First of all, I would like to say “Hello” to Charmaine and John for leaving comments on my posts earlier in the month. I didn’t get notification right away about the comments and I have also become crazily busy the past couple of months with a new project that I have started at work. That being said, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to catch up on the blog nor to ride as much as I did earlier in the summer. Thank you both for your kind words and for letting me know that you are tuning in. I will try to be much better about updating.
I’m lamenting the fact that the summer is indeed coming to a close. While Fall is my favorite season for a number of reasons and this summer has been incredibly hot in the area here and there I don’t look forward to the Winter that follows. I am sorta looking forward to riding in crisper whether, however, but I think I still haven’t gotten over the anxiety of the summer ending because that usually means “back to school.” If you couldn’t tell, it was definitely a traumatic experience for me.
But I do have a few things that I am really looking forward to this Fall. One thing is the Eastern Trail Alliance’s 8 Lighthouse Ride (9 if you do the Century) on September 15th in Portland, ME. With round-trip tickets from DC to Portland starting at $122, free nights with my husband’s Sheraton preferred members points, and a coastal (hopefully flat) ride to visit eight lighthouses we just couldn’t pass this one up. We have decided to rent bikes at a local bike shop in Portland rather than a.) driving our bikes to Maine b.) shipping the bikes and c.) flying with the bikes which would include assembly and disassembly. We are renting hybrids at $25 a day from Cycle Mania in Portland. We are looking forward to visiting the New England town and to what we hope will prove to be a beautiful ride along the coast. A ride report will be sure to follow.
Another thing to look forward to is that my husband and I will be sharing our one-year anniversary at the end of September. On that same note, we have booked ourselves a 10-day vacation in Italy the second week of October. While we are still figuring out accommodations, we have bought the tickets to fly there. We have been talking about this trip for months but I refused to believe we’d actually go until my husband finally bought tickets. Oh yes, and we’re definitely going to be riding our bikes in the countryside of Tuscany. THAT is a MUST! The idea of cycling in Europe was just too good to pass up and being the foodies and wineies that we are we, seeing the country by bike and then following it up with an authentic Italian meal just seems like the only way to go. We cannot wait!
On to some ride reports . . .
Harlem Valley Rail Ride - My husband, my friend, Joel (check out his compelling ride report), and I made the trip up to Millerton, NY last month for what proved to be a beautiful ride. We had signed up for the 55-miler but I had my concerns as my husband and I were seriously lacking in some base miles. My husband and I also did not get the greatest night’s sleep the night before. It had been a long day the Saturday before, traveling up to NYC, spending some time in Brooklyn, and then making the 2-hour drive further into Millerton. I had a lot of caffeine that day and that usually means I cannot fall asleep when the time comes. (Also, Joel snores. ) But really it came down to a lack of experience and a lack of adequate training. (Doesn’t it always?)
The first 11-miles were great and easy. We stuck to the rail trail and at times were going upwards of 20 mph which for me is a really good clip. We stopped at the first rest stop feeling good and suspiciously sniffing the sponsored sports drink, Accelerade. It smelled a bit like sulfur and for a while I thought it was perhaps the water in the area. Then later I noticed that they were making that stuff with bottled water and realized that sadly it was the Accelerade. I definitely don’t recommend the stuff. Anyway, Joel took great pictures of the trip with his iPhone and you can see evidence of how good we were feeling at the first rest stop. The next leg of the trip brought us off the trail and on to the open road. We encountered the first of a series of hills that my husband and I were totally NOT prepared for. The first wasn’t so bad but it was a taste of things to come. (I should have paid more attention during the drive that we were in the mountains and that the hills were becoming numerous.) In the middle of the second leg of the ride, we came across a monster of a hill. I really hate to walk a hill but I was already on my granny gear and losing the battle. Also, we were now on the open road and there was less shade and the sun had come out. I can still remember feeling the sun beating down on my arms. Joel was way more well-prepared than we were for this ride and rode the hill like a champ. When my husband and I finally caught up to him and a couple of other guys nearby, we asked the SAG wagon what it was going to look like from here. If the hills were going to be like the last one then a number of us did not stand a chance. They mentioned two other hills like that one on the 55-miler. I was tired and I figured “Slow and steady wins the race.” (This has become my mantra of cycling even if the only race is between my brain and my body.) Plus, with the downhill that I had just hit at 40 mph I was on a bit of a high.
We decided to continue on. One of the guys that we had stopped with ended up bowing out at the second rest stop. The next big hill was right after said rest stop. “Slow and steady, slow and steady, don’t mind the heat” got me to the top and through the next leg. Check out Joel’s great picture of the covered bridge we passed. I had been ‘dropped’ by my husband and by Joel and was slowing down. By the time we met back up again before the third rest stop I was definitely exhausted. At the rest stops you always feel good. You’re stopped, renewing yourself, relieving yourself and for a moment you forget the hellish hills that you may have just encountered. You think, “I’m good, I think I can go on.” And then a couple of miles in I find myself asking, “What was I thinking?” At this rest stop my husband and I had decided to throw in the towel. The humidity was getting to me and we were just too tired. I could have talked myself into at least the next rest stop but I had to be honest with myself. I wasn’t even enjoying the scenery anymore. It had become a mental challenge. I felt a sense of relief when my husband agreed we should probably stop but at the same time we both felt really bad about giving up. I did say that I don’t like to walk hills, didn’t I? In the end, we logged about 36 miles and many of it incredibly hilly. Joel, the trooper, continued to the end and reportedly bonked about 4 miles to the end. From what he describes that last leg to be like, we think we made the right decision in stopping where we did. I think we could have finished but it would have been painful and slow. Storms were moving into the area as well.
So though the Harlem Valley Rail Ride did beat the two of us we have set up a new goal for next year. We are determined to complete the 55-miler sound and true. We now know what to expect and that was his first group ride ever, it being my second only after the Arlington/Alexandria Community Bike ride which was a cakewalk in comparison. My knees, my orthopedic doctor, and my physical therapist balk at me taking on hills but they are a necessary evil sometimes if you want the whole experience. There is just so much to see out there that sometimes you just gotta take a hill to get there.
I have also been getting a lot of compliments on weight loss lately. I have not been riding as much as I have been earlier this summer and earlier this week I had to take it to a stationery recumbent machine but the scales indicate I’m down (even though I’m wary of it) and my old (read: didn’t use to fit) clothes have been fitting me better. If I lost 5 more pounds I will probably be down a dress size. The cooler weather will be upon us soon and so will the holidays. I intend to keep riding even if its indoors and am so glad that I have found something that works for me. Here’s to resolve and the beauty of cycling!