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Thank you so much!

The Cycles of Cycling

When you are cycling, you go through many cycles. This may just be my own personal experience, and I probably shouldn’t speak on behalf of all cyclists, but I imagine this is at least true for other beginners. There are times when you feel like you are on the top of the world, looking down on creation and the only explanation I can find…whoops, sorry, that’s a Carpenters song. Anyway, there are times you feel stronger than ever, like nothing can get in your way, and you sail over the road like a speedboat going downstream. Then the wind changes, blowing against you, and it’s like you’re a dull knife trying to cut through butter that’s been in the freezer for a month. You start cursing the wind in abject frustration because even the slightest breeze in the wrong direction can make it impossible to gain speed, making all of your efforts utterly fruitless. Each hill that previously felt like another challenge to pridefully accomplish now feels like the universe shitting on your pillow. (The good pillow. You know the one I’m talking about). Your thighs burn and your crotch feels like you walked through a lake of sulfuric acid (like that scene from Dante’s Peak where the grandma jumps into the acid lake to save everyone in the boat? Don’t pretend like you didn’t see that movie and that it wasn’t freaking awesome).

I was warned about the troubles of chafing, but even with chafing ointment, that shit can get pretty severe. Seriously, I have blisters where no one should have to suffer having blisters. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. (I’ll give you a hint. They’re on my vag). As endorphins begin coursing through your fatigued and broken body, you go back to feeling invincible, which can make you do questionable things, like running a yellow light because it’s at the bottom of a hill, and you don’t want to have to stop and lose all of your momentum. You kind of start to feel like you rule the road, and cars are merely there for decoration. But, no, those things will kill you. Respect the cars.

On my first trip up Vancouver Island, I was in terrible shape. I couldn’t bike over an anthill without feeling the burning in my thighs, and the frightening rapidity of my heartbeat. In order to get over an incline of even a modest size, I would have to walk my bike up to the top. Once I got more used to hills I still could only bike up for about twenty feet where I would have to stop and rest for thirty seconds to a minute so that I wouldn’t pass out into traffic. My eyes would warp everything around me like I was surrounded by funhouse mirrors. I would finally reach the top and would finally get to coast downhill, but I was so frightened by the speeds I would reach that I would squeeze the breaks like my life depended on it (which I actually thought it did). Doing this prevented me from ever gaining enough speed and momentum to tackle the next hill, so I would have to slowly and lethargically pedal over it, twenty feet at a time.

My three week stay on Hornby did not go to waste. After the first week, when I had finally finished my online classes, I was able to focus on staying in shape for the next leg of my trip. I biked everyday for at least 10 miles. It was really strange at first to bike without all of my gear. It felt like riding on a tin can; it was so light. When I embarked on my first ride from Buckley Bay to Qualicum Beach, I thought that having the gear again with the added weight would make me revert back to being weak and tired, but it didn’t. I could go up large hills like they were nothing, and without stopping! It was incredible. It was like I had grown new cyborg legs or something. I would soar downhill without fear and would bask in the exhileration of traveling at warp speed. I completed the twenty-two mile trip in two hours, which was a record for me.

