Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Pepperoni Revival

I've been looking forward to October since the end of the July. Yes, I know, summer is awesome and I should enjoy it. This year though, I knew October would bring running races and I've been itching to run race for months.  That said, signing up for my first ultra in over a year only 2 weeks after Marji Gesick seemed like a good idea. At least, it seemed like a good idea until I realized I hadn't really run much with all the mountain biking I was doing.

So, I showed up for the Night Owl Shuffle 6 Hour race wondering if I might actually end up doing some shuffling. My main goal going into the race was to run 30 miles in the 6 hours. Of course, I won't lie, I was hoping for a win too. Ya, I know I'm old, but there's still a 17 year old who loves winning trapped in this old body.

Timed races work like this- whoever runs the most wins. Normally there's a loop of a certain distance and whoever completes it the most times under the cut-off is the winner. This race had an added twist. There was a main 3.35 mile loop as well as a 1 mile out-and-back. We were allowed to run either whenever we chose, as well as being allowed to run the 3.35 loop backwards. Basically, what this means is, you have no idea where you are in comparison to your competition so, if you want to win, you better be running as hard as you can.

Thankfully, we all at least started out on the main 3.35 mile loop so we could assess our places early on. I settled in to 5th, knowing my old bones can't handle the faster early pace like they used to. I ran the next couple laps hoping people would slow down and come back to me. No one did. I could only hope they'd jumped into the one mile loop and were running slower there.

I stuck to the longer loop for 5 laps, not wanting to deal with the monotony of 1 mile laps yet. By the end of that lap though, I was past the longest I'd run in over a year and feeling a little tired. As I finished the lap, I entered the one mile loop for a scouting lap to see if it might be a bit easier and I might find some of the girls ahead of me in there. The hills were at least a little mellower, but no luck passing anyone. Since I still had 2 1/2 hours left to run, I headed back out for another big lap. Halfway through, I started to melt down. I'd been on pace up until then to get my 30 miles, but it quickly started to slip away as I slowed to 15 minute miles. I was pretty much the walking dead.

I started to panic. Then I felt a little sorry for myself. Then I got over it.

I remembered hearing that the great ultra runner Ann Trason once said good ultra runners were good problem solvers. So I decided to problem solve. First up,  I needed to figure out what was wrong. I was hungry. My legs hurt. A lot. Second, I needed to find a solution to those problems. I needed to eat and I needed to avoid the pounding on the downhills. Third, I need to act. So, I headed for the one mile loop where the downhills were all grassy and not as steep. Then, I ate. I knew too much food would be risky for my stomach, but I figured I was already walking so how much would it hurt? I downed an entire package of pepperoni in seconds. Damn, it tasted good.

To my surprise, I was running again within a mile. The first one was slow, but the next one I was back in the 11s. A few miles later, I was in the 10s and back on track to hit my 30 miles if I could hold the pace. Of course, there was still over an hour of running left and I still had no idea where my competition was. I could only hope they'd enter the one mile loop soon.

I got my wish. Shortly after, one of the girls ahead of me appeared coming the other way. I did some quick math and figured if she'd run as many laps of the big loop as I thought she had, I'd need to pass her.  I got to work. A lap later, I found myself coming up behind her. I remembered a story I'd heard an ultra runner once tell about passing another girl at mile 90 something in a 100 mile race. She said that when she passed her, she wanted to be going so fast it would "crush her soul" so she wouldn't try to keep up. I decided now was a good time to start crushing souls and picked up my pace.

One down. Three to go.

Shortly after, two more of the girls ahead of me entered the one mile loop. I set out to crush more souls. I passed the second of them with only about 15 minutes to go. I knew I needed to stay ahead. As I neared the finish of that lap, I realized I had my 30 miles, but I also realized I just might be able to get one more lap in under the time. I came in with about 12 minutes to spare, saw my friend Dana cheering at the turn around, and knew I needed to go for it. I knew I'd been running under 12 minute pace for miles, but I didn't want to leave anything to chance. If I was gonna run this damn lap, it better count. I pushed the pace. 10 1/2 minutes later I came in with 31.1 miles.

All that was left was to wait for results. I'd passed three of the four girls ahead of me, but the fourth was nowhere around. I'd seen her exiting the one mile loop as I'd entered it 10 miles earlier but not since. Since my favorite way to pass time while running is to do math in my head, I'd calculated the many ways this could work out. I knew that if she'd stuck to 3.35 mile loops and kept a decent pace while I ran 10 one mile loops she could rack up just a bit more distance than I.

When it came time for awards, that's exactly what we found out happened. After 6 hours of running, she beat me by a whopping .05 miles. that's right 5/100's of a mile. Damn, that hurt. But at least I won the masters (a.k.a little old lady) division. And I figured out how to revive myself from the dead with pepperoni. That's a plus.
Now I just need to figure out how to keep my knees from swelling the next day.
Come on now, you knew I'd have something gross to share after an ultra. At least it wasn't chafe.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Unfinished Business

To say that this year's Marji Gesick was a mixed bag of emotions would be an understatement. After running the 100 in 90 degree heat last year, I decided to "just" sign up to ride the 50 this year. I wasn't entirely sure my inner thigh chafe would actually be healed enough to run again. Of course, after spending endless hours on the bike training for HAMR earlier this summer, I was really itching to run again, but by then it was too late for 100 mile run training.

So, I showed up to Marquette really wishing I was running instead. Watching the run start on Friday didn't help, especially when I realized someone was surely going to smash my course record to pieces and I wouldn't even be there. To add to my mixed bag, Big E was riding the 100, so 90 minutes before my race, I dropped him off at his start and left wishing I could drive around all day to cheer for him too. Since I was also slightly terrified of driving his barge of a truck to my start, I took off without changing the music, which meant I listened to his pre-race song 5 times instead of my own.

By the time I arrived at Marquette Mountain to start my own race, I really just wanted to drive around all day listening to Metallica, feeding Big E and cheering for runners. Thankfully, the Ringmaster's awesome wife, Stacie, was there doing bag check. She's the pep talk queen, probably because she runs the drop bag station in this race, which means she's likely watched 100's of people pull the plug.  She certainly wasn't going to let me pull mine before I started.

Fueled by her pep talk, I finally listened to my own song (Whole Lotta Rosie in case you were wondering) and channeled my inner racing Rosie. I needed her since the start was straight up the mountain. Not an easy task for we singlespeed junkies.

To my surprise, the uphill wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I pushed a bit, but managed to ride much more than I expected. What I didn't expect though, was to realize just as we headed down that I'd made the rookie mistake of leaving way too much air in my tires for the technical downhill. Halfway down, terrified I'd crash and smash my face on the rocks, I finally jumped off the bike, only to actually smash my face with my own handle bars. Rookie move #2.

Thankfully, I calmed down a bit after this and actually started enjoying the ride. As we picked our way up the hills in the first few miles, I kept my pace in check by chatting. It didn't take long to realize that when I told people I'd run last year, I always got the same response. "OH- I read your blog." Of course, I'm pretty sure to Marji folks this means, "OH- I saw your crotch on the internet." As Big E likes to remind me, this is my own fault since I'm the one who posted a photo of my raw inner thighs. Hopefully they're only famous in Marquette and I'm not unknowingly starring in some sort of internet endurance racing porn. Anyway- I decided to quit talking about running so I #1- could stop worry about becoming internet porn and #2 could focus on riding my bike.

