WARNING: This post contains discussions of poop.
Sunday when I went to team practice, after being unsolicitedly advised for five hours by frump lady, I received instructions from my latest cycling crush. I don’t have a nickname for him yet but it’s probably going to be something like Kafka or MTB guy. His name is Murakami and he’s a Japanese national champion on mountain bike (I think) and road. He asked me how the ride was and I told him honestly that I was a piece of crap riding wet noodle legs. I dropped my mileage by over 100km and tried really hard to only ride the necessary miles and I still had noodles for legs. He looks at me with a straight face and says, “And that’s weird, right? That even riding less miles doesn’t give you enough recovery? So lay off the bike already.”
I had an instant girl-boner. I love when guys are rough with me!
First of all, I was honored that he took me seriously enough to even offer me advice. Our relationship is new, but I like how it’s developing. I confessed to him that I want to go pro. He cocked an eyebrow at me as he fiddled with my bike. “If I wasn’t aiming for pro, I wouldn’t need to quit the shop I love to come here and hang out with you, dropping five grand on a new set of wheels in the process.”
“Ah,” he nods at me silently.
He took me seriously and now I will take him seriously. I have ridden twenty kilometers in two days. The twenty I rode today were all errands that would have taken double the time on public transport, so I consider them necessary. And I rode them on Chamerion to save my legs the inevitable climbing that my neighborhood entails. Tomorrow is a work day but I will take the train for the second time this week. So that will make it twenty kilometers in three days. I haven’t ridden this little since March.
In order to take the edge off of my lack of forward momentum, I decided to head up to 瀬音の湯 (se’oto no yu) for a bath. The salty thick water ought to do my tired legs and saddle sores some good. This time I went prepared with a body scrubbing towel, foot pumice and razor. Lately I only shave my legs when I think about riding fast. There’s not much other reason to shave. I figured since I was going to luxuriate, I’d go ahead and girly-up my arm pits, too. There was a time when I was self conscious about arm pit hair. Now, like so many other things in my life, I’m too old to care.
The bath was surprisingly crowded for a Tuesday afternoon, but I was surprisingly indifferent to it all. I had my purpose and it was recovery. I showered, soaked, then got up to shave. Soaked some more then got up to stretch my poor abused quads. I paid special attention to my hip flexors, particularly the right one which I tore so many years ago and never healed properly from. I worked my shoulders a bit, too, and went back into the hot slippery water. Then I headed for the cold bath. It was 22ºC, so not actually cold enough for my taste (in winter it drops down to about 15º-18º and I soak in it until the air in my lungs starts to sting with the cold), but it felt good. Two laps of hot-cold and then I got out. I towel rotated the shit out of my shoulders. It made me sweat somewhat, so I gave it a good rinse in the shower one last time before heading out to the veranda to nap in the shadow of my mountains.
I slipped into a deep meditative sleep lying out on the lawn chair. I treasure these moments. My mind, initially noisy and hung up on my stunted relationship with Thunder, slowly began to drift. As it always happens when I meditate, I didn’t realize how much I had released my habitual grasp on my attention until I started to climb back out of the depths to the world where my body lay. I think it is something about human minds that they always want to cling to something. On the way down it wants to cling to the memories of unreachable happiness, on the way up it wants to dive back down into the depths. I believe with practice I will become smoother at letting go. Right now I simply focus on being grateful for each successful dive.
Heavy and reluctant, I wake my body from my toes up, wiggling each muscle gently to remind it that it can still move. When I stand, the exhaustion in my legs is twice what it was before I took my bath. The ride home was hard. I’m home now and my legs just want to curl up in bed and check out for the day. I don’t even have the motivation to pick my laundry up off the floor. Thank goodness I had leftovers in the fridge because the idea of walking more than five steps right now is just so exhausting to think about that I think I need another nap already.
Part of me is happy. I’ve never been able to destroy my body to this degree before. I’ve always broken somewhere critical, usually my hamstring insertion, but my ankles and knees have gone out on me, too. To have accumulated this much fatigue that two days of complete rest with the addition of a natural mineral bath and self massage is still not enough to re-energize me means that my body accepts the abuse. I am apparently designed to cycle.
