A Hot Shower in My Future

As per usual, the beginning of the year brought on new stuff and things: projects, drives, initiatives, etc. All of this translates to calendars that are triple-booked and a lot of that juggling we all euphemistically refer to as “work-life balance”. I have it… if only just.  Outlook keeps me in line. When you have to put in a calendar event to clean the catbox, you’ve gone too far. We are not there. Yet.

Tomorrow I will be on my first real bike ride in about four months, courtesy of the weather, a new job, and enforced socialization. I had the bike checked out today (new tube, otherwise good to go) in hopes of a 30 mile ride tomorrow, the first Official Outdoor Training Ride of 2012… for the STP.

Yes, I know I signed up for it last year. Yes, I know I didn’t do it last year (thank you knees, you are not at all welcome). Fortunately, I’m back in training early enough and cognizant enough of my limitations, my next injection is well ahead of the actual ride date. My only limitation is time — time to train, time to have things to do OTHER than train (you know – Mom/Work/House/Social). It’s a familiar whine.

Being back in the bike shop brought all the old training home though — yes, there’s the Gu, the Sports Beans, the Cliff Bars. And yes, over there is the rear wheel fender I keep meaning to get, so I don’t have the telltale “brown stripe badge”. Over there is the GoreTex jacket I will absolutely, positively not spend $200 on, even though it is in my size and has an appealing lack of pink.

Years ago I was a diver — I still technically am, there’s no expiration date on your certification although I am personally in favor of the idea of recertification. I’ve seen enough people in the water who were first certified fifteen years ago, just got back in recently, and I know that they are a hazard to themselves and others. At any rate– when I was diving, the second best part to it — other than seeing the really cool stuff Puget Sound has to offer underwater — was the hot shower afterwards. After two dives, even in a drysuit, you are cold, you feel dirty, and your muscles hurt — not from the dive, but from wearing 70 pounds of gear down to and up from the water. Diving is not an elegant sport, but it is rewarding. I quit cold water diving due to arthritis and a blase feeling of having seen it all (and I know I’m wrong, so see “arthritis” as chief reason) but I will keep up with warm water diving for the joy of it.

So the secondary joy there was the hot shower, the washing of everything, the loose, cottony feel of your muscles when you were done. I am very much looking forward to that, post-ride, tomorrow. I am MORE looking forward to a time when 30 miles is again “a piddlin’ distance”.

I’ve done 160. Come July, I’ll have done 200.

Giddyap

You don’t change horses in midstream…unless the horse dies. Then you can either sit atop a stinky horse or get a new shiny horse to remove you from the stink and hopefully find you a good saloon… I digress…

I was riding the ol’ Cannondale along the Sammamish River trail Friday morning when I stopped about ten miles in. I had been doing awesome, pacing in the rain at 15mph (hey, for me that is good!) and not minding (well, not much) the puddle of water in my clippy shoes (note to self, get shoe covers). I got water, took off, heard a “wsh-chunk!”, and then a “scrape scrape scrape scrape”.

“Scrape scrape scrape scrape” is not what you want to hear on your bike, in the rain, 10 miles from your car, on a relatively deserted path. “Scrape scrape scrape scrape” kinda sucks. An untrained investigation showed that my rear wheel was out of true, it was scraping against the brake. With no prospect of rescue I rode the thing with a scraping brake in 10mph headwinds in the rain (not uphill but you get the idea) back. My pace slowed to 11mph.

At the earliest opportunity I deposited it with much angst at Mr. Crampy’s.

I am awaiting guidance via phone from Kyle “Mr. Crampy” of Mr. Crampy’s Multisport in Redmond. He called and left note that my bike, my lovely fourth-hand Cannondale, has died. It has died of a dead spoke, a need of wheels, messed up shifters, and the only good thing on it is its frame. I am going to need to purchase a new bike, because it is not safe.

When a man who does Ironmans each year for FUN and is ex-special forces is telling you not to do something because it is not safe, you listen.

I’m a bit nervous though: my old bike was a road bike with mountain bike tires (because skinny tires scare fat girls like me) and there’s this whole budget thing. Also, I have only ONE more long ride in training before the Big Day, and that is this Saturday. Ergo, I need to purchase, fit, and ride this bad boy within the next week.

