Death Ride

My experience:

If you ask me what compelled me to ride 129 miles and climb over 15,000 feet all over five passes, I will answer you honestly: To prove to myself I could. Shortly after I bought my road bike, in April 2015, I was at a karaoke bar waiting on a few friends. While I was waiting for a table, I started talking to a group of cyclists. They told me they were training for something called ‘Death Ride.’ I was in awe. It was as if they were speaking in a language I couldn’t understand. I daydreamed how it would feel being a part of the pack that finished all five passes.

I did my triathlons I took some time off from my bike over the cold NorCal winter (something I am embarrassed to say, having been born and raised in the Midwest). By the time Death Ride sign ups posted online the furthest I had ridden was 50 miles, so I did what any adventurer new to cycling does, I signed up for one of the hardest rides in America.

Most people train for years before they attempt Death Ride. I had six months. (If you take nothing else away from this blog—do not—DO NOT—do what I did. I am so lucky I wasn’t hurt or even killed. This blog is not a training plan. It is my story and some tips for what to expect.) I had no technical experience. I had NEVER done anything that resembled real distance or climbing, and I had no training partners. I found a few experienced riders who took pity on me and eventually through coincidence started training with the SAME GROUP I had met in the karaoke bar right after I bought my bike.

To date, Death Ride is the hardest and most intense thing I have ever accomplished. It is the only event I honestly questioned if I could finish (due to time constraints). But I finished, and the moment I knew I was going to finish, I cried. I cried is not expressive enough. I was hysterical. Snot was dripping from my nose. I was heaving; people were asking me if I was okay. At the top of Carson, you are given a pin to show you completed all five passes. The man who pinned my jersey could tell this was my first time. I was full of pride. I was in an elite club.

People often ask if I will ever do Death Ride again, to which I respond, “I think I proved my point.”

Talk with an expert:

Rod Halbert is a Level 2 USA cycling coach and owns and operates Phoenix Cycling Systems with his wife, Kristy. Rod has participated in Death Ride fourteen times. “As hard as you train, you will never know how hard it is until you do Death Ride,” Rod said confidently as he sat in his cycling studio. His wife Kristy nodded as he continued, “It’s no joke. Everyone wants to quit their first time.”

Every year Rod leads a group of experienced riders and newbies alike on their common goal, to complete all five passes of Death Ride. When asked what is needed for the minimum training he said, “you need to be on a bike at least six to seven hours per week average for ten weeks. And at least two weeks before the event you need to do at least ¾ of the distance and ¾ of the climbing. You also need to know how the steepness feels.”

Rod said that descending is the most important skill and to know how to use your brakes. That is where people get hurt. “Learn to feather the brakes. Don’t overheat the wheels, overheating the wheels can puncture the tubes.” He suggests going to a skills clinic before Death Ride and to ride with someone who can coach you on a downhill. Rod takes safety and training very seriously. A few years ago, he witnessed the tragic death of a woman that crashed on the backside of Monitor. Last, year a friend was blown off his bike by the wind on Carson. He slid down on his back, losing skin and teeth. He was going 50 miles per hour. Rod says, “So with the wind and descending, just get with a coach that’s done it before to help you get downhill.”

Regarding fuel and hydration, Rod says not to eat to lose weight right before Death Ride. Eat healthy all week, get in lots of carbs and proteins. Rod personally loves Osmo preload the night before the ride and the next morning. Kristy reminded, not to try anything new the day of Death Ride. Training is where you want to try new supplements and gear.

When it comes to gear Rod couldn’t stress layers enough. He suggests a wind jacket, arm warmers and light items you can shed. “It is usually cold in the morning and at the tops. Then, you’ll sweat on the climbs,” he says. He went on to advise, “We never stop at the top, because you’re warm from the climb. So, if you stop, you get cold then you descend cold.”

Lastly, if you start to feel your mental motivation draining, ask yourself, ‘why are you here?’ and ‘why are you doing this?’ Usually, poor mental attitude comes into play because you are low on sugar or dehydrated. Stay ahead of your hunger and thirst. But remind yourself, you’ve made the decision to do it, and you’re already here. You might as well finish.’

