I’ve been slacking in my blogging duties, but for a great many good reasons. Paramount is that I’ve been riding my bike, which — let’s face it — is the entire point, right?
I joined the May Massive on Strava, a simple little contest where you just ride as much as you can in the month of May. I’ve been trying to ride 100 miles a week but in truth, I keep hovering around 70. Last week I managed more than 90. This week, the rains came, and I’m not going to come out with a big number. Not that it’s about numbers.
I easily get caught up with being competitive, even when I have no business pretending that I can compete. And I shouldn’t compete with friends (even ones I’ve never met on Strava), but in my head, I’m seeing their numbers and thinking, “I need to ride more than 100 miles this week, because she did, and she did, and he did, and he’s already banked 200 miles this week.” This is just who I am, when I’m alone in my head. Then I snap out of it and have a chat with myself and remind myself that I’m doing this for fun.
Fun. Remember that? Well I should. And I should try for more. I’ve been riding a ton the last 2 years, a ton for me anyway. I’ve grown really dependent on the maintenance high that frequent cycling has given me. It’s the best stress management and mood manager ever (not that I’m <ahem> moody. No, not me). So no matter how my ride starts, it almost always ends with me feeling less burdened, more carefree, and with better coping skills. This has been especially helpful to me this year, as it has been a tougher one for me as far as years go. I think my higher brain is gently trying to remind me to keep some of the riding fun so that this quality is not lost. It is really the fundamental reason that I ride. To feel good.
I’m pleased with how I’ve grown stronger on the bike, too. A poor climber, I always avoided hills. Now I almost always try to include them. As a result, I’ve performed better and better on these climbs, shaving minutes off segments in some cases. While I don’t think I’ll ever be fast, and am now stronger. I survive climbs better than ever now, and I recover quicker. It feels great. And while I don’t want to lose some of the performance I’ve gained, I don’t want to lose the fun either. Keeping a good balance will be important, as it is only late May, and we have a good 6 months of cycling ahead before the snows grow deep.
So sorry about neglecting my blogging duties. It’s only because we got 2 inches of rain today that you’re even reading this. And that’s a good thing. It’s the whole point.
(Note: the photo is of my son at about 6 months of age. He’s happier now that he’s old enough to actually ride a bike.)
I never knew how poorly my road bike fit me until I spent some serious time on a bike that actually fit me.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been riding my CX bike almost exclusively. Before that I had returned to mountain biking for a spell, and as a result, I spent spare little time on the road bike (a Specialized Dolce Elite). During that time, some nagging physical conditions evaporated–but I didn’t notice they were even gone until I started riding the road bike again.
Here is what hurts: lower back, my shoulders, the base of my neck. The neck is an issue–and I was in PT last year because of it. I have some disk that’s askew and the position I have on the road bike makes it worse–so much so I cannot turn my head. What hurts most this morning is the lower back. All of it is no good, and I can’t believe I endured these aches and pains for so many years.
The road bike is a women’s specific frame. The CX bike is a standard frame, also a Specialized. I can ride and ride this without issue. So to solve my pain problem, I have 2 options:
- Get the road bike professionally fitted to me.
- Sell the road bike and get slick tires for road work with the CX bike.
I have to say I’m leaning toward option #2. I wouldn’t mind the extra cash and would use it toward buying a true racing bike for the CX season, something I’ve been saving my pennies for. The CX bike I have now would be a great all around training bike. If I had more disposable income I’d upgrade the road bike outright, since I bought it back in 2006. But that’s not where I am right now (at the moment). I really don’t want to invest the time and money in getting my road bike professionally fitted to me. And I suspect the women’s specific frame was a little too much marketing and not enough function for a woman who is as tall as the average male.
The one (silly) reservation I have is that although painful, the road bike is faster. I can go longer, faster on it. When I ride the CX bike with friends who are on road bikes, I have to work harder. Maybe that’s a good thing overall, maybe it will make me faster come race season.
So what do you think I should do? Weigh in, because Craigslist is a few clicks away….
I injured myself last night, not while riding the bike, but largely because of excessive bike riding. Or, excessive bike riding without proper cool down and stretching. Only a few years ago, I could hammer for hours and then do some completely different exercise and never bat an eye. Maybe I’d be a bit sore, but a little Advil and I’d hop on the bike again. Gone are those days. Gone for good.
