Monday, September 3, 2012

One Gran Fondo, Coming Up!

Almost sounds like a coffee order, doesn't it? ;)

Some of you may recall that I participated in my first sprint triathlon last September? Like I'd let you forget. ;) You may also recall me mentioning that my best event in the tri was the biking. Whereas I placed in the 23rd percentile overall, in the individual events I was slightly above average in the running, a bit below average in the swimming, and I managed to kick butt in the biking placing in the 4th percentile! I was surprised and thrilled with this achievement. I decided very shortly after the tri to focus on my strength and maybe sign up to do a biking event in 2012. One of my friends wanted to do the same thing so we decided back in September 2011 to do the 2nd annual NJ Gran Fondo that takes place in September 2012. A Gran Fondo is an Italian name typically used in the United States to describe a mass-participation cycling event that is usually held annually and usually a century [100 miles or 161 km] or longer. The 2012 NJ Gran Fondo is 107.4 miles [171 km] and 9108 ft [2766 m] of elevation gain. And IT'S NEXT SUNDAY!

Okay so if you've been paying attention to my monthly adventure posts, I've been reporting the miles I and my friend [and cycling partner] have put into training for the upcoming Fondo. We rode all winter long, nearly every Saturday or Sunday as long as there was no rain or snow falling and temperatures were above freezing. Those mornings when the temperature hovered around the freezing mark, we didn't ride more than an hour or two, 20-30 miles maximum. Then as winter gave way to spring, we started riding longer and more frequently. Then we threw in some even longer rides, up to 70 miles [112.7 km] or so. Once the kids were out of school we started riding early on weekday mornings as well. We also rode sections of the actual Fondo course a few times, including the toughest climb which still kicks my butt.

A few weeks ago, while my cycling partner was on vacation, I did a 63 mile ride [The Medio Fondo named Best Ride in New Jersey by Bicycling Magazine!] with three women I had never met before [I found them through an email contact in a local tri women training group from last year]. It took a lot of courage for me to do this. So many unknowns involved--riding with strangers, a route I've never done before, my comparative skill and endurance levels, and so on. But I did it and it was eye-opening and humbling. I struggled on and off to keep up with the pace of the group on this ride, both with speed and endurance. It was not my longest ride to date, but it was certainly the most challenging. It seemed there was always a hill in front of us. The course did have more elevation gain in the 63 miles [5400 ft.] than I had ever done in a single ride before, so at least it gave me a clue why I had such a hard time. But this route was clearly indicative of the entire Fondo and all I could think was, "I am in TROUBLE!" :(

Needless to say, after this ride, I started to doubt my ability to complete the Fondo. My anxiety went through the roof and I admit I even shed a few tears because of it. I can hear my cycling partner in my head as I type this: "No crying in cycling!" She's right! There should never be a reason to cry doing a sport you enjoy. I really need to learn to relax and just go with the flow and not worry. Why do I get so worked up over biking. This is supposed to be fun! Not stressful! I've been working very hard on that in the last two weeks and feel better today than I did two weeks ago after that grueling ride. I really believe our mind is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal. That whole mind over matter thing... that having a positive attitude really plays a roll in our success.

My new bike pedals
Oh and getting bike shoes and clipless pedals helped too. Yeah, I'm embarrassing to admit, but for the last three years since I started cycling, I have been using regular sneakers and toe cages [straps and clips] on the pedals. I have been too chicken to get the proper set up on my bike, not to mention the expense. But my sweet husband picked up on my anxiety and that I wanted to get bike shoes and new pedals, but I was scared of the change and scared of falling and is it smart to make this change with less than three weeks to the Fondo, etc., and he bought me new bike shoes and pedals two days later for an anniversary gift! It took me a couple of days to get up my nerve to try it, but after 30 minutes in an empty parking lot and just one fall, I got the hang of it. Now I've been riding around for the last week as if I always had them. :)

So for the next week, the plan is to take it easy exercise wise--nothing strenuous. Maybe just an easy ride or two to keep warmed up so to speak, but not fatigued. Absolutely nothing on Saturday and maybe nothing on Friday, either. Aside from that, the rest of my focus will be to relax mentally. No anxiety, no worries. I'm going to finish the ride. I'm ready. I'm going to feel happy about the whole thing.

As long as it doesn't rain. :|

And I don't get my period next weekend. :/

What kinds of activities cause you stress? How do you manage your anxiety?

Have you ever biked a century or Fondo? What advice can you give a first timer?


  1. Ok first off, I adore you. It's been such a pleasure watching you do this over the last couple of years, C. Good for you.

    Second, holy crap! You have to have proper equipment! Clipping in is essential. Yes, you'll fall, but so what. Just do it! Once you clip in, you'll never go back to sneakers!

    Good luck next weekend!


  2. lbgregg: Aw, thanks! xo
    Regarding the bike shoes and pedals, all I can say is I know!!! I don't know why the heck I waited so long, but don't worry. I'm properly equipped now. I've had them a week and gone out on four rides already. I'm riding like I always had them.

    Thanks for the good luck wishes! :)

  3. I'm so excited for you. You've worked so hard for this. I know you'll do great!

  4. Good for you! And good luck next weekend. I'll be thinking about you. I hope it's fabulous.

  5. My dear sweet friend you are a superwoman, I get anxiety when we are entertaining and I want everything perfect which seems nonsensical seeing what you're undertaking!

    I hope you are so very proud of yourself : ) have fun can't wait to hear about it!


  6. Okay, clip/less pedals/shoes and all is like a totally different language for me (and even the picture didn't help - heh), but I know you'll be fine! Have fun and I'll be (virtually) cheering you on.


  7. Lori: Thank you! :)

    Phyl: Thanks so much. We're estimating a riding time of 7.5-8 hrs not including breaks so think of me ALL day, okay?

