Bikes and boats!

Tracy knows this much better than I do. It’s hard to get much movement on a boat. You can read a bit about that here. Though she’s had some success with sun salutations and end of day dancing.

Jeff is spending the summer on his boat, touring canals and waterways, going through locks, exploring new places. You can read about Jeff’s boating adventures over at his boating blog! Mostly I prefer the land and I prefer active weekends, usually on my bike. Often we’re happy to each do our thing but we’ve been scheming about ways to combine the two activities and this weekend we had some success.

Here’s his boat:

One challenge of visiting Jeff on the boat is getting back to your car. You see you drive to where the boat is but that’s a moving target. You get on the boat and motor away from your car. For those of us just enjoying weekend bits of boat life, we need to get back to the car to get to work Monday morning. Bikes are the obvious answer since Jeff’s cruising at slower speeds the distance works out okay.

Sarah and I boarded the boat in Westport with our bikes on Friday, leaving the car there. We noodled over to Perth for lunch on Saturday, and then anchored for the night near Rideau Ferry. Sunday morning we hopped off the boat and got on our bikes.

The little trip over to Perth was my favorite part of the trip. All of the locks are manually operated but these ones seemed especially old and quaint. The trip after the lock was through beautiful park land. We couldn’t quite make it to downtown Perth. Instead we tied up at the public dock and walked over to grab lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the water.

The only downside of our plan was carrying stuff in backpacks. Next time we’re leaving things on the boat for their return journey home.

Here’s the bikes on the boat, still with their bike rally plates attached:

I got some relaxing in, putting my pink toes up:

While Sarah and Jeff did the work of actually getting the boat through the locks:

Here’s Jeff on the Beveridge Lock:

And more:

And I did less useful things like take a boat selfie:

From boat to bikes!

There might have been a few hills on the 40 km ride back to the car. Luckily at the end there were also blueberry scones and lattes!

Thanks Jeff and Sarah for the boat-bike adventure. Let’s do it again!

FFS, I don’t deserve my health

Because of the blog people know a lot about the fitness-y things that I do. They say, “Oh you look great.” And that’s fine. I’ll take it. But then sometimes people go on to speculate that I am in such good health because of the fitness-y things that I do. “You take such good care of yourself!”

And then I turn red and think of nice ways to engage with the presumption that good health is worked for or deserved. Just like you can’t tell if a person is fit from how they look, you also can’t assume a person is healthy because they are doing physical activity.

In the scheme of things, I’m not that healthy. I’ve had my gall bladder out. In the course of the life of the blog, I’ve had thyroid cancer and had my thyroid removed. Both surgeries were fine. In some ways, no big deal, but still. I’ve got some osteoarthritis stuff going on too. I get a hacking cough that can last for weeks in the winter. Also, I’m visually impaired. Everything’s okay right now but I don’t feel like the healthiest person out there.

We actually have very little control over our health. You know that joke about having good parents being the most important thing you can do for your health. Genetics is huge.

Of course, get some exercise. Of course, eat your veggies. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink much. Stay connected with the world. Keep your brain working. There’s some stuff you can do that’s health promoting. But there are no guarantees.

In my post What does 74 look like? I wrote about luck, illness and disability, and aging. I talked about Jeff’s mother, one of the most healthy behaving people I’ve known and her death.

“I watched my mother-in-law go from being a happy, healthy, vibrant woman who loved hiking, swimming, and cross country skiing to bring someone who needed help with basic day to day activities in just a couple of years. The cause? ALS. Its cause isn’t known. Random genetic mutation? Doesn’t matter. Eating right and moving lots won’t prevent it.

If you saw me pushing her in a wheelchair and thought she was there because she made bad choices, you’d be wrong.”

We like to think we have control over our health. It’s good for us to believe that we do. It’s a useful lie. It motivates us to take charge of the tiny part of our health that is in our control. Yes, we can eat well and work out but there are no guarantees. I know you know this. But sometimes I think we forgot it.

This is a reminder.

Sam gets her first ever pedicure right before the bike rally

Tanned white feet with pink toenails resting on a white lawn chair

Right before the bike rally I did a new thing!

It’s on the list of feminine beauty rituals I’ve never tried. It’s a long list. Longer than you might suspect. But now you can knock one item off the never tried list, the pedicure.

Catherine was in town for a few days before the 1 day ride so we could get some work done. We talked about information and habit change, which she blogged about this week, and about whether there are medically distinct categories of overweight and obesity (though we both hate these terms). Catherine is interested in the public health question of where we should focus our attention.

And on our long day of walking around Toronto and talking about all the things, Catherine put in a plug for an uplifting pre-bike rally pedicure. Sure, why not, I thought. Live a little. Try new things.

