Friday, December 30, 2011

The Bike Has Landed

After a lovely lunch with Catie and Buddy at Los Nopales (which is de-freaking-licious), we headed over to Performance Bicycle in Lincoln Park. I mostly chose to go there because of Dawn's generous gift certificate, but also because in my very limited experience (direct personal experience, and from what I've heard from others) independent local bike shops can be Very Intimidating for extreme beginners. Even the little shop that Clau and I went to in the suburbs - the guy was nice, but I couldn't help picking up on a strong undercurrent of impatience and slight disdain. So I figured I'd start at Performance first and at the very least learn some stuff in a hopefully less-pressure environment.

And it was great. I explained my situation to the salesguy - name of Cory, by the way, in case you ever want to go in and deal with a knowledgeable, patient, and all-around decent guy. He explained that there really isn't one single bike that would be perfect for all the purposes I had in mind (the century ride, commuting, general errand-running, etc.) but that I should really consider a road bike. He did his best, but in the end I explained that I just could NOT get over those super skinny-ass tires and the whole hunched-over position. I do not aspire to become Lance Armstrong, okay. What I want is to sit upright and feel stable, and I want to be comfortable but I don't want it to weigh a ton - and I don't want to spend thousands of dollars. To find a bike that fits this description was Cory's mission, and he acquitted himself with full honors by eventually taking me over to the road bikes that have some mountain-bike features to them. (See, it gets really complicated as there are a jillion styles of bike. For instance, I also learned that the cutest bikes - which "cute" was one of the things I wanted, though it was much lower on the list of priorities - are generally really, really unsuited to this century ride endeavor.)

The first one he pulled down from the display felt exactly right to me and I got quite attached. However, since it's the end of the year, stock is Very Very Low and there was only the floor model to be had, none could even be shipped to the store because they are All Out. The floor model was pretty grubby, so he said he'd give me a bit of a discount. I waffled a bit, but none of the other bikes really appealed and it was a SUPER-sweet price even without the floor-model discount. (End-of-year clearance event = $200 off original price!) So I went for it.

And I must say to all you contributors to the Beth Bike Fund that when I handed over all the gift cards and cash, I wound up paying only $100 for a bike. THANK YOU. It was the best time I've ever had at a check-out counter, let me tell you. :-D

So we hauled it home and, with much fumbling, I locked it up downstairs. But only after I took a super-blurry picture!

That is my adored nephew (well, one of them) holding my trusty steed. I still haven't ridden it yet, mostly due to crappy ass weather. Also because I was a GENIUS and wore a short skirt with tights to the store, so a test-ride was kind of out of the question. But honest to god, since I haven't ridden a bike in eons, I can confidently say that riding it would tell me exactly nothing since I have only the vaguest notion of how a bike "should" feel. But hey, Catie and I think it's a good sign that it's white and will match the helmet Laura &her mom are contributing. Buddy, less impressed with accessories, thinks it a good sign that the brakes are tight. Clearly I chose the right shopping companions.

Hey, I also learned: no kickstand! Wha? But apparently the kickstand, like the banana seat and the pedal-backwards brakes, are mostly only standard on kid's bikes. I look forward to dressing it up eventually, with fenders and a rack and maybe a front basket, and a bell. Perhaps one day I'll go wild and attach streamers to the handlebars and playing cards in the spokes but for now, it's just the bare necessities. I'm quite happy with it.

Also bought a bike rack for the car (had to get it home somehow), an adaptor (because the crossbar slopes down in that girl-bike way, see? and it needs to be straight across to fit onto the rack - OMG LOOK HOW MUCH I LEARNED), and the bike lock. So now all that's left to do is actually ride the damn thing.

Anyway, I had meant to comparison shop more, but since the people at Performance were so great - very welcoming and not at all condescending, extremely willing to walk me through the most basic stuff, and just unbelievably good-natured - and the price was extremely right, I figured why not. So now I am the proud owner of a bike.

YAY NEW BIKE. I may actually give it a name. I've never felt the need to name a car (I don't get people who do that), but a bike feels different. Far more personal, and like a friend/pet/whatever. Like if I had a horse, I'd name it.

