The Lemon Ride Recap

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of participating in The Lemon Ride in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation in the fight against childhood cancer.

From their website: An uncharacteristically cool and temperate July day greeted nearly 300 cyclists who tackled one of three scenic courses throughout Bucks County in the first annual Lemon Ride Philadelphia presented by Volvo and benefiting Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Thanks to the support of riders, sponsors and supporters – the inaugural Lemon Ride held on July 22, 2012 raised more than $50,000 in the fight against childhood cancer.

I rode with a coworker’s husband and his friend, hence our team name “Perfect Strangers” since we’d never met before that day. The weather was perfect – partly cloudy and low-80s. Two rest stops over the 50 miles – at 17 and 38 miles – helped the miles go quickly. Lots of hills – RideWithGPS pegged it at 3100+’ with MapMyRide pegging it at 1690′, not sure why the discrep – that my calves and quads are feeling today. I rocked the hills pretty well – I’m getting better at my climbing skills. I would love to have been able to attend the Climbing Clinic my local bike club hosted this month … hoping they will hold another this fall.

My favorite part of the ride was when I inadvertently dropped Glenn, my coworker’s husband, and Dan, an older guy on the ride, on a hill. I kept pedaling and came to a long, gentle, rolling descent. About half-way down, Glenn and Dan go whizzing by me with a “Well, hello there!” So I gave chase, getting low in my drops and pedaling furiously, maintaining 25-30mph for about 2 miles (with the help of gravity, for sure). So much fun to ride so hard after the guys.

I felt bad about dropping Glenn and Dan but let another rider draft off me for the last 10 miles … so we’re even?

I finished with a new personal best over 50 miles: 3h 44m 38s. I was hoping to get down to 3h 30m, but that will have to be next time.

* * * * *

This is also my first ride using bike shorts the way G-d intended: sans (under)pants. Blame it on my conservative upbringing or just a hesitation to be out in public without “unders” (as my niece calls them). I also used booty cream (Chamois Butt’r) for the first time. Very interesting experience but very positive. I had to Google how to use the cream – where does it go? how much? on the shammy or on me? or BOTH?? – but now I’m not sure I can go back to riding WITH unders!

Very much looking forward to tomorrow’s recovery ride … see you on the road!

Mile High Metric

This past week I was back in the beautiful state of Colorado for a family vacation with my husband and kids. While most of my time I was schlepping my kids to their friends’ house, I did rent a bike from Bicycle Village, a local chain shop, so I could get out as much as possible.

My rental was a Scott CR1, 54cm, Shimano 105s, and switched from the default dude’s saddle to a WTB Leisure She saddle after 70 miles. I definitely need a women’s specific saddle to keep my booty happy.

I ended up riding four days for a total of about 180 miles, more than I’ve ever done in a single week. Hooray for new milestones! I rode mostly with my friend James and did one ride with my mom. I love riding with my mom because she is a strong cyclist in her own right. She rides for fun and fitness and I get a true recovery ride.

The main event so to speak was a metric century designed to be challenging but still achievable as well as being 100% multi-use trail. The first 25 miles are uphill, including a 2.5 mi 2-3% grade grind up the side of Green Mountain. Sadly, my girl Rachel wasn’t able to join us due to her crash last week but she was with James and I in spirit.

We headed out at 8:30am from the Crowne Plaza Denver Downtown hotel, heading up the Cherry Creek Trail before rounding the corner onto the Platte River Trail. Quick stop at the intersection of the Platte River and Bear Creek Trails for water, as the temps were starting to climb. We then headed west through beautiful Englewood and into Lakewood and Morrison. A longer stop at Bear Creek Lake for bathrooms, sunscreen, and refilling water bottles before tackling the Green Mountain Grind.

A Note: The last time I did the Green Mountain Grind I was on my hybrid and barely cranked out 10 mph. It hurt, I stopped often, and while I felt accomplished at the end, I couldn’t figure out how people did more than that in terms of grade and length. But back then I was also trying desperately to crack 12 mph on rides and watching lean, mean cycling machines zip by at double my pace.

