The Latest and Greatest

Okay, maybe the title overreaches a bit, but it’s the Internet and it seems to me that hyperbole is in vogue.

So, how are you?

Me, well, I’m hanging in. This is an honest answer. The summer has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Just when I feel like I’m getting my cycling groove back, I’m wiped out with fatigue.

I don’t know why this is happening. My suspicion is this my new reality thanks to the shingles. The few people I’ve chatted with about the shingles tell me that they haven’t felt “the same” since. And this is how I feel.

No point in ruminating about it. It is what it is. A new normal and something I have to get used to. Fortunately, I have experience with this.

And now, for something interesting (I hope)….  here is what I’m currently into:

#Reading

#Watching

  • Call The Midwife – I’m late to this period drama. In small doses it’s a good one, I find the birth scenes to be a bit noisy.
  • Diagnosis – I’ve long been a fan of Dr. Lisa Sanders’s column in the NY Times Magazine and I’m equally hooked on the Netflix documentary program. In a word:  riveting.
  • The Great British Bake Off – so very good. This program has it all (without the birthing scenes and medical drama).

#Anticipating

  • This weekend I’m running a beginner women’s cyclocross clinic. I really enjoy helping women feel more confident on their bikes and get a real thrill from seeing them learn new skills.
  • Buffy Saint-Marie – Sunday night is going to be awesome. I’ve never heard Buffy Saint-Marie sing live. I once heard/saw her speak live on stage during a taping of Q during the Ottawa Juno week. I was captivated by her verve and spirit. Can’t wait to see her perform.
  • November 5th. This is I hope going to be a life-changing day for me. Some of you know that the shingles has left me with a cataract in my left eye. Well, over the last three months, my left eye has steadily deteriorated to the point where I really can’t see much with it. So, on November 5th, I’m having cataract surgery. Not something I thought I’d ever be having in my 40’s but heck, I didn’t expect to have my colon and butt removed either.
  • Montreal next week. I work for a company in the United States called Know Agency. I’ve been working with the fearless leaders of this SEO and digital marketing company since 2010. And now, finally next week,  I’m going to meet Kevin and Jane. I’m  playing it cool and collected right now but I expect that next Monday I’ll be second-guessing my outfit, my footwear, and hoping my cowlick isn’t sticking up.
  • The start of the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross season. This year my goal is to do five races. I know, not much but I’ve got dental surgery and cataract surgery smack dab in the middle of the race season.

#Doing

  • Just the normal stuff of life. Cycling, at-home yoga, sketching, wasting time on the Internet, chasing Calvin the cat around, and spending time with my favourite guy. I would like to be doing more cycling,  yoga, and sketching – but some days are better than others. I would like to be spending less time on the Internet – I’ve been working gradually on reducing my time wasted online. As for Calvin the cat – well the more energetic he is – the better. And yes, all time spent with my favourite guy is extra special and precious.

#Listening

  • I work from home so I’m lucky to be able to listen to whatever I want at whatever  volume I feel like. In the mornings I listen to CBC Radio One and in the afternoons at around 1:00 I switch to CBC Music. I  take a break  from  12 – 1 – I’m not a big call-in show fan. I’m slowly but surely starting to get the hang of classical  music – big thanks to Tom Allen and the summer hosts of Shift for gradually getting me used to this music.
  • The Cycling Podcast – this is my favourite cycling podcast. The hosts are smart, chatty, and are comfortable poking fun at themselves.
  • The Morning Shakeout – the host, Mario Fraioli has a knack for getting people, mostly runners to open up and be real. Always interesting  guests and valuable insights into life, sport, and balance.
  • Tough Girl Podcast – prepare to be inspired and to think seriously about setting out on a big adventure.
  • And a whole bunch of other podcasts from NPR, BBC, and the CBC.

And that’s it.

 

‘Cross Is Coming Stay Calm

Did you see the latest on the WWW? Cyclocross is coming. In fact, depending on where you live it might already be here.

