Wood.

The good ol’ MacBook is back in working order, which means good things for my blogging capacity. I also have a million e-mails to catch up on, an article to write for the Valley News, a press release for the Outdoor Center, and am basically swamped with computer-centric tasks that I had been able to avoid for a week.

And what a blissful week it was. After our rollerski intervals on Saturday morning, I hopped in the car and headed home to Lyme. My dad was at work and my mom was out brush-hogging, so I started by making some pesto. And by some pesto, I mean that it will take my parents at least a year to eat all the pesto that I stuck in their freezer. By the end of the exercise I had run completely out of pine nuts, almonds, and parmesan cheese, but the kitchen smelled amazing.

I spent the rest of the weekend, and all of Monday, working outside. My parents are busy people and although they spend every weekend working on their land, when you have 100 acres it’s hard to keep up with everything you need to do. On Sunday, we all worked together, clearing logs out of the blueberry field so that Mom could do more brush-hogging, and then cutting up and moving sections of a large tree that had blown over onto another tree in one of the upper fields. Along the way I got in several fights with raspberry bushes, climbed a tree to help attach a tow-rope to pull it down with, and got diverted picking crabapples and fox-grapes for jelly.

On Monday I was left on my own to fill the woodshed for winter. While this sounds simple, it actually wasn’t, and took me all day. First, the leftover wood from last season had to be taken out of the woodshed so that if could be stacked in the front. Then, I had to move the new wood from the summer “drying” woodshed in the garden to the winter woodshed by the house. This meant stacking it in a small trailer, pulling it across the lawn and the driveway with the lawn tractor, tossing it over the split-rail fence, and then stacking it in the woodshed. One I had filled the back row with new wood, I stacked the older, drier wood in one half of the front row.

It was a lot of wood to stack. That was the only thing I did all day, stack and move wood.

Most people would consider this very boring. A number of my friends told me that didn’t sound fun at all. And sometimes, I would probably agree with them. But it was a beautiful weekend to be outside, no matter what you were doing. Fall is coming to New England, slowly but surely, and the days were blustery and blue. I wasn’t distracted by e-mail, work, or training; I was just outside, tossing wood around. I found a rhythm and was happy to stay in it. There is a zen to manual labor, especially if you don’t do it all the time.

As I said, sometimes I would hate this sort of an existence. But it was what I needed at this moment in time, to disconnect from everything that had been worrying me or stressing me out, even subconsciously.

Now it’s back to the daily grind of rollerskiing, working in the office, and having to be on a schedule. I miss home and wish I was still stacking wood.

Home is where the heart is.

I’ve been out of touch for a while.

See, first my friend Sean came to visit. We had a great time, traipsing about New England, climbing mountains, canoeing, going to the circus, talking about books, and all that good stuff.  Then I went home. Then I lost my camera cable.

And that was a problem, because what I really wanted to show you was pictures. Pictures of home, in the summer.

I don’t remember feeling this way last year, but right now, my heart is on Highbridge Road. I often wish the rest of me was there too.

When I was home last week, I spent a morning walking around the farm taking pictures. It was a beautiful morning and I knew that the photos would capture the feeling of home that I miss so much.

I love all of the old things we have. The old house, the old barn, the old truck. They are old because they have been loved and grown up with.

I also love the feeling of quiet. You can be peaceful without even having to seek it out, to isolate yourself and shut the door.

Things are growing up and out, overgrowing, aging, devouring and entangling. Fences disappear. Views are obscured. I idly threatened to take a saw out and cut down some saplings, but all of this growth doesn’t actually bother me.

I love all this. But of course the last great thing about being home is my parents. I think I have finally reached a level of adulthood where I am not ashamed to say that I love them, not ashamed to go home to see them, not threatened by what it means about my independence to do all of this. Did you read that article in the New York Times about twenty-somethings? Thanks Mom and Dad, for everything, and for letting me live my crazy life, figure things out, and still come back home when I need you. I swear I’ll wear that suit you gave me to an interview one of these years…

Stay tuned for more posts, I have a backlog to be published.

