A kindly neighbor & knightly husband

“I just have to ask . . . ‘Why?'”

This from the kindly neighbor who pulled over to see if I was ok. I’d flatted and, caught unprepared, was waiting for my husband to come pick me up.

Road to nowhere

I told her riding these gravel roads (made wet and sticky after this morning’s snow) is a great conditioner.

She laughed, adding, “And you just like to do it, right? Well, you’re dressed right and you have all your lights, just be careful,” adding I could come to her farm any time I needed help.

I didn’t expect to ride, but when I stepped outside and felt the temperature hovering in the low 40s, it dawned on me there was no wind so I wouldn’t have to completely bundle up. Hell yeah!!!!dirty feet

Just as last week’s loose gravel kicked my butt, today’s wet gravel would prove tacky and glue’y and gross. I wasn’t looking to do a ton of miles, maybe just 15, but had my butt handed to me at a particularly steep climb that left me spinning out, forcing me off the bike and walking the remaining incline. (The same thing happened at the same hill last Sunday, but at least today I’d made it further. #smallvictories)

lidDespite a little walk of shame, I was still psyched to be trying a ride in these conditions. Every time my line wandered into a particularly soft, pudding-like spot I’d think of my friend Jacob who did last year’s Land Run when conditions were epically terrible. I remember afterwards his bike hanging in a work stand at the shop, caked in a layer of dried orange’ish muck . . . and that was after he’d already washed it once. He told me of using a frosting knife to scrape built-up mud off his tires. This was far from the case today. Sure I got dirty, but there was no crazy pudding or build up.

But the ride was quickly cut short when, after enjoying a downhill, suddenly my front tire was gone–sealant leaked out and I was without any tools or tube. I hate that I’d made such a boner move, but grateful my husband was around to come fetch me.Bike rescue

Tomorrow I’ll examine the wheel and try to figure out what happened.map

 

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MTB: infecting the younger generation

Ask my husband and kids and they’ll tell you they’re tired of me asking them/begging them to go mountain biking. We have a great system of trails at DeWitt’s Westbrook Park and they simply refuse. My kids have never rode trails so don’t know what they’re missing. My husband has and he says he hates them. Whatev’

This afternoon, as I headed to DeWitt for a session at Westbrook, it dawned on me that my 12-year-old nephew had an early-out from school. When I called to see if he was down with trying some trails, he happily complied!nic me start

Nic is a great kid, often game for trying new things and today was no different. With me on my Salsa Mukluk fat tire and him on a 24″ kids mountain bike, we took off. Quickly I could tell he wasn’t utilizing his gears so we did a little “Shifting 101” on the side of the 101 (trail) and we continued. I lead and would call out things to prepare him for what lie ahead.

Except for a tree branch clotheslining him and scraping his upper lip & nose, making him bleed his own blood, he rocked those trails! There were switchbacks he flicked through, rock gardens he bumped over and even some ramps off which he tried SENDING IT!

He told me it was a type of riding he’d never done. Living on a farm outside of town, most of Nic’s biking is around my parents’ neighborhood in town. And now he has this! Easily accessed by paved trail west along DeWitt’s 11th Street.

My favorite part of all of this? Purely selfish! HE WANTS TO GO AGAIN!!!! I think I’ll put him on my son’s Trek 3500. He’ll be beating his old aunt in no time!

Cutting my teeth on gravel

Gravel is hard. Wait, it’s soft, which makes it extra hard! Sunday rollers

On my days off, I’m forcing myself to explore the hilly, twisty, turny gravels north of my home. If a person rides south, they’ll hit a few hills before pancaking a few miles north of DeWitt. Flat is fine. In fact, it’s fun because I can go fast! But flat doesn’t cut the butter when you’re eyeballing Dirty Kanza 2019.Sunday harvest

It’s weird how even within a couple of rides, it seems like I’m getting a feel for this new style of riding. I’m starting to get a slight understanding of how to climb gravel: similar to the road in that I’m “sittin’ and spinnin’” but different because while most road climbing is steady and long or short and sweet, gravel inclines can be sudden and wall-like.

