Let’s talk about Vermont, gravel grinding, and the truly great weekend I had with my dear women friends (and Matt) at the Muddy Onion Spring Classic.
I am blessed to have friends who don’t hesitate to text me “Hey, wanna do this ride?” The answer is usually “YES.” So we secured a cheap hotel room and made our plans for a weekend of gravel magic.
The Muddy Onion Spring Classic is a ridiculously fun ride on lightly traveled dirt and gravel roads in north-central Vermont, hosted by Onion River Sports. Starting in the state capitol, Montpelier, the ride has more elevation gain than linear distance which is made abundantly clear over the first 5 miles. Several climbs topped out in the upper-teens for grade percentage.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect – mid-to-upper 60s, partly sunny, and fast dirt. Very few sloppy spots on the road made for quick riding.
The first rest stop was about 13 miles (and 1500′ of gain) in and well stocked with chocolate-covered bacon, shots of local maple syrup, pickles, protein bars … and PBR. Water for your bottles was courtesy of the spigot on the side of the house.
It’s like being a kid again, out exploring dirt roads and having a blast.
The second rest stop was 26 miles (and 3200′ of gain) in – more maple syrup shots, more pickles, more chocolate-covered bacon, water from a hose … and fried PB& J sandwiches. We loaded up on electrolytes – only 4 more miles of climbing before the 4 mile descent into town.
We finished in a little over 4 hours of total time, around 3.25 hours of actual riding time, and 3900′ of climbing over 35 miles. Partook of the post-ride BBQ (veggie burgers or grilled chicken; potato chips; local craft beer, soda, and seltzer) before riding our bikes back up the hill to the hotel to get cleaned up.
Grabbed a coffee at Capitol Grounds Cafe and then a case of local craft beer at the state store before heading home.
If you enjoy riding bikes with really cool people, along quiet dirt roads with spectacular views, and you don’t mind a little climbing along the way … the Muddy Onion is a great choice for a challenging event!
I want to tell you I had an amazing weekend and this event was SO MUCH FUN. I really do.
For many people, I’m sure today was awesome. For me, today was very disappointing.
* * * * *
The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is a 40 mile car-free bicycling event put on by Bike New York. 32,000 bicyclists. $90 entry fee. Packet pick-up must be in person at the Expo. A great way to see The Big Apple! My friends and I managed to get signed up and planned a whole weekend around this.
Saturday we drove up to Staten Island to check in to our hotels. We then biked over to the ferry to Manhattan. If there is anyone that can make Philly drivers look like fine, upstanding ladies and gentlemen – it’s Staten Island drivers. Of course, we were on a more direct route … but when we crested the second hill, the sun setting behind us and casting a golden glow on the City before us … the view was spectacular and made the ride over worth it.
Biking to the Expo in Manhattan was a joy because of the absolutely lovely cycle track along the river with amazing views of Brooklyn.
On the way back it started to rain. Agreeing there’s no one to pick our butts up, we saddled up and rode back to the hotel. Did I mention we were in street clothes? Cotton is rotten in the rain. Acquired a hot shower and clean clothes before we got some dinner. We all agreed the tour would be super fun – lots of people and no speed records but a nice conversational ride with friends.
This morning we were assigned to the last wave of riders for the tour. We had initially rejoiced in this stroke of good fortune to be able to sleep in – until we missed the last ferry to make the official start time. No matter, there were lots of others still waiting for the ferry. We got to the start line about 20 min late, which we figured we could make up without issue. Until we hit the first wall of people. They aren’t kidding when they say 32,000 people sign up for this.
The parts of the ride that were awesome:
* rolling through the streets of Manhattan and Harlem. The Bronx and Queens were a bit rougher on the edges and Brooklyn lived up to its reputation as a hipster mecca.
* riding down the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Seriously – have you ever ridden your bike on a major highway?
* Local musicians along the route keeping the vibe pleasant.
* fresh NY bagels at the rest stop we visited.
* Riding bikes! With Friends! in New York!
The parts of the ride I was incredibly disappointed about:
* Being Assigned the Third Wave. Dominated by cruiser bikes and folks who generally do not know how to ride in a group, much less a very large group. I don’t recall asking for the third wave or being told waves are assigned by expected average speed … or really anything. You’re just assigned a group.
* Walking. Entirely too much walking happened because of the rider volume, medicals (more people went down than I’ve ever seen in an organized event), and any sort of incline in the road. At one point we were stopped for somewhere around 30-45min just to get over a bridge. Due to volume.
* Being forced to take the mandatory shortcut because we failed to meet the cutoff time. Lopped 10 miles off our ride. See above for why. So sad because my friend was volunteering at the aid station on the cut miles.
* Other Rider Fatigue. My brain was fried from having to be hyper-vigilant in avoiding other riders that stop in the middle of the road, stop suddenly/without warning, walk their bikes across the road without checking to make sure no one is riding on the road, weaving, taking selfies while riding, etc.
