Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer's Here!

It's Memorial Day weekend and that means its officially the start of summer, my favorite bike riding season.

I've been pretty busy since I finished the Police Unity Tour. I actually had a whole other post written last week, but blogger ate it and I haven't had time to rewrite it; so you'll just have to read the "abbreviated" version ;-)

Myself and Mir had registered for Bike DC before we did the Tour not knowing how we were going to feel about biking another 25 miles after we got back. Luckily, we felt fine. I first rode Bike DC in 2009 and it's my favorite bike event of the year. In previous years I've ridden with my brother, on my birthday and with plenty of friends. It's my favorite ride because you get to ride on roads that are normally reserved for cars. Vehicle traffic is completely shut down on the route and the roads are wide open (or as wide open as they can be with over a 1000 riders on them). The first year that I rode it, it was held in the autumn. It was cold and rainy & I couldn't feel my toes or hands. I loved it. Thankfully they've moved it to the spring now.

I like to save my bibs.

Bike DC gets bigger and bigger every year. And this is where my problem with this year's event comes in. There is an option to pre-register for BikeDC, which I always do. It's (usually) convenient for me because I don't have to waste time standing in line to register the morning of. I just check in, get my bib & go. It's also convenient for the organizers because they can get a rough idea of how many people are expected.

I showed up to the start line with Betty to get my bib and wait for Mir and discovered a line a mile long. Not even kidding. And this was Will Call.  There were only TWO tents to handle check-in and registration. ONE will call tent, ONE registration tent. That is ridiculous. There is absolutely no excuse for that lack of planning. I am quite sure there were still people waiting to check-in for the long ride, long after the start line for it closed. It was unorganized & chaotic and the volunteers were simply overwhelmed and inexperienced. When I finally got up to the table to check-in, the volunteer never checked my ID, never checked to see if I was registered--he simply shoved a bib at me. I had to specifically ask for a map of the route. And I never received the tag/bracelet for my t-shirt which I had already paid for (which I didn't know about until after the ride when I went to pick up my t-shirt. I was made to feel like I was trying to steal. Not cool at all.)

Bike DC is simply too big to have same day check-in/registration. It really needs to have an Expo of some sort where folks can register & pick up their stuff BEFORE the day of the ride.

Anyway, that whole process really soured things for me. I started the ride in a really foul mood. On top of that, somebody (MIR) overslept and missed the start. So I was on my own.

This year's route included Rock Creek Parkway, which was really cool. Normally, bikes aren't allowed on the parkway itself (there is a MUP beside it that I usually ride). Riding on the parkway gave me a completely different view than I usually get to see. It was neat. Until I got to the turn-around and saw this:

Nasty collision ahead
I'm not sure if you can see from this photo, but there are two ambulances ahead and what looked like a nasty crash scene. Yikes. This is one of the dangers with routes that attempt to funnel hundreds of riders into a 180 degree turn. There really needs to be signage/marshalls warning riders to SLOW DOWN and SHARP TURN AHEAD.

Anyway. we all turned around and headed back towards the way we came and soon enough (too soon, actually) we hit the first rest stop. The usual assortment of bananas, granola bars & water was provided (why no gatorade AGAIN?). I skipped this stop because it was way too early in the ride and I was still in a nasty mood.  The course took us near the Kennedy Center than over some bridges to get to the GW Parkway (one of my favorite parts of the ride).

It was nice and I saw plenty of familiar faces along the way. The next part of the route took us near the Iwo Jima, and this where I witnessed the most unforgivable eff-up ever:

Do you see the problem in the above photos? Let me lay it out for you: after descending a rather steep hill, riders than had to make a fairly tight turn into what you see above--a route that is under construction and FULL of bike hazards. If you look carefully at the paved area, you will see metal plating all along the right side of the paved road. Because cyclists obviously couldn't ride on that, they simply divided the rest of the paved area into two, expecting riders that are both coming AND going to squeeze into that very narrow area. Because this is simply ridiculous, riders had to get off their bikes and walk them. Fine, except it caused a bottleneck with the riders who were coming up behind them at speed because no one was warning them of what was ahead. Those riders who chose to stay on the paved area and ride risked colliding with riders heading in the other direction.

Of course, the worst happened. Two riders had a really nasty head-on collision and that part of the route was temporarily shut down.

That was unacceptable. Of course last-minute construction happens and things on the route can't always be predicted. However, this is why you do a dry-run of the route before the actual ride. Whomever did this (IF they did this) should have seen what a danger this section was. Any simpleton could have seen that collision happening. This sector should have been removed as soon as it became apparent that it was too dangerous to attempt to ride. If they couldn't see that it was too dangerous? Well, I don't even really know what to think because IS VERY VERY OBVIOUS.

Face of a very annoyed rider.

Once past that section, the rest was pretty much smooth sailing. Mir (finally) woke up and called me and told me she would meet me at the Air Force Memorial and ride the rest of the way. I met up with her and we had a good time riding back to the finish line together.

