Terii’s Cycling Babble

And There It Is!!
November 14, 2015, 11:44 am
Filed under: Day Rides, Misc

Amazingly, after how harsh the 5.16 mile ride on Thursday, November 5th felt, I pushed myself out again on Friday, November 6th. The new Black Ops game was out and Jens was in a frenzy to play, begging me to take Loke out with the trike so he could veg in front of the TV with it.

It turned out to be a very short ride. One of the shortest of the year. The only ones that have been as short or shorter are those where I’m rolling the trike back to the storage in the twilight after Jens had gotten home from work to bring me back home. My legs had no power. Every turn of the pedals took a lot of effort and determination, it seemed. I think the only reason it was as far as 2.31 miles was because some of it was downhill and Loke pulled some. I still had a hard time walking the short distance between the storage and the car.

Hubby’s focus on Black Ops or not, I determinedly made Saturday a rest day. Yes, I wanted to break 1000 miles, the sooner the better. I also wanted my rides to feel at least somewhat enjoyable. Gritting my teeth and forcing exhausted muscles that need time for rebuilding to crank pedals at half my usual cadence is not what I call fun. Particularly for something as mind-numbingly tedious as local rides.

I bulked up on protein and took Loke for very short, but fairly frequent walks. Jens finally relented and interrupted his game obsession to hurry Loke through a longer walk.

After 3 days of pushing myself on consecutive rides after 3 weeks of barely riding at all, I felt pretty good after just that one day of rest. With that recharge, I let Jens happily play on before heading out for a ride around 10:45 am on Sunday, November 8th.

It's trying to come out! The sun that is.

It’s trying to come out! The sun that is.

It had been raining all that morning, which had left me filled with doubts about getting out, but then the rain slacked off. To give me an extra boost to endure a local loop, I decided to swing by the American Food store. It’s been a while.

The thermometer insisted it was about 44-45 F, but when I stepped out the chill was like a slap in the face. It prompted a mad dash back inside to pull on another layer of protection. Perhaps it was the wind, but to me, it felt more like it was near freezing.

Wind rippled water

Wind rippled water

Instead of heading directly south toward town, I took the first leg of the River Loop, turning north, climbing the overpass and then flying down big hill toward the bridge. From there, I followed along the water’s edge before zig-zagging into the heart of the city. It was a gray morning and blustery.

At least the breaking clouds and attempts of the sun to emerge put fears of rain to rest. Wool or not, getting wet with that wind would have been downright unpleasant. Loke was happy to be out again. His legs, getting darker and darker with mud were a blur as he trotted briskly along, seeming to enjoy the chill breeze ruffling his fur.

Alas, I didn’t get to step into the American Food store. They’ve moved from their street side location into one of the many, small downtown malls. I was convinced that they opened at 11 am. Nope! The mall was locked tight until noon on Sundays. When I came back to the trike, Loke gave me such a hopeful look, big brown eyes wide and expectant as his bushy tail wagged. I didn’t have the heart to torture him by waiting there for 20 minutes. Nor did I have the interest in circling the area for that long. Onward!

I couldn’t decide exactly how I wanted to loop back toward the storage. I figured I had two choices and the turn between them was further on, in the area where my husband’s parents used to live.

Ouch! Loke's poor feet!

Ouch! Loke’s poor feet!

I think I’ll try to avoid that stretch for a little while. I’d completely forgotten that the cycle path is lined with chestnut trees of all things. The nuts, in their spiny casings have mostly fallen, but now are being pummeled by bike tires and probably the feet of the people who have the misfortune to risk twisting an ankle by stepping on them.

It made for a jarring ride with the trike, but at least I can’t clip and tumble. The bigger problem was Loke. The few nuts that were whole and out of their casings weren’t so bad, but the pointy bits of split rinds and cracked shells made him wince when he came down on them just so. We took it slow and I wove carefully back and forth to try keeping him in the better stretches.

When it came time to choose which loop to pick, it was the call of nature that decided. I needed a restroom. The turn to finish up with about 12 miles that would take me along part of the Linne trail by the river and back through downtown Uppsala really had no option for that. The other way was to head toward the Granby mall which meant passing Vaksala church. Built into part of the churchwall there is a brick and stone building that dates to the 1600’s (or is it 1700’s?) and within are restrooms. Nature chose for me.

From there it was a quick jaunt toward the mall and swinging through the 4H grounds. The clouds had been breaking up and thinning since leaving downtown. By the time the mall was at my back and we plunged down the hill to the parkland behind the pastures, the sky was mostly blue with puffy clumps of white and glorious sun.

The meerkat is back! Crappy iPhone photo or not!

