Friday, July 31, 2009

Complete Canal Biker

DAY 21
32.03min going.
32.06min (PB) coming home.
Record daily total 64.09min
Weather: Fantastic.70F/21C degrees, puffs of wind.
CO2 Emissions Saved: 118.5kg

How long do you have to do something before it becomes a routine? Six weeks? Six months? A year? Not 21 days. But it is a start. And a finish. My Tour de France simulation is complete.

Tour Facts:
Tammie: 355km or 220 miles
Tour de France: 3500km or 2174 miles
Percentage of Tour de France Tammie managed in 21 Stages: 10.1%

Rabo Riders who fell: 8
Times Rabo fell: TBA
Times Tammie fell: 0

Minutes on bike: 1503
Calories: 9 per min, 35 per km, 50 per mile

Calories per day: 700
Total calories burned: 13834

Calories in a pound: 3500
Calories in a kilo: 7700

Days to ride off 1 pound: 5
Days to ride off 1 kilo: 11

Weight Loss
Expected based on exercise calories only: 3.9lbs or 1.8kilos
Weight gained: 6.2lbs or 2.8kilos
Weight lost during whole journey: 8.6lbs or 3.9kilos
Actual weight loss, first weigh - last weigh in: 2.2lbs or 1.1kilos

Goals and Quitting
The inner commentator says "Make a new goal or you won't stay with it." High school buddy John reminded me of a most excellent scene from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story with inspiration from fellow Texan bike racer Lance Armstrong. Very appropriate for today's decision to ride or quit. I changed the names:

When you feel like quitting from Dodgeball
Tammie Nolte: Uh, actually I decided to quit... Lance.

Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that's keeping you from the finals?

Tammie Nolte: Right now it feels a little bit like... shame.

Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn't anything to regret for the rest of their life. Well good luck to you Tammie. I'm sure this decision won't haunt you forever.

Biker's bridge on Leidse Rijn Canal
Fallen and Can't Get Up
Fresh out of good reasons and excuses to stop. Didn't ride as fast as the Rabo Pro Cycling team. Didn't ride as far as the Rabo Riders. My final stage was 5 days late. However, Rabo guys, I stayed in the saddle. I didn't fall.

Every Rabo Rider fell during the Tour de France. Gesink broke his wrist, kept riding. Oscar got shot in thigh with a pellet gun and kept riding. Falling down and getting shot down was not the theme here. Not physically anyway. Did catch the saddle point in the jacksey (pubic bone) once when trying to stop too fast.

Tour of Spain
This weekend, will work on a new goal. New challenge. I will continue. But I need to have a reason to ride and a reason to write. Vuelta Tour of Spain is also 21 Stages and runs from August 29 - September 20. The first four days of the Vuelta start in Holland this year. Need a training goal for all of August between the Tour de France and Vuelta a EspaƱa.

Favorite picture of whole blog taken today. Click on it, it will get bigger and prettier.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rocky Canal Biker

DAY 20
Time: Record in 32.01min
Record home 33.58min
Weather: Morning forgetable, maybe tailwind, blinding sun.
Afternoon strong headwind.
CO2 Emissions saved: 113kg

Tires smoking from speed on the way to work. Caught all the green lights. Raced the bus. Was very surprised at the stopwatch. Thought I must have a tailwind pushing me quickly to work. But look at my hair?

Shattered old to and fro records and daily total by four minutes: record 65.59min. Proud especially because of headwind coming home. Storm was perched on the horizon. On the bridge climb going home, 3 people had momentum issues and stopped and walked.

Breaking Wind
Decided this would be my Mont Ventoux climbing simulation from Stage 20. Rabobank won this stage. Could see people hopping off seats, so turned up the inner commentator who said, "You can pass all five of these people. Three of them are walking. Don't stop. Lean forward. Push."

Cue the Henderson Jr. High Band version of Rocky Balboa stair climbing music. Didn't think "quitters" because I was very pleased that 3 of them had quit. Just didn't want my momentum to hit the wind wall. Didn't want to join the quitters. Passed 5 going up and 1 going down.

Thighs for the Climb
Cannot imagine climbing for 25km/15 miles. Or even one. My climb was about 250meters/yards. Mont Ventoux has claimed many quitters. As far as I can assess and guess. If I climb 1km of Mont Ventoux, and then quit, I would still brag my ass off.

Wondered what kind of muscles tissue I was building with these climbs. Do I really want the legs of a woman who can comfortably pump my body weight? To move my weight up the hill, don't I need more thigh muscle mass than the Rabo Tour guys?

Wind Breaker or Climber
Most people passed me today on the flat. I passed the most on the climb. Decided that I should be categorized on the Rabo Team as a climber or certainly a broad shouldered, ample wind breaker. I'm no sprinter, either. Quite sure Team Leader Kniebel isn't up tonight deciding where my biking skills would best fit the squad.

Upper arm needs own blog
Trying to figure out my body chemistry and reconstruction during my canal training. After 40, women lose bone density. Exercise replaces it, somehow. In just three weeks, have acquired dense bones (again), meaty thighs and the formidable forearm of wrestler Andre the Giant.