I’m “lucky” to have really hilly gravel near my home. Even though I’ve lived here for 12 years, the backroads are easy to get lost on because they move with the land–rising and falling, meandering and bending. Just a few miles to the south where it’s super flat, the backroads are laid out in perfect squares. But where I live? I never know where I’m going to end up! Not only does that make riding exciting, it’s also very surprising. I’ll be pedaling along and suddenly drop into a valley then just as quickly, need to grind and claw my way up and out.gravel and cows

And yesterday’s climbing was tough: nearly every road had been covered with a fresh layer of rock and then graded.  On one particularly tough climb, I started spinning out and eventually gave up and walked it.

I’m currently riding the stock 700×42 Sawtooth tires on my Specialized Sequoia and I’m learning I probably need a tire with some real tread. Also, much like when I started riding a fat tire a year ago and messing around with tire pressure, 35 psi in my rear wheel is too much. A couple days earlier I was riding at about 19 psi and though it was too squishy, I didn’t seem to struggle with spinning out so much.gravel creek

Aside from the tire issue, I’m also gaining a little experience with gearing. When climbing on the road, I stay aware of how many gears I have before I max out. On gravel it seems like I max out before the climb really even starts. There’s so much “mental” to it. Not only am I deciding where the best line in the gravel lies then trying not to bite it as I move into it, but the environs are gorgeous and I’m trying to enjoy the views. And when that view is suddenly a big ass hill and I haven’t been paying attention to my gears? Ugh. . .there’s a learning curve to this gravel stuff. For sure.

A friend told me it took him three rides to decide if he even liked it. I’m already sold, mainly because of the exploring that’s waiting for me out my backdoor. . .strava tuesday

 

What happens after bike thievery

It was a gorgeous fall afternoon when I walked out the back door of Healthy Habits Bike Shop & saw my favorite bike was gone. Was she locked up? No. As employees, we’ve always left our bikes parked out the back door, unattended. We’ve been at this location for 10 years, “It’s Bettendorf!” and we’ve never lost a bike. Well, no longer can we be so lax with our babies.

My bike was a 2016 Salsa Mukluk. It was the base model, aluminum frame with the Bearpaw carbon fork and a SRAM x7 drivetrain. She arrived attractive enough, but the boys promptly helped me remove the front derailleur and replace the two stock chainrings with a single orange RaceFace Narrow-Wide 30t chainring. The benefit was it allowed for a bit more room in the rear chainstay so I could upgrade from the stock Surly Nate 3.8 tires to the wider Specialized Ground Control 4.6. Using yellow Duct Tape for my rim strips, I set up the tires tubeless, put on yellow Fyxation Mesa MP Platform pedals and Arundel sport bottle cages. I later added an orange Chromag riser bar and orange Wolf Tooth headset spacers and stem cap. I named her “50 Shades of Orange” and she was HOT!

We had so much fun together!

halloween parade 2016

We rode in parades, we “stomped” on Davenport’s Credit Island and Clinton’s bottoms, we were one of more than 100 who participated in the 2016 Quad Cities Global Fat Bike Day, we lead gravel rides and rode trails, hell I even rode the cow paths in my neighbor’s pasture, working on my off-road skillz. And yes, she killed it at the 2017 Quad Cities Criterium Faterium! She was my girl!!!

Despite filing a police report, having loads of people share the theft post from our shop Facebook page resulting in thousands of views, regardless of mates riding urban creeks and thickets, the reality settled in: she was gone and I had to replace her.

But how? How do you replace a ray of sunshine? She was so bright, it was like looking into the sun!!! But having tasted fat biking, I couldn’t be without a steed and began a sad search for No. 2. This was not fun shopping. First of all, I didn’t want a new fat bike. I wanted MY fat bike. Secondly, there was only one model that appealed to my penchant for color: the Salsa Beargrease Carbon NX1 in red with a galaxy print on the underside of the downtube. But I’d just sold one to a friend and I was not going to steal her thunder.

