30 miles

September 29, 2008

The Great Bike Commute of 2008 has begun.  This morning I dragged my sorry self out of bed at an hour I don’t really want to talk about.  The weather was very good to me considering that it rained for most of the weekend and all night.  When I left the house it was pitch dark and I was extremely grateful for my NiteRider bike light.  For the first half-mile my heart rate was through the roof mostly just from fear and adrenaline.  It’s really a bizarre feeling to be out biking alone in the dark.  Of course there are no streetlights where I live, so it’s a pretty dark ride.  Once I settled in I just started grinning with the satisfaction of knowing that I’m embarking on this exciting challenge.

I was a little late for work because I didn’t factor in time lost for descending huge hills (that I usually fly down) that were a little more scary when it’s wet and dark out.  Anyway, by the time I got to work the sun was almost up and it didn’t feel so weird to be on a bike anymore.  Luckily there is a shower at work so I was able to clean up before getting on with my day.  You’ll also be relieved to learn that I managed to transport my coffee with me.

All day I was really excited for the ride home.  Not that biking is that special to me, but there’s something about knowing that I’m using my bike to commute that’s fun.  GB wants to know if this enthusiasm will still exist by the middle of January.  Possibly not.

I actually rode into town to pick up the truck so I can sell it so my afternoon commute was about 20 miles.  Combined with my ride to work, that makes 30 miles of fuel-free transportation.  Not entirely true since I had to buy a Luna bar to fuel my body.  It’s not that bad of a commute distance wise, but I live in those things that Elizabeth refers to as “mountains”, so by Spring I should be pretty burly.

Thanks to all of you for your encouragement.  It’s a little bit of a crazy undertaking but I’m committed and totally fired-up about it.

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Going Green

September 29, 2008

Yesterday I took my car in for repairs.  It’s an old car.  A big gas-guzzling SUV, to be exact.  With rear wheel drive just to make winter driving that much more hazardous.  I asked the repair shop not to do anything to it until they could give me an estimate.  The woman called back with an optimistic and cheery voice telling me “it’s not that bad, actually”.  Relieved, I listened to her rail off the various things wrong with my truck and had almost tuned out when she said “seven-fifty-three”.  There was a long silence and then I said “seven HUNDRED?!?”.  “Yes” she replied cheerily, “seven HUNDRED and fifty-three”.  I nearly dropped the phone.  I suppose I should have seen this coming, but alas I did not.  Last fall GB and I swore that I would drive that truck for one more year and then we’d get something safer and more efficient.  However, when this fall rolled around we had simply not planned well enough to buy a new (or even used) car.

So…I spent a few hours completely stressed about it and pondering over what to do.  I really don’t want to spend ANY money on this vehicle since it’s nearing the end of its life, but GB commutes much farther than I do, and in the opposite direction, so carpooling is out.  I live in rural New England.  My work is pretty far from my house and there is no public transit out here.  And then it occurred to me…

I can bike to work.

If I ride my bike to work I will save $70 a week in gas.  That is a lot of money.  Not to mention that if I get rid of my car, I will save myself “seven-fifty-three” smackeroos in repairs (and that’s just THIS time).  I have  spent more time than I’d like to admit surfing various winter bike commuting websites and trying to establish whether this plan is feasible and have decided that it is.

I already have a great bike light and the appropriate gear for fall riding, at least.  With a month’s gas money I can probably outfit myself with sufficient gear to allow for a warm and safe commute in the snow.  And I’ll have found an easy way to maintain some of my fitness through the winter months.

Since my car is still at the repair shop, I’m going to initiate this nonsense tomorrow.  No point in prolonging the fun and I should probably start getting accustomed to leaving the house in the dark.  Now the only problem is figuring out how I’m going to transport my coffee so that I can drink it when I get to work.

Difficult

September 26, 2008

These past few weeks have not been the best. I have been struggling with work and feeling like I’ve hit a wall. This has been a source of a great deal of frustration and angst on my part as I try to figure out what that means for my future. Yesterday I talked on the phone with my boss from ten years ago. He’s a great guy and I looked up to him a lot when we worked together. His take on the whole thing was this: When you hit a wall in life, it’s a sign that you’ve outgrown your situation. In this case you have to decide whether you need to move on, or whether you need to stay in the situation your in and recreate it so that it works for you. This perspective was incredibly helpful to me (especially yesterday when I was breaking down pretty regularly).

