Elitism in Road Cycling? Nah…


Do I think that there is elitism in road cycling? Sure, you’ve got all types of personalities in my favorite two-wheeled sport. However, I don’t believe that just because you are a Cat 1 or 2 you are a snob. Some of the nicest people I know will also just as kindly rip my legs off in a training ride. However, now that summer is coming to a close, road season is done, and the cycling vacations have been posted on Facebook – I’ve noticed that there IS a distinct difference between a Cat 3 or 4 vacation and one featuring our local Pros. Here’s a bit about why that difference is necessary for a Pro or semi-pro cyclist…

20130831_114942First of all, you will see that the vacations for Cat 1 or 2 (and often Cat 3) typically feature cycling as the focus. Not just any old cycling either – epic sh*t. Cycling the highest paved road in North America, riding over incredibly hard mountain passes, crazy steep grades, cycling extreme distance, or maybe even throwing in a race during the vacation! You know: stuff that has you thinking “that is a freaking vacation??” Or perhaps you feel like: “Wow, some day maybe I can do that!”

Your Cat 3 folks, like me, will include cycling in vacations. Sure! However, we may not just focus on cycling and we might mix it up by throwing in a little hiking, surfing, beer drinking (that’s a sport, right?), mountain biking, or climbing. There might be some epic sh*t – but perhaps not as much in the epic department and more focused on just having fun.

stuffing-faceDON’T DROP THE DIET
You might be thinking: “Diet, what diet – it’s a vacation!” … and that’s exactly what I think on vacation too, more or less. If you are a Cat 3 and you are worried about your race weight while on vacation: congrats, you are almost a Cat 2 and you don’t even know it yet. Those that aren’t Pro or semi-pro level usually aren’t worried about the diet so much when we are slurping down our third margarita and munching on our second dessert. Race weight can wait! It’s vacation BABY!

Your Pros and semi-pros however … well, they are still concerned about straying off of the training plan, even on a vacation. Ever vigilant, there might be a little fudging as long as they don’t push things too far from their program. After all, vacations end and more than likely there is a competitive event in the not too distant future. Coming back 5lbs heavier could be a disaster! So, they will probably stick to one margarita and pass on the dessert. Sounds like a sober bunch, doesn’t it?

It’s not that your Cat 1 & Cat 2 racers are uptight, it’s simply that the competition is tough. One little mistake can cost you. When one has worked that hard to get semi-pro or Pro status, you have to work even harder to keep it. Discipline is required to compete in Cat 1, 2 or Pro levels. This includes what happens when you go on vacation from what you do to maintain your fitness (or push yourself to be a better competitor) to your diet and including the off-season (what off-season??). It’s not that you can’t have fun – as long as you color inside the lines, so to speak.

On one hand, it’s fantastic to be able to compete in the top of your sport. On the other – cycling awayit’s darn difficult too. Not everyone has the discipline to maintain the performance output required to be competitive semi-pro or Pro. So, if your top level cycling athletes have their own rides that will rip the legs off of any person under Cat 2 – that’s not elitism … it’s necessary. To a point. Even your semi-pros and Pros need a Zone 1 or 2 day. Cycling at that level is freaking HARD. It’s not for the feint of heart or those that can’t stay on plan and focused.

Lord knows I asked that question when I got to Cat 3. Actually, it was more like: “Well, I did
it! Now what?”
After about 5 whole minutes of deliberation I decided I like to goof off too much and love cycling for cycling’s sake more than I love to compete. It’s not that I don’t enjoy racing, but it’s not my sole focus in life. There is so much else to experience! In order to Cat up at 40+ I would need to embrace a sort of discipline that would consume most of my free time. I’m not willing to do that. I had to be realistic. If you can find that drive to focus on what it takes to compete as a Cat 1/2 – that’s awesome!

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Photo: Creative Cycle Marketing

One of the things that hit me was, if I leveled up a Category, I would miss racing with my friends. I’ve been down that lonely road before racing with women I didn’t know and might never see again on a strange course. I didn’t like it much. There’s something reassuring about racing with folks you know and care about. I feel like I’m a part of something bigger, a part of a community. You can be happy that you put in a hard days work even if it’s your friend that’s on the podium and not you, but that’s ok. You aren’t racing to be #1 or nothing. It’s not as empty feeling if you don’t achieve top three.

If you have the discipline to make the grade, stick to your guns, and focus your life on racing – I think that is wonderful. It’s a tough life and it’s not for everyone. Each lady competitor that makes it to the top of her sport does it for her own reasons, and I hope those reasons are worth it. If you can do it – go for it! You don’t want to look back one day and wonder: “What if…?” The only advice I have is: on those Zone 1 and 2 days – do something that reminds yourself of why you started riding a bike to begin with. Don’t lose that joy. Don’t get to the point you want to hang your bike up. Always remember, at the end of day, you ride your bike because you love to ride.

