Friday, July 14, 2017

And I don't care if I sing off key

 On Monday I freaked myself out when I went to the gym and failed to lift the weights I'd managed the week prior. It wasn't a small slip. Last week I was doing three sets of 12 reps each, and this week I strained to eke out a single rep. A person secure in their health would probably just think, "Oh, I'm probably just tired from the backpacking trip." But my brain sent out all the alarm signals. "You finally ruined yourself with that backpacking trip! Your muscles are atrophied! You are dying, for real this time!"

I know I'm not dying. I mean, on the grand scale, yes I am dying. Even on the daily scale, there is a small chance I will die. But it's likely quite small. It's just that I haven't been feeling all that great since early June, and the insecurities build. My hair is falling out again. It probably won't all fall out, but it might. What will life be like as a bald woman? Do I care about my hair more than I care about breathing well, having a sharp mind and decent physical fitness? Well, no. But I do care. But it probably won't happen. But what if?

I try to keep this jittery negative feedback loop to myself, because if I complain, I will probably be laughed at. It's fair. I am blowing all of this out of proportion. There's a process and it takes time. Even my endocrinologist balked when I requested a blood test this month — she thinks I'm well enough to start having them every two months, and soon four. But I managed to schedule one on Wednesday. I find out the results next week. They're probably benign ... but what if?

So I avoided the urge toward gloom by recommitting to the gym — three times a week! Maybe four! — and not feeling bad about not going outside when it's hot and thunderstormy and polleny and buggy and grumble grumble summer. My winter. The "off season." Still, an opportunity presented itself to go for a longer ride on Thursday. I looked at a map, which always sparks curiosity — "oh, I haven't explored that road. Or that one. Or that one." A newfound excitement took over and soon I'd drawn a route topping 100 miles. Scratched a few things off. Brought it down to 70. "Seems doable."

 Early in the ride my front tire sprung a leak and spewed out most of the sealant and air. It eventually sealed, but I only bothered to pump a little bit of air back in, and spent miles feeling anxious about springing another leak (and having to put in a tube! The horror!) I traced a largely abandoned forest road around Gross Reservoir and pondered how much of the forest would be leveled by a proposed expansion project. This led to unnecessary anger about the expansion project. From there I plodded west toward billowing cumulonimbus clouds that darkened and started dumping rain before noon. I was sheltered by forest and most of the electricity sounded far away, so I was grateful for the cooling deluge. My silly anxieties began to wash away.

 The roads grew more rutted, steeper, and rockier. I began to struggle. And when I say struggle, I really mean struggle. I do not mean that my quads started to burn as I powered up the climbs. I mean that I pushed my bike for a dozen or so steps before stopping to catch a quick breath. Then I took a few more steps. My lungs felt ragged and I was dizzy. It took me nearly two hours to travel five miles. It was all quite silly. Why was I doing this? I plodded to a clearing at 11,000 feet and looked east. The storms had started to clear and the foothills were shrouded in haze — likely smoke from all the fires burning to the west. A grin spread across my face. I didn't even know why I was so giddy. It wasn't the most beautiful view, or the most unique. It was trees and hills and the world doesn't change all that much in the span of what, 25 miles? Is that all I'd ridden so far? Twenty-five miles? It felt as though I'd bashed my way through great hardship and emerged victorious at the top of a mountain. I think that's why I continue to seek out these efforts amid my limitations. In spite of them, if ever so briefly, I can experience a world without limits.

 From there, all I needed to do was descend from 11,000 feet. I bounced over rocks and skidded on gravel as the road gradually widened and improved until I was screaming forward with that smile plastered across my face and cheeks burning from the windchill. Finally, the blurry world sharpened and I slowed to a roll at the bottom of the hill, where I realized I was in Central City. Central City is not close to Boulder. Not at all. I guess the map measured this route at 70 miles for a reason.

 There was a bit of wheezing as I climbed a thousand feet and descended and climbed another thousand into Golden Gate State Park. Then climbed some more. All of those foothills I saw from up high — I pretty much had to climb all of them. Once I hit the flats, I still had twelve miles to pedal into town, largely into a headwind. Comparatively, this was coasting, and with 70 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing behind me, my lungs had relaxed and my legs were finally feeling a bit of pep. I was in a great mood, bolstered by Sia music:

"And I don't care if I sing off key.
I find myself in my melodies. 
I sing for love, I sing for me.
I shout it out like a bird set free ..."

Have I been set free? Am I cured? Probably not. But I'm not imaginary dying, and that's what matters. 


  1. You know, backpacking even for a few days, jumping in and doing 20 plus mile days, is more tiring than people realize. It's just a whole different endeavor than anything else. I'm always tired after one of my sections. Rest! Ps. I seem to be losing hair too. And yes. I freak out also.

    1. I wish fatigue could describe the way I feel. My experience has always been best described by asthmatics — like breathing through a straw, or straining to sit up with a 300-pound man on my chest. I now know I don't just have asthma, but I still believe I have issues with asthma. The thyroid hormones may have triggered it, and still contribute to it.

      The reason I become so frustrated is because I'm not tired. I have the equivalent of an out-of-shape smoker's respiratory system, and a body that's still in decent shape and consequently quite bored. The breathing thing does cause me to feel bad, which does take some (sometimes a lot) of the joy out of activity.

      My problems with weight lifting were strange. I have suspicions that my T4 has shot way up again, which causes muscle weakness and eventually muscle wasting. I'll know more on Monday.

  2. The Gross decision is awful. You may not know that a huge clear-cutting project was approved by the USFS on almost the same day. That project is centered by my house. We've been fighting both of these projects for years and years. I am utterly demoralized.

    As for your ride, I love how a simple bike ride can feel like a journey - going through so many ups and downs during the ride. I'm glad that you felt better by the end of that very long ride! I hope that you continue to enjoy the good days!

    1. I'm not aware of that clear-cutting project. I need to do more reading and write some letters. I share your fear that it may have no effect. Our neighbors on Flagstaff are entering panic mode about the Gross Reservoir project.

    2. Clear cutting, or thinning? I didn't know they were doing much clear cutting these days.

  3. Prowling around the back roads as you do, you could write a guide book - Gravel Rides of the Front Range.

    1. Here's a loop a friend of mine did, including roads on the north side of Boulder Creek. It may include some roads new to you, I never knew that Logan Hill Rd. went all the way thru.

    2. Thanks Joe. That loop is somewhat similar to a route I rode today. It was a relatively bad breathing day and I spent far too much time walking on that Arkansas Mountain trail — eroded, steep, loose chunder. Other than that it was a fun explore of the Sugarloaf hillsides.


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