Tucson Cycling House

This past fall Adelaide directed me to a the Cycling House’s website to enter a contest for an all-expenses-paid trip later that winter. It required a short essay explaining just why you were so damn awesome. As I read the rules I thought, “Wait…all I have to do is write really good things about myself? The competition didn’t stand a chance!” And it was true. I’m pretty much in my own league when it comes to blagging (blog bragging). See, I just did it right there without even having to try.

But before I was awarded the Cycling House scholarship I actually had a long phone conversation with one of the owners, Shaun, about working for them as a guide. It sounded pretty amazing: riding in the sun all winter long and getting paid for it. But the more I thought about it the more I knew being away from home for four months wouldn’t work out…being a dog owner and all, and married. I was also worried that I wouldn’t be able to get the type of training I had to do in order to be competitive for racing, so I held out hope that I’d at least get the scholarship and get to spend the better part of a week down there at camp. When I heard that I had gotten the scholarship it couldn’t have come at a better time to lift my spirits because the day before I’d found out that I had NOT won the top prize in a literary competition (for Narrative Magazine) that I’d entered last October. In fact, my story wasn’t even one of the top 10 finalists. I sent them an angry postcard: “I’m disappointed in your literary acumen, and in the words of Ernest Hemingway, ‘Damn you with eternally crusty anus scabs.'” I am fairly certain he said something like that.

Anyways, for those who don’t know, the Cycling House is located in Tucson near the base of Mt. Lemmon. They also do guided tours all over the country and world, but this trip isn’t a tour. It’s pretty much identical to a host house at a stage race, except you don’t have to quietly sneak food out of the pantry when you think the hosts are occupied with something upstairs or out of the house. The Cycling House is a big, cool stucco mansion surrounded by saguaro cacti. They serve three huge, delicious meals per day, and all the rides are supported with a vehicle stocked full of ride food, water, and your extra clothing so you don’t have to have a back full of sweaty arm warmers and jackets.

I had the idea for the Cycling House about four years after it had already been created, though I still take some credit for it. It is exactly what every cyclist that goes down to Tucson during the winter dreams of when they’re stuck in a $200 closet they rented from a Craigslist pedophile. I’ve had some good years down in Tucson training with teammates and staying with friends, but I’ve never been this pampered before.

Day One: Travel to Tucson then an easy 90 minute spin. The sun was shining and there was zero snow on the ground. My legs did feel like bags of rotting manure though. Or maybe that was the stench of my unwashed bibs. Note: traveling with unwashed bibs spoils 100% of the other clothes in your bag. I have known this for years yet have done absolutely nothing with that knowledge.

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Left to right: Chef Drew, David, Tom, Sheila, me, Judith, Tarak, Guide Brendan (Guide is actually his first name), George, Kem, and Guide Cory. The photographer must have been the fourth guide, Ian.

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Drew on the right, Brendan on the left.

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Day Two: Five hours around Saguaro National Park East, then a few times up to mile post nine on Mt. Lemmon for good measure. It was decided that I’d be able to ride on my own since my speed wouldn’t match that of the group’s.

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Snacks galore with the Cycling House. I really had to go out of my way to not eat in order to bonk that first day. Here we have Tom refueling while Brendan refills bottles and Cory poses to look pretty for the camera. Work them hips, boy.

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I’ve never ridden a LOOK before. Here’s my user review: It was made of carbon, rubber, and metal. It felt like a bike. I liked it.

Day Three: Five hours of Gate’s Pass and Saguaro National Park West. The highlight of the ride was eating at a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from A. Mountain afterwards. I actually preferred Chef Drew’s cooking, amazingly enough. The meals at the Cycling House are that good and large quantities of Drew’s blood, sweat, and tears go into that food.

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Day Four: Five more hours of Mt. Lemmon. I also forgot to add that these past three days also included 30 minute swims to keep that all important water-feel (for us triathletes). Our group was half triathletes and half cyclists, with the triathletes going out on their own for trail runs just outside the house and a group swim sesh happening late afternoon (there was also yoga/core/stretching every morning and a number of clinics in the afternoons such as bike maintenance and descending skills). The third day of swimming included a winner take all team relay. Glory, that is. It was me and Tarak Vs. the guides, Corey and Ian, in a 2×100 race. Corey and Ian were given a handicap of having to “fist” 50 of each of their 100. For those not in the know, fisting is a drill used to work on the catch segment of the stroke and it’s exactly what it sounds like, you take your fist and firmly insert it…just kidding it’s actually not necessary exactly what it sounds like. Fisting is swimming normally but with fists instead of open hands. Anyways, the guides handily, or fistily, beat Tarak and I. I won’t go into detail about what the punishment (or reward?) for winning was.

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Brendan and Sheila on the lower slopes of Lemmon.

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Brendan, George, and Kem (not Kim–it’s a Canadian thing apparently)

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Tarak and Cory doing what I assume is an in-air arm wrestle. Let’s just pretend this and some of those other photos were actually from Mt. Lemmon and not Gate’s Pass.

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Judith and Brendan (how is Brendan in all of these pictures?) taking a break on Lemmon.

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Ian and Judith.

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It was one of the warmest days on Lemmon I’ve ever had. I didn’t even really need the vest descending. Even better, I got about 11,000 feet and 90 miles in that day and felt like I could have kept going. It probably had something to do with eating 9,000 calories for every meal the past few days.

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One of the best views of a road anywhere.

Day Five: Five more hours! I rode out to meet the group at Madera Canyon then went up it three times. I had planned to do the Shootout that morning but was too trashed to wake up in time for it. As always, I hated myself in the morning for not doing it.

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IMG_4450   Not actually Madera. Another photo of Gate’s Pass, but I needed another riding shot here.

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The last meal was tacos with all the fixings, including 20 kilos of freshly made guacamole. Just about all the food at the Cycling House is made from scratch, including tortillas, the cheese, wine, and the plates.

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You can’t tell from the picture but that is a human sized bowl of guac that Drew actually uses for bathing.

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That’s all she wrote. The Cycling House was an amazing way to start the year of training off right.I highly recommend it. Plus Tucson is always sunny and warm while the rest of the country is frozen, so there’s no better place to ride December through March.

