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.

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.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Week #63: Unplanned Rest for the Weary

Frank and I ended up getting 4th place in the co-ed division in the Death March, so it turned out much better than we expected. Of course, it mostly just left us playing "what if" regarding the 20 minutes separating us from the podium. Our navigation was flawless, but there was leisurely cookie consumption by both of us at different points after Combs Rd. when we just wanted to make it back alive. We probably would have summoned a lot more old lady/man strength had we known we were in contention rather than just survival mode, but as there were at least four teams ahead of us going our direction, plus Scott and Janelle taking a different route and blowing everyone out of the water. However, when the checkpoints were tallied, we came out ahead of a couple of teams that finished before us. Oh well, there was no symbolic beer on the line this year, anyway.

The past week was mostly spent trying to recover from the combined stress of my job search, the resulting cold, and doing the Death March while in terrible shape and still a little sick. I was pretty trashed all week and ended up calling in sick on Friday when I spent most of the night awake with the weird inexplicable stomach pains that I get a few times a year but can't link to any particular food. At least the much-needed day of doing practically nothing except napping started me on the path to feeling normal again.

On Saturday, we were able to get out for a 30 mile mixed-surface ride, which after the week I'd had, felt almost as hard as the Death March did. It was a little demoralizing, but I knew that it was important to get back on the horse, er bike. I rested more on Sunday, and now I'm hoping to get back into a semi-normal schedule leading into Barry-Roubaix.

Otherwise, the big challenge of the week is resolving our housing situation. The current plan is to try and find a place that we can go ahead and move into May 1 and keep through at least August 2015, while Frank's roommate and his girlfriend will live in Frank's current place until their lease is up in August. This plan also includes me and the kitties basically being squatters at Frank's house for the month of April and then coming back to actually move my stuff at the beginning of May. It's not an ideal situation, but it will be nice knowing that we'll be settled in a place of our own for the summer. Also, I'm still looking for a subletter to relieve some of the financial burden of all these moves, so pass this along to anyone who might be interested:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week #62: Death March and New Life

I'm not really sure what to say about this year's Death March, except that we were really ill-prepared and it was really hard. Of course, I knew that going in, and there was really very little I could do, especially when I ended up spending most of the last week and half before the race with a nasty cold. So we just rode the best we could, and stuck with the minimalist approach, which meant no Callahan, Gorbits, Hawkins, or Gil Gal. Anything that we got beyond the required checkpoints was either directly on the way or required less than a mile of detour.

Still early, still smiling.
Somehow after two fewer total miles and six fewer miles of singletrack, we still managed to finish an hour slower than last year. I know that conditions were worse this year, but it was still disappointing. I'm not sure how we finished, because we didn't stay around for results. I would still guess top third or so in the co-ed division, but who knows.  Along the way, Frank asked if this was my third Death March, and I said yes, it was my third start, although my first attempt didn't go so well. I said I'd had one very bad one and one very good one, so I guess I was due for a medium one. We did okay, and it wasn't any more painful than one would expect under those conditions.

I had to mock Frank just a tiny bit.
Now for the good news. Although our Death March campaign didn't turn out the way we'd hoped at the beginning of the winter, admittedly not much did. However, it all seems to have worked out, as this morning I accepted a new job at Penn State that included a hefty raise. I'll be moving to State College on April 6 and starting my new job on April 14. We still have some housing issues to work out, as I try to figure out what to do about my lease in Bloomington from April-August and we decide whether we want to cave to the demands the 21-year-old aspiring slumlord that recently purchased the house where Frank has lived for three years or look for a new place for August. So there are still a few things to work out, and moving is always a pain in the butt, but we finally get to be together full-time without too much financial distress, so yay for that!

Our best #scenicvistaselfie yet.
It's going to be an interesting season to say the least. We're signed up for Barry-Roubaix in a couple of weeks, which will be my last race before I move. Then my goals are mostly centered around me vs. Rothrock for the summer, but as a test of that, I will probably race either the Rothrock TrailMix or Stoopid 50, depending on my fitness and skills in mid-June. Otherwise, I just want to ride bikes with Frank.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Week #61: Poised

I said remember this feeling
I passed the pictures around
Of all the years that we stood there
On the side-lines wishing for right now
We are the Kings and the Queens
You traded your baseball cap for a crown
When they gave us our trophies
And we held them up for our town
And the cynics were outraged
Screaming "this is absurd"
Cause for a moment a band of thieves
In ripped up jeans got to rule the world

Erik did, in fact, get a crown tattoo two days later to commemorate his OVCX "Cat 4 King" status.

The picture above represents three things to me: 1) One of my greatest triumphs 2) One of the last happy moments with my once best friend 3) The moment when my real life began.

At the beginning of the 2012 cyclocross season, I was lost. Since my Cat 4 championship the year before, I had been continually beaten down by a project at work and had succumbed to the stress. I came into the season not at all prepared for my ascent into the elite wave. I was going through a very bad period of depression and didn't know where I belonged anymore. As depression has a way of doing, I had become convinced that no one cared about me and that even my supposed friends wouldn't like me if they actually knew the real me. Erik was new to the scene, and he had weird way of treating me like we were already friends as soon as we met. It wasn't the polite way you treat someone that you meet and *want* to be friends with; it was a disconcerting step over that to a relaxed rapport that I just don't have with strangers. Strangely, the polite stage was what had been keeping me at arm's length from people, so being thrown into automatic friend stage was a wake-up call.

Although looking back I think it was just a quirk of his personality, that everyone he meets is automatically his best friend during the time they spend together, it was the wake-up call that changed everything for me. To be reminded of what actual human connection feels like when you've built up walls so thick and so high for your whole adult life is crazy. That is when I started pursuing a life in which that feeling was the rule rather than the exception. As my journey progressed, the rough road ahead became clear and I knew that the person who started me down that road might not make it to the end with me. So last year's Death March was very intentionally a practice run crushing the gravel of life and the chance to seal one last happy memory the person who had inspired it.

