Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Cyclist's Journey - The Beginning

I know that this blog is intended to document the knitting side of my life but, as you can see, the posts have been very few and far between the past few years.  I guess I prefer the liberties that Twitter and Instagram have fits into my lifestyle much easier.

For those who know or follow me outside of this blog and Ravelry, you know the journey I've taken this year.  My personal accomplishment was my weight loss.  The primary factor - exercise in the form of walking, running and cycling.  Let me tell you the story.

For years, my husband and son would go out bike riding on trails in the spring/summer.  I would stay at home with CC.  Then CC was able to go with them, on a tandem attachment to hubby's bike, and I would be left at home.  Honestly, I never minded.  I was able to relax, knit and catch up on my DVR'd shows (Nashville, Dallas, Grey's, etc).

But as CC got older, they were able to ride longer...and would often be gone for hours at a time.  I had no idea where they went.  I didn't know what trails they were on...or even what town they were in!  I started to miss them.

In late April of this year, my whole life changed.

We were in Sports Authority, kicking around looking at stuff, when I casually said "I might like a bike like that some day".  Hubby took this as "We're buying her a bike, immediately!".  If you know my husband, you understand that there is no grace period with him - if you say "we need a new car", he would be online looking at cars in the next breathe.  This happens often, so I have to be careful about what I suggest we might need/want around the house.

So there I was, looking at some hybrid-looking bike, trying out their seats/heights/pedals. Looking at the price tag was a whole other story.  I didn't want to spend a lot.  Who knew how much riding I would do.  Maybe I would ride once and tuck it away in the shed, never to be seen again.  For me, this was a big decision.  I recalled uncomfortable rides, aching lady areas, soreness everywhere. My head said "don't spend any money you might regret".

We left Sports Authority and went to Target, continuing our errands for the day.  Naturally, bicycles were on my mind and as we passed by their selection a nice white Schwinn caught my eye.  It was less expensive.  It was pretty.  We bought it.  I was still apprehensive, but feeling better about the situation, especially if it meant spending more time with my family.

The following weekend, another family we know asked us to join them for a trail ride out near Long Valley, NJ.  We got the bikes on the cars and hit the road.  Figuring it was a quick ride to wherever we were going (I was the only newbie), I left my beloved knitting at home.  Well...that was a mistake.  So I grumbled: "I didn't know we would be in the car this long", "I could have brought my knitting", "how much longer until we get there?", and "where are you taking me? Is this kidnapping?". Yes, I sounded just like a kid being tortured by a "long" car ride.  I had no perception of if we were "almost there yet". I was at the mercy of the driver and I was getting frustrated.  We weren't even riding our bikes yet!  What a waste of time this was becoming.  I should have just stayed home.

Eventually (which seemed like forever), we arrived at a place called "Columbia Trail" (part of the Rails to Trails program).  Our friends wore special biking shorts - while I had on regular ones.  Our friends' kids' had biking gloves. I had bare hands. I thought "All this gear for a little trail ride?".

I remember being in the back of the group for most of the ride.  Our friends daughter (age 10) finally asked "How come you've never gone riding with us before, Mrs C?" and I said, politely, "Why do you think?"  She took her time and thought about it "You've never had a bike before?" and I smiled at her.  We then asked her brother, who had been up ahead, why he thought I had never been riding.  He said "you don't like bikes?".  We laughed.  He finally figured it out too.  They've had bikes for as long as they could remember, so for an adult to be "bike-less" at my age, well, that was just a crazy concept.

We rode 7 miles that day and it was fun.  I didn't feel sore. My lady parts weren't screaming at me.  I thought "Hmm, maybe this will become a regular thing for us, as a family".

As the summer approached, I started alternating bike rides with walking and running when I got home from work.  We started incorporating trail rides into our weekend.  Hubby and I started losing weight...and a lot of it.

By the beginning of August, I had shed 20 lbs. I was feeling great, and my clothes were feeling  loose.  I was also getting "the itch" to ride on the road.  Hubby had no desire for the same (well, not yet at least).

We were out on a local highway one Saturday, about to pass a "local bike shop" so I jokingly said "let's go into Marty's".  You know that I didn't have to say it twice...we were in that parking lot faster than you can say Shimano (it's a cycling brand).

History: My husband bought his mountain bike at Marty's Reliable (Morristown) in 2000. Marty Epstein, the owner himself, sold him the bike.  He's raved about Marty's for years.  While I would always pass the store thinking it was a place for bike snobs...people who would laugh at me for not knowing the lingo, not knowing the proper terms, because I owned a bike I bought at Target.  I could not have been more wrong.

