Category Archives: travel

Three strikes you’re out or third times a charm?

I received my Ride the Rockies swag in the mail. A cool t-shirt and hat as well as a sticker and some kind of yay you’re doing this insane ride promotional  card. I enjoy the freebies and souvenirs of events I enter, but I never wear the stuff until after I finish. Why would I walk around saying I ran this or that if I haven’t yet? And yet—the promotional card for RtR clearly states, wear this hat! Wear this t-shirt! Tell everyone you know that you and 2000 of your closest friends will be participating in this 7 day 465 scenic wonder that IS Ride the Rockies!

I woke up this morning to 36ºF and snow on the ground and promptly returned to bed. I rode my bike outside 16 miles once earlier this month and cannot in good conscience, start wearing that damned, taunting swag until I at LEAST ride 20!

Do you wear your swag before you participate in the event?


Never say never or people will call you names

Sometimes I wonder why I run and bike. Usually, this happens when I’m alone on a path or street, trying to maintain a specific zone or cadence and ignoring the voice in my head suggesting I turn around because it’s too hard or that I slow down because it’s windy. My fitness relies on goals. Whether it’s a race or specific improvement or just maintenance, I need goals, or I can think of hundreds of activities to pass the time besides working out.

In December, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, which according to the Mayo Clinic is, “… a cancer of your plasma cells, a type of white blood cell present in your bone marrow.” While there is no cure currently, there are many treatments and luckily, she was treated early and has responded very well. Things are ok with her. She leads a busy life and has an amazing, positive attitude. The thing is, it REALLY prioritized my goals when my mom, who I have always viewed as indestructible, in the short span of weeks prior to her diagnosis, suddenly became wracked with pain and bed-ridden, taking on physical attributes more commonly associated with my late  90+ grandma. Yes, things are much better now, but it was breath-taking to experience (and not the beautiful vista kind of “breath-taking” but rather the kind where you actually feel your breath being taken away). I kept picturing a ladder where my mom became my grandma, and I became my mom, and we kept climbing up.

This mental image brought into a very clear focus why I ride and run, why I choose to torture my body in the name of physical and mental fitness.   I do this because I don’t want to climb that ladder, or if time must pass and the climb is inevitable, I at least would like to slow the climb and enjoy with gratitude every step and rung along the way.

Three years ago, my husband and I signed up for Ride the Rockies bike tour and raised over $3,000 for the Livestrong Foundation. We knew several people suffering from various cancers and in my perpetual guilt/gratitude, I needed to give something back for the fact that my family and I are healthy, happy, and able to have this adventure.

From March 2010 to June, I rode over 700 base miles in training. In Colorado, I rode over 500 miles in one week and climbed thousands of feet in elevation. Ride the Rockies was the hardest task I ever accomplished. There is no way to train for the elevation or climbs living in Chicago, but I did it. I also didn’t realize the mental workout a ride like that would take on my head. I was terrified of the descents and pissed my climbing was so slow. What most people had said was great fun was utterly grueling and made me feel that whatever fitness level I had in Chicago utterly vanished in Colorado.  So, I came home, promised myself that I’d never do that again, and I set other fitness goals for myself (mostly running).

Well, self, I’m doing it again.

And, the reaction that I get when I tell my non-cycling friends is, “Ilyse. You said you’d never do that again.” Or, “Are you #@?!ing crazy?”  Honestly, the reaction that I get from many of my cycling friends isn’t really that much different..  Apparently, I am a crazy hypocrite, but yes, I’m doing it again, and here’s why. I’d like to do it a little better than I did in 2010, and even if that doesn’t happen, mentally, I’m more aware of what to expect and hope even if my legs fail me, my head won’t.

So it’s off to Denver in June right after my 8th grader graduates from middle school. I will miss his 14th birthday because I’ll be riding. He said that he totally understands because he loves his grandma, and I’m riding for a good cause (see below). I’ll be riding on my husband’s birthday and mine as well. I like the idea of climbing up a mountain on my 45th birthday. I’m not so sure about riding down it. We’ll see how it goes.

More importantly, I am raising money for the Multiple Myeloma Foundation and am riding in hopes of a cure for my mom as well as the other millions of people who suffer from this disease. If you want to help by making a donation, that would be great. I truly appreciate it. You can click the link below. Thank you.

Please click on the link which will take you directly to the site.

In July, Paris not for lovers when you bring your kids, but it is for bike freaks of all ages.

