Saturday, February 23, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

The ladies of CycleLife anxiously await the opening of their DC "home." While the architectural rendering on the left may not do much to excite the cycling enthusiast or CycleLife blog reader, what's to come sure will.

Our CycleLife Home will be located right off the Capital Crescent Trail and across from DC's newest park at the Georgetown Waterfront. Three words. Cookies cookies cookies.

Okay, I meant location, location, location. But the location is as sweet as cookies. The ladies of CycleLife love us some cookies. Especially the salty oatmeal-cookies at Teaism. Yum.

Here's a brief list of some of the goods you can expect to see inside CycleLife.

  • Full cafe services (caffeine anyone?)

  • Light fare (to keep us all race-weight)

  • Smoothie Bar (I'm crossing my fingers for a milkshake bar. Best recovery drink around.)

  • Commuter Lounge (For you cycling commuters...)

  • Commuter station: (water, drinks, energy food, cowbell...)

  • On-the-go repair station

  • Showers/lockers for commuters (There's a joke to be made here...I'm working on it)

  • Bike rentals (more details later....)

  • Full performance coaching, testing, fitting center

  • Fitness center for CycleLife Club members

Monday, February 18, 2008

A thin line - Blinky Lights

At some point early Saturday morning, I realized that I had crossed that thin line between being dedicated to cycling and being obsessive about cycling. I believe it was somewhere between the alarm clock going off at o'dark:thirty and me turning on my newly acquired blinky light to trek to the 7am ride start.

The first clue was that this was the third or fourth weekend in a row where I was getting up earlier to do this ride than I get up to go to work. Sleeping in on a Saturday ? No longer an option. Needless to say, this means that my exciting Friday nights include packing my bike and every clothing layer I might possibly need at 6am into my car and getting to bed before 10pm. And remember, I'm doing this for FUN, right ?

The next clue was when I arrived at the "team house" - Sara/Michelle/Jenny's place. They were just rolling out of bed and I was already through my first cup of Starbucks. Apparently I was running about 1.5x normal speed because they kept telling me I was way too chipper. I excitedly told them all about my new blinky light, which I couldn't wait to use. You see,until recently, I'd never done a ride that started before daylight, so having a blinky light was very novel to me. Re-read the part about "exciting" Friday nights before you judge how easy it is to amuse me.

The final clue was when we were rolling out of the house on our way to meet the ride start at Beach and E/W Highway. I turned on my blinky light and Michelle rolled up behind me, exasperated, saying "Wendy, your blinky light is INTENSE". And thats when I realized ... I have crossed that line. My only comfort is knowing that Michelle, Jenny and Sara all crossed that line with me.

I like to think I'm a trend setter - maybe they'll all be sporting blinky lights next week.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why I heart this team....

The impromptu "team" outing (well, any time someone drops by the cycling frat house that is 9821, half the team is automatically present) that led to *my* personal choice for the official 2008 CycleLife team road shoe...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

When Pink Flies

I have always loved the saying, "When pigs fly." This morning, I believe the saying was modified a bit...

Jenny's love affair with Thurmont Pig (see below blog) seems a perfect segue into today's team ride.

DC Velo has this lovely tradition of the 7am ride: at the height of winter training, one can count 50+ riders, and on days with rain and below freezing temps, maybe one dedicated rider will bring his game. With refreshing temperatures this morning and a promise of clear skies for at least a couple hours, six of the ladies decided to introduce a little estrogen into the 7am. I'd like to think we blend in, but this group knows: women are few and far between. Tracy Rankin and Beth Mason make the most consistent appearances, which explains their fortitude during the season. Train with a strong, fast, experienced group of men every weekend and it shows. See you guys and gals next week ; )

This morning, the pack split into a few groups up kick My-ass-achusetts Avenue. Today the pace was steady, but one never knows how the legs will feel. Jenny and Wendy stuck with the pack while HvT, Zeigler, Michelle and I decided to practice our paceline and maybe, just maybe bridge the gap that had formed. Enough practice makes perfect or at least pretty looking. After a few pulls, we figured out which way the wind was coming, how to back off enough after each pull, and how to tuck in close to our line so as to get the most out of the paceline. As girls do, we congratulated and encouraged each other on how nicely we were doing.

