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)

Cycle Bucks County Recap

When is a 25 mile ride an absolute joy?

When you ride at an average of 10 mph on your hybrid with your kid.

 

Yesterday my oldest son and I drove an hour northeast to participate in Cycle Bucks County, a non competitive, organized fund raising bike ride presented for the benefit of Doylestown Hospital and Girls On The Run. Because my oldest rides a mountain bike, I chose to ride my hybrid to better match his speed and exertion level. I pre-mapped the 25 mile route (based on the previous year) and noticed the first 15 miles looked like rolling hills with a nasty hill right before the rest stop. The last 10 miles were flat along the Delaware River as it divides Pennsylvania from New Jersey.

Turns out I was slightly off. Check out the final route over at MapMyRide. There were four big hills that many participants were walking. Some were lamenting their compact cranks and other extolling the virtues of their triples. This hill in particular just kept going UP … but this was the one that had a few people just turn in their numbers and head home.

My son and I were the only ones we saw on non-road bikes, which really makes me that much prouder that we finished with a ride time of 2 hours and 40 minutes (about 3 hours total time including rest breaks). He’s becoming a solid cyclist (didn’t train for this ride – just did it and ended up tired but happy with the ride overall) and I think it’s time to change out his equipment for a road bike now that his mountain bike doesn’t fit him anymore (he’s now 5’10” and growing). I have been training and the ride was an enjoyable saunter through the countryside with my kid.

We also saw a tiny fox towards the end of the ride – he was so timid and apprehensive. We stopped and allowed him to run by us at a wide berth.

Overall, a great ride with great company.

See you on the road!

Accountability

Every week I get an email from MapMyRide with my weekly training summary. It’s almost never totally devoid of some form of activity – I walk for part of my commute every day so at the very least I’ve put 5 miles under my belt each week. The only times it’s completely blank is if I have been on vacation, like the time my husband and I vacationed in Seattle with two of our very good friends. I did a LOT of walking that week – but didn’t bother to track it because I’m ON VACATION.

But it definitely serves as a reminder that I’m not out riding (or hiking or walking) as much as I want to be.

Desire is good. Obsession is not.

You can’t forsake all else for the pursuit of a selfish desire. As much as you need time to do your own thing, you have others who need you to be there with them. My kids, my dogs, my husband, my family, my friends, my boss, my subordinates, my peers, the local music scene (I love going to shows) – all need my attention at some level or another. As I’ve said before, it’s all about balance.

I say this because I read other cyclists’ blogs and sometimes get wistful at the time they have devoted to their passion. I have to remind myself that not only am I not them, but I’m also (generally) not in the same generational bracket. Most of my group ride partners are around my parent’s ages – and rightfully so. They have raised their kids, they did their time of juggling work and play, and now have more time to just play. They paid their dues and reap the reward. I want to be fit enough to go on long bike rides when I’m in my 50s and 60s and decent clips.

The other thing is I am not a morning person and no matter how much I love riding, I loath getting up early to hit the road before it gets too hot and sticky out. There isn’t enough coffee in the world to make me happy about getting up before 9 or 10 am.

All that being said – I’m excited to be riding with my son tomorrow morning – a brisk 25 miles together through Bucks County, Pennsylvania. This afternoon will be all about prepping the bikes, getting the hitch loaded on the truck, deciding if I want to ride this on my hybrid (which will match his speed better and be a “better” “workout” ha ha) or my road bike (which will make the ride easier). Laying out our gear, pre-loading the coffee maker, and picking up snacks and drop-ins for our water bottles (it will be cooler but still mid-80s by the end of the ride). Guiding him through his first supported cycling event.

Bucks County is home to only 12 covered bridges still standing.
Bucks County is home to only 12 covered bridges still standing.
(photo credit: http://fmyphotos.com/history-bucks-county-covered-bridges)

 

See you on the road!

What’s Goin’ On

It’s really sad but I haven’t been on my bike in almost two weeks now.

The shop took a few days to put Electric Dream Machine together and I opted to have a basic fitting to get her specs back in alignment for Cycling Nirvana. And the next day I went on a non-cycling vacation.

But I promised a recap of the Travel with Your Bike experience.

  • The boxing/unboxing experience was probably the most painful part. I’m not mechanically oriented just yet – so I don’t feel comfortable disassembling/re-assembling my ride. It was ~$35 per instance to have the shop take care of that for me – so $150 total.  (Although making appointments for said services tended to speed things up. )
  • The box itself is moderately unwieldy – standing on its end it was almost as tall as I am. But it was surprisingly easy to wheel around and load into a mid-size SUV by myself.
  • Frontier Airlines was awesome. The box came in at 52 pounds (53.5 with my saddle bag included on the way back). Both overweight fees were waived – but I attribute this to having status on the airline more than a testament of the airline. Had I needed to pay the fee, it’s $75 each way ($150 total)
  • Having my bike to ride? PRICELESS.
Have you seen my ride? She’s beautiful!

