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Hello! I have not disappeared or been on any particularly far flung exciting adventure. These last couple weeks have been nonstop gardening and cycling and recovering from gardening and cycling. It is currently over 32C/ 90F and we are in the midst of a heatwave! This does not bode well for the summer. It is hard to believe that a little over a month ago there was 16 inches/ 40.6 cm of snow on the ground. All the things that usually get done gradually have been crammed into a few weeks.

First was the big annual plant sale Bookman and I attend. It was fabulous as usual. But it was gray and cold, only 14C/ 58F, a far cry from what it is now! And there was a cold wind that made the plant sale day not a day to be out in the garden. Temperatures at night even got close to frost! So the plants waited. That was the Friday of Mother’s Day weekend.

Saturday I had a 161 km/ 100 mile bike ride. The day began chilly and I had on arm and leg warmers as did most other people who were on the ride. My friend and I began in a crowd of around 500 people. We were cruising along pretty well and I was feeling not bad considering I was on the tail end of a cold. With that many people, traffic light stops made for a huge scrum of cyclists with those who wanted to ride faster trying to move up past the slower riders in front of them to get away as soon as the light changed. Around kilometer 24/ mile 15, my friend and I got separated in the scrum. She was in front of me, and as I was pedaling hard to move up to catch her I got a flat! I had to pull off the road to change it and she had no idea. She actually sped up because she thought I was in front of her! I texted her but her phone was turned off in her pocket. Took me about 15 minutes to change my tire and get back on the road. I pushed hard even though there was no way I could catch my friend. I figured she would wait for me at the support station at 53 km/ 33 miles. And yup, when I pulled in, there she was, sprawled out in the grass, having a snack.

By that time I was warm so I removed my arm and leg warmers and stuffed them in my pockets. I ate a banana and then we were off. At one point later in the ride my friend was in front taking a pull and I was behind her coughing from my cold. She turned around and told me she was glad I was coughing because then she knew for sure I was right behind her and we hadn’t lost each other again!

Damp and dirty after the gran fondo

The wind picked up and the clouds moved in and the warm turned cold and I wished I still had on my warmers. I figured at the 100 km/ 62 mile stop I’d put them back on. Only it started raining a little and by the time we got to the support station I was wet and putting skin tight fleece warmers on wet arms and legs was not going to happen. So I gritted my teeth and took the cold and damp like a true stoic midwesterner.

We drafted along in some smaller groups but would eventually break away from them because we wanted to go faster. We ended up picking up a guy who drafted off us for the rest of the ride. He said he was training for an Ironman in Brazil in June but the guy was clearly struggling a bit and I wondered how he was possibly going to make it through the Ironman. But then his goal for it turned out to be simply to finish before the cutoff time. He was a nice man and I hope he accomplishes his goal.

Yesterday my friend and I road in a 53 km/ 33 mile women-only gravel race. I really wanted to race but this time my friend wasn’t feeling very well and she struggled the entire time just to keep a moderate pace. We didn’t take turns drafting, I just stayed in front trying to make it easy for her. Unfortunately, she did not have a cough and I’d get to a stop sign or the top of a hill and look back to check on her and she wouldn’t be there. So I’d find a shady spot on the side of the road to wait for her. She felt bad that she wasn’t able to keep up and every time told me to not wait for her, but one doesn’t leave a friend out in the middle of nowhere who is struggling. We’d keep together for a little while and then she would drop back behind me and keep dropping back, not saying anything. I felt bad I kept dropping her. It was also hot and humid yesterday like it is today and I am sure that wasn’t helping her at all either. But she kept going and made it to the finish. Took a lot of mental grit for her to get there, so big kudos to her.

One of the things I like about gravel rides is how rural they are. Nothing but tiny towns and farms. The ride yesterday began at a church, and while we all gathered waiting for the start, the killdeer were flying around and making a racket. Killdeer don’t fly very well and whenever I’d look up to watch them I worried they were going to go crashing into a tree or the roof of the church. It doesn’t help that they make a rather panicked shrill call when they are flying by. But I am very fond of them. Back at the end of the 1990s Bookman and I bought our first house, a townhouse, newly built, on the edge of farm fields with some wetlands and a creek not far away. There were killdeer everywhere.

