Fancy Gym Fail

Dear Columbia Fitness,

I am so not happy with you.

Right now, I pay something on the order of $56 (after tax) per month to use your Sammamish branch. It’s nice, it has a decent set of equipment, and the people are awesome. It does, however, lack a pool, and if I am to be training for tris I need a pool.

I have until now been driving to Mercer Island to use their pool (at $5.25/pop, plus $0.25 for the lockers, plus roughly $4 in gas roundtrip) and the Spreadsheet tells me that if I pay for your fancy Pine Lake Club membership (which includes use of a pool) that I can break even at a mere two swims a week.

I talked with your people via email, got pool schedules, and arrived at 5pm today to fork over an additional $60/month and have you watch my kid and swim.

Not only were your membership people too busy (which surprises me, I don’t really need a membership person, because I’m already a member I should just be able to have the front desk person upgrade me, right?) but the kids club was closed. This surprised me, because kids club is supposed to be open on Fridays until 8. It says so on the website.

The unhelpful person behind the counter pointed out that on Fridays they close if they don’t have a reservation. Well, your site indicates this phenomena on Sundays, but not on Fridays.

I left your club, and left an email for the membership person I had been talking to, expressing my discontent.

Then I decided to call, spoke to her, and am to arrive tomorrow at 9am to swim and upgrade membership, assured that someone will be there to watch the boychild. Then it occurred to me: kids club opens at 8, so why don’t I just show up at 8 and swim and then sign? I mean, I never got an answer to whether or not a front desk flunky can upgrade my membership for me, right?

So I called. And got ahold of the same unhelpful (if not, vacuous) person as before. Yes, I can totally talk to anyone and even call to upgrade my membership. I said great, can we do that now? No, no I can’t do that because I need to wait until 9am tomorrow: when the membership person is in.

Am I crazy for thinking this is stupid? That Joe Clueless should have been able to figure out that by asking if I could get this out of the way, and by asking if I could come swim at 8am, that I was asking if I could get to talk to ANYONE that would get the damn thing upgraded? Only one of the four lanes is open at 9am and I have no idea how busy it will be or what I will have to deal with. And I’m not altogether confident things will go smoothly.

The axiom of gym memberships is that you’re happy to take money and assume people won’t show up. I want to give you money and show up, you don’t seem to want to let me.

Taper

Tapering is described here (don’t you love Wikipedia? I love Wikipedia. I am totally going to marry it.) I am starting a long taper for the long Ride. This week while my mileage remains the same (112 or so this week), the long distance ride is going to be short — a mere 26 miles on Friday and on Saturday.  This is sad, because I got a new bike and it is really, really awesome. It’s a 2010 Schwinn Fastback, all electric-blue and white, and the only thing that hurts when I get done with nearly 60 miles is my back-end (not my back). I’m getting the seat replaced to help with that.

In an unfortunate turn of events, though, it has come to my attention that due to my nut allergy (yes, I get it, I’m a nut and yet I’m allergic to them) I need to provide my own food.

For two days.

Over 168 miles.

I still have to call the Ride to find out exactly what they want me to do: do I show up with a bunch of Amy’s Organics and tell them to have them nuked and ready? I have no idea how hungry I’ll be or what they will or won’t have that I can eat, nor can they seem to tell me. It’s frustrating, but I get that from a liability standpoint they don’t want someone dropping dead on the Ride.

Kinda defeats the purpose.

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.

Home Stretch

Considering that I’ve only been in training 4 and a half months, I can call the next five weeks the home stretch. I’m following the training guidelines, and am on a first-name basis with my local bike fixer dude, as my derailer isn’t quite sure if it wants to derail my chain appropriately or derail my ride inappropriately. I blame poor nomenclature for its inadequacies and overcompensation.

I have, as of last week, made the minimum amount of money raised ($2,500) and am aiming to get my goal of $3,000 in. At this point, my goal is to stay on the bike for the two days of riding and hope my rear end doesn’t fall off.

Or maybe I hope it will. Since starting training in January I have gained — wait for it, wait for it — seven pounds. SEVEN. POUNDS. This is insane.

Ok, let’s put this into perspective: I weigh X.

At my lowest weight at this height, I weighed X-19.  At my highest weight at this height, unpregnant, I weighed X+40ish. (Yeah, I’m putting the “ish” there. I wasn’t proud of it, and it was a long long time ago). I am on the slighter end of this sliding scale but it doesn’t make me happy.

I have ordered a body fat scale (hello, whole new heights of things to obsess about!) and I’ve downloaded an app for that, and an app for this. I would really like to get back to at least X-7, which is where I was in the New Year and fine with that. I’d like even more to get back to X-19, or even perhaps X-25; but let’s not get too carried away.

That said, I have a new job 🙂 Perhaps that will help burn some excess calories?

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 🙂

Travel Fail

Ok, tomorrow is the beginning of the rest of my life. Or something.

I write to you from the relative comfort that is the Embassy Suites in Jacksonville, where I am having massive guilt and am a little scared at my dearth of progress. Having lost two weekends of bike time I rented a bike here in Jacksonville.

A bike that I was not able to pick up.

To be fair, the weekend was to be packed with wedding-related activities (and it was) but I thought I’d be able to squeeze in a couple of hours on the bike. Having lost my luggage twice though (enroute to Geneva and coming in to Jacksonville) and not slept for 24 hours upon landing in Jacksonville (I was a zombie), I decided that getting up and getting on a bike was going to be unlikely.