That's pretty much what I did for the next 10 hours- push the pedals. I'll admit- I stopped to talk to every runner I passed because I really wanted to at least experience their journey for a few minutes, but other than that I channeled my Rosie and kept moving forward, which at the Marji Gesick means riding a whole lotta technical shit I would probably push my bike over any other time. It turns out, when I want to avoid riding in the dark, I'll ride some pretty sketchy downhills. (Not that you can tell by the race pictures. As far as I know, I'm pushing my bike in all of them. I think the Ringmaster paid the photographers to avoid any photos of me riding. I'm smiling in all of them though so that's a plus.)

In the end, after over 10 hours in the saddle, I happened to make it to the top of Jasper Knob just as the last few 100 mile riders who might earn a buckle arrived. I knew better than to get in the way of a man on a mission to earn the coveted Marji buckle, so I jumped out of the way and let them make their sprint while I enjoyed the last mile.

To my surprise, since my teammates were all still out on the 100 course, I heard my name at the finish. Ruth and Amy, friends from Marquette, like always, had taken the time to come out to the finish. This is sort of the spirit of Marji and the UP- even when you think you know no one, there's always someone there to cheer.
Ruth, Amy and I on top of Sugarloaf the next day.
After spending the race fighting off those pre-race conflicting emotions, it only took minutes for them to flood back. Big E was still out there and all I wanted, even more than getting warm, was to do some cheering. Amy knew what time he'd passed his first drop bag and after some quick math, I realized he'd be riding by the finish (part of the Marji torture is passing by the finish line with 25 miles to go) any minute. I took off on my bike and asked the first guy I saw if he'd met a loud guy named Eddie on the trail. (Everyone knows Eddie.) He hadn't but he took one look at my jersey and said, "There's a guy behind me wearing that jersey though."

I knew it would be Eddie. Sure enough, I found him minutes later. Somehow we can always find each other in these races. Mostly because he's loud and really friendly. Apparently our cool jerseys help too. After a quick stop to put on his light, he was off again and I was able to take a quick shower before heading to meet him as he came through Jackson Mine Park to his bag drop a second time.

If you've never hung out at Jackson Mine Park during the Marji Gesick, you're missing out. It's one of the most inspiring places I've been in a race. Sure, you see a few shattered souls come in and pull the plug, but mostly what you see is a whole lot of absolutely exhausted, shelled people come in and some how muster the energy to head out in the dark onto one of the hardest sections of the course. Big E was one of those. This spot was a big deal. He'd pulled the plug here two years ago and then last year pulled even earlier after getting almost no sleep while I was out running the night before his race. So this park was kinda hanging in the air as that place he wished he'd kept going for two long years. He rolled in feeling like crap. He sat down and started shivering. I started to worry, but he assured me he'd keep moving. After some Coke. And warm clothes. And ginger ale. I didn't want to push but when he'd been there over 30 minutes I started to panic. Thankfully Stacie did another of her pep talks. She picked a time.  He was leaving by midnight.

Not long after midnight, that's exactly what happened. Somehow, after over an hour in a lawn chair, he got up, threw his leg over the bike and showed that last 15 miles who's boss. Like I said, Jasper Mine Park is pretty inspiring. You see a lot of people slay their demons there.

Later that night, after nearly 24 hours awake, we put Marji to rest. At least for the year. I won't lie. I literally reserved our Air Bnb for next year while we sat in the truck on Monday preparing to drive away. There's a run out there that's haunting me. I might have finished but that doesn't mean I don't want another crack at that damn buckle.  After a year of wearing this shirt to celebrate crossing that line last year

I told Big E it's time to put it away for the year. I have some business to finish and it's time to get to work.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

For the Fresh Meat, Part 2

The Marji Gesick Ringmaster himself, Todd, called me on Monday. I was actually having a rough day, feeling exhausted and sore from likely jumping back into serious training a bit too soon after HAMR. Instead of a running or riding, I went to the archery range, thinking it would cheer me up. Unfortunately I was shooting like crap. Many rounds in, I finally nailed a fox dead on. Then the phone rang.

It was The Ringmaster, which cheered me up even more than the good shot at the fox. He had a project for me, he said.  I was pretty excited about this, hoping it would be something really important like designing the new Polar Roll run course. He had other things, I suppose equally important, in mind.

He reminded me we have just over 6 weeks until Marji Gesick, when there will be over 40 people out there running on his crazy-ass course with no aid stations. Since he's not a runner himself, he asked if I'd write up a post to give those 40 or so people a little heads up on what to expect. I obliged, even though it's not as exciting as designing a run course.

So, here's a little of what I think to be important. Have I done a crap load of 100 mile races? No. Marji was my first. Did I earn a buckle? No. I'll have to try again for that. Did I finish and learn a hell of a lot in the process? Yes. Yes. And Yes. So, hopefully that's enough that some Marji runners out there might want to keep reading.

Before I get to the training details to give a little insight into where you might want to be in training right now, there are three things you'll need that I think are important to point out. Without them, finishing (or starting in one case) just isn't gonna happen.

1. A bike. That's right. This is perhaps the only 100 mile run you'll ever do where you have to start on a bike. So bring one. It's not a joke. I even wore my helmet. The ringmaster apparently needed to give me some stern words anyway:

Photo- Lisa McIntyre
 2. A GPS of some sort. Yes, the course is marked, but you never know when a Sasquatch might move a few signs.  Or, like last year, they might curl up in the rain and be hard to see. Having a GPS that at least beeps if you go off course will save you a lot of time wandering around lost. Trust me, at some point during the night in my delirium I even turned the wrong way down a well-marked road and was saved by that beeping.

3. Most importantly-A CREW!!!! This race will not happen for you without one. Period. You can mess up the training a little, you can puke, you can get lost, you can take a nap. But you can't run this race without a crew there. Yes, the whole time. There are no aid stations. Zero. The ones you hear the bikers talk about aren't there on Friday and stashing your goods in the woods is not allowed. So if you don't have a crew, get one now. And make sure they aren't afraid of the dark.

Without all these people here, I would never have finished. End of story.

They tolerated my Dr. Pepper obsession well. Photo- Lisa McIntyre
I tried to lube everyone at the start and I still got chafed. Photo- Lisa McIntyre

Really, we did run right after this, but the 8 year old asked me why I was running so slow. Photo- I have no clue who took this photo. It was mile 100 something. I was delirious. I smiled at anyone even if they didn't have a camera.

That's right. It kinda took a village (and a large part of team LCR) to get me through this thing.

Now, on to a few training details. A few general notes before I go into what some of my weeks looked like. One, despite this being my first hundred, this wasn't my first ultra or even my first time on this course. I'd done 50k's, a 50 miler, a 40 miler, and the Marji "50" the year before. I also ran in college so I know my body well and what it can handle. I've found what works for me best is to do two hard weeks in a row, ending with long runs on tired legs, followed by a recovery week. That's just me so that's what you'll see here. Two, I love trails so most of these miles were on trails, many of them mimicking the elevation of Marji. If you haven't done that, I suggest you start, now. The technical difficulty on this course is no joke. You won't be ready by running on the road. Now on to a bit of a training timeline:

April- Built up to 40 miles a week, mostly on trails with lots of elevation.

May- Built up to 50 miles a week, twice averaging nearly 100 feet per mile of elevation for the weekly miles.

June- Built up to 65 miles a week, again trail and elevation specific.

July- things get more specific.

11 weeks out from the race, I ran a 70 mile week.

