First bike commute of 2018

I’ve been waiting for this season. More specifically, this DAY. The day when I’m finally able to throw on the backpack and pedal off to work.

Because I choose to work so far from home, the monkey wrench in commuting by bike is always the amount of daylight left for the trek home. That and temperatures being warm enough so this delicate flower’s fingers and toes don’t freeze and snap off. Last Saturday that day came.

Having yet to remove my road bike from the trainer, I saddled up the gravel bike and headed off 15 minutes behind schedule at 6:30am along an unexplored gravel route. I had a vague idea of the roads I needed to take and was grateful for the north wind to blow me south to work.

As is my typical MO, I got a late start. Add that to my already-established sense of unease over lack of route planning and I was super nervous I’d end up late for work. Normally I love exploring new byways, but this particular morning I was distracted and just trying to lay down the hammer and make it to the shop in time for a shower.

Fortunately some map recon I’d done six weeks earlier came in handy and I remembered the necessary turns needed to pop out onto pavement in order to cross the Wapsi River at McCausland. And once I made it over the water, I had a firmer grasp of the terrain and made it to the shop into time to shower AND grab a coffee before the first customers showed up.

strava down

We had a great day at the shop and Healthy Habits is buzzing not just with long-awaited spring madness, but our much-anticipated move and May 11 grand opening at the new digs with Crawford Brewing. It’s going to be so flippin’ rad!

I first became an HH customer of Bruce’s back in 2000 when he had his smaller location near the old HyVee, when he was the only place that had a specific herbal supplement to help new, lactating moms. Then we saw, “Oh, you’re a bike shop, too?! HOLLA!!!!” Shortly thereafter he built his current location and a sweet set of Campy wheels for Marty. Now to witness the next level of Bruce’s vision come to fruition? I’m just psyched to know the guy. He’s put his heart and soul into this venture: half bike shop, half brewery. I’m only partly joking about digging my own “El Chappo tunnel” to Coffee Hound for my daily fix. You can keep the hops, it’s the coffee beans that I’m gonna miss!

Having had a tailwind blow me into work, I knew I’d be fighting a headwind going home, and except for sundown, I really had no time constraints. I had all my lights charged, but with my last miles on the paved highways of the Humeston and 136, I figured I’d be calling my husband to fetch me from riding those final three miles.

The weather was still gorgeous and though the wind had died somewhat, it remained stiff enough to keep me grateful for my health. Fortunately the journey home allowed me the time to take in the views and snap some pix.

ridge top
North of Lost Grove Lake are some great hills that give amazing views of the Wapsi/Mississippi River valley.

The wind, however, did not prove to be the problem. I, Jenny, and my lack of woeful nutrition planning proved detrimental. I’d completely forgotten to plan. I shoved a protein bar in my mouth as I left on the morning ride, ate a protein puck later during work, lunch was cottage cheese and carrots with dill dip, then I ate another protein bar before leaving for home.

Though I had cash and credit on me, my route didn’t pass a convenience store by ONE SINGLE BLOCK (I took backroads through McCausland, not the main road). Because I hadn’t fueled properly all day, my thinking was cloudy and jumbled so I never thought to take the main road RIGHT PAST A GAS STATION. . .WHERE FOOD IS SOLD. . .THAT I COULD CONSUME. So of course, about five miles north of McCausland I got woozy as hell and found I had a single energy gel on me. (At least I had two full water bottles and the gel was a yummy marshmallow!)

But a single, 100 calorie energy gel would not correct a day’s worth of insufficient nutrition, eight hours of work and more than 50 arduous miles of gravel biking already logged. My brother’s place was only about five miles east, but do you think I’d ride over? Hell no? As with the gas station f’up, it didn’t occur to me to call Matt or bike to his house. My one-track mind was focused north on home.

shadow
As the sun continued to drop, my shadow stretched longer and longer. Having just ingested the yummy marshmallow gel, the shakes subsided long enough to secure a picture memory.
behind bars
Now that I’ve ridden it, the gravel commute is a pretty straight north/south route. Though as the sun dropped below the horizon and with it, the temperature, my toes began to suffer.

Once I crossed the paved “Elviria Road” I was 10 miles from home, seven of which were gravel. I called my husband and told him where I was, warning him that I’d likely need picked up. By this point, my lone energy gel had long wore off, the middle toes on both feet were numb, my back was a cluster of tight knots and because my shoulders were cinching up tight around my ears, my neck was bound up and I couldn’t look over my left shoulder. Is this due to crappy, insufficient nutrition. I’d argue some of it, but I also know I need to get the magical insight of Dan to have my bike fit tweaked.

selfie
I may be smiling, but I was starting to realize I was going to throw in the towel on today’s journey.
moon
The moon hovered over a cool, weird crossroads.
rollers
Those rollers weren’t part of my commute, but I must do some recon for September’s Turds of Misery 200k! Hopefully it’ll make the course!!!
dying light
The last rays of a gorgeous day . . .

Marty easily found me at the top of a hill about seven miles from home. I feel kind of bummed for not making it the full 78 miles, but at the same time, I still got 70 and that’s a great day in the saddle!

strava back

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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

 

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!

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.