Miles 4 Hope, Moving Towards a Cure

24 09 2012

On Saturday, I participated in my first bike “race.” To say that it was a “race” is not exactly accurate; it was a charity ride for Miles for Hope, an organization that “is dedicated to raising awareness, funding of cutting edge brain tumor research and clinical trials and to providing travel assistance to qualified patients. Through our work, we intend on finding not only treatments that provide a better quality of life for those suffering with brain cancer, but to find a cure for it.” Moving Towards a Cure, the name of Sunday’s event, included a 5 and 10K run/walk, and a 25, 50, and 100K cycle.

I got up bright and early to drive over to Clearwater’s Coachman Park, where I checked in and grabbed my race number and the map of the 100K course.

I went back to my car to prep my bike and gather my nutrition. I didn’t really know how this whole thing worked-there was no cutoff to be out of transition, there was no pre-race meeting, and I didn’t have my normal pre-race jitters. People were just casually getting their stuff together and riding over to the start line.

I had signed up with Team A-Train, a friend’s tri team, so I kept my eye out for some of them. Soon, I spotted Beth and Nick, so we rode over to the start line together.

Nick, Brad, Beth

There were quite a few cyclists, but I had no way of knowing who was doing the 100K or who was doing the 25K.

After a few minutes of waiting around (we had already missed the Star Spangled Banner; we could hear it when we were at the cars), they started all the cyclists. I was a little nervous because there were so many cyclists out of the gate, but everyone was really good at communicating “On your left!” “Car back!” and as far as I could tell, there were no crashes.

I hadn’t studied the course all that closely, but I knew that I’d ride some of the bridges I ran with Meghann when I was marathon training. Shortly after we started, we crossed our first bridge.

What a way to burn those legs right off the bat! Once over the bridge, there’s a straightaway that takes you directly towards the beach. When you can’t go any further straight, there’s a traffic circle. For the race, there was a police man directing traffic on the circle. There were also little arrows painted on the ground, yellow, green, and orange, to indicate the different distances. The circle also had a sign on the grass with an arrow pointing to the right. When we got to the circle, I saw the sign on the grass first, so I had planned to go right. Unfortunately, the police officer told us to go left. Well, it’s pretty hard (and dangerous) to make a last minute decision to go one way or another, so I continued to go right, as the sign directed. I also saw a green arrow on the ground, and figured I must be going in the right direction. I was with a few of the A-Train team, but the rest of the group had gone left. We slowed down to figure out what to do. A few other cyclists went past us, and we tried yelling out to them to ask what distance they were going. None of them seemed to hear us, and sped on by. It was right about now that I wish I had brought that map, instead of leaving it in my car! Thankfully one of my teammates who had also gone right, brought her map. We checked it out, and realized that the green arrows weren’t for the 100K. We needed to follow the yellow arrows. So, we turned around and got back on track.

Pete, our fearless leader, was waiting for us just on the other side of the circle. The rest of the group was way far ahead, but we figured we’d all catch up at the rest stop. The four of us, Pete, Brad, me and Miranda rode together for the 30 miles until the turnaround.

As expected, the rest of our group was waiting for us there!

I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie and refilled my water bottle before we hit the road again.

10 miles or so after the turnaround, we powered through a bridge. On the other side, we took a head count and realized we were missing one of our teammates. Someone said they had seen him on top of the bridge, looking like he had started to cramp up. So, we stopped, and two guys went back to see if he was okay. A few minutes later, the three of them returned. The missing teammate had cramped up on the bridge, and had to stop. Before we started up again, someone gave him two packets of mustard.


I was really confused, but apparently mustard packets are a super quick cure for muscle cramps (as is pickle juice)- who knew?! Within a few minutes of starting back up on our ride, his legs were feeling better! Mental note- snag a few mustard packets next time I’m at a ball game!

The rest of the ride back was pretty uneventful; we stayed together as a group, chatted about life, and just enjoyed being out on this beautiful day! I really appreciated the team aspect of this event; I loved that we stayed together and made sure everyone was doing okay.

Less than four hours after starting the ride, we crossed the finish line! It was a little anticlimactic, as many of the runners and other cyclists had already finished and cleared out hours before. My first thought was actually, Wow, are we the last ones?

