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Well this post is a bit overdue but better late than never I say!  A few weekends ago Patrick and I participated in the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “City to Shore” ride.  We started in Cherry Hill, NJ (about 8 miles from Philly) and ended up in Ocean City, NJ (about 75 miles from Philly).  We did some fundraising to help the Society find a cure for MS but mostly went on the ride to say we did it and have fun!

City to Shore finishers!

The ride is a two-day event and we had originally planned to camp beach-side upon our arrival in Ocean City.  After a week of rainy-weather forecasts we booked a hotel room at the last-minute.  This meant less gear to schlep with us so when the alarm went off at 4:00am on Saturday morning the bikes were already packed and ready to go.  We set off through empty city streets toward the light rail that would take us to the start line.  We had a quick pit-stop at the 24-hour convenience store to pick up coffee drinks (have YOU ever tried to bike at 4:00am without caffeine??)  We shared the train car with several other cyclists and more got on at each stop.

We're going to do what now?

The starting line was conveniently located at the Cherry Hill train station’s massive parking lot.  Bright street lights pierced the pre-dawn darkness, thousands of cyclists milled about waiting for the start and the line for the porta-potties seemed to stretch on forever.  We had arrived early enough to join the first wave of “century cyclists”– people like us who wanted to add an extra 25 mile loop to their day to bring that day’s mileage up to 100 miles.  Unfortunately the aforementioned line prevented us from setting off early so we ended up waiting at the head of a mess of about 6,500 cyclists for the “official start”.  As we waited in the fairly quiet queue we heard someone’s over-inflated tire burst with an impressive “PSSSSSSSSSSST”, bummer!

Sunrise at the starting line

Waiting to roll

Finally we were on the road at the official start time of 6:40am.  The route wound through sleepy Cherry Hill neighborhoods and into the countryside.  We slipped past fields still blanketed in mist, a cloudy sky preventing the sun from peeking out to burn off the morning dew.  The miles seemed to fly by quickly and I gleefully called out each mile marker.  We soon pulled into the first rest stop for a potty break and some breakfast.

The Whiz Palace

Feeling energized from some bananas and Cliff bars we almost decided to skip the next rest stop to keep our rhythm up.  But as we breezed past the rest stop entrance I heard a volunteer shouting “THIS IS THE LUNCH STOP!”  I’m not one to pass up free lunch so we quickly pulled over to scope it out.  There were huge tents set up with boxes and boxes of prepared sandwiches, ants-on-a-log and fruit.  Another tent had freshly grilled chicken sandwiches and all the fixin’s.  Normally I would have gone crazy on all this good stuff but it will still only 9:30am and a chicken sandwich did not sound appealing.  So I grabbed some stuff to eat later while Pat the “Iron Stomach” Kelley inhaled two chicken sandwiches.  We both grabbed a few extra Cliff bars, a habit that would continue throughout the ride.

9:30am "lunch"

The next dozen miles rolled past easily on the mostly flat course.  We flew past NJ’s famous blueberry fields, some of which are surrounded by gigantic Jurassic Park-style fences.  I made pterodactyl noises for a few miles to entertain us.  Soon we found ourselves at the turn-off for the Century Loop.  The loop was scheduled to close at 11:00 but we were there with plenty of time to spare and we eagerly turned off to join the “hardcore” cyclists.  As we chugged along I noticed that there were very few ladies on the Century Loop.  C’mon girls!

Feel the burn! 45.5 miles to go!

There was a really nice rest stop on the Century Loop.  Kids enthusiastically filled our water bottles and handed out energy bars.  There was a feeling of camaraderie but also pending exhaustion among the cyclists.  I ate my lunch and felt instantly better.  We picked up some “Century Cyclist” patches and hit the road again.  After 15 more miles we were dropped back onto the regular route.  At first I thought I was having deja vu but then realized we had joined the regular route a few miles BEFORE the Century Loop turn off.

We're feeling OK!

People clog the entrance chute of the next rest stop where we turn off to get more water.  I noticed that the “elite” riders were also the most discourteous riders all day.  One team in particular, The Flamers, seemed to think they were especially entitled to not follow the race rules.  It was disappointing but luckily most cyclists just wanted to have a nice time like us!  After a very quick stop we hit the road again, determined to get into Ocean City around 3:00pm.

