Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reflections On and Lessons Learned from a Good Ride Gone Bad (Or How I Got My Joy Back!)

Tomorrow I'll be riding in Pittsburgh once again, this time on the 321 Ride, a charity ride to support the fight against melanoma and pancreatic cancer.  This ride will be along the Great Allegheny Passage (the GAP), which is a rail trail and mostly flat, not the mountains I rode the last time I was riding in Pittsburgh at the end of August.  However, it will be a long ride, a "Metric Century" (62 miles).  In preparing, it has caused me to reflect on my last ride in Pittsburgh, what went right, what went wrong, and what lessons did I learn to help improve myself.  I've been meaning to write this blog post for a while and am finally getting to it.

The Good Ride

The PedalPGH ride route that we had chosen this year was the Metric Century, which included much more climbing than the 25 mile route I had done twice before.  In the past, Mt. Washington, the most challenging climb and climb and climb, was at the end of the route and we had kind of figured we would skip it if we didn't feel up to it, and that would make our ride about 50 miles or so.  But, lo and behold, this year, they changed the route and put Mt. Washington at the beginning of the ride!  I am thrilled to say, although very challenging, I made it to the top!!!

From there, I literally and figuratively, went downhill!

The Good Ride Gone Bad
That first part of the ride, while gloriously challenging, began the spiral that eventually caused me to fully and completely bonk.  If you are not a cyclist, you may wonder what it means to "bonk."  Actually, even though I am a cyclist, I didn't fully understand bonking until this experience.  I have had tired legs before, or felt wiped out at the end of a long or challenging ride, and I always thought that was bonking.  Maybe those are cases of mild bonks, but what happened to me in Pittsburgh was so much more!  As I kept riding, hills I had tackled in the past were too much for me.  I had to get off my bike and it was even difficult for me to walk up them, needing to stop and rest frequently.  My arms and legs ached.  I felt winded almost all the time.  My stomach was woozy.  I felt light-headed and slightly dizzy.  I really wanted to go on, but with every pedal stroke I felt less and less capable of going on.  And, I was disappointed and angry at myself and losing focus.  I Love Bicycling has a good article about Bonking that explains it in a little more depth, but I think this image captures it pretty well!

After the Ride
Just as I didn't fully understand bonking before it happened during the ride, I had no idea of how long lasting the effects would be after the ride was over!  It was several days before my body felt completely back to normal.  And I was very much reminded of how much a role you mental state plays in all of this as well!  It took a week before I was once again on top of my mental game!  I didn't ride at all for a couple of days.  Then, when I did begin riding again, I only took short toots around town for running errands and got no joy out of pedaling, even for those short distances.  If you know me, you know that normally I say that I ALWAYS feel good after a ride, even a short one!  I felt like I was trying, not so successfully, to crawl out of a hole (or maybe to pedal up a mountain)!

Getting Back My Joy
Although I wasn't getting my usual joy out of riding, I am glad that I kept making myself get back on my bike.  Finally, after about a week, one beautiful, sunny day, I went for a ride and could feel that joy coming back!  It was one of those days when I just hit the road and kept on going, nowhere in particular, just taking in the sunshine and the scenery and pedaling and pedaling.  So, why did this all happen to me?  What lessons did I learn?  How can I prevent this in the future?
Causes and Lessons Learned
I think there were lots of contributing factors as to what caused my bonk in the first place.
  • Dieting - Although I was eating clean and healthy, I had been eating reduced calories and reduced carbs leading up to the ride.  Not the right pre-ride nutrition I needed for a ride that would be so challenging.
  • Ride Day Nutrition - I didn't eat a good breakfast before riding and I didn't eat well or often enough during the ride.  I didn't bring food with me and the rest stops were lacking, so I wasn't replenishing anything I was burning up.
  • Hydration - I thought I was keeping hydrated, but I don't think I had had enough before the ride and obviously needed more during the ride as well.
  • Fatigue - I had done a lot of riding leading up to this ride and maybe I needed to take a rest day before hitting Mt. Washington.
Reinvigorated and Using What I Learned

So what now?  Use this experience to be better prepared in the future!  On longer rides or more challenging rides, I am forcing myself to do what my brain has known all along but didn't always do.

  1. Drink plenty of liquids leading up to a long or challenging ride and during a ride, drink before I'm thirsty and drink often.
  2. Let go of the diet and have different pre-ride nutrition ahead of long or challenging rides.
  3. Take lots of nutritious, energy replenishing snacks with me always.  The article cited above has great suggestions for the type of food that can make a difference.  Stop and eat before I'm hungry and make myself stop periodically during long rides to snack.
  4. Rest!  Don't be afraid to take a rest day before a long or challenging ride.  Make myself stop pedaling and take breaks during a ride.  Enjoy the scenery and small parks.

