Monthly Archives: May 2012

5/20/12 Heaven and Hell

Wednesday.  Another Memorial day training camp finished.  3.5 miles of swimming, 220 miles of biking and approx 16 miles of land coverage by foot. Another weekend of feeling weak, inadequate, inferior, old, fat and slow.  This time I got to do it in the cozy comfort of a whole new team who really didn’t know me.  At least on my old team people were used to my weaknesses and whining, on top of my suffering I had to break in a whole new group. Another Novel, hope you have your coffee ready.

There were many good things about the weekend.  I have a new long-sleeved wetsuit that I bought for Alcatraz and I am happy to report that I think I have finally found a long-sleeved wetsuit that fits and works.  It doesn’t choke me.  It doesn’t hold my arms back and make me feel like someone is grabbing my forearms.  I swam about 3 1/2 miles this weekend all in my new wetsuit and I think I got the hang of it.

Ironically I had tried this same brand wetsuit in 2007 when I bought a used suit from another tall gal.  What I finally figured out is tall is NOT the same thing as long torso.  I am very tall (5′ 10″) but it is all legs.  I have an average torso (at least in length, in width another story).  The tall suit came up over my head.  I also needed the women’s cut because unlike men I am not shaped like a V, I’m more like a 8.  Lo and Behold, it actually seemed to fit just right (snug but not roomy) and when I pulled the arms to let water in they became very roomy and comfortable not pulling at my forearms.

Click here to check out my new Promotion wetsuit. After I bought it they put the bit about Alcatraz in the description which was an added bonus. Several of my teammates commented on my suit and said they liked it (which really doesn’t matter because how a suit looks has little to do with performance.)

I also found a new anti chafe cream. Blue Steel sports. I used it first on my neck where the wetsuit would rub against my neck. I didn’t use enough the first time, but the second time I put a generous amount on and it felt great the entire swim. After that I just started applying it everywhere, seemed to work well.

Day 1. Started with a 20 mile team ride. That was fun. We had 30 people pace-lining through the countryside. It was POURING rain. But I kept joking that I only know how to train and race in the rain and that it was a good sign. As my friend Donald would say “If it’s not rainin’ it’s not trainin’.” Coach said we would probably cut the later hill repeat session if the rain did not clear up. Unfortunately it stopped and then we were let loose on a lovely road for hill repeats. 4 miles up with an elevation gain of 1,250 feet which I calculate to be a 6% grade. Doable, not bad, just long. Then down the other side of the mountain about 1 mile — steep.

Then we had to turn around and come back up and over. Here was the rub. The return trip was about 1,150 feet in only 1 mile which I calculate to be about 21% grade!!! That’s just ridiculous. This was a gut wrencher. It was everything I had to keep it going but I did it. Back down to the beginning. Correct me if my calculation is wrong because frankly I don’t think I am capable of tackling a 21% grade. Back down the 4 miles and repeat.

Second time significantly harder but I know I’ve done it once I can do it again. See one of the newbies fall over. She says she’s okay, just keep going. Okay, I made it to the top. Spent. I’m done. “One more time.” Coach yells to me. “You mean up and over?” I ask incredulously. He gives me a look that means stupid question. I’m pretty sure I can’t do it but what can I do? I start back up, ride down and start a very shaky, shaky climb to the top. My legs start shaking. Not cramping, my right quad starts quivering like a spasm. Oh crap, I’m about to go down. I unclip quickly and stop the fall. I let my leg rest for a second and I have to cross the street to gain enough momentum to continue to climb. I make it to the top and coach is waiting for me at the bottom. I am dead last. I ride back to the camp with the coach. Not impressive. I did do it, so that counts for something I guess but I could tell already my legs were shredded. It was only 56 miles on the bike. That did not bode well for the weekend.

Off to the lake for a 40 minute swim. That was easy. Most people not taking it very seriously, we all swam to the other side of the lake, we were all actually chatting and swimming at the same time. Everyone commiserating about the hills. I start to realize that I may be the oldest person on this team by a long shot.