10 weeks out from the race I ran 80 miles, capped off with a training camp on the Marji course with my LCR teammates who were riding it. I ended the week with 28 miles on the course on Friday and 24.5 miles on the course on Saturday. Then my teammates and I went out to dinner at a restaurant that had what seemed like 200 steps. I was walking a bit funny after all those miles so they found it hilarious to walk behind me and tell people I had to poop. If you're LCR, your teammates are your biggest hecklers. But they show up for you on race day!

9 weeks out was, of course, a recovery week. 30 miles.

8 weeks out was another 70 mile week, with 7234 feet of climbing, you guessed it, nearly all on trails.

7 weeks out was my biggest week, 87 miles, capped off with 30 miles on Saturday followed by 15 hilly miles on Sunday. I chose to starting backing off a bit after this week. I've found with ultras it's better to get the heavy miles done early. Leaving them until just 3-4 weeks before the race leaves me too tired and sore on race day.

6 weeks out. (This is where you are right now if you're doing Marji this year.) Another 30 mile recovery week.

5 weeks out. 61 miles.

4 weeks out. 57 miles with my last long run of 22 on Saturday. I had actually planned for this to be a 70 mile week, but after running my 22 miler in the rain I ended up with a sore throat so I opted to skip Sunday's 13 miler and not get sick before the race.

3 weeks out. 30 mile recovery week.

2 weeks out. 50 miles with 5286 feet of elevation. Longest run of the week was 12 miles. Did some running in the dark to test out my lights and my skills!

1 week out. 33 miles, 3353 feet of elevation, more running in the dark.

Race week- 10 miles, including 2.5 on Thursday on the last mile of the course. I wanted to make sure I would recognize it when I got there! The rest of the day Thursday, Super Kate and I drove around the course picking out our meeting places. This was essential. Since there are no aid stations at this race you can't just meet your crew there. You need to pick your own places and both of you need to know where they are!

Friday- Race day! That's already been recapped here: https://girlunsupervised.blogspot.com/2017/09/its-small-thing-to-giant.html.  I made it to the finish thanks to my awesome crew, always supportive (even when they're making fun of me) teammates and of course Big E, who put up with a lot of months of me training more than I did anything else.
Photo- Ryan Stephens

For the sake of not writing an entire novel, of course I've left out a lot of details. If you're racing and want more, feel free to send me a message on Instagram @girl_unsupervised. I'll do my best to remember everything that happened out there. Part one of this, written right after the race is here: https://girlunsupervised.blogspot.com/2017/10/for-fresh-meat.html

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Beavis and Buttcrack Do Hard Things

Disclaimer: I do not write typical race reports. If you're looking for specifics about my gear set up for HAMR or secrets about the route, you won't find them here. Other than knowing I ran 34x19 for gearing and had Thunder Burt tires on (and new front brake pads courtesy of Chad) I don't know much about my bike. I'd rather ride it than geek out over the parts. And if you want to know the secrets of the route- come ride it next year. Also, these events may not be in the right order. Cut me some slack- by the end of this story I'd been pedaling a bike for 23 hours. I'm allowed to mix up the sequence and exaggerate.

Despite the fact that we didn't start riding until Saturday, the 187 miles of HAMR really started Friday night since we were required to check-in with the mandatory gear and then camp together to be awakened for a random start time during the early morning. I wasn't worried about failing gear check, at least unless you could fail for having too much stuff.
They said bring a snorkel. I maybe went a little overboard. Photo: Todd Poquette

After passing with flying colors (Stacie seemed rather impressed with the kindling Big E made me to stash in my match case.) I headed to the camping spot I shared with Stamper and the infamous Brad Reed the Endurance Machine. If his endurance skills match his ability to polish off a 4 lb pastie in a small amount of time, he definitely deserves his infamy.
Post-pastie wrapper spike.
After the pre-race meeting and some passport examination
Photo: Tanya LaJoie Ruokolainen
we hit the hay to try to catch a few zzzz's before whatever random wake up shenanigans The Ringmaster Todd Poquette and Matt had in store for us.

Thankfully, mercy was taken and we weren't roused until 4am. An hour later, we were off in the dark. Despite my Garmin not having any idea what to do at the first few turns and an early ridiculously steep, rocky hill that I had to push, I finally settled in to a rhythm and enjoyed my favorite time of day to ride. After 20ish miles of peaceful riding by myself, I heard ruckus behind me. Along came The Ringmaster and a group of guys. I can't say I was disappointed. We were on the famously sandy Red Road so having them pass me meant fresh tracks in the sand I could follow.

A few miles later, we entered Mosquito Gulch, where I first caught Buttcrack Jenny and began a lot of miles a back and forth. I had no choice but to stand on the hills and singlespeed away. She would inevitably catch me on the next flat for some time to chat. We continued this way for miles, including making our way across the river
I didn't even need my snorkel! Photo: Todd Poquette
before finally climbing Mt. Arvon in the rain. I was hoping for a view since it's the highest point in MI, but all I saw were a bunch of cold, wet riders! After the mandatory selfie at the top
I headed out quickly. The Ringmaster was at the top asking for a working phone. I didn't want to be there if he called for a ride. There's something about seeing the race director bail out of his own race that's a bit disconcerting. Especially when it's because he's a bit worried about the rest of us!

If any of us had thoughts that we could've done this race on a cross bike instead of a mountain bike, they were quickly erased on the ride down Mt. Arvon. With the rain, the already technical descent became more like a rocky, sandy stream. I clung to the bike for dear life as I slipped and slid down the hill.

Thankfully, Buttcrack Jenny caught me again as we approached the town of L'anse. After seeing how remote the race had already become, we made a pact to finish together in the dark. We happily resupplied our water and food at the gas station before heading out along Lake Superior for a few easy miles and some much needed sun. (Ok, maybe my idea of "sunny" was a bit skewed at this point.)
We made good time on the pavement before hitting the next gravel road with some daylight left. By this point, we were riding side by side, of course chatting away to pass the time. Now, if you've ever met Buttcrack Jenny or myself, you know that if either of us is talking, we are also laughing. A lot. Since our conversation had turned to farts as this point, I'm pretty sure anyone that heard us coming would have most likely thought Beavis and Butthead were coming down the road.

Farts. Hehe.  Butts. Hehe. I need to pee. Hehe. 

That's pretty much how it went.

Well, at least that's how it went until shit started to get weird. What started as a nice gravel road with a little traffic got more and more remote. There was a bus in the trees, then a boat, then a trailer, then a random lawn chair. As it got darker, it got creepier. Considering I used to lead canoe trips on the river where they filmed Deliverance, it takes a lot of redneckery to freak me out. This, however, made the hair on my arms stand up. I started humming "Dueling Banjos". Buttcrack and I got pretty quiet.

Thankfully, we finally came to a little pavement. It was quick, and we flew down the hill to the next right turn back on to gravel, where I promptly crashed in the sand. Thankfully, my pedals had treated me well for 169 miles, but now they'd decided to get sticky, making it nearly impossible to clip out quickly if I needed to.

Great, we're in Deliverance-country and I'm trapped in my pedals. 

Thankfully at this point, the road was still pretty well maintained and I didn't really need to clip out much so we headed up the hill and took our mandatory snorkel selfies at the checkpoint.
 A few miles later, we had unexpected headlights behind us. Before I knew it, I heard Buttcrack talking to the driver and really hoped she wasn't trying to make friends with one of the Deliverance people. Thankfully, it was her husband, Matt Attacker Acker, who'd won the race and was now driving around offering support. Class act! He stopped up the road to offer us some food and fill us in on the rest of the course. We had less than 15 miles left and I was still feeling great so I didn't really get too concerned when I heard him say "hike a bike". Of course, in hindsight, if someone nicknamed Attacker says you're gonna hike a bike, it's probably a sign that shit's about to get real.

