Wednesday, September 2, 2009

And the winners are...

As promised, we did a drawing for one of the limited edition Team Athena jerseys. After we did that, we realized we could give away even more of the swag to the very donors who made it possible for us to receive LIVESTRONG swag anyway.

Oh, and the pictures of the jersey are courtesy of the other half of Team Athena, Kim & Judy! Kim raised $1,125 and Judy raised $432! We didn't get to see them at all on race day - and I've actually never even met Judy - because we were in separate corrals, but they did the 10 mile ride and confirmed that even that was hilly. Whew! Here are Kim & Judy:

And here is the jersey:

The front

The back

Now, I should explain the story behind the jersey a bit. The mascot of Team Athena is our Greyhound, Bea. Greyhounds are lithe and athletic. For those that don't know, Athena is a classification in running/cycling/etc... that is for women who weigh over a certain amount, typically 150lbs or so. I am the only member of our team squarely in Athena territory. Nice to be the team's namesake. Anyway, we thought it would be funny to have a Greyhound as the mascot for our team. That, and we just love our dog. Bea is awesome.

Here's how we did the drawing: if you gave a donation to either Alyssa or myself, you got an entry in the drawing for every $5 you gave. So if you gave $5, you got one entry and if you gave $100 you got twenty entries. Then she put those numbers into and we drew numbers for each of the prizes we had.

The first drawing we did was for a 2009 LIVESTRONG Challenge water bottle. That went to Ray & Linda Crough!

The second drawing was for a 2009 LIVESTRONG Challenge T-shirt. That went to Sarah Patterson!

The third drawing was for a 2009 LIVESTRONG Challenge messenger bag. That went to Jeffrey & Melissa Schecter! In the interest of full disclosure, they are family, but they were still randomly chosen. Being family members doesn't help you, but it doesn't hurt you in the drawing, either!

The final drawing was for the jersey. This is the biggie! So the winner of the 2009 Philadelphia LIVESTRONG Challenge Team Athena jersey designed by Alyssa Boxhill is...


Kara is a former co-worker of mine at People For the American Way and I am sure she will put the jersey to good use.

We will get those goodies to you all as soon as we can. Congratulations!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Real Wrap-up, Part II

In case you missed it, you can click here for Part I.

Once we got our tires pumped up, our pockets stuffed full of Clif and Luna bars, and our water bottles full of water and Gatorade, we headed over to the 100 mile corrals. We were both anxious to just get the show on the road, but the start time was pushed back 30 minutes to 8AM in order to accommodate the people stuck in traffic. I made us stick to the back of the 100 mile corral because I was afraid of getting swept up in the fast people riding the 100 miles. Before we got going, I took one last picture.

And then we were off.

The first five miles flew by, as they were relatively flat and not scary. I was feeling good, but making sure I stayed at my own pace. Alyssa and I mostly stuck together and we were moving along pretty nicely. Then we got into some more twisty, smaller roads and I saw the first major crash of the day. There were around six or seven people and their bikes strewn about the side of the road. The roads were still a little wet and slick at that point, so it looked like they took a curve too fast. We went around them and then hit some hilly stuff. The original plan had been that we would skip the first rest station at the 10 mile marker, but when I came upon it, I stopped. Alyssa was ahead of me and kept going, but stopped just beyond it to wait for me. We then tried to stick together again, but the hills were increasing in frequency and Alyssa weighs about 75lbs less than I do, so she's able to fly up them with relative ease. I was... Well, I was sucking. Plain and simple. I implored her to go on and just leave me behind, but she refused. She kept stopping to wait for me to catch up. I appreciated it, but I felt awful for her. How crappy is it to have to stop and wait when you're in a riding groove? Gah.

When we made it to the second rest stop, we peed and ate. Can I just tell you that humidity, sweat, and port-o-potty toilet paper don't mix? As Ellen DeGeneres would say, that TP was "like prosciutto." After we peed - and washed our hands - we filled up our bottles and made ourselves eat something. I ate a Luna bar and immediately felt like barfing. It was hot and I was exerting a lot of energy and I just felt gross. I sat down for a few minutes to try to settle my stomach and that did the trick, but it was then I realized there was no way in hell I could make it 100 miles. It was disappointing, but I was realistic. I knew that even if I tried the 70 mile route, I would probably get sag wagoned because my speed was atrocious. The 100 mile route wasn't going to be an option for Alyssa either because she'd spent so much time waiting for me, but 70 miles was definitely attainable. When we reached the turn-off, I gave her my blessing to go 70 miles and she gave me mine to go 45 and we left each other.

