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Posts Tagged ‘hardcoreness’

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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Hot cocoa, campfires, flannel sheets, a sauna, cinnamon gummy bears… Oh!  Those pajamas that have the feets and zip up to your neck…  The list goes on and on in my mind as I try to find a warmth-evoking distraction from the cold, cold, cold that somehow manages to slip in and chill me to the bone.  Two pairs of pants, tights, wool socks, cammie, t-shirt, long sleeve, thermal hoodie and a jacket are still no match for this morning’s weather.  MSNBC (obviously having a slow news day) quotes a fellow East-coaster as calling this kind of cold “snot-freezing.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Human warmth burrito

Patrick and I were discussing the usual chain of events that make up our measly 3-mile commute to work.  It starts out with our eyes uncontrollably streaming tears from the shock of cold (or sadness from being out of our warm bed, I’m not sure), followed by a slight tingle in the thighs.  From here it can go one of two ways.  If it’s not too cold and we’re feeling ambitious our muscles start to warm up and by the time we get to work we’re actually quite warm.  Or, as the case has been the past few weeks, that tingle turns into a chilly numbness that seems to linger for the rest of the day no matter how many hot teas you consume.  Either way we arrive at work, snot dripping at an alarming rate, to de-thaw at our desk/espresso machine.

Us in winter 2010 with our new bikes

Today a coworker, seeing me bundle up and wheel my bike out to the elevator, quipped, “boy, Liz… you sure are hardcore!”  But it wasn’t really a compliment.  It was more like “boy, Liz… you sure are one masochistic, cold-loving Mid-westerner!”  It also reminded me of the anecdote my dad likes to tell about a winter camping trip he took to Canada.  Whenever he told a native Canadian what he was up to their response was “…that’s brave.”  Reading between the lines he soon realized that, in Canada, “brave” is equal to “pretty damn crazy/stupid”.   Since the PECO building’s digital thermometer informed me that it was a mere 9 degrees this morning I’m going to have to go with the Canadians on this one… aren’t I brave?!

Though the forecast doesn’t seem much better for the rest of the week I will persevere!  After all Lance Armstrong, a man who kind of defines the word “hardcore” (in ALL of its connotations, mind you) once said “Pain is temporary.  Quitting lasts forever.”  Rock on, Lance!  Rock on, Liz!  Rock on, snot-dripping!

West Philly

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Was it the warm sunshine on my face or the drowsiness of sleep not yet shaken that caused me to doubt the ferocity of the trolley tracks?  Am I getting overly confident?  Should I start having an extra cup of coffee before I leave the house to help widen my eyes a bit?  I have come to the conclusion that the answer to all these questions is: NO.  No, I am not a distracted cyclist, unsafe or half-asleep behind the handlebars (well, most mornings anyway). 

NOT a bike-friendly zone

It’s just that dang, those trolley tracks are wily!  Yesterday morning I was riding down the center of the tracks because my street STILL has not been plowed from the snowstorm.  I heard a car coming from behind and decided to bail across the trolley tracks– taking it at a 45 degree angle, of course.  My front wheel cleared but those slippery rails were not ready to let go of me yet.  The rest is all a blur– it ends with me on the ground wondering what just happened.  A quick inventory to make sure all my bones were still in one piece, that my super-awesome gloves held up to the impact and that my bike was okay and then back on the old steed.  I’m sure the guy chillin’ in his pickup truck across the street enjoyed the drama.

The weird part about all the unfortunate incidents I’ve had on my bike is that I can recall the moments leading up to the crash and the aftermath but never the crash itself.  It’s those few seconds where I’m airborne, my bike going one way as my body catapults the other that my brain simply does not record.  I wonder if the memory part of my brain shuts down so the “oh, sh*t!” cortex can have full usage of my neurons.

So I live to ride another day.  My once healthy fear of trolley tracks is now bordering on nervous mania, I actually got off my bike to walk across a tricky intersection on the way home.   Today I am sore, a little bruised but otherwise in one piece.  As always, I am glad I was wearing my helmet and that my guardian angel was somewhere in the vicinity at the time.

Get a bicycle.  You will certainly not regret it, if you live.

-Mark Twain

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Today I rode my bike to work in the POURING RAIN.  The only other time I’ve purposefully ridden my bike in the rain was when it drizzled on our way to the movie theater.  As you can imagine I feel pretty tough after this little adventure. 

I woke up to the din of a downpour and my cat’s daily pre-alarm-clock reminder that he prefers early breakfast.  Drats, I thought to myself.  I hate riding the trolley, it smells like moldy foot, and I wanted to get home quickly after work because my weekend started at 5:00 pm today.  I hemmed, hawed and fed my scoundrel cat.  Finally I accepted that my work wasn’t going to magically appear next door so I pulled on my goloshes, zipped up my new rain slicker and headed out for a soggy commute.

feed me or I eat your face

Helmet on, blinky light blinking away, I toned down my normal “bat- out-of-hell who is also cautious” driving style for something closer to “gutsy grandma”.  Aside from the coastal flooding along 38th street that turned into a wall of water (thanks to a speedy SUV), I enjoyed most of the ride.  No other bikes, lots of great sloshing noises and the satisfaction of knowing I didn’t have the ride the stinking trolley home.   

So I may not be the most hardcore biker– I’m sure some bike messenger out there is rolling his eyes ironically at me right now– but I’d say today… top 10% at least. 

Splash!

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