Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Let’s play catch-up, shall we dear reader? When we last left off we were on the cusp of spring … and now we are hurtling straight into summer.

from my train ride home one evening. moment of zen

from my train ride home one evening. moment of zen

Personal Transition

We finally made the move and are now in our new home. We closed on the house just a few days after the one-year mark of when I committed to relocating with my job. After such a long and protracted transition, the entire family has settled into our new life fairly quickly. Uncertainty can take a toll on a person and strain any relationship – and we managed to pull through with relatively few emotional wounds. The house is in a lovely neighborhood about 40 miles north of the Big Apple with lots of kids. It’s not uncommon for me to get home in the evening to find my younger two kids out roaming the neighborhood with their new friends, playing until well after dark and coming home sweaty and dirty and more importantly, happy. +1 for our little family!

welcome to my backyard

welcome to my backyard

Bikey Stuff!

Having the extra time in Philly was also very nice. I was able to squeak out a few really nice rides with my friends, including an 88-mi, 5400+’ of gain ride to get lunch in St Peter’s Village that I had no business doing – but felt amazing when I finished! I haven’t felt depleted after a long, hilly ride like that in a while and it felt GREAT.  I planned to do a low-key girls-only ride to get lunch (25mi ride) but wound up with bronchitis and had to cancel all my plans for a few weekends. Then we moved ….

Andy and Ken joined me on the 88mi epic. Perfect day for a ride!

Andy and Ken joined me on the 88mi epic. Perfect day for a ride!

I rode the 5 Boro Tour again this year, this time with my friend Elizabeth. We were slotted in the first wave and what a difference that made! Yes there were still a lot of people but it was FUN. We rode the whole route together, which was surreal when I’d point out a place where the 4-lane street had been literally wall-to-wall cyclists standing around the year prior due to various levels of bicyclists trying to ride together. This year demonstrated why people do this ride year after year. I’m hoping to take my eldest son on it next year.

Elizabeth and I at the start of the 5 Boro Tour.

Elizabeth and I at the start of the 5 Boro Tour.

Up in our new area I’ve been scoping a bike route to the train station (about 12.5 miles each way; about 600′ gain to the station, 900+’ gain on the way home). I’ve seen cyclists on the roads so I know it’s possible (and Strava Global Heat Maps confirms it’s a decent route) but a few concerns that I need to work through:

1. Lots of two-lane no-shoulder roads. I’ve not been successful yet in finding alternate back-roads to use – very few roads actually connect. The roads are not terribly heavily trafficked – but there is some volume, especially at certain times. And there are a few dangerous intersections that would require I get a mirror for my glasses so I could safely navigate.

2. After about 45-60min on the bike, I have a 60 min train ride to the city. Do I feel comfortable being stinky on a train for an hour?

2a. The train station has bike lockers but refuses to rent them out. ??? So my bike would be locked to an open-air public rack. I’ve seen a few other bikes there in the morning so I know people bike to the station … but probably not as far as I’m thinking of doing.

3. Shower Situation when I get to the City. NYSC has $20 memberships and a club a few blocks from GCT; or I could check out the gym at work.

Really all just logistics – and while I am chomping at the bit to actually ride to the train station and back home, I need to work these things out before I do so. Arrive Alive!

There is a major bike path (36 miles!) with an access point fairly close to our home (a couple miles) that I can’t wait to ride and take my kids. It’s an old railroad bed so it’s fairly flat and shaded. A welcome respite from New York drivers!

Health News

I noticed a lump in my neck a few months back. I had been blowing off the feeling of swallowing behind something for a while, thinking it was a mild cold or allergies or something else. After several rounds of testing and various procedures, it turns out I have a multinodal goiter. Due to the size and number of nodules (and that it impacts my ability to swallow), I’m having a thyroidectomy in about a week. I’ve been advised to take 2 weeks to recover and at least 1 week with no exercise. So the plan is to get past surgery and recovery before throwing my leg over the top tube and getting back into the swing of things.

This past week I contracted a cold that rapidly turned into a sinus infection so I’m taking the surgical recovery period very seriously. My body is telling me I’ve been overdoing it – even though I feel like I haven’t done anything – and I need to listen if I’m going to be able to get back into running and cycling again. I have a few events planned for later in the summer that I need to begin training for – but that will wait! Even though I desperately want to just ride my bike.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon!

In like a lion ….

I was talking with my sister recently. She is a marathoner and expecting her second child this summer. She was lamenting her inability to take part in a particular marathon this year because of her impending child. It’s part of the same mentality – she’s losing her ability to just sign up for a marathon and not have to actually train so much as maintain.

