For a woman who has a blog dedicated to her running hobby, I actually haven’t been running much since the Columbus 10k. Part of it has to do with burnout and wanting to try something different for a short time – as much as I love running, I am not equipped to only run every day for the rest of my life. I need to take the occasional break to lift or do yoga or else I’d lose what’s left of my marbles.
On top of the needed running break, I’ve also been on a quest to finally do all the things I’ve been wanting to do since I first moved to Columbus but had to hold off for a variety of reasons (time constraints, money, needing to focus priorities elsewhere for the time being). One of the things I’ve had stuffed in my “one day” bank since 2019 was Pelotonia.
Pelotonia is a three-day biking event the first weekend in August. Riders have a variety of mileage options they register for, and as part of their ride, they also fundraise a set amount to benefit cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. I’ve always admired the riders and got to see the starting line in 2019, when I was taking a run break and happened to be in the Arena District that particular morning. Just the number of riders alone and the energy they brought with them was indescribable. I decided I would find a way in the future to ride in Pelotonia, once Grandpa had decided he wouldn’t be participating in British Car Days (this was an annual event he did that happened to be same weekend as Pelotonia and took priority.)
As you all know by now, Grandpa sadly passed away last December. A few months later in March when I was pushing through the fog of mourning and some other stress du jour, I got an email in my work inbox. My workplace has a Pelotonia team, and the leader stated we could use a discount to register if we were interested. At the time I was still a contractor, so I sent him a message asking if it was for associates only or if I would be allowed to register, since I would be an associate by the time ride weekend was here. Turns out I was good to register. I felt like there was not only a light in the grief – something positive to train for and focus on – but this was a sign that I was meant to do this, meant to be in my current workplace, and that I was slowly getting back to the me I used to be after all.
Training started on Memorial Day. I’m a month in and I gotta say – it’s been an adventure so far.
First, I discovered that bike shorts are necessary and my friend. It’s definitely more comfortable to have a little more fabric between your inner thigh and the saddle of the bike. It also turns out that with bike shorts, you don’t need to wear underwear. My running shorts come with built in underwear, so I know you don’t need underwear with those, but I had no idea how bike shorts worked. For the first few rides I felt like Ned Flanders in that one episode of The Simpsons, when he’s showing Homer his ski uniform and comments on how it feels like he’s “wearin’ nothin’ at all!”
Incidentally, while you may look like Stupid Sexy Flanders – as Homer calls him – when going over rough terrain, you can definitely feel like Homer skiing downhill and hitting the snow in split position. (IYKYK)
At the same time, I also learned that if you get a flat tire, you can call AAA and they’ll come pick you up. That happened to me a few weeks back, when I wanted to ride 25 miles and got stuck at 19.3 thanks to flat tire near the trailhead at a park in Groveport. AAA said they’d be there in a half hour, but a car pulled into the parking lot that sent off my spidey senses. Had there been other vehicles I would have stayed and waited, but since it was just that one and I really didn’t feel comfortable waiting by myself, I decided to walk back to the trailhead, get the park ranger’s number off the milepost and call them instead.
It turns out that if you’re within the Columbus Metroparks – which I was thankfully – the rangers will come and take you home. I can’t sing the praises of Ranger Amy enough for bringing me home.
That same day, when I took my bike up to a bike shop in Bexley to get the tire changed, I decided to buy a bike rack. Previously I had been putting down my backseat and putting my bike in the trunk whenever I wanted to travel somewhere and ride there. However, I discovered quickly that lifting and squeezing a mountain bike into a hatchback was a pain in the ass. So I bought a bike rack and had the guy working there help me get it strapped onto the back of my car, followed by getting my bike hooked up in the rack.
Would you all believe that driving with a bike in the rack is the secret to getting other drivers to maintain a safe distance? It’s too bad that wouldn’t work during my morning commute to the office.
This past weekend I made another friend while biking – a Westerville police officer. My great plan was to ride 35 miles. Around 25 my stupid bike pedals kept spinning out, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I was in a residential part of town and safe, but still too far from the car to just walk with the bike. I wound up calling the non-emergency police line and asking if an officer would be able to come and give me a ride back to my car. Thankfully he was available and I got a ride back in one piece. It also turns out that the bike shop in Bexley is part of a local chain and the Westerville location was six minutes away from me. I drove up there, not knowing what was wrong with the thing and trying not to let my frustration and disappointment show.
The cause of my problems? The chain fell off. I looked all over on that street corner and couldn’t find where the chain could have fallen, until the gentleman at the shop pointed out that the fallen chain was under where I was looking.
There’s no way the guys didn’t crack a blonde joke after I left.
So Month #1 has been a huge learning curve. It’s irritating, but I’d rather learn this now than have a snafu during Pelotonia, where I selected the 57-mile option (you’re welcome to judge.) Previously riding my bike was just riding my bike, a leisurely thing. Now I’m looking up YouTube videos to learn everything about bike mechanics and treating it like a homework assignment.
But it hasn’t been all bad by any means. I’ve been bicycling the trail heading southeast of my apartment, as well as driving north and discovering new country roads as I’m going along. After some rocky, disappointing maiden rides, I’m discovering that I can actually ride 10 miles per hour, which is my goal pace for Pelotonia. I’m conquering the hills around me, and this past weekend I discovered the beauty of the Hoover Reservoir. I knew the reservoir was big, but I didn’t realize until I picked up Sunbury Road, where the lanes shift from four-lane highway to two lanes of gorgeous waterside homes and country how much land the water covered. Riding over the water on Sunbury Road and following the roads into Galena was cathartic.
The physical challenge of bicycling gets both easier and a little more challenging, and with the challenges, I feel alive. Training for Pelotonia so far has been a reminder of what I can do, and that I’ve still got it in regards to adapting to the hiccups as they come. This is me reintroducing myself to me, and at the same time, meeting a new part of myself as I train. And also making new friends along the way who have pretty solid advice about biking. Now all I need to do is hope none of those friends are paramedics. I definitely don’t want to find myself in a hiccup that requires one of them.
Yours in writing and riding,