As you may recall: last year I put my name in the lottery for Midsouth Gravel on a whim. Not only did I not overthink it, but I also didn’t really think about it AT ALL.
This is a huge gravel event; what are the chances? There are plenty of other Women aged 40-49 that will sign up and get chosen.
But secretly, I thought it would be cool to get in. And the Fates saw it favorable to choose me.
The moment of learning I got in was both euphoric and terrifying. Because now I had to actually do what I’ve spent years NOT doing:
So here we are on week 7 (of 14) using TrainerRoad and I am not sure I’m cut out for this. Or maybe I’m just not used to having structured workouts at a regular cadence. Or maybe …. just maybe …. this is not the time of year to be doing this.
It’s literally the middle of winter, when all the vibes are cozy, comfortable, stretchy pants, hibernation, hot cocoa with whipped cream or marshmallows.
It’s a time for fat biking. It’s a time for slow and low. Cross training. Snowshoeing. Hiking. Sleeping.
Decidedly not regularly pushing myself to new power heights. Because the part about picking an AI-enabled training plan that adapts with you means it literally never gets easier. If you crush a workout, it just serves you harder workouts next time.
Personal Reminder: The goal is to be prepared for 100 miles on dirt in the middle of March.Not to race, not to podium. Just enjoy the ride.
So … week 7. I completed my latest ramp test and the first workout was a level 6 Sweet Spot 2x23min workout at 92-95% of the new FTP. My legs felt so heavy and it took a bit to find my groove tonight. I had to psych myself up through the each section of the 23min interval (every 5-7min the power target changed) – just 3 more minutes … just 2 more minutes … one more minute and then the watts go up a tiny bit.
Last week I did all three workouts PLUS went outside twice, which Garmin deemed “unproductive” because they were more challenging than a training plan would schedule. I wanted to go ride bikes with friends outside so I have zero regrets – but I’m definitely in need of some rest.
I’m mildly paranoid about missing a workout, mostly because I don’t want to fall off the wagon. But it’s becoming clear to me that I am not in a place where riding every single day (or more days than not) is viable. I’ve never been that person – I’ve always needed/wanted a bit more rest time than others while still doing cool stuff.
It’s not summer, Laura. Summer volume of riding is literally the exact opposite of the universe’s energy right now. Don’t fight too hard. It would be a shame to be totally burnt out when you get to the starting line.
For all my years of riding bikes, I’m a super noob when it comes to indoor, structured training. I’m not afraid of being new and learning. But woof – this is tough.
Thanks for reading and hopefully I’ll be outside more soon (replacing the 90min weekly workout instead of in addition to that workout).
I’ve been in a foul mood for the last week. 2018 has felt both supremely long and shockingly short. And while I sometimes feel that everything my husband and I have built for our lives came crashing to a halt in the last two years or so, we have managed to still have some amazing moments.
… Harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. It’s like a carousel. You put the quarter in, you get on the horse, it goes up and down, and around. Circular, circle. Feel it. Go with the flow … (Happy Gilmore)
In the spirit of gratitude and reflection, here are the best moments of 2018:
Many of us have heard the phrase “it’s not the bike, it’s the rider.” So you find yourself pushing hard on every ride – and still getting dropped. Or the ever-present complaining about the bike being the reason a rider fails to perform.
While most of the time, it is the rider’s abilities that directly contribute to the enjoyment or success of a ride – but sometimes, it is totally the bike’s fault. The right bike can make or break a ride.
My first bike as an adult was a mountain-style hybrid that I never ended up riding much, followed by a comfort hybrid – designed for slow-speed cruising, not crushing double-digit rides. It was very heavy and sluggish with an extremely upright riding position – basically turning me into a wind-sail anytime I rode down a hill.
I pushed myself so hard on that bike, so confused as to why I was being passed on the bike trail by people on bikes with drop bars. All bikes are equal, right? I just need to work harder and get faster. Spoiler – the minute I bought a mid-level road bike, I immediately improved my ability to ride longer with less fatigue.
The reality is, many entry-level bikes serve to get us out there – but then do little to keep us moving forward efficiently. Sometimes entry-level bikes are overbuilt and generally heavier than their higher-level brethren. The bike can withstand a beating, but that’s why it’s holding *you* back.
Like most people, I use the equipment I have to do the adventures I want, generally using the wrong bike for the wrong purposes. It stems from a lack of discretionary funds, not hubris or elite level ability that seeks a new challenge. To be sure though, watching somebody rock a gravel grinder on a bike with a front basket while wearing Tevas, jorts, and a tie-dye muscle shirt is hilarious.
Yesterday I drove to a friend’s neighborhood to do a gravel ride. It snowed earlier in the week – heavy, wet snow that further saturated the already oversaturated earth – so the roads were going to be muddy and slushy. This is not optimal for the road bike that I have MacGuyver’d to be a gravel bike.
So I decided to ride my hardtail mountain bike. It’s cutting-edge stock 2012 entry-level components (although I replaced the brakes and the quick-releases because they failed at various points). It’s an aluminum 29er … but it’s heavy. Really heavy. It’s not built for speed or efficiency.
Once again I am reminded of just how heavy and inefficient this bike is by trying desperately to keep up with my friends, who are also riding their mountain bikes on the dirt roads.
To be fair, I also haven’t ridden my bike in about six weeks due to a combination of life, work, weather, health, and trail maintenance projects. My October Strava stats were kindof hilarious.
The power transfer is practically non-existent, like pouring my energy into a black hole. I have a triple crankset, yet on the road never seemed to find a good gear for keeping up without feeling like I was pushing against a brick wall. To cap it all off, the bike is set up with flat pedals instead of SPDs because I was too lazy to swap them out before the ride.
Contrast with purchasing a pre-loved 2015 full-sus trail bike for when I want to hit the woods – and things that used to be a chore are now routine and even fun. The bike isn’t actively working against me, which my hardtail does. But it certainly would have worked against me on the road had I opted for it instead, including locking out both suspensions, because even though it’s lighter than my hardtail, it’s still a mountain bike on the road.
The right bike for the ride can make or break your enjoyment.
Some of the roads warranted the extra width of my 2.25″ tires, but many were either paved or more tacky than muddy. I found myself wondering if actually getting a gravel or drop-bar mountain bike might be something to consider. Something to bridge the gap of a road bike fitted with slightly-knobby tires and a full-on mountain bike.
But that’s not currently on the agenda after 18 months of unemployment that destroyed our savings and retirement savings. We have other, more pressing projects deserving of our remaining reserves.
We finished the ride in surprisingly good time (a little less than 3 hours for a little over 30 miles) and everyone really took turns hanging back with me to chat and enjoy the ride. It felt really good to be back out turning the pedals, but also reminded me of why I hate riding that bike so much. It sucks my will to ride.
With fat bike season upon us and my schedule freeing up, I’m looking forward to getting out more regularly with friends to explore trails and gravel roads. See you out there!
One of the perks of being a Pactimo Brand Ambassador is comp entries to amazing rides. When I saw the Golden Gran Fondo on the list, I immediately knew that was the one I wanted to do because it means a trip back home to see family, friends, and ride my bike with amazing scenery.
I -of course- said I’d do the longest route without really checking the elevation profile. Then I did and promptly thought HARD PASS. So I signed up for the 63 – still a formidable route – and got a friend to also register also. I spent my summer seeking out long gravel rides and extended climbing so I could get the feel for pacing myself over this type of distance and elevation gain. I felt both totally ready and completely Not Ready.
I reserved a hotel room across the street from the ride start (GENIUS, really) and rented a Liv Avail carbon road bike from EVO Denver. My sister decided to join me for the weekend as my support person, which was unexpected and totally appreciated.
The morning was warm and sunny with a low chance of rain. I picked up my timing chip and then waited for my friend. I also chatted with Julie, another Pactimo Brand Ambassador who I have been talking to online. Around 7:45am, we all gathered under the big arch in downtown Golden for the pre-ride spiel.
Right out of the gate we’re sent up Lookout Mountain. This was a ride I had wanted to do forever and hadn’t for a variety of reasons. It’s 5-mile climb that averages 5% grade, which ended up being more accessible than I imagined. Find a cadence and spin. I took a short break right after the end of the timed section and met a few other East Coasters (Philly, New Jersey, and New York in the house!) who were out for the ride. I also met Jan, who was turning 65 tomorrow and this ride was her birthday present to herself.
Coming down the other side, averaging 30 mph, was what cycling dreams are made of. Jan and I made it to the first aid station, manned by a local Boy Scout Troop. They had water, electrolytes, PB&Js – and an adorable puppy “for stress relief.”
I checked my text messages to see where my friend was. I had texted her at the top of Lookout to meet up at the first Aid Station – but unfortunately, my friend was not having a good bike day and ended her ride at 20 miles.
The next section was a series of two long hills up Golden Gate Canyon Rd. As a predominately gravel and mountain bike rider these days, I forgot just how exposed pavement is. Especially in Colorado. It was already well into the 80s and not a cloud in sight. My strategy here was to find an all-day pace and spin; pause in the shade when necessary (it was SO HOT) to catch my breath, eat something, and then continue on. There was also a pretty continuous headwind, which is great for cooling off but not good for energy to pedal your bike up a hill.
Along the way, I somehow lost Jan but met Kevin from New Jersey. We both had stopped in the shade to get some respite from the sun. I was out of water (and 5 miles to get to the aid station) and no cell service. One of the ride support vehicles stopped to check on us (and refill my water). Kevin took a ride up to the top of the steep climb; being told it was less than a mile to the top, I decided to ride.
But a mile later, I’m still slowly climbing and the grade is ticking upwards. Another support truck rolled up and said “Hop in! You aren’t the first person we’ve given a quick boost.” About a mile later, they dropped me off at the top and I bombed down the road to the next aid station. Also, they had fruit snacks which were very much needed at that moment.
My goal had been to get to Aid Station 2 by 11am and it’s now 12pm. I decide to take a longer break, eat, and think about my options. The next section is a timed climb – and while my legs aren’t shot, the saddle on my rental bike isn’t playing nice with my sit-bones. And given how far off pace I am, do I really want to spend the next hour and a half climbing over 1,400′ over 12 miles? Not really. It was really hot, I was worried about the water situation, my saddle, and the headwinds (which we heard were worse further up in the canyon).
Thankfully Aid Station 2 would have also been Aid Station 3 – so Kevin and I rolled out to finish the route, minus the 12 miles. The next 5 miles or so were all sweet, sweet downhill through Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We used to take our kids camping there when we lived in Colorado so NOSTALGIA.
Then came Drew Hill. The meanest hill on the entire route. 1.5 miles with whole sections over 15% grade. Dirt over crumbling pavement. I knew it was coming and I rode the first portion until the grade got to a point where I hopped off and started to walk. Which was still a workout. Kevin and I talked the whole way up, cheering on the guys who were riding it. One guy fell over trying to ride up the hill.
At the very top, we were rewarded with spectacular views and a 10-mile descent back into town. We chatted with a few others from the Philly area (so much East Coast love out there!) and then bombed back to town.
This is probably the hardest Gran Fondo in the whole series. I was surprised by the relatively small number of riders compared to other events I’ve been to – but it seems the climbing scares a lot of people away. Nothing was truly awful except maybe Drew Hill. And to be honest, it sounds really impressive to say I had climbed over 5,000′ in 30 miles when I got to the second aid station. The climbing is definitely front-loaded.
While I didn’t complete the whole route, I have no regrets. I had a great day on the bike and met so many cool people along the way. Should I register for this again, I would do one thing differently: Bring my own bike. I know it, I love it, I trust it. It’s worth the hassle and expense. And maybe I would have tackled the second timed section because my butt didn’t hurt.
Despite not completing the whole route, I placed 5th in my gendered age bracket based on the timed segments I completed.
Saturday morning, too early for my taste, I went mountain biking with my friend John. John’s roughly old enough to be my dad and has a couple of kids and grand-kids. This blows my mind. Mountain biking does not conjure up images of your granddad ripping down a gnarly, knotty, rocky descent. And yet, he’s the club mountain biking coordinator … and I like learning how to be more confident off-road. We didn’t do anything super crazy – but the morning was excellent. Good conversation flowed and before we knew it we had tackled almost 20 miles and it was time to head home.
I started running back in February to get into some semblance of running shape. Like it or not, cycling and running use muscles differently and being awesome at one only gives you a leg up on being decent doing the other. And running is actually somewhat enjoyable when I can find my groove and get lost in my music.
The air was crisp, the sun shining, wind blowing and temps in the mid-forties. I grabbed a long sleeve shirt at the last-minute before leaving the house and I’m so glad I did. The wind was blowing straight through me. I hadn’t picked up my race packet yet so I left the house early to make sure I had enough time to stand in line for my bib and shirt.
Let me tell you – this is probably the best run event I’ve been to. Parking was off-site so I had to take a shuttle bus to the event.
I assumed I’d have to wait for a shuttle bus – nope. They had a continuous cycle of buses loading up and driving participants to the site. Virtually no wait.
I assumed there would be a long line to pick up my bib and shirt – nope. I had both and a tag in case I wanted to leave stuff in the gear drop within five minutes of being dropped off by the shuttle.