It seems that in the last few weeks of August, so many people start to get into cyclocross-panic mode.

Stress about tires. Panic about tire pressure. Worry about mounts/dismounts. Much chatter about call-ups. So much stress and worry.

Well, here is what I think about all of this cyclocross panic:

  • Why are you racing cyclocross?
  • Are you a professional cyclocross racer who is making a living racing your bike?
  • Why are you freaking out?

As someone who has raced a lot of cyclocross at many different levels in many different countries – I can attest to the cyclocross-panic mode being universal. I also think it’s getting worse with every passing year.

If your dismount before the barrier is not super smooth – it’s okay. Sure, you haven’t been running – that’s okay – you’re a cyclist. And yes, even the top pros grab a handful of brake when they know they shouldn’t.

Have fun. Go out and race. Keep some perspective on why you’re racing. Don’t get sucked into spending hours obsessing over call-ups.

Get on your bike. Line up. Start hard. Keep your head up. Look through the corners for your exit.

Set your dismount speed. Remount when you’re ready (the number of steps after the barrier doesn’t matter).

Try not to brake too much but remember a controlled speed is always better than chaos.

Be friendly to the other racers. Thank the organizers. Encourage people when you’re standing on the sidelines watching.

Remember that it’s bike riding.

It’s cyclocross season – it’s the best time of the year. So enjoy it. Stop stressing.

See how much fun it is when you smile and goof around?

3-Year Stomaversary

It’s a pretty big day around here today. Actually today, August 8th and yesterday, August 7th are pretty damn big days in my life.

On August 7th, Marc and I celebrated our 15-year wedding anniversary. Wow! We were together for 10 years before we got married. 25 years! Amazing.

And today, August 8th is my 3-year stomaversary. Three years ago on August 8, 2016 I had my colon removed and was gifted Reset (my stoma) by a very smart surgeon and talented surgical team.

To say that August 8th wouldn’t have happened without August 7th is putting it mildly. I would not be here right now writing this if it wasn’t for Marc. This man has put his life on hold countless times to take care of me and to support me in chasing my goals. I’m truly overwhelmed when I think of the sacrifices he’s made for me.

It can’t be easy to love someone with a chronic  illness. I’m the lucky one – I don’t know what it’s like to see my favourite person crying, hurting, and truly wanting to give up. Sadly, Marc has gone through this.

The best thing about August 8, 2016 was that this all stopped. Yes, there were some blips and low points, particularly in late 2018 and early 2019, but I do believe that we’ve turned a corner now.

I feel good. I feel great. Life is good. There are still a few bumps and niggles, but together, Marc and I can get through anything. How lucky are we to have one another?

IMG_5056

So, three years with a stoma. Three years living with a pouch attached to my abdomen, Three years living with my small intestines sticking out of my stomach. Kind of rad really.

As my dear friend Blanche said to me on Tuesday after a 72 km bike ride, “Three years? And look at you – you have a whole new life!”

It’s true I really do. I no longer feel any limitations. Okay, truth – I haven’t taken a bath since my surgery nor have I gone swimming. But this is the year – I’m going to do both – you make sure to hold me accountable!

This morning I played hooky from work and went out to my favourite place for a fun 2 hour cruise on my mountain bike. It’s so hard for me to describe how free I feel riding at Larose Forest.

This morning was extra special – there was no one else there. I rode for a solid 90 minutes before I saw another person. It was just me, the birds, chipmunks, and the trees. Doesn’t get much better.

Something about being in nature truly helps settle me. I feel less rushed. I feel zero pressure to ride hard, fast, or whatever. I’m just there on my bike – totally free.

I took these on my favourite trail – trail #6. There is a point on this trail where the MTB track meanders through huge trees. It always feels super calm when I get to this part of the trail. It’s hard for me to explain, but I feel so at peace on this section of the trail.