The miles seemed to somehow become longer and I started to get that feeling like I was riding through Jell-O.  As we rounded a curve I felt my front tire slip and thought that I must really be getting exhausted.  I convinced Pat to stop at the final rest stop so I could re-group.  As we pulled in I realized my “exhaustion” was caused by a flat front tire!  Fortunately the ride provided free mechanical service at all the stops.  20 minutes and one new tube later we were ready to hit the final stretch!  Words cannot express how happy I was to discover that flat at the rest stop and not on the side of the road.  From mile 1 we had seen cyclists with their wheels up, fixing a flat or waiting for help.  Most of them were little skinny road bike tires that had been over-inflated.  Gotta love those weekend cyclists!

FLAT!

A nice mechanic fixing bikes

As the last 9 miles slowly disappeared behind us we started seeing more and more supporters on the roadsides.  A group of kids waved homemade signs and cheered for us, a little girl sat on her bike at the end of her driveway yelling “GO! GO! GO!” and a boy scout troop handed out free lemonade at their own impromptu rest stop.  My weary legs felt a burst of energy from all these kind people showing us that they knew we could make it.

Ocean City neared and I started hearing grumbling in the ranks about “the bridges.”  As in: “save your energy for THE BRIDGES” or “last year I couldn’t make it over THE BRIDGES”.  I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little concerned.  But I put it out of my mind, no way I was taking a SAG wagon ride at this point!  I could smell the salt water in the air and my bum longed for a stretch so on we pushed.  The line of riders jammed up at a series of stop lights and we found ourselves in a holding pattern for about 20 minutes.  Pat played the defence with his pannier- keeping stupid cyclists from whizzing past the stopped line of bikes (to go where, exactly???).  Soon enough I could see the dastardly bridges in the distance.

I was scared.  They looked like the first hill on a reallybig roller coaster and, to my tired legs, they seemed about 10 miles long and 50 miles steep.  But I was also thrilled to see them.  I had 98 miles behind me and nearly 7 hours in the saddle.  Would I let a couple of small (GIGANTIC) hills keep me from obtaining my goal??  No way.  So up, up, up we chugged and down, down, down we breezed.  I wish I could say the view was worth it but honestly most of my brain was focused on keeping my legs pumping.  We avoided possible calamity as those dang Flamers squeezed past us and the traffic to our left, without even the smallest whisper of “on your left.”  Pat reminded them not the be fools 😉  We cleared the second bridge as well and soon rolled into Ocean City.

With one mile left I started to get delirious from exhaustion and happiness.  The streets were lined with people waving signs and cheering.  A man in a wheelchair shouted “thanks for riding for ME!” and I nearly lost it.  The finish line chute was bordered with gates and people who don’t even know us screamed “congratulations!” and “you did it!” while clanging cow bells.  The finish line announcer was pretty anti-climatic in his announcing as we rolled under the banner, “You are at the finish.”

Finish line and supporters

I feel proud! (and tired)

I hear someone shouting my name from the sidelines and soon pick out one of my volunteers from work!  He’s there to support a friend but congratulates us on finishing too.  He also breaks the news that Ocean City is in a dry county so we won’t be having that celebratory beer I’d been looking forward to for about 45 miles…  Instead we hit up the free food tents, grab our finishing medals and t-shirts and then walk the boardwalk.

Best dang hot dog ever!

Walking "the boards"

God's smile 🙂

It’s a beautiful afternoon and we treat ourselves to some gelato and cheesy fries.  As we walk to our hotel we see a beautiful rainbow form over the ocean.  My heart bursts with pride at our accomplishment and the beauty of the day we just shared.  We retire to our hotel to stretch, take long, hot showers and to regroup.  We decide that the day was just perfect and that a 75-mile ride back the next day would be too much.  We sign up for the free bus that leaves in the morning and slip into a deep and well-deserved sleep.

YUMMMMMM!

Congratulations to US!

This thing is legit!

