Friday, July 31, 2009

Melinda-nomics Will Pull You Out of a Funk

For those of you old enough to remember, a popular phrase in the 80’s was “Reaganomics” a concept our former President, Ronald Reagan commandeered. He created the “boot strap” mentality meaning if you find yourself in a bad place, then it was up to you to correct the situation because most likely you placed yourself there in the first place. He liked to phrase it as a “take charge approach.” (this is a very brief synopsis, it is actually MUCH more detailed than this summary).

Now, this concept, when applied to such social distortions like poverty did not strike a chord with public service agencies across the country that saw good people fining themselves in a bad situation due to precarious circumstances, and systemic breakdown. Trust me, I am not about to debate social reform, political anarchy, or the general degradation of a relaxed society. Gracious, that would be a lifelong blog entry stretched from here to the moon. No, but I actually wanted to give credit to Reagan as it relates to my recent “personal funk.”

First, my couch is not my friend. Sure, it looks happy and welcoming when you walk into my home but my couch, once I am sunken into the perfectly formed butt divots will not let me go. Because I cannot get up, even to scavenge for food, I am forced to lay there, watch BAD cable shows, talk to the cat when he walks by and drift in and out of naps. Eventually, I find myself in a full on FUNK. The rain has not helped this reality. So hours can pass and I stare at my own ceiling now intimately interrogating my life…the direction, the meaning, the wrongs, the rights. CRAP…I AM a victim of myself.

So, I am busting off the couch. Lately there have been two goals in my life, (1) get on the bike and (2) have a date with my couch. Well, I am pulling up my bootstraps, and I am breaking up with my couch. We can still be friends and certainly we have to get along because WE DO LIVE TOGETHER. But my couch is a life sucker….it makes me think about all the negatives in my life…and then I start to feel sorry for myself. My own pathetic shuffling from one end of the cotton mass to the other is doing NOTHING good for me. So, I have applied my own “Melinda-nomics” and I am pulling myself off that couch one way or the other this weekend. I blame myself and take full responsibility. All the excuses I can come up with are just wasted breaths. I have a long bike ride to do this weekend, friends to hug and love on, and laughter to feel. I know I have taken Regan’s concept way outside its original intentions but there are some adaptations to every idea….and I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN PEEL MYSELF AWAY FROM BUTT DIVOTS.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can’t See the Forest For the Trees

If three bikers were lost in an area of town they normally DO NOT ride, would anyone hear their cries for directions and help? We had talked about doing the Jefferson Memorial Forest for the past couple of weeks. We now see the one-mile hill as a conquest, something on our “bucket list”, an initiation into road cycling, a two-wheel hazing, or maybe just a part of training that will improve our legs.

It may be hard for the mere outsider to interpret what we are discussing when we plan a ride: road cycling or motorcycle riding. Perhaps due to the increased testosterone in our systems before a ride, we now talk ourselves up with phrases like “you are going to kick that hills ass” or ”we are going to crush it…” . All the while, we are also planning our post ride meal (usually a detailed discussion about cheese, meat, bacon, and chocolate-possibly ALL mixed together), which is probably NOT so Hell’s Angel like.

Car loaded. Gu, water and blocks being consumed, we ignored all the weather reports and the fact that in the morning it had rained over two inches. We ignored the earlier setting sun (now around 8:30PM), we ignored the general directions and by ignored, we forgot them. The car was secure with wheels, helmets, gloves, CO2 cartridges, tubes, shoes, but no directions. NO WORRIES….we are practically a biker gang… we are VERY independent women, WE DON'T NEED NO STINKING DIRECTIONS. We can find a forest on our own, right? You can’t miss a forest, right?

Over an hour later on a busy, twisting, winding, two lane road, we discovered that with all of our independence, we could NOT find the forest but we could purchase a 1972 fully restored Mustang that sat for sale in someone’s yard (tempting but it needed a bike rack). Stops had to be made quite often to secure our position on Lee’s cell phone (thank goodness for technology) and to debate missing street signs (what are my tax dollars paying for?). Unnecessary attention was being drawn from not-so-friendly motorists who passed us with Tone Loc blaring out their Cutlass’ windows (Funky Cold Medina). We busted out in a dance only for a second realizing we would garner MUCH more unnecessary attention dancing in spandex next to a liquor store (with a drive thru). The consensus was to turn around…and climb hell.