One of the things active people fear most is losing fitness. Many of us started at a sub-par fitness level and have worked hard to get to a point where throwing down a marathon or a century (or whatever the goal was) is just another day. When you have that level of fitness, and life starts to get in the way, many of us panic. It was such an effort to get to this place! I don’t want to have to go back to barely creaking out 25 mile rides!

For me, it’s important to accept the place you are now and work with it. After 2 months of not riding my bike (and spending at least half that time going out of my mind with not being able to go out for bike rides), I can safely say it’s going to be a long road back to fitness when I do throw my leg over the top tube. I’ve focused on walking as much as possible and running or hiking on the weekends to maintain a base level of fitness. I signed up for a 5-mile run in April to have a motivating event to keep me from sleeping until noon on weekends (which is totally on my radar because I am not a morning person). And if all goes well, we should be moving into our new house relatively soon – which means more time back in my life for the things that matter most. Family. Friends. Bikes.

Lots has happened so far this year. We finished up a lovely vacation in Colorado with family and friends; we sold our house finally; we had to make a humane decision for my 18-year-old beagle, Mojo. I’ve gained far too much weight in the last year. Mega-commuting – spending 90min or more to get to work or back – is challenging at best and in the winter, doubly so. I’ve had a few days where I spent as much time in transit as I have at work.

And it’s been a long, cold winter. Every time the snow and cold seems to have melted just enough and the weather warming up, another winter storm or arctic cold front comes rolling through.  My bikey friends and I had made plans to go ride bikes this afternoon, but a winter storm of snow, sleet, and rain arrived – so I leashed up my dog and we did a 3-mile walk together. It was fun to be outside with friends, despite the extremely slippery conditions. My dog passed out on the couch from all the excitement.

What I’m really saying is, keep the faith my dear reader! We will all dust off the cobwebs soon enough and slowly turn the cranks again and marvel at the warm sunshine beating on our backs as we zip down the road. Spring is coming …

 

Philly is so beautiful sometimes it hurts

#SpringtimeInPhilly

counting the days until we see each other on the road ….

See you later, 2014 …

What a year it’s been.

I realize I haven’t kept up on the blog as much as I’d like but since September I haven’t been out much. And since this is my bikey blog, it’s only natural to talk about All Things Bikey. I’m living in Philly, working in NYC, and getting out as I can. The last six months have been stressful for our little family, with trying to sell the house and relocate to be closer to work. Indeed life could be worse than having a job that I continue to love, learn and grow; a family that is holding down the house selling process and understanding that sometimes things don’t go according to plan; and a husband who gives me the option and sometimes pushes me out of the house to go ride my bike for an hour because he knows it will keep me sane.

So instead of lamenting my lack of miles this year, let’s talk about the memories that were made on the rides:

The New Year started with an exploratory bike ride with my friend Ken to check out some trails he found on Google Maps. Of course we took our carbon fiber road bikes to ride rutted, frozen mud and gravel trails – that’s just what we do. Unfortunately the ride ended when I started having visual disturbances associated with an impending migraine – so we hightailed it home. Nothing like bombing down a hill with no peripheral vision and the inability to see clearly. ha!

Later in the month, we would make a farewell bike ride with our friend Heather, who had finished the schooling part of her ophthalmology studies and was moving for the first phase of her residency. Heather had been my main source of All Things Mountain Biking and a wonderful road cycling friend as well. Thankful for the wonders of the internet to keep us in touch.

lots of snow this year

January – lots of snow this year

February brought a craving for the freshest, most authentic street tacos I’ve experienced. Ken and I rode to the Belle Vista section of the city to find the El Tacos Rodeo truck to no avail. The winter was in full swing with lots of snow and ice and very little opportunity to get outside to ride – so I focused on training for a 5-mile run in April. Lots of time on the treadmill getting my running legs back.

There was one particular run where it was finally warm enough to run outside – the snow was melting and the smell of fallen pine branches from the heavy snow permeated the air. It felt so fresh and inviting.

Feb brought us an ice storm and lots of snowy rides

Feb brought us an ice storm and lots of snowy rides

March brought the advent of bike commuting again and feeling brave and stupid while riding on Market Street, one of the main streets through downtown Philadelphia. It’s 4 or 5 lanes of people who don’t really give a crap – but somehow I’ve always been able to ride safe on Market. March also brought the first training ride for the four-day bike tour I would do in June.

March - mountain biking!

March – mountain biking!

