RAIN: Ride Across INdiana

If there were an award for completing an insane number of miles without any training, I would win it. I always intend to train. Honestly, I do. But it’s been a rough couple of years for my cycling and all my intentions have dissolved in a mix of bad weather and crazy back-to-back vacation planning. Every time that I have participated in Calvin’s Challenge, I have not trained. This past May, I managed to nearly break my previous record (154 miles) at Calvin’s with 147 miles… Not quite the 163 miles for RAIN, but I figured I would have plenty of time, with RAIN being in July, to train…

Ha. Not the case.

Oh well.

So I came into RAIN with the attitude that I would do as many miles as I could manage, and then quit if I felt I just couldn’t complete it. I prepared myself for failure by assuming that I would not finish. But, seriously, who am I kidding? Do I honestly know when to quit a ride? I am the girl who rode 75 miles from Norton to Youngstown on XOBA when my knee was screaming in agony. I am the girl who rode Calvin’s Challenge while battling the end stages of a stomach flu in 2013. Pain does not seem to be a factor in my quitting anything. Or lack of training.

And that is how it came to be that I completed RAIN on July 11, 2015 with my husband, Crow. A mountain biker primarily, Crow becomes easily bored by the long, monotonous miles of a century. I had figured he would end up quitting before me and I would have to make the decision on whether or not I should continue on alone. I completely expected that, in fact. But he too stuck it out until the bitter end, commenting to me that having someone to ride with staves off the boredom.

RAIN follows US-40 from the beautiful campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute to the tucked-away campus of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. Through Indianapolis, however, the route swings through busy suburban neighborhoods to avoid what I assume is heavy downtown traffic along US-40. The grade is generally flat to rolling with no real significant hills… but they feel more significant as the miles go on! As expected from a US highway, the route is mostly filled with traffic and does not offer much by way of scenery. Some would say, “Well, it is Indiana.” But I truly believe every state has beautiful sights to offer somewhere; even the flat Northwest Ohio has beautiful places to see. You don’t get them on this ride, however, because the point is getting from one side of the state to another in one day and so the most direct route is what you ride.

Crow and Mars Girl at the ride start. With miles left to travel.

Crow and Mars Girl at the ride start. With miles left to travel.

We embarked on this ride with my friend Sue. Her son, Andrew, and his wife, Lauren, kindly took the time out of their busy lives to drive SAG for us, which meant taking two cars, as Crow and I planned to depart from the finish line while Sue wanted to return to Terre Haute. We were so grateful for their help because that meant we did not have to lug all of our things, like my prescription-strength ibuprofen, sunblock for reapplication, and additional snacks/energy goo. Plus, we had a cooler stocked with cold, fizzy beverages for our enjoyment at the 94 mile lunch stop.

On the way out to the ride, I admit that I took the ibuprofen. Since the spring, and during Calvin’s Challenge, I’ve been battling with an issue in my tailbone. I would feel intense pain any time I stood on my pedals to sprint and when getting on and off my bike. It was so bad that it was nearly tear-inducing. I saw my doctor in May and she did some alignment thing with my spine. It seems like hokey chiropractic voodoo, but she is an actual physician so I trust that whatever she thought my spine needed and did, it was the correct procedure because I’ve felt progressively better since. I’m still dealing with the tailbone when sitting for long periods of time, but I can now get through a long bike ride without issue when previously I’d be in enormous pain after just 10 miles. Still, since this was going to be my longest ride of the year, I wanted to make sure that unnatural pain was the least of my worries so I, as one of my friends joked, “doped up.”

The first 40 miles are the hardest psychologically because that is the longest stretch of the route without rest stops. However, on fresh legs, it hardly makes a difference; I can easily ride 40 miles without a break. The only problem that I had only had a granola bar and yogurt for breakfast so by the time I hit that first rest stop, I was a bit famished. I quickly fixed that problem by gorging on a PopTart, trail mix, and two PBJ sandwiches.

By the 65 mile stop, I was starting to feel some burn. I still wasn’t sure that I would complete the ride. It’s awfully daunting to realize that after 65 miles–which in my better biking days was a casual weekend day ride–I still had 100 miles left to go. I pushed on after the stop because I figured I had nothing better to do and I tried to keep my thoughts on just riding and not necessarily how far I’d ridden. For that reason, I put my bike’s computer on cadence mode so that I would not stare at the mileage ticking slowly away.

I still wasn’t feeling confident at the 94 mile stop but thoughts of quitting did not even enter my mind as I silently chewed my veggie wrap, chips, and some cookies at lunch. All that riding and still having not reached 100 miles was a little demoralizing. However, the next stop was at 115 miles. I knew that once I reached that stop, I would feel a sense of accomplishment which would make the end goal feel more attainable.

Once I reached the 115 mile stop, it was even easier to convince myself to continue on to the next and last stop at 133–just 18 miles. That’s basically the distance of a Tuesday night ride with my bike club. By the time you reach the last stop at 133 miles, it’s even more ridiculous to consider quitting. Sure, 30 miles is a longer ride (on fresh legs, that would normally take me a little over two hours), but it’s a lot shorter than what I’d already done.

Yeah, so I play these psychological games with myself. During that final stretch, my internal mantra was, “I never have to do this bleeping ride again if I finish it today.” It was definitely a lot easier to have a companion on the ride and I was surprised at how both Crow and I managed to keep our spirits up between each other, even though I quietly went through a few periods of grouchiness.

That final stretch certainly seemed the longest as the ride passed through towns that we kept hoping were Richmond, but instead turned out to be false-Richmonds. I could see we were getting closer to civilization. I switched my computer back into mileage mode and, of course, kept noting our distance from the supposed end of the ride at 163 miles. Every time we reached a new false-Richmond, I knew it wasn’t the real Richmond because we still had x miles to go.

We finished at 8:46pm according to the official records maintained by RAIN, ahead of the 9pm cut-off time. My bike computer recorded an actual ride time of about 11 hours and 30 minutes. Of course, with all the breaks we took, the total time was about 13 hours and 46 minutes. A new mileage record for me and Crow! I’m also proud to say that we finished with a 14.6 mph average which is fantastic in my books considering we did not use a pace line. (I hate pace lines.)

We were coming in so fast, you can only see our blurs!

We were coming in so fast, you can only see our blurs!

We were really lucky weather-wise. It was only about 85 degrees and the sun was behind a thin sheet of clouds the entire day with only occasional periods of sun. With all the exposure on the US-40 parts of the route, it could have been a lot hotter (the first year Sue did this ride, it was 100 degrees!). There was virtually no wind all day as well so we did not have to contend with a headwind. Thankfully because I have no patience with freaking headwind. Give me a nice hill any day over wind, I say!

I feel that this ride is well-run. All along the route, people cheer you on and tell you that you’re doing a great job, which is a huge help. At the finish line, I received a keychain medal that identifies me as a RAIN “finisher.” Photographers were there to capture the victorious moment. I’m glad I tried the ride. I probably won’t do it again.


RAIN Finisher Medal

RAIN 2015 Finisher! Yay!


Here are some links to the professional photos that got taken while we rode.

Somewhere near the 40 mile mark:


My “I’m done and never have to do this again” face:


Crow at finish line:


The three amigos:


And we’re off…

I’ve already signed up for Calvin’s Challenge again this year… I guess I like the punishment. Last year, I nearly quit as I was recovering from the flu. I still felt sick and could barely stomach to eat anything.

Yet, I got onto my bike and rode 70 miles, half of which was in the wind, and I felt pretty horrible most of the time. At the half way point of the second 50 mile loop, I stopped for about an hour at the rest area. I forced myself to eat and I sat out the sweats and sick feeling in my stomach. I almost asked to be sagged out.

Then my friend Sue came along and I spent some more time at the rest stop with her. By the time she was ready to go, I felt much better. I figured I could at least finish the loop because it was all with the wind, meaning I wouldn’t have to do much work to propel myself forward. As I rode, I felt gradually better. By the time I got back to the starting spot at the school, I felt like I could continue the ride.

And so I did with the 7 mile loops. I completed 12 hours with 120 miles. And somehow won a silver medal for my efforts (only two women competing in my age category). I feel I deserved something after completing the ride with the flu.

