Experiencing Philly Without the Tourist Attractions

Part of the reason why I had never visited Philadelphia or NYC before is that I’ve always preferred to use my free time off work to go somewhere outdoorsy. Plus, big cities are always places I figured I’d “end up there eventually.” However, once I found out I would be leaving the East coast, it felt like it was time to make it a little bit more of a priority to get to some of these iconic American cities.

So, when I found a one-way flight to Philly that I was able to get for $5 due to the points on my Chase Sapphire credit card, I booked it without a second thought. From there I bought a $10 Megabus ticket to get me from Philly to NYC. I left my return plans to North Carolina open ended while I tried to figure out if I could make Boston happen as well.

My good friend Rachel is in Philly for grad school so I was able to stay with her the whole time. Since I was coming up mid-week, I was excited to have some time exploring the city by myself and being shown around by her. To be honest, I really had no interest in seeing the Liberty Bell or really visiting any museums that had to do with the American Revolution or inception of the country. Maybe I should have been more patriotic given it was the weekend before Fourth of July but that seemed to be even more of a reason to avoid those places to me. I’ve had my fill of learning about that period of history and just don’t care too much for it; In high school, my AP US history teacher spent about 75% of our year long class dedicated to the American Revolution and crammed the next 200 years of U.S. history into the last month of class – despite the fact that there only ended up being 2 questions on the exam about it (I’m not still bitter, what are you talking about?).

So instead, I wandered around for hours each day on the cobblestone streets of Philly admiring the architecture of the older houses. I also have a thing about going running on picturesque college campuses whenever they’re around, so I made time to go run on the beautiful U. Penn campus. Walking and running aimlessly for over 10 miles each day might not be everyone’s thing for touring a city but it is one of my favorite ways to get to know a place.

Night walks around Philly

The other thing I really like doing in cities is checking out coffee shops! The first day I hung out at La Va for a while doing some nerdy programming projects (yes, this is what I like to do during my free time). It was a cool vibe but I actually ended up having to throw away my iced coffee because it tasted so burnt which is essentially unheard of for me. I also went to Chapterhouse which I liked a lot better and would more than likely be my work spot if I lived in Philly. I did kind of feel like I wasn’t hip or tattooed enough for the barista dude to give me a smile though. I also went to OFC which didn’t have much of atmosphere but made a decent iced latte. The last day I grabbed my coffee from Fitzwater Street Bagels. I wasn’t a fan of their iced coffee either but I guess I was mostly there for the Bagels anyways. I’m not a coffee snob at all….

 

Chapterhouse Cafe (source)

 

When Rachel was off work the real fun began! The first night, we took a long walk with some froyo down on the greenway by Schuylkill River to the Art Museum (Aka where the famous Rocky steps are). The next evening we ended up having a slightly rambunctious night with some of her friends in Fishtown. I think she meant to take me to more than one bar but whoops…what can I say? It was a fun place!

 

Philadelphia Art Museum

 

Friday…. took me a while to get going.  Rachel took the day off so once I finally got going we did a long bike ride on the greenway to Wissahickon Valley Park. Well, it felt long with an insufferable headache and on the heavy commuter bike I was borrowing. When we finally got to the park, I was surprised at how beautiful and large it seemed considering we were so close to the city. There were a lot of people with nice mountain bikes around so I’m assuming there are some cool single track trails tucked away as well! We finished off the evening with a stunning fireworks show over the Deleware River…. plus some froyo for the third day in a row (this is a major reason why I miss her).

 

At least I had fun the night before…

 

Saturday, we woke up well rested and went on another ride. Philadelphia actually closes down MLK, a major road out of the city for recreational use. Super cool!!! I was really surprised (and loved) how active the city is. As we were biking on the road along the river, there was apparently a big sculling meet (race?) going on too. Rowing is something I’ve always wanted to give a try mainly because I feel like I need to start doing something with my arms at some point and seeing the meet helped to reinspire that desire.

