Monday, July 28, 2014

The Tiny Hammer

I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me

For those first promising 2-3 weeks of mountain biking in State College, it seemed like I was on a nice trajectory out of the disrepair into which my fitness had fallen during the stressful transition into moving here. Then a bunch of stuff happened: work conference, furniture move, crazy junk food fueled working weekend during our software upgrade, the cold from hell and its lingering life-sucking effects, shoulder and hip pain from my not-so-ergonomic desk at work, and various other social obligations. For nearly three months now, I’ve never managed to make more than a week’s worth of forward progress before something happened to set it back again.

It hasn’t really taken much to get off-track, as I haven’t ever gotten the chance to get that solid foundation of seeing real progress that I’m highly-motivated to keep up in the face of adversity. Things always feel incredibly shitty when you’re trying to get back into a positive routine, but I haven’t yet made it to the point where I start to get past the shittiness and start to feel good again. The fact that my ability to physically recover seems to have tanked since moving here doesn’t help; is 33 really that much older than 32 was? It’s just shitty white-knuckling, interruption, regression, repeat.

This summer has been metaphorical exercise in trying to tear down a brick wall with a childrens’ toy hammer. When I first started to see what I was up against, I thought the answer was to maybe walk away and let erosion work on the wall for a while, or hope that maybe someone would leave me a bigger hammer to work with while I wasn’t looking. Instead, every time I come back to the wall, I find that someone has filled in any minor chips that I was able to make before and maybe even added another layer of protective coating. Then I have to just start smacking again with my tiny hammer just to get back to the pathetic place I was before.

One good thing we did do this week is implement the Tuesday Night Mountain Climb, which I only regret not doing sooner. It's a really effective workout for relatively little time or mental effort.

So a couple of weeks ago, I noticed this pattern and started to get pretty pissed about it. I also got pretty pissed at anything that was keeping me from improving it. Hammering away at the wall with my tiny hammer feels terrible, but letting the wall stand is also not an option. For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying really hard to stop being that lame-o person who puts training over social connection, but I started to get stressed out and panicky about how I just wanted to make a noticeable dent in that fucking wall, and that I kept being asked to do other things instead.

I didn’t get that far into resolving those two conflicting desires, but on Thursday I was so anxious and depressed that it seemed like I forgotten to use my tiny hammer and had simply started beating the wall with my head. So I decided that I should stop hammering with my head, and spend the evening focused on cheering myself up and, you know, not being an asshole to my boyfriend. So instead of dragging my exhausted, ragey butt to the gym, we went out to play mini golf, which lead to restaurant food and beer. It also lead to me feeling and acting less like an asshole. So the real task here is to figure out a way to hold on to my tiny hammer tight enough to keep chipping away at the wall, but not so much that it makes me angry at everything. I also need to find a way to cheer myself up that minimizes backsliding on what progress I do make, which was more the point of my last post than anything that actually had to do with cooking.

So after calming myself down a bit, I made what I felt like was the imperfect but best choice under the circumstances for the weekend. The biggest factor in my panic was that Frank’s aunt was coming to visit, and wanted to leave for New York very early Saturday morning, ride the Brooklyn Bridge, and then spend the night in NYC. I’ve obviously turned into a much better traveler than I’ve been the past, but it still takes a lot out of me, and I feel like I’ve gotten not nearly enough home time since moving to State College. I also didn’t want to miss another weekend of mountain biking; since the weekend before had felt so awful, I wanted to give myself a chance to crack the wall a bit more instead of coming back in two weeks to a newly impenetrable surface at which I would once again have to start chipping away.

When I considered skipping the trip, and there was something uniquely upsetting about my first time voluntarily doing something separately from Frank. I guess a little part of me believes that it’s a slippery slope from choosing to do one thing apart from him to regressing to a relationship where carpooling to races together is the closest thing to intimacy. I was also stressed about family politics and whatnot, so even when I made the decision not to go, it didn’t give me much relief.

I learned that if you make it to the top of the Peep Trail and still have the energy to keep going up the road, you land on this nifty trail where you can take a (solo) #scenicvistaselfie while standing right in the middle of #eastcoastrocks.

It’s too soon to say whether I made the right decision or not, as I still don’t really feel that good about it general, but I do feel really good about the ride that I got in at Cooper’s Gap on Saturday instead. I was still ridiculously slow, but at least it felt like I had a little more to give and was merely metering my effort for what I knew was coming on the Peep climb. It paid off, too, as I made to the final rock-covered 25 meters without the soul-crushing exhaustion I felt last weekend. I still didn’t have enough energy to monster-truck the rocks on top of that, but I got closer at least.

So now I’ve made cracks in the wall two weekends in a row. It still feels pretty terrible, but at least I can see them forming. The next couple of weeks should be a little less daunting as far as making progress goes. I think the important thing I need to focus on is to keep hitting away with the tiny hammer even though it’s no fun, but not drive myself to the point of hitting with my head. Hitting with my head is bad, mmmkay? For now, I have to work with what I have and hope for the best, but I’m adding “bigger hammer” to my Amazon wish list just in case.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Zorro Circle, Part I

Last week was rough for me. I got really down on myself for continuing the general backward trend in my weight and fitness since moving to State College, the number of obstacles that would make reversing that trend in the near future extremely difficult, and feeling like I had to choose between either letting myself down or letting Frank down because it was becoming pretty obvious that I was failing at doing it all. I know that trying to find solutions from a place of negativity is probably not going to be successful, so in planning this week’s post I was trying to figure out a way to make it something besides just whining. So I just started typing, and what came out was a very specific story about developing successful coping mechanisms, so I think is what I will limit my scope to today. Maybe this is the Zorro Circle in which I should start digging my way back out, and this week will require multiple posts.

***

One thing that really turned the tide for me when I was getting my binge eating under control in the fall of 2012 was to simply make not binge eating my number one priority. I know this sounds silly in its simplicity, since I’d been unsuccessfully trying to kick the habit for over ten years, but I realized that the biggest driver of my binge eating was the need for relief, usually during a bad day at work. So the fantasy of binge eating would get me through the afternoon, and when I got out of work, I felt obligated to act on the fantasy I’d had all afternoon. Then I figured out how to get past the window where the need to act was so acute and that if I could get home without buying food to binge on, I could also let go of the stress that was triggering my urge to binge once I was safe at home. Part of making home “safe” was letting go of the notion that cooking a full healthy dinner from scratch or eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and half a box of Cheez-Its were the only two options.

 On the worst days, it was good enough just to eat something tasty and easy that would keep me from being hungry until breakfast. It didn’t have to be super nutritious, just not harmful or something that would trigger cravings. When I was first breaking the habit, there were a lot of days that I just dumped almond butter on top of a cut up banana and then turned my brain off for the rest of the evening. Working out or cooking real dinner were considered bonuses until I got the bingeing under control, but as I grew stronger, I managed to do both of those things more and more often until both my body composition and fitness were the best that they’d been since my college running days.