The funny thing is that at that moment, I thought the worst was behind me. I couldn't imagine that I'd have many more hills, but I was so very wrong. It was hellacious. I got off my bike and walked up more hills than I can recall. I was passed by hundreds of people. Several sag wagons stopped to make sure I didn't need to get picked up. I saw people being tended to by medics and loaded into ambulances. But I kept on going. Yeah, it was hot and my feet hurt and my back hurt, but it was nice. I was by myself a lot and I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing. Of course, I also kept thinking, "How many more @#)($*#@)*#@$ hills can there be?!" I made it to the last rest stop and stayed there for about 30 minutes, eating a granola bar and drinking water. I got back on my bike fully expecting that the last 10 miles would fly by, but I was very wrong. There were more hills! More traffic! It was neverending. The best part? Fatty rode past me and said, "We're almost there!" It was just the encouragement I needed to get me through to the end. Of course, he had done the 100 miles in the time it took me to do 45 miles, but that's ok! The funniest thing was when I got into a little group right outside the college. We were all coasting down a hill and expecting to cruise through the intersection and make our way to the finish line, but we got stuck at a traffic light. What a momentum killer.

So I rode across the finish line by myself. Honestly, it was a little sad to not have anyone there to cheer our arrival. People clapped and cheered for everyone crossing, but it means a little more if you know the people cheering for you. Still, I was very happy to be finished and I was proud of myself. Alyssa texted me to let me know she was about 20 miles out, so I knew I had enough time to drop off my bike at the car and actually move the car closer so Alyssa wouldn't have as far to go to get to it when she finished. After that, I headed back to the finish line to wait for her to cross.

The finish

I had sent Alyssa a text message to let me know when she was about 10 miles out so I would be ready to take her picture as she came into the chute. Well, she didn't get that message, so while I was taking a picture of myself, she yelled out my name as she came into the cute. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the camera turned around in time, so I missed documenting that moment. I felt awful about it.

She was fine with it, though, because she was so psyched.

Does she look like she just rode 70 miles?!

Actually, we both look pretty good, all things considered

My sign

Full bodied spandex, y'all!"


You know, I just want to say that I'm sorry I didn't make it to 100 miles, or even 70 miles. It wasn't for a lack of trying, but I feel badly that I couldn't make it. Hopefully I'll be better next year! Yes, next year. We were already talking about next year when we were driving home. Will you join us? We promise it's fun. Heck, even if you don't want to run or ride, maybe you can just be there to cheer us on at the finish line. That'd be nice.

Again, thank you. Thank you so much for your love, support, humor, and donations. We couldn't have done it without you and we are so blessed to know you all.

Oh, and thanks for following this blog.

The Real Wrap-up, Part I

I know - it's been over a week since we finished the Challenge. I wasn't sure where to begin, so I'll just start writing and see where it goes.

After dropping off Bea for a sleepover with friends - thanks, Katie & Jon - we headed up to our hotel in Plymouth Meeting, PA. We checked in and dropped off our bikes and stuff in the room, then took off to pick up our packets at the Montgomery County Community College campus.

Alyssa's stuff


We got to the LIVESTRONG Village to pick up our stuff and found it was unbelievably muddy. A major storm had gone through the night before, so the grassy area where the village was set up was pretty much a mud pit. It made walking around and looking at stuff less than ideal, so we decided to just pick up our packets. Because of the generosity of you all, Alyssa and I received many incentive gifts and, cooler than that, many cheers and much applause from the volunteers when they announced the amount of money we raised. It was very cool. We both received the same things: a t-shirt, hat, water bottle, cycling jersey, messenger bag, and tickets to the participant appreciation dinner that night in Chester, PA at Turbine Hall.