Supportive co-worker Marisol took this pic while screaming "Go Rocky Go" or "I love you Rocky" or was it "Hurry up, the light's green, all I can see in this picture is your formidable forearm."

Trip in: 3 passed me, I passed 6
Trip home: 7 passed me, I passed 9
Total passes today: Record 15

Song of the day: Rocky theme song and stair climbing tune

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top 10 Canal Biker

DAY 19
Time: 39min from auto shop
35.30min personal best tie
Car in shop again, on mechanic's 3-speed
Weather: Morning drizzle annoying but not evil.
Afternoon, inconsequential.

CO2 Emissions saved: 107.5kg

Picture here: Climbing bridge hill, sweat/rain on forehead, Rihanna singing Umbrella Ella Ella. Can't hold umbrella ella ella while snapping pictures, checking stopwatch, changing Ipod, typing SMS and riding. Haven't fallen yet. Two days left.

Since Tour de France finished on Sunday, I've been getting the questions "Are you going to keep riding?" or "Are you still riding?" or "Why are you doing this anyway?" Will sprinkle post with pictures of the day where my tongue played a lead role.

Top 10 Reason to Start Canal Biker Tour & Blog

10. Became carless. Old 1988 Volkswagen didn't pass inspection.

9. Owned 4 bikes, broken or flat tired bikes.

8. In memory of former co-worker Menno van Voorthuizen who recently lost the cancer battle. Menno used to ride his bike down the same piece of canal when he was in high school. He encouraged me to start. He rides along some days.

7. Love water. Love canals. Dream home would be on a canal or beach or river or pond or lake.

6. Need to trick self into exercise. Forces me to be accountable, measurable, responsible and other personal development words.

5. Am not the poster girl for physical fitness and actually the opposite body type of the Tour de France professional bikers. Not trying to achieve this unachievable fat-free, lean, spindly frame. Just think it is ironic and hilarious to compare my pork-chop-self and turtle-ride to pro cycling.

4. Day job has me writing serious, businessy, financial, investory, professional, analytical, agricultural, gray pin striped, very corporate articles for work. Needed outlet to be silly or emotional and develop own style and own voice for my inner biker without anyone saying 'we cannot write that.'

3. Friends and family always very encouraging about my writing. Book publishers don't care if 90 year old Aunt Alyce thinks I am brilliant and reads religiously. But I love knowing Aunt Alyce gets a daily print out and others are following my riding and writing.

2. Have lost 34 pounds since August 2008. Body hit a plateau and wall for a month. Thought I could bust the wall by peppering my life with exercise. Long way to go to be held up at 34 pounds for 8 weeks now. Gaining in the first 2 weeks of the ride was damn annoying too. Will weigh on Friday to get the full Tour results.

1. For the journey. I am pretty. I am sporty. I am a good writer. I am funny. All this gets buried in daily life. Buried in my serious writing job. Buried under some belly blubber. Buried 23 years ago when I played basketball, volleyball and golf competitively. Buried in a green lime Jell-o mold of self-imposed insecurity.

Some people have never known me as pretty, thinner, and athletic. Some people don't know me at all. Some people don't remember that Tammie. I do. I want to find her again with my 40+ life experience and confidence.

I have made progress, have bettered my time, become stronger and faster, committed to the writing and the riding. Pouted about it too.

Don't judge me. Don't underestimate me. Will run you over with my crap gearless bike in a slow speed chase. Then will take an artsy black and white picture of you, and write about you cynically in my blog. I am Daily Canal Biker.

Trip in: I passed 2, 2 passed me, even.
Trip home: 5 to 4, MY FAVOR!

Song of the day: Always makes me cry... How to Save a Life by The Fray. Makes me think of Menno riding the canal.

Happy Birthday Dad.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bionic Canal Biker

DAY 18
Time: 37 going, stopwatch quit,
38.36 coming back at night
Weather: Gorgeous almost cold, going in. Sweating coming home.
CO2 Emissions saved: 102kg

Green Day
Do you have the time, to listen to me whine...lyrics to Green Day song. Listened to 'old school' Green Day to keep me going at night on the way home. Tour de France finished Sunday, but I am a few stages behind. Just 3 stages left on my canal tour. Will continue until Friday then decide what to do with my life, body and canal biking career.

Black Day
Camera on BlackBerry is black. Stopwatch stopped. Tried to add up the time on all the Alan Jackson songs up to 'I'm in Love with You Baby and I Don't Even Know Your Name'. Then realized it was on random play. So calculations by song length wouldn't help unless I remembered each song that played. Didn't.

Fresh legs today. Good thing. Met up with Cheryl Sampley's husband's brother Troy and two of his young buck students in Amsterdam. Guys were on the last leg of a European tour.

