Monday, May 19, 2014

Police Unity Tour 2014

I didn't do much training for the Police Unity Tour this year. The extended winter simply didn't allow it. I wasn't too worried. Being my 3rd year, I knew what to expect & I was fairly confident that I could ride it well. The only thing I was worried about was the weather. Severe thunderstorms were expected our first day of riding. Riding in a group with a bunch of strangers, of varying degrees of skill, can be a little scary. Doing it in the rain can be terrifying.

I rode Blue this year, the carbon-fiber frame road bike I pieced together last year. When I had the local bike shop put it together for me, they simply went by the bike measurements from my previous fitting I did with them when I was riding the Van Dessel. However I don't think the measurements translated to Blue very well because my back was absolutely killing me during the ride. It wasn't unbearable, but it was unpleasant.

Blue's cockpit

Luckily, we travel with a great couple of mechanics from Trail's End Cycling in Purcellville. They basically bring an entire mobile bike shop with them. They also brought equipment to do a quick custom fitting, which I took advantage of. Unfortunately, it wasn't until the last day of riding that I did so. I don't know why I waited until the last (and shortest) day to get the adjustments made. I hope this will help with the back pain. I wasn't on the bike long enough on the last day to judge how effective the adjustments were. Hopefully I can get some long rides in this summer to test them out.

Let me also add that Trail's End completely volunteers their time & skills & equipment to do this every year. In fact I think they close their shop while they are on the road with us, not entirely sure. Anyway they are great guys, and have an awesome bike shop right at the end of the W&OD trail. I rode out there (but not back, lol) one day last summer. Highly recommend them. Be sure to stop in and say hello. There's a nice used bookstore & coffee shop right around the corner too.

The other issue I had was with my saddle. I've never really had an issue with any saddle before. But this year, I was extremely uncomfortable, even with plenty of chamois cream. Maybe the Brooks saddle on Kermit has spoiled me. I certainly missed it during the ride. Not sure if it was the saddle itself, or my shorts (which I should probably replace. It's been awhile). It's gonna take a few more rides to figure it out. This was only Blue's second big ride. The first time I rode him was only a 55 mile ride last October for the Law Enforcement Ride & Run to remember (in which I crashed at the very end). I don't really take him out for casual rides since DC streets are terrible & he's a bit expensive to leave locked up & unattended.

As usual, I spent the day before the ride making a list of things to pack. Every year, I try to pare it down a bit because I usually end up bringing stuff I simply don't need. This year I think I did a great job of only bringing the essentials. Of course, I did forget a few chargers though. Argh.

This is what I brought:
-2 pairs of cycling shorts
-2 jerseys
-2 sports bras
-Rain jacket
-Keens (SUCH A GREAT IDEA TO BRING THEM. I AM NOT GOING BACK TO SHOES EVER AGAIN. BUT I NEED TO REMEMBER TO SUNSCREEN MY FEET! OUCH!)
-Helmet
-Gloves
-Eye protection
-Chamois Cream
-Advil
-Toiletries
-pajamas
-laundry detergent
-Extra ziplock bags (for icepacks). I brought a regular icepack, but there's really no freezer to keep it frozen & I forgot it in the mini fridge in the first hotel.
-Garmin (which I forgot the charger for. DOH. The battery died on the first day. Luckily, the hotel on our last day had a spare charger so I was able to use that. But I didn't capture the whole ride. Bummer).
-BoomBottle (Review to follow very soon. But also a great idea to bring. It's a weatherproof speaker that fits in your bottle cage. I love this thing. I use it every day I commute. I also forgot the charger for this, but found one at the hotel)
-Comfy "regular" clothes & shoes to relax in (I brought my wonder woman socks)
-Toiletries

That was pretty much it. I was able to fit almost everything in a single backpack. I didn't bother bringing snacks/nutrition because plenty of food & snacks are supplied during the ride. I didn't even bring a water bottle, since I figured there would be one in the swag bag (I was right). However, some things I would like to remember for next year:

-Bring ALL the chargers. Even if I don't think I'll need them (I will).
-Put more sunscreen (also provided) on. And then some more. And don't forget my feet!
-Make a playlist for the ride
-Bring patches to exchange
*Optional for next year: the hotel in Charlottesville has a hot tub ( and pool). Bring a swimsuit.

