Tonight I learned a friend from high school passed away. We we not close, but she was on Facebook, I was on Facebook, and she actively shared her life with that community.
This sad event has given me some pause, as I read the outpouring of kind words of remembrance on her page. She always seemed overwhelmingly positive, openly expressing her joy with her fiancée, her small dog, and they life they had carved out together. I had gathered from her posts that she was dealing with a long term illness as she mentioned several times through the years about going to Mass General for procedures or treatments. She frequently dealt with migraines and fatigue as well. Beyond that, I do not know what she was fighting, but today she passed away in her sleep.
We all make plans and have dreams, and by this point in life we realize that the plans we once had might not work out the way we hoped. Some off us get distracted, are led astray, get wrapped up in careers and marriages that don’t always go the way we wanted. Some of us think that if we had just a little more money we’d be happier, or if we had a different job, or more time, we’d do those things we always wanted to. We’d see our family more. We’d reach out to our own communities. We’d give back more. We’d serve these people in our lives they way we want to, if we had the time.
I feel this way constantly, and this death has snapped these feelings into the front of my mind to deal with. They have been lingering in the background, growing larger as I advance into my forties, but the death of a peer really pushes them forward for me. I feel like a wait a lot. I don’t like waiting. I feel confined by my situation often. That’s a shitty way to feel about a relatively awesome life.
One thing I feel I’ve gotten right, with regard to living this life, is cycling. Pursuing this passion has made me a happier person. It’s been a companion through hard times, and happy times. Cycling helps me, heals me, makes me stronger, and invigorates my spirit. I think I’m proud to be a cyclist because I wasn’t always one. I decided to be one.
But even more important than the bike, I have an AMAZING son who I’m immeasurably grateful for. He is a sweet, generous, bright kid and I’m so very proud of him. I have a modest home in a fine neighborhood in a decent town. I have a job. I have a cat, and although he wakes me up to be feed and let out at 4am every day, I love him too. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t constantly, and I mean constantly, whirl my brain around the things that I want to change but don’t feel I can. The passing of this classmate really illustrates that life needs to be lived. Things don’t matter, people do. People and experiences, kindness, learning, and love. Love matters most of all.
If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably heard me talk about the chronic problem I have with post-ride migraines and general sickness. The more intense the ride, the worse it is. This experience seems inconsistent, but I’m sure it isn’t. I’ve tinkered with hydration, pre and post….and that seems to help, but isn’t bulletproof.
Then I came across this article about how post workout nutrition on the bike is different for woman compared to men. The article leads with the popular notion of chocolate milk as a “perfect” recovery drink (an idea I was totally on board with) as being “not enough” for women.
Disappointing, because I freaking love chocolate milk.
But this was good information. The biggest take away I got was this tidbit:
“Women have a much smaller window than men—30 minutes versus 2-plus hours—in which to optimize recovery through nutrition.”
This week I’m on a stay-cation from work and riding a ton. The perfect time to tweak my pre, during, and post fueling habits. Here’s the rundown:
Friday Rode 3 x (partial commute to and from work and then MTB in evening) Headache by 9PM
Saturday Rode 21.6 miles hard in heavy headwinds. Headache by 7PM
Sunday day off
Monday Mountain biked HARD in extreme terrain for 6.7 miles or 1.5 hrs. Headache and muscle fatigue by 8PM
At this point, I made some changes. Water bottle filled with 70% Gatorade, 30% water. Sip every 20 minutes. Eat every hour while biking. Eat immediately after ride is done. Things changed for the better after that.
Tuesday Rode 36 miles on the road and then did a 2nd ride– 5 miles mountain biking on moderately difficult trails. NO HEADACHE, NO ILL EFFECTS
Wednesday Rode same 5 miles mountain biking on moderately difficult trails. Went home, had lunch. Rode an easy 15 miles after lunch on the road. NO HEADACHE, NO ILL EFFECTS.
Eating and the timing of eating, combined with some beverage that assists in keeping my sodium and electrolytes in balance seem key. The timing is just as important as the ingredients. I’ve visualized it as keeping this balanced nutrition in the pipeline, preloaded, and post-loaded.
