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Message That Made Me Smile Yesterday

Um, hi. this is Matt from your local bike shop, and, well, I think your bike's rear wheel needs its bearings replaced. It's probably gonna cost another $25. Just give us a call and let us know if it's OK to go ahead. (pause) Looks like this bike's got a LOT of miles on it.

Yes, yes it does.
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The Ride That Did Not Break Me

Let me first start this post with a disclaimer. I take good care of my bike, I really do (well, often with Steve’s help). I wash her and lube her and take her in for her maintenance when it comes do. I figured that it would be coming do really soon; might as well get in one more long ride before taking her back to the LBS. She was fine when we left the house on Sunday. She was coming due for a new chain but that was about it. Please keep this in mind.

I woke up at 8:30 on Sunday and my friend Jess’s fabulous cabin. I had only spent 36 hours there, but it was exactly enough time to do some much needed catching up with my amazing undergrad friends. I even managed to get in a 5.5 mile run and a 75 minute swim in on Saturday. Steve and I left the cabin early so we could get in our last bike ride. I was hoping for 112 miles. We were home around 11 AM – plenty of time to get my bike ready and prepare all of my nutrition. I guess there’s something to be said about that “too many cooks in the kitchen” saying. Seconds after warning Steve to steer clear of my uncapped bottle of Carbo Pro, I managed to knock his bottle onto the floor, the cupboards, and myself. Thank God it wasn’t my bottle. I had 16 scoops of carbo pro in mine (over 1700 calories), his only contained 6 scoops. Either way, it ended up being a super sticky mess and took us a good 10-15 minutes to clean up our splattered kitchen, not exactly in my pre-ride planned time allotment.

If I had been preparing for last year’s Ironman, the conditions would have been perfect. It was mid-50s and misting when Steve and I left the house. This time around, though, I was a little better dressed!. We rode together for a couple of miles before wishing each other luck.

The first 20 miles or so were pretty uneventful. It misted and sprinkled off and on, and even though it was a little chilly, I didn’t even need my windbreaker. Then it started raining. It never quite poured, but it came as close as it possibly could. It rained for two or three hours before reverting back to a sprinkle. Honestly, I sort of lost track by that point. My feet were soaked as was the rest of me. Everything was covered in mud and sand, and I made it my goal of the day not to eat too much of it. I probably lost more fluids in spit than in sweat over the course of my ride. I was pretty miserable for a while out there and thought of so many reasons why I should turn around and go home, but I persevered. I rode The Big Nasty 4 times, squeezing my brakes with everything I had each time, afraid of what would happen if I slipped on the wet roads going more than 30 miles per hour. My bike squeaked and creaked with every shift. The chain lube had long washed off and had replaced by sheer grit. By the end of the ride, it took some crafty work to get it to shift at all. Around mile 60, one of my aerobar rests died. They are spring loaded so I can lean down on them or put my hands under them when I’m not in aero, but one of the thousands of bumps in the county road must’ve been the last straw. It ended up in the down position, floppy and lifeless, but it still worked so I pressed on. Around mile 80, I realized that there was no way I would fit in a full 112. My average MPH was actually higher than last week’s, even with the wind, the rain, and 4 trips up Big Nasty. I had a near miss with an overzealous car turning left earlier in the week, though, and didn’t want to take another gamble. I decided to go for 107. By the time I hit 2 miles from home, there wasn’t a glimmer of daylight left. On the last 1/2 mile pedaling toward my house, I knew something didn’t feel right. Sure enough. I was halfway to a flat rear tire by the time I reached my front steps.

106.5 miles of hills.
One very squeaky bike that refuses to shift on command.
A flat, floppy arm rest for my aerobars.
Over 8 hours of rain.
A heck of a cold day.
A flat on my Gatorskins (that's only happened one other time in 3 years).

Despite all of it, my attitude for the day was actually pretty good! I took my bike to the LBS yesterday, absolutely embarrassed for anyone to see her in this condition. I know they’ll take good care of her, though. Turns out that in addition to the aerobar, the tire, the overdue chain, and the general servicing due, my rear hub has also come loose. She’ll be there for 4 days :( I just hope she comes out of it OK and that we can still be friends. I’ll need her help again in under 3 weeks!
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How Do You Get Over a Bad Swim?

You go for an amazingly fast bike ride! Steve and I tried out a local outdoor 50M pool a couple of days ago. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was imagining the sun on my back, a crystal clear pool, cool calm water, and no ladies on noodles. Bear with me people. I'm used to the indoor Y, and my last outdoor pool experience was at a posh hotel's adult only pool in Florida. Reality check: the locker room smelled a lot like pee, the pool was full of leaves, huge pool monkeys, and other random chunks, there was still a water aerobics class taking up half the pool, and the water was really choppy. I'm not sure if the choppiness was coming from the wind, the aerobics class, the other swimmers, or a combo of all 3, but I felt like I was going to drown for most of my swim (side note - I'm used to choppy water. I just wasn't expecting it in a pool). It was one of the worst swims I've ever had. It was a good mental toughener, though, which is exactly why I'll be going back next week.

