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?

{Guest Post} Group Cycling (Part 2)

12 09 2011

Happy Monday! We had some amazing weather here in DC, and I (Steph) was able to get out and enjoy it with a brick on Saturday and a nice 4 mile run on Sunday. Can it just stay this nice all year round? Anyhow, Chloe’s still on vacation, so we’ve got Part 2 of Courtney’s Group Cycling post for ya! You can read part 1 here. (By the way, she KILLED it at the ITU WORLD Championship. Check out her race recap!)

Hopefully, you’ve found the right group for you, and are ready to get started. Now what?

Before the group ride

1. Check your tires and spare equipment (tube, CO2 cartridge, bike tools, etc.).

2. Have some type of nutrition.

3. Prepare your outfit/gear the night before.

4. Print out or copy a map of the route.

5. Plan to arrive 15-30 minutes early depending on how much time you need to set up. If the group ride says 7:00 am, this usually means they are leaving at 7:00 am. Take this into account.

6. Arrive an additional 5-10 minutes early for your first time with any group to sign insurance paperwork if required, meet the group leader, and talk to other cyclists.

7. Meet one of the riders and let them know you are new to group riding prior to the start. They will point out nuances with the group, give cycling tips, and give encouragement.

During the ride

The first 5-10 miles are usually a warm up pace, followed by a 20-40 mile steady/faster pace with a few pick-ups, and then 5-10 miles of a cool down. With a well organized ride, the group will ride in two single file lines. Two riders will pull at the front, meaning they will have to work against the wind and set the pace of the ride. Since this is more difficult, the front riders will come off the pull and drop to the middle or back of the pack and the next two riders will be in front. When other riders block the wind, you don’t have to work as hard and are in what’s called the “draft”. Drafting allows for the group to have a faster average speed than if everybody were riding solo. Another style of group riding is an echelon but more advanced groups will ride this way.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind while part of the group.

1. Stay towards the back of the group because this way you don’t have to worry about people behind you until you are comfortable riding with a group.

2. Stay at least one foot away from the person in front of you. This will allow you to draft but not get too close the tire.

3. Keep a steady speed no matter where you are in the pack. I call it the “yo-yo” effect when somebody speeds up and slows down without warning or consistency. Not only is it annoying to be behind somebody who “yo-yo’s” it’s dangerous because sometimes I have to tap my brakes to accommodate a sudden change in speed.

4. Keep your pedal stroke steady because it’s easier to predict changes in speed. If I’m behind you and all the sudden you stop pedaling and coast, then I start to worry what might be going on up ahead. Think of your feet as brake lights, if you stop pedaling it’s almost like tapping or sometimes “slamming” on the brakes.

5. Don’t slam on your brakes if possible. If the group is well organized everybody should have fair warning about any speed changes or obstacles in the road. Slamming on your brakes can cause a bad accident.

6. Use hand signals and verbal warnings. This means pointing out cracks, cars, turns. Call out“slowing”, “stopping”, “glass”. Giving people a warning will let them act in the safest manner and warn the people behind them. There are special hand signals that are fairly universal.

7. Don’t ride in aero position because you don’t have as much control over your bike.

8. Pay attention to other cyclists, cars, stop lights, twigs, turns, etc. Each cyclist is responsible for signaling safety hazards to the riders behind them but this doesn’t always happen…so ultimately you are responsible for yourself. Be aware. Be safe.

9. Listen to other cyclists. I’m not only talking about verbal warnings but group rides are a great way to learn more about cycling techniques, safety pointers, or ways to become stronger on the bike.

10. No headphones. It’s just not smart.

11. Don’t pull unless you can maintain the group’s pace. If you are already having a difficult time in the draft, you’ll have an even more difficult time pulling. Wait until you’re a stronger group rider to help pull.

12. Pull to help out the group when you are strong enough to share the workload. Only pull as long as you can maintain the group speed, this may only be half a mile and that’s fine. Use the correct hand signal to come off the pull by making a fist and tapping your butt. Pull off to the left of the group and find a spot between other cyclists or rejoin in the back.

13. Make sure YOU are comfortable with the speed, closeness of other cyclists, and overall group ride atmosphere.

14. Have fun! It’s such a rush to look down at a fast speed on your odometer and feel the energy of riding with other people. Safety should always come first but group rides are popular because they are enjoyable and challenging.

Hopefully this post encouraged you to try out a group ride rather than scare you away. I love group rides for so many reasons and they have truly helped me become more comfortable and stronger on the bike. Good luck with all your athletic adventures and be safe on the road!

Question of the day: Have you ever done a group ride? Tell me about it! What tips do you have for a group ride?