The forecast was for no rain or at best, chance of showers, so I thought I would go for my first century of the year. I blew off the St. John’s running crew, said “good bye” to the crusher guy, and headed toward Dixon. I knew riding there and back would put me right at 100 miles.
Of course, my husband, aka. sag wagoneer, wanted to know where I was headed on this cold Napa morning.
At first, I didn’t know. I usually let the day decide and once I get out there, the bike just heads where it feels right. Early on, I thought I might do some local loops. I have a bunch mapped out – 4 miles, 5 miles, 10 miles, – you name it. But then as I headed out the door, I shouted to him that I would ride to Dixon and back.
It turned out to be a beautiful pre-Spring day. Flowers were peaking up everywhere. Baby animals were romping in the pastures. And trees were bursting with buds.
It was also a pleasant surprise that the wind was really calm. It’s always nice when you see flags just hugging the poles!
I made it to Dixon and thought I would grab a little bite to eat so I called my husband to let him know why I was stopping. Well, he replied that he was almost in Dixon as well, so we could grab some lunch together! It turns out that he thought I was just riding to Dixon – not there and back. So he set out in time to pick me up in the “sag wagon.” How sweet – but I certainly wouldn’t get my century in. We had a good chuckle over the miscommunication and decided that I would ride on to at least make a metric century (62 miles) and then we would get a bite to eat. It was all good! I even found my first road treasure of the year – a slightly used bungee cord. I can always use those!
Lesson learned: Clear communication with the sag wagon is a vital skill to perfect.
Once people know you are setting out to ride across the country, the first thing they ask when they see you is “Did you ride here?” If you know me, you probably would be able to tell right away whether or not I had ridden someplace. I usually wear an appropriate cycling kit. I haven’t always done that. And I haven’t always referred to my riding apparel as a kit. I’ve ridden in jeans,”basketball” shorts, floppy t-shirts, and even swimsuits (when I worked as a lifeguard). In my recent incarnation as a cyclist, however, I do wear appropriate cycling gear, no matter how goofy I may look. I have finally learned that there is good reasoning behind it, whether it be for safety, comfort or performance. But I smile and politely answer “yes” or “no” accordingly. The “no’s” are almost always met with a mocking “Really? Why not?” retort. And we have a good little chuckle.
Years ago, when I first got into long distance cycling, I rode every day. It was compulsive, and I was obsessed. I rode about forty miles every day after work and every Saturday and Sunday; I rode at least a hundred miles. I would have little contests with myself to push faster and farther. I rode the same hundred mile loop over and over again and finishing a few minutes quicker felt like winning an Olympic medal. I rode in all kinds of weather and at all times of the day. It didn’t matter. I was possessed.
At some point, I just stopped riding. I really don’t know why. I like to blame it on different circumstances. I had to work. I wanted to spend time with my family, and they don’t ride. My joints hurt. My hands get numb. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. The roads around me are too dangerous. I’ve gotten too out of shape. I look silly in Lycra. I’ve heard them all and practiced saying them – inside my head. At the end of the day, though, I had no excuse not to ride. The only thing preventing me from doing so was me. I just needed to buck up and get back in the saddle. So I did –
Little by little I started to ride again. This time is different, though. In embarking on this “journey back to me,” I’ve had to come to terms with myself. I tend to be an all or none kind of person. I’m either all in and go at it with all my might, or not at all. I’ve shown signs of being that person again. Why else would I decide to ride across America? I’ve revisited the days of personal challenges too. Last summer, I did two 24-hour challenges. In June, I rode a 5-mile loop every hour for 24 hours. And then just to try and top that, in August I rode a 10-mile loop every hour for 24. Why? Just to see if I could. It is different this time, though. I’ve given myself permission not to ride. It has to be fun, and it can’t supersede all else. If something comes up that I want to do more, it’s OK. No guilt. No panic. No shame. And it feels good! So I don’t ride every day.
Sometimes you just have to trade out the silly white hat with the holes and walk the dog.
There is nothing better than going for a ride on a beautiful, clear, crisp morning after another week of rain.