 

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Our view across the river (source)

Once back, we cleaned up and set out to walk more of the city. We ate ice cream number 4 (who’s counting?) at the Franklin Fountain. Really good but also expensive and extremely popular (lines out the door). From there we walked through City Hall and to Reading Terminal Market. Rachel said she wished she could have brought me there during the week because there is a lot of cool food and sweets inside. But since it was a weekend, I got a little overwhelmed by the crowds and didn’t care to spend too much time in there. So we left to eat lunch at the famous Sarcone’s deli which was AMAZING. I’m always skeptical about sandwiches being worthwhile to buy out but this one certainly was. From there we headed to a block party not too far away from Rachel’s house. It had some good music and beers going on but we were both super pooped from the heat so we didn’t stay for too long.

We decided to watch a movie that evening and head to bed early even though it was my last night in Philly. However, we made the mistake of choosing to watch Fatal Attraction because, being a psych Ph.D., Rachel was interested because a professor had told her it was a good portrayal of Borderline Personality Disorder. Possibly one of THE most STRESSFUL movies EVER! After finishing it, we looked at each other and both immediately said “I need a drink,” so out we went at 10 pm.

I’m glad I didn’t miss out on one of her favorite dive bars though. We went to Bob and Barbara’s which is famous for their “cheap beer and a shot” special of $3. What I really liked about this place though was the funk band that plays there every Saturday night. They were SO much fun! There were some pretty interesting characters there. One middle-aged guy is apparently there just shredding up the dance floor by himself every weekend. We met a pair of Sweedish guys who one of them had been on the Sweedish version of America’s Got Talent (Sweeden’s Got Talent?) as a child for dancing like Michael Jackson. He had the moves and his friend had the youtube video to back it up too! I also met a girl who was from Long Island and seemed really surprised I had heard of Long Island…which was extremely confusing for me (what planet did she think I lived on?). It was an incredibly fun evening and of course, we had to finish it off with some ice cream from 7/11 on our walk home.

I’m fairly certain this is the Sweedish boy…

I hopped on my Megabus Sunday morning really happy with the time I spent in Philly. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed the city which I wasn’t expecting. It also made me feel better about moving to Seattle in a weird way. One of my biggest concerns has been how I will like living in a big city after living in a small college town for so long. But the way I explored Philly made me feel like I could actually live there which I hope is the same way I will feel about Seattle which has the added benefit of being so close to the mountains. One and a half weeks away from the roll out date! Another note was that I managed to keep my expenses pretty low in Philadelphia which always makes me happy. It’s an extremely walkable city so I never had to take public transportation and I found all of my food to be pretty affordable (this also may have something to do with still commiserating with Rachel and the grad student mindset of frugality).

Up next, I’ll recount my adventures on a bike in NYC!

Updates and life changes: Brought to you from Philly

You know when there are just too many new and/or exciting things going on and you get slightly behind on recounting them that you just keep putting it off only to get further behind? Yeah, that’s where I am right now. Since May I have:

  • Gone camping with my friend Rachel in the Shenandoah for a few nights and had lots of fun on our hikes with some crazy river crossings
  • Surprised my high school best friend for her birthday by coordinating with her husband to take her to the mountains and have a girls day without her kids
  • Had three days in a row with marathon interviews with different companies and was subsequently offered all three positions
  • Fretted over which one to take, even though I already knew deep down what I wanted to do (more in a bit)
  • Discovered a rad group of girls in Chapel Hill to mountain bike with
  • Taken a weekend mountain bike trip with Wilson, a friend and her partner in Pisgah National Forest (and had a BLAST shredding it up)
  • Had Rachel come visit me in Chapel Hill for several days from Philly and hit up all of our old favorite spots

And those are just the big highlights. That does bring me up to speed to say that I am currently writing this from Philadelphia! I just flew up here yesterday to stay with Rachel until Sunday and from there I will be staying with a friend in NYC for a few days before taking a bus back to North Carolina. I spent less than $50 on all of my transportation for this trip combined (although not including any metro passes I may get)!

