In like a lion ….

I was talking with my sister recently. She is a marathoner and expecting her second child this summer. She was lamenting her inability to take part in a particular marathon this year because of her impending child. It’s part of the same mentality – she’s losing her ability to just sign up for a marathon and not have to actually train so much as maintain.

One of the things active people fear most is losing fitness. Many of us started at a sub-par fitness level and have worked hard to get to a point where throwing down a marathon or a century (or whatever the goal was) is just another day. When you have that level of fitness, and life starts to get in the way, many of us panic. It was such an effort to get to this place! I don’t want to have to go back to barely creaking out 25 mile rides!

For me, it’s important to accept the place you are now and work with it. After 2 months of not riding my bike (and spending at least half that time going out of my mind with not being able to go out for bike rides), I can safely say it’s going to be a long road back to fitness when I do throw my leg over the top tube. I’ve focused on walking as much as possible and running or hiking on the weekends to maintain a base level of fitness. I signed up for a 5-mile run in April to have a motivating event to keep me from sleeping until noon on weekends (which is totally on my radar because I am not a morning person). And if all goes well, we should be moving into our new house relatively soon – which means more time back in my life for the things that matter most. Family. Friends. Bikes.

Lots has happened so far this year. We finished up a lovely vacation in Colorado with family and friends; we sold our house finally; we had to make a humane decision for my 18-year-old beagle, Mojo. I’ve gained far too much weight in the last year. Mega-commuting – spending 90min or more to get to work or back – is challenging at best and in the winter, doubly so. I’ve had a few days where I spent as much time in transit as I have at work.

And it’s been a long, cold winter. Every time the snow and cold seems to have melted just enough and the weather warming up, another winter storm or arctic cold front comes rolling through.  My bikey friends and I had made plans to go ride bikes this afternoon, but a winter storm of snow, sleet, and rain arrived – so I leashed up my dog and we did a 3-mile walk together. It was fun to be outside with friends, despite the extremely slippery conditions. My dog passed out on the couch from all the excitement.

What I’m really saying is, keep the faith my dear reader! We will all dust off the cobwebs soon enough and slowly turn the cranks again and marvel at the warm sunshine beating on our backs as we zip down the road. Spring is coming …

 

Philly is so beautiful sometimes it hurts
#SpringtimeInPhilly

counting the days until we see each other on the road ….

Saturday Mountain Biking and Valley Forge Revolutionary 5mi Run Recap

Saturday morning, too early for my taste, I went mountain biking with my friend John. John’s roughly old enough to be my dad and has a couple of kids and grand-kids. This blows my mind. Mountain biking does not conjure up images of your granddad ripping down a gnarly, knotty, rocky descent. And yet, he’s the club mountain biking coordinator … and I like learning how to be more confident off-road. We didn’t do anything super crazy – but the morning was excellent. Good conversation flowed and before we knew it we had tackled almost 20 miles and it was time to head home.

 

John and I enjoying a beautiful morning in the woods.
John and I enjoying a beautiful morning in the woods.

 

The next morning I got up (again, too early for my tastes) to run the Valley Forge Revolutionary 5 mi Run.

You may recall I signed up last year but wimped out (allergies, too tired, temps in the mid-30s and no cold-weather running gear).

You may also recall my marathon-running sister visiting me and getting me to earn my shirt (a wrong turn and an extra two miles in unbearable heat and humidity).

I am so glad I signed up this year.

 

I started running back in February to get into some semblance of running shape. Like it or not, cycling and running use muscles differently and being awesome at one only gives you a leg up on being decent doing the other. And running is actually somewhat enjoyable when I can find my groove and get lost in my music.

The air was crisp, the sun shining, wind blowing and temps in the mid-forties. I grabbed a long sleeve shirt at the last-minute before leaving the house and I’m so glad I did. The wind was blowing straight through me. I hadn’t picked up my race packet yet so I left the house early to make sure I had enough time to stand in line for my bib and shirt.

Let me tell you – this is probably the best run event I’ve been to. Parking was off-site so I had to take a shuttle bus to the event.

  • I assumed I’d have to wait for a shuttle bus – nope. They had a continuous cycle of buses loading up and driving participants to the site. Virtually no wait.
  • I assumed there would be a long line to pick up my bib and shirt – nope. I had both and a tag in case I wanted to leave stuff in the gear drop within five minutes of being dropped off by the shuttle.
  • I assumed there would be long lines for the port-o-potties – nope. There were several port-o-potty locations, plus the usual park restrooms: from the parking lot, on the way to the start line, at the start line. No lines.

 

I checked my phone – 7:32am. Race starts at 8:30am.

