Sad times here in the Northeast. If you have a problem with riding a trainer, you’d better get over it fast, because it’s pretty nasty in our neck of the woods. We got clobbered with snow, 22 inches in my town, 25-30 in the Boston area, and up to 40 inches on the coast of Connecticut. There is nowhere to put it all. Suffice to say, it’s a bit soul crushing for cyclists.
I’ve been doing time on the trainer about 3 times a week, and meh–it is what it is. I still play basketball once a week but roads were impassable last Saturday, plus there was a statewide driving ban (that probably saved lives and many thousands of dollars in property damage). If I could Strava snow shoveling, I’m the freaking Queen of the Mountain. I’ve shoveled walkways, driveways and even sections of my roof. Drifts of 4 feet on sections of roof plus rain caused roof collapses in this area 2 years ago. I got off easy with ice dams that destroyed my ceiling. So I was up on the roof preventing any potential problems from this round of weather. We had rain all day today which made the load of snow we had significantly heavier.
Sigh. I miss my bike.
I suppose its good to want it so bad. Off season should be a time to rest up and recharge. I’ve burnt out by late summer before and I don’t want to repeat that. Cyclocross has helped keep things fresh. Worlds were fun to watch online. But otherwise, I’m eager to ride outside sooner rather than later.
So a bit blue about no riding (other than the trainer, but do we count that? No.), but I figured I’d share some of my favorite social media images from the historic storm. Thankfully I didn’t lose power so I had the Internet to entertain me. For those folks who aren’t from New england that read this blog, it’s worthwhile to note that this past storm occurred on the 35th anniversary of the famous Blizzard of ’78, which is the storm that all others are compared to. I was 7, my Dad was in the National Guard and activated, and gone for 3 days while my mom tried to dig us out on her own (she was successful, as mom always is). Enjoy the pics.
Bring on the spring!
Yesterday I took advantage of a sunny day and headed up the Mohawk Trail for some skiing. I learned to ski shortly after learning to ride a bike, and had already tackled Killington at age 7. I love to ski, but over the years, I stopped. For the past 10 or so years I have skied just once. A lot of it was due to being a new mother, then a single mother, and having a young child. Skiing, like cycling, is a very expensive and time intense sport. I had to pick and chose. And you can cycle a whole lot more days of the year then you can ski–at least where I live in mid New England.
I went to Berkshire East–a small hill by skiing standards, but with $38 lift tickets and no lift lines, I wasn’t complaining. We’ve had a few nice snowfalls over the last couple of weeks, followed by cold temperatures that allowed for snowmaking, The slopes had packed power, nicely groomed like corduroy. There were a few ice patches but they were manageable.
Another plus–there was almost no one there, which meant I never waited for a lift. Unload at the top, ski down, ski right up to the chair, load back up. The chairlifts are older so they don’t run very fast, and the hill wasn’t tall so I reached the bottom fairly quickly. But I got a decent number of runs in, and the conditions were so lovely, it was nice to enjoy carving out turns without reckless teenagers or out of control novices interrupting the run.
I spent little time in the lodge, but was there long enough to notice this big banner draped on the railing inside.
After some research I learned that 2013 will be the second annual Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon. If you like bagpipes, read on. The race consists of 5 legs: a 10k trail run, 23 miles of road biking, 5 miles of kayaking, a mile to the top of the mountain and a downhill ski to the finish. They hold it in late March because it’s possible to do all 5 events during late winter/early spring. The allow teams of 2, 5 or single entries (know as Bravehearts). Yes, there is a guy in a kilt playing the bagpipes on a rock against a backdrop of open fields and mountains. It’s all for a good cause–local preservation efforts, and looks mildly insane. Of course, I’m interested. It will go under consideration for this year’s events to participate in.
A lot has happened this year, and like most years, some was planned, some was not. Here are the highlights.
Here are my Strava Stats:
Time 173hr 44m
Elev Gain 81,385ft
I know I did more than this number reflects. I only joined Strava in July and while I was able to download many rides from my Garmin, I didn’t always use my Garmin while riding earlier in the year. No matter. I broke all previous yearly distance records with these stats, even if they are incomplete.
