Oh Vermont, I want to run away with you forever.
But for now, I just have the occasional jaunt north. Last weekend, it was for the Muddy Onion-a gravel ride kicking off in Montpelier and looping across 3,700 feet of green mountain goodness on mostly gravel roads. Laura & I signed up back in February, and as the event got closer, Gail and Matt decided to join us. A couple of my KIT cyclocross teammates Kathy & Michele also signed up. The bike tribe gathered to celebrate the end of winter.
Gail & I Laura met up at my place Friday afternoon and we carpooled up to the state capital, Packet pick up was a cinch at Onion River Sports. Matt had already arrived and the 4 of us dined at The Skinny Pancake–a first for me and definitely not a last! Crepes for dinner were A+.
Saturday morning, the weather for the ride could not have been more perfect. Mid 60’s in late April in Vermont was unusually warm but no one was complaining. We rolled out, and up, and up, and up. We were on gravel within just a couple of miles and stayed on gravel 90% of the time.
The views were beautiful and the rest stops stocked with maple syrup shots, chocolate covered bacon and Pabst Blue Ribbon. We climbed, talked, traded idle chit chat with fellow riders and enjoyed every moment of the 35 miles in picturesque Vermont.
After the ride we enjoyed a free beer and veggie burgers and BBQ chicken. Back to the motel for a quick shower and we went back into town on a mission to find coffee and Zero Gravity Beer. Unavailable in Massachusetts and brewed in Burlington,VT- both Gail and I discovered this independently and have been fans ever since. We found it in liquor store in downtown Montpelier, and cleaned the place out. The store clerk entertained us with stories of his southern Georgia catholic-hebrew upbringing–a delightful encounter with a unconventionally lovely fellow.
Gail, Laura and I returned to Massachusetts that evening and rode mountain bikes in thunderstorm the next day. Bikes and friends and great food and drink all weekend. I feel happy and blessed to have these getaways to remind me of what a balanced life is like. Occasionally I get it.
Last weekend I raced the Fat Tire Classic–a mountain bike race I’ve never done but had wanted to do for years. Up before 6:30am on a Sunday, I was seriously questioning why this was important — a Cat 3, 35+ event at 9am a state away. My stomach was feeling off all morning and I was tired and unmotivated. Already running late, I was concerned to find the LONGEST pre-reg line I’ve ever seen in my life. I barely got to the start on time and with no course inspection whatsoever, we went.
Then, I proceeded to have one of the greatest races of my life. Not because I’m all that. I was lucky enough to be very evenly matched with another woman. First place was long gone but my race was the race for second. I was 3rd, then 2nd, then 3rd, then 2nd again. I’m not sure how often we traded places by but the second lap we had traded names and complimented each other on the spirited rivalry.
In the end, I held her off to claim second, but another mile of trail and it very well could have been her taking the second spot on the podium. We hugged after the race and I thanked her. So seldom do I get a real race in these events, and she really gave me that, which made the day for me.
I bagged out of the duathlon I signed up for last February and entered a mountain bike race instead last weekend. Originally this race was to be held at Hodges Dam, but the heavy rains flooded part of the race course so organizers decided to move it to Wallum Lake at Douglas State Forest in Douglas, MA.
The course was a 6.6 mile loop of flat fire roads, rocky singletrack, and doubletrack trails. I entered the over 40 cat 3 race and did 2 laps. My start was great, I was second then first, then it all faded away. I burned all my matches and 3 miles in, I was regretting wearing long sleeves under my jersey, even though temps were just in the 50s.
The single track was very rocky, and I was queen of the pedal strikes. I had never ridden the course before so it was all new to me, which I know worked against me. I passed one women who flatted in the first lap. At the finish I saw her again; she repaired her flat and kept racing (props). The second lap I was mostly alone. I was passed by a under 40 woman and then we were neck and neck up a double track hill littered with rocks. I passed her on the hill, and was concentrating so much on picking the right like up the hill, I missed a left turn into the woods. Suddenly I arrived at pavement and realized I was off course, and my competitor was long gone. I doubled back and found the trail, but it cost me at least 2-3 minutes. Even though she was out of my age group, I wanted to make up what I lost. I caught sight of her again through the woods a few times and tried to close the gap, but she was too far gone. My final placement was 4th in my age group.
The race lasted 2 hours, 13.3 miles–which is no joke for a Cat 3. I was hungry and tired for the next 2 days, but the intensity of the race felt cleansing and was what I needed to set me on the path I want to be on in terms of cycling fitness. The winter was long and this was a great jump start.
I’m signed up for another MTB race this weekend, at Winding Trails in Farmington, CT. That course is supposed to be groomed, flat, fast. It will be fun to check out another place to ride. I like seeing new trails and meeting new people, as well as seeing some familiar faces from the cyclocross scene at these races. I’m hoping to do a couple more races after Winding Trails, as well as some longer, more social gravel road rides.
Last January in a fit of “oh my God I haven’t been able to ride outside in a week” desperation, I freaked out and signed up for a duathlon for mid April. I needed something to focus on. I have done the event before–a couple of times, although it’s been a few years. An off road trail run, a mountain bike ride, followed by another trail run. The while thing is done in about 90 minutes. I reasoned that the running would be a good thing to focus on throughout the winter to keep me active–and easier than trying to ride on icy roads. Plus it would get me in shape for the Spartan Event I’m doing in June (for the 4th time, God help me).
