This weekend I did the Venus De Miles all-women’s ride. There were three options- 30 miles, 64 miles, and 100 miles. With very limited time to train, the 100 mile option was out. Meanwhile, the short but intense rides I’d been doing all summer, towing the girls around in the Burley to swimming lessons, the park, the library, on top of my (ever distant) cycling history meant the 30 mile option barely held any appeal for me.
The 64 mile ride felt like a stretch, but do-able. Even better, it was a goal I’d need to train for, and I have been missing the feeling of having something on the calendar to light a fire under my butt.
On Saturday August, 1st, I made up my mind. I was doing it. On Monday August 3rd, I registered. The ride was Saturday, August 29th. We were on vacation from the 13th through the 24th. No fancy math was required for me to realize I needed to get my butt in the saddle as much as possible in the limited time I had.
Dan and I have a standing arrangement, where we each get two weekday mornings a week to do whatever we want until 7:30 am, while the other person deals with the kids. Dan kindly offered to let me return from a bike ride as late as 8:00 on my days, since he knew it was important to me to not be miserable on the day of the ride. Also, we had tickets to The Book of Mormon that night, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t want a zombie for a date.
Most of the summer, my precious early weekday mornings were spent sleeping in. It’s uninspiring but it’s the truth. I had a total of four available weekday early mornings and three weekend days to get in as much riding as I could before we left for vacation. I was out of bed well before dawn for the early morning weekday rides, waiting for the sky to lighten before I could head out, but, as always, it was worth it.
Beside getting to see the sky turn brilliant shades of pink, yellow, and blue, I had an opportunity to ride by myself. I’d forgotten how pleasant it is to pedal without towing a trailer holding 50 pounds worth of kids, and to be alone with my thoughts. The absence of whining, crying, and random questions repeated at least three times (because little voices don’t carry in the wind), was refreshing.
The weekend before we left for vacation, I invited a friend to do Sunshine Canyon with me. Sunshine Canyon reminds me of childbirth. I always think it’s not that bad of a climb, because I do it about once a year or less, but every time I do it, I think, “I totally forgot how hard this is. I hate this.” We only went up to where the road becomes dirt, but that’s still 5 miles of switchback-steep climbing. In addition to the canyon, we did a big north-easterly loop, for a total ride time of four hours. Although it only added up to about 40ish miles, I was most concerned with getting my body acclimated to being on my bike for a long period of time, not mileage.
The week we left for vacation, I took my early weekday morning to climb up Flagstaff before most people had left for work. I saw a few other cyclists, two runners, about a dozen cars, and several deer on my ride. I only had time to make it to the ampitheater before I had to turn around. As I descended, I feathered my brakes constantly. I kept thinking, “I can’t crash. I have kids.” This was annoying and did nothing to help me relax and enjoy the speed. My greatest joy used to be descending as fast as possible. That was when I knew the descents intimately because I rode my bike all the time.
But now I descend like a grandma. I don’t know if it’s a function of having kids, the natural lack of confidence that happens when you lose familiarity with roads’ twists and turns, or (most likely) both. I made it home without incident, feeling grateful for some time to myself, and for the fact that the base of this amazing climb begins about two miles from my front door.
The night before the ride, I gathered all of my bike accoutrement. As I put a handful of gels in my bag, Sweet Pea asked me what was in the shiny packages.
“Food for when I’m riding my bike tomorrow.” I told her.
“But do you eat it with one hand?” she asked.
I was proud to see that my daughter had given careful thought to the very important issue of sports nutrition.
Everyone in my house was still asleep as I put my road bike in the backseat of my Jetta on the morning of the ride. I have a roof rack, and it’s great when you need the backseat for cargo, and for looking cool. But it’s kind of tall for me to reach, it takes longer to do, and the fact is, my other car is a minivan. I’m over trying to look cool.
A CD my sister made me years ago was the only thing to listen to beside the radio. I blasted “I Kissed a Girl,” and sang along as I turned onto the main road, and knew it was going to be a good day.
When I arrived at the start area, I overhead someone saying, “I have back-up tutus!” I wasn’t organized enough to prepare a costume, but a lot of the other women wore tutus, fairy wings, and other fun accessories. I stuck with my favorite jersey of all time, which I bought at the same time I bought my bike in 2003. The beauty of cycling apparel is it’s never in style and therefore, can never go out of style.
Although the terrain was mostly flat, with a few gentle climbs, and a few short, steep rollers, I was a little intimidated by the distance. I hadn’t done any significant riding since before I was pregnant with Sweet Pea in 2011. I planned to keep my effort level easy until the last ten miles, and if I felt good, to punch it to the finish line at that point. It turned out, I felt great through the entire ride. It turned out, my short, but intense rides around town pulling the kids were more efficient training sessions than I’d realized. At no point during the ride did I suffer as much as I do dragging the kids up the steep section of Broadway, just west of the high school track, up to the Starbucks. It takes probably two minutes, but it’s a grueling, lung-busting, thigh-burning two minutes.
I rode almost entirely according to my plan. Starting at the 52 mile mark, I pedaled like my life depended on it, for ten miles, at which point I did not see the finish line anywhere. I had wrongly assumed the ride length to be 62 miles (a metric century, or 100k), when, in fact, it was 64 miles. Mentally, I was done at 62 miles, so I used the last two miles as a cool-down, which worked out well. I finished in exactly 4 hours, which was an average pace of 16 miles per hour. Given my limited training, and the fact that I rode solo, without drafting for about 95% of the ride, I was very happy with that.
I ran into the only friend I knew who was doing the ride at the finish area. and we enjoyed lunch together at the expo, and talked biking, life, and writing. By the time I got home, I was cooked and desperate to play house, so that Sweet Pea and Lady Bug could be the parents, and I could be the sleeping baby, but it didn’t work out that way. I’ve seen Dan do it successfully. At some point I will have to gleep his parenting ninja secrets. In the meantime, I should probably sleep when they are napping, but if I did that, when would I update my blog??
The ride was well-organized, and as an all-women’s event, was very welcoming to cyclists of all abilities. Overall, the vibe was warm and friendly. Even better, it was a fundraiser for a fantastic non-profit called Greenhouse Scholars. Greenhouse Scholars gives scholarships to students who are the first in their families to attend college. More importantly, it gives recipients much-needed support in the form of mentorship, peer support, and stipends that enable them to take unpaid internships and other opportunities to further their education.
Did you know that only 11% of low-income students complete their bachelors degree in six years? Greenhouse scholars is changing that, and in so doing, giving these young people an opportunity to graduate college, and make significant contributions in their communities. If you would like to join me in supporting this amazing cause, you can do so all month by clicking here.