The rest of me, of course, is miserable. I can’t ride. Riding calms me and focuses me. I need to ride to feed my spirit. I’m doing my best to stay distracted, but when you are trying to distract yourself from one thing, you are apt to distract yourself from much more. I can’t think about work at all because if I do I get stressed, and if I get stressed I need to bike it out. So no work. Just going to have to wing it again tomorrow. I also can’t really think about my dreams because they make me want to take action. I need to focus on not taking action right now because any action I take will inevitably give me an excuse to get back on that bike!
Heh. Recovery sucks. I know it’s part of training. I know I have to do it in the right amounts or else my body will force me to do it, like it kind of is now, but it sucks. Let none of us be confused that recovery sucks.
(I adore alliteration. It inspires me.)
So, it’s monday morning. I have to go to work today and teach young humans the pillars of the dying religion of economics. I don’t want to do this.
I have discussed it here in detail yet, but I have come full circle on economics. I no longer believe its tenets.
But that is a story for another day.
Today, this Monday morning, I just want to note that I am tired and heavy. My coach has always warned me that physical tired and emotional tired can cross signals and to always tend to both whenever one arises, and she is a wise human. So I keep in my awareness the possibility that this tired is just the result of a week of unrecovered legs taken through another 100 km day of hills and hard riding. However, my heart is heavy in addition to my legs.
Yesterday many of my dreams were drawn into question. Can I make it as a cyclist if at my age I still haven’t found people who will teach me how it’s done? Do I have the courage to race alone in a sport designed for team strategy? If after all this work and effort I still can’t find what I’m looking for, is my dream to create it for other women misguided?
Where do I go from here?
不安で胸がいっぱい。My heart is full of uncertainty.
And in spite of this, Monday has arrived just as it has every week of the past 1642 weeks of my life. Ready or not the next step must be taken. Heavy or not, recovered or not, tired or not, inspired or not.
And so I go forth into the wilderness that is a (not so) young (not so feminine) woman’s future.
So, today was my first go at riding with the You Can team. Last week I rode, but it was just me and the staff since, apparently, the possibility of afternoon rain is scary enough that no one wants to come out for morning practice. Lame-os.
I was really looking forward to riding today. It was my cookie for an entire week of reduced mileage. I knew I had trashed my legs for too many weeks in a row and that I really, really, needed to give them some rest when even a single flight of stairs was winding me. I tried really hard and by Friday I had only ridden one half of my typical mileage. I was really proud of myself. In the end, it turned out to still not be enough rest, but at least I was better.
I showed up for the ride all raring to go (with the noodley excuse for a pair of legs that I had) and I was really excited to see that I would be riding with two other women and two other guys. The one guy was on a fancy-ass time trial bike, too, so I figured he was either experienced, or wanted to be. I figured I was in good company. The woman who was in charge of our group wasn’t wearing a team jersey. She had on a pale blue jersey with riding capris so well worn that you could see the moon through them. She was also incredibly soft in the middle. I underestimated her because of her look. She has twenty years of bike experience under her, admittedly large, belt. She was a steady lead and a confident descender…
and she was fucking annoying. We start riding with me in fourth position. Every single stop light I have to slam my brakes and then sprint to catch the fuck up. By the time the people in front of me signaled that they were going to stop, I was already slowing down because you could see the red light halfway up the road. Do you still have to signal when it’s bloody fucking obvious? And then when the light would turn yellow and they still weren’t signaling I was like, “are we taking this light? Shit!” ::slams brakes:: I’ve never ridden with a group less smooth.
I chalked the start up to weary legs. I figured the stops were whatever and the starts were because my tired legs just weren’t accelerating right. I did my best until we got to the first climb near Sagami lake. I had ridden this particular route before with Thunder so I knew what I was in for. I still got dropped pretty quickly, but this I’m used to. What I wasn’t used to was an old man on my tail saying “You can do it. Nearly halfway. Don’t worry, it doesn’t get any steeper. Two more turns until we crest…” SHUT UP ALREADY! I KNOW! I’VE RIDDEN IT! I’M NOT AN IDIOT, I’M RIDING ON TRASHED LEGS!
The rest of the ride was just a constant barrage of people (mostly the frumpy lady) telling me what to do intermixed with the old man telling me the climb ahead is almost over.
“Don’t brake in the curves” I know this, bitch, there was a fucking car headed right for me on the wrong side of the road. You want me to ride into it?
“Use your hamstrings to pedal. It’s more efficient.” You think I bought these fucking clipless pedals so I could enjoy falling over at stoplights?