Description of the event:

I was limited in my ability to train for Death Ride. I could only train every other weekend when I didn’t have my daughter. Even with hubris such as mine, I knew better than to ride on streets by myself. I was in a unique position. Most people who sign up for Death Ride are experienced riders. Experienced riders are too fast to ride with someone like me for distances of 100 miles. It takes me about 10 hours to do 100 miles. It takes them 5-7.  People who are new to riding do not want to do distances that long. So, I went on Facebook, and I begged and pleaded to anyone who would take me out to ride distance and climbing until I found people to ride with me. I also signed up for a lot of organized rides. I did the Wildcat 125 (about 125 miles and 7700 feet of climbing). I did the Sierra Century which was 122 miles and 9600 feet of climbing, and I did Hell Hole. Hell Hole is 100 miles and 15,000 feet of climbing. It is arguably more challenging than Death Ride. After Hell Hole, any mental inclination that my body could not endure Death Ride had left me. The issue was the timing. I could climb, but I was still slow. Climbing and speed are different muscles; I only had time to focus on climbing. I carefully studied the elevation map in regards to my speed on similar rides. I allotted 5mph for uphill, 20 mph for downhill and 10 for the rare flat. To ensure I would finish on time I started at 4:30 am. Since Death Ride is a ride and not a race, you can start pretty much as early as you want. There were several people on the road at 4:30 am. I gave myself less than 5 minutes at rest stops, to account for how slow I ride.

The first climb was Monitor. With all my training and adrenaline, I took the first pass of Monitor down like it was my bitch. Sticker one. I finished the backside of Monitor with similar gusto. Sticker 2. I was warned Ebbets is the steepest and most challenging. I scoffed. I was on fire. Two stickers down and I was way ahead on time. I was making my way up Ebbets, actually thinking to myself, “Death Ride is sooo overrated.” Then Ebbets hit me in the face and let me know I was an idiot for underestimating her. After a false show of ease, Ebbets suddenly looked vertical. I was looking straight up at the path I needed to take. I held my composure for a few miles but the pain set in. I take a supplement to help ease leg cramps, but no pill was strong enough to override this level of intensity. I made it up and over Ebbets. My most frightening moment downhill was as I was passing a rider who was on my right I heard a woman out of control frantically yelling at me to go right. I couldn’t go right; it was packed with other riders. She couldn’t go left as it was filled with riders coming uphill.  The uphill riders saw her peril and made room for her to come into their lane— but my takeaway is don’t get too full of yourself and go so fast that you put other riders at risk. The uphill on the back face of Ebbets is where I started to break down. I was slowing down and losing time. Also, the ache of so much steep uphill was hitting me hard. I started crying from the pain.

After Ebbets, I ate lunch. I rushed through the meal, as I had a large climb and with my slow speed I knew I needed to get going. I began the stretch that was the most mentally draining, the straightaway past my car. For me, endurance is more mental than physical. I know my brain will quit on me long before my body. At that moment, my brain almost gave out. I looked at the parking lot that held my car, and I said to myself, “Breathe and move forward and you will have no choice but to finish.”  I knew myself well enough to know that I would not recover emotionally from the failure of a DNF. I set out to complete five passes, and I was going to finish five passes.

I pushed forward towards my last ascend, about 20 miles up. It is 10 miles uphill just to get to the 10-mile climb that is Carson. I had been riding since 4:30 am. My only focus was moving. I stopped at the last rest stop on this stretch to grab some more fuel. I attempted to clip back in and get going, but my legs were so weak that I physically couldn’t get the momentum to push forward on my bike. At this point, another rider saw my failed attempts, like a baby deer trying to walk, my legs did not have the strength to push off. He came over to me and held my bike upright and gave me a soft push. I gave a thank you wave, too scared to gesture too much as I might fall over.

The final climb up Carson was mentally brutal as I had convinced myself I was running behind schedule and might not make the cutoff time. A rider I didn’t know rode up next to me and was sporting a jersey from the Phoenix group (Rod’s cycling team) that allowed me to train with them. I called him out, and he saw the distress on my face. He took pity on me and motivated me the entire way up that hill. He told me about his previous experiences doing Death Ride, he told me about his wife and kids and helped me focus on anything but quitting.

As I turned the corner and saw the tent, I knew I was there. Everyone who told me I was ‘crazy’ for doing this, the people who supported me, wouldn’t me let down. The emotions mixed with the exhaustion and hysterical tears of joy poured from my body. I clocked a finish time of 6:36 pm. Fourteen hours later. The final descent back to my car was grueling but filled with elation. That night I slept very well.