April means 30 Days of Biking, an online friendly challenge to ride your bike every day in April. I ended up biking to the train station more than biking all the way into the City.  I also took my then-14yr old son on his first mountain bike ride. He wasn’t impressed. My friend John and I hit up the Wissahickon for some spring mountain biking. And I completed my first-ever 5-mile running race in 51:40 – a little over 10min/mi. I was very proud of this because I’m not a huge runner, the course was hilly, and I kept a steady pace the whole time. I was also totally wiped out at the end – not sure how people can run half- and full-marathons!

April - mountain biking with "Grandpa" (my friend John who has grandkids and kicks my butt in the woods)

April – mountain biking with “Grandpa” (my friend John who has grandkids and kicks my butt in the woods)

May started with the TD Five Boro Tour. My friends Eric and Phil joined me for this event, and we met up with internet friend at one of the rest stops. The day before featured an 8-mile ride back to the hotel after the Expo to pick up our race packets in the pouring rain. I’m thankful the hotel staff didn’t blink when we rolled in, muddy and soaked to the bone. A hot shower and clean clothing meant we could get dinner together and chat about bikes and life and the upcoming tour. This was an incredibly disappointing event as we got slotted late and ended up walking as  much as riding (“hey, why are we walking?” “Hill.”). At one point the boys dropped the hammer and were weaving in and out of other cyclists. Corbi and I were hammering to keep up until I asked her why we were hammering. She didn’t know either – so we let off the gas and caught up to the guys naturally later on.

May brought my bike and I to NYC for a 5 Boro Tour/Hike A Bike.

May brought my bike and I to NYC for a 5 Boro Tour/Hike A Bike.

May was also the Quad County. This year Ken and I didn’t get caught in a rainstorm nor did we do the Intensive Climbing Unit (or the Very Intensive Climbing Unit) – and the day was so lovely. Perfect weather, great route … one of the best rides in the Philadelphia area.

May is also when I found out my good u-lock had been cut from my office’s bike racks because I hadn’t been back for over a month. Ug.

June’s highlight was the Ride for Homes, a four day bike tour from Philly to Gettysburg and back. This is the ride where I met so many amazing new friends, learned that I most certainly can ride 60+ miles per day multiple days in a row, the importance of proper hydration, and how to come back from letting yourself down. The Ride for Home was by far my favorite event this year, one that I am looking at doing again next year.

Chris and I keeping our cadence high and spirits higher

June – Chris and I keeping our cadence high and spirits higher

July had a ride to Hammonton and back for lunch – 108 sweaty, stinky miles under a brutal heat and humidity index with a threat of nasty thunderstorms all afternoon. What sticks in my mind is the ice cream shop lady who wouldn’t allow us access to fresh water even though we purchased ice cream (and the sink was right behind her). And how accommodating the Starbucks was next door, filling out water bottles with ice and water and wishing us well on our final 25 miles. And how incredibly draining it is to walk across the bridge over the Delaware River – we spent 10 min drinking electrolyte beverages in the shade after crossing to get our energy back.

July

July

July also had stress miles because the potential buyers for our house walked away. This had never happened to us before – and it’s incredibly anxiety-inducing. We still haven’t sold the house and it’s now almost 2015.

August had a lot of smaller rides – as the office move date grew closer, the less time I had for fun. But a couple fun rides happened – taking my Girl Scouts on an 11-mile trail ride; a lunch ride with Ken and his wife Cathy and my son; riding with Ken and Michelle to see the Super Moon rise over the Delaware at the Spruce Street Harbor pop-up park; and the most excellent ride from New Hope, PA to Brooklyn, NY to get some dinner with friends.

August - of course this is the way to go!

August – of course this is the way to go!

September had significantly fewer bikes rides and a spike in hiking and walking. Not coincidentally, I also started spending 15-18 hours on trains for work. It is what is it is – this too shall pass.

September - Girls Ride The Woods!

September – Girls Ride The Woods!

October had even fewer bike rides but a lovely hike with my friend Eric in French Creek State Park. My desires to go mountain biking were becoming intense but my fear of going alone was keeping me from actually getting out. I even went on a quick road ride instead of the mountain biking that I wanted to do because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.

October - Hiking French Creek State Park

October – Hiking French Creek State Park

November came and the weather was mild enough to get a hot cocoa ride; a hike with my husband (immediately followed by my first solo mountain bike ride – really hit the spot!); and a 50-mi bike ride with my friends. Without the regular cycling, my legs aren’t really good for much more than 50 miles but that’s going to be OK because we still have a lot going on in life.

