Today was my last scheduled day as a Registered Nurse. I saw two hospice patients. I’m so very grateful for the time and experiences I’ve had. For the patients I helped “pack their bags” to go home. For the deaths I was blessed to attend. For the tears I’ve witnessed. For the stories I’ve been privileged to hear. For the patients I loved and let go. How can a person not get a little attached? Some will forever be close to my mind. And heart.
My mom is a nurse. I was 34 when I lost a well-paying job due to a business closure, and had the opportunity to go back to school with some substantial financial assistance. Don’t get me wrong, I did have to work 2 part-time jobs, nearly lost my house, and stood in food pantry lines to make ends meet for myself and my kids. I learned far more than the piles of information in the textbooks. I learned gratitude, and to accept help from strangers, and that I’m capable of whatever I put my mind to. That was a crazy time! 9 semesters, due to waiting list and pre-requisite courses.
My first nursing job was in Home Health. I learned a good deal about wound care, colostomies, catheters, lab draws and medications. I actually love to drive, which came in handy with the miles put on in a rural area. However, I ended up needing more stable hours and benefits. I went to surgery, working in the suites with the surgical teams. I never fit in. The pace is fast. The environment is cold. I felt like a janitor of bodily fluids, a gopher, and if a person needed shaving or disinfection that was my job. I don’t care to ever prep another gynelogical case. Haha. I don’t like to be in such a rush, either. Or bright lights (unless it’s the sun). Or snarky co-workers. Felt like middle school. It was definitely interesting from a how-stuff-works standpoint. The on-call just about killed me. I had 20 minutes to be in the hospital and I live just about that far away. I started having panic attacks when the phone rang at night. I had everything prepared but holy smokes, to be woken up out of a dead sleep because someone swallowed something they shouldn’t or needed a C-Section was just a jolt.
My heart was always leaning towards hospice, and working in surgery was just the push I needed. People always say “it takes a special person”. I don’t know. It’s an honor and a privilege. Death is the one truth we all have in common, right? After all, a flower doesn’t blossom forever. If I can assist in that transition, my cup is full. So, I jumped in to a full time position as a hospice nurse. There’s so much I loved about it. However, with full time came on call overnight. My body really freaked out. Panic attacks, insomnia, heart palpitations….. I can do a lot of things but being called in the wee hours and having to work the days before and after just aren’t on the list. I was in pain all the time and had full on adrenal exhaustion. The company I worked for was very unlikely to utilize a “casual” nurse, offered nothing else in hospice without call, and therefore I went to Aspirus as a casual.
Aspirus is where I started in home health. I like the company. I like the supervisors. I was hired as a casual – no expectations really. No benefits but by this time I was married and didn’t need them. Work when I’m available. I figured I’d get my massage license and then do 2 days per week of each.
Around December 2017, 4 months or so into my massage therapy practice, I was working 4-5 full days per week doing massage. It kind of took over my schedule. I was available some random Wednesdays to hospice, but the timing wasn’t working out. I went from the end of February to July without putting on my scrubs.
And, I didn’t really miss it. I was committed to covering a vacation in July but kind of dreaded it. You see, in my massage practice I’ve found what I was hoping to in being a nurse. One of the greatest joys in my massage practice is the continuity of care. I actually see the same clients, week after week and month after month. I get to know their needs and tailor sessions for them. It’s the feeling of seeing an old friend when they grace my table, even if only a few words are spoken. I’m never on call. In fact, my phone is in Do Not Disturb mode most of the time. I’ll check it when it’s convenient. My “charting” consists of writing down what my client’s complaints were and what I did about them. I’m usually done by the time they walk out of the treatment room. No meetings. No waiting for doctors’ orders. No Foley catheters to insert. No needles. No medication management. Just a peaceful environment, aromatherapy, and presence. All I really have to do is be present.
It’s like the struggles to get to this place have made my success. I appreciate it with a deep gratitude. It’s like going to work now is a breath of fresh air. I look forward to it. I am allowed to be creative, set my boundaries, and provide the calm and caring space for people to do their healing work.
My experience as a nurse certainly helps. I utilize care planning for treatments. I understand peoples’ conditions and medications, and customize sessions for those circumstances. Nursing has taught me so many things, and thought process is a huge part of it.
As of today, I am no longer available as a Registered Nurse. I will maintain my license and keep ties with Aspirus. I look forward to spending some of my Wednesdays providing the comforting touch of massage to hospice patients in my area, and I’ll do it with the watchful eye of a nurse. My role within the company will be transitioning.
It has not been a year since I officially became licensed for massage therapy and here I am, booked solid for a couple of months. Doing work that I embrace with my entire being. No more panic attacks. No more dreading phone calls or crying because I’m miserable in my work life. Just spreading the love and joy. The awesomeness of my life. The good vibes.
Thank you for allowing me to discover and live my highest passion. I choose joy and abundance. I am at ease.
As I was wandering down to the dock to take the kayak out for a lap around the lake this morning, I came across this beauty. I’ve only found one before that I could harvest, and here it was…. right in my own back yard.
This is a fungi known as “Chicken of the woods” or “sulphur shelf”. It’s easy to spot. I’m no expert, but this is a wild mushroom I’m confident I can eat. This is a huge specimen, and if I wait any longer to harvest it will likely be dry and nasty. So, I hatched a fun plan for dinner.
I cooked millet in the Instant Pot (1 minute under pressure – that thing rocks!)
I picked grape leaves from the vine in the back yard. I blanched them to wrap the filling in.
I picked stinging nettles to cook with the mushrooms. I have a small patch that I am cultivating. Yes, you can eat cooked stinging nettles and they are very good for you! Wear gloves to harvest.
We have a huge patch of day lilies, so I grabbed some of them to stuff as well. They are edible 🙂
In the smallest amount of olive oil, I sauteed the stinging nettles, some wild leeks I harvested in spring, onion and garlic.
After several minutes, I added rinsed and chopped chicken of the woods mushroom and continued to cook for a few minutes, adding just a little sea salt.
When it was cooked through, I added it to the millet, sprinkled with garlic salt, smoked paprika, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Wrapped in grape leaves and stuffed in flowers, this meal was very satisfying! And pretty! 🙂
I had a lot left over, so I cut up the mushroom and cooked it to freeze for future use. So thankful for this gift from Mother Nature.
Warning: Booty in thong pics below. If glutes make you feel weird, this post is probably not for you. I’m done with body shame, personally! A strong rear end is making a huge difference in my quality of life!
It’s been a little while since I’ve posted an update! For those of you new to my blog and story, I’ll sum it up. I’m 5’1″ and 43 years old. When I was 27, I weighed somewhere around 170# and was diagnosed by MRI with “Probable Multiple Sclerosis“, showing 2 active brain lesions and with some scary symptoms. I had recently birthed my 3rd child. I was depressed and out of control with food. After tiring of giving myself injections, I turned to diet and lost nearly 40#. When I was about 32 I fell in love with biking. My symptoms were a thing of the past. I found I loved mountain bike racing and participated in as many events as I could. All the while, my tendons and muscles were developing pain that eventually had me in physical therapy, by the time I was around 35, and unable to enjoy biking or running very much. I tried many things; some with temporary relief but mostly no improvement. It hurt to have my legs touched. I had dozens of “knots” like marbles I could feel and the sensation was that of a bruise, leaving my legs (and other areas, but that was worst) very tight no matter how much foam rolling or yoga I did. I had a fibromyalgia diagnosis in 2015.
2 years ago today, in 2016, I was knocked right down with Lyme disease. I couldn’t stand up without help. I could’t drive. I was in so much pain I was beside myself. Walking up a flight of stairs left me breathless. It was a long road to be able to walk and bike again….
Early in 2017 I had a health scare. I feared I had breast cancer. While I awaited the battery of appointments for tests, I decided to be proactive and follow some of the Gerson Therapy principles. It’s basically a low fat, high carb vegan diet. Lo and behold, my pain symptoms went away. The extra weight I had been carrying despite many attempts at low carb, ketogenic, high protein, years of Paleo, being a gym rat, etc. just fell off. Prior to that I would have argued to my death that bacon was healthy!
Despite many health improvements, my legs were still riddled with pain. I had a couple of mountain bike events in 2017 but they hurt pretty bad. Then I met the Fascia Blaster. I’ll be forever grateful to the ladies who introduced me! This claw tool has been a game changer for me!! When I realized that my chronic pain was bound up tissue and some very weak glutes (I had no idea how bad things were back there until I took a pic!!) I made some changes. By the beginning of 2018 I’d started doing Ashley Black’s “Heart Butt” exercises 2-3x/week and blasting at those times.
This morning the scale said 124#. I am down 6 inches on my waist alone since making these changes.
I believe the photos speak for themselves, though….
I’m a work in progress, but my pain issues are definitely receding! This makes me so happy!! I ran a 5 mile obstacle course last weekend. I biked 50 miles with my husband mid-week and then went mountain biking on fairly challenging terrain a few days later! I’ll be increasing the difficulty of the exercises here shortly, but I’m participating in a 6 hour mountain bike race this weekend and look forward to being part of a 4-woman 24-hour team in less than 3 weeks! I want to emphasize that I do not take protein powders or drinks that help control appetite. I eat a lot. It adds up to 1200-1800 calories per day with a ton of fiber 🙂 I don’t have a gym membership. My routine currently looks like this:
Monday – easy yoga/stretching Tuesday – bike about an hour at a moderate pace Wednesday – Heart Butt exercises with resistance bands plus pushups and inverted rows on TRX. Do 50 squats. Run 2 miles at about a 10-11 minute mile pace on a dirt road. Finish with 50 squats and another set of inverted rows. See Heart Butt exercises here. I do a set, then blast a leg/butt for about 5 min. Do another set of exercise, blast the other leg. Finish with a set of exercises. Everything including the run takes about an hour. Thursday – same as Tuesday Friday – same as Wednesday Saturday – mountain bike longer and maybe somewhere different. 1.5-2 hours. Sunday – Heart Butt + 5k run
I blast arms, belly and face whenever, and occasionally hand a blaster to my husband with a request to do my back.
Food: Listen, I don’t do starvation very well and a tablespoon or 2 of fat does not fill me up. I need quantity! And color!
