Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gettin' By

My standard response when someone asked me how I was doing always used to be "gettin' by." In other words, I wasn't quite horrible, but wasn't fantastic either. In the past couple of months, I've seldom used that response. Maybe it's because I'm happier and have less stress in my life than I did in the last dark days before I quit my other job. Whatever the reason, just getting by has become somewhat unacceptable. That's not to say that I'm going to be fabulous all the time now, but I shouldn't be satisfied with merely surviving.

Now that I've finished practically breaking my arm patting myself on the back for my performance at Barry-Roubaix, I want to stop and think about what getting by means in terms of racing. Last year that's just what I was doing. It was my learning year, and that meant I was somewhat satisfied with just finishing because it meant surviving.

I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I think setting some pretty aggressive goals for myself in my races, beginning with Yankee, is a start.

My 2008 time was 1:47, which is pretty slow for 13 miles. Now I know that last year the race was run backward, which means it won't be an exact comparison. Even so, I think I can still set some goals based on that number. In the next couple weeks, I'll be trying to figure out what my time this year should be.

By the way, if anyone wants to read a less self-congratulatory race report from Barry-Roubaix, visit Michigan Mountain Bike Racing. I've posted a more generic summary of the race there.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Good Start

I'm really glad I decided to race today. Even though the day started out disorganized, frustrating and disturbing, I forgot about my crappy morning as soon as I got out on the course. It started with quite a big hill. I situated myself at the back of the beginner pack and concentrated on methodically working my way up the hill. Despite my upsetting morning and how tired I was last night, I felt pretty strong. I did feel a bit underdressed and my fingers were freezing.

It was a gorgeous day, even though it was only about 30 degrees. The wind was chilly, but the sun was shining. I rode the first couple miles with a big grin on my face. Unlike during most of my other races, I could still see a bunch of people in front of me. They didn't seem to be pulling too far away.
The first section was gravel roads. After that, we turned onto some "two track." (These really aren't unnecessary, this barely qualified as two track.)This section was in horrible shape, with large, deep, sandy sections mucking up our progress. Along with everyone else around me, I attempted to ride each section, but ended up walking out of it.

Remarkably, though, I wasn't walking any of the hills. I was just plugging away at them, quite slowly. At some point, I realized I was actually passing people. Weird.

When we got back out onto the gravel roads, I increased my speed. Many people were walking the hills and I just slowly and steadily powered past them. I kept passing people. As I got near the beginning of the pack I was in (the beginner leaders were too far off to see), I passed a couple riders on hills and got passed back by them. I was going down the hills at pretty good clip, though, even those that seemed sketchy. I realized pretty early in the race that I was going to need all the momentum I could get to finish, so I had just better go down the hills as fast as I could stand to.

I blew by the aid station. I still felt pretty good. Finally, I passed the couple of riders in the second wave again. I did not want them to catch me, so I increased my speed and hoped that the race would be over before they caught me again. I began to widen the gap. When I hit the last couple of miles, which happened to be a paved stretch, I started really hauling ass (for me). I was really getting tired. My feet were hurting. But I just didn't want to quit and I didn't want to get passed, so I kept riding as hard as I could.

When I finally hit the finish line I felt a vast amount of relief. I also had a realization. So maybe I'm not an expert rider. I'm not even a sport rider. But I do have a killer instinct. For the first time in a race I actually dug as deep as I felt I could. I stopped thinking about just being able to finish and started looking for results.

I was really pleased with my performance. I ended up getting first in Beg. Women 35+ (as you can see). There were only two women in my class, but that didn't really bother me. I actually ended up beating all the beginner women (I think 5 total) and 18 beginner men. So that's what it feels like to actually race.

I know this post sounds really bad and that I sound like I'm bragging, but I'm just so excited to race and not totally suck, I don't know how else to express it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

That's More Like It

Not only have I updated my blog three days in a row (though this one's going to be short), I had a successful weigh in this morning. I knew I had a good week, but the 4 pound loss was more than I was expecting. Hopefully, this success will stay with me for the rest of the weekend, since I'm planning to race Barry-Roubaix tomorrow. I don't have a lot of hopes or expectations for the race. I just want to get outside and ride hard, see what I can do. I'm going to bed now. I need to get up early, get my bike ready to race and get in a decent warm up. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Smells Like Team Spirit

Looks like I made it on a team after all. I'll be riding for On2Wheels, a bike shop in Jackson, this year. I got my jersey today, as you can see. I'm really excited to be a part of it. I know quite a few of my teammates already, and they are a great bunch. I believe they will be fun to hang out with and ride with and will motivate me to be better.