I looked at the rest of the Salsa fleet, the Surlys, the new Heller and the Fatboy from Specialized. NOTHING appealed to me. Everything was so basic and blah (in color) so I focused on the components I wanted: trails showed me that I enjoyed a 1x drivetrain and I wanted more than the seven gears I had previously. I did not want a suspension fork, didn’t care if I rode carbon and enjoyed the relaxed geometry of the Mukluk and wasn’t sure the more aggressive, shorter headtubes of the Beargrease or Fatboy were for me.  As I whittled down my options, price was an issue (remember I’d just ordered my gravel bike and really didn’t have a second bike in the budget), but when I looked at the 1x11s available in my size, the price between aluminum and carbon fat tire rubwasn’t a crazy difference.

So I made my decision–the Salsa Mukluk Carbon SLX 1×11 in matte black. In addition to having the drivetrain I wanted, the rear spacing on this model was wider than my first bike which will hopefully alleviate the issues with rubbing. (During February’s Frozen Fat Fondo Fest, the mud caked so heavily on my tires that it wore into the chainstay.)

When the new ride arrived, I felt pretty blah and the guys at the shop teased me, “Oh, my new fat bike arrived, woe is me.” I probably sounded like Eeyore.

I couldn’t let it remain a black-on-black bike so I chose red for my accent color. Even though it arrived tubeless ready, complete with sealant rim strips already applied, I pulled them off and repeated my Duct Tape rim strip trick only this time in red and proceeded with a tubeless set up. I then put on red RaceFace Chester pedals, red Arundel bottle cages, a red Salsa Lip Lock seat post collar and topped it off with a red Spank Oozy riser bar which I cut to fit my shorter wingspan. It was starting to grow on me.

Then I took her out to DeWitt’s Westbrook Park for some trail riding. Oh. My. GOSH! I couldn’t believe how different it rode!!! I was zipping around on those trails like my hair was on fire! I definitely had bugs in my teeth because I couldn’t stop smiling!!! The beefy Maxxis Minion FBF 4.8 tires were grippy AF! Meet Black Betty. . .

black betty

The following day I took her on our weekly gravel ride and had my ass handed to me. Is it the tires? I was completely gassed after just 16 mostly-flat miles! And during Sunday’s Fatties at Five ride from the shop, I was the “sweeper” mainly because I couldn’t keep up! WTF?! Apparently Black Betty is a beast and she is going to attack my legs like a crazy mutha! I’ve already been told I’m not going to want to ride the Maxxis Minions in the Fat Bike Birkie going down next March in Hayward, Wisconsin. We shall see. Until then, let’s ride!!!!

Entering a new realm of gravel

It’s been just 10 days since I introduced my Specialized Sequoia. It was in a Facebook photo of the progress on Healthy Habits’ new location going up yards from our current digs. She arrived beige. Boring beige. And I don’t ride boring bikes.

gravel rig

Taking orange decals originally intended for my recently stolen 2016 Salsa Mukluk fat bike, I dialed in her color with cable housing, bar tape, Arundel bottle cages and Issi pedals. A few days later I added an orange Salsa Lip Lock seat post collar. She ceased being boring.

In the last week I’ve had her out four times, putting in miles where and when I could. My previous gravel riding was done on either mountain or fat tires, but with my next big goal being Dirty Kanza 2019, skill building starts now on the Sawtooth 42mm tires that came stock on the bike.

Already I can tell gravel riding on narrower tires is a whole different beast. Last year I was doing much of it on a mountain tandem with my son which definitely has its advantages for honing one’s handling skills.

This year I did all my gravel riding on my fat bike, and nothing beats the stability of a fat tire to make gravel GRAVY! Those monster tires and treads mean even the loosest of gravel is no problem. But those monster tires are also slow and exhausting. It’s one thing to do 20 or 30 miles on a fat bike, and quite another to do 200.

first gravel ride

So why did I choose the Sequoia? It’s been a year-long process of elimination. I loved the pre-2017 Salsa Warbird, but the new design features a 1x drivetrain. Many people tell me that’s what all gravel bikes are heading to, but I know myself–I need gears and wanted a 2x setup. With the Warbird out, I figured I’d do what my husband did and go with the newly designed Diverge Comp from Specialized. A full carbon rig with the new Future Shock in the headset makes for a super comfortable ride.

But steel, especially for riding gravel, was something I couldn’t ignore. The stock Sequoia is pretty hefty, but earlier this fall a customer, Vinny, ordered a Sequoia frame and had us do a custom build from there. I was stunned how much weight was shaved just in wheels. That’s all it took. I chose the Shimano 105 group set and plan to build lighter wheels in the future. She’s set up tubeless and for now, I’m simply riding and figuring out what psi works best for me.

