Diary of a Commute Bike

This morning started like all normal mornings. The garage door opening let in sunlight — sunlight isn’t the normal part. I mean the garage door opening.

Then my partner, who’s the engine, and I did a short trip to a bus stop. It only takes a couple minutes, but we always have to stop two or three times. I don’t like having to stop so much, and sometimes the engine seems a tad anxious, too–usually when we leave a little later. But we usually make it to the bus stop before the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Bus Stop

We spend a lot of time standing around here. I don’t know why. I’m perfectly capable of doing the whole ride to work, but my engine insists on riding the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: On the Bus

I don’t care for riding the bus so much. Bikes are made to have both wheels firmly on the ground, thank you very much.

But once we go across the two bridges and get to the busy noisy place, we get off the bus and my engine and I get rolling again for another short trip with many stops.

There’s a few things I don’t understand about the busy noisy place.

First, we have to stop all the time – six or seven times, maybe more, in less than 10 minutes of travel time. We would get there much faster if the engine wouldn’t stop me so often.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Seattle Stop Light on 7th Ave

Second, sometimes I noticed we get our own special road just for partnerships like us.
Diary of a Commute Bike: 7th Ave Bike Lane
I see lots of us zooming around. The other day we went on one special road for a very short way–about 0.3 miles, the computer told me–short, but super fancy. Later I heard the engine mention that road cost $3.8 million.

What I want to know is: Why’d someone spend all that money for that? My engine and I like our special roads, but just marking it with paint is good enough for us. We didn’t care for the fancy raised up section and the way it feels like we’re on the sidewalk with the intersections with driveways. Sidewalks aren’t for us! Why are they making pretend sidewalks and calling them bike roads?

Anyway, we got to the dark place where I hang out with my friends while the engine does other stuff for a long time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Hanging Out

As usual, I spent the day there hanging out and shooting the breeze with the other bikes there. I’m meeting lots of unfamiliar bikes who say they only go out when it’s sunny. I say, what’s the point of that? I have fenders, and the engine seems to work okay in the wet, although maybe not as optimally as when it’s sunny. I don’t know why that should matter, but apparently it does.

Eventually, the engine came back and we rode back to the garage home, where we started. I don’t understand why the engine does this most days — not every day, but mostly five days out of seven. Why??

Sometimes she seems to like seeing what’s out there, like on this ride…

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty 520 Sky

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty Lake Washington

… But other times she hardly looks around at all. What’s the point of that?

Anyway, I’ve noticed there are places — always at the same spots — where the engine pedals slower but breathes a lot louder. She did it again on the way back this time, even though I’m sure I heard her say she was going to not breathe heavy while riding for a while.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Market Street

I’m not sure why we have to slow down so much on those sections, or why she seems to be panting at times, but after those times, I often get to go fast.

I love going fast! It’s my favorite thing!

Except sometimes the engine slows us down for no reason I can see. And sometimes she doesn’t help at all — I have to do all the work. How fair is that?! When it’s up to me, I always make sure we roll along plenty fast.

On the way back, we have an awful lot of times we have to stop. I don’t like that. I want to go faster. We especially already stop at some of those places almost every time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Eastside Stoplight at Bellevue Way

Diary of a Commute Bike: Kirkland Stoplight at Lake WA Blvd

Diary of a Commute Bike: Stoplight at 132nd and 100th

Maybe the engine likes the view?

Anyways, lately I’ve noticed all this fluffy white snow floating around, except it doesn’t melt and it’s much warmer than regular snow. But just like regular snow, it piles up on the sides of sidewalks and the road.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Cottonwood Fluff

At first I was nervous going over it. Snow is slippery. But this stuff wasn’t slippery at all — just super fluffy. I noticed the engine went with her mouth closed when there was the most fluff, but that seems ridiculous. I bet it tastes like sugar. Yum! If I had a mouth, I’d totally try tasting some.

So then we finished our ride home. I know the route pretty well, except sometimes the engine takes us different ways. Sometimes we just do loops with very slow parts and very fast parts; other times we just go on different roads and I’m not sure why.

Other times we meet up with the engine and bike partnership called “Dad,” and we ride along together. We used to meet up with another partnership called “Michael” quite often, but they moved to Australia and we never see them anyone. I’m sad about that. I miss my friend. I think Australia must be another big noisy place far from here.