After it was over, I knew it was time to quit pretending and move on to building the life I wanted. Unfortunately, I was correct in my fears of losing my friend, but I understand why it had to be that way. Otherwise I probably would have never known how to really depend on myself and the others that have since become my circle of support. I had to give up things that were standing in the way of something better.

Now just days before another Death March, I once again sit poised for everything for which I've been striving to come together, wondering if I will truly be so lucky as to pull it off. Part of me wishes that included success at the race, but if Frank and I end up holding six-packs of Hopslam and grinning for the camera, it will be purely due to luck and/or remnants of the work I put in last year. Really, I'm just hoping that I'll even be able to concentrate on the race at all, as the prize on which my eyes currently rest is greater than symbolic beer and may or may not be in my hands by Saturday.

I'm not going to deny that I'm disappointed in myself for not being able to pull off a successful Death March campaign and major life overhaul all at once. I'm well aware that there is more to life than bike racing, so there's no need to remind me, but I'm sort of ready for this cycling blog to become a cycling blog again, and frankly, I like the taste of symbolic beer. As much as I'll mourn the loss of BCSP as my home trail, part of me does relish the challenge of making friends with the Rothrock rocks once I'm moved to Pennsylvania and to have the biggest obstacles in my life be made of granite. I'm crossing my fingers that those days come sooner rather than later.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Week #60: Does This Gorilla Look Tired Yet?

Last Thursday, I got up, put in my normal day of work, then left straight for State College from the office. Nine hours and waaaay too much sugar later (trying to keep energy up without caffeine so late in the day), I arrived at Frank's house a little before 1:00 a.m. As happy as I was to get a bonus weekend with my favorite person just a few days after spending a whole week with him, the real purpose of the trip was that I had two job interviews on Friday. To up the nerve-wracking stakes, they were back-to-back at 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., because those were the only times available for either party. At least they were in the same building just one floor apart.

I feel like both interviews went well, with one being a seemingly perfect fit from my perspective (I hope the feeling was mutual), and another at which I also would probably do quite well, although I have a feeling that they may have other candidates with more specific experience. After that, I slept a whole bunch, finally got a sunny but windy outdoor ride in with Frank on his new #yoloroadbike, and got to have one day of pleasure mixed into a mostly stressful trip. Then I had to drive home and get ready to drag my exhausted, sugar-poisoned butt back to work on Monday like everything was normal.

The last part is the hardest. I want to shut down, sit on the couch, and self-medicate with junk food until I hear something. If by the end of the week I have a new position secured, the few days of lapse will almost seem justifiable. It will seem that I did what I had to do to survive an incredibly stressful period, and having the new job offer, the self-inflicted damage will look minor in comparison to what has been gained. Unfortunately, we never know when our fortunes will finally turn. Although I certainly feel like I'm due for some good luck and signs that it will all work out look promising, experience has taught me that the world owes you nothing and it will only give you a break when it damn well pleases. Therefore, I'm also mentally preparing to not be devastated if I'm not offered one of the jobs this week.

The past year, I've really started to understand that saying about how success is like wrestling with a gorilla, and that you don't stop when you're tired but when the gorilla is tired. I'm tired as hell, but I'm not sure where the gorilla stands, so I have to do what I can to maintain my strength. That means keeping up with my training, nutrition, and sleep, as well as not taking any unnecessary time off from my current job and doing my best to focus while I'm here. All of that will leave me in the best position to succeed when I finally do catch a break, but that doesn't mean that it's not super hard to do.

I'm also struggling once again with the feeling of bearing the burden of these circumstances alone, like the future of Lindsay and Frank is resting on my feeble shoulders (this stuff is certainly distracting from my pull-up goal so they're still feeble). He is also working hard right now, and I am very appreciative and proud of him for that, but it's work that won't pay off for another year or two. There's not a lot that he can do for our immediate circumstances except shower me with appreciation and encouragement for the work I'm putting in to secure our short-term future, and then maybe help me move when the time comes.

And there in that expectation, I've realized, lies my problem. All I can think about is how hard this is for me and how much effort I'm putting in, and I want to be praised for that. However, I've come to realize that I'm expecting praise for something that I'm mostly doing for myself.

My own recent desperation for appreciation takes me back to days of dealing with Adam getting mad at me for not showing enough appreciation for him. I'm not so prideful as to say that there weren't many times when I should have shown more appreciation than I did, and thus I always make it a point now to thank Frank for everything he does for me, big and small. However, when I was dealing with depression and had to endure pouty fits over Adam always being the one to do the dishes, all that did was build resentment because: a) if I cared that much about the dishes I would have done them myself, but dishes are usually pretty low on depressed-people priority lists b) being told that I was selfish only made me feel more depressed and hopeless. In remembering this, I came to clearly see the futility in expecting to be lavished with appreciation from people who merely benefit from things that you do primarily to fulfill your own needs. Literally or figuratively yelling, "Hey, look how selfless I am!" is lame and pretty much defeats the purpose.

Of course, my situation now is very different, except for that core truth. Frank is certainly not uncaring or selfish in this situation; in fact he probably one of the more genuinely unselfish people that I know. He does tell me that he appreciates my willingness to move for him and the efforts that I'm making towards making that a reality. I just sometimes wish for some special level of gushing when I'm feeling extra scared or insecure. You know, maybe a parade or something would do.

Then it hits me: Frank would have been okay no matter what. It's good for him that I'm taking charge and trying to get a job so that he can stay in a place that's better for him, and I'm sure being spared the inconvenience of having to look for a job and move is nice, too, but if he'd had to move to Bloomington and take some crappy job so that we could be together, it just wouldn't be as big of a deal for him as it would be for me. I just didn't want to be the person to make him go through that. (Hey! Look how selfless I am!)