Anyway, I’m subjecting myself to that torture again. What are the chances of getting the flu a second time? (I guess I should go get my flu shot!) I’d like to beat my previous best of 154 miles… 160 would make me happy… We’ll see.

Also, Crow and I both signed up for the MS 150 in Holland, Michigan (a ride we enjoyed in 2012) on June 7-8th. (I had started a blog entry about our 2012 adventure, but I never finished it… I might post what I have later this week… )

So, I’m of course looking for donations… The money goes to MS research and assisting those people in need of assistance in handling MS. This has always been a very important cause for me as my grandpa H had MS.

We will be doing the MS 150 on our brand NEW tandem! We ordered our tandem in December and expect to get it soon. We will probably do a lot of rides this summer on our new wheels. We can’t wait to take it everywhere with us!

Crow and I may do TOSRV on the tandem, in fact. But we’ve decided to be weather weenies and wait to see what the outlook is for that weekend. Thank goodness some rides still have day-of registration.

Having no wedding to take up all of our time, I think we’ll be ramping up our cycling this summer. Also, I’m in the market for a mountain bike… Stay tuned for my adventures trying to ride a bike on a dirt trail through the woods!

I can’t find my winter clothes…

What the heck? Did I miss blogging the entire month of July?! This is completely unprecedented!

And unfortunately indicative of how busy my life has been lately. First of all, Dream Home had a lot more work to do than either of us were prepared for.  The carpets were so ancient that none of them were liveable. We ripped them out first thing and have been living on sub-floor in three rooms ever since. We have purchased the replacement flooring (wood!) but are awaiting my father to install them (he’s finishing up work on my Stow house). We had to take down wall paper in the hall, and then spackle a few spots, and now we need to prime then paint it. We took out a closet in the hall that was abutting the master bedroom closet to make a bigger master bedroom closet so the access to the hall had to be dry-walled up. Two of our three toilets were leaking, so we replaced all three. We had to cover the floor in the bathroom with a cheap (but nice) flooring since it too had had old (stinky) carpet.

Crow’s been up in the attic most recently trying to wire the house. It was built in 1972 before internet requirements made it so every room needs to be wired. Plus, our “tv” is a projector and a wide screen and we dropped cable so that we can watch programs through the internet. I guess that’s the fun repair for us when it gets done; however, it’s taking more time than we anticipated since our nice vaulted ceiling actually makes it difficult to run wire.

We have a slight electrical issue between our hall and the office (sometimes a breaker blows when you turn the hall light on if all the computers are running in the office). Crow’s been trouble-shooting that one but it looks like we might have to actually call in a professional electrician.

It took us an entire weekend to paint the living room. To date, I’ve painted–including the ceilings–the master bedroom, the office, all of the closets and the library (and I’m not finished with the library).  I still have to paint the guest bedroom, the hall, the main entry way, and the master bedroom closet. Ugh.

We’re literally still living in boxes because we can’t put anything anywhere until our flooring is installed. We can’t put new fixtures in any of the closets until the floor is installed. Half the time, I can’t remember where I packed something I need. It takes twice as long to do any task in the house because you have to figure out where the stuff you need to work with is. I’m so fortunate to work for a company with a very casual dress code, for I’ve been wearing t-shirts, shorts, and my Birks for months. Come fall, I’m going to be in trouble because I’ll need to locate my jeans and warmer clothes, all of which are in bags somewhere in the massive pile in our guest bedroom.

The most depressing thing to happen, though, is completely out of our control. The small township that owns the part of the road just north of us (we’re Cuyahoga Falls), has decided to close the road north of us because they cannot afford to repair the road which is falling away into the creek that runs along side it. This cuts off our easy access to I-77, forcing us to go around out of our way to get to the highway (which is also a bit confusing to give to people as directions). It also ruins a perfectly beautiful, non-trafficked bicycle route that my fellow ABCers use on a regular basis. (Remember, I said in a previous entry that I used to bike this road, dreaming of living here.)

The road was closed, to our surprise, the week Crow moved his stuff in. We were very bummed about it and it seriously may have affected our decision to buy the house had we known about it. But not even the neighbors knew. They said there had been a neighborhood meeting and it had been decided the road would be repaired, end of story.

In the valley, when roads close, they fall to depressing ruin and become even impassible by bike. We do not want our road–even if it’s just that end of the road–to meet this fate. Our road would go from being an alternative access route to different parts of the valley to an empty cul-de-sac. It’s very sad.

The closure is not yet declared permanent. The matter is still under review by the county board. Thankfully, Cuyahoga Falls, the national park, and the county metroparks oppose the road closure. But someone needs to pay to fix the road and that’s still being batted about. I just wish we could do something to save it.

We did spend about two-three weeks working very hard on the house. Additionally, I had to spend time at my old house, emptying it and cleaning it in preparation for its sale. I regret that my focus has fallen completely off of it and that my parents have picked up with the slack with beautifying it for me. Still have not had a single person request a showing of it, though. I think I missed the best part of the real estate season, but I simply was not ready before this time to get the house on the market.

We did manage to take a break to have some fun. You have to. Despite the fact that you’re living indefinitely among boxes and you can’t even think about having a house warming party yet. But we were going nuts feeling trapped in our house. Crow and I are active types… We like to go places and do things. We’re definitely not homebodies, though this house has forced us to become such due to its continuous sucking of funds.

First of all, the day we got handed the keys to the house, we left for Grand Rapids, Michigan to do the MS 150. I started writing a blog entry about this trip twice in July. I plan to finish it, I simply haven’t had the chance. Memory of the trip is starting to fade to write it well, but I do have lots of pictures to share! We had a great time exploring microbreweries in between and during our ride. This was probably are last big trip for awhile.

We did the 50 mile route for Eddy’s Sweet Corn Challenge on July 29 which starts and ends in Richfield, Ohio so no travel required. This was only the second time I’ve ever done that ride and it was easier than I remembered. The first time I did it was 2006–the first summer I had my road bike–and I ambitiously tried to do my first century but ended up bailing to the 50 mile route after the first 25 miles. It’s funny because I remember that Valley Road in the Brecksville Reservation seemed incredibly hard to me at the time. That road is easy to me now.  But, anyway, I felt pretty good about doing the ride this time as I ride those roads frequently on Wednesday nights with my club. It was also nice because Crow’s friend Mark (with whom we stayed in Grand Rapids and also one of our groomsman), his brother, and his nephew were all also on the 50-mile route of Sweet Corn so we got to hang out with them some.

Me, Crow, Mark and friends on Eddy’s Sweet Corn Challenge.

On August 4, we did the 100-mile route for the Mad Anthony River Rally–my favorite flatland century in Ohio. I’ve done this ride several times, as you know, and I really do think it’s one of the best run rides I do regularly (which is why I keep coming back!).

Me and Crow together in ABC cycling garb on the Mad Anthony River Rally. (Photo credit: Sue Richards)

This past weekend, we rode the 75-mile route of the ever-beautiful and scenic Roscoe Ramble. This is a very special ride for us as last year we hit it off while hanging out drinking beers at Uncorked in Roscoe Village and the rest, as they say, is history. We’d gone out in May and I blew him off for my summer with Bono. What a fool I was! As we spent a few hours chatting over beers, I realized what a great guy I’d passed up. At some point, we ended up holding hands… (no one knows who started it). And we didn’t stop holding hands for practically the rest of that night! We, embarrassed, arrived late to the dinner at the church, raising the suspicions of our cycling friends who now claim that they saw our romance coming.

Me and Crow on Day 1 of Roscoe Ramble after a long climb. (Photo credit: Sue Richards)

So this year we went again to Uncorked, sat on the same cozy couch, and reminisced as we told our story to our ABC friends Bob, Sue, and Randy who shared some drinks with us… Though it rained and was cold this year on the first day of the ride, I enjoyed reliving the spirit of the ride and remembering that special day last year when I fell for this guy I’d known and enjoyed talking to for three years. I admit that I always had kind of a crush on him, but our circumstances were never really right until last year. The stars were finally aligned, it seems. I still marvel how I knew Crow for so long but never really knew how compatible we were. Life is weird.

