Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Triple Threat

I'm a little addicted to anything T6
Its been a while since I dressed up for Halloween and this year I had three events in one day so the challenge became about finding a costume to wear that would work for all three events. One of those events was the Halloween at the Harbour Cyclocross race, so the costume also had to be bike riding friendly with no dangley parts to get caught in my wheels or breaks.

I had managed to get a hold of the Twin Six T-shirt of the month for October, aptly named "Crossbones," and decided to race as a skeleton. You would think that skeleton costumes would be easy to come by, but a trip to Value Village found me only with gloves and bone forearms and a black tutu which I thought might work nicely to "feminize" my skeleton homage to "Crossbones."

And, as Erin F. yelled out  somewhere in the middle of a delirious lap 4 as she watched and cheered on her husband who was also in the race, "Kim I think this is the first time I've seen you in a skirt."

Yes it is. And probably the last too.

And you CAN mount and dismount in a skirt, by the way. Except that I usually grabbed a handful of skirt along with my bike while hoisting myself over barriers so the potential was there for a free show -- that is if I hadn't been wearing under the skirt what I always wear for cyclocross.

"Crossbones" himself is modelled after a photo of a specific pro cyclocross racer. If you enlarge the graphic above you can read about the inspiration for the shirt, but the notation fails to name the actual racer. Given as I cannot spout the names of any pro cyclocrossers it was helpful when Luc A. came up to me at the race and recognized immediately that it was Mark Lalonde. A little Google research (what DID we do BG -- Before Google) produced a few photos, so here is the living version of Mark Lalonde, as opposed to the deathly version which you can see above:

Mark Lalonde: Nice! Hmm. Does he have an older brother?
It was a podium race for me -- 3rd -- my favorite podium spot this year it seems. It helped that a few people failed to show up, but I had a really good race regardless. My best race prior to this one was Labarrier -- you know the one I raced after riding 20km straight into 40-60 km per hour winds. I had also rode my bike to work nearly every day that week. The day before Harborview I went for the first run I've done in over a month and woke up the morning of the race unable to descend stairways. Regardless, it was a good idea to get my heart rate up like that the day before the race. The leg pain just wasn't so good for leaping the barriers, including the stumpy little pumpkin barrier which I'm pretty sure I simply gingerly stepped over.

Gingerly, yes. (Photo: Woodcock CW)

Harborview was hilly. There was one massive climb that I rode up 3 out of 4 laps. On lap 2 after sending my heart rate through the roof on lap 1, I decided to experiment and run my bike up the hill wondering perhaps if that would be more energy efficient. I was wrong. It was worse. Especially after my run the day before. But this race seemed that just as you were thinking you couldn't possibly go up any more, there was more up. There were so many places where I figured they could hear my huffing and puffing all the way to downtown Winnipeg, yet I felt like my legs were only working at recovery cadence. Pathetic.

And did I just use the word "cadence" in a blog about cyclocross? Yes, I did. Sheesh!

And then when the uphill was over, there was one massive sailing downhill which lead us to the slippery part of the course where I had many near slips and crashes and miracle saves. I was near two guys most of the race and ultimately finished between them.  It was motivating to have other racers near me throughout because in all my other races, I've been alone after lap 2.

My performance garnered a couple comments about how I should race looking like this all the time. Beauty.

I hung around and watched the A race for the first 2 or 3 laps and when I left, a blue-faced Chris H was flattening the field, including bunny-hopping Paul B, a usually single-speed, but today, derailleur adorning Tristan, and a very pretty Craig P.

I then rushed off to the annual Halloween Hash with the Winnipeg Hash House Harriers. The resulting pub crawl left me less than coherent for Cycle Chick's much anticipated Halloween bash. But we all have to over-indulge ourselves once and a while.

It was a rough as I look. Still mud splattered from the race and all. (Stefan Isfeld)

The costume looks even better than I envisioned, actually. I showed the pictures to my kids and had my first experience in witnessing my children being horrified that I had an identity beyond "Mom."
Here I am taking this glorious opportunity after stupidly running my bike up the hill, to pause, gasp between fake-smile clenched teeth and pose for Chris H

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wit, Witty, Whittier Cross-tastic

The pain is real (Photo Credit: Stefan Isfeld). Cyclocross LOOOVES photographers.

My average heart rate at Southern Cross was 176. If we take the 220 - age formula to be true (which it isn't, but that's another story) I was only 5 heartbeats per minute off my recommended max heart rate for the entire race. Given this was the race where I was riding scared, that's pretty F--ing stupid. I didn't even get to stick around for the recovery beer afterward.

