Friday, July 16, 2010

What I Can't Blog About

When I started this blog, nearly one year ago I called it spo(R)ting life for a reason. I didn't want to be limited to blogging just about sports -- or, more specifically, I didn't want to be blogging about just cycling or just triathlon. I am like any human soul. I am fickle, and periodically my passions change. And I would like to believe there is a little variety and depth to my psyche.

Confused? Think I'm on drugs?

Geez, Kim, I don't mean to point out the obvious or anything but the word SPORTING is in your blog title.

I know, I know. But the idea is that when it serves my purposes you are supposed to remove the bracketed R from the title and then it becomes SPOT--ing life... get it.. get it???  And yes I know it is spelled wrong but if you saw how much yellow appears on this page when I finally get around to spell checking the damn thing you will come to accept the fact that I am perfectly OK with this misspelling.

So you will also note that there was a huge gap in missing posts for about 3 months in the life of this blog. Well that was when I could have been blogging but it would have made you cringe to read. Same with the recent month of June. Two posts. Again, what I could have been writing about, would have made you cringe. And my last 5 posts have been about cycling and triathlon because these are safe topics. I mean, I've dropped hints about my state of mind here and there but you blinked while reading, I guarantee you would have missed it. 


Sometimes when I write things, I assume you are reading my mind.

I don't write a blog entry daily. I couldn't. I write one and it pretty much wrecks me for a day as I obsess over every word and the message I've sent and the response I'll get. So I've wanted to delve into more intense topics but I am terrified they will go down paths that produce huge amounts of third party embarrassment for you, my faithful reader. And I have to admit that I am a little trigger happy when it comes to what I write. I have one friend who blogs who is very good at letting what she is writing sit and ferment for days-weeks-months before she posts and releases them. I am not so patient. When I am immersed in a topic I'm trying to get it out of me like it is a virus I need to be rid of. I am a stream of consciousness writer. I begin a post with one fragment of an idea and it often festers and multiplies in all different unplanned directions.  And then when I edit it after (and censor it) I start to see the pattern of what I am really thinking. I do much of my blog-fermenting inside my head before I even begin to type. I think my friend works differently. I think she types and ferments at the same time.

Two different distillers and two good beers.

So, with that in mind, I will now reveal a series of fragments of ideas I've had of late that I COULD write about but won't because they will just end up in really BAD PLACES.

The good breakup.  I've told a mini story to a few of my close friend recently about the best dumping I have ever been through (and trust me, there have been many). The irony of this good breakup was that it happened at a time of my life when I was too inexperienced to be able to handle ANY breakup let alone a good one. And don't get me wrong, just because I say NOW that it was good, does not mean that my teenage heart wasn't any less shattered than it would have been in any other breakup. But I didn't know that at the time because, at the time, it was the most despicable breakup that any girl could have experienced. See, the guy broke up with me over the phone and I thought this was the most horrid and cowardly thing that one could do when breaking up with someone. Keep in mind this was the 80s and there was no email and no text messaging options and who knows how this breakup would have gone down if those two options had been available. But what made this breakup good was that it was direct and it was honest and it was quick.

And, of course, the inevitable path of this topic is that it begs that you need to talk about the bad breakups.

The high road. You know what I mean by this right?  This one is so dangerous a topic that I can't even talk in a generalized fashion about why I was taking the high road. Except to say that I did it proudly and bravely. And the view is pretty good from up here. 

Evolutionary Psychology. A very close colleague of mine teaches this course. He spends a lot of time talking about relationships as part of the core content and as he is researching his class material he frequently pulls research studies and shares them with me for my entertainment and his amusement, that show things like how lap dancers make the most tips during the ovulatory period of their menstrual cycle. (Ooh I just wrote the word menstrual in this blog -- twice). And how being on the birth control pill can change your pheromone scent which might not turn out well for your relationship if your mate doesn't like your natural smell. Or about the Red Queen Effect, which I have experienced before, which supposedly draws one, via scent and pheromones, to a mate that is most likely to produce a very strong offspring and propagate the likelihood of the survival of the human species. Or the many many tables he has shown me to provide solid evidence that the odds of me finding a mate are lower than average because I am too smart and I make too much money.

