Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Post From The Summit Of Mt Crazy.

"Oh, The Places You'll Go!"... Cervelo style!
I have really had a tough time lately dealing with the fact that I tried a different approach to diet and it did not work... I gained weight.  I gained some muscle (actually about 5 lbs of muscle) but I also increased my body fat percentage by 4%.  It was a gain that unravelled a years worth of hard work and I ended up feeling like a failure.  I felt so fat that I was a mini trauma every time I walked by a mirror.  Never mind that I was time trialing like a beast (the thing that I was training for and where I was seeing results), my climbing got worse (the thing that I was not training for) and that was suddenly the only thing that mattered.  I allowed my entire sense of self worth to fall off a cliff.

My OH-SO-RATIONAL response to it was to flip out and stop eating enough to support my job related activity and training. It was the 6 year old daughter of another braider that offered a jolt.  She made me a card for my birthday and it had a big picture of me on it.  She depicted me as a normal person... not the fat person I was seeing in the mirror.  Since that ACTUALLY came as a shock and I realized that I had definitely summited Mt Crazy again and was flying my flag from the top.  Yes, I gained some weight. Yes, it hurt my climbing. No, it did not spell the end of my ability to ride a bike or turn me into the slothful behemoth that I was imagining.  Maybe I could let myself off the hook a little and allow a little sanity to break through the clouds.  Time to head back down to base camp.

Sometimes the reality check comes from surprising places.
Nothing quite like seeing yourself through 6-year-old eyes.

After about six weeks of cutting my diet way back, I have gotten a little momentum in getting the pounds back off but I'm could do without getting sick, dizzy spells, and terrible fatigue.  I have enlisted the help of a friend, Susan of The Endurance Zone, who knows a little something about nutrition.  Rumor has it she even advises athletes on nutrition for a living. With her help, I am trying to get myself on a program that keeps supports my training without creating any big excesses.  I've over-corrected and need to level off again but at least I feel like I am back in control of the situation.

The good news is that I am back in Michigan and Little C has finally gotten his Bluff Rd photo opp.  Every one of my bikes has gotten to pose at the overlook on the Old Mission Peninsula. The Ninja Bike still needs his chance but this time I was riding with a friend and I finally got MY photo by the post!!

The photo spot! Little C takes his turn!

Me too!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Time Trial Season: A Third Place Streak And The State Championship

After getting off to a bumpy start in road and criterium racing, I shifted my focus to time trialing until the Texas State Championship. Time trialing is definitely a comfort zone coming out of triathlon and it was a relief to throw myself in that direction for a while.  I decided to do as many of the Tyler 4 mile TTs as possible, one of the IronHaus 40K series, and then the State Championship.  Each TT gave me an opportunity to dial in technique, equipment, and pacing for the big race.
The Ninja Bike wearing race wheels for the first time!! SUPER SEXY!
Thank you to my tireless and patient coach, Brian, for the hookup.

A rain date gave me an extra racing opportunity and I was able to attend three of the Tyler 4 Mile series.  This is a race that I have done several times before... in fact, it was my first time trial ever.  It's a fast course with no turns. Just put your head down and hammer in a single direction for 4 miles.  If the wind is right, like it was the first time I ever raced it, you can see some stupid fast times.  Since that day, despite being faster overall, I had never been able to touch my initial time of 7:41.  This year, like last year, the wind was not a hindrance but not really helpful either... mostly gentle crosswinds with a slight push, particularly in the first of the three.

The first one went off (it was actually the second in the series but the first that I did this year) and it was the first time running it with a change in the locations of the start and finish lines.  I took the Ninja Bike (my trusty Cervelo P4) out and proceed to hammer like a damn fool.  It looked to me like I was on track to BLOW my old PR out of the water... right up until I saw the flagger near the old finish line and in my hypoxic state decided that I was done.  I sat up and coasted for a while.  Something didn't seem quite right and I started soft pedaling.  THEN I saw the real finish line.  OH CRAP!! I never really made it back up to speed and my PR effort was shot and I finished in 8:05.62.  I did finish well, first woman and third overall, not far behind a VERY fast couple of guys who are nearly untouchable in this race.

COOL! Third place!

The next race, however, I rode to the proper finish line and finished in 7:35.92.  PR shattered!! YES! The placings were the same.  First woman, third overall.