By day three, though, (which was yesterday) I was exhausted. I made the trip from Nanaimo to Duncan, which was only 30 miles, but it was against the wind. As I mentioned previously, wind is, like, the Regina George of natural phenomena. It can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy, depending on its mood. And it’s a fickle bitch, I’ll tell you. A strong tailwind is the best gift nature can provide to a cyclist, and a strong headwind is a metaphorical slap in the face. When I had reached Chemainus (which is a town about two thirds of the way to Duncan) I had made it over about five large hills without having to stop. Google Maps said that the rest of the way was “mostly flat.” Well Google Maps is a fucking liar. There were several more hills, albeit not large ones, but they were still hills. I was in a state of exhaustion, starvation (basically. I had only eaten a 450 calorie breakfast for the entire day), and thirst, because I had run out of water. I reeeaaally didn’t want to stop because my endorphins would deplete, and they were the only things keeping me from feeling the extent of my pain, so I pressed on, tired, hungry, and thirsty. When I would make it over one hill, there was another waiting for me. With no momentum to keep me going, I reached a point of, actually, I really don’t know the word for what I was feeling. It was a cocktail of sadness, hopelessness, frustration, and rage. Tears began flooding my eyes, and I felt like a couldn’t breathe. My esophagus was tight, and I was gasping for air. I figured that was probably the time to pull over. I had to calm myself down or I was going to pass out, or die or something. I focused on taking slow deep breaths until my breathing began to normalize, and my heart rate steadied. After a good five minute rest, I sat back down on my bike. Pain. Searing, burning pain. No more endorphins to mask the extent of my chafing injuries, and my sore tailbone. I looked up how much farther it was to my destination. Only two more miles! Excitement and happiness surged over me. I was back on a high again. I pedaled and pushed harder than I had all day knowing that food, rest, and a bath was in my very near future.

In a day, I cycled through thirty miles of hills, and about thirty different emotions. At the end of the day, however, I always end on a high because every moment of pain, struggle and veritable defeat is completely worth it, and has taught me just how much I am capable of overcoming.

Back to the Basics

A month ago today, I was living a very different life. I can pretty much pinpoint exactly what I was doing at this very moment 30 days ago. I guarantee you, I was sitting on the couch, with one leg tucked under the other, slack-jawed, and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix (and driving my sister crazy). I had only days left until I was to begin this journey, and all I had really done to prepare was getting my bike and all of my gear together. I was still stuck in a sinkhole of depression, with my mind creating imaginary barriers that prevented me from gaining any motivation to actually go ride my bike. My sister, worried that I was setting myself up for failure, consistently urged me to get off of my ass and go for a bike ride. “Izzy,” she would say, “I just want you to be successful. PLEASE for the love of God, start actually doing something to prepare for this.” And, like the perpetual child that I was (and probably still am), I would roll my eyes, sigh, and basically ignore the shit out of her. I was a pretty huge “see you next Tuesday,” if you know what I mean. It’s not easy for me to admit to what a waste of space I was, and it’s even harder to share it with everyone who will be reading this blog, (so, like, 5 people) but I feel like it’s necessary to cop to it as a way of shedding the old me. This experience has been somewhat of a metamorphosis of mind, body, and spirit, and I have to completely shed my old skin in order to become something, or someone, worthy of it. I’m about to get pretty real here, so brace yourselves for the impact of some pretty major truth bombs.

My childhood was definitely not something that would be written into some major Lifetime movie event. It was completely average. Magnificently average. I had two parents who loved me (still do), and two siblings who were basically my best friends (still are). I had wonderfully magical Christmases, and have always had everything that I could ever want or need. I was always an excellent student, made Honor Roll on a consistent basis, and graduated highschool with honors. I even got my Gold Award as a Girl Scout of 12 years. I was all set up to become a successful and accomplished human being, and a high functioning member of society. But it never happened. Somehow I never became the person (I thought) I was meant to be. I started college as a Vocal Performance major, and dropped out after three weeks. I then proceeded to jump from job to job, boyfriend to boyfriend, and back and forth from Portland and Myrtle Beach where my parents were living at the time. I never felt like I had any traction. It felt impossible to get my life on track. I was in a constant uphill battle with anxiety and depression, and it literally showed on my face from years of trichotillomania (the compulsion to pull out your own hair, or eyelashes and eyebrows. Mine is the latter). My bald face is a major insecurity of mine, and has been since I started exhibiting symptoms of the condition at 13. It was a source of ridicule from my peers, and even sometimes adults, who didn’t understand that I had an uncontrollable illness. “Isabelle, why don’t you just stop pulling them out?” They would ask. Genius! What a revelation! The notion had never once crossed my mind! (Queue dramatically sarcastic eyeroll). No, I want to look like a naked molerat. I think I really rock the look.

