Monday, April 30, 2012

About to Cross the Rubicon

I'm just hours away from turning off the light.  The alarm is set for 4:00 A.M. and my plane departs at 6:40.  Just think I have only one more morning of making my bed.   I'm all packed and figure that whatever I forget I can always buy along the way.  Most importantly my bike, helmet & shoes are already in New Orleans.  

I've been reading Facebook posts from some of the riders I'm about to meet, and they are beyond excited.    It's nice to know that five of the 29 riders are friends I've made from other Womantours trips over the years.  As I have said before, the women I will ride with are so incredibly talented, smart, energetic, accomplished, and each with a story to tell.  After you complete a WT trip, you have established friendships on a level that doesn't often happen, especially at this time in our lives.

So, there's not much more to say except a message to friends who are following me along.  Please either send me email or comment on the Blog site about what's going on at home, so that I don't think I'm just talking into the ethernet.  I always miss friends when I'm traveling, and some people think I won't have time to read emails.  Are you kidding?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Excitement, Anxiety or a Little of Both

I can't tell whether I'm just plain excited or a little nervous because for the last few mornings I've been waking up with an uneasy feeling in my chest and butterflies swimming in my belly.  A few nights ago I had a textbook anxiety dream that was similar to that classic, you know the one where you are about to take a test, but you didn't study.

 I'm way behind in preparing for my trip, but yet I'm the star performer in a musical stage play.  I don't know my lines or the words to the music.  I've never been on stage before and don't have the confidence to pull it off.  The other performers are nonchalant and tell me not to worry,  that I can make up the words as I go  along."  

My dream tells me two things:  I'm  wondering if I can "pull it off" and my fellow riders are telling me "not to worry,  just go with the flow."   Dreams like this are very helpful because you can analyze their meaning and gain strength from them.  No need to doubt myself.  Everything will be ok and I will go with the flow.

My beautiful blue and white Trek Madone is now waiting for me in New Orleans.  In the meantime I'm riding my Bianchi which I bought in 2004 when I graduated from a hybrid to a road bike and felt like I was always riding with a tailwind.  But with much heavier tires and wheels than my carbon-fiber Trek, my Bianchi now rides like I'm pedaling in molasses.   The Trek has a women's specific design which means that with a shorter reach it's more comfortable for me to shift gears and apply the brakes.    A few weeks ago when I did the metric century and was slowly winding my way up a very challenging 9-10% hill in my lowest gear, a passing rider called out to his buddy "Hey, man, will you look at the low gears on that woman's bike."   Breathing deeply with not much air to spare, I yelled back at him, "Hey, fella, I'm 68 and I am NOT stupid."

It's really great that I have close biking friends going on this ride with whom I can discuss this and that and ask questions.  Even though my close friend Debbi from San Rafael is joining us in Iowa and only riding the last two weeks, being able to share this experience with her is very special.  And my friend Penny from Honolulu was here for a day before taking the train to New Orleans.    Reminiscing about our many super on-and-off-the-bike trips together,  Penny and I went shopping at REI to buy last minute needs, like a whistle to scare off angry dogs on the loose, a brightly colored vest in order to be visible on the road, and Deet wipes to ward off the biting mosquitoes we have been warned about.

A few days ago a reporter from my local newspaper came over to do an interview and take some pictures.  We hope that this story about my ride will provide inspiration to others who might consider doing an epic bike tour.  (see link below for story)

This is excellent publicity for Womantours.  I wore my bike store tee shirt and hope it's good PR for them too.  I have many people to thank -- most of all my supportive husband, Bruce. Thanks also to my Diva girlfriends, my friend and bike mechanic Preston, my Pilates instructor Joseph, my astute physical therapists Garrett and Carol, my massage therapist Jeanette, Dr. Roh at Stanford who "fixed me", and the best bike store in the world, Bicycle Outfitter who packed up my bike and shipped it to New Orleans.

One week from today I start pedaling.  The countdown begins.........

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


   After returning from a trip to Cuba in late January,  I was plagued with back problems that only permitted flat, short rides.  Eventually after doing deep tissue massage, physical therapy, and a lot of fretting, I found a sports medicine doctor who said "I think I can fix you."  Eight trigger point injections later,  I was able to ramp up and start riding seriously again in early March.  In the meantime,  I was reading emails and Facebook posts from fellow Mississippi riders that had me worried.   Some were already doing long back-to-back rides, interval training,  hill repeats and exercises with their personal trainers doing squats, presses, and everything in between.   Since retiring,  I'm happy to say my competitive nature is under control, but these flurry of compulsive- sounding emails had me wondering whether I'd be physically ready to do this ride.    

Love riding with women!
Then I began hearing stories from other women who had the same worries I did.   Even though most of them were strangers, knowing that others were feeling similar anxieties took some of the pressure off for me.   The back and forth emails with these riders began building some early bonds with women whom I knew could be life-long friends.   One of them is a woman from Amsterdam who will be visiting the U.S. for the first time.  She too has been dealing with muscular issues, which had us both wondering whether our problems could be related to understandable anxieties about this ride.  Another woman asked about my trigger point injections and whether this might also give her some relief.  Then there was the rider from Southern California who had bad asthma and another rider who was suffering from insomnia.   

But after the doctor "fixed me,"  I was able to ride more than 15 miles at a time.  Last month I rode 484  miles with 24,000 cumulative feet of climbing.   As I did the calculations, it was a good time to remind myself that the roads along the Mississippi River are pretty flat, at least at the beginning, and not the steep hills I'm used to climbing around here.    Conversations with experienced riders convinced me I still had time to get to the point I needed to be at the beginning of the ride.  For me this means being able to ride all day with comfort, knowing that I can keep up since most of my rides around home average 10-11 mph (including hills).  I remember one time on a 30-day Womantours ride, I sat on that blasted saddle for nine hot hours.  I also remember climbing 5000 feet that day.  Remember, Pam, there won't be any 5000 feet climbing days on this ride.

There's a fine line to be drawn between proper training and over training for a bike trip that lasts 40 days.  Although there are three or four days over 90 miles, I am reminding myself how important pacing is before and during the ride.  If I overtrain, there's the possibility I will injure myself or burn out before the ride ends.  So, today I'm going to a spin class at the gym and I'm not riding again for a couple of days until I join my girlfriends for an organized metric century on Saturday.  And even though there's only three weeks left before I start riding the Mississippi, this is my kind of proper training.  I definitely do not want to burn out!