Archive for the ‘Biking’ Category

Okarito → Punakaiki

This was my favorite day of the Flying Kiwi trip! I woke up later than planned and shoved a peanut butter sandwich on my mouth as I raced toward the Okarito hiking path, hoping to spot a kiwi in the twenty minutes I had before the bus would leave. Unfortunately I had no luck. Then! The first cycle option of the day was on the West Coast Wilderness trail, which my couchsurfing host Biff had said was one of her favorite trails. Now I know why! I loved this ride, so I’ll let the photos do the talking.

 

 

 

That 20 km ride brought us to Hokitika, where I had an hour to explore and grab lunch before meeting the bus. Hokitika is known for its greenstone factories, but I chose to spend my time at the kiwi sanctuary. I was lucky enough to be the only person in the room for quite awhile, so I sat in the darkness until my eyes adjusted and watched a kiwi bird for a long time. What an amazing bird to watch….it seems like a creature from the past, live in front of your eyes.

 

 

Back on the bus, Bente announced that there would be another cycling option that afternoon. I guess everyone was tired, but I was keen to do the 27 km ride to Punakaiki solo, and this proved to be my favorite ride of all. Huge, rolling hills allowed me to crest from one summit to another with just the right level of momentum, with each hill framed by scenic views of the sea, the mountains, and farmland. Such a beautiful, peaceful, relaxing ride; I’m glad I got to do this one solo because I was able to enter my own little world and enjoy every minute of it (Genai: I wish you could’ve come as well – you would’ve enjoyed this one!).

 

Before getting to camp I stopped at the Pancake Rocks, one of the natural wonders of New Zealand. According to the DOC website, the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes “were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes.”

 

The Punakaiki camp was one of my favorite camps, with lots of cool options for exploration, walks along the beach, etc. Our tents were close enough to the beach to hear the waves crashing and receding all night long, an excellent soundtrack. That evening we all visited a glow worm cave and then the local tavern before retiring to our tents.

 

 

Punakaiki → Marahau

The next day was full of driving, not a bad thing considering how much hiking and biking I’d been doing each day. Our destination was Abel Tasman, New Zealand’s smallest but supposedly best national park, named after the Dutch explorer of the same name. There was a 17 km, mostly off-road cycle option into Abel Tasman that included parts of the Great Taste Trail and the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park. I have to say…I am in pretty good road cycling shape, but 17 km mostly off-road was a whole other beast. I was definitely not the strongest rider in the group on this day, especially when we got to the mountain biking portion at Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park. Mountain biking is certainly different than road riding, or even trail riding on Long Island…way more tiring! Nonetheless I enjoyed the ride and was glad to be able to bike to camp once again.

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I appreciate Flying Kiwi for the fact that they seem to be the only tour bus company that allows for a bit of “slow travel.” Rather than visiting a location, taking some photos, and moving on, we tended to spend quite a bit of time at each of our stops. The best example of this is Abel Tasman, where we spent three nights. Our primary campsite was called Old MacDonald’s Farm Holiday Park and was full of animals: cows, llamas, pigs, and of course the many chickens, fantails, and little dog that all came to our campsite every day and night. Quite a collection of visitors!

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At Abel Tasman there were many options for outdoor exploration. I opted for a multi-day adventure that would allow me a night of solitary camping at Anchorage, a beautiful beachside campsite in the heart of the park (Old MacDonald’s is in Marahau, right outside the park), before walking a 4.5-hour track back to Marahau the next day (one cool thing about Flying Kiwi: I could do a multi-day adventure through multiple campsites without having to carry a tent, heavy pack, etc.) So…after the first night in Marahau, I caught a morning water taxi up to Onetahuti where I began a six-hour sea kayaking adventure down to Anchorage. I was paired with Xander, a white water rafting guide originally from Virginia who splits his time working the outdoor seasons in New Zealand and Colorado. Cool life!

