Have confidence. Confidence in yourself, your bike (team), and your ability to learn along the way.
You have to trust that your bike (team) wants to stay upright (not mess up). It doesn’t want to go horizontal – it wants to keep moving forward.
You have to be open to trying new things, learning when to push yourself and when to dial it back, hop off and walk.
Mountain biking (and leadership) is about picking your line and adjusting on the fly. Look where you want to go, not at the obstacles in front of you. If you are convinced the obstacle right in front of you is the issue, you can be sure there is a much bigger or gnarlier obstacle just beyond it.
It’s about overcoming those obstacles using a variety of methods. On the bike there’s momentum, bunny-hopping, or shifting weight to maneuver over obstacles in the path. Momentum is almost always your friend. As a leader there’s momentum but also pivoting, keeping everyone focused, and moving forward.
Learn to be ok with totally wiping out/making a mistake. You aren’t going to always pick the right line, your wheel might get caught on a rock, you might get tossed off your bike into a puddle of mud. Take a minute to think about how you got there, then pick yourself and your bike back up and keep going.
Mountain biking is hard work but also a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding – as is being a good leader.
How do you see your favorite sport/hobby as a way to improve your professional skills?
As I think back across this year, it’s been a stressful one. We sold our house (hooray!), moved to an apartment (eh!), found a new house (hooray!), moved again (two states away!), had to integrate quickly for end of the school year activities (eh!), and have been slowly unpacking and organizing/updating/painting the house. Whole weekends are devoted to Being A Real Adult and that’s never fun.
Oh, and there was that pesky thyroid cancer surgery and radioactive iodine over the summer too. I’m still working on getting my synthetic thyroid hormone balance. While I feel exceptionally thankful my cancer isn’t expected to reduce my life expectancy, I’m now working on finding a New Normal that includes a lot more down time than I’ve previously needed in my life.
No surprise, I’ve been struggling emotionally lately. Like on the verge of Stay In Bed All Day And Full-On Ugly-Cry While Listening to Sad Music and/or Watching Sad Movies. I blame a combination of work (mostly office politics, which isn’t my favorite thing to do), anxiety (impostor syndrome), and a general feeling that my life is very much Not In Balance.
Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to Thanksgiving break because it means a long weekend to relax AND Get Shit Done – but I was in a serious funk. Wednesday I finished up my holiday baking and in the evening my husband and I sat in our hot tub and talked. I know – First World Luxuries. But it didn’t help alleviate the sense of being completely overwhelmed, scattered, and not spending time on the things that matter most.
Thursday morning it was cloudy but in the upper-50s so I decided to head out for a road ride. I haven’t been on my road bike in a while and while it took some internal prodding to get out the door – but soon the pedals were spinning. For the first time ever, I decided to listen to music while I rode. I usually don’t because I like to be able to hear what’s going on around me – but I was on a paved rail-trail and used my Yurbuds, which allow the user to hear ambient sound while delivering high-quality audio. I really should invest in a high-quality single-earbud because riding with music was great.
At the end of my 32 mile ride, I felt a bit better but still anxious. It was nice to spend a few hours just zoned out, spinning.
We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner as a family, thanks for asking. We miss our friends all over the country and our family out West. But we are thankful to have each other, good jobs, a roof over our heads and food on the table every night.
This morning I grabbed my mountain bike and headed over to the local park for a few hours. I am so thankful that I know about this park because it’s perfect for my level: lots of easy flowy trails but also some technical details.
I zipped around a large family enjoying a hike in the woods. I rode over a few of the smaller logs (and just walked over the larger ones). I rode over the bridge across the Parkway and continued on. I fell off a stone wall. I kept going.
I was the only one on the trails. I stopped frequently to check the paper map I had downloaded of the trails. I stuck to loopy trails that connected easily. I powered up hills and bounced down rocky descents. I felt good.
I found a trail that ended up being a lot more technical than I expected – and I didn’t wreck. I felt like a million dollars.
I took a wrong turn; I doubled back until I found multiple trail blazes. I started experimenting with speed and not shockingly, momentum is your friend when you are mountain biking. I headed back to the gentler park and crushed every trail that I crashed on a few weeks back. I even took a few new trails and had to walk in a few places – but I felt amazing. I got home and took my dog on a walk.