 

Thyroid Update

As you may remember, a few months ago I decided to blame pretty much every problem I’ve ever had on my non functional thyroid. At the time I was pretty pleased with that decision. Here’s the post to jog your dull memory. But now that I’ve had months of rest and plenty of time for the meds to fully kick in, how have I been feeling? Am I ready to start not calling it a comeback yet? (Man do I hate that saying). This pretty much sums up my training to date:

I spent December attempting to get back in the groove of things and was fairly successful with that, despite really shitty weather, getting the flu, and then a cold. I mainly focused on swimming and building up to some longer practices now that I don’t get so cold in the water and also since my shoulder strength has gone up marginally. December wasn’t too bad. I’d hoped to be doing about 15 hours a week but I think I averaged 11. My goal was to really start my trainings in the beginning of January.

The first couple days of that first week of training (last week) went well and I was on track for 22 hours. Instead I ended up doing 11 because I got sick again. In fact I’m still sick almost a week later, hence the head-whacking video. But all complaints aside, I’m feeling a lot better after being on thyroid medication and once this cold is finally kicked I’ll restart again.

I’ve wanted to write about my thyroid observations, symptoms, and medications so that everyone else out there who stumbles across this blog, and who were recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism, know that they don’t necessarily have to kiss their athletic career goodbye. When I first found out I had Hashimoto’s, I came across a ton of comments sections on various websites with people describing how, even while on meds for years, they no longer had the same kind of energy that they used to and that they’re unable to “train” like they once were. I put train in quotation marks because not once did I come across anyone who competed at what sounded like even a modest level. Most people who have real hypothyroidism (not Galen Rupp and his doping Nike cohorts) are older women or older people in general, since hypothyroidism tends to start up later in life. Also, most of the people I’m talking about weren’t athletes to begin with, because, percentage-wise, most people aren’t athletes.

I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find any younger people who wrote about being hypothyroid and who competed on a semi professional or professional level. Anyways, I got pretty worried that I would never be even close to as fast as I was before my hypothyroidism became full blown. Although it’s too soon to tell since I haven’t started training hard yet, I’m pretty confident that with the proper medication and dosage, there will be no difference between pre and post hypothyroid me.

Signs of Healing

My first medication and dosage was 50mcg of levothyroxine, which I did not believe was enough since my TSH had been greater than 150. After two weeks, I started self-prescribing between 50 and 100mcg extra every other couple days, which I know I’m not supposed to do. After five weeks my TSH was still high and I also wanted to try a different medication, so my doctor prescribed 30mg of Armour thyroid, which is actually equivalent to half of the dose of the Levo I was originally prescribed (my doctor didn’t know what they hell they were doing). With a quick google search I found out about the dosage error a few days later and quickly self-prescribed 90mg of Armour as opposed to 30mg. I took 90 for an additional five weeks before getting tested again, and my TSH was still too high. I told my doctor that I’d been taking 90mg of Armour since 30mg was less than the 50mcg of Levo, and that 50 or even 75mcg of Levo wasn’t enough. So my doctor agreed to increase the dosage to 120mg of Armour. I’ve been on that for a little over five weeks now and just got re-tested today. When I learn of my results I’ll post them on here. Anyways, here’s a rundown of my medication and how long I was on it:

Started out with a TSH of ‘greater than’ 150, since the test only went to 150.
Two weeks: 50 micrograms of Levothyroxine
Two and a half weeks: 50-150 micrograms of Levothyroxine (average per day was about 75mcg) TSH was just over 10 afterwards
Three days: 30 milligrams of Armour thyroid
Five weeks: 90 milligrams of Armour   TSH was +5 afterwards
Five weeks: 120 milligrams of Armour

After being on meds, I noticed things changing. New feeling and hair growing where before it did not. Wait, no that was puberty. After being on meds I did notice some things going back to normal. Some of them immediately, some more slowly:

  • Within a day or two my sex drive went up. This may have been psychosomatic at first, although it has lasted;
  • A couple weeks in I noticed that I started laughing more–uncontrollable laughing while watching stupid videos like the one above. I realized I had not experienced that sort of real laughter in a long time. My laughter increased over the following couple months;
  • After a little over a month or so I realized that my hearing was starting to improve;
  • After roughly a month and a half I noticed that I was able to carry a conversation with someone when another conversation was taking place in the same room. This was a big one as any hypothyroid sufferer will know. Before, I simply did not have the mental capacity to do this for very long or without concentrating like mad. Over the next few months my cognitive abilities continued to improve. Now I genuinely think faster, I don’t take long pauses mid sentence to say, “uhhhhhhh,” I remember things more accurately, and I find myself not having to re-read pages of books nearly as often;
  • A month and a half or two months in I noticed that my mood was changing. I was less depressed even though I wasn’t training or competing at a high level;
  • I noticed that my skin was less dry about two months after taking meds and didn’t have to put on lotion as often. I hadn’t even been aware of this problem so I didn’t really care too much about it when it went away;
  • Also, sometime around two months in I stopped being so cold all the damn time, despite it being November instead of summer. I wasn’t getting cold in the pool and I could be comfortable sitting around at home in shorts and a T shirt when it was below 75 degrees. Not being cold all the time was one of the more noticeable and drastic changes;
  • My sleep very slowly started getting better. This started a few weeks in but didn’t really stay consistent until about two months. My sleep still sucks at times but it is much better than before and still seems to be slowly improving; and
  • I started doing some training rides three months in and felt amazing. I felt so much better than I had before being medicated. I was way out of shape, and still am, but I was finally able to put some power into the pedals. That summer when I was at my worst before meds it was difficult to pedal over 270 watts for even a few minutes. I was averaging 180 or 200 watts for a two or three hour rides, which is not like me at all. About three and a half months after starting medication I averaged 263 for three hours, which is nothing I would have bragged about a few years ago or even last spring, but it was a huge turnaround from the summer.