November - beautiful fall foliage on a hike in the Wissahickon

November – beautiful fall foliage on a hike in the Wissahickon

December brought a snowy hike with my Girl Scouts and a much-needed vacation out to Colorado. My sister and I hiked twice – a short 2.5 miler with our mom and a longer 8 miler up to Pike Peak Reservoir. December has brought peace of mind, relaxation, and a way to separate from the everyday stresses and refocus on what is important – family, friends, community.

December - snowy hiking in Colorado

December – snowy hiking in Colorado

So while this year I didn’t beat anything numbers-wise from last year, I didn’t do too shabby: 2,206.5 miles on my bike with 100,384′ of gain. I also gained a lot of great memories on fun rides with my friends and explored new boundaries in my abilities. I learned tough lessons and still managed to get back on the bike the next day.

Next year will hopefully be one that is full of resolution – resolution of our house and living situation, riding my bikes more, and becoming more proficient at mountain biking. Of supporting my family though this tough transition and coming out the other side with resilience, tenacity, and strength.

Thanks for being part of my year – see you in 2015!

can't wait to see what 2015 brings us!

can’t wait to see what 2015 brings us!

PHL -> BKLYN

Yesterday I embarked on my local bike club’s annual ride from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, the Peter O’Dell Memorial Ride. I struggled with the decision to go, having a few very low days emotionally and wasn’t sure I’d be up to the challenge not only of pedaling (I chose the 90mi route) but also of being upbeat and mentally ready. My last significant rides were 110mi in early July and a metric a few weeks ago – so I’m not exactly in All Day Epic shape. In the end I decided I would regret not going more than regret going (and I could always take the train back home if I felt it necessary). 

What a great day! 

After waking entirely too early (5am!) and picking up my friend Ken, we arrived at the New Hope, PA starting point right at 7am. Many other cycling friends were also milling about, making final preparations for the ride – Kurt, John, Catherine, Phil, and Jeff (who was SAGing this mostly-unsupported ride for us), among others. We loaded our shower bags into the bus and started the journey about 7:30am under cool but humid cloudy skies. 

The first thirty miles were mostly rural, passing fields of pumpkins, corn, and apple orchards. 

New Jersey Farmland

New Jersey Farmland

We stopped in Raritan, NJ at the local Wawa-wannabe (Quick Chek) for bathrooms, ice water and a brief snack. The lunch stop was “only” 12 miles later so we didn’t feel the need to refuel too much. 

Those 12 miles included a hill that just. kept. going. Every turn, the incline kept going – about a mile at a 6% grade. Ken and I had swept up another cyclist on the ride, Adam, and stayed with him through the hill. He ended up staying with us until just after lunch. At this point we were literally dripping with sweat and sipping our electrolyte-enhanced beverages frequently. 

Lunch in Lyons, NJ at a Subway. Apparently New Jersey doesn’t have any good local hoagie shops? Food is good and so is air conditioning, which we relished as the sun had burned through the clouds and the temps were climbing into the upper 80s. 

A quick jaunt north to Basking Ridge to see a 600+ year old tree. It was pretty impressive. 

this tree is over 600 years old and in a church's side-yard cemetery.

this tree is over 600 years old and in a church’s side-yard cemetery.

By this point, Ken had switched off with Dave, who had been piloting a tandem with our friend Catherine, who happens to be blind. Adam hooked back in with a larger group of cyclists. So I pedaled off to catch up with Ken at the next rest stop in Kenilworth, NJ. And oh, was this the most delicious part of the ride. 

I zipped along, unencumbered by others. It’s not that I don’t love riding with my friends (I prefer it, actually) but sometimes the solitude is exactly what is needed. As I turned on to Sky Top Rd, I knew this was going to be an excellent hill. I didn’t attack it but I didn’t submit to it either – it was almost effortless. The road curved and rose (it was about a mile of 5% grade) in front of me, lovely forest hugging the edges. 

sky top rd. the only way is up.

sky top rd. the only way is up.

It was truly a transcendent experience, one that I can’t adequately express to you dear reader in words. 

A few miles later, I was bombing down another rd, twisting out of the Watchtung Reservation and into Echo Lake Park. I ran into a few other cyclists taking a quick break so I opted to hook in with them for a bit (and refill water). I dropped back off in Kenilworth where Ken and Catherine were waiting (with others). Dave went back to captaining the tandem and Ken was back riding with me. 