I could solidly refute that last part of that last sentence (money). I can't refute the former part (smarts). I refuse to pretend I'm not smart.

Rebound Relationships. I've been in many as both the rebounder and the reboundee... And for the reason why I can't write about these kind of relationships I refer you back to my discussion on the good breakup.

Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it. Performance anxiety: I could tell stories about showing off on the diving board and doing a belly flop instead, or about screwing up a skill while my nursing teachers were watching, and you would smile and say: That's nice, I went through that too. But all the examples I could give would simply be euphemisms for the big gigantic performance anxiety of life. In 99% of life circumstances I am the most calm and collected and confident person I know. I stand up in front of lecture halls with 90 students in front of me -- sometimes on camera -- I can write entire novels and they are clever and cool and smart (well, after a few drafts and lots of fermenting).

But in 1% of situations I feel like I am about to explode and it makes me obnoxious and I try too damn hard and I say stupid things and I might act "bizarrely". It is like self-sabotage. A negative compensatory cycle -- the act of compensating to the point that you  make things worse. You're body does this too, when you are in severe cardiovascular shock.  But I can't write about my need to prove myself now or about why or about what I need to prove myself at. It would be very very uncool to do that and it would require me to leave my nice view from up here on the high road. All I can say is that, I don't mean to act like a weirdo sometimes. Hopefully you haven't noticed. But my anxiety level in this particular situation is 13/10 and "people" are watching who want me to fail. So for now, I'll just work on being me.

Weight loss. I've lost 7 pounds purely from wishful thinking. I could tell you how?

Between the lines. I write tons of shite between the lines in all those white (grey?) spaces that look blank. Yes, yes, I do. Everything is connected. We are all connected. And that is how she festers in unplanned directions.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Body Test Kenora Style

I was short 1500m of swimming, 6 biking km, and 11.2 running kms but I did a test of the old bod this weekend out in Kenora to help shake me of my dread of the Calgary Viterra 70.3. My friend Jen came along for the ride, literally, and she was a trouper and I think she should be doing the race herself. Maybe she should do it for me.

Friday we left the city just before 6PM and talked so much that I barely noticed when we got to Kenora. I missed the turn off to the cabin and ended up about 12 kms north of the cabin at the Rushing River turn. I can't tell you all the details of what kind of engrossing conversation we were having.  That will be left for the annals of girl talk folk lore. The rest of the evening was spent with intent to induce hyper-natremia via chip eating (and for you non-medical types, that means we overdosed on salt).

Saturday was a big day. The Plan:  Bike to Redditt and back and include Kenora Airport hill in the mix, then run for about 1.5 hours.

The things I did NOT plan on: 

1. Pulling for the whole ride.... this plan only popped into my head after about 17 km of guiding us through the twists and turns of Kenora -- in a half ironman race, I will not get the benefit of draft anywhere. If I am going to have an honest training test run, then I had better do all the work myself. There was some tootling around in places, exploring Redditt for one where we found a 15% (or steeper) gradient hill to climb, and riding around Garrow Park on the way in for another, and a little photo op at the bridge that crosses my lake.

2.  Freaking wind.... It felt awful on the ride home from Redditt, compounded by the fact that I SWEAR the ride is uphill heavy on the return even though it is hard to assess the accuracy of that statement by the Garmin elevations. A quick wind check on my phone Weather Network link in Garrow Park tried to place the winds at 7km/hr from the south. Bullocks!! I say, Bullocks.. The sensor must have taken the reading for that hour in a moment of wind reprieve. At least I had company to vouch for me. Jen said she pulled out from behind me on a couple of occasions just to check how hard I was working and, YEP, I was working hard.

3. Thirty degree heat. Which wasn't too much of a problem on the bike other than it required us to stop for a water refill on the ride home and a quick swim stop, but was a huge problem on the run. If the temperature is going to be greater than 25 degrees in Calgary then I had better adjust my run pace goal to 7 minute kms.

