Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going

So immediately after completing my U2 tour, I slid right into cycling with two events for which I’d already registered prior to my shoulder problems: Mad Anthony River Rally (MARR) and Roscoe Ramble. You might wonder, “Wow, so, how many weekends in a row have you been out of town?” And the answer would be five. You might also observe, “Boy, that sounds exhausting.” And you would be right.

I’m so looking forward to an entire weekend of not having to go anywhere. Of sleeping in. Of taking things easy. And that will be the joy of the coming weekend. I’ve been pretty much lagging behind sleep since Moncton because I have had so much catching up to do on things at home that my restless mind has kept me up longer each weekday evening. I guess my body doesn’t just bounce back like it did when I was younger. Or perhaps I didn’t notice the lack of sleep so much when I was younger… Either way, I’m looking forward to some peace and quiet. At home.

I plan to get back into writing mode. The research side of my fandom (ha, ha, my excuse, for my slip into crazy) has ended so now it’s time to sit down and get serious. To test my new wireless printer at home, I printed off a chapter from my rock star novel and packed it with my stuff so that I could read it in my tent at Roscoe Ramble, assuming that I might have trouble sleeping. It was a lot better than I remembered it, though I had some thoughts on altering a few sections slightly. Sometimes I’m surprised when I read back my own writing–on paper–and I realize that I’m actually drawn into my own story as if it were written by someone else. This is a good sign! It’s when my mind starts to wander when reading it that I realize a section needs some help. For the most part, I was right where I should be…. So, I admit that I’m kind of excited. This could be a good story. It may take a few years to write, though (no thanks to having a day job).

The rides. Well, I guess it’s not too surprising that my relative lack of riding in July did not stop me from managing to finish the 100 mile route of MARR. Wasn’t this what got me into trouble with my shoulder in the first place?

*sheepish nod*

Um…. yes….

But I was really careful!! And I went into the ride with the attitude that if I felt like I was causing damage to my shoulder, I would opt for the 62 or 80 mile route. So I just plugged along and my shoulder ached a little, but no more than it used to in the early season (which it really still is for me if you go by miles). I had more problems with my endurance level feeling a bit lower than it should be. But that’s nothing I can’t manage. Pain is manageable. I just shut that little voice off. I can’t say it was my best MARR time ever. And I didn’t feel as great physically in the end as I should have at this time of the year. But I finished and that’s what’s important. The stubborn bullheaded bitch that I am. Never give up, never surrender.

For Roscoe Ramble this year, I elected to do the 55 mile route. For which I ate my pride as all my friends–who were, of course, doing the 75 mile route–lovingly teased me about riding the “newbie” route. I’d originally signed up for the 75 mile route, but due to my lack of hill preparation and worries about over-doing it with my shoulder, I elected the safe route (for once) and asked to switch to the 55 mile. It was reassuring that I felt great after both days of riding and that my shoulder bothered me even less than it had on MARR. So I think I’m back as far as cycling goes. Though I will continue to take it easy, I promise.

I think part of the success is that after MARR, I raised my handlebars slightly. The new positioning seems to be working out a little better. I’m working on distributing my weight evenly between both shoulders and I’ve been doing some of my physical therapy stretches at the rest stops (which looks ridiculous to everyone who might catch me doing this).

The weather this year for Roscoe Ramble was… ehm… interesting. Saturday looked like rain for most of the ride, but nothing happened, and then during lunch, the sun finally made an appearance and everything began to warm up for a beautiful afternoon. I was a little worried about the toughest hill on the route, which occurs after lunch–a climb out of a valley that seems to last forever where you think every bend is the end but are woefully wrong. Turns out I didn’t need to worry, I did fine! I’m sure I was better and faster last year, but it’s not about how fast you complete a climb, it’s the fact that you did it.

My night in the tent was very unnerving for me as three–yes, three–thunderstorm systems came through. I fretted about my choice of setting up my tent beneath a tree–seemed like a great idea in the heat of the afternoon, less so in middle of three storms. My sleep was interrupted by constant worrying that my tree–a huge old thing, by the way–would get struck by lightening and fall on me. I kept envisioning myself as one of my friends in the other tents who would see a violent flash, hear a crack of thunder, and my scream as some branch or entire tree squashed me out of existence. Okay, and, as uneasy as I am about storms, I have these kind of thoughts all night in my house. But still. Let’s just say that it was incredibly hard to suppress my gasps which usually follow every sighting of lightening at home. I spent the night with my camping pillow and blanket over my head, pretending I was somewhere else. I had to resist the urge to jump into one of my neighbors’ tents for comfort. Sometimes it sucks to not be a kid and living with your parents… (They always let me sleep in their bed during t-storms. Maybe that’s part of my problem as an adult?)

