Posts

Riding the Ford GoBike up Hawk Hill

A few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to visit Strava’s headquarters in San Francisco. It was a great opportunity to meet my co-workers and visit somewhere I’d never been before.

San Francisco’s Ford GoBikes are much like Denver’s B-Cycles in that you share these bikes across town, park them in designated areas, and try to stay under 30 minutes to avoid paying a rental fee. They also weigh like forty pounds or so I’ve been told by their frequent users.

During a rookie cookie conversation at headquarters with Simon, I learned a group of people joined him in racing Ford Gobikes up Hawk Hill, Lookout Mountain’s equivalent.

My interest piqued.

I had already grown familiar with the Ford GoBikes with my commute to the office from the hotel. I was also told that Hawk Hill had the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It really took no convincing on Simon’s part for me to agree to riding up Hawk Hill on a Ford GoBike.

Simon sent me the video from last year. It looked like a blast. I saw it as a challenge while most saw it as probably stupid.

It was supposed to be a recovery week, but I woke up in my hotel room, pumped to get this ride started. I threw on my exercise gear, filled up my water bottle, zipped my jacket, and walked to the Ford GoBike location.

The plan was to meet at 7:00 AM to give us enough time to be back at the office. 7:05 hit and I figured, “he’s probably just late.” And then it was 7:15 – still no one around.

Once i saw 7:20 AM, I assumed I was stood up. I sent Simon a message on Slack that I was heading out. I secured my backpack in the front hole on top of the bike with a small bungee cord, entered the code to unlock the bike, mapped the route with google, and with a surge of anxiety, I set out on my solo journey to Hawk Hill.

Rarely do I fly by the seat of my pants, or any seat, for that matter. I was worried I’d get lost or end up on a highway or arrive to work super late and get fired.

I listened to google in one ear while commuters zoomed past. If it weren’t for their sunglasses I would have seen the weird looks I’m sure they gave me, like, “why is she taking a Ford GoBike this far out of the city?”

Google directed me all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge with only a few minor I’m-going-to-pull-over-and-double-check-this. By the time I reached the bridge, I knew there wasn’t enough time to climb Hawk Hill and get back in time for work, so I turned around at the other end of the bridge and headed back to the office.

When I parked the bike, I read through my Slack messages. I wasn’t stood up. I had the date wrong. I was a day early.

I’m not totally sure where I thought I read Wednesday, so I felt quite stupid having waited around for Simon and then biking my solo journey to the Golden Gate Bridge on a Ford GoBike.

Thursday rolled around and I didn’t want to stand up Simon so I planned to ride again, but this time up Hawk Hill with a friendly face. Simon showed up at 7:00 AM, just like he said he would.

We both had on our Strava kits. We packed our belongings in the semi-basket on the front of the bike, started our Garmins, and were off on our Hawk Hill adventure. Because I had Simon with me, we took an entirely different, yet more direct route (although with more hills) to Hawk Hill.

We got the same crooked neck response as I did the day prior because who takes a 40-pound bike up a hill, outside of city?

Once we hit the hill of Hawk Hill, it was frankly pretty moderate. I settled into a steady pace and watched the fog hide the Golden Gate Bridge from us. Without my clip shoes, it felt a lot like mountain biking, since I still have flats on my bike. Pushing down on the pedals all the way up to the spot that I was told had the best views of the city.

As cyclists bombed down the hill, they smiled and laughed at Simon and I as we pedaled our 40-pound bikes up to the lookout spot. All I could do was laugh as Simon rang his Ford GoBike bell at the passerby’s.We’d smile and wave at the cyclists, and I couldn’t help but think that this is the cool thing about life: going on adventures, doing things out of our comfort zones, saying ‘yes’ to opportunities, and making friends.

We stopped at the spot I was told had the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was completely hidden by fog. Nothing but a white cloud laid in front of us.

I joked about where I SHOULD be seeing the bridge and that I’d just imagine the sight. We couldn’t relish in our effort for too long so we kicked back the kickstands and commenced our descent.

The 40-pound bikes flew down the hill. I started to second-guess the brakes. Simon, being all-too familiar with this rode and the Ford GoBikes bombed down the hill, while I slightly tapped the brakes every few minutes, to confirm they were there and working as they should. Honestly, I guess I don’t know what I would have done if I tapped the brakes and they didn’t slow me down.

We took a different route back to the office – directly through the city, but also through the Presidio with the tallest trees I’ve ever seen. I ended up riding 20.16 miles that day. Definitely didn’t recover much on the trip.

Moral of the story: say ‘yes’ to new experiences, even if it’s your recovery week.

Race Anecdotes: Mt. Evans Hill Climb

The person who wins the race won because they were able to suffer the longest.

I suck at suffering.

It’s probably why I haven’t stepped on the top podium this season so far. Sure, I can handle racing, being uncomfortable, the pain, and aches, but I know when I’m really suffering, I ease off just enough to where I can stand it.

