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Tour de Shore

10 Aug

The more I get into biking, the more I seem to fall in love with it! (Not so much the cost of it… but definitely the riding aspect!) Even though I failed to blog about it until now, on July 31st I participated in the Irish Pub Tour de Shore,  a 65-mile ride from downtown Philadelphia to Atlantic City. It was amazing, exhausting, frustrating, and exhilarating all at the same time.

Steve & I set our alarms for 4:30 am Sunday morning… which came entirely too fast. Ugh. We pretty much gathered our stuff up like zombies & headed out to the car to put our bikes on the bike rack – which was a challenge, considering it was still too dark to see anything. By 5 am, we were on the road! This may have been the first time in my entire life that I didn’t hit traffic on the Schuylkill.

We arrived in downtown Philadelphia at 6am – drove around looking for a parking spot for a while, and then finally joined the THOUSANDS of other bikers gathered on Chestnut Street in front of the Irish Pub. There were some teams of cyclists in official jerseys and fancy bikes… some cyclists with mountain bikes and gym shorts… it was a very mixed crowd – which helped me not feel so intimidated. (At least I have a road bike!) I met up with my friends from spin class (and saw Elena’s fancy new OFFICIAL jersey) so we could all start together. So glad I have other crazy friends that want to wake up early and bike 65 miles.

He was secretly pumped I dragged him into this. Don’t let him fool you.

Me… in my signature pose before every race!

Ready, set, start! The beginning of this race was amazing. They blocked off roads for us in Center City, so I got to bike right in front of City Hall as the sun was rising, with no traffic. It was beautiful & amazing. Also at the beginning of our journey, we crossed the Benjamin Franklin bridge into New Jersey. It was pretty awesome having the entire bridge shut down for me. Not gonna lie. In fact, the entire first part of our journey was great. It was still cool, roads were blocked off, I was feeling fresh. Loving it.

Rest Stops: There were 4 rest stops on our journey, and judging from my past bike tour, I was expecting some awesome food to re-fuel with. Wrong. The rest stops were horribly under-stocked. It was bad. Very bad.

The first rest stop was about 17 miles in – and I was really craving a banana! I got to the rest stop and saw plenty of orange peels and banana peels in the trash – so when I went to go find my own, they were out. OUT. Seriously!?! I mean, I’m not Lance Armstrong, but I certainly wasn’t the last person to get there. No food? Ridiculous. I got some Gatorade and decided that I’d be fine until the next rest stop. After all, 17 miles isn’t terrible.

By the time we reached the 2nd rest stop at about 33 miles, I was ready for my banana. Lucky for me, I got the LAST banana. I was horrified at the lack of food available at the rest stops. I felt bad when some guy came up to me and asked me where I got the banana and I had to tell him I took the last one.

I have to admit that I was expecting this ride to be extremely flat, if not a net downhill. I was shocked at how hilly it was. I swear there was a 5-mile stretch that was all uphill (gradual of course, but still uphill!) I love a challenge, so it was fine – but I really wasn’t expecting hills.

Rest stop number 3 – It looked promising. I saw wrappers for LaraBars and Uncrustables all over the place. Unfortunately, that’s all I saw. Wrappers. All I wanted was a freaking pb&j. Argghhhh. To make matters worse, they also ran out of Gatorade.  What the shit. Some nice woman had a few bottles of Gatorade in her car that she passed out and I gladly took it. At this point it was hours into our ride and I was about ready for a full meal, not just some water and orange slices. I was also really starting to feel the pain in my legs… and for the first time in his life, Steve stretched!!

After having already gone 40 miles, my legs started to burn. My thighs were screaming at me. But I basically told them to suck it up and keep going. Pretty much it hurt so good. But it still hurt. My longest ride ever before this was 32 miles. I mean, I was fairly unprepared for 65. But I crushed it. You know.

Rest stop number 4 – My desire for a pb&j was at an all-time high, but alas, all the Uncrustables were gone again!!! There were still some LaraBars, so I took like 10 of them. At least there was a peanut butter flavor to kind of deal with my pb&j obsession. It was also crazy hot at this point. I didn’t realize it while biking because of the constant breeze, but it was HOT. We sat in the shade, stretched, couldn’t believe that we were all so sore and exhausted, and eventually made our way to our bikes, and decided to finish the remaining 12 miles to Atlantic City!!