Needless to say, my sleep wasn’t that deep all night. But that’s pretty usual for me in tents anymore. I’m getting too old for sleeping (comfortably) in tents…

Sunday was a damp ride back to the ride start (which was Kidron for me). The world was wet from the previous night’s storms. I didn’t encounter any significant rain during the ride, just occasional drizzles, and sometimes it just seemed like I was running into a mist when I as going down hill–not really rain, per se, or maybe a “Seattle rain.”It was about 62-68 degrees the whole day–chilly, but fine as long as you were riding. The sun kept fighting to beat out the clouds, but it never completely won the battle. Despite all the gloom, however, I heard lots of remarks from first time riders about how great they thought the ride was and promises to do the ride again. The scenery in Holmes and Coshocton counties is beautiful–rolling hills, farms, empty roads–no matter how gloomy the weather is. It really doesn’t even seem like it’s Ohio down there; with the Amish communities, it’s like a land lost in time.

So I survived Roscoe Ramble and all its hills. I’m feeling pretty confident about getting back out on the bike now that my shoulder is doing better, keeping in mind that I should not push it. Maybe this year is an off year for me. It’s good to take a break for a bit and, really, I’d been saying for the last year that I need to balance some of my activities a little more. I should probably try to do some more hiking. Or try my hand at some other activity. I know that this summer I just replaced biking with U2. But, you know, that’s me–when I love something I’m passionate about it all the way, no holds barred, no casual approach to loving it all.

If only more people were like that, right? Passion is the spice of life and I cling to people who feel a burning to do something with their unspent energy.

This is about the time of the year that I start thinking about I’m going to do next summer. I’m currently weighing two options:

1. The Great Big FANY Ride – A week long bike tour of a region of New York. I’ve wanted to do this ride for awhile now, since I became aware of it and after surviving XOBA. I haven’t done a week long ride since XOBA and I’d really like to do another.

2. Climb Mt. Whitney, California’s highpoint, with my Uncle Mart. My Uncle Mart is the person who I credit for getting me into outdoor activities. On my first ever trip to California at age 10, he took me white water rafting down the American River with my cousin Angy and Grandma H. The second time I came out, as a teenager, he took me backpacking in the mountains with Angy and my aunt Gabriela. Both experiences left such great impressions on my memory that as I envisioned my life as an adult, I planned that I would be a great adventurer just like my favorite uncle. He is the reason I’m the outdoorswoman that I am today.

You can take part in helping me decide. I’ve posted a poll here. I want to do both equally so I’m feeling a bit wishy-washy. I’m interested to know what your thoughts are. Thanks in advance!

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I’ve got friends in high places

On the subject of endurance athletics, a friend of mine from Colorado, Dave C, is attempting two serious mountain climbs at this very moment: Mt. Fairweather at 15,300′, the highpoint of British Columbia; and the “big kahuna,” Mt. McKinley (known to climbers by its original Native American name of Denali) at 20,320′. This is his second attempt on both mountains and you can follow his story on his team’s blog as well as track his actual positions on their Spot website.

I have to admit that I’m seriously jealous. There was a time in my life when I was way into mountain climbing in almost the obsessive way I’m into cycling now. I read every book of mountain climber’s adventures up Denali and Mt. Everest that I could find–Into Thin Air by Jonathan Krakauer, In the Shadow of Denali by Jonathan Waterman, High: Stories of Survival from Everest and K2 edited by Clint Willis, just to name a few. I was really convinced that some day I would climb Everest. While someday I may get back on track with my highpointing to climb Denali, I don’t think Everest is realistically in my plans anymore.

