cycling adventures and beyond

Tag: WCR

The test run

This week, I braved the wonderful fall weather (attention: sarcasm) and went for a two-day trip from the middle of Germany to Hamburg. My intention was to test both material and body. That I did.

The short version: I’m glad that I won’t be spending too much time in winter weather next year, the Revelate Design bags really are waterproof, and I need a better rain jacket. And proper lights.

The long version: First, I followed the Weserradweg from Hann. Münden to Holzminden. From Holzminden, I took a turn away from the river and towards Hildesheim, where I spent the night at a youth hostel. I’d forgotten to check where exactly the hostel is and was pretty surprised when I saw that it was actually on a hill next to the city, but I’ll get to that… After Hildesheim, I skipped a segment by taking the train and then followed the local road to Hamburg.
I had set my daily goals way higher than I could do. Up until this week, I had never done more than 80km in one day, so it was bizarre to think I could do 180km. But had I said, well, I’ll do 100km, I probably would have been satisfied with 90 – I know myself. This way, I was motivated to try as hard as I could and get as far as I could.

It was a nice contrast to be in northern Germany. The architecture is different and very pretty. Everything is so flat, at least compared to where I live. And the fields were still green, whereas down here, almost all of them are already plowed.

On the first day, the sun came out a few times and it rained very little, the terrain was softly undulating and mostly on well-paved cycle paths so I managed to maintain a 24km/h average even though I had to take frequent breaks to find my way. In a lovely town along the way I had lunch in a butcher shop.

What a nice lunch break! Food was followed by coffee, and then I pedaled on. For hours and hours. Until it was almost dark (4.30pm these days), I was freezing, and started to lose my way. After the wind turned against me and I fought in the dark and crept along at a decidedly discouraging 12km/h. Since I had inadequate lights, didn’t really know where I had to go and was starting to be really cold, I found the next town and took the train to Hildesheim, where I then found out that I’d have to cycle up the hill to the youth hostel (in the rain, of course) with a 10% gradient.
Luckily, I had my own room and a local pizza place agreed to deliver to the hostel. I devoured a ridiculously overloaded pizza, downed a beer, brushed my teeth, and fell into a coma-like sleep.

The next day, I decided to skip the first part of the cycle and take the train instead of cycling first and then finding a train station later. While the network is very good in Germany, this was still easier, plus it gave me more time to wake up. So I cycled back to the train station in Hildesheim and bought some breakfast.

Later that day, I found myself cycling in torrential rain on a road that hadn’t passed through a town in 25km (not that common for Germany) when, out of sheer luck, a small Italian restaurant appeared as if out of nowhere. I gladly stopped, had some hot tea and spaghetti, dried my clothes, and then got back on.
I arrived in Hamburg without any more glitches, met my sister-in-law at the Apple store (they allowed me to take the bike inside as I didn’t want to leave it outside in the middle of the city), smothered my niece in kisses and that was it.

Though I was happy to have a rest day after that, I can report that while I certainly can’t to what I have to do next year yet, I’m not that far behind. Cheers to that!

Four more months…

The last time I counted down months was a year ago, when we were traveling the world. A year ago today, we were en route to Valparaíso in Chile (which is what you see in the picture above), crossing the Andes and even catching a glimpse of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas. It was one of the last places we visited in South America, before flying to the Cook Islands and ultimately New Zealand where I celebrated my birthday on the beach, flying kites, eating fresh strawberries and drinking excellent wine on a picnic blanket. It was perfect.

This year, I’m sure the weather for my birthday in a few weeks will be as dreary as ever, and there will be no beach in sight. I’ve been in serious weather denial these days. Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed early in the morning to go for a 2 hour cycle before spending the day baking, winning 2nd place at our stable’s “tournament” and carving pumpkins. It was cold, it was raining, and I looked like I had done downhill afterwards. But what can you do? When the weather’s bad all days, you still need to go out and train. It takes some determination, but I’m learning that I actually HAVE the determination to do it.

Now I’m counting down months again. On November 1st, I was very aware of the fact that I am only four months away from flying to London with all my kit and setting off into the unknown.
People around me are starting to understand that I’m actually doing it and that it isn’t some very distant plan. I’ve been asked about my route plenty of times and while I’m still working on the details and the individual days, I do have a plan in place, aided by the gigantic map of the world that we happen to have hanging on the wall here anyway. It is laminated, so it is perfect for drawing routes and trying out stuff.

Since I’m going low-budget, I have to maximize the time I get out of each continent. I won’t have enough cash to fly to South America or stop over at some fun island (I’d love to add the 30km of Rarotonga..). Going with the seasons I will be going eastward.

