Monday, January 7, 2013

It's winter. That means I'm indoors, riding a bike to nowhere. Sad trombone.
After a couple of seasons slumming it on crappy trainer in my kitchen, I decided to hit the rollers for a change of pace. Then, sometime around October, I hit a wall. A really big, hard, ugly wall.
It's normal to loathe the bike trainer. Anyone who doesn't is certifiable. And it's fine to spend eight minutes laying in bed, talking yourself in to facing another day of Sufferfest videos. It's perfectly okay to want to spend the "off season" sipping Hot Toddy's and watching the snow fall around you.
But there came this day in October when I could hardly muster the will to even look at the bike. Instead of being my outlet, my peace in the world and the place I most wanted to be, the saddle had become my nemesis. I suddenly found myself saying things like, Maybe I don't want to do this anymore.
I've always been a bit compulsive about exercise, anyway. I am downright pathological when it comes to reviewing my workout data, tracking my efforts, making sure I am getting in enough time at the gym, setting goals and slowly hacking away at each measure of my performance. My husband and kids long ago learned that few things come between me and a planned workout, lest everyone in the home be subject to my wrath. My mother, as she lay dying, told me she "knew it was bad" when I missed my morning cycling session to visit her, instead.
But this time, it was different. I wasn't just obsessive, I was miserable. Truly unhappy. My bike was a chore, and I was almost ready to walk away. Almost.
Then, I called Mari.
If you don't know Mari Ruddy, you should. For starters, she is another vegan-buddhist-diabetic-cyclist, and we area hard lot to find! More importantly, Mari was the brains behind the ADA Tour de Cure Red Rider program that celebrates cyclists with diabetes, and she is the founder of TeamWILD, a sports organization that teaches diabetic athletes of all abilities how to manage their blood sugar while optimizing performance in their respective sport. (

Mari is also the most compassionate, enthusiastic cheerleader one could hope to find. And I needed a bit of cheering.
At some point in our conversation, the ever-gracious Mari tactfully suggested I speak to a sports psychologist or, at the very least, avail myself of a TeamWILD resource in the form of a talk by Carrie Cheadle, who specializes in Mental Skills Training for athletes.
I'm a bit of a tough sell. It's not that I oppose the idea of "mental skills training," it's just that it seems...for lack of better terms kind of namby-pamby. I'm not big on "talking things out." But Mari has a talent for making something seem like a good idea even when you have some deeply-seeded reservations, so I decided to stream Carrie's talk whilst finishing some work at the office.
This is the part where I might have to dig in to that plate of crow, feathers and all.

I'll spare you the details, but the essential question posed went something like this:
What is your source of anxiety before a race?
And, of course, we all have the same generic answers: Fear of failure, Fear of looking like an idiot, Fear of getting dropped and lapped, Fear of embarrassment or humiliation or not meeting personal expectations or mockery or insert whatever shame you'd least like to endure.
So far, not impressed. Fast forward to the next question: Why do you fear those things?
So this is where I start to see the Namby-Pamby train pull into the station, and I'm all set to disembark...but things don't go where I expect. I thought it was going to be destination Tell Me About Your Childhood Pain or Rejection so We Can Work Through Those Issues. But no! Carrie provided actual, useful, functional insight.
If you ask ten of your friends this same question, and really dive in to the root anxiety of athletic performance, people end up in one of two camps: A) I really don't think I have the capability to run a marathon/ride a century/win a race, and B) I don't trust my training. And the solution for both groups is pretty much the same.
Let me take a quick diversion here, while we delve in to the reasons I don't sing. Just work with me. When I was six, I was in music class, and we were rehearsing holiday songs for a little school performance. My music teacher, Mrs. Bow (but we can just call her "witch," because that's fitting, too) suggested to me that I should only pretend to sing because I pretty much sucked. I told my dad this heartbreaking story, and he laughed and then confirmed that I do, in fact, suck at all things musical. So, for the rest of my life, I have just known that I am a terrible, awful, horrendous singer. Of course, at six, no one is exactly maybe I could have been a singer if I had ever really been trained or tried....but I always had this track in my head that said You are not a singer.
The people in Group A have the same track: You are not an athlete. Changing that track is all about finding the right training and resources, and setting realistic and attainable goals, and then knocking them out one at a time.
The good news? I am not in Group A. At least, not on the bike. And I could give a crap about singing now.
But I was firmly planted in Group B.
I have always been compulsive about my training because I've never been sure it's the right direction, or the right intensity, or that I am focusing on the right things at the right time. I had different trainers and coaches over the years, but I only ceded so much control to them because I never felt confident in their abilities. Basically, I doubted the process. Sometimes, that was legit. I wasn't training with the right people or using the right resources. Other times, I screwed myself by refusing to comply with their plans because I couldn't let go and trust. I told myself that I knew better.
All of the sudden, the problem became clear. I was making myself miserable and stressing over performance because I simply had not found the right resources and then let go.
That's probably true of most things in life. But back to the bike.
So, sometime in November, I settled on a group of trainers and coaches at Breakaway Cycle & Strength. They have been amazingly supportive of my goals, and have the expertise and focus to help me make steady improvements. They have also taken a dedicated interest in helping me to manage my blood sugar while on the bike, which is certainly outside the scope of my expectations and their job description, but I won't complain. In return, I have relinquished control. When they tell me to do a tempo ride, I don't ignore the direction and push myself to higher zones because it seems "useless" or "easy." When I'm told to push my cadence over 110, I don't tell myself that 90 is "good enough in a race." I do as directed, and I trust in the process. My functional power has increased but, more importantly, I am back to a place of balance. I love my bike. I can't wait for the snow to melt.
The key to success is really in finding the right people, accessing the right tools and resources, and getting the pieces to fall in place. I am so fortunate for Mari's guidance, and glad to have someone like her in my diabetic-athletic life. (And, of course, for those who need their own set of tools, check the TeamWILD website for your own stewardship courtesy of Mari and Carrie:


  1. I love the moisture on the inside of the cycle studio!

    great post (as always). I appreciate you sharing this. What I got out of this is to constantly remind myself that I am building even if i'm not spinning to the point of passing out.

    I related to this on so many levels.

    1. I know, right? I had a tempo ride this morning, actually, and kept thinking I needed to PUSH. I had to remind myself to let it go and just do what I was being told. But yes, I know you have also struggled to trust in your training and be sure that you are doing what needs to be done. It's a process....