Workout Wednesday Vol. 23: Event Recap-Venus de Miles 64 Mile Ride

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.

Fire, lit.

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.


This is where I live!!!

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??

At the finish of Venus De Miles ride. I'm wearing the feather boa because it was there. And because why not.

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.

Copy of Copy of OCT.

I hit a turning point in my life when….

A little maroon bike changed my life. I bought it exactly ten years ago, with my tax return and a little help from my parents. I enjoyed spin classes, I was injured from running and planning to do a triathlon someday, and I longed to be able to exercise outside the four stifling walls of my gym. Never mind that I hadn’t actually ridden a bike in about a decade. Road biking seemed a fitting hobby.Speaking of fitting, my new sport necessitated I wear the requisite spandex shorts and blindingly bright, loudly patterned jerseys.  Also, there were the shoes. Not only did they look ridiculous, I had to get over the paralyzing fear of my feet being attached to the pedals of a bike with really really skinny tires. But as with any fashion statement- be it bike apparel, jeggings, skinny jeans, what have you- I discovered, if you’re going to wear it, you have to own it. Soon enough, I was hitting to the grocery store apres rides in my spandex like it it was no big whoop. (And in Boulder, Colorado it isn’t. But this was when I lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where it kind of was. A few years later, it was In Rhode Island, where rocking spandex at Stop and Shop qualified me as an alien. Not the illegal kind, the kind from Mars that no one has ever seen).

Once I had the fashion situation under control, there was the small matter of actually riding the bike.
The thing about road biking is it is almost always done on roads. As in, roads where cars drive. This was terrifying to me. So terrifying in fact, that I would willingly seek out large groups of very fit strangers, whom I would meet in rural areas and then pedal for dear life for 30 miles or more, just to ride with other people, rather than ride alone.

On my first group ride, somewhere between deciding I would rather be anywhere but on my bike and wishing I could just die and let the torture end, one of the guys noticed I was having a hard time.

“Do you need anything?”
I think he was wondering if I’d brought enough water or needed a gel.
Between gasps for air, I said, “An ambulance?”

My ambulance never came and I had to pedal my sorry self back to my car. This would be the first of many, many times I had to keep going when I really didn’t feel like it. Biking taught me perseverance.

A year passed since my ambulance request and I had gotten rid of not only a few extra pounds, but also my fear of clipless pedals (though not without taking down several fellow cyclists and sustaining a bloody gash in my ankle, the result of a poorly managed stop sign situation), as well as my anxiety about riding alone, and the dorky visor on my helmet. I’d completed my first metric century (62 miles) and my first sprint triathlon.

I still didn’t know how to change a flat tire however. While biking did not do much to improve my anger problem, as my failed attempts to change a tire ended in crying, cursing, screaming, and throwing my tire lever, it did help me hone a much more important skill- getting people to do what I wanted. No, I could not change a tire, but I knew how to bake and could be quite friendly with the men folk.  With a fresh loaf of banana bread in hand, I could flirt my way to the front of the queue at any bike shop and get my flat changed in a hurry.

Inevitably, I had a flat tire during a triathlon and those cute bike mechanics who had always been so generous with their time and their strong, nimble hands were not there to help. A kind pair of sisters who were racing together (ps…is that the cutest thing you’ve ever heard of!?), stopped to help me. I was able to finish but my time was in the toilet. I vowed to learn out how to change a flat myself. So I sat with my bike and a knowledgeable, patient friend until I figured it out. It turned out, doing it myself felt a lot better than getting someone else to do it for me, and I didn’t even have to turn on the oven (or the charm). From my bike, I learned self-sufficiency.

Now that I had conquered the unthinkable challenge of Changing My Own Flat Tire the obvious next step was to sign up for a an ironman triathlon, which consists of a 1.2 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. Because obviously, if you can change a tire, you can do anything. Actually, I think my main reason for doing my first ironman was that my friend said she was going to do it, and I’d promised her I would do it if she did. I never said the bike made me smart.