Add to all of this 2 cups of organic black coffee, a piece or 2 of fruit along the way and a glass of organic red wine in the evening.
Recently I noticed that my struggle with binge eating is all but gone. If I’m hungry, I have a piece of fruit and move on. What about protein, you ask?? Well, where do you get your fiber? How much protein do you think you need? Have you read The China Study?
I think what makes it easy to stick with this is that my motives have nothing to do with anyone but me and my Creator. It’s great that my husband notices, but what pushed me to make changes was the chronic pain that had me in a very dark space.
I still have some residual pain, but consistency with the exercise regimen has made a tremendous difference. I thoroughly enjoy my time in nature, and it helps me stay centered in my life.
The food I eat began as a health priority, but has spilled over to include animal welfare as well as environmental concerns. I feel aligned in all aspects now. High-vibe foods for a high-vibe life 🙂
Two weeks ago at this time I was making plans. My sister’s 37-year-old remains were put in the ground on that date and to my surprise I had lost my stoic demeanor. I was deeply saddened, and ready to turn to my usual method of dealing with hard stuff; bike rides and lifting heavy things. Physically I had been feeling strong and had returned to some harder workouts as well as longer bike rides. After months of watching the decline of one of my favorite people in this world, I was ready to return to the things I love with a passion.
That night, my sleep was disturbed by shooting pains in my left hip. I would reposition myself with some difficulty and doze back off. When morning came and I went to get out of bed, I knew something was very wrong. I could not sit up or stand without excruciating pain in my left hip. It was so bizarre! I had no issues with my hip before. No aches or anything. I limped up the stairs and found even using the bathroom would bring tears to my eyes. Any movement like picking my leg up, or moving it side-to-side, would cause such a sudden and sharp pain it would take my breath away.
I thought maybe an Epsom salt bath would help, so I carefully lowered myself in and soaked for a long time. It was incredibly difficult to get in or out. A friend came over for coffee. At that point I thought maybe I pinched a nerve. I sat down so carefully on a chair but couldn’t stay sitting. It felt better to stand; not so sharp at any rate. I grew very tired of standing that day. I would go to lay down and not be able to swing my leg up onto the bed/couch because the sudden pain would overtake me and I would cry out. I tried high-dose turmeric, fish oil, essential oils, muscle rubs, ice, ibuprofen…. nothing…. walking hurt. Stairs were taken like an old lady. Honestly if it would have stayed like that I would not have wanted to continue to live.
Keep in mind I have had a broken bone. I’ve birthed 2 of my 3 children at home without medications on purpose. I have raced endurance mountain bikes and pedaled 15o miles by myself in one day. I’m ok with some pain. This, though…. this was something else. It was a solid 5/10 achy, burning thing in the left hip joint when I was doing nothing and a 10/10 if I tried to stand. I needed help to get off the couch. I hate going to the doctor. I have a high-deductible insurance plan just in case of something terrible but by Saturday night I was dipping into leftover Vicodin from surgery in 2009 and wishing I could just go to the Emergency Room. I was up several times the next 2 nights and medicated myself that entire weekend. It was the most searing pain like a stab with a knife.
Other oddities that had been happening around that time were vomiting, insomnia, heart palpitations, moderate headaches, and brain fog. I chalked those symptoms up to the stress of a loved one dying.
Two or three weeks prior to this pain, I had been bitten by yet another tick. This one was different, in that it was impossibly small. Like a little bigger than the period at the end of a sentence. It was in my left outer thigh. I removed it without issue, but did develop a red rash and itching. It wasn’t a bullseye. I was bit again in that time. When I had hit a deer driving home from visiting my sister in the hospital, I had 7 ticks crawling on me after walking the roadside to collect car parts and make sure the deer was dead. One of them had bitten, but it was a standard woodtick. I wasn’t too worried. Ticks are part of being an outdoorsy girl, after all.
So, Monday morning rolled around. I took off of work and so did Steve. He drove me to Urgent Care so we would arrive as soon as they opened. I honestly feel like the next 1.5 weeks has been a blur. I was x-rayed and lab work was drawn. My x-rays looked fine. My inflammatory markers were up. The doctor listened to my heart and noticed the palpitations. I had a low-grade fever that had been coming and going. I struggled for words and felt ridiculous with how much pain it caused me to even go for the x-rays. I had such little range of motion in the hip joint. The initial Lyme test was negative and a tick panel was drawn to check for other tick-borne diseases. Due to the initial Lyme test being notoriously inaccurate and given my symptoms and history, I was started on doxycycline immediately. I could not even limp back to the car after obtaining the medication. Any sort of regular stride would make me yelp in pain. I was given an open-ended work release and felt completely debilitated. Yet, I’d been off of work so much recently for my sister.
I attempted to go to work the next day. With pain medication I could kind of function. Like, if I didn’t sit much I could get some things done. It was the sit-stand thing that really got me. Not to mention the fact I was exhausted, feverish, and my brain was in a fog. My sweet coworkers sent me home before I even made it to see a patient. They saw me stand up from a chair and said I should probably not be working. They were right! I don’t know what I was thinking. Work ethic and stuff. I did return that Wednesday. I know it was too soon. It took all of my energy and focus to visit my patients and I had nothing left afterwards.
The pain was better to the point of being able to function for the most part just two days into antibiotic treatment. I still woke at night with pain but the improvement with each dose was significant. The things that really lingered were the cognitive issues…. I just felt stupid and at a loss for simple words…. and the cardiorespiratory issues. Walking up a flight of stairs or a small hill had me stopping to breathe. I would have to stop mid-sentence to breathe. The fevers stopped by Wednesday the first week and ever so gradually the cognitive/cardiorespiratory issues are receding each day.
One and a half weeks out, I did kayak around our little lake today. I took a mile walk with the dogs. I tire easily. My muscles burn. My hip lacks full range of motion and has some aches/pains yet like I expect an arthritic joint might. The knee on that side is also affected. I feel a fog in my brain and need a little extra time to find words. But, every day there is improvement.
I have employed some complementary therapies to help my recovery. I’m eating a ton of veggies, more fruit, significantly less meat, drinking a little less caffeine, doing some juicing, consuming only quality flax and olive oils, meditation, coffee enemas most days, and yoga.
I wanted to write all this down before the memories fade, so I can reflect on how it was and how far I’ve come. My short-term physical goal is to…. hmm…. I have to think about that a little longer… and my longer-term goal is to be able to ride a lap on my mountain bike at Washburn by our wedding day in October. That’s all. Other than that, I’m enjoying a slower pace. Enjoying the beauty around me. Grateful for the doctor at the Urgent Care department. Grateful for Steve’s love and kindness no matter what.
This is my 5th solo adventure since 2012. It isn’t my longest distance by any means. I didn’t set any speed records. In 2012 I took my first solo adventure when I was in nursing school. I was flat broke but wanted to get out of town and do something epic. It was a life-changing experience and one that I’ve continued annually. Last year I kayaked instead, due to the leg pain I have been experiencing. I was unable to ride any distance. This year I have been riding plenty, although the past few weeks I’ve been right on the edge of too much.
In the past, these trips would help me sort out things that were on my mind and give me clarity. This year I couldn’t find anything to ponder heavily, which says a lot for the good space I’m at in my life. Instead, I used this time to step outside of my comfort zone and seek the beauty of immersion in nature. Well, with an iPhone to take pics 🙂
A month or so ago, I picked an approximate destination and put in a PTO request at work. I like 1 night away. That’s adequate for a mini-adventure. I put in for a backcountry camping permit in the Northern Highlands State Forest and started planning a route. To hopefully keep my legs from completely revolting, I figured 50-75 miles each day would be plenty. After all, the bike setup is heavy and camp gear adds a chunk of weight.
The day of departure, I was on call until 0700. I found other things I had to do that delayed me – pump up bike tires, get meeting agenda together for RASTA meeting after work on Thursday, clip fingernails so I can play the uke, etc. With a belly full of summer sausage, eggs and coffee, I departed at 0800 with a forecasted chance of rain the entire 2 days. If I have learned one thing over the past 8 years of riding bikes, it’s not to let the weather forecast stand in the way of a ride.
One thing about the fibromyalgia or whatever it is that pains my tendons is, if I push my body hard it will revolt and I may have several weeks where it hurts to walk. This has been going on since 2010 and although I’ve made a lot of improvement in the past year, it has forced me to slow down enough to enjoy the scenery. There have been several good lessons through this journey, actually. I can pretty much do what I want to, as long as I take it easy.
The sky was overcast as I cruised along at about a 12mph pace. I made several quick stops to inspect my cargo and make sure all was in place, as well as turn on my super-bright rear LED for county highway visibility. I saw a family of turkeys and a brown fuzzy caterpillar crossing the road. I listed to a podcast called The Paleo Women podcast and they were discussing body image. I will come back to that later. All in all, it was a pleasant ride. I stopped for a photo at the Willow Dam.
One of my favorite roads is Cedar Falls Road. It’s super fun; twisty with roller coaster hills towards the end. I saw an otter cross but was not at all prepared with my camera. I soaked in the pungent forest scents, spun up the hills and smiled down them.
Welcome to the gravel shortcut from Cedar Falls Road to Camp 9 Road. It was freshly graded, which equals loose!! Oh man. Well, it is an adventure after all.
Super loose gravel granny gear slog-fest made me glad I had the knobby 40’s and a sturdy bike! Oh and a triple ring in the front! This stretch was only a few miles.
New gear for this year:
2014 Giant Invite – it’s a gravel bike and I mostly use it for commuting to work. The disc brakes, wide tires, and rack mount are major differences over what I used to cobble together.
New shorts and helmet, always a plus.
Sawyer water filter which I’m not sold on, but it worked.
Garmin Edge 800. Definitely like the turn-by-turn navigation!
Took a break at mile 38 for lunch of beef jerky and an apple. I made my way to a nearby river to try to filter some water but found the squeeze bag system awkward and hard to fill.
The scenery between Cedar Falls Rd. and Highway 70 was wonderful. I don’t recall the names of all the roads but there were some tough little climbs and swooping downhills. Very enjoyable. I crossed Highway 70 and continued on into Lac du Flambeau reservation territory.
