C25K

The Curmudgeon and I after the Frosty 5K in Guilford, CT., a few years ago on New Year’s Day.

Two years ago, I met a young woman named Crystal at a road race in Guilford, CT.

Crystal was running her first 10K race, and I was running in the 5K of the event. After I staggered across the finish line, I noticed that some of the 10K runners were still on the route, and ran waddled back to see if they needed encouragement.

Crystal was in the final leg of the race, but she was lagging. Despite all of her training, she was struggling to get to the finish line. I ran alongside her and began talking to distract her. She probably wanted to listen to her music, but she put up with my babbling.

Crystal finished that race, and she hasn’t stopped. I know because we’re Facebook friends, and she posts photos of her races and race bibs. And I always feel a little bad that I’ve let my running slide because Crystal hasn’t stopped.

Crystal is an inspiration to me. She lost nearly 100 pounds, and has maintained her weight loss, by running. Though she noted that she’s a slow runner, I reminded her that it’s running that matters, not her speed. Running is, after all, a metaphor for life: keep one foot over the other at all times.

I’ve been running on and off (mostly off) since I was about 15. I picked it up again about three years ago because I figured if I could walk long distances, I could probably still run too. It helped that my daughter was running on the cross country team at the high school and had practice every day. While the team ran, I killed time by jogging in the woods.

But I’m 60 years old, and as they say life happens. The Curmudgeon, who is an avid runner, snapped his Achille’s tendon last July, and I felt guilty running while he was laid up. I picked it up again last November after a doctor suggested I exercise more intensely to lower my blood pressure.

I ran over the winter, but my feet began to ache terribly after a 5K race in New Haven, CT., in early February. I had to stop running and rest my feet, losing all the ground I gained training for that race.

So here it is, on the cusp of swimsuit season, another attempt to regain my running form. A few factors are at play: first, there’s Crystal and her Facebook photos. She’d be really disappointed to know I’ve let running go over the past few months.

Second, there’s my role as an ambassador for Sound Runner, which has several stores in Connecticut. I’ve had the volunteer gig for two years, and receive a very nice discount when I shop at the store, but I’ve done very little to earn my keep. I’d like to do a little more to justify my ambassador status and T-shirt.

The third is my pants. You can’t stop running and expect your clothes to fit. Well, you can, but it involves a trip to the store for bigger clothes.

The fourth is a new pair of Hokas, the best running shoe I’ve ever worn. Crystal will tell you the importance of a great running shoe. After I saw her shoes at that first race, I encouraged her to go to Sound Runner and get fitted for proper shoes. Crystal listened to me, saying wearing better shoes has eliminated pain in her feet and knees.

Hoka running shoes are a little like running on air.

The last time I trained for a 5K I did it on my own, and it was awful. I ran on trails in the woods near my house, out of the view of prying motorists, and it took forever to build distance. Don’t even get me started on speed. I’ve sort of waved the white flag on that.

This time around, I’m using the Couch to 5K app, which someone told me about last summer. I tried out the free app for a few weeks the last time out, but was too cheap to spend $9.99 for the entire program. I suppose that explains why I was having so much trouble building distance. I never made it past week 2.

I finally invested in the app because the thought of building back up to 3 or 4 miles on my own is daunting. If an app can lessen the sting of building my endurance back up, I’m willing to try it.

The program, known as C25K, was invented in 1996 by Josh Clark, a British man who turned to running to get over a bad break-up with his girlfriend in his 20s. Josh created the program for his mother, so we know it must be doable for women of a certain age.

Last fall, the BBC featured Josh as part of its “Witness” series – first person accounts of notable moments in history. You can read Josh’s story and see the film here: https://bigmedium.com/ideas/bbc-how-josh-clark-invented-couch-to-5k.html.

I wanted to help others discover what I had discovered—but without all the awful discomfort of my own first runs.

Josh Clark on developing C25K

What I like about C25K is that it takes things very slowly. You’re only required to run 3 times a week for nine weeks, mixing walking with running at prescribed intervals to build endurance. Each session lasts just 30 minutes and is interspersed with ego boosts like “Awesome job” and “You’re halfway there.”

Though I’ve been tempted to double-up on some of the training days, I’m deliberately holding myself back so I don’t get discouraged. Thirty minutes and then stop. Observe rest days. I’m following directions rather than looking for shortcuts or immediate gratification. I’m trusting in the program.