Anyway, that's the latest. And now I shall go back to being on lazy vacation. Happy New Bike and Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shout outs

Everyone can see who donated to LLS on the donation page, but this is the only place I can give recognition to other generous supporters like:

Laura Lonneman, fabulous friend and neighbor, who bikes everywhere and has Her Mom who has a bike helmet she used like twice and decided she'd just prefer a different model, or something. So when Laura heard about this diabolical scheme of mine, she got her mom on board with a bike helmet donation. Thanks Laura and mom!

Dawn Zapinski, awesome BFF who sent me a hee-yuge gift certificate to Performance Bike, as a Christmas gift. This is awesome because I can use it for any and all things bike-related. Dawn always gives good gifts, but this one made me (literally) yelp with delight. Thanks, kasekuchen!

My mom, who gave me a hefty Visa gift card which she said was to go toward anything bike-related or as a donation to LLS, whichever I prefer. Which gets me all choked up because I know it's not like you're just rolling in cash, mom, so thank you thank you a thousand times and super-merry-awesome Christmas to you. Thank you.

My brother Dan and his wife Claudia, who stuck cash in a card for me to open on Christmas morning, telling me that it's to go toward a bike. They have also said they'll make a monthly donation on my fundraising page. "We'll keep with it as long as you do," said Dan. And that gets me even more choked up, because there's no reason in the world for anyone to have that much faith in me. And it's amazing and humbling, when someone spontaneously believes in you, and supports you without your even having to address their doubts first. Thanks, Dan. It really does make all the difference in the world, knowing you're behind me.

So, um yeah. now I'm all sniffly. Those were my wonderful Christmas gifts and, together with a $100 gift card that AHA (the company I work for, you know) gave to me, I have quite a pile of money. And you generous givers should know that ALL of these monetary gifts will be pooled together for the sole purpose of buying a bike. Because the bike I was going to use had been sitting in Dan's garage for ages and the local bike shop guy and I agreed that it really wasn't the right size for me (way too small) and the cost of fixing it up would be a couple hundred bucks that would be better spent going toward a better bike. So Claudia (it was her bike, which she never rode because it was never comfy) generously donated it to a charity. And I decided that it's time to go bike shopping.

It's bewildering, you know, the world of bikes. It's just like any sport, I suppose - there are a million details, products you never even suspected were out there, and everyone's got an expert opinion on each bit of ephemera. Makes it wildly intimidating for a beginner, but I've been reading up so I won't be entirely clueless. My niece Catie and nephew Buddy are coming for a visit tomorrow and we'll eat fabulous Mexican food and then head over to a bike shop and see what happens.

And I will of course report back. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bike shorts = AWESOME

Here’s a conversation I had with my fabulous coworker Agnes:

Beth: "It turns out that bike shorts have a bike seat-shaped pad right in the middle of the crotch! THAT’S what makes them bike shorts!"
Agnes: "It’s not just they are spandex and super short and black?"
Beth: "No, it’s all about the big pad between your legs."
Agnes: "I cannot believe I have been on this earth 35 years without knowing this."
Beth: "I know, right?"
Because it’s exactly like a bike-seat-shaped maxi pad, people! 

If I sound blown away by this detail, it’s because I AM blown away by this detail. It’d be like if you thought you knew what a pea coat was, of course you do because you see them all the time, but then one day you got a REAL pea coat and discovered it actively facilitated in the eating of peas. This is a game-changer. It’s a very important detail that no one ever tells you, not even when you complain about bike seat pain and they say you should get bike shorts. Even when I knew the padding existed, I just thought it was a butt-pad, see. So for the record, if someone whines about the seat hurting in spin class, the correct response is “You should get padded bike shorts, they have a thick pad right where you want it most: between your legs.” Because there’s no excuse for all of this dancing around the subject, okay? Just be direct and descriptive and don’t assume everyone knows about the padding, thanks. 

