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My 67-Mile Bike Race: FITNESS Advisor Dr. Jennifer Ashton Recaps Her Epic Ride

Written on June 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm , by

Written by Jennifer Ashton, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and “The Doctors” co-host

Today I completed a 67-mile bike ride. It was, hands-down, the most difficult physical thing I have ever done in my life. It was also the most amazing, fun, emotional, inspiring, frightening and exhilarating feat I have ever accomplished. I had the privilege of riding along with an incredible 17-year-old girl named Lauren Sepanske. Lauren was born with clubfeet and had so many problems with her right foot, that one year ago, she made the decision to have her leg amputated below the knee. Soon after that decision, she appeared on “The Doctors” TV show, where I am a co-host, to share her story. During her segment, she announced on national television that she had planned to ride 100 miles in the Elephant Rock Ride in Castle Rock, Colorado in June! I vowed to do it with her (even though the farthest I had ever ridden was just 21 miles).

When the time came to confirm our race registration, I had just 6 weeks to really train for this ride. I was really only trained to one hour of strenuous cardio at this time, so I decided to sign-up for the 62 mile race part of Elephant Rock. For 6 weeks, I worked with my amazing triathlon coach, Andres Herrera, doing a combo of interval rides, endurance rides and threshold rides. Oh, did I mention that I was doing all of this training INDOORS ON MY SPIN BIKE??? I knew this wasn’t wise, but my schedule and fear of being hit by a car on my road bike told me that it would have to suffice. As the race date drew closer, I was feeling confident, but also was clearly in a state of denial. This ride was in Colorado, at an altitude of 7,500 feet! It was in a very hilly area south of Denver, I was using clips on my pedals for only the second time, and it was forecasted to be a very sunny day, with temps in the low 80’s. When I contemplated all of these separate challenges, I actually wondered if I would even finish the race. In fact, I was so nervous about the physical challenges that I asked my husband, who is also a doctor, to ride with me, because I thought there was a significant chance that I would need medical attention during or after the race!

We got to Colorado 40 hours before the race in an attempt to adjust to the altitude. I pre-hydrated and carb-loaded for 3 to 4 days in advance, like it was my job! For the maximum benefit of increasing glycogen stores, increased carbs need to be consumed for 3 to 4 days prior to an athletic event. When the race started, I took one look at Lauren, with her prosthetic leg, and thought, ‘If she can do it, maybe I can too!’  Early on in the race, I decided to stay with Lauren on the 100-mile course, and just try to make it as far as possible before I had to leave to catch my flight back to NYC and return to sea-level! The race was incredibly challenging on all levels: there were very strong headwinds, steep up-hill climbs, high altitude, hot weather and glaring sun. I managed to keep up with the priority of nutrition and hydration while on the bike, but I also managed a low-speed fall on a turn while forgetting how to use my pedal clips (rookie mistake). The spill left me bruised, scraped and embarrassed, but also left my bike gears badly bent. They were so damaged that I only had use of TWO gears (and sadly not the lowest ones) for the remaining 25 miles of the race. When I had reached the time in the race when I knew I had to leave for the airport, we had made it to mile 67! It had taken us 7 hours, including 3, 15-minute breaks at rest stations to use the porta potties, refill our water bottles, and grab some bagels, bananas and more sunscreen.

According to the heart rate monitor, my HR ranged from 130 to 175 during the race, with an average around 150. I knew that this ride was a massive stress test for my heart, my kidneys, my muscles and my lungs. But it was also a test of my spirit. There were hills that were so steep, I doubted if I would make it to the top. I thought of my children, and of Lauren, and their spirit and strength. At one point, as I reached the top of a 45- minute climb, I started to tear-up thinking of what I had just accomplished.  And now, as I sit on the plane, sore as hell, I realize what an amazing machine the human body is, but also how powerful the human will is. I did something that was WAY out of my comfort zone, and I will never forget it. I am a total beginner rider but I didn’t let that stop me. I took the appropriate medical and athletic precautions, and then pushed my body to a place it had never been. I think I can hear it whimpering, ‘Thank you!’

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Telluride, Colorado: The Vacation Spot Perfect for Snow Bunnies

Written on March 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm , by

I felt like I was home the second I touched down in Colorado’s tiny Montrose Airport two weeks ago. The sun tickled my pasty skin as I  bounded off of my puddle jumper plane with a list of to-dos a mile long—pee, claim baggage, find my shuttle, etc.—yet all of those thoughts and former stresses seemed to disappear in thin air (literally, hello altitude) when I laid eyes on the snowcapped mountain skyline. Holy snowplow. I could get used to this.

As a self-proclaimed “summer girl” who finds winter’s only redeeming quality to be powder-packed slopes, it has been a dream of mine for far too long to experience trails (both “groomies” and glades) out West. So when I was invited on a trip to Telluride, I felt like a kid in Toys-R-Us the week before Christmas—wide-eyed, jaw ajar the entire five days I spent gallivanting about. But is the skiing really that much better than the Northeast? Like, worth the extra travel and lugging of clunky equipment? Abso-freaking-lutely. The conditions rocked the socks off my go-to stomping grounds (while lacking that bone-gnawing bitter cold us Northerners are all accustomed to), and the town itself had the local charm a city dweller craves…without sacrificing cell service. From backcountry hikes and wildlife tours to snowmobiling and gaga-worthy dining views, the destination is a fit gal’s heaven. And the food? I can’t even begin to explain the flavor explosion my taste buds experienced. It had the high-end Manhattan quality, touting a local farm-to-table flair. Insert your choice of an expletive adjective to describe the melt-in-your mouth pork belly.