Today I’m taking a rest and recovery day. I’ve done 67 miles this week and my legs, hips, and back are hurting. The mountain biking (on my new Giant) has been super intense and awesome. My legs are literally twitching from the effort over the last week. Tomorrow I plan on mountain biking again, in the rain no less. I need to check out a race course about 25 miles from here in the middle of nowhere. I’m going alone and a little worried about it, and wanted fresh legs for the adventure.
Saturday was the planned #bikeschool New England ride. Somehow, I was to be the co-leader of this ride. I found a route, rode a recon ride, recorded it for everyone to check out. My co-partner in climb, Lou, created the event on Eventbrite and we both shared the hell out of it on social media. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating and we called the ride off. But the group got together anyway to enjoy brunch at Sylvester’s in Northampton, MA and chat about bikes.
My childcare had fallen through for the day anyway–so I was happy not to miss the ride, even though we all ended up missing it. We all strolled around Northampton afterwards, and a couple of us had our kids along–who were appropriately kid-like.
We all had a great time and it was nice to meet some “virtual” friends from the Twitterverse. I’m sure we will reschedule out ride for another time–hopefully the weather gods will be kinder next time.
My first love, mountain biking, is being rekindled with the long awaited arrival of my newest toy: The 2014 Giant XtC 27.5 Mountain Bike. It’s been 14 years…..YEARS…since I bought a new MTB. It was time. I probably could have done smarter things with the money, but after putting my first love on the backburner year after year, I took a look at my chronological age and thought if it was going to happen, it probably should happen now.
The XtC is a fairly reasonable mid level bike. Not carbon but lighter than what I’ve been riding, even with it’s disc brakes. I’m also on a larger wheel, a 27.5 (650b). I demoed the XtC 29er and the 27.5 and found the 27.5 much nimbler and responsive than the 29er. The 29er rolls fast but I found you needed to plan turns. When I mountain bike, I find it a reactionary experience…quick decision making on the trail and nimble handling is much appreciated. I’m riding a real upgrade in the XtC. Here are just a few highlights:
- RockShox Recon Gold with 15mm thru-axle, OverDrive steerer suspension fork
- Shimano SLX/Deore 2×10-speed drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes
- Giant S-XC2 27.5 double wall rim, Giant Tracker hub, stainless steel spoke wheelset
I’d like to report more on the riding experience, but truth is, I got it on Saturday and haven’t had a chance to ride it yet. It’s driving me a little insane to have this machine in my living room with 62 degree perfect degree days and me not having the time to ride it. I mean to remedy it soon, and as soon as I do, I’ll give a full rundown of it’s awesomeness.
I nailed my first QOM* of the season a few days ago. The best thing about this was that I wasn’t trying.
I was the current QOM and rode this segment many, many times. It’s a flat stretch of farmland connecting two main drags close to my home in a neighboring town. When I approached it, I thought to myself “just give it a solid steady effort, and see where you land.” I was not an all-out, vomit when your finished effort. It was a steady push. I beat my PR by 8 whole seconds.
What? How the hell did that happen?
I’ve been the popsicle rider all winter long, not riding much, not nearly enough. My schedule has again become insane. Between working all day a state away, 90+ minutes of car commute per day, my son’s extracurricular sports activities, and visiting my father, who has been in a hospital in Boston for the past 5 weeks (with many more to go), I have had very little opportunity to do what I want to on a bicycle.
It’s easy for me, at this point, to go on a rant about the unreasonable demands on my schedule, and moreover , my life. I’m stressed. So what? So are you.
If you think that those 6 miles road bike rides mean nothing, you are wrong. They do. If you think taking the stairs at work 3 times a week doesn’t make a difference, you’re wrong again. It does. If you think that because you worked a 12 hour day and all you could manage was a jog around the block with your kid riding his bike next to you doesn’t mean you are exercising enough to matter……guess what? It does.
My desire to ride my bike for as much and as long as possible have never been in question. I share a common frustration with millions of Americans who want to lose a few pounds, feel stronger, and get some exercise. We have no time. If you feel like cycling is something you love to do–don’t feel like you need to do a certain amount of it in order to “qualify” as a cyclist. Little efforts can be impactful, and they are. Cycling, as well as any fitness activity, is cumulative.
