I passed on the Gran Fondo NY this year after dealing with some tendon and heel problems. I intend to sign up for the fourth annual ride in 2014 and will be cheering all the gran fondo riders from afar.
I recently received a GoPro HD White and started to try it out while cycling the hills of Lake County, Florida. The YouTube video below is from a portion of Thrill Hill Road in Eustis, not far from Mount Dora. I give some advice on how to handle it. Let me know what you think. I plan to post more and would love recommendations from Central Florida bicycling hotspots.
An article in today’s Wall Street Journal provides a funny take to the recent allegations that cyclist Lance Armstrong violated anti-doping rules (See ongoing coverage in Bicycling’s The Daily Lance). Joe Queenan’s WSJ column today carries the headline “Watch That Bike! Grandpa’s on Steroids” and includes this line: “Normal people know that the most dangerous thing on wheels is the fortyish frat boy just starting to go to seed” Any boomer cyclist who has ever envied those who zip by them, Queenan provides another excuse, though one firmly planted in his cheek.
I guess attempting 8,000 feet of elevation change in Gran Fondo NY last month wasn’t enough for me. Now I’m thinking about Six Gap Century or the Three Gap Fifty in Georgia in September. The Century has more than 11,000 feet of climbing, so in reality that one is out for this Baby Boomer cyclist. More likely the 3,364 feet of climbing on the half century is the way to go. Here is a YouTube video from the Cycle North George web site:
Several people have asked me how I shipped my bicycle to New York for the Gran Fondo NY. I purchased a box from AirCaddy.com — an ingenuous triangle cardboard box that required me only to remove the first wheel and saddle (plus turn down the handlebars). The box might seem pricey at $99, plus about $100 each way to ship from Florida to NY. It is competitive — and perhaps cheaper — than having your bike shop disassemble and ship in a traditional rectangular box. Plus, the advantage is door-to-door service with FedEx — the bike was at my hotel when I arrived. (You could try taking it on the plane, and it might cost less, but the hassle of moving it through a terminal and into a cab didn’t seem worth it.)
I did consider renting a bike through Gran Fondo — it would have cost a little more than $100 for a Trek 1.2 (similar to what I own) or a 1.5. In the end, I decided I wanted to ride my own bike for such a long distance. If you do decide to rent, remember to take your pedals and saddle, which will make the rental feel a little closer to what you usually ride.
I recently participated in the Gran Fondo New York, my first attempt at a Century cycling ride. I have been riding for about 14 months, since I bought my Trek 1.2 in an attempt to re-establish an exercise routine. I decided on the Gran Fondo NY because I needed a goal to encourage me to stick to my bicycling. Plus as a native New Yorker, it sounded like fun to start a 100-mile-plus ride on the George Washington Bridge and ride out to Bear Mountain and back.
The ride was set for Sunday morning, May 20, 2012. No matter how I looked at it, 110 miles sounded long. But I felt I had trained well, with a fair amount of hill work in the area where I live outside Orlando. (I won’t bury the lead: I was riding outside the time limit when another rider and I missed a turn at mile 89. We ended up riding another 7 miles in wrong direction before calling for SAG wagon. Overall, I cycled 102 miles that day — doesn’t feel like a Century, since I didn’t finish the Gran Fondo, but there is always next year.)
But for those like me who are trying to go from couch to Century or who are planning to do Gran Fondo NY, here is my top 10 pieces of advice:
As much hill training as you did, it isn’t enough. For a beginner and a flatlander like me, I thought I had done my share of hills and hill intervals. But the Gran Fondo NY is hillier than I expected — at times, I though the hills that were NOT part of the four timed hills were harder than the timed ones. About 8,000 feet of elevation change will kill you unless you are physically and mentally prepared. Do more hills.
Take the subway to the Gran Fondo NY start. It was one of the most fun things that day, seeing the A train to 168th Street get taken over by cyclists. I considered cycling along the Hudson River Greenway to the start, but this saved energy and got me pumped for the ride.