If you squint and look at the rider in the top left, you can see a Tales from the Sharrows button!

Top of the Air Force Memorial

Bottom of the Air Force Memorial (its really tall)

Finish Line

T-shirts ( I wish they would offer more colors. I'm sick of dark blue)

Back of the t-shirts. The design on the back changes every year.

I really hope that the organizers of BikeDC (which is NOT WABA--WABA is just a beneficiary. I heard they took a lot of heat over the ride, oops) step up their game next year. They generally do a really really good job, and the volunteers are awesome. Unfortunately there were some pretty glaring problems that marred the experience a bit. Next year: provide an Expo or do a better job of organizing check-in/registration and be a bit more safe with route design. Overall though, it was a fun morning and I can't wait for next year!

Bike to Work Day also happened, and I had a blast. Since I don't normally work until 1:30 in the afternoon, I had the chance to check out a few pitstops & Friday Coffee Club. I was even able to work the afternoon pitstop in Columbia Heights as an MPD representative.

Adams Morgan pitstop. Awesome volunteers and coffee from Tryst.

Hey! It's BicycleBug and his TFTS button!

WABA reppin' at the Bike FROM work pitstop.

Packing up for the day. Where's the brakes on that thing?

Bike to Work day was fun. I saw a ton of riders out. They should do it every week.

Last week my birthday. It was a really busy week for me, so no birthday fun rides for me. Most of my riding was done at work. I still managed to sneak in one ride to the Pre-Tour de Fat fundraiser at The Pug. They were raffling off a New Belgium cruiser! I was really hoping to win it, but I didn't. I did walk away with a sweet New Belgium bike bell though. It's probably a good thing I didn't win it because The Boy would divorce me and we're not even married yet.

My watch knew what time it was. Cake time!

I love this "cop car" outside of Sticky Rice on H St. NE

Okay, yes. Those are rollerblades in the last photo above. I got it into my head that I wanted to rollerblade around Hains Point at least once. I used to Rollerblade all the time when I was in high school and I loved it. I skated more than I biked. When I first moved to DC, I have a fond memory of skating around the Memorials with my college roommate and running into the Million Man March. Of course I haven't been on a pair of rollerblades in just about 10 years.  It should be just like riding a bicycle, right? Once you do it, you never forget?

No. No it is not. Not at all. First of all, did you know that rollerblading uses muscles in your feet & ankles that I didn't even know existed? It does. I think I got about .5 mile before I gave up, and I wanted to throw them in the river.

Practice makes perfect, right? Maybe I'll just stick to biking.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Police Unity Tour: The Final Day

I meant to post this yesterday, but I was so happy to be home and to see The Boy again, that I just didn't feel like posting right away.

I finished. All 230 miles. I feel great.

We rolled out of Warrenton at 8am and had a pretty good ride ahead of us. Although it was "only" 55 miles, there were still plenty of rolling hills to get over.  As we got closer to our destination, folks started lining up along the streets, holding signs and cheering us on. It really gave us a boost to get up over some of the steeper hills! Fairfax County had their helicopter hovering over us for a good 15-20 miles and it kept swooping and swerving. At one point, it got low enough that the wind from the rotors mimicked a pretty good headwind. It was pretty cool.

I don't remember if I mentioned it before, but we had a team of Motor Men (motorcycle officers) that were part of our group and provided an escort for us the entire trip. They would ride behind, along side, and ahead of us to stop traffic and make sure intersections were clear for us to ride. They did a super job and kept each of us safe. Having them zoom up along side with sirens blaring provided a bit of an adrenaline boost. Of course, after 3 days of that...I'm a little sick of sirens ;-)

My left knee & right foot were bothering me a bit, and I was starting to experience pretty annoying chafing issues, so I was ready for this ride to be over. I started feeling better when I began recognizing signs and landmarks and knew we were close. As we rode over the Memorial Bridge (which was temporarily shut down for us) we stopped for a group photo. When we started riding again and officially crossed into DC, I actually got a little sad. I couldn't believe it was almost over.

We rode through the touristy parts of DC and waved at all of the gawking tourists. We finally made it over to RFK (which was mostly filled with people for the Chili Cook-Off, yuck) and met up with the other chapters that also rode. People rode from all over the place. There were at least 1500 of us. A sea of blue & white.

When it came to ride out as one big group to the Law Enforcement Memorial, it was a bit of a nightmare. Trying to funnel 1500 riders out of one exit, up a hill...well, I saw a few crashes. One guy gouged his leg pretty badly on his chainring. Ouch. It seems most of the riders forgot their riding etiquette and passed each other willy-nilly, and wouldn't stay in in their lines. The worst part is that our motor escorts seemed to have disappeared ( I think they were sent on ahead to the memorial), so none of the intersections were secured for us. We had to hope and pray that impatient motorists & pedestrians didn't try to run us over or dart in front of us.

When we pulled onto E Street--where the memorial is located--folks lined up along the block and cheered us in. They high-fived and shook our hands as we entered the memorial. It was something I've never experienced before, but I hope to again.