Really, I'm mostly doing all of this to satisfy my own need for security, so his response is proportional to benefit that he's actually getting. He doesn't *need* the plan/stability/security the way I do; he just benefits from my obtaining them, so it's unfair to expect gushing thanks for a gift that's nice but not what he needs most. I'm still working on figuring out what that is.

So that's the difference between us. He's more or less okay no matter what, while I still find dealing with everyday struggles and disappointments to be like wrestling with a gorilla. If I'm not offered either of the jobs, he will be disappointed but not too worried, while I will have to gather all the strength that I have just to get through the next couple of weeks of my normal daily life while I formulate Plan D and start hoping that it comes through. I guess that it is just another manifestation of the hole of which I've spoken before. Maybe wrestling the gorilla is part of the healing process, as I am certainly able to feel okay in a greater variety of situations than I was a year ago and I'm also more resilient in the face of disappointment than I used to be. I obviously still have a long way to go, but I can't help but hope that maybe the gorilla will at least give me a time out sometime soon.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Week #59: Hopeful and Terrified

Things are mostly looking better than they were at the time of my last post, at least in the general life sense. In the prepared for Death March sense, they are looking worse. Another 8-9 inches of snow fell on Thursday followed by more cold and another 2-4 inches on Saturday, so today is now day number 15 of no outdoor riding. Hopefully that trend will break tomorrow.

We did make the best of the snow dump, and added a little snow tubing to our "Arbitrary Day of Love" celebration. It's like Valentine's Day, but the day before so that the restaurants are less crowded and we can open presents sooner, because we're kind of bad at waiting. Oh well, this was the first time in my life I've been excited about Valentine's Day, because I found the perfect present weeks ahead of time. Okay, it was perfect in it's appropriate level weirdness. I saw where you could order marshmallows with your Instagram photos on them, so I thought what better way to celebrate than printing the key moments of our Instaromance on sugary confections? There's nothing like dunking selfies in hot cocoa.

Otherwise, the rest of my trip was spent planning/mentally preparing to move to State College. The job search is looking very hopeful, although the thought of having to make an emergency trip for an in-person interview is quite daunting, but I suppose I will do what I have to do, if needed. I just hope that it doesn't take a whole bunch of trips to get things settled. So that is why I'm both hopeful and terrified right now. There are quite a few things that are looking like they are in our favor, but still a few too many moving parts flying around that I expect to break at any moment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Week #58: Setbacks

This week is definitely a "I'm posting because I'm committed to doing a weekly post" post. In addition to my lack of (good) material, I have been in State College since Saturday, so I've had other things taking priority over blogging. However, since Frank is still dedicating a few hours a day to dissertation writing and teaching, I find myself with some free time on my hands

The theme since my last entry has been setbacks. At the time of my last entry, I was merely "rested" after backing off my training bit, but I never seemed to get back on. A big snowstorm on Tuesday kept me on the trainer for the evening, and when the roads were still in bad shape on Wednesday, I thought, "One night off won't kill me." We all know that slippery slope.

On Friday evening I came home to a For Rent sign in front of my house, which really bummed me out after what had been a pretty positive day until that point. I knew this was coming since they had already given me an extension to recommit for the 2014-2015 academic year, but I can't commit to another year due to the circumstances discussed in last week's post. They don't allow an early termination clause, so if I sign a lease, I'm stuck with paying the rent or finding a sub-letter until August 2015. Now there is a chance that I could lose it for next year before any official plans are made. I really like that house and they gave me an awesome deal on the rent, so I would really like to stay in Bloomington and still live there if we can find a suitable position for Frank at IU.

The other setback that happened on Friday was that Frank got hit by a car door while commuting on Friday. He's now in a split due to a possible fracture in his left ring finger, and has not been able to ride since then. The lack of a tour guide, the big dump of snow on Sunday, and the fact that it has not been warmer than 25 degrees have kept me off the bike since I've been here. So today is day nine of no outside riding, so not only am I super behind on Death March training, I just feel pretty icky at this point. Hopefully, we can hike Mount Nittany tomorrow, which might not help my Death March performance, but will hopefully be good for my mental state.

Despite all this, as well as another relatively minor unexpected setback in the future plans department that left me spending a significant portion of yesterday crying, Frank has been awesomely supportive, and *most* of the time I'm confident that I will be happy in the end no matter how all of these big questions get settled. As far as good news, I did successfully work up the courage to lift weights at the Penn State fitness facility, which was every bit as awful as I imagined it would be, but since then I've found a gym that could be a reasonable replacement for The Iron Pit if I were to move here. I was also just invited for a phone interview for what should be a pretty good job here, so hopefully my not being able to find a job that's better than or equal to what I have in Bloomington doomsday scenario won't come to pass.

Finally, we did get our #scenicviewselfie, although it was off of the balcony of the cottage where Frank's office is located rather than a mountain. Perhaps I'll have some snowy mountain pictures for you on Monday, even if they mountain must be traversed on foot.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Week #57: Partnership, And Not Just The Death March Variety

The past week wasn't so fruitful in the training realm. I've felt like I was fighting more physical fatigue through January than I was last winter, but perhaps it was a combination of being stuck inside more and trying to do more earlier than last year. I think my expectations for January were based on where I was in March and April last year instead of comparing myself to last January where I really was starting pretty much from scratch on New Year's Eve. However, last year I did continue to make some sort of progress every week from January 1 through Death March.

This year I feel like I started much further ahead, but have made little progress other than improving my deadlift and getting closer to my unassisted pull-up goal. Given, these are important to me, and I have been heavily focused on them, whereas last year was more about just meeting my goal of showing up to the gym three times a week and doing whatever workout my trainer had assigned. It was more base-like, I think. Aside from my strength improvements, my body composition and anything regarding a bike have been completely stagnant, so that's a little frustrating. Last week I ended up doing some deloading in the gym to try to freshen up a bit before the last five-week push until Death March. Some stomach ickiness on Friday night forced some additional rest, so I'm no longer in danger of overtraining. Now it's just about getting refocused and trying to figure out the best way to balance my somewhat conflicting goals.