It’s not as though I had a lot of other things on my plate — my brother got married this weekend, bought that new car, shifting jobs, school and PTA is wrapping up, and all of the myriad of normal life-things that waft in and out of my responsibility cloud. I’m actually quite glad I finally took the bike to someone who alerted me to all of this: I went to the local bike shop (we will not print their name, but they are VERY close to my house) and TOLD them I’d be on this thing for 2 days straight and they charged me 20 bucks and said good enough.

I won’t be going back there. I’m going to ride into the very orange sunset with something from Mr. Crampy’s.

Reach

Man is a creature who, having given up on an efficient way of dealing with daily traffic, aspires to go to the Moon — and then Mars. On a shoestring.

People are generally goal driven. The nobility and value of those goals are generally subjective; if your goal is to spend the rest of your life as a couch potato far be it from me to dissuade you. Just leave some of the Cheet0s for me.

Of late I find myself searching for, and adding to, my goals. In doing so I find I do *better* if I pick ones that, while not completely unattainable, are quite difficult. E.g., signing up for a 160 mile, 2-day bike ride after having successfully ridden 12 miles.  I find that if I set myself up for a challenge– a not-impossible one, but one that I can’t really flake on, either — I will rise to meet it. This strokes my ego in some sort of way I’m not going to be able to articulate clearly, but that’s ok: I still get the oxytocin release.

I find that this tendency to set challenge and then meet (or get close) breaks down into smaller pieces of the overall goal: to wit, mileage. Each week now we are to be riding about 55-65 miles in addition to our long ride, and our long ride has to fall within a given Min and Max. Being paranoid that I will not make my goal I have been advocating the Max (so, last weeks was 47 on top of 60 miles which would put us at 7miles over goal for weekly mileage– and we made 41. Go ahead and do the math, I’ll wait).

What I’m getting to is, much like the person who “games” their watch by setting it 5 minutes fast, if we set the weekly goal to X+Y where X is the minimum required effort and Y is WWLD (What Would Lance Do), we are typically achieving X and sometimes achieving Xb (you know, halfway between X and Y). This is not bad on the whole, but I wonder at the psychology of it. If I was just “honest” with myself and said “ok, we’re doing 47 because that’s the minimum required this week (and it is)”, would I do the 47? Or would I suddenly cramp, or hit a wall, or fling myself over bicycle tracks?

There is a certain amount of fear in setting goals that may be just beyond your reach. But we got to the Moon on analog technology that is less sophisticated than items you use everyday. Stretching is good.

I’m Back in the Saddle Again

Doot doot doot doot doo…

My lack of progress was apparently not as awful as I thought it was. One of the advantages to going with a formalized, large ride like the Ride to Conquer Cancer is they give you a handy-dandy training plan. That training plan states clearly that by the end of April (which I count as this weekend, in terms of long-distance-ride) I am to be able to ride 41 miles on the long ride and go through  another 60 miles in 2-3 rides during the week. This I can do and have done (I did it last week) so: guilt assuaged!

What is going to be more difficult is that as training progresses, that long ride, and the interim rides, get longer. I was not-so-secretly elated at stopping half-marathoning because, to my way of thinking, running just took so much time — long runs in training would take like 2 hours!

What I wouldn’t give for a simple 2 hour divot in my weekend these days. The long rides are taking 4 and 5 hours, and by the time we get to June I can expect 7 hours of riding in one day. This is, of course, nothing compared to the actual ride days, which I can expect to be 9 hours each day, back to back.

My speed needs to increase as well: in chatting with my boss (who is a cycling hobbyist– you know, rides his bike everywhere) I should have no problem doing 20mph on the flats. I have no problem doing 20mph on the flats — in the gym. In the real world, I’ve been doing as good as 15 and as bad as 10 given the day. Clearly, I need to get my cogs looked at. Further, I’m going to have to deal with some real hills and not the teeny climbs involved on the Burke Gilman, and this has me… apprehensive. Hills + clippie shoes = whups, splut!

Still. I only have 8 weeks to go, and then it’s over… until the Danskin Tri 🙂

Achiever

In my fantasy world, this post is so-called “Overachiever” because I’ve totally been hitting all of my marks in training and doing a kick-ass job and Lance Armstrong should totally be scared.

