Thursday, October 16, 2008
Riding in the Seagull Century was fabulous!! The weather was perfect--very cool in the morning and warming to the mid-70s in the afternoon.
On our way to Salisbury University Saturday morning we passed cyclists already on their journey. Goose bumps popped out all over my arms--I'd be one of more than 6,000 cyclists on the road striving to ride 100 miles in 1 day. I still get goose bumps and a shot of adrenaline just recalling the event. It was better than I ever imagined.
When we finally unloaded and bikes & got over to the University, a riot of color greeted us. Bikes and cyclists in every imaginable style and color. A quick trip to the restroom and then we got in the queue to start our adventure. To begin the ride, we had to go down a ramp under the highway single file. As we gradually worked our way forward in the waiting crowd, anticipation kept growing and growing. What a rush heading down the ramp! We were on our way at 8 a.m. sharp!
The event was well organized. About every 20 miles there was a rest station where you could re-fuel with fresh fruit, bagels, cream cheese, water and Gatorade, and stretch your legs. There were adequate job johnnies at each stop--a very important amenity!
Initially, the road was a bit crowded and we had to be very careful. Fast riders in long pace lines would whiz by on our left, sometimes without first giving a courtesy warning. We passed a few cyclists in the first 20 miles pulled alongside the road making bike repairs. Eventually, the cyclists who were riding the metric century, (62 miles), split off onto an alternate route. That really opened the road and made cycling more enjoyable.
The route was flat--the only true exception was going over the Assateague Bridge to the island. I had to keep my eyes focused directly in front of my bike or I would start to get a bit of vertigo and my stomach would start to churn. We didn't see any ponies, but riders who arrived first did. We couldn't resist taking off shoes and socks and wading into the ocean. The cold water was refreshing and rejuvenated our feet and calves.
Throughout the day there was a bit of wind, but not so strong that it hindered us. The miles flew by--for the most part it just felt like a weekend joy ride. Some of the cyclists from riding clubs wore matching shirts. One group had a small Capitol Bldg. perched atop their helmets. A woman had on a bright green Shrek stocking over her helmet.
About 12 miles from the finish line, my left leg began to cramp. There was no way I was not going to finish the ride even if it meant walking to the finish. I pulled over and stretched my hamstring and popped back on my bike. Voila! No more cramping. But another cramp hit in my left calf just a mile or 2 down the road. That one took a bit longer to work out. From that point on, I could only pedal at 14-15 mph. Prior to that, I was riding anywhere from 16 to 20 mph. For the next 6 miles, I enjoyed most of the remaining ride. It gave me time to say hello to anyone I rode next to and chat for a moment before one of us moved on.
But then a complication hit--I had to go to the bathroom. My bladder was full and every dip and bump in the road was a constant reminder that I needed to find a place to pull over NOW! But there was no where to go. Finally, I arrived in town and just ahead was a gas station/convenience store. Hallelujah!! I pedaled as fast as my legs could go, hopped off my bike, haphazardly leaned it against the building and ran into the convenience store like a fire fighter rushing to rescue someone from a burning building. I headed for the back right corner . . . no bathroom. I spun around and headed for the right back corner . . . no bathroom. I rushed up to the clerk at the counter, "P l e a s e!!! may I use your bathroom?" And he said, "I'm sorry ma'am, we don't have a public restroom." I don't know how I held myself back from leaping across the counter and grabbing him by the collar and shouting, "You better give me the keys to your private bathroom before you have a puddle to clean up!" But I restrained myself, and pedaled, very uncomfortably, to the finish line arriving at 5 p.m. My friends had finished up at least a half hour earlier and were patiently waiting for me. No time for talk--just get me to the bathrooms!
Looking back on this wonderful ride, I realized I learned some lessons and reinforced some values:
1. Enjoy the Moment. There are vivid pictures in my mind of the entire ride--too many to include in the blog--the scenery, children riding with their parents, an accident, the corn fields, the feel of the breeze and sun, exceptionally tall cyclists, etc. Often we are focused on the end result, not the journey. How many times have you rushed to finish a project, a task, an event, only to look back and have an unclear vision of how you reached the end. It is the journey, the little accomplishments and set backs, that make our lives rich, multi-dimensional and fulfilling.
