Monday, May 30, 2011

Life Lessons

The rain has been hanging around the last couple of days, and since I'm not one to ride in the rain, the cycling hasn't been happening. Today, after attending my niece's graduation party and becoming agitated over a petty grievance I have concerning my family, all I kept thinking during the party was I have to get out to clear my head. Thankfully, when we left the party, the clouds and rain had moved east. I couldn't get home and clipped into the pedals fast enough.

I have three brothers and two sisters. Being the fifth child of six along with liking being alone, I have never been especially close to any of my siblings. We get along alright, but years ago I realized my siblings just don't seem all that interested in keeping in touch, so I stopped trying to build lines of communication that seemed to go pretty much one way. Today, yet again, after arriving at my niece's party, I found out that most of my siblings were in town. The fact that they didn't feel inclined to let me know they'd be in town was what made my blood boil. Not once have any of them gotten in touch to say, "Hey, we'll be there on this date at this time. Let's go out for a drink." Never. Hubby looked at me when we walked in and saw my siblings and knew right away what I was thinking and feeling.

After three hours of keeping a smile plastered on my face, I was more than ready to hit the road for a ride. Being Sunday evening, the traffic was light, and a slight breeze was blowing, which kept me cool. I have a favorite route that takes me out into the countryside, along rolling hills. One road in particular is flat, flat, flat, giving me the opportunity to see if I can get the speed up to 30 mph. I took the opportunity to test the legs this ride just to blow some steam. By the end of my 25 mile ride, I was feeling much better.

One lesson I learned after leaving home and beginning a family of my own was siblings should be much closer than what I am with mine. As such, I've worked hard to help my children like each other and want to be with each other, and when they cuddle up together on the couch to watch a movie, or when they pull out a board game and play for hours on end together, I feel two things: happy that they truly enjoy being with one another, and sad that my siblings and I barely talk. I know I need to put my energy where it's most effective, where I'll get the highest returns, and that's right here in my own home, with my children who I truly believe became a part of my life to help me learn lessons just like this one.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Forging Ahead

Made some progress today with getting out of my slump. Initially I had planned a long ride, but the clouds didn't part the way the weather forecast said they would. The sun hid all day long yet again, keeping the temps cool yet again, and the wind came up yet again. I settled for a five mile barefoot run on the treadmill, which I'm very happy with as I can tell my feet are getting stronger and I just feel so happy while running barefoot. My mind wanders to all kinds of things rather than watching the seconds tick by, making the hour seem to slip by quickly. The legs don't feel like lead when I run without shoes. Instead, they feel light. This has done wonders for my mindset. I've never been so happy with running like I am now.

One of the to-do's on my list for this in-between time of late spring not quite summer was to paint the boys' room. Hubby and I purchased the paint today. When the boys returned home from school, we cleaned out from under the beds, moved the beds, desks, and everything else into the middle of the room, then spackled holes and prepped to begin painting tomorrow. We decided on dark gray for the lower half of the room, with a lighter gray for the upper. A chair rail will then be put into place. Of course this will mean new comforters will be necessary, but those can wait a few weeks. I am so looking forward to a fresh, clean room for the boys.

In between the painting tomorrow, I hope to get a ride in. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to slip away for a couple of hours and return home to find the room completely finished.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Follow Through Does Make a Difference

What to do today? Where to start? With nothing on the calendar, doing absolutely zip each day becomes easier and easier. With drizzle, 15 mph winds, and chilly 50's temps, actually leaving the house becomes less and less. Vegging out for hours upon hours in front of the TV becomes the must-do. The logical me quietly implores the lazy me to stop, to get a grip, to start all those projects planned before the end of the semester, all of those "fun" things just waiting until no more student papers and other work requirements blocked the way. So far, almost two weeks into summer break, not much no progress has been made with any of the projects.

One thing I know about myself is I need deadlines. The problem with having summer projects and saying I want to have them completed by August 1 is there's no one on August 1 to whom I have to give the results, like a boss. It's just me. And I'm not going to fire me for not getting a summer project completed. Most likely, I wouldn't be all that upset about not finishing what I'd said I was going to do. After all, summer projects don't make much difference one way or the other. Or do they?

