Monday, June 15, 2009

a great day for a bike ride

Back in March, I made the decision to (1) learn to ride a bike, (2) raise at least $2,000 for the American Diabetes Association, and (3) ride in Tour de Cure.

Yesterday, I rode in Tour de Cure, having learned to ride a bike, and raising, to date, $3,281, out of Team Training Wheels' total of $6,528—and counting!

I frankly can't quite believe that I did it, although there were plenty of people to witness the event—a special shoutout to teammate Dan, who rode with me the entire way, providing needed guidance and the rest of his water, and distracting me with tales of his biking youth (and even a bit of gossip).

We were lucky with weather that was even better than the forecast had promised (and even though I forgot to actually apply the sunscreen I'd brought, I didn't get a burn). And yes, it took me a while, with many stops along the way (I still get freaked out when there are too many people on the trail!), but it felt wonderful. My blood sugar did just what I wanted it to, I only fell once, and I got to coast in at the end to the cheers of family and friends.

The funniest part? At the beginning, as we were about to set out, my shoelace got caught in the gears and had to be extricated by friends (who then retied both shoes so that the loops were smaller). Could I be dorkier??

The saddest part? When Dan's 4-year-old daughter said "Sara, I want a shirt like yours!" Since I was wearing the Red Rider jersey (for people with diabetes), I told her, "Sweetheart, I know, but I don't ever want you to have one."

The best part?
There were many: hearing Linda and other ADA folk cheering as I set out at the start; going over little hills that helped me understand the childhood fun of cycling; hanging out in the shade with Dan along the way (ask us about diesel trains!) and listening to him sing "Erie Canal"; being greeted by my daughter, Edith, as she ran into my arms at the end of the ride. Also, the nap after we got home.

More shoutouts: All the Team Training Wheels gang, including those who rode (Coach Jon, Alison, Abe, Chris K, Chris S, Lois, Jacqui, Dayle, and Dan) and those who couldn't (for good reasons!) but raised big money anyway (Nanja, Mary Pat, Eric), plus TTW affiliates Kim, Rachel, SuperWill, the scooters (Nava and Edith), and Baby Tater (who won't remember her first Tour, but still...)

New e-pals Bob and Mike. (Bob is about to ride across the country in RAAM. Good lord.)

UberVolunteer Jeremy; co-shopper (and general enabler) Jim B; t-shirt maven (and NOLA expert) Francie; Tour Guru Nicole; Kate the Great; Reston resident Nora, who showed me the ropes; Carolyn, who egged me on, as always; Campaign Manager Katie; marketing director Heschel; Bekah the muse; major donors Richard, Big Mike, Chan, and Jim S; and National Capital Tour de Cure bosses Alan and Cassandra.

Andrew, who's been telling me to get on a bike for years...

... Cousin Laura, who has the best braids ever (I think I will never be able to thank you enough, lovely Laura)...

... and my husband, Kevin, who realized I was serious about this when I got the fancy padded shorts. All good pursuits demand new clothing!

Thank you all so much for following me on this wacky trip. I will post photos if we get any.... Otherwise, I will just put in one last pitch: Please contribute here if you haven't already done so. People with diabetes need your help. If this post tells you anything, it says that we can't do it alone.

And if you're in the area, come out for a ride!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

i did it!

More to come after post-ride nap...

woke up happy...

... because today I get to do this thing I said I'd do! Or, as my daughter just said, "Yay, today is the Big Ride, I am so excited!"

The weather is gorgeous--even better than we'd expected. I'm mostly packed, with my BG meter, phone, and ID tucked into a wedge pack that straps under the seat of the bike. Water bottle is cooling in the fridge. Coach Jon took me to the bike store on Friday so I could get real padded biking shorts, which feel pretty funny but which I am assured will make a difference. I'll also be wearing my Red Rider jersey and tour de cure socks that Tour Boss Nicole gave me. Child and husband will be wearing the groovy "Team Training Wheels" t-shirts that I designed in a fit of creativity.

And Dan will be riding with me every bit of the way. This may not look pretty--I may have to stop a lot, and pant a lot--but, shockingly, I have indeed learned how to ride a bike.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Well, I guess I'd really better do this thing!

Just a couple days left until the big ride. And I'm not nearly as scared as I thought I'd be. Any last words of wisdom from the crowd?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

is that really me?

My story about learning to ride is in today's Washington Post. I don't think the picture looks like me--I mean, that person is on a bicycle!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

things like this don't really help

No matter what you think of Boris, this footage of him and fellow cyclists almost being mowed down by a lorry ain't pretty.