Day 2. Saturday we had to be up bright and early for our race. Yes an official race. We had to register the day before, we had race bibs, timed splits and everything — set up transition areas (transitions timed). All the pressures of a race. 1 mile swim, 52 mile bike with some hills with some hills on them sprinkled with a few hills thrown in for good measure and then a 9.2 miles of which 4 miles were straight uphill in the 85 unshaded sun. The coach cut my run short so I only did 7.5 miles (I measured it the next day). If he didn’t do that we would still be out there scraping the remnants of me off the road.

It was hot, hilly and hard. My legs were shot from the day before. For the first 36 miles of the bike I couldn’t get my bike to go into the big chain ring so I was spinning madly trying to get some speed with no luck. There was a 10% grade that almost killed me (I knew that was a 10% grade because of the warning sign on the way down.) Finally coach made an adjustment on my bike and that helped me get into big chain ring but alas too late I was next to last (ahead of two newbies but last amongst anyone who had ridden a bike before.) Sigh.

Major leg cramp getting off the bike. Gal on team gave me two salt pills. Felt better. Obviously I didn’t place in the race because of my modified course but I gave it what I had. Can we go home yet? Oh no, not done. A little rest and then back to the lake for a one hour swim no lollygagging allowed this time. We had to do one hour. I practiced sleeping while swimming. I think I succeeded. But when I finished I realized that I just did another 1.5 miles non stop with the wetsuit for a total of 2.5 miles of swimming that day and that was all I needed for Alcatraz so that was great! I really felt a huge relief knowing that I could now go to San Francisco and not drown or freeze to death in the bay.

My legs were still shot from Day 1. I didn’t know what effect this race was going to have on them for the next day.  I am no longer worried by 100 mile rides but Vermont was scaring me and my coach’s penchant for finding the biggest hills in the state was scaring me even more. He wouldn’t do that to us on a 100 mile ride would he? Sure some hills but not the crazy ones, right? Even typing that I realize how stupid that thinking was.

The ride was different from the other team rides I had done. On this team the entire team rides the entire way together, fasties and slowbie alike. The coach sets the pace and for the most part everyone stays together. There is some natural splitting but we regroup together every twenty miles. I was thinking that this must be extremely painful for the fast guys but they didn’t seem to mind.  This was not about speed it was about time in the saddle. Everyone really got to know one another riding with different people and chatting at the rest stops.  And they had a SAG wagon driving behind so anyone who got lost or injured could be picked up. It was actually quite nice. Until…

Based on the previous day’s cramp when getting of the bicycle I decided to take two salt pills. I never take salt pills because I have sodium in my Infinit formula. And there my woes began. My stomach didn’t like them at all. I got a really nauseous feeling. All my woes of 2010 training came flooding back. I had such difficulties finding things to eat because of those stupid Horse-sized iron pills I used to take (I love you Flora Dix. I couldn’t be 100% sure it was the salt pills because I had eaten HALF (yes just half) of a Snickers bar at the rest stop. Maybe that was doing it? Maybe it was just the heat? Maybe I was just old? Maybe, maybe, maybe. I was still ruing the hills from day 1 but my legs actually were doing the work. I think I was just tired. Stomach blech.

Next rest stop I brilliantly decide to take another salt pill. If two were two much maybe just take one. Sure enough we start pedaling and the nausea sets in. I don’t even know if nausea is the right word for it.  I’d feel good and then bad. I was getting dropped by all the riders. Next rest stop I decide to have a coca cola.  I thought I read somewhere there was something in coke that was supposed to soothe your stomach, I was wrong. I was a mess.

I am long lost from the team. I have the map. I pass a teammate walking a bad hamstring. I pass another newbie waiting for the other teammate and I told him he had to keep going. The entire team was waiting for him and a sag wagon would pick up the other guy.

And then the evil twin mind showed up. When I talk about meeting yourself out on the limb in Ironman training this is what I mean. Those moments of incredible self-doubt even self-loathing. You can’t do this. What were you thinking? Hopes of Ironman is over. I hate this already anyway. I hate everybody. My life sucks. Why is this happening to me? Why can’t I ever catch a break?  I quit.  I am out.  This is evil twin (so labeled by coach Shifu in years past.)