Lately, I've been seeing how what I do affects my kids. My daughter said to me recently how proud she is of me for what I've accomplished with the sprint tri's, the cycling, and the writing/publishing. On her blog today, she wrote about the stair climb I did several months ago, saying I'm "just cool like that." She and I have talked about living life in such a way that later, like when she reaches the age I am now, she has no regrets. I've told her about some of my own regrets to help her understand where I'm coming from. What she shares about the way she sees me and the decisions she's making right now show me what I do definitely makes a difference.

With my two boys, I'm not so sure. I know they think I'm crazy for all the running, swimming and cycling I do. But they support me. Sunday, when I went for my 54 mile ride, I turned the corner to finish the last two blocks to the house, and I saw both boys run across the street. The oldest was holding out a plastic cup of ice water, like they do for the cyclists in the peloton. My hubby was on my other side, running alongside while waving the American flag. And my youngest, in bare feet, ran the last block as fast as he could, staying right by my side until we reached the driveway. My speedometer said he was running 12 mph. After battling the wind for nearly 35 miles, seeing my guys come out to run me in the last block was a great way to end the ride. So yes, I think what I do makes a difference.

I have no choice but to finish my summer projects. My kids are watching me, and I need to show them how important it is to finish what I say I'm going to do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Following My Bliss

Went for a 21 mile ride today, later in the afternoon. Didn't push it. Didn't watch the computer. Just rode and enjoyed the scenery. Most of the fields are planted, the crops just beginning to peep above ground. The wind has quieted considerably since Sunday, making the ride seem especially easy. Having spent a huge amount of effort battling the wind on Sunday, I could feel some fatigue hanging around in the legs. Today's ride, though, wasn't about distance or speed. It was about being away from the city, away from the noise, away from all the have-to-do's.

Blissful simplicity.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

First 50+ Miler of the Season

The weather forecast for the whole weekend was thunderstorms with lots of rain. I decided to take Friday off, thinking a rest day would be a good idea, and I swam yesterday due to the forecast. The storms never materialized Friday or Saturday, so I decided last night that if I woke up to sun, I was going to take off and ride. I plotted a 50 mile route before bed, checked the weather one last time, which showed storms moving in around 4 a.m., then nodded off with hopes the storms went north or south of us. At 7 a.m., I looked out my window to see sunny skies. Not a cloud floating by. Just after 7:30, I was on my way.

For the next three hours and twenty-five minutes, I was riding through the countryside. By the time I reached the lake, the winds had come up, and they came up with a vengeance. Going north was the easy ride. Going any other direction put me in a battle against 20 mph winds, with gusts to 25. Part of the ride had the wind pushing me from the right side. With a light bike, this means little waverings here and there. My right arm became very fatigued trying to keep the bike steady. The last part of the ride, about 12 miles or so, the wind was full force in my face. I started out keeping the speed right around 14. The farther I went, the slower I got. By the time I reached the last little town before hitting the city limits, I was down to 10 mph. I.Was.Tired. In the end, I finished with 54 miles, and my overall pace was 15.5, which isn't bad considering the wind.

A few hours after I arrived home, the storms moved in, bringing the lightning and rain.

On a side note, my daughter wrote me this email a couple of days ago. I asked her if I could post it, and she said yes. I hope you enjoy.