If things go according to plan, I should be able to run the 5K Labor Day Road Race in New Haven, CT. I’ve decided to announce this on my blog so I’ll stick with the program. As my YMCA coach Maureen would say, you’re more likely to do something when you’re held accountable.

I’m also posting this to inspire anyone who wants to start running to give C25K a shot. The program has helped at least 5 million people get off the couch and complete 5Ks. Obviously, it’s doing something right, so if you’ve been thinking about running, give it a try.

I know a lot of people I’d love to join me on this endeavor, people who are dieting or unhappy with the way they look and feel, or just want to be healthier. But I’ve learned that running is something that people must do for themselves.

No one can get you out there except you. The app makes it easier, but you still have to want to do it.

With my buddies Holly and Christi after a road race just before Christmas a few years ago.

Keeping My Word

A life coach lit a fire under me to get his piece posted.

A few weeks ago, a guy named Brad emailed me and asked if he could write a guest article for my blog.

I thought it was a little strange that someone wanted to write for thegsandwich. It is, after all, my personal blog. And then it made sense: Brad wanted to write for my first website, Beach Rose Yoga, which I launched when I taught yoga a few years ago.

That website has been dormant for four years, nearly forgotten even by the person who started it. But Brad was unfazed.

“See if it’s still online,” Brad urged.

Teaching yoga taught me that you can love something, but hate to teach it. I loved yoga, but teaching made me nervous. There’s a lot of pressure getting people to their zen moment, and students let you know when you fail to deliver.

Teaching yoga was a good lesson though. It taught me that we all have different talents, and some people are meant to teach yoga while others should stay in the back of the room. I was never a great yoga teacher because I didn’t believe in myself. I get a lot more enjoyment out of writing because it comes naturally to me.

Someone once told me that you know you’re meant to do something if time flies while you’re doing it. The clock never moved faster than when I was a reporter, and never moved more slowly than when I was editing. Writing is a creative process, while editing feels like you’re cleaning up someone’s mess. At least it did for me.

I’ve always enjoyed helping fledgling writers, including my son while he was in grammar, middle and high school, because I believe we all need mentors. And though I can’t offer Brad a writing job or exposure to a huge audience, I can help get his message out because I told him I would.

Writers need all the encouragement they can get. Though I know from my own experience that writing jobs are scarce, the future for writers looks even more bleak.

I recently attended a ceremony for the University of Connecticut’s Honors Program, where my godson earned a medal and degree in economics. Of the 450 or so students receiving honors, only two majored in journalism. I was so stunned that I whispered something to my mother seated next to me.

“I guess no one wants to go into journalism anymore,” I sighed.

Newspapers have always paid meager salaries because people have always been drawn to journalism. After Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal in the Washington Post in the early ’70s, competition for newspaper jobs became even tougher.

But the number of journalism majors has been dwindling nationwide for several years. Many experts blame the shutdown of print publications across the country as the main reason for the decline. It doesn’t help when our president dismisses every negative piece about him as fake news.

Most of the people I worked with at newspapers have taken early retirement, buy-outs or left for more lucrative careers in public relations and marketing. It’s understandable: the money, hours and job security are all better working for companies, the government or colleges and universities.

But only two journalism majors in a pool of nearly 500 scholars? That number is jarring because it tells me the best and the brightest students are being drawn to other fields right out of the gate. I guess that’s no surprise given today’s job market. It’s nice to major in something that will translate into a job upon graduation.

Still, I find it heartening that there are still Brads in this world who are true believers and following their dreams. He quit a job in the corporate world to become a life coach, promote self-care and write. That takes a lot of guts and a whole lotta faith these days.

I hope he’s taking his own advice because starting a new business, particularly one involving writing, is stressful. But I think Brad believes in himself and his mission, and that’s very important. He didn’t get fazed when I told him that Beach Rose Yoga was dormant. In fact, he told me to get my act together and see if it’s still an active site.

I did, and it is. And I posted his piece on that website, though I warned him he’s probably not going to get much traffic. It doesn’t matter though. I kept my word. And at the end of the day, that’s all any of us can do.

To read Brad’s piece, click here: https://www.beachroseyoga.com/

Reality Bites

Image courtesy of VectorStock

One of my nephews just graduated from college, and is now in the real world.

This means that sometime over the next few months, he must find a job. But not so fast: first, he’s going on a 10-day tour of Israel. A few weeks later, he’s going to Italy with his family.

