the lady is a tramp

[Unemployment and a Monday with temperatures around 18C can only mean an outdoor ride. With a soundtrack by Sinatra.]

She gets too hungry for dinner at eight She likes the theatre and never comes late She never bothers with people she hates That's why the lady is a tramp

Doesn't like crap games with barons or earls Won't go to Harlem in ermine and pearls Won't dish the dirt with the rest of the girls That's why the lady is a tramp

She likes the free fresh wind in her hair, life without care She's broke and it's oke Hates California, it's cold and it's damp That's why the lady is a tramp

[Don't worry, it snowed the next day. And I don't hate California!]

life, relaxed

“Your blood work is great, actually,” the doctor had said, while clicking various parts of his computer screen semi-absent mindedly, the way some people do when they’re playing solitaire out of desperate boredom. “There’s nothing wrong with you that I can see. It’s probably not cancer.”
“That actually doesn’t make me feel better,” I wanted to say. I clutched my churning stomach instead.
And so, I was going to write something about how much time I’ve spent in hospital waiting rooms and doctor’s offices in the past four weeks, for being an otherwise healthy individual. But a few new prescriptions have gotten things somewhat back to tolerable, and with both the Australian National Road Championships and the U.S. National Cyclocross Championships on the same weekend, navel-gazing self pity no longer held much appeal. I was even able to crawl back on the bike and back into the gym this past weekend. I call that good progress.

A year or even six months ago, I would have called it lame, unacceptable, barely-counts-as-progress, progress. But the good thing about being sick and no one being able to actually fix it for good? It forces you to not be such a perfectionist lunatic. It takes everything you take for granted, takes it away, and makes you realize how good you have it when your body is sort of half functional. I don’t like the word “laziness,” so let’s just agree to call this new phenomenon going on in my head, “chilling the fuck out.”
This newfound attitude of mine means, of course, that I’m turning into the worst trainee ever. Or, as I like to think of it, just a less crazy one. For once, I didn’t beat myself up for not being able to train when I couldn’t even make it to work last week. I pushed out some intervals on the weekend, pat myself on the back for doing something and got on with my life. Fortunately, I don’t ride my bike for a living, so 1. I’m not going to get fired from cycling, and 2. no one is going to hate me for skipping a workout/underperforming/getting fat instead of fit [other than possibly my coach but let’s not worry about that for now]. It’s a pretty good set up for now, this whole “not freaking out” business. I’m enjoying it; savoring it like a fat kid’s first bite of a cheese fondue pizza.

I know I’ve lost a bit of my edge, my climbing ability, and overall power. I’m nowhere near where I was this time last year. But the ironic thing is that I think I’m happier for it. It’s not that the bike and I are breaking up; we’re just growing into a healthier relationship. You know, the kind where we’re not so codependent on each other. I still think there’s very little a good bike ride – or at the very least, a good bike friend – can’t fix; in the past four weeks or so, though, I’m getting around to not being so desperately needy about it. It took a while [like, three decades] but I’m learning to actually apply what I know to be true: the bike – like any sane male – will be there for me, always, but not if I get all crazy about it all the time.

That said, I was glued to my phone on Sunday during Australian Nationals, while baking banana bread with my sister. This involved doing the easy stuff like measuring out flour and making my sister do the actualy work like mixing and cleaning up while I kept tabs on Adam’s race. The walnuts we sprinkled on top got a little burned but I blame that on juggling a post-race congratulatory email, knitting on teeny tiny needles, and attempting to carry on a conversation at the same time. Still, the banana bread apparently came out amazing, Adam came in 13th at Nationals, Tim took the bronze the next day, and my legs were worn out enough from my weekend spins that I passed out at 9.45pm.
Life, relaxed, feels fucking pretty good.
[Special, super big thanks to BTB TV for letting this girl watch US Cyclocross Nationals live, all the way from Tokyo. You guys rock!]

10 things to never think about while doing an interval

1. The pain.2. "Only [any number greater than zero] more intervals/minutes/seconds to go!" 3. That last race where you felt worse, for longer, and still got your ass kicked 4. That wave of what would be called nausea if your next interval didn't start in 3...2...1...

5. How you were so bored doing "active recovery" the other day that you wished you had intervals to do 6. Shifting down 7. That you've been putting out 1 watt below your target watt range for the past 5 seconds 8. How your heartrate is some absurd number right now [yes, that's probably why you feel like you want to are going to die, but don't worry about it for now.] 9. How you have to go to work later/do anything other than puke and sleep, in that order

10. That you can't...because odds are [if I can pull through], you can.
Have a good weekend, guys!

doing it

It was awkward at first, as expected.

It had been a while - almost six weeks, embarrassingly - but you seemed to say that was okay. I made multiple disclaimers, like how I was never really good at this to begin with, but that I could make up for my lack of skill with enthusiasm. Or try. And as long as everyone was having fun, that was okay, right? You seemed to agree. Or you just wanted me to hurry up and get on with it. Understandable, given how cold it's been.

