Whatever It Takes

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.  

Farm To Fork Fondo Finish Line

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. 

Don’t Die

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?   🙁

cycling hand signals

Source: NHTSA

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.

Farm To Fork Fondo Hills Elevation Profile

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. 🙂 

Pine View Dairy Ice Cream

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.

Farm To Fork Fondo Finish

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. 😉

Deb Runs

How do you convince yourself to give whatever it takes?

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20 Responses to Whatever It Takes

  1. Carla says:

    I LOVE THIS…and your tenacity which I do not yet have in fitness.
    I dont know for certain I have it in LIFE but it’s more likely to happen there 🙂
    Perhaps I need to try out my LIFEmantra in a FITNESSsetting.
    Carla recently posted…I value you.My Profile

  2. This sounds like so much fun! And yes, even though it was tough, all the food was like a reward. I’m thinking about doing more cycling–even a ride like this next summer. We’ll see how my running goes.

    And yes, the one thing that holds me back are the jerks in the cars…
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…So I Run…My Profile

  3. I did a similar ride a few years back out in Shenendoah and those hills can be quite daunting. It’s amazing what your body can achieve sometimes if you are not afraid to try. Sounds like such a fun ride!
    Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner recently posted…Let’s Get PhysicalMy Profile

  4. Liz ODonnell says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. And congratulations.

  5. Chaitali says:

    That was a good idea to not look up on the hills! I think it would have been intimidating to see the rest of the hill looming ahead. It makes sense that the standard advice won’t necessarily work for everyone and great that you recognized it.
    Chaitali recently posted…Frederick Women’s Distance Festival 5kMy Profile

  6. Wow, I think you did great!

    And hey, I almost got run over yesterday in a parking lot. A woman decided to pull out of her spot without ever checking behind her, and I was walking right behind her car.

    Good thing she was going slow.
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…90% of _____ is mental . . .My Profile

  7. Renee says:

    You go girl…awesome!

  8. Karen Bayne says:

    Way to tough it out! The course looks so challenging, it is awesome you powered through so well 🙂
    I know you are suppose to look ahead on hills in biking and running, but I tend to do the same, I look down…I don’t want to see it LOL
    Getting hit is a legitimate fear. I have had so many close calls with cars just in my neighborhood that luckily doesn’t involve a ton of speed, so i have been able to stop. It always floors me when people buzz me in a 3,000 pound weapon when there is plenty of room. It is a huge pet peeve of mine.
    (because of my close encounters)

    Great job on your fun little self pep talks and getting it done 🙂
    Karen Bayne recently posted…A TourMy Profile

  9. I can see why this would be scary and your motto was “Don’t die.” I’m impressed! Brava! Brenda

  10. Lauren says:

    This looked like such a fun race!! Looking up at the hills doesn’t help me either:)
    Lauren recently posted…Strength Training for Distance RunnersMy Profile

  11. Wow, I am from PA and had no idea this existed. I agree that biking can be quite scary. That is one reason I don’t bike where there is traffic. Although on a run yesterday I encountered a nasty driver who hollered at me because I wasn’t running on the broken up sidewalk. Good job on tackling those hills.
    Speaking of Grand Canyon, did you know that PA has a Grand Canyon and they hold a marathon/half marathon each year?

  12. Gosh, those hills sound killer tough! I have a bike trail I run on occasionally…it’s a tough run because the hills are long and ongoing. Running them is tough, but saddle up the bike and it’s a totally different ball game. Gravity pulling you (while on wheels) is no joke! Each hill is its own individual finish line!
    Kimberly Hatting recently posted…Getting Physical…in the TrenchMy Profile

  13. Awesome job on a tough course!
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…NYC Marathon Training – 12 Weeks OutMy Profile

  14. Steena says:

    So, “I don’t know how many hills I can’t take. How ever many this course gives me” is PERFECT for Ironman WI. Seriously. It’s my new motto, thank you.
    The bike course changed for us this year, giving us a hill that most people will have to walk up, including me.
    I agree with you on not looking up. Looking up fills my head with doubt too. Whatever it takes!
    Steena recently posted…Training Weekend 85.8My Profile

  15. HoHo Runs says:

    Great job! I’m really interested now in one of these events. I cycle small hills on a regular basis but certainly nothing like this. I’ll have to remember your mantra. 😉 The last sprint tri was on open roads and that certainly adds another element of challenge. I find it hard to signal too. I need both of my hands!

  16. Jack says:

    You’re amazing! If I were you I would have thought like you when riding up the hills too. Your way were more proper than the advice from some pro cyclists. Congratulations to your success!
    Jack recently posted…What Part Of The Abs Do Sit-ups Work?My Profile

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