Hoping Cycling is Helping

I am REALLY struggling with running right now.  Not the running itself, but getting running.

I ride my bike to and from work, taking the long route whenever possible.  I ride 6-15 miles a day, and I’m making great progress on my Ride to Hogwarts, but I have three 10k races this fall – the first is this Saturday, and until yesterday, I hadn’t run in over two weeks. 

My work schedule has been crazy.  I worked 7:30pm to 3:30am last night, then 1:30px to 10:1pm today (yes, i’m at work… BAD GIRL)  I’m usually able to schedule a little extra time at the beginning and end of the day for my commute, but finding time and energy to run on top of everything is nearly impossible.  My legs are feeling so much better, and my breathing is getting stronger when I ride.  Hills are getting easier, and I’m getting more adventurous – but running is supposed to be my passion, and I’m not dedicating the time to it that it deserves – that I deserve.

Yesterday, my partner told me they’re going to train for a half-marathon with me.  This is awesome!!!  We went for a run together last night before I had to start work, and my motivation is back!!!

We did find out yesterday that the conference we’re going to Philadelphia next year for has been moved to September, so I won’t be there in June for the ODDyssey half-marathon.  Instead, we’ll just take a weekend trip in June to cottage country and do the Band On The Run half-marathon instead.

The Day the World Changed

Forgive me.  This post isn’t fitness related at all, but it is something I needed to put down in words today.

It’s been 15 years since I watched live video of the second plane hitting the World Trade Centre (I’ve seen the footage replayed a million times since then, but that day I saw it live).  I had been there a year before with a class trip, and taken photos of a skyline that ceased to exist as we knew it on September 11, 2001.

It was my second day of classes in university, and I was on the phone with the guy who had sold me my first new computer, having issues yet again (oh, Windows ’98). The tech was walking me through troubleshooting, and suddenly went silent.

“Oh my god.” He said “The World Trade Centre just collapsed.”

I kind of mumbled an acknowledgment.   I thought he meant some sort of financial collapse.

“A plane hit it.”  He said.

My head snapped up.  That couldn’t be right.  There would be people there.  It was Tuesday morning.

I don’t remember what else was said or how the call ended, but I remember stumbling into the dorm’s common room, where the TV was already turned to CNN.  I got there in time to see the second tower go down, and we just watched as it was shown again and again.  The room was full of crying 18-and 19-year-old girls, glued to the screen even though we knew what we would keep seeing.  At some point our residence advisor came in and told us that classes were cancelled for the day, before sitting down with us.

Now it’s important to note that I am Canadian.  I am from Canada, and on September 11, 2001, I was attending a Canadian university.  That day, our world changed too.

New York City is about a 10 hour drive from here, maybe 12 from where I lived then.  When you grow up in a province the size of Ontario,  that’s awfully close.  There’s a border in between, sure, but geographically,  we’re damned-near neighbours.  That day, our safety bubble was burst.  The girls in my dorm murmured amongst themselves about what it all meant.  “World War III” was repeated over and over again, and we prayed it wouldn’t come to that.  Girls went to their rooms to call boyfriends and girlfriends, best friends, parents, anyone they could draw comfort from.  For most of us, it was our first time living away from home, and the world had just become a very terrifying place.

I won’t delve into the politics of the tragedy or the months that followed.  Over the past 15 years, millions have lost their lives as a result of the chain of events set in motion that day.  There are differing opinions on the matter – whether it was a government set-up, whether they retaliated against the “right” people (if retaliation was ever the right answer).  It doesn’t matter.  It was a terrible tragedy that led to further tragedies, and NONE of it ever should have happened.

The world I grew up in – the safe, mainly peaceful life I’d had until then – vanished that morning.  I grew up with the mentality that we in Canada were safe.  Naiive, I know, but the general idea was that the U.S. would keep us protected.  No one would attack them, and by extension, no one would attack us for fear of incurring their wrath – after all, we were friends.  (Like I said, it was a naiive way of thinking, but it was just sort of a general consensus).  Then they were attacked, and we were no longer safe.  Our open border all but slammed shut.  Travel as we knew it changed.  Wars began.  Boys I went to school with – now men – flew overseas.  Over the years, more and more of those boys came home via the Highway of Heroes, to be honoured at Canadian Forces Base Trenton before being sent home to be mourned by their families.

In April of last year, my partner and I took a trip back to New York City.  We went to see a Broadway show, but took the week to explore the city again.  There were a lot of changes – more than just the obvious, but much of the city was the same.  Then we took a walking tour of the site of the World Trade Centre, where a powerful memorial still stands.

