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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wind at My Back

The ten miles out were brutal. Winds holding steady at 14 mph made the going tough, and since I haven't ridden since last Saturday's metric century, I was feeling it the first five miles or so. The legs, back, and arms settled in, so I slogged on, eyeing the grain bins I knew were the turn-around point. When I checked my stats, I wasn't surprised to see an 11.7 mph average. Turning around and heading back couldn't be done fast enough.

The ride back was pure fun. Without the roar of the wind in my ears, the wind pushing against my every pedal, I put some effort into the return trip. I'd forgotten to put my bike computer on the bike before we left, but I did have my phone and was able to use the app I'd downloaded quite awhile back. Every mile I heard the voice from my phone tell me what mile I was at and how long each mile took to cover. On the trip out, I averaged right at 5 minute miles. On the way back, the average was just past three or just below three minutes per mile. Too much fun. My average speed for the trip back was 18.7, with one mile of 23.7 and a few others 20 and 21. I knew there was a reason for going 10 miles against 14 mph winds.

The week off, with just a 20 minute ride inside at midweek, was good, but being back on the bike today was better. Riding was exactly what I needed. Now I feel like I can finish up some work for tomorrow and be ready for the week.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Bamboo Bike and Its Rider

I love reading about people doing long rides for causes they truly believe in. This blog, Bamboo Samurai, showcases Takashi's ride around the world to raise awareness about bamboo and what an important product it is in our world. Unfortunately, Takashi was hit by a car in southern Illinois yesterday. No update has been offered at this point. I can only hope that he recovers and can continue his journey.

Pursuing A Lifestyle Change

Is it wrong to use vegan mayo on a turkey sandwich? The mayo tasted like the real thing, what I've been eating for years, and I thought if most things vegan tasted this good, I just might give veganism a try. I see this lifestyle change as the next step in the journey towards the kind of life I truly want to live, but going all out vegan is a huge change. I was vegetarian about ten years ago, for about two years, then fell off the vegetarian wagon for a variety of reasons, none of which were really good reasons. I don't eat a lot of meat now, and haven't over the years, but I do enjoy a juicy burger every now and then. Giving up the burgers has been the toughest thing to do. The more I think about the kind of life I want to live, though, the more I think the burgers have to go once and for all.

To get me started on this next step of lifestyle change, I went shopping today to purchase food items that meet the vegan standards. With four other people in the house that I need to consider when creating meals, it can be expensive buying for them and for me. I figured I'm just going to have to put aside a little bit of money each week just for me if I'm going to make this work. To get me started, I bought some rice cheese, some vegan cream cheese, and some vegan margarine. Oh, and the vegan mayo. With these items, I can have cheese sandwiches, bagels with cream cheese, and toast with vegan margarine. I already have quite a bit of organic foods to add in with these items, giving me other options for this weeks' breakfasts and lunches.

The dinners are going to be more difficult. Way more difficult. With three others who want meat, I'm going to have to work out a way to meet their needs as well as mine. Beautiful Daughter doesn't eat a lot of meat, so she'll probably fall into step with me. The three guys, well, they like all things meat. I'm beginning to think my journey could get a little rocky before it gets smooth.

A couple of other products I bought today included cosmetics. For awhile now I've had a problem with wearing eyeshadow. My one eyelid develops an itchy rash that becomes inflamed. My eyelid looks horrible. For the past month I've been desperately trying to get the rash to go away. It's starting to, but it's been incredibly stubborn. I finally tried the cream my son uses for his eczema, and the rash has lessened, is beginning to fade. The relief from the itch alone is heavenly. So I bought mineral cosmetics to see how my skin reacts. I'm really hoping the expense is worth it.

My crawling into vegetarianism/veganism might last for awhile, but I figure teeny-tiny steps are better than trying to do too much at once, so I'm inclined to say using vegan mayo on a turkey sandwich is okay for now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Found Out

Busted.

After almost two years of me blogging, Hubby found my blog. He didn't seem terribly hurt that I've not clued him in about me writing for this long without telling him. Rather, he simply asked, "What else have you been doing for almost two years that I don't know about?" Well, . . .

Nothing.

I can honestly say this is the only secret I've been keeping. Up til today, no family or friends have known about my blog, and I enjoyed the fact that I've had something that's just mine. While I didn't dish about him, much anyway, it was liberating knowing I didn't have to worry about what I wrote since people I know had no idea I was writing in the first place. Now I have to worry about it.