On to the ride itself:

Day 1 was wet. We never got the severe thunderstorms that were supposed to hit, but we did get rained on a bit. Didn't have to break out the rain jacket, even though I brought it with me. At least it kept the temps relatively mild. I believe our total mileage for the day was about 88 miles. We had a break at about every 18 miles or so, including a lunch stop. It's my favorite lunch stop. We stop at the Louisa Baptist Church, and they always have homemade peanut butter & jelly sandwiches (with chips & cookies) waiting for us. It's delicious. Most of our stops are either at fires stations or churches. It was a long day, but a good one as folks got to know each other during the ride. We have riders & volunteers from all over the country. It was nice to see some familiar faces from previous rides as well. We end up in Charlottesville at the end of the day's ride, usually around 4pm or so.

At the hotel, I immediately went up to the hotel room so I could shower...and discovered there was only one bed (I was rooming with one of the volunteers on the ride, whom I had never met before). Previously, I rode with a friend of mine so it was no big deal if we shared a bed....but its a bit much to ask that of strangers. Luckily DJ (my roomie) was able to secure another room while I was in the shower & it all worked out (I had a king-sized bed to myself now!). I showered and had a few cold ones with some other riders while waiting for dinner. That's always the best part of the day; just sitting & relaxing. At dinner, I ate ALL of the carbs. Twice. And then had cake. But it was so worth it. I went up to my room on the pretext of stretching for a bit (my back was still sore) and ended up just falling asleep for the rest of the evening. whoops.

Getting ready to head out.

The volunteers that keep the ride going smoothly, and the motor escorts that keep us safe.

The most delicious peanut butter & jelly sandwich on Earth, courtesy of the Louisa Baptist Church,

Day 2 is our hilly day. I actually like this day because the hills make the ride more challenging & less monotonous. It is tough though, especially when its sunny & warm (which it was). I made sure to hydrate pretty well at every rest stop (I don't like drinking while riding, I had no idea why). This day seemed to fly by though. I couldn't believe how fast it went by. I think it's because we stopped for break about every 12-14 miles, instead of 18 (although our last leg of the day is about 21 miles). It was a blur. Total mileage was about 80 miles. We end up in Warrenton, VA. We're usually done riding for the day around 3:30pm or so. There were 2 beds in the hotel room, so crisis averted, heh. I snarfed dinner down & headed outside to the patio to hang with the other riders & volunteers. This is always the best night of the ride. Since the following day is pretty short mileage-wise (about 40 miles total), folks feel free to imbibe a little bit harder & longer. It's usually a good night for stories outside on the patio.

 A sunny day ahead.

Lining up to roll out.

You rest where you can, while you can.


Day 3 is the last and shortest day. Probably about 40 miles total, including riding from RFK to the Memorial in DC.  We stop at PSTOC (Fairfax's Public Safety & Transportation Operations Center for lunch) before heading into DC. Fairfax even provides an air "escort" with their helicopter flying with us (assuming the flight crew isn't busy) to the stop. It's always fun to watch it land & take off. We have a group photo taken in front of the helicopter.

The Fairfax County dispatch center. Fancy.

After lunch, its time to head to DC! Normally we ride into DC via the Memorial Bridge, but because there were some other events going on, we had to be routed onto the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge (which was TORE UP. Ugh). On the plus side, we rode through the SW section of DC to get over to RFK, which I liked because I got to check out some the new stuff going in at The Wharf. We ride over to RFK to meet up with all of the other chapters of the Police Unity Tour. This is always the worst part of the ride, in my opinion. All told, there are probably about 1500 riders that end up at RFK. We wait in the parking lot, with no cover, usually under a hot, blazing sun, while the other chapters arrive. I wish they would put up some tents or something for shade. I feel like I'm frying out on that lot. There's nowhere to sit and rest our legs, except the asphalt (with broken glass and gravel). Then when it's time to leave as one group for the memorial, its complete chaos. Instead of having us leave by chapter by chapter, which would be manageable, we all try to leave at once. The problem is that the path (and it is a SMALL path. Uphill.) to get OUT of the parking lot can only accommodate so many people-not 1500 at once. There is ALWAYS some sort of pile-up/crash trying to get out of there. My first year I watched a rider go down and tear his calf pretty badly on one of his front chain rings He couldn't finish the ride. What a bummer to ride all that way, only to crash right at the end.

