Tuesday, May 28, 2013

H140- Long Beach and Back

I haven’t been training as diligently as I should to be ready to do a hundred and forty miles. I glimpsed a calendar today and just about had a heart attack when I realized concretely that this ride is less than three weeks away. This is not to say I haven’t been training at all. It just seems like life keeps getting in the way.

For instance, I was asked to play the organ at a funeral last Saturday. “No problem,” I cheerfully agreed before considering the fact that Saturdays are generally the day I try to get a long ride in. Never mind that that plan hasn’t been foolproof over the past several weeks as something always seems to come up on Saturdays. “No problem,” I grudgingly thought to myself as I realized the truth about last Saturday. “I’ll just go on a ride later that day.”

Which, as you’ve correctly surmised, did not happen. The funeral ended, and I had a rotten headache of the sinus variety. I seem to keep getting those, and it seems easier to complain and wail, “Woe is me,” rather than suck it up and deal with it. I took the proper medicine of course, but had to go to the drugstore. Then I had to wait for it to take effect. And by then the sun was too high and too warm and I didn’t know where I wanted to go, and wouldn’t it just be easier to go to a movie instead? Despite ample encouragement from Linda to just ignore my regular routine of going on rides in the morning and go on one anyway that afternoon, I … didn’t.

Life seems to just keep getting in the way. I have a perpetual sinus infection. I have a literal pain in the butt. I’m tired. This is going to be hard, and no matter how much I train now I probably still won’t be able to complete the entire course. Why do I want to torture myself?

I justified my lackadaisical behavior by rationalizing that I had, after all, done strength training that morning before the funeral. Additionally, it was a three-day weekend, so I knew I’d be able to, would HAVE to do a long ride on Monday.

I made a realization Sunday night as I worked on doing some route planning. If I don’t have a plan, I don’t want to ride. If I had sufficiently thought of a route and plan on Friday night before the funeral, I would have already been in the mindset of, “Okay, after the funeral I’m going on a ride because it’s what I’ve planned and it’s what I do.” It’s a variant of “I think, therefore I am.” For me it’s, “I plan, therefore I do.”

In September of 2011 there was a (non)event in the Los Angeles called Carmageddon. A portion of the 405 interstate was going to be shut down for a weekend for some construction as part of a long-term road-widening project. It’s one of the most heavily-trafficked freeways in use in this area. Several companies decided to get in on the fun and help encourage Angelenos to stay off the all freeways, not just the 405. Jet Blue ran a promotion to fly from Burbank to Long Beach – two cities usually frequently connected by the 405 – for a dirt-cheap price.

A group of cyclists decided to see if it was possible to cycle faster than a plane could fly. A group of cyclists left a house in Burbank at the same time a friend of theirs left from the same house to the Burbank airport. His travel was planned to allow for the requisite one hour before take-off for security, etc. The flier and cyclists were to meet at the lighthouse in Long Beach. Whoever got there first won.

The cyclists won handily. Their time was one hour thirty-four minutes.

The route I traveled yesterday was essentially the same one used by those cyclists. It follows the Los Angeles river bicycle path from Glendale to downtown Los Angeles, some side streets through an industrial neighborhood, then picks the bike path up again for a 17-mile straight shot into Long Beach.

My time was not as impressive as the Carmageddon cyclists. It took me about two hours forty-five minutes to travel 40 miles. There was a bad headwind for the last five or so miles as I got closer to the coast. My neck and shoulders were tightening up and I thought it would be a good idea to sit up straight and ride without hands for a bit. That lasted for about a quarter mile before the wind made it foolish to be in such an un-aerodynamic position.

