Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coffeeneuring ride #4: Biddle's Escape

So today I was suffering dead legs on my trainer when the golden leaves, my Brompton, and sunshine kept beckoning me outside. This meant two things: 1. Tomorrow will be a super early morning as I adjust and put in the workout; and 2. Off to my favorite neighborhood cafe for a coffee during ride.

Why is Biddle's Escape a favorite? It is charming, with an eclectic coffee menu and wonderful people who will not steer you wrong in drink choice. Today I had a Spiced Vienna (decaf), which is like an Americano with cinnimon and a spiciness. Low on sugar. Perfect.

Another reason I love this place is the outdoor seating area. Perfect for enjoying the fall.

So a Sunday escape on a short jaunt to my favorite cafe in Pittsburgh. Bliss.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Coffeeneuring ride #3 - Return to Annapolis

Today I left Baltimore from Glen Burnie to ride to Annapolis. On the Baltimore Annapolis Trail, I fit in Coach Jim's TT during the ride and then enjoyed the rest of a warm and glorious fall day.

This time returning to Annapolis I remembered the last time, when my friends and I had a lot more miles in our legs. This time it was chill, and while I was excited to see the city dock again, it was very different from the time prior when we were filled with anticipation of the finish, not only after 7+ days of racing, but after 2 years of building a team and preparing for the adventure. Completion, with 3 fellow racers and due in greatest part to the 13 crew. It was tremendous. I thought of each one of my friends from the summer, and how amazing it was. Have been reminiscing a lot lately as I talk with several people about our plans for Team PHenomenal Hoppe in 2015.

The City Dock Cafe did not disappoint. I enjoyed a beverage with chocolate and orange flavoring (called a "Medici"), quite delightful, sat in the sun and watched people walk by. Then I smiled, got back on the bike, and headed back to Baltimore. Life is good.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coffeeneuring Ride # 2 on my happy yellow folding bike

Beautiful autumn weekend in Pittsburgh, and already enough training hours on the TT bike this weekend. I've named my old P3 "rocket bike," because it makes me feel fast, anyway. But you don't ride a rocket bike to the coffee shop. And I really wanted to ride for chill, so coffeeneuring ride #2 commenced.

As for the steed for this ride, I chose my Brompton. I've named this one "happy yellow folding bike." (It's a long name I know.) I love this bike and don't ride it nearly enough, so another reason to head to the coffee shop today. To me it's kind of cool to fold up your bike and take it inside. Take it anywhere. Adaptable. Maybe it's the residual of a childhood playing with the occasional transformer, though this bike doesn't talk to me. I promise.

Plus there is something nice about wearing jeans and a hoodie to the local coffee shop, ordering a coffee (decaf at this hour) and sitting down for a bit.
No hustle. No grab and get back to the office. Just sit and sip a warm beverage. And soon meet friends for dinner.

I'm thinking it may be time to commute to work a few days a week again, and enjoy not training, just biking.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge Week 1: Frick Park Ride and 61B

I had intended to go on a massive randonneuring weekend. 300+ training miles to prepare for my big race in November (more on that soon), but alas, due to circumstances, it was not meant to be.

So I stayed home, did not log tons of miles, but set out on a short jaunt in the woods to tackle my first ride in the Coffeeneuring Challenge. The coffeeneuring challenge is a fun challenge to tackle 7 rides in 7 weekends with a coffee shop goal. They can't be part of another organized ride, and the goal is to ride for fun. For more read the inventor's blog post (as well as her other great blog entries) at chasing mailboxes here.