Nudie Runner Companion for the Day
Troy is experienced, well-traveled world traveler and more claims to fame. He is an occasional nudie runner. Type in to see if they are flapping through your city soon. Very awesome that someone would have the balls to run balls free with all your bits on display for public airing. Not something I can consider. More because of the actual 'running' part. But high five Troy.

Free Water Not Free in Europe
Like most Texans, they were overdue for some free chips and salsa and free ice water. Neither available in Europe. The 18yo boys missed breakfast tacos and were done with croissants and Frosted Flakes on the 'Continental Breakfast' list.

Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll Tour
Walked for two hours around Amsterdam and added this to my CO2 saved calculations. Showed them what 18yo boys want to see. Red Light District, menu of weed selection in the coffee shops, Sex Museum, Erotic Museum, Hemp Museum, Torture Museum, Live Sex Show, Banana Bar and all the finer upstanding corners of Amsterdam.

Famished Tourist
Boys had said 'we just ate frites'. Heard they were on a tight budget, so I didn't worry about grazing for 3 hours at an Amsterdam restaurant. I missed all the clues that they were hungry, like 'what's your favorite food here?' Am now the embarrassed tour guide who doesn't feed her tourees.

Probably walked 5 miles/7km. Add that to the 15miles/20km that I had to bike to and fro, and we have us a biathalon. Guys should have pushed me into the canal for the triathlon experience. I would have to tread water for 45-60 minutes for me to find a way to exit the canal or a crane to hoist me from the murky browness of the Amstel.

Trip in: 9 people passed me
Trip home: 1 to 1, late in evening, no one on the roads, could sing like no one was listening and dance some weird head jerking, handlebar swerving bike dances like no one was watching.

Song of the Day: Basket Case and When I Come Around from Green Day Dookie album. Latter video on trial for being SO 90s!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Canal Biker

DAY 17
Time: 34.30min(PB)going to work.
35.55min(PB)coming home.
Weather: Good enough to wear my suede jacket going in.
Dubious enough that suede jacket spent weekend at work.
CO2 Emissions saved: 93.5lbs.

Feel my Face
Cousin June from Colorado commented, "Biking must be serious stuff judging by the look on your face." Honestly, am challenged to smile, breathe, concentrate on forward motion and take pictures, at the same time.

Decided on Day 4 Wet Canal Biker post, that the ride was dang hard, and sometimes unpleasant. And I was wet. And not closing in on happy. Decided to take real pictures of myself and how I feel. I often chop off my double chin which is easier on my ego, but the smileless faces are real.

If You Just Smile
Today, I wanted to smile and minimize the perplexing look in my eyes and forehead. Needed something to smile about. On the way to work, pedaled with head down, worked out some aggression and frustration. Broke daily record with 34.30, a personal best and cracked the 35 minute ceiling. Not much smiling or picture taking.

Me passing 3rd biker
Pass or be Passed
On the way home, it would be my last trip with the 3-geared mechanics bike. Third gear all the way. I passed two people before the bridge climb. Smile. I passed one more lady struggling with a little climb, some wind resistance, and the vacuum I create with my speed while overtaking bikers. Smile. Two very professional riders passed me about 15 minutes in. No smile. But light bulb moment.

Fire in Eyes and Thighs
Thought if I kept up a strong pace, could win the pass or be passed ratios today. Smile. A young, skinny girl in front of me was riding leisurely, I focused on catching her. Thighs were burning like a campfire. Then the clouds parted and a hand reached down and stopped her bike. Smile. She started digging in her purse and I might have screamed "YEEHA", threw head back and laughed, as I forged on. But all the time remembering to snap today's profile picture at the top.

Catching the Bus
Half way home with the overtake score me 4, them 2. Looked behind me. Saw the bus coming, but no people on bikes. Smile. Lone Ranger theme was not on my Ipod, but should have been. Caught the bus at the bus stop. Smile. I got the green, bus had the red. Had to make sure no one passed me and keep my speed up. Light bulb. Decided to race bus to next bus stop. I won. Smile. BTW, this is the same bus stop where I used to QUIT after 10-minutes of riding to work. Smile.

Happily passing the bus for the first time. Guy in blue shirt just finished 125 mile walk in 4 days. See medal and the gladiolas. Hats off to Bus Passenger
Later, looked back at pictures and I am damn happy. Noticed at the bus stop picture, a man with a blue shirt and red gladiolas. Had seen the red gladiolas on TV because of the closing ceremony of Nijmegen 4-day Walk of the World (NL-Nijmeegse Vierdaagse). Walkers must achieve 50km/31miles each day for 4 days. Grueling. Shoes are worn down to nubs, blisters on blisters, and all the pains of walking 200km/125 miles in 4 days.

Walking 50km a Day
Read some of the press releases to find out how many people started (41,205), and how many finished (TBA). This year had two research studies on participants. If the temperature was above 25C/80F, then a university would study effects of heat on body. If below 25C, then they would study the 280 overweight people who entered this year. Yes, they knew how many chub-chubs made the attempt. A weigh in? Argh.

