We took a fantastic trip to the U.P. over the 4th that included Tahquamenon Falls, Whitefish Point, Mackinac Island, and the Soo Locks. We had absolutely perfect weather, and plenty of time over 4 days and 3 nights. It was our first foray into ‘camping’, which ended up being perfect for us. I decided to capture the trip through multiple camera and video devices including my iPhone 4s, Kodak Zi8, and GoPro Hero2. Here’s how it ended up:
Despite my seemingly one track mind on biking, I do enjoy getting outside for any reason. I took a walk with my 4 year old the other day to check out Lake Macatawa.
If it stays cold enough, we’ll be able to walk all the way accross the lake on the ice. Where Avery is laying has historically been under water, but over the past couple of years lake levels have been dropping, so a lot more shore area is exposed. This particular spot is just around the corner from our house and is a great spot for launching kayak’s. There are several streets in Holland that just dead end right into the lake creating these undeveloped public access points. This is one of those spots. I’m looking forward to launching my kayak from here next summer.
Last night I had scheduled myself for one of my 2 hour gravel shoulder rides along Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan. I call it my ‘Big Lakeshore Shoulder Ride’ in my tracking sheet (I keep track of all my riding and running in excel – more on that some other time). It’s just less than 29 miles and is fairly flat with a couple of hills thrown in for practice. With Courtney launching into yet another night of one of her winter painting projects after we put the kids to bed, I dressed and thought I’d get an early start.
Normally I leave the house around 9. Yes, I’m a night owl. I’ve invested in adequate lighting, reflective gear, and warm clothes to be able to do this through the winter. It’s part of my own personal compromise in an effort to get as much riding in as possible without it affecting too much family time. Unfortunately it leaves me with less sleep, but I’m working on a plan to shift that a bit.
After a hard week of running and riding last week I thought I would take Monday and Tuesday off this week (I had a meeting Monday night anyway). So when I stepped outside at 8:15 and noticed the pavement was slightly wet, I was a bit irritated. I remembered reading in the 5 day forecast (on Sunday) that there was a 30% chance of rain/snow, but it wasn’t supposed to start until ‘late’. I guess I should have researched The Weather Channel’s definition of late. An hour into my ride (and the furthest point from my house) the weather turned nasty.
Up until that point I was having a good ride; 15 minutes of easy warm-up, 4 solid hill climbs in my favorite Lake Michigan shoreline dune neighborhoods, and 7 miles of gritty gravel shoulder. The precipitation was very sparse. Just before I got to my Pigeon Lake switchback, though, the shoulder became over saturated with water and began pooling into puddles. I could no longer keep the sand and water out of my face and mouth. Shortly after I hopped over to the bike path to avoid the mess, the sky opened up and dropped a heavy mixture of snow and rain.
I thought I could make it back without getting too wet if I cut my route short by taking Butternut (a relatively straight shot back at my neighborhood). Immediately after I made the turn at Pigeon Lake, however, I started to feel my butt get wet and knew it wasn’t going to be pretty getting home. I picked up the pace (which makes me look like a clown on my single speed) knowing that if I got wet and didn’t generate enough heat I was going to be as cold as a piece of raw beef in a meat locker before I got into the house.
From Pigeon Lake it’s about a 25-30 minute ride to get back on my single speed (35-18 gearing). Sure enough, by the time I pulled up my driveway I was soaked to the bone. Fortunately, I had worked hard enough that I wasn’t shivering. Not quite the workout I was planning, but a good work out all the same. I peeled off all my gear and hung it up in the basement to dry (shoes are still soaked today) and then hit up a hot shower. Next time I’ll watch the weather a little closer.
There have been a couple of really funny video’s released recently that make fun of cyclists and mountain bikers. Maybe you’ve seen them. Some of the mocking is about “recovery rides” where you keep your work out light by whatever measure you like to use (heart rate is common). Well, tonight I thought I better throw one of those rides in there. I rode hard Monday night, ran last night, plan on riding hard tomorrow night, and have a fun but longer trail ride scheduled for Saturday morning (Yankee Springs; 8a.m.; see you there?). Even still, I was antsy to go out tonight for a ride, too.
I’ll actually spare you of the details of my workout tonight; but instead I thought I would share with you some observations from my ride:
- I wish I had a better camera and could take it with me on my rides. The moon was bright tonight and casting a cool reflection off Lake Macatawa nearly making it unnecessary to have on my headlamp.
- I wish my phone battery wouldn’t suck so bad and actually hold a charge long enough to allow my ride mapping app to capture a freaking ride without shutting off somewhere mid ride, of course neglecting to save it before it does.
- I love my Specialized wool socks. Sorry DeFeet; your Woolie Boolie’s just aren’t cutting the mustard this winter. They’re too thick.
- Ottawa Beach Inn closes sometime between 9:30p.m. and 10:30p.m. I’ve ridden past it before around 9:30 and its open, but tonight it was closed by the time I passed it around 10:30. I’m surprised it stays open even until 9:30 in the winter.
- Riding with fun music in my ears gives me more energy than just a good song with the right tempo.
- I like rhubarb pie after a ride. I like it before, too, but afterwards is fantastic.
- I love riding the lakeshore in Holland.
As disappointed as I have been with this inconsistent winter, when a day like today rolls around and drops 6-8” (and reports of 10” in some places) of fresh new snow I wasn’t going to waste it. I’m going to let the pictures do most of the talking here, but it was an awesome day.