I’m a little older a little wiser and I’m on to evil twin. I see her coming. I try to talk her down. Now c’mon let’s say some positive things. Fine. I’m positive I’m too old, I’m positive I’m too fat, I’m positive I’ll never do this.

I try to dig deeper. I see this huge hill in front of me. The sun is baring down on my back. A few tears come out of my eyes. Seriously? After all the crap you are going through in your life you are going to cry about a bike ride? I know the bike ride is just the outlet. I know I am capable of riding my bike. But things are not going well and I’m feeling sick and the heat is so hot and Jeez how long is this hill anyway?

I am aware that my heart rate is going through the roof. I am breathing so hard that I can’t control it. I feel the sun burning burning into my back. There is no shade anywhere. This hill is never going to end. I am going to die right here on some mountain in bumpwhat Vermont. I cannot believe this climb. This is like doing the Lake Placid hill down to Jay in reverse. What is this six miles uphill? I have never done anything this long. I see a guard rail. There is no shade but five feet beyond the guard rail there are some trees. I have to stop. I’m going to die. I am done. I give up. I unclip. Thankfully I think to take my helmet off. I’m over heating. I decide to rest my bike on the outside of the guard rail so in case I die they will find my body by seeing my bike. I must walk into the shade. I stand there like an idiot.

Then a guy comes riding up the mountain (this is a mountain, a legitimate, 100% mountain.) He has a backpack on his back as he is riding up the mountain. I look at him with total hatred but he asks me if I’m okay. I tell him to please tell my team not to wait for me and that I’m going straight to the hotel. He says he will relay the message. Just then the SAG wagon (the coach’s wife) pulls up with the hamstring guy. They are really nice. The coach’s kids are in the SAG wagon too. Everyone jumps out to see if I’m okay. They want to know if I want a ride. I honestly can’t tell you why I said it but I said “I’m sorry I can’t take a ride. I have to at least get back to the hotel on my own.” They gave me water. I stood in the shade. Poured some water on my head and down my shirt. My body cooled down. I ate a honey stinger that someone gave me (not vegan I know.) I couldn’t believe it but I said “I think I’m okay I’m going to go a little further until I find another shady spot and then I’ll rest again. They all look up the mountain with me. There is no shade. But they say okay they will stick nearby. I keep climbing. I make it about 1/2 mile and have to pull over again. They come back. Maybe you could just drive to the top and tell me how much further? I mean how much more could there be? I’ve already climbed at least 3 or 4 miles. They leave, I start climbing. They come back and say 1/2 mile to the top of the mountain. Okay I can do it. 1/2 mile to the top. I can do anything for 1/2 mile right? Those hills from Friday were still haunting me.

Finally I made it to the top and then had a descent that was scarier than any I have ever done in Placid. Downhill, downhill, downhill. It felt like a half hour but I know it was probably just minutes. Just hold on hold on. Finally I make it and see the sign for the turn I want. (I have not gotten lost yet and I’m giving myself big credit for that — big credit!!) I turn and start riding on a flat road. I look ahead and I swear it is a mirage. It is the entire team leaving their rest stop. The time I was taking my siesta on the mountain they were at the bottom taking their break. The coach sees me coming and asks if I need any water. I say no, I took my break already and then there I was. Back in the fold with the team riding as if nothing ever happened. It was right out of the Twilight Zone. Everyone who saw me was so happy to see me because they thought I had turned around to go back to the hotel (the guy did deliver my message).   Did they not know I had just been to hell and back?  I told them that I was just going to do the 80 and go home.

