100 Miles to Support Finding a Cure – BikeMS: City to Shore Recap

I originally signed up for this ride because I’d heard it was the premiere ride in the area, an amazing experience, something every cyclist in the area should do at least once. For many it’s their annual Big Ride. When my company sent out an email saying they were picking up the registration fee, it became a no-brainer and I signed up for the company team.

No one else at the office is a Crazy Bicycle Lady like myself – many of my fellow bicycle-loving denizens live in the city and commute 2-3 mile on a single-speed to the office – so despite my best efforts to get someone else I know to ride with me at work, no one took me up on it. A big part of that was also the $300 minimum fundraising requirement. Not everyone enjoys fundraising – myself included. I don’t personally know anyone with MS – but I do have friends with loved ones who have been diagnosed.  I figured it’s a small part I can do for the benefit of a fully-supported ride across New Jersey.

My commuter friend did take me up and rode with a woman from the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports together on a tandem. My commuter friend is seriously a miles machine and a great person all around – he inspires me every day. And the woman he has ridden the last couple times with has a hilarious quick wit about her. Together they are one fast tandem team! And yes, they did the full century route too. Props!

We got on the road to the start point about 5am for what should have been a 45min drive – plenty of time to make the team meeting at 6am, team photo at 6:15, and hit the road at 6:30am. I think we spent 40 minutes on the off-ramp waiting to park! My commuter friend was supposed to roll-out at 6:15 – totally missed that. We got parked around 6:35am – he went his way to catch up with the tandem teams and I got my stuff together and checked in at the team tent. The line for the port-a-potties was incredible but I decided it was better to start a little later than spend the next 20 miles wishing I had.

The weather was perfect cycling weather – partly cloudy, high rose to the upper-60s. I had light arm warmers on all day.

I didn’t realize exactly how many people do this ride until I got there. We are talking thousands of folks. The mass-start-in-waves was suboptimal for individuals but once you got out on the road, you quickly understood why. There was no way to ride single-file – we took the whole lane and stretched for miles. Like Critical Mass only sanctioned. Police were stationed at lights and intersections to allow us to flow through – so very little stopping outside of the rest/aid stations.

People of all cycling abilities were there – on the shorter 25mile route, I saw a woman in her 70s cruising along on her old-school mixte-style bike. Kids with their parents. Friends on their hybrids. A few people on their recumbent bikes. The only time I found myself alone on a road was on the back end of  the century loop – and even then, I’d pass at least one person in each mile.

Each rest stop was a party – the DJs were blaring upbeat music, massive food tents, plenty of port-a-potties (but always a line), friendly folks wandering around with jugs of water and Gatorade to fill your bottles away from the crowds at the food tent. The end of the route party had a live band, food, raffles, and access to the Ocean City boardwalk. Which boggled my mind as I was riding the last few streets, the beach just on the other side of the berm. I really wanted to get a picture on the beach with my bike.

The roads were very well marked (no cue sheet needed). Volunteers, families, and those affected by MS lined the streets and manned the corners, yelling “Thanks for riding!” Signs were posted with messages from those affected by MS lined the streets as well – very powerful to realize exactly what this ride means to them.

All in all, this really is the premiere ride in the area. Very well organized, supported, and marked.

100 miles to support finding a cure.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: This was the first ride event I’ve done truly by myself – I didn’t know anyone other than my commuter friend, a handful of people on the company team that I met once on a training ride and I didn’t see any of them along the route or at rest stops. I didn’t get on the road until 7:45am. I found three other guys in my company team jersey and we chatted briefly at the start before they quickly zoomed off.

100 miles is a long time to spend in your head and has benefits and pitfalls. This is definitely an event that begs to be done with friends and it would have been more fun to hang out with someone on our bikes all day. But I also wasn’t constrained by having another person with me – moderating pace, chatting while riding, lingering at rest stops. As it was, my rest stops were kept to a minimum: bathroom, food, water refills, and back on the road. And I cranked hard – easy pedaling was 16-17 mph, pushing was 20-23 mph … spent most of my time rolling 18-20mph.

FUELING: I packed a lot of my own fuel and I’m glad I did – the rest stops had a lot of Clif bars which is fine, but not what I wanted in the moment. The first rest stop was 20 miles in – grabbed part of a banana to supplement my goo. Mile 30 rest stop meant grabbing a PB&J on white and Sport Beans. Mile 45 was another part of a banana and another goo. Mile 55 I realized I needed more – when I got into the bathroom line I was hit by a wave of nausea. Nibbled on my Honey Stinger peanut butter bar until my blood-sugar levels stabilized. Took a bit longer at this stop to make sure I wouldn’t bonk later. Switched my beverage from Skratch Labs (hydration, sodium) to Propel Zero (B vitamins and electrolytes) and noticed an improvement in my overall disposition. Miles 65 and 75 were another goo break each. Mile 87 I grabbed some fig newtons with my goo. The closer we got to the ocean, the higher the winds.

