Diane Nyad wants to go to Cuba. Very badly.
It’s her #XtremeDream to swim from Cuba to Florida–no one has ever done it before. No one knows if it’s even possible. Only a world class athlete could possibly make it the 103 miles. She already holds the World Record for swimming. But here’s the wrinkle in the plot….and it’s quite a wrinkle indeed. Diana Nyad is 64 years old.
Yes, you heard me. She’s a year away from Medicare. She’s 401K eligible. She’s old enough to be your mother twice over.
She’s the badass, Diana Nyad is. Her relentless pursuit of what many think is impossible is what makes her so completely inspiring to me. She’s tried twice and failed, suffering life threatening injuries from poisonous jellyfish like box jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war. And then there are the sharks. Great white ones.
Let us not forget the amount of time she’ll be swimming. For at least 60 hours. No resting, no sleeping. Pausing to eat but remaining in the water. No lifejacket. No holding on the the side of the boat that will remain with her. This will be her 5th attempt. In 1979 Diana broke the world record for distance swimming for both men and women. That record still stands today.
Diana borrows from poet Mary Oliver and asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It’s a worthwhile question, and strikes truth quickly. Tomorrow morning Diana will enter the dark water and try again for her XtremeDream. It doesn’t matter if she reaches Cuba or not, she’s proven to the world she is not to be discounted. Never to be trifled with. She’s Diana Nyad; completely awe-inspiring, Always reaching stroke by stroke toward her dream, in and out of the water.
There’s a bit of a groundswell going on in women’s cycling, heck even in women’s athletics, that has me excited. Obviously I’ve always been “for” women in sport, ever since I was a little girl. Growing up in the 70′s and 80′s, there were few role models for young girls interested in athletics. The phrase “pretty good for a girl” was used a lot, and considered a compliment. We’ve come a long way, baby. And we aren’t through yet.
No longer a girl, and well out of my youth, I still am driven to improve my performance. I vacillate between feeling that this is a silly impulse, and then feeling privately proud that this is part of my personality. I think the feeling silly part comes from not conforming to what I’m expected to be, or do. I don’t really fit into the typical picture.
That’s why I started to think about other women who didn’t really fit–who break the mold, shatter the cultural norm, who reach not only past their physical limits, but past social norms as well.
That’s why I decided to write a series of posts on women who inspire me. Some of these women will be cyclists, but not all, probably not most. My sport is cycling but I draw inspiration from a number of sources.
I don’t have a set schedule in mind, I’ll just call this the “Women who inspire me” series and title it as such. Off the top of my head, I’m think about posts on Babe Didrikson, Diana Nyad, Pat Summit, Marianne Vos, Martina Navratilova, the “Iron Nun” Sister Madonna Buder, and of course, USA Cycling National Cyclocross Champion, Female Masters 70-74, Julie Lockhart. If others come up I’ll certainly add to the list, but I feel like this is a good start.
It happened again. Saturday I went out for a hilly 37 miles on the CX bike. It was a great ride, cloudy, humid, mid to high 80′s but halfway refreshing considering how oppressive it’s been here in New England. When I got home, I was thoroughly spent, but in a completely joyous way. I hadn’t bonked. I went through my water and was dry the last 15 minutes or so, but began drinking immediately post ride. My ride ended around 3PM.
I showered, changed, had a lovely, healthy dinner–a little white wine in hand, I happily grilled chicken on the BBQ while my other half made us a nice fresh salad and a warm buttery baguette. It was an ideal way to spend a Saturday. Happy, relaxed, well fed, I settled down to watch some television.
At about 10:45PM, my head started hurting. Bad. By 10:50PM I was clutching my skull and rubbing, trying to knead out the pain as if my head had a knot in it that just needed to be worked out. The nausea kicked in at this time as well. 11:00PM I abandoned the movie I was watching and retired to the bedroom, plugging in a heating pad to wrap around my throbbing head.