This is exactly what I needed in my life right now. And I still have two more days to Get Shit Done: like laundry and cleaning the house and taking my car in for maintenance.
I need to figure out how to get more of this in my life on the regular.
Life if too short not to see you on the road (or the trails).
wherein I go mountain biking and crash a few times
A few weeks ago I joined the local bike club on a mountain bike ride and discovered there are three parks with ride-able trails only a few miles from my house. It was really fun to get out in to the woods and not have to go very far. I took a little bit of ribbing because I had driven to the parking lot instead of just riding over, since it’s so close. But I was feeling good and trying new things and clearing logs that I previously wouldn’t have even tried. The trails are very leafy (read: slick) and have a depth that hides the rocks and roots pretty well – but overall are solid trails for early-intermediate riders like myself.
Last week I took my family to the same park to hike the trails. It was good reconnaissance on a few other trails we hadn’t ridden the previous week.
Today I decided to head out and try the trails by myself. I’ve never been mountain biking by myself – I have this belief that it’s better to be with someone in case anything happens. But I can’t keep waiting for “someone else” to be available to scratch the mountain biking itch – so off I went.
I opted to ride my bike to the park, which is only 3 miles away. We live in a very hilly area though – so those 6 miles (there and back) accounted for a significant chunk of the 850′ of gain I conquered today.
The trails were thick with leaves and my rear wheel kept sliding out – but I managed to stay upright. I have a hardtail 29er, which handles pretty well when I’m not in super-tight twisties. It always takes me a bit to get used to how the rear section of my bike is constantly getting knocked around.
Today’s ride was all about learning (and crashing). I rode up to a large log that I had previously cleared on last week’s ride – and stopped pedaling near the top, causing me to realize that’s Not What You’re Supposed To Do. I managed to clear the log without issue – but certainly set the tone for the rest of the short ride.
I ventured onto another trail. I walked one log and then tried the next one, which promptly tossed me to the side of the trail (and into a deep pile of leaves – soft landing!). Another log later I realized I wasn’t on an actual trail and headed back. The maps told me I missed the turn to stay on the “official” trail.
Found a different marked trail and decided to take it – it was super delicious and I was rocking the technical descent until my rear wheel slide out and I almost ate it down the hill. A short time later, navigating a leafy rocky section I was tossed off my bike and into a rock, which connected squarely with my knee. I walked the rest of the way down that hill.
Tried a few more trails with tons of big rocks – clearly my first foray into this park were just on the easiest trails! – some of which I cleared and some I was tossed off, struggling to keep my balance.
I only managed a few trail miles before deciding to head back home (since I have other Real Life things that need to get done today). And I hadn’t even ventured across the parkway to a bigger park with a ton of singletrack! But today’s lessons were solid and I’m looking forward to going back to hone my skills on the more technical trails.
This past weekend I put my bikes on the back of my Honda and headed for the hills. Of west-central Massachusetts, to be more precise. My friend and fellow blogger Karen lives up there and invited me to join her at the JAM Fund Grand FUNdo. The ride was top-notch: very hilly, well-stocked rest stations, full-on pig roast bbq and local craft beer at the end.
While there, a former pro cyclist approached me about my scar. Turns out she had a total thyroidectomy a few years ago (hers was benign) and is currently not racing due to overtraining.
She shared with me a few gems, one of which was that once your thyroid is removed your body functions differently from when you had the organ even though you are replacing the hormones. As an athlete, it’s easy to build into a certain level of fitness. How the body functions with just the hormones is slightly different. She shared a story about a training ride where she became severely hypothermic, which was her “a-ha” moment about how her body functions differently now.
This was welcome anecdotal evidence, as I’ve noticed my body isn’t responding the same way it used to. I get goose-bumps earlier in hot rides than I used to – which is my key to drink more fluids, dial down the intensity, and stay in the shaded areas as much as possible. The Mini FUNdo we did featured 25 miles of uphill before the glorious 15 miles of downhill – and by mile 22, my muscles weren’t crying but I was definitely Not Myself. Thankfully the rest stop had bananas and, more importantly, pickles.
Never underestimate the power of a pickle to revive you on a hot bike ride.