Hey Mama!
So I know it has been a few days since we last talked, but I'm thinking that the whole cell phone thing doesn't work too well for communication anyways. It turns out that it cost a lot more than we thought per minutes, so I ran out of minutes pretty quickly between talking to you and Joshua just once each! I had a few texts in there as well, and I also used it to call within China, so my minutes were eaten up pretty fast. We figured out how to get the internet to work on Chen Min's laptop, but we still haven't gotten mine to accept the ethernet cable. :( If you guys have any ideas on how to fix that please let me know! I want my computer to work so badly!
The past few days have been pretty eventful. On Wednesday we had the "dance" that by our standard was like being back in Jr. High with line dances lol. On Thursday we didn't really go anywhere, but we had a tour/lecture of the School of Music and Tai Chi lessons. James and Joey really aren't the athletic type, so they had a really hard time remembering the steps to the Tai Chi that we learned. I, on the other hand due to my awesomeness, picked it up pretty fast and it was fun! The tour guide for the School of Music was very nice, and at one point they taught us the first few lines to Mo Li Hua, the song that we danced to for the Chinese New Year. The teacher thought I had a beautiful voice and kept telling me to sing for the other teachers we went to visit, but I got out of it because I really only know the first two lines without a pinyin sheet! Yesterday we left Zibo for the day and went to the hometown of Confucious to visit some famous sites there. Everything was really neat, but I thought walking through the forest of tombs was the best part. Everything was so beautiful there and peaceful since it was secluded from the usual hustle and bustle of the streets.
Today we went to Mount Tai, a very famous mountain here in the Shandong province. At the very top are temples of worship, and along the way up the mountain are gates that mark how close you are to heaven. We didn't really climb the mountain, because there were stairs that lead to the top, but man was it tiring! These stairs were vicious! Some were super steep towards the top, and others were very narrow, but Joey and I beat James and Chen Min to the top! We rode the bus to a starting point about half way up the mountain, because otherwise we would have been climbing for 7-9 hours! It took us about 5 total from where we started to get to the top, eat some lunch, and take a cable car back down!
Tonight I am staying with Chen Min's aunt and uncle because tomorrow is the "homestay experience" day for us three and they are my host family. They have three houses (what we would more consider large apartments) and the one that we are staying in tonight is about an hour away from Zibo, so we came here this evening instead of in the morning. I was fed, as usual, but I'm pretty tired from the past two days. So since they have a computer with internet in my room I finally get to talk to Josh a little while I write you this e-mail and that makes me pretty darn happy! It's been very frustrating to be told one thing about means of communication, only for things to fall through completely. I still don't have internet at the campus and probably won't ever unless we go to a nice hotel. And then there's the phone thing yeah I'm a little fed up with it but I guess I have no choice but to work with what I can. 
Well, tell the boys I love them and give Max a good belly rub for me! I love you a lot Mama, and I will write again as soon as I can!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Maiden Voyage . . .er . . .Ride

The first ride with my tricked-out bike went smoothly . . . until I came to a stop at my destination and swung my leg over, throwing my flip-flop into the middle of the street. The dark-haired guy sitting in one of the window seats at the coffeehouse laughed. Yeah, real funny, Dude. Actually, it kinda was. I got to thinking what if a car had been going by. The driver would have been startled good by a brown flip-flop landing on the windshield.

All in all, my new and improved commuter bike is awesome. One issue I'm going to have to get used to is the added weight. Each basket weighs 5.5 pounds. The rack weighs around a pound. That's like having an infant sitting behind me. Then, when something is in one basket but not the other, the balance is off. Just like having an infant sitting behind me, wiggling around in the seat. I'm looking at these things as good problems, those kind that help a person in one way or another. Not only will my legs get stronger with having to deal with the added weight, and thus help me go faster on my road bike, but my balance will also improve, maybe getting me to the point where I can sit back in the saddle, my hands in the air, and say, "See, Ma, no hands!" when on my road bike. Definitely a win-win.

My speed on the road bike was awesome yesterday--for the last eight miles. While Hubby and I were out riding, on the last stretch of a 23 mile out and back, Hubby's phone rings. It's the junior high, calling to say our youngest had been in a physical altercation and had been suspended for the rest of the day along with the rest of the week. We needed to go to the school and get him. All I can say is my youngest is lucky I was out far enough that by the time I arrived home, I'd worked out any anger that was coursing through me. From the point I took off, I didn't see the mph go below 19.5, and that was only when I came to a stop sign and slowed long enough to make sure I wasn't going to get plastered by a car. Not smart, I know. Thankfully, the stop sign gods were smiling down on me. It was fun seeing 22.5 and 25. Showed me I really can get the speed up and keep it up if I want to. My youngest? The teacher dealing with the situation said, "When I asked your son why he hit the other boy, your son replied, 'Stupid people make me mad, and he was being stupid, so I hit him.'" No comment.

Never, ever a dull moment around here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tricked Out!

I really didn't plan for the seat/rack and baskets color matching.
The rear rack is on along with two baskets. I am now ready to roll and if the need arises that I must carry something , I should be able to do so. Unless it's a piano. Can't carry a piano. Or a tune for that matter.