It’s hard to breathe there somehow.  Maybe it’s a subconscious thought of the dust and smoke that would have filled the air for weeks after the tragedy.  Maybe it’s the ghosts of everyone who fell there.  There is a haunted feeling at the memorial – I suspect it is.  You can’t help but tear up when standing by the pools, the pain is palpable. The granite railings around the waterfalls are etched with the names of the victims, and they say that each stream of water represents a life lost.  It’s beautiful and terrible at the same time, but I would go back in a heartbeat to stand there again.

The fire department across the street, where many of the first responders originated, has its own memorial wall – a reminder of those who risked or gave their lives for the survivors.

 

If anything good came out of that tragedy, it was a show of the courage and kindness of regular people.  The firefighters and the soldiers, but also the civilians.  The people who opened their homes to stranded passengers, the survivors who risked their lives to help colleagues, friends, and total strangers escape the burning towers.  There were non-human heroes too – search and rescue dogs, therapy animals, even service animals who guided their owners to safety.  Tragedy brings out the best and worst in the world, and we certainly saw both.

I wish I had a different world to show my future children.  I wish I had a way to turn it back into what it was before September 11, 2001, because it was different then.  I’ve seen society progress so much in my lifetime, but I don’t know if it will ever recover from that day.

Unplanned Planned Rest Day

I’m trying to take at least one (preferably only one) rest day per week, usually on the weekend.   This week, I was thinking it would be tomorrow,  but my body let me know this morning that it would be today.

I got up to pee this morning, and when I went to sit down, it felt like someone shot me right through the tops of both kneecaps.  Crap.  Okay.  Finish up in the bathroom,  try a few knee bends.  Nope.  Dammit.  Google says it’s a common overuse injury in cyclists, and I don’t like where it’s headed. With my goals, and my races coming up, I can’t afford a lot of rest days, but I sure as hell can’t afford to blow out my knees.

So today is a rest day, although I am on my feet at work all day, so it’s more an active rest day.  Tomorrow I will run, and cut the grass, and Monday I will go back to cycling.
I found out last night that I have a decision to make at work, too.  Right now, I am working 2 part-time jobs, and barely clearing 20 hours a week.   

One is at a pet store.  I make minimum wage there, get a shift once every few weeks, and there are no benefits – BUT I get a 15% discount on pet supplies, which is a huge help when you have as many babies as I do.

My other job is at a home improvement store.  No discount there, but it pays a little more, has benefits, bonuses, and they treat us well.  During the summer, I was working 30-40 hours a week there as a cashier.  Now I’m getting 15-20.  If I go below an average of 20 hours a week for too long, I will lose my benefits.  

Last night, I was offered a job within the home improvement store that would mean significantly more hours at a higher pay rate, no more dealing with customers, and Saturday nights guaranteed off.  All shifts would be full shifts, no more 4-5 hours at a time, and I would get free licensing on all kinds of cool equipment.  

Sounds like a no-brainer,  right?

There’s a catch, of course.

It’s night shift.  I don’t know what impact this might have on my running/cycling/swimming/racing programs.  And I live in a town where nothing is open at night, so if I want to keep my sleep schedule fairly consistent on my days off, I’ll be pretty much stuck at home.  I won’t be working with the people I’ve come to love, and when my dad comes back from sick leave (we work at the same place) we won’t see each other.  I also MIGHT lose my job at the pet store because I won’t be available during the day for cashier shifts.

HOWEVER: Starting work late in the evening means dinners at home with my partner, and most of the evening together.  It means most of the weekend together after my Saturday morning sleep.  It means I’ll be able to predict my life better.  Finally, and most importantly,  it means getting to our financial goals quicker.

And it won’t be forever.

I think I have to take it.

Mea Culpa

Sorry, I know I’ve been MIA for a few days – it’s been a crazy week.  

I’ve still been getting workouts in for the most part.  Monday was a holiday, so my partner and i took the dog for a nice long walk along the waterfront,  then went and heled my parents clear some trees up at their property.  

Tuesday I rode 12.8 miles on my bike, and even checked out a mountain biking trail I found online – I had forgotten how much fun technical mountain biking is! 

I missed Wednesday because of several appointments and a tight work schedule,  so when yesterday rolled around and I wasn’t feeling up to working out (really upset stomach) I did a yoga session instead just to stay active – after all,  I can’t miss 2 in a row!

