So, I signed up for a class in storywriting (I think I mentioned it earlier) and it has gotten me out of the “dry spell”. I’m glad I signed up for the class, because writing the first three pages was so difficult I doubt I’d have managed it otherwise. it’s good to know that others are reading your writing–otherwise, it feels like there’s no point. The class itself isn’t giving me a whole lot, but having readers is. Yay!
At any rate, I have the first three pages written, and am working on the next vignette, which is going up Quadbuster (the steepest hill on the ride). It’s surprisingly difficult, primarily because writing is all about detail and I remember relatively few of the details–I have to reconstruct things from what I remember and from interviews. You try remembering the exact scenery from every moment of a 585-mile ride, especially when you’ve been concentrating on not hitting cyclists. Yeah, exactly.
It’s also taking a surprisingly long time to write up the interviewed parts, because it takes about four hours of transcription per page. This is temporary, and it basically has to do with my own laziness. I have probably about 100 hours of interviews, and maybe four hours are transcribed. Most of them are still on the original audiotape. So, to get a quote from someone, I first have to rerecord the conversation in digital audio format (1.5 hours on average), taking short notes on the content of the conversation, and then find the passage where the interesting topic was discussed and transcribe it (usually another 2 hours). As an example, I typed up 13 pages of transcript from two audiotapes to get the first 2.5 pages. But the good news is that once I type up a segment, I don’t have to do it again. The bad news is, I have a LOT of interviews.
But the biggest problem is that I wasn’t physically there for most of it, which makes it really hard. How do you dramatize something when you can’t make up details? I can write that someone got their knee examined, but if he doesn’t remember who did it, I can’t make up a description of the physical therapist who did the examination. I can’t write the conversation because it isn’t remembered. And so on. I’m really debating the limits of how much detail I can make up/extrapolate, since this is narrative nonfiction. I’m reading some narrative nonfiction to see if I can help with that. My inspiration at the moment is John McPhee’s Looking for a Ship, which is all about the U.S. Merchant Marine–John McPhee being modestly described as “the best nonfiction writer living”. I actually don’t see why he’s regarded in such total awe (though he does write very, very good nonfiction and I would like to be that good someday), but the point is that Looking for a Ship is almost exactly the style and format that I think would be best for the book, so I am reading and re-reading it, analyzing its structure.
The alternative is something more like Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (an account of climbing Mt. Everest), although I’m not sure I can duplicate that, either. Krakauer had the advantage of being present in, and participating in, every inch of the ride. I’m trying to write vignettes of the ride of a whole. Two other interesting works of narrative nonfiction are The Right Stuff (Tom Wolfe), which is about the space program, and The Perfect Storm (can’t recall the author), but I think neither of them has the style I want. I’ve been voraciously reading various books of narrative nonfiction, looking for a style/tone that will work for this ride. I’m concentrating on those that are written in the third person, and are about a journey of some sort–if you have suggestions, let me know.
My other big project at the moment is mostly happening at the gym: I’ve decided to get moderately serious about weightlifting and am working on a more concerted program. The trouble is that bodybuilding and cycling are just about mutually exclusive–lots of cardio exercise tends to prevent you from putting on muscle, which is of course the whole point of bodybuilding. I was going to spend the winter focusing on bodybuilding and rebuild cycling endurance in the spring (since the winter season is the “rest season” anyway), but I’ve decided that I do want to keep a little bit of endurance cycling up. It’s easier to *stay* in cardio condition than to get there in the first place–once you’ve been in good condition for a year or more your body tends to stay that way even if you’re inactive for a few months. But if you’re a couch potato for too long, you get to start from ground zero.
I’ve been off the bike for a good eight months due to the knee injury, and really it’s been more like 14 months since I was in really good shape. I’m in much better condition still than when I started cycling, but I don’t want to go all the way back there. So I do want to do enough cycling to keep myself in the game.
So I’m compromising by spending four days in the gym weightlifting and two days a week on the road cycling. Weightlifting workouts are ideally supposed to be an hour or less (although for pro bodybuilders it can apparently be longer), basically because you start running out of glycogen after an hour of intensive weightlifting, and your brain shuts down, strength dramatically decreases, and so on. I find that happens to me at just about 1 hour.
