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Bike rhymes with LIKE!!! March 30, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
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Remember when I was thinking about buying a bike?  Well, I bit the bullet and got the Breezer Downtown 8 ST (from The Daily Rider on H Street – they were terrific).  Here it is in its new home!


Even though Mother Nature has NOT cooperated in terms of bringing spring to our area (believe it or not, it is snowing as I write this), I can report that I love love LOVE this bike.  It is sturdy but light, it is a lot of fun to ride, and it makes it easy to carry everything I need for any kind of occasion.  In fact, the first time I rode to work, I used my Ortlieb Back Roller City panniers to tote my usual purse, PLUS a laptop, a couple of binders, and a few extra things I needed to have for an upcoming business trip.  AND I went to happy hour.  Yay!

Here’s to the coming spring (no, seriously…please come soon) and wonderful bike rides for everyone!


I want to ride my bicycle February 24, 2014

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
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So, I have always had a…tortured relationship with cycling.  I know it’s good for me AND low impact (which is a nice change of pace from running), but other than in a triathlon setting, I have never felt particularly comfortable on my road bike.  Especially in DC, I feel like I need something a bit more stable and with a lower center of gravity, since there is a lot of stopping and starting and you are battling cars (and buses, and taxis…) for space on the roads.

I enjoy my Bikeshare membership, of course, and the bikes definitely make me feel more safe out on the roads.  The downside is that they are HEAVY, which means I work three times as hard to go the same distance.  Also, they only have three speeds, so I am hesitant to travel in the hillier areas of town.

With all of that in mind, hubby and I headed to The Daily Rider this past weekend to check out their selection and ask some questions.  I took a few bikes out for test rides, and the one I liked best was the Breezer Downtown 8:


This bike felt sturdy but comfortable, and it was so easy and pleasant to ride (and I didn’t feel like I was sitting on the couch, like some of the other step-through commuters).  At $699, I think it is worth the price.  However, I have never had internal gears before – do the pros (cleaner, smoother, less maintenance) outweigh the cons (heavier, more expensive, tougher to change tires)?

There is also a 5-speed version of the Downtown step-through that is cheaper ($569), but I wonder if I would miss the additional gear options if I’m doing a longer or hillier ride.  Also, there is an 8-speed Downtown that has external gears that is the least expensive of the three ($449), but I didn’t get to test ride it, and I’m not sure how the ride/shifting would be impacted by the external derailleur.  Then again, I’ve had the external stuff on my road bike for years, and it really didn’t bother me (my issues with my road bike were more about fit and weight).

Does anyone have any advice?  I’d love to get an order in before the spring weather arrives for good.

Bike Commuting Pitfalls October 21, 2013

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
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There are many obvious benefits to commuting by bike in DC.  Fitness, eco-friendliness, and cost saving are just three – each indivdual has his or her own reasons why they feel that cycling adds something positive to their daily routines.  Personally, I enjoy the fresh air and the “me time” factor – I can prepare myself for my day much better on a bike than in a crowded Metro car.

But, for every plus, there must be a minus.  Here are some of my least favorite things about bike commuting in DC.

* Segways – Note that I did not say “all tourists,” as there are plenty of visitors who manage to walk all around the city without getting in the way of my bike.  However, since Segways are, apparently, supposed to ride in the bike lanes and not the sidewalks whenever possible, it is inevitable that I will encounter a huge motorized tour group when I am trying to go downhill on 15th Street (which, on my PM commute, is the only time I really get to generate any speed and give my legs a breather).  I despise Segways as a general principle, but I especially despise them when they keep me from my desired pace.  They don’t signal, they don’t listen when I try to audibly signal, and they go slower than 99% of the cyclists in the city.  Grrrr.

* Kamikaze pedestrians – Again, note that I did not say “all pedestrians.”  I am a pedestrian most of the time, and the majority of walkers are courteous and safe.  However, when I am cycling in the Pennsylvania Avenue bike lanes, there are always a few daredevil pedestrians who decide to jet across the road in traffic, only to realize that they cannot make it the whole way – which means they come to a dead stop right in my lane as I am cranking on through.  Come on, folks – I know my red bikeshare vehicle is not as scary as a SUV, but I promise it will still be messy if we have a collision.

