Tag Archives: cycling

Venus de Miles Ride Recap

So Sunday was my big 61 mile ride with the Venus de Miles charity ride! 


Saturday I was excited and also nervous for this ride, as I’ve never ridden more than 36 miles before, and this seemed to be an event that might draw slightly more serious fast cyclists than the Bike the Drive event I did back over Memorial Day weekend.  Erin was picking me up so we could go up north and spend the night with Kim before we headed to Lake Forest for the actual VdM  ride on Sunday morning.  Working on a puzzle was a great way to distract from the nerves of what could be a very interesting & potentially painful day to come! 

Sunday came along and we headed over to the Lake Forest College campus for the ride.  There was a blogger meet-up before the ride, where we met up with some other lovely Chicago Running Bloggers and chatted before the ride. 

Thanks Kelly for the photo! Pictured from left: me, Erin, Kelly, McKenna, Amanda.

Sidebar/remember this for later:  On Thursday last week I had my hardest ride ever. I assumed it was hard because of me (not sleeping, eating well, riding in the heat, etc), but Mike the hubby alerted me to some potential issue with my bike not rolling smoothly enough when he was helping to take it out to Erin’s car.  So before the ride I got one of the event’s bike mechanics to take a look, and he adjusted the rear wheel/derailleur so that it wouldn’t rub against the brake pad while riding.  That sounds like a legit cause for excessive slowness on a ride, right? 

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Kelly & McKenna had gorgeous matching outfits with tutus & angel wings!

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So the ride started! I had a small “omg” moment and left the blogging ladies when I didn’t start immediately when the ride began. I took a moment and began when the crowd had cleared out a bit, but not exactly at the end.  We had a police escort to get us to the first major bike trail we’d be riding on, and while some people probably wanted to go faster, I found it comforting that we were still in a group.  I was finding it hard to even get up to this slow speed… still struggling to maintain 13 mph, and I was beginning to get dropped from the pack.  There was someone else I knew who was also toward the back, which personally helped me to have a familiar face, but I did want to be riding with a bigger group. 

Those miles toward the first aid station were rough for me.  After we left the bike path, the crowd thinned out on the open road (no more police escort), and I was struggling. I felt like I was working harder than I needed to, and beginning to doubt my ability to complete the full 61 miles.  I decided that I’d get my bike checked out again at the 1st rest stop, and make a decision to drop to the 25 mile ride if we couldn’t get my bike to ride more smoothly.  That first aid station did not come quickly enough!

I met up with the blogger ladies at the first rest stop, and promptly took my bike over to the mechanic there and explained my problem.  He took a look, jiggled my bike around, and then made some adjustments on the front braking system and wheel. Apparently the quick release on my front wheel was not tight enough, and my front brakes were not tightly enough attached to the fork.  So lots of jiggling, or otherwise rubbing while riding.  This was the only “rub” I experienced, thankfully enough!  No chub rub for me on the ride, and when I got off riding again, it was so smooth!  Now cycling didn’t even feel like work!

The rest stops were amazing – food was catered by Whole Foods, and there was plenty of water, electrolyte drink, cookies, pretzels, chips (!), Cliff shots & blocks, etc.  In a very odd juxtaposition to running, I felt comfortably full the entire time I was riding, even though I took just a bit each rest stop and skipped some at the end! 

After mile 15 and that first rest stop, things felt smooth sailing from there!  I caught up with a group after leaving the rest stop after most of the pack, and we navigated our way through some missing signs on the ride!  While I couldn’t really figure out where we were on the cue sheet (this is the map that also has written instructions of key turns & intersections… only suggestion would be to also include total mileage on these so we can locate ourselves easily!), I did actually call the event hotline and they were able to direct us properly back onto the route. 

Once we were back on track, it was smooth sailing!  Rest stops at miles 30 and then again 40 & 50, and I appreciated each one!  Toward the end I didn’t need the additional food or water so much, but definitely was happy to have a spot to stretch my legs for a minute before continuing on. 

I did also get an impromptu rest at an extended break we had waiting for a train to cross the tracks.  We were maybe chilling for 10 minutes, but we started making plans to hike our bikes down the track and cross behind the train. Luckily it started moving again! 

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I’m surprised that I didn’t ‘hit the wall’ or have any major upsets on this ride.  As you’ve probably learned, I’m not the most confident at my cycling skills, and this was a great opportunity to get more time in the saddle, practice my skills, and also stretch myself to a new level! 

