Diane Nyad wants to go to Cuba. Very badly.
It’s her #XtremeDream to swim from Cuba to Florida–no one has ever done it before. No one knows if it’s even possible. Only a world class athlete could possibly make it the 103 miles. She already holds the World Record for swimming. But here’s the wrinkle in the plot….and it’s quite a wrinkle indeed. Diana Nyad is 64 years old.
Yes, you heard me. She’s a year away from Medicare. She’s 401K eligible. She’s old enough to be your mother twice over.
She’s the badass, Diana Nyad is. Her relentless pursuit of what many think is impossible is what makes her so completely inspiring to me. She’s tried twice and failed, suffering life threatening injuries from poisonous jellyfish like box jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war. And then there are the sharks. Great white ones.
Let us not forget the amount of time she’ll be swimming. For at least 60 hours. No resting, no sleeping. Pausing to eat but remaining in the water. No lifejacket. No holding on the the side of the boat that will remain with her. This will be her 5th attempt. In 1979 Diana broke the world record for distance swimming for both men and women. That record still stands today.
Diana borrows from poet Mary Oliver and asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It’s a worthwhile question, and strikes truth quickly. Tomorrow morning Diana will enter the dark water and try again for her XtremeDream. It doesn’t matter if she reaches Cuba or not, she’s proven to the world she is not to be discounted. Never to be trifled with. She’s Diana Nyad; completely awe-inspiring, Always reaching stroke by stroke toward her dream, in and out of the water.
And so it begins.
The Monson Cyclocross Race will be held just one week from today. By this time next week, I’ll be one race in to a 10 race season (at least). I’m hoping to feel tired, happy with my effort, and enjoying a burrito from La Casita Azteca.
I’ve been super busy these past few weeks, riding whenever I can and not feeling like I’m getting enough miles into my legs. Last week I attended a CX clinic near my office in Connecticut (I now work in CT). It was only an hour long but I picked up some tips and identified some really bad habits that are classic to beginners. Truthfully, I realized how out of practice I was with basic ‘cross skills–not that I had a ton of skills to begin with–I am still super new to this game. I have just one week to smooth out my dismount and remount. The barriers I need work on too–this is harder to replicate but I have a makeshift barrier I built last year I can resurrect for backyard practice.
I couple of weeks ago I visited the site of the race and used the Strava Explore feature to walk parts of the course. I wanted to ride parts, but my bored and uninterested son wasn’t having it…..so we hiked it instead. I found a video as well, which helps me visualize mentally what to expect.
I have a friend riding in the Men’s Cat 4–actually my friend’s boyfriend, and his race goes at 9AM, while mine’s not until 2. I’m hoping to get some tips from him after the fellas in his group break in the course. I finally understand now the timing of getting a pre-ride in before the event–which in my opinion is crucial. That too will help me prepare just before the event.
Monson’s course seems to be just the kind I like–lots of off-road stuff, technical, lots of turns, not just a grass crit. That said, I’m in the Women’s Open category, which means I’ll get my ass handed to me by the rest of the field. I’m a Masters Cat 4. Those Cat 1, 2, and 3s will ride roughshod over me. So, time to review my goals (in order of importance) for this race and all others.
- Have fun.
- Stay upright.
- Don’t finish last.
- Middle pack.
- Top 50%
I usually hit the first 4 consistently. I have touched the middle of the pack but it runs away from me in the middle of every race, I’m still chasing that one. One of my overall goals for 2013 is to finish in the middle more often than not. I doubt Monson will be the race where that happens.
Making the top 50% in a race is also a goal for me this year. This is a little more dangerous for me to talk about. I think this is well within grasp, but I don’t want to set myself up for too much disappointment, either. We’ll see what happens. I’m in better physical condition overall and have a lighter faster bike, but Goal # 1-HAVE FUN-should always take precedence over all other goals. My competitive nature aside, the fun is in racing bikes with a bunch of other people crazy enough to love cyclocross as much as you do.