First off I must give kudos to the man who wrote this description of last year at Menno Cross because it's perfect. It makes me want to stop writing all cross race reports because the bar has been set too high. All the dis/mounting like "an aborted Triathlon." Brilliant.

Kinda like the series of cross courses this year. The bar keeps getting raised. It appears to be the race discipline of serious games of one-up-man-ship between clubs. I can't speak for Wildwood or St. Malo which I did not race so my assessments would be hearsay but:

At Menno we had mud, mud, and more mud and we had the bunker of terror which paid homage to all amusement park rides known to man. It was agreed upon, all around, that this course would be hard to top.

At Labarrier we had the 16 steps out of hell. But that was about it. I came out of that race thinking that if this was "normal" cross that this wasn't so bad and given that course was lovingly put together in 2 weeks flat by the same cross-loving enthusiasts who created Whittier, well done boys.

And at Southern we had death defying, hay-sliding, downhills that curved at unnatural angles on to other downhills and required an understanding of bike camber beyond my comprehension. Camber. A word I barely understand so I will let Wikipedia do the job. By far, for me, the most difficult race.

And at Whittier we had all of that put together. We had the mud slew, the angled downhills of terror. We had not ONE but TWO stairway climbs created on steep hills immediately followed by a 180 turn on a downhill that went straight into a steep uphill for which most would not have been reclipped at the time of having to attempt that climb. Near-pukage zone of plenty.

It was tough to pre-ride the course as it was meant to be viewed, so I explored it piecemeal prior to race start. I missed the turn down to the river initially because I was in denial that they would do such a thing. I was with another rider who I'd seen at other races but didn't know his name. Its amazing how quickly you can bond with people over phrases like. You've got to be kidding me. Those assholes. OR Where the hell is this course going?

The downhill section that reminded me of my terror from Southern. (Photo: Dave Benson)

There was a sharp left that banked on an uneven surface down to the river that ended in a sharp right onto a path where there was tree weaving that culminated in this:

Clay slew (Photo Credit: Chris Huebner)

Which is how the word "assholes" slipped out of my mouth. On my pre-ride I happened to "cross" paths with Gary, the mastermind behind the Whittier course, who's excuse was, "Hey that's cyclocross."  Yes it is. And I took great pleasure in being witness to the man himself slipping in his own creation during the A race, hitting the back end of his bike on a tree and getting nosed by his own front wheel and breaking his nose. Yes, this IS cyclocross.

Gary, mere seconds after the slippage and recovery with the aid of tree bashing. Hope the nose is OK Gary. I jest about my pleasure. Six hours of water pumping out of the Assinaboine to turn this section from concrete to carnage. Such dedication and perseverance is put in to creating our pain.

Its amazing no one lost a shoe. It rendered pedals unusable for a period of time in any lap. Although points are to be given to Dave's titanium plated Shimano SPDs because from the "talk" after the race, I didn't fair as bad in the clipping and reclipping part as some. Although people (myself included) exaggerate their race woes when they get beat.

I had a great race. I believe I felt like crap. I've forgotten already. I found myself coughing at moments in certain sections of the course which is always the phase-one sign that I'm about to puke. I didn't get lapped. In fact I was the last woman in the race not to get lapped. I believe I came in 6th (out of 12?). My bike carrying skills are improving and after last post's study session with You Tube videos, even my mounts got better as the race went on, even though I can tell by this one sore spot on the inside of my right groin that I was rougher on myself than it felt in the midst of the adrenaline-candy that is racing. I rode my first lap a little scared, still spooked because of my fall in Altona, but the section of the Whittier course that dropped down to the river and had my anxiety raging again, I managed to master after the first lap.

God I love this sport. I love the instant amnesia it creates. And as my friend Jason promised when he ordered (Jason has a way of sounding like he's "ordering" rather than "suggesting") I race cross this year to prep myself to road race next summer, my bike handling skills are getting better and my VO2 max capabilities are improving as well (another concept I only have a rudimentary understanding of). The body is no longer pre-dialed in to one endurance pace.

But my bike handling will never reach THIS outstanding level:

Paul Benson: The winner of the A race, although I hear he was handed a trip to "Dairy Queen" for the bunny hopping. But what an amazing rider. (Photo credit: Dave Benson)
Next stop, Halloween at the Harbour Cross. Its been raining the last two days so it is guaranteed to be a dirty one. I'm wondering if I can mount and dismount in a skirt. Hmmm. Come out and watch. Better yet, come out and race.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mount Me

I got your attention now, didn't I?

Get your mind out of the gutter. My bike would be jealous. (Or, correction, Dave's bike.) 

I'm sitting here in my kitchen the morning of cyclocross race #4, which I thought was yesterday by the way. At the very least I would have unanimously claimed first place. And I'm wondering if I can learn how to mount my bike in 4 hours. Thank God for YouTube.

