My First Cycling Race: Bogus Basin Hill Climb

Those of you who know me know that I have a love hate relationship with my bike. Love the cross training benefits. Lots of anxiety surrounding the whole balancing on two skinny wheels while traveling at high speeds with my feet clipped in part. Coordination has not historically been my strong suit. I like triathlon because it motivates me to cross train and forces me to become a more well rounded athlete, and since most of a triathlon is spent on the bike, I must confront my cycling anxiety.

My friend Barb has helped me confront my fears head on this summer. Through practice, repetition, and finding a pedal system that works better for me (Thank you, Barb!) I was able to gain a bit more confidence on the bike. One of the training rides I like to do is up Bogus Basin Road, a 16.5 mile winding road that leads to our local ski hill. The total ride has about 4000 feet of elevation gain. At the end of August there is a race to the top called the Bogus Basin Hill Climb. I had never ridden my bike all the way to the top (the furthest I had gone in training was to mile marker 13) nor had I ever done a cycling race, but this year my husband and I decided to do it. My coach Gretchen also signed up.

There were three options on signup: the dirt race (you can get to the top via approximately 20 miles of mountain biking trails as well), the non-competitive road race (which is not timed), and the competitive road race (which is timed). I looked at the times from last years’ race and approximated my time based on my training rides. Based on my projected time, I would finish squarely in the bottom 25%. Nevertheless, if I was going to do a cycling race, I wanted a number and proof on the interwebs that I had done a cycling race! Competitive race it is!

On the morning of the race, my husband and I rode our bikes to the start. The weather was nice: not too hot or cold and no wind. We assessed the group and lined up behind the group of junior high and high school kids. After about 4 or 5 miles of hard climbing, my legs started to feel tired. While I had done long or hard rides before, I had never done a cycling specific workout outside and I was wondering if signing up for a cycling race had been a bad idea. During long or hard rides I would stop and get a drink or a snack. I was not planning to do that during this race. I had a Camelbak on my back and was just planning to drink from that and keep going. I wondered if I was last or close to last, but noticed a few riders behind me. I pushed my doubts aside and kept pedaling.

Once I got out of my head and to the second half, I felt much better. I was enjoying the ride, occasionally passing a person or two, and appreciating the tree coverage that the higher elevation brought. I even noticed that when I would sip from my Camelbak I would continue to pedal with one hand off of my bars. I must be getting more comfortable on the bike! Before I knew it I was just a couple of miles from the top. I finished the ride in 1 hours and 35 minutes, well under my projected finish time of 2 hours.

My husband, coach and I enjoyed the post race beer, tacos and music and then headed back down the mountain. For me, riding back down was just as hard (if not harder!) than riding up. By that point in the day the wind had picked up a bit making the downhill a bit scary for me. Nevertheless, I made it home in one piece very proud of my almost 40 mile round trip up and down the mountain!

 

 

Rest, Recover, Repeat!

California International Marathon was almost four weeks ago and I still cannot walk properly. I am finally off crutches, but it is still painful to do anything weight bearing on my left leg. My doctor was not sure if it was a minor bone injury or a muscle injury, but my physical therapist thinks I may have a femoral stress reaction. The jury is still out. If it is a stress reaction, this will be my second one in less than a year (my 40th year no less!) so I find myself wondering WTF is up with that.

It is easy for me to fall into the 2016 was the worst year ever line of thinking, turn that on myself personally, and focus primarily on my injuries. Yes, if there is a bone issue I need to get that figured out. I did have my blood checked and learned that my Vitamin D levels are low (not shocking because it’s winter and I exercise in the dark) so that could be a big piece of it. But my injuries are not my story. They could be my story if I wanted them to be, but I don’t.

As it turns out, I have a lot to celebrate in 2016. I started the year off by running Rock and Roll Arizona, my first post-baby marathon. I worked throughout the summer on conquering some of my fears on the bike (I’ve got more work to do in that arena, so heads up 2017) and placed in my age group in a couple of short triathlons this summer. This fall I completed a 10k (PR!) and a half-marathon while working towards my goal race, the California International Marathon. I had many beautiful runs and rides and so much fun running with and training with my friends. I learned about enjoying the journey and appreciating each run. I also learned that I am not patient and really bad at resting and recovering!