Then we hit a road that was built for me. Gentle rolling downhills along a shaded river. The most beautiful road in the world. I start hauling and passing one person after another. 27 mph. I was in heaven, literal heaven. All of stomach issues gone. Heart rate normal. Breathing back to normal. I started sending mental smoke signals to my friends doing their training camp in Lake Placid.  “Don’t quit, whatever you do keep going. Be strong.”  Was I talking to them or talking to myself? Next thing I know we are at the last regrouping station — half ironman people go left to finish out the 82 miles. Ironman people go right for extra mileage to finish out the 106. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I would get dropped again. What if I started feeling sick again? I asked the coach. How do you feel now? He asks. I feel okay. You decide. I said I would try.

I decided if it didn’t matter how long it took me I could do the rest of the bike. He said it didn’t matter. There were some big hills left he said. One long one and one short one. But not as bad as the long one we did earlier.  I remembered that in endurance sports if you start feeling sick just wait, it will probably go away and be replaced by some other annoyance.  Everything changes.

The last 26 miles hurt because I was tired. But I made it up all the hills (they were shaded so no problem). I had crotch issues for being out so long (the rest stops were long but that was part of the plan). There was something to this making the rides longer than they have to be. Galloway does this is running too. Need to run a marathon? Make one of your long runs 28 miles. Then you’ll have no doubt you can do 26.2. Know you have to be out on the bike course for 7 1/2 – 8 hours? Make your bike ride 9 hours and you’ll know you can do it. I actually see some merit in this thinking.

As I was finishing up my 106 I was watching my odometer. 98 miles, 99 miles. I wanted to see the 100 mark so badly. I have to admit it felt good. Finally did 100 miles again. Maybe there was hope. Dim hope but hope. And there in a nutshell was the gamut of emotions that run through me during endurance events. Reaching down into the deepest darkest pit of doubt in your psyche. Finding some way to talk yourself off that ledge. And every once in a while the ability to pull yourself up and out and see some light. I think that is why most people get addicted to endurance events. When you can look into the mirror of your Self and truly confront what you see — as ugly as it can be and find some way to take care of it, to possibly even love it, that’s a powerful process and can’t help but to make you stronger.  I don’t know how to explain it other than to say you are, for a moment, 100% with yourself.

I didn’t do the 40 minute run after the 106 miles. I regret that a little. I wasn’t too, too far behind everyone so I could have done it but I had been through such an emotional wringer that I just held up the white flag. I took an ice bath and then met the team for pizza party. I was so touched they ordered a vegan pizza!! And it was great!

6:30 a.m. group assembly on Monday morning came way too soon. Everybody looked like the walking dead. This, apparently, made the coach really happy. He was smiling and proud that he had brought each and every person to their knees. Even the youngest of the younguns were saying they were whipped.  There was not a semblance of a smile on a single face.  Off we went for a 2-3 hour run. He warned us that it was quite a hike to the top and that we just do what we could do. If we had to walk it, walk it. Run when you could.

Ridiculously steep. Ridiculous. It took me about 45 minutes to hike to the top. I did not hold out any hopes of running but lo and behold it flattened out and I decided to try and guess what? I was running! I couldn’t believe it. I was actually running okay. Not fast but as long as it was flat or downhill I kept going. And then I ran up two hills! Shut up! Who the heck is this? A couple of people were coming back already walking. They were either injured or done. I ended up doing about 2:20 minutes and I would say a good 45-50 minutes of it was some decent running. And I actually felt better than when I had started. Go figure that!

And that was the end of my Memorial Day Weekend training camp. (With a stop at a brewery for lunch with some of the gals). I was worried I wouldn’t like the people as much as I liked my old team. Turned out that I like them just fine (the type of people are very similar — nice type A people.) I was afraid I couldn’t keep up — well I couldn’t but the structure accommodated for that. I was afraid that I was too out of shape (I am), I’m too old (debatable), and that I wouldn’t be able to do Ironman (we’ll see.) But in the end what I realize all of this is about it constant forward motion. Just keep trying. My old coach Lisa was with me a lot this weekend every time I paused to take a breath or eat a gu I would hear her in my head saying you can eat and walk, you can recover and walk, just don’t stop moving. Never stop moving.

Namaste

My friend Cea Dubbleu posted a quote that I like:  “Religion is for people who believe in Hell.  Spirituality is for those who have been there.”  Let’s just say my Memorial Day camp was a spiritual experience!