On the trip we got to see many cool sites, but perhaps the best was getting to see the seal colonies, particularly at Tonga Island Marine Reserve, where baby seals stay in a cove learning to swim. The Department of Conservation has strict rules about how close kayakers can get to the seals, so we got to the twenty feet mark and hung out for awhile watching the seals playing. Definitely cool to see! Other highlights of the day included visiting a couple beautiful bays, including my favorite, Sandfly Bay, which looked like something out of Jurassic Park. We also stopped for lunch at Bark Bay, a beautiful beach and a good spot to stop and eat.

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At the end of the kayaking adventure I said goodbye to the other kayakers I’d been riding with all day and collected my camping gear. Unfortunately a big storm was coming into the area that night, so I hunted around until I found a nice, high, flat spot under some tree cover that seemed suitable for a rainy night. I set up the tent, ate some snacks, and enjoyed watching the curious wekas and pukekos who kept trying to get into my tent and steal my food. They were quite bold!

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Later Elizabeth, another member of the Flying Kiwi group, arrived from her 6-hour hike down to Anchorage. We ate dinner together and had quite a nice conversation about our lives. Like me, she is around 30 years old and lives in the US. She works as an astrophysicist but just got laid off from her job, so we are in similar places in the sense that we both chose to come to New Zealand to reexamine our life paths, decide wheher our respective career paths are worth pursuin, and to jump into a bit of the unknown when we return to the US. It was cool talking to Elizabeth and getting the perspective of someone who recently earned a PhD; she said that from all of my interests I do not seem like someone who belongs behind a desk in academia for all my life…she might be right…

That night, I was happy that the rain fly on my tent worked exceptionally well, and I woke up dry and well-rested, ready for my rainy morning hike to Marahau. 4.5 hours in the rain might seem like a terrible experience, but when you are walking in a beautiful national park with trees blocking some of the rain, it’s actually sort of magical. I hardly passed anyone for most of the walk, which allowed me to once again enjoy silence, solitude, and the opportunities for quiet reflection and appreciation of the nature around me.

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Back at Marahau, I found the rest of the Flying Kiwi group huddled around a heat lamp, hot chocolate, tea, and other warm foods and drinks in hand. My hands were so numb that I could hardly untie my boots, but after a hot shower I was happy to spend the afternoon relaxing at the campsite. Flying Kiwi also has a guitar that I’d been teaching myself to play on the bus rides, so I got to serenade everyone with some songs later that evening. Now I can finally actually say I can sort-of play the guitar!

That night at Marahau was really nice, perfect weather, in fact. It was our last night camping with the group, and it was a good way to end. The next morning we packed up the bus and drove to Nelson, with a little option to ride into town on another section of the Great Taste Trail – the last ride of the trip! Eric and I opted to do this one and decided we’d take slightly different routes, starting out together and splitting off halfway through for a coastal track (me) and a railroad route (Eric) to end our journeys. We arrived in Nelson at almost the exact same time, and both of us reported that our routes had been beautiful. We grabbed some snacks and then met up with the bus for the last leg of our journey, to visit Pelorus Bridge and then enjoy wine tasting before ending in Picton.

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Scenes from the final bike ride. Dad, I took a lesson from you and captured a photo of Abel Tasman with a bird on his head 😉

Pelorus Bridge is really cool. It happens to be the spot where the hobbits escaped from the elves by jumping into a river in barrels in The Hobbit, and it also has some nice little tracks to walk around in the area. Definitely worth a stop if you’re nearby! Wine tasting was okay…the Marlborough region of New Zealand is known for its wines, so it was cool to taste some local varieties, but I think I’ve been a bit spoiled with Long Island wines 😉

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Scenes from Pelorus Bridge and surrounding area

Finally, we arrived at Picton and prepared to say goodbye. Most of the group would be heading to the North Island via the Picton ferry to Wellington, but their ferry was delayed many hours because of cancellations from the storms over the last couple of days, so we all decided we’d hang out in an Irish bar in town before they had to leave. I was not heading north, but rather would be meeting up with a couchsurfing host who lived in Lochmara Bay, a fairly secluded area close to Picton, only accessible by boat. I thought I had a bit of time before I’d have to meet him, but when I coincidentally passed by him on the street I learned that we had to leave on the boat very soon because of the weather. Drat! I ran to the bar to say goodbye to all the Flying Kiwi group, and then I boarded the boat to head to a very unique couple of days at Lochmara Bay. Stay tuned…

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Farewell Flying Kiwi friends, thanks for a fun week! 