Cycle on Friends!


The Balance Between Riding And Resting


As I have gotten more candles on my birthday cake I have come to deeply value the balance between riding and resting. However, giving your body time to recuperate is not for those over 35, especially if you do high-intensity workouts. Training and riding hard will build endurance, however, ONLY if you also rest. You see: RESTING is when the body repairs and builds muscle: not in the middle of a workout. This concept took many, many years to finally sink in to my thick skull.

I have always been too hard on myself…

sad rider 2I want to do it all – all the time! There was a time when the only day I gave myself ‘off’ to rest was Friday and I would wonder why I couldn’t ride as hard as I wanted to on the weekend. I mean, what’s wrong with thinking that you are super-woman?? After a while, my body’s performance declined and I would become burned out (or get sick). I didn’t have a choice but to rest and I was constantly surprised how much better I performed after a few days off. It’s always been a fault of mine to push, and push, and push myself right to the limit to only wear myself down. After which came the struggle to get back to my ‘normal’ performance level: never understanding WHY I couldn’t be consistent. Well …. “duh”.

I am telling you now, my friends and readers: Allow Your Body to Rest. Looking back – I realize that I allowed fear of losing some level of fitness to justify why I didn’t want to rest. The reality was, I was losing fitness because I was doing too much.

If you do not build in rest time into your training routine you will break your body down and become more susceptible to injuries, illnesses, and other (potentially worse) issues. Over-training is a REAL thing, not just a buzzword. Our bodies perform amazing feats and can endure much more than we often realize. However, to constantly abuse it and not give it the rest it needs to repair and restore is just silly. After all: extensive hard exercise tears down muscles which then needs to be repaired in order to be stronger.

“The fallacy, however, is that we don’t actually get strong when we train, we become stronger when we heal from training. Outside of going so hard that one becomes injured much of the fatigue induced by a hard day can make us better if we allow ourselves to recover from that work.” – Dr. Allen Lim, PhD

sunrise cyclingThe amount of rest required is entirely dependent upon the individual and the amount of exertion. A day off after a very hard ride or a race isn’t a bad thing. At most: an easy spin for an hour. Everyone’s combination of riding and resting varies based on what you did and how much you broke your muscles down, among other factors. It’s not a bad idea to have a conversation with your cycling mentor or a professional coach concerning the optimal ride / rest combo for you.

“When I later found myself in the world of pro cycling, … we discovered that athletes became stronger when they had at least one relatively easy day for every extraordinary day of training. At most, we wouldn’t try to do more than two or three days of hard training in a row without a complete day off or a very easy ride.” – Dr. Allen Lim, PhD

I’m still coming to terms with the concept of just taking several days off the bike to recover, even though I know I need it from time to time. I love riding my bike! However: it’s critical to get the rest you need to become stronger. It doesn’t work any other way. In yoga, we call this practicing self-care. I see very few people that actually practice self-care well. Instead I hear a lot of: “I suck right now” (heck, I’ve said it too!) and “I don’t understand why I’m so tired”. Keep in mind that it’s not just working out that puts stress on our bodies: life can throw other challenges our way that we also have to deal with. These additional challenges increase our body’s need for rest, even if it wasn’t a workout per se.

sitting on couchBy experience, however, I have also learned that one cannot take many days off of the bike and expect to pop right back in at peak output! Resting is crucial, however, taking more than 2-3 days off of the bike and expect your body to need a ‘warm-up’ ride to get back into the swing of things. Don’t fret: you aren’t losing any measurable fitness by taking up to 5 days off but your body will need at least one day to limber up the muscles and get back into the rhythm of riding. This is why most professionals rarely take significant time off of the bike during race season.

Here’s a great article on avoiding over-training by Ella Cycling & Kelly Cycle Coaching

If you practice self-care, you will thank yourself when you can still ride at 70+ years old… and remember why you are out on your bike to begin with. Don’t be as hard-headed as I have been about this; allow yourself to rest. Yes, it can be difficult because we like to be active. Yes, I understand all too well the potential fear of “what if I loose fitness”. It’ll be okay, a day off does not affect your performance. Please don’t confuse hot yoga with rest either! Sometimes you just need to do NOTHING that resembles a workout.

Buck up Buttercup – you can do it! It’ll make you stronger!

Who knew that finding the balance between riding and resting could be so difficult to do?

Rest so you can Ride more!


Off-Season Switch Up


To the disappointment of many and the exhilaration of a few hard-riding fools – the debate about whether or not to go ‘off-season’ is continuously leaning towards consistent training verses an abandonment of strict discipline in favor of late mornings, leisurely base miles, and general enjoyment. It has historically been a time when a racer pulled out the old winter bike, enjoyed a comfortable coffee with mates, and generally didn’t focus much on a training regime.