Let's just say- it did.

First we headed downhill on a sandy road, where I proceeded to crash numerous times and we dismounted lord knows how many times to walk around water. At some point after what felt like miles of this the scenery changed a bit. Then we rounded a corner and I heard Buttcrack say, "I think we're gonna have to hike this."

Thankfully I successfully unclipped my feet for once and we inched our way up the rocks. Within minutes, a noise unlike any I've ever heard come from the woods. After a quick, simultaneous, "What the hell was that?!" we inched our way up a little quicker.

Great, now we're in Deliverance-land, we're pushing our bikes and a Sasquatch wants to eat us.

Just for good measure, I shined my light into the trees every couple of minutes. You know, just in case Sasquatches are afraid of light.  I just hoped we smelled bad enough to scare him off.

After our push-a-bike, we remounted and continued on our way, hoping to find the elusive Chunky Summit checkpoint. In our passports, it said, "Watch out for washed out culverts," in the description for this checkpoint. I'm pretty sure it was in one of these culverts, while trying to descend, where I discovered one of my eyes was so blurry I couldn't see out of it.

Now we're in Deliverance-land, I'm trapped in my pedals, there's a Sasquatch in the woods and I can only see out of one eye.

Of course, I eventually crashed again, bashing my hip on a rock and finally throwing a hissy fit. Buttcrack calmly helped me up, squirted some water on my cleats and in my eye and we were on our way.

A few minutes later, my Garmin went haywire. It wanted, of all things, for us to make a u-turn. Seriously, we just rode 179 f-ing miles and you want us to turn around?!

You guessed it- now we're in Deliverance-land, I'm trapped in my pedals, I can only see out of one eye, there's a Sasquatch in the woods and my Garmin is drunk. Oh, and did I mention it was raining again? At least my ass was soft from the mixture of Chamois butter and sand that had been squishing around in there for 22 hours.

Thankfully, Buttcrack's Garmin was not drunk and we found our way to Chunky Summit and then to the Top of the World checkpoint, only three miles from the finish. We cruised the last three easier miles together, finally crossing the line after 23 hours on our bikes. Buttcrack tried to ring her Hamburger bell to announce our presence, but it was so waterlogged it sounded like a drowning duck. Good thing we never needed it to scare off that Sasquatch.

Before heading our separate ways to dry off and get some sleep, we of course took a few fun finish photos.
Photo: Todd Poquette
This one pretty much sums up our day. Two goofballs in the woods, not always right-side up, but smiling and sticking together. I'm pretty sure that's what The Ringmaster and Matt had in mind for this race- to give us something so hard we'd see that sometimes the group effort is much more important than the win.  (And of course to make us question our sanity.) After all, it's hard to fight off a Sasquatch on your own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Just Eat the Damn Cake

Not quite cake- but eating some of Mama Iris's 13 flavors of homemade ice cream (a 4th of July tradition) because eating it is way more fun than "having" it.

I left the house for this morning's bike ride with two different tires on my bike. I wasn't trying to be cool. I didn't need two different tires. I had no reason other than the fact that I got up later than I'd planned, didn't change the tires as fast as I thought I could and only got one done before I needed to leave for the ride or skip it. Despite the fact that Big E thought it would be funny to try to convince me it would screw up my bike to ride with two different tires, I chose to ride.

For some reason, as I rode off frustrated with myself for not just getting up earlier, I thought of the phrase, "You can't have your cake and eat it too."  At first I thought it maybe applied to the situation since, technically, I didn't get my tires changed AND get my ride in. But then I decided that was stupid because the only reason I didn't get both done was because I chose to sleep in. If I hadn't, I could've had both. So really, I chose not to have my cake and it eat too.

So of course, right there on the spot, I decided that phrase is really stupid. (Big E can attest to my rant on the subject later in the day.)  But really, when you think about it, it's pretty dumb for two reasons.

First, in the literal sense, why would anyone even choose between having the cake and eating it? We would all eat the damn cake!!! If there was cake, even if you were allergic to it, you wouldn't let it just sit there. You would eat it if you could or throw it away so it wouldn't get moldy. No one (except maybe a hoarder) would just "have" the cake, no matter how pretty it was.

Second, in the sense in which the phrase was meant to be interpreted- you can't have two incompatible things- it is still kind of ridiculous. Yes, I get it, there are some things that are just impossible. You can't be Australia and Canada at the same time. However, that said, the phrase is used much more liberally than that, often for things that aren't necessarily impossible. In fact, the comparable phrase in Russia is, "You cannot sit on two chairs," which technically, is actually possible. You could just put the chairs side by side and put one ass cheek on each. It might not be comfortable, but it would be done.

This is what leads me to where I'm actually going with this. (Yes I often, but not always, have a point.) This whole comfortable thing is what gets in our way. We like to have everything and still be comfortable. When we see two things we really want and it would be a shit-ton of work to have them both, we just say, "Well, I can't have my cake and eat it too." It becomes our excuse for not putting in the work to get what we really want, and when we see someone else who is putting their head down and working their butt off we say to them, "You know, you can't have your cake and eat it too," because it makes us feel better about not going after what we really wanted.  And before you know it, everybody's comfortable eating cake and not doing a whole hell of a lot else.

So the next time someone tells you can't have your cake and eat it too, ignore them. Find a way. Give something up. Get uncomfortable. Work harder. Ask people for help. Sit on two chairs at once if you have to. But don't give up just because it doesn't seem easy.

After all, where there's a will there's a way.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ninja for a Day

Final smoothie at the end of a long training week. 
There's usually a story behind a picture like this- one that tells you how I ended up looking like a crazed woman ready for a really long nap. This story involves a crap load of training, because, well, prepping for a 187 mile bike race through remote terrain necessitates a crap load of training. So I train. And drink lots of smoothies.

My philosophy on training for ultra endurance events is this: train until you're beat down and then really start training. Why? Because that's how you're gonna feel at the end of the race, beat down. You might as well know you can keep moving through that feeling so you don't find out in the middle of a race, in the middle of nowhere, when no one's around to rescue you, that you're a pussy when you're beat down. At least in training if you become a total pussy you can make your way home pretty quickly.

This all leads us to this picture, taken today at the end of two weeks of straight hard training. My goal for the second week of these hard cycles is to never train fresh. Since week one involved  2 1/2 hours of running, 12 1/2 hours of biking, 2 hours of strength training and 4 hours of Jiu Jitsu, I was pretty much set up to reach that goal. Week two, which led to that crazy lady drinking a smoothie, went something like this:

Monday- Wake up at my usual 6:30 pretty sore and a bit crabby, go to work, run on tired legs for an hour, drink a smoothie, go back to work, strength train between clients, work some more, shoot my bow before bed. Nothing too unusual here.

Tuesday- Wake up when the alarm goes off at 6:30, lay in bed for 30 minutes because my legs, hip and back hurt. Roll out of bed, stretch and massage myself with The Stick. Work. Ride an hour and fifteen minutes to the evening Jiu Jitsu class carrying my Gi, arriving just as it starts raining. Dry my bike with my dirty Jiu Jitsu clothes and begin the ride home. Get caught in the rain. Realize the Gi is getting heavier. Pedal harder. Arrive home smiling anyway because I finally had a stripe on my belt to show off to Big E. Drink smoothie.

