December 31, 2017

It's Time to Fight Back.

Yeah, the year isn't over yet, but, I feel like it is.

After the success of the National Bike Challenge and enjoying a really good streak of rides to work, I felt like I was on top of things at the onset of Fall 2017.  Wrapping up the R-12 also helped - but, the shake-up of the full office remodel literally took the wind out of my sails.  I guess I don't handle logistical change well. 

I like my set-up.  I like my space.  It might all just be an elaborate "excuse" in disguise, but, I sorta get it now... why people don't ride to work.  It only took one little change, one obstacle, to really knock me off my game.  I have never had a shower or a locker room, but I always had space to hang things where nobody would see them, and was able to maintain a clandestine operation.  Nobody knew I even rode unless they happened into my cubicle and turned around long enough to see my stuff hanging up.  Now, it seems if I don't have a place to hang things up, it's a bit of a deal killer.  I ride, change clothes, and arrive at my desk ... where I now freeze - paralyzed.  The thought of reaching into my bag and pulling out a damp, sweaty pair of cycling shorts to hang dry for the afternoon ride just feels SO wrong considering my proximity to others.  I suppose if I was more of a prick and didn't care what my office neighbors thought, if I didn't give a rats about the potential for odors or how people thought about exercise gear hanging under my desk ... or the effect it has on the overall professionalism of the office environment (important to mention, it would be quite different if department heads and sharp-suited VPs weren't literally walking by my desk every 15 minutes).  Part of me just can't do it.

I'm so desperate to avoid being "that guy" that I'm not being myself.  

It sucks.  I hate driving.  I hate traffic.  I hate the Jekyll-and-Hyde effect it has on me.  I hate that my routine of nearly two decades seems suddenly so impossible to crack.  I'm angry that they enacted this change - and I'm not alone.  Everyone is on the same page - the private among us, those who needed their sanctuary and semi-solitude to think through tough problems and write good code are annoyed by the whole arrangement.  Visual and audible distractions far outweigh any perceived collaborative effect we might be gaining.  There are a lot of scowls, a lot of grumbles, and a lot of people trying to recreate their bubbles with noise-cancelling headphones and walls of carefully placed computer monitors ... leaning in close to recreate the cubicle walls they've lost. 

I need to figure this out.

I am running routines, simulations, scenarios... I am figuring it out, in my own way.  The same way I build bikes, write, navigate nearly everything I do; it begins in my head.  I millimeter, I scrutinize, I fuss and quake - internally.  Then I execute.  This will be no different.

Finally, winter.
There is snow covering the grass and streets, and single digit temperatures have tightened their grip on the area.  I'm not a fan anymore.  I'm almost thankful for a busy schedule and conflicting plans.  While I have done apparently incredible things on the bike in ridiculous temperatures and conditions, there is absolutely no part of me that wants to be "out there" right now.  I have learned not to fight this resistance, for within it lay the rest I probably need, the mental break I often won't afford myself -- the need to recharge the batteries and "live to ride another day;" in the springtime, during the ACP series when it matters more.  Instead, I have been running - dieting - denying myself the comforts of winter-time comfort foods and sloth for the same reasons.  I'm tired... probably finally tired enough to do something about it ...of existing in a typical middle-aged American male body when I know that of which I am capable.  I know I can probably run a half-marathon, right now... but I shouldn't because I weigh too much and will likely hurt myself.  I know I can ride another 600km brevet... but I'm so sick and tired of hauling my own unsatisfactory midsection laboriously up the climbs when I know my cardiovascular ability and technique could have me floating up the climbs instead.  I'm tired of being afraid of trying a SR600, or another 24-Hour race...  yet, I've been shopping for both.  I've been too lazy to do the work, and it's time to take the lazy guy inside me out back for a nice chat, mafia shakedown style.  The ten or fifteen pounds that were so "easy" to shed ten years ago are such a bastard now.  The beatings will continue until morale improves. 

Why am I dumping at the keyboard again?  Welp, it's how I get outside of my own head.
If I don't do this occasionally, winter "wins."

It's time to fight back.