Aside from training, my focus last week was dealing with some interpersonal conflict at work and all of the things regarding my fate for the next 18 months. Regarding the former, I am proud that I am finally making the effort and developing the skills to address issues and try to fix them instead of just withdrawing and being unhappy. I'm not yet sure if my efforts were successful, but I suppose it was good practice either way.

As to the latter, it was a matter coming to terms with the options for next year and formulating some if>then scenarios. Of course, plan A is Frank gets a tenure-track position at a major research university that's adjacent to both a good cyclocross series and excellent mountain biking trails and where I am able to find a decent job, as well. Okay, really it's just any full-time faculty position or good post doc that offers a paycheck, health insurance, and will make some sort of positive contribution to his career. Plan B is that he gets a staff position at IU that still allows him to get writing done and set himself up well for 2015 and allows me to keep my stable employment for the time being.

Neither Plan A or B or any of the sub-options thereof are guaranteed to work out, so it might turn out that the best option is for him to stay at Penn State and keep the support system he has now while preparing for 2015. That means that to be with him and still do what's best for him, and really both of us in the long term, is to leave the stability of IU and delve into unknown world of trying to find acceptable employment at Penn State.

Throw in some complications with leases, roommates, kitties, etc., and I go into full panic mode. What if I don't find a job by August? What if I have to take a crappy, low-paying job? I've already been struggling with all of the material things that I've had to give up since moving out on my own, so the thought of giving up more is very upsetting. I know that sounds shallow and lame, but it was how I was feeling most of last week, although I have mostly worked it out.

A lot of my issue has to do with moving to Bloomington newly married and straight out grad school thinking that I was good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like...well, I'm actually sort of an obstinate bitch but a really smart one. This town quickly started eating me alive when I discovered that all my supposed preparation for successful adulthood via degrees, good grades, etc. was totally irrelevant. I had to start at the bottom and scrape my way to the upper middle as I have been doing for the last eight and a half years. I was stuck with a partner who would never really do more to improve the situation than he did on day one and gave little support or appreciation for how hard the transition was for me.

So I quickly learned that whatever financial or emotional needs that I had, I would have to meet myself. He would wash dishes and fix bikes. I continued to get hard-fought promotions and make more money, but the gain was never really more than the cost. I could never get ahead. I wasn't that successful at going it alone, which is why I dealt with stuff through binge-eating, over-spending whatever little financial gain I could get, and thinking that if I could just win bike races it would make my life worthwhile. Of course, that is why I came finally came to the conclusion that if I was going to go it alone, I should actually be alone and maybe open myself up to opportunity to not being emotionally and financially self-supporting forever.

Then I found the kind of emotionally supportive person that could barely conceptualize previously, and way faster than I expected at that. Pretty much as soon as I met him I was able to share my burdens with him without fear of judgement. His company has a way of making shitty things feel less shitty, so I think that if worse does come to worse, that it won't be as hard this time. I may get a little pissy at fate for putting me through that a second time, but I know that it will be temporary, and we will both be working equally hard to improve the situation as soon as possible.

So, with that, I started applying to jobs at Penn State last week with the thought that possibly getting a job too early was better than letting things come down to the wire. It would be inconvenient as I still have a lease in Bloomington until August and he still has a roommate in State College, but if it comes to it, we'll makes it work. There's also the chance that one of the more preferred options will work out right about the time I accept a job there, but again, we'll cross that bridge when it comes. I just feel better that I can finally take some action rather than just sitting and waiting.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Week #56: Isolation

In this "off season", rather than just disappearing for the winter and posting pictures of ourselves riding trainers on Facebook, I would like to try to see people and maybe even do non-cycling things. - Me, December 2012

And, admittedly, this was on Instagram, not Facebook.

Okay, so I didn't do a super awesome job fulfilling that statement last winter, but I think I did better than in any winter past. I actually rode with people and stuff, even if I didn't manage to develop the social life I wanted until I was living on my own and didn't have to explain to anyone where I'd been or with whom. With the extra craptastical weather this winter, I have fallen further back into my previous pattern of isolation. 

With the unpredictability of the weather, I've been reluctant to try to make riding plans with people, and don't particularly want to be responsible for dragging someone else to into a ride that could turn out to be a total mess. Unless, of course, that person is Frank, in which case its an important bonding experience where we each get to see what the other is made of. Otherwise, I feel pretty guilty being like, "Oh hey, I super don't want to ride today, but do you want to come along and join the misery?" At least so far I've been successful at getting myself out the door, despite my own protests, but I'm not sure I can handle that for anyone else.

So, needless to say, part of my hermit-like behavior has to do with the fact that most of my mental energy is going to "getting up and doing what needs to be done" regarding my training plan. So, partly lame, partly yay for me. Otherwise, I did have the feeling that I should engage in some sort of human contact Saturday night, but after my trip to the farmer's market that morning, I had $86 to last me until Friday morning. So the hermit behavior was also kind of necessary to keep that total from going any lower.

Okay, maybe I do.

So much like last year, Death March training seems to be coming along, perhaps at the price of social interaction. Hopefully, I can improve on that soon. For now, I'm happy to report that I completed all planned workouts last week, with the exception that the HNF gravel was still pretty snow-covered, and I didn't get in nearly as many miles on Sunday as I had hoped. Sometimes you just have to give yourself props for getting out and doing a long ride in bad conditions, even if "long" is relative.

