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.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

At least there wasn't poison ivy.

Coming off the high of the recital, Alyssa and I set out to to do a long ride the C&O Canal Towpath. The C&O is a completely flat ride, so I knew we'd be able to log some miles on it with relative ease. We started in Brunswick, MD and rode in the direction of DC, figuring we'd turn around when we reached 25 miles so we could get in 50 miles.

The ride started out fine. It was bumpier than a regular road ride and I had some concerns about the path being muddy with all the rain we've had this summer, but it turned out to be fairly dry. Because of where we started and the direction we were heading, there weren't a ton of people out. We passed several people in the opposite direction, but it took us a while to encounter anyone heading in the same direction we were. We came up behind a trail master at one point and ended up passing him and his riding companion. We kept a nice pace, but at no time were we flying.

Around the fifth or sixth mile, we came up behind a couple who were riding next to each other. This would be fine if there weren't any other cyclists around, but there we were behind them. They knew we were behind them, too, but the man made no move to get over. In short, he was kind of a jerk. But, not wanting to seem impatient or rude, Alyssa and I slowed down and stayed behind them for a bit before we finally couldn't take it anymore and called out, "On your left!" and rang our bells. Well, Alyssa rang her bell. I honked my horn. Safely around them, we picked up the pace to about 12MPH and were really making time. However, I found myself getting ridiculously hungry so we pulled off to the side of the path and enjoyed some peanuts and cookies. While we snacked, the couple passed us. Alyssa and I lamented that we'd probably have to pass this clueless couple again and finished up our snacks. With little exertion, we caught up to the couple. Yet again, the man was riding next to the woman and giving no indication that he intended to get over. It was very, very annoying.

I have this thing about inconveniencing other people. I hate it. I go out of my way to make things easier for everyone. It's just my nature. And, honestly, I'm a novice rider, but I would never ride so cluelessly. There are cycling rules, but there are also just common-sense, human kindness rules. This guy clearly did not care about either type of rule. Had I been the woman, I would have called out to my companion that he needed to get his tail over so people could go by, but she clearly didn't see the need.

Alyssa and I - again not wanting to look like impatient jerks - pedaled slowly behind them. Alyssa rode a good 50-60 feet back and I was another 15-20 feet behind her, so there was plenty of space between all of us. As I looked to my left, I noticed a pair of sunglasses on the trail. I had just enough time to think "Oh, someone lost their glasses" before I computed that Alyssa had slammed on her brakes and had come to a very quick stop. I realized that I was going to slam into her. Hard. As I slammed into her, of course I knew I was going to fall off my bike. Again.

We've been watching the Tour de France and I had just asked Alyssa how the riders manage to unclip from their pedals so quickly when they get into accidents. Alyssa explained that the cycling shoes were meant to come undone upon impact, sort of the way ski boots work, so it just happened without them having to think about it. Having never gone skiing in my life, I had to take her word for it, but knowing how hard it was to get unclipped during my previous falls, I was dubious.

I shouldn't have been. Alyssa knows her stuff. I hit her so hard that my feet snapped right out of my pedals! I didn't even have to think about it. I was a little bit relieved, actually, as I hit the ground like a sack of flour, that at least I wouldn't be falling while attached to my bike. It definitely fell on me, but falling without the bike feels much better than falling with it. I lay on the ground for a few seconds, moaning and cussing like a sailor, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened.

As I stood up, I realized that the clueless woman in front of us had gone back behind me to pick up her sunglasses. She said not one word to either of us as she retrieved them from the path. She just calmly picked them up, walked back toward her bike, and started her ride back up. She had just caused a bike accident over her $5 pair of sunglasses and she acted like she had nothing to do with it. Nope, just gonna pick up her glasses and get back to riding. See ya, suckers!

Alyssa and I were both stunned by her behavior. Had the situation been reversed, I would have been falling all over myself to make sure that the person was ok - even if I didn't think it was my fault! Even if, technically, the accident wasn't her fault, I still think it's just the decent thing to do to show some compassion and concern for a fellow cyclist. Of course, we tried to rationalize her behavior. Maybe she didn't speak English. Maybe she was embarrassed. Maybe she has no concept of propriety. I don't know. Frankly, it was stunning.