At this point, the ride turns more urban as we meander through Elizabeth and into Newark. We rode through the Newark Port, which was mercifully devoid of vehicles (and unfortunately trees) after navigating city streets. We met up with another group and got Mike to drive behind our cycling groups to get over the Route 1-9 bridge into Jersey City. Craziest bridge to negotiate – I do not recommend attempting alone/without a car behind you to keep the New Jersey drivers away from you. A large swath of the bridge was open grate, which can be extremely slippery for cyclists. 

More city streets as we navigated our way to Hoboken and the ferry terminal. About a mile from the terminal, the skies opened up and we were doused with a torrential downpour. As in, we couldn’t see Manhattan across the river (and it’s not that far). After the hot and humid day we’d had, I can’t say the rain wasn’t welcome. Ken and I sought refuge under a few trees (which is totally not what you should do in a thunderstorm but we didn’t have any other options) until the rain let up enough to continue to the ferry. 

The ferry ride was a ferry ride – although we did see a beautiful rainbow over Manhattan. 

Once in Midtown, the sun came back out and we pedaled down the Hudson River Greenway. A lovely separated cycletrack with separate signals! We mused that this would be perfect for the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia, with the new development happening on the abandoned piers. 

Following the signs for cyclists getting to the Brooklyn Bridge we navigated the city streets. Always brings out the aggressively-defensive cyclist in me. 

The Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful. It’s also full of pedestrians who seem to think the bike lane is also for walking, taking photos, etc. It’s also got a wooden deck and after the rain, I was skiddish about needing to stop suddenly – so I employed my best “Get Out Of The Bike Lane” voice to clear the path. 

There are SO MANY PEOPLE in New York. 

We negotiated the final city streets, arriving at the hotel about 9 and three-quarters hours after we set out. We grabbed a cold beverage and a bag of chips while we waited for the showers to be available so we could clean up and change. Dinner at a local restaurant (MooBurger) before climbing on a bus to take us back to New Hope. 

 

Dropped off Catherine and Ken before getting home to my own family around Midnight – tired, happy, a little saddle-sore but tremendously thankful for the amazing experience. Philadelphia won’t be home for much longer and New York (although not Brooklyn) will be home soon – I can’t think of a better way to go out. 

 

See you on the road! 

PS – if you like stats and route maps, click below : 

New Hope to Hoboken 

Manhattan to Brooklyn

In the meantime …

so much has happened (and not happened) in the last month or so. 

Today my oldest and I parked along the local paved trail and rode into the city to attend a Kidical Mass ride. It’s like Critical Mass – only not angry and with little kids. It was a relatively small group today due to the overcast skies but what an amazing bunch of families! Cargo bikes galore! Little dudes on their two-wheelers, yelling out “HOLE, DADDY! HOLE!” as we glided down the buffered bike lane across the city. I think we averaged 4 miles per hour and it was so satisfying to ride with other pro-bike families. The women who organize the rides are super-women and I felt honored to be able to ride with them. 

Check out more of their stuff at Give Mom A Bike Lane.

I have been biking more with my kids, which has been really great. There’s no pressure to perform (not that there is with my friends anyway) – just spending time with them. It does tend to bring out the Mama Bear in me and I probably spend too much time verbally guiding them about things they should be aware of (pedestrians, potholes, cars going straight, cars turning right, cars in the bike lane) … but I hope when they leave home they will be better bicyclists around town. It was fun to challenge him to get to the speed to which the lights are timed (20 mph) so we could glide through every light … we got stopped a few times but I think he enjoyed the experience!

riding with my older two kids

riding with my older two kids

In other news:

Our buyers walked away so we’re still trying to sell the house in PA. Hard to think a beautiful house in a great location with good schools and in good condition would be difficult to sell but this has been the most difficult home-sale experience I’ve ever had. We’ve been *thisclose* to getting another buyer so many times we’re starting to get numb. 

I gave up on trying to bike commute. The stress has been overwhelming so I have been biking to the train station and back and going out on longer rides on the weekends. Somehow I’m within a few hundred miles of where I was this time of year last year. And somehow, getting to 3,000 miles for the year seems like it would take an eternity to get there. 

And … I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression lately. I know this because many days I don’t even want to ride my bike – which is very strange to admit. I love riding my bike – but until I’m actually pedaling, my brain is just not interested. It’s become a struggle that shouldn’t be. My GI symptoms from last summer also came back in full force a few weeks ago. The doc I saw prescribed a low-dose anti-depressant in addition to my usual PPI meds. It’s helped tremendously to file just enough of the edge off to be able to think clearly and rationally. I still find myself getting worked up occasionally but now I can understand it’s not personal and I can usually calm my inner voices to bring myself back to a place of homeostasis.

