Thursday, December 31, 2009


it's been snowing for days, beginning with a grainy, unclean, mucky sleetish snow and gradually morphing into a beautiful, crystalline, light powder that now sits lightly over every surface and is sparkling under the sun's rays.
it's a beautiful morning, full of promise and perfection.
and here I sit, on the day of closure, looking back at my cycling year. I think I'll take a few minutes to just glory in all of those miles, all of those experiences, the totality of what the past 364 days have meant to my life.

my 6000 miles included:
  • a chilly ride from wanship up chalk creek to the wyoming border on my first bad ass team ride
  • durango to silverton, 34 degrees at coal bank pass on memorial day weekend
  • the fastest 100 mile tour of cache county I've ever been on, thanks to the bad ass team
  • the 1000 warrior-fools ride, hitting the base of little cottonwood 94 miles in, on a 99 degree day
  • my slowest lotoja yet, an exacting test of my mental strength
  • countless rides up and down emigration to my beloved little dell and back
  • wolf creek pass, torrey, teasdale, monte cristo, trapper's loop, old snow basin road, little cottonwood, big cottonwood, big mountain, morgan, ,millcreek, henefer, city creek, francis, kamas, midway, brown's canyon . . .
  • and 2 (yes TWO) mountain bike rides

places those miles did not include that I wanted them to:
guardsman (I only went halfway up, once)
albian basin

just kidding about the hawaii part. though I have heard from quite a few people that riding at sea level is a thrill ~ all that available oxygen, you know. someday I will ride at sea level and experience that for myself.

I have had an amazing year. I am truly grateful for every experience, both off and on my bike, as each such experience is moving me closer to becoming the best version of me. I suffered plenty this year, and I celebrated great accomplishments. I kept my commitment to myself, and I continue to keep the concept of balance part of my belief system. I will never stop learning, I will continue to keep an open mind, I will always take it all in and keep only that which matches who I am.

I haven't yet committed to any organized rides for the coming year. at the moment I have no great goals, no have-to-do-it rides. my overarching goal is to train smarter, and not ride quite so much. what my challenge will be is that I like to ride my canyons, and I don't necessarily like doing "drills". so once power camp is over, I will need to develop a plan that allows me to ride where and when I want that also includes the kind of workouts I need to keep me fit and progressing up that performance ladder.
piece of cake.
I mean, sweet potato.
or kale.
yes, I will continue to incorporate those good foods in my diet. yes, I will still eat cake. yes, I will add more electrolyte replacement drinks in my intake and I will not overhydrate with plain water.
yes, I will still drink diet coke and coffee.
can't change too much or I wouldn't be me.

which brings me to my best goal for the new year: to be authentically me, me, me. because that's what God intended, and that's the best way to play my part in the world.
so how about if you be you this year, and I'll be me, and we'll all work together to try to pull it back around to the kind of world we want to live in?
happy new year, and may it become your best one yet.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

the fool

lest you fear I am a one-dimensional being, one who lives only for 2-wheeled adventures and velo opportunities, herewith I share with you my Grand Adventure of last sunday:
Susan Takes a Boarding Lesson.

I could begin with today, and tell you that I've spent most of it hobbling around, limping, favoring my poor bruised knees, tailbone, and thumb . . . but that might take some of the fun out of the story.

I think I'll begin with the fact that I'm quite excited (and amazed) that john captured this picture of me upright and smiling.
smiling wasn't the difficult part.
remaining upright was.

I took a snowboarding lesson at snow basin sunday, and I ~ once again ~ enjoyed the state of humbled humiliation. I find this to be good for my character, this experience of being a novice, an initiate, or, more accurately, a bit of a fool.

there is a card in the tarot deck called 'the fool.' it is known as the card of infinite possibilities, and it represents someone embarking on a journey full of confidence, trust, and faith that all will be well, as well as an understanding that every experience encountered has a deep, essential meaning.

I learned many things during my hours on (and underneath, beside, and holding) that board: one of the most important being how very darn easy it is to just ride a bike.
but I also learned, or more accurately, relearned, that oh-so-important feeling of starting from nothing and building a bit of a skill that takes you to a place you've never been before.
and which makes you desire a bit more of the same.

I'll leave it to you to guess whether or not I'll be on a snowboard again this year.
or next.
or possibly the one after . . .