This is a short video I took of one of the Chapter's arriving into RFK.
Arrival at the Memorial is always the best part. Seeing the survivors lined up along the memorial, ready to greet us is very emotional and moving. After all, its for them that we do this ride. There are hundreds of people at the memorial--so many that we can't even really ride into the memorial--its too jammed. Instead we walk our bikes in. High-fives & hugs are exchanged as we make our way through the memorial to the other side.

$1.9 million dollars. That's how much the Police Unity Tour raised this year. That is not an insignificant amount of money. And its very important. We had 7 Survivors (including my roommate) ride with us this year. At every rest stop, riders are encouraged to tell a story about their fallen officers. A sad theme that ran through many of these stories was one of abandonment/neglect by their officer's agencies. Either their agencies refused to participate in any sort of remembrance or honoring of their officer, or the process of Line of Duty Death determination was difficult & traumatizing. There is a an entire culture behind Line of Duty Death officers/survivors that is both fascinating & heartbreaking, that is often quite the opposite of the hero-worshipping/Honor Guard/Brothers in Blue type event that is often portrayed in movies & television. A good example would be to google Officer Jennifer Sebena to see what kind of traumatic & heartbreaking & often puzzling criteria are used to determine whether an officer's death is worthy enough to be determined Line of Duty. It's more often than not a very gray area. Anyway, that's a topic for another time, most likely in person. Back to my original point. There was a theme of abandonment/neglect from the police agencies from the survivors and it wasn't until they found organizations like the Police Unity Tour, C.O.P.S., H.E.R.O.E.S, Law Enforcement United, etc, that they found hope & honor. I heard a lot of griping from citizens in DC about how Police Week is a "waste" of taxpayer money, and that they were furious that "their" money was going to these "annoying cop events".

Not a single cent of taxpayer money is used to pay for these "annoying cop events". They are all privately funded by donations from organizations like The Police Unity Tour, C.O.P.S., H.E.R.O.E.S, etc. This is why those donations are so important. They go towards paying for things like the Coach Buses which bring the survivors to the Memorial every year so that they can see their loved one's name on the wall. Their lodging, food, travel expenses. Child care for their children. Maintaining the Memorial so that their loved one's memory is properly honored. The escorts are all volunteers. C.O.P.S. pays for fallen officer's children's college tuition. 

It's important because after the wreath has been placed on the Capitol's lawn, after the President's speech, after the pomp & circumstance of Police Week...that officer is still gone. And that family is still grieving. And it is organizations like the Unity Tour that step in all year long & beyond to take care of that family. This is why I ride. "We Ride for Those that Died", yes. We also ride for those left behind.



I didn't take too many photos this year. After all, how many photos of bikes & blue jerseys does one really need? I do wish I could have captured some of the absolutely stunning country side we rode through though. I didn't want to fumble with a camera while riding. Maybe next year I'll use a GoPro or something. Virginia is absolutely beautiful in some places.


We had a professional photographer to capture the best moments. We also had a professional video team to put together a short promo video.

Here is Day 1 of the ride from my Garmin before it died. We went another 20 miles or so beyond this:



And this is Day 3:


Also, some photos from the local law enforcement memorial ride I did on May 15th, which is National Peace Officer's Memorial Day (the day around which Police Week is planned). We met up with some other officers from Montgomery County & Fairfax.



Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring is (Almost) Here.

Long time no see, right? Pardon my absence; winter has been wearing me down. Is it over yet? I've started seeing small signs of spring: robins, daylight lingering just a bit longer, and the temps (very gradually) heading in an upward direction. I look forward to the days when I don't have to wear 10 layers just to be outside.

I've moved to a different work location and my commute has changed from a leisurely stroll down a hill, to a 4.5 mile ride to another quadrant of the city. I've picked a relatively direct & flat route, and its mostly fine. The major problems I face are potholes. Potholes everywhere. And they spring up just as quickly as they are repaired. I've learned to take the entire lane when I'm riding to/from work, or else cars will not give me the room I need to maneuver around them. I don't feel bad because there's usually at least 2 other open lanes for them to hog.