Post ride festival was amazing!  First, I was just so happy to be done and off my bike!  Second, it was actually a great time! There was some delicious catering of a Mexican fiesta lunch, with taco filling options like sirloin braised in Negra Modelo, or pork in Stella.  We also refreshed with some specialty cocktails from North Shore Distillery, and margaritas that McKenna blended by cycling on a trainer!   It was nice to just sit and relax! Overall I was incredibly impressed with the ride organization, not only at the rest stops and post-ride festival, but also in the directions & signage that the organizers posted along the course. 

I was also happy to see a surprise friendly face – my friend Linda from Madison!  She was dressed up as a bumble bee, and is the sweetest lady around!  I can’t wait to see her again in a few weeks when we go to Madison for the Madison Mini Marathon

Overall ride stats:

  • 61.96 miles
  • 4:22:15 ride time
  • Average speed:  14.2 mph
  • Average speed to 1st rest stop: 12.6 mph, effort level: 8
  • Average speed post 1st rest stop: 14.8 mph, effort level: 5-6

Weekly Workout Round Up–Week 14 & Bastille Day 8K Report

My goals for this past week (July 9-15) were: 

  • Monday:  5 miles Easy (AM) + Strength (30 Min – PM)
  • Tuesday:  Stroke’n’Stride Open Water Swim
  • Wednesday: 50 min Spin Class + 1 mi brick
  • Thurs:  5 miles – Bastille Day 8K
  • Friday: 2 miles + Easy Bike Ride (without socks. Practice U-Turns, taking hydration on the run. Practice opening & taking from bento box as needed, or gu’s taped to the handlebars).
  • Saturday: 11 miles – hopefully at least 6 with CES. 
  • Sunday: Open Water Swim Clinic + Bike Ride to 63rd Street Beach

What actually happened:

  • Monday: 30 min Strength + 5.5 miles Easy (PM)
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 30 min Strength
  • Thurs: 5 miles – Bastille Day 8K  46:53
  • Friday: Easy Bike Ride (without socks. Practice U-Turns, taking hydration on the run. Practice opening & taking from bento box as needed, or gu’s taped to the handlebars).
  • Saturday: 13 miles pacing for CES at an overall 10:40 pace.
  • Sunday: Open Water Swim Clinic

Overall I’m pretty happy with my week. I didn’t get in everything I was hoping for, but I also took the rest when I needed it. I could work better at getting enough sleep during the week, but I’ve been enjoying watching the Tour de France! 

Bastille  Day 8K Race Report:

  • This is a Chicago evening race that I’ve wanted to do for several years now. I’m happy I did it, and ran it with Anna, a  friend from CES! 
  • It is a crowded Lincoln Park race, so it’s challenging to do well.  It was very dusty – I felt a film of dust covering my throat. 
  • I forgot my Garmin for this race, so I ran “naked,” and tried to figure out my splits from the timing clocks. I estimated several 9:30 miles, which is about right for a 9:25 overall pace on the 8K.
  • I got a cramp at the same spot near the finish as at the Turkey Trot. Is it all in my head? I think I did a better job pushing through this year.
  • The Post Race party took place at the Nature Museum. We tried to go in, but there was a ridiculous line just to get upstairs where the party was.  I didn’t know we were missing Britt’s win!  Mike, Anna & I chilled outside for a while, and then Mike & I went out for some delicious vegan food at Native Foods Café


Bike Skillz

So Kim suggested that I post some cycling tips.  This is definitely coming from a novice (I actually didn’t finally master bicycling until I was 22!), but I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on as I prepare for my triathlons (oh yeah – this is in conjuction with actual workouts!). 

I’ve known for a long time that I’m a reader & a learner. I like to “know” before I “do.”  So I’ve done a good bit of research on bike handling, although I’m still developing my actual physical skills.  Good resources that I’ve found have been triathlon websites like beginnertriathlete.com, competitor.com, and also Healthy Tipping Point, one of the first blogs I began reading that mentioned triathlon. I’ve also found YouTube and random Google searches helpful too. 

The below list is my interpretation of what skills I have been working on related to cycling. I’ve also found another list that’s pretty similar, of skills needed to handle your bike with confidence.