Racing 26 miles up a 14’er was no different.

The 3’s were grouped with the P-1-2’s (because that’s women’s bike racing) and I knew from the get-go the pace was going to hurt. I found myself in the front of the group, setting the pace, as it were. No one wanted to get out front. I figured at my pace, I could do this ride all day long, but I also knew that this pace wouldn’t last long and I was riding myself out for no reason.

I dropped the pace slow enough so that an antsy racer could take the lead. And then I was barely hanging on. There were surges after surges and every time I was able to spring back, my Suffer Meter raised a notch. We lost a few women and I didn’t dare look behind me. I didn’t want to see my future.

Finally, a Cat 2 surged with enough gusto that I lost the group. I tried to throw my weight on to the pedals. I tried pulling up, using any sort of hamstring strength there was, and the group was trailing away.

I thought I could keep them in sight with my current output but the distance slowly grew. And with seven miles, I could no longer see the group and I was completely alone.

Enter Mental Toughness.

You can’t solely rely on physical strength to carry you through the finish line, let alone catch you back up to the group. You need the mental stamina. And it’s even harder to train sometimes than hitting certain watts.

What did I do to earn third place?

I gave myself small goals.

When I was completely alone in the forest I focused on making it to the next mile. Thinking about having to Time Trial another 19 miles alone sounded awful. When I thought about it like that, my legs wanted to give up, and my brain was like, “nuh uh, girl.” I didn’t want to do it. At one point I considered quitting, taking the ol’ DNF. But my penny-pinching ass refused to pay $90 to quit 1/3 of the way through a race. So I continued on.

I focused on mile markers or made them as I went. “Get to the end of the road.” “Push it until you’ve made it 1 mile.” “To that tree.” “Get to that switchback.” I did it over and over again until I made it to the top.

I counted my pedal strokes.

When I couldn’t focus on the next mile marker, I counted to 3 by pedal strokes. 1…2…3…1…2…3 as I pushed down on the pedal. I’d match my breath with the pedal revolutions.

And when that didn’t work…

I sang songs to myself.

Any song I could think of I’d sing in my head. A lot of them were Sia songs, oddly enough. “I’m still breathing. I’m alliiiiiiiiiiiiive.” You get the point. Whatever popped into my head, I sung.

I stayed positive.

This was probably the hardest for me because I have an easy time tearing myself down, which we all do. We’re our biggest critics afterall. When I saw the rest of the women leave me in the dust, the negative thoughts started pouring in. I didn’t think I was good enough to be racing with these women. I know I called myself a poseur more than once. And for what? Because of a single race.

I realized in the grand scheme of things, this race won’t matter. The results won’t matter. What I’ll remember is the hard work I was putting into pedaling. The feeling of accomplishment. And the stories that’d last longer than the beer we were awarded.

I kept telling myself to keep trying hard. I wasn’t going to get stronger if I gave up. “You can do this.” Over and over.

And when I got to the top, I saw all my friends. We shared our stories of pain and fun. Took some photos and rode down the mountain. As I flew back down the mountain, I reflected on the spots where I was done, cooked, and wanted to give up. Flying by those spots, I already forgot what the pain felt like.

When I reached Idaho Springs, I surprisingly ended up in third. The entire time suffering up that 14’er, was for a step on the podium. The thoughts, “I’m not a climber,” quickly silenced as my team clapped for me.

——-

What are ways you motivate yourself when you want to give up?

Race Anecdotes: Sunshine Hill Climb

9 miles. 6 miles on paved road. 3 on dirt. 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

I continually try to to convince myself that I’m a hill climber. Sure, I do them. I sickly enjoy the burn in my quads and hammies when I’ve been turning the pedals for miles on end, unable to see the top of the hill, wishing for it to level off, sweat dripping from my nose, my chin, my hair.

But riding hills and racing hills are two very different animals. During a ride, if you’re fatigued, you lay off the watts and cadence to catch your breath and simmer the fire stoking in your legs and lungs. In a race, the moment you pull back is the perfect time for another rider to attack.

I race my bike because it gives me a sense of control. I control the outcome of my race. I send the signals to my body to back off or push harder. It has always felt the opposite when it comes to my life: events out of my control influencing the direction of my life.

But that’s kind of bullshit.

Just like we can choose to push harder or ease off in a race, we can choose what happens in our lives. So many of us blame the world, the economy, friends, family, “god,” for the good and bad, but in reality, it’s only us.

This is what I think about when I’m racing. It’s what I thought about during the Sunshine Hill Climb. Otherwise, I’m counting my pedal strokes. I’m trying to control my breathing. I’m feeling the drop of sweat slide down my forehead, over the tip of my nose, and settle in the dip above my lip. Or it slides into the corner of my eye; the uncomfortable burn that no amount of blinking rids you of the irritation. And of course, during a race, I have a difficult time moving my giant “Terminator” sunglasses to rub my eye, so I blink and blink and my eyes tear up, and then there’s only a slight burn.

