Monday, June 30, 2014

Raystown and Roadiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Weddings and Anniversaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Trailmix That Wasn't

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Still Tired and Newly Strava'd

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Week #4: I Wake Up Exhausted

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

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

First Road Ride in Two Months.

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

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

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

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

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