* Asshole drivers – Are you noticing a theme here?  I did not say “all drivers,” as there are many delightful ones who keep their eyes open and follow the rules of the road (as do I, for the record – more on that in a moment).  I only hate the drivers who think they are the only vehicles on the road and who can’t understand why I am angry when they make an illegal U-turn into my supposedly protected bike lane, nearly taking me out in the process.  I don’t know if this is surprising or not, but a lot of these offenders are driving taxi cabs.

* Cyclists who disregard the rules – I know this is an area of great strife within the cycling community, but it’s pretty simple to me.  If you’re on the road with the cars, you need to follow the same rules as the cars.  Ya know, important stuff like stopping at stop lights/signs.  Signaling before you turn.  Not texting/wearing earphones.  It’s really hard to expect other travelers, regardless of their mode of transportation, to respect your rights when you so blatantly disregard the laws and guidelines that are meant to help keep everyone safe.  Tangentially, I get very upset with cyclists who don’t wear helmets.  I know, it’s going to give you less attractive hair, but in a collision, it’s not your hair you should be worried about.  We have so many well-educated, successful people in DC, I just can’t believe so many of them would opt out of the most obvious piece of protective gear.

These pet peeves are nothing new – countless bike commuters have vented similarly, and I certainly won’t be the last.  I just hope that with the expansion of cycling in DC comes an enhanced understanding of how we can all cohabitate on the roads, safely and politely.  A girl can dream, no?

A vicious cycle October 9, 2013

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
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Remember how I said I was going to step up the training after N2S, and that I was going to find a race to enter before the Army 10-Miler to ensure that I wouldn’t slack off?

I am a big stinking liar.

Of course, the fibbing is not intentional – at the time, I really DID want to train in earnest for the Army race, and I really DID think I could find a 5K or something to keep myself on track.  As usual, life just got in the way – it’s as simple as that.  I am still going to run the 10-Miler in about a week and a half, and I’m certain that it won’t be any kind of record-setting event for me.  But, since it is my first race of that distance, it is an automatic PR – and, of course, I will aim to enjoy the scenery on the course since I won’t be so concerned with the pace.  Hopefully, with cooler weather and a renewed sense of my running self, I can break the cycle and truly get back to loving running again.

One kind of cycle I have been perpetuating lately is actual cycling.  Yes, ladies and gentleman, this Hungry Triathlete has actually been on a bike more than she has been running lately (which will shock all of you who know my trials and tribulations with the second leg of the tri).  I joined Capital Bikeshare, which allows me to bike to and/or from work whenever I like, without having to worry about locking my road bike up or making sure I have the right shoes or fretting about my bike getting stolen or rained on.  All I have to do is have a helmet handy (and technically, I don’t even have to do that, as helmets are not legally required for adult cyclists in DC – but you’d better believe I’m always going to wear one), and I can go to any of the hundreds of kiosks to grab a bike and go.  It really is a great system, and I have learned to feel much more comfortable on these city roads – and when the weather is fall-like and gorgeous, there is something so refreshing and zen about ditching my normal crowded commute and getting some me time.

Of course, the down side to commuting by bike is…well…there are a few.  Can you guess what they are?  Do you have some of your own?  Feel free to share – my thoughts will follow in another post.

Let’s start at the very beginning February 17, 2010

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Mentoring, Running, Swimming.
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We now have two team swims and two Saturday group training sessions (GTS) under our belts – and this weekend was our first weekend “off” (which means that we didn’t work out as a team, but we were still expected to follow the training calendar and get our miles in).  Honestly, the off weekends stress me out, since I tend to do much better when I’m expected to be somewhere.  It’s just too easy to skip a workout when no one is going to mercilessly mock you for it.

Our first GTS was with all of the summer teams (marathon/half marathon, adventure race, cycling, etc).  We met as a huge TNT group, and then we split off to talk about triathlon more specifically and to go around and do introductions.  It was a lot of fun, and we seem to have some really interesting and FUNNY characters on this year’s team.  After we got to know each other, we headed into the cold and rain to run three miles.  Shockingly, I felt great, despite the weather – probably because I remembered that last year, at the very same GTS, I couldn’t complete the workout.  What a difference a year makes!