The meerkat is back! Crappy iPhone photo or not!

Along one of the paths hugging a pasture fence line, I was glad to see an old friend.

This park has a number of sculptures. I couldn’t even tell you what the others are, but this one has always made me smile. Not sure why there’s a bronze meerkat here in Sweden of all things, but there he stands, keeping watch.

Or usually. I think I neglected to mention that on the previous ride through here, I was disheartened and a bit angry to discover vandals had covered the pedestal in graffiti and the meerkat was gone. Bronze is not light. It must have taken real determination to wrench it loose and carry it off.

Yet, here it was, back in place and overlooking path and pasture like before, pedestal mostly cleaned up. I wondered if they’d recovered him or if there was a little storage room somewhere, full of 2′ tall bronze meerkats waiting their turn. I find that oddly creepy.

Such statues bear the brunt of destructive people. Even the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen harbor has had her hardships. I seem to recall she’s had her head removed at least twice.

The Golden Path. Yes, a geeky Dune reference.

The Golden Path. Yes, a geeky Dune reference.

Beyond there is the homestretch. It left me with one more visual treat though. Turning left where the park ends at the verge of a complex of apartment blocks, it passes through a tangled growth of conifers. Many of them have shed their needles in preparation for winter. They’d all gone golden and beautifully covered the path. Loke gave me such a rude look when I braked hard to pull out the iPhone. Too pretty to resist.

Finished up back at the storage with 10.82 miles which I found most satisfactory as it left just a bit more than 26 miles remaining for my goal. It also had the distinction of being Loke’s longest run since his surgery in October. He still had plenty of energy left, but I still felt some effect from the hard riding earlier in the week and getting accustomed to the clunky, studded front tires.

Those tires were starting to cause me a bit of stress. They’re not cheap and while one is supposed to ride a bit on them to set the studs before hitting snow and ice, they’re not meant to hammer pavement exclusively. The studs are tough but they will wear down. Not to mention, they take quite a bit more effort to push than my other tire choice. There’s still be no news on my ‘summer’ tires though. I was trying to cheer myself up about it by telling my conscience to think about how much stronger I’m getting. How much easier it will be when I do make the change back to standard tires.

Monday, I made into a rest day.

It was easy enough. Jens headed off to Copenhagen on business. Instead of flying, his dad came along and they took his car. My FIL absolutely adores Copenhagen so was delighted at his son’s offer to share the hotel for the chance to wander the city and surrounding areas while my hubby tended to clients.

Loke was surprisingly quiet for the entire day. He played rug and for the first half of it. I had to bully him out the door for the short walks. He didn’t so much as say ‘hi’ to me of his own accord until about 9 pm. Then he came over and got in my face, nudging me with an expectantly wagging tail, before bounding over to the door. I wasn’t fooled. He didn’t need to go out so much as him knowing how it is. 9 pm, he gets the last walkies and then comes dinner. Sure enough, once out the door, he couldn’t hustle me around the short block fast enough to charge back inside and sit by his food bowl.

I don’t have a husky. I have a black hole covered in fur…

I take pictures of this view way too often.

I take pictures of this view way too often.

Tuesday, October 10th, I felt strong enough to go out again.

It was a gorgeous day. Utterly clear skies and I remember the air being wonderfully still.

Loke was thrilled to have such an early go of the day.

I headed out along the usual beginning of the River Loop, intending to do what I’ve dubbed as the Vittulsberg Loop. It can be either 10 or 14 miles. Usually I do the 10 miler because there’s about a 2 mile stretch between flat, featureless fields of pure tedium I simply have no patience for.

That plan ended up being cut short, by a decision to take the Grave Mound paths. While the longer distance called in such lovely weather and my goal so close, I felt annoying short on stamina after my day’s rest.

The combination of the gorgeous November light, particularly early on such a stunning day and a few things I was curious about set me out with a smile on my face. The happy furball beside me, breath puffing in a soft pant through his husky grin, added to my tolerance for such old ground. I can even say I enjoyed it.

At least it was a pretty day. At this time of year, I find gray, raining weather annoying because it really should be a winter wonderland in this part of Sweden. The River should be frozen with the tracks of hares and foxes crisscrossing the snow. The fields, plowed for winter, should be blanketed in white, not showing a dreary, muddy brown surface that looks even worse when the sun is closed away behind a leaden sky. There were even earthworms on the cycle way. Earthworms! In November in Sweden! Seriously? I want winter, dammitall! Not critters wriggling on pavement when they should be dug down deep and dormant under snow.