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5/18/12 Faith, Forgiveness, Pride and Dignity

Tuesday.  Not much to blog about in the way of fitness as my workouts have been not so great lately.  Two weeks ago workouts were pathetic.  A two hour run that turned into a one hour run and one hour walk home because I ran too far and the only way to get home was to walk.  (BTW that is a little trick of mine.  If I am feeling unmotivated — do a long out and back where the only way back is on your feet.)  The following Sunday I was to do an 80 mile ride.  I made it 5 miles before I hit a rusty piece of metal that ripped my tire and after fixing it with plastic and electrical tape inside the tire, getting home and changing tires with another bike, I gave up and sat and cried for a good half hour — about everything but the tire — that I could fix.  I had enough.  Not very promising Ironman behavior.  BTW, I HATE the Michelin tires.  I went to the bike shop and got myself some Continental tires.  I like them much better.

I’m on week three in CT with my folks. Three weeks ago the nurses told me I should come home, this was it.  Yes my Dad has days where it does seem like this is it, but after my mother took a fall last week and ended up in the ER, my Dad perked right up.  He wasn’t going anywhere.  So for the last week I’ve had two patients.  The bad news about the fall is it left my Mom with some major black and blues.  The good news is she has agreed to have nigh-time nursing care in the home and we FINALLY got a nurse in for overnight care who started last night and has not been fired yet.  This will make a huge difference for me in support.  We already have day time nurses via hospice but nighttime nurses were really needed as well.  So we started that last night and crossing fingers, that should be ongoing.  Frankly, last two days I think my Dad has been looking better than I do!

This week our workouts were rather light so I used it as an opportunity to jump back on track.  The nice thing about a training plan is you can always just jump back in.  You don’t have to start at zero.   Last week I found a pool in West Hartford — Cornerstone Aquatic Facility.  It’s really nice and just right for what I need.  I took out a part-time non-resident membership.  There are other pools closer but they require a full-time membership.  Cornerstone has two large pools, one a general fitness pool and one a lap pool with 11 lanes (yes ELEVEN lanes) just for lap swimming.  I’ve been there three times so far and I’ve done a couple of long swims (2 miles being my longest so far) and one short one.  A LOT of Ironman people training up here.  Lots of people with Ironman logo on everything from towels to bike racks.  Ironman shirts on the road, Ironman water bottles at the pool.  Just in case I forgot what I was training for the Ironman logo is everywhere to remind me.  Ironman, Ironman, Ironman.  Yeah, enough already.  I get it, you are all superheroes.

This past Saturday I did a 3 hour easy ride.  There is an event up here called Trails in Motion. They mark the roads with large arrows and TM.   On Saturday I just kept following the TM markers figuring worse case scenario I end up in Vermont and I would call someone to pick my up.  Turned out to be a gorgeous ride that I would do again.  I rode down some of the prettiest roads I have seen in a long time.  No big hills, just some little bumps so I got to practice my stand, pedal twenty times and sit back down.  I had hoped to put in 45 miles in 3 hours.  The last five miles back to my house were fairly easy except for the last hill I have to get up to get to my house.  Unfortunately no way home without a big hill.  My choice is a long climb or a shorter gut wrencher.  I usually opt for the shorter gut wrencher and moan a lot on my way up.  But as long as I can be miserable in private I don’t mind.  Not so lucky this week.