Glory for the Common Man
The glory is that you started and finished each day within the time limit. The glory is also the medal and the gladiolas. Everybody in Holland knows about it, it is top news for four days. Brits come over to do it, too. Of all my co-workers, only one guy has a medal. Rene did it as a sort of joke in college, and said he would never do it again. Not a selling point. You only have to do it once for the glory, sort of like climbing Everest for the common man.

Who's IN?
Sign me up for next year's walk and study of chub-chubs. Registration starts in December. Put it in your vacation calendar for next year, "Walk 125 miles in Holland in July with Tammie". Who is with me? Smile. Serious smile.

Trip in: 3 passed me. I passed 0.
Trip home: 2 passed me. I passed 5 bikers. 1 bus.
First time I win! Tied for the day.

Song of the day: Chatahoochee from Alan Jackson Greatest Hits Collection, complete with orginal video of Alan water skiing in his Wranglers and cowboy hat.

Me beating bus to bus stop. Smile.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sustainable Canal Biker

DAY 16
35:03min (PB) to work, 37.01min home
Weather: Morning overcast, hint of rain, but no rain. Afternoon, sunny, comfortable.

Days Gone By
Tomorrow is three weeks since I started the canal ride. In three weeks, have improved my time by 20 minutes going to work and 10 minutes coming home. Remember 55 minutes on Day 1, with two water and oxygen breaks?

Time Trials at the Tour
Knew today was the time trial at Tour de France. Pushed self to pump legs consistently and hoped for green lights. Racing against myself, and today I won. Best overall total time 72.04 minutes.

What's Your Time?
Have a small following of very encouraging people at work. Coworkers who take one look at me in the morning, without a 'hello' or 'good morning', but start with 'So?' or 'What was your time?' People who think it is a blessing for my bike rides and health that the '87 Rabbit is in the shop. Makes it compulsory for me to ride the bike to work, mine or the mechanic's rapid riding 3-speeder.

Bomb on Wheels
Not a blessing that I was sold a rolling bomb. Gas tank leaks when full. Exhaust pipe corroded and faulty. Start switch not connected properly. Seen any movies where the exhaust, starter and gas tank are involved in some kind of explosion? Mafia movies. John Grisham movies.

Mistaken for Terrorist
Would probably be hauled off to international court in Belgium if I tried to park next to the American Embassy in The Hague. How does previous owner Jeroen sleep at night? He watched me pull away from his mama's house with my son strapped to a busted gas tank. How do I sleep at night?

Saving Carbon Emissions
Calculated the daily C02 production of my Rabbit going to and from work. Mind you, there is no leaky gas tank option or a 1987 button. Where I have been unable to lose weight, I have found a new way to feel some compensation for my rides. My car trip would produce 2.5kilos/5.5lbs of carbon dioxide everyday.

Losing Air Weight
On the bike up to now, I have kept 40kilos/88pounds of pollution out of our Dutch air. Should focus on my sustainbility and CO2 weight losses, instead of BMI and 'muscle' weight gain. Should keep riding until I match my body weight in CO2 compensation.

Somehow it is easier to lose 5 pounds of polluted air, than it is to lose 5 pounds of body weight. How much does air weigh? Losing 5 pounds of air is much more impressive skill, task, goal. Focus on what is achievable. How much air did you save today?

Trip in: 5 people passed me.
Trip home: 3 people passed me.

Real Dutch scene, woman traveling on bike with bouquet of flowers, and a tractor in the city

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Most Improved Canal Biker

DAY 15
Time: 38.13min longer route
36.05min(PB) back, in 3rd gear
Weather: Morning was cool. Cloudy. Sprinkles. Afternoon was dry. Little headwind.

Lame Rabbit
Drove lame Rabbit to mechanic this morning. As a true Dutch gesture, mechanic has a couple of loaner bikes for patrons. Asked, "Can I borrow your strongest bike?" The mechanic gave the bike a couple of whacks on the seat, squeezed the tires and put some extra air in for me. Can you imagine offering a loaner bike to Americans at Wal-mart, Jiffy-Lube or Firestone?

Fast as a Gazelle
Mechanic's bike was an old 3-speed Dutch Gazelle with a hard leather Brooks seat. THREE speeds. WHAAA! Today I flew down the canal in 3rd gear, mostly. NO ONE, count them, NO ONE passed me. Granted, after 9:00 so most people already at work. But, third gear is like having an extra hamster on the wheel. No wonder so many people pass me rapidly on my purple gearless cruiser. Need gears. Not a lot. Three.

Good Vibrations
Could have made butter in my backpack while riding over the bricked street sections though. Chub-chub on really full tires, my eyeballs were rattling just as loud as the bike. Was like riding a cheap vibrating motel bed for a quarter to work. Teeth chattered, too.

I am in the reflection on the light. Tried to improve this fluke shot, but first fluke was the best.
Serious Biker Woman
Arrived at the same time as another fellow colleague and damn serious biker. Coworker was in full gear, gray padded professional biker shorts and red sleeveless tank top made with that stretchy sporty fabric that sucks to your body. Not sure if that is the catalogue description. I've seen guys roll up to the building in Rabo orange and blue biking suits. But this was the first woman seriously clad.

