Girls 4 Ever! @ 80MPH

I was heading west on University Parkway, the stretch of US-29, a four-lane divided highway, between Athens and Atlanta, GA. It was late afternoon on a Friday and a thunderstorm was threatening overhead. People don’t mess around that time of the week. They are ready to get home to start their weekends or, like me, are already on their way to the party and are in a hurry to get there. Time is of the essence when the workweek is done. The average speed on the west-bound side was between 70-75 miles per hour. The east-bound side had been shut down due to a traffic accident and was backed up for miles. I gave quick thanks to the God of Speed for not being stuck in that mess.

Traffic was medium-heavy and I was averaging about 80 mph, making sure that I wasn’t the fastest vehicle on the road but keeping up with the faster cars of the crowd. I noticed a white sedan that had passed me, but then settled down to about my pace a little distance ahead. I eventually caught up and passed the car again. No big deal, it happens, I paid the car no mind as I continued to fling myself westward toward the horizon, bouncing around in my seat, tapping out the rhythm to some Lady Gaga tune with my right foot; I think it was “Bad Romance”. My thoughts were already occupied with playing in the twisties that were scheduled for the following day. The car eventually picked its way back through traffic and got ahead yet again.

Now it’s getting a little weird! After a while boredom and curiosity get the better of me and I am in hot pursuit of my highway stalker. It doesn’t take me long to catch up with my target. The car is still hanging out in the left lane, so I scoot over and slowly pass them on the right. I see what looks to be four college-aged kids bouncing around in their seats, hair flying, talking animatedly and obviously checking me out. Oh, shit! A carload of cheerleaders! They point and wave at me and I smile, — even though they can’t see through my darkly tinted face shield — I nod and give them a peace sign with my outstretched clutch hand. Then I grab a fistful of throttle, twist it quickly to the stop and treat them to a completely “unnecessary display of horsepower”. Gratuitous. I can’t help myself. I have no excuse. I pull triple digits for a few seconds, pass another vehicle by executing two acute lane changes to get a little high-speed lean for effect and then let the engine slow me back down to the speed of traffic.

It doesn’t take very long for them to catch up. Two songs, maybe. I’m astonished to see them again. When they pass me on the left, I see one of them is holding a sheet of notebook paper up to the passenger side window. It reads in bold-red Sharpie print:

YOU ROCK!
GIRLS RULE
4 EVER!!!!

I prop open my visor so I can make eye contact as I pace them. I smile and give them a thumbs up and a fist pump with my free hand. I yell: “Hell yeah!” even though they can’t hear me. I speed up and they stay directly behind me as my wing women until we part ways at a red light a few miles up the road. I turned right and they kept going straight. Each of us heading towards weekend adventure. I wish I could have taken a picture of this or had the video camera going. It’s the little things like these that make even a bored and hurried flight down a two-lane seemingly never-ending straight worth it. For one little instant my path merged with that of four strangers and life was just good.

Peace Out!

That’s one of the reasons I ride.

Riding a motorcycle connects you intimately, even if only for a short moment, with others and the world around you. You become part of that world, rather than being isolated and distanced from it like you are when sitting in a car. This is one of those reasons why bikers refer to cars as “cages”. I’m sure of it.


I’m Too Old For This!

We’ve all heard the expression: “I’m too old for this shit!” A few of us loudly proclaim our belief in the principle on occasion, but keep on keeping on. Some of us think it and quietly give up. Then there are some who use it as an excuse not to even start.

The subject of wether or not I’m too old to pound my body into submission and shape myself into an athlete by brute-force methodology has crossed my mind on more than a few occasions. My body is threatening mutiny, or so it seems. However, my mind has been known for its propensity of cracking the whip to quell the whining and the whimpering when the mission is deemed critical and worthy.

My husband’s view on the way I approach things? He just shakes his head and exclaims:

“Damn, baby! You never do anything half-assed, do you? You can’t help yourself!”

Even though my fervor must get on his nerves on occasion, I do believe he is sitting back, smugly, big shit-eating grin on his overly satisfied face, arms crossed at the chest, nodding and thinking to himself:

“Yeah, that’s my baby!”

He brags to his friends and co-workers. I know he does. Where others whip out their wallets (mobile phones) in one smooth and snappy movement to accost you with an array of baby pics and family portraits, he whips out his track photography. I think he has more pictures of me dragging knee on his phone than I do. That’s pretty bad. Where the wives (girlfriends) of others are gorgeous in their perfect hair and flawless makeup, he runs around flashing people with my sweaty helmet hair and unpainted countenance in dirty leathers.

