One of the many things I've had to learn since joining my triathlon team, Full Throttle is how to ride a bike.
Don't misunderstand – I learned how to ride a bike like any regular kid (on my BFF's sparkly blue Schwin equipped with mandatory early 80's banana seat) and I've owned a few run-of-the-mill bikes, including a giant pink beach cruiser complete with basket.
But now I have a road bike (pictured above). And I have had to learn to ride it like I mean it. Ride it to put other people behind me...or at least not that far ahead of me.
The problem is, I fall off my bike a lot. Sometimes I'm not even going anywhere, I'm just standing there and I topple over like a domino. I've had a few exciting (by which I mean alarming) experiences, including an intimate interaction with a guardrail that I don't wish to repeat.
But I probably will. This is just how I roll (literally).
I've also had to learn how to ride in a pack of other cyclists in Central Park. There's a whole set of rules on hand signals, appropriate following distances, passing ettiquette (ON YOUR RIGHT!!), and keeping a sharp eye for kamakazee squirrels, horse droppings, leashless Yorkies and other bikers.
A typical morning biking conversation could go like this:
Me: I'm hungry.
Someone at the back of the pack: Watch out for that guy!
Me: What did she say about pie? ON YOUR RIGHT!!!
Me: (now at the back) Look at that pretty sunrise.
Someone at the front: Is she still talking about pies? DOG NOT ON A LEASH!!!
And so on...
Additionally, there's a lot of planning that's involved in bike riding. I go straight from my apartment in Hoboken to Central Park on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I can't bring a bag of clothes with me. And I certainly can't go all the way back to the 'Boken just to return to the city for work. So, on Mondays and Wednesdays I pack clothes for two days and leave them at the gym, so they will be waiting for me after cycling. This usually works pretty well.
Until it doesn't. Until you forget your pants. And by "you" I mean "me."
I swear I put them in my backback. But I didn't. Consider this email (and the response) I sent to my boss that morning as I walked to work in my running shorts:
I went out at lunch and bought some pants so I didn't have to spend the rest of the day dressed like this:
And then there's the food. Biking long distances has made me hungrier than normal. The first time I did a 50 mile ride to the scenic country town of Piermont and back again, I was so hungry I wanted to lick the sidewalk for any risidual nutrients.
Instead, I went to dinner with the accompanying riders (3 of us in total) at a local Thai restaurant. Between the three of us we ate six entrees, 4 orders of sticky rice, and 2 appetizers. We alarmed the other patrons and the waiter with our repeated orders.
So the question remains, what (aside from copious amount of Thai food) do I eat when I'm doing stuff like forgetting my pants and dodging pigeons in the park? Well, I'll tell you.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Flax Seeds and Blueberries
What You Need:
1 package instant oatment (I like this brand)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon peanut butter
1 rounded teaspoon ground flax seeds
Handfull fresh blueberries (a banana is also really tasty)
* If you use plain, unflavored oatmeal, a drizzle of agave syrup is a nice sweetener.
What To Do:
Get yourself a bowl. This is the bowl you will be eating from, so a normal cereal bowl will do.
Pour one packet of instant oatmeal in the bowl.
Add 1/3 cup water.
Microwave on high for 1 minute.
Remove the bowl from the microwave, add the teaspoon of flax seeds, and the peanut butter. Pour the 1/3 cup soy milk over this mixture and stir it up.
Return the bowl to the microwave and nuke it on high for 30 seconds.
Remove from the microwave and give it a stir. Add the fruit. If it's too thick, you can add a bit more soy milk and stir (no need to reheat at this point). Eat. With coffee.
Lunch: Spicy Bison Spinach Salad
I started going to this salad joint called Pump for lunch. It's a build-your-own salad type of place, and I can get my salad to go, sit in the sunshine out by that new, blindingly silver Andy Warhol statue on Broadway and 17th and take in the sights.
I usually get the above salad with yogurt dill dressing on the side.
Consequently, I became a little obsessed with the Yogurt Dill Dressing and wanted to make my own so I can start putting it on all kinds of things. Here's how you do it:
What You Need:
1 personal size container of plain, non-fat Greek Yogurt (I use Chobani)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh chopped dill (as much as you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
What To Do:
Comebine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. For extra mixing power, you can also accomplish this in a blender.
Know that if you use a blender, the crazy mixing power will turn your dressing a touch green (from the dill). So if you want white dressing, no blender for you.
Give it a taste. Need more salt? More dill? Add it in. If not, throw it on a salad. Dress up some salmon. Dip some carrots in it. You name it, it's pretty much all purpose. Try it as a facial mask too.
Apologies to vegetarians, but after a race or a long ride there's nothing more satisfying than a cheeseburger. So satisfying, in fact, that I ate two (one right after the other) after completing the Montauk Triathlon.
A cheeseburger is the perfect combination of recovery foods: protein in the beef, fat in the cheese, and carbs in the bun. Add to that all the satisfying juicy/salty/sink-your-teeth-into-it qualities of a well prepared burger...and some fries...and you have my favorite recovery food.
After the Sherman Triathlon in Connecticut, my teammate Joe and I took a detour to Clamp's roadside burger stand in New Milford, Connecticut.
We had to do a little detective work, as there's no address listed for Clamp's and no phone number either. But we found it, nestled quietly off Route 202. There's really no sign either. This one was on the ground under the take-away window:
It was kept company by another chalk board listing the extensive condiments, side dishes and beverages:
We settled on the following:
2 cheeseburgers (1 for each of us - mine had ketchup, mustard, pickles, salt and pepper)
Fried clams (with a side of tartar sauce)
2 Birch beers (incidentally, I forgot that Birch beer is clear like 7-Up)
The burgers were well prepared and juicy and the cheese was the perfect amount of melted, attaining that just-gooey-enough quality. However, I would say that the meat was missing something....it was a little bland. And even though I ordered mine medium rare, I would say it arrived as medium.
The fries and clams were different. The fry batter was exceptionally crispy and fresh, sporting lots of fry bubbles that added to that cRuNcH upon first bite. Quite addictive, and we finished both paper containers with ease (and tartar sauce).
I highly recommend a trip to Clamp's. While the burgers are not the best I've ever had, the whole experience (and French fries) is quite worth the detour.
With all these spills off bicycles and forgotten pantaloons, I frequently need a little pick-me-up (pun intended). I quickly figured out that my water bottle holders on my bike will also hold to-go coffee cups:
In the mornings, I usually get my coffee from either the Chelsea Piers Cafe, which has surprisingly good, dark coffee, or Cafe Grumpy which is on my walk from the Piers to work.
If we are biking to Piermont, we stop at the cyclist favorite Bunberry's where I usually order an iced coffee with half 'n' half. The perfect jolt for the ride home.
In conclusion, I haven't really told you how to stay on your bike OR how not to forget your pants. I offer these words of advice:
1. Get back on after you fall down. And scream something like, "I'm OK!" even if you're not. You'll forget about it and start thinking about lunch instead.
2. Check again for your pants. Or store extras in your desk drawer.
3. Smile because:
4. Padded bike shorts really are necessary.
5. Team members that are forgiving of falling, pants-forgetting, and have healthy appetites are the ones to have.