Unfortunately, that’s not long enough to get a full upper and lower body workout, so I’m splitting my workouts and doing lower body one day, upper body the next. Each set of muscles gets a day of rest in between workouts (which is important), and I never get totally exhausted on any given day. Four days of that, a day off, and then two days of cycling. (The day off is really important–that’s the day your body rebuilds. I don’t know of any form of training that involves serious workouts seven days a week–that’s a sure route to overtraining.)
Anyway, I’m reading up on weightlifting methods and tactics, partly because I do want a good musclebuilding program, but mostly because I’m curious about how it works. Thus far I’ve discovered mostly that no one agrees on exactly what works. But I’m sifting through three or four books trying to understand how to design a workout schedule in phases (adaptation, muscle-building, fat-cutting) and how to avoid overtraining.
Cycling-wise, I’m just putting in miles and rebuilding my “base”. I’m in awful shape at the moment; my longest ride has been about 20 miles, and I can’t even do that consistently. (20 miles is the endurance cycler’s equivalent of a nice stroll in the park.) But I haven’t lost much speed, which is a good sign–I just need to work up to longer rides.
So at the moment the schedule is:
Monday: lower body
Tuesday: upper body
Wednesday: lower body
Thursday: upper body
If I were really gung-ho about it, I’d go to a nine-day training schedule (six weightlifting workouts, day of rest, two days cycling, repeat), but this will be easier to manage once I’m working again. Long-distance cycling takes a lot of time, which is hard to get in except on weekends. Unless you’re unemployed, of course. But I hope not to be!!
I’m still not in good enough shape to follow this schedule–the last week or so I’ve had to do two weightlifting workouts and then take a day off–but I’m rapidly getting to that point. It’s amazing how fast your body adapts when you give it something to do. Even in a few months of not-terribly-serious weightlifting, I’ve put on a bunch of muscle–my arms are nicely shaped, I have much bigger triceps, nice shoulder and trapezius muscles, and real back muscle. Not only that, but I’ve dropped an equivalent amount of fat, since my weight hasn’t changed a bit. 🙂 If I start a more serious program, I suspect I’ll do pretty well.
But I also have to lose about fifteen pounds of fat to get rid of the roll around my midsection.
The funny part is that I still don’t think of myself as particularly athletic–there are plenty of more muscular people in the gym, and most cyclists with equivalent training can ride me into the ground. (At 5’0″ and 150 lbs, I’m both a short and a heavy cyclist–which means most people are going to be faster.) Admittedly, six workouts a week puts me on the high end for most Americans, but it’s still not serious–there are plenty of people bigger and faster than me, and so forth.
Or maybe it’s just that I spent the first twenty-odd years of my life as a couch potato, and have only been seriously working out for the past three years. But I’m amazed by how much better I feel, even though I’m not super-skinny (28-30% body fat) or a competition athlete.
I think that if you’re thinking of starting an exercise program, the answer isn’t to pick a program to make you lose weight or anything like that–set yourself a goal with a sport you like (try different sports until you find one!), and go for it. It’s really hard to motivate yourself to do something that you can’t stand, and I think that’s why most people’s exercise programs don’t work. If you don’t like aerobics, don’t do it! Go walking or running or something.
Sign up for a marathon! It’s much more fun to be training towards a positive goal (“I’m going to run the AIDS Marathon, and get a free trip to Hawaii”) than to train for a negative one (“I should really get into shape”).
Moving along…I’ve gotten started on the latest fiber project, though I haven’t had much time to work on it yet. It’s the “Grief” shawl, and it’s starting out with black, coarse fiber in the center, and moving out to fine white fiber on the outside. I may add beads, too. I was having some trouble finding a black, harsh fiber (most fiber shops sell next to the skin stuff for obvious reasons), but a friend of mine gave me some Black Welsh Mountain Sheep roving (from Oogie) and it turns out to be perfect. I’ve been deliberately overspinning it to make it harsher, and mixing it with a little bit of human hair (“pulling your hair out in grief”), and it makes the perfect tight, prickly yarn. I’m now at the point where I start changing the color from black to a dark grey (by mixing it with a little bit of grey wool) and start toning down the harshness, by spinning it softer and also mixing in a lot of a softer wool, probably Romney lamb.
But between the two other projects, haven’t had a whole lot of time to work on it. What time is not spent writing or at the gym has pretty much been spent on resumes; I’m now reworking my resume for each individual application. I’m sending out far fewer resumes (not bothering for ones that aren’t a good match) and doing individual rewrites and cover letters for the good ones. I’m sending out about one resume a day, which takes an hour or so.
That’s it for the moment…more in a couple days.