Upper Body Update (week 17)

Oops.
I couldn’t quite make it all the way to forty this week. On pushup #38 I collapsed. Faceplant.

But thankfully I do have an excuse prepared. I wasn’t able to fit in my pushups on Sunday (the snooze button may have played a factor in my demise) so I did them yesterday, skipping my typical rest day. So this morning I was still a bit sore from Monday’s workout. See, a perfectly good excuse. Unfortunately, while excuses may help my pride a bit they do not help my muscles. Therefore, I resolve that the coming week will be a “no excuses or snooze buttons allowed” week.

Gary from PedalWORKS is inspiring me to add some single leg squats to my routine, but I am still working on getting the form right, which means I need to eliminate wobbling.

Another inspiring thing for me this week was reading about Darian Sperry. She is 5’1″, 20 years old and soooo insanely strong. If this gif doesn’t encourage me to keep working on building my strength, I don’t know what will.Darian Sperry 180 lb (81.65 kg) snatch - Imgur 20150331025057 2015033102522220150331024934

4,000 Miles

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Thank you, little bike!

One year ago today I decided that winter was officially over and I took my bike out for a ride…

I haven’t stopped riding since. In my first year of year-round biking and living car-free I clocked over 3,000 commuting miles and more than 4,000 miles altogether. I have learned and grown so much this year, it has been by far the best year of my life.

So what has 4,000+ miles in the saddle taught me?
Here are just a few things.

-I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength

-I am more powerful and brave than I thought possible

-Living an active lifestyle, aside from its health benefits, is fulfilling and just plain fun

-It is possible to be healthier even without changing how I eat (Not saying that I shouldn’t eat healthier in the future though…)

-Beauty is everywhere

-A slower, simpler life doesn’t mean a less exciting life

-Adventure is out there and riding a bicycle is the perfect way to find it

-The journey is often more exciting than the destination

-To never live a certain way just to satisfy “cultural norms”

-I have so much to learn about cycling

-I have so much to learn about bike mechanics and maintenance

-Skunks rule the night

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One year ago, I appear to be contemplating life and the possibility of eating my own hair. (Sorry, I couldn’t find many pics from this time last year, I avoided cameras like the plague at that point.)

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Today. Truly, this shows the power of an active lifestyle because I sure didn’t change my eating habits! My fitness is still a work in progress, but at least there is progress.

Corncob Trail

Yesterday on my ride home I noticed that the snowmobile trail which intersects the road I was biking on had thawed and turned very muddy. That got the wheels in my mind turning. Mud would make the trail impassable for snowmobiles, the obvious conclusion being that it was time to turn the trail into a designated bicycle path.

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My lens got a bit of mud on it, oops.

So today I veered off the shoulder of the road and into the mud.011It is always fun to get off the road and head for the hills.
023But when I crested the hill and went around a bend the mud was replaced by a layer of corn stalks, husks and cobs. I had never biked over corn paraphernalia before and  quickly discovered that it is super bumpy. More like jarring.  I began to follow this trail of corncobs and was led into an open field where the wind had blown powdery snow into the ruts of the trail.

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Ruts filled with glorious powdery snow.

All I can say is, my bike handling skills have really improved over the winter. Even though I was biking through snow over a bumpy surface that I couldn’t see or predict, I was able to stay upright.
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028I crossed the field successfully and then began to traverse a section of hardened snow. While crossing a small stream that was underneath a thick cover of snow, one of my legs plunged into the snow and my boot got stuck.
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After making it over the stream I was able to bike on top of the snow. But every little while the rear tire would sink deep into snow and need to be rescued. Then me and my bike came to a barbed wire fence. The trick was that the fence was hidden under the snow where we crossing. I got off the bike to walk over the fence, knowing that if I was super unlucky my leg could plunge into soft snow right where the barbs would scratch it. But today wasn’t my super unlucky day and the snow held until we made it over the fence.

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You can see part of the fence here, a few posts are barely sticking out over the top of the snow before the whole thing disappears under the snow.

A few hundred yards of hardened snow later, we came into the fairgrounds and headed home. Can’t wait for Monday.

Saying Goodbye to Winter

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This river may still be frozen over but it is no longer covered in snow…

Warmth is slowly returning to the north country and winter is bidding us a reluctant goodbye.