Over the past decade, I’ve ridden that bike up Mount Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains.  I’ve taken her up Beech Mountain, the legendary training ride that took Lance Armstrong from his battle with cancer to his Tour de France victory. We’ve ridden through the countryside of southern Spain, including Pico Vuelta, Europe’s highest road. We’ve seen nearly every back road in Rhode Island, as well as parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts, sometimes all in one day.  I’ve pedaled her across most of the state of Arizona, and across the windy plains and over the peaks of Wyoming. We’ve made it to the top of some of Colorado’s most intimidating passes, including Mount Evans, Wolf Creek Pass, Slumgullion Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, and the Dallas Divide. I’ve climbed our way out of Montrose’s punishing Black Canyon of the Gunnison. I am not going to tell you how many of these suffer-fests were born of peer pressure. Like I said, the bike made me stubborn, not smart.

The bike has made me a lot of things- strong, fit, disciplined, tenacious, and fearless among them, but most of all, it made, and continues to make me happy. Riding my bike with the wind in my face and the sun on my back brings a smile to my face.  The bone aching fatigue of a  long day in the saddle makes my heart sing. The out of this world deliciousness of a medium rare cheeseburger after one of those days is enough to make this agnostic pretty sure God exists.

Resting my hands on a steering wheel and keeping one foot on the gas will never be more fun than hanging onto the handlebars and pushing both feet down on the pedals. It doesn’t matter if I’m heading up Lefthand Canyon or taking the bike path to the library with Sweet Pea in the Burley. When I’m riding my bike, I feel like humming a song. Not that you could necessarily recognize it. I never said the bike made me a better singer- just a little better, braver of a  person.

We’ve had ten great years together.
This post was brought to you by the Finish The Sentence Friday link up.
Please visit the FTSF hosts:
Stephanie at Mommy For Real,
Janine at Janine’s Confessions of  Mommyholic
Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine
and Dawn at Dawn’s Disaster.
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There’s No Room For Fear in a Burley Trailer

I thought I had put my fear of road biking behind me. My long-time readers (hi Mom!) may be sitting here like What you talkin’ bout Willis, but there was a time, long before I started blogging when I was terrified of riding my bike anywhere near cars. So, early in my cycling career I became a bike slut. I was willing to ride with literally, anyone until I was comfortable enough to ride solo with car traffic. I had one bike riding partner whom I’m ashamed to admit to even knowing; He was about my dad’s age at the time, and he was fond of bashing his wife and kids on our rides. One night he invited me to his house for dinner after a ride.  At the time it seemed weird, but not too weird to accept the free meal. But thinking about it now, I cringe at the inappropriateness of it. I wonder what I was thinking, but knowing me, I was probably afraid I would hurt his feelings if I declined. Never mind the fact I could hardly stand him. I can only imagine what his wife thought when her husband unexpectedly brought a spandex-clad 24 year old female cycling buddy home to the family dinner she’d prepared.Fast forward ten years. I’ve biked this, this,  this, and all kinds of other kinds of badass stuff. Yet, afer all this time I’m still way too concerned about what other people think of me. And I’m still having issues with fear around road biking. Because now, attached to the same Specialized Allez I bought with 2003 my tax return and some help from my parents all those years ago, is a Burley trailer with my beating heart sitting inside, wearing a teeny tiny monkey print helmet.

I used to think it wasn’t worth my time to change, pump up my tires, and ride if I wasn’t going at least 15-20 miles. On Thursday, I spent no less than 55 minutes figuring out how to connect the Burley to the bike, adjusting Sweet Pea’s brand new helmet, pumping up my tires, pumping up the Burley tires, attaching the flag to the Burley, intermittently taking sticks and stones out of Sweet Pea’s mouth and sprinting to snatch her up before she crawled into the street while I was attending to these tasks, and by the time we were ready to go at, naptime was hovering close like a supervisor with stale breath and I still hadn’t fed her lunch. But hell if I wasn’t going to take us for a spin after all that effort. So we went around the block twice and I considered it an excellent use of my time, since it meant The First Time was now out of the way.

Today, Library Story hour was scheduled for 10:15 and the sun was shining. At 8:05 I Skype messaged Dan, “I want to bike down to the Main Branch with Sweet Pea in the Burley but I’m scared.” I don’t know if I was hoping he’d hold me, send an escort, or what, but he encouraged me to go and sent me a link to a Google Map with a route to the library that would keep us exclusively on bike paths. After a mere 20 minutes of prep (Rome wasn’t built in a day, people) I pretended I knew what I was doing and off we went.

