Saturday, March 31, 2012

Great News! Bike Wash & 30 Days of Biking

It appears Spring has sprung around here, judging from my itchy, watery eyes. The cherry blossoms have bloomed, and the trees are are getting greener by the day. This can mean only one thing: bike season has begun!

To kick it off, I'm starting with 30 Days of Biking tomorrow. This year I'm not counting work-related cycling, so I won't have an excuse not to get some "fun" riding in. This will be my 3rd year of participating. I love challenges like these, because it forces me to get creative with my bike trips and I always end up learning about something new & interesting to do. I'm going to make it a goal to blog everyday during this.

First up: planning tomorrow's ride. I think I'll head towards the SW area. I don't get over there very much, and my brief commute through the area this morning reminded me of how interesting that quadrant of the city really is. Of course, I will have to do a lot of tourist dodging...but meh. It will still be awesome. I'll be taking Betty, since its going to be more of a ramble than a ride.

Even more exciting is the Bike Wash I'm organizing on April 15th. If you're like me and ride your bike all year long, your bike might be overdue for a little TLC after all the cold, muddy rides this winter. If you are doing 30 Days of Biking, you'll need a shiny, clean bike after all that riding. Plus apartment living can make it difficult to keep your bike clean if you don't have the room & equipment to wash your bike. Let me (and some other volunteers) do it for you! And it's all for a good cause. 100% of the proceeds will go to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, via the Police Unity Tour.

The Daily Rider, a brand new awesome bike shop that recently opened on the H St. NE Corridor has agreed to let us have the Bike Wash in the rear of the shop. How awesome is that?! Don't have a bike to wash? You can buy one there! (just kidding. Maybe. The bikes are gorgeous. Don't say I didn't warn you about temptation.)

The Daily Rider at 1108 H St. NE

The best news of all? Finish Line has offered to help out and donate some products for the Bike Wash! That might mean not only will your bike be super clean & shiny, but you might walk away with some pretty nice swag too.

And the cleaner your bike gets, the dirtier I get*. So..there's that.

The details are as follows:

What? Bike Wash Fundraiser! Get your bike shiny & clean. I'll even get that nasty crud off of your chain.
Where? The Daily Rider: 1108 H St. NE
When? Sunday, April 15th from 12pm-4pm
Why? Fundraiser for the Police Unity Tour
How much? $10 per bike gets you a full wash.

And remember, 100% of the proceeds will go to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund and will help me meet my goal of raising $1700 by the end of this month.

Afterwards, there might be a #BikeDC "happy hour" at a nearby establishment so it might be worth your while!

Speaking of fundraising, it is time to ramp up my efforts. I'd like to raise at least $1,000 by the end of April. I am thinking of having a contest soon, where the winner that donates the most amount of money in a certain amount of time will win a prize from me. What do you think? Any other ideas?

*That's literally, not euphemistically.

Don't have a bike, but still want to participate? Volunteer to help me wash bikes! I will repay your efforts in beer. Just shoot me an email if you want to help out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A New Bike in the Family & the 2012 Vasa Ride

Before I get started with this post, I want to remind you of the Police Unity Tour fundraiser link. It's over there to the right (FirstGiving) --------->. My goal is to raise $1700 and I need your help. Even just a dollar or two helps.  We have a few more events coming up soon, and I will definitely keep you posted, but in the meantime please consider donating a few bucks to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Its easy and goes to a good cause. Thank you!

Since I will be doing a 3-day bike tour in May, I knew I was going to need a bicycle that is up to the challenge. Although I adore each of my bikes, none of them are really suited for long-distance cycling. This meant that I was going to need a new one (darn!). I asked around for suggestions, and BicycleSPACE (a lovely neighborhood bike shop) mentioned Velo Orange. They make touring & randoneuring bikes for a reasonable price. And they are pretty too. Working with David from BicycleSPACE, we picked out the components that would work best for a bike that I could not only use on the Police Unity Tour, but beyond.

Behold: Kermit the Hulk--


Why Kermit the Hulk? Well, my friend Art suggested Kermit because of the green frame; my friend Kim suggested The Hulk for the same reason. So...Kermit the Hulk. It still feels like a she rather than a he though.

Hulk Smash!

Kermit the Hulk is Velo Orange's polyvalent frame with a bunch of Velo Orange components (I love the shiny hammered fenders). The pink handlebar tape was my idea, and I'm sure it probably physically pained the mechanic that had to put it on but I don't care. I like the green/pink combo.