After the late night karaoke party I woke up at the insane hour of 5:30 AM to get to a bike shop. I really wanted to go cycling in Vietnam, so before coming I’d done some research on how to do that. The choices: Go solo by myself (super affordable, but maybe not the best idea), pay a lot of money to join a bike tour group, or contact the cycling groups I found on Facebook and see if I could join for their weekly ride. Option C it is! I’d contacted two of them and chose The Bike Shop’s half-day adventure to Tri An Lake, about an hour and a half outside of Saigon. This riding group consisted almost entirely of ex-pats, many of whom were teachers at The American School and two of whom played on Vietnam’s only women’s rugby team! Hooray for teaching and rugby! 

To get to Tri An Lake we boarded a bus, then boarded a water taxi with our bikes. Once we’d crossed the lake we headed to the Ba Dat Eco Homestay, where we were offered coffee, tea, and bananas before the ride. We then split into two groups based on ability level and set out for our 26K adventure around the lake. It was a beautiful day, the ride was gorgeous, and the post-ride meal prepared by the homestay was incredible. Plus, I learned all about being a teacher in Vietnam and was invited to rugby practice the following night. Great!

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The water ferry back to the bus was crowded with cyclists and motorbikes.

When I returned to Quynh’s apartment that evening, Nhi came over again and we rode on her motorbike in search of durian, which I really wanted to try while in Vietnam. Four years ago I read an NPR article called “On The Trail of Durian, Southeast Asia’s ‘Creme Brulee On A Tree'” about a couple who traveled through southeast Asia in search of every variety of durian. Their story intrigued me, and I’ve been wanting to taste durian ever since. Unfortunately this is not durian season so the best deal we could find was 200,000 dong ($20) for a durian, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to try it again, so it was worth it. Then Nhi drove us to a little Vietnamese crepe place that made durian crepes so we could get those as well.

Back at Quynh’s we had another delicious meal that I will write about on my food post, along with thoughts on the durian. Stay tuned!

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Selfie with Quynh and Nhi 🙂

 

Southern Utah: Introduction

Posted: February 14, 2018 in 2018, Adventures, Biking, Hiking, Utah

Southern Utah. Is. Incredible.

Val, Tracie, and I loaded up their truck and headed four hours south from Salt Lake City for a five-day hiking adventure in two national parks: Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. I took far too many photos, so I’m making a series of blog posts in quick succession about the trip to let the photos do most of the talking. Click any of the links below to visit each blog entry:

At last, my semester is over. I’ve turned in all my term papers, and I’m actually in the mood to do a little leisure writing. Amazing how writing for school kills all enthusiasm for blogging. I still like my PhD program, but this semester was a tough one…

Anyway, I’ve managed to fit in a lot of fun stuff and accomplished a bunch of goals this spring. Here’s a little timeline:

April 12th, 2015: Completed my first-ever triathlon!!!

What an amazing day. I destroyed my goal time of 1:45:00, completed the race in 1:33:37, and felt great doing it. The weather was gorgeous, the water was nice, the bike course was flat and smooth, and the run course was beautiful. When I finished, I was so amped up I felt like I could do the whole thing again…I guess I could have pushed myself a little more! I made a friend in my start wave who was also doing her first tri, and now we’re planning on running/biking together whenever we’re in the same state. I could not have asked for a better first triathlon experience and will definitely be doing more!

Triathlete!

Triathlete!

The rest of my visit to FL was nice too. While posing for a picture on a the beach, my mom and I were photobombed by a Great Blue Heron:

That's not something you see everyday...

That’s not something you see everyday…

April 25th: “Music on Maple” Premiere Performance

I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep myself motivated to learn new music at a performance-ready level while in school, and in April I thought of a solution: Host concerts in my apartment (aka “Maple Hall.” Next step, Carnegie Hall!). The bi-annual concert series features myself as well as at least one guest performer. My first guest was a couch surfer I was hosting from France who plays jazz accordion. We met for the first time three hours before the show, ran through some tunes, and then put on a great performance. Everyone is still raving about it! The next performance will take place at the end of June and will feature my dad on ukelele! 🙂

Music on Maple: Premiere Performance

'nuf said.