I started the morning out by heading on my bike after church. I may have jumped the gun a little bit, but I couldn’t help myself. The fresh snow was just too inviting to take a peaceful ride in (no earphones). What I found out was that the snow was deeper than I had anticipated and the workout was significantly more vigorous as a result. I still was smiling (for the most part) as I slipped, grunted, and plowed my way out to Lake Macatwa near the Ottawa Beach overflow campground (picture). I wound my way back home on some lower traffic roads just to get off the bike path for a breather.
In the afternoon I took Paige over to my in-law’s house to go snowshoeing with my mother-in-law. Their subdivision is only about 1/3rd developed and one of the lots is adjacent to the Port Sheldon Natural Area which is part of the Ottawa County Parks and Open Space Lands. It’s a great place to snowshoe, hike, and cross country ski (http://www.co.ottawa.mi.us/ParksVI/Parks/portsheldon.htm ). It is one of the few parks left that you can take your dogs to and let them roam freely. There were several people out enjoying the late afternoon sunshine and snow.
Finally, when you get snow like today, you can’t avoid the drive way. So, I wrapped up with a quick clearing and headed in for a warm shower and a cup of coffee. What a great day.
Tonight I thought I would just quick get out and do a run/walk. It’s been over a month since I’ve run last and didn’t want to get too ambitious. The last few times that I’ve ran I’ve struggled with a tight leg muscle so I wanted to start slow. I don’t like running and really only do it for the efficiency of the work-out and cross-training, so I didn’t want to push myself and then pay for it for the next 4 days. I don’t mind being sore, but when it interferes with my biking….
I have a pretty standard 1.9 mile route that gives me just enough of a work out to get the heart rate up for 15-20 minutes. Tonight, though, I decided to start out walking the first portion of that route to warm up and then jogged over to Howard which runs along Lake Macatawa’s lakeshore and on down to Dunton Park. The route is primarily an asphalt side walk so I can stay off the street.
I love running/walking through Dunton Park at night, especially in the winter because of its location right on Lake Macatawa. Tonight did not disappoint me. Dunton Pak is a 21 acre park with a nice hunk of lake frontage. The park has been developed over the years with gazebos for picnics, playgrounds, open fields to run around in, and wooden walkways right next to the water, which is frozen this time of year. In the summer the park offers a boat launch that is always busy with fishermen and families launching their vessels for the day. My kids only care about the playground and usually beg me to bike with them there anytime it’s above 45 degrees. The park is well lit at night making the trail easy to navigate. Running through the park is also fun because of all the stairs, switchbacks, ascending, and descending paths that wind you through the wooded habitat right next to the water. The added complications of snow and ice take out the monotony of running for me as well.
I noticed something cool again tonight that I had forgotten because it’s been since last winter that I’ve run through the park. Across the lake from the park is a heavy industrial metal recycling facility that lights up the sky and is filled with bright white steam from work going on. I found it to be a stark contrast to where I was standing. Where I was standing, amongst the trees, God’s hands had created. Across the lake, busy and large, man’s hands had created. Both were awe-inspiring to me. Some people might look at that contrast and say ‘what a shame’ that we have wasted the natural landscape for our machines. But I appreciate the balance between conserving natural spaces and being industrious with our hands. It reminds me that we need peacefulness, through playing in these parks, to help offset the disturbance of our work.
So, without my headphones on tonight, I enjoyed a quiet, refreshing breath of crisp winter air. It brought peace to a non-peaceful day and hopefully relaxing rest to my sleep.
I enjoyed a great snow ride out to Ottawa Beach and back tonight. I love the sensation of floating you can experience when riding on a couple of inches of fresh snow. Tonight I enjoyed not only fresh snow on the ground, but fresh snow falling which looked like diamonds in my headlamp, sometimes even biting my cheeks like they were just as sharp, too. The cold air was refreshing in my lungs, outside of the occasional snowflake that snuck in.
As I approached the beach, I could smell a fire from one of the cottages I passed. I envisioned myself enjoying a wood burning fireplace in my lakeside home on a cold snowy night like tonight. Definitely a cozy thought considering my activity at that moment. That smell was immediately followed by the smells of Ottawa Beach Inn, a local restaurant that serves dynamite food. I could have easily stopped for a burger.
Bike path riding can present a wide variety of challenges and pleasures, as it did tonight. Some spots are unaltered by walkers or street plow spray and remind me of laying fresh ski tracks at Bridger Bowl, MT when I was in college. Other stretches include everything from thick heavy snow boulders left behind by the path plow to snow banks created by plow drivers clearing driveways. As a friend of mine says, “I’m all teeth” riding in conditions like tonight.
Riding in the snow is also a great workout. It can provide varying levels and combinations of strength and balance, and if I’m lucky can offer some reprieve once and a while. I rode for 45 minutes tonight and kept an average heart rate of 148bpm which is a level I usually only obtain when trail riding. I would much rather be riding this work out than sitting in the basement on a trainer.
Despite all of these experiences and reasons for winter riding, my favorite part about it is just being outside. It’s just refreshing to be outside in the winter. I feel so much better after a good ride. I’ve said for a few years that people in Michigan who hate winters just need to get out and play in it. Its not a matter of finding something you’re passionate about, just find something you don’t hate and try it. I bet you’ll feel a ton better afterwards and actually take some of the bitterness out of your attitude.