11:15PM I went to the bathroom. Not my normal time of day–but my body had other ideas.
11:20PM I tried to got back to bed. My head was enveloped in indescribable pain. I was exhausted and only wanted to escape into sleep. I’d close my eyes and my mind would speed up. A bizarre show unfolded behind my closed eyes, a fast twisty ride filled with surreal images that I couldn’t slow down or stop. Moving constantly, I opened my eyes and the pain amplified, but the crazy ride stopped. The nausea intensified. I made the decision to return to the bathroom.
11:30PM I vomited. More than once. Maybe 4 times in a row. I don’t know, I was pretty sick and my brain wasn’t working well at this point. The only think I knew was that the pain had set up camp in my brain and I only had one trick left to beat the migraine back. I stripped down and turned the shower on hot. I sat in the shower–sat–for about 30 minutes, the hot water working my scalp, my neck, my back. I felt the pain ease and lift. Not vanish but it abated for long enough I felt I might be able to sneak into bed and fall asleep. I did. I slept 8 hours straight and felt completely fine in the morning.
I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but it isn’t. More like, the 7th? 8th? It always happens when my life gets so busy that I don’t take regular care of myself–I rush, I hurry, I skip the basics just to get in that ride. I should have been drinking lots of liquids on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the weekend. Each day, I sweat our fluids. I’m sweating when I blow my hair dry, when I walk to the car, even just sitting inside and watching TV. The AC can’t keep up with the intensity of this heat.
I had a goal of 100 miles last week. 35 on Saturday, and another 35 on Sunday and I would have made it. I’ve been doing mileage like this all year, that and much longer. But after Saturday’s hydration failure, my other half insisted I take it easy. I usually would fight about it, but this time I had to agree.
I really need to get my arms around, and KEEP them around this problem I have. I wonder if others experience this problem like I do. I know what happened to me is a result of classic dehydration. I sweat easily and I’m probably losing fluids when I’m not working out–something I really need to be more aware of. I should have a refillable water container at my desk all day and in the car. And I should indulge in some Gatorade from time to time. So–just curious–anyone else have this problem? Care to share? Please comment if you would.
This was the closest thing to a cyclocross race you can do on two feet. Seriously, the Warrior Dash was pretty fun. Ropes course, hay bales, barbed wire, mud, and a fire barriers make for a fun day. Add a couple of people you sort of hung out with in High School 25 years ago, and it’s a good way to spend a day.
Gotta love the mud.
Cryptic, indeed. Time to let you in on some more personal events in my life.
Seven months ago, I was laid off from my job. This has never happened to me. It was devastating to my pride and my resume, and I soon learned that the economy is much tougher than even my spunky attitude could have comprehended. I’m in m 40′s now, I had just transitioned from one career to another, and I was one job into that transition when the small company I worked for downsized. As a single parent, I tried very hard not to be completely terrified.
Like with most life crisises over the past 14 years, I turned to the bike for comfort and therapy. I had just wrapped up my first cyclocross season when the lay off occurred. I had a small severance package, which helped, but still, I was reeling. I continued to ride throughout the winter, and on the trainer when there was too much snow to ride outside. I spent most of my time applying for jobs–a process that really does take a huge amount of time. Writing cover letter after cover letter. I applied for up to 10 professional jobs a week, which is 3 times the “required” amount. Just finding these job postings was a challenge in itself, especially during the holidays and in the winter months. I worked closely with the president of an employment agency, and the VP–two women whom I play basketball with, to find gainful employment. They were in the business of finding people jobs and couldn’t find anything suitable for me. I worked with another friend who was an employment counselor who sent me jobs that were unlisted. Still–month after month ticked by and although I was called up for interviews, no job came. I live in a college town and the economy isn’t particularly robust here so I soon was looking out of state, and contemplating how long I could go without selling my home, which I had bought on my own 13 years ago. Cycling helped me cope with these stresses. If I did not have cycling in my life, I would not have handled this period in my life nearly as well.