Loose chip seal, the right bike for it, and beautiful scenery 🙂
Sometimes the GPS and mapping software lead a person to a dead end. Like this! I always carry paper maps for such occasions. Sign says “Private Drive”.
Roadside scenery approaching Highway 51
Boozhoo! Actually I was leaving and turned around to take a picture of this sign.
Thanks for the lovely roads!
Originally I had planned to take a shortcut road over to County M, which would put me close to camp. However, the weather was still holding out and I noticed I was missing a few items which would make my evening more pleasant. I was also low on water. I ducked into a State campground for water and a woman was walking by. She said hello, asked where I was headed, etc. She recommended the slightly longer but easier-on-the-legs County H. I filled my water bottle and decided, in the interest of my legs, to take her advice. Happily, the new paved trail was not far off and took me right into town.
First stop in Boulder Junction… duh…. coffee shop! I have to say I liked it better when it was Dancing Bear. It had the huge chair out front, and inside had an electric massage chair, funny books, nut-based cookies and plenty of good vibe. I probably looked a bit disheveled 64 miles into the wind. There were 3 women working there and the one who took my order was presumably the owner. She asked where I was headed and when I told her, said there are no camp sites there. I told her I was backcountry camping and did not need a site and they all looked at me like I had a third eye. It was kind of funny. I said I like to get outside of my comfort zone once each year and have a little solo adventure. She said “I like my comfort zone! And my comfy bed!”. Haha.
Well, me too, and these trips are little reminders of the comforts I have every day. I choose to experience something else. I like the perspective. I sat down to check the weather but the Wifi was not working. Tried data and could not connect to the network. Tried texting Steve but he was working late. So, I enjoyed my coffee drink outside, used the bathroom, and headed to the corner store.
I had made a list while I was riding: Wine, pen and paper, small flashlight, and souvenir patch. The corner store supplied wine, pen, and flashlight. I didn’t want to lug around an 8.5×11 notebook, so settled for writing my notes on the back of my maps. Across the street I noticed my daughter’s boyfriend’s dad’s (did you get that?) car – he has a business in Boulder Junction. The taillights were on so I quietly rode up next to it to see if I could startle him. It was empty. Oh well. Went in the building and said hi. He generously offered to help my trip and I asked for paper, which his assistant was kind to supply me with. A whole small notebook. Perfect! I went to the Chamber for a patch, who said to try the Highlands shop downtown. They were so nice. No patches for sale, but they gave me a freebie from behind the counter 🙂
Off to find camp! I felt a few drops of rain as I left town. About 3 miles to the gravel road, then 3 miles in. I stopped to cover my sleeping bag and tent and keep it dry. I was able to enjoy the paved path that parallels M to get to the gravel. It was a much smoother gravel road than the one earlier in the day and I was grateful at over 70 miles in! Still, I granny-geared it up the hills. A co-worker had told me about a couple of camp sites accessible only by hiking or watercraft, so I figured I’d camp somewhere in that area.
Welcome to Pallette Lake. So clear. So beautiful. Ducks I did not recognize. And an incredible camp site with rules like: One night only. Clean up after yourself. I had been set on not using a site but couldn’t pass it up. On a hill, too, so I wouldn’t wake up in a puddle.
I set up the old Bibler tent with everything I would need for an evening of potential rain.
Satisfied with camp, I went to the lake and waded out a bit. I was too cold to swim but the water felt great on my legs. 74 miles, most of it into a headwind. Phew!
I found filtering water with the squeeze bag system rather challenging. Filling the bag was the trouble. It is rather rigid and doesn’t accept water easily. I found the only way I could do it was walk out in the water and drag it back and forth several times with some force. At any rate, it worked. I’m here typing this today. It tasted alright, too.
A loo with a view?? This was uphill from camp. Convenient place to dispose of TP. I’m fine with a squat in the woods otherwise. It looked kind of funny out there. I could not find it at 0430, though! The trail wasn’t very obvious.
Supper time! I just love this little stove. Super compact. The cook pot could be lighter, but that will be a future addition. For now, this works. Nice to have a hot meal at the end of the day.
I cleaned up supper and decided to send a text to Steve while I sat at the picnic table. It was lightly misting. I got about a sentence in and it turned to a real rain. It was 1800. I covered my panniers with a garbage bag and a rock and got in the tent. Listening to the sound of the rain was very relaxing. So was my wine. I write some notes and strummed the ukulele for awhile. Changed into my flannel jammies. Journaled some more.
On fibromyalgia, or whatever is causing my tendons (and now knees) much pain. The Achilles’ both complain on a regular basis. My calves are full of knots. So are my vastus lateralis and IT bands. I have trigger points by the dozens and they respond to nothing. The IT band stuff can shut me down. It’s a very sharp pain to the knee when I push a pedal. I have been riding a very fine line with it and it was tough carrying a heavy load into the wind. I have all the endurance and mental fortitude but I have the threat when I think of going a speed like I used to, of it all coming apart in a big hurry. Last year I struggled to walk a mile. I barely biked. This year I’ve pedaled over 2000 miles. Riding easy and taking guaifenesin seem to be working, but I have to be very, very careful. Using a heart rate monitor helps, but that started acting funky early in the ride. I went by feel. It’s tough. I try to remain grateful for what I can do, since I can’t feed my ego with “how fast” or “how many miles”. Just enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds. Be grateful. There will be an answer and I will keep seeking.
Decided music frustrates me when I’m trying to learn a song. Picked a little, played some chords with different strum patterns, and called it a night at 1840. Couldn’t keep my eyes open!
Turns out my tent leaks. A lot. Not just at the seams but everywhere. I woke at 2230 with a wet sleeping bag on the top, wet bike shoes, pretty much wet everything. It had been raining steady since 1800. I rearranged things and tried to sleep some more. My camp pad isn’t great. I wake every 30-60 minutes to roll. My hips and shoulders hurt. I woke up a couple of times to take care of bathroom business.
This was the view at 0530:
Not bad. Still raining. Dozed off. And was startled awake by a squirrel at 0615! It stopped raining. 12 hours in the tent and I was ready to get out! Ready for coffee. I started the water heating and noticed some nasty little flying bugs were biting me – hard! I applied some repellent and noticed this:
Repellent makes me sneeze. I was checking out heron. Heron was checking out me. Then I sneezed. And it flew away.
While I ate and sipped my coffee out of the pot (one of these times I’ll remember a mug, maybe) I checked the maps of the Escanaba Lake trails. I had no idea what the weather was going to be, but rain had dripped into my shoes during the night and it was chilly. The shortest trail was a 5 mile loop. I decided to pack up camp and take my time going home, stopping along the way wherever I wanted to. I’d like to return to this area under better weather circumstances and explore the beauty of it. The little sample I got was enough to make me want more, for sure!
I changed into my bike clothes and it resumed raining. I sopped up the puddles out of my panniers with my towel, packed up the wet gear and made sure I had picked up not only all of my stuff but a little garbage left by previous campers.
It’s a pretty climb out of camp. I noticed hiking/biking trails as well but didn’t feel singletrack was appropriate. Might have to come back for that reason as well…
Tough to take pics in the rain. This is about .3 miles and connects to Nebbish Road, which is about 3 miles out. The gravel was much different after all the rain and on tired legs. I worked hard up the hills, feeling the previous day’s miles and the mud trying it’s best to slow my wheels. Everything exposed got a thorough mud coating, myself included.
Back on the paved path, my legs felt good and I relished the little twists and turns through the woods. I stopped at a trailhead to rinse off my mud-covered water bottle. The rain had stopped again for awhile.
This is me, enjoying one of my favorite parts of the bike path. I spent a good bit of time thinking about body image on this trip. Since 2001 I have weighed anywhere between 109-168#. I can say that even at 109#, in 2010, I picked on myself. I had a flat stomach and muscle definition. And I still wasn’t “happy”. I no longer weigh very often, but here’s the thing: This 132-ish pound woman can endure with a smile and a heart filled with joy. What I am is not a number anyway. I am caring, strong, happy, intelligent, worthy, determined, loving, compassionate, maybe beautiful in my own womanly and curvy way and in these moments, I am ALIVE. This body and these legs carry me through space and to some of the most beautiful places anyone could imagine.
Stream crossing along the trail. I stopped for a snack of olives and mixed nuts.
This is near Sayner. The trail between Sayner and St. Germain is a blast! Roller coaster hills galore!
Back in my home health nursing days, this was one of my favorite stops. It was a little out of my way but I was craving coconut. I picked up coconut water and flakes. It’s on 70 between St. Germain and Woodruff if you ever find yourself going that way. I love how they combine the natural stuff with crap like Twinkies. Nice folks, too. I do miss the home health days. Being in that area made me think of the people I’d met along the way. I really could have done that job forever it weren’t so life-consuming. I miss the interaction with patients and the independence. I miss pursuing more holistic nursing. I don’t miss spending all evening charting.
I had figured on a coffee stop at Red Canoe in St. Germain. Another one of my favorite places. The gentleman who was doing lawn work struck up a conversation – I have found the loaded bike is quite a conversation piece – and he mentioned something about the wind not being in my favor. True enough! I was working pretty hard for 12mph. My legs were definitely in need of the break. The menu advertised the quiche as gluten free. I saw the words “bacon” and “cheddar” and figured I’d ask what the crust was made of. When the barista replied cheddar, I said I would definitely order some of that! The no-dairy thing can wait until this trip is over. What a delicious and soul-warming stop!
Leaving St. Germain, County J has a nice, wide bike lane and runs all the way to Woodruff. See that big black cloud? Oh yeah. It let loose shortly after this pic. A straight downpour. If I had begun to dry, it didn’t matter now. I was drenched. The wind blew so hard I had to stop and get off the bike for a minute. I guess I was looking for adventure after all!
County J connects with Raven Trail. The singletrack there is sweet and they recently paved 2 miles of the ski trail. I took this opportunity to fix my rear brake which had failed earlier in the day. Turned out to be a good decision! What a fun trail. It goes all the way to Indian Mounds campground on Highway 47, which is where I did pop out onto the highway for a bit. My Garmin flashed a low battery signal. I hadn’t planned another stop, but there is a nice little coffee shop in Lake Tomahawk 🙂
The Butcher’s Wife, next door to The Butcher Shop, served up a Colectivo almond milk and honey latte and I sipped while I let the Garmin charge. The cup felt nice on my cold hands. Heck, another snack, too. Hungry today!! And to be honest I welcomed a break from the wind. My leg issues were starting to really become apparent. Mostly the tendons and knees. I left here and checked out Lake Tomahawk’s side streets which are really cute, before hopping on Bluebird Lane and heading south towards home.