Friday, May 22, 2009

this was going to be more of a heroic post

So I was tootling along on the Townie (is that acceptable? tootling? well, whatever), and thinking that I would come home and write about how I can get around my neighborhood on my bike, no problem! I had spent part of the afternoon with Carolyn and baby Tate, doing errands, getting coffee, and practicing biking on the sidewalks near my house. Some of them are pretty narrow, and I'm not good enough at staying in a straight line to ride them safely. We spent some time at the rec center park (where a kid told me "nice bike!"), and then I walked them several blocks back to their house. Along MacArthur Boulevard, the sidewalks are a bit wider, mostly flat, and nearly empty of people, so once I said goodbye to Carolyn, I decided to try to bike all the way home. And it went very well, I even went over sidewalk bumps without stopping (though I did walk the bike across the side streets), and I was pretty much enjoying it and feeling like it was a much more pleasant way to get around than walking.
Then I got to my block. I really thought I could get around the big recycling bins without stopping, but my handlebar clipped a bin and down I went. Big scrape on my elbow.
It's okay, though, because when I got home, my daughter kissed it and made it all better.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

funds gettin' raised

One thing that's been pretty amazing about this wacky project is the number of people who have contributed to the American Diabetes Association via Team Training Wheels. I didn't set a goal for the team, but I did have one in mind for my own fund-raising, and I'm almost there. That's another thing that's hard for me to do—asking for money—but of course it's a bit easier when the cause is so important. So, thank you!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I'll begin by getting right to the point: Just got back from a ride with Laura and it was wonderful.

Location: Closed portion of Beach Drive.

Since it was threatening to rain, there were fewer people around, so I didn't get as freaked out that I was going to run into someone. Still, it had been three weeks since I was last on the bike, thanks to a combination of rain, parental duties, and other obstacles. I was seriously nervous. Luckily, Laura is a patient coach, and eventually I got to the point where I was (1) remembering to breathe, (2) looking forward, not staring down at the ground ahead of me, and (3) enjoying myself.

Numbers: BG beforehand was 208 (whoops!). BG after was 135 (yay!).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

excuses, excuses

Now that husband has returned from abroad to spell me from the childcare and the weather is (mostly) better, I can get back on track. Whew! Just in time....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

in praise of stairs

Haven't used an elevator in over 24 hours... I think I've passed through the withdrawal phase and arrived in the euphoria phase. Still need to catch my breath when I get to the 3rd floor landing, but for the first time in a long time I am looking forward to my post-lunch blood-sugar check.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ow. but ahhhhh.

Yep, I know I went to the gym all right! So how about today?

Day 2: Walk walk walk.

Since I know I won't be able to do a long exercise session because of a heavy schedule today, I plan to add extra walking everywhere I can along the way. I parked at the farthest part of the garage, didn't use the elevator to get to my office, and am visiting colleagues at their desks instead of emailing or calling them. Jeremy and I will take a walk at lunch, too. Yay Jeremy!

Very nice walk (yay, Jeremy!), and I found a new place to practice on the bike, in the neighborhood across the street from our office building.

Update #2: I am told by the fabulous Rachel R. that it is not at all a problem to be short of breath after 3 flights of stairs on the way to graphic design class. Not at all!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

first day, meet rest of life...

Okay, so here's the deal. I am not in good shape. I have been in good shape in the past, and this is not it. There are less than 6 weeks remaining before the Tour de Cure in Reston, and while I have completed phases one and two (purchasing the bike and learning to ride it), there's still phase three (having the stamina and confidence to ride for some distance).

So, until June 14, I need to do some kind of exercise every day. (I know, that's not necessary in the normal sense, but I think I have to be compulsive about it in order to make it stick.)

Day 1 (today): Going to the gym with Heather.

Update: Shaky arms, wobbly legs, intimations of later soreness: Oh yeah, this is what the gym feels like. Also, wonderful.

Monday, May 4, 2009

new shoes!

One of the reasons I'm so bummed about the rain is that I went ahead and got new shoes! As noted before, part of what keeps me going is the design/style aspect of biking—from the gorgeous curves and spokes of a classic bicycle to the sleek engineering of a superhero-style jersey. Admittedly, I chose function over form when I picked these Shimanos, but I like that I can walk around in them as well as ride in them. So, let's get out there!

Sunday, May 3, 2009


In the old days, I wouldn't have minded much about a rainy day. It's great sleeping weather, and great reading weather. But, as my 3-year-old just exclaimed, "oh, you can't ride your bike!" The forecast has never mattered so much to me. (And yes, I should have gone out yesterday. Sigh.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

highs and lows

Reader Bob, commenting on the previous post, asks about how the bicycle training has affected my diabetes--"highs lows and such."

