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.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Anatomy of an Insta-Romance

After our well-navigated and non-bloody arrival in Illinois last week, Frank mentioned how it had been really hard to explain how we met to his parents over dinner. Admittedly, it is a very weird story, and I usually find it hard to explain "I met my boyfriend on Instagram" even to people my own age. I did give a quick summary when we first started dating, but apparently it just confused people more. So I've always wanted to make an attempt at written documentation, mostly for my own enjoyment. I won't be hurt if you find it too icky to read past this point.

Don't worry. They kept healing.
Our story begins in early March, or at least I've deduced from the hashtag that it was about 28 days after CX Worlds. I must have only been on Instagram for a few days at this point, because I remember signing up while I stayed home sick on February 28th. After importing some Facebook friends to follow, I latched onto the "Following" tab to see what everyone else was looking at. I took my social-media social cues from my Instagram veteran friends Dustin and Corinna, and saw they followed many people with similar interests that weren't necessarily real-life friends. So I started acquiring random people to follow, as well.

Among those I started following was "Glitter Gravel" who was the subject of much of the bike shop's train wreck loving hateration at the time. Dustin was supposedly the root of this, but since hateration is about the furthest thing from his M.O., I'm sure it started as a more benevolent fascination. Anyway, I followed her to find out what the fuss was about. For the record, her crime was basically just another that I myself have often been guilty of: getting super stoked on things and signing up for events above one's depth. You want big rewards? You gotta take big risks. Sometimes you fail.

More importantly, she lead me to the picture above when I was scrolling through others' liked pictures and thought, "What the heck is that?" upon seeing the thumbnail. I can't remember my exact train of thought, but I'm sure it was something in the vein that anyone who messed their legs up that badly at CX Worlds while spectating and had enough of a sense of humor to write #iammyownworldchampion was probably awesome enough to make my list of random people I followed. Frank did not have his flask confiscated that day.

Fast forward a couple of months, a Death March, and a divorce, during which time posts from "the guy who really likes beer" would occasionally catch my eye. (His side job is at a craft beer store where he likes to post pictures of interesting new arrivals.) I sort of remember noticing the picture of him modeling his "Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels" t-shirt (written in strip club-esque neon) in combination with his squirrel tattoos and again thinking he was sort of awesome. 

It wasn't until one day in May when I'd just finished cooking up my favorite seasonal treat of asparagus drowned in Hollandaise sauce and of course posting a picture. I was quite excited when less than an hour later I saw that someone else in my Instagram feed was enjoying asparagus as well. When I saw that it was "Beer/Squirrel Guy", I thought, "Beer/Squirrel Guy is pretty cool, I'll say something about our mutual love of asparagus." So I posted the unbelievably eloquent comment of, "Yay for asparagus pictures!"

Until that point he hadn't noticed my "likes" or followed me back, but I suppose my comment must have intrigued him a little. He started following me back and left an equally awkward comment on one of my tattoo pictures. And thus it went with the occasional back and forth likes up until the Gravel Metric.

After getting lost and limping back to DeKalb, on the car ride home I saw the above comment on my pre-race picture. The good luck had obviously not been received in time, but the sentiment was greatly appreciated. 

At that point he became more of a real person in my mind, and I wanted to actually get to know him. What followed was what could be kindly referred to as necessary research or unkindly referred to as stalking. I knew from his pictures he was on the Penn State cycling team, so I looked at some ECCC results and figured out his last name. This allowed me to find him on Facebook, and was followed by a few days of gathering the nerve to "cross social media platforms".

When I finally sent him a friend request on Facebook, I had planned to just sit back and gather information for a while. However, he apparently found my request a bit strange and felt the need to address the issue. He sent me a long, very nice introductory message, which only heightened my opinion of him. Over the next week or two we exchanged long messages in the style of old fashioned pen pals.  

Then came the liver. In response to Dustin's joking about wanting to eat "a big organ burger" after the Gravel Metric, I posted the contents of my freezer as it was getting down to the nasty bits before a new quarter beef shipment. It caught Frank's interest, as well, although not necessarily in a positive way. I later sent him a joking message about how if he was ever passing through Indiana he would probably be afraid to have dinner at my house because I'd serve him sheep liver. He responded that he'd been thinking it would be a good challenge for me to make it into something enticing. There it was. We had both thought about a dinner at my house scenario within the previous two hours.

As a native of Joliet, IL, he asked if I had ever seen The Blues Brothers. He told me that if I hadn't, he would drive here to watch it with me, and then I could cook up a tasty liver dinner. I said that I had not seen it, but even if I had, I would lie and say I hadn't, because he'd just described the best date ever, especially considering my "entertainment center" was a 14-inch TV/VCR combo with a portable DVD player hooked to it. 

Things quickly escalated from a vague reference to the price of VHS tapes on eBay to the revelation that he would be in Illinois in less than a week and would "stop by" on his way home so we could watch said tape. No big deal since it was only four hours out of the way. It was what my friend Sarah and I referred to as "a straight Josh Prater move" based on the odd but grand romantic gestures her now fiancee' used to win her over in the early days.