The appreciation dinner was very nice. It started with a cocktail hour, which was mostly awkward for us because we didn't know anyone else there. However, as I was standing and eating some very garlicky hummus, I noticed that Fatty of Fat Cyclist was chatting with some people right behind Alyssa. When I alerted her to this, Alyssa got very excited. I was pretty sure she'd be so nervous that she wouldn't actually say anything to Fatty, but she did! She introduced us to Fatty and he was lovely. He asked if we were part of a team, so we told him we were a small team of four called Team Athena. We told him we might join Team Fatty next year, but this year Alyssa wanted to design a jersey. He asked us what the jerseys looked like, so Alyssa told him and he said he'd be on the lookout for us on Sunday. We only talked for a few minutes, but it was probably the highlight of the night. Well, that's not true - the highlight was hearing Fatty's speech that he gave at the dinner. It was funny, touching, and the best speech of the night.

Turbine Hall

My giant plate of food

We ended up sitting at a table with a very lovely couple. I don't remember their names, but the husband was himself a cancer survivor who does work with a low-cost/free legal clinic for cancer patients in Philadelphia. He participates in the Challenge, but he said he was actually at the dinner because his organization is a beneficiary of the grants that the Lance Armstrong Foundation doles out to organizations. It was really cool to actually talk to someone who benefits from the foundation. He told us stories of the people who come to the clinic seeking legal advice because they're afraid of being fired from their jobs for being diagnosed with cancer. He also told us that much of his work involves estate planning and wills. What a great resource.

After the dinner, we swung by the other half of Team Athena's hotel so Alyssa could drop off Kim & Judy's jerseys. After that, we went back to the hotel and got in bed. We were asleep by 11:30PM. That was good because we had to be up by 4:45AM in order to get dressed, eat, and get to the Challenge on time. Last year the traffic was horrendous getting to the campus, so we made sure this time around that we were on the road by 5:30AM. We got there around 6:15AM and sat in the car for a bit, just finishing up our breakfast of bagels and oatmeal and relishing the final few minutes of calm. Then it was time to get out of the car and start getting ourselves ready to head to the start.

Taking down the bikes

More than a little nervous

To be continued...

Monday, August 24, 2009

We did it(sort of)!

We made it back to Maryland safe and sound after a truly wonderful experience of doing the LIVESTRONG Challenge. This was our second year participating, so we mostly knew what to expect as far as the venue and the crowd, but it was still so inspiring to see over 6000 participants gathered in one place to tell cancer to eff off.

I say that we did it - sort of - because we didn't make it to 100 miles. We knew it was a very hilly, difficult course because Alyssa had done the 45 mile course last year, but until I got out there on it I had no real concept of just how bad it was going to be. When we reached the point where we could go to the 70/100 mile course or divert to the 45, I made the decision to divert to the 45. However, I insisted that Alyssa carry on with the big goal and head for the 70/100 mile course. Had she not waited around for me, I'm sure she would have made it to the 100 mile course, but instead it was closed when she got to the 70/100 mile option. So she did the 70 mile course and tore it up. In fact, she finished only about an hour and a half behind me on the 45 mile course. Unbelievable.

I'll give a bigger weekend report soon, but I just wanted to let everyone know that we made it, had a great time, and can't wait to do it again next year.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Here we go!

We're less than 36 hours away from the Philly LIVESTRONG Challenge. It goes without saying that I am nervous. However, I am also super excited. At this point, I just want to get the show on the road. Of course, I have also been freaking myself out by repeatedly looking at the ride's elevation profile and reading blog posts from people who did the ride last year or are freaking out about doing it this year. I've made Alyssa tell me to stop every time she notices me looking at those sites, but I sneak peeks. I'm bad.

We're leaving Frederick tomorrow around noon and should get to packet pickup at the LIVESTRONG Village around 3pm. Thanks to you all, Alyssa and I raised enough money to be invited to attend the pre-Challenge dinner tomorrow night, so we'll hit that up at 6:30pm. After the dinner, we'll head back to our hotel room and get to bed so we can get up super early on Sunday morning. The 100 mile ride is supposed to be released at 7:30am, so we're going to leave our hotel no later than 5:30am. I know that sounds crazy considering our hotel is just a few miles from the start, but last year we were 10 miles from the venue and it took us nearly an hour to get there from our hotel because traffic was so bad. We're hoping to avoid the stress of thinking we're going to be late this year.