So on Sunday afternoon, during the Steelers game, I set out on the Fall trails. I did my usual warm up run over double track, then some easy single track by the river down in the base of the park, when I then came upon the tail end of Iron Grate, and in my mind thought of the bouncy bridge. You know, that bridge I had never ridden over because my mind told me I would bounce off into the river's abyss. In full disclosure, just so you know this river, while the size and torrent of the Mississippi in my mind's eye, is actually a tiny muddy creek about 3 feet down from the bridge. And while to my knowledge no rider has ever gotten caught in its rapids to be dumped into the Monogahela, never to be heard from again. Also, if you are a skilled rider who had ridden it from the first time you saw it, you likely would not know of it's bounce, but when you walk it, as I did the first time I took my rookie run down Iron Grate, with each step you realize bounce-bounce-bounce, and the mind then projects that riding one would slingshot off like a spitball from a kid's rubber band stretched between thumb and forefinger.

So I had always walked it alongside my bike, with friends patiently waiting at the bottom. But on this day, with many people watching the Steelers game or riding a cyclocross race somewhere, the trail was quiet. It was me and the bridge. All to myself. So a series of steps in conquering this nemesis ensued.

I decided I would walk it first, then start gliding back and forth over it, like a two-year-old on a strider bike, one foot on the pedals, one foot pushing. I realized that gliding it didn't bounce, and stepping it did. So I did this several times, each time reassuring myself that it actually is stable, more so, when riding. Then the big moment came. Alright, just pedal. It doesn't have to be fast, just keep pedaling the 10-foot expanse, and you can do it. So I pedaled, and triumph. I crossed. And in that moment I recalled a piece of that pure and simple joy I felt as a kid riding without training wheels the first time. No, my grandma was not there this time (at least in person), but it is that same feeling, or a piece of it anyway. In fact, I would suggest that when mountain bikers conquer obstacles for the first time, overcoming mind over matter, that perhaps that sense of accomplishment, that bliss, reminds us of how we felt the first time we rode our bikes without training wheels. It's freedom. It's independence. It's fun. Perhaps that's why a lot of mountain bikers seem so happy on the trails.


After my back and forth trips (3 times a charm), I pedaled to the top of the trail to seal the deal with a descent to the bottom, this time not stopping before the bridge. Iron Grate, a beautiful winding course - oh and there's a little drop I'll take on the way thank you very much - ending over a creek (no longer the Mississippi). Victory!

I pedaled my victory lap straight to the 61B cafe, to celebrate with a soy milk latte. Delicious. Definitely recommend the latte there. The coffee is strong and smooth (even the decaf I chose in the afternoon). Sitting outside with my mountain bike, I drank coffee and smiled. Coffeeneuring ride #1 a success.

I invite you to join me in participating in the Chasing Mailboxes coffeeneuring challenge. It is easy and fun, as fall rides should be. Maybe you beat an obstacle in the process, or discover a new trail, or a new delicious cup o' joe along the way.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Ohio RAAM Challenge - Year 2

Please check out this blog about the return to the Ohio 200 at http://teamphenomenalhope.org/ohio-raam-challenge-year-2/

New adventures - Rando what? Labor in Carolina 300km

Exhausted. I mean really.
But made it to the finish. Smiling.
My first brevet
August 30, 2014
Salisbury, NC

It has been a long time since I've posted here on steelcitychick.com. It doesn't mean I haven't been blogging - check out our blog at TeamPHenomenalHope.org for all blogs cycling-related and RAAM/team-related. As I pick up a new bike hobby, however, it seems appropriate to pick back up this blog. What is this and why, you ask?

The new "hobby" is called randonneuring. It's a different kind of bicycling. It means going long distances, unsupported (no crew). And by long I mean really long, like 200 km (124mi), 300 km (186mi), 400 km (248 mi), 600 km (372 mi), and longer. There are specified time limits for each distance, but it isn't a race. It's about making it through a ride, an adventure. Events are called brevets (pronounced <bre-vays>) where riders get a card with checkpoints along the way (instead of time stations they are called "controles"). These controls can be a gas station or a convenience store, and the people there know to initial and put the time in military time that the rider passes through. Then, when you make it to the finish, you hand in your card and take with you the satisfaction and memories of a day or two or three. This is a bit extra challenging because you carry your gear with you - for all weather, food needs, etc - and you have to be able to fix your own bike issues, ride overnight, etc to finish within the allowed time.