Sunday, December 27, 2009

the new bike

a few days before Christmas I was walking through a wal-mart parking lot.
I noticed a mountain bike leaning against a car, a bright, shiny royal blue brand new mountain bike. the car was some kind of compact sedan, a dark red color. the man wore jeans and a puffy coat, and I watched him pop the trunk open, then begin trying to fit the bike into the trunk.
I grinned. both outside and inside.
some lucky kid was getting a shiny new bike for Christmas, and my mind just went spiraling off in a multitude of pleasant directions, thinking of where he or she might be headed on that magical machine.
this is what I hope: that whoever it is who received that bike will find even one tenth of the amount of pleasure I have found on my bike this past year. may they swoop and soar and pant and push and grind and be exultant when they reach the top of every hill. may they work up a sweat, and spend oodles of time coasting. may they discover the pure joy of wind rushing against their cheeks. may they grin every bit as big as the grin that lit my insides when I saw that bike.
and may the bike-giver experience that wonderful feeling one gets from giving a gift that brings someone great joy and pleasure for hours and weeks and months to come.

happy pedaling to us all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


what a thing to discuss two days before Christmas: bodies.
body shapes and sizes and structures.
now I realize we're all subtly adjusting our bodies with all that holiday season high caloric intake, but in general we don't move far from "normal" in just a week or two.
and this is what I keep noticing lately: we come in a million (or so) different versions of normal.

I, unfortunately, grew up with that image of Beautiful that was long-limbed, narrow waisted and hipped, full breasted, naturally blonde, and, well, much more Barbie-like than seemed reasonable. (I do remember believing princess caroline of monaco was gorgeous for a while there, she of dark hair and blue eyes: she broke the mold a tad with that brunette mane, but still possessed all the other physical feature must-haves.)
oh, and creamy complexions: skin that never flushes or reddens or behaves in a prickly manner.
cheeks that become rosy in the cold, but never go blotchy.
noses that, if they turn bright red with cold, look dainty and sweet.
let's see, what else. oh, yes, never, never, never any cellulite on any part of the body. firm, taught skin that glows with health and makes evident the strong, supple, capable muscle structure beneath.

that was exhausting.
it's hard to think about the perfection that taunts us. all of those fit, gorgeous, physically blessed people who grace the covers of magazines and our television and movie screens.
reality is that we come in all those amazingly different shapes and sizes, and there is very little perfect out there. or I should say, we are each perfect in our own imperfect ways.

in my power camp class there are extremely fit people whose shapes aren't the typical Beautiful Person shape. some of these people even have a little extra body fat. some have thick torsos, some have thick legs, some have thick arms. there are people whose legs are short, and those whose legs never seem to end. some of us are tall, some are shorter, and a bunch of us are smack dab in the middle.
no two of us are very much alike at all.
and this is what I've been noticing lately.
I wish I didn't think so much about it, but I do. if I could come to class wearing makeup and a ballgown it would be completely different. but the makeup-less, sweaty, bicycle shorts (ugh)-wearing me is not me with my best look. so I'm always looking to see what other people look like in bike shorts.
yes, there are a few (okay, two) women who look really good in their bike shorts. the rest of us sport lumps and bumps and are not incredibly flattered by the padded chamois. and for this, I feel great relief.
I just want confirmation that I'm not the only imperfect non-Beautiful Person out there.

I'm getting better at accepting how I am. I tell myself I'm fit and healthy, and those are the important things.

but I still want to come back in my next life with flawless, non-reddening skin and long, slender legs.

Monday, December 21, 2009

those things in my ears

I am plugged in again.
back on my music kick:
at one with my ipod.

I love my ipod.
yes, I know you've heard this before. but I hadn't used my cute greeen ipod nano for months, and hadn't worked out with it since . . . well, perhaps early one wet fall morning when I used it in the spin room, before the 6 am class started, needing my own music to spin to. but prior to that it had been since last spring's weight room workouts, those long and boring sessions before riding season began in earnest.
so, a few days ago I asked my son to purchase two songs for me and put them on my ipod. which he did. and then I plunked myself down at the computer, opened my library, and created a new playlist.
I have hundreds of songs on my ipod, many of which were placed there by my daughters who for some mysterious and unknown reasons occasionally need to use my ipod instead of their own. I usually just hit shuffle, then skip through the songs I don't care to listen to. but what I discovered is that too many songs I love never get shuffled to the play position.
so, nearly 3 years after I received my ipod and made my first 2 playlists, I finally created a new one, playlist number 3.
and included the best of the best, the songs I love to hear and to sing with, the songs that motivate and inspire me.
monday after power camp class I headed down to the weight room, eagerly strapping my ipod to my arm, pushing the play button. from the very first song I was in heaven. I love my music.
the only aspect of listening to my ipod I regret is that it is an alienating activity . . . I get lost in my own little musical world and I am both unapproachable and oblivious. I don't make eye contact with anyone because if they then open their mouths to speak, I can't hear a word they say. and usually, I don't want to hear it because I would then have to pause my song and leave my inner bliss.
for now, my ipod has become novel again. I adore it, I am engrossed in what it's feeding me through my earbuds. and my compatriots will just have to tolerate my physical presence/mental absence until I settle down into a more tolerable relationship with my ipod.
which may not occur for a while, because my December 09 playlist (creative title, I know) is full of chords and words and voices and melodies and harmonies that please my soul and fill me with joy.
amazing what a little piece of hardware and a set of earphones can do for a person.
may you find your joys and soul-filling experiences somewhere out there, as well.