Dear god that last one is pretty much the only one that matters. While I did that ride three weeks ago and have only done a handful of solid rides since then (due to the weather, being sick, and my promise to not start real training until January), I still think back on it and it gives me a hope. If you have been diagnosed with a bad case of hypothyroidism, find a good doctor in town and give it some time. A lot of time unfortunately. I started seeing a specialist (Sasha Fluss of Naturemed) about two months ago. You need someone who specifically know a lot about hypothyroidism. A general practitioner will not work since they will likely only care about your TSH and will end up prescribing levothyroxine (synthetic T4). Levo works for some people, but it’s smart to try out other medications. Don’t expect a general practitioner to experiment with other options, order all the necessary tests, and really do everything in their power to fix the problem without a lot of pressure from you. Whoever you end up seeing, ask for all the tests: TSH, T4, free T3, Reverse T3, antibodies, a full CBC blood test to make sure you aren’t anemic (hypothyroidism induces anemia), vitamin D, and an adrenal fatigue saliva test. There may be hope yet. But probably not for you.

Death in a Sauna

It’s a dark box in which pasty, middle age men sit in pools of other people’s sweat and stare through plexiglass windows at small children frolicking in kiddie pools.

Where else in normal society do people loudly groan or sigh, crack their knuckles and necks, and pant as if they’re in labor? Possibly only during yoga. Described to an alien, the uncomfortable heat of sauna might sound like a prison or a torture chamber. It can also be used as an execution device.

Last Thursday after an hour-long swim I cracked the door of the sauna and slipped through into the hot darkness. The dry, woody smell always manages to overpower the aroma of sweat and feet. I’m always awed by this. The sauna was packed today. I spotted a seat at the back upper bench and crammed myself between a pasty white older gentlemen with a heavy fur coat of thick, coarse chest hair, and a small woman that appeared to be mostly passed out, muttering yogi chants to herself. I settled in for the long haul. I was going to do at least a half hour. The thermometer on the wall to my right read 190 degrees. It was hot today.

The first few minutes of the sauna are always pretty pleasant, especially if you’re coming from the cold water of a pool or a long, frozen February ride. I scanned the room and counted nine people, not including myself. Just as I finished counting another person came in. He was dressed in gym clothes and just stood by the door after he closed it since there was no room to sit. It appeared that he was just warming up before lifting since he was fully clothed.

No one spoke. Sometimes conversations sprout up among strangers or friends, which helps pass the time if you don’t have a magazine to leaf through. I stopped bringing magazines half a year ago when my free subscriptions to Runner’s World and Men’s Health (and one other that I can’t remember) ended. Magazines and books fall apart pretty quickly in a sauna. Note: do not take library books into the sauna.

I looked through the plexiglass window at the clock outside and saw that I’d been in there for 10 minutes. Shit. I wasn’t supposed to check the time this early. 20 to go. Over half the occupants of the sauna had exited by then and had been replaced by others. It was still jam packed, which meant I couldn’t put my legs up on the bench.

I was beading sweat pretty heavily by the time a young guy came in and squirmed in next to me, uncomfortably close. I made an angry noise of displeasure under my breath as he sat down. I recognized his shaggy black hair and peace sign tattoo on his left shoulder. He was always at the rec center, though I never knew for what purpose other than killing time. I’ve seen him in the weight room just sitting on the stationary bikes watching TV without even pedaling, and I’v watched him wading around in the kiddie pool from time to time as well. The main reason I was pissed that he sat next to me was because he has the worst BO imaginable. That, and he’s incredibly annoying.

“How long you been in here, man?” He asked me
“Not too long. 10 or 12 minutes.”
“Shit man that’s pretty deece. Pretty deece. I was in here over an hour the other day. Now that was hot.”
“An hour? Wow, that seems kind of long.”
“True stuff. I’ve been building up for like two months now. The longest I was in here was just over two hours.”
I didn’t believe a word of it but all I said was, “Huh” and left it at that. I didn’t want to waste the energy on a debate with this guy.
“Hey man if you don’t believe me that’s okay. That’s fine. Just check the clock right now and you’ll see,” he said as he pointed outside to the clock. He seemed to be building a bit of anger over the fact that I didn’t believe him.
“Okay. Yeah that’s pretty long. Good luck.”
I decided to just humor him, wanting to avoid getting in an argument about something as stupid as how long one can stand the heat of a sauna. Then I remembered that I live for idiotic arguments like this.
“Actually, I think you’re full of shit. I bet you can’t last more than five more minutes.
“Seriously? What the hell, bro? Where’d did that come from?”
“There is no way you were in here for an hour. How hot was it? 180 or 190?”
“I didn’t look but it was about this hot. You think you’re the king of the sauna or something?”
“No I just don’t buy it. No one could be in here for two hours. And you couldn’t stand 30 minutes let alone hours.”
“Whatever man just wait and see. Just wait and see…”
“I bet I can last in here longer than you,” I said. I had no intention of staying past 30 minutes but knew he wouldn’t last more than 15 anyways. I’d seen him in the sauna before and he’d never been in longer than five or ten minutes. Also, I just didn’t like him. I didn’t have a good reason but his personality just annoys me every time I have to look at him.
“Suck it loser. It’s on,” he said.
“Okay” I laughed, wondering who even talks like that.”

He didn’t say anything after out conversation. He just sat there looking straight ahead with his mouth shut tight. Sitting right beside him, I sat in the same position, looking straight ahead as the awkward silence following the strange argument unleashed itself upon the captive victims of the sauna. Two people got up to leave within the next 20 seconds. I didn’t blame them.

A few minutes later a mother came in and held the door open for her two little girls for a good 15 seconds, letting the heat out. I heard the guy a few places over grumble as the trio took their time coming in, only to leave after about 20 seconds. It’s proper etiquette to only open the door just as wide as needed, and enter or exit quickly to minimize the heat loss. I was getting somewhat uncomfortable at this point and didn’t really mind the momentary relief from the gush of cool air, though I understood my fellow sauna users’ contempt.

Just over five minutes after he entered, my friend, got up all of a sudden and rushed to the sauna door. “Bye!” I said as he stepped out. I chuckled to myself, knowing that it was a completely worthless victory and a dumb argument, yet I still found some amusement in it and it had helped pass the time if nothing else.

By 23 minutes all of the original occupants had gone, their replacements had gone, and some of the next set of replacement had exited as well. The average sauna user, by my observations, only stays for about eight minutes, excluding the outliers that come in for less than a minute.