I contacted Cate since I know she does this stuff and worries about the ethics of it all, like how well the people who work there are treated.

Here’s our feet after…

Thoughts? Short and simple, I loved it. Loved the process and the result. Weeks later they’re still pretty and pink. I also liked the “doing a fun thing with a friend” part of it all.

Why haven’t I tried it before?

I’m always a bit queasy about feminine beauty rituals. They’re part of a package I try to reject. No one has ever plucked my eyebrows. I’ve never had any body part waxed. And I resist the offer of my hair dresser to get rid of the peach fuzz on my face to make it easier to apply foundation. How about I just don’t wear foundation?

With each new thing, I think “wow, really? women do that? I had no idea.”

I nearly changed hair salons this year because the place I go and love, which doesn’t ask to colour my grey hair, started hosting Botox parties. Ew.

I’ve also read lots about the working conditions of women who paint nails and pamper hands and feet for a living. Grim. See here.

I also worry about each new thing I try as upping the ante, becoming the new normal. Like will I feel underdressed the next time I’m wearing summer dresses and sandals without painted toes?

It’s also different when you’re older. Previously my scruffy feet looked athletic or outdoorsy. My worry now is that they look like I’ve given up on myself. I’m letting myself go. Whatever that means. Plain toenails! Gasp!

I’m worry about that too with makeup which I’ve never made a habit of wearing.

Like Tracy and her eye lashes extensions though I wasn’t sure about my painted mails in all contexts. With pretty strappy sandals and a dress, they looked great. But I wasn’t sure about them stuffed into socks and crammed into my bike shoes.

Oh, and they also they waxed my toes! So that’s another thing I can tick off the list of feminine beauty rituals I haven’t tried.

On the positive side, maybe it all balances out in the year of branching out and trying new things. Yes, a pedicure. But I also used my first power tool and didn’t die. (I was helping to fix the canoe rack that Sarah built last summer.)

I might get another pedicure. But next time I’m keeping my toe fuzz.

Here’s my painted toenails post bike rally in flip flops complete with the usual scrapes and chain ring grease.

Last bike rally update, by the way. Thanks to an anonymous donor I made my $5000 fundraising goal. Thanks everyone!

Joh goes again!

Joh writes, “Après avoir parcouru 110 km pour Friends for Life le 30 juillet, je vais maintenant pagayer 10 km et pédaler 125 km pour Nikibasika. La mission de Nikibasika est de former un groupe de jeunes gens instruits, sensibles aux enjeux mondiaux, orientés vers les communautés et dotés de ressources pour leur permettre de générer des occasions de développement dans leurs communautés en Ouganda.
L’objectif de financement pour 2017 est de 150 000 $. Mon objectif personnel est de 1 500 $. C’est par ici pour contribuer :

In English: “After biking 110 km for Friends for Life on July 30th, I will now paddle 10 km and bike 125 km for Nikibasika. The mission of Nikibasika is to create a group of well-educated, globally aware, community oriented and well- resourced young people in Uganda, who will in turn co-create development opportunities for their communities. Our fundraising goal this year is $150,000, and my personal objective is $1,500. I would appreciate if you could contribute here: Thanks!”


Thoughts on the bike rally year 4: This is a thing my body and heart can do, #f4lbr

So in Year 1 it was David and me, cyclist friends off to ride bikes in queer community and raise money for the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. Stephanie was our team co-lead and it was only later I learned how famous she is. Wow, you rode bikes with the Yarn Harlot, exclaimed my feminist knitting buddies. I met Steph’s family (I think that was the year that almost everyone rode) and her friend Jen, our other co-lead. We had a fun first year.

Here’s Jen blogging about the rally at her blog My Sensitive Girl Hole.

Fact 1: PWA’s Friends For Life Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, raising roughly 40% of its revenues.

In Year 2, I recruited Susan and we joined a team of wonderful speedy young men. Here’s her post about the rally.

Fact 2: Aboriginal persons account for a disproportionately high percentage of individuals living with HIV infection in Canada, as do people from countries where HIV is endemic.

In Year 3, it was Susan and me leading our own team which included Nat, Joh, Cate, Sarah, Val and Vanessa and others too. Go Switchin’ Gears.

Fact 3: Women account for 23.2% of all AIDS cases reported in Canada, according to the AIDS committee of Toronto (ACT).

And this year, Year 4 it was back to me and David. We were on a team with Stephanie and Jenn, lead by the wonderful Barrett and Brandon.

