Monday, April 29, 2013

Week #17: The Big Frog 65 & The End of the Tour

After this was established, everything was cool 
The tour was over, and she went back to school 

I'm not really sure what motivated me to jump onto my teammate Janelle's "Tour of Pain" idea. I guess it was because I was already doing two of the four events already. I hadn't done a endurance MTB race since 2010, but I was already kicking around the idea of the Tri-State 6 Hour Series.  I guess when she signed up for the Big Frog 65, I figured it was time to give it another shot. Barry-Roubaix was just to complete the quartet.

Of course, I had no idea when I signed up for "the tour" that it would correspond with such a period of upheaval in my life, so over the last two weeks I spent a lot of time flip-flopping about whether I would go to Big Frog or not. Even after I saw that I would be fully moved and have my house in order in time to go, I still wondered if I had the emotional strength to make the trip and race the race. My main motivation for going was that I didn't want to let my friend Chrysa down, because she, her husband, and another friend were depending on me to split a cabin with them.

Things started to come together in the final days before the race, and I finally started to feel at peace, if a little sleep deprived. My fitness/preparedness to race was a non-issue, as I had been lacking in weekly ass-kickings for a while, but I also knew that I'd finished harder races in worse shape before. Right after the Death March, which seems roughly a million years ago, I looked at the results, thought that I ridden legitimately well, and dreamed of a possible sub-7 hour finish at Big Frog. I got in my car Friday morning with no intentions other than to get myself and my bike to Tennessee, make it to the starting line, and start pedaling.

So in the pouring rain at 7:30 on Saturday morning, that is what I did. And strangely, once I started pedaling, I felt good. I slowly moved up through the pack on the gentle paved climb to the singletrack, and once I hit the trail, I was flying along through the mud, passing dudes left and right. I kept that up for quite a while until I finally had to stop for a gel, lost a lot of places, and then had to work to get them back.

Once the singletrack was over, things spread out a bit, although I still felt like I was still doing more passing than being passed. Unfortunately, a flat tire not very long into the gravel section derailed my awesome groove. My fingers had already been numb for a while, and when I tried to fix the flat, I found myself completely confused and my hands to be useless stumps when I tried to get the old tube out. I fumbled for quite some time as person after person passed, and eventually I had to accept help from a passerby. I was fully chattering, shaking, and hypothermic at that point.

The rest of the race was just whatever. I pedaled hard, got myself back up to a non-shivering temperature and ground through the rest of the gravel. It did lift my spirits a bit at the next-to-last aid station when I caught a girl who'd passed me during the flat tire delay, and she said, "Good God you're fast!" or something like that. I've definitely never heard that in an endurance race before.

Anyway, I finished in 7:56, which wasn't the sub-7:00 for which I'd vaguely hoped, but I really considered getting myself to the starting line pretty miraculous, so I can't complain too much. It appears that 39 women registered, 20 finished, and I came in 13th. So really, it blows away any previous endurance race performance where strategy and male assistance didn't come into play. Maybe this is the "new normal" I hoped to find after Barry-Roubaix; regular dates with podiums and prize beer may still elude me for a while, but maybe DFL's are a thing of the past, too.

And the "new normal" is exactly what I've been craving for the past week. Now that The Tour  of Pain has ended, in all senses, I'm ready to just settle into normal life again. Go to work, get back to training, induce some weekend ass-kickings etc. I think that for the rest of the year my adventures will be limited to regional-series MTB and CX races, with the possible exception of an appearance at the Gravel Metric on Memorial Day weekend. Luckily, it's free and you don't have to register, so I'm done with commitments for a while. Maybe I can talk Janelle into an epilogue for the tour, though...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week #16: Moving Out

Last week I committed to keeping up with my weekly posts regardless of how ugly and uncomfortable things got, both to keep myself accountable and so that if anyone is worried, they'll know that I'm still on the face of the earth. I wasn't expecting to move into my own place so soon, but a really good opportunity came up last week, and I took it. So most everything in my life for the last seven days has revolved around setting up my new one-person, one-cat (although I'm getting a new kitten next week) household on the fly. Frankly, it has been sad and terrifying, but I've thought long and hard about this, and I really feel like it was what I needed to do.