I think this is a good idea because let’s face it, once you’re in the working world your life isn’t your own. You’re expected to be somewhere a minimum of 40 hours a week, and work for a living. And though getting a job is something we all must eventually do, I don’t think new college graduates should rush or panic about finding work.

Everybody eventually will find a job, though it may not be on their timetable. And the chances finding the perfect job right out of college are pretty slim. Your first job is about getting your feet wet, and having the thrill of actually being hired. It’s about having an answer when everybody asks, “So what will you be doing now?”

The Curmudgeon’s first job was working in the unemployment office in New Haven, CT. He thinks it helped land him a clerkship at the Connecticut Supreme Court after law school. The judge he worked for was fascinated by his work with the unemployed, and made no secret of it.

You never know what a job opportunity will bring. I met the Curmudgeon at work, and we’re still going strong (most of the time) after 35 years. Often, a job is just a job, but sometimes it’s an opening to the rest of your life.

The greatest advice I can give to new college graduates is that it will all work out. No one expects you to stay in your job for 40 years unless you work for Major League Baseball, as one of my nephews does. If you happen to land that dream gig, we expect you to stay for life and get us free tickets to the World Series.

It’s important to remember that a job is something you do, but it’s not you. It’s important to find fulfillment and satisfaction at work, but you shouldn’t rely on your job to be happy. That’s where family, friends, dogs, travel, faith, volunteerism, and the extracurriculars come in.

I view jobs a lot like the first year of marriage. The first year is the honeymoon stage where everything is great, and then reality sets in and things start to bother you. You have to decide whether you’ll stick around, or search for something else.

This pretty much sums up repairs on my front loader. The repairman was stumped, and it remained broken after three visits. When I looked for broken washing machine images on the Internet, nearly all were front loaders.

***

My father was a big believer in kids working. On the last day of school every year, he’d look around the family room at seven kids draped over sofas and lounging on the floor and announce: “If you think you’re going to hang around this house all summer and do nothing, you’re wrong. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I expect you to get a job and if you don’t work, you’re going to summer school.”

So much for a little R & R.

It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I learned to type, drive and play tennis at summer school during high school – all things that have served me well into adulthood. And I learned to take almost any job that presented itself, adhering to the sayings: “Necessity is the mother of invention” and “It’s easier to find a new job once you have one.”

I worked for Sears Service Center a few summers, manning the phones in the service department. I had the honor of calling customers and telling them that the service man they’d been waiting on all day would not be coming out.

There is no greater challenge than calling a woman who has taken a day off from work and telling her that the repairman she was expecting between 1 to 5 p.m. will not be coming. At least one customer threatened to dump her broken air conditioner on my front lawn. I really couldn’t blame her. It was something like 90 degrees outside.

After the screaming and cursing die down, there is the realization that you still have a broken appliance. And about all you can do on the customer service end is to give them the best you’ve got: the coveted first call of the day.

As a seasoned customer service pro, I know these slots are reserved for customers who must be placated because their appliances weren’t fixed on a previous call or service guys blew them off the previous day.

These are the prime spots, the front row concert tickets of the service world. And you pretty much have to earn them. No one is going to give you the first call because you’re a good person or asked nicely.

Working in Sears’ customer service trenches taught me some valuable lessons above and beyond the cities in Maine, which is where all of Sears’ appliances to Connecticut originated. Most importantly, I learned that customers are at the mercy of repairmen and you’re under house arrest any time you’ve got a service appointment.

We all hope we’ll be at the early end of their time slots, but we never are. We’re always the last call before lunch, or the last call of the day. When I recently asked if a 3-6 p.m. window could be made any more specific, the customer service rep said, “no.”

When I explained that this was the third service call for my washing machine in one week, she said, “No.”

“But I was hoping to walk the dog at some point in the afternoon,” I said. “And three hours is an awfully big window.”

I was getting nowhere fast, so I did something I’ve never done in 40 years: I pulled out my customer service card. I explained that I’d sat on her end of the phone years ago, and understood how difficult her job is.

“I can have him call you 20 minutes before he’s coming out to your house if that will help,” she said. It was better than nothing, though just slightly.

He called and came out again, and the machine still didn’t work. So we pulled the plug on the fancy front loader after just three years and went with a top loader that’s as basic as they come. And guess what? The machine was delivered at 12:30 p.m., just a half hour into my 12-3 p.m. slot.

Like I said, things always work out in the end.

