Ride for Homes Recap

This past Thursday morning my husband dropped me and my friend Ken off at a parking lot out in Phoenixville, PA under gray skies and a chance of more rain to come for a four-day bike ride to Gettysburg and then back to Philadelphia. We pumped our tires, loaded our bags into the truck, and set off on a new adventure with 28 other soon to be friends.

The Ride for Homes is an annual four-day cycling event coordinated by Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia to raise much needed funds to support their work in the Philadelphia region. This year they are using the funds raised for this ride to make basic repairs to six Habitat homes. Our group of 30 riders raised over $35,000 for this worthy cause.

I’ve never done a multi-day ride and was both nervous and excited about the prospect.

 

Day One: 61 mi / 3,179′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188355

The rain was tapering off as we set out on the road. We started as a rather large (17) group. The roads were lower-trafficked and some motorists weren’t as considerate when passing. At one point a woman almost caused a head-on collision as we rolled up a steep hill on a two-lane road and she tried to pass with an on-coming car directly in front of her. We let her pass before moving on at the top of the hill – no need to become road kill!

Lunch was at a tiny Joanna General Store in the middle of nowhere who made us fresh sandwiches to order. Delightful!  At this point I decided riding with my cycling waist-pack was going to be too cumbersome so I pulled out everything I needed and left it in the SAG van. It was at this point I realized I had left my RoadID at home – but had my driver’s license and insurance card on me at all times. We decided at this time to split up the group into two more manageable chunks with about 8 or 9 riders each.

Overall there were three groups – A (averaging 14+mph), B (averaging 12.5+mph), and C (averaging 11+ mph). Our group had a guy riding a single-speed mountain bike (Buckman!) who beat all of us on geared road bikes up the hills, no matter how steep or how long. We dubbed ourselves Buckman’s Brigade.

The roads got quieter after lunch as we rolled into hilly central Pennsylvania and Amish Country. The shaded roads gave way to wide open roads overlooking immense valleys of farmland. So many hills! Every other farm was selling strawberries or promising sweet corn in a few weeks.

We checked in at a Holiday Inn Express in Lititz, PA, got cleaned up, and then walked over to a local church who fed us delicious vegetarian lasagna, salad, fruit, and rolls. We heard from the local Habitat about the work they do in Lancaster County and then departed for a quiet evening back at the hotel.

Farms everywhere!
Farms everywhere!

 

Day Two: 50 mi / 2,057′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188342

Day Two was the shortest mileage day – or the longest depending on what options you chose. The base miles got you from Lititz to Hanover. The weather was sunny but mild, perfect early summer riding and not a hint of humidity. The ride was mostly uneventful – noodling along country roads until we had to cross the mighty Susquehanna River. There are only a few places to cross the river as it is – and we got to cross on the Lincoln Highway. The bridge is beautiful and the river is wide.

Once across we rolled down to York for lunch. Once we were in the town limits, the C group caught up to us so we ended up taking the lane. It’s always fun to lead a block of cyclists through city streets, two and three abreast. Unfortunately the Turkey Hill branded gas station did not have a sandwich counter and very slim pickings for lunch options. Made do with a couple subpar cheese sticks, a bag of chips, and a coke. We separated from the C group after lunch.

Continuing on back into the country and the endless rolling hills. Thankfully we were able to keep momentum on some of the hills; others were a total bear. Rolled into the Holiday Inn Express in Hanover with time to check in and get more snacks before departing on the optional Gettysburg loop.

Chris and I keeping our cadence high and spirits higher
Chris and I keeping our cadence high and spirits higher

 

Day Two: Optional Gettysburg Loop. 26.6 mi / 1,152′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188302

A small group of mostly B riders with a few A riders headed out along PA 116 to see Gettysburg National Military Park. The group quickly split into two factions. I stayed with the slower group. We were tired but pedaling felt better. Gathered at the Visitor Center before heading out on a short loop of the battlefields. We stopped to talk about the Civil War and the significance of us visiting on the anniversary of D-Day and war in general. Having missed a decent lunch and not having had dinner yet, we opted to SAG it back to Hanover where copious pizza and salad awaited us.