Yesterday the rear rack arrived. With Hubby's help, it was attached in no time. Today, the baskets were deposited at my front door. I thought I had ordered one basket, but inside the box I found two. Bonus! In a matter of minutes, both were attached to the rear rack.

As I took my tricked out ride for a spin, I asked Hubby if I looked geeky. He shook his head, giving me a sideways glance, saying, "Nawwwww. Not at all." I think he was making fun of me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Barefootin' It

After a lot of reading and further thought about running, I decided to give barefoot running a go. One of the first suggestions for easing into barefoot running is to take it slow, build a base to toughen up the feet. I started about a week ago with a treadmill session of walking one mile and running one mile. The second session I ran two miles and walked a quarter mile. This evening, I ran 3.6 miles and walked a mile. By 4.5 miles, the balls of my feet were yelling at me to stop. While I wasn't running fast by any means at 5 mph, a 12 minute mile, I did feel as if I could have continued (if the feet hadn't been saying enough) for quite some time. This has never, ever happened to me before.

For almost two years I've had this love/hate relationship with running, Mostly hate. My legs usually feel like lead when I run, which makes me dread putting on the shoes and heading out. No matter what I tried, the old legs just didn't like having to go faster than a brisk walk. The first thing I noticed during my initial running session on the treadmill is my legs felt good. Light. My mind didn't focus on the running. I thought about all kinds of other things, and before I knew it, I had gone for 3/4 of a mile without realizing it. This evening, I watched Glee while running, and the same thing happened. I looked down at the panel and saw 2 miles had slipped by. I didn't feel like I was working hard at all.

I know I won't be able to run barefoot outside. Way too much debris to have to worry about. So now I'm researching minimalist shoes. I know I don't want the toe shoes; not my style at all. I have seen other options and have read reviews, and right now, the Merrells are at the top of my list. I'm going to continue checking out what's available while I build my base on the treadmill, and who knows, in a month or so I'll see how things go with a duathlon or maybe even another sprint tri.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On Order

The new rear rack and basket should be at my door sometime this week. I'm hoping I ordered the correct rack, that it will fit my bike. I checked all the details and everything seems to align. Maybe as of Wednesday or Thursday I'll be able to carry groceries and other stuff more easily. With the bike equipped, the last step is figuring out how to ride in any kind of weather.

Living in a state where the weather can vary drastically from one day to the next, I haven't learned the best way to deal with rain and snow. I don't mind the wind. I don't mind the cold. I don't mind the heat. Rain and snow, though, make me want to just curl up on the couch with a good book when I should be riding. They also make me grab the car keys if I want to go somewhere. I really want to get past the ease of driving in less than ideal conditions. There's nothing better than figuring out each day how much gas I didn't use, how much money I saved not driving, how many calories I burned cycling, and how far I went for the day.

Now I'm reading as much as I can about how to best deal with bad weather, and thankfully lots of good blogs and other websites dealing with cycling are right here at my fingertips.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cycling and China

Try to cut that thief!
No more cable lock for me. JRA of One Speed: Go! finally convinced me a cable lock just isn't enough. And since I'm riding nearly everyday, to work or the coffeehouse or wherever I need to get to, I thought it time to be sure my ride would still be waiting for me whenever I was finished with what I was doing. Even though my bike isn't all that fancy or expensive, I have a certain amount of affection for it and would miss it terribly if it all the sudden went missing.

So now I'm equipped with a headlight, a taillight, a saddlebag containing an extra tube, an air pump, and a bottle holder. All  I need at this point is a rear rack. I usually carry a backpack, but with the increasing heat, I'm arriving at my destinations with a very sweaty back. Not a great look. I'm hoping a rear rack takes care of that problem.