Ice, ice baby.

The most traumatic (well, the only traumatic) part of my trip home was a visit to the doctor’s office. For almost a year now I have been suffering from tendinitis in my left elbow, the result of a little too much rollerskiing. Feet are designed to absorb the body’s impact on a hard surface; arms are not. This spring the tendinitis was identified as medial epicondylitis, better known as golfer’s elbow, and even though I did everything I could to minimize the damage, it continued to be a problem.

So I decided to get a cortisone injection.

Which turned out to be way more intense that I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I still would have gotten the shot, because I really want this problem to go away. But it would have been nice to be better-prepared, mentally. For some reason I thought it was going to be like getting a flu shot, but in my elbow instead.

Then they wheeled in the ultrasound machine, took several minutes to shoot me up with a numbing agent, and then quite a few more minutes with a big needle stuck in my arm, spreading the good stuff around in there.

It hurt.

It hurt in an unnatural way.

And afterward, the numbing agent ran down to my hand and I couldn’t feel my fingers for the next four hours.

I just really wanted my mom to be there to drive me home. Instead, I cruised along the windy back roads from Sharon to Lyme trying not to hyperventilate while thinking about how much it still hurt, and reaching over the steering wheel with my right hand every time I needed to use a turn signal.

The good news is that things got better fairly quickly. For the last few days I have had random-ish shots of pain when I flex my arm a certain way or grab something, but the constant pain faded after an hour or two. I’ve been icing it quite a bit – “Ice will be your new best friend,” the doctor said – and I think that tomorrow I might even rollerski with poles. Just for a little while, to see how it feels.

The other good news is that being forced to take some time off from rollerskiing (and biking, since leaning on handlebars wouldn’t have been good) gave me an excuse to do a long run I had been dreaming of for months. The Dartmouth team always runs Cube-Smarts, a 16-mile jaunt over two 3,000-foot mountains. It’s one of the toughest OD workouts of the year, second in my mind only to Kinsman (which they don’t even do every year). I wanted to make the run a bit longer and harder by running back to my house from the Smarts trailhead, another 5 or 6 miles on dirt roads.

My mother agreed to drop me off before she went to work (even though it was NOT on the way), so I started running at about 7 in the morning. The only thing I hate about being the first one on the trails is that you have to run through the spiderwebs! I have this terror that the spiders are still in the webs and will be crawling all over you. It took me about an hour of running/hiking to reach the top of Cube, where I was offered a lovely view of my next conquest.

Shortly after beginning the run down Cube, I banged my ankle on a sharp rock. Hard. A large gash immediately opened up and started bleeding everywhere. Great. If my elbow hurt at all, I sure wasn’t noticing it now.

When I reached Jacobs Brook 45 minutes later, I had another sip of water (which I had to ration carefully) and the first of my snacks. It was kind of a bummer not to have Cami there with the bus and a cooler full of fresh water, but I was having fun. I put my drink belt back around my waist and started heading up Smarts.

I was getting tired, so I was walking a bit more than I had on the first mountain, but still carrying pretty good speed. I made it up the mountain in less than an hour, which had been my goal. Even though I’ve been up the Smarts fire tower a million times, I had to climb up those wooden steps again to enjoy the view of the ground I had covered and relax for a moment while I had another snack.

By the time I was running down Smarts, I was really tired. I had to remind myself to slow down as I picked my way over the rocks, because tripping and hurting myself would have been a disaster: Tuesday morning on the AT, miles from home, with nobody to pick me up or find me except for the occasional through-hiker…. yikes.

Once I finally reached the trailhead I finished off the last of my water, ate the last of my snacks, and started trudging along the road. It seemed like those five miles were really thirty, and it felt like it might take me hours to get home. But as I jogged along, the reliable pace and the fact that it was no longer necessary to place each foot so carefully meant that I felt a little better, and I actually covered the distance in a respectable amount of time.