But, we did it! We grabbed some post race food:

Burger and potato salad, with a coke.

Post-ride drink of champions!

We snapped a few photos, and enjoyed the company of new and old friends:-)

Oh, and I can’t forget about the post race (kids) entertainment!

An inflatable waterslide!

What goes up…

must come down!

What a fun group of people!

Team A Train Rocks!

Overall, it was a great day. The weather was perfect, I had great people to ride with, I was riding for a great cause, and I didn’t have any nutrition problems. I guess I could have hoped for a little clarity in directions, but I guess in a ride like this, the onus is on the riders to know where to go, and not volunteers at every turn. But, lesson learned, and I can’t wait to do another one!

Question of the Day: Have you ever done a charity ride?


14 08 2012

For the past two weekends, it has seemed like Bill and I have been playing a game of dodge ball rain with the storm clouds when trying to get in a bike ride.

I’ve learned that in Florida, it is actually possible to maneuver your way away from and/or around rain storms. Or you just get rained on for a little and then it clears as quickly as it started.

Last Sunday, we ventured up to the Suncoast Trail with a goal to ride at least 50 miles. We couldn’t leave home without properly fueling, so I made some blueberry yogurt and orange infused pancakes. Man oh man were they tasty! Next time you make pancakes, add a little orange zest. Trust me. It’s delicious!

On our drive to the trailhead, it started to downpour. Just great. We’re going to drive 30 minutes only to turn back around and drive home. But thankfully, it was a “typical” Florida storm, and by the time we parked the car and got geared up, the rain had stopped. Yeah!

So, we hopped on our bikes and hit the trail. We rode up about 12ish miles, but the clouds were looking very ominous up ahead. I was fearful we were headed straight for a huge downpour, so I told Bill that we should turn around. So, we headed back towards our car. Heading that direction, the sky was blue, so we discussed biking to the car, turning around, and doing the loop again if the storm had cleared out. Unfortunately, we were about two miles from the car and we saw more storm clouds ahead. Crap. We looked behind us, and saw blue sky. So, we turned back around and rode in that direction.

We dodged the rain that these clouds brought!

A few miles later, the trail splits off to a little park. There’s a 6.5 mile trail that takes you to the park entrance. So, we decided to ride that way, which would also take us away from the highway that paralleled the trail, and away from the storm clouds.

There were no other cyclists (maybe one?) on this section of the trail, but we did see some other signs of life.

A turtle!

I think we saw about 3 or 4 of these guys throughout our ride.

We also rode within feet of some deer. Unfortunately, the time I tried to get a picture I wasn’t fast enough! Can you see the brown spot in the center of the picture below? That’s a deer!

After riding this part of the trail for 13 miles (6.5 each way), we hit the main trail again and decided to keep on riding. We were feeling good, had the trail mostly to ourselves, and the overcast sky made the temperature bearable. We laid down a few more miles, and Bill pointed to look off the side of the trail. Armadillos!! There were five of these little guys crawling around. I thought they were actually kinda cute.

Though not as cute as the guy trying to lure them to come closer. 🙂

When they started to scurry away, Bill and I got back on our bikes to finish our ride. The remainder of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for a failure on my part to keep my electrolytes up. At around mile 60, I started to feel ill. I had taken salt tabs, and was drinking plenty of water and eating Gus and gels, but I just started feeling nauseous. So we slowed down tremendously and stopped at the rest area 2 miles from the car. I drank some Gu Brew and sat for a few minutes before I felt ready to continue. We slowly rode the last two miles back to the car and then I drank up some Gatorade. I still wasn’t feeling 100% until we stopped for some Chipotle and I drank some Coke. I used to turn up my nose when people told me that Coke was the drink of choice after a triathlon or marathon; now I usually bring a can with me to long training sessions and races.

When it was all said and done, Bill and I had ridden 63.5 miles.

That’s a PDR for me! Yeah baby!

This past weekend, Bill and I had grand plans to get in a good long bike ride. We weren’t going to do 60, but we decided to get in a good solid 40. We drove to a five mile long, quiet road which dead ended into cow pasture.

To the left of this there’s a research center, and on the same road there’s a hospital and a gated community. So random.

We figured we’d do four loops, and then go for a little run. When we started our second loop, I saw clouds rolling in. We heard thunder as we rode away from the storm, and when we turned around, I feared that we’d be in the pouring rain when we got back to the car.