S**t.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We All Should Do This Every Now and Then

Dream Ride

I've found next summer's must do: a dream ride called Bike the US for MS. Completing a ride like this would be a dream come true. Hubby just laughed when I said I was going to sign up, which is what he usually does when I say I'm going to do something. I ran the idea by the kids to see what their reaction would be, and when they found out the ride is to raise awareness and money for MS, they all said, "Do it." The fact that the kids have grown up watching their grandmother, my mom, struggle with the progression of MS definitely swayed their opinion. I'm now applying the week "think about it" rule before making a final decision. So far, two days in, the ride is still very much a must do for next summer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Biting Reality of Life

The winds whooped all night and on through today. Last I saw, the winds were 25-30 mph with 40 mph gusts. All day I watched from the classroom as heavy gray clouds moved across the sky, and the trees on the quad swayed back and forth. While I was glad to be inside out of the winds, I found myself sleepy most of the afternoon. The gloomy, gray day was just perfect for curling up with a good book and napping. Now all is calm, and I'm trying to read and respond to student papers. Not going so well.

I'm finding myself in a fog these days. Work is okay, but the paper load is overwhelming. I know I'm the one to blame as I do these involved writing projects that mean quite a bit of reading and responding for me. I could cut out some of the steps I have the students go through, but the steps are crucial to the students understanding how to write a solid essay. Maybe I'm kidding myself in thinking the students actually get what it is I'm herding them towards. Since I don't see the students beyond this class, I have no real idea of what they do with the information in the next level of writing. Anecdotally I hear the students who leave my class are very prepared for the next level and tend to do really well, but without hard evidence, I don't know. Maybe I'm killing myself for nothing.

On top of work overload, there's the home overload. With Hubby being out of work now for ten months, things are getting a little tense on the homefront. I try to understand how he's feeling about not having a job, but frankly, it's tough. All I can see is how I've picked up extra hours at work to make sure a little bit of extra is coming in for the just in case scenario. I've taken on the health/dental/vision insurance which means a nice chunk taken out of my check every two weeks. I've even done a bit of side work to bring in some extra money. When I get home after eight hour days, sometimes longer, knowing I still have three or four hours of paper reading ahead of me in the evening, and see the dishes from the morning still in the sink, the floors still needing to be swept, the clothes still piled in front of the washer, I get a little angry. I don't get how someone who is home all day can't see that things need to be done, that it's just disrespectful to not have these things done for the person who is making sure the household stays afloat.

Sometimes life just bites. Right now, it's really biting me in the ass and it hurts.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Running Again

I just can't say no to running. And now that the cycling season is over, with no more rides on the calendar, running seems to be the reasonable workout solution. So this afternoon I ran, only a mile, but I ran nonetheless. Barefoot on the treadmill. It kind of felt good.

I was a little surprised with how easy the run felt after not running for so long. I have three weeks to get into some kind of shape for the annual Jingle Bell Run, and after this one mile, I'm thinking I can do it. Granted the run is a 5k, so I have two more miles to add in over the next three weeks. My tune might change once I add those two miles to the mix, but right now I'm feeling good. I don't know if it's just the first time back after not running or if all the biking has affected my legs, hips, and buns to the point that running will simply be easier now. Or could it be running barefoot?

Whichever it is, I'm liking it right now.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sweaty, Grimey, and Exhausted

For awhile now I've been working towards today's ride, a century downstate at a national park. I knew hills would definitely be a part of this ride, but I wasn't expecting the inclines we faced. The first hill was definitely an eye-opener if not a body waker-uppper. The second one made me smile as I passed several people who were riding bikes that were way more expensive than my cheapo sporting goods store end of the season clearance bike. The third one did Hubby in, and I found that from then on I had to stop at the top of each hill and wait for him as he walked his bike up. I have to hand it to him--he tried and he kept going. But at mile 40 he said, "Please just go the 62 miles and stay with me." I was torn. I'd been working towards this century for several months, and all I've been thinking about is finishing the season off with a century ride. One look at him, though, was enough to see he really needed my help to finish the metric century. I couldn't leave him to finish it on his own.

So for the last 22 miles I rode in front to break the 20+ mph winds to give him some relief. I slowed down to a 12 mph pace. I painfully watched as the turn for the century riders came and went as we pedaled on for the 62 miler, knowing this ride would be the last chance for the season to get a 100 miler under my belt. For 22 miles I rode on in misery.