Three years!!! I feel like I’m just getting started. I hope Marc is ready for whatever happens next – ha ha!

Breathing In

It’s Sunday, the last day of my week-long vacation. My plan was to go mountain biking today. Last night I got my gear organized, filled up the Camelbak, set the alarm for a shiny 5:30, and went to bed looking forward to riding at Larose Forest.

And now here I sit at 8:37 in the morning. Not riding. I barely slept last night. My lower legs kept me awake. I was restless. At around 4:00 this morning, I turned off my alarm.

Doing this stirred up a lot of conflicted emotions. This is not something I do. I decide to go mountain  biking – so I go mountain biking. Never before would I let a little thing like feeling tired stop me from getting out and having fun. But this is a new time.

In fact this entire week off has been a new experience for me. It started with the hiking weekend in New Hampshire. I returned home on Monday with lots of plans to ride everyday and to get out and really enjoy my city.

Well, remember a few months ago when I spoke about the ability to reset and controlling your controllables? These key tenets ruled my week off. I realized I was too tired from the weekend away to do what I had planned.

I was forced to adjust. Instead of the riding everyday plan – I rode twice. I did have a great day downtown wandering the Byward Market and spending lots of time enjoying the National Gallery of Canada. And the rest of the week? I chilled out. I slept in, I hung out with friends, I did a lot of sketching, and there was a side trip to the dentist.

So yeah, not what I had planned. And to top it off, I decided not to do the Gravel Guys event this past Saturday and I sold my entry to Rooted Vermont next weekend.

This is new for me. Normally I make plans, set goals, and build my life around them. Not now. Maybe this is a sign of a big transition period for me. It’s been really hard for me to move from cycling as training to cycling as pure enjoyment. For a long time my life was attached to performance and getting the most out of my body – this determined ever aspect of my life.

It has taken hanging out with people who aren’t knee deep in cycling culture for me to realize how this is no longer a balanced approach for me. Nor is it what I want anymore. It’s okay if I eat the cookie (or two) and not ride my bike (even if it is a Sunday).

I’m hitting the reset button. This wasn’t the week off I had planned – but it was an important week  for me. I was forced to slow down and be okay with not always being doing things.

I’m controlling the controllables. And this means now not being tied to structure, rigid training plans, and being open to new things and people.

Life has a funny way of throwing curveballs and roadblocks – I guess the key is looking at these as opportunity and a chance to  reassess. Time to hit reset and to be okay with this.

Trying New Things

2019 is so far a pretty great year for me. I finally feel that I have my health back. The last few months have been in fact, eye-opening for me.

I truly didn’t realize how run down I had been and how I was simply relying on my will to get through each day. This might sound like an exaggeration – after all, I really didn’t miss a step after my last surgery in April 2018 – I got back to life and living fairly quickly.

I was out doing things. Living life. But it was at quarter-speed and as 2018 started to wind down, I was a fraction of my normal self. Fortunately this is all behind me and after a few challenging months at the start of the year – I feel like myself.

To celebrate my newfound health (fingers crossed), I promised myself that I would try new things in 2019.

Gravel riding and racing? Sure – I’ll try it – and yes, I used to strongly dislike it – but, it’s a new year so why not? And guess what? I enjoy it. I’ve discovered beautiful roads, pushed myself harder than I have in a long time, and been fortunate to ride with some fantastic people.

Hiking in the White Mountains? Okay, I’ll give it a go. No camping required. I’ve long been obsessed with reading memoirs of people who have thru-hiked the AT, PCT, and CDT. Besides, what could be better than being out in nature for a couple of days completely disconnected from reality?

This past weekend – it happened. I went hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The entire weekend was very well organized thanks to our amazing guides/leaders from the Appalachian Mountain Club. The accommodations at Joe Dodge Lodge and Madison Springs Hut were excellent. (No tents required!) The people in our group were diverse, interesting, and inspiring. The nature was stunning. The views from Madison Springs Hut were outstanding.