Hell is a hill in Louisville that has one of the steepest inclines I have ever seen or done on a bike. I refused to dismount from my bike and I refused to waste any breath screaming at the oversized pickup with missing catalytic converter and/or muffler who insisted on passing me so closely (thanks jackass). I am not sure if Lee and Candice noticed the cemetery that awaited us at the top…like a welcome mat for our dead and exploded lungs. We pressed on until we figured out our missed turn (a few more stops). By now, we understood that our built-in directional senses, cycling sonar, were scrambled…most likely from that blaring of Tone Loc (it’s a side effect). We headed back down the curved nightmare of a road and noticed a strong headwind and black cloud hung over our heads (uh oh). One…two….three drops of rain bounced off of my burning thighs and then like someone pulling a zipper, the sky opened up, soaking us in our last push to the car.

So we got lost. We still rode. We got wet. We were chilly. There was not a single complaint. We conquered a quality hill which was our initial goal anyway and we got a workout in. Our finish line was a rainbow that bent over the car welcoming our cold, wet, directionless bodies back home. We may not be ready to be Hell’s Angels yet but give us time and a Garmin.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love is Work Unless You Miss the Bus


My parents celebrated 33-years of marriage this past July 9. They are one of the ONLY
couples among my many friends who have weathered the storms of life and can still stand together, wedding bands intact. They still sleep in the same bed. My mother’s description of their early years is not pretty, poetic, or fairytale.

My mom worked in a local bakery in a busy area of downtown Louisville. My dad was a mechanic working on Mercedes also downtown several blocks away from my mom. They had been courting off and on for nearly 5 years. On July 9th, 1976 they took their lunch breaks, respectively and met at the courthouse (yes, the courthouse) with my aunt and uncle in tow for witnesses. My grandfather did not walk my mom down the aisle. My mom did not have matching bridesmaid gowns. There was no limo, hair, make-up or song selection. She wore a a very 70's blouse and skirt. My dad wore his mechanics uniform, a dark navy with a light pin stripe and sewn on name tag. There was not even a honeymoon planned. Instead, that afternoon, they spent 30-minutes getting married and then each returned to work to finish out their shifts not telling my grandparents what they had done until several days later. There is only one wedding picture and my mom's hair is big, a classic 70's portrait.

Soon, my mom said she found herself in a new empty house with a crying newborn (that would be me….I was a crier!). She had no car, few friends and suddenly took on a traditional wife role of cooking, cleaning, and changing my diapers. Mom kept the house in balance. My dad worked long days, sometimes 14-hours or more. He would come home often after 8 or 9 and I could hear my parents "discussing" (some may use the word "arguing") whatever trivial crisis that came up that week (furniture, car parts, mortgage, doctor visits).

Few people truly know my dad. He is a man of few words. He is my hero. I look up to my dad like no other. But he too will occasionally chime in during one of these story sessions saying, “yeah, it was rough.” But when I ask my parents about their 33-years, they say they would change nothing. They do not want to be with other people. They do not see themselves without each other and they attribute this to WORK…the work of a relationship.

My mom can tell you about every character flaw of my dad. He is not an emotional guy. He can be forgetful, picky, needy, and sometimes surly. My dad can tell you, my mom is a fighter, a woman with a lot of words, a voice raiser, a worrier, and a crier (she will cry over commercials). So, how do two people who are seemingly SO OPPOSITE, make it work? THEY NEVER QUIT. First and foremost, my parents share a passion for many of the same things in their lives. They love to garden…they love to refurbish houses and while they may not agree on the placement of a plant or what color to paint a room, it is their passion they share and they make it work.

So, here is the funny thing…(maybe not so funny depending on how you look at it)

I have NOT done this. I have rarely put WORK into a relationship. Why? I had this fairytale idea that the work was a myth and that everything about a relationship should happen effortlessly, be easy, and simple. My parents CONSTANTLY corrected me on this (The…”I told you so” speech) as they would see me often dispose (yes, I said dispose) of boyfriends not so shyly. Once I found a severe flaw in the relationship, I sent them packing, not looking back. Then, I turned 30…and somewhere between adopting a cat and growing tired of cooking for one, I realized if I was EVER going to be a partner, I needed to put in the work, 110%....and be flexible, compromise, and most of all, work through it.

But I waited too long, kinda like standing at the bus stop and letting all the busses pass you by until there are none left. Crap! My procrastination has consequence, penalty, and outcome. The biggest lessons I have learned have been noted by those closest to me….(1) I am emotional, I cry, and I get hurt, (2) It takes me a while to trust….to truly believe that someone will be there and not leave (3) I do not dispose of people in my life anymore. I guess I have grown up. I have always been a little slow….a little behind the norm, on the periphery of the bell curve….but I get it now.