When I got home, I chugged at least two liters of water and had to fight hard to resist the urge to sprawl out on the floor. Food: I knew I needed some. I had just run most of a marathon over some fairly gnarly trail. Luckily, we had yogurt, raspberries, maple syrup, and apricot nectar in the fridge, so I crushed up some ice and made myself the smoothie that I had been dreaming about for the last three hours (since I had started up Smarts, more or less). It was great.

As I drank my icy treat, I slapped a cold pack back on my elbow. There’s no such thing as too much prevention.

Tomorrow it’s back to rollerskiing. I loved my mountain run – and the one we did on the Long Trail yesterday – but my running and uphill-hiking muscles are tired. I never thought I would say this, but rollerskiing will provide some welcome variety, even to my most-favorite training type.

Prouty on!

Don't be fooled, it was NOT sunny out.

Yesterday was the 29th Annual Audrey Prouty Memorial Ride. The ride, which is not a race, has options of biking 20, 35, 50, or 100 miles, starting and ending in Hanover, and is a fundraiser for the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. This year the Prouty had 4,500 participants and raised over $2 million. I decided to ride my bike 100 miles – how hard could it be compared to some of the training that Pepa makes us do?

I had another reason, too, for choosing the longer option. I was riding in memory of my grandmother, Jean McIntyre.

I was a lucky kid growing up, because my grandparents lived on the other side of town. I could go over to their house after school every day, and I got to know them and spend more time with my grandmother than many kids get to spend with all of their grandparents combined. “Mommom” was a truly amazing lady: kind, thoughtful, hard-working, creative, and very nurturing. My first pony lived at their house, which made it even more exciting to visit. I learned my first lessons about taking care of animals, and always got to help name the lambs when they were born. I’d go over after school, and Mommom would make me cream cheese and homemade cherry jelly sandwiches, cut on the diagonal just like I liked. She taught me how to bake cookies and how to knit, using yarn that she had spun herself from the wool from her flock of sheep. When I was in high school she gave me a Canon A-1 camera and taught me how to use a darkroom.

But more than any of the skills she taught me, she taught me to be a good person (to the skeptics out there: think of how much more of a bitch I would be if it weren’t for her). I really enjoyed all the time I got to spend with her.

Jean.

I rode my first Prouty (that I can remember) after Mommom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2001. Even though she was going through treatment and the cancer was wrecking her body, she and the rest of our family rode 20 miles together. It was amazing to see the willpower she used to get herself through that bike ride, and she was incredibly cheerful the whole time.

After Mommom passed away in the spring of 2005, I decided I would ride 100 miles. I had never done much bike riding and back then, I wasn’t in the kind of shape I am now – I was a senior in high school, a decent runner but not a great skier, and I didn’t even own my own bike. Nevertheless, my aunt Liz, my friend Julia Schwartzman and I rode 100 miles in the rain in memory of Mommom.

I missed the next few Proutys because I was working in Colorado. Last year, when I started living in Vermont (a manageable commute!), I rode 100 miles again, this time with my neighbor, Ray Clark. Ray is in great shape for being 60 and no doubt rode his bike much more than I did, but still rode kind of slowly. The 100 miles didn’t seem to hard.

This year, I rode with Sara Cavin and Ed Meyer. Ed is a really, really good rider. He goes to Cyclocross National Championships and stuff. Sara is also a very good rider. She rides about a million times as often as me (I hadn’t ridden in the last three weeks).

