Posts tagged ‘cycling’

May 12, 2011

Closing the Gap

Until two days ago, I had never bicycled in the rain.

The thought of flying down a slick, pothole-riddled road at 30 mph with only a pair of glasses and handle bars between my face and the asphalt is more than enough to turn my stomach. I’ve always been a wuss on descents but add water into the mix and I’ve got tortoises and snails passing me on the way down.

Tuesday night forced me to get over my fears real fast.

I headed out to the suburbs for a women’s paceline ride sponsored by a local bicycling club; the forecast promised a break in the rain during the early evening, leaving the perfect little window for 30 or so women to head on out and tear up the roads.

IT WAS AWESOME.

I know. I look good.

The ride leaders were absolute beasts, both in size and character. They were hardcore and fierce but non-competitive. They wanted to build comradery and trust while also pushing our limits. There’s something about a women’s ride that really brings out the best in us. No macho wacho men to get in the way and saunter around with their you know whats on display, both literally and metaphorically. No offense, guys, but have you seen the Tour de France?

I was in the beginner group with 6 other fabulous women, learning how to paceline (a.k.a. riding impossibly close to the person in front of me, trying to reap the benefits of the draft). My two fearless leaders were weaving back and forth, constantly yelling instructions and forcing us to push ourselves past our fears.

“CLOSE THE GAP!”

“GET IN YOUR DROPS!”

“CAR BACK! MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”

They wouldn’t leave anyone behind, even if we had begged and pleaded, and so we were forced to keep up and push through. They didn’t yell to admonish or shame us. They yelled to keep us safe, to make us better riders, and, at least a tiny bit, to look like bad asses. (It worked.)

It started pouring at around mile 5. The hard rain lasted a mere 10 minutes at most but it was enough to make me feel more alive than I have in…well, I can’t remember how long. Water droplets speckled my glasses and ran down my neck as I settled into my drops and flowed downhill behind my fellow chicas. It had only been 20 minutes and we were already a little family, yelling back safety cues and encouragement, practicing our hand signals.

Rotating in the paceline only brought more yelling from our leaders but also praise and invisible high-fives. I told my roommate later that night that when my little group got into the flow of the line, rotating seamlessly, I imagined that I felt like how a rockstar must feel on stage. I was unstoppable, powerful, and ultra cool.

And then I tipped over. Twice.

Hey, it’s bound to happen a few times a season. We were all newbies to riding in a group and any hesitation while heading back out after a rest usually means someone’s going to fall.

My knee and hip were a bit worse for the wear after my second clumsy moment but none of it mattered. I was riding like a real cyclist.

Besides, my frozen berries needed to come out and play for a bit.

Tuesday night was filled with firsts, another one of which I never thought I’d do.

I had GU.

[source]

Ms. “I only eat real food” actually had an energy food product.

If only I had known that vanilla pudding could work such wonders.

We stopped at mile 10 to regroup and decide whether to cut the ride short or keep going. My feet were chilled and I wanted to go home for dinner but I also didn’t want to wimp out (I’m just a tad competitive ;)). Apparently, vanilla pudding fixes all that is wrong with the world and fits you with a pair of rose-colored glasses. Not only did I feel stronger and ready to ride again but I was also just totally psyched about the yummyness in my belly.

GU gave me the carbs I needed to keep going without weighing me down and, as far as sports food products go, it really isn’t so bad. Low in sugar, no creepy artificial sweeteners, and only 100 calories. Really a perfect balance. The fact is, when it comes to being an endurance athlete, I’m learning that sometimes a sandwich or dried fruit isn’t appropriate for the moment but staying fueled is a must.

My next mission is to work on my “cool” face. I’m not so sure that this is cutting it.

April 30, 2011

Animal Cracker Ride (and Audrey Hepburn’s glasses)