Questions to ask yourself:

-How many passes are you setting out to complete? Not everyone does Death Ride with the intentions to complete all five passes. A friend of mine set out just to do the front faces of all three mountains; others just do monitor.  Remember, for Death Ride, there are two different jerseys, the Death Ride jersey any participant of the ride can purchase and then there is the five-pass finisher jersey. You cannot order the five pass jersey until after the ride. You must obtain a sticker at all five stations after the completion of a pass. Then, you either order your jersey at the end of the race or you mail in a photocopy of your bib with all the stickers. 3,290 people signed up for Death Ride in 2016, 1,556 completed all five passes. Of the total number of riders, only 372 were women, 207 of which completed five passes. These statistics aren’t meant to intimidate, just to make you aware of the level of commitment this ride entails.

-How much time do you have to invest in training? Never ride on the streets without experience. Never ride on the streets alone, always ride in a pack. The best place to find Death Ride training groups is online through meetup.com or your local bike shop. If you can’t find a training group then sign up for organized rides. I did the Sierra Century, Chico Wildflower and Hell Hole. I also did the Alta Alpina.

-How does your body respond to various fuel and hydration plans? Fuel and hydration needs are different for everyone. You will need to find what works best for your body. I start carb loading about four days before an event like this and also hydrating with electrolytes four days prior as well. I make sure I am peeing clear and that my carb stores are full. Not everyone responds to this plan. I hear some people say carb loading weighs them down or simply does not work for them. A coach or trainer that specializes in endurance cycling can help you come up with a program to meet your needs.

What do you need:

-Road Bike

-Fuel, water. I ran out of water part way through luckily another rider filled me up from his spare bottle. That was stupid on my part. Don’t make my mistakes. You will need a fuel plan. Don’t try new supplements or foods the day of the ride. Be sure that if you are going to experiment you do it during training. 129 miles is a long way to realize you ate something that doesn’t agree with you.

– Gloves-your hands will be a wreck without them.

-Lights- if you start early in the dark these are a necessity. It also makes you more visible to cars.

– Sunglasses (prescription if needed), sunscreen.

– Layers are essential. I started out freezing and ended sweating. Be sure you take into account the weather can change drastically.

-Helmet-you will be laughed out of the event before you even begin if you attempt this without a helmet.

-Training- Lots of training. Do you know how to descend in the rain or high winds? Are you able to ride in a group with lots of other riders? A coach is an excellent resource and highly recommended. If you do not have a coach, you will need a mentor or experienced riding group to guide you through safe riding.

Death Ride is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I take immense pride in having completed something so difficult. If Death Ride is on your bucket list, remember what I told you, “breathe and move forward and you will have no choice but to finish.”

 

 

 

Spin Class for Fitness

My experience:

A disclaimer about me, I have horrible social anxiety. Now is as good time as any to confess. When it comes to social settings, it can be sheer force of will that pulls me through. Parties, dinners and even group fitness can cause my inner gears to go into overload. My first spin class began like any other group fitness experience. The first 20-minutes I look around, realizing that everyone else knows someone else, that evolves into my realization that I am not aware of the slang (what the hell does she mean, ‘rise and shine?’). I fight off thoughts of negative self-talk, and I stick it out. I got through it, and now I love spin class. I dedicated myself to spin to work on advancing my training for Death Ride but continue attending for the mix of cardio and the strength training that it provides.

I recently participated in a spin class at Phoenix Cycling Systems run and operated by Rod and Kristy Halbert. The room instantly greeted me with a lighthearted ease. Kristy had my bike set up and ready to go and the packed room was welcoming, as opposed to intimidating. Rod jumped into the class with a playful introduction of the newbies (myself included). During the class, he took us through various zones of intensity. Each person has zones unique to their age/weight. It was the most fun I have ever had in a group class. The entire class was cheering each other on and tested their vocal limits when everyone sang along to ‘I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction).’ The hour flew by as Rod expertly motivated us to push our limits.

In the offseason, I try to take a spin class once or twice a week. If I am training, I can take spin 4-5 times a week. It depends on what goals I am trying to achieve at the time.