I found The Boy, who had showed up to see me arrive, and we relaxed & chatted for a bit. It was good to see him again. He had to work later that night, so he left before the ceremony was over. This was fine, because he was able to take my suitcase for me so I could ride Kermit home.

I stayed for the ceremony (which was nice) and went to the section of the memorial where Cpl. Aigner's name had been etched. I was hoping to find family members/coworkers there, but I didn't. The place was mobbed with people, most of them survivors. It was a very moving experience.

After the ceremony, I grabbed my medal and got out of there since there was about to be hundreds of people trying to get to their respective hotels & destinations. I hopped on Kermit and rode to Duffy's, where I had a well-earned burger & beer. Then I was in danger of slipping into a food coma, so I rode home and napped with The Boy until it was time for him to leave for work.

I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to participate in this experience. I earned every mile. I can't wait for next year. I'm already making a list of things to remember for next time (foam roller!*). I want to thank all of you that donated so I could do this ride. I hope you know that it is going to a very good cause.

Motivational card. I like the bad guy yelling Ahhhhh!

Finish Strong

Rest stop sponsored by Target

On of our trailers & our very own bagpiper

Whirly Bird

Taking off

Memorial Bridge


Cpl. Aigner's panel

My medal

Semi-group shot. Not everyone was here for the photo.

*Poor Miriam was suffering from some very painful neck cramps and kept complaining that she should have brought a foam roller with her. The next morning, while we were loading our luggage onto the truck, we saw a huge bag FULL of foam rollers that the support staff either "forgot" to give out or hogged for themselves. If you guys could only have seen the look on her face! I've never seen her go that particular shade of livid before.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Short and sweet

Because I'm exhausted. And sore. And sun-burned.

Day 2 is done. I forgot to restart my GPS tracker on one leg of the ride, so it skipped about 13 miles. All told, I rode about 82 today. And it was brutal.

They said that today was going to be hilly, but honestly it was mostly rollers. I didn't leave the big chain ring once. The problem for me was a)the wind- it was brutal coming over the open fields. B)riding in a pack of various skills- once I got a good momentum going, we would have to slow way down, and c) bike fit- my legs & lungs were fine, but parts of me were screaming in pain because I still had bike fit issues.

At first it was my lower back, but a short fitting session with one of the mechanics cured that. Then it was my right foot, specifically my toes. I think my cleats are too far back. My right foot was (is) in agony-I almost couldn't walk on it.

By the time we finished, I felt awful. I didn't drink enough and the sun was just beating on me, so I know I was dehydrated. The last 23 miles felt like the longest time of my life.

But I did it. Every damn mile.

Tomorrow is the final day. I get to sleep in my own bed! "Only" 46 miles to go. Ha!

There is a welcoming ceremony for all of the chapters of the Police Unity Tour at 2pm at the National Law Enforcement Memorial (400 blk of E Street NW). I encourage all of you to come!

Riding along (that's Mir with the giant grin on her face)

It turns out that Sharpie makes an excellent sun block.

Fixed gear bike. And he did all of the hills on it.

The mobile bike shop/after hours beer joint.

And that's it. Bed time for me. See you on the flip side!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

This may be incoherent...

because I'm pretty tired and Parks & Recreation is on...and well, priorities people.

Day 1 is DONE, D O N E. My GPS said I did 97 miles, but the cue sheet said 93. Either way, it's the longest I've ever ridden in one day. And tomorrow, I get to do it again, but with more hills. (actually "only" 85 miles).

1. The wind was killer today. A few times I felt like I was being pushed off the bike. It definitely made the ride today a bit more difficult.

2. I really need to invest in a good bike fitting. The mechanics on this ride are SUPER good, but I need more time with them than is available on this ride (the lead mechanic has a shop off the W&OD trail but I can't recall the name of it). My lower back was screaming at me by the end. Advil wasn't touching it.

3. I need to bring the chamois cream with me and reapply it after 60 miles. Ouchie.

4. Nutrition was okay today, but my stomach was a bit uneasy at times. Still not sure how to avoid this.

5. The horses & cows & goats & rolling fields were beautiful. Until the last 17 miles when I wanted to set fire to them all. And also to the sound of ball-bearings in a rear hub. God help me.

6. The high point was the schools that came out and cheered us on, with Pom poms & mascot. Also all of the folks along the way that honked and waved.

7. Riding in a large group with cyclists of different abilities can be challenging and aggravating. Patience and emergency braking skills are necessary.

8. The dude doing this ride on a fixed gear bike is insane, and a bad-ass.

9. I am so proud to be part of this group.

Motivation cards from school-kids:

Me and Mir getting ready to set off:

Gathering together at the setting off ceremony:

Here we are again:

Can't tell whether this is real or temporary:

Folks from all over rode with us:


Representing WABA:

Down to my toes:

The most delicious beer ever. Just kidding. Even 95 miles can't make Bud Lite tasty.

The mileage:

Onward to tomorrow!