I do this ride every year… since 1996 (except i missed 2 years because of injury and then missed registration the following year).
Wasn’t sure how i’d do with it this time. I’m calling it a recovery ride, because each year it seems to be either my early season “how am i doing?” benchmark for overall fitness, or my “how am i healing” ride after whatever injury/surgery might have happened in the previous Fall or Winter. And the last two years (2011 and 2012) it was a “recovery” ride because i was in pretty good shape after my Italian and Sierra adventures so the kind of “recovery” ride after riding big rides closer to that date.
This year I’ve spent the last five months pretty much OFF the bike due to injury, so in this case “recovery ride” translates into “gee, i’m injured and have no training in my legs, so maybe i should just cancel my registration…. but this ride is flat and i can look for bailout shortcuts.” Ben tries his best to dissuade me from going, but by the night before, he realizes I’m pretty set on coming to my own decision, and I’ve got to at least TRY. He’s clever enough to figure out that if i don’t go, but want to, i’m going to pout for days. So in the end, he encourages me and gives me a cheerful face about it…. may he just wants to see me dressed up in the new black lace dress I’ve just bought to wear as my “girly-rella” costume.
Looking back, i’ll bet most folks would think that 65 miles (even flat, plus a couple miles to/from home to El Cerrito BART and another 5 miles each way from Dublin/Pleasanton BART to the Alameda County Fairgrounds, so really about 77 miles all told for the day, is maybe more any rational, normal thinking person would want to take on as a first try back after a few months of mostly not riding at all due to various injuries and some ongoing neck/spine/leg counts as a bit more than a “recovery” ride…..
First, i feel like such a whiner, cuz my maladies are not resulting from any dramatic crash or debilitating illness, just a combination of some accumulating nerve damage seemingly based somewhere in the left side of my neck/jawline, and more recently aggravated by acute trauma to the spine/hip/IT Band/shoulder blade and left quad when i accidentally slipped on a wet wooden footbridge in Fiji at the end of a scuba dive vacation…. so yeah, i know, poor me, huh? Hah! Plus i see other cycling pals who have these horrendous crashes and within a few weeks or a very few months, seem to be recovering faster than i do….
But in reality, after returning home and to work in early November and all through December, I was pretty much in a hampered state and spent a lot of time at home on sick leave and there were several bouts of rather somewhat more dramatic, debilitating episodes when, for instance when i would get out of bed at night and a few steps down the hallway to the bathroom i could literally barely walk. and the “what ails ya” kept migrating around the old body as one part would heal and then remember that something else hurt more! So now it’s mostly back to the quad muscle that felt like it snapped when i fell, and the IT band that hooks into that laterally, and the neck (on the left side).
Coach Ben had decided it was time for me to have a bike fit, so for Valentines’ Day, he “gifted” me an appointment for that to Dr. Jess Greaux at InnerSport in Berkeley. Because of the other conditions, I decided it was worth my time to have a separate appointment in addition to, and preceding the bike fit, so did that, and am glad i did. It has taken from November 1st until last Friday to finally have my docs at Kaiser finally authorize an MRI. Meanwhile, I have had some excellent care from Dr. Jess and her colleague, Sandy Baird, most specifically concentrating on the neck tingling and tightness in my scalene and trapezius, among other things. I had also remembered that the tingling neck condition really preceded and is separate from my fall in Fiji… and in fact started being noticeable on the Labor Day ride up Mt. Tam.
anyway, lag dee dah, blah blah blah, went from peak fitness right before that vacation mid October to back to square one afterward, and have been slowly working my way back ever since. Dr. Jess recommended lowering my saddle and actually replacing the saddle on my road bike, as it was worn down and mushy. Also, changing out the stems on both bikes so i have a more upright riding position. These things, plus the chiropractic manipulations and kinesiology tape have helped tremendously, so i figured i could and should at least try to do the Cinderella… at least ride the flat 5 miles to the start and go as far as i could manage, and may look for shortcuts back to the start if my health issues all went south.
