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

Lessons from the ground

“Wow, that was a close call,” I thought, my body slumped over the top of one of New Jersey’s bucolic stone bridges “I nearly crashed.” If my body didn’t land on the ground, I reasoned, then it wasn’t technically a crash. Fifty miles to go. Let’s do this. The adrenaline surged through my body as a friend pointed out that my knee was bleeding and my bike only had one operating brake. This could be a problem. And my shoulder’s a little stiff, but if I just fix this brake I can still get in my long ride for the week and be strong for my first road race (ever) in a month. This is just a minor setback.

IMG_1413But an hour later, I wasn’t training. I was sitting in the bike shop with one stiff knee and a shoulder that was slowly seizing up, staring at the chipped paint on my frame. But it could be worse and had I really crashed? I was always afraid of crashing during races, not group rides, especially not when I was flying downhill away from the pack. I hadn’t crashed. I just stopped myself from crashing by grabbing onto the bridge. Continue reading

How to find the perfect women’s group ride

I love suffering in a pack of male riders. I’ve even been told that I “ride like I have balls.” But sometimes a girl yearns for a break from the boy’s club and some time with her own species. Maybe it’s the lack of ball-busting and talks/displays of bodily functions, but there’s just a different vibe in a group of women. Men might think we’re non-competitive, but some of the best women’s rides display all the friendly attacks and quad-busting efforts of a testosterone fest. While men’s rides are a dime a dozen, finding a good group of women to ride with can be a life-long search. Here are some tips to find your own group. Continue reading

Back to basics

It turns out the cure for my burnout wasn’t to take a vacation or to challenge myself with another sport.  I just needed to get my ass kicked. I’d been sitting around for two weeks resting a sore calf and hamstring and feeling dreadfully slow and sorry for myself. My season’s over, I reasoned, and I didn’t even want to imagine the pain Gran Fondo NJ would bring in two short weeks.  It’s funny how you spend months on the trainer and the road plugging away day after day. Then a low period strikes and it’s hard to resist the urge to pull the plug on the entire season. Continue reading

Ring in the new

Yesterday I did something completely new. I rode. Outside. On January 1st. As a New Yorker, I’ve grown accustomed to hunkering down between Thanksgiving and Saint Patricks Day and giving my indoor trainer a good beating.

New Years day was the kind of weather that had people stripping off jackets and donning only light full-finger gloves. We’re talking low to mid 50s and sunny here, people. Something almost unheard of up here in ski and ice skating country.

So we posted a ride…and people came. Twenty-six cyclists to be exact, a number that would be impressive on any Saturday morning in July. Just feeling the warmth and excitement of everyone on their bikes was incredible. During the summer months it’s so easy to get used to spending hours a week together, riding shoulder-to-shoulder, chatting about everything and nothing as the miles tick by.  Then daylight savings time ends and, except for the brave few who slug it out year-round, we suddenly find ourselves cut off from many wonderful connections and conversations.

This year has been especially hard because it was a collection of lasts. Job and school commitments are forcing us to relocate, away from the rolling hills and traffic-less roads that almost feel like an extension of our own bodies. It’s hard to say goodbye to the people who have waited for us at stop signs, passed us extra water on summer’s hottest days and shared advice that we’ll forever carry with us.

As the peloton filed out under the warm winter sun yesterday, it felt as though nothing had changed. We quickly settled into the draft, striking up conversations and challenging our off-season legs to fall into a familiar rhythm. For 30 miles, there was no past or future. Just today.