At 25 minutes my heart rate was elevated to about 130 and I was completely drenched. The discomfort was growing with every passing second, though I was on a good day. I could hammer out the last five minutes without having to look at the clock or go down to the lower seating. I felt good enough that if I’d really wanted to, I could have done 40 minutes. Sometimes when I go over 30 minutes I almost faint on the walk to the locker room and I have to hold onto the safety railing when I’m in the shower. I didn’t feel like pushing it today.

I inhaled a few deep, hot, slow breaths, wondering if it’s better to breath through your nose or mouth to stay cool in a sauna. I figured that if you breath in and out through your mouth, more heat gets dissipated but if you breath through your nose the air might be less hot by the time it reaches your lungs. I was deep in this thought process when I heard the sudden, shrill shriek of a siren. The sound of a bird chirp amplified ten thousand times violently pulled me out of my own thoughts and into reality. I catapulted down to the ground from my bench, along with two others that were in the sauna with me. It had cleared out quite a bit in the last few minutes. The siren was just the fire alarm. Although, in my melted state of mind, it seemed more intense than any fire alarm I’d ever heard. I saw a rush of human bodies move past the sauna door outside as lifeguards yelled at people to get out. The guy closest to the door gave a push. Nothing happened. He pushed harder. The door didn’t budge.

“What the?” He gave it a hard jam with both hands. At that point I was at the door and shoved it myself as hard as I could, to no avail. We tried together at the same time. Then began pounding on the door and yelling for someone outside to help us. But by that point, only 45 seconds after the fire alarm first began going off, the pool area had been cleared and the last lifeguard could be seen going outside through the emergency exit door just now.

“Fuck.” I backed up and front kicked the door. Once. Twice. Three times. I kicked it as hard as I could. I looked back at the third person in the sauna, who was an older woman, maybe 70, and realized she wouldn’t be much help in our efforts to break down the door. The other guy, middle aged and about 50 pounds heavier than me in his midsection, continued kicking at the door. He gave it a few shoulder rams, which seemed to hurt him more than anything.

“Stop. Stop!” I yelled. “We need to figure this out before we faint.”

I put my face against the plexiglass and looked down outside the door to see what was causing the door to jam. There it was. A U bike lock was latched onto the outside door handle and the railing of the wall.

“Fuck!” I screamed and beckoned the other guy to come over and look for himself. He moaned “Oh no. Why would they do this? Who would do this?” He seemed to lose half his reserves in a heartbeat as he stood there looking out the window. There was no possible way we were getting that door open. It was designed to keep heat in and was seven thick inches of pine. I looked at the clock. I’d now been in the sauna for 30 minutes. If I remembered correctly, the guy next to me had entered about 15 minutes ago and the woman…I looked back at her and saw her on the floor, slumped against the bottom bench row with her eyes closed. I cursed and went over to her to lay her on her back, out of the way and underneath the bench on the ground, as far from the furnace as possible.

“We need to break the glass,” I told the guy. ‘Help me break this off,” referring to the wooden railing that served as a barrier between the furnace and us. It was made of 2x4s and with a few frantic kicks we had it apart in 15 seconds. I took one of the pieces and slammed it into the glass as hard as I could. I slammed it again and again. The plexiglass held. It didn’t even crack. The glass, just like the door, was beefy to keep in heat. It must have been two inches thick. By now the other guy was banging on the glass with a piece of wood as well. Sweat was pouring off of him and his face was beat red with panic and fatigue.

“Okay stop,” I said. Let’s think of something else.
“We need to get out of here. We need to get out!” he screamed. He continued hammering at the glass, using up precious energy.

“The furnace. Help me with the furnace!” If we could break the furnace, at least it wouldn’t continue pumping out heat.

I looked around the backside to see if I could figure out where the cord was or a metal pipe. Anything that I could break that might cut off its power source. I didn’t see anything at all.

“It must be underneath,” I said. I knew I wasn’t making any sense to the other guy at this point, since I hadn’t described my plan at all and my speech was mumbled from heat fatigue.

“Just help me break it,” I told him. I picked up my piece of 2×4 and began smashing it into the furnace. The other guy, who I assumed would be content with smashing something other than the plexiglass window at this point, gave a few feeble swings and toppled over. He landed hard on his side, slapping his head on the concrete. I cursed and kept on swinging at the furnace. I spent the next two minutes working at it. I was completely out of breath, my head was pounding and I had an intense heat-sick feeling within. The furnace was dented all over but I hadn’t seemed to inflict any real damage.

A wave of heat hit me in the face. I was dizzy and needed a quick rest to catch my breath. I glanced out the window at the clock right before I laid down on the hot cement floor. I’d been in there…it took me a while to do the math. 55 minutes. I vomited on the floor. As I wiped it away from my mouth I looked over to see the woman not moving, maybe not even breathing. I couldn’t tell. To my right, laying beside me, the guy was pulling in short, shallow, frantic breaths. His eyes were closed and his teeth were bared. There would be no help from him anymore. I had to do this myself.

I picked up my piece of wood and found my feet once more. My new strategy was going to be to pry at the base of the furnace. Maybe I could use some leverage to snap a vital pipe. I kicked at what was left of the wooden barrier to break it the rest of the way and gain access to the bottom area of the furnace. I was losing stamina and was growing increasingly dizzy. I stuck the 2×4 under the furnace and placed three other broken 2×4 segments underneath it to form a lever, albeit a short one. I needed a 2×4 that was at least five feet long but the longest piece I had was only about two and a half feet.

I gave it everything I had pressing on the lever. The furnace didn’t budge. Didn’t even groan. I yelled at the collapsed guy to help me as I gave it another go. He didn’t respond. I stood up and stomped on the 2×4 lever hoping that would work but all the pieces scattered and went everywhere. I began gathering them up and saw that the guy had stopped his shallow breaths. He seemed to be alive, but was no longer conscious. Over an hour in.

The inner top of the furnace was guarded by a metal grate.Underneath that grate were a few dozen large, heated rocks. It’s a dry sauna but for some reason there are still rocks for pouring water on. If I could break the metal grate and use the rocks to pound at the plexiglass, maybe I could create a crack. With a bit of new hope in me, I took up the 2×4 again and began beating on the top to break open the grate. It took a long time and a lot of energy, but it finally gave way. I quickly took off my swimsuit to pick up a rock without burning my hand, then immediately set to smacking it on the plexiglass.