Ahead, a lone rider. Male. We move slightly left to pass him. Few more rotations and another lone rider comes in sight. Male. We overtake him. Our paceline continues up MacArthur until we hit Old Angler's. While I'm all for sitting on a paceline when you are tired or know it's best not to interrupt the ballet of movement in front of you, I must say, it was smugly comforting to know that we had these men drafting our paceline, and yet, not once coming through for a pull. To note: a female rider (Fuji shorts) joined us off of Clara Barton and immediately jumped in for some pulls.

And now back to the title of this blog. The 7am utimately split into two large groups after an hour into the ride. I don't know the street names, so I won't try to make 'em up, but I stuck with a group of about 25 riders that decided to wind through a neighborhood. Three ladies went with one group, three of us went with the other. We're all about introducing a little balance (feng shui if-you-will) into the ride. No it's not just about arranging furniture in a room.

HvT commented at once, "what's with all this braking?" I laughed and said, "It feels like home." I'll never forget the W4 Murad road race where racers pointed out roadkill and signaled hand turns... HvT worked her way up the side to the front and the pace seemed to keep tempo. Then a flyer goes up the left. LSV rider. He gets a good 50 yrds up the road and an NCVC rider flies after him. They have now opened up a sizeable distance from the group, which did not flinch. Conversations continued, people sucked at Gu packets, and enjoyed the tempo. Time to see where my legs are. I fell into my drops and worked up my speed until I felt I was on top of the right gear and I sprinted up to the two riders and a third who appeared to be a biker commuting to work (carrying extra-large backpack). With no one on my wheel, I eased off (i.e., started to breath again) and punched at my power meter to see my watts.

I swear, not 5 seconds passed and I hear a Whoosh! and Scott Cernich of Route 1 Velo comes flying by. He turns and grins at me and immediately pulls over so I can grab his wheel. The riders keep coming. At that point, it becomes clear: the pack is hammering, and they are not slowing down. It's back on. Fun.

Michelle rides up and I wonder aloud whether that effort was all my legs could do or not. "Did I have my form right?" I ask. I've been known to ride like a periscope. Straight up. Not the most aero. Michelle informs me I looked solid, but that the best part was the pack's reaction to a woman attacking. When the two men attacked up the road, no one budged. When the rider in a pink jacket, pink-trimmed helmet and ponytail whizzed away, the pack reacted. What! a female Cat 3 attacked the notoriously tough 7am ride? and is getting away! When pink flies! And so, I was caught rather quickly.

We have come full circle. If someone ever asks whether a male rider would let a female rider attack and get away, the likely response is: "When pigs fly."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Can't we all just get along?

As road riders, we often have to deal with the delicate nature of riding alongside 3-ton vehicles with little protection (lycra and a bicycle helmet constitutes "protection"?) on busy roads. Motorists yell at us to get on the sidewalk, pedestrians yell at us to get on the road. What's a cyclist to do?

Most cyclists, myself included, try to be courteous to drivers. We know that we're not speeding along at 55mph most of the time, especially not UPhill, so we hug the white line and ride inches from the curb to allow cars room to pass. We stop at stop signs and follow traffic signals, trying to keep ourselves safe by acting like the vehicles Maryland law considers cyclists to be. Of course, just like the drivers on the road, we have some bad apples too, those who refuse to follow the rules of the road and are an annoyance to drivers. The problem with their behavior is that it only sets off driver's fuses, which are already far too short in today's "road rage" world. While they might be safe from the driver's ire, it's likely the driver will drive recklessly around the next cyclist they encounter in order to exact some revenge. So this is my plea to all cyclists to be courteous to drivers and share the road. Act like a vehicle and be treated like one!

Now for my rant on drivers... It's rare that I ride on the roads for any length of time and not encounter at least one driver acting carelessly. Whether their intention is recklessness out of anger or carelessness stemming from just plain ignorance, the result is the same -- endangering the life of the cyclist they encounter out on the road. I truly wish that Maryland (where I live) would become more cyclist friendly, requiring drivers to take a driver safety course that emphasizes the need for caution around cyclists, and building more bike paths, bike lanes, or even simply paving wider shoulders for cyclists to ride on. Unfortunately, we know this is not going to happen overnight. So I ask that drivers respect the right for cyclists to be on the road and drive cautiously around us. We are your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers. We have lives too, and people that care for us. We'd like to make it home safely to our families and continue to go on living our lives.

