|Alyson + Lorri at the Golden Gate Bridge|
|The Christmas Orphans at Fisherman's Wharf|
|Alyson + Lorri at the Golden Gate Bridge|
|The Christmas Orphans at Fisherman's Wharf|
I've had breathing issues my entire life. I was born with pneumonia. I was told I was weak and fragile and had bad lungs. I never participated in sports (although I could somehow play the oboe). I had childhood allergies (never defined, but treated with prescription medications) and exercise-induced asthma. And then, as an adult, I smoked cigarettes for nearly a decade. Not the makings of a cyclist, but somehow, I found myself on the bike.
When I got serious about cycling, I visited the pulmonologist, who confirmed that I'm allergic to just about everything in the world, that I have temperature- and exercise-induced asthma, and early signs of COPD. But, I wanted to race my bike, so I endured years of allergy shots (treating environmental allergies but not food allergies), allergy medications to counter the symptoms, and an inhaler to clear my lungs. But never did this doctor recommend that I eliminate allergens from my environment.
A few years ago, I started working with a different allergist, who recommended I remove all allergens from my environment. This included eliminating certain foods, my dog (I couldn't do it), carpet, and covering my bed and pillows in anti-allergen cases. I do the best I can.
The foods were the easiest to eliminate (although this takes very conscious decision-making, especially if eating in a restaurant). My home is as allergen-free as I can make it. I struggle when traveling (motel rooms are filled with allergens like dust, dust mites, and mold) and mountain biking can aggravate my allergies to grasses and trees. But all in all, I've been able to relieve my symptoms by making some lifestyle changes.
Interestingly enough, when I removed my food allergens from my diet, amazing things changed in my health. My immune system seemed to improve, maybe because it wasn't constantly being stressed by my diet. My lungs were stronger (proven through breathing tests). I no longer needed to use an inhaler for cycling, except in very cold temperatures. My weight stabilized. My energy increased as did my sleep quality and my mood. I no longer suffered headaches and a stuffy head. My skin cleared up and the hives that had plagued me for many years disappeared. And my recovery time on the bike improved dramatically.
So, why am I happy to have food allergies?
|the main ingredients|
|ready to go in the rice cooker|
|the finished product!|
Whether you were out fighting the Black Friday crowds or plan to shop small + local for Small Business Saturday, I wanted to share a special discount with all our Savvy Bike clients + fans.
The 2014 Savvy Bike calendar has been published and you can register on-line for all of our camps, clinics, and bike fit. And now through Monday, December 2nd, you can save 20% by using promotional code SBS.
Here's a preview of what's on tap for the coming year. Holiday shopping couldn't be any easier!
I had intended to post 2014 Velo Girls membership by October 1st, but I got a bit distracted with Furnace Creek 508, a training trip to Pactimo in Denver, and the flu. Of course, the flu. So, a few days late but you can now register for 2014 Velo Girls membership.
New for 2014:
Our awesome little team of six for the Furnace Creek 508 awoke at dawn, grabbed some Starbuck's for breakfast, and chamoised up for a shake-out ride on the tandems. In addition to the four of us racing, our two crew members, Max and Andy, saddled up on the spare tandem at our host house to join us for a short spin. How often do you see three separate tandems out riding together?
I'm pretty impressed with our ability to get up and running smoothly. My pilot, Jim Ryan, is a very experienced rider, and we were able to start, stop, shift to an optimal gear, and communicate really well together. We dialed in our bike fit (as much as possible within the constraints of the bike) and I feel confident we've optimized our positions.
The best piece of advice I received this morning was from our other tandem pilot, Paul Kingsbury (owner of Kingsbury's Cyclery in Elmira, NY). He said the biggest adjustment as a stoker is that I will feel the bike do things that weren't caused by MY input. I thought about that several times during our 9-mile ride this morning.
We rolled with my Cardo BK-1 bluetooth communication device. It's a super-cool helmet-mount system that allows two riders to talk to each other. I've been testing it out in training the past month or so and I'm sold that it's a really great system for two riders. If our crew is really smart, we're also going to connect to one of their smart phones so we can communicate with the support van.
Communication will be key for this race.
|Lorri, Jim, and crew member Max in the background|
This morning, I'm hopping on a jet plane (probably a prop plane, actually), bound for Los Angeles to meet up with my team for this weekend's Furnace Creek 508. My journey leading up to this day followed a crazy, twisted road with a few bumps and potholes, but somehow I've arrived intact.
If you recall, five short weeks ago, I agreed to join the record-holding two-tandem 50-plus team, the Northern Spring Peepers, for this 508-mile race. I knew it would be a challenge to ramp up my volume to train for the event, but I was ready to take it on. I had 4 weeks of available training time and then a week to recover and stay fresh for the event (what some folks might call a taper).
