This past weekend I put my bikes on the back of my Honda and headed for the hills. Of west-central Massachusetts, to be more precise. My friend and fellow blogger Karen lives up there and invited me to join her at the JAM Fund Grand FUNdo. The ride was top-notch: very hilly, well-stocked rest stations, full-on pig roast bbq and local craft beer at the end.
While there, a former pro cyclist approached me about my scar. Turns out she had a total thyroidectomy a few years ago (hers was benign) and is currently not racing due to overtraining.
She shared with me a few gems, one of which was that once your thyroid is removed your body functions differently from when you had the organ even though you are replacing the hormones. As an athlete, it’s easy to build into a certain level of fitness. How the body functions with just the hormones is slightly different. She shared a story about a training ride where she became severely hypothermic, which was her “a-ha” moment about how her body functions differently now.
This was welcome anecdotal evidence, as I’ve noticed my body isn’t responding the same way it used to. I get goose-bumps earlier in hot rides than I used to – which is my key to drink more fluids, dial down the intensity, and stay in the shaded areas as much as possible. The Mini FUNdo we did featured 25 miles of uphill before the glorious 15 miles of downhill – and by mile 22, my muscles weren’t crying but I was definitely Not Myself. Thankfully the rest stop had bananas and, more importantly, pickles.
Never underestimate the power of a pickle to revive you on a hot bike ride.
The rest of the weekend was exactly the relaxing, rejuvenating experience I needed. We biked, we laughed, we talked, and we ate. As working moms, it’s not easy for us to just take a weekend to ride bikes – but I’m so glad Karen was up for it and I was in a place where I could be as active as I wanted … even if it isn’t at my former fitness level.
Another friend of mine, Dani, made an excellent observation. She asked me if I had held back my voice – because the thyroid is in the throat chakra and maybe I needed to learn how to be my own advocate more, to speak up and not be afraid of what others think or will say by voicing my concerns or opinion.While I still harbor internal concerns that vulnerability makes me a liability, the reality is I have suppressed my needs too much. It’s OK to ask for help, for down-time, and to take care of me first.
The irony certainly doesn’t escape me that I have moved to a city that never sleeps, is always pushing forward, and thrives on the dreams and ambitions of millions of people – and my body is quite literally telling me to slow down, take time to breathe and relax, and to enjoy life.
Of course, I immediately signed up for another very hilly ride locally in October. I’m hoping to get through my radioactive iodine treatment over the next 2 weeks and get back to building up my cycling strength. I don’t think I’ll see anywhere close to the same stats as last year and I’m making my peace with it. I’ll ride as much as I can and seek out my happy-place as often as possible.
I was talking with my sister recently. She is a marathoner and expecting her second child this summer. She was lamenting her inability to take part in a particular marathon this year because of her impending child. It’s part of the same mentality – she’s losing her ability to just sign up for a marathon and not have to actually train so much as maintain.
One of the things active people fear most is losing fitness. Many of us started at a sub-par fitness level and have worked hard to get to a point where throwing down a marathon or a century (or whatever the goal was) is just another day. When you have that level of fitness, and life starts to get in the way, many of us panic. It was such an effort to get to this place! I don’t want to have to go back to barely creaking out 25 mile rides!
For me, it’s important to accept the place you are now and work with it. After 2 months of not riding my bike (and spending at least half that time going out of my mind with not being able to go out for bike rides), I can safely say it’s going to be a long road back to fitness when I do throw my leg over the top tube. I’ve focused on walking as much as possible and running or hiking on the weekends to maintain a base level of fitness. I signed up for a 5-mile run in April to have a motivating event to keep me from sleeping until noon on weekends (which is totally on my radar because I am not a morning person). And if all goes well, we should be moving into our new house relatively soon – which means more time back in my life for the things that matter most. Family. Friends. Bikes.
Lots has happened so far this year. We finished up a lovely vacation in Colorado with family and friends; we sold our house finally; we had to make a humane decision for my 18-year-old beagle, Mojo. I’ve gained far too much weight in the last year. Mega-commuting – spending 90min or more to get to work or back – is challenging at best and in the winter, doubly so. I’ve had a few days where I spent as much time in transit as I have at work.
And it’s been a long, cold winter. Every time the snow and cold seems to have melted just enough and the weather warming up, another winter storm or arctic cold front comes rolling through. My bikey friends and I had made plans to go ride bikes this afternoon, but a winter storm of snow, sleet, and rain arrived – so I leashed up my dog and we did a 3-mile walk together. It was fun to be outside with friends, despite the extremely slippery conditions. My dog passed out on the couch from all the excitement.
