100 Miles to Support Finding a Cure – BikeMS: City to Shore Recap

I originally signed up for this ride because I’d heard it was the premiere ride in the area, an amazing experience, something every cyclist in the area should do at least once. For many it’s their annual Big Ride. When my company sent out an email saying they were picking up the registration fee, it became a no-brainer and I signed up for the company team.

No one else at the office is a Crazy Bicycle Lady like myself – many of my fellow bicycle-loving denizens live in the city and commute 2-3 mile on a single-speed to the office – so despite my best efforts to get someone else I know to ride with me at work, no one took me up on it. A big part of that was also the $300 minimum fundraising requirement. Not everyone enjoys fundraising – myself included. I don’t personally know anyone with MS – but I do have friends with loved ones who have been diagnosed.  I figured it’s a small part I can do for the benefit of a fully-supported ride across New Jersey.

My commuter friend did take me up and rode with a woman from the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports together on a tandem. My commuter friend is seriously a miles machine and a great person all around – he inspires me every day. And the woman he has ridden the last couple times with has a hilarious quick wit about her. Together they are one fast tandem team! And yes, they did the full century route too. Props!

We got on the road to the start point about 5am for what should have been a 45min drive – plenty of time to make the team meeting at 6am, team photo at 6:15, and hit the road at 6:30am. I think we spent 40 minutes on the off-ramp waiting to park! My commuter friend was supposed to roll-out at 6:15 – totally missed that. We got parked around 6:35am – he went his way to catch up with the tandem teams and I got my stuff together and checked in at the team tent. The line for the port-a-potties was incredible but I decided it was better to start a little later than spend the next 20 miles wishing I had.

The weather was perfect cycling weather – partly cloudy, high rose to the upper-60s. I had light arm warmers on all day.

I didn’t realize exactly how many people do this ride until I got there. We are talking thousands of folks. The mass-start-in-waves was suboptimal for individuals but once you got out on the road, you quickly understood why. There was no way to ride single-file – we took the whole lane and stretched for miles. Like Critical Mass only sanctioned. Police were stationed at lights and intersections to allow us to flow through – so very little stopping outside of the rest/aid stations.

People of all cycling abilities were there – on the shorter 25mile route, I saw a woman in her 70s cruising along on her old-school mixte-style bike. Kids with their parents. Friends on their hybrids. A few people on their recumbent bikes. The only time I found myself alone on a road was on the back end of  the century loop – and even then, I’d pass at least one person in each mile.

Each rest stop was a party – the DJs were blaring upbeat music, massive food tents, plenty of port-a-potties (but always a line), friendly folks wandering around with jugs of water and Gatorade to fill your bottles away from the crowds at the food tent. The end of the route party had a live band, food, raffles, and access to the Ocean City boardwalk. Which boggled my mind as I was riding the last few streets, the beach just on the other side of the berm. I really wanted to get a picture on the beach with my bike.

The roads were very well marked (no cue sheet needed). Volunteers, families, and those affected by MS lined the streets and manned the corners, yelling “Thanks for riding!” Signs were posted with messages from those affected by MS lined the streets as well – very powerful to realize exactly what this ride means to them.

All in all, this really is the premiere ride in the area. Very well organized, supported, and marked.

100 miles to support finding a cure.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: This was the first ride event I’ve done truly by myself – I didn’t know anyone other than my commuter friend, a handful of people on the company team that I met once on a training ride and I didn’t see any of them along the route or at rest stops. I didn’t get on the road until 7:45am. I found three other guys in my company team jersey and we chatted briefly at the start before they quickly zoomed off.

100 miles is a long time to spend in your head and has benefits and pitfalls. This is definitely an event that begs to be done with friends and it would have been more fun to hang out with someone on our bikes all day. But I also wasn’t constrained by having another person with me – moderating pace, chatting while riding, lingering at rest stops. As it was, my rest stops were kept to a minimum: bathroom, food, water refills, and back on the road. And I cranked hard – easy pedaling was 16-17 mph, pushing was 20-23 mph … spent most of my time rolling 18-20mph.

FUELING: I packed a lot of my own fuel and I’m glad I did – the rest stops had a lot of Clif bars which is fine, but not what I wanted in the moment. The first rest stop was 20 miles in – grabbed part of a banana to supplement my goo. Mile 30 rest stop meant grabbing a PB&J on white and Sport Beans. Mile 45 was another part of a banana and another goo. Mile 55 I realized I needed more – when I got into the bathroom line I was hit by a wave of nausea. Nibbled on my Honey Stinger peanut butter bar until my blood-sugar levels stabilized. Took a bit longer at this stop to make sure I wouldn’t bonk later. Switched my beverage from Skratch Labs (hydration, sodium) to Propel Zero (B vitamins and electrolytes) and noticed an improvement in my overall disposition. Miles 65 and 75 were another goo break each. Mile 87 I grabbed some fig newtons with my goo. The closer we got to the ocean, the higher the winds.