Jake is taking charge of things again this year, and we have a tentative schedule of group rides set up. After slogging away by myself on the trainer all winter, I am not only looking forward to riding outside, but also to riding with someone, instead of just alone.

That being said, for all the excitement I have over my impending race season, I'm pretty nervous. I've been bragging all winter about the riding I've done and though I have really done all of it, I won't be satisfied unless it seems to have made a difference. There's a part of me that always had the fact that I was overweight and didn't train enough to fall back on as an excuse for why I sucked. Now that I'm dropping pounds and putting so much time into training, what if I still completely suck? What if I'm terrible no matter how much effort I exert? It's a very real fear.

If nothing else, I'm sure I'll have fun racing this season. Still, it's getting old to be the person who always gets an "A" for effort. It's not enough anymore to keep showing up and racing, no matter how much it beats me up. I really need to see some progress this year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Content

Seriously? I haven't updated my blog since March 10? I think this might be the longest I've ever gone and it is truly unacceptable. Unfortunately, tonight is not going to be the night to write much because there is still too much going on here.

So, I'm going to give a few quick updates:
  • There's new content up on our Web site, Michigan Mountain Bike Racing. We have a new featured racer and blog. We're going to be changing these on a monthly basis. Check it out!
  • We're also looking for suggestions for people to interview and blogs to feature, so if you have any, please let me know. I'm trying to widen my circle a bit so I'm not just featuring friends and/or people who read my blog. I'm also trying to have a good mix of male, female, sport, expert, beginner. (I'm particularly looking for a female beginner or sport racer from the east side of the state for next month.)
  • After spending a few weeks in a nutritional pit of despair, I finally had an okay week last week. The result was losing back 1.4 of the 2.8 pounds I had gained at the last weigh in. (I skipped one weighing in between.) This week, I have been much better than I've been since I started my new job, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for an excellent weigh in on Friday.
  • Last weekend was busy. In between shifts at the Lansing Home and Garden Show in the Granger booth, I also got to attend the Mid-State Chapter meeting, go for a group ride (outside for the first time in weeks) on Saturday and hit some actual dirt on Sunday.
  • It looks like I'm going to be on a race team this year after all. More on this in an upcoming post, hopefully tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


How cool is this? They're not even all people we know.

I'm doing another interview this weekend and we should be rolling out the new featured racer and blog in another week and a half or so. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Varying Degrees of Tough

The above photo is the Granger Recycling Center, where I spent last Friday morning, sorting mixed recyclables. My job requires me to write and speak about all aspects of the company, so I'm slowly making the rounds to the different divisions, trying to soak up as much knowledge as I can.

I'm really enjoying the things I'm learning. I hate not knowing everything about everything, so I embrace these educational experiences as part of my quest to be all knowing. Aspirations of omniscence aside, it was really hard work. I stood on the platform (where you can see the yellow railing), pulling the "good stuff" off the conveyor belt and sending it to the baler, while the trash (that people seem to think belongs in recycling containers) remained on the belt headed for the dumpster. In the afternoon, I walked around the drop-off area, observing people and picking up the trash everyone had left behind.

Besides the things I learned about our recycling operations, I also reaffirmed the fact that I am not made for manual labor. As much as I train and as many hours as I have in on the bike this year, it didn't matter a bit at the recycling center. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and sore. Tough when it comes to training doesn't necessarily translate to tough anywhere else. I was glad to be back at my computer today.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Puppy Placeholder

We all know I've been doing a crappy job of posting lately. There never seems to be enough time. I think it will get better soon, but until then, I've come up with an interim solution to the problem. I finally bought a new point-and-shoot camera (after the untimely demise of the old one), so I can take pictures randomly and not have to worrying about trying to put pictures from the D40, which are taken raw, on Chris' computer and save them as .jpgs, yada yada yada. Now I can go back to taking photos here and there and just pop the card in my computer. Quick. Easy.
So my thought is that even if I can't get an actual written post up every day, I can at least get a few photos up, whether they're bike-related or not.

Yesterday, I had to hop off the trainer twice during my 2.5-hour ride to snap a few photos of the girls because they looked so cute. Yes, I am being sappy, but look at them, would ya? Can you honestly tell me they're not worth it? Besides, I don't post photos of Gretchen and Maddy very often and I thought there was a loyal blog reader far away in Florida who might appreciate some photos of the grandpuppies.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

History Repeating Itself?