Not surprisingly, the ride felt a little bit harder this year! We rode much faster, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there were moments when I doubted I could stick with them for the whole 100 miles (this might have been in part because the first 25 or so miles, until we went down the far side of Mount Cube towards Wentworth, were in the rain, which was pretty discouraging). But in Haverhill, when I realized that we had already covered 50 miles, things started looking up. I knew I could ride the next 40 miles, which were basically flat, with Sara. Hills were my real problem. So we rolled along, taking turns leading and joining up with two other riders (whom we didn’t know) to make a 5-person pack. It was fun. It even stopped raining and turned into a nice day, and the scenery was beautiful: acres of farm fields in Woodstock, Newbury, Bradford, Fairlee, and Orford.

When we made it to Lyme, we were almost home. Just 12 more miles left. Unfortunately for me, we faced more hills, too. It’s not that they were big hills in any sense of the word, but for some reason my legs just weren’t with me yesterday. Sara and Ed dropped me at one point and it took me a while to catch up on the downhill – just like in the Tour de France, if you’re one rider trying to catch a group, it’s tough work.

In the end, though, we rode into Hanover together, triumphant, tired, and covered completely in sand and road grime. We munched on pizza and burritos, drank chocolate milk, and caught up with Sara’s parents and their adorable puppy, Cider.

Remember how white this jersey was in the first picture? I'd never worn it before. Not so shiny and new anymore!

Remember how white this jersey was in the first picture? I'd never worn it before. Not so shiny and new anymore!

I’m proud of myself for riding 100 miles in the rain, and sticking with Sara and Ed even when my legs felt like rubber. But I’m much more proud of my mother.

She’s the one standing next to me in the top picture. My mom has ridden the 20-mile loop numerous times, but she doesn’t really like biking. Last year she volunteered instead of riding. But this year, she decided to do the 35-mile loop. To get ready, she’s been riding her bike to work (15 miles) twice a week, and I think she’s even starting to like it. Yesterday morning, her riding partners bailed at the Lyme support station and decided to do 20 miles instead, because of the rain. So my mom rode on, by herself, and finished the longest ride she’s ever done in her life.

I like to think that my grandmother would be proud of both of us. Mommom, this was for you.

Kinsman Ridge

This has been a pretty busy week for us, with the Regional Elite Group camp in town and it being a speed week to boot.  Even after the time trials we did with the juniors, we have another coming up on Saturday. I had pretty much put my head down and figured I was in it for the long haul when I got an e-mail from my friend Andrew McCauley, asking if I wanted to go hiking because he had quit his job(!).

After much hemming and hawing – a long hike is decidedly NOT the best thing to do in between a bunch of time trials, and I knew Pepa would be mad – I decided that this was an opportunity not to be missed. A hike? In the Whites? With a friend? Awesome! We decided to do Kinsman Ridge, from south to north, because it’s the only ridge that Andrew hadn’t hiked all in one go, and I had never been to the top of Cannon. More importantly, it would be long, and hard, and that’s generally what we look for in a hike. I was psyched.

Andrew had a job interview in southern NH on Thursday morning, and so it came to be that he arrived at the Lafayette Place parking lot at 10:45 in a dress shirt, khakis, and leather shoes. Ha! This was soon remedied and we were heading south to Kinsman Notch to start our hike.

It is almost ten miles from Kinsman Notch to the Eliza Brook Shelter, but it is the easiest part of the hike and we cruised along, catching up. I am embarrassed to say that although we have been great hiking buddies in the past, we hadn’t actually seen each other since graduation a year ago. It was great to chat and the miles passed easily.

Mt Moosilauke hulking in the distance.

I was so incredibly happy to be in the mountains with a friend. I was rejuvenated, mentally, spiritually, whatever, even though I was tired and my legs hurt from all the hard training I had been doing earlier in the week.

We stopped for lunch a bit before Eliza Brook on some sunny rocks. Little did we know it would be the sunniest, nicest view we had for the rest of the hike – things were moving in and out of rain showers and the sun. We ate our crummy lunches – mine a PB&J, Andrew’s a bagel, hooray for unemployment – and I lay back on a rock to soak up some Vitamin D.