The seven of us lined up where the official pointed. I joked, as I always do before a race, for Cassidy to pull us up the hill. As soon as the official blew the whistle, Cassidy took off. I told myself I’d try to keep up with her as long as I could.

I don’t like being uncomfortable.

I stayed on Cassidy’s wheel for about a half mile before my legs started screaming, “no.” Laura was right behind me and when I dropped off, Laura followed Cassidy. I tried keeping Laura insight while also staying ahead of Andie.

As Laura disappeared from sight, Andie was gaining on me.

You should know how the story goes by now: I let my self-defeating thoughts have the best of me. I called myself a loser because I couldn’t keep up with the stronger 3’s. We hit the dirt and they were gone. With every switchback, my confidence shrunk.

“How do they do it?” I thought. Surely, I wasn’t the only one in pain, losing the breakaway.

It’s times like these where you need to stay positive, to break down the race into manageable pieces, to actually trust your training, and most of all, have fucking fun.

I usually forget the most important aspect which is to have fun. If you’re not having fun, why are you doing the thing you’re doing? Life can be taken away from you at any moment so why spend it doing shit you don’t want to do?

So I smiled and cheered on Darrell as I finished the last 1K up the hill. Anna was there to cheer me on at the finish line. I saw my teammates and we shared our racing stories. We descended together and parted ways at the bottom.

It was when I pulled up to Chris waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, lounging under a tree, that I understood why I do this: because I love the challenge. I love knowing I control the outcome. I love the friends I’ve made through racing. I love how much stronger I’ve become because of it. And mostly, I have someone always cheering me on when I can’t muster the stoke myself.

Happiness Watts

I wish I could remember who first brought “Happiness watts” to my attention so I could attribute the idea to them. Although, there are tens of thousands of hashtags on Instagram so I highly doubt they invented the idea. Regardless, “happiness watts” are a thing.

As a self-coached athlete, I’m more in tuned with when I need “happiness watts,” but also, I rarely listen to myself. This past weekend was different. I focused exclusively on Happiness Watts. I took the hubs up to Grand Lake for a mini vacay. We brought our mountain and road bikes just in case.

I’m a planner and my husband isn’t. He likes to go with it. I like to know what I’m going to be doing every hour. I’m often told to “just be cool.” That was my weekend challenge. It wasn’t hitting certain zones or watts, but simply being “cool.” I think it would have been easier to go 200% of my FTP for a few minutes than remain “cool” the whole weekend.

So, we slept in on Saturday and finally rolled out of bed around 8:30. We walked across the street to find the Cat Cafe closed for the season. “Just be cool.”

We found another restaurant open so we went in and ordered. We walked around the lake. We found a mountain bike trail on Chris’s app and packed up. When we finally found the trail, it was too wet to ride.

“Just be cool.”

Chris thought we could drive around looking for another trail. After driving for five minutes, I was stir crazy and suggested just riding the dirt road we were driving. He said that was a “noob thing to do.” I said I didn’t want to drive around for hours and miss out on being on the bike. After our back and forth he agreed to ride the newbie road.

We rode the dirt trail as far as we could, even going on to a section we weren’t really allowed on. We turned around, calm down. The clouds grew darker and I felt little drops. I didn’t want to get stuck in a torrential downpour. Chris didn’t think we would.

“Just be cool.”

I kept looking back to see Chris messing around on his mountain bike. I doubled back several times to check on him. He was cool as a cucumber.

We only rode about 18 miles. The athlete inside me considered it a recovery ride because it was “easy.” The “cool” kid inside me said, “they were happiness watts” even though I don’t have a power meter on my mountain bike.

Several restaurants were closed for the season which I did not anticipate. We had our choice of Mexican or pizza, neither of which were approved nutrition for my inside athlete. But “cool” Jessica said, “pick the healthiest option and move on.” I had veggie fajitas.

But then “cool” Jessica was a little too cool and followed the veggie fajitas with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Anxious Jessica still feels guilty for eating it. Chris and I had a carb coma and napped from 6:30-7:30 PM. We woke up from the Peggy Mann Band playing across the street. We walked the bare streets to see all the business owners inside the venue dancing between tables and guzzling two-for-one margaritas.

The newest episode of The Handmaid’s Tale was calling my name so we headed back to the Fox Den cabin to end our night with a politically-charged tv show. It’s wild to think that a situation as portrayed in The Handmaid’s Tale could happen in real life.

The night was still relatively young after the show. I asked Chris what he’d like to do and he said, “Why can’t we just chill?” I told him we could and proceeded to pull out “Tribe of Mentors” and read. It felt weird not attending to something “more productive,” like working on my clients’ training plans or freelance copywriting.

