Winter Cycling at its Finest

I thought I had made peace with it. Really. I thought I had moved on. I thought I had gotten over the fact that the sports that make up triathlon (swimming, biking and running, in case you didn’t know) are the least fashionable sports on the planet, but it turns out that I have not. I may be willing to concede that it is sometimes possible to look cute when running, although that is questionable at the end of a marathon unless you’re a supermodel or just really lucky in the sweat production department, but swimming and cycling? No. It is simply not possible to dress even remotely attractively while engaged in either one of these sports. And like I said, I thought I was over it this past fall when I accepted that bike shorts look good on no one and they will always cut into your thigh at an unflattering angle because that’s literally how they are designed. But then I learned of something even more awful this past weekend – the only thing that looks worse than bike shorts is running tights worn over bike shorts.

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I don’t like the Kardashians in general, but Khloe nailed my feelings on cycling fashion perfectly.

Why would I wear such an ensemble, you ask? Well, the answer is two-fold. First, I basically refuse to buy any more cycling stuff than is absolutely necessary because a) baby needs money for marathons and b) it’s going to look ridiculous anyway. Second, Amanda and I had a 60-mile bike ride to do around Charleston in conjunction with the Charleston Marathon this past weekend, which we did not run. With it being January, I needed to layer up and dress appropriately, so I threw on my bike shorts and then put some running tights over them, hoping the running tights would shield the aforementioned thigh-cutting properties of the shorts from being revealed, but no. It turns out the only thing that looks more ridiculous than bike shorts is bike shorts under running tights, which had the distinct ability to make my thighs look like links of hot dogs, with the fat pure muscle desperate to escape the grasp of the elastic.

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Actual picture of me in my cycling gear.

So Amanda and I got up quite early on a Sunday to get in one of our long bike rides in preparation for our hypothetical (or maybe real) half Ironman coming up in the spring. We figured a bike ride around all the parts of Charleston would be scenic and since it was supported, why not? Admittedly, we are not the best at getting in really long rides, although they haven’t been required yet. We are bad at doing things without each other, especially biking for some reason. It pretty much takes an organized event. So I drove down from Columbia (hello 5am wake up call on Sunday morning…AJ did not appreciate you) to meet Amanda in Charleston and we got everything together. We are always a little intimidated at these events because everyone looks like they really know what they are doing. It’s much less intimidating at marathons, because everyone is just kind of standing around all wearing the same general running gear, and it’s not such a big deal. It is very obvious in cycling who spends a lot of time (or money) on it and who does not, and even though I have a good bike, it’s easy to see from the description above that I wasn’t exactly dressing the part. Oh yeah – did I mention I was wearing one of AJ’s cycling jersey’s because I don’t have any of my own? Obviously a good look.

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Amanda and I agree that this is the least attractive picture we have ever taken. This is at the end of the Pitt Street Bridge. Can we discuss the helmet situation? Wtf?

The bike tour took us from Mount Pleasant down to the Isle of Palms, over to Sullivan’s Island, across the Cooper River Bridge, up through North Charleston and down to the edge of the peninsula and past the battery and Rainbow Row back over the bridge and through Mount Pleasant – 62 miles in all. We wanted to ride at a decent pace, but ultimately, neither of us has ridden outside much since November, so the bike workouts we have been doing have pretty much been on our trainers. We were interested to see how those workouts would compare to the outdoors. We were both also apprehensive about biking over the Cooper River Bridge – twice! We run up that stupid thing all the time and it’s hard enough to do that, let alone bike over it.

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It might not look that steep, but trust me. It’s 2.5 miles of pain.

At a truly astonishing speed of 8.6 miles per hour (seriously), I made it up the steep side of the bridge without stopping, rolling backwards, or falling over. In order not to give up, I counted the rotations of my pedals from 1-10, over and over. I would do 10 rotations standing up, then 10 sitting down. I focused on getting to each light post one at a time until I was over the top of the bridge, and it worked! Huzzah!