It's taken a bit of time to get used to riding her. I haven't ridden drop bars in a long time. Not having my brakes & gears at my fingertips at all times was a very disconcerting feeling at first. Add in clipless pedals (I opted for the dual-sided SPD pedals) & shoes, and it was a big learning curve in the beginning. I rode at a snail's pace, but after a week or so it became more natural and I feel much more comfortable riding her.

I took her along the Capital Crescent Trail to Bethesda to get a feel for her outside of city riding. It was great, but it was a rainy, muddy day. I didn't head back into DC until after it was dark, so I learned real quick not only how to handle Kermit in wet conditions, but dark conditions as well. I'm proud to say I made it back home without a single problem. 

(How I feel when riding Kermit)

There are still a few minor bike fit issues (The saddle position needs to be adjusted ever so slightly) and the dynamo lights & maybe a rear rack still need to be installed. Still, I look forward to training for the tour on Kermit (I still ride Betty around the city, though).

Kermit's first big test was the Vasa Ride.

From WABA's events page

I did this ride for the first time last year. That was the ride where I ended up killing my iPhone due to the rain. I really should have re-read my post from last year before doing this ride again. Although it wasn't raining this year, it was still pretty cold in the morning. My toes were freezing (note to self: invest in toe covers). Also, I overpacked AGAIN. I used my new Bailey Works messenger bag (which I love now that I've figured out how to work the strap system) and it didn't seem to put too much strain on my back or neck. About 40 miles in though, my back and neck were killing me. I think that it had more to do with my position on the bike rather than the load in my bag, although I'm sure that didn't help.

I stopped by BicycleSPACE the day before the ride to pick up some bottle cages for the ride. I *almost* picked up a handlebar bag, but I didn't. It wouldn't have helped anyway since its not big enough to hold my lock (the heaviest thing I had to carry). If I had been thinking clearly, I would have just stuffed my energy bars & ID in my pockets and left my lock at the registration site (locking it to something). But...well, the ride was REALLY EARLY in the morning and I wasn't thinking clearly. Oh well. Note to self for next year: PACK HALF AS MUCH, LEAVE THE BAG AT HOME, WEAR TOE/SHOE COVERS.

I woke up the morning of the ride wondering what to wear. The weather in DC has been very wacky the last few weeks. It was almost in the 70's just a few days ago, and the weather-people were calling for cold temps & possibly snow. Yikes. What to wear with that kind of variation in the weather? Plus, I didn't want to have another wet, miserable experience like last year. I settled on wearing some compression tights, black denim capris, a Police Unity Tour jersey, sweat shirt & hi-viz rain jacket (more for the visibility rather than rain), gloves, WABA cycling socks, my yakkay helmet & new bike shoes.

I made myself some eggs & toast & had a few cups of water to get the nutrition/water thing going. I still have some "GirlonaBike" energy bars so I threw some of those in my bag, along with my wallet, keys, tools, iPhone & charger, and my lock. The biggest thing I was worried about was getting lost. I did the ride last year with some friends that knew the area a bit, and they did most of the navigating. This year I would be on my own. I wanted my iPhone in case I got lost and needed to know where I was. I was so nervous about this that I barely slept the night before.

Then, it was time to go. It didn't feel that cold when I stepped outside. I think I managed (for once) to dress perfectly for the weather. I took the Rock Creek Trail to the House of Sweden on K St. By the time I arrived, registration was just getting started. There were probably about 40-50 people that had already arrived.

Registration area
KIND blueberry bars & some Fuze drinks were provided at the start, but I didn't have much of an appetite. I saw a few familiar faces, and met a few new people. I still had butterflies in my stomach though. 

This is my "too early in the morning for this" look. Thank you WABA for the photo.

Then it was time to line up for the start. I remembered having a good time on last year's ride despite the rain, so I figured this year would be even better without the rain. HA! Have you ever heard of the phenomenon where women forget just how painful childbirth really was so that they can continue to do it again and again? Yeah. It's kinda like that. You'll see.

We started off just fine. The sun was starting to peek out from the clouds and the road was flat. We started off heading down the CCT to Fletchers, ending up on MacArthur Blvd. eventually. We passed by the Irish Inn (where The Boy and I had our engagement dinner) and Glen Echo Park and I smiled. This was fun! 

And then the hills started. And they never stopped.

