Category Archives: Exercise

It’s Been a Year

EilBethCB_Pre_Bikes2As usual, Cookie, Tiger, and I did the Bike MS Tour de Farms ride – June 22, 2019

And I’m still fundraising, but we’ll get to that later.

The fact that it’s taken me this long to blog about the ride this year is a testament to how wacky the last few months have been. There were times I wasn’t completely sure I was going to ride. We had some health issues in the family starting around February, so training was a greater challenge than it sometimes is. And then there was…


Okay, that’s been going on for a while no matter what the Big Oil Companies want to you to believe. I refer you to Bill McKibben’s scary book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

I know there are people in way worse shape than our family, but here’s how it hit us: This past May was the wettest in Chicago’s recorded history.

So there wasn’t much decent riding weather, which interfered with our training regimens.

The weather also meant that our yard (where the drainage has never been terrific) has pretty much been a wetland all spring and summer.

There’s been a lovely moat all around the deck

So in addition to trying to finish the novel I started in 2016, and dealing with the aforementioned health issues, we also had to find a solution to the standing water before the disease-bearing mosquitoes decided to make our yard their refuge.

(Talk to me later if you want to hear the horror stories about the neighbor who decided that somehow we caused the drainage issues and was threatening to sue us.)

Anyhoo. Just when I thought events could hardly increase my tension level, my beloved bicycle—the one I was planning to ride at the event—fell off the back of a bike trailer as we were on our way to a training ride. Poor Skippy.

R.I.P. Skippy

She was mortally injured and now has become an organ parts donor at Working Bikes Cooperative

I was inconsolable, but BK dragged me out immediately after the incident and bought me a new bike. And in more good news, it looks like insurance will cover the loss.

I’m calling her Summit after the late legendary University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach, Pat Summitt.


Summitt is also an aspirational name. I’m hoping that it will encourage me to do better on ascents.

Summit did me proud on the ride. We went 35 miles! Not as good as a couple of years ago, when we were riding 50, but Cookie, Tiger, and I all had stuff going on this spring, so we opted to do 35.

Tiger and Cookie raised funds like champs, but I’m afraid I fell down on the job this year. 2019 is the first time in several years that I might not achieve Gold Spokes status.

So if my tale of woe has awakened pity in your breast and you’re wondering how to allot your charitable giving this year, I could sure use the boost. I’m still eligible to join the Gold Spokes until about August 20. Here’s a link to my fundraising page 

If that doesn’t work for some reason, please let me know.

Thanks again to Cookie, Tiger, BK, Rocky, the Raupp family, my cousins Steve, Cecelia & Brian, Mickey, Kevin, Ann, Emmi, Kurt, Randy, the White family, Katherine L, and the Musto family. Your generosity is so much appreciated!

In case you’re interested, here are a few more pictures from the ride:

Beth_Pre EileenPre CB_Pre2

EileenBeth_Post BethCB_Post2

BethEileenAfter NoPixPls

Bike MS Tour de Farms 2017

Power Pedallers Randy, me, Tiger, Cookie, and Tyler – can you spot who was photoshopped in later?

Sigh. The most wonderful time of the year has once again come and gone.

Tour de Farms 2017 was a real challenge. In addition to how little training time we seemed to have, we have never ridden anywhere near this long with winds of 20 mph, gusting sometimes to near 30. I used to think headwinds were the worst, but that was before I learned what a 30 mph crosswind can do to you… or more properly speaking, your partners in crime.

Cookie and Tiger meet some sheep at Rest Stop #1

Cookie and Tiger had a tough go of it. I think they still are glad they came, but it’s harder to have fun while being blown off one’s bike, or onto a gravel shoulder you had no desire to end up in. When you’re a dainty, delicate flower like Cookie or Tiger, you are far more likely to be blown sideways by a good crosswind.

I, however, am quite heavy and was thus able to keep my seat. Don’t let anyone tell you there is nothing good about being fat. It was easier to stay on my bike. Oh, and my bone density is also swell.

Our team, the Power Pedallers, raised nearly $7,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Cookie, Tiger, Randy, and Tyler will have their own folks to thank, but here’s my list:

Thanks to BK for tons of support of every imaginable kind leading up to the ride and over the weekend.

Thanks to Sis and Al for generous donations and moral support. It was wonderful to have them with us during the weekend.

Thanks also to donors Lorie & Steve, Cecelia & Brian & Emily (oh my!), Danielle, Cookie, Kishin & Rita, Elizabeth & Jay, Tim, Katherine L.,  Ann, Lori, Rocky, Quentin, and Kevin. You are all my heroes!