I finished the move on Saturday and was able to go mountain biking yesterday, and it sort of made everything feel normal and okay again. So begins my new life. It's not going to be easy, but I have a lot of hope for my future.

Home for the next 15 months.

All my bikes in their new room.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Week #15: Goodbye Game

It's always awkward. You stumble upon the blog of a stranger or a casual acquaintance and you start reading. You start to become invested in the happenings of their life. The posts are focused on racing or there's just a long break in between. Eventually there is a mention of a divorce or breakup with serious significant other.

So I guess the awkward moment has come for me, sooner in the process than most, but hey, it's already been all over Facebook, so it's not exactly a secret. I would have preferred it not happen that way, but it did, so it's just as well now. It makes the decision about what to write on my blog a lot easier. The fact of the matter is that there was a reason that I committed to weekly wrap-up posts at the beginning of the year: I knew that hard times were coming I wanted to keep myself accountable. 

Of course, I didn't know exactly how it would all play out, but when I posted my New Year's Resolutions, I knew it would be a life-changing year. Without the weekly social interaction of cyclocross, I was petrified of a making it through a long winter alone without falling prey to depression. So I focused on making it to the Death March, which had the advantages of being my first race of the year, being a race where I stood a good chance of placing well, the beginning of daylight savings time, and having another person who was depending on me to perform well. So if I ever write my memoir, "It's Not About the Callahan", I will confess that of all the bike races for which I've chronicled my training, this was the most important, because I wasn't training for a bike race so much as I was training myself to handle major life changes. Of course, at the beginning, even 10 weeks seemed overwhelming, so the weekly posts helped serve as way stations to break up that period and ensure that I was doing my best to prepare for the race, and more importantly, take care of myself.

As an aside, I will say that it was one of the most important learning periods of my life. I had to learn to how work through uncertain and ever-changing conditions. I learned to reach out and ask for help from expected sources, and came to see how awesome people can be if I just trust them a little. I also learned to deal with the disappointment that sometimes comes when you put your trust in people in a way that was healthy and empowering, rather than disconnecting. Finally, I improved my baseline anxiety a little by seeing that often whatever I imagine will go wrong doesn't and then something I never imagine will go wrong does, and either way I manage to handle it, now matter how much it sucks at the time.

I guess my point is that accountability in my blog has been and important anchor that has gotten me through the year so far, so as awkward as it is to say, the biggest thing that happened in the last week was that I told Adam that I wanted a divorce. I don't want to go too deeply into the reasons, but as you might guess from all my admission of struggle above, I basically just can't see myself being happy in the relationship and I think we have some pretty fundamental disagreements as to what is important to each of us. 

Checking important stuff before buying.
So as a first step building a new life, I had purchase my own car, since we've been sharing all these years. I wanted another Mazda 5 since it's about the most awesome bike car ever, but financially, it just wasn't going to happen. After discussing contingency plans, it basically came down to, "Here is what you can afford: the Mazda 2. We have one in stock. It is lime green." So I drove it home, made sure I could fit a bike in the back, and went back and bought it. It was the first time I'd bought a car myself and my first step towards building a new life for myself that I can be proud of. The color is also starting to grow on me, especially after my friend Sarah christened it "The Lime-a Bean".

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Got It Wednesday: A Singlespeed and a Tattoo

"More often than not singlespeeders have tattoos, carry whiskey flasks on rides and are proficient with the use of foul language."

Today is not so much a "Want It Wednesday", as a "Got It Wednesday", since I have made not one, but two exciting purchases in the last couple of days. I hadn't planned on both things coming together back-to-back, but I'm glad it worked out that way, because they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Er, um, like avocado and bacon for Paleo folks.

What are these things? A singlespeed and a new, much more visible tattoo.

My new blue baby
The first is the Surly Karate Monkey that I did a Want It Wednesday on back in January. I finally got the money together right in time for mountain bike season to start, and it arrived on Monday.