4. Lightning storm. This started just as we were finishing the second lap of the 5km loop I set up for us. The bonus was that as the storm moved in rapidly the heat cut dramatically and for the first time in the whole run, I saw the Garmin pace fall below a 6 min km. Heat is not my friend while running. I had salt caked in the creases of my arms. So, the plan was 15km.... 10 is what got done. Thank GOD for lightning, I say. The good news:  The run did not kill me and I did not want to puke. I wanted to walk A LOT (and if you are clever and follow the magic link, you can count how many times I walked on the run) but I didn't walk as much as I thought I would need to. There was one hill however that I could not EVER run the whole way up. 

5. Garmin keeps me waaaaay too honest.

Sunday -- The Plan: Easy shorter ride to Rushing River (40km). Jen gets to pull the entire ride. Swim. Big SWIM hopefully right to the other side of my lake.

Things I did not plan for:

1. Wind... It was worse than Saturday (greater than 30 km/hr). But, this was not my problem. I was coasting in draft *insert evil grin here.* One thing I can say about riding with Jen is that we are perfectly matched, and if you ride, you know how hard this is to find. I can grit my teeth and giv'r and not have to worry about dropping her. She will always be on my wheel. I can sit in her draft it is the perfect recovery ride for me. And I am sure it is the same for her in my draft.

2. Waves. The swim didn't happen and video proves why best:

Things I've learnt about my riding and racing this weekend:

1. I am a bit of a grinder. Especially uphill. I need to not fear the lower chain ring.
2. Heat is not my friend.
3. I need to take in more calories during a workout (and the race). I estimated I took in, over just under 4.5 hours, -- about 660 calories. One watered down Gatorade bottle (estimated 200 calories and that might be being generous), one package of power bar shots (160 calories but much preferred in flavor to cliff shots), one gel (100 calories), 2/3 of a 300 calorie power bar (what was left from a previous ride). I drank about 2 litres of fluid on the ride and the run. I could probably do better there too as I did most of that drinking when stopped and not during the ride.
4. I am getting better at downhilling. Hit 61.4 km/hr on airport hill decent which has to be a record for me and there felt like a bit of wind against me as I was able to pedal and have a gear to work with the whole way down. And 67.4 on the steep steep 14% grade hill near my parent's cottage.

The hill of all hills..... photo's never do it justice.

5. I don't really use my aerobars when riding that hilly, so why do I even have them on? I'm just lugging extra weight.

What else can I say:

Rushing River is gorgeous and more rushing than I've seen it in years.

I'm liking the fact that I've shed about 7 pounds. My body is finally figuring out how to work with that because for the last month or so I've been convinced I shed 7 pounds of muscle.

The Kenora Bypass is still scary as hell....I mean, it is beautiful but sometimes it feels suicidal. Photo below taken just before 5 semi-trucks went by -- in a row. Note also massive drop-off over the edge of flimsy wire barricade:

Oh and special thanks to the Kenora OPP for NOT giving me that speeding ticket. We were sure that they were either just checking out the bikes, or assumed that a RAV with 4 bikes on the back must be a couple of arrogant hot shot guys. Not the case. Just a couple hot chicks.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My LIfe on a Bike

Two posts ago, I wrote about Bike Snob NYC's book Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling and said, near the end, that the direction that post took was not where I thought the post would go, which sounds an awful lot like what life is like in general these days. I need to say as an addendum to that post, and before I get into writing what I originally intended to write about, that in a moment of courage, or perhaps insanity, and with no expectations, I emailed that post to the Bike Snob himself and he REPLIED... and this is what he had to say:

From: BikeSnobNYC
To: Kim
Sent: Monday, June 14, 2010 7:32 AM
Subject: Re: book review...


RE: this:

Given that I know that publishing a book, unless you are Stephen King or Dan Brown or Tom Clancy and have gained a little power, is little more than indentured servitude to the "chain ring" of a publishing editor's wishes and some marketing agent's crystal-ball like prediction of what "the people" want to buy, some of that edginess of the blog is lost in the book.

