Marie Riding 7By: Marie Huey

As a passionate advocate for the importance of early learning, I’m always interested in ways to support the cause. When I heard about an opportunity combining fitness, fun, and strategy, I signed right up and began an intense journey. A journey in the name of early learning.

The Challenge: The first ever #TourDeNice. Eleven nonprofit cyclists start and finish at Gold Medal Park in downtown Minneapolis, competing to see who can visit the most Nice Ride stations between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m on July 9, 2016.

The Prize: A winner’s pot divided between the top three nonprofit riders in the Tour and donated to the organizations they represent. The Minneapolis Foundation generously provided the funds for the winner’s pot, donating $1 for every Nice Ride trip taken by anyone on July 9, 2016.

The Preparation: With about a month before the competition to prepare, there was plenty of time to strategize. As a very leisurely biker, I knew my strategy would have to be excellent in order to have a shot at making the top three. I wasn’t going to win this with brute strength. So, with early learning as my motivator, strategize I did. I assembled my TourDeNice toolkit. Inside:

MapMaps: The most important training item. At Lyndale Open Streets I picked up two copies. I carefully studied the many green station dots on the maps, considering the possibilities. Finally ready to dive in for a practice ride, I employed the maps and a dry erase marker to outline potential routes.

-Phone: This was essential for two reasons. 1) The Nice Ride App: To supplement the map information and alert me if stations were full (and thus unavailable for a check-in). 2) Twitter. To earn bonus points, I had to tweet during the race. A quick tutorial and some tips on helmet selfies prepared me for that task.

SnacksSnacks: Besides providing fuel for the mission, they also provided tasty motivation. Many combinations and products were tested. (In the name of early learning). After spitting out some goo (how do runners eat that?!), I settled on a couple classes: mixed nuts and fruit snacks.

-Hydration: Cool, clear water was an essential ingredient for success, of course. For an extra boost, I supplemented with coconut water in the days leading up to the competition.

-Ice Cream: Several ice cream cones and one milkshake were consumed in the training process. (It’s all for early learning, folks). Izzy’s remains at the top for most delicious and most motivational ice cream shop around.

The Race: Starting early had a double meaning the day of the race, as I woke up before 7 to prepare. Helmet (safety first!), bike jersey, water, snacks, maps, shoes—I checked off the essentials. Proud to represent Think Small, I made my way to Gold Medal Park.

Marie with Map 1

Evidence of the usefulness of my trusty paper maps.

After a short Nice Ride tutorial, we lined up and raced to our bikes. Seeing the other riders whiz by, I knew I would not win on speed alone, so I focused on riding my best route. I quickly got in the groove. Check in. Check out. Next station. The two hours passed quickly, but not without a few rings of the Nice Ride bike bell. Fueled by adrenaline and motivated by early education, I didn’t even need my snacks! I only grabbed a couple fruit chews when a long left turn light made me pause.

After taking a risk on checking in at one more station, I pulled into the finish, right on time at 10:55. It was my best route ever! Beautiful weather provided the perfect backdrop for a very efficient 48 station check-ins and 15.5 miles biked.

The Results: Over the next day, Minneapolis Foundation totaled the check-ins and donations. My effort was good enough for third place and $901 for Think Small. A victory for early learning!

Besides supporting early learning and fueling my penchant for competition, #TourDeNice was a great way to see the city and see what is going on in the community. A big thank you to the other non-profits that participated and to the Minneapolis Foundation and Nice Ride Minnesota for organizing such a fun event.