I looked forward to the Pennsylvania Dutch Farm to Fork Fondo from the moment I first signed up in May. A weekend away with my husband, riding through the lovely Lancaster countryside, eating freshly made ice cream …. I knew riding for 65 miles in August would be challenging, but I never doubted that I could do it–even after I saw the elevation profile for the Farm to Fork Fondo hills.
Wrenedgade Sports sponsored my participation
in the PA Dutch Farm To Fork Fondo
Little did I know how much mental and physical strength I would have to draw on to make it up those hills. Little did I know it would take unconventional strategies to give whatever it takes.
My main goal going into the ride was to “not die.” I said it with a smile, but I wasn’t completely kidding. This was my first ride on open roads and I have a legitimate fear of getting hit by a car. It happens too frequently, even in organized cycling event– like Ironman Denver held the same weekend.
There were only two times during our 4.5 hours of cycling that I felt in danger from a car. The first time an a$$hole passed too closely–he was in a line of other cars that managed to give us plenty of room, so I blame him. The second time I had to make a left turn with two or three cars behind me. I signaled my turn in advance–holding my arm out to the left–but as I turned I swear they had moved into the other lane as if they were about to pass me. Reliving this moment, I wonder if they mistook my left turn signal as encouragement to pass me. Did they think I was waving them around? 🙁
I’m also aware that cycling is inherently dangerous. If you lose control of your bike like I did last summer there’s no seat belt to keep you from flying over the handlebars and only your skin between most of your body and the pavement. My “don’t die” motto led me to brake on more downhills than others, and take turns very slowly, but at least I didn’t cause any pile-ups.
I was still enjoying the endorphins from our ride as we watched the women’s cycling road race. I am so relieved that Annemiek van Vlueten is going to be OK, although with three fractured vertebrae and a concussion she has a long recovery head. 🙁
Don’t Look Up
During the Q&A session, one of the topics the pro cyclists from the Bianchi-Colavita team addressed was HILLS. One of their tips was to keeping looking ahead and looking up. As much as I appreciated their advice, that was one tip that did NOT work for me.
As I climbed the first really steep hill, looking up only pysched me out. Looking up, I saw how steep the hill was. Looking up. I saw how far away the top was. Looking up, my brain told me, “You’ll never make it.”
So I looked down. I looked down at the road, and couldn’t tell how steep it was. I looked down at the road, and couldn’t tell how far it was to the top. I looked down at my feet and willed them to keep going. I repeated my unconventional mantra–don’t … die, don’t … die, don’t … die–with every push/pull on the pedals, knowing that if I wavered I would lose the tiny bit of momentum that was keeping me from falling over. On that first really steep hill, I stood up and leaned forward using every ounce of oomph I had in me to keep … moving … forward.
And I made it. 🙂
And then there was another steep hill.
So I applied the same strategy:
Don’t look up. Keep your eyes on the road. Don’t Die.
I passed a man pedaling even more slowly than I was.
I passed a man who walking his bike.
I made it. 🙂
My reward for making it up the hardest hills.
Whatever It Takes
While the worst hills were before the last rest stop, there were plenty more to come. My legs were getting tired (duh!) and my quads were threatening to cramp up. Every time I stood up to crest a steep hill, a ripple went through my muscles–a ripple I recognized as a sign of fatigue and warning of cramping ahead. I found two Sport Beans in one of my pockets and chewed on those. Then I opened a packet of peanut butter crackers and ate a few of those, wishing I had added more Nuun to my hydration pack instead of just refilling it with water.
I adjusted my hill strategy to alternate four strokes standing with four strokes sitting, trying to hold the cramps at bay. I wasn’t sure if I should rest my legs and coast on the easier sections or pedal to keep them moving and flush out the lactic acid, so I did both. I tried to motivate myself by counting down the miles–only 5 more to go!–but then I thought of the Custis Trail and realized that there could be a lot of hills in 5 miles.
At one point, I caught myself thinking, “I don’t know how many more of these hills I can take.” But I quickly answered myself, “As many as this course gives me!” I would make it up as many hills as I had to. I would give whatever it takes.
Still, I was relived when the course took a right just before the road we had been on went UP, and even more relieved when we crested the last hill and I heard the band playing at the finish line.
Credit: BaseTwelvePhoto — yay for free photos!
Today’s Wednesday Word is physical. Riding the Medio Fondo of the PA Dutch Farm to Fork Fondo was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things I’ve done in a while–at least since last year’s hike through the Grand Canyon. 😉
How do you convince yourself to give whatever it takes?