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Adventure Bucket List for 2016

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Ambition will probably get the better of me, but I’m fired up about 2016 and I’m making plans.

I lust for adventure, but with a tight schedule and tighter budget, I take what I can get, and work to create the rest. This year I’m looking at some “local” adventure, and with a little luck and the right celestial alignment, I might manage to get out west again in some shape or form (I’d love a repeat of Whistler but haven’t committed to a location quite yet). So here’s the list: some are bike related, other are not. The whole point is to get outside and explore new places and have new experiences with cool people, old and new friends alike.

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En route to Whistler, BC.  The snowpack still up there in early August 2 years ago.  

1.) Bikepacking  This is happening!  A campsite is booked this spring in the Berkshire hills and Laura and I are in. Doors are open to other participants, but ladies only (sorry fellas, it’s a girl’s weekend).  I’ll be recon riding the area prior to the trip, and finding a good spot to safely and collectively park cars.  In the meantime, I’ve been doing a ton of research, collecting gear necessary, and reading up on some really great resources for this new endeavor.  Check out cyclewrite for backpacking in western Mass or Bikepacking.com for great gear hacks.

2.) Hammock Camping This very well may be a part my bikepacking experience.  I have the gear, but need to field test in my backyard or someplace relatively close to home before trekking into the woods for the real thing.

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3.) Dog Sledding This is a birthday gift for my son that I could not deliver upon, since we are in full El Nino here in New England. We finally got snow this week. A bit more snow will make this work. I found a great place with a team of Siberian Huskies in mid-state Vermont. We’re hoping to go by the end of January.

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4.) DH Mountain Biking I’m doing this-either here on the east coast of on the west coast or ideally, both.  I’ll have to rent a ride since I don’t own a full suspension rig (yet).  I had such a great time at Whistler 2 summers ago, I want to do more of this while I still can.

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5.) More Camping My parenting win of the year was successfully hooking my son on camping.  Our trip with friends last summer was so much fun, he cannot wait to do it again and talks about it all the time.  This is great news. He’s even talking about going on a mini version of bikepacking with me.  I have to plan a few trips to get out into the woods more with him.  Hey, it’s better than Minecraft all day long!

Hope you are carve out your own adventures in 2016!

-Karen

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Recovery

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.

-Karen

Women Who Inspire Me: Diana Nyad

Diane Nyad wants to go to Cuba.  Very badly.

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It’s her #XtremeDream to swim from Cuba to Florida–no one has ever done it before.  No one knows if it’s even possible.  Only a world class athlete could possibly make it the 103 miles. She already holds the World Record for swimming.  But here’s the wrinkle in the plot….and it’s quite a wrinkle indeed.  Diana Nyad is 64 years old.

Yes, you heard me.  She’s a year away from Medicare.  She’s 401K eligible.  She’s old enough to be your mother twice over.

She’s the badass, Diana Nyad is. Her relentless pursuit of what many think is impossible is what makes her so completely inspiring to me.  She’s tried twice and failed, suffering life threatening injuries from poisonous jellyfish like box jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war.  And then there are the sharks.  Great white ones.

Let us not forget the amount of time she’ll be swimming.  For at least 60 hours.  No resting, no sleeping.  Pausing to eat but remaining in the water. No lifejacket.  No holding on the the side of the boat that will remain with her.  This will be her 5th attempt.  In 1979 Diana broke the world record for distance swimming for both men and women.  That record still stands today.

Diana borrows from poet Mary Oliver and asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It’s a worthwhile question, and strikes truth quickly.  Tomorrow morning Diana will enter the dark water and try again for her XtremeDream.  It doesn’t matter if she reaches Cuba or not, she’s proven to the world she is not to be discounted. Never to be trifled with.  She’s Diana Nyad; completely awe-inspiring, Always reaching stroke by stroke toward her dream, in and out of the water.

-Karen

Women Who Inspire Me Series

There’s a bit of a groundswell going on in women’s cycling, heck even in women’s athletics, that has me excited.  Obviously I’ve always been “for” women in sport, ever since I was a little girl.  Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, there were few role models for young girls interested in athletics.  The phrase “pretty good for a girl” was used a lot, and considered a compliment.  We’ve come a long way, baby.  And we aren’t through yet.