What I’m really saying is, keep the faith my dear reader! We will all dust off the cobwebs soon enough and slowly turn the cranks again and marvel at the warm sunshine beating on our backs as we zip down the road. Spring is coming …
counting the days until we see each other on the road ….
I realize I haven’t kept up on the blog as much as I’d like but since September I haven’t been out much. And since this is my bikey blog, it’s only natural to talk about All Things Bikey. I’m living in Philly, working in NYC, and getting out as I can. The last six months have been stressful for our little family, with trying to sell the house and relocate to be closer to work. Indeed life could be worse than having a job that I continue to love, learn and grow; a family that is holding down the house selling process and understanding that sometimes things don’t go according to plan; and a husband who gives me the option and sometimes pushes me out of the house to go ride my bike for an hour because he knows it will keep me sane.
So instead of lamenting my lack of miles this year, let’s talk about the memories that were made on the rides:
The New Year started with an exploratory bike ride with my friend Ken to check out some trails he found on Google Maps. Of course we took our carbon fiber road bikes to ride rutted, frozen mud and gravel trails – that’s just what we do. Unfortunately the ride ended when I started having visual disturbances associated with an impending migraine – so we hightailed it home. Nothing like bombing down a hill with no peripheral vision and the inability to see clearly. ha!
Later in the month, we would make a farewell bike ride with our friend Heather, who had finished the schooling part of her ophthalmology studies and was moving for the first phase of her residency. Heather had been my main source of All Things Mountain Biking and a wonderful road cycling friend as well. Thankful for the wonders of the internet to keep us in touch.
February brought a craving for the freshest, most authentic street tacos I’ve experienced. Ken and I rode to the Belle Vista section of the city to find the El Tacos Rodeo truck to no avail. The winter was in full swing with lots of snow and ice and very little opportunity to get outside to ride – so I focused on training for a 5-mile run in April. Lots of time on the treadmill getting my running legs back.
There was one particular run where it was finally warm enough to run outside – the snow was melting and the smell of fallen pine branches from the heavy snow permeated the air. It felt so fresh and inviting.
March brought the advent of bike commuting again and feeling brave and stupid while riding on Market Street, one of the main streets through downtown Philadelphia. It’s 4 or 5 lanes of people who don’t really give a crap – but somehow I’ve always been able to ride safe on Market. March also brought the first training ride for the four-day bike tour I would do in June.
April means 30 Days of Biking, an online friendly challenge to ride your bike every day in April. I ended up biking to the train station more than biking all the way into the City. I also took my then-14yr old son on his first mountain bike ride. He wasn’t impressed. My friend John and I hit up the Wissahickon for some spring mountain biking. And I completed my first-ever 5-mile running race in 51:40 – a little over 10min/mi. I was very proud of this because I’m not a huge runner, the course was hilly, and I kept a steady pace the whole time. I was also totally wiped out at the end – not sure how people can run half- and full-marathons!
May started with the TD Five Boro Tour. My friends Eric and Phil joined me for this event, and we met up with internet friend at one of the rest stops. The day before featured an 8-mile ride back to the hotel after the Expo to pick up our race packets in the pouring rain. I’m thankful the hotel staff didn’t blink when we rolled in, muddy and soaked to the bone. A hot shower and clean clothing meant we could get dinner together and chat about bikes and life and the upcoming tour. This was an incredibly disappointing event as we got slotted late and ended up walking as much as riding (“hey, why are we walking?” “Hill.”). At one point the boys dropped the hammer and were weaving in and out of other cyclists. Corbi and I were hammering to keep up until I asked her why we were hammering. She didn’t know either – so we let off the gas and caught up to the guys naturally later on.
May was also the Quad County. This year Ken and I didn’t get caught in a rainstorm nor did we do the Intensive Climbing Unit (or the Very Intensive Climbing Unit) – and the day was so lovely. Perfect weather, great route … one of the best rides in the Philadelphia area.
May is also when I found out my good u-lock had been cut from my office’s bike racks because I hadn’t been back for over a month. Ug.
June’s highlight was the Ride for Homes, a four day bike tour from Philly to Gettysburg and back. This is the ride where I met so many amazing new friends, learned that I most certainly can ride 60+ miles per day multiple days in a row, the importance of proper hydration, and how to come back from letting yourself down. The Ride for Home was by far my favorite event this year, one that I am looking at doing again next year.