The first swim, as expected, was interesting.  I mean, it’s an intimidating set-up – it’s cold, it’s loud, it’s everyone’s first time in a bathing suit in a while, you get the drift.  My mentorees were all very nervous, and about half of them made it seem like they were going to sink to the bottom and drown within the first five minutes, but they all did great.  They listened to the feedback from the coaches and worked hard during the whole hour-long practice, which was really awesome to see.  I’m such a proud mama!

The following Saturday, we headed out to Marietta for a shoe clinic and our first “brick” (a bike ride immediately followed by a run).  As usual, the Big Peach presentation was interesting and informative, and I had to stop myself from buying new gear on the spot (it helped that I just recently got a new pair of running shoes from Peachy himself).  As for the workout, it was sparsely attended due to some cold, windy, rainy weather conditions, but I ended up doing 10 miles on the bike and 2 miles running.  Although the course (Columns Drive) was flat, the heavy wind made it feel like a hill workout!  Luckily, after some initial derailleur issues, my bike and I interacted harmoniously and had ourselves a good ol’ time.  AND, because my running is much improved over last season, I was actually able to run and chat with some teammates – bonus!

At swim number two, the participants were placed in their assigned lanes for the first time.  As a mentor, I won’t really be assigned to a lane – for the first few weeks, I’ll be placed where there is a need for assistance, and then after that I’ll just swim wherever I’m comfortable and where I can get the best workout.  I swam in lane three this time, which allowed me to meet a couple of new folks.  We were moving into the more complicated drills, so I hope I was able to demonstrate proper form and at least be moderately helpful.  I couldn’t help but notice – after doing so much actual SWIMMING last season, it was weird to get back to doing drills.  BUT, on that same token, it was a lot easier to see and feel how the drills allow you to develop proper form.

I did okay over the weekend in terms of working out, especially considering how cold and nasty it was, but I will be grateful when I can get back to a team workout (this week I’ll be skipping out on the bike skills clinic to go to Athens).  I’ll also be grateful when Mother Nature warms things up a bit – BRRRRRRR!

Reality check June 22, 2009

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
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Iron Girl is THIS SUNDAY.  As in, there are no more Sundays between now and Iron Girl.  As in, there are six days until my first triathlon.  As in, at this time next week, I will be a triathlete.

The reality of the situation has been settling in for a while, actually.  Two weekends ago, we rode the Iron Girl Atlanta race course up at Lake Lanier.  Our coaches pointed out where the expo would be, where transition would be, where the run course would be, and, most importantly, where THEY would be, cheering us on!  That’s when it really hit me–I am going to DO this.

Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared me for the toughness of the Iron Girl cycling course.  I had heard from previous participants that it was VERY hilly, but I wasn’t terribly concerned–after all, I’ve been KILLING the uphills all season.  However, as anyone who’s graduated elementary school knows, what goes up MUST come down.  At the other side of the two biggest inclines of the course were two MASSIVE downhill stretches.  I freaked out, froze up, and ended up braking the entire way down (while hyperventilating and generally panicking).  Even my amazing coach’s encouragement couldn’t break through the fear.  It was like I was paralyzed.

I made it through the course, but I was pretty down on myself.  After all, that was the ACTUAL course–there would be no, “Oh, Iron Girl is nothing like this.”  I scheduled a time to go out to Stone Mountain and work on downhills with one of my friends/mentors.  Again, I panicked and froze and was unable to generate any speed at all.  It actually felt worse than it did at Lake Lanier, as the hills at Stone Mountain are more rolling and less shockingly steep (meaning that I should have been able to tackle them handily).  I was beginning to think that I just wasn’t meant for cycling, and that my love affair with triathlons was going to come to an untimely end.