We rolled along the river, followed Gamla Uppsala road to the mosque to continue on to the Gamla Uppsala proper. Just across the rail tracks and up the gentle hill past the museum, I found out why they had cordoned off the little mound in front of the restaurant last month.

It's getting a fence! Yay!

It’s getting a fence! Yay!

Fencing! Ever since I’ve been in Uppsala, this poor little mound has taken the abuse of countless feet eroding its surface. Breaks my heart to see the scars on the surface. A couple years ago, they tore out sections of fencing from around the bigger mounds which led to a stampede of people that way. It’s given this mound a chance to recover as it sits ignored thanks to the lure of the much higher views.

Love the light here at this time of year!

Love the light here at this time of year!

Of course, that’s meant the royal mounds are showing the damage of such attention. Earthen scars on their faces, torn open by herds of people and mountain bikes in snow-less seasons and by sleds when blanketed in white. During rain and thaw, those wounds weep mud, cutting them even deeper. They’ve endured a thousand years or more, but people who want a high view of the surrounding landscape are just battering them down. Yes, I’ve climbed them. Only once and it will be years more (if ever) that I do it again. I also went with care and avoided the erosion, stepping on hearty growth that shrugs off the passing of a single person and a dog.

I guess they pulled down the fence around the larger mounds to give people something to climb while the small mound is allowed to ‘rejuvenate’. It’s a project put in place by for just that reason. If that’s the case, they should have waited until they closed off this mound to make the abuse the larger ones took more brief. The sign seems to imply that this mound will be protected until the vegetation reclaims the eroded paths and it will be reopened in several years. Pity if that’s the case.

Even after all these years, Loke still loves it when we come through this area, as do I. We hit the gravel path and his pushes his speed until his legs become a blur at a trot and sometimes pulls into a lope. He still makes an effort to run down the big hill though the days of 18-20 mph charges are well behind him. I need to remember to take him easier down such slopes though. I’d hate to hurry along his arthritis that way. Much better to keep him jogging longer than running harder but more briefly.

As we came through the wooded section and navigated the short climbs, one quite steep, we soon arrived at the next point of curiosity.

That's a lot of clay...

In comes the clay… September, 2015

For the past year or so, there’s been work done on a stretch of fields along the gravel path between a portion of what I call the River Loop and out toward the mounds. It started off as huge pits. Not very deep, only 3 or 4 yards, but huge, 100 or 200 yards or more in all directions. At first I was worried it was some large scale construction, that a honking huge, cookie-cutter residential area was going to be plonked down with the MUP path turned into a road.

... and in comes the topsoil!

… and in comes the topsoil! November 2015

Turns out it is a project to restore the natural clay subsurface to the area. There was a brickworks somewhere around there and it stripped the clay layer from the environment for it’s production line. Sure enough, they started filling in those pits with endless truckloads of clay. Restoration I can respect, but I do wonder where they’re getting the clay from.

It surprised me how far it’s come since I rode through here last. They were still working to flatten the mounds of imported clay and the double path had been merged into a single early in the project. Now, they’re bringing the topsoil back in. They’d not started laying it out yet, but at least it’s there and waiting. I was also surprised to find they’d re-established the 2nd path again. Honestly, I expected that they’d leave it as a single through that stretch. It made me oddly happy they were returning the area back to the place of many fond memories. Or even less fond, like getting stung 3 times by a yellow jacket that Loke angered… on my birthday.

Finished the ride with 7.28 miles which left less than 19 miles for my goal!

I found the reason for my low stamina and it had less to do, I think, with hefty tires and tired muscles. My cadence was up. Most times since the stroke, my ‘cruising’ spin has been roughly 62-68 RPM. It peaks higher clearly and I often had a few minutes here or there where I’d hold 75-78 RPM for a time. The October 11th ride, it had taken an inexplicable leap of nearly 10 RPM. I was ‘cruising’ at 76-80 with brief moments in the 82 RPM range. I shocked! Thrilled, but still shocked! I didn’t have the stamina for a longer ride at that pedal pace, which was a bit of a pity, but to see such a sign of increased fitness is great!

Then it was out again on Wednesday, November 11th. Another beautiful day.

Went out again about as early as the day before, 8:30 am or so, which isn’t very long after sunrise at this time of year. The temp was a bit higher than expected as I rolled out, about 40 F. So, imagine the surprise upon discovering frost over the grass and patches of fallen leaves in some places. Mostly it was in areas where the sun doesn’t really get to in November. The narrow cycle paths lined with tall, unclipped hedges and trees is a good example. Some of those sections even had frost on the pavement or a fine skin of ice where the wet from the last rain held on thanks to high humidity over the passing days.