This is how it is supposed to look:

I guess I know what I'm doing after my morning coffee. There's a park right outside my front door waiting for me.

Wish me luck!

We could have a cyclocross race right out my front door. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Demons of Southern Cross

So I packed up the picnic basket and the offspring and drove off to Altona to try out my third Cyclocross race on Sunday. I have Fort Garry Bike Club and Menno Cross Guru Chris Huebner to thank for the picture. It shows exactly how much of a cyclocross newbie I am as I look peg-legged and awkward all in one shot. How can practically the lightest bike made for cyclocross out there look like it's too heavy? I carry my bike like a girl.

This was the only section of unnatural barriers on this course and it was the least of my troubles in this race. The course was atypically long, approximately 4 km, which worked to my benefit in two ways. First it meant that I didn't get lapped. And second it meant that I only had to tackle this stuff for 4 laps.

The mound of terror (from ABES)

I got to the race nice and early and sent the kids off to play on the play structure and the sawdust mound surrounding the course site. I did two warm up laps and I wasn't far into the first one when I found out what I was in for. I very nearly packed up the bike and the children and drove the hour and 15 minutes back to the city as fast as I could.

First I hit the hill. It came at me off a blind corner so I didn't know it would be there until it was too late and I didn't have enough momentum to get up.

There I am behind these two local racers. It was faster to run the bike up (ABES)

And not long after that came the nearly 180 degree downhill turn. It was one thing to get around the corner. It was another thing to get around the corner and head into a 12 degree downhill grade. I was braking a little too hard and then friction failed me and gravity took over I went down on my left side hard.

And that was it. I was left scattered and shaken. I stood at the bottom of the hill and picked the hay out of the spandex. A couple of Woodcock riders came after me on their warm up and the guy sailed down on his mountain bike and the girl went sailing into the hay. This is foreshadowing. Naturally.

I rode the rest of the course gently and then made myself do a second lap to try and work the kinks out but on my second lap I took one look at the hill and I was off my bike running down. There were two other difficult corners that lead into downhill that similarly had me shaking. I went up to Colin, my coworker who was also commisionairing the race and said: If they have to air lift me off this course during the race, someone needs to know that my children are here with me. 

There is nothing like starting a race believing you are going to die. I hoped the adrenaline would kick in and I would develop balls during the race but, alas, it was not to be. I did manage to actually ride down that hill once on the second lap -- it was an uncontrolled-feet-unclipped-shaky-decent which didn't help my cause so it was also the one and only time I went down seated on my bike.

Lead up to the downhill death drop. (ABES) Don't let its gentle appearance fool you. Its about to turn and get deadly. 

I hope to read this report next year and laugh at my skill-less dumb-twittery. Next year, I will know how to handle that stuff. I will also know how to mount and dismount properly. You read it here first.

A brilliant and epic sand wipe out for this dude. At least the landing was soft. (Woodcock)

And it might be handy to know how to handle riding through sand so that this doesn't happen. I didn't have to worry about wiping out in sand. I ran through it.  Sand was a factor at the St. Malo race as well. It would have been nice to have made both races. There were some pretty sweet prizes if you did but, alas, it was not meant to be.

So it was a great race. Hope I can shake off the demons before the next one at Whittier Park this weekend. Chris from FGBC informs me it is more road friendly. Ahhhh...good, and given that my bicycle benefactor is executing race avoidance tactics, I assume I will still have "the bike." He might have to arm wrestle me for it to get it back.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Open the Door

I'm a pretty open person. This should not come as a surprise given some of the content of this blog. But I was not always so open.

I once had a clinical instructor when I was completing my nursing degree tell me in my final evaluation that I had a knack for developing superficial relationships with people very quickly. I've never forgotten that remark, and at the time I took it as a complement, but in retrospect, I don't think it was intended that way.

I wrote elsewhere about how I went 16 years without making any new real friends. I was good at the superficial -- I've always had the charm and the flair for that -- but not so good at taking my connections with people to the next level and developing those kinds of friendships where you could trust the other person with anything.

I remember one time being at a social when I was in my early 20s and I was having fun goofing around with a girl I barely knew but was working with for the summer. We were at the bar getting a drink and she said, "You're awesome. I'll have to get your number so we can hang out more."

I avoided her the rest of the night. A sad but true story.

I didn't let people in. I kept my personal life to myself. I hid things that I thought people would criticize me for. I was afraid that if I let people see who I really was, I would turn out to be someone they didn't like, or worse, would laugh at me behind my back. To be honest this fear hasn't entirely left me but I'm working on it.