I picked up a freelance gig through one of my cycling friends I had met last fall–she connected me with one of her clients who needed some email marketing (she is a graphic designer), and then I did some more consistant work writing articles and editing for a PR professional, but this was also freelance and not full time, sustainable work. Eventually I made a random connection at a job fair I hadn’t planned on attending, and my now employer hadn’t planned on attending, that was a good fit. I started part time in April and today was my first day as a full time employee. I am so grateful to be working again in a professional capacity.
The upside of all this free time was I got to spend more time being a mom. Wow–that was nice. If only I hadn’t been so stressed about money and my future. And of course, I rode my bike a lot. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been this in shape in terms of cycling fitness and strength. That felt good. Those were my losses, and what I gained was more time with my son and a level of cycling fitness I would have never achieved without the time, and stresses that demanded an outlet.
Now that I’m back to work, I am going to have to cope with less cycling. I will strive to maintain my fitness level, even improve it–but I know it won’t be easy. In fact it might be impossible. I’ve gained a job–a chance to work back to where I once was on the professional totem pole. I am so, so grateful, relieved, thankful and happy to be back to work. That cannot be overstated. But I felt happy riding my bike every day. No matter how frustrated angry, frightened, hopeful, disappointed, or worried I was, I pedaled it all away on the bike. After an hour those cares were behind me. I felt happy and relaxed after a bike ride. every single time. It was amazingly reliable medication. So while I’ve gained employment, I am losing (at least in part) something that made that initial loss bearable.
Life is unpredictable. Happiness is fleeting. So few pleasures in life are renewable. I am thankful that I have cycling in my life to recharge me in body and soul, no matter what is going on in my life.
Sad times here in the Northeast. If you have a problem with riding a trainer, you’d better get over it fast, because it’s pretty nasty in our neck of the woods. We got clobbered with snow, 22 inches in my town, 25-30 in the Boston area, and up to 40 inches on the coast of Connecticut. There is nowhere to put it all. Suffice to say, it’s a bit soul crushing for cyclists.
I’ve been doing time on the trainer about 3 times a week, and meh–it is what it is. I still play basketball once a week but roads were impassable last Saturday, plus there was a statewide driving ban (that probably saved lives and many thousands of dollars in property damage). If I could Strava snow shoveling, I’m the freaking Queen of the Mountain. I’ve shoveled walkways, driveways and even sections of my roof. Drifts of 4 feet on sections of roof plus rain caused roof collapses in this area 2 years ago. I got off easy with ice dams that destroyed my ceiling. So I was up on the roof preventing any potential problems from this round of weather. We had rain all day today which made the load of snow we had significantly heavier.
Sigh. I miss my bike.
I suppose its good to want it so bad. Off season should be a time to rest up and recharge. I’ve burnt out by late summer before and I don’t want to repeat that. Cyclocross has helped keep things fresh. Worlds were fun to watch online. But otherwise, I’m eager to ride outside sooner rather than later.
So a bit blue about no riding (other than the trainer, but do we count that? No.), but I figured I’d share some of my favorite social media images from the historic storm. Thankfully I didn’t lose power so I had the Internet to entertain me. For those folks who aren’t from New england that read this blog, it’s worthwhile to note that this past storm occurred on the 35th anniversary of the famous Blizzard of ’78, which is the storm that all others are compared to. I was 7, my Dad was in the National Guard and activated, and gone for 3 days while my mom tried to dig us out on her own (she was successful, as mom always is). Enjoy the pics.
Bring on the spring!
Yesterday I took advantage of a sunny day and headed up the Mohawk Trail for some skiing. I learned to ski shortly after learning to ride a bike, and had already tackled Killington at age 7. I love to ski, but over the years, I stopped. For the past 10 or so years I have skied just once. A lot of it was due to being a new mother, then a single mother, and having a young child. Skiing, like cycling, is a very expensive and time intense sport. I had to pick and chose. And you can cycle a whole lot more days of the year then you can ski–at least where I live in mid New England.
