Monday, September 10, 2012

My First Gran Fondo!

Yesterday was the big day--I participated in my very first Gran Fondo and finished with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and a smile on my face. If you're unfamiliar with the term, a Gran Fondo is a mass participation bike event that is typically a century (100 miles) or longer and is also typically held annually. It is not a race, although some Gran Fondos such as this one, have timed sections. In the case of this Fondo, the four toughest climbs were timed. The Fondo I did yesterday was the 2nd annual NJ Gran Fondo and covered 107.4 miles with 9110 ft. of elevation gain throughout the course. That's a lot of climbing!

I had been training for this long ride for months now with my friend and cycling partner. We have been riding rolling hills and climbs since I started biking, and this spring we even ventured out onto the Fondo route to practice some even tougher ones. Prior to yesterday, the longest ride I had done was 70 miles, so you can imagine I had some trepidation about riding 107 miles in the Fondo. But I did it! I want to say it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be... but it was. lol! Yet.. I handled the mental part better than I expected AND in the end, as exhausted as I was and as tired and achy my legs were those last 15 miles or so.. I felt pretty darned good crossing that finish line. :)

Up at 4 am to eat, use the bathroom multiple teams and pack my gear into the car.

What I ate: 1 egg, scrambled
                  1/2 cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese
                  4 oz. orange juice
                  4 oz. vitamin water
                  1/2 a peach

At the 2012 NJ Gran Fondo START
We were on the road by 5:30 am and arrived at the start line by 6:40 am or so ready to ride. I was really nervous in the morning, but after we were all geared up and at the start area, I did calm down a little.

On my bike: Two 24 oz. water bottles, both 2 parts vitamin water and 1 part water

What I ate: 1/3 Apple pie Larabar

After a 15 minute delay the ride finally started at 7:15 am. It was pretty fun riding through the streets of downtown Morristown in a big pack of cyclists. The sound of bikes whizzing through the streets and I was a part of it! After about 5 minutes into the ride, I wasn't nervous at all anymore. Yay!

The route was pretty crowded with cyclists for at least the first 20 miles. Not so crowded that it felt dangerous, but there were always riders around you. A lot different than when Maureen and I ride out there alone in the wee hours of weekend mornings!

I collided with a bee and it stung me right on the face along my jawline! OUCH!!!! I hadn't been stung by a bee in a really long time. It freaking hurts! The stinging lasted at least 30 minutes and it even felt numb after a while. It did subside, but even now it stings a little and itches, too.

I took this photo somewhere between mile 15 and 20 while riding. We had just turned onto this flat road and it was a low key moment. There were quite a few times on the ride after this when I wished I could take a picture, but I was too focused on riding or too tired or plain just didn't want to stop. So here's my one photo of actual biking going on. ;)

On the road.
NJ Gran Fondo, September 9, 2012
MILE 20 Rest Stop. 9:06 am
This first rest stop was really crowded. We made quick work of using the porta potties and grabbed some food.

What I ate: 1/2 peanut butter sandwich
                  2/3 Apple Larabar

MILE 43 Rest Stop. 10:51 am
This rest stop was past the turn off for riders who were doing the shorter versions of the Gran Fondo so from here on all the riders were in for the long haul of 107.4 miles. This rest stop was less crowded, but we still didn't stay long. Grabbed some more food and topped our water bottles with powerade and water. I usually dilute sports drinks while I'm riding to 2 parts sports drink to 1 part water.

What I ate: handful of grapes
                  1/2 a peach
                  3 orange wedges
                  1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich

We were now on parts of the route I have never ridden. In fact, I haven't even been in this area of New Jersey in a car! Beautiful countryside, although I have to admit for the most part I was focused on cycling and not sight seeing. I did get a little bit of a cramp in my side after the above mentioned rest stop, but I think maybe it was too much food or too much acidity with the oranges and the peach. I felt better after mile 50 or so.

MILE 63 Rest Stop. 12:23 pm.
Past the mid mark of the route! Yay! Two timed climbs behind us and two more to go. By now I was getting hot and my back started to feel a little uncomfortable, so I was hoping to find some shade to sit and stretch a little. However, this rest stop was in a huge open area with no shade! A parking lot surrounded by grass with no trees and it was probably the hottest part of the day at this point. We parked our bikes, which means we laid them down in the grass. Some guy next to us was putting on sunscreen and I asked if I could have a squirt. I applied sunscreen at 6:30 am but I didn't bring any along and all of a sudden I knew that was a mistake. This guy gave me his tube of sunscreen! How nice is that. I offered it to other people when I was done but no one wanted it. Honestly, he saved me from a sunburn. I got more color to my skin by the end of this day than I had all summer long. I would have been burned if I hadn't reapplied sunscreen here. Again, we moved on after topping off our water bottles and fueling up.

