A Conversation About Gender Roles and Cycling

Lately, Steve and I have been riding with him on the mountain bike and me on my road bike. This evens out the playing field some, since riding a mountain bike on the road is slower, which is probably good for the health of our relationship. But it also makes us look pretty recreational, since he’s sort of dicking around on the mountain bike instead of all being decked out in his fancy gear like usual.

This past weekend, we were riding and a guy with a backpack and a bell sprinted to pass us, after we passed him at a light, and then slowed down right ahead of us. Steve and I basically had this conversation then:

Steve: That was weird.
Me: That doesn’t happen to you? Happens to me all the time.
Steve: No. I usually get respect.
Me: Yeah, well, middle-aged weekend warriors always feel the need to sprint past me. The problem is it’s just enough work to beat them that it’s sort of hard. On the other hand, though, cars don’t harass me as much since I look little and female.
Steve: It’s a trade-off.

Dying Kittens, Biking by Myself and Hearing Alarms

McInnis. Sort of.
McInnis. Sort of.

Friday afternoon this is where I rode my road bike (not mountain bike) — this + the Shoreline Trail, which is much more challenging and rutted and rocky and hilly. I get bored of riding my road bike on long rides by myself. Sometimes I love it. But, sometimes I just can’t spend any more time in my own head (not a good sign with 8 more month of training…). So, instead, Friday I took my road bike and hit the trails. This isn’t aerobically challenging, but it’s technically hard, because your road bike simply isn’t designed for the trails. You have to focus to not fall over or get a flat or accidentally stick your skinny tire in a rut. And, the whole thing shakes your body constantly, every bump, shattering your boredom.

This is actually about three miles from our condo. You just ride past the mall, under the freeway and beyond the water treatment plant. And, then you keep going until you’ve gone far past all the recreational bird-watchers. The trail goes all the way out into the middle of the marsh that covers the blurry line between land and the Bay. You go until suddenly you’re standing on top of a marsh, surrounded by nothing, all by yourself.

I didn’t ride as far or as long as I wanted. I could say it’s because I had to take Biggie to the vet, but I was just bored. I just didn’t want to.

I did take Biggie to the vet, though. And, they said the problem wasn’t just stress from Tupac or the new situation. They said he has the same 100% fatal illness Floyd had (F.I.P) and he’s going to die just like Floyd did. Yes, it’s an extremely rare disease. Yes, it’s weird they both got the same mutation. Yes, it sucks.

I want to have a better way to say that. I want to make it mean something and have a point or a lesson. Isn’t that what writers are supposed to do? Take our own small pains and make them bigger, make them matter to other people, make them something. Instead, I cleaned. I cleaned the whole house Friday night. Because the only thing that’d be worse than having two cats die would be having the third one get sick too from a kitten that we only got to keep him company. If this was literature, there’d be a word for that.

We had to leave for a wedding Friday, after I finished cleaning. What do you do with a dying kitten when you’re leaving? One who has an infectious disease? We brought him with us. He’s not moving much, so it wasn’t hard. He just slept on the bed, walked around the room a little, enjoyed Carmel. And, we went to a wedding. We danced and partied and drank and then came back to the room and sat with the sick kitten. Then, we took him to the beach.

I tried to take a video of him running with Steve across the sand, but I accidentally took a video of what I thought I wasn’t taking a video of and didn’t record what I thought I was recording. Of course.

When we got home I went for my two hour run, barely beating the sun setting. It was ok, in that I never felt worse than I already felt. But, near the beginning, as I ran through a neighborhood and into the woods, an alarm inside one of the houses was going off. And, for ten second I wondered if it was my alarm, if I was asleep and I’d just been dreaming all this. I didn’t feel very awake; it seemed possible. I actually did a whole body check, tried to feel my pillow under my head if I was really in bed dreaming. But, I wasn’t. This was all real and that wasn’t what my alarm sounds like anyway.

Fun at the beach.
Fun at the beach.

Cycling in the Dark

It sucks. I hate it it. It’s the worst. I do not do it — unless I am stranded and the alternative is hitch-hiking, which I really do not do because my fear of crazy rapists in cars outweighs my fear of crazy rapists lunging at me from dark street corners.

At Cal, there was a guy on the triathlon team, a grad student who was pretty fast, who did all his cycling in loops around the Oakland Airport at night. Until that point it had literally — actually literally, not figuratively literally — never occurred to me that people would ride bikes in the dark. After that it appeared only crazy people rode their bikes at night. Why? Because you need to SEE to ride your bike and you can’t see in the dark.

I don’t know what riding in the dark looks like to all the early morning commuters and late night athletes, but this is what it looks like to me most of the time:

Isn't your bike light so good.
Isn’t your bike light so helpful.

Things that suck about biking in the dark:

  • Not being able to see what you hit before you hit it
  • Not being able to see potential murderers or bears that lurk in the shadows
  • Not being able to see the skunk before it tries to spray you
  • Getting a flat, but not being able to see to fix it
  • The cold
  • The dark

Things that don’t suck about biking in the dark:

  • Getting where you need to go (hopefully)

When we lived in Sacramento after college I didn’t drive, so I biked everywhere. In the winter, I routinely biked three miles on the dark, unlit bike path through the woods from the pool/gym to our house. It was shorter than biking on the road, but way, way sketchier. One time, on my way home, a helicopter with search lights started circling overhead looking for a missing fugitive/alleged murderer. After that I took the longer route on the lit road.