As the years went on, and I cycled through waves of self-sabotage and…whatever the hell the opposite of “self-sabotage” is, I finally settled at a job with Netflix. I had my own apartment, had ended a toxic relationship, and was finally independent. And it felt great, for the first few months, until my pattern of poor decision making came back to rear its ugly head. Anyone who really knows me knows that I suffered from stomach issues since childhood. Until recent years, when I finally got a competent doctor, I was always diagnosed with IBS, which is basically what they say in place of “I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with you. Here’s a lollipop and bill for $500.” Stress always exacerbated the condition, so when I worked at a high stress call center job, I was basically always sick. My doctor sent me home with forms for my work giving me FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act, which basically grants you completely excused time off of work on a monthly basis), and a monthly prescription for oxycodone. I bet you can see where this is going. Giving a chronically depressed, and perpetually self-sabotaging, person a prescription for a controlled substance should be considered gross neglegence. This was the lowest point of my life. Laying on the couch for days on end, not hours, days, taking pain pills, and watching tv shows became my life. I never went to work, and I considered getting off my ass to go to the grocery store to be a productive day. When I would talk on the phone with my sister, I could tell her everything that happened on Ghost Whisperer, but never had anything to say about myself. It got to the point where I was so deep in depression that I would sleep for days, and wake up not knowing the date. And then I’d eat a whole roll of cookie dough in one sitting and proceed to stack on the pounds, and sink further into self loathing.


One morning (or night. They were the same thing at that point) in the midst of another Netflix binge, I caught a glimpse of my reflection on my laptop screen. I looked only half alive. My double chin was resting on my chest, and my eyes were lifeless and glazed over from the hours of TV I had just consumed. This new perspective of myself triggered something in me. I had the sudden and terrifying realization that this was going to be my life forever. I felt completely helpless and hopeless. It felt impossible to change. I had allowed myself to get pulled into the quicksand of stagnancy, and I was willingly surrendering to my misery without so much as a struggle. The reality of knowing that if I didn’t make a change now, I would be stuck like this forever surged over me in a moment of blind panic and haunting clarity. The first thing I did the following day was call up my doctor, and demand that she discontinue my oxycodone prescription. The second thing I did was call my mom. We arranged for me to move back in with her and my dad in Myrtle Beach so I could basically retrain myself to be an adult. It worked, to a degree, but wherever you go, there you are. I made some strides, like saving up money, and applying for college. I had a vision in my mind of who I wanted to be, so I just took small steps everyday to inch my way closer to becoming that person. I got accepted to Portland State, and moved into the dorms the following September. In an attempt to decrease the length of this post, I won’t delve too deep into my college experience. It was definitely a learning experience in every sense of the word. I did really well for the first couple of years, but by year three, I really lost steam. I am probably the most undisciplined person on the planet, (okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but I am pretty damn lazy.) I started using my stomach condition to get out of going to class, or to make up a missed exam. I began losing my sense of integrity and became someone, once again, who I did not like or respect. The cycle of self-sabotage had commenced yet again.

If there is one thing I have learned through my lifetime of poor decisions and lack of self discipline, it is the importance of self parenting. You have to be able to tell yourself no, and more importantly, you have to listen. You need to keep the promises you make to yourself because if you can’t trust yourself, you become someone who is not trustworthy. I became so tired of the ugliness of my character that I decided that this was the time to self parent. This was the time I really needed to come through for myself to end this endless pattern that has prevented me from really living my life. I was acting like an unruly and disobedient child, and what do you do with a child who needs to learn respect for the rules? You send them to bootcamp.

This bike trip was meant to get me in shape for the military, but it has become so much more. I had no idea the struggles I would face, and the spiritual awakening that I would experience. It has already begun reshaping my character, and steering me closer toward the woman I hope to be. A woman who is worthy.