It was quite nerve-wracking knowing that someone I'd never met but to whom I was already somehow quite attached was coming to my house to watch a movie, eat some liver, watch the Stanley Cup final at a bar since I didn't have cable, then have him sleep at my house "in one capacity or another". The last part was the most awkward, but there really is no good solution to first dates when you live nine hours apart. 

Luckily, once he arrived and the awkward side-hugs were given, we eventually calmed down as we watched the movie, which had to be viewed on his laptop, because my VCR wouldn't play the tape. By the time it was over, it seemed we had come to a silent mutual agreement to drop facade that we weren't sure if we liked each other or not, and that was the moment at which our first kiss occurred. Then we had dinner in the most oddly intimate, "we've known each other forever" way as we picked through our baked liver pate' that was "like meatloaf, but bitter". 

By the end of the night calendars were already consulted regarding when we could see each other again, and thus began what was and continues to be the most complicated and wonderful few months of my life. 

Our first selfie in my very unscenic living room.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 48: Surviving the Gravel Grovel

And I know it's long gone,
And that magic's not here no more,
And I might be okay,
But I'm not [fast] at all.

Last week was a weird combination of jam-packed and utterly lazy at the same time. Frank got to spend the whole week with me, and we went to his parents' house in Illinois for a couple days for Thanksgiving. I somehow survived 36 hours in that state without getting lost or bleeding, and I think that my first meeting with his family went well. (If they hate me, I haven't found out about it yet.)

So we did a lot of things, but with a lot of sitting around on the couch between things. That all ended on Saturday, though, when took on the new and improved (if you consider way harder improved) Sub-9 Gravel Grovel. 

This year was much different for me than last year. Last year I only signed up to ride with a friend and didn't have any intention of even trying to finish until the morning of the race when she got sick and I saw that I'd be riding alone. Then I set out with no intention other than to just pedal as long as I could. I barely knew the course at all, so I really never knew how much distance I'd covered or how much I had left to go, and I wouldn't allow myself to look at the time until I was sure I was several hours in.

I won't say I wasn't intimidated by the harder course or the fact that I hadn't ridden longer than 40 miles since May, but I knew that making it to the end wouldn't be a problem. Leading up to the race, I made up the motto "Survive at the Gravel Grovel, succeed at the Death March", since that strategy seem to work for me last year. However, I secretly hoped/wished/planned that a little of last spring's Death March success still lay dormant in my muscle memory and would show itself on race day.

We admittedly were a little slow off the starting line, considering that my long recurring dream of still putting on my shoes as the gun goes off finally came true, but really we probably only lost 30-60 seconds from the people that were lined up at the back of the start. We cruised along and made up some places, only to lose most of them during our first food stop on Combs Road. When I saw how near the back we really were during the two-way section to and from Story, I started to feel discouraged. Although I was theoretically just out to finish the race, I hadn't truly expected to be among the slowest of the slow crowd. I also felt like a liability on Nebo Ridge where Frank was so far ahead of me that it became an obvious "I'm just waiting on my girlfriend" situation.   

Since we were too busy just trying to finish to get any scenic vista selfies, so instead I present you with the first Death March meme of the new season.
We finally made past Nebo, Baldy, and The Bitch, and started thinking that it couldn't be too bad from that point on, because all of the hard parts were done. Of course, there was all of the lingering fatigue from the "hard parts", and still 30 miles of mostly chunky gravel to go. We missed the entrance to the final singletrack section that I'd failed to ride on the previous weekend's recon, and that added a couple of extra miles. When we finally hit Tower Ridge road for the final 12 miles or so, we were both pretty cooked and just kind of peddled along staring into space. However, when I saw the sign for Hickory Grove Church my "old lady strength" kicked in because I knew I only had to tolerate a little over a mile of chunky before the smooth, mostly downhill of McPike Branch Rd carried us to the finish.

In the end, we finished about the same as I did last year if you account for our little detour. Most people were slower, so it does show some improvement. Janelle also beat me by four minutes less than the (admittedly huge) gap she had on me last year, so that's a good sign.

So I suppose I am done with racing until Death March, as I've let my anxiety regarding race entry fees win for the time being, but I've pledged to myself not to let fear stand in the way of potentially awesome experiences for very long. Now is the time to rebuild my stores financially and fitness-wise. Survive in December, succeed in March.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Week #47: The Winds of Winter

When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.

This weekend was a shock to the system. I was definitely not ready for winter bibs and neoprene booties, but they were suddenly required whether I liked it or not. I elected not to race the OVCX race at Major Taylor this weekend, because it in the wake of the killer vet bill, I couldn't bring myself to pay $35 for something that I wasn't completely stoked on. Of course, I'm going to be paying $96 for the Bilenky Junkyard Cross/SSCXWC combo sometime this week, and that is pretty painful to think about, too. However, that will be a once-in-lifetime experience, a chance for a road trip with Sarah, and another weekend adventure with two of my favorite people, so it's worth it. 

