Back to Back

I was up early this morning – I hadn’t really planned on blogging today, but I’m trying to be more connected and less siloed in this work, so when anxiety got me up a bit earlier than I planned, I came to you. I’ve been waking up really early the last little bit.  I wake up and then lie there, and start to turn a thousand problems and ideas over in my head and then realize I can’t get back to sleep, and then figure I’m wasting time two ways, by not sleeping and not working, and figure that if I can’t do one I should do the other.  (I also spend time wondering if  being sure that people are having fun without me, and giving myself stern talkings to about bitterness, choices I have made, and the inappropriateness of developing feelings of the former in relation to the latter and working on being a better person. This morning looking at instagram I was briefly bitter that I wasn’t on the vacation of a person I’ve never even met. That’s stress trying to screw my scene again. I’m not having it, and besides yachts don’t look that fun anyway.)

So, here I am, and I’m sitting on my front steps with my knitting and my coffee and my cycling shoes, looking at my garden, feeling happy that it doesn’t seem to be as scorching as yesterday and getting ready to start my back to backs.

(This is just a quick scarf/cowl thing – I had a knitting emergency on my way to the cottage when I realized I was going to finish my cowl and didn’t have something else to knit, so I grabbed a needle and a ball of yarn that didn’t need winding and when I got there, I let Megan pick the pattern.  She chose the Peace of Wild Things shawl, and the yarn is Berroco’s Ultra Wool Fine, in Denim. One ball does it.This is a super fast knit – even with my current knitting-time drought it’s coming together.)

Now, until I became the Chair of the Rally, there wasn’t a ton about it that gave me the willies anymore. There are parts of it that I don’t enjoy – like the hills or the heat (or the rain or the spiders) but after a few years of doing the thing there were two things I know about the stuff that’s not fun. First, I can do it, because I’ve done it before, and second, because I’ve done it before I know exactly how much it’s going to suck.  I take a lot of deep breaths. Now, since I became the Chair, there’s a lot that gives me the willies. As a rider, rain sucks. As the Chair, the thought leaves me going over the disaster preparedness plan a 46th time. As I rider, I don’t like lugging my bins around – as the chair, I’m aware that the Rustlers team of volunteers move bins 7600 times (that’s the actual number) during the rally and I worry that someone will forget to latch the back of a truck. As a rider, I worried about getting lost. As the Chair, I worry there will be a mistake on a map and we’ll lose 250 riders. You see what I mean.

From this point of view, my training has seemed like the least of my problems, and I haven’t been out there as much as I could have been, and now today I start my back-to-backs.  Back-to-backs are two rides longer than 90km that you need to complete on two consecutive days – back-to-back.  The general feeling is that if you can do that, you can do the Rally, and every year I get a real case of the willies leading up to getting it done. I hate it. I hate that you don’t know if you can do it until you do – I hate that one of the rides is always ridiculously difficult (that’s today) and this year,  I hate that I wasn’t able to start my back-to-backs yesterday with a group of riders because I was at a training session for the crew.  (Don’t get that part wrong, I begrudge the crew nothing, I just wish I could clone myself sometimes.)  It means that tomorrow I have to do my second long ride without the support of a big team.

Today I’ve got Ken, and we’ll ride (get this) 114km (that’s 71 miles, for my American friends) and if I survive, tomorrow I’ll ride 90, hopefully with Cameron. (Team Knit all has different pressures, schedules and neurosis. We’re each handling our back-to-backs differently. Except Pato, who is young, confident, and not worried at all. I cannot wait for him to turn 30 so I can say HOW ARE YOUR KNEES NOW PATO.)

My map is printed (though Ken has GPS I do not trust it) and I froze water in my bottles last night because it’s a million degrees still, I’ve pumped my tires, I put on sunscreen, I have my phone charged and money for lunch.  I’m ready I think, and I’m looking forward to the feeling I’ll have tomorrow when it’s done and I’ve proved I’m physically ready.

Day one of the Back-to-Backs… bring it.

56 thoughts on “Back to Back

  1. You’ve got this, and the end result is that you are doing something to make the world a better place. Sending bike rally mojo!

  2. Your stamina and dedication have my full respect. I suppose, at the very least, this is no longer the hottest day of the year up here and tonight should feel delightful by comparison. I hope that puts some wind in your sails and makes these rides easier for you.

  3. You have absolutely got this. Do what you can to take off all of your meant hats, put your helmet on, please take a picture of the knitting at lunch and know that a fellow knitter in Florida is going to think of you in awe multiple times today. 71 miles! Wow! You’re gonna be great!

  4. Thank you for the bit about Pato’s knees and the huge laugh that resulted. I needed that.

    Keep on keeping on, Superwoman.

  5. You can do this. I could not. Enjoy the scenery as you go. Stay hydrated. Smile. You are alive.
    Beautiful yarn, that shawl is going to be fab. You will have memories of your back to back worked up in there.
    Happy to see you on here again.