The other thing a lot of randonneuers seem to do is blog about their adventures. Hence, here I am again, picking up my old pen keyboard, reliving the ride from a warm day in North Carolina.

The Cervelo S5 as a randonneur bike
Don't try this at home - From couch to 5k 300k... 

After getting home from RAAM, I did a few rides, but mainly took 8 weeks, more or less, completely off the bike. Physically I felt great, but after an incredible summer, and 2-year lead up to the summer, time off - and whole self recovery - was due. I tested going plant-powered/vegan for one month and ate healthily on this whole foods plant-based diet plan (off my old training #NSNG diet) but on the increased carbohydrates and off the training got away from being a "fat-adapted" endurance athlete for a bit. It was a necessary respite - if for no other reason than to feel that itch again. That feeling life isn't quite complete without being on the bike, and well, it was time to get back at it, dial back in the nutrition and start riding again.

So I decided that while it would hurt (not might but would), why not try my hand at a brevet. Local official RUSA rides were done for the year, so I chose my first ever experience to be in Salisbury, North Carolina on the weekend of August 30. No I didn't know anyone riding there, but you know, cyclists are pretty friendly people, and ultracyclists are definitely friendly, so I was hoping they would tolerate a newbie from Pittsburgh joining their ride for the day.

Bicycle for Life. Labor in Carolina. 300km.

hand-in-hand: endurance cycling and Walmart
I traveled down to Salisbury, NC with my friend Pete on Friday night. He was so nice to travel along and seemed happy to get out of Pittsburgh for the weekend, so we set off after he got off work. It was a fun drive that even involved stopping at Walmart (ah, distance cycling and Walmart do seem to go together) to solve a vehicle-ground-scraping issue on my Prius. As Pete said in a RAAM-wisdom sort of way: "If we don't take care of this now, it will surely become an issue later." He was right and we laughed. Thanks to Pete, we were again on our way. We arrived in NC late. Like after 2AM. And the ride started at 5AM. So it was a short night of sleep (power nap) and then Pete took me to the starting line. This part - Walmart, sleep deprivation, crazy drives - all very familiar to Pete and me. No problem.

For the Labor in Carolina brevet, the crowd of cyclists came together in the parking lot on the brisk morning, people in reflective gear, with lights and such. Tony Goodnight, the organizer, got everyone checked in and then... we were off. Setting off in the fog on cool rolling hills in the countryside was surreal. The dampness of the cool morning should have been a clue as to what was coming later in the day, but I didn't really think about that.

Pre-dawn start
The people on the ride were lovely. All really neat people totally crazy about bicycling. Joining us were the "Prez," Mike Dayton, and a whole crew of really interesting guys. I chatted a bunch with Steve from Durham who rode the 400 km with Mike and Bryan, and Jerry who rode 1000 km that weekend. These guys are all truly seasoned ultra endurance riders, and talk on the bike went from RAAM relay (by the way, I think these guys would tear it up on RAAM), to Paris-Brest-Paris, the epic randonneur event that many of them had done and were planning to do next year, to bikes, Duke football and just whatever. They were really lovely people all of them, with an obvious passion for cycling and adventures.

North Carolina roads and skies were beautiful
We got out away from Salisbury quickly with the morning coolness. I reveled in the smell of the North Carolina pine. How I missed that! You feel as if your lungs literally are being cleaned out breathing in that sweet air. My legs were pumped to be on the bike again. I was pumped to be on the bike again. This is me.

And then, around 10AM it started to heat up. I mean really heat up. And got humid. There was a point where the 400 km guys took off and our routes diverged. After that point, at about 10:30 AM, I was starting to feel it. The heat was climbing into the mid 90s, burning off the pavement, with humidity to match. I went into a mini mart, found an ice cold Coca cola in a glass bottle and called Peter. "I'm really overheated," I said, almost wondering if maybe this was too much. He said "Just cool down, Georgie," and offered to drive with me a bit (not supporting physically of course). I declined, snapped to with his advice, cooled down further (another rider reminded me to pour cool water on my head - amazing) and got back on the bike. Keep on pedaling. No other option, especially when you're out in the middle of nowhere in another state.
Obligatory cow photo (I imagined they were cheering for me - maybe that
was the heat. Maybe they were. We'll never truly know.)