Leg 1: London-Istanbul via Eastern Europe
Leg 2: Mumbai-Calcutta
Leg 3: Bangkok-Singapore
Leg 4: Perth-Brisbane
Leg 5: Dunedin-Auckland
Leg 6: Vancouver-Boston via Denver, Chicago and Charleston
Leg 7: Lisbon/Porto (depends on flights)-London

So, pretty standard. As a woman I won’t be going through the Middle East, and I don’t feel like crossing Kazachstan or China with a road bike and limited options for storing food and water. In the US, I’ll try to cover some new ground by going with the north route after cycling down to Arizona and New Mexico. There are only a few states left that I haven’t been to and this is a good opportunity to see them. Obviously I want to visit my Colorado friends, too, if only for a night. And I’ve been dying to go back to Charleston, South Carolina ever since I first visited there in January 2010. I already know where I’ll eat at and pack sandwiches from – five loaves café!

Tomorrow I’m packing up Blitzi and taking him a couple hundred kilometers north, from where I’ll cycle to Hamburg. The weather forecast says rain, rain and wind, good thing I have some waterproofs…

Fall is awesome sometimes.

Since I felt much better over the weekend I went for a long training ride yesterday. It was a fine fall day, the red leaves fluttering around in gentle breezes, the sun warming my back, my sights set on the beautiful Alps. I love mountains so much, I couldn’t imagine not living near them anymore. When I spent a few months in Boulder, Colorado, I took up hiking and just loved seeing the Flatirons from any point in town. Nowadays I know that Boulder is a favorite spot for many athletes’ summer training, but back then, I had no idea that I could have been sipping my OZO latte next to the likes of Scott Jurek. 

Anyway, it was a good day to get out and about and cycle from Munich to Rosenheim, about 85km and 600 meters of elevation gain. I’m not particularly fond of cycling hills, but it’s not like I can avoid them here in Bavaria – or in the world. Tried out my new bag setup, too – works like a charm and fits my bike perfectly! 

The Ortho gave me the “almost-clear”, there’s some upset in the AC joint, pointing to a partial tear of one of the ligaments, but it is stable for now and I’m allowed to cycle as much as I want, as long as it doesn’t get worse. No lifting above shoulder height though, so I had to delegate all of the stable work to colleagues. I get to do some physiotherapy for a few weeks and then I’ll meet back with the doctor to see whether it has improved. Unfortunately, the pain is said to last for at least another four to six weeks, maybe even more, meaning sleeping on my side is still out of the question, as is putting ANYTHING on the shoulder. Oh well. I can live with that, it just makes everyday life a tiny bit harder. 

Today, the rain came back and brought some wind with it. Just the right weather for a long ride – on horseback, mind you. Same thing tomorrow, but I’m sure this week still has some great cycling days in store. 

What do you train for?

My research has found that there are two camps when it comes to training philosophy for long cycling adventures. The first say you don’t need to do any specific training, you’ll get fit on the fly, but the first weeks may be harder. The second emphasize that you should be able to maintain your planned daily mileage a few weeks before you set off.

I tend to agree with the second camp, for multiple reasons.

1. Knowing that you can do what you’re planning makes you feel secure and boots your confidence. Remember the first time you drove on the Autobahn/Highway and had to enter it with all the trucks and crap? Well, you obviously survived and made it somehow, but nowadays you’re much more relaxed driving on that ramp because you KNOW you’ll find your place.

2. The body is both immensely strong and incredibly fragile. While it can take a lot of abuse in terms of exercise, nutrition and general care, it is the small things that will bring you to your knees. A niggle in a tendon somewhere that doesn’t stop. A pulled muscle. Chances are, if your body is accustomed to daily exercise – and strong enough for it, it won’t develop those niggles as quickly. If you experience (harmless) problems while training, even better, you’ll learn how to deal with them.

3. Training isn’t just about physical fitness. It is about a myriad of other things: navigation, finding the right foods and drink that suit you on long rides, your most comfortable break rhythm, determining your most comfortable and efficient riding position, testing materials like pants, gloves and the likes, getting used to the silence and solitude,…. The list goes on.

So while I’m sure you COULD just jump into the saddle on a whim and go for it, I feel better knowing I’ll at least have put in 6 months of honest-to-god training time.
Though winter is approaching, I’ll be doing an overnighter to Hamburg in two weeks, keep you fingers crossed that snow and cold don’t arrive in the meantime!

New bike, more fun

My old bike was nice. It is a classic and after only 1000km on it, I signed up for the WCR. But it was too big for me, too heavy and the geometry is all wrong for me, so it wasn’t ever a candidate for going around the world. That honor goes to my new bike, a pretty BMC endurance road bike. I spent about a month reading reviews, looking at bikes, learning about the different types of components (I’m not a bike geek… yet) and finding out what I need and want. I found tons of bikes that would have been nice, but in the end, one recommendation stuck. It being a 2013 model it was a bit cheaper as well, an added bonus.

And it is red. We all know red bikes are the fastest! I read somewhere that when choosing a bike for cycling around the world, it should be one that you have an immediate emotional connection with. Sounds stupid, but I think this is true. You always care more for things that you find awesome, for whatever reasons.
When this bike came in the mail yesterday, I literally jumped up and down out of pure joy. I finished building it, snapped some pictures in its virginal state (it will NEVER be that clean and pretty again), took it for its first ride and grinned from ear to ear the whole time. Today I took it out for 50km and it was Incredible. Such a sweet ride.


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