Oh, huh. Third place.

In the final race of the series for me (there is actually 5 of them), I shaved a few more seconds off bringing my time down to 7:32.65.  Still first woman, third overall and at this point my consistency had become a running joke!


I rolled out to IronHaus in San Antonio the next Saturday.  This was my trial run for everything, including the way I wanted to handle the travel.  I went to San Antonio the day before and stayed in an inexpensive room that I had booked online.  OOF! That was a misstep. The hotel and it's neighborhood were SCARY! I had left Wilbur home with a neighbor looking in on him and missed his company badly, especially his bark if someone tried to come near the room.  I woke up several times with nightmares, though I am not sure if they were related, and so I didn't sleep well.  I was a ball of nerves when I headed to the race course.

My good luck charm!

I realized that I have only ever done 40K as a part of a triathlon, and only a handful of times at that.  Pacing was going to be tricky.  After the start, I headed off like I was on fire and very quickly reminded myself that 40K was a LOT farther than 4 miles.  I keep telling myself "easy as she goes, it's a long way." Why I am invaded by colloquialisms during races, I have no idea, but there you have it and it worked.  I slightly underpaced and had a big kick left for the finish.  That was good because at the turnaround, I saw that the really fast woman that had started 1 minute behind me was, well, right behind me! In the end, I ended up third (again!! It was becoming a theme for the season!) behind some higher category women who's abilities command enough respect that I couldn't be anything but proud to finish in that company. I turned in a 61:31 (a 24.24 mph average) and was extremely happy with the effort, especially considering I felt that there was little room for improvement for the big race the following week.

I am doomed to third place.

The following Saturday was the State TT.  I felt a lot of pressure to do well as a lot of people were talking like I had already won it.  I knew anything could happen on race day and NEVER to get cocky about your chances for the top spot.

I remedied my mistake from the previous week and made sure that Wilbur could come.  Honestly, his presence has become a very steadying force for me and I was grateful for it the night before.  As I warmed up for the state TT, something that I miscalculated and hadn't really left enough time to do, I was doing long loops on the road near the start.  I was making my final turn and suddenly, the wheels shot out from under me and I was on the ground. I jumped up and did a quick check of the bike, put the chain back on, looked at the time... 8:15... my start time was 8:19:30.  I hopped back on the bike and headed down the road one more time to make sure everything was working.  I arrived at the start at 8:19:00 by my garmin.  Fortunately, it was 60 seconds behind official time because my chain fell off again.  I got back on my bike with 30 seconds to spare.

Completely unsuspecting here.

And the next thing I knew I was off!  The first thing I realized was that I was in far too big of a gear.  I struggled to push the pedals.  Once I got rolling, it felt better.  I love that part of the race and it helps me to find a good rhythm so I went ahead and let myself roll on that a bit to get my head in the game and off the crash.  I clicked down a couple more gears, then settled into the aerobars.  That is standard procedure for me and as soon as I am down, I back the gear off a couple of clicks until it feels good.

I pulled the shifter.


No response.  No tension.  It was like it wasn't even attached.  I was confused.  I had just been able to shift down the cassette into this MONSTER gear I was now struggling to push. I pulled up again.


The reality started to dawn on my.  I had 40K ahead of me, the first 10 miles would be into a headwind, the next few miles has some gentle hills, and the finish was uphill.. and I was STUCK in a big sprinting gear.

My brain went through some serious gymnastics.  I can't even begin to chronicle the myriad of thought running around in my head at that moment.  I tried the shifter a few more times to be sure (something I did many more times before the finish in a desperate hope for a miracle) but knew it was hopeless.  It was totally dead.

Then I did something that I am really proud of.  I made the decision to find out how much my legs really had in them.  I knew I could push this gear as long as I didn't let my speed and cadence drop too much.  I came up with a plan.  I thought that I might be able to shift into my small chainring and possible move into a smaller cog if I needed to.  I had that as an exit strategy so I would ride this thing like I was on a track bike, using cadence and shrugging into a more aerodynamic position to mimic having gears.  And I was going to ride this gear like I planned to be there.  NO slow mashing or rocking in the saddle.  Tight, strong, fast.  At least until burned through all of my matches and died completely.  Maybe by then I would have put enough time into the rest of the racers to stay on that podium.  Nothing I could do was going to make this 40K hurt less and I had already tossed the quitting idea out.  I was still there to win that thing.