(Some guy called me an asshole when I was passing and he drifted into me, touching my hip with his handlebar.)
* * * * *
I really feel like a heel for saying I’m disappointed in the event because I was riding with slower riders. There’s nothing wrong with being a weekend fitness cyclist or a cruiser cyclist or someone who only rides sometimes. Honest – I really feel this way.
But the truth is, had we been seeded with other cyclists at our similar abilities (but not the hammerheads) the day would have been completely different. Instead of trying to find clear passing lanes and walking entirely too much for a bike ride (i.e., at all), we would have had what we had looked forward to – a conversational speed bike ride.
It became a running joke to us that anytime we had to stop and walk was because there was a hill. Which is so sad but true – we walked so many hills towards the end because there was no room to ride. Everyone was walking because a few people weren’t able to cycle up the hill.
Based on my experience today, I can’t recommend this ride to anyone just yet. One of my friends did the ride last year and was in the first wave. She said the experience was so much better last year – she had no issues with walking or being stopped or having her ride cut short. So I’d be willing to give it another try but only if I knew I would be in the first or second wave of riders.
Saturday morning, too early for my taste, I went mountain biking with my friend John. John’s roughly old enough to be my dad and has a couple of kids and grand-kids. This blows my mind. Mountain biking does not conjure up images of your granddad ripping down a gnarly, knotty, rocky descent. And yet, he’s the club mountain biking coordinator … and I like learning how to be more confident off-road. We didn’t do anything super crazy – but the morning was excellent. Good conversation flowed and before we knew it we had tackled almost 20 miles and it was time to head home.
I started running back in February to get into some semblance of running shape. Like it or not, cycling and running use muscles differently and being awesome at one only gives you a leg up on being decent doing the other. And running is actually somewhat enjoyable when I can find my groove and get lost in my music.
The air was crisp, the sun shining, wind blowing and temps in the mid-forties. I grabbed a long sleeve shirt at the last-minute before leaving the house and I’m so glad I did. The wind was blowing straight through me. I hadn’t picked up my race packet yet so I left the house early to make sure I had enough time to stand in line for my bib and shirt.
Let me tell you – this is probably the best run event I’ve been to. Parking was off-site so I had to take a shuttle bus to the event.
I assumed I’d have to wait for a shuttle bus – nope. They had a continuous cycle of buses loading up and driving participants to the site. Virtually no wait.
I assumed there would be a long line to pick up my bib and shirt – nope. I had both and a tag in case I wanted to leave stuff in the gear drop within five minutes of being dropped off by the shuttle.
I assumed there would be long lines for the port-o-potties – nope. There were several port-o-potty locations, plus the usual park restrooms: from the parking lot, on the way to the start line, at the start line. No lines.
I checked my phone – 7:32am. Race starts at 8:30am.
*stretches* *twiddles thumbs* *finds a good starting song* *take a few selfies* *hit the port-o-potty* *shiver in the wind*
The course is challenging. It starts with a gentle incline and then just keeps going up, with a few downhills to keep things interesting, until about a half-mile from the end. A glorious deep downhill followed immediately by a sharp uphill to the finish line. We passed so many monuments and markers of the historical significance of Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. One water station at the half-way point.
I loved it. Last year I would have been eaten alive. This year I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t anxious. I was ready. I had this. It was mine to own.
…and I did. I put my iPod on shuffle and the playlist couldn’t have been more accurate for what I needed in any given moment. Behold the playlist of Whoa Really? You Listen To All That Stuff?
Rise Against – Satellite
All That Remains – Two Weeks
Eve 6 – Victoria
Prodigy – Voodoo People
Capitol Cities – Safe and Sound (first big hill)
Poni Hoax – Antibodies
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger (right as I turned up a very steep hill – so perfect in that moment)
Fall Out Boy – My Songs Know What You Did
Gaslight Anthem – 45
All That Remains – Days Without
David Guetta & Akon – Sexy Chick
Jimmy Eat World – My Best Theory
LMAFO – Sexy and I Know It
Lady Gaga – Edge of Glory
Jamiroquai – Canned Heat
I channeled my marathon-running sister when I saw others walking all around me at the first sign of the second hill. She can do this for 4+ hours – I can do it for one.
I finished in the top 2/3 of the field (haha):
625 out of 838 runners
235 out of 364 women
52 out of 71 in my age bracket (awesome girls between 35 and 39)
Friends – if you are looking for a well-coordinated challenging five-miler, look no further than the Valley Forge Revolutionary Run. I was so pleased with the entire experience from parking to racing, to getting post-race snacks and back to the car. I can’t recommend this enough.
Now that my race is over I can get back to my first love, riding my bike. I have neglected training for my four-day epic cycling adventure and it’s about a month away. I need to get crackin’!
