When I started this blog, I intended to write an entry every day. It hasn’t worked out that way: I notice, for example, that my previous entry was on July 10, 2014 — and that entry described something that had happened back on June 1 of that year. The thing is, I have this cool app — Remember The Milk — that gives me a to-do list each day. And one of the items on that list that recurs daily tells me to write a blog item. At the end of each day I delete the items I haven’t gotten to — one of which, pretty much always, is to write a blog item — and the app generates that very same to-do for the next day. Which I then delete. And so on.
So let me just say that it feels really great to be writing this entry, if for no other reason than that I’ll be able to check off “Write blog entry” as done.
I find that a lot of my aspirations have to do with catching up. Right now I’m taking driving lessons, and if all goes well I will get my first driver’s license on May 22, the day after my 56th birthday. Also, there’s my senior thesis for Princeton, which was due in 1980. Several years ago I submitted one of my monologues, Citizen Josh, as my thesis — but the current thesis adviser told me that, as he read the rules, I needed to add a section that was more, you know, thesis-y. I’m working on that now. … Well, I’m aspiring to work on that now, would be more accurate. It could start happening at any moment. I used to have a daily recurring item on my Remember The Milk list that said “Work on thesis” — but at some point, perhaps because of a stray keystroke, that item fell away.
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I just tabbed over to Remember The Milk and added “Work on thesis.” We’ll see if it sticks.
In the meantime, let me try to get caught up on my recent training rides with Team In Training (TNT). This is my fourth season with TNT, which organizes events that raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. That last entry I wrote was about my third cycling century (that is, 100-mile ride) with TNT. This year — because most of my former teammates were doing it, because I’ve always loved Seattle and wanted to visit Vancouver, B.C., and because of the invisible hand of a possibly sadistic cycling god — I’ve signed up for an even longer ride: 188 miles, over two days, from Seattle to Vancouver, on August 15 & 16. (If you want to donate towards my ride, you can do so here.)
My goal has been to write up each weekly training ride as an entry on my blog, but for some reason I’ve had a harder-than-usual time getting going on that this year. So this first entry of the 2015 season will cover the first bunch of rides — after which, I’m actually pretty confident, I’ll get back into the weekly blogging rhythm.
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I’ll start with last Saturday’s ride — a 48.7 mile slog through the great flatness of Vacaville, Calif. If you click on the map below, you can see all kinds of details from my ride, like heart rate, cadence, and other records of my glorious suffering:
This — due to a couple of beautiful bar and bat mitzvahs I’d attended on recent Saturdays, which kept me from training on those days — was my first ride with my newly assigned rider group. (There are lots and lots of riders on the team, and we’re separated out into different mini-groups, according to our speed.) My group’s coach, Kieran, is terrifically witty, and so I’d anticipated that she would be relatively easygoing as a coach. Um, no. She’s an ass-kicker (though still very funny). We were practicing pace-lining — in which everyone takes turns at the front of the single-file line of riders, presumably blocking the wind for everybody — and we were going at what I thought was already a pretty challenging pace. But after a SAG (refreshment) stop, Kieran casually mentioned to me that she was going to try to get us to push the pace by a couple mph. So instead of going about 14 mph (along mostly flatness, against a moderate wind), we were doing around 16. Which was kind of okay, until the flatness subtly became a slight uphillness — at which point pushing the pace became way harder to do.
It’s a mystery to me how other cyclists can go so much faster than I can. Just by looking at many of them, I can deduce that at least part of their advantage is that, unlike me, they are so thin as to be essentially weightless. Gravity cannot find them. Wind goes through them. They are made of muscle and sinew and bone and very little else: they were clearly designed by God for cycling. Okay, I get that. But how to account for all these other speedy cyclists — people who, like me, are not at all skinny? Why are they so much faster than me? I have no idea. It’s not like I’m not trying. It’s just that there’s this, like, invisible molasses surrounding me, kind of like Pigpen’s dirt-cloud in the Peanuts comics.
Well, I did try pushing the pace, with sporadic success — but it was a strain. Literally. I could feel my back and one of my legs straining a bit to keep going that fast. And then, a couple of days later (yesterday), my hip and lower back started feeling wonky. So I’m a little intimidated about continuing with Kieran’s ride group — rather than, say, asking to move down a speed group — but as a Kieran fanboy I’m quite reluctant to do so. We’ll see.
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Here’s a map of my previous training ride, in Marin:
I remember that ride (a “buddy ride” — that is, not in our speed groups but just kind of all together) as being pretty fun. Though lots of times it doesn’t feel fun on a moment-by-moment basis, except for when I’m going downhill. What’s cool/weird is that I’m actually almost always — even when struggling up a steep hill — having kind of a great time: I’m on my beautiful bike, in lovely surroundings, with my wonderful TNT pals. I just don’t fully feel my enjoyment till afterwards, possibly around the time I’m back home and soaking in Epsom salts while reading the latest issue of Bicycling magazine — or, as it’s known to cyclists, “bike porn.”
It hasn’t escaped my notice that two of the activities that have brought so much to my life recently — cycling, and volunteering at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco — call upon their practitioners to live in the moment. Actually, cycling (especially going uphill, and/or against the wind) forces me to live in the moment — just focus on the next pedal stroke: sometimes, near the beginning of a long ride, I find myself wondering how I will possibly become the person who has finished that ride, hours later; but it happens, over and over again. Amazing, this time thing.
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The ride before that one — also in Marin — brings up painful memories for me … not because of the ride itself, but because my new Garmin device, which tracks my every move on the bike and then uploads to the Internet, turned out to be glitchy and only recorded the first 27 seconds of a 22.74-mile course. Thus the map below gives a severely truncated account of that day’s ride:
After the ride, I went to the amazingly helpful folks at Mike’s Bikes in Berkeley, where I’d bought the Garmin, and they quickly swapped it out for another one — which works fine.
It’s a little scary to realize how emotionally dependent I am on the upload from each ride — almost as if, without a map and stats I can point to, the ride never happened! It’s an if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forest kind of thing.
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Before that, I rode with my teammates around Orinda and environs:
And a week before that, we biked around Livermore:
Which leaves only the season-launching ride the previous Sunday, in Pinole:
The first ride of each season is always relatively easy, and is intended to lull the prospective participant into a false feeling of confidence. This has always worked for me. As the weeks go by, and the courses get more and more nearly-impossible, I will fleetingly think back longingly to that first ride. And then I’ll get to the next nearly-straight-up hill, with the wind blowing vehemently into my face, and I’ll just have to pin my ears back and move ahead, one pedal-stroke at a time.
And then, the next week, I’ll do it again. I know: it doesn’t sound like me, with all this persistence. But it’s what’s happening.
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Again, if you’d like to contribute toward my ride — and thus help to fight blood cancers, and to support cancer patients and their loved ones — you can do so here.