Snow and ice have been a problem as well. There were a few days in the last couple of months when I had to throw up my hands and beg rides off of coworkers or use UberX, as the snow made it impossible to ride safely. I've been riding Kermit, my Velo Orange Polyvalent with 650B tires. Sturdy enough to handle the rough streets, and still nimble & light enough to not wear me out. Knock on wood, I haven't had a flat yet (I've probably just guaranteed myself a flat tomorrow).

My coworkers still look at me like I've got two heads when they see me riding in, or getting ready to ride home. Mind you, these are guys that will run toward gunfire and regularly chase down armed criminals on a daily basis; yet apparently riding a bicycle is just the CRAZIEST and MOST DANGEROUS thing anyone could do, ever. They're getting used to the idea though. I think its the cold that boggles them the most. I don't think they understand that one can actually dress warmly and feel perfectly fine in cold temperatures, and that the act of cycling tends to warm a body, not cool it. Still, once the temps start warming up on a consistent basis & the sun shines regularly, I'll start to see some jealous looks, instead of incredulous ones.

Next week I will be running the Rock n Roll Half Marathon, and its going to hurt. I signed up for the full marathon, but due to the change in my work circumstances, there is a 3 month gaping hole in my training. I'm sure I can knock out 13.1 miles (barely, and its gonna hurt), but there is no way I'll be able to to 26.2. I entered my name into the Marine Corps Marathon lottery, so maybe I'll have a full marathon to look forward to in the fall. And then of course, I have the Police Unity Tour coming up in May. This will be my 3rd year riding with Chapter IV of the Police Unity Tour. I've still got some fundraising to do, and I'll have a link up very soon for those that would like to help out (all funds go to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, which goes to the upkeep of the Memorial, and also to building a new museum.).

In the meantime, I've been passing the winter looking at blogs from warmer climates & reading. Mostly daydreaming of living somewhere warm. Thankfully, Bicycling Magazine was kind enough to send me a few books that I wanted to pass along....

First up is the book that has come in handy for me many times already, and is my favorite: Essential Road Bike Maintenance Handbook, by Todd Downs. I have the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, but I've found that a bit overwhelming for my purposes. This little handbook is simple & very easy to use. It's divided into color coded sections (Controls, Drivertrain, Wheels, Etc) which are then further divided into more specific parts. It makes finding the information that you actually need very simple, which is important to me. I don't want to be flipping through page after page of information that I don't need. The other reason why I turn to this book is that every chapter has a "Troubleshooting" section with common problems, and the solutions right there. Chances are you will find your specific problem, and possible solutions are listed right with it. Easy. Brakes squeaking? "Toe" them in. Still squeaky? Sand the rims. Chain skipping? It might be worn out. There are also video links in the book in case you need a bit more guidance. Don't be fooled by the title. The information in this book is good for any type of bicycle, not just road bikes. I keep this book by my "bike repair" area, since I reference it pretty often. It's a good deal if you need a straightforward book for bike maintenance.

I've also been reading Bike Your Butt Off by Selene Yeager. I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of weight-loss books. I don't ride a bike for weight loss purposes (although its a nice benefit). I ride to get from point A to Point B, and also because I enjoy it & the places it takes me. If it felt like a "workout", I probably wouldn't do it. With that being said, I did find some parts of this book useful. Since I now I have an indoor trainer, I like to use some of the indoor workouts in the book so I don't get bored. I've also learned a few new strength moves & stretches that I've incorporated into my exercise routine (which mostly includes running for cardio, and strength exercises). If you are looking into getting on a bicycle for weight loss though, I would recommend this book for you. It's perfect for beginners and for those that are already experienced with riding a bike. The book includes workouts that can be done outdoors on the road (including tips for riding in traffic & sharing the roads, common hazards, etc) and workouts that can be done inside on a stationary bike/trainer. There are workouts for short rides, hilly rides, and long rides. The book contains weekly plans that increase in skill/duration, including drills to improve technical skills such as turning, braking, etc (I really should work on those!) Of course, there are sections on nutrition & fueling as well. If you are looking for a comprehensive weight loss plan that revolves around cycling, this is the book for you.