Sunday was the complete opposite of Saturday–sunshine, comfortable temperatures. We had a late start so we were perpetually behind the crowd the entire ride. We rode a casual pace and I was definitely a lot more cheerful to be around now that I was not forcing myself to ride in the most unlikely conditions (I so hate riding in the rain). The best part was the free ice cream at Oser’s in Canal Fulton at the end where I discovered that I like the flavor of black raspberries. Since I don’t like raspberries, it was a complete risk for me to try the Black Raspberry Fudge ice cream. Holy cow, was that good. I guess you can never go wrong with something that is colored purple.

Me and Crow on Day 2 of Roscoe Ramble on the last big climb before Apple Creek, Ohio (and lunch!). (Photo credit: Sue Richards)

So that’s been our lives for the last two months. I guess it looks like we’ve still managed to stay pretty active, but we really only geared up for fun on the weekends the last three weeks. We’re staying home the next couple of weeks to try to focus on the house again. But there’s still so many great local things to enjoy where we’re at–evening rides with our bike club (which are now easier to get to), Cleveland Orchestra concerts at Blossom (which are only $20 a ticket and you can bring in your own wine or beer and snacks!), Akron Aeros games (which we have yet to do), Music in the Meadow (some Wednesday nights). We rode our bikes on the towpath to Lock 3 for the Blues & Brews a few weeks ago–that was fun. It seems like there’s always something to do in and around the park.

I’m still managing to commute to work at least once a week. My commute is now 11-12 miles, depending on the route, instead of 15. It’s amazing how much of a difference the shortening of 3-4 miles makes for the ride. Now, I can get to work in under an hour every time and I can make it home in even less than that since the return route is mostly downhill. I bought this nifty new bike computer (cuz I lost the one I had) for my Surly that calculates the amount of reduction to my carbon footprint that I make each time I commute to work! It also has an ETA time and graph so that while I’m riding I can see what time I will get to work going my current speed. The exciting extra is that there’s also a temperature reading on it! (Yesterday I noted that when I arrived at work it was 71 degrees.)

I like the routes I can pick to get to work. There’s actually still a lot of options. The only thing I miss is that there is only climbing in one direction (to work). But I guess since the commute is now shorter, I could throw in a bonus hill when I’m feeling spunky and I have the time to make the commute home longer. I can also take the towpath since it runs very close to my house, which is a nice occasional alternative to the road, especially in the morning when no one is on the towpath.

There’s a big farmers’ market on Saturday mornings just two miles from our house. We are less than two miles from Szalay’s for getting fresh produce and specialty goods as well. We can hear Blossom concerts from our house (which isn’t always good as some head-banging annoying festival was there last year) but they aren’t too loud to be disruptive. If they have fireworks at Blossom, we can see them.

Also, last month, the Burning River 100 mile endurance run route went right down our street!! We were at mile 85 and all evening we saw the headlamps of runners running down our street. We ended up walking down to the Everett Road Covered Bridge where they had a water station set up. It was really cool–the bridge was all decorated with strings of lights. It was an exciting atmosphere to be around… Though I would never run a marathon, let alone 100 miles, I am athletic in that way… I recalled the spirit of riding Calvin’s Challenge where I had to push myself to keep going towards the insane goal of seeing just how many miles I could complete in 12 hours. I guess one man’s running of 100 miles is another girl’s cycling of 154 miles. (Though I think it’s a lot easier to ride a bike 100 miles than it is to run 100 miles!)

Anyway, that was pretty exciting. It just makes you realize what a great resource is found in the Cuyahoga Valley. I feel very lucky to be living there despite the fact that my house is proving to be a bit of a challenge. I just try to focus on the fact that some day this house will be awesome. It just may take some time to get there. We are happy here now (if not stressed out) but we will be very happy here if we stay for the rest of our lives…

…I guess even Dream Houses come with a price. But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. I’ve always believed that. I expect I’ll really appreciate this house when we’ve finished with it because it took a lot of our own sweat to make it fit our dream.

Fighting MS Again!

Hey, all! After a year’s break, I’ve again decided to sign up for the MS 150 this year. And, this time, I’m going to participate in the Great Lakes West Michigan Breakaway Ride–a ride that I’ve considered doing in the past for a change of pace. I’m so excited to be participating for the 10th time in an MS ride (8x on Bike To The Bay, 1x on Colorado’s Great West MS 150). As you know, this cause is very important to me because my grandpa H had MS. If you feel so inclined, please feel free to donate to my effort–I’d really appreciate it.

So I’ve also persuaded Crow to join me. And my friend Sue from the ABC will also be participating. I’m so excited to do an MS 150 in the company of good friends. I’ve never cycled in Michigan so that will be a new experience. The ride sounds beautiful, following the Lake Michigan at points, and it’s listed as not being particularly hard. I think Crow is going to keep me tapped down to the normal 75-mile/day route. He’s already proving to be great temperance to my aggressive “do-it-all” mileage Nazism.

Although, my hand is currently hovering over the registration button for Calvin’s Challenge. There’s a big ABC contingent going there this year… And while I was going to wait until the weekend before to determine my participation based on the weather and my level of training at that point, I’m now seriously considering preregistering. Peer pressure works.

I know I have to be careful now that I know about the arthritis. So if I signed up for Calvin’s, I’d have to make a serious commitment to pre-season training, no matter what the weather is like. I hate rain. And we’ve had so much rain this season.

I’m taking glucosamine now. I’ve heard it helps with some of the joint problems associated with arthritis. I know that it’s not the cure to my problems, but it should help some. I still have to be careful when training. And I’ll need to resume my stretches. Hopefully, I’ve learned something from last year and I don’t overdo it. I still want to be able to challenge myself, though. 180 miles on Calvin’s would be my goal. You gotta start off small, after all.

Well, at least for the MS 150, I’ll just be taking my own sweet time. Crow is wonderful to ride with in that we are both of the same tourist mindset–it’s about the journey, not the destination. So I imagine we’ll be stopping to take pictures when the scenery inspires us to do so. I love signing up for new rides… unexpected adventures await…  And I love it when I have no idea what to expect. The best adventures are those you can’t even possibly anticipate.

Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

So immediately after completing my U2 tour, I slid right into cycling with two events for which I’d already registered prior to my shoulder problems: Mad Anthony River Rally (MARR) and Roscoe Ramble. You might wonder, “Wow, so, how many weekends in a row have you been out of town?” And the answer would be five. You might also observe, “Boy, that sounds exhausting.” And you would be right.

I’m so looking forward to an entire weekend of not having to go anywhere. Of sleeping in. Of taking things easy. And that will be the joy of the coming weekend. I’ve been pretty much lagging behind sleep since Moncton because I have had so much catching up to do on things at home that my restless mind has kept me up longer each weekday evening. I guess my body doesn’t just bounce back like it did when I was younger. Or perhaps I didn’t notice the lack of sleep so much when I was younger… Either way, I’m looking forward to some peace and quiet. At home.

I plan to get back into writing mode. The research side of my fandom (ha, ha, my excuse, for my slip into crazy) has ended so now it’s time to sit down and get serious. To test my new wireless printer at home, I printed off a chapter from my rock star novel and packed it with my stuff so that I could read it in my tent at Roscoe Ramble, assuming that I might have trouble sleeping. It was a lot better than I remembered it, though I had some thoughts on altering a few sections slightly. Sometimes I’m surprised when I read back my own writing–on paper–and I realize that I’m actually drawn into my own story as if it were written by someone else. This is a good sign! It’s when my mind starts to wander when reading it that I realize a section needs some help. For the most part, I was right where I should be…. So, I admit that I’m kind of excited. This could be a good story. It may take a few years to write, though (no thanks to having a day job).

The rides. Well, I guess it’s not too surprising that my relative lack of riding in July did not stop me from managing to finish the 100 mile route of MARR. Wasn’t this what got me into trouble with my shoulder in the first place?

*sheepish nod*

Um…. yes….

But I was really careful!! And I went into the ride with the attitude that if I felt like I was causing damage to my shoulder, I would opt for the 62 or 80 mile route. So I just plugged along and my shoulder ached a little, but no more than it used to in the early season (which it really still is for me if you go by miles). I had more problems with my endurance level feeling a bit lower than it should be. But that’s nothing I can’t manage. Pain is manageable. I just shut that little voice off. I can’t say it was my best MARR time ever. And I didn’t feel as great physically in the end as I should have at this time of the year. But I finished and that’s what’s important. The stubborn bullheaded bitch that I am. Never give up, never surrender.

