Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

The plan was to continue with the theme of "The Top Mistakes I Make When Training for a Race." But the last few days have beat me up and I am in need of a renewal. Since it is Good Friday and Easter Weekend, I thought it to be an appropriate time for reflection. Here is a repost from last fall and its exactly what my soul is longing for today . . . If I don't have the time for it at least I can remember it fondly.


Last week my pastor sent out an inquiry, asking those he knew about how they worshipped. I immediately thought of my experience at Lumberjack 100. Endurance mountain biking—from the discipline of training to the test of fire in racing—is a physical manifestation of the spiritual act of surrendering to God.

Just like worship, cycling is a way for me to be rejuvenated, to prioritize, to clear my mind, and to shed anxiety.

On Sunday, after worshipping in the traditional sense in a church pew I went to 'complete' worship: my soul, my physical self, my entire being and set out on an all day cycling adventure with my friend Kelly. I didn't bring a watch, nor a computer, nor GPS, nor odometer.

Me and Kelly, just a few miles into the ride.

We rolled out of the driveway at 10:30 AM with no plan other than to head north for awhile.

We found the bikepath and wound our way from Muskegon all the way to Hart.

We stopped for lunch at the Brown Bear with a fine selection of 1 pound hamburgers and assortment of deep-fried vegetables. Mmmmmm.

After a plate of onion rings and cheesy quesadillas . . . well, the next ten miles were a little rough.

Kelly at Silver Lake Dunes. It was really, really windy!
Eventually we headed West and South and stopped briefly at Silver Lake Dunes.

Eventually I got hungry again and started eating my glove.

After a day of riding under a brilliant blue sky, a canopy of changing leaves, past wineries, bakeries, farmer's markets and pumpkin patches and everything that is the splendor of West Michigan in autumn we rolled into the driveway at sunset. 

Exhausted. Wasted.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Top Mistakes I Make When Training for A Race

Once again I am registered for the Lumberjack 100. While the weather outside may have us thinking June is a millennia away, in reality it is only 80 days until race day. And some of us decided it would be a good year to break a foot and sit on the couch all winter (ahem, me). Eighty days is not a lot of time to train for an endurance event. For the runners out there, this is the equivalent of going from the couch to marathon in 10 weeks.

It can be done! But there is little to no room for mistakes or slacking when it comes to a training regimen. It's pertinent I don't repeat the mistakes of the past. The next few posts will be a compilation of common mistakes I make all the time.

1) Focusing on the duration of the training.
Not all of us have 5 hours stacked together for training rides on the weekend. Its easy for me to question my own training plan when the hours are paltry compared to others. Unfortunately this down attitude has caused self-sabotage when I spend precious mental energy being worried rather than focusing on the purpose of my training session.

When you have limited training time its vital that you make every minute count 10 times of that which would be used for an endurance ride. There are two keys to boosting the effectiveness of your training time:

  1. Approach every minute of the training session with intention (interval, hill, recovery, tempo, etc). Craft your rides to work towards specific goals. How often are we told to eat a 'colorful diet'? Training should be the same way: full of variety. There should be rides to practice technical skills, rides for building strength, anaerobic capacity, etc. Every training session has a purpose and every minute of each training session serves a purpose. Make the time spent on the bike work for you and leave sleeping for the couch. 
  2. Be 100% present. I've become rather skilled at compartmentalizing in my attempt to balance motherhood, career, wifedom, and bike racing. Trying to do all of that at once is exhausting. So I don't. Instead I give 100% of myself to one thing at a time. When I'm home with the kids, I'm Mom. When I'm at work, I'm 100% at work. I don't waste mental energy worrying about things at home when I'm not there to do anything about them. It's the same with training. In order to get the most out of my training I block everything else out of my mind and put 100% into what I'm doing in the moment (that's the goal at least). 

Come back tomorrow for Mistake #2: Being Afraid of the Deep End.

Preview: It's funny watching my kids learn to swim. When they want a challenge they'll dart under the divider from the shallow end to the deep end then quickly pop back up safely at the depth of 3.5 feet. They are pumped from their dare-devilish flirt with the deep end. It's humorous because you know they've kept one toe safely on the shallow side and never fully plunged into the depth of the pool.

I can easily fall into a similar rut when it comes to cycling. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stepping Stones to the Next Big Dream

While taking a walk along the beach, recovering from having finished the LJ100 just days before, I found something buried in the sand. I thought it might be a fossil as the rock, which was gradually being uncovered by the lapping waves, appeared to have markings on it. The kids would love to add a fossil to their growing 'beach treasures' collection and so I kicked it out of the sand with my feet, then washed it in the lake water.

When I turned it over I found that someone had written on it "ENDURE."