It is only with a little bit of shame that I report both Alyssa and I yelled down the trail to the woman. Alyssa said "I hope your sunglasses are ok! I'd hate for anything to have happened to them. We're fine - thanks for checking!", while I pathetically stood and cried and yelled who knows what. A runner came by while Alyssa was yelling and assumed we were yelling at him, to which Alyssa said, "NO, you're fine runner dude!" If I hadn't been in pain, it would have been pretty funny. And, as is my default reaction, I was angry. I reached into my jersey pocket to find that our digital camera was broken. The lens was permanently stuck out. We've had it for a couple of years and it has done a yeoman's job, so its demise was particularly upsetting. It was the perfect size for putting in my pocket or my jersey. RIP, Casio Exilim. You will be missed.

After assessing my bumps and bruises and determining nothing was broken, we decided we should turn back around. I was in pain and unbelievably angry. I think had we continued on the path and come across that couple, I would have had a hard time not shoving her off of her bike. I know that's awful.

Oh, and Alyssa was fine. Neither of us is exactly sure what I hit when I slammed into her, but she was fine. She doesn't have a mark on her or her bike.

I'll close this with two pictures, taken with my camera phone. You know, because that dumb woman caused me to break my real camera.

The bruise, 4 days later. I can assure you the bruise is very large, as I have gigantic thighs:

Alyssa tightened my seat in the parking lot before we left. She was tightening it since it was loosened from the last time I fell. Unfortunately, she now has to tighten it again as my fall loosened it once more.

This weekend we're riding from the Grosvenor Metro station into DC. I can't wait to report back on that one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thank you!

Alyssa and I were blown away by the number of people who showed up to make the Team Athena Benefit Recital such a success. Close to 75 friends and family members were in attendance! With their contributions, we were able to raise $782 to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Wow!

If you weren't there, you really missed out on something special. Alyssa gave an unbelievably beautiful performance and friends who aren't the biggest classical music fans came away from it saying how much fun they had. Those who love classical music said to me, "It's like I was listening to a professional recording!" Always her own harshest critic, even Alyssa had to admit she sounded pretty darn good. Of course, I am far from impartial when it comes to being a fan of Alyssa's playing, but this was probably the best I've ever heard her. You would never have guessed that Alyssa hadn't put on a recital in eight years. She knocked everyone's socks off.

I recorded the concert on our Flip video camera, so we hope to have some video up in a couple of days. In addition to that, we'll also have a professional grade recording thanks to our amazing fellow team member Whitney, who taped the performance on her video camera. We should also have CDs available at some point when we get the audio file from the church. Many thanks to Scott Norris and Turner Stokes for being our sound and tech guys for the afternoon. We couldn't have done it without them.

At this point in our lives, we have many friends with children and we were jazzed to have so many little ones in attendance! The "rocking room" was packed to the gills. Those are going to be some cultured kids.

After cleaning up the church, we headed home to prepare for a celebratory dinner out with Alyssa's mom and dad. As we talked about the recital during dinner, I realized that I had forgotten to thank the two of them for bringing such an amazing, beautiful and ridiculously talented person into existence. So I thanked them then. I cannot imagine my life without Alyssa. She brings so much beauty into the world.

So, friends, thank you. Thank you for traveling so many miles. Thank you for spending a beautiful Saturday afternoon inside. Thank you for giving so generously of your time and of your bank accounts. Mostly, just thank you for being a part of our lives. We are so blessed to know you all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Team Athena Benefit Recital is this Saturday!

Alyssa is still going to write about the ride we took a couple of weeks ago that made me sob on a country road in Frederick County, but until then...

This Saturday, July 11th at 3PM is the Team Athena Benefit Recital at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick. The only team member actually doing anything for this recital is Alyssa, but that's a good thing. You do not want to hear me attempting to play any musical instrument. Or sing. Well, I actually do a pretty good impression of Cher and Mary J. Blige, but this probably isn't the venue for that. I'll save that for karaoke.

Anyway, if you're in the area and don't have anything to do, I know Alyssa would love to have more than just five or six people listening to her awesome violinist self. Best of all? Admission is FREE! Well, we obviously welcome donations to our team for the Livestrong Challenge, but if you just want to come and hear beautiful music, that works just as well.

Who: Team Athena
What: Team Athena Benefit Recital with Alyssa Boxhill on the violin
Where: The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, 4880 Elmer Derr Rd, Frederick, MD 21701
When: Saturday, July 11th at 3PM
Why: To raise money for Team Athena, a bunch of awesome women participating in the 2009 Livestrong Challenge in Philly(August 23rd)

We hope to see you there!