Additionally, I ran a bunch. I was using Nike + and then stopped running and concentrated entirely on cycling. It’s only been in the last couple weeks I started running again, and now I’m using Strava for that too. But here are my combined stats from Nike+ and Strava for foot work:
Miles run 60.5
I had a knee injury last winter and went through about 3 months of PT. Additionally was fitted for orthotics. During that time I stopped running and didn’t cycle much either. When I did start working out again, it was all about the bike.
This was from left field. Although I had purchased a CX bike in 2011, I never planned on actually doing anything more than gravel roads with it. Go figure. Cyclocross has always excited me and I often try to explain it to people. I was at a dinner party last summer explaining it to the host, and at the end of the evening when everyone was saying their goodbyes, the host said “Hey, good luck with those races!” Then my co-blogger Heather talked about possibly doing one. Then my bike mechanic suggested I should enter a race as a personal challenge to myself. Then a Ladies MTB group I belong to on Facebook hosted a free Women’s CX Clinic 3 towns away. Too many signs to ignore, so I signed up for a race. One race turned into six and now I’m focused on having a better season next year, getting a lighter faster bike, and actually having a clue. It’s great fun and I’m kicking myself for not getting into this sport 10 years ago when I was in my thirties.
Starting a side business
As many of you know this year I launched a small side business called Sip, Clip & Go Coffee. It’s been a load of fun and I plan to continue to grow a customer base, and hopefully within a couple of years break even on my initial investment Most businesses don’t becomes profitable for at least 2-3 years and I aspire to make that timeframe. That said, my products received some wonderful reviews. I made some new friends and I value these new connections. To finish the year off, my coffee was named in the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide by Bicycling Magazine. I was blown away by receiving press attention from the world’s largest bicycling magazine in just 6 months of operation.
The sum up
This year was a good one. I finally exercised 5-6 times a week for most of the year. This felt nothing short of amazing and I always wanted to be in a position to exercise that often without sacrificing personal relationships or neglecting my career or my parental duties as a single parent. I’m not sure what 2013 will bring. I have a fair amount of uncertainty that I’m facing that has the potential to really curtail my ability to continue this absolutely wonderful healthy lifestyle. More on that later, or maybe not at all. I keep my posts focused pretty squarely on bikes. Suffice to say I am grateful to have had such a wonderful year riding my bike. I will set some new goals for 2013 and I hope to see you on the road.
The title sums up how my last 3 rides have been. Pretty flat. After months of intense training and racing cyclocross, I decided I was for all purposes done for the season. I started riding “for fun.” And that was–I thought–a good plan.
It should have been a good plan. I started mountain biking. Lower mileage, because mileage no longer matters. I passed my goal of 2000 miles a couple of weeks ago so I really laid off the gas and transitioned into riding for pleasure. The problem is, it hasn’t been.
Of course that isn’t ALL true. But there is something missing.
I wonder if it’s just the natural low following the high of my freshman ‘cross season. Although I admit, I needed the break. My muscles felt frayed and tight. Overtraining was mentioned as a possible problem. The weather hasn’t been ideal either. I’m riding in temps that flirt with freezing, and the days are so very short.
I’ve even tried changing up locations. Today I went to Hatfield to ride. A picturesque farming community. I liked the stately homes in the middle of the small town. The road followed the Connecticut river. A fine mist was falling and it was about 40 degrees. 12.2 miles, a short ride, and my only elevation gain was 36 feet. Dreadfully flat…..just like my mood after these rides.
I’m not sure what to do about this. Should I take a real break? Stop riding altogether for a couple of months? Enter the one last cyclocross race offered in New England on the weekend of the 15-16th of December? I already feel my fitness slipping. And lets face it, snow is almost certainly on the way. The idea of isolating my workouts to the trainer is a bit soul-crushing.
Suggestions? I’m all ears.
I couldn’t resist comparing ‘cross with one of my favorite movies–Fight Club. If you have seen it, it either disgusts you or you think it is genius. Men in particular connect with this movie, which was its target audience/subject. I am one of the few women I know who absolutely loves it. I haven’t met anyone who only feels medium about this movie. It’s all or nothing, love or hate.