When we got home this one day, there were two other engines out playing. My engine spends a lot of time with them. I think they must be extra-special to her.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Home

So that’s what my life is like. Maybe another time I’ll write about the days we don’t commute, and instead go on long rides. But right now I’m out of time. The bus is about to let us off in the big noisy place and we got to roll!

I hope we go fast.

Chelan Century 2017

A couple weeks ago, Dad and I rode the Chelan Century. Several of our friends have spoken glowingly about it, with special emphasis on the grueling 5-mile climb called McNeil Canyon, so this year I decided to give the ride a shot and I dragged Dad along, because if I’m going to suffer, he might as well too. We do our suffering together, darn it!

Anyway, the reason it took us so long to get around to doing this ride is because we both had to take time off work to drive over there the night before. It’s in Chelan, which, with good traffic takes about 3 hours to drive from my house. With real traffic, however, we’re looking at 3.5 to 4 hours, or on Sunday afternoon, up to 7 or 8 hours. So basically you have to stay at least one night, the night before the ride; and you might want to stay the night after the ride, if you’re totally pooped.

We learned quickly that reserving rooms in January for a late-June ride wasn’t on the ball enough. We ended up paying over $300 a night, with a two-night minimum, since it’s also the peak of the season, even though we weren’t sure we wanted to stay two nights. And the room we got was one bed with a fold-out hide-a-bed (I can attest to the inadequacy of the mattress in that department–or at least all my bruises can!), right on the water–theoretically wonderful, but not actually ideal for sleeping while everyone else was up playing in the late sunshine.

In any case, we drove over to Chelan and arrived late afternoon, and it was beautiful.

Chelan - Afternoon View

We got our numbers and free swag (coffee, which I brought to work and left in the kitchen, and which vanished almost instantly) at the Chamber of Commerce.
Chelan - No Cleats

I bought a couple things (a ton of ear plugs, since I forgot mine and they don’t come in small numbers, and a book for Benji) and then we went to dinner with our biking buddy John and his family at this restaurant that had really beautiful views.
Chelan - Restaurant View 1

Chelan - Restaurant View 2

The beautiful views theme continued in the evening and the next morning before we left.
Chelan - Evening View

Chelan - Morning View

Early in the ride Dad got a flat tire, but he got it changed quickly and we got more nice views while we waited.
Chelan - Ride View 1

So we rode along and I was really careful about pacing myself, because I knew this big climb was coming about halfway through the ride. It also was getting warmer and warmer, so Dad and I both made sure to drink a ton. We rode with our biking buddy John Jester, who has gotten super strong this year but still patiently waits for us at the top and bottom of hills.

It was a relief to finally get to McNeil and ride that big hill, because at least then it was done!
Chelan - Top of McNeil Canyon
I had kind of hoped to get the fastest time on that climb, either of women on that ride or of all time; but neither happened. I was satisfied with my effort — about 51 minutes — and that’s good enough. Some time I may want to go out and ride around there on my own, and try to hit that hill harder and faster, but for a mid-century ride where I had to save my legs for another 50 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing, it was decent.

The ride was split into three loops, each 35 to 40 miles long, each starting and ending at a park in downtown Chelan. This works OK, and I was fine with coming back to the cooler area around the lake each time.
Chelan - End of Loop 2
That’s John’s red bike. He likes red vehicles.

So then it was another 30-odd miles, and the temperature kept going up, until I saw 102 F on my bike computer (John’s said 99.8, but I’m going with mine). It felt like getting cooked. I was really very ready to be done; John rode away from us at the end but Dad and I stayed together and slogged through the last 10 or 15 miles, drinking a ton of water and stopping at every water stop along the way. It was HOT, and the pleasant mid-70s temperatures on our previous rides hadn’t prepared us for being SO DARN HOT.

We finished: 102 miles and about 9500′ of climbing. There were two bonus climbs that we skipped, thank goodness; I don’t know that my legs had another 1000′ of climbing in them. This is us together at the end: John on the left, me, and Dad. It’s a representative, if not overly flattering, photo of how it felt at the end of the ride.
Chelan - Finished!