“Just be cool.”

Sunday morning we woke up early to head back home and ride the trails in our neck of the woods. Mostly because we had to check out of the hotel and I didn’t want our bikes chillin’ in Chris’s car unaccompanied while we rode Trail Ridge Road. I also didn’t think it’d be much a couple’s bike ride knowing full well that I’d be halfway up the mountain, leaving Chris behind.

We waited for breakfast for forty minutes. It was a constant reminder of staying cool. Chris was about to lose it. I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the blinding sun hitting my face through the window.

Chris took me to one of his favorite mountain bike loops: Mt. Falcon to Lair of the Bear. It was strenuous and felt like an actual training ride, so the athlete inside was satisfied but “cool Jessica” was also enjoying it. I realized that mountain biking is a great way for me to learn more skills without the pressure of performing. I don’t race mountain and who knows if I ever will. Climbing up Mt. Falcon was an exciting challenge. I loved the struggle of pedaling over steps and rocks instead of hitting certain watts on my road bike. Mountain biking is a release from structure. A release I need.

As a coach and self-coached athlete, I realize even during racing season, you need to unload, whether that is one day or two or a week. We can’t always be “on.” We make our biggest gains during rest. Most of us aren’t paid to race. Most of us are paying to race. If we don’t let loose every once in a while, we’ll likely burn out at a faster rate than others who put their mental rest on the same level as physical.

Happiness watts are the gains from enjoying and remembering why you ride your bike in the first place. We all have our reasons why we ride, but it all comes down to enjoyment. Sometimes we forget how pleasurable it is to simply get on two wheels and fly.

Happiness watts comes from having fun and riding your bike without an agenda. Go out there and get your happiness watts.

,

Race Anecdotes: Separating the Women from the Weak

The Koppenberg is one of the Colorado Spring Classics you love to hate. If you race cross or are just damn good on dirt, this race is for you. The course description claims two miles of the 5.5 mile circuit is dirt but it felt like eternity racing over washboard-esque roads, dodging potholes, and slipping through sand. Dirt is not my forte. Frankly, up until the Oz Road Race last year, I did everything in my power to avoid any and all dirt.

I realized that avoiding things that scared me was a waste of time and energy. I also didn’t want to let fear control me. You don’t grow stronger by avoiding the things you fear. I certainly wasn’t going to become a stronger racer by dodging any race with dirt. I knew I wasn’t going to make Top 3 in this race and it tormented me. I have this awful habit of believing that if I’m not first, I’m last. I’m great at not giving myself credit for well, anything. Perfectionism is a silent spirit killer.

The other women lined up next to me, our elbows damn near touching. I was left without room to even lift my leg to clip in. I let the pressure get to me. I couldn’t clip in. I was bumped from behind and the women sprinted away. So not the Cat 4/5 Race I was used to from last year. Doubts flooded my mind before we even got to the dirt 1/4 mile away.

I tried to let go of the fear wrapping around me as I bounced and slid along the gravel road. “Try to hang on” I whispered to myself. “Stay relaxed” I said. All these stupidly positive, yet realistic things I’d say to a teammate who was in the hurt locker.

I lost the main group. I fell behind with other women who were hurting as much as me. I ended up in 11th. I won’t even repeat the shitty things I told myself. Chris already ripped up my “victim” card. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I forced myself to learn from this perceived failure.

1. Train hard if you want to race hard

I decided that I’m not training hard enough to compete on this Cat 3 level. I knew this season was going to be harder, but until you’re in the trenches (almost literally at the Koppenberg), you’ve no clue what the race will be like.

I thought my training was solid. I had a practiced a few intervals. I tested my FTP. I was strength training. I thought it was enough. It wasn’t. It isn’t.

I’m realizing every time I think my workout is too hard and dial it back, I know there’s a woman training harder who I’ll race against later. Every time I skip a workout, there’s a woman extending hers. I’ll race against her as well.

Training is an adaptive process. Continually pushing your body teaches it to adapt to the new stressors placed upon it. So, if you want to change your body, you need to stress it to a new level so it adapts. If you don’t consistently stress it, your body won’t become stronger. Naturally, it also needs rest, but that’s another entry.

During training is where you teach your body to adapt to new stressors. Training your body under the same conditions of a race prepares it to perform under the same stressors when it comes to performing. If I only kept my power output at say, 100 watts, my body wouldn’t know how to perform at 540 watts (what I put out on the 17% grade).

If you want to perform at the highest level possible, you have to create that environment during your training.

2. Eat for performance

I’m a snacker. I love snacks. Snacks can be great, but some of the snacks I’ve been eating lately haven’t been the best (shoutout to Goldfish!) for my performance. What you put in to your body will reflect on the outside. It’s obvious when you look at someone who has a lot of extra fat on their bodies. No judging. That’s just the way it is. If you eat too much, it will become fat. Other health and performance problems are exacerbated when the food you choose is processed crap.