He says I’m not like most 40 year-olds. But I don’t buy it. I feel too old for my own good on most days; and where I used to look ten years younger, frequent exposure to the elements and a high-stress work environment have finally taken their toll. I now am starting to look about as old as I feel. My crow’s feet alone could probably get me some premature social security benefits, if they didn’t check their paperwork. 😉

At least we don’t get the “so nice of you to take your daughter out” comments anymore. That was always a hoot, since hubby usually responded to those remarks with laying a fat slobbery kiss on me a few minutes later, after failing to correct the erroneous assumption. What a nut job! That’s why I don’t take him out in public very often… *giggles*

But there are a few individuals who defy the “life is over after 40” rule and they give me the drive to keep on going. Because a midlife crisis, after all, is a terrible thing to waste. =D

I almost didn’t start racing when I first got the notion and excitedly and very loudly exclaimed, while my nose was buried in Keith Code’s book A Twist of the Wrist: “Hell yeah! I wanna do THAT!” I’m glad I was on weekend duty and alone in the office. After the initial excitement wore off and my brain had time to process all of the information, it responded with an unkindly “I’m too old for this shit!” and that was the end of it for about a year or so.

A guy at work, who is a few years my junior, found out that I had crashed on my second race weekend and ended my first season prematurely, decided that he should save me from myself and told me the following: “I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’re too old to race. You crash and your body takes forever to heal and your injuries are probably going to be more severe. That’s probably also why you’re slow. You’re afraid to go fast.”

[Note: I only sustained minor injuries to my left hand due to my glove failing. The season ended prematurely because it took a little over three months and most of my saved up money to repair my bike, and it was decided it was best to prepare to race a full season in 2012, with a dedicated race bike and a lot more cash saved up.]

Excuse me?!? Dude, you better thank your lucky stars that we’re at work, because if you had said that to me anywhere else, I would have put you in your place, you presumptuous little prick! And then raced your cruiser riding ass for pinks. In first gear, with one hand. Asshole!

He stopped riding sport bikes (“crotch rockets” is the term he actually used) because he, by his own admission, was “too old for this shit” and had crashed and it took him forever to heal.

The reason I started racing, despite my misgivings about starting so late in life and only having been riding motorcycles on the street for a little over two years? Burt Munro. The old fart showed Bonneville how old timers roll, and he didn’t even pre-register. 😉 He bet “the farm” on his dream and it paid off. Against all odds, with plenty of obstacles and no sponsors. Yeah! He’s still my hero.

Read up on him sometime or watch the movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. Very inspiring story, even if you are not into racing. His story transcends the sport. It’s a testament to the fact that “I’m too old for this shit!” is just another fallacy we’ve been brainwashed with by the media, societal norms and rate-of-return expectations. Youth is wasted on the young. Whoever said that, they have it pegged.

I ran into a man of the “over-the-hill type” at my inaugural WERA race. He’s freaking awesome. I think he said he started racing when he was 67 and that was a few years back. But don’t quote me on his exact age. The man is my hero. He doesn’t know it, but I secretly look up to him. He’s having fun doing what he does, has a wicked sense of humor, and he’s fast.

My “sister in speed”, whom I met during a racing school we both attended, just shrugged when she first heard how old I was and said: “You’re just a baby.” She doesn’t look it, but she’s ten years my senior. And crashing does not slow her down a bit. She’s having fun, too.

There are many other people to whom I look up to, who defy the norm. People who do in spite of it all. Did you know there is a dude who races motorcycles and only has one arm?!? I didn’t know it was possible. I saw him at Barber, while I was walking to the race control building he was making his way onto pit road to go on track. I did a double take, shaking my head because I thought I was hallucinating, and then did a triumphant fist pump in his direction. He didn’t see me, because he had already passed the spot where I was standing to let traffic through. Yeah, get a load of THAT. That’s what I call passion! That’s what I call drive and determination. Freakin’ awesome. I still don’t know who he is, but there are a number of amputees still riding and racing motorcycles. Still think you’re too old, too disabled, too whatever?

Today I am researching a few topics of interest on running and come across an article that talks about fears first time road racers have. One of which is also a very real fear for first time motorcycle road racers: the fear of coming in last. It takes one race to get over that silliness. 🙂 But I digress. One of the items listed was the fear of being too old to run, let alone enter an official road race. The article ended with:

“You’re never too old to start running, and it’s definitely never too late to start road racing.”

And that is the truth.

