How chasing a storm and dodging cyclists got me closer to my goal ride
“EXTREME ALERT: Tornado Warning in this area til 11:00 AM. Take shelter now. –National Weather Service”
This was the text I received at 10:34 a.m. on Saturday, approximately 10 minutes after I walked in the door sopping wet. The downpour started just three or four miles from my house at the tail end of a 35-mile ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back.
My cycling buddies for the day—Caitlin (the powerhouse with the late-starting engine) and my childhood friend Juan (a former Marine)—and I were hoping to bag 40 miles that morning, but with the dark looming clouds overhead (call me “rider on the storm”), we didn't want to press our luck. So after two fast loops at 18 mph in Central Park, we decided to skip the third 6.1-mile loop and head home. The change of plans came as a relief. I was happy to end a little early and save my legs for the 75-miler on Sunday. Also, I have to admit, I didn't mind getting caught in the rain for the last bit. There was something surprisingly empowering about pedaling on slick streets with poor visibility. If you've ever run in the rain, you know what I mean. Though the tornado was a no-show and it turned out to be a sunny day, I wouldn't have changed anything about the great training ride—even being soaked to the bone.
That afternoon, my Bikram-obsessed sister Maria shared some yoga moves with me to help loosen my limbs for Sunday's ride. Two words: half pigeon. Oh yeah, that hit the spot, specifically my tight hammies. A few downward dogs were great for my tight calves and Achilles, too. And some modified back-bends did wonders for my stiff neck, which has been wonky for years since I never look up anymore (who does?).
Waking up at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday was brutal. But it's important for me to be able to have a leisure cup of coffee, eat a slice of bread with Justin's maple almond butter and meticulously go over all the items I'll need for the day, including my pocket fuel (two packs of cran razz-flavored Clif Shot Bloks, two packs of vanilla-flavored Honey Stinger Waffles, and a salty-sweet Mojo Bar), hydration (two bottles of water, one containing a Nuun tablet for low-cal electrolytes), a pair of sunglasses, lip balm, sunblock, bike gloves (I love POW), and a few more items.
Around 6:30, I met my cousin Rich (he's new to cycling and already a beast on the bike) to start our 75-mile ride as marshals (aka, neon-orange-vested volunteers who act like road rangers to ensure order and safety and help change a flat or two along the way) at the 23rd annual NYC Century Bike Tour, an event that passes through four of the five boroughs to raise money and awareness for transportation alternatives, such as bike lanes, in the city. Marshalling is an awesome way to sign up for an organized event last-minute, which is what Rich and I did when my friend Courtney asked me to join her on this ride two days earlier. Together, the three of us made for an excellent team, knowing when to push each other on the flats and when to slow down to chit-chat and laugh our chamois off. Along the way, Rich and I even helped with three flats (great practice and good karma!), and he fixed a guy's back brake, which was impressive to watch.
The hardest part of the ride for me wasn't sore legs from Saturday's ride, as I suspected. It was pedaling with a swarm of erratic strangers in traffic (and y'all know how I feel about riding with cars). An unpredictable cyclist is the worst kind. Risky behavior is one thing if you're riding alone, but when you're in a group, if you cross a red light or blow a stop sign, others are likely to follow you, and that's both dangerous and dumb. I've seen cyclists follow others right into oncoming traffic. It makes me wince every time I hear a car honk and see the tiny two-wheeler swerve out of the way of the behemoth four-wheeler.
For the first hour of the ride, I tried to get people to stop at lights and ride on the right side of the road versus scattered all over, but when folks didn't listen, I started to feel like a buzzkill, which just caused my shoulders to hike up to my ears and my face to grimace. This is not how I wanted to spend this beautiful sunny Sunday, so I eventually took a chill pill and continued to ride "my way," hoping to lead by example. And from that point on I had a blast—I honestly think I was smiling from ear-to-ear for the rest of the day.
I'm happy to report that my legs felt pretty good throughout the six-and-a-half-hour ride. I wouldn't say they were fresh, but my muscles weren't screaming at me the whole time either, so that was nice. My rear and neck were the most sore. I've come to terms that my saddle will never feel like a couch, however, I think I can fix my neck problem with a good bike fit (more on this later). And my overall energy was high. I probably could have continued to the Bronx and completed the 100-mile route, but I was glad to cross the finish line at 81 miles (we took a few minor detours to check out the velodrome in Queens).
Here are how my ride stats over the weekend compare to my goal ride (YSC Tour de Pink):
Training Ride (weekend of Sept 8-9):
Total miles: 116
Total elevation gain: ~6,000 feet
Goal Ride (weekend of Oct 12-14):
Total miles: 200
Total elevation gain: 12,800 feet
Tour de Pink is about a month away, and I'm already 50 percent prepared. I'm confident my coach's training plan will help take me the rest of the way. Stay tuned for that plan later this week!
Today's workout: I'm hitting up a 45-minute SoulCycle class with my childhood bestie, Tatiana. She's never been, and I'm stoked to introduce her to the hottest (literally, everyone is so good looking) spin class in the city!
Follow me @XstinaGoyanesfor live training updates.