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Best Christmas Ever

Those of you who talk to me in real life (and haven’t been driven away by my constant chatter about bikes, rides I’ve gone on recently, rides I’m planning on going on, and etc), know that I’ve been pretty intent on getting a road bike. I was originally saving up for a road bike when my beloved Bici was deemed no longer fit for the road and I had to spend my road bike money (and then some) on a new hybrid. Ariel, my hybrid, is a Specialized Ariel Sport and an excellent bike for me. She’s strong, sturdy, comfortable, and very durable… Infinitely capable of handling all the terrain and broken glass my commute can throw at me. Together we’re strong, capable, free, and joyous and in her saddle I’ve lost 18 lbs and gained a whole new ridge of muscle in my legs.

But she is not a road bike.

My father surprised and delighted me by writing me a check to cover Ariel’s purchase as an early Christmas present, allowing me to take the strain off my bank account and put my pennies back into my road bike fund. And I did! I saved and set aside money and researched with loving attention, fantasizing over the exact bike I wanted to get. I wanted a Specialized bike because I love their philosophy towards biking and their body geometry work is genius. As an especially short and some what oddly proportioned girl, it can be really hard for me to fit in… just about anything. Specialized’s women specific stuff really is women specific. I drooled lovingly over their spiffy top of the line racing bikes but I aimed myself at the Specialized Dolce, their entry level endurance road bike because a road bike aiming to be a little more comfortable than uber-fast sounded just about my speed… And of course, it was much  more in my price range than a few thousand dollars of racing rawr. ^_^

As I mentioned earlier, I’m really aiming for doing the 24 Hours of Booty this year to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation… But my main other teammate is suffering some pretty debilitating health issues (aim some good karma at her – she’s in a wheelchair now) that’re probably going to keep her from riding with me… so more and more it’s looking like I’m going to be tackle the 24 Hours on… my own… Err. The thought of dragging my beautiful but very, very heavy hybrid through a significant portion of 24 Hours of riding was making me feel very demoralized.

But no more, ladies and gentle! During my daily craiglist bike sale troll I found a local woman selling a Specialized Dolce. I wrote her an email, making the ridiculously low offer of what was in my road bike fund and she wrote me back with a somewhat higher counter offer, but still really low for what the bike’s worth. I told her if she hadn’t sold the bike in a few weeks, I’d see if I could save it up.

Annnnd then she sent me an email asking me if I was the Arienna with the website, who rides her bike to school in the freezing weather.

I have a bike now, ladies and gentlemen. She is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.. Fast and light and just… -wow-. I’ve got her here in my bedroom right now so I can look over and giggle like an idiot while I pretend to work. I was going to ride her today during my lunch  break but I lost my presta valve adaptor, so I went and got a one after work. It was already too dark to go for a long ride, so I took her for a quick spin around the neighborhood.

And, wow. <3 She’s sooooo fast and effortless. I’m gonna have to condition my bottom to her much sterner saddle (my saddle is roughly the side and consistency of a Sealy sofa), but wow. Long ride and pictures tomorrow, during my lunch break. <3


Below Freezing Cyclist

This past week has been a pretty serious test of my bike commuter devotion as every morning and night when I've been making my rides, it has been approximately 25 degrees outside. (A little over -4 on that funky celcius scale) Having adjusted somewhat to NC, I find that pretty dang cold... especially on a bike. But we all know a bike commuter's locomotion is powered by smug (and cookies!)... So I didn't wanna whuss out just because of a little thing like weather.

"There's no such thing as bad weather", I told myself as I picked out my layers. "Just bad gear." I biked to school wearing cycling tights, cycling socks (with blue butterflies), over-the-knee stripped socks (thanks Djinn!), a long-sleeved base layer, a cycling jersey (with blue butterflies), a pale-coloured hoodie, my roommate's ninja mask, two pair of gloves, and a helmet. And sunglasses.

Lemme tell you ladies and gentlemen, I was the epitome of style*.