The final 12 miles were really hard but really amazing. I started counting down the miles at this point and each time we hit another mile closer, Elena & I sped up. We were nearing 20MPH towards the end. Unfortunately, the only way into Atlantic City is on the expressway, so the amount of cars speeding by us really freaked me out – but I survived. At least they cleared a lane on the bridge into AC for us. (A bridge with a see-through bottom… which is terrifying on a bike, let me tell you) Elena & I just crushed it from that bridge on. We were on a mission. It was a million degrees, sunny, and we were ready to be done. We finally reached the finish & there were tons of spectators with cowbells & signs & everything else cheering us on. It was glorious. Steve didn’t really have to same desire to sprint at the end, but he still came in a few minutes after us anyways!

The “after-party” could have been awesome if it wasn’t 110 degrees. It was almost too hot to enjoy being outside anymore. The line for food was obnoxious, and being a vegetarian, I didn’t really have any options, which sucked. Steve ended up grabbing me a tuna salad sandwich and some pasta salad. I also downed 2 beers – but in reality, all I wanted to do was head back home and sleep in my air conditioned apartment. So we did. I wish we could have enjoyed the party a little more, but it was so hot, and all the tables in the shade were taken over by people who finished way before I did. I kinda wish I would have walked along the boardwalk and enjoyed the ocean – but Atlantic City is actually pretty dirty, so I’m not terribly upset about it.

My bike time – 4:25 (14.7 MPH) Not bad for 65 miles, eh?

My thoughts: Well aside from the fact that they obviously need to have more food / drinks at the rest stops, it was an amazing feeling to finish 65 miles on a bike. Especially with very little training on the road, and having only gone 32 miles before this ride – I was pumped! I think I’ll definitely sign up for more rides. I love that cycling has so many options for “rides” (not races) – everyone is so friendly, and I’m surrounded by other people that for some reason or another find joy just in biking. Maybe one day I’ll do a 100-miler. I think that’s the goal. I’m excited to hear how my friends Amanda & Nikki do in their long rides – definitely an inspiration!!

What’s your motivation for signing up for crazy rides / races / events that force you to wake up early & challenge yourself physically??

I tend to do this once a week. I just love adrenaline. Next up: MarshMan Triathlon on September 18!

SheRox Triathlon

8 Aug

I did it! I completed my first triathlon! It was the hardest thing I have ever done – but I did it – and I will certainly be doing another. Let’s re-cap, shall we?

SheRox Philadelphia: All-women’s triathlon in Fairmount park consisting of a .37-mile swim / 15.5 mile bike / 3.1 mile run. “She swims, she rides, she runs, she rocks!” I loved that my first triathlon was a women’s only tri that really catered to first-timers. It was the perfect environment. Everyone was friendly and helpful and had a lot of the same nervousness that I did.

Wake-up call: 4:15 am. Not really ideal. I don’t think the 4am wake-up calls will ever get easier. Especially since I get pre-race anxiety about over-sleeping. I seriously had a dream that I missed the whole event. I didn’t.

Arrival: It was still dark, but there were hundreds of people & bikes & craziness. I got intimidated really fast, especially when some girls had bikes that were more expensive than my car. I’m not joking. There was a long walk from the parking lot to the transition area, and when we got there, I was shocked at how much went into it all. Everything was really well organized and looked awesome. It really got me excited, and everyone was so helpful that it really calmed my nerves. I got there really early, set up my little area, drank some Skinny Water… and walked around for a while to warm up. I didn’t feel like running or biking or anything, I just wanted to soak it all in.

Swim: Well, I’m a swimmer – so I wasn’t really worried about the swim. It was 600 meters (so about 24 lengths of a high school pool). I always envisioned the start to be a mass start where everyone runs into the water and starts swimming – but it was actually really well organized into waves and we started in the water. When it was my turn, my wave entered the water and treaded in place until the horn went off. The water was 78 degrees, so it was perfect. I got a spot right in the front too, so I didn’t have to fight anyone right off the bat. Once the horn went off, I was shocked at how fast some girls went out. They were like all-out sprinting, which isn’t what I anticipated. But I joined right in and swam really hard. I also swam off-course quite a bit, given that this was my first open-water swim ever… and I only breathe to one side – so I never looked the other way. Once I looked around and decided I swam pretty far out of my way, I wasted a lot of time & energy getting back on track – but oh well. Next time I know to look both ways. I also noticed near the end that my cap had fallen right off my head. I don’t understand why this always happens to me! I wanted to keep that thing as a memento!! Ugh. Luckily, my hair was tight enough that it didn’t really affect my swim. My swim time- 13:30 (32nd overall)

Transition 1: I kinda took my time here so I could have a little bit of rest before the bike. Plus, I wasn’t trying to win the event, just have a good time finishing my first tri. I dried off my feet the best I could, grabbed a quick drink, turned on my Garmin, put on my socks & shoes, snapped on my helmet, grabbed my bike, and jogged to the bike start. No big deal. My T1 time- 2:16 (211th overall)

