Biking with Grace

This year, I’ve been exploring the concept of Grace. Not so much in the spiritual sense, and certainly not in the “poise and balance” sensibility, though I suppose those are both relevant and present as well. I’m talking about the “giving myself grace” sort of practice—the practice of permission and forgiveness.

You see, as a mom, I’m plagued with a perpetual sense of guilt—am I spending enough time with my kids? What was the last kind thing I said to my husband? I should have drafted that last email before leaving work for the week. Why didn’t I get my butt out of bed for that early-morning mountain bike ride?

Of course, this transcends to my training—but also it all sort of flies in the face of my previous year’s mission of investing mightily in myself to make me a better mom, wife, co-worker—or does it?

Life is such a tight rope, like the lines I hope to ride at my first Wausau 24 [] next weekend. Of course, in my typical “go big or go home,” “unattainable attainable goal” style, my first-ever mountain bike race will be the double trail half-marathon Friday, followed by the 12-hour solo ride Saturday. Twelve hours seemed like enough. 

Riding with my daughter, Ella (10)

So how have I trained for this endeavor, one that scares me beyond belief? Not as much as I’d like, let’s start with that. Compared to last year’s Race Calendar, I feel sorely out of practice, if not out of shape. But that’s by design. You see, after an amazing season of gravel, one I will never forget, this spring I recommitted to giving some back—paying it forward, so to speak. The one gravel ride I did, I committed to sticking with my girlfriends, so that it was a good training experience for one prepping for her first DK, the other just completing her first 100. Instead of sitting on Salsa’s chaise lounge [link:], I’ve been supporting by volunteering at it. But most important of all, I’m intentionally trying to be more present at home, which has meant not riding some days, or not getting in as long of a run.

Bikecamping with the family and friend.

It was this recommitment that drew me to the Wausau 24 event—what Adam Schmidt has going on in the rolling hills of central Wisconsin is the embodiment of what we’ve been trying to do with our kids and family. There are literally options for everyone, and in its 10th year, the atmosphere looked like th kind of combination of camping and biking. 

But I also did buckle down:

  • Since March, I’ve been running weekly on local trail, doing a combination of hill repeats and fartleks, sprints and longer distances.
  • Two months out, I joined a small group of coworkers also doing the ride for Monday Morning Dirt sessions—weather allowing, of course.
  • Also maintained a cross-training, high-intensity workout schedule at least five times a week, that have ranged from plyometric cardio work to weight training to hot yoga.

The plan going in was to camp together at Wausau—maybe that means longer breaks here or there on Saturday, but hopefully it does what I’m always striving to do—set an example for my children by way of an active, outdoor lifestyle. That said, a week beforehand, we lost our dog-sitters—and it was just a lot to ask my husband to watch four kids under 10, support me and keep track of two marginally behaved lab-mixes. 

Campgrounds with playgrounds make for great destinations.

So this weekend becomes, for me, a whole new level of soul-searching, of coming to terms with my training and giving myself that grace. I’ll be truly “solo” for this trip—the first bike race I’ll ride without my husband running emotional (and technical) support. We’ll see if the “balance and poise” somehow “spiritually” emerge day-of—but if not, I’m giving myself that grace, acknowledging my preparation (and its limitations) and having fun with it all just the same. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Packing for a family of six.