What am I doing up here? Well, at the end of May I made the enormously terrifying yet exciting decision to take a 6-month internship in Seattle starting in mid-August! Terrifying because:

  1. I turned down full-time jobs in order to pursue this opportunity that is hopefully, but not guaranteed a predecessor to my dream job
  2. I’ve never been to Seattle (or west of Colorado for that matter)!
  3. I know exactly zero people in the PNW
  4. Wilson is staying in North Carolina for the time being
  5. Almost everyone wants to tell me about “the Seattle freeze” and how Seattle is horribly depressing and gray
  6. I’m going to be a single dog mom since I’m bringing Raven with me!
  7. I really, really, really am going to miss Chapel Hill a lot

Anyways, with this big, impending move happening in less than a month, I thought it was time to visit Philly and NYC before I leave the East coast since I haven’t really spent any time in either city before. I had a longer trip in mind originally that included Boston and Maine but I’ve gotten to the point where I really just want to spend as much time as possible with my peeps at home.

I have been in somewhat of a rut with writing since this blog doesn’t really have any direction: It’s not really a training blog nor a travel blog but I do write about both sometimes. However, I am really excited to share a lot about this move across the country. Until then, I’m going to get back to wandering around Philly!

New York Hiking

Wow, there is a tremendous amount to catch up on over the past month! Between a mountain bike trip for my birthday, Charleston for a bachelorette party and successfully defending my thesis I have a lot to talk about! But before I get to backtracking, I am just coming off of a week-long hiking trip in New York which I would like to recap first! Last Saturday I forced all of my favorite people to come together for my all day graduation party and then by 6 am Sunday morning I was out the door and on my way North.

My “tree-hugging” (awesome) Aunt and Uncle rented a place in New Paltz, New York for us to make our base camp for all of our hikes. My Uncle is route master extraordinaire and each day planned with at least a 10-mile hike.

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New Paltz is a small town, seemingly dominated by the local SUNY campus. There were a lot of interesting bars and restaurants filled with college kids who probably should have been studying for exams, in addition to several really neat independent bookstores – always a win! There also seemed to be a large number of coffee shop options that I would have liked to try out but the Village Grind became our morning stop ritual as it was pretty easy to get in and out of on our way to the trails. I wanted to provide a very brief overview of each of the hikes we did; Although, I could really go on for paragraphs about each of them!

 

Minnewaska State Park Preserve

I have to say, I was completely stunned by the trails in the Northeast. I have done zero hiking on the east coast North of Virginia and I really had no expectations. We spent two days hiking in Minnewaska State Park Preserve and it was a really great way to kick off the trip. It was $10 per car to enter the park which is completely worth it – the trails are extremely well maintained and clearly marked with maps everywhere. We started out on the Mossy Glen trail and it wasn’t long until we got to the creek and I turned into a complete little kid; I jumped up and across the river on rocks and fallen trees and was just amazed at how beautiful the trail along the river was.

We then connected to Jenny Lane and the Blueberry Trail where there are, in fact, blueberries growing! It was around the point shortly afterward that we got to Awosting Lake and it actually started snowing – I thought that was crazy! I had just come from 90 degree North Carolina weather and now it’s snowing??? I didn’t really mind though – less than ideal weather means fewer people which I am all in favor of when I am hiking.

 

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Moments before the snow started

 

The second day in Minnewaska we went the opposite way on the High Peters Kill trail. Again, when we finally got down to the river, the rushing water had not lost its appeal in the slightest. We took a little detour further down the river on an unofficial trail.

After, we ended up making our way to the High Peters Kill parking lot where I was practically drooling over the rock climbing spots we passed. Turns out the area is better known as the Gunks which offers some world class rock climbing. Next time. We crossed over the road to some of the carriage trails to make our way to the stunning Awosting Falls and a loop around Minnewaska Lake.

 

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Awosting Falls

 

 

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Minnewaska Lake

 

Harriman State Park

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On our third day, we set out to tackle some of the AT. An important note here: my 70-year-old Uncle broke his hand a few weeks ago, so did all of our hikes without a right hand! I actually tried to not use both hands on this hike and it got a little too sketchy for me so I returned to two-handed rock scrambling.

 

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The Champ

 

From the AT we took the A-SB trail where we stumbled upon Times Square! After that we took the R-D trail that led to some really awesome old mining caves; I took off running around trying to find them along the hillsides. My Aunt and Uncle thought it was hilarious that I acted the exact same way around waterfalls and caves that I did when I was a kid too.