Now I get it … Road bikes are lighter, more nimble, and literally the right gear for going fast and far. I also credit my Shimano SPDs and learning to use clipless pedals for being able to fully leverage my energy stores.

So this time up the side of the mountain (it’s a mountain bike ride to go over it) it was much easier, averaging 11-12mph up the incline. Another water and energy break at the “top”, which is actually a short descent to the trail change-over at I70 and C470.

This is truly the turning point from uphill to downhill on the ride. A short ascent to get back to the C470 trail and then a wonderful, delicious and well-deserved descent back to Bear Creek Lake Park. Uphill through the park, but at a gentle pace to enjoy the scenery. At one point I thought we were about to cross a deep grassy crack in the trail before a vibrant green snake slithered away.

Another stop at the gas station on the south side of the park for bathrooms, water refills, and more energy bars. The gas station was air conditioned and felt amazing after riding in the treeless west side of the Denver metro area.

The ride flattens out until you get to the next major intersection, then it descends again in a glorious, sweeping trail. At this point I’ve given up on trying to beat my friend James downhill … He said his excuse is his mass and I’ll be darned if he didn’t kick my butt down every single descent. And the ride goes downhill from this point until you get back to the Platte River Trail down in Chatfield Resevoir.

Final major water break before the gentle downhill from the south metro area to downtown Denver. More sunscreen and energy gels. We are fantasizing about showers and lunch at this point. Minor water bottle refill at the Jimmy John’s at Belleview and Santa Fe for me (thanks guys and many apologies for not waiting in the long line to ask if I could refill!).

Another short water break around mile 55 and then we roll back into downtown. It’s around 2:15pm at this point and the trail is clogged with tons of people out enjoying the beautiful Colorado day. We rode respectfully and slowly and eventually got through the trail interchange and rolled up to the hotel lobby.

63.29 miles in 4 hours 46 minutes for a 13.2 mph average.

Not too shabby for a first-time metric. A lot of the ride was about conserving energy to make sure we weren’t totally wrecked by the effort. The back-to-back climbs were definitely challenging and had there been more uphills further into the ride, I may not have had so much energy left at the end.

So what’s next?

I’m still building my miles for the century this September. I need to put a couple 60-65 mile rides under my belt before tackling a 70-75 mile ride in the weeks leading up to the event. I plan to also hit the Sunday morning shop ride as often as possible to build speed on shorter distances and elevation gains.

For now, I have The Lemon Ride (50 miles, 3k+’ elevation gain) this Sunday … Please consider making a donation to help fight childhood cancer. I will be accepting donations through August 6!

Until then, see you on the road.

So much happening, so little time to blog

I have a couple topics in my head … Time to let them out!

First: I just finished reading “Heft on Wheels” by Mike Magnuson. The premise is that he used to be a Fatty McFatterson because he spent all his time drinking and smoking and generally partying all night and every day … But then he bought a bike, rekindled a love affair with bicycling in general, did some pretty awesome stuff, dropped a ton of weight and got much healthier in the process. Written in a very conversational style, it is an easy read. I read Mike’s work in Bicycling Magazine regularly and I like his outlook but was getting pretty pissed off at him by the end of the book.

You might ask why. The reason being – he’s out riding all the time but his wife is home raising the kids while he’s doing this. As a wife and mother, I fully support allowing your spouse time to indulge in their hobbies. Heck, I ask my husband to indulge me a couple times a week while I head out on two wheels at breakfast and don’t get back home until dinner time. But I felt annoyed that he wasn’t recognizing his wife’s sacrifice in his pursuit of health and happiness.

Then I read the last chapter and all was forgiven. He gets it. Being able to spent inordinate amounts of time on a hobby – whatever it is – requires the consent and support of the other partner in the relationship.

His book also prompted me to rethink my own approach to cycling. He picked up a bike and went for it. None of this easing into faster rides. He straight up was dropped in the beginning but now is a force to be reckoned with.