Preparing for the 321 Ride
Knowing this ride will be a long one, I tried to go for lots of rides at home leading up to this.  I also did my own Metric Century Plus along the Erie Canalway Trail from Spencerport to Medina and back (66 miles).  That trail is similar to what I will be riding on the 321 Ride.  I put into play all the lessons learned, nutrition, hydration, rest, etc.  It was a great ride and now I feel totally prepared, and a bit wiser, and can't wait for tomorrow's ride!  As one of my favorite songs says, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!"

Saturday, July 11, 2015

On the Road

Greetings from the Lakeshore Limited train #49, sonewhere in Indiana!  This time instead of biking, I'm riding the rails!  When you retire, one of the first things people ask you is if you are planning on going on any trips. Well, this is my retirement celebration trip!  

We're on the first leg of a new adventure, enroute to Chicago. Traveling with 4 fantastic friends and my husband we are taking a vacation by rail heading from Chicago to Glacier National Park in Montana and then on to Seattle. Since this blog has been primarily about cycling, I considered creating a whole new blog for this trip. But as I reflected, I realized that this too is an integral part of my "becoming."  It's a new adventure, the first major trip I've taken in quite a while that didn't have a conference attached to it or a work responsibility waiting for me the minute I get back. I feel so free and easy and relaxed as well as excited about whatever lies ahead!

So I hope you'll enjoy reading about my travels over the next 2 weeks. I'll post pictures as well as often as I have some sort of Internet connection, which may be spotty while in the glacial wilderness. Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 22 - Happy Earth Day!

More errand running in town today.  Love my new bag!  I can use it as an eco-friendly shopping bag inside the store, can fasten it onto my bike for transporting, and if it's empty, it folds flat and snaps shut.  Perfect for all my around town errands!  As long as it isn't raining, that is, but I have waterproof panniers I can use on rainy days.  And the best part is that I bought it from REI with my member dividend, so it didn't cost me anything!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Days 20 and 21

For the last couple of days, given wind conditions and a busy schedule, I haven't had a chance to go for a long bike ride, but I have been doing my errands by bike as well as a little biking around our village.

One of the personal advantages of having made the 30 Days of Biking pledge is that it is encouraging me to focus on using my bike more for around town transportation when I need to run to the bank, or the store, or the post office, instead of hopping into my car.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 19

I almost thought I wouldn't get any cycling in today, but ended up making a quick errand run into town.  First to CVS to pick up a couple of things, then over to Subway to get some subs for dinner, and finally over to our favorite frozen custard place, Abbott's, to get dessert before dinner.  The funny thing is that my husband was running these errands with me, but he was in the car, and I was on my bike so that I could be sure to get my riding in for today.  Now to curl up under the new bicycle patterned blanket my granddaughter and I made today and relax enjoying my favorite Sunday evening PBS shows on TV.

30 Days of Biking - Day 18

Today was a spectacular day!  So sunny and warm and my daughter, grandchildren and I spent the entire day outdoors!  We did a little family biking again, this time with Jacob on his own bike instead of on the trailer attached to mine.  He sure did a lot of pedaling, nearly a mile, which is a lot for such short legs!

We stopped at one of the school playgrounds for a little fun too, and Jake wanted to lean his bike just like all the rest of us, despite the training wheels that can hold it up on it's own!

I really love family cycling adventures!

30 Days of Biking - Day 17

My riding today was with one of my favorite groups of people!  On Fridays in the spring and fall I organize an afternoon ride with people from the school where I worked as well as some other friends, family and community members.  Our 1st Friday ride of the spring was last week but it was so windy that most people opted out.  So this Friday was our 2nd ride of the spring, but it felt like a celebration of riding together again!  The sun was shining, there was no wind, and the temperature was in the high 60s!  One rider brought her young son and I brought my granddaughter.  We had a great time together, riding around the village route, some once around, some time and a half, and some twice around.  That's one of the things I love about this group.  Our rides are easy going, social, and everyone does as much as they feel comfortable with or have time for and that's okay with everyone!  No pressure, just fun!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 16

I took my first spring ride along the canalway trail today.  I rode from my house to Spencerport to the canal, and then along the canal to Brockport and then back home the same way for a total of 30 miles.  It was a great ride and makes up for taking such a short ride yesterday!

The canal is emptied every winter and hasn't been refilled yet.  I think they begin filling it on May 1st, but I'm not 100% sure of that date.  It was kind of interesting to see things like docks and spillways and such that are usually underwater when the canal is full.

