My second year riding in the BikeMS City to Shore ride was also my second attempt at a century ride. This year's ride was difficult because I didn't ride my road bike much in 2017. With little saddle time in preparation for the ride, that meant I started struggling pretty quick. Again this year, we missed the century cut off (by minutes, total bummer). I was disappointed in myself but psyched I was able to raise $1,000 for MS research. The ride is an awesome experience & I would never regret doing it. My only regret is that I didn't do my best. I'm already signed up for next year's ride & will again set my goals at raising $1,000 & riding 100 miles. Please consider sponsoring my 2018 ride.
September 23rd I did my very first charity bike ride. The BikeMS: City to Shore ride was the chance to ride 100 miles while raising money for MS research. I started my fundraising months before the ride, setting a goal of $1,000 which seemed hefty but possible. I requested off work for the ride, booked a hotel near the start line so we wouldn't have to wake up even earlier & drive to South Jersey & started training. The day of the ride arrived & just like the always-running-late-bmxers we are, we still woke up later than expected & didn't make it on the road until well past our hopeful time. But the starting area was electric. For real, just standing there waiting felt incredible. Hundreds of cyclists ready to spend the day on their bikes for a good cause had me already emotional. The reason we had tried to get on the road as early as possible was that, even though it wasn't a race, the century loop would be closed at 11am making it impossible for us to ride our 100 mile goal & that's exactly what happened. We missed the loop. Even with Brian's hand on my back for over ten miles pushing me faster than I was physically able to ride, we didn't make the cut off.
A few things happened during this ride that I wasn't prepared for. It was really intense to do such a large group ride. I had never been a part of something like that before & I should have taken advantage of the opportunity offered by Bike MS to learn how to ride in such a large group because about ten minutes into the ride, we approached an intersection with a red light and I stopped. This is how I ride my bike. If the light is red, I stop. Well, immediately I could hear a man behind me yelling furiously "DO NOT STOP" & the group rolled through the light with guidance of the local police who waved us through. This mistake shook me. I was embarrassed & bummed out that I had already made a mistake and we were only a few miles into a long day. I was mortified that this man yelled at me. For a second all I could think about was how much I wanted to ride my bike into the woods & disappear.
But that wasn't the point of this ride. I learned very early in my cycling life (which ok, is only like 1.5 years now) that I have to leave my ego behind. Riding a bike can be the most fun ever & yet, the most grueling & demanding thing ever. Some days all I want to do is ignore my bike & sleep in late but I get up & get out & after my ride I feel totally pumped. Even on days when my ride is hard & I am struggling, I still am thankful I did it. This feeling is something I have never experienced before I got a bike. I heard people who go to the gym or run talk about it but it, but it never resonated with me because it just sounded way too far-fetched. Like, how could anything that required so much physical activity feel better than just cuddling my dog for hours in my blanket fort?
Up until this ride the longest I had ever ridden my bike was 50 miles & I had just accomplished that a month or so before with a friend of mine. But my half century ride was on gravel so I assumed 100 on pavement couldn't be much harder. The truth is, it really wasn't & that was pretty awesome. The BikeMS ride was fully supported & every 20 miles or so there was a rest stopped stocked with snacks & water & porta-potties. There was music & swag. It was a celebration, a distraction, a welcomed rest from the physical & emotional strain a long ride can take on you (at least, on me, a new cyclist). At one rest stop a main approached me while Brian was getting a snack & said "he is an incredible rider. I saw him pushing you & he was riding so fast" & suddenly I was overcome with conflicting emotions. I was totally proud of my dude for being such a rad cyclist but also, I was totally bummed that part of my ride he was responsible for. I couldn't claim those miles because it was his hand on my back, his speed that got us through them. I was a fake, a phony. Suddenly I was embarrassed again & as the day progressed I refused to let him help me anymore. I had to do the rest of this on my own.
