Tour de Bass

My “getting off the couch and moving” effort began back in April when I decide to bike for MS. Joedie, a friend and former co-worker, bravely face her Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, so I dedicated my ride to her. I want to live in gratitude that I’m healthy and mobile and beg the universe I can stay that way as long as possible. The aging process brings about such obvious yet scary realities. 

ride signThis final bike marathon for the year played out in the form of an intended 28-mile route on a dreary morning I embarked on before the October sunrise last Sunday. 

Lesson one:  download the GPS ahead of time 

Lesson two:  download the planned 28-mile route 

These two important strategies for success are especially important when cycling without a partner. My lack of technological preparation led me to three misdirections resulting in seven and a half extra miles traversed along the way. The first mis-step occurred at the half-way point when I continued the path that was actually the 50-mile route. Imagine my shame at having a septuagenarian recommend the GPS app. 

ride selfieMy second mistake came from following what I thought were road markings through a random neighborhood. The automated “ding” warned of my being off-route, but I thought I knew better. Thank goodness I saw two other stragglers who also turned around at the rest stop in an effort to bypass impending rain. They soon lost me in their proverbial dust, and I then failed to notice the street marking recommended by the aforementioned GPS voice. 

Lesson three:  Follow the GPS route

Much to my chagrin, the rain descended just before I heard someone bellow from behind about my missing that turn. I loathe feeling helpless. I can’t stand to ask a man for directions. And both happened. A self-reliant life spent being stubbornly independent brought me to this moment.

I now call what happened “being swept,” as the guy who found me off-course said he was running “sweep” for people who’d lost their way … like me. Being humble means relenting my control, learning my error (or in this case, errors), and realizing I need help sometimes. Which I absolutely HATE! 

ride store The future will tell if I have any more bike races in me. I say that because 52 feels very old on the saddle when it’s raining. My left quad muscles exclaims that sentiment to me vehemently while I’m at it. My own inner monologue is the toughest thing to beat, but playing music on a wi-fi speaker in my water bottle holder helps draw me out of my head. 

Lesson four:  Keep spinning

I call it “embracing the suck,” meaning no matter if your Hello Kitty socks are sopping wet and you’re riding into or somehow against the wind’s direction, you keep going because the end is inevitable. You might feel like shit on the side of the road, but the wheels must keep moving. You’ll get there one way or another, so you may as well go laughing (even at yourself) and singing your favorite song.

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Kilroy was here …

door

Living there had been poisonous since Dad’s previous springtime affair. The man proclaimed, “You’re on your own now, buddy. Don’t want ya here no more.” Sam was kicked out precisely one day after high school graduation. 

The escape planned before taking the old wagon with his name down the side in pilfered spray paint, Sam drove by blaring the horn long enough for them to embark on the porch to spy his handiwork. 

The couple retrieved his father’s trailer later that night from a county line gully, with all four tires flat but glowing letters illuminating it in the dark.

100-word Challenge:  poison

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Averting a Mid-life Crisis

black-eyed susans

All along I’d told myself not to measure the effort only by mileage. Yet that last 17 miles was perhaps the toughest thing I’ve ever physically done. It came after, as I later reflected with astonishment, I heard myself say, “There’s only 17 miles left?” I finished day one of the Bike MS Ozarks, so that’s what I consider a half-marathon completed at my own power on a bicycle on a very humid 90+ degree day up and down some hellacious Ozark hills. 

Mentally floundering after that treacherous incline just before rest stop #5 where my husband and son were working, the most fun one with shaved ice, bubble machines, donuts I couldn’t stomach by then, and loud music — which my team sponsored and posted wonderfully signs to that point — I was ready to quit. Stop. Finito. Done. I’ve never been so grateful for calories in my life. Peanut butter and cherry Kool-Aid, go figure. 

I met an amazing 62-year old woman along the way who’d taken this journey 20 times previously. She, honestly, is what got me through that last 17 miles. I’d listened to my music, gotten emotional a few times, doubted myself, gotten mad, swore profusely several times. You know, much like I do life itself. My new acquaintance talked me off the proverbial cliff to make me finish, though. 

Emmy asked me if I was okay right before the last quarter-mile, to which I replied, “I think I’m gonna throw up.” A bright orange balloon arch loomed in the distance, and she asked me, “You see that? That’s the end. You throw up at the finish line.” 

complaining

Laughter is what it took to get me to that end. I thought I lost her after crossing it, that maybe she’d traversed my imagination as an apparition, but she showed up a bit later, showered and still supportive. This existence is funny. I’m still in awe of how we meet the right people at the right time to help us cope and conquer.  

biking reality

How did Kezia talk me into this thing?