Now that my living situation has changed and I have to learn new coping mechanisms. I no longer have a two-hour window in which to binge eat, then hide the evidence before my significant other returns to judge me, so coming home to another person at home who is thankfully non-judgy but in front of whom I’m still too embarrassed to down massive quantities of junk food is an automatic stop my binge eating in the traditional sense. However, relief doesn’t come so easily for me now that I have another person depending on me for dinner, and an almond butter covered banana won’t do. Therefore, I’ve found myself saying, “Let’s just go out” way too often since moving to State College, which might not quite be as bad for me as binge eating, but at the frequency it’s been taking place is doing nothing positive for my weight, health, or my ability to deal with stress. I actually enjoy cooking a lot, especially when I’m doing it for someone I love and not just feed myself. When my love guru Sarah Fredrickson tasked me with making a list of must-have qualities in my future mate, “Not vegetarian or vegan; preferably enjoys when I cooked big-ass steaks for him” was near the top of the list. However, some days being a kitchen superstar is just too much pressure, so now I need to develop a new coping strategy that is something other than just saying, “Let’s go out.”

 I haven’t really found the answer yet, but I feel like talking through how I was able to figure it out in the past might help me find a new strategy now.

***


In riding news, we rode some new trails in the Cooper's Gap area that we hadn't done before. The Cooper's Gap Epic has now surpassed Raystown as the number one ride in Pennsylvania on the MTB Project, and now that I have seen the what the world outside Rothrock has to offer, I believe that is probably an accurate assessment.

Of course, we didn't finish the whole epic what with the still backsliding fitness and all, and the climbing was pretty much killing my soul. However, all the rest breaks did allow me to capture some good photo inspiration for the "Rocks and Rhododendrons" tattoo that I would like get sometime this winter when I've saved my dollars and found an artist that I trust with the task.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Don't Crash the Bride

This weekend I made my first real return to Indiana since moving to State College, not counting the quick overnight trip to get my furniture. The occasion was the wedding of my friends Sarah and Josh at Brown County State Park, to which I've been looking forward ever since I moved.

It was just as fun as I hoped it would be. Luckily, no one crashed the bride at the "Don't Crash the Bride Ride", and it was a really fun, not overly serious wedding. It made me so happy to see Sarah and Josh finally tie the knot, as they are both such great people and go so well together. Witnessing the kind of relationship they had with each other was a big part of what gave me the courage to look for that kind of love for myself.

The leisurely contingent of the "Don't Crash the Bride Ride"
Photo Credit: Erin Baumgardt

I was also glad to see all of my other friends in person again, since I'd been missing my Indiana people really badly in the past few weeks. It's hard being away and feeling like it's just a matter of time before people forget you when your relationship dwindles to Facebook-only. Plus, I've been pretty busy at my new job and social media time has been greatly reduced. I know it's partially my own fault, as I don't pick up the phone and send "How you doing?" texts enough, but I feel the good parts of my life back in Indiana slipping away. Being able to reconnect with a bunch of different people over the weekend made me feel a lot better about things, although I still need to work on staying in touch and maybe even making some friends in State College.

Got to hang out with my favorite puppy, Lo. Yes, my hair is also purple.

The other big part of the trip for me was getting to ride BCSP again having spent three months riding the East Coast Gnar. It was especially interesting because BCSP was trending as the highest rated trail system in the country on the MTB Project a couple of weeks ago. Of course, since Raystown is the highest rated trail system in Pennsylvania, I knew such judgements couldn't really be trusted. When I left Indiana, I was so sad to be taken away from BCSP, but upon my return, I wondered if it was really as great as I remembered and were the hard parts as hard with my new-found gnar skills.

#hesitationpointselfie

The answer is that, yes, having seen both ends of the spectrum of what Pennsylvania has to offer, Brown County is a really good trail system. You can go fast, but it's got enough stuff going on that it is not boring like Raystown. The "hard" parts are kind of funny, though, as it's weird riding trails that were designed to be hard as opposed to trails that just are hard naturally. That being said, I wasn't much more skilled on Walnut than I was before I moved. I'll monster truck over all the the rocks when there's room to fall, but my confidence is still not that great when I risk tipping over the side of a bench cut trail if I fail. We rode half of Schooner Trace, but it was just like I remembered it: just a lot of really purpose-built super hard obstacles on which you will fall off the side if you don't make it over smoothly. So I may have hated Rothrock the first time I rode it and couldn't believe I was trading Brown County for it at first, but now I would definitely take John Wert over Schooner any day.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

I (Still) Want To Ride Bikes With You

At long last, I seem to be breaking through the fatigue that has plagued me for the last couple of months. Frank and I got back into the gym a couple of times this week, and while I'm feeling unsurprisingly sore, I'm not feeling like my basic life force has been sucked away. I feel like I'm actually going to get stronger from it once I recover. We also had a great three day weekend where we explored some new mountain bike trails on Friday, hiked Mt. Nittany on Saturday, and did a nice couple of hours of mixed road, (weedy) singletrack, and gravel today. After my first solid training week since the week I arrived in State College and didn't have to work yet, I'm still tired and wincing from the soreness every time I get up, but I'm not overwhelmed with fatigue. Hopefully I've finally clipped in on the path back to fitness this time.

I had no idea what was in store when Frank said, "Let's go hike Mt. Nittany. It wasn't exactly the recovery day I had in mind, but it was a lot of fun.

Our Friday adventure was to check out the Rattling Creek IMBA Epic. It's about two hours away, but it looked really fun, and I'm enjoying the chance to check out some new trails instead of concentrated on Rothrock for a while.

The trails delivered on the "rocky flow" that was promised. They definitely still had plenty of rocks and a general Pennsylvania backcountry feel, but with a more cruisable flow to them. The climbing was gentle and the descending meandered around more for maximum enjoyment, rather straight downhill bombing. We only had two complaints, the first of which being that some sections were so ridiculously overgrown that it felt like bushwhacking rather than mountain biking. The other was that the trails were very poorly marked.

Looking derpy but staying upright on a rock garden.

Complaint Number Two turned out to be the theme of the day, as we started off spending a lot of time driving around gravel roads after driving right past the parking lot, thanks to trying to follow Google maps to the mapping point provided on the MTB Project app. This was followed by going a down a big paved descent first thing (and then having to climb back up), since the unmarked first trail was simply described as "across the road" from the parking lot, but they didn't say in which direction. And so it went, trying to find our way around the prescribed epic course, and it ended with us getting about 19 miles (the epic course was 22) but a few of those being riding around aimlessly on the road.We both got different amounts of frustrated at different times. Frank's mostly had to do with the suckiness of the map; mine mostly had to do with when I had to do unnecessary climbing as a result of a navigational mistake.

Bridging out of the brush

During all of the wandering, I thought of last summer when a package arrived in the mail from Frank. The great collector of tiny hats had sent me one of my own, with the words "Get Lost" under the brim. He included a note saying that he saw it and thought of my experience at the Gravel Metric, and that he had also purchased one for himself. The rest of the note was incredibly sweet and talked about how he looked forward to the adventures that we would have together. I reread it many times over the next few months whenever I started missing him too badly.

So I found it kind of funny as we were in the midst of one of those adventures actually happening that it was less romantic than we had imagined it to be. I've been stressed lately about the terrible state of my fitness and the continuing roadblocks that stand in my way, but then I remembered the the kind of relationship that I was looking for when I met Frank. It was one year ago this weekend that we took our first rides together, and after which I wrote "I Just Want to Ride Bikes with You".

As much as I miss being fast(ish) and competing in races, I remembered that right now I'm living out the days that I was missing for all those years when I was completely focused on (unsuccessfully) trying to be fast. Now I've tasted success in both areas and sometimes get frustrated that I have thus far been unable to have both at once. This weekend reminded me that stressing about my lack of fitness won't help, and that I just need to keep focusing on doing the best I can and appreciating what I already have.

Even when I get lost and it feels like I'm no closer to my goals, I still want to ride bikes with [Frank].