Otherwise, the biggest thing occupying my mind lately is Frank's job search and the ongoing question of where I will be living August. [Late edit: I realized that the "I" in that statement should be "we". Part of my problem is that I've not completely started thinking in those terms yet.] It's looking less and less like that place will be Bloomington, so I'm now really having to confront my fears about finding a new job, moving, etc. It's really hard being in a situation where I just have to sit and wait for answers and can't take any action on anything yet. I keep trying to tell myself that last January I didn't know where I'd be living in August, either, and that turned out pretty alright, but so far that's only been minorly helpful. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Week #55: Snow Rides and Cemetery Selfies

Winter training continued to progress more or less on track last week. I still feel like I'm not quite as up to the training load as I'd hoped I'd be, but last year my Mondays and Wednesdays were 45-60 minute easy outdoor rides, so even if I was feeling fatigued, I didn't worry too much about just going out and pedaling through it. With this year being significantly colder and snowier, as well as the desire to step it up a notch over last season and spend more time training than dressing, I am attempting to do intervals on the trainer on Monday and Wednesday nights instead.

It's a bit of a double-edged sword, though, as it contributes a more fatigue on top of the fact that my body is still adjusting to the three-times-a-week weight-lifting sessions. From my experience last year, three weight sessions and one "weekly ass-kicking" long ride plus a couple of shorter rides was plenty to bring on a good improvement of fitness by March without wearing me out too much. This year I'm shooting for a little more, but I still don't want to overdo it. Therefore my consistency hasn't been as spot-on as last year. I have chosen rest over intervals a couple of times so far, so time will tell if those were good decisions or not.


This week my ass-kicking was delayed until Monday, as Frank was traveling to an academic workshop at the University of Illinois on Saturday, and stopped by after to visit me for Sunday and the MLK Day holiday on Monday. Since Saturday was cold and snowy, I just swapped in Monday's trainer workout and waited to ride outside with Frank on Monday, which turned out to be a pretty nice day for January. I wanted to get in a sufficient ass-kicking while not spending *too* much time out there, considering the limited time we had together this visit.

As I think I have mentioned before, the "I just want to ride bikes with you" slogan does have its limits. I definitely like riding bikes with Frank, but I think it should be more of "I just want to ride bikes with you, but also sleep in, eat leisurely breakfasts, cook long complicated meals consisting of odd animal parts, watch entire seasons of TV shows in a weekend, and construct various homemade furniture and household goods with you." So the challenge is always to balance riding bikes with all of the other things.

It's hard to choose a good line under the snow, so I followed the coyote's tracks in the hope that he would keep me on the path of least resistance.

So I decided that what I thought would be about 30 miles that included the my first trek to Callahan since last year's Death March would be sufficient ass-kicking without super-excessive time spent. Add an inch of snow to the mix, and the ass-kicking and time spent both go up a lot more than planned. In the end, it was apparently 25 miles in about 3.5 hours. Most of this was the fact that once we crossed the creek right before Callahan, we ditched the bikes and hiked up the rest of the way up the hill to the cemetery in our increasingly snow-packed cycling shoes, as there was no way that the 'cross bikes would make that steep grade in the snow. I was definitely dreaming of some 45NRTH Fasterkatts as my shoe cover kept filling with ice. We also had to do a lot of hiking out due to steepness, mud, and bad trail conditions on the way out, as the snow was starting to get extra wet and sticky on that end of the trail. My brakes were also failing on me with all of the ice, so I had to walk any downhill of significance, as well, to avoid crashing.

Once we made it back to the road, things were fine except for being colder and wetter than we had expected to be, but we definitely got our ass-kicking done in plenty of time to come back, get the bikes clean before dark (well, my wonderful boyfriend did that while I cooked), shove a ton of food in our mouths, and still get in a couple of episodes of The Killing before bed. Mission accomplished.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Week #54: According to Plan

I would've had us swerving through those streets
Over and over
I would've stalled or rushed us through those greens
Over and over
But you knew that
And you wouldn't let me lose control

You carried romance in the palm of your hand
You called the plays for us
You clung to self-restraint, you followed the plan
You put the brakes on this

And it drove me
And it drove me
And it drove me wild

Once the snowpocalypse ended, and I *finally* had to go back to real work with real co-workers present and everything on Wednesday, I was struck with a familiar feeling. It was the feeling that I was tired, and going back to real work was hard, and I really didn't want to get on the trainer that evening. However, when I arrived home, I changed clothes, got on the trainer, performed the first interval, and then performed the next, until I was two-thirds through my goal of 12 and figured I might as well finish. When it was over, I was struck with another familiar feeling of things being really simple in a the midst of ever-complicate life situations. Despite all of the big changes going on in my life that are out my control, it was time to be in control of my destiny in a silly little bike race in March by making one good decision at a time. Once the first one was made, each subsequent one becomes a little easier.

I don't have any training pictures this cos winter gloves, so here are the kitties and I "recovering" between morning ride and weight training on Saturday.
So as that transformation was taking place this week, the above lyrics through my head a lot. As I sit through extended time away from the man I love, wait to find out what the next year holds for us, and contemplate my cycling and work plans in the context of this uncertainty, I remember how having at least one plan in place can make the other uncertainty a little more tolerable. So I'll continue to get on my bike when I'm supposed to get on my bike, go to the gym when I need to go to the gym, and climb unnecessary ass-kicking gravel climbs when I need to reduce myself to a puddle of goo so that I can recover and become less goo-like later. Then, maybe once that's all over, March will bring some answers to my bigger questions and I can formulate a bigger and better plan.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Week #53: A New Year's Snowpocalypse

See what I did there? I wasn't really sure what to do with my whole weekly numbering system at the end of the year. I decided that since it was supposed to end at 10 after last year's Death March but didn't, I might as well keep going. Last week may have begun a new year, but it was the 53rd week of the rest of my life.

To celebrate this, Frank and I headed to Indy to take part in a fancy New Year's Eve party held by friends of some of our CX buddies. I think I had been dreaming of getting dressed up and kissing him at a fancy party on New Year's Eve pretty much since I met him. This is probably because he has a great fashion sense and actually enjoys getting dressed up, a rare and wonderful quality in a man, although I admittedly get jealous sometimes when he looks better than me. We'd really wanted to stay in Bloomington due to all the travel that we'd each already been through in the previous couple of weeks, and sleeping in my own bed was a luxury to which I was just becoming accustomed again. However, nothing good was happening in Bloomington, so we decided it was worth the extra effort to be with friends and have a more memorable experience.

