Scenic Schuylkill, City to Shore, and Me

Friends, if you are ever in the Philadelphia area the second weekend in September, I highly encourage you to sign up for Philly Bike Club’s Scenic Schuylkill Century. This year was my second year riding and I hope to keep going as long as I have friends to help the miles pass.

discussing the day ahead (I'm in the foreground)
discussing the day ahead (I’m in the foreground) / photo by the guy at 2WheelsAndSomeNuts

 

The Scenic Schuylkill is an incredibly well-supported ride that showcases the beauty of the area just outside Philly. Starting at the iconic Boathouse Row and winding north into the hills of Manayunk to Cedar Grove then on to Evansburg State Park. The view of Philly from Potshop Rd is unmatched – the city so far away it’s ethereal. From Evansburg you can choose to head back to the city (and complete a metric) or head northwest to Schwenksville. Do not be discouraged by the 6,000+ feet of elevation gain – there are very few monster hills. The hills are really after the second rest stop in Evansburg State Park and are more rolling-hills than Super-Steep-Why-Am-I-Doing-This.

omg my back hurts from all that climbing!
omg my back hurts from all that climbing! / photo by the guy at 2WheelsAndSomeNuts

 

Which, if you like sudden steep and long climbs, go ride the Suburban Cyclists Unlimited’s Quad County with ICU Option and Lake Nockamixon Century, both of which will punish your legs and lungs (and lower back). Or move to Colorado. I’m sure my Colorado friends are laughing at me right now …

Another rest stop at Camp Hope then more climbing before you see more downhills than uphills. Do not be fooled though – there are still some hills on the way back into the city. But nothing compares to bombing down Main Street in Manayunk on the way back to pizza and liquid refreshment.

great shot of the countryside's beauty and rolling hills
great shot of the countryside’s beauty and rolling hills / photo by the guy at 2WheelsAndSomeNuts

Improved my time this year as well – 102 miles in 7:40 last year; 103 miles in 7:20 this year. And yes, I made it back to the start in time to get a few plain slices and two full-sugar sodas. No, I didn’t feel bad about that.

 

Three weeks and not enough riding later, I set off on another century, the annual Bike MS: City to Shore ride from Cherry Hill, NJ to Ocean City, NJ. This is most people’s Big Ride of the year and they train all summer for it. As a year-round cyclist who tries to keep her base miles around 50, this is probably the easiest century in the area. It’s mostly flat – only about 1900′ of elevation gain and probably only because of the two bridges at the end of the ride to get over the harbour to the Shore. It is incredibly well-supported – the century alone has about seven opportunities to take a break.

My neighbor and bike commuting friend and I carpooled to the start again. This time instead of sitting in off-ramp traffic, we opted to go one more exit further and parked within minutes. Unfortunately this also meant not getting to the festivities at the main start but we were only a quarter of a mile up the (not very well maintained) road. We hit the road around 6:15am – before the sun came up. Totally didn’t think it though so I borrowed my friend’s long-sleeve lightweight shirt to stay warm until we got past the first rest stop.

I also opted for my new lightweight thermal three-quarter tights from Twin Six. Picked them up at an incredible deal during a sale and they are supremely comfortable. Perfect for the chilly autumnal mornings when you need a little more now that won’t overheat you later.

We ended up skipping the second rest stop option (“Lunch Stop Ahead!” “wait – it’s only 8:30am … too early!”) and also the century loop rest stop, averaging about 25 miles between rest stops. We took only 15 minutes at each stop – enough time to use the port-o-let, refill water, shove some food in our faces and hit the road again.

I should note two things here:

1. I was having stomach issues again leading up to this ride and sure enough there was about a 25-30 mile portion in the middle of the day where I struggled to keep it together. I felt really bad for my friend because I had to dial down my speed a bit because I was hardly eating and didn’t want to bonk from over-exertion/under-nutrition. And I wasn’t talking at all because I felt incredibly nauseous. I eventually got back on the level, picked up the speed, and finished strong.

2. I have decided to improve my spinning and stayed in the little ring all day. Averaging 17+ mph on significantly more miles than not was incredibly gratifying and my legs still felt relatively fresh at the end of the ride. I’m hoping this winter will continue to be fairly mild (let’s be honest, I miss big snows) so I can continue to work on increasing my cadence enough to switch to the big ring and spin the hell out of a bigger gear.

The weather was perfect for the ride. My favorite moment was between the two bridges when you are on a little two-lane road right up against the beach, the ocean waves crashing and rolling up the sand. SO PERFECT. I was so sad that I wasn’t going to be spending one last weekend Down The Shore.

 

But the reason I wasn’t staying down the Shore was because I had an appointment to get some new ink. I was supposed to get it last year but it didn’t work out. This year I made it happen.

my new ink
my new ink

My tattoo artist is the best in the biz and she was guest spotting at a shop on Long Island, a few hours from Philly. The piece is Cycles Perfecta by Alphonse Mucha (1902 bicycle company advertisement) that perfectly captures the essence of a girl and her bicycle.  Four hours of line work with minimal breaks (like 10 min each hour). Next time I see her it will be to get this colored in.