Yeah, I went to spin class yesterday with my new exciting crotch-padded bike shorts (capris, really) and it didn’t hurt at all. HOORAY. It was a glorious day. Well, except the pedal straps squeezed and chafed and generally just really hurt my feet (have to get new gym shoes) and my quads are sore enough to have me whimpering all day today. But I did better even just on this second try – stood up in the pedals more, got a better handle on the bike’s resistance levels and was less shy about upping the resistance. I’ll go again tomorrow, I think, if my new shoes get here on time. (Really, with all my foot/arch issues, I don’t think it’s a good idea to do something that makes me limp for hours afterward. And I’m pretty sure the shoes are the issue since the old pair I’m using now are open at the top of the foot. So no more demon pedals until I have better shoes.)

Also – look! My team is here in the cyber-world! HERE IS THE TEAM PAGE! So you can make donations to all of us, if you want, or just some of us directly, but in any case we are a team and we will fund-raise together and just generally be collectively awesome. 

Later I will tell you about how I have to go bike shopping. But that will be later. :-D

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Progress report

Here's a quick update.


  1. Buy bike shorts. Should have them soon. Bought them online and pray they'll fit.
  2. Get a loaner helmet from my friend Laura, who is awesome.
  3. Touch base with one of my training coaches, who gave super-helpful info (if not enough - really advanced people don't have the same definition of "very very basic" as a beginner does. But he gave me his phone number, so what more do I need, right?)
  4. Get approval from the podiatrist and physical therapist for this whole thing. (I have a wicked case of plantar fasciitis that is being treated with all sorts of muscle-work, so I just wanted to be sure nothing would get screwed up.) 
  5. Whine about my quads hurting all week, after the spin class.

  1. Go to another spin class. I know, I know! I do plan to go Monday, but my legs (and, let's be honest, crotch) were killing me on Tuesday, so I thought I'd do the Thursday class - but today was our holiday party, so I missed it. It's only offered Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, so this week was rather a bust. Oh well.
  2. Really work out at all, after that spin class. It's just been a bad week for it, with various other obligations intruding on my time. Rar.
  3. Get the bike from my brother's house checked out and approved by a bike shop. My brother Dan will lend me a bike - BECAUSE HE IS THE BEST BROTHER OF ALL THE BROTHERS, EVER - but we need to make sure it's ship-shape and right-for-me, first. I need to drive out there. Maybe this weekend?

There, at least the list of Dids is longer than the list of Did Nots. I've also adapted a less freaked-out attitude about the physical challenge involved, because I realized that at least it was only my quads and crotch that came away really hurting from my time on the bike. I've realized that the good thing was: no burning lungs, no thinking I was going to die, no visions of falling on the floor and vomiting afterward. (That sometimes happens with physical exertion, you know. I am not unfamiliar with the feeling.) The seat pain can be taken care of with a good pair of shorts, a good bike seat (eventually), and some practice. So that basically leaves the quads. That's just one set of muscles which needs serious work. That's it. 

I can do that. That's an attainable goal for me, something to focus on now that is small(ish) and conquerable. (Did I just make up that word? It feels made up. Who knows.) This is the one thing I have going for me: I've been doing cardio at the gym pretty much 5 days a week for like 2 years now. Nothing terribly challenging or advanced, just spending my lunch hour on the ellipticals. But my body - the lungs and heart and whole circulatory system are already on board and haven't been taken by surprise. And I'm realizing what a huge advantage that is. Yay optimism!

So there's the progress in a nutshell and, as ever - more later. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Giving "spinster" a whole new meaning

Oh mein gott in himmel, y'all. I went to the spinning class this morning.

Okay, there is no polite way to say this, so here it is: my crotch hurts. (Crotch is okay, right? My ma always used that word, even when we were kids, so I tend to think it's fine for polite society. Sorry if I'm wrong about that.) Yes, it was hard and no, I couldn't do everything the instructor shouted out to us during the course of the 45 minutes and yes, I sweated like a whore working overtime (hey look: it's not all polite society around here after all) but the real takeaway here is that my crotch freaking aches. In a way that really shouldn't happen unless you have great memories of a terrific time to show for the pain, you know?