Just to clarify, Chronicle were great and there was absolutely no pressure on me to "tone anything down." I approached the book much differently than the blog because a blog can be ultra-topical and full of inside, self-referencing jokes ("memes"). That doesn't really work for a book though. Reading (and writing) a book is a more intimate, solitary experience, and it was especially important to me that the book work for someone not only unfamiliar with the blog but unfamiliar with cycling.

Thanks again!

Critiquing the entire culture of cycling one ill-conceived bike at a time.

So needless to say I was impressed, even if it was a reply to correct a perception I had. I sent the email a day or two before he was set to embark on his nationwide book tour, or what he affectionately referred to as his BRAs (Book Related Appearances -- but you MUST see the innuendo) and I figured a minor book review written by a minion such as myself with (???) little following would barely catch his attention now that he was famous and had a face.

But as I said in that post, my favorite section of the whole book which left me howling with my flashlight under the covers, was his parody of the Footprints in the Sand parable. In the words of the Snob himself, "if I looked at my life as footprints on a beach there would be a lot of bicycle tire tracks." (p. 89) And he then proceeds to scold the Great Obvious Bicycle Metaphor for all the times he was failed on the road, like when he hit a tree and broke body parts, or when his bike was stolen.

It made me think about my life on a bike, which to be honest, was sporadic and, during big chunks of my life, nonexistent. I do remember losing the training wheels, riding up and down my driveway determined to stay upright. I remember this as a solo self-motivated activity and do not recall a parent chasing me with a hand on the back of my seat. And I don't know if this is an accurate memory or not, but I swear I was 4 years old -- although it is more likely that I learnt this skill in the spring that I was 4, mere weeks before I turned 5. But there is no video record of this momentous event in my biking life and the photographic evidence is sporadic and my parents memories would be less reliable. It is significant in that my daughter was at least 7 before I got her to shed the training wheels and my son who is currently 6 won't even try. But I remember my first moments of freedom clearly, so I must have been pretty proud.

I remember spending huge chunks of my childhood riding back and forth around our bay in a horseshoe arc, avoiding the busy bus route at the entrance. We crashed into cars, we crashed into each other, and we got our front tires caught in the storm drainage grates, and me and my street friends, we learned to love to ride. .

This must have been a brand new bike. There is still a label on the "top tube." I would guess I was about 6 or 7 in this photo. And now you all know the truth. I am not a real red head.

Around the time I was old enough to ride to (and crash on) the bike trails behind the local swimming pool and ride my bike to school with my trumpet on the handlebars and no hands, would have also been around the time that I was pretending I was a real girl in gym class and did things like allow myself to be hit out in dodge ball early in the game so I could sit on the bleachers and giggle with the other cool girls. If I tried, I could always be one of the last girls standing. I was paper thin and as agile as a striking snake. It was hard to hit me, even if they targeted in on me, which they sometimes did because I wasn't one of the really cool girls. I was just one of the middle-class socially-acceptable girls.

In high school it was cooler to walk to school and these were also the years that I was cocky about my natural agility and athletic ability and I would show up to track practice two weeks before the meet and win my heat and make Provincials with no training. What did I need to train for? But I had no endurance. I was all power and sprint and short effort. Good enough.

But in that summer between grade 9 and 10 I met Dean and he got me interested in bikes and Dean and I kept in touch for the next few years until we lost touch as inevitably happens as lives move on during an era when technology is lacking. Dean lovingly showed me his bikes back then. He tells me now that he rode a Bianchi and a Concorde in the 80s and still has an 18 year old Pinerello Gavia with Campagnolo Record in his possession and if I don't know what that is, I am supposed to ask -- Gavia with TSX tubing, is apparently really stiff. That tubing had ridges on the inside of the tubes and they spiral, hence the stiffness. Oh and its steel. And it cost him $5000 in the early 90s.  And I have no idea what I'm talking about, can you tell? He let me drive his truck once but I doubt he would have let me ride his bike. He used to be able to pull off a 54 minute 40k Time Trial (but couldn't walk after, let alone run, like we do in triathlon) and could do 200 km in 6 hours, by himself.