I gave up a long time later, completely out of energy and the plexiglass still holding strong. It was cracked and dented but not even close to giving way. I had enough energy for one more attempt at destroying the furnace.

After reassembling my lever under the massive furnace, I gave it another couple minutes of frantic abuse before I stopped and laid back down. I needed another plan. The furnace seemed to be indestructible. I had once thought that maybe after I pried it off the ground I could pick it up and throw it through the plexiglass, but now I knew how impossible that would be. Assuming I could even pick the scalding thing up at this point, it still wouldn’t go through the plexiglass. Nothing would. I thought again about the door. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to break the door, but the outside door handle that the lock was attached to? Maybe. It was worth another try.

I stood up and almost fell back over from a head rush. My heart was beating above 170 now and my vision was fading. My skin was dry, which meant that I was severely dehydrated and probably suffering from heat stroke. I took in a deep breath and screamed as I kicked the door as hard as I could. I fell forward through the door as it broke free, the wooden handle on the other side having given out. I landed on my stomach on the other side of the door, just a few paces away from the cool waters of the pool. I got to my hands and knees and frantically crawled towards the pool. My fingers hit the water, then my hands, arms, chest, head. I sucked in cool water through my mouth and drank heavily. I came up gasping for air and remembered my two sauna prison mates back in there, who were most likely dead. I got up to my feet and went towards the sauna, the fire alarm still blaring, and was just about to go back in for them when I saw a third person lying on the ground beside them. It was me.

Confusion took hold at first, before I realized what was going on. I was still in there and this was a hallucination.

My cheek stuck to the cement floor like hot gum. I was still lying inside the sauna, the door completely intact. The dream of smashing it open and drinking pool water was just a fantasy. I was too weak to get up after that last attempt at prying the furnace off the ground. Now I would die. I got to my hands and knees and crawled over to the furnace and began banging at it with a 2×4. I was going to die, but not lying down. I fainted again a few minutes later.

Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap tap tap…tap tap.

I heard the noise coming from the window. Through blurry eyes I looked up to see someone standing outside the door, smiling. He was holding a watch.

“One hour and 57 minutes!” he boasted, pointing at the watch.

I recognized him. He was the guy I’d made fun of earlier who’d stormed out.

I opened my mouth to talk but found that no words could come. I couldn’t say anything. I was too weak and my mouth was too dry.

“Let’s see how much longer you can go,” and walked away.

Bonk of a Lifetime

A few weeks ago I got a job working at Yellowbelly, a restaurant specializing in healthy-style fried chicken. It’s famous within the cycling community and caters a lot of events. I’d never eaten there before, like an idiot, but one of the owners, Michael, offered me the job a few days after a ride during which he’d heard that I was looking for work. The food was/is delicious, and caters to my new gluten free diet. However, I only lasted a week because good things happen in twos. I was hired to work for a law-writing company just a week later. I can work from home now, which offers a lot of time to go train, which is good because I might start training sometime in the next couple years.

Anyways, Adelaide and I have two friends, Sid and Mikkela, who have worked for the company for a number of years now. When the owner was looking to hire, they both gave me a good recommendation for some odd reason. I’m super grateful to have the job and I’ve been working as a law blog and website content writer for the past month, which is why I haven’t been writing anything in here. In fact, I’ve already written far too much today to want to write much more, which is why this blog post is sucking so much right now. I’m all worded out. Besides, the only thing I’m good at writing anymore is law SEO jargon and filler. Furthermore, experienced attorney, liability, negligent, however, duty to act with care, damages, injuries sustained, big ass lawyers and shit.

In even more important news than being able to make a living once again, last week was my first week of pre training. The pre means that I’m just goin out and havin a good time and gettin a little exercise in the sun. Not pushing it hard or anything at all.

My usual pre training period begins about two weeks after the previous season ends. This year? Not quite. I took almost two months off to let my thyroid do its stupid thing. I also tried to get fat. It sort of worked, then I got the flu and lost almost all the weight, which isn’t coming back. Anyways, as with any proper pre training period, for my first ride I went out and completely fucked myself up the ass with a jagged sharp stick. I’m talking about giving myself biggest bonk of my young life.

Normally I can do a 2 to 2.5 hour flat ride without any food, no problem. Factor in two months on the couch, a breakfast of just 250 calories, and an EXCITED KENNETT and you get the sort of bonk that makes you consider quietly laying down on the shoulder of the road to die a peaceful death.

Like any normal ride, I started out pretty much as hard as I thought I could go, or thereabouts. My eager and frequent glances down at the power meter told me that I was actually feeling good. Good! Me! Feeling! The words shit or cracked weren’t in there anywhere. The extended period of rest and approximately twice the dose of thyroid meds that I’d originally been prescribed (as well as adequate time for the meds to kick in) had seemed to cuore my sluggishness. I hammered along happily at 260 watts, seeing the gray brown scenery of highway 36 pass slightly faster than I’ve become accustomed to. Then I remembered that 260 isn’t that fast at all (though it’s 100 more than I was doing in the summer), and that I should probably be trying to do more like 300 watts. Check. Attempted check anyways.

An hour and fifteen minutes in, I ate my one gel, knowing very well that I should have brought more food. I had just started to feel a bit fatigued but I figured the gel might hold off anything too catastrophic until I got close enough to home, assuming I slowed down. I did not slow down. I mean, I did slow down, but not intentionally. At that point I had an average power goal in mind and the issue of running out of energy wasn’t really playing into my calculations at that point.

At Lyons, heading back home on 36, I had a sudden oh shit I’m about to bonk moment. I’d felt it coming for a few miles, and had tried to ride a bit faster to get home before it hit. You know, sort of like speeding in a car to get to the gas station before you run out of gas. Makes perfect sense. It’s worked every time for me in the past, except twice.

I rarely bonk anymore. Even when I’m dead and truly fucked, I just get real real tired. I don’t bonk. But if I do bonk, it’s usually the first ride of the year.

There was no in-between moment with this bonk. No “Oh man I’m getting hungry and weak but I think I can hold it together for about 20 minutes before I really fall apart.” That did not occur. One minute I was riding fairly hard, the next I was at a near stand still.