For those who are interested, I intend to post about our exploits in real time on Facebook and Twitter. If you aren't on Facebook, you can follow me on Twitter. There are rest stops every 10 miles or so on the course and I hope to post when we stop to refuel and rest.

I'm guessing I won't be posting here again until after the Challenge, so check back on Monday. I probably won't have a full recap up at that point, but I'll at least post to let you know that I'm not stranded on the side of the road in rural Pennsyvlania. (But, like I said, if you want to know what's up with us as it's happening, keep up with us on Twitter.)

I hope we can make you all proud.

P.S. Thanks to you all, we managed to bust our team fundraising goal wide open! We are floored by your generosity. Thank you so much.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Well, that was embarrassing.

All last week, Alyssa was psyching me up for a group ride from Gambrill State Park down to the South Mountain Creamery and back. I was beyond nervous because I have been on exactly one group ride and I was afraid of slowing everyone down on the way back when we'd face very hilly terrain. Alyssa assured me that I would be fine, so I took her word for it. We got out to the meeting spot and set off with everyone else on the ice cream ride.

I got a little over a mile into the ride before I stopped and turned around.

Little did I know that I might have been much better at the uphill part than the downhill one. When I got home, I plugged in the Garmin to find that we had descended about 400 feet in just a few minutes. As I screamed down the mountain, I could envision only one thing: certain death. Most of the descent took place on a dirt and gravel road and we were flying. I was terrified. I somehow managed to stop without skidding or falling off my bike and I told Alyssa that there was no way I could continue the ride. I felt like a massive failure and an even bigger pansy, but i knew that I would be in a bad way if I continued with the ride. I figured it was better to cut my losses then rather than getting even further down this steep road and having to turn right back around to go up it. Alyssa admitted that she, too, was terrified going so fast down the road, so I felt a little better. However, as she is far more hardcore than I am, she felt she could continue. I assured Alyssa that I would be fine going back to the car and encouraged her to catch up with the rest of the group.

As I rode back up the hill, I was pissed. I was pissed for quitting and a little bit pissed that Alyssa had told me I'd be able to handle this ride. I started feeling sorry for myself, which is just about the worst feeling ever. I decided then that I would go and do a ride I knew - the Utica covered bridge ride - and try to salvage what I could of the day. I was unsure how long I would have to ride before having to go back and pick Alyssa up, so I didn't actually ride to the bridge(yet again - every time I've tried this ride, I haven't made it to the actual bridge). I just sort of did my own thing, took my time, and enjoyed myself. Thinking I needed to head back to get ready to pick up Alyssa, I rode through Walkersville and back to where I had parked the car to see if Alyssa had sent me a text. She had. They had made it to the creamery in about an hour and were already enjoying their ice cream. Unfortunately, after the fun of the ice cream, they had to make the return trip back up the mountain. What took an hour going down? Took around three hours going back. It turns out I would have had plenty of time to do a more substantial ride! Oh well.

So that was that. It was kind of a downer way to end a week of riding since I'd had such a good individual riding week. I did multiple rides by myself before or after work and I was really feeling a little bit competent and not like a total n00b. It could have been worse, though. I could have actually fallen going down the mountain. That would have been more than a little humiliating.

Causing me more than a little anxiety this week is the fact that we were without our bikes for several days while we got some granny gears installed. Hopefully these will help with contending with the very hilly Challenge course, but I was silently freaking out about not being able to log miles this week.

I have already accepted the fact that I am woefully underprepared for the Challenge. Yes, we have been training, but I know deep in my heart I haven't done enough. The time to train has slipped away and with just a week to go, there is little that can be done to change that reality. I'm not feeling defeated or throwing my hands up in the air, but I am being realistic. Under the best of circumstances, riding 100 miles on a bicycle is no walk in the park. I am going to be hurting in a bad way, y'all. But it'll be fine!

In other news, we did a 36 mile ride today on the C&O Canal Towpath - this time without any unfortunate collisions - and it was boring as hell. I think I've really come to appreciate the variety of pedaling and scenery that a hilly ride affords.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tonya's Reason for Riding

Life just kicks you in the head when you need it most. I had been thinking about posting how I'm really nervous about not being able to actually pull off riding 100 miles. I've had nightmares of being sag wagoned at mile 10. I've thought about riding the 45 mile route and ditching the 100 mile dream altogether. But then I realized I was being kind of a baby. As Kenny Van Hummel, Lanterne rouge for many stages of the Tour de France this year said, "I'll quit when I fall off my bike." Unfortunately, Kenny actually did end up falling off his bike and injuring himself badly enough to have to leave the Tour. I hope to avoid that same fate, but stick with me here!

