Sunday, July 17, 2011

Passing for Normal

Almost two weeks have passed since I traded in the rolling gulag of the Tour Divide for the down pillow of Civilization. Re-integrating into civilized society, into the world of the Normals, means a few adjustments to my daily existence. Eat-Sleep-Ride has been replaced by Eat-Sleep-Family-Yardwork-Sleep-Friends-Yoga-Shower-Sleep-Taxes-Stampede-Sleep. The basic elements are still there (though slightly different). Family, friends and bathing are welcome additions. The rest is just the noise of the city. A few perspectives on my new existence:

Eat. My last breakfast on the Tour Divide was three egg McMuffin meals with chocolate milk. That packs enough calories to fuel me for an entire day with my new lifestyle, but my body hasn't figured that out yet. It's not that I'm fidgeting like a junkie outside the 7-11, plotting my next binge on peanut m&m's and gummy bears. It's more like my body is aware of the availability and convenience of fresh foods and is intent on making up for lost time. Or maybe my intestines have just been stretched from the high volume of fuel that I've been running through them for...wow...six months now. Either I'm going to have to get back on the bike in a serious way or I'm going to have to reel in this gastronomic madness and start eating like a normal person.

Sleep. In 2011, I have spent more nights sleeping outside than sleeping inside. I used to think that a comfortable bed was a gift that optimized my rest time, but I am beginning to think that a comfortable bed something of a trojan horse. Indeed, in Africa and along the Divide, sleeping without the luxury of a cushion, temperature control or sound insulation, I often fantasized about sleeping indoors. My nights outdoors were typically short and involved a moderately uncomfortable but unavoidable awakening with the imminent arrival of the sun.

I've now indulged in my longest stretch of bed sleep (11 nights!). It's been an all-I-can-sleep buffet of bed rest. These nights indoors have invariably been long, continuing well into the daylight, and involve a moderately uncomfortable awakening with the sudden arrival of my gigantic appetite. These indoor sleeps have been supplemented with afternoon naps as I am often feeling exhausted again by mid day. But how can this be? Is it possible that my comfortable mattress is robbing me of a good rest? Are there diminishing returns to sleep?

Frustrated that I can spend as much time in bed now as I was spending on the bike during my trip down the Divide, I am feeling a need to cut myself off from this sleep-fest. First I have begun weaning myself from the teat of the afternoon nap and I will soon employ an alarm clock. Failing that, I will abandon the trappings of my mattress and venture into my backyard with my bivy sac for some proper sleep. (of course, that would threatens cover as being normal).

Ride. I tried riding my bike last week. Free of the baggage that I hauled along the Tour Divide and upgrading from steel to titanium, my road bike felt more as a toy than a serious means of transportation. It was a feeling that I fantasized about many times as I pedaled my tank of a bike to the Mexican border. Still, my 125km freedom ride was not the ground-speed-record-setting tappa a cronometro that I had imagined it would be. It resembled more closely the pleasure cruise of a retirement home resident. Perhaps a week is not sufficient recovery time, or perhaps I have cemented my place as a long-haul diesel engine.

Family. It is so nice to be back in the company of my family; my appreciation for them is as strong as it has ever been. I can hang out with them without consideration of time constraints or mental distraction and it is totally awesome. I think that this is how family time is supposed to be! Amazingly, my young nephews still remember me. All of us went down to the Stampede grounds together this week. I bet it's been more than 20 years since I was there with my parents last. Weadickville, mini-donuts, livestock. Oh, the memories! And every hug from my parents and my sister and her husband and my nephews fills me with joy and love. I am so lucky to have a family like this. I missed those hugs. 

Friends. With most of my days lost to sleeping and eating, I am still making my way through reconnecting with friends, most of whom I haven't seen since last year. I sometimes have this fear that I have been away so long that my friends wont remember me. But they do. It's like no time has passed, except that now there are so many adventures to speak of, on all sides. And every time that I laugh in the company of my friends I think of how fortunate I am to have such friends and to be with them now.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Tori--Glad to hear you're adjusting back to a somewhat normal life. I too am trying to achieve normal eating and sleep habits after 5 weeks of TD tracking. Tom and I spent a week in CO afterwards. It was meant to be biking holiday, but gawd was it hard to breath on wheels! I kept imagining all of you at those altitudes with so much gear on your bikes. Gasp. I'm so impressed! In case you didn't see it, I posted a nice pic of the group leaving Deming. It's on page 95 of the Bikepacking forum. Looking forward to hearing (and espcially reading) about your next adventure!
Gail E

July 22, 2011 at 12:11:00 PM MDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you're getting some quality family time! I got to see JP, Tom, Gail and the rest of my family at our other brother's wedding in Minneapolis last weekend. JP's wife Elizabeth is working on an awesome video with the footage JP took on the ride; she showed us a "rough draft" in Minneapolis. It's funny, beautiful and you'll enjoy it.

Cathy

July 22, 2011 at 10:38:00 PM MDT  
Blogger Jill Homer said...

Returning to normal took me a lot longer than I expected. I remember having the worst sugar cravings. Once I even walked into a gas station, bought a 5-ounce bag of Sour Patch Kids and downed the entire thing before I even gave a single thought to what I was doing. It also took me nearly a month before I stopped feeling sluggish and generally under-the-weather. Good luck with your recovery, and enjoy the family/friends time.

July 22, 2011 at 11:08:00 PM MDT  

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