24 July 2013

Learning to Ride a Bike... Again

If you haven't heard, in a little less than 2 months, I will be embarking on a 5-day, 300 mile bike ride from NYC to DC, ending with lobbying visits to my legislators about the importance of responding to the threat of climate change and creating real alternatives - including transportation alternatives like biking - for Americans.  This is part of the Climate Ride, and my organization, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light - through the National IPL office - will be a financial beneficiary of this ride.  I need to raise $2400 in order to be eligible to ride - and I am almost 10% to goal at this point.  I will be including a few posts between now and September 21 (the beginning of the ride) about where I am in both my fundraising efforts and in my training efforts.

So, like any kid, I learned to ride a bike at a young age.  I'd have to check in with my parents to know how old I was, but I remember my pink and purple bike and learning to ride on our street and down in the cul-de-sac.  I also remember heading down the driveway one day and veering into our ivy bank to avoid running into the street as a car came down the hill.  I'm sure that wasn't the first time I had a "bike accident," but it certainly wasn't the last.

Over the years I've had phases with bikes.  In college, during my sophomore year, I got a bike because I lived on the edge of campus in the only campus apartments at the time, and needed a bike to get to class on time.  My dad and I went shopping and I bought a bike at Dicks.  Nothing super fancy or expensive, but it did the job.  It also came with me to Tech, but spent most of the time in the closet, since I was afraid to ride on Howell Mill to campus.

During my internship in seminary, I lucked out and got a sweet bike rack for my car in our white elephant gift exchange.  It made it easier to take my bike places, but still for the most part it hung out in closets or the garage.  My dad and brother (along with other extended family members) rode the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure a couple times, but I never got a chance to join them.  However, the three of us would occasionally go for long bike rides - around 15-20 miles - and I was always able to keep up.

This ride averages 60 miles a day.  So this year for my birthday, I convinced my parents that my 15+ year old, hybrid bike, just wasn't going to cut it.  I was gifted with my first real road bike!  I've had it now for a little over two months, and have already put over 150 miles on it.  I've ridden in Roswell, GA; Williamsburg, VA; Richmond, VA; from Alexandria VA down to Mt. Vernon and also up to Silver Springs, MD.  I've ridden in the pouring rain and the (seemingly) desert heat.  I've ridden solo and with friends.

Over my lifetime I've logged plenty of miles on a bike - last year when I worked at the running store 4.5 miles from the house I rode my bike - on major roads - to work.  At that time, I decided to invest in clip-in shoes and pedals.  I was a little apprehensive, and trained on the trainer a few times before taking them out on the road.  But I never fell, never had trouble unclipping at traffic lights, or any of the classic newbie cyclist problems with clips.  That is, until the last couple of weeks.

Two weeks ago, I left the office around 5 on a Friday afternoon and decided I needed to get in a ride.  Richmond is not the safest place to ride, and while they are working on constructing a 55-mile "Capital to Capital" trail from Richmond to Williamsburg, none of it is complete on the Richmond side.  However, there are long stretches closer to Williamsburg that are off the road but paved, and a good place to log some miles - on the bike or running.  So I put my bike on my bike rack and headed out.  I found a spot to park as it started sprinkling, and geared up.  I headed out to the trail, but quickly realized I had forgotten to turn on my lights.  Even though I'd be on the trail, it was nearing dusk and I knew the safe option was to turn on my lights.  But instead of stopping, I tried to turn them on while on the bike.  And down I fell.  Ended up with a scraped up knee, a-la a 5 year old, but got right back up and headed out for my 8.7 mile ride.

This past weekend, I headed up to NOVA to go for a long ride with my friend Meredith.  We had done the south leg from Alexandria to Mt. Vernon about a month ago, so this time we decided to head north. Neither of us were as familiar with this segment, so there were a couple times we had to figure out our plans - one being about 7 miles in, in the middle of Roslyn, right by the Key Bridge.  Well, Meredith just stopped (she doesn't use clips), and I unclipped on the left, and then fell to the right.  Had some road rash, and a slight bruise, (more of a bruised ego falling around all those people), but was still able to hop back on the bike and ride away.

We made the decision to really put in the miles, and rode all the way up to Silver Springs, MD!  Roundtrip it turned out to be a ~38 mile ride - unfortunately my GPS stopped in Georgetown so I'm not sure how accurate my mileage was. So, why did my GPS stop in Georgetown?  Well, we came back to Alexandria a slightly different route than we had taken out and as we were riding down by the waterside, I couldn't quite find the trail.  Again, I unclipped on one side and fell to the other.  For some reason this fall was harder than the first.  I got a scrap on my arm, some nasty bruises on the sides of my knees, and more road rash.  Meredith helped me up, and strangers rushed over to make sure I was ok.  I shook it off and we headed off towards home.  Shortly after we got going, I looked down to realize one of my handlebars was bent - and there was no manually fixing it.  Those last 5-10 miles (because again, GPS crapped out and I'm not quite sure how long it was) were really rough.  My arm was throbbing, my head was hurting, and not to mention it was getting really warm out.  But I survived - WE survived.  I'm so grateful for Meredith hanging in there with me for a 3 hour, ~40 mile ride (with a couple stops).  I'm also glad that if I was going to fall a couple times, I had a friend there to help me get back up and keep going.

I'm on my way to managing 300 miles over 5 days.  Even with these falls, I'm excited about this journey, and expanding my fitness horizons.  Who knows, maybe one day I'll think about more than just a sprint triathlon!  In the meantime, I'll keep logging miles - and asking gently that you support my ride ;)

Here's what I've learned: Life is like riding a bike - sometimes we fall.  But we have to get back up and keep going.  Sometimes it's easy to get back up, sometimes it's hard.  But we keep going. 

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