Cycling Skills Checklist:

  • Basic Cycling (straight)
  • Turning a Corner (90 degrees & 180)
  • Shifting gears
  • Stopping
  • Taking your hand off the bike (for hydration, nutrition, adjusting sunglasses)
  • What to do if you get a flat
  • Clipping in & out of bike shoes
  • Cycling Power/ Fitness (how to get stronger & faster)

1. Basic Cycling:

I must have had really bad balance as a kid, as I never really got comfortable riding a bike a child. My family & I tried, but it didn’t really stick and I didn’t feel badly enough about it to work on getting better.  Once grown up, I met a guy, and he did encourage me to try again!  I got a bike, and we did basically the same thing:  practicing in empty roads & parking lots, getting the basics down.  It’s really getting a sense of the balance and moving your feet at the same time.

I’ve definitely gotten better as I practice more and more. I’m fortunate to live in an urban area where there are a lot of cyclists, and to be able to make riding to work something that’s possible for me.  It was scary the first few times though!  But regular practice does really help.

Turning a Corner

For commuting/tooling around town, I don’t really have to think too hard about this, but I’ve found it a lot more challenging to turn tightly on my road bike.  Whether it’s in traffic, or just in preparation for a race, there’s a bit more skill involved. 


How+to+Steer+and+Corner+on+a+Bike — powered by LIVESTRONG.COM
Livestrong–cornering & steering on the bike


Another article that’s also helpful on cornering technique

Shifting Gears

Understanding the basics of gear shifting is also important. For me, it’s hardest to remember when it’s best to shift to a harder gear versus easier gear. And that “smaller” equals easier.  And that you have gears in front and back. 

I found this post at Healthy Tipping Point on shifting that I found helpful.



I originally was told that I should always use the rear brake for stopping on the bike, however recently began doing research along the lines of “well, why do I have a front brake then?”  I’ve learned that it’s actually OK to use your front brake and that you should actually use both brakes.  I’m still working on this for my road bike skills, but have gotten pretty comfortable on my hybrid/commuting bike with using both front & rear brakes to stop in traffic. 


Taking Your Hand off the Bike

This is one of the hardest things for me to accomplish, but it’s important in endurance events so that you can take a drink or snack while not stopping! And here’s something I found pretty amazing on a commercial this week:

Strava Commercial–check out putting his jacket on at 00:14


The main tip I’ve found has been to move the hand that will stay on the handlebars closer to the center/stem of the bike.  Apart from that, I haven’t found too much on how to work on this, but I have been taking the “baby steps” approach – a few seconds with one hand hovering above the handlebar, then a bit further away, then fully grabbing for the bottle. It’s important to keep your eyes on where you’re going – and not look down as you reach down.  I’ve successfully accomplished this a few times, but need to practice regularly to keep my skill up.


For part 2, we’ll talk about the rest of the tips! To be continued!

Grand Haven Sprint Triathlon Race Report

Yesterday marked triathlon #3 for me in Grand Haven, Michigan. The Grand Haven Triathlon & Duathlon was named to be the Regional Duathlon Championships, so Mike & I headed out so he could compete! I signed up for the sprint distance triathlon, and was hoping for some opportunities to refine my racing skills. 

Prior to the race, I’d set the following goals:

  • Sub-15 Swim
  • Bike: 17.9 MPH ( my pace w/o the “rest stop”)
  • Faster transitions- get both transitions to the length of today’s T1
  • Maintain my near PR run!

We’ll see how these went through the course of the event! 

Pre Race:

  • Grand Haven is about 3.5 hours from Chicago, so Mike & I had a nice little road trip up the coast of Lake Michigan. We were happy to be leaving the heat of Chicago behind! 
  • We had really enjoyed hearing the course talk at the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon, so we planned to make it in time for the as yet unscheduled, but advertised course talks.  
  • We got to the YMCA that was hosting this event, and we were a little surprised at some of the disorganization we saw when checking in and asking questions.  I was handed my packet, then realized after I got out that they hadn’t given me my timing chip, so I went back a 2nd time. 
  • We racked our bikes on Saturday.  Tip:  if you do this, put a plastic grocery bag over your bike seat to prevent dew from accumulating!
  • We ate dinner at the one Italian restaurant we could find in Grand Haven, although w weren’t completely happy with the service. Actually, my tummy didn’t really like the dinner at all and although I was consciously feeling not very worried, my stomach decided it needed to be nervous.  This lasted from middle of the night through to race start. 