Since we missed the century cut-off Brian looped around to get his own 100 miles in. I knew trying to do that at my speed would take another two hours & I didn't think I had it in me, so I just kept riding towards Ocean City and as I came around a corner & saw those bridges that would lead me to the finish line I got incredibly emotional & began to cry. I had turned Beyonce on my phone which was perched on my handlebars, Lemonade was my soundtrack for those final miles. I was riding alone at this point, not able to keep up with any groups but still riding at a pace I was comfortable with. I rode past a ghost bike of a bmxer who had lost their life & was overcome with emotion again. I think I spent a solid fifteen minutes crying & pedaling because life is so fragile, so special, so incredibly difficult. Being such a new cyclist & a Scorpio & in recovery, I often spend my time crying over things that maybe a normal person wouldn't. Surprisingly, that's actually one thing I am not embarrassed about. My sentimental heart is what keeps this machine going & I was amazed at what I had accomplished so far that day & the ride wasn't even over.
Eventually I approached the finish line & finished the ride with 82 miles ridden in six hours & thirty-seven minutes. My dad & his wife were there waiting for me at the finish line. I parked my bike amongst hundreds of other bikes & found them, walking on jelly legs choking back even more tears because it meant so much to me that they had driven all the way down the shore to be there at the finish line. My dad was so proud & that was pretty rad. Even at almost forty years old it feels good to do something that makes your old man smile so big. Brian was still a few miles out since he had circled around, so we waited for him at the finish line. It was really special for me to be there when he finished his first century ride. It was even more special that now we were in Ocean City New Jersey, a city that held such a special place in my over-crowded heart. When I was seventeen I ran away from home & spent a summer sleeping under the OCNJ boardwalk, spare changing for money to get french fries & bathing in the ocean. I made friendships that summer that are still some of my most cherished. I had my heart broken that summer. It was only a few months but it was the most important time in my life & I hold that town very close to my heart. It was really nice to walk down the boardwalk & share those stories with Brian after such an incredible day, eating dinner & watching the sunset. I couldn't have imagined a better ending to the day.
I have already registered for the 2017 ride. I will keep you updated.
Monday is my day off. It's the day I have all to myself. My boyfriend is working, my friends are usually working, my niece is at school. It's all me, all day. This Monday I decided I wanted to do my longest solo ride ever, which really wouldn't be that long. I had never even ridden twenty miles alone. Actually, my longest ride EVER was only 30.1 miles (with my boyfriend on April 17th, the 19th anniversary of my stepdad passing away - I weird yet fitting way to remember him). Anyway, yesterday... I had been thinking of riding the Perkiomen Trail because it would be something "new" yet a trail I'm familiar with since I've ridden it a couple times but not often. From one end to the other is 20 miles. I decided I was going to ride the entire thing. 40 miles. I packed a bag of almonds, two water bottles, a packet of energy goo & my courage & hit the road.
I was so psyched to ride. I got my bike out, adjusted my lights, checked my tire pressure & after using the port-a-potty, tucked one earbud in my ear so I could listen to Beyonce but still be able to hear other folks on the trail & started peddling. Five minutes into the ride, as I climbed out of the parking lot & onto the road I realized, I was way in over my head but the stoke was SO HIGH so I just peddled & peddled but kept it sorta mellow so I didn't burn out too fast. As a new cyclist (I just got my bike last May, thanks Fitness Central). I am always learning. Every ride is new & a challenge & a triumph. I actually got that first 20 miles done in a relatively respectable time. I sat down in the grass with my energy goo (a plant-based endurance gel by Vega which actually, is pretty gross) & almonds. I sat & marveled at what I had done & panicked over how I had to do it all over again. I didn't hang for too long because it was hot & people kept stopping to ask if I was ok. I knew there was a Wawa back a few miles & I wanted fruit so I got on my bike & rode another 6.5 miles. I got my fruit, texted some friends & chilled out. Not a single person asked if I was ok.
The rest of my ride was pretty intense. I couldn't get my handlebar grips in a position that didn't hurt my wrists/palms. My period started halfway into my ride. My legs ached. But I kept on & it wasn't actually as bad as I thought it would be. I took it slow. I stopped a few times. I took photos of the water & the rocks & my stupid exhausted face. By the time I got back to my car I was in tears. But not because I was in pain but because I had decided to try something that seemed impossible & I did it. At that moment I literally felt like I could do anything. My sobriety makes me an emotional mess but also so appreciative of everything. I am so lucky to be alive & present & able to achieve these goals. Life is cool.
ps: I am doing my first charity ride in September. I would love for you to sponsor me.
