|I'm only 38 - I can't be in the sunset days of my running adventures, can I?|
I've struggled some with body image, since the lack of training has left me a few pounds heavier than I'd like to be - things don't fit the way I'm used to, and it's discouraging to put on an outfit you love and discover it's too snug to hang properly. Mostly, though, I've struggled with feeling weak when I work so very hard to be strong, and that leaves me questioning my competence...and not just in running, either.
A few photos have recently helped me see that maybe it's not as bad as I think, though, so I am going to unabashedly post them here.
Tanker took this one on Canada Day while I enjoyed a sublime evening paddle on Lake Erie. When I threw on those bikini bottoms I felt like I bulged out over them horribly and everyone would laugh at the chubby chick with the muffin top flailing her way around on a board. While yes, there's a bit of extra insulation there, what shines out to me in this photo is the strength in my quads - the same strength I felt was slipping away from me as I limp my way through this season of running beset by pain and frustration. Despite the hours I've spent lifting and even running a recent ultra, I didn't know I still had those quads.
This is another example of a photo that surprised me with the visible strength in my legs. I was just trying on a pair of board shorts at MEC and took this photo to send to Tanker.
Those calves, thighs and butt don't look like someone who has been slacking off in their training. They look like someone who has spent years building strength and endurance through forward motion. It can be hard to feel like that person these days, but the truth was there in the mirror if only I'd take the time (and get my mind right) to look.
The last photos are actually unrelated to running, but is still tie directly into the theme of confidence in my own competence. My motorcycle has been running like junk for the last couple of years - hard to start, stalling when coming off the throttle, and with a horribly uneven idle when it's warm. I thought I had the idle problem licked after a clutch adjustment (it had to be done at the motor - I was out of adjustment at the lever), but it returned despite improved shifting. The throttle was also sticky; I'd have to manually roll it off when shifting from 2nd to 3rd or the motor would stay revved, which is hard on the bike.
|My poor girl deserves better.|
The last thing I could try before sending it off to a licensed mechanic for untold hundreds of dollars of diagnostic and repair work was a valve adjustment. It's specced every 24,000km, the bike has almost 68,000km on it, and apart from the initial adjustment after the break-in period (around 1,500km) I think I'd only done one other maintenance adjustment around 27,000km. So, the poor girl was definitely due.
The problem is that it's about a 5 hour procedure that takes quite a bit of skilled wrench work, and I didn't know if I was still up to the job. It's been years since I attempted anything terribly challenging on a bike - I think the last delicate procedure was installing a set of forward controls on Tanker's bike all the way back in September of 2015.
|On a horribly hot day, in someone else's garage, with a somewhat hodgepodge selection of tools..|
|Just enough space for my fingers between the frame and the rear cylinder intake valve cover.|
|The front cylinder inner exhaust valve is about the only one you can properly see.|
There was a lot of swearing, loads of cursing the Suzuki engineers who designed this nightmare, and one I-hadn't-eaten-for-8-hours tantrum when it looked like I'd be unable to remove one valve cover due to a stripped bolt head (8mm hex heads with no clearance? REALLY?)...but walking away for 10mins and having a snack got me sorted out enough to finish it up. I even did some cleaning & lubrication of the throttle body while I had her tank off.
|She looks so sad without her tank and saddle..|
When she was finally all back together at 10:30pm, I didn't even have the guts to start her up to give it all a listen. I'd had to go very carefully just to get everything rebuilt the way it should be: flywheel cover, inspection port cover & valve covers re-installed; pair valve hose re-attached; tank & wiring harness re-connected and bolted down; gauge cluster re-connected and bolted back in place...all while thoroughly exhausted. If I started her up and it was clear I'd somehow made things worse, or if she wouldn't start for some reason, I would have collapsed into a sobbing heap...so I just waited until the next day when I had no choice, as I had to warm her up in order to do an oil change as well.
|Blood transfusion time!|
Fortunately, while a little on the loud side (I set the clearances a little loose, as I feel it's better to lose some top-end power with loose valves than to risk burning a valve by having them too tight), my hard work seems to have done the trick. She started up much more easily than she has in ages, and after the oil changes on both bikes we took them out for a ride.
|Let's go already!|
The variable idle is gone. She doesn't belch black smoke when I really dig into the throttle. She honestly feels fantastic - like I got my girl back. The throttle doesn't stick anymore, either!
|Almost like I knew what the hell I was doing.|
So, as we head out this Sunday on an adventure filled with uncertainties - motorcycle touring alone can be a bit chaotic, let alone camping and attempting to climb some mountains along the way - I can look at these photos and feel just a bit less like the weak, pathetic, hapless idiot my mind wants me to believe I am.
|Listen here: I even managed to take a photo while STANDING UP on my board on Sunday evening!|
And I'm bringing my running shoes along, because there's this:
|Waterfront trail section near our first night's campsite|
|Trail in Parc National du Mont-Tremblant|
|View from a trail near our campsite in Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier|
So you'll be spared my sniveling for a week while I go use my confidence to ride my newly improved bike to some beautiful places, then let these strong legs carry me to see some incredible things. I'm grateful to have the strength and competence to go explore our amazing world in these ways, even if I sometimes lose sight of my own worth.
I'm also grateful to have someone around to remind me, even when I don't listen very well.
|He's always got my back.|