A beautiful end to the day

Collection of "extras" from the rest stops, lol

Big wheel at sunset

The next morning we load our bikes into a moving van with hundreds of other cyclists who will join us on a school bus ride back to Cherry Hill.  The drive takes about 1.5 hours, a hilariously short time compared to the 7.1 hours it took the day prior.  Soon we’re pulling into the train station parking lot, our bikes are unloaded and we board the return train.  A police officer at the Philadelphia stop congratulates us, noticing our matching City to Shore t-shirts.  Breakfast is at Famous 4th Deli where we both tuck into massive omelets and bottomless coffee.  It’s the perfect end to a challenging and rewarding weekend.

Truck full of bikes

We rode 100 miles at an average speed of 15.2 MPH.  From start-to-finish the ride took 8 hours, 7.1 of which were in the saddle.  We ate at least 8 Cliff bars each and drank about 1.5 gallons of water each.  One flat tire, 2 finisher medals and tons of fond memories.  Thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters!

The Kelley's in Ocean City

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A little late but… St. Patrick’s day was super fun.  We both had the day off work, as did P&E, so we joined forces for a drunken, corned-beef-fueled celebration of our Irish heritage. 

Corned beef, veggies and Pete's soda bread YUMM!

Festive garlic & onion dip

Beautiful spring, beautiful people!

It was unseasonably warm and beautifully sunny in our backyard, perfect weather for Tully Tea.

Euchre was a lost cause after that drink

Mr. Meow enjoys a walkabout

 

Can I sit on this?

 

Nope.

 

Proof that Pat tried to fix it

It was a good thing I had the next two days off work as well… I did manage to go on a bike ride to blessed Ikea on Saturday while Pat was working.  I didn’t get an ice cream (too cold) but tomato soup was tasty.  Also completed my second successful Century Week!  This week is looking pretty promising, especially since Valley Forge is on Friday’s agenda.  Today we rode to work in the sleet– not nice!  

love!

  

 

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…the tough go shopping!  My mom used to have a poster with that slogan and a photo of a really beasty looking motorcycle man wearing a feather boa and carrying shopping bags.  I was thinking about it the other day as we battled headwinds all the way home from a short trek out to Plymouth Meeting.  The ride there was pleasant– the sun was shining, I had lots of energy and the path was fairly clear.  We stopped at Ikea for bathroom breaks and a picnic but as we munched the sky started to darken, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  I was not pleased.  And I did not feel tough at all.

Pit stop

I whined in my head (and out load) the entire 16 miles home: How is it possible to have a headwind on both legs of a roundtrip journey?  WHY does the wind have to be so mean?  Isn’t it possible for my bike to just ride itself?  WHOSE STUPID IDEA WAS IT TO INVENT A BIKE, ANYWAY?!  And so on and so forth. 

A storm rolls in

Why is staying motivated so hard sometimes?  Tonight I went for a quick ride after work and, although the wind was just as fierce, I loved every minute of it.  All I could think about was how strong my legs felt, how nice it was to be outside and how lucky I am to live in a city with a great bike path.  I was the Queen of Tough.  Then there are days I can barely motivate myself to take the stairs rather than the elevator at work.  What is the secret to Lance Armstrong-esque will power?

Sometimes the road-less-travelled SUCKS

I wish I knew for sure, but here are 3 ideas I like to keep in mind when I’m feeling unmotivated: Have a goal, reward your hard work and don’t be too hard on yourself.  I’m sure Lance would disagree.  But hear me out. 

Having a goal gives you something to focus on when you’re feeling pooped.  It can be something really big like “I want to be prepared for bad weather on our Europe trip so I’m riding to work in any weather, including this torrential downpour”, or something really silly like “I want to beat that trolley up the hill so I better huff it.”  It doesn’t really matter, it’s just something to occupy your mind and make you feel like your madness is justified.

Rewarding your hard work is probably my favorite motivating factor.  Again, it can be something big like A 6 MONTH TRIP TO EUROPE or something more realistic like a king-sized Snickers bar.  Either way I think treating yourself after you’ve overcome an obstacle is always nice.  Knowing there’s something to look forward to, a raison d’être, can make the difference between giving up and pushing through.  Not surprisingly a lot of my rewards are food-related.  Yay fatties!