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We also came across a stone shelter which I thought was really neat – I had only ever seen wooden lean-tos. I would really recommend checking out this area, there is a lot of hidden gems all around I think we then took White Bar to Dunning but I really am unsure of our route towards the end of the day; All I know is that we finished walking along yet another beautiful river. New York, you are killing it.

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Hidden mining cave

 

 

 

The Catskills

No trip to this area of New York would be complete without a trip to the Catskills and this is certainly one part that I want to go back and explore further. We parked at the Scutt Road trail head to go see the Katterskill Falls. More running on my behalf ensued – I don’t really think my excitement for waterfalls can be dampened no matter how many I see!

We also hiked up to Sunset Rock and around the North and South Lakes. Beautiful views were plenty at the Katterskill and Catskill Mountain houses; It was really great to have my Uncle around who has an incredible memory and knowledge for all the history surrounding the trails. It made me want to research more for future trails I go on.

 

Deleware Water Gap

We generally had perfect weather for our trip aside from our drive back yesterday. However, that didn’t stop us from our plan to stop by some easy to access and incredible waterfalls on our way back to D.C. Our first stop was at the George W. Childs Park Trail where there was a well-marked 1 2-mileile loop of tons of waterfalls.

We then stopped further down the river at the stunning Dingwell Falls which was about a 1 mile hike as well. Due to the accessability of these two trails, both of these places would have been swarming with people had it not been raining. PLUS, waterfall pictures always come out better on rainy/cloudy days.

 

Oh, what’s that you say? The hikes I mentioned don’t add up for all the days that I was in New York (Because, of course, you noticed)? We had one day where we didn’t do “serious” hiking but instead toured Roosevelt’s estate in Hyde Park. When I was younger, I used to really hate being dragged along to all of these historic sites (probably as most kids do), but now I really appreciate learning a lot more about history in a way that will allow it to stick with me better. One of the most poignant parts of the visit was the special exhibit on the Japanese internment camps that took place during FDR’s time. I think EVERYONE should go see this – especially in our current political climate. This was an aspect of American History that I absolutely DO NOT remember covering in school when we talked about WWII. I’m sure we did, but it must have been extremely glossed over. I had since gained a bit more awareness, but I really hadn’t thought very much of the scope and the unjustness of this period of history.

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As someone who considers themselves very highly educated yet had a limited understanding of the internment camps, I really believe we need to do a better job of not sweeping the uncomfortable and embarrassing periods of history under the rug.

 

We also stopped to see Innisfree Garden. This is apparently somewhat of a masterpiece amongst gardens, and I must say that I preferred over the typical extremely immaculate gardens that are usually for tours. It took about an hour to walk around the whole thing.

 

There are so many other hikes I would really like to go back and do but this was certainly a really great introduction to what the Northeast has to offer. I can’t wait to go back and explore some more!

Athletic Identity: The Struggle

 How do you answer the question “Who are you?”

It seems like such a simple question at first… Yet, this post has taken an inordinate amount of time to write. For years, I had zero problems answering this question. “I am a student and I am a runner.” Maybe I would define myself as a friend or a daughter or a sister as well if I was thinking a bit beyond myself  – but the fact that I identified as a runner never waivered.

It was only later, when I stopped running so competitively, that I began to feel lost. Who was I if I wasn’t racing? I bought a bike in 2012 to gear up for racing triathlons. I rode some with the UNC cycling team and did one or two ‘cross races but I still felt like I was a runner who sometimes rode bikes. Then, when I competed in my first (and only) season of triathlons I was further confused. I STILL just felt like a runner who just happened to sometimes swim and bike beforehand; At the same time though, it had been several years since I was a part of the running community and so I became more hesitant about bolding declaring “I am a runner!”

Many seasons of change later and I am afraid to say that my athletic identity has become even more amorphous. While I’ve primarily come to terms with the fact that this part of my identity (or any part of my identity for that matter) doesn’t have to neatly fit into boxes and labels, I’m still left with a lot of confusion.

