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!

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.

Rocky Mountain High

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED TODAY:

* How to fix a dropped chain

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

* How to adjust my bike fit

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

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

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

See you on the road!

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

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.

Top Cycling Cities

A big congrats to all the cities that made Bicycling Magazine’s Top 50 Bicycling Friendly Cities.

Philly came in a respectable #17 – guess I need to do more riding and less complaining that things aren’t like I’m used to.

Super shout-out to my homestate, Colorado, where three of the four major cities made it to the Top 15:

#3 – Boulder, CO

#11 – Fort Collins, CO

#14 – Denver, CO

#31 – Colorado Springs, Co

See you on the road!