Whatever Instagram filter I used makes me look like an Oompa Loompa, but you get the idea.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Raystown and Roadiness

Since we no longer have any Rothrock-centric races for which to prepare, Frank and I branched out a bit and expanded our Pennsylvania mountain-biking repertoire. The Allegrippis Trail system at Raystown Lake is the next-closest trail system to us beyond the Rothrock and Coopers gap trails. At an hour away, they are still reasonably close, but we just hadn't made it out there yet.

Whenever you read one of those Internet "best trails" lists, Alegrippis comes up as the pick for Pennsylvania, so I was excited to check them out. I was also excited to ride some flowy machine-cut trails after not really ever being able to open up the throttle in Rothrock. It was a lot like French Lick, except that were no "features", man-made or otherwise, at least on the 15-mile section that we rode. Now that I've ridden it, I will definitely be bringing my singlespeed next time, because the climbs are most the whoopy, stepped kind like the climb up from the creek at French Lick. They were mostly alternating few peddle strokes of really steep, then a few pedal strokes of flat or slight downhill, rather than the steadier climbing of Brown Country, so I don't feel like my Lust did particularly well on it. My utter lack of anaerobic fitness at the moment didn't help either. The downhills were also extra-super bomby with lots of chances to catch air, so the proportion of time going downhill to uphill was way out of whack. I could of used some more flat-to-downhill fast-paced turny time mixed in. It was a nice break from the Rothrock grind, and would definitely be more fun if I were in shape, but at this point, I actually kind of prefer the Rothrock rocks.

Unfortunately, the #sceniclake in this week's selfie is washed out.

Sunday we went out for a road ride. We've been doing that a lot more because it doesn't exhaust me as much as mountain biking, and I think Frank kind of misses it. It's kind of nice, because unless you intentionally go out to climb a mountain, the road riding here is no tougher than it was in Bloomington. And if you want to go out and climb a mountain, you totally can.

I always laugh at this sign when we drive by it on the way to the airport.

I'm still not really sure how I'm doing as far as coming out of my funk. As you may have noticed, I gave up on my week numbers in the blog titles, although I'm still keeping up my weekly posting commitment. I'm feeling a little directionless right now, since I don't have anything important on which I'm focusing my training, which is both good and bad. It's good in that I'm not stressed about not being ready for something in time, but bad because I lack the specific motivation of trying be better for "X" event.

Right now I'm mostly just wishing for the fitness that I had a year and however many months ago and trying to determine the best way to get it back. The other big thing on my mind is next year's Transylvania Epic. It may be my only chance to do a major stage race on my home turf while sleeping in my own bed every night. How many people get that opportunity at all?

It's still 48 weeks away, and Frank laughs every time I say that that might not be enough time to get ready, but I've got some pretty huge leaps that I need to make before then if I want to be successful. If you subtract 'cross season, it's going to go by quickly. So my focus now is trying to figure out how to get lean and fit again as quickly as possible and also try to do so in a way that will provide the best foundation for next year's TSE. I'm not sure what the answer to that is, but hopefully I figure it out soon.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weddings and Anniversaries

Soon ends our stay here and it's been fun.
So tonight I'll raise my glass to us.
'Cause we've talked so much I think we filled this ashtray twice,
And I'm pretty sure we emptied every bottle in the place...

So let's walk home, let's be afraid.
I wanna grab you by the arms and kiss you so hard.
Let's do it right, under the streetlight.
I want it now, somehow I forgot how.

Way to go, way to go.
Forgot you've got so far to go.
Way to go, way to go.
Forgot you've got so far to go.

Those are the words to the song that I sent to Frank one year ago last night. It’s from his favorite band from high school/college that I was only turned on to last summer, being a bit behind him in musical tastes and all. I somehow thought a song about wanting to make out with a stranger would somehow take some of the awkwardness out of my extremely awkward, “you can sleep at my house in one capacity or another” text. Luckily, it all worked out despite the awkwardness, and I still think the song is metaphorically fitting for our relationship on so many levels.

There’s not really any bike-related news this week, because the passing of the Trailmix also meant the transition to wedding season for us. I was hoping that our trip to Illinois this past weekend would feel more like a well-deserved break than it did, but luckily the next wedding weekend trip will be very bike-centric, so hopefully it will prove helpful in getting my mojo back rather than merely distracting me from my lack of it.


Anyway, we spent the weekend traveling to Illinois for the wedding of one of Frank’s friends from his master’s program. It was a fun time and a lovely wedding, mostly highlighted by the fact that it rained more than an inch and the couple had one of those deals where they got the engagement ring for free.

Of course, a side effect of the “wedding season”, if you are young(ish), female, and in love, is the creeping thoughts of how you would do it if it were up to you. Ironically, I read this article on the drive there, and know more than most the downfalls of getting too ahead of yourself or getting caught up in checking getting #engaged and having a wedding off your “to do” list. Regardless, the excitement around these things is undeniable, and I hope that at some point I’ll get another chance at doing these things better than I did the first time around.

To make all of this a lot weirder, I was surprised by the news that my ex got married last weekend. I intuitively suspected that they were already engaged, and my friends all just thought that someone else had told me, or that I didn’t care to know, but stumbling across a friend’s Facebook post that there was a wedding happening that very day was a shock. I desperately wanted to have no feelings about it all or even be so mature as to be happy for them, but there was still some remaining anger and childish jealously that he was “winning” in certain areas. As the one friend with whom I discussed this blatantly put it, “If it were me, I’m sure it bother me because he did it first.” Yeah, kinda, even though that’s a gut feeling rather than a rational one.

The real bummer of this was that it all happened the morning after I found out that Frank would not be sleeping at my house in one capacity or another on the anniversary of our first date. His next teaching session doesn’t start until next week, and his sister, niece, and nephews are visiting at his parents’ house this week, so he is staying in Illinois this week while I was sent back on a plane yesterday since I don’t have that many vacation days at my job yet.

I’m sure to most adults, a one-year boyfriend/girlfriend anniversary sounds silly, since many people surpass that milestone while still in high school. However, for me, this is my first one. Until this point, I’ve never made a year without breaking up with someone, or in one case marrying them. So to me, it was a huge deal to celebrate the healthy growth of our relationship for what it was without excessive rushing.

So that is my conflict in this wedding season, get caught up in the glamour of weddings and sparkly things, or for once in my life, let things happen as they are supposed to and enjoy them as they come. I used to think that getting married was a prerequisite to starting my life, but in my rush, I didn’t do so well in my life after that. My life with Frank has already started and we will continue to build it in the months and years to come. I do hope that it eventually includes a fancy party surrounded by friends and family, but I imagine it more as a celebration of our ongoing commitment to each other rather than a beginning or end to be met. Until then, I want to enjoy the life that we have together and celebrate our less-conspicuous victories before that day and long after.

***

Also, here are some pictures of me actually riding my bike at the Trailmix.




Monday, June 16, 2014

The Trailmix That Wasn't

The Rothrock Trailmix has come and gone. Unfortunately, my legs didn't come with it. I showed up on Saturday morning hoping that they would come around, but when we hit the singletrack, it was the same old racing-heart, weak-legs, and inability to hold a line even at the minimal level of effort required to keep rolling. I only rode the first loop of singletrack and then pointed my bike back down the gravel road descent to the start before I got myself further out to a place where dropping out would require more effort. Frank's back held up surprisingly well, and he went on and rode most of the long course without me, except that he did take an easier trail in instead of subjecting himself to John Wert.