GB is in grad school now and doing an internship and absolutely loving it. The contrast between my feeling about my professional life and GB’s mood about grad school has been pretty significant. Although things are great between us as a couple, it’s never fun when one person comes home feeling completely beat-down and frustrated. Especially when that’s an ongoing thing.

Today was a little better. I worked hard on reshaping my thinking and tried to do things a little differently than I have been. Hopefully I can get creative and find ways to keep that up so that my work is sustainable. Although I desperately yearn for a change, I’m not sure that’s the path of least resistance at this time in my life.

Training has been virtually non-existent lately which is probably not helping things. I’m taking some ‘fun’ training time but haven’t really been maximizing the potential of that. I have plans to get moving again this weekend and am suddenly a lot more motivated now that I see a run test on the calendar for the week after next!

I have decided that I’d like to try to run a marathon next year.  I never have before and it seemed like a fun winter goal.  I’m going to race the Bermuda marathon in January.  Anyone else want to join me?  It’ll be a blast.

Squirmy

September 22, 2008

Today was a good time.  I had a slow-ish morning with GB and then drove to watch Elizabeth in her race.  I took the Finn-dog with me which was extremely traumatizing for him.  There were people all over the place which is just about Finn’s worst nightmare.  He got better as the afternoon went on, but it was not his favorite outing.  I’d like to tell you about Liz’s race but she hasn’t blogged about it yet, so it’s not my place to tell you that she won.  So instead I’ll just tell you about how Finn ignored Elizabeth and sat facing the bushes so he wouldn’t have to look at all the people.  It was fun to get to watch Elizabeth run and even Finn agreed with that.

After the race, we extended the trauma-trip by driving to my friends’ house to see their new baby, Nicholas.  He is recently home from the hospital and is just ridiculously tiny.  All squirmy and red and wrinkly.  The spitting image of his father.  I spent a few hours getting my baby-fix and then drove home.  Finn was ecstatic to be back in his own territory where the world is predictable and quiet.

I too, am happy to be back at our quiet little abode and ready for a good night’s rest.

Temptation

September 14, 2008

I was mighty pleased with myself this morning for dragging my body in it’s altitude-induced state of sluggishness out for a run.  I decided to run the Mesa Trail which was both gorgeous and uphill.  It was a perfect way to start the day and I was so glad I had taken the time to drive out there and ground myself before a long day of brain-frying learning.  I had hoped I might be able to sneak out for a lunchtime swim but it became quickly evident that such a thing would not be possible.

I’m not sure if it’s the West, or Boulder, or the mountains, or travelling alone, or all of these factors, but I did this same trip two years ago and both times I have found myself in an extremely introverted state while I’m here.  I have no desire to meet anyone and a strong desire to hike in the mountains and explore things on my own.  The only thing I wish is that I could rent a dog for a day or teleport one of my dogs.  It seem such a shame to not be able to share these amazing trails with a canine companion.

I was talking to GB on the phone today and it went something like this:

Me: so…I love it here.  It’s gorgeous.  They have sunshine 300 days a year.

GB: 300 days, huh?  Do you love it more than you love to live close to family? [our eventual plan is to move to the midwest to be close to GB’s family – neither of us is crazy about the midwest.  Both of us are crazy about mountains.]

Me: no.  I mean yes.  I mean no.  I don’t know.  Family.  Sunshine.  Tough call.

GB: well, it’s something we should definitely talk about.

[insert long, pensive silence]

Me: you know, I keep having to remind myself that it’s easy to idealize a place when you’re just visiting.  I mean, there are loads of things that are less desirable about this place.

GB: like what?

me: I haven’t thought of any yet, but I’m working on it.

Anyway, it’s not like we’re going to pack everything up and move to Colorado tomorrow.  I have at least two more years in my current job and GB is just starting grad school.  But there’s something about a place that is outdoorsy and healthy and so beautiful it makes your chest ache.  Know what I mean?