Once when I was still working on a hospital unit, I told a few coworkers I was working on a Master's degree and I watched how that news caused some to start treating me differently -- and I don't mean kindly -- and how it created "talk" when I wasn't around. I didn't like how people I hadn't told personally came up to me and said: "So I hear..... " I mistrusted their curiosity and read it as snideness because of the few people who seemed to, overnight, start scrutinizing my every clinical move as soon as I revealed that information.

So I moved to a new unit and I told no one. There were a few people who already knew of my educational aspirations, and word did get out and my coworkers on this unit, being a culture of calmness and security (it was, in general, a more pleasant place to work), were more supportive.

And that's just a couple of examples. I had girls who called themselves my friends in junior high who simply spread my secrets to embarrass me out of spite and jealousy, and I suppose my reluctance to open up originates there too.

I've talked about how writing my book was a catharsis. The writing in itself was life changing, but ultimately it was talking to people about writing my book that changed everything about how I connected with people. The first person I told about my book by choice rather than by obligation, was a male acquaintance of mine I had known for a little over a year, and I was astounded at how that conversation changed the nature of our friendship in a matter of minutes.

That first telling was the hardest. On a Wednesday before I was to head out to Brandon for my final mentorship meeting, he asked me what I was doing that weekend.

I very nearly lied.

But instead I made a choice and offered to tell him about my "secret life." This made him laugh. Awkwardly.

And he and I talked about many personal things after that and he encouraged me to not be so shut down when things bothered me. He also taught me how to listen to and really hear other people. And I thank him for that gift. For that I will be eternally grateful.

That conversation was a turning point for me. There were many to follow with other people. Writing my book and talking about it gained me many new real friendships.

Then I walked out of my book and waltzed straight into marriage breakdown and talking about that has saved my life too. Although, paradoxically enough, I probably never could have left my marriage if I hadn't developed the ability to open up.  I can remember one memorable day when I was sitting at my staff Christmas lunch and some distressing conversation had happened at home the night before and I blurted out my frustration and pain in front of 7 other people and it caused one of my coworkers to get up and walk around the table and give me a hug.

That day also brought me Deb. Deb and I had shared an office for 5 years and I hardly knew her. And I don't know what made her do it but she looked at me at that luncheon and said, "We should really go out for dinner sometime and chat about things." And this time, instead of brushing her off or making lame excuses, or bolting and avoiding her I said, that would be great. Deb and her husband did a lot to take care of me during that 8 month period of time that I continued to live with my now-X until he found a place to live, and during the period of time after he moved out, which was equally distressing. Aside from listening, she reminded me that I knew how to relax and have a good time. She has forever done more than I can ever repay her for.

I have various other friends who read my rambling confused emails and willingly validate me, just read, or tell me when I'm being stupid. Whatever may be necessary. Lisa especially who I've dumped on a lot  in the last year through two breakups, who read my list of 25 things about me nearly 2 years ago and said she could have written more than half of them herself. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. She's on that road ahead of me and I'm working hard to catch up.

And of course to all my friends who let me focus on other things like bike rides and triathlons and who let me focus on their problems for a while. Some of you have been through worse hurts than I. To those that walk beside.  And to my friend who I thinks I am so very brave for writing things like this while I admire her for bravery in other things. The world wouldn't be a very interesting place if we were drawn to each other's sameness too much.

I may be a much more open person now but, even with this blog, I am a little bit protective of what I write -- some of it is pretty benign but some of it is really personal. I post new entries on Facebook (95% of the time anyhow) but I don't talk about it in general conversation out there in the wilderness of my life. People are welcome to find me by accident.

You know there is a fine line between talking to people about the things that bother you and tear at your soul and feeling addicted to the sympathy. Admittedly, I'm not sure where that line falls some days. I try not to make it all about me. The fear of burdening others on some days holds me back. But I've found value in leaving my door open a crack and inviting others in for a look. My life is a whole lot richer now for sharing than it ever was when I was hiding in my shell.

I am thankful for the people in my life who are there for me always. But friendships aren't worth much if there is more taking than giving. So if you've opened the door for me, I hope I've always been there for you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Look up the odd time. You'll see me.

One of my Facebook friends, who is also a writer, in the last six weeks lost his mother to illness and his girlfriend to a breakup, the two events happening within days of each other, posted a status that professes that he "is (still) writing out grief....."

I don't know him that well but a rather interesting and (somewhat) innocent flirtatious encounter we had four years ago [he made me blush. That's hard to do] garnered a Facebook friendship and I've followed him along ever since.

One of his friends wrote in return: That road is long. I'm only a little ahead of you on it. Look up the odd time; you'll see me.

Brilliant. So brilliant in fact, no one has dared tarnish it by commenting after. 

