Longest Day, Longer Ride

When we last connected, dear reader, I was troubled by my health issues. The good news is I connected with my nurse practitioner and she agreed I’ve done everything I should, wrote me a script for full-strength acid blockers and told me I should see a GI doc if I don’t feel better in four weeks.

Of course, I was thinking “dude, if I’m not better in four DAYS there are going to be issues.”

The good news is the full-strength meds have worked. I don’t have to think about WHEN I eat anymore, although I am still careful about WHAT I eat. I’m off coffee until I’m done with the four-week course of meds. I’ve noticed some positive things since kicking coffee to the curb in the last month but I do miss it terribly.

But this is not why I am blogging, although thank you for asking about my health.

No, friends I am going to tell you about the most epic thing I’ve done yet on my bicycle. I rode 150.4 miles with my friends in one day.

I didn’t train very well for this ride to be totally honest. In fact, I had only ridden 143 miles this month over four days. None had been more than 60 miles or so. Lots of reasons why not but none of that matters the morning of your ride. I will note that my brain was totally all over this ride. I was so pumped thinking about it. There was very little doubt in my mind that I couldn’t accomplish this epic journey bicycling down the Shore.

Friday morning, I left my house about 6:30am and met my friends Howard and Ken at Ken’s house. Ken and Howard are preparing for a 7-day bicycle tour in upstate New York next month so this is a perfect training ride for them. Ken was even riding his commuter with a pannier (which I stowed my sunscreen, trail mix, and ziplock full of extra sport nutrition items) and trunk bag. Strapped to my top tube was a day’s worth of Cliff, Honey Stinger, and SportBeans in my Serfas Stem Bag that I won from All Seasons Cyclist’s blog contest. Shortly after arriving at Ken’s, the three of us set out to meet up with our other intrepid friends Andy and Rebecca, who are training for a 4-day charity ride in central Pennsylvania, closer into the City.

gorgeous morning to be riding
gorgeous morning to be riding

We met up, we crossed the bridge (RIP, Howard’s bar-end mirror that fell into the Delaware), and pedaled into New Jersey.

Everyone says it and you don’t really get it until you experience it:

  • Long bike rides are just a mind game. The first 50 miles were by far the hardest part of this journey – but not because it was a terrible grind or hilly or anything. Only because you have more miles in front of you than you have behind you. We stopped for lunch around mile 55 and celebrated that we had “only” 95 miles left to go. Break it down even further: we had rest stops about every 25-30 miles – mostly because we were pedaling through sparsely populated farmland.
  • Long bike rides necessitate eating on the bike. Humidity was low but it still got up into the mid-80s with brilliant sunshine. We were blessed with a few shaded roads but many more were out in open blueberry farm country. I forced myself to eat something every 10 miles or so and drained most of my water bottles to keep from bonking or cramping. Lunch was half a turkey wrap, a few fries, part of a pickle, and a Pepsi. At a gas station stop in the middle of nowhere, I picked up a Coke that I carried in my jersey pocket for the rest of the day. Later on we took a break at a Wawa and I split a hoagie with Ken (whole wheat shorty, turkey, provolone, lettuce, tomato, pickles, little mayo, yellow mustard, oil and vinegar, salt and pepper – Super Yum).
  • Long rides are only better with friends. Everyone had someone to ride and chat with. No one was dropped. Everyone regrouped at key rest stops. Singing songs about falling in love on the way to Cape May or bitchin’ Camaros. 80s rock ballads. We had it all – and the miles rolled on by.
  • Long rides mean metering your energy. I feel I did well but one can tell I hadn’t trained: my initial rolling speeds were 18-20 mph; around mile 108 they were down to 16-18 mph; the final 20 miles were 13-16 mph. At a certain point the pedals just keep turning as you watch the odometer tick off the miles. I was tired as we left mile 130 – I downed a Cliff Energy Gel but 10 miles later I was running out of gas. I am very thankful for Howard and Ken sticking with me. I had a few more Cliff Gel Blocks left so I downed those and was able to finish out the day in positive spirits.

One of my favorite moments: we were stopped at a light in Ocean City, maybe ten blocks from the end, and Howard looks at me and says “Have you been drinking?’

My first thought was “when the hell did we stop at a liquor store?” so I said “No, of course not.”

I panic for one second thinking my speech must be slurred or something.

Then my brain went “UM – DUH. WATER.” So I said “Oh wait – YES. Yes I have – my bottle’s almost empty.”

We rolled up to the B&B we were all staying at around 8:20pm. I proudly announced “To all the haters, SUCK IT! That just happened!”

Yeah. Stay classy, Laura.