The rest of the weekend was exactly the relaxing, rejuvenating experience I needed. We biked, we laughed, we talked, and we ate. As working moms, it’s not easy for us to just take a weekend to ride bikes – but I’m so glad Karen was up for it and I was in a place where I could be as active as I wanted … even if it isn’t at my former fitness level.
Another friend of mine, Dani, made an excellent observation. She asked me if I had held back my voice – because the thyroid is in the throat chakra and maybe I needed to learn how to be my own advocate more, to speak up and not be afraid of what others think or will say by voicing my concerns or opinion.While I still harbor internal concerns that vulnerability makes me a liability, the reality is I have suppressed my needs too much. It’s OK to ask for help, for down-time, and to take care of me first.
The irony certainly doesn’t escape me that I have moved to a city that never sleeps, is always pushing forward, and thrives on the dreams and ambitions of millions of people – and my body is quite literally telling me to slow down, take time to breathe and relax, and to enjoy life.
Of course, I immediately signed up for another very hilly ride locally in October. I’m hoping to get through my radioactive iodine treatment over the next 2 weeks and get back to building up my cycling strength. I don’t think I’ll see anywhere close to the same stats as last year and I’m making my peace with it. I’ll ride as much as I can and seek out my happy-place as often as possible.
My thyroidectomy went well. After the procedure, I was in Recovery for about 6 hours – much longer than anyone else who was in the surgical unit for other procedures so I watched a lot of people come and go. A few others in Recovery weren’t pleased to see my incision and requested things to block their view of me during their recovery time. Because yeah, it did kinda look like some rando had slashed my throat and the docs had slapped surgical tape over it.
An inch or so isn’t a lot until you see it on your neck. The neck doesn’t have a lot of real estate, so it looks much bigger than you expect.
This past Monday was pathology results day – and when I found out that I actually had thyroid cancer.
The brain kindof freezes when you hear the C word. Of course it does. The thoughts in your brain swirl around chemo, hair loss, nausea, fatigue, the epic battle for your body and will to live. Which is why I was so thankful to hear:
“The important take-away from this conversation is that you will live a long and healthy life.”
Thyroid cancer is the ninth most common cancer in the US, with the number of cases rising each year. No one is completely sure why there is an increase in cases (better technology to identify the cancer early may be a contributing factor) but the death rate has remained low – virtually unchanged since 2002.
Papillary, which accounts for 70-80% of all thyroid cancers
Follicular/Hurthle cell, which accounts for 10-15% of thyroid cancers
Medullary, which accounts for 5-10% and is usually hereditary
Anaplastic, which accounts for less than 2% and is the most aggressive and unfortunately deadliest
Treatment for thyroid cancer includes surgery (got that out of the way!), radioactive iodine, external beam radiation, and chemotherapy. Most thyroid cancers are cured with surgery and radioactive iodine. Thyroid cancer is actually pretty great for targeted treatment such as radioactive iodine because no other cells in the body soak up iodine like the thyroid does – so the thyroid cells are killed while the rest of the body remains healthy. (pretty neat, right?)
The 5 year survival rate for anyone diagnosed with thyroid cancer today is 97% – and the 10 year survival rate for those who are younger than 45 and the cancer is localized (has not spread to other parts of the body) is 100%.
The good news is that I am young (under 45), relatively healthy (outside of this bump in the road), and the cancer was localized (according to my surgeon). I have my post-op follow-up in a few weeks with my surgeon and then a conversation with my new endocrinologist a few days later to discuss the appropriate next steps. I’ve started writing a list of questions for him because I tend to forget to ask while I’m at the appointment.
If I’m being totally honest, I was a bit numb after hearing my thyroid pathology came back as cancer. I immediately latched onto the positive points and rehashed those as my narrative publicly. I received a tsunami of support and messages of love from my friends and family while I tried feabily to pass it off as Not A Big Deal. The next morning though I started doing my research and started to panic. OMG this is serious, but thankfully not deadly so. I don’t even know which kind I have/had. Radioactive iodine requires an isolation period. How is that going to work? And there’s a million follow-ups while they get the dosage of levothyroxine correct plus following up to make sure the radioactive iodine worked …. what about work? We’re already swamped – I can’t be taking off time for all this!