Happy Mother’s Day

My mom, aka G.

I still remember the first time someone told me I was a great mother.

I was standing on my lawn at my old house when my next door neighbor Ted looked over at me with my 2-year-old son Matthew and said, “Hey, I just want to tell you I think you’re a great mom.”

It was so unexpected that I think I looked at him like he was crazy, which he was in a way. But I appreciated his comment because let’s face it, parenting a preschooler is one of the most overlooked jobs in the universe.

Let me clarify that: parenting a child of any age is one of the most unrecognized jobs because you put in a tremendous amount of effort, and get very little praise from the outside world.

There’s no paycheck or pat on the back from your boss telling you that you’re doing a good job. You do your best, but good mothering is pretty much an assumption and expectation in our society. You may work outside the home or stay home with your kids, but if you’re a mother you’re devoting a good chunk of time taking care of kids without a whole lot of fanfare.

I can count on one hand the number of times someone has praised my parenting skills. I suspect I’m the rule rather than the exception. No one really goes around pointing how great mothers are, though people are quick to criticize when they think you screw up. (“Never bring your baby out without a hat in this weather again!”)

I’m not a great fan of Mothers’ Day because I spent an awful lot of them pining for a child. In fact, I got my first ocular migraine on a Mother’s Day when I was about 30, and taking my frustrations out on a bush that I was trying to uproot in my front yard.

I thought I was having a stroke, but it turned out to be an ocular migraine, a disturbing condition in which zigzags of light temporarily blind you. They can be brought on by emotional stress. And let’s face it, a day spent celebrating mothers is hard for someone struggling with infertility, miscarriage, the death of a child or a mother because it underscores the loss.

I know this Mother’s Day will be especially tough for some of my friends, who have lost their mothers in recent months. It will also be hard for friends whose children are going through tough times and are not on the best of terms with their moms.

But as I’ve gotten older and done the hard work of mothering, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of a day set aside to honor mothers, who are the backbone of our society. It’s not such a bad thing to let moms know that they’re loved, appreciated and special.

Most mothers I know downplay Mother’s Day, or dismiss it as a “Hallmark holiday,” as my mother-in-law did. But I think this is part of being a mom. It’s hard for us to sit back and be celebrated because mothering is what we do and who we are.

We’re even a little embarrassed when people other than our kids wish us a “Happy Mother’s Day” because we feel silly acknowledging that it registers on our radar. But I can tell you this: if you have kids, and they don’t wish you a Happy Mother’s Day with a call – not a text or posting on Facebook –  you notice and you’re a little hurt.

(My daughter just came downstairs and failed to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day, and I admit I’m a little miffed.)

A friend told me that she’s going out to brunch with her children, parents and father-in-law for Mother’s Day. When I told her I was impressed, she noted, “I organized it because I wanted to go out and knew no one else would do it.”

That sounds about right. We’re the organizers, the ones who get things done when the high school decides to serve breakfast before the SATs to try to boost scores, or the Girl Scouts need to sell extra boxes of cookies outside Walmart on a Saturday afternoon.

Show me an Eagle scout project, and I’ll show you a mom who did most of the legwork getting donations and supplies to pull it off. Show me a girl at prom and I’ll show you a mom who hit the florist, nail place, hair salon and Ulta for bronzer before stopping at friends’ houses and the town docks for photos.

We swing into action when things need to be done, whether it’s making a restaurant reservation, booking a babysitter, finding a dog sitter, making a trip to the emergency room, delivering an air conditioner to a sweaty college kid or staying at a lousy job to pay the bills.

This most derided of all holidays began innocently in 1908, when a woman named Anna Jarvis rallied to have a national day set aside to honor mothers. Inspired by her own mother’s contributions to her and her siblings, Jarvis initially embraced the holiday, but eventually became fed up with its commercialization and unsuccessfully fought to rescind it.

Jarvis spent the last years of her life in a sanitarium, her stay fittingly paid for by greeting card and floral companies that made millions from the holiday she created.

Perhaps its founder’s disgust with the holiday foreshadowed our own ambivalence toward it. Years ago, one of my friends told me that her greatest Mother’s Day wish was to have her husband and kids leave her alone so she could plant flowers in peace.

My mother never made a big deal out of Mother’s Day, though with her brood of seven she certainly would have been entitled. It was my father who emphasized the holiday, making sure we made plans for the day and presented her with gifts.