If you can't make it to the recital, you can still donate. Every time you donate, you up your chances of winning an Alyssa Boxhill designed Team Athena cycling jersey! They are SWEET.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Now for something completely different

Just kidding, I hope. I think Tonya's done a very nice job setting the tone for our training blog, and I hope my inaugural post doesn't stray too far from that.

Two weekends ago we rode to church together for the first time. It's a roughly 19 mile ride round trip and among the hilliest we had done so far. I had ridden there alone three times previously and knew there were going to be some tough hills to tackle, but I also knew we had two different route options, one significantly less painful than the other and a good alternative to take home.

We were supposed to get going in time to make it to the church service at 10am but got a late start thanks to me taking a necessary potty break (heh!). Since I had some paperwork to drop off at the church office for our team benefit recital next weekend, the trip wasn't going to be a wasted one even if we missed the service.

It was a quiet ride as we made our way out of town, passing shopping centers and corporate office parks. The wind was picking up in the corn fields as we turned off New Design Road onto Elmer Derr, for the tougher of our two route options to get to church. Tonya remarked that she didn't think we'd ever done a ride where we weren't being buffeted by headwinds and crosswinds, but these seemed harsher than what we had experienced together in the past. Of course the wind drained away all our momentum as we hit the bottom of that first big hill.

Nothing but corn to stop the wind

I called out, "Go go Granny Gear," shifted onto my small ring and pedaled furiously at a whopping 5mph—might have been a little faster than that, but it didn't feel like it. Thankfully there was little traffic going in either direction while we were battling this hill, although another cyclist had passed us earlier, shortly after we turned onto Elmer Derr. I didn't want to think about how little effort it had probably taken him to get up this hill and how far ahead of us he was by then.

I got to the top and pulled off into a gravel driveway to wait for Tonya. What I didn't know at the time was that she hadn't known to switch onto her smaller chainring and was attempting to ride up that hill with half as much gear assistance as she could have had. I learned this later, after we went up a (tortuously long and) more gradual hill alongside Route 15 that I'd kind of forgotten to warn her about in advance. Between the two was a short, steep winding descent that I wish, in hindsight, I'd had the guts to go screaming down without riding my brakes to maintain my speed for that next gradual incline.

Paying the price for being timid on the descent

We had a short stretch left on Elmer Derr road before reaching the church with another short, steep slope to contend with right before we got there. I told Tonya I'd fallen there the first time I rode to the church when I stopped halfway up to catch my breath and toppled over attempting to clip back in while in a very low gear. I'm sure it didn't inspire much confidence in her, but she took the rest of Elmer Derr like a champ.

Tonya looking unimpressed with the hill I forgot to warn her about

We rolled up to the church's main entrance sweaty, smelly and gasping for breath in time for some friends and fellow congregants to arrive outside and not recognize us right away in helmets, sunglasses and jerseys. Tonya stayed outside to chat with them as they were leaving the church while I took care of my paperwork and caught the tail end of a meeting that had completely slipped my mind. Oops!

Our lovely church

The alternate route back, though not flat, was merciful in comparison and I'm happy we chose to go back that way. It took us through a high-traffic area where impatient and most likely confused drivers swarmed around us; we were both honked at and got separated crossing over Rt. 15. I foolishly hadn't checked to make sure Tonya was close behind me before getting onto the overpass and realized, only after navigating the worst of these congested streets and seeing her nowhere, that I was carrying her phone in my pocket and hadn't exactly told her which way I was taking us home. She got through the heavily trafficked area and we joined back up at an intersection, calmed ourselves down (I felt terrible for leaving her to navigate that mess by herself!) and continued onward to the Market Street Deli, where our order was handled with quickness and precision and we treated ourselves to delicious bagels for breakfast.


Next up, in a post all its own, our Mountaindale adventure from last weekend...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I'm waiting on Alyssa to write.

I've been wanting to write, but Alyssa assured me she would contribute her first post to the blog, so I waited. And I waited. And I'm still going to wait some more, but I just wanted to say that we've been training.

We did a ride the weekend before last out to our church(19 miles or so round trip) and then this past weekend we rode up to Thurmont from Frederick(32 hateful miles round trip). I won't give too much away because I don't want to steal Alyssa's thunder, but I'll just say that I might have cried a little bit.

So, let's put the pressure on Foxy Boxy to finally write something!