I know by treating my body like a garbage disposal it will perform like the one in our sink. Food’s clogging it up. It doesn’t have enough power to cut through it all and perform to its potential. We’re probably going to have to replace it soon. Unlike garbage disposals, I can’t replace my body. This is the only one I have. I have written about what sugar and processed food does to your body. You can read more here.

If you treat your body like a trashcan, it’s going to perform like one.

3. Learn to suffer

I buckle when it gets too hard. I ease off. It’s the truth. I don’t like to be in pain as much as my tattoos would lead you to believe that I love it. Tattoos are a different kind of pain though. The physical exertion in a race affects your entire body whereas a tattoo is concentrated in one spot. They are both mentally fatiguing though.

Again, learning to suffer comes through training. You have to teach yourself to push on even though you want to stop or back off. I know when my mind tells my legs to ease up is when I need to force them to carry on. Our minds, our thoughts, are strong as hell. Your brain has the power to convince you of anything. If you believe you’re weak, your brain sends that to your body and it reacts appropriately. The same is true when you think you’re strong. Your body will believe it. Just like when you learn anything, it takes practice. It takes review. It takes repetition. You can’t line up in the race and decide right then and there that you can suffer.

It’s an art.

Learn to suffer. I recommend two books if you’re a reader like myself: 1. The Brave Athlete. 2. Thinking Body, Dancing Mind. These two books are helping me learn to suffer in a healthy way and how to be a successful athlete.

4. Work on weaknesses

When you race you learn your weaknesses. As much as I’d prefer others not to know my weaknesses and use them against me, I know these weaknesses aren’t specific to me. A lot of people are working through the same weaknesses: racing on dirt, sprint finishes, climbing, and cornering.

I’m human. I’m not perfect (as much as I dislike thinking this). There are things (okay, a lot of things) I need to work on to improve my performance.

Because of this race, I now know what I need to improve. If I competed in the race and threw in the towel there, I wouldn’t grow. I won’t become stronger by giving up. Instead, I’m focusing my efforts now on sprinting during my training. I know I need to practice putting out high watts on dirt. And I need to get comfortable taking corners full speed.

By working on your known weaknesses you’ll become that much stronger and perform better in your next race.

5. Be gentle yet stern

I’m mostly just as asshole to myself. I apologized to my family for coming out to the race and see me finish 11th. I felt guilty for taking up their time to not land on the podium.

I called myself a “failure,” “weak,” and a “poseur.” What do you think that’s doing to my psyche? Talking down to ourselves like that affects our bodies. If I keep telling myself those shitty things, I’m going to continually perform that way too.

I know I would never speak to a teammate like that. And if someone else came up to as soon as I crossed the finish line to tell me, “Jessica, you’re weak.” I’d tell them to go fuck themselves. So why do I talk to myself like that? As the saying goes, “we’re our biggest critics.” Instead, we should be our biggest fans.

Be stern though. Don’t baby yourself either. Pat yourself on the back but also look at what you could have done better. There will never be a time where you go, “There is nothing I could have done better.” Ever. And if you say that to yourself, you’re in denial. No, that’s not just a river in Egypt.

Give yourself credit for having the guts to go out there in the first place. You’re doing far better than the people on their couches watching Real Housewives of whatever.

6. Get rid of excuses

When I found out who won, the excuses started flying as fast as Kristin Armstrong. “She’s half my age.” “They probably have a Coach.” “They didn’t have to deal with a dying cat last night.” “They have more time to train.” Truly, these were thoughts. And they are all bullshit.

Have you heard the line, “Excuses are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink.”? I first heard that in high school. I laughed because visualizing that is gross, but it set in and I’ve been using that line ever since.

I found out that the second place winner doesn’t have a coach, she uses Zwift. I also have Zwift. No excuse to not perform better.

No one has more time in a day than anyone else. We all have 24 hours in a day. What makes the biggest difference is how you use the hours. If I dedicated all my free time to training, I’d probably be stronger, but I don’t.

The honest to bob truth is that I’m just not as strong as the women who won. Boom. My ego shudders to write that.

7. Each setback is a lesson

Knowledge is power.

Applying knowledge is a whole other story.

What separates the women from the weak is having enough self-awareness to realize your short-comings and then doing something about it. You can totally learn your weaknesses and do absolutely nothing about it. I know plenty of people who know they have to work on something specific, something they know will help them in the long run, but they don’t do it. They’re comfortable where they’re at. Those people never amount to anything great.

Adversely, the people who see a setback as a failure and give up are never going to amount to anything either. Failures and setbacks are lessons. It’s data. Information you can use to improve. If you did everything perfect from the get-go, you’d learn nothing. Failure always comes before success. And if you want to succeed faster, fail often.