For what was a very pretty ride, the course was really poorly marked. We took wrong turns several times and just completely guessed where we were supposed to go based on our general knowledge of the course and the area. We constantly ran into the problem of not really ever being able to ride with a group. We couldn’t keep up with the fastest groups, but it seemed like all the other groups were significantly slower, so we were pretty much on our own. Eventually, we found our way to a rest stop, where we were offered soup, pimento cheese on crackers, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Being never easily satisfied, I asked the high school boys working at the tent if they would make me a pimento cheese sandwich (food of the gods) since they clearly had all of the required ingredients. At first, they said they couldn’t do that  – high school boys aren’t great at thinking for themselves – but then the rest area supervisor came in and goes “Oh you will MAKE her a pimento cheese sandwich!” And sure enough, they did. And it was magical.

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If you’re not eating pimento cheese sandwiches, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. I really don’t.

The rest area supervisor was a bit pushy when it came to all the other food as well. You don’t want soup? Oh you’ll get some soup. Don’t think you need Gatorade? You will TAKE Gatorade. He also kept yelling at us to take off our cycling gloves before we got any food in the name of sanitation. “I don’t want y’all nasty snotty gloves touching all my food!” It’s too bad I didn’t get his name, because we really should be best friends. Of course, he asked if Amanda and I were sisters. FYI, we are not sisters. We are not twins. We are not related. We both just happen to be awesome and happen to work for the same company and share a love of spending obscene amounts of money on achieving our marathon goals.

The course took us through some of the less attractive parts of Charleston, and I was mildly concerned I was going to get mugged. Normally, I like marathons that run partially through the more downtrodden parts of a city, but it’s very odd – I never feel unsafe when I’m out running somewhere sketchy. I’m not sure why. I guess I just figure since I’m carrying nothing of value except my luxurious hair, no one will bother attacking me. I never run with an ipod or my phone or anything, and what more could anyone possibly want? Yes, I realize this is a dangerous way of thinking. On my bike, though, I feel like danger is lurking at ALL TIMES. I have visions of a seemingly harmless person flying off the sidewalk and tackling me on my bike as I try to speed by, and of course with my stupid clip-in pedals, I would be strapped to my bike and unable to flee. I don’t know, my bike is just so shiny. It seems like someone would want to steal it. Never mind that I am normally going 20 miles an hour when riding and the chances of being tackled are slim to none.

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I’m tough. It’s fine.

We had the distinct pleasure of running over many train tracks during the course as well. It almost seemed like the course was intentionally planned to make sure we went over as many bumps, pot holes, train tracks, and other road hazards as humanly possible during the race. By the end of the race, my legs didn’t hurt but my hands sure did from holding on for dear life while we went over those things! We actually were stopped at a railroad track by some volunteers who made us walk our bikes over the tracks because someone had just fallen off at those tracks and injured themselves. Sheesh!

The course kept going through the Citadel, which I had never seen before. I find it a little bizarre that it all kind of looks like a castle, but it’s quite lovely. Also bizarre? The giant class ring sitting in the middle of campus. It’s literally taller than me.

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If you put a giant class ring on your campus…you might be a redneck.

Finally, the course wove down through downtown Charleston and along the battery. The Battery is gorgeous and we love running there, so I thought it would be awesome to bike there too. News flash – it is not awesome to bike there at lunch time on a Sunday. It’s impossible to move. There’s cars parked along the street, then cars driving in the tiny narrow lanes, and you can’t go between the parked cars and the moving cars to pass. You want to keep moving so you don’t have to constantly keep clipping in and out of your pedals, but when you’re going 5 miles an hour, it’s hard to do that. It seemed like it took us forever to get through, but what a view!

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I mean, Columbia is basically as pretty as this.

After making it through downtown, we pretty much just had to get back over the bridge and then ride a few miles through Mount Pleasant before we were home free! The problem? My hands and body were getting pretty sore from all the bumps that we were going over. By the time we made it to the steep downhill portion of the bridge, my hands were basically screaming from holding onto the brakes so tight! Also, I will take this moment to point out that pedestrians (including myself, until yesterday) are all super unaware of how impossible it is to stop a speeding bicycle, so y’all, please stay in your lane on the bridge or at least look to see if any bikes are careening out of control downhill before you swerve out into the bike lane to pass another pedestrian. I almost killed like 50 of you yesterday.

Finally, we reached the end of the course having been neither mugged nor hit by a car, by some act of God. I am pleased to report that Amanda and I held up a lot better this time than we did on our last long bike ride back in November, and neither of us were in any type of serious pain to speak of. All in all, it was a beautiful day in Charleston for a bike ride. Now if only I could figure out a way to make cycling outfits look less hideous, I would do this way more often.

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