This past year has been an intentional shift in my focus away from any real training and onto other areas of my life. It’s been a period of coming to terms with being “generally in shape” but not being among the fittest and strongest in any one discipline within my circles. It has not been an easy transition. My ego takes a hit every time I get dropped on my bike by people I “feel like I should be faster than.” I’ve declared in frustration that I’m not a “real” runner anymore when a 9:30 min per mile run feels hard. And for the record, these thoughts go against everything that I always say (and truly mean) to everyone else in my life when I am offering encouragement.

I continuously am fighting the urge to adhere to a rigid and structured training plan. Which may not make sense to many people in the sports – why do I feel the need to fight this? Well, the thing is that I am more and more coming to the understanding that I am not just a runner. Or a cyclist. I am someone who has a simple and real love for the outdoors and all of the experiences it has to offer. I am someone who loves to challenge myself in many, many, many different ways. Yes, I love running and yes, I also love riding my bike in the woods. But more so than anything, these two activities are merely vessels for how I can enjoy nature and time in the sun. I love hiking and camping and climbing and kayaking and swimming in lakes. I love trying new things and seeing new places. There are so many other things I want to take part in.

I do forsee a time in my future when I refocus on one in pursuit of an ambitious goal. For now though, I am attempting to follow my whims and capricious desires on how to spend my time outdoors. No structure or training is hard for me – which is precisely why I’m making myself dive into it. Has my type A side started showing yet?

An Island Adventure

There’s been a bit of bike riding going on over the past few weeks, but more importantly, I’m fresh off the plane from a week-long trip to the islands of Turks and Caicos! I seem to have overlooked the memo that graduate students don’t get a spring break; but when the opportunity to head off to sunny paradise arose, there was no way I was going to turn that down!

Now, an island resort isn’t normally my style of travel. I tend to prefer challenging travel that immerses me in the countries culture. However, I attempted to change my idea of what “out of the country travel” usually means for me and shift my perspective to enjoying and appreciating the family time I would be getting during this week. I also know that this next month will be full of a lot of hard work and stress so it was nice to have the opportunity to recharge before the last big push before my thesis defense.

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Nearly the entire week, I had very mixed and very conflicting feelings about the tropical paradise. Flying into the Providenciales (one of the islands of the country) airport, I was stunned by the beautiful, clear, blue water around the islands. Our group then hopped into a taxi for a 20-minute ride to the airport. The ride was… challenging for me; house after house along the liter ridden highway was falling apart or frequently even half demolished with its residents lingering around outside. But before you had too much time to think about it, we were whisked into an immaculately groomed resort with lit up palm trees and landscape, two pools, nice condos, a beachside bar and workers ready to respond to our every need. The contrast was stark.

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The beach we walked onto from our hotel was Grace Bay, rated one of the most beaches in the world. The location really was one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen and there was certainly no difficulty getting plenty of rest and relaxation on the short over the week.Conch fritters and rum punch were a daily staple for our whole group, with the beachside restaurant the Conch Shack being the most memorable avenue for these indulgences. Will and I went snorkeling, for the first time, in the middle of the ocean where reef caves and fish I had only seen in Finding Nemo were abundant. We also went to the Conch Farm which is working to create a sustainable and responsible method to increase the Queen Conch population that is a crucial export to Turks and Caicos. I would highly recommend it!

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Now, for some real talk. I think one of the most uncomfortable aspects of the island was the classism (racism?). In general, the population of Turks and Caicos is black; however, everywhere we went almost 100% of the patrons and customers were white. In fact, I don’t think there was ever a single local anywhere we went who wasn’t an employee and I really did not like being a part of such a segregated system. I suppose there were places to go off the beaten path and intermingle with residents a bit more but the kind of trip I was on didn’t really allow for that. I also couldn’t help but question why someone would spend thousands of dollars PER NIGHT to stay at some of the multimillion dollar condos/houses on the beach and be able to overlook the very obvious need for that money to go elsewhere. To be clear, I am very aware that this is an issue everywhere, I’m just not normally in that close of proximity to the world’s “elite” as I was on the island.