Alas, I finished the first day and clocked 79 miles all told. Just day one, but that doesn’t matter. My personal goal was attained. I’ve kept mentally repeating that I’m getting stronger, physically and mentally, throughout. Now it’s time to maintain that momentum. 

The next leg of that metaphysical journey happens this weekend in another, much shorter, bike ride. Oddly enough, I’ve even looked up a local spin class option for the late autumn and winter months. My hope is to keep these endorphins flowing. 

difference

Possibilities, possibilities. 

 

Back where it all began:

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/09/04/full-of-something-maybe-metaphors/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/08/26/too-close-for-comfort-aka-dos-and-donts/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/08/04/practicing-gratitude/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/07/23/flat-straightaways-easy/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/07/11/back-in-the-saddle/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/07/04/lets-get-fired-up/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/06/22/what-else-can-we-do/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/06/14/ebony-irony/

https://katybrandes.blog/2019/06/03/farm-road-wisdom/

 

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Making Danica Patrick Proud

bus.jpg

Usually light-hearted and felicitous, Fannie appeared befuddled. The quaff normally perched atop her head in platinum perfection, instead shot out in all directions, and her frippery lay uncharacteristically in disarray. Fannie didn’t feel her normal self. 

The children fluttered about her like mob of meerkats, just as frantic as she, before loading into their Mercedes sedan. The nanny usually drove them to school, so everyone’s anxiety ran high. Mother’s driving expertise equated amateur level. 

A previous trip ended in such embarrassment. Last time she delivered them to school, arrival was marked with sirens sounding and lights in the rear-view mirror.

 

100-word challenge:  amateur 

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Photo: Markus Kneibes via Flickr

 

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Raising Cain

Apple pie with pecan nuts

Grandma made them all aprons as a gift, like they’d one day become domesticated. It just wasn’t in the cards, though, much to their father’s surprise. The troika instead grew into independent non-cooks and bakers who didn’t fastidiously keep house. With better things to do, nary a homemade muffin would emerge from their ovens. 

“If that shit’s going to get done, hubs can do it himself. Make his own damn sammich,” the youngest protested. “He’s got two hands.”

No wonder Mrs. Bray warned her mother at first-grade parent-teacher conferences, “I can just hear her griping at her husband one day.” 

100-word challenge prompt:  homemade

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photo:  Marco Verch via Flickr

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Out on the town

ale

Beside herself with excitement, Teresa’s group stopped at Willie’s for tacos before going to their hotel on her first trip to the state capital for work. 

“I’d like an ice cold beer,” she drawled. “Listen, y’all … this is my first rodeo. All we have for drive-through in Delmar is Windy’s and McDugal’s. Know what I mean?”

A bit chagrinned at her naivete, Teresa’s co-workers stared at their menus, embarrassed. She was all smiles, though.

“Don’t judge! My husband greased up the bars some to let me out for this little jaunt. Otherwise keeps me at home all the time.” 

100-word Challenge: listen

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photo credit: Dennis Sylvester Hurd via Flickr

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Full of something … maybe metaphors

curved road

I find myself coming somewhat full-circle, or perhaps at least semi-circle, on these training rides. Now I feel like I can actually say “training” instead of “so-called training” because doing what I’ve been doing is preparation for what lies ahead this weekend.

Monday, my 52nd birthday, I found myself laughing instead of “riding negative. I had to snicker upon hearing Mike D. rap on my playlist about letting the beat drop at the exact spot where I did that earlier this summer. I fell off my then-new road bike onto the pavement, though it’s been a minute since that happened, and howled at my own expense.

I’ve been learning along the way. First of all, there’s a process to watching what I’m doing instead of worrying so much about what’s going on around me; i.e. the trash on the road that drives me to distraction. Sometimes there’s a price for being distracted.

An overarching lesson I’ve learned is to tuck in the elbows from these T-Rex arms and coast downhill as fast as possible to gain momentum on the next one. I think of that every time I’m trying to surmount an incline and hope to ride out most of it. 

Monday gave me the simple epiphany of, “Don’t look up that hill.” I approached from a slight incline, grasping to gain that extra tiny burst of energy it’d provide, perked my ear up for any oncoming traffic, then braved a corner to slowly creep up to the top of that next mountain (actually, a hill). And I conquered that damn hill for the first time. That’s when I accepted the metaphor for the whole marathon. Just. Quit. Looking. Up. The. Hill. You’ll get there somehow.

Just like Sunday will get here somehow.

I’ve been having fun as well, even if I didn’t think I might at first. My friend and I have learned we can at least laugh at ourselves. Those hills look so much easier from behind the wheel of a car.