What I ate: 4 orange wedges
                  2 bites of a banana
                  handful of grapes
                  1/2 peanut butter and jelly sandwich

MILE 80 Rest Stop: 2:04 pm
Back in familiar territory since mile 70 or so, I can picture the rest of the ride in my mind and it's doable, even though I'm starting to feel pretty tired. This rest stop is low on food but I manage to force myself to eat some more. Nothing is really appealing anymore. I had read that there was going to be gelato at the rest stops and I'm wondering where the heck it is at this point because I want it. Oh and I use the porta potty here and guess what? I got my period! Okay now I'm feeling pretty freaking amazing. I'm at mile 80 of a 107 mile ride and I JUST GOT MY PERIOD. I AM WOMAN HEAR ME ROAR! And whimper a little, but mostly roar. At least it wasn't raining, right? In the meantime, my family texts me the cutest picture ever of the three of them and a 'You can do it!' cheer and I actually get choked up. We ate a little, topped our water bottles, and were off.

What I ate: handful of hot grapes [who leaves grapes out in the sun??]
                  1 anzac cookie.

MILE 93 Rest Stop. 3:28 pm
We debated whether or not we were going to stop at this one or just ride straight through the last 14 miles, but I was in front and signaled to my partner that we were stopping. We pulled into the parking lot and I told her I just wanted to quickly check if they had gelato here. If not we could move on right away. She said she just knew that's what I was after. Hey, I do not deny my love and desire for frozen desserts! Lo and behold they had gelato! Finally!

Blueberry swirl pop at Mile 93 :)

What I ate: 1 fabulous gelato pop.
                  {Blueberry swirl.}
                  1 handful of grapes
                  4 orange wedges
                  1/3 Blueberry muffin Larabar

We set off on the last leg of our ride and now we were really fatigued. At this point, my legs started to ache but knowing we were so close to the end helped me get back on that bike and keep going. Let me tell you they made us work for that finish line, though, because we were still climbing hills up until about a mile before the finish. I'm not kidding.

MILE 107.4 FINISH LINE 4:37 pm

WE DID IT!!!!!! I finished with very tired, achy legs but felt pretty darned thrilled with what I accomplished today. I'm really happy about the whole experience and would definitely do it again.
Self portrait at finish line.
NJ Gran Fondo, September 9, 2012
We biked 107.4 miles in 8:04:25. That's 8 hours, 4 minutes and 25 seconds.
We were out on the course for about 9 hours and 19 minutes, including the time spent at rest stops. That's approximately 15 minutes spent at each rest stop.

I burned approximately 4670 calories.

I and my friend & cycling partner at finish line.
NJ Gran Fondo, September 9, 2012
Ignore the fact that one of my arms is two shades paler than the other!!! Lighting issues. We are standing in dappled sunlight beneath a city tree in the sidewalk. It's true! ;)

Would you believe we actually got back on our bikes and rode through the parking deck to find our car? Uphill in the parking deck, too! I had to laugh at that.

On the way home I finished any food I had on me--which wasn't much!-- and most of my drinks. Interestingly, we weren't that hungry when we were finished.

What I ate: 2/3 Blueberry muffin Larabar

At home, my family came out to the driveway when I pulled in and greeted me with smiles, hugs, kisses and congratulations. They are my best support team! My oldest even baked sugar cookies for me, which I sampled right away. After telling them tales from my ride for a good 20 minutes and a glorious shower, we had Thai take out for dinner and then some homemade pistachio ice cream that I made on Saturday just for after the Fondo. It was amazing!

Thank you all for your support, encouragement and cheers along the way of this journey. If there is one lesson I can pass on to you, it is to not be afraid to try something new, even something difficult that you could never imagine yourself doing. Decide to do it, set some realistic goals and get out there and do it. Because if I can decide to bike 107 miles and get out there and do it . . . so can you. Don't believe me? Just think, less than three years ago I wrote a post titled BIKE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD. Today I wrote a post titled MY FIRST GRAN FONDO!

Believe in yourself. xo


  1. What a cool story! I always find your healthy living posts so inspirational. You make me think I can do it. What's your next challenge?

  2. That is crazy impressive!

  3. Yay you! I was thinking of you on Sunday, hoping you were having fun. Sounds like you were. Congratulations!

  4. That's so amazing!!
    I wish I had even half your energy :D

  5. I am so happy for you Christine! What an awesome accomplishment, you don't look even a little tired at the end there!


  6. You are absolutely amazing! I am so proud of you for accomplishing so much! Congratulations for finishing your First (but knowing you, not last) Gran Fondo!

  7. Christine! That is one heck of an accomplishment. One hundred and seven miles...that's pretty intense. You can hear the pride you feel in your post. It's awesome having something like that to look back on. Huge congrats on your first Gran Fondo!!

  8. Congratulations, Ms. Christine! Awesome, awesome results. ;D


  9. Horray! Congratulations, Christine!!! This is awesome! You're awesome!

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I SO appreciate all of the support and encouragement you've all given me as I've trained for this ride. It's very helpful for me to work through my fears and uncertainties on my blog as I've gone from the frustrated newbie of three years ago to a well.. whatever it is that I am today. Lol! Thank you for listening and encouraging me! xo :)

  11. Terrific to see all the details and the photos. Woohoo! What a wonderful experience. Well, except for the bee.

    Joy's Book Blog

  12. Thanks Kate and Joy! It was quite a day. :)

  13. Wooohooo, great job Christine! You did awesome and it sure sounds like you had a great time :) How did you feel the next day?

    Tough luck on the bee sting and the periods :( Hey, perhaps that's why you started having back aches.

  14. WOW, good for you! This is awesome, huge congrats.


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