Along with the bike commuting, I've been getting in some mileage on the new road bike. This week I'm close to 100 miles, with two 40 milers and one 13 miler. I'm getting a better feel for the bike, feeling way more comfortable on it than I was in the beginning. I remember being scared of it at first. It's so much lighter than my commuter bike, so even just a slight wind gust pushes it one way or another. The way I sit on it is very different than my commuter bike, so if I shift just a little, the bike jerks. I've had to learn how to be very soft with my movements. I'm now working on getting up to and maintaining 20 mph. The closest I've gotten was my second 40 miler this week, when I averaged 18.3 mph. Yesterday I managed to maintain 18.87 for the first 6 miles of my 13 miler, which wasn't bad considering the hills on that route. It'll take some time, but I'll eventually get there. The next couple of days the rain is supposed to settle in, so I might have to return to the treadmill to work on the barefoot running.

Whew! Didn't forget the passport!
In other areas of my life: my lovely daughter is on her way to China for a month. Last we checked, the plane is somewhere over Russia. While there, she'll be completely immersed in learning the language and culture. Having already been there for five months several years ago, when she was only 12, she knows a little bit about what to expect. Now that she's 19 and has a year of the language under her belt, she's going to have a totally different experience this go-round. Her excitement about returning to China, about learning the language and gaining more understanding about the culture, showed more and more everyday leading up to her departure. I'm going to miss her terribly, but I'm so happy she is taking steps to enhance her education. Her ambition will serve her well in the future.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gardening, A Clothesline, and Ceiling Fans

The clouds and rain have moved on. Finally. The wind we've been dealing with since last week no doubt pushed both the clouds and the rain away. The garden soil is now cracking from dryness, but thankfully both of my water barrels are full, so I can water liberally without feeling like I'm wasting money watering my plants. The two lettuces, the spinach, the peas, and the herbs are sprouting. So far, nothing is showing for the potatoes. I haven't grown potatoes in many, many years, so I won't be too surprised if I end up with none at the end of the season. They're a little different from other plants, and I'm not sure I got them in the right way. All in all, the garden is coming along.

Retractable Clothesline
My new retractable clothesline is in place, allowing me to stretch it over the garden plantings to dry clothes. Once they're dry, I can release the cord, and it will wind itself in its housing, out of the way when not needed. My hope is to not use the dryer at all this summer. I'm very curious to see what our electric bill will look like by not using the dryer, and if I can get the family on board, I'd like to not use the air conditioner. Today, with the almost-90 degree heat, lots of complaining could be heard, but with a strong breeze blowing, the inside of the house didn't get terribly uncomfortable. While I'm not fond of sweating while trying to sleep, I do think we can manage. The boys' room only has one window, making cooling their room difficult. My plan for that is a ceiling fan. I'm amazed at what the ceiling fan in my bedroom has done to cool things off, so hopefully one in the boys' room will have the same effect.

Still some gardening to get in place, which will begin tomorrow now that I'm completely finished with the semester. I submitted grades today, turned in hard copies to my boss, then paid everyone adieu. I'll pop into the office now and then over the summer to clean and get things in order for the fall, but as of today, I am officially on summer break. Let the fun begin.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day 40 Miler

After church, then after lunch, Hubby and I suited up for a ride. With the sun shining, which at this point is a real treat after all the gray, clouds, and rain, I said there was no way I was going to let the day pass without getting a long ride in.

Hubby rode with me to the edge of town, about 6 miles. He even kept going another quarter mile, until the wind hit us full force at a good 20 mph. At that point, he smiled and turned around, telling me to have fun. I was determined to get 40 miles in, so I continued on into the wind for another 14 miles. For this part of the ride, my average speed hovered between 14 and 16 mph, depending on windbreaks. And there weren't many of those with the fields still bare after a long winter's sleep.

At the top of one small rise, I stopped to take in a field blanketed in purple. I tried to take a picture with my phone, but the camera just couldn't do the field justice, so I just stood there, admiring the scene. On the way back, I cringed when I saw the farmer had started plowing, turning the purple flowers under.

My turnaround point was most welcomed. Though my new bike is truly awesome in so many ways, riding 20 miles into 20 mph winds is very tiring. I stopped long enough to just about drain my water bottle, then started back. My 14 mph pace very quickly became a 22.5-25 mph pace. After expending so much effort to reach the 20 miles mark, I felt huge relief at being able to just cruise along.