Last Wednesday night, before swim practice, my coach and I were talking about my fear and how to get over it.  She said to me, “Betty, I am so frustrated that this is holding you back, because I SEE what a great athlete you are.”  She probably thought nothing of that statement, but it stopped me in my tracks–in my 29 years, no one has EVER used the word “athlete” to describe me, unless they were being sarcastic or trying to make fun of me.  I thought about that word the entire time I was in the pool, and I really started to understand that it DID apply to me.  No matter what happened in my past to make me insecure about my athletic abilities, I’ve been working my ass off to turn the tides and do something physically monumental for me.  I even started tearing up while I was swimming*–the comment really struck me in an unexpected and inspiring way.

After thinking a LOT (and typing a pretty emotional email to my coach), I decided that I needed to buck up and get over my hangups on the bike.  Sure, saying it isn’t necessarily enough to make it happen (if it is, poof, I need a million dollars in my wallet), but I knew I could push through at least a little bit and show my coaches and myself that I was capable of making progress.  After our open-water swim on Saturday, we headed to Cartersville to ride.  My coach stayed with me on the shorter course (about 14-16 miles) and worked with me on bike handling, cadence, and stability.  And lo and behold, after a few miles and some zen internal chanting, I managed to go down some hills without braking–and I even hit about 24 miles per hour at one point, which was a new land-speed record for me.  😉  Even though I know I won’t be barrelling down the Iron Girl hills at 50+ mph, I feel a LOT more confident in my cycling abilities.  I know that however fast I go, I’ll be much more comfortable–which means I’ll have much more fun!

Did I mention that Iron Girl is in less than a week?  EEK!!!!

* Oh, by the way, I swam a continuous 1500 meters that night–and it felt GREAT!!!

My first tri injury… June 12, 2009

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Swimming.
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…and I wasn’t moving at all when it happened.

Okay, it’s just a busted thumb–I sort of stabbed it and jammed it simultaneously, so it is bleeding/scabbing AND sore/swollen.  BUT, I did it while trying to change my tire, which is probably the lamest excuse for an injury, ever, in the history of triathlon.

I got to Dynamo early on Wednesday so that I could learn all about how to perform tire maintenance.  Getting the front and rear tires on and off the bike was a relatively simple process, but once I sat down to “change” the rear tire (which actually means removing the tire itself and changing the interior tube), I started having trouble.  First, I couldn’t seem to get the tire levers hooked into the tire and NOT the tube–I guess partially because my tires have an unusually large bead.  When I finally got one lever hooked and tried to slide the other lever under the tire to remove it, my hand slipped and I ended up stabbing/jamming the tool into my thumb.  Ouch!  After washing my bloody finger and gathering all of my gumption, I did manage to remove the tire, take the tube out, put the tube back in, reposition the tire, and pump the whole thing back up.  Then I put the tire back on the bike and PRAYED that I didn’t screw anything up too badly.  Guess I’ll find out during this weekend’s ride…

After the tire clinic and a VERY stern lecture to my teammates about the importance of sunscreen (I will probably post about that soon), we got in the pool, which felt surprisingly refreshing.  I did 300 meters of warm-up, and then moved on to 6 x 50 of “distance per stroke” swimming, which basically involves being as long and lean in the water as possible (to decrease the amount of strokes you have to take).  Then we did a delightful little torture routine of 10 pool-deck push-ups (hands on the deck, body in the water, push up), 100 meters fast, and 100 meters easy, with no rest in between.  I got through that routine three times and then it was almost time to quit, so I did another 200 meters, this time at just under race pace.  Whew!

I’d say I definitely earned my burrito that night.

On a roll June 11, 2009

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Swimming.
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This past weekend, once again, we did double duty–a bike workout on Saturday and an open-water swim on Sunday.  Strangely,  it was the former that was freakin’ me out.  Well, I guess it’s not so strange, considering that I hadn’t done more than five miles on my new bike, and that the last time I rode, my fiance ended up with a gimp-ass shoulder.

We all met at Cochran Mill Park (a.k.a. Silk Sheets) at 7:30 AM, and the nerves started acting up almost immediately.  After all, the last time we rode that route, I ended up alone for the vast majority of the morning (on my old bike, I was slower than the fast cyclists and faster than the slow ones).  What if I was by myself and lost control?  What if I went too fast and panicked and wiped out?  What if I had to change a tire?  What if I got lost?  What if a dog started chasing me?  The anxiety was visible as we started our two-wheeled journey.  And just so’s you know, nervousness does NOT make you more steady on your bike.

