Category Archives: Cycling

Strength from Cycling

I met Linda Braley on a ride a couple years back. We had just formed the PVC women’s team and I invited her to join us on a ride. She was hooked on the camaraderie of the women’s club and quickly joined and has been a member ever since. She’s been a staple on all the rides and we love her to pieces! (PS I’m the one with the helmet cam. Linda asked that I take the camera for some on-bike video and I think I did a pretty good job. LOL)

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Night Riders

Who says you have to stop riding just because the sun has gone down?

Well, that’s what I used to think. Once we reached the point where we didn’t have enough evening daylight for our mid-week afternoon/evening rides they came to an end. Unfortunately so did the fitness until you started hitting the trainer.

This year a club member who grew up in Philly and used to do “night riding” with her club there has organized a night ride with our group.

Last week was the first one but I didn’t go. It was dark and windy. I had gotten home early enough to settle in for the evening and I would be damned if I was going back out on the bike.

This week was different. I had bike commuted to work so my return trip got me home a little later than driving. I was dressed and ready for biking so I didn’t change. The ride departure was also a little earlier, which meant there was less time to settle in. It was also warmer – in the mid 50’s.

I was excited and a little apprehensive, not ridden in the dark much. However, two days earlier I was out on a club ride and heading back when it was getting pretty dark. Surprisingly I felt pretty comfortable with it so I was ready for a full-on night ride.

A small group met at 6:10 to head north to rendezvous with another group 15-20 minutes away and then we headed off as a larger group. There were 11 of us total with a nice mix of men and women. Everyone had at least one head and tail light on. Some of us had two, like me who had a bike mounted front/rear light in addition to a head lamp and rear light on my helmet. Many of us also had reflective clothing on, or additional items for reflection. In short, we were highly visible and I was really surprised at how much we lit up the road.

I found the drivers seemed more courteous as well. I’m sure many of them were more than a little surprised to see a group of hearty, and perhaps a little crazy, cyclists out on an evening ride well after sunset.

We ended up with a 30-mile route and the pace was such that we all stayed together. That’s key so no one gets dropped or left behind in the dark.

Two hours later I arrived back home and thrilled about my first successful night ride and looking forward to next week’s ride with my fellow night riders.

I’m Not Really A Sprinter

In cycling you have certain body types that are good for certain disciplines. I don’t have the body type for climbing – I’m way too bulky and short. I never considered myself a sprinter, either. I guess I thought that I’d make for a much better lead-out guy. I’d be the type that could to hard and steady for a period of time and then blow up, pulling off to allow a teammate to get a win.

On our fastest ride of the week, the Saturday morning ride, we three sprint lines. The middle one is at the top of a hill – I say hill because it’s not a huge climb but enough to tax you before the sprint. The last is along a short flat stretch, after a series of rolling hills, again enough to tax the legs before the sprint. The first one is at the end of a along a flat stretch of road.

The first flat sprint is the one I sometimes try for. I know there are certain people I need to mark for the sprint – not everyone goes for it but there are a few that do. I often get caught being boxed in with the sprinters making their way up the outside and others in front or to my side sitting in that prevent me from making a move.

Last week I thought I was in a good position with a couple coming around to the left. I jumped to go but one of them pulled in front of me and sat up – she must have realized what was going on then realized she shouldn’t be there in the sprint. I tried going around to the right but was faces with a couple garbage cans in the way on the shoulder of the road. (Who has trash pickup on Saturdays other than Scarborough?)

There have also been times when the legs just haven’t been there. But today I was actually feeling pretty good, even after biking all week.

So I did my usual marking of certain women who would be looking for the sprint. I was behind one girl who always sprints. I lost her wheel to another woman as we got closer to the line but that wasn’t going to deter me.

Linda, the woman I always mark, was feeling a little boxed in herself as the group took up the entire lane (it was much larger this year with 25 women) and crossed the line to go around the front riders and head for the line.

I just accelerated with her and the other woman and then finally jumped when they did. The other woman, Cody, ended up going around Linda for the win and I wasn’t far behind for 3rd. That was the best sprint for me ever!

I chose not to contest for other sprints for the remainder of the ride but did manage to stay up in the front working hard and taking pulls.

With the upcoming long weekend my plan is to get in a couple long rides (50-60 miles) Sunday and Monday then my rest week begins. Taking that last rest period a couple weeks made a HUGE difference so I made sure to plan another one 3-4 weeks later. My rest week will also include a massage and a trip to Canada for the Pro-Tour races in Quebec City and Montreal.

A Man Named George

Sometimes it is well worth the time to slow down on the bike.

As I left my office by bike today I noticed a cyclist in the distance with panniers. This is not uncommon around my office – I often see groups of people riding through (always south) loaded down with gear.

I knew I would catch up to him/her and figured I’d slow down, say hi, and chat for a bit.

After saying hello, it was the usual questions. I asked him where he was heading. He replied in an accent, “Oh, Portland, then Portsmouth, and finally New York.”

So I asked him where he was from, expecting to hear Canada. I was wrong. He was from the Netherlands. Okay, now I needed  to know more!