I was a professional bookseller for 14 years and can discuss the literary worth of this piece of fiction (the book is always better than the movie), the role of masculinity in today’s modern society, the sexual orientation of the author–but for the sake of brevity and focus I’ll just discuss the analogy the my title makes. Cyclocross is Fight Club with Bikes. I know I’m still new to it, but there are philosophical elements to this sport that I can take with me throughout life. They feel similar to racing cyclocross. I’ll use some popular quotes to illustrate.
“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” ~Fight Club movie, screenplay by Jim Uhls, directed by David Fincher, novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Agreed. You learn more about yourself by experiencing difficulty. These races are difficult. No, it’s not violence. It’s not war. Perhaps it’s a safer expression of difficulty. Social norms still apply but it’s not called an hour in hell for nothing. Racing hurts. There’s physical pain. There is spiritual emancipation.
“You aren’t alive anywhere like you’re alive at fight club…. Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn’t about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
The line “he looks carved out of wood” resonates with me. Over the last 3 months I’m seeing my softness wither and a leaner version emerge. The athletes at these races are fit, lean, and muscular. Racing hammers the soft parts away. Racing builds confidence. You race bikes for crying out loud! You can nail anything you try for.
“One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
There are so many mistakes you can make over the course of a race. A hundred things at least to get wrong, or right. Having an entire minute of perfection within a race is hard to achieve. Perfection is fleeting, so it’s savored.
“May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.” ~Chuck Palahniuk
Being perfect is no fun. Who wants that? Perfection is boring. It’s the work we do on the road to perfection that is divine.
PS–this parting quote is worth noting….
“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
So get on your bikes people!
Small post, big news!
Sip, Clip & Go’s Coffee is now available for sale in its first retail location in Holyoke, MA. Read about all the details here.
I’m sharing this blog post about a video put out by Limitless Performance, a clothing company out of the United Kingdom. It is by @SheRidesCycling and is worth a read.
I think it articulates very well the past and current problem with sexism in general, more specifically, sexism in cycling, and more commonly (but come on–boring at this point) sexism in advertising. Here is the main point, from the link above:
“that video is an indication that we can consider women to still be inadequate; not fast enough, not strong enough and not interesting enough.”
I have considered blogging about some of my personal experience with being a woman in a sport (even in recreational space) dominated by men. I have some stories. But for now–this will do. This isn’t a sweeping condemnation against men (and shouldn’t be because a lot of men are awesome about welcoming and celebrating women who ride), but rather acknowledges an attitude that women experience rather regularly. It’s lousy feeling.
I know many of my readers are male and my interactions with them have been 99% positive. The connection is about cycling, as it should be. I thank my male readers and the other men in the cycling community who recognize that inclusion beats exclusion.
I’m on the fence about saying more about this. I’ve tried very, very hard to keep the focus of this blog strictly to cycling without overlap into political or social issues. But maybe it’s time.
PS–that 1% was a guy I verbally spanked after a snide remark. He apologized and said that I made him feel bad. I don’t like to make people feel bad. But if it changed his attitude a bit, then there’s no reason we all can’t get along in the end, which is my entire point.
So launching a business the week before a long ago scheduled vacation isn’t the smartest thing a person can do. After a really, really crazy week, I did get away for a week and was able to still handle the growing pains on the home front.
Vacation started heading north to Portland, Maine. We stayed in Old Port, right in downtown Portland. There are some great shops and restaurants and getting around is easy. I haven’t spent any significant time in the Portland area so now after a couple of days in the area–I have some clear ideas of where I’d like to ride. I was particularly fond of Freeport and Casco Bay–beautiful long climbing roads with a warm salty scent of summer–it was quintessential Maine. Still, the closest sport I participated in while in Freeport was shopping the 40% sale at North Face and Patagonia.
Instead of road riding at Casco Bay, I did check out the mountain biking at Bradbury Mountain. The mountain wasn’t so much a mountain, but it was a boatload of fun at Bradbury. The trails were cut and maintained by the Gorham Bike & Ski Club according to the signs trailside. There was some great singletrack–I particularly enjoys a trail called Fox Run–a sweet run of singletrack with rocks and roots and switchbacky turns. I really enjoyed the ride–complete fun and everything mountain biking should be.