2015 was the year I quit smoking. New Year's Eve I excused myself from the room, went outside & smoked my last cigarette before coming back in to watch the ball drop. I also decided to go vegan for the new year. I had just started riding bikes & I was struggling to breathe on the simplest rides. As the year comes to a close, I'm still a non-smoker, still vegan & still riding bikes. 2015 is also the year I tattooed my grandparent's engagement photo on my arm, confusing them forever. Last year I celebrated New Year's Eve with my boyfriend, quietly, at home. The next morning we woke up & went for a hike at High Rocks in Ralph Stover Park. The day after that we walked around Lake Galena in Peace Valley Park with my dog. A new year started outside, clearing my lungs, hoping for a new start in so many ways.
Early March I went on my first bmx roadtrip with my boyfriend & a couple of other folks. We headed north during a snowstorm to ride bikes in Syracuse at Cranx, an indoor bike park. By this point I had only been riding bmx for a few months & just barely, since it was winter. I had big ideas & was stoked to ride. But when we got there I realized I was in over my head, deep. I basically just rode around the permiter of the entire park, not riding any cool lines or doing anything rad. It was a giant bummer & I was dissapointed. But as the months went on I rode my bike more & more. Suddenly, my entire life became bmx & all I wanted to do was ride. I spent my days off at Posh Woods, digging trails & riding the warm up line for hours, trying to get all the way through without stopping, eventually doing just that. I wanted to jump the double at the end of the line but as the year came to an end I realized that just wasn't going to happen (2016 tho, it will). We headed back to Cranx over Thanksgiving break & with my newfound confidence & skill I was able to ride almost everything there (not including the advance jump line, the green line or into the foam pit). When I couldn't ride Posh I rode the skatepark or in my driveway. I just RODE as much as possible. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to ride my bike every day. It doesn't have to be a full session or my bmx bike, but I have to get on my bike, any one of my bikes every single day.
At the end of March, I volunteered for a day at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary with my best friend, John Berry. Started in 2004 by Jenny Brown & Doug Abel & a handful of chickens rescued from a factory farm, Woodstock has been home to thousands of rescued animals who were saved from neglect or cruelty. The animals either spend their lives at Woodstock or are adopted into suitable forever homes based on strict criteria. John & I spent the day doing whatever was needed of us, mostly shoveling (frozen) cow poop out of barns to lay down fresh hay. When we were finished I got to brush a one ton steer! When I decided to go vegan this year I made a commitment to change my life, volunteering at Woodstock was part of that commitment. Being there that day, hanging out with all these animals who were given a second chance, reinforced my decision. Another resolution for 2016 is to visit the sanctuary more often.
In April, my boyfriend & I went on our first vacation together. I had found a killer deal on Groupon for the Hilton at Niagara Falls (Canada side) & so we packed the car & went away for the weekend. We did all the touristy stuff like Journey Behind the Falls & the Skylon Tower observation deck. We walked around Clifton Hill & rode the Skywheel. The next day we drove to Toronto & went record shopping & had a delicious vegan meal at Hogtown Vegan. Neither of us had ever been to Toronto, I had never been to Niagara Falls (Brian had, once as a child). So the entire trip was an adventure. I always worry when traveling that my anxiety will get the best of me, especially on that first trip with a new partner (I wrote about this in Lady Teeth #2). But we had a total blast & didn't argue or anything. It was a short trip but it was super fun & on our way back into the states we were hassled by border patrol for wearing matching Posh Woods hoodies.
Not too soon after we got back from Niagara Falls did we hit the road again, this time to Brian's hometown of Chicago for the zine fest! This was my third year attending CZF. It has become my favorite event to go to because so many people come from all over & it's so well organized. There is always a reading & panel the day before tabling, after parties all weekend & each year I've been lucky enough to be invited to do a reading at the Chicago Publishing Resource Center, a rad space for zinesters. We brought our bmx bikes with us, but I was still feeling less than confident about my riding so I chickened out riding the incredible spot Brian took me to (I'm psyched for this year to bring my bike & shred). We stayed with his best friend for a couple nights & one night at his grandma's house (her house number is 666, what!). We ate at the Chicago Diner (a rad vegan diner that's been in chicago for ages) multiple times. He was sweet enough to do cool touristy stuff with me (like visit the bean) even though it's his hometown.
