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No Fun

We are about halfway up to the start of the singletrack from where this photo was taken. It’s a brutal hill in any weather, but the July heat made it even worse.

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.

Three unknown boys sit contemplating whether or not to jump off the rocks at Applegate Lake in Southern Oregon.

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.

My son’s bike with mine behind it. Dusty.

I Don’t Wanna!

I love cycling. Cycling  is easier than walking.  Walking or jogging or running (should I actually get to that speed) is slow, tedious, laborious, and painful. Cycling is easy.  I just get on the bike and keep the pedals turning.  Steady, continuous, effortless, fast.  Well, until that roadie on the expensive Felt wearing the aerodynamic helmet and fancy kit zips by.

There’s not a day of the year that I don’t look forward to getting on my bike and taking her out for a spin.  I don’t care where.  I don’t really even care about the weather, as long as I have the right gear and as long as it isn’t icy. I might stay in if there is pouring rain…and standing water.  Water does make the stripes on the road awfully slick.  I’ve ridden in the mud, pouring rain, over fallen trees, on single track in the middle of December.  While I’m not exactly a beast when it comes to singletrack or downhill, I’m certainly not anything close to a fair weather cyclist.  My mantra, and the mantra of The SO (Significant Other)  and My Son is, “Even a bad day on the bike is a pretty good day.”

But lately, I’m ill, and I know I’m ill because I just don’t wanna.

I just don’t wanna ride.

Actually, that isn’t entirely true.  I do want to ride.  I just don’t want to do what it takes to get in the saddle and I’m not up for anything more than collapsing after I roll up into the driveway at the end of the ride.

While I’m on bike, though, I’m golden.

All those 50-year-old aches and pains disappear.  Any drama or stress I’m dealing with dissipates, because, seriously, I can ride 40+ miles in a day and want to go for more.  Problems?  Issues?  Really?  There aren’t many people my age, doing what I’m doing and even fewer women.  Let’s talk about strength, endurance and ability to mentally persevere.  Yeah,  you go try to take that two mile hill without coming off your bike, Mr. Financial Pressure and see how you do.  You go and try to keep pedaling at that rate Ms. Whatever Might Come Your Way.  I can take you you on.

See?

That’s the thing about cycling…at least…for me.

When I ride, it’s better than any drug, not that I was ever a druggie type.  (Just watch your baby-sitter get wheeled out of your home on a stretcher because of an overdose and you’ll never be tempted to even experiment with any kind of narcotic. Trust me.  And, no, I’m not making that last bit up.  It was terrifying, and the best drug awareness education I could have received.)  But I digress…

When I’m on two wheels, wind blowing past my face, feet clipped in, sun on my shoulders… I’ve become one with the bike.  I am truly invincible.

On all counts, I’m stronger than most anything life dishes out, on and off the bike, specifically because of my efforts on the bike.

Exercise, according to my surgeon and my oncologist, will cut my risk of recurring cancer in half.

Even if that weren’t documented by research, I’d love cycling because of how strong I feel when I’m riding and how I can note my progress with each mile, each hill, each ride.

So, what’s up with the “I don’t wanna” mentality?

I’m guessing this is just a side effect of the radiation treatments.  They warned me.  They told me I would experience fatigue for a while after the treatments were done. I’m hoping that’s all it is.  I mean, it isn’t that I don’t want to ride, but I just don’t seem to have the energy it takes to do all the prep and the after work.  Thank God I have people in my life that do that for me or I’d never ride these days.  I’d just sleep.  (Which, I hear, is probably not a bad thing either.)

But, I’m still a little worried.

What if this fatigued feeling doesn’t go away?  What if this is the new normal?  What if?  What then?

I think I would start by crying.

I can’t even think of it.

So…

I muster up the energy for another ride.

After all, once I’m on the bike, I’m golden.

And when I’m on bike…really…nothing else matters…I’m still strong and healthy and that is everything.

 

The End

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We usually think of it as a bad thing; the end of a romance, a good book, a great concert, or fun vacation. Sometimes, even though they can be emotionally laden, endings can be positive. They can provide long awaited closure to the loose ends in life. They can be the end of stressful events, situations or unresolved dilemmas in life. Endings aren’t always a bad thing.

This has been a year of transitions or, more accurately, conclusions, for me. Endings. Finales. Mostly, life just goes on from one phase to the next, from one event, day or season to the next, without much fanfare. This year, I’ve noticed an unusual amount of endings to things that have been going on in my life, some of them for years. Things I’ve been working on cleaning up and moving off my plate are going away and, with them, the accompanying stress. I find it interesting that while 2012 has been an absolutely disappointing year, at least I can say that a great deal of the stressful chapters in my life are closing.

Since May of last year, I have been working on resolving the situation with my home which has become an overwhelming financial and physical burden for me. The tax break was nice, the hedge against inflation nice, the stress not so nice. Also, the fact that it gave me a negative net worth wasn’t exactly cheery either. I am pleased to note, that this chapter should be concluded by the end of July. That takes a huge amount of stress off my plate. I can’t say I’m disappointed. This signifies closure on one of the most unhappy and nightmarish periods of my life. For many reasons, I’m eager to say goodbye to this home and all it symbolizes.

My second oldest child is graduating from high school this year. We are in the midst of all the last minute preparations to close yet another chapter in our lives. For both of us it is an ending and a beginning of new things; new ways of being with each other as she adjusts to the demands and responsibilities of adulthood. While, she is not necessarily going far away to go to college, her role as a college student and theatre major will mean that she is, for the most part, not around. She will be making more of her own decisions and this reality ends my role in her life as it has been until now.

Another school year is winding down. This is always a bittersweet experience and this year it is even more so. It’s been a bumpy year. While it couldn’t be helped, I do wish it could have been different. I can’t change it now. 11 more days and this school year is a wrap.

For the last seven years, I’ve been driving around an older SUV. I believe the life of this vehicle is nearing an end. When I look at the cost of insurance for my 18-year-old who drives it now, combined with the cost of gas, I am certain that my days of driving any SUV around are nearly over. In fact, this brings me to recognize a fun new beginning in my life: that of transitioning from the car as my primary mode of transportation to the bicycle.

It took me almost the entire year to figure out a routine and how to make the 2.95 mile commute to work feasible, but for the last month, I’ve successfully commuted by bike to work, then to radiation treatments, then out for some riding time, then back home most days of the week. This has been wonderful for so many reasons. Obviously, the savings in gas costs is significant. It also means that I am able to get a 20+ mile ride done at least 5 days a week. I no longer have to worry about fitting a ride in after school or dinner or before it gets dark. I’m looking forward to the day when I can say goodbye to the old SUV for good, replace it with a more fuel efficient economy car then drive only when absolutely necessary. This chapter of car insurance hikes, exorbitant gas prices and spendy car repairs is one chapter I can’t turn the concluding page on fast enough.

The best news this week? Monday, I went in for my radiation treatment thinking I had 11 treatments left. I was informed that I have only five treatments left and, if I double up on one day, I will be finished with treatments on Friday. So now, at the time of this writing, I have only two treatments left. My short, little journey with cancer diagnosis and treatment is ending. I’m going to miss the techs, the bike commute across town, and the great routine I had worked out, but I can’t wait for my skin to heal, my energy to return and summer to finally and officially arrive.

Some goodbyes are just good.

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New Year’s Resolutions, Revised

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 chemotherapy.

No free boob job.

I’m not contagious.

And…given that DCIS is completely curable…I’m likely not going to die.  At least, not right now, from this.

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.