Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Blogging Break

It’s been easy to put off writing my report from our SSCXWC/Eva Bandman adventure in Louisville over the weekend, since we were driving home all day Monday, and I was catching up on work on Tuesday. However, even with being busy, I really just haven’t felt like writing about it. I’ve been mulling over what to write since Sunday night, and I even came up with a potentially funny “you’re doing it wrong” angle on how my SSCXWC experience went awry when I got so drunk that it was almost like I was taking the race seriously due to the amount of focus required. I actually had a pretty good race at Eva Bandman, where despite feeling physically awful before the race and expecting myself to tank, I had probably my second-best finish since moving up to the elite women’s wave in OVCX. As you can see, though, I was able to fit all of the relevant facts into one short paragraph, so trying to expand it out into something witty and interesting would basically just be self-indulgence.

I will also indulge myself with one last cell phone grade picture of myself racing in a Ninja Turtle costume.

I mean, 90% of the purpose behind this blog is self-indulgence, but for the past few months I’ve begun to feel that it’s switched to a kind of self-indulgence that isn’t beneficial. Over the course of nearly eight years that I’ve been writing, I have gone through many rough patches where I just didn’t post for a while with the old adage of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” in mind.

 Then a couple of years ago I began the experiment of being more open about the realities of my mind and life and committing to weekly reports on my progress no matter what. For many months it was a great help to me, because it kept me accountable and taught me how to share and ask for help. It was a way for me to have “someone to talk to” at a time when I had no close relationships with actual humans with whom I could share my feelings.

Through the journey of telling the truth on the Internet, I gained the courage to form relationships with actual humans, and it eventually lead to one very special relationship with one very special human being with whom I can have open and honest conversation about anything on a daily basis. I also got to know a lot of other really great people with whom I didn’t get to spend enough time before I ran off to be with my one very special human being in Pennsylvania. I’ve spent a lot of time of the last few months being sad about the relationships that I couldn’t make last and feeling like it was because I wasn’t likeable/memorable/worthwhile enough.

So that is when I started struggling with honesty vs. just plain negativity in my writing. I know that it’s just my crazy brain telling me that nobody cares what is going on with me, anyway, but I’ve realized that blogging and social media are really exacerbating those negative feelings right now. Then it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy of those negative feelings turning me into a whiny, unlikeable person from whom no one wants to hear any updates.

That is why I’ve decided to take a break from my blog for a while, stop dwelling on the past, and put my energy towards building real-life positive relationships to fill in the space around the life that I’m building with my very special human being relationship. Maybe in a few months I’ll feel like challenging myself with crafting funny reports about my racing experiences, or I’ll even figure out how to use my enjoyment of the writing process towards some less self-indulgent topic. For now, though, I will say see you later, and thanks for reading!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Return to Cross

The past weekend brought an end to my three-week break from cyclocross and provided further evidence that taking more than one weekend off from racing in a row is pretty much a terrible idea. Of course, the fact that, with the exception of a couple of good but moderate-effort weekend rides, we became pretty darn lazy over the break did not help at all. We did, however, finish watching the last couple of seasons of The Wire.

So I knew that returning to racing this weekend would be tough. I actually got pretty stressed out about the fact that we were coming back to a double weekend that required us to be away from home on Saturday night. With the laziness, my parents coming to visit, etc. I’d really let myself slip into some bad habits of eating crappy food, drinking too much beer, and not getting enough sleep. Basically, I’ve been feeling pretty terrible lately, and I panicked a bit when I realized that my circumstances would not be very conducive to feeling better until we returned from Louisville after SSCXWC.

I guess the good news is that, despite my anxiety, I was able to move forward with the races and the overnight trip and still have a pretty good time. I basically just told Frank before left that I was having a hard time and was anxious about the weekend so that he would be aware, but I left it at that, because any further explanation would have just been useless complaining. As expected, I ate and drank things that made me feel better at the time and worse the next day, and a night of sleeping on an air mattress didn’t do my physical condition any good, but I got spend time with some cool people and see a “real” haunted house for the first time. So I’m proud of myself that I’m not letting feeling crappy make me fall apart and miss out on life the way it used to, but I’m still disappointed that I’m regularly turning to food when I need an emotional pick-up when a year ago I was fully convinced that I’d kicked my eating disorder for good.