I'm not going to wax poetic about how much it hurt. It hurt a LOT. As much as I was afraid it might.  I did reach that point where I really wanted that exit strategy.  I had managed to rationalize that if I could get just a little relief, I could totally spin home on my little ring fast enough.  I even pushed down on the left shifter to signal a switch to my small chainring.  Too bad that shift was useless too.  I was in so much pain that I was begging for my way out but too bad.  I was stuck with what I had ALL THE WAY TO THE END.  So I just kept hammering.

Ya know, cycling is finding funny way to teach me that my limits aren't what I think they are.  My time was 63:04.33.  Disappointing after the previous weeks performance but under the circumstances, not bad.  No matter what else happened (and it took hours to find out as results came in very slowly), I was happy with the way I had handled myself.

Another great part to the day was the people.  Almost all of my racing and training up until this point has been a solo venture, a lonely experience.  After a long drought, I have met some really great friends in this sport and found myself surrounded on that day by friends from both Austin and Tyler.  It was possibly the best part of the entire day.  I wouldn't have traded that for all my gears!!  It was the best feeling in the world!
LOOK! Something other than THIRD PLACE!

But as it turned out, that effort was good enough to win.  I had pedaled my broken bike all the way to the top of the podium and after the podium pictures, as we were stepping down, I heard the announcer say "Meet your new Cat 4 State Champion, Lora Popolizio".  I didn't realize anyone was still taking pictures as I did a little fist pump and mutter "f**k yeah" under my breath.  It was a good moment and a great way to break a third place streak!
The look on my face tells the whole story.

Seriously, a giant thank you to Coach Brian who is the reason I had the legs I needed to pull that bit of ridiculousness off.  Talk about overkill! I cannot express enough how happy I am to finally, at long last, put a championship race on the calendar... and not only make it to the start... BUT WIN!

Now back to the road bike and time to get that part right too.

And there you have it.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Welcome Back, Duck.

I find it funny how I can want to... need to... write consistently for an extended period, then suddenly have absolutely no desire to put my experiences down at all. I guess the last 6 months have been such a period of change that I haven't  felt entirely sure of what to say or how to say it.
To bring you up to speed...

As you may know, I made the switch to cycling last year after I finally had to admit that my body and triathlon were just not getting along. I started racing in February and have done a number of time trials on the road and on the track, a crit, a stage race, and a road race. The crit went fine for a first time and I walked away with a midpack finish against higher ranked riders and a lot of knowledge.  The TT's have all been quite successful.. enough that I've started to be unhappy with winning the women's side and wanting to take the OA wins.  The road races both in the stage race and the stand alone have been utterly miserable experiences. I am finding that I am struggling, more than I ever did with triathlon, to figure out how to race these things and, more importantly, how to have fun.

I realized recently when I read the blogs of two people and realized that one was getting treatment for an unusual condition that sounded a lot like what the other was struggling to get diagnosed, that sometimes the value of a blog isn't in posting happy race results, bragging, or otherwise letting the world know how great you want them to think your life is (we have facebook for that) but in sharing your real experiences in the hopes that maybe someone else is able to identify with you.  If discussing the trial and difficulties (as well as the good stuff) makes a positive difference for one person then it was well worth the time to write it out.

So I'm dusting off this page and taking anyone that wishes to join me along for the ride.

I'm Duckie.  I am no longer a triathlete.  I am struggling to find my place in the peloton. I have legs like tree trunks and a great big monkey on my back named "fear".  But I love to ride my bike and I crave competition so giving up is just not an option.  I have to figure this shit out.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

New Things, Good Things, And One Sad Goodbye.

I've been a bit quiet lately.  Sometimes that means that the wheels fell off the bus, rolled down the road and I'm off chasing them.  Right now it means that everything is going really well and I'm frankly a little afraid to jinx it.

First off, I took a big risk and sold the P5.  Why? Because I had a motivated buyer, I felt that the bike was worth as much right then as it would ever be, and that there were some minor fit and handling issues that could possibly be improved upon should I find a used P4.  I looked.. I found.. I bought.. I sold.  I came out way ahead on the deal as I got a great price on the P4 and a great price for the P5.
Big C.. King of the Jungle.
I'm really going to miss you.

Big C and Little C... Quite a pair.

