Monday, February 23, 2015

Libations and Llamas

In last week’s post I pointed out that the benefit of weekly posting is that it forces me to write about some way in which I improved during the past week, and knowing that I’ll have to write about it, I’m more likely to make the improvements happen. My biggest challenge last week was that it felt like despite my best efforts at improvement, circumstance did not want to see it happen.

After pushing off my Monday weight training to get a much-needed massage, I moved that workout to Tuesday, leaving me with just one weeknight ride to complete for the week. Unfortunately, it snowed hard just as I was leaving work, making it unsafe to ride on the road in quickly-darkening conditions. Just pedaling on the trainer seemed like a waste of time and I was already in a sucked-dry mental state, so the thought of doing something so unpleasant that would have so little immediate payoff was really bringing me down. I was really at the point where I needed to feel like my sacrifice was worth it. Despite feeling that way, I knew that skipping the workout would only set me further back, so I got on the training and busted out 4 x 1 minute as hard as I could plus 15 minutes each of warm-up and cool down. Under the circumstances, it felt like the way to get the most payoff for the least amount of time and mental energy.

My other tough time of the week was Thursday night when we were supposed to attend the “Inaugural Ball” of a new local restaurant/craft beer bar. That would in theory be totally fun, except that I desperately wanted to shake the fat feeling of the damage that I had done over the weekend in Illinois. As much I hate talk of burning calories, counting calories, or anything involving the word calories, I can’t deny the fact that one will generally lean out faster at a higher cycling volume than a lower one, unless they are overtraining or making bad food choices that disproportionately increase hunger. I refuse to count calories or even mess with the overall volume of healthy food that I’m eating, since I’m still very much in the danger zone for bingeing right now. So with the weather forcing my riding volume to be low right now, all I can really do to try and improve my body composition is to avoid alcohol and treats.

I was already ready nervous about having to go out to the bar, but I knew that Frank was looking forward to it, so I didn’t want to ruin it for him. Even though I was feeling pretty low on willpower, resiliency, mental energy, or whatever you want to call it, I made peace with the idea that I would just go, order the least dietarily offensive thing on the menu, and suppress how sad I was to be watching my boyfriend drink beer while I couldn’t. Sounds like a good plan, right? Unfortunately, we got there early and the place was already packed with a variety of annoying people, so the amount of sucking-it-up for which I was prepared was quickly exceeded, and I’m pretty sure I ended up ruining it for Frank with my Saddy Sadderson-ness after all.

 I did, however, succeed in not drinking that night nor through the weekend. Frank purchase a bottle of Brooklyn Black Ops, which we hear is amazing, so I said that we could drink it next weekend after I get in one more week of “good behavior”.

So the question is, was it improvement? The problem is that when I think about the goals that I want to accomplish in the coming months, they are very conflicting. I want to lose weight and get back to feeling fast on a bike, because I want to feel the confidence that comes with that. There is also the practical element that being fit makes social riding fun instead of miserable. I also feel like racing is an important part of growing social connections, because that is where one is most likely to meet like-minded folks. I feel like I was not as good at making friends during ‘cross as I could have been, because racing wasn’t that fun while I was in bad shape and I probably didn’t exude such a friendly demeanor when I was nervous or bummed about bad races.

Focusing on losing weight and getting fit can be very healthy, and it can be very unhealthy, depending on my focus. Ultimately, I want to be fit enough to race, ride with faster people and still have fun doing it, and be able to eat out and travel for social reasons. I know that I should probably work on my feeling that I need to lose weight and be fit to make friends, and start thinking more about how I can be confident with the body that I have now, but let’s face it, being in good shape is more fun unless you let it take over your life.

Where I ultimately want to end up is that I don’t miss workouts just because I don’t feel like it, or eat because I need a mental pick-up. At the same time, I want to have to flexibility to alter my schedule for fun or social reasons, and go to bars and restaurants and not have anxiety because I know that I can either eat and drink what I want to, and/or be able to say no to things that will make me feel bad physically without any trepidation. Basically, the ability to go off track when it’s beneficial for me and then jump back on immediately after.

 I got really good at that a couple of years ago when I had my eating disorder under control and was really fit already. My favorite victory story was the time I was out to dinner with Sarah and Josh, and for reason, they gave us free dessert. Josh and I both ate some of the cake that they gave us, and it was really good, but I stopped before I felt sick and didn’t feel the need to finish it. We left with cake still on the plate and I felt totally okay with it. That was a pretty rare and glorious moment for me; I’m pretty sure that if I managed to leave cake on the plate now, it would be a miserable, hard-fought battle rather than an easy one.

