Saturday, May 17, 2014

I Shall Fear No HIll. - Take 2 (Are you crazy to ride this again?)

So Spring is here, then goes away, then is here and it rains for several days, sunny for one or two, rains again. Hey I live in Iowa. I have managed to get miles in. Some more hill training. Several days of hills and headwind. I strangely embrace it now. I see the 15-20mph headwind and some small quiet part of me says hey...GO RIDE IN THAT! Go find the biggest damn hills you can for today and pedal up and down them in that headwind. Damn the voices in my head are strange!

TOMRV is pretty heavy on my mind. I'm training, planning, training some more. I feel like mentally it should be something I'm not afraid of anymore. A part of me is not. I know what's out there on those hills. I know those roads now, those climbs. I know that feeling of climbing Chestnut Mtn and realizing after 60 miles of flat land shit just got real. I remember looking back at Ellen and seeing that thought reflected on her face as she pedaled up it too. To that I say thank you God for my cycling soul sister. The only woman I know who will happily ride hills and headwind with me and love it just as much too!

After Chestnut it's nothing but hills for the next 140 miles and two days.  I now know what it feels like standing up on the pedals using every bit of weight and muscle I have in the lowest gear I've got to climb the Wall. Realizing that 80 miles into the day I have to climb that beast and there was no way in hell I could get any momentum going before I start to climb it. That it really is a damn WALL. Heart pounding, legs burning, fear, adrenaline and the prayers...dear God let me make it up this hill. I don't, won't, can't fail.

 My first hill ride took place after the epic century in flip flops. Aunt Vicky invited me to ride with their club and took me under her wheel so to speak to make sure I was ready for my first Ragbrai.  She tricked me again you know and I should have figured after I got suckered into my first century ride that she's pretty wily! By the way I think I rode those hills in flip flops too! I did lose the 15lb backpack though, bought a bike bag and with my new jersey I was feeling rather excited to meet new people and ride with a group again.

So how far are we gonna ride today Aunt Vicky? Oh....50 miles sure! No problem now....wait of hills? Like all 50 miles are hills. Continuous hills? Seriously? UGH I hated hills. I knew all the flat routes everywhere in Newton. Seriously. Why work hard, work smart! Take the flat route, even if it was a little bit longer. So oh happy joy we are riding hills today...but she's looking at me like that look she ha,s it's like half smart ass grin, half I am daring you and she's waiting for you to admit weakness. Because if you admit it she's gonna challenge you, motivate you and she's pretty much going to double dog dare you so you may as well just get on the bike and ride.  She's going to win. I like that about her.  Well I won't and I don't like to admit my weaknesses so I got on my damn bike and decided if I could ride that century ride I could damn well do half that distance and some hills. They couldn't be that bad. Right?

So if you ever want some great hill training ride eastern polk county. Seriously, you will learn how to use your gears, you will learn to shift and you will get as many hills as you'd like all day long if you want to ! There big hills, longer hills, steep hills, short hills, sneaky hills.  As we rode out of Altoona to the route there were these little baby rollers and I was like oh these are nice hills, this will be ok! Those are NOT the hills. That's like a bump in the road. Recently Ellen and I took a friend from one of our cycling groups out on his first hill ride. We did those little baby rollers and he was like "Hey these are good I got this." I smiled and nodded because you can't simply tell someone these arent really the hills yet. I looked at Ellen she too had that slightly gleeful yet knowing look that his idea of hills was about to be completely redefined.

You don't have to wait long, you get about 5 miles out and you realize those baby rollers were definitely not the hills.  As Ellen and I looked back on our friend riding up to the crest of the first of 7 miles of rolling steep long climbs I watched his face, expression. I thought, yup that's what I must have looked like too and we did chuckle a bit.  Not in a mean way but we knew after he rode this he would be a very different rider. He will never look at that flat trail to Cummings the same way again!  Kudos to you Josh by the way for being such a damn champ and setting out in a 20mph headwind to ride some hills with two bike crazy women! You're AWESOME!

So what's that look? It's a cross between awe, fear and stupidity. Your mouth makes a little O as in you're forming the words OH SHIT because that's what just went through your mind.  I damn well remember seeing that look on Aunty Vicky's face, that silent chuckle and grin. She knew I was about to be changed as cyclist.  That was if I survived! I had some serious doubts at that point. However that little voice inside me was gaining volume, gaining confidence and reminded me I am stronger than I give myself credit for and I wasn't going to give up before trying.