About a mile or two into the ride, one of my coaches came up behind me and mentioned that I looked SUPER tense.  I confessed to her that I was really uncomfortable on the new bike, not because it didn’t fit or wasn’t suited for me, but just because it was SO different.  I was truly afraid of its capacity for speed, and I was already white-knuckling the brakes during all of the downhills.  So, she–being the AMAZING coach that she is–rode with me, at the very back of the pack, for the entire 31-mile course.  She talked me through all of the steep slopes, helping me to gain confidence and speed throughout the morning.  She joked with me about my insecurities (but in a NICE way), marveling that she had never coached an athlete who was faster on the uphills than on the downhills.  She critiqued my body positioning and cadence, but in a way that was productive rather than gruff and discouraging.  We met up with one of the other coaches about ten miles in, and he joined us for the remainder of the ride.  He, too, helped to increase my comfort level, teaching me how to recover when I lost my chain and complimenting me on my form when I fell on my ass while trying to mount on an incline.

THAT is the reason that I would recommend Team In Training to absolutely anyone who is interested in preparing for an endurance event.  Triathlon training is especially tough, since (duh) there are three sports, each with a laundry list of things to remember in order to optimize performance and minimize injuries.  But the support that I have gotten has been incredible and invaluable, especially since I am a rookie.  The coaches really take the training personally, in that they will work with folks when they need extra help, AND they will rejoice when things start clicking and people start feeling comfortable and confident.  Sure, I’ve had nervous moments, but I have NEVER felt like I couldn’t make it through my race days, largely because of the extremely capable coaching I’ve received.

Not to mention, we have a lot of fun together!  After Sunday’s open-water swim at Lake Lanier, we all sat around and ate a picnic lunch as a group.  But first, we had to survive what practically equated to an ocean swim–since we met at 1 PM on a beautiful summer day, there were boats and jet-skis EVERYWHERE, and they were creating some pretty massive wakes in our no-wake (haha) swimming zone.  I felt like I worked twice as hard to go half as far, and I swallowed a LOT of lake because every other breath was met with a wave to my face.  But, I made it through, and I feel like I’m going to be extra prepared for race day because of all of this open-water practice.

Speaking of race day…IRON GIRL IS 17 DAYS AWAY!!!

Weekend update (not the funny SNL version) June 5, 2009

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling, Running, Swimming.
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Sorry for the lapse in updates, folks—between reconfigured work duties, an injured fiancé, and hard-core training, I haven’t had a lot of time to catch my breath and process all that’s been happening.

Speaking of training, we’ve covered a lot of ground in just a week’s time!  Though I was too sick to go to the Cartersville ride last Saturday (which is a bummer, since I wanted to debut my new bike, AND I hear that it’s a fabulous course), I did rally back from my flu-induced misery in order to participate in our first open-water swim on Sunday.  We started out all huddled up on the beach, and you could cut the nerves with a knife—everyone was jittery, not only about the water temperature (we are used to a 78 degree pool), but just generally about what swimming in the lake would be like.  Well, we would find out soon enough… 

To start, our coaches just asked us to get in the water and swim out to a buoy and back.  It was a straight shot (well, it was SUPPOSED to be, anyway), and I would guess that it was about 150-200 meters each way.  The water temperature was really quite lovely, so that helped soothe my nerves a bit—BUT, it is incredibly jarring to stick your face in the water and see absolutely nothing (well, besides a murky shade of green).  I tried to focus on my breathing and my stroke instead of panicking about what was or was not in the lake with me.  I also tried to sight to the buoy, but it was harder than anticipated given the very strong sun in my eyes.  Somehow, though, I made the round trip journey and wound up back on the beach.  Whew!  We’re done, right?

Wrong!  We moved right on along to simulating a race start and then swimming back out to the first buoy.  From there, we swam to a second buoy (so we were, in essence, swimming parallel to the shore) and then sighted back in to the beach.  Yowza, what a tough lap!  It is really difficult to get into a rhythm when you’re constantly paranoid about veering off course or smacking your submerged head into a pier (not sure which is worse).