Bike: I’m so glad I was in one of the first waves for the bike because the course wasn’t very crowded at all. It was so refreshing and beautiful. I originally figured I’d try to maintain 15mph (4 min/miles) but I quickly decided that I could go a lot faster – so I sped it up significantly. I felt crazy strong on the bike because I kept passing all kinds of people. I crushed the hills. I was feeling great! What wasn’t great was my shoes slipping around the pedals because everything was wet from the rain. The course was a 2-loop course – and the 2nd loop was a lot more annoying because more people were on the course at that point. I still felt like I was passing way more people than were passing me though, so that was positive. Obviously, some girls in like USA jerseys & bikes with the tires all filled in zoomed past me, but whatever. I’m not pro. I saw Steve a few times on this portion and I loved it. I waved & smiled & was just having a grand time. My bike time – 56:11 (16.6MPH – 289th overall)

Transition 2: Well, this should have been an easy transition, because I didn’t have to change my shoes or anything – I just had to throw on a shirt that had my bib on it. Unfortunately, my shoes were soaking wet. Yuck. I re-racked my bike, ditched the helmet, threw on my tank top, and wearily jogged to the run start. My T2 time – 1:45 (253rd overall)

Run: Never in my life have I had a harder run. I forgot to save energy for this part of the race. Plus, my shoes were soaked so they were heavy, squishy, and just insanely annoying. The humidity was also horrendous. It must have been about 90% humidity. I had my Garmin with me, but I refused to look at it, because I was convinced that I was going about 12 minute miles. I actually stopped completely at the first aid station (mile 1) and drank my Gatorade while walking. It was necessary. Shockingly, not too many people passed me – granted, people were definitely passing me – but I guess everyone is pretty worn down at this point, so no one was sprinting on by. I kept it going as strong as I could, and just tried to push through, even though I felt like I was going nowhere. I finally saw the crowd pick up and could see the finish line ahead… so I started speeding up, and when I was super close, I tried my best to sprint to the finish. I saw Steve & my little brother at the finish line & heard the announcer saying my name and it was just glorious. I MADE IT. My run time- 28:24 (9:10 min/mile, 267th overall)

My official time – 1:42:06  (9/61 age 20-24, 109/933 overall)

Thoughts looking back: I’m really proud of myself for finally signing up & doing a triathlon! I’ve always wanted to do one, I was just too nervous. Now I know there’s nothing to be nervous about.  I think that 109 out of 933 is awesome for my first-ever attempt at a triathlon. I know I can do better, but I can’t complain. What makes me mad looking back is how amazing I did in the swim, but how poorly I did in the other two events. I know I can swim faster. I just have to stay on course – I probably wasted a solid minute just going in the wrong direction. I know I can bike faster, I just need to practice. I also really wanted to run 8 minute miles… which didn’t happen. I definitely died on the run. I think the humidity played a huge factor, but so did my soaking wet shoes. Next time, I’ll use cycling shoes and have dry shoes for running. But otherwise, my tri tank & tri shorts worked perfectly. I’m glad I bought them, even if they were crazy expensive and I didn’t wait to buy the tank in pink. One day I will have a hot pink tri outfit. Just not today. Overall, despite wanting to die on the run – I had a lot of fun, and I definitely can’t wait to do more so that I can do even better!

Advice to myself for the future

  1. Learn to use cycling shoes with the clip-less pedals. My shoes slid around way too much on the pedals.
  2. Bring extra socks. My socks were so wet from the bike. I wish I had a dry pair to run in.
  3. Make sure running shoes are dry. This would have happened if I wouldn’t have biked in my running shoes.
  4. Do more brick work-outs. I need to train my body to run after I bike.
  5. Don’t use a water bottle with a screw-on top. You don’t have time to screw off the cap of your water bottle while biking. I need the thing where I can put a water bottle on my handlebars and just drink right out of a straw in front of my face.
  6. Bike faster. I felt strong on the bike, but obviously I can improve a lot here as I finished 259th overall. I do a lot of spin classes, but I need to incorporate more outdoor rides to get faster.
  7. Faster transitions. I took my time during transitions because I wanted to recover, which I’m fine with for my first triathlon – but in the future, this is an easy way to cut off some time.
A huge thank you goes out to my wonderful husband, Steve, for waking up with me at 4:15, driving me into Philadelphia, cheering for me, taking all of my pictures, and just being super supportive all the time. I love you!
Another huge thank you goes out to my little brother, Tyler, and his friend, Greg, for actually waking up early, driving all the way into the city, and being there for me at the finish! It meant so much to have people cheering for me and there for me when I finished my tri. Thank you so much!!
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