Alyssa and I got the idea to participate in last year's LIVESTRONG Challenge because she is a regular reader of the blog Fat Cyclist. The Fat Cyclist himself, Elden (aka Fatty), writes about bike stuff in a very entertaining and humorous way, but also about his wife Susan's battle with breast cancer. He was able to combine his hatred of cancer with his love for cycling and formed Team Fatty, with teams in every Challenge city. This year, they have already raised over $500,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, an incredible amount of money and a testament to the number of people whose lives he and Susan have touched. With the tagline WIN Susan, they inspired countless number of people to join the fight against cancer.

On Wednesday, I had already gone to bed when Alyssa came up to wake me to let me know Susan had died. Fatty said it best:

Susan's part in the battle is over, but she didn’t lose. She led the charge. She showed the rest of us how to fight: with determination, focus, creativity, and outrageous endurance.

The fight against cancer is very personal for me. My life changed for good in countless ways nearly 10 years ago when I lost my mom to cancer. Once I got beyond the initial gut-wrenching, debilitating grief, I realized I had only begun to discover the way cancer had changed everything in my life.

There are the big occasions she's missed out on.

I graduated from the University of Tennessee and my mom wasn't there to celebrate the humongous role she played in getting me across that stage.

Dad, Papa, Nana & me after graduation. I put a picture of her on my mortarboard to have her there with me.

I got married and she didn't get to celebrate with the rest of our family and friends.

I wore her butterfly earrings.

We bought a house.

How I wish she'd been here to tell us to run away from the Money Pit, or at least have her here to make my dad get up here to help us! (Hi, Dad!)

If we ever have kids, she won't be here for that. I won't be able to share pregnancy woes with her. I won't hear what it was like for her to raise me.

Mom holding me as we left a swimming lesson

But even more than those big events are the little things I miss. I am reminded daily that she's gone. I wish I could pick up the phone and tell her about my day, good or bad. There's no one like your mom who can set you straight or help you commiserate about the injustices of life. I see much of my mom in myself and I wish I could tell her that. And despite my actions and protestations to the contrary when I was a teenager, I'm damn proud to be like her.

I know how hard my mom fought. She wanted more than anything to experience all of the milestones I wrote about here. For a year and a half, she did all she could to make sure she was here for my dad, brother, and me. But cancer is a big jerk. When I think about all she went through—the nausea and vomiting, the fatigue, the pain, the indignity, the fear—I continue to be awed by her strength, fight, and perseverance.

When the saddle starts to hurt and my shoulders and neck are aching, I think about what my mom, grandfather, and millions of others have gone through. When my lungs are screaming and my legs are burning from pushing up a mountain, I think about them and I push on. I laugh when people tell me how amazing it is that I'm going to ride 100 miles on a bike. What I'm doing is nothing. What the people fighting cancer do every day is amazing. They stare down cancer and tell it to go to hell.

We will win. WIN Susan. WIN Mom.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Assorted Flats

I totally forgot to write about my birthday weekend ride from the Grosvenor Metro station to DC that wasn't. I'm not even sure it's worth getting into except to say that the Bethesda Trolley Trail is a bit of a misnomer, as it actually turns into a pedestrian heavy sidewalk alongside a very busy road. We got about three miles into the ride and I was over it. It was just as well - I ended up with a flat tire after running over a particularly pointy little twig that managed to puncture my tire and my tube.

My tire was really flat.

Alyssa changed my tube out for me and we cut across the NIH campus to get on Metro at Medical Center and take the train into DC. We got down into the station and found there was single-tracking going on. We waited for about 20 minutes for a train going in the direction of DC with no luck, so we scratched that plan and got on a train in the direction of Grosvenor. We went back to the car, loaded up the bikes, and drove to our hotel in DC. We were staying in DC overnight because we had a Mystics game to attend that night and then we were having brunch with my friend Mandy and others the next morning. It didn't make sense to go back to Frederick only to come back the next morning. Once we got checked in, we had just enough time to get showered before we headed out for the Mystics game.