Have you ever seen someone chase after a bus? C’mon, you know you have….and have you ever seen the bus not stop? It happens. But sooner or later, I will get on….and I will not even care where the bus is going.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I have abs…

We are less than seven weeks out from the Old Kentucky Home Bike Tour (OKHT). Today when I walk up stairs, I wince and sometimes have to stop and let the pain subside. Today is a well deserved rest day but I still feel all of my newly formed muscle fibers twitching. Is it worth it? YES. The first group ride I did well over a month ago with Lee, a friend who up until now has been submerged in constant studying as she became a doctor (Congrats!). This first ride proved to put us in our place quickly (in the rear). I pedaled, struggled, huffed and puffed to finish the ride that night with 90% humidity, traffic, and the fear of being dropped. It didn’t help that we were riding with a pro who makes it look so easy as she never even gasps for breath on uphills (damn her!). I collapsed in a local brewery that night thinking “what in the hell have I gotten myself into…and I wish I could have a beer.

Last night, a corner was turned. Lee and I lead the majority of the group ride. We rode faster than we normally do and the ride captain told us to slow down. I kinda pumped my fists with a “yes” motion almost celebrating our scolding. Progress is officially being made. Not only can we do longer and harder rides (Lee and I joked that we really are not even sweating by 20-miles anymore), but finally we can see the changes! I told Lee as I approached my car in a quite exited girly tone, “I HAVE ABS!” and I unzipped my jersey (which fits again!) to reveal a SLOW forming whiter than Elmer’s glue six pack (I NEVER KNEW I HAD A SIX PACK IN THERE!). SPECIAL NOTE: Those are NOT my abs in the picture.

While there is fear of approaching winter and my couch engulfing me in laziness, I am hoping that once the OKHT has passed and I survive, that I will continue (Lee too!). At this point, riding is becoming something that I cannot quit and the longer, harder the ride, the better. The feeling of being fit is becoming a norm. I have a long way to go to be truly fit but I am getting there. The reward is a slowly changing body, disappearing thigh dimples, shrinking waist lines, and shopping for new clothes (okay, not really, that is not in the budget—but I can dream). In other words, it really does work. It really does pay off. Instead of beating myself and hating my body, I am doing something about it. This is my motivation for Wednesday’s approaching one-mile hill climb but I feel my motivation will emerge with me yelling at myself….”Come on Melinda…get your ass up this hill….(scream)” and the lighter my derrière is, the better. One pedal at a time.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wanting to be good at something…

From the first crank on the bike, I loved and hated it ALL at the same time. The first mountain bike ride was at best, tolerable. The next day due to the lack of appropriate fluids, stretching, and caloric filled foods, I thought my shins and thighs would be consumed in flames. I had prepared my final words on my deathbed and probably would have preferred a bed pan because standing up from the toilet really caused me to shriek in pain (out loud, no less). I hobbled about my office looking as if I had tried to run with the bulls in Spain (and lost poorly). I vowed never to go back out there….and then I could not stop.

From there, it was an upward climb (oh the irony). I wanted to go back out. I fell. I scraped, scratched, and destroyed 90% of the dermis on my legs. Scabs were a common accessory as earrings. Bags of frozen vegetables were conveniently placed near the coldest part of the freezer before I would head out for a ride only to be placed on my burning, throbbing legs later. I never set out to become a pro….but if anything, I just set out to find love. I set out to find something I was good at.

There are a lot of things I am not good at. I will NEVER be a championship swimmer. I will never be iron man winner (that I know of), and I doubt that I will ever play golf with any enthusiasm…but guess what I can do forever? The bike. It may not be smooth, it may not be pretty…but I can do it for a long time. There is a certain amount of discipline involved and the accomplishments are accumulated by small barely noticeable improvements (migration to clipless pedals [which ironically are NOT clipless], longer mileage, smoother lines, conquering log crossings, catching air, high fiving other riders). It is one of those things that when I am out and see a mother or father pulling their child behind them in matching cycling outfits, I blurt out, “I want to do that…”

Three years ago if you had asked me about wheels, hubs, cranksets, handlebars, pedals, tires, I would have stared back at you blankly (brown eyes blinking). Three years ago if you told me I would be doing 50-mile road rides, I would have laughed at you and probably sniffed your drink for alcohol. Three years ago if you told me, I would be encouraging everyone I know to get a bike, I would have told you, “I have other hobbies…” That was then, this is now.