I'm not at risk here.
I'm not standing at the precipice of a bottomless, black ravine of self-induced despair or hopelessness.
I've already turned away from that, years ago.
I just need the annual kick in the pants to make something happen - and that's basically what this is.
Step one is identifying the issue.

After the successful --- yeah, even though it was technically a DNF -- October Dart ride in Camdenton, I've been thinking differently.  I'm not bummed out that it "didn't count," because it counted far more than even I realize.  Instead of shying away from it, I keep thinking about how I can go back and do it faster.  Not because speed is the goal, but, because I desire to be better than myself.  That's really the only reason any of us crazies do these long rides... the lifers like me.  Yeah, we keep coming back because we love it; but we also keep coming back because we NEED it.  I look at the last ride not as a goal achieved, but as another mark that I already want to beat.  I'm not chasing you.  I'm pushing me.  It's not personal.

It's a beautiful overlook, Lake Niangua a bit after sunrise; but, it's also the beginning of probably the most difficult 20 miles of cycling I'd ever considered trying.  Instead of checking the box, determined never to return, I can't stop thinking about what it will take to go back and do it faster next time.

It's the same reason - among other things - that I have more variety on the radar for 2018 already.  Even though I am planning a tenth-anniversary running of the Border Patrol route in March, part of me never wants to ride that route again... because of how much I rode it in 2017 to grab this last R-12 installment.  I want to revisit the routes in St. Joseph - specifically the Ride with the Devil route, and other challenges that I swore I'd "never do again," like the WMGM Memorial and the Knob Noster routes.  Heck, part of me really wants to examine the possibility of the Boothby Challenge, which honors Seattle Randonneur Don Boothby who had unfortunately passed away before he'd completed his attempt.  While the "B-12" is unofficial, it sounds appealing - but, apparently the real trick is finding enough variety in 300km routes in the region to facilitate it.  We'll see...  something tells me the ole 200km mark is plenty; but, the key to enduring longer events is to push my limits.  Since it's unofficial it may be as simple as choosing a variety of R-12 routes, and riding to/from the start line.

Maybe I need to watch fewer ultra-sports documentaries... because, now, sitting here, it seems entirely possible to set a ridiculous goal like the Trans America race... but, I think maybe I should tackle something a bit smaller first.  It's New Year's Resolution time, so dream big, right?  Big things happen in smaller steps, however, so; first things first... I am using running to stay fit and shake things up.  I am starting to log my food intake again, and trying to make it a habit.  The pantry is getting a thorough clean-out and restock.  Time to behave - and eat - like an athlete.  

For now, I've set my sights on another R-12, and - with some careful planning - a full SR series and perhaps even my first 1,000km.  What about 1,200km?  I've been a RUSA member since 2002, but I'm among the big majority of riders who have never tried a 1,200km Grand Randonnee... the latest issue of Randonneurs USA magazine, in fact, has our president saying only 200 RUSA members per year ride a US 1,200km event.  I need to make it happen one of these years.

Nothing is official, because there are priorities that will dictate what I'm able to pursue - but, for 2017, I captured the flag of my city for the National Bike Challenge, and hit an annual mileage of about 5,300 miles - which is the highest mileage year I've had in twelve years, by 2,000 miles.  I don't own a power meter, so I can't quantify anything... but, the training data I do have and my Strava segment times indicate improvements from when I started logging in April.  I think it's time to dream big again, reach higher again, and test the limits.  It never really gets "easier".... but, I already know I can ride 200km over and over, so... what else can I do?  Can I do them faster?  Can I use the word "race" and mean it?  It's been a while since I tested my own comfort zone in this regard.  None of us should ever really get too comfortable when it comes to this sort of thing.  Yeah, let's do this... whatever "this" ends up becoming.

Well, that's all I've got for now, people...  I only dropped maybe ten posts this year, so I'll keep working on that as well ... maybe once per month, eh?  Goals are good... and that's what resolutions are for, right?  For now.... let's all relax, take a moment to appreciate what we've each accomplished, and enjoy the evening!

Happy New Year, everyone!