TIMING: Started at 7:45am. I made it to the century loop turn-off with only 10 minutes until it closed at 11am. At mile 55, I’d been pushing 20-23mph over the last five miles into a headwind. My average was 16.9 mph. I did a fair amount of passing, but was also passed a lot. Saw the aftermath of a couple accidents. The last 8 miles were slow because everyone converged and had to get up over two bridges (NJ 152 bridge and then the Ocean Drive bridge) across the Egg Harbor Inlet. Definitely impacted the overall speed average – I was at 16.2mph average going into the final 8 miles but ended with a 15.6 mph average. Finished the ride at 3pm.

SOCIAL: I can’t say I enjoyed being alone all day. It seemed that everyone had at least one other person they were there with and I’m very much a social person. I tried to re-fame the day as a way to be friendly with others so I said “hello!” or “Good morning!” as I passed. One older guy hooked on to me and we chatted for a bit at one of the few stop lights where we had  to stop. He was telling me about his RAGBRAI trip and how I should totally go do it. One guy complimented me on my bike. Three guys rode up – all on Felts – and said “Lookin’ good!” (That was pretty sweet – there were a lot of Felt bicycles on this ride) – I latched on to their group for a bit just based on our chosen brand of bicycles. I complimented a guy in the new Fat Cyclist kit on his choice of attire. Another guy yelled at me as I passed …

“You make this look easy!”

The hardest part socially was seeing all the families and friends lining the streets to the finish line, clanging cow bells, cheering and shouting. I really wished I had someone to share the end of a long day with me. I found my commuter friend, who had been at the finish for an hour at that point, so his group was off to get showers and dinner. I opted to head home on the bus – got my shirt and finisher’s medal (although I must have dropped it somewhere because I don’t have it any more). The three guys I’d seen at the start got in line behind me for the bus ride back to the start so we chatted for a while.

As I’m thinking about how I felt all day, it occurs to me that this is what it feels like to be diagnosed with something that is not currently curable, only manageable. You feel alone in a sea of thousands. This is what we were riding for – to help find a cure and break down the feelings of isolation and loneliness by connecting with others. It’s such a powerful message.

INTERESTING METRICS (to me at least):

I achieved a new high mileage total for September even though I didn’t ride for two weeks (354 miles for the month – 99mi for transportation, 254 for sport).

New personal best on 100km (62miles) 3:57:35.

The odometer on my bike indicates I’ve ridden 1,016 miles on my bike. I started riding her in April this year.

Overall an amazing experience. A touch stiff today, but nothing an Advil and plenty of fluids won’t handle. This is my second century ride within a month and I can honestly say now that conquering 100 miles is all in your head. If you can do 75, you can do 100. Obviously terrain played a huge part in yesterday’s final stats (final ride time was 6:24:30 as opposed to my earlier ride of 7:40:24) – the hillier the route, the longer it takes because you can’t just hammer through it. Yesterday’s route was a gentle downhill to sea level and my time clearly shows that terrain advantage.

October is heating up for fall riding and I’m looking forward to my next few rides to see fall foliage from a two-wheeled vantage point.

See you on the road!

The Lemon Run Prologue

 

Friends, this blog is a testament to my love of riding my bike for fun and transportation. Earlier this year I participated in the inaugural Lemon Ride, a 50 mile route in scenic Bucks County Pennsylvania benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. I raised $500 to help fund research grants and help families of affected children afford travel and lodging expenses related to their child’s care. I met two guys on the ride – Glenn and Paul – who share a desire to help fight pediatric cancer and assist the families who have been affected.

 

Both Glenn and Paul are runners, not cyclists, so they challenged me to come run with them. So I have signed up for my first ever 5k – The Lemon Run. This event is in mid-November so I have time to convert my cycling skills into running skills. I will most certainly be blogging about the training process for this, as I have never been a fan of running.

 

I hope the T shirt has this adorable running lemon on it!

 

Please consider checking out our team page and donating an amount that fits into your budget. We are hoping to raise at least $300 for this four-star rated charity. Just click the link Below!

Team Perfect Strangers

 

Thanks and see you on the road!

