Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bike Path

Sometimes, I find it hard to get motivated to go for a ride, even though I know I'll feel much better when I get out there. In those instances, it's really best if I don't have to load my bike in the car and drive to a trail. The more effort I have to put into getting ready to ride, the less likely it is that I'll actually do it.

When I find myself in this situation, the best thing to do is hop on my bike and head out from my house, maybe taking the Lansing River Trail, which I can access a few blocks from home. I think bike paths are tremendously underrappreciated by most "serious" cyclists.

I know a lot of cyclists who think bike paths are boring, filled with too many recreational riders on comfort bikes and families. I also know there are some people who think you're not tough enough if you aren't comfortable riding with traffic.

I feel fine riding in traffic, generally. I don't usually ride on the sidewalk, either. Once in a while, though, I just appreciate being able to get on a bike path and not have to worry about traffic or mapping out a route. I just ride it to the end and turn around and come back.

It may not be as challenging as some other rides I could do, and it would definitely get boring if that's all I did. But I'm still on my bike and I'm turning the cranks and that's always better than sitting on the couch.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Goal Setting

Di recently reviewed her 2008 cycling goals, giving an assessment of how she fared with each goal she made at the beginning of the season. It made me wish I had done something similar, but the goals I had for the racing season were quite generic and I don't think I actually recorded them on my blog. The good news about this is that, since they were so vague, I didn't have any problems meeting them.
  1. Complete the MMBA Championship Point Series. Check. I had hoped to race more, but I did the required number of races to qualify for the series. Currently, I'm sitting in second place, with the last race results still to be determined. The women in first and third places have only completed four races. (Yes, that means there is someone who has more points than I have who has done fewer races.) Provided the two of them race today at Pando, I will finish in third (assuming the current third place gets more than four points, which is pretty much guaranteed). The other women in the group will not have enough races to qualify, even if they race today.

  2. Do a six-hour race. Check. Chris and I both raced solo in 6 Hours of Ithaca and had a great time. In my opinion, that race was perfect for an introduction to endurance racing. I didn't place spectacularly, but I completed over and above my goal for number of laps. I'm going to wait until spring to say anything definite, but at this point I'm hoping to concentrate on endurance next season with the ultimate goal of racing Lumberjack in 2010.

That was it for my 2008 race season goals, so I did pretty well on paper. However, I know in my heart I didn't do well enough. That's not to say that I should have been faster or placed higher. It's just that I know I didn't train hard enough or long enough. With that in mind, I'd like to change some things right away, namely improving how I train through the fall and winter, which is traditionally when I become lazy and lethargic and start to pack on the pounds. Here's what I think I should do:

  1. Train more consistently throughout the fall and winter and stick it out until the bitter end. Last winter I did much better than I have in previous years. I rode my trainer a lot and I rode outside more than I have ridden in any previous winter. Even so, I had big gaps in my training and toward the end of winter I got so sick of riding the trainer that I just quit.

  2. Be consistent with my weight training. We didn't go to the gym at all last winter and bought the Bowflex when it was almost time to taper off weight training, so we barely got any use out of it. This time, there's no excuse. It's just waiting upstairs to be used and crying out for us to get our money's worth out of it.

  3. Watch my food intake. This is a constant struggle and extends through all seasons. I know full well that if I dropped 30, 40 or 50 pounds it would make a huge difference in my racing speed. If I drop weight and train harder the results should be staggering.

Over the next couple of days, I'm going to come up with a training plan for fall and winter. Then I'm going to document my training goals in a blog post and keep track of how I am sticking to my goals each week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Healthy & Fit

Today was an extremely long day. I had to be at the Lansing Center at 6 a.m. to help out at the Healthy & Fit Expo. Jake, Chris Mensing and I spent the first few hours helping exhibitors unload and staffed the MMBA booth for the rest of the day.
It was tiring, but turned out to be a fun day. I saw a lot of people I knew, met some interesting new people and scoped out the other booths. There was kayak demo outside, and I had to prevent my mom from buying yet another kayak.