I understand his pain. I've been there. I've been on that road and I'm still on it although the good days FAR out weigh the bad -- this year. The (still) implies that this grief is grating on him I suppose. I understand that too.

Anyway, I promised a while back that I hoped to not turn into the Alanis Morrisette of blogging so I will stop here and simply say, Thanks to my Friends who've spent a lot of time listening. You know who you are.

And if you are on that road somewhere behind me. Just look up ahead. You're catching up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Translation of Years

Have you ever sat down with an old friend and reminiced about an event you both witnessed years before and each of you remember different things? According to the You are Not So Smart blog, you can even have memories planted so that you believe you experienced an event you were never at.

Having written two novels for which the premise was rooted in events of my own teenage life, I can concur that this is true. The premise of Novel #1 started from a brief relationship (a 5 week one), that I was in when I was 18. [As an aside, and if you go to the link, I can tell you that he was the guy who was spouting off to me about how many kids he wanted to have and when we could get married -- all this in the first couple weeks of our relationship.] More specifically, the novel premise was: "What if I'd had the guts to let the air of his tires when he wanted to drive home drunk?"

I did a lot of journaling when I was a teenager from about the ages of 13 to 21 and then nothing for many years until I began exploring the state of my own marriage. Before I even started writing my first book I had three different versions of that teen relationship accessible to me in various forms. I had the original semi-daily "live" journals from when I was actually in the relationship and going through the the recovery from that breakup. I also had a version of the novel itself that I began writing about a year after that relationship ended. And then I had the memories that still lived in my, then, 34-year old head.

It wouldn't be hard to rank which of the three versions of the story of this relationship were the closest to what actually happened. The least accurate would be my 34-year old memories which would be tainted with 16 years of life and everything I've learnt (which, trust me, isn't much) about relationships in the time in between. The most accurate would be the ones written "live" at the time of the experience. (This is why when you experience a crime or a traumatic event that could bring you to court, it is advised that you write a journal of the event within days of the situation occurring.) Somewhere in between would be that version of the novel I wrote a year after the relationship.

My 34-year old self thought I remembered quite clearly how that relationship ended. It ended with him telling me I was too insecure and how he didn't need to talk to his girlfriend every day. And I carried those words with me for 16 years.

What my journals told me was that my friends had been feeding me unflattering stories about things his buddy was apparently saying about him. Stories he denied and his friend denied telling. He believed his friend, and I couldn't imagine why mine would lie to me.  He told me he didn't like or trust my friends and he didn't want anything to do with them. When I re-read the "live" version, I remembered this contribution to the break-up. But it was a whole other story line angle that I had completely blocked from my memory. Perhaps it is an evolutionary built-in coping mechanism for dealing with pain to forget the parts of the story that are the hardest to deal with.

As much as I try and be honest with myself, I am not always so.

In the midst of starting today's blog I was also carrying on a chat with an old friend from high school. He asked what I was blogging about and I told him it was a little bit about writing, a little bit about my marriage, and a lot about how you alter your memories to suit your purpose. Because leaving a marriage or any relationship requires that to some degree. There is usually a lot of legitimate bad stuff and negativity to weed through, but tucked in the cracks and empty spaces there is always still a little bit of good. You have to alter your memories a bit to target in on the bad stuff so you can have the courage to go through with ending it. Everything about the other person becomes tainted to justify your hostility. You are biased against him (her). You never loved him (her) to begin with and s/he was never that important a person to you and how you landed in this relationship and got married to begin with is baffling. Eventually you hit that point where even the way he unloads the dishwasher is a slight against you.

You choose the evidence that supports your opinion and disregard evidence that refutes your opinion. Kinda like how extremists twist portions of the Bible to justify suicide bombings and terrorism. Irrational to you, but totally rational to those who believe it.

And in our chat my friend pointed out: some evidence is only evidence because you think it is.

Yes, true. I am guilty of this. You hyper-inflate small things to add them to the pile of badness. Like that belief that every time you call his cell phone and he doesn't answer, he's probably sitting over beer with his buddy looking at the call display and cracking jokes about what a nag you are. No. He probably just didn't hear it. That's the kind of "evidence" I'll write about in my journal feeling very upset and irate about and then weeks-months-years later look back and wonder what the big deal was. I don't know. Maybe at the time the offence earned my irateness, but something got lost in the translations of years.

It is a good position to be in when writing a novel, having three different versions of a story to draw from. When I wrote Novel #1, I put the three versions together and mixed it in with some stuff that I knew I made up. Mixed in with a few more things that were going on in my present day life,  and, Voila, I had a nice piece of pure fiction. I don't remember very clearly anymore what parts are real and what parts are made up. The people who inspired particular characters wouldn't even recognize themselves.