I self-consciously fumbled a little in the beginning, trying to feign confidence but sort of paranoid that I wasn't going to perform up to expectations. But we fell into a solid rhythm without trying, until I was panting and sweating to the point where I couldn't even pretend to be lady-like.

You pulled some surprising moves [me: "woah, okay...okay, we can do that..."] and there were some negotiations ["can you shift a little to the left? Oh yeah, right there..."], but that was par for the course. After 90 minutes, I was getting pretty sore, but you were like "are you having fun?" And I was like "yeah, yeah, heaps," so we just kept on going.
You had me wobbling home, collapsing into bed, completely spent and perfectly happy. You said we should do it again, and I agreed.

Because, hey, riding outside can be really fucking fun.
[Thanks, loads, to Josh, A, and Y for keeping me riding and reminding me to YOLO this past week. <3 you guys.]

becoming a bikerider

A couple of years ago, I had my first - and hopefully, last - whirlwind romance. It was one of those bad choices you regret making later, and try to justify to yourself by blaming an ego that had gotten owned by a recent break up, right around the time Mr. Whirlwind-So-Not-Right came spinning along. It only lasted a few months, during which I saved a pile of money with plans to visit him for an unreasonably long period of time. Our plans of happily ever after fell through after a few weeks of daily vapid fights that included [hilarious in hindsight] accusations of gold-digger-ism [me: " make $30k..."], and claims that I'd gone to law school to find a rich husband [me: "...but...but then why would I take two bar exams...?"].
That February, when I was supposed to be in love and stateside, I was in Tokyo, scrolling through Twitter. I met Tim Johnson and Chandler a couple of weeks later, and things haven't been quite the same, since.

Seven months later, I did go to Boston and NYC. I brought that pile of saved up, fuck you, break up money with me, and sunk it into a compact Quarq CinQo with 165mm Rotor cranks. A good friend introduced me to a guy, too, and we've been going strong for the past year. I call those two the best investments I've ever made.
Oh, and his name? Mike Sherry. Of Bikeriders. Or, as I like to boast, The Guy that Picked Up My FTP and Pulled It Up 15%. And, also, The Guy that Puts Up with My BS and Meltdowns. But more simply, just "Coach."

I finally got to meet Mike, in person, while I was in NYC [the introduction was remote and we've been working together via e-mails and TrainingPeaks since last year], in the new Bikeriders space. It's not finished yet, but it looks pretty baller. Oh, and did I mention they have a Bikeriders-branded Sprinter?
I'm not only gushing praises because Mike bought me coffee or sat me down to talk about my training. The latter actually made me slightly uncomfortable, like in the way talking to my gynecologist can be a little weird. Except this felt more intimate. I don't care about my cervix as much as I do my w/kg ratio, and this guy knows everything.

By everything, I mean every pedal-stroke, heart beat, and gradient climbed. My shitty rides, my good ones, and how to make me my legs cry. It's almost unnerving how my scheduled workouts will hit the exact watt range to have me toeing the line but never quite going over it. How I'll wobble to work, but still recover for whatever's scheduled the next day.
Weak legs aside, it's been a somewhat uncomfortable ride for another reason. As a commitment-phobe prone to bolting at the first sign of interest lasting longer than 48 hours, Mike's near-clairvoyance can be unsettling. There is blind faith and trust implicit in any relationship with a stranger, but this becomes more acute when that stranger is labeled a coach, and morphs into someone who encourages testing your pain threshold and oxygen deprivation limits on a near-daily basis. It gets creepier when you take into consideration the fact that I'm paying him to do this to me. And that I totally enjoy it.

Despite my masochist tendencies, the enjoyment I derive from training isn't due to Mike yelling at me or otherwise advising me to shut up and deal with it. He's never done either, opting instead to listen patiently to my occasional psychotic meltdowns and complaints via email. I like the daily pushing and pulling of my limits, and the pain that can linger through the workday not only because it gets me riding regularly and holds me accountable to someone, but because it's effecient, effective, and easy. All I have to do is follow Mike's instructions, upload my power file, and let him deal with whatever's going on with my legs, lungs and heart. Meanwhile, I selfishly get to put a check mark next to the most important thing on my to do list ["ride"], do feel like I'm doing some diet damage control, and get on with my day. Which is to say that I'm paying for his time, but I'm also paying to free up a lot of mine.
It's been a win-win situation so far, even with my lack of wins/racing/accomplishments. I came back to Tokyo to find a week's worth of training rides planned out on my TrainingPeaks account, and had to smile. As much as I loved the easy cruising around Prospect Park, it was time to get back to work. I turned on my fan, clipped in, and warmed up for the kind of whirlwind fun that's totally worth repeating.