 

Miles for Fun

My riding has been severely curtailed this past week because my husband is out of town. I suppose my ability to ride shouldn’t predicate on whether he’s around or not but it does – someone has to guide our youngest out the door in the morning for school. And I suppose I could take my bike on the train and then ride home – I’d have to take the train after 9:30am to ensure I’m on a non-peak service. Significantly sub-optimal when it comes to convenience. Something to think about.

I’ve been reading BikeSnobNYC’s other book, “The Enlightened Commuter: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Transcendence.” I like this guy. It’s like he reads my mind and we think the same things about cycling in general. I endorse his books and blog – hilarious stuff friends!

Anyway, one of his points is to not get so wrapped up in ourselves and our data that we forget to get out and ride for fun. It’s easy to get wrapped up in “But I’m not on my nice bike” or “I forgot to turn on my app – these miles don’t count!” Data is only half the game – it’s fun and cool to ride for recreational purposes – but practical miles are still miles. It’s more than you do if you just stay home and sulk about not riding anywhere.

As a relatively recent convert to the Church of Cycling in general, I am definitely guilty of not always just getting out to ride. I enjoy group rides, I enjoy rides to the cupcakery, I enjoy rides on the path with my kids. Lately the kids don’t want to ride and it’s sad to me but I respect their need to assert their independence from my current hobby.

I’ve missed bike commuting this week a lot. More than I thought I would. I did a load of laundry and for the first time in months there wasn’t any cycling attire to make sure doesn’t get thrown into the dryer.

WEIRD I KNOW.

 

 

So today I had plans to meet my girlfriends for brunch. I am also on a schedule because the car needs an oil change and the dog needs to go to the vet. The oil change didn’t work out – that will have to wait until Monday. I hemmed and hawed over whether I should ride in for brunch or not. On one hand, I love the idea of getting a 30+ mile bike ride AND yummy brunch. On the other hand, I’m not keen on being the only one at the table in spandex and sweating profusely. I mean, it’s fine – I just want to look cute too.

My girlfriends all live downtown so they can ride their bikes over AND look cute. I want this! So I decided to drive my Beast of Burden and park downtown, then ride over. It was a brilliant idea! And I didn’t even turn on my mapping/tracking apps!

(although I did go back and map it out, estimate my time riding, and manually enter the data. HI MY NAME IS LAURA AND I AM A DATA ADDICT)

It was fun! I got a short ride in – and truth be told, I was sad when I rode up to my car because I just wanted to keep riding. But I needed to get back to the house, the kids, and the dogs.

Oh and brunch was awesome too – I could only eat half of it. Four thick slices of challah french toast stuffed with fresh local peaches, sweet farmer’s cheese, a light coating of local maple syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar. Coupled with mimosas, coffee, and awesome conversation. Totally worth it.

Hoping to score another breakfast ride tomorrow morning with my commuter friends. On a schedule again, but any miles will be better than no miles.

 

See you on the road!

The hub of your neighborhood

Do you have your library cards yet? – my mom

 

These were some of the first questions my mom asked me about our new neighborhood. We had picked up our family and moved 1800 miles away from our friends and family. I was lamenting the lack of knowing where anything is and how WEIRD it is on the East Coast. Things are older, steeped in tradition and heritage, and more bureaucracy. Wandering around the city reveals the evolution of infrastructure, architecture, and style. Some things just get shoe-horned into ever-changing times, others get scraped and rebuilt.

 

what adventures await you today?

 

Getting our library cards was one of the first things we did after getting our driver’s licenses changed over. Our local branch is less than a mile away, easily accessible by bike or walking. The hours are not as convenient as we’d like but with the magic of the internet you can go online, reserve a book, and get a text when it’s available so you can pick it up on your next available day (within the week).

Lots of community groups meet at the library. All summer my Tuesday night recovery ride met in the library parking lot. There was a youth camp meeting there at the same time. They have tons of cool programs like adult book clubs, youth reading programs geared to help reluctant readers, gardening club, movie night, and my favorite benefit – locks, repair kits, and pumps for your bike should you be in need of those items while at or near the library.

And of course, you can simply check out books, conduct research for your term paper, check your email or update your blog. Libraries are changing with the times – looking at how they can incorporate more e-readers like Kindles and Nooks into the borrowing process.

This all may sound so old-fashioned but it’s true that being active with your local library connects you to your community and your neighbors. Consider borrowing the latest novel you’re dying to read instead of rushing to the bookstore or favorite online retailer for the e-version.

 

All you need is a library card.

Super Secret Cool People Club

 

I managed to bike commute twice this past week on consecutive days, which always makes me feel like I’m part of a Super Secret Cool People club. As much as I hate my alarm clock blaring at 5:30am, the dark still cloaking the neighborhood, I know I’ll love the ride in. The cool air, watching the sun come up as we cross the bridge, fellow bicycle commuters with their panniers giving each other the knowing nod of solidarity.