No Choices, Just Ride.
She rides 15km/10miles to and from work a day. Her advice, "I ride every day. No questions. I don't ask myself, are you going to ride today? Then I would have to decide every morning. Maybe, but it's raining or naw it is too cold today. No matter the weather, I ride. I don't talk myself out of it. I don't give myself the choice."

Locker Room
My new biker hero showed me the shower facilities. There's a waiting list for the guy's locker room facilities, but plenty of lockers in the girl's area. I can get my own high school looking gray locker for storing freshness spray and power bars.

Full Package
Not sure why the guy's locker room is so popular. Male biker shorts reveal what is usually concealed. Give a preview of the full package. Think the smart ladies are camping out in the guy's area. May see if I can also get on the guy's waiting list.

Red and Sweaty Swagger
Girls keeping asking if I am hot, sweaty, stinky. Yes, but not in that order. My colleagues know when I walk in the room that I rode the bike. Not because of sweat or stench, but a red flushed face, no make up and a John Wayne swagger from a hard leather saddle on today's bike.

Retro Moment

As a pre-teen during basketball summer camp, every year I would get the 'Most Improved' award. Not 'Best Dribbler', 'Fastest Fastbreaker', 'Best Defender', 'Most Offensive'. After the third time, I cried (was 11ish). I was the best at nothing except getting better than when I showed up on the first day. No glory in 'improving' at a sport camp where the objective for everyone is to improve.

Most Improved Award
Gave myself the 'Most Improved Canal Biker Award' today. Was faster, mentally stronger. Even borrowed a bike to ride. Was better today, with a better attitude. Better than yesterday. Better than when I started. Will send the Rabo Guys some fan mail and share my award, but don't want to make them cry.

Trip in: 0 passed me. I passed 0.
Trip back: 4 passed me. I passed 3. Actually chased down two who passed me and repassed. Felt like a pro.
Boats passed: 1, passed my first boat, going the same direction.

Song of the Day: You're the Best Around from Karate Kid Soundtrack with accompanying karate tournament montage.

Passing the boat on the canal, and jogger at the same time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Discouraged Canal Biker

DAY 14
Time: 43.07min going, 38.33min home
Weather: Morning was clear, bit nippy. Afternoon was dark, looming clouds, lightening, thunder, smattering of rain made me ride fast before the bottom fell out.
Pouting on Couch
Am back in the saddle. Skipped 3 days of biking. Not struck by thunder, didn't have flatter tires, didn't fall. Didn't fracture my tibia, fibula, or spare ribbia. Didn't break anything except my pride and will. Pouted on the couch the whole weekend. Soothed bitter soul with lemon sorbet.

On Saturday, after two weeks of committed biking, I jumped on the scale and had officially gained 5lbs./2kilos. Wanted to vomit. Kick bike all the way down the canal. Into canal.

Pile of rusty bikes from other frustrated cyclists removed from canal by cleaning crew

Rabo Mood Sours, Too
Manure smelling mood matched that of the Rabobank Riders weekend Tour performance.The guys weren't even showing up in the wide angle, helicopter shots.

Team Leader Breukink was speaking to all of us when he said, “Their style of riding is not relaxed; they are too anxious and they are trying to force too much. There is no flow. Numerous factors made success in the first week impossible and then the pressure starts to work counterproductively."

Not My Job
The Rabo guys have to ride. Even if/when they don't want to. It's their job. Not my job. Easier to pout and protest to the inner commentator. Mental game. Have no coach, no sponsor and no waterboy.

Nobody is going to jump out of a car, ratchet my rigor mortis bones off the denim sofa and give me a running push start...when I don't feel like it.

Chat with Self
Can I beat or be the inner commentator? Well, I'm not the Dutch Oprah McGraw. Trouble applauding self and my persistently inconsistent daily regimen. Am proud of self on days that I ride. But, cannot combat scale evilness with positive self back patting.

"Oh Tammie, who cares if you gain, you are riding your bike and bringing joy and inspiration with your poetic canal prose and remarkable BlackBerry photography," chortles me to my silly self.

Remarkable Blackberry photography, had to cross little bike bridge and ride on other side of the canal because of the canal cleaners.

In the last few days, heard several supportive affirmations like: body busy building muscle, muscle weighing more than fat, give it another month, and soon you'll see results in your pants and the way you feel. Gag. Boooo. Hiss. Middle pointing finger. And thank you. Really. My gift to you: 5 pounds of pure muscle.

I do NOT with a capital NOT comprehend the mathematics, chemistry and metabolism involved in me riding more than 100 miles and not losing weight. "Ride faster. Ride slower. Ride further. Switch up your pace. Vary your routine. Swim the canal to work." All very encouraging comments from Marion Freijson, triathlete. She didn't suggest the swim the canal thing, but I know she wanted to.

