Sunday, November 11, 2012


Just a couple days ago, I was whining and complaining about being alone. Now, I'm sitting on a couch in the living room of a beautiful house in a Cadiar, a small town in the Las Alpujarras region in Southern Spain, in front of a fireplace, watching MotoGP (motorcycle racing, I'm gathering) with my friend Katie, six Brits, and two dogs (Chica and Pincho). Lonely no more!

For the next week, we're doing a bike "training week" with a company called Vamos Cycling. I honestly can't remember what combination of google search terms led me to this company, but I am so glad I found it. The back story (which I find incredibly inspiring): Sarah and Gary are a British couple that moved to Southern Spain several years ago to start a cycling holiday company. Basically, every week, they open up their home to a different group of traveling cyclists. Gary, an excellent cyclist, leads the group on 60 to 100 km. rides up and down the surrounding mountains. Sarah stays behind, cooking up delicious meals. It's a bit like joining a family....when not cycling or eating, everyone hangs out in the living room, watching the telly, reading cycling magazines, chatting and drinking tea. It's delightful.

"Here Lives A Cyclist." I want one.
In addition to me and Katie (a friend from my Ironman Wisconsin training group), this week's group includes four "chaps" from the UK: Mike and Ash, cycling club friends from Northern GB, near Scotland; Robin, now in London but previously from the North (who's doing his 4th trip with Vamos, quite the endorsement); and Paul, from near Oxford. In addition to being quite keen cyclists, these guys are absolutely hilarious. Mind you, with the Northern England accents and the group talk, half the time Katie and I can't make out anything they're saying, so we just smile and laugh. But the parts we understand are just the perfect combination of sarcasm and slapstick. With a fun almost Scottish, Lucky Charms leprechaun accent (see, e.g., Robin: "I do really enjoy riding me bike.")

Me and Katie pre-ride
And Katie and I are picking up some British customs, too. Just this morning, I tried marmite for the first time, with the support of the Brits. Didn't love it, but didn't hate it, might try again. Katie's trying to use civilized words like "spectacular" and "brilliant." The Brits, in turn, are quickly picking up Americanisms. Mike has found himself accidentally saying "awesome" several times. He got that one from Katie, and it amuses everyone when it comes out of his mouth. They find "phenomenal" to also be quite the laugh. As it was explained, Brits just don't generally have such enthusiasm or, thus, use for such "exuberant" terms.

Today was the first day of riding, and I can say, I have a hard time imagining a better place to cycle. The roads are smooth as silk, absolutely flawless. Traffic is minimal and friendly (Katie claims that a passing motorist stopped and cheered for her as she was climbing). The mountain views are so beautiful it becomes distracting at times. I love me some Colorado, but this place puts Colorado to shame. I'd take more pictures, but I was mostly trying not to crash.

Starting a long climb
We started with a "short" day today (a bit under 3 hours), but when you throw in an 9K mountain climb along with several other lengthy, granny gear ascents, it's still quite the workout, at least for this Chicago girl. And while the climbs certainly got the heart rate up, it was probably the descents that really showed me how far I have to go. I can (almost) hang with the guys on the big climbs, but as soon as we start going down mountain roads with switchbacks and blind turns, I grab the brakes and they pull away. But serious props to Katie, who had a very serious bike crash just before Ironman Wisconsin, did the race anyway, and is just now getting back outside on the roads. Last time I had a bad crash, it took me MONTHS to feel comfortable riding outside again, but she's flying down mountains like it's no big deal. Rockstar!

And now, until tomorrow....we rest (and watch the telly and eat and laugh with the Brits).

Post-Ride Chillin'

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