So the question becomes – do I take my bike with me on my next vacation in July? Or do I rent one from a local shop? Financially it’s a toss-up – about $350 total for a week-and-a-half vacation. The edge goes to renting because there will be no delay in assembling or the hassle of schlepping it around with me while also trying to keep track of my kids. But it’s not my bike.

 

Looking forward to being back home for a few weeks to get back to cycling a few days a week. My son and I are doing the 25 mile route in the Cycle Bucks County event next weekend – will be  his first cycling event with rest/aid stations. He’ll be on his mountain bike and I’m committed to riding his pace to make this the most positive experience possible. We’re both pretty excited to do this event together.

I also signed up for the Scenic Schuylkill Century this fall – need to finish 100 miles in 9 hours or less including rest stops! I’ve built my base miles pretty well recently –  50 miles is completely manageable now. Time to start adding miles for endurance and working on speed to get to about 13-14 mph over the entire ride (finish in about 7-7.5 hours). I’m at a verified 13mph average over 50 miles now. Planning on a 63 mile ride in about a month (self-mapped and with friends) and then meeting up with another local female rider on weekends to increase to a consistent 75-80 miles per ride.

So look for more talk of training rides and elevation gain all kinds of stuff that really only is interesting to me. 🙂

See you on the road!

Rocky Mountain High

I need to get this out of the way: I love Colorado. I lived here for 25 years. It’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth and has one of the best climates to live in. There’s no humidity to speak of, the rains pass quickly, and the sun shines more days than not. There are mountains and plains and everything in between.

I miss this state more than any other I’ve ever lived in and get all misty-eyed thinking about how awesome the past few days have been. How careless I was in not valuing the absolute beauty that surrounded me every day.

Confluence Park in Denver, CO. Beautiful downtown park right on the Platte River.

Let’s also talk briefly about Altitude Sickness. Even though I have only been away from this great state for a few short months, my body has mutinied. Day 1 was fine, just a little “disconnected” feeling. The past two days I’ve been battling mild nausea and intense headaches despite basically mainlining non-caffeinated fluids.  I’ve been ingesting as much solid food as I can without actually losing my cookies, which hasn’t been much.

Interestingly enough though, I feel fine when I ride my bike. It’s like all the bad parts of being at altitude again disappear and I have some respite. Then I stop and it all comes back to me. Suffice to say, this has been a significant hamper on any non-cycling fun activities. But I did manage to get two great rides in.

Cyclists are not known for their sexy tan lines.
Cyclists are not known for their sexy tan lines.

Ride One: Chatfield to Confluence Park (Denver, CO)

I met up with my ride partner John for an easy 34 mile bike path ride on Saturday morning after a week and a half off the bike. It was awesome. The first half was really low-key but as I realized I felt better riding than not, we kicked the second half up to par. I’m pleased to report we averaged over 14mph on a relatively flat ride with many stretches of consistent 16-18mph. Very nice ride to acclimate to the altitude.

Ride Two: Elephant Rock Ride (Castle Rock, CO)

This is the reason I’m back in this great state – a 30+ mile ride with my mom and one of my my sisters, who is an accomplished hiker (she bags fourteeners like they are candy).  The three big hills on the elevation map diverted attention from the fact that there were a number of hills in general, just not MapMyRide category climbs – over 1400′ gain over the ride.

I ran into my best friends, James and Rachel, at the first rest station – which was awesome. We chatted about the first big hill and then continued our journeys separately. This was a family ride for me this time around.

My mom is in her 60s and rides regularly but not road rides. She has a monster of a mountain bike that she rides around town to keep up her cardiovascular strength, generally on 15-20 mile rides. She picked up an inexpensive Fuji hybrid for this ride to lighten her load and did an amazing job on this ride. I am so proud to have been part of her “ride team” on this route.

Some of the beautiful farm land we rode through on the Elephant Rock Ride.

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED TODAY:

* How to fix a dropped chain

* How to fix a pedal that is un-threading itself from the crank shaft

* How to adjust my bike fit

* How to disassemble and re-assemble portions of my bike (thanks multi-tool!)

* How amazing it is to careen down a hill at 45mph

My mom and I are probably heading out again tomorrow morning for another gentle ride before I drop my bike off at Criterium Bicycles to get re-boxed up for transport.

See you on the road!

You'd never know I really want to puke.
Me with the million-dollar view of Pikes Peak from my mom’s front porch.

Gratitude

I’d like to take a moment to show gratitude for local independent bike shops.

Over the past year I’ve learned what it means to have a bike shop that knows you and treats you well. They recognize you, answer your questions, don’t make you feel stupid or lame and you don’t feel like you need to posture. The shops staffed by guys and gals who genuinely love cycling in all it’s forms and love helping others find their happiness on two wheels.

Big props to Criterium Bike Shop in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They did not even hesitate when I walked in with my bike box and asked if they could get her put back together today. Of course it can be done – probably by 4. We’ll call you.

Unlike the chain bike store that told me they could work me in on Wednesday.

(Next time I will call in advance and have an appointment set up so it’s easier for everyone … I did feel bad walking in with a giant box. Lesson learned.)

Next time you head out, consider your local independent shop and spend your hard-earned money with people who genuinely care about you and your bike.

See you on the road!