ps: this is post #500. apparently it's a week for milestones.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

coldplay times three

those of you who know me know that coldplay is one of those bands I really, really like. a few years back they recorded a song called 2000 miles, which had previously been recorded by the pretenders. it's not on any of coldplay's albums, and the story I uncovered is that they recorded it, then made it available as a free download on their website.
I love this song.
I even like it done by the pretenders, but I prefer coldplay's version ~ mainly because of chris martin's voice, I'm sure. and the piano.
it could be classified as a Christmas song, because the words do mention Christmas time, but it's truly just a song about someone missing someone. the pretender's video has snow in the background, and all in all, I guess I think of it as a winter song.

it's winter now.

but I also had (yes, past tense) a milestone to reach. and today was looking to be warmer and drier than any of the next ten days heading our way, so I decided to get my butt on the saddle and conquer those remaining miles.
thus, in 34 degree weather under partially sunny skies, I indulged in my own cold-play.

and it was great.

I miss that bike saddle. I loved the pull of my cleats on the pedals, the flex of my hamstring muscles and the tightening of my quads. rises fell away under my wheels, and each hill was just a pale and lessened memory of my canyon climbs. I remembered what it felt like to ride a real bike out in the real world. an exclusive and limited club had members out and about today: Cyclists Who Will Ride in 35 Degree Weather.
it was wonderful.

and then it was wonderful to be home two hours later, to snuggle my toes into the warm carpet and ground myself with the heated tile floor. to stretch and flex my fingers and let them come to be warm again. to curl on the couch and knit, and look outside and relive the experience.

and to know that I hit a significant milestone this calender year, a pretenders song times three. I may never do that again ~ I don't feel the need to force it to happen ~ but I am pleased and grateful to have been able to do it.
and darn pleased and intensely grateful for an exhilarating, terrific, gratifying ride today on my good friend and staunch companion, ruby.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

getting chicked

this morning the gal next to me in power camp said, I get all my pop culture from this class.
which holds true for yours truly, as well.
trivia, gossip, tidbits of what's going on "out there" . . . power camp brings to me an awareness of the Great Big World that I often don't pay much attention to.

for example, let me tell you about some of my experiences in the past few days.
  • I listened to just a sampling of the tiger woods jokes spinning all around the country, as he has been outed as the kind of guy we all dread being in relationship with, and he was just voted Athlete of the Decade. wow. just wow.
  • the lyrics of two songs actually stunned me into near-speechlessness this week. I had no idea these songs were out there, as I suppose I listen to "clean" radio. and because you're dying to know, they would be The Real Slim Shady, and Californication. uh-huh. this morning listening to Eminem I was either blushing, or just suffering from over-exertion. your guess.
  • I learned that the Tour de France began in 1903, and that the first documented case of cheating occurred in 1904.
  • I learned that not only is there a school that requires its students to take a course in unicycling, but that the tallest unicycle is 10 stories high. is there a point to wearing a helmet when you ride that thing?
  • and the best thing of all this week, I learned a new phrase, thanks to a story about Ironman competitions and Chrissie Wellington.
this last item needs its own paragraph here.
one of our instructors is a triathlete who was telling us Ironman stories the other day. Ironman competitions are for those people who (I am going to be kind) find enjoyment in completing grueling workouts that combine swimming, biking, and running in outrageous lengths. those would be 2.4 mile swims, 112 mile bike rides, and 26.2 mile runs. back to back, with "transitions" between the events that leave them biking sockless and running until blisters form and toenails fall off. gee, I can't believe I haven't signed up for one of these yet.
this instructor was telling us about Chrissie Wellington, the reigning Ironman champion. apparently she is so fast that she often passes professional male athletes. and apparently, these guys have coined a phrase for being passed by a female: getting chicked.
as in, Chrissie passed me: I just got chicked.
I love this.
and this I also love: chicking guys.
I know, I should be above it all, but I just get some really childish, snarky sense of satisfaction from passing men out there on my bike.
I don't get to do it all that often, and I don't count the guys who are obviously overweight, out of shape, or over 75 . . .
I don't gloat, I don't act superior, but deep down inside that little 5-year-old me is just pleased as punch to be chicking a guy.
up til now I haven't had an appropriate name for this event, so I am exceedingly grateful to my power camp class, which teaches me all sorts of wonderful things about this incredible world we live in.
but californication? geez.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