While other women of my generation were being raised to put careers ahead of families, we were raised to believe that mothering was the most important job in the world. I still remember him telling me that he thought writing would be a great job for me because I could do it on the side when I had children. I think I was in college when he made that remark.

My father thought my mother was a great mom and refused to tolerate any disrespect toward her. When I once referred to my mother as “she” in conversation, he lambasted me. “That is your mother, not a she,” he said. “Don’t ever refer to her like that again. You’re lucky to have her as your mother and don’t ever forget that.”

I never made that mistake again, and for the most part treated my mother with respect, largely out of fear of what my father would do if I didn’t. I often turn to the Curmudgeon for this kind of support when my kids mouth off to me, but he doesn’t back me up. This may explain why my kids speak to me in ways that I wouldn’t dare speak to my mother, and am actually embarrassed to admit in print.

I don’t have big plans for Mother’s Day, though years ago I used to escape to play a round of golf with another mother or play a USTA match, someone’s awful idea of a fun time for mothers. (Honestly, I’d rather stick bamboo into my fingernails than play one of those tennis matches ever again.)

I plan to honor my mother by driving to her house and presenting her with a gift, and accept a bouquet of flowers that she has waiting for each of us every year. I’m not sure when she began this tradition, but it speaks volumes about her that she’s honoring us as we’re honoring her.

In true spirit, my mother is so unselfish on a day that she’s entitled to call her own that she presents us with gifts too. And that, I think, is what motherhood is all about.

Tattoo You

A quick hair fix before the junior prom.

Before the 8th grade dance.

2018

My daughter and I are having a little argument over a tattoo.

She wants to get inked in June to commemorate her 18th birthday and official entry into pseudo adulthood. She initially wanted a bird, but now wants the number 18 to signify the house number of her best friend across the street. Her friend would get marked with our house number: 13.

Her friend’s father is against it and so are we. Things that seem like a good idea when you’re 18 have a way of being regrets when you’re 30. And though I’m not a huge fan of tattoos, I appreciate good work. I recently complimented a girl named Kat in the local health food store on her tattoos, which ran up and down her arms.

When I mentioned that my daughter is considering a tattoo, Kat offered to talk to her and show her some of her mistakes from her late teens. She’s had at least three tattoos covered up, which now look like thick black bands around her arms.

I don’t have any tattoos, but I know many people who do. A friend got a series of stars on her wrist after her father passed away and I thought it was a charming way to remember him. One of my nephews got a Chinese symbol on his bicep when he turned 18, and one of my brother-in-laws has a frat tattoo on his calf.

My old neighbor Gene, who served in the Marine Corps, had a bathing beauty on his arm that always made me a little uncomfortable at the bus stop. It was hard to think of a grandfather that way, but that’s the thing about tattoos – they’re a permanent reminder of a time and place in your life.

Tattoos were pretty much taboo for most women until the counter-culture of the ’60s and ’70s, when they became a symbol of empowerment, freedom and self-expression. At one time in history, tattoos were only associated with “loose” women and carnival freaks, but today, more women than men are getting inked.

I think rock and sports stars (think Tommy Lee, Pink and LeBron) and shows like TLC’s “Inked,” which began in 2006, helped bring tattoos into the mainstream. The show follows people from the conception and selection phase of body art to the actual tatooing. If you ask me, it did for tattoos what Trading Spaces did for home improvement.

For an in-depth look at the rise of tattoos’ popularity among women, read Margot Mifflin’s book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and the Tattoo. Now in its third printing, the book traces the history of tattoos and women in the United States and Europe.

A brief article about it appeared in The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/04/the-colorful-subversive-history-of-women-getting-tattoos/274658/

Of course, if my daughter wants a tattoo, there’s not a lot I can do to stop her. She’s turning 18 and doesn’t need my permission to visit a tattoo parlor, or is it a salon? She could probably get one and I’d never even know. But I wish she’d wait a few more years before permanently marking herself.

I guess part of it stems from being her mom and remembering her perfect little baby body when she was an infant. She has beautiful olive skin that’s soft and smooth and free of even a mole or freckle. I’d hate for her to muck it up with an 18 because, well, just because.

I’ve talked to enough people with tattoos to know that mistakes happen, and there is lousy work out there. It’s hard to talk about tattoos without someone pointing out a “cover-up” – a tattoo that was created to mask a poor job or regrettable choice. The receptionist at my hair salon recently showed me a symbol of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on her arm that was created to cover up a tattoo she got in her teens.