Gettysburg Battlefields
Gettysburg Battlefields

 

Day Three: 69 miles / 3,787′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188297

Day Three began at 70* when we rolled out at 9am. We knew this was the longest day in the saddle as well as the hottest. The word of the day was Hydration and unfortunately I failed at it spectacularly despite drinking through my water bottles. Which was very disappointing but we’ll get to that. I only made it 46 miles (and 2,710′ gain).

I wish I remembered more about the ride. The morning was fine if hot. As we rolled up to the first water stop, I hopped off my bike and instantly felt nauseated. I shoveled a banana, ClifBar, and trail mix into my mouth while refilling my water bottles with Propel-laced water. I’ve been using Propel for a couple years now, since Gatorade never sat well with my stomach, with no problems.

I’ve now learned the rules force your hand a bit on multi-day rides – you find your weak points very quickly. If your bike isn’t dialed in, your saddle hurts you, or your shorts aren’t up for the challenge … you will find out. Yes, that was me on Day Two wearing my old worn-down shorts thinking it was a low-mileage day and it wouldn’t be a big issue. It was. I’m sorry, booty.

We rolled out onto a shaded rail trail and I couldn’t shake the nausea. When we stopped for bathrooms, I shoveled more trail mix into my face thinking it was a nutrition issue since the day before we’d had a ridiculously light lunch and I’d tacked on extra miles. I sought out shade at every opportunity. Onward.

Lunch at a Subway in Red Lion was a welcome opportunity to cool off in the air conditioned restaurant and put real food in me. People started asking if I felt ok. At the time I didn’t understand why and said “yes” even though I felt hot and lightly nauseous. I even dumped water all over me after eating in an effort to cool off. It worked for a bit until we hit open roads with no shade and long, long climbs. We screamed down a monster hill (so exhilarating!) before rolling alongside the river to get back to the Lincoln Highway bridge back across the Susquehanna.

I should have been able to enjoy the river road but instead I felt horrible. It was a slog, a death march. Every pedal stroke felt like too much energy. Just get to the next water stop. Just get to the water stop.

We get to the water stop and I immediately start eating again, not thinking this was a hydration issue. Several people asked if I was ok. I finally relented and accepted a spot in the air conditioned SAG van … and noticed it didn’t feel that cooling. I decided to throw in the towel and SAG to the next hotel. I shoveled trail mix and a banana in my mouth. One of the SAG women gave me a cold washcloth for my neck, iced down my coke and told me to sip it. I obeyed.

My group rolled out for the final 23 miles and I sat there thinking what an embarrassment this was. How could everyone be feeling so good and I feel so bad? What was I doing wrong? I knew I couldn’t ride another mile so I didn’t regret the choice to SAG back to the hotel but there was a sense of loss in riding in the SAG van. I’m not comfortable with my own vulnerability.

Checked in at the Historic Strasburg hotel, got a lukewarm shower and sat with a cold washcloth on my neck in my air conditioned room. Everyone asked how I was feeling. Much better – but I didn’t want the attention. I just wanted to be treated like everyone else. But I was also thankful for the SAG team, the leadership on the ride, and also for knowing myself well enough to call it quits before causing a much bigger problem on the road.

While eating dinner at the local church that was hosting us, I was texting with my husband. Toying with the idea of going home. The coke helped but I was back on Propel water and starting to not feel as good again. My friend Coco gave me a Nuun tablet and I added it to my water. Very quickly I started to feel significantly better. I told my husband I was going to try to ride the final day and not to come pick me up. Coco gave me another tablet to drink before bed, which I did.