2. Focus on the Positive. Being positive creates energy. The miles rolled by almost effortlessly. Sure, there were discomforts along the way, but focusing on them would have taken all of the joy out of the day. I marveled when I came up to each rest stop--the time passed so quickly. Pessimism dulls our senses; optimism excites them.
3. Prepare Mentally and Physically. Riding a Century is as much a mental feat as it is a physical feat. When you are tired, your sit bones are sore, and the ribbon of road looks endless, it requires some will power to keep moving. Physical strength is easily measured--you can lift a little heavier weight, run a little faster, walk a little further. Mental strength is more difficult to measure. Hopefully it matures right along with your physical strength. Surround yourself with positive friends and family--their support and encouragement will make you stronger. Exercise your mind--positive visioning (seeing yourself cross the finish line) and problem solving (working through possible difficulties, i.e., cramping, equipment malfunctions, inclement weather, etc.) Test yourself occasionally--move outside your comfort zone--and see how much stronger you become.
4. Don't Judge Others. The most amazing riders were those who were significantly over weight. My respect and admiration grew for them as the day wore on. Even at mile 80+ they were still going. I can only assume that they finished. I admit that had I seen them at the start of the ride, I would have put money down that they wouldn't make it. Those riders were MENTALLY TOUGH!! I don't know the age of the oldest rider, but I saw a gentleman (at the end of the ride) that I'd guess to be in his 70s. He was slightly bent over and just barely shuffling his feet forward. But you should have seen the muscled calves on that guy! I hope I'm still riding and running when I'm his age.
5. Anyone Can Accomplish "Amazing" Feats. Six thousand cyclists--most just everyday people in average fitness ranges. We are not professional athletes, training is not our primary job. We have found an activity that we love and indulge in it as often as we can. Find an activity that you love and JUST DO IT.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Months ago I threw out the idea of cycling in the Seagull Century on October 4 to some friends and several jumped at the idea. It was summer, the air was humid and the sun was hot. October seemed a long time away. There's a chill in the air now, pumpkins are in the market, and the Century is just 3 days away. I am so excited!! When I bought my first bike as an adult, I never dreamed that I would ride 100 miles in 1 day. My biggest dream then was to spend an afternoon in fresh air getting a little exercise.
If the weather forecast holds, it will be a perfect day--sunny, 71, with a 5 mph wind (may it be at our backs). My bag is packed, my bike is prepped, and I am psyched!! Let's ride!!
Friday, September 19, 2008
Took 2 spinning classes this week -- what a workout!! The first 10 minutes are a warm up--legs churning almost as fast as possible to the pulsing music with little to no tension on the fly wheel. Even at this easy level, I can feel the beads of sweat beginning to appear, giving my skin that healthy glisten or glow.
Then for the next 30 minutes we gradually crank it up as if we are climbing a very steep hill. Up off our seats, leaning forward we dig in as the instructor encourages us not to slack off--crank it up!! don't hold back!! Just when I think I can't stand another minute, we alternate sitting and standing--even more strenuous than just doing a "run." I concentrate on the music as I urge my legs not to give up and exhort myself to give it my all.
The sweat is no longer beading and glistening. It's dripping onto the floor and my glasses, running into my eyes, and spattering on the floor. I swear the woman in front of me must be getting sprayed when the sweat drops onto the flywheel.
The next ten minutes we alternate sprints with fast spinning. It is so tempting to slack off, but I remind myself that I'm only going to get out of the workout what I put into it. I look around the room and am inspired by the "regulars" in the class--they are going at it as hard as they can. And the instructor seems to maintain her cadence no matter whether we're spinning on the level or climbing the steepest hills. She's amazing. So, I dig in and sprint for all I'm worth.
Relief flows through my body when I hear the cool down music; just five minutes to go. I've made it!
Saturday, September 06, 2008
This was to be the week that the scales tipped ever so slightly to the left. But Wednesday evening I went out for some fine dining with my husband and some of his friends from college.
Moments into opening the menu drool was slipping out the corner of my mouth as I poured over items like lobster bisque, greek flat bread with feta cheese and caramelized figs, braised short ribs with demi glace, thai-style shrimp, and grouper with curry sauce.
The waiter started with me, but I begged to be last--I just could not make up my mind. As each person ordered, I grew more enticed by their selections. At last, it was my turn--Greek flat bread (it was a whole freakin pizza!!!) and curried grouper. It was fabulous.