For Roscoe Ramble this year, I elected to do the 55 mile route. For which I ate my pride as all my friends–who were, of course, doing the 75 mile route–lovingly teased me about riding the “newbie” route. I’d originally signed up for the 75 mile route, but due to my lack of hill preparation and worries about over-doing it with my shoulder, I elected the safe route (for once) and asked to switch to the 55 mile. It was reassuring that I felt great after both days of riding and that my shoulder bothered me even less than it had on MARR. So I think I’m back as far as cycling goes. Though I will continue to take it easy, I promise.

I think part of the success is that after MARR, I raised my handlebars slightly. The new positioning seems to be working out a little better. I’m working on distributing my weight evenly between both shoulders and I’ve been doing some of my physical therapy stretches at the rest stops (which looks ridiculous to everyone who might catch me doing this).

The weather this year for Roscoe Ramble was… ehm… interesting. Saturday looked like rain for most of the ride, but nothing happened, and then during lunch, the sun finally made an appearance and everything began to warm up for a beautiful afternoon. I was a little worried about the toughest hill on the route, which occurs after lunch–a climb out of a valley that seems to last forever where you think every bend is the end but are woefully wrong. Turns out I didn’t need to worry, I did fine! I’m sure I was better and faster last year, but it’s not about how fast you complete a climb, it’s the fact that you did it.

My night in the tent was very unnerving for me as three–yes, three–thunderstorm systems came through. I fretted about my choice of setting up my tent beneath a tree–seemed like a great idea in the heat of the afternoon, less so in middle of three storms. My sleep was interrupted by constant worrying that my tree–a huge old thing, by the way–would get struck by lightening and fall on me. I kept envisioning myself as one of my friends in the other tents who would see a violent flash, hear a crack of thunder, and my scream as some branch or entire tree squashed me out of existence. Okay, and, as uneasy as I am about storms, I have these kind of thoughts all night in my house. But still. Let’s just say that it was incredibly hard to suppress my gasps which usually follow every sighting of lightening at home. I spent the night with my camping pillow and blanket over my head, pretending I was somewhere else. I had to resist the urge to jump into one of my neighbors’ tents for comfort. Sometimes it sucks to not be a kid and living with your parents… (They always let me sleep in their bed during t-storms. Maybe that’s part of my problem as an adult?)

Needless to say, my sleep wasn’t that deep all night. But that’s pretty usual for me in tents anymore. I’m getting too old for sleeping (comfortably) in tents…

Sunday was a damp ride back to the ride start (which was Kidron for me). The world was wet from the previous night’s storms. I didn’t encounter any significant rain during the ride, just occasional drizzles, and sometimes it just seemed like I was running into a mist when I as going down hill–not really rain, per se, or maybe a “Seattle rain.”It was about 62-68 degrees the whole day–chilly, but fine as long as you were riding. The sun kept fighting to beat out the clouds, but it never completely won the battle. Despite all the gloom, however, I heard lots of remarks from first time riders about how great they thought the ride was and promises to do the ride again. The scenery in Holmes and Coshocton counties is beautiful–rolling hills, farms, empty roads–no matter how gloomy the weather is. It really doesn’t even seem like it’s Ohio down there; with the Amish communities, it’s like a land lost in time.

So I survived Roscoe Ramble and all its hills. I’m feeling pretty confident about getting back out on the bike now that my shoulder is doing better, keeping in mind that I should not push it. Maybe this year is an off year for me. It’s good to take a break for a bit and, really, I’d been saying for the last year that I need to balance some of my activities a little more. I should probably try to do some more hiking. Or try my hand at some other activity. I know that this summer I just replaced biking with U2. But, you know, that’s me–when I love something I’m passionate about it all the way, no holds barred, no casual approach to loving it all.

If only more people were like that, right? Passion is the spice of life and I cling to people who feel a burning to do something with their unspent energy.

This is about the time of the year that I start thinking about I’m going to do next summer. I’m currently weighing two options:

1. The Great Big FANY Ride – A week long bike tour of a region of New York. I’ve wanted to do this ride for awhile now, since I became aware of it and after surviving XOBA. I haven’t done a week long ride since XOBA and I’d really like to do another.

2. Climb Mt. Whitney, California’s highpoint, with my Uncle Mart. My Uncle Mart is the person who I credit for getting me into outdoor activities. On my first ever trip to California at age 10, he took me white water rafting down the American River with my cousin Angy and Grandma H. The second time I came out, as a teenager, he took me backpacking in the mountains with Angy and my aunt Gabriela. Both experiences left such great impressions on my memory that as I envisioned my life as an adult, I planned that I would be a great adventurer just like my favorite uncle. He is the reason I’m the outdoorswoman that I am today.

You can take part in helping me decide. I’ve posted a poll here. I want to do both equally so I’m feeling a bit wishy-washy. I’m interested to know what your thoughts are. Thanks in advance!

Trials and TOSRV-ations

This year’s TOSRV was truly one of those times where I marvel at how I managed to push myself through to the end of the ride.

First, this spring left very few good days for training. I was less prepared for the ride than I’d ever been since I started doing TOSRV every year since 2008. I only did two long rides in April–a 68 mile ride from my house to Burton, Ohio, after which I felt like crap, and the amazing 152 mile feat of Calvin’s Challenge. In a normal year, I use one day every weekend in April to do a long ride, starting at 50 miles and working up to about 80 miles in the last week. Due to some awful rainy and cold weather in April, I missed the first three weekends of training and only managed to get those two long rides in the last two weekends. Ugh. I came into TOSRV with a pathetic 439 miles under my belt; last year, I had 870.

Second, I made the tragic mistake of going out for drinks with my coworkers on Thursday night. When I hadn’t even packed yet. To be fair, I did not think we would be out that long. We all left work at 4pm. Consequently, I closed down the gathering with the remaining two people–one of whom is my team lead–at approximately 9pm. Five hours of drinking, no food. And I was not in the proper state to pack when I arrived home at 9:30pm. I went to right to bed. And “woke up” (does a person wake up after passing out?) at 5am to puke. I was a sick dog.

I tried to get up for work and pack at about 6:30am. But I couldn’t get my butt out of bed long enough to do anything other than throw a bunch of my stuff–backpack included–in the middle of my bedroom floor. I felt sick to my stomach laying down; when I stood, it was worse. I then logged into my work email and guiltily called (knowing I’d have to eat crow about this on Monday). I went back to bed. I woke again at 11am feeling as though I’d sweat off the hangover. I was finally interested in eating some cereal and drinking vast quantities of water which all (thankfully) stayed down.

But I was still kind of sluggish about getting to that packing. I watched TV, then surfed the internet (mainly the U2 forum), and then I spent an hour logged into my desktop at work to finish a test. In between all of these activities, and taking a shower, I slowly gathered stuff into a pile in the center of the living room floor (so I could watch TV)  in an attempt to pack. But I was frankly kind of distracted. I really need to focus when I pack or I miss things. And I had that tired feeling one has after a hangover so my enthusiasm level was down.

The end result? I forgot to pack the following:

1) A towel. I realized it in enough time to borrow one from my friend Joanna (at whose apartment I spent Friday night).

2) Money. I always carry a credit card when cycling, but I like to have cash. On my way out of town, I forgot to stop at the ATM. Fortunately, since I intended to get cash, I’d placed my ATM card in the wallet I use for cycling (it normally contains my ID, medical card, and one credit card plus any cash if I remember to put some in there) so I was able to stop at an ATM on the way out of Columbus on Saturday.

And–most tragically–3) WATER BOTTLES. Um. Yeah. How scatter-brained is THAT? I didn’t even realize that I’d forgotten them until Saturday morning after I’d placed my luggage in the van going to Portsmouth. As I pulled my bike towards the starting area of the ride, I realized I was missing something very vital. I’ve never forgotten water bottles. Ever. I’ve come close, sure, but I’d never actually done it. There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

So I ended up going back into the Hyatt where, fortunately, there was a small Starbucks stand. I bought two bottles of water and put them in the back pockets of my jersey since they were too small to stay in place in the water bottle cages on my bike. The leg from Columbus to Circleville is roughly 30 miles. I spent the entire time during that leg fretting about running out of water so I was not drinking as liberally as I normally would, fearful I would run out in that vast wilderness of fields between the two cities. Consequently, I also took it a little easy and did not push a hard pace in fear that I would sweat too much and become thirsty. Along some of the legs, there are gas stations where one can buy more water, but I couldn’t recall many between Columbus and Circleville.