So, our big plan to ride into DC was scrubbed, but I'm fine with that. It ended up being that the tube Alyssa replaced my flat one with had a hole in it, so my tire had gone flat by the next morning anyway. I took all of this as a sign from above that we didn't need to be riding our bikes that weekend.

This past weekend, Alyssa had plotted out a 40 mile ride near the beach in Delaware, but the weather was not very cooperative. There were some pretty nasty storms throughout the area and we had to scrub the 40 miler when it was obvious we were going to be facing a gullywasher sooner rather than later. We still managed to get in about 17 miles before we had to cede to the might of Mother Nature.

I had been excited about riding in Delaware because I knew it would be flat. I'm not anti-hill, but one of my biggest concerns about doing a century is that, well, it's 100 miles. That's a long time for me to have my, uh, ladybits sitting on a bike seat. So while it's important to be ready for climbing some fairly formidable hills on the Challenge, I really wanted to pack in some long rides on flat roads to get used to being on a bike for an extended period of time. What I neglected to realize about riding on flat terrain is that I have to pedal a lot. At least with hills, there's a downhill part. With flat roads, you're just constantly pedaling. It's not a bad thing, but it is something I didn't really think about. I daresay it was...a little bit boring. The one cool thing is that I looked down at my Garmin and realized Alyssa and I had been averaging about 18-19MPH for a few miles. Of course, that was when we had a very short-lived tail wind. Most of the ride was spit with a very hateful headwind and demoralizing crosswinds. But we made it through - and without being struck by lightning!

Our jerseys shipped yesterday and we will have them in our hot little hands by Thursday!

Friday, July 31, 2009


While we haven't yet reached our overall Team Athena fundraising goal of $7500, three of us on the team have met our individual goals. Kim met her goal of $1000 a week or so ago and Alyssa and I met our goals of $2500 this week! Alyssa actually raised her goal to $3000 and I am confident that she can reach it before the Challenge. I have kept mine at $2500 because I sort of can't believe that I actually reached my goal. Anything above $2500 is very sweet icing on the cake.

All of us on Team Athena are deeply appreciative of your kindness and your support. If you haven't received a quick email thank you from me, rest assured that EVERYONE who donates to me (or Alyssa, because I will make sure she does it) will receive a specially designed thank you card after we complete the LIVESTRONG Challenge on August 23rd. I am a proper southern lady and my mom would be horrified if she thought we weren't going to properly thank you all with a handwritten thank you note.

You might notice that it's been a little quiet around here. We've had a busy couple of weeks and it's been hard to get in some good rides, but we're looking to change that this weekend. We're going to Alyssa's mom and dad's house in Lewes, DE tonight with our friends and we are planning to get in a long ride on Sunday. We might try to ride some on Saturday, but that time will mostly be spent galavanting and having fun with Rebecca and Karen and their adorable daughter, Sammy. Alyssa is trying to psych me up for a very hilly ride next weekend, but I'm feeling some nervousness about it. It's a group ride with all women and I think it will be a real challenge. I need that, but I also don't want to slow anyone else down. The reality is that when we ride with more people, I'm much less of a pansy because I don't want to embarrass myself, but this ride sounds hard. There is a stop for ice cream in the middle of it, though. Embarrassment or ice cream? It's a tough call.

In other news, we bought a replacement camera for the one that was broken in the C&O Canal Towpath debacle a few weeks ago. I'm hoping I'll be able to keep this one from a similar fate and bring back lots of interesting pictures from our rides.

I booked our hotel room for Philly today.

More after the weekend!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Montaindale from the Dales

It has now, shamefully, been a month since our Mountaindale adventure, but the recap post is finally here.

As residents of Frederick, we're lucky to have in the area a variety of scenic country roads to ride on, as well as a fairly strong bicycling culture. In addition to useful route search sites like Bikely and, Frederick has its own cycling club, which has its own website, which has its own collection of cue sheets.

Using a pre-existing cue sheet for a ride keeps planning to a minimum. You're given turn-by-turn directions for the entire route and, assuming they're correct and don't land you at a dead end on a cliff, you're pretty much all set. If the sheet comes from a reputable source (like a club), you can rest assured that it's been ridden before and endorsed, in some sense or another, by the riders that made the route available to the public. The downside, of course, is that you're potentially putting your trust in something totally unfamiliar to you. In looking at a list of road names, distances and turn instructions, there's no telling what you are getting yourself into if you aren't already familiar with where those directions will take you.