I rested for about 15 minutes in Long Beach, then got on my bike and headed back. When I hit mile 50 my legs started cramping and complaining and I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the whole thing. My inner dialog sounded something like this:
When I get off the bike path I can call Linda and ask for a ride home.
If you bail now you’re a quitter.
If you don’t bail now you’re stupid because you are exhausted and clearly can’t do this without causing further injury to yourself.
I should call Linda now so she can meet me on a road and I don’t have to wait long.
If you don’t do this how do you think you’re going to do 140 miles in three weeks?
You got down here, you can get back. 
My legs hurt.
Keep going. You can do this.
Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, la la la la la.
Your phone battery’s almost dead. You should call while you still can. 
Don’t call. There will be pay phones if you need one.
But then you’d have to wait forever for her to come get you.
Wow. I can’t believe that’s the same school I see from the freeway when we drive to Disneyland. I am a butt-far way from home.
Hey, so, that getting a ride home thing…You gonna call? 
Look, there’s Los Feliz. That means there’s only about 10 more miles. I’ll call for a ride and have her meet me at the LA Zoo.
Nah, wait and see how you’re feeling at the zoo, and if you need a ride you can call then. It won’t take her long to come and get you.
If you can make it to the zoo, you can make it home.
Battery’s almost gone. If you’re going to call it’s gotta be now.
Look, it’s the zoo. I can make it home. Only seven more miles. 

And I did. I was reminded me of the book that Louise sent me, “The Heart and the Fist,” by Eric Greitens. Fantastic book, and if you haven’t read it and want to be inspired and uplifted and find the strength to do things you didn’t think you could, go read this book NOW.

In it the author describes “Hell Week” that he went through as part of his SEAL training. From the book:
Eddie would always joke about quitting. “I’m quitting today for sure. Right after the run. Then I’m gonna go up to Pacific Beach and surf and hang out and eat tacos.” We’d finish the run and Eddie would say, “Hey, anybody want to quit with me after breakfast? I gotta eat, but then I’m gonna quit.” We’d finish breakfast and Eddie would say, “PT, I love PT, I’m gonna quit after PT.” After PT, “I’m gonna quit right after lunch. But they’ve got burgers today, and I’m crazy for those Navy chow hall burgers.” And so he could go on- sometimes to the annoyance of others who were truly thinking about quitting – but in Eddie’s humor there was wisdom. I can quit later if I have to, but this, whatever this is that I have to do – hold this log over my head, or sit in the freezing surf, or run down the beach with the boat bouncing on my head – I can do this for at least ten more seconds, and that’s really all I have to do.

And that’s how I made it through an 80 mile bike ride when I didn’t think I’d be able to complete the last 30 miles.

Here are some things I learned:

  • Wear sunscreen. Even if you’re leaving at 6:30 in the morning and it doesn’t seem possible that you will be out in the heat of the day, you will be out in the heat of the day and need that protection.
  • Don’t forget the butt lube (PS this should be "shield." if you do an Amazon search, which is where I got mine, you get very different results.) That funny little rash you have in an uncomfortable area could have been prevented with a dose of butt lube. (I’m not being unnecessarily crass – that’s what it’s really called.)
  • Have a plan.
  • Do the plan.
  • Print the plan.
  • Have the plan on your phone, whichever app you choose, so you can follow that when the printed plan stops making sense.
  • I may not ever be a Navy SEAL – scratch that – I will NEVER be a Navy SEAL who has to endure Hell Week and other tortures required to be an elite military officer. But I can do whatever I put my mind to. 

And when I got home, this was on the bathroom mirror:

Yeah, I did that. Eighty miles, less than six hours.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

H140: Training Update and Flat Tires

Since I’ve been suffering from an epidemic of rear flat tires lately, I decided to keep my latest training ride fairly close to home. In preparation and to prevent any additional flats, I had invested in a new rear tire with “Flat Protection System” assurances. I also had a new tube with Slime – the green goo that is supposed to seal punctures in the innertube almost instantly. It’s quite a bit heavier than a normal tube, but I felt much more confident given the recent rash of flats I’ve had.

I chose La Tuna Canyon – a decent training climb of about 1,800 feet over three miles. I had done this once before – the first time I took my new bike out for a long ride, actually. I felt much stronger and more efficient than I had before. I thought that it was quite a bit easier than Little Tujunga, if only because the duration of the climb is shorter.