Wednesday- Wake up when the alarm goes off at 6:30. Hobble to the bathroom. Lay back down to survey the soreness. Roll out of bed after 7:00 and make friends with the foam roller before I even eat breakfast. Run for over an hour, including four sets of 97 steps and lots of hills. Drink a smoothie on the way to Jiu Jitsu. Feel thankful one of the kids wants to join us so for once I can actually practice with someone smaller than me. Reluctantly roll with a couple guys bigger than me at the end. Get my ass kicked. Leave looking like a drunk girl doing the walk of shame after a long night out. Love it because this is what hard weeks are all about. (Not the drunk girl part...) Get a massage. Ask her to work on my legs because that's what hurts. Fall asleep on the table and wake up an hour later to discover she was still working on my back and shoulder. Apparently those should hurt. Realize they're probably just numb. Go to work. Do 40 minutes of Pilates with one of my clients. Shoot my bow before bed. Fall asleep so hard Big E sleeps on the couch because he doesn't want to wake me.

Thursday- Wake up sometime after 7. Lay there for 1/2 an hour trying to figure out how to move. Wonder how the hell I'm going to ride a bike and do Jiu Jitsu later. Work. Ride the long way to the evening Jiu Jitsu class, do class, ride the long way home and do some monkey bars on the way to prepare from the obstacle course race I signed up for in August. Get a fish hook (yes, a fish hook) in my tire riding over the 494 bridge. Realize it's not easy to extract a fish hook from a bike tire. Change my flat and make it home just before dark. Drink a smoothie. Eat an entire pizza.

Friday- Wake up sometime after 8 when Big E tries to tiptoe into the room to video tape me snoring my face off. Laugh when he says, "Dammit, I can't sneak up on you now that you're doing Jiu Jitsu because you're turning into a ninja." Realize most of me hurts when I laugh.  Eventually manage to move enough to make breakfast, do some core training and run for an hour including 5 long hill repeats. Drink smoothie. Go to work, do a little more strength training between clients, but take a day off my usual routine of doing 10 pushups every time I check social media because I'm being a pussy. At least I made it to Friday. Shoot my bow. Stretch, foam roll and hang out in my ice tights before bed because I know tomorrow is gonna be long.

Saturday- Wake up at 6:15. Ride to Jiu Jitsu. Throw up in my mouth on the way there because my body apparently doesn't really want to ride a bike today. Stress the rest of the way there because I don't want puke breath when I'm rolling around with people. Ask The Ninja Teacher for gum as soon as he walks in. Try not to notice that a lot of big guys showed up for class today. Practice single leg take downs with poor form. Get thrown on my back by The Ninja Teacher while he shows me how to do them properly. Get up and practice them the right way (I think) because I really don't want him to show me again. Get back on the bike and ride for 3 1/2 more hours on the way home, including some singletrack and some ridiculously overgrown doubletrack. Do some monkey bars on the way for good measure. Drink smoothie. Check for ticks. Ask Big E if he will shave my head because I'm tired of dealing with my hair during training. Let him talk me off that ledge. Because he's always the more rational one of us. Get back to my social media push ups.

Sunday- Wake up when the alarm goes off at 7. Go to the bathroom and open the shades with every intention of getting up. Fall back to sleep. Stay asleep for almost 3 hours while Big E gets ready for his race, which probably sounded like a small marching band was in the kitchen. Ninja failure. Get out of bed after 10. Somehow drag myself back onto my bike to get some more singletrack in. Swallow numerous bugs on the ride because I'm too tired to close my own mouth. Bust ass on the trail just to try to stay ahead of little kids. Drag my tired self home. Drink smoothie. Take crazy picture. Do one last strength session, in which I realize I can't even straighten my legs all the way.

Endurance training success. Now it's time for an easy week.  And some work on my ninja skills.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Finding Rosie

After my sh!tshow at Mammoth Gravel Classic, I had two more chances in May to work on finding my inner Rosie in races.

Chance #1 was at the Woolly Mountain Bike race, my first mountain bike race in almost three years. If there was ever a time I needed Rosie, this would probably be it.

Things went well pre-race. We got there early, I got in a good warm up and I didn't need any meltdowns over my brakes or GPS at the start line. I even started in the middle of the pack, instead of hiding in the back like usual. Not that I stayed mid-pack very long. When you gear your singlespeed for the hills, it doesn't take long for the pack to pass you. At least the passing happened before we even hit singletrack! I figured with 4 hours of riding to go I'd have plenty of time to pass people back.

Unfortunately, that positive thinking lasted one lap. Then my chain fell off. Four times. By the time I put it back on four times, I pretty sure I was in last place and Rosie had left me. Thankfully, the race was loops, I eventually limped into the start/finish area with my chain dangling off my bike. I asked if I could make a quick stop to find a mechanic and after confirmation I could, I promptly found Jimmay!!!  Finding one of my LCR teammates is even better than finding a mechanic. These guys could probably fix a bike with dental floss if need be. In this case, after 10 minutes with Jimmay!!, I was back on course with my singulator twist-tied to my bike.

Told you these guys could fix a bike with anything. 

Now, I'd like to say I went back on course and everything was sunshine and rainbows. It wasn't. Somehow, after all the stopping to fix my bike, I ended up right in the mix of the expert and comp guys starting their races. If you've never done a mountain bike race, let me just sum this up for you like this: these guys all think they're winning the Olympics, which basically means if they come up behind you on the trail, they will expect you to get your ass off the trail immediately, even if there's a place to pass in 10 feet.

I swear these are guys who would hold the door open for me any other time, but get them on a bike and they'd rather kill me than have to go off a smooth strip of dirt to pass me in some grass. 

Thankfully, after a couple of laps of this and a few tears (Yes, I can cry and ride a bike at the same time. Yes, I also know this is ridiculous.), the always positive Chris Gibbs caught me and yelled something about Rosie, which reminded me I should be Rosie right now. And Rosie doesn't cry when she rides her bike. So, I pedaled hard for the next lap and half, passed a few people back and surprised myself with an unexpected podium. Not that I looked all that happy at as I finished:
Photo: Woolly Bike Club

Lesson of the day: Sometimes (most of the time) persistence pays off. Even if you can't find your inner Rosie when you need her most.

Fast forward six days to Wild Ride Buzzard Buster 10 Hour Race. A chance to redeem myself and keep in my Rosie mindset for the whole day.

Again, pre-race went well. The 2 hour drive was enough time to get myself in the right mindset. I had over an hour once I got there to set up my transition and get the bike ready (the chain was no longer held on with twist ties). I ran into the awesome HCCC crew before the start and they let me set up under their tent. I'm not sure if this was out of kindness or because I mentioned I might get naked in there later.  I even had time to check with the race director to make sure riding topless was an option. (Yes, yes it was.)

When it's supposed to be over 90 I start planning to be naked. Clothes are hot.

With that, I headed to the start as Rosie. Thankfully, the Le Mans run start goes much better for me than a mass start on the singlespeed so for once I was actually the first girl onto the singletrack. Despite having to run part of the first crazy uphill, I stayed in my Rosie mindset and stayed at the front down the technical section on the other side.

At this point, I pretty much knew this was probably gonna be my day. That probably sounds nuts at the start of a 10 hour race, but for me, the starts are usually the hardest. If I can make it through that with a positive outlook, I can find a way to keep my head in the game for however many hours there are to come. So, the rest of the ten hours, despite a battle with the heat, was all pretty much full of smiling.
Photo: http://www.xtrphoto.com/

I even finally rode "topless" for my last few laps.
Photo: http://www.xtrphoto.com/
And yes, I cropped this photo. No one's belly looks good when they're bent over on a bike. Just trust me on this. At least I can smile while riding with what looks like a beer gut.

