Tag Archives: cycling

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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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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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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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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Practicing Gratitude

biking roll

“gone biking” note – upcycling style

Music can help keep me going on sucky work days, prevent road rage and potential throat punches, and with this so-called training I’m attempting. I’ve tried not to count the miles so much but congratulate myself for getting back out there each time regardless of how scared I am of the thought of what is soon to come with the MS150 looming now five weeks on the horizon.

My many cheerleaders through songs that pour from my playlist. One of my sisters comes through in the voice of David Bowie’s Modern Love, and I laugh to myself when I remember us mimicking a quick little “bye bye” wave to the lyrics. A friend of mine, Alexis, checks on my progress, and I appreciate her paying attention to this effort.

The focus isn’t me, though, and I try to concentrate on that fact each time I set out in the bike saddle. Joedie is the person for whom I ride, and I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to freely mobilize and build my muscles to reach this goal. It is through sheer luck and grace I can attempt such a challenge when my mind and body may not feel like it. I can, however, physically do it and am should be supremely grateful.

After repeating to my son how sometimes you win, sometimes you loss, I have to tell myself, “Practice what you preach!” Little of each trek is easy, although “easy” is generally what I’d prefer. Pedaling against the wind gives me appreciation for that Irish poem about the wind being at your back. The proverbial sprint down a flat straightaway is nothing compared to the upcoming September marathon

The ride is a lesson in multi-tasking. Staying aware of surroundings to be safe while watching what I’m actually doing, thinking about gear shifts for hills, and considering road surfaces is a tough laundry list. Any pavement flaws, cracks, rocks, debris, and animal remnants/road pizza are all potential hazards.

biking barn

Small triumphs sometimes motivate me. Pedaling all the way up a big damn incline. Not getting stuck in my clips and falling over when I stop. Hearing Bowie’s Heroes makes me think maybe, just maybe, I can do this … even if it’s just for one day and not both. My body works, although it often hurts, and I’m seeming to get stronger. Like my other sister says, it’s more mental than anything, and managing that madness is my biggest stress.

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Back in the saddle

The firsts just keep coming and coming. Tonight I’m claiming myself an expert in the fine art of snot rocketry after having blown my first two in the entirety of my lifetime. If I were an Olympic judge with this gross performance a qualifying sport, I’d give myself high marks for trajectory and aim. That’s what happens when a person tries to get back at it after a week with a summer cold, no cycling, and then going without tissues the first time back on the bike.

The good news is I always see beautiful things on my rides. Like the neighbors’ flowers. Exhibit A:

1CI stop and smell flowers from time to time, literally and figuratively, even at the risk of not remembering to kick out of my doggone triple-link pedals. Why is it so tough to remember “Kick Out?!”

What I do know is Karma is a big be-yotch, although I don’t usually like to use that turn of phrase. Just seems every time I get all judgey, like mentally berating the a-holes who though similarly enjoying my favorite Lacroix Pamplemousse sparkling water are inconsiderate enough to toss a can along the road. Gravity pulled me back down to earth to check my superior attitude for a bloodletting. The top scrape came from pavement, and the bottom one layered drying poison ivy breakout yet healing there.

Exhibit B:

1A

Laughing helps when I think of my son quoting Napoleon Dynamite asking the bullied kid, “How’s your neck?” I felt like the kid answering, “It stings,” only about my knee and elbow.

My country adventures lead me to ponder the sights and smells. Such as, “Is that mixed leather/Freon smell in the air actually someone cooking meth in the woods?” Being an avid reader, I recently learned how to gauge how much daylight is left by the number of finger-widths of sunlight on the horizon still visible. Riding with my shoes clipped to my pedals doesn’t allow to test that theory, though. (See Exhibit B above.)

I wonder whether the big four-wheel-drive truck’s driver will follow and kill me, or if I can subdue him with mace tucked in my tank top. Such is a woman’s concern riding her bicycle alone at dusk. Men don’t usually feel the need to carry weaponized pepper spray on a ride, do they? Think about that for a minute.

A passing truck has large red letters marking the vehicle as “ANGLER AID,” as we live near a lake, and I consider whether I could need “CYCLER AID” from a similar but non-exist truck in the future. A mysterious man behind the wheel of yet another large 4WD pickup parked in a church lot stares curiously at his phone. Is he still there since Wednesday night service (it’s the Ozarks, after all), is he lost and consulting GPS, or does he simply have a wife who makes it difficult to want to go home? I’ll never know.

