Sunday, August 29, 2010

keep pedalling!!

Bonjour toutes les amis ..
Let me begin by asking you to please excuse any typos in this entry (and future entries while I`m away). It should be against the law to change the position of the letters on a keyboard .. since when did Q become more important than A?! It is taking me forever to type anything so let me get on with things!!
First: without telling you the entire story (I will do that when I have a proper keyboard again), the Col de Madeleine was the craziest ride I have ever done. For those of you who do not know, this climb is epic: Cadel Evans (a pro tour de France rider) cracked on the Col de Madeleine ... now, what exactly do I mean by cracked? Well, let me tell you from my first hand experience with it!!
Steve and I started out the ride .. a little 5 to 7km warm up before the beginning of the climb. The climb itself is 28km .. that is long .. its an unpredictable climb too. Just when you think you have a handle on it, it gets really steep or throws you off. Because of its varying degrees of steepness, it is a climb that does not allow you to find a pedalling rhythm.
After a week of climbing insane mountains, my legs were tired, my body ached but the last thing I wanted was to be defeated by the Madeleine. This, my friends, was wishful thinking .. at km 20 with 8 more to go, I cracked: I started hyperventilating, tears streamed down my face, my bike halted and I thought "what the hell am I doing out here? how am I possibly going to finish this climb? Steve really IS trying to kill me"!!!
Steve and I had a chat. I am lucky in life to have friends that believe in me more than I believe in myself, push me to do things I would never dream of on my own and who would kill me before they would let me quit!
I started up again, after absolute defeat, and rode over all the painting from the tour: cheering for Livestrong, Schleck, etc and found myself in no time, drinking Orangina and eating fries with mayonnaise on the top of the world. The story continues but I will stop here for now and leave you all with this:
I complained to Steve about my bad day on the mountain to which he responded "you see, I don`t see it like that. Instead of thinking that you died on the Col de Madeleine, I like to think of it like: you got through 20 strong kms before she took you"!!
This morning when I was riding the undulating terraine of the Luberon and passing many men on the climbs the thought came back to me, "If I could only console those men; afterall, its not about a girl passing you, it is about celebrating the kms you have climbed before she does"! :)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mountain Madness ...

How do I begin exactly .. well, let me first say that riding mountains is like nothing I have ever experienced before. I am in France; I've been here since Saturday night. Sunday involved the first mountain cycling experience of my life.

Training for mountain riding in the flat lands of Ontario is a challenging feat. As you can well imagine, embarking on my first mountain climb in the French Alps was a little intimidating.

Steve, my guide, put it like this, "We'll start with an easy day: descend down to Moutiers from the chalet, climb 9km to Montagny, desend into Bozel, loop back and climb Pralognan la Vanoise, a little 15km hill then we'll add 2.5km climb to Champagny, then descend down to Bozel again and climb the last 8km toward Courcheval as far as Le Praz and descend back to the chalet. Sound good? Its a little 84km ride to warm your legs up and get used to some hills".

Holy crap!! Let me clarify something for you all: this first warm-up ride was 34.5km of climbing!! It may not seem like a lot, however, I can honestly say that after this first ride I thought that I might not make it out of this week alive.

The second day was yet a greater push: 112km starting with a 20km, 1967 meter climb of the Cormet de Roselend (popular in the tour de France for Johan Bryneel's famous crash off the side of the mountain) then a ending with a 10km climb up to the chalet with 50km of riding in between!

By the third day I was pretty much done. Steve decided that my little legs could use a rest and signed me up for a 146km flattish, windy ride which headed conveniently into a rain storm! At this point, I was convinced that Steve planned this and was trying to kill me and sell my bike for a small profit.

Throughout this entire process, Steve continued to talk me through it repeatedly attempting to convince me that "by mid week, something generally happens to people: their bodies just seem to get adjusted to the climbing, the altitude, they find their rhythm and seem to just get used to the abuse". Words of encouragement with every pedal stroke and every puff of breath kept me going as Steve pedalled along side with ease. At one point he passed me a power shot (a little gummy thing filled with caffeine, sugar and electrolytes) .. I thanked him but couldn't even chew it because my breathing was so laboured!!