I say all this because I did my research and turns out Propel does not have any sodium in it. None. So I had basically ridden three long days in the sun and heat with nothing more than flavored water. NO WONDER I FELT LIKE JUNK. This is the Truth of the Bike Tour.

I borrowed a tube of Nuun from Ken for the final day and made the plan to just get to each water or lunch stop and decide what to do. Baby steps. I won’t lie – I was very nervous about riding. The forecast was for hot and similar hills/mileage. But I knew I had to push on as long as I felt good because I can’t let one bad experience influence my cycling journey. Learn from mistakes.

Evening Chores in Strasburg
Evening Chores in Strasburg

 

Day Four: 67 mi / 3,320′ gain

http://www.strava.com/activities/151188291

Very nervous starting out on open roads but we opted to leave a half-hour earlier to try to beat the heat. Pre-gamed with juice, extra salt on my eggs, and 12oz of Nuun water before we even rolled out.

Just get to the water stop.

But not so nervous as to not snap a quick selfie with a guy on the ride who also graduated from my Colorado high school. What are the odds??

This guy graduated from my high school! Lambkin Pride!
This guy graduated from my high school! Lambkin Pride!

The day ended up being so much better than I expected. My new-found attention to hydration paid off. I sipped water every two miles, swigged at every red light or regroup at the top of a big hill. We also eventually rolled onto brilliantly shaded roads by creeks and streams that were very refreshing. Our group had gelled over the past few days into a team of 10, which honestly made the miles disappear. We had a few good hills but mostly gentle rolling terrain and overall the day was delightful.

Our first water stop was at the Coatsville Habitat build site. It was incredible to see Habitat’s work in action. The homes were adorable and had unsurpassed views of the valley. I felt so honored to be supporting such an amazing organization with the help of my friends and family who donated to my campaign.

Lunch was in Chadd’s Ford at Wawa. Seriously – the best convenience store ever.

When we paused in Ridley Creek State Park, I noticed I felt nauseated again and realized I hadn’t been drinking as much when we went through the park due to the high volume of pedestrians and kids on the roughly-paved multi-use path. I started sipping again and got it under control in time for the water stop.

+1 for Laura for knowing how to solve the problem now.

The final 13 miles went by so fast. Before we knew it, we were taking the lane and rolling through Manayunk towards the finish point.

Buckman's Brigade at the finish
Buckman’s Brigade at the finish

* * * * *

Overall this was an amazing experience. The support staff was incredible. The route was incredibly beautiful and as low-trafficked as possible. The people I rode with felt like old friends by the end. I nearly cried hugging everyone goodbye before going home. I love you guys, Buckman’s Brigade!

A huge shout out to my friends: Coco for pep-talking me into signing up; Maux for her unwavering support during my most dire moments; Ken for always riding with me – and the bottle of Nuun; Chris for sharing his touring wisdom and conversation; Kristen for talking Girl Scouts with me; Laura S for her knowledge of political controversy (and being the other half of Double The Awesome); Sarah for her laid-back vibe and whimsical streamers on her helmet; Buckman for leading the charge every time; Kyler for being our most excellent mechanic.

If you have a chance to sign up for the Ride for Homes Philadelphia, I highly recommend it.

Lancaster County Beauty
Lancaster County Beauty

See you on the road!

 

Z-List Celebrity

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.

 

See you on the road!

Homesick

On Jan 5, Singletracks posted this video on their Twitter feed:

… and I got homesick.

You see, Dakota Ridge was my backyard and while I didn’t mountain bike when I lived in Colorado, I know that area well.

And for a few hours, my heart ached to be back in Colorado riding my bike.

Ached I tell you.

Then I fed the fire by looking up the Strava segments for Lookout Mountain and realizing that getting to the top of that mountain was not just achievable for everyone else in the world, but it would be achievable for me. Looked at Google Maps to see the trails crisscrossing Green Mountain.

Friends, I’m telling you. Physically ached.