I grew up in the ’60’s and ’70s when most women didn’t get tattoos. It never occurred to me to get a tattoo, and I still have no desire for one. I don’t notice tattoos as a rule, though I admit I’ll do a double-take if I see a particularly good or bad one. I appreciate good ink work, and I’d shop around and do word of mouth for a great tattoo artist if I ever decided to get one.

But the chances of that are slim to none. I have no desire for a tattoo, and I doubt I ever would. I prefer good jewelry to mark occasions – I splurged on an expensive bracelet after my father died to remind me of him. I’ve never taken it off, so it’s like a removable tattoo – always there, just not permanent.

I wear an antique lapis ring to remind me of my great aunt Clara, who started this jewelry thing when my sisters and I were little. The ring is rose gold and has a large flat lapis with her initials CM carved into it. They’re also my initials, so that worked out really well for me.

The original stone fell out last year, and the ring was useless without it. So I took it to a jeweler, picked out a new stone and had the initials carved into it again. It was important for me to get the ring fixed because I really missed it when it was gone.

Perhaps jewelry is the immediate solution for this pair of best friends, who will separate for the first time when one goes off to college in late August. It will mark the first time they haven’t lived within 1,000 feet of each other since they were 18 months old.

They attended the same play groups as toddlers, were in the same Brownie and Girl Scout troop, went through public school and attended my daughter’s junior prom together. It’s a special relationship, one that you hope for but don’t expect when you move into a neighborhood when your kids are little.

A best friend across the street: how great is that? There is no driving, no play dates to be negotiated between mothers. There’s just the sweet back and forth between two girls who happened to be born within two months of each other back in 2001.

It was important for me that my children attend public school because I felt a bit of a disconnect from my neighborhood friends when I went off to private high school when I was 14. We no longer attended the same school or ran with the same crowd, and that’s a big deal when you’re a kid.

My neighborhood friends had high school, teachers and friends in common, and we gradually grew apart. I still saw them at birthday parties and in some cases, weddings and overnight visits, but things changed when I switched schools. I didn’t want that to happen to my kids, and it hasn’t.

My son still calls his friends when he comes home from college, and they pick up where they left off with lunches at the diner, and impromptu parties in our “bonus” room over the garage. My daughter has her bestie across the street, and they’re so tight that she’s planning to go with her family to Florida to settle into her dorm room.

It’s what I wanted when I moved here – kids who feel tied and connected to a place they’ll always call home. I wish that was enough for my daughter, but maybe I’m getting what I wished for with this whole tattoo thing. She wants a permanent reminder of things the way they are right now. And maybe, that’s not such a bad thing after all.

My AAA Knight

An e-bike looks heavy and clunky, but actually rides like a sleek road bike. This is the model I rented for Sunday’s ride.
Flat as a pancake.
Setting out in Battery Park.
Near the start.
One of our many stops to allow pedestrians to cross.

 

I like to keep my promises.

If I say I’m meeting you for coffee at 10 a.m., driving you to a doctor’s appointment at 1 p.m. or coming to your party at 7:30 p.m., I’ll be there.

So when my sister Diane and I made plans to ride in this year’s 5 Boro Bike Tour in New York City, I was all in, weather be damned. When you make plans with someone, there’s a covenant. You will be there come hell or high water. 

But what I’ve learned after cycling three hours in the soaking rain and a flat tire on my bike in Brooklyn that halted my ride after 25 miles is sometimes things are not meant to be, and there’s a reason for rain dates. Sometimes, bailing is the best course of action.

My friend Steve, who has participated in seven of these rides, wisely decided to stay home because of the rain. A lot of other people who registered for the 42nd annual event also bailed, making the course a lot less crowded than last year. 

Here are a few more lessons from our horrendous ride:

  • Sometimes Weather.com is right.
  • You can’t take the easy way out.
  • Expensive does not mean better.
  • Rules are meant to be broken.
  • Things that sound fun in your mind often fall short in reality.
  • There is no substitute for warm dry clothing, or shelter from the rain.
  • The worst thing in the world is being wet and cold.
  • There is nothing more uncomfortable than wet socks.
  • Riding a bike in the rain is miserable.
  • Rain ponchos are a wonderful invention, and I probably should have invested in one.
  • Some New York City police officers would rather chat with each other than help you.
  • When someone says, “You can’t do anything about the rain,” you can tell them that you can by staying inside.
  • My AAA membership is worth every penny.
  • You never know when you’ll find a knight in shining armor.