A fitting treasure for the summation of a journey that was my Lumberjack 100 experience. I keep the rock in my living room, an immutable testament to an accomplishment I once thought never possible.

Today I went for a 5k run around our neighborhood. The pavement was still wet from yesterdays thaw and yet the wind was biting with snow flurries. Running in March. In Michigan.

I couldn't help but think about the last time I trained for the River Bank Run 25k—running the same 5k route on the same March day some years ago. I set a lofty goal for myself that year: to finish in under 2:21:00. The previous year I had a finished at 2:31:06. Expecting to shave my time by 10 minutes was setting the bar high. In fact, anyone I mentioned this goal to strongly urged me to lower my expectations. I was glad I never revealed my true goal of seeing a 2:15 on the clock. A time that would require a pace faster than I had ever recorded over any distance, including a measly *3-mile 5k race.

I ended up running a 2:13:03.

The roads and paths of my neighborhood are much like that rock—a physical, tangible reminder of a dream made real. A testament of hard work, perseverance, and commitment.

What is my purpose in sharing this? I believe its important to mark our accomplishments so that on a day like today—a day where running feels as foreign as visiting Mars, where my schedule is in a vice, my body tired and sore, and the landscape between myself and my 'goal' has collapsed in an expanse equivocal to the Grand Canyon—I can recall having been there before. And, that eventually, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Days like today, even seasons filled with weeks of days like today, are a necessary part of the journey. Big Dreams aren't achieved without the grueling, relentless, suffering work.

And each dream accomplished is not merely 'something we once did' but rather the rocks that build the foundation of our lives. I know that's a deep thought. But its true. The characteristics we gain from sport: commitment, dedication, goal-setting, hard work, perseverance, endurance—everything we do in our athletic lives (be it running or mountain biking or swimming . . . ) translates into every other aspect of our lives. How we conduct ourselves in our careers, how we parent, how we relate in our marriages.

Take some time today, remember your accomplishments and all the things you thought weren't possible, maybe it was running that first mile or going on your first mountain bike ride. Be encouraged and motivated by that experience and use it as a stepping stone to the next big thing in your life.

*I know I am being redundant, but some people are unaware that a "5k race" is not a type of race but rather represents the distance, which is 3.1 miles.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Motivation via Movie Night

Today is Thursday which meant there was another session of Fierce. I have never been in a solitary position and suffered this extreme amount of agony and bleeding of sweat by the buckets like I did this morning. This class is different every week. Sometimes there's TRX, sometimes there's primal movements (I turned out to be more like a waddling sea lion than a strong-strutting ape), sometimes there's Pilates . . . it's a mixed bag of torture served with your morning coffee.

This morning's blend included (but not limited to) running with a medicine ball over our heads, several different styles of pushups, an abdominal exercise where we went from a standing position to rolling on our backs on the floor (arms and legs extended) then rolling back into a standing position with a jump (repeat!), topped with some TRX acrobatics.

Thursdays are extra special.

I'm tired, exhausted, and in need of a little pick-me-up while snuggled-up with my family. My remedy is a couch-boat (we slide the two couches in our living room together to make a big boat) movie night.

Here is a list of inspirational movies that are up for consideration:

Pistol Pete
A story about the great basketball player "Pistol" Pete Maravich when he was in the eighth grade. He plays on the varsity basketball team at Daniel High School but has some very difficult obstacles standing in his way of playing. The only support he has is from his father, retired basketball pro Press Maravich. Available on Netflix.
I love this movie and its a great one to watch with my daughter (7 years old). The foulest language is "butt-head" and the overall theme is dreaming big, commitment, and over-coming adversity. 

Saint Ralph
Ralph is a 14-year-old in mid-'50s Canada coping with his mother's debilitating illness as well as the recent loss of his father. Forced to join his school's cross-country running team as part of a punishment, Ralph's talent for running emerges. Believing only a miracle can foster his mother's recovery, he sets his sights on winning the Boston Marathon.
Another Big-Dreamer! Love these kind of movies. Although I will wait to watch this one after the kids are in bed as there is some boy-going-through-puberty scenes. It would be appropriate for older children (11-12ish and up?). 

More inspirational athlete/sport movies:
Soul Surfer

Run Fatboy Run

Bend It Like Beckham

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Finally Fat Tire Biking

As you know, my family spent the weekend at Crystal Mountain Resort. And as you also know (if you read my blog which you do because you are reading this) that I'm not much of a downhill skier. Even so, I have been looking forward to this weekend since I scribbled it on my calendar months ago. And not just because I was going to get to eat double peanut butter pancakes.

Crystal Mountain has acquired a fleet of fat tire bikes.

Here's a quick tutorial on fat bikes to catch you up to speed:

What is a fat bike?
It is a mountain (or off-road) bike that has enormous, wide, 'fat' tires.