Also, once I saw how cold it would be over the weekend, I was glad I decided not to race.

The first rule of Gravel Club is don't lose the map. The second rule is to make
notes on the map so you know what the heck you are doing later.
Besides the cost of 'cross entry fees, I'm just more in the mood to ride gravel lately, anyway, and you can't really do that if you don't want to make Sunday's race a miserable experience. Since they announced the official course for the Gravel Grovel last week, I decided to check out some of the new singletrack parts to get an idea of what I was getting into. I worked out a 40-ish mile route that hit all of the singletrack, including Combs, but cut out any excess road that I already new from Death March training. 

It all went pretty well at first. I made it over Combs and up the easier side of "The Son of the Bitch" going towards Story. At the bottom of the hill I flipped it around and headed up the Nebo Ridge trail. I hadn't been on it in three years, and ticking up the first long climb I was thinking that I'd really rather be doing that than grinding up the nasty gravel hill it replaced, even with the roots and rocks. What I'd forgotten is that once the trail levels off after the big climb, you are confronted with a series of increasingly more difficult short, steep "scramble hills" where you have to work up some speed, lean forward, and ride really hard for 30-ish seconds to the top. They aren't *that* bad, but repeated 30-second intervals in the middle of an endurance ride does get a little tiring. I found the Nebo Ridge trail section to be much slower than I had expected. I'm really hoping that knowing what I'm getting into this next time will help it not feel so slow during the race.

I had to skip the two parts of HNF trail that I'd planned to scout, because as I cut across 1000 N to avoid "The Bitch" and fast forward to some new stuff, the wind kicked up and the temperature started to drop. When I arrived at the hilly stretch of road where I was supposed to enter Trail 21, I realized I didn't know exactly where it was supposed to be, the wind was about to rip the map out of my hands, and I didn't feel like riding up and down the rolling road to find it. So I just headed for the car, which was still a good 10-15 miles away. 

The first day of winter gear is always a shock, but this one turned out to be real baptism by fire (ice, really), as the wind howled, and the temperature dropped to 26 degrees by the time I was done. That was definitely a shocker since I haven't ridden in less than upper 40's in months. At least now I'm adapted, and whatever the Gravel Grovel throws at me this weekend won't seem *as* bad.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Honesty Is The Best Policy

When I was writing my post earlier in the week, I waffled about whether to include the paragraph about Mushu’s illness, the resulting vet bill, or my anxiety related to it. It was an unhappy aside to an otherwise positive post. Did I really want people to know the exact amount of unexpected expense it took to put me in the financial danger zone or the cray cray thoughts that provoked? I decided to keep it, since it was more of a “running down of the things” post than one where I lay out a theme and build to sweeping conclusion where we all learn something at the end like an episode of South Park. If I were just naming things for the week, it was an important thing.

This year I have consistently been sharing all of the relevant details of my development as much as I have been able to within the bounds of politeness and not causing trouble for people who aren’t me. I’ve dropped the fa├žade that my wavering level of motivation in regard to cycling was my biggest problem and revealed the depression, social isolation, divorce drama, anxiety, and disordered eating behind it. Yes, when I list it all out like that I sound like a train wreck, and why I would I want to people to know all that? I feel like I should explain a little bit more about the reasons behind my brutal honestly.

It occurs to me that the revelation of my dirty little secrets could be perceived as either a need to create drama, draw attention, or try to get people to feel sorry for me. I can’t say that I am completely and utterly innocent on those charges, but it is certainly not my intention. I guess my primary reasons are to relieve myself of some burdens in a way that’s not totally private, but at least not shoved in the faces of those seeing my updates on Facebook. You have to willingly click through the link to read this. 

I also want to give better insight as to why I do the things I do, which I suppose is asking for empathy, if not actual sympathy. In that vein, I share the less-pretty sides of myself knowing that many of those reading can empathize more than they would like, and are less willing to share their burdens, so I hope that my sharing my struggles and my progress in overcoming them will help others to overcome theirs, as well.

Finally, if nothing else, I’m doing a service to the train-wreck-blog-loving haters by giving them plenty of reasons to put on their judgy faces and feel superior. Yeah, those are a thing; I know because I was married to one of them.

That being said, I wanted to share some thoughts to consider when reading the writings of myself or any other “train wreck” blogger who dares drop his or her (it’s usually a her) guard and reveal their shortcomings. Of course, this is just my theory, but I’d like to share it. Sorry, haters.

It basically goes like this: some people, for a wide for variety of sometimes unexplainable reasons reach adulthood with a missing piece in them, a hole if you will, while others get everything they need to be okay in a variety of life circumstances. The reasons might not easily apparent like child abuse or neglect, and the person might be successful in some areas their life, so it’s hard to easily say what’s wrong with them. Therefore, it is easy to push it aside as “first world problems”. However, I feel like the “hole” is the basic cause of all the things in the range of depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and the like. It’s what makes seemingly “okay” people act and feel not okay.

