Four ways to become a stronger, faster cyclist

After 18 weeks of preparation, it all came down to 3 hours and 46 minutes. That’s the time it took me to find the finish line after 65 grueling miles at the Tour of the Battenkill. I was elated and exhausted by the end. Sure I was ecstatic over my performance, but I was also extremely proud of (and a bit surprised by) the athlete I had become over those four months. I knew when I signed up that I wasn’t going to half-ass it until April. I tend to do things in a big way and this was no different. I planned to carefully follow my training plan and to use my diet and recovery tactics to see just how great I could become. It turns out these strategies paid off big time. Continue reading

The Heaven and Hell of Hunterdon

BethRobHOH

I could write a typical ride report, stating how perfect the weather was for a spring classic and complaining about how brutal a course the Hell of Hunterdon is, especially in March, but that wasn’t what yesterday was about for me. Cycling has the power to break you down and build you up and yesterday’s ride was a little of the former and bucket loads of the latter. I arrived shaky and nervous about riding in a group, especially with 18 sections of dirt and gravel. I didn’t know how my shoulder would hold up or if my legs could go for 79 miles and hit 5,700 feet after resting all of last week. I assumed I would cut the course early and use it as the week’s long ride in my training plan. Continue reading

Be your own queen of the mountain

Yesterday something truly magical happened. Out of 99 women on the medio Gran Fondo NJ route, I placed second on the timed climbs and got the QOM on a tough climb with double digit grades. Me? A climber? Wait, did someone swap timing chips? Remember, I’m the girl who spent years dropped off the back, scaling the elevation solo.

But the magic wasn’t a fluke or a random lucky day. It’s been in the works for two seasons now, slowly percolating since the day I stopped dreading ascents and decided it was time to shape myself into a climber. A few changes made a huge impact. Continue reading

The Strava Effect

“That’s him. I think it’s him!” my husband blurts out as a dude slumped over the aero bars of a brand new Specialized flashes a grin on a straight stretch of early morning road.

Nothing more has to be said. I’ve never met the guy, never ridden with him. But I know who he is. We both do. He is just a name and a tiny photo on a leader board, but he has also just bumped my husband to second place, stripping him of a precious KOM crown.

I remember a simpler time when hills were just hills and the only competition stemmed from the group of riders who hit the climbs with me. The first one to the top was the fastest, the KOM, the time to beat. Period. I often ascended long climbs alone, not knowing if I was fast or slow. I always felt slow and deemed a climb successful based purely on the fact that I had pedaled to the top without blowing up and stopping to rest.

I’m more of a recreational rider than a racer, but when I started uploading my Garmin to Strava, something ignited inside of me. That tiny voice that guiltily kept score of the times I beat my friends on a climb or launched a successful attack, now had a megaphone. Some people complain that Strava is too competitive and takes away from the true essence of what it means to ride a bike. For me, it’s just the opposite. Continue reading