Social Endurance

A few days ago I received the Headquarters Newsletter from one of my parent companies, requesting cyclists join the company team for the local BikeMS: City to Shore ride in late September. There are a couple route options, all mostly flat to gently rolling terrain – 25, 45, 75, or 100. There’s also an option to ride back the next day – Shore to City – for 75 or 100 miles.

And I’m thinking – this is awesome! It’s two weeks after I hopefully complete my first century – I could easily do the 75mi route! This will be so much fun! And what if I get my husband and kids to meet me at the finish line – then we could spend an evening at the boardwalk, spend the night in a hotel, have a late brunch and then head back to Philly. Perfect! What a great weekend this would be!

And then I thought some more: on a long ride like this, I’d really like to have someone to ride with, someone to chat the miles away. Someone to hang out with at the rest stops, talk about life, the universe, and everything.

Except outside of the bicycle club I belong to, I don’t know anyone who enjoys long bike rides. And by long, I mean over 15 miles. I’m asking around, but so far no one is a taker.

We all find our cycling niche – short and speedy, slow and steady, marathons or sprints. And I know I should be open to meeting new people and just enjoying the day with other cyclists. But I also know I’m a social person and very much prefer the company of others. Talking to myself in my head for too long is never a good thing.

So I haven’t made up my mind about registering – I’m also wary of asking everyone for donations again, as there is a $300 minimum fundraising requirement. It’s a great cause – but I’m aware that I need to pick and choose my causes, not just ask for donations for every ride I feel like doing.

Until I figure this out, I’ll see you on the road.

Data

Just some interesting data

Miles by bike:

hybrid, May 2011-March 2012: 587 mi

hybrid April 2012-July 2012: 67 mi

road bike April 2012-July 2012: 463 mi

rental Scott CR1 road bike 2011-2012: 197 mi

TOTAL miles ridden: 1314 mi

 

Monthly totals, 2011/2012:

April: 0/116 mi

May: 36/131 mi

June: 151/172 mi

July: 151/260 mi and counting

 

Wow. That’s a lot of riding.

The Lemon Ride Recap

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of participating in The Lemon Ride in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in the fight against childhood cancer.

From their website: An uncharacteristically cool and temperate July day greeted nearly 300 cyclists who tackled one of three scenic courses throughout Bucks County in the first annual Lemon Ride Philadelphia presented by Volvo and benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Thanks to the support of riders, sponsors and supporters – the inaugural Lemon Ride held on July 22, 2012 raised more than $50,000 in the fight against childhood cancer.

I rode with a coworker’s husband and his friend, hence our team name “Perfect Strangers” since we’d never met before that day. The weather was perfect – partly cloudy and low-80s. Two rest stops over the 50 miles – at 17 and 38 miles – helped the miles go quickly. Lots of hills – RideWithGPS pegged it at 3100+’ with MapMyRide pegging it at 1690′, not sure why the discrep – that my calves and quads are feeling today. I rocked the hills pretty well – I’m getting better at my climbing skills. I would love to have been able to attend the Climbing Clinic my local bike club hosted this month … hoping they will hold another this fall.

My favorite part of the ride was when I inadvertently dropped Glenn, my coworker’s husband, and Dan, an older guy on the ride, on a hill. I kept pedaling and came to a long, gentle, rolling descent. About half-way down, Glenn and Dan go whizzing by me with a “Well, hello there!” So I gave chase, getting low in my drops and pedaling furiously, maintaining 25-30mph for about 2 miles (with the help of gravity, for sure). So much fun to ride so hard after the guys.

I felt bad about dropping Glenn and Dan but let another rider draft off me for the last 10 miles … so we’re even?

I finished with a new personal best over 50 miles: 3h 44m 38s. I was hoping to get down to 3h 30m, but that will have to be next time.

* * * * *

This is also my first ride using bike shorts the way G-d intended: sans (under)pants. Blame it on my conservative upbringing or just a hesitation to be out in public without “unders” (as my niece calls them). I also used booty cream (Chamois Butt’r) for the first time. Very interesting experience but very positive. I had to Google how to use the cream – where does it go? how much? on the shammy or on me? or BOTH?? – but now I’m not sure I can go back to riding WITH unders!