The only interesting point of the day was when I was slogging through the rocky part at the top of Bald Knob Ridge, which is normally my favorite section of trail. However, with my redlined-wobbliness, I wasn't riding as cleanly as I normally do. I'd also gone so slowly up the climb up to it that the majority of the short course riders had caught us, so we were in a lot of the short course race's mid-to-back-of-pack traffic, so that wasn't making things too smooth, either. Everyone who was in contention for anything was well past, and I guess I thought we were solidy in the "shit happens" part of the race.

However, when I stalled out on a rock garden which requires you to lift your bike up on a ledge if you don't make it, I had the audacity to stop and gather my wits a bit before doing so. I didn't even realize that anyone was behind me except for Frank, but then I heard yelling and turned around to see a very grumpy old man making a big stink about my blocking the good line.

Okay, I get that it's a bummer when you don't get to ride something that you perceive to to be rideable, but as I said, on a slick, crowded, rocky trail, shit happens. You will get messed up by another person at some point, and you should know that going in. I'd had to stop a few times already when I didn't want to, but I knew that would be the case. Anyway, I turned around, gave him and exasperated look, and asked, "Really?!!"

He ranted a bit more and road off only to have us catch him when he messed up on something later on. He ranted at me a bit more as I rode past. I kept riding, but I guess Frank accidentally tipped into him as he went by and the guy accused him of doing it on purpose. All I heard was a bunch of a yelling as I rode away, but apparently the old guy said that he could fuck Frank up in five minutes and Frank said something about his saggy balls. Good times.

I think the worst part of about this is that I've been the freaking out uptight asshole in the past, and strangely that why that behavior shocks me even more now. It sucks losing your temper over dumb shit. I think that's why I don't like racing cross country anymore. It's so much intensity and pain wrapped up in the first few minutes of the race only to be only with your own self-deprecating thoughts for an hour, and it's even more of a bummer when you can't ride fast on the downhills or technical parts, which are the only things that are fun, because of someone going slow in front of you. However, time (and cyclocross) has taught me that shit happens, and I'm a lot better at keeping my cool when I'm in pain than I used to be.


Anyway, I'm glad the race is over in one capacity or another. It was great motivation when I needed prompting to get out and ride and push myself to go further, but when my body crapped out on me and pushing myself only made things worse, I think the stress and guilt over the race made me feel worse mentally about feeling bad physically. Now I can work on my steady diet of short, easy road rides and try to come out of this funk at my own pace.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Still Tired and Newly Strava'd

The fatigue that I was feeling the week before last didn't let up at all during the past week. I have officially given up on trying to lift weights for the time being. The body is just not having it right now. I don't really understand what is wrong, but the basic fact is that for whatever reason, I'm just not healthy right now. I know this because I'm tired all the time, my ankles swell easily, my appetite is wonky, and I just see lot of signs of inflammation. So I guess I'll just keep experimenting and keep trying to ride as I feel like it. Hopefully both my health and my fitness come back soon.

I only got in a couple rides this week, and I still felt horrible on both of them. Frank also hurt his back, so he wasn't up for riding much either. The only not-horrible ride that we got in was a short spin around the neighborhood on our townie bikes on Saturday after which I still felt noticeably tired. Otherwise, we just got the house clean and finished all of season two of Orange is the New Black over the course of the weekend.

The TV-watching accomplishment, I'm not that proud of, but at least cleaning the house was a step in the right direction. I've noticed that sometimes when things get really bad, the first step in the right direction is actually to take a perfectly good weekend day off from riding and get the house clean or take care of other business that you've been putting off.

With being sick, rundown, and frustrated with my body lately, I've noticed that I'm starting to display depressed-person behavior, although I'm actually pretty happy with the majority of my life status right now. I live in a beautiful place with my best friend and I have a well-paying job that I find interesting with great co-workers with a penchant for witty banter. Still, not being able to enjoy my favorite activities the way I want or really even be able to feel good in my own body is bringing me down, and I'm starting engage in defeatist behavior instead continuing to push for a solution. So sometimes just moving back toward taking care of things, even easy things, is the first step toward getting better.


The irony of my two pathetic rides this week is that at least I was able to post them on the Internet for all of the world to see. Frank has been posting all of our rides on Strava, and since we're pretty much riding together most of the time, I can know how I performed on certain sections by looking at his rides. In one way, I think Strava is kind of dumb, in the racing without really racing sense, but since my training really is focused on trying to perform better on the trails on which I train, I wanted to compare my performance on certain sections from ride-to-ride. Of course, I probably will get a bit caught up comparing my performance on certain sections to others, as well, but hopefully I can keep it in check.

Anyway, a week or so ago I asked Frank how much a super cheap basic GPS that would allow me to post my own rides would be. It didn't take him long to find a used Garmin 500 on eBay for $95 plus shipping. So my first week of Strava happened during one of my worst weeks of riding, but I guess that just means that I'm setting myself up for a lot of PRs.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Week #4: I Wake Up Exhausted

It seems that I finally exorcised the 12-day cold, but my body still isn't really doing what I want it to. After finally going two nights in a row without being kept awake by coughing, I once again embarked on an attempt to reestablish a consistent, sustainable training plan on Wednesday.

I went to the gym and kept it extra short and light to make sure that I wouldn't have any excessive soreness, and that seemed to work out pretty well. On Thursday we went on my first road ride since arriving in State College, as I wanted to get some pedaling in without the trouble of loading bikes or putting too much rocky/climby strain on my body. Friday was back in the gym, once again keeping it light and easy.

First Road Ride in Two Months.

So one would think that even if I weren't all taper-y fresh for the weekend's riding that I would still be able to do what I needed to do without excess fatigue. I mean, I did everything I could to reestablish the habit of daily post-work training (a big mental challenge that I need to overcome) without overdoing it. Unfortunately, I woke up Saturday morning feeling exhausted and generally terrible, which may or may not be due to staying up "past my bedtime" to show support for the Chicago Blackhawks, or at least to show support for my resident Blackhawks fan.

Regardless, it was another day where I just wanted to go back to sleep after breakfast and hitting the farmer's market, but I knew that I needed to get a long mountain bike ride in, so we packed up the bikes and I hoped my legs would come around. They didn't. Pretty much every pedal stroke of the four mile gravel climb to the first singletrack descent was a test in willpower to keep going. Even when we hit the descent, I felt uncoordinated and couldn't ride very fast. We ended up cutting the planned ride short and hoping to complete the parts we skipped on Sunday.

Sunday was not any better. I still felt terrible but now with aching quads from the previous days' climbing. I still stubbornly headed out to Tussey, even though I knew something was wrong when I didn't even have the energy to make conversation on the drive out. After a mile or so of climbing while once again having to will every single pedal stroke, I called it a day and felt like a jerk for dragging Frank through the whole dressing/packing/driving ordeal for a two-mile ride.

I also watched Frank play #sportswithballs on Sunday. He likes doing that sometimes.