There were several weeks of angst on my part as a second guessed my decision which was based solely in logic and did not consult my formidable emotional side.  I agonized over everything from the names of my bikes (Little C doesn't make that much sense without Big C in the stable) to a very real concern that I might be over-facing (horse term: scare by presenting more of a challenge than the horse or rider is ready for) myself because my initial rides reminded me a little too much of the hyper-responsive, herky-jerky handling of the Felt that (with the help of eating pavement 3 times) ultimately scared me so badly I could barely ride at all.  Part of the appeal of the big bike was that it was so smooth and solid, partially due to the fact that it was so big.  I knew I had improved confidence and handling skills but the first time I almost wiped out because I couldn't get the water bottle out of the BTA mount (the moment of truth in my worst crash), I had some serious misgivings.  When the buyer put the money for the P5 through a week earlier than I expected, I almost lost it.  Then the day we met at the shop and he loaded my beloved in the car and drove off... yeah well, I'm amazed I wasn't bawling.

Sol's philosphy: "You can't be sad if you're tired.  KEEP PEDALING!"

But that day, Sol (shop owner and fit magician... truly the best in Austin and an patient mentor to the Duck) spent all afternoon with me, dialing the new bike and helping me make some decisions about which way to set it up (there is a lot to consider when someone walks in and buys your entire set up, including the wheels).  In the end, we decided to favor crank length and table decisions about wheels and power for later.  We got the new crankset on the bike and tinkered... and tinkered... and tinkered with the fit.  In the end, we dialed in everything but the front end because I know I am going to a clinic where we will be measuring aero data against power to decide how low the front can go before there is a power loss.  That is when the front end will be set to it's optimal position.

Sol: "I didn't say stop! KEEP PEDALING!!"

After a few days of bad weather, I finally got out on the road with the new beastie.  It still didn't have a name... mostly being called the new bike, or the black bike.... or a few times... Evil C.  With the new cranks- very short 155s- and the resulting stability through my hips, the squirrel-y-ness was gone and suddenly it was like riding a ribbon of black silk.  It was smooth, precise, responsive in an almost telepathic way.  The ride quality... unbelievable.  I was able to appreciate the beauty of the (obviously made of butter) hubs in the Campy wheels that came on the bike.  Honestly, I've never ridden anything like it.  The Campy components shift like silk... yeah, keep using that word... there's a reason.

155 cranks.. if they were much shorter my pedal wouldn't clear the chainrings!

I took it to a giant parking lot behind the horse show where I had been doing handling/cornering drills at the end of most of my rides on Little C (the road bike).  I have never been able to corner in aero at all.  Withing a few minutes, I was able to get confident in the new bike which handled like.... well, a lot like Little C.  In other words, like an extension of myself.  I did the drills a few times on the pursuits and then started trying them in aero.  By the end of that session, I knew the black bike (by this point I was calling it Evil C, the ninja bike.. SUPERVILLIAN) and I were going to be just fine.  I knew I had made the right call.

The Ninja Bike lounging after a day's work.
On another front, I have been feeling progressively stronger.  I am back working with a dietitian and am really seeing the results.  I have tightened up quite a bit and I am handling a full training load again.  It's not to say the road is without bumps.. got a cold, had some respiratory trouble from bad air quality at the horse show, missed a day when my neck spasmed up and the massage to fix it made me too sick/sore to train.  But what is missing is the general malaise, fatigue, and frequent crashes in energy.  I seem to be recovering, healing, and generally bouncing back from workouts.  It was like the last piece of this puzzle, my health, that I have been trying to solve for a few years now, has clicked into place.

One the road bike front, the handling skills are coming right along.  I get braver each day, I'm climbing well (for me), and descending in a much more relaxed and aggressive style.  I don't always nail the line through the corners but I am getting it much more often and the fear is getting left off the guest list more and more.

I also have been training a lot with a teammate.  Austin Bikes/Revenant team has a really, REALLY tough female state cyclocross champ on it's roster and she has been a very welcome addition to my training program.  For the most part, I do most of the pulling and except for hard sprints where I exceed 26-27 mph, she stays right on my wheel.  What is remarkable is that she does this on her CX bike with its KNOBBY TIRES!! She is soft spoken and humble, never quite acknowledging the fact that I would be a quivering pile of goo should I ever need to keep up with her on a ROAD bike.  Needless to say, her presence has been great for me.  It is inspiring, infuriating, and humbling all at the same time but the social component of a team sport has been the antidote for my (at times painfully) solitary lifestyle.