After a couple of days in Maine, we trekked north and west, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and into the Green Mountains of Vermont, and we checked into The Stowe Mountain Resort. A pricy spot, but really spectacular. We did a leisurely ride on the rec path the evening we got there. I really recommend the path for families and anyone who just wants a completely chill and pleasurable cruise. Stowe is a beautiful resort community and they do a good job letting the natural beauty speak for itself. There are several bridges and stream crossings and the path runs alongside Mountain Road with woods and farmland and a cold mountain stream running with the path.
The following day I made sure I hit the road with the ‘cross bike. Talk about climbing. It’s hard not to climb at Stowe. I climbed Mountain Road which I had anticipated being pretty rough from the car ride. It wasn’t all bad, but I hardly pulled out any QOMs according to Strava. I won’t beat myself up for it though. There are pros that train on those mountains, and I’m a 41-year-old woman who does this for fun. Most people would take one look at the hills and stick to the bike path. The scenery at every turn is epic. Only 5 miles away is the Trapp Family Lodge (cue Sound of Music soundtrack here). The mountains are just incredible, lush, green and sweeping. It’s an easy place to be and an easy place to stay.
After my big climb, I was fool enough to do a 4 mile hike to Mount Pinnacle that afternoon. The tightness in my knees doubled with foot climbing and I took a break the next couple of days. I did some light hiking to a waterfall called Bingham Falls, which was beautiful and cold and packed with people cooling off in the abnormally hot and humid temperatures.
All & all I didn’t pack in the miles one would expect out of a vacation week–I slipped from my goal of 100 per week to under 50. But the change of scenery was restorative and it was nice to do a little swimming and hiking as well to round off my activities. It’s also funny to me that I have all this great riding and exploring fairly close to home. Actually, it makes me feel pretty lucky that within 4 hours I can be truly out of the hills and into the biggest mountains the Northeast offers. It’s not the Rockies, but it’s still pretty awesome.
Last week I had a rare amount of time to myself. My ex had my son for a week of vacation, and while I had to work, I wasn’t tethered to home like I normally am. I decided to take the opportunity to set a goal of 100 miles.
This seemed a pretty reasonable goal, yet I fell short. Significantly short–by about 37 miles. I’m surprised, and disappointed. But mostly surprised. I have felt as though I’m on the bike a lot over the last few weeks. But a couple of things are dragging the mileage down:
1.) Mountain biking. I can spend an hour in the woods and travel half the distance that I do on the road. Sometime less than half.
2.) Mechanical issues. I have had the worst luck with flats this year. Thank god for my cross bike. If I didn’t have it, I would be riding at all. That said, it’s heavier and the tires aren’t as sleek as the road bike. I average about 1.5 mph slower on the cross bike. Not a huge difference, but it adds up.
3.) Choices, choices. I have to own this. I ride a lot in my lunch break, which only give me 40-60 minutes to ride. I didn’t ride after work when there were no restriction on my schedule. I still employ other forms of exercise other than cycling. So I’m active 5/6 days a week, but only 3 or 4 of those are bike rides. And the rides are just aren’t long enough to add up.
So–I’m back to the original desire: ride more, ride longer. I need some 3 hr stretches for 50 milers. This is a choice that will require a bit more commitment.
Practice really does make perfect.
It was not long ago I would take my entire bike into the LBS for a new tube. It’s a little embarrassing to admit, especially for someone like me who is an adamant do-it-yourselfer. Lay tile? Sure! Frame out a closets? Never have but hand me that 2X4. Drywall a room? Absolutely. Change a bike tire? Um….well, let’s have the professionals do that. It made no sense, and was inconvenient and unnecessarily expensive. So it was high time to learn, and now that I have, I’ve had several chances to use these new-found skills.
A few too many chances. Last week when my tire blew out, I was still grateful that I had another bike ready to go with inflated, puncture free (for the moment) tires ready to ride so I didn’t lose my opportunity to workout. But the way things are going this season, it’s unlikely they will stay that way. When I finally set out to replace my tube & tire–I approached it with the same reluctance I had so many times before. I cleared my schedule–this was going to be a while.
But I was done in 10 minutes. Boom, like that. Done in a flash. I think I’m even learning a system. I’m pretty psyched about this because I’m happy to save the time and money–but I like feeling competent and independent about doing some of my own repairs. And really, after riding as long as I have, it’s about time.