Yup, heading south and feeling the wind. It was another 25 miles or so to get home and it was a struggle to keep my mind right. I cursed the wind and threw temper tantrums in my mind. I fantasized about calling for a ride home. I thought how nice it is to know that if I did call, Steve would help me and never ever try to lay a guilt trip on me for “quitting”. However, that’s not what I do. I press on. I endure. I try to walk the fine line with the knots in my legs and sometimes my determined mind overrides them. The scenery was beautiful. I love moving my body through space on two wheels. I was almost home, anyway.
I wondered if Steve would be home when I arrived. I knew Willow, our dog, would greet me with that full-body wiggle. My heart lit up when I pulled in the driveway and saw Steve’s car. I couldn’t get in the house fast enough. The hug he greeted me with almost made me fall apart in tears. I love that man. I’ve never been loved like I am with him and I appreciate it more than I can express.
I relaxed in a hot epsom salt bath with a glass of wine, and then we made dinner. Grass fed ribeye on the grill, roasted broccoli we picked last weekend, and butternut squash fries. My daughter bought the flowers just because.
So, in summary, sleeping in a tent in the wilderness doesn’t scare me so much. I feel rather at home in the forest. I have pepper spray just in case, but I tend to feel calm and free. My legs didn’t fare as well as my mind and I have a large amount of pain, mostly in my knees. I will need some extended recovery before I can bike again. I appreciate my dry and comfortable bed, my loving pets who are sitting next to me now, and especially Steve, who somehow understands my thirst for adventure and solo time. I am filled with gratitude on all levels.
This song was stuck in my head during the trip. I think you should play it for background music 🙂
In keeping with tradition, I planned a little getaway to the wilderness. In the past two years I’ve gone by bike. I find the solo time perfect for getting very introspective. The sound of rushing wind and the rhythm of pedaling somehow put my mind in a place where I can contemplate life and find answers to questions. This year I am happily cohabitating, in a loving relationship and at a new home which feels a lot like paradise. However, I recognize that spending a little time alone in nature helps me center and feel balanced. When I brought up the prospect of a couple solo days on the bike earlier this year, I was given nothing but support. However, as my legs continue to be plagued by knots, the likelihood of riding long with camping gear was slipping away. I was frustrated. Until Steve suggested a paddling trip with my new kayak.
Steve helping me prepare
It took relatively little planning. I arranged 2 weekdays in a row off, gathered the necessary items for transporting the kayak atop the Mini Cooper, and set Sylvania Wilderness Area as my destination. It’s less than an hour and a half from home and offers wilderness camping. Another difference this year besides traveling method would be the inclusion of my canine companion, Willow. She happens to fit perfectly in in the kayak. Clothing and food would be hauled in a backpack, tent and sleeping bag in the dry storage compartment. We were to spend one night, paddling the first day to our campsite and then, depending on how the one portage of the first day went, either lake-hopping our way around or going back the way we came.
Journal on departure day
The morning of August 19, 2014, I woke up to rain as per the forecast. I had been anxiously watching the forecast for a week leading up to this, and there was a 70% chance of rain for the area we would be in. I decided I wouldn’t let the weather stop me from having an adventure. I never had before, after all. And I do own a rain jacket. The day started with bacon, eggs, coffee, kisses from my sweetheart and a hug from my daughter.
The drive was easy. Through Rhinelander, Eagle River, Conover, and Land O’ Lakes all the way up to US2 at Watersmeet, Michigan. I checked in at the Entrance Station, watched their educational video, drove through some beautiful forest and had the kayak in the water by 9:50. Within minutes I had seen two loons and the sun began to peek out.
Crooked Lake boat launch
A pic before I got too grubby
On trips past I’d have some sort of mission. See how far I could ride in day, get rid of mental baggage, meditate on my direction in life, find out who I really am and what I’m made of, etc. I didn’t really have any of this. I contemplated purpose to the point of feeling some stress over it. Then it occurred to me that bathing myself in nature is a fine reason. Maybe I’d meditate some. Maybe I’d just observe the beauty and synchronicity of life. I lost myself in the sound of the paddle dipping in the water. I shed some clothing and felt the cool breeze on my warm skin. I breathed in the pungent forest aromas of cedar and pine as I skimmed close to the shore on Crooked Lake. A copper-colored whitetail deer watched us watching it, safe on land, still as a statue. Crooked Lake narrows and widens. Wild rice grew thick on one of the narrows, and I could see a flock of geese ahead. Above, an Eagle soared. It was all so alive. Then, the geese took flight in a raucous flurry of honks and wings beating!
Eagle soaring above, wild rice growing thick in the water.
Picnic lunch was summer sausage and Swiss cheese. Willow was pretty happy about the fact that I was sharing instead of saying “no begging”. She is the perfect kayak dog. A far cry from when I took her for her first ride in June and had to chase her down, carry her to the boat, and set her in it. She willingly jumps in now and there are zero signs of resistance.
We paddled for a few hours, checking out bays and keeping a leisurely pace. The weather was holding out but questionable. I was grateful for the map I’d picked up from Sylvania Outfitters on our way in, otherwise I’d have surely missed the portage! It’s rather hard to see from any distance and not marked by any signage.
The photo on the left shows the portage to Mountain Lake, and you can see how green the water is here. It was thick with algae.
The portage is a very short one. 13 rods to be exact, although that didn’t mean much to me. I unloaded the backpack and carried it over the hill. I put a strap on the kayak to carry it on my shoulders like a purse and within seconds could feel the tendinitis in my Achilles’ flare up. My right hip made some weird popping. Now, this boat weighs probably 60# with the tent and sleeping bag in it. I consider myself fairly strong. But, I have crabby tendons. I put the kayak in Mountain Lake and set to finding our camp site. Beaver 2. It was a short paddle and easy to find. To my surprise, I had nearby neighbors. Looked like Scout tents. I could see a couple of men who were dressed like Scout leaders. Cripes. All this way for some solitude and I’m going to have a Troop for neighbors.
I set up the old Bibler tent, journaled, ate a bit and headed up to find the latrine. I’m not opposed to a squat in the woods, but at areas like this, keeping human waste contained is a big deal. I respect that. I do hate to see T.P. in the woods, after all. I filtered some water and by then it was 2pm. Looking at the map, there was a nice hike to High Lake, which I was told is turquoise in color due to it’s depth.
There was a chilly drizzle, but hiking felt good. We walked through an ancient forest of wise, twisted, gnarly trees. Moss-covered rocks and logs littered the forest floor and ferns were richly green. The random fungus would push through the earth to decorate like accent pieces in beige, red, orange and black. Mosquitoes were thick. I found a raspberry or two and wondered at the beauty of High Lake. In all, we hiked about 1.5 hours. Upon return to camp there was not much to do. I pumped more water and dug out warmer clothes. My hat was smelly :-/. Shoulda noticed that before! Oh well. It was too wet to start a fire in the fire pit. I boiled water for supper and coffee, realizing my relatively new mess kit had bowls but no cups. I brewed a bowl of weak but warm coffee, ate rice and shared with Willow. I practiced meditation for a few minutes with my bare feet in the cool soil.
I contemplated things and wrote them down so I’d remember. They included, in no particular order:
Synchronicity with nature, as in wake/sleep cycles and sun/moon phases.
Playing the fiddle more.
Reducing distractions when it comes to health and fitness. I know what works.
67 days to really form a new habit.
Gratitude for the love of a man who shows me nothing but support and kindness.
My kids, who I was missing!
My keen senses, for which I am very grateful.
Yoga, which I did a little of.
Morning bowl of coffee, anyone?
It was about 5:30pm. I was chilled and damp, so I decided to just go lay in the tent. Nothing better to do. I read an inspirational book, then the user manual for the MSR water filter. I think I was asleep by 6pm! I woke to the sound of rain, and remembered I’d left a few items out which I should bring into the tent. Headlamp on, I attended to that and my full bladder, figuring it was the middle of the night. Oh and by the way, it was not a group of Scouts next door – just a couple of guys who apparently respected my solitude as I did theirs. I checked the time. 9:40pm. Haha!
I enjoyed a bedtime chorus of loons. I’m used to a loon or two on our lake, but here it was a multitude of them, all with slightly different voices. It was incredible. Red squirrels chattered and moved in close, presumably to inspect my camp cleanliness in hopes of finding bits of food.
As per my usual camping routine, I proceeded to wake up every hour or so to roll over due to sore hips. My camping pad is alright but I do get sore. By 6am I had to get up. I heard the rain drops hitting the tent and wondered if it would ever stop? It had rained all night! I packed everything up, put on my rain jacket and smelly hat, and got out to discover the rain had actually stopped; it was just the wind blowing the moisture off the leaves overhead. Silly me. The old Bibler tent stayed remarkably dry.
Mountain Lake was covered in a thick blanket of fog. I was a little annoyed that I could not connect to mobile data, of all the dumb things, but I wanted to see the radar. I brewed up a bowl of strong coffee, wrote in my journal, and packed up camp.
Based on the short portage the day before, I probably *should* have gone with Plan B and paddled back up Crooked to the short portage to High Lake, which is one I definitely wanted to do. My adventurous side took over, though. I was already dealing with pain; might as well go lake-hopping. Our first portage of the day took 50 minutes and was 96 rods. I unloaded the backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, and took them to East Bear Lake. I went back for the kayak and picked it up. I realized there was no way I could carry it that far, with or without a strap. Portaging wheels, which I use at home all the time, are not allowed in Sylvania. So I pushed, pulled, and dragged that thing. It was ugly, and it was hard work. Some portages were sandy and gradual. Some were thick muck and straight uphill. The weather was cool and misty. I got lost a few times in the sound of the paddle in the water and then dripping as it rises. Dip, drip… dip, drip… each lake with a character and distinction. Nothing but beauty and nature. Loons, Eagles, Kingfishers, chattering squirrels….
