Dialed In

My earlier post and poll was a barometer for my gut. I had signed up for an event through my cycling club that would take me from pastoral Pennsylvania in the early morning hours through northern New Jersey for lunch and into Brooklyn, New York for dinner. I’d get a shower and then dinner with friends, marveling at the fun we’d had all day, before boarding a motor coach bus back to the small river town where we started. It wasn’t cheap and came highly anticipated by newcomers like myself and repeat riders like my friends.

It was going to be awesome.

Then my husband had to book a business trip back to Colorado. He decided to stay the weekend to see our friends and relax a bit. He didn’t think about the plans I’d already made.

I admit I was mad at first, then disappointed. I struggled with whether or not to leave my kids at home while I headed out on the ride. They are certainly old enough to stay home alone for a day and we have wonderful neighbors who would gladly be there for them if they needed it.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to stay home with them. What if what if what if.

So I decided to listen to my gut and not ride. Like most cycling events, this one comes with a no-refunds policy so I reached out to the organizers to ask if I could donate my spot to a cyclist who wanted to go but couldn’t afford the fee ($75). They loved the idea so I posted to our social media outlets. I had a taker very quickly who was overjoyed at the opportunity. Another cyclist was so moved to donate his spot as well due to a last-minute change in plans and I was able to put the second cyclist who responded to my post in touch with the organizers.

Beautiful how those things work out. I no longer felt upset about missing the ride because some very deserving folks were able to go now. But I was still a little sad to miss the ride all my friends are going on today.

I studied Kabbalah for three years under the excellent Dr. David Sanders at Kabbalah Experience in Denver, Co. There are so many layers to Kabbalah but one of them is being in tune with the universe and paying attention to the signs of what you need to be doing. I am a firm believer that when once you have tuned in to the universe the signs of what you should do become clearer … And the most in tune you are, the clearer the signs become. For example, when was being laid off and the job in Philly opened up at the last possible second, I knew in my gut moving my family across the country was the right thing to do for us. It would be hard and was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do in adult life but I know on another level that we need to be here for now. I don’t know why but that will come in time.

To that end, I was taking a lunchtime walk with my bike commute friend and explaining my dilemma. I mentioned that for whatever reason I probably should stay home, that I didn’t know why but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the ride knowing my kids were home without anyone if they needed someone.

Sure enough, this is the week my middle dog got very ill. She stopped eating, she lost her energy, and she was drinking a lot (and peeing a lot too). A trip to the vet yielded nothing. A second trip to the vet yielded her to be hospitalized for a day for intravenous fluids and pain medications. She perked up and we brought her home. She spent Friday much like her old self. But yesterday she woke and wouldn’t eat. She moped. She started to drool excessively. I called the vet and they gave us an afternoon appointment.

I rode out to meet some friends for a fun ride, knowing I was on a time crunch. I made great time into the city, where we met up with a woman my commuter friend works with. We invited her to join us on the trail and she agreed. We took the speed down and enjoyed a social ride to the cycling themed coffeehouse where we met up with another cycling friend who is recovering from an IT band injury. I was explaining how no one knows what’s wrong with my dog but I had to get back to take her to the vet.

We departed a little later than intended and once we got to the end of the trail and back on city streets I realized I needed to book it home. We kicked up the speed but our other friend couldn’t keep up so my commuter friend agreed to stay back with her and he’d catch up to me later.

I’ve never ridden so hard ever … A total sufferfest. Heat, humidity, cranking a solid 22-24mph for almost 8 miles mostly uphill (my Garmin averaged each mile around 18-20 mph). I thought I was going to puke. Got home in time to take a very quick cool shower, shove a protein bar in my mouth, and get my dog to the vet.

This visit gave us the reason she was so ill with no hope for recovery. I had to make the difficult decision to allow her to move on. I gathered my kids and we said our goodbyes. I stroked her ears until she stopped breathing. She was 10 or 11, we don’t know. We rescued her from a shelter that told us she wasn’t getting any visitors because nobody wants a hound dog. She was the right dog for our family. She is survived by our two other dogs.

This is why I couldn’t go on the ride. Because my kids needed me to be home today as we work through our grief.

 

our last few moments with Nixon
our last few moments with Nixon. RIP girl – we loved you

 

See you on the road.

 

Riding to the City: A Love Note

I woke up this morning feeling awesome.

I attribute this mostly to taking yesterday as a Slug Day, a day where my main accomplishment was taking a shower at 7pm. 

It’s amazing how one day … just one little day … of absolving yourself of all responsibilities can have a huge impact on your outlook. 

 

So I rode my bike in to work. I got up a little later than I usually do when I bike commute and left my house later than usual. 

My legs felt heavy as I re-acquainted myself with my commuter bike and a full pannier after taking out my nice (light and fast) road bike this weekend on a fun ride. 

But pedal-along I did and before I knew it I was coming up on the City. 

 

hello my city
hello my city

 

Once I get closer into the city there is so much to enjoy: the turn-of-the-century architecture, old stone bridges, stairs that bring you to the river’s edge. The lush parks are truly oases among concrete and brick – and the traffic imparts the rhythmic heartbeat of the city. The stop and go of everyday life. 