The next six miles from Lyons to Boulder would take me 38 minutes, and I would average 111 watts. It was sheer agony. My vision began to fade and cross, I couldn’t keep my head up, I couldn’t steer straight, and I had to stop pedaling at every flat and downhill section. Despite it being about 35 degrees out, cold sweat beaded out of every pour while goosebumps angrily sprouted up in retaliation. I looked at my Garmin. Fuck. Only 0.3 miles down.

I got so tired that I actually considered getting off and walking. I luckily, yet barely, had the wherewithal to know that I wouldn’t be able to start again if I did that. I desperately hoped that someone I knew would pass me and I could ask for food. I imagined Nick Traggis driving up in the team car to hand me a bottle of pure, unadulterated corn syrup. Two bottles. And a pizza or three.

My body began shaking from fatigue and I whimpered in agony for motivation. I was unable to scream or grunt for power, which are my usual go-to acoustics. I considered hitchhiking, but during my constant calculations over time, I decided that I’d still be okay just suffering another 20 minutes home. Or to Cuore, which is a cycling clothing company about half a mile out of town (and half a mile from my house).

They have snacks there, I told myself. Good snacks.

When you watch a Himalayans climbing movie and you see the dumb climber lie down to sleep (die) in the middle of a white out, you think to yourself, “I would never do that. I would keep on going until I fell over dead to get to my damn tent (snacks at the tent). And I definitely wouldn’t take my clothes off in a hypothermic/altitude fatigued state of stupor.” Well, I seriously considered lying down on the pavement to rest. I was that tired and out of it. I pictured how good it would feel to just peacefully fall off my bike, I was only going five miles an hour, and not get up until I’d had a good nap. I would have frozen to death if I’d actually done this, assuming no cars stopped to check on me.

In the minutes leading up to Cuore, I lost even more vision and control of my bike. It was taking all the concentration I had to stay two fee to the left of the white line. No right. Or is it left? Shit, it doesn’t matter I can’t do either. I missed Cuore by a few hundred feet, passing it by accident because I didn’t recognize where I was. I stopped and somehow crossed 36 without killing myself, then made it to Cuore. I said hi to my ex teammate Robin, who works there, and who was talking outside on his phone. It wasn’t Robin. It was Steven, a former coworker and also someone I’ve known for about three years. I couldn’t see for shit. I practically fell into Cuore as I opened the door.

I spent the next 15 or 20 minutes eating bars and candy and drinking soda on the couch. Rick kept bringing the food and drink and it was all I could do to open the packages. Apparently I wasn’t talking at all. I was just staring off into space eating in silence without being able to sit upright. I learned this later. At the time, I thought I was carrying out a detailed, energetic conversations with everyone. The guys later told me that I had been acting really strange. More stoned than anyone they’d ever encountered. The food didn’t help me all that much. I tried to get up to leave and almost fell over.

Robin drove me the half mile back to my house.

I got in the shower and ate Clif Bloks I found in the garage.

First ride of the season…success.

 

 

 

This Cyclist Ate MULTIPLE Pieces of Cake Last Week

Before I dive into today’s topic, I’d like to point out how much I absolutely despise click bait titles that use “This” as the first or second word. Examples:

1) “This couple totally shocked her parents with this adorable pregnancy announcement”
2) “Watch this man attempt to jump his bike off his roof. You’ll never guess what happens.”
3) “This terrifying fish, named Xiphactinus, used to reside in what is now Kansas”

That last one was Nova. Yes, what used to just be limited to Buzzfeed has now taken over Nova and other science-y, seemingly legitimate news sources. The sad thing is that it must actually be working, since so many business and media outlets are now using it. My theory is that it makes whatever title it’s used in seem more relevant, more timely, more more. It gives some notion of immediate action taking place by putting this man, this one right here directly in front of you, as opposed to letting him remain a 4×4-inch, pixilated image on a screen with a few lazy, sloppily written words describing his lame attempt to jump off his roof.

We, as humans, must be pretty dumb to get duped into clicking a link that we otherwise wouldn’t, solely because the author added in the word “this.” Also, I’m really beginning to hate numbered titles. Example “37 Alternative Rock Songs You Haven’t Thought About Since The Late ‘90s.” Okay, that’s enough rant for now. Onto more important things, marginally.

Winter Weight

“You know what the doctor said? Doctor said I was too healthy. You know? In too good of shape. Don’t even know how. Too good of shape.”

During my intensive investigation of the endocrine system over the last two months, I decided to self-diagnose myself with a disorder: too low body fat for too long. Sounds like the sort of thing someone who just wants to eat cake would say, right? Right!

While my weight used to fluctuate throughout the season, being highest in the fall and slowly creeping down over the winter and spring, for these past two seasons I’ve been at almost the same exact weight year-round: about 161-158, depending on how full of shit I am.

This year I got leaner than I’d ever been, tipping the scale at 156 a handful of times. Of course I didn’t have any power to propel me up the hills, but at least I was light, for a behemoth anyways.

I use a pair of body fat calipers to monitor my skin folds throughout the season as well. Just like my weight, the skin fold calipers have shown very little variability throughout the last two years. Throughout it all I was pretty stoked because I never really had to watch what I ate or starve myself very much since 2013. Up until (and during) 2013 I had to starve myself like crazy to stay under 168. But being able to see every vein in my stomach for two years seems to have taken its toll. Or so I’ve convinced myself. Could still just be the thyroid bullshit.

The internet says that being under 6% body fat for long spells at a time has many negatives, and there are plenty of stories of cyclists and other athletes getting too lean and losing power, stamina, and the will to continue training and racing. Assuming an athlete is not taking steroids, testosterone, and HGH, the endocrine system takes a huge hit from sustained ultra low body fat levels. Some of the messed up side effects include:

Severe fatigue
Low testosterone
Low to nonfunctional thyroid   (hmm…)
Poor recovery from training, due to lack of hormones
Getting sick all the time, also due to lack of hormones
Brain fog
Brittle bones
Shrunken organs (WTF?)
Muscle weakness
Heart Problems
Dizziness
Being hungry as shit all the damn time

Sounds a lot like my thyroid issue, as well as just being a cyclist in general, so I don’t really know if lacking body fat is an issue for me or if it’s just my thyroid problem.