Cathy (Ken’s wife) and my own family had just pulled up. We got checked in, I showered and changed, and then joined my fellow riders on the porch for some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Crashed in bed by 10:30pm.

And that, my friends, is how I spent the longest day of 2013.

I then spent the next day walking around the boardwalk, relaxing on the beach, and generally having a great time with my family. I felt no guilt about the funnel cake or gelato or fudge that I ingested. I was pleasantly surprised to only feel marginally sore in my quads and minor soft-tissue swelling on my sit-bone area (another topic for another post). More than anything though, I felt tremendous happiness at our accomplishment. Certainly the longest single-day ride I’ve ever done.

Like Stats? Here they are on Strava, fresh from my Garmin 510: http://app.strava.com/activities/62059109

See you on the road.

Health

So I’ve looked at my cycling mileage for June and they are more like what I was doing over the winter instead of the glorious warm weather riding I should be doing. Through May I was riding four days a week; I’ve been out on only four days this whole month. Going on vacation definitely had an impact, as did accommodating my husband’s business travel schedule. His schedule is only going to get more complex between now and the end of October so I’m going to have to get out when I can.

I’ve also been battling stomach issues since the beginning of June. I’m no stranger to them – they started in high school with a peptic ulcer from drinking a few pots of coffee a day. Hey – that’s what my friends and I did during Second Hour! I remember living off Diet Coke and saltines that summer as I let my stomach heal. But really, my stomach has never been the same. So I’ve made lots of dietary changes in the last eighteen or so years.

(g-d that makes me feel old)

Stomach issues tend to be more common in women than men too – like twice as likely. Which is probably why none of my guy friends ever seem to have issues with eating crazy-spicy foods, drink copious amounts of alcohol, and refill on coffee all day.

  • I’ve cut out spicy food (a relative term since anything more than Medium is too spicy to me).
  • I don’t drink alcohol except special occasions – and I have a one-drink maximum.
  • I avoid acidic foods. Orange juice with breakfast went a long time ago but I love pizza too much.
  • I’ve reduced the amount of fried and fatty foods, replacing them with fresh and vegetarian options.
  • For several years I quit coffee and only enjoyed tea (black, green, and white), but I worked coffee back into my diet a few years ago. I just love it too much. But I limit myself to one oversize mug per day, about 2 cups.

I exercise and generally eat right. And for the most part, I don’t have issues. Except this is the second time I’ve battled my stomach this year. I’ve been on omeprazole for ten days now with limited relief. So it’s time to go see a doctor. Which is timely, as I have a major (140+ mile) bike ride planned on Friday and I really don’t want to miss it because of my stomach. I’ve already missed too many bike rides this year due to feeling like my body is trying to turn itself inside out when it’s time to roll out.

I write all this not to garner sympathy or supportive messages – but to validate to myself that it’s not an excuse. I need to get back on the level so I can go back to being fun and awesome again. I miss myself!

And also, perhaps there are other recreational athletes out there who struggle with this too from time to time – we aren’t alone even though sometimes it can feel that way. I mean really, who wants to admit they have a sensitive stomach?

Hope to see you on the road soon!

Satisfaction

So tonight I went on what was a regular bike club ride for me last year – the Tuesday night D/C ride from the library behind my house. It is easily my favorite ride because the route changes depending on the whims of who shows up and there is no competition or competitiveness. It’s just people on bikes enjoying a lovely summer evening.

I decided to ride Lady Rainicorn since she’s been cooped up in my garage for a couple weeks. Plus this isn’t a crazy ride – it’s intended to be gentle and relaxing. This evening’s crew included our fearless ride leader, a couple on a tandem, and a woman from the Main Line area who is training for her first century at the end of July.

Indeed the ride was relaxing and the conversation flowing. Our intended route was blocked so we ended up detouring to Warington before turning back to Glenside.

As we pedaled I thought about when my friends James and Rachel and I rode our bikes to brunch the other week. I borrowed Rachel’s vintage Raleigh, a beautiful light blue Technium 440 with blueberry-colored bartape, matching pedals, and a rack. The lugging was gorgeous. Having ridden my own vintage bicycle, I was much better prepared for the stem-mounted friction shifters. The ride itself wasn’t terribly difficult or fast but it was the simple act of being with friends, on bikes, that felt really good. Correct. And while this isn’t the first ride my friend Rachel has gone on since her crash last summer, it was the first with me and I felt happy to see her back on her beautiful modern bike.

There is something to this thing we call cycling that excites the soul and satisfies a transcendental need. Being able to go out with friends and experience a peaceful evening together, letting the wind blow through your spokes, and sharing the events of the day is so rejuvenating. Sometimes I don’t want the ride to stop.