Today I did 11.8 miles on the bike, 3x plowed some further trails, and even got “lost”(I knew where I was in proximit to the highway and could have followed the same path back, but I didn’t really know where I was in general) – resulting in me having to carry my bike up a steep embankment to get back to civilization – lol.

I’m doing not too badly at getting my cycling miles in, but I need to work on my “Run/Walk to Mordor” challenge – we’ve decided that my reward for that will be a road bike, and I have my eye on one already 🙂  I’m hoping to run tomorrow morning early, then bike to work the long way.  My first 10k of the year – a fundraiser for the local humane society where we got our beautiful dog – is next Saturday! 

Long, Strange Trip

I missed my ride yesterday, so I needed minimum 15 miles today to make up for it.  I started by riding to work this morning, which took care of 3.5 miles – only 11.5 to go after work.  Ooh boy.

We have some beautiful bike routes in town, but they’re short, and I’ve seen a lot of them these past weeks, so I decided to ride across the causeway into the neighbouring county.  I discovered while I was out, however, that there is no bike path, and possibly no sidewalk, on the causeway.  This posed a challenge for me, and I finally had to admit to myself that I’m not confident enough in my cycling ability yet to tackle the causeway.  So, I did a couple of laps around the park, then headed home the long way.  I got my extra 11.5 miles in!   I may never be able to walk again, but I got my ride in – lol.

This year’s cygnets (the gray ones) – not much smaller than Mom and Dad now, they’ll be off on their own soon enough.  Such an incredible sight to see!

 

New Shoes, Crazy Exercise Day and Cycling Loot

I tried to make my “new” Salomon shoes work, I really did.  I stretched them multiple times in the freezer, and tried to break them in gradually, but nothing worked, and so Thursday night, my partner and I headed out to Sport Chek to get new shoes.  It’s not easy for me to find good shoes with my size 11.5 feet, and almost every pair I tried was too small (the biggest any of the brands had was an 11, which fits sometimes,  but not always).  I tried several beautiful pairs of Asics, but they were just snug enough that I knew I wouldn’t be able to run in them.  Then I tried on a pair of New Balance and oh my god.  Damn.  Okay, those are comfy.  Not as flashy or pretty as some of the others, but not ugly, either, and so comfy!   I got a pair, and we got a good pair of Asics for my partner, both of which were on sale.  Then we had enough Scene points for $50 off, and I had a coupon for 10% off the entire purchase.  All in all, a pretty good score.

I decided to start breaking in the new shoes as soon as possible, with  three 10k races coming up – so I ran 3 miles yesterday morning with them, and it was amazing!  Beautiful weather for running, although it started to get hot towards the end, so I dumped some of my water over my head to cool off.

We had guys digging up our yard Thursday and Friday, so I was trying to spend as little time at home as possible.  I got home, cooled down for a bit, then headed back out on my bike.  I did 9 miles.

I saw this in the water under a bridge. It might be one of the creepiest, saddest things I have ever seen. (Don’t worry, I looked around, I didn’t see any children in the water. Thank God.)

One of the challenges that Nerd Fitness suggests is Walking to Mordor – a journey of 1779 miles.  There have been many articles written on this task – even websites and apps dedicated to it.  In fact, my partner is currently walking to Mordor to earn going back to school (another story) – it’s win-win-win, because it’s a good way for them to work on leveling up fitness while working towards leveling up career at the same time, it forms healthy habits, and it buys some time to save the money we need.  

I want to get a SmartHalo for my bike, and decided that I would have to cycle a certain distance to earn it – rather than just saving up stones for it, which would take far too long.  I decided Mordor was too far – if it’s worth a full education for my partner, it seems a little excessive for a bike accessory – even though it’s faster to ride than to walk.  I decided to see how far the Hogwarts Express would have travelled in the Harry Potter stories.  Using this article, and then this map,

I figured out that the ride from King’s Cross Station to the estimated location of the mythical school would be a distance of 612 miles by bicycle.  Perfect.  I want to get the SmartHalo before its official release in December,  because I can save a bunch of money by preordering. I picked November 25th as a deadline, and I officially started tracking on September 1st, which means 86 days for 612 miles.  That amounts to an average of 7.11 miles per day.  Now: I have three 10k race days in there, and 2 “away” weekends, so I know there are going to be missed days.  To make up for those, I plan on averaging 10 miles a day when I do ride, and hopefully that will give me enough of a buffer to hit my goal in time.

Now I just have to figure out a goal reward for my own walk to Mordor.  Maybe I should run instead…