One of the highlights of my day was the free chair massage I got at the
Creative Wellness booth. It made me realize how much I really need to find another job so I can start getting massages on a regular basis.
There were lots of kids activities, including a tennis demonstration. Jake even got free acupuncture! (If you look really close, you can see the needles in his hands and forehead.)
I'm looking forward to a day of rest tomorrow, but maybe I'll try to get in some riding. It looks like our days of nice weather are numbered.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Gretchen and I are kind of in the same boat—getting larger and larger. And in the words of a woman who had 15 minutes of fame and practically no hair, it's time to "stop the madness." G-dog and I got back on track today, eating conservatively and going for a walk at the dog park. I know it's only one day, but one day after one day after one day starts to add up. With all the changes that are going on in my life right now, I'm reluctant to believe my weight will stay the same.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brave New World

Since Monday, I've told a lot of people about quitting my job. Most of the responses have been surprisingly similar and positive. There have been several "good for you"s, a few "congratulations" and even an "it's about time." And although no one has come right out and told me I'm insane, I've gotten a lot of comments about being brave. I know this is code for "what could you be thinking by quitting a job without another one lined up when the economy is in the crapper?"

This was not an impetuous decision, though. Certainly, it's a gamble, but it's a calculated one. Still, it's gotten me wondering if it's something I ever would have done two years ago and the answer is a resounding "no."

What's the difference between now and then? Bike racing. I know it doesn't seem like there's connection, but just bear with me here.

Those of you who were around in the beginning or went back to read my initial post "Introducing the Accidental Athlete" will remember that before I started riding my bike, I was fat, lazy and slothful. I never took chances and didn't do anything hard if I could do something easier.

So, here I am several years later, just finishing up my first season of mountain bike racing and starting my second season of cyclocross season. You could say I've learned to take a few chances, and not always to do things the easy way. But I'm not talking about taking chances just for the thrill of the risk. I'm talking about finishing something that's hard because the rewards are great.

Why is racing so hard? It's not because I have the opportunity to crash during every race and could potentially wind up with broken bones, bruises, abrasions and stitches, although that's certainly a risk. The hardest thing about racing for me is finishing (and sometimes starting).

It's so difficult for me to keep going when I feel spent, beaten down and slow. When racing means I consistently come in last or close to it, I have to force myself to keep showing up. But I do, because there's a chance that if I keep doing it, I won't always come in last. And the rewards, though they're not tangible, are meaningful. Like being brave enough to to admit after eight years "this isn't making me happy or accomplishing my goals and it's time to make a change."

So, yes, I'm scared about quitting my job, just like I'm scared when I race. But like bike racing, I think following through with this decision is going to yield some meaningful rewards.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Big News!

This post is not bike-related in the least, but it's big news, so I'm posting it anyway. Yesterday, I gave notice at my job. This is a really big deal.

You see, I've been looking for a new job on and off for the last two or three years. I finally decided after discussion with my husband and brainstorming about how I can survive without a paycheck to quit my job without having a new job first.

I gave a month's notice, so if nothing changes between now and then, as of mid-October I will be unemployed. Needless to say I'm feeling apprehensive. After all, I've been at my job for eight years and the idea of changing jobs is scary, almost as scary as not having a job. The other thing I'm feeling is a huge relief.

P.S. If you hear of any communications/PR jobs in the Lansing area, please let me know.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Metaphor—Highland Park Race Report