High Lake was astounding! The water was the color of turquoise. The sun finally peeked out and I just floated along, sharing a lunch of beef jerky and pecans with Willow. I was amazed at how fast it got deep as well as the clarity. High Lake reaches 90′ in depth. For a moment I felt a little anxious about that fact. Then, I realized that I was supported. Kind of like life in general. Love and support abound. If you let them.
After the short portage to Crooked Lake, signs of humanity returned. I never saw a motor boat, but several groups of kayaks and canoes.
A pair of loons was fishing on a point to my right. As usual, I gave them a generous padding of distance. They would dive and then come up closer to me. This continued on up through the final channel before the Crooked Lake boat launch. They did not seem afraid, making low noises to each other which I have not been close enough to hear before. I paddled to the opposite side of the channel; they dove and surfaced on that side. Willow quietly watched them. Once we were a ways past, finally, they let out their wails and I had goose bumps. I’ve never been so close and they are so loud! So beautiful. As I type this in our home on Nose Lake, the local loons have been singing all evening.
This little adventure has helped me to appreciate how good my life is. How fortunate I am to have healthy kids, love in my life, and a job I enjoy.
I would highly recommend everyone take some time to immerse themselves in nature. Bathe in it. Relish it. Soak it in. Return to your life with a renewed sense of spirit.
I went into this weekend well-fed and well-rested. Friday morning TJ and I left, stopping in Merrill along the way to meet up with Steve and go get in line for a good camp spot in the solo riders area. On the way down, it was absolutely pouring rain and I wondered what we were in for. By the time we got in line on Red Bud Road to wait for the gate to open, the rains had stopped. We set up camp and Steve rode the course while I waited for registration to open. I made the switch from 12 to 24 hour competitor, and we left. We had a short visit with my sister, Becky, and then we were off to Merrill for a good night of sleep in a real bed. I painted my nails “Red Carpet”, ate sweet potato/grass-fed beef hash, and was in bed by about 10pm.
Saturday morning I recall waking around 4:30am. I was excited, like I was my first day of kindergarten when I was waiting for the bus at 5 or some ridiculous time. Thankfully I was able to go back to sleep, and got up around 6 to get ready for the day. Typically on the morning of a race I am shaky and nervous. I felt a sense of excitement and anticipation, but in the car I worked on deep breathing and remaining calm. “The eye of the hurricane”. That’s how I want to be. We arrived at the venue shortly after 8.
I sought out a friend who had offered to tape my Achilles. Both bother me but particularly my right, and it had been painful leading up to the event. This friend happens to be an athletic trainer, and did a pro job of getting me all taped up. It immediately felt better!
The weather was cool and it rained off and on. To me it was perfect for mountain biking. Perhaps unexpected at the end of July, but very much welcomed.
This is how I run. I walk.
Racer’s meeting at 9, and then I got my bike ready and waited. Around 9:40 I went to place my bike out of everyone’s way for the Le Mans style start. This is the kind where your bike is laying near the start and you run to it. I think it’s kind of funny, and had never done one myself. However, I know fully that if I run at all my Achilles will take me out of the event. So, I found some folks who intended to walk. One of them, a teammate of mine, suffered from a stroke a few years ago and there he was, racing the 6 hour solo. Absolutely amazing to see his progress! That guy is so inspirational.
Goin’ for a bike ride
Before I knew it, we were off! I walked, half-joking that I was setting my pace for the day. I walked with a fellow who was doing his 3rd 24-hour solo race, from the Twin Cities area. He gave me some advice on when to rest as we walked briskly to our bikes. I saw a friend along the way and stopped for a hug. Hopped on my bike and set out at an easy pace. It only took a couple of minutes and we were all stopped on the trail where hundreds of riders were funneling into the singletrack. See? What good would it have done to run to my bike, anyway? It was quite awhile of very slow riding but people were in good spirits. We stopped several times just due to the number of people trying to ride on rocky, rooty terrain. I was glad it was easy to make that first lap slow and keep an easy pace. I know if I pushed it hard I would regret it later. I enjoyed the energy of the people around me. It seemed that lap 1 and 2 went by in a blur.
1 down, a few more to go!
Ho Chi Min Trail (partial)
Ho Chi Min Cheerleader
One section of the course, lovingly referred to as “Ho Chi Min”, includes an uphill rock garden climb. I’ve never been able to ride it and was not about to expend extra energy trying during a 24 hour event. Walking it gave me the opportunity to cheer on riders, and for several hours there was a guy out there cheerleading, playing music, and drinking beer. I stopped to visit with him for a couple of minutes and took some photos.
Checkpoint Charlie is about 7.5 miles into the 10+ mile laps. These guys had a bar set up with a variety of alcoholic beverages and were blending margaritas for whoever would like one. Lap 3 I indulged in about 1/2 of a shot of tequila. I swear I had an immediate buzz. The trail turns right here and it’s so fun! You barely have to pedal, just hang on and make sure your front tire doesn’t hit a rock the wrong way, and you’re good to go! I decided alcohol would have to wait until after the race. I did stop here every lap through my 7th for a bootie break (get off my saddle for a minute) and water. It was fun watching them play beanbag toss and run the bar. Late in the night I’d ride by with a “WOOOHOOOOOOO!!!” and they would all yell. I proceeded to burp tequila for the next 3 laps.
Lap 2 done, checking Steve off my list of people to ride for.
Speaking of “Woohoo”, I was riding each lap with someone in mind. Of course my mind would wander all over the place as I rode along in my slow rhythm, but I would reel it in and set it on whoever I was riding for that lap. I would imagine them surrounded in a pink light of love and send positive thoughts their way. When I got to one point on the trail, I would jump this dirt bump and catch just a little air, and holler out a “Woohoooo!!”. Around lap 4 a guy was behind me and he just laughed. He said something about some riders being far too serious out there, and when he passed he said he knew I would have a great day 🙂 My last lap was for my inspirational friend, Brenda, and I almost lost the bike out from under me on that dirt bump!
My Achilles was nagging a bit, but not threatening to take me out just yet. I felt it while I rode but especially on my breaks between laps. Typically I’d come in to the pit area, eat, use the bathroom, maybe stretch or change some clothing, and get back out. Anywhere from 5-20 minutes. I was on an adventure, after all, and not racing like those other folks. I had time. I’d feel my Achilles stiff and sore as I walked about, but I could ride alright.
Steve had been watching results and noted I was not in the list of 4 solo woman riders, so he got that straightened out. Thank goodness! I found it motivating to know I was in the lead, but early on that doesn’t mean anything. Just the idea to have led a 24-hour race made me smile. My goals had nothing to do with the outcome. It’s a much bigger picture that I have in mind.
Lap 4 I rode with a friend who was also doing his first 24 solo. It was nice to have the company, especially of someone who was also not in a particular hurry. Steve joined us for the last few miles. He was riding a lap for something to do, and it was nice to visit with him. Lap 4 I rode for Denise, who, if she didn’t have a broken pelvis, would certainly be racing this event. She had told me over the phone a couple of days prior that my lap for her had better be my fastest lap! I figured with the guys riding with me it probably was this one. I sure didn’t intend to go any faster!
Around lap 5 I noticed a pain in my left knee, on the outer aspect. I thought that was interesting. I’d never rode this bike very far since I got it this spring, so I figured it was some positioning issue. Also I was trying to sit as much as possible to avoid aggravating the Achilles. The longest I’ve mountain biked was last year, 62 miles on my singlespeed Rig, and never had a knee issue. On singlespeed, though, there is a lot of standing.
End of lap 7?? Happy happy.
I found some ibuprofen when I came through for a lap, which kind of helped. By lap 6 or 7, though, I was seeking to be taped or something because it was getting quite aggravating. My athletic trainer friend made some neat little bands that went around and just above the knee. She immediately identified it as an IT band issue based on my description of the pain. The funny thing about that is, a few weeks back I was using the foam roller to roll out knots the size of peas in my IT bands (the outer part between the hip and the knee, iliotibial band) and it hurt so bad at the time, I started rolling it with a LaCrosse ball instead but was inconsistent about it. So, I knew they were tight but did not address them properly. Oops. The bands helped keep me going at any rate, although it still hurt. I probably waited too long to ask for help.
My pace was slow and steady. On the longer climbs I would get into my easiest gear and really just soak up the beauty of the forest. It’s a lush green with ferns and rocks, moss, birds singing and the crunch of gravel beneath my tires. At times I’d imagine breathing energy into my legs, or little creatures under my wheels propelling me up the hills. I just go into a different state on something that may otherwise be painful. I was actually finding it easy to go slow. I realize it’s something I’m good at. I can ride a long time as long as I go relatively slow. I resisted the urge to “race” at all. I’d pull over to allow “racers” by and encourage them on their journey. In fact, the entire 24 hours I never felt once as if I were racing. I was riding. Adventuring.
A couple of sections of trail would have rocky and rooty descents and I recall thinking “How can it get any better than this?” So fun!
Crossing Red Bud Road, the party was going strong with spectators and encouragement. They would yell “wheelie!!” Yeah right! I’d certainly crash. I’m actually kind of clumsy and have never done a wheelie. One time I laughed and picked my front tire like an inch off the ground saying “There you go!”. Another time they were all lined up with high fives. Must have gotten 10 high-fives in a row there. Shortly after the crossing back was the gal from Big Ring Flyers team with the rubber chicken squeaking. I love that! Cracks me up every time.
Lap 7 I got wired up with lights, as it had started to get dark in the woods. TJ had warmed the gluten-free chicken, garlic, bacon pizza that Steve had made for me, so I sat and ate supper. I also grabbed my iPod for intermittent music. One of my favorite sections of singletrack I relished the music of a hooting owl at dusk. The change to night was exciting and renewed my energy. Mind you, I’m used to going to bed shortly after sunset these days. I did not look at the time of day at all. It didn’t matter. What mattered was getting 10 laps/100 miles before I laid down.
My stomach wasn’t feeling very great despite my homemade “fuel”. I think I’m just not accustomed to so much carbohydrate, and perhaps the agave nectar doesn’t agree with me as well as maple syrup. It wasn’t unbearable, just annoying like heartburn.