At the CX Clinic, I overheard some attendees talking just before it started. One guy said “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m a triathlete, you cyclocrossers are crazy.” Another rider replied, “Are you kidding? Triathlons are the crazy sport!” And that’s just it–right there. There’s no shame in this game. We’re all out here to have fun and challenge ourselves. We all work up in our heads why we aren’t going to be good at something, why we might fail, why this all might not work out. But we still show up, and say what the hell? You only live once. And then get on our bikes and slip behind the tape.
Cyclocross season is starting. Come play with us.
It happened again. Saturday I went out for a hilly 37 miles on the CX bike. It was a great ride, cloudy, humid, mid to high 80′s but halfway refreshing considering how oppressive it’s been here in New England. When I got home, I was thoroughly spent, but in a completely joyous way. I hadn’t bonked. I went through my water and was dry the last 15 minutes or so, but began drinking immediately post ride. My ride ended around 3PM.
I showered, changed, had a lovely, healthy dinner–a little white wine in hand, I happily grilled chicken on the BBQ while my other half made us a nice fresh salad and a warm buttery baguette. It was an ideal way to spend a Saturday. Happy, relaxed, well fed, I settled down to watch some television.
At about 10:45PM, my head started hurting. Bad. By 10:50PM I was clutching my skull and rubbing, trying to knead out the pain as if my head had a knot in it that just needed to be worked out. The nausea kicked in at this time as well. 11:00PM I abandoned the movie I was watching and retired to the bedroom, plugging in a heating pad to wrap around my throbbing head.
11:15PM I went to the bathroom. Not my normal time of day–but my body had other ideas.
11:20PM I tried to got back to bed. My head was enveloped in indescribable pain. I was exhausted and only wanted to escape into sleep. I’d close my eyes and my mind would speed up. A bizarre show unfolded behind my closed eyes, a fast twisty ride filled with surreal images that I couldn’t slow down or stop. Moving constantly, I opened my eyes and the pain amplified, but the crazy ride stopped. The nausea intensified. I made the decision to return to the bathroom.
11:30PM I vomited. More than once. Maybe 4 times in a row. I don’t know, I was pretty sick and my brain wasn’t working well at this point. The only think I knew was that the pain had set up camp in my brain and I only had one trick left to beat the migraine back. I stripped down and turned the shower on hot. I sat in the shower–sat–for about 30 minutes, the hot water working my scalp, my neck, my back. I felt the pain ease and lift. Not vanish but it abated for long enough I felt I might be able to sneak into bed and fall asleep. I did. I slept 8 hours straight and felt completely fine in the morning.
I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but it isn’t. More like, the 7th? 8th? It always happens when my life gets so busy that I don’t take regular care of myself–I rush, I hurry, I skip the basics just to get in that ride. I should have been drinking lots of liquids on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the weekend. Each day, I sweat our fluids. I’m sweating when I blow my hair dry, when I walk to the car, even just sitting inside and watching TV. The AC can’t keep up with the intensity of this heat.
I had a goal of 100 miles last week. 35 on Saturday, and another 35 on Sunday and I would have made it. I’ve been doing mileage like this all year, that and much longer. But after Saturday’s hydration failure, my other half insisted I take it easy. I usually would fight about it, but this time I had to agree.
I really need to get my arms around, and KEEP them around this problem I have. I wonder if others experience this problem like I do. I know what happened to me is a result of classic dehydration. I sweat easily and I’m probably losing fluids when I’m not working out–something I really need to be more aware of. I should have a refillable water container at my desk all day and in the car. And I should indulge in some Gatorade from time to time. So–just curious–anyone else have this problem? Care to share? Please comment if you would.
It seems incredible that in 7 short weeks, the first set of weekend cyclocross races will take place here in Massachusetts.
The Monson Cyclocross Race will be held on Saturday, August 24, 2013 and the Blunt Park Cyclocross Race in Springfield, MA follows on Sunday. I’ve never done either of these races but they are said to be easier, fairly fast, not so technical courses. If I’m smart, I’ll find some time to check out both courses (thank you Strava for already having previous races mapped out for easy recon).
Also, if I’m smart, I’ll knock off the garbage I’ve been eating. I have taken advantage of the months of extra riding by enjoying one of the few renewable pleasures in life–eating. I have become especially close with two old friends, Ben and Jerry. This needs to stop. Really it does. I should carve off 5-8 lbs. from my frame for me to really feel like I’m giving this cyclocross season a serious go.