When October 2013 came around so did the snowstorms and I retired my little pink mountain bike for the year. Winter did her best work and piled on the snow and cold. It wasn’t until the end of March last year that I was able to get back on my bike. It only took me few weeks into spring to realize how much biking and living car free meant to me. I started to explore the idea of biking through the winter and by the beginning of May a battle had begun in my mind.

To bike or not to bike.

I thought about it constantly; while I was biking to work, whenever I was on the internet and before falling asleep at night. I obsessively ran through all the situations I would face during the coldest months of the year.

How would I respond to snow? Ice? Falling? Sliding cars? Low visibility? Plow trucks? Was I strong enough? Brave enough? Committed enough? What if I was injured? What if I had to wake up really early to make to work in time? What was I willing to sacrifice to make it work?

For the rest of the spring, summer and fall my brain was continually filled with thoughts of winter.

Then the snow began and so did this blog. For 4.5 months I have been immersed in all of the cold, snow and magic that winter brings. This winter season has been an incredible time of growth in my life; physically, mentally and spiritually.

Essentially, it has either been winter or my thoughts have been focused on winter for the past 17 months. In that timeframe my perception of winter has changed dramatically. First, winter was an obstacle that kept me off my bicycle, then a dreadful, shadowy fear that haunted my mind and then finally and unexpectedly, winter became a season filled with adventure and magic.

But now I am saying farewell to winter.

It is time for spring.
And flowers.
And green grass.
And ugly but somehow cute baby starlings.
And mud, lots of mud.
And rain.
And long rides.
And faster rides.
And rides with people.
And I am just slightly excited.

I am going to start off this spring by biking every day in the month of April. (Thank you Kel, for introducing me to the 30 Days of Biking website.) After that, I have no idea what will happen. But I know it is going to be an adventure!

Upper Body Update (week 16)

It’s been four months since the beginning of my relationship with the living room floor. Sixteen weeks in and our relationship is stronger then ever. We spend a little more time in each others company every week.

Don’t tell the living room floor, but I am also developing odd feelings for the mirror in the bathroom. I keep staring at it and wondering how a routine so simple could give me such massive muscles. (Note: my muscles aren’t massive in any way, shape or form. But compared to what they used to be they seem massive to me.)

So there you have it, pushups are important but relationships are what really matter.

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Top Five Memorable Commutes

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The giant white dog says hello.

It’s been fun chronicling each day’s ride to and from work this winter. One of the greatest things about biking in the snow and cold is that every single day is an adventure. I am so glad that I have everything written down so that years from now I can look back over my first year of winter commuting.

But today is the first day of spring (on my calendar at least, Google claims otherwise) plus it rained on my trip home so I think it is high time to retire the “commuting to work” posts. Not that I won’t be posting about interesting things that occur on my rides to and from work in the future, but I don’t feel the need to journal every trip now that I completed my first winter of biking. The exciting part is when I do post about my commute I will actually take the time to think of an appropriate title instead the tedious titles I wore out over the winter.

In lieu of posting about today’s ride, here are the links to the five commuting days that stick out in my mind.

My Favorite Commute

The Funnest Commute of all Time

My Encounter with the Sheriff

The Bloodiest Commute

The Commute of Torture

Friday Commute

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Dirty mountains of snow.

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Sugar Shanty.

The animals are starting to emerge now that the power of winter is weakening. I saw a skunk and a confused little field mouse on the way to work. Skunks were out in full force last year and it seems that the trend will continue this year as well. Though I don’t mind seeing skunks and it’s pretty easy to avoid them on a bike, I wish good luck to all the drivers on weaving a path through the minefield of walking stink bombs.

It was snowing on the way home! Okay, I shouldn’t really say it was “snowing” but there were snowflakes falling from the sky so it kinda-sorta counts. We may get up to three inches of snow tomorrow afternoon and all I can say is the shoulders of the roads better not be plowed when I get out of work or it will be a total rip-off.014

You know the saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”? I have had fun biking through the snow but I didn’t realize I would miss it quite so much when it no longer covered the road.

The past three nights I have been dreaming about bikes and snow in different  scenarios. (In one I was leading a group of friends in biking through this epic snow cave. They kept asking if  the walls would collapse since it was so warm outside and I would just reply, “Yeah, it is possible”, while calmly continuing to go father into the cave.)

