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.
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
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.
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….
Tomorrow I’ve signed up for my first ever back-to-back races in the same day.
Yup. Race at 12:00PM, then again at 1:30PM.
It would be difficult for me to be less prepared for this endeavor. I haven’t had a serious workout in what feels like a long time. Last week I spent doing 16 hour days consisting of of air travel, conference sitting, client meetings, presentations, walking several city blocks in heels, extravagant dinners of rich southern creole cuisine (the food part is not an actual complaint), and entirely too much alcohol. I’ve barely been on my bike. To add to this completely bad idea , my calf injury seems to have reappeared, leaving me feeling like if I strain or stretch the wrong way, that sucker is going to pop and tear like it did in the middle of Ice Weasels last year.
The first race is a short 30 minute race with cat 4 women. I’m again, predictably, expected to be in the middle of that pack. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s a New England thing, but some of the cat 4 women ride their bikes pretty fast. I’m hoping to stay in the middle if at all possible, but my fitness has slid as it does every year (you know the drill: work, kid schedules, lack of daylight, blah, blah, blah).
The second race is an Open Category: 1/2/3/4. I’m predicted to be last. So all the pressure is off! I’ll start at the back, stay at the back, and if I can pick someone off, great. I’m basically going to focus on chasing my friend Kathy and see if I can keep up with her. I did this same race last year and was also predicted to finish last, but somehow didn’t, so there’s always hope.
I’ve called this my “race to the bottom” weekend. I’m not going to have great results tomorrow, in either race. I’m feeling pretty sluggish. I didn’t ride my trainer tonight for openers. I did laundry and washed dishes and watched Westworld for the 3rd time this week, because mentally, I needed those 3 things tonight. You know, priorities. It’s not that I’m not motivated: I’m totally excited to race tomorrow and have been thinking about racing cyclocross every day and obsessing over it like I do every year. I’m just wicked freaking tired from life. So I figure–sign up for these grassroots races, get a race or two into the legs, avoid further injury to that calf, and kick the body back into the cross season. Northampton is next weekend and I want to be past this worn out “rock bottom” feeling and back into an upswing.
I might be racing to the bottom tomorrow, but at least I’m still racing.
There is something really special about Gloucester. Maybe because it’s a race I’ve gone to for years as a spectator long before I started racing, or that it’s so close to where I grew up, but I’ve never had a bad time in Gloucester. Last weekend was no exception.
My results don’t really matter. I felt lousy Saturday but poured everything I had out at the end to fight off an attack in the last 100 yards. That was a win for me.
After my race I joined friends from a million years ago; people I had not seen in nearly 30 years. <read:I’m old> after 8 hours of bad party food and great laughs, I went back to my mom’s and was out cold by 9pm.
Sunday I felt recovered. The cold symptoms I experienced Saturday seemed to wane and I had a better race overall. I finished alone amount the middle of a strung out field. After I met up with friends again to enjoy a bit of spectating.
I really have to give a shout of appreciation to Paul Boudreau, the race director and everyone who works with him and volunteers to make this the very professional and special race that it is. Gloucester never disappoints.
More photos of the 2 days at Gloucester…