Where was he coming from? Again, assuming Canada was the correct answer, which it was, but there was more. Turns out he had flown to England on June 21st to bike up to Scotland before flying to Iceland and biking around that country then finally flying into Hallifax, Nova Scotia. He explained he was biking to New York and need to be there by September 1st, which was when his wife was flying there to meet him. He was also making this trip solo.

We hit a hill and he said, “Okay, bye-bye.” He was much slower than me on the little hill, and with 50 kilos of gear and on a mountain bike,  you would be, too! I slowed and he caught up to me at the top. I told him that I wasn’t leaving him because I was enjoying chatting with him and if he didn’t mind, I’d like to ride with him for a while. He was agreeable to the idea so we rode and chatted more.

I asked him what the best part of the trip had been. He told me it was Prince Edward Island. I have heard it’s beautiful there and told him that. Then it occurred to me that he didn’t just land in Hallifax and head south. The guy headed north and rode around Nova Scotia before turning towards New York.

His average day is between 100 – 120 kilometers (60-75 miles) a day. Every day. He typically stays at a campground and sleeps in a tent but a few days ago, when I rained a lot, he told me with a sly grin that he stayed in a motel instead.

Soon I got to the intersection where I would normally turn right. Knowing George was going straight, I decided to go straight and continue to ride with him.

We talked about what we did for a living, how many kids we each had (and how many grandchildren he had), etc.  I’m not sure what it is about being on a bike but I can talk to anyone when I’m out biking. Put me in a room of strangers and expect me to mingle and I struggle. When I’m on the bike I can roll up to anyone and strike up a conversation.

He had ridden all over France and Switzerland in his life. I joked that this route must have seemed pretty flat to him after biking in Europe.This trip had been a dream of his for 10 years and here he was making it happen.

As we neared Portland I was already late getting home but decided a detour was in order to show him an efficient way to get him through the city and towards his destination a bit quicker.

We got to a point where I was going to leave him and wanted to get his picture. He was happy to accommodate my request.

My commuting companion, George from The Netherlands

I called my husband to report that I was late, had a good reason for it, and would explain when I arrived home soon. He informed me that he still wasn’t home and would be in about 30 minutes. I made the decision to ride a little further with George to make sure he made his way okay.

Then I realized it would be really nice to take a photo of him in Portland and email it to his family. He also thought this would be a great idea. So we did!

"Greetings from George in Portland, Maine"

It was finally time to say goodbye to George. I wished him well and told him it was a pleasure to join him on part of his journey. I will be thinking of him often over the next few weeks as he continues on his trip and especially on September 1st when his wife arrives to meet him.

Tonight I got home an hour later than normal, took a route I wouldn’t normally take, all because of a man named George. And I was happier for it.

Time For Rest

I think I mentioned previously that earlier in the spring, when it was cold, rainy and I had other meeting and social commitments, I had spent more time off the bike than on it. Surprisingly, I think that was better for my fitness. I was well rested and my hard efforts were good. I also didn’t feel burnt out by the time July rolled around like years past.

Since then the weather became great for cycling, I was commuting to/from work by bike when the weather and my schedule allowed, which was a lot. Not to mention being on the bike for my weekly group rides.

However, last week I was on the bike riding home from work before the Wednesday night ride and just knew I didn’t have it in me to keep up with the group. I knew it physically and mentally. Luckily I promised some less experienced girls that I would be on the ride to hang back with them so they would have someone to ride with.

It didn’t take long for me, with the two girls behind me, to get dropped. The pace was high and with a gap I couldn’t close I fell behind quickly.

When I returned home every part of my legs ached. I realized then that it was time for a rest week. It’s been a while since I’ve had any significant time off the bike and I am way overdue!

The only ride I have done during this week was the recovery ride on Monday yesterday. Since today was pretty much the pick of the week I thought a little easy spin to commute to work couldn’t hurt either – keeping my recovery slightly active.

The part I dread is getting back on the bike with flat legs and the time it will take to work through that. Still, it should be worth it, both physically and mentally.

Finding Form and Fitness

My fitness has returned. Finally!

Wednesday night was our mid-level ride and it’s been getting a bit fast. It was my third Wednesday night ride all season and I was a bit nervous. It’s a bit hillier than our other rides and although I didn’t kill it, or myself, on the hills, I didn’t get dropped. There was a wait spot at the top of the climb I typically struggle on so I was able to still continue on with the group.

Today was our fastest ride of the week and I managed to hold on the entire way and felt pretty good.

This year that fitness has arrived a little late but just in time for the weather to be nice and getting some decent riding in. And most of that riding will take place with some of the best women on bikes – my Portland Velo Club club mates.

Logging Some Miles

After so many miles last weekend at The Trek Across Maine, I was ready for another long ride. Today was the better of the two weekend days for it.

Yesterday it rained most of the morning but I still managed to get out for our Saturday Morning Ride with 4 other women. Surprisingly at 55-degrees it wasn’t really cold, except for that time when we were caught in a downpour.

I wasn’t the only one with a longer ride in mind. After a friend had emailed me we put out a blast email to any of the PVC Women that might want to join in the fun. We had 14 of us, which also included some spouses and significant. We would have had more but there were a few that weren’t able to make the 7am start.

I finally feel like my fitness is returning. The nice part about so much time off the bike is that I’m not feeling that burnout that I typically feel this time of year.