I’m thankful the doctor saw beyond my symptoms and heard the franticness in my voice, assuring me that “it’s not all in [my] head” but to “try this in addition.” 

They say two of the most stressful things you can experience is buying and selling a home. We certainly are living this. 

Anyway – I’m still out riding bikes, just not as much. But hopefully I’ll see you on the road soon. xoxo 

Stress!

Let’s be honest – buying and selling homes is stressful business. Everything has to be perfect for the right person to want to put down a huge amount of money to call your abode home. Then you as a seller have to turn around and look at other people’s houses until you find The One that speak to you on another level. 

That’s been my life for the past month or so. Not enough riding bikes, too much stress. 

 

I’ve done an impromptu century (first of the year!) on the hottest, muggiest day of the year so far. You wouldn’t think walking your bike across a bridge over the Delaware would deplete you physically but it did (it was so hot – we were just baking). We stopped for ice cream at about Mile 80 and the proprietor refused to fill our water bottles (despite the heat index being well over 100*). We bought and enjoyed the ice cream anyway because we were hot and needed a break – but thankful for the Starbucks next door who filled our bottle with ice water and wished us well for the final 28 miles. 

I’ve been riding my bike to the train. This is not Mega Miles or anything but it’s a few minutes each day that the wind is in my face and for the most part, no one is actively trying to kill me while riding on the street. 

Although why motorists feel it’s wise to pass on hills or around corners is really beyond me. I pray no one gets into an accident while passing me, even though I am clearly within my legal bounds of taking the lane when it’s too narrow to accommodate both of us.

 

I biked with friends to get lunch in Doylestown one weekend. I biked with friends around Bucks County and remembered why a shorter distance is so challenging out there (hills. Lots of them). Although it was nice to be dropping the boys on the hills while chatting away with my friend. I’m getting stronger as a cyclist! 

 

But mostly my life is consumed by work, figuring out the house situation, and too much stress. 

 

Today I declined what would have been an great day on the bike (lunch in NJ, about 63 miles round trip) in favor of a shorter ride to kill some stress energy (about 27 miles round trip). I tend to get higher averages on my rides when I’m alone, most likely because I’m not talking. Today was hot and humid – the kind of day where your body feels like it’s suffocating when you stop pedaling – and I kept up on my hydration really well. 

I’m also looking at maps to try to figure out a new multi-modal bike commute once we move. The house will be about 8 miles from the train station – totally doable! The area is even more hilly than where we live now so I’m hoping to graduate from a hilly-goat to a full-on mountain goat. And it looks like there are great opportunities for mountain biking this winter. Hooray for new opportunities!

 

Anyway, I’m still here. I’m still riding. You don’t need to hear about every little thing I do but hopefully I’ll see you on the road soon. 

Ride for Homes Recap

This past Thursday morning my husband dropped me and my friend Ken off at a parking lot out in Phoenixville, PA under gray skies and a chance of more rain to come for a four-day bike ride to Gettysburg and then back to Philadelphia. We pumped our tires, loaded our bags into the truck, and set off on a new adventure with 28 other soon to be friends.

The Ride for Homes is an annual four-day cycling event coordinated by Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia to raise much needed funds to support their work in the Philadelphia region. This year they are using the funds raised for this ride to make basic repairs to six Habitat homes. Our group of 30 riders raised over $35,000 for this worthy cause.

I’ve never done a multi-day ride and was both nervous and excited about the prospect.

 

Day One: 61 mi / 3,179′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188355

The rain was tapering off as we set out on the road. We started as a rather large (17) group. The roads were lower-trafficked and some motorists weren’t as considerate when passing. At one point a woman almost caused a head-on collision as we rolled up a steep hill on a two-lane road and she tried to pass with an on-coming car directly in front of her. We let her pass before moving on at the top of the hill – no need to become road kill!

Lunch was at a tiny Joanna General Store in the middle of nowhere who made us fresh sandwiches to order. Delightful!  At this point I decided riding with my cycling waist-pack was going to be too cumbersome so I pulled out everything I needed and left it in the SAG van. It was at this point I realized I had left my RoadID at home – but had my driver’s license and insurance card on me at all times. We decided at this time to split up the group into two more manageable chunks with about 8 or 9 riders each.

Overall there were three groups – A (averaging 14+mph), B (averaging 12.5+mph), and C (averaging 11+ mph). Our group had a guy riding a single-speed mountain bike (Buckman!) who beat all of us on geared road bikes up the hills, no matter how steep or how long. We dubbed ourselves Buckman’s Brigade.

