This is a weasel. She makes my heart happy. I love her. I tell her this frequently, but she doesn’t care. She’s too busy stashing tubes and murdering jingle toys.
At nine years old, she’s quite the old lady, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t notice. She only seems bothered by my inadequacy as a human to better predict her desires.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll have her. Every day that she wakes and makes demands of me is a treasure.
Weasels is wonderful.
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.
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…
Just two days ago I completed a full circuit of Sado island in the Sea of Japan. Never having ridden a century, I went out for a 140 mile (210 kilometer) long ride with a bunch of people I barely know on an island I’ve never been to on a course I knew nothing about, and I destroyed it!
When our alarms went off at three o’clock in the morning I laid in bed for a moment waiting for the swirl in my brain to coalesce into conscious thought that could be turned into the willpower necessary to haul my exhausted body out of bed. Just as I was considering going back under for another doze, it dawned on me: Today is the day we ride 200 kilometers!
I jumped out of bed, giddy and a little bit mad with excitement and drummed on the pillows of the other girls. “Get up! Get up! We get to ride 200 kilometers today!” I was dressed in fifteen minutes, had my gear ready by thirty, and was downstairs a full twenty minutes ahead of schedule. The girls did not appreciate my enthusiasm.
We started riding at six am. At first I was hesistant to really push the pace. I didn’t know if I could finish the distance and I have little experience riding with others. I wasn’t sure how to navigate the packs of riders or how much effort was sustainable over the course. In fact, I was even a little scared because the girly-girls from the shop seemed to be in better condition than I was for the first 20-40 kilometers.
Little did I know, but my legs were only just getting started. After the second aid station came the Z-climb, a seven kilometer climb with grades of up to 10% that switched back and forth up the seaside mountain. Every one was talking it up like it was going to be this beast of a climb. So I started up in the middle of the pack, pedaling light in a low gear and focusing on conserving my strength. At one point I noticed one of the girls from the shop coming up behind me. She always says she’s bad at climbing and here she was gaining on my tail. Hell no, I said. I’m not going to get overtaken by some girly-girl who can’t own her own skills on a bike after all the work and sweat and tears I’ve been through. I got up out of the saddle and took off. That was the last I saw her all day.
One after another I gained on the others in the group until I reached the top of the climb. There were people stopped to take pictures of the gorgeouse view over the Japan sea. I thought about it for a moment, but then I realized I had more important matters to attend to: the descent. I looked around for some people to ride with and when I thought I had found a buddy I took off. Five minutes later he was nowhere to be seen. Ten minutes later I couldn’t recognize anybody around me. Twenty minutes later and I came up on the next aid station a full thirty minutes ahead of schedule. I thought there’s no way I’m this far ahead; I must have come upon one of the larger toilet stops instead of a rest area. I push on. I’m all alone and I start looking for packs to tail. We descend back to sea level and the wind is howling in our faces. I focus on staying close on the back of my chosen windbreaker. I’m starting to get hungry when I look up and see the sign for 90km. What?!? Where was the rest station? I passed it an hour ago and never noticed. I’m nearly forty minutes ahead of schedule at this point.
The lunch tent was at the 100 kilometer mark. They had a stretch area and a lot of rice and bananas. I ate. I drank some miso soup. I filled up my water bottle. There was no sign of my group so I decided to stretch out my legs before heading on. This was arguably the furthest I had ever gone and I was nervous. My legs were tight and sore and my left knee kept threatening to cramp. I decided to ride conservatively for the next 40 kilometers by picking packs that I knew I could follow and staying with them even on the descents. These were the most boring kilometers I’ve ever ridden in my life.
Between the 140 and the 160 mark I started getting impatient. I would follow one pack until another came up behind. Unless they were really blowing by I would pick up their tail and drop the pack I was in previously. This way I would bounce my way up the line of riders without ever having to ride in the full force of the wind. I thought this was going to be a great strategy until, after the next aid station, suddenly there were no more packs. I had apparently left them all behind. There were lone riders and pairs here and there, and I would tail them for a while only to be irritated with their sluggish pace. More and more the people ahead of me started squirming in their saddles, rotating their shoulders and thumping out knots in their legs. What, are you done already? What’s with this aching? You don’t get a fucking massage until you cross the finish line, you wankers! I couldn’t handle it. I needed to move. I looked around me and I said, “What, are you all finished? I’m not done yet. I’m not done by a long shot! Watch me burn you, mothafuckas!” And I took off.
My entire body started to smolder inside, and the contrast of the cool air on my skin gave me chills up and down my arms and legs. My eyes became fierce and the pain in my knee, shoulders, and poor, abused taint, disappeared completely from my consciousness. My legs started to churn. My wheels started to spin faster and my tires began making a low hum as they sped hard over the pavement. I started to drop people. One by one I burned them. I didn’t have time to wait for a pack and I headed out onto the flats alone. As the next hill came up I was sure the same people I just dropped were going to come riding up on my tail again. I kept expecting it, even as I got up out of the saddle and churned. Laboring, sweaty men, and the rare female rider disappeared past my peripheral. Plugging away in their lowest gear, they looked miserable. I had rings to spare. Cresting the next hill, I prepared myself for the crash. I’ve felt this surge of energy in a run before, but it never lasted more than a mile (or about ten minutes). The crash never came though. Descending the mountain I got even more enraged at the crowd of slugs around me. Are you seriously riding your brakes in the curves??? You’re going to kill me with your awful line selection and unpredictable speed. Move!