In the real world, this is not really the case. (Disappointing, right?)

I did 51 miles in a day. 2 weeks ago. Then I went to my mom’s house (disastrous), and while I faithfully Spin-Class’d and gym’d and all that, I didn’t really ride my bike this weekend (hello, High Wind Advisory and Rain!). Instead I went back on the gym bike and did 19 miles in an hour, on level 8. Yes, yes, lots of calories burned but not what I should be doing.

Now I’m on a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, and then Jacksonville, Florida. At some point I need to get on a bike and do something but that will not happen in Geneva and while I’ve rented it for JAX the likelihood that I’ll get 55 miles in at a pop is nil. The plan is to get 30 miles in, in two days in a row. And still be sociable.

At this point, my goal is to do it, and to not be the last person doing it. That strategy has worked well in the past 🙂

Inappropriate Bike Humor

Last Saturday was 46 miles in 4.5 hours (not including breaks) from REI over the Burke Gilman to Montlake and then back the same way. Getting up at 6AM to meet your bike cohorts is difficult, realizing it’s actually 5am because your supposed 7am meeting time is 7am on the day the time changes — that’s kinda brutal. So as the sun poked out above the leafless trees in the RTC parking lot, the three of us took off.

It could have been the cold.

It could have been the fog.

It could have been the sunnyness of the day.

I personally suspect it was because we all have twisted senses of humor.

It started with Duncan talking about his screw. For his cleat. You see, clippie shoes (they are actually called clipless systems, riddle me that?) have screws that attach them to your shoe. There are usually at least 2 and sometimes 3, and they keep the clip in place so when you shift your foot to the side it takes the cleat with it and separate it from your pedal resulting in your ability to keep yourself from going bonk.

At any rate, Duncan was missing a screw. He talked a great deal about his missing screw, and then we started joking about how he should get a screw by some random shop along the road.

Then there was the discussion of which person had the bigger cog. Your cog size, you see, determines how far a rotation can go on your bike. More cogs = more power, right? Duncan and Bryce got into it but apparently Duncan’s cog is bigger. I did not wish to compare my cogs, as I was busy dealing with cycling legwarmers.

These are not the 1980’s flashdance legwarmers: they are not soft, they are not scrunched, they are not hot pink. They are black lycra and quite tight, and look a bit like they should be kept on you with a garter belt. Verily, they look like cycling fetishwear, and consequently I spent an inordinate amount of time adjusting them as we cycled along. Ever try to look professional while pulling up lycra legwarmers already wearing an impossibly curve-hugging costume? No, I didn’t think so. The jokes trended back toward my bike S&M gear (complete with full length black gloves) and the cogs were momentarily forgotten.

Until I pointed out I was trying to match them stroke for stroke. You see, when Bryce and Duncan take off, they *take off*. Like my new nickname is Waldo and I’m getting a red and white striped bike shirt. And so I played with my gears and attempted to match theirs, and then attempted to match pedal rotation frequency (e.g., stroke). And even though I was attempting to do that, I was not succeeding. So I whined about it at the next break.

Whining to two men who were comparing cog sizes, and one of which talking of his needed screw, while adjusting my black lycra, was probably not the most prudent thing to do.

Fortunately, we found a local bike shop where Duncan got his screw. It was literally by the side of the road, rather quick, and very cheap. But it does the trick; he’s still satisfied with it, as far as I know.

The bike shop guys were alternately freaked out or laughing uncontrollably. We’re… not sure which.

Smug

36 miles, no wall, leisurely pace (yet still faster than the weekend previous!) and I didn’t walk any of the downhills.

Oh hadn’t I mentioned that?

Yeah so me? Not so much with the whole biking down the hill thing: biking down hills scares the poo out of me, because it is speed and it is not easily and quickly controlled with braking. In fact if you brake hard you end up flying over your handlebars like some git who got her bike tire stuck in railroad tracks and then you end up in the ER paying a $250 deductible, $100 copay, and another 10% of the total bill (ok, so I’m just a little bitter about that).

