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Archive for the ‘Why I ride / race’ Category

I’ve been in LA since early February. I came for some Vitamin D and to get on the track at the ADT Center. I’ve never been so happy to miss a rough winter back East. The days here are predictably sunny & warm. I think it’s rained twice.

So I was out on the Santa Ana bike path the other day. I had an easy ride with drills in the mix.  I parked, got my kit on and soon learned I was SOL with no CO2 cartridge.

Now, I have a system for such things. I have a place for everything, and everything in its’ place. I went uber minimalist recently, though, and the tank sprang loose.

I haven’t had a flat in months, so I figured . . . what’s are the chances? The path crosses a vein or main artery every quarter mile or so; so I won’t be far from civilization no matter what.

Sure enough. There is no better way to guarantee you’ll get a flat than to ride without a pump or CO2 cartridge. Twenty minutes in, my steering went. I looked down to find my rim cutting into the front tire, which was flopping around like a deflated balloon.

Within minutes, a guy on a recumbent came along and stopped to see if I was alright. (He didn’t have a choice, really. The path is kinda narrow). I wasn’t, of course. So I charmed him into lending me his pump and interrupting his ride while I fixed my flat.

His name was Derek and as he went digging in his bag I sat down and got to work.  I don’t know many guys who roll the recumbent, so I asked why it was his ride of choice. ‘Bad back,’ is what I expected to hear. Then he said, ‘I have MS.’  Whoa, I thought. Then he told me he’s training for SoCal’s BikeMS160.

Now I was in awe. The recumbent helps him with his balance. Prior to his diagnosis in 2003, Derek worked as a chef at (what I presumed) a 5-star restaurant in London. Then one morning, after pulling yet another late-night shift, he woke up and couldn’t feel his legs. Days later, he was paralyzed and in a wheelchair.

That said, I was surprised to see him get up to stretch while I fumbled with my tire. He moves with a limp–traces of the impact MS has had on his body. Riding keeps his muscles firing. He mentioned how good the move to SoCal was for him. The warm weather and sunshine seems to have slowed the progression of his disease.

Derek met his wife, Noelle, after he was diagnosed. The details are fuzzy, but I remember him saying she’s an RN.  I also know she’s joining him on the 160 mile ride this October.

To raise money for their fight against MS, they sell Derek’s homemade jam online. No pun intended, but hearing how he manages MS and how they came up with the idea to sell jam to entice people to donate was one of the sweetest stories I’ve ever heard.

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. . . because it’s a great way to end the season. I don’t think Donna will mind my telling you she’s 52, and she rocked it. Maybe it’ll convince you to join us next season. It’s never too late to try something new!

Dear Liz:
I want to thank you and the other coaches and helpers for giving us all a unique, memorable, worthwhile and purely fun experience at the Girls on Track Clinic.  Two days later, and I’m still smiling –  I can’t remember an equivalent serving of joy in my life since I was a child.  Like some others in the group, I had my (self-) doubts and questions about what I was getting into, but your organization and professionalism quickly put them to rest.  I was very impressed at your skill in instantly learning names, assessing skills, and constantly checking in with how each individual was feeling.  It’s almost as if there was a Liz there for each of us –watching, helping and cheering us on.

I thought the program was very well structured and though the hours flew by even faster than Ainhoa sprinting out of my slipstream, I felt I got a real taste of the fundamentals.  I’m enthusiastically recommending it to my friends and riding partners, and I only wish I could do it all again next week.

Most of all, it was inspiring to be around women athletes, both accomplished professionals and amateurs in the truest sense of the word – people who love what they’re doing and generously share the joy of it.  I was in high school when Title IX was passed, and in my graduating class there were only one or two young women who were serious about sports (and this was in San Diego!).  While I’ve been happy to see the culture change in the years since, it was only six years ago – when I found cycling – that I began to realize for myself the beauty, power and pleasure of participating in sport, not just spectating.

I’m extremely grateful to have been able to push beyond my comfort zone within this committed, supportive and encouraging group, and at a facility the caliber of the Valley Preferred Cycling Center. I’m sure you (and the rest of the organization) understand the value of this, and I hope you’re able to keep doing it, and more often!

Best regards,
Donna

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Kickin’ off the off-season, no matter how short it might be, with some chill mountain biking here in Jim Thorpe. Here are a few shots from our cruise on the Switchback trail last Sunday afternoon. This is literally in our backyard. Keith and Christine surprised us and came up from Emmaus for the ride. Perfect day, great company . . . topped off with burgers and beer at JT’s.

The sketchiest part of the trail is a little cliff crossing that maybe Hans Rey could get across on a bike. Keith and Chris killed it. Gives me vertigo, a little . . . sometimes. I can cross it like a trooper . . . as long as I’m in my happy place. 

 

Christine & Keith checking out the Lehigh River Gorge from the Mt. Pisgah lookout. 

 . . . great day to be alive!

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I’m feeling all kinds of melancholy these days. That’s what happens, I think, when you stop moving long enough and your brain gets all restless. The last year has been like waking up in the middle of a foreign country where you don’t speak the language. First, it’s all exciting and new trying to learn it, . . . then people who’ve been speaking it all their lives start telling you how ignorant you are for not speaking it. I think it’s the difference between doing sport for the sake of personal fulfillment and doing sport when you’re competing for money, spots on a team, time, attention, and the only thing of value is the win.

