Renew my faith

After spending the last week fishing out hats and gloves and stashing my carbon tubulars in the corner of the garage, it renews my faith to wake up to November sunshine and warm(ish) weather. Days like this are stolen indulgences. I eagerly swap out the boat anchor wheel BethRaphafallattached to the trainer even though I don’t need to hit max power or bring home a QOM. I just need to ride my damn bike before the changing of the seasons drives me mad.

As the sun hits my back like a giant solar panel, I don’t focus on my crappy fitness or that my quads are screaming on the smallest inclines. I don’t need to glance at the power numbers on my Garmin to declare it a “good ride.”

After a season that could have been, but wasn’t, I need these small wins to renew my faith. As I slip into the drops, my mind wanders to next season. This time of year is all about possibilities, dreaming of the top step, the breakaway that sticks. Thoughts swirl as we slip into our winter cocoons and then emerge, prepared to test our wings in the spring. What do I want to become? The pavement stretches out forever. So many roads lead back home.

The Heaven and Hell of Hunterdon

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I could write a typical ride report, stating how perfect the weather was for a spring classic and complaining about how brutal a course the Hell of Hunterdon is, especially in March, but that wasn’t what yesterday was about for me. Cycling has the power to break you down and build you up and yesterday’s ride was a little of the former and bucket loads of the latter. I arrived shaky and nervous about riding in a group, especially with 18 sections of dirt and gravel. I didn’t know how my shoulder would hold up or if my legs could go for 79 miles and hit 5,700 feet after resting all of last week. I assumed I would cut the course early and use it as the week’s long ride in my training plan. Continue reading

Back to basics

It turns out the cure for my burnout wasn’t to take a vacation or to challenge myself with another sport.  I just needed to get my ass kicked. I’d been sitting around for two weeks resting a sore calf and hamstring and feeling dreadfully slow and sorry for myself. My season’s over, I reasoned, and I didn’t even want to imagine the pain Gran Fondo NJ would bring in two short weeks.  It’s funny how you spend months on the trainer and the road plugging away day after day. Then a low period strikes and it’s hard to resist the urge to pull the plug on the entire season. Continue reading

Feel the burn(out)

I’ve come to expect it every year. Though usually it creeps in when the leaves are falling and a chill begins to penetrate the morning air. During this time I reflect on a season of road riding and cyclocross, reminiscing about all the adventures packed into one summer. And then I promptly stay the hell away from my bike for at least a few weeks.

This month I haven’t even cracked a hundred miles and even on my 30th birthday I had to push myself to get on the bike because “that’s what I enjoy.” Cyclists cheered at winter’s departure way back in March and the odometer has been ticking off big numbers ever since. But that warm fuzzy feeling wears off over six months. Little niggling aches become full-blown pains and suddenly the legs are always heavy despite eating every superfood and foam rolling to the moon and back. People are still on summer vacation and I’m feeling blue. Bike riding is my emotional stability, my social connection and the way I shake all the thoughts and worries from my head so I can sleep at night. Despite still having cycling events I’m registered for and cyclocross, I just want to stop. What happens now? Continue reading

Ring in the new

Yesterday I did something completely new. I rode. Outside. On January 1st. As a New Yorker, I’ve grown accustomed to hunkering down between Thanksgiving and Saint Patricks Day and giving my indoor trainer a good beating.

New Years day was the kind of weather that had people stripping off jackets and donning only light full-finger gloves. We’re talking low to mid 50s and sunny here, people. Something almost unheard of up here in ski and ice skating country.

So we posted a ride…and people came. Twenty-six cyclists to be exact, a number that would be impressive on any Saturday morning in July. Just feeling the warmth and excitement of everyone on their bikes was incredible. During the summer months it’s so easy to get used to spending hours a week together, riding shoulder-to-shoulder, chatting about everything and nothing as the miles tick by.  Then daylight savings time ends and, except for the brave few who slug it out year-round, we suddenly find ourselves cut off from many wonderful connections and conversations.

This year has been especially hard because it was a collection of lasts. Job and school commitments are forcing us to relocate, away from the rolling hills and traffic-less roads that almost feel like an extension of our own bodies. It’s hard to say goodbye to the people who have waited for us at stop signs, passed us extra water on summer’s hottest days and shared advice that we’ll forever carry with us.

As the peloton filed out under the warm winter sun yesterday, it felt as though nothing had changed. We quickly settled into the draft, striking up conversations and challenging our off-season legs to fall into a familiar rhythm. For 30 miles, there was no past or future. Just today.