That doesn’t mean that when you do have the time, you shouldn’t hammer. Don’t stop trying to get a 3 hour ride in. Or a 4 hour ride in. And if you’re feeling cheeky, try a good 30 mile ride and chase it with a 2 or 3 mile run. Don’t stop the effort. Make it a steady one. Because steady efforts, always pushing it just a bit, can make you the QOM of your next mountain.
*QOM: Queen of the Mountain–an achievement for fastest women’s time of a road segment on the fitness tracker application, Strava KOM: King of the Mountain for the fellas.
It’s been a long hard winter for most of us–I couldn’t write here anymore because I didn’t think it would help to complain. So I didn’t. I was always here through, biding my time. Now that Spring is here, I’m ready to begin again.
Not that I ever fully stopped, but this year has had a slow start. I still have snow in my yard, but for all road biking purposes, it’s gone. Roads are wet with melt and muddy with sand that hasn’t been swept, but who cares? It’s above freezing at last. I’m way behind where I was last year in terms of fitness and miles, but not so far gone that it will take me long to ramp up.
Saturday I got out for a just shy of 40 mile ride, with a huge climb right in the middle. I’d like to start doing at least one “big” ride a week. Right now big is 40 miles. But soon I’d like to get 50-60-70 miles at a time. I’m trying to stick to my plan in terms of working out–right now I’m only averaging 3x/week. I’d prefer 5, but that will come. I started running again, once or twice a week. I have my eye on an off road duathlon in April that I’ve done a few times before. I’m talking my brother into doing it with me (this time I’d like to beat him). It’s a 1.8 mile trail run, 5.5 mile MTB/CX off road ride, followed by another 1.8 mile trail run. It’ll be done in an hour, but it’s a nice warm up for racing this year and I like the cross-training aspect of a duathlon.
The one tweak this time is that I’ll be doing it on my cyclocross bike. The other times I did this race I did it on my mountain bike. But I asked the race promoter and yes, CX bikes are legal. They are also a hell of a lot faster. I’m not a fast runner, and last time I was in the last 1/3 of the race after the run, and then moved up considerably during the bike portion of the race. Unfortunately, the running at the end pushed me back again. I’ll take any advantage I can get, and the carbon fiber Kona will do nicely.
Everyone get on your bikes! Spring is here!
Mid march and the icy grips of winter seem to be easing at last. Like most cyclists, I’ve pushed back any kind of structured training week after week, trying to stay active by shoveling snow, skiing and snowshoeing. I’ve ignored the trainer because I freaking hate it. Sorry but the trainer sucks. I’d rather ride in the snow (and sometimes I have).
I’m not really sweating it, but I’m eager to get started. My schedule is tough but I’m pretty good at wringing a workout out my my busy life. To get started, I’m looking at different events to guide my training goals through the spring and summer. The Fall will take care of itself and be exclusively focused on cyclocross (of course). Here’s what I’m looking at for spring/early summer. Nothing definite but here’s the (very short) list:
Rockbuster Duathlon-Ashland, MA. Saturday April 19th, 2014
This is a 1.8 trail run, 5.5 mile off road bike, 1.8 trail run. I’ve done this race twice before in the fall under the name of Mud, Sweat and Gears. It’s a good event, a mass start, and a lot of fun running around the woods. I contacted the race organizer and asked if cyclocross bikes were allowed and they are! I’m going to see if my little brother can join me for this one, as he has before.
Root 66 Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race-Ware, MA Sunday June 1, 2014
This one is close by. Sort of. The landowners encourage pre-riding so I hope to get out there in May to recon the course. I’m planning on renewing my US Cycling License and will be doing the Cat 3 (Beginner) Masters Women Race. I’ll be a little nervous only because I haven’t done a mountain bike race in about 12 years. I don’t plan on doing any other MTB races at this point but I’m surfing bikereg.com to see if anything looks fun and is on a free weekend. The best part about this race is that I plan to be on a brand new bike by that time. As soon as the government forks over my tax return I’m marching down to the LBS and picking out a new bike. Yay!
I’m still considering the summer. I need to connect with Laura of PA for a century ride, either organized or not. It would be my first century ever. I’m looking at doing an Obstacle Course Race for fun (and for beer). I’m also looking at the D2R2 at the end of summer (as I consider this every summer, I still have yet to sign up) plus a few other events. Lots of want to’s. There will only be a few that will work out for me. Meh–this is how is goes. I do what I can.