Bring food to the start and more than you think for the ride. This might be obvious to experienced cyclists but since I ate three hours before the start, I was glad I had an extra bagel and banana to munch on before the 7 a.m. start. Also, the rest stops of Gran Fondo NY were overwhelmed — lines for food and water — so I wish I had stuffed my pockets with more to get in and out of them quicker. (Note: Organizers promise to address the lines next year. The volunteers were great but the waits were exceptionally long this year.)
Riding with 5,000 other people is a lot different than riding with a few dozen on your Sunday morning training sessions. I had never been to a cycling event with more than a few hundred people, so it was intense as we headed north along the Hudson River with so many people (on what turned out to be one rough road.) I’d suggest finding a couple of large events to prepare yourself for Gran Fondo NY peloton-like first 10 miles.
Remember to pace yourself. You’ve heard this advice if you’ve read anything on cycling your first Century, but I had to keep reminding myself this was a ride and not a race for me. I tried to take it easy on first third, then cruise through middle and hope to have something left for end. (For me, I was strong for first 50 to Bear Mountain area, dead between 60 and 70, when there were two timed climbs, then felt better after mile 80.)
Make a friend. I didn’t know any other riders, so I tried to find people to ride with. The tradition of Gran Fondo is it is a social ride as well as a test of your skills.
Bring a map and cue sheet. As I mentioned, I missed a turn between mile 88 and 89 — a quick right after a left. I had studied the map well, but didn’t have it or cue sheet with me. And trust your instincts — if the road you are on makes you wonder why the organizers would send you on it, you might want to question whether you are in right place. (Or get a Garmin 800 and load the map!)
If you are outside the time needed to finish your Gran Fondo or Century, consider the consequences of trying to finish. In the end, even if I hadn’t missed a turn, I would have finished about 5:45 p.m., about 15 minutes beyond the max time that Gran Fondo NY allowed. Fortunately, I was with another rider for support and organizers were great about coming to get us. But I should have pulled out at the fifth rest area, which was packing up when we arrived. There will always be another Gran Fondo or Century to try again.
Consider your achievement and not your failures. This one was hard for me. I didn’t enter Gran Fondo NY to come up short of the finish line. But I went from riding nothing to riding more than 100 miles in a day — all in course of 14 months. Not too bad.
And set another goal — if you are like me, it might be easy to let your cycling wane some after a year-long prep for your first Century. Pick another event and start getting ready.
We get the Wall Street Journal at home — it helps to be married to a financial journalist whose company pays for it. I love the WSJ Saturday paper, where it’s less about stocks and more about books, wine, gadgets and cars. But today’s headline was a bit of a downer for those of us turning 50 and beyond: Declining Cognitive Ability Presents Challenges to Boomer Finances. The article includes one of those lines I hear often as a turning 50 joke — it’s all downhill after 20. More specifically:
“Fluid intelligence — that is intelligence displayed in things like memory tests — decreases dramatically with age. In fact, ‘it’s all downhill from age 20’ ” said David Laibson, of Harvard University.
Darn, I thought it was all downhill after 80.
The good news for us baby boomer: “Crystallized intelligence — memory, wisdom and so on — does increase over time, but less so, on average, in senior years.”
But one question: Does there all have to be a “but” after turning 50?
It was about two years ago that I decided I would retire this blog, which at the time I called My Year of Turning 50. I had started it as a way to chronicle my thoughts about turning a half century old, and it seems fitting to end it sometimes after passing the mark. So why, two years after turning 50, should I restart the blog? Maybe it’s because I still haven’t answer the question in my first post on whether this is a time for sunrises or sunsets.
Things have changed since 2008. I left OrlandoSentinel.com, where I was deputy online editor, and spend about 18 months working as digital news manager at WESH TV, the NBC affiliate in Orlando. In February 2010, I came back to OrlandoSentinel.com, where I am now the digital news manager.
So, we’ll see where this takes me, this decade of turning 50.
…well, retiring from the blog. For the few of you who know me and follow the blog, it’s obvious I haven’t been feeding it much lately. Part of the reason is the usual business of life, but some of it is that I started it to talk about turning 50 and I have. As with all things Internet, the blog will live on. Some people come every day — fewer since I moved it from Blogger to my own server — looking for turning 50 jokes and the like. For them, I hope you find it useful.