July had a ride to Hammonton and back for lunch – 108 sweaty, stinky miles under a brutal heat and humidity index with a threat of nasty thunderstorms all afternoon. What sticks in my mind is the ice cream shop lady who wouldn’t allow us access to fresh water even though we purchased ice cream (and the sink was right behind her). And how accommodating the Starbucks was next door, filling out water bottles with ice and water and wishing us well on our final 25 miles. And how incredibly draining it is to walk across the bridge over the Delaware River – we spent 10 min drinking electrolyte beverages in the shade after crossing to get our energy back.
July also had stress miles because the potential buyers for our house walked away. This had never happened to us before – and it’s incredibly anxiety-inducing. We still haven’t sold the house and it’s now almost 2015.
August had a lot of smaller rides – as the office move date grew closer, the less time I had for fun. But a couple fun rides happened – taking my Girl Scouts on an 11-mile trail ride; a lunch ride with Ken and his wife Cathy and my son; riding with Ken and Michelle to see the Super Moon rise over the Delaware at the Spruce Street Harbor pop-up park; and the most excellent ride from New Hope, PA to Brooklyn, NY to get some dinner with friends.
September had significantly fewer bikes rides and a spike in hiking and walking. Not coincidentally, I also started spending 15-18 hours on trains for work. It is what is it is – this too shall pass.
October had even fewer bike rides but a lovely hike with my friend Eric in French Creek State Park. My desires to go mountain biking were becoming intense but my fear of going alone was keeping me from actually getting out. I even went on a quick road ride instead of the mountain biking that I wanted to do because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me.
November came and the weather was mild enough to get a hot cocoa ride; a hike with my husband (immediately followed by my first solo mountain bike ride – really hit the spot!); and a 50-mi bike ride with my friends. Without the regular cycling, my legs aren’t really good for much more than 50 miles but that’s going to be OK because we still have a lot going on in life.
December brought a snowy hike with my Girl Scouts and a much-needed vacation out to Colorado. My sister and I hiked twice – a short 2.5 miler with our mom and a longer 8 miler up to Pike Peak Reservoir. December has brought peace of mind, relaxation, and a way to separate from the everyday stresses and refocus on what is important – family, friends, community.
So while this year I didn’t beat anything numbers-wise from last year, I didn’t do too shabby: 2,206.5 miles on my bike with 100,384′ of gain. I also gained a lot of great memories on fun rides with my friends and explored new boundaries in my abilities. I learned tough lessons and still managed to get back on the bike the next day.
Next year will hopefully be one that is full of resolution – resolution of our house and living situation, riding my bikes more, and becoming more proficient at mountain biking. Of supporting my family though this tough transition and coming out the other side with resilience, tenacity, and strength.
Thanks for being part of my year – see you in 2015!
I want to tell you I had an amazing weekend and this event was SO MUCH FUN. I really do.
For many people, I’m sure today was awesome. For me, today was very disappointing.
* * * * *
The TD Five Boro Bike Tour is a 40 mile car-free bicycling event put on by Bike New York. 32,000 bicyclists. $90 entry fee. Packet pick-up must be in person at the Expo. A great way to see The Big Apple! My friends and I managed to get signed up and planned a whole weekend around this.
Saturday we drove up to Staten Island to check in to our hotels. We then biked over to the ferry to Manhattan. If there is anyone that can make Philly drivers look like fine, upstanding ladies and gentlemen – it’s Staten Island drivers. Of course, we were on a more direct route … but when we crested the second hill, the sun setting behind us and casting a golden glow on the City before us … the view was spectacular and made the ride over worth it.
Biking to the Expo in Manhattan was a joy because of the absolutely lovely cycle track along the river with amazing views of Brooklyn.
On the way back it started to rain. Agreeing there’s no one to pick our butts up, we saddled up and rode back to the hotel. Did I mention we were in street clothes? Cotton is rotten in the rain. Acquired a hot shower and clean clothes before we got some dinner. We all agreed the tour would be super fun – lots of people and no speed records but a nice conversational ride with friends.
This morning we were assigned to the last wave of riders for the tour. We had initially rejoiced in this stroke of good fortune to be able to sleep in – until we missed the last ferry to make the official start time. No matter, there were lots of others still waiting for the ferry. We got to the start line about 20 min late, which we figured we could make up without issue. Until we hit the first wall of people. They aren’t kidding when they say 32,000 people sign up for this.
The parts of the ride that were awesome:
* rolling through the streets of Manhattan and Harlem. The Bronx and Queens were a bit rougher on the edges and Brooklyn lived up to its reputation as a hipster mecca.
* riding down the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Seriously – have you ever ridden your bike on a major highway?
* Local musicians along the route keeping the vibe pleasant.
* fresh NY bagels at the rest stop we visited.
* Riding bikes! With Friends! in New York!