“Stop at the intersection or else you will get lost!” Yeah, I know. What I don’t know is why you’re braking at the top of the goddamn hill. Isn’t bike practice about getting faster?
Why the fuck doesn’t anyone want to ride fast?!?!!!
Seriously, I felt like I spent five hours riding with a bunch of washed out putzes.
When we got back to the shop their super fast and really chill mountain biker turned road racer was there. He asked how I did. I told him it was rough and that my legs weren’t healed. The frumpy lady told him I did well on the flats, burned out on the hills, and on the descents made everyone pump their pedals the whole way lest I overtake them. That last bit made me proud. I’m not a good descender and I still panick and tense up, particularly if the road is new or busy, but it made me happy to know I could put a rider with twenty years experience on guard. They discussed my bike and my gears and decided it wasn’t my fault but the fault of riding a cyclocross bike at a road practice. I would like to say that no fault can be found with Pikuro and she is a perfect bicycle just the way she is (love her!), but after I saw the weights on some of the new frames available at the shop (did you know an entire fucking frame can weigh in at under 800g now?), I concurred that Pikuro’s weight could be keeping me down. She’s just a tad over 10, maybe even 11 kilograms. A new carbon bike with good quality components can come in at under 8 easy. Two to three kilograms of weight would be a great savings to me on a hill.
So would stronger legs.
Then they discussed my group riding manners. She wasn’t pleased with me. I wasn’t pleased with her. Mountain-bike-turned-road-racer dude was very kind. He suggested that perhaps I was just inexperienced and still not able to anticipate the movements of the group fully. Thank you, Mr. Mountainbiker Man!
All in all it was an exhausting day. In contrast to the usual serenity that cycling alone brings me, riding with this group not only muzzled my beast, but stole my attention and sucked all of my energy. Between the choppy pacing of the other riders, the streets busy with traffic, and the frumpy lady with all her unwelcome advice on how to ride, my brain was ready to short circuit.
Frazzled brain, trashed legs, loss of my dream for finding like minded people to ride with.
It was a hard day.
Intimacy and Spirituality are basic human rights!
The issue of gay marriage has been decided in my lifetime! I never thought this day would come!
Images from an Ecosia search “pride rainbow.” Hope this is legal…
I am full of fire. Full of fear. Full of life.
I am a beacon of hope and light to all those around me. I fight the fight against death. I fight to live and to breathe. I fight for beauty and for joy.
I am alive with beauty. I am alive with passion. I walk. From my skin emanates a fire that can not be put out. Burn with me.
To see me is to burn. To touch me is to burn. You cannot touch me without my fire spreading to your skin and setting you alight.
See me. Touch me. Feel me burn.
I am alive with passion.
I will not be crushed by the cold metal of civilization. I will not be bound by rules or propriety. I will not be tame.
You cannot tame me.
I am alive with fire. I burn with the passion of all that is living.
My heart screams, piercing like the call of the eagle. It pierces through my chest. It cuts through the thick, layer upon layer of insulation that protects me from the cold outside. It tears through me and it opens me
And from the wound bursts forth my fire.
I am alive. You cannot conquer me. I know no fear of death. There is nothing that is impossible to me.
Give me one life. Give me two lives. Give me a thousand lives for all the mistakes I will make. Still I charge ahead. Freedom is what stands before me. Far in the distance, I can see it on the horizon.
I am a beast of fire and I lead the stampede.
Today marked my third attempt at maintaining my own bike, specifically against the wishes of my former bike shop*.
Picked up a Shimano 10s Ultegra chain at the shop yesterday. It put me out around ¥3000, but was only ¥300 more than the Tiagra chain, so it seemed like a rare case of a good deal in bike parts. I learned that the reason chains have to match the number of speeds on your bike isn’t because of the length, which is usually designed to be shortened to fit your bike, but actually because of the width. Ten speed chains are narrower than nine speed, but fatter than eleven.
I was suspicious that my chain was stretched beyond what was safe for my sprocket and chain rings because even though I’ve quadrupled my efforts at cleaning and maintaining my bike (almost once a week at this point), three days in any weather and my chain would start to click and rattle over the cogs. I don’t have a chain measuring tool so I used the rule of 12″: I measured from the center of one rivet to the center of the rivet closest to 12″ away. Its dead center fell at about 3/16″ beyond the 12″ mark so it was clearly time for a new chain. I inspected my rings and while there is evidence (so very unfortunately) of asymmetric wear on my outer chain ring (the barely a year old Ultegra compact ring that I shelled out more than a few hundred for), it is ever so slight and I’m hoping I caught it in time.
