Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Do it Anyway

Two weeks ago I was hiking up a mountain in Montana. Tomorrow I am heading out on another grand adventure - I'm biking to Canada from North Branch, Minnesota (north of Minneapolis/St. Paul) in three days. I'll post more about that later. For now, a bit about my grand Montana adventure.

Our church, Bethel Lutheran Church in Northfield, sends a group of rising 10th graders on a hiking trip through Christikon Camp in Montana each year. My daughter, Rose, went on this trip when she was a 10th grader. I had wanted to go along as a chaperone back then but couldn't make it happen at that time. Last year when my Dad was so sick and Owen headed off on the Tour Divide bike ride and it felt like everything in my world was falling apart I told Owen "Ok, you get to do the Tour and get away from it all for awhile. Next summer, I'm going on the Christikon trip with Ryan." I told our youth director, Barb, that I wanted to go on the trip, too. I think she took pity on me - or she was desperate for chaperones (or both). Anyway, earlier this year I knew that I would get to be a chaperone and get to spend a week on a trip with my son (and a bunch of other kids - 18 in all!)
Our group - taken just before we started our grand hiking adventure
Now here's the deal - last year at this time I was in decent shape and felt pretty capable of hiking in the mountains with a heavy backpack. Fast forward to this year - I am not in the greatest shape (stress for me = not exercising as much + eating more) and I had some pretty major concerns about going on a hiking trip. Yes, I had worried about tripping and hurting myself, about holding up the group, about being a mediocre chaperone, about falling off a cliff...more than once I wanted to back out of the hiking trip...but, even though I felt woefully inadequate in many ways to hike for five days I decided I was going to do it anyway.

So I did.

I suffered and struggled, especially on the first day when we were slated to hike 7 miles and climb 3,000 feet (we didn't make it that far and had to set up camp before our destination). The altitude hit me hard and I struggled to catch my breath. I fell behind on uphills and downhills and, yes, sometimes when I was just walking on the flat. I did not sleep well. I cried more than once. Even though I was part of a community made up of our hiking group of thirteen which included my son, I felt lonely. It rained. It hailed. It stormed. I struggled. I really, really, struggled.
Approaching Diamond Lake just after it rained
Had I been offered a chance to go home on day one, I think I would have taken it. But by day two things felt a bit better. And once you are even a mile up into the mountains there's really no going back. So I kept on going.

Here's the good stuff - which far outweighs the struggles:
I hiked for five days with nine fifteen-year-olds, another chaperone and two camp counselors/guides. I did not get hurt (save for one small blister) and did not fall off a cliff. I carried a 30+ pound backpack full of my gear and community gear. I helped set up tents, cook meals and hang food in "bear bags" way up in trees. I hugged kids, rubbed backs and sang silly songs. I marveled at the gorgeous mountains, lakes and sky. I oohed and aahed at the deer we say and at the fish jumping in the lakes.
Lake Catherine
Though it felt odd at first, I ended up loving the fact that I was totally off the grid and could not check Facebook, Instagram, the news, my email. One of my favorite things was the quiet time we had each day - time to sit still and BE in nature. And I loved the fact that we had worship and Bible study each day. And I also loved living in a community where we all helped each other set up camp and hiked as a group.
Our fearless and very capable guides/counselors - Molly and Thomas
I can't say enough about how wonderful the kids were, at how awesome my fellow chaperone - Bob - was. Our guides - Molly and Thomas - were absolutely wonderful. I was constantly amazed at their emotional and spiritual maturity and at how capable they were at guiding us through the mountains and teaching us to live in the wilderness.
Horseshoe Lake
All that said, I REALLY was happy when my group hiked up the last bit hill on day five and made our way back to Christikon where we unloaded our backpacks, cleaned our gear and FINALLY got to take a shower and clean up!

Ryan and I on Day 3
The rest of our time at base camp, less than 24 hours, was spent eating good food and doing camp stuff like singing songs and making friendship bracelets. Then, before we knew it, it was time to load up the school bus for the bumpy ride back down the mountain to an actual town and our coach bus and then start back home.

Overall, the experience was amazing -  I like to say, "when I wasn't suffering, I was having a good time." But, really, it was amazing and I'm glad I went. That said, I am still trying to give myself credit for doing something awesome and for being strong enough to hike for five days carrying a big backpack. I've been struggling with feeling bad about my body and the fact that I'm weighing more now than ever before. I'm trying to feel good about my strong self even though I don't fit neatly into the image of "fit" that I have in my head. I have some work to do...progress in this department is a bit like hiking uphill with a backpack on my back...slow but (mostly) steady.

Fortunately, my body image frustrations aren't keeping me from heading out on my next grand adventure! Yep, tomorrow morning I set off on another grand adventure. My husband, Owen, and I along with three friends (Steve, Paul and Larry) are going to bike the North Star Bike Route from North Branch, MN to Canada. We plan to make it to Canada in three days - about 85 miles/day of riding. I feel completely spoiled as we will be traveling in style and staying in hotels and will have a support vehicle with us to carry our luggage and spare gear - what luxury!