Skin fold measurements only serve as a good personal baseline fatness level. Skin folds don’t give an accurate body fat percentage since the calculations are all based on population averages. I know they’re off for me and most other lean people since I’m fairly certain I’d be dead if I was really 2.5%.

I went in a DXA machine, which are accurate to within 2%, way back in 2007 when I first started riding and was 8% body fat, and thanks to years of dedication, I’m much hollower and gaunt now than I was then. I’ve never been able to lose as much muscle mass as I’ve wanted but I have gotten quite lean. While I don’t know my actual percentage, I do, however, have a detailed training log along with me weight every morning dating back 10 years, and skin fold measurements dating back three years. The best turnaround seasons (the biggest improvement from one year to the next) were when I was at my fattest during the fall/winter.

A few months ago I made a vow to forgo any mirror vanity and eat like a glutton. Not to be confused with a gluten, which I no longer consume.

Over the period of almost a month without training (about seven to eight hours of “light activity” per week) I gained one pound. One single pound, and I was eating as much as I wanted with zero thought of dieting. After all those years of eating dinners of jalapeno/serrano stir fries without meat or rice–just peppers, dinners of cabbage soup, pico de gallo without any chips, popcorn, chicken broth, or simply nothing at all and going to bed aching for food, sweating over the thought of sneaking a fucking peanut, after all those years of not eating past 7PM, now when I’m actually trying to gain a little weight I can’t?

I decided to tackle this problem like any other problem, with overtraining, I mean overeating. I vowed to get fat and for the past two weeks I’ve eaten till well past full almost every day.

One issue is that we don’t have any unhealthy food in the house, and despite my best efforts, I can’t bring myself to spend money on junk food. So far I’ve bought a few things of cheese, a six-pack of soda, and one box of Hot Tamales. It’s hard to get fat on rice, vegetables, nuts, and eggs, which account for 90% of my diet. But I managed, as evidenced below:

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I swear, the scale says I’m only up five pounds.

Now that November is almost over and I’ll have rested for a full six weeks, I’m getting fairly antsy to start training again. Unfortunately December will primarily be swim workouts without many rides or runs. I promised myself that I wouldn’t start training in ernest until January. My hope is that with so many months of rest and just moderate training, I’ll beat my fatigue and be ready to train hard once and for all. By then I’ll probably be 270lbs and it’ll take me four years to get back down to race weight again. But you know what they say, “Once you have exercise anorexia, you don’t go back.”

How to make an apple crisp

I’m going to take a little break from discussing my training, racing, lack of results, and fitness. I’m also going to avoid topics such as my thyroid issue, depression, and the general downward spiral my life has taken. Instead I’m going to talk about dessert!

Okay, the first thing to keep in mind when making apple crisp is that it will in no way ever turn out as good as apple pie. That’s a known fact: pie > crisp. However, crisp is pretty dang good too. And a lot faster and easier to make. I put great emphasis on speed in the kitchen. It rarely takes me more than seventeen minutes to whip up a large stir fry dinner. A crisp takes like four minutes if done with good speed. That’s not including bake time. But you can speed that up too by baking it at a higher temperature. Duh. I don’t know why more baking books suggest this.

Step 1: Pick out the apples from your fruit/vegetable pile on your countertop. Make sure to only pick out apples. Onions make a poor crisp. This step only takes about seven seconds to the highly trained eye.

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Step 2: Peel those stupid fucking piece of shit stickers off and throw them down the drain while you rinse the apples. I don’t care if it’s bad for the disposal; at this stage I’m usually so mad that these stickers even exist that I’m actually tearing off large chunks of apple along with the stickers.

Step 3: Cut the apples as fast as humanly possible. Use a large, extra sharp knife. This is the longest and most tedious step so it’s best to tackle it as fast as you can. My patience is usually 80% gone after this step.

Step 4: Take the pyrex cooking dish out of that god damn drawer that’s under the oven–the one that always gets jammed up and won’t open properly because you store too many pyrex dishes and baking pans in there and you never take the time to organize them. Remember, you’re in a hurry and growing hungry and angry, so don’t take the time to carefully adjust the cooking ware that’s jammed up. It’s a fact that it won’t come out easily so just yank it really hard and curse. Slice your finger open on the top of the drawer in the process.

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Step 5: Go to the hospital to get six stitches. Have Adelaide take you. This step takes 4.5 hours, but it doesn’t count towards prep time because you aren’t actively making the crisp. You’re just sitting there in the ER waiting room, hour after hour, growing cold and hungry as your anger rises when others get to go in before you because their heart pain is more pressing than your finger injury. The most important part of this step is not touching anything because you’re a hypochondriac.

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Step 5: An a bowl, mix 1-4 tablespoons of cinnamon, a few hefty pinches of nutmeg, some salt, an egg, all the apples, and some GF baking mix if you so desire (note: adding this GF flour always makes the crisp too dry). Mix hard so everything gets incorporated, or whatever that means. Dump the pile into a baking dish. If you remembered, you’ll have already oiled the dish with coconut oil. Keep your bandages out of this mixture, because the stitches cannot get wet for the next 24 hours.

Step 6: In the same bowl you just used, the one that is now empty, pour in a bunch of oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and four or 12 tablespoons of coconut oil. Mix thoroughly. Time and patience has run out so hurry the hell up.

Step 7: Put the oat mixture on top of the apple mixture and bake for 40 minutes. Then it’s done.

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“Mmmmmmmmmm!”

Prep time: four to six minutes

Hospital time: 4.5 hours

Bake time: 40 minutes.

The result: A fairly dry and somewhat tasteless apple crisp. Remove the stitches in seven days. Enjoy!

 

Los Cabos 70.3

In between eating tacos, body surfing, and strolling up and down palm-lined beaches, I did a race. It did not go well. After one margarita, I didn’t care.

Adelaide and I never had a honeymoon last winter, and the trip to Mexico we had planned for last fall was cancelled when Adelaide was hit. So last week’s race down in Los Cabos had purposes other than just being a race. But going back to that first paragraph, I actually did care when my race went to shit.