The parts of the ride I was incredibly disappointed about:
* Being Assigned the Third Wave. Dominated by cruiser bikes and folks who generally do not know how to ride in a group, much less a very large group. I don’t recall asking for the third wave or being told waves are assigned by expected average speed … or really anything. You’re just assigned a group.
* Walking. Entirely too much walking happened because of the rider volume, medicals (more people went down than I’ve ever seen in an organized event), and any sort of incline in the road. At one point we were stopped for somewhere around 30-45min just to get over a bridge. Due to volume.
* Being forced to take the mandatory shortcut because we failed to meet the cutoff time. Lopped 10 miles off our ride. See above for why. So sad because my friend was volunteering at the aid station on the cut miles.
* Other Rider Fatigue. My brain was fried from having to be hyper-vigilant in avoiding other riders that stop in the middle of the road, stop suddenly/without warning, walk their bikes across the road without checking to make sure no one is riding on the road, weaving, taking selfies while riding, etc.
(Some guy called me an asshole when I was passing and he drifted into me, touching my hip with his handlebar.)
* * * * *
I really feel like a heel for saying I’m disappointed in the event because I was riding with slower riders. There’s nothing wrong with being a weekend fitness cyclist or a cruiser cyclist or someone who only rides sometimes. Honest – I really feel this way.
But the truth is, had we been seeded with other cyclists at our similar abilities (but not the hammerheads) the day would have been completely different. Instead of trying to find clear passing lanes and walking entirely too much for a bike ride (i.e., at all), we would have had what we had looked forward to – a conversational speed bike ride.
It became a running joke to us that anytime we had to stop and walk was because there was a hill. Which is so sad but true – we walked so many hills towards the end because there was no room to ride. Everyone was walking because a few people weren’t able to cycle up the hill.
Based on my experience today, I can’t recommend this ride to anyone just yet. One of my friends did the ride last year and was in the first wave. She said the experience was so much better last year – she had no issues with walking or being stopped or having her ride cut short. So I’d be willing to give it another try but only if I knew I would be in the first or second wave of riders.
This week I was able to bike commute in to work two days in a row – both days needed 3/4 bottoms, full-finger windproof gloves and a light thermal jacket in the morning but the evening ride home was in a short-sleeved jersey and fingerless gloves. I felt strong and happy. After a long winter, it feels amazing to be outside and not bundled up.
Interestingly I’m still pacing last year’s total mileage and looking forward to many spring and early summer rides! I signed up for 30 Days of Biking – I’m pledge #2! – to help motivate me to get out and ride. The premise is simple – ride your bike any distance, any speed, every day in April. There’s no pressure, no metrics … just joyful bike riding. If you haven’t signed up before, I encourage you to take the pledge and share your daily experiences online.
Yesterday I had (yet another) close call with a female motorist. There is a half-mile section of road that has unbelievably terrible pavement on both ends of the bridge (while the bridge itself is smooth). The right side of the road is littered with potholes and places where the pavement has buckled, heaved and made mini-moguls. This used to be one of my favorite sections of road because once you get on the bridge you are in the treetops. So beautiful when the sun is rising.
Anyway, my commuter friend and I had just gotten to the end of the bridge and I was attempting to merge into traffic (take the lane at about 20mph) to avoid the nasty roadway when a woman passed on my left inches from me, nearly forcing me into the rough. Usually I left this kind of stuff go – no sense in getting upset, it happens – but instead I got mad and started hammering up the hill behind her. I wanted to catch up to her and ask her why she thought that was OK. I wanted to confront her. I had no chance to catch up to her so I ended up just flipping her off from about four car-lengths behind and yelling obscenities in her direction. The upshot is I scored a new PR on that stretch of my commute from giving her chase. Haha
This is the third time this year I’ve had issues with a vehicle and a woman was behind the wheel. Fellow women of the world – please drive safely. Don’t be a jerk.
Here’s a shot from yesterday’s bike ride home. There’s a tree that fell in the ice storm (way back when) and is perched precariously across the trail. There’s enough room to ride under it but every time I do I feel like I have tempted fate. I’ve dubbed it The Gauntlet. Hope the park service takes care of it soon!
Every weekend has at least one bike ride scheduled this month – so excited to be back in the saddle with wonderful weather!
Friends, I don’t like to toot my own horn too much but I’ve had some good press lately that I felt I should share:
I went for a ride with my friend Ken and our new friend Rachel from Missouri last weekend. It wasn’t particularly long and while we stopped for a healthy snack, we probably could have done with out the stop. It was ridiculously fun though and I admired Rachel’s awesome Yakkay helmet and her super-cute haircut.