I'm Just a Girl
I am human, a real girl sometimes. American. I need results. Without results, visible results, I fold and fall apart like a deck of wet cards made out of wet toilet paper being held ever so loosely in a soggy, recycled paper bag.

Can climb the hill, can make the ride in under 40 minutes, can make the effort to write about it no matter how embarrassing. Just need body to respond.

Number who passed me going in: 15
Number who passed me coming home: 5

Number I passed: 4, woohoo. 1 lady stopped to put on raincoat. And, a mom with two kids counts as 3 when I pass.
Bug casualties: 1 suicide eye bomber.

Song of the day: Mustang Sally aka Ride Sally Ride by Commitments with very gay accompanying dance line video instructions.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Convertible Canal Biker

DAY 13
Time: No riding time today.
Weather: Morning, storming. Afternoon, clear.

Thursday night, I bought a 1987 Volkswagen. Purchased with my heart from a young refurbisher, I am now the somewhat proud owner of a 22 year old imported American model VW Cabriolet, read convertible Rabbit.

As I was pulling away, the expensive electronic gate slid shut behind my cheap, old tailgate. Gave it too little gas to get up a little hill, and it died. Really died. It wouldn't start. Nothing, no noise, no choking. Just a dashboard of red lights.

It's Mine Now
Stranded, previous owner was kind enough to come out and mention, "By the way, this happens some times. You have to shake the stick. Or maybe, open the door and push it firmly into Park with your foot." I tried without success to shake and push and shimmey, and not to shoot the finger.

Shake technique

He jumped in, gave it the experienced shake of the stick and it started. Now that I think back, he said, "This only happened a couple of times to me." But he had developed a quite extensive, tried and true technique to get it to start. Not a method you can develop after just 1 or 2 mishaps.

1987 Volkswagen Golf Cabriolet, American Karmann Edition

Top Down, Street Blocked
Parked the car in front of my house on the single lane street. Top down. Neighbors came out to see. Give the thumbs up. Then gawked for the next 45 minutes because it wouldn't start and was blocking the street.

Me Tammie, Me Angry
Texted the previous owner with some really bad, stinging Dutch which probably translated into this: "Jeroen, Me think not fine you not say starting trouble BEFORE. I try 30 minutes for start and nothing. I know not all your tricks. I frustrating and heart pains."

Wiggle and Push
Jeroen, the now wealthy magician, texted back that he was at the movie and I could try to wiggle this and push that. As my dad would say, "I'm going to wiggle and push this size 10 boot up your ass." Or "I'm going to give YOU a wiggle and a push in a minute."

Sigh. Crushed. Pissed. Confidence level in car plummeted without parachute.

Dodging Bullets
Rain pelted down Friday not on me and my bike, but on me inside my runnng Rabbit, and on the Tour de France guys. Felt like a slacker all day because I drove the new car to work. During the race, Rabo Rider Oscar Freire was shot with an air rifle. He kept riding, pellet removed after finish line.

What are my excuses for not riding? Nobody is shooting at me. I don't have to dodge bullets.

Numbers of bikes passed going in: 4
Numbers passed going home: no idea, was talking illegally on the phone.
Song of the day: Radio cassette player in car works sporadically. Didn't work today.

Bought flowers and groceries, supermarket is just 3 minutes on the bike.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ordinary Canal Biker

DAY 12
Time: 37.45min going
40.59min coming back
Weather: Spectacular, not normal

Extraordinary Gig
To the American audience, this bike riding gig is extraordinary, ha, perhaps. Riding a bike or walking is just not done in Texas. Too hot. And just not enough bike riding going on. No place to ride safely.

Sea of bikes at Utrecht Central Station, if your bike is inside this square, it cannot be removed by the city
Daily Transport Choice
In Holland, biking is a normal, ordinary, daily mode of transport. Holland has 16 million people and 16 million bikes. I have 4, and 75% of the tires are flat. Holland has been infrastructured and planned so that we can ride pretty much ANYWHERE on the bike and on a bike path with no cars.

Common Broohaha
I have settled into my ride now. I am not so physically exhausted everyday. The weather makes this easier too. Taking the bike is just what people do here and I am making a big hoopala uhmpapa broohaha unneccessarily.

Friendly Repeat Biker
Have become so common, predictable, that Pim from Day 10 Friendly Canal Biker surprised me on the big bridge today. Pim found the blog and realized that I was keeping time and counting my overtakers on the canal. Pim was my pacemaker, made sure we rode faster than Monday. Lovely, eh?

About 10 months ago, I tried to ride the canal. Then, I chose the canal path because the bus also follows the canal all the way to work. I thought, if I get tired, I will jump off the bike, lock it and catch the bus.

Quitters Never Win, Winners Never Quit
I did that twice. I got way tired. Stopped twice. I have now passed that point 18 times without stopping. What is extraordinary about that? Back then, I was so tired at this point that I got off my bike, leaned it on the brick wall and quit. In the time trials, this spot is just 10 minutes from my house.