The roads got quieter after lunch as we rolled into hilly central Pennsylvania and Amish Country. The shaded roads gave way to wide open roads overlooking immense valleys of farmland. So many hills! Every other farm was selling strawberries or promising sweet corn in a few weeks.

We checked in at a Holiday Inn Express in Lititz, PA, got cleaned up, and then walked over to a local church who fed us delicious vegetarian lasagna, salad, fruit, and rolls. We heard from the local Habitat about the work they do in Lancaster County and then departed for a quiet evening back at the hotel.

Farms everywhere!

Farms everywhere!

 

Day Two: 50 mi / 2,057′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188342

Day Two was the shortest mileage day – or the longest depending on what options you chose. The base miles got you from Lititz to Hanover. The weather was sunny but mild, perfect early summer riding and not a hint of humidity. The ride was mostly uneventful – noodling along country roads until we had to cross the mighty Susquehanna River. There are only a few places to cross the river as it is – and we got to cross on the Lincoln Highway. The bridge is beautiful and the river is wide.

Once across we rolled down to York for lunch. Once we were in the town limits, the C group caught up to us so we ended up taking the lane. It’s always fun to lead a block of cyclists through city streets, two and three abreast. Unfortunately the Turkey Hill branded gas station did not have a sandwich counter and very slim pickings for lunch options. Made do with a couple subpar cheese sticks, a bag of chips, and a coke. We separated from the C group after lunch.

Continuing on back into the country and the endless rolling hills. Thankfully we were able to keep momentum on some of the hills; others were a total bear. Rolled into the Holiday Inn Express in Hanover with time to check in and get more snacks before departing on the optional Gettysburg loop.

Chris and I keeping our cadence high and spirits higher

Chris and I keeping our cadence high and spirits higher

 

Day Two: Optional Gettysburg Loop. 26.6 mi / 1,152′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188302

A small group of mostly B riders with a few A riders headed out along PA 116 to see Gettysburg National Military Park. The group quickly split into two factions. I stayed with the slower group. We were tired but pedaling felt better. Gathered at the Visitor Center before heading out on a short loop of the battlefields. We stopped to talk about the Civil War and the significance of us visiting on the anniversary of D-Day and war in general. Having missed a decent lunch and not having had dinner yet, we opted to SAG it back to Hanover where copious pizza and salad awaited us.

Gettysburg Battlefields

Gettysburg Battlefields

 

Day Three: 69 miles / 3,787′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188297

Day Three began at 70* when we rolled out at 9am. We knew this was the longest day in the saddle as well as the hottest. The word of the day was Hydration and unfortunately I failed at it spectacularly despite drinking through my water bottles. Which was very disappointing but we’ll get to that. I only made it 46 miles (and 2,710′ gain).

I wish I remembered more about the ride. The morning was fine if hot. As we rolled up to the first water stop, I hopped off my bike and instantly felt nauseated. I shoveled a banana, ClifBar, and trail mix into my mouth while refilling my water bottles with Propel-laced water. I’ve been using Propel for a couple years now, since Gatorade never sat well with my stomach, with no problems.

I’ve now learned the rules force your hand a bit on multi-day rides – you find your weak points very quickly. If your bike isn’t dialed in, your saddle hurts you, or your shorts aren’t up for the challenge … you will find out. Yes, that was me on Day Two wearing my old worn-down shorts thinking it was a low-mileage day and it wouldn’t be a big issue. It was. I’m sorry, booty.

We rolled out onto a shaded rail trail and I couldn’t shake the nausea. When we stopped for bathrooms, I shoveled more trail mix into my face thinking it was a nutrition issue since the day before we’d had a ridiculously light lunch and I’d tacked on extra miles. I sought out shade at every opportunity. Onward.

Lunch at a Subway in Red Lion was a welcome opportunity to cool off in the air conditioned restaurant and put real food in me. People started asking if I felt ok. At the time I didn’t understand why and said “yes” even though I felt hot and lightly nauseous. I even dumped water all over me after eating in an effort to cool off. It worked for a bit until we hit open roads with no shade and long, long climbs. We screamed down a monster hill (so exhilarating!) before rolling alongside the river to get back to the Lincoln Highway bridge back across the Susquehanna.

I should have been able to enjoy the river road but instead I felt horrible. It was a slog, a death march. Every pedal stroke felt like too much energy. Just get to the next water stop. Just get to the water stop.

We get to the water stop and I immediately start eating again, not thinking this was a hydration issue. Several people asked if I was ok. I finally relented and accepted a spot in the air conditioned SAG van … and noticed it didn’t feel that cooling. I decided to throw in the towel and SAG to the next hotel. I shoveled trail mix and a banana in my mouth. One of the SAG women gave me a cold washcloth for my neck, iced down my coke and told me to sip it. I obeyed.