So walking around on the street every day you will encounter a variety of people with different sizes and shapes of holes, and those with holes in various stages of healing, because luckily they can be healed. When people get judgy it is usually because they were lucky enough to grow up without a hole and can’t understand the behavior of those with one, or worse, we encounter a person whose hole doesn’t look like our own. Conversely, in the past year I’ve really learned to spot people with a hole like mine and it makes me want to hug them. I also have some lovely “complete” people in my life that provide inspiration and stability in my path to healing. (If you’re reading this and wondering which you are, I’ll never tell. ;) And really, “complete” people aren’t perfect or lacking in problems, they just have better coping skills.

Back in the spring/early summer, a good friend told me that in my situation at the time “a new guy would be like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound”. It was actually very wise advice, although it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. However, I was more accurately suffering not from a gunshot wound, but a dynamite blast that had (painfully) cleared out the rubble that was keeping my hole from filling in which the correct missing pieces. I’ve since learned that those pieces aren’t anything you can just shove in there; the healing has to come from just staring into the empty space and seeing that you can survive it, no matter how painful it is. By accepting the hole, it actually becomes smaller. Being aware of all this, I did soon after find a new guy who isn’t in any way a cover-up or filler, but the real person who holds my hand  while I stare into the space and doesn’t think less of me for having it in the first place (often the hand-holding is more figurative than literal, as the void appears less when he's physically present).

So all of those things I’ve been told about being in control of my own feelings and attitudes, nonattachment, and all of those good things that make everyday bummers feel less tragic are actually accurate, but they are skills that are slowly learned over time rather just advice to be given and heeded. So telling a depressed person that they are in charge of their own emotions and expecting them to just flip to happy is like verbally explaining to someone how to bunny hop and then telling them go jump that three foot log. First you have logically know something, then internalize the movement patterns (physical or mental), perform the movement in a low risk environment, then slowly build the confidence to try it in more difficult circumstances.

All of this is to convey a couple of points. One is that I don’t really have the long list of problems that I might appear to; I have one big one that I am slowly improving every day. It’s just a long and hard process. The second point is that there are many others that you will encounter with the same general problem who are unaware or at least unwilling to share. Be kind to them.

I suppose that’s a lot of armchair psychology for a supposed cycling blog, but I feel cycling is a magnet for those “holey” folks, especially women. It manifests in many ways, sometimes leading to great success within the sport and sometimes preventing it. I think it would be really interesting for a sport psychologist to develop a scale for “hole” measurement and see where top athletes rank. My theory is that a hole can drive to a lot of success in the short term, because of its intensity, but perhaps “complete” people fair better over time.

Finally, I found it really interesting this morning when I saw this post from one of my favorite bloggers after I’d already been planning to write this for a couple of days. I think I’ve always liked reading her blog because I felt some sort of kinship, which I would now call a matching hole, although she deals with hers differently than I do, and probably has a lot more natural talent. Regardless, I was really glad to see her talk so openly of her struggles, and I hope she finds what she needs to get better.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Week# 46: Milestones

With the weeks ticking off until #52 (then what?), this blog has been all about milestones this year. Last week this was even more true, with my 33rd birthday and the barely 7-month-old Lime-a Bean topping 10,000 miles. I guess that's what happens when you go to Tennessee, 2X to Chicago, 4X to Pennsylvania, and a whole lot of mountain bike trails and trips to Indy in between. I better stay on that scheduled maintenance, because he and I are stuck together for at least five more years and who knows how many more trips.

As for my own aging up, I feel like 33 is a very awkward age. It's an odd number and scarily close to "mid-thirties". Since Frank couldn't be with me on my actual birthday, I decided to be proactive instead of pouty, and threw a Tuesday-night birthday party in my own honor. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and it made for one of the better birthdays of my adult life.

The only bad part of my birthday was Mushu getting a kidney infection that resulted in a $593 vet bill. I'm glad to report that she has recovered now and seems to be doing fine, but it was a real blow in my ongoing battle with anxiety, as my "in case something bad happens fund" got wiped out a lot sooner than I actually expected anything bad to happen. I'm doing my best to handle it with grace and remind myself of all the good luck I've experienced this year along with the bad. It's just another gnarly life lesson that I've realized that I have to sit through instead of run away from.

#scenicvistaselfies are our thing now.
The mountains are looking a lot more drab that they did four weeks ago.
In happier news, the weekend saw another trip to Pennsylvania, which is what pushed the Lime-a Bean over the 10,000 mile mark. Nothing super exciting happened, but Frank and I rode a new-to-me gravel road that was a lot rollier than what we've ridden between. It was basically like riding Tower Ridge Rd. in the HNF out for 15 miles, then turning around and coming back. We're still a long way off from Gravel Grovel distance, but I know that we have it in us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Week #45: Return to HNF

During last week's post, I left out an important part of the weekend, because it didn't really fit with the theme. Except for the racing part not going so well, it was actually quite a good weekend. It was made even better when we got back to my house on Sunday night and Frank surprised me with the early birthday present of new clincher wheels for my cross bike that he had built himself. Of course, the pink hubs were nice, but the really thoughtful part was that rims were the same width as my Major Tom tubular wheelsets, so I no longer have to adjust my brakes when I swap between tubulars and clinchers.