I really hope Sweet Pea bought it because it is my understanding that a) children smell fear and b) kids can never know parents are scared because that is just, like, against the order of the entire universe. I think we’re cool because she slept the whole time.

The ride was uneventful. Save for getting a little turned around (I’m still just as bad with directions as I ever was) and discovering parts of the CU campus I never knew about, everything went as planned.  And I felt like a beast climbing up University Hill towing an extra 19 pounds of child.

If the last ten years have taught me anything, it’s to deal with fear by just doing whatever I’m scared of  (sans creepy, older, married men).

Mission Accountable Day 33: Recovery Spin and Reading

Today brought very limited sleep (apparently Sweet Pea didn’t care that I was trying to recover from a 14 miler) and an easy 40 minute spin on the trainer.

This time, instead of watching something awesome on the iPad, which I am wont to do, I read. As per usual, I have an overdue library book, Jonathan Tropper’s “One Last Thing Before I Go,” which has multiple holds and is therefore not eligible for renewal. I would like let the other library patrons know it’s really not worth the wait. I really enjoyed the first one I read by him, “This Is Where I Leave You.”

One Last Thing Before I Go
Crappy, disappointing novel
This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel
Really good novel! Couldn’t put it down

I was expecting more awesome writing in One Last Thing, but the dialogue was trite and the characters felt two-dimensional. So I blew through the last five or so chapters just to get to the end, and then I started “The Secret Race,” a story of doping in professional cycling, based mainly on interviews with Tyler Hamilton, as well as many others in and associated with the sport. I’m on the second chapter. So far, so good.

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs
What I am reading now

  I think the best, most gripping books I have read in the past year or two have been “The Hunger Games” and “Big Girl Small“.

I just finished “How to Be A Woman”by Caitlin Moran, and while not exactly a page turner, I highly recommend it. She’s hilarious, witty, bright, and makes a compelling argument for saving the money you could have spent on waxing your hoo ha and spending it instead on things you really need, “like the electric bill and cheese.” (I’m pretty sure that’s an exact quote).

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

What are you reading right now? Anything good? Do you finish books you don’t love or do you stop reading in the middle? When do you find time to read?

Day 13

Today is Day 13 of the post-partum fitness experiment. I pushed snooze a mere two times before getting up. While I was drowsing, I heard Robbyn Hart of KBCO talking about some fancy alarm that doesn’t let you press snooze. As in the the snooze button doesn’t exist. She said that in order to turn off the alarm and reset it to a new time, you would have to go into another room and dial a phone number. I’m not sure if a) this thing was made for me, b) having this thing would be the end of my sanity or c) if perhaps I made it up because I was half in a coma when my clock radio alarm went off.

Anyways, once I got up and pumped (4 full ounces!), I was faced with a choice: Start my workout (which was the whole reason I got up while everyone else was still sleeping) or tidy up around the house. There was clutter everywhere (what’s new) and a newborn photographer was coming this morning and I was afraid that if I waited until I was done with my workout, Sweet Pea would want to nurse and I would have lost my chance to clean up. On the other hand, if she needed to nurse and I was in the basement on the trainer, Dan would just give her a bottle. So I cleaned up first and worked out second. Although I needn’t have worried because I had to wake Sweet Pea up just before the photographer came. I think she must take after Dan because after she stretched a few times, she opened her eyes and gave me the biggest smile (I typically do not do a whole lot of smiling until after a cup of coffee). Toothless baby grins are the best.

I biked on the trainer for 45 minutes, at an easy/moderate effort level with a few 30 second fast spin intervals. It was a little of a bummer to bike inside when I could have been outside, but when I only have a short period of time, I feel like its more efficient to just get on the trainer, where there are no downhills or tailwinds. 

I am still not going to run until my foot feels better. The good news is, I saw my physical therapist today and she said it doesn’t look like plantar fascitis. Rather, it’s an issue with my gait, which explains the slight pain in my foot and in my hip, and it seems fixable.