Facing the wolf at my door.
The second is tattoo #2. After I got over the fear of the first one, I came to terms with the fact that I really wanted one on my arm that I could see while wearing regular clothes. I guess I'd been held back by fears of having a tattoo that showed in my work clothes, but then I realized that it wasn't that big of a deal. I will probably never become president of the university now, but I probably wasn't going to, anyway.

So once the decision was made that the arm tattoo was happening, I had to decide on content. I spent a lot of time looking on Pinterest and for ideas. I quickly came to the conclusion that there was no way it was going to be a bird, bow, or a peacock feather, and eventually narrowed it down to a "paper cut" design. Then I looked for actual paper cut art on Etsy and found this shop with lots of designs that I liked. For some reason the Little Red Riding Hood spoke to me the most, although I don't have any particular attachment to the story. Something about the little girl and the wolf conveyed a sense of bravery, though. So I had Colin at SKINQUAKE draw up a simpler version that would fit on my arm, and yesterday I got it done. I'm still getting used to how big and obvious it is, but that's what I wanted, and I work itself is beautiful.

A bandage messed up the most poser Instagram ever.
I took Monday and Tuesday off of work for some additional chill-out time after training camp, so once the tattoo was complete, I took my burrito-wrapped arm and headed out for the Karate Monkey's maiden voyage at BCSP. I've been making jokes about how it will be my dumpster bike, because it's inexpensive and a rigid steel singlespeed is all that I can afford right now. Well, the mechanical brakes aren't that awesome, but otherwise, I FREAKIN' LOVE THIS BIKE.

Singlespeeding is so much fun, and the rigid fork is not nearly as rough as I imagined it would be. Yeah, I noticed a difference, but it wasn't too bad. It was definitely an asset when I needed to stand and climb, though, which happened a lot with the 32x17 gearing that came on the bike. I think I need a 32x19, but I didn't have time to change it before the first ride. I still survived a lap of North Tower and Green Valley without having to get off, though. It was harder than bopping around at easy pace on a geared bike, but it was also faster and allowed me to keep up better flow, so it was still a very good time. I'm definitely looking forward to the Monkey and I spending much more time together this summer.

Now I just need a name for him...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Week #14: Training Camp Photo Dump

Last week was the second-annual Speedway Wheelmen training camp. The riding was good and all, but nothing too exciting. I got 40-50 miles in the mountains each day while everyone got about 80. It was appropriately hard, but not killer. My work capacity is way better than this time last year.

Otherwise, it was a good time with friends just like last year, so instead of a lot of writing, I'll post some of my favorite pictures.

Sarah, Janelle, and I making up for lost time by modeling our sparkly
headbands with duck lips and  popped out booties to go with them.

While everyone else turned right to climb Clingman's Dome, I turned left into
Gatlinburg and got frozen custard before riding back to the cabin.

Family-style dinner the first night. Lots of pans to
mix-and-match to everyone's unique dietary needs.

Posing with a a giraffe statue at a roadside fireworks
superstore on the way home.

Someone just built their house around their RV.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Week #13: Let There Be MTB

There's really not a lot to say about Week# 13, except that it finally offered that elusive window of mountain biking that comes every March. And as it happens every March when the window appears, all training plans go out the window in the name getting a little slice of dirt. I was able to get in MTB rides both days this weekend, at French Lick on Saturday and at BCSP on Sunday.

Since the point of these weekly check-ins to keep myself on track with the plan, I'll confess that I've been a little off-track since the Death March. My weight training schedule got off a bit when I took days off for the Death March and Barry-Roubaix, and I feel like I haven't had a proper weekly ass-kicking in a couple of weeks. My next big event is the Big Frog 65, but I don't have the motivation of a potential podium finish that drove me in the weeks leading to the Death March. I guess the next thing that I am really excited about is the Tri-State 6 Hour Series, but that doesn't start until June 22, and the order for my Karate Monkey keeps being a delayed by a few more days. So right now, I'm just going through the motions, but maybe that's okay for a bit.

French Lick

This is Jack, who we found near the end of the ride. Turns out he belonged to
another rider that we know and they were reunited shortly thereafter.