Snapped this while heading out with my Teammate.
We've had some beautiful days lately!!

So that is what is going on in the Duck Pond as 2013 comes to a close.  2014 will be my first year as a full time bike racer/roadie and I'm not sure what to expect.  The newness of it is exciting and I am not sure what to expect from a very different style of racing and tactics.  All I know is that it is forcing me out of my comfort zone and what I am finding there is that much of it suits me.  Let's see what I say about it on race day.  Right now, all the new experiences have me feeling like a kid in a candy BIKE shop!

Google's Christmas present to the Duck!!!
"Coach Brain" has been immortalized by their search engine!

And finally, I can't thank one person enough...  Coach Brain.  He has guided me through some tough times this year and never once let me down.  He has helped me to be a stronger, faster, healthier athlete.  He put up with 9 billion emails about purchasing that P5 only to have me sell it 9 months later and calmly responded to 9 billion emails about that, too.  He was right there for me when my body was letting me down, helping me put myself back together, and keeping me focused all the way through.  I don't think I would be anywhere near this happy point in training (and by association, life) without all of his hard work.  Thanks DUDE!! You ROCK!  Let's kick some ASS in 2014!!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey With A Side Of Suffering.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Ready to roll, layered up..
 ..about to SUFFER!
Don't let the sunshine fool you the way it did me!

This has been a great couple of weeks for me.  I've been at home in Austin, enjoying the roads and the city (though the weather has been less than stellar).  I've reconnected with old friends and made a few new ones.  I spent the day eating turkey with my awesome neighbors.  I even got a deck compliments of the awesome folks at my RV park!

LOOK! I have a deck!
No photography skills... but a deck!  

I took a new-to-me bike for the first time and did a little  recovery spin today.  My legs told me they were on holiday and were not going to be answering calls.  I was to ride without them.  It was an enjoyable little ride and the one time I put in a request for power, my legs referred me to their answering service.  NOPE.  Big fat SORRY ABOUT YOUR LUCK!

Alright Blackie, lets see what you are about.

Why the attitude?  Well, keep reading.

Coach Brain, as I said before, put a little slack in the lines on this schedule and I am getting to stretch my legs.  There have been a couple of deliciously challenging workouts in the mix, though some were challenging for more reasons than just what was written.  There were a couple of interval sessions that really reminded how much I like to dig down and hurt.  You know, the crunchy ones where you end up shouting at your legs for trying to slow down.  (not that it takes much to get to that point these days!!) Still, those workouts... the ones that leave you in a crumpled heap... those are the ones I like the most!

Then there are another kind.  They test you, not because the effort is challenging but because the circumstances are.. like the long trainer ride.  I had a couple of those this week.  Coach Brain gave me permission to shorten it to a brief warmup and cool down, plus the main set.  That would certainly have made it more palatable but I finally realized that there are so many reasons for me to shorten or skip a workout, that I did not need or have the luxury of a cop out based on boredom.  The workouts got done in their entirety.

The trainer workouts paled in comparison to the outdoor workouts though.  With a horrid cold front pushing through.  I found myself riding in weather that I would normally leave to.. well, ANYONE else.  Again, with all of the trouble that I have had in the last couple of years, I feel like I have used all of my “get out of jail workout free” cards.  I layered up and headed out the door the moment it stopped spitting ice from the sky.  The first day was so painful, it inspired three days on the trainer as the worst of the front pushed through.  Then, I headed back out to see if I could freeze out the princess that seemed to be rearing her tiara-ed head.

Full finger gloves and arm warmers.  Yeah, that's all that's in my arsenal.

First was a hill ride with one of my Austin Bikes teammates.  It was a great ride with great company, a good pace, and one of those times that fighting a 30 degree, 20+ mph headwind up some big hills seemed more tolerable when you are not alone.  By the end of that ride, the cold was causing my back and quads to cramp pretty badly.  I was quite happy when that was over but equally happy that I had the guts to get out there and do it.  I finished the day with a body weight resistance workout and felt pretty solid about how the two weeks were shaping up.  Only, those cramps, that cold, that strength workout, those hills... they would come back to haunt me.