TIMING: Started at 7:45am. I made it to the century loop turn-off with only 10 minutes until it closed at 11am. At mile 55, I’d been pushing 20-23mph over the last five miles into a headwind. My average was 16.9 mph. I did a fair amount of passing, but was also passed a lot. Saw the aftermath of a couple accidents. The last 8 miles were slow because everyone converged and had to get up over two bridges (NJ 152 bridge and then the Ocean Drive bridge) across the Egg Harbor Inlet. Definitely impacted the overall speed average – I was at 16.2mph average going into the final 8 miles but ended with a 15.6 mph average. Finished the ride at 3pm.

SOCIAL: I can’t say I enjoyed being alone all day. It seemed that everyone had at least one other person they were there with and I’m very much a social person. I tried to re-fame the day as a way to be friendly with others so I said “hello!” or “Good morning!” as I passed. One older guy hooked on to me and we chatted for a bit at one of the few stop lights where we had  to stop. He was telling me about his RAGBRAI trip and how I should totally go do it. One guy complimented me on my bike. Three guys rode up – all on Felts – and said “Lookin’ good!” (That was pretty sweet – there were a lot of Felt bicycles on this ride) – I latched on to their group for a bit just based on our chosen brand of bicycles. I complimented a guy in the new Fat Cyclist kit on his choice of attire. Another guy yelled at me as I passed …

“You make this look easy!”

The hardest part socially was seeing all the families and friends lining the streets to the finish line, clanging cow bells, cheering and shouting. I really wished I had someone to share the end of a long day with me. I found my commuter friend, who had been at the finish for an hour at that point, so his group was off to get showers and dinner. I opted to head home on the bus – got my shirt and finisher’s medal (although I must have dropped it somewhere because I don’t have it any more). The three guys I’d seen at the start got in line behind me for the bus ride back to the start so we chatted for a while.

As I’m thinking about how I felt all day, it occurs to me that this is what it feels like to be diagnosed with something that is not currently curable, only manageable. You feel alone in a sea of thousands. This is what we were riding for – to help find a cure and break down the feelings of isolation and loneliness by connecting with others. It’s such a powerful message.

INTERESTING METRICS (to me at least):

I achieved a new high mileage total for September even though I didn’t ride for two weeks (354 miles for the month – 99mi for transportation, 254 for sport).

New personal best on 100km (62miles) 3:57:35.

The odometer on my bike indicates I’ve ridden 1,016 miles on my bike. I started riding her in April this year.

Overall an amazing experience. A touch stiff today, but nothing an Advil and plenty of fluids won’t handle. This is my second century ride within a month and I can honestly say now that conquering 100 miles is all in your head. If you can do 75, you can do 100. Obviously terrain played a huge part in yesterday’s final stats (final ride time was 6:24:30 as opposed to my earlier ride of 7:40:24) – the hillier the route, the longer it takes because you can’t just hammer through it. Yesterday’s route was a gentle downhill to sea level and my time clearly shows that terrain advantage.

October is heating up for fall riding and I’m looking forward to my next few rides to see fall foliage from a two-wheeled vantage point.

See you on the road!

Scenic Schuylkill Century Recap

Yesterday I conquered my first century. It was brilliant; it was fun; and it was challenging.

I spent a lot of time in the days leading up to the ride oscillating between “OMG I AM THE BIGGEST IDIOT for signing up for this” and “I am going to ROCK THIS THING!” I both doubted my abilities and had confidence that I had trained well.

Saturday night I prepared a carb-tastic dinner of spaghetti and turkey-meatballs for the family (I also had some buttered whole-wheat bread) and went to bed early.

Sunday I was out of bed at 4:45am to get a quick shower (nothing like starting an all-day ride fresh), breakfast, and finish up last-minute preparations. Breakfast consisted of a Morning Star veggie sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit and my daily multi-vitamin washed down with a full glass of water. I carpooled down to the ride start with my commuter friend and another woman from our general neighborhood – they were riding the century on a tandem. (MAJOR props to them)

The weather day-of was spectacular – blue skies with fluffy clouds, high in the mid-70s, low humidity. I found Lou, a guy I’ve ridden with on other Philly Bike Club rides. It’s his first century too … hooray for a ride buddy! Interestingly, there were a lot of first-timers like myself on the century ride – many of them older gentlemen who I’ve ridden with before and thought they ate centuries for breakfast.