  6. The whole entirety of the knitting community has got your back and is sending strength and love. 🙂 (Personally, I always send a wave to the whole rally as you pass by my part of the route.)

  7. Steph, by the time you read this, you’ll be home already. The first part of the back-to-backs will be history. There will be a nice bath, a glass of wine, maybe a scented candle or two, and the promise of a good night’s sleep in your own bed. YAY!

  8. I hope it was a wonderful ride and you’re excited about tomorrow! Or at least dreading it less. And perhaps you can reward yourself tomorrow with a good bit of knitting.

  9. If this ride is something that you LOVE (either before or after it is over) I hope that you can find a way to make it less stressful. Stress if a f#$%&+@* killer and your body doesn’t know how to differentiate between good and bad stress it just knows there is stress and floods your system with hormones that, over time, can have devastating effects. Be kind to yourself. Maybe it is time for someone else to be chair so that all you need to do is worry about your personal goals and performance.
    Good luck with your back to backs!!

  10. Remember, everyone, that each time someone donates to Steph’s ride, her phone dings.

    Let’s drive her nuts with the noise!

  11. You are amazing and the angels are on your side. We love to hear from you when you can blog and totally understand when you can’t. Go forth and conquer!

  12. With all of this bike riding, the irony may end up being that Pato’s knees will be FINE!! Ah well, if you need a nearly instantaneous mood lifter, spend three minutes on Pinterest looking up bulldog puppies, or whatever you find utterly irresistible and laugh-inducing…

  13. Worry has kept me awake lately, too. Hang in there!

    When the wild knitting rumpus begins please do blog about it because we’d love to add to that kind of madness.

  14. I haven’t had a real vacation in three years. Deal.

    Much success on your rides and on the Rally!! You are awesome!!!

  15. I was feeling sorry for myself because I’ve come down with a NASTY summer cold – vegging in the AC with the iPad reading blogs – and I see that you spent your day in the middle of a heat wave riding your bike 114 km!! You have SO got this! And I have stopped feeling sorry for myself. You are an inspiration to get up and get moving.

  16. You are amazing!
    And you know what? If it rained and everyone ended up in Vancouver, you’d still be amazing. (That said, I hope it doesn’t rain and everybody makes it to the proper destination!)

  17. LOL I am seeing this now after 9 p.m. and way after your IG post (I think I was the second commenter there, yea me). So I know you DID it. I get it about waking up and worrying and getting up because, why not? Happened to me for years as department chair of a university in NY. Very under-appreciated, I felt. However, not that you want to hear this now or ever, it is much easier the second year in a row and most easy the third year. Fourth year, you’re tired of it. Let go after year 2 or 3, but consider a year 2. Hope you got a bucket of ice over your head as reward for today.

  18. I hope you had a nice cold beer at the end of your ride. Please remember apply a lot of sunscreen and drink more water than you think you need. (I know you know this but it doesn’t hurt to remind you). Best wishes for a really great ride tomorrow

  19. Go! Go! GO! Home stretch! Watch the Tour de France for some inspiration on suffering.
    Nutrition PRO Tip: if you eat a small amount of protein before bed, say, peanut butter on half a piece of bread, you may head off the early-morning-waking/worries. Just in case, keep a small handful of nuts next to your bed (with some juice, if you’ve got some), so if you DO wake up, you can eat a small something that will stabilize your blood sugar and help you fall back to sleep fast).
    I know two things: Always have a pair of socks on the needles, and keep protein close-by when you wake up worrying (I’m a Nutritionist over 15 years).
    Hang in, you’re almost there!!

  20. Somehow, we as women take on too much. The amazing thing is we get it done. I understand your pain and anxiety. We have all been there, and we somehow come out the other side. Here’s to getting through that opening.

  21. Thank you for coming back. We (I) need you!
    You’ll accomplish this back to back and then it’s done. Hallelujah!!
    I’ve done the same thing: couldn’t sleep so decided, just like you, that I might as well get up. It helped with the stress.
    I heard the Norwegian singer Sissel this weekend. So lovely – and I loved her song “Slow Down”. You’ll be there soon. Love you!

  22. I haven’t read you in a while, and I haven’t read every word, but I get a sense that you’re overloading yourself with perfection or goals, and I hope you can scale back. It doesn’t help that the leader of the western world is an awful awful person. So I hope you can a reign on anxiety and perhaps enjoy the Peace of Wild Things. What a wonderful poem!

  23. I hope your back-to-backs went well.

    May I suggest that you put on the Tour de France as background in the morning while you are doing other things? It should help with the bitterness and perspective.

    Riding competitively with over 100 other cyclists at speeds of up to to 40 mph (sometimes more) in close quarters. And, it is a shame that you didn’t have it on Sunday when it was mostly uphill and the ride basically disintegrated. In the years I have watched, I have never seen the cyclists that spread out on the course.