That’s why it’s hard to call going out and not drinking a success if it still causes me anxiety to do so. At the same time, maybe it is progress to have done so and prove to myself that I could. Maybe in doing so I won’t be so stressed out about it next time. So I’ll call it an improvement, but know that I still have some work to do.


Also, I did get to ride my bike outside this weekend, at least on Sunday. We got 33 miles of rolling pavement from the “Llama Loop”, and for the sake of one less picture-less post during hermetically-sealed hands season, here is a picture of the eponymous llamas.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Obligatory Weekly Post

This week is one of those where the obligation of weekly updates feels like a greater burden than usual. Obviously I avoided it yesterday with the excuse that I didn’t have time, and it’s probably good that it was delayed a day. I’d still sort of rather not post, but my attitude is definitely improved over what it was yesterday.

Part of that attitude improvement is just time, rest, and some free headspace to think. The other part is contemplating why I made the commitment to post weekly, and why I didn’t want to this particular week. When I was successful in my weekly posting before, it was because it basically forced me to point out some way in which I had improved in cycling, socializing, or life skills during the previous seven days. It also forced me to move forward, even when I didn’t want to, because I knew I’d have to write about on Monday. The reason that I didn’t want to post this week is because I felt like I had no improvement about which to write.

Last week’s post was easy. After hitting bottom and declaring my intention of to turn it around, I saw a successful first week of progress out of the hole. I continued with a solid workweek where I completed my weight training, and even ventured out for my first outdoor post-work rides of 2015. They were stupidly cold, and we had to use light for the last half of last Tuesday and Wednesday’s hour-long rides, but they weren’t on the trainer, and right now that counts for a lot.

The weekend wasn’t so note-worthy from a hole-climbing perspective. We went to Illinois from Friday-Sunday so that Frank could have his car emissions checked and keep his (and the car’s) Illinois citizenship. Much like the Lime-a-Bean will be keeping Indiana plates until Indiana quits sending me new stickers for them, Frank is not ready to commit to any state that isn’t tattooed on his arm unless he’s offered a tenure-track job there. It also doesn’t hurt that his one remaining tenure-track possibility for 2015-2016 would allow him to keep his license plates and his tattoo, but I won’t post too many spoilers unless it actually pans out.

We knew this trip had to happen before April, and we’d planned on just combining it with our Death March trip, but when that was cancelled, we decided just to get it over with on a weekend when it was too cold for outdoor riding. With Sunday’s high of 4 degrees, we made the right decision, but it was a little tough dealing with a long weekend of car riding, no bike riding, overeating, and overdrinking when I wasn’t feeling too solidly back on a straight and narrow yet. In perfect world, I would have packed healthy road snacks, eaten a moderate amount of the pizza that was put in front of me to not be rude and stopped at that, and then moved on back to my Monday morning with no guilt and the ability to still function in the face of feeling physically sub-par. I have been to that place for a very short time a couple of years ago, but that’s very high-level stuff, and I’m certainly not there right now.

I let the weekend drive me off the rails a little, and I didn’t handle coming home to frozen pipes and a particularly tough Monday at work very well. I also missed my Monday weight training so that I could get a massage instead, but I’m actually standing by that decision. I think that it actually made a greater contribution to getting back to a good physical and mental state than the training would have, so it’s different from skipping a workout just because I was tired.

However, I still realize that I’m better off than I was two weeks ago simply because I decided be. I long for the day when food and travel don’t cause me anxiety, and my wonderful boyfriend no longer has to witness me having temper tantrums/panic attacks over dumb stuff when my emotional gas tank gets too low. The good news is that he still loves me even when I act like a crazy person, and that motivates me to take care of myself so that I continue having fewer urges to act like one. So even if the weekend was challenging, I’m still a little further out of the hole.

Monday, February 9, 2015

On the Road Again

After a much-needed burst of working out my situation in writing the past couple of weeks, I’m ready to get back on the Monday-update schedule. I made it through the first few days of hole-sucking emotional detox, and I’m happy to say that I’m feeling a lot more normal now. I’ve got in a solid week of 100% home cooked food, pretty decent sleep, and lots of boyfriend and kitty cuddles. Oh, and the ~100 miles that logged on my new bike didn’t hurt, either.

At least the roads were clear.

When I got the report around noon on Tuesday that my new bike still hadn’t arrived at the shop, I thought there was no way it would be ready to ride on my day off on Wednesday. The plan was to ride around 1:30 when Frank got out of class, but he called me at 11:45 and said my bike had not only arrived, but that it was ready to pick up. When I got to the shop, they had not switched out the crank yet, so it was not actually ready. We had them swap out the Rotor crank that it came with to a regular Ultegra one, so that I can add a Stages power meter in another month or two when I save up the additional funds. Unfortunately, after I made several slow meanders around the shop waiting, they said that they were missing a part to swap the cranks and they wouldn’t have it until the next day. I was pretty upset about all of the back and forth for a week already and started to lose my cool. I went home and started preparing to ride my old bike when Frank got home. When he arrived and called the shop, it turned out they had found what they needed, and he went to get the bike.

