Goodbye to a good summer
Since our last update, Dallas and I have ridden in the MS bike tour (Ride the Rhode) and raised nearly $2000 for the cause, thanks to our wonderful friends and family who supported us. We’re not sure where we’re going to be for next year’s tour, but registration is already open if anyone wants to sign up and get an early start on fundraising! This year, we opted to ride a full century (which ended up being 105 miles) the first day and 75 miles the second day. We lucked out with perfect weather and no incidents on the road. The terrain was not too challenging, but not too flat and certainly not boring.
Immediately after the bike tour, I set off for the west coast to meet the band on tour, where we continued down from Portland, Oregon all the way to Tijuana and back up to finish at a beautiful wedding in the redwoods outside of the bay area. After playing every day for two weeks, I couldn’t help but improve my mediocre trumpet-playing skills. I’m afraid that after not playing for two weeks (on our most recent vacation to Costa Rica), I am probably worse off that I was before tour.
While not bike touring this year, we have been able to do a few races together, including the 10 mile Blessing of the Fleet race in Narragansett, a half marathon in Worcester, MA and two marathons in Erie, PA and in Newmarket, NH. I also participated in several cycling events, including a few Women Bike RI group rides, the Woony River Ride, and the Gran Fondo New England.
The summer in Rhode Island was one of the better ones that I can remember, with almost no rain and not too much heat. As always, it ended too soon. We have been incredibly fortunate to have barely any excuses not to be outside every day, but I still feel like I didn’t get my fill of outdoor activities before it turned cold.
Still in Providence, Dallas and I are buckling down here for the winter, but in an attempt to combat the depression that comes with this season I bought myself a cyclocross bike. I’m not very good at it yet, and so far every time I start riding on a cross course I find myself thinking that maybe I’m not cut out for this sport. That feeling usually subsides after 2 minutes or so, as my mind is consumed with staying on my bike and not crashing into anyone else. By signing up for races this winter, I hope to motivate myself to get outside during the dark months to practice (and hopefully get better).
Speaking of trying things outside of our comfort zone, Dallas and I went to Costa Rica for the first two weeks of November. While traveling comes naturally to us both, we did get to try some new things while we were there. Dallas let me practice my Spanish (which is worse than my trumpet playing) on some of the locals whenever we went out. Dallas also went surfing – I could not, because of a knee injury from my cyclocross bike, but I watched. It was apparent that he was having enough fun to abandon his usual apprehensive feelings about being in the ocean. This trip was our first time traveling together internationally, so while we were concerned at first about how we would do, we came out of it only wanting to go back out and experience more new places together.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m taking this day off from work at the cave in order to write and bake lots of desserts for tomorrow’s gathering with family. On Friday, while all the crazy people are out battling each other to buy stuff, Dallas and I will be celebrating Buy Nothing Day by bringing our coats to a coat swap (just when we need them most)!
Cycling in the City vs. Nature: A Collaborative Article
While I love the way cycling through a bustling city gives me a rush of adrenaline, heightening my awareness of my surroundings, since going to Alaska I have been gravitating towards a different kind of cycling. A fellow blogger pointed out that there are many ways to enjoy exercise, and we agreed to collaborate on a post to highlight the differences. Whether you live in a city or in the middle of nowhere, exercise is a necessary outlet for most people, and it can be enjoyed at both extremes.
When I lived in Montreal, I would regularly go running. I trained for and ran my first marathon in Montreal, and most of those miles were on busy city streets. City running (and cycling) is my favorite way to learn a new city, or get even more familiar with a city you’ve lived in for years. As I steadily increased the distance of my long runs in Montreal, I familiarized myself with more streets and parks than I ever knew existed during my first 3 years of living there. However, something can be said for escaping the city and getting out into nature.
In Alaska, nature was more accessible to me than ever before, and my love for trail running and mountain biking grew stronger. Fortunately, many cities have huge parks where you can run, safe from traffic – I have utilized many of these parks in various cities where I’ve lived or visited. If it weren’t for the noises of the city, you might actually believe that you were far from civilization while you lose yourself on their trails. In between our bike tours, stopping for a few weeks or months at a time allows us to explore and find some of our favorite ways to stay in shape while we’re not touring.
It may seem like bicycling from place to place every day is plenty of exercise, but if it weren’t for these in between times, I’m pretty sure I would be ten pounds heavier. We’re actually pretty energy efficient when touring, and our bodies quickly adapt to cycling 50-60 miles daily. These miles become predictable to our muscles and are rather slow – the miles are more of a mental challenge than a physical one after the first week or so of touring. The mental fatigue from the long hours on a bicycle prevents us from doing much of anything at the end of each day on the road, and we probably end of eating more calories than we burn. Variation is needed – whether it’s a different sport or just a different style of riding – so we don’t plateau and lose fitness. I like to run on my days off from cycling – but city commuting or mountain biking (without 40 additional pounds of gear) is a great way to mix it up.
At opposite ends of the spectrum, both city cycling and mountain biking are totally different from touring. I was surprised by how many different muscles, including upper body, that I used when I was mountain biking in Alaska. It was so different – so fun and challenging, and something I wish I could do more frequently. Likewise, city commuting really conditions your legs to accelerating from a stop after every stop sign and light (which can be quite frequent). I also enjoy the challenge of racing up hills and having my own secret races against other commuters who have no idea (or maybe are racing me in their minds). And then there’s trail running. Trail running is like playing Tetris with your feet. You have to figure out where to plant them before they hit the ground, and there are plenty of obstacles to make that challenging on your ankles. Each type of exercise comes with its own mental game, and the variation really helps me to not burn out.