Chelan Stuff

Dad and I showered and rested in our room, but ended up deciding to drive back home that night. So we did. It took, as anticipated, about 3.5 hours, after which I really didn’t want to drive anymore.

Would I Do It Again?

There were some great aspects to the ride. I liked riding somewhere new, with roads I haven’t seen a zillion times. I liked the seriously long climbs that take more than 5 or 10 minutes to get up. I liked the views and the lack of traffic and stoplights. I liked the support, which was phenomenal.

But.

The ride was expensive, not only in money (although if you add up the registration fee, all the driving-related expenses, the food [no free food at the end! I had to pay $5 for a sandwich!], the room, etc., it would certainly come out as one of the spendiest of my recent rides) but in time and in family resources. While I was gone, Ian spent all Friday evening and all of Saturday with Benji.  I had to take time off work. I was away from my family for an overnight, just doing a play thing.

The ride also felt brutal in a way that I didn’t enjoy. I like hard rides–very hard ones. RAMROD isn’t for wimps, nor is Passport2Pain, and yet I’ve done the former twice and the latter three times (and I’m signed up for a fourth). But between the extreme amount of climbing–nearly as much as RAMROD–and the extreme temperature, it just felt deeply miserable by the end. I guess what I’m saying is that it felt extreme for no particular reason, whereas something like RAMROD has a fabulous reason: Mt. Rainier. Or P2P: Get passport stamps, see beautiful views.

This, by the way, is why something like the Death Ride doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’m not interested in doing rides where people regularly die; I just want to push myself and have fun.

It’s also difficult to be well trained for a ride with almost 10,000 feet of climbing by the end of June, when serious ride training doesn’t start until March or April. This year it was later than that, with all the terrible weather we had. That’s really my issue, not theirs, of course.

Anyway, overall, I am very glad I did the ride. However, I don’t think I will feel a need to add this to my (very short) list of annual rides.

A Girl in a Man’s World

I just read How the Bicycle Paved the Way for Women’s Rights, which is what got me thinking about being a woman in a man’s world. (Funny thing about the article: It basically devolved into a discussion of newspaper coverage of women’s cycling fashion from the turn of the century. What the heck?) I found it interesting to learn that my hobby played a role in women’s rights:

The bicycle took “old-fashioned, slow-going notions of the gentler sex,” as The Courier (Nebraska) reported in 1895, and replaced them with “some new woman, mounted on her steed of steel.”

I’ve always gotten along with guys; I don’t consider myself a radical feminist or anything. I’m a (fairly) wealthy white woman, and I do not consider myself underprivileged or victim of prejudice. But more and more, I’ve been thinking about what my life looks like and how it’s determined by these cultural norms outside of my control.

I’ve always gotten along with guys, and that’s good, because…

  • At the technical school where Ian and I went to college, there were more boys named Matt than girls in Ian’s class. But in my classes, which focused on biology and writing, there were more women.
  • My occupation, in the software business, once again surrounds me with dudes. But in my department, there’s a pretty equal split of men and women (although it’s two male managers in a team of six, hmm).
  • In my chosen hobby, there are way, way fewer women than men. Statistics on this are difficult to find and tend to conflict, but at the level I prefer to ride (as fast as possible, with as few stops as necessary), men comprise the vast majority.

(Sorry, I’m afraid I may use more bullets even in my everyday writing since I started technical writing full time. They’re just so darn efficient!)

One of the things I’ve learned, spending most of my free time and work time with guys, is to push for my view. I’ve always been loud and willing to express my opinions, to put it nicely. At the same time, I’ve learned that guys respect me and listen to me based on two things: How firmly I’m willing to speak; and whether I can actually put my money where my mouth is.

For example, when I’m biking with a group of guys, we often call out hazards or alerts to each other. If I call out, “Steep hill, gear down!” at the beginning of the ride, the guys will hear me (I am loud) but it’s not until I’ve beaten most of them up the hill that I earn their respect. The next hill, if I suggest to gear down, they’re more likely to listen. There’s not a lot of negotiation or worrying about feelings, and they aren’t likely to be miffed that I beat them up the hill. More likely, they’ll work harder trying to catch me, and I’ll work harder trying to stay ahead.