    Paula: Thank you. No anxiety is nonsensical.. it's what we feel and very difficult to talk ourselves out of it. I'm hoping to take pictures on the ride, but we don't stop often and I am too klutzy to do it while riding, although some of the streets on which we drive are very quiet, country roads through woods and along streams, etc.. SO pretty really. So I'll try.

    Li: Thanks for the cheering!

    Most people in the world who ride a bike have basic pedals with which you just put your foot on the flat pedal and start pushing.

    In between the basic pedals and the bike shoe-pedal system used by serious cyclists are pedals with toe clips and straps. Those are the basic pedals with a strap system at the toe end of the pedal that simulates a clipped in type system that I describe below. This is what I've been using for the last 2+ years.

    The proper shoe and pedal equipment for road cycling is something like the Shimano system (there are a few different kinds but with similar mechanism) with which you snap your stiff bike shoe has this clipping mechanism built into the bottom of the shoe and then the rider clicks their foot into the specialized very small pedal that's smaller than the palm of your hand. The bottom of your foot then basically acts as the pedal. This gives the rider the ability to push and pull as they pedal, which is more efficient because ALL of your muscle power is being used to move the pedals with every stroke. This is what I have now. Finally.

  8. Li: I forgot to mention that the tricky part about the Shimano [and other] bike shoe and pedal system is that you have to clip out of them every time you want to stop by rotating your foot and "unclipping" your shoe from the pedal. And then snap your feet back in as you start pedaling. It's actually a lot easier than it sounds, but I put off switching to this system because I was afraid of falling clipping in or out. Plus it's an additional expense above an already expensive bike. But I'm glad I finally did it. OR should I say, I'm glad my husband just went out and bought them for me. :)

    1. Thank you for the detailed explanation! That's really interesting and I had no idea that there were so many different pedals.

      And yay for your husband :-)


    2. You're welcome, Li! I'm sure I gave you way more information that you asked for. In fact, I don't think you even asked! LOL!!! Thanks for reading it, anyway. :)

  9. Gosh, Christine, I remember talking to you when you first started bike riding. You have come a long way since then. That is just wonderful. It takes a lot of dedication to stay with something like that. Best of luck to you in the Grand Fondo!

  10. I am so very proud of you! I know you're going to do well in the Grand Fondo. You've worked so hard and I know you can do this, too!

  11. WOW!
    That sounds like a really long ride but I'm sure you'll do awesome!!!
    I wish you best of luck!!!

  12. Amy C, It's hard to believe I only got my bike three years ago. And even then, I only rode it a few times that fall before putting it away until spring. AND the climbs that made me so sad that I couldn't do in one swoop? Those are MY WARM UP RIDES. Well heck. I sure have come a long way! *beams* Thanks for the encouragement, Amy! :)

    Brandy, Thank you, sweetie! Think of me on Sunday! ALL DAY! lol!

    Alex, It's going to be a very long day, that's for sure. I'll probably start thinking about a shower and my comfy bed around mile 80. lol! Thanks for the good luck wishes. :)

  13. My biggest advice: it's a ride, not a race. Just ride for YOU and don't worry about how fast or strong anyone else is going.

  14. Oh - and if you don't see a long line at porta-pottie, take advantage of it! :) Managing your time at a rest stop is important like managing your time on the rest of the ride.

  15. Woohoo! I am so happy to cheer you on for this event. It's going to be so cool to read your report next week. You sound so well-prepared, clipless pedals and all!
    Joy's Book Blog

  16. Samantha, So glad you stopped by. I was going to email you this afternoon!

    I thought of you yesterday on my ride! We rode in the rain.. drizzle at first, then it got steadier and steadier until it poured. We were on our way home already, so we weren't in it for so long, but I thought of you riding that whole day in the rain on the ALC Ride. How did you do that??! Seriously, how'd you make it through?

    I like your advice about the ride and not a race. If you noticed, I was very careful not to use the word race in my post. I just keep calling it a 'ride' or 'bike event.' My cycling partner and I have a good handle on not rushing through, although I'm imagining it taking a bit of effort to not go out too hard in the beginning when 100s of riders start swooping through the streets, you know?

    Also good advice about the porta-pottie lines! This is ONE time where I WISH they had a women's only toilet. For ONCE we would have the shortest line!!!! haha!

    We are not rest stop dawdlers, so I'm not too worried about taking too much time at rest stops. We both like to keep going.

    I'm glad, too, that I've biked a lot of the course already. In fact, there's only about 32 miles of roads in the middle of the course that I haven't seen [mile 40-72] and from the elevation profile, it's perhaps the easiest part of the ride. That's helped boost my confidence in the last week or so.

    Thanks so much, Samantha! If you think of anything else, please let me know! :)

    1. How did I get through that day of rain and wind? Laughter! Sometimes all you can do is laugh. Keeping a good sense of humor gets me through the rough spots every time. Luckily that's my personality - I ride with a friends that really get down on themselves about the littlest things and I find that is just wasted energy. And you need to save the energy for when you truly need it.

    2. Samantha, I'm aspiring for that same "roll-with-the punches-what're-ya-gonna-do?" attitude, I really am. I'm actually better in the moment than I am anticipating things ahead of time. I guess I like to have all the "What if" scenarios thought through ahead of time so I'm prepared. But all that does is increase my anxiety level. And you're right! That's a waste of energy.

      Thanks for the advice! :)

  17. Joy, Thank you! I'm as ready as I'll ever be at this point. Just trying to stay mentally calm. :)

  18. You're going to do awesome in it, Christine! I just know it! And as you say, you're doing it for fun! I'll be thinking of you on Sunday! Hoping your husband will get some great shots of you :)


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