Back at the Randolph location of Marty's, I entered the store with skepticism.  There were a lot of bikes, and parts, and gear!  It was overwhelming.  We asked a sales guy for assistance and started with the women's bikes.  I had so many questions.  Then we discovered that all of the women's bikes were too small for me (I am 5'11" after all).  I had to look at men's bikes.  Meh, no offense taken.  We found a nice Trek Madone that fit and road nice around the parking lot and down the side road.  But, geez, do you know how much decent road bikes sell for?! Yikes!  It was a GIANT step up from my Schwinn, to say the least.  And I was not ready for it, not ready at all.

I tried to compare cycling to knitting, something I know a lot about.  I would best describe it as going from Lion Brand yarn and Boye needles (from Michaels) to MadelineTosh and Addi Turbos at your local yarn shop.  There's a place in my knitting for both, but I prefer the later.  The same holds true with cycling.

We thanked the sales guy for his information and assistance and put the bike on hold, to consider overnight.  Hubby and I discussed the pros and cons of the cost.  His best response: If you're going to ride, you should be comfortable and have a bike that you LIKE to ride, not something I'm settling for.  He has said the same about knitting needles and yarn.  He apparently applies this theory to lots of things in life.

Feeling discouraged by the numbers, we took a drive over to the Morristown store the next day. I'm going to totally geek out right now - but it was the best day ever!  We met Mark B and he showed me the Trek Domane 4.5.  She is the most beautiful bike in the world.  I rode her around the parking lot.  And then I rode her around some more.  It was the weekend after the Warrior Dash and I was wearing my red shirt from that, and a tennis skirt.  It was a beautiful day.  I didn't even look at the price tag because I knew I would change my mind.  But how can you put a price tag on love??  Hubby and Mark worked together so that we wound up purchasing the Domane AND one of her aluminum cousin's, so Hubby and I could ride together.

To justify the cost, I picked up extra knitting and tech editing jobs and started (GASP!) selling off some of my extensive yarn stash.  My kids thought I was ill.  Mom...selling her yarn...had she gone mad?!  Mom, who hadn't ridden a bike before April, now owned the most expensive bike in the house?? And not just one bike, but TWO!!  Mom, who always stayed home, was now out cycling more than anyone in the neighborhood?  The times, they were changing.

Fast forward to today.

I'm happy to report a total loss of 34 lbs! And I think Hubby is around 25 and holding steady.  60 lbs between us - how awesome is that?!?!

I've ridden Columbia trail from Long Valley, past Califon and to "the big bridge".

I know a seat is called a saddle, and the handle bar connector is called a stem.

I've ridden 550 miles and spent about 44 hours in the saddle.  I've fallen more than I'd like to count while learning how to get in/out of my clips.  Bloody shins and bruises have marked my body for several months.  I am a cyclist - hear me roar!

My longest ride was 28 miles doing Escape New York in early September (from Columbia University in NYC, across the George Washington Bridge and up into Bergen County, NJ).  It was amazing.

We've done other 20+ miles rides together, but usually go out for a cool dozen or so :o)

We have cyclist friends.  We read Bicycling magazine.  We geek out over new toys and tech gear and the like.  We have a trainer to use when it's cold outside.  We've spent a lot of money.

And...(proudly) we are regulars at Marty's.  We know most of the guys' names in the store and service department.  There isn't one guy who wouldn't stop what he's doing to explain, answer, assist.  They are cycling rock stars.  I've even met Marty a couple times...and probably gushed a little more than I should have.  We've done two rides with him in the group.  Unfortunately, on the most recent ride, my chain fell off as we were riding up a hill.  I took a hard fall (the right side of my body hates me) and Marty came up and helped me get everything back where it should be.  My pride was also bruised, but I always get up and get riding again.  This is how you learn.

Now that you've heard the background, I'll tell you what the future holds.

A group of us (I think there are currently 5, but could be as many as 7) from the neighborhood have signed up to participate in NJ's Gran Fondo on September 7, 2014.  There are 4 stages you can select: 18, 43, 63 or 107 miles.  The majority of us have chosen the full distance (ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN MILES), but I think one of the other women and I may only ride 63 miles.  I'll train as much as I can and make the decision as the ride nears.  It was quite daunting to click a button for 107 miles. I actually felt a little queasy.  But I'm in it.  I'm nervous/excited!

Now that you've read all about my new obsession, I'm planning on blogging about my Quest for the Fondo over the next 9 months.  It's going to be a rollercoaster of highs and lows.  Won't you come along for the ride? :o)

See you on the road...or knitting.

All my best!