As it turned out, i found a snappy little lace party dress at the local Goodwill (looking for a tutu, which they didn’t have any more), and in the morning, put on my 1996 pink Cinderella jersey (commemorating my 1st year on the ride), a black lace one-piece tank leotard/tights, bike shorts and the dress over that. Stripy Pippi Longstocking SmartWool top layer for warmth to the BART train, and pretty woven SmartWool knee-high socks to keep my lower legs warm, and with my new girly bright pink Pzume convertible wind/rain jacket, i was all set for any contingency the day and the event wanted to throw at me.
Considered bringing my mountain/commute bike, newly reconfigured into a “Mary Poppins” upright, but in my heart knew i really wanted to be on the Serotta… only here’s the thing, brand new saddle, and the test ride around the block 2 weeks ago told me “way too hard”….but there it was, all installed and ready to be put to the real test. So i put an extra pair of lightweight, slightly padded knickers over my bike shorts, grabbed the Serotta off the rack, pumped the tires, and off i went, dark and early to catch the 6:02 a.m. train.
With the double shorts, so far so good. the new raised stem did give some relief to my neck and hands (although so ugly in comparison with my beautiful forged steel 3T Mutant that i’ve had since the bike was built for me in 2000… jeesh, what we won’t do for vanity and aesthetics!!). Arrived at BART just in time to climb the stairs to the meet the arriving train, so far so good.
At Berkeley BART, i greeted another Cinderella entering the BART car, who turned out to be Misty, a fairly new GPC member and doing her first Cinderella. She was meeting a friend at the start, but we would bike to the fairgrounds together. We decided to make our transfer at Lake Merritt instead of Bayfair, for the chance of a seat, as well as not having to hang out in the cold on the outside platform at the latter. Transfer went pretty smoothly and we were out at the Dublin/Pleasanton station in no time.
At the exit, another cyclist, Mei, was also going to be a Cinderella that day, and meeting a friend at the start, and we agreed to wait for her to change from street shoes to cycling shoes, then off we went, somewhat like the old quacking duck and two baby ducklings, who were in fact both fairly competent riders but relative newbies to organized rides… first one for both, and all a big mystery for what to expect: are there restrooms, do they have food along the way….. that sort of thing.
Arrived at registration around 7:40, stood in a short line for my registration number, futzed around a few minutes putting my reg number on the bike, grabbing a piece of whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and banana, heading for the porta potty, washing up, taking off the extra tights and SmartWool stripy layer i’d worn just for the cool morning commute, having the rest of my “breakfast” another piece of bagel but with peanut butter and jelly this time, then off i go, 8:08 a.m.
At the exit gate, I pull over to put my knickers back on. The new saddle is ok, but i realize the morning air is still cold enough on my legs, I want the extra layer to start. Then off again.
From the exit to the I-680 crossing, there is a long line of mother-daughter riders all wearing bright green tutus… the cutest and most inspiring thing ever. I’d say there are about 30 women and girls in that group. I can tell it’s going to be a fun day!
At almost every intersection after the freeway, there are gals pulled over with either a flat tire or just changing layers. Some are walking up the smallest “bump” in the road, you know, at about mile 2…… man, this is going to be a LONG day for them!!
The support on this ride is great. Almost as many SAG vehicles as riders, it seems… ready for every contingency. And indeed, everywhere you turn, there is some gal walking an almost flat “hill” or falling over into the ditch. A great opportunity for women of all skill levels to test their mettle. It’s one of those rare rides on which, even in my somewhat pathetic somewhat injured/impaired state, i am passing way more riders than the other way around…
In the first leg, there is a lady who seems to be about my same pace, more or less, and riding competently and has good positive energy. I’m tempted to call out and say, hey – let’s ride together, we can help each other and the ride will go quicker and easier, but i don’t. But at the first rest stop (about mile 17.5), she comes up to where i am standing with my food and introduces herself. So we decide to ride together, but i’m off to the bathroom (and there’s a long line in the cinderblock building, while Ellen is off to the mechanic to check on a squeaky part… so after the restroom, i look around, but decide she must have taken off already… I feel bad, cuz it’s also her first Cinderella (and first organized ride), and I know (from riding almost every year by myself except for a few years that it is more fun to ride with a buddy).
Between the first stop at Roberts Park and the lunch stop, I see the green arrow for the “Challenge” route, and i’m VERY tempted to head off that direction.. but allow good sense and moderation to dictate my course. Besides, i keep thinking i’ll run across Ellen.