Today on my ride, I encountered:
  • A driver that honked at me while I was attempting to stay as far right as I could without crashing into parked cars. The car refused to pass by moving over the double yellow line, although there was no traffic and plenty of room. (You may cross the double yellow line to pass a cyclist, but please give us 3 feet of room. We should not be able to touch your car with our arm outstretched. And please, don't honk. It can deafen and/or frighten a cyclist and cause a crash.)
  • A driver that insisted on passing me on the left, completely over the double yellow line, when I clearly had signaled that I was making a left hand turn and had moved into the left lane. The right lane was clear and there was plenty of room to pass there. (This one actually frightened me because it was so unexpected. Please treat us like vehicles... you would never do this to another vehicle!)
  • A driver who sped up to pass me, slammed on the brakes and swung a hard right directly in front of me at an intersection. Fortunately I encounter this behavior often enough that I expect it at intersections and was able to stop before I was clipped and ended up crashing into the side of the car and sliding across the hood. (This is the single most stupid move a driver can make, and the most preventable. You have to slow down for the hard right anyway, so why not just slow up for half a second? Causing an accident will not get you to your destination faster, trust me!)

If you need to brush up on how to drive around cyclists, please visit Far too many cyclists are killed or seriously injured in collisions involving vehicles each year. We all know someone who has been hit by a car while riding their bike. Most of us know at least one person who was killed by a vehicle while riding. There is no reason for this to happen, ever. Please, share the road and help keep everyone safe.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Why do I ride???


I mean is he not the cutest?? Ok ok, I know that is not a real answer but it sort of is. This past Sunday the ladies formerly known as ABRT went on a team training ride with our wonderful instructor, see below for image. We went up to frederick to get in some good hills and all I can say is from the moment I heard we were going to frederick at 8 am in the morning, on a sunday, in february, I was not excited. We all get down in the winter and sometimes it is harder to get on the bike than others but I was definitly thinking this was going to be a sufferfest in more ways than one. Well, I WAS TOTALLY WRONG.
First, I drive up there with sara, we have plenty of time, but manage to be 15 mins late because not only do we end up in the middle of a farm while trying to locate the school but we end up driving right past it and all our teammates after we turn around and going to far. Good start.

So we go out for our 30 min trip to our hill, say hello to some fellow riders out there, I guess we are not the only insane ones. We make it to the hill only to turn around due to the slush and ice still on the road. But not to worry, there are hills to be had everywhere in frederick. We find ourselves a new hill and repeat it several times, you know, just for the fun of it!!! Wow it has been a long time since I have seen stars while riding and I remember thinking, why do I do this?? This really hurts!!! But, as Leslie and I discussed on the way down to do another interval, within 1 min, you forget the pain and think, well, that wasn't so bad. All I can say is thank god for that, that is some form of self preservation.

We finish our lovely intervals, and they actually were pretty great, and start to head home. This is where the real fun begins. It starts out with a couple of us just riding, getting hit in the head with ice, and singing some really old rap songs. Wendy, Michelle and I then got into a fun paceline as we tempoed it home. It was so much fun, more fun than I have had on my bike in a long time. We are whipping back down the hills and just working really well together. So, we all regroup and decide to document our trip in front of this pig. I think it is always important to document epic rides/races with a classic picture. So, for me, this pig represents the reason I ride. I ride because I have awesome teammates and friends who can make riding in the cold and in the dead of winter on snow and with falling ice, the most wonderful experience.

Stayed tuned for more, because, if you know us, you know this is just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended).


A while back, my good friend Bill, a member of BBC, stopped me before a race and asked me what motivated me to participate in this sport. It took a few seconds for me to process his question - I mean ... we just do it, don't we? But he pressed on, forcing me to think about what exactly DOES motivate me to make sacrifices in "real life" to play this silly sport. We talked a bit about it and he asked me to do a post about the subject. I promised I would - and the beginning of February seems like a good time to think about motivation, so here goes.

