ankle bands - nice!

After catching up on sleep Saturday and Sunday nights it was off to Lacey on Monday where my mom was scheduled for hip replacement surgery. Cut on Monday, PT on Tuesday, and home by Wednesday was the surgeon's schedule. My mom doesn't follow schedules well. Short on sleep Monday night I was happy to get back home on Tuesday evening to my own bed again. Wednesday did not bring a hospital release for my mom. Back to Lacey and a night in a recliner in my mom's room to help monitor and make sure she got back on track. Luckily I have lots of siblings and the overnight guard could be switched daily. She is back home as of yesterday - yay!

In future if I get the choice I'd much rather be out riding and taking catnaps in Denney's at 4am rather than hanging at the hospital. Those in power - please make a note of it...

Monday, 6 April 2009


DNS stands for Did Not Start and that is the status I had for Saturday's 300k brevet. All conditions were perfect - weather forecast right on, some confidence in my legs, and Robin was planning to come out and ride the start. Bikes ready to go and alarm set for 4am - all systems go.

Okay so 10pm is a little later than I wanted to hit the hay with a 4am alarm but I could sleep all I wanted Saturday night. For the first couple of hours in bed I couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting to sleep. I'd think I had drifted off and then something would wake me up. I finally figured out it was my sweet hubby. He is feeling a bit overwhelmed at work and also realizing the effects of just getting back into his riding routine after 6 weeks off. He was so stressed out that every time he started falling asleep he was jerking himself (and me!) back awake. Another couple of hours trying to get him to relax but no real success. By the time the alarm went off I figure we each had about 1 hour of sleep in 2-3 minute intervals. It was a "no go" decision. I suggested he go in to work for a few hours of uninterrupted time to get some things under control and we could head out in the afternoon for a ride. Seemed to do the trick because after that we both fell soundly asleep for the next few hours.

We did get up to Mukilteo (about 9 hours late for the start) and caught the ferry to ride some of our favorite roads on south Whidbey. A GORGEOUS day out on beautiful rolling roads. We got back to the mainland in time to see the fastest riders finishing up the brevet. Sad not to be among them (although I wouldn't have been among them anyway - I would still have been at least 3 hours out from the finish) but happy to have had a nice ride with my hardworking man.

It would have been nice to gain the confidence from the 300k to help me out mentally with the upcoming 24-hour Fleche (380km) in two weeks but what can you do? Just a tad worried that one of my Fleche teammates - Ward - was there with the extra fast boys on Saturday. He did claim that the Fleche is an entirely different animal so hopefully he and my other teammates will have all the patience they will need to drag along the Amy Anchor.

Monday, 23 March 2009

PBP Memories

I was looking at some of the pictures from PBP07 this morning and it brought back so many memories of that year and of the year I did it in 2003. I plucked a few of the pics that seemed to demonstrate the highs, lows, and in betweens of riding 1200 km in 90 hours or less.

Arriving in France is so great.

Here is the SIR gang the day before start day full of anticipation and nervous energy.

And then the real start line.

Many highs, high fives, and smiles.

And a few lows: Shermers neck and examples of carnage (carnage with energy bar wrapper, carnage by road signs, cafeteria carnage).

And finally the triumphant (?) finish!

The agony and the ecstasy. It is a strange sport.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Broken Bones & Bikes

My hubby Robin broke his collar bone and fractured both wrists about 5 weeks ago from crashing on his bike. Just a couple of weeks after that my good buddy and sometime tandem partner, Peter, crashed his bike in CA and broke his scapula.

After Mark R broke his pelvis last year from a bike crash I began to mentally compile a list of bones that ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE BROKEN. You know, fingers, maybe an arm, or the frequently broken clavicle are not such a big deal (although I have never broken a bone, knock on wood, so am no expert) but there are those bones that are integral to the structure of the human frame that really ought not to be broken. Pelvis, skull, scapula, femur - those just really need to remain intact. I actually cringe when I hear that someone has broken one of those. Just goes to reinforce my motto on each ride - keep the rubber side down.

Back to my friend Peter. He is a very enthusiastic rider, loves to ride, has a great positive attitude, and is a big powerful guy. Two days before SIR's season starter 200k ride Peter emailed me to see if I would captain him on the tandem. I asked if he had clearance from his wife, Anita, and from his doctor. Without really answering the question he steamrolled the process and next thing I knew we were set to ride together. I hadn't captained the tandem for nearly a year and was VERY rusty. Combined with Peter's weight (all muscle Peter!) and my lack of recent experience I was doing a lot of oversteering and manhandling of the bike. Peter did confess that he hadn't consulted his doc about doing the ride and that Anita, while not forbidding it also did not give her blessing. So I got to add not just a little bit of trepidation about dumping my broken friend or just hurting him further by covering 200k of a pretty challenging bike course.

The weather was GREAT! After a winter of WAY too much snow and COLD we actually saw evidence of spring after the fog cleared. Sun and temps up to 50 degrees added to my stoker's sunny attitude to make even the tough parts of the ride fun. The last few climbs to Greg's house near the finish were looming large in our minds but we handled 218th better than expected (no walking!) and the hill on 240th passed quickly as we spent the time gossiping about our rando friends (what happens on the tandem stays on the tandem - right Peter).

No bravado here though, I was definitely wasted but pleased with our day. Always a pleasure to ride with Peter and all the other randos with terrific support and a great finish line chili feed at the Cox house. Not quite ready to think about 300k in two weeks...