The next day was a 3.5 hour ride with a decent block of tempo work.  It was a couple of degrees warmer... like two.... so confident from the previous days ride, I headed out the door in the same layers that had worked the previous day.  I was fine.. for about 90 mins.  Well, sort of fine.  I caught a long red light in the first 15 mins of the ride and after that point noticed a strange sound coming from the front of the bike.  About an hour later, I was feeling like hell.  I knew I had a tailwind but I just couldn't make that bike GO.  My legs and back were starting to cramp up again and I felt HORRID.  I stopped to check out the sound only because I needed a rest.  The sound?  The front brake was almost fully engaged.  It had been since that light.  I was hearing (and smelling) the brake pads burning off the rim.  AWESOME.  After I opened the brake, I rode a little further, suddenly feeling like I had wings, then got a my turnaround and went into the wind.  It was like the brake was back on.  DAMMIT.


By the time I got to the tempo block, about 2 hours into the ride, I was really suffering.  My legs were dead and painful, my back was locked up, my feet and hands were blocks of ice, my face was chapped (nope.  Didn't think to bring chapstick.  Too obvious!).  I was looking at my power and it was showing numbers far below the suffer factor.  My cadence was horrible.  My legs were totally unresponsive and no matter how hard I tried to spin up to a higher cadence, even in an easy gear, it wasn't happening.  Same was true for applying any real force to the pedals.  Every pedal stroke shot pain through my knees and up my legs. My legs tendered their letter of resignation while I sucked down every bit of nutrition I had packed looking for salvation in a gel packet.  I got through that ride.  Every. Last. Hateful. Minute.   I was prepared to be proud of my fortitude but really, I was a little panicked that I had overdone it and it was going to cost me the rest of this training block.

I came in from that ride shaking.  My legs and back were tender to the touch they were so sore.  It had taken all the stubborn I could muster (and honestly, I have a LOT of "stubborn" at my disposal) and then some to finish the ride.  I knew I had found that hole that I like to fall into and hoped I had not gone over the edge.

Maybe it could be argued that I would have been better served aborting the workout but honestly, I think I wanted to remind myself that I can still get it done.  I did my best to salvage the situation with nutrition.  I shot emails to my coach and dietitian... (slightly panicked): What did I do?? What do I do??  Since they are both athletes and professionals, they kindly refrained from actually penning an eyeroll or facepalm and gave me some simple recovery tactics that basically amounted “eat, drink water, and go to bed... dum-dum!”

When I woke up today, I discovered something.  I hadn't died overnight.  So on this absolutely FABULOUS day, I took that new bike for a ride.  And (properly dressed for the weather) enjoyed every last second of it.  I am thankful to have something in my life that cleans the slate so gracefully.  I am grateful for the ability to ride my bike today.

Wilbur had other ideas on how cold should be handled.

Oh, and the new bike?  AWESOME.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Something You Don't Know About Me

Most of the people who read this blog know that at one time I was much heavier.  What they don't know is that starting as a child, I was an avid artist.  I stopped in 2007 cold and never picked up a brush or touched clay again.  I don't know why. In 2010, I destroyed my entire portfolio.  Again, I don't know why but I do know it was a part of a huge purge of belongings that seemed to be tying me to a painful past that I needed to let go.  It was literally and figuratively, taking out the trash. The sculpture pictured here is part of what I destroyed.  The paintings and drawing were not as they were sold as commissioned work years earlier.  Sometimes you just need to cauterize the wounds of the past.

I had no idea that I still had these images anywhere but I found them saved in an album on facebook.  This is far from the scope of what I produced, only the couple of pics that I ever loaded to facebook.  I guess that site is good for something.

For your enjoyment:

Some decisions you live to regret.  This may be one of those.  The jury is still out.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Losing or Gaining Weight... One Choice At A Time.

The kids lining up for a ride!
"Pick me! Pick me!"

In the few weeks since my last post, I have done one thing in particular... ride my bike.  I have ridden a lot.  Not always a lot on one day, but often.  I have gotten back into the habit and tonight when I decided I would err on the side of caution and take a rest day, I felt like I had forgotten to brush my teeth.  Something was missing.  I wasn't freaking out or jonesin' to ride, just that I hadn't done something that is a part of my normal daily routine.