No longer a girl, and well out of my youth, I still am driven to improve my performance.  I vacillate between feeling that this is a silly impulse, and then feeling privately proud that this is part of my personality. I think the feeling silly part comes from not conforming to what I’m expected to be, or do.  I don’t really fit into the typical picture.

You can do it!

You can do it!

That’s why I started to think about other women who didn’t really fit–who break the mold, shatter the cultural norm, who reach not only past their physical limits, but past social norms as well.

That’s why I decided to write a series of posts on women who inspire me.  Some of these women will be cyclists, but not all, probably not most. My sport is cycling but I draw inspiration from a number of sources.

I don’t have a set schedule in mind, I’ll just call this the “Women who inspire me” series and title it as such.  Off the top of my head, I’m think about posts on Babe Didrikson, Diana Nyad, Pat Summit, Marianne Vos, Martina Navratilova, the “Iron Nun” Sister Madonna Buder, and of course, USA Cycling National Cyclocross Champion, Female Masters 70-74, Julie Lockhart.  If others come up I’ll certainly add to the list, but I feel like this is a good start.

-Karen

 

My Dehydration Problem

It happened again.  Saturday I went out for a hilly 37 miles on the CX bike.  It was a great ride, cloudy, humid, mid to high 80’s but halfway refreshing considering how oppressive it’s been here in New England.  When I got home, I was thoroughly spent, but in a completely joyous way.  I hadn’t bonked.  I went through my water and was dry the last 15 minutes or so, but began drinking immediately post ride.  My ride ended around 3PM.

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I showered, changed, had a lovely, healthy dinner–a little white wine in hand, I happily grilled chicken on the BBQ while my other half made us a nice fresh salad and a warm buttery baguette.  It was an ideal way to spend a Saturday.  Happy, relaxed, well fed, I settled down to watch some television.

At about 10:45PM, my head started hurting.  Bad.  By 10:50PM I was clutching my skull and rubbing, trying to knead out the pain as if my head had a knot in it that just needed to be worked out. The nausea kicked in at this time as well. 11:00PM I abandoned the movie I was watching and retired to the bedroom, plugging in a heating pad to wrap around my throbbing head.

11:15PM I went to the bathroom.  Not my normal time of day–but my body had other ideas.

11:20PM I tried to got back to bed.  My head was enveloped in indescribable pain.  I was exhausted and only wanted to escape into sleep.  I’d close my eyes and my mind would speed up.  A bizarre show unfolded behind my closed eyes, a fast twisty ride filled with surreal images that I couldn’t slow down or stop.  Moving constantly, I opened my eyes and the pain amplified, but the crazy ride stopped.  The nausea intensified.  I made the decision to return to the bathroom.

11:30PM  I vomited.  More than once.  Maybe 4 times in a row.  I don’t know, I was pretty sick and my brain wasn’t working well at this point. The only think I knew was that the pain had set up camp in my brain and I only had one trick left to beat the migraine back.  I stripped down and turned the shower on hot. I sat in the shower–sat–for about 30 minutes, the hot water working my scalp, my neck, my back.  I felt the pain ease and lift.  Not vanish but it abated for long enough I felt I might be able to sneak into bed and fall asleep.  I did.  I slept 8 hours straight and felt completely fine in the morning.

I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but it isn’t.  More like, the 7th?  8th?  It always happens when my life gets so busy that I don’t take regular care of myself–I rush, I hurry, I skip the basics just to get in that ride.  I should have been drinking lots of liquids on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the weekend.  Each day, I sweat our fluids.  I’m sweating when I blow my hair dry, when I walk to the car, even just sitting inside and watching TV.  The AC can’t keep up with the intensity of this heat.

I had a goal of 100 miles last week.  35 on Saturday, and another 35 on Sunday and I would have made it. I’ve been doing mileage like this all year, that and much longer.  But after Saturday’s hydration failure, my other half insisted I take it easy.  I usually would fight about it, but this time I had to agree.