We rounded the corner to the library as cars were putting on their headlamps … And it reminded me that I lost my headlight at Elephant Rock the week prior. I didn’t notice this until the ride ended. My sister said she saw something blow off my bike early in the ride but didn’t know it was my light so she didn’t say anything. It was exceptionally windy after all. So I guess I can take the opportunity to upgrade my bicycle lights because I will definitely need another light.

Even now as I sit here on my couch typing this I can feel the happiness emanating from my core. There really is nothing finer than a summer evening with friends.

See you on the road.

My Colorado Vacation

As promised, the rest of my vacation cycling!

 

After Elephant Rock and a nice hot shower, my mom was still sad that she wasn’t able to ride the event this year due to health issues stemming from last summer. My mom has been a life-long bicycle rider and uses it to stay fit as she gets older. So I saddled up on my (much taller) baby sister’s mountain bike and told my mom we could go out on the trail by her house.

It wasn’t the longest ride or the fastest ride I’ve ever done – but it was nice to get out with my mom and dad on bikes and see the route they use to gauge their fitness. While it’s sad to see how far my mom’s fitness has fallen, it’s incredibly encouraging to see her on her bike, getting stronger each ride. And my dad has never been a fitness guy but he likes riding his bike with my mom too.

mom and dad
mom and dad

 

The next morning I loaded up my sister’s mountain bike (with her permission of course) and headed up to Pike National Forest to do some light mountain biking with my friend James and my friend Andrea. We rode a washboard-riddled dirt and gravel road from the trailhead to the paved part of the road and back before we noticed a short stretch of relatively flat singletrack on the other side of the river. So we did what any self-respecting cyclists would do and rode it to explore.

 

flat singletrack. the trail heads up from here.
flat singletrack. That’s me in the white jersey. 

 

My friends and I enjoying the beautiful day on bikes
My friends enjoying the beautiful day on bikes

 

After our ride, we adjourned to Andrea’s house for tall glasses of chocolate milk on her deck overlooking nothing before heading back to the city.

nothing sure is pretty
nothing sure is pretty

 

I also tried a new chamois cream – Hoo Ha Ride Glide. The cream was silky smooth and had a distinct cooling sensation that was … interesting. I usually use Chamois Butt’r which doesn’t have a tingle to tell me it’s working – but it wasn’t unpleasant. Unfortunately the cooling sensation was gone by the end of our relatively short ride (less than 10 miles) so I wonder about its effectiveness on long rides. The upside is that it smelled nice. This is huge, as I generally feel that chamois cream smells medicinal and meh. But Hoo Ha smelled amazing. So more to come on this as I go get a tube (instead of the take-it-with-you trial size I purchased).

 

What else? I spent so much time with my friends and family. It was awesome. When I got home I told my husband I was planning to go back next year and he smirked, asking when he gets a kid-free vacation. I told him when he actually goes somewhere instead of just staying home. 🙂

 

me! can you tell I'm happy?
me!

 

See you on the road!

Elephant Rock Ride 2013 Recap

I’m absolutely beat from spending a day in airports and airplanes but I have to share with you, dear reader, what a wonderful time I had in Colorado this past week.

I flew on Frontier Airlines again because if you do the research, they have the most bike-friendly policies of any airline. I can’t recommend them enough. Be vigilant however – some of the smaller/newer airports may not be fully informed and try to charge you oversize AND overweight (Frontier only charges overweight for bikes). I tweeted @FrontierCare a gentle request to remind the staff of said airport about their policy and they tweeted back that they called the staff immediately. I can independently confirm this because I was at a very small (tiny) airport and the only one checking a bike … and the gate agent called me out on it when I was boarding.

You can bet they will remember the bike policy the next time someone checks a bike for a flight through their airport.

Upon landing in beautiful Denver, I drove out to my new favorite independent bike shop – Pedal of Littleton – to have my ride reassembled and a new crankset installed. Turns out the left crank was stripped last year when the mechanic assigned to reassemble my bike didn’t install my pedal correctly. (You may recall I had to fix it on the side of the road during last year’s Elephant Rock Ride) Many thanks for my current shop for pointing out the issue and guiding me in getting a new crankset delivered to Pedal.

Friends, I can’t tell you how well Pedal treated not only me but my family. My bike has not felt this fluid and effortless since she was brand new. They adjusted my fit, answered my questions about my cleats getting stuck last weekend (and loosening my pedals), and made sure I was happy. Then we talked about a rental for my sister, who is a runner and planned to join me for a day on the bike. They treated her with respect and honesty and she did not feel like she was being talked down to when she said she didn’t know the first thing about bikes and needed flat pedals. They tweaked the fit until she felt amazing on the bike. I highly recommend Pedal if you are in the Belleview/Santa Fe area – they are just off the trail and top-notch.