My group rolled out for the final 23 miles and I sat there thinking what an embarrassment this was. How could everyone be feeling so good and I feel so bad? What was I doing wrong? I knew I couldn’t ride another mile so I didn’t regret the choice to SAG back to the hotel but there was a sense of loss in riding in the SAG van. I’m not comfortable with my own vulnerability.

Checked in at the Historic Strasburg hotel, got a lukewarm shower and sat with a cold washcloth on my neck in my air conditioned room. Everyone asked how I was feeling. Much better – but I didn’t want the attention. I just wanted to be treated like everyone else. But I was also thankful for the SAG team, the leadership on the ride, and also for knowing myself well enough to call it quits before causing a much bigger problem on the road.

While eating dinner at the local church that was hosting us, I was texting with my husband. Toying with the idea of going home. The coke helped but I was back on Propel water and starting to not feel as good again. My friend Coco gave me a Nuun tablet and I added it to my water. Very quickly I started to feel significantly better. I told my husband I was going to try to ride the final day and not to come pick me up. Coco gave me another tablet to drink before bed, which I did.

I say all this because I did my research and turns out Propel does not have any sodium in it. None. So I had basically ridden three long days in the sun and heat with nothing more than flavored water. NO WONDER I FELT LIKE JUNK. This is the Truth of the Bike Tour.

I borrowed a tube of Nuun from Ken for the final day and made the plan to just get to each water or lunch stop and decide what to do. Baby steps. I won’t lie – I was very nervous about riding. The forecast was for hot and similar hills/mileage. But I knew I had to push on as long as I felt good because I can’t let one bad experience influence my cycling journey. Learn from mistakes.

Evening Chores in Strasburg

Evening Chores in Strasburg

 

Day Four: 67 mi / 3,320′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188291

Very nervous starting out on open roads but we opted to leave a half-hour earlier to try to beat the heat. Pre-gamed with juice, extra salt on my eggs, and 12oz of Nuun water before we even rolled out.

Just get to the water stop.

But not so nervous as to not snap a quick selfie with a guy on the ride who also graduated from my Colorado high school. What are the odds??

This guy graduated from my high school! Lambkin Pride!

This guy graduated from my high school! Lambkin Pride!

The day ended up being so much better than I expected. My new-found attention to hydration paid off. I sipped water every two miles, swigged at every red light or regroup at the top of a big hill. We also eventually rolled onto brilliantly shaded roads by creeks and streams that were very refreshing. Our group had gelled over the past few days into a team of 10, which honestly made the miles disappear. We had a few good hills but mostly gentle rolling terrain and overall the day was delightful.

Our first water stop was at the Coatsville Habitat build site. It was incredible to see Habitat’s work in action. The homes were adorable and had unsurpassed views of the valley. I felt so honored to be supporting such an amazing organization with the help of my friends and family who donated to my campaign.

Lunch was in Chadd’s Ford at Wawa. Seriously – the best convenience store ever.

When we paused in Ridley Creek State Park, I noticed I felt nauseated again and realized I hadn’t been drinking as much when we went through the park due to the high volume of pedestrians and kids on the roughly-paved multi-use path. I started sipping again and got it under control in time for the water stop.

+1 for Laura for knowing how to solve the problem now.

The final 13 miles went by so fast. Before we knew it, we were taking the lane and rolling through Manayunk towards the finish point.

Buckman's Brigade at the finish

Buckman’s Brigade at the finish

* * * * *

Overall this was an amazing experience. The support staff was incredible. The route was incredibly beautiful and as low-trafficked as possible. The people I rode with felt like old friends by the end. I nearly cried hugging everyone goodbye before going home. I love you guys, Buckman’s Brigade!

A huge shout out to my friends: Coco for pep-talking me into signing up; Maux for her unwavering support during my most dire moments; Ken for always riding with me – and the bottle of Nuun; Chris for sharing his touring wisdom and conversation; Kristen for talking Girl Scouts with me; Laura S for her knowledge of political controversy (and being the other half of Double The Awesome); Sarah for her laid-back vibe and whimsical streamers on her helmet; Buckman for leading the charge every time; Kyler for being our most excellent mechanic.

If you have a chance to sign up for the Ride for Homes Philadelphia, I highly recommend it.

Lancaster County Beauty

Lancaster County Beauty

See you on the road!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 779 other followers

%d bloggers like this: