Looking Back & Forward

This summer has been one the busiest I can ever remember. Work took over, I joined a co-ed softball team, and I am back in the saddle… on a horse! From the 170 mile bike ride in June to now I feel like a completely different person. I’ve been challenged physically, intellectually, and emotionally. While it hasn’t been easy I feel it has been a good summer of growth and exploration. But, I am ready for fall. I’m ready for the leaves to begin to turn. I’m ready for work and life to settle down.

The Olympics have been wonderful to watch. I love the emotion and desire expressed in every play, every movement. The athletes are all incredible and I’ve found myself cheering for people from various nations in sports are hardly understand. Some are obvious but others aren’t.

Today, looking forward, I’ve made my first big plan. I’ve accepted I won’t be able to make the triathlon in September. There is just no way. I should have picked an event closer to home. BUT… I’ve signed myself up for the Tour de Cure in Reston, VA! Practically my backyard. It will be a 1-day century (100 mile) ride. I’m already itching to get on the bike trails but I’ve got time as it won’t be until June, 2013.

Also, it is so nice to be back riding a horse again. I’ve missed it for four or five years. A perfect situation entered my life and I couldn’t say no. It was time. I will just have to balance both saddles and make room in my life for both hobbies.

In the more immediate future my softball team has the end-of-year tournament this weekend! This is my first season (ever!) playing so I don’t expect much action but I still want to be there to support my teammates. The competitive side of me wants to play and to play well. I’m sure I will get to do a little bit of both.



172.6 miles later!!

172.6 miles later these are my thoughts:

Immediately after the ride: I’m tired and I want an amazing cheeseburger and a beer!

Now, a few days later: I had a training plan but, like many, life happened and I just wasn’t able to put down the mileage I thought I needed to complete the ride.

Two months before the 170 mile ride I rode 85 miles on my own. I was miserable. I left that ride feeling completely defeated. My training routes had few hills compared to the 170 mile ride. And leading up to the ride, those last two months, I put in a few (less than five!!) fifty mile rides and a handful of 20-30s. Again, I was so nervous and felt so unprepared. Can I admit that within the first 20 miles of the ride I kept wanting to quit? I was so nervous and I felt nearly overwhelmed.

And then the crowds of bikers disappeared.

For the majority of the ride I was on my own. My team consisted of college friends and their coworkers, all guys, but they average 18-19mph on these distance rides and I knew I wouldn’t keep up. And I didn’t. But that turned out to be okay. I trained alone knowing I would ride alone and I am so glad I did that at the very least.

Being alone didn’t matter. The first day, 85 miles, was absolutely amazing once I got past my nerves. Even at the end when it was ALL MAJOR HILLS (!!!!) I absolutely loved it. The second day I was noticeably stiff to start but managed. Since we were returning on the same route the beginning of day 2 had most of the hills. I want to be honest and say there were twenty-thirty miles on day two when I didn’t think I could finish. My legs hurt. I wanted to quit. Each hill felt slower than the previous. They were slower! But something changed and the last 20 felt good/decent again. As good as I could feel with 150-something miles behind me!

I won’t lie. Parts of me hurt. My knees and especially from my saddle.

I think the key to finishing was fueling well during the entire ride (thanks to Matthias who spent countless times explaining the why’s and importance fueling often). That and finding inspiration. Or even just distractions.

For me, it helped to think of it as a bunch of short rides. It was a “bunch of 12 mile rides.” In reality the stations varied by a few miles but on day two that is what kept me going. I kept my stops as brief as possible but I only skipped two stops (one each day). When I felt my worst, because it wasn’t easy, I just had to get started. Once I started heading for the next stop I tried to focus on the people around me and the country side. I yelled out to some cows that I passed. They probably thought I was crazy… if cows think about such things!

I also had to find my inspiration. Visiting Auschwitz before the ride affected me deeply. Those people suffered so much and while I wasn’t riding for them I knew I could survive two days of biking. I also found inspiration in riders around me. One was a 75-year-old, diabetic man and this 170 mile ride was his 10th year completing it! In one of my last training rides I saw a man riding who only had one leg. I know he must have overcome so much and to still ride was amazing.

Here I am… 172.6 miles later (2.6 were from the finish of day 1 to the hotel and back for the start of day 2) and I’m still alive. Feeling not so bad and surprised that I can’t wait to get back on my bike! Work is going to get crazy so I won’t be around much and won’t be riding much either. I will just have to patiently wait through the next 10-12 weeks. I’m hooked.

(Side note: The Tour de Cure was run amazingly well. If you want to ever do a long, supported ride then choose TdC. Not only is it for a great cause but it really is an amazing ride because of the care and attention to detail by its organizers and volunteers. Thank you Tour de Cure Cary, NC!!! This was an amazing ride I will never forget and ALWAYS compare any future rides to.)

As I mentioned before, there would be no riding this week. That is because I am writing this from Krakow, Poland! Garret and I arrived last Saturday after nearly 24 hours of travel from Washington DC to a layover in Zurich, Switzerland and finally landing in Warsaw. All in all it was, thankfully, an uneventful flight. Flying is NOT my favorite method of travel but a necessary evil.

We met up with one of Garret’s former co-workers. He is stationed with the US Embassy in Warsaw. There we explored Old Town of Warsaw and enjoyed some traditional Polish cuisine (and beer!). My favorite are the various types of pierogi – almost like ravioli, often fried. We also toured the Summer Palace of the last king to rule Poland and the surrounding botanical gardens.

One odd thing about Warsaw is that all the parks, including the botanical gardens, are only for walking (not including dogs). No cycling (forget skateboards and anything else with wheels!), no running, no walking on the grass, no fishing, no littering, no dogs, no … you get the picture. We called them the No Fun Parks. Krakow is different. At least in the Planti (what used to be a wall that surrounded Old Town Krakow, now is a wooded park) you can do all of that and then some. No, I didn’t do any “then some” to test boundaries.

Our second day in Krakow, Poland was absolutely wonderful. We started out with a good walk to Bagelmama for breakfast. It is a bagel shop owned by Americans (yes, I know… I’m in Poland and should eat as they do! 90% of the meals are that way). All I will say is that it was well worth the bit of a walk we needed to take.

Afterward it was a quick stroll to see Schindler’s Factory. Wow. Well worth the entry fee – which is maybe three US dollars. I think it was the best museum I have ever gone through. Each room was completely different and we were immersed in the environments that were carefully chosen. There was plenty of reading in each room and quite a few videos to watch but it was done incredibly well. Even the floor changed with each room making you feel you were at a train station, or in a barber shop, the streets of the jewish ghetto, or even a concentration camp. If you ever go to Krakow this is a definite must see!

With a long day of walking behind us we luckily stumbled upon a great little restaurant tucked away underground in the historic district of Krakow. It was sheer luck that I happened to get curious about an alcove. Inside were steps to a restaurant called Chimera. The atmosphere alone is enough to say “go there!” The food was also decent. Maybe Garret’s pheasant was a little dry but my goose breast and dessert was lovely. I had a wine from Moldova – I love trying wines from various places. As I’ve already said, it was a great little find.

Next it was a necessary trip to Auschwitz. Like Schindler’s Factory… wow. Just wow. It is incredible to walk through those spaces and to see the vastness of the concentration camp. To walk in the gas chamber. To touch the same railing that an SS officer touched. The Death Wall (where hundreds were executed). Surrounded by barbed wire. The emotion is strong and the experience incredible. It is a must-do for everyone. Just to begin to understand – and don’t think you ever will… or ever want to fully understand the atrocities that happened. You won’t. But it is an important reminder. A point in history that we must avoid to repeat at all costs (I am not so naive to think genocide no longer happens in our world…).

The rest of this trip will be relaxing. My day in Auschwitz has left me plenty to contemplate. It makes the upcoming Tour look like not a big deal. It is a big deal for me because it will be a physical challenge I’ve never done before. But it pales in comparison to what other humans have gone through… by choice or force. I am grateful for this trip. For all the times I thought it as bad timing… turns out it may be just right, if not perfect.

Good night and see you all back in the States!

Minus the sunburn.

The weather was absolutely beautiful this weekend and since I didn’t have to work on Sunday I decided to take the opportunity to put in some longer mileage because there was some rain predicted for this week. I “bonked” last ride so I made sure to pay attention to fueling before, during and after my ride. My muscles were tired during the ride but I suspect that had more to do with two long days at work, mostly on my feet moving around, rather than nutrition. The last 4 miles felt the best and I think I put in a strong finish. I mixed up a stronger version of my recovery drink and I never felt drained for the rest of the evening. Today I definitely feel like I can ride again. The rain came so I will probably put in an hour on the trainer. Hopefully I can get back out on the road between now and Friday because these are the last days to put in “real training” before having to cut back due to travel and needing to rest my legs before the big ride. I am glad yesterday was a good ride. Mentally, I needed it.

Unrelated to Sunday’s ride, here is a photo of the calf I helped a cow deliver during work on Saturday:

Meet Izzy!

A Little Cross Training

I’ve accepted the fact that regardless of what I do in the next week and a half I am going to feel (and most likely be) under-prepared for the big ride on June 2nd and 3rd. Since my last post I’ve had a couple of rides. One where I “bonked.” For non-cyclists, that means I did not fuel my body correctly and as a result my muscles began to cramp and it was like pedaling through water. It was a good reminder – though I am absolutely frustrated that I am still having issues with fueling! – of how important fueling will be to get through the 170 miles, 85 miles each day.

Wednesday was a rest day for me. Yesterday I had planned to do some running but ended up cross training at the farm. We are setting up for our annual Spring event this Saturday. Since we are currently short-staffed on the farm I was asked to leave my normal desk-job and help with putting up large pole tents and pounding stakes into the ground to create temporary fencing.

For anyone who knows me… this was not something I hesitated to do. I’ll take manual labor over desk work most days of the week! My day-to-day job isn’t bad but I still love the immediate results and feeling of a job well done that comes with labor.

Anyway, it wasn’t a ton of work but it was good work and I am going to call it cross training.

Because pictures always make posts better, here are two shots from my last ride:

Helped this little turtle cross the trail.

My favorite bridge on the W&OD trail.


Work has taken a lot more energy than I originally expected and is part of the reason I’ve disappeared for the last month. I also feel I am way behind on my riding. Honestly, I couldn’t even tell you the mileage I’ve put down in the last four weeks but I know it hasn’t been much. With one month before the Big Ride I have to say I am freaking out a bit. Technically I have between now and May 18th to get any and all “real mileage” in. After that, I need to cut back because of travel plans as well as to ensure I have fresh legs for the Tour.

Oh, and I can’t remember if I mentioned this or not… The ride map was published online and it is 85 miles each way. 170 miles total. 20 more than I was expecting. But I guess when you get to 150, what is 20 more? *sigh* I’m nervous.

My two recent rides:

– Rode Saturday, after being sick on Friday, for only 25 miles instead of the intended 50.
– Ran 30 minutes on Sunday after work.
– Put the bike on the trainer for an hour last night because when I started it was too late for me to get in a decent ride. I kept myself entertained with some Indiana Jones on the SciFy channel.

Most likely another night on the trainer tonight. It isn’t my favorite but at least it is mileage.

85 miles. Done.

(Okay, I am a little late with this post… four days late. Work has been taking most of my focus and energy this week and will continue to do so through the end of next week.)

Last week, before I knew the weekend’s weather forecast (I never look and hardly ever plan…) I made the claim on facebook that I wanted to raise the remaining $85 for my Tour de Cure ride in June and for $85 dollars I would ride 85 miles over the weekend. Obviously making the statement of facebook equates to signing away your soul with a golden quill dipped in blood because even though the furthest I have ever ridden was 50 miles, 70 in one weekend, I was going to ride the 85 miles come hell or high water.

And then came the water. Thunder showers to be exact.

The original plan was 85 miles in one weekend. You know, two whole days. Saturday I was going to commute to work on bike but the rain showers and the fact that I was working a special event (ie: I couldn’t show up soaked) meant all 85 miles would be crammed into Sunday. Not only was this 25 more miles that I had ever ridden in a weekend it was 35 miles more than I had ever ridden in a single day.

However, I had some advantages – or at least one significant advantage. I planned to ride all 85 miles on the W&OD trail. Yup, my go-to place when I need distance (well, not anymore but I’ll talk about that later). The plan was the ride the entire W&OD trail. I would start in Sterling, head east to the end of the trail, turn around and head back to Sterling (my car acting as the refueling station because I wasn’t sure if the water stops had been turned on yet and I didn’t want to carry more than I needed to) and continue out to Purcellville. Once in Purcellville I’d only need to head back to Sterling. Done. Easy. (ha!)

Sunday morning it was raining. I don’t fully trust myself clipped in to a bike (I still have blond moments after a year of riding clipped in) and because of the rain I decided to cut out the east section of the trail, which is full of road crossings, and run the westward route from Sterling twice (79.8 miles which meant I had to make up the  additional 5.1 miles elsewhere). I know that section of trail, every turn, land mark, etc… It is quite nice too.

My boyfriend made poached eggs and toast as my pre-ride meal (He is a sweetheart. He won’t ride a bike with me but I think he’d be my SAG wagon if I ever asked him to) and I gathered my water, various stuff I would need on the ride, and checked my bike. I was out the door around 9:15am. On the bike by 9:40am.

The first 40-50 miles of my ride felt like a breeze. I kept an easy pace for the most part with occasional spurts of speed for fun. I struck up conversation with a woman. She and I had been passing back and forth for a few miles. On the flats she’d speed by and I’d pass her on the hills (well, the max 3% grade). Finally I just said hello and asked where she was going. We both were heading to Purcellville and she was attempting her first 50 mile ride. She was riding as training for the Eagleman half-Ironman which is the weekend after my Tour de Cure ride (I know because I signed up as a volunteer!). Anyway, I talked with her to Purcellville (she was thinking about turning back early but I coaxed her on… I wanted her to hit her goal) and then we parted ways. She went to purchase some electrolytes from the bike shop at the end of the trail, fittingly called Trails End. I was back to the car, 39.4 miles, by 12:30 for refueling/refilling water bottles.

I remember the next 10 miles not being too bad. My saddle was starting to bother my pelvic bones but overall I felt pretty decent. However, from approximately mile 50 all the way until 85 I was not in great shape. The saddle bothered me more and more. I was standing up frequently. In general, it was very painful. But I suffered through and now can say I’ve ridden 85 miles in one day! If this was the Tour de Cure I’d have another 85 miles to go the following day… I can tell you right now I don’t feel even remotely prepared.