I find gravel super intimidating so as I delve deeper into a new way of riding, I’m drawing on last summer’s Ironman training. Hill repeats, week in and week out, for several months taught me to finally surrender my fear of hills. It was in the doing, over and over again, that I lost my fear. I’m going to trust that by riding gravel, day in and day out, on hard dirt and the loosest of fresh rock, I will eventually jettison my fear and embrace the suck.

gravel Oct 23

 

The DIY Freedom Tri

Today’s DIY Freedom Tri was the most fun I’ve had over the last four years we’ve been doing this event! Not lacking in surprises, the morning started with me locking my keys in the car at Lost Grove Lake. Fortunately I was already wearing my wetsuit and thanks to the kindness of buddies–Heidi had an extra swim cap, Michael spare goggles and Erin, vital ear plugs (I’d end up in the E.R. without ’em)–we were able to start what would be a .9 mile swim.

swim

While this went down, Marty brought a spare key and treated the seven of us to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” as we exited the water! Unfortunately Lisa and Cathy had to bail after the swim so the bike was down to Bonnie, Heidi, Erin and I doing the century and Michael doing 50, blowing the doors off our quartet of female badassery. Our century was a loop north out of Scott County, west along the southern portion of Clinton County, south back into Scott County and east along LeClaire Road back to Lost Grove Lake.

The first 30 miles were fairly uneventful, but Marty rode out to meet us east of Charlotte, snapping the first of many group shots.

charvegas

After leaving “CharVegas” and waving at my house, we pit stopped in Delmar where Erin met half a dog!

half dog

caseys

Eventually Marty left us at Elwood where we continued onto Lost Nation.

Despite the “Lost” Grove Lake and “Lost” Nation, we were pretty solid with our map skills (compared to last year, eh hem). Some people wondered why we were starting the swim at 5:30 am and much of the reasoning rested in the fact we were cycling 100 miles. As we moved westward toward Lost Nation, it was clear the west/southwest wind was picking up and getting stronger. And headwinds SUCK!

tri stop

After regrouping in Lost Nation, we headed south and west toward Toronto where I started to feel so damn grateful for my health. To be out in the middle of cornfields, pedaling my ass off, chafing because I forgot my chamois butter, sweat dripping down, I remembered how lucky I am. Not just to have the strength to do it and to have beautiful open roads, but that all four of us are doing Ironman Wisconsin in September. None of us are bent on competing with each other. We’re just in it together, excited for the experience.

road selfie

open road

Somewhere north of Wheatland, however, my gratitude flagged due to the buckshot of gross, hard, large flying beetles swarming in slow flight everywhere! But it was also time for sugary sustenance (ice cold Mountain Dew) so after a brief stop in Wheatland it was on to Dixon where Erin had to document our visit due to one of her two fur babies sharing the same name.

dixon welcome

dixon batter

One of the best things about Dixon, aside from Erin getting to set up in the batter’s box was the direction we were headed: south east! Finally the sweet reward of a tailwind that would carry us past Jeff and Cirt’s giant cob and eventually LeClaire Road via a final Mountain Dew stop in Donahue.

corn cob

Given the straight shot through Eldridge to Well’s Fargo/240th and back to Lost Grove Lake, Bonnie told Erin, Heidi and I to “give it hell” during the last miles to see what our legs could do. And give it hell we did! The three of us worked a short pace line that resulted in a Strava “Queen of the Mountain” along one of the segments of LeClaire Road! And Heidi achieved her first CENTURY!!!!

heidi hill bike

But the day’s challenge wasn’t complete–we had a run to knock out. Initially it was to be a 10k, but admittedly we jacked around enough during the bike that we just wanted to be done so we simply ran to the first water stop and turned around. It was a perfect 5k.

run

 

5k finish

What a day! It was hard, but not impossible. Uncomfortable, but not unbearable. Hot, but not awful. Joyful and totally badass!

Final shot

Last week someone questioned if we’d have medals. No. But Bonnie’s search of heavy metal for an eventual work of art was definitely the best metal of all!!!