The transition area is very motivational. There are lots of folks waiting for their teammates so they can go out for their lap, and every time I came around I’d hear cheering. That really felt nice. Thank you, friends!
A note on my bike: it is a singlespeed frame. I love riding singlespeed. I’d planned to ride it single and keep my old 1×9 around as a backup. However, leading up to the event, every time I rode my singlespeed my Achilles would flare up for several days. I ran the 11-speed Shimano Alfine rear hub for this event. Lots of guys passed me and because it *looks* like a SS they would say “go singlespeed!” I felt like such a cheater. I really had no time to explain. I’m a singlespeeder at heart, ok? I’ll get back to it, I promise. I do have to say, though, that the upper body strength required for SS is significant and I’d imagine upper body fatigue could have been a major issue had I done it that way.
Riding a mountain bike through the woods at night is pretty incredible. The lights are high-powered, but what is so different is not being able to see so much peripherally. It really takes some anxiety out of the equation. Towards the end of the lap there’s a long, hard-packed downhill section and especially at night it felt like flying through a tunnel.
Lap 8 I rode with Maja, who, as a teen, decided to do a 24-hour duo with her friend Emily. Ambitious girl! She had asked if I’d ride a night lap with her, which I was happy to do. I did find that at night, the rock gardens I had been riding all day had me bouncing precariously and thinking it would be far safer to walk, despite the pain in my legs when walking. I do not currently have health insurance and the risk of a major injury is simply not worth it to me. So, I walked the rocks. No big deal. On an adventure, after all. It seemed every time I was ready to remount and continue my slow pace, there was a line of headlights coming through the woods. So I’d just keep walking until it was clear. No sense in getting started just to have to move out of the way and I certainly didn’t want to hold anyone up! Lap 8 was also the lap I was thinking of trying a different line in what I call the “ninja section” of woods where it is very twisty, tight, and close to trees. It’s just after a really fun section of whoops and speed. I am not a ninja. So I was evaluating how to better negotiate this tight right turn and avoid a tree as well as a couple of rocks, and the next thing I knew I was tangled up with my bike, on the ground, rather unintentionally. I fell on the painful left knee. Maja was there as I extracted myself from my bicycle and assessed things. I was not broken. I knew that would leave a mark, though! It didn’t tickle! It was the kind of bruising you feel when you go over bumps. Good thing there aren’t any of those out on the course (sarcasm).
Lap 9 I rode with me, myself, and iPod. I sang a little. I played dubstep in the singletrack. It was really fun, although I was getting really tired. I think it was on this lap, although it’s a blur, that I was climbing a rooty section and the gal with the rubber chicken was out there squeaking. That made me so happy. At the pits after dark the fire and friends looked inviting, but I was firm in my mind about 10 before I rested. I asked Steve to join me for my 10th lap. I kind of doubted my ability to ride any more than that due to the pain in my left knee. I was afraid when I stopped it would swell like a balloon. Of course the usual stuff hurt that would after riding a long distance. Neck, shoulders, hands, saddle area, fatigued quads… I expect that and it’s no big deal. I had some impressive callouses going on my hands and the couple of times I forgot chamois butter on my pit stop I certainly regretted it. We rode past Checkpoint Charlie and I overheard one of the guys saying it was 3:00am. Goodness! I had kind of hoped to lay down from 1-4, actually. I wanted to get up at 4, have a coffee at Muddy Cup, and catch a sunrise ride. On that 10th lap I enjoyed Steve’s supportive presence. I played my music (mostly Imagine Dragons songs) on the climbs and paused it for the rest, so we could talk or just enjoy the ride. I don’t even remember what we may have talked about. I was exhausted. We came through around 3:30am and there was Denise in the transition area. She encouraged me to head out for 1 more. I couldn’t do it. I had crossed the 100 mile mark and I needed to lay down for a bit. My head hit the pillow at 4:00am.
From 4-5:30 I laid there. I dozed off a couple of times but would wake up. I think it was because there were 2 names left on my list of people to ride for and I was concerned it would take me a long time to accomplish that. I get a goal in my head and unless I am broken, I will get it done. I particularly wanted to ride a lap for Brenda. Although winning this race was never my intention, I knew the lead I had accumulated made it humanly impossible for me to have anything other than 1st place. At that time I had 10 laps and the next woman had 5. By 5:30 my bowels had me out of my warm sleeping bag, shivering my way to a “Tupperware Toilet”. It was 40-some degrees out. Brisk for sure! I took care of business and then wandered to the Muddy Cup. They had a fire going and there were a few people I knew. I sipped a cup of dark coffee and visited with folks. By a little after 6 I was changing in my car, taking my time. I had missed the sunrise ride but that was alright. I needed the rest. I noticed my friend, Beau, was in the car next to mine and his support person was offering him encouragement to go ride. I opened my car door and suggested we go for a little bike ride together. It would be fun. Pretty much every lap I’d leave the pit and say “I’m going on a bike ride, be back in awhile.” I finished getting ready, Beau got ready, and we set out at my super slow pace of getting warmed back up. Everything hurt. Ibuprofen had long since worn off. I may have whined out loud a little. I definitely swore. When I transitioned from sitting to standing or vice versa, the pain in my knee made my eyes water. It felt like a knife stabbing from the outside. Any time I put any force whatsoever into the pedals it would send shooting pains. When I walked it hurt. My Achilles hurt on the right, but that pain in my left knee was excruciating. I wanted to cry. I wanted 12 laps. I wanted to finish with a lap for my childhood best friend, who left this world when I turned 18 at the hands of someone else. I thought maybe I’d consult with my athletic trainer friend and ask her, if I continued, what would the worst case scenario be? The decision to go sit down in the pit and think it over was made. I did not cross the finish line, because to do so would require I go out for another lap. I ducked under the tape, found a chair, visited with friends around a fire…. at 8:00am I opened a celebratory beer (yes, beer in the morning, gluten-free of course). I was up by 5 laps and saw the 2nd place gal go out for another. I knew I was done. My body was broken. However, I had met my goal of at least 10 laps and was still smiling. I had taken a long adventure and loved every moment. I had to wait until 10:00 am to cross the finish line. Our pit neighbors, all the way from Texas, were cheering on the racers with a microphone and TJ joined in with the vuvuleza. Those guys were hilarious! Dollar bill butt crack handups, beer handups, pro level heckling, cowbell and vuvuzela into the microphone…. great for morale! Big Pig Racing. Hope to see them again.
At 10:00 I put my bike shoes and helmet back on. TJ got on his bike and, vuvuzela in hand, rode with me to the line, cheering me on. It hurt sooooo bad to pedal. I had to ride in my easiest gear. My knee was in such pain I was glad I had made the decision to be done at 11 laps.
Finish Line. Thanks for the encouragement, TJ!
I could never have done it without my support crew. Steve is absolutely the most supportive partner I’ve ever had. I know I can count on him no matter what. My youngest son, TJ, has a heart of gold. One lap through he had bacon waiting for me. Another lap through it was a cup of dark coffee. Anything I asked for, they made it happen. I hope I give them enough appreciation and gratitude. Shannon with her skill and willingness to patch my legs together and keep me pedaling for so long…. friendly words of encouragement everywhere I went…. I am truly surrounded by love in this world. It’s beautiful.
Winning the Wausau 24 solo was never on my radar. I know other women who can ride double my laps in that amount of time. I wanted to check this experience off of my bucket list, and see how far I could ride my mountain bike in a place that I love. As it turns out, I won by over 40 miles. I guess I’m pretty good at going slow for a long time. I guess my body is very amazing and capable even with a few extra pounds. In fact those extra energy stores may have helped in this case. It seems kind of surreal to me that I won. This morning (the morning after) my body is sore pretty much everywhere. Talk about a hangover!! I move like an old lady. Stairs are not my friend. I will take some time to rehabilitate and nourish myself, looking forward to life’s next great adventure :-).
This is my bucket list. I wrote it out last summer, sitting by a stream in the Porcupine Mountains in the early morning, on my Lake Superior Soul Ride trip. Yes, it does involve a lot of bicycle riding and learning! Top of the list is going to be this weekend. 24 Solo. Wausau 24 is a mountain bike race which starts Saturday at 10:00 and ends Sunday at 10:00. I have been wanting to try it for several years. I’ve raced 12-hour duos and I ride 100+ miles on my road bike without any problems, so I figure I may as well give it a go.
I learned a long time ago, when I was numb from my waist down for a 4-week period, to do the things I want to. There are no guarantees on tomorrow. I am here now, capable and strong.
My desire is nothing at all to do with a podium spot. In fact, I’m looking at is as an “adventure” rather than a race. I simply want the experience. I want to know what it’s like to ride in the middle of the night. I want to see the sun rise through the trees in the forest.
9 Mile forest has a special energy to me and I cannot explain why. It’s a good vibe.
The only issue I’ve had this year, which may cause me to stop sooner than I’d like, is Achilles tendinitis. I’ve been resting, icing, elevating, massaging, foam rollering, compressioning, and kinesio-taping :-p the past couple of weeks in an effort to rid myself of the pain.
Other than that, I feel mentally prepared after today. I sat down to write this blog post last night but my head hurt. I was all jumbled up inside. Today I reached out to an energy healer and went in for a treatment. So healing…. so intuitive…. all of my blocked up energy feels free. This is what my heart wants to do.
I will attach a deeper meaning to the event. While I aim to have LOTS of fun, I will put my focus on something bigger than myself. I will have a white board in my pit area with a name by every lap that I ride. I am going to ride that lap for that person and keep them in mind as I go. In no particular order, these are the people I will ride for (although many others inspire me, I cannot ride hundreds of laps!!):
1. Me – I am really working on loving me unconditionally. It’s been a struggle for the past 1.5 years or so, but that’s another story.
2. Steve – I have never felt to much love and support from a partner. I asked the Universe to provide the perfect partner for me and the Universe came through!
3. My sister, Becky – she had a brain hemorrhage as an infant and will never walk, let alone ride a bike.
4. My oldest son, Dustin – he taught me what love really is, 18 years ago.
5. My daughter, Laina – what a beautiful soul. The necklace I will wear for the race is one she made and reminds me of her positive attitude in the face of adversity.
