Watching the Tour de France has been especially inspiring lately, since I have (drumroll, please….) a NEW BIKE!!! Yes, the carbon-fiber fairy has finally come to my door in the form of a fancy pants new bike that is one sweet ride. I know that cycling is 90% the rider and the bike plays but a little part, but the high that comes from sitting on such a smooth piece of machinery certainly must add some speed. The added bonus is that I have a flashy new kit to match the bike, one with “Kick Butt” adorned on, well, you guessed it – my back end.
Now I just HAVE to go fast in order to live up to that, right? The “Kick Butt” is not as badass if I’m the one being dropped.
This past weekend the Kiwi and I went up to Lake Winnepesaukee with a couple of friends to check out the bike course for Timberman. After having scoped out the elevation map of the course and having heard that it’s hilly, I was thinking it was going to be a doozy of a weekend, since we planned to bike the course once on Saturday and again on Sunday. As we headed out early Saturday morning, Hurricane Arthur (or did he ever reach that status? Maybe he was just a little tropical storm…) was still making himself known. By the time we got up there, the roads had dried out, but Arthur had left behind some winds that were blowing with gusto.
I had borrowed some aerobars from a tall ginger-haired Englishman friend (surprisingly, they fit!) and was excited to give them a try, but it was so windy that I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable balancing precariously on the new contraption. I gave it a try a few times, but I had to wait until the next day when it was less windy to feel completely safe on them. It felt pretty sweet, though, when I got the hang of it! I was flying along at 23-24 mph and not even feeling like I was really hammering it. There is a perfect part in the middle of the bike course that is long and semi-flat with rolling hills, and this is amazing for getting down in the aerobars and just getting in the zone. For some reason, I always get the song “Build Me Up Buttercup” stuck in my head when I get into these sections during a triathlon. When I was doing track in high school, it was our favorite song, and it always pops into my head during the bike part of a triathlon. There have been quite a few times during a race when there’s no one around and I’ve just started belting out the song while I’m cruising along. It sounds crazy, but it’s super motivating and always gets me going. Note that I only do this when there is no one else in earshot. If I were near someone, they might speed up in order to get away from the awful caterwauling 🙂
The heat was fairly withering, though (hopefully it will be somewhat better race day), and I completely bonked at about mile 45 of the second day. I had had it by that point (even the sweet caffeine-sugar rush of another Espresso Love GU didn’t help), and as we made a turn onto a road that we had missed the day before, I saw a hill (probably about Cat. 4 – a term I’ve learned from the Tour) ahead that was steep as hell and well beyond whatever was left in my wobbly legs at that point. The only way that I made it up was through a serious venting session that basically consisted of “%$*# this” and “$#&* this $#%*ing hill” repeated a few times over. I instantly felt a bit better and managed to pull my tired body up that nasty pitch. Amazing how that can help, huh? The irony of it was that we got to the other side and realized that we had made a wrong turn and had to go back. Turns out we were supposed to turn somewhere before that and we were only supposed to see the backside of that hill and come down for a lovely cooling quick descent. ARggHHH.
Our showers that weekend consisted of a couple of dips in the lake, which was perfect. This was due to the fact that we rocked up to the campground on Saturday morning and realized that there were no showers or bathrooms to speak of, since it turns out that the campground mostly consisted of RVs parked on some guy’s backyard. $50 a night to stake our tents in the yard and no loos. Ooof. Is that even legal? Not that I mind using the bushes, but sometimes you sort of need an actual bathroom. One of the older men there (on whose trailer porch rested a half-drunk bottle of Patron and an empty box of Bud Light) told me we could use his bathroom and shower any time we needed. Ermmm, no thanks! Awkward…
All in all, it was a perfect training weekend, replete with sweaty, exhausted bodies, swims in the lake, mac and cheese carbo-loading, World Cup viewing, and campsite drinking games on Saturday night (this may have contributed to the major bonk on Sunday). Looking back, I might need to work on the nutrition part as well. Mac and cheese, beer, and a massive quantity of wine do not a healthy athlete make.
By the time we got back home, we were tired and ready for a decent shower and some food. Due to the heat of the weekend, though, the little red-eyed buggers otherwise known as fruit flies had amassed in our kitchen even though there was no fruit out to speak of. Where on earth do they come from?? I swear they come out of thin air. There’s something particularly unappetizing about having clouds of fruit flies hovering around your kitchen. Ick. Luckily, I know a fast and eco-friendly way to kill the pests. Just pour a good half-inch of apple cider vinegar into a jar (no other vinegar – the fruit flies like the fruity kick of the cider vinegar), add a splash of water, and squeeze in a dollop of dish soap. The flies hone in on the tang of the vinegar, go in for a dip, and then can’t haul themselves out again because of the film of dish soap on the top. Works like a charm.
Since I can’t let you guys go without a recipe, there’s another use for apple cider vinegar that’s also great in the summer. I tend to buy bunches of radishes at the farmer’s market, eat a few, tire of them, and then the rest of the bunch shrivels sadly in the fridge until a week later when I poke them and decide they’re too soft to eat and they get tossed. Serious waste of farmer’s market veggies. I discovered a recipe on the wondrous haven of Serious Eats, though, and have been using it since. A slight modification is below (Vermonticized with the addition of maple). I love eating these straight out of the jar or on a salad, and they’re also great on a cheese platter since they look pretty and add a lovely crunch. They’re also great for those who aren’t the biggest fans of the pungent tartness of radishes, since the apple cider vinegar-maple combo mellows out the radishy tang.
Pickled Maple Radishes (adapted from Serious Eats)
1 bunch radishes
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup water
⅓ cup maple syrup
1 tsp. pickling salt
1. Scrub and trim radishes. Slice thinly (but not wafer-thin). Put in a quart-size jar.
2. Bring vinegar, water, maple, and salt to a boil in a pot.
3. Once boiling, pour over radishes and let cool on the counter. (If you have fruit flies, remember to put a dishcloth or something over it since otherwise you’ll have pickled fruit flies – ewww).
4. When the radishes have cooled, put the jar in the fridge and wait 24 hours before eating them.
This past Sunday, I completed my first open-water swim race. You know the saying…