Two miles of hot, dusty gravel road. One mile, at least but it felt like much more, not riding my bike, but forcing it up the hill beside me. We weren’t even five miles into our ride and I was experiencing a new “first”. I was not having fun. My cyclometer wasnt recording my mileage. I was carrying the Camelbak water pack; something I hate doing because it adds another five or six pounds to the already large amount of weight that is my body on the bike. Sweat poured off my body like water in my morning shower. Dust coated everything; my body, my sunglasses, my contacts, my bike tires. I wondered, feebly, what kind of effect this dust was having on my chain, crankset, and derailleur. I knew this meant work cleaning my bike later; a necessary inconvenience, but one I wasn’t in the mood for. A quick glance at my sketchy cyclometer says it’s 105 degrees. It’s really about 95, but it feels every bit of 105 today. “Why am I here?” I wondered to myself. ” This is not fun.”
I told my son I needed to stop and rest. By this, I did not mean get off my bike and haul it up The Hill Of Death. I was already doing that. I really meant I had to stop. Completely. Sit down. Take my helmet off. Breathe. Clearly something was wrong. I never, ever have to stop. Not on a ride. Not like this. And never, ever this early in. I was tired. I was depleted. I was mostly very, very hot. I can ride in rain and cold, if I have the right gear. I can ride at night, usually without much gear at all. The one condition that stops me still on my bike is the heat. I’m not talking about just a warm day that seems bad until the air from riding your bike cools you. I’m talking about that still, heavy, oppressive heat that makes even breathing hard. Regardless of the temperature on the thermometer, when this kind of heat hits, I simply lose all power. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m at the age where, most of the time, I’m experiencing my own personal summer anyway. So, when the weatherman says it’s 95, I’m experiencing 115 degree temps. I simply melt when this happens.
We rested for about 15 minutes then we muddled on to another location, where there was a rock I could sit on in the shade. This location was a hundred feet from the start of the Payette Trail around Applegate Lake. We practically crawled to the start of the trail, me spewing misgivings the entire way when, usually, I am the one encouraging everyone else onward. We ventured forth, deciding to tackle the singletrack trail for a little while, then turn back.
Immediately, I knew I was in trouble. I was riding my brakes almost entirely on the descent which characterizes the first half mile or so of this trail. My bike didn’t feel stable under me, but I think that was due to the fact that this was very rocky single track and I have become accustomed to the solid asphalt of the road. I was already tired and in no mood to exert the required effort that manhandling a mountain bike on a downhill requires. Further, I wasn’t exactly excited about packing my bike up that hill, especially after the hill I already climbed. I let my bike roll for a few more yards, then I called out to my son, who’d disappeared from view. A few moments later, he appeared below me, his bike and his youth handling this trail with far more success than I. I told him I wanted to go back and he, surprisingly, agreed with me. We turned our bikes around, rode back up as far as we could, trudged the rest of the way to the top, then rolled down the dusty road that we’d just walked up.
Later, while lounging in the sun at the swimming hole that we discovered at Applegate Lake, we were reflecting on this experience. Last year, at about this time, we made this very same ride. Sure, we had to walk up that initial road, but I don’t remember feeling quite so spent at the top of it. I also don’t remember feeling nearly this apprehensive when tackling the downhill. We have done this ride twice, with minimal mishaps. Last year at the end of the ride, I missed on a switchback, landed on my back wheel and tacoed the thing. This cost me two days of ride time while my bike was in the shop. Not something I was especially thrilled about, but neither was it a traumatizing event that left me scared to ever attempt this ride again. We speculated about the heat, the fact that we’ve become used to riding the road, the fact that on a day like today, the swimming hole looked far more inviting than the trail. There are any number of reasons for today’s ride fail. All of these factors could have contributed to the dread I suddenly felt heading down that hill. I don’t know. I suspect, more than anything, I am not in the same mental and physical place I was last year, and something deep within me knows this. Somewhere inside, I sensed I wasn’t up for the challenge of this trail. I was too tired. I would likely make mistakes that even I, as a rookie mountain biker, would know not to do. I was afraid of the consequences of such mistakes. I’d spent enough time in surgery this year. I wasn’t about to sign up for another visit. Maybe I’m still experiencing a wee bit of radiation fatigue. Admittedly, this week is far better than last, and last week was better than the one before. I’m feeling like I do have more energy every day and I am accomplishing more, though not nearly what I hoped and planned to accomplish by this time in the summer. More than the physical drain, I just mentally didn’t have the strength and the determination to make that ride today and I knew it. Deep in my psyche somewhere, I knew I couldn’t handle it. I’m not sure what that’s about or why. It could be I just like the smooth flying sensation of the road as opposed to the adrenaline-driven jarring ride of the singletrack. Maybe I’m just getting old.
Whatever it is, I am okay with it.
My son and I spent the rest of our day enjoying the water. That was much more fun.