I missed waking up in my own bed, but waking up to my favorite puppy, Lo, outside the door was a good consolation. 
As I mentioned before, Frank had to head back to State College on Friday, which left me alone for my weekend Death March training, but I was much more at peace with that by the time the weekend came. With the whole trying to be less selfish thing, I realized that my being pouty would only increase his stress without getting me any closer to what I wanted, so I let it go. It was a little hard getting inspired for a 446 pavement ride, which is what I expected would be necessary after a decent amount of snow on Thursday, but I made it out the door. Once I got out there I saw that the side roads were less snow-covered than I expected, so I did do the loop of checkpoints west of 446 just to break things up a bit. I'm still at the point where just getting through a long ride is about all I can do, and the pop still hasn't come yet, but I've got 9 weeks for the legs to come around.

My front window was completely iced over from the inside, so Clemmie decided it made a good kitty popsicle.

Sunday was the beginning of the supposed Snowpocalyse 2014, although it mostly just was 33 and rainy for most of the day, with the snow only setting in the very late afternoon. Although not as nasty as expected, it still wasn't really going outside weather. I got in a short trainer ride in the morning and my regularly scheduled weight session in the afternoon. My body is still adjusting to the 3X a week winter weight training schedule, but it's getting better and I'm making good progress on my goal to *finally* do an unassisted dead hang pull-up before the winter is over.

I had all but lost hope of a snow day on Monday, but somehow we did have one called before bedtime on Sunday, at which I was elated. I awoke to a temperature of -9 degrees and more snow on the ground than I had expected. I proceeded to spend the entire day inside with the kitties while I gave my muscles time to recovery between the Sunday and Tuesday training sessions.

With another snow day today, it should be my third day in a row of almost exclusively indoor kitty time, but I did venture out to run some errands and will go to the gym later. I guess even I have my limits for PJ's and kitty cuddles.


Finally, with the new year beginning last week and Death March registration starting, it was time to reanimate my Death March Memes Tumblr. This made for popular winter entertainment last year, but I haven't been super inspired yet, so please feel free to contribute your creations to lindsayhall99 at hotmail dot com.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Week #52: What Have We Learned?

So we have finally reached Week #52 of this experiment, as well as the point of December in which my old lady strength is kicking in enough to get me through New Year's Eve. The Christmasiness has reached it's end, and I finally got to come home to my kitties on Saturday. I even found the strength to get up and kick off my 2014 Death March training on Sunday, despite travel fatigue and blown hamstrings from rolling Frank's niece and nephew around his parents' basement in a very large bucket on Friday night. Apparently I found some effective way to interact with children, which is something that doesn't come very naturally to me.

My first ride was rough due to the conditions mentioned above, and the fact that the weather went from 42 and sunny to very cold, windy, and overcast by the end of the ride. I was very slow, but I was glad that I was able to put in nearly 50 miles in the first go, a task that took several weeks to work up to last year. I also already have the navigation part on lock already, unless some new checkpoints are added. I sort of hope that there are, as I need the strategy part of the race on my side. If nothing changes strategy-wise, the competition will inevitably smarter, which means that I will have to be faster. I'm doing my best to account for that with training early and often, but I still welcome any changes that might swing the odds in my favor.

My not-flat gravel ride in Oklahoma last week
I'm already facing my first challenge of the new season as Frank is being called back to State College by work two days earlier than planned, which will leave me training solo next weekend as well as robbing me of two precious days with him when I wasn't going to get very many this month to begin with. I'm trying my best not to be too pouty about this, but it is a huge bummer. During my mental complaining about this during Sunday's solo ride, I came to the conclusion that The Hopshop is the pink-haired hootchie of 2014.

For some reason it seems like I should tell this story now as it is funny many months and intervening events removed. At the time I wasn't in full brutal honesty stage yet and there was a definite element of "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". The deal is that last year my partner fell in love with a pink-haired hootchie in Chicago that pretty much rendered him useless as training partner during the month of February. Now don't get up in arms about this statement; this was just the title that was bestowed on her, and I can't actually comment on anything positive or negative regarding her personality or any other attributes only that she inadvertently caused me disappointment and inconvenience and thus I was happy to propagate the title. Mature, I know.

I kept this out of my blogging except for a couple of vague references to being mad about having to ride alone, but since I knew I was being somewhat unreasonable in my expectations, I kept the public bitching to a minimum. I was just disappointed that I was left to deal with things on my own during what we all now know was a much more rough period of my life than I'd admit at the time and didn't like being deprived of one of the few things that I had to look forward to during those months. However, it turned out to be a very formative experience for me because it was the first significant time in my life when I dealt with disappointment in a constructive rather than a destructive manner. It forced me to be creative in keeping up my motivation and to seek out help from sources that I wouldn't have otherwise, which lead to several great friendships and a greater sense of self-sufficiency. Also, I can't really be mad looking back now, because I now know have first-hand experience with what long-distance love can do to a person, so I'm much more sympathetic. I don't expect that I could have received nominations for any super awesome dependable friend awards in the last six months, either.

So what does this random snippet of unblogged material from 2013 have to do with year-end review? Everything, really. It contains all of the elements related to my 2013 resolutions, as well as the things that I would like to improve in 2014. To review, my 2013 resolutions were the following:

1) To increase both the quantity and quality of my friendships.

 2) To cultivate interests outside of cycling so that I have other things to talk about with all of these awesome new friends.

This experience was the real turning point at which I started to make headway on these resolutions, and I probably wouldn't have made the successful trajectory that I did this year without being forced out of my comfort zone. I feel like I was very successful in achieving the first goal, although it is an ongoing process, and this year I want to continue to improve in this area. As I mention above, I have let one very special new social connection take precedence over the others the last few months, and I want to work harder to give more time and energy to my other relationships without giving any less to my relationship with Frank. This won't necessarily be easy, finding more to give, but I think that's part of the growing path that I am on, and I will find a way.