Owwww. See, when people say "bike butt" they don't ever tell you what I am telling you: they don't mean bike butt, they mean bike crotch. Which is to say: bruised crotch. Man, buy a girl a drink first, jeez.

So that's my first discovery in this endeavor, that grown-up bikes do not feature a banana seat, and there is a price to be paid for that lack. And the currency in which you must pay is Pain. My dilemma is this: there is another class tomorrow. Do I go? Or do I nurse my wounds? (Try not to picture said nursing, thanks.) Is there some kind of very thick adult diaper that could possibly help me out here?

Oh well, I guess this is the incentive to get your knee/leg muscles all strong - so you can stand up in the pedals and get out of the infernal seat. INFERNAL, I TELL YOU. And the workout itself was just strength-sapping. I immediately wanted a nap. Well, a nap and many, many, many carbs. I could've eaten my way through a loaf of Wonder bread and asked for more before passing out for a 6-hour nap. Honest to pete, it's like it ate through all my energy stores. And I store a lot of energy, okay.

In recent developments, I am getting freaked out at how little time I have to get myself up to the task of 100 miles. I looked at the training schedule from the fall century ride -- oh hey, they call this a century ride. Because 100 miles. And probably because it feels like a century, the ride. Anyway, the training schedule for the last century ride shows that your first day out on the bike, you do like 20 miles. Twenty. As in a two followed by a zero. Your first time on the real bike, and it's 20 whole miles. I'm not saying I can't do it; I'm just saying that a mere 40 minutes on the bike felt semi-miraculous today. Twenty miles seems awfully far-fetched. Unless these training coaches are willing to spend the full 10 hours it's likely to take me to go 20 flipping miles, it could be a pretty awful day. And so I am freshly afraid.

Anyhows, that's how my first spinning class was. Painful, exhausting, and a bringer of fresh terror. Ooh boy I just can't wait for the next!

(that was sarcasm.)

Dude seriously, I gotta go to bed now. That class just vampire-sucked all the energy out of me. So good night, and thank you for your support, and pray that I'll make it to and through tomorrow's class.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I am fortunate that Kathrynn (my niece and roommate) is almost as happy as I am at the donations, because every time I see a new one come in, I yelp with excitement and immediately announce it to her. (And to my cat.  We're a small but excitable group.) Unless one of you is a secret Mr./Ms. Moneybags, it will obviously take many many donations to reach my goal, so I suspect I'll eventually drive her mad with this behavior. She's great at pretending I'm not annoying her, though, so domestic tranquility is likely to continue.

But anyway, my point is: YAY THANK YOU SOOOOOO MUCH!!! Well, thanks to those of you who've donated, at least. Screw the rest of you.

Kidding! I kid! I kid because I love. Naturally, I'll love you more after you donate, though. Haha, just kidding. (No I'm not.)

So this was a very good kick-off and it is strengthening me for tomorrow's task. And guess what that is? A spinning class. Yes, yes - the one workout that I've pretty consistently disdained. But come on, can you really blame me? It's pedaling and pedaling and pedaling and you never get anywhere. You don't even get to feel the wind in your hair or see any changing scenery, you know? It's just never been my bag, dad, so I stayed away. But it turns out that our first few months of training will be indoors, on stationary bikes. This makes sense when you remember that I live in Chicago, and that the mere idea of voluntarily being outdoors for more than say 2 minutes in a Chicago February is literally bringing tears to my eyes, right now. Therefore, indoors it is.

As I mentioned (I think), training actually starts on January 7- and rest assured I plan to be slothful to the max over the last week of the year, drinking whatever takes my fancy (tip: hot chocolate + Cointreau = bliss), spending inordinate amounts of time napping, renewing my love affair with my couch, and stuffing myself with foods on the American Heart Association's Most Wanted List. But I realized I don't want to be completely blindsided on my first day of real training. There's enough of a learning curve for me that I'd like to get a bit of a handle on at least what this part of it might be like.

So tomorrow I will go to the spinning class at my gym, to get a little taste of what's in store. If I don't wind up in the ER having my lungs re-installed afterward, I will come straight to the keyboard and tell you all about it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

For Those Who Love Me Lots

First and most importantly - DONATE.