This year’s tour was a little doomed from the start. The shifting mechanism on my road bike is broken, and when I tried to bring it in for repairs, two bike shops told me they couldn’t fix it for about two weeks.

I decided to rent a bike from Unlimited Biking in NYC. And as long as I was renting, I decided to go big: a Cannondale Quick Neo E-Bike, which retails for about $3,500. I’ve never been on a $3,500 bike and I was curious. This seemed like a good excuse to see how the other half lives.

I’d never heard of an e-bike, but they’re the latest rage because they combine the speed of a road (racing) bike with the stability of a mountain bike. The bike frame and tires are thick and muscular like my old Trek mountain bike, but the bike moves like the wind because of a battery that helps you out if, and when, you want.

E-bikes are bicycles with a battery-powered “assist” that comes from pedaling and, in some cases, a throttle. When you push the pedals on a pedal-assist e-bike, a small motor engages and gives you a boost, so you can zip up hills and cruise over tough terrain.

I  wanted to try an e-bike for a few reasons. The first and most important was the fatigue factor. I knew I could cover the 40-mile course, but I didn’t want to be paying the price in my joints for three weeks. I have arthritis, and sometimes overexertion can thrust me into several weeks of pain, exhaustion and regret. My feet ached for weeks after a 5K in early February, reminding me that I need to be careful.

The second was safety and comfort. I’m always a little nervous on my road bike in crowded events, where cyclists move in and out of traffic and cut you off without warning. I also wanted upright handlebars that allowed me to sit up straight rather than hunch forward for four hours.

Diane fell off her bike and hurt her hand in a tunnel when the cyclist in front of her suddenly stopped, and she was still clipped into her pedals.  Three cyclists crashed into each other going down a hill and hit a cement barrier. I wanted to come home in one piece.

On the bright side, the e-bike delivered on comfort and speed, and is hands-down the best bike I’ve ever been on. It’s an incredibly fun ride. I put it in sports mode, and pedaled with ease, surging past riders trudging up hills. It was hard to fully appreciate its speed because of the number of riders on the road and frequent stops, but it’s fast and would make commuting to work or covering a long ride a breeze.

But my e-bike got a flat at about mile 25 just as we entered the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I called the Unlimited Biking’s help number and was told no one was available to help me in Brooklyn. She advised finding a tour volunteer or bike shop and having it fixed. Yea, right.

At this point, all I really wanted to do was get rid of the broken bike and go home. Diane, who was by this time shivering in the rain, felt the same way.

I considered taxis, Uber or the subway when I thought of AAA. I had a disabled vehicle that I needed towed. Would they consider coming out for a bike?

Turns out, they would. AAA Northeast has been servicing bicycles for about 5 years. As a member, I’m entitled to two free bike tows of up to 10 miles each year. I decided to cash in on the first of my free tows, never being more relieved to be a AAA member than at that very moment.

I know a lot of people who’ve dropped AAA because their cars come with free roadside service, but we’ve kept our membership and I’m glad we did. There is no more helpless feeling than having a disabled bike, making the bike towing service worth the cost of membership.

Our AAA driver Robert arrived as promised at 1:03 p.m., and was a prince. He ordered us inside the cab to warm up while he dealt with the bikes. He figured out how to get us back to Battery Park while avoiding streets closed due to the bike tour, and assured us he’d help us find a bike drop off spot when we went to the wrong place.

“How are you going to get to your car from the bike drop-off?” he asked.

“I hate to break this to you Robert, but I was hoping you would give us a ride,” I said.

What a guy. Robert, who’s been a AAA driver for about 14 years, told us to relax, that he’d take us to our car after we dropped off the broken e-bike. And he did, delivering us to the parking garage near Battery Park where we we set off with such high hopes about six hours earlier.

I’ve since learned that I’m one of six cyclists whose rental bikes got flats on Sunday. I’ve also learned that there were far fewer bike mechanics at Sunday’s event than there should have been.

An Unlimited Biking manager told me that there are supposed to be bike mechanics every quarter-mile to help stranded riders. I saw only two or three bike mechanic stations during our ride. 

I demanded a full refund for my $330 rental, but got only $100 back and the offer of a free e-bike in next year’s event. I didn’t plan to ride next year, but I guess I’m doing it now. And you can bet I’m going to bring my AAA card just in case.