Hi! My name is Lacy Kemp. I work in the marketing department at Kona and have the keys to this blog, so I figured I’d invite you all on a three-month journey with me. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for about 10 years. I started kinda late (I’m 38 now), so the learning curve for me wasn’t as fast as, say, an 18-year-old, or a kiddo. I mean, have you seen the kids these days? There are seven-year-olds that outride me. It’s humbling, to say the least.
The thing is, I’m not a bad rider. I’m a proficient climber and find my comfort in the scary steep stuff. But, for whatever reason, I feel so inadequate when I ride with my crew. Granted, I try to keep up with some exceptionally talented riders, but still. I am a capable human and I want to feel better on my bike. It has gone from just cruising with my buddies to me putting this weird pressure on myself to be “better” and “faster,” even though none of them care whatsoever about my pace. I think this is something a lot of us deal with – especially women. Mountain biking has been a male-dominated sport for most if its life, and therefore many of us ride with the guys. Personally, I love riding in a coed group. It’s the vibe I like most. It’s silly, fun, strong, and always a good time – in spite of the mental traps I set for myself.
So, what’s a person to do? I’ve taken clinics and classes every year since I’ve been riding. I’ve raced downhill and even klunkers. I understand how to ride a bike, but what is lacking is how to keep myself physically and mentally in the best condition for enjoying my rides. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘who cares? Just go ride your freakin’ bike.’ You’re not wrong. In an ideal world, I’d just ride and not care about my pace or my hangups. But I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t want to ride better and feel better. The feeling is the most critical thing to me. I want to be able to laugh and chat easily on climbs. I want to be able to absorb the surrounding beauty of the land while I’m out on an adventure versus focusing on breathing and keeping up my pace. But, how do I improve my overall feeling on a bike? It seems to be largely a mental hurdle.
I decided to give myself a fighting chance at overcoming the barriers that seem to be constraining me. It just so happens that Kona Adventure Man and all around freak of nature on a bike (and I mean that in the most loving way), Spencer Paxson has transitioned his career into athletic performance services at Prime Bellingham- a high-end institute where athletes can go for goal-focused training, psychology, workouts, and many various forms of training. I’ve never had a bike coach before. I’ve never even had a structured workout plan at any point in my life. I don’t know what the difference is between circuits, high-intensity training, and intervals. They all sound like math to me, and math is scary. So to get over the scary, I have hired Spencer to be my personal coach, guru, and advisor for the next three months. My goal? Feel better on my bike.
I am going to be a unique challenge for Spencer. Unlike every single other athlete he works with I have no quantifiable goal. I’m not training for an event or a milestone, per se. I’m training to understand why I get caught up in my head when I pedal. I’m training to cut myself some slack when I fall off the back. I’m training to maybe fall off the back a little less. I’m training to see what the hell training is all about. I like systems and processes and structure as much as like a free-spirited life. I’m a quintessential Libra if you believe in that kind of thing.
Our first meetings have set the tone for the next 12 weeks. We are working on what is known as Rate of Perceived Exertion (on a scale of 1-10), where I usually hang out at the 4-5 range and want to die around a 6 or 7. We are hoping to make the 7s feel more like 5s… but again it’s all based on feeling. As of this week, I’ve begun logging my miles and vert and RPE for every ride. I’m forcing myself to take recovery days (which is REALLY hard for an exercise junky like me). Next time we meet we’ll do a movement screen to see where I have physical weakness and room for improvement. We’ll check in to see how my sanity is holding up. I’ll see if Spender is ready to kick me and my quirks to the curb. Who knows, maybe I’ll actually enjoy climbing after all of this is said and done? Wouldn’t that be something!
I’m writing this for you because I plan to share the experience with you. The highs and the lows. The learning and growth. The frustrations and challenges. Maybe I’m crazy for starting this around the holidays, but if I can make it through without royally screwing up the next few weeks then the rest of the program should be manageable. I think as cyclists and humans we all have insecurities. Some of us are just better at not giving AF. Maybe that will be my greatest takeaway- learn to let go. It’s a lesson we could all probably use.
Until next time, I’m turning on my Strava (something I NEVER thought I’d say) and will see where this sweet little bike takes me.