Beat the Bus
Almost sure I can beat the bus to the city center, especially during traffic jam hours. Or at least make it a good race. The bike keeps moving, the bus stops. Cars stop. I may win.

Just Being Normal
I am out of mental game, rodeo clown antics today. I don't have to ride fast everyday. I don't have to write volumes everyday. I can be normal. Ordinary. This is what I do. The Dutch have a saying, "Just be normal, that is crazy enough." I am damn pleased that this crazy idea is becoming normal for me.

Trip in: 11 passed me, I passed 1 ding dong who stopped to get her music.
Trip back: 16 passed me, must have been 0 that I passed or I would have celebrated.
Song of the day: Foundations by Kate Nash

9:00a.m. Leidse Rijn Canal

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Giant Canal Biker

DAY 11
Time: 36.54min (PB) going
42.42min coming home
Weather: Perfect.

Keep getting questions about my personal hygiene linked to my bike rides. "Don't you sweat?" and "Is there a shower at work?" and "Do you smell?"

All from females. Guys ask "What kind of bike do you have?" and...well actually that is all guys ask me.

Purple Union Bike
Ladies second. I have a basic, no frills, Dutch brand Union bike. My friend Simone gave me the bike for free when she moved to Australia. Sturdy enough. One gear, or no gears. No hand brakes, pedal brakes. Purple. Not too pretty to steal. What? Someone would steal your bike? No, not this bike.

At first, it was difficult for me to lock my bike when parking in front of the neighborhood grocery store or at the doctor's office. Coming from small town Texas, everybody knows you, your granny, Booger Junior your cousin by marriage and the last time you farted. I thought, "I live with these people. Who's going to steal my bike?"

Dutch learning curve
I've had three bikes stolen in my 13 years here. It is very deflating when your bike is just gone. Didn't you park it right here? Did you take your bike to the train station? Did you walk today? Maybe it's on the other side of this...nuh uh. That's funny. Wasn't it here, right here? Nope. GONE.

Giant Biker
If I had a fantastic bike, I'd just have to worry about when it would be stolen. When I am discovered, and Giant sees my commercial potential, they will want me to ride the new Rabobank Pro Tourbike as a publicity stunt. Me on this bike, a picture of fitness in motion. Very fast motion.

Do I want to be the poster girl for a GIANT anything? I don't want to shop at "Big BiGGER BIGGEST", "Grandios" or "Fatty Tat Tat" for my rain ponchos and biker shorts.

If they donate gear, I may rethink my pride. Support Tammie the Giant Canal Biker. Could I wear this t-shirt? Cringe. You can wear it.

Sorry ladies. I can't talk about sweat and smells because of the possibilities for French deodorant sponsorships. In these tough economic times, more likely that someone like colleagues, will donate a can of spray deodorant, than a Giant TCR Advanced Rabobank bike.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rockstar Canal Biker

DAY 10
38min to work (PB), 39min home (PB)
Weather: Gorgeous, helped with 2 new personal bests

Let my numbers speak. I broke 40 minutes to and fro today. Yes I can!
Pedal to the Metal
(previously Peddle to the Medal, where's my editors?)
Am no Albert Einstein, no really, but he came up with some theories that support biking up hills. Before I started up the bridge hill today, I put some gas into it. Built up some speed going into the climb. Not that kind of gas, though some might argue whether human biker gas helps propel the body forward.

What is that law then? Not the gas propulsion law. The law that makes climbing slow even more painful than climbing fast. Climbing fast keeps the momentum, but burns up energy too. Somebody who understands biking, climbing, math or science can figure out how that law of motion works for my benefit or to my demise.

Life in Plastic, It's Fantastic
On the way home, I took turns passing a plastic bottle collector. We recycle plastic in Holland, for free. He didn't look like the kind of feller who was environmentally concerned, or part of a beautification project or just green.

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged
Don't care why he was stopping. He passed me once. I passed him twice. Good for my numbers. May litter my path tomorrow with Coca-Cola light bottles...aka Diet Coke bottles, and hope we cross paths again.

Cruise Control
Had music in my ears today. Same as coal power making steam. Not sure how that energy process works either. Just know that I was comfortable, and nearly on cruise control. People still passed me with pace, so I know it is possible to go faster to work. I don't want to blow a gasket or bust a nut before the weekend. I still have 12 days of Tour de France racing and pacing.

Trip in: 8 passed me, mom packing two kids = 3! I passed 1 guy
Trip back: 5 passed me, I passed same guy twice.
Song of the day: Rockstar by Nickelback

And had some flower power on the last leg with a Volkswagen T2 Camper Van siting

Monday, July 13, 2009

Friendly Canal Biker

Time: 15min to city hall, 45min with new biker buddy
Weather: Not too hot, not too cold, not too anything.

Had to renew Dutch passport today. Biker hair was flying away. Tamed it sooo much for the picture that I looked like the killer card in Old Maid. Photographer said I could not have crazy wild bangs in my face, and must put behind my ear. International, legal passport photo regulations. OH MY. So grateful this will only be in my passport for FIVE years.