Fortunately, when I got to Circleville, one of the bike shops that run support vehicles for the ride–Baer Wheels–had water bottles to sell me for a mere $6! It’s a good thing I stopped for that cash on the way out of Columbus. Needless to say, once the water crisis was averted, I was rolling confidently through the remaining miles of the ride and pushing myself as vigorously as usual.

I didn’t spend too much time at the rest stops on the first day. The weather reports had threatened rain (and occasionally the skies looked it too) so I wanted to beat any potential storms to Portsmouth. I arrived in Portsmouth shortly after 3pm (I left Columbus at 7am) which was such an improvement over last year’s 5pm. Thankfully, unlike last year, the headwind was not very significant. It was there, but a steady 5-10mph headwind is much more tolerable than the 25mph wind gusts that brutalized my body last year. Sadly, I was better prepared/conditioned for the ride last year. I was significantly less prepared for the ride this year; however, the weather was much better. I guess, though, I shouldn’t complain since if I had come with this year’s conditioning into last year’s ride, I would not have made it. TOSRV was ultimately forgiving to my–as well as that of my fellow riders’–general lack of training this year. Still, I cannot help but think that had I had this year’s weather with last year’s miles and training, I would have really rocked TOSRV.

Somewhere between Waverly and Portsmouth, Saturday May 7, 2011

Regardless, I made it into town feeling good–not particularly beaten–and I was able to enjoy some time at the park with my friend, Bad Dog, and his crazy group of partying cyclists, the Polka-Dots. Yes, I partook of some beers, as the memories of  Thursday’s over-indulgence was long, long gone (somewhere among those 108 miles of road). The rain continued to hold off throughout the remainder of the party in Tracy Park and only started around 6pm when the festivities were wrapping up.

Bad Dog & Mars Girl enjoy beers at Tracy Park in Portsmouth, Saturday May 7, 2011.

My overnight in the Southern Ohio Medical Center gym was a little rough despite the fact that I packed my big air mattress this year. I had been battling a cold of some kind that was attacking my lungs specifically, causing great coughing fits whenever I wasn’t cycling and especially when I laid down to sleep. Once I fell asleep, I usually didn’t wake up to cough. The problem was, the gym was excessively noisy this year with the air conditioner knocking on every hour or so with a loud bang. Not to mention the thunderstorm that came through at some ungodly hour, its rain so hard I could actually hear it pounding on the roof despite the white noise of the running air conditioner. I even caught a few muffled rumbles of thunder (which were apparently loud to all those sleeping in tents elsewhere in Portsmouth).

Needless to say, I was up with every noise. And every time I was up, my lungs, tight with pain, convulsed as if to reject the air they held. With every breath of air I took in, I coughed. Ugh. I was really self-conscious that I was keeping other people up, so I tried to repress each cough. Which, of course, only made the coughing worse. Fortunately, I had brought cough drops and that seemed to help. Still, on the ride back to Columbus the next day, my ear was constantly tuned into the conversations of people around me, fearing I’d hear that one person complaining about the coughing all night in the SOMC center. Thank God, I didn’t hear any complaints of this type–just similar complaints about the air conditioning. At least I wasn’t louder than that. But if anyone out there reading this was indeed kept awake by my coughing, I heartily apologize! Though I really hope that if you’ve decided to overnight in the public venue of the many gyms in Portsmouth, you expect to be disturbed by some noise or another. At least I wasn’t snoring. At least I hope I wasn’t (that problem was supposed to be fixed with the septoplasty and removal of my tonsils).

Sunday morning yielded the characteristic fog so ingrained in my memory of departures from Portsmouth. It was damp from the rain and a bit chilly. My muscles protested in the work of the climb out of the valley. I had brief moments of 16-17mph, but for the most part, I was a steady, slow 15mph. I could tell it would be a long day. The legs just didn’t want to participate in this event. Again, I might have been in better shape with last year’s training… Ah, well.

A foggy departure from Portsmouth.

It was pretty chilly all the way through to Chilicothe. As I got back on my bike after lunch, I actually felt cold. The sun was fighting to come out and did not in fact show itself until towards the end of my trek to Circleville. Things warmed up pretty quickly after that and I was able to finally shed my arm warmers and windproof vest. I even had to put on some sun block. Not that it helped, I still got a cold sore on my face a few days later. Ack.

I spent a lot of time at the Circleville stop. I admit that I felt a little defeated. It was one of those times where I had to talk myself back onto the bike. I wasn’t going to quit, mind you; I just needed to rest longer than I knew I should. All told, I spent about 45 minutes at that last stop. I pet a greyhound dog owned by one of the people supporting a TOSRV rider. I talked to Brad–a friend from both my church and the ABC who was taking pictures during the ride. I drank a lot of gatorade and water. I reminded myself inwardly that I’d performed the magnificent feat of completing this ride three times before. And then I reluctantly remounted my bike and set off.

I spent a lot of time in my middle gear ring. I’ve learned that I mentally prefer to spin a lot than push a hard gear when I’m exhausted. It turns out that I end up going the same speed either way, but when I spin a lot, I’m in much less pain. I’m not sure it works this way for other people. But when I’m spinning, I feel like I’m accomplishing something. If I’m in a high gear with a lower cadence, though I’m going the same speed, I feel like I’m not moving.

Mars Girl in Circleville, Sunday May 8, 2011. Photo courtesy of Brad Bolton.

I saw Brad along one of the long roads outside of Columbus and he later said I looked strong. Which is funny because I totally didn’t feel that. It was admittedly the hardest return to Columbus I’d done. It’s so strange how this ride changes so drastically from year to year. It all comes down to weather and your level of conditioning. Last year, I felt like I could have done an additional 60 miles after the ride; this year, 107 was almost too much. Also, since I wasn’t with any friends at all this year, I had no one to pull me. But that’s okay. I also was the most relaxed on a TOSRV I’ve ever been because I wasn’t stressing about staying with someone else. Still, it might have been nice to have someone to pull me a few miles. Oh well. I probably would have resisted anyone’s efforts to help anyway.

I got into Columbus at 4pm which really wasn’t that bad. All told, I had a 15.0 mph average the first day and a 14.9 mph average the second. That’s about average for me. So despite how I felt emotionally and physically, I didn’t do too bad.

I think this is my last TOSRV for a year or two. I need a break. This year’s horrible start to spring taught me that you can’t always get the kind of training in during the spring that you expect. And I’m not sure I always want to. It’d be nice to spend the spring only cycling when I want to cycle, as opposed to doing it because I know I have to. Perhaps if next year’s spring is more fortuitous, and I get a lot of miles in, I”ll consider registering late. But I’m definitely not jumping on the boat in January. It’s nice to remind myself that I don’t have to do something.

Yeah, I”d like to do Calvin’s Challenge again. But that’s a one-day event. I think it’s much easier (and less painful) to do a lot of miles in one day than to do 100+ miles one day, and then get up and do 100+ miles the next day once your muscles have stiffened. I think I’ll play Calvin’s Challenge by ear too. A little spontaneity never hurt anyone.

So as I write this, it’s a rainy evening at the start of what promises to be a rainy week. I’ve yet to ride my bike to work. So what does the summer hold for Northeast Ohio? Will it ever stop raining? I think soon I’m going to just give in and ride to work in the rain… It’s time to grow some balls. Someone remind me again why I moved back to this godforsaken state…

Calvin’s Challenge Results

The results to the Calvin’s Challenge are in. I’m right there in 3rd place in the Female 35-39 category, right after another Heidi in second place. Maybe Heidi is the new Lance (Armstrong)? They missed my partial miles for some reason and I can’t figure out how to contact them to dispute this. But I guess that’s okay as I know I did 152 miles. And it’s still over all the longest ride I’ve ever done.

So what do you think? Next year, maybe 180-190 miles? The girl who got gold with her 204.5 miles won’t be in the 35-39 age category next year, maybe I have a chance of getting silver or gold? ‘Course, there’s always another champion who appears to replace the previous. I’m not so sure I can (or want to) get 200 miles in 12 hours. But then I said a year ago that 100 miles was more than enough to ride in one day….