Two holes, three riders: me, Tiger and Cookie


Less Writing, More Biking

The happiest time of the year has come and gone.Bike MS Tour de Farms is over. Sigh. The following is an account of our last week of training and the event itself.

1. Cookie was ready!

Cookie in front of the waterfall

Friday, June 19 – we went for a longish bike ride to see how we would hold up. A roundabout route through scenic western suburbs from my house to Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, a lap and a half around the preserve and then another roundabout route back through different scenic suburbs netted us about 40 miles. We planned to ride the Tour’s 50-mile route and figured that if we could ride 40 miles, we could ride 50. We succeeded with our 40-mile route. In fact, with an overall speed of 11 mph (much of it on crushed limestone), we were about as fast as we’ve ever been for a ride of that length. (We are not fast. Just saying.) So we felt great about our upcoming ride.

2. Complications…

Sunday, June 21 – we did a cooldown ride, just to make sure our muscles still worked. Cookie had had a rough night. She had developed a rash which she figured out was probably shingles. She was already on an antiviral medication (she’s proactive that way) and hoped that it wouldn’t develop into a full blown case.

Tuesday, June 23 – I planned about a 20-mile solo ride, just to keep in shape. I started strong—over 11 miles, my speed averaged 13.3 mph. I was jubilant!

At that point I fell down and went boom, garnering a few bruises and scrapes and a minor neck sprain. (Details here.) Skippy’s back wheel got mangled. Would we be able to get a new wheel installed and aligned in time for the Tour? Bike Shop Mike was hopeful; even though he had to order a new wheel, he thought she would be ready by Thursday. Friday at the latest.

Wednesday, June 24 – I lay around and got nothing done. My head, neck, and back hurt, but it could have been so much worse that I couldn’t complain.

Thursday, June 25 – I started feeling better, and huzzah! Bike Shop Mike texted with the news that Skippy was all fixed. But then I got an email from Cookie saying she might only be able to do the 35-mile route. Unlike my neck sprain, her shingles weren’t getting any better.

Friday, June 26 – I felt good as new. As I was packing and otherwise preparing for the weekend, Cookie called with the sad news that she couldn’t ride. At all. It turned out that she had learned well from the “Your Cat Died” joke, and had been letting me down easy. BK and I went on to DeKalb with heavy hearts, which were somewhat relieved when we met up with part of our team, the Sargent & Lundy Power Pedallers for dinner at Pizza Villa. There was chianti (and much rejoicing).

3. A brighter day dawns…

Before the ride: me, Andy, Danielle, Dave, and Randy

Saturday, June 27 – the weather was sunny, with a 10 mph wind out of the north. The day’s forecast high was 73º, though it was in the 50s just before we started the ride. A while before we left, Cookie texted.

Cookie: Have a great ride!
Me: Thanks! How are you doing?
Cookie: Okay.* No way I could have ridden today. See you at the finish line.
Me: Awww, poor Cookie
Cookie: Yeah, yeah. Now get out there and win one for the gipper, uh, Cookie.

So that’s what we did. Around mile 20 I developed a helmet headache, which the ER doctor warned me might happen, but BK called Sis, who agreed to bring me my muscle relaxants (along with Cookie), so I had that to look forward to. True to her word, Cookie was there to greet us at the finish line. And my speed? I averaged 12.4 mph!

Cookie, Randy, me, Danielle, and Andy

Sis, Cookie, BK and I went to Eduardo’s in DeKalb for Mexican food. I had a delicious watermelon-cucumber margarita, which went really well with the muscle relaxants. Sis took Cookie home; BK and I went back to the hotel and fell asleep before 8 p.m.

Sunday June 28 – BK drove me back to the Tour. I quickly biked 15 miles as a cooldown from the day before, and my speed was even better than Saturday’s: 12.8 mph. BK and I went back to the hotel for chocolate milk, a cinnamon roll, and a shower. BK and I went home, another Tour de Farms completed.

Skippy & new helmet still wearing their ride numbers

Thanks again to all the generous beings who donated to the National MS Society in support of this year’s ride: Lorie & Steve, BK, Kurt, Steve, Sis, Sara, the Musto family, Katie, Mickey & Janet, Tim & Nan, Beth, Lori, Ann, the Patel family, Katherine, and Seamus the World’s Best Dog!

* Cookie-speak for : “I’m in excruciating pain.”

Skippy and the Skateboards

My Giro helmet, post-accident

This blog post is a day late; you’re about to find out why.

