Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Someday was last week

Is it Hottie, or Jesus in the snow ?

For an assortment of prudent reasons I try to maintain a modicum of anonymity on this blog.  While I obviously feel free to express my opinions and observations, I seek to keep my personal details private and wherever possible use nicknames to protect the identity of my more than guilty accomplices.

Because I have shared more than a few of my struggles and my occasional successes in this blog, I am inclined to share some happy news.  As Tom Petty mused, “Even the losers get lucky sometimes.”

Hottie and I have many shared dreams.  Some of those dreams had been in my heart since I was a little boy.  One dream increased in clarity following that rite of passage, a ninety minute timeshare hard sell presentation, in 2005.  We walked out of there without parting with a dime but having flushed out what we wanted. While travelling the world and seeing different places is fun, our shared vision of vacations and eventual retirement included a cabin in very specific corner of the woods. 

Our “Cabane dans la foret,” started to become a reality in 2006. That move was a leap of faith as we couldn’t connect the dots at that time.  Starting anything that does not have a clear path to completion is extremely out of character for me.  To reference my own comments we showed action and committed money to the plan.  Looking back it was an absolute “Field of Dreams” move.  I am proud of that.

In the years between then and now there were times the subject would only serve to create a knot in my stomach as the goal seemed at times to be farther away or even entirely out of reach as opposed to getting closer with time.  There were times I was within a mile or two of our raw land and didn’t want to see it because the desire in my heart and the logistics of making it a reality were so far apart I knew seeing it would only depress me.  Hottie queried me as to why I didn’t want to visit our land and I just shrugged it off.

The dream remained almost a secret in our hearts.  My computer passwords often contained coded references to that dream. I know the zip code by heart because it was part of one of one password for a season.

There were dark days without employment when the dream was nothing more than an unspoken wish. There were other priorities and a cabin was rightfully farther down the agenda.  Other factors that directly affected the likelihood of a cabin ever happening cycled up and down and up again. 

Our vision wasn’t entirely selfish.  We wanted a place to share with friends and family.  The vision of children and grandchildren running around the woods has been in my mind since I first held little Zach over thirty freakin years ago.  Holding his newborn son this winter reminded me of how long I have held the dream.  The names Kyson and Sophie have figured into the cabin conversations between me and Hottie since they came into our lives.

As things began falling in place the situation still felt surreal. When something has existed as a dream for so long the transformation to reality is perceived with quiet trepidation.  “Is it really happening?” We found ourselves wondering what could go wrong. Hottie and I asked each other, “Can you believe we are actually doing this?” a hundred times over the last few months.  We have been giddy. 

We all plan, prepare and sacrifice for that “Someday.”  After a while “Someday” takes on an almost fictional status. On some level you believe someday will come, but over time we have all had a dream or two shattered and hearts broken such that our hopes and dreams become tempered by past disappointments.  We become jaded. The image of reaching that “Someday” grows a bit fuzzy.  Doubt sets in.

There were periods of self doubt and fear over more important things that weighed me down so much that breathing was difficult.  There were times I could envision my future turned upside down and the thought of starting over, again, nearly crushed me.  At times the best I could do was to go through the motions and hope the future would be better.

Still we press on and at least pretend the future will be good.  Hope is a good thing.  At times putting money away for the future felt like buying a lottery ticket.  A lottery ticket gives you the ability to hold on to a dream, however unlikely, of winning for just a few days. The act of savings makes the idea of there even being a “Someday” grow in your mind.

When we bought new pots and pans a few years ago I boxed up the old ones and labeled the box “For Cabin.”  It seemed almost like a futile offering to the gods on some alter decorated with trinkets and candles.  When I would see the box in the corner of the garage sometimes I thought, “What was I thinking.” Other times I looked at it and thought, “Someday…”

Despite your fear and perhaps out of habit, you prepare. You put money where you can’t get to it. You don’t live flashy.  We finally replaced Hottie’s car after she drove it for over seventeen years. I’ll drive the war wagon until it can go no more.  That is the plan. We do buy some nice things but we don’t replace them until they wear out.  I iron my shirts and cut my grass and we wash our cars in the driveway.  We have done some remodeling at our place and Hottie and my sons and I did as much of that work as our skill sets would allow.  We lived in such a way that if we got lucky, “Someday” could happen before we were too old to enjoy it.

As our Cabane materialized I can assure you it is not a fancy place.  On the one hand it isn’t the place we dreamed of, but it is a place and it is ours and that matters more than its shortfalls. If we have more than a carload of people visiting there will be sleeping bags involved. If you want to take a bath instead of a shower you had better bring a bucket that you can fit inside.  If you want a garage or carport; you can help me build it one of these summers.