 

*stretches* *twiddles thumbs* *finds a good starting song* *take a few selfies* *hit the port-o-potty* *shiver in the wind*

Legs crossed, reaching for my toes. S-T-R-E-T-C-H!
Legs crossed, reaching for my toes. S-T-R-E-T-C-H!

 

The course is challenging. It starts with a gentle incline and then just keeps going up, with a few downhills to keep things interesting, until about a half-mile from the end. A glorious deep downhill followed immediately by a sharp uphill to the finish line. We passed so many monuments and markers of the historical significance of Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War. One water station at the half-way point.

I loved it. Last year I would have been eaten alive. This year I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t anxious. I was ready. I had this. It was mine to own.

…and I did. I put my iPod on shuffle and the playlist couldn’t have been more accurate for what I needed in any given moment. Behold the playlist of Whoa Really? You Listen To All That Stuff?

Mile 1:

Rise Against – Satellite

All That Remains – Two Weeks

Eve 6 – Victoria

 

Mile 2:

Prodigy – Voodoo People

Capitol Cities – Safe and Sound (first big hill)

Poni Hoax – Antibodies

Survivor – Eye of the Tiger (right as I turned up a very steep hill – so perfect in that moment)

 

Mile 3:

Fall Out Boy – My Songs Know What You Did

T-Pain: Church

Gaslight Anthem – 45

 

Mile 4:

All That Remains – Days Without

David Guetta & Akon – Sexy Chick

Jimmy Eat World – My Best Theory

 

Mile 5:

LMAFO – Sexy and I Know It

Lady Gaga – Edge of Glory

Jamiroquai – Canned Heat

 

I channeled my marathon-running sister when I saw others walking all around me at the first sign of the second hill. She can do this for 4+ hours – I can do it for one.

 

I finished in the top 2/3 of the field (haha):

  • 625 out of 838 runners
  • 235 out of 364 women
  • 52 out of 71 in my age bracket (awesome girls between 35 and 39)

 

Friends – if you are looking for a well-coordinated challenging five-miler, look no further than the Valley Forge Revolutionary Run. I was so pleased with the entire experience from parking to racing, to getting post-race snacks and back to the car. I can’t recommend this enough.

 

Now that my race is over I can get back to my first love, riding my bike. I have neglected training for my four-day epic cycling adventure and it’s about a month away. I need to get crackin’!

 

See you on the road!

Winter Weight, Treadmills & Trainers Oh My!

It’s been a brutal winter for outside bike riding. Between back-to-back snow, ice storms, power outages, and a vicious melt-freeze cycle there just hasn’t been an opportunity to safely ride outside. Many of the cyclists I know hang up the bike in late fall and don’t start again until spring is fully underway. Some cyclists I know suck it up and put their bikes on a trainer or pull out the rollers and spend their time pedaling quickly to nowhere to retain some semblance of fitness. I’ve avoided the trainer as long as possible, finally breaking down only last week.

After a spotty record of physical activity in January, I decided to start training for my 5-mile run coming up in April. Get some base miles at my work’s gym on the treadmill until it’s light enough after work to be outside. If there’s anything more boring than being on a trainer, it’s a treadmill. The first run was brutal. It hurt. I was lethargic and I went too fast too soon and while I don’t do “serious” distance I stay focused on just being active. Sure enough the next few runs felt better. I’ve been able to stick to running about 6-7 miles per week this month.

Certainly I am eager to get back into regular riding to shed a few winter pounds that somehow magically find their way to my pear-shaped body when the riding decreases and the eating stays the same. I’d like to tell you, friends, that cycling has given me perspective. That I have found the holy grail of self-acceptance and am completely comfortable in my skin every single day. The truth is I have and I haven’t.

When I bought the Beast and was first beginning to ride, I wore a skort and famously told my more serious cycling friends that I didn’t need anyone looking at my ass-ets. That I wasn’t going to be a “serious” rider anyway. Ten mile rides with stops to drink became fifteen mile rides and being able to reach for my water bottle and drink comfortably. Thirty-five milers became my long rides and with it a new pair or shorts (still rockin’ the unders though). First event, a 50-miler with my best friend – rockin’ the shorts. Somewhere around this time I stopped caring what my hips looked like in Spandex. I bought new jerseys that looked awesome. I started to love riding and took any excuse to hop on my bike and pedal off for a few hours. It took much longer to lose the unders and I’m so thankful I did.

