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!
This winter I’m taking a slightly different approach to fitness. This is afforded by a change in my workplace-namely my workplace is now my home. My local office closed and my new office is 65 miles away. I go there once or twice a week (ok, once a week) and the rest of the time I’m home or in the field. This allows me just a little extra time to workout before or after work, or at lunch. No commute means and extra hour to my day. The job is much more flexible and while I’m generally available during business hours, I still have the flexibly to workout daily if I want (or at lunch if my day isn’t too heavily stacked with conference calls).
As a result, I signed up for Zwift so I can pedal indoors during the winter months. And I’ve added running on a regular basis to my week. I run 2-3 times a week, starting with low miles (2.2 per run). I’ll look to ramp up to 3 or 4 miles, but really slowly, on purpose.
As the weather allows, I plan on exploration rides, and mountain biking rides. I want gravel and dirt and broken country roads. I’ve signed up for the Muddy Onion Spring Classic in Montpelier, Vermont at the end of April. I’m excited to do that ride. The famed Rasputitsa is the week before and I have a conflict. It’s also a race, and the Muddy Onion isn’t. No crying here–I’m excited for the Onion.
But before the Onion, I signed up for a duathlon that I’ve done before, but a long time ago–The Rockbuster Off Road Duathlon in Ashland, MA. 1.8 mile trail run, 5.5 mile mountain bike, 1.8 mile trail run. That will require some training, and it’s a good event to get me to the place I need to be fitness -wise.
Overall, I’m trying to balance my workout more between cycling and running, with occasional yoga for stretching, and hiking. I’m terribly out of balance from only cycling and the running seems to help me hurt less in my hips especially when I’m sitting at a laptop all day. I love cycling but I’m already in less pain while sitting with 2 weeks of running under my belt.
While I’m happy with this slight change in approach (more off road, more running), I have become very mindful of my body starting to change as I grow just a little bit older. My personality is go-go-go but as an older athlete I really have to take the time to slow down, stretch, and on rest days, to really rest. I still plan to go hard and push on days I should, to tackle hard climbs and push my mileage limits in order to gain the fitness I’m looking for this summer, but balance it with running, adventure, and fun. Check out what I’m doing on Strava
Last Sunday I drove down to Hartford, CT to watch the pro races at the US Cyclocross National Championship. The entire week had been a “spin the wheel” of extreme weather: rain, mud, snow, frozen ruts, frozen ruts covered by snow, frozen ruts with a layer of mud covered by more snow–they really had it all. I watched Katie Compton claim her 13th national championship title, and Stephen Hyde his first. Actually I had to leave about 15 minutes before Hyde’s spectacular finish with a broken derailleur, which I’m still shaking my head over–I can’t believe I had to miss that! Anyway, I shutterbugged and socialized and had a nice time despite the frigid temperatures. Here are some of the better photos–enjoy! -Karen
2016 was a pretty great year adventure-wise: I had a ton of fun and “got away from it all” on more than one occasion. I doubt I can repeat but will try to with perhaps some variations to my normally scheduled program.
On the list for 2017:
1.) Fat Biking. Never done it, and we’ve had the snow for it. I expect we’ll be getting more since it’s only January.
2.) Dog Sledding. I wanted to do this last year but there was no snow. There’s a team that runs twice a week in Windsor, VT. I promised my son we’d do it so now it’s a matter of booking the dogs.
3.) Kingdom Trails-again. I had such fun last year I need another helping of this slice of MTB paradise.
4.) An island…..or a canyon? My mom has offered to take the family on a vacation. The problem is, she can’t decide where. Oh I know, how unfair. It’s rough. It’s between Nantucket and Montrose, Colorado. Personally I’m in favor of Nantucket because 95% of the trips I take are to the mountains and sometimes I miss the sea.
5.) At least one Mountain Bike race. Whoever is in charge of scheduling nearly every single mountain bike race in New England doesn’t want me signing up for any MTB events. This seems to be true every summer. Right now Domarski Farm lines up with one of the 26 weekends I have free a year.
6.) The JAM Grand Fundo. The full Fundo this time. I missed last year due to childcare conflicts. I don’t know when the 2017 Fundo will be but want to attend.
7.) The Muddy Onion Spring Classic. This one I’m already signed up for with Laura. It’s not the Rasputita but its still 34 miles in late April on gravel roads in VT, which means mud. I’m looking forward to it.
8.) A Dog. Wait, what?! Yeah, I want one–have for years. The last of my cats left us 3 years ago and I’m ready to grow my little family again. A change in my work has allowed me to work from home up to 4 times a week, which means I can be home for an animal.
9.) Bikepacking, V2.0. We’re doing it again! Still working out details but locations under review are Fahnestock State Park in Carmel, NY, The Adirondack Trail Ride (TATR) in Northville, NY, or potentially just a bike/camp weekend in The Kingdom.
10.) Mystery Getaway. I have a vacation yet-to-be planned and I have no honest idea of what or where that will be. It’s been determined that Hawaii is on tap for 2018 so I need to save for that and be a bit leaner this year. I have time–it’s only January! I’ll figure it out…
11.) 3 more OCR Races. I’m already signed up.