With the combo of traveling a lot and the not-so-awesome 'cross season, I have needed to swap a lot lately. Since I was able to survive the Sub-9 Gravel Grovel on practically no training last year, I decided early on that I would do it again unless I was in contention for a OVCX series podium in late November. Obviously that is not happening, and I'm just sort of missing gravel, so I'm putting a little more effort into preparation this year. It probably won't make tons of difference speed-wise, but maybe it will make the Gravel Grovel a little more pleasant and let me get a head start on my Death March prep.

So this weekend I skipped the Derby City Cup and hit the Hoosier National Forest gravel for the first time since last spring's Death March. I even listened to some Taylor Swift on the way out for old time's sake, but the break-up songs didn't make me sad anymore and I was able to turn some witty new phrases like, "On a Monday, over pate', I watched it begin again." And really, when is ever not a good night to dress up like hipsters and make fun of our exes? But I digress.

The ride was good, and I got 30-something miles in, and I could have done 45 or so without feeling trashed. I'm just a little off my Saturday gravel training game, and forgot that I needed to eat breakfast before the 9 a.m. farmer's market. As it was, I didn't start riding until 2:00, and had to turn in early before running out of light. 

Now it's just a matter of getting back in my groove and building on it, which includes upping the tolerable distance that I can ride in Pennsylvania next weekend. The only drawbacks to this year's choice in Death March partner are: a) Sometimes I have to drive 9 hours to ride with him, and that sort of kills my motivation by the time I get there. b) I underestimated how much easier it was to train with a bike-only friend, because then I was totally stoked on riding bikes them vs. training someone with whom I enjoy riding bikes but also enjoy many other activities and thus the impetus specifically to ride bikes isn't as strong. Oh well, I'm continually making progress on this whole being in a long distance relationship and still maintaining training thing, so I think things are looking good for me, my pretty new wheels, and my awesome new partner come spring. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week #44: The Ghost of 'Crossmas Past

It's not just all physical
I'm the type who won't get oh so critical
So let's make things physical
I won't treat you like you're oh so typical
I won't treat you like you're oh so typical

After my unfortunate experience at the Cincy 3 Cyclocross Festival last year, I was a little nervous about how the weekend would go this year. Everything has changed since then, except the racing part. I was the exact amount of slow and discouraged as I was this time last year. The weekend had been long planned out, and I still wanted to be there for the experience; the racing part was just sort of my price of admission.

So my goal going into the weekend was simple: don't get upset about doing badly. Unfortunately, the most efficient path that I've found to this end is to basically just turn my brain off before the race starts, pedal, and force myself to care as little as possible. This is still kind of difficult starting smack in the middle of a 75-woman field, because just moving forward on the course is difficult and requires a lot of painful accelerations. The girls taking turns slowly and fumbling in the mud aren't even competition to be beaten but merely obstacles between myself and the finishing line. And in this lay my failure to achieve my seemingly simple goal.

Despite my goal to not end my races upset about doing badly, both days I ended up getting very bitchy at good friends who are two of the nicest guys I know because of ill-placed heckles. The problem was that I was already in the middle of bunched-up first-lap pain and frustration where all I wanted was some some clear space to ride my bike. Like, "I seriously don't care if this person drops me or I drop them; I just don't want them one bike length in front of me anymore." So as I was trying so hard to just get through it and not care, it was a very bad time to be told that I was going backwards or looked like I had given up. I didn't quite conjure up the tears of last year's Harbin Park (which would have lead my placing better at least), but I certainly didn't react in a dignified manner.  

Only later did I realized why this was so upsetting for me. Basically, I didn't like being made to feel guilty for not caring. Of course, this wasn't exactly the intention of those heckling me, but thanks to old feelings and habits that's how I interpreted it. The ability to suffer willingly is the most highly praised characteristic in the cycling world, so unabashed unwillingness to suffer must be the greatest sin in cycling, right? So by pointing out that I was unwilling to suffer, they were basically saying that I was a horrible human being, right? 

I've been spending the last few months trying to detoxify myself old myths and self-criticisms by reminding myself that the cycling world is not the real world, so the irony is that I was so upset about the implication that I was a horrible person in cycling terms that it caused me to act like a horrible person in real-world terms. That is definitely not what I wanted to happen, but old habits are hard to break. I just lived a little too long in a very constricted world where the holy values of cycling world were the be-all and end-all of existence, and my inability and unwillingness to live up to those standards made me constantly unhappy. 