With the edge of town in sight, a group of motorcyclists heading out the way I had just gone passed by. The front biker waved, a huge grin on his face. I knew exactly how he felt.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Closing One Door, Opening Another

The end of the semester is here. Deep breath. Slowly let it out. Relief. And like semesters past, my mind, my body, my spirit have sunk into a cool, dark place where I just exist, not really participating in what's going on around me. After a week or so of this, I'm able to pull myself up and fall back into step with life, slowly moving forward again.

My moving forward started this morning with beginning Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I chose this book as the summer read for the honors students I'll be teaching in the fall. Though I'm not all that far into the book, I'm fascinated by it. I'm really looking forward to spending more time with the book later today and over the weekend.

My next step in moving forward is to clean: my home office, the closet in the home office, and my bedroom/bath. All have been terribly neglected the last few weeks (okay, months is much more accurate). While I'm not a clean freak, I do like my spaces to be tidy and orderly, both necessary to create comfortable. And there's something about the physical activity of cleaning, of seeing a space become renewed, that helps clear the mind.

So, another deep breath, exhale, the time has come to close the door to the spring semester and open the door to summer with all that it promises.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sullivan Sprint Tri Results

I arrived at the Sullivan Sprint Tri with the idea that I was going to participate but stay with Hubby for the entire event. With the whole calf issue, I had decided it best to take it easy and not risk further aggravating the sore calf. Hubby, though, kept insisting I compete at my usual intensity. I began to wiffle-waffle about the whole thing. After much debate, I did a few down and backs in the pool, with no adverse effects, and decided I would go ahead with my original plan to enter the pool at my designated time and see what happened from there.

What happened was I finished the swim just fine. The calf cooperated the entire time, and even though my mind wasn't in a good spot before or during the swim, I muddled through and finished a minute faster than I did last year. I arrived at my bike and began getting ready for the ride, thinking I was going to wait for Hubby at this point as I had promised him I would stay with him the entire time. While I was pulling shorts on over my suit, I heard Hubby yell at me to pick it up. I looked up and saw him standing at the fence, urging me to go, go, go. I shook my head, saying I was waiting for him, but he told me no, that I needed to go on without him. He seemed perfectly fine with me going, so I did.

The cycling was great, and part of this was because of the wonderful weather we had for the event. As I started out, the sun was shining, the temp was around 65 degrees, and a 20 mph wind was blowing out of the WNW. For about 40% of the route, the wind was at my back, helping me keep the speed up around 23 mph. As soon as I hit the turn around, the wind came at me, slowing me to 16.5 mph. I managed to keep the speed fairly consistent while heading into the wind. I finished the 11.7 miles in 38 minutes, an 18.3 mph pace.

My transitions were okay. Nothing to really whoop about. With this race, I went in so unsettled that I never really established that one thing I wanted to work on like I had with the other sprint tri's. I ended up just going through the motions for the most part, even with the transitions.

Then came the run. Like my other runs, this one was slow, slower than both Purdue and Petersburg. There were no hills to deal with. In fact, the course was mostly flat and easy to negotiate, and I really enjoyed the scenery. But I just felt tired. I'm wondering if all the mental anguish during the days leading up to the event took a toll on my energy level. Whatever it was, I finished in 32 something, a 10:26 pace.

In the end, I finished 2nd in my age category with a time of 1:23.48, and 23rd out of 71 women. While I'm happy with having shaved 19 minutes off my time from last year's Sullivan Sprint Tri, I'm disappointed in my run. I definitely have come a long, long ways from last year, and I'll keep at it because as Hubby is fond of pointing out, I am very, very competitive with myself.

One very memorable thing happened at the sprint tri that will most definitely be laughed about for a long, long time. I met up with Hubby at about the two mile mark and walked most of the last 1.1 miles with him. As he neared the finish line, I cut across the field to get a picture of him finishing. When I reached the finish, I turned and saw some of the results posted, so I meandered over to see if my times were up. I stood there, searching for my name, my times. When I saw all they had for me was the swim, I turned to watch Hubby cross the finish. He was nowhere in sight. I searched the road leading up to the mats. I turned and scanned the part where I had just left him. Nothing. Then I turned and looked behind me. He was coming towards me after already having crossed the finish line. I totally missed him completing the race. It will be a very long time before I hear the end of this one.