Thankfully, it appeared that the storm was passing off to our west (south? east? not sure which direction). But unfortunately, Bill and I were both feeling kinda crappy on the ride. We thought about pushing through, but opted to go for a short jog before the storm hit. By short jog, I mean we only went half a mile. Wah wah. Neither of us were feeling the run either, and we worried about leaving the bikes tied to the truck while we ran. So, we threw in the towel and went home. A 20 mile ride and a half mile run ain’t so bad, right?

We were almost home when the sky opened up. I was relieved we didn’t get caught in that! Later, we caught sight of a rainbow that filled the sky. I wish I had the ability to take a panoramic shot, because it was a full rainbow!

Two weekends and two bike rides, both of which we managed to walk away from having dodged the rain. I’d say that is a win in my book!


17 07 2012

Hey friends! Long time no see! These long work days sure do make it hard to blog during the week!

Some of you may have seen my tweets last week about the newest addition to my family. No, I’m not talking about another one of these:

(but gosh darn it, aren’t they cute? 😉 )

No my friends, I bought a new bike!

Meet my new 2012 Specialized Shiv tri bike, Snowball (the name isn’t set yet, but I do love the irony!) 😉 Ain’t she sexy?

Five years into the sport, I decided that it was about time to invest in a good tri bike. I’ve been searching for some time now, but I knew I needed to buy soon if I wanted to have a better bike before Age Group Nationals.

So, on Friday, Bill and I decided to check out the Tampa bike shops together in search of “the one”. I had already done some looking around at the Trek store, Cycle Sport Concepts, and on Craigslist, but I was hoping that maybe we’d find something new today.

We fueled up at our favorite little breakfast place, Daily Eats and then headed to the Trek store.

The Raymond: egg whites, sauteed spinach, sliced tomatoes, American cheese, served on multigrain bread.

The Trek store had a few tri bikes, and I rode two different ones. I actually couldn’t tell you which model they were though…Both bikes rode really well, and convinced me that I really wanted an all carbon frame. They just ride SO MUCH NICER than a bike with a carbon fork and aluminum frame.

Not completely sold on either of the bikes, we went up the street to Cycle Sport Concepts. We were greeted by Rob, who’d helped me out on a few other occasions when I’d been in the shop. He showed us the three tri bikes they had out on display: one was a little less bike than I wanted (carbon fork only) and the other two were WAY more bike than I wanted. We explained what I was looking for, and Rob politely asked us to wait a few minutes while he checked something out. Five minutes or so later he came out and told us that he had a 2012, men’s small, all carbon bike. YES, please!

So he rolled it out, sized me up, and around in the parking lot I rode!


I can’t even tell you how much better this bike is than my old Novara. The ride was SO SMOOTH. Bill asked how I felt and I think my response was, “When is our next race?!” I wanted this bike.

A little while later, and with a much smaller balance in my bank account, I walked out of the store with the same bike that Craig Alexander rode to win the 2012 Ironman World Championships (except mine doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that his does).

Worth it? Heck yes!

Wanna see one of the coolest things about the bike?

There’s a hydration bladder (like a CamelBak) that goes INSIDE the bike! Talk about innovative, right?

I’ve had a chance to go out for two rides on Snowball, but unfortunately both were cut short due to rain/thunderstorms. However, the short time that I spent in the saddle was awesome (well, besides the fact that bike seats are generally uncomfortable); I felt fast! I’m really looking forward to the Top Gun Triathlon at the end of this month!

Even though I’ve only had the bike a few days, I have learned a few of the drawbacks of this particular model.

First, there’s not really a place for nutrition. Because of the location of the hydration bladder, I can’t really put my bento box there. For my ride on Saturday, I put mine on the top tube, below my seat. Unfortunately, my legs consistently rubbed it. I did some research online, and some of the other bike owners had similar problems. I think the company has a few prototypes they are working on, which will hopefully be out soon.

Second, there’s not really a place to keep my tools/flat kit. My bag strap doesn’t fit around the seat stem. Suggestions?

However, I think these are issues that have a solution, or will have a solution soon, since the bike model is so new.

Despite these two small concerns, I can’t say enough times: “I love this bike!” Bring on the remainder of the tri season!