Friday, May 10, 2013

More Rides with my Bride

But first a word about a charity ride!

It’s only 4 weeks away and I’m in training for it! I’m talking about the Tour de Cure of the National Capital Area, taking place June 2nd.  I’m planning to ride the century course, which starts in Reston Town Center and winds its way out into the Blue Ridge Mountains for about 45 miles of beautiful views (and nasty climbs as I discovered last year) before returning to Reston via the W&OD trail, a total ride of 108 miles with 6,800 feet of climbs.

My goal is to raise $1500 for the cure, same as last year. If you’d be willing to donate as little as $5, click the link below and make a donation by credit card.  Chances are, someone you know has diabetes – some may not even know it – and we can make a difference.  Come on, you can do it! One less latte won’t kill you.

MB has game!

As I’ve mentioned before, MB expressed an interest in joining in the Cap2Cap ride here in Richmond. We’re planning to ride the 50 mile loop on May 18th.

The Cap2Cap trail is a bike trail that is currently under construction between Richmond, the current capital of the state, and Williamsburg, the first capital of the state.  It has been underway for some time and is close to completion with final parts scheduled to finish next year.  Right now, parts of the 50+ mile trip travel over state maintained roadways that are lacking in cycling amenities; little to no shoulder. This ride is an annual fundraiser to help foot the bill for building a paved cycling roadway.

Building up the miles

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten to the point where I can ride 50 miles at a time with little strain.  MB has great cardio conditioning but not a lot of saddle time; like most people, sitting on a bike for hours at a time is hard on the tuchis for her. To prep for the 50 miles, we’ve undertaken a couple of training rides.

Kirk Williams Wheel Out

We started a few weeks ago with a 25 miler up in Ashland, a short distance from home. This ride was another fundraiser to benefit a young man named Kirk Williams who was rendered a paraplegic about 4 years ago in a mountain biking accident. I signed us up for it as I saw it as a great stepping stone and a way to help out a cause.

We showed up at a large horse farm that volunteered its facility as a starting point, about a half hour prior to the scheduled start.  As we were queuing up with the other riders, I noticed a woman on a bike I’d never seen before. It was called an Elliptigo and was garnering a lot of attention from the gathered cyclists.  Instead of a typical pedaling motion, the rider is standing upright and moves their feet in a way that is reminiscent of an elliptical machine while holding more traditional handle bars.
An Elliptigo near the Golden Gate Bridge

I asked her how long it would take her to ride the 25 mile course and she said, “I have no idea, I’ve never gone that far before.”  MB said she was in the same boat.

And, they’re off!

At the appointed time, we saddled up and moved out the long, gravel driveway to the main road. MB had our cue sheet and was following me as we settled into a pace we’d agreed to before.  We found ourselves riding in a group of about a dozen or so riders.

After a couple of miles, MB asked if we could pass everybody. I said sure, and we swung out and passed the front of the pack and dropped everyone in no time at all.  By the time we got to the first turn at mile 3, we had put about 400 meters between us.  I settled into my cadence and we pedaled through Ashland on the back streets.

A quick lesson in the Granny Gear

About 8 miles into the ride, the trail took us down a long sloping left hander; MB pointed out a house belonging to friends of our youngest daughter.  It was then I realized that we had a pretty healthy climb coming up. 

The road turned upward and I continued to shift down to keep my cadence at a comfortable pace.  I could see MB in my mirror getting smaller as her pedals slowed down.  Finally, about half way up the hill she dismounted and began to walk.  I continued to the top of the hill and pulled off to the shoulder of the road to wait.

As soon as I pulled over, I saw Elliptigo Girl striding smoothly up the hill just passing MB on foot.  She continued steadily up the hill in her lowest gear and, as she passed me, I gave her a thumbs up of support. 

She gasped out, “I wish this damn thing didn’t weigh 65 pounds!” But she was still smiling as she said it.

When MB got to the top, she was apologizing for having to walk. I pointed out that there is no shame in that; I had to do it myself at the Tour de Cure last year. Sometimes you just have to get off.  