Now, six hours later, I'm okay with my decision. I've showered off the sweat and grime of the ride. I've eaten a juicy hamburger and an ice cream cone. And I'm ready to call it a day, feeling that sweet exhaustion that comes from having worked out really, really hard.

The ride was beautiful. The ride was tough. The ride showed me that I can take hills the size of small mountain. Next year, I'll make the trek to this same event, and then I'll finish what I started today.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Off to Key West

My job affords me opportunities every now and then. The opportunity offered to me back in April was a trip to Key West, all expenses paid, to participate in a symposium on composition handbooks. Tomorrow I leave early in the morning, heading towards the tropical depression brought on by Hurricane Paula. I'm okay with that. It's Key West.

Though I won't have a lot of down time, I do hope to get to the fitness facility to ride a bike or run. I'm not going to worry about it, though. If I don't get the time, I don't. The world isn't going to stop going round because I can't get a workout in.

And this is how I'm trying to approach all areas of my life. For the past few weeks I've been making a conscious effort to live and let live. Whenever a mean thought enters my mind about whatever I'm dealing with at any given moment, I stop and take a deep breath, ask the negative thoughts to be still, then tell them to go away. I stop a lot each day! I face negative thoughts a lot each day! Hopefully, if I keep at it, I'll find myself not having to stop so much.

This trip to Key West is exactly what I need in my journey to positivity. While I had dreamed of sun and relaxation on the beach, it looks like the rains will be there. I could get all worked up about this, but I'm not going to. It's Key West. Key lime pie. Hemingway. Margaritaville. It'll be good.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Avoiding Confrontation

Today I was talking with one of my classes about the assignment I had just given, which entails the students having to go out into the community and find an example of visual rhetoric. An idea I offered, to give the students a starting place, is the new signs just put up around my home, signs with a bicycle and the message "Share the Road." This prompted one student to say, "The city should take down all those signs." Some other students chimed in, saying cyclists shouldn't be allowed on the streets. Another student then said, "They should have to use the sidewalk." This exchange took all of maybe 15 seconds, and to say the least, I was stunned at the vehemence with which the words were spoken. In my cycling endorphin-induced, euphoric world, everyone loves cycling, and by default, cyclers.

I didn't comment after the students' proclamations. Rather, I continued giving examples, none of which elicited the kind of response the Share the Road signs did. And now, ever since, I've been thinking about how naive I am when it comes to the motorist/cycler relationship. I'm wondering, too, if my students' responses are indicative in any way of the larger population. I certainly hope not. Perhaps their response is merely immaturity raising its goofy little head.

The real worry I have about their rancor towards cyclists is now I'm figuring I'll get fifteen papers about the signs, all asserting the signs should be removed and cyclers should be restricted to the sidewalks. I might have to make this topic off limits in order to preserve my sanity.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wiped

After a 27 miler on Friday, a 36 miler yesterday, and a 32 miler today, I'm wiped out. Yesterday I pushed it since I was alone. I wanted to see if I could maintain a 16 mph pace, and I did. It caught up with me today as we rode into a 13 mph head wind for about 12 miles. Now, as I sit here, my body is saying take a break tomorrow. I know I should, but when tomorrow comes the urge to get out and enjoy the countryside will push me to not heed the fatigue. Maybe just a real easy ride, the kind that feels completely and ridiculously slow. That will satisfy my desire to be out while not overloading the fatigue.

Part of me loves feeling this way. I feel like I actually put some effort into the rides. Since I ride with Hubby most often, I don't push it since he's not at the same fitness level as I am. I'm no elite athlete, but I can maintain a faster pace than he can for a longer distance, so when I ride with him, I slow down so we can ride together. Whenever a hill looms in front of us, I'll take it as fast as I can then circle around to meet up with him again, but more often than not, we just ride along together. He's definitely improving, though, so one day soon, I won't have to slow down. It'll actually be me trying to keep up with him. He has incredibly strong legs and once the endurance is there, he's going to kick my booty.

Today the wind made riding difficult. We modified the route to give ourselves breaks from heading directly into the wind. This made riding a bit easier, and we saw some countryside we hadn't seen before. The soy bean fields and cornfields are now harvested, so the fields stretch on for miles, barren and brown. Winter isn't too far away.

