Iâ€™m proud to announce that I will be working with Garmin International for 2011 and 2012! Garmin was one of my first sponsors, and my partnership with them has grown substantially over the past three years. Itâ€™s been a lot of fun testing out their products and sharing my stories, both here and on the Garmin Connect Blog, about the adventures theyâ€™ve helped me through. Below is one of those stories, but I want to solicit you, my reader, for some stories of your own about how youâ€™ve enjoyed your Garmin devices. If you have a story you would be willing to share, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org â€“ Iâ€™ll do my best to publish each of them, and if your story is particularly compelling Iâ€™ll put it up on the Garmin Connect Blog as well.
A couple of weeks ago in Seattle I decided to join in on a local group ride called the Rocket Ride. Itâ€™s a â€œdropâ€ ride, where local cyclists (and the occasional pro) do their best to hurt each other for about fifty miles of rolling to hilly terrain. Unfortunately, when I showed up there was nobody there because the ride leaders from Herriott Sports Performance were in Tucson for a training camp. Instead I joined in with a group of cyclists from a local team and figured it was all for the best (I hadnâ€™t been on a bike in a couple of weeks after finishing my last race of the season, so it was inevitable that I would be receiving more â€œhurtâ€ than I could offer). This also happened to be my first time out with the new Garmin Edge 800, and my first ride of the winter season in my super-warm fleece kit from Northwave. The Edge 800 boasts a large touch screen that dwarfs its predecessor, the Edge 705 and allows you to have up to ten (TEN!) data fields on one training screen. As soon as I mounted my bike I looked down at my glove-covered fingers and thought, â€œoh no, Iâ€™m going to have to use my nose for the touch-screen!â€ WRONG! Even through thick wind-breaker fleece cycling gloves the touch-screen works flawlessly! So I was able to flip between my ten data fields and the glowing, crystal clear maps with just a swipe of my finger. It puts my smart phone to shame.
The ride started off casually. I introduced myself and chatted for a little while about triathlon and cycling and the usual handlebar small-talk. We werenâ€™t doing the Rocket Ride route, so luckily there werenâ€™t any big climbs to wake us up. Instead we meandered through the suburbs and eventually hit some country roads where the guys started rotating through a pace line. Each guy was taking a pull of about 2-3 minutes before pulling off, and you could tell this was the time to casually show off a bit. Now, because I was only in Seattle for a short weekend and was riding my old rain bike I wasnâ€™t wearing a heart rate strap, my bike lacked a power meter, and I didnâ€™t even think to add an Ant+ speed/cadence sensor to the rig. When I got to the front my only gauge of effort was RPE (rate of perceived exertion), which is a subjective measurement that quickly loses its accuracy with every day of the off-season. I felt fine, so I kept the speed set by the pull preceding mine, and ignored the increase in pitch (both of which were displayed prominently on my 800â€™s screen). After four or five minutes I had unknowingly dropped half the group, and was unaware of the dwindling amount of energy remaining in my no-so-fit legs.
We dropped down into the Snohomish River Valley and proceeded north along the base of the western slopes. The area is still mostly unclaimed by the insidious housing abominations that we call suburbs, and the expansive agrarian landscape is a welcome beauty to the pedal powered recreationalist. The five of us began rotating through a pace line again, only this time there was no showing off. We rotated continuously and kept a strong pace along the flatlands. At some point my mind wandered from the joy of riding in a group and the beauty of the valley to a more urgent issue: food. I had skipped breakfast and had not eaten for the past 90 minutes of riding. This is not a mistake I would make during regular training. I scarfed down a peanut butter Powerbar and soon forgot about the strong possibility of energetic depletion. At some point we turned east and headed to Snohomish, a small town with an abundance of antique stores and a fun little river-walk to attract the weekend tourists. My legs were not happy with me, but my 800 said we were holding a steady pace, and my companions didnâ€™t seem interested in slowing as we rolled right past town and began to head back south toward home. I sucked it up, refused to make excused, and quickly forgot to continue eating. At some point I clicked â€œreturn to startâ€ on my 800 and observed that we were still much farther from home than I wanted to be. I was no longer feeling very heroic and when we hit Broadway, a long steady climb that takes us back out of the river valley, I found myself dropped. The legs just wouldnâ€™t turn over any faster.
At a stoplight we regrouped but the short break really didnâ€™t help me. We kept climbing over the hill but as we approached a â€œWelcome To Woodinvilleâ€ sign, I found myself dropped again behind those with enough energy to go for the sprint point. I was gone, bonking and too mentally hindered to realize it. Too far gone to remember that I had forgotten to eat for another 90 minutes of steady riding, and we were still 30 minutes from home. A few minutes later we were riding casually (slowly even) along a flat bike path and my legs just stopped turning. I looked at the cyclist next to me and just let out a laugh as he pedaled on ahead â€“ I was bonking. Severely. I was two miles from my house and was wishing I had a cell phone to ask someone for a ride home. â€œPlease god,â€ I prayed. â€œLet me get a flat tire so I can hitchhike home.â€ No such luck. Iâ€™d already gotten a flat earlier in the ride and that was the extent of my luck for unplanned rest stops. I was dropped on a flat trail with no wind going 15 mph. BONK!! By people will full time jobs, families and â€œold schoolâ€ Garmin Edge 705s. This was not my finest moment. The 800 said I was about 1500 meters from home when I said goodbye to my companions, thanked them for the ride, and coasted the rest of the way down the trail. If nothing else, it was a ride to remember.