Obstacles are placed in our way to test our resolve, our determination, our passion, and our will to succeed. I can’t do nothing about my chronological age; but I can work on being in the best shape of my life and not let my age stop me from achieving my goals. My age also can’t keep me from dreaming!

And as the clock keeps ticking away, forcing me to grow even older than “too old for this shit”, I still try and retain my inner peace and happiness while I’m waiting for my turn again.

Three basic ingredients are needed for sustained happiness:

  1. Something to do.
  2. Something to look forward to.
  3. Somebody to love.

I have lost my main “to do” four months ago, but I am keeping busy with my marathon training and writing, to keep the depression and anxiety at bay.

I am looking forward to racing my motorcycle again, which will happen once I have secured re-employment and have regained a positive cash flow and met my other financial responsibilities. 2013 could be my year and I have to be ready, mentally and physically.

I have the third item covered in spades. No, make that hearts, even though it is not the trump suit, it works better in a literary sense.


Send it down below…

Nothing like feeling like a complete failure to motivate oneself to prove otherwise. I needed to get rid of all this negative energy I’ve had stored up for whatever reason. I hadn’t worked out in two days and that didn’t help my general state of mind. Everywhere I turn, I see obstacles in my way. It’s almost as if I’m swimming upstream, in the wrong direction, against all odds, expending my energy and resources on a lost cause. meh. I hate feeling like this.

I have developed some sort of mental block that keeps me from getting faster on the track. I have an idea about the causality but no real fix on how to go about overcoming the problem. I over-think to the point of distraction. I don’t even know how to explain this… I just know it’s making me slower, and my skill progression has tanked. I hate that, too!

Every time I look at the bike, I find “something else”. Some other mechanical issue that needs to be worked out. I have not a clue. I never wanted to become a mechanic, I just wanted to race the damned thing, but yet here I am. I suffer through it, and make my brain hurt, so I can have a relatively short time by comparison doing the thing I really love to do.

Then there is the financial aspect that bugs me. Racing is financially, uh… irresponsible, a budgetary money pit, a high-risk-no-return proposition especially considering the ongoing game of economic crapshoot. But yet here I am, cutting corners in every other aspect of my life, just so I can “go racin’.” But what a ride! You know you’re in for a good time when they make you sign a waiver before they let you through the gate. Uh-huh. Yup. Nothing like it. I would sell my mother-in-law for a stack of DOT slicks. Yes, it’s that bad. But I can’t help but feel a little guilty.

Winter gets me down, the skies are gray, it’s cold, the world around us dead. People are grumpier than usual. It’s depressing. I find it hard to keep my spirits up when the weather seems so gloomy and foreboding all the time.

The Underpants TreeLots of other personal and family junk that occasionally just wants to show up and take a dump on my happiness. Ick! Screw you. You make me angry because I am helpless and not in control of the situation. Keep your chin up. Ignore it. They’re just jealous. Love the Haters, because it means you’re doing something right. All the kind and supportive comments in the world sometimes aren’t enough… you still end up almost drowning in the cesspool of other people’s bullshit. Blech.

With the attitude of hating my life and feeling like a complete failure, I stomp up the hill to the walking trail behind my house. A 1/3-mile sandy kidney-bean shaped track around a playground and a picnic area. I’m not in the mood, but I have some anger management to do. Exercising should exorcise my (perceived) demons… at least for a little while. If you’re exhausted you have not the energy to be anything but calm. I hit play on the Nike+ GPS app and with the push of that button, decide that today I am going to run until I can run no more. How far can I possibly get? A mile? Maybe… The workout is done with the first walking stride I take. Deal. Off I go.

Last time I was here, maybe a week ago, I couldn’t run a complete lap. It’s torture. After about half a lap, I want to stop. I can’t breathe, my side is starting to hurt. Concentrate. Concentrate. Pay attention to your stride, control your movements. Control your breathing. In through the nose… out through the mouth. Steady. Paced. You can do this.

GPS calculated paceI keep fighting lazy thoughts of quitting with angry thoughts of not wanting to be a failure in today’s run. Failure is not an option. I start crying at one point… or I think I am starting to. I don’t know. One foot in front of the other. I hate running. I want to quit. I don’t see the point. Why bother? I keep pushing on. I am on my last lap to finish the first mile. I tell myself that I at least have to complete one mile. I notice a pair of men’s boxers hanging in a nearby tree. WTF?!? Somebody went home commando.

After that I tell myself one more lap. I have to make it back around to the underpants. I have to take a picture of them. I do. I don’t take a picture of them though. Ok, well I’m almost to two miles. That’s what we ran in the military physical fitness test. I can do this. I see a woman walking about a half a lap ahead of me. Ok. I can lap her… if I lap her before my two miles are up, I’ll allow myself to stop. I end up lapping her twice before she gets in her car and leaves.