link of the day

sometimes I hear a song and am immediately enraptured by it. I love music, I hear the rhythm in everything, and I feel songs deep down in my bones.
I especially love hearing a new song that catches me by surprise in some way: a unique rhythm, unusual chords or patterns, or a voice I find particularly intriguing.
and spin class songs are under an intense microscope: I often distract myself from the pain and/or boredom of the workout by focusing on the music blasting from the speakers. I strain to catch the lyrics, I try to spin in time to the beat, I scour my memory for artist's names, and without a single bit of coaxing my memory banks delve deep into the past and push forward those little snippets of my life when I first heard a particular song.

the other day our instructor played a song that captured my heart and soul within the first few beats, and every time I visit youtube to play it a grin spreads across my face and my entire countenance lightens. and I start to wiggle, move, and dance, whether I'm sitting at the computer working or moving about the house.

so my gift to you today is this link, where you, too, can listen to kristen andreassen sing about crayons. and if this doesn't bring a smile to your face, I really wonder what might.

Kristin Andreassen Crayola

Sunday, December 13, 2009


whatever we choose to do in life, we do it much better when we are passionate about it.
this thought is on my mind because it's been challenging lately to think up things to write about: I am in my winter cocoon and although I may have passions for many things, my passion for writing about cycling is dampened by the cold and wet and lack of outdoor cycling opportunities. there is only so much one can say about power camp.
I want to ride up a canyon and be invigorated again.
I want to see and hear and smell and be an active participant in the world, instead of rushing to spend as little time as possible between car and building in the bitter cold or drizzling sleet. I want fresh air and sunshine and glittering hillsides and dry bike lanes.

today john told me about plans for a velodrome to be built out south in our valley, and while this may be great news for many people, I can't imagine being one who would utilize the facility. I'm sure I should (catch that?) do it once . . . but I don't see that fitting in on a regular basis with who I am.
I want to be out there, not in anywhere.

that being said, I am glad to be doing power camp. the workouts are good for me, the camaraderie is good for me, and the commitment is good for me.
it's just not always passion-inducing.
or emotionally stimulating.
it doesn't make me want to come home, turn on the computer, and write a novel about my experience.
however, I often enjoy the jokes that fly around the room.

thus I will turn to a power camp joke to end this missive ~ this is my favorite of the week, though my daughter tells me it's old news and posted all over facebook ~

sometimes I wonder why that frisbee keeps getting bigger and bigger . . .
and then it hits me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

it don't come easy

this is one key thing cycling has taught me:
how to spend a long time doing something you don't like so that you will become a better cyclist.
which can, of course, be extrapolated to the larger world:
I have learned how to tolerate experiences I don't care for so that I may evolve into a better person.
I have come a long way in these past few years, yet it is still a daily battle, one I am not sure I will ever emerge from completely victorious.
will I ever reach a point where I tolerate difficulty without wanting to quit, scream, pull my hair out, or just turn around and do something absolutely different?
as I said, I've made great progress over time. I'm much better at telling myself I will survive this than I used to be: now I know enough to believe myself when I say that. now I believe that these experiences do make me stronger, probably even more so mentally than even physically.
but this does not mean I have to like them.

my latest goal is to stop complaining about the experiences I don't like.
take this morning, for example. our task in class was to warm up for 10 minutes, then to spend 40 minutes spinning at 105 rpm's at a medium-low heart rate. the heart rate was not difficult to reach and hold, but the fast spinning is just something I find hard. I don't like it, it's not fun, it's something I constantly have to remind myself to keep up with, and it's just hard work. my legs prefer slower spinning with more resistance. so each time we have to do this fast-spinning-stuff I groan.
and I am working hard to first, keep those groans to myself, and second, reduce the number of groans I allow myself to groan.
attitude, attitude, attitude, I tell myself.
and then I realize I've become distracted and my legs have slowed to 100 rpm's and I have to push back up to 105.
and I give myself a pep talk about how there are only 38 minutes remaining.