Finally, not being too hard on yourself is really important to me.  It can be extremely difficult to stay motivated when you’re pushing with all your might, hunched over the handlebars and thinking you’re going to keel over at any minute when suddenly some old guy in a skin-tight racing uniform blasts past you like he’s trying to outpace a freaking cheetah or something.  Don’t let it get to you.  My strengths are different from his, but that doesn’t make me any less awesome.   Admire your achievements!

Sporty Spice

What keeps YOU motivated?

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I used to think Michigan had some crazy weather but after living in Philly I realize MI’s weather is not crazy, just reliably terrible.  Here it’s a total guessing game.  For example, winters here can be so extreme– it will snow for 28 hours straight, leaving behind 11 inches of snow and shutting the city down for days.  Then 3 weeks later it’s warm enough to wear spring jackets (and mini-skirts for those brave enough).  Yesterday there was a high of 68!

Valley Forge, PA

So we had a breakfast of champions, did some quick Bike Garage, hit up Lee’s Hoagie House and then got out of dodge.

Mmmm, fuel!

Before we left I hooked up the simple bike computer I got Pat for Christmas, it’s quite nifty.  It records a bunch of stuff but we biked 48.2 miles and hit a maximum speed of 21 mph.  Sweet!  

The Manayunk tow path was a slightly soupy mud pit at points.  I was grateful for my new hardcore tires and fenders.  My body is still pretty wary of falling though so I kept having to remind myself to chill and not tense up on every bump.  Mind over body!  Once we got to the paved part of the path we kept a good pace in spite of the slight, unceasing headwind.  Even with a sammie break we reached Valley Forge in about 2 hours and enjoyed a king-sized Snickers bar each at the visitor center.  Too delicious.

Outside Valley Forge visitor center

Pat occupied himself by harassing, I mean coaching my speed from behind most of the way home. 😉  I was pretty exhausted and crashed out from all that sugar but we kept a good speed most of the way.  The Schuylkill path was absolutely packed with oblivious runners on the way back into the city.  Though I guess I shouldn’t be grumpy when we all have the same awful spring fever!  Yesterday’s ride was challenging but not as bad as I thought it would be after 4 months of no long rides.  I’m really looking forward to spending this summer getting in shape for our trip!

Today it’s chilly again with insane wind gusts whipping in all directions.  I had to shift into grandma gear while riding into the city today, that would be pretty pathetic under normal circumstances.  I was sitting in the cafe at Pat’s work when their front door whipped open and smashed the front window.  See, crazy weather!

Good thing it's safety glass

Hopefully this early spring holds– Pat has a plan for a time-lapse photo project on the tow path.  I don’t think we’ll get the same awe-inspiring effects as Planet Earth but it should be pretty fun.  Stay tuned for more on that 🙂

Fossil watch ad??

Another weekend come and gone… sometimes they seem way too short!

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Forbidden Drive and dirty lens

“Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
–   George Eliot

This was our first free weekend since what felt like forever.  We rode out of the city to Forbidden Drive on Friday.  Breakfast stop at the Manayunk Diner (oh so delicious).  I got a flat on the way home but somehow, mysteriously, my tube retained a lot of air so I was able to ride (slowly) all the way back– hurrah!  I need new tires though before winter comes, the “standard” my bike came with is pretty well-worn down.

Of course the camera came out for a spin, too:

Reflections

Geese and Philly

 

Clark Park

I have so much free time now, I almost don’t know what to do with myself.  We did make a very sizeable dent in our massive laundry pile.  All that remains is towels and sheets– a victory in my eyes.  Patrick and I consumed much monkey bread in celebration.  I’m trying to focus on my writing, both here and at examiner.com Thanks to everyone who clicks on my various articles, it helps!  I’m also getting excited for the holidays. Looking forward to a much-needed trip home later this month and then a hectic month at work.

Our trip is becoming more and more real in my mind each day.  Today we took another look at the map (upon the guidance of my friend Emily, who is living in Europe) and are considering an alternative route, which gives us a potential departure of June, 2012.  19 months away??  Maybe! I’m glad winter is so boring here, it helps us save money 🙂

He's a model, on the cat walk, the cat walk

More soon!

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