And guess what? I'm still not in the best of shape and I still don't feel ready to go - but I'm going to do it anyway!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Introducing ... Kermit!

Meet my new bike! "Kermit" is an Advocate Lorax that found his way to my house in late February.
Why the new bike? Well, my Vaya, Zippy, has been a good bike for me yet I was still tweaking some fit issues and with it's extra small frame I was running out of options for adding height to my handlebars etc. Also, due to the 26" tires,  I discovered my options were limited for getting better tires for riding gravel.

So, even though I loved little Zippy and he served me well, I started considering a new bike.
I talked to my favorite bike guru from Angry Catfish Bicycles, James, about what to get and quickly decided a new Vaya one size bigger than Zippy would do the trick. Sadly, my size was sold out at Angry Catfish and at Salsa Cycles. So James and I talked options. And I rode a couple of bikes and they were okay. Then I rode a demo model of the Advocate Lorax and knew within, oh, the first 20 feet of my ride that the Lorax was the bike for me. It's hard to say just why I knew...the bike just felt right.

Still, I'd never heard of Advocate really (other than my friend Griff of Mountain Bike Geezer has an Advocate Watchman fatbike and loves it) so was a little hesitant to buy a bike without knowing more about it. So I sent my friend Marty a few text messages to get his opinion of the brand. He texted back immediately saying he loves Advocate, owns one himself (or maybe it's two. I don't remember for sure), likes the Lorax and also knows the man who owns Advocate Cycles and thinks very highly of him. On top of all that, Advocate, donates 100% of their profits to bicycling advocacy efforts (read more about Advocate Cycles here)!

Marty's hearty endorsement was enough to convince me that I for sure wanted the Lorax so walked over to James and said, "Order up a green Lorax for me." So he did. And a week later I had a brand new bike!

It's a gorgeous bike - it is a stunning "Minnesota in Midsummer Green" color with orange detailing and a cool top tune graphic by artist Adam Turman. The frame is chromoly steel with a carbon fork. It has disc brakes and 700x38c wheels. Click HERE for build specs. Click HERE for frame specs.

I got out for a few short hops on Kermit in the past few weeks and now am riding it every day because I'm doing 30 Days of Biking once again (this is my eighth year!). So far, Kermit the Lorax is fitting well and is a dream to ride!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Gravel in February and Goals Ahead

We've had amazingly warm temperatures here in Minnesota as of late. It was 60 some degrees last weekend so I simply had to get out and ride some gravel on my Vaya on Sunday. Owen joined me on his Mukluk. We didn't go far (about 5.5 miles) and we didn't go fast (about 8.5 mph) but we went and that's what matters.

Riding on a sunny Sunday

I've been thinking about my bike goals for 2017. I have decided that I'd like to bike 50 miles on my 50th Birthday but I guess I haven't 100% committed to that goal as of yet. I need to decide soon as March 25th is just over a month away!

Other than that, I have plans to join two friends from high school and Owen and ride from north of Minneapolis to Canada in three days with an average of 85 miles a day. We've got that on the schedule for late July.

The road ahead
Not sure what other bicycling goals I will set for 2017. Whatever they are, I will be logging my milage on a cool little chart I made in my journal - 2017 Bike Milage Goals. I can fill in a box for every 10 miles I've ridden all the way up to 2,000 miles. 
Bike Milage Goals Chart
I've ridden 15 miles this year so far. It's not much but it's a start!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Focus on Fall

This time last year I was gearing up for my first ever century ride. I was feeling pretty fit and had done a ton of biking throughout the season including the super awesome and challenging Box of Frogs ride and a bikepacking adventure. This year I got off to a great start with some winter riding and another round of 30 Days of Biking in April. I was working on a milage challenge and had several organized rides on my calendar. Then my Dad, who had already been dealing with issues from Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia, took a bad turn and life changed in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

Even before Dad passed away in early July, I realized that bike riding would not be a priority and that I needed to focus on my family instead. So, save for a few rides and a three session mountain biking class in late July/early August, I really didn't ride bike all summer long.

Well, life is setting down somewhat and I'm happy to say I've managed to get out on my bike twice so far this week. I'm NOT in shape and certainly am not riding as strong as I'd like. I huff and puff up the hills and haven't ridden more than 10 miles on a ride thus far.

I get sad when I think about how I was able to ride 100 miles this time last year and realize there's no way I could do the same thing now. But, the thing for me to focus on is this - I'm riding again. I love the sound of gravel crunching beneath my tires and the feeling of the wind on my face. I enjoy riding in the fall with the cooler weather and changing leaves.

I may have lost riding this summer...but I have the fall.