Saturday, November 1, 2014

Notes in the (off) Season

Can you be an athlete if you don't compete?


I was actually shocked when I realized that I hadn't blogged since the Lake Tahoe Ironman and the 70.3 were cancelled due to bad air conditions nearly two months ago. It's not that I haven' been training-- or writing-- but somehow the blog slipped through the cracks. In the off chance that you follow this craziness, I'm sorry. I really have been blogging (in my mind); but that's not entirely useful for you since no one's discovered, quite, how to read minds yet.

So, what have I been so busy doing? Well, training, of course: I try to maintain 20 hours a week of the swim/bike/run gig. The diminishing hours of daylight and (as of tonight) the end of daylight savings time has made getting those 20 hours more difficult. The palms of my hands are scratched up from running in the dark before morning and falling (yes, I know, I need some sort of head light) and the few days I've tried to take the bike outside after work, I'm shocked at how dark the world gets when I'm only thirty minutes into an hour ride (I guess I need lights for that, too.) And there is something that happens in the body, I believe, with all this cold and darkness: with not wanting, really, to be up and out so much. A big part of me wants to curl up with War and Peace or maybe even Infinite Jest and just read with my cats curled around my feet.

But darn it: I've got dreams. And I'm an athlete (I think?) even though I haven't competed in what seems like forever.

Or... am I an athlete? What measures can I apply to know for sure in lieu of an event where I'm tested against other bodies?

One of our riders traversing Nevada's "loneliest highway" during the Silver State 508.

At the beginning of October, I crewed for a two-man relay team for the inaugural Silver State 508-- a 508-mile cycling race across the state of Nevada which began in Reno and headed east on old highway 50 to Eureka and back again the same way.

Me playing shadow puppets (sort of) as we wait to hand off supplies to our rider.
I wasn't an athlete in that event (although if you watch how I handed off bottles to our riders, you have to admit it took a certain degree of skill--and leg-speed-- to make a successful exchange); and as we drove/rode across the empty spaces, I couldn't help but feel disappointed in myself that I have not become a real, an elite, a true athlete (yet.)

Following our rider across the high desert en route to the finish line in Reno, Nevada.

Maybe one day? I certainly hope so....


Then, there was the Foxy's Fall Century in Davis I rode with Rich and several women who trained with him on long rides, CompuTrainer rides and any and all other kinds of rides.

I told Rich I really just wanted to ride as fast as I could and I did: I stuck with no one in particular, just lay low in my aerobars, stopped only for water and the essentials and ended up turning out 100 miles in about five hours.

Cruising comfortably at about 20 miles into the ride just outside Davis, CA.

The weather was perfect: still and calm and only a little chilly in the morning: once I'd returned to Davis I rode the course in reverse looking for Rich and the girls. I didn't see them, but the additional miles gave me 130 for the day-- 100 of them at a steady clip. I just loved it.

Granted, it was an organized ride and not a race, so there are no bragging rights attached (it's unfair to pair yourself against people who are only there to complete the distance, not compete it) but I do hope it's a sign of good things to come (that I can ride 100 miles and feel fantastic and then ride some more and still feel, more or less, fantastic.)

Plus, I got this really kick-ass photo of me on my bike, Bumblebee. ..
And I caught up with some incredible athletes from the Reno area. Tim (in green) and his wife Martine (who is taking the shot) both did Boise 70.3 with me last spring and are such an inspiration. My friend Rich (left) is the owner of Great Basin Bicycles, he came in 8th in the 508 (solo) and won the 308 earlier this year as well. 

I say that because I do have a race on the horizon, the Ultra-Endurance World Championship Time Trials. In some ways, this will be my first cycling race ever and I have to admit, I'm nervous. I don't know who I'll face in those six hours; and I don't know how (exactly) I'm going to handle the nutrition part of it.  I just rode 105 miles today inside on the CompuTrainer and felt, well, not terribly awful and it didn't take me six hours to do that distance so I hope for a good result from this event.

But I still wonder, I still can't quite decide: am I an athlete, still?

I wonder about all these hours I put into training-- I believe I could do well at an Ironman one day. But sometimes I think I'm the only one who believes that, who sees potential in a body that isn't particularly thin or athletic. That looks, well, normal. Boring, even.

OK, maybe this isn't remarkable, but I so love my little Sanchia-cat. And I love writing and reading and cooking. And maybe a part of what I am finding out is that I am an "Athlete-and...." . An athlete AND a friend. An athlete AND a cat-mom. An Athlete AND a writer.

Or maybe this goes back to the changing seasons, the diminished light. There's a song about that, isn't there? Everything turns, turns, turns; there is a season, turns, turns, turns... and maybe life, in a way, is cyclical (like the turning of my legs on the crank) and maybe it is OK to curl up sometimes with the cats, it is OK to write; just like it is OK to dream that one day I can toe the line at the World Championships in Kona that my body has that potential despite the dark hours, the wintertime.

After all, I have my hours. Maybe it is time I start believing in them.

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