Last night as I was waiting to pick up my oldest child from an evening school activity, my youngest child and I were talking about how sometimes we miss Colorado. She misses her friends and is sad that one particular friend hasn’t written back in almost a year. One of her new friends reminds her of her best friend in Colorado. We talked about how people move on, make new friends, stop writing letters and leave the old friends in the past. I shared with her about when I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado – I was about her age and was sad when the letters started to trickle off. But I focused on my new friends and eventually, I was able to move on too.

And as we were talking I realized many of my friends are leaving Colorado too now – for Portland, Seattle, Nashville. We’re all scattering across the country. So even if we did go back to Colorado, it wouldn’t be the same.

(well, the mountains would be. And the trails. And the friends I have who are staying.)

The answer isn’t to keep looking back at the past but to look forward and enjoy the times that we have with our new friends … and savor the times with our old friends whenever we can get together again.

See you on the road.

Goodbye 2013 – Hello 2014!

I had plans to go riding today but woke up with significant congestion and a sinus headache so I opted to stay home and rest today in hopes that tomorrow’s ride plans will still be on. I’ve spent the morning sipping warm beverages and reading many recaps of this year’s achievements. Truly I am blessed to be surrounded by so many awesome people, even if it is “just” on the internet.

(Although to be totally honest, my brain keeps thinking of ways I can still get out on my bike today. But I’m forcing myself to stay home. Better to rest today and ride tomorrow than suffer today and be worse tomorrow.)

A Look Back at the goals I set for this year – here’s how I fared:

  • 3,004.4 miles achieved!
  • Bike commuting gained traction this year.
  • Metric century in Colorado achieved with my marathon-running sister!
  • Completed four centuries (February, August, two in September-SSC and MS150)
  • Completed 150mi ride in one day (June)
  • Acquired a mountain bike and have been out several times – love it
  • Ran 58.1 miles (!!)
  • Walked 225 miles

Some goals just didn’t make the final tally, like biking to Brooklyn for dinner or both days of the MS 150, due to Life. Schedules changed, my dog died – it just didn’t work out. I feel like my GI issues took center stage from May through September, which inhibited some of my intended riding for sure. Of course, all but one test came back totally normal so who knows what’s going on there.

Recently I was at a 10,000 mile celebration for a friend and everyone around the room said where their total mileage was expected to end up. Everyone but myself and one other woman was 5,000 miles or more, with many hovering around 9,000 miles. I constantly have to remind myself that I’m not doing too bad for a recreational cyclist with three kids still at home, a full-time job, a Girl Scout troop to lead, and serving on the board for the local bike club. My 3,000 miles seems paltry and there’s always something more I wish I could be doing.

Or as my friend says about my thoughts: “How can I be more awesome than I already am.”

(which is a really good point)

So for 2014, I’m setting no mileage goal. No event schedule. The only thing I’d like to do more of is ride my bike for fun. As if I ever ride my bike for any other reason.

  • Start bike commuting again once Daylight Savings Time comes back. Twice a week minimum.
  • Try bike touring. Maybe pack up for an overnight camping somewhere, just to get a taste. Plan a bike trip with my mom. Currently looking at Erie Canal or GAP/C&O.
  • Try some new cycling events or revisit the ones I skipped this year.
  • Ride with my kids more. Teach my middle child how to mountain bike. Take my oldest child on longer road rides. Find ways to make riding more enjoyable for my youngest child.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2014! See you on the road!

The Power of Spinning

Since the first time I started bike commuting, I have desired to hold the Strava QOM on a particular three-successive-hills segment near my neighborhood. Not quite a mile, the road pitches steeply under the freeway, levels out with a small downhill while passing the cemetery, and then pitches up to a stop sign before a very short leveling and final slog to the top.

