Saturday, April 12, 2014

Twice as bright, half as long

I'm not huge on souvenirs. 

At some point like most people I figured out they make traveling harder, not easier. And the good stuff is mostly invisible, intangible. And so on.

There are some exceptions. I'm still fond of receiving envelopes like this one in the mail. Reminders of an experience 5 months ago that is fading fast, and in fact, already feels unreal.  

The experience of riding 1200K is so intense that it burns brightly in the days after the ride. So brightly it's often hard to articulate what happened and how it felt. What it might mean. Then maybe coming out of such an intense and different experience, as we return to our routines and mundane details and possessions, the memories fade even quicker than normal. Like they're pulled away into a vacuum.

It's a huge loss and this too is hard to express in words to anyone who was not there. Which is basically everyone around.

That's why for randonneuring, I'm in favor of the tangible stuff they keep for a few months and then send to you on a different continent. As tangible proof. The word souvenir after all, means memory. A proxy.

I carried this around for four days. Rain, wind, darkness, blazing heat. Hope and despair and everything in between. Glad to see it again!

The Challenge

This weekend (when I get back home) I should get my nails done. They need it.

Also, get that gluten-free pasta at Trader Joe's.

And set up a schedule of rides for the spring. Here's an idea: every weekend, do a 100-mile ride like this one today. Make a list of routes. A list leads to a schedule, easier to get on the bike on Saturday morning. Also, I could invite other people. Not that there's anything wrong with 100 miles by myself. Ah, the quiet!

While we're at it, might as well resolve to climb Page Mill (or Montebello) every week. Hey, brilliant! Just challenge the beast to a duel. Let it ramp up my fitness, which is kinda marginal right now.

I'm a full-time employee again, someone who rides 4 miles on a trail, twice a day. Every morning a few guys, other commuters, are in a major hurry to get to work. Either that or they're racing each other. Which is likely. Not cool, how they expect the world to get out of their way. But I should be faster, and fitter.

In a month or so, it should be possible to climb a hill on a weekday, either before or after work. Get clothes ready the night before.

A friend asked, am I signed up for any rides? Normal question this time of year.

Just one. A 1000K, lightly supported, July 24 (she laughed). No need to qualify, no need to ride brevets this spring. The SM1200 took care of that. And it's great to be taking a break from brevets. It's a problem, too.

Clearly I don't have brevets or double centuries in me right now. The travel, the logistics, the gluten-free thing, the job. Is it still possible to train for a 1000K? With normal means like Spinning classes, a bike commute, and very hilly 100-mile rides? Plus a couple of short tours?

Far from guaranteed, boys and girls. Stay tuned!

And while that is definitely a challenge it is not actually The Challenge. That is the silent thing in the background while thoughts and plans bounce all over.  

This morning there was a gluten incident and I almost couldn't get on the bike. We ate out last night because it was the end of the week and we were tired. Being tired I didn't think to ask what that incredibly tasty crab chowder was thickened with. Now I can tell you what it was thickened with. Flour.

The reaction is violent and humbling. It leaves me shaky and weak. Sucks all the glycogen and electrolytes out of the muscles, gives them spasms. After going over the neurological cliff, no I do not feel like climbing Page Mill. I want to stay in bed.

Instead, wait an hour for the body to exit crisis mode. Fill a flask with raspberry Hammergel. At the earliest opportunity, get on the bike. Use the gel to get over the hill. By the time I'm in Half Moon Bay, I'll be able to look at real food.

My left arm is weak and shaking. My right eyelid is in spasm. I'm sweating too much, and definitely not moving fast.

The Challenge is how quickly the body adjusts to not dealing with gluten. How violently it reacts now to just a little bit. How long it takes to recover. How gluten is everywhere. Last week the same thing happened, thanks to some licorice, of all things. Almost stayed home.

Gotta get a handle on this before it derails the job, fitness, well-being. Everything. Everything.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Finally "in"

OK so I start work (which is a miracle in and of itself). During New Hire Orientation (10 days long), everyone has a backpack. Very practical. Not a little purse that keeps spilling its guts everywhere...

Gotta get a backpack! Maybe then no one will notice I'm 25 years older than everyone... Being a girl I know just the one. It's this weird, unique thing for outliers made by Alchemy Goods.

These are the people in Seattle who turn dead bike tubes into stylish bags. You can't buy their stuff anywhere. You just have to know.

Four years ago (!) I bought one of their messenger bags at Sports Basement. It's traveled with me to Sweden, France, Denmark, Australia, and still looks new.  It's the bomb.

On eBay I find a guy in Ohio who's selling one that's never been used. Maybe he's "not one of us". He's in Cleveland, he's no outlier. A hundred bucks, done!

The day after clicking Buy It Now, I walk over to the company store to check out what they have.

And dang if my freaking backpack isn't there on the shelf! It's like a dream. With the company logo on it. Branded.

These are my people.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Taco plate

Welcome to my favorite scene of the day!

For $4.30 you get the Taco Plate at the Mercado y Taqueria de Amigos in Pescadero. The place has been written up in the New York Times and Sunset Magazine, but it's still got fuel for the hungry cyclist.

Here you've got your market with Gatorade and the colorful Mexican pastries made with lard, your Alliance gas station, and the world-class taqueria. All in one!

Though Pescadero may get it's name from the salmon that used to run here and you can order a fish taco (tilapia), for me it's always the pollo.

At 1pm, I'm just starting to feel human.

First there were the hordes of weekend warriors, stampeding up Old La Honda. All in a hurry, all guys, racing me to the top. Talking loudly, passing on the right, and in general making nuisances of themselves. When a car approached it was chaos. What it it, spring or something?

At the top, without so much as slowing down I cross Skyline and head west toward the coast. Leaving them all in a clump at the stop sign. But the nasty mood follows me down.

On the far side of the ridge, it's much quieter. I can listen to my thoughts, even my physiology. Climbing Haskins Hill I'm not in real trouble, but there's definitely too much suffering. The pedals turn over but where's the speed and power? Lightheaded, I begin to fantasize about abandoning cycling suddenly and totally, in favor of something more sedentary. Like getting a PhD... in whatever. Sounding better and better.

A persistent hunger, and that floaty feeling. Definitely on the verge of running out of fuel. I eat a bar, then a banana, but nothing seems to help for long.

Well, I've been in a special kind of gluten hell for 3 days. After eating licorice, of all things! Licorice. The first freaking ingredient? Flour.

Hence the weakness, hunger, and mood issues.

Figuring this out helps a little. It's reassuring to know I don't have some unknown, wasting disease. That I'm not aging in triple-time. That even in the midst of a major health issue I can ride 100 miles. Not dead yet.

On the other hand, I don't enjoy this ride - in the middle of scenery people come from all over the world to enjoy - until the taco plate.

Afterward, my stomach's a little upset from the shock of so many calories. And from the salsa.

Yet it says yes, go home via West Alpine, the hard way. 500 feet more climbing. It goes along for the ride.

There's another cyclist on the hill, a guy who is about my pace, and his friend, who keeps letting us go ahead and then sprinting to catch up. With my blood sugar normalizing, I manage not to kill that guy or even say anything nasty to him. I survive the climb; we all do.

Today this is success.