So I ended the week pretty frustrated that my fitness isn't coming around the way I had hoped, but I'm not sure what to do about it. Part of me wonders if I should just stop trying with the weight training for a while, and focus on riding only. The other part tells me to stay the course with daily, if minimal, training until things start to improve. I think this would result in my riding taking a longer time to stop sucking, but that I might be better off for it by the time the summer is over. With less than two weeks left until the Trailmix, I'm not sure that there's a lot that I can do to make it not suck, which is disappointing. Perhaps I just need to accept that my first race on the #eastcoastrocks may turn into a pathetic DFL, pity-clapping, bad kind of death march akin to my endurance days of yore, but also know that it will be a good investment toward some better performances in the fall.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Week #3: Sick and Solo

My week didn't exactly go as planned. The cold that I thought I wouldn't make any worse with last Sunday's ride definitely got worse, although I think it was the natural course of things and the ride still didn't really hurt anything. Regardless, it turned into a nasty cough, I lost my voice on Monday, and it's a good thing I held off on sick days during the sore throat phase, because I needed them when the cough set in. I ended up missing all of Tuesday and only working partial days on Wednesday and Thursday.

My three-day weekend was kind of a bust since as of last night I was still dealing with violent coughing fits when I try to sleep, and I'm really only able to get a few quite hours between 2-ish a.m. and whenever I have to get up. It was going to be a semi-bummer weekend, anyway, because Frank has been at an academic conference in San Antonio since Friday morning.

I had still planned on busting out some good rides on my own, but being alone and feeling crappy killed my motivation. I finally got out for a ride today, going back to the "it won't make it worse" principle and because I did feel sort of better. I realized that all the drugs weren't helping my nighttime coughing, so I skipped them last night and felt better in the morning, even if my coughing was the same.

Anyway, despite feeling off my game, I knocked out the Tussey Ridge, Tussey Extension, and John Wert loop today. We have never actually finished this entire loop, because we got lost on our first attempt and then tried a couple of times on weeknights and ran out of time, so we skipped John Wert. I have to say that John Wert was easier than the last time when we were cold, tired, and frustrated, but still pretty darn hard. There's still a lot of "I have no idea what to do with that" rocky sections.

However, I guess I need to figure out what to do with that. Since it was announced earlier in the week, I've been obsessed with the Transylvania Epic's "East Coast Rocks" category. Like the enduro competition, it is based only on the riders' performance on designated sections of the course. In this case, six sections of the most quintessential Central Pennsylvania gnar, two of which were on my ride today. I'll never have the engine to compete for the GC in a big mountain bike stage race, but I'm interested to see what I can do with a year of practice, practice, practice on the rocks.

With my photographer out of town, you'll have to settle for my camera phone shots this week:

Tussey: Allergen style

#gnarselfie

John Wert wasn't as bad as I remembered. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the actual hard part.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Week #2: Back Into Good

The first week of my fresh start went okay, despite the fact that pulling yourself out of bad habits and back into the good is always a challenge. Work was still very busy on Monday through Wednesday, as I spent my days running around the World Campus student service areas helping users work out the kinks in the new version of Talisma. We were back to normal office hours, but it was go, go, go the whole time we were there.

Despite all of this, I was doggedly determined to get back on track with food and fitness, and I was very successful in only eating home cooked food and sticking to my planned workouts on Monday through Wednesday. This included my first weight training session in three weeks on Monday, which inevitably led to soreness, even though I tried not to overdo it.

Tuesday was our first attempt at the weekly local short track session that had started the week before when we were busy on our Tussey ride during the vacation day that I took. I've dreamed of having a local weeknight short track session available for years, but no one could ever get one going at Wapehani, although there was plenty of talk about it. Ironically, for all the rocky, climby trails we have out in the state forest, State College actually offers a more short-track appropriate venue than any of the "flowy Midwestern trails" near Bloomington. There is a little four-mile trail right in town called AccuWeather (I think weather site owns the land?) that is nearly pancake flat with lots of tight twists and turns winding through the trees. There are a lot of log crossing that drain your speed, but otherwise it's an excellent primer for speedy, bike-leaning practice. I didn't really put out any sort of race effort in an attempt to not exacerbate the impending soreness from Monday's weights, but I'm looking forward to letting loose as at the summer passes and my body can handle more efforts.

Wednesday I was stupidly sore as predicted, but I still made it to the gym to try and keep up my streak and continue to build good habits. I kept it *very* short and light, but even that took a lot out of me. At that point, my immune system decided to assert its general pissed-off state regarding the abuse that had been heaped on it in the past 2-3 weeks. I went from a slightly dry, scratchy throat when I left work to the most painful sore throat I've had in years two hours later. I wanted to call in sick on Thursday and Friday, but I thought that one day off in my first five weeks of employment was bad enough, and I didn't want to add to that total. So I spent Thursday-Saturday pounding Tylenol and Chloraseptic, and doing as little as possible except put in my requisite time at work, which luckily became much calmer during the latter half of the week.

The one highlight of this period was that in addition to the life-event finishing line I reached the weekend before, Frank reached his on Friday. He successfully passed his dissertation defense and is now a full-fledged PhD. Since I made the decision to move to State College in February, I've been really focused on all of the things that I've had to overcome, but I can't discount the fact that during the last year he has also completed the hardest task of his life while driving to Indiana on a regular basis and being supportive of me in my struggles. I am so proud of him for successfully finishing what I know seemed like a huge overwhelming task for him when we met. So we did! After close to a year of maintaining a long-distance relationship while each dealing with some pretty big life things of our own, we have made it out the other side together and happy. Of course, there we likely still have at least one more big move in front of us, but surely it will be easier doing it together.


Even though my throat still wasn't feeling that awesome on Sunday, at least the muscle soreness was gone, and I figured that I probably wouldn't make the situation worse by riding. I was also four weeks behind on my long ride schedule with a mere four weeks until the Rothrock Trailmix/Stoopid 50 race week. At this point we are almost certainly doing the 36-mile Trailmix, but at least I still have the Rattling Creek 50 in August to satisfy my endurance ego.

And my endurance ego is pretty bruised right now to say the least. It's so hard to come to terms with the fact that a 36-mile is such a challenge for me. It sounds so stupid when you say it in regard to pure mileage. I keep reminding myself that those 36 miles have more climbing than the Gravel Grovel plus a ton of rocks. The course is longer and harder than last year's, so it's hard to say for sure, but I bet the winning women's time is only a tad under 4.5 hours. If I can stay within an hour of that I'll be stoked.


#scenicvistaselfie: Green Leafy Edition

So while part of me wants to be mad that my 23-mile "long ride" felt so hard, and that the idea of adding the Tussey loop to the end of what we did yesterday still blows my mind a little, I'll choose to focus on the fact I did finally complete the 23-mile ride that has been scaring me for weeks. I guess the upside being put in my place by Rothrock is that once I do conquer it, I know I'll be a certified badass.

I guess I have a new recruitment slogan to get Midwestern girls to come ride the East Coast Gnar:  There's strong, and there's Rothrock strong. Of course, this made me think of one of my favorite songs from when I was younger, and I realized that I finally got to live it out, but on my own terms. Because, you know, I was into Boulder before it got too mainstream.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Week #1: A New Beginning


Once again I am late on my blog post due to the craziness of the week before. Even with the rest day on Tuesday, the remainder of the week still turned kind of insane. Wednesday through Saturday looked a whole lot like the picture above, except that there were usually other people in the room. It was just many, many hours of waiting for data to be imported into the new system, then a rush to validate it so that we could get the next import going. For those of us on the less-technical side of the project, there wasn't a lot we could do to speed things along, so we just waited for news and did what we could. This involved a lot of sitting around in a room full of computers and junk food.

In more resilient times I might have made it through the whole day without that first cookie, but most of my resilience has been chipped away in the past few months. To paraphrase the alcoholic saying, one cookie is too much, and a thousand aren't enough. The binge eater in me took over and let the sugar cut the tension, only feel terrible when I got home. At least I came home to an understanding partner who didn't get too judgy face about my lapse in willpower, and I was able to still enjoy my time at home with him in the evenings instead of sneaking more junk food.