A couple of years ago I joined HEAT, the Hartford Extended Area TriathletesHEAT Website.  It’s a triathlon club.  They have some group workouts mostly swimming and spinning in the winter but they have a forum where you can post and get workout partners or ideas.  You also get a good discount on a lot of local stuff and they meet up for races.  I did the swim workouts with them last winter and they were okay.  (This summer I will meet them for some lake swimming.)  I met some of them on the Brain Injury ride a couple of weeks ago.  A lot of members scattered all over the state.  This weekend I was wearing my HEAT cycling shirt as I was toodling down the road headed for home and some guy rode up next to me and asked if I was going to the HEAT barbecue that afternoon.  He was a member too.  I took one look at him and wanted to yell “GO AWAY!”  He was one of these tall, skinny, young biker guys.  You know the kind that cruises at 24 mph and races at 30?  I was nice and polite and after about five minutes said “don’t let me hold you up” as my way of saying I’m not going to ride fast no matter what.  I look down and see I’m already at 19 mph.  “Oh, no, I’m just riding easy, already put my 50 in and I’m just riding home to Farmington.  I’ll ride with you.”  He says.  Grumble, mumble, grrr. Club Schlub, don’t make me work hard.

There is a split between my head and my legs.  My head says take it easy, my legs say c’mon we can keep up.  (Or is it my legs that want to take it easy and my head that wants to keep up?)  He is obviously not exerting any effort and as we hit a little stretch that is a false flat in the downward direction I pick up speed, he picks up speed and the next thing I know we are cruising and talking and I see 24 mph on my computer and I know I can’t keep this up.  The road splits and he starts to go left and I say “see ya later I live this way.”  Thinking for a second that I had held my dignity in tack and left the legend alive in my own mind for another day, he turns to ride right with me.  “No problem, I can go this way, just show me the way.” He says.  Gulp, God, Oh no, the hill.  The H.I.L.L.  He’s going to see how terrible I am on the hill.   Why am I so proud?  What is wrong with me?  So I just blurt out, “Look there’s this big hill right before my house. Please don’t wait for me.  It’s an all day event for me.  It takes me awhile to get up it.”  He shrugs, no big deal.  How do I explain how I feel?  I’m mortified.  Oh well, I warned him.

I was slightly relieved that when we hit the hill he let out a respectful “whoa!”  It’s not that long but it’s a toughie.  Not the hardest I’ve done by far but after riding for awhile it’s just that bit that makes you think that getting off and walking is always an option.  But NOT if you have company!   Pride goeth before the fall.  I throw my bike into the easiest gear and I start chugging up the hill.  My mind is in a pride panic.  I don’t care where the heck you find it but you better find it and get your butt up this hill and find some dignity somewhere.  My eyes are glued to this guy’s wheel.  He’s spinning 80 rpm and I think I am at 2 rpm but too afraid to look down to check.  He pauses for a second at the top and turns around to check on me and I’m right there!  I did it. I am about to pass out and die but he doesn’t need to know that.  “Wow, that’s some hill” he says with air to spare “which way?” nodding at the four corners in front of us.  I gulp a deep inhale and with my last ounce of dignity expelled “left.”  And then in my head I thanked him for not saying the most patronizing of all phrases “good job.”  He at least had the courtesy to pretend that of course I climb that hill all the time.  He dropped me at my house and pedaled on his way.

After my ride I had a one hour run that didn’t go so well.  I think I pushed a little too hard at the end of the bike. (Ya think?) And then I chose to run some hills when I should have gone flat.  I was dehydrated and couldn’t figure out why — I drank two bottles of water in 3 hours, was that not enough?  I was feeling drained.  I ended up walking most of it.  Feeling defeated.  Tired. Questioning Ironman yet again.  But I decided to forgive myself.  It’s okay you’ll get up tomorrow and try again.  That’s what this is.  Ironman training is getting back up when you really don’t want to.  Forgive yourself for the tired days, appreciate the good days.  Sunday I had an easy six mile run.  I was tight, tight, tight.  Not enough stretching.  Forgive yourself.  Stop and take ten minutes and stretch it out.  Ugly run.  And I use the word run in the loosest definition of the word.

A lot of doubts creeping into my head.  How long can I keep this up?  Training camp in Vermont this weekend and if I don’t get some rest I will not have enough juice to make it through.  I have moments of doubt about whether I have it in me any more. But I remind myself, it was NEVER easy.  Just keep going.  Have Faith.  Faith that has gotten you through so much from your very first triathlon in 2003 (was that really 9 years ago?)  Faith that got you across the finish line of so many races.  Faith got you to the Ironman finish line.  Faith got you across the desert.  Faith got you back on the bike.  And when you don’t have any more faith, your pride can make more.