At 170 kilometers I was so cocky I was jumping manholes and storm drains in the road even on the climbs. I was hooting with excitement and openly taunting the riders as I passed them. I didn’t touch my brakes except on the windiest of backroad descents. I got to the Long Climb, another seven kilometer hill that was supposedly going to destroy me because it was at the 191 kilomter mark, and I was still dropping people like flies. Suddenlly, I recognized a jersey from my team! It turns out that the shop owner had broken off from the group hours ago and had been riding by himself. We chatted for a few kilometers before he, without warning, took off like a bat out of hell on a descent so curvy that I almost rode into a truck trying to keep up with him. He was obviously just dicking around and wasn’t even taking the ride seriously and yet it took me ten minutes in my highest gear to catch him. Together we dropped another two dozen riders and I was in utter and complete disbelief that my legs were not only holding out, but they seemed to be getting stronger with every stroke. I screamed with the exertion as I finally caught up to him at the last two kilometers of the ride.
Like a true gentleman, he let me cross the finish first. I fucking bunny hopped that shit! I couldn’t believe it was over already. I was so pumped and so thrilled, not just with the quality of the ride, but with the thrill and the rush of letting all my energy loose, throwing caution to the wind, shrieking and screaming both in voice and in body and truly letting the beast inside me rage free across the pavement.
It was an hour before the next people in our group caught up to us. I couldn’t wait for them as the evening sun was already starting to chill my body. I rode the ten kilometers up hill back to the hotel with the baby of their pro cycling team. He had finished in just over six hours while it took me ten and a half. For a girl, though, I gotta say that aint bad. We rode for about half an hour together and shared our stories from the event. When we got back to the hotel we met up with Thighs who had set a course record nearly five hours ago. The Baby beamed at him and told him how much I sounded like a true athlete, gushing over the adrenaline and the thrill of dropping other riders. The three of us rode out to a small wharf and watched the sun set. It was the perfect end to a perfect day — perfect except for the fact that not a single one of us felt like we had ridden enough!
Today I had the privilege of joining the Kunitachi Giant Store girls’ morning practice. Tired of getting dragged around by boys who always wanted to ride courses that were too steep, or who wouldn’t wait for them, they decided to organize a special practice. Compared to what I usually put my body through, it was a walk in the park. We did a 25 km loop around Saiyama lake, which is a lovely shaded, winding, slightly rolling bike course. It took about an hour and a half, so slower than I usually ride, but still enough to get a sweat going.
Part way through the shop owner had to take off for some work that he forgot about, and so the last 40 minutes or so was just us girls. That was when I finally got to see their true colors. Far from having no desire to ride, they mostly just felt overwhelmed. No matter how hard they tried, it was never enough for the boys — a girl just can’t keep up, and it’s unfair for a boy to expect them to.
I felt like I had finally found people who could understand me. We were all struggling against the same obstacles, and like so much else in the world we were made to feel like we were lacking because the bar, and all the rules, were set by boys, for boys.
On the way home it dawned on me, the solution to all of our problems. The boys make the girls feel bad about themselves because they don’t give us any credit for trying despite an extremely unfair disadvantage. The girls in turn wear the boys out because they are reluctant to subject themselves to more machismo. I, however, am both male and female and I can speak both languages. I can tolerate the boys’ crazy training concepts, learn from them, and make my own body stronger. I can then give what I learn to the girls in a way that I know will preserve their desire to ride, and maybe even grow it. The shop wins because it gets staff that know more and care more about bikes. The girls win because they get to practice without the pressure and abuse. And I win because I get to say that someone has to train me (Thunder, I’m 100% talking about you, here!), and I get to get faster while at the same time finally having people to ride with.
And I get to be team captain! Duh.
Over the past month I’ve gone to three of my friends’ competitions. Two were to support my girl friend in her return to sport climbing. She was amazing! The third, and I wish there had been a fourth, was to support Thunderthighs and the Giant Everwin team in their first race.
My girl was absolutely fantastic. I’ve never seen her so focused, and at the same time so completely in her own. Strong and confident, she gave me exquisite pleasure just to be there, cheering her, secretly saying to myself “Hey all you people! That’s MY friend there!”
The next week I went out to 群馬 (Gunma) with the racing team to see what a road race looked like. It was fun from the start, with an easy atmosphere despite the fact that the start was at 3am.
I would have been intimidated if I was showing up alone to race and saw all these guys with all their bikes and tools spread out all over the parking lot. But since I was with the group, to me it was just exciting to feel all the tension buried just underneath, ready to explode at the sound of the gun.
These two were a father-son pair and it was the first race for both of them. Fight! Fight!
Even I’m nervous at the start line to a running race. These guys must have been so much more so, but they hid it well. Thunder did not keep his nerves in check as well. He exploded to the front of the line, and then imploded a few laps later. A shame, but still impressive to have held on as long as he did.
Going home, a few of us had to be reduced to “cargo” status, but apparently cargo is a pretty comfy ride.
All the guys did their best and it was a thrill just to be there. Something about knowing the competitors, knowing their histories and the reasons why they are racing, makes everything more exciting, more meaningful and more fun.
I like having fun. Cheering my friends is stupid fun!