We also drove up to Boston in October for Boston Zine Fest. I was so psyched to get Brian to Boston since he's never been there & I lived there for a couple years in my early 20's. I was also invited to be a part of a panel at Make Shift called "Zines as Radical Resistance". It was my first time being on a panel but it was rad. There's nothing I love talking about more than zines. This year is 20 years since I started making zines. This was also my forth zine fest in Boston (but first since 2005). We stayed with my dear friends, the Hook family without whom I never would have last a day living in Boston. We also went & visited the HOC, the first house I lived in when I got there, a very special place.
Another Groupon I scored this year was for a cheap stay at the Starlux in Wildwood, New Jersey. So, we spent the weekend down the shore too. That was awesome, except for the part where I totally ate shit on my brand new (to me) road bike & ripped open my knee pretty gnarly (only to crash through a bush & fall off the side of the trail riding bmx a couple weeks later at Posh, ripping the scab clean off). But we still had a blast playing in the ocean & riding the tramcar & making out under the boardwalk. It was Brian's very first trip down the shore so I wanted to make sure he got the true experience. Unfortunately, it was a little early in the season so the rides weren't open late & it was pretty quiet but the weather was perfect & I wore my two piece banana bikini.
On June 10th I celebrated 5 years sober. I write about my sobriety a lot, here & on social media. My life revolves around my sobriety because 5 years ago when my life revolved around drinking I was not someone I liked. So to achieve this milestone was incredible. I threw myself a party. I invited all my favorite people, friends, family & we had cake & we swam & we just marveled in the beauty of life. I am present & aware & alive, all because I am sober. A lot of times people will come to me & be like "I have to quit drinking, how do I do it?" & it's not easy & it's not fun. It's dangerous & it's scary. But it's also the absolute best thing you can do for yourself. I never imagined I would get to 5 years. To be honest, I never thought I would get to 5 months. Each day was a battle & it felt impossible. But as time goes on it gets easier but that's where it can also get tricky. You get comfortable in your sobriety & people can forget that there's a reason they quit in the first place. If you think you shouldn't drink, you probably shouldn't. If you want to quit but you don't know how please don't hesitate to reach out to me.
2015 was also the year I started fostering again. My first babies were a pair of kittens named Dexter & Bo. I had them for some time before the rescue I was working for asked me to take in a pregnant cat. An older couple had found her in their basement, they were not prepared for a mother & a litter of babies so I took her in. Weeks went by & she grew & grew until finally, late one night I heard her crying from the spare bathroom. When I went in to check on her she had 5 tiny little kittens with her. By the end of the night she had another. When I woke up the next morning she had delivered 8 kittens! Sadly, one did not make it but she did have 7 healthy kittens. Now, I had 7 healthy kittens & a mom to foster. It was a zoo... an adorable little zoo. I took thousands of photos of these babies & sent them to the rescue. They were already promised to families (in pairs even! with the momma being adopted with a baby) before they were two weeks old. That, is a foster success!
Then, on September 1st, Brian crashed his motorcycle & the year kinda just ended.
Suddenly life was about healing. Everything we did revolved around his comfort. For weeks he couldn't walk. I borrowed a wheelchair from friends. He got crutches from the hospital. I was an emotional mess & he was just trying to heal. Now, months later he can walk & he's starting to ride his bike again & we have big plans for the Spring. Life is all about ups & downs. We got through this accident & we can get through anything. I am just SO THANKFUL he is alive.
The weather turned cold. I celebrated my 37th birthday. Thanksgiving came & went & then Christmas. Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. This year saw the birth of Trillian Cloudkicker & we said goodbye to Hazel. Babies had birthdays & new friendships were made. I spent the majority of my time surrounded by some of the most incredible people who I love so much. I look forward to basking in their glow in 2016.