I assumed there would be long lines for the port-o-potties – nope. There were several port-o-potty locations, plus the usual park restrooms: from the parking lot, on the way to the start line, at the start line. No lines.
I checked my phone – 7:32am. Race starts at 8:30am.
*stretches* *twiddles thumbs* *finds a good starting song* *take a few selfies* *hit the port-o-potty* *shiver in the wind*
The course is challenging. It starts with a gentle incline and then just keeps going up, with a few downhills to keep things interesting, until about a half-mile from the end. A glorious deep downhill followed immediately by a sharp uphill to the finish line. We passed so many monuments and markers of the historical significance of Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. One water station at the half-way point.
I loved it. Last year I would have been eaten alive. This year I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t anxious. I was ready. I had this. It was mine to own.
…and I did. I put my iPod on shuffle and the playlist couldn’t have been more accurate for what I needed in any given moment. Behold the playlist of Whoa Really? You Listen To All That Stuff?
Rise Against – Satellite
All That Remains – Two Weeks
Eve 6 – Victoria
Prodigy – Voodoo People
Capitol Cities – Safe and Sound (first big hill)
Poni Hoax – Antibodies
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger (right as I turned up a very steep hill – so perfect in that moment)
Fall Out Boy – My Songs Know What You Did
Gaslight Anthem – 45
All That Remains – Days Without
David Guetta & Akon – Sexy Chick
Jimmy Eat World – My Best Theory
LMAFO – Sexy and I Know It
Lady Gaga – Edge of Glory
Jamiroquai – Canned Heat
I channeled my marathon-running sister when I saw others walking all around me at the first sign of the second hill. She can do this for 4+ hours – I can do it for one.
I finished in the top 2/3 of the field (haha):
625 out of 838 runners
235 out of 364 women
52 out of 71 in my age bracket (awesome girls between 35 and 39)
Friends – if you are looking for a well-coordinated challenging five-miler, look no further than the Valley Forge Revolutionary Run. I was so pleased with the entire experience from parking to racing, to getting post-race snacks and back to the car. I can’t recommend this enough.
Now that my race is over I can get back to my first love, riding my bike. I have neglected training for my four-day epic cycling adventure and it’s about a month away. I need to get crackin’!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 …
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)
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.
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.
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.
So I’ve looked at my cycling mileage for June and they are more like what I was doing over the winter instead of the glorious warm weather riding I should be doing. Through May I was riding four days a week; I’ve been out on only four days this whole month. Going on vacation definitely had an impact, as did accommodating my husband’s business travel schedule. His schedule is only going to get more complex between now and the end of October so I’m going to have to get out when I can.
I’ve also been battling stomach issues since the beginning of June. I’m no stranger to them – they started in high school with a peptic ulcer from drinking a few pots of coffee a day. Hey – that’s what my friends and I did during Second Hour! I remember living off Diet Coke and saltines that summer as I let my stomach heal. But really, my stomach has never been the same. So I’ve made lots of dietary changes in the last eighteen or so years.
(g-d that makes me feel old)
Stomach issues tend to be more common in women than men too – like twice as likely. Which is probably why none of my guy friends ever seem to have issues with eating crazy-spicy foods, drink copious amounts of alcohol, and refill on coffee all day.
I’ve cut out spicy food (a relative term since anything more than Medium is too spicy to me).
I don’t drink alcohol except special occasions – and I have a one-drink maximum.
I avoid acidic foods. Orange juice with breakfast went a long time ago but I love pizza too much.
I’ve reduced the amount of fried and fatty foods, replacing them with fresh and vegetarian options.
For several years I quit coffee and only enjoyed tea (black, green, and white), but I worked coffee back into my diet a few years ago. I just love it too much. But I limit myself to one oversize mug per day, about 2 cups.
I exercise and generally eat right. And for the most part, I don’t have issues. Except this is the second time I’ve battled my stomach this year. I’ve been on omeprazole for ten days now with limited relief. So it’s time to go see a doctor. Which is timely, as I have a major (140+ mile) bike ride planned on Friday and I really don’t want to miss it because of my stomach. I’ve already missed too many bike rides this year due to feeling like my body is trying to turn itself inside out when it’s time to roll out.
I write all this not to garner sympathy or supportive messages – but to validate to myself that it’s not an excuse. I need to get back on the level so I can go back to being fun and awesome again. I miss myself!
And also, perhaps there are other recreational athletes out there who struggle with this too from time to time – we aren’t alone even though sometimes it can feel that way. I mean really, who wants to admit they have a sensitive stomach?