But, about that hiking. Yeah, not a fan. The terrain of the Valley Way Trail pushed me far outside my comfort zone. To a spot I haven’t been to in a very long time. It takes a lot to make me feel afraid and lack confidence. This trail did it. There were tears. The hike up to Madison Springs Hut on Saturday and the descent on Sunday to the trailhead were not my top experiences.

However, I did it. I got through it. I was slow. I was cautious. I was afraid. I was nervous. But I was in nature. And now I know that hiking is not for me. This is okay. I’m cool with this.

This is all part of living. Trying new things. Discovering what I enjoy and what I don’t. Now, I don’t want to make the weekend sound horrible. It was still really great. Meeting new people, being at Madison Springs Hut, and just having a get-away were all major pluses.

The lingering question now is – what will I try next in 2019?

I think the best thing I can do is keep my eyes, ears, and soul open. Keep looking. Keep seeing. Keep listening. Keep hearing. Keep feeling. This is how I’ll discover new challenges, experiences, people, and opportunities.

 

Who?

Who.

This is a word I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

Who am I? Who do I want to be? Who can I be?

I’m not sure what sparked this ruminating. Okay, I think I do – Facebook…. yes, the dreaded Facebook popped up a memory on June 25th that reminded me that on June 25th, 2018 I went for my first bike ride after my most recent surgery.

I knew the day was coming, but I couldn’t really remember when. Well, geez when I saw the photos of my grinning face so happy to be out on my city bike riding very slowly and gingerly along a gravel path – I felt all the feels.

This memory got me thinking about who I am today. I used to really identify as a competitive cyclist. Practically my entire social circle was made up of like-minded competitive cyclists. Cycling was what I did, thought, ate, and breathed.

So, now who am I? For a long time, I aspired to being the person I was in 2009, 2010, and in the years leading up to 2015. Someone who rode bikes. And I was focused on riding bikes hard and fast.

I tried so hard after my first surgery in 2016 to get back to being that person. I set huge goals of being on the podium at ‘cross nationals and on the podium at Masters ‘Cross Worlds. I know – huge pie-in-the-sky goals. But these made sense to me –  after all this is what I did – I set huge goals and through grit, determination, and stubbornness I accomplished them (or came very close).

This isn’t me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still have goals. But they’re very different. This year, my goal with cycling is to truly enjoy it. To do events I’ve never done before. To ride my bike and appreciate my ability to ride it.

Honestly, until things went really bad in late-2017 and continued until this past-February – I don’t think I really appreciated how awesome health is. I had been sick for a long time, leading up to this very recent rough patch – but I was always able to push through and grit it out.

And then all of a sudden I couldn’t. My normal tricks were no longer working. It was hard. I was sad a lot. I was disappointed a lot. I was very angry. I gave up on possibility and future.

And now, as I sit here feeling like a normal, healthy person (who is trying to pretend that ulcerative colitis is not always lurking and doing some damage to my body) – I realize how lucky I am.

My health is back. I can ride my bike everyday. I can lift weights. I can get up early and get through a day without needing a nap at 2:00 p.m. I can go out with friends and not stress about bathrooms. I can work and be productive.

My body, brain, and soul are aligned and have stopped fighting each other.

I know who I am and where I’m going. I’m a person. I’m a human being. I do lots of regular people things. But not one of these things identifies me. This allows me to really enjoy every thing that I do.

The gravel races/rides are damn hard. I’m finishing close to the bottom of the results page. This is okay. Because I can do these.

My sketching is very much a work-in-progress. Some days I can’t get the pencil to do anything. This is okay. Because I’m doing it and I’m trying.

And I’ve finally realized that it doesn’t matter what other people think of who I am. I know who I am. And I’m good with this person.

It’s funny how it took me so long to get to this. I feel very fortunate to finally be at this place.