Kisscross is a metaphor for life. At least today's race was. The amount of adversity I was met with mirrored what's been happening with my life lately, and it wasn't pretty. I awoke to pouring rain. I loaded my bike in the car in pouring rain. I drove to Grand Rapids in pouring rain. I got ready in pouring rain. Finally, I raced in pouring rain.
I can, with all certainty say, hands down, without a doubt, that this was my worst race ever. The weather conditions were bad (some would say perfect), I was bummed that I had to go by myself, my bike didn't want to shift and I didn't feel the least bit strong. You could say that things were conspiring against me to make me quit. I didn't feel well last night and I didn't sleep much. I had a million reasons to stay home today, but I wanted to race, so I went anyway.
Instead of wallowing in how crappy my race was, I decided to make it a learning experience and try to glean something good from it. Here's what I learned:
  1. A little preparation goes a long way. Conversely, no preparation doesn't go very far. The fact of the matter is, the first time I looked at my cross bike since last season was this morning when I got it out of the garage. The fact that there were cobwebs on it and that my rear tire had no air in it whatsoever should have been an indicator that it wasn't in stellar repair.
  2. I need to be more self-sufficient when it comes to my bikes. Not only do I not feel capable of doing simple repairs and maintenance, I don't even know enough about what's appropriate and not appropriate that I can look at my bike without knowing something's wrong. This was evidenced by my friend Frank's consternation when he saw what tires I was using today. I still have no idea what was wrong with them. The reality is, my husband is not always available, and I'm not girly in most other ways, so I might as well stop acting so helpless about my bike.
  3. I'm not a quitter anymore. It probably seems like a small thing to other people who race all the time and who have more guts and stamina than me. However, for me, compared with where I've been, I feel like I've come a long way, baby. I convinced myself during the last Kisscross season that quitting a race because I was tired, out of breath, out of shape, etc. was not acceptable. I did give myself an out for mechanicals, though, and at sometime during the second lap of today's race, I couldn't shift my bike at all. Every time I tried, the chain started skipping and jumping around like crazy. I finally quit shifting completely. A fleeting thought went through my head about how good an excuse it would be to DNF. I just couldn't do it, though. As bad as I felt, I knew I would feel a hundred times worse if I stopped before I finished my four laps.
I ended up finishing 26 out of 26 (DFL). But tomorrow, I'm going to take my bike in to get looked at, and it's going to be ready for the next race, even if I'm not. I'm also going to try to get my life in order. Because I figured out today that stress from my work, no matter how bad it is, should not be an excuse to let the rest of my life turn to crap, anymore than shifting issues should be a reason to quit a Kisscross race.
(Don't look for me in any of these photos, because I'm not in any of them. I took all these during the B race because I didn't have anyone there to take my photo today. At least you can get an idea of what the course was like from these.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Triath-A-Lon Debacle

I was reading an interview with Fat Cyclist yeseterday, when I found out something that rocked my world. There's only one "a" in the word "triathlon." There are several reasons why this is so disturbing to me.

  1. I have an English degree. Therefore, I take great pride in the fact that I can properly spell, pronounce and punctuate most common English language words. I take so much pride in it that I routinely correct, admonish and chastise people when they don't do this. (In fact, it's part of my job.) I noticeably cringe when I hear W. say "nuculer" (in an effort to say "nuclear") and anytime I see a period outside of the quotation marks.
  2. I hate being wrong. I hate it so much that I continue to pronounce the word "mauve" as mohv, which is correct, rather than the way most people say it, which is more like "mawv." I get all kinds of funny looks when I do this, but what's important to me is doing it correctly.
  3. I have never in my entire life heard anyone say "triathlon" instead of "triathalon" and I find it mind boggling that everyone in the world I have ever come into contact with (besides Fat Cyclist) says it wrong.

Normally, I wouldn't want to display my ignorance before the world like this, but I just had to write about it because I am honestly floored. Whenever I next use the word, which I probably do once every four years, I'll have to make sure I say it right.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lance Pulling a Brett Favre?

I'm in bed last night, just about to fall asleep, when Chris says "There's this guy named Lance Armstrong who had cancer. He says he's going to race the Tour de France next year and he's going to win."

Now Chris is into history and facts. He mostly reads nonfiction. I try to never argue with him about politics, because not only do we have vastly differing viewpoints, he has all these facts in his head to use in his argument. I just get all emotional and start sputtering. At any rate, I figured he was just wowing me with some quote he remembered from before Lance won a TdF.

I've been a barely coherent, stressed out mess lately, so I just said, rather eloquently, "huh?" at which point he repeated his previous statement. After several rounds of this, I said "who said that?" and he responded "Velo News." That's when I finally figured out that Velo News was reporting that Lance Armstrong may be coming out of retirement to race again next year.

Now, I like Lance Armstrong. I like Lance Armstrong a lot. I was very interested in most of things he has done since he's been retired (e.g., raising money for cancer, running a marathon, racing Leadville, hanging out with Matthew McConaughey). Not that I wasn't a little disgusted by the whole Mary Kate (or was it Ashley?) thing.