Very much looking forward to tomorrow’s recovery ride … see you on the road!

Mile High Metric

This past week I was back in the beautiful state of Colorado for a family vacation with my husband and kids. While most of my time I was schlepping my kids to their friends’ house, I did rent a bike from Bicycle Village, a local chain shop, so I could get out as much as possible.

My rental was a Scott CR1, 54cm, Shimano 105s, and switched from the default dude’s saddle to a WTB Leisure She saddle after 70 miles. I definitely need a women’s specific saddle to keep my booty happy.

I ended up riding four days for a total of about 180 miles, more than I’ve ever done in a single week. Hooray for new milestones! I rode mostly with my friend James and did one ride with my mom. I love riding with my mom because she is a strong cyclist in her own right. She rides for fun and fitness and I get a true recovery ride.

The main event so to speak was a metric century designed to be challenging but still achievable as well as being 100% multi-use trail. The first 25 miles are uphill, including a 2.5 mi 2-3% grade grind up the side of Green Mountain. Sadly, my girl Rachel wasn’t able to join us due to her crash last week but she was with James and I in spirit.

We headed out at 8:30am from the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown hotel, heading up the Cherry Creek Trail before rounding the corner onto the Platte River Trail. Quick stop at the intersection of the Platte River and Bear Creek Trails for water, as the temps were starting to climb. We then headed west through beautiful Englewood and into Lakewood and Morrison. A longer stop at Bear Creek Lake for bathrooms, sunscreen, and refilling water bottles before tackling the Green Mountain Grind.

A Note: The last time I did the Green Mountain Grind I was on my hybrid and barely cranked out 10 mph. It hurt, I stopped often, and while I felt accomplished at the end, I couldn’t figure out how people did more than that in terms of grade and length. But back then I was also trying desperately to crack 12 mph on rides and watching lean, mean cycling machines zip by at double my pace.

Now I get it … Road bikes are lighter, more nimble, and literally the right gear for going fast and far. I also credit my Shimano SPDs and learning to use clipless pedals for being able to fully leverage my energy stores.

So this time up the side of the mountain (it’s a mountain bike ride to go over it) it was much easier, averaging 11-12mph up the incline. Another water and energy break at the “top”, which is actually a short descent to the trail change-over at I70 and C470.

This is truly the turning point from uphill to downhill on the ride. A short ascent to get back to the C470 trail and then a wonderful, delicious and well-deserved descent back to Bear Creek Lake Park. Uphill through the park, but at a gentle pace to enjoy the scenery. At one point I thought we were about to cross a deep grassy crack in the trail before a vibrant green snake slithered away.

Another stop at the gas station on the south side of the park for bathrooms, water refills, and more energy bars. The gas station was air conditioned and felt amazing after riding in the treeless west side of the Denver metro area.

The ride flattens out until you get to the next major intersection, then it descends again in a glorious, sweeping trail. At this point I’ve given up on trying to beat my friend James downhill … He said his excuse is his mass and I’ll be darned if he didn’t kick my butt down every single descent. And the ride goes downhill from this point until you get back to the Platte River Trail down in Chatfield Resevoir.

Final major water break before the gentle downhill from the south metro area to downtown Denver. More sunscreen and energy gels. We are fantasizing about showers and lunch at this point. Minor water bottle refill at the Jimmy John’s at Belleview and Santa Fe for me (thanks guys and many apologies for not waiting in the long line to ask if I could refill!).

Another short water break around mile 55 and then we roll back into downtown. It’s around 2:15pm at this point and the trail is clogged with tons of people out enjoying the beautiful Colorado day. We rode respectfully and slowly and eventually got through the trail interchange and rolled up to the hotel lobby.

63.29 miles in 4 hours 46 minutes for a 13.2 mph average.

Not too shabby for a first-time metric. A lot of the ride was about conserving energy to make sure we weren’t totally wrecked by the effort. The back-to-back climbs were definitely challenging and had there been more uphills further into the ride, I may not have had so much energy left at the end.

So what’s next?

I’m still building my miles for the century this September. I need to put a couple 60-65 mile rides under my belt before tackling a 70-75 mile ride in the weeks leading up to the event. I plan to also hit the Sunday morning shop ride as often as possible to build speed on shorter distances and elevation gains.