My ride today was wonderful but very slow! Why? It seemed as though every time I came around a bend, turned my head, looked up or looked back, there was something awesome to see. So I had to stop and take photos even though they show only a hint of what you experience out there. Photos can’t give you the feel in the air. Photos never reproduce the phenomenal colors that change from moment to moment. Photos don’t show you how the flowers dance in the breeze. Photos don’t let you smell the fresh air. But photos do their best to capture the moments so you can remember all those other things.
There is nothing better than seeing the mustard and other flowers popping up everywhere to create their magnificent tapestry. Spring is definitely right around the corner and I am beginning to feel the days left to train tick tock away.
There is nothing better than seeing the impressive, elaborate wineries guarding the hillsides awaiting their throngs of visitors. I’m just not sure why I keep riding PAST them.
How does one stay fit for cycling in the off-season? OK – in (Napa) California, there is no “off-season.” Most years it doesn’t rain too much, nor does it get too cold. I’ve lived in places where most people don’t go outside, much less cycle, between October and May because there is usually snow on the ground and it’s so cold you have to use a hair dryer to thaw the locks on your car. I’ve ridden in those conditions – mainly because I could, and probably because I thought I could prove something to myself – what that was; I’m not quite sure. Now that I’m much older and hopefully somewhat wiser, I don’t have to prove to myself that I can ride in nasty weather. I still do at times, though, just because I want to, and this year has given me plenty of opportunities.
So if I don’t feel like riding in the cold or rain, what do I do/use? And do I cross-train at all? These are the varied ways I stay fit all winter (and year) long.
Running. I never used to like running. At least not as an activity on its own. Sure I ran. I’ve been an athlete for as long as I can remember. My sports mostly involved short sprints, though. Basketball, volleyball, and softball were what I played. Basketball was my favorite except for all the suicide sprints done over the years! Flash forward to three years ago when I started this journey back to me. I thought I should try running. Ha, ha! I could barely make it a quarter of a mile without stopping to walk. Now I run 3.5 to 5 miles every time out, and I have even run 10 and 15 miles to date! My most enjoyable jaunts are those I do with my buds from St. John’s Lutheran on Saturday mornings. We all go at our own pace, and everyone is supportive of each other. And they’ve made running downright fun!
Indoor spinning. I think riding my stationary bike has helped me ride stronger outdoors. I generally do short HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions when indoors. I have a trusty old Schwinn that I’ve used for years. It’s comfortable to me. It tracks just the basic things like time, pace, and distance. And it offers good levels of resistance. Once I get back outside, I notice my cadence is faster, and I’m quicker on the hills.
Elliptical. I don’t often use this machine, but when I get bored with the exercise bike, it’s nice to be able to change it up a bit. I used it more last year after I injured my knee while running and it was extremely helpful in letting me continue to exercise while not putting undue stress on the joint.
Gym/Therapy Balls. How could I not use these? I ask my patients to exercise with them, so shouldn’t I do the same? You can do some great core strengthening and balance training. Add a 10-20 pound medicine ball, and you’ve got a fantastic workout.
Body Blade. This is a device created by a physical therapist back in the early 90’s. We had some in the clinic, and I have had one at home ever since. It uses vibration and inertia to produce rapid contractions. For just a few minutes a day, it translates into great toning and core stabilization.
Edge Suspension Trainer. I have used my suspension trainer extensively. I love doing functional exercises using your body as weight versus non-functional weight machines. And as you’ve probably noticed by now, I really believe in core stability, and the suspension trainer simultaneously develops that, along with strength, and flexibility.
Free weights. I still use free weights for basic strengthening. I use an adjustable system, though. We have a PowerBlock dumbbell set which adjusts from 5 to 45 pounds on each dumbbell. Plenty for me!
Stairs. There is a stairwell not too far from my office at work, and I have taken to running the stairs every few hours during the day. Not too long ago, I could hardly walk up the three flights (56 steps) without being totally out of breath. Now I routinely run up/down ten times before I quit.
There you have it. My winter routine. I can’t wait for the days to be longer, the sun to be out and the roads to be dry. That first century of the year is calling my name. Soon. Very soon! Ride on!