I would like to say I’m really upset with the Giant store for not checking my chain for me when I went in to have the cables redone last month. I mean, sure, I didn’t ask them to look at the chain, but at the same time, whenever I ask them to teach me what I need to know to care for my bike, they brush me off as being too much trouble. This is one of the reasons I’m taking a break from them.
As with my brake replacement, I used the information from the Park Tools blog as my guide for the mechanical work and key points. Most of their information matched my situation, but I had a little trouble understanding some terms like “lead the plate into the rings”, which the Shimano replacement rivet apparently must do. I wonder if this means that the rivet that connects the two ends of the chain together must face a particular direction, but I was never able to find out for sure. I hope I did it right. It also is the case that my replacement rivet wasn’t shaped like the one they had pictured, but it was close enough that it seemed to work the same.
I took off the old chain and cleaned the sprocket and rings as best I could. Trying hard not to let the new chain touch anything, I held it up against the old chain to measure the length. This is what my MTB 先輩 taught me when he and I replaced my chain two years ago. With the new chain having the same number of links as the old, I went ahead and strung it through the rings.
The ultegra is a one-sided chain in that it has little slits on the outer plates on the side of the chain that faces the wheels. I think this is both for weight saving as well as for ease of shifting. My chain ring has little wedges on the inside that I believe help catch the chain and lift it over the edge of the ring when I shift into the outer gear. It’s nice. It’s also really sticky! This coating is supposedly good for something, but I don’t know what.
Anyway, after two fails at pushing the rivet (pin) out just enough so that the chain breaks but the pin doesn’t fall out, I managed on the third try to get it right. I lined up the replacement rivet and drove it in as evenly as I could. Park tools says that both sides of the rivet should stick out the same amount as the adjacent rivets or else the plates could slip off and the chain could break, but when I snapped off the excess piece of the rivet, it was still slightly longer than the adjacent ones. I decided to align the smooth end and allow the broken end to protrude beyond the other rivets. I feel like this is sensible. The only other option would be to perfectly center the rivet, but since they have a “peen,” which is a lip designed to keep them from slipping out, I figured lining up the lip was more important than being center.
I’ll have my new shop look at it tomorrow.
In any case, I now have one more maintenance skill to add to my list of things I can do:
- Align a rear derailleur
- Align a front derailleur (heheh, snuck that one in without telling you)
- Chain brake pads
- Align brakes
- Replace chain
I’m getting there. Slowly, but undeniably. I wish I had help, but I want this hard and I will do it whether or not I have help. I hope that one day I will get my break and soar, but in the meantime I’m enjoying each little step I can take alone.
*I don’t say former lightly. I loved that shop. We’re just taking a break.
In keeping with my long held desire to learn how to do my own bike maintenance, today I attempted, and from what I can tell succeeded, at changing my brake pads.
1600¥ for a front and rear set of pads, 2000¥ for a colorful set of hex wrenches, and my friends at the park tools blog for advice, and I believe I have reattained the ability to stop my bicycle.
Things I didn’t know going in:
- How hard it would be, or how long it would take.
- If I had all of the right tools.
- How to align the new pads properly.
- Whether or not the pads would even fit.
Now that they are installed I know that:
- It really doesn’t take any time and you don’t have to take the brakes apart to do it.
- You only need like 3 hex wrenches.
- Depending on how low your old pads were, you might need to let the brake cable out a bit to accommodate new, unworn pads.
- If you’re lucky, letting out the cable is enough and you won’t have to mess with the angle or other alignment stuff.
Things I’m still not sure of:
- If I aligned my pads right.
- If my bolts are tight enough.
For the last points, I could very well go to a shop and have them take a look, but given how much I’ve been treated like an annoyance at my favorite Giant Store lately, I’ll probably just ride cautiously until I trust my own work.
So now, I can say confidently that I can:
- Clean and lube a chain.
- Install and adjust brake pads.
- Align a rear derailleur.
- Change pedals.
It’s not a huge list, but it’s a start. I want to know how to maintain and care for my bikes. It just feels good to be able to do.