6. My youngest son, TJ – he and his golden heart will be part of my “pit crew”.
7. Denise Coppock – she would ride it if she hadn’t broken her pelvis. I’ll ride a lap for her.
8. Todd, one of my besties – a true friend even when I’m making stupid decisions. Thank you for being there.
9. Margaret, one of my besties – always so encouraging. Thanks for your endless hours of listening to me when I was going through some tough times. I’ll never forget when we were nervous Citizen racers on the start line and struck up a conversation. Pole dancing lessons. Kombucha buzzes. Hugs and unconditional love.
10. Crille/Chris, one of my besties – thank you for being so supportive and your limitless patience in my learning of Swedish (darn those r’s).
11. Connie, my childhood bestie – her life was taken shortly before she turned 18. I wonder what she would be doing these days if she were still on this earth.
12. Brenda – talk about a beautiful soul and that smile just lights me up. Amazing, inside and out. I’m so glad to know you.
Any more than 12 and I will make it up as I’m inspired.
Here is a quote from Willow Rockwell’s book, My Wheels Gave Me Wings, in regards to a bike ride: “…limitless opportunities to explore the energy of the universe and the unlimited potential of the cosmos.” What’s on your bucket list? What are you waiting for? Feel free to comment below.
When I go on long rides, I like to attach some significance for it and keep that at the forefront of my mind as I pedal the hours away. It occurred to me as I was already well into this one, that I didn’t do any of that. I had a weekend to myself, I love to experience the beautiful countryside of the northwoods at a bicycle pace, and I suppose
I was asking my body what it thinks of the possibility of crossing “Race Wausau 24 mountain bike race as a solo rider” off of my bucket list this year. So, nothing profound on this trip. Just experience. I’ve had long rides, but never back-to-back century days.
Food & Maps
As always I relished the planning. Mapping, portable healthy foods, stops, choosing a scenic destination. I finally broke down and bought my own panniers this past week. I also acquired the old Bibler tent which has been around the world on a bike, which I used on my Lake Superior trip last summer. This time I planned a route which would take me to Lake of The Falls near Mercer, Wisconsin. “The loon capital of the world”. There is a county park for camping, and I was able to come up with a twisting, indirect route to total 100 or more miles each day.
My daughter, who is 16, stated on Friday evening that she would get up early and start her own 50-mile ride at the same time I started mine. How cool is that?? I made a route for her that would take her with me the first 25 miles, then we would split off. Actually she ended up doing that 50 mile route as well as another on Sunday. Impressive!
Saturday morning I awoke around 4:40am. I showered and dried my hair so it would be somewhat manageable for the weekend. Then I realized it was raining steadily. I ate, dawdled, drank coffee, put kinesio tape on my lower legs, looked at the radar…. it would rain for quite awhile yet. So much for 30% chance. Thanks, weatherman. I don’t mind at all if it starts raining when I’m riding. I am kind of fond of the feeling, actually. However, I do not like to start in the rain. Especially cold rain. I just won’t do it. I will be riding almost all day with breaks, and I do not want to be damp the whole time. Besides, what would that do for my saddle area?? My daughter woke up and was fine with going, rain or shine. I put my tent and sleeping bag inside a garbage bag, refastened everything, and off we went!
Yes, those are Breathe Right strips.
Now, the wind typically comes from the south/southwest. We were heading north/northwest. On this day it was coming from the north and it was significant, even at 6:30am when we began the ride! “Good thing I have all day”, I thought. We skirted around Rhinelander, dipping south briefly and then west/northwest to the corner of County K and Highway 51. It was slow going, but nice to have the company of my daughter. The rain continued the whole time. We stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break, had a bite to eat, and with a hug we went our separate ways. Soaked.
Near the Willow Dam
I continued on Swamp Lake Road. It starts out smooth enough but quickly turns rough. I had been forewarned! Totally rideable and quite scenic, it took me to County Y where I turned north, to Willow Dam Road, to Crystal Falls Road (one of my favorites) all the way to Hazelhurst. I stopped roadside to shed some layers and eat some trail mix. The rain had stopped and I was ready to listen to some of my favorite tunes on my little old iPod Shuffle. I had been on most of these roads before, but at this point I was venturing into new territory. Lower Kaubashine and Camp 9 Road were absolutely beautiful! I crested a hill and surprised a whitetail doe, who also surprised me. I saw little farms with sheep and horses, small lakes, rolling hills…. all the way to Highway 70. From 70 I went into the Indian Reservation, along Thoroughfare Road. I completely missed a turn in my mapping, so at the end I thought I was to go right and be in Lac du Flambeau for a much-needed break. The rain had started again and wind was not backing off. I rode a few miles and decided to pull off on a little side road to check my map/take a natural break. The mosquitoes were so bad
Lac du Flambeau
there was no chance of squatting in the woods! I also realized that I was going the wrong way. A few miles back the way I came, and a few more, and I was in Lac Du Flambeau. I toured around looking for a coffee shop. Settled for a gas station. Went across the road to the casino where I was able to charge my phone and eat a salad. It reeked of cigarette smoke from the moment I stepped in. When I finished eating, I walked about (garnering interesting looks from those who were not entranced by the machines they were sitting in front of). It saddened me to see all of these souls, looking so unhealthy and devoid of life, plugging money or cards into machines. How boring! I put $1 into a machine, pulled the lever, lost my dollar, and got back to my ride 🙂 Back to the 18mph headwind, that is.
Roadside along Highway 47
I took Cemetery Road and several of the homes were boarded up. Children were playing in a few of the yards and waved as I rode by. Dogs barked. As I got further up, it turned beautiful again. It connected back to Highway 47 and I turned north. My next road was to be River. When I reached it, there was a sign stating “Minimally Maintained”. It looked more like an ATV trail. It was to be a pretty long section, and given the bike I was on, I kept rolling along the highway. Not looking for that kind of adventure on this trip. I rode through Powell Marsh. It was so windy!! Between the wind and the load I was carrying, I was fighting for 15mph. I would get down into my aero bars and start cranking, then realize the foolishness of doing such a thing. I had to ride another 100 miles the next day, after all. I would shift down and spin an easy gear, cover up my speedometer, and try to just enjoy the scenery. I stopped a couple of times to take photos.
Grasses in Powell Marsh, blowing the opposite direction of the way I am headed.
Around mile 90 I had to work on mental toughness. I felt beat down. My feet had been wet all day, my saddle felt hard as a rock, and the gusts of wind nearly stopped me. I wanted to be done. I would do my best to duck out of the wind for awhile and then sit back up, defeated by Mother Nature. I reached Highway 51, exhausted. Funny how a change of direction can change a
mindset, though. A sign stated that Mercer was a mere 3 miles away. Yes! That put the pep in my pedals. I was happy to see Clair d’ Loon welcoming me town. Of course I had to stop for a photo. From there I stopped at a gas station for drinking water, a bathroom, and to inquire about any local coffee shops. Turns out there was one, only a block away. Looney Beans. I sat by the air conditioner and sipped a Backroads Coffee Co. French roast. I charged my phone and wrote in my notebook. Less than 10 miles left to the campground. I savored the coffee. The atmosphere was quite different and I will share more about that in a little bit. The barista was the 11-year-old daughter of the owner. She was doing a great job getting drinks and working the cash register.
Back on the bike, I headed north up Highway 51 to County FF. What a scenic road!
Gorgeous! Some of the hills made me work pretty hard, but I had it in me to stand and power over the top. I arrived at the camp ground and selected my site. There were only a couple other campers there. It felt so good to take my wet shoes off. I promptly found the canoe launch and took a full dunk in the lake. It felt *amazing*. I put on a flowy, light skirt and a tank top and went about setting up camp. I love, love, love that old tent. It came with a rich history and I feel privileged to own it.
Shortly after my arrival, my good friend Crille and his 2 dogs pulled up. Crille was my designated person to keep a copy of my route and have me report in at my stops, for safety. He had asked if they might come visit camp for a bit in the evening, since they don’t live too far away. He recently returned from a trip home to Sweden. I thought it would be nice to see photos and hear stories. He started unloading his truck. A grill, cooler, firewood…. and proceeded to grill steak, sweet potatoes, asparagus, green beans and red peppers. Something about a can of sardines not being good enough after a 100 mile ride. He set about starting a camp fire. We walked over to the “falls”. At least I think that’s what it was. It was more or less a man-made dam with a rapids below. Maybe the actual waterfall is somewhere else? I don’t know, and I didn’t feel like going off in search of it. I felt more like eating and visiting around a fire. The food was amazing, and I was stuffed! If I was hiring a soigneur, Crille would be it! Here are some photos of the area around the campground:
Ginormous rock by the road. I like rocks.
More campers had pulled in over the course of the evening. I enjoyed photos and stories from Sweden, ate bacon for dessert, washed it down with a glass or 2 of red wine, and said goodbye to my friend. As I walked to the bathroom and back I noticed lightning bugs. It was a chilly evening and I snuggled into my sleeping bag. Around 10:30pm the country music was blaring, the rope lights polluted the darkness, and my camp neighbors were pretty well drunk. When they would be quiet for a few moments I could hear the rapids. I decided I prefer back country camping. I mean, I loved being able to have a fire, but other than that I believe my camping will be away from campgrounds for the most part in the future. I tossed and turned all night. I was cold and using my long-sleeved jersey as a pillow. Although I did not hear any loons in the loon capital of the world, the coyotes raised a ruckus during the night. Now that is a cool sound! So wild! There were apparently several of them.
Morning fog on the lake
I was awake at 4:30am but too chilly to get up. I tried to sleep a little more but couldn’t. I listened to the birds while it got light out. I did some reading and reflecting
from my journal from last year. The cell service was darn near non-existent, but I was able to get a current temperature of 42° around 5:30. Brrr…… didn’t bring knee covering. I dressed, wearing my knee-high compression stockings to help keep warm. I ate trail mix and beef jerky for breakfast while I broke camp. My thermos of coffee from the day before was lukewarm but at least it was coffee. I walked down by the lake for a couple of photos.
Ready for Day 2, Breathe Right
dork strip included!
6:30am, on the bike. Highway FF and the brilliant sun… you know, rain and wind make a person appreciate the absence of rain and wind :-).