Then the dreaded after dinner question--dessert anyone???? I knew that if even 1 person ordered, I would too. Around the table--1st and 2nd person declined, the 3rd struggled . . . and caved (apple pie). Another person passed, and then another ordered. Then it was my turn. I'm always game for contrasting flavors, so when the chocolate jalapeño tort was described, I knew it was mine.
Up to that point, I was feeling just the way you should--satiated, but not uncomfortable. About half way into the tort, I couldn't eat another bite. All of a sudden the waist on my pants were biting into my flesh. It was like someone had just inflated a giant balloon in the middle of my gut. Ugh!!! Why, oh, why did I just sabotage my week???
Thursday morning I awoke still full from dinner. Didn't eat breakfast until 10:30--some yogurt and a half a banana. The rest of the day I carefully watched what I ate and drank a ton of liquids--I would have to do something for having made out like a porker the night before.
Around 7:30 pm I slipped on my running shoes and headed out the door for a run. It was a little humid, but the sun was going down so it wasn't too hot. Lots of couples, families, and dogs were taking advantage of the lovely evening.
My longest run to date has been 4.4 miles, but since I was doing penance, I was pushing myself to run further--around 5.5 miles. The last mile was a killer. My stomach was beginning to cramp, it was dark and difficult to see any uneven pavement, and I was so tired it was hard to keep my concentration. But I made it--it took an hour.
Around 10:30 I went to bed after sucking down a lot of water and some Gatorade. 11 pm -- up to go to the bathroom. 11:30 legs began cramping--drank another glass of water & walked around a bit. 11:45--back to bed. 12:15--to the bathroom. 1:30--legs cramping . . . . and that was how the entire night went over and over. Finally around 4 or 4:30 my legs quit cramping, I quit drinking, and I got a little sleep. Friday was hazy and not very productive.
Did the penance work? I sure hope so. Believe me, the meal was NOT worth the penance. At the very least, I have a new game plan for ordering in restaurants---order first. And if the food is rich, order 2 light appetizers--one as an appetizer and the other for the entrée. I'll put this game plan into action on the 15th when I get together with my friends. Stay tuned.
Monday, September 01, 2008
Today was the day to ride a minimum of 60 miles as part of my training to ride a Century in early October. Up at 6:15 a.m. and out the door after a power-stoking breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast (one of the great benefits of long-distance biking). It took only a matter of minutes before getting in the "zone." Just pedaling along and enjoying the scents and scenery around me--Watching hawks soar in the air, looking for deer, smelling the phlox and other wild flowers. Happens every time I ride.
You should know that I'm not a gonzo-girl, jumping into the deep end before contemplating my ability or the risks. I'm more the dip my toe into the water to test it first. Then, if it's not too cold, not too swift, not too whatever, I'll jump in. So taking a detour, when I don't know where it will lead, can be a little unsettling.
About 10 miles into the ride, I finally popped out of my zone while whizzing downhill at almost the speed limit: 25 mph. Wait a minute!!! I wasn't supposed to be here--where was the mildly undulating road I'm used to? I had missed it. I was in trouble . . . how was I going to get back up the hill and when was this downhill ride going to end? I always rode west to east to avoid the hill. Couldn't imagine climbing back up this early on my ride and still having anything left to finish 60 miles.
But I kept hurtling downhill, watching the odometer click off the tenths of a mile. When I reached bottom, I realized that the hill was more than a mile long, but how much longer I wasn't sure. Despite my misgivings, I turned around and started pedaling. The hill started out with a very short, but steep incline. I began talking to myself--the great success story I'd tell my husband when I got home. Then it mellowed out--a long, slow, not-as-steep-as -I thought climb, but tiring nevertheless. I passed the speed limit sign--no worry I'd be exceeding the limit now. I began to compose this blog, searching for pithy one-liners (as difficult as climbing the hill). About 3/4 of the way up, it steepened again. I dug in. No way was I getting off the bike. More muttering--"I can do this, I can do this . . . . oh, shut up and keep pedaling." I came to my turnoff, just short of cresting the hill. Well, I had ridden this far, keep going. So I climbed the last few yards--I made it!! I climbed a 1.75 mile hill!
I was tired, but I felt great. I would not have deliberately challenged myself to climb that hill had it not happened accidentally. And I would have deprived myself of the joy and exhilaration of proving myself. It was worth it.
The rest of the ride went off without a hitch. I finished 60.73 miles in 6 hrs., 45 mins.
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