The Daily Gazette
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Training for the ride

There are two general theories about training for a multi-day endurance event like the ride across America.

One theory is: don't train. You will train as you ride or walk, and be in shape by the end of the second week! My European friends hold to this theory, so while I'm out on the roads riding my bike, or walking increasingly longer distances, my walking/biking pals from across the Big Pond are enjoying their leisure. They seem to do fine, do not complain those first weeks. Maybe they begin at a higher fitness level than I do. I don't know.

I do know that I wouldn't dare start this two-month bike trip without first doing some hard training. I began last summer, riding increasingly longer rides in hilly Saratoga County with my training partner, a woman my age. Then, disaster. My friend was in an accident and could no longer ride. I then joined a wonderful group of women cyclists, the Tuesdays, who cheered me on as I met them for rides every Tuesday through the fall. I was also cycling on other days as well, but I loved going out with the Tuesdays group to ride and then have lunch.

Then, winter. I continued to ride outside until the first snowfall in December. In the past, I would put my bike in the garage for the season when it got to be 50 degrees, but not this year. I kept my bike in my dining room, and I became weather obsessed. I would ride if it was (a) sunny and no wind, no matter the temperature; (b) cloudy and no wind; (c) very cold but no wind.

I discovered that in cold weather, wind is the enemy, because one has to calculate wind speed based on the wind you create by riding as well as the wind speed in the atmosphere. Clothing for wind and cold was a challenge. A balaclava, two pairs of gloves, wool socks, a face mask. A challenge. On the coldest day I've been out on my bike this winter the temperature was 19 degrees. Fortunately, I have an insulated water bottle.

I also took indoor cycling classes. Once the weather became too awful for riding outside, I started spinning 5 days a week, then doubled down on days when I could find more than one class. As a Silver Sneaker member (a huge benefit of my Medicare insurance) I can take free classes at most gyms in the area . The Schenectady JCC has been my primary gym; the instructor there obligingly offered a 3-hour spinning class on New Year's Day. Another gym I use offered a 2-hour class not too long ago. I also lift weights at home, and do stretching exercises specifically developed for cyclists.

This entire winter training period has become increasingly more aggravating to me because I hate being indoors. Because of the weather, I also have had no opportunity to take my bike out for a 50- or 60-mile ride, so I just don't know what kind of cycling shape I'm in. Some of the other women on the Tour live in snow country -- Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Maine -- and face the same problems I do. I think some of us are hoping that the winter of 2012-13 would be like the winter of 2011-12, relatively snow free and warmer than usual. I don't think I'll be at a training disadvantage in the group.

In my next post, the last before I start the Tour, I'll write about ECOS: the Environmental Clearinghouse, the organization for which I'm fund raising on the ride across America.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Go along for the ride by following this blog by Schenectady resident Pat Rush before and during her cross-country cycling journey from San Diego to St. Augustine Fla. During the trip, she will describe her experiences and provide photos. The trip starts on March 8.

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