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.
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!
I’ve been absent a bit. Sorry about that, I was off trying to get my groove back.
I didn’t do that last race of the season and I struggled with the decision right up until a a day after it was over. I wasn’t going to be happy either way. I probably should have done it, but meh–I didn’t. My year’s recap is still pretty freaking good.
I had been needing a break and resisting taking one. That said I managed to back off on my rides, started playing hoop again Saturday mornings, and started running a bit and hiking. When I cycle, 90% of my rides have been on the mountain bike. Low mileage, high fun riding. Making the transition to less riding and more resting, peppered with alternative exercise has been a bit uncomfortable. However, my legs finally feel fully recovered. I’m having a lot of fun exploring a network of mountain bike trails that is close by and I haven’t fully explored due to my focus on mileage and CX training.
I plan to approach 2013 with some seriousness in training. I plan to race again next fall, and I’m looking at building a credible base and at last some speed. I plan to upgrade my Strava membership, purchase a US Cycling License, and dive headfirst into heart rate, suffer scores, and watt analysis. I have about 5-7 pounds to lose, but I’m giving myself until September to do that
I’ll chronicle more tangible goals and events after Christmas. But for the last few days of 2012, I’m going to keep riding the mountain bike, increase my running distance and frequency, and enjoying my women’s pickup games, which have really taken off this year (I’m actually playing guard for the first time in my life, since 50% of the women showing up are 5’11″ – 6’1″ -I am 5’8″ in shoes).
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.
Mid fifties in March isn’t too shabby, and like everyone else in the northeast, I wasn’t going to let this day get away.
I did my normal loop from the house, which brings me through 3 towns via back roads. On my route, a car slowed and pulled alongside me. A very happy and excited guy struck up a conversation with me. He told me he was on his way home to suit up and get out on the bike too. Funny how warmer weather makes us all a little nicer to one another.
I took the cross bike out for this ride. Not that we have a lot of sand on the roads since winter was so mild, but the off road tires made me work a bit harder. I came home and inhaled a nice big cup of coffee and some homemade spinach feta pizza. Yum.
So, 21 miles, about 1 1/2hr with stops for traffic and a quick snapshot of the tricross. I’ll take it.
PS-I must not be used to the fresh air because I’d like nothing more than to take a big fat nap right now.
After all these years I had finally done it–I had achieved the workout schedule I always wanted to achieve but life commitments would not allow me to have.
5 Days a week.
Yup, a girl can dream. And I did. And finally, yes finally–I was working out 5 days week. 3 days running, and 1-2 spinning on the trainer (it is winter after all), and 1 day of pickup basketball. And then, to get a little crazy, I was even doing some cross training with weights, cardio and pilates. This was the off-season, and I wanted to switch a few things up so I could got into the spring, summer and fall cycling stronger than ever.
So what’s the problem?
Nerve Pain. Beginning in the shoulder, shooting over my arm, missing it completely, before electrifying my hand and in particular, my thumb. What caused this? In short, a desk job. So now I’m working on a more ergonomic workstation and with a physical therapist, who has determined my spine is cranked at where my neck spine meets my back spine (highly technical jargon, I know). 3 days a week my PT, a very nice woman, tries to pull my head off my body. It’s helping.
Runner’s knee. Or so I’m told. Sharp bright pain at the tip of my knee cap and behind the knee. I have flat feet so this isn’t a surprise, and it really started becoming a problem when I was edging closer to 4 mile runs. I have an appointment with a podiatrist and will have orthotics made to correct my alignment, which should help. In the meantime I’ve rested from running, and have replaced some of those workouts with more trainer work (which I’m actually enjoying).
Torn Shoulder Muscles in right shoulder. I did this during a weights/cardio workout. I made it worse by thinking it was just a pulled muscle and played hoops for 90 minutes the next morning. It’s been a month, and it’s still healing.
These setbacks have been really limiting me from the roll I was on. I’m trying not to feel frustrated with this, rather calling it a “recovery week” or assigning it some holistically beneficial name to make me feel better about not being as active. So, just as I’m feeling a bit better–enough to ride anyway, then comes…..
Yet Another Setback
That would be food poisoning. And it was a doozy. I was the cook, and it was a bad avocado. I think this permanently puts me off Mexican food. I really thought I was ER bound, and although others say they have experienced sweating, fainting, and tingling numbness in the face, hands, arms and legs in addition to not being able to walk or really move under your own power, and with the cursory involuntary reactions of all kinds that take place during an episode of food poisoning. This happened 2 days ago and I’m still getting my strength back.
So, to all my setbacks, I say–uncle. You win. Now let me up off the floor. I need to get back to training.
It’s winter in the Northeast and despite some pretty warm temps, I haven’t really been out on the bike. I have been running a lot, and going longer and faster. Running has never been a true love like cycling, but I have grown accustomed to it and appreciate the efficiency of the workout. While I have no plans to replace cycling with running, I am trying to strike a balance between the two sports.
- Running is easier to fit into my schedule and requires less prep time and less equipment.
- I can run from my office and have immediate access to the bike trail or long country roads along the cornfields and tobacco barns.
- Being able to run allows me more choices in participating in events.
I have been spinning on the trainer some–and after all these years I am actually taking some pleasure in doing so. I find I can spin longer with all the running miles in my legs. I’m excited to get out on the road or trail to prove the running a great supplement to my overall fitness.