I’m sure part of this is the novelty – I am a total noob in terms of bike commuters having only done it a couple times a week for about a month. The solo commute with two flats definitely tested my resolve … if I didn’t enjoy riding my bike so much, I would have totally used that as an excuse to stop.

This week also featured some drivers who were not using their best manners, of which I’m sure their moms are very proud of them.

The mornings are getting cooler and the dark sticks around a little longer each day. Arm warmers are becoming mandatory. One day I rode in with a base layer (no arm warmers) but was very warm by the time I got to the office. May not need it just yet? Although today’s ride was worthy of both arm warmers and a base layer in the morning … it was chilly!

Starting to think about winter riding and keeping the general fitness level throughout the winter. I’m not a fan of indoor cycling (hence why I have never gone to a Spinning class) … but I don’t want to hang up my cleats completely this winter. This past winter was super mild, which was great but also sad. Every winter needs some doozy of a snow storm.

(wow – I think I totally just jinxed us out here)

* * * * *

Today’s ride was 52miles of hilly happiness, an emu farm, a stunning view of the city from a distance, and a pit stop in the woods. Low speed but good company and a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

 

Scenic Schuylkill Century Recap

Yesterday I conquered my first century. It was brilliant; it was fun; and it was challenging.

I spent a lot of time in the days leading up to the ride oscillating between “OMG I AM THE BIGGEST IDIOT for signing up for this” and “I am going to ROCK THIS THING!” I both doubted my abilities and had confidence that I had trained well.

Saturday night I prepared a carb-tastic dinner of spaghetti and turkey-meatballs for the family (I also had some buttered whole-wheat bread) and went to bed early.

Sunday I was out of bed at 4:45am to get a quick shower (nothing like starting an all-day ride fresh), breakfast, and finish up last-minute preparations. Breakfast consisted of a Morning Star veggie sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and my daily multi-vitamin washed down with a full glass of water. I carpooled down to the ride start with my commuter friend and another woman from our general neighborhood – they were riding the century on a tandem. (MAJOR props to them)

The weather day-of was spectacular – blue skies with fluffy clouds, high in the mid-70s, low humidity. I found Lou, a guy I’ve ridden with on other Philly Bike Club rides. It’s his first century too … hooray for a ride buddy! Interestingly, there were a lot of first-timers like myself on the century ride – many of them older gentlemen who I’ve ridden with before and thought they ate centuries for breakfast.

The start of the ride was kindof spectacular. 700 riders came out for the event and the century riders were up first in the gate. The sheer spectacle of us coming out of the parking lot and riding around the front Philadelphia Museum of Art was awesome for sure. Spinning down West River Drive to the Falls Bridge en masse – and then rolling into Manayunk and the first of many hills to come.

Happily we did not have to ride the towpath – but it sure is beautiful. (Image credit: http://www.comitta.com/blog/?p=52)

(You may have heard of the Manayunk Wall – a fabled half-mile of sheer 10% grade pain. These weren’t that bad – but still had significant grades around 5%.)

The rest/aid stations are set up in camp facilities – very rustic but welcoming. The mechanics were stationed outside the “mess hall.” The atmosphere around each one was warm and welcoming; the spreads were incredible. Homemade cookies, brownies, fresh fruit like grapes, c antelope and watermelon, pb&j sandwiches on whole wheat … and plenty of ice water and gatorade for all.

A brilliant move on the part of the organizers was positioning the rest/aid stations at varying increments: the first was a mere 13miles in. The next was another 19miles. Then 24 miles. Then 13miles, 25 miles, and 12 miles to finish. Many cyclists skipped the first rest/aid station but Lou and I opted to stop for a few minutes (bathroom break, fuel and water).

Next we rode to Evansburg State Park. The highlight of this portion of the century is riding along Potshop Rd, which has a stunning view of the Schuylkill River Valley and Philadelphia’s skyline in the distance. Truly a sight to behold, especially from two wheels!

31 miles in and still feeling fresh!

Also interesting to see how strung out the riders get over time … for much of the ride, Lou and I didn’t see any other riders around us after we left the second rest stop.

I met a guy named Austin. He’s a PhD candidate in Physics and was riding his Surly CrossCheck (light blue) in linen shorts and a T shirt. Bold move for a first-time century rider – but he hung in our group until very close to the next rest station. I’m hoping to connect with him on MapMyRide – could be an awesome ride buddy.

The next leg of the trip was easily the hilliest portion – to Camp Hope near Schwenksville, PA. Turn after turn of just Going Up. One hill claimed not one but two cyclists who dropped their chains mid-hill – henceforth to be known as Chain Drop Hill. It was a beast of a hill.