Talk with a Master:

Rod Halbert is a Level 2 USA cycling coach and owns and operates Phoenix Cycling Systems with his wife, Kristy. He said, “We work on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) efforts, and we work the zones of power training.” He said that his class helps with becoming a better outdoor cyclist because they work on climbing and things that happen on the road.  He was careful to select spin bikes that resemble road bikes.

He told me how his class helps with weight loss. He mentioned a man in his class that lost 88lbs. Rod would personally call him and motivate him to come into class. “He was nervous about being overweight. He went from barely able to finish a class to being proficient on a road bike.”  He said he was sure to tailor a program to the unique goals of not only that man but for everyone who takes his classes.

To reduce the risk of a plateau when losing weight, Rod switches up his class styles. He says to find the class that is right for you to ask yourself what you are looking for from the class. If you are an outdoor rider, then classes that dance on the bike may not be for you. If you just want to lose weight, then a class like that may be a good fit. Ask, “What are the classes like? Do they cater to the cyclist? Do they cater to the everyday person?”

If you are nervous going to class, he suggests to go in the back row and request your numbers are private (if it is a class that puts everyone’s numbers on a big screen), get to know people. Most importantly, bring a friend to help you feel more comfortable until you get the hang of the class.

Experience:

A great spin class is going to have a small computer screen on the bike. The screen should tell you several details, including how fast you are going, your rpms and your watts. Your instructor should go over this with you before class and help you utilize this information. Try to be about 15 minutes early to your first spin class. You will need time to get fitted on your bike and have a heart rate monitor linked up if the class allows. Ask your instructor what terms you need to know and to explain the monitor on your bike. Be sure to call ahead before your first class. More and more classes are requiring that you reserve your bike online in advance.

When cycling to lose, or maintain weight it is important to remember, cycling can help you focus on both cardio and build muscle, but you have to do it right. When working on your speed training, you will find it easy to get your heart rate up. I suggest getting a heart rate monitor and learning your target heart rate zones. In doing this, you will be able to set goals more accurately to fit your individual needs. The other area in which cycling can help you focus on muscle. You are going to get that from climbing. Pushing gear in spin class can contribute to building your climbing muscles for when you are out on the road. Training for Death Ride, my legs got rock solid in a way that nothing else could do for me. When I am focusing on climbing, I note that even though I am going at a much slower pace, my heart rate is still elevated. My biggest downfall as a cyclist is I am one sided and only focus on climbing. Because of this, I am slow. Spin class helps enhance my outdoor training and is getting me faster

I do the bulk of my core work off the bike. I have found that, for me, everything I do comes from my core. Having a strong core helps increase my proficiency as an athlete. Every cyclist I have spoken to tells me that cycling is great for the core. Maybe I am doing it wrong, but I don’t feel it. Because of that, I am sure to have a solid core routine off of the bike.

When climbing, it is tempting to hunch over. Remember, hinge at your hips, NOT your waist. Keep your shoulders relaxed. I used to get horrible back pain from riding. I was told you periodically wiggle my fingers to relax my hands and shoulders. Working on my posture helped greatly. The spin class will help you with posture on the road and will also help with that important pedal stroke. An efficient pedal stroke is the key to cycling success.

What you need:

-Clips-If you want to get serious about cycling, you will need to learn to clip-in. Spin class is a good way to get a feel for clips before ever hitting the bike trails. Clipping-in works different leg muscles. You pull up as well as push down. To-Date I still use mountain bike clips on my road bike and in spin class.

-Heart Rate Monitor- It is important to learn your max heart rate and your heart rate zones. You will spend the bulk of your time in the fat burning zone. A spin class will give you a good feel for how much time you need to spend in each of the target heart rate zones.

Of course, you will also need the basics from my first blog in the cycling series

What you don’t need:

-Your own saddle in spin class. Look, if it is the difference between going to spin or not— then bring the saddle, but if you are of a typical fitness and health level, I suggest you suck it up buttercup and go through the same process we all did. It will get easier.

I hope to see you in a spin class soon! Now get out there and make every day an adventure!

 

 

Road Bike 101

Road Bike 101

When I first started cycling, it began as a means to complete a triathlon. I didn’t feel passionate about cycling. I had a goal in mind and cycling was a tool to achieve that goal. Over time cycling became one of my biggest loves, but it was a journey for me to get there. When I purchased my first road bike, my knowledge of cycling was limited to the generic mountain bike I owned in elementary school. I knew nothing about what I needed regarding buying a bike.  A young woman that lived near me offered to let me try out her bike to make sure I liked riding before I went out and bought a bike of my own.