Things went very well. I took a slight break at the top to hydrate. I remembered to unclip each time I needed to, so there were no unnecessary dumb crashes. So far, so good.

On the downhill, I hit 28 mph at one point, and probably could have gone a bit faster. My legs were still fresh, I felt in control. I freaked myself out a bit though, thinking of how badly things would be if I crashed going that fast, so I tapped the brakes. (I can’t imagine what 40+mph feels like, which is how fast both my sisters  say they’ve gone on some recent rides.)

I had just hit a flat straightaway and was leaning into the pedaling when I heard it – the telltale pop and hiss of a flat. I pulled over, remembering to unclip first, and still heard a hissing noise accompanied by a faint splattering sound. The slime tube was doing its job – I could see the green goo rushing out of a hole in the tube, trying to self-heal. But if I could see it coming out of the tube, that meant there was also something wrong with the tire itself.

On closer inspection I could see the tire had what looked like a slit in it. And each time I tried to pump the tube up to full capacity, it hadn’t had enough time to fix itself, and with the slit in the wheel, both remained stubbornly uninflated. I considered swapping out the Slime tube for the spare I had with me, but considering the state of the tire, it seemed rather pointless. (As it turned out, the spare I had with me was the damaged one from my last ride. Not my best moment.)

When I got home, Cim and I examined the wheel and tube more closely. The tire’s damage looked as though a knife had been taken cleanly to it on the sidewall. Beyond that, there was even wear and tear around the circumference of the tire at the same angle as the slit. The tube had two smaller puncture holes in it at the same spot.

I had been considering just buying a new tire and tube, but at Cim’s insistence, I took the whole thing in to the bike shop to see if there was some other defect with the bike itself that I was missing.

The defect was mine. User error. Apparently I hadn’t set the wheel properly in the mounting forks. Rubber from the tire was visible on the bike frame where it had worn down from rubbing on something it shouldn’t have been. They put on a new tire (Gatorskin) and tube and remounted the tire. As the mechanic looked more closely at the bike, he determined that the rear brake wasn’t responding correctly or quickly enough. He recommended removing the “cosmetic” brake set, which would also entail re-wrapping the handlebars. At the same time, he would give it a complete tune-up.

I got the bike back yesterday, and feel much better knowing that I’m not the one who’s mounted the wheel. It looks more professional without the secondary set of (useless) brakes, and the new wrapping is purty. I also found out that the shop sponsors a women’s-only ride on Tuesday evenings, so I plan on joining that next week. I’m excited to get some group experience under my belt, and feel better not having to wait until Saturday each week to get a ride in.

Meanwhile, my other training continues as well as can be expected. I still teach my two cycling classes each week, and have started attending another early morning in where I can push myself harder than I can do when I’m teaching. I went running this morning for the first time in three weeks. It may have been too soon to let this piriformis thing heal fully, but it sure did feel good to be out there again.

Meanwhile, people are asking me if I’m ready. The short answer is “No.” The longer answer is, “I won’t know until it’s actually time.” The real answer is, “I’m working on it.”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Thoughts

Today is a complicated one for many people. They call it "Mother's Day," but it doesn't necessarily always evoke happy feelings for everyone. There may be some people who didn't have what they considered to be a good mother. There may be some mothers who wish they were better at it. There may be some people who wish to be mothers and aren't or can't be for whatever reason. So for as much as the greeting cards and jewelry companies wish us to spend money to tell the women in our life how wonderful they are, those sentiments are often accompanied by feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

I enjoy wishing a happy Mother's Day to men I know. It usually catches them a bit off guard and they wonder why I'm doing that. They have mothers too, for one thing. And for another, if it weren't for them, their wives wouldn't be mothers (in the cases where that applies, obviously).