For now, I have The Lemon Ride (50 miles, 3k+’ elevation gain) this Sunday … Please consider making a donation to help fight childhood cancer. I will be accepting donations through August 6!

Until then, see you on the road.

So much happening, so little time to blog

I have a couple topics in my head … Time to let them out!

First: I just finished reading “Heft on Wheels” by Mike Magnuson. The premise is that he used to be a Fatty McFatterson because he spent all his time drinking and smoking and generally partying all night and every day … But then he bought a bike, rekindled a love affair with bicycling in general, did some pretty awesome stuff, dropped a ton of weight and got much healthier in the process. Written in a very conversational style, it is an easy read. I read Mike’s work in Bicycling Magazine regularly and I like his outlook but was getting pretty pissed off at him by the end of the book.

You might ask why. The reason being – he’s out riding all the time but his wife is home raising the kids while he’s doing this. As a wife and mother, I fully support allowing your spouse time to indulge in their hobbies. Heck, I ask my husband to indulge me a couple times a week while I head out on two wheels at breakfast and don’t get back home until dinner time. But I felt annoyed that he wasn’t recognizing his wife’s sacrifice in his pursuit of health and happiness.

Then I read the last chapter and all was forgiven. He gets it. Being able to spent inordinate amounts of time on a hobby – whatever it is – requires the consent and support of the other partner in the relationship.

His book also prompted me to rethink my own approach to cycling. He picked up a bike and went for it. None of this easing into faster rides. He straight up was dropped in the beginning but now is a force to be reckoned with.

Second: So I signed up for the slower ride at the local bike shop. It was advertised as 15-17 mph average but with a slower option if necessary. I showed up and there was only four of us. So the ride leader asked if I ought I could do a 14mph pace. I said I’d try and he said to just let them know if I was having issues and they’d slow down.

36 miles and 750′ of elevation gain later, the ride leader slows enough for me to pull up beside him and he shared that we had actually gone a 15.5 mph pace and I was more than welcome to join them on the faster shop ride any Sunday I’m around.

This was a huge point of pride for me. I hung with the big boys and was actually able to hang. Awesome. I am faster than I think I am … And the extra bonus was I wasn’t wrecked by the effort.

Third: More on traveling and biking. I rented a bike while I am on vacation in beautiful Colorado. The bike is ok, it’s a Scott CR1. I have been tweaking the fit all week because I rented from a local chain store so their idea of a fit was making sure my legs were fully extended in the saddle. The saddle is a men’s saddle too, which is less than comfortable but I’m making it work. The rental cost including damage waiver is comparable to what I would pay in airline fees and assembly fees.

I’m not sure which was better. Riding an unfamiliar bike isn’t the best for sure. I miss my bike at home and wish I would have brought her. But the convenience of not having to schlep my ride through the airport or rent a huge SUV just to cart it around has been nice.

My goal was to ride daily but so far I’m at every other day. I did 46 miles with a very good friend yesterday and we are planning to ride again on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday when we tackle a metric century together. Should be wicked fun.

My husband says if I don’t stop talking about bikes and cycling he’s going to go crazy. So I’m working very hard to not talk about how amazing it is to be in the Land of Bike Lanes and Trails. But seriously … Everywhere I look, people are on bikes. Bikes on the front of buses. Bikes on the road, bikes on the path, bikes everywhere. I feel like I’m part of the Cool Kids now.

I’ll write about our metric century experience but until then, see you on the road.

A Different Kind of Gratitude

Yesterday I recieved a text from my very good friend James that my best girl friend Rachel had been in a bike accident. The long story short, they were riding on the multi-use trail when she slowed to pass a family and the kid swerved in front of her bike. She slammed on the brakes to avoid a collision, causing her to flip over her handlebars.

She’s mostly OK – serious road rash, split lip, messed up teeth, broken scapula – and I am thankful her injuries are not more serious. I feel very helpless as a friend being 1800 miles away but also thankful James is with her and taking care of her. He said she’s so bummed we won’t be riding together next week; I told him that I’m just thankful she’s not hurt worse and to not worry about the rides we had planned.