Unexpected frost

Unexpected frost

As we came down the big hill leading down to the river, I was glad of my studded tires. They finally came in handy! I hadn’t realized the icy condition of the cycle path at that moment, even when stopped to take a photo of frosted, fallen leaves I thought was pretty. I stopped just fine, annoying Loke. When I went to stand up, one foot shot out from under me and I plopped back in the seat. I hadn’t noticed even during the stop because of the studs.

Love the weather!

Love the weather!

Studs were good. Coming down that big, frosted hill would have been more excitement than Loke could handle otherwise. Or me for that matter. Skidding out of control faster than he can run. Not a good image. Hey! Something more like we should have in late autumn at least and no earthworms!

Other than that, it was just another River Loop. Sunny skies, nice light, down hill, across river, blah, blah, blah. It spared me from the 2 early-in-the-day walks with Loke and gave me 6.62 miles toward the 1000 mile goal. That left just 11.67 miles! 2 rides or so at the rate I’d been going.

My legs were somewhat tired from the 7+ miles at higher cadence the day before. This means my RPMs were more like my old speeds.

Loke was also a bit sluggish on the outing which could easily have been boredom so intense his brain was shutting down for sleep. I so know the feeling. Just with my mileage being so low and the days feeling so very short, makes it hard to plan longer rides. We still have over 7 hours of daylight current and at least now, the rate of loss in daylight is now less than 5 minutes a day, but I still feel that there’s not enough time for something like another leg of the Mälardalsleden. I guess I need to shake that off before the snow comes. Maybe if we’re still snow free and my narrow tires arrive for next weekend?

Snow would at least do that much. Take this scenery I’m so bored of and make it magical and new. It is pretty scenery, I feel bad that I’m weary of it, but there it is.

Thursday, November 12, I took another rest. No need to push things until every turn of the pedals is a titanic struggle before giving myself a recovery day. Besides, it was probably good for Loke too just in case he’d been draggy because he was tired rather than bored.

That might have been the case because about 4:30 pm, he turned into a pest and remained so even after a couple walks. I had no wish to wrestle the trike out in the dark and get a headache from glaring headlights in my face.

Not to mention rain. It was gray and miserable, above freezing, all day. Got wet on all the walks I took with the furball.

The forecast indicated that Friday morning was going to be rain free with Saturday and Sunday pretty nice. I considered waiting for the weekend to ride again. Loke being perky changed my mind though. Jens was coming back from Copenhagen and he’d appreciate a husky with somewhat reduced energy levels.

That 11+ miles kept nagging at me too. My legs felt pretty good, rain wasn’t supposed to arrive until sometime after noon so I’d miss it if I got an early enough start. I decided I was going to do something other than the River Loop. Maybe the loop out toward Läby and come back through Uppsala. That didn’t have much appeal honestly. It had been ages since I’d done Ulva/Gamla Uppsala and it’s right about 12 miles. Enough to put me over 1000 for 2015 and hopefully not too harsh with studded tires.

Loke was thrilled as we set off. So was I. Yes, it was gray and looked like the bottom could fall out of the clouds any moment, but I was headed for the countryside which I’d not passed in a couple months. Not new, but at least I’d not seen it 6-8 times in the past 2 weeks.

I also felt surprisingly warm. Roughly 37 F just as we left the storage behind and once out among the fields and woods, my Garmin showed 33 F. Yet, I didn’t need my jacket and even my gloves stayed packed away. Maybe the faring was helping with that? Hard to know. In the shoe-covers my feet felt almost too warm which certainly helped keep the rest of my body temp up.

It mocks me.

It mocks me.

Once we crested the steep little climb on Gamla Börje Road, I breathed a sigh of relief. Loke tried to run, clearly glad for different sights and scents. As we rolled along that little countryroad, I spotted the poles that line the rural roads in the winter.

Such a cruel tease. A reminder of what should be, but stubbornly refuses to come. Snow! Just a couple inches would be lovely. Enough to brighten the landscape even if it melts from the roads and paths quickly. Granted, we need a few days of good hard freezes for it to stick any where.

Loke was happy at least. Even without snow, the taller weeds are disappearing from the edge of the roads. How very kind of someone to set up an endless array of tall, if narrow objects for him to leave his ‘marks’ on during countryside runs. He tries to do just that on every one that I come too close too. If I’m almost close enough, but not quite, he gives me such a dirty look.

About the trike I reached the countryside, the sun made a fitful attempt to break through the clouds. It was no more than a pale disk visible against the gray. A few minutes later, it did a little better.

Meh, but at least not the River Loop

Meh, but at least not the River Loop

It was a brief flirtation though and it quickly vanished leaving a leaden, shadowless haze.

