Sometimes the best and most meaningful races are the unexpected ones! Ever since getting my new Cannondale Slice bike from The Peddler in Long Branch NJ, I can’t seem to get off my bike. It’s one of those sports that you can go at forever because there is not so much wear and tear on your body. Swimming is like that too but, much as I love being in the water, swimming outside isn’t an option until closer to the summer. So for someone who loves the outdoors, biking is the next best thing.
Don’t get me wrong – It’s not that I forced myself to love cycling. It’s more like everything fell into place and cycling found ME! I got this amazing new bike and discovered that I could go for hours without any discomfort. With my old bike I would have constant back pain and even my IT band would hurt. Little did I know I was on a size 48 when I really needed a 51. It is so important to get the right size bike; it will make all the difference on your rides. When I went to The Peddler for the new bike Micheal at the store looked at the smallest of details to make sure it would be the perfect fit. Now – no pain! (Other than really sore legs which is always nice.) I generally don’t enjoy sports I’m not good at so I was more than ready to put the work into getting good on my bike. I was determined to love this sport. Moving back to New York from Boulder was a difficult transition. No more bright sunny days, endless amounts of training, and swimming with a pool full of world champs. I was in a major funk. Thankfully, I was able to connect with the cycling community here in New York and off I went cycling up to almost 200 miles per week–you can check out my activity on Strava. In connecting with these cyclists and joining them for some incredibly hard rides up Bear Mountain and River Road I discovered that they were all training for Gran Fondo.
I never considered myself much of a cyclist. I’m fairly new to the sport of triathlon as well so the whole clipping into my bike and riding with thousands of other riders freaked me out at first. But I’m the one who always says push yourself outside your comfort zone and do hard things! So without much training (I decided to ride on Friday and the race was that Sunday) I found myself at the start line with thousands of cyclists ready to conquer the unknown.
Riding is one of those things that is great to do with other people. They can push you, motivate you, entertain you, and help you to forget how hard you are working! That being said, I spent a lot of the time leading up to the race cycling with my friend Annie. We rode for countless hours and miles together and were a great match for each other in terms of our goal pace. We planned to ride the race together or at least try to.
After my morning Ezekiel English Muffin with almond butter, chia jam and berries I was ready! Being a newbie is kind of fun. That first time you get to the start line and see everyone in matching green uniforms is amazing. I saw many bikes that were probably worth more than my car! And so off we went. We started cruising down the flat road but Annie could not keep up. I was wondering why she was lagging behind but slowing down at that point would have been dangerous. Afterwards I found out she had a flat tire and had to change it. But that left me to ride alone. And by alone I mean with thousands of strangers by my side.
I crossed my fingers the whole ride that I wouldn’t get a flat because – yes, shocker! – I still cannot figure out how to change a flat tire. I had only one mishap going up a steep hill when my chain came off but luckily I clipped out quickly and didn’t fall. The weather prediction was for winds over 20 mph but the excitement of the race kept my mind off the wind. And when I did feel it, I tucked behind the biggest person I could find. I chatted with strangers along the course and enjoyed every second.
The goal was to finish and feel good so I didn’t feel like pushing the pace. Plus, I knew the last 5 miles were straight uphill. I had covered some mileage on these roads before so most of the hills weren’t shockingly terrible. But nonetheless, they were pretty tough. When approaching Bear Mountain it started to rain. If I didn’t have incentive to finish fast before, now I did. I found a stranger and probably chewed his ear off as we climbed to the top. I needed the company and distraction during the 40 minute climb.Once I got to the top I snapped a quick picture and headed down as the wind picked up and rain came down. I was getting cold! Finishing the 50 mile ride was both humbling and motivating. I couldn’t believe what I had accomplished after only just getting into cycling a couple of months ago. It left me wondering what else I can do! I knew I would be back next year for the 100 mile ride and with one goal – to be stronger than this year.
Like any sport the community is unlike any other. Everyone is supportive and encouraging. I knew I wanted to cycle for a cause bigger than me. Something that hit close to home. That is why I decided to sign up for Tour De Simcha – a ride with over 70 miles all dedicated to raising money for children with cancer. Childhood cancer strips children of many typical childhood experiences and the fight is often long and painful. Camp Simcha gives those children a chance to be kids again, offering summer camp for those fighting life threatening illnesses. This July I’ll be riding for those children! To support my ride click on the link below. Every dollar is greatly appreciated. Thank you for following my journey. I’m excited for what’s ahead! http://www.chailifeline.org/events/letourdesimcha/my/lottie247