I am sure it is because of Dean that I went out and spent about $450 in 1989 on a brand new mountain bike made by Mariah, which was a subsidiary company of Bianchi kinda, I assume, like Gary Fisher is to Trek. I thought that bike was sooooo light in 1989. I gave it away to the son of a friend last year and it weighs a TON compared to what I ride now. But it was lighter than my old 10 speed and it was my first exposure to a quick release front wheel. I rode that bike on a road trip through the Whiteshell when I was 19 and was hired as a lifeguard for a group of grade 9 students on a spring camping and cycling trip. The ride was from Beausejour to Falcon Lake (on highway 44, I presume) and I'm sure we did it in 3 days which means, by today's standards, we didn't ride very far every day before setting up camp. Maybe 25 or 30 km.

I also rode that bike to and from the university on several occasions when I spent the summer working for Mini University. But for the most part that bike didn't see a whole lot of action and spent a lot of time gathering dust in the garage. I pulled the kids around in trailer for a couple summers and then finally, the summer I became a single woman again I pulled that bike out and cleaned it up well and did several "distance" rides up and down the Perimeter highway. (I used to go out and back for an hour.... which turned out to be about 25km, which isn't a bad average speed considering it was a fat stubby-tired mountain bike and the wind comes from all and every direction on the Perimeter, and the gears on that bike didn't work very well). I was in "training", you see. I had aspirations of joining some work folk on the MS bike tour through Riding Mountain National Park. Kid things and money and fear kept me away from the tour that year but it was in my head.

But really, if I have to blame anyone for my re-introduction to and current obsession with biking it is one of my work friends. He talked about biking all the time and I used to wistfully say: "Biking is cool. I find biking pretty easy actually." To which he used to say, "Well, get a bike and ride." And I made all the cliche excuses about being afraid of cars and not wanting to die.

I'd been at his house, I'd seen his bike -- in his basement -- and I remember thinking: Oh you are one of THOSE that keep your bike in the basement. He told me how much he paid for that bike, which he purchased before the birth of his first child who at that time was about 7, and I justified that a $3000 bike was an acceptable expense when you were child-free. He was the only person I knew who would do things like ride home from Victoria beach into a 30 km/hr headwind for 5 hours. He was only the second person I knew, after Dean, who'd spent more than $500 on a bike. That bike was in perfect condition and not a scratch on it and clearly loved and pampered. It still is.

The same work friend, the following spring --the BB spring -- before biking spring -- was heading out to Bird's Hill to compete in a triathlon one weekend. I was already running pretty consistently at that point and I could swim and, well, who CAN'T ride a bike, so I asked him what the distances were and he told me and I said..... "Yeah, I could do that." So come on out and do it.

Well I didn't that year. But it was in my  head and it fixated there until the following spring. My birthday treat to myself the following year was this:

Notice I still stand holding my bike the same way I did when I was six.

I had a price limit of $500. It was used and about 7 years old and I bought it from one of the triathlon officials.  I didn't want to spend more than that because looking back on my history with bikes, I wanted to be sure I was actually going to use it. After you factor in shoes and helmet and gloves and decent shorts, $500 quickly turns into a $1000. It was a good start. And my goals for that summer were, train for the MS bike tour (for real) and my first triathlon.

And biking feels so much different when you are riding a quality ride. It was hard not to let the addiction take over after that purchase.

I rode that bike to work shortly after I bought it. I barely knew how to clip. I fell off somewhere around the corner of Lindsay and Academy clipping in right in front of a big truck. My chain fell off. I called up my bike friend at work because I was planning on trying out my first duathlon that next week and I wasn't sure, after my ride experience, that things were working properly and he offered to tune the bike up for me which resulted in humiliating bike clipping incident number 2: where-in Kim falls off her bike for the second time but this time onto bike friend's front lawn and right into a thorn bush. I got up and tried to reassemble my pride, rode down his driveway only to look down and find blood streaming down my leg from multiple places. I likely trailed blood through his house as he and his wife dragged me to the bathroom and rinsed me off while I bled all over their bathtub. I looked like I had been attacked by 1000 cats.