The start of the ride was kindof spectacular. 700 riders came out for the event and the century riders were up first in the gate. The sheer spectacle of us coming out of the parking lot and riding around the front Philadelphia Museum of Art was awesome for sure. Spinning down West River Drive to the Falls Bridge en masse – and then rolling into Manayunk and the first of many hills to come.

Happily we did not have to ride the towpath – but it sure is beautiful. (Image credit: http://www.comitta.com/blog/?p=52)

(You may have heard of the Manayunk Wall – a fabled half-mile of sheer 10% grade pain. These weren’t that bad – but still had significant grades around 5%.)

The rest/aid stations are set up in camp facilities – very rustic but welcoming. The mechanics were stationed outside the “mess hall.” The atmosphere around each one was warm and welcoming; the spreads were incredible. Homemade cookies, brownies, fresh fruit like grapes, c antelope and watermelon, pb&j sandwiches on whole wheat … and plenty of ice water and gatorade for all.

A brilliant move on the part of the organizers was positioning the rest/aid stations at varying increments: the first was a mere 13miles in. The next was another 19miles. Then 24 miles. Then 13miles, 25 miles, and 12 miles to finish. Many cyclists skipped the first rest/aid station but Lou and I opted to stop for a few minutes (bathroom break, fuel and water).

Next we rode to Evansburg State Park. The highlight of this portion of the century is riding along Potshop Rd, which has a stunning view of the Schuylkill River Valley and Philadelphia’s skyline in the distance. Truly a sight to behold, especially from two wheels!

31 miles in and still feeling fresh!

Also interesting to see how strung out the riders get over time … for much of the ride, Lou and I didn’t see any other riders around us after we left the second rest stop.

I met a guy named Austin. He’s a PhD candidate in Physics and was riding his Surly CrossCheck (light blue) in linen shorts and a T shirt. Bold move for a first-time century rider – but he hung in our group until very close to the next rest station. I’m hoping to connect with him on MapMyRide – could be an awesome ride buddy.

The next leg of the trip was easily the hilliest portion – to Camp Hope near Schwenksville, PA. Turn after turn of just Going Up. One hill claimed not one but two cyclists who dropped their chains mid-hill – henceforth to be known as Chain Drop Hill. It was a beast of a hill.

(I was kindof annoyed to see my Strava app took into account the time I spent waiting as riding time – it says I only did 3.2mph up the hill, but my on-bike computer registered 6-7mph when I was actually riding. Oh well. )

We just had to laugh when we turned on the road to go the last .7 miles to the rest/aid station and the road turned upward again. You really had to earn that rest stop. We kept our rest station visits to a minimum – 15min or so. Just enough time to use the bathroom, refill water bottles, get a quick snack, and shake out the fatigue. Spent some time talking with Skip, a guy I’ve ridden with on other Philly Bike Club rides. Coming out of Camp Hope resulted in a few more miles of climbing before the flats and descents started to become common.

I also gobbled two ibuprofen to quiet my aching lower back. Note to self: adjust seat position back a touch!

Quick stop back in Evanburg State Park – this one a touch longer because I called my husband to tell him I was about 35 miles from the end and to expect me in about 2.5 hours. I also shut off my Strava app because I was at 25% battery and wanted to be reachable at the finish line. Ended up being a smart move, even though I cheated myself out of more data, because I had 5% remaining at the finish line.

(Note to self – pick up a Garmin of any sort that will give you gps data to upload later!)

Lou and I decided to skip the last rest/aid station and just bring it home. We met another guy – Dima – who ended up in our little group charging to the finish.  Soon after we added another rider into our little peloton – a guy with blonde curly hair henceforth known as Surfer Dude. We rode the last 35 miles hard – pushing 20mph on flats, 12+mph on the hills, and bombing the sharrows through Manayunk. Almost got hit by a car a couple times – people who don’t know how to parallel park are THE WORST.

Did I mention I was leading this little ragtag group of century riders back into the city? Because I totally was. The guys were very thankful I “brought them in.”

All in all, a great day in the saddle – and we got to the finish line 5 minutes before they stopped serving pizza. Hooray – GOAL ATTAINED! My family met me at the pizza tent – I was so happy to see them.

Lou and I at the post-ride pizza party, celebrating the completion of our respective first century rides!