There’s something very spiritual about climbing that makes it even more sacred to me than cycling. Not only do you push yourself to the edge of your endurance–which is what you do on a bike often–but you get to see along the way the greatest treasurers of the world, places you know only few have the bravery to tread. The endurance is worth the privilege to see the hidden places in the world. Mountain peaks offer the most majestic sights on the planet. Often times while climbing, I’ve had what I would describe as a religious experience–an overwhelming feeling of elation and awe at the supreme beauty of the universe. I’ve felt connected to something greater than myself. You could attribute it to a supreme being, call it God or the Divine or whatever language you choose, but for me–the ever questioning agnostic–it is simply an understanding that I am one small piece in vast, beautiful, mysterious universe. I can praise that. However small my piece is in the universe, I’ve felt my connection to the whole… and that was a awe-inspiring feeling.

Dave C has been a good friend of mine through the US Highpointers Club, of which I’m a member and have been a member since my husband and I started highpointing in 1998. I wish him the best on his endeavor to get to the top of those wondrous summits and make it down safely. I will be keeping tabs on his movements. Perhaps someday I too will see the top of Denali. Though it’s honestly hard to imagine right now, given how much time I’ve devoted to cycling and how out of touch I currently am with the climbing world these days… just not enough time in life with work to do all those things you really want to do!

Winner by default

Wow! For the first time in my life — ever — I’ve won an award for an athletic endeavor and one, I might add, in which I would never consider myself very good: Running!! I apparently won second place for the 30-34 age category in the Run for Grace & Andy at Hiram. Let us not forget that I won this award merely because there were only three 30-34 year old women running. But, I was the *senior citizen* at the age of 32; the other girls were both 30. I was 49 seconds behind the first place girl; I was a whole 6 minutes and 6 seconds ahead of the last place girl.

If only my elementary school gym teacher, Mrs. Meers, could see me now. She used to tell my mom how nonathletic I was. Apparently, I am the opposite of pigeon-toed when I walk and run — my feet swing outward awkwardly. Other people in my life have pointed out that I look a little “different” when I run (though they are kind enough to not specify how). Mrs. Meers was convinced I’d never get anywhere athletically unless my legs were broken and reset so that I could run “normally.” Luckily for me, my mom was a “neglectful parent” and she let me go out into the world, athletically challenged as I was.

Funny thing is, my life has been nothing but athletic. I graduated from elementary school to play soccer throughout middle and high school. I’ve successfully climbed several mountains. I’ve cycled 2600+ miles this year (maybe some 5000+ total since I became a bike freak several years ago). I learned to downhill ski without formal lessons, I never fell much while learning, and I’m still pretty decent. I’ve run more 5Ks than I care to remember. Someday, I’d like to do a triathlon. I’ve done all this with my apparent anti-pigeon-toed disability.

So… I will cherish the plaque I receive for this one run, for it is doubtful it will ever happen again. I dedicate this success to my dad from whom I probably inherited my endurance abilities (since we seem to share the same tenacity to these sorts of sports). And to Mrs. Meers — who, by the way, was overweight and smoked, so she’s probably died of a heart attack or lung cancer by now — :P on you! I’m a winner, imperfect legs and all! =)

How to become an ibuprofin addict

Mars Girl and friend, Ruth, (far left) at start
of the Run for Grace & Andy in Hiram, OH

Step 1: Run a 3.3 mile run after a long period of abstinence. Make sure you do minimal stretches.

Step 2: On the following day, ride your bike 50 miles.

It’s as easy as that, folks. I followed these two simple steps and, in a matter of 24 hours, I’ve become an ibuprofin addict. I am walking around the office like someone twice my age with arthritis and years working as a floor coverer (sorry, Dad). All of you out there who claim that I’m athletic (RUTH) can sit on it. Athletes can’t possibly experience this much pain after relatively minor exercise.

Okay, 50 miles by bike isn’t minor to most people (at 2509 miles, it is to me). Running 3 miles in hilly Hiram is not minor either. All of this would be to an athlete, though!

I haven’t run since what I call “treadmill season” (otherwise known as northeast Ohio winter). But when I read in the e-mail newsletter from my alma mater, Hiram College, that a run had been organized to raise money for the scholarship funds in the names of Grace Chamberlain and Andy Hopkins — the two students who tragically lost their lives to a 10-time DUI offender a year and a half ago — I decided it was time to put on the running shoes, despite the fact that I absolutely abhor running. Well, not bad enough to not enjoy the competition of an organized run. I can’t help it. I love torture myself. TPL and all.

