Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Realities of biking in Duluth - or running

Hills are not an option!

I am trying to bike to work more often - and other places as well. I live about two miles from where I work, depending on which route you take. Silly to drive. Exactly how one would get the worst gas mileage possible out of their car!

One of the doctors at the clinic bikes most days - winter included. My inspiration. He has two small children, long hours, yet still manages - makes my excuses seem pretty lame. There are a few other diehard bike commuters in town, too.

Anyway, one of the "realities" of my commute is the hill. I live near the ridgeline. I work near the shoreline. There is about a 300 foot difference in elevation and it all occurs in less than a mile. Great when your commute involves heading down the hill, a bit of a trudge for the way back up. I have to admit that the ride home has been the issue for me. It is one I am attempting to conquer.

So far I have managed two consecutive days on my bike. This is following a 20+ long run on the SHT on Sunday. Talk about hills! Yesterday I rode to work, taking the short route (2.5 miles) through Lincoln Park. The parkway is a fun ride. Curves, woods, river. Nice way to start the day. Lincoln Park Drive is also my usual route home. I used to ride a different way, weaving my way up the hill and ending with a grind up two steep blocks before I hit the relative flatness of 10th St. I gave the Drive a try and found that it is much more rideable. It has several crests along that way that give you a break, but overall is one steady uphill. Thank goodness for really low gears!

I ride a Gary Fisher Marlin with some pretty aggressive, knobby tires. The guys at the local bike shop got a laugh out of trying to fit it with a rack. I believe it is an XS frame (14") and the geometry is a little different, so finding a rack that fit was a challenge. We ended up needing a new, longer seat post and attaching the rack to that (my old seat post was extended as far as it was safe to go already). It is a bit odd to see a mountain bike outfitted for commuting, but you ride what you have. I figure the knobby tires make for good resistance and provide me with the strength training I would never accomplish otherwise.

Today was very hot! Low to mid 70's by 9 or 10 am and predicted to hit the upper 80's. Would have been perfect heat training if I'd gone for a run. Instead I opted to stay at home, pay bills, take care of some phone calls and then head to work the long way. I headed out from the house on the usual route but instead of going downhill at Lincoln Park Drive I turned right and headed up - gaining 169 feet or so in the first mile (much of it all at once). Then it was on to the real fun for the day!

40th Ave W. It is one of only a few roads in Duluth that goes through the hills (think of a mountain pass). It is very curvy, has almost no shoulder to speak of, and is only two lanes. I have run it once - when the road was closed to traffic. Today I road down it! You lose 450 feet of elevation in less than a mile. I am not the bravest of souls so was on the brakes for most of the ride down, but still was going pretty fast. Not too many cars on the road due to the time of day (11:00 am) so safe in that respect. The scariest part was crossing the railroad tracks littered with spilled taconite pellets. Think smallish marbles. Had a pretty big grin on my face when I turned the corner onto 8th St and hit the flats. Took me a total of 20 minutes to get to work (4 miles) including a stop at Walgreens for snacks. I can hardly beat that in my car.

So, hill training.... ever present aspect of my life. Even when I am not running or biking I have the climb from the road to my house (100+ feet, 36 steps). I laughed years ago when an orthopedic doc told me to avoid steps and hills after diagnosing me with Illiotibial Band Syndrome.

Living on the hillside gives everyone in the family a base level of fitness flatlanders may never have. Plus the views are so worth it!

A bit of randomness:

We have a hop plant that grows on one side of our front porch. Hops are amazing! Each fall they die back to the ground and each spring they emerge and grow about a foot a day. Our hop plant would be past the front porch roof if we let it keep going up (the decking of our front porch is about 10-12 feet off the ground, the roof another 8 feet or so). It is the first week of July and the hops are up to the ceiling of the front porch and heading across to the other pillar. They are so thick that you can barely see through them and provide nice shade. We have harvested the hops in the past for brewing and medicinal uses (the flowers are supposed to be a good sleep aid). The vines are quite scratchy though and have been known to make some members of the family break out if they get scraped by them.

Yesterday a robin decided to build a nest on the pillar next to the front steps. This has happened once before. I end up feeling a bit guilty about using the front entrance as our presence tends to startle her off the nest - scary for all parties involved. On the other hand, if our presence was so disturbing you would think she wouldn't nest there. This robin is not quite as good an architect as our last one was. She is a bit messy in her technique and is leaving long trails of vegetation hanging over the edge.

Tomorrow I am taking time off to bring my eldest in to have four wisdom teeth pulled. Since I need to be there throughout the procedure I am planning on bringing my knitting and getting some progress made on that hat - or maybe it should be the bird mittens? Hmmm, decisions, decisions. I have a new pattern tempting me also. Someone posted a ribbed hat to KnitU and I am itching to give it a try. It takes a lot of discipline to finish what you have started and I am determined to get these two projects done before casting on anything new. Really I am!

1 comment:

Chris said...

Wow - I'm very impressed by your using a super knobby kinda mountain bike for that commute!

Hope the wisdom teeth removal went well...