After some hard climbing up one of those rock piles that passes for a trail, we reached South Kinsman, the first peak of the day even though we’d already been hiking for several hours.

Unfortunately, the elevation gave us a chance to see the weather that was coming our way, which was rain. I put on my raincoat and we headed off into the clouds.

I thought that since we’d reached the first peak, the rest of the hike would be easier – after all, we were already up high, right? How hard could it be to traverse the ridge?

Of course, I had forgotten that the ridge in question was Kinsman. It wasn’t too hard to reach North Kinsman (no view this time), but then things got tougher. For one thing, continuing along the ridge meant leaving the Appalachian Trail, and the trail became narrower and bit less maintained. For another, we were all of a sudden going steeply uphill and downhill. The next 3.2 miles took what seemed like forever.

Plus, it started really raining. Not just drizzling, but raining. The last mile to the top of Cannon Mountain went more quickly, but I was getting cold. I climbed the fire tower just because it was my first time up Cannon, but there was zero visibility, and we were exposed to the wind. So down we went.

We decided to take the Hi-Cannon Trail down instead of heading back to Lonesome Lake. The first mile was really hard, and, as I said, “Hour six: Andrew and Chelsea get grumpy.” We were walking down steep, wet slabs of rock, in the rain, and my fingers were going numb. If I had slipped and fallen, I’m not sure my hands would have been much use. Plus, we regularly looked ahead of us to see steep drop-offs into the mist…. nobody wants to fall off a cliff.

The bottom of the trail was much nicer though, dirt switchbacks which we were able to speed along. By the time we reached the car, I wasn’t even cold, and I was back to being happy again.

In fact, I soon forgot how cold I had been, and how much I had longed for dry clothes and hot chocolate. I seldom hike unless it is long and hard, and the key to wanting to go hiking again is to quickly block out the unpleasant parts. Plus, it had been a long time since I’d been in the mountains, and my pure joy easily overrode the grumpy parts.

We hopped in my car to go pick up Andrew’s car at Kinsman Notch, and then grabbed McDonalds in Lincoln for dinner. It was my first bit of fast food in quite some time. After a long day on the trail, anything tastes good, and prospect of getting a burger and fries for $2 is always alluring. I’m ashamed of myself.

We said our goodbyes and drove off our separate ways, me north to Vermont, him south to Massachusetts. I was sad, driving away, because I had enjoyed the company, the mountains, and a day of freedom from my regular obligations.

As I headed back toward Franconia Notch, though, my spirits were lifted by a beautiful sunset. The clouds were drifting and spinning over the Cannon cliffs, lit up orange and pink by the setting sun.

What a wonderful way to end a wonderful day. I drove back to the Kingdom still a bit sad, but in peace.

First OD of the year!

As you may have noticed from my last few columns, I love road biking. It’s an ideal activity for early spring: easy, fun, and we get to ride far and fast and see different corners of the Upper Valley.

It’s ideal, too, because in the summer and fall we will focus on ski-specific training: running, but also lots of rollerskiing and bounding with poles. It’s good to avoid those activities early on so we’re not too sick of them by the time September rolls around.

However, in the middle of the spring, training begins to become less carefree. Yes, I’ll still ride my bike. But face it: you can ride a bike for 3 hours as many times as you want. While you’ll be tired at the end, it’s still a lot easier to ride a bike for three hours than it is to run for three hours.

On the other hand, doing intervals on a bike is pretty tough. Because your upper body is stable, your legs have to be working hard to raise your heart rate. Imagine riding a bike at threshold for 25 minutes. To get your heart rate to threshold – for me, 170 beats per minute – you have to be riding aggressively up a steep hill. Now find such a hill that lasts for 25 minutes. You begin to see where (part of) the problem lies.

So there is a moment every spring when real workouts become a necessity. We start adding: first, maybe one threshold session a week, and one really long session that isn’t on a bike. Then we start adding the max interval sessions we’ll include in our training for the next eight or nine months.