Let's just say I got really familiar with the granny gear and seriously I had gears but no real understanding of how to use them. It happens to all newbie riders. I'm not ashamed to say it.  There's a learning curve. So my basic riding style at this point was hit the bottom of the hill, drop it in the granny gear and slowly make my way up.  Hey it worked, not the best or fastest way to get up the hills but my legs could do it and I made it.  I was also the last person in the group and lagged behind by a mile or so but I could see them all out in front of me so I just kept pedaling along, up and down. The group would stop and wait periodically for everyone to catch up then we'd set out again. We made it Monroe, had a bite to eat then turned around to head back.  I was getting pretty worn out by then. My legs feeling like Jello. My quads aching and my knees were feeling it.

We were taking the same route back so I had a little bit of an idea of the hills coming now and as we approached the steepest longest one on the way back we caught up with my Uncle.  He was just up ahead slightly of me starting down the hill before the big climb.  Everybody likes a good down hill right? I'm no different. I coasted down the hill thinking I needed to rest up my legs for a few seconds before I started that climb back up. I hit the bottom of the hill and dumped her in granny gear (don't judge lol I was a newbie rider!)  and I started that slow climb about 20 feet behind my uncle.  My legs were tired. They hurt, they cramped a bit and my enthusiasm was faded out and I just wanted to get to the end of this hill climbing torture session and go back to riding every flat route I could find. Vicky could keep her damn hills and I still hated them.

Here's what was in my mind....I could just walk. I'll pull off to the side and I'll walk. There's no shame in walking a hill. Here I am in my first serious season of riding and I hadn't walked a hill  yet but if ever there was a hill to walk this was it. Look at it, it's like 1/2 mile long at least maybe 3/4 a mile. Like what an 8% grade?? Who knows but my legs are not going to make it. Nope so I should do the smart thing and get over to the side and get off. My legs will feel better for the break, I'll walk up the hill and I'll get back on. That's the plan. Then I heard it. My Uncle in front of me, "Rosebud, how you doing back there?"

My head came back up from staring at the road below me and I realized I was just behind him now.  I could hear the music faintly. He's got me in his rearview mirror.  He's smiling and chuckling a bit as he uses his arms to pedal forward. My Uncle is a hand cyclist.  I watched his arms smoothly pushing, pulling and moving continuously.  He's talking at me as we go up the hill, about gears, shifting, tips on hill riding.  He's distracting me from my own thoughts thankfully long enough for that newly found slightly crazy voice inside me to pipe back up and this is what she said. He can't quit. He comes out here, rides these hills knowing there is only way home. He has to face them, head on and ride up them. There is no option to walk. There is no flat route. There is no quitting, no pity parties, no giving up. It's actually very humbling when you're face to face with someone who has that magnitude of courage. I was truly humbled and a little ashamed for thinking about walking up that hill.

 I've always been proud of my family. Who I am and where I come from. But in that moment I realized my Uncle Vernon was my hero. He's my hill riding motivation. Sorry Aunt Vicky, you're the best hill riding person I know. I've watched both her and Sue climb hills like they're machines. So smooth, strong, efficiently and fast.  When I grow up I want to be just as good a rider however Uncle Vernon is my hill hero. He taught me something more valuable that day than just how to shift better or why I should keep pedaling after I get to the top of the hill. He taught me you can't avoid the hills in life. When you face them head on with a good attitude, smile and determination you're a better person for it. I made a vow that if he can't walk them and won't give up then neither will I.  Thus was born the "I shall never walk a hill again" vow.   Because of that hill ride Aunt Vicky tricked me into ( I love her so I'm totallly kidding!) I rode my first hills on Ragbrai comfortably and happily and I never once contemplated getting off my bike to walk again no matter the size or distance!

Fast forward to my first TOMRV  last Spring and the "Wall".... Dear God let me make it up this hill. I don't, won't, can't fail. Since that first hill ride the year before and the "vow"'  I hadn't walked a single hill. I didn't want to and I stopped avoiding them. I damn sure didn't want this to be the hill that broke me or that vow.  Both my Aunt & Uncle have ridden it, more times I'm sure than I realize so I sure as hell was going to ride it too!  I pushed down, pulled up, I cut back and forth I inched up that hill and at one point I'm pretty sure when I glanced down at my odometer it said .5mph. That was when the zing of fear and praying started, mentally though because I was breathing hard doing work up that hill. I did say a silent "F" you hill and finally I made it to the top.