I think this new language can be learned, and that there’s merit in the process and lessons. Learning how to survive and thrive in elite world class sport is probably way more applicable than, say . . . learning Swahili. But don’t kid yourself that there isn’t a healthy dose of culture shock for a 38 year old woman to leave house, home, husband and career to join a race against teens and twenty year olds. People who grow up with this, it’s all they know. People like me and maybe you, . . . let’s just say it’s a paradigm shift.

I started 2007 with a bunch of 20 and 30 year olds telling me I haven’t done shit in the sport of cycling. What they don’t realize is the fact that I’m still here and still in the game at this level—to me at least—means I’ve already won. Check out my latest column on Bicycling.com; . . . maybe you’ll agree.

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After two weeks of doing whatever I want, today’s my first day back to training.

Coach Ben has been nudging me back into routine. Each day, I receive a reminder in my inbox. One day it’s core work, rollers the next.

Today I’ve got my standard roller workout. I shoot for 120 rpm, first 20 minutes. Get off the bike and stretch for ten. Back on the bike for 4 x 2 minute intervals @ 120 rpm, then 140 rpm (alternating)—all in the big ring. Two minutes easy spin to cool down. 3 times a week.

Ben’s been giving me a break, scaling it back to 110rpm for the first twenty, varied between 110 and 125 for the last 10-minutes. Kids, don’t try this at home. (kidding) Kinda.

One of my biggest training accomplishments was busting 200+ rpms on the Kreitlers last year.

Huh?

No one is more surprised than me that a girl who first started cycling as a tourist willingly spends a good chunk of time spinning in circles—either on a track or set of rollers.

But, I reason, I’m a fan of process. I like seeing what I can do, setting goals and working to achieve them.

Track sprinting is an interesting problem to solve. Physiologically, it requires a magical combination of leg speed, timing, efficiency and power. Mentally, it pushes me way out of my comfort zone.

So for now, instead of going out and exploring new places; I go deep into the dark crevices of my soul and grey matter to see what I’m made of.

Right now, I’m made of Pavlova, a delicious Australian treat described as “crispy on the outside but light and fluffy inside.”

I don’t think it’s permanent. Especially after last weekend.

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After two years of intense focus devoted to squeezing milliseconds out of myself I stumbled blindly into Punk Bike Weekend, an invitation-only mountain bike fest my husband, Lath, held here in Jim Thorpe.

I started out racing mountain bikes, so this wasn’t foreign to me. But like a stranger in a strange land, it took me a while to re-learn the language. There was just too much lightheartedness and fun going on.

On Saturday, guys from all over Easter PA started showing up. There was Dave, Jeff, Topher, Taylor, Pete, Damien, a couple Matt’s, couple Jamie’s, couple Mike’s. Some guys brought their wives and girlfriends—all athletes in their own right. We had bike mechanics, writers, teachers, carpenters, engineers, a vet, and a guy who manages athletic facilities for the University of Pennsylvania. They all came bearing coolers, food, riding gear, sleeping bags, costumes and assorted libations.

Costumes? Yep. Costumes.

This was new to me. I didn’t know this before; but there’s a precious breed of cyclist who thinks it’s cool, scratch that, . . . imperative to ride through the woods wearing wigs, vintage clothing, 80’s lycra, and aviator sun glasses. That, or red silk pajamas.

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I love every one of them.

Words can’t describe the joy I felt going for a spin with a bunch of sober, grown men who embraced their mission of finding three beer cans over a 4-mile stretch of woods like a bunch of school kids.

Things didn’t stay sober for long; and it got sillier and more daring as the night went on. Day turned into night, turned into day. I have no idea where, when or if anyone slept. All I know is that Jamie and Damien were up first making breakfast. And that bacon is good.

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Getting ready for church.

Christine returned for the ride Sunday morning; Keith and Taylor as well. Even the legendary Galen Van Dyne made an appearance.

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By noon, there were seventeen of us climbing the ascent to one of Jim Thorpe’s singletrack giants. For five hours we danced through one of the gnarliest, rockiest trails on planet Earth, ending with a tricky, knuckle-locking, off-camber descent down the face of Mt. Pisgah before being spit out—literally a block from our back door.

“I can’t believe you live here,” Matt said as we rolled into the alley. I know. I agreed. It is pretty cool.

Cross-eyed and shaking, we devoured anything that didn’t move. Bikes littered the pavement like fallen soldiers. You come off a ride like that feeling like family, like you just survived something Big. Something HUGE.

As we regained consciousness, my sister and brothers said goodbye, thanks so much for a great time. One by one, they piled into their cars and headed south. By 8pm, Lath and I were in bed—too tired to move let alone read, trying to make sense of what just happened.

Some things should exist without explanation, and Punk Bike is probably one of them—like Fight Club, only without the angst and aggression.

All I know is it was good for my soul. I needed to ride my bike and not worry about the clock or watts or rpms. I think I can face 140rpm on the rollers again.

I just hope we’re on for next year.

My column, Livin’ the Dream, appears on www.Bicycling.com every week or so.

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