Well they do say the course of true love never runs smoothly and such were my humble beginnings with the love of bikes. I didn't ride that Devinci for long, About 3 months later I upgraded to this Devinci (Sliverstone SL4):

But I was misled and ignorant when I bought that bike and it wasn't long before I was having problems related to bike fit. And so came the series of moves designed to make the bike fit me: A shorter stem, a bike fit session. They all failed to make me truly comfortable.

But that first summer on a bike was full of surprises. I did my first long group ride (although, I am sure I was never properly drafting), I did my first 100km at the old more pleasant version of  the Muddy Waters event. I had the 7th fastest bike time amongst all female sprint racers at the Riding Mountain Triathlon. I was about the 3rd woman in on the hard, steep-climbing day 1 of the MS bike tour. I had predicted I would do that segment of ride in 3 hours. I did it in 2:32. I was pretty good at this for a "girl" who'd been riding for only 4 months.

So I suffered for another summer and then came time for the Madone. I haven't earned the full suspension mountain bike but I felt I had earned the all carbon Ultegra-adorned Green Riding Machine.

I've spent the last two years floundering around with  my biking goals. Triathlon. Randonneur. Casual group rides. At some point I'll find some focus. But right now, I'm just happy to ride. I'm pretty strong. I could be stronger. When I got back from Tucson this spring I wrote laughingly, thinking I was being arrogant to even suggest it, about dreaming of pulling off a sub 1:20 bike (and two transitions) on an Olympic Distance Triathlon. And much to my surprise, I did just that at my first triathlon of the year: 1:18. Who would have thought it possible. But DAMN now I only have to be faster. I'm told, cyclists peak at 7 years on the bike. I don't know how that applies to riders who start late in life but it means I still have 5 more years to go before I can consider myself at my best.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Feelin' like Bailin'

I don't know, maybe I'm just being a whiner tonight. I signed up for the Calgary Ironman 70.3 last October and I don't really want to do it. I'm not excited about it. I'm not looking forward to it. I see nothing but pain and torture. The race is on August 1st. Am I having normal pre-race jitters or am I truly in over my head?


1. I don't think I'm ready. The training was going well up until the beginning of May and then life seemed to take control and pull me in other directions.  I could do the bike in a heartbeat. I can do the swim. The Run looks like hell. Every time I get off a long distance bike the thought:  "OK, now I have to run a half marathon," pops into my head and I want to vomit. I really don't like running. Not true. I don't MIND running but for the last 2 years running has been perpetually and unpredictably painful. I haven't done a long run in a month. I really don't like running in heat even more and now we've hit the humid season.

2. It wasn't my goal. When I signed up for this race I did it because the person I was with also signed up. I watched him race it last year and it is a beautiful race.  I signed up because I thought I should show support. and then life changed.

3. I feel like I'm doing it alone. No one is motivating me.

4. I really can't afford the trip. It is going to cost me about $1000, or more,  to get there, stay, do the race and any other fun stuff and food etc. I feel like I am constantly battling my finances. I would rather sacrifice the entry fee than put out the expenditure to go all the way there and not feel good about my race.

5. Psychologically life is giving me an ass kicking. New problems showed up out of the blue to take me by surprise. Old problems reared their heads and carry on in a new form.  I feel weary and weakened and I don't have the will to convince myself to keep going when I am in this state. I don't feel like I am in control.

I don't know if I am writing and posting this for sympathy, for a convincing, or for affirmation and permission to give up. Maybe I'll feel better in the next couple of days but the fact that I've done nothing towards preparing myself for this race in terms of finding accommodations, deciding on travel arrangements, or even simply looking up the athlete information on the website, tells me a lot. I feel OK about doing a couple more Olympic distance races. I can VISUALIZE myself doing that. I don't feel good about this one.

So. Advice? Moral support? Permission?  What do you think?