My part was finally done on Saturday afternoon, so Frank and I took the opportunity to drive out to a farm about a half-hour away to pick up the first grass-fed quarter beef for our newly-established household. A new freezer of meat is always good inspiration to get on the right track with eating again. Of course, before heading home we did stop by a restaurant and brewery that he likes out that direction and had some beer and a definitely not-paleo late lunch, but it was a nice way to chill out a bit after the crazy few days of work.


On Sunday morning, I was finally able to sleep in and wake up to a fresh start. While I didn't feel up to the next long ride on my previously-planned schedule, we did get a nice ride in at Cooper's Gap, where we finally completed the "Cooper's Gap Highlight's" ride successfully.

So I've decided that instead of Week #71, that this will be the new Week #1. It's been a long journey getting to where I want to be in life (way more than the 10 weeks I originally planned), but I'm finally here. The cost has been that the last two to three months have really took their toll on my body and my fitness, especially the move, the conference, and the software upgrade. I'm afraid to look at the scale, but I've got to be at least ten pounds heavier than I was a year ago. However, things are finally back to where I don't see any big obstacles standing in my way. Now there's just the task of getting myself back into good habits so that little things don't throw me off so much.

So I am officially calling myself 2.5 days "clean" as far as eating, training, and sleep are concerned. I'm focusing on getting back to the basics again putting enough good days together until I start feeling like the healthy, resilient person that I was a year ago. It's going to be a tough first week, but I know that I've done it once, so I can do it again. Wish me luck!

It is also the anniversary of the day that Frank and I both had asparagus for dinner and I thought it was as good of a conversation starter as any.
Definitely glad I left that awkward comment.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Week #70: A Place of Our Own

Since it is already Wednesday, I'll just have to do a quick post. Things have been so busy with the conference, the move, and prepping for a big software upgrade at work. Luckily, Frank and I are fully moved into our new place, although we still have our work cut out as far as unpacking and putting things away goes.

Our first dinner in the new place.
Admittedly, we are still eating off the coffee table,  but we have a couch now.

As much as I wanted to tough it out, I broke down and took a vacation day on Tuesday, and gave myself an opportunity to "clip in" before a few long workdays for a upgrade. It gave me the chance to catch up on sleep, hit up the Tuesday farmer's markets, and get in a mountain bike ride, all of which were things that I was desperately needing to feel normal again. The rest of the week is still going to be tough, but now I feel like I'm better equipped to handle it. I will still have plenty of literal and figurative rocks to traverse this summer, but hopefully I'm now set up ride them out and not be forced to walk again (at least figuratively; Tussey will probably still force me to hike-a-bike in places for a while.)

Another day on Tussey

Monday, April 28, 2014

Week #69: Clipping In

Just a week ago I explained my carefully-laid plan to (hopefully) be prepared for a sub-7 hour finish at the Stoopid 50 in June, which mostly revolved around hitting increasingly longer long rides in Rothrock every weekend. Then, of course, I failed to meet my checkpoint at the next opportunity. I was supposed to hit 24 miles on Saturday, but after an exhausting second week at my job, I came home completely uninspired to make dinner, and we ended up going out for a big BBQ feast on Friday night instead. I knew better than to finish my whole meal, but I did, and woke up Saturday morning feeling disgustingly stuffed and completely uninspired to ride. The ride turned into 5 or 6 miles instead.

I was frustrated because it was my last chance to do long ride for at least two weeks, but I also couldn't force myself through it not feeling well. I was also frustrated at the unexpected challenges that popped up, weakened my good decision-making skills, and left me ill-prepared to do what I needed to do.

Luckily we did get a pretty good ride in on Tussey Thursday night.
We have our work cut our for us there.


Before I left for State College, I was overwhelmed by the challenges that I would be facing in the coming weeks, and was focused on "the finish line" of my race to a happy, sustainable life with the man that I love. Incidentally, I was afraid that the finish line would move again, as it has so many times already, and now it seems like it might, although by just one more day. I may end up having to work on May 10 due to the big software upgrade at my new job, but on May 11, I should definitely get to wake up at approximately 9 a.m. in my own bed in an apartment occupied by only myself, Frank, and the kitties that we don't have to move out of for at least 15 months, then hopefully make up the 24 mile ride that I missed on Saturday.

Until then, a lot of gnar stands between myself and the finish line, as I type this from a hotel room in Orlando where I have been and will continue to be at the mercy of the conference caterers  and overly expensive restaurants until Thursday evening. (I scraped the insides out of a breakfast burrito for breakfast this morning because there was no plain meat or eggs to be had amongst the bajillion muffins, bagels, pastries, and cereals.) I'm feeling fat, swollen, and generally pretty terrible physically. It doesn't help that I didn't take as good of care of myself as I should have in the days prior to leaving. I also know how hard it will be get myself back on track since I'll only get one day to reset in State College before our whirlwind moving trip to Indiana. All I can think about is getting back into circumstances where the barriers to my getting lean, fit, and emotionally resilient again are more manageable

Obstacles between myself and my goals are a lot like rocks. There are big ones and little ones, but often the challenge lies in the number, how close they are together, or the angle at which they are set. The most frustrating thing is to come up to a long chute, get my foot knocked out of the pedal on the first obstacle, and then not have enough space to remount and clip in again, so I end up walking or scooting for a long time over stuff I could have ridden if I'd been clipped in on the approach. I definitely feel like my foot was knocked out of the pedal last week, and now I'm walking over a lot more rocks that I needed to.

At same time, each set of rocks I ride successfully makes the next seem easier, so there is value in overcoming obstacles. I can definitely look back and see how to doing things that were hard and scary last year made me better at handling stuff in general. One of my favorite song lyrics that has stuck with me the last few months is, "Now anything so easy, it might not make you weak, but it sure won't make me believe." I don't expect the rest of my life to be Green Valley, and I wouldn't even want it to be, but right now I really need space to straighten my jersey, drink some water, and get clipped in again before I have to handle any more rock gardens.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week #68: Baby Steps

I have now completed my second week in Pennsylvania, which was vastly different than the first, as I started my new job. Everyone is very busy getting ready for a big upgrade of the software that we use (Talisma) on May 12, so I've mostly been shadowing and going to meetings as everyone frantically tests and discusses what's left to be done before the upgrade. I've been doing what I can to help out, and hopefully I'll be able to make some actual useful contributions soon. Overall, I am very impressed with the people, general resources, and level of organization here, so I think that things will be pretty good once I'm a better acclimated part of the team.

More focused riding equals fewer pictures, so all I have is this testament to how much we like green stuff.

Obviously the start of work cut down on the amount of mountain biking we could do compared to the week before. We had to miss Tuesday night, because the 80-degree temperatures of the day before turned to 30's and snow about the time that I got off work. I got to ride little bit of Tussey on Thursday night, but Frank's chain broke less than a mile in, so it was kind of a bummer for him.

On the weekend we worked on redoing a couple of the Trailmix sections that we had covered the week before and tried to do them faster now that we have our navigation down. We were successful and cut down about 30 minutes off of our previous best for each route. Now we need to start putting sections together for longer rides until we can do the full Trailmix route at once.