I had to put down the internet and go busy myself with what’s really important: my family, my friends, and living life. Work is important too – I’m the primary financial contributor to our family – but I can’t work if I’m not healthy. I am incredibly thankful for the support my boss and company have given me.
Yesterday I went out for a bike ride and made some determinations:
Yes I have/had cancer.
No it doesn’t define me.
But it’s OK to feel like it’s a big deal – because it is. It’s a part of my life story now.
I can ask questions at my next two appointments to get more clarity on what I had and what we can do next.
I will always need to be on top of my medication and communicate with my doctors.
I will live a long and healthy life – and look forward to rebuilding my base miles and bicycling strength soon.
See you on the road!
Internet Reference Sites (in case you want to learn more!):
Let’s play catch-up, shall we dear reader? When we last left off we were on the cusp of spring … and now we are hurtling straight into summer.
We finally made the move and are now in our new home. We closed on the house just a few days after the one-year mark of when I committed to relocating with my job. After such a long and protracted transition, the entire family has settled into our new life fairly quickly. Uncertainty can take a toll on a person and strain any relationship – and we managed to pull through with relatively few emotional wounds. The house is in a lovely neighborhood about 40 miles north of the Big Apple with lots of kids. It’s not uncommon for me to get home in the evening to find my younger two kids out roaming the neighborhood with their new friends, playing until well after dark and coming home sweaty and dirty and more importantly, happy. +1 for our little family!
Having the extra time in Philly was also very nice. I was able to squeak out a few really nice rides with my friends, including an 88-mi, 5400+’ of gain ride to get lunch in St Peter’s Village that I had no business doing – but felt amazing when I finished! I haven’t felt depleted after a long, hilly ride like that in a while and it felt GREAT. I planned to do a low-key girls-only ride to get lunch (25mi ride) but wound up with bronchitis and had to cancel all my plans for a few weekends. Then we moved ….
I rode the 5 Boro Tour again this year, this time with my friend Elizabeth. We were slotted in the first wave and what a difference that made! Yes there were still a lot of people but it was FUN. We rode the whole route together, which was surreal when I’d point out a place where the 4-lane street had been literally wall-to-wall cyclists standing around the year prior due to various levels of bicyclists trying to ride together. This year demonstrated why people do this ride year after year. I’m hoping to take my eldest son on it next year.
Up in our new area I’ve been scoping a bike route to the train station (about 12.5 miles each way; about 600′ gain to the station, 900+’ gain on the way home). I’ve seen cyclists on the roads so I know it’s possible (and Strava Global Heat Maps confirms it’s a decent route) but a few concerns that I need to work through:
1. Lots of two-lane no-shoulder roads. I’ve not been successful yet in finding alternate back-roads to use – very few roads actually connect. The roads are not terribly heavily trafficked – but there is some volume, especially at certain times. And there are a few dangerous intersections that would require I get a mirror for my glasses so I could safely navigate.
2. After about 45-60min on the bike, I have a 60 min train ride to the city. Do I feel comfortable being stinky on a train for an hour?
2a. The train station has bike lockers but refuses to rent them out. ??? So my bike would be locked to an open-air public rack. I’ve seen a few other bikes there in the morning so I know people bike to the station … but probably not as far as I’m thinking of doing.
3. Shower Situation when I get to the City. NYSC has $20 memberships and a club a few blocks from GCT; or I could check out the gym at work.
Really all just logistics – and while I am chomping at the bit to actually ride to the train station and back home, I need to work these things out before I do so. Arrive Alive!
There is a major bike path (36 miles!) with an access point fairly close to our home (a couple miles) that I can’t wait to ride and take my kids. It’s an old railroad bed so it’s fairly flat and shaded. A welcome respite from New York drivers!
I noticed a lump in my neck a few months back. I had been blowing off the feeling of swallowing behind something for a while, thinking it was a mild cold or allergies or something else. After several rounds of testing and various procedures, it turns out I have a multinodal goiter. Due to the size and number of nodules (and that it impacts my ability to swallow), I’m having a thyroidectomy in about a week. I’ve been advised to take 2 weeks to recover and at least 1 week with no exercise. So the plan is to get past surgery and recovery before throwing my leg over the top tube and getting back into the swing of things.