As I look towards 2017, I have a few goals in mind but with my current, undetermined physical condition I do not yet know what is realistic. My goal, first and foremost, is to be patient with my body. There are things I can do right now and things I cannot. My goal is to accept the things I can do, appreciate where I am, and work towards becoming the athlete that I want to be in 2017 and beyond. Cheers to 2017, to good health, to happiness, and to enjoying the ride!

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Harnessing Fear

There have been periods over the past several years where I have dabbled in cycling. Whether it be a desire to try triathlon, increase my cross-training repertoire, or to maintain fitness during periods of injury, when I mount a bicycle I typically find myself confronting fear. Fear of clipping in and out, fear of descending, fear of riding in traffic…of course those are all just variations of one primary fear: Crashing and getting hurt (or God forbid worse).

When I can confront a fear and come through on the other side of it, I gain confidence. But too much fear can be crippling and will cause me to avoid the activity. The trick is to find the right balance, or to use the fear to my advantage.

Yesterday I was riding up a hill (Bogus Basin Road for those of you that live in Boise) and came upon a cattle guard. Having never ridden my road bike over a cattle guard before I was terrified when I saw it. My preference would have been to unclip and walk over or around it, yet I was cycling uphill and cannot unclip quickly while cycling uphill. I feel like I need a lot of time to unclip and need to be pedaling on a flat surface to do so. I looked ahead and saw another cyclist a couple hundred feet ahead of me. He had obviously gone over the cattle guard and was still upright, so I presumed I could go too. I looked ahead, pedaled forward, and hoped for the best. What choice did I have? I hit the guard, rumbled furiously, and as soon as it started it stopped and I was on the other side! Still upright! But with one minor problem. Since this was an out and back ride up and down a large hill, I would still have to ride back down over the cattle guard.

 

I found a safe place to turn around and once I was heading downhill immediately started worrying about the cattle guard. Descending is not my favorite to begin with and adding the cattle guard to the descent was not helping at all. As I approached it on the downhill, I looked ahead of it, thought “focus on where you want to go” and rode right over it. The downhill seemed to make less of a rumble than the uphill, probably because I hit it going faster, but my body, having been flooded with surges of adrenaline from my fear, continued to shake even after the cattle guard was miles behind me. While it was confidence inducing to know that I can, in fact, ride over a cattle guard without harming myself, I cannot say that I was jumping out of bed to go do it again this morning.

I did, however, go on another (different) road bike ride this morning with my husband and that one also forced me to closely examine how I can perhaps harness my fear to motivate me and build confidence instead of destroy it. Today’s ride was full of chip seal. For those of you who do not live in the area, chip sealing is an alternative, cheaper way to maintain roads that involves dumping a bunch of loose gravel everywhere. So imagine you are on your favorite road route and all of a sudden discover that a) the bike lanes are gone, b) there’s about two inches of loose gravel for miles and miles, and c) when cars drive by they often kick up said loose gravel in your face. On one of the descents through the gravel I was swerving all over the place, spitting gravel everywhere, and when we got to the bottom of the hill I tossed my bike aside and told my husband, “I quit.” I actually said the words, “I quit.” I told him that he could ride home and get me (which would have taken over an hour) or we could ask someone at a nearby house if they would watch our bikes while we took an uber home and then drove back. He looked at me, laughed, agreed the ride was no fun, but told me to put my big girl panties on, that I could do it and to keep pedaling. And I’m so glad he did. I would have felt bad if I had quit in the middle of the ride. Also, the beer I drank when I got home would not have tasted nearly as good.

And I would not have had the rest of the ride to consider how to properly harness fear to create confidence. I still do not have that part figured out and am open to suggestions. I have owned a road bike for eight years and I still feel fearful when I ride it. But I can do things now that I could not do eight years ago. I like to believe that the more I ride the more confident I will get. Perhaps it will not come quickly. Perhaps I will always be somewhat fearful. But I keep showing up. I keep riding.

I asked myself this morning why. Why do I keep doing something that scares me so much? Why time and time again do I get on the bike only to flood my body with adrenaline, have near misses with cars or almost topple over due to my own user error? Because if I don’t try, I’ll never know what I am capable of. To show my kids what confronting fear looks like. Because there is no chance of running into a deer in a gym class and the views aren’t quite as good. Because I like doing triathlons. Because the beer at the end tastes phenomenal. And because nothing feels quite as good as doing something that you didn’t think you could do yesterday.

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