As for the second resolution, I'm not sure that I achieved it in letter, but I think I achieved it in spirit. Part of this was really just about doing things with other people besides cycling. I got a lot better at this. I didn't really take up any huge new hobbies or anything, but I made my prior interests more social. For example, cooking is a lot more exciting when it's for other people, rather than just fueling yourself. I still don't really have any close non-bike friends, which I feel would be an asset, but I think I've been pretty successful overall.

Finally, my new goals for 2014 are woven throughout my anecdote, although they've really only become clear to me lately. Those are to be less self-absorbed and also to love/care for people on their own level.

I'm hoping the first will help with generating more time and energy for friends if I'm not so wrapped up in my own stuff. Although I consider myself to be pretty empathetic in general, I do have a way of just forgetting to think about other people. It's not even being purposely selfish or asshole-like, although I'm not innocent of those either, but that I just don't know how to behave correctly towards people that I care about because I've been disconnected from normal functioning society for too long. The whole realization that I should have sent out Christmas cards is an example of this. I hate fake pleasantries, and I'm not used to having people that care about me and that I care about them, so the fact that I should engage in genuine expressions of my appreciation and affection slipped my mind. So basically, I want people to actually benefit from having a relationship with me rather just having them like me. There really is a difference.

As for love/care for people on their own level, this is more complicated. What I mean by this is the emotional bargaining that goes on between people. You like someone and want them to like you back, so you give them something physically, emotionally, or socially. However, what you have to offer and what they truly want are not necessarily the same thing, so is the relationship worthwhile? Can you like someone based on the fact that they like you, even if it's not in the way you want?

This mostly has to do with my relationship with my mother, as we have come to an impasse where I've realized that we will never really be able to give the other one what they want. She is very religious, and her religion simply does not compute with me. We really, truly cannot see things from each other's point of view. She is my mother and I love her for loving me and doing so many things for me, but I will never really have her approval as long as I stay true to myself. So resolving this is the biggest example of this phenomenon is my life, but it's true with everyone on some micro level.

So there is my plan for the upcoming year. I have one more tough semester away from Frank that will include a lot more three-weeks breaks than the mostly two week breaks we had through the fall, but it's what has to happen so that we can be together full-time in a few months. Hopefully, I can once again turn my free time into something constructive, and handle my disappointment in a positive manner.

Here's to 2014!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Week #51: "Home" for the Holidays

The past week was pretty uneventful, in that it was full of events, but none that I feel like talking about nor particularly wanted to attend, and thus didn't have a lot of time for things I did want to do. Oh well, as I have covered in the last two weeks' posts, it just put me closer to the other side of this month's section of metaphorical chunky gravel. I now have zero work lunch party things, one less 12-hour drive, and one less family holiday celebration left. Coming up I have a Christmas Eve dinner with my mom's side of the family, a 12-hour drive to Frank's parents', their post-Christmas family Christmas, and a four-hour return trip to my kitties on Saturday. If all goes well, I will wake up Sunday morning with nothing to do but drive myself out to the HNF and ride some literal gravel.

"The world's largest McDonald's" was out of commission as I passed through on my journey back to my parents' house.
The other big thing for me this week is something that is out of my control. Frank began his job application process for the 2014-2015 academic year in earnest. The outcome of this will determine where I will be living when August comes, as my lease on my current house expires then and it is our goal to make the 9-hour drives a thing of the past at that time. Being that his marketable skills are much more specialized than mine, I plan to go where he goes. This is both an exciting and scary prospect, not knowing where I will live in eight months. IU is on the list of possibilities, so with some luck the changes to my life might just be limited to clearing out some closet space and suddenly having a lot more Jay Ryan posters hung on the walls of my house.

When discussing his Illinois tattoo soon after we met, I joked that I have no state to which I feel enough allegiance to get a tattoo of it. This is true, as I never meant for the Hoosier thing to last as long as it did, and I am definitely no longer an Okie. This is the first year where the trip "home" has not even served as training camp/a welcome vacation from real life. I've already traveled too much this year, and any driving that doesn't take me to my man or my kitties doesn't excite me much.

Although I get anxious at the prospect of having to find a new job and a new living space, and there are many things about Indiana that I would miss if I were to leave, the idea of making a new home somewhere else sounds pretty alright to me, even if the cyclocross scene is vastly inferior to OVCX. This will be the biggest thing in 2014 for me, and most of my other plans will revolve around the outcome of this job search. I suppose the one constant will be that regardless of what happens after the spring semester is over, I will still have a definite 10-week lead-up to the Death March once the holidays are concluded. So in that one way, this year won't be so different from the last.

So I just have to get through one more of week of the holiday season in which I will visit several iterations of "home". Then it will be Week #1 again, and hopefully the weeks of 2014 will finally lead me to the home in which I am supposed to be.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Week #50: Chunky

After outlining some of the challenges that I would be facing in the month of December in last week’s post, I have since made good on my intent to keep making forward progress in spite of having many upcoming events causing me anxiety. Moreover, there are six fewer days left in December than there were at the time of my last post, and for that I am very grateful. I’m also two work-related lunch things down, have a driver’s license that now says “Lindsay Hall” on it (not December-specific, but something I’m glad to be done with), and I did, in fact, complete my first trainer workout in at least three years.

Behold, my new antic "training studio". My second floor is really cold and not used for much else.

Regarding the latter, my choices were really ride trainer or feel crappy about not riding, so I settled on two sets of Tabata intervals to make me feel like I’d accomplished something but still only have to be on the trainer for less than 40 minutes. I’m sure this isn't at all something that should be in the ideal training plan that I should be undertaking at the moment, but I’m not shooting for ideal. I’m shooting for a balance between the mental stress of doing nothing and the mental stress of doing something exceptionally unpleasant. We’ll call it the shortest route through the dark forest. (Seriously, click that link.) This workout fit that need quite well. I also managed a 2.5 hour outdoor ride on Saturday, despite the slushy drizzle. This neither was neither the four hours duration nor gravel for which I’d hoped leading into the weekend, but more than I expected of myself when I finally yelled “put clothes on, go outside, and pedal” at 2:30 p.m.