‘nuf said.

May 3rd: Five Boro Bike Tour

In preparation for The Ride to Montauk, I decided to sign up for the Five Boro Bike Tour, a forty-mile casual ride through all five boroughs. The highways were closed so that only bikes got to ride, and we got to go over a bunch of bridges that are usually off-limits to cyclists, including the monster bridge, the Verrazano. I completed the 40 miles easily, which gave me a lot of confidence for Montauk!

May 9th: Mudderella 11150608_10100454737430182_8265482372204029810_n

Awhile back, some friends asked me if I wanted to do a mud race with them in NJ. I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one; I’ve done one other mud/adventure race and this was much less intense, with a lot of people walking between obstacles. I still had fun, but I definitely prefer races that are a little more demanding.

May 16th: The Ride To Montauk

My favorite ride! Last year, Genai and I made it through 56 miles before having to call it quits. This year, we were better prepared, Genai had a better bike, and we were determined to ride all 73 miles. After five hours of sleep, we drove to Mastic to volunteer in the rain for 3 1/2 hours before beginning the ride. We were wet for the whole morning half of the ride, but we still felt great. And, sure enough, the sun came out in the afternoon, our spirits helped us persevere, and with a big push at the end we zoomed into the finish line. Ahhhh it felt SO good to complete all those miles. Yes, completing my triathlon was a big deal, but I honestly think making it through all 73 miles of this ride was the greatest physical accomplishment of my life thus far. Now I feel like I can do anything! We were so exhausted at the end, so next year our goal is to get to the finish feeling fine. 🙂

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Calling it quits at 56 vs. Going all way to 73! 😀

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May 23rd: Awesome gig!

I was hired to play vibes for a baby shower on Long Island, so I loaded my vibraphone into my car, drove four feet…and realized I had a flat tire. Luckily one of my neighbors was standing nearby, so he got his tools and helped me change the tire quickly (I know how to fix a flat, but it would have taken forever). Thanks to him, I actually made it with plenty of time to spare, and the gig itself was great. I love playing party gigs because I’m just the background music, so it’s low stress, good pay, and I get free food. 🙂

May 25th: Bike To Long Beach

For Memorial Day, a friend invited me on what turned out to be a great ride to Long Beach. We met up with a bunch of other cyclists for breakfast, then rode 25 miles to the beach. The weather was perfect, and I’m happy to say I was able to keep up with everyone even though they all had road bikes and I had my hybrid. Unfortunately we couldn’t get onto the sand at Long Beach without paying $12, so we ate lunch on the boardwalk and then rode to the Rockaways where we could get onto the beach for free. It was a great day, and I wasn’t even too tired after the 50 miles….I even had enough energy to bike 7 miles to a party later that night! 🙂

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So that’s that. Now I’m in the midst of deciding between working at an elementary circus camp or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the summer and enjoying my freedom in the meantime by jamming, running, biking, hanging with friends…all my favorite things. And softball starts Sunday. Life is great! 😀

I have not done very well updating this blog.

…but…

I have done very well training for my triathlon. On average, I’ve trained 4-5 days per week and can now:

  1. Swim (nonstop) 3x the distance I’ll swim for the tri.
  2. Conquer the giant hill in Prospect Park on foot and by bike 3x in a row.
    1. (this is a great achievement because any hills in my triathlon will be minuscule and therefore cake)
  3. Easily complete my 9-mile commute to school by bike…including over the bridge.
    1. (my triathlon requires 13 miles of cycling, but considering how many hills I encounter here, how few I’ll encounter there, and the fact that I’ll ride a better bike on race day, I feel ready).
  4. Walk up eight flights of stairs without breathing hard
    1. (not particularly relevant for the tri, but awesome nonetheless)

I’ve also been working on my core, lifting weights, eating nutritious foods, realizing the importance of rest days, and finding time for school work, music, and hanging out with friends, all of which has led to an overall happy and healthy me.