Now I'm spending my time surrounding myself with people who enjoy cycling, but who also love me based on real-world standards rather than those of cycling world, and I'm much happier except when those old ghosts come back to haunt me. I just have to keep reminding myself that they're dead, and hopefully they will eventually fade away.

At least there was fun after the pain was over. Here we are adding a little bit
more light for the pro women at the Kings CX night race.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Week #43: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

A friend of mine often reminds me that "mistakes are life's tuition", which is very helpful in light of the last year of my life. Whenever I want to go back and punch 20-something me for getting 30-something me into my current position (which most days feels like being 24, but, you know, with the added bonus of being old), it's helpful to remind myself that my ability to make good decisions now pretty much comes from all of those crappy ones I made before. So perhaps I'm not a screw-up for taking longer to settle into successful adulthood. Maybe while I'm doing my best to be a supportive girlfriend during the home stretch of Frank's academic career, maybe I'm also completing my own dissertation on life. I mention this because the past week does seem a bit defined by bad decisions, if ones of the more minor variety. 

The first was actually made a few weeks ago when my mom offered to buy me a half hog from Schacht Farm for my birthday. So the bad decision was made when I put down the deposit and filled out the order form. The choice was basically to ham or not to ham. Despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of ham, the novelty sounded good at the time. It was only a day or two before I went to pick up my meat when I realized that there would be *14 pounds* of ham that I could have just had them add to the ground pork portion instead. I then started having "ham regrets" regarding the proportion of processed versus unprocessed meat in my order. 

I'm not a hater of processed meats by any means, as the typical arguments against them don't resonate with me. Saturated fat? Whatever. Salt? Whatever. Nitrates? Whatever. Sugar? Meh, I'm not crazy about the idea of sugar in meat, but it's a very tiny amount. I do, however, just sort of feel better when I eat meat that hasn't been preserved in any way, regardless of how natural the ingredient list is, so I've been trying to steer myself back toward plainer, if less tasty, breakfast meats. So the ham decision definitely worked against this, although it wouldn't really have been that big of deal had I not already been dealing with a very "on" anxiety switch this week.

My other bad decision had to do with my costume for Eva Bandman Halloween 'Cross. Back in the spring I saw a Facebook ad for some ridiculous leopard-print leggings with weird cutout garter things. They were hilarious enough that I was actually willing to shell out the $20 to buy them. So for the Halloween 'cross race, I incorporated them into an "80's Hair Band Groupie" costume along with a homemade ripped and bedazzled T-shirt halter top. 

I thought I could live without a chamois for a 40-minute race, and I probably could have with normal pants.  However, the various moving parts of the leggings conspired against me to form the most uncomfortable saddle contact ever and also gave me paranoia regarding exactly what the people behind me were seeing when I got out of the saddle for the three dismount/remounts and three steep descents per lap. I basically spent the entire race thinking about my pants. Add that to shock of what felt like my third "first race" this season after too many weeks without a hard effort. I basically had one good lap where I was sticking with the competition, and then slowly faded to next-to-last place. At that point I'd heard enough heckles about my "stripper" costume that I figured I'd just go with it, pull off the partially unhooked right legging, and tossed it in the Shamrock tent as I went by. It was good for some laughs, at least.

So, in the grand scheme of things, $84 of "wasted" meat (that I didn't pay for), a poor cyclocross performance, and a little self-induced embarrassment aren't the worst mistakes I could have made. I will, however, be avoiding bulk ham purchases in the future and only racing in costumes that allow for bibs underneath. And Frank is the only one allowed to see me "scandalously clad" from now on. Such is life, and I guess this just means I'm a little closer to earning my degree.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week #42: Fall Things

I don't have any exciting news to tell or deep thoughts to share from the past week. Monday-Thursday was just normally scheduled work and training, and then I spent the weekend in State College with Frank. We had a great time soaking in the brief period of peak fall color before winter sets in by spending plenty of time in Rothrock State Forest. Saturday we slept kind of late, and rain was threatening, so we took a drizzly hike up some of the rockier of mountain bike trails that I'm not quite up to tackling yet. The views were a little obscured by the rain and fog, but any time you get to look out from a mountain top at fall foliage is a good day, especially when you're standing with your favorite person.

Sunday we tackled the gravel again, but with a little more distance and little less steep of climbs than last time. It was better this time knowing what I was getting into, although ~10 miles of shallow but steady climbing on the way back in had both of us desperately searching for the green port-a-potty that marked the peak of the climb before the final five-mile descent to the parking lot. When it finally came into sight, I called it the most beautiful port-a-potty in the world. I guess that's what shorter days and cyclocross season will do to you; after too many weeks of only short rides, one's butt gets unaccustomed to the feeling of just sitting and pedaling. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to our bodies that will make our upcoming assault on the Sub-9 Gravel Grovel a little easier.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week #41: Mom Times and Three Pounds

There's nothing too exciting to tell about the last week, except that my mom came to visit over the weekend. We kept up our touristy tradition, which seems to have switched from caverns to waterfalls now that we have covered all the major cavern tours in southern Indiana. Unfortunately, waterfalls seem to be more disappointing, because when we went to see Cataract Falls in the spring they were flooded, and when we went to Clifty Falls this weekend the water was barely flowing. Also all of the lookouts were from weird angles, so we never really got a good look.