In the end, it was finally a win. Not just for the race, but for finally finding Rosie again, and keeping her around for a whole race.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mammoth Gravel Sh!tshow

I've finally figured out why Big E gave me this after Polar Roll. I mean, of course I knew crying on the way to the start line was a bit extreme, but at the time I just sort of thought it was a one time pre-race mess.

Enter Mammoth Gravel Classic.

I did fine on the way there. It's more of a ride than a race so I refrained from crying during the hour long drive. I was even pretty relaxed...until we parked.

Then I saw people and bikes. Lots of them. To me this meant "race" and to my mind this meant "meltdown". In other words, I felt like I was going to pass out from nerves and I had to pee. Immediately.

As I headed down the hill to Cyclova, I discovered my brakes, which I thought I'd "fixed" the night before, were squealing. Again. Thankfully, Horns exited the shop as my bike literally screeched to a stop. Now, mind you, I can adjust my own brakes, but when these "meltdowns" happen, really it's better to just let someone else deal with my bike. I would probably break it. Or pee on it. (You never know- it might help the squeaking.) So, Horns obliged my freak out and fiddled with my quick releases.

After emptying a gallon of nervousness, I headed to the start line, where I promptly discovered that I didn't really know how to use my new GPS, which had the course directions on it. Back to meltdown mode. Of course, since I was now surrounded by a couple hundred people, it wasn't hard to find someone to rescue me. It also wasn't hard for Seve to show me that I just needed to hit a button and "Voila!" the GPS works.

Perhaps the next time I get a new toy I should read the directions.

You'd think that since my brakes were now fixed and I had a functioning GPS, I would be calm.

Ha. Ha. Hahaha. 

On the contrary, now that I didn't have any bike issues to stress over, I proceeded into full blown internal panic over whether one of these hundreds of people was going to run me over at the start. Basically, this means I stood there during the entire pre-race talk trying not to pass out. Or pee my bike shorts.

Needless to say, I was relieved to start riding so the freak out in my head would stop. Once we rounded the first corner, I finally convinced myself that no one would run me over and the panic stopped, mostly because it's really hard to panic when you're pedaling 120 rpms on a singlespeed hoping the entire field doesn't pass you on the first downhill. Of course, I'm pretty sure the entire field did pass me on that downhill, including Mr. Marx, who thought it best to be a wise-ass and shout, "How's that single speed treating you?"

Now, I'm not sure if he shouted this to purposely light my fire or he just wanted to be a smart ass, but either way, it turned on Rosie, my racing alter ego.  I might be a hot mess, but Rosie just wants to kick some ass. She doesn't have time for messes. Once she's turned on, I'm pretty much powerless to turn her off until the finish line. (And yes, I do realize that perhaps I should work on some sort of pre-race ritual that will turn Rosie on before the start line so we can avoid anymore pre-race sh!tshows.)

Anyway, Rosie was on a mission to pass back as many people as possible, especially Mr. Smartass Marx. Thankfully for her,  the single speed and its 29er tires could pretty much float over the sandy sections, so it wasn't long before the smartass himself appeared up ahead. For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to sneak up on him and slap him on the ass, which was going superbly until I got right behind his rear wheel. At this point, he swerved, nearly taking me down. As I jumped onto the grass to avoid a crash, I screamed. Unfortunately, at this point, although my hand wasn't on his ass, my mouth was rather close to his ear.

Let's just say, he finally knew I was there. He yelled something about needing Depends as I rode off. Rosie doesn't stop to help people who crap their pants.

The rest of the 70+ miles went pretty similarly. Someone would piss me off (like the guy who saw me struggling up a hill and said, "I don't mean to discourage you, but I think the hills get bigger") and Rosie would kick in even more and push harder. Even the three dead chickens and a random deer head in the road couldn't slow her down. (Thankfully- because who really wants to be going slow when there's a creature in the area ripping the heads off deer?) And the guy in the last 10 miles who would slow down, but whose ego couldn't stand being passed by a girl and would then speed up every time I passed him? Rosie was on a mission to beat him. Unfortunately, he had gears and the single speed couldn't quite match him on the last flat mile into town.

 But hey, at least he had to work for it. Rosie wouldn't have it any other way.

Now- I'm off to work on my pre-race ritual to channel Rosie. I'm gonna need her this summer...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Bridges and Tough Conversations

I've been pretty inspired lately by my new outlook on dealing with fear. Until a few weeks ago, I had no idea how often I was letting fear get in my way. Obviously, I knew I was using some pretty extreme avoidance tactics post head injury in order to drive every day without getting on the freeway or going over any bridges. Of course, if you live in the Twin Cities you know that at some point this became impossible if I wanted to get anywhere west of my house. Unfortunately, we have this thing called the Mississippi River. Turns out you have to drive over a bridge to get to the other side. At some point during the summer I finally forced myself to start doing this, mostly because the amazing Dana B. has her office on the other side of the river and I needed a massage. So, I pushed my fear aside and drove over the 494 bridge like a granny to see Dana.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I decided to change my outlook on fear and realized that perhaps facing this fear instead of constantly burying it might be a good idea. I recalled a conversation with Mama Liz last summer when I told her that maybe someday I would just ride my bike out onto that 494 bridge and stand there until it wasn't scary anymore. Since it was nearly 50 degrees yesterday, I figured it was as good a day as any to go hang out on the bridge.
At first the old fear-induced dizziness came back, but, funny thing, when I just let it be instead of trying to make it go away, it passed in its own time and there I was, pretty darn comfortable on the bridge. I mean, I didn't to any head stands or stand on the top of the railing or anything, but hey, baby steps.

I did get over the bridge phobia enough to take a ride out onto the old swing bridge later in the ride though.
I admit, I was pretty thankful it doesn't actually swing. Again, baby steps.

I know, these probably seem like little things, and actually when I finally did them they really were pretty minor. No panic attacks or meltdowns. The cool thing though- facing these fears of physical things is helping me face some of my other fears, which are really the ones that probably affect my life the most.

That fear of judgment I wrote about a few weeks ago- it's really been on my mind. Sometimes you just finally realize how much something affects you and it motivates you to do things you never thought you could do so that you can make it better. That's me and this whole fear of judgment thing.

So, this week, I had a tough conversation, one that a year ago I would've done everything in my power to avoid. I would've just disappeared and considered it over, never realizing what a great opportunity speaking up could've been- for me and the other person. Of course, when I finally had that tough conversation, and gave someone the chance to explain themselves, I realized that this person, who I thought was treating me a certain way out of dislike or judgment, was really treating me a certain way because he simply thought I could handle it. Apparently my happy-go-lucky attitude, combined with the fact that I can run for an absurd amount of hours on end, makes me appear to be tough as nails.

Of course, once I gave someone the chance to explain this, I discovered a lot more about myself than I would've had I just run away. As an added bonus, that person also got some feedback that might help him the the future too, something that would've never happened if I'd stayed quiet out of fear of judgment.