I feel my age these days. I’m getting tired of all the uphills.  I could use a little downhill right now.  Unfortunately rumor has it Vermont training camp is just a bunch of uphills and a crazy Spanish guy yelling “repeat!” We are to arrive on Thursday with first workout Friday morning 8 a.m. Last workout ends Monday at 11 a.m. My preparation plan includes three days of stretching, vitamin overload and extra hydration before I even get there.  I will have faith in my pride to get me through the rest.

Namaste

Some of my pics from the weekend.

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5/7/2012 New Roads

Rough week, nice weekend. We are on call for Dad’s final days though I am highly suspicious that Hospice underestimates how determined my father can be. I’ve been up in CT for most of the week and my workouts during the week were little more than moving more furniture and running errands. Life, like this week’s weather, seems to change by the hour. I think it is going to rain and then the sun peeks out. I start to get comfortable again and then when I’m not looking an old tree branch, still shaky from the winter storms, nearly falls on my head as I’m lugging patio furniture out from the barn. The simile is not lost on me. Waiting for the tree branch to fall is exhausting, not being prepared for it is unrealistic.

I decided to join up with a bike tour for brain injuries on Saturday in Groton (aka New London, CT.) Long way (1.5 hours) to drive to get a 5 hour bike ride in but I figured I would have a better chance of getting it in with more people around me. I wasn’t sad to miss the team ride on 9-poke-me-in-the-eyes-if-I-have-to-ride-that-route-again-W. Turned out to be just the ticket.

It took 4 hours 15 minutes for the 62 mile ride so I was a little short on my 5 hour assignment, but I really gave it a decent effort (not race effort but not slacker pace either.) The route was beautiful. We went from Groton, through Mystic and Stonington to Westerly, Rhode Island. The route was well-marked so even I did not get lost once!!! I did stop at the half way rest-stop and pick up some water. I was nervous that I was the last one out there but they said in fact I was closer to the front with the lead group 30 minutes ahead of me and 4 guys just 5 minutes ahead of me. The rest of the group was still behind me. That spurred me on to try to catch the 4 guys ahead of me.

I laughed several times because the route description had said a flat route along the coast. I had invited some of my friends to come to do the ride with me but they declined because they only had to do 30-40 miles. One asked “Really flat? or Flat like Firm Man?” Apparently I’ll never live this down as I told several friends to do Firmman because the bike course was flat except for the one section of climbing. “Mr. Silverman and the Boi” (check their website for tour dates) all disagreed with my assessment and now don’t trust me whenever I say something is flat. Which is funny because I, of all people, like hills the least (well at least the uphill part).

So yes, there are some hiccups on this route. But they are all short. I started to categorize, there are hiccups — those short steep little crests that you can get up and over if you stand and take 10-20 pedal strokes. Then there are hills where a B rider like myself would probably sit and spin and maybe stand a little. In Central Park we have a hill — Harlem Hill and a hiccup — Cat Hill but we don’t have what I would call a climb. State Line Hill is a climb where I would sit and spin my way up while trying to focus on anything but the distance to the top. The Saturday ride route had a lot of hiccups (eight or more?), one or two hills and two climbs. But it had A LOT of flat riding. Some of the flat riding was along the waterways of Stonington and were really breathtaking. Some of the flats were along Scenic 1A which were fun to get down into aero and hammer away (I like that.) Over 62 miles if you average it out, yeah, I would consider it a flat ride. I had no burning quads or anything like that.

The people were really nice but I basically rode the whole thing by myself until a group caught up with me around mile 52 (on an inconvenient climb). Then I had about 4 people to hammer it home with and that was fun. I was really surprised with how effortless the 62 miles seemed. I didn’t struggle at all (okay maybe I should have pushed harder on the hills but I did stand up a lot which is really good for me.)