 

There’s something about today that makes it extra special. 

I’m not sure why I love this City. But I do. 

I’ve never felt this way about a city before – they’ve always just been a jumble of buildings and asphalt and concrete. 

But this one is different. This one is slowly becoming My City. 

 

* * * * * 

 

I’ve looked back at my training calendar and realizing things are not as bleak as they appeared last week. I’ve been out fairly consistently even though I’m going through wild mileage fluctuation (400+ miles one month; less than 200 another month). I suspect my frustration is from a lack of routine. Last summer I knew I was going out every Tuesday night and one day each weekend. I added in bike commuting last August once or twice a week (on my 35+ lb comfort hybrid – dear g-d why did I do that to myself??).

I’m just 32 miles shy of 1800 miles for the year, which is roughly what I did in all of last year. I’m going to be fine. I’ve talked to my bike friends about taking a break and they are super supportive … but I think most of it is just re-framing everything in my mind. 

 

I just need to make things organic to my life – and do them on my own terms.

 

Thanks for listening and see you on the road! 

Experimentation

This past week has been an experiment in Me.

 

My family was scattered across the country, enjoying their summers as they desire (or for business, depending on who you are). So I had a week of being responsible for only myself. And the dogs but they generally stay home and sleep. As a wife and mom, I just don’t have a lot of time like this and let me tell you …

 

it’s fabulous.

 

I bike commuted three out of four days.

(my legs felt great all week)

I ran a neighborhood 5k just because.

(and because running no longer hurts the next day)

I ate Snack Dinners of cheese, hummus, and crackers.

(but mostly because I’m lazy and dislike cooking)

I paid zero attention to chores or housekeeping.

(because no one was making any messes around here anyway)

 

Good morning, Philadelphia!
Good morning, Philadelphia!

 

I missed the ruckus and chaos though, the happiness and tears, that comes with having five people under one roof. Sure I won’t have as much time anymore for the things that I’ve been doing – but I’m be back to being more than just a kick-ass girl. The reason I could enjoy the time off so much was because I have so many other rich elements to  my life.

 

I also took the time to fill my late August and September weekends with events. And I signed up for the Lemon Run again, for this November. My first 5k last year, I’m hoping to smoke my earlier time. And contemplating a 1/4 marathon trail race in September (at the urging of my friend G-Dawg … that’s a 6.5 mile run for those of you playing at home).

 

See you on the road.

* * * * *

In other news, I’m contemplating writing up full reviews of items I’ve used on my own accord and items that I have started receiving promotionally because I fully believe that if you love something, you need to tell everyone about it so they can also benefit from Awesome Stuff. Stay tuned.

 

The Lemon Ride 2013 Recap

Last year was the inaugural Lemon Ride and it was very fun. I rode with my friends Ultra P and G-Dawg on the 50 mile route – Ultra P smoked G-Dawg and I within the first five miles and had waited about 45min by the time I rolled into the finish. Ultra P is an ultra runner and a very fast one at that. I decided then to do the Lemon Ride again.

This year I’d signed up for the new metric route but soon realized my daughter needed to be at camp that same day – no time to drive an hour, ride for 4 or so, drive an hour home, shower and get her to camp in time. So I did what any other cyclist in this situation did – I registered my daughter and switched to the 4 mile Family Ride.

I’m so glad I did.

In going on the Family Ride, we had the privilege of riding with the families of little Heroes. Each little Hero had a yellow flag attached to their ride – siblings had blue flags proudly displaying their Super Sibling status. Two of the largest “teams” were on the family route – the Fightin’ Fitzgeralds and Team Declan.

little heroes and their super siblings
little heroes and their super siblings

Riding with these families, friends, and supporters of little ones and their families as they fight pediatric cancer (and honor the memory of little ones who fought valiantly but lost the battle) was beyond humbling. I am so thankful that my family has been thus far untouched by the ravages of cancer – but I am proud to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and their continued and tireless efforts to uplift and support these little heroes and their families. It was so inspiring to ride with these heroes and their families.

families pedal to help fight pediatric cancer
families pedal to help fight pediatric cancer

Four miles went very quickly – so quickly my daughter thought we’d only gone a single mile. Next year we’ll ride the 12 mile route. We opted to skip the catered lunch (almost an hour wait from the finish of our ride to when lunch was being served) in favor of grabbing a few snacks and heading back home. We still had camp to get to.

Today was proof that the most awesome rides are not always the farthest or the fastest – they are the ones that touch our soul and inspire us to help others in our community.

See you on the road.

Reflections

This has not been my month for exercise.

 

After doubling my monthly mileage in a single day last month, I’ve done pretty much bupkis. Mostly riding my Schwinn to the train because it’s convenient and I can leave two hours later than if I ride all the way in to work. I managed to fully bike commute once last week and it was lovely – but now real life is calling again and I’m homebound for at least another week.

 

It’s pretty sad … I’ve only put in 55 miles this month so far, 16 of those running, hiking, and walking.