(The segment linked is a little over half a mile but skips the first 2/10ths of a mile from the stoplight – the full road is here)

Last winter my commuting friend and I were out on a fun ride and decided to try to QOM it. I was doing lots of Big Ring riding whenever I wanted to go fast – so I pushed as hard as I could, him leading the way pulling me up the hill. I achieved the QOM at a whopping 13.9 mph average. It felt awesome.

Anytime I tried to get that last tenth-of-a-mile-per-hour, I fell short. 13mph. 13.5mph. 11mph. Every time the segment would kick my butt. I’d stay in the highest gears I could until I couldn’t hang any longer.

 

Forward to this summer. After the supremely hilly Lake Nockamixon Century and a conversation about spinning versus mashing high gears, I decided to try spinning more seriously. The Little Ring Challenge, I deemed it. And I started staying in my small ring as much as possible for entire rides.

 

Spinning feels weird if you aren’t used to it. I had a fairly high cadence (75-80) naturally but most cycling publications will mention a “90-100 rpm” threshold for spinning. Spending time furiously pedaling can feel counter-intuitive at first. But then the body adapts and spinning feels natural. You’re able to hold higher speeds in smaller gears for longer. And hills (or distance) start to not wear out your legs so much. It’s a beautiful thing.

 

Anyway, I’ve been sticking to my Little Ring Challenge through the Scenic Schuylkill and City to Shore centuries. My overall speed improved and I wasn’t completely dead by the end of the ride. Maybe there’s something to all this.

So the other day I decided to meet my commuter friend downtown for a road ride before we headed back to our neighborhoods. I spun up the familiar Three Hills, thinking they felt great but I probably wasn’t going to best my previous best. We met up, stayed on the west side of the river (and the steep hills that come up from the riverbed) before heading homeward. A little over 40 miles with a little over 3000′ of gain. Sure – just a Saturday Spin.

Turns out I did best my previous PR … I’m now the QOM at 15.1 mph average up those hills.

 

Spinning works my friends. Give it a go sometime.

 

* * * * *

The last few weekends I’ve been going out with my friend on mountain bike rides. We’re heading to gentler trails near her neighborhood and I’m having entirely too much fun. Having to choose Mountain or Road is so tough. I’m loving the quiet of the woods and the varied terrain – some of the singletrack is smooth and/or flat but others are rocky, rooty, or slick with gravel, leaves or mud (but the creek crossing). I’m loving my 29er. There’s a blog post in my brain about off-road cycling that will probably get written soon.

 

See you on the road (or in the woods)!

 

Longest Day, Longer Ride

When we last connected, dear reader, I was troubled by my health issues. The good news is I connected with my nurse practitioner and she agreed I’ve done everything I should, wrote me a script for full-strength acid blockers and told me I should see a GI doc if I don’t feel better in four weeks.

Of course, I was thinking “dude, if I’m not better in four DAYS there are going to be issues.”

The good news is the full-strength meds have worked. I don’t have to think about WHEN I eat anymore, although I am still careful about WHAT I eat. I’m off coffee until I’m done with the four-week course of meds. I’ve noticed some positive things since kicking coffee to the curb in the last month but I do miss it terribly.

But this is not why I am blogging, although thank you for asking about my health.

No, friends I am going to tell you about the most epic thing I’ve done yet on my bicycle. I rode 150.4 miles with my friends in one day.

I didn’t train very well for this ride to be totally honest. In fact, I had only ridden 143 miles this month over four days. None had been more than 60 miles or so. Lots of reasons why not but none of that matters the morning of your ride. I will note that my brain was totally all over this ride. I was so pumped thinking about it. There was very little doubt in my mind that I couldn’t accomplish this epic journey bicycling down the Shore.