Only American in the Village
Traffic and biking is scary in the little village. Not clear who has right-of-way, more based on who is fastest and more ballsy. I am neither. So I decided to ride out the not-so-busy end through the countryside. Not many canals. Next best thing is the castle or the trains.

Heard a train coming and was positioning self with BlackBerry in the air. Older gentleman passed me, possibly narrowly dodging my clothesline wrestler arm. Then he slowed, too. Asked me if I was lost and if was I using my GPS. Not lost. Just trying to take picture for my blog (pic at top of today's post).

Miss Understood
I explained in Kemosabe-Caveman Dutch, 'me Tammie, me make fire', that I was writing about my bike rides. Not his fault, but he understood this, "Me writer. Me ride during the week in Tour de France. Follow Rabobank Team with my bike to work. Support team with my bike on the canal and blog site."

Pim rode with me and talked to me. Let me take his photo. We rode slow. For me, for him. Remember he had aleady passed me once, so more for me. Pim is retired and rides every couple of days just to loosen up his joints. He usually rides 10-15km (7-10 miles) depending on the weather.

Pim, retired biker buddy
A very well-educated man. Perhaps somewhat self-taught or at least has a continuing interest to keep his brain sharp. Pim loves languages. In school he studied Dutch, French, German, English, Greek and Latin. I remember my teachers didn't want me taking French and Spanish in the same semester. The Dutch really excel in language learning.

Figuring out Traffic
Before retiring Pim was a traffic engineer. Made sure cities had traffic flow for cars, lights, pedestrians, crossings and even bike paths and bikers, like Pim and me. Lately, what keeps Pim busy is genealogy. His own family and tracking others. He doesn't trust all the info on the Internet. Prefers solving his own puzzles.

After 45 minutes of deciphering my choppy Denglish sentences, Pim said my Dutch was fine and you really couldn't tell that I was British. American I said. "Oh. You don't sound American." ...nor do I sound Dutch, Pim.

Four Seasons Bike Route, where I rode with Pim

My Tour Break in Holland
As we got close to my home, Pim admitted that he thought IIIIII was riding in the Tour de France behind the Rabo Team. It was my off day and I would be heading back to France tomorrow. To follow the team, on my bike. I would write about it. That was my work.

Probable Pro Cycling Reporter
T'was kind of Pim to give me the benefit of the doubt. Probable that I was a racing journalist. In my bad Dutch, I was claiming to be an on the spot, roving, roaming reporter. Riding along side the pro cycling team on my bald tires, getting out of breath quotes from fallen riders and getting down and dirty in the action with my wee little BlackBerry.

I told Pim, "They are riding 150-200 kilometers a day. I ride 10-20km. Just down the canal. That was enough for me." We laughed. He looked at his watch and said, "We made more than 45 minutes, so we probably made 10km."

Number of people who passed me: 1, just Pim.
Number of people who passed me and Pim: Zero

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Confrontational Canal Biker

DAY 7 Saturday, July 11
Time: 44min total to shop & back
Weather: Sunny, insignificant wind.

Took 5 year old to get ice cream, homemade Italian ice cream. And, to buy self a new scale. Tried not to stare at him eating ice cream or feel punished. New scale calculates your body fat and water weight, too. What a bonus, confronting feature.

Big Boned
I always heard "you are just big boned." But, if we add up my fat weight and water weight percentages, we get 97.6 %. Leaving only 2.4% for my bones and hair. All these years I blamed heavy bones. And hairy legs.

DAY 8 Sunday, July 12
Time: 1 hour approx. family ride
Weather: Perfect temp, puffs of wind.

Watched Rabo boys climb and Oscar take third in Stage 9. Then, inspired my own boys to ride the canal, but the other direction. Away from work. Always have to lure them out of the house with ice cream or steak. See the smiles.

Will Ride for Food
We need to get in family mindset that exercise has some benefit. Ride to ride. Not to go get food.

Little 'Nolte Farms' sponsorship

Names in Fries
Snapped pics of the boys on the canal. From the side. From the back. From the front. We stopped at a restaurant and experienced typical slow service. Kept Adam entertained by having him spell family names and Wii games characters with his french fries.

Photo not doctored
On the way back, I gave Niels the camera. Mostly I am headless or conveniently out of shot or focus.

He also took pics from front, side and behind. At angles I cannot reach or get with the BlackBerry. Was confronted with self globally from 360 degrees.

Lessons Learned
Need to a new, more supportive bra...stick with BlackBerry at arm's length instead of WIDE angles. And, need to...keep riding my bike.

Have library-ed several photos for the BEFORE file, only to be revealed if there is a substantial change in the AFTER files.

Keep the pace
Monday is a day off for the Tour de France and also for me. I am 2 days and more than 1000 miles off the pace. I have made a new commitment to get on the bike and ride every day, even if I am not going to work. If I ride tomorrow, I am just one day down. Must force some changes in exercise plan and water-fat-bone ratios.

Bend in the canal on the way to Harmelen village