I have developed a few nagging injuries from the higher impact of running. My left shin is tender and sore. My right foot occasionally will singe with a bright spidering pain radiating from the ball of my foot if I step just the wrong way. My right knee is snapping and wobbly, and I occasionally have pain in the back of my knee. All of these injuries are minor yet troublesome, and I can only think the bike may provide some relief to the high impact of running and bring my workouts back into balance.
I think at one point over the last couple of years, I simply burned out on the bike–specifically the road bike. I primarily rode the mountain bike last year and really enjoyed getting back to riding in the woods again. I had 4 LIVESTRONG events in 5 years and I used these events as a way to focus my rides for a greater purpose. At some point this stopped being a motivator and started being a chore. That’s not what cycling should be.
That’s why I’ve been running more, and mountain biking almost exclusively the last 18 months or so.
Now I feel more ready to return to road cycling again, and I’m looking forward to longer rides of 40, 50, or 60 miles. I want to continue mountain biking, and get out on the cross bike some more–especially to explore those fire roads in Franklin County. All and all I finally feel I have a job that will allow me to more fully enjoy both sports on a more regular basis, and I plan to take full advantage (I already am!).
Last winter we were buried under a few feet of snow by this point. The last few winters have been pretty standard New England style winters–harsh, cold, and plenty of snow and ice. I finally broken down and bought a new pair of skis to re-enter the sport of skiing during the off-season.
But this year? We’re all scratching our heads. We started with a ridiculous snowstorm on October 29 with major tree damage, downed limbs, split trees in two, dropped live power line and rendered most of my valley without power for 4 days (some went as long as 9). Since then we’ve had one cold day–otherwise we’re hanging out in the 40′s, which is really no big deal. I should be riding my bike more–really, there is no excuse.
The best winter riding when there is an absence of snow is mountain biking, in my opinion. The ground is hard and fast and the trails are relatively free of foot traffic. But here in New England, we are still–yes, still–cleaning up after the freak Halloween snowstorm.
Fortunately, the cycling community here is active and went to work quickly on one of the best network of mountain biking trails in the area. Bachelor Street is well-known by the MTBers in the area as *the* place to ride. A few weekends after the storm, I was out for a road ride with my friend Gail and we met up at Bachelor’s dirt parking lot as a central location. We were both surprised to see a small group of mountain bikers chatting post ride by their cars. We asked how the trails were out there–expecting everything to be a hot mess, when we learned they were out clearing the trails for rides, and reported a long list of clear trails. We thanked them for their dedication–it’s folks like them who give freely of their own time all for the love of the trail. Most of us hadn’t even finished picking up our yards and this group had already cleared miles of trails on one end of the Holyoke Range.
Although I haven’t been out to Bachelor this winter–I know it’s in good shape, and will think of that little group of men and women, happily chatting by their cars on a cold November day after one of the most talked about New England storms of my lifetime.
Mountain biking never leaves me at a loss for metaphors.
Today was no exception. Temps soared into the mid fifties, and I took the opportunity to head out to Batchelor Street for some trail riding. Each year I make my first mountain bike ride at Batchelor, and I always, always forget just how tough Batchelor can be. This ride was no different. Soft snow, patches of hard ice, and rotten ice added some interest to the already varied terrain. Additionally, there are some good little climbs out there, climbs that are chuck full of jagged rocks and the shallow root systems of white pines. I started to berate myself for dismounting so often.
But then, I changed my outlook a bit. Reminding myself that I never climbed those climbs on my first run of the year, I decided that instead of killing myself to power up those tough hilly trails, I would instead focus on riding through what I could ride. I focused on negotiating obstacles instead of powering through them.
I rode through the rotten ice and snow, the muddy puddles and stream crossings, the deeply embedded rocks and slippery roots. By the end of my ride, I was riding the trail instead of fighting it. Ah, I thought. This is that Zen quality I appreciate so much about mountain biking. Cold air. Still forest. And my bike flowing through the woods like the melting snow.
Nothing brought me more peace today than this. I felt good again about my bike handling skills. And I felt that this technique can, and should be applied to other aspects of life. Slow down, don’t worry about power right now, focus on technique. Focus on the trail underneath you. Nothing could have polished up my skills better.
Five whole months. That’s how long it has been since I last rode outside. This was in part, intentional. But I haven’t been off the bike this long since pregnancy, since the surgery that followed. For at least 5 years.
When the babysitter arrived I opened the door for her and realized just how beautiful it was outside. I was giddy with happiness. I was going for a ride.
I clipped in and took off down my street. What was most apparent to me in the first moments of the ride was that the memory of fitness lasts longer than the body’s ability to retain it. I knew the depths of my endurance, but I was like a pool drained and left stagnant for the winter. I needed to replenish my depth.
After the first 30 minutes I felt myself return — at least a little bit. I was on a familiar route and I knew what kind of typical output was necessary for certain climbs. I was still better than my first 5 years of riding, not as good a my last 5. That’s ok, I told myself. It’s the first ride of the season. Despite the diminished climbing abilities (and let’s be frank, I was never much of a climber), the long stretches were still smooth and quick. My average speed was about where my first rides of the year start off. Last year I didn’t have this slow start because I was so diligent on the trainer. But I can’t remember feeling so happy to be on the bike after such a long hiatus; the smile plastered across my face as I pedaled along my old route, a streak of speckled mud straight up my back. I loved the spray from passing cars in my face, kicking up water from the melting snow. I dodged potholes, pedaled fishtailing through muddy spots on the edge of the roadside. It was undeniably spring. Spring! With our snowbanks and seemingly impenetrable fields of ice damming the roads into carved swaths of crumbling asphalt, it was spring!
PS – snow forecasted for Monday