Now, hopefully facing this bridge fear and my fear of judgment will help me move past my fear of moving water before HAMR this summer. I'm told I have to cross the river a couple times with my bike and I really don't want to carry a life jacket for 170 miles. My bike floats, right?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Livin' the Sweet Life

I'm pretty sure I've written this blog post 100 times in my head. Somehow though, it always stays there and I'm unable to find the words to express it in a way that won't piss a lot of people off. Honestly, I'm not sure I know even now how to express it without pissing people off, but since I'm tackling my immense fear of judgment head on, we'll just consider this post a lesson in facing my fears.

I'm tired of other people telling me my life is easy. Don't get me wrong- I know I have a pretty sweet life. What girl wouldn't want her own business, a hot guy (who smells really good) and a high metabolism? So, yes, I know I have it great. I will never argue with that. I'm just really sick of the idea that getting all this awesomeness was "easy". That business I run? I worked 39 hours a week at a YMCA while I got it started. I still work at least one, sometimes 5 or 6, part time jobs a year to keep it going. That hot guy? I waited 40 years for him. I was alone for a lot of those. That high metabolism? Yeah, a lot of it came from my mama, but hours a day of exercise certainly isn't hurting.

So "easy" is all relative here. My life is "easy" because I make it that way. I work hard for what I want and when I get it, I appreciate the hell out of it. I refuse to join in our society's competition to see who can be busier, more stressed and more exhausted. We've gotten in this bad habit as humans to look at where someone else is and forget what they might have been through to get there.

Case in point- Marji Gesick 100. Here's the picture most people saw:
Photo- Ryan Stephens
 The elation of finishing. The fun part. What I got out of 7 months of training.

Here's the picture not nearly as many people saw:
Photo- Stacie Maynard Poquette

Let me tell you about this picture. I'm walking through Jackson Mine Park with 15 miles to go. Since I'd run the 50 the year before I knew about what time I needed to be here to finish under 30 hours and be the first person to get a buckle. I'd been on pace to do that for close to 24 hours, but about an hour before Stacie took this picture I realized I'd fallen off the pace quite quickly. My mind wanted more than anything to run, but every time it tried to relay that message to my body, my body gave it the finger. This picture captured my lowest moment. The one when I wondered how the hell I was going to finish this thing. After she took this picture, I walked around the corner to Super Kate, said, "I need to get my shit together", sat down in a lawn chair and stuffed my face with mashed potatoes. Somehow, fueled by cheesy mashed potatoes and some motivation from Kate (and the support all along from countless other people), I got off my butt and made it to that last picture and the amazing feeling that came with it.

Behind one picture that showed a moment of pure joy, were hours of suffering, a huge support crew and months of training. Judging just that one picture certainly doesn't give justice to all of that. Neither does judging someone just by the present moment of their life.  Saying, "It must be nice," or "So and so's life is so much harder than yours," completely negates how much work they might have put in to get where they are.

So let's all just stop. Let's stop competing to have the harder life. Let's stop assuming anyone has it "easier" than us. The next time we see someone who has something we want, instead of saying, "It must be nice," let's stop and ask their story. When we listen to it, we might just learn how to get the sweet life they have, instead of living the rest of our lives wishing we could have it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Judgment Day

Conquering my fear of racing in front of a crowd....and having to push my bike.

It all started with a book, really.  I recently read The Art of Fear  by Kristen Ulmer. The gist of the whole book is basically that you can't fight or ignore fear. It might work for awhile, but it will still be there, screaming at you from deep inside until you finally face it, examine it and learn from it. Of course, doing this sounds easy, but it involves really taking a deep look at what you're truly afraid of and what measures you go to to avoid or silence those fears.

Again, that might sound easy. Being attacked by a shark. Or by a bear. Or a human. Getting into a life altering accident. Having another head injury. Racing in front of a crowd. Sure, these are all things I fear, but for me, none of those things stops me from anything. I still swim. I still play in the woods. I still run by myself. I still ride a bike. I even raced one in front of a crowd last month.

For other people, that might not be the case so maybe these fears would be things to examine further, but for me, they just aren't the fears holding me back. So, I had to wonder, what fears are holding me back? What really changes my life? What will I go out of my way to avoid so I don't have to feel fear?

I'll admit, I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks and hadn't come up with anything. Not that I'm saying I wasn't afraid of anything.  Hell, I feel scared for a good chunk of every day. But why? Because we all know I'm not walking around all day worrying about sharks. So what is it?

Well, this morning, it all came in a flash. I was riding my bike on the trainer and needed some distraction so I watched this video.  I swear I made it about two minutes before I started crying. If you don't feel like watching it, I'll just sum it up. She's talking about hesitation, about how it keeps you from doing things, how it holds you back. As soon as she used that word "hesitation" I knew what it is I'm so afraid of. That one thing that will always make me hesitate. That makes me not do or say something I really want to.

I'm terrified of being judged.

It paralyzes me. I sometimes lie awake at night reliving a moment over and over in my head from my day. A moment when I'm sure someone judged me- thought I was stupid or annoying or, God forbid, not perfect. If I don't feel completely ready for a race, I don't sign up for fear of being judged by the result. If I feel judged by someone more than a few times, I'll avoid them completely. When I felt judged on Facebook, I deleted my account. The big kicker though was realizing this-  I worry about nearly everything I say after I say it to the point where I often just say nothing.

This fear of being judged, this hesitation it's caused, it's stolen my voice. I used to write more often. I used to speak to strangers. I used to love to tell stories. Now I mostly just talk to myself. (I don't think I do this out loud. At least not yet.)

Of course, now the hard part comes. How do I change this?  I know it's not an overnight process. It will be long and hard and there will probably be a lot of tears. But then, nothing good in life really comes without a lot of hard work.

Since I'd just finished a video about hesitation, I figured I'd better start right away before I changed my mind about facing this fear head on. So, as soon as I got off the trainer I headed to martial arts and forced myself to talk to someone whose judgment I fear the most. You know what- it wasn't that bad. I'm pretty sure I won't lie awake tonight worrying about anything I said. I might lie there worrying about the many moves I didn't understand in Jiu Jitsu, but hey, one step at time.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Uphill into the Wind

Some races are harder to write about than others. Sometimes the story comes easily, usually because I actually wrote most of it in my head while I was racing. Other times, like with Polar Roll in February, the race is more of a struggle and the story then seems to be too. Not that I have anyone to blame for those struggles but myself. Racing a fat bike, especially for 40 miles, requires actually riding outside frequently for training and I'll readily admit I just didn't do enough of that before the race.

Now, that's not to say that we didn't have a blast on our trip. Big E and I rented our cozy apartment (the same one we rented for Marji Gesick) again and went up a few days early to play on bikes in the snow. Apparently to Big E, this means taking funny pictures of me when I crash in the snow.

In case you were wondering, no, he doesn't ever actually put down his camera and help me up. He says this is because if I crash and he's not around I need to be able to figure out how to get out of the deep snow on my own, which proved to be true in the race. And, yes, I just admitted he was right (just this once) here in public.

That said, I'm not sure what his reasoning was for taking my picture every time I walked up a hill.

 It took numerous tries to get one of me smiling. Oh, and if you look closely, you'll see my footprints are not the only ones there. Seems like maybe the photographer also walked his bike up this hill?????

When Ted arrived on Friday and joined us for a ride, I thought I might get some reprieve from all this picture taking, but low and behold, when I looked up the first time I pushed my bike up a hill, there he was taking my picture too.

They're lucky I was wearing mittens or someone would've gotten the bird at that point. 

Considering how much bike pushing happened on our rides, it should come as no surprise that my race on Saturday was a little slow. It went something like this:

We headed out from Ishpeming early to head down to Marquette for the start. Big E forgot something in the apartment so he left me in the truck to run back in. I put my headphones in to listen to some pre-race pump up music, which led me to start up my pre-race list from Marji. I'm not really sure exactly what happened but by the time he returned I was crying.