Recently a guy on a group ride out here (I don’t know him personally) crashed his bike and was in the hospital with multiple broken bones, collapsed lung, etc. It’s amazing how much damage can be done to your body when you wreck on your bike.

The point of this is – be careful out there. Accidents happen but let’s keep them few and far between.

Request for The Lemon Ride

Friends,

I have decided to ride The Lemon Ride, raising funds to fight childhood cancer. The ride is July 22, 2012. I have selected the 50 mile route, climbing over 3100′. My goal is to raise $500 for this highly-rated foundation.

Please consider making a donation to this worthy cause by clicking here.You can also find out more about Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) by clicking the image below. This is a short statement from their website:

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). In 2000, 4-year-old Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of supporters across the country carrying on her legacy of hope.

Thank you for your support!

Spinning

Tonight’s ride was my usual low-key ride from the local library. I like this ride for a few reasons:

1. It’s low-key. We average 10-12mph over 20+/- miles. Great for recovery riding.

2. There’s new people every ride. Only a few of us are “regulars” – and sometimes even we don’t show up at the same time.

3. It’s near my house so I can ride to the start.

On tonight’s ride, I realized something. I spend a lot of time in the little ring, working my way up and down the cassette but never getting really fast. I feel pretty good about my spinning abilities in the little ring gears.

Of course when I throw it into the big ring, speed happens. It’s like an instant 1-2mph boost. Once we get out of the ‘burbs and into the city, the roads flatten out considerably – so consistent Big Ring Riding is more of a possibility.

Since I’m working on “training” for the century ride this fall and I can usually only get out twice a week, I’m going to take advantage of this ride to throw it in the big ring and see how long I can stay in it. We generally have some hills so it will be a challenge to stay in the big ring on the way up. Understanding this will be more work – but that’s OK.

You can’t go faster without an effort.

(I say “training” because while I’m making an effort to be smart about it, I don’t actually have a plan other than to ride a variety of routes, elevations, speeds and distances up to 75 miles. There’s five rest stops on the century route – so I’m mentally preparing for five consecutive 20-milers. I’m not sure what the actual distance between aid stations is – but a century sounds so much more manageable when I break it down into parts. Three 30s and a 10. Four 25s. A 50, a 25 and a 15.)

* * * * *

Other stuff spinning in my head:

* I’m also looking at some other cycling events – the Lemon Ride (July 22) and the Bicycling Fall Classic (Oct 7). The only thing holding me back is that riding in events is WAY more fun with a friend. Riding in general is more fun with a friend – that’s why I go to group rides!

* I’m also looking at updating my cyclometer to a GPS-based model. Currently considering a Garmin 800 but balking at the sticker price. However, I think it may be worth it since I’m new to the area and would not have to worry about how to get back home if I did get dropped or lost on a ride because it’s a straight-up touch screen GPS. My current GPS-based app on my phone is great but drains my battery – and should the worst happen, I want to be able to use it to get help not curse myself for trying to get ride data.

* The bike shop down the street has a Sunday morning ride with a speed I can at least shoot to attain (14-15 mph average). May try it out this weekend!

* * * * *

See you on the road!

Perseverance

Another week off the bike and this past Friday I was more than ready to roll out. I took the day off work to join my fellow Philly Bike Club members on a ride from Valley Forge National Park to Saint Peter’s Village and back. The ride leader had pre-mapped the ride using RideWithGPS, indicating 4900+’ elevation gain over 57 miles.

That’s more elevation gain than I’ve ever done in a single ride but the ride profile didn’t look unmanageable – more like rolling hills – and I was excited for the challenge of maintaining the advertised 13-15mph average over successive hills.

Keep in mind we are in the middle of a heat wave with Friday being the peak of the heat. And I’m barely acclimated to humidity. Just being honest here. From a weather perspective the high ended up being 97 with about 50-60% humidity.

The Intrepid Octet, as we named the 3 women and 5 men on the ride, met up at the Valley Forge visitor center and rolled-out at 9:30am. Valley Forge is in a hilly area and the elevation gain was definitely as advertised. Less rolling hills and more of going up, turning, and continuing up. The first few hills didn’t feel like much but after the tenth, fifteenth hill – you are feeling it in your quads and trying really hard to stay out of the lowest gear on your compact because is means you have to rely on your strength and spinning abilities.