I turn 33 this year and certainly there are handfuls of accomplishments that I will probably not reach. However, for every door closed, another opens. I was tearing down River Road yesterday, pushing as hard as I could for as long as I could, actually impressing myself (briefly, mind you). Cars swerved around me and in front of me was my city…in the sun, looking absolutely breath taking. These are not the sights you get in the car because you are too busy texting, playing with the radio, or telling a backseat driver to adjust their attitude. Why would I want to ride until I feel my breath give out….and my legs wobble? Because, I can and someday I will not be able to.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Decorating Your Heart...

People told me when I first starting cycling that it would become addictive. Like MOST habits (good or bad), it is also expensive. But sure enough....I am addicted and now my house is littered with everything cycling from clothing, to magazines, to decorative is cycling. 

Important note to scratch home is small. It is 1000 square feet so if someone were here and wanted to free themselves from looking at my chamois, ignoring drying water bottles, or not step over hydration bladders, they would need to physically GO OUTSIDE.
I rearrange hoping that the "stuff" will blend or attain a higher level of feng shui but a bike in the dining room is kinda noticeable.  Bike shorts by the finger towels in the loo isunavoidable. So in the 20th or 30th attempt to rearrange, yet again, I realized how much I had really come into my own. 

I realized that cycling is in my personal life. NO! I cannot date my bike nor do I want to....too thin! But whomever I share my life with is going to have to love the outdoors and by love the outdoors, I mean they are going to have to cry when they see an amazing sunrise, not whine about having a shower and accept that on the bike, I am ALWAYS pressing, pushing, and trying to be better. 

So while some people are nervous about dates meeting their children, I realized that I have an immense amount of anxiety that I may potentially meet someone who does not share my passion, my love, and this could lead to many lonely bike rides and me tripping over my stuff alone. I wish I had learned some of these lessons in life before I was thirty-two...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cinnamon Roll Training Diet

Three girls, three bikes, an assortment of yummy foods (homemade rice krispy treats with reese pieces), coffee, and a copy of Wheeling Around Louisville makes a Saturday morning nearly perfect. Choosing a route was more like looking through a teen magazine as we took turns ooohing and ahhhhing over the descriptions of the rides. We finally settled on an Indiana route called Leota Hill Ride. We initially ignored the word HILL in the title because the description reads "landmark covered bridge" and "general store advertising best pizza in town" (important note: we never saw another pizza place). Car loaded, snacks consumed, we were off.

Pre-ride discussion ranged from Botox, to breast implants, to a demolished love life all culminating in a small state park parking lot. One important note...when you decide to cycle whether road or trail or both (eeek, some people do both), you become intimately close with your riding partners. You become comfortable enough that you will change clothes nearly buck naked in the middle of a state park with no effort or care. Once we were settled in our spandex, we tucked away our cue sheets and headed out.

Until now, I had only been on a few country rides and I already had memorized that route. It is pretty, but this ride wins the blue ribbon. First, rolling scenery for miles. Literally corn fields, wild flowers, baby animals, and ponds spreading out as far as the eye can see. There is a fair amount of distraction for a not-so-super-easy ride. Remember, the word HILL was in the title, so, about 8 miles in, we approached a steady slow hill. I was beyond thankful again for my compact crank and I found you can summit a hill at 5.5 mph (insert laughter here!). However, what the book failed to mention was the amount of additional hills we would encounter. Up, down, up, down.....up.....and down again. I was trying every trick I know to conserve the tiny bits of energy I had left when a sign stood out..."Bake Sale Every Saturday"....and you could hear all of our brakes being applied as we turned around.

Less than 10 minutes later, we found ourselves sitting in the front yard of a lovely Amish family enjoying their homemade cinnamon rolls. The icing, the bun, EVERYTHING, was delicious. It was a surreal moment being surrounded by a milking cow, push mower, and ample rows of sweet corn--sorry no Blackberry reception here. Two mini-adults entertained our curiosity explaining their farm and their life. I walked out their front gate telling the others, "We have a blessed life."

The remainder of the ride was a lactic acid, leg burning, thigh scorching pedal challenge (for me anyway!). I learned how to manage "rollers"....and I should note, I do not like rollercoasters. These back to back hills felt like rollercoasters. Others coached or encouraged me on and I peddled while burping cinnamon roll and Gu water (note: Gu water is not a good chaser for homemade cinnamon rolls). I was convinced that even if I threw up the cinnamon roll, it would still taste good (these are the concessions to come to accept on the road or trail).

The last few miles of the ride were skewed by the fact, we realized we were lost (uh oh). A closed street overgrown with weeds and wildlife meant we had an abrupt, but scenic, detour. This could be one of those moments where three women, now tired, burned out and hungry could lose it....but instead, we found ourselves preparing to ask for directions at a Shell station complete in our spandex and sweat covered faces. Thankfully directions were not needed from any poorly paid attendants as we found our forest and car only a few miles ahead (thank you!).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Girls Out Alone...

