Pandemic Lessons

Everyone I know has a full plate piled high with family and work responsibilities while doing their best to carve out time to maintain relationships and pursue personal passions. Since March, it seems people are busier than ever. We are all feeling the strain.

Portrait of Meg with her gravel bike on a dirt road with pine forest in the background.

I think we can each identify when the pandemic entered our own personal orbits. For me, the first glimmer of COVID came as I prepared to join the Salsa Team in Oklahoma for The Mid South gravel race. An early-season event like The Mid South gives many of us motivation to train through the coldest parts of winter and is a reason for our close yet widely scattered community to come together. Out of an abundance of caution, I chose to withdraw from The Mid South and cancel my flight to Oklahoma at the last minute.

Meg takes a selfie as she rides her bike up a gravel road lined by melting snowbanks.

Those of us living in the Rocky Mountain West felt like our small towns might be insulated while the virus quickly blew over. Not so. In March, the physical therapy clinic I worked at chose to close its doors to in-person patient care. I filled the extra time outside the clinic with training and preparing for the season that I thought might still happen. At the time, I was convinced that later-season events like Leadville MTB 100, Steamboat Gravel, or Spirit World 100 would still go on. Training gave my days structure and purpose. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. By April, I’d given myself a case of overtraining syndrome. I laughed about it then and quickly got smarter about my training plan.

Meg sits in a grassy meadow with her dog in her lap, as it licks her face.

By June, the clinic I worked at needed to change their staffing. Being laid off is never easy no matter the circumstances. With all the obstacles and adversity thrown at us this year, we’re all getting to exercise our resilience. I decided to open my own physical therapy and coaching practice, and I got a puppy! Both are things that I’d wanted for a long time. Why not during a pandemic? I went from being comfortably busy to being super busy 24/7. Anyone who owns their own business knows that you’re never off the clock. Puppies also have no concept of time—they live in the present and their vigor for the immediate is centering. I am passionate about helping others overcome their own physical challenges to reach their goals. Caring for people locally and coaching people near and far is hugely rewarding.

Summer went by in a blur, even though I stayed home for all of it. Typically, I travel to events or races at least twice a month. When I was racing for Team USA, I got to know everyone at airports on a first-name basis. In the past fifteen years, I’ve never been home all summer.

Meg takes a selfie with some her NICA team members in the background.

Since I was in town, I got the chance to coach for our local NICA junior mountain bike chapter, the Missoula Mammoths. I am impressed with how the organization and our local chapter emphasized safety. Our student athletes and the coaches truly took care of each other. The student athletes came to practice eager to improve their skills and pushed me in ways I didn’t expect. Being around their energy is contagious in the best ways! I am so glad I got to share the trail with these young rippers and sage coaches. If I had been working at the clinic or dedicated to my own training, I would never had set aside the time to coach. Regardless of what the future holds, I will be sure to prioritize NICA. What an opportunity to pay forward all the lessons and support I’ve been generously given over the years.

NICA instructors and team members stand gathered in a large circle in a big clearing on a mountain top.

Virtual events took the place of in-person events. Of course, I missed seeing people face to face, sharing race experiences in real time, and celebrating with our community, but the virtual events were helpful because they gave direction to training efforts and motivated me to explore local trails and roads I’d never traveled before. Rebecca Rusch’s Giddy Up For Good was an awesome event to train for and the fundraising efforts went to a great cause. Giddy Up For Good was centered around elevation gain with some folks Everesting (achieving 29,029 feet of vertical gain by repeating one climb over and over). Rebecca completed her Everest elevation gain on gravel!!! My attempt at 15,000' of gain was cut short when I washed out on a loose stretch of gravel while descending on my first lap. The gravel road I had chosen had been re-graded between my recon rides and the event day. The wreck took me out of commission for a while because I hit my head very hard (helmets are amazing, but not perfect). I’m grateful that I’ve recovered and am back out on the bike.

Most recently, I returned from a trip to Chicago, where I went to work on a new prosthetic leg with a group of prosthetists (professionals who make prosthetic limbs) who have experience with elite athletes. I also wanted to try a new prosthesis that might allow me to walk, hike, work, and bike more comfortably. Unfortunately, we ended up having to order some of the parts, so I’ll have to go back at some point to finish constructing my leg. I don’t know when that will be and that’s okay—it will have to be okay. I wanted to get my leg all tuned up so that I could hit next year literally and figuratively running. Thankfully, I can still do all the things I love.

Meg lies on top of a Salsa bike box embracing it as it holds her new bike within it.

So here I am, back home in Montana. My puppy is eight months old and I’m grateful for him every day. While I was away, my new Salsa Blackthorn arrived and I can’t wait to hit the trails! What’s more, I moved into my new clinic on December 1st! Soon enough it will be fat bike season. COVID changed how I saw the future in my small world and for how I see the world at large. I can’t wait until the coast is clear and I can high five all of my friends and fellow cycling enthusiasts across the country. I truly believe we are all more capable than we know. It is not without adversity that we learn our resilience. I’m grateful for the setbacks this year and know that they will make whatever is to come that much better.

Meg stands on a milk crate in front of a colorful mural doing leg exercises.

This post filed under topics: Blackthorn Cutthroat Gravel Meg Fisher Mountain Biking Sponsored Riders Warbird

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Meg Fisher

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