This past week I contracted a cold that rapidly turned into a sinus infection so I’m taking the surgical recovery period very seriously. My body is telling me I’ve been overdoing it – even though I feel like I haven’t done anything – and I need to listen if I’m going to be able to get back into running and cycling again. I have a few events planned for later in the summer that I need to begin training for – but that will wait! Even though I desperately want to just ride my bike.
I was talking with my sister recently. She is a marathoner and expecting her second child this summer. She was lamenting her inability to take part in a particular marathon this year because of her impending child. It’s part of the same mentality – she’s losing her ability to just sign up for a marathon and not have to actually train so much as maintain.
One of the things active people fear most is losing fitness. Many of us started at a sub-par fitness level and have worked hard to get to a point where throwing down a marathon or a century (or whatever the goal was) is just another day. When you have that level of fitness, and life starts to get in the way, many of us panic. It was such an effort to get to this place! I don’t want to have to go back to barely creaking out 25 mile rides!
For me, it’s important to accept the place you are now and work with it. After 2 months of not riding my bike (and spending at least half that time going out of my mind with not being able to go out for bike rides), I can safely say it’s going to be a long road back to fitness when I do throw my leg over the top tube. I’ve focused on walking as much as possible and running or hiking on the weekends to maintain a base level of fitness. I signed up for a 5-mile run in April to have a motivating event to keep me from sleeping until noon on weekends (which is totally on my radar because I am not a morning person). And if all goes well, we should be moving into our new house relatively soon – which means more time back in my life for the things that matter most. Family. Friends. Bikes.
Lots has happened so far this year. We finished up a lovely vacation in Colorado with family and friends; we sold our house finally; we had to make a humane decision for my 18-year-old beagle, Mojo. I’ve gained far too much weight in the last year. Mega-commuting – spending 90min or more to get to work or back – is challenging at best and in the winter, doubly so. I’ve had a few days where I spent as much time in transit as I have at work.
And it’s been a long, cold winter. Every time the snow and cold seems to have melted just enough and the weather warming up, another winter storm or arctic cold front comes rolling through. My bikey friends and I had made plans to go ride bikes this afternoon, but a winter storm of snow, sleet, and rain arrived – so I leashed up my dog and we did a 3-mile walk together. It was fun to be outside with friends, despite the extremely slippery conditions. My dog passed out on the couch from all the excitement.
What I’m really saying is, keep the faith my dear reader! We will all dust off the cobwebs soon enough and slowly turn the cranks again and marvel at the warm sunshine beating on our backs as we zip down the road. Spring is coming …
counting the days until we see each other on the road ….
I realize I haven’t kept up on the blog as much as I’d like but since September I haven’t been out much. And since this is my bikey blog, it’s only natural to talk about All Things Bikey. I’m living in Philly, working in NYC, and getting out as I can. The last six months have been stressful for our little family, with trying to sell the house and relocate to be closer to work. Indeed life could be worse than having a job that I continue to love, learn and grow; a family that is holding down the house selling process and understanding that sometimes things don’t go according to plan; and a husband who gives me the option and sometimes pushes me out of the house to go ride my bike for an hour because he knows it will keep me sane.
So instead of lamenting my lack of miles this year, let’s talk about the memories that were made on the rides:
The New Year started with an exploratory bike ride with my friend Ken to check out some trails he found on Google Maps. Of course we took our carbon fiber road bikes to ride rutted, frozen mud and gravel trails – that’s just what we do. Unfortunately the ride ended when I started having visual disturbances associated with an impending migraine – so we hightailed it home. Nothing like bombing down a hill with no peripheral vision and the inability to see clearly. ha!
Later in the month, we would make a farewell bike ride with our friend Heather, who had finished the schooling part of her ophthalmology studies and was moving for the first phase of her residency. Heather had been my main source of All Things Mountain Biking and a wonderful road cycling friend as well. Thankful for the wonders of the internet to keep us in touch.
February brought a craving for the freshest, most authentic street tacos I’ve experienced. Ken and I rode to the Belle Vista section of the city to find the El Tacos Rodeo truck to no avail. The winter was in full swing with lots of snow and ice and very little opportunity to get outside to ride – so I focused on training for a 5-mile run in April. Lots of time on the treadmill getting my running legs back.