We had to scramble to get tires swapped, bottle cages, saddle, pedals, etc. on so that we could ride, but we eventually got out the door about an hour later than planned, just in time for the 40 degrees and sunny weather to turn cloudy and the temperature to drop. In the end, though, I was still pretty stoked to finally be riding outside in above-freezing weather with no precipitation and to be on my new bike. I had no idea how out of shape I really was, and after 2.5 hours of gasping and my heart rate going through the roof, all of the drama of the past week had melted away. I also thought it was just as well be got a late start and had to cut down our ride, because 30 miles and 2500 feet of climbing were plenty.

After taking a day off mid-week to sneak in an above-freezing ride, the weekend turned out surprisingly okay weatherwise, as well. We logged a very climby 40 miles on Saturday and a very dead-legged, rolly 26 on Sunday. I’m still really weak and slow right now, so I’m still glad to have the Death March pressure off, but I’m feeling good about the work that I’ve put in. Hopefully, I’ll still have my legs and lungs back in time for the spring thaw.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Me v. Hole

Last night I came home emotionally drained only to receive bad news regarding the progress of my new bike. It was originally slated to arrive at the shop on Thursday or Friday, but we were warned that it might not be ready to pick up until Monday due to a backlog of work that the shop already had. When it didn’t arrive on Friday I hoped that perhaps the backlog would clear over the weekend, and at least they could get right to it when the bike arrived on Monday. Then last night I came home to the news that when Frank had stopped by the shop to check on the progress, the shop wasn’t even open, presumably due to the moderately crappy weather yesterday. So now I have no idea where the bike is, or when it will be built up. This news came after I had already asked for a PTO day so that I can take advantage of the practically tropical 39 degrees and no rain or snow weather that is predicted tomorrow. I was really hoping that my new bike would be able to join me, but it won’t.

I *just* got the text that they essentially don’t know where the fuck it is. Awesome.

The result of this news that would be normally fall into the “mild to moderate disappointment” category (at least as of last night’s status update) sent me into a half-hour or so of catatonic pouty fit that I’m sure was pretty tough for Frank because he really wanted to console me, but I just wasn’t in a state to be consoled. It sounds dumb without context, but as I mentioned before, I was already emotionally sucked dry when I came and just didn’t have the capacity for anything else less than positive. The half-hour of catatonic state did serve its purpose, though, as I did eventually pull myself together and find the energy to go to the gym, make dinner, fold the laundry, clean the litter boxes, and get ready for bed like I was supposed to.

The thing about it is that yesterday wasn’t really even a “bad day” by most terms. It was just a normal workday with moderately crappy weather, a few normal-type stressful moments, and a little bit of bad news at the end. However, as you might have gathered from my recent flurry of Internet honesty, I’m in a bad place right now. The difference is that this may be the first time that I’m fully aware that the bad place I’m in can’t be blamed on bad circumstances, but rather pretty mundane circumstances and a lack of excitement and/or drama to distract myself from the emptiness inside me.

Knowing that, the reason yesterday felt so bad for me is that since I’ve admitted it all of this for the world to see, I’m ready give up on unhealthy methods of giving into my emotional hole. A big lesson that I’ve learned in the past is that one of the best treatments for depression is to stop behaving like a depressed person. However, the gap between how simple that sounds and hard it actually is to actually do is almost funny its expanse. So the first few days of turning one’s behavior around from unhealthy coping mechanisms feels terrible, even if the circumstances in which the changes take place merely lacking in encouragement, rather than actually bad.

My last couple of posts have talked about my need for a new anchor to pull myself out of the hole, as well as whether the hole is something to be cured or a condition that to managed. Last night I came to the conclusion that it is like an autoimmune disease of my mind. Instead of my immune cells attacking my thyroid or the myelin on my neurons, the negative part of my mind is attacking the positive part and making it hard to function. And like an autoimmune condition, there probably isn’t a cure, per se, and I’ve definitely learned that the drugs that doctors would prescribe for it very well might do more harm than good. However, with the right combination of treatments, I can put the hole into remission.