I wasn’t as prepared as I had been in past years. In other years I’d ridden in Arizona, in Manitoulin, or gone to bike camp in South Carolina. In other years, I’d trained with a cycling coach doing weekly interval drills, speed work, and fast rides. This year I’d done none of those things.

Yes, I’d gone lots of training rides but in past years I’d found the bike rally pretty easy. I overshot the mark in terms of training. I arrived at camp in pretty good shape, not too tired, and easily ready to ride the next day. That’s the difference between being able to do it and having it be super enjoyable. Not this year. I knew I could do the distance but that’s about it. It was hot and hard and the days were long. This year I had to work at taking care of myself, eating well and sleeping as much as I could. I was often in bed at 9 pm missing out on social stuff because I knew I needed my rest.

Day 1 is the long slow ride out of Toronto. I rode with David and also with day riders Sarah, Catherine, Joh, and Judy. We all got hot and spent more time on the road than we’d counted on. You can read about Catherine and Sarah’s Day 1 experiences here.

Day 2 I learned an important lesson. Don’t try out new shorts on the bike rally! No more details but day two’s lesson also hung around for a few days.

David and me flopped on the grass, day 2 lunch.

Day 3 was red dress day. Thankfully also a short day. Recovery time in Kingston!

Here’s our team dinner in Kingston!

Day 4 and 5 were better but also hot and long.

Along the way I spent more time than usual counting kilometers. I needed to know, how long until the next rest stop, how long until camp. Always counting, always looking at my Garmin. Each day it felt like Zeno’s bike ride. Just 40 km left, then 20, then 10, then 5 and pretty soon I was down to counting individual kilometres. So warm!

A confession: More than once I wondered about whether I could summon an Uber with bike racks!

But I did make it to the last day. Here’s our team photo on Day 6.

Oh and we got seriously rained on on our way into Montreal. Wind, lightening, heavy sideways rain. We briefly took refuge at a Shell station.

But we made it! Here’s there photos of my arrival into Montreal. I did it. I raised money to help the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation do its amazing work. I rode my bike from Toronto to Montreal. This is a thing my body and heart can do. You can still sponsor me here.

It’s a moving experience in many senses. The bike rally brings together and builds an incredibly close, loving and caring community. I may not be able to do the six day ride next year but definitely the one day, definitely.

Fact 4: Nearly 1 in 4 of all new HIV diagnoses in 2013 were among youth aged from 15 to 29. Men accounted for 79 percent of all youth HIV diagnoses.

Lies cyclists tell ourselves

Last Saturday’s ride was wet. Also plagued by flats, three of them, and I forgot to charge my electronic shifting so I spent the last 25 km in a single gear.

Luckily the shifters are designed to dump you into a nice middle of the road gear before giving out completely.

The ride was, however, completely redeemed by the wonderful company of Joh and Sarah. I love riding with Joh and Sarah.

Here we are!

Anyway, during the ride I got to thinking about cyclists and lies. Not the lies we tell non cyclists but rather the lies we tell ourselves.

The lies cyclists tell are rather notorious. See The lies cyclists tell in Canadian Cycling Magazine.

Here’s some that seem relevant to today’s ride:

The ride must start at 9

Reasoned completely a priori thusly. There’s an early start and a later start for bike rally rides. Long rides start early. It must be 9 and 10 am because that makes sense. So this is 103 km so we need to be there at 9. Except no. It’s 8 and 9 am. We need to be there at 8. It’s a half hour drive to the start. Whee! Zoom!

We’ll be back by noon

Every single group of cyclists has someone along who believes this. It doesn’t matter how far we’re riding or when we leave, we’ll be back by noon. Except it’s 103 km. At the sweeping pace that’s 5 hours riding. Plus stops for lunch etc. Leaving at 830 after the last rider. That’s never seen noon, as my father might say. More like mid-afternoon. More like 3 pm when everything is said and done.

It won’t rain on us

Yes there’s rain in the radar, all day, everywhere, but it’ll miss us. We won’t get wet. It felt good to say that, to think it. But it wasn’t true.

The wind will turn in our favour

We have a wicked wonderful tailwind on the trip out. I scored a bunch of personal bests on Strava segments I’d ridden before. None of it was my doing. Thank you wind. Sarah said she thought, or hoped, that the wind might turn and follow us home. But it never does. Or rather it only ever does if you have a headwind on the way out. Then the wind might turn and give you a headwind both ways.

Anyway, really it was a pretty good ride. Wind and rain and mechanical issues aside.

You can sponsor me in the bike rally here:

You Ask, Fit Feminists Answer: How do I learn to use clipless pedals?