At the same time, I’ve gotten many comments along the lines of, “You’re pretty fast for a girl,” as well as more overtly sexist ones: “Is this where the fastest housewives are?” and “If I was younger I’d want to marry you because you’re so fast.” DUDES. Would you ever, ever, ever in a million years say that to another guy? Harmless flirting with The One Girl isn’t harmless.

No, this isn’t the vast majority of guys I ride with. Most of them are great guys who want to know how fast my legs are, not what they look like. They treat me exactly the way they’d treat another guy, I think; that’s fair, and all I ask.

All I ask is the opportunity to earn respect, whatever environment I’m in — work or play; to show what I’m capable of and be judged on my abilities. Which is really all any of us could hope for, I suppose.

I’ve actually got a lot more to say about this, and about what I’ve learned being a cyclist in a driver’s world (can anyone say “discrimination”?), but unfortunately I’m out of time for now. Hopefully you won’t have to wait two weeks for my next installment.

Odds and Ends

The temperatures have dipped the last few days, and Benji and I haven’t been able to ride our bike to school all week. If I was commuting alone, I’d probably give it a shot (except Tuesday, when there was definitely ice and black ice), but with Benji, trying to ride to school in 20-degree weather, it’s just too difficult to keep him warm. I know lots of hardy parents in Scandinavian countries and colder parts of our country take their kids out in the 20s, but… we’re Washingtonians. We trust that waiting a few days will bring us more temperate temperatures and comfier riding.

Meanwhile, Benji had another Special Day at school, and he got to bring home the (presumably extremely germy — excuse me while I go wash my hands for a moment) class stuffed animal, Mr. Moose. Benji taught him about Advent Calendars and “shared” some of his morning chocolate.

Benji and Mr Moose and Advent Calendar

Every morning when he wakes up — remember, this happens some time between 5:30 and 6:00 — Benji leaps out of bed and yells, “YUM!” and then, dashing downstairs, yells, “YUM, YUM, YUMMY YUM YUM!” Blessed quiet follows, then, as he concentrates on opening the little Advent Calendar door and extracting and unwrapping the chocolate.

I’ve certainly enjoyed pie for breakfast, and I’ll never say no to a good chocolate croissant; but eating straight chocolate first thing? Even my sweet tooth quails at the prospect. And nobody could ever accuse me of turning down chocolate.

I love desserts, and generally consume too much sugar, a weakness combated entirely by the fact that I ride my bike a fair bit. Although, as previously noted, not so much when it’s very cold out. I actually did ride my trainer yesterday, but it was a really halfhearted attempt, and my toes never warmed up even though I never left the garage.

I may have to switch to running (these workouts don’t sound too bad), or at least get my mind back back in the game for some trainer intervals. It’s a bummer time of year for cycling, even for someone as willing to ride in the rain as I can be. Call me crazy, but I’m not willing to ride in potentially icy or slushy conditions, nor am I willing to incur permanent nerve damage by riding in 36-degree rain for hours at a time.

In Unrelated News

I applied for a new job at a software company called Tamarac, located in downtown Seattle. I’ve worked closely with and really like one of the support people there, and she said she’ll put in a good word for me. I’ve got my fingers crossed — although if I did get an offer, that’d have its own challenges (namely: What the heck do we do with our child while I’m working?!). I’m going to just give it a shot and see what happens, and trust that God has a plan one way or another.

And, um, if you’re a stay-at-home mom who’d like to earn a few extra bucks by watching my darling son while I’m working… let me know. 🙂

Disparities

Day’s Verse:
You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3ish

Our son is due in a month and a half — that’s right, August 14, a mere 50 days from today — but because I continue to wear the same clothes, I keep having weird disparities between my mental image of my body shape and reality. I keep underestimating how much space I’ll need to squeeze between things, for example, so instead of just slipping through that crack, I find myself awkwardly caught and looking ridiculous. At this point I never forget I’m pregnant, but my mental image hasn’t quite caught up with this yet.

As a result, I think of myself looking like this:
Before

When I actually look like this:
After 2

This is like one of those “What’s different between the pictures?” activities they have in Highlights for Children. Setting aside the obvious, like a different background (since I couldn’t go to Mt. St. Helens for picture #2), you’d be absolutely right if you said:

  • Tires
  • Gloves
  • Under-saddle bag
  • Water bottles
  • Katie’s legs are way less buff and tan than last year

But of course you’d really be missing the point.