Despite the fact that I am a fan of Lance, I am not necessarily a fan of this idea, if it is really going to happen. It's just so typical. Just because he's a star athlete doesn't mean he has to act like Brett Favre or Michael Jordan. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit I'm not a big fan of Favre and I despise Jordan, at least as much as you can despise a person you've never actually met.) I'm just so over the whole "I'm retired, I'm not retired" thing.

According to the article, Lance's coming out of retirement is little more than a rumor and other rumors include Lance doing more mountain biking and even trying cyclocross. I think I would enjoy seeing him attempt cyclocross. If he does return to road racing, though I may complain about it a lot, I'll still be cheering him on come July.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Obviously, I haven't been posting a lot lately. I've been consumed by work and stress. Right now my working environment is the most unpleasant it's been in the entire eight years I've worked there. Besides working at work and bringing work home, I haven't been doing a whole lot. I've ridden once since the Maybury race, in fact. When I'm not working, the only thing I seem to be able to do is partake in lazy endeavors such as watching reruns of CSI and Law and Order. Not there's anything wrong with these shows, mind you, but when all you're doing is working and watching t.v., it seems like it's a problem. The puppies seem to like curling up on the couch with me, though, so at least they're getting so quality time.

I wish I could get motivated to do something. I have two CPS races left—two more chances to erase some of my crappy scores, but even that's not getting me on my bike. The first Kisscross race is next weekend. Maybe that will help.

For the record, I realize that an extremely unpleasant work environment is not an excuse to turn your life into a pathetic cesspool of sloth and self-pity, but that's where it seems to be headed. Hopefully, something will change soon.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Peace and Quiet

My idea of peace and quiet is about three hours from my house. It's up North on the calmer side of the state, basically in the middle of nowhere. It's about half way between Fairview (the wild turkey capital of Michigan) and Comins.
It has 280 square feet, no plumbing, running water or electricity and sits on 5.6 heavily wooded acres. And it's mine. I don't have to share it with anyone (except Chris) if I don't want to. For a multitude of reasons that I won't go into, we decided not to race at Drummond Island. Instead, we headed to our cabin.
I've been under a lot of stress lately at work, and I've been putting in long hours. My plan was to work a little later on Friday (though we get out at noon) so I could leave all my work and my worries at home. We would head up on Saturday morning. What actually happened was a little different. By noon on Friday I could barely keep my eyes open, so I decided to go home, eat lunch and take a nap before returning to work. I didn't end up doing anything productive for the rest of the day. I guess I needed the rest.
But I needed my weekend and I took it without guilt. As a result, I feel 500 times better than I did on Friday and I even got a brilliant idea which I think will do wonders for my sanity if it's implemented. (I'll talk about that in a future post after it gets a little more fleshed out.)
Sunday morning I took the best bike ride I've had in a while. It was pretty short—just under an hour and about 9 miles—but it made me feel great. It was a beautiful morning, and I put my MP3 player on and just rode. I saw one car the entire time. (Above is our driveway)
The road our cabin is on is paved for a section, but about a mile down the road, it reverts to gravel. There were a few washboard-like sections, but for the most part it was in good shape. There are a few houses back there, a couple small lakes and a little country golf course, but not much else.
I spent the rest of the weekend traipsing around our woods, hanging out with the pups and reading. We have a couple of suet feeders on our porch and we get quite a few black-capped chickadees, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers. Yesterday, as I was reclining on our porch reading, I heard a flapping noise that sounded much louder than the normal woodpecker taking off. I looked to my left and saw a pileated woodpecker perched on a tree right next to the porch. We'd been told they were around but had never seen one on our property. (I've only seen one once before at Hartwick Pines State Park.) I was able to call Chris out in time for him to come and see it and his response was "it's huge!" (For those of you who aren't familiar with them, pileated woodpeckers are immortalized in the cartoon "Woody Woodpecker" and they do look huge, especially compared to the downies we usually see.)
All in all, it was a great relaxing weekend, with the exception of the drive home, which was frustrating. I'll leave you with a few more photos of Weaver Road.