Winter in the the Northeastern US can be fickle grounds for any outdoor enthusiast. The sun tracks low in the sky, giving off little more than a suggestion of warmth before shrinking away from another long night. Storms have bared the trees and left our trails littered with decomposing memories of another miraculous fall. Now inhospitable weather has become something more of a daily reality than a mere threat.
For the dedicated cyclist, there is a new importance to being in tune with the local micro climates and to timing outings accordingly, since getting caught out in increment weather unprepared at this time of year can quickly end the fun of any outing.
There are a good number of alternative activities that can help to meet the training needs to get through the worst days, but there is no denying that there is no substitute for getting out and riding. Holding out for a good window in the weather can mean that same rainy sub-30 degree (Fahrenheit) morning might transform into a cheery 40-degree afternoon when the sun breaks through at the right angle. Keeping in mind of course that 30-degree morning could be the best window to hit some trails before the thaw and when conditions are fast and fun. Keeping your head up and being flexible with training times can really help make it easier to get in that same hard work out.
Looking back on our fall in New England, Mary and I have really enjoyed the chance to catch up with a good number of our family and friends while refreshing our perspective on what it's like to live in a house without wheels. The past several months have been a grounding time and essential part of what allows us to operate on the road as we have for the better part of the past decade.
Our weeks spent at home were carefully crafted around weekends of local travels, mandatory pilgrimages really, aimed at reconnecting to our traditional fall racing pursuit of cyclo-cross. The 'cross scene in New England continues to impress, with a great number of events that consistently offer up nothing short of the best courses and competition on the continent. Just when we thought it might be possible to take a little bit easy - perhaps show up to a race "just for fun" and or even call this some semblance of an off season... well, New England cyclo-cross has other ideas! The competition here is HOT and the racing is as good here as it is anywhere we have seen in the world.
As fun as it is to watch, cyclo-cross is not a spectator sport as much as it is a sport of participation in New England. The intense and relatively short race efforts attract a huge number of age group and amateurs keen to get into the action. 'Cross seems to be the preferred discipline for the "average" sickly driven New England Cyclist who can still manage to find the time to hone themselves into a lethal barrier jumping machine despite the constraints of other real world obligations.
For Mary and me, the training has continued to diversify and morph with our environment. Having access to the ocean has allowed us to get back into paddle boarding, surfing and get a taste of going to the beach, something we often dream about when land locked. In general Mary and I take advantage of this time of year to incorporate lots of non biking activities into the schedule. Yard jobs - like digging that grave sized hole to repair a busted out well head, or the steady grind of processing wood from standing dead trees to kindling to feed the ever hungry wood stove - are going a long way to add to the general preparation for our bodies to handle the punishment of another big season on the bikes. These thinly disguised real life workouts are a great way to lay waste to any muscles that have been neglected by the cycling and come with the bonus of actually getting some work done!
With Mary putting her healthful culinary skills to the seasonal test in the kitchen, it would be a mistake to take much of a pause in the activity for any long period of time.
I have to admit to spending a bit too much time outfitting our newest wheel estate investment (A Winnebago Brave) to be the perfect race attack vehicle. The payback has been pretty rewarding however as we have been rolling in unrivaled comfort while contesting Saturday and Sunday race weekends without a second thought about where the good food and quiet place to sleep are coming from. Being an all American RV, this is a vehicle that could be considered painfully expensive to drive, however keeping in mind the overall picture and style of "RV'ing it" we feel it is a critical upgrade for the team. It has already proved to be a million laughs - more or less eclipsing any darker points that occasionally accompany driving your house.
We are full of gratitude for the support we received from our family, friends and sponsors over this amazing season! Mary and I look forward to representing once again as we step into another exciting season of international racing in 2013 and will be starting things off once again with The Trans Andes Challenge in Patagonia Chile January 21-26. Time to head out and train!
Best wishes to all for Good health, Positivity and a Happy New Year!
Mike and Mary
Additional thoughts relating to the death of Burry Stander
As I was working on this article we got the tragic news of of Burry Stander's passing. This coming on the heels of an equally disturbing and similar tragedy - the death of Spanish cyclist Inaki Lejaretta. Such devastating news to the cycling community! Mary and I wanted to express our sincerest condolences to their family and friends as well as to members of the bike community that like us will no doubt be affected by this on some level for the rest of our lives.
I was hit by a car myself while out riding this fall - seriously enough to end my 'cross season and give me some mental and physical trauma to overcome. Though it hardly bears mention in the light of these tragedies, it does further outline the danger and reality that we all face daily when out on our bikes riding anywhere near automobiles.
Whether driving or riding please be sure to take the greatest precautions for yourself and all our cycling family. We believe that cycling is capable of bringing a lot more positive good than negativity - although it is hard to say this when one of our people is killed. We feel the loss and bear a burden of our brothers and sisters who have been taken before their time.