FF is twisty and hilly, and there was already a fair amount of traffic. I saw a coyote cross the road but missed the camera shot. Stopped for a photo of the roadside wild flowers:
It seemed much shorter going out than coming in. Highway 51 has some beautiful scenery as well:
Back in Mercer, I stopped in at Looney Beans for a good cup of coffee. This is not your big-city coffee shop! There were 2 older gentleman talking about a bear a friend got the previous day. They struck up a conversation and we chatted over coffee for awhile. One of the gentleman asked if it was me riding out on FF a little while ago. He said it was hard to see me due to the glare of the sun and the curvy nature of the road. I do dress brightly for that reason but still, it’s a risk. I realize that. He said I waved, and I tend to do that. I told him that was my “Thanks for not running
me over” wave and he chuckled. He left to go deal with the bear meat. A fisherman came in to order a latte. I had to snap a photo. Check out the barista. This is a northwoods coffee shop, all the way! Nice folks, though. Apparently they own the bait shop next door. The woman in charge also does logging and runs the heavy equipment. According to this fellow, she is the boss, no questions asked!
From Mercer I took county highways up to the Michigan border. Plenty of sunshine and a beautiful route. I love seeing the “Rustic Road” signs. Plenty of exquisite scenery. The smells of the forest and flowers this time of the year are incredible and I breathe it in as deeply as possible. Cedar swamps have a fragrance that is absolutely heavenly. Too bad no photo will allow you to experience it. I suppose you all will have to just get outdoors and get it first-hand!
Here are some photos from the road:
Doe on the side of the road
Mile after mile of this
And then there I was. At da U.P., eh.
I took a roadside break to relieve my bladder and shed some clothing. All warmed up!
So my bike is kind of a mutt. It’s not meant for touring. It has no rack mount. I use hose clamps to put the rack on. I have a time trial seat post and aero bars from days gone by when I thought I might get into TT racing. However, I have to say on a long solo ride I love spending time in the aero bars. It’s quite comfortable and nice to have
another position option. Also I’m glad my bike has a triple front ring. Definitely used that on some Iron County hills, hauling a load up them. Although I could probably power up, it would be foolish with the amount of miles I plan to be riding. I whisked along with a slight tailwind. Oh, gracious tailwind.
Had to slow down to avoid hitting a grouse. Passed many small lakes. Passed a mailbox painted like the Swedish flag.
Welcome to Presque Isle
It was around here I started having to take bootie breaks. My backside hurt something awful.
Another doe. Can you see her?
Big Lake Bootie Break
Highway P going towards Boulder Junction was beautiful. Another rolling, twisting, forested gem of a road. I pulled into Big Lake state campground for a bootie break, about 10 miles out of Boulder Junction.
By the time I got to Dancing Bear coffee shop in Boulder Junction I was ready for a significant break. 50 miles in, or 150 into my 200 mile trip, I sat in the grass by my bike, took my shoes off, at a tin of sardines and rested before going in for coffee. My legs were fatigued but the worst was from sitting on the seat with a crap chamois.
Happily, they have almond milk and even gluten-free almond-based cookies. Umm, yes please!! I ate 2 cookies there and purchased 2 more to take home and share with my daughter. I used the restroom and slathered on the chamois butter. I really took my time at this place and didn’t leave until I was good and ready. I even made a dragon fly friend who happened to land on me while I was putting my helmet on. I went to restart my Strava app and realized I never restarted it 10 miles back at my bootie break. Crap!
From Boulder Junction I hopped on and off the paved bike path. The breeze had picked up, so at times it was a good way to be a bit sheltered. Of course on a Sunday afternoon there were others out riding. Going 18-20mph is not how most of them ride, so if I saw a group ahead I’d cut out onto the highway for a while. I do enjoy those trails. At one point I had to let out a “Woohoooooooo!”.
Time flew by and before I knew it I was in Saint Germain. Just in time for their 4th of July parade! Cars were parked randomly on the bike path and it was a bit of a zoo. Nice to see such a turnout, though, and a perfect afternoon for them. My last coffee shop stop was on the other side of town. Red Canoe. I sipped an iced almond milk coffee, ate trail mix, and put my feet up. I practiced learning Swedish. “Min rumpa är öm.” I used every last bit of chamois butter, pretty sure it would leak through. Don’t care. 26 miles to go. I can do this.
15 miles to go. I can’t stand it. This hurts so bad! My legs feel strong. My body feels strong. My butt hurts. I hate this saddle for long distances. Also the only bike shorts that seem to work well are my 6-year-old Pearl Izumis and they’re threatening to fall apart. They were still wet from the previous day or I’d have worn them again. So there I am, standing at the roadside of Pine Lake Road and County D, just hating on that saddle. I whined. I ate some sweet potato. I ate some trail mix. I whine some more. I knew it was less than an hour home. After several minutes I got going again. My legs actually felt, despite a bit sore, incredibly strong. I may never have long and lean legs, but I’ll tell you what. My short little legs are amazing. I was able to stand and truck up some hills. I felt the sunlight pouring through my helmet and into my body as it had been all day. I felt grateful as I approached 100.0 miles on my odometer. This body may never be one of a model, but it’s damn healthy and strong!
Almost home! Love this little lake.
I did not find an answer to the question about whether to race 24 solo this year. On the one hand, there are no guarantees I’ll have another chance. I’ve learned not to put things off in life, and to seize the opportunity. I’ve been putting in a lot of miles and my body responds pretty well to distance. With the exception of one thing. My Achilles. Or, this year, my Achilles’. Both of them. Mountain biking is a different animal, too. It’s much more physically demanding. If I were to race it, the point would be the experience. The outcome holds nothing for me. I don’t care about podiums any more. I’ve raced a lot over the past 5 years. I want new experiences that have nothing to do with what other people are doing. I want to know how far I can go, in harmony with my body. I want to ride in the middle of the night. As I write this on Monday, it is painful to my Achilles’ to walk. I rode last weekend at a pace which allowed me to breathe deeply through my nose with the exception of particularly steep hills. In other words, I didn’t push it hard. So, I don’t know? Either I race 24, or 12 solo which I am signed up for, or find a partner and have a really freakin’ good time. Completely undecided. I do know I don’t want to wreck my body and be unable to purely enjoy long rides, as I do now. I get so much out of them. Heck, if I want to “race” I can go throw down on the boys’ Wednesday night group ride.
And then there I was. In my front yard, flopped down in the grass, reveling in the experiences I’d had over the last 2 days. 207 miles total. 207 amazing miles. How do we know what we’re capable of unless we get out there beyond our comfort zone? Really there is nothing special about me as a cyclist. I spent the majority of my life not taking good care of my health and am still on the border of overweight. My point is, get out there and experience life. You don’t need the latest and greatest to do it. You certainly don’t need to wait for someone else to do it with you or for you. You don’t even need a perfect weather forecast. Get out there. Have an adventure. Just go for it. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Today, as I was enjoying the crisp and brilliant fall day from the seat of my road bike, I felt that this is the time to tell my MS story. I hope that by sharing I might inspire others, as that appears to be my calling in this life.
In fall of 2001, I woke up one day just like any other. My feet were “asleep”. You know that pins-and-needles feeling that you get when you lay on your arm? It was like that. Except it did not go away. Over the course of the next few days, it spread upward.
Me in 2000
Let’s rewind just a little bit here. At 5’1” I was about 165# and gaining. I had very little self-control when it came to food choices. I recall many times when I’d bake something for my husband and small children, and proceed to eat it all throughout the day. Not only did I make poor food choices, but I was very sedentary. I had never been physically active. Now, as a mom of three small children, I felt exhausted all of the time. I had very little self-esteem.
The tingling went on up to my waist. Believe me when I tell you, everything was numb from the waist down. Everything. Not only that, but my sense of depth perception was off. I was working part-time as a school bus driver, and one day I backed into a pole due to my depth perception. I quit the job at that time. I had a hard time walking and had to pay a lot of attention, because I wasn’t sure about where my feet were.
This was quite alarming, and I have to thank my mom for helping me through the battery of tests that I went through. Some of it is kind of a fog to me yet. I seem to recall a nerve conductivity test (EMG?), being on steroids, and being scared to death of my future. The definitive test was the MRI, which revealed two active brain lesions. I was started on daily injections for a medication to slow the progression of the disease. I do remember having welts on my welts. I remember looking at mobility options. Mind you, I was in my late 20’s at the time. I prepared myself for the possibility of needing a service dog for stability. I struggled to carry my toddler around and feared losing my balance with him.
Looking back, this was just the wake-up call that I needed. I was obese and unhappy. When a friend of mine challenged me to see who could lose the most weight by a certain date, I turned to the Atkins diet. I removed grains from my diet. Slowly, my symptoms went away. I started to exercise, first by doing Tae Bo in my living room. It felt good to get my heart rate up! I quit the daily injections and committed to getting my health in order. I called it a healthy denial. I wanted to give MS the big FU.
Followup MRI showed a healing of the lesions which had been active, so I continued to do what I was doing in the way of diet and exercise.
The only time I’ve had a recurrence of symptoms was in 2009. I had reintroduced grains into my diet, thinking I needed them to fuel my new love of cycling. I was under a lot of stress at the time. In 2010 I gave up grains again in an attempt to alleviate irritable bowel symptoms. I have had zero relapses of multiple sclerosis since.
My own theory on it is that for me personally, grains cause systemic inflammation. It turns out there are many other sources of carbohydrate for fueling my body. This is only my experience, and I realize it does not apply to everyone. It is simply my observation over the years of what works for me.
I fell in love with bicycling in 2007. In 2008 I decided to try our local mountain bike race. I had never been athletic or competitive in my life, so it was a huge step for this former gym-class-skipper. I won my class. I’ve been racing ever since. It has been a growing process, but since I have detached myself from the outcome or awards in my races, it is pure joy. When I think about where I came from and what I have overcome in my life, just the fact that I am out there doing it is a win. That’s all I need. My life is so much richer and fuller in every way since I had my wakeup call.
This may explain to those close to me, why I seem impulsive at times. This also has a lot to do with why I push myself physically and test my limits.
My message is this: There are no guarantees on tomorrow!! You can do and be anything you want to in this life. Now get out there and do it!
“Your adversity is your greatest teacher.” – Paul Chek