There was one particular run where it was finally warm enough to run outside – the snow was melting and the smell of fallen pine branches from the heavy snow permeated the air. It felt so fresh and inviting.
March brought the advent of bike commuting again and feeling brave and stupid while riding on Market Street, one of the main streets through downtown Philadelphia. It’s 4 or 5 lanes of people who don’t really give a crap – but somehow I’ve always been able to ride safe on Market. March also brought the first training ride for the four-day bike tour I would do in June.
April means 30 Days of Biking, an online friendly challenge to ride your bike every day in April. I ended up biking to the train station more than biking all the way into the City. I also took my then-14yr old son on his first mountain bike ride. He wasn’t impressed. My friend John and I hit up the Wissahickon for some spring mountain biking. And I completed my first-ever 5-mile running race in 51:40 – a little over 10min/mi. I was very proud of this because I’m not a huge runner, the course was hilly, and I kept a steady pace the whole time. I was also totally wiped out at the end – not sure how people can run half- and full-marathons!
May started with the TD Five Boro Tour. My friends Eric and Phil joined me for this event, and we met up with internet friend at one of the rest stops. The day before featured an 8-mile ride back to the hotel after the Expo to pick up our race packets in the pouring rain. I’m thankful the hotel staff didn’t blink when we rolled in, muddy and soaked to the bone. A hot shower and clean clothing meant we could get dinner together and chat about bikes and life and the upcoming tour. This was an incredibly disappointing event as we got slotted late and ended up walking as much as riding (“hey, why are we walking?” “Hill.”). At one point the boys dropped the hammer and were weaving in and out of other cyclists. Corbi and I were hammering to keep up until I asked her why we were hammering. She didn’t know either – so we let off the gas and caught up to the guys naturally later on.
May was also the Quad County. This year Ken and I didn’t get caught in a rainstorm nor did we do the Intensive Climbing Unit (or the Very Intensive Climbing Unit) – and the day was so lovely. Perfect weather, great route … one of the best rides in the Philadelphia area.
May is also when I found out my good u-lock had been cut from my office’s bike racks because I hadn’t been back for over a month. Ug.
June’s highlight was the Ride for Homes, a four day bike tour from Philly to Gettysburg and back. This is the ride where I met so many amazing new friends, learned that I most certainly can ride 60+ miles per day multiple days in a row, the importance of proper hydration, and how to come back from letting yourself down. The Ride for Home was by far my favorite event this year, one that I am looking at doing again next year.
July had a ride to Hammonton and back for lunch – 108 sweaty, stinky miles under a brutal heat and humidity index with a threat of nasty thunderstorms all afternoon. What sticks in my mind is the ice cream shop lady who wouldn’t allow us access to fresh water even though we purchased ice cream (and the sink was right behind her). And how accommodating the Starbucks was next door, filling out water bottles with ice and water and wishing us well on our final 25 miles. And how incredibly draining it is to walk across the bridge over the Delaware River – we spent 10 min drinking electrolyte beverages in the shade after crossing to get our energy back.
July also had stress miles because the potential buyers for our house walked away. This had never happened to us before – and it’s incredibly anxiety-inducing. We still haven’t sold the house and it’s now almost 2015.
August had a lot of smaller rides – as the office move date grew closer, the less time I had for fun. But a couple fun rides happened – taking my Girl Scouts on an 11-mile trail ride; a lunch ride with Ken and his wife Cathy and my son; riding with Ken and Michelle to see the Super Moon rise over the Delaware at the Spruce Street Harbor pop-up park; and the most excellent ride from New Hope, PA to Brooklyn, NY to get some dinner with friends.
September had significantly fewer bikes rides and a spike in hiking and walking. Not coincidentally, I also started spending 15-18 hours on trains for work. It is what is it is – this too shall pass.
October had even fewer bike rides but a lovely hike with my friend Eric in French Creek State Park. My desires to go mountain biking were becoming intense but my fear of going alone was keeping me from actually getting out. I even went on a quick road ride instead of the mountain biking that I wanted to do because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.
November came and the weather was mild enough to get a hot cocoa ride; a hike with my husband (immediately followed by my first solo mountain bike ride – really hit the spot!); and a 50-mi bike ride with my friends. Without the regular cycling, my legs aren’t really good for much more than 50 miles but that’s going to be OK because we still have a lot going on in life.