Friday morning, I left my house about 6:30am and met my friends Howard and Ken at Ken’s house. Ken and Howard are preparing for a 7-day bicycle tour in upstate New York next month so this is a perfect training ride for them. Ken was even riding his commuter with a pannier (which I stowed my sunscreen, trail mix, and ziplock full of extra sport nutrition items) and trunk bag. Strapped to my top tube was a day’s worth of Cliff, Honey Stinger, and SportBeans in my Serfas Stem Bag that I won from All Seasons Cyclist’s blog contest. Shortly after arriving at Ken’s, the three of us set out to meet up with our other intrepid friends Andy and Rebecca, who are training for a 4-day charity ride in central Pennsylvania, closer into the City.

gorgeous morning to be riding
gorgeous morning to be riding

We met up, we crossed the bridge (RIP, Howard’s bar-end mirror that fell into the Delaware), and pedaled into New Jersey.

Everyone says it and you don’t really get it until you experience it:

  • Long bike rides are just a mind game. The first 50 miles were by far the hardest part of this journey – but not because it was a terrible grind or hilly or anything. Only because you have more miles in front of you than you have behind you. We stopped for lunch around mile 55 and celebrated that we had “only” 95 miles left to go. Break it down even further: we had rest stops about every 25-30 miles – mostly because we were pedaling through sparsely populated farmland.
  • Long bike rides necessitate eating on the bike. Humidity was low but it still got up into the mid-80s with brilliant sunshine. We were blessed with a few shaded roads but many more were out in open blueberry farm country. I forced myself to eat something every 10 miles or so and drained most of my water bottles to keep from bonking or cramping. Lunch was half a turkey wrap, a few fries, part of a pickle, and a Pepsi. At a gas station stop in the middle of nowhere, I picked up a Coke that I carried in my jersey pocket for the rest of the day. Later on we took a break at a Wawa and I split a hoagie with Ken (whole wheat shorty, turkey, provolone, lettuce, tomato, pickles, little mayo, yellow mustard, oil and vinegar, salt and pepper – Super Yum).
  • Long rides are only better with friends. Everyone had someone to ride and chat with. No one was dropped. Everyone regrouped at key rest stops. Singing songs about falling in love on the way to Cape May or bitchin’ Camaros. 80s rock ballads. We had it all – and the miles rolled on by.
  • Long rides mean metering your energy. I feel I did well but one can tell I hadn’t trained: my initial rolling speeds were 18-20 mph; around mile 108 they were down to 16-18 mph; the final 20 miles were 13-16 mph. At a certain point the pedals just keep turning as you watch the odometer tick off the miles. I was tired as we left mile 130 – I downed a Cliff Energy Gel but 10 miles later I was running out of gas. I am very thankful for Howard and Ken sticking with me. I had a few more Cliff Gel Blocks left so I downed those and was able to finish out the day in positive spirits.

One of my favorite moments: we were stopped at a light in Ocean City, maybe ten blocks from the end, and Howard looks at me and says “Have you been drinking?’

My first thought was “when the hell did we stop at a liquor store?” so I said “No, of course not.”

I panic for one second thinking my speech must be slurred or something.

Then my brain went “UM – DUH. WATER.” So I said “Oh wait – YES. Yes I have – my bottle’s almost empty.”

We rolled up to the B&B we were all staying at around 8:20pm. I proudly announced “To all the haters, SUCK IT! That just happened!”

Yeah. Stay classy, Laura.

Cathy (Ken’s wife) and my own family had just pulled up. We got checked in, I showered and changed, and then joined my fellow riders on the porch for some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life. Crashed in bed by 10:30pm.

And that, my friends, is how I spent the longest day of 2013.

I then spent the next day walking around the boardwalk, relaxing on the beach, and generally having a great time with my family. I felt no guilt about the funnel cake or gelato or fudge that I ingested. I was pleasantly surprised to only feel marginally sore in my quads and minor soft-tissue swelling on my sit-bone area (another topic for another post). More than anything though, I felt tremendous happiness at our accomplishment. Certainly the longest single-day ride I’ve ever done.

Like Stats? Here they are on Strava, fresh from my Garmin 510: http://app.strava.com/activities/62059109

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!