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Dr. Jennifer Ashton

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!’

More from FITNESS: 

Dr. Jennifer Ashton of ABC’s The Revolution Shares Her Body Beautiful Secrets

Written on February 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm , by

Dr. Ashton shares how to find your best health at any age. (Photo courtesy of Avery Publishing)

It’s a busy new year for Jennifer Ashton, M.D., co-host of ABC’s The Revolution. In addition to her job on the new daytime show, the super-fit ob-gyn wrote a new book Your Body Beautiful: Clockstopping Secrets to Staying Healthy, Strong and Sexy in Your 30s, 40s, and Beyond. She also still treats patients in her New Jersey practice and trains for triathlons. No wonder she was sneaking in a little indoor cycling while we talked to her during a filming break!

In Your Body Beautiful, you recommend a Five-Day/Two-Day diet plan—sticking to a healthy eating routine (filling up on plenty of lean protein, veggies and fruit, whole grains while avoiding added sugar and refined carbs like bagels) during the week and relaxing a bit on the weekends. Why does it work?

Anyone can do anything for five days. Then you get to lighten up a little and reward yourself for just 48 hours and then you reset and start again. We’re talking about lightening up a little…have a cup of ice cream or some dessert. But mathematically, five days beats two days when you do it over the course of a several months for a year and then your metabolism slowly adapts to the more sustained pattern, which is the five-day pattern. So after a while, behaviorally, what happens is that you don’t want to go crazy on the weekends. You won’t see as much of a difference between what your doing Saturday and Sunday and what your doing the rest of the week.

How do you fit in exercise—especially triathlon training—with such a busy schedule?

I work out about two hours a day. I do a lot of cardio and a lot of The Bar Method, resistance kind of work. I lift weights, too, which I think is really important for women.

So now with the new show and still seeing patients in my medical office, I will get up at five in the morning to do at least an hour of my workout before I start my day. And then I’ll fit in the other hour at the end of the day. It’s a real priority to me, mentally and physically. My family knows that I am cranky when I don’t work out. Working out makes me really happy. It makes me feel good, I stay healthy and I get fewer colds. Last summer I did two triathlons for the first time. My message for the book, as well as my method for the show, is that women in their 40s can be more fit then they were 10 or 20 years ago. I think that that’s really exciting so I make it a priority.

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