Today invited quite a different experience: after a night of tossing and turning due to waking with pain whenever changed positions in my bed, I made my way downstairs for breakfast. Every step down hurt and I wondered how I was possibly going to meet the next challenge. Steve and Anna greeted me with coffee and excitment.

"Why don't we climb up the Col de St. Bernard, a 28km (2188m) climb? The climb finishes in Italy; we can stop for espresso in Italy if you like?!" Now we're talking - this was the best idea Steve has had yet! The sun was shining, the weather was warm and I was going to Italy, IF my legs would get me there ..

We embarked on our ride, warming up with a 15km spin and then starting the climb. Something happened today: things seemed to come together and, miraculously, I found my legs, just as Steve said I would! It felt great: I was not puffing, held a nice steadish pace and thoroughly enjoyed the process, the scenery, the beautiful reward of reaching Italy, eating french fries and drinking Orangina!

I will not lie to you: simply touching my legs this evening induces a tender, painful sensation. I've decided to follow Steve's training advice, "if it hurts to touch them, stop touching them"!!

The run down of the last few days is as follows: I have climbed 6548 meters over 434km of riding in 4 days. Mount Everest stands at 8446 meters up which means I need to climb 1898 meters to reach the height of Mount Everest, a feat that is agreeably very do-able in the next two days.

Tomorrow presents another adventure: the Col de Madeleine, a steeper 1993m, 26km climb that is affectionately known as the Serpent of the Alps: a serpent that I am hoping (but am not likely) to tame!

Stay tuned ...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Taking a Trip to the Other Side of Stability

I ran into a friend of mine in my neighbourhood about a week before I left for Europe. Interestingly, I often attract this friend when my mind is in a fit of turmoil. On this particular morning I wondered how I was going to navigate this blog while I am on holidays. After all, my blog is supposed to give its readers some interesting naturopathic information in a fun and informative way. A colleague of mine suggested I push forward with the blog more than ever and throw myself into research, construct informative stories and come home with a sense of accomplishment. This was precisely my turmoil: how does one holiday while completely consumed by work?!

Meeting my friend on that particular morning led to discussing said issue. Barry politely responded in his very free-spirited, artistically inspired way:

"Well (dramatic pause) .. it seems to me that you have a dilemma: you're an over-worked individual who wants desperately to be on holidays but has a sense of obligation to what you're trying to create. I think that you should create a European segment of your blog that talks to the importance of taking holidays and completely shutting off"!!

It had exciting potential .. but where has this advice exactly led to while I've been away? As is obvious to all of you, I haven't exactly been devoting all (or any) of my time to the blog! This does not necessarily indicate, however, that my holiday thus far has been day upon day of relaxation!

Today my world began to unravel. First, my PIN number on my VISA has been blocked. This is a situation, according to VISA, that cannot be rectified from abroad so I am currently without the security of credit - a security that I could really use while spending a month in Europe!! Second, I was informed that the train I booked to France for my bicycle tour through the Alps will not allow me to travel with a bicycle! So, how exactly, am I going to RIDE up mountains?! Third, the aforementioned, 200 Euro train ticket was not refundable and mailing my bike was priced at 1800 Euro .. and since I do not have a functional VISA, I could not pay that even if I wanted to!!

The experience today reminded me all too much of the chaos I live back home. In the moments of absolute frustration, I dawned on me that even though I am not working like a crazy woman, I am still living the chaos that I am desperately trying to take a break from!

So .. before I head off to bed, let me tell you how this story resolves. First, I am still VISAless, however, VISA has agreed to send another chipless VISA to my France address so I will have it next week. I was able to purchase another train ticket for tomorrow so I will arrive in time to ride on Sunday. This train has 4 more transfers than the other and will take 15 hours instead of 6.5, BUT I will have my bike!! The non refundable ticket was in fact refunded in full because the travel agent felt so bad about `our stupid, Dutch rules`!!

There you have it .. my unraveling is beginning to ravel up again. Things in my world are slowly coming back together after a day of challenge. Now, instead of continuing my pattern of inviting chaos, I hope to settle into the nice, steady pace required when climbing a mountain on the bike!