The first phase of my training was to increase both my duration and climbing. I planned a series of three-day blocks with 10,000-15,000 combined feet of climbing with recovery between blocks. My first two weeks were going as planned. Well, maybe not quite as planned, as my teammate Pamela and I got a little carried away and rode 136 miles with 8,000' of climbing to start my second week of training. But we survived, and I knew that I'd be able to complete my stages of FC508. I totaled 24+ hours that week, with 321 miles and almost 15,000' of climbing.
The following week I planned another 20+ hours with 20,000' and was on track when tragedy struck -- I was hit by another cyclist while riding. I was very fortunate that my injuries weren't too severe -- no broken bones, but lots of soft tissue damage and my right leg was deeply contused (and is still sore almost 3 weeks after the collision). This basically destroyed my training plan. I was conflicted: I needed to train, but I needed to heal my injury. I completed a few rides, feeling very slow and suffering with pain. I cancelled my planned tandem training weekend with my partner, Jim Ryan, in Oregon. I decided to be conservative, and let myself heal.
So, weeks 2 and 3 I only rode about 12 hours total (150 miles with 7,000' of climbing). My 4th week, I climbed everything I could, knowing that would be the biggest bang for my training buck. My leg still hurt, and I still felt slow, but I needed to do some damage control so I didn't completely lose fitness. I was able to ride 17 hours, for a total of 200 miles and 17,000' of climbing. My last long ride was a solid 75-miles with 7,000' of climbing.
This week my goal was to recover and then keep my legs fresh. I'm feeling pretty good, so I guess I met my goal. We'll see how I feel later today when I go for a spin with my tandem partner.
This year's Furnace Creek 508 has been a challenge for the race promoter, before we even hit the start line. Apparently, two separate parts of the traditional course were washed out with flash floods, forcing a re-route of one section and a van shuttle of the other section. Then, the federal government shut down. Since the route goes through two different national parks (Mojave and Death Valley), the promoter hustled to find alternate routes (and obtain permits for those routes). At this time, we don't know if we'll be permitted to ride the 508-mile course, or if the race will be shortened to 356 miles (an out + back route to Trona that skips all the really cool desert land). While I'm certainly disappointed, I think we'll still have a great experience.
The modified route for my tandem team would be 177 miles total (instead of 240 miles). We would ride stage 1 (107 miles with 6,000' of climbing) and stage 3 (70 miles with 4,000' of climbing). The other tandem team (Paul Kingsbury and Wanda Tocci) would ride stage 2 (70 miles with 3,000' of climbing) and stage 4 (107 miles with 5,000' of climbing). Wait a minute! How did my team get more climbing? So while the overall race distance has been reduced, the impact for each of our teams is not that significant. We've still got our work cut out for us.
Of course, the logistics of changing from a 508-mile point-to-point race that begins in Santa Clarita and ends in 29 Palms about 33 hours later to a 356-mile out-and-back race that begins and ends in Santa Clarita less than 24 hours later means changing lodging and such, but our awesome team has handled all this without blinking.
So now, we just wait and find out which course we ride. We all packed for the long course. We have flights and lodging based on the long course. But I'm guessing we'll end up riding the short course.
Later today we build up the tandems (they were shipped out from New York), go grocery shopping, have a test ride, and prepare the support van. Today's also the day we all get to know each other. Actually, the other three riders and two crew members all know each other already, so I guess it's the day that I get to know everybody else. On Friday, the bikes and the vehicle both have to pass safety checks and we have rider meetings and dinner and spend the night in Santa Clarita. And then on Saturday, we roll out @ 9:30am.
I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a bit nervous. Of course I'm nervous. I'm jumping back in, still injured, riding 177 miles and 10,000' of climbing in less than 24 hours. On the back of a tandem. With a man I've never met. I'm nervous and excited and feeling surprisingly calm. I guess the reality of what I'm about to undertake hasn't sunk in yet.
If you'd like to follow along, you'll find the official FC508 webcast here:
You'll find time splits for our team (Northern Spring Peepers) here:
Northern Spring Peepers Race Page
And you can get live (well, every 20 minutes) updates here:
Northern Spring Peepers SPOT Tracker
Wish me luck!
I want to take a minute to thank a bunch of folks who've helped me arrive here:
Gary Brustin and Jan Medina for their sponsorship of my race.
Pamela Levine for being the best training partner ever.
Winnie + Dan Brehmer for loaning me a wheelset when mine was destroyed in the crash.
Annie Gianakos for scraping my broken body off the pavement, taking me to the hospital, and nursing me on the day of my crash.