I really need to get my arms around, and KEEP them around this problem I have.  I wonder if others experience this problem like I do.  I know what happened to me is a result of classic dehydration.  I sweat easily and I’m probably losing fluids when I’m not working out–something I really need to be more aware of. I should have a refillable water container at my desk all day and in the car.  And I should indulge in some Gatorade from time to time.  So–just curious–anyone else have this problem?  Care to share?  Please comment if you would.

-Karen

Warrior Dash 2013 Barre, MA

This was the closest thing to a cyclocross race you can do on two feet. Seriously, the Warrior Dash was pretty fun.  Ropes course, hay bales, barbed wire, mud, and a fire barriers make for a fun day.  Add a couple of people you sort of hung out with in High School 25 years ago, and it’s a good way to spend a day.

I'm the one on the far right.

I’m the one on the far right.

Gotta love the mud.

-Karen

 

 

Losses and gains. Gains and losses.

Cryptic, indeed.  Time to let you in on some more personal events in my life.

Seven months ago, I was laid off from my job.  This has never happened to me.  It was devastating to my pride and my resume, and I soon learned that the economy is much tougher than even my spunky attitude could have comprehended.  I’m in m 40’s now, I had just transitioned from one career to another, and I was one job into that transition when the small company I worked for downsized.  As a single parent, I tried very hard not to be completely terrified.

Like with most life crisises over the past 14 years, I turned to the bike for comfort and therapy.  I had just wrapped up my first cyclocross season when the lay off occurred.  I had a small severance package, which helped, but still, I was reeling. I continued to ride throughout the winter, and on the trainer when there was too much snow to ride outside.  I spent most of my time applying for jobs–a process that really does take a huge amount of time.  Writing cover letter after cover letter.  I applied for up to 10 professional jobs a week, which is 3 times the “required” amount. Just finding these job postings was a challenge in itself, especially during the holidays and in the winter months. I worked closely with the president of an employment agency, and the VP–two women whom I play basketball with, to find gainful employment. They were in the business of finding people jobs and couldn’t find anything suitable for me.  I worked with another friend who was an employment counselor who sent me jobs that were unlisted.  Still–month after month ticked by and although I was called up for interviews, no job came. I live in a college town and the economy isn’t particularly robust here so I soon was looking out of state, and contemplating how long I could go without selling my home, which I had bought on my own 13 years ago. Cycling helped me cope with these stresses.  If I did not have cycling in my life, I would not have handled this period in my life nearly as well.

Transitions

I picked up a freelance gig through one of my cycling friends I had met last fall–she connected me with one of her clients who needed some email marketing (she is a graphic designer), and then I did some more consistant work writing articles and editing for a PR professional, but this was also freelance and not full time, sustainable work.  Eventually I made a random connection at a job fair I hadn’t planned on attending, and my now employer hadn’t planned on attending, that was a good fit.  I started part time in April and today was my first day as a full time employee.  I am so grateful to be working again in a professional capacity.

The upside of all this free time was I got to spend more time being a mom.  Wow–that was nice.  If only I hadn’t been so stressed about money and my future.  And of course, I rode my bike a lot. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been this in shape in terms of cycling fitness and strength.  That felt good.  Those were my losses, and what I gained was more time with my son and a level of cycling fitness I would have never achieved without the time, and stresses that demanded an outlet.

Now that I’m back to work, I am going to have to cope with less cycling.  I will strive to maintain my fitness level, even improve it–but I know it won’t be easy.  In fact it might be impossible.  I’ve gained a job–a chance to work back to where I once was on the professional totem pole.  I am so, so grateful, relieved, thankful and happy to be back to work.  That cannot be overstated.  But I felt happy riding my bike every day.  No matter how frustrated  angry, frightened, hopeful, disappointed, or worried I was, I pedaled it all away on the bike.  After an hour those cares were behind me. I felt happy and relaxed after a bike ride. every single time.  It was amazingly reliable medication.  So while I’ve gained employment, I am losing (at least in part) something that made that initial loss bearable.

Life is unpredictable.  Happiness is fleeting.  So few pleasures in life are renewable.  I am thankful that I have cycling in my life to recharge me in body and soul, no matter what is going on in my life.

-Karen

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