I did have one hiccup…

A word to the wise: If you have a friend visiting for a week and you eat lots of crappy foods and drink more than usual, it is not a good idea to go for a run the day after she leaves. You’re probably too dehydrated to run safely and could end up straining your calf muscle, which will lead to a frustrating week of no running, complete with lots of calf stretches and slight panic that you will not recover in time for the race and will have to walk at the end.

:/

But anyway…

I’ve mostly recovered from that adventure and am excited to fly to FL in two days. I will then have twelve days before the race, during which time I will finally do some brick routines (practicing transitioning straight from one race leg to another; I need to work on getting a nice stride straight off a bike), hang out with my parents, complete the crazy amount of schoolwork I’ve been assigned for spring break, rest up during the last week, and mentally prepare for  race day by envisioning my triathlon success. It’s not going to be an easy race, but I am confident I have prepared well enough to finish and make it count. I’ve enjoyed this training process and am excited to put the pedal to the metal on race day! Two weeks to go!!! 😀

101 To Tri

Posted: January 29, 2015 in Adventures, Biking, Fitness, Triathlon
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On Sunday, April 12th, 2015, I will compete in my first triathlon.

101This is the resolution I made on January 1st, 2015, giving myself exactly 101 days to prepare. Dictionary.com defines 101 as an adjective, “comprising the introductory material in or as if in a course of study.” Thus, I’ve begun basic training, learning introductory techniques and reading triathlon blogs for beginners as I prepare for success. 

So why am I vowing to become a triathlete? Did I just pull this idea out of thin air?

No, I most definitely did not.

Citius – Altius – Fortius 

CitiusTo understand where this resolution comes from, we must venture into my past. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the Olympic Games. When I was little, I dreamed of competing in the summer Olympics as a swimmer. Then when I started getting serious about softball, I had hopes that maybe that sport would enter the Games and I could compete. In middle school I ran track & field and thought “Maybe…”, and even during my three years as a Junior Varsity fencer I wished I’d somehow get good enough to make it to the Games. In 7th grade I chose to study French because it’s the official language of the Olympics, in college one of my compositions for songwriting class was inspired by the 2010 Winter Games, that same semester I devoted my Resident Assistant floor theme and programs to the Games, and the only place I’ve visited outside of North America is London…for the 2012 Paralympic Games. I. Love. The. Olympics.

Although I no longer believe that competing in the Games is an attainable goal at the moment, I still strive to live the Olympic motto: Faster – Higher – Stronger. Therefore, I put 100% into everything I do and work to become better than I was yesterday. I make every minute count.

Swim. Bike. Run.SwimBikeRun

There are three components of a triathlon: swim, bike, run. From what I can tell, roughly 10% of the total time is spent in the water, 50% on the bike, 35% running, and the remaining 5% in transitions. There are various triathlon distances, ranging from the mini-sprint all the way up to the Ironman. I’ll be completing a sprint distance event, consisting of a 400m (.25 mile) swim, 12.5-mile bike, and 5K (3.1 mile) run. This is awesome because…

swimGrowing up, I completed every level of water safety instruction offered in my town and practiced stroke mechanics at home on my bed. I attempted to join the non-existant swim team at my high school (seriously…I considered competing as an independent swimmer, but it would’ve been a huge hassle), and took full advantage of the pool at my college (I’d bring a swim bag to class in the morning, head to the pool afterward, swim until the last possible minute, and run to my next class with wet hair). I love swimming.

10342782_328142904005612_5184591390817460519_nNot long after learning to swim, I learned to bike. When people asked what kind of car I wanted when I got older, my answer was (and still is) “A bike.” When I did get a car, I avoided driving as much as possible, preferring to bike when possible (not an easy task when commuting 13 miles to work on Long Island roads). While living in Albany, I frequented Albany Bike Rescue to learn bike maintenance and participated in group rides such as the Bike Barn of Cohoes’ Haunted Halloween ride. And then of course I discovered The Ride To Montauk. I love biking.

runSome people have to force themselves to run, but I’ve always enjoyed it. I’m not the fastest and it’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. When I visit a new place, my favorite way to explore is by running the streets. When I’m stressed I don’t overeat or reach for a drink; I grab my running shoes and hit the streets. And participating in 5K races with friends is always a joy. I love running.