The root of my distress last week was really the idea of “all the things”, because I kept mentally naming off the all of the mildly unpleasant things I would have to face during the month and getting overwhelmed by the sum of them. You know, pretty much the opposite of that whole “count your blessings” thing at which happy, secure, “complete” people are supposed to be so adept. The fact of the matter was there was nothing on my plate for the next three weeks that was individually all that unpleasant; I was just going through a phase where I was tired and wanted to give up.

You would think that after the year that I've had that I wouldn't sweat the small stuff, as I've exhibited a level of resiliency that I never imagined I could possess two years ago. I think the problem is much like what Frank and I experienced at the Gravel Grovel; we thought it would be smooth sailing after covering all the major climbs during the first half of the race only realize that it was the regular old rolling chunkiness of miles 30-50 that were the most painful. I believe that I am in miles 30-50 of the approximately two-year “hole-healing” process that my therapist (yeah, of course I have one) has told me I can expect. My emotional legs are shot from the big climbs, and I’m not yet close enough to the finish for my “old lady strength” to kick in yet. I’m just at the point where I’m rolling along and the chunkiness is wearing on my patience.  

Once thing that did help my perspective since last week was receiving a nice Christmas card from one of the many new friends that I have made this year. I did have a momentary feeling of failure that I had not sent out Christmas cards to any of the people to whom I would like to show appreciation, nor had I purchased presents for anyone besides Frank and my parents, but luckily I didn't dwell on it too long and forgave myself that oversight. Sometimes I wonder if I energy that I've been putting into improving my connections with people is really paying off, and I also sometimes feel like I don’t have enough energy to put into my non-Frank relationships lately (thus the lack of Christmas cards), but getting that card was sort of a nice reminder that my efforts and existence are appreciated, even when they’re imperfect. 

So another week of December and another mile of chunky gravel have been traversed, and I am proud of the efforts I made to get some good out of them. Most days I still wish it didn't take so much effort just to do normal people things, but supposedly in life, unlike cycling, it does eventually hurt less instead of just going faster. Hopefully, the Hickory Church sign will appear on the horizon soon.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Week #49: Surviving December

"Survive December, succeed in March."

That is what I said last week, and since then I've been trying hard to live it. December is, in my opinion, the worst month for a cyclist. I suppose it might not be so bad if your holiday travel is limited to single day of sugary food celebration, but for many it requires extensive travel and/or time away from home and the normal routine. Even if there isn't travel, there are likely about a zillion holiday party thingies to throw off the routine and put tons of inappropriate food in front of your face. 

For example, I have three work-related lunch things and an afternoon departmental party in the next two weeks. This is a lot to handle for a girl who eats home cooked lunch at her desk 90% of the time. That will be followed by another week in which I will be in Oklahoma for most of the week and in Illinois for a few days on top of it. I will finally be home on the 28th or 29th, depending on various choices I need to make regarding driving and pet care. (If you're going to be in Bloomington between December 21-28 and would be willing to fill some food bowls and scoop some litter, you will have my eternal gratitude and maybe some good beer.) Then I can reestablish a proper winter training program.

I suppose that right now many are just trying to keep their edge for the rest of the week until the end of the regular cyclocross season, followed by a convenient end-of-season break, while the more ambitious/masochistic will attempt to hold their fitness through the holidays for nationals in January. For me, it feels more like a month in limbo. It's the one month of the year where I can't ride after work, even with my 4 p.m. departure time from work, and it doesn't seem worth it to ride the trainer with my impending time out of town, rather needless torture on which I can't really building anything. So I'm just sort of in do-what-I-can survival mode while waiting for the next Week #1 to arrive.

This weekend was definitely proof of this. It was my last scheduled visit with Frank until after Christmas, so when a winter storm threatened on Thursday night and early Friday morning, I refused to let it mess with my plans. After 11 white-knuckled hours I arrived in State College more exhausted than usual and woke up to a fairly thick blanket of snow covering everything the next morning. The plan had been to ride some easy in-town mountain bike trails on our 'cross bikes and then tack on some flat-ish gravel for distance. Of course, my legs felt like total crap, which I just have to learn that they will always feel like crap the day after a long drive and accept that I will have to train through it when I'm in Pennsylvania. This was not the weekend for that lesson to stick, though. We bumbled around one lap of the snowy trails and headed home. Unfortunately, as photogenic as a winter riding is, I didn't capture any pictures due to lobster gloves.

This weekend's scenic not-selfie.

Sunday brought more snow, and I *should* have made a trip to the fitness center at Penn State. I'm always lazier when I'm at Frank's, as well as when it's cold, which it definitely was, and I find orienting myself in a new gym very intimidating. Which is why I should have just sucked it up and gone, so that it would go more smoothly during the more serious training times of January and February.  

Have I mentioned that being in a long-distance relationship makes training a lot harder? Only a whole bunch of times? Okay. 

This weekend was basically a lesson in what not to do from a training perspective. I know that some things are more important than bikes and that the situation's only temporary, much like the month of December, but I want to keep striving to do the best I can in the situation. Sometimes it's hard to see the line between takes-this-shit-too-seriously jerk face, and lazy, excuse-making slug. Avoiding the latter is more the goal of my training these days than actual race results, because I've spent too many years wildly swinging between the two extremes. 

So I have to figure out something when the odds are against me and remember to keep making an effort when I want to give up, because something is better than nothing. January will come, as will March, and finally August. Those are the times when I hope to shine, but for now I just have to keep the pilot light burning. 

Our Sunday workout consisted of walking around choosing a Christmas tree, and for Frank, the manly job of sawing it down.