Usually it’s a bit of a shock. I am so used to training all year, training 15 or 20 or more hours per week, that I expect that I can do anything. I won’t really be that tired after intervals, will I? Why would I bonk on a long run? We do this all the time! But being accustomed to one-hour runs and easy long bike rides does not prepare you for harder training days.

And so it was with some trepidation that I set off running on Saturday. My teammate Katie Bono and I had decided to do our first long run. We were joined by our teammate Julie Carson and her boyfriend, Mark Davenport, who may not have realized what we were up to: he didn’t bring water, unlike us girls who modeled our stylish hip-belts.

We slowly jogged across the bridge into Norwich, and by the time we started up the hill on the other side, Julie and Mark were out in front. I smiled to myself: I was in for the long haul, mentally alternating between purposely going easy and refusing to think about how long we would be out.

We ran up the Ballard Trail from the Norwich pool. It was beautiful and quiet in the woods, with the ferns still unfurling and the trees just sending out bright new leaves. In places we had to jump along the side of the trail to avoid submerging our sneakers in mud, and in others we had to climb over and through broken tree tops which had fallen across the trail.

By the time we got to the end of the trail, on Beaver Meadow Road, we had already been out for the time of my longest previous run all spring.

As we started up Tucker Hill Road and Julie and Mark once again took off. Katie and I shuffled along, chatting about how this was one of our favorite roads to run on. The views were beautiful as always, and I daydreamed about how much I’d like to live in any house we passed. Or, as I told Katie, in any of the barns. Imaginary house-hunting is a great way to occupy time on long runs.

We girls said goodbye to Mark when we turned onto the Burton Woods trail. None of us had run it before, and we soon realized that the first mile of trail was entirely uphill. I picked my way around the spring stream that ran down the trail, leaving the surroundings mucky and wet, and hiked a few steep spots where the bedrock was exposed. Katie tripped over a down log and joked that her coordination was disappearing as she tired. We laughed, but all knew it was true; the same thing was happening to each of us.

We hit the Appalachian Trail in a small clearing, where a sign pointed south to Podunk Road (1.8 miles) and north to Elm Street (3.5 miles). We ran toward Norwich. It was one of the trail sections I am most familiar with, since it’s so close to campus, but at the same time, it is one of the sections I understand least. So much looks the same. The obvious landmarks are only close to the end.

And so while the forest type changed from hardwood to pine and back again several times, we wondered how close we were actually getting to Elm Street. It was at one of these transitions to a dark, pine forest where the ground was soft and muted the sounds of our footsteps that I realized I was tired.

I wasn’t bonking, no. But while only a few minutes before I had been bounding over rocks and logs and roots, I could feel that my pace had slowed. I was more apt to walk a few steps up a steep section. It was more of a chore to stride out the flat parts. It was more dangerous to run freely down the hills, because I was starting to trip over things. My curiosity and energy were dampened just like the sounds of my feet, but Katie and I kept talking, discussing the subtle psychology of training in groups.

At the same time, Julie was developing blisters. Mark had drank half her water before he left us, and she was out. She lagged behind and stopped talking. I worried, sometimes slowing down to let her catch up, sometimes trying to draw her into the conversation. But it was fairly useless. Julie was in her own world.

We finally crossed the powerlines, and then the stream that told me we were only minutes away from Elm Street. I have an incredibly distinct memory of running up the hill from that stream with Kristina Trygstad-Saari, class of 2007, on a fall day two years ago. I wondered why the memory was of that place and not some other along the trail.

As we ran up the long hill into Hanover, we could smell the pig roast at Theta Delt, a fraternity on West Wheelock Street. It was a reminder of how different we might be from the rest of campus: on this Green Key party weekend, our classmates were wearing sundresses and had probably only woken up a few hours earlier. We had been running for three hours, and were drenched in sweat, exhausted, smelly, and covered in scrapes from tree branches.