Swim. Bike. Run. I can’t imagine a better combination for a multi-sport event. Softball aside, a triathlon combines all my favorite sporty activities into one awesome race. How could I not love that?

Why Now?

I hope it’s clear why I want to do a triathlon, but why now, while pursuing a PhD? There are a couple reasons:

  1. Life Without LimitsChrissie Wellington: In 2013, I was browsing the new book section of the public library when a cover caught my eye. Intrigued, I picked up what is now one of my favorite books and quickly became immersed. “A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey” is the autobiography of Chrissie Wellington, a British triathlete and four-time Ironman Champion. With a background in international development and a passion for nonprofit work, Chrissie became the first woman to win an Ironman. I am inspired by her story, her spirit, and her determination, and it was after reading Chrissie’s book that I began to think seriously about competing in a triathlon myself.
  2. Curiosity: Not long after I’d finished Chrissie’s book, I discovered that my supervisor was one of the founders of a nonprofit that organizes races for charity. She suggested I sign up for an upcoming triathlon, and I thought about it but wasn’t sure I was ready. Could I do it?
  3. Clarity: Shortly after talking with my boss, a friend of mine announced that she’d signed up for her first triathlon. Hearing about her training over the next few months and then seeing photos from her race inspired me. I realized I was wasting time thinking about the possibility of a triathlon and should follow her example and just go for it. I had nothing to lose and so much to gain.
  4. Circumstance: While visiting my parents on New Year’s Eve, it occurred to me that I could make completing a triathlon my goal for 2015. As we waited for the ball to drop I began researching races and discovered one taking place 20 minutes from their house during my spring break. The decision was made; I was signing up!

The 6h Annual Ron Jon Triathlon Cocoa BeachRon Jon Tri

I am so pumped to compete in my first triathlon. The Ron Jon Tri is supposed to be “the perfect venue for first time triathletes.” The swim takes place in the Banana River rather than the ocean, and the bike and run portions of the race are almost completely flat. Plus there’s an overview for beginners prior to the race, and all first-timers wear a different colored cap than veterans for the swim.

To see what the course is like, check out this video or visit the Facebook page.

Here We Go!

Cannondale R500 Feminine

My beautiful bike 🙂

In preparation for the big day, I’ve done a couple things. Before leaving FL, by a stroke of luck an amazing bike appeared on craigslist at a reasonable price that was the perfect size for me (and my favorite color!). The day before I left, I went to check out the bike and fell in love. Future brides talk about finding their perfect dress…this was the bike version. Buying a used bike will save me money longterm; I won’t have to rent a bike for the race and can ride with my dad any time I visit. Awesome.

Next, I came back to NY and promptly created a training plan. I made a countdown on my calendar and am marking off each time I run (yes, I’m running outside in the cold), lift weights, go for a long walk, etc. As an extra incentive, at the end of each week I’m setting aside $1 for each day I’ve trained. After the race, I’ll use the money to buy something for future triathlons as a reward. Maybe a tri suit (I’ve decided to just use a swimsuit this time), new bike shorts, or something else. Exciting!

Finally, I discovered that as a CUNY student I have access to a local pool and gym for a VERY low price. I’m planning to visit the fitness center tomorrow and can’t wait to start swimming again!!! 😀

The Countdown

74 days to go!

74 days to go!

As of today I have 74 days, or 10 1/2 weeks, until the Tri. I predict that once school starts again I won’t have time to write much in this blog, but I’ll post occasional progress reports. This blog is mostly just to keep myself writing, so tracking my progress through postings will be an extra incentive to work hard. Citius, Altius, Fortius. April 12th, here I come!

Volunteering in Mastic

Volunteering in Mastic

This weekend, I crossed another item off my LI bucket list by biking across the east end of Long Island. “The Ride To Montauk” is an incredible event during which thousands of cyclists bike from Manhattan, Babylon, or Mastic all the way to Montauk (distances of 150, 108, or 73 miles). Riders have participated in this annual event for fifty years, and now that I’ve done it, I see why.