While some people are able to go to the gym and run on a treadmill every day, I know I could never do that. Here in Durango, it has been incredibly cold and snowy, but I would still prefer to bundle up and go snowshoeing or ice skating outside than to concede to the gym. I will make exceptions for swimming, and I have been going to use the pool, but if it were warm enough I would choose to swim in a lake or ocean any day. The problem with winter sports for me is the cost, but many people around here ski or snowboard during the winter and there are enough professional athletes living in the area to either motivate or depress me (I haven’t decided yet). Read Bridget’s perspective, below, on exercise and cycling from a totally different city.
A Cyclist Makes Friends with Las Vegas
It’s amazing what some of us will do to get our exercise. I used to spend almost all my free time at the gym. After work, I’d head there and stay most of the evening before going home. I didn’t exactly enjoy spending so much time in that cramped space with sweaty people running nowhere like so many hamsters in a cage. Like many others, I simply hadn’t found a better way to stay fit. Sure, I knew that some folks ran outside and others would cycle around town on errands, but those options seemed unsafe. Then I moved, and my life and habits changed radically.
A move to Las Vegas seems an unlikely catalyst for becoming an outdoor enthusiast, but that’s exactly what my move became for me. Although I originally thought that outdoor exercise in Sin City likely entailed too much to drink and a faltering march along the strip, I found out that many outdoor activities lay waiting for those willing to participate here.
If you’ve seen pictures of the Las Vegas strip lit up in all its promotional glory, you may tend to forget that the city lies in the heart of the Mojave Desert. This natural landscape features miles of bike trails, and I love taking rides through the area. Of course, getting lost here would be a travesty, so I use this handy resource to help me keep my bearings.
I also enjoy cycling in urbanized areas near my home. Las Vegas earned the designation of one of America’s Cycle-Friendly Cities from the League of American Bicyclists. In part, this has to do with the 390 miles of bike lanes located in the city. Downtown, several new bike racks and lockers have also been installed for the convenience of cyclists.
Travelers also benefit from the culture of fitness here. Hotels in Las Vegas offer a myriad of fitness amenities. In addition to well-equipped gyms, many local accommodations provide exercise sessions and outdoor fitness recommendations to guests. In order to find activities and accommodations that suit your personal fitness needs, use that link to filter pretty much every establishment in Las Vegas based on your travel and fitness preferences.
You don’t have to be a fitness nut to know that exercise is only one aspect of a healthy lifestyle. The fitness culture in Las Vegas has also given rise to a number of healthy eating and drinking establishments. Vegetarian fare isn’t hard to find, and several restaurants offer healthy menu options that accommodate those on the paleo diet or similar healthy food plans. If you find a juice bar more appealing than a tavern, you’ll easily find several from which to choose here in Vegas. I hope you have a chance to visit my city soon and experience all this for yourself.
Klondike Road Relay
The Klondike Road Relay is a running race that runs from Skagway to Whitehorse during the first weekend of September. It started on a Friday evening, and our team ran all night up the Klondike Highway before crossing the finish line, 110 miles later, in downtown Whitehorse Saturday afternoon. Our friend Jaime connected us to the National Park Service team, where I ran leg 8 and Dallas ran leg 10 (the anchor leg). Each leg was anywhere from 7 or 8 miles to 16 miles long. The first two legs run up the White Pass (the reverse of our Sockeye Cycle Klondike bike tours), gaining 3292 feet of elevation in less than 15 miles. Dallas and I each ran between 12 and 13 miles for our respective legs. Our team was able to knock off more than forty minutes from their previous year’s time!
Thank you to Skora, our first sponsor!
I’ve been feeling inspired to write lately, but haven’t had much time since I finally started working. Now, I would first like to say that I hope all of our followers had a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it. I made a broccoli/carrot salad with bacon, cashews, red onion and dried cranberries, Dallas made cranberry sauce, and I made baklava and pumpkin bread to add to the delicious food that the rest of our roommate and guests shared with us.
I was never a fan of Thanksgiving meals because I never liked turkey and wasn’t too fond of vegetables as a kid – I also think that it can’t be a good thing, environmentally, that every American household has to have a turkey one that one day of the year. I’m sure lots of turkey ends up going to waste…and the poor (or lucky?) birds are forgotten about for the rest of the year. However, I do enjoy the time this holiday gives us to spend with family and friends. While this year I am unfortunately missing my family, I feel incredibly lucky to have good friends and an amazing boyfriend. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find love when I set out on my bicycle last year, but I couldn’t be happier with Dallas and am so thankful that I get to share my life with him!
Anyway, the biggest news in our lives since I last updated this site is that we now have a sponsor! It’s not specifically for our bike tour (although, maybe it could be one day), but it does fit our lifestyle perfectly in that they are a running shoe company. Skora is a new company based in Portland who came out with their first line of running shoes last year. Dallas, Gerrit and I came across their booth at the Portland Marathon expo in October, and all of us ended up buying shoes from them. After further communication with them, Skora agreed to sponsor six of us for the XTerra Trail Run World Championship that we plan to run in December this year. So last Tuesday, Dallas, Gerrit, Alyssa, Travis, Michaelangelo and I all met up with the guys at Skora, where they fitted each of us to a new pair of shoes and t-shirts. We’re all very excited to represent Skora at the race, which will be in Hawaii on December 2nd – we also look forward to extending our relationship with them into the future! They are great shoes – very light and minimalist, and we think they’d be perfect for taking with us on our bike tour.