My motivation has been evolving. Initially, like many women in this sport, my motivation was a boy. Dating a man who races is pretty much like being single if you don't participate with him - he's gone every weekend, trains non-stop, especially when its nice outside, and trying to have a non-bike-related conversation with him is pointless.

Then I was motivated by what seemed like easy improvements. When you're starting out, just spending time in the saddle yields improved fitness, improved bike handling and a new-improved look in lycra. Since you're starting from scratch (very few other sports translate into cycling), you show progress by leaps and bounds ! The equation seemed simple - ride more, get better. Ride even more, get even-more-better. Yes, I know thats not proper grammar, just go with it.

With aforementioned improvement comes success - when you win your first bike race- that adrenaline is something indescribable. Who needs drugs or alcohol to get a high ? I found cycling - with tons of great side benefits (eat with reckless abandon ! Look good at the beach, if you ever take time out of racing to go to the beach). Prior success is another motivator to me - that got me through winter training (2006-2007). I wanted to take on the world !

Then came the 2007 season. Talk about testing motivation. I had coaching issues, which increased my training issues. Then I had mental issues (more than usual). Then I had confidence issues. So many times I thought of hanging it up, leaving races in utter despair, lamenting what I was doing wrong. I've said it before: its easy to do something when you're having success. The trick is sticking with it when you're struggling through. That shows true character, and allows you to feel true pride when you accomplish something.

So what motivated me last season ? My team. It was the first "real" team I had been a part of, and it opened a new world of cycling.... its different sport when you have a team that counts on you and that you know you can count them. When your teammates are also your friends, you never want to let them down. You want to give all that you can - even if its not as much as you'd like. And your teammates know that you're giving all you have. THAT'S motivation. My girls know they pulled me through 2007 - that we all helped to pull each other up another level.

With another few weeks of winter weather and a race season looming, the motivation you have now will be what you take to the line come March, April and May.... if you have a team like mine, you will have no trouble getting up and piling on the layers to make the 7am ride in sub-freezing temps. And when racing starts in another month or so, you'll be ready to play.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

B-almy in B-more

I woke up this morning thinking I'd need to make an 8:30 am conference call for work. Turns out it's at 8:30 PM (BIG difference), so instead of getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to make the 7am ride in DC (which I had briefly considered, sorry Beth!), I ended up cleaning the house top to bottom waiting for the weather to warm up. Just as I was about to leave my uber-clean house to hit the road, a problem with a production push at work delayed my departure until I was able to fix and retest the problem. Problem solved, I finally ducked out at 2pm for my two and a half hour ride. Yikes!

Long rides are not yet my friends. I'm still building up my base, so around the 2-hour mark my legs start complaining and my knee starts aching (right knee only, what's up with that?), and then I start whining. If I'm riding alone (like I was today), without my Shuffle (lost it somewhere), this whining is mostly internal. MOSTLY. Sometimes I mutter to myself. Well, actually I do it quite often. And if you happen to be riding with me, you'll hear it. Oh yes, you will. It's when I STOP whining you know there's trouble... The death march has begun. Fortunately there was no death march today, but there was a fair bit of whining. My knee was yelling at me and my legs were tired, but the weather was almost verging on terrific -- 45 degrees and sunny! I got away with a base layer, long sleeve and a thermal vest. Until the weather tops 70 degrees, these are my favorite kind of rides.

I remember way back when, when I started riding and 50 degrees seemed so cold! At least now I don't whine (about the weather, at least), until it goes below 30. It makes a big difference when you have all the right gear and can be appropriately dressed. Which is why I am in LOVE with my Verge thermal vest. This is the first year I've had one and it's perfect for anywhere from freezing (32, ya moreons) up to about 50. Compared to a thermal jacket, which is good below freezing, but you can only wear it up to about 35 before you end up positively roasting. A cooked cyclist is never a good thing, in my opinion. Now I need to throw it in the wash so I can wear it for tomorrow's team ride in hilly, hilly Frederick. Oy... Please don't drop me girls. I'll still be using my recent blood donation as an excuse, if you do!