Heavy metal

Much like Superman, we were all a little beat up, but still had our capes. HELL YEAH!

My boy’s biker butt a year later

What a difference a year makes. And how fast that time flies. Do I still have an attic full of zombie flies? Yes. Does my son still refuse to ride with me? NO!!! How on earth did the later happen? It’s all because of where and with whom I work!

At Healthy Habits Bicycle and Nutrition I was hired in February 2016 as a fledgling mechanic and all-around shop wench. The mechanics continues to be a slow journey, but the shop wenching? I got that shit down! (Except for the times I don’t and screw up and so, uh, yeah.)

ANYWAY….KidBoy’s willingness to join his dear old mother on a bike ride happened after I purchased a used Raleigh Coupe tandem from my boss. Immediately he was game for trying out the new ride and as a result was game for somewhat regular riding! We took to the bike path along Bettendorf & Davenport’s riverfront, to those awesome up and down two-lane roads of Moose Lake Country in Wisconsin, to the HILLY gravels surrounding Casa Reed Murrell, but his real enjoyment came from the shop rides!

group ride
Healthy Habits Monday group gravel ride…
tired gravel
Staring down death on the gravels near home…
moose lake ride
The group ride enhanced by Wisconsin’s Northwoods!

KidBoy’s riding style definitely follows more my desire forbobby shared misery vs. his father’s love for the solo slog so it’s no surprise those Monday night gravel rides lead by Healthy Habits staff were his favorite. He claims it was the post-ride fro-yo at PeachWave next door, but secretly he loved watching the parking lot antics of the mostly male “peloton,” specifically the wheelie magic of assistant shop manager Bobby Parker.

It’s still early in the season for many riders and I don’t foresee KidBoy’s schedule allowing him to join many shop rides until July due to track and baseball, but at least he’ll be ready to roll!

Shall I bring the tigers?

What a week…sandwiched between a childhood friend’s mom dying Monday and a coffee club member suddenly dying Thursday, a badass buddy learned he has cancer….everywhere. What the fuck?

So last night, with Marty working late, I made both kids sit and watch a movie with me. The kids were grumpy because I refused to let them squirrel away in their rooms. I was just sad.

We considered “Elf,” decided on “The Book of Life,” but when the DVD player crapped out we were left with “Grown Ups 2” airing on the FX channel. By the time the credits rolled, we were all headed to our respective beds, barely able to muster a begrudged ‘night. (“Good work team! Yaaaay FAMILY!”)

I woke early to work out, then drank a big cuppa NOPE and promptly returned to bed. And that’s when shit got weird.

First, I dreamt my badass buddy and I were at a baseball stadium talking about his shitty news. He wanted his services held there with The Nadas playing. As we talked, we casually watched two large, puffy, drooling Bengal tigers playfully maul people in nearby seats. As we watched, he asked, “Reed, will you bring the tigers?”

I must’ve stirred because that dream promptly ended and a second, more disturbing dream set in. It was sweaty and dirty, took place on a golf course and involved
image
running hydration belts and Petzl headlamps. Apparently it’s what happens when I watch artists like Peaches on a belly full of Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Nick Swardson, and then skip out on an early morning run.

In light of all that, bringing the Bengal tigers to a stadium service for a badass? Consider it done.

Why I believe in Yesterday

When all else fails, count your gratefuls. At least that’s what I’m told.

So what’s mine? Yesterday.

My Oct. 29th post resonated with a few of you. Your words of encouragement were unexpected and more than lovely, they were loving. For that love, I thank you. Normally I view myself as strong, self-assured and focused. But a skittering, nervousness descended when I read the responses to my admission of the broken relationship I have with food and my body.

And then last week — a peach of a week — came to be. One friend died from the effects of alcoholism, another was diagnosed with cancer while a third spent the week at the Mayo Clinic . . . and there I sat, hazy, directionless and obsessing about the dregs of the candy bowl. Surely Milky Way minis were not the answer.12194708_968937209840613_1809651746297937671_o

I hoped the weekend would be better. One of my favorite cousins would wed his bride and the morning of the nuptials I’d run the Galena Lead Rush Half Marathon with two of my close girlfriends! But then my son KidBoy got sick. And then during the early miles of the race I realized I was sick! My stomach began to ache, my head swim, sweat rained off the bill of my ball cap. Despite my pleas for the girls to go on without me, they refused, consoling me that it was probably due to the difficult week.