December brought a snowy hike with my Girl Scouts and a much-needed vacation out to Colorado. My sister and I hiked twice – a short 2.5 miler with our mom and a longer 8 miler up to Pike Peak Reservoir. December has brought peace of mind, relaxation, and a way to separate from the everyday stresses and refocus on what is important – family, friends, community.
So while this year I didn’t beat anything numbers-wise from last year, I didn’t do too shabby: 2,206.5 miles on my bike with 100,384′ of gain. I also gained a lot of great memories on fun rides with my friends and explored new boundaries in my abilities. I learned tough lessons and still managed to get back on the bike the next day.
Next year will hopefully be one that is full of resolution – resolution of our house and living situation, riding my bikes more, and becoming more proficient at mountain biking. Of supporting my family though this tough transition and coming out the other side with resilience, tenacity, and strength.
Thanks for being part of my year – see you in 2015!
Yesterday I embarked on my local bike club’s annual ride from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, the Peter O’Dell Memorial Ride. I struggled with the decision to go, having a few very low days emotionally and wasn’t sure I’d be up to the challenge not only of pedaling (I chose the 90mi route) but also of being upbeat and mentally ready. My last significant rides were 110mi in early July and a metric a few weeks ago – so I’m not exactly in All Day Epic shape. In the end I decided I would regret not going more than regret going (and I could always take the train back home if I felt it necessary).
What a great day!
After waking entirely too early (5am!) and picking up my friend Ken, we arrived at the New Hope, PA starting point right at 7am. Many other cycling friends were also milling about, making final preparations for the ride – Kurt, John, Catherine, Phil, and Jeff (who was SAGing this mostly-unsupported ride for us), among others. We loaded our shower bags into the bus and started the journey about 7:30am under cool but humid cloudy skies.
The first thirty miles were mostly rural, passing fields of pumpkins, corn, and apple orchards.
We stopped in Raritan, NJ at the local Wawa-wannabe (Quick Chek) for bathrooms, ice water and a brief snack. The lunch stop was “only” 12 miles later so we didn’t feel the need to refuel too much.
Those 12 miles included a hill that just. kept. going. Every turn, the incline kept going – about a mile at a 6% grade. Ken and I had swept up another cyclist on the ride, Adam, and stayed with him through the hill. He ended up staying with us until just after lunch. At this point we were literally dripping with sweat and sipping our electrolyte-enhanced beverages frequently.
Lunch in Lyons, NJ at a Subway. Apparently New Jersey doesn’t have any good local hoagie shops? Food is good and so is air conditioning, which we relished as the sun had burned through the clouds and the temps were climbing into the upper 80s.
A quick jaunt north to Basking Ridge to see a 600+ year old tree. It was pretty impressive.
By this point, Ken had switched off with Dave, who had been piloting a tandem with our friend Catherine, who happens to be blind. Adam hooked back in with a larger group of cyclists. So I pedaled off to catch up with Ken at the next rest stop in Kenilworth, NJ. And oh, was this the most delicious part of the ride.
I zipped along, unencumbered by others. It’s not that I don’t love riding with my friends (I prefer it, actually) but sometimes the solitude is exactly what is needed. As I turned on to Sky Top Rd, I knew this was going to be an excellent hill. I didn’t attack it but I didn’t submit to it either – it was almost effortless. The road curved and rose (it was about a mile of 5% grade) in front of me, lovely forest hugging the edges.
It was truly a transcendent experience, one that I can’t adequately express to you dear reader in words.
A few miles later, I was bombing down another rd, twisting out of the Watchtung Reservation and into Echo Lake Park. I ran into a few other cyclists taking a quick break so I opted to hook in with them for a bit (and refill water). I dropped back off in Kenilworth where Ken and Catherine were waiting (with others). Dave went back to captaining the tandem and Ken was back riding with me.
At this point, the ride turns more urban as we meander through Elizabeth and into Newark. We rode through the Newark Port, which was mercifully devoid of vehicles (and unfortunately trees) after navigating city streets. We met up with another group and got Mike to drive behind our cycling groups to get over the Route 1-9 bridge into Jersey City. Craziest bridge to negotiate – I do not recommend attempting alone/without a car behind you to keep the New Jersey drivers away from you. A large swath of the bridge was open grate, which can be extremely slippery for cyclists.