My usual nutritional strategy is low calorie, complex carb (UCan) and whey protein with coconut oil, but I felt kind of ill from the heat so I rode with the goal of a mini bottle of ice cold Coke or Pepsi (NC is Pepsi country after all) at each control. Normally sugar soda would make me ill, but it became my Pedialyte. And got. me. through. Plus, my body wasn't ready for the old nutritional strategy yet. I definitely was not "fat adapted."

I worked hard for this card... 
The day kept getting hotter, and the climbs a little longer, and hot foot a little hotter, but I kept pedaling and got closer to the finish point. I took breaks in the minimarts, sitting on the blissfully cool tile floor (people stepped around me), with the lady behind the counter suggesting, "Honey, why don't you stay there a little while longer..." The thought passed through my head that this should be the last long ride of the summer. I'd done RAAM, this would be it. Wait 'till next year 'n 'at. But keep going now. Finish this ride.

At the finish I found Peter with a bucket of ice water to soothe my burning feet, and I proudly turned in my control card to the clerk at the finish line hotel. I have never been more proud of a solo ride than when I turned that one in. I asked the clerk who came in, and thought about my new bike pals out on the course, knowing the 400 km riders would not get back for a few more hours.

Controle-after-controle, Coca cola after Coca cola
It was a day of new friends, new countryside, support of an amazing friend, overcoming the heat and getting it done. And after it was over, the endorphins - those amazing chemicals I'd missed for a couple of months - were back. And all of a sudden I was again thinking of the next long ride, the next race, and maybe just maybe the season would not be over just yet...

The next morning we stopped at the Waffle House for breakfast on the way home (might be one of the best breakfasts I've had outside the Square Cafe) and talked endurance racing and future plans for hours as we drove back to Pittsburgh, with Pete and I both eager for more rides, runs and races and training to come. Many thanks to the guys in NC for an fun ride weekend, and super shout-out to Pete for the support and sharing in the excitement of racing again. What an incredible weekend!
Blessed ice bucket
Waffle House deliciousness.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unity Miles

I may be an amateur athlete, and I may absolutely love the bike, but I don't always want to work out. Life is busy and presents many reasons not to on a regular basis.

Yesterday morning told myself I would run when I got home that evening. Round efficiently. Get home and get it done. On my calendar, check.

Day turned long, at the hospital until after 7. Still work to do that night. Hungry. Needed sleep. Many reasons not to run.

Calculated the time in my head. It was still possible.

But still, possible to catch up another day, to recover. What the mind and heart agreed on in the morning the mind was now starting to fade.

Then it happened again.

Unity Miles.

I thought of those who have been walking, riding, running and overcoming obstacles in the Race of Our Lives with our team. I thought of Janet and Diane, Kathleen, and PH Peddler Josh. I thought about the many people organizing their own challenges and literally taking this path along with us.

And I thought about "PHriends" living with pulmonary hypertension. Some fortunate, responding to medicines, living a limitless life. Others have days when I am sure their heart and mind live in different places. Yet although easier not to take on that day's challenge - whether it be work, taking kids to school, going to the store, or exercise (Unity event or daily life), they do. People living with - but certainly not overcome by - PH.

Unity Miles.
Together we are all reaching out into our communities.
Raising awareness.
Raising a blue and yellow banner from our hearts that most certainly says "We will not give up."

Yeah, so it happened again. Remembering those in the Race of Our Lives rejoined my mind and heart. I laced up my running shoes and stepped out into the crisp 32-degree night.

On my run I noticed the bright moon in its huge sky and realized the vastness of that space, the beauty of that moment, and the smallness of my being within it.

It's not just about the bike. It's not even about the race. It is much much bigger than that.

Unity Miles.








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