12.) Cyclocross! I’m adopting a wait and see attitude about the 2017 season. I may back off a bit from CX and get a few weekends back to do other things. Of course when September comes I’ll be chomping at the bit again so who knows. I’ll stop when I’m dead.
And hiking, and camping, and so on, and so on…..
What’s your 2017 plan?
About this time every year there are people who start making plans for next year. Usually about the next big adventure. I might be one of them. This is not that post.
2016 was complex. I had one of the funnest summers since childhood. I also experienced (and continue to experience) difficult loss.
This summer I bikepacked with Laura for the first time. What a magical weekend. It set the tone for the whole summer, promising fun, adventure, and friends. I traveled to Whistler, BC again with my girlfriend, this time bringing my son. Spectacular vacation. I got to share new adventures in a familiar place-one that is remote and beautiful and full of bikes, mountains and wildlife. How very blessed I felt. I finally visited Kingdom Trails in Vermont, camping next to (drumroll please) an actual waterfall in northern Vermont, and riding KT all weekend with Gail and Matt. In between all of this were hikes, hundreds (yes hundreds) of bike rides, mud-runs, and fun.
We also lost my dad this summer. After 6 very difficult years he passed away with my mother by his side and me on the telephone with her. I traveled home to the north shore often during this time as his health continued to decline. We were able to keep him home, with help from an agency, for his final few months. I was happy he could die at home, he hated all the long term care and rehab facilities he had gone to recover enough strength to return home. All he wanted was to go home. His loss is felt like an echo that never really fades away. Now months later, grief hits me at odd moments; it cannot be predicted.
Then, a sucker punch. An old friend and colleague died of a swift moving brain cancer the day before her 37th birthday. I cried for a week. One of the most ever-positive people I had know had been stolen away. How completely unfair.
2016 was a teacher. Live now. Adventure now. Enjoy now. It’s all slipping away from us. Buy the bike, take the trip, fall in love, take that shot. Be here with the ones you love. Tell them, show them. I want to get a little place in the mountains of Vermont, with a good view and a woodstove or fireplace and post & beam construction. A place close to skiing and hiking and mountain biking. I’d like to get back into woodworking. I’m trying to figure out how to do that and still pay for my son’s college (and save for my own retirement). I’m not sure how to do this, but I have to figure it out, because if I don’t, I miss out. All the trite advice about how you only go around once feels very, very real. I had a great year. I experienced much sadness and much happiness. Every year should teach us something. We aren’t going to be here forever, we better make today count.
When I posted last year’s video of the Ice Weasel’s cyclocross race on Laura’s facebook page, with a casual mention that it might be a fun race for her to try, I really didn’t think she’d go for it. Instead, she registered immediately and our plans began to take shape.
We met late Friday afternoon at the Riverpoint Cyclocross Park in West Warwick, RI for some low pressure course inspection. It was a windy 31 degrees, with the sun low in the sky and light fading we squeezed two laps in and got a decent preview of the course.
It was a pleasure to wake up 10 minutes from a cyclocross race. I slept in (7AM!), but was eager to get going in the morning. We were careful however to not arrive too early–the temps were even colder: 28 degrees with a 10 mph winds. Fires burned in the team tent area as well as on the handup hill where most of the crowds gathered to heckler and pass out treats and beer. The Singlespeed/Fat Tire Race means costumes. Really costumes are OK for everyone, but the Singlespeeders seem to dominate this category. Wicked fun crowd.
The race itself was awesome. So much fun-I got an excellent start and just tried to apply steady pressure the whole time. Preriding the day before was highly beneficial and I had a good idea of how I wanted to approach each section of the course. Ice Weasels is a party, but I still wanted to feel like I was racing my bike. I did, however, remember regretting not enjoying the moment last year. This year I willingly took whatever handup offered, including a White Russian, a chocolate donut hole, and a dollar bill (I lost the dollar). Taking handups meant screwing up my descent down the gnarliest hill on the course. I nailed it during preride but I clearly cannot consume liquor and sweets and ride my bike at the same time. No matter, I didn’t lose a place since everyone had the same healthy attitude about balancing racing and partaking. It was a blast. I came in 12 of 28. Finally a top 50% finish this season!
Laura faired well for her first time, placing 26/28. It’s worth noting there were approximately 36 women preregistered: the cold definitely kept some away. She took handups and generally enjoyed herself. I don’t think she was being polite either since she started texting me Monday night asking about tire widths and setting her Salsa up for another race.
After our race we watched the Singlespeed race and passed out mini chocolate cupcake handups and brownie bite handups. It was fun to participate in the handup & heckling and I find my thoughts keep drifting back to an outrageously fun weekend. It has me thinking of one more race (maybe just one!) next weekend…..no decisions yet but seriously considering March Farms Cyclocross race in Bethlehem. CT. Snow and rain are forecast, sound like the makings of a fun day!