Snow would be nicer than plowed mud...

Snow would be nicer than plowed mud…

When he wasn’t trying to swerve over to mark poles, Loke set a surprisingly brisk pace. He wanted to clip along at about 8 mph, sometimes faster. I had no problem matching him with a cadence as high has it had been on November 10th. At first, I tried to temper myself to a lower pace with 10 more miles to go. The moment my mind wandered with my eyes across the scenery, it crept back up.

I gave up and let my legs go as they wanted. When we came to a semi-flat stretch, I surprised myself. Loke stretched his legs to jog along at 9.2 mph. A quick glance at the Garmin displayed 83 RPM. For 20 minutes, we zipped along and every time I looked over at my cadence it was consistently over 80.

For me, that is very impressive to sustain over that duration. At least since the stroke. I never paid much attention to cadence before.

Once we got to an area less flat, I made a concerted effort to stay under 80 RPM at the very least. I wasn’t sure how long my knees could sustain such a pace and didn’t want to find out the hard way.

The clouds had to struggle to keep their grip across the sky. The sun made a few more struggles to emerge, once even enough that our shadows ran faintly beside us for about half a mile. I even saw pale smudges of blue between the gray at times. In the end though, the overcast won though at least the clouds were more dramatic instead of a featureless lead sheet.

I kept a close eye on my Garmin for more than cadence. According to my input on BikeJournal.com, I needed 11.67 miles to be at 1000 for the year. So, I was going to declare it official when the mile count for the ride hit 11.7. By that guideline, every time it showed X.7 miles, I counted down. 6.7 miles, 5 left, etc…

That kept me focused as we came up to Ulva Mill. I made the turn I usually do to go by the cluster of old buildings with the joiner and silversmith and come out near the mill itself.

That whole area was closed off with temporary fencing around big holes. I guess they’re working on the water and such. I had to loop back out and take road around the turn. It wasn’t just the courtyard area between the buildings they were digging up. There was an area on the far side of the mill race that was slightly dug up too. It looked like they were making repairs to some of the stone lining the race itself.

I still felt pretty strong as I climbed up from the river, one of the steepest climbs on that particular loop. I could feel the weariness though. I was going to be glad to get back home.

Then it was the long but gradual climb along the old E4. About a mile of fast moving traffic through there. At least there’s a wide shoulder so the cars never come closer than 8 feet or so.

Cutely curious.

Cutely curious.

Loke and I both breathed a sigh of relief as I made the turn onto the quieter road that leads to Gamla Uppsala. The first part of it goes fast and then it’s another short, but semi-steep climb.

We had an audience as I cranked up with climb. Not far from the fenceline, a pair of cows watched with that blank curiosity only cows can pull off. The cream colored one never looked away near as I could tell. The brown one glanced in other directions from time to time.

Seemed odd there were only those two in the pasture. Maybe they evaded notice when the rest were brought in.

Even the mounds were kinda 'meh' in this weather

Even the mounds were kinda ‘meh’ in this weather

In moments, I was pedaling up past the Gamla Uppsala church. I still smile every time I see it. Imagining it during its glory days when it was the cathedral of the archbishop of Uppsala, before the town was moved to present day Uppsala.

Coming along the grave mound path was work. All the rain we’ve had has turned the gravel to mush. It’s not as bad as miring mud or sand, but it is extra work added to the studded tires. The murky sky and surrounding fields all in shades of brown made even the royal mounds seem rather dreary. Loke, all black around the belly and legs from mud, didn’t mind the wet. He doesn’t like puddles or rain, but hardly notices when he gets all mucky from wet ground.

When my Garmin showed 10.7 miles, I watched it much more closely. 1 mile. 0.9 mile, 0.8 mile….

Yay! 11.7 miles which means 1000 for the year!

Yay! 11.7 miles which means 1000 for the year!

And then there it was! 11.7 miles which officially put me over 1000 miles. 1000.03 actually.

It never fails to baffle Loke when I cheer at something. He gives me a strange look and then looks around for whatever I’m making noise about. I also texted Jens, who was, at that moment, driving across Sweden from Denmark, news of the accomplishment.

It was just a short jaunt to the storage from 11.7 miles. The ride finished with 12.38 miles. Once I plugged it into BikeJournal.com, it said I had 1000.24 miles for 2015.

There’s still more than 6 weeks left. BikeJournal has 1,220 miles listed for 2008, my most miles in a year ever. The math insists I need to do a minimum of 37 miles a week to break it with 1,225 miles.

I would love to do it, but weather and my resistance to longer local rides makes it feel rather iffy so I’ve not really set it as a goal.

It would be awesome though… wouldn’t it?





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