Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Uncomfortably Comfortable

In my last post, I referred to myself as a “curmudgeonly bike hermit”. It’s true; a year of training for grueling backcountry races close to home has set me into a comfortable, or at least comfortable with my level of discomfort, pattern: On Saturday morning I wake up around 9:00 following the 10-12 hours of sleep that I usually need after a week of work. After social media-ing on my phone for about half an hour, I roll into to the living room. Frank and I eat a sausage and sweet potato scramble, and I drink tea while we watch an episode of whatever TV show we’re streaming at the moment. When it’s over, I we begin the slow process of packing up our stuff and getting dressed, then head out to the starting point of our designated 3-5 hour ride for the day. We ride, then we come back, shower, and eat steak and potatoes while we watch the next episode of the show. We might watch one or two more after that, depending on how soon I start falling asleep on the couch. We go to bed,  get up Sunday morning, and basically do the same thing again, with perhaps a shorter ride depending on how much Saturday did us in.

And so it has gone for most of the summer. We did race a few times, take a couple of weekend trips, and go to Philly for Laser Cat business a time or two, but I when I look back on the past few months, I mostly think ride, sleep, eat, TV with that whole job thingy mixed somewhere in between. I’m happy with that arrangement; perhaps a little too happy. I’ve been working really hard on the bike (a level of discomfort with which I’ve become pretty comfortable), and letting myself be otherwise really lazy in return. Many weekends, the only human with whom I interact between Friday evening and Monday morning is my combo husband/best friend. Being the introvert (or curmudgeonly bike hermit) that I am, spending all my time with a single, high-quality human being definitely does not sound like a bad deal most of the time.

It’s very tempting to continue the pattern that, for most part, has been keeping me pretty satisfied the past few months, especially with the goal of completing the 2017 Transylvania Epic looming ahead of me. During the past few weeks we’ve been scouting the parts of the race that we’d never ridden before, which, for being my “home course”, was a lot of ground. I guess that laying out a course of 180 singletrack-heavy miles over five days of racing in Central PA requires straying from the usual MTB Project suggested routes. The last three weeks have involved a lot map referencing (the actual paper kind coz no cell service), bushwhacking, and hike-a-biking. The girl who used to hate racing at Muscatatuck back in Indiana because it was too “old school” and not flowy enough, has been willingly pushing her bike through random sandy moto tracks deep in Bald Eagle State Forest and coming out (mostly) with a smile on her face. We’ve finally covered all but two snippets of trail out of all five stages, but now I’m itching put that knowledge to use and start in with the practice, practice, practice that will required if I want to do well.

As much I feel the urge to keep doing what I’ve been doing, I know that it will soon be time to break the uncomfortably comfortable habits that I’ve established the last few months. As much as I like Frank, there are also other high-quality human beings in the bike community that I also like to see, and doing so requires straying beyond my secret hermit headquarters somewhere along Old Highway 322. I keep thinking of the part of The Happiness Advantage about activation energy, where the author gives the example of a person who has all sorts great plans to do things she enjoys all weekend and instead just ends up watching TV the whole. The person really does want to do all of the things she’d planned to do, but gets stuck cultivating the activation energy to actually do them. Somehow in the last year, five-hour bike rides stopped being a thing that scared me and in some weird way, became the lazy choice.

It’s hard pulling myself away from mountain biking and the work that I know I need to do to accomplish my 2017 goals, but it’s also not healthy to keep at it while sacrificing the rest of my bike and social life. So although I’m much less motivated for ‘cross than I have been in several years, I only have more free weekend left before I start racing again. I’m easing in with a “gravelduro” race on September 17, which should be more a fun ride than a race for me, but then it’s full speed ahead for ‘cross. I think the fact that I’m resisting the transition from uncomfortably comfortable to just plan uncomfortable may be a sign that it’s exactly what I need.

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