The Swim:

  • I’m happy I brought my wetsuit with me. Even though the air was warm, and the hotel said the water was 75 degrees, Lake Michigan was COLD! I put my wetsuit on at the beach, tried to do a bit of a warmup swim, but my arms were so cold I just got out of the water.   
  • The swim was a pretty easy half mile, although this was the first tri where I felt like I was “in the thick” of many swimmers. Got my goggles pushed a few times, was accidentally swimming into people slower than me, etc. I did feel like I did a good job with sighting though!
  • In the swim time, the race has you swim, run up the beach, and then run about .75 mile to transition — all of this before you hit the transition timing pad! I had been aware of this, so I brought a 2nd set of running shoes to put on at the boardwalk to run up to transition in.  Sockless running success!  
  • Coming out of the swim and into T1, I was happy that I found my bike very easily. This was a much smaller race than before, and I knew that this was something I wanted to focus on.

The Bike:

  • I was more confident about this bike ride than my last one, but I still wanted to work on feeling confident and handling my bike well.  I clipped in (that wasn’t a question), but I was a bit worried about a 180-degree turn we had.  Mike & I drove that part of the bike course the night before and they had taped a very wide turn, so I felt OK about that.  
  • But we didn’t drive the beginning of the bike course, which would have shown me that there were some major hills right at the beginning!  Just after I shifted up to the large chain gear (did I say this right), I turned and then saw a huge hill! I climbed my little heart out, then saw another one! WTF!  I shifted down a bit and kept pumping my legs and chanting “Keep going!”
  • Overall I felt pretty strong and calm as most of the ride was then a straightaway, although on lightly travelled road.  I tried to keep a high cadence up, but unfortunately my Garmin didn’t capture the cadence this race, so I don’t know if I’m improving or not.   
  • The Not-So-Pretty: 
    • I had a 180-degree turn, and the course actually was narrower than the tape indicated. You had about 1 lane total to make the 180-turn.  I kind of stopped, and then had issues when one of the course marshalls tried to get me going again.  At least I’m smart enough to clip out before craziness like this.
    • On the crazy uphill on the way back, I planned better and shifted to the smaller chain gear in front. I got into my groove of pedalling up the hill – and got blocked by 3 riders occupying the entire lane! I yelled at them to move but they didn’t, and I didn’t know what to do as I would either hit them if I kept up my pace, or otherwise stop.  So I veered off onto the grass and stopped. I actually didn’t crash – I was able to clip out with one foot and lean to that side to stop. And proceed to hyperventilate. Some guy came up to me and started “talking me back into the race.” While I appreciate his intentions, I just wanted him to go away.  But he had me walk the bike up to the top of the hill, then coast down and glide up the last bit of hill.  I passed those blocking cyclists within the first half mile of the run.  I lost about 3 minutes due to this fiasco.
  • I did not take any hydration during the ride, but I didn’t feel I needed it. This was definitely one of the more technically challenging rides I’ve done. Michigan likes its hills.   
  • T2 was fast – helmet, shoes, squirt of gatorade & go!  I actually realized I still had my bike gloves on half a mile into the run. 

The RunSurprised smile

  • Once I was out on the run I was just kind of enjoying things.  The run course was along a boardwalk, so we saw other people walking, sitting & cheering. I didn’t push too hard on the run, although I was passing some people. I mostly got passed by Olympic distance runners.  The turnaround came up quickly, and it was heading back!  
  • I hadn’t really seen anyone in my age group on the whole race, so I wasn’t sure what my placing was.  I knew this was a small enough race that I could potentially place. I actually saw the first person in my age division on the final 1/10 mile stretch up hill at the end of the run! I was already powering into the finish, and finished only a half second behind her. But actually I ran about 6 minutes faster than her.  She was just more awesome at the swim & bike.  

Overall Thoughts & Tips for Next Time:

  • This was not a very well organized race. The course was pretty, but there was a lot of confusion at the race check-in/expo, no Saturday course talks, and the schedule of race starts actually changed that morning! I also was given the wrong timing chip, so it took about 2 hours before my time was posted, and only because I followed up and remembered that girl who finished just before me.  The awards ceremony was also delayed, and we actually saw quite a few people leave when it was delayed.
  • Post race food was OK – BBQ & granola bars.  I was looking for some gatorade, or a bagel too.
  • Same as before:  I need more practice on the bike – longer distance rides and getting comfortable with turns, drinking, etc.
  • Practice transitions.  Make those times tighter!