I hated hearing this. I wasn’t the one with the difficult week. My world was still the same, relatively, while my friends and their families? Their worlds spiraled into deeper unknowns. Me? I was schlepping the hills around Galena.

But there was the wedding, right? A time for fun and celebration? Nope! KidBoy and I were out. We tried to make the reception, but while talking with a guest, sweat started streaming from my scalp down the sides of my face and dripping off my chin. It was pretty sexy . . . and clear neither KidBoy nor I should be there.

Sunday? Was Sunday any better? Nope! Filled with toxic eye candy as KidBoy and I watched “The Shining” and The Walking Dead. As a simple horror movie, neither of us found “The Shining” scary, but as Stephen King explained in a 2013 NPR interview, “The Shining” is what happens when an alcoholic stops drinking and doesn’t get help. Whhhat?!!! That’s flippin’ nuts! There really is something to the idea what you read, watch, hear is mood effecting.

My guard was down and my ego decided “Game On!” By Monday morning I felt physically better, managing a double workout at the Y, but mentally? I was screwed. I couldn’t get “The Shining” out of my head. I kept putting myself in the Overlook Hotel and in the shoes of Jack Torrence. My early sobriety was pretty ugly, but at about four months sober, I experienced a 24-hour period of complete insanity, a period when the Monster came to visit my 1-year-old daughter. I was never physically violent with her, but at my darkest hour, I was the screaming, raging Jack swinging an axe. “Hereeee’s Jenny!”

I try to keep my memory of the Monster caged within the context that it was what brought about my complete surrender. Still, it makes my skin crawl. I don’t often let myself go there. But there I was, stuck in my car driving home from the Y remembering my darkest time, and I realize I’m in an absolute shit storm! I completely started to freak out. I phoned my husband who tried to calm me with soothing, supportive words. But I was still feeling Looney Tunes so I called my cousin Amanda who came at me with a disbelieving “Jenny! What the hell?! You’re not that person anymore!!!”

It was just the clobbering I needed. With a strength that cut through all the emotional bullshit in which I was caught, Amanda jolted me into 2015 where I’m fairly sane, reasonably whole and 99 percent not the Monster. And that’s when I could breathe again. That’s when I could be thankful. That’s when I started looking for ways to help my friends and family and get off that gross pity pot!

And just like Paul McCartney so soothingly croons, “Yesterday . . . all my troubles seemed so far away,” Monday passed and Yesterday came forth with a joyful sound, that of Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats performing “I Need Never Get Old” on Monday night’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. BOOM!

And with that beautiful R&B pounding in my head, I spent the morning with my three-year-old niece, giving my sister who’s eight months pregnant, a chance to rest . . .12240904_10153360082553802_3231320938977393395_o

Suffering serious Cuteness Burn, my day could’ve ended then. But there was more! I spent the evening with girlfriends discussing the rationality of juicing 25 pounds of carrots a week! Carrots? Really? Actually it was our chance to circle the wagons around our beautiful Shelly, reminding her she is not facing cancer alone, but with an army. That we shall be her ears in which to scream and her pressure valve from which to release frustration, disbelief and fear. We shall be her peanut gallery, her cheerleaders and, if the carrots turn her orange, we shall laugh at her and call her “Pumpkin.”

All this is why I believe in Yesterday.

Reed All About It returns. . .again

In the eight months since I left my Saturday post as a newspaper columnist for The Observer in DeWitt, Iowa, I’ve floundered. I’m not a perfect candidate for structured 8-5 work, but I’m TERRIBLE at self-employment. Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s laziness, maybe it’s brain chemicals, but within six weeks of leaving the paper, I wasn’t writing and I was in trouble.

Who knew writing (or not writing) would foster such pain. My trouble was in the mental department. See, my Saturday gig for the paper was a simple little column about whatever was going on during that week of my life. And I quit, abruptly. Mind you I have no regrets about leaving the paper. New ownership was taking it in an uncomfortable direction. My family was supportive, but I had no game plan. It was a classic case of “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

Today's writing partner. Ever my protector, Clyde has not strayed from my side.
Today’s writing partner. Ever my protector, Clyde has not strayed from my side.

