(Insert obligatory comment about the time since last post, apology and promise to be more prompt, etc etc.)
I’ve been insanely busy.
Doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about blogging though, because I have been. I just haven’t done anything about it. I get into this cycle where I want to post something important, and relevant, and meaningful, and then I overwhelm myself, and decide to go do something on my to do list. Unfortunately, that means writing a blog post (which *is* on my to-do list) gets moved way way way down the list.
But, I’m going to do it today. First, here are some things I’ve been pondering, in list form:
1. Holy crap, women’s cycling in the Olympics. That was amazing. Both the women’s road race, and the individual time trial were amazing. And the story of two big performers in London for the US team, Evelyn Stevens and Kristin Armstrong (not related to Lance) are both awesome, amazing stories. They are very inspiring to me.
2. Physical Therapy for my shoulder is HARD. I have been able to do some range of motion work, but I’ll tell you – when someone has an accident and says they’re getting weekly massages – don’t assume that it is a luxury experience. It’s been pretty painful. Because I was basically holding my arm and neck in a ‘flinch’ position for 5 weeks, getting them loosened up involves both working the muscles, and also retraining my mind that I’m not hurt anymore.
3. Healing happens fast, but not fast enough. There are a few things I want to do coming up, and I’m still uncertain about my ability to do them. The second weekend in September is the Buffalo Bicycle Classic. Our plan had been to do the 70 mile ride, but that’s definitely out. However, they do have a 35 mile ride. I need to be on the bike for at least two weeks before that, though, which means 2-3 bike rides a week starting August 25th. We will see. That’s still 12 days away, and if you think about it, 12 days ago, I was still taking vicodin, had only just had my first PT appointment, and had half the ROM I have now. So it’s not an impossibility. Oh, and I haven’t taken a vicodin in 3 days. I have been able to survive on the occasional Advil. Sleep still isn’t great, but getting better.
4. School! Holy crap, orientation is next week, and then the semester starts the week following. I am trying to get approval for an independent study that will allow me to tailor my studies more closely with my thesis topic. I’ve knocked out 3 of my 5 major area questions, and have sketched out 2 of my 3 minor area questions. I’ve ticked off a few more books from my list, and I’ve been doing an insane amount of work planning for the semester, as I am the lead teaching assistant in my department (a job that comes with extra work, extra responsibility, and thankfully, extra $$).
5. I spent 5 hours in the Animal Care Emergency Room at VRCC last Tuesday night, because my 19 year old cat was terribly terribly sick. We got her stabilized finally, and she spent 5 days being pissed off at me because I had to give her a gross tasting medicine twice a day, but she’s doing ok now. However, tomorrow she has an oncology appointment for a large mass that was detected in her abdomen. I am firmly in the camp that when you have an animal, you promise to care for them to the best of your ability, so I am willing to do whatever it takes to keep her healthy – until it affects her quality of life. I believe strongly that prolonging the pain and suffering just for the sake of being “alive” is no life at all. So, I might have some tough decisions in the next few months. However, I am still completely in love with my adorable kitten, and I am trying to enjoy every single minute with her. She’s acting fine now, and spending her nights curled up in bed with me as normal, and was even mouthing off yesterday so loudly that the kinect was picking it up while the boyfriend played MW3, annoying the other people playing. So that’s kind of fun. It makes me hope that the end is still a ways off, with occasional trouble spots that can be solved with symptom treatment, without being too awful for her.
So that’s all that has been keeping me busy for the past two weeks, but the topic I really want to talk about is cycling culture. When I say I ride my bike, that doesn’t mean the same thing that it means for everyone else. My best friend has just started her third version of cycling culture, so I’m going to take the liberty of using her as an example to start this discussion.
I’m going to talk about a few different types of riders and biking: social biking, weekend warriors, and commuters are the beginning.
Last year, best friend and I both got back on our bikes after long delays. My delay had just been not making the time for it, as I’d ridden my bike for a few years, then put it away when I got divorced. Best friend had been doing all the things that women typically do: start a career, raise a family, etc. So, last year, she went out and picked up a hybrid cruiser. Something in the neighborhood of $500 and 25 pounds. For the first summer, that’s the bike she rode, doing the local cruiser rides, heading out for brunch with friends, and getting frozen yogurt with her kids. This is typical “social biking”.
However, because best friend is insanely driven and competitive (she and I are often in performance competition with each other, in a very good way that is mutually beneficial) she also started biking with friends on road bikes, doing rides that were more difficult. This is typical “weekend warrior” riding. Weekend warriors typically start going between 12 and 16 mph, riding distances between 20-100 miles on a given weekend day. The more driven ones might add in 2-3 other rides after work during the week. Often, these rides still have a social element to them, but are much harder to do on a heavy cruiser hybrid, due to the speeds and distances. Weekend warriors will often sign up for rides like Elephant Rock, or the Buff Bicycle Classic, which best friend and I have both done.
Last week, best friend added a rack and panniers, fenders, and lights to her hybrid, and joined the commuter class. Bicycle commuting is not as fast (probably tops out around 12 MPH, since you don’t want to show up sweaty), and can run into hazards (weather, road construction, other commuters of the 4 wheeled type) but it’s a great way to get places without adding to road congestion, and is good for you. Plus, starting the day with a 10-15 mile ride is just plain fun, and helps you get your head into the zone for a productive work day.
The only things required to get into any of these groups of cycling is a bike, and preferably a helmet. However, it can be intimidating to even start riding a bike, because too often, the term “cyclist” conjures up the lycra-clad pelotons of men screaming around corners, rather than the leisurely ride of a group of friends on a Sunday morning for french toast and mimosas. Additionally, because of the proximity to vehicles much larger and faster than you, road biking (for social, commuting, or weekend warrior purposes) can be intimidating. This is when it becomes helpful to consider a class. If you are a woman, a class geared toward women specifically is quite helpful.
The learning curve with riding a bicycle is not very steep. The first thing you need to be able to do is to just get on your bike and go. All the rest can be taken in small or big steps, at your own pace. You can decide to join a cruiser ride in your town. You can decide to just start commuting to work. You might even decide that you hate all the traffic on the road, and you’d rather ride a single track on a mountain bike. But the best thing to do is just get out there, get riding, and keep it fun. Who knows, maybe you will fall in love with it, and move up to competition level riding. There’s room for that too, even among the commuters.
One final note: I have a post coming up with a review of some products, but I want to encourage people to check out two companies I’m very happy to be supporting:
Suuthe skin care and repair products – I will be writing a review of their Skin Repair balm this week, but go check it out.
Sip, Clip and Go – both the blog and their coffee shop. Karen and Heather are great people, with great things to say about biking. Recently, they threw off their corporate overlords and took up coffee roasting and selling. I bought a pound of the Carbon Free Commuter blend for my office at school to help keep my fellow students caffeinated. Check out their coffees, get some for yourself!