The best waterfall picture I could come up with this weekend.
Otherwise, I guess things are going okay training-wise. I'm not getting a lot of bike miles in right now due to travel and CX season, but at least I've reestablished consistency in my riding and gym attendance. I even snuck out for a a little ride while my mom when to evening church yesterday. I'm a little frustrated because I feel like I'm stuck in a place where I'm just keeping myself from falling into worse shape, but not making any forward progress. Making progress is just a really hard thing to do during 'cross season. 

I'm also feeling weird because I'm carrying around 2-4 pounds above where I was in the spring and early summer. As much as I hate when people talk about cycling to "burn calories", I suspect it does have something to do with the lack of endurance riding on my schedule lately. I'm trying to just accept it and know that it will go away again once CX is over and Death March training starts again. Until then, I just having to try not to annoy everyone by sounding like Regina from Mean Girls with my repeated, "I really want to lose three pounds."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Everything Has Changed

I just couldn't let the day pass without acknowledging that one year ago today, I accepted the offer for my current job. That change combined with a few other factors bubbling up in my life at the time to provide the impetus for the major life overhaul that has taken place since. It feels much more like five years than one.

The thing that stands out most about this day is that I had my last binge immediately following the final interview the day before they offered me the job. It started as a backlash to my taking the demand of 12% body fat from my college track coach way too seriously, but for 13 years food was how dealt with shit. Almost every time I binged I swore to myself that it was the last time, and then it wasn't. Then, on October 8, 2012, it really was, and I didn't even know it at the time. My life and my mindset changed in a way that made me want to fight for something real instead of fake comfort and my desire to binge significantly faded. I started facing my problems instead of running away from them, and as a result, have set the foundation for a much happier future (and I've lost a few pounds, too).

So I guess happy first birthday to the new me.

I chose this from my "one year" Google image search due
to the irony that cupcakes are, in my opinion, the least
worthwhile sweets that exist.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week# 40: Gun Club

Hmm, what to say about Gun Club? The traditional best race of the year was a complete rainy slop fest, and made for the new hardest conditions in which I'd ever ridden. There really isn't a lot to say otherwise. I got a not-so-great start, and did an okay job at working my way through traffic considering that I was completely unwilling to run the amount that one was required to run the first lap of the race to do well. Homegirl don't play that. Homegirl also admittedly had a "warm-up beer" before the race, if that is any indication of my motivation level. As it were, I did relatively well after I got going and finished the best of the anti-runners at the back of the pack. 23 out of 29 finishers is still one of my better elite wave finishes.

So with a couple of muddy weeks in a row, it is already time for a little break in my 'cross season while I entertain my mom next weekend and visit Frank the next. Then my next race will be wearing a costume. Yeah, so I'm not doing so great on setting myself up for success thing, but you never know what will happen.

So here's a few pictures from the weekend:

On Saturday, Frank and I built this awesome cat tree instead of doing openers.
I think it was time well spent.

Riding in the mud.

A regular parking lot shower wouldn't cut it in this situation. Luckily, it got to 80
degrees or so by the end of my race, so jumping in the creek afterward wasn't so bad.

My favorite part of this picture is the "I'm just checking the bike now"
look on Frank's face. My teammate asked what I did
with my dollar handup at the finish.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week #39: St. Mary's CX

In the days leading up to the St. Mary's CX race, I began to grow excited about the rainy forecast and the rumors of mud. We went all last season without a proper driving-rain, sloppy mudfest. Arriving at the course, I could see that all the expectations of the previous days had been met, and a practice lap left me with the impression that this could actually be the most difficult conditions in which I had ever ridden. The Kings CX course in 2011 could be considered harder because of the long forced run up to the finish line, but as hard as that was, you knew you *had* to run it. Yesterday's course didn't contain anything obviously unrideable, but there were many features that proved deceptively hard.

The difference between yesterday's race and my previous mudfest experiences was that instead of the front and center call-up that allowed me to sprint out of harm's way before the carnage ensued, I was stuck in the fourth row for the start. Since I knew I wouldn't be able to stay in front of the carnage, I decided to not waste my energy on an aggressive start and give myself space to navigate around the carnage and try to pick off as many people as possible as they made mistakes. However, there were much fewer mistakes happening in front of me during the first few minutes of the race than I expected, and I wasn't seeming to gain that much time from the ones that did happen. I also made a couple of mistakes myself while trying to predict the moves of those in front of me. 