But what really is a serious go for a 42 year old woman racing her 2nd season of Cat 4 cross? Yes, I still need to remind myself that this is all in fun and not let the competitive side of me take over. That said, my main competitor is myself. I only wish to improve.
I have the bike this year, the Kona Major Jake. And Jake, she is fast. Oh Lord is she fast. I’m shocked at the uptick in my times. But with it’s light frame comes it’s squirrely handling on descents. I’m a great descender. As crappy as I climb, I can go down anything. But Jake, she bounces as she rifles down hills. I have to get a better handle on this. The bike is slightly big for me. We addressed this during the initial fit but even with a shorter stem, I don’t have as much control on the handlebars and the brakes that I need for those downhill sections. More practice and some minor adjustments and I should be good, but I’d like the extra time to feel solid on this bike.
7 Weeks. Enough time to be ready for the CX kick off. 5 lbs lighter in the lycra and at least 7 lbs lighter in bike? Yup, I’m really eager to see how this plays out in my overall performance.
Middle of the pack, here I come.
I’m not a morning person, but in order to maintain continuity in my fitness, I’ve started getting up early to ride. I wake between 5 or 6am, sneak in an hour or so, shower, dress, and then drive 45 minutes to work. I’ve been about to eek out some mileage by doing this. I’ve also avoided the wave of afternoon thunderstorms that have been plaguing the Northeast for the past 3 weeks. It’s so hot, humid, and wet here, there are few opportunities to ride without overheating or getting doused.
The early morning rides are nice. Few cars. The sun rising. A hint of coolness still in the air. Animals. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful way to wake up. Until last week, when as I was cresting a hill just two towns away at about 6:30AM, when I head this ringing pop from my front wheel. The bike immediately slowed. I pulled over and discovered one of my spokes dangling helplessly from the rim.
So what happens when you bust a spoke is your wheel warps. This makes the wheel impossible to spin. I was only 6 miles from home but on a truck route with no sidewalks, and as I mentioned, it was 6:30AM. I called my girlfriend who did not answer. I started to walk home with the front wheel lifted parallel to the ground. I was traipsing across front lawns, my cleats sinking into the wet, soft earth. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t getting home for another 1.5 hours which would certainly make me late for my new job, which is a 45 minute commute one way. It was a “save thyself” situation. I stopped on a front lawn and removed the errant spoke entirely. Then I was able to bully the wheel just straight enough to roll through the brakes, which I had opened wide. I wouldn’t have front brakes. And my wheel was still pretty warped, but it would roll. So I would roll with it.
I gingerly rolled home, slow but a heck of a lot faster than walking would have been. I made it to work on time and still got my workout for the day.
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 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!
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.
Like most cyclists, I am a self-confessed data junkie. Because I love data, analysis, and retooling performance to achieve better numbers, I had resisted plunging all the way down the rabbit hole by getting a heart rate monitor. But after last season’s cross racing experiment, I decided–I’m in. Let’s do this, the right way. With data and stats and some real training. So I asked Santa, and Santa delivered.
My new HR Monitor is a Garmin and works with my Garmin Edge 500. I tested it out on my “high intensity day” yesterday and here was the result, as provided by my Garmin data and Strava:
I’ve started playing with the Miller Formula to learn where I should be. I am quickly learning that a lot of this is subjective, and not everyone is the same. According to the formula, my maximum heart rate is 181. But clearly my numbers are actually higher. These numbers are appropriate because it was a high intensity training ride, and designed to make my performance faster. But I should be hanging out in 130-150 zone to build endurance.
Heart Rate Zones for Exercising Chart:
* Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) = 50 – 60% of maximum heart rate:
* Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) = 60 – 70% of maximum heart rate
* Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) = 70 – 80% of maximum heart rate
* Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) = 80 – 90% of maximum heart rate
* Red Line (Maximum Effort) = 90 – 100% of maximum heart rate
More to come on this as I learn more about training within heart rate zones. The reading I’ve done so far indicate that mixing things up will make me strong, fast and with enough endurance to last.
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.