Second: So I signed up for the slower ride at the local bike shop. It was advertised as 15-17 mph average but with a slower option if necessary. I showed up and there was only four of us. So the ride leader asked if I ought I could do a 14mph pace. I said I’d try and he said to just let them know if I was having issues and they’d slow down.

36 miles and 750′ of elevation gain later, the ride leader slows enough for me to pull up beside him and he shared that we had actually gone a 15.5 mph pace and I was more than welcome to join them on the faster shop ride any Sunday I’m around.

This was a huge point of pride for me. I hung with the big boys and was actually able to hang. Awesome. I am faster than I think I am … And the extra bonus was I wasn’t wrecked by the effort.

Third: More on traveling and biking. I rented a bike while I am on vacation in beautiful Colorado. The bike is ok, it’s a Scott CR1. I have been tweaking the fit all week because I rented from a local chain store so their idea of a fit was making sure my legs were fully extended in the saddle. The saddle is a men’s saddle too, which is less than comfortable but I’m making it work. The rental cost including damage waiver is comparable to what I would pay in airline fees and assembly fees.

I’m not sure which was better. Riding an unfamiliar bike isn’t the best for sure. I miss my bike at home and wish I would have brought her. But the convenience of not having to schlep my ride through the airport or rent a huge SUV just to cart it around has been nice.

My goal was to ride daily but so far I’m at every other day. I did 46 miles with a very good friend yesterday and we are planning to ride again on Friday afternoon and again on Sunday when we tackle a metric century together. Should be wicked fun.

My husband says if I don’t stop talking about bikes and cycling he’s going to go crazy. So I’m working very hard to not talk about how amazing it is to be in the Land of Bike Lanes and Trails. But seriously … Everywhere I look, people are on bikes. Bikes on the front of buses. Bikes on the road, bikes on the path, bikes everywhere. I feel like I’m part of the Cool Kids now.

I’ll write about our metric century experience but until then, see you on the road.

A Different Kind of Gratitude

Yesterday I recieved a text from my very good friend James that my best girl friend Rachel had been in a bike accident. The long story short, they were riding on the multi-use trail when she slowed to pass a family and the kid swerved in front of her bike. She slammed on the brakes to avoid a collision, causing her to flip over her handlebars.

She’s mostly OK – serious road rash, split lip, messed up teeth, broken scapula – and I am thankful her injuries are not more serious. I feel very helpless as a friend being 1800 miles away but also thankful James is with her and taking care of her. He said she’s so bummed we won’t be riding together next week; I told him that I’m just thankful she’s not hurt worse and to not worry about the rides we had planned.

Recently a guy on a group ride out here (I don’t know him personally) crashed his bike and was in the hospital with multiple broken bones, collapsed lung, etc. It’s amazing how much damage can be done to your body when you wreck on your bike.

The point of this is – be careful out there. Accidents happen but let’s keep them few and far between.

Spinning

Tonight’s ride was my usual low-key ride from the local library. I like this ride for a few reasons:

1. It’s low-key. We average 10-12mph over 20+/- miles. Great for recovery riding.

2. There’s new people every ride. Only a few of us are “regulars” – and sometimes even we don’t show up at the same time.

3. It’s near my house so I can ride to the start.

On tonight’s ride, I realized something. I spend a lot of time in the little ring, working my way up and down the cassette but never getting really fast. I feel pretty good about my spinning abilities in the little ring gears.

Of course when I throw it into the big ring, speed happens. It’s like an instant 1-2mph boost. Once we get out of the ‘burbs and into the city, the roads flatten out considerably – so consistent Big Ring Riding is more of a possibility.

Since I’m working on “training” for the century ride this fall and I can usually only get out twice a week, I’m going to take advantage of this ride to throw it in the big ring and see how long I can stay in it. We generally have some hills so it will be a challenge to stay in the big ring on the way up. Understanding this will be more work – but that’s OK.

You can’t go faster without an effort.