We wanted to get a cabin in an area that we think is the neatest place on earth. We wanted a place where we could come and play anytime we wanted.  Perhaps more than that, we wanted a place where we could bring loved ones and share what we think is beautiful and fun and maybe help them develop a love of the outdoors while at the same time strengthening our relationships.

So now that “Someday” has come what happens next?  As soon as we broke down the boxes from moving in and vacuumed the floors we knew exactly what would happen next.  As much as we enjoy the place for ourselves, our first instinct was to share. 

What happens next? As Terrence Mann said near the end of the previously referenced and by the way the greatest movie ever made, “People will come, Ray. People will come.”   

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Getting comfortable with discomfort

Evo finishing a road race and letting the hurt escape vocally !

I am transitioning from what I would characterize as “Recovery” and getting back into a real training routine.

I’ve been doing leg weights twice a week for three weeks with a focus on strengthening my knee.  I have seen some dramatic increases in strength which is rewarding.  My pathetic starting point also demonstrates how much fitness I lost and the distance of my road back to competitiveness. I’ve been steadily increasing my mileage, living in zone one, two and three. I’ve been watching my knee and ribs and proceeding with measured caution.

I’m getting to a point where I can up the intensity of my workouts as well as increasing my mileage.   Today I returned to spin class after a long hiatus. While I didn’t turn myself inside out or anything, I did find myself pushing harder than I have for some time. 

It was a strange sensation and it made me realize something that had become so normal it was hard to see during my normal training.

My friend Geoff was teaching the spin class and if I omit his instructions, the conversation in my head during one of the harder drills was something like this:

Okay pick it up now…This feels okay so far….I can feel that I’m going harder… Now I’m getting uncomfortable…I should back off…..Don’t back off….How much longer? ....I can keep this up a little longer…Hey, this is really starting to hurt….I am still recovering, I should back off…. Push it… Lactic acid is building…Shut up legs…I really want to back off…My quads are screaming!! …Embrace the pain, keep going….Geoff, this is enough…. Count down already….Man, I forgot how much this can hurt…This is all I got….A little longer…..Finally…. Time to slow down....It feels good to catch my breath….Again?.......Okay…..

It is a strange balance of listening to your body, yet at the same time ignoring some of what your body says.

It is easy to put out hard efforts in short chunks.  You’re fresh and a short burst makes your legs feel snappy.  In training as you increase your level of effort and it starts to hurt you have a decision to make.  Do you back off and get comfortable again or do you push on and live with being uncomfortable.   Then after you decide to accept a certain level of discomfort, what do you do when the hurt increases even more? 

At some point it gets ridiculous, but to be competitive you have to be willing to spend time in the pain cave.  How deep in the cave you decide to go is your decision.   There is a correlation here that goes without saying.  Except I just kind of said it…

I remember that near the end of one of my first cross races my legs were cooked and I got out of the saddle to accelerate and I had nothing left.  It took all I had not to collapse onto my top tube. I was lucky to get my butt back onto my saddle. 

As I close the door on the recovery chapter and embark on the hard training chapter I am reminded that in addition to having a willingness to invest the time and effort into training there is a toll that must be paid for racing success. That toll is a tolerance and acceptance of discomfort. 

Koobi, a company that makes some awesome saddles has a tagline: Speed = Comfort.  I would not disagree; but I would add that sustained speed is often the result of sustained discomfort.  I’m not saying we should look for pain, but I will say that if we want to be fast then when pain comes calling we can’t close the door, or turn and run.

At work later in the day I went up some stairs and almost stumbled on my first step because my legs were sore.  I just smiled.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Giro Monaco fingerless glove Review

After black lycra bike shorts, few things are as iconic to cycling as fingerless cycling gloves. When the parameters have been unaltered for generations, it boggles the mind that we have such a plethora of options.  Gloves should have a grippy palm, padding at the heel of the hand and a breathable backside. That pretty much sum it up. 

In addition to the basics outlined above, we have come to ask even more.  We like it when they keep our hands cool on hot days.  We want them to fit like a glove, yet come off easily when we stop.  I like them to dry quickly and survive frequent washings.  Style? Sure.

Like so many products it is easy to find something that scores high in one category but then they tend to fall short elsewhere. The Giro scores high across the board and that makes it a winner.

