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The approaching storm

I meant to post on Thursday about Wednesday’s book group but things cycling took over and my time went whoosh! It was a hot, dry week and Bookman and I emptied our rain barrels trying to keep all the still small plants in the garden from being burnt to a crisp. We mostly succeeded but some wee things are not going to come back most likely.

This morning though we were out at breakfast with a friend in St Paul and the sky became black and then it turned green and the wind came howling and the rain began in fat drops that quickly turned into a downpour and then the hail came down. It was all rather exciting. When Bookman and I got home we had no electricity. There were a few tree branches down here and there but all was fine at our house. The Dashwoods were damp but doing well and wanting to be let out and about. The garden got watered and some plants were flattened but hopefully they will spring back up. The rain barrels are once again full.

The warm season seeds we planted last weekend are beginning to sprout. Beans, zucchini, pumpkins. We

Walking onion

planted the tomato and pepper sprouts in the garden last night and I am not sure if they will all make it but we shall see how that goes. The lettuce isn’t quite big enough for picking yet but it is getting there. The peas are starting to flower. The garlic scapes are beginning to fatten up and I suspect I will be cutting those in the next few days. I can hardly wait! The potatoes are big enough that we have to begin mounding up around them. So exciting!

With the heat I was really worried about the berry shrubs and the apple trees and that they might start dropping fruit. The apples did drop some, but not so much that there still won’t be a good harvest come fall. Lost a few tiny grapes and a few cherries but not as much as I had feared. What a relief!

Dashwood butts

The Dashwoods got lots of ice cubes and trays of cold water to cool their feet in. They would get so excited about the ice cubes thinking they were food, and their disappointment was palpable. They would peck at the cubes a few times and look at me in a chicken-y WTF? way. It was funny except I suspect if they had the power they would have preferred to do something other than glare at me (cf. Hitchcock’s “The Birds”). As it was Elinor jumped up on my back Wednesday night when I took them some thistle leaves for a snack and she didn’t want to get down. When Marianne hops up she hangs out for a minute and then gets down. Elinor, I feel like if I had a cluck translator she’d be saying something like, “you’re mine bitch!” But since I don’t have that translator I can just imagine she’s saying “giddiup!” or something.

So the cycling that took over all my free time was two-fold. First I am taking part in a fitness challenge on Zwift. It is eight weeks of structured workouts. Participants were assigned teams and the team that completes all the workouts and has the biggest increase in fitness, measured in ftp change, wins. I don’t think we actually win anything other than bragging rights and being more fit, but you know, it’s worth the effort. So Thursday I had a longer workout I had to do and didn’t manage to fit blogging in along with it.

Too bad I can’t photograph the wind

Yesterday was the Dirty Benjamin gravel race. This is the 100 mile/161 km race I did last year and didn’t finish because of heat exhaustion. Well this year looked like it was going to be a repeat with the heat and humidity. I began pre-hydrating on Wednesday, drinking extra water. Friday night I had some popcorn with a bit of extra salt on it to help me retain some water. We froze some water bottles that I would carry with me and we got Bookman’s cooling vest activated so I could wear it before the race to keep my core temperature down.

I was totally prepared for the heat.

I was not prepared for the wind or the sand. It has been so dry here for two weeks that parts of some of the roads had been churned up by car tires and turned to deep sand. While I have wider tires on my bike, they have no tread because on gravel tread does not help you. But sand, tread is helpful in sand. If it was only a short stretch I could power through but there were some longer stretches that even went up hills and I could get no traction at all, my rear wheel would just spin and sometimes slide right out from under me. I couldn’t ride clipped onto my pedals in case I had to put a foot down suddenly. And I frequently had to dismount and walk through the sandy sections, especially on hills. This in itself was not fun but it was all part of the challenge.

Battle wounds

What did me in was the wind. The wind was blowing so hard it kept pushing me off the road! And three times it actually knocked me over. The first time I went down it was no big deal. I was going so slow I was more embarrassed than anything. The second time I hit the ground a bit harder and came up scraped and bleeding on my leg. The third time I got a few more scrapes and bruises and Carter got a little dented. The wind was unrelenting, the day was getting hotter and hotter, it had been over five hours already and I wasn’t even halfway through the course, I was spending more energy fighting the wind just to keep upright and on the road then I was in going forward so I decided to call Bookman for a rescue.

I wished there was some way I could suddenly put on weight like some of the beefier guys that I passed. They were slow but the wind wasn’t blowing them off the road! A very nice guy tried to convince me to keep going, but I was tired of getting knocked over. In the end, I made it just over 45 miles/72 km in five hours and forty minutes. Generally I can do that distance on gravel on a breezy day in a little over three hours. On pavement I would be getting close to 100 miles after five and half hours. So it was a pretty miserable day.

Bookman brought a first-aid kit with him and I cleaned up my scrapes as best I could. The amount of dirt I washed off in the shower was astonishing. Today my legs are scabby, lumpy and covered in colorful bruises but I look a lot worse than I feel. I actually feel just fine and am making plans for how to conquer the Dirty Benjamin next year. I need slightly bigger tires with a little bit of nub for traction in sand. I can’t really do anything about making myself heavier so the wind doesn’t blow me over, but if I have better traction in the sandy parts I just might be able to pull it off. I might have been knocked down, but I am not defeated!