I’m a great one for setting goals and New Year’s Resolutions are no exception. Back in the day, I’d write them down making sure they were measurable and achievable. Most of the time, back in the day, I was able to realize all these goals I so dutifully recorded. Things sure have changed. Oh, I still set goals, alright, but with each passing year, the goals seem more difficult to achieve. I’m lucky if I can set one priority a year and make it happen.
In 2010, I made it my goal to purchase my bike. I achieved that goal.
In 2011, it was my goal to put a thousand miles on my bike. I didn’t meet this goal until February of 2012, but I got close. That was good enough.
This year, my priority, is losing 50 pounds by my 50th birthday, which is in June. My mantra has been “50 Less By 50.”
Well, it was my priority, until, the first week of January.
Sometimes life has a way of circumventing the most noble objectives.
In brief, my life was clicking along just great. In December, I was called back to have further images taken after a routine mammogram revealed some areas of concern. On January 6, I found myself lying prone while I endured what I now know is a stereo-tactic needle biopsy. On Valentine’s Day, I was in the hospital for a wire-isolated lumpectomy, the results of which revealed ductile carcinoma in situ, or DCIS…cancer. At the time of writing, I’m awaiting an additional surgery which will likely be followed up with radiation.
No free boob job.
I’m not contagious.
My overriding emotion these days?
This is really messing with my 50 Less By 50 plan.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. My overriding emotion is gratitude. You see, cancer, in particular breast cancer, is not the death sentence it used to be. Even so, cancer, really is no laughing matter. I know this. I know people who’ve suffered and died from some form of cancer. I have immediate family members who have suffered through cancer. It is not a pretty nor is it humorous and were it not myself involved, I’d definitely refrain from the gallows humor. I’ll go off on how early detection is critical, and how women should absolutely make sure they keep up on their exams at a later time, but right now I’d just like to take a moment to be grateful.
Cancer caught me by surprise, and as any potentially life-threatening disease will do, it has forced me to re-prioritize my life. Yes, I still have my 50 Less By 50 Plan as a priority, but somehow it just isn’t the most important thing these days. In the last three months, I’ve learned a great deal about breast cancer and some of the approaches we now have available to treat and cure it. That I live in a day and age when I can benefit from so much research and the medical advancements made just in my lifetime, doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the many, many things I am grateful for.
As I take the next step in this interesting journey through 2012, each day I find myself revising my New Year’s Resolutions. 50 Less By 50 is still a priority, in fact, even more so since exercise and healthy eating reduce one’s risks. But, if I don’t quite make it by my birthday, or if I just need to allow myself some time to rest, I’m going to give myself permission to do it.
Two days after my surgery, I was on my bike. Of course, it was inside on a trainer. I made it two miles, in just under 10 minutes before I just couldn’t go any further. Two days before my surgery, I’d completed a ride that logged me almost 40 miles for the week. Yeah. This thing is really messing with my workout plans and my riding goals.
I just have to let that be alright for now.
I am going to make it.
How does one look back on a year such as mine? Three years ago, I ventured out into one of the scariest places I think I’ve ever been. Post divorce, 40-something, straddled with debt that wasn’t all mine, looking forward to fewer years to earn back the losses than I had behind me. While many would say I look good for my age, the fact that they had to add the phrase “for my age” said it all. I was divorced, single with more children than most, struggling to avoid bankruptcy, and wondering how I was going to pay the bills and put food on the table. I was frightened. I was destitute. I was humiliated and ashamed. I was alone. To make things better, I blew an engine on one car, and dropped the rear differential out of another. I had no credit, no cash, no clue what an engine or a rear differential was, and nowhere to turn. I was terrified. I wondered, often, how and if I was going to survive. But wait, there’s more
It’s a relationship that started out slowly, cautiously, but has really taken off. I think I’m in love. Not with just one guy, or even two, but three. It could even be four. I am getting to know the guys at my favorite bike shop on a first name basis. I’ve now met the owner, and two of the primary bike mechanics. In my New Biker Chick World, these are definitely the people to know. After all, I’m riding some fairly long distances, sometimes alone, and the idea of having some sort of avoidable mishap 20 miles away from home where I have to hike back with my wheels slung over my shoulder simply doesn’t appeal to me. Knowledge is power and these men have what I need.
It goes way back. Funny how that is, isn’t it? The stories we begin in the present often have their origins in the past. For me, this story begins way back, as a teenager, still living at home. I can still hear my mother saying the words that she said all during my high school years. Her mantra was, “You need to develop your own interests. You need to decide what you like. Stop creating your interests based upon the person you are dating at the time. Figure out what it is you like and what you are about first.”
Well, we all know how well teenage daughters listen to their mothers. I was no different. I figured I had a better read on the world than my mother did. As a young, optimistic, overly confident and naive individual, I figured I could do better than she had. Why listen to my parents? But wait, there’s more