Jason Pierce who dragged my tired butt around on the bike and shared all his accumulated wisdom about FC508.
And all my friends and teammates who've shared rides with me, listened to my stories, calmed my fears about being injured, and supported me on this crazy, bumpy journey!
I rode my bike yesterday. Yeah, I know, no big deal, right? I ride my bike about 250 days a year so why was yesterday special? Well, I cried on the bike yesterday. These weren't tears of pain, but tears of fear, and they caught me completely off guard.
I'm not sure why I was so affected by yesterday's ride. I crashed a week ago (only my 2nd road cycling crash in 14 years, hit by another cyclist). My only other crash was in 2002 when I was hit by a car. I was very fortunate and my injuries were very minor (soft tissue damage) but it meant that I have only been on the bike twice now since the crash. The first time on the bike, I felt fine mentally, except a bit of nervous energy when I returned to the site of the crash. But yesterday, I was nervous even before rolling out the door. I think the death, on Wednesday, of a woman about my age, riding on a road I've ridden at least a few hundred times, due to a collision with a motor vehicle, left me feeling a bit uncertain about my own safety.
I'm a super-defensive rider. I like to believe I see and anticipate every potential risk. I don't ride on roads that I perceive as dangerous. I'm extra cautious when riding during twilight hours (because vision is limited). I learned great tips for "thinking like a car" from Velo Girls sponsor Gary Brustin (BicycleLawyer.com). I teach participants in our skills clinics that YOU DON'T HAVE TO CRASH YOUR BIKE. I believe that. I've had close calls with automobiles pretty much every ride I've ever done, and yet I've kept it upright. But suddenly, yesterday, I was very nervous.
Not a quarter mile from my house, a woman almost hit me while she was talking on the phone. Two miles later, a man in a big white truck with jacked up wheels and NRA stickers all over the cab, intentionally tried to spook me by swerving into me. When I rolled up to the red light, stopped next to him, he turned and laughed at me, then floored it and sped off. As I started my first climb, I realized that the cars felt faster, closer, and more distracted than usual. I kept asking myself "why do these cars need to drive so darn fast?" I almost turned around at that point. I just had a nervous feeling about being out on the bike yesterday. And that's when I cried.
And I don't really know why I cried. I know plenty of folks who have died while riding a bicycle. I know plenty of folks who have died while not riding a bicycle. I know folks who've suffered severe, life-changing mental and physical injuries. I've had plenty of close calls myself. I've been the victim of hatred and violence while riding my bike. Maybe my tears had nothing to do with riding a bike at all.
I decided that the worst thing I could do would be to call my ride short. I needed to keep pedaling, to regain some confidence, to calm my nerves. I made route decisions based on my mental state, avoiding certain roads that I knew would be busy on a Sunday afternoon. I found myself being a bit more conservative than usual, controlling my speed a bit on my descents and being hyper-aware of blind turns. I noticed a larger-than-usual number of bicycles with both front and back blinky lights (thanks in some part, I'm sure, to a fabulous blog post earlier this week by Mike Jacoubowsky of Chain Reaction Bicycles).
And then, I chose a small climb I haven't ridden in many years. It's a bit off the beaten path and I thought that would be good for me. As I settled into my climbing rhythm, I felt a calm settle over me. The road was deserted and lovely. As I peaked, I had the most gorgeous view of the San Francisco Bay, Mt. Diablo (recently ravaged by wildfire) and Mt. Hamilton. I regret not taking a photo, because the late afternoon light created the perfect contrast and depth on the bay and the east bay hills.
The rest of my ride, drivers seemed to slow down. They seemed more considerate. They waited to pass until it was safe to do so. They gave me more room when passing. Not a single car buzzed my elbow. I received a few friendly waves and a smile or two. And I started to realize that the number of automobile drivers who respect cyclists and want to share the road with us far outweighs the number of automobile drivers who might harm us (whether intentionally or unintentionally).
And I finished my ride the way I always finish my ride with a victory salute as I rolled down my street, celebrating the fact that I made it home alive. Yup, I'm always aware of the risk. We should ALL be aware of the risk of riding a bike. But I think, too often, we forget. Or we hide our emotion as a coping mechanism, allowing us to continue participating in an activity that really is dangerous. We forget, until someone is injured or killed and we can't forget anymore.
I love riding my bicycle more than just about anything in the world. And I've ridden a bicycle for 14+ years, longer than anything else I've done in my life: any job, any home I've lived in, any boyfriend, any anything. Riding a bicycle makes me feel free! Riding a bicycle clears my mind and helps me manage my life stress. Riding a bicycle makes me feel that I can succeed at anything and has greatly improved my self esteem. Riding a bicycle completes me.