The morning of Elephant Rock my sister and I were shepherded to the start by my most excellent parents. This is no small feat because we had to get up at 4:30am to get to the start and on the road by 6am. I of course felt incredibly nervous and anxious – and this manifests as nausea. Fortunately I warned my sister a few days before to not take it personally if I didn’t talk to her much.

I also failed to check the weather report outside of high temp for the day. Our 6am start brought us 48*F, sunshine, and 20 mph winds. So our shorts, jersey, and light sleeves were significantly subpar.

my sister. we are so cold.
my sister demonstrating we are so cold.

and the WIND! Oh my goodness – we could barely push above 10-13mph and we were spinning like crazy. Crosswinds – headwinds – everything but a tailwind. We would spin up a hill and not even have the benefit of a descent because we’d have to pedal through the headwind going downhill. This gave a whole new meaning to “windswept plains.”

We stopped at the 15mi rest stop – me for real food (since I hadn’t eaten anything yet for fear of losing it), my sister for a way to close the hole in the front seam of her bike shorts (she got a safety-pin). A gentleman commented that “you don’t have views like this in Philadelphia”  referring to the amazing view of Pikes Peak in the background. I swear I said a inflection-neutral “nope” but my sister will tell you I growled at him and was generally hostile. All I remember is nibbling on a banana and sour green grapes and pacing around, trying not to puke. And the wind again.

this is one of my favorite pics from the day - if you look at it full size you can see the cyclists riding up the hill, dotting the horizon.
this is one of my favorite pics from the day – if you look at it full size you can see the cyclists riding up the hill, dotting the horizon.

The 25 mi mark is the route divergence for the full century and the metric century. Given the wind, I suggested to my sister that we pull over and rethink our desire to do the full century route. We were barely averaging 10mph at this point and the winds were showing no sign of letting up. By this point the banana has kicked in and I feel normal again – but my sister is sagging because the wind is literally sucking our energy (and she’s not a cyclist) and her butt was hurting.

Clearly we were not the only ones who decided to pull over and think – there was a quarter of a mile worth of cyclists debating the routes. We learned later that most people opted to curtail their miles because of the wind.

And really, when you are out to have fun – there’s no point in slogging through 20mph winds that are gusting to 30mph. It’s just not fun.

So we aborted our quest for the full century after much deliberation and headed west to the next rest stop at mile 33. Several big inclines lead to delicious descents that became tricky in the gusty wind. These are the times I curse my carbon fiber bike and it’s light weight – I hate spending more energy staying upright on the downhill than I did on the uphill.

We did however get to ride on an aptly named Roller Coaster Road – a swooping set of several rollers that ended up being a highlight of the route.

the half-way point
the half-way point

After a quick pee-and-refill-water-bottles break in Palmer Lake, we set out for the best part of the ride – ten pure miles of downhill protected by pine forest. So there was no wind. And we could pick up the pace. And by “pick up the pace” I mean I shouted “gidd’up,” threw my rig into the big ring, and watched my cyclometer ratchet up to over 40mph.

Yeah, that happened. And it was worth every moment.

Then came the payback – over 2 miles of 4% grade with less than 20 miles to go in the metric. My poor sister was experiencing what we all face in the early season, Sore Butt. She was also running out of gas so we rode side by side up Tomah Road. An older guy struck up a conversation with us part way up the hill and that took her mind off the grind (and her sore booty) for a bit.

my sister contemplating the monster hill we just finished.
my sister contemplating the monster hill we just finished. she’s not happy.

By now it’s also almost 80*F. It feels amazing to be in the sun with very little wind. We zoom to the finish, taking a few breaks here and there for my sister to get off her saddle and stretch a bit. We cheer as we roll into the finish line, grab our post-ride lunch and nosh in the shade celebrating our victory. My parents had watched us on my Garmin LiveTrack and were already on their way to pick us up.

Here’s our stats from the ride: http://app.strava.com/activities/57834471

(keep in mind my sister has ZERO cycling training prior to this ride – she is a runner and hiker – and she threw down a 60 mile ride in 4h 45m. She’s insane. And five years younger than me. LOL)

A couple of side notes:

  • I’m now confident last year’s “altitude sickness” was indeed a virus as I had no ill effects outside of my own usual event anxiety.
  • I loved riding with my sister, even if this ride has solidified for her that she hates cycling. Even though she had fun.
me and my sister enjoying  success ... and the post-ride lunch
me and my sister enjoying success … and the post-ride lunch

My next post will talk about the rest of my vacation, because the cycling didn’t end here.

See you on the road!