This really gets to the heart of the challenge. Most doctors I talk to pooh pooh the idea that type 2s have to worry about low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), unless they are taking one particular type of drug (sulfonyureas), which I'm not. I have tried to explain that I am prone to going low, especially in the afternoons, but I can tell that they are unconvinced. They suspect I am just giving excuses for not exercising or not keeping my numbers lower. (For type 1s, the issues are very different, because they are completely controlling the insulin intake.)

These docs--some of whom I consider to be friends, all of whom I respect as experts--have never had a low themselves. They have no idea how dreadful it feels, and how terrifying it can be. They do know, because of some new research that we wrote about here in Diabetes Forecast, that people with type 1 are often inactive because they are afraid of lows. I think that's true of some folks with type 2, too.

That said, if you can figure out a pattern to your lows and exercise, you can really make it work well. When I used to go a gym on a regular basis, I always had to have my (full sugar) yogurt afterward, and that staved off the low I could feel coming on after a good 45-minute workout. Now that I am getting on the bike, I like to eat something about an hour before I exercise, test my blood sugar before I start riding, and then test again after (usually sitting in my car, before I get on the road). So far it's worked well--love seeing that 128 on the meter!--but I will keep an eye on how things change as my rides get longer. I'm not up to the 6 miles that Bob does, but I am not surprised that he feels he needs to eat something at that point. I've been carrying the same old pack of just-in-case Skittles with me on my rides (I choose a candy I don't like on purpose), but will soon switch to a glucose gel. And I have a smaller meter that's easier to bring on the bike, since when you're feeling low the best thing to do is test right away.

I'm also looking forward to our July issue of Forecast, which has a big package on fitness. One of the people we quote is Sheri Colberg, who wrote a book called Diabetic Athlete's Handbook, an exhaustive "guide to peak performance" that I am planning to start reading this weekend. You know, in all my free time!


The comments function is now in operation. Thanks for the headsup, people.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

questions, questions

Was all ready to head out and buy new sneaks (since my old ones are literally falling apart as I walk) when I realized that i don't actually know which shoes are best for biking. I have a sense that I don't want a very elaborate tread, which seems like it could catch on the pedals (right?). I also don't want to start investing in the clip-on kind. So, thoughts from the crowd?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

for a rainy afternoon

Some bicycle-oriented entertainment. (Note that I have no wish to emulate this.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

gravity 1, sara 0

Yep, I fell. But it was a good fall: It showed me that falling isn't the worst thing, and I don't think I actually drew any blood. And I rode a short distance, thanks to the help of cousin-friend Laura, who kept me on my side of the road and taught me how to, well, stop. AND: I wasn't terrified for a few minutes here and there.


Friday, April 17, 2009

big day tomorrow

Cousin Laura is taking me out for my first (mini) ride tomorrow, on a nice big flat road that gets blocked off on the weekends for bicyclists. Bicyclists. Like me!
Now, if only I wasn't still terrified every time I get on the bike....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

style part 2

Responding to the last post, reader A.C. from Berlin writes:
Far be it from me to give fashion advice, but Swobo is the SF answer. They're also the American version of Rapha -- not quite as insanely expensive, but still pricey.

Thanks, A.C.! Oddly, the Times has another piece today about looking good while biking. Are we part of a trend?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

style matters

So of course one of the reasons I am interested in this whole "bike" situation is the design aspect: hence the fabulous Electra Townie I purchased. Am still working on its accessories. I got a sweet little water bottle cage, in white, which I would never have chosen except that it matches perfectly with the retro creamsicle aesthetic of the bicycle. Am toying with the idea of a basket, and of course I want a cute little bell. (The Electra people also sell handlebar streamers, but in leather, which I find slightly disturbing.)

But this just raises another question: What to wear when I ride? It's addressed, to a point, in last week's New York Times, but not very satisfactorily. So far I've just been throwing on a strange assortment of items that are functional (short pants, or narrow pants, with a warm-enough top). I think this may add to my "crazy lady on the wobbly bike at the park" aesthetic, which I would be happy to move past. But I am so not ready for the spandex. Is there a happy medium?

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Am starting to consider that I might need professional help. No, not that kind; I'm thinking of an instructor, because I have hit a bit of an impasse. I can do two circuits around the rec center, no problem, but I am pretty much terrified of falling the whole time, and I have to stop if anyone gets near me because I am afraid if running into them!
Any advice?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

scenes from my life

My mother wants me to be careful with this whole bike project--you know, because of Lance Armstrong's collarbone, of course.

