Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time to Reflect

We're in between holidays, and quickly approaching the end of the year. Seems to me like an appropriate time to reflect, once again, on the year gone by. And it's been a doozy!

Notchfest 1 - March
While early 2011 saw us spending a lot of quality time out on the skinny skis in the snow, 2012 wasn't kind to us in the snowfall category. In fact, the brand new snowblower, generator and skate skis sat dormant all winter long. Season passes to Weston went virtually unused (we did get out twice). So, instead we rode. A lot. In fact, Mike started a streak of riding that has continued through the year - every day on the bike. We're about to bid adieu to 2012, and he's still on the bike daily, even in a foot of snow. I'm proud of him for that accomplishment, his dedication and drive! And me? More miles this year than in any so far. Not too shabby.

There was also a lot of change at our house this past year. Mike won the work lottery in January, and was laid off from his long time position working for "the man". He took some much needed time off, and spent it working around the house on various projects that had taken a backseat to working, riding and racing - a new mantle for the fireplace, all new cabinets in the workshop, a new leaf for the dining room table, painting, installing a chimney cap, and LOTS of outdoor work as well as all of the regular household chores (yup - groceries, cleaning and laundry!). The house and yard look fantastic. In June that came to an end when he took a new job. The good news is that it is in Bedford. The bad news is that it is a job. I miss my happy house husband - maybe 2013 will bring him back :).

I also made a job change this year. Early in the year I recognized that while I had learned a significant amount in my time at Harvard, the job wasn't really what I wanted to do. I woke up one morning and realized that I had become a Software Development Project Manager - not something I know much about, nor had a passion to continue doing. I have since returned to a contracting company I used to work for, and am contracted back to the Learning and Development group at HP - it's like putting on a comfortable pair of old slippers going back, working with the same people and processes. Working from home 100% is also a huge benefit - I don't think that I could ever return to having a commute. Plus, where would Opie and Ellie sit?

As I think about how quickly the time has gone by this year, I am reminded of my beloved grandma, whom I lost in May. It was a running joke with us about where the time went. I have missed her a lot this year, and will continue to. She was a very special person in my life, and I am very lucky to have such a well of fond memories on which to draw. This was the first holiday season without her, and I missed her terribly.

We did get to spend some quality time with our families this year as well. In January, I visited my mom and dad in Florida for a few days of warm and sun. My mom turned 65 this year, and I went up to Canada for a surprise visit (all planned by my dad and I). Somehow, we even managed a complete surprise party for her! Then, in the summer, my mom and dad and niece came to visit us for the better part of the week. We had a great time seeing the sights and just enjoying each other's company. I don't get to see my niece as often as I would like, so our time together is always special. Mom and dad came to visit again at Thanksgiving - celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary by staying at the Governor Bradford in Plymouth where they honeymooned! We also celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas before they left again for the warmer climate of Florida for the winter.

Grafton MTB Race
The road and MTB race seasons for me were pretty short and non-descript. I only competed in two road races - Battenkill and Sunapee. I haven't decided yet if I will do ANY road racing next season - I really didn't miss it. I did do a few more MTB races, and had a great time. The competition in the W Cat 1 35+ category has become pretty stiff, and I'm going to have to up my game some for next season, especially with Nationals coming to Pennsylvania...

The primary racing focus for both of us this year, though, was on cross. And what a season it was! Reducing the amount of racing we did early in the year meant that we went into the cross season fresh, and looking forward to racing. I finished up the season with 29 races (Mike had 33) - a personal record. The best news was that I didn't burn out this year. Typically, I get to early November and am tired. Not this year! I was still excited about racing just the week before Christmas!

Green Mountain Race Leaders
Photo: Vicki Thomas
Thinking back on my season, it's hard to pinpoint specific highlights - there were so many! I finally found my way well into the top 10 of the big (Verge and Shimano) races this season. Though I saw mixed results, racing with the leaders (and, in the case of NoHo, actually LEADING the race) was a huge improvement for me over years past. I gained a lot of confidence through the season, and realized that I DID deserve to be there, and had what it took. The support of the other women was tremendous, but the support from Mike was really key. It took some stern comments from him for me to see myself as a top level racer.

Together, Mike and I raced the entire Zanconato SSCX series, with the exception of only two last minute additions that conflicted with the Downeast Verge weekend. While the competition is equally as fierce in these races as in the bigger series races, the atmosphere is also more low key and friendly. For me, there was also some tough competition this year - Katina W from NY came out and did all of the races, winning all but one. Kerry L took up racing SSCX this season, and we went back and forth in several races. I also managed to convince Allison S to race SSCX on more than one occasion, and hooked yet another competitor into the field. It's awesome to see this series growing. At the end of the series, Mike and I both ended up in second place overall, with spiffy trophies to show for our efforts.

A win at Providence
We also raced the entire Verge and Shimano series. Mike had a stellar year with multiple wins and podiums throughout the season. In some cases, I think I was more excited and emotional than he was! I cried tears of joy at Gloucester when he finished 2nd on the first day, and was over-joyed when he WON the second day. Watching him was inspiring, but also induced some pretty good heart palpitations on occasion :). I am so excited that all of his hard work and dedication paid off, and am very proud of his accomplishments.

Keeping good company at Regionals
If I had to pinpoint one highlight race of the season for me, it would have to be the New England Regionals. I registered for the Women's 45+ race alongside a field of elite racers, world champions and national champions. Looking at the start list of 8, I figured that I would finish about 6th (and, in fact, that's where the Race Predictor had me finishing). After a stern lecture from Mike about my attitude and him telling me that I COULD, in fact, beat some of the people in my field, I lined up ready to race. It was a good course for me - lots of power sections and not too technical, but just enough to keep everyone on their toes. I started well, and found myself in a small group, having caught both my teammate Kathy, and Katina (my nemesis on the SSCX scene). Soon, I couldn't see Kathy, but could see my good friend Michele and my other teammate Karen ahead of me. I worked on making time wherever I could, eventually passing Karen, and Michele (she bobbled in the sand, and I got around her). In the final lap, I knew that I was sitting solidly in 3rd place, and could still see Katina just ahead of me. Unlike other races, I never looked back (knowing full well that Michele was close behind), but focused instead on closing the gap in front. The finish came down to a sprint between Michele and I, but I was determined not to lose my podium spot, and Mike was yelling like crazy for me to keep going. For the first time in a couple of years, I finished ahead of Michele. I also finished ahead of my teammates (something that hasn't happened since at least 2009), and only 9 seconds behind Katina. It was a good day - no, a GREAT day for me on the bike, and the highlight of my season.

I would be remiss in mentioning that I couldn't do ANY of what I do without Mike. He is my fellow adventurer, cheerleader, motivator, coach, mechanic, soigneur and most importantly, my best friend. Thank you for all that you do, and for sharing this year with me.

Now, we're enjoying some down time after the busy holiday rush. There is snow up in Bethel, and we are taking advantage - snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling. Mike is still out on his bike - today marks his 366th straight day of riding.  My bike is here, but I'm taking a bit of a break for now.

It's definitely been a full year, and I'm looking forward to the year ahead and what adventures it will bring our way. I hope that you and your families have also had a good year, and that the year ahead brings much joy and happiness to all.

Farewell, 2012, and Happy New Year!