(I say “training” because while I’m making an effort to be smart about it, I don’t actually have a plan other than to ride a variety of routes, elevations, speeds and distances up to 75 miles. There’s five rest stops on the century route – so I’m mentally preparing for five consecutive 20-milers. I’m not sure what the actual distance between aid stations is – but a century sounds so much more manageable when I break it down into parts. Three 30s and a 10. Four 25s. A 50, a 25 and a 15.)

* * * * *

Other stuff spinning in my head:

* I’m also looking at some other cycling events – the Lemon Ride (July 22) and the Bicycling Fall Classic (Oct 7). The only thing holding me back is that riding in events is WAY more fun with a friend. Riding in general is more fun with a friend – that’s why I go to group rides!

* I’m also looking at updating my cyclometer to a GPS-based model. Currently considering a Garmin 800 but balking at the sticker price. However, I think it may be worth it since I’m new to the area and would not have to worry about how to get back home if I did get dropped or lost on a ride because it’s a straight-up touch screen GPS. My current GPS-based app on my phone is great but drains my battery – and should the worst happen, I want to be able to use it to get help not curse myself for trying to get ride data.

* The bike shop down the street has a Sunday morning ride with a speed I can at least shoot to attain (14-15 mph average). May try it out this weekend!

* * * * *

See you on the road!

Perseverance

Another week off the bike and this past Friday I was more than ready to roll out. I took the day off work to join my fellow Philly Bike Club members on a ride from Valley Forge National Park to Saint Peter’s Village and back. The ride leader had pre-mapped the ride using RideWithGPS, indicating 4900+’ elevation gain over 57 miles.

That’s more elevation gain than I’ve ever done in a single ride but the ride profile didn’t look unmanageable – more like rolling hills – and I was excited for the challenge of maintaining the advertised 13-15mph average over successive hills.

Keep in mind we are in the middle of a heat wave with Friday being the peak of the heat. And I’m barely acclimated to humidity. Just being honest here. From a weather perspective the high ended up being 97 with about 50-60% humidity.

The Intrepid Octet, as we named the 3 women and 5 men on the ride, met up at the Valley Forge visitor center and rolled-out at 9:30am. Valley Forge is in a hilly area and the elevation gain was definitely as advertised. Less rolling hills and more of going up, turning, and continuing up. The first few hills didn’t feel like much but after the tenth, fifteenth hill – you are feeling it in your quads and trying really hard to stay out of the lowest gear on your compact because is means you have to rely on your strength and spinning abilities.

Thankfully the roads were mostly shaded so we were spared the brutal glare of the sun on this extremely hot day. I focused my energies on not overexerting – which was difficult on the hills because my instinct was to hammer up them as hard as possible. And this being Pennsylvania, some of the roads were in less than ideal condition – holes, uneven surface, debris – which made some descents more like a mountain bike ride.

Our first stop was a gas station around Mile 23. Fresh ice water, Gatorade, and several minutes in the shade were very much welcome.

Temperature-wise, my cyclometer started at 89 and rose to a steady 102-105 temperature, eventually rising slowly to 113 before falling back into the 100-102 range in the afternoon. I’m assuming this is the radiant temperature (heat radiating off the asphalt) – and at every rest break we took, everyone was covered in a thick film of sweat. I took to dousing myself from a separate water bottle at every rest break to cool off.

Beautiful covered bridge exiting Valley Forge.
photo credit: http://www.louisdallaraphotography.com/2010/knox-covered-bridge/

Around Mile 24, I noticed I was sagging pretty far back from the next person in our group. I felt like I was working hard but couldn’t keep up. I glanced down to see my back tire mostly flat. No wonder that last downhill felt like I was riding on a rim – because I was! Fortunately, we regrouped around Mile 26 and noticed someone else had a flat as well. I mentioned I’d never changed a flat before and asked for someone to guide me through the process. The irony here being I’m scheduled to attend a bike maintenance class next week.

Impromptu Flat Repair Clinic on the side of the road!