The Giro glove fits well and is made well using excellent materials. It dries well and has survived many washings.  I’ve got a seam that is starting to unravel, but this glove has been to hell and back with me, so I’m still giving it excellent marks for quality and durability. 

The padding is right where you need it and isn’t so thick that it gets in the way.  For Cyclocross I like little or no pad and this glove is my one and only if it is warm enough to go fingerless and rough enough that I want some padding. 

I wear these mountain biking, trail riding on my cross bike and road riding when the temperature allows fingerless gloves.

I recently bought a second pair, in white for summer use.  The new pair had some refinements and has settled in for a long career with Evo. The later version of this glove has two tabs on the backs of the middle two fingers that are supposed to make glove removal easier.  Everyone else seems to have better luck using them compared to me, but since everyone else seems to love it, I guess I do too.

Some types of products are harder to evaluate subjectively than others.  When you ride a bike you notice the stiffness. For most clothing products the highest compliment you can give them is that you didn’t notice them.  If you have a bibshort that works perfectly on a six hour ride you don’t notice them for a second.  When a short chafes you, you notice it, when it doesn’t you don’t. The same applied to shoes, helmets and gloves.  Not noticing means they are doing their job and letting you enjoy the ride without distraction.

I have never looked at these and thought, “Man these gloves are super padded!”  I have thought that with a pair of Castelli gloves that have other shortcomings. More importantly, I have never thought, “I need to wear something different tomorrow” after wearing the Giro gloves.  I feel kind of weird giving them five Evos when I haven’t had an epiphany that I can point towards.  I can tell you I set a high bar and these have never let me down.

Months after you buy a product your subconscious reveals all you need to know.  The stuff that gets pushed to the back of the drawer and stays there is what you don’t like. It no longer matters if it was expensive or cheap, it is all yours now.  The stuff that you pull out without even thinking about it is what you like.  

I have looked down at my hands and wondered, why did I grab these Giro gloves today?  Why? Because they are the working man’s glove, that’s why!  Think Ford F-150, think Dickies or Carhart; these are tools for your hands.

When my luggage was lost on my cycling trip to France in 2012 I had a chance to contemplate what I would replace and what I would not.  On my short list were these gloves. (As it happened all my clothes made it back to my house so I didn’t have to replace them) BTW, what kind of friend is Big John?  When I was in France and depended on the goodwill and spare gear of my brothers in brown, John loaned me his Giro Monaco gloves.

A couple days later we were in a town with a bike shop and I was able to buy my own gloves.  When I gave John back his gloves he was happy as he had developed a blister on the palm of his hand wearing something else. What kind of friend is John?  What kind of gloves are these Giro’s?  Same answer to both.. The best

Five of five Evos

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Actions Speak

Here are some words about action..

If someone wanted to know what is important in your life, all they need to do is follow you around and observe when you think nobody is looking.  You could figure out that I like riding a bike because I spend time every week riding.  
If someone followed Hottie they would see her volunteering at the greyhound rescue facility bringing some happiness to traumatized dogs in transition.

You would learn I love my family because I do things for them that you can observe (actions). Hottie and I do things for each other every day. We frequently have family over and we do stuff.  We take them places.  
We invite parents, children and grandchildren to go to the zoo, the park, dinner or just to come and hang out. We load them in our car and head off to a National Park or take them on vacations.  We bring them to bike races, fairs and pumpkin farms.  These are actions you can see. 

Back when I learned English using antiquated methods like constructing sentences; the definition that stuck in my head was that a verb was an “action” word.  It was something you could observe happening.  Unlike a noun, which was a person, place or thing; a verb “did” something.  A person ran, a place smelled and a rock rolled. The verbs were “ing” words.  Could you put “ing” at the end of the word? Running, smelling, rolling, etc..
Because love is a verb, you can’t have love without action.  Saying you love someone or something is nothing but hot air if you can’t point to ongoing actions that manifest your love. 

Listening is an action.  It meets the “ing” criteria. Listening shows caring which is part of love.

When someone says they are a bad listener what that generally means is they really aren’t that concerned about other people so they don’t really care what others might have to say.  They pretty much just care about themselves. Another measure is if they spend ninety percent of any “conversation” doing the talking.  A lot of people would label that as being selfish. They would be correct.
Some people have limitations, be they physical, emotional or financial that may impact the ways in which they can express love and caring.  Barring these limitations, if you love someone or something the true measure is action. 

They say actions speak louder than words.  I’m not sure who “They” are but at least in this case, they are right.  Actions or lack thereof, don’t just speak louder than words, they marginalize words.