As we moved on down the road, she asked me about how to better use her gearing. I knew that she had been using the middle chain ring as I’d seen her in it. Turns out, she’d not yet dropped to the smallest ring.  Once I pointed this out and gave her my strategy for hills (I work to keep my cadence in the same vicinity of normal which is about 80 rpms for me but usually drops to 60, or so, on hills. Once I’ve worked through all the gears I just tough it out, occasionally standing up to change riding positions) she thanked me and immediately utilized it on the next climb which was even steeper. This resulted in a no-walk ascent and she pointed out it was a lot easier.

At the halfway point, we took a break for a quick snack and a few moments out of the saddle. As we rested, Elliptigo Girl strode past, turned and disappeared up the road. We didn’t see her again until we got back to the farm’s finish area. Evidently, 25 miles is not that tough a ride on one of those if you’re in really good shape.

To the finish

The rest of the ride was uneventful and, blessedly, flat. We were able to keep a pace above 13 mph for nearly all of it despite an occasional headwind.  MB was pleased and ready to try a longer ride soon.

Back at the farm, we grabbed some lunch (local barbeque, yum!) and listened to a local band while we ate and sat in the sunshine, enjoying the day.  How great to enjoy a ride with your best friend!

Final Tune Up

The following weekend, MB wanted to try a longer ride. I had explained to her that I’d read somewhere that, if a cyclist can ride 60% of a particular distance without blowing up, they should be able to ride the full distance desired. Since our plan is to ride a 50 miler, she wanted to crank out 30 miles.

I suggested that we could ride one of the RABA (Richmond Area Bike Association) courses that I’d taken a few months back in a group ride.  It begins about a 10 minute drive from our house, takes place over fairly untraveled roads, and has terrain that is pretty similar to the 50 mile course. I showed her the cue sheet and, since she is very familiar with our local roads, she knew exactly where the ride took us.

Personally, I detest driving to go on a ride; I feel it defeats the entire purpose of riding a bicycle.  That said, if I didn’t do it, at least once in a while, I’d almost never go on a group ride.  So, sometimes you suck it up and do it.

We set out Sunday afternoon, shortly after lunch.  After parking in the local library lot, we mounted up and headed out to the road with me in the lead. 
The first couple miles of this course are mostly downhill, a very gentle descent.  This got our pace off to a pretty fast start as a result. After the road leveled off, I put MB in front to set a pace that she was comfortable riding as this was her training ride.  (I had my own training ride that morning when I got in a 30 miler with a buddy with whom I hadn’t ridden in 6 months. I had been cranking it in the morning so this was a recovery ride for me.)

MB kept up a really nice pace of between 12 and 13 mph for most of the ride. The day wasn’t gorgeous, overcast, a little chilly, and an occasional wind gust, but the scenery on this loop is wonderful.  Lots of picturesque, rural homes, some farms of varying sizes and crops, and the occasional historic signpost punctuated the afternoon.

Just past the halfway point, we pulled off on a side road for a break and a snack.  After about 10 minutes, we continued on, turning back onto the second to last leg of, what looks like, a large rectangle on the map.  This 5 mile stretch was heading into a pretty gusty wind and it got painful at times.  I was proud of how MB was able to push on through it, holding her pace.

We made the last turn and started up the 3 miles of climb to the finish. Where the start was mostly downhill, the finish is mostly up and that makes this loop somewhat of a challenge for newish riders.  MB charged up it convincingly, continuing to hold a solid pace. I was very impressed with her stamina and heart, right then. The first time I went on this ride, there were a couple of regular club riders that just barely chugged up this last section.  When I told her that, I think she was surprised.

When we returned to the parking lot, I made a beeline to the porta pottie near the baseball field having clearly over-hydrated.  When I returned to the car, MB mentioned that when we do the Cap2Cap she needs to remember to get entirely off the bike instead of straddling when taking a break.  Evidently, she had some issues swinging her leg over the bike after being in the saddle for so long.  (I know the feeling.)

I’ll remind her of that this weekend!