I will conquer this.
because it's all about becoming the very best version of myself (thank you, matthew kelly) and that don't come easy.
if it did, it wouldn't be worth it, would it?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


yesterday's power camp class was a "time trial." what this means in the real cycling world is go fast and hard and try to win. what it means in power camp is high heart rate for extended time and plan on hurting.
we joke all the time in class about drafting each other, never being able to pull ahead of anyone, not getting there (wherever there might be) any faster than anyone else, and the headwinds/tailwinds provided by the fans in the room.
the only way to win a power camp time trial is to assign yourself a personal victory for spinning through it in whatever way you prescribed for yourself.
I just like to end without ever having experienced the I Am Going To Die sensation.

which is what I did, so I labeled myself victorious.
however, I did experience something else, which was the I Think I Hurt My Hamstring sensation.
this is new for me.
I've had knee issues throughout my cycling life ~ these issues come and go, and usually time, ice and bike adjustments end up solving the problems ~ I know knee pain. and I know cramps: I've not had many, but I've had a few over the years. but this muscle thing I experienced yesterday is new.
not good new, like yippee! I'm having a new experience! wow, this is cool!
new in the unknown sense, in the I never wanted to be here sense.

what happened is that about an hour into the class I suddenly felt a sharp, stabbing-type pain in the lower middle portion of my left hamstring. it moved along the muscle, in a way that made me think of a tear zipping through a piece of canvas. electric, painful, jolting me from my little zone and sending a loud message up to my brain and back down to my right leg: STOP !!

I don't need to go on and on; suffice to say I have a slight issue that I am working on.
a little ice, and a plan to apply heat on the way to class in the morning, plenty gentle stretching and some small amount of rest. I plan to be very careful, as the thought of really being injured is almost more than I can bear. I will be gentle, and give more work to my quads, and listen to my body. all the right things.

this morning's class was a combination of slow, heavy resistance work, and fast, light resistance spinning. what I learned is that my little injured hamstring doesn't like to spin around really quickly; funny, the rest of me (including the mental piece) doesn't like that part either!
perhaps I willed this upon myself . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

4.5 miles

there is snow on the road, and the wind has been whipping frozen particles from north to south, chilling me to the bone. what was a beautiful white carpet yesterday is now lumped in hollows and corners and scraped so diligently from my lawn that you might think I had asked someone to shovel the whiteness from my grass.
I saw not a single commuter-by-bike this morning on my way home from power camp, for which I felt great relief.
this is not good biking weather.

it hit me today that it might not be easy to get myself on a real bike these next couple weeks. the forecasts show clouds and snowflakes and temperatures that are good ages for college students. these are not the conditions in which I like to ride.
and see, I have to get out for at least a brief ride sometime in the next 24 days, so that I may end 2009 with a nice, cheery, round mileage number.
the day after thanksgiving brought me close to my milestone, but by the end of that ride I was so tired and cold that I had absolutely no desire to ride another 4.5 miles and hit it. a mere skip across the parking lot in contrast to the Big Annual Number, but there was just no way I wanted to do it. hey, I knew there would be plenty more opportunities to get out before the end of the year.

so I passed on the next day that offered upper thirties and partly cloudy skies.
and the one after that.
and even the one following that.
and now I find myself here: staring out the window at the sinisterly slick roads and the air that's so cold I can see minuscule ice crystals in their processes of formation. my nasal passages hurt just looking out there, and goose bumps run across my body at the thought of actually being out there.

I have 24 days left.
to ride 4.5 miles.
on dry pavement, under sunny skies and in (oh please) 40 degree air.
this is my present request this holiday season, just one beautiful day so I may complete my goal.
I think this is a reasonable request, which I will now convey to the weather gods above.

and you can place your own little vote on whether or not I will let the weather keep me from reaching that goal.
if only you could see my self-deprecating smirk.
yep, we all know me all too well.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

revolutionary math

a thought to be pondered:

during today's two-hour power camp spin class my legs made perfect circles over 12,000 times.