TOMRV was one of the most physically and mentally demanding things I've ever done in my entire life. I'm proud of that jersey. I earned it through determination, sweat and yes some tears. I completed it last year and it made me so much stronger physically and mentally.  It was also one of the most beautiful rides I've been on so far. The scenery, the roads, the views. There is no better way to see it then on your bike. Sometimes I was so busy enjoying the view I forgot I was riding uphill for 2hrs!

So why am I pushing myself even harder this year? Why am I riding more hills, more miles than I did last year? Because I don't want to just finish. I want to kick TOMRV's ass. Seriously. I don't want to spend miles 180-200 giving myself a pep talk and in tears gutting it out and learning that I have a deep well of reserve and strength. I want to climb Clark Hill at 105.5 miles with a beer in hand and a smile. I want spend day 2 feeling strong still, not hoping I have enough in me to get to the end but knowing I have more than enough and time to have a beer in the last town before the finish :)

Most of all I want to finally put to rest the fears and doubts about my own physical ability and truly mean I shall fear no hill. Big or small I can climb them all. I am after all a Willey and I hear I've  got hill climbing in my genes so TOMRV 2014.... 21 more days but I'm going to be ready.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is It Biking Season Yet?

For some reason it feels like this winter was longer than last. Maybe it was the unending waves of snow followed up by several "Polar Vortexes"? I am anticipating this season even more than the last and well for me that's saying A-LOT!

New this winter was my butt on the bike on my trainer. My goal was 3x a week. I'm really proud that for all of January & February I made that happen. I also ran 2x a week and did at least two workouts a week with weights. Throw in some Yoga a few times weekly as well. I feel like I'm starting to really see the results of it all in my clothes and how I feel. I'm sad to say that the first week of March saw me with a bit of a nasty bug and I fell off my workout regime.  I managed to pick up a a run, a gym workout and 1 trainer ride. It's ok or at least I'm telling myself that because seriously I killed it for two months right? So this week I'm getting back on track!

If you're in Iowa you know that Mother Nature finally stopped being so moody and graced us with some beautiful weather! Saturday hit 35 degrees and found me & my girl Junebug out for the S.P.E.R.M. ride! (St. Patrick's Easy Ride In March) I'm sure you can tell there were some serious shenanigans going on!  Just awesome to be out, see all my biking friends, toss back a few beverages in the sunshine and talk bikes, bike rides and more bike stuff all day long. Insert dramatic sigh of happiness here!

So after Saturday's shenanigans I got a bit of a late start to Sunday but finally the draw of sunshine and chirping birds found me venturing outside to be greeted with 50 degree weather! I really did do a happy dance on the porch steps! Unfortunately I realized very quickly I had two choices. Ditch all the day's responsibilities and bike OR get them done so during the week with more foretasted nice weather I could ride several days. OK FINE! I got my chores done and I really glad because Monday brought 65 degrees and I finally released the Pink Princess from the basement trainer!

I started the day thinking I would take a quick 10-15 around the south end of town past the Iowa Speedway and out towards Reasnor. A great county road out there that doesn't have alot of traffic and several nice rolling hills.  That was until I got a message on the Velorosa team board about a 25mi training ride! Well that put the hustle in me as in I grabbed my girl Pink geared up and pedaled up to Mojo to hope our FAVORITE bike shop guy Joe would squeeze us in for a quick tune!

(Up on the bike stand geting cleaned up & tuned up!)

Thankfully he did! Or maybe he's thankful we stopped by since he finally talked me into ordering a new bike. More to come on that but hey a girl can't have too many bikes. They're like shoes. You have different shoes for different occasions right? Well....I have different bikes for different rides! Junebug is my town girl & commuter. We bike to work, the store, errands.  Pink has been my adventure girl and road ride. She will always be! Do not doubt the bond between a girl and her bike. She's been my faithful friend for 5000 miles and two years. I will own her for the rest of my life I kid you not. But the next adventure outside my comfort zone will be on a full carbon with Shimano Ultegra components in hot pink, black & white. I've not named her yet but I'm sure that will come soon!

Hello beautiful! I definitely have a woman crush on this bike! 