Anyways, despite spending the week trying to juggle my values with my current surroundings, I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to go to my first Carribean island. I think I slept at least 12 hours a day every day that I was there; I’m stocking up some reserve that will most certainly be used in the next few weeks! And most certainly, I’ll be cherishing the time I got to spend goofing off with Will.

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I’m Back

Well, it’s been a minute since I’ve posted anything. Is anyone even still here? My absence does not mean I haven’t been writing – aside from a ton of half-finished post that I start and then forget about, I’m a good thirty pages into my thesis now. Between preparing for my defense, research, applying to jobs like it is my job, teaching, taking some cool classes, trying to find time to ride my bike, and attempting to have a social life something had to fall by the wayside. But I’ll give a few updates now!

My cyclocross season ended really well (Wow it really has been a while…)! I closed out the season on a beautiful new cross bike that Wilson got me and managed to place 2nd in the omnium for NCCX. Kind of crazy considering I didn’t ride my bike at all for the months leading up to the season and missed several races to prepare for and run my ultra. That also meant that I finally had enough points to move up a category for next season! I could have waited but I figured moving into the big girl race would give me some incentive not to sign up for any more crazy running races during the season and give me motivation to actually ride my bike before September rolls around.

Speaking of which, I actually HAVE been riding quite a bit (for me). I’ll have to talk about my training more some other time, but it’s kind of hard not to get in really good training when you’re dating the hardest working cyclist around. Plus, it’s basically summer here in North Carolina already so I would be crazy to waste the weather. I’ve also been able to take Miss Raven mountain biking with me! I wasn’t sure how it would go at first, but she trotted along behind Will and in front of me perfectly for a whole hour at the local trails. Seriously, a dream come true to have a dog like her.

 

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Riding with my best friend

 

So far, I have no plans to do any bike racing in the spring or summer. I suppose that could change, but I’m kind of enjoying having my weekends back and then just going to watch friends race on the road when I feel like it. I did sign up for the Raleigh Rock and Roll Half marathon in April to do with a friend. I started incorporating some track workouts into my life again once a week and have been loving it! However, it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I should probably do some runs longer than 4 miles sometime soon.

Life is good and I have some really cool things coming up in the next few months that I can share. Hoping to pop back in again soon!

When Fear Wins: NCCX Hendersonville

It’s funny that I started my last post mentioning my lack of disappointments and difficulties I had encountered in my cross season thus far. I suppose I have been an athlete long enough to know that multiple months of personal success and improvements always has to get interrupted sooner or later – That interruption just happened to be my race yesterday in  Hendersonville. Before I go into it further, I will also mention that it is unfortunate that I haven’t had enough time to write about my cyclocross race in Charlotte because that was truly a huge breakthrough for me getting my first second place and riding well. However, I would rather take this time to write about this while it is still fresh in my mind.

The majority of my team headed up last Friday to Hendersonville for a weekend of racing at North Carolina’s UCI cross event. I was unable to race on Saturday since the girls I coach for Girls on the Run were having their end of the season 5k celebration that morning. Not wanting to be left out on the weekend of fun though, I made the four hour drive solo directly after the 5k and got to Hendersonville just in time to see Will finish up his race (literally just in time -I got about the last 20 seconds of it!).

I was in great spirits as our whole team hung out in the beautiful cabin we rented after all the races were over. I am truly at my happiest when I get to spend time in a group of people that I can be my authentic self around; this group is comprised of some of the most supportive and kind people you will ever meet. I went to bed content and ready to seek revenge on a course that I DNF’d at last year.

A group of us arrived at the course a little bit after 8am to pre-ride the course for our 11 o’clock race. For us North Carolinians, the 20 degree bitter cold was nearly heart stopping and quickly got rid of all feeling in my fingers and toes. I have not seemed to managed to find a good pair of gloves that I can have enough dexterity to break and shift on my bike but still keep my hands warm. Do they exist? Someone needs to enlighten me…

Anyways, the preride was far from encouraging. The entire course was covered with an icy sheet of frost that made even the most sweeping of turns precarious to ride on. There is a section of several back to back steep up and downs followed by off-camber that I skipped riding, telling myself I would ride them later when the frost had melted. Mistake #1. It took 3 different small segments of time pre-riding to make my way all the way around the course before my race and I didn’t ride a single section that caused me some grief. Quite possibly the biggest mistake I’ve made all season.