Lastly, I've been reading the Big Book of Cycling for Beginners by Tori Bortman. If you are new to cycling or thinking about getting a bicycle, this book will answer any questions you have. I've been riding regularly for quite a few years now, and I still found stuff in this book that was useful (group riding techniques, pedaling techniques). Most importantly, it contains a women-specific section. I find it irritating when cycling books/articles automatically assume a rider is male. Want to know what kinds of clothes to wear? Equipment/Accessories you need? Where to ride? How to ride? How to fix a flat tire? How to carry stuff on your bike? How to shift? Rules of the Road? Seriously, any question that you might have as a beginner will be answered in this book. I plan on gifting this book to friends that are new to biking.

If you're local to the area and want to borrow any of these books, let me know! Or you can always purchase your own copies. (Seriously, the road bike maintenance handbook is a must-have. It's small enough to throw into a bag so you can refer to it during a ride if you need to).

I miss riding my bike at work, but the rides to/from work kinda make up for it. Maybe when the weather gets warmer I can sneak a ride in now & then. The Metropolitan Branch Trail is in my district (although not my specific area). And I am now the mountain bike coordinator at my district (oh, did I not mention that? Yeah. Still doesn't necessarily mean *I* get to ride--it just means I keep track of all the bikes/equipment & make sure the officers have what they need to ride). Still, its something.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A New Year

If I'm honest, I am very happy to see the back of 2013. This has not been a great year for me. I probably should have been clued in when I spent this time last year ringing in the new year with a ferocious stomach bug, expelling everything inside my body for 12 hours. At least this New Year's Eve is a vast improvement over last year.

2013 Highlights:

-I ran 305 miles.

-I biked a bunch, but I didn't keep track of the mileage, unfortunately.

-I completed my first half-marathon (The Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon, here in DC)

-I completed the Police Unity Tour Ride for the 2nd year.

-I participate in the Law Enforcement Ride & Run and had a blast.

-I participated & competed in the promotional process at work, and did very well.

-I rode the entire length of the W&OD trail.

-I've lost nearly 20lbs and feel much better about myself.


2013 Lowlights:

-Canceling my wedding plans

-Being a giant ball of anger & resentment for most of the year

-Dropping from the Climate Ride

-Learning my father has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.


I'm hesitant to make any sort of firm resolutions or plans, because I've learned that's when the Universe likes to step in and say LOL NOPE. I had big plans for 2013 and most of them crumbled away. I know that 2014 is going to be a year of big changes for me, though. Good or bad changes? That's the question.

For those of you not on twitter/facebook, I will be starting a new phase of my career next week. I am being promoted to a supervisory position and will be assigned to a new district (5th, for those of you interested). This is exciting & scary. I've spent almost 10 years working at the same place with the same people. I lived in the same neighborhood, so most everything was familiar to me when I started. I will be going to place that I am not familiar with at all, with people I've never met, so it will be a steep learning curve. But it is a clean slate as well.

I am not sure what my new role will involve. Most likely I will have to put the bike up, at least for awhile. I will be turning in my patrol bike this weekend, since it belongs to my current district. I'm a little sad to see him go-I spent more years patrolling on my work bike than I ever did in a car. This will be a week full of good-byes, actually.

I will have an actual, real bike commute. Currently my "commute" simply involves a short ride (or lately, a short stroll) three blocks down a hill. Now I will have to travel half-way across the city. Like a real commuter. It's funny, but my coworkers keep asking me how I will get to work now that I'm headed to a different district-"by bike, of course" is my answer. Not sure why they think that would change.

Things I'm looking forward to in 2014?

-My father beating cancer

-Completing a full marathon (my first one since 2003) in March.

-The Police Unity Tour in May

-My brother's wedding in September.

- Celebrating The Boy's year of sobriety in February.

-Maybe this is the year I actually hit my goal weight. I'm already on track- I just need to keep going a bit.

-Who know, maybe even getting married?


I will be spending New Year's Eve tonight making sure the citizens of the District of Columbia are safe & secure. Be safe & be kind to each other.


A look back at 2013…