Friends, today is my husband and I’s sixteenth wedding anniversary. Traditionally we took the day off so we could go to lunch together before splitting up between handing out candy and taking the little ones around trick or treating. Our children are now old enough to go out with their friends or stay home and hand out candy – so doing other things for our anniversary is a total option now.
Yesterday I saw a Twitter contest from Philly Bike Tour Co. to win passes on their bicycle tour of Philadelphia today. Of course I re-tweeted and *then* let the husband know there’s a chance we would be going on a bike tour. That’s just how things go with bicycles and myself, really. So late last night when I got the tweet that we had won, I was totally excited.
Philly Bike Tour Co. started fairly recently because there is a distinct void in how to tour Philadelphia by bicycle. With so many beautiful neighborhoods and historic sites in a dense urban area, the best way to get around the city is on two wheels. There are several options for tours such as a classic tour, northern neighborhoods, movie and tv sites, outdoor art, food & beer, and a tour of Fairmount Park. Each tour is rated for difficulty from Super Easy to Advanced – to you can pick the right tour for yourself and your guests. Most of the tours are rated Easy.
Philly Bike Tour Co. is in partnership with Fairmount Bicycles, a woman-owned bicycle shop that specializes in new and refurbished bikes for commuting, touring, and entry-level road riding. Each tour includes a rental bicycle, helmet, and keepsake water bottle. If you bring your own bike, there is a $5 discount.
My husband and I arrived a few minutes early to sign the usual waivers and get situated on our rental bikes. The rentals were perfect for urban riding – the 7 speed Jamis Hudson Sport. The saddle was extremely comfortable, the upright riding position felt confident, and the wide tires rolled over everything we threw at it, including an entire block of cobblestones. Philadelphia is a fairly flat city – we didn’t have to use the gears much at all.
The tour itself was very good. Our knowledgeable guide, Thom, keep the group together and had just enough history behind each stop on the tour to keep it interesting and not like a crazy-long history lesson. We were predominately on streets with bike lanes or on bike paths with a few sections necessary to be either on the sidewalk or taking the lane. Our friendly sweep, Josh, had more tidbits and was a wonderful conversationalist as we pedaled down the street. The pace was excellent – not too fast, not too slow.
There was a mid-tour break for food in the famous Italian Market. Thom had been talking about taco trucks all morning so naturally we gravitated to the Tacos El Rodeo truck at 10th & Washington. We were not disappointed. I had chicken and my husband had carnitas – both were fresh, authentic, and supremely delicious. $4 for two tacos is a great price.
Overall, if you are in the Philadelphia area – live, work, or visiting – take a tour through Philly Bike Tours Co. The bike shop is top-notch, the staff friendly, the tour guide and sweep helpful and knowledgeable. Prices range from $45 to $65 per person, including bike rental, helmet, lock (if needed), water bottle (to take home) and a sense of happiness in the City of Brotherly Love.
**Disclaimer: This review was in no way influenced by the prize passes for the tour. I was so thrilled with the tour I asked if I could review it on my blog. **
Friends, it was only last summer that I took the bold move of heading out on my bicycle sans-unders. For guys this may have been a no-brainer but for girls, it seems to be more of a concern to be out and about without proper undergarments.
Since then I have stuck to the first brand I purchased, which was also the only brand that the local bike shop had in stock that didn’t make me feel more than slightly awkward plunking down in front of the guy at the counter.
When I was preparing for the Elephant Rock Ride in Colorado, the shop had trial sizes of my usual brand … and Hoo Ha Ride Glide. Intrigued, I picked up a few for the long ride. I ended up using the first packet the following day on 10 mile mountain bike ride and immediately noticed the cooling sensation, which told me it was working. I also noticed the exceptionally pleasant smell.
I didn’t bother to ask my companions if they could also smell it because there really isn’t an easy way to ask if your booty cream smells nice.
The first ride was fine, nothing special … but it was enough to prompt me to pick up a full-size bottle. Anymore, it’s my go-to ride cream. It’s not too thick, lasts quite a while, and smells nice. I like that it’s formulated for women and the trial sizes come in environmentally-friendly packaging. Plus it’s quite a conversation piece when the conversation inevitably turns to chamois creams (what, you don’t talk about that stuff on your group rides?).
From their website:
Reflect Sports feminine chafing cream, Hoo Ha Ride Glide® protects your Hoo Ha from saddles sores, chafing, friction burns, irritation and inflammation. Our chafing cream provides healing and prevents saddle sores and chafing from exercise. Focused on the sensitivities of the vaginal area our product is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. In addition to having healing agents, our chafing cream is enriched with barely extract, lavender, eucalyptus leaf, tea tree and peppermint oil. These specialized ingredients provide a lasting cool feeling so you enjoy your ride, run or spin class.