The good news is, we all survived.  No one had to be rescued by the kayakers, no one drowned, and, most importantly, no one quit the team.  So, I’d say our first open-water experience was a great success!

This past week, I also had a nice group run with a few of my awesome teammates.  We did about 4.3 miles through the lovely (yet shockingly smelly) streets of Brookhaven, and we had a pretty good darn time doing it.  I always do so much better when I run with other people than when I attempt it alone.  The workout, combined with the fact that I did lower-body weights on Monday, made me a little sore in the pool on Wednesday night—BUT, I managed to do about 1500 meters of combination race pace and sprint drills, so woot!  I am finally at the point where I’m not worried about the length of the swim.  Instead, I am worried about how fast I can finish and how wiped out I will be when I get on my bike.

This weekend will involve another ride at Silk Sheets (where I clipped in for the first time–ah, the memories) and another open-water swim.  Here’s hoping for a productive and FUN weekend of tri training!

Head over heels June 1, 2009

Posted by bettyjoan in Cycling.
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I couldn’t wait to go on my first ride with my new bike.  I knew I would feel a little squirrely, but I also knew that I needed a few shorter practice runs before a long ride with the team.  Unfortunately, that inaugural ride represented another major first.

My fiance’s first-ever broken bone.

Yep, he managed to go 34 years without breaking anything, and then one bike ride with me ruined his perfect record.  I didn’t see it, as he was behind me, but this is how I think it all went down…

We were riding the Freedom Trail, right around the Carter Center (which, incidentally, is right across the street from our loft).  We had gone up to Boulevard, come back past Inman Park, and gone down to the Candler Park golf course, and we were riding between North Highland and Freedom Parkway in order to complete the loop and get home.  Since I wasn’t totally confident on the downhills, I called back to Jason to pass me if he wanted to go faster.  All of  a sudden, I heard a VERY loud crash behind me.  My heart started racing.  Not wanting to crash (more for the well-being of my newly paid-for bike, I’m sad to say), I veered into the grass, unclipped my shoes from the pedals, and turned to run toward my honey.

He was lying on the sidewalk with his eyes closed.  He was breathing and conscious and all of that important stuff, but he was clearly in a great deal of shock and pain.  His left side, particularly in the elbow region, was covered in some bloody road rash.  I had to REALLY try hard not to cry.

Some well-meaning citizens who witnessed the wipeout asked us if we needed a ride to the hospital.  Jason tried to sit up, but he became really lightheaded and grabbed his left shoulder in agony.  We decided at that point that a call to 911 would be in order.  After arguing with the dispatch operator about where we were located (“In the Kroger parking lot?”  “No, across from the CARTER CENTER parking lot!!!”), we made idle chit-chat with the good samaritans, one of whom had a sling on her shoulder from a similar accident.

The ambulance finally arrived and hauled Jason and his bike to Atlanta Medical Center (one of three hospitals within a few miles of our place), while I took my bike home and then raced to the ER.  When I arrived, my baby was all gowned up and about to get a nice shot of demerol in the thigh.  After that, it was pretty standard emergency medicine: talk to the doctor, wait an hour, go for an x-ray, wait an hour, talk to the doctor, wait an hour, get a CT-scan, wait an hour, blah blah etc etc ad infinitum.

Long story short (too late), Jason somehow managed to break his scapula.  Apparently this means he is quite talented, as it is a very difficult bone to break.  Hey, dare to be different, I suppose.  He’s alternating between a shoulder immobilizer and a basic sling, and he’ll go back to the orthopedist in about three weeks for a progress check, more x-rays, and potentially some physical therapy.  Meanwhile, I am tending to his cuts and scrapes and making sure  that he is as comfortable as possible (usually by bringing him beers and leaving him alone, haha).  He’s still antsy and hurting, but he’s been a good patient.  Mostly he just wants to start exercising again!

Between Jason’s accident and my subsequent bout with the flu (of the non-swine variety), my new bike has been dormant since the day I bought it.  This coming weekend, though?  It’s ON.