By 39 I’ve learned a little something about myself: hot yoga makes me feel like I’m dying, I love lentils but they despise me, I can’t get away with going braless, cruises and long lines terrify me, I laugh-cry when people trip, I can’t keep house plants alive but I can tend the hell out of a garden, and I am susceptible to occasional bouts of road rage.
I’ve lived long enough to know who I am.
So I just knew that a week of hard riding, beautiful scenery, culinary delights and new faces would be the ideal way to commemorate my 40th birthday. A cycling tour is something I’ve been dreaming about for years.
But reality doesn’t always align with fantasy, as almost any purchaser of a lottery ticket will tell you. With my birthday approaching, the possibility of launching myself into my fourth decade on two wheels seemed remote, even asinine.
My back had recently gone out three times within six months, some unexpected financial challenges were still looming, though getting better, and I’m the primary caretaker of our three children, ages 2, 7 and 10 – who all require daily adult supervision to survive.
I was fast becoming the cliche of an aging mom, in constant discomfort, looking in the rearview mirror at all the adventures I’d once experienced, kicking myself for not seizing the opportunity while I still had the chance.
But then I realized there’s nothing cliche about me. Okay, well maybe there are some things. I am a mom, after all, who drinks wine, shops at Trader Joe’s and often wears yoga pants.
BUT … I’m also a badass. A badass with a dream. So, with a little kick in the pants from my amazing partner, I decided to take the plunge.
Here’s a list of the top ten things to prepare when planning to tackle your own dream adventure:
1. Sign up for something—Things have a way of quickly getting real once you plunk down a wad of cash. To make it official, I signed up with WomanTours on their California Wine Country Bicycle Tour. It begins on Mother’s Day, which seems a fitting enough time to abandon the children for a week, dontcha think?
2. Start training—I haven’t been on a road bike in almost five years, since making the mistake of joining a local racing team. After totally burning out, I’m finally excited about getting back in the saddle. But enthusiasm alone won’t be enough to carry me over 200 miles of hilly wine country terrain. To be able to tackle the average 50 mile days, I’ll need to practice. So I’ve created a training schedule that includes outdoor rides and spin bike sessions at the gym. The weather isn’t an excuse either, thanks to my trusty indoor CycleOps trainer.
3. Recruit a Friend—Find someone you enjoy spending time with and then sucker him or her into signing up with you. Whether it’s a cycling tour, a half marathon or a hiking expedition, it’s nice to have an accountability partner — someone you can train with, laugh with when one of you falls flat on your face, and celebrate with when you get back up again.
4. Gear Up—Set yourself up for success by having the right equipment. When it comes to sports and adventure gear, the options can seem overwhelming. Find a solid shop that can help you sort through it all. I happen to live next to one of Seattle’s most popular cycling outfitters – Gregg’s Cycles, where I just purchased a wireless computer to track my progress, a new pair of cycling shoes and some clipless pedals known for being especially idiot proof. Let’s just say I have a sordid history of not being able to get out of my pedals in time. Ouch.
5. Break In Your Equipment—Training sessions are a great time to break in new equipment … and break in your body, too.
Nothing can ruin a bike tour faster than fire crotch. I repeat. Nothing. There are certain things you can do to ensure your nethers stay protected. Time training with the proper saddle helps a ton. The right shorts with chamois padding can be magical. And butt creams or other lubricants can save the day. Give yourself enough time to test your adventure gear so you can make any necessary modifications before your trip.
6. Acclimate to Your Conditions—Depending on your destination, you may need to acclimate to the conditions beforehand. I’m not just going on a cycling trip. I’m going on a cycling and winery trip … and let’s face it, I fall off of my bike enough even when I haven’t been drinking! Knowing that I’ll be cycling between tastings means that I need to be steady on my feet after a glass or two of wine. So I’m working to increase my wine tolerance by swilling it as often as possible. I’m aiming for six glasses per week but so far I’ve only been able to muster a measly two or three. I’m very disappointed in myself and I totally understand if you are too.
7. Take Precautions—Do what you can to mitigate potential mishaps before you leave. Because Murphy’s law exists for a reason. If I get a flat tire or my chain falls off, right now there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. That makes me feel like a big, fat loser. So I’ll be getting up to speed on basic bike mechanics. Even though there will be a support vehicle on the tour, I don’t want to wait around for an hour on the side of some dusty road getting skin cancer while the van searches for me and my blown tire. There’s going to be a pool with my name on it and I’d much rather fix my own damn tire, so I can finish riding and get skin cancer like I’m meant to — reclining on a comfy lounge chair.
8. Tend to Your Injuries—If you have an injury that could hold you back from making the most of your adventure, don’t ignore it. Get help from someone you trust.
My back is the single biggest thing that could derail my plans. So Kinetic Sports Rehab is helping me keep it in check. I routinely go there for soft tissue and chiropractic treatment, and they’ve created a whole rehabilitative performance exercise plan to help strengthen my back and core.
9. Reduce Stress—The more energy your body spends dealing with stress, the less that’s left over for training and adventuring. I’m working on reducing my physical, nutritional and mental stressors so I can accomplish one of my biggest goals – drinking cycling my way through 200+ miles of California wine country. You’ll hear lots more about how to minimize stress and get the most out of yourself in future posts, so stay tuned.
10. Have a back up plan—No matter how much you prepare, things don’t always go according to plan. That’s where trip insurance comes in. My back still isn’t a sure thing, and with three small children and four aging parents in the mix, you never know when someone will decide it’s a good time to visit the ER. It’s always smart to c.y.a.
This is the first post in a six part humor series called 40 Ways To Get Back in the Saddle. Follow the madness and get inspired to chase your own dreams! You can read the next post in the series here.
Meanwhile, if you see me on the bike trails come say hi. Or better yet, keep a safe distance until I figure out what in the hell I’m doing with these new pedals.