This is the third in a new series where we answer readers’ questions. If you have questions send them our way, using the “contact us” form on the left hand side of the blog. I’ll forward them to the appropriate blogger. We’re not experts by any means but we do have a wealth of real world experience with many, many physical activities.

How do you learn to ride with clipless pedals? What’s your advice for someone switching from toe clips to clipless pedals and who is scared of falling? How did you learn? What worked? What didn’t?

Catherine: For me it was a three-fold process: I had to get comfortable clipping in and out, and then I did a little trial and error with different brand pedals. Finally, I learned how to set my pedals so that I could adjust the tension for easier clipping out (or more tightness when clipped in– these are useful under different conditions). Oh, and I did fall over a few times. It was mainly embarrassing, not painful or dangerous. It happens, and then it stops happening. Now I really enjoy the feeling of being clipped in, as it makes me pay more attention to my pedal stroke and I feel more one with the bike. Give it a try!

Tracy: I wrote a whole post about the painful way and the easy way (the easy way is: Ask Sam to teach you!):, p.s. the absolute key for me was learning to pedal with one foot and not to hurry. Once I had that, I could take my time and not panic. Note that after my first failed attempt to try it on my own I donned my armoured motorcycle jacket for my next attempt. Having the protection helped me not worry about falling. And in the end I didn’t fall anyway.

Kim: Like Tracy, I advocate the one foot approach. First, straddle your bike and practice clipping and unclipping with your dominant foot. Get the feel for the peddle: clipping in becomes muscle memory that way. Then roll along gently, getting purchase on the other pedal but not applying pressure; slow and steady is best. Don’t try to clip it in yet. When you feel comfortable, look down so you can see the peddle and clip. Push it right side up if needed with your foot, and feel around for the clip. Work on manoeuvring in, then out again. Repeat for a while. You will fall but you won’t hurt yourself if you are prepared! Long sleeves. Helmet. Move slowly, but not at a crawl.

Cate: Also ride someplace without a lot of traffic or stoplights while you practice so your stopping / starting is not filled with pressure. And make sure the bike isn’t too big or the seat set too high — my biggest crash was putting my own pedals that I was comfortable with on a rented bike and when I tried it out the seat was too high and I couldn’t easily unclip.

Sarah: As a notorious klutz and someone who usually takes much longer than the average person to learn new physical movements (dance? yoga? disaster!), I was really intimidated by “clipless” pedals – even the name seemed counterintuitive. So when I bought my sister’s old road bike during a knee-imposed hiatus from jogging, I knew I had to learn how to clip in and out before venturing onto Toronto’s busy streets. So, off I went to my apartment building’s parking garage.

First the DON’T. There is only one:

1) Don’t clip and unclip a couple of times on the flat, decide you’ve got the hang of it, and then try to bike up the super-steep parking garage ramp in high gear (more disaster!). Fortunately the only thing I hurt was my pride.

There a lots of DOs. They are more fun :

1) Figure out what kind of pedals you have and get the correct style of cleats installed on your bike shoes. Your local bike shop or knowledgeable friends should help with this! Look at your cleats : if they are a small metal thing (SPD), you clip in by stomping (on the correct side) of the pedal, if they are a larger plastic thing with a little tongue at the front (one of the “road bike” systems), that tongue hooks under the loop at the front of the pedal before you stomp down. Either way you twist your foot to the side to unclip.

2) Loosen the tension on the clipping mechanism on the pedals all the way, to make it as easy as possible to clip in and out. You can always tighten them later if you find that you are inadvertently popping out.

3) Find a flat paved space with few obstacles or traffic for your early attempts at clipping in and out.

4) While standing still, clip one foot onto a pedal. When I stop on my bike, my right foot is usually on the ground, so I clip in my left foot.

5) Practice pedalling with just one foot to get used to the push-pull motion that will get you moving and keep you moving.

6) Once you’ve mastered starting, keep rolling, and practice clipping your second foot in and out, in and out.

7) Next, practice starting, clipping in, peddling, coasting, unclipping, and then slowing to a stop. Over and over until it feels kinda automatic. Don’t forget to always lean toward your unclipped foot.

8) You’re ready to venture out onto the streets. Remember that any time you’re reaching for your brake to slow down, whether it’s for a stop sign or a squirrel running across the road, unclip. Even if you end up not stopping and just clip back in, it’s a good habit to get into.

9) Finally, go find some hills of increasing steepness. First, marvel at how that push-pull clipped in action powers you easily up challenging hills. Now, practice stopping on the hill. We naturally tend to turn across steep hills when we stop, to avoid the feeling of rolling backwards. We also tend to lean uphill. So it’s important to practice turning away from your unclipped foot so that it will be on the uphill side when you stop.