Right after the swim, I went on a beautifully flat ride with my brother Matt. Those pedaling legs I wasn't gifted with apparently went to him. The guy is a machine. I struggled to keep up with him a bit, but I wanted to get in a good fast ride, so I pedaled my butt off instead of begging him to slow down. I cheated a little on the way back and drafted behind his 225 pound frame. Wish I could take him out to MOO with me. He makes an amazing draft! We were pulling 18-22 mph most of the ride, which is probably average for most people on the bike, but for me that usually requires a downhill of some sort. I love going fast! If only I could do it all of the time. Back to my hilly course this weekend...sigh. At least I can get some speed heading down those nasty hills!
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I Did The Big Nasty Three Times hill that is. I found out that its official name is Myrtle Hill, but I think The Big Nasty is more fitting. It's the type of hill that you have to ride your brakes all the way down for fear of death (especially since it takes you straight into downtown Stillwater), and on the way up, you feel like you'll die for a different reason. It's practically straight up, and it's 0.6 miles long. Every time I went up it, my average dropped about 0.3 MPH. We won't talk about what my average was at the end of day.

Thursday was my big ride of the week. It was my comp day for working last weekend, and since I had family coming to town this weekend, I thought it would be a better day for a ride. Ninety-five degrees and humid are perfect conditions for 106 miles of solid hills, no? Well, apparently not for me. I had a few nutrition issues, which is out of my norm and could only manage a meager 2 mile run after it was over. I was afraid that I was drinking too much on the bike, but when I weighed myself when I got home, I was 2 pounds down. I think I need to rework the enduralytes and water plan for next weekend's 112 miler. I I'll be doing the same course with another loop to hit up Big Nasty 4 times. The whole darn ride is hills, but I know I'll need it in 4 weeks.

Last night Steph and I went on a 20 mile run. I wore my GPS but kept having to mentally recalculate how far we'd gone because the miles flew by. My body felt like it normally does after hitting the pavement for that long, but mentally, it was the easiest run of my summer. Today I have that calm sense of quiet peace that comes with a physically tiring workout. And for some reason, soreness after running is my favorite kind. Maybe it's because it's the most familiar. I've been doing long runs for longer than I've been doing long bikes or swims or weightlifting. Even though it hurts, it feels good in some weird twisted way, more than just a "I must have gotten in a great workout yesterday" kind of way. I'm pretty sure this makes me crazy.

Other highlights of the week: Monday's 3 mile swim went really well, aside from the foot cramps that plagued me off and on. Does anyone else get these?

Last week of full training! This both excites and petrifies me. Parts of me know that I'm ready, but parts of me could use, oh, say another 4 months or so. I remember being at this point last year, having put in the training and going over the "what ifs". I guess you just never really know until you've crossed the finish line.
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My 9/11

I know that the two don't even compare, I really do. Cerebrally I can distinguish thousands of people being lost and injured in a terrorist attack against our whole country from (likely) structural collapse of the busiest bridge in my city. I know the difference between the meanings of the two events, between the scale of the two events, between the outcome of the two events. But my heart aches the same way today as it did nearly six years ago.

Ironically, I was on a workout when I found out about both tragedies. I was a mile from home in 2001, just wrapping up a nine miler before class - training for my second marathon. A woman outside a coffee shop told me to go home and turn on my TV. Last night my brother Matt and I were on a great bike ride when we passed an electronic billboard that stated that the I-35W bridge had collapsed into the river during rush hour. When we got home, we found 8 missed calls on his cell phone - worried family and friends. Every channel on TV had the same story. Coverage of the rescue efforts, speculation on the cause, descriptions of the injuries, and the death toll flooded our living room. I watched till I decided I shouldn't anymore and went to bed. We woke up this morning to Matt Lauer reporting from our city. Dozens of reporters were presenting the news outside the hospital where I work. It all seemed so surreal. When I worked up my patients, I actually only had a few from last night's horrific accident. Their injuries are no different than the injuries I see every day, but they somehow seem different. I can't explain it.

The pictures and stories and buzzing rumors are everywhere. I try separate myself from them like I do with all of the rest of the news that spews out of my TV and radio. This time, though, I can't. It's in my backyard. I was just running under that bridge a week ago on my long run. I biked by it a few days ago. The news won't stop telling me how many bodies are estimated to be at the bottom of the river. Those people are members of my city, my community.

It's not just the now that has me sad and anxious. An estimated 100,000-200,000 cars cross that bridge each day. Where will all of those cars go? I'm starting to worry whether I will still be able to get to work ok. The new detour will take cars a mile from my home, a route that is already chronically clogged, and the rebuilding will take years. If you don't live in or near a town built along a large body of water, it's hard to imagine just how vital these bridges are to our entire infrastructure as a community.

So as the stories of death and survival and searching and rebuilding and friends and family and community continue to surface, I've decided that it's ok to be sad today. Tonight, though, I'm shutting off my TV and going for a run.
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Check In

It was with a heavy heart that I came in to work today, especially since I work on a trauma unit. Many of you have heard about the tragedy of one of our major bridges collapsing during rush hour. Just wanted everybody to know that Steve and I and our families are all safe, but please keep our community in your thoughts and prayers.