It made me think more about how things are changing now that I’ve crossed the age 40 mark. Things hurt more. I don’t recover as quickly. Although I’m working out more now than I ever have in my life (other than high school), and I feel I’m the strongest and fittest I’ve ever been, it’s still different.
How? For a glimpse of the future, see the chart below and plan accordingly.
You are a mere babe in the woods! You can drink beer all night, eat pizza, and ride and ride. You almost never stretch. Never do you gain an ounce. Lycra actually looks good on you.
What’s that? You gained 3 pounds? That’s your metabolism slowing down to a dull roar. You probably work full time now, or are slaving away in grad school and working part time. But on the weekend, you can hop on your bike and do a century with almost no preparation. You can race your bike and do all right. If you are serious about cycling, you are really coming into form right now. Lycra still looks amazing on you.
You spend the first 4 years of your thirties in utter disbelief that you are that old. Everyone in their 40′s+ finds this simultaneously adorable and annoying. Your face is leaner looking, yet these deposits of flesh can now be found cuddling your kidneys. You may be full engaged in child bearing now, and this will make you fat no matter if you are a woman or a man. Your job feels endless, and cycling is on the backburner out of sheer adulthood. If you have a super supportive spouse, you get to ride during the summer. A little. You use this to whack away the extra 10+ pounds that has found you.
You realize you are running out of sweet, precious time. You think now–now is the time to really make your mark with this sport. You are kidding yourself, and everyone knows it but you. Your ab muscles are in great shape, because you’ve become deeply practiced in sucking in your gut.
The wheels start to fall off. You hear a bell ringing in the distance on your 40th birthday, and later realize that’s the sound of your expiration date. Things on your body hurt for no reason. You tweak your back getting out of bed in the morning. You sit entirely too much at work. Wearing lycra is now a supreme act of either bravery or denial.
You hate the people who are still in their 40′s and complaining about how stuff hurts. They have no idea what’s next. You smirk and tell them they are being babies. And they thought you’d be understanding…..
You have transcended physical pain and vanity and are regarded as somewhat of a mystic of the sport. Lycra looks ridiculous on you as your body has naturally withered in some places and bulged in others, but dammit you are seeing this sport through ’til the bitter end. Your road bike is considered an antique, but has the retro charm that all those hipster kids are after. People of all ages admire you deeply, and hope they can age as gracefully. Your legs still look fantastic.
Whatever your age, just keep riding….but always stretch!
This week is the week schoolchildren pine for–their spring break, April Vacation. And while my son is doing a week long happy dance, I’m left trying to figure out how I’m going to get any saddle time this week.
I have some ideas….although it remains to be seen if they will pan out. I sometimes tempt my son to ride bikes with me, and although it’s not the kind of bike ride I would want to do, it’s something. He’s 8, so he peters out after about 5 miles. I can hire a sitter, but that gets expensive fast. I have one coming today, and at $8-10 bucks an hour, anything more than 20 miles gets pricey. I am planning to drive out to Boston to visit the family, and I could take the bike along, but truthfully there are no areas to really ride where my family lives. It’s too congested and drivers there see a point value when they see a cyclist on the road, so I have never tried a serious ride so close to the city. I heard Boston has improved, but alas, I just don’t trust my fellow Boston drivers with my life, for the sake of a quick workout. I also considered bringing my mountain bike home, since Lynn Woods is nearby and boasts some excellent mountain biking. Alas, I just don’t feel comfortable riding there solo, not due to difficulty level but do to crime. Again, maybe it’s improved since I grew up but too many dead girls wound up in the Lynn Woods when I was a kid, so I really don’t want to ride there unless my not-so little brother comes along.
Overall, I’m not feeling encouraged about the amount of riding I’ll get in this week. I hate to think that I would resort to the trainer, but I may have to.
Last weekend, I was at my favorite LBS when I picked up a copy of SingleTracks. SingleTracks is the free magazine put out by NEMBA (The New England Mountain Biking Association). It’s a nice black & white publication with stories, photos, trails, events and of course, ads.
I was thumbing through SingleTracks tonight when I came across an ad that sounded vaguely familiar. It was a company based in Maine that offered 30 miles of single track at their location, tours, weekend trips, rentals, and events. I had an experience with this company back in 2002 that I’d like to share with you, since I checked the url and the company and owner appear to be the same. I do not plan of reporting the name of the company publicly in this blog (but email me and I’ll dish freely).