I've been thinking about this and how, after a while, things become a lifestyle.  It becomes part of your identity.  People who have known me for a long time remember when this wasn't a lifestyle.  Some remember the shift in focus, the often turbulent change that took place in my (very thick) skull.  But most?  Most can't even imagine me any other way.  They identify me as a small person, fit, feisty, and active.  For me, the transformation has not been nearly so complete... or has it.
This picture was taken in Michigan while braiding.
Here I was roughly 215 lbs, 20 less than my lifetime high weight.
I am not tall (see photo below for evidence of shortness).  That weight on my was crushing.
I was miserable, felt like hell, and avoided mirrors like the plague.
Nobody should ever choose to stay this unhappy.

I still see myself as the fat one.  I still look at every picture and expect to be unhappy with what is there.  I check every mirror, every window that throws off a reflection, even at my shadow, always expecting to discover that I am suddenly fat again.  But fat doesn't just happen.  It's isn't something that you wake up and find like a wart.  It is a state of mind and a state of life.  You don't put on a 100 lbs at once nor do you take it off that way.  You take it off one choice at a time.  Each good choice changes the way you see yourself a little bit each time. However, you put it back on the same way you take it off: one choice at a time.  You put it back on by failing to identify with yourself as a fit person living a healthy lifestyle.

Why is it so easy for some people to make the right choices and not for others?  Well, I don't really know... but I'll venture a guess.  People tend to make choices in accordance with how they see themselves.  Anyone can make the easy choices (I think I'll ride my bike on this beautiful day when I have nothing else to do), but you make the hard ones (riding in the weather, working on your weaknesses, or choosing not to indulge every last craving your body throws your way), based on your perception of yourself and how that person would choose.  Foodies will choose to spend more for organic or gourmet items.  Athletes will choose to follow a strict diet regimen and train through adverse conditions.  Animal lovers will choose to stop the car to rescue a turtle.  Hipsters will choose to challenge the laws of physics to wedge themselves into a pair of skinny jeans.  Do people who don't identify with an archetype make those choices as well?  Of course.  But making them a lifestyle without that perception is very, very difficult.  Someone is not a hipster may turn themselves into a denim sausage a couple of times, but sooner or later, that person will most likely choose circulation over fashion.

Over the last few months, I have been stuck in idle.  My training has been on pause.  I have ridden but not trained.  My perception of myself as an athlete who is willing to go the extra mile for fitness and performance has waned.  My connection to why I make certain choices, particularly the hard food choices that usually only come when I am locked on a race target, has weakened.  And all of this is evident in some of the tragic food choices I have been making, particularly in the last few weeks, and the most recent 5 lbs (above the acceptable off-season gain) that have taken up residence on me arse.  I haven't been drinking enough water either, and my performance has suffered... but then, if I am not an athlete, who cares?  If I am not an athlete, I can settle into a steady weight 10-20 lbs higher, still fall into acceptable ranges for good health, and still be attractive (because really no matter what your weight, you will be just perfect for someone).

In the last couple of weeks, Coach Brain and I have exchanged a series of email sporting content volume that would make "War and Peace" seem like a little light reading by comparison.  We have agreed it's time to push forward, though there is still some question on the best way.  One thing is certain, I have a very narrow margin for error.  I am going to support my body with proper nutrition and care if I am going to get even marginal performances out of it.  The choices that I struggle the most with, the ones that I usually leave until I am fully absorbed in training with impending competitive goals sharpening my focus... those will have to come first.  If I hope to train "for real" or ever find a starting line...much less the finish... or podium... again, I will need to make these choices and changes first.

Yep, I do like that spot!
I hope to return regardless of whether it is triathlon or cycling.
The sport is merely the tool used to create change.

At work last night, as I was walking by a trash can, I reached in my pocket where several Snicker's minis had taken up residence and evicted the little goal-wrecking bastards.  That was the line in the sand.  I am not who I once was.  I am the product of my better choices and who I will be a year... five years... ten years down the road will be the product of the choices I make from here.  I am actively choosing to reconnect with this identity and re-immerse myself in the mindset.

Here I am still roughly 15-20 lbs over my eventual goal weight for racing but I am healthy.
In the end, it's about taking control of your life, your health, your happiness.

I am an athlete and choose to remain an athlete and that will only happen if I train, eat, and live AS AN ATHLETE.