Stats:

101.5 miles

average of 13.2 mph

7 hours, 40 minutes, 12 seconds of ride time

5,797′ of elevation gain (4,022′ in the first 66.5 miles)

route here

Ride Fuel:

three small bananas

two halves of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat

one package of Clif Bloks in black cherry (with caffeine)

one Clif Gel in vanilla (with caffeine)

one Clif bar in white chocolate macadamia nut

three small bunches of grapes

one slice of watermelon

six 24-ounce bottles of Propel Zero in grape flavor

Post-ride fuel:

two slices of plain pizza

one can of Coke

one cheeseburger

handful of potato chips

 

 

See you on the road!

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!

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!

Anniversary Retrospective

Yesterday was my first anniversary of buying a bike, hitting the bike path and enjoying the ride. So much has happened in the last year, it’s hard to believe it’s only been a year. And yet, it’s been an entire year!

In celebration (and because it was a Tuesday) I rode with fellow Philly Bike Club members for a D/C- recovery ride out of Glenside. The five of us had a wonderful jaunt through Jenkintown, Abington Township, into Philadelphia and back through Melrose Park and Elkins Park. I love it when my phone battery doesn’t die on my mid-ride so I can check out where I’ve been post-ride. Since I’m so clueless about where the heck I am out here.

Something about no permanent geological fixture to indicate West.

Friday I completed a 50 mile ride with two other women and three guys. It was a slight stretch in that I posted a 12.7 mph average but wasn’t totally wrecked by the effort. I’m hoping to get to a solid 13-14 mph average by the end of the summer over that length – including hills. Last week’s final mileage was just a touch over 100 miles for the week over three rides, of which I am fairly proud. Longer distances are becoming easier as part of my mission to be more conscious of my energy output. Focus on smooth fluid pedaling, not raw exertion.

Taking a look at my stats over the past year …

  • May 2011 – I bought my Specialized Crossroads Sport hybrid. That first week, I went on three rides for a total of 28 miles with an average of 7.3 mph.
  • June 2011 – My first month I went on twelve rides for a total of 157.61 miles with an average of 8.06 mph. I am most proud of the 34.89 mi ride with a 12 mph average because it was on my hybrid. I was such a wreck at the end of that ride but felt so accomplished.
  • July 2011 – Month Two was dominated by longer rides – not as many shorter rides with the kids. I also shifted to 3-4 rides per week. Total mileage was 123.62 with an average of 8.25 mph.
  • August 2011 – After three months, I had improved my average speed to 9.93 mph. Fewer rides, but longer distances dominated.
  • September 2011 – Month Four marked the end of the summer and my first Half-Century ride with my girl friend – and another gain in average speed to 11.98 mph.
  • October 2011 – Month Five saw only three rides, as it was getting colder and we were in the process of selling our house. Less time riding, more time fixing up the house. Only 37.65 miles this month with an average of 8.6 mph.
  • November 2011 – Six months on the hybrid and we got an offer on our house! My favorite ride was Thanksgiving Day – I headed out before eating. The city is eerily quiet with all the stores closed, barely any cars on the roads. I encountered only one other cyclist on that ride. It was also cold enough to make breathing feel horrible, like my alveoli had become tiny ice pops. Two rides for a total of 39.47 miles, 10.77 mph average.
  • December 2011 – not a single ride because we packed up and moved across the country. No big loss, since it was also single-digit temperatures, icy and snowy in Colorado!
  • January 2012 – New state, new house, new community, no clue where to go or what to do. Joined Philly Bike Club. Two rides, 4.7 miles with an average of 5 mph. And colder temperatures – mid-forties!
  • February 2012 – three rides around the neighborhood for a total of 14.3 miles and recovering my average to 8.43 mph. Joined Sturdy Girl Cycling.
  • March 2012 – Only one ride! 10.6 mph average. Whee! But then I purchased my new Felt ZW5. Now I feel like I can get out and ride with the rest of he civilized cycling world.
  • April 2012 – The weather is getting amazing and staying above 50 degrees. Took a Beginner Cycling Clinic and feel more confident on my road bike. 116.5 miles with an average of 10.26 mph. Starting to see big swings in average speed depending on my bike (12 mph as opposed to 8-10 mph).
  • May 2012 – This month has been great so far – 142.3 miles with an average of 9.63. Road bike averages are closer to 12mph; hybrid 8-9 mph.

One year total: 898.09 miles.

So what are my goals for Year Two?

  1. Improve to a consistent 13-14 mph average on my road bike.
  2. Accomplish a metric century (62 miles).
  3. Accomplish three-quarters of a century (75 miles).
  4. Ride at least twice a week with groups.
  5. Ride on weekends with my kids – it still feels good to go slow and enjoy the scenery. And getting a treat mid-ride or post-ride doesn’t hurt either.

See you on the road!