The best part for me is the route took me very close to my brother’s summer beach house. So now this summer I could (if I wanted to) I could use this route to ride from my brother’s house to Mystic, have lunch and come back. That would be a lovely little ride. Even more awesome would be to try to ride from our house in Ct to my brother’s house in Rhode Island using this same bike route. It looks like it would be just about 100 miles exactly. I’m thinking this would be an awesome day ride, spend the night and ride back! I’m also thinking July would be a perfect time to do it.

Mystic is great. I’ve been to Mystic seaport before but I hadn’t been to downtown historic Mystic. That was very interesting because house after house had the year they were built on them all in the 1840’s – 1850’s. I’d like to go back and spend a little time there. I’d also like to live in Stonington. Absolutely gorgeous.

Other good thing about the ride is I met a couple of the guys from a club I joined up here called HEAT (Hartford Extended Area Triathletes). They were really nice (and too fast for me) but stressed that I should come swim with them at the lake this summer. I told them I was most interested in doing that (as I need all the wetsuit practice I can get.)

I also met another group called Valley Cycling. They ride out of Farmington Valley and they said I was absolutely fast enough to ride with them (even though they were in the group 1/2 hour ahead of me) they said I would fit in perfectly with their B group which goes my pace. Turns out some of those people are members of HEAT too. We started swapping race advice and I felt right at home with them. So that will be nice if I have to be up here a lot more over the summer to have someone to ride with.

All in all a successful day (though a little shy on the time in the saddle requirement). I would without question do this ride again next year. Here is the link to their website Biact.org

On Sunday I had to do a 2 hour run. I was looking for something different to do. On one run on the Avon-Farmington rails to trails during the winter I saw a guy jump off the trail and run down a hill into the woods. I didn’t follow him as it was winter and I didn’t feel like running in the snow. But I made mental note that one day I would like to come back and find that spot and see where it went. I remembered that I had crossed a bridge and the Farmington River so it shouldn’t be too hard to find it again.

I parked as close as I could get to the same spot. I found the trail easily and once I got down the hill I found a beautifully groomed trail. About five-feet wide and although it was a trail (not paved) it was probably the nicest trail I’ve ever run on. No rocks, no roots. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make this wooden trail a perfect running trail. I was already ecstatic but I could figure out what system this trail was part of. The trail runs along the river so it really is flat (with ever so slightly undulating terrain — I say that in case anyone looks for it and finds that there are a few little hills and wag their fingers at me.)

Soon I came across a boat house and landing, it said it was Miss Porters School (fancy prep school for girls in Farmington where people like Jacqueline Bouvier went to school.) Aha, rich people. There was a beautiful large party area with picnic tables under an open-air structure. Perfect to sit and picnic and watch the boats go by. I continued over a foot bridge following the trail into the woods.

Absolutely pristine trail. I guess about two miles long. Breathtakingly beautiful. Had a couple of short trails off of it that when I went to explore those they seemed to end up in soccer fields. Back on the main trail I kept following it until it dumped me in a huge field — like a farm. The was dirt road around the field so I kept going and it turned out to be some kind of community farming project. The field was huge — at least five acres if not more but it was subdivided into plots and it looked like you could get a plot and grow your own stuff. Very cool. I ran to the end of the field and with my little distractions that took me about 45 minutes so I figured I was in the 3 mile range. I turned around when I got to the parking lot for the community garden.

On the way back I finally saw another person, a woman walking her dog. She told me the trails were maintained by the town of Farmingotn. I was very impressed. I also wondered if there might be more…

The boat house was humming when I got back to it. A crewing competition between three or four high schools. A lot of kids. I didn’t feel like sticking around but I would come back again to watch a match.

All in all a lovely run — just a smidge over 8 miles (a little over a mile to get to the trailhead, 3 miles out and 3 miles back on the trail.) And on the way back a guy jumped out of the woods on his mountain bike and I saw another trail. This time on the north side of the river. I got some more ‘sloring to do!!!

There is comfort in returning to familiar roads but there comes a time for everyone to explore new routes. I guess the most we can hope for is a well-groomed trail to make the new journey a smooth and welcoming one.

Namaste

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