Calling It a Year, And What a Year It Was!

When this year started, I had a goal to simply ride more miles than I had in 2020. Little did I know that goal would change so many times over the course of the year as I became a harder, better, faster and stronger rider.

Last year as the pandemic hit, I decided to make the most of the opportunity ahead of me. Social distancing? You don’t have to ask me twice. I hopped on the bike early and often throughout 2020, amassing 6,543.21 miles over the course of the year.

(Yep, six digits in sequence, all to the hundredth.)

I felt like I made some major momentum last year, so I went ahead and bought a 2021 Trek Emonda from Trek Bikes Olympia. Despite the supply chain disruption, I lucked out and was able to get an Emonda SL in 61cm frame size. And on top of that, I bought a used Wahoo Kickr indoor trainer from a friend so I could also ride indoors during rainy days — which we get so many of here in the Pacific Northwest.

I made it a goal this year to ride 600 miles per month and end this year at 7,200 miles total. If I kept with a 600 mile per month pace and a whole lot else went right, this goal would be achievable for sure. Especially with an indoor trainer, a total of twenty 30-mile rides in a month would be my baseline.

January and February started off as well as I could have hoped, putting me at right about 1200 miles total and right on target for my goal. Each month from there to June, I ramped up the mileage each month, hitting 836 total miles in June and putting me well ahead of my goal. After half the year was over, I began to explore the possibility of hitting 8,000 miles and push even harder the rest of the year.

I’d say the four-month stretch between July and October was my best cycling stretch ever. I averaged about 750 miles per month and even had my first-ever 900-mile month in October, clocking in at 913. With the goal of 8,000 well in sight, I tapered off a bit in November and decided to take December super easy.

Now at the time of this writing, I’ve hit 8,115 miles and I’m opting to take the rest of the year off. Granted it’s only 11 more days until the new year, but I’ll be traveling out of state for the holidays and my body really needs to rest and rebuild before I get back at it in 2022.

This past year was my favorite year of cycling ever, and here are five reasons why:

Organized rides came back in a big way. The pandemic year of 2020 made me realize just how much I missed the greater cycling community. With rides coming back this year, I had the chance to partake in events such as the Columbia Century Challenge and Tour de Blast — and organized my last Ride the Willapa ride before handing the reins to our ride committee. The camaraderie of organized rides cannot be beat, and there’s just something about making a new friend or five out while spinning on the backroads of the Pacific Northwest.

The Lewis County Over the Hill Riders and the Cowlitz Velo crew joined forces to conquer the 2021 Columbia Century Challenge. This was one of several organized rides we were all so happy to see return this year.

I became a much better climber. This year I wanted to really dedicate myself to better pacing on ascents and increase my power for harder climbs, and it worked. I totaled more than 320,000 feet of elevation gain this year, coming within earshot of doubling last year’s 180,000 feet climbed. I did several rides that brought me up 5,000 feet of gain, including the Spirit Lake Highway ascent twice. I can’t wait to see how well I do in outdoor riding season next year.

Climbing Spirit Lake Highway to the Mount St. Helens area twice this year was a true high point of the year for me.

I kept learning and adapting to new tactics and techniques. An absolute game changer for me this year was my friend David Scott telling me that I should try to stay in the big ring whenever possible and switch to the little ring only when necessary, such as when climbing or to prevent a cross-chaining situation. In the second half of this year, I began to really increase my efforts on flats and small ascents by staying in the second ring — and it paid off in that July to October stretch of cycling in which my mileage increased big time. I plan on really putting this to practice in 2022, especially in 50 to 100-mile rides.

Even on solo rides, improving my speed and efficiency went a long way to getting me to 8,000 miles this year.

Indoor training helped me improve greatly. I used to have a fluid-head trainer, and that became boring after awhile. Now with a smart trainer and Zwift helping simulate resistance and gravity of hills, I dedicated myself to putting forth some serious efforts on hilly courses. I’ll write more about Zwift in a separate post, but in short I can’t say enough about how its structured workouts and group rides really help to keep my fitness up when I have to shelve the Trek in the rainy season.

With virtual riding that mirrors the outdoor riding experience, Zwift gives riders a good workout and has many fantastic social aspects as well.

Everyone was more positive and supportive than ever. This year hasn’t been easy on several personal fronts, but I can honestly say that the good people in my cycling group and extended network have been just awesome throughout all the hard times and the good. Whether it was the death of someone close, sickness hitting again or just some other mental difficulties that would randomly pop up, there was never a shortage of people that encouraged me to get outside and ride with them. For you all I am so thankful.

The Autumn 2021 Group Ride on the Willapa Hills Trail was a fantastic event that brought some wonderful people together. In some ways this encapsulated my entire 2021 cycling experience: a year of great camaraderie and support while out and about.

Eight thousand miles in the saddle was an achievement for sure, and this year’s mileage was nearly 1500 more than I’ve ever done before in a calendar year. But I think this year, I became much more intentional about my riding. I wanted to ensure I enjoyed every mile, every conversation and every foot of climbing. And I did.

To everyone who has been a part of this year, whether through riding with me, following along, providing encouragement, and any other way — you’ve been a big part of this year and I appreciate you.

2021 was such a great year in the saddle that I can’t help but get excited for next year. Let’s carry on the momentum and stay strong! Ride on, everyone!

One response

  1. I just realized I hadn’t read this yet, so here I am! What a year indeed, you have much to be proud of. I didn’t realize which indoor trainer you had, I’ve been curious about this one for some time. I likely won’t get one, the treadmill is my go to indoor trainer usually, but good to know you like the Wahoo.

    Can’t wait to see how you tackle 2022 on the bike!

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