This week, I'm heading off to Vermont with my two running friends to participate in the Vermont 10 Miler running race...again.
This will be my 4th running of the race. We missed two times--once due to weather, the other due to Covid. It is a pretty awesome race, and not easy. But it is a nice getaway, and end of the season (for me) event.
It has become a love / hate race for me, especially this year.
I love this race, because it is a beautiful venue, usually not hot, and I get to have a nice weekend with my friends.
I hate this race, because it is a 10 mile running race, up hills (not both ways), and you absolutely have to train for it.
This year...my training has sucked. Literally.
I've always tolerated running, as part of triathlon. But my body has never truly enjoyed it. My knees and back tend to scream at me, both during and after my runs.
It isn't like I'm sprinting...I'm running slow. In fact, slower than ever!
But I will still go, and I will still participate. I'll walk/run the race, and finish. Hopefully.
Thankfully I have good friends who will wait for me.
I tell you all this because of something called Junk Miles.
Junk Miles is a term that cyclists (and runners!) use for those miles you ride or run that have no purpose. They are considered wasteful. They won't help reach your goals.
They are bad.
Bad miles. Bad!
But wait a minute...does every single ride, run, swim, walk (you name it), have to have a purpose? According to the theory of Junk Miles...YES!
And it isn't just racing. It can be exercising for fitness, weight loss, whatever. There is a reason behind what you are doing.
After 10 years of almost non-stop training for many different events, this year, I just rode my bike. I didn't swim that much due to my ongoing Rotator Cuff issue, but that seems to be on the mend. And I didn't run, because, well...I didn't want to.
Even though I knew I had a race coming up.
Besides the fact this peri-menopause weight gain has caused havoc on my back, knees, hips, etc. Running just isn't fun--at least not now.
Now riding my bike...I would do that every day if I could.
In a recent issue of Bicycling magazine, there was an essay entitled, "A Celebration of Junk Miles." In it, the author speaks of his first experiences riding a bike--a hand-me-down Schwinn as a 12-year old, just like I did.
After a while, he wanted to meet other riders, so he signed up for some local races. He had a different approach to racing than others. He wasn't as aggressive, a little more "carefree", cracked jokes, and was told he didn't take riding seriously.
Even though he was as fit as he ever was, he couldn't keep up with the more serious racers. So he began training harder, in fact overtraining, and eventually he burned out. He lost the joy of riding.
He stopped riding. For years.
It took some friends and fall foliage to get him back on his bike. A leisurely ride to an overlook to check it out. He did reluctantly. But just clasping the bars again, with no real purpose, except to just ride, made him alive again.
I googled "Cycling Junk Miles" and an another Bicycling magazine article came up. This one by one of my new favorite writers and podcasters, Selene Yeager. I've mentioned her before, and her podcast, "Hit Play, Not Pause". In her article, "There is no such thing as Junk Miles," she actually comes up with 7 types of non-Junk miles.
Treasure miles: When you’re heading out in pursuit of something important to you. May include, but not limited to: a clear head, stress relief, vitamin D, and social time.
Ego miles: You don’t like to ride fewer than 100 miles a week. So you’re going to ride so you hit 100 miles a week, because it makes you feel better about yourself.
Strava miles: All those blank spaces on your training log are bumming you out and you don’t want your followers to think you’re a slacker. (See also: Ego miles)
I will not drive to the ride miles: The trailhead is 6 miles away. Yes it adds 12 miles to your day, but you’re not putting your bike on the car and that’s final.
Social miles: All your friends are going. No, you wouldn’t jump off the roof if they did. But you will get on your bike because, friends.
Sunshine miles: There is a glowing warm orb in the sky you haven’t seen for a long time. Yes, it’s a rest day. Whatever. Sunshine.
Counterproductive miles: You’re tired. You’re sore. You need a rest. You shouldn’t ride your bike. You’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t ride your bike. Level with yourself and call this ride what it is: counterproductive. Just don’t call it junk. Because maybe it won’t make you faster on race day, but if you’re honest with yourself and you still want to ride, there must be a perfectly good reason. And that’s reason enough.
Point is, there doesn't have to be a point in what we do. Our lives are so structured: school, work, sleep, grocery store, laundry, sex, lawn mowing, take the kids to practice. Maybe I just want to have a "me day".
A few weeks ago, we purchased B a new bike. It was quite the upgrade from his little 24" kid mountain bike. But it was also needed, due to a huge growth spurt, and an upcoming Scouts bike trip.
He (and us) thoughtfully looked at different bikes and the purposes of each. Should he get a mountain bike, or a hybrid style bike? Or maybe something like a gravel bike, which similar to a hybrid, but with road bike handlebars.
After talking to our local bike shop (and my former employer) about the differences between these bikes and then riding a couple different types of bikes, he narrowed it down to "the bike"--a Trek Checkpoint Gravel Bike. And I am happy to say, he and I have ridden many many "Treasure Miles" since that purchase.
Last week, B, his best friend and I rode the couple of miles down to the town library for a video game tournament! It was a half day of school today, and 70 degree weather. I was so happy he wanted to ride, and he wants to ride more and more!!! He is already talking about riding to school next year!
Just riding for fun with him, and seeing the smile on his face brings me such joy! I have had so much fun the past couple of weeks riding around with him!
But now, as I am about to run a 10 Mile race with very little training under my belt, the thought actually occurred to me. Am I nuts??? What am I doing??? Why am I racing???
Looking at Selene's list: I'm racing because Social Miles. I'd argue they are also Counterproductive Miles, but whatever.
I'd much rather be riding my bike, and I think I'm at the point of the first author. I've lost the joy for my sport, triathlon.
I need a break, a rest from training (even though I haven't trained at all with any regularity this year), a moment to have some Treasure Miles (I like that better than Junk Miles). And more and more Treasure Miles and Sunshine Miles with B.
So, this may be my last Vermont 10 Miler...for now? Who Knows. But I do know that I'm going to keep riding my bike and get as many Treasure, Sunshine, Social, Counterproductive miles as I can.