Before planning our ride, I had hinted to Tonya that we should take a ride heading west along Rosemont Ave/Yellow Springs road and chose the Mountaindale route based on its directional bearings and distance. Having survived the 20 miles roundtrip to church, I figured a 30mi ride would be reasonable and doable. I took a look at the roads on the route, most of which sounded familiar and none of which struck me as being particularly daunting (having never ridden on the majority, of course). Everything seemed manageable, and we set out with positive expectations for the trip.

The cue sheet had us leaving from Whittier Elementary. Leaving from our front door, we elected to bypass the starting line and get directly onto Rosemont, which would take us onto Yellow Springs and out into the meat of the ride.

Riding on Rosemont and Yellow Springs wasn't fun. It was, in fact, a pain in the ass, one that has forced me to reconsider my vow to one day go pick up pizza from Pizza Blitz on my bike. Fairly heavy traffic, a disappearing shoulder, and obnoxious drivers had us thankful to turn off onto Walter Marz and head out into the countryside.

On the smaller roads we encountered fewer cars, thankfully, and the first few miles passed without incident: we came across a remote, half-finished housing development, watched birds interacting with each other, and were passed by a group of Frederick Pedalers who were heading home after riding the same Mountaindale route we had just begun. Obviously they got started much earlier than we did.

The route turned onto Oppossumtown Pike, the scene of one of the rare "distance" rides I did (all of 16 miles) in preparation for riding the Livestrong Challenge last summer. This ride would take us much farther, but my familiarity with that area would serve us well later in the afternoon.

When Tonya talks about this ride now, she has well-defined memories of encountering some pretty brutal hills. With it having taken place a month ago, the details of my own recollection are much fuzzier now than they were in its immediate aftermath. I remember hills we couldn't prepare ourselves for that snuck up on us behind sharp curves. I remember other hills that stretched out straight ahead of us and seemed cripplingly daunting as we approached them, though some turned out to be less painful than anticipated. One in particular sent us on a straight descent for what seemed like a while, with trucks thundering along beside us, before the road tipped up and we huffed and puffed our way to the top.

Hurting for now, but she was a trooper!

Oh yeah, my chain fell off, too

In much clearer detail I remember passing through a quiet wooded area on a small road alongside a creek. Tonya called out to me from behind to take a look at something.

Being insensitive and riding off in front again

It took me a few seconds to register that she'd spoken to me, but between then and my turning around, she ended up on the ground. I raced back towards her to make sure she was alright and found her sobbing and pointing at the side of her brand new Sidi Dominators, scraped up from the fall.

She had seen a baby turtle and was calling out for me to come see it, and she got stuck in her pedals and tipped over. Stupid shoes.

We didn't blame the turtle, though. It was really cute (and very tiny; Tonya knows and appreciates my fondness for things in miniature).

I remember a strange déja vu sensation passing through roads I thought we'd ridden along together during our ride with Whitney and Araminta, or prior to that on the group ride I did back in February. Tonya assured me we were nowhere near where we'd been for the former and likely not anywhere near where I was on the latter. In reality, we were a long ways from home, much farther than I had expected—like, Thurmont far—and we still had a long way to go before we'd make it home.

At some point it started to rain. We realized around this time that we still had 2/3rds of the ride left. Crap. So we kept going. What else were we going to do?

Cut to our second crossing of Route 15, and I realized then where exactly we were and what remaining roads we could cut out to make the trip home go a little more quickly. We elected to skip the Mountaindale General Store and definitely opted out of riding "The Hill"—we'd had enough, thanks. Heading back onto Bethel Road, we turned onto Oppossumtown Pike, still out in BFE but hurrying back as fast as we were able. Going back onto Walter Marz was off the table, as was tackling Christopher's Crossing and Yellow Springs. It was a straight shot on Oppossumtown back into downtown Frederick, but we had one more punishing and tear-inducing hill to deal with. Soon afterward, thankfully, we were back on familiar ground, approaching FCC's campus and closer than ever to home.