All that made a lot of sense. I had been watching Bikereg like a mother–always trying to find a couple of spring/summer events to do before cyclocross season, and it was January–so of course there wasn’t a lot posted. I got an email from the duathlon race promoted with a discount and it seemed like a perfectly good idea. I signed up.
Then about a month later, a mountain bike race was posted for the same time, same day, slightly closer to home. I figured oh well. But as it gets closer, I’m waffling.
The same thing is happening at the end of April. I’m signed up for the Muddy Onion Spring Classic. On the same day, another mountain bike race was posted 2 towns away. I am totally psyched for the Onion, but man I wish that mountain bike race was scheduled another day! I’d sign up in a heartbeat if were on another weekend.
It’s been a really long winter and it’s not quite over yet, with more snow expected on the very last day of May. I have found that I need something to look forward to to get me through long stretches like winter. Signing up for that duathlon was a sound choice but now…..now I’m looking at that mountain bike race and thinking–that’s what I’d rather be doing! I suck at running, I just tolerate it. It’s like doing homework. But a couple hours on my bike in the woods with like minded people? Yeah, that’s my jam. There is a short 5.5 mile mountain bike portion of the duathlon, so its not like I wouldn’t get bike time, but it just doesn’t feel the same.
Ignorance is bliss, choices paralyze us. If I bag out on the duathlon and lose the $70 fee, and sign up for the mountain bike race, and then have a bad time at the race, will I be full of regret for changing my mind because of a little FOMO? Or is this just an example of going with my gut?
My gut love bikes, and it’s been a long, long winter.
Plans are underway for another off road getaway with Laura and Gail, and with interest from others building from our respective Facebook feeds. Upstate New York is the place, deep in the Hudson River Valley.
Bikepacking was the original plan, and I have a better rear saddle bag this year that I’m dying to test out, but this is shaping up to be more of a camping trip with bikes, with some minor bikepacking required to reach the campsite which is off the beaten path and away from parking. The bonus is our vehicles will be nearby enough and it will be easy to cache food and supplies there, but far enough away to feel a bit more off the grid. And there is less stress around route planning, which takes up an enormous amount of time.
Camping is primitive and we can obtain a permit for up to 10 women. There has been interest expressed by a few different people. My attitude is the more the merrier–it will allow for mingling and new friendships and small groups to break off to hike or mountain bike or swim or do whatever. I also am a fan of safety in numbers, and this campsite is said to be much more remote than our trip last year. We will be deep in bear country as well, so having more people and cars nearby (about a mile away) is a plus.
Stay tuned…..it’s coming together!
Last week we received about 20 inches of snow and ice in a series of different storms, the biggest coming Thursday which dumped 15 inches. My son was home from school 2 days and another 2 days were a delayed start, which was seriously disruptive to my work week. Work itself is intense right now, I have multiple projects and deadlines, and several high priority initiatives we are rolling out, on top of the day to day stuff which is busy enough. All this, and I am trying to continue to work out regularly and vary my fitness routine this off season.
Snow isn’t a dealkiller when it comes to working out. As a younger and less experienced cyclist, I considered winter as a break, which meant zero time on my bike. As my love of the sport grew, I began to question this forgone conclusion, especially when I realized other people were out there in the cold getting it done.
I used to be much more sensitive to the elements, in what I can only guess was my lack of exposure to them. Since making my fitness year round, and not just a token adventure in the winter months, I’ve grown much more tolerant to temperatures.
So last week I took what I could get. A couple of short rides on the fat bike in the beginning of the week, a Zwift trainer ride on Friday, followed by a short run in the dark over snow and ice. The most action was this weekend, full of shoveling snow, riding the fat bike, and downhill skiing with my son.
These a little short little nibbles at workouts and not as “full on” as I’d like, but I’m managing time as best I can and considering everything–I’m pretty happy with last week.
I’m now watching another 8-12 inches fall outside. I don’t really mind, bring on the snow! I’ll work in a work out somehow….
Impulsive I am not, but when my gf sent me a link to a bike shop in Minnesota selling a fat bike for a song, my response was “well that’s nice.”
“You should get it.”
“I just paid down my credit card!”
“This is too good a deal.”
I did what any bike person would do, and I asked Twitter. The response was swift and clear: buy the bike!
So I did. Never mind I already have, between me and my son, 6 bikes in the house. And never mind that I have never ridden a fat bike. I didn’t even know if I would like it. Who am kidding, of course I would like it!
So it arrived Friday night, mostly assembled and lighter than I expected for a bike so beefy. I attached the front wheel, the handlebars, seat, and pedals. I was in business.
I rode on both Saturday and Sunday, in snow that was about an inch thick and very soft. The bike floats and fishtails gently like a boat in the water. The work is hard in soft snow. I rode through a few crusty sections where the pedaling was easier. I can see how a fat bike could get you skinny.
Pedal selection is subjective. I tried day one on platforms, and switched to clipless day two. Despite the frustration of snow getting packed into the pedals, I prefer clipless. But in deeper conditions I could change my mind. It’s great to have the fat bike as an option to ride outside in conditions that otherwise would be a complete non starter. Definitely more fun than the trainer!