Thankfully the roads were mostly shaded so we were spared the brutal glare of the sun on this extremely hot day. I focused my energies on not overexerting – which was difficult on the hills because my instinct was to hammer up them as hard as possible. And this being Pennsylvania, some of the roads were in less than ideal condition – holes, uneven surface, debris – which made some descents more like a mountain bike ride.

Our first stop was a gas station around Mile 23. Fresh ice water, Gatorade, and several minutes in the shade were very much welcome.

Temperature-wise, my cyclometer started at 89 and rose to a steady 102-105 temperature, eventually rising slowly to 113 before falling back into the 100-102 range in the afternoon. I’m assuming this is the radiant temperature (heat radiating off the asphalt) – and at every rest break we took, everyone was covered in a thick film of sweat. I took to dousing myself from a separate water bottle at every rest break to cool off.

Beautiful covered bridge exiting Valley Forge.
photo credit: http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/2010/knox-covered-bridge/

Around Mile 24, I noticed I was sagging pretty far back from the next person in our group. I felt like I was working hard but couldn’t keep up. I glanced down to see my back tire mostly flat. No wonder that last downhill felt like I was riding on a rim – because I was! Fortunately, we regrouped around Mile 26 and noticed someone else had a flat as well. I mentioned I’d never changed a flat before and asked for someone to guide me through the process. The irony here being I’m scheduled to attend a bike maintenance class next week.

Impromptu Flat Repair Clinic on the side of the road!

It was dirty and messy and took us about and hour or so to get both tires changed, mostly because the other guy had special rims that needed a longer stem. He had a spare in the right size, but the valve broke off. After many fruitless attempts to get air into the valveless tube, we eventually patched his old tube with an “old school” glue-based patch kit and it held for the next 30+ miles. So thankful – the two nearest bike shops weren’t able to dispatch a remote repair.

7 miles later we sat down to lunch and, more importantly, air conditioning at Saint Peter’s Bakery. I’m still in the “I Don’t Want To Eat While I Ride” phase of cycling but I forced myself to down a can of Coke and a quarter of the amazingly delicious turkey-cranberry-herbed-guyere-on-apple-walnut-bread sandwich. Everyone encouraged me to take the other half home so I had it wrapped up and stuffed it into my back pocket, knowing full well it would not survive the 24 mile ride back to Valley Forge.

Our fearless ride leader encouraged us to Think Positive, The Worst Is Behind Us, It’s Rolling Hills Going Back! She’s a good ride leader.

And indeed I’m glad I didn’t phone my husband at lunch to call it quits. Yes, I was tired and hot but I didn’t *want* to quit. My concern was always being safe and in a heat wave, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real dangers. I was concerned about getting cooled off adequately. But the promise of an easier ride profile on the way back was the encouragement I needed to keep going.

Indeed the ride did get easier, the air started to cool off as we passed through the midday heat into the early evening. We stopped at the Whole Foods in Kimberton for one last rest break (and air conditioning and fresh ice water) before the final 7 miles back. We opted to forgo the Very Hilly route into Valley Forge and took the Slightly-Less-Hilly-But-Still-Very-Hilly route back to our cars.

It was 6pm.

I can’t say I’ve had more fun on a ride with Philly Bike Club yet. This was an adventure that challenged us and we survived. I am a super-planner kind of person and decided to just roll with whatever happened instead of trying to make it The Most Perfect Ride Ever. Health and safety over speed and time. Fun over everything else.

And yeah I got home, took a cool shower, changed into clean clothing and headed out to Camden, NJ for a heavy metal show. It was a great day.

* * * * *

Stats:

Ride Length – 57.0 miles

Elevation Gain – 4600+ (based on my fellow riders’ GPS cyclometers. Note to self: want to get one)

Ride Duration – 4h 40m 3s

Total Time Out – 8h 30m

Max Speed: 33.5 mph

Avg Speed: 12.1 mph

Flat Tires – 1

Fluid Intake – 144 ounces, split between Gatorade (barf) and Propel Fitness Water drop-ins (awesome)