Continue reading “Disparities”

Losing a Love

Day’s Verse:
This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.
John 15:12

Today I’m going to write about love: Losing a love, gaining a love. In short, I’m going to talk about bicycling and pregnancy, which is on my mind every day.

Since December, I’ve known that this year wasn’t going to be what I expected, athletically. In October I joined Team Group Health with the full intention of training hard, going out, and kicking butt. My main goal was to upgrade to Cat 3 by the end of the season, which would involve racing frequently and well. Riding with the team, I exulted in finding a group of strong, fast women who could push me to my limits. I eagerly anticipated a season of training hard, getting stronger and faster, learning new skills, and then really using them. And I really started enjoying the camaraderie of the team, getting to know these amazing athletes, working hard with them and then laughing with them.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like to lose this future, even in exchange for another, more meaningful future.

One high-performance woman athlete I talked with, who herself is pregnant and due in April, told me, “You have to go through a mourning process as you give up your sport. You’re losing a love.” When she said that, it resonated with me. Yes.

Bicycling is a huge part of who I am, how I define myself. It’s been my bread and butter for the last two years, as well as my passion. With cycling, I’ve discovered depths to myself that I never knew existed. I have pushed what I thought were my limits, and found strength to go far beyond them — in 2011, I rode almost 10,000 miles and did two of the major ultra-distance rides in Washington State. I never would have guessed I could do that. I looked forward to learning more about myself in 2012, taking on this new challenge of racing.

So far pregnancy hasn’t dramatically changed my physical appearance, but I’ve already had to cut back on the type of riding I do to ensure the fetus’ health — cut, and cut, and cut. Even so, I push the limits all the time. Be conservative. I’m responsible for another life, after all.

Having to do this kind of riding erodes my riding buddy pool: I’m riding easier, shorter, and slower, just as everybody I know is gear up to ride harder, longer, and faster. Who wants to ride at a conversational pace, when racing is about riding so hard you’ve got nothing left at the end? And I feel my fitness eroding, and I have to let it slip away.

And now, not only do I say farewell to racing, watching my teammates prepare for the first races of the season, but I know that the day is coming when I won’t be able to ride at all. It’s like contemplating the loss of a limb, or one of my senses. As if I knew in advance that I was going to be paralyzed for life, that it was coming, and that I’m powerless to stop it — knowing, in fact, that I chose it.

Whether I’ll ride again, let alone with the same strength and passion for a challenge that I do now, remains unknown. Who can know what happens after August, when Little Ferguson makes its appearance? I may never regain that part of who I am, or not regain it in the way I have it now. I’m giving up that future and that part of myself, and it’s terribly hard.

Oh, yes, I’ve heard it from all sides: Parenting is wonderful. It’s the most rewarding thing you could possibly do. Your priorities will change once the baby comes. It’s all worth it. I don’t doubt this truth; at the moment, I doubt my own ability to accept it. People telling me these things act like this should comfort me somehow, or that my being upset at losing high-performance cycling in exchange for being pregnant is somehow wrong. Who would want to ride a bike when they could have a baby? Well, I’ve never cared about babies or longed to be a mother, but I have derived many hours of joy from bicycling. “It’s so worth it” isn’t any consolation for me at the moment.

I’m sure it’ll all be worth it in August, but that doesn’t make the pain of giving up this love any less right now. And, oh, it is painful.

Katie & Ian at the Summit

[16Feb2012] Edit to add:
1. If I have given the impression that I’m unhappy with having this baby, or that I don’t want to have our baby, I’d like to put your fears to rest. Ian and I are looking forward to being parents, and I feel that overall this is exactly what I would have hoped and wished for, if I could’ve had my ideal situation. I’m glad to be pregnant now, and I’m getting ready to be a good mommy. This post is not about that. It’s about part of the journey towards accepting change, and how I’m having to evolve my view of who I am as my life changes. Change, even good change like becoming a parent, is hard.
2. I would really like to hear about your experiences of having kids: What did you have to give up? What unexpected things happened that were hard to adapt to? How did you deal with it?