Which was a good thing. Because as soon as I finished the novel and started waking up to the condition of my much neglected marriage it became blatantly obvious that my lead male character, who I thought was based on my teenage boyfriend, was actually my husband in disguise. The whole disastrous relationship I created in the novel was actually one giant metaphor for my disastrous marriage and a subconscious search for the "right person" (whatever that means. I'm still figuring that out). I now can open up the book on pretty much any page and see all the subliminal messages.

I wrote a brief summary of the history of how writing my book affected my marriage to a friend a few months after it was finished.
I started writing my book in September and I felt my marriage slipping away from me by October and I'm not sure if it was slipping away from me because I was neglecting it with the time I spent writing or if it was slipping away because of how I was changing inside. Writing made me feel more alive than I have in years. And he took no notice of what I was doing. Had no curiosities about that. He didn't complain though which is support on some level. Or did he not complain because he was relieved I was out of his hair? Who knows. Then I told him what I was doing in December and I asked him to read it (and that was opening the door as wide as I could to let him in on this) and he never did. And that's when I really got alarmed. I told Laurie in April when I went to Brandon about some of this stuff and I told him that this book was more important than my marriage. And he wasn't appalled by that at tall. Another writer I know, his first wife once told him that she would never speak to him again if he ever published ANY of what he wrote. Good God -- he went ahead and published anyway. Writing is an addiction there is no doubt about it. It is a very powerful addiction. Could I ever find someone who is willing to live with that? I read the acknowledgement sections of books, especially if it is a first novel, and these writers always thank their husbands or their wives for their understanding and support and "everything, everything" as one put it, and I could never write that. I'd be lying if I did. 
Of course now, 4 years after I wrote the above paragraph I can see how unfair I was probably being to the X. About writing, I was as self-protective as a turtle walking around with her head under her shell. Hiding my writing from my husband wasn't necessarily just a result of me fearing his ridicule or facing his perpetual disinterest in all things me. Not talking about writing in my marriage was purely a culmination of a life time of not talking about writing with anyone. I'd always thought I had to hide who I was. I was hiding who I was in my marriage too. 

When I finished writing that book and went through the mentorship I was unstoppable. I could do anything. In the same email that the above excerpt comes from -- I did re-read the whole thing looking for that passage (I reminded myself of a few things I had forgotten) -- I also told my friend that I strongly believed that this book was going to bring changes for me, -- positive changes that had nothing to do with fame and fortune. I didn't expect glory. I had confidence I didn't know I had. I felt beautiful and I felt strong and I know it showed. I was feeling things I hadn't felt in years. I felt alive.

And then I decided I was so invincible that I could jump off an emotional cliff and live to tell about it.

My second novel was also built from a premise that came out of my real life. "What happens when a bunch of kids go on a band trip and one of them is in a state of perpetual heartbreak?" This is how I remember my teen life, being in a state of perpetual heartbreak. But in three words it is a book about heartbreak, suicide, and bullying. And it is a good book. Or it will be when I finally get the courage to dig into draft 4.

But I was writing a lead character that was heartbroken because I was feeling heartbroken in my real life.  So there are no subliminal messages here. I was fully aware of where my despair and confusion was coming from when I wrote it. That lead character was a hard head to be inside. My head was a hard head to be inside. At many moments I wasn't sure if I was writing the book based on my present life or if the book was dictating my present life. The line between the emotional worlds of me and my character were very much blurred.  I wrote this book in this state and I haven't fully left it.

I finished my first book at the top of the cliff and then I jumped (or was I shoved?).  I'm still clamouring my way back up. It's a tired old shtick. Heartbreak shouldn't define me.

And this is what stops me from writing fiction right now. I've had an idea in my head for a long time. I acknowledge I am a semi-autobiographical writer and I know it is time for me to leave my teen world behind and be an adult in my writing. What will come out of me next? What subconscious message will eat me alive during the writing process?

I don't know.

I'm terrified.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Do You Know Who I Am?

That's Me around January of 2004 at Nolan's baby shower. 

My X looked after the kids for me this Saturday night while I went out to dinner with my writing mentor Laurie Block who was in town from Brandon. It worked out well because he, concurrently, had an event that he wanted to take the kids too out at the Corn Maze which was going to involve fire pits and hay bales and general all-round muckiness. Ten minutes prior to arriving at my door to pick them up he calls to say he is on his way and, Are they ready?

He'd talked to me the day before about rubber boots and splash pants and jackets and the like for the event because as it is when you don't live in the same house and the kids live in both places, "stuff" inevitably gets divided. So I had Emma's rubber boots and he had Nolan's, he thought, and neither of us were sure about the existence or whereabouts of the splash pants issue.