There were some spots where they are doing some maintenance on the canal banks and where they have had to bring in the necessary equipment, the tracks have left some rather bumpy ridges in the path.  Hopefully when they are finished, they also do something to smooth this back out.  I've never experienced this on the canal before so I'm not sure how it gets resolved.

And now I've completed one of my goals - to ride on the canal path in all 4 seasons!

Since I went to Brockport and back along the same path, it doesn't make a very interesting map!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 15

Today marks the halfway point for 30 Days of Biking!  Time is flying by!  Although it's another gorgeous spring day here, I didn't take a long ride today. I've added a daily workout program to my attempts to keep getting fitter and healthier, and my legs are killing me!  So I took today as a recovery day from biking and just took a short trip into town to the bank and to try out my new cycling shoes (my other cycling shoes were way too tight and were causing much pain).  So, deposit made and new shoes are a winner!  Tomorrow I'll take them on a longer ride - maybe along the canalway trail. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 14

My day started with a quick ride over to the high school for a quick meeting.  Just a little over a mile and a half.  When my meeting was over, I had originally intended to just come back home the same way, but the sun was shining, warmish spring temps, and so as I headed out of the parking lot, I turned left instead of right and headed out of the village toward the lake.  I really only intended to go as far as the next cross road, Curtis Rd., and then turn there to head home, but as I approached the turn, I just kept on going.  That turned out to be my mantra for the day!

A little snippet of a Paul Simon song kept playing in my brain . . . "I'm on my way, I don't know where I'm going.  I'm on my way, takin' my time but I don't know where . . ." I even sang it out loud several times!  I LOVE that kind of a day!  Being retired, with nothing in particular I absolutely HAD to do today, I could afford to just go wherever the road and my spirit took me.  So I went on down to the lake and then headed back towards home, taking various turns here and there and ending up finishing along the village bike route again, for a total of 13 miles.  

I love riding in my little, quiet village, but I've been doing a lot of that lately and so today it felt really good, and very freeing, to get out into the wide open spaces outside of town again!  Here are a few pictures I snapped along the way.

Along Huffer Rd.

At Wautoma Beach

Beautiful Day!

13 miles

Monday, April 13, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 13

Today was a fantastic day for cycling!  The temperature in the morning was already in the 50's and later in the day the sun came out and it went up to 80!  All day I used my bike to run around town doing errands here and there and then in the late afternoon I went on a ride with my friend, Denise, just for fun.  A total of 13.33 miles today and all of them gloriously enjoying spring!  I was so busy riding, I totally forgot to take any pictures!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 12

Jacob's and my rig

Did some family biking today.  Rode for about 4.5 miles around in the village first and then headed over to the school playgrounds for a little more fun.  Jacob waved to all the people we passed by and announced, “We’re biking!”  He sang songs and chatted the whole time.  Wish I had an audio recording of our ride!  It’s such a hoot riding with him behind me!  After we got home he said, with great enthusiasm, “That was fun!”

My traveling partner
The line up!  Brianna and Heather were riding too!
Dizzy fun!
Some swinging

Switch to the other playground

The "adults" on the see saw and the children taking the picture!
Our route through the village 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 11

Today was really all about baseball and the opening day at home for our local AAA team, the Rochester Red Wings, so there wasn't too much time left in the day for biking.  But I did manage to get in a quick 1.25 mile ride in after we got home.  Just a little ride into town to get some dinner.  A short ride is still better than no ride!

Friday, April 10, 2015

30 Days of Biking - Day 10

Today I combined my 30 Days of Biking ride with the first of the "Friday Fun Cycle" group rides I organize after school on Fridays in the spring.  It was very windy!  Sustained winds of 23 mph with gusts up to 50 mph!  Originally about 7 or 8 people had planned to join me, but the wind scared away all but 2, the youngest member of our group and his mom.  He said we must be the toughest ones!  So we are!  We rode around parts of the former Village of Hilton bike route and managed to stay out of the worst of the wind pretty well.  We rode about 4 miles worth and it was really a nice ride!  I'm so glad the 3 of us didn't bail!

30 Days of Biking - Day 9

Day 9 was rainy to begin with, but by the time I was ready to leave to bike to my dentist appointment in Hamlin, NY, the rain had stopped.  It was still gray, but I biked anyway.  It was a great, refreshing ride to the dentist and back home.  About 13.5 miles round trip.  Clean teeth and a great ride!

Midday, the sun came out for a short time and the temperatures warmed up.  I couldn't resist going for another ride, feeling a little as though a double ride day might make up for not being able to ride yesterday.  The sunshine was short-lived, but it was still great riding weather.  I got in a 24.5 mile ride from my house over to the Lake Ontario State Parkway Trail and back again, and this time it was snow free!  Took a slightly different route over to the trail this time, just to mix it up a bit.

Another great day of riding!