I think that many people that Mother's Day will involve going to church and hearing talks from people who seemingly have everything together and either are or have had perfect mothers. Whatever "perfect" means. The congregation I attend recognizes that it's an uncomfortable day for many people, so they acknowledge all women over 18 with a piece of See's candy. Personally, I'm not really crazy about standing up at the end of the meeting until one of the young men hands me my chocolate reward for my chromosomal makeup and age, but I do enjoy a good piece of chocolate, so I play along.

My favorite part is when sweet families thank me for being a good auntie to their children. I got a dark chocolate bar accompanied by the sweetest note I may have ever possibly received from a wonderful family in my ward. That was my highlight of the day - knowing that even if I haven't birthed a child of my own, I still matter in important ways.

And of course I'm thinking of my own dear sweet mother on this day. We didn't really buy into the commercialism of this day, to my memory. Whether that was conscious on our part or more because I just used the excuse of her birthday being so close to Mother's Day that I figured, "Eh, why bother?", I don't know. But it did not lessen her importance in my life at all. She wasn't perfect, and would be the first to tell you that, but she loved me, which she'd also be the first to tell you. And I think that's what it all comes down to - family is comprised of people who love you best and most. The labels we give them don't matter as much as their tender love and care. We all are mothers, and fathers, and sisters and brothers and aunties and uncles.

Happy Mother's Day to you.

Why I Ride

In June I will participate in a fund-raising bike ride for cancer research. This will not be an easy thing. The goal is to complete 140 miles in seven hours. That includes rest stops and lunch. Last year I participated as part of a support crew for my sister as she participated in this event. I watched her climb mountains and overcome physical obstacles and boundaries during this day-long event. Many times she was behind the rest of the pack, and it was during those moments as I watched her fight to overcome physical limitations that I vowed that she shouldn’t have to go through that on her own. I determined that day that I would ride alongside her the next time. She had enough battles to overcome as she fought cancer, and while we helped her the best we could during that fight, there are other things I can help her with directly.

We are making it a family event as much as we can. Another sister and cancer survivor is also riding. One of our other sisters will be part of the support crew, and there will be children and nieces and nephews along the way too.

Until that day, there is training to be done. Lots and lots of training. And fundraising. Many people have already contributed, and for that I am grateful and humbled. The day will be a tough one, but I will carry with me the memory of people I know who have also battled cancer. Some lost their own battles, but I don't believe the war is over. It will be a tough day, yes. It will be a fulfilling day, definitely.

Here are some of the people I will carry with me (and hopefully they will provide a nice tailwind!):

My Aunt Effie was my favorite aunt. "Favorite" because she took a genuine interest in me and treated me like an equal. "Was" because she was taken by breast cancer in 1983.

My Grandma McBride. She was the only grandparent I knew. To a young child she embodied stern old-fashioned values, but radiated a gentle love for her family. I watched her undergo radiation treatments for a cancer on her throat/neck. She was killed by cancer in 1974. I was seven.

My friend Jamie Lark. She had brain tumors and breast cancer, but couldn't beatovarian cancer. It was too soon for all of us, except for perhaps her. I imagine that after living a life of pain and too much time spent in hospitals and doctors' offices she was probably happy to go.

My friend Jill was killed by lung cancer. She never smoked a cigarette in her life, nor was she ever around them. It is an indiscriminate killer. 

My dad had colon cancer, prostate cancer, and skin cancer. Remarkably, it was old age and missing his wife that got him.

My friend Emily Barnett was 15 years old when she was diagnosed with a malignant, cancerous brain tumor. Now 17she has optimistically and cautiously been declared cancer-free.

My sister Louise is a skin cancer survivor. My sister Neva is a breast cancer survivor. I will proudly ride alongside and with both of them.

There are numerous others I know who have been affected by cancer:

Margaret - brain tumors and breast cancer.
Karen - breast cancer.
My friend Valary's mom and her niece - both killed by breast cancer.
My friend Wendy's mom - killed by breast cancer.

I ride because someday it could be me.

I ride because someday it could be you.

(For anyone interested in donating, it's 100% tax-deductible. Follow this link.)

Here is the video I put together last year of my sister's ride.