Our townhouse was on the end of the row and our bedroom was on the second floor. We loved to sleep with the two big windows wide open and a cool breeze wafting in. But it never failed on weekends when we most wanted to sleep in just a little, the killdeer would gather at the crack of dawn on the sidewalk outside. There would be close to a dozen of them standing in a circle having a palaver at the top of their shrill little voices. I shouldn’t judge though, perhaps their meetings were of high importance, sharing the news and making plans for the day. Whatever they were doing, Bookman and I came to love their morning gatherings; sometimes we’d joke about invisible water coolers or conference tables.

We lived there for four years before moving to our house in the city. By the time we left there were no more early morning killdeer conferences. All the empty fields around us had been built on or were in the process of being built on. Given our townhouse had been a new development, I should not be surprised that the fields disappeared. I missed, and still miss the killdeer though so seeing them yesterday brought back a flood of happy memories.

Turkey in my neighbor’s yard

The city is not without its wildlife, however. Just a few days ago in the early morning cool on my way to catch my bus, I walked around the corner of my street to be confronted by a turkey! We stood there looking at each other for a second. I said, good morning turkey. I just need to walk by to get to my bus, don’t worry. The turkey walked into my neighbor’s unfenced yard and casually strolled around on the grass while keeping an eye on what I was doing. And yesterday when I got home from my gravel ride a little after noon, there was a bald eagle gliding over the neighborhood.

This is bird watching without having to go in search of birds!

The crit racing continues. Last Monday the local women’s team that has been holding clinics for new racers had one on crashing at a local park. There are two kinds of crit racers, those who have crashed and those who haven’t crashed yet. It sounds terrible and terrifying and I’ve crashed enough all on my own that the thought of crashing with other people involved at high speed gives me a chill, but that is the reality and risks of racing. The majority of the time everyone walks away just fine with a bit of road rash. It hurts but it doesn’t send you to the hospital.

The clinic was intended to take away some of the fear, because if you race scared of crashing then you are a danger to everyone including yourself. We gathered on the grass and practiced rolling “falls.” You teach your body how to do this so if/when you crash it does it without you having to consciously direct it to.

Not all crashes involve forward momentum. Sometimes you go down sideways. If your bike is sliding out sideways from under you there isn’t much you can do but keep your hands protected and your knee turned in toward the bike (so you don’t land on either of them) and just slide. If you are actually falling over sideways, you can soften the fall by unclipping your foot from the pedal in the direction you are falling and using it to slow your fall as you go over falling from foot up — foot, side of calf, side of thigh, side of hip, side of arm, etc. We practiced this on our bikes in slow motion falling onto the side of a grassy hill.

And then someone came up with the idea of playing bike chicken. The idea was to give us all practice in unclipping after we’d come to a complete stop and started to fall over. So, in a grassy area and moving really slow, all 10 to 12 of us began circling with the intention of trying to make each other “fall over.” As soon as you had to unclip and put your foot down, you were out. The last one left was the winner. There were some folks with some skills, let me tell you! We had so much fun we played three rounds before it started getting a little late and everyone decided they should start making their way home (most of us rode there).

The irony of this is that at the crit race the following night, I almost crashed! Almost. The pack had split apart and a junior racer and I were next to each other drafting off a woman right in front of us. The race circuit is on the streets of the State Fairgrounds —three blocks and turn, one block and turn, three blocks and turn, one block and turn. The woman in front of us turned suddenly at the second block, not the third one where we were supposed to turn. The girl and I started to turn too and then realized it was not time to turn and then we corrected but we got ourselves messed up not turning and correcting at the same rate and we bumped shoulders pretty hard while going full speed. We both wobbled. I thought, well of course, here it is, me crashing. But we both got control of our bikes and didn’t go down. The girl apologized profusely and I told her not to worry about it because I got confused too and we were both ok, no harm no foul. But oh, was it close!

There is no crit race this Tuesday night so the racing team doing the clinics is hosting an ice cream fun ride. The racing picks up again for three more weeks in June but I will only be able to make it to one more race because two of them have my category starting super early in the afternoon and it is just too hard and stressful to try and get there right after work. It’s been a really fun series of races though and I will very likely race in it again next year.

That’s the cycling as it currently stands. There are more rides and races to come this summer including a 24-hour race in August. Stay tuned.

In the next day or so I hope to share what’s happening in the garden.