Well I've asked Emma to put on dark coloured pants because she is wearing beige pants right now but so far she hasn't acted on that, I tell him. I'm doing this for him, you see, I would never get this uptight about what they choose to wear.  And Nolan is wearing jeans that have a rip in the knee .....

Simultaneously over top of each other:
.....which will be perfect for this kind of thing (says me).
.....well those will have to be changed (says he).

Sigh. As usual we are on a vastly different wavelength and have a different opinion. 

OK, I know I just put his wind pants in the wash and they are in the dryer now so I will go and look for them.

But of course the load of laundry I did was HUGE and the pants I was looking for didn't magically align themselves at the front of the dryer. A short panicked dig didn't get me anywhere and I just decided that the only way about it would be to start removing items one by one. And this is where I still was when he got to the door and the kids let him in. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was in a rush and running behind. I find the pants and up the stairs I go and I am greeted to:

Do you have an older sweatshirt for him?

He's helping our son into his brand new sweatshirt, and really, at this point. I'm wondering why he is so worried about the kids getting dirty. They are going to get dirty and laundry will need to be done whether the clothes they are wearing are new or old, ripped or not.

I don't know and I don't know that I would be able to find it right now. And it doesn't matter if he gets that dirty. Laundry can be done.

Oh. OK, says he.

And it was done. The multiple "requests" for me to find them different clothes were then shrugged off like they were never a problem and it occurred to me then that these requests were not because he wanted them or was fussy about this stuff, but because he was walking on eggshells for me.

Which means he doesn't really know me anymore. Was I the kind of wife that would have "flipped out" over the kids getting their clothes dirty? Did I ever "flip out" about anything? Do I "flip out" about things now?

(I admit quite regularly I flip out if someone pulls the rug out from under my feet. Sets up one expectation and delivers another.)

And my next thought was: Does he find it strange to see who I am now? Because I don't wonder that about him at all. As far as I can see, he's exactly the same as he always was.
Am I seriously wearing lipstick? 

Now, in all fairness, he couldn't have really known me during the time we were married. How can you know someone who doesn't really know herself? I've been in therapy for about 4 years now because of the circumstances surrounding the end of my marriage. My visits are more scant than they once were but I clearly remember one session very early on in the process that had me telling my therapist that I had been flipping through an old photo album of pictures of myself from around the time I got engaged into the early portion of my childbearing life and I felt like I was looking at a stranger. I barely recognized the person in the pictures.

And I can still look at a picture and instantly know which era of my life it is from. Like the time I showed one of my post marriage boyfriends the photo on my Costco card and unfairly asked him if he would have dated that woman. I was pregnant with my son  and swollen in the face and had long straggly hair when that picture was taken. I wouldn't have dated me either.

What can I say... I had varied tastes in TV watching from the West Wing to......

.....Veronica Mars my favorite teen super sleuth.

I watched a lot of TV, for one. My life used to revolve around what night of the week it was and when the shows I liked to watch were on. I had to give up something when I started writing my book and it was TV that went and its never came back. For all intents and purposes, I don't watch any TV at all now. Although I spend extraordinary amounts of time on the computer probably equivalent to or exceeding my former TV watching time.

I didn't drink coffee and I hated it. Coffee drinking started also when I started writing my book but started more slowly before that with dessert drinks like cafe mocha and caramel macchiatos and Bailey's Coffee (because all things are better with Bailey's). Now I drink way too much of the stuff. There was a time when a large was big enough in the morning. Now an extra large is too small.

I was more terrified of spending money. There is no way in hell that 5 years ago I would have spent $4000 on a bike. I was the teen who greedily maintained that $1000 minimum balance on my bank account and that lasted until, well, I actually was earning money and living on my own and working and being a grad student at the same time. There was a time that I went to the bank and paid cash to pay off my car loan but I wouldn't spend $2000 to fly to Europe. The days of feeling like I have money are only a dream of now. Divorce + Carpe Diem = DEBT.

I didn't drink alcohol. Rarely. I've often joked that divorce and the threat of it are the sure way to bring your alcohol tolerance back to what it was when you were 19. Now -- I drink more -- enough that in certain circles I feel like I drink too much. But I also have circles that can drink me under the table handily so I figure I'm sorta average. But from rare to average is a lot of drinks.

The melding of my "lives": Me playing baseball in my cycling clothes. I was actually pretty good at this sport. Most "Triathletes" I know claim that they always sucked at team sports.

I didn't exercise. I thought about it a lot though. I tried to talk my now-ex into doing things like going for a walk and taking a bike ride. We played baseball in the summer for beer and pizza (part of the "rare" drinking).