So after our quick tune up I loaded up Pink and we took off for Des Moines and to meet the ladies of Velorosa Cycling. I joined this year to learn more, push my limits, challenge myself and well just become a bad @$$ bike babe in general ;-).  When it comes to cycling & racing in Iowa these ladies definitely have alot of skill & knowledge.  

So of course in honor of the occasion out came my fantastic Vanderkitten Vip kit! I wish I had remembered to snap a few pics but I was so focused on finding the meeting point, getting geared up, meeting everyone and riding.  It was a challenge! While I'm thankful I'm in alot better shape right now than I was this time last year it took a few miles to get warmed up again.   We started in right away with pace line drills and for the next 25 miles we definitely did work! I found myself feeling rather newbie all over again.  I mean really I've ridden pace lines on rides but this was different. The constant  rotating of position. Keeping it smooth, adjusting to the ever moving ebb and flow of the riders around you, staying smooth yourself and up to speed.  I didn't do as well as I had hoped to but better than I thought I would still.  I was ok for the first 22 miles but got dropped from the group the last 3 miles.  

I created a course on Map My Ride to track each time I ride the route going forward and to track my progress. Thought I'd share and if anyone else uses Map My Ride feel free to ride the course!

While I'd like to think a couple things were working against me like my right clete being slightly twisted and tweaking my knee causing a cramp in my quad periodically that I refused to admit or acknowledge (because I was sooo dang sure I had them adjusted last week and so maybe I hadn't remembered to tighten the right one back up) or maybe the week off the trainer in addition to my last few trainer rides taking it a bit easy on myself.  How about we just have an honest little moment here, get humble and say....I have alot of room to improve and grow. I have alot to learn but I've started and so that was the hard part.  Facing down the nerves, the fear of not being as good as I want to be, yet.  I'm not there YET. 

 Here's what else I learned.   I hate Winter. If I had taken that ride following Ragbrai or TOMRV I would have killed it.  I hate that Winter sapped my stamina and strength. I rolled bigger longer hills faster last year.  I hate being the weakest hill climber. I am kinda mad at myself for not pushing myself harder in my own training.  But I can change that. It's the second week of March.  There is time and well I am definitely motivated. YUP! MOTIVATED!  So I'm going to pat myself on the back for the fact that I could not have done that ride last year as well and I would have not survived the first five miles two years ago but this time next year I won't get dropped again.  Oh and 88 days on TOMRV 2014 I won't be 5 min behind the group. I won't be the slowest hill climber. I will be AWESOME!!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Live Like You Were Dying.

That's a thought provoking title. What it means to each person is probably different things. If you were Tim McGraw it would mean sky diving, rocky mountain climbing and going 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. He talks about loving deeper, speaking sweeter, and giving forgiveness.   That song has always stuck with me. First because Tim Mc Graw is a damn stud and sexy as heck bald man. I may be partial to those. Throw in he wears a pair of jeans and a cowboy hat you're gonna have to wipe the drool off my chin. ANY distracted there.

Recently a little article popped up on my facebook feed about 37 that people who are dying say they regret.  I'd encourage everyone to read it. What I found most thought provoking was these were alot of regrets I was having entering my early 30's.  I didn't quite know it at the time but I was very dissatisfied with who I was, how I was living, what I was doing in many ways.  Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of wonderful things happening in my life then as well. I had two happy, healthy beautiful children. I was a coach for a thriving cheer leading competition program. I had a wonderful career and worked with people who really motivated and inspired me.  It was those ladies who really opened my eyes to many things and really taught me some wonderful life lessons, but there were still things I wasn't doing in my life and I felt like I was missing some things.

While I had done and was doing some things on that list. I had traveled, I quit a terrible job and was pursuing a career I enjoyed and I was learning to stand up for myself, there were still many things that I wasn't doing. It's actually very ironic the things the article talks about as it really hits the nail on the head of many things that were missing in my life.

I was staying in bad relationships, letting fear paralyze me, not making physical fitness & my health a priority. I definitely cared too much what others thought of me. Not what I thought of me and certainly I cared too much about what the wrong people thought of me. Those toxic, self serving, self absorbed people who weren't really there for me but I was serving a purpose for them. By  keeping me down I made them feel better about themselves or justified their poor behaviors. While I supported the dreams of many I often put my own on hold or let them go entirely. I procrastinated terribly in some decisions. Often hoping by not making one it would work itself out in some way shape or form. I was afraid of making the wrong ones. Which it does, but it was never the way it could have been if I had taken action on it.  I was always too busy surviving one moment to the next to appreciate alot of good things around me. I started things that never got finished. I worried constantly, got swept up in needless dramas of friends & family and I failed to be grateful not just for what I had but to those in my life who meant something to me.