Exhibit C:

1D

Not the actual church in question. I saw it during the 26-mile ride & liked the name. (Note the burnout marks from teens doing donuts.) Hurts, don’t it?

Finally, I returned home for my nightly walk with Woody during which I enjoy many gorgeous sunsets. He’s hearing-impaired and can’t see very well but is so patient with my dawdling to pulls weeds at walk time. He waits with bated (and weighted, poor sot) breath at the driveway’s end, his heart seems to explode with pure joy at just getting to sniff the neighborhood. The poor boy is over the moon at getting to go, such simple pleasure at life. I wish I could be more like him.

Exhibit D … for “DOG,” of course

1B

It’s hard to get an antsy pup to stand still for focus!

 

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Let’s Get Fired Up

IMG_0292

The proverbial journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as the cliche goes, or maybe I should say cog rotation. My fractional journey with new bike shoe cleats to clip into my triple-link pedals. Hell, I don’t even know why they’re called “triple link,” but my hip felt it when I fell over into the yard at first try this morning. At least there’s a lot of padding where I landed. On my body, that is. And in the grass, not the street or gravel, thank goodness. 

An even bigger humiliation came at hearing my know-it-all husband who’s never used toe clips before tell me what to do and then watch me fall. Of course, I could control yelling at him to leave me alone. “Let me do it the way the guy at the bike store (shout out to Stu at “Bike Outlet” in Springfield) told me how to use them!” But I didn’t. 

It being Independence Day brought a mental note how no one was actually shooting at me along the farm road. People ‘round here apparently just start firing their fireworks with the rooster’s crow.

All previously expressed rules still apply. Numbers two and three come to mind immediately upon launching (close your flycatcher and breathe in/breathe out), and following them on the outset remains a prescient warning. 

It’s odd to be my somewhat advanced age and feel my dad’s presence on my cycling route. Funny how pedaling through the country and smelling the cows’ … ahem … leavings will remind me of him claiming, “Smells like money!” Reminiscing on it makes me chuckle now even though it didn’t back then. Seeing a cardinal pop out from behind a shrub, land just long enough on the ground to chirp at me, and then dash away quickly brings me fond thoughts of my mom. Of her darting out just fast enough to remind me to keep going without her. 

I had to majorly talk myself into doing so  during the 26-mile training ride part of our MS150 Ozarks team took last Saturday. As expected, I trailed in dead last but alive. Unfortunately, I skipped the last six miles with the ass-kicking hill at its end after lunch, but that’s okay. I did NOT quit, and no “sag van” had to come retrieve my exhausted butt. 

Surviving that morning convinced me to not only get my Triple Link Pedal system installed, but it also coaxed me into putting down a deposit on a road bike. How sad is it to use layaway at my age? Pretty pathetic, perhaps, but a better way to ease into purchasing a second bike within a year. Even a used one. Having it may just help propel me forward even further. 

So old Black Beauty, as young as she is, gets put out to pasture. Or at least given to the kid to use. And a sleek used road bike will take her place in the near future. Next pay day.  😉

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Today’s topple onto my bum be damned! I’m going to get the swing of this thing. Two walked hills, a thrown-but-fixed chain, and a pocketful of swearing out loud  later, I made it 26 miles last week. All the old disgruntled farmers can honk at me again if they please. I’ll strap a big red triangle on my back and keep laughing at their rudeness. Though I don’t want to keep gauging everything in distances, it was a small milestone for me, especially since only my stabilizer muscles hurt this week. Yoga with a dowel rod soothed my calves, and hip-openers somehow stretched those lats outs southward laterally. 

I’ll keep learning new things along the way. I need to quit worrying so much about all the road litter. Some people are just inconsiderate jerks. I can “give a hoot” and not pollute while trying to follow a new rule of “MYOB,” especially to stay pedal-clipped and upright. I also need to work on other people’s noise not bothering me so much, even though it does. Cycling safety means no earbuds, so letting the birds serenade me might mean I don’t get hit by a passing car.

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Tonight might require a few OTC pain relievers, but that’s okay, because I didn’t take any all week. I just winced if it stretched forward, backward,or sideways. Pretty much winced if I stretched at all. And there’s a big illial/buttock contusion will likely bloom overnight, but oh well! My rotations may be baby steps to others, but they’re big to me. Having the assurance that Mary, the woman who manages the marina near our home where I practice ride hills, will call EMS … or at least roll me off the road, as she laughingly told me … makes me feel a smidge better. I’m gonna get this.   

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