It all started about 10 years ago, when I was racing long distance triathlons. There was a humanitarian crisis in Uganda that I couldn’t shake from my mind, until one day I had the realization that I could use my athletic platform to raise awareness and funds for the cause at an upcoming event.
A few months later, I raced Ironman Wisconsin in freezing rain for 11 hours but it was one of the most vivid and special experiences of my life. I carried a lot of people with me that day and realized journeys are best when they’re shared.
There was a strong purpose to my event beyond the clock and I knew it had changed me. I was fortunate enough to snag a slot for the World Championships the following year and knew that I’d want to organize another fundraiser.
Given the importance of bikes in my life, I started researching the various organizations focusing on the bike as a development tool and I discovered the work of an infant organization, World Bicycle Relief.
Fast forward a decade and the story has played out well for me. I raced in Kona representing World Bicycle Relief, realized that I didn’t need competitive athletics in my life to be fulfilled and approached the organization for a formal job to see if we could “spread the word” about The Power of Bicycles. It worked out in my favor and I’m proud to share that when I started working with the organization we had distributed about 40,000 bikes and now that number is honing in on 300,000.
As for how this relates to #fitbyspring, a lot of my personal journey over the past 10 years has been focusing on building the organization and raising a family which I’ve been totally content with.
There were a few years when exercise took a back seat. I remember showing up at one of our events in Boulder and having to actually dust off my bike, and another time when I arrived at our century ride in Chicago and did it without having ridden for many months prior. I was happy to define myself as a casual exerciser in those days. It was all worth it – time is finite and we all make decisions on how to best invest it.
More recently, I’ve started to redefine myself as an athlete and cyclist. Still casual, but I’ve spent more time on the trails – and specifically the bike – and have really (re)discovered the joy of riding. Two years ago I was fortunate to participate in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB and earned myself a small buckle and I’ve also really enjoyed myself at a variety of WBR cycling events where I felt fit and ready to be there.
For me, there is nothing as enjoyable as spending time with World Bicycle Relief supporters whilst pedaling. That brings me to this year and #fitbyspring. Like many of you, towards the end of one calendar year, I spent time thinking about the 12 months ahead and how I hoped to define myself and the experiences I wanted to have.
2016 is a bit of distinct year for me as I have a big birthday (okay, I turn 40), so I want to put a little more thought into what I’m doing. During this process I identified a few things that were really important: I wanted to do epic stuff, I wanted to be really fit and I wanted a new opportunity to redefine myself as an athlete (again).
When João and inGamba started using #fitbyspring and sharing the concept, it really resonated with me, so I interpreted it in a few ways that worked with my goals.
I signed up for a January race – the Fat Bike World Championships here in Colorado – that would give me the chance to do something epic and a reason to be dedicated to winter riding.
I also decided to embrace #fitbyspring when it came to my diet. I accepted that I probably shouldn’t eat handfuls of M&Ms throughout the day and that I could have a better dinner than a bowl of cereal. Eating cleanly = #fitbyspring.
Mind you, that #fitbyspring still earns me a beer each evening. The commitment has also given me the chance to plan out my year a bit. For my birthday, I wanted to tackle an athletic event that was epic and that would really test my endurance and ability to suffer again (like the old days).
So, once again, here I am prepping for the Leadville 100 MTB. Like in 2014, I don’t anticipate writing a formal training plan because I need flexibility in my life with my job and family (and I like spontaneity) but the #fitbyspring mindset has given me a sharper idea of how I want to approach the race and has also put me in a place to set a lofty goal that I’ll need to work hard for in the approach Leadville.
No flat pedals and 12 pound camelbak this year. I want to drop 100 minutes from my time (about 1 minute per mile!) so I’ll need to train hard but also focus on the small things in training that I’ve brushed off in the past.
Things like improved mechanic skills, a sharper awareness of fueling and putting considerable thought into my bike fit/race position are all details that are part of being #fitbyspring.
And, while Leadville is important to me, I don’t see one athletic event defining my year. My #fitbyspring means a variety of other things. It means that I’ll be able to enjoy an assortment of WBR cycling events throughout the year. As I said above, there is something so gratifying for me in spending time with WBR enthusiasts while cycling.
It also means that I’ve put some thought into what other experiences and opportunities I want this year. For example, taking my son to Africa with me is something I really want to do in 2016 so it’s been important for me to acknowledge that and start planning to make it happen. It also means that I should apply that same mindset to my family and professional life. Preparation, defining goals and creating a road map for all sorts of things counts as #fitbyspring.
So, let’s do it. Not just so we can race but so we can really get out there. Let’s be ambitous, let’s set goals, let’s live well and let’s be happy. Here’s to being #fitbyspring – so we can be #fitforlife.
Katie Bolling is development director at World Bicycle Relief.