Monday, June 2, 2014

Biking ... Insanity?

It must have been mid-winter. May Lukens and I were at a colleague's birthday party when she mentioned our own upcoming (BIG) birthdays. We're both turning 60 this autumn. She wanted to commemorate her special day. I needed a cycling partner. The RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Portland and Party) is a 188-mile ride sponsored by Cascade Bicycle Club every August. I wanted to do it, but not alone. 

"So let's do RSVP," I said. "It's only a few months before our birthdays."

I'm not sure if it was the gin martinis talking, but we agreed to train and do RSVP together. When registration opened, we each plopped down our two hundred dollars - a buck a mile and then some. We were committed.

In early January I figured I better start exercising, so I signed up for an in-door cycling class at Cycle University in West Seattle. I was the mom in the room. But my teachers, Jeff Neubert and Craig Undem, as well as my classmates urged me on. I built some strength, learned about cadence, and ventured into the world of pedal clips and vivid Lycra.

Bike in Office
When National Bike Month (that would be May) rolled around, I decided it was time to take my bike outside, and I joined a campus Bike to Work team. I'm pleased to announce I only fell once with my new pedal clips and logged 130 miles for my team. Not record-breaking, but it was a start to my outdoor training.

On Memorial Day, May and I did our first ride together. Last Saturday I did my first group ride. Cascade Bicycle Club volunteers lead a number of rides in the Seattle area. The rides are rated by distance, pace, and terrain. This one was listed as 45 miles, steady pace (meaning 12-14 mph) with some hills.

I'll admit I didn't jump at it. We'd only done 35 miles the week before and it was just the two of us. I didn't know how to negotiate speed and distance in a group. Still, how was I going to get stronger? How would I do 200 in two days, if I was wimping out about 45?

So I said yes.
The Fearless Seven
We met our ride leader, Jeff Stewart, and four other riders at Terminal 91 on the Seattle waterfront. A group of seven, we headed south along the water, through downtown and straight up Yesler hill. That was the first time I was tempted to get off the damn bike and throw it in front of the next Metro bus storming past me. And I'll admit it wasn't the only time the thought zipped through my mind during that "some hills" ride.

On a positive note, the weather was gorgeous and the group was fun. We rode to Curt Cobain's home and visited Jimi Hendrix's gravesite. After cruising through Renton, we rode around the south end of Lake Washington and then north along the east shore before crossing the Interstate 90 floating bridge over Mercer Island and returning to Terminal 91.
 I reached home sunburned, exhausted, and determined to replace my fat mountain bike tires with a pair of sleek road tires, strip  off all excess weight (i.e. rack, trunk pack, lock), and get the thing tuned up so the gears shift smoothly.

This week we grow to back-to-back centuries (that's 50 miles in bike talk). I'll let you know how it goes!


Unknown said...

Congratulations Arleen. What a great thing to do. I got a bike for Christmas and I've only been to town and back! Good luck with the ride.

arleen said...

Thanks, Ruth. I'd love to see a pic of you and your bike! :)
Maybe you could post it at


arleen said...

Shoot ... why isn't that a live link?