Here is that humbling story: I had no idea what I was doing. I had heard there were several different kinds of bikes, but the meaning of that didn’t resonate with me at the time. I assumed ‘a bike is a bike.’ I told her I wanted to train for triathlons; she loaned me her huge beach cruiser with three gears. I gladly accepted. I took the bike out on city streets. I live in an area surrounded by steep hills. I attempted (with ZERO training) to take that huge beach cruiser on the city street (that did not have a bike lane) and up the biggest hill in my area. How I survived to 35, I have no idea. I had to walk the bike up the hill, then down the hill, then back home.

I decided I needed to talk to someone who knew about cycling and buying the right bike. I went to a bike shop. I was very clear my goals were a triathlon and Death Ride; I was told a hybrid was what I needed. I dropped the cash and was ready to ride off into the sunset with my new bike. Luckily a friend clarified that I needed a road bike. I was able to make an exchange (I am glad I purchased from a bike shop with a liberal return policy), and I got my road bike. As far as road bikes go, mine is considered cheap. It is about $600 and has an aluminum frame. I am delighted with Vixen (aka my road bike) and she got me through two triathlons and Death Ride.

Though cycling began as a means to complete a goal; I have grown to love cycling. I love taking my bike up in the mountains. As my legs burn and my heart pounds, I will often look in the valley of a big climb and admire views that make me feel alive.

Talk with a Master:

Rod Halbert has been riding for 25-30 years. He is currently a cycling coach and owns the cycling studio, Phoenix Cycling Systems in Loomis, California. “Cycling is a metaphor for life. There are ups and downs, some days it is easy, others it’s difficult, and there are climbs that feel like they take forever.”

His advice for people just starting out is, “If you have never clipped-in come to (spin) class and try to clip-in. See how you like it. Mountain Bike clips are best for beginner riders. The shoes are easily walkable and easier to get in and out of. Take time to learn how to keep your pedal stroke in a nice, smooth, circular motion. Take your spin shoes to the shop and have them match them to the right pedals.”

When asked about how to pick the right bike, Rod responded, “You don’t need carbon fiber. Make sure you’re serious and perhaps spend a little more, so it (your bike) lasts longer. The size and fit are the most important thing. Don’t get a good deal that’s the wrong fit. Most people’s first bike doesn’t fit them. “

Rod also had advice for riding in a group, “Leaves and white lines can be like glass. Try to avoid them. New riders are unpredictable. Make sure your moves are smooth and gentle. If you are going to make a dramatic move, tell people. Before you ride with a new group, discuss stop signs (full stop or slow) and ask how they communicate. When you are coming up on a car on a side road always get eye contact. Make sure they are looking at you.”

 

What you need to know:

When buying a bike, ask yourself why are you doing this? What is your ultimate goal? My goal was to complete a triathlon. At the time, I thought a hybrid bike would meet my needs. I assumed it was the best of both worlds, mountain and road bike all rolled into one. Why would any idiot need two bikes when one hybrid can do everything? I was wrong and very blessed I purchased from a bike shop that allowed returns. A hybrid is too heavy to ride more than 50 miles with any real climbing. (That is my personal opinion. And we all have a friend of a friend that did a triathlon on a mountain bike—unless you are that friend— get a road bike). Hybrids are great if you just want a casual fitness bike. The average person will not be able to keep up on a hybrid if their friends are climbing 1000 feet per 10 miles nor will they be able to traverse the terrain on a mountain bike. Hybrids do have their place and are useful for the novice rider.

A road bike is more lightweight and meant only for paved surfaces. Some bike shops have stringent return policies, whereas others will let you ride the bike for a few weeks and then return. Ask questions before you buy.

Check out meetup.com or facebook groups in your area to find organized rides. Many local bike shops host weekly organized rides. Call your local bike shops for more details. Be honest when signing up for a ride. Ask if it is a no drop ride. I once signed up for a 100-mile ride with a group of expert riders. I was left behind in the parking lot trying to clip-in (not my finest moment).  You don’t want to be 20-miles into a ride and make the group wait on you, or even worse get lost. Ask if the ride is on the street or a bike path. If it is on the street, let them know you are a novice and will need someone to go over the rules of the road. I suggest a first ride with a friend on a bike path. This training ride will help you learn your ability with distance and pace. When I look for a group ride, I let the organizer know I ride 50 miles, flat (meaning no elevation/climbing) at 15 mph. They can tell me based on that information if I am a good fit for the ride.