I went to Berkshire East–a small hill by skiing standards, but with $38 lift tickets and no lift lines, I wasn’t complaining. We’ve had a few nice snowfalls over the last couple of weeks, followed by cold temperatures that allowed for snowmaking, The slopes had packed power, nicely groomed like corduroy. There were a few ice patches but they were manageable.
Another plus–there was almost no one there, which meant I never waited for a lift. Unload at the top, ski down, ski right up to the chair, load back up. The chairlifts are older so they don’t run very fast, and the hill wasn’t tall so I reached the bottom fairly quickly. But I got a decent number of runs in, and the conditions were so lovely, it was nice to enjoy carving out turns without reckless teenagers or out of control novices interrupting the run.
I spent little time in the lodge, but was there long enough to notice this big banner draped on the railing inside.
After some research I learned that 2013 will be the second annual Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon. If you like bagpipes, read on. The race consists of 5 legs: a 10k trail run, 23 miles of road biking, 5 miles of kayaking, a mile to the top of the mountain and a downhill ski to the finish. They hold it in late March because it’s possible to do all 5 events during late winter/early spring. The allow teams of 2, 5 or single entries (know as Bravehearts). Yes, there is a guy in a kilt playing the bagpipes on a rock against a backdrop of open fields and mountains. It’s all for a good cause–local preservation efforts, and looks mildly insane. Of course, I’m interested. It will go under consideration for this year’s events to participate in.
A lot has happened this year, and like most years, some was planned, some was not. Here are the highlights.
Here are my Strava Stats:
Time 173hr 44m
Elev Gain 81,385ft
I know I did more than this number reflects. I only joined Strava in July and while I was able to download many rides from my Garmin, I didn’t always use my Garmin while riding earlier in the year. No matter. I broke all previous yearly distance records with these stats, even if they are incomplete.
Additionally, I ran a bunch. I was using Nike + and then stopped running and concentrated entirely on cycling. It’s only been in the last couple weeks I started running again, and now I’m using Strava for that too. But here are my combined stats from Nike+ and Strava for foot work:
Miles run 60.5
I had a knee injury last winter and went through about 3 months of PT. Additionally was fitted for orthotics. During that time I stopped running and didn’t cycle much either. When I did start working out again, it was all about the bike.
This was from left field. Although I had purchased a CX bike in 2011, I never planned on actually doing anything more than gravel roads with it. Go figure. Cyclocross has always excited me and I often try to explain it to people. I was at a dinner party last summer explaining it to the host, and at the end of the evening when everyone was saying their goodbyes, the host said “Hey, good luck with those races!” Then my co-blogger Heather talked about possibly doing one. Then my bike mechanic suggested I should enter a race as a personal challenge to myself. Then a Ladies MTB group I belong to on Facebook hosted a free Women’s CX Clinic 3 towns away. Too many signs to ignore, so I signed up for a race. One race turned into six and now I’m focused on having a better season next year, getting a lighter faster bike, and actually having a clue. It’s great fun and I’m kicking myself for not getting into this sport 10 years ago when I was in my thirties.
Starting a side business
As many of you know this year I launched a small side business called Sip, Clip & Go Coffee. It’s been a load of fun and I plan to continue to grow a customer base, and hopefully within a couple of years break even on my initial investment :) Most businesses don’t becomes profitable for at least 2-3 years and I aspire to make that timeframe. That said, my products received some wonderful reviews. I made some new friends and I value these new connections. To finish the year off, my coffee was named in the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide by Bicycling Magazine. I was blown away by receiving press attention from the world’s largest bicycling magazine in just 6 months of operation.