Unwinding

September 13, 2008

Well folks, I’m in the triathlon mecca of the West here.  I’m at a work thing in Boulder and I’m pretty happy about it.  I got into town today after spending last night in Denver with some of GB’s extended family which was a total blast.  I stopped in at Pearl St. today to get some great coffee and drool over Patagonia clothes.  Tomorrow morning before I start working I’m planning to get in a solid trail run.  The altitude and dry air are definitely getting to me but I’m desperate to get out there and run.  There’s also a chance I might sneak a swim in at lunch time tomorrow, but we’ll see how that goes.  My main goal is trail running at this point because it’s so beautiful.  I love Boulder.  I was here two years ago and didn’t want to leave.  When I was last here I was going through some hard stuff and was really able to unwind and find some peace.  I’m hoping the same will be true this time since I have the feeling that I desperately need to unwind.  There’s something about the mountains and huge open spaces that really helps with that.

Anyway, I’m off to get some sleep since it’s nearly 10pm at home and my body still thinks it’s out east.

Grist

September 11, 2008

A friend of mine has a friend who is a little bit of an athletic fiend.  He gets enthusiastic for certain sports almost in an addictive way.  Last winter he was completely obsessed with cross country skiing.  Usually it’s basketball.  Right now it’s road biking.  Since it is road biking, he frequently calls me to talk bikes or to see if I want to ride.  Lately there have been a lot of reasons why I have said no (sickness, wedding, other things going on) but yesterday when he called I decided I should probably ride with him.

It’s important to understand that although this is someone I generally like, he reminds me a lot of the TV character Larry David because of his inability to read social cues or conduct himself in an adult-like way during certain situations.  So, to protect his innocence, I will call him Larry for storytelling purposes.

Understand that while I am about to describe Larry, I am doing so purely so you can get the full picture and not because I have any particular judgments about what people where when they are exercising.  Larry shows up at my house at 4.30pm.  He has an old steel-frame bike with shifters on the down tube.
He is wearing old, faded ski tights from the 1980’s, white cross-trainers, an Under Armour shirt, and an old cycling hat (on backwards like they wore them in the LeMond days).  As I take in the scene, waiting for him to get ready, I watch him put on an enormous fanny pack which completes his outfit.  It occurs to me that there is room for another bike in there but I resist asking what’s in the pack.

As we leave I tell Larry that I don’t want to ride with him in the future if he chooses not to wear a helmet.  I take my usual self-important stance on helmets, citing the three people I know who would be dead if not for their bike helmets.  Larry tells me I’m a fascist and that he likens himself to an extreme athlete.  Larry says he is the cycling equivalent of climbers who free-climb at El Cap.  I point out that he is a bad example to children and he finally concedes that this is a good point.

Less than two miles into our ride, two motorcycles blow by us precariously close.  Ordinarily that was one of those situations where I would be frustrated for a while afterwards and would then let it go and get on with my ride.  Well, ordinarily I don’t ride with Larry.

Larry turns around to see a third motorcycle flying towards us and starts gesturing at the guy.  The guy pulls up alongside us and Larry starts cursing at him and threatening him.  They are both stopped and yelling at each other.  I am sure that this motorcyclist (who is wearing a helmet, incidentally) is going to kill Larry (who is not wearing a helmet).  He is revving his engine like he is thinking of revenge and I am getting increasingly uncomfortable.  I have no desire to be in any kind of battle with this man and I am trying to seem like I am on the edge of all of this.  I watch as Larry starts to grab at the guy’s license plate and scream at him about taking it.  Larry is 59.  I am sure in that moment that he is going to die an early death.

Eventually, things die down and Larry runs across someone’s yard and into their house to call the police chief.  The vision of him still straddling his bike with the front wheel INSIDE these peoples’ house on their top step is just too much.The other two guys on the motorcycles loop back around and drive by closely again at probably 80mph.  By body is pumped full of adrenaline and I am furious at Larry for provoking these angry men.

Eventually we get out of there and continue our ride.  Larry is all victim and I am so angry at him that I do a very rare thing and actually speak my mind on the issue.  I tell him that he unnecessarily provoked the guys, that he took the low road and tried to resort to violence, and that he had made the road less safe for the next bicyclist these guys came upon.  And not to mention, there was a young child watching as he was trying to rip off the guy’s license plate.  Larry disagrees and tells me that he has a responsibility to teach those guys and to stand up to them.  I note that he did not teach them anything except that he is an easy target.  I point out that I felt that my own safety was threatened by his actions and eventually he hears me a little and apologizes.  The rest of the ride was a total waste in my mind because I was so angry and Larry was so determined that he was in the right.

Eventually I bail on the ride and go home.  GB asks me how the ride went and I say “you know what that ride was?  Grist.  Grist for the blog mill”.