Why does it have fat tires?
The benefit of 'fat' tires is to allow for greater flotation over soft surfaces (think beach sand or snow) and provide greater traction (larger surface area = more connection to the ground = more traction). This combination allows bikes to roll on terrain that a traditional mountain bike could not.

It wouldn't be all that far of a comparison to say fat tires are a bit like snow shoes. They provide greater surface area and allow for you to "float" better over snow (or sand) where skinnier tires would likely sink.

Fat tire bikes are growing in popularity and all the cool kids have one.

I've spent my winter pouting over my keyboard while reading status updates and blog posts of glorious fat tire snow bike rides! And fat tire rides on the beach of Lake Michigan! And racing in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series!

(insert juvenile tantrum here)

But on Saturday I finally got to see what all the craze is about.

And it was awesome! Chad, my brother and myself each rented a bike. It didn't take long for us to warm up on a fast cruise down the road in search of the "fat tire trail" which the clerk told us was clearly labeled and yet 3 college educated fully functioning adults could not find it . . . We eventually came to a snowmobile trail through the woods and hopped on!

As long as we could manage a narrow line following the packed trail the bike handled with ease. One slip to the left or right and the tire would sink and slip in the deep wet snow. It was so much fun whizzing and zipping through the trees along a marshmallow packed trail. Crashing into white blustery snowballs was perhaps the most fun. 

For those of us with negative budgets and who are too cheap to pay $30 a month for a dataplan in order to have a smart phone that can take actual photos of said adventures to accompany widely-read and highly-acclaimed blogs posts (as opposed to my 3-minute scribbles) and therefore cannot afford another bike, being able to rent one for the afternoon was a great option to partake in the fat tire experience.

Rentals are $10 an hour or $15 for two hours. If you plan on renting from Crystal Mountain, be warned that they have only 2 'mountain bike' style fat tire bikes (one large and one mall) and at least 6 'cruiser' single speeds with coaster brakes. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thoughts on Raising a Daughter (repost)

I'm reposting Thoughts on bullying and raising a daughter from last fall. Yesterday I listened to "Girls and Gears with Danielle Musto" on Mountain Bike Radio. In this episode she interviewed endurance racer Sonya (sounds like lasagna) Looney. While neither of them touched on the subject of bullying, they both recalled feeling out-of-place as young girls and emphasized how mountain biking and the community of cyclists changed their lives for the better.

I also watched a clip of the newly released "Singletrack High" that featured the women that race on the high school mountain bike team. Here's a clip:

Singletrack High - Sisters Who Shred from Pedal Born Pictures on Vimeo.

These testimonies speak to the desire of girls and women to be something more. There is a community of women who long for the opportunity to show independence, strength, and endurance. We aren't afraid of doing something hard, getting dirty or beat up.

Sometimes the soccer team, the orchestra, or science club just aren't enough. Sometimes a girl needs to be in the wild with nothing more than the strength of her body and determination to see herself through.

Thoughts on bullying and raising a daughter . . . (10/19/12)

This week I took my daughter out of school for a day of mountain biking. There's the obvious reason for this: riding single track is the awesomest. But there are underlying, significant reasons for encouraging my daughter to mountain bike and allowing her to miss school.

I'm not that old that I don't remember what it's like to be a kid. I remember school being everything. I couldn't imagine what my life would be like after I finished school. Almost all of my activities revolved around it: being on the school newspaper, sports teams, and choir. All of my friends were a part of that school community. And as kids do, I was labeled. Everyone was. Some kids had it better than others. No matter what 'label' you received, it followed you. It was oppressive. But you could always go home for a short reprieve.

For a lot of kids, school is their main, possibly only community. With the advent of social media and its penetrating waves into our homes and pockets it now gives that community 24/7 access into our lives. Bullying doesn't stay at school anymore, it follows kids every where they go.

Reading sad and frightening stories of bullying in school and the tragic results recently in the news has me on guard as a parent. I worry for my children.

Unfortunately I cannot protect them from every mean and hurtful action that they will undoubtedly experience.

What I can do is try to provide them with the tools they will need to deal with those situations and, if nothing else, give them a brief escape. I can encourage and provide them with opportunities to build their self-confidence. I can help them discover that they are so much more than what their peers label them as. I can expose them to communities outside of school: communities of strong, confident and positive people. And while education is very important, school in itself is not everything.

The other night Snoose was crying while telling me about being teased by her classmates. I wish I could steal that moment away, but I can't. So I asked Snoose to tell me about the time she raced at Pando. What does she feel when she thinks about that moment? What about the time she conquered the log piles at Fort Custer?

She said she was so proud of herself, it made her happy!

I told her to remember those moments because it will help remind her of who she is: a strong, persevering, and capable person and not what someone else tells her.