Don’t be afraid to fail. The most successful people failed often. Do you think Kristin Armstrong showed up at the Olympics one day and won all her golds? Hell no. Or Peter Sagan? Hell, that guy gives zero fucks. He was kicked out of the Tour de France and then went on to win the Paris-Roubiax. Every single person who is now considered a pro or a success has failed. We’re no different from professionals in the land of failure. They just failed and learned faster.

As I lined up amongst the other racers I told myself to “fake it.” “Don’t let them see you sweat” and by bob, I was sweating. My legs burned. My lungs were on fire. And we pressed on.

Race Report: Frostbite Time Trial

“You can’t be self-conscious in a skin suit,” I told myself as I sucked in my stomach to zip up the front of my never-worn pedal RACING skin suit.

I figured looking and feeling uncomfortable had to be worth the two seconds this attire would knock off from my time. What I needed was strong legs, not an expensive one piece that hugged all the wrong curves.

I also layered up seeing as the name of our race was called, “Frostbite” and my go time was at 9:00 AM. The sun wouldn’t be out long enough to warm the roads. But I soon came to find out that my warm-up would sufficiently raise my body temperature and I’d be stripping off the leg warmers and base layer.

I knew it was going to be a rough race as I spun out my legs to a made-up-on-the-spot warm-up routine. They were heavy. They felt like two rolls of cookie dough, just fluffy and no oomph. I changed up the resistance, adding and subtracting during this 45-minute wishful thinking.

I neglected all the books (okay, the one and a half) I read that told me to visualize the race and the outcome. I was too busy distracting myself with my teammates. I watched my wolves undulate and listened to the broken music playing from my iPhone.

The day before I took my time trial bike out for a spin and it was shaky. I knew it had been too long since I was last on it for three reasons: 1. There was dust. 2. I forgot which lever shifted up or down. 3. I still had a RAGBRAI tag on the stem. You could say I was a tad underprepared for the race.

But what the hell, I thought. Surely no one is ready for race season at this point.

Time Trials are a race against the clock. Racers are sent one at a time at thirty second intervals. You race for fastest time. Most of the time you don’t know how you’re stacking up against your competition until the results are disappointingly posted.

3…2…1…Silence.

I told myself I wouldn’t allow myself to go below 200 watts. I was recently asked, “Why 200?” Well, why not? It sounded good enough and I based that number off previous FTP scores. One was 192 and another was 177. I’ve also learned that plenty of people think FTP tests are horseshit. So again, 200 sounded good enough.

The biggest thing with Time Trials is making sure you don’t blow up at the beginning (or middle) of the race so a lot of it is pacing and obviously knowing what you are capable of doing. I low-balled myself and thought 200 watts was going to be a challenge based off my FTP tests.

I kept sight of the chick 30 seconds in front of me. Before the race I jokingly said my goal was to catch Teena who took off two or three minutes ahead of me. I didn’t think I’d be fast enough.

Once I rolled away from the taped white line and cycled away from the man’s legs that held me steady as I clipped in, my new goal was to catch the woman in front of me.

A speck of color ahead of me the entire time, I stayed at 200 watts, controlling my breathing, watching her the entire time, attempting to close the gap.

The wind swept me back and forth along the road as I chased down the competition. I never caught her. As I approached the turnaround cone, I saw the rest of my Category catching up to me.

The 200 watts didn’t help me chase down or move fast compared to these women. Two women passed me so I knew I wasn’t getting on the podium.

I figured 5th. I came in 6th. Out of 12.

It’s an ego check coming in middle of the pack after doing well last season. I’m trying to remind myself that this is not a judgment on the person I am. It’s data. I now know how long it takes me to race 11 miles and where I stack against other women. I know these women, my competition, will make me faster.  I will become a stronger cyclist because of them. And I’m grateful for that.

Excuses are like assholes

You aren’t working out because you don’t want to. It’s just not a priority for you. Own it. We only have 24 hours in a day and we all prioritize them differently.

The biggest excuse (and yes, that’s what it is) I hear is: “I don’t have time to workout.”

You do.

The problem is that you don’t want to spend your extra time working out. I get it. I was once like that. I thought walking 500 steps from car to school was a workout.

Back in high school, my best friend wanted me to join soccer with her. I remember thinking I didn’t have the time after school to go to practice. And the games. And all the days/nights spend running around. Instead, I thought going to cafes and punk rock shows were more valid uses of my time. Mosh pits and chai teas were my priorities.

I didn’t want to workout. It seemed like a chore or something my mom would make me do when I talked back. I associated working out with pain and sweat and my 16-year old mind thought, “ew. Gross.” I did not want to find time to go through that.

My friend finally convinced me to go to a soccer try-out with her. I distinctly remember the coaches walking us to the stairs that my crew hung around and I thought, “why the fuck are we going over to the stairs? We’re not running up that shit, are we? No way. I’m not doing this.”