The swim was rough. Once again, I found myself alone for 99.9% of the time. A beach start meant we got to run and dive, which I’d been practicing for two days before the race and was eager to find out if my goggles would stay on my head for once. 82 degree water meant that no wetsuits were allowed, which, combined with wavy conditions, was a major disadvantage for the less skilled swimmers such as myself.

Within five seconds of entering the water, someone smartly used my face to propel themselves forward. I attempted retaliation by swimming on top of their back, but only managed to push him forward and myself backwards. A few moments later I was on my own, scanning left and right hoping to find a fellow straggler to follow. I spent the next half hour chocking on salt water and wondering where I was supposed to go, since one of the paddle borders freaked me out by frantically signaling to go right when I was pretty sure I was supposed to stay straight, which I was. Throughout it all I did take time to appreciate the fact that out of 2,000 people racing, I was most likely the only person lucky enough to get to swim all alone. There’s no fighting for position when you’re in a race of your own.

I passed over some colorful tropical fish as I approached the beach 35 minutes later. I by through the crowd at the start line and heard the announcer exclaim that the first age grouper was out of the water.

Nope. That’s just me. 10 minutes down already. But thanks.

I stumbled through the transition area to my bike and tried to collect my thoughts and breath. All the men’s bikes were gone and half of the women’s too. But I had heart left, hoping beyond hope that the previous two and a half weeks of no training would give me good legs for the ride and run. To combat the fatigue from a long season packed full of external stressors, not to mention my god damn piece of shit nonfunctional thyroid, I’d opted to simply not train between Silverman and Los Cabos. After Silverman I’d briefly attempted to ride and wasn’t able go any harder than recovery pace.

15 minutes in to the bike I realized that all that rest wasn’t the magical cure I’d yearned it to be. I failed to pass the lead woman, and by mile 40 I’d been re-passed by the 2nd place woman (remember, both had started out five minutes behind my group). Not only had I simply not been able to put out the power in the first hour, but now my back and glutes were cramping up so badly that I couldn’t pedal in the aero bars. So I just coasted the downhills and soft pedaled in the bull horns on the flats and climbs. Soon they were so cramped that I couldn’t even coast in the aero bars anymore. By that point it was mostly downhill to the finish.

Despite my complete lack of ability to pedal hard, I did enjoy the scenery. The course went out along the coast for about 30 miles of palm trees and short rollers, then it climbed up towards the cactus and tall green brush of Baja Sur’s mountains. I hoped that Adelaide was having a good race.

I gave up almost immediately during the run. I didn’t have it in me physically, and at that point I was well over half an hour behind the leaders. A few miles into it I became incredibly depressed, wondering if I’d ever be fast again. Or be able to train. I thought that taking almost three weeks off (aside from swimming, which I’d still been doing) would allow my hormones to balance. But nothing of the sort had occurred and here I was, jacked up on caffeine, sugar, and race adrenaline and still unable to ride over 250 watts or run below eight minute pace. All those feelings of panic, self-loathing, and hopelessness came rushing on as I crossed over a long bridge. I looked down and saw that it wasn’t nearly high enough to do the job, so I continued my slow, lonely jog/walk, unable to imagine ever being happy again if my thyroid wouldn’t return to normal.

I trotted that first lap at 11 minute pace, walking at times, stopping to shit in the porta potty, and even taking the time to wipe. The only thing that kept me from packing it in after the first lap was the realization that I was going to have to wait for about nine hours before Adelaide finished since she was doing the full and had also started an hour and a half behind me. I had some time to kill. So I started that second lap, now mixed in with age groupers for company, which was nice…to see other people suffering and going even slower than me. Misery loves company, because the human condition is an evil, fucked up thing.

I trotted along, walking through the aid stations to eat as many peanuts and drink as much coke as I could stomach, not necessarily because I needed it, but because it was free. After five hours and twenty two minutes I finally crossed the finish line. I was an IRONMAN©! But not really because it was only a half. A trivial detail.

I was in decent spirits during that second lap and had gotten over my depression, rationalizing that it might take longer than six weeks for my thyroid meds to return me to normal. But once I saw Adelaide half an hour later my heart sunk again. She was supposed to be out on the bike. If anyone was going to have a good race here it was her, since her training had for once gone perfectly leading up to the race. But her lazy fuck up of a bike mechanic (me) hadn’t taken the time to make sure her bike was in working order.

Instead of pre-riding the course, unpacking and dialing in the bikes after our flight, and doing all that important stuff the days leading up to the race, we’d spent our time swimming in the waves and having fun on the beach. During the race, her front brake had clamped down on her wheel due to damaged brake cable housing. She’d stopped to adjust it five times on the first lap 56 mile lap but couldn’t get it to unclamp. It would have taken a multi tool to get to her front brake, which she didn’t have. Thanks aero brake cover fairing! That’s progress!

Usually when people say their wheel was rubbing it’s just an excuse for bad legs, but when I tried to spin her wheel with my hand I could barely make it budge. We quickly righted all the wrongs of the day by downing a pair of large margaritas. Then we decided that the only reasonable thing to do next was to get back to our hotel and take the bus to the beach for a second, and possibly, third and fourth round.

I’ve done a lot of traveling over the years for races, but none of it was for vacation. And a lot of it has been to places like Arkansas and Minnesota–not bad places by any means but also not vacation destinations. All of my travel has been for races, and I always come back home way more worn out than when I left, which, from what I gather, is not how vacations are supposed to work. Although this trip did involve a race and a lot of stress the day before during all the equipment drop offs, this trip had a different vibe to it.

I’ve always wondered what people do on vacation. It weirds me out seeing everyone else at the airport without bike bags. What will they do when they get where they’re headed? Do they rent bikes at their destination? Do they go on runs or something? How is it that all of these people are runners? Or are they going on long backpack trips? How will they exercise? This incredibly bizarre thought process has followed me into my movie-watching mind as well. During a romantic comedy I’ll wonder how any of the characters can possibly train with all the relationship stress that’s going on. “I wouldn’t be able to do it, Adelaide! These people’s lives are horrible. How can they ride hard with all this crazy drama?!” Adelaide tells me to be quiet a lot.

Well, after last week I came to a realization. It turns out that, on vacation at least, you can kill the day just fine without even thinking about training.

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