 

 

 

What do you need:

-A bike. Shop around. LEARN ABOUT THE BRAKES! Disc brakes are relatively new to road bikes, and pros have strong opinions on brakes. For a road bike, I like my caliper brakes. They are the most common brakes on road bikes today. My bike has an aluminum frame. If a carbon frame is in your budget—go for it. I was a total beginner and held my own in triathlons and Death Ride (129 miles and over 15k climbing) with my aluminum frame.

-Water bottle and cage for the water bottle.

-Bike shorts-I wish someone would have told me about bike shorts before I went into the store. I thought they were just like the skin-tight shorts from the 80’s. They are not. They have a chamois pad to protect your sensitive parts. I can be a bit modest, so I was very put off buying shorts that felt like they had a diaper sewn in. I thought I wanted the most modest and thinnest pad available. I was wrong. Get over it. All cyclists wear them. You do not wear underwear under your shorts (chafing). You will also want chamois cream. The seat can get very uncomfortable, and you do not want to have to call a long ride short because you went out unprepared for the discomfort of the seat (aka saddle).

 

-Clips. I didn’t even know clipping-in was a thing when I bought my bike. I knew I had big goals with that bike, and I did not want to learn my bike THEN learn clipping-in. So, I went for it. I went with mountain bike clips instead of road bike clips. They are a bit easier to get in and out and you can clip-in from both sides of the pedal. Road bike clips only clip on one side of the pedal, but they have a bit more surface area which helps with a bit more power. If you want to be considered a serious cyclist, you must learn to clip-in. Different muscles are used when clipped-in. You push down as well as pull up on the pedal. The bike store should be able to put the pedals on for you and put the clips on your shoes. I went to an empty school playground and got next to the wall and clipped in and out. YOU WILL FALL, IT WILL SUCK, get back on your bike and keep going.

-Small repair kit.

-Lights. If you plan on going on the road, you must learn proper etiquette. In many places, you can get ticketed just like a car. Riding alone is not a good idea. Cars are much less likely to see a single rider. Someone once said to me, “What do you call a cyclist who thinks cars are paying attention? Dead” Get good on the bike before you consider going on the road. And when you do, be lit up and visible.

-Helmet.  A must. Have the salesperson at the bike store fit you properly. If your helmet is in an accident and still looks intact— throw it out. It is considered compromised. Rod suggests anything with the MIPS system.

-Bike rack. You can usually find a cheap one on Craigslist. I prefer the hitch mount bike rack. I started with an arm bike rack that went over the trunk of my sedan, and it worked fine as well. Learn your bike rack and secure your bike well. If your bike falls off and causes an accident, you could be held responsible.

-Bike lock.

-Gloves. I am the only cyclist I know that rarely wears gloves. They pinch in between my fingers. When I do wear gloves, I make sure I am buying them from a place with a liberal exchange policy. When you are riding for 5 hours, you will be very aware where they pinch and where they put too much pressure. Buy an inexpensive pair and learn what you need before upgrading.

-Pepper spray- if it is legal in your area. It took being chased by one dog, one time before I realized I need pepper spray.

-Sunglasses

What you don’t need…yet

-An upgraded saddle. Everyone gets hit differently by the saddle, so you do not know what you need until you have ridden. Most bike shops will have a demo saddle they can loan you to try out first.

-Apparel. Wait before buying the jersey. A tee-shirt is fine. If you are going to join a club, you will want their jersey. If you do organized rides, jerseys will be for sale. I often ride in a tank top. You do not need a jersey right out of the gate.

-Paneer. The basket. I have a big paneer on my bike. I have been told this makes me less of a cyclist. I did Death Ride with that big paneer, so it stays. It holds my phone and my snacks. Wait to buy one until you learn your needs as a rider.

-GPS. You will see riders, myself included, playing with their Garmin’s before and after a ride. Before you invest in a Garmin, try using apps like Strava and Ride with GPS. For my first year, I found that they tracked my rides with everything I needed.

 

The most important thing is to get out there and have fun! Cycling will make you feel like a kid again!