Friends are keeping me entertained, on the bike, and refueling right.
Friends are keeping me entertained, on the bike, and refueling right.
"It's cold out today. Or, that's what I thought when I got in my car."
I'm met with a variation of that comment at least once a week when people see me with a bike in one hand and a helmet in the other. A friend once informed me, in the middle of that frigid cold snap we had back in December, that no one should be riding in this weather. It's probably true and sometimes - other than the fact that the bike just gets me there faster - I'm not sure why I still do it. I know I'm capable of riding through a Boston winter. I have nothing to prove by repeating the miserable experience.
Because while winter bike commuters deserve a gold foil star sticker, that doesn't make them - myself included - any better than any other cyclist. Tolerating the short commute from my apartment to school and back in something like 0F temperatures isn't fun, but it takes a
little lot more to do that, then go home to get back on a bicycle for a few solid hours.
Yeah, I know, it's old news. But listening to the things my friends are doing, and then actually trying to emulate even just a tiny slice of their training, is kind of like finally admitting to yourself that you're dating an asshole. First, you attribute that whole gap between yourself and your Cat 1 and 2 friends to mutant elite genes that you just don't have. Like this is as good as it's going to get, right? [Wrong.] Then those friends start to encourage separation from that lifestyle and you start to believe that it's actually possible and you're not going to die [of heartbreak or otherwise] in the process. Finally you're like WTF, I can do way better than this and I'm going to prove it and you dump the motherfucker [or in this case, the couch and TV].
But when people have real jobs that don't include "student" somewhere in the title, training apparently involves things like getting up at 5.30am to spin for an hour, then going to work and afterwards hitting the gym, running and riding on the weekends and spending every waking moment not in bed or on the toilet in the saddle. And finding myself in that slight limbo where I don't really know what I'm doing, I'm tempted to regress to the familiar confines of my couch and wasting countless hours on the Internet. Even if, like any overdue break-up, I know that once I man up about this, I'm never going to want to go back to what I had going before.
So I've been trying. To not make excuses, that is. I'm trying to spend more and more time on the rollers [love those things] while retaining all my other time commitments. Which presents a very obvious and elementary math problem of not having enough hours in the day [another reason why I am currently in awe of all of those in training; they have somehow managed to control time by leading fairly regular lives while getting in 3-4 hour rides at least every other day]. And on top of all that, they also have the ability to push themselves really, really hard. When they're alone. In their houses. On their trainers. If that doesn't turn you on, you need to go find another blog to read [...maybe this break up won't be so hard, afterall?].
With my complete lack of discipline and the desire to stop when things get ridiculously sweaty, at least half of me is fairly sure that I'll meet spring still out of shape and whining in the pedals. But like my regular announcements to best friends after a break up that I will never, ever date another man again, I'm hoping that thinking positive in the face of the seemingly impossible might be enough to prove me wrong. If not, I'll at least get skinny trying.
Or so I hope.
I have a bad case of the "guilties." If I'm on the rollers, I'm feeling guilty that I'm not doing my reading [even if I have the whole night to do it]. If I'm cooking dinner, I'm feeling guilty that I'm not out on a ride [even if it's sub-zero temperatures out]. That familiar sinking feeling has me constantly busy, and it's probably what has me springing out of bed at 6am and making coffee with one hand while compiling a to do list with the other.
This also makes me a fairly impatient person. Even when I was burning up with a fever last week, all I wanted to do was get over it so I could go on a ride or do some work for cassette or edit that pesky note. Upon expressing my
displeasure guilt at being unable to get some quality time in with my bike before school started, Mike pointed out:
"Nothing's going on right now. Everyone's waiting for it to get warmer. Don't sweat it too much."
Yeah, everyone's waiting all right. We're all perched on our saddles, waiting for calls from team mates or friends to drag our asses out in this cold. The more fortunate are waiting for new bikes for the coming season, the less fortunate are waiting for a new trainer or a few new parts. Me? I'm waiting for my face to thaw out. It's freezing outside, son.