 

Yesterday my daughter and I participated in The Color Run 5K – one of those 100% Fun events. No chip timing, no clocks. There were so many people there, mostly walking, that any sort of running was kindof moot. Every kilometer was a color station where you run through a giant cloud of colored cornstarch with dust filter-protected staff squirting it all over you. It was fun – we both had a good time – but I can’t see myself doing it again. It’s hard for me to get SUPER PUMPED at 7am.

After the run we came home and got cleaned up before heading to the local diner for breakfast. We decided to ride our bikes there since it’s about a mile and a half from the house. Yummy food and then a short ride home, this time slightly different to avoid going up a hill on a busier road. Instead we went up a hill on not busy roads. 🙂

Then it was onward to the Nap phase of our 5k triathalon – I was down for the count for a full hour, so I’ll count that as a 5k Nap. 5K walk/run followed by 5k bike ride followed by 5k nap. That’s my kind of tri. 🙂

 

I noticed about a week or so after I stop cycling regularly my muscles ache. They ache to move and churn and spin through the miles. And eventually if I don’t get out and ride, that ache goes away. I feel like it’s a message from my body that it’s about to turn back time and stop being chiseled quads and gastrocs. And certainly I can tell my legs are still fantastic – but softer.

Sometimes I think back to the winter days when it was so cold and I struggled to keep my toes from freezing, dreaming of the summer bike rides, and wish I had more time. But I can’t say I’m not enjoying the time off too. Keeps me balanced as long as I don’t let it go too long, right? Moderation in all things.

 

And there’s a little bit of me that wants to strap on my running shoes again and throw down a 5k in the neighborhood for fun. Who’d have thought I might enjoy running just a tiny bit?

 

Anyway – hope to see you on the road soon. 😀

C’est la vie

Since we last met dear friend, life has happened. My oldest child celebrated a birthday, most of my extended family arrived for a visit at the always-appropriate hour of 4:30 in the morning, and the Fourth of July came and went.

The sad news: very, very little bicycle riding happened. I flaked out on a planned Sunday morning ride due to the aforementioned family arrival time in favor of getting some sleep. It’s amazing how little kids don’t seem to understand that 5am is probably not the right time to start telling me all about their road trip. Although later in the week, I did get my mom on The Beast while I hopped on Free Spirit and we tooled down to the tiny post office at the bottom of the hill. Of course that meant going back up the hill to get home but c’est la vie.

The good news is I fully immersed in Life. I got to spend an abundance of time with my family – my mom, dad, one of my sisters, my niece, and my nephews – for eight full days. Over doubling a household size could have been cause for alarm but the younger kids spent the days dressing up, wielding Nerf weaponry, building with the unending amount of Legos we have … and generally playing as hard as cousins can. The older kids alternated between helping the younger ones and quietly slipping off to their rooms or the family computer for some time with kids their own age.

Cookies were made. Dinners prepared. The girl cousins each ended the week with a new outfit made by their grandma. Tours of television studios and monuments of historical significance. We hiked the Wiss. One evening my sister, my husband and I took off for an Adults Only meal at the oldest continually operating tavern in the country. We also headed out for brunch one morning. We went down the Shore for a day to beat the heat – and get some yummy boardwalk treats.

The first half of the week was unending rain. The back half of the week was hot and humid. Dew points are well above 70* F and temps have a “real feel” of about 5-6* warmer.

On a fitness front, my sister is a runner so I ended up running with her on her shorter routes. She did a 12-miler on Monday morning and was cursing the humidity. We did a four-miler on Wednesday morning, a simple out-and-back that I somehow came up short by half of a mile so I had to jog up and down the sidewalk near my house to get the full mileage. Then she needed a six-miler so we decided to head out to Valley Forge so I could do the five-mile run and “earn” my race shirt (and she planned to just tack on an extra mile at the end).

It was hot. It was humid. We ran with a 16oz water bottle each. In the shade it was just hot and sticky – but in the bare sun, it was brutal. After the first mile-and-a-half I started to alternate running with walking to avoid overexertion – running in the shade, walking in the direct sun. I finally caught up to my sister around mile 2.5 to consult the route (and rest a bit – did I mention it’s hot and she’s not acclimated to the humidity?). We misread the map and resumed running – only to discover we made a wrong turn and would have at least a mile longer to run. Crossing a covered bridge, we landed on a shaded trail adjacent to a creek – and it felt amazing! The next 1.5 miles of shade were much easier to run. Back into the sun (and the last big hill) for a couple of miles before a delicious descent to the parking lot and my car.

Seven miles! My longest run to date. Even though I walked about 40% of the route, I feel pretty proud of this accomplishment. Just earlier that week the four-miler had been my previous best. And the bonus? My quads didn’t hurt the next day – because they were accustomed to the motions of running. It all makes sense – the more I run, the less it will suck.

Ultimately though, I missed riding my bike. I missed gliding along the pavement, the miles slipping by like water over the rocks in the creek bed. Running is good – cycling is my passion.

Yesterday morning I bid my family goodbye. It’s bittersweet to know we probably won’t see them until next year sometime but it will feel good to get back to mostly normal.

Until next time, see you on the road.

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!

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!