 Anyway, the races went about the way one would expect based on the information above. Saturday’s Star Rock Cross race seemed to bring out only the strongest of the PACX Women’s 3/4 field, plus little old me. predicted me to finish solidly in last place, and when my body started screaming at me halfway through the first lap, I didn’t do much to argue with it. I had to scale back and soft pedal for a bit before I started to ramp my pace back up for the last three laps. This at least allowed to have a decent racing experience while I worked to catch and repass the two 45+ women that got in front of me during my blow-up.

Sunday’s West Chester Cross Classic was even more of a day just to be survived. I was completely unmotivated to engage in any sort of battle out on the course. I simply wanted to get through the race knowing that doing so would make the next one a tiny bit easier. I guess that is the one upside of not having a lot of people who know me at PACX races; when I don’t feel like trying, at least I can just not try in peace without anyone yelling at me about it. 

One sort of funny thing that happened was during the first lap I had passed the girl in front of me and was seemingly starting to close a gap up to the main field that I’d let open at the beginning. Then the girl came around me and said, “Let’s go get that group!” Ha, she definitely doesn’t know much about how to motivate me. By coming around and *telling* me that I needed to go faster, she pretty much ensured that I would not, but if she’d stayed on my wheel I would have buried myself trying to shake her and maybe even actually made it up to the group in the process. At least Frank has figured out that the best way to make me go faster to is to get behind me instead of trying to pull me along.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Parent's Weekend

There’s not much to tell bike-wise from the past week, because my parents came to visit over the weekend. Coincidentally, it was Parent’s Weekend for Penn State, which had very little to do with us, other than the fact that all of the hotels in town were booked.

It was kind of a big deal, since, although Frank and I have been dating for nearly 16 months and have lived together for six, it was the first time that he and my parents had met. Given, I hadn’t seen them since last Christmas myself, and although willingness to go back to Oklahoma with me for the holidays was a requirement for any potential new relationship, Frank did get off the hook until we could at least make the trip from the same starting point.

The weekend was even more jam-packed with touristy stuff than it normally is with just me and my mom, partially to keep my dad entertained, and partially because it was inconvenient to just hang out either at our place or the cabin where they were staying. Frank got full emersion in the family fun, only missing the trip to the antique auto museum that we made while he was in class on Friday morning.


Saturday consisted of an all-day trip to a town about 2.5 hours away to go on a train ride through the area in which the first commercial oil wells in the United States were drilled. My dad has worked for oil companies on and off throughout the years, so it was meant to be interesting for him, but the rest of us enjoyed the fall foliage and seeing new parts of the state.

The adventures concluded with our traditionally family activity of cavern tours. This time it was at Penn’s Cave, in which the tour takes place by boat. I think the first picture of mine that Frank ever “liked” on Instagram was from the last cavern tour that my mom and I did, so it was nice having him there for the next one a year and a half later.

Now it’s time to start wrapping my brain around the second half of cyclocross season, which will sprint to a pre-Thanksgiving finish with eight races in six weeks. I’m a bit apprehensive, because even though I was hitting a good groove before the break, I’m worried that three weeks was enough time for my body to lose the pain immunity that one builds after several back-to-back weekends of racing. I guess a double this weekend should get it started coming back quickly, at least. The good news is that we are hopefully done with the hot racing, even if the forecast is still not showing any rain for either day this weekend. I’m starting to think Frank went to all that trouble of regluing my Limuses for nothing.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Real Weekend

I don't ride you enough because 
Love wasn't what I thought it once was 
But I thought it once was 
Mashing over everything 
And taking off your small chainrings 
No, now I know and now I see 
I'm not afraid no more 
No no no no no no 

So why are you always trying to stay at home? 
Raystown can't be played alone 
It was made to be played with... 