(I was kindof annoyed to see my Strava app took into account the time I spent waiting as riding time – it says I only did 3.2mph up the hill, but my on-bike computer registered 6-7mph when I was actually riding. Oh well. )

We just had to laugh when we turned on the road to go the last .7 miles to the rest/aid station and the road turned upward again. You really had to earn that rest stop. We kept our rest station visits to a minimum – 15min or so. Just enough time to use the bathroom, refill water bottles, get a quick snack, and shake out the fatigue. Spent some time talking with Skip, a guy I’ve ridden with on other Philly Bike Club rides. Coming out of Camp Hope resulted in a few more miles of climbing before the flats and descents started to become common.

I also gobbled two ibuprofen to quiet my aching lower back. Note to self: adjust seat position back a touch!

Quick stop back in Evanburg State Park – this one a touch longer because I called my husband to tell him I was about 35 miles from the end and to expect me in about 2.5 hours. I also shut off my Strava app because I was at 25% battery and wanted to be reachable at the finish line. Ended up being a smart move, even though I cheated myself out of more data, because I had 5% remaining at the finish line.

(Note to self – pick up a Garmin of any sort that will give you gps data to upload later!)

Lou and I decided to skip the last rest/aid station and just bring it home. We met another guy – Dima – who ended up in our little group charging to the finish.  Soon after we added another rider into our little peloton – a guy with blonde curly hair henceforth known as Surfer Dude. We rode the last 35 miles hard – pushing 20mph on flats, 12+mph on the hills, and bombing the sharrows through Manayunk. Almost got hit by a car a couple times – people who don’t know how to parallel park are THE WORST.

Did I mention I was leading this little ragtag group of century riders back into the city? Because I totally was. The guys were very thankful I “brought them in.”

All in all, a great day in the saddle – and we got to the finish line 5 minutes before they stopped serving pizza. Hooray – GOAL ATTAINED! My family met me at the pizza tent – I was so happy to see them.

Lou and I at the post-ride pizza party, celebrating the completion of our respective first century rides!

Stats:

101.5 miles

average of 13.2 mph

7 hours, 40 minutes, 12 seconds of ride time

5,797′ of elevation gain (4,022′ in the first 66.5 miles)

route here

Ride Fuel:

three small bananas

two halves of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat

one package of Clif Bloks in black cherry (with caffeine)

one Clif Gel in vanilla (with caffeine)

one Clif bar in white chocolate macadamia nut

three small bunches of grapes

one slice of watermelon

six 24-ounce bottles of Propel Zero in grape flavor

Post-ride fuel:

two slices of plain pizza

one can of Coke

one cheeseburger

handful of potato chips

 

 

See you on the road!

Recommendations Requested

 

As you my faithful readers are acutely aware, I’m looking to acquire a different commuter bike.

I’ve oscillated between both ends of the spectrum – from “I HATE THIS BIKE!” to “Maybe I’m coming at it all wrong! The bike is fine, it’s just my attitude and perception!” And there is truth to both statements – the bike is a solid bike but is not built to be ridden the way I have been riding it. It’s for cruising bike paths. That’s what I bought the bike for too – to ride with my kids.

Then I developed a fever and the only prescription was MORE RIDING.

Photo credit: kgradiner (Flikr)

The bike has been a little over 790 miles in the past 16 months. She thankfully has tires with a bead that comes off easily so flat repair has been relatively quick. And she’s heavy so I feel pretty stable with my fully loaded pannier. But that heaviness is a killer on the uphill commute home – even with a triple.

I’ve been looking all over for a new ride to add to my stable – the primary use would be commuting and group riding whenever I didn’t feel like taking my carbon road ride out. I’m looking for relatively cheap (i.e., USED) but sturdy; takes fenders and a rack and wider tires for the few miles of off-road travel on the commute. Nothing flashy though – I will be taking her to downtown Philly regularly. Thinking a touring bike may be best?

(I won’t lie – the current bike is AWESOME on those dirt/gravel areas with her wide tires and heft.)

Everything I’ve seen that I think “wow, that’s cute!” ends up being just as heavy as I’m riding now. Let’s be clear – I’m not looking for an ultra-light bike! I want to be able to commute and not kill myself physically every time. Being able to pick it up and get it onto a train easily from a low platform, should I need to, is a bonus.

What would you recommend as a solid commuter bike for a hilly 15-16mi commute?

(You can also tell me I’m just a whiny person and to suck it up but that’s not very productive. I’m going to keep riding my current bike until a suitable replacement is found.)