So there I was, running up and down these stairs that I only ever used to get to my next class or hangout at the bottom. And I was panting, sweating, and cursing my friend for dragging me to this. I felt awful and as I made my way to the bottom I told myself that once I reached the top again I was booking it around the corner and running away from this bullshit.

Five steps from the top I was ready. I was ready to dart away and be done. I semi-considered how the other girls would react to this vanishing act I so quickly invented as I gasped for air and that top step. Then I took off. I ducked behind a railing and heard a girl yell, “a girl just ran away.” Yup. Sure did.

Then I army-crawled down the hall, later finding my punk rock friends haphazardly rolling a cigarette. Like I said, I didn’t have the time for sports.

What changed? The inner tube growing around my waist was a pudgy nudge to get my ass moving. I did 30 minutes three times a week in Undergrad. That was plenty, surely, to lose weight and stay fit. I worked out to YouTube videos that were definitely under 30 minutes. Anything that creeped over that 30-minute mark were skipped. Who has time to do a 34-minute video? A new cafe just opened up on Broadway and their untasted chai tea had my name on it.

Unbeknownst to my ignorance, the chai I later drank did away with whatever no-greater-than-30-minute YouTube video burned. I wasn’t seeing results and I heard once that weights were good, so I signed up at Bally’s for $10 per month with my mom.

I had no idea what to do with the racks on racks of weights, the sweat-stained machines, and weird cardio equipment I never heard of before (rower? TF?). I started Googling and teaching myself how to lose weight, gain strength, and grow muscle.

I started going every other day, slowly carving more time out of my day so I could workout at the gym, even adding a weekend into the mix. My mother started doing weights with me and we tried new moves. I began to add weight to my lifts and ventured away from the 30-minute workout to 40 minutes to 50 and so on.

Then I met Jared who probably revolutionized my training routine. I made fun of him at first for how often he trained and how meticulous he seemed about health and fitness. Tracking your workout? With a smart watch? My money was still going to concerts and chais.

Then I got on a bike and fell in love with Bullseye (their name). I wanted to improve on my bike. I remember seeing Jared taking selfies, talking on the phone, texting, adjusting his bibs while he waited for me. I hated being the “slow one.” I felt uncomfortable knowing I was messing with someone else’s workout. I was determined to get stronger.

I started training specifically for cycling, carving out more time from my day to dedicate to riding my bike AND weight lifting because strong legs meant faster legs. The time that was once devoted to chai tea lattes and blaring music in spilled alcohol and grimey dance floors began to shrivel compared to my “training” time.

For the first time, I understood it to be training and not “working out.” I was training for a 100-mile bike ride and late night shows prevented me from waking up early to conquer the trails.

I stopped going out during the week for drinks and coffee because my alarm was set for 5:30 AM to get my workout finished.

I was told you have three choices in training – sleep, training, social life – and that I could only pick two because it was impossible to have all three. This is where priorities come into play and how mine changed.

As I trained, I hung out with my friends less and less. They eventually stopped inviting me out because they already knew the answer. I don’t blame them. Constantly receiving the same, “sorry, I have to get up early morning to train” response would also push me away from asking someone to hang out. They knew they weren’t a priority. My priorities were sleeping and training. I learned the hard way how important sleep is to training when riding my first 80 Miles on little sleep. There were tears.

You must find the time. No one has more hours in their day than you. You have to prioritize. You must make hard choices. You can totally have your cake and eat it too (wouldn’t recommend this every day), but you can’t have your cake, eat it, and reach your weight loss goal.

Same goes for working out: you can’t have all three (sleep, train, social life). You can have a little of all three, but it’ll take you that much longer to reach your goal. If you want it bad enough, you’ll make the hard choices that get you to your goal. You’ll stop doing shit you thought was important (watching tv, drinking at bars, sipping chai, watching bands play until 2AM).

If you want to lose weight, get stronger, achieve some fitness goal, you’ll find the time to do it – only if you’re motivated enough and only when you prioritize.

Heart Rate Zone Training

 

 

 

Want to start heart rate zone training? Get at me: grinandgrindit@gmail.com

The Purposeful Gym Workout

I greet most members in the gym with, “What are you working on today?” and either they don’t want to talk to me or they truly don’t know their goal for the day. Most of the time they’re confused with the question and typically ask me, “What?” They’ll look away – thinking of what to tell me – and then stammer out with, “uh.. cardio….” or “I don’t know.”

Granted, I’m wearing a Personal Trainer shirt so I’m assuming they’re assuming I want to sell them services, which, duh, but also it’s a great way to learn about people. I have some fascinating conversations with people who have years of experience in a particular sport or activity. I also learn a lot about aches, pains, and tears and it reminds me of how important it is to move.