And I made it! It sucked pretty badly, but I made it. Petroleum jelly kept my exposed skin from chapping too badly, though I couldn't bike very fast without freezing my eyes out. I need to replace my sunglasses with goggles and my roommate's face mask with a real venting balaclava, but I survived relatively intact. I can do this. ^_^

*If you're all very lucky, I'll get my roommate to take a picture of me and my bike loaded down for school (and were-bear, of course) so you can see exactly how goofy I look.


Got my bike trainer!

My new (to me) bike trainer arrived a couple days ago and my roommake was kind enough to set it up for me while I slept, which is what I’ve been doing for the past couple of days. I’m comfortably shed of all the turkey and pumpkin bread I ate over Thanksgiving break and ready to get back on the way to progressing again, so I tackled it today. I was a little nervy about it, because people online have been talking about how their trainers wore their tires or damaged their paint jobs… and then my roommate and I discovered we don’t have the proper adaptor to accomodate (or replace) the quick release latches on our beautiful modern bikes… But! I happen to have a 16 year old Bici who’s been sitting all lonely and unused in my yard.

Her cassette and crank are all worn down so she can’t be trusted under lots of strain and the replacements really are more than she’s worth… In fact, her tires are worth more than she is at this point. I’ve known that, really, and known that the sensible thing to do would be to strip her for parts and then retire her honourably (what’s the ceremony for ending the useable life of a bike? Cremation?) or atleast donate her to the co-op where someone in great need will find more use for her… But the truth is I love her. I love her with a sentimental passion that is irrational and unflinching. She brought me freedom from the depressing pain in my ankle, an escape from running, and a new hobby that is rapidly taking over my life. In the none too far off distance future, I will be quick and solid and strong and proud and that will all have started with Bici.

So it gave me an inordinate amount of pleasure to set her up on the trainer and rebirth her as a stationary bike. While I checked her chain for reliability and reinstalled a saddle on her, my cat perched nearby, one eyebrow cocked in curious disapproval and helpfully stole my bits, nuts, screws, and little round, wiggly bits (the technical term, of course) to enhance my anticipation. I was a lot more pleased to realized that if I put the basket on the bike, put the tiny larp shield I made for Mama Elf’s child on the basket, and then put the laptop on the shield… well damned if I’m not surfing the internet while I pedal. My life improves by leaps and bounds!

My cat’s life does not. You see, Theo is a loving, dignified gentleman who enjoys being near me while I conduct my business. So me being in an unusual part of the house and doing Unusual, Arcane Things with That Machine… well, he wasn’t leaving me to the deprevations of my activities. Who knows what kind of trouble I could get into?! But the trainer makes a uniquely annoying grrrrr-eeeeee noise and simply would not stop, no matter how fiercely Theo attempted to stare it into submission. Poor Theo.

He’d better get used to it.

10 lbs by Christmas

For reasons that are undeniably foolish (fabulous prizes and the fact that the boy I date thinks I'm fat) I'm trying to lose 10lbs by Christmas. Sort of. I know it's stupid, that losing that much weight in less than a month would be a bad thing for my long term ass-kicking goals... But it's a bit of a contest between a group of local cyclists with some neat prizes and while I don't intend to do anything foolish or unhealthy, it's a nice bit of motivation during a time when, let's face it, fitness and weight loss goals kinda go by the wayside. Soo... I'm not really trying to lose 10 lbs, I'm just trying to recommit to my already existent, sensible goals.

Only it would be kinda nice to drop ten lbs. The young man things I'm fat and doesn't like it. He's out of town for two weeks and on leave and it would be kinda awesome to be a significant amount thinner before he got back. And, see, 10 lbs is a large portion of my total weight loss plan so it'd be awesome to get a little boost in there...