It's actually rather frightening looking back on it. Who really sets a course in life to live like that? No one. No one intentionally sets out to live their life that way. It's a series of decisions you make that while you're making them you think you're doing the right thing at that time. That pretty much sums it up. I thought by staying in a relationship where I was not valued as a person I was doing the right thing for my children. That "making it work" was a good thing. In some cases it is. That's only if the other person in the relationship gives two hoots about you as a person though and also puts in their 50%.  If they don't then you're staying in a bad relationship.  Learn to understand and know the difference.

 I thought by putting aside my dreams and passions and supporting everyone else's I was being selfless and I would somehow be rewarded or recognized for my sacrifices.  No one appreciates a "martyr" except another martyr so don't go there. Seriously. If someone truly is a good person and cares about you the right way they will NOT want you to live a life of martyrdom.  A person who truly cares about you will encourage you to live your dreams, explore your passions. They will do so with you and support you every step of the way.

Do NOT procrastinate. You will blink and realize life passed you by because you waited too long. Decisions you do not make will take you for a joy ride often to places that were worse than the decision you were going to make.  Don't be afraid to make a decision because it might be the wrong one. Guess what if it is you can make a change, make another one or do something about it.  That's the beauty of it. When you make the decisions and choices they are yours and you are in control of them.  Do not be afraid of the consequences of your actions. We are all here to live life, make mistakes and LEARN from them. Every decision I have made good or bad has ALWAYS turned out better than any decision I never made. When I let life or those around me make them.

Put down your phone. Shut off the television, get off the computer (yes even get off reading this but only after you finish reading of course!) look around you and BE IN THE MOMENT.  This moment will be gone in another moment. You will NEVER get it back. Think on that. Are you going to miss your child's big play on the soccer field because you were scrolling through the aimless dribble on facebook every 5 seconds? Are you going to miss seeing the sunset because you could NOT miss an episode of your favorite show about fake people living fake lives doing fake things instead of being a real person, living a real life doing real things? REALLY ARE YOU?!?

And for god sakes be grateful. The thing that really drives me crazy about life today and the people in it is this conception of entitlement. I am this. I should get that. You owe me....Your company better give this to me because I deserve it....I got this so I should get that. NEWS FLASH here but to each of us is owed NOTHING! I don't care who you are, where you are in life, what you did before or after this moment but life, society and the world doesn't owe you shit unless you went out there and worked for it. If you've done nothing but be a demanding self serving whining brat I sincerely hope life takes a big old reality check dump on you. What's more I sincerely enjoy when it does because it means you have been given the opportunity to learn the lesson about being grateful. Be grateful for the life you have.  Why? Because you are ALIVE. Period. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my refrigerator, family, friends and I am alive. Oh and a bike of course! So everyday I thank God for all of it and I'm grateful. Because I learned that lesson,  I've never felt more satisfied with who I am and where I'm at or what I have.

I find it ironic that at 37 I can say I am living these 37 things. While I don't have them all mastered by any means there really is no better feeling than looking at myself in the mirror today and living with alot less regrets. I am often asked why the hell am I so positive, happy and just so damn annoyingly perky? (Yes I secretly enjoy my perkiness annoys your grumpy asses!)  Read the article. I am living my life to the best of my ability without 37 regrets. I look at things in terms of if I was dying how would I look back on this?  I've worked to eliminate the negativity, the toxic things and people and I focus my time, energy and activities on those that are positive, fulfilling and make me happy.  EVERYDAY I CHOOSE TO GET UP AND FIND SOMETHING TO APPRECIATE AND BE HAPPY ABOUT.

Everyone has a choice they can make to live this way. They're not easy choices but you do have a choice so, when you choose not to just know that's your choice too. Maybe not a good one but by accepting less than what you could or should or making no choice to change is also a choice you've made. The best thing about life is everyday you wake up alive you have another day to make new choices! Choose wisely! Maybe choose to live like you were dying....Food for thought...we all are.

Just Keep Pedaling!