But like the deceptively casual invite that turns into a full production that you're pretty sure you never signed up for, all this waiting has a tendency to just sneak up on you. You know how it goes. A friend will invite you out for a drink ["just one"] and all of a sudden, you're stuck in said friend's living room, waiting for her to finish doing her hair and/or going through all her outfits while she calls a small army to the casual one drink you guys were supposed to grab to decompress. Then when you finally get to the bar, you get roped into either karaoke or doing shots [or both.] And just when you're about to put your foot down and escape back to the comforting quiet of your empty apartment, another friend inevitably drops the "I just got dumped by my boyfriend" bomb. So because you can't just abandon this friend, "just one" drink turns into one of those long nights consoling a friend in the corner of a bar until either way too late or until your first friend decides to go to yet another bar, finally giving you the excuse to shove the dumped friend in a cab and call it quits yourself. That's kind of what happened when I tried to get on the rollers last night.
Okay, it wasn't nearly as embarrassing as drunken karaoke or watching me pass out at a bar after one measly shot. But the production that went into some casual spinning was fairly impressive. To be fair, I could have just pumped my completely flat tires. But it's the first time I've climbed onto those things since I left Boston for Tokyo last month and I had a sweet saddle awaiting installation. So the leopard print Bianchi saddle came off and got replaced with the white and pink Fizik saddle that looks disturbingly like I designed my track bike around it. Of course I installed it too far back the first time, so after installing it, pumping my tires, feeling guilty [again!] about not lubing my chain, and starting to pedal, I had to get off, re-adjust, make sure it was straight and level, then get back on. Doesn't sound like much, right? Except I had only planned a quick, easy spin. Considering I spent at least 10 minutes fiddling with my bike and another 5 getting changed/picking what I was going to watch on Hulu, it felt like it was almost too much effort.
But hey, it got done, and without any embarrassment [read: crashes] on my part. And at least this kind of waiting-turned-into-something-dramatic-that-involves-too-much-energy doesn't come with a hangover or a hysterically depressed friend. On the other hand, no one ever said this waiting was over. At least not for me.
For others, it's a different story. Like those who are fortunate enough to live in SoCal. Or, for those who, like Laura Van Gilder, are fortunate enough to make it to the Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic. She needs funds to go, though, and as a poor graduate student/aspiring athlete, I can more than relate. Which is why, during all this waiting, I've dropped in a donation to her donation fund. You should, too, if you haven't already. And if the existence of a woman who made it to the worlds in her second season of racing 'cross isn't enough for you, well, maybe this might do the trick.
Besides, what else are you going to do with all your recent free time?
If you've ever seen even one scene from The Paper Chase, you have a vague sense of what it's like to be called on in a law school class. Even as a third year, the Socratic method of drilling questions eludes me. It's like being asked to perform a waltz with cinder blocks for shoes. You know it's not going to happen but somehow you have to brace yourself and hope to God it's a short dance.
Yesterday morning, I felt like that. All before class even started.
It wasn't tax for once [I've actually become comfortable with the uncomfortable feeling of being the proverbial bull in a china shop in that class], but my face was red and there was that sinking sense of dread. The slightly flustered, panicked thoughts which too soon melt away into resignation at your fate. And counting the minutes while simultaneously trying to forget about the ticking clock.
Because it really sucks when you climb onto your rollers at 6.30 in the morning without coffee and 5 minutes into it, realize that you forgot to turn the fan on.
It only occurred to me once my shoulders started sweating and rivets of sweat formed along my hairline, dripping uncomfortably down my jawline towards my chin. Chalk it up to laziness but it wasn't worth it to stop, turn on the fan, then get back onto the rollers. That felt like too much effort. Instead, keeping a wary eye on the timer, I finished my warm up with my head tilted up and cocked to the left, desperately trying to keep sweat from dripping onto my frame.
In hindsight, whatever I was doing sounds fairly retarded. Or just vain for my frame.
I used the end of my warm-up as an excuse to finally turn on the fan. By then, my chest and shoulders were wet, my face looked like I had just run 50 feet, and my gloves were damp. I looked like absolute shit, but somehow, I didn't feel that way. I was drenched in salty water, but my legs felt stronger. Allowing myself some time to dick around, I even rode no-handed for a grand total of 0.03 seconds.
And between you and me, it was much more graceful than dancing with cinder blocks.
I am no stranger to working hard to be lazy.