In 2000 I started mountain biking, and jumped in with both feet. I couldn’t get enough. I read a very favorable review in a magazine about a mountain bike company in Maine that hosted miles of single track trails, camping, a freestyle park, and yurts for weekend trips. My family owns a camp very close by to this outfitter, so during my annual vacation there I set out to check it out with a companion. While I was relatively new to the sport, I had already raced and placed at a local event, and my companion had been a serious cyclist for many years, racing and placing in road, triathlon and mountain biking events. We were both very comfortable in the woods and happy to explore wild areas. For the record, we were (and still are) both women.
Granted, there are not a lot of female MTBers in comparison to male MTBers. It’s a little better now, but back then, it was really hard to find other women who MTBed. But we weren’t completely mythical creatures. The following is my story of how our experience went with this outfitter.
We found the location and met the owner. On the property there was a freestyle park and a yurt, the owner’s home, and allegedly trails in the surrounding woods. After a warm welcome from the owner, we started to get down to business. No we didn’t need overnight accommodations–I had a place nearby. We expressed interest in riding his trails, which as advertised, was free. His trails, he disclosed, were mostly built on public land, only a small portion of the trails were on his land. He offered to take us on a guided tour. We declined, we really just wanted him to point us to the nearby trails. We didn’t need a guided tour, we’re more interested in exploring on our own and setting our own pace. Then his warm welcome evaporated. He pressed the guided tour idea. He wanted to make a dollar on us. Sure, I get it, of course he’s looking to make some coin, but the trails were on public lands, and advertised as free. We were too independent to take a tour. We politely declined again. Could he sell us a map? Those too were advertised. At least our exchange wouldn’t be a total loss. I didn’t really want a map but I offered to buy one as a gesture.
Then, and I will never forget this moment, he looked us up and down, then glanced at our bikes on the roof rack of the car, and said, “You’ll never find my trails. I have them hidden. You won’t find them.”
I was pissed but didn’t show it. Years of customer service training made me an expert at this. ”We’ll just take the map then.” I said, upbeat. He left to get a map. When he returned, we paid him for it and drove off.
In the car, we were mad. Really mad. We both understood exactly what he thought of us, our ability as cyclists, and our ability to find our way out of a paper bag in backwoods Maine. He discounted us. And he did is because we were women.
Why do I think this? Because it’s happened so many times before. I know because I know that look he gave us, the one of disregard, of no confidence. He wrote us off with a glance. You know what this means when it happens to you. Especially when you’ve always been told you couldn’t play because you were “just a girl.” Yeah, he was probably a bit put off that he wasn’t going to get a tour fee from us too. But we just showed up. He had no other clients, we were not monopolizing his time. Why he thought it was OK to act like a DB I just won’t understand.
Instead of staying mad, we got even. We found the trails after 10 minutes of driving. We shredded the rest of the afternoon.
I’ve always been extremely athletic and active and participated in sports. I ran as fast as the boys, was MVP of my baseball team. played basketball with boys, fished, camped, hiked, explored, made forts, climbed trees, rode dirt bikes, road street bikes, swung on rope swings, did all and anything the boys did. I still do. As a young girl, I fought hard against anyone who told me I couldn’t do something because I was female.
His once over, and his open challenge to us shocked me, even back in 2002, because I hadn’t experienced it in so many years–really since girlhood. And I’m happy to say, I haven’t personally experienced that since. Men I come across in cycling these days are encouraging, and are excited to talk to women who love the sport they love. But once you’ve been discounted like that, you don’t forget how it feels, and you know when it’s happening. People may argue with me about this, but my friend felt the same way I did.
So there it is, my tale of sexism in cycling. I’m happy to say I’ve only really experienced this once. Most bike shops treat me with respect, and the men I meet who love cycling are really excited to share it with another, regardless of the chromosome arrangement. This guy, however, is still in business. Who knows, people change. I know a lot of people who have changed their opinions of lots of things through the years. But I don’t plan to send him any business.
And I still have that map he sold me 11 years ago Anyone want to ride with me in Maine? I know the way.
Not that kind of post. Keep truckin’ mister.
I want to talk about this though, because I’ve been coming across more stuff online by cyclists who wear underwear under their cycling gear. I made the “mistake” of doing it the first couple of times I rode a bike, but was swiftly schooled by a more seasoned cyclist who told me no, no way, no how, don’t do it. The reason was practical–to eliminate chaffing and seams cutting into tender flesh. But the cultural implication was more strongly emphasized that any practical reason. Cyclists do have their rules, and can be a particular bunch. I fell in line with the social norm. But now I’m coming across more folks who wear underwear under their lycra and I’m a bit baffled. Is this up for debate? Am I old school?