More city streets as we navigated our way to Hoboken and the ferry terminal. About a mile from the terminal, the skies opened up and we were doused with a torrential downpour. As in, we couldn’t see Manhattan across the river (and it’s not that far). After the hot and humid day we’d had, I can’t say the rain wasn’t welcome. Ken and I sought refuge under a few trees (which is totally not what you should do in a thunderstorm but we didn’t have any other options) until the rain let up enough to continue to the ferry.
The ferry ride was a ferry ride – although we did see a beautiful rainbow over Manhattan.
Once in Midtown, the sun came back out and we pedaled down the Hudson River Greenway. A lovely separated cycletrack with separate signals! We mused that this would be perfect for the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia, with the new development happening on the abandoned piers.
Following the signs for cyclists getting to the Brooklyn Bridge we navigated the city streets. Always brings out the aggressively-defensive cyclist in me.
The Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful. It’s also full of pedestrians who seem to think the bike lane is also for walking, taking photos, etc. It’s also got a wooden deck and after the rain, I was skiddish about needing to stop suddenly – so I employed my best “Get Out Of The Bike Lane” voice to clear the path.
There are SO MANY PEOPLE in New York.
We negotiated the final city streets, arriving at the hotel about 9 and three-quarters hours after we set out. We grabbed a cold beverage and a bag of chips while we waited for the showers to be available so we could clean up and change. Dinner at a local restaurant (MooBurger) before climbing on a bus to take us back to New Hope.
Dropped off Catherine and Ken before getting home to my own family around Midnight – tired, happy, a little saddle-sore but tremendously thankful for the amazing experience. Philadelphia won’t be home for much longer and New York (although not Brooklyn) will be home soon – I can’t think of a better way to go out.
See you on the road!
PS – if you like stats and route maps, click below :
Let’s be honest – buying and selling homes is stressful business. Everything has to be perfect for the right person to want to put down a huge amount of money to call your abode home. Then you as a seller have to turn around and look at other people’s houses until you find The One that speak to you on another level.
That’s been my life for the past month or so. Not enough riding bikes, too much stress.
I’ve done an impromptu century (first of the year!) on the hottest, muggiest day of the year so far. You wouldn’t think walking your bike across a bridge over the Delaware would deplete you physically but it did (it was so hot – we were just baking). We stopped for ice cream at about Mile 80 and the proprietor refused to fill our water bottles (despite the heat index being well over 100*). We bought and enjoyed the ice cream anyway because we were hot and needed a break – but thankful for the Starbucks next door who filled our bottle with ice water and wished us well for the final 28 miles.
I’ve been riding my bike to the train. This is not Mega Miles or anything but it’s a few minutes each day that the wind is in my face and for the most part, no one is actively trying to kill me while riding on the street.
Although why motorists feel it’s wise to pass on hills or around corners is really beyond me. I pray no one gets into an accident while passing me, even though I am clearly within my legal bounds of taking the lane when it’s too narrow to accommodate both of us.
I biked with friends to get lunch in Doylestown one weekend. I biked with friends around Bucks County and remembered why a shorter distance is so challenging out there (hills. Lots of them). Although it was nice to be dropping the boys on the hills while chatting away with my friend. I’m getting stronger as a cyclist!
But mostly my life is consumed by work, figuring out the house situation, and too much stress.
Today I declined what would have been an great day on the bike (lunch in NJ, about 63 miles round trip) in favor of a shorter ride to kill some stress energy (about 27 miles round trip). I tend to get higher averages on my rides when I’m alone, most likely because I’m not talking. Today was hot and humid – the kind of day where your body feels like it’s suffocating when you stop pedaling – and I kept up on my hydration really well.
I’m also looking at maps to try to figure out a new multi-modal bike commute once we move. The house will be about 8 miles from the train station – totally doable! The area is even more hilly than where we live now so I’m hoping to graduate from a hilly-goat to a full-on mountain goat. And it looks like there are great opportunities for mountain biking this winter. Hooray for new opportunities!
Anyway, I’m still here. I’m still riding. You don’t need to hear about every little thing I do but hopefully I’ll see you on the road soon.