I’ve done it before without realizing that was what I was doing. Now that I know what I’m fighting, I don’t need to anchor myself to a bike race as my goal. My goal is to beat the hole. Training and racing will definitely be a part of my treatment, which I also know can be very helpful but also hurtful if used incorrectly. The key is awareness as to which category they fall into on a given day. I also still need to find new handholds, which is why it’s going to be so tough for a while. Internet accountability, a good boyfriend, and my own inconsistent willpower are what I have right now, but I’ll keep scanning my surroundings for more.

Half-hour catatonic pouty fits aside, I now have 1.5 days clean. I also have some progress on my complete collection of Taylor Swift 1989 cycling-related parodies, as “Clean” is now is a much more fleshed-out commentary on the function of gravel slurry in my life. That’s a bit ironic because “Shake It Off” is totally about muddy cross races (Racers gonna race, mechanics gonna hate, disc brakes are gonna brake, canti’s gonna cake, and my ex-man’s new girlfriend is like, “Oh my god, you mean I have to power wash?”). Cross mud is just more fun than gravel slurry in your teeth, I guess. 

Thankfully, such distractions will help me get through the weeks ahead. Most of all, now I think I will succeed because I have to. After all, I said on the Internet that I would.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Dawn of a New Era

The last weekend of January was no more conducive to training success than the rest of the month had already been. A high of 22 degrees on Saturday and an active snow storm on Sunday kept us from accomplishing much bike-wise for yet another weekend. On Saturday, we attempted to do a short mountain bike ride on some new double track/not-too-technical trails that we’d never tried before. When we got to the first section of unpaved rail-to-trail/double track, we discovered car tire tracks through it. I’ve never been on this trail before, so I’m not sure what it’s actually supposed to be under the snow, but I was surprised and also a little relieved to see car tracks, at least on that day. Unfortunately, we only made it about a quarter of a mile, because with 10 or so inches of accumulated snow, the car tire tracks were still too soft to ride in many places. It was a situation in which I don’t even think fat bikes would have been much use.

Earlier in the month, I talked about the freedom that comes with physical incapacity, when you finally give in to being sick or injured and let whatever plans that incapacity was keeping you from fall away with no guilt. I didn’t fully let go, though, since I’d already signed up for the Death March and had invested in creating a Facebook page for my Death March Memes hobby. I thought I’d made peace with not being competitive, and I had too much investment to feel like I could drop out. As January has dragged on with conditions continuing to not turn in my favor, I longed to be rid of the burden of Death March expectations, regardless of how few I tried to have. So Friday night Frank and I had a long talk and decided that I would be better served giving myself permission to not race, and having made that decision made a weekend of battling whether to ride in miserable conditions or stay inside and feel guilty a little easier.

It may seem like right now I’m letting adversity win, but I don’t really care. When I gave in to my physical incapacity, I also vowed to let go of stressing over a future that I can’t control in regard to Frank’s job search and everything else that depends on it. Now it’s time to also let go of the past. Last week I said that needed to find a new anchor and new handholds in my life, so maybe unhitching from an old anchor will free me up to do that faster. Going back to Indiana to try and relive past glory is just going to make me feel bad every day that I’m not on track until it’s over. Also, if my state after returning from Sarah and Josh’s wedding and from SSCXWC are any indication, I’ll probably be saving myself some post-trip depression resulting from feeling like I don’t belong anymore, be those feelings rational or not.

Now I am free stop comparing myself to two-years-ago-me and figure out what the new awesome me will look like. Right now I don’t know what my new anchor will be, although I am looking forward to the first Mid-Atlantic Super Series cross-country race on April 26. Cross-country is another thing that I just had to walk away from at one point, but now I’m feeling like a fresh start in a new series might be cool. It also means that I don’t need to beat myself up trying to do long rides in miserable conditions just yet. For now my goal is just to complete all of my weight training sessions and ride my bike on all of the days that I’m scheduled to ride my bike (Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday) without too much stress about quantity or quality, at least until Daylight Savings Time comes back. At that point I should have a decent base back with seven weeks to start pushing before my first race. It seems like a much more doable plan.

Imagine this sitting in a pile of snow with more pink.

It’s mostly coincidence that I finally got together enough money for a new cross bike at the time that I decide to give myself a fresh start, but it’s still a nice marker. I partly wanted to wait until my new Giant TCX Advanced Pro 1 arrived before posting, but it’s already a day or two late, so I’ll just go ahead with a stock photo rather than delay. Hopefully on Wednesday I’ll be taking my first unburdened pedal strokes on a gorgeous new carbon fiber creature untouched by Hoosier National Forest gravel slurry. Much like the past accomplishments and failures in which she played a central role, my 2011 TCX w will be held onto and cherished, but moved to a more peripheral part of my life (maybe as a singlespeed). I hope this pretty new blue boy serves me as well as she did, but his story will be his own, and I’m sure it will be a good one.