While training for the big Bike MS ride in DeKalb this weekend, I got in an accident. There were these girls on skateboards. I thought I could get past them before we got to a horrible curve in the trail that happens behind the DuPage River Sports Complex. I was wrong. The girl’s skateboard kept picking up speed. Before I could slam on my brakes, she jumped off the skateboard, sending it right under my bike.

My bike (aka Skippy)  went sideways and horizontal. I landed first on my butt and then on my head, or to be more precise, on my helmet. Thank all the good spirits (and BK) for the Giro helmet, which now sports a large crack in the middle of its back and some smaller ones to either side. The visor snapped off and the helmet mirror went flying. Skippy’s back wheel twisted and her rear brakes got more or less mangled.

Skippy on a good day

Skateboard girl apologized. A lot of people stopped to ask if I needed help. I felt shook up and sore, but I wasn’t going to call anyone until I got home and got myself sorted. Unfortunately I couldn’t even roll Skippy, her back wheel was so mashed up against her brakes. So I called BK to tell him there were going to be cab and bike shop and possibly medical expenses, but that I was doing all right.

While BK and I were on the phone, another cyclist stopped to help. He disengaged the back brakes so at least I could roll Skippy. I had been half-carrying her, holding up the back end. He told me it would be safe to ride home, as long as I went slowly and realized I only had front brakes, but then I should take the bike into my shop.

I initially thought about going home and calling my doctor once I got there, but the hospital was closer so I decided to go there. BK and Cookie have both been concussed, and I didn’t want to take any chances. Besides, by the time the hospital people could see me, BK would be able to get off work and come get me and Skippy. And so it proved.

I have a mild neck sprain and some soft tissue damage, as well as a few scrapes, but nothing was broken and I didn’t have a concussion. Skippy fared worse; she needs a new wheel and alignment, and some work on her brakes. But Mike at Bicycles Etc. said he thought he could get a new one and get her all fixed up in time for Bike MS this weekend. I’m feeling very guilty about what happened to Skippy. If there was anything or anyone blameless in this scenario, it would be the inanimate vehicles. Skippy and the Skateboards. Great band name, right? Only question remaining: can Skippy and the Skateboards learn to play nicely together? I’m guessing that as long as I am able to spot the skateboards in time, there will be peace in our time, at least as far as the skateboards and bicycles are concerned.

Get-well flowers from Sis and Seamus

Have some pictures!

It’s been a busy time. Yup, there’s been writing and revising, but there’s also been bicycling, as well as conferring, conversing, and otherwise hobnobbing with my fellow wizards. Here are a few pictures I grabbed around the times some of that was going on.

Azaleas and daffodils at Arboretum

I’ve been in training to ride the Bike MS Tour de Farms ride in DeKalb on June 27-28. The above shot was taken during an early training ride back in April. Thanks to BK and the kids for our Morton Arboretum membership. When you have a great place to ride, exercise provides inherent rewards!

Me, KT Bradford and others

Tempest Bradford visited in May, just before WisCon. I made her pose for silly tourist shots. Here’s one of our reflection in Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) in Millennium Park.

Lurie Garden in June

One of the nice things about being at the Palmer House for the Nebula Awards weekend is that you’re a block from places like Millennium Park and the Art Institute. Cookie and I escaped to Lurie Garden a couple of times for walks. Glorious!

Nebula Weekend Swag

They gave us stuff at the Nebulas just for showing up (and I bought a couple of things, too). Here’s what I brought home.

Home again – Sunset after Nebula Weekend

There was an improbably gorgeous sunset Sunday night, so I took a picture.

Tour de Farms – As Much Fun As You Can Have With Your Clothes On

Graceful, huh?

I lovelovelove bike riding. It’s like flying. I don’t know if it’s
1- going faster than I ever could on my own two feet,
2- the fresh air,
3- the endorphins, or
some combination of all three, but biking one of my favorite things ever. You’d never have to pay me to ride a bike. Not that anyone would. I am not what you call competitive. If you need proof, I refer you to the picture above.

However…one time of year I do solicit bike-riding donations. The money doesn’t go to me. The lovely people in various chapters of the MS Society run terrific bike rides all over the country, and in order to ride in one of them, you need to do a little fundraising to help people with MS.

The MS Society has helped our family a lot. BK has MS. He was diagnosed with it in the mid 1980s. He’s doing pretty well, considering. He sometimes has issues with discomfort, lack of coordination and fatigue, but he’s able to get around, work, and even have some fun occasionally. Usually it’s guitar-playing fun rather than bike-riding fun, but it all counts, right?