Anyway. In order to get there I'm doing everything I've been doing, but refocusing. There's a bunch of little things that once you start having success, you let slide. Like I know drinking caffeine is not good and I totally stopped.. and then I started again. I know that drinking 8 glasses of water is pretty key and I did... until I didn't anymore. So that's the plan. No caffeine (m'gawds), lots of water, some fairly rigorous calorie counting (merf), and I'm going to try to get more biking in. I've been doing a lot less random commutes and puttering around since the weather went nasty... I need to either man up there or get a bike trainer. I'm on it, I can do it.


The Alert, Passive Cyclist

"Man," said N as I walked into class. "Are you having a bad day?"

"Er. What?" I asked, fanning out my shirt to dry up the sweat going down my spine.

"I passed you on your bike today and called to you and you totally gave me the blankest look I've ever seen. Were you all pissed off or just having a bad day on the bike?"

And I remembered what he was talking about. On my way to school a pick-up truck with an unidentified male driver had passed me then slowed and hollered something I couldn't make out, with the wind in my ears. And I'd given him the reaction I've learned to give all cars that decide to interact with me - calm attention and a slight slowing down so I could memorize his license plate number in case he felt like harrassing me.

That sounds terrible, doesn't it? But it's not without cause. As a cyclist on the road I'm seen as an interloper in motor vehicle territory and I can get a lot of reactions from drivers. Some are encouraging but some are downright hostile. People like to shout things at me, throw things, "buzz" me (passing really close to a biker, sometimes clipping their handlebars on the way. Alas, poor mirror, I used you well), and I've even had a female passenger in a slow vehicle intentionally flick her cigarette cinders into my face.

As a smallish female, I'm a target. As a smallish female on a bike, I'm a slower moving target without a few hundred lbs of armour to keep me safe. And putting on tight-fitting clothing is an invitation. Maybe you thought you had the right to dress how you want to and do your pursuit of happiness thing, but let me tell you, you're wrong. From what I've observed and experienced, anytime a woman puts on tight fitting clothing and performs any kind of physical exercise, she's clearly doing so for the attention of men. And there's something about biking that triggers the horndogs - the tight clothes, the posture, something. So I often have men in or out of cars catcalling at me, pulling up beside me at stoplights and offering me invitations, things like that.

I've learned to deal with both kinds of harassment with calm attention. I could get angry when a car buzzes me or some horndog shouts something about "dat ass, baby!" but it just validates their behaviour and gets me worked up. And occasionally escalates things. I shouted back at a car who told me to get the [expletive deleted] off the road once and they promptly ran me off that road. Hello Ditch! I used to be more friendly - when people tried to interact with me I'd smile and wave and keep going, but if your interacters happen to be of the horndog variety, smiling is absolutely not the way to go. Being followed to school by a leering man is more than a little terrifying*.

But, you know, these sorts of encounters are few and far between and totally less than the sum of the advantages of biking. So I've got my tool set for handling it, starting with a firm belief that I can handle it, calmly and sensibly.

And pepper spray.

* Many thanks to the security force at my college and the widespread and highly visible patrolling you do. Also for the occasional nighttime escort to my bike trail. There are no words for how awesome you folks have been.


A Better Rider in 1 Easy Step!

Today I made bike riding 16% faster, way easier, and hugely more enjoyable!

How did I do this, I hear you cry? Well, it was an accident. It started because it was raining and my bike trail is littered with soaking wet leaves which... led to the Incident that caused my chain to get popped off. Being a fully capable young woman, I hissed and whined about my boo-boos and then put the chain back on my bike. Some cautious rotating later, I hopped back on my bike and sped on my merry way towards school!

Man, I was speeding along having the BEST RIDE EVER, I was flying through that trail with the rain on my face and joy in my heart. The cycling computer says I was going about 3 mph faster than I usually do and it was SO EASY. Aside from some minor panting, my cadence was smooth and beautifully untaxing. "My gosh!" said I. "I must have leveled up there when I wasn't looking. Watch out world, here comes Arienna, Level TWO fairy bicyclist!"

Which is when I looked down at my gears and discovered my left gear was in first instead of the second I usually peddle in. Heh. Hehehe. Yeah.