The marathon going to happen whether I dread it or not. But I can do it. There’s no use in being afraid of what’s to come. Much like eating an elephant, you take it one bite (hill) at a time. I’ve often used that analogy on my students and now have to own it.  

My favorite part so far has been when I’ve listened for approaching traffic, thinking I’ve heard approaching tires, and then realizing it’s the sound of my own. My own tires and my own power propelling me forward. It’s happened twice, much to my delight. 

While this hasn’t been easy, there’s no EASY button from Staples like I’d wish, it’s gotten easier. Not much in life is easy, but seemingly requires less stress-filled effort with time.

My muscles being stronger, the slow emergence of quads and calf muscles, has made those hills do-able. Monday’s ride through the park was my cool-down instead of the first leg of each short journey like it was back in May.

So in hopes I’m not full of shit, just metaphors, I stare at this weekend full of hope and a little less fear, dare I say maybe even excitement. 

Jimmy Dugan

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Timothy Schande

signage

He wanted to see Jennifer again before everything got all fakakta. Their relationship was building nicely prior to arrest. Now Timothy wasn’t so sure.

He’d see a judge soon and could then cypher what came next. Just his luck to get popped right before he met someone he could finally introduce to his bubbie. A goy, nonetheless. She’d have been surprised.

A guy in the next cell kept yelling about something being “otra bobas,” but Tim knew no Spanish. The fella was de-toxing or still off his nut from a wild misadventure the previous night. Maybe something resembling his own.

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100-word challenge:  arrest

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Check-Up

door.JPG

Jim Earl headed to town bright and early, his patience waning at getting Ginny to her doctor appointment. The antiquarian white-knuckled the wheel at “2” and “10” as if loosening his hold would end disastrously.

Passing drivers never suspected that cowboy hat brim covered a dome with only a few remnant hairs. Jim Earl kept laser focus on the road ahead, his love’s ailments outweighing his own.

An undetected stroke brought on oxygen-deprived dementia, except Jim Earl never went to the doctor himself. Not even his beloved realized. Getting lost that day was the first of many times to come.

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100 Word Challenge – patience 

 

 

 

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Too Close For Comfort & “Dos and Don’ts”

sign picThis big ol’ bike ride looms ahead at September’s start. Even though I’m still obviously a bit freaked out, a sense of either denial or calm is inching its way into my brain. I try not to think about it for the most part but still take a few so-called “training” rides throughout the week weather allowing. Staying out of my own head too much is the seemingly insurmountable challenge. 

My muscles feel a little stronger, which I notice during yoga. Poses are more comfortable to do, and I’m not as sore as usual. Still winded more than than I’d like but not aching.  

Some days feel like, while I’m not back at square one, I’m faltering at maybe square two from just taking a few days off from so-called training rides. Then another day brings what other more athletic people might call being in “the zone,” something I’ve never previously experienced in my lifetime. It’s those last minutes when I’m nearing the turn into our cul-de-sac and a burst of energy hits me that I can retake the two hills I’d first sucked wind on that morning. A Jonny Cash tune kicks my butt into gear and pushes me maybe just a quarter-mile further but onward nonetheless. 

Those are the same hills that first kicked my ass a few months ago. Now they’re not as difficult to traverse. Maybe I’ve even conquered a few of them. Others still definitely suck. I just don’t want to go on an uphill crying jag in the middle of the MS150. 

bike pic

inertia/picture break

I’ve learned several things through this process. Kezia and I started a list of things to remember beyond the one I began when first blogging about these lessons along the way.

What TO DO and what NOT TO DO:

DO:

Carb load the night before for immediately usable energy

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

DO NOT:

Drink more than one serving of alcohol the night before

Eat spicy or fried foods either (or pay the price)

Eat or drink too much at any of the sporadic breaks

These are all good things to remember! I must also remind myself of the strong women in my corner:

The aforementioned Kezia says she’ll stay with me throughout the 150 miles, but I don’t want to keep her at my eight-mph pace instead of our earlier-attained 14-mph rate. She’s a big moral support regardless of what happens. 

My sister Jeanna sent me a letter reinforcing I can do this since in light of the fact that so far I’ve overcome some snot-rocket-filled training rides and one pretty long stretch with less-than favorable bowel circumstances. 

I also think of my sister Christy and her strength in all she’s done. I’ve never told her how very, very strong I find her to be with all she’s triumphed in doing. Her energy is with me when the familiar scent of Monterey/Carmel washes over me as I pass a neighboring stretch of pines. 

And Mom always stays close to me and my blue heart when thoughts of her fill my head. Her “holy pahzing” came to me UB40 came on my playlist. That feeling reminds me how she was, much like the song says, there right from the start and always will be. A cardinal flying across my path gives me a needed blessing from above (and no copyright issues, LOL).   

 

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