Like a fish to water maybe?
Liz Smith doesn’t use those terms in talking about how she has taken to bicycling, but the sparkle in her eyes when she talks about things like “12 minutes off my PR on the Four Gorges” or “the cardio is pretty much there,” or even her personal case of “Gear Acquisition Syndrome,” makes it clear you you’re talking to someone who in a few months’ time has caught the bug.
“I tracked 10 PRs in one evening,” she says matter-of-factly when asked about a highlight of her first few months of mountain biking. She then explains to someone who’s never gotten beyond maybe one PR a year that the Strava app tracks individual trails and trail segments, providing great motivation.
And speaking of a bad case . . .
“My first ride was last fall with a guy who was kind enough to lend me a bike,” she says. “We were out at Carvins Cove, and about halfway through I really didn’t feel very well.”
So not-well that somewhere along the Lower Comet Trail she had to excuse herself to behind a tree to lose the hard-boiled eggs she’d eaten earlier in the evening and turned out to have given her a case of food poisoning.
That beginning didn’t slow her enthusiasm for either biking or the man who let her use one of his bicycles. She and Richard Blackwood have been dating since shortly after that ride, and she and her very own bicycle have become at least as much of an item.
“I got a great deal from Steve Hetherington at Just the Right Gear,” she says of her Jet 9 Carbon model. “I mean the gearing, the geometry, the shocks – it’s crazy!
“And carbon is so much better than aluminum. Bikes overall have come a long way. What was really good 20 years ago is pretty much garbage today.”
Smith’s dedication to two wheels grew so quickly that by December she was also the owner of a Cannondale road bike.
“I ride the road bike on days I’m working,” she says of her job with Roanoke County. “And the mountain bike on off-days.”
She credits much of her improvement as a rider to Blackwood.
“He’s a certified mountain bike instructor through IMBA [International Mountain Bike Assocation], and so I get great help with technique and bike-handling skills.”
Smith says she and Blackwood will do some riding in North Carolina this summer, and hope to ride in the western U.S. soon.
On the day we talked, she was looking forward to a more local ride: “The Blue Ridge Parkway from Roanoke out to the Peaks of Otter and back.”
With a break for lunch at the lodge?
“Oh, definitely. Ride out, hit the buffet, maybe even a nap, and then the ride back. I can’t wait.”