Just as I pull in to the lunch stop, I see her again, we roll our bikes into the inner courtyard and head for the food line, and this time we manage to hang together. A few minutes later, we see Ann Lehr and a friend, who have done a “shortcut” version of the Challenge… earlier in the ride i’ve see Elaine in a group of princesses on a quest for princes, wearing tutus, green net tights and little stuffed-animal frogs attached to the tops of their helmets.. very cute! Oddly, there are not so many other Grizzlies this year that i recognize (although i know Maryann is riding (and wearing blue silk chiffon?), and learn later that Kati (from last year’s Island Rest Stop) has also ridden.
Off and on there are small pods of guys blazing past in their pacelines, all giving encouragement and inviting “come on, get in line.” Not today, boys, not today…. and from the opposite direction, I see the huge and impressive train of “House of Pain” whoosh by, 50-60 riders who meet up at Danville Peet’s on a Saturday and then go out at 20-25 mph average for a quick 60 miles! (our old pal Joa, now in Brazil with an Asst. Prof. teaching gig, who was the German masters bike-race time trial champ a few years in a row, and was our downstairs “boarder” for a winter, used to go ride with this group, 30 miles up and over the hills to get to the start, HOP ride for 60 miles at racing pace, and 30 miles home, and be back by 1:30 0r 2 pm…. humbling!!!)
3rd rest stop… used to be down Finley Road in a nice little shaded park, roughly mile 45 or so. Several years ago they swapped it out to the school on Tassajara, about mile 47. Nice location except it always felt like a mean trick to have to climb the little hill up to the school after such a nice leg of rollers along Manning and Highland. For the last two years, the 3rd rest stop is at a little school a bit off the beaten path (but really much nicer in terms of riding in a quiet neighborhood for more miles toward the end of the ride compared with past years). The thing is, it comes at about mile 51. And for a flat ride with the most wind-in-your-face for long stretches and anything that could be classfied as a “hill” in the 10-mile section between miles 35 and 45, it starts to feel like a long wait for the rest stop. (the good news is that it’s only 14 miles from there to the end of the ride, so you have your rest and your pretzels and V8, and then it’s smooth sailing to the end.
I see Renee (from EBBC) again here (we keep crossing paths at each rest stop), and while i’m waiting around in an initially slow, almost non-moving food line, Ellen comes along… oh, i forgot to mention… as soon as we got into the windy section, we traded leading/drafting for a bit, and then suddenly she just disappeared from my rear view mirror and i had to keep going… then once i got my rhythm going, i just wanted to go faster and faster. All i could think about was how much fun i was having on the little rollers and why i haven’t been riding!! i waited for about 10 minutes at the big intersection after Collier Canyon, before the slight dripping from the sky prompted me to head off on my own again.
so it was nice that she caught up again at the rest stop, and this time we did stick together to the end of the ride and the meal. Finishing up, i saw Karen (Grizzly), and invited her to join us. It turns out Karen was also taking BART home, so after some photos in the parking lot to memorialize the ride, i said goodbye to my riding buddy Ellen and Karen and I made the final 5 flat miles back to BART.
Great day.. i saw more flats than usual along the road. Found i was both more recovered and perhaps more injured than I’d realized (the last 1/3 of the ride was actually a bit painful on my neck), found a fun new costume (that i might actually keep as a regular dress!), made a few nice connections with other women riders, some new to organized rides, some seasoned.
I always say that i keep coming back to the Cinderella every year because it’s the one that started it all for me in 1996, when i dared myself to do it and found out “hey, that’s not so bad” and decided to do my first full Century the same year (Marin). I love it because it’s a rolling party. I love it because it gets women out on the road and gives them the confidence to challenge themselves. So every time i think, oh, not next year, i know i’ll do it again, and again…..
Ride on, Ladies, Ride on!
my stats, for the ride proper (resetting my cyclometer about 1/2 mile from the start):
12.7 mph avg
5:03:33 riding time
real miles, including round trip Dublin/Pleasanton BART to/from the Alameda Fairgrounds and home (Albany) to/from El Cerrito BART: about 77
Not the fastest, definitely not the hilliest, but not bad for a “recovery” ride.