Monday, May 16, 2016

Finding the Smile when the Times are Tough...

Last week I had a pretty big week at work - busy days filled with meetings and then a few fun evenings socializing.  I'm always striving for balance and admittedly even more so in the past couple years.  The athlete in me will never die.... there are just many other things in life in which my passions are growing.  Thursday night I left work late around 7pm after intentionally taking the previous 3 days of off the bike.  Mentally, I was exhausted and I had some serious agony intervals on tap....  I wanted nothing more than the couch.  Instead, I dusted off the lights (which I then forgot) and asked myself what was the worst that could happen?  If anything I'd at least be moving my body, right? 

Well I freaking nailed those intervals in a way that I haven't nailed intervals in a really long time. It  was surprising and beyond rad.  These moments are pivotal.  They remind us that that the miles are not everything, that rest is real, and that we are always capable of so much more than we think we are.
I've always wanted to do this!
photo credit: Star Tribune
It got me thinking about this whole concept of mind over matter. The reality is, we can only be tough, when we are tested. Of all the things I've discovered as an endurance athlete, the most profound is that fitness is only a small factor in what determines our success on race day. There will be injuries, dead legs,  mechanicals, and horrible weather. There will be runny noses and crashes, hard family times, and work stress.  We cannot possibly control all of this. But we can decide each and every day to control our mind, to be strong and to be positive.  To chose mind over matter.

Truthfully, I'm not usually confident in my training or in my fitness, but I'm always confident in my ability to suffer, to dig deep, and to find the smile when the times are hard.  I'm confident in my ability to be tough when I am tested.

This spring I've had some really strong days on the bike, such as the Dickie Scramble and the Fulton Gran Fondo - I'm pretty excited about those efforts. I'm also pretty stoked about my noticeable increase in core strength --> thanks [solidcore]! 

However, to some degree I feel it's nearly impossible to feel "ready" for a race such as the Dirty Kanza 200.  The miles never feel like enough and there is no getting around the fact that somewhere after 120 miles - it's gonna hurt like hell.  This is why I'm also prepping my mind - to embrace the pain.  It's less than 20 days away and I can't wait to race my bike...ALL DAY LONG.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Beating burn out - hitting the road, and rippin' gravel!

Some time last week a friend asked me something like this "How do you prevent burnout when you quickly move from one season to the next?"  At first glance I couldn't help but chuckle.  Truth be told -  I've  been on the struggle bus lately....and in all reality there are many times in a year that I feel like I'm a stack of smoldering coals just about ready to burn out.  I'm far from immune to this concept of burn out, however, the trick I've learned over the years is being able to acknowledge that moment, spend some time in it, and eventually determine what is needed to ignite a spark. 

Love riding with Randall's crew on the weekends!
Sometimes it's plain old rest, other times it's simply having options, or it's a change of pace, or it's skipping a ride for a couple beers with a friend. Sometimes the mere sense of freedom that accompanies a choice is all that is needed.  I've also learned that I personally need to plan short breaks into my year of racing and decide which few events are most important to me - putting less emphasis on those other events or seasons that are not as important. This way when I'm in an "off season" it's easier to take that day off or to cut that ride short, or skip those annoying intervals. 

Photo Credit - Matthew Pastick - after saying hello in downtown Wayzata

One thing that I specifically do in the spring to fend off burn out is to join in more group rides! I find group rides to be the easiest way to add on the miles - for some odd reason the suffering is just a little more tolerable with others + who doesn't love a coffee/donut stop in the middle of a 5 hour ride? 

Not only have I been using these road rides to add miles to my training, but I've also been using them to mix up the intensity - replacing some of my interval workouts. One night a week I look for a group ride that's just a tad outside of my comfort zone --  I've learned that the simple fear of being dropped and maybe even worse being that girl that everyone has to wait for is a huge motivating factor for me to push myself beyond my perceived limits.  I'm learning when best to use my matches so that I can manage a consistent effort throughout a ride.  It's it's own little challenge and this is all great timing because...

Photo Credit: Todd Bauer
That's me, and my fitness clone Jeff Shupe

It's gravel season!  Spring has always been my favorite time of year and the local gravel scene is only helping solidify that.   Dickie Scramble and Miesville56 where the two local gravel races I chose this year mostly because I love the festive post race small town bar atmosphere.  I loved sharing both of these ride experiences with some people I had just met.  That's the beauty of gravel.  Eventually you end up riding with a smallish group of people with similar fitness sharing the workload and motivating each other to keep pushing.  This camaraderie is incredible and it's always the highlight of my ride.  Plus, there are usually cows some place near the gravel....and I freaking love cows, especially this little ginger cow. So cute!

In other news I'm pretty excited to be representing Lift Cyclewear this coming year!  I've been a fan of this Minneapolis based brand since they first launched last spring and I could not be more excited about their 2016 clothing line!  The knickers are bad ass and there is a top/bottom for just about any occasion...+ no more tan lines ladies!! I just love all that this brand represents. Don't just dream - dream big!! 

Use my ambassador code APRIL10 for 10% off online
I also saw some of these items fresh on the rack at Tonka Cycle and Ski

What's on tap?? Well, I'm beyond jacked for my Michigan BFF - Danielle to arrive tomorrow night.  She's coming into town for the Fulton Gran Fondo (and a bike fit with the Bicycle Fit Guru)!  The Fondo is the best bike party ever...and with approx 1500 people, this weekend is sure to be a gosh darn riot! Help me welcome Danielle to spring in Minneapolis - she'll be riding the 100 on her Beargrease "Skittles" with Tom (uff da!) Make sure you give them a good shout!!