We have other friends with MS, too. It’s not that uncommon. Anyway, multiply our family by thousands and you have an idea how much good the MS Society does. The Greater Illinois Chapter says this about their work:

Our staff and volunteers are dedicated to achieving a world free of MS. Through our chapter’s support services and educational programs for people living with MS and their families and friends, we help connect people in our local communities who want to do something about MS now.

We offer many programs — including professional counseling and peer facilitated support groups, educational programs and seminars, referrals to neurologists and healthcare professionals, national teleconferences and internet programs, services for the homebound, and social and recreational programs to assist people with MS and their families in leading productive and fulfilling lives.

And that’s just my local chapter. The national society does all that and more, driving research to help end MS.

Last year’s team – the Power Pedallers

I rode in last year’s Tour de Farms and raised over $1000. I’d like to do that again this year, but so far I’m short of my goal. If anyone reading this wants to support the MS Society (either through a donation or by joining the ride), I’d love if you could do it by visiting the link to my personal fundraising page. Thanks so much for your support!

Um…Little Help Here?

Okay, sometimes it’s not easy

I’ve written a few posts talking about what I do to keep writing. After fielding a few responses, I realized that what I’ve posted up to now were pretty much along the lines of “Just do it.”

People wrote or grabbed me to say, “Hey! I’ve tried to write (or exercise) on a regular schedule and I just can’t keep it up. It’s all very well for you to say, “Just do it.” What if that doesn’t work for me?”

Fair question. Developing good habits is hard. Getting rid of bad habits is hard. Anyone who pretends otherwise is an annoying prig, like this girl I knew in high school, Angel McPrissyface. Here’s the background: I experimented my junior and senior years with smoking a cigarette while walking into a liquor store, hoping that smoking made me look old enough to buy alcohol. Since beer-and-wine age in Illinois at that time was something like 19, it worked better than it probably would nowadays. Ah, my halcyon youth! But the point isn’t that I was a degenerate who bought alcohol before I was old enough to drink legally. The point is, I was a degenerate who learned to smoke.

If you have never smoked, I cannot possibly convey how addictive nicotine is. By the time I was halfway into my freshman year of college, I was definitely a smoker. So: I smoked for maybe a year, maybe a year and a half. It took nearly as long to quit as it did to get hooked. I might still be smoking if BK, who I was dating at the time, refused to kiss me as long as I smoked. No question, kissing beats smoking.

Anyway, while I was home from college that summer, kissing was not an available smoking substitute. I was in Illinois, and BK was in Tennessee. I mentioned to someone I knew, who was still in high school, that I was having a hell of a time quitting. She put this prissy look on her face and said, “Well I never started!” as if I ought to give her a medal, or at least a cookie. Good thing I had a friend who heard the exchange and said Angel McPrissyface was an annoying little prig. Which she was.

I would like not to be like Angel; definitely not the kind of person who says things like, “Just do it.” (Sorry, Nike, but seriously). In the service of that ideal, I am coming clean. I didn’t always write every day, or exercise 5-6 days a week. I started the exercise habit first, and eventually got around to the writing habit.

And here’s something else I hate to admit. Unlike Stephen King, I don’t write 2000 words of usable fiction every day. I write at least 750 words of something. Sometimes it is dreck: just a mind dump. That’s certainly how I started. Or sometimes what I write is a blog post, like this one. I hope this isn’t dreck, but I’m not in a position to judge.

Finally, after well over two years of using faithfully, the proportion of fiction to dreck is slooowly inching in the direction of more fiction, less dreck. Usually that happens best in November, or any other time when I’m able to write 2000 (or so) words daily, rather than just 750. Even so, much of that fiction might be a later draft, and much of what I’m doing in a later draft is actually cutting words I’ve written earlier. Transforming myself into a prolific fiction writer is definitely a work in progress.

So…I belatedly realized that when I posted (in my 3-Legged Stool entries) some of the reading I’ve found helpful , I left one really important book out:

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit may or may not help you, but it was a relatively quick read, and it got me back on track when I hit a rough patch.

But let’s say you don’t want to buy the book or you’re too busy (or cold, if you live by me)  to go to the library. Here are a couple of interesting posts on using the peculiarities of your brain to trick yourself into good habits:

Graphic from Robbie Blair’s site

I liked this post by Robbie Blair. He offers 14 ways to make it easier to start a writing habit. He mentions Charles Duhigg’s book, too, so maybe it’s not just me.

Graphic from Wait But Why site

And this post by Tim Urban (maybe with help from Andrew Finn?) was entertaining and seemed to have more than a kernel of truth about procrastination.