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!
As an athlete, I have some terrible habits. Not stretching is one of them.
When it comes to sports, I don’t like staying still. I’m an impatient person and it works against my nature. I do like quiet time. I’ve tried yoga before, more played at it, the athletic equivalent of pushing vegetables around on my plate. I know it’s good for me, but I don’t really like it.
Lately my body has felt like a crumpled up piece of paper; broken and bent and frayed in places. Age and office sitting and cycling exclusively for exercise with a lack of stretching has contributed to looming sciatica and a chronic calf injury that I fear may be here to stay.
Without discussing the severe lack of time and the challenges of being a single parent, I decided, early on a Sunday morning, to start my day with a little yoga. The backstory is that my son was hosting a sleepover with 2 of his friends. Three middle school boys under the same roof, and me. Their giggling woke me at 6AM. They were sequestered to the rec room in the basement, and I was up anyway, so I decided to give this yoga a shot again.
6:30AM-Start a 22 minute beginner’s yoga with Rodney Lee.
6:39AM-Son’s friend # 1 wonders upstairs to collect a Nerf gun from my son’s room. I stop, wait for him to go.
6:41 AM-Son’s friend #2 comes upstairs to get a 4 foot foam sword. Pause yoga routine again.
6:42 – Son’s friend # 1 is hanging out on stairs between first and second floor, because he’s trying to ambush the other boys. But’s it’s my 22 minute attempt at yoga that’s been ambushed. I hear chortling and shouting downstairs. It’s hard to believe there are only 3 children down there and not 20. The serenity and calmness of the warrior pose I’m trying to do in my pajamas is under attack by my real life.
6:44 – All boys are downstairs and I’m fighting my feelings of annoyance and trying the hold the next pose. I am feeling the stretching and realize how inflexible my body has become. I really need this, probably on a semi-regular basic.
6:45 – Just when the boys are at bay, I have a hot flash. Awesome. This usually only happens at night, but it’s still technically sleeping time I suppose. I continue through yet another disruption, this one courtesy of age and biology.
The next 7 minutes continued, incredibly, without interruption.
So that’s a great example of why I can’t exercise how I want, when I want.
Yoga isn’t a bad idea at all and I do need to do it more often, if only for a morning stretch. Next time I’ll try to do it when I’m the only one home….