The sum up
This year was a good one. I finally exercised 5-6 times a week for most of the year. This felt nothing short of amazing and I always wanted to be in a position to exercise that often without sacrificing personal relationships or neglecting my career or my parental duties as a single parent. I’m not sure what 2013 will bring. I have a fair amount of uncertainty that I’m facing that has the potential to really curtail my ability to continue this absolutely wonderful healthy lifestyle. More on that later, or maybe not at all. I keep my posts focused pretty squarely on bikes. Suffice to say I am grateful to have had such a wonderful year riding my bike. I will set some new goals for 2013 and I hope to see you on the road.
The title sums up how my last 3 rides have been. Pretty flat. After months of intense training and racing cyclocross, I decided I was for all purposes done for the season. I started riding “for fun.” And that was–I thought–a good plan.
It should have been a good plan. I started mountain biking. Lower mileage, because mileage no longer matters. I passed my goal of 2000 miles a couple of weeks ago so I really laid off the gas and transitioned into riding for pleasure. The problem is, it hasn’t been.
Of course that isn’t ALL true. But there is something missing.
I wonder if it’s just the natural low following the high of my freshman ‘cross season. Although I admit, I needed the break. My muscles felt frayed and tight. Overtraining was mentioned as a possible problem. The weather hasn’t been ideal either. I’m riding in temps that flirt with freezing, and the days are so very short.
I’ve even tried changing up locations. Today I went to Hatfield to ride. A picturesque farming community. I liked the stately homes in the middle of the small town. The road followed the Connecticut river. A fine mist was falling and it was about 40 degrees. 12.2 miles, a short ride, and my only elevation gain was 36 feet. Dreadfully flat…..just like my mood after these rides.
I’m not sure what to do about this. Should I take a real break? Stop riding altogether for a couple of months? Enter the one last cyclocross race offered in New England on the weekend of the 15-16th of December? I already feel my fitness slipping. And lets face it, snow is almost certainly on the way. The idea of isolating my workouts to the trainer is a bit soul-crushing.
Suggestions? I’m all ears.
I couldn’t resist comparing ‘cross with one of my favorite movies–Fight Club. If you have seen it, it either disgusts you or you think it is genius. Men in particular connect with this movie, which was its target audience/subject. I am one of the few women I know who absolutely loves it. I haven’t met anyone who only feels medium about this movie. It’s all or nothing, love or hate.
I was a professional bookseller for 14 years and can discuss the literary worth of this piece of fiction (the book is always better than the movie), the role of masculinity in today’s modern society, the sexual orientation of the author–but for the sake of brevity and focus I’ll just discuss the analogy the my title makes. Cyclocross is Fight Club with Bikes. I know I’m still new to it, but there are philosophical elements to this sport that I can take with me throughout life. They feel similar to racing cyclocross. I’ll use some popular quotes to illustrate.
“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” ~Fight Club movie, screenplay by Jim Uhls, directed by David Fincher, novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Agreed. You learn more about yourself by experiencing difficulty. These races are difficult. No, it’s not violence. It’s not war. Perhaps it’s a safer expression of difficulty. Social norms still apply but it’s not called an hour in hell for nothing. Racing hurts. There’s physical pain. There is spiritual emancipation.
“You aren’t alive anywhere like you’re alive at fight club…. Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn’t about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
The line “he looks carved out of wood” resonates with me. Over the last 3 months I’m seeing my softness wither and a leaner version emerge. The athletes at these races are fit, lean, and muscular. Racing hammers the soft parts away. Racing builds confidence. You race bikes for crying out loud! You can nail anything you try for.
“One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
There are so many mistakes you can make over the course of a race. A hundred things at least to get wrong, or right. Having an entire minute of perfection within a race is hard to achieve. Perfection is fleeting, so it’s savored.
“May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.” ~Chuck Palahniuk
Being perfect is no fun. Who wants that? Perfection is boring. It’s the work we do on the road to perfection that is divine.
PS–this parting quote is worth noting….
“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
So get on your bikes people!