From the time the gun went off, I really, really, really, REALLY did not want to be racing. I got a pretty good start but I found myself backing off as soon as we left the pavement because I was uncomfortable with the slick turns at the very beginning. I quickly saw what felt like 10 people ride away from me and I felt even less of a desire to race. It didn’t take long before we got to the up and down section that I had mentioned and it was the final straw for my race mindset. We could barely run up the hills and then I didn’t want to ride down the hill so I carefully tip toed down. While doing so, I continued to see the front group move further and further away. While back a ways from the leaders, at this point I was still with the girl that ended up 4th in the race. Continue on and I was getting more and more negative. I wasn’t even really pedaling and my heart rate was basically at what it is when I’m resting between intervals. There is a segment in this course called “the wall” that I didn’t get to try before the race either. This section was the final nail in the coffin as I walked up the hill and then walked the off camber after it, trying really hard to hold back the tears in front of a pretty large crowd and my teammies.

I finally got onto the second lap and I considered dropping out of the race. I wasn’t having fun – in fact I was pretty downright miserable. At this point I really was just coasting on my bike and was livid at myself. Some of the extremely sweet girls who passed me tried to encourage me to go with them so that we wouldn’t get lapped by the guys. Towards the last part of the second lap, I ended up waiting shortly so that they actually COULD lap me and I could finish with only 2 laps rather than having to do a third. Honestly, the only reason I stayed in the race was because I figured getting some points for the series omnium was better than getting none. Probably the only logical thought I had during those 20 minutes.

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Only smiles again post-race. It was only slightly cold.

So there you have it; a very low, low for my racing laid out in earnest. It would be very easy to criticize me for what looks like giving up when I’m not in top position. It would also be natural to fault me for not giving 100% or in being dramatic when I mention that I was “holding back tears” over something as silly as a bike race. Trust me, this censure exists very loudly in my head right now. What good does it really do to focus on that though?

What does help is to “lean into” the extreme feeling of discomfort that this race caused me. For whatever reason, very steep uphills and downhills cause me a great deal of panic. They don’t have to be very long ones and even when I’m just riding around I’m fearful of them. On the downhill, I always think I’m going to go straight over my handlebars or that my cantilever breaks aren’t going to be strong enough to stop me from crashing straight into the tape (especially when I can’t feel my fingers). It’s difficult for me to even try steep uphills because I feel like I’m not going to get my foot out in time if I can’t make it up. Which is silly of course; more likely than not, I will get my foot unclipped and if I don’t then I’m going extremely slow and falling over won’t really be all that bad. Fear is not rational though.

Going further, fear is a pretty ugly thing. It’s a very strong and powerful primitive emotion that is uncomfortable to face head on or to admit. Instead, we usually cover it up with other things like anger or blaming something else entirely unrelated. We make excuses that allow us to avoid the situation that causes the fear which in turn ultimately makes the fear worse.

Yes, those were my initial reactions. I was angry. I cried after I finished and couldn’t explain why. I gave myself 30 minutes afterwards to be upset about the race. I did what I know never fails to clear my head: I went on a run. As I got further away from the park, I slowly realized the real reason I had such a bad race; I realized I had let my fear and anxiety snowball and triumph over me which then led to being angry at myself for letting it beat me.

That is not me. It goes against the fundamental principle I hold for my life – I actively seek out the things I am afraid of to push my comfort zone and expand my perspective. I NEVER want fear to get in the way of me doing something that I want to do. I never want it to be a motivator or influence over decisions in my life. And while immediately after finishing I vowed never to do that race again (last year’s DNF was pretty much due to the exact same thing), I know I will be back again this time next year.

I will search out some steep things to ride up and down until I don’t even think twice about it. I’ll ride in the grass on frosty mornings and learn to embrace fish-tailing, sliding out and falling down. I’ll continue pushing my technical abilities on my mountain bike and venturing out on single track on my cross bike. In short, while fear may have won on Sunday, I refuse to let it dictate my life and I will overcome it.

Now, on to looking ahead to the race this Sunday.