I will stay ahead in my class readings so I won't have to work that hard over the weekend, cram my Ortlieb bag full of food so I'll only have to go on one grocery run a week, and run up five flights of stairs with a bike slung over my shoulder so I can savor an extra 3 minutes doing absolutely nothing before class.
Some might argue this takes the joy out of being lazy; that the sheer organization skills involved and constant planning makes life more hectic than languid. But I'm a creature of [rushed, busy] habit, and besides, that whole "everything should be done in moderation" argument falls apart faster than a Walmart bike when it comes from people who enjoy biking more than 200 miles a week.
But when you're an aspiring Cat 100 track racer with a couple finnicky IT bands, taking a day off the rollers [not the foam ones] is sometimes a good thing. And while I felt guilty enough to contemplate a sweat session after dinner, like my end-of-the-day reward of taking the elevator instead of portaging the bike down those stairs, I have to admit I sort of enjoyed it.
Hey, I said "sort of," for all of you bike jocks who are shaking your heads in disgust while averaging 100000000 watts on your warm ups. Keep in mind that I'm not even at junior varsity level yet...I'm the equivalent of an intramural club hopeful. And though I live, breathe, and write about bicycles every day, a small part of me is ever-so-slightly scared that this obsession can pour over into an overdose. Like the kind that requires hospitalization and detox.
So like the tiny bites I'll take of my Walnut and Date Kind Bar [they are so good] to make them last that much longer, I'm trying to nibble and savor every sweetly satisfying bite of my bicycles. And when it seems like my enthusiasm is waning to the point where it could become slightly nonexistent for several days, it's time to take a temporary leave of absence and allow myself just a small morsel of laziness.
And you know what? I woke up today and couldn't wait to get back on those damn rollers.
It's Ugg season, again.
Remember those boots that became popular in, oh, 2002? Yeah apparently, they're still around, despite their highly unflattering, leg shortening and fattening qualities [unless you're over 5'10" and under 100lbs, of course]. Which inevitably gives rise to snarky jokes with my best friend:
"Is she wearing Uggs?"
"Yeah. Welcome to 2002."
I've never been one to jump on fashion trends that would make me look like the lovechild of a munchkin and a tree trunk. Still, that doesn't mean I'm capable of keeping up with what's hip and trendy [Rapha does that for me...juuuust kidding].
Because it sometimes takes snow to get me riding more.
Sunday afternoon's rain turned into snow as I realized that I couldn't avoid not going to the grocery store if I wanted more than cheese and ketchup for dinner. And battling the big, frosty flakes, I dragged the bike up and down hills that felt like mountains in jeans that were getting drenched with icy water.
I hate how winter makes me feel like Jabba the Hutt on a tricycle.
But despite my intense desire to be a better rider, I'm also a busy girl without a realistic concept of time. Which means that I'll tell myself that 6 hours of sleep is plenty to keep me going, only to end up face first on my yoga mat at 4pm, fast asleep, my head on top of an open casebook, highlighter still clutched in my right hand. Yesterday, though, I woke up 20 minutes later, completely disoriented [no drool, though], looked around at the piles of books in my room, and then got on my rollers.
I really should be reading cases and trying to figure out Section 316 of the Internal Revenue Code, but I'm trying to see how fast I can get my shoulders sweating instead.
It's weird, but when I'm pressed for time, some part of me insists that I spend more of it on my bike. And when it snows in mid-October, that's also enough to make me irrationally freak out and run to my rollers.
Irrational because I should be savoring the remaining warm-ish days. Yesterday was the perfect fall day - just cool enough with the sun shining brightly and innocently, as if the sky hadn't dumped snow all over me Sunday afternoon. Escaping school a bit on the early side, a small part of me whispered temptations to go to Dover, to putz around and find a park, to ride in lazy circles around this small New England city.
Instead, I read cases at a much faster clip than the I-totally-don't-want-to-be-doing-this-oh-who's-on-gchat?-wait-I-should-finish-this-reading pace, condensing the schoolwork into that narrow space between the power nap and dinner. And before stuffing my face, I spun on my track bike for a decent amount of time while distracting myself with "Kitchen Nightmares" [my new addiction].
Okay, I didn't finish all of my work, and went to bed too late to get up too early. Old habits die hard, sometimes, I guess. Still, do I at least get points for not wearing Uggs?