When I left the paper in February, I was in the midst of what I preferred to call rigorous “brain training,” forcing disciplining myself to put healthier foods and liquids in my body. Ignorant of the brain’s power, once I stopped writing, much of my rational, healthy thinking stopped as well.

I found myself binging, sometimes on junk food, but usually on rice cakes and crackers, then crouching over a toilet, vomiting. Too real? My apologies. I wish I could clean it up and make it sound better. I can’t. Physically my body had never felt stronger. I was training for a full summer of racing which included two half Ironman events. I was swimming and biking, running, planking and lifting weights. But I couldn’t swim, bike, run or lift enough to keep my mind quiet. And I wasn’t writing.

Without the writing, I wasn’t going inward. I wasn’t listening for that “still, small voice.” Rather, I was keeping everything on the surface, “controllable,” noting every good calorie and bad gram of fat, every good swim and every bad run. And when I’d look at myself, all I saw was failure and obesity. I couldn’t see the strength and the power. I only saw rigid food rules and an inability to work hard enough. No matter how much I ate, it wasn’t enough. No matter how far I ran, it wasn’t enough. No matter how heavy I lifted or how long I held a plank, it was never enough. But the purging? As crazy as it sounds, I’d feel so good after doing it. And yet I also knew the brief reprieve vomiting gave me was a complete and utter delusion.

I started dropping little hints about the darkness to a couple of friends, only in texts, never in person. By March I was scared I’d reached a point where I had to binge and purge. I wanted to be strong and healthy! I didn’t want to be chained to the terrible pattern of overeating and vomiting! And that’s when I found myself telling one of my sisters. It wasn’t planned. I had every intention of keeping it a secret, but I told on myself and got involved with a therapist.

Since March I haven’t made myself sick, but I’ve wanted to. When I shove awful junk food in my mouth, at the time it’s as if I go mindless and am watching myself, knowing I shouldn’t be eating, but unable to stop. And then when I’m done? When the reality of what I just ate sinks in? I want it OUT so badly. Take today, for example! My lunch? I ate a bunch of Halloween candy and a full canister of Pringles. What the hell?!!!!!! I had a great 6 mile run this morning as well as a session with my therapist and yet it’s taking everything in me not to give up and just walk to the bathroom. First world problems . . .

Obviously I’m not better and there’s so many things tangled in this knot! Just this morning I listened to the 26 October 2015 interview of Gloria Steinem by Terry Gross for NPR’s Fresh Air and how Steinem, a self-proclaimed ‘foodaholic’, at age 81 still can’t have certain foods in her house. So will I ever get better? Will I ever be cured? Doubtful. Gross quoted Steinem’s own words to her, “I’m a fat woman who’s not fat at the moment.” In the interview, Steinem admits, “I’m still a sugar junkie. I still find it very difficult. I can’t keep certain kinds of food in the house because they talk to me . . . I cannot keep ice cream or bread or anything too rewarding in the house.”

How depressing. I crave balance almost as much as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. But if it were just about the Reese’s or the Pringles or the bread, the solution would be simple: don’t eat it. Just like with alcoholism, right? Don’t drink and life gets better, right? Wrong. In 2001 when I quit drinking, my life got worse until I had no fight left, until I was beat up enough to start listening for that “still, small voice,” until I could hear what people were trying to teach me. I suppose my food issue is no different. Fuck.

So I guess that’s it? I’m not making myself vomit, but I’m still binging? If I can frame my food issue in the context of drinking, it’s possible for me to have hope. If I keep working at it, I’ll get better, right? Hopefully. Hopefully I’ll gain a stronger, healthier sense of self. And I guess to some degree that’s already begun. I can’t see my day-to-day growth, but when I look back at where I was in March, you bet your ass I’m in a much better place. And most importantly, I’m writing again.

. . . whew! What a heavy way to restart “Reed All About It,” eh? If prior readers know anything about me, it’s that I’ll always be real. Who knows what future posts will bring, but I will never offer fakery . . . so please come back, and thank you.