The professional photographer got some action shots of me on my trusty steed:

Team Crazy Girl - Mars Girl & Black Beauty on Calvin's Challenge

Pedaling my way to victory on Calvin's Challenge. (This was early in the first loop, I felt no pain.)

152 Miles!

I’d never heard of ultra cycling until a few days ago. Maybe I’d heard the term, but hadn’t bothered to figure out what it meant. But after a friend explained it to me, I learned that it was a cycling race in which you try to get as many miles as possible within a specified amount of time. Unlike randonneuring, where you try to finish a predetermined number of miles within a specified amount of time, in ultra cycling you always return to the same spot like a bike race. So you can leave equipment–food, clothes, etc–in that location without having to lug your stuff around with you as you do in randonneuring.

Originally, I signed up for Calvin’s 12-Hour Challenge with the intent to use it as training for TOSRV, which is next weekend. I thought it would give me enough time to try to get 100 miles in since we’ve had such a crappy spring so far in Northeast Ohio. I had thought about plotting a road ride from my house to Newton Falls through Lake Milton, and then back, which would be about 70 miles. Usually when I train for TOSRV, I try to do about 80 miles one of the days in the weekend before TOSRV. But then a few friends who were doing Calvin’s put the bug in my ear. I admit that I waited to decide until I saw the weather report for the day–I try to avoid doing events in the rain or excessive cold. Yeah, I’m a fair-weather cyclist. Even though TOSRV is generally–and probably will be this year–in the least optimal of riding weather. The weather was supposed to be partly sunny with a high of 66 degrees.

With the optimistic weather outlook, I decided Wednesday night that I would do Calvin’s in favor of my own Newton Falls ride because I would have the opportunity to actually ride to 100 miles and, if I still felt good, I could attempt additional miles. I’ve always wondered how far I could push myself past 100 if given the time or reason. I didn’t tell anyone, but I secretly hoped I would do 150 miles. The most I’ve ever done in a single day is 118 miles last year on TOSRV (the 115 mile “extended route” with detour plus 3 miles to or from Joanna’s apartment each day). So I wanted to blow my previous record out of the water. Plus, though I’ve told people that 100 miles is more than enough to ride in a single day, I’ve also secretly wanted to do something like, say, complete a ride like STP (Seattle-to-Portland) in a single day. It seems I’m always reaching for the higher apple on the cycling mileage tree once I’ve managed to grab a lower one.

But I knew better than to set my expectations too high. So my single ambition for the day was to at least complete 100 miles–that way I’d be assured I was in shape enough for TOSRV–and then if I felt like more I would do more. I was hoping for another 50 mile loop. But that’s not what I ended up doing due to a slight lack of self-confidence on my part when the time came. So I managed the remaining 50 miles after the initial 100 by completing 7 circuits of the 7 mile loop plus two partial miles at the very end of the race.

The first circuit of the 50 loop was the easiest (as usual on any ride of length). At 7:30 in the morning when the race began, there was hardly any noticeable wind. We zipped through the first stretch of 25 miles relatively easily at first. There were a few bumps that hardly qualified as hills (despite the advertised “flat to rolling” description of the route). But as the day wore on, a 15mph headwind developed out of the south-east. Since the first 25 miles were apparently south and east, the second loop was a hard push at first. Which had surprised me when I started that second loop–I’d remembered a brisk 16-17mph pace in that section at the start of the race. I guess I wasn’t paying attention that the wind had picked up since the last 25 or so miles of the loop were not in the wind.

The wind took the gusto out of my ambitions. There parts of that segment of the second loop where I was going 10-11mph. Ugh, I hate that. I wasn’t prepared mentally to deal with the challenge of wind since I’d been out so infrequently so far this year. I had to remember to not become discouraged by the slow speed but, rather, put my bike into a low gear where I could keep my cadence going, and just pretend to be climbing a long, slow hill. The biggest problem was that by the time I reached the midway rest stop, I felt really exhausted. My legs were starting to burn. As I scarfed down bananas and crackers to feed my demanding body, I decided that I was not going to do another 50 loop but try to do as much as I could with 7 mile loops. I then revised my goal to 130 miles. I did the math, decided it would “only” take 5 circuits of the 7 mile loop, and then I could call it quits.

The problem with making decisions like that mid ride is that you’ve convinced yourself that what you’ve decided is the truth. It’s like bailing out before you’ve even tried. So the failure here is mine. Despite the fact that the last 25 miles of the route were mostly in tailwind, and I had time to recuperate, I had already decided that I was not going to do another 50 miles. So when I got back to the starting point at the high school, I waited the twenty minutes for the 7 mile loop to open. Even though I had plenty of time to do another round on the 50. I could kick myself for that decision. But at the same time, I think I wasn’t sure I could do 150 miles so I was being over-cautious.

The 7 mile loop started and ended in the wind. However, there was a beautiful stretch of about 2 miles along a road in which you were in a tailwind, and another 2 miles or so were on a road that was in a less discouraging cross-wind. Because the course was much shorter, the bits of wind push were brief enough so as not to be demoralizing. It took me approximately 20 minutes to complete each loop and there was somewhat of a sense of instant gratification at being able to cross the finish line more frequently, though the miles seemed to add up into the total much more slowly.

I took frequent breaks between the loops which I think would not have happened had I done a third 50 mile loop. If I had done a third 50 miles, I might have had time to stack a few 7 mile loops afterwords and, therefore, have a higher finishing mileage. But I’m not going to beat myself up for it too much because 1) I came into this ride with a meager 260+ miles and 2) my longest ride this season was 68 miles. I think that I was being over-cautious in just doing 7 mile loops after the first 100, but, also, I know my own body. If I wasn’t feeling it after 100, then it was perfectly wise of me to just take on more miles in small bites.

So when I did in fact complete my promised 5 loops on the 7 mile route, I was contemplating quitting. The time at this point was about 6pm–the race had an hour and a half left. I had a headache (perhaps I wasn’t drinking enough fluids, though I was really gulping down the gatoraid like there was no tomorrow after each wind push), my legs were feeling the ache of fatigue, my knees were tingling a little (indicative of my knee issues), and there was a sharp pain in the middle of my right shoulder (I can’t figure out why this happens on all my rides early in the season). When I got to the high school after the 5th loop, I grabbed ibuprofen from my overnight bag in my car. I seriously need to start carrying this stuff with me on rides. I took the ibuprofen and then sat for a bit (maybe 20 minutes) with my friend Dave’s wife Angela. She reminded me that I had plenty of time to do more circuits. The headache started to fade and I was feeling better. So I reluctantly got back on the bike and started off.

An amazing thing happened. As soon as I started pedaling, I felt better than I’d felt on the last two loops! Oh, man, God bless the makers of pain relief medications for muscles! I think, too, that the force of the wind was starting to ease up at this point. I started pushing 13-14mph on the wind stretches of the 7 mile course and I was back to 16-18mph on the windless part (whereas, on my last two runs I’d found myself going 15mph). After completing the 6th loop, which brought me to 42 miles, I immediately–without stopping to take a break–started another loop with gusto. I was so close. I knew I couldn’t let my 150 mile dreams go now.

I breezed through that 7th loop with tons of energy that seemed to come out of nowhere. If only I’d taken the ibuprofen earlier! When I reached the finish line that seventh time, the race moderators shouted that there were 9 minutes left–time enough for 2 miles. I hesitated a minute thinking, “No, really, I don’t need to do this.” But then, my competitive conscience taunted, “But you’ll even it out to 150 instead of 149.” And the next thing I knew, I was clipping my foot back into the pedal and I was off!

Knowing it was the final minutes of the race, I could really push myself because it didn’t matter any more if I burned out. So I hammered out that windy stretch. More moderators were standing by the first mile marker; they shouted, “4 minutes!! Keep going!!” I pushed harder and was proud that despite the wind I was pulling a steady 14.5mph. I did, in fact, make it to the second mile marker where they collected the chip I wore on my leg for counting laps. There was a group of about 10 of us. We all turned around and headed (with a tailwind) back to the high school. I really felt proud of myself. It had been very exciting at the end there. I almost felt like I was in the last few kilometers of the Tour de France.