I've put together a loose schedule of our long rides every weekend for the next few weeks, culminating in a full Trailmix route two weeks before the actual Rothrock Trailmix and Stoopid 50 race weekend. Since both races are on the same weekend, we have to choose one. I really want to do the 50, but I've made a cutoff goal that we have to complete the Trailmix course in under five hours prior registration if we want to sign up for the 50. Otherwise, we will just do the Trailmix race and hope for a PR in that.

It's so much more motivating training for something where I can actually make checkpoints and see progress towards actual race performance, rather just following a theoretical plan and hoping that more more watts in a workout actually equal going faster in the race. This is probably another reason why I liked Death March training so much; my whole schedule was centered around hitting checkpoints leading up to the race and everything else was simply in support of that. It makes it a lot easier to decide to what you can and can't let go if you start to feel a little cooked.

Anyway, I'm not sure if we will meet out sub-5 hour checkpoint in time or not, but we're giving it our best shot. Our progress in the last week is a good sign. I can't wait to get the move over so that we can get settled in and more focused on trying to meet that goal.

Okay, we did stop for a #scenicvistaselfie on North Bear Meadows Rd. on Sunday. Coulda been 35 minutes faster.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week #67: Rothrock 101

My first week of Pennsylvania riding is complete. It's felt a lot like Death March training on steroids, as we spend a lot of time looking at maps, and trying to figure out our route, and finally trying to navigate in real life what we've planned on a computer screen. Oh, but there's rocks, so many rocks, so there's a technical element on top of just putting in the miles and finding our way around.

The goal we are working towards is to complete the Rothrock Trailmix IMBA epic course. At first it sounds silly that our goal to is to simply finish a ride that is only slightly longer than a Cat 1 men's cross country race, but when you consider that those 36 miles contain the same amount of climbing as the beefed-up 62 miles of the 2013 Gravel Grovel with a few tons more rocks, you start to understand the challenge. When you actually start riding it in not great shape, you fully understand.

We've ridden five times in eight days since I've been here. The idea was that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday would be my weight training days, since those are the days that Frank has to teach in the afternoons. I only made it to the gym on Monday, while Wednesday and Friday became rest days in a feeble attempt to recover between rides. I guess I was asking a bit too much of my body to put in 13 hours of riding, the largest eight-day total I've had in at least two years, on really tough terrain, and still manage to keep up weight training, as well. I'm a complete hangry, exhausted ball of goo right now, but hopefully I'll adjust soon and be able to handle both a regular riding and lifting schedule, as I feel like the former could really benefit from the latter if I'm able to do both and still recover well.

Rocking the white jersey and sunburn, as it hit nearly 80 degrees today. 


Red= Sunday, Blue=Tuesday, Green=Saturday

Anyway, we broke up the Trailmix course into three sections. The red we road both last Sunday and today, with not a lot of improvement today, due to my compounded fatigue. Last Sunday I had no idea what I was doing, but at least I was fresh. Tuesday we hit the Tussey Ridge trail, which I had hiked but not ridden before and found pretty intimidating. The climb up was actually easier than I expected, although there are are still a few rock gardens that are way beyond my current skill level. However, it's pretty worth it once you're on top of the ridge, as there is a beautiful ribbon of of flat-ish open singletrack that allows you to see for miles due to a forest fire a few years ago. Unfortunately, our better-than-expected experience on Tussey was tempered by terrible rock strewn slog back on the John Wert trail, which is basically a 2.5 mile long rock garden. It's mostly flat, but you're churning over big chunky rocks almost every pedal stroke of the trail. It's not the kind of thing you want to deal with when you've already got some hard riding in your legs and just want to get home.

Top of Tussey

Saturday was our biggest ride yet, at a whopping 18 miles. This is the part where we tackled the "filler" of the course, having covered the two major singletrack loops earlier in the week. This loop consisted of 3-5 mile gravel road climbs followed by a mile or two of technical descent at the time. I tried to think of it as "enduro day", but the climbing definitely outweighed the descending. Doing that much climbing on a full-suspension mountain bike, even a locked-out one, is pretty rough, but I tried to tell myself that I need to aerobic training mixed in with the gnar-riding if I actually want to be in bike-rider shape again.

Returning to the scene of our very first #scenicvistaselfie. We did not have to climb Greenlee Rd. on 'cross bikes this time, but the back side of Greenlee, as well all the climbing that followed, made up for it.

Finally, we broke up our pursuit of the Rothrock Trailmix for a day on Thursday, as we got our first taste of Cooper's Gap, another "epic" trail system a little bit further southeast of the Trailmix group of trails but still with Rothrock State Forest. We attempted to do the Cooper's Gap Highlights ride, but as you can see from our "actual ride map" below, our navigation wasn't too great. It was a fun change of pace, though, as those trails are a little more tame than most of of what's in the Trailmix section, but they still have enough rocks to make it interesting.



So far I haven't found anything that even remotely qualifies as easy singletrack here, but as an interesting side note, when I went into Appalachian Outdoors to buy a new hydration pack on Friday, my cashier was fellow Bloomington transplant, Jean-Luc Serriere. He showed me a map where of there are supposedly 6,000 acres of a swoopy Midwestern-style trails within riding distance of downtown, but I guess they are just kind of a spiderweb and not well-marked. So we're a little intimidated about given those a try for fear of getting lost, but maybe we can get to them later in the summer when we tire of the gnar.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week #66: Home On The Rocks

What seemed like the longest week ever has finally passed, and the kitties and I have arrived in Pennsylvania safely. They actually did better on the drive than I was expecting, and Mushu took to her new temporary home at a surprisingly rate. I guess after 10 years together, our seventh residence isn't too much of a shock. Plus, it has stairs and Frank, two of her favorite things. Clemmie, on the other hand, was kind of traumatized at first, but seems to be settling into her Badcat ways.

I'm feeling much better about things now that I'm finally here, and I have a week to chill out and adjust before starting my new job. I'm still anxious about that, as well as the "real move", but I think that while I was panicking last week, I underestimated the regenerative power of a week of relaxation and hanging out with Frank.

Why didn't I have this bike when I was on Velo Bella? It's perfect!
Of course, relaxation is relative, as my first order of business was to hit Rothrock and test out my new Giant Lust 2, aka Gnar Bike. The one time I rode the trails here before, it was miserable. So when I decided to move here, I knew that a full-suspension bike was in order to make the transition easier.

#scenicvistagnarbikeselfie
I expected the first ride out to still be exceptionally hard, but the bike actually seemed to give me some amazing powers. I'm still out of shape, so the ten miles of rough stuff with much longer, steeper, and obstacle-strewn climbing than anything in Indiana was still enough to leave my body feeling shredded. However, as far as being able to clear stuff, I was pretty amazed.


I've still got a lot of work to do to actually be good at this sort of riding. It's like having the hardest parts of the Ouachita Challenge and Syllamo's Revenge five miles from my house, without a lot of easy parts to break it up. However, the beauty of this is that I can take it a little at a time, knowing that I can come back and ride more in a couple of days. I actually had a ton of fun yesterday, when I sort of expected the first time out to be pure suckage until I got better. The fact that I could ride most of it the first time out is exciting. I dabbed a bunch, but there weren't a lot of long hike-a-bike sections for me. Now I just have to get the bike dialed in and start working up the two 50-mile races that I'm hoping to complete this summer.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Week #65: Last Lap

Much of last week was dedicated to celebrating my departure from Indiana with various meals with friends, capped off with a little Speedway Wheel(wo)men gathering where we ate a bunch of especially tasty Mexican food and topped it off with a bottle of "Kristal" at Kristen's house. Although I don't get to see these girls as much as I would like, even living in Indiana, it's sad to think of major life events not involving miscellaneous sparking wine and Sharpies.

