Monday, January 25, 2016


It's a good thing I like school. When I started talking to my professors about going to grad school, one thing they all said was, you have to be willing to sacrifice everythingfamily, friends, hobbies, homesto philosophy. I didn't listen. So it's a good thing I like school, because I sacrificed all that other stuff.

The past six months have been the hardest since about a decade ago. I don't know if I'm worse off or better than that time. I don't think that's relevant. But if you do some digging you'll notice something about that decade ago mark. That's the time I started this blog. It's also the time when I started racing ultras. Those were my ways of coping with my problems and they worked pretty well.

Unfortunately, I've sacrificed those things and now I'm paying the price. Luckily, I've learned a few things in the intervening time. The big one is, keep busy. I'm okay when I have something going on. Two days of my week I'm so busy I forget to feel terrible. Those are my favourite days. Then there are weekends. Weekends are bad.  Weekends I don't have anything going on and I haven't found anything yet to take the place of the kind of mind-numbing bike ride that made training for ultras so satisfying.

So I've had to find things to fill the time. To that end I've started going to the gym. I hate gyms and I've railed against them in this blog before, but they're saving me now. I can thrash myself on a rowing machine, go through my lifting routine, and then take a few minutes to relax in the sauna (not as good as a Finnish sauna, but it'll do). Biking is out, I tried one final time and—just no. Skiing is out too—too expensive and far to travel.  Running still has potential, but I need to get back on that wagon. We'll see if I can find some races to work toward.

I've also started writing. I got a good taste of it in my last two semesters at ISU and I've gotten too much encouragement to let it drop. I like it in much the same way that I like ultras, but really it's more like working on bikes. To write a story you have to take something apart—whatever that core idea is, the thing that must be told—see how it works and then put it back together. And if it's put back together in the right way you'll find that it works better than before. I won't claim that I'm any good at it. Others will have to make that judgment. But I've found a writing group, a place to workshop. They seem to like my stuff so far—even if it isn't their usual romance and thriller fare.

As the semester progresses and I become busier I'll probably become happier. Sometimes I think this is what it's all about, jumping from one distraction to another. If you're lucky those distractions are positive and lead to better and more fulfilling distractions. If you're not they compound and grow in on themselves in a sneaky hate spiral.   

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Working Man's Hero

Moving to Vancouver has been tougher than expected. I'm not sure what I expected, but I had been told, and had been expecting that it was a more bike friendly city. Oh, sure, I can see the mountains from my office (when it isn't foggy). And there are bears and trees. But riding my bike, riding the way I used to ride, is out of the question.

When I trained for Trans Iowa, Arrowhead, Dirty Kansa, and Tuscobia, among others, I trained daily, but it wasn't a burden. I was always shocked by the time and money that people would throw into their workouts, as though they had to become a martyr to the race. All I did was go out for an hour ride after work. This wasn't a big deal. I'd cycle home, change clothes, and head out for fifteen, or so, miles of gravel. It took me about ten minutes to get out of town and then I could really go. I never considered getting in a car or taking the bus to a destination and then riding.

But I can see that this isn't realistic here. Riding in the city isn't something done lightly. There are few trails, the trails that do exist go nowhere, and, while there are bike lanes on some roads, I felt safer riding on highways without shoulders back in Iowa. I was reminded of this when I was back in Ames over the break. I rode from my old apartment to the movie theater, in the dark, through the snow, without a helmet, in the part of town I would never go to when I lived there because it was inaccessible by bike (South Duff, for those who know). And I was able to do it without ever having someone cut me off, honk at me, or box me in: three things that often happen to me in Vancouver.

One might defend this city by pointing to all the beautiful mountains and all the great mountain bike trails. One might mention all the bike lanes downtown, or the trails in North Vancouver. But these are destination rides. Getting there would mean an hour+ on the bus or a long ride through the 'burbs. Sure, there are fifteen-year-olds who use the 145 bus as a shuttle up Burnaby mountain, on their $5k downhill bikes. Sure, I see folks driving their carbon wonders around on top of their Audis. But I don't have the time or money for that kind of “riding,”

This adjustment has been the hardest thing about coming to this city. Maybe I am beginning to understand why the martyr attitude is normal.