In health news, I had an endoscopy this past week and they biopsied some tissue for testing. Hoping to know more next week – praying for a relatively easy fix. I’m tired of feeling terrible all the time. My diet is severely limited some days. I lost five pounds in a few weeks due to dwindling appetite. Funny how fasting the day of the procedure was NBD because not eating keeps me feeling relatively normal. Totally unsustainable, I know. That’s why I’m getting help.

 

This weekend is expected to be gorgeous but I’m going to take a quick break from my bike. Even though I really want to go mountain biking.

 

1. Tattoo needs to stay out of the sun. It’s going to be too warm for long-sleeves and it’s not ready to put sun sleeves on (elastic at the top).

2. Health. I need to take care of myself until I hear back from my GI doc. I can tell you 100% I did not eat enough on my City to Shore century – less than I did for the Scenic Schuylkill (and that wasn’t much). And I still need to get back into running – my 5k is in about a month. And it’s been that long since my last attempt at running.

 

So maybe not this weekend, but I’ll see you on the road or the trail soon.

 

Catch Up

When we last left off, dear reader, I had just put my dog down and was helping my kids work through their grief. Since then much has happened, which is what happens when autumn rolls around. The cycling is exquisite, everyone is back to school routines, and life starts to slow down for winter.

 

  • I took the week of Sept 2 ff work. Between Labor Day and the High Holidays and my in-laws coming to visit, it didn’t make sense to shoehorn work in as well. Add in our dog dying and it was a much needed week off of responsibility.
  • I rode my bike a lot that week. It’s really cathartic. Long rides with the bike club; short rides for lunch with my son; medium rides with my step-father-in-law. It was so nice to simply wake up, throw my leg over the top tube and pedal out of town without any worry.
  • I ran a five-miler back in August and promptly hurt my foot. My chiropractor has been adjusting it and I thought I was in a good place, but a 5k proved me otherwise. Back off running for another two weeks … then I can try again. Lots of rolling with a tennis ball to keep things loose and not “crunchy.” PS – having your foot adjusted feels WEIRD.
  • I completed the Scenic Schuylkill Century for the second consecutive year. 103 miles with over 6800′ of climbing. I felt like a mountain goat charging up those final hills. This ride deserves a recap post.
  • I took Electric Dream Machine to the shop for a tune-up (chunky shifting) and ended up getting her new bar tape and a new chain as well. 2500 miles and only 50% worn on of the original chain feels pretty awesome. I feel like a Spin Master.
  • I also found a saddle that doesn’t hurt my butt after 100 miles. It’s an old school Terry Butterfly Ti I found on eBay for $36. You have no idea how relieving this is.
  • I made a lot of cookies. Chocolate crinklesMolasses. They are all gone now.
  • I bought the last few items I need to make my first attempt at blueberry jam.
  • We selected a hand-made custom urn for Nixon, painted to match her exact coloring. We’re expecting it sometime next week. Until then her ashes are just hanging out in the kitchen and it feels kinda weird. Last night I missed her snuggling up to my feet when I went to bed. Not cry-my-eyes-out missed her … just missed the reassuring weight on her curled up at the bottom of the bed.

 

That week reminded me how much I love unrestricted time. Time to explore, time to play, time to simply be. Far too often I get wrapped up in my everyday life of work, the kids’ school stuff, and housework. Never mind the annual house maintenance that needs to happen like yard work, cleaning out the garage, fixing the downspout that disconnected last October during Hurricane Sandy (*cough cough*).

If I could find a way to still get a paycheck and ride my bike for fun all day, I’d be all over that.

Anyway – I’m still around. I haven’t been riding as much as I want these past two weeks. I haven’t even been bike commuting! And I kinda miss running (but that’s between you and me). I have my BikeMS: City to Shore ride coming up next weekend so I need to get out an ride at least a little bit to keep the legs fresh. Then I’m looking to October to squeeze in some fun weekend rides … maybe do the Central Bucks Covered Bridge Tour again.

 

See you on the road!

 

 

Review: Hoo Ha Ride Glide

Friends, it was only last summer that I took the bold move of heading out on my bicycle sans-unders. For guys this may have been a no-brainer but for girls, it seems to be more of a concern to be out and about without proper undergarments.

Since then I have stuck to the first brand I purchased, which was also the only brand that the local bike shop had in stock that didn’t make me feel more than slightly awkward plunking down in front of the guy at the counter.

Until recently.

When I was preparing for the Elephant Rock Ride in Colorado, the shop had trial sizes of my usual brand … and Hoo Ha Ride Glide. Intrigued, I picked up a few for the long ride. I ended up using the first packet the following day on 10 mile mountain bike ride and immediately noticed the cooling sensation, which told me it was working. I also noticed the exceptionally pleasant smell.

I didn’t bother to ask my companions if they could also smell it because there really isn’t an easy way to ask if your booty cream smells nice.

The first ride was fine, nothing special … but it was enough to prompt me to pick up a full-size bottle. Anymore, it’s my go-to ride cream. It’s not too thick, lasts quite a while, and smells nice. I like that it’s formulated for women and the trial sizes come in environmentally-friendly packaging. Plus it’s quite a conversation piece when the conversation inevitably turns to chamois creams (what, you don’t talk about that stuff on your group rides?).