The best thing about riding is definitely the company kept but also often times the food. Fuel the ride well – no need to go crazy overboard. I’ve learned how to use real food (trail mix, dried fruit and nuts) in addition to my favorite energy bars, beans, and goos. But come the end of the season or a long drought of good weather and one can find themselves staring down a few pounds that happened “even though you are eating the same!” Yeah – I’m right there with you. Getting back on track with healthy eating and adequate exercise. (Although the time off was very nice for getting house work done and spending time with the family)

 

This past weekend was so gorgeous – I got a 4 mile run outside on Saturday (snow-melt puddle stomping and the scent of fallen pine branches thawing in the sun) and a 45 mile bike ride on Sunday with friends to find lunch. The sun was shining, the temps were mid-forties to low-fifties. It felt scandalous to be out riding and running with mounds of snow still blocking traffic corners. It felt so good to be outside! This week is a big dive in temperatures and a few snow showers expected. Looking forward to another week of the treadmill and trainer so when spring fully arrives, I can hit the road running. (haha)

 

Making plans for all the rides we want to do this summer: restarting mountain bike rides with the club, Quad County, Ride for Homes, heading down the Shore, The Lemon Ride, Philly to Brooklyn, lunch in St Peter’s Village … it’s going to be a great summer!

See you on the road! 

Goodbye 2013 – Hello 2014!

I had plans to go riding today but woke up with significant congestion and a sinus headache so I opted to stay home and rest today in hopes that tomorrow’s ride plans will still be on. I’ve spent the morning sipping warm beverages and reading many recaps of this year’s achievements. Truly I am blessed to be surrounded by so many awesome people, even if it is “just” on the internet.

(Although to be totally honest, my brain keeps thinking of ways I can still get out on my bike today. But I’m forcing myself to stay home. Better to rest today and ride tomorrow than suffer today and be worse tomorrow.)

A Look Back at the goals I set for this year – here’s how I fared:

  • 3,004.4 miles achieved!
  • Bike commuting gained traction this year.
  • Metric century in Colorado achieved with my marathon-running sister!
  • Completed four centuries (February, August, two in September-SSC and MS150)
  • Completed 150mi ride in one day (June)
  • Acquired a mountain bike and have been out several times – love it
  • Ran 58.1 miles (!!)
  • Walked 225 miles

Some goals just didn’t make the final tally, like biking to Brooklyn for dinner or both days of the MS 150, due to Life. Schedules changed, my dog died – it just didn’t work out. I feel like my GI issues took center stage from May through September, which inhibited some of my intended riding for sure. Of course, all but one test came back totally normal so who knows what’s going on there.

Recently I was at a 10,000 mile celebration for a friend and everyone around the room said where their total mileage was expected to end up. Everyone but myself and one other woman was 5,000 miles or more, with many hovering around 9,000 miles. I constantly have to remind myself that I’m not doing too bad for a recreational cyclist with three kids still at home, a full-time job, a Girl Scout troop to lead, and serving on the board for the local bike club. My 3,000 miles seems paltry and there’s always something more I wish I could be doing.

Or as my friend says about my thoughts: “How can I be more awesome than I already am.”

(which is a really good point)

So for 2014, I’m setting no mileage goal. No event schedule. The only thing I’d like to do more of is ride my bike for fun. As if I ever ride my bike for any other reason.

  • Start bike commuting again once Daylight Savings Time comes back. Twice a week minimum.
  • Try bike touring. Maybe pack up for an overnight camping somewhere, just to get a taste. Plan a bike trip with my mom. Currently looking at Erie Canal or GAP/C&O.
  • Try some new cycling events or revisit the ones I skipped this year.
  • Ride with my kids more. Teach my middle child how to mountain bike. Take my oldest child on longer road rides. Find ways to make riding more enjoyable for my youngest child.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2014! See you on the road!

Stream of Consciousness

It’s going to be cold.

It’s early. The sun will barely be up.

I don’t know anyone going.

Why am I driving half an hour to run for half an hour just to drive back home in a half an hour? See? Not even worth the effort to get there.

My head feels congested. Maybe I should stay home and sleep.

These pajamas feel so cozy and warm. Why am I going out? It’s going to be cold.

I have to take my son to his school event around the time I need to leave so might as well at least get dressed for the run.

I already laid out all my clothes and my bib is already pinned on. Might as well make the effort.

Forgot my athletic sunglasses – guess I’ll stop by at home before I head out.

The sun is up and it’s not too terrible out. I’ll drive there, see how I feel.

Oh look  – there’s no traffic getting to the race location.

I’m so early. What am I going to do for 45 minutes? At least I got decent parking. 

Pee break, then banana time.

It’s so cold in the shade. Where’s a sunny spot I can stand in?

I guess I should pick a song to kick off the run.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Maybe. Nope. This could be good. Wait, this one already came up.