It's not a a Speedway Wheel(wo)men gathering without "Kristal".
I also got one last ride at BCSP on the Karate Monkey yesterday, which I had desperately wanted, as I don't imagine that the rigid singlespeed will get much play with all the climbing and rocks in Pennsylvania. Of course, it wasn't the magical experience that was my first ride on it last year. I guess the first time on singletrack every year is tough, so it probably shouldn't be exacerbated by doing it on a rigid singlespeed. Plus, I am really, really out of shape. I can't actually tell you the last time I felt good riding a bike.

It's funny thinking back to a year ago when I was in the best shape of my life only to watch it slowly start to disintegrate as I fought through my move, divorce, etc. All my early post-move posts were all focused on my battle to return to "normal" as quickly as possible. Then Frank showed up before I really got to normal, and it became apparent that normal was never going to happen until we lived in the same town. So a year passed, I did my best to mitigate the damage to my declining fitness, and now it seems that I am finally on the brink of the new and improved normal that I set out to achieve.

I recently read the book "The Happiness Advantage" because someone suggested it based on much of the self-guided problem-solving that I've been doing. It was ironic that it finally became available at the library during the horribly stressful period of unrest that has been the last six weeks, where my desire to cultivate a better attitude and relationships at work quickly dropped off. I do think the information will be quite useful for a fresh start at my new job, where my goal for the time that I'm there really is to learn to enjoy it as much as possible and form good relationships, so that hopefully I can expect nothing but support and well-wishes during the next job search when I'll have to leave to follow Frank on the next step of his career.

Anyway, job stuffs aside, there are a couple of points in the book at are immediately relevant to my current situation. The first is finding the meaning in stress so that it is enhancing to meeting your goals rather than just stressful, and the second is that to see setbacks as temporary and within your control to fix, rather than permanent and out of your control. These are interesting because the more positive mode is where I fell naturally when I was going through my move and divorce: adrenaline, keep fighting even though you're tired, get up when you're knocked down, fight, fight, fight, because I was convinced that the finish line was near. Now I'm getting a little bit of fighter mode kicking in, but mostly I'm just tired and over it, because after a year, I'm no longer so convinced that things are temporary and under my control as I was year ago. After so many times of thinking that I was almost to the finish line and speeding up, I don't fully believe that the finish line exists.

On the last lap of a 'cross race I always find myself checking off each obstacle or hard section and telling myself it is the last time through. A little mental celebration every two minutes or so makes the pain more manageable. So here are the things that I currently see as the hard sections standing between myself and the finish line that I'm trying to reach:
1) Collect the rent check of my subletter, which I was supposed to receive last week.
2) Continue to attend work for the rest of the week when I don't want to.
3) Continue to work out for the rest of the week when I don't want to.
4) Continue to cook and eat normal meals for myself the rest of the week even though it'd be easier to live souly on bananas and almond butter.
5) Final pre-move haircut and dentist appointment.
6) Drive me and the kitties to Pennsylvania on Saturday.
7) Three weeks of settling in stuff, starting new job, and living as a squatter while I do my best to establish as much of a routine as I can and start rebuilding my fitness.
8) Once I'm *almost* in a routine, go to a work conference in Orlando from Sunday-Thursday.
9) Two days after that, drive to Indiana on Saturday, load my stuff, and drive back to Pennsylvania and put it in the new apartment.
10) Go to work exhausted on Monday morning and drag myself through the workweek after hella busy week before with no time to recover.
11) Try to get new apartment in order during the evening after tired-ass work and training all day. Honestly, I'm really going to rely on boyfriend support through this section.
12) Make it the next Friday night, sleep a whole a freakin' bunch, and wake up at approximately 9 a.m. on Saturday May 10.

So right now, I believe that Saturday, May 10 at approximately 9 a.m. I will reach the finish line to which I've been racing since I told Adam that I wanted to move out. The problem is that the finish line has moved so many times since then that I'm not fully convinced that it will stay there. Otherwise, I could totally turn on my positive genius and power through that list, which for those of you that haven't counted, covers the next 40 days of my life. I can handle 40 more days after a year of this, right? Now I just have to make myself believe that's really all there is to it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Week #64: Barry-Roubaix

I totally failed on getting any pictures of Frank's and my trip to Barry-Roubaix. It was just so freaking cold, I never wanted to take my gloves off for pictures. At one point I joked about taking a "post-winter dirty-snow hellscape selfie", due to the giant piles of dirty snow that still lingered everywhere, but we didn't. In the end, this year's Barry-Roubaix was completely different and yet very much the same as last year.

Much like last year, I really only signed up to hang out with friends and as something to do with my post-Death March fitness (which this year turned out to be not very much). Also much like last year, when I signed up I had a vague idea that a major life shake-up was coming, but had no idea it would come more quickly than imagined and coincide with the race such that the last thing I wanted to do was drive to Michigan and ride bikes in the cold with so much worry on my mind. So once again I went even though I didn't really want to at the time, and after it was over, was glad I did.

The morning started off badly with a mad scramble to get there in time to pick up our numbers, although once that happened, we had an hour and a half to wait around until the start. During this time, I discovered that I hadn't brought a sports bra, which occasionally happens when I'm packing in an unenthused state, due to the fact that my sports bras live in a different drawer than the rest of my cycling clothing. Then I dropped my sunglasses in the toilet when I went for my final pre-race bathroom stop. The saving grace of this was that we were parked at the public library, so I was using a relatively clean indoor toilet compared those closer to the starting line. By the time I was ousted from the warm car for a brief orientation ride around the start area that quickly ended with me camping out in a warm coffee shop until five minutes before the start, I had managed to shed a few tears about how badly I didn't want to be there.

Luckily Frank handled it with his usual calm and grace and got me to the starting line on time. For a few miles I was stuck in the feeling of not wanting to be there, which was then compounded by beating myself up for both letting the bad attitude slip in and moreover letting it spill out and become visible to others. My turning point came to when I told Frank that I wanted to just do the 36 mile route, even though we were signed up for the 62. At the time we were DFL in the wave, which was the last of the day, and we were on pace for over 5.5 hours of lonely, cold riding. We eventually caught and passed a couple of 62-mile riders, but once our ride was cut down to what equated to a good workout at my current fitness level instead of an all-day torture session, I felt much better about things. I did struggle with a few more miles of worrying that Frank would be disappointed in me for not doing to whole thing, but I knew that any disappointment he felt would be tempered with relief for not having to ride that long, either.

By the end we were happy and chatty again, and we finished in time eat with my friend Isabel and her family. I think my real problem was mostly just not wanting to spend all day on the bike and finish too late to see or talk to anyone after, so once things were more manageable, I was happier. I know that I *can* ride 62 miles, but there simply was no benefit in it for me that day.

So now we are back in Bloomington with less than two weeks until my departure for Pennsylvania. We have our own house lined up for May 1, so the actual furniture move is still six weeks out. I have a subletter lined up for June and July, so at least I get a couple months' relief from double rent. Now I'm just going through all of my mental checklists about what needs to be packed up when, what needs to make it in into the car for the first trip to PA in April, what sources of income will be received when and into which bank account they should go, etc. It's still pretty exhausting, but we're getting closer to settled every day. I can't wait to get there and get started working at my new job, riding the Rothrock gnar, and just living everyday life with Frank instead of driving back and forth all of the time.