Sometimes, the stars align and karma is in your favor. It’s tremendous. Last July, before we flew to Israel, my family and I had the opportunity to visit Paris for a three day “layover.” Here’s the deal. When flying to Israel and stopping in Europe for a layover, there is no extra cost to stay in that European city where your airline is based. You then board the plane to Israel as the final destination. So–last year, we decided to stop in France for a couple of days. Was this a “see all of Paris” over 2 1/2 days? No. This was eat croissants, cheese, duck confit, visit the Louvre, visit the Christian Louboutin’s boutique, and oh yeah, see the Tour de France on the final day. Who’s up for it?

The beauty of this trip was it’s simplicity. We visited the Louvre and had an extensive 3 hour tour highlighting ancient civilizations the French and Gauls conquered. We saw Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and of course the Mona Lisa among many other pieces, rooms and ruins. The Louvre is so enormous, it would probably take years to thoroughly conquere it.

My other important agenda in Paris was food. After reading my friend Sue’s blog I knew I had to visit Le Florimond and eat duck confit. Naturally, on our first night, it was closed. So I ate duck breast in Monmartre and confit another night (It was closed again!). I wondered if my sudden duck intake if Le Florimond could possibly be better than where I had already eaten.

The best part of wandering Paris was after browsing markets full of cheese, fruit, vegetables, baguettes and gorgeous pastries, you find outdoor seating, turn your chair so you can people watch and sip your espresso for hours and nobody bothers you! No body pulls your omelette and croissant from under your fork and asks if there will be anything else. There is no rush in Paris. Sublime.

We staked out Le Florimond on our last night returning every few hours for signs of life in between our nuttella and crepe snacks and espresso. By 7 p.m. when four tables were finally dressed with white table clothes and place settings, we made our move. The inside seating was booked, but the restaurant manager Laurent offered us an outside table and we happily obliged. My kids are good eaters. I enjoy taking them on food oriented trips because they really appreciate it. We were rather pleased with ourselves that we finally snagged a table and that our primary objectives for this short visit were achieved. I happily report, that duck consumption over three nights was not only the most decadent food choice I’ve ever made, but was won with flying colors at Le Florimond. It was crispy and rich. The roasted potatoes were crisp and the ever present greens with champagne vinigarette dressing was the most satisfying and meal of my life. It met all my expectations. The cheese platter for dessert and of course the wine, really turned me into a francophile.

The ultimate event and bucket list crossing activity we chose Paris for was the Tour de France. Once we realized the timing coincided and we would be in Paris on the final day of the Tour, we went into action. My husband was told of seating available in specific areas for spectators. These seats are available for FREE but you must have a ticket. In March, my husband wrote to the Tour planning organization requesting tickets and would need 4. In June, we were informed that we could only get 2 tickets due to many requests. We took them and then sent another letter asking for 2 more. In July, a week before we left, the tour sent us an additional 4. We were so happy we wouldn’t have to stake a spot on the street or switch places during the race. We knew we would want to give away the 2 extra tickets.

By 9 a.m. on July 22, people reserved spots along the Champs Elysees. We spent our morning at a cafe and then found the Christian Louboutin boutique which was, of course, closed. The riders were not expected until late in the afternoon, but by 2 pm. the police closed down many roads and set up blockades. As we got closer to the seating, we looked for TdF fans who we could give our extra tickets. We saw a fun looking guy with an Australia flag draped around his shoulders. Clearly a Cadel Evans fan. My husband approached him and after asking if he spoke English (you gotta ask that because the French really don’t want you to butcher their fancy schmancy language), explained our 2 extra tickets and offered them to him.

Needless to say, we made Aaron and Marcy’s day. I only wish I knew their last names. If you know an Austrailian couple named Aaron and Marcy, please forward this to them!

This was the most civilized sporting event I’ve ever witnessed. Except from the Tour announcer, people were very quiet and well mannered while waiting for the peleton. We watched big screens as the riders descended into the Parisian metropolis. When the peloton emerged, people stood up, yelled allez! and waved flags exuberantly as they whooshed by. And then they sat down again. The local water bottle company passed out Vittel water bottles free. And people waited their turns without elbowing each other. We even got free Coke and Diet Coke. All you needed was a merci.

The tour does several laps around the Champs Elysees so even if you didn’t get great pictures the first time, there were many more times to follow. Once the tour ended and Bradley Wiggins got his yellow jersey, he walked up the street while talking to reporters and waved into the stands. The other cyclists rode slowly back to shmooze the crowd. My son yelled at Vincenzo Nibali and he waved back along with a terrific grin. It was amazing.

One last tip from my son. Avoid Mondays. A lot of patisseries and museums and sightseeing spots are closed.