But seriously, my overall bike speed improved by 2 mph and my hill-climbing speed went up by 3! That's probably not significant, but it's a major step closer to the goal of averaging 20 mph!


Running, Running, Running... Again

The ouchies in my ankle have died down to a dull roar. If I'm sensible and stick to biking for my exercise, my ankle doesn't hurt at all... So of course, I'm back to running. ^_^; It hurts when I run but only a little bit and it doesn't seem to hurt more or less any given week so I think it's just gonna be like this for... pretty much forever. Dunno. I'm going to see a doctor in January to look at it, make sure I don't need surgery, meanwhile I'm tackling my running schedule and making plans for 5k's.

I'm definitely wanting to do the Equinox 5k in March and I'm seriously tempted to do the Skirtchaser 5k, which has to be the silliest race in the world. They give the girls an athletic skirt and a 3 minute headstart, then the menfolks chase. I know the feminist in me should be massively offended BUT. It just sounds like a ton of fun.

I'm also tempted to do the 24 Hours of Booty bike race in July... A 24 bike race is done by a team or particularly psychotic individual who do laps for 24 hours. If you're on a team, you sleep and rest and eat while your friends are doing their laps, and the whole thing keeps going. It sounds like a blast (in a, man this will suck kind of way) and it's a Lance Armstrong Foundation event so all the money will go to cancer research which we can all agree is hugely worthwhile. Only there's a $300 per person fundraising requirement, which is kinda steep in this economy. And fundraising is always awkward. Even though it's for a good cause, you're effectively begging people for money. :/ Awkward.

Early Christmas Present

"Hey, hey!" said my father. "I have a question real quick. How much was your new bike?"

"Buh..." I said, buying time and squirming in embarrassment for how much I spent on something that, strictly speaking wasn't strictly necessary, especially for a full-time college student. "Whyyyy do you wanna know?"

"Because I wanna know!"

"Buh! You gonna judge me? It was really expensive for me... but it wasn't that expensive for what it is! And it's my primary mode of transportation! It's important that it be reliable and, uh, pretty."

"So how much was it?"

"$450." I confessed. "But it's not as bad as it sounds! The bike retails for way, way more than that and I got a top of the line cycling computer and toe clips and water bottles and stuff... It was a really good deal."

"Do you want an early Christmas present?"

"What present? Is it a road bike?!" I may have developed a minor bike acquisition problem.

"How about -your- bike?"


Lousy Weekend

I had a lousy personal weekend. I had a date with this awesome guy I was really excited about which went... really badly wrong. And not for me, for him. I messed it up. I feel so stupid. Then Sunday I got the news that I friend of mine died... and then I logged onto one of those stupid social sites and got the news that an ex of mine has a new girlfriend. That shouldn't matter, it really shouldn't... But we've kept in touch, we've talked all the time, and he kept telling me he wasn't involved with any ladies... So to log on and get "I'm with someone!" was... a shock. It's stupid, I'm stupid. And he's the kind of guy who needs to have a big emotional scene about everything... he majored in sociology and minored in social manipulation. So every time SOMETHING happens between us he can't just leave me alone to feel kind of down and unhappy, he's got to drag it all out and talk about it and deal with it under the guise of "helping" ... but I don't deal well so by the end of it it's always my fault and he's always pissed off at me.

I'm feeling... just so shabby and beaten up today. I know it's going to be okay, that I'm overly worked up right now because I'm under so much stress about life and the universe and my college applications and portfolios... I stumble around all the time being desperately afraid I'm not good enough and that's permeating my life and behaviour sets and messing me up.

Also, I have a Spanish quiz tomorrow I'm unprepared for (and did I mention I'm still scrambling French and Spanish really badly?), my bike gear is in pieces, and I have jury duty on Thursday and don't know how to deal with missing classes all day. My portfolio is due in one week. I'm still fat and not terribly attractive.

I can't stop crying like a useless little girl long enough to deal with any of these problems.