Monday, March 23, 2009


I've told myself I need to take one break day each week when I don't get on the bike. Not sure whether there's science behind the idea, but it seems to me that a 24-hour hiatus makes sense. Today's a good day for it. And yet, it's all I can do not to rush home, throw open the garage, drag out the Townie and start pedaling!
The news of Lance Armstrong's broken collarbone means more than it would have a week ago. Not much, still, but more. Again, ouch.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

first spill

At least it was minor, and there were only two people watching... But, ouch, scraped ankle. Apart from that: Another lovely day at the park! I am working on making full circuits around the field without stopping. Also, moved the seat up to its proper height, which is a little scary, but definitely feels better when I am riding. Got cheers from a few park-goers who were bemused to see the old lady learning to ride her bike. Also: Now understand why Carolyn wants me to get the gel-shorts. Ouch, again.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

the world is changed

Victory! (Phase one, at least.) I know how to ride! It's not a pretty sight, fairly wobbly, but I did a small circuit around the Palisades rec center without any falls or other serious embarrassments.
Now I can confess that I have been very nervous about this project, no less so after the launch, when I really felt like there was no way I would actually be able to do it.
For the record, here's how I got pedaling (with thanks to sensei Jon): I began with coasting on the grass, and when I felt balanced enough there, I moved to the paved path. That's where I really got the hang of moving the front wheel around to keep balanced. Finally the physics began to make sense! Plus, I saw how there is upper-body work to biking, which I hadn't appreciated before.
Once I was seriously gliding, I went back to the grass and tried getting my feet to the pedals. That took another leap of faith, but the balance practice gave me enough stability to do it. I hadn't planned to go back to the pavement after that, but since my husband and daughter were still occupied on the playground at this point, I figured I'd give it a shot--and presto! And fun.
Now I know why my friends who bike are so darn happy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

no rest for the weary

Totally exhausted at the end of a big week, but I still will be going home to work on balance. Planning to spend the weekend in and out of various Palisades-area parks. How long is it going to take to get up and running? Anyone?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the launch party

It's safe to say that not everyone I work with realized that I don't, really truly, know what I'm doing. Now, they do. Or, as my boss was heard to say, "Well, Sara, you sure showed us that you don't know how to ride a bike!"
Once the breathing exercises (right) were finished, it was time for the main event. Literally tens of people showed up to watch me tire myself out without even touching the pedals, much.
Thanks to Jim and Jeremy for providing the balloons and, puzzlingly, strawberries; Katie for being the best campaign manager a gal could ask for; Jon for his kind and gentle coaching (and reminding me to breathe); Diego for being my partner in crime and shopping; and the whole ADA gang for coming out to watch me coast along the grass between the loading dock and garage A.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

it's here!

Just got the call from Bennett at Big Wheel Bikes. My new Townie has arrived in the store! Suddenly this all feels kinda real....

Origin Story

For most of you, riding your bike around the neighborhood was a normal part of growing up. Not me. Neither of my parents knew how to ride, and since they were busy getting divorced around the time most kids I knew were getting training wheels, I don’t think it ever occurred to them that I might need a hand in this department. A couple of friends tried to teach me to ride in college, but it ended badly: I have a sad scar on my knee to show for it, and not much else.

So why am I learning to ride a bike right now?

1. To raise money for people with diabetes

It’s an ambitious idea, but one that seems to resonate with others. Over the course of 3 months I intend to learn to ride a bike and then train to ride in the June 14 Tour de Cure fundraiser in Reston, Va.
Having worked at the American Diabetes Association for the past 2 years, I know firsthand that this organization is doing crucial work to support research, education, and treatment for the millions of people affected by diabetes. By supporting my ride, you will be doing your part to help fight this terrible, life-threatening disease.

2. To get back in shape after falling out of love with exercise

One of the other things I’ve learned at the ADA is how important exercise is for managing my diabetes. The better my muscles are working, the better they can help my body use glucose, which is the big issue in diabetes. Yay, muscles!
I’ve also come to believe that for those of us who are not natural athletes, a good motivator for exercise is finding something new to do—even if it means reinventing your workout time and again. The excitement of learning to ride is pushing me forward (even though, frankly, I’d rather be reading a book).

3. To be a role model for my daughter

Soon, it will be time for Edith to learn how to ride a bike. And yes, her dad could teach her without my help. But I want her to have the example of an active mom—and one who takes on big challenges.

Doing the impossible

It’s worth pointing out that at this very moment, the prospect of getting on a bike and pedaling forward seems impossible. I just don’t understand how anyone does it! And the physics of bicycling, while intelligible, are fundamentally alien to me. Think for a moment about something that feels impossible in your life. Yep, it’s like that. But I also know that, with the help of friends and family, I can do this.