That's right. I cried before we even got to the start line. Hell, I cried most of the way to the start line.

Thankfully, Big E has learned by now to just let it be when I'm like this. Talking will not help. The flood of emotions has started and it's better just to let it flow. In this case, even if he had tried to get me to talk, I could never have explained the complex flood of emotions I was feeling. After all, the last time I raced on these trails, I was out there for nearly 32 hours and then ended up in an ambulance. Considering what my body went through, those 32 hours were like a mini-lifetime. Which means these trails hold a million memories, each of which hold their own emotions. Every one of which seemed to overcome me all in one moment. Add to that the fact that I'm completely terrified of big mass starts on the bike, and I was pretty much an emotional wreck.  (Later, on the way home,
Big E bought me this to commemorate the moment.)
Given the emotional start, the race was actually quite fun (except for the 12 miles of snowmobile trail). Somehow I pulled myself together before the start, mostly because I had to pee and finding a bathroom took my mind off my meltdown. And, as usual, once I was moving and realized I didn't die during the madness of the start, I started loving the day (except for the snowmobile trail). The first 12-13 miles went by pretty quickly, mostly because, as usual in Marquette County, we were either chugging our way uphill or zipping downhill hoping not to crash.

Then we hit the snowmobile trail. Let's just say this- uphill, in to the wind, by myself. For 12 miles. My left arm was so sore from overgripping my handlebars those first 13 miles that I was convinced I was having a heart attack for about 5 miles and was going to die here all alone on a snowmobile trail. Then I realized I was being dramatic and pedaled harder to get it over with.

That's when I discovered the best part about that snowmobile trail. The only good part about that snowmobile trail, really. There's a guy at the end with Coke. That Coke was worth that 12 miles of uphill, into the wind. I swear.

Plus, the real fun of this race starts after the snowmobile trail. In true Todd and Danny fashion, they make you earn it. You suffer, but there's fun. There's some flow. There's an aid station of fun Canadians with whiskey and beer. Then another aid station with bacon and hugs, where they really just want to give you more whiskey and beer. The guy in camo will give you a hug if you ask though.

Then, there's the finish, with more hugs from friends and lots of time sharing race stories with friends. With whiskey and beer, of course. Kinda makes that 12 miles of uphill, into the wind on the snowmobile trail worth it.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Lemon Cake and Life Lessons

January 30th has been a tough day the last seven years. Usually there are a few tears. Or maybe a lot of tears. This year, I decided that instead of sadness there would be celebration. Instead of mourning my mom's loss, I would celebrate her life. So we had steaks, and lemon cupcakes. Because in my family on special occasions there was always lemon cake. (Plus Big E loves lemon so it was a double win.) 
To my surprise, I actually made it through the day without tears. Of course I had to fight them off a few times, but to keep them at bay, I focused what I learned from mom over the years. I'd never really sat down and thought about this before so some of it actually surprised me, but then mom was kind of like that. Just when you thought you had her pegged, she'd bust out of her shell a little more and you'd see she wasn't nearly as quiet and shy as she first seemed.  
So, to celebrate her life, here are a few lessons I picked up from her over the years. Some she told me. Some I learned at the time from watching her. Many have come later, when I wonder what she would do in a situation and realize her actions already taught me that long ago.

Embrace joy. Every day. No matter what.

Laugh a lot more than you cry.  Both are acceptable. Just keep the laughing to a maximum and the crying to a minimum and life will be good.

Listen without judgment.  There's probably no better way to build trust. Plus, you'll be surprised how much deeper your conversations can go when people aren't worried what you'll think of them.

Use your voice selectively. Especially your raised voice.  Figure out what really matters to you. Speak up for that. Let the rest of the little stuff go. 

Be kind instead of right. At the end of your life, no one is going to remember all the times you were right. They just might remember all the times you were kind though. 

Say thank you, I'm sorry and I love you. Can you think of a time when you truly regretted saying these words? Probably not, but most of us can likely think of a time when we wish we had.

Choose your path. Other people will try to put you on the one they find most acceptable.  Toss acceptable (and comfortable) aside and go for the one that will make you exceptional. 

Know that it's never too late. To change yourself, or your relationship with someone you love, or the way you view the world. The only person truly keeping where you are right now is you. Quit blaming everyone else for who you are and become who you want to be.

Show up every day. Not every day is going to present you with something great to look forward to. Get your butt out of bed anyway and make something great happen, no matter how small it might be.

Finish what you started. Don't just set goals. Set them and then move yourself closer to meeting them everyday, even when it's uncomfortable. Especially when it's uncomfortable. If you have to work harder than everyone else, then work harder than everyone else. In then end, you'll be tougher for it. 

Go down singing. Or fighting. Or dancing. Or riding. Or whatever it is you love. By all means, do it until the very end. 


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

All That Matters is Smelling Good

So many weeks have flown by I don't know where to start. It's always tempting to say I was busy, but I'll let the Wise Ringmaster explain why I'm hoping to never use that phrase again:


I share his feelings on the whole busy thing. If I never have to hear how busy someone is again for the rest of my life, I would be insanely satisfied. Instead of saying I'm busy, from now on I'll shoot for, "I've been incredibly content doing lots of cool shit."

So, on that note- what have I been doing? Well, I'll admit I haven't spent nearly as much time outside as I'd hoped. A torn thumb ligament mixed with some wussiness in the face of the recent frigid temps have led to a lot of this:

Thankfully I can finally hold the bars on a bike, even if it's not in the normal fashion, and it's finally above zero here so I can get my incredibly content ass outside on the bike now and actually get ready for Polar Roll and other cool shit like this mushy creek crossing that happened last weekend:
Yes, I know I should just ride across it next time, but considering that I actually attempted to crawl across while pushing my bike before I stood up, I'll take walking across as a big step in the right direction.

Big E and I did actually get outside for a hike on Christmas Day despite the sub-zero temps. 
Somehow he's making it look much warmer than it was. Of course, he was probably warmer than me because he carried all our stuff on his back. Yes, I am spoiled with my own personal sherpa. Every time I go on an adventure with him I wonder how the heck I actually survive on my own adventures without him to carry my crap.

Of course, there's also been my new obsession, martial arts. Thankfully the gloves protect the thumb pretty well for Muay Thai so I was able to return after a week. Good thing, because now that I spend a few hours a week punching stuff I'm not sure how I ever survived without taking my aggression out before. Not surprisingly, I actually feel a lot more relaxed now. Nothing is more relaxing than pummeling a bag while pretending it's someone's face.....

Yesterday I finally returned to Jiu Jitsu after almost a month off. Coach taped my thumb to a ball to avoid any reinjury.

We call it "The Claw". Of course I realized too late that I should've had him do this after I changed my clothes. Trying to tie a Gi and your pants with one thumb is nearly impossible. Halfway through class my pants were falling down, my Gi was untied and my hair was out of the ponytail and flying everywhere. Fortunately, according to one of my rolling partners, I still smelled good. Thank goodness. At least I had one thing going for me.

From now on, my new Jiu Jitsu tactic is to always smell good. You never know. Maybe it will make my partners less likely to want to kick my ass. Heck, it's probably a good tactic for life. Smell like freshly baked cookies (or funnel cakes as my partner put it) and who wouldn't be nice to you? 

Excuse me now while I go put some lotion on....