When I walk the floor, I notice a lot of people moseying around, most likely thinking to themselves, “Oh, seated leg press…I should try that.” Then they’ll do one set and move on to another machine. This doesn’t get results.

Planning and following through on that plan gets you results.

1. Start with your goal.

What do you want to accomplish in 30, 60, 90 days? I previously posted about S.M.A.R.T goals, which you should read if you haven’t. Set a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. When you give yourself a goal it motivates you to do the things it takes to reach it. If you always go to the gym without motivation other than “you have to,” you’ll always look the same.

2. Develop a Plan

You’ve made your S.M.A.R.T goal. Now you make the plan. What will it take to reach your goal? What sort of training will it take and how long?

This is probably the most intimidating part because most of us have an idea of what we want, but not sure how to get there. That’s when people like myself come in handy. If you don’t want to hire a Personal Trainer, then research. Find blogs, articles, and free sources that can give you an idea as to how other people have reached similar goals as yours. It’s out there. It just takes time and research.

 

3. Keep Yourself Accountable

You’re more likely to slack on a goal if only you know about it. Tell people about your goal. Make them hold you accountable. Start a group of people with similar goals. Do what it takes to force yourself to stick to your goal.

And show up. Set the goal. Make the plan. And do it.

Excuses are like assholes – everyone has one and they all stink.

Everyone has the same number of hours in the day. It’s the successful people who make the most out of every second, minute, hour.

Go to the gym with your exact workout written down with sets, reps, and a column to track it all. That way, when someone like me asks you, “What are you working on today?” you’ll be one of the few with a specific workout and a plan to get ‘er done.

 

———————-

Ready to change your life? Email me: grinandgrindit@gmail.com

 

Pump the Blues

There are a lot of reasons to be happy around this time of year, but sometimes that just isn’t life. The thing about life is that it’s always challenging you. Once you overcome a challenge, life tests you again. It’s nothing personal. It happens to everyone. We are constantly faced with challenges and every one we overcome makes us that much stronger.

And it brings us down. Sometimes, we’re just too damn tired to face another battle with life, yet we march on, doing the best we can. The holidays can bring out the best and sometimes the not-so-good in us, so what do we do when it feels like Santa shit in our stockings?

Move.

Exercise has been found to make you happier.

 

  1. Doing moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity boosts your happy feelings. I run at MAF pace (180-your age; stay within 10 beats of that), which is 152-142 heart beats per minute. That’s a pretty moderately-paced run and your pace will differ substantially from mine depending on your fitness level. I also do interval training on the bike, which makes me sweat, pant, and get super red faced. TrainingPeaks will send me a few gold ribbons to make me feel better about my effort.
  1. Happy Feelings are endorphins and neurotransmitters, which are released from the brain. Exercises stimulates the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters help regulate your stress hormones and boosts your mood. Think of a school cafeteria: it’s empty until it’s lunch time. Students start piling in. Just like exercise, lunch time for students generates a packed lunch room. You want every day to be like lunch time.
  1. Exercise helps with depression. People with depression have a smaller hippocampus in their brain, which regulates mood. When we workout our bodies release neurotrophic proteins, which facilitate nerve cells growth and make new connections. When we exercise, this results in nerve cell connections and growth in the hippocampus, which helps symptoms of depression.

Just like how weightlifters want to get mad gainz, you want your hippocampus getting those same gainz like the bros in the gym. Exercise is like lifting heavy weights, growing your muscles. So, pump some iron and move and create some hypertrophy in that hippocampus of yours.

  1. Exercising beyond your limit makes you mentally tougher. I can speak from personal experience that challenging myself in bike racing and 120-mile bike rides has made me more resilient. Knowing I can physically and mentally overcome challenges on the bike has given me the confidence to overcome adversity off the bike too. Additionally, when you work out, your body is forced to react to the stressors you’re placing on it. The more you place your body under this type of stress, the more likely it is to be able to handle other stressors.
  1. 20 minutes of exercise will boost those happy cells. You don’t even have to do some long, arduous workout. Simply going outside for twenty minutes for a walk or jog will help. The point is moving and getting your body to produce more neurotransmitters. If you can dick around on social media for twenty minutes without blinking an eye, surely you can walk outside, ride a bike, jog, yoga, anything that actually makes you feel good instead of FOMO.

 

What can you do?

  1. Move a little bit more every day. Start with 5 minutes if that’s all you can do right now.
  2. Make small goals in the short-term so they’re more likely to be achieved.
  3. Find something you actually like to do and do it often.
  4. Reach out to me and I’ll help: grinandgrindit@gmail.com

 

 

Resources:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-02/ps-pay020812.php

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/exercise#2

https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-reasons-why-exercise-makes-you-happier.html

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/endorphins-exercise-cause-happiness/index.html

https://www.fastcompany.com/3025957/what-happens-to-our-brains-when-we-exercise-and-how-it-makes-us-happier