Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Can Skip This One, It's Just Whining

For absolutely no good reason, my morale is alarmingly low this week. Elspeth says it maybe because we’re mired in the middle – no more eager excitement of getting started, but none of that end-in-sight thrill. Maybe that’s it. It doesn’t help that it’s this beautiful, long, colorful spring --- and all the hideous tree pollen is like destroying my will to live. Okay, maybe not that bad, but definitely destroying my will to stay awake and/or upright most days. Because allergies. Allergies are the devil. Ugh.

I really want this blog to be an accurate depiction of what it's like to do this whole thing. And frankly, it's not always easy to keep it positive, because this is HARD. That's the truth of it. 

So here is where I fess up: I almost kinda-sorta maybe just a little bit regret signing up for this. I’m sure this is a normal reaction, and I’m sure I’ll get over it. And regret is not really the right word. So forget that word. It’s more just that I didn’t really have any clue what I was getting myself into. Yes, I understood the commitment, and how much of a physical challenge this would be. But there are parts of it that I didn't expect and that are really starting to get to me. So here, I’ll just say them out loud.


It’s hard being the only real beginner on the team. I know there are a couple of other beginners, but they are not so beginner-y as I am – for instance, one just did the Chicago Marathon last year and another recently completed a triathalon. So biking is new to them, but endurance sport is not. And for the most part, the whole team is full of avid cyclists who have completed a similar event before and who bike everywhere and/or cycle for sport. I'm not saying that their effort and commitment is in any way less remarkable than my own, because it's every bit as awesome of them. But I'm just saying that this is their world. It's not my world, at all. It is a very new and scary and downright alien place to me. 

I am discovering that I don't really seem to enjoy bicycling as a sport. At least not yet. Maybe that's because I'm not good at it, but I think it's more just Who I Am. As I tell my coaches, I really do not have a competitive bone in my body. At least not with this endeavor. You cannot induce me to step it up by challenging me to beat another person to the rest stop or to give them a run for their money or whatever. Because I am absolutely, perfectly contented in the depths my soul to let everyone do better than me. I don't care if you finish before me at all.  (This is another reason for my ice-cream-as-reward plan: competition doesn't motivate me, but ice cream sure as hell does.) I would much rather just enjoy a nice relaxing bike ride in the country, not always pushing myself. Cycling as a sport is about challenging yourself, not having a picnic on a pretty summer day.

All that said, it's bumming me out to always be the last rider to finish a ride. Not because I'm bummed to not be doing as well as others, but because it is, in a word, lonely. It's hard always being the one who seems to work hardest and always finishes last, alone. It's not really much comfort that a coach stays back with me, and that some other team members will double back and re-ride the last few miles in with me. That's wonderful, of course, and makes it far less lonely than it would otherwise be. But it's not the same effort for them as it is for me. If not for me, they'd have finished long before. I just mean -- it would be nice to have a real companion, who was also slow but trying hard, who also is terrified of pacelines and even more terrified of not being able to get through all the miles, and who huffs and puffs and struggles up even the mildest of inclines. In short, it would be nice to have someone who is genuinely as bad at this as I am. But there's no one. And I wasn't expecting that. I was expecting a mix of skill levels with at least one or two people in the remedial set with me. If I had known I would be so... unique? Well, I don't think I would have done it. Or at least I certainly wouldn't have signed up for Tahoe.

I also didn't realize what a costly enterprise it would be. Aside from having to buy a bike, of course - which I had wanted to do anyway - there are all sorts of other little things that crop up, especially when you're starting from scratch, as I am. Cycling shorts are expensive, as are all other kinds of cycling-appropriate clothes and gear.  Also costly is having to drive to the suburbs every weekend, often more than an hour each way. Gas is expensive. My advice to anyone considering this sort of thing is: sign up with a friend of equal cycling ability, and have some disposable income. And a car. 

Speaking of expensive, what if I don't fund-raise my required minimum? I have to pay the difference. This is how a lot of charity events work, by the way, when they have to make monetary commitments on your part. I don't at all have a problem with the policy. I'm just constantly trying to think of ways to raise more money and chewing my lip as I stare at how far there is to go. And it's hard to plan/execute fundraisers when every single Saturday is not an option, because I am such a beginner that I really can't afford to miss any team rides. I can and will try, and I will hopefully raise enough. But there is the constant fear that I won't make it, and that I'll have to foot the bill. I really do not have that kind of money. Anywhere. I'd be lying if I didn't say that this constantly weighs on me.

And as long as I am whining, I'll just share that I am old and fat and like every single day is some new revelation of how poorly equipped my body is to deal with this. Just today, I randomly have some mild strain in my right quadriceps. My left elbow has been aching for two weeks. My latent fear of being crippled by arthritis is no longer latent, since my knees (especially the left one), and the elbow and my wrists and ankles, protest quite loudly and painfully in a way that is very -  well, very arthritic. I still have to be wary of the plantar fasciitis, my lower back is in a constant twinge, I already mentioned my allergies, and let's not even get into my stress-induced digestive issues. So on top of everything else is this daily in-my-face reminder of my own mortality. Which just feels fabulous, let me tell you.

What I'm saying is this: This is the week where it's all gotten to me. Because I can't ever get away, even for a day, from the physical and/or mental effects of it. Even with an encouraging  team and with terrific coaches and supportive friends and family, it's still a very isolating and stressful experience. I'm not saying that it's not ALSO a very rewarding experience, because it is! It's just that this week, I am feeling the rewards a lot less than I am feeling the pain. I am very demoralized and stressed out and sulky - AND I DON'T EVEN GET TO HAVE ICE CREAM.

Hmm. But I can have a margarita. Yes. I can indeed.

I am not opening the comments on this post because really, I am not looking for reassurances or anything. I know that lots of other people have been where I am (though it'd be nice to have someone there with me now), and I know that it's great I'm doing this and to not let these things get me down. I know. I know all these things. I'm just letting you know what this is really like. And it ain't all a bunch of triumphs.