It was dirty and messy and took us about and hour or so to get both tires changed, mostly because the other guy had special rims that needed a longer stem. He had a spare in the right size, but the valve broke off. After many fruitless attempts to get air into the valveless tube, we eventually patched his old tube with an “old school” glue-based patch kit and it held for the next 30+ miles. So thankful – the two nearest bike shops weren’t able to dispatch a remote repair.

7 miles later we sat down to lunch and, more importantly, air conditioning at Saint Peter’s Bakery. I’m still in the “I Don’t Want To Eat While I Ride” phase of cycling but I forced myself to down a can of Coke and a quarter of the amazingly delicious turkey-cranberry-herbed-guyere-on-apple-walnut-bread sandwich. Everyone encouraged me to take the other half home so I had it wrapped up and stuffed it into my back pocket, knowing full well it would not survive the 24 mile ride back to Valley Forge.

Our fearless ride leader encouraged us to Think Positive, The Worst Is Behind Us, It’s Rolling Hills Going Back! She’s a good ride leader.

And indeed I’m glad I didn’t phone my husband at lunch to call it quits. Yes, I was tired and hot but I didn’t *want* to quit. My concern was always being safe and in a heat wave, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real dangers. I was concerned about getting cooled off adequately. But the promise of an easier ride profile on the way back was the encouragement I needed to keep going.

Indeed the ride did get easier, the air started to cool off as we passed through the midday heat into the early evening. We stopped at the Whole Foods in Kimberton for one last rest break (and air conditioning and fresh ice water) before the final 7 miles back. We opted to forgo the Very Hilly route into Valley Forge and took the Slightly-Less-Hilly-But-Still-Very-Hilly route back to our cars.

It was 6pm.

I can’t say I’ve had more fun on a ride with Philly Bike Club yet. This was an adventure that challenged us and we survived. I am a super-planner kind of person and decided to just roll with whatever happened instead of trying to make it The Most Perfect Ride Ever. Health and safety over speed and time. Fun over everything else.

And yeah I got home, took a cool shower, changed into clean clothing and headed out to Camden, NJ for a heavy metal show. It was a great day.

* * * * *

Stats:

Ride Length – 57.0 miles

Elevation Gain – 4600+ (based on my fellow riders’ GPS cyclometers. Note to self: want to get one)

Ride Duration – 4h 40m 3s

Total Time Out – 8h 30m

Max Speed: 33.5 mph

Avg Speed: 12.1 mph

Flat Tires – 1

Fluid Intake – 144 ounces, split between Gatorade (barf) and Propel Fitness Water drop-ins (awesome)

Accountability

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

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

Desire is good. Obsession is not.

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

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

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

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

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

 

See you on the road!

What’s Goin’ On

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

See you on the road!

Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on the road!

Traveling with Your Bike

I’m heading out with my road bike next week to ride the 34 mile route at the Elephant Rock Ride in Castle Rock, CO. Dropped my bike off with the experts at Guy’s Bicycles in Feasterville-Trevose, PA for a tune-up and box into an airline case. Everyone has horror stories about traveling with their bikes – oversize and overweight fees that are close to a round-trip ticket price.

I’m flying Frontier Airlines, a Denver, CO-based low fare airline for three reasons:

1. They have incredibly bicycle-friendly policies.

Bicycles, golf equipment, skis, & snowboards are subject to the checked baggage fees and overweight fees above (oversize fees are exempt).

Checked Baggage Fees vary based on the type of Fare Option you purchase and for EarlyReturns® members with Summit and Ascent level status:

Domestic and International* Economy Classic Classic Plus Summit, Ascent
1st $20 Free Free Free
2nd $20 Free Free Free
3rd and more (each) $50 $50 $50 $50
Overweight Baggage Fee (any items weighing more than 50 pounds) $75

2. They are affordable and still provide great service.

3. I achieved status with them last year so I get perks.

I’ll be recapping my experience once I’m on the other side.

Please comment if you know of other bicycle-friendly airlines so we can get the word out and support airlines that make it easier (or more affordable) to take your bike on new adventures.

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