I used to sit down with recipe books and plan out my meals for the family for the week. This was when I was on maternity leave. Who was I kidding? I don't care about cooking. And I didn't then either but I sure thought I was supposed to.

The scary thing is that I was actually  kinda good at this. And Yes, sigh, my daughter really did put nail polish hand prints on the wall. Isnt' she talented? She was not even 2 when she drew that stick figure in the basement office.

I used to Scrapbook -- one of the other things that I quit when I started to write. It was relaxing and I enjoyed the artistic outlet but at a certain point I became overwhelmed with the ridiculousness of it. I had some pages that used to take me 3 hours to complete.

Here's another example: Set to serve two purposes because this is me at the fattest I got after having kids. Before I started running which would have been about 4 months after this picture was taken, I weighed in at about 149 pounds. Now I am around 131 (on a skinny day).

Me at the skinniest I've been post children. At the Police half marathon April 2007 and probably about 120 pounds. Not to be compared with today as I am a different muscle mass ratio now.

I was pretty fat after my kids were born. Fat for me anyway, who's high school weight was 99 pounds. But the funny thing is that I joke about being fat now but I look at those pictures and I have no memory of being as fat as I was in them. 

But those are all just functional things and it is more than that. I have my theories, of course. I can talk about feeling like I was stifled and trapped. I can talk about how I felt like I had no options other than to be what others felt was the path I should be on. I can talk about fear. I can talk about being afraid to show people who I was. I can talk about feeling emotionally dead but unless you've experienced this, you will not know what I mean.  I can talk about that sense of unrest I had and the little obsessive thought that kept returning to my head, wondering if I could write an entire book on my summer vacation.

And then I did. And everything changed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The "Barrier" O'plenty

Isn't it funny how the human mind works? I forgot, in  a week, how painful cyclocross is. That's an even faster turnaround than childbirth.

So given as I am trained as an endurance athlete I had the bright idea that I should ride to the race this week. I estimated that the distance to the park from my house would be about 20 km and I thought that would be the perfect distance for an easy warm up. This would have been a great idea on an ordinary day but this was not no ordinary day. This was a day with 35km winds straight from the south. I was heading straight south. It took me well over an hour to finish those 20-21km and it was pretty difficult to do that and keep my heart rate below 150. And to add insult to injury, I had to take a detour due to a washed out bridge but in actuality, the bridge was only washed out to cars. It would have been perfectly fine to take the bridge by bike.

So I was tired when I started the race and by about lap 4 I was wishing I could stop and have a gel. I needed a boost. This weeks race was at Labarrier Park and it was 25 minutes plus 2 laps and I don't know if they changed how they ran the race this week but I got the 2 lap sign and then I got passed by the leader in my first lap and when I finished lap one of two, my race was done. I never got the bell. I swear the leaders lapped me last week too and I still got to finish the second lap. So unless I missed this guy lapping me twice, who knows. I'll find out when they post the results which should be in a day or so unofficially. I would say that I did about the same as last week. The same girls beat me. The same girls were behind me. And it was still as much fun. I went off course at one point. I followed some other guy and it required a little bit of maneuvering to get back but ultimately I passed all the same people I had passed before and probably still finished in the same place.

My Mom and Dad came out to watch and so did Jen and I got a few good action photos to share between my Dad and Jen. And you'll notice that I still have "the bike" -- Dave is out of town this weekend and when I went to bring it back he told me to keep it since he couldn't use it anyhow. That guy, let me tell you..... You'd think he had given me a kidney the way I react.

I love this picture my Dad took of Nolan running in the wind with his too big sweatshirt. There is nothing that can put a smile on my race pained face like my kids yelling "GO MOMMY GO". I loved having them there watching.

Well I sorta look like I know how to run up a hill with a bike. There were 12 barricades in a row in only one place in this race and there was more than one 4 letter word heard on this section of the course. Most of them out of my mouth.

Fall racing is beautiful. Pushing on through the leaves.

A better view of how many barriers there actually were. My friend and co-worker Colin told me he was the one that set these buggers up. I didn't count but 10-12 of them in a row. I told him I was going to kill him at the end of the race.

And Yes, my remounts need work, so Rick, one of the Alter Ego shop boys (he'd love being called a boy.... someone told me how old he was once and he is far older than you would ever think) told me at the end of the race. He told me my dismounts weren't so hot either. He might have caught sight of me on the one where I nearly endo'd getting off my bike. That was the tired wind pushing legs at work. It was nice having Rick cheering too.  And the guy who is in the old Alter jersey up ahead is the one the went off course and caused me and several others to follow. Oh well.

An even better view of the barriers 'o' plenty (From the Woodcock Facebook Page)