Do you do this?
While I’m not a fan of going commando (me or anyone else, for that matter) in general, I can’t think of a scenario in which I’d opt for underwear. What about you?
Plans mean nothing, planning is everything. Eisenhower said this first, but it sums up the way I operate pretty nicely. That said, I have jotted the CX races I’m interested in participating in for 2013. Here is the schedule:
DATE Race Location
August 24 Monson CX Monson, MA
August 25 Blunt Park CX Springfield, MA
September 21 Aenta Silk City CX Manchester, CT
September 28 Great Brewers Gran Prix Gloucester, MA
September 29 Great Brewers Gran Prix Gloucester, MA
October 5 Providence Cyclocross Festival Providence, RI
October 6 Providence Cyclocross Festival Providence, RI
October 20 Sloper CX Southington, CT
November 2 Cycle-Smart International Northampton, MA
November 3 Cycle-Smart International Northampton, MA
November 16 Cheshire CX Cheshire, CT
November 30 Sterling CX Sterling, MA
December 1 Sterling CX Sterling, MA
Some of these dates are confirmed, others are educated guesses. The smaller races like Sloper and Cheshire and Silk City are repeats from last year. Hopefully they will be held again on these similar dates. Gloucester, Providence and Northampton are pretty set, and those are the big ones. I’ve attended Gloucester for many years but never races it–and I’m excited for that one. It’s close to my hometown and has by far the best crowd, and takes place next to the cold gray Atlantic ocean–an epic location for a ‘cross race. There is some uncertainty at the time of this writing as some local folks in Gloucester are against the race taking place since as it has grown, so has the wear and tear on the park immediately post race (the park heals nicely and within weeks you can see the grass growing back. By spring, no one would ever know a race took place at Stage Fort Park. But I digress…). If you want an absolute on the existence of these races, you’ll have to check BikeReg from time to time, although many don’t get posted until well into Autumn.
Absent from this list is Night Weasels. I want to do that race as well, but it’s typically held on a week night, which always presents a layer of difficulty in terms of work/childcare. I think that takes place in November sometime.
Of course there are a bunch of other races I’d like to do not listed above–especially in Maine and New Hampshire. We’ll see what I can sneak in, and what will need to be omitted. But I have a list, a working list, and that’s a good start. It’s also double the number of races I did last year.
Now, I just have to get that new carbon CX bike so I can worm my way to the middle of the pack….
Double meaning, anyone?
This week, temperatures are final climbing north of 40, which brings a waves of relief to those of us who have suffered through the winter with no end. It’s April next week, so we’re good and ready to leave the snow behind, just in time for 30 Days of Biking to begin.
It’s been snowy or windy or just plain cold the last two weeks. It has slowed my biking down a bunch, which I’m not psyched about, but I’ve stepped up my running a bit. My women’s pickup basketball group has secured a gym for the spring and we’re starting our pickup games again, which is a ton of fun as well. But I’d like to get started with longer rides soon.
This week I’m going to try and log 100+ collective miles. I’d like to get a month of those in, if possible. I’m in a unique position where I have some time to ride, and I don’t expect it to last forever, so I’m taking it while I can get it. I want a good base going into summer, and I want to keep it up and try to get faster in general going into the fall. My end game is of course cyclocross season, which constantly resides in the back of my mind, looking for a reason to slip front and center.
Today I took a short-ish ride on one of my familiar (i.e., getting dull) routes. I spiced things up by going off road for a bit. I have been riding the ‘cross bike almost exclusively for the past year and I just don’t want to give it up. I love dipping into the woods whenever I feel like it. I like mixing up the ride with some mud and wet sand, or like today-snow and roots, pine needles, standing ice water and a couple of dogs out for a walk chasing me, wanting to play. I really have to credit the ‘cross bike with keeping me engaged with riding. Other years I burned out, especially when training for a long charity event. But now, I just want more. It’s the best addiction ever, and now that the weather is finally getting a little friendlier, I’m able to get outdoors and play. I think it reminds me of when I was a kid playing on dirt roads in New Hampshire, jumping over roots and tearing through the woods on bikes with friends.
At any rate, Spring is supposed to be here, and this week I might start to believe it. There’s still snow in my yard. I need to stay off the trails until they dry out a bit, but the gravel and dirt roads are fair game, and I don’t mind playing in the mud.