This morning I got up at 5:45 to bike to the ferry, take the ferry into the city, and bike from the ferry to work. Apparently, it’s been a month since I biked to the ferry at 6:25 a.m. Apparently, it’s dark at that hour now. And, apparently, if you accidentally close the garage with your gloves inside as you try to find lights so that you can bike in the dark, you should take the two extra minutes to go back upstairs and re-open the garage and get the gloves, because it is cold in the dark at 6:25 a.m.

Pretty much everywhere that has tips about cycling in the dark says: wear warm clothes (sort of check), make yourself visible (sort of check), have lights (check), look straight ahead — otherwise your lights point at not what you want them to point at (check), don’t do anything sudden or stupid — cars can’t see you in the dark either (god, I hope, check).

Every now and then someone asks me to go mountain biking in the dark, which sounds like a terrible idea and always makes me think of the Ben Stiller story about night mountain biking. Amazing:

Training Week: Sept. 23-29

(Yeah, this is a day late. But, well, tough shit. It’s not like y’all are editors who are going to stop giving me jobs if I miss a deadline. So. Priorities.)

Last week was very easy. This week I was trying to get in more solid training before switching more to marathon training. It didn’t exactly work that way, but life doesn’t exactly work that way.

Monday

Swam 3,000y at Masters. Lots of 50s and 100s and IM sets. I swam terrible and was in a terrible mood, but it’s possible that’s just because I was annoyed I was swimming so terrible. Apparently I had planned on going to a strength class in the evening and forgot. I went to trivia instead.

Tuesday

Biked two hours with 2 x 10′ at 175W (half-Ironman pace) and actually felt pretty good. Not great, it was still heavy legs and it was originally supposed to be 3 x 10′,0 but “coach” said to cut that short. You have to listen to Coach.

Ran about 7 miles easy with the high school kids. We went up and up and up.

Wednesday

Ran 8.5 miles with drills and strides, then the 4 x [3′ at 6:20, 1′ rest, 30″ hill sprint, 3′ recovery] workout. It was hard and I had to work after, but couldn’t really do much of anything.

Did not swim in the evening. Went out for dinner instead. Yes, Steve is in his off-season already…

Thursday

Biked 14 miles easy from work, to practice, home.

Ran 6 miles with the high school kids that was really primarily 12 x hill repeats. Did about 4 of them easy, 4 medium and 4 hard (one crazy hard just to see if I could keep up with the Varsity high school boys — I can almost, barely, but it’s really a bad idea). Then, 15′ of core. I did have the whole brief almost-fainting spell after practice. That meant I did not swim in the evening. With the whole heart episode I just had to lay on the couch all evening and recuperate.

Friday

Had planned on swimming, but I was still such a mess from the shitty episode the day before.

Saturday

Easy 25′ run and 1200m swim, with hard pick-ups and some race pace. At least, I hope this pool was meters, because otherwise I was swimming pretty slowly.

Sunday

Santa Cruz Triathlon.

TOTAL: 11:15

OK, time for marathon training. Which will sort of look the same, but it’ll feel different in my head.

Training: Sept. 9 – 15

Saturday I raced Pacific Grove. My lifelong dream of two-and-a-half months was to win Pacific Grove. I did that. And, then I still had to go to work today and clean the house yesterday. This doesn’t seem right. I definitely feel like there should be more of a reward/break/general acknowledgement from the world of my awesomeness. People as I walk down the street should be like, “YOU, how can you perform mundane chores like buying a new shower curtain! You are a doer of dreams! You should go home and eat cookies!” This is probably why I got tired of triathlon: because there’s something to be said for achieving a set achievement, then laying on the couch and watching Law and Order, not going back to training.

Which is a long way of saying that this past week was very light on the training but that was the point and it was worth it. Then, this upcoming week (after I can move again) it’ll have to be back to the grind. More lifelong goals of multiple weeks must be achieved.

Monday

Rode 25′. That is all. Felt like that was “recovery” from the race on Sunday.

Tuesday

Swam 2,000y in the morning with four hard 50s and then three 100s on a tempo pace.

Ran 4 miles or so easy with the high school kids, with a uptempo section in the middle.

Wednesday

Rested from all that easy training. (Except I had to walk a bunch at the beach and it was tiring.)

Thursday

Ran 4.5 miles quite easy + 15′ of core with high school kids.

Friday

PRE-RACE: Swam 1,100y with four HARD 25s and a race pace 100y. Then, rode 7 miles with five 10″ sprints and 90″ of race pace. I do these sprint bursts and hard 25s like REALLY hard the day before a race. It sort of reminds me that going fast is painful?

Saturday

Pacific Grove Triathlon. Duh. 2:20:58 — I think they call it a 1,500m swim, 24 mile bike, 10k run. Plus: mile running warm-up and maybe 100-200y of swimming warm-up. No cool down, which was stupid.

Sunday

Swam 1,000y. It was painful.

You thought I was kidding about taking it light? Hah. I never kid about taking it easy.