FORT KENT, Maine — Hard to believe based on the several feet of snow covering Rusty Metal Farm, but spring is only two weeks away.
Like the black bears snuggled all cozy in their dens, my dreams are turning to longer days, warmer temperatures and a new year of bicycling, running, hiking and general outdoors fun.
OK, so maybe the bear’s dreams are more along the lines of fresh berries, grubs and other tasty treats, but there is little doubt we are all ready for spring.
For me, attacking a new season of fitness-based activities really is like coming out of a hibernation, particularly this year when my winter fun was hampered by an ankle injury that happened last fall.
But all that is behind me now as I map out my summer rides, runs and adventures that will hopefully take me and some like-minded friends from the St. John Valley to the Maine highlands to Georgia and beyond.
It helps to have goals like this to get motivated. Just ask my friend Kale Poland, a Mainer now living in New Hampshire who knows a thing or two about setting and achieving goals.
Last year Poland completed a grueling decatriathlon in Mexico — that’s 10 Ironman-length triathlons rolled into one.
He recently shared some thoughts on coming out of winter’s hibernation.
“Because of less daylight and weather that isn’t conducive for some to be outside, the mind and body generally feel more sluggish through the winter months,” he said. “Even the most active people will gain some weight — five to 10 pounds — in winter.”
Regular activity can help fair-weather athletes remain somewhat in shape, Poland points out, so when spring does come around, we aren’t starting all over again.
“No matter what activity you participate in, when spring arrives, it can be motivating to have a major goal in late summer or fall that you are working up to,” he suggests. “Set smaller goals that are easily achievable on the way to that major goal as a way of monitoring progress, and it will keep you motivated to get out the door every day.”
Poland also said surrounding yourself with like-minded friends not only holds a person accountable for training, it also adds a great social aspect.
When it comes to setting those goals and keeping it social, I have some pretty good partners in crime.
Take my cycling buddy Penny McHatten.
Both veterans of Maine bicycling rides like the Trek Across Maine, the Tour de la Vallee, Ride Aroostook and the Dempsey Challenge, the two of us this year cast our eyes south. Really, really south and signed up for BRAG — the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia.
Seven days, about 50 miles a day from one side of that state to the other the first week in June.
Yes, we know it will be warmer than Maine, and we’ve heard multiple stories of snakes and humidity, but the only thing that worries me about that ride is not pedaling fast enough to avoid Kudzu — that rapidly growing southern vine — overtaking over us.
Penny, who turns 67 years old this summer, said she is getting ready by attending spin classes, joining a gym for upper body workouts and “hanging with some real honest to ‘gawd’ southerners to learn some of the lingo.”
And lest you doubt her ability to traverse a state end to end, consider this — every year on her birthday in August, she rides her bike one mile for each year of her age.
“At my age, if I don’t keep moving, I seize shut,” she told me recently.
My friend Alan and I are planning a century — 100 mile — ride later this summer in western Maine, in which he assures me the views are well worth some of the longest and toughest climbs in the state.
Yeah, stay tuned on that one.
So, over the last couple of weeks, Rusty Metal Farm has become Rusty Metal Training Camp.
All winter snowshoeing has been the one ankle-friendly activity in which I’ve been able to engage, and last week I ratcheted it up a notch by introducing snowshoe running to my fitness repertoire.
Thanks to Poland I have the snazziest pair of running snowshoes — small, lightweight shoes not made to go off a packed trail.
In fact, so useless are they for breaking any kind of trail in fresh snow, I have dubbed them “faux-shoes.”
But on a groomed course? Talk about a ton of fitness fun.
Outfitted with bindings meant to be used with trail running shoes and with pointy-cleats for traversing icy courses, the shoes allow the runner to zip along over snow packed trails in only a slightly modified running gait.
Step off that trail, however, and not only do you sink, but the springy action of the shoes launches the fluffy snow up and down the back of your neck.
Not everyone in my social circle is on board with my newest fitness craze, however.
My friend Kim, for example, is viewing the running snowshoes more as a new way for me to injure myself and, when I mentioned I was going to use them the other night to run the trail to her house, she was quite adamant in her opposition.
“It’s going to be dark, the trail is uneven and you have no depth perception,” she said. Given she was right on all three counts, I postponed that particular adventure.
In the meantime, I am running — and occasionally stumbling on — the trails here on the farm, my faithful house dog Corky the shusky by my side.
I just hope we don’t trip over any bears on the way to Georgia and beyond.
Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.