 

Hoo Ha Ride Glide
Hoo Ha Ride Glide

 

From their website:

Reflect Sports feminine chafing cream, Hoo Ha Ride Glide® protects your Hoo Ha from saddles sores, chafing, friction burns, irritation and inflammation. Our chafing cream provides healing and prevents saddle sores and chafing from exercise. Focused on the sensitivities of the vaginal area our product is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. In addition to having healing agents, our chafing cream is enriched with barely extract, lavender, eucalyptus leaf, tea tree and peppermint oil. These specialized ingredients provide a lasting cool feeling so you enjoy your ride, run or spin class.

Hoo Ha Ride Glide retailed for $21.95 on Reflect Sports’ websiteAmazon and More Awesome Bike Shops nationwide.

Riding to the City: A Love Note

I woke up this morning feeling awesome.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

hello my city
hello my city

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

* * * * * 

 

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

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

 

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

 

Thanks for listening and see you on the road! 

Just Not My Summer

For the third time in a week, I have ignored my 5:30am alarm.

For the third time in a week, I have chosen sleep over bike commuting.

 

How far I’ve fallen from just a few weeks ago.

 

This summer has been tough for getting good ride time for me.  Lots has been going on outside my world of cycling. Somehow I get it in my head that everyone else in the world is out every day. Everyone else is also better, faster, cooler, and more dedicated than me.  I try to keep up with the false notions my brain feeds me. I feel like I should be pushing through … but for what? I’m not training for anything other than to keep up with the Jones’.

The difference from two weeks ago is family. They are paramount and when they were otherwise occupied, it was easy to get up early and ride. I only had to be concerned for myself. Now I am trying to make sure summer homework is getting done and we squeeze the last bits of freedom out of summer. My in-laws are coming for the weekend and we still need to clean the house. And my stomach issues are still there (better but I’m aware) – and the GI doc is on the calendar for just after Labor Day.

And there’s the stuff I want to do but just haven’t found a way yet: mountain biking; hiking; camping. I’m so frustrated with not being able to do everything I want to do. Not like this is a surprise or anything – I always feel like I should do MORE.

 

So I’ve decided to let it go for now. Let go of the ridiculousness that is trying to keep up with everything. Go on fun rides with friends on  the weekends if It works out. Tinker with bike commuting later in the morning (even though it means riding without the benefit of my awesome bike commuting friends). Get my plans together for my daughter’s Girl scout troop. Sleep in and relax more. Go bowling. Go out-of-town with the family.

Find balance in my life again.

 

I’ll leave you with my most favorite event photo ever. It was taken by Sundance Images in Castle Rock, Colorado. I love this photo so much I ordered it as the cheesy “magazine cover” (Rad & Bad bikes anyone?) because it has that “cover girl” look. I even ordered a second copy for my mom. It reminds me of why I ride – the wind in your face, the scenery, the pavement zipping by. It’s a picture of happiness and ease … you’d never know I was churning up a decent hill.

cover girl
cover girl

See you on the road!

 

Experimentation

This past week has been an experiment in Me.

 

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

 

it’s fabulous.

 

I bike commuted three out of four days.

(my legs felt great all week)

I ran a neighborhood 5k just because.

(and because running no longer hurts the next day)

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

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

I paid zero attention to chores or housekeeping.

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

 

Good morning, Philadelphia!
Good morning, Philadelphia!

 

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

 

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

 

See you on the road.

* * * * *

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

 

Reflections

This has not been my month for exercise.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

C’est la vie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, see you on the road.

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!

The Fall

Picture this:

It’s a beautiful sunny day. The wind is a bit gusty and brings with it an edge to the relative chill in the air but the sky is blue and the sun is out. You are gliding along the road, chatting with your ride partner. The hills haven’t been too tough, which is nice because you are riding your old school road bike.

 

As you come up to a stop sign, gently squeezing the brake levers, your left heel instinctively kicks out to the left to untether from your pedal … and nothing happens.

 

There is a moment of recognition: Oh junk – I can’t unclip on my usual side.

 

There is a moment of pause: precariously balanced as your bike glides to a stop.

 

There is a moment of desperation: a click of your right heel kicking out of the pedal.

 

There is a moment where you know your weight is already over to the left and there isn’t time to shift it to the right.

 

nope – you’re going over. 

 

The fall is in slow motion – first the bike leans into your thigh, gently pushing it outward. The tethered ankle contorts and stretches as your knee bends to accommodate your top tube. Your hands somehow remain on the handlebars as you relinquish control and simply allow gravity (and the road) to embrace you.

 

* * * * *

I haven’t fallen off my bike in a long time – over a year at this point. It felt like slow motion and I ended up not with the usual abrasions or light road rash but with a twisted ankle and pain radiating up my calf. I took a few minutes to walk around a bit before we hopped on our bikes again and finished our ride home. Once I had showered, I spent time icing and elevating and picked up an ACE wrap. Seems to be a minor ankle sprain coupled with a nice bruise on my calf where my bike and I landed.

It happens to everyone. 😀