Eventually my brain focuses on something racing related and I’m not even really aware anymore that I am running. Well, I am aware of it, but it’s not in the foreground and with that the negative self-talk subsides. I keep pushing. Another idea surfaces: I will set all new PBs today. EVERY SINGLE STAT that Nike+ keeps track of will be improved. Then I’ll let myself be a quitter.

I accomplish my goal at 4.10 miles (farthest run) in 44:16 minutes (longest run) with an overall average pace of 10:47 per mile, which is an improvement by 1:02 minutes. I set my fastest 1K at 6:09; my fastest 1M at 10:08 and my fastest 5K at 33:19.

Do I feel better? A little. Do I still feel like a failure? A little. But at least I have part of my sunshine back. The rest will follow.


The Phoenix and the Angry Bird

Many of my readers and friends have told me that I need to keep writing. I blew them off with a dismissive wave of hand accompanied by the same old and tired rhetoric; the same rhetoric I have repeated ad nauseam until it became personal truth: “Writing doesn’t come easily; I am, after all, the author of the 12-hour paragraph. Writing is a chore. I don’t have time for it. It stresses me out. I can’t keep up with the expectations of a regular audience, no matter how small it may be. Bla-blah, bla-blah, bla-blah…” Coincidentally, I also made myself scarce online.

The blog remained, narrowly escaping deletion in a moment of temporary insanity, standing testimony of personal failure, pointing the fingers of unfinished entries and missed deadlines accusingly at its creator.

So… what is really going on?

Life happens… rather, employment does. Not to get too far into that sad situation, let’s suffice it to say that my work environment borders on abusive. I have been enduring for over 18 months. Every time I think that maybe the storm has passed and things are settling down, I am hit with another salvo. I am not a problem employee by any standards. I am loyal, complete my tasks, am a team player, and a problem solver. I help my fellow employees whenever I can, I cover for absences when I am able. My job performance cannot be faulted, on the contrary; however, that didn’t stop the harassment. It just meant that faults had to be created. I was (and still am) spoken ill of, my concerns are of no consequence to the people in charge, and I am made out to be a person with anger management issues, apparently suffer from a personality disorder or two, which prevents me from getting along with my customers, coworkers and management. Or so I am labeled. My reputation has been sullied. I am paid less than I should be. I am constantly criticized for my “excessive” sick days. Some of the people I work with aren’t speaking to me anymore, because I called them on their continued laziness after trying to work it out with them for months. What came of it? Nothing. I was told to stay away from them and bring up further issues directly. They continue to not do their jobs, which in turn makes my job a miserable proposition when it gets busy.

Enough of that. Yes, that was the short version.

My health is suffering: my stress levels are in the red; my sleep is disturbed; I have developed migraines, have constant gastrointestinal upsets, suffer from low-grade depression, and am angry all the time. I barely keep it together at work, just so that my loved ones may suffer at the hands of pent up frustration and helplessness turned to seething anger. I have no recourse, this is a right to work state and my actual boss has no backbone. Can I prove any of this? No. They may be morons, but they know how to play this game. Short of some ridiculous write-ups and the throttling of my pay, it is their word against mine. I cannot win. I ate more crow during my stint at this company than I care to admit. There might be cause to put crow on the endangered species list. I just wanted to do my job to the best of my ability and go home. But it doesn’t work like that in the real world. I thought it did. For a little while until I became too exhausted for a life outside of my subservience to Corporate America at the hands of The (wo)Man.

Not only did my health suffer. My racing skill progression slowed, came to a complete stop before it finally reversed itself and my performance degraded to the point of regression. They cancelled my vacation to Germany to join my Dad in the celebration of his 80th birthday. I lost money on non-refundable tickets for my daughter. This is the last straw. I am done. I refuse to let this job interfere with my personal pursuits and degrade my health any further. It is time to start the process of making changes for the better. This job isn’t in those plans. If they do not find me a different contract suited for my skills, I am a short-timer in this outfit.

My days here are numbered. And knowing that gives me strength. I will rise up out of the ashes, like the mythological Phoenix, but I’m one hell of a pissed off bird. My UK readers will definitely get a chuckle out of this one, considering that I am at war with a couple of pigs.

I am back.

And if I get fired for having written this, you’ll find this angry bird getting arrested downtown by yet another couple of pigs, during the Occupy Augusta movement.

There. I’ve said it. Unedited, with horrible punctuation and grammar. =D

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