Otherwise, see below.

Christmas Gift Ideas:
  • Bike Helmet my fab friend Laura is lending me hers, hurrah!
  • Protective gear (esp. gloves)
  • Bike lock (U-lock, please!) got it!
  • Two bottle cages + 2 water bottles
  • Bike rack for my wee little car  got it!
PLEASE NOTE (and I mean this, really truly): none of these things have to be new. As long as they're in sound and functioning condition, they can be a zillion years old and scratched all to hell or uglier than you thought possible. I will not turn my nose up at any of it. Have some fun on Craigslist and tell me all about your mad bargain hunting skillz.

Gift cards to my local bike shops will also be greeted with shouts of Christmas Joy:
Look. I really am going to do this. So if you can help, please please do. If you were planning to wrap up some bubble bath or a scented candle, I'm asking you to ditch that plan and go with anything (or even a partial thing) from the list above. It'll tell me you're rooting for me, and knowing that will help stop my backbone from turning to jelly - it's pretty valuable, knowing there are people who want you to succeed and who want to help if they can. 

Plus, my bath tub sucks and I have enough scented candles to last me til I'm about 60. I mean, cmon. Get me something good.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wait, what?

So yesterday, I went to this meeting at work. Mostly because, hey, look, free lunch. One hour and one sandwich later, I had signed my name on the dotted line and committed to doing a 100-mile bike ride for charity. This, despite the fact that I am not a bike rider.

Like, at all. Not since I was about 12 years old.

"I don't even own a bike," I hedged, only to be informed that it doesn't matter, don't let that stand in my way.

"But I seriously haven't gone on a bike ride since sometime before puberty," I clarified, speaking slowly and enunciating clearly, so there would be no confusion among these charity-athletics gurus as to my extreme lack of ability and general level of sloth. Yet this statement fazed exactly no one, except my fellow sandwich-lovers (who, it must be said, looked way more fit than me. At least the vast majority of them looked like runners and swimmers and whatnot. People who look like they're a few months training away from marathon material. By contrast, I have the approximate physique of a butternut squash. A remarkably stout squash. With legs. And hair. Great hair, but I mean still - great hair will not carry you 100 miles on a bike, whether you own that bike or not, and I do not, and OH MY GOD WHAT DID I SIGN UP FOR. I am NOT kidding about looking like a butternut squash, okay, and I am talking about, like: imagine a butternut squash who swallowed a Christmas ham. All I'm saying is: Oh my dear sweet lord, help me. And that's the end of this parenthetical aside. For now.)

But I've been really wanting to get into bike-riding, you see, and I somehow keep putting it off. I've always thought it would be great to commute by bike, riding down the lake shore path, avoiding the urine-fresh aroma of the red line train every day. But as aforementioned, I do not own a bike. So I just keep thinking I'll do it, allowing it to languish in the misty dim Forest Of Thought instead of releasing it into the Land Of Action. So in the crucial moment, I impulsively figured - hey, good way to kick-start that bike-to-work plan, and fight cancer! And I signed the paper.

And now I am sitting here, distantly aware that I'll start training in less than a month, mentally preparing myself to hit up every last human I encounter to donate to the cause, seeing my boss's half-laughing half-horrified face when I told her I was doing this nutty thing ("Why?!?!!" she asked, with just the right amount of incredulous in the tone), getting excited at the idea of actually accomplishing it, and just generally stunned. I mean, what did I do? Excuse me, um, what? Huh? (Poleaxed is a great word, and appropriate for moments like these.) I suppose it'll start sinking in sometime after I get into training? But for now, I'm just all like "Whoa. I am going to do that. Me, my fat ass, my not-exactly-young bones, my scant muscles, and my non-existent bike: WE ARE GOING TO DO THAT." (then a tiny voice answers: "wait, for real? are we?")

It's about 50 different kinds of awesome, don't even try to deny it. YAY ME. (I think.)

The Cause: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
My Fundraising Goal: $5,000
My Team: AHA through Team In Training
Training Starts: January 7, 2012
The Big Day: June 3, 2012