One morning I took my last country ski out in the woods. That afternoon, I took my first bike ride. On the spur-of-the-moment I had signed up for the BikeMaine event, and it was time to start training. I went into it blind and came out the other end with my eyes wide opened. I had never attempted anything like this, but at age 62, I thought I was still infallible. I still do, and I thrived and survived. I registered by myself and got many comments of: “This is your FIRST ride? You should have ….” I now pass on the nuggets I learned during that week in Maine last summer and also what I’d do differently.
WHAT I LEARNED:
- I can bike farther than I thought.
- My son’s advice was spot-on. (“When will you ever have the time to do it again?” – when does anyone have the time to set aside – other than by doing it?)
- My bike is heavy but excellent for training.
- The scenery is awesome. You can see a lot in 50-mile training rides (as well as 10 miles, 20 miles, etc.). I tried to pick out a new route every time with a goal to cover as many roads as possible. I also did circuits because it was easier than dreading ‘that hill again’.
- My local bike shop was VERY helpful and worth it to support it (rather than on-line purchases). They installed everything I bought, answered questions, made recommendations and streamlined my bike as much as possible.
- Ask for advice. I learned a lot from a woman in the parking lot one day.
- I chose the tent and porter service and was very thankful at the end of every day to find my bag inside, with sleeping bag ready to roll out. One day I had to lay there for awhile before I could get up and shower. I was thankful for the shelter.
- I also used the towel rental, rather than trying to get a towel dry.
- We did some sight-seeing along the way and could stop and take photos.
- The support team was simply awesome – from the people in the villages to those volunteers who kept us safe on the roads – whether they were warning of turns or stopping traffic so we could cross. On the fourth straight day, one volunteer at an intersection looked at me and said “Are you in trouble?” “Yes” as the tears came. I had biked my heart out. He talked me down off the ledge (!) and convinced me it was a good choice to take the support vehicle and be transported the last 15 miles into the camp. It was ok. I wasn’t quitting, I was making a wise choice. (Thank you, kind man, whoever you were. I appreciated your frankness, calmness, and directness. It worked.)
- I didn’t need extra layers on cold mornings for more than half an hour. The bag they provided was EASY to transport, EASY to drop off at a rest area and EASY to reclaim at the end of the day. The systems were all easier than I thought they’d be.
- We never went more than 23 miles before being greeted with PLENTIFUL and NUTRICIOUS food. Hosts for the lunches and dinners in each town did everything they could to help us.
- Every person who passed me greeted me (our names and states were on the back of our bikes). And most people passed me!
- People were older than I thought they’d be and came from all over the country!
- People used all sorts of bikes – recumbent, upright, folding/travel bikes, etc.
- Don’t drink colored energy drinks. There are good alternatives without the dyes. They had them at the BikeMaine rest stops.
- I did most of my training rides alone. I emailed a friend my intended route in case I didn’t return as expected.
- I thankfully trained in all weather so knew I could survive rain and wind. The only day I bailed was when LIGHTNING struck right beside me on a training ride.
What I’d do differently:
- I’d get on my bike and start training YESTERDAY. Start now. It’s suggested that you be comfortable with 25-mile rides before June.
- Look for hills and cycle them. Over and over. I saw hills I didn’t think existed in Maine.
- Cycle at a pace that you’re comfortable with. I was aware of a couple that struggled the whole week. I think one got talked into it (!) and could not keep up, resulting in a lot of tension and resentment. Enjoy the ride and meet up at the end of the day.
- I started out too fast the first day, thinking I was dead last. Next time I could say “well, I’m last” and it would be ok. That day I biked too fast and used too much energy in the morning.
- I would start as soon as I could in the day so I wouldn’t feel as pressured. I needed the whole time every day.
- I would realize that there are very seasoned bikers on the trip as well as others that aren’t.
- Do at least two 50-60 mile days in a row. I could DO 50 miles, but not day after day, hence my dilemma on Day 4 last year.
- Sign up for a daily massage as soon as possible. It was worth the money!
- Take earplugs for nearby snorers.
- Make the commitment as soon as possible and BIKE. What a great way to spend the summer, and a great way to end it in MAINE.
About the author:
Dori McCormick has had a long association with biking; though in bursts! She did the Trek Across Maine ride 100 years ago (on a heavy bike), completed the Otago Rail Trail in New Zealand about 5 years ago (95 miles in 3 days) and then participated in (all but 15 miles) of BikeMaine last year (348 miles)! The passion continues! A professional photographer by day, she also loves to write, play tennis, read, garden, cross country ski, hike, and travel.