Weekly Top 5: We Learned Doing Chefs Cycle
It was exactly one week and one day ago that we finished our ride in Santa Rosa, California: Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry 2019. And although we trained, and fundraised, and mentally prepared as well as we were able for the three-day, three hundred mile race...we weren’t totally ready for everything that hit us when we got out there for the big event. There were some major ups (yay!) and some equally major downs (boo!), but the both of us came out of the experience feeling extremely proud of what we’d accomplished, riding high on the people we met, the experience we had, and the energy gels we’d been sucking down.
We were lucky enough to have warm-and-breezy, sometimes-sunny, but often overcast conditions for our inaugural day — ideal circumstances for the day in which we climbed a grand total of 5k feet! — but the other two days didn’t fare as well. When we woke up to 100% chance of rain on Day 2, half of our team plumb opted out so as to avoid injury (can’t say we blame them), while the other half opted for the optional short route: 56 miles in a downpour [as opposed to 103]. On Day 3 however, the weather had gotten so bad, we weren’t even given the chance to ride 100 miles: the route had been shortened to 55 because of road closures. Talk about a buzzkill.
With all of those unexpected happenings — most obviously the relentless rain and shortcomings that followed — came a lot of opportunity to learn. And learn we did! We learned that we are in love with In-N-Out animal-style cheeseburgers; we learned that waking up at 5AM isn’t that bad when you’re freaking jazzed about the day ahead; and we learned that drinking espresso at 4pm is okay when you’re riding 100 miles on your bike: you will be exhausted by bedtime and you will be able to fall asleep. But the five most important things we learned, we’ve listed below:
Top 5 Things We Learned Riding in Chefs Cycle [from Maddie and Jordan]
1. Riding in the rain really sucks.
Because the rain had completely soaked my clothes within the first half-hour riding in it, I had to keep moving: I would get way too cold if I stopped riding for longer than 5-7 minutes at a time. Although I wore gloves to help with my grip, they became completely soaked through and caused my fingers to go numb; I didn’t have enough sensation to shift gears normally with my left hand...and kept having to suck on my fingers to warm them back up. #Ew. Going downhill was far less fun in wet conditions than in dry ones, and often quite painful, since I’d have to ride the breaks the entire time to maintain control; my hands and forearms were screaming at me. And although I wanted to wear sunglasses to protect my eyes from the rain (which felt like teeny tiny needles pelting my precious cornea), doing so was like driving without windshield wipers: you couldn’t see shit. I so went without. And to be completely frank, riding in the rain was so disheartening, it made me cry. Three times. Over the course of 55 miles. Although I’m proud of myself for riding those two days in the rain, I can’t say I’m eager to do it again any time soon. It SUCKED. - Maddie
2. You have to eat before you ride. And I mean EAT.
During my training I always made sure to eat something before a long ride, but I had no idea how much I needed to consume in order to sustain my energy. I’d scramble up a couple of eggs, or maybe just opt for a banana with peanut butter — Hey, I’d eaten! — but little did I know that my snack-sized meals were actually slowing me down...
Throughout our three days of Chefs Cycle, we crushed some food. We’d wake up at 5AM to make it to breakfast, which started at 5:15: eggs, potatoes, oatmeal, bagels, cereal, fruit, and lots and lots of coffee. Twenty miles or so in (and at roughly 20-mile intervals from there on out for the rest of the day) we’d hit Aid Stations stocked with granola bars, protein bars, waffles, fresh fruit, jerkys, Cheez-Its, pretzels, Skratch, espresso, water, and energy gels. We always stopped, and we always fueled up. And it made a huge difference. On our first day, I more than doubled the distance I was able to log during my training, and I did so relatively easily. I have to believe that was in large part due to the way I was fueling my body: abundantly. - Maddie
3. Teamwork truly does make the dream work
Sure, a lot of the energy I had came from the food and drink, but the rest of it came from my teammates and fellow riders. Not only did my teammates offer great advice before, during, and after the ride (shoutout to our crew, Team Food & Wine!) but people I’d never before met quickly became friends on the road. I swiftly learned that riding alone is hard — not only are you left to set a pace for yourself, but you’ve nothing much to distract you from the physical task at hand — so when I found other riders to join, I did exactly that. And I made sure to do so as much as possible for the rest of the three days. Sometimes we chatted while riding side-by-side, while other times I followed quietly behind, but having someone else there kept me going. And at the very end of Day 3 when the rain had become debilitating and my spirit was at an all time low, I found a group of riders to join for the last 7 miles, and THANK G. Their jokes, their energy, and their promise of tequila shots at the end of it all helped push me across the finish line, straight into the pom-poms of my screaming and cheering team. Smells like TEAM Spirit to me! - Maddie
4. Just Keep Pedaling....
And those three little words are more motivating than you think when you’re 40 miles deep, riding solo, desperately trying to just make it to lunch. Those three little words enable you to forget those mental hurdles your mind thrusts your way - those “dark periods” where you, quite honestly, begin cursing your existence entirely. And that might sound a teensy bit dramatic, but when you are 40 miles in with 60 more miles to go (bear in mind, this ride began with a 3k ft climb out of the freaking gate), you forget dramatics.
What did I learn during my Chefs Cycle experience? I learned that at the end of the day, if you just keep pedaling, you can make it through anything. And with a little (lots) bit of training, a little (lots) bit of determination (stubbornness 🙋), and whole heck of a lot of energy gels, you really can just keep pedaling. - Jordan
5. The Work was Worth the Ride
...and what happens when you just keep pedalling? You finish. Let me say it again - you finish. Maybe you finish 96.4 miles in 7 hours. Maybe you’re like me and you spend 12 hours on a bike. Wherever you find yourself in the fold, there is a finish line approaching. And in my case, I have never felt more supported, more proud, and more accomplished, than rolling to the finish line into the cheering arms of my friends, colleagues, and teammates. For all the times you want to give up... For all the hours my teammates rode through the bitter cold and relentless rain... For all the times you fight away tears on the road... Completing what you set your mind to do makes all of that work so. damn. worth. the ride. - Jordan
Cover Photo: Stirl and Rae Media House