 My my Monkey and I 
 My Monkey and I 
My Monkey and I 
D-doing just fine, yeah

I guess I’m replacing my Taylor Swift lyric intros with (modified) Haim lyric intros. I’m not sure if this is really an improvement, but since I spent some time with an old friend this weekend, I thought it was appropriate.

 Frank and I just completed our first real weekend in nine weeks. I think getting into the ‘cross groove helped pull me out of the rut that I was in for most of the summer, so I was a bit reluctant to take a break, even though there were no races in PA this weekend. There was one in Maryland, but it would have been silly to drive 3 hours each way just to get a ‘cross fix that didn’t really count for anything. Instead we opted to do the fun stuff that we’ve been ignoring all summer and early fall, namely singlespeed mountain biking and gravel riding.

We also watched probably 12 episodes of The Wire, to which Frank has recently introduced me. I actually feel pretty proud that we were able to balance that level of laziness and still manage to get our planned rides in. I obviously have forgotten what a real weekend feels like.

Our first trip to Raystown back in June left us largely unimpressed, but I suspected that it would be more fun on a singlespeed than it was on my Lust. So on Saturday, we finally let the Karate Monkey out the garage for the first time since moving into our apartment, and packed up Frank’s newly-converted Chumba hardtail, whose gnar bike status was taken by his recently-acquired Anthem 29er. My recent ‘cross results have been a pretty good indicator of the actual state of my fitness lately, but the Karate Monkey was brutally honest in its assessment. I remember how strong I felt when I started riding it regularly in the spring of 2013, and on Saturday it was apparent by the number of rest breaks that I required how much of that old strength has slipped away from me.

It made me reminisce about that time period, and how weird it felt to be riding the bike that I used to ride all the time. That bike was an amazing post-divorce coping mechanism, but as I transitioned from post-divorce, to long-distance relationship, to moving to one of the most singlespeed-unfriendly places I can think of, it lost its place in my life. I still laugh sometimes about how a friend called my relationship with Frank “just a rebound thing” as I responded to an “I love you, CX mentor” text while I sat dateless at Fred and Liz’s wedding last fall. I hope that, over a year later, we’ve proven to be more than that in the eyes of others, but if not, we certainly have proven it to ourselves. I think I’m as surprised as anyone at my mere two-month single period that ended with my falling in love with and eventually moving to Pennsylvania for the first guy with whom I even went on a date. So I often think of the Karate Monkey as my rebound relationship, and instead of embarrassing drunken bar make-outs, I just used beat-up wrists and burning quads to work through my emotions. As difficult as the ride was on Saturday, it made me want to make more trips to Raystown and get reacquainted with my strength from the old days, but you know, minus all the crappy parts that I’ve forgotten.

We also got to demo fat bikes. It was fun to try out, and it gripped ridiculously well in the corners, but the sore lack of climbing ability made me wonder why anyone would want to use one as their go-to trail bike. I still wish I had a cheap one for snow-riding in the winter, though.

Finally, we reacquainted ourselves with gravel. We’ve discussed the matter and decided to keep up the tradition of “Surviving the Gravel Grovel”, even though cyclocross season doesn’t allow us to actually train for it. In a weird way, it almost makes it more fun.

We did, however, decide to take advantage of our last chance to ride gravel before the Gravel Grovel. The plan was to climb up to a gravel road that runs along the ridge about halfway up the mountain that we climb on Tuesdays. The ride is an out-and-back that can be up to 40-something miles, but we decided just to go and turn around when we felt like it. I felt surprisingly good, and we ended up turning around due to being a bit underdressed for the mid-50’s, overcast, and windy conditions that we hadn’t experience in a while, rather than being tired. We also made the mistake of trying to “change it up” by riding out on a long, gnarly descent back to the main road. Frank got a flat about halfway down, discovered that he had no tube or patch kit, and the ride ended with me riding home alone and coming back in the car for him.

I still ended up with 25.7 miles, which by Strava’s silly mileage-centric standards was my biggest ride of the year. Strava obviously has no appreciation for gnar.