11 November, 2016

The Iceman Cometh

Last weekend marked a milestone in cycling - my first mountain bike race! As I've been looking for new challenges since turning 50, this seemed a logical choice. Especially after learning that Northern Michigan's infamous Iceman ride also had a more beginner-friendly Slush Cup (8 miles, instead of the full 27). Sign me up!

I was completely unprepared for the scope of this event. Thousands of mountain bikers blasting through the woods. Races in waves to accommodate all the riders. A huge festival at the finish line. And so much more!

The shorter ride had two benefits - first my slacker training didn't kill me. And second, I've never ridden in a competitive environment on a mountain bike. As a kid, I raced bmx extensively, but the two have almost nothing in common. I had to learn to pace myself. When it was a good opportunity to pass. What it felt like to get passed. And how to spot and avoid other riders who offered the potential for danger (perhaps I was one of those riders to others).

My Specialized Stumpjumper Expert World Cup Carbon bike was awesome. Fast. Stable. Nimble. My only complaint as that the fairly narrow 1.9" rear tire was fairly scary in sandy terrain. Note to self -- time for some bigger tires.

Perhaps the most thrilling part was blasting through the finish area and then hearing my name on the PA as I crossed the finish line. Later I found out I'd scored 13th in my age category -- a nice start for my first race!

I learned a lot about myself. And I learned a lot about the sport. I will be back. Next year - full Iceman! More to follow about my awesome experience!


10 November, 2016

Gravel Therapy

It's been a stressful week of Presidential chaos. I hesitate to say that "my" candidate didn't win because I really didn't like either option. And social media has been blowing up with wailing about how crushed people are at the outcome.

Yesterday I was working from home and making good progress when a 55 degree, sunny November day spoke to me. It was time to finally go ride the gravel near my new house!

This was my first outing, but I'd already been thinking of places I wanted to explore. Since time was limited, I set off toward a known road, rather than meandering. I'll save that for this weekend.

I haven't been able to ride much with the shorter days and a busy schedule. It's been at least a couple of months since I've been on the Crux. But as soon as I was in the saddle, I knew I'd made the right call.

After only a mile or so, I could feel the stress of this week's events melting away. The sun. The sounds. The beautiful countryside in my area. They all combined in this perfect mix of gravel-induced euphoria. 

I'm so happy I discovered the joys of dirt roads. They really are gravel therapy. So much so that I'm considering selling my Giant Defy Advanced road bike and putting the money toward a custom built-for-me Seven Evergreen gravel bike. I'm already plotting the build I'd want, the options I'd add, and all that. Perhaps it's a nice fantasy. Perhaps it will become reality.

At the end of my ride, I'd logged a few miles, and shed a pile of stress. As simple reminder to get out there!