My friend Genai and I started the day by volunteering in Mastic, where we spent three hours helping people find their bikes amidst hundreds. It was clear that we’d be the minority in the field; most of the bikes we were handing off were road/touring bikes, while we’d be riding a hybrid and a cruiser. Challenge accepted.

Volunteering was a great way to start the day. In return for our service we rode for free, avoiding the $150 registration fee. Those who did pay helped fund the many amenities offered throughout the day: Food, water, first aid, bike maintenance, porter potties at every rest stop; shuttles to Montauk for anyone ending early; emergency roadside assistance; PIE FROM BRIERMERE FARMS; hot showers, massages, BBQ, and beer at the end. Yum!

The First Leg: Mastic to Westhampton (~14 miles)

Holy cow!

Holy cow!

Due to the mass of riders who arrived on the train from Manhattan all at once, Genai and I volunteered an extra hour to help with the chaos. When it was finally over we took off our volunteer vests, strapped on our helmets, and hit the road. We had a lot of time to make up since we’d planned to leave around 9 AM rather than 10 AM, but based on our estimate we’d bike ~10 mph and still finish by the 6 PM deadline. We had a map, but with so many cyclists going the same way it was easy to follow the crowd. Also helpful were the clearly-marked directional symbols painted on the ground along the route, making it nearly impossible to get lost (somehow a couple people still managed to go the wrong way…very impressive).

Riding with such a large crowd of bikers (more than 2000!) was really cool. Since this wasn’t a race, there was no sense of competition among riders. If someone wanted to pass, they simply called out “Left” and coasted past. It felt so good each time Genai and I were able to pass someone, since in most instances our bikes were not nearly as nice as theirs (okay, so maybe some of those riders started in Manhattan at 5 AM, but it still felt good).

14 Miles In: Rest Stop At The Westhampton Presbyterian Church

Westhampton, our first rest stop.

Westhampton, our first rest stop.

 Just as we started to waiver, the first rest stop appeared. We pulled in, parked, and went in search of food. First we found big bowls of black grapes…delicious. Next we headed to the sandwich station for real nourishment. Peanut butter, almond butter, Nutella, taboule, and…where’s the bread?! Yes, 11:30 AM and the Westhampton rest stop was already out of bread. There were also no plastic spoons, so no way to eat that wonderful protein without contaminating the metal spoons in each jar. By a stroke of good fortune, a volunteer brought over some pretzel packets while I was standing there, so Genai and I were able to snag one to share in the two seconds they were on the table (it was like magic how fast they disappeared). The bits of peanut butter we spread on those pretzels tasted soooooo good.After waiting around hoping the volunteer who’d left to buy bread would come back, we decided we were losing too much time and should just find something on the road. We ate some of Genai’s emergency chocolate (so glad she brought it!) and discussed our plan. Genai was not doing so well on the cruiser, so we decided to switch bikes for the next leg.

Second Leg: Westhampton to Water Mill (~26 miles)

As soon as I started pedaling the cruiser I understood why Genai needed a break. Holy moly that thing was hard; I definitely had to pedal a couple miles before I got into a groove (once I found a groove though, I was good to go!). To add to the challenge, this part of the route included Dune Road, a beautiful but extremely breezy road along the waterfront. Between the wind, our hunger, and our bikes, Dune Road seemed to go on forever. To help pass the time, we talked about what kind of pie we hoped to eat at the end. For the record, I was hoping for blueberry crumb and Genai wanted raspberry.

At the top of Ponquogue Bridge.

At the top of Ponquogue Bridge.

As the miles wore on and there was still no sign of food, we started getting desperate. At one point I saw a squished, unopened Larabar on the road and almost stopped to get it. When we passed a cyclist sitting on the grass eating a sandwich, we just stared at her as we rode past. But then…finally…around 12 miles in as we were about to turn onto Montauk Highway, we saw a gas station. Never in my life have I have been so happy to buy food from a gas station. Its tiny shop was full of cyclists with the same idea as us; I bet that station set a new record for sales of Clif bars that day! We enjoyed every bite of our Clif bars, chatted with the other riders, and pumped up the cruiser’s tires before going back out on the road.