    And you are VERY, VERY CLOSE to the end of this period…

  24. I am writing this from 2027 BST, which means Stephanie may or may not have finished leg 2 of the back to backs. I hope there is a nice, relaxing (if not long) bath in your relatively near future.

    Not going to lie: I’ve been using how hard you’re working on, well life, as inspiration. I’ve been battling the tail end of a course to change careers that I’m not sure I want to do anymore, I haven’t properly had evenings or weekends in three months and I’m still trying to be a full-time employee and mum. We’re nearly there, it’s all down to just getting it done.

    So thank you very much from Berkshire. And don’t be too mean to wee Pato: life’ll take care of that for you. (Also, I’ve been re-reading Things Knitting’s Taught Me… It’s so very good for the soul.)

  25. Good, you have your head on right.

    Not that I expect anything else but it is ok to freak out and then forget about the willies and get back to business.

    Enjoy your rides.

  26. I live in southern Wisconsin. We have had many days of plus 90 degrees farenheit real feel of 100+. I mention this because I wrap a paper towel around a frozen solid water filled Gatorade bottle and stuff it in my back pocket, ice water for several hours. The towel seems to help. Large frozen chunks last longer than cubes. We also carry ice in a thermos that fits in our bottle cage. ( Have to mention, Love that shade of blue. ) Hydrate! Once watched a BICYCLIST being carried to an ambulance in much pain, he was dehydrated.

  27. I’m wondering how you manage to ride these rallies just once per year and still do so much knitting. For me knitting is sitting and unless you do some other vigorous activity regularly, well, you’d be pretty out of shape, wouldn’t you?
    Good luck.

  28. Well, just read on Instagram you’ve made it and had a celebratory drink. So well done you! What with all those willies, you still make it in the end. And that’s what counts, willies and all 😉

  29. Bring it on! I know you know we know you can do it, but I feel like it helps if we tell you.

    Once again, I thank you. For being inspiring, and doing hard things, and not pretending they’re a breeze. It means I take heart that I can do hard things too, currently, I’m driving a 3.5 ton camper van through Europe on my own with my 9 year old, and it’s because of blogs like yours that make me feel I can do it!

    Everything will be ok in the end, if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.

  30. Bring it on! I know you know we know you can do it, but I feel like it helps if we tell you.

    Once again, I thank you. For being inspiring, and doing hard things, and not pretending they’re a breeze. It means I take heart that I can do hard things too, currently, I’m driving a 3.5 ton camper van through Europe on my own with my 9 year old, and it’s because of blogs like yours that make me feel I can do it!

  31. Oh my God…the amount of miles that you are riding just blows my mind. Two days in a row, too. You must have an iron will. Glad to hear that you have your tires pumped, and plenty of supplies. Wishing you a safe and comfortable ride. I hope it’s not too hot.

  32. Steph,
    After August 17th, I think it is time for you to hang up your bike shoes. You are no longer in love with this event, rider or not. You are not, in my opinion, doing it anymore for the right reasons. You “want YOUR life back” and I think it is time to take it back. You want your family. You want a clean house. You want to rest. You want to knit. How about doing “your life.” You will be happy when you do your life. Just my take on things. I could be wrong. But when something is not fun anymore, it’s time to go home.

  33. Dear Steph,
    I hope the ride had some magic, as well as the ass-kicking moments. I will send best energy for your 2nd back-to-back.
    I will also be inspired if you can walk through that I can walk through my stuff.


  34. Dear Steph, I second Barbara Rickman’s thoughts. When the stress is worse than the actual activity it’s not worth it any more. It’s a waste. This is a volunteer job. There is plenty enough in anyone’s life that is REQUIRED – just by being a Mom, a Wife. A Human, that has or will have the need for this kind of stress. Save your energy for that stress. Go out and be joyful. Life is short. Time for a little Marie Kondo.

    Having said that, go out and do this last stint with as much gusto as you can manage and stay focused. Life is full of examples where lacking focus has led to doubtful results. And Enough Sleep is essential to focus. Imagine all your empathetic followers shouldering your sleeplessness for you – whether it is true or not – then take a deep breath, and go to bed each night and just sleep.

  35. Oh, and laugh lots. Laughter is good. And love that yarn. The color is gorgeous. (So glad the back-to-back is over.)

  36. Totally selfish honesty here? I think it’s probably fair to say that We the Blog like it better when you are somewhat LESS involved–participating rather than being the Grand Poobah–since that leaves you more time to talk to US!! And share prizes around, and pictures of your adventures and new bike seat, and the realizations and realities that this monumental summer commitment requires, which we can all experience by proxy =)
    More time to breathe, maybe?
    What you’re doing is fantastically worthwhile…and hopefully it’s something that can rotate, so someone else can have their life overthrown by it next year?!? Just sayin’…

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