But after we showered, we went to Theta Delt ourselves to restore our energy supplies, munching on corn and meat. As we discussed plans for the evening, I thought we weren’t any different from the rest of campus after all.

And in any case, we had survived to rejoin our classmates in their revelry. We had survived, and the next difficult workout, number two of the year, would be entered with more confidence, less trepidation, and a sense of satisfaction: we did what we needed to do. As recovery, maybe I’d do an easy bike ride the next day, just like nothing had changed.

Maybe it is about the bike, actually

Lance Armstrong says that it’s not about the bike. I don’t know if he’s telling the truth though.

My last week was framed by two rides. On Monday afternoon, my roommate and I spun up route 132, over the hill from South Strafford into Sharon, and back along the river on Route 14. I rode with the understanding that I was hurting myself by spending these three hours on a bike instead of at a desk working on my thesis, but I didn’t care.

Riding bikes with girls is refreshing. I could have written a column last week that was called, “riding on bikes with boys,” and would have said how tired and sunburned I got, and how I never wanted to give up and be slower than the boys. I’m too competitive, and when someone is actually better than me, it leads me to exhaustion.

But Monday, that wasn’t a problem. Kristin and I don’t compete with each other. Not going up the hills, and not going down them, either. As we came down the hill into Sharon, we were followed by a logging truck. I tried to pull to the side, but with no shoulder and so much speed, I was worried about hitting the edge of the pavement. The logging truck had to wait for the curves to end. With boys, we would have had to race, and I would have been scared.

Kristin and I talked about school, our house, our team, boys, the economy, the future. The miles go fast when you’re talking, even if it isn’t anything particularly important.

She didn’t know the route, so as we rode I pointed out the things I grew up with: the Elizabeth Copper Mine, where my AP Environmental Science class did a lab in high school; the Strafford Saddle Shop, where my mom and I would drive every spring; the burnt-up parking lot that used to be Brooksie’s in Sharon, where we’d stop to get breakfast before going to Tunbridge.

It was the kind of ride where you feel the wind in your face without having to work for it. We basked in the sun and the green and the smells of spring, and the coolness rising from the river.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were not kind to me. I slept an average of three hours every night and spent the days frantically running statistics and trying to write them up coherently. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so isolated in my life. I’ve been solo backpacking and felt less alone.

I watched my friends go about their usual routines, going running and biking after class, making dinner together and going out at night, while I was stuck. I didn’t even get much sympathy; nobody seemed to notice I was missing. I began to wonder what it said about me as a person if nobody noticed that I wasn’t there. Everything bad anyone had ever said about me came back and I began to think it was all true.

So by Friday, I was ready for another ride, regardless of whether I should be doing work instead or not. I e-mailed the team asking if anyone wanted to join me. Nobody did. But that was all right. I could go my own pace.

I set out at 1 p.m., and after a half hour of biking up into Hanover Center, it started pouring rain. I thought about turning around, but then I hunkered down and kept pedaling. In a sense, this is what I had wanted: an outlet for my frustration and anger. Unlike the million thesis revisions I had been frantically completing, this was something I could control and overcome. It was just rain. I was stronger than rain. It wasn’t going to stop me.

About as soon as I got into that mindset, I rode out of the rain. The pavement smelled wet and warm and I only worried for a moment that it was greasy. Then I bombed down the hills on Dogford Road. The sun started to dry the rain off my jersey.

Being alone, I could pedal slowly while I daydreamed. So what if my heart rate was below 130 beats per minute and my new coach had told me I’d have to train 5 hours to make that pace worthwhile? Today was not about training. I didn’t have that luxury. It was about mental recovery.

So when I pedaled back into the rain, which was almost hail-like on Greensboro Road and left pink welts on my exposed arms, I thought about my ride, and the one on Monday. No, they weren’t about the bike. But what allowed them to be about anything else? In truth, the bike.

Sorry, Lance.