With new air in the tires, new energy in our bodies, and a flat road ahead, the next few miles flew by. The extra air in those wheels made a huge difference; the cruiser was still slowing us down, but to a much lesser degree. During this leg I was even able to ride up the fairly steep Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays, passing riders on road bikes who’d decided to walk up the hill. I was invincible! We stopped at the top for photos and some celebratory chocolate.

Windmill!

Windmill!

40 Miles In: Rest Stop At The Water Mill Village Green

After finishing the final pedal strokes of that 26-mile leg, we pulled in rather gracefully to the second rest stop (aka I rode up and promptly fell over with the bike on the grass). This stop was beautiful, with a giant windmill, soft green grass, and…FOOD!!! Fresh fruit, mixed nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, Nutella, jams, chocolate, Oreos, jelly beans…it was heaven! There was even bread! You could tell that a lot of riders were drained at this point; there were scores of cyclists lying in the grass.

We spent a good amount of time at this stop taking photos and eating way too much (I was so excited about the almond butter that I put a ton on a piece of bread and tried to eat quickly as it dripped on the ground and my shoe). Too soon, it was time to move on. Just another 13 miles until the last rest stop!

Third Leg: Water Mill to Amagansett (~13 miles)

After biking so far to Water Mill, the distance to Amagansett seemed like a breeze. It was a fairly easy ride with minimal wind, but we were feeling the pressure of the time crunch and the exertion of the ride as the miles added up. We also began seeing fewer riders on the road…we were running out of time! We took a quick water break and checked our distance: 2 miles to go. We decided to switch bikes for the final miles, thinking we might have to call it quits at the next stop…

56 Miles In: Rest Stop at Amagansett

...raspberry pie!

…raspberry pie!

"We ride for pie!"

“We ride for pie!”

At 5:50 PM we rode into the last rest stop, which closed at 5:30 PM. The few cyclists hanging around were those waiting to be shuttled to Montauk. Knowing we still had 18 miles and 1 1/2 hours to go if we kept riding, we made the decision to load our bikes onto the van and call it a day. Lucky for us, this rest stop was still handing out delicious pie from the amazing Briermere Farms. I’ve eaten my fair share of Briermere pie in my life, but I don’t think it ever tasted as good as it did after those 56 miles. And for the record, the pie we ate was peach and…raspberry.

Camp Hero State Park: Montauk, NY

Cheers!

Cheers from Montauk!

The shuttle ride to Montauk was a great relief. We rode with a handful of exhausted cyclists, all with sore butts and satisfied spirits. We may not have made it all the way to Montauk, but we still accomplished something amazing. Plus, watching all the cyclists we passed during those final miles made me feel grateful I was not having to conquer those steep hills. Maybe next year…

At Camp Hero, we found our bags (which had been driven to Montauk earlier that day) and headed straight for the shower trucks. I’ve never seen anything like those shower trucks; they were great! Then we enjoyed freshly grilled veggie burgers and local Blueberry Ale courtesy of the Bluepoint Brewing Company. Finally, we checked our bikes so they’d be transported back to the right place,  said our goodbyes, and headed to our respective busses home (free transportation to Mastic and Manhattan..perfect). We both made off with fresh fruit and a whole box of pie each, since they had so many extras. A truly wonderful way to end a fantastic day.

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Looking forward to the road ahead…

The Adventure Continues…

Genai and I both had a great time at The Ride To Montauk, and I am certainly looking forward to doing it again next year. To have accomplished such a journey on the bikes we had felt like a superhero feat, and neither of us were super sore afterwards! The next day, I am proud to say I continued my amazing weekend of adventures by pitching six strikeouts in five innings during my first softball game, and catching every ball hit to me in the outfield in the second game. Two more wins for our team; we are on fire!

This was definitely one of my favorite weekends of the year. I love riding my bike to begin with, but to do it with such beautiful weather at such a great event was really special. I have a feeling there are a lot more biking adventures ahead, but I will always cherish my first Ride To Montauk. Looking forward to the next one!