Rachel was going to the National Bike Summit the next day. She reported back that my awesome friend Katie, who was presenting on her Women Bike PHL movement, mentioned me by name as part of the Girl Scouts on Wheels program. So humbled to be mentioned at a national summit about cycling. Katie rode her bike from NYC to DC to attend the summit. She’s amazing.
Then one of my favorite cycling apparel companies, Road Holland, put a photo I sent them in their Year End blog post. They make great wool-blend cycling jerseys and I love them for spring and fall rides.
Today my friends at 30 Days of Biking featured me on their Facebook page. I don’t even know why but I am tremendously thrilled to be chosen for a random shout-out. And hey – if you haven’t taken the pledge yet, why not now? Pledge to ride your bike every day in April – any distance, any speed, any weather, every day. Share those experiences online in a joyful cyclist community!
Today I was out for a 30-miler with Ken that featured snow-clogged trails, a wonderful sit-down snack at Outbound Station, and then me suggesting we tackle some hills on the way home. Because you know, not riding regularly is really conducive to attacking big hills. We biked up this monster on Hagys Mill Road in Philadelphia – it’s a little over a quarter-mile and averages 12%. There is one pitch in particular where I was genuinely concerned I might fall off my bike and why the hell would I ever want to be clipped into my bike? I think that section is around 17-20%.
Anyway, it was all hills and busy roads home from there. Beautiful day to ride. We haven’t had many of these lately this winter so you have to grab the days you can.
It’s been a brutal winter for outside bike riding. Between back-to-back snow, ice storms, power outages, and a vicious melt-freeze cycle there just hasn’t been an opportunity to safely ride outside. Many of the cyclists I know hang up the bike in late fall and don’t start again until spring is fully underway. Some cyclists I know suck it up and put their bikes on a trainer or pull out the rollers and spend their time pedaling quickly to nowhere to retain some semblance of fitness. I’ve avoided the trainer as long as possible, finally breaking down only last week.
After a spotty record of physical activity in January, I decided to start training for my 5-mile run coming up in April. Get some base miles at my work’s gym on the treadmill until it’s light enough after work to be outside. If there’s anything more boring than being on a trainer, it’s a treadmill. The first run was brutal. It hurt. I was lethargic and I went too fast too soon and while I don’t do “serious” distance I stay focused on just being active. Sure enough the next few runs felt better. I’ve been able to stick to running about 6-7 miles per week this month.
Certainly I am eager to get back into regular riding to shed a few winter pounds that somehow magically find their way to my pear-shaped body when the riding decreases and the eating stays the same. I’d like to tell you, friends, that cycling has given me perspective. That I have found the holy grail of self-acceptance and am completely comfortable in my skin every single day. The truth is I have and I haven’t.
When I bought the Beast and was first beginning to ride, I wore a skort and famously told my more serious cycling friends that I didn’t need anyone looking at my ass-ets. That I wasn’t going to be a “serious” rider anyway. Ten mile rides with stops to drink became fifteen mile rides and being able to reach for my water bottle and drink comfortably. Thirty-five milers became my long rides and with it a new pair or shorts (still rockin’ the unders though). First event, a 50-miler with my best friend – rockin’ the shorts. Somewhere around this time I stopped caring what my hips looked like in Spandex. I bought new jerseys that looked awesome. I started to love riding and took any excuse to hop on my bike and pedal off for a few hours. It took much longer to lose the unders and I’m so thankful I did.
The best thing about riding is definitely the company kept but also often times the food. Fuel the ride well – no need to go crazy overboard. I’ve learned how to use real food (trail mix, dried fruit and nuts) in addition to my favorite energy bars, beans, and goos. But come the end of the season or a long drought of good weather and one can find themselves staring down a few pounds that happened “even though you are eating the same!” Yeah – I’m right there with you. Getting back on track with healthy eating and adequate exercise. (Although the time off was very nice for getting house work done and spending time with the family)
This past weekend was so gorgeous – I got a 4 mile run outside on Saturday (snow-melt puddle stomping and the scent of fallen pine branches thawing in the sun) and a 45 mile bike ride on Sunday with friends to find lunch. The sun was shining, the temps were mid-forties to low-fifties. It felt scandalous to be out riding and running with mounds of snow still blocking traffic corners. It felt so good to be outside! This week is a big dive in temperatures and a few snow showers expected. Looking forward to another week of the treadmill and trainer so when spring fully arrives, I can hit the road running. (haha)
Making plans for all the rides we want to do this summer: restarting mountain bike rides with the club, Quad County, Ride for Homes, heading down the Shore, The Lemon Ride, Philly to Brooklyn, lunch in St Peter’s Village … it’s going to be a great summer!