Now, rest. At least until tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sadness

These days I don't read newspapers very often. I don't watch the news on TV either. I just don't like all the sadness that's out there, and I guess my refusal to read and watch is my way of keeping my little corner of the world happy. I know I have blinders on. They're there for a reason. Like this: "Hit-and-run victim was quiet and dependable, co-workers say." While I don't actively seek out the sadness, because of the sites I do go to for information, sometimes I end up having to face that a lot of sadness is going on everywhere.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Not Lovin' Inside Biking

The first day back inside for a bike workout after being outside since April. Not lovin' it at all. The first strike is the bike I have to ride isn't mine, doesn't fit me, and the seat hurts. The second strike is the time just seems to drag. I thought watching a movie, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, would help the time pass, but I couldn't hear most of it because of the noise the tire creates as it turns. The third strike is there's no wind blowing through my hair as I race down hills at 26 mph. Absolutely no fun to be had riding inside.

But it's riding nonetheless, so I'll do it. The movie watching definitely helps, but I am going to have to figure something out with the sound. I was really looking forward to watching the sequel to 30 Days of Night as I'm a real fan of the series and have read most of the books, so it was a bit disappointing to just get bits and pieces of the dialogue. Maybe this is a case for putting in a nicer TV and surround sound. Might seem a little over the top for the garage, but if it'll keep me in the saddle for an hour and a half or so everyday, then I'll do it.

The interesting thing about Dark Days was how I didn't find it near as scary/bothersome as I did 30 Days of Night. I enjoyed the sequel, at least what I could hear of it, but it just didn't have that tension, that emotional factor working like 30 Days did, or even the book for that matter. The opening is one of the better scenes in the whole movie. If the whole movie had kept with how it began, it would have been better all the way around. Ah well, it did keep me on the bike, which was the whole reason for renting it in the first place, so I can give it three of five stars.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Characters Want Attention

Is it bad that while my students worked on their papers today I sketched out the second half of the book I'm working on? Every so often I walked around the room, checking over shoulders to make sure students were heading in the right direction, answering questions of students trying to juggle the three different aspects of this paper project, and just chatting with students about whatever was on their mind. They worked, I worked, and we all got quite a bit completed.

Having the book sketched out, actually seeing a plan in place for where I can go with the characters is exciting. I feel like the book is truly possible now. For awhile I let it sit, unsure of where to go with the the characters, the storyline. It was overwhelming to think about anything related to writing the book, so I acted like it really wasn't there. I turned my attention to other pieces, and I'm glad I did as I think creating some space between me and my 16 year old girl caught up in a military gaming plot was exactly what I needed. Coming back to it the last two days after some time off, with fresh eyes and a clearer mind has allowed me to pull fresh ideas out.

Or is it really that 16 year old girl pulling at me, insisting I let her have some more fun, perhaps even fall in love with the cute shaggy-haired boy she just met?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Energy of the Wind

The past few days have been so windy. That's fall in the midwest, I guess. Not that it mattered anyway as I wasn't able to ride a couple of days because I was away at a conference. I could have used the stationary bike in the fitness center, but I opted to spend the time with my colleagues instead. We had a great time, and I was able to get to know better some people I have worked with for several years. So today, after being off for four days, I finally rode, first against the 20 mph wind then with the wind, which was so much more fun. Going 23 mph with so little effort brings out the kid in me, makes me feel like anything is possible. That energy is still with me now, fueled by the music I bought today, a soundtrack with the likes of Beck, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Bob Dylan, and The 13th Floor Elevators. Good stuff.

To help keep me riding through October, I joined a most miles ridden in October challenge. Right now I'm in 13th place. The leader has 104 miles to my 23. Only three days in and I got my work cut out for me if I'm going to be a contender. The challenge has truly become a challenge very early on. I'm hoping this will get me prepared for the century ride just three weeks away. Yikes.

That shot of fear adrenaline just coursed through my limbs thinking about how close the century truly is. This ride will definitely be the defining moment of the year for me. While I thought the sprint tri was a significant physical test for me, and it was--don't get me wrong, I now believe riding 100 miles in less than 8 hours will be much more difficult. Especially if there is wind. And hills.

Right now, I'm not going to worry about the century. I'm going to sit back and listen to my music. I leave you with a clip about Sister Getrude Morgan, whose "New World in my View" is one of the selections on the cd. This is pretty interesting stuff.