So hopefully we will get some nice snow tomorrow or I may spend another night guiding my helpless friends to an icy demise.

To work (10 miles)
3:40 am to 4:40 am
Weather
20F, 7 mph Southeast wind

From work (10 miles)
3:15 pm to 4:20 pm
Weather
32F, 9 mph South wind

Thank you!

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I started this blog in November, a girl who had a tentative plan to see if living car-free was possible during a Northern New York winter. I had no idea of the fun and excitement that was just around the corner. Now winter is (basically) over and I made it. I made it through all the snow and cold and ice and wind. But I didn’t do it on my own, not by a long shot.

A huge thank you to the following for making my first winter biking experience successful, safe and enjoyable.

God.
Although I rode through the winter without human company, I was never alone. In my most fearful moments and in the incredible times of joy in the snow, God was there. He protected me and I could feel His love wrapping around me in stronger way than I have ever felt before. When I was delighted by the glory of the winter, I could feel His joy intertwining with mine.

My Dad.
He wasn’t 100% on board in the beginning, but that didn’t stop him from helping me out. Whenever I needed assistance or advice he was always happy to jump in. He also became a top winter biking apologist; I am pretty sure he is more skilled at convincing people that biking through the winter is awesome and safe than I am!

My friends, family and coworkers.
Almost all of them were reluctant about my crazy plan at first, but that didn’t stop them from offering me rides if I ever needed them. They also prayed for my safety, which gave me a boost of much-needed courage especially during the first few snowstorms.

You.
To everyone who followed my trek through the winter, reading and “liking” my posts, thank you! So many of you also took the time to comment with helpful advice, encouragement or anecdotes of your own. I don’t think you have any idea how awesome you are so I am going to tell you – you guys are really, super, crazy, out-of-this-world awesome! Your blogs have inspired and challenged me, reading them is a wonderful part of my day.

My bike.
Through the freezing rain, the sleet, the snow, the ice and the wind this little mountain bike persevered while I splayed out awkwardly over her frame. Even when I shoved her in cold sheds or left her out in the snow she remained my trusty, rusty companion. Sure, she complained in the cold and even once let me down, but it was her first winter too.

My studded tires.
You two rock! Thanks for never letting me down.

Snowplow dudes.
I don’t know why they seemed so scary at first, I think of them now as helpful friends. They were always cautious, professional and friendly and I am very thankful that they kept the roads in my community passable.

Random concerned strangers.
There were so many people who stopped to check if I was okay/ask if I needed a ride this winter, even though I was a complete stranger. Several times they pulled over in rather risky conditions, which was pretty heroic of them.

Motorists.
The drivers on the roads were overwhelmingly cautious and considerate around me throughout the winter. They refused to crash into me which was kind of them.

Winter.
I couldn’t have biked through the winter if there was no winter, right? Aside from winter’s joke of dropping the first subzero temperature on me in the form of -17, the weather was fairly decent in giving me time to adjust and buy more gear when I had chinks in my armor.

I am going to end this post with the song that became my winter biking anthem.

Upper Body Update (week 15)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! There is no need to pinch me since I am already wearing green and (bonus point) eating a green pepper. My mom’s side of the family are all of Irish descent, my Grandma met my Grandfather (he is now deceased) on St. Patrick’s Day and they were engaged on St. Patrick’s Day, so today is a big deal in my family.

I am currently up at my parent’s house where my mom and I are making a huge boiled dinner with Irish soda bread and grasshopper pie for dessert. We all love this meal and look forward to it every year. To me the best part of a boiled dinner is the cabbage. After the corned beef has simmered for hours, we chop up cabbage and cook it in the goodness of the beefy, broth-y, salty and fatty liquid that the corned beef left behind. So good. I could eat a whole head of cabbage that way. Okay, I am not ashamed to admit it, I have eaten a whole head of cabbage that way. Possibly over the course of a single day.

First thing my little bro said to me when I got here: “Bri, how much protein does corned beef have?”

Not the traditional St. Patrick’s Day greeting but I guess it works. My dad says he is on a protein kick so finding out that 4oz of corned beef has 15 grams of protein made my brother quite happy!

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