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LOCATION #4: Japan

Written on November 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm , by

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

The world’s busiest crosswalk is Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige used the month of October in Japan to raise money for the Colorado flood relief efforts of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross responded immediately to the September flash floods that claimed over 17,000 homes along the Front Range with rescue, food, shelter, care, and comfort for those who suffered severe damage. Help Paige raise $10,000 for the American Red Cross at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourcolorado. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!

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By Paige Claassen

Imagine you’re unable to distinguish between a restaurant and a bank when walking down the street. Going to the grocery store is a three hour event. A busy city street full of people is completely silent. This is Japan, one of the most unique and fascinating countries I’ve ever visited.

‘Organized chaos’ is the only way to truly describe Japan. From the outside, Japan seems cluttered, frantic, and hectic. But focus in and you’ll find perfect order and tidiness. At first, I found Japan intimidating in it’s lack of familiarity. But after a bit of acquaintance, I fell in love with this country, aptly known as the Land of the Rising Sun. Everything is sunny in Japan, except the weather.

I visited Japan in October and encountered an unusually late typhoon season. While my objective was to rock climb, I was forced out of the mountains by torrential rains, a small earthquake, and the threat of tsunamis.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in.

Paige climbs on the Pacific Ocean as a typhoon rolls in. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Perhaps this interruption in my plans was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to dive into the Japanese culture. Here’s what I discovered:

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market.

Fresh sashimi from Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest fish market. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

  • My new favorite foods: Okonomiyaki (the Japanese pancake, which is nothing like a pancake) and sashimi fresh off the boat, which melts in your mouth like butter. Japan also grows amazing fruits. My favorites were Fuji apples and Asian pears.
  • Bowing: To thank one another, or even to greet or bid farewell, the Japanese people bow. As a foreigner, I found this incredibly convenient, because even when I couldn’t express my gratitude in words, I could smile and bow.
  • Cleanliness: Feeling under the weather? The Japanese wear face masks when feeling ill to prevent the spread of germs out of respect for those around them. Hand rails in public areas are sterilized throughout the day. As a result of this respect for health, I found I could eat nearly anything in Japan. Unrecognizable seafood, street food, and nearly raw eggs served on top of most meals – no problem.
  • Prices: I had always heard Japan was incredibly expensive. In general, I found prices comparable with the US. The few things that will empty your wallet are toll roads, gasoline, and fruit (expect to pay $50 for a cantaloupe and $3 for one apple). On the other hand, I regularly paid $5-$10 for a full meal of sushi at the popular conveyor belt restaurants.
  • 7-Eleven convenience stores: 14,000 7-Eleven stores throughout Japan are open 24 hours a day and provide cheap meals on the go, prepared daily. For a quick, inexpensive, and tasty lunch, this is your stop.
Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps.

Some sun! Paige enjoys the vibrant fall colors in the Japanese Alps. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

I hope these tips help you navigate Japan. While overwhelming at first, I think Japan might actually be a more comfortable and convenient vacation option than Europe. Try it out for yourself!

To get involved and donate online to help the Colorado Flood Recovery efforts, visit leadnowtourcoloradoflood.

Check back next month for a video and update about Location #5. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Japan! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

Related: Lead Now Tour Main Page

A Weekend in the Nation’s Fittest State

Written on September 23, 2011 at 9:32 am , by

Looking awful stylish before my first fly fishing experience.

That's me, on the right, looking awful stylish before my first fly fishing experience.

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to spend an active weekend in Aspen, Colorado—basically the epicenter for the healthiest lifestyles in America. As I was reading a city magazine in my hotel room when I first arrived, it was clear that this place was different. (A resident detailed his daily routine, which started with a hike, followed by a few hours in the office, a ski break at lunch, catching up on a bit of work and wrapping it all up with a run.) So I knew I was in for a load of fun during the next few days!

The adventure crew at The Little Nell, the gorgeous hotel that hosted our group in Aspen, kicked things off right with a morning of fly fishing. While I’m no pro, the guides helped me taste a little victory—I caught two fish! (Although I have to admit, they were both less than six inches long. And don’t worry, we just released my little Nemos back into the pond.) After fueling up with a gourmet picnic lunch, I got the rest of my activity in by shopping the afternoon away.

Flying high above Aspen!

Flying high above Aspen!

Later on during the weekend, we hit the skies during a paragliding outing. I wasn’t nervous one bit until our Land Rover kept climbing, and climbing, and climbing up Aspen Mountain. We reached about 11,000 feet (more than 3,000 feet higher than our landing spot) and saw our parachutes and pros waiting for us. I started to get what you might call “Sweaty Palm Syndrome” when I saw the steep hill we’d be jumping off while strapped to a person we’d known for five minutes!

 

For the conclusion of my paragliding escapade and more fit trip details, click below.

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