I have to admit that despite my initial skepticism about riding a full 12 hours–which I totally did not aim to do–I kind of ended up liking the challenge of this ride. It was really an interesting experiment on just how far I can push my body. I learned some really interesting things about myself, like that I can survive on crackers, bananas, grapes, gatoraid, and water for 12 hours. I was never once starving, except when I wasn’t watching my intake, and I just kept a steady flow of food in my body whenever it was available. Normally I’d freak about eating this much, but my body demands it in a trial of endurance. I’m pretty sure everything I ate while riding was immediately used as fuel. (As evidenced by frequent bathroom breaks after the ride! TMI, I know!)

It’s weird how your body lets you know what you need. Every once in awhile, you’ll crave certain things. Instead of a banana, you want salty peanut butter crackers. Instead of water after a hard push in the wind, the only thing that quenches your thirst is the sweetness of gatoraid. It’s even stranger that these things satisfy your body in ways that make you feel as though it’s been restored in some minor way.

I can tell you that I never dreamed in a million years that I could keep up a ride for 12 hours. Well, my actual ride time, according to the computer on my bike, was 10 hours 21 minutes. It’s weird how much time is lost to periods of rest. I’m sure I could probably make rest time shorter if I practiced. Regardless of how you look at it, 10 hours is a long time to be riding a bike. I sit at work for 8 hours and I become restless. It’s extremely challenging to do anything–even something you enjoy, let alone something strenuous–for 10 hours straight. So I’m proud of this accomplishment alone. I never knew I was this disciplined or motivated. Cycling teaches me so much about my inner strengths.

Fortunately, the kind people who organize Calvin’s Challenge offer the use of the shower facilities in the gym to wayward cyclists like myself who may have a long drive home after the ride. So I showered (which is the best part of any ride). Then I ate–nay, I inhaled–the post ride dinner that was given to all the riders. It was a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and a few other sides. I’m not too sure, I ate them all like someone who hasn’t had food in a week. Which is strange because I’d not been hungry like that on the whole ride! But as soon as you stop, your body seems to scream, “All right, already, let’s eat something REAL now, thank you very much.”

Oh, and that can of Coke Zero. Though it was warm, it felt so good to drink something that fizzed and was not too sweet. The little things in life that you enjoy after you’ve spent the greater part of a day slowly suffering.

I expected to bonk right away, but I actually didn’t. After attacking my food–leaving behind a mess of empty bags, wraps, and containers–I headed out, deciding to skip the awards ceremony since I didn’t figure I’d won anything. There were so many very serious racers there, people who passed me at incredible speeds that I couldn’t imagine in that wind and who did not stop for breaks at all. (Ss I was dismounting my bike to use a portapod in the last hour of the race, I heard one guy say to the girl with him he was riding, “At this point you can’t afford to get off the bike for even 2 or 3 minutes.” Which, of course, made me feel guilty for having to go pee so badly that I had stopped). I was sure my mileage was considered quite low. I was just happy to have broken my own record.

My drive home was about 3 hours. About an hour into my drive, I stopped in Dublin–just outside of Columbus–to get a coffee at McDonald’s just in case I needed the extra energy boost. As I was waiting on my coffee, I checked Facebook and learned from my friend Sue that I’d actually won a bronze medal for women in my age group (35-40)!  She had collected the medal for me. Wow!! That was totally unexpected. Of course I tried to rain on my feelings of accomplishment by thinking that perhaps there were only three women competing in my age group–which is how I won first place in a (running) 5K a few years ago (and I hate running). The 2011 results have not been posted to the Calvin’s website yet, so I can’t confirm. But, really, I shouldn’t look gift encouragement in the mouth. In the hours since realizing I actually got an award for my efforts, I started to think about–what?! oh, no–trying to do a ride like this again. I have never before been interested in racing–the kind where you get in a draft line with a bunch of people and try to be the fastest–but a race in which you just try to collect the highest amount of miles in a certain amount of time has definitely got my interest peaked. I think I may have found my niche. Not to get ahead of myself. But I think I could start to like this ultra cycling thing. Every once in awhile.

I can’t believe how pumped I remained on the drive home. Maybe it was a mixture of caffeine and adrenaline, but I did not once get close to feeling physically drained as has happened before when I’ve had to drive back from somewhere after a 100-mile ride. I had my iPod playing U2 songs on random and I happily sang along. I was strangely over-warm in the car–was my body still overheating from the work out?–so I had the air on blowing in my face the entire way. But I made it home at 12:15am feeling satisfied about my day. It took me about an hour or so to calm down enough to sleep. There goes my theory that a century ride is a great cure for insomnia. I did wake up at 11am this morning, though.

I’m really not any more sore than I would be after any other century ride. I guess there’s a point where the pain can’t be increased any further. To be honest, though, all my muscles just feel achy when I walk, which is pretty normal. Maybe my body did some repair to itself while I slept. I think in a few days time I’ll be ready to ride again. And, fortunately, TOSRV is this weekend. I guess I don’t have to worry about being unable to complete the ride this year. After this, the first day of TOSRV is going to feel really quick! Even though TOSRV is 105 miles, and then you get up the next day to do it all over again in reverse. But I’ve done it before. I can do it again. (I hope!)

The weather outlook for TOSRV this year is a bit bleak right now (rain both days?). I guess that’s what you get for the 50th year of this ride which is infamous for its incredibly bad weather. Oh well. If the miles are not so much a problem, I can focus my efforts on dealing with my mortal enemy–the rain. Oh well. It wouldn’t be a challenge otherwise. And I love a challenge. (This is my endorphins speaking, by the way. They always cause me to glow even days after a ride.)

Dave, Sue, and me at the start line of Calvin's Challenge.

TOSRV 2011 – 50th Anniversary

I just registered for TOSRV. My BIB number is 129. Being that the registration just went up within the last hour, and 28 people obviously got in ahead of me, I’m guessing this is going to be a popular year for the ride being that it’s the 50th anniversary. Do you think it’s at all possible that the Weather Gods aka Mother Nature might bestow upon us uncharacteristically warm weather in joyous celebration of this occasion?

Yeah, I know. Not bloody likely. More likely is the worst weather ever in its 50 year history. It’s gonna snow. Yep.

I hope not. I can suffer through a lot of cruddy weather, but I draw the line at snow.

I told myself I only had to do this ride up to its 50th year anniversary and then I’d take some time off. How much you wanna bet that next year at this time I’ll be registering again? (Excuse: Well, I have to do an even 5 years…)

It’s nice to know that I don’t have to do the ride. Because, well, I have to do it this year of all years. I need to be there for the monumental moment and all, right? There’s going to be an even bigger, better party at the finish line. Mars Girl never misses a good party!

The things we do to ourselves… In the middle of January, riding my bike in May sounds wonderful. I haven’t been on my bike for two months. But, ironically, just this morning I was reflecting on the joys of riding my bike to work, looking forward to April when that will be possible again.

Yep. I’m addicted. I guess it’s better than drugs. It takes over my life, leaving little room for other social activities, but it keeps me fit, makes my heart strong, teaches me endurance and the value of pushing hard to achieve a goal. It’s all good for me.

Besides, my legs are so buff. On the off-chance that I do get to do anything else this summer, I will look great in all my outfits… Especially a certain mini jean skirt I bought just the other day… It’s good to be almost 36 and have the ability to sport clothes that show off my legs.

(Hey, I cut myself and my looks down so much, it’s good for me to say something positive about myself every once in a while. Don’t you all get grumpy with me!)

So. Here we go again, dear TOSRV…. so good to see you, my love.

My second Roscoe Ramble

Mars Girl runs from a paceline... and ends up looking like she's leading one! (Photo by Sue Richards)

My bike club puts on two major cycling events per year–The Absolutely Beautiful Country Ride in July and the two-day Roscoe Ramble in August. While I’ve done the ABC ride every year since 2008, I have only done Roscoe Ramble one other time, in 2007, and I only did the shorter 55 mile route. I’ve been meaning to do the ride again, but other commitments got in the way–my trip to Colorado with my dad in 2008, helping to pour wine for Emerine Estates at Vintage Ohio in 2009. At the start of this year, I immediately set aside time on my calendar to ride in Roscoe Ramble with the intent this time to do the full 75-mile/day route.