By the middle of the first lap things were already spread out so far that I really only had one girl within sight that I might still be able to pick off. I was riding better than her technically, but I just wasn't really able to shut down the gap, and I started to realize that I just didn't feel that great physically. There wasn't anything specific that felt bad, or even an especially strong feeling of pain or heaviness in my legs. I was just missing whatever it is that normally makes me fast in mud. There was no plowing through the slop and holding it steady when my bike bounced and shuttered beneath me. Just pathetic slogging and weaving. I really only did well on the super low-speed technical parts where I could "make it", but at the cost of going 2 mph. My talent for letting it slide *just enough* through the corners and saving it at the last second barely came into play, because I was never going fast enough for cornering speed to be in an issue.

So it was kind of a bummer to not race well on such a muddy day, but I didn't get too upset about it. I'm really trying to come to terms with the fact that this season I am truly just racing for fun. It's just hard to remember that sometimes when the "fun" hurts that bad. If there is anything to be learned from the women who are 10+ years older than me and 10 minutes ahead of me, it is that I still have many years left to race cyclocross. So if this season, and maybe even next season, don't go so well while I'm making big life transitions, that's okay. For now I just need to not let my fear of being slow interfere with an otherwise fun experience.

A rare tongue-free, and even flattering, race picture

Yeah, this is more what the real me looks like.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week #38: Petulant

Last week was my first successful week on my "in season" training plan that I hope to keep up through the end of cyclocross. While it might not be ideal, I really don't have a lot of faith in my ability to improve a lot once the season has already started, unless the "race into shape" phenomenon takes place. The sparse early season OVCX schedule, my visitation schedule with Frank, and my mother's annual fall visit are all conspiring to make September and October very light on racing for me, and will likely provide very little chance fore "racing into shape". Therefore my bigger goal is just to maintain and possibly improve general fitness (as opposed to race fitness) throughout the season, so that I have a better base when I start my Death March training in January. Yeah, those plans are being made already.

So the plan is as such:
Monday - easy weight session
Tuesday - recovery ride
Wednesday - intervals
Thursday - slightly harder weight session
Friday - off
Saturday - openers
Sunday - race

Of course, this includes several non-race weekends, so in those cases I'll just do what I can in the context of whatever's preventing me from racing. If I'm in PA, then it might be an underground race or less tortuously climby gravel ride. If my mom's in town, I'll probably just lose those days, and just have to deal with it. This past week, however, I did all the weekday stuff as planned, but the main thing that kept me from racing was the lack of a race within a four hour radius.

I debated between using the off weekend for interval time or social time, and decided social time was more important. I went to Indy for a ride with the Wheel(wo)men, but unfortunately it turned out much longer and harder than I hoped. That broke me a little bit, because I have to be in the right head space, with the right people, and usually on gravel for hard endurance efforts of get dropped, catch up, get dropped again to be enjoyable. September, in Indy, on pavement, with no immediate need for that kind of riding is not conducive to achieving this mindset, either. In the end, it did turn out to be Type II Fun, I got to see my teammates, and maybe it put a little deposit in my Death March savings account for spring.

The other part that made enjoying the longer and harder than planned effort more difficult was that I had only made it to that point in my successful training week at the cost of developing a very petulant attitude towards, well, everything. I did everything I was supposed to do training, eating, and financial-wise, and was left feeling utterly deprived of pleasure by the end of the week. I struggle a lot with the grown-up me focusing on doing what was necessary for my long-term well-being, while my more impulse-driven self got kind of depressed about not having much to look forward to at the end of the day. I'm still struggling with this quite a bit now, although the weekend did offer some relief.

Once again I'm turning to the lessons I learned last winter while preparing for the Death March. I look back on those days with rose-tinted glasses now, because I feel like I was my best self for those few weeks, but when I really think about it, most days during that time period sucked. At best I could look forward to my weekend rides after drudging through a lonely and boring Monday-Friday, and at worse even the weekend would only bring cold, solo rides where the only reward was fine-tuning the route or seeing an improvement in my speed. That was why I made the commitment to blog every week, because it forced me to be accountable when sometimes writing down that I'd had a successful training week was my only reward.

Now, after the upheaval of the past few months, it is time to settle in and start working towards a new goal that's bigger and better, but also further away and less defined than some silly bike race. (And also towards some silly bike race, 'cause I'll be damned if I get knocked out of that precious top-three spot now that I've established my place there.) I've always made up for missing what I really want and need in life by substituting shallow, impulsive pleasure, because I didn't think I could ever have the real thing. Now I know I can, but it will require sacrificing some of that impulsive pleasure, which will undoubtedly make me a little pouty for a while. But for the first time in my life, the "HTFU" isn't just suffering for the sake of suffering or to look tough, nor is it directed toward a goal that deep-down I don't really believe in my ability to achieve (think the Pisgah stage race or any of my previous 100-mile mountain bike attempts).

At the age of 32, I finally saw what it was like to set an achievable goal, put in the work even when it meant days of pouting, or crying, or a million cray cray texts to Kristen, and in the end achieving the goal. So to my impulsive, petulant self I say: It will be okay. You've proven you can win at Death, now it's time to win at life.