I have had the registration form on my desk since May...I stare at it everyday right on top of the important stuff to be done. I even have most of it filled out...I just need to mail it in. I do not even have the excuse of low funds...actually I have a credit from Hmmm....(tapping my fingers on my desk).

The road bike is up and running but there is an odd truth settling in. Last nights ride ended in I rode the last few miles by myself. I watched my shadow next to me dance in and out of the corn fileds. It was hypnotizing in a way and then I realized I was feeling lonely, listening to my chain and cassette. Recently a rider told me that I should get used to being alone on long rides. I understand the need for an i-pod now but I find that cars flying past me at 40, 50, or 60MPH may require I have BOTH ears working or grow eyes in the back of my head which I figure is considered a birth defect and not an asset.

The other fear, and I have shared this before is being out in the middle of no where alone. I am a 5'2", 112 pound girl. Forget men afraid of asking for directions. It applies to BOTH genders. It is slightly intimidating to approach some guy on his riding mower in spandex with purple water in your hand. Riding the park is not necessarily training but more leisure unless I want to attempt numerous sprints through the park that include dodging toddlers, strollers, walkers, runners, dogs (on and off leash), and sometimes cars lost but rolling in the wrong direction towards me.

Forget E-Harmony or other dating sites, I am proposing a cycling site that will match you with someone to train/ ride with. Instead of having small conversations with myself (I really do) or humming old church songs (I did that too), I could actually have another shadow to talk to. But then I am told that on my 103 mile journey, I will be alone a lot of the time. No crowds, no special finish line...just me. I wonder if the men in the Tour think about this? Probably not as you rarely see any of them alone and they have a pace car if they really need some cognitive stimulation. I need a voice in my helmet telling me..."you got this, you can do this", "c'mon, dig deep"...but for now I will have to include that in my conversations with myself.

One...not such a lonely number...

The idea of two pedals may work for most athletes. This would make them ordinary though. The next cycling craze is no doubt ONE-LEGGED cycling. The training is challenging, painful and perhaps "crazy." Some may call it EXTREME. To fit your bike, simply loosen your clipless pedal and while riding anticipate when it will fall out (probably on a climb) while still clipped into your shoe. Once removed from the casing, then begin pedaling up and down with the remaining clipped in leg. The unclipped leg will become bored, so you may want to tap it on the ground or rest it on your top tube. may tire after 2 or 3 miles but you finished 2 or 3 miles with ONE LEG which is equivalent to finishing 5 or 6 miles normally. You have cut out the middle man, removed the waste and simplified the process. It is a mathematicians DREAM to do this. (We discussed alternating legs to prevent "Hulk" like thighs from forming)...

Other additions to make the training more challenging (or fun): (1) take a friend who can snort on command...this will distract you from your growing thigh pain and keep you going when you are tempted to stop (2) affix yourself in the middle of no where and take a break, maybe even a walk, eat something gummi (3) come up with escape strategies in case of kidnappers or those weirdo's who have seen Deliverance one too many times (insert banjo music here) approach. Finally, mark your first ride as an epic tale to be shared with all and check for ticks after because sitting on the side of the road in sweaty spandex attracts them (scientifically proven).

Personally, I think I will have to stick with TWO pedals. I am happy being ordinary.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Settling In...

My last few moves have been effortless. The last apartment I vacated, I hired a moving company to put all of my stuff in a truck and move me across the city (yes, some 10 miles). It might be the ultimate definition in laziness HOWEVER, I loved it. I wrote a check, went to work, came home to the new condo, and VIOLA all of my furniture was moved and settled. Forget bribing friends with pizza, beer, the use of the pool, or even homemade cookies. I paid movers and I was VERY happy.

Now, packing up and moving a blog should not seem such a task. There is nothing heavy to move or even back breaking. I doubt I could even break a sweat, however the blog I had for years has become a cumbersome lesson in the absence of my patience. When you pay movers, they ideally listen to you. When you pay a blog site and they do not put elements where they belong, then you create an angry user. I prefer simplicity and sometimes I DO NOT DO WELL WITH CHANGE. I waited, patiently, or what I thought was patiently....and NOW I have decided to move. Here I am!

I want to say this site seems comfortable....I am getting used to the new surroundings. I feel like a stranger in a new town. I have to learn the new layouts, different templates, add my own touches, and feel my way around in this new environment. It will take some fine tuning but I will get it right. I am sure if I cannot get things just the way I want them, I can hire a blog decorator, they HAVE to be out there.