I know all I ever do is talk about my struggles on this blog, but my life is a struggle. I'm not knocking it, it's a good life, but things seldom go smoothly. Pretty soon, it will be Spring (hopefully) and I'll still be struggling, but my struggles will at least be more action-based and my posts about them will be less whiny and philosophical.

My latest struggle has to do with my weight issues. As many of you know, I've been doing the yo-yo thing since I was a teenager. I pretty much have two types of eating behavior—really strict and all-out binge. The result is that I am really good at any kind of diet or eating program, until I'm not. Inevitably, as I'm plugging along making progress, I get to the point where I start backsliding (and sliding and sliding). I feel like I can just do it for so long and then I can't take it anymore.

Last week I ate like complete crap. I didn't binge per se, because I didn't eat that much more than I've been eating, but what I ate was horrible. And when I say horrible, I mean McDonald's, Burger King and chicken nachos all in the same week. I won't detail the rest of my shame here on this blog.

The result was about what I expected—a 2.8 pound gain. I know I'm not swirling into the abyss at this point, but I'm damn close. I need to find a way to turn it around and fast. Yankee is about six weeks away, and I need to be lighter for it, not heavier.

My only saving grace in the past few months is that I've never stopped training. It makes me feel somewhat better that I continue to train and at least I'm exercising if I'm not eating right. But I can't let that make it okay in my mind because I have to get it under control.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Iditarod

Following Alaska Jill's journeys on her blog as I do, I feel alternately motivated and discouraged. Reading about her training, for example, as she slogs through the cold, snow and rain of a winter in Juneau, putting hours and hours on her bike, makes me wonder why I complain about a low-intensity, three-hour ride on the trainer in my heated dining room with the television to keep me company. Some days, I think if Jill can complete such amazing feats, I can certainly meet my small, not very ambitious goals. Then I read about the issues she had on this year's Iditarod and how she was actually in true danger and is now recovering from some wicked frostbite, I think that's true toughness, and I wonder why I even bother.

But every once in a while, I'm realistic and grounded. (Seriously, I really can be.) At those times, I think I'm not Jill, I'm me and my challenges may not be as ambitious or as dangerous as hers, but they're real to me. Maybe it's because I've never done anything epic and I hate to be cold, but I would never consider doing anything like the Iditarod. Perhaps I wasn't meant for greatness, but that doesn't make my goals any less important or valid.

It's easy to get discouraged when I compare myself to others who have accomplished so much more. Those people who are better, faster, skinnier, more attractive, whatever, seem to have it all compared to me. The truth is, though, they have their own struggles.

What all this philosophical mumbo jumbo means in terms of real life is that I have to work within my boundaries. I have to set my goals based on what I want to accomplish and what I think I really can accomplish. This doesn't mean I shouldn't challenge myself and reach outside my comfort zone. It just means that my goals should be based on my life and not be shadowed in comparison to what others are doing. It means that for me, finishing a 12-hour race and meeting a goal for a certain number of laps may be my TdF, my Leadville. That race may very well be my Iditarod.

Monday, March 2, 2009

More Randomness

Since I've been updating this blog so infrequently lately, it seems like I'm always playing catch up with my posts. What I've ended up with as a result of that are posts that are fairly disorganized and unfocused, but I guess it's better than nothing at all.

The biggest thing that's on my mind right now is Alaska Jill. I've been following her progress on the Iditarod, but since I am now gainfully employed, I didn't get to look at it all day. When I checked the site just now, I found out that both Jill and her boyfriend Geoff have scratched! Jeff ended up having to stop last year before finishing because of an injury and now he has apparently had to scratch again. I haven't seen any details at this point, but whatever happened, I'm sure it's hugely disappointing for both of them. I hope they're okay.

And speaking of being okay, I finally feel almost back to normal after being sick pretty much all last week. It's just my luck that the first week I started my new job there were five or six people in the office sick and I quickly soaked up their germs. I suffered through a couple of higher intensity workouts last week and even though it was hard to do when congested, I think it was really good for me.

I've logged 404 miles on the trainer since Jan. 6. I'm sure that's some kind of record for me. No wonder I'm sick of it.

My weight was exactly the same at Friday's weigh in. I didn't lose anything. I both disappointed and relieved. I'm expecting to stop losing weight at some point, but I also know I've been treating my weekends like nutritional free-for-alls, and that needs to stop.

My first race of the season, the Yankee Springs Time Trial, is only seven weeks away. I know it's ambitious and will take some willpower, but I'd really like to drop another 15 pounds by then, so as to be faster and lighter. We'll see how it goes.