Continue reading Off-Season Switch Up

The Keys to Competing in your 40’s


The 2016 Olympics are now old news and the media headlines are all about Angelina and Brad’s impending divorce… if you care. Regardless of the media’s latest craze; there is one thing in particular that stuck with me from the Olympics and it might be helpful to those that would like to continue competitive sports long after their so-called ‘prime’. And that one thing was brought to light by one person: Kristin Armstrong.

k-armstrong-openKristin Armstrong has inspired so many of us, not only as Americans, but as hard-working, athletic, competitive women who have real lives that include jobs and kids. The fact that she has won three Olympic gold medals – all of which have been obtained after she turned 30 – is revolutionary in the history of the Olympic Games. Kristin is a REAL person, with a REAL job, family, commitments, and struggles. She is someone we women can relate to, empathize with, and most importantly: she breaks the barriers that have held most of us back from serious competition later in life.

Continue reading The Keys to Competing in your 40’s

The Practical Side of a Bike Vacation


What is more awesome to an avid cyclist than taking a bike vacation??

You get to experience the freedom of the road and the scenery like never before. There’s nothing quite like it really. Bike vacations are amazing and I highly recommend them, even though there is a bit more logistics involved. Hauling a bike around, shipping your two-wheeled baby (or handing it over to the dubious care of airline cargo handlers), and possibly renting your steed can be a stress source. There’s the practical side of a bike vacation to consider … After all, you don’t want something to happen to your bike!

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Random Road Trip Revelations


After almost 3 weeks of being either in a campsite with limited (or absent) services or being on the road in the middle of proverbial nowhere and experiencing almost no connectivity to the world at large; I’ve had a few self-discoveries, revelations, and words of wisdom to those that are considering road-trip/camping to the far reaches of this Great Country.

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A Summer Solo Ride: Climbing Day

Then And Now

Dawn. That ethereal state of awakening when the earth is bathed in a bluish-green glow which sneaks through the curtains to land on my sleepy eyes. That time just before day-break when the roosters begin to echo their calls through the countryside and the birds chip curiously as if they, like me, aren’t quite sure if they want to be awake yet. It’s this time of morning when I have a stern conversation with myself…

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Rubber Side Down – Bike Crashes & Lessons Learned

rubber side down

Keep it Rubber Side Down!

As I’m recovering from my 4th concussion (3rd bike-related) and have suddenly found myself with a bit of free time thanks to doctor’s orders: I thought I’d share a few cycling-related accident insights – both past and present, as well as a few lessons learned. There’s a saying, if you ride a bike, you’ll crash, it’s just a matter of when. Sounds morbid, but it’s reality. Very few avid cyclists get through life without hitting the deck at least once, especially if you happen to ride frequently in urban areas or race. Most of those I ride with have at least one scar that comes along with a story.

Some are working on a collection.

Continue reading Rubber Side Down – Bike Crashes & Lessons Learned

Sweaty Betty: Cycling in Summer

bulldog on ice2

Oh boy, can I sweat in the summer! Not the delicate dew and occasional lady-like bead of sweat…. Nope. I’m a dripping soaked mess. My jersey weighs at least 8 lbs when I take it off. I can wring sweat out of my gloves after about 25 miles in 87+ degree heat. I’m constantly redirecting sweat out of my eyes and there’s a steady drip off of my chin. At least my feet don’t sweat, but it’s a good thing that I wear tall socks to prevent my feet from being soaked from the small stream that develops on my shins….

In short: it’s gross.

FB_IMG_1439074828449Regardless of your feelings about excessive sweatiness – there’s a plus side to it (especially if you live where it’s hot)! In my home state of Texas, in particular: it gets CRAZY hot. Silly hot. So hot you can fry eggs on the hood of your car. It’ll have you hunting for shelter at about 11:00 am and the sun feels like it’s drilling holes in your skin through your jersey. It’s the only time of year that I am praying for a breeze and the heat from the pavement almost melts the soles of your shoes. BUT, because I’m a Sweaty Betty – I stay relatively cool as long as I’m sweating.

That gross sweat is the key to survival in summer heat.

Continue reading Sweaty Betty: Cycling in Summer

Tips from a Road Trip

road trip2

A mysterious thing happens after about a week and a half on vacation… you finally begin to truly relax! Since I was extremely fortunate to squeeze two whole weeks of bike vacation fun into a family road trip – it has afforded me some insights into traveling and touring with a bike, plus a few bits of wisdom about everyday life. Some are particularly important if you happen to be touring with someone else, as I did (with my hubby). A few can help you after you get back to the rat-race…

In no particular order, are a few Tips from my Road Trip:

Continue reading Tips from a Road Trip