Is it time to line up yet?

Wow, that guy is stretching like he’s doing a marathon. Maybe I should stretch a bit. But not like I’m a crazy serious runner or anything.

I bet he’s fast.

I should start my app now.

This song is good. (play)

I’m restarting the app. I haven’t moved in three minutes.

This kid standing next to me with her dad is cute. He’s giving her good pointers to not be anxious. She’s clearly not buying it.

Oh – that’s the gun. Time to run. Glad I already started my music and app.

Holy crap why am I doing this? I rode my bike 33 miles yesterday and haven’t run in two weeks. I have no business doing this.

Don’t worry about all the younger folks passing you. Or the older folks. Run your own race, Laura. It’s not about them.

Ug I feel like a slug. Slow and slimy.

I wish running had etiquette like DON’T PASS ME ON MY RIGHT. I’m just trying to stay out of the faster runner’s way.

HOUSE OF PAIN!

Oh sweet – the platoon of military guys is about to pass. How awesome is it that they can run, yell, and carry a flag at the same time?

So many people walking now … gotta keep one foot in front of the other. You got this.

Girl Scouts handing out water at the mid-point? What a great service idea. Note to self for my troop.

Two miles down. One to go. This isn’t so bad.

One more curve, then the homestretch.

Why is it the last quarter-mile straight-away takes forever to actually finish?

Wait, does the official time clock say 30:something? Holy crap, I think I just PR’d!

Finisher medal (cute!) and water bottle acquired.

Walk it out … check your app. Yup, new personal best for a 5k. And actually ran a sub-10 minute mile the whole way.

And to think I felt so slow and sluggish! This is incredible! I am so happy I showed up to run today.

Click to see the bling

 

Catch Up

When we last left off, dear reader, I had just put my dog down and was helping my kids work through their grief. Since then much has happened, which is what happens when autumn rolls around. The cycling is exquisite, everyone is back to school routines, and life starts to slow down for winter.

 

  • I took the week of Sept 2 ff work. Between Labor Day and the High Holidays and my in-laws coming to visit, it didn’t make sense to shoehorn work in as well. Add in our dog dying and it was a much needed week off of responsibility.
  • I rode my bike a lot that week. It’s really cathartic. Long rides with the bike club; short rides for lunch with my son; medium rides with my step-father-in-law. It was so nice to simply wake up, throw my leg over the top tube and pedal out of town without any worry.
  • I ran a five-miler back in August and promptly hurt my foot. My chiropractor has been adjusting it and I thought I was in a good place, but a 5k proved me otherwise. Back off running for another two weeks … then I can try again. Lots of rolling with a tennis ball to keep things loose and not “crunchy.” PS – having your foot adjusted feels WEIRD.
  • I completed the Scenic Schuylkill Century for the second consecutive year. 103 miles with over 6800′ of climbing. I felt like a mountain goat charging up those final hills. This ride deserves a recap post.
  • I took Electric Dream Machine to the shop for a tune-up (chunky shifting) and ended up getting her new bar tape and a new chain as well. 2500 miles and only 50% worn on of the original chain feels pretty awesome. I feel like a Spin Master.
  • I also found a saddle that doesn’t hurt my butt after 100 miles. It’s an old school Terry Butterfly Ti I found on eBay for $36. You have no idea how relieving this is.
  • I made a lot of cookies. Chocolate crinklesMolasses. They are all gone now.
  • I bought the last few items I need to make my first attempt at blueberry jam.
  • We selected a hand-made custom urn for Nixon, painted to match her exact coloring. We’re expecting it sometime next week. Until then her ashes are just hanging out in the kitchen and it feels kinda weird. Last night I missed her snuggling up to my feet when I went to bed. Not cry-my-eyes-out missed her … just missed the reassuring weight on her curled up at the bottom of the bed.

 

That week reminded me how much I love unrestricted time. Time to explore, time to play, time to simply be. Far too often I get wrapped up in my everyday life of work, the kids’ school stuff, and housework. Never mind the annual house maintenance that needs to happen like yard work, cleaning out the garage, fixing the downspout that disconnected last October during Hurricane Sandy (*cough cough*).

If I could find a way to still get a paycheck and ride my bike for fun all day, I’d be all over that.

Anyway – I’m still around. I haven’t been riding as much as I want these past two weeks. I haven’t even been bike commuting! And I kinda miss running (but that’s between you and me). I have my BikeMS: City to Shore ride coming up next weekend so I need to get out an ride at least a little bit to keep the legs fresh. Then I’m looking to October to squeeze in some fun weekend rides … maybe do the Central Bucks Covered Bridge Tour again.

 

See you on the road!