Wednesday, December 28, 2011

tried and liked: 2011 edition

(A tip of the helmet to the i-BOB list, which began this thread years ago.)

Things I tried and liked in 2011, with an emphasis on bicycles:

1. Training for racing. This meant working out 2-3 times a week at a local gym January through May, and adding some interval work to my commutes once or twice a week March through May (for short-track) and again August and September (for cyclocross).
I didn't have a coach and the frequency wasn't clockwork-religious, but it did help in two noticeable ways: I lost ten pounds (which I hadn't planned on but certainly didn't mind), and I was stronger on the berms at the short-track course, having to dismount and push my bike far less often. I still finished dead last, likely because I was the oldest woman racing singlespeed and because of the asthma, but I finished stronger and felt good about it. On a down note, money is much tighter this year and a gym membership in 2012 seems unlikely. However, I'm back on my feet wrenching bikes and maybe that will help make up for some of the loss of gym time. I am in a different place right now with my racing and, for various physical, emotional and financial reasons, may not throw quite as much energy at it in 2012. In any event, it was interesting to see how intentional training made a difference and I'm truly glad for the experience.

2. Joining a local race club. Racing with Velo Bella got me some excellent discounts (including one for prescription sunglasses, which I continue to be grateful for), and occasionally garnered me some tips from teammates, but all those teammates were out of town in other states, and I only met two of them once at a USGP cyclocross race. It was nice to have the brand recognition -- VB is a recognized regional team in racing -- but it was lonely. So when I was invited by some racing buddies to join a local club they were strting, I said yes. Being part of Team Slow has added a measure of fun to my racing that I have enjoyed mightily, and I wonder how on earth I ever considered racing without that. No matter how many races I do in 2012 I will do them as part of Team Slow, proudly rocking the safety triangle whever Stompy and I go.

3. Not stressing so much about my mileage this year. Of course, I still keep track of my daily mileage; and I will dutifully submit my tally sheet to C-KAP (I broke 25,000 cumulative km with them this year so a certificate is coming my way in the spring); but since deemphasising distance (and especially since deciding that I wouldn't attempt anything longer than a 100km populaire in the future -- big rides just take too much out of me) I am enjoying each ride a little more. My overall mileage for 2011 will probably be somewhere around 2,250 miles, down from my record of over 2,700 in 2007 but still respectable for someone who did not do any really long rides and mostly chalked all that up under daily commuting. I'm content.

4. After trying out a number of different rain jackets and pants (mostly because as the Buyer I had to do product testing), I've gone back to What Works: Burley Designs. Yes, they stopped making their own rain wear several years ago; but smart bike industry geeks bought up the last of the stuff and hoarded it. I have two Rock Point Jackets to my name, and while they aren't the most flattering cut, they are well made and they work. Recently, my successor in the Buyer's chair had to pay a visit to the main offices of Showers Pass (whose Club Pro jacket I reviewed last year -- six months after I wote that review tha jacket began to fail at water repellecy and I got rid of it, optiing for the Burley again). He was wearing a jacket made by a company other than Showers Pass, and folks at the SP HQ frowned visibly at the sight. The moral: when SP moved its manufacturing from Vietnam to China, the quality suffered. They haven't yet recovered from the public perception that the jackets ain't what they used to be. And I've gone back to wearing my Burley. I expect it to last a good bit longer than anything I've tried from SP, and now that I'm no longer the Buyer I'm allowed to have an occasional negative opinion [about bicycle product] in public again. Meanwhile, I am on the lookout for "vintage" Burley rain wear and am buying it up to hoard and to share with friends. Sue me.

Burley Rock Point:

Burley Rain Rider. If you see this jacket in a medium, buy it for me and I'll pay you back:

5. Rivendell Splats, which I bought last winter, have served me well for the most part. They are made in the USA from thick, stout waxed cotton and fit over most styles of shoes. They're also the first shoe cover that is easy to use with a flat pedal. Because they don't cover the ankle, water can seep into your shoe and sock from above; but if you buy your rain pants on the long side you can reduce or eliminate this problem. One of the best things Rivendell has come out with.

6. Chrome backpack. This was the year that I had to concede that carrying things in a single-strap messenger bag was no longer working for my aging back and neck. I've retired the Timbuk2 Dee Dog bag (and will probably sell it); and have switched to a very strong backpack made in the USA by Chrome. I bought this pack used, and it's a tough bag, stronger and stouter than anything being made by T2 now and more so than some of Chrome's newer bags (the subassemblies of which are now being made overseas -- they're going down a similar road as T2) and holds a ton of stuff. I have to be careful not to overstuff it, but when I do it still works far better to carry a load on both of my shoulders instead of one. I expect this pack to see me through several years before I have to give up carrying things on my back altogether.

7. Giving myself permission to feel fatigued, and to adjust my ride as necessary. This is a different approach than I've taken before. But this has been a challenging year on many levels, and one of the challenges has been that I've had to identify when my body is feeling tired as a result of physicality rather than emotional stress. So when I'm feeling really wiped out, I'm tossing my bike on transit and going multi-modal. I've reached a time when this no longer feels like copping out, and I'm geting better at telling the difference between physical fatigue and emotional fatigue. When it's physical I'm listening to my body. If that's part of Getting Older, so be it.

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