What I remembered most about this ride is the inexhaustible beauty of the landscape. And, also, the completely exhaustible climbs that took you through the best parts. I  stated after my first Roscoe that it was the hardest ride I’d done since returning from Colorado. As I went into my second Roscoe this year, I figured I’d overstated the difficulty of this ride because back in 2007, I was still a very new rider who had only one year prior switched to a fully road bike. I reasoned with myself that I’d succeeded in far more challenging rides since then–Fredericksburg Library Roll, Fall N Leaf, Millersport to Loudonville on XOBA (which nearly killed me)–so perhaps I was over-estimating the difficulty of Roscoe.

So in the week preceding the ride, I foolishly rode my bike just about every day that week:

  • Monday, I rode to work.
  • Tuesday, I jumped on the weekly ABC ride and elected to go up Oak Hill Road instead of the normal route which goes up Major.
  • Wednesday,  I led the weekly ABC Revere Ride, selecting the Harter/Parker route with the long slog up State Road in Hinckley.
  • Thursday, I opted out of riding to de-stress from work where I’d been delivering a training class on-site to customers–totally out of my comfort zone. I originally had intended to go to the ABC ride, but I wisely changed my mind because my knees ached from the day’s stress.
  • Friday, I rode to work again, which included the alternative climb up Columbia Road instead of Snowville.

Not the best plan for going into a hilly ride week. Especially since Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday included putting in some overtime hours to prepare for the training course I was delivering so I was mentally as well as physically exhausted going into the weekend. Once again, I totally underestimated the ride and overestimated my need for rest and recovery before a big ride. I had broken one of my cardinal rules, which is to never ride my bike the day before a big ride.

Needless to say, the first day of Roscoe was a bit more painful for me than it should have been. My legs protested the first climb out of Canal Fulton and it was a rough first several miles. Then, somewhere along the way, I was able to find a comfortable spinning pace. I wouldn’t say I was in the best form of the season–I was just in a manageable pain zone. The route was the same (or very similar) to what I remembered from the first day of Roscoe that I’d done two years ago, minus the 20 extra miles from Canal Fulton. However, I’d done many of those roads out of Canal Fulton on other rides, so I was kind of familiar with the area.  Around Kidron, there was an abrupt change in scenery as I entered the rolling hills of Amish country.

I remembered that after (the most excellent)  lunch (at Miller/Yoder Farm) there were some steep rollers. And I was right. Including a very long climb out of a valley that had somehow slipped my mind throughout the years. Normally, I would have enjoyed that climb. But with my legs feeling a little out of sorts and the rising heat of the day (it was approaching 90 degrees as the day wore on), I just wasn’t feeling it. Not that such feelings caused me to abort my climb; on the contrary, I pushed up the hill as normal except that I didn’t play around with trying to hold out longer in harder gears. I have to admit that the climb was definitely worth it–the scenery at the top of the world was absolutely beautiful as we rolled atop that ridge. I didn’t stop to take any pictures, though, because the heat really bore down on you whenever you stopped. The generated breeze from cycling was really the only reprieve from the heat.

The riders were really spread out at this point. A lot of the people I’d started with were no longer with me. Michael and I ended up keeping each other in sight, stopping occasionally to rest from the heat. About six miles from the end, while we were resting, Bob W (aka TDB) caught up with us and we all ended up riding to the end together. Bob pointed out “Cow Corners”–which I’d somehow missed the first time I’d done this ride–a small cross-roads marked by a tacky statue of a cow and sign boasting a population of 20 or something. It was a landmark on our maps. My eyes must have been blurry the first time I did Roscoe or something.

We were the first to arrive at the campground. We began to unpack our stuff as other riders rolled in. It turned out that less than 10 people had chosen the camping option of the 120 some riders. Where’s everyone’s sense of adventure, anyway?

After setting up camp and showering, TDB, Michael and I went to Roscoe Village to retrieve our free ice cream and enjoy the air conditioning. Then we pretty much spent the next few hours before dinner hanging out in a (air-conditioned) wine bar. I originally had thought it might be neat to catch a ride on one of the canal boat demonstrations, but I think the heat and all the hard work of climbing with protesting leg muscles had gotten to me and I pretty much just wanted to stay in one place. And drink wine. Eh, a girl’s got priorities.

It rained during the night, which was really no big deal since my tent was reliably water-proofed (which I did after XOBA last year, even though this was my “relief” tent, the one that saved me from a leaky tent). I was thankful it didn’t thunderstorm; instead, I had dreams of hurricanes (!!) that tore through the campground forcing us to take shelter in the restrooms. Needless to say, my sleep was not entirely restful. I kept waking up every hour, fearful of hearing thunder. I don’t handle thunderstorms very well in my house, let alone in a tent…

I had feared it might rain the following day, but the morning just yielded fog under cloudy skies with wet ground. It was still reasonably warm out, but the clouds were keeping the sun from heating things up too much, so it was a comfortable low 80s–a little sticky due to the humidity of it having rained, but it wasn’t really that bad.

Early morning foggy landscape. (Photo by Sue Richards)

Early morning foggy landscape. (Photo by Sue Richards)

Our departure from Coshocton was not the route we’d gone in 2007, but it was still provided some climbing. We rode a good 10 miles along the very lonely State Route  60 which had impressively little traffic and provided rolling to steep hills along the way. The scenery, especially with the fog on the fields, made the ride very pleasant. My legs felt better than they had the day before, now ground to submission from the previous day’s ride. The route was nice all the way into Killbuck and not at all as hilly as the old route.

Some of the early morning climbing. Mars Girl not pictured. (Photo by Sue Richards)

I admit that I kind of wanted to conquer the old beast that had taken me back in 2007–the famous Stucky Rd–but alas, this was not to be on the new route. Instead, once in Killbuck, the route took us on all 15 miles of the Holmes County trail. This is the third time I’ve used that trail, the second time I’ve done it this year. It’s not very interesting after you’ve done it once. I found myself the most bored on this segment of the ride than I was throughout the rest of it. I just get antsy on flat bike paths. There’s not a lot to look at–trees usually block the view. I can take a bike path in small spurts–I use one when I commute to work and for warm-up before dropping into the valley. But there’s just so much traffic you have to get around–walkers, toodlers, oblivious people weaving in and out of their lane. And the constant, steady spinning. It just drives me nuts.

It was during this leg that the group I was riding with just went all out on speed. I think we all wanted to get through those 15 miles as fast as possible. We didn’t really form a paceline–we all seemed kind of anti-drafting–and we did, in fact, pass the paceline containing two ABC friends, Beth and Tom. Beth kind of beckoned me to pull if I was feeling so strong, but I was having none of that. I pushed a hard gear and pulled away just to prove that I didn’t need no stinkin’ paceline, risking injury to my right knee which was feeling a little bit sore after the bike path grind. But I didn’t care.

After we got off the bike path in Fredericksburg, things got interesting again as we head off towards Apple Creek. Some more rollers with some steeper climbs. More Amish buggies.

Interesting side note: On bikes, we are always passing Amish buggies. I’ve determined horse-drawn carriages are not the optimal way to travel. If I were Amish, I’d use a bike instead and become a bike courier. How do you fetch the doctor in an emergency if your carriage only goes 10-13mph?

Rolling landscapes of Holmes County. (Photo by Sue Richards)

After Apple Creek, where we enjoyed a great lunch of sloppy joe’s at the local Methodist church, the land started to flatten back out to the terrain with which I’m familiar as we went through Orrville and along some roads used on the ABC century ride I did earlier this year. Canal Fulton, being at the bottom of the valley, allowed us a nice downhill return.

Overall, the ride was still as fun as I remembered it. My only complaint is that the scenery was more interesting on the old route, even though the old route was just as challenging–if not more–than the first day. I think you sacrifice scenery for making a ride easier. Although, all the guys who did the old 75 mile route said that the 20 mile leg back to Canal Fulton on the old route was really boring. I can’t attest to this myself, as I did that short 55 last time and it was pretty right to the downhill end at the Amish restaurant in Wilmot.

There was an alternate route offered that did not go on the bike path. I’m pretty sure I’m going to take that one the next time I do this ride… The scenery is so much nicer in those places where you have to work for it. Next time, I’ll play it smart and stick to my rule of not riding the day before a major ride and then my legs won’t be as tired as they felt this time around. Then I’ll be completely prepared and enthusiastic to conquer the alternative route.