It was a beautiful day Saturday. Everyone was in great spirits for the run. I happily noted that most of the other runners were young, probably college students showing support for a fellow Hiramite they may not have known, but felt connected to simply by the fact that they shared the same campus with the deceased. That’s why I was there. All Hiram students are connected by a kinship with a great school we’re all proud to have attended. When one of us bleeds, we all feel it. It sounds corny, but it’s true.

Anyway, I was happy that most of the runners were younger because I didn’t see a lot of people in my age category, which means I could place somewhere in the middle of the group. It looks like I placed exactly middle, in fact, being that there turned out to be only THREE 30-34 year olds (and I was the oldest one in the category to run!).

The run route followed “Three-Mile Square” — one of the most popular Hiram College traditions. Three-Mile Square follows OH-700 South out of Hiram to Pioneer Trail, turns right on Ryder Road, and then right onto OH-82 East into Hiram. Except, in college, Diane and I used to do it the reverse direction because that hill on Pioneer Trail is a bit nasty. I remembered why we went that direction as I struggled to keep myself at a jog up this hill. I watched a lot of runners next to me stop and walk. I can’t begrudge them that because a few of them still managed to beat me across the finish line.

The Ryder Road portion of the route is actually quite pretty. It starts atop a hill, providing a scenic overlook of the two farms that line each side of the road. It’s really weird, but it seemed as though nothing had changed. Same delapitated shack halfway down the road at the bottom of the hill. I think there used to be a scraggly old tree across the street from the shack, but it was gone now.

The route passes the cemetary. I know it sounds morbid, but I used to spend hours there in college, just looking at the headstones. It was a great place to experience the fall colors. The cemetary has some nice old trees that breathe a sigh of ancient wisdom into the place. In my one and only studio art class, I had created a melodramatic acrylic painting of one of the headstones with colored leaves smattered around it. On the grave, in place of the person’s name, I’d written “Eve Ree Thing” with “Dies” instead of “Died”. Yeah, I was so utterly profound. You can gag. I’m a better writer than I am an artist. And that’s not saying much.

Still, the actual picture was the best thing I’ve ever painted. It actually looks like what it’s supposed to be. I could probably still find the headstone I used as the model. I thought of the painting as I ran past the cemetary and how melodramatic I was in college before I knew any real sorrow in life.

They .3 remaining mile, I imagine, came from the extra bit they routed us to the track at the new athletic facility (by the way, I’m really jealous of this facility — why did my college get all the cool stuff after I left?! I won’t even tell you about the new writing program that makes me salivate.). I sprinted hard the last few meters, as I always do when I catch sight of the finish line. The reader at the finish line beeped as it registered the chip tied to my shoelace.

When I stopped, I realized that my calves and thighs were feeling quite punchy; or rather, as if they’d been punched. I met up with Diane and her husband, Jeff, who had walked the 1 mile route which toured the campus, Diane complained, that we knew so well. I guess she was expecting to discover some new part of the little hamlet of Hiram, but I’m pretty sure we saw it all while we went there. There’s not a lot more to the place.

We waited for my other friend, Ruth, who had also run the 3.3 mile route. (I love how I am roping my friends into all my crazy athletic endeavors!)

The sitting didn’t do me any good. The next time I moved to stand, my legs protested.

But, still, I’m happy that I did manage to get out there to do the run. Do I feel like doing any more runs? Um… no. I still like my bike better.

Which leads me to yesterday when I decided it was a good idea to do a 50 mile bike ride with Michael. He kept asking me, “Are you sure you want to ride?”

“Yes,” I kept saying exasperatedly. You use different muscles to ride, right? So it wasn’t going to hurt the muscles I had made sore the day before, right? Besides, it was a day more beautiful than the last and I just couldn’t let it go to waste without full appreciation of its worth.

Our ride took place in Medina County and the much-ABC-debated Wayne County. We sailed (to my nervous dismay) into the Overton Valley and appreciated the trees and lakes found down there. I was secretly glad that Michael, the fearless captain of the tandem, did not steer us up an “annoying excruciating” hill as I had requested earlier in the week.

The ride was pretty laid-back and not exceedingly hard. Which was good because when we returned to our starting point at mile 50, and I removed myself from the bike, my legs felt like led weights. Each movement brought with it a stiff ache. Yes, I was right — different muscles. Except now, instead of some muscles being sore, all the muscles in my legs were sore. At least I evened it all out!

You just can’t stop a girl with an addiction to cardio. But excuse me, for I need to take some more ibuprofin…