The weekend I hit the wall I walked a lot of the downhills (which adds to a dejected mood) because what with rain and steepness I was scared. This last weekend we got some cool, crisp, and clear weather and I rode those back brakes like a grandma: but I rode them.

However, I am at a disadvantage: I ride with two guys. These guys have leg muscles that make mine look darned petite (and people, I’m 5’10” and not what one would call “thin” or “wispy”), and they get going, and my new nickname is “Waldo” because they get going and stop and turnaround and I’m not there because my pace isn’t quite as fast as theirs.

I’m going to invest in a red and white striped bike jersey, if I can find one.

The Wall

No, not Pink Floyd’s.

I want you to imagine yourself at your most depressed. You are cold, wet, hungry, and incredibly sad. You are shaking uncontrollably and crying just as uncontrollably. You are dejected, you are miserable, and you are in a state of such self-loathing that there is no apparent way out.

That is where I was today.

The phenomenon of “hitting the wall” was brought home to me about a year ago, more actually, running with friends in training for the half marathon. One of the friends hit the wall and we found her crying, walked a bit, and seemed to cheer her up. But try as we might we couldn’t really, truly understand: we offered her water and a walk break, and tried to decipher best practices for next time.

So I now know what Duncan and Bryce were up against today, when I walked my bike up to them in Bel-Red, completely uncollected and openly weeping.

It takes a lot to make me cry. It takes a lot a lot to make me cry in front of other people. I don’t like it, there is all sorts of personal shame associated with it. And here I was crying, IN FRONT OF GUYS.

Incidentally, crying in front of incredibly understanding, awesome guys who didn’t try to solve it and didn’t try to belittle it: they walked with me, kept an eye on me, and ensured I got to a Starbucks where I rested and recouped.

In my case, I hit a wall over several things: I didn’t hydrate nearly enough, I didn’t eat enough breakfast, I didn’t prepare for the cold, I didn’t prepare for the wet, and it was my first outing with clippie shoes which, while they propel you farther, require more of your musculature than you would think. All manner of things contributed to the breakdown, and let me tell you, fifty unstopped minutes of personal loathing and forlorn-ness are not fun. By the time I made it to the Starbucks I had formed a plan: procure the necessary additional items (rain shell, longer bike tights, second water bottle) and provide the necessary additional preparation (full breakfast, extra water, extra snacks).

Because I’m not doing that again. It was the most personally demeaning, ugly chapter in my life, save possibly one circa November 2005, and I don’t wish to repeat it ever.

Next weekend, the wall will be my bitch.

I don’t want no subs…

Oh, Eric! (Eric is the name of my crazy hot spin class instructor). Don’t ever leave me again!

Last night we had somebody. I don’t know what her name was but she had short blond hair and more extra poundage than I and yet somehow she did very punishing things to us on the bike. She had faux country music playing (Jessica Simpson’s “Boots Are Made For Walking”, anyone?) and firmly believed that the butt and the seat should flirt constantly but never, ever, actually meet.

The only redeeming thing about class was to discover that apparently the blonde Hottie and the Tall Lanky Spin Class Guy, who may or may not be in some form of relationship, are not sitting next to each other anymore AND they each filled their water bottles separately. Also, the Frat Boys were nowhere to be seen and have been replaced by an anemic-looking 20-something who did his durned best, as he put it in discussion with me after class, to not throw up.

Eric! Please come back! I will not make fun of the 10% techno you play and instead cherish the 90% Alt. I will never ever ever again complain about intervals and hills. I will not correct your knowledge of music ever again. I will not skip class ever again. Please, please come back…

Fumble

The only exercise I’ve got since Wednesday Night’s spin class has been to drive — to drive to Seattle and back, and then again and back (don’t… ask…), to drive to my mom’s and back (Mom lives in Rochester, WA), and then again and back (again, don’t ask…). While I’d love to believe what my now-discarded bodybug seemed to think that driving beats an ordinary sedentary day, I can’t help but feel I’m really not going to like my scale tomorrow.

So it’s back to spin class and hopefully a 40-something mile ride this weekend, if I can get babysitting for the boy child. My bike is fixed and I now own the Right Shoes, next post will likely be about how I couldn’t get my foot out of those shoes in time and will have gone “splat”. You watch.