At least it felt that way. Funny, I don't remember the hills being such a challenge as they were this year, even though I knew they were exactly the same. I remember passing the same landmarks and stopping at the same places but...yikes, I was far more out of bike-shape than I realized! (Doing the Capital Bikeshare challenge last year must have helped!)

When we pulled up to the first rest stop, I was still feeling good even though my toes were completely numb. This is where I started to worry about my nutrition plan. As I said earlier, I had thrown a few energy bars in my bag, and I had a bottle of water & a bottle of water with Immuni-C (I'm still suffering from the sinus plague). But my stomach really doesn't like solid food when I've been riding for more than two hours. I ate an energy bar, but I knew I was going to regret it later. I should have picked up some gels or gatorade.

First Rest Stop. I think this was around mile 15?
The Powerade people & WABA volunteers working this stop were awesome! They had music pumping and they did a good job at making sure all the riders that stopped had something to drink & were motivated. 

After a few minutes, it was time to hit the road again. Ugh, always the worst part of a rest stop is getting going again. Feeling the cold wind hitting sweaty clothes is not fun. It takes a good 20-30 minutes of riding to get the blood flowing again.

And then there were more hills. I think it was just about when we hit 25 miles that I started to wonder what the heck I was doing. I was cold, tired & my stomach was starting to feel like it was on fire. Only 34 miles to go....

2nd Rest Stop. This was our turning point at last year's ride.

We turned around and headed back the way we came. But this time we took Bradley Road back, which seemed like it would never, ever end. And kept going up and up and up. By the time we got into Bethesda, I was almost done. My neck & shoulders were killing me & I was starting to get nauseous. But then I saw the entrance to the CCT. YAY! We hopped on that and began riding. It was nice to be away from cars, even though the trail was clogged with pedestrians on this nice Sunday. And then it began to dawn on one of the people that I was riding with....we were going the wrong way! We were supposed to go the OTHER way on the CCT so that we would eventually end up in Rock Creek. Oh No! We were probably a mile off track by now (meaning 2 miles to get back).  I stopped to stretch out my shoulders & arms and then reluctantly got back on the bike. It was at this point that this happened:

No. I was not going to ride BACK down the trail to get back on the route. No. My mind said let's go and my body just said NO. There was just no way I could do it. I was already having trouble keeping water down, and I wasn't sure if I could do the Brandywine Hill without throwing up everything in my stomach (which wasn't much at this point). Thankfully Anna (BloomingCyclist on twitter, whom I had latched onto during the ride so I wouldn't get lost. I'm not a weird cyber stalker, I swear!) uttered the words I couldn't bring myself to say: let's just keep going down the CCT anyway to the finish. YES! YES YES YES. Let's do that. We were already at 45 miles anyway. By the time we got to the House of Sweden, we would just be at 51 miles. Perfectly fine. So we did.

I arrived back in time to grab some Blueberry Soup. Which was blueberry-ish and soupy. Anna, who was much smarter, left to grab a burger. If I had any appetite left, I would have joined her.

My blueberry soup. Yeah. That was it. 51 miles for this. 
Hug a Swede? NO.

After the blueberry soup, I headed over to Old Glory for the post-Vasa WABA happy hour ($5 Fat Tires!). I thought I might be up for a burger, but sadly my tummy still said no. I managed to get down some sweet potato fries (because I knew I needed something to eat), but I really had no appetite. I even had trouble drinking the beer! Yikes. The Boy joined me and helped to drink it though, so that was good.

I was not looking forward to riding home from Georgetown, but I did it. I even rode up the Calvert St. Hill from Rock Creek, so I consider that my punishment for skipping Brandywine, ha. I figure with the miles riding to and from the even, I probably hit 59 miles.

I gotta say, this was a tough ride. I've ridden 50+ miles in one shot before, but don't remember it being so tough! It is a pretty hilly course though. And the wind. Damn the wind! Next year I am conquering Vasa for sure.

I can't wait for more bike events. Yay Spring! I'm a little bummed to learn that I will probably miss out on BikeDC this year, since it is scheduled for the same day I ride back to DC on the Police Unity Tour. There's no way I can be at two places at once (or can I?). I also learned that I really need to ramp up my riding. Even a few miles a day really helps. If I want to ride a 100 miles a day, I need to step up my game. I know it won't take too long to get back into bike-shape, but I really need to get going.

(The purple line is the bit of the route I was *supposed* to take, except that I got lost instead. oops.)

Did any of you do the Vasa Ride? What did you think?