5 Things I learned from California’s Toughest Century (well, Metric Century)

They don’t call it “California’s Toughest Century” for nothing. While the hills along the Tour of the Unknown Coast are intimidating, the real kicker is the weather. iStock_000004219304XSmall

Completing the Tour of the Unknown Coast has been a goal of mine for the last few years. However, I wasn’t able to do it until this year, and even then, I only completed the 62 mile metric century. The giant hill, dubbed “The Wall” at about mile 90 doesn’t suffer fools, and since I didn’t really train for the event, I figured it would be smarter to know my limits. Needless to say, it was still a challenge. Here are three things I learned.

1. Look for the positive. When I was driving to the event, I saw a rainbow in the distance over the course. It improved my mood and made me eager to ride, despite the fact that it was pissing with rain for most of the morning.

2. Train, even if you know you can do it. Completing my first century last year made me a bit cocky. I figured, well of course I can do 62 miles; piece of cake! Not so much. It was tough, and not just because I was cold, wet and couldn’t feel my appendages. I wasn’t really prepared for the hills as much as I could have been if I had trained for hills. And, by the end, my butt was sore and I was ready for it to be over.

3. You can’t prepare for it all. When I packed my bag the night before, I included several tubes and CO2 cartridges. I was long overdue for a flat tire, not having had one in my last few rides. However, I didn’t bring extra layers of clothing. The days leading up to the event were relatively warm and I thought, what do I need extra layers and long pants for? Well, the tubes came in handy for my 3—yes, 3—flat tires, but I spent the first half of the ride mouth chattering cold and miserable. Then I spent the second half in soggy clothes and socks.

4. Sometimes the ruts sneak up on you. My second and third flat tires came at the same time, when I was speeding downhill. I hit a rut in the road that was lurking in the shadow of a tree. I didn’t see it, but I felt it when I hit it and then landed on my rims. Not fun, but I’m really lucky that I was able to keep it upright, especially considering a fall would have meant a fall down a fern and stump covered cliff.

5. Get by with the help of friends. I was lucky to ride with a woman who I had met a few months back. She encouraged me to keep going. Honestly, if I had to deal with three flats by myself, I would’ve quit. But she helped me with my flat tires, encouraged me to smile when we saw the photographers and made the ride an enjoyable experience.

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Creating a New Fitness Routine

A dream that my hubby and I had devised a few years ago is finally coming to fruition: We’re moving back up to Northern California next week (true NoCal, several hours north of the Bay Area). We’re super stoked—the outdoor lifestyle has been calling us for a sometime now, especially since the arrival of the wee man last year. We want our son to grow up with trees and outdoor adventures, not freeways and video games. This also means that next May, I’ll be completing another century ride—this time the Tour of the Unknown Coast, a century ride that I’ve had on my goal spreadsheet for the last two years.
 
When I lived in Northern California before, I wasn’t a cyclist, so I’m not sure what the cycling scene is like up there. And since the winter is defined by rain, rain and more rain, my training will probably involve me pedaling away in the garage. This may be the time to work on improving my running technique and speed. Either way, I’ll need to create a new routine and stick to it.
 
How to Create a New Fitness Routine
1. Work out at different times to see what works. 
2. When you find what works, do it for 30 days to make sure the habit sticks.
3. For additional motivation, sign up for a race or other event in your area.
 
Moving is never easy, but it doesn’t give you an excuse to stop working out. Just adjust your routine and keep on keeping on.

Three Advantages of an American Bicycle Culture

Long Beach, California is getting attention in planning circles due to its commitment to creating bike-friendly districts within the community. Certainly it helps that the mayor, Bob Foster, is a cyclist himself. Under his watch, the city has revamped its image and put in bike trails, new bike racks, protected bike lanes and now bike-friendly shopping districts. The city has reached out to local businesses to demonstrate how attracting more bike traffic can add to their bottom line. Bike racks boost visibility and draw customers to the stores. As someone who cycles to most places, it’s really nice to see bike racks outside of shops instead of having to lock my ride to the nearest tree or fence.

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Cities such as Minneapolis, Portland and Long Beach are demonstrating that bikes belong in our communities. The advantages of a bike-friendly community:

  1. A healthier populace. America is fat. The majority of Americans are big fat fatties, shoving fast food down their gobs as they drive their giant SUVs around town and blame having increasingly sedentary lives on their jobs and other obligations. By getting out and making short-distance trips by bicycle, people will find that they have more energy as they burn calories and get things done.
  2. Less traffic congestion. More bikes on the road mean fewer vehicles, which in turn translates to less traffic congestion for those who have to drive.
  3. Vibrant communities. The easiest way to get to know your local community is to get out of your vehicle. You can’t meet the people on your street if you’re stuck sitting between four walls. On your bicycle or on foot, you can greet your neighbors, which leads to a safer neighborhood.

There’s a fourth, more obvious advantage, which is cleaner air. The fewer the vehicles that are on the road, the less pollution that fills the air, leading to healthier lungs and less incidence of asthma and other lung ailments.

While we’re not quite at the level of creating a bicycle superhighway like Sweden, our cities can get to the point where cycling is encouraged in the community.