Someone had reminded me when I rented the bike that it would be no problem to get around, as Jacksonville is all flat. This is so very true. Jacksonville is all flat. In the section we were in, this means you can get your car up to a hefty 50mph in the 30mph lane and since there is no official bike lanes anywhere that I could see, I could just imagine my tired-jetlagged-rickety self on a borrowed bike getting smucked thirty or forty times by the varying products of Ford or Chevy. 

Therefore, the bike was never picked up. Off to plan B, which was to abuse the recumbent bike in the gym. However, in this particular Embassy Suites we had a Mary Kay convention and a Fish and Wildlife convention and some sorts of sport convention, and the gym was packed both mornings. I had to settle for a run, which does not compare to the mileage I’m supposed to have done. I’ve got ten weeks left to get from the 51mi I was at to the 120mi I need. That means I need to increment by 7miles per week– this is suddenly getting very very real.

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 🙂

Slipping my Cogs

This weekend I haven’t been on my bike. At all.

My last ‘bike time’ was in the gym, next to various sweaty persons and watching the local news on subtitle. This is bad, because the stress at work is *phenomenal* right now and what I really need is to ride the endorphin wave, not my couch cushions.

Naturally, what I do is pack up and off to my mom’s, home of endless meatballs and macaroni and cheese and couch-potato-age. Oh, and Pizookie Pie at the local BJ’s restaurant. I did but one 4-mile run and the rest of the time my only exercise was to pull the plate closer.

Guilt! Guilt!

A Letter to Burke Gilman Trail Users

Dear good people on the Burke Gilman trail, I bring to you enlightenment and knowledge. I bring to you advice as only I can, for we have been on it together now for some weeks and I couldn’t help but notice you need guidance.

FOR THE PEDESTRIANS:

  • It is a lovely day, isn’t it? It is. It truly is. And Scrappy the wunderdog is a happy lil’ fellow, isn’t he? Yes. But could you please keep Scrappy on a leash under, say, 150 feet?  My brakes are fine but Scrappy can move faster than my brakes. And I don’t want to scrap Scrappy.
  • For that matter, I don’t want to scrap you. So when I call out, “on your left” when I’m 20 feet behind you, that means I’m going to pass you… on your left. Get it? Makes sense. This means you should not, you know, walk farther out to your left.
  • Or move to the left after your co-walker figured it out and moved right. S/he wasn’t asking to switch places, s/he was trying not to end up as so much muck on my wheels.
  • Little Jimmie and Janie love their playdates… in their strollers… staring blankly ahead but *right next* to each other. Awesome! Just please have them give up the convenience of their side-by-side solitaire while we use the trail next to you. In seven feet of trail width, your two strollers take up five feet, leaving two feet for me. That’s fine, but I’m big boned, and I’m nervous as a hooker in church on a bike. Just sayin’.

FOR THE AUTOMOBILES

  • Chances are if you’re one of the many cars we encounter, you are coming in to or going out of a driveway. The chances are good, then, that you live on the BG trail. Possibly it was a selling point when you purchased the house? You know, when you walked through with the spouse you looked at each other and talked about how you’d take little Jimmie and Janie out for walks, along with Scrappy. Great! That is just what the trail is for. It’s also for cyclists, though, and so when you park your car in the intersection of the trail, some of us have to brake rather suddenly. Doing this and unclipping ones shoes is not an easy feat, so please don’t give me the dirty look when I come inches from your door. Trust me, your door will do more damage to me than I will to it.
  • On those unfortunate bits where the trail is side by side with you in traffic — I know, right? Totally rude of them to do that — please do not stalk me. If you are driving your car at my speed, and not passing me, reminding me with every little rev that you have 2 tons of something that will render me into the svelte shape (although, not the same type of svelte shape) I’ve discussed wanting, you are stalking me. It’s not funny, and I’m calling you many rude names in three languages. Four, if I can remember to.
  • Also, please pass me. Please please pass me. When there is space to. Passing me such that I can tell you purchased the carbon-grey-metallic paint instead of regular grey-metallic paint, or passing me such that I can tell what Prada purse you have in the passenger’s seat (you may want to pick up that lost earring on your floormat) is a little too close for comfort. I think it’s cute that you also have a “Share the Road” sticker on your car.

FOR OTHER CYCLISTS:

That’s us: the crack elite team. They made the trail for us; aren’t you glad I told those pesky pedestrians and drivers off for you? Let me tell you though, you guys can be assholes too.

There, I said it.

What do you mean, what? Let me spell it out for you, bro:

  • When you pass me, please use “On Your Left”… or even “Left” or use your bike bell. But don’t scream it at me as you are ACTUALLY on my left. How about saying it a little ahead of time, so I’m not hearing it as I’m checking out your new Pearl Izumi thighwarmers? There is this thing called the “Doppler Effect“, and it is not a 1980’s new wave band.
  • If you don’t use the “On Your Left” or “Left” or bike bell, please do not have the gall to tsk-tsk me as you fly by. I get it: you go faster than I do. That is so awesome for you! But speed does not equal an asshole-ectomy.
  • That two by two rule that I ragged on the pedestrians about? Yeah? That goes for you too. I’m talking to you, the guy in the blue and orange two weeks back who saw me oncoming, pointed to me to his buddy, and then firmly and fastidiously stayed two by two — on the I90 bridge deck — with pedestrians and other cyclists. That was totally uncool, and those thighwarmers make you look fat.

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.