Times (and age group rankings):

  • Swim: 22:48 (3/10)   — wasn’t reasonable to put a time goal toward this swim given the run as well! 
  • T1: 2:58.5 (9/10)
  • Bike: 48:20 (8/10) – not so much. This was a hilly course. and w/o my “break” I averaged 16.7 mph. “Breaks” also slow me down.
  • T2: 1:27 (7/10)  – got my transitions just under that 4:28 goal from PP.
  • Run: 28:48 (6/10) – I could have pushed a bit more throughout the run. 
  • Total: 1:44:23 (6/10)

What’s  Next?

My next triathlon is the Chicago Triathlon – Olympic Distance! That’s a new distance for me, double that of a sprint.  So I’m looking at approximately 3.5 hour completion time.  My goals for the training period leading up:

  • Practice those bike handling skills.  Practice regularly on the road bike.
  • Use Venus de Miles as an opportunity to extend your distance and also practice nutrition/hydration on the bike.
  • Do at least 1-2 practice transitions! Also practice changing your roadbike tire.
  • Try to do a brick workout once a week
  • Keep up my marathon training.  This will get me my run distance in.
  • Keep up the swim practice.  See what a reasonable mile time could be. 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back:

I went full force into Bike-to-Work week earlier in June and had a blast!  It was the first week in a while (ever?) that I biked every day of the week to work.  Definitely noticed I was a little more hungry that week Smile but hey, maybe that’s what a girl needs to get some dessert! 

Biking in Chicago links I love:

  • Let’s Go Ride a Bike Blog – fun chronicles of a girl’s commuting in Chicago!
  • The Grid Chicago – informative on bike transportation politics
  • Bike Fancy – lovely portraits of cyclists seen in Chicago. A lot of photos around my neighborhood!

I also attended a blogger meet-up that week at the Jim Gibson 5K. I’m about 200 posts behind the other bloggers who posted right after the race, but here’s some fun photos from my spectating of the event:

Maggie & Amanda at a pre-race port-a-potty stop:

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The whole blogger group at a pre-race meet-up –

(Susan, Amanda, Maggie, me, Britt, Kelly)


Scene at the starting line: 

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First runners in: 

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First Blogger in – Kelly:

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Maggie (in pink):

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Looking Forward:

I’m “excitedly busy” and am happy about all the activity I’ve got going on!  It definitely helps not to be travelling for work as much anymore as I was last summer. 

I’ve got Chicago Triathlon (8/26) & Marathon (10/7) training & prepping for the Grand Haven Sprint Triathlon on my mind.  The Grand Haven Sprint is in two weeks (omg) and is in Michigan. Another fun mini trip!  I had a lot of fun on our 24 hour road trip for the Pleasant Prairie triathlon, and getting there early the day before definitely helped me feel more comfortable and ready for the race.  I hope we can do something similar for Grand Haven. 

I brainstormed some things I should work on for my triathlon preparations. I don’t expect to complete all of these before Grand Haven, but they’ll certainly put me in a better position to be ready for the Chicago Tri on 8/26! 

  • Open Water Swim at 1 mile distance
  • Bike to pool in AM
  • Morning bike rides – to Humboldt Park, Humboldt Blvd
  • Do some brick workouts (bike-to-run or bike-run-bike-run)
  • Get equipped for, and Practice changing a tire on my road bike
  • Get a bento box for my bike to hold ID, fuel, near my handlebars.
  • Try some runs and/or rides without socks.
  • Practice my transitions.  Maybe on the bike trainer, maybe outside. 

As I sketch out my training schedule for the next two weeks, I’m trying to figure out how to handle my long run next weekend.  This week is supposed to be my cutback week at CES, and next Saturday we’d run 13 miles – right before my triathlon.  Part of me wants to switch things up to meet my schedule perfectly, but I do enjoy running with the group! And I feel a bit of a sense of responsibility. I skipped this past weekend due to getting over a cold, and in resting up for the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon.  What’s a girl to do?

Just a few of the things on my mind.

What’s on your mind this week?  How is training going for you?