I think I've earned cake for dessert.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

superfood me

anyone who knows me knows that I prefer cookies to kale. and cake to broccoli. and candy to tofu.
I have never tried to pretend that I eat as well as I should.
I actually enjoy and eat many foods that are good for me, it's just that I supplement and sometimes replace healthy items with those composed primarily of refined sugars and fats. darn it, I have the biggest sweet tooth on earth.

last night was the Power Camp Nutrition Seminar. yep, can you see where this is headed?
first of all, there wasn't a whole lot of body fat in that room.
and they didn't serve us champagne and petit fours. not even cookies and punch.
try whole grain crackers, miniature cheese cubes, sliced fruit, and water.

and I am incorporating (taking in to my body) a new leaf. note, I am not turning over that new leaf, I am just adding it to me. I'm not quite ready to give up the sugar sprinkled side of the leaf for the completely healthy side.
yes, this was on my list of "intentions" last january, to fuel my body more effectively. and hey, it's still 2009, isn't it?

this is what hooked me.
the dietitian who spoke to us gave me an easy place to begin, and that is exactly what I needed.
she talked about a group of foods called superfoods, which are densely packed with nutrients. the list includes things like whole grains, lentils, salmon, sweet potatoes, kale (but I nixed that), spinach, beans, nuts and seeds, berries, citrus, kiwi, oatmeal.
the side of the leaf I'm incorporating is the one that says substitute some of these things for the preprocessed foods you usually gravitate to.
see, I am a lazy eater. I don't like to have to work too hard for my food: I need things that I can grab and munch on as I graze throughout my day. but I realize that the sugary, processed stuff I usually grab doesn't serve me well down the road. so I now have this plan to keep some of these superfood-things available so that I munch on them, instead.
this is my experiment. I am going to see if I have more energy, if I have less desire to crash mid-afternoon. I am giving these things a chance, because the dietitian threw a Socrates quote at us last night that finally got to me:
bad men live that they may eat and drink, whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.
yes, I've been one of those ride to eat people, (bad me), instead of an eat to ride person, and I can finally handle the shame no longer.

I had a baked sweet potato with salt and pepper for lunch today, and it was darn good.
I've snacked on a few sunflower seeds and a little bit of trail mix (fruit and nuts, no m&m's). I'm thinking about having a banana later. or possibly half an orange.

I am not promising a miracle. I will still eat cake. but I will work on training my mind that cake is not a meal.

and as usual, I promise to keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

blue card people

do you know that feeling you get when you are with people who seem to be in some way superior to you? they drive a more expensive car than yours, they're wearing mink while you're in your North Face hoodie, their skin is clearer or smoother or younger . . . it's not necessarily that you're jealous, it's not even that you want what it is they have: it's just that you sometimes slip into that place of thinking you are, perhaps, just a little less than.

okay, fine, if that's never happened to you, you're done reading here: go start your own Superior Being Blog.
if you can relate, read on.

this year power camp divides us into 3 distinct yet eerily homogeneous groups: Sport, Expert, and Elite. these divisions are based on your Power To Weight ratio, as determined by J.R. during your pre-power camp VO2 sub max testing. the program is adjusted slightly for the different classifications: Sports have an extra day off (suggested schedule is 5x a week instead of the 6x for Experts and Elites), Sports often have fewer of the work efforts (such as 12 "power starts" instead of the 15 the other two groups do), and Elites often are told to work in a higher heart rate zone than either of the other two groups (such as 4A instead of 3B).
J.R. tells us this is all in our best interest, and to mess with his program is to potentially keep you from achieving your best results.

when I mentioned above that we were eerily homogeneous, I was speaking for the core of the camper group who are pretty (very) darn focused on achieving their best results. one doesn't sign up for power camp on a lark, and I dare say the majority of us are highly committed.
however, one of our weaknesses---across the board---is that we like to work hard. and here we are, this group of overachievers, being told that we are to limit ourselves to 12 when others are doing 15, or to stay in 3B when others are working in 4A . . . I'll let you just imagine what can happen.
they say one of the most difficult forms of discipline an athlete must practice is that of holding back.

I'm an Expert. ooh, yes, I say that with a gleam in my eye that remains while I roll them heavenward. I don't get to call myself an expert in much at all, so it provides a little humor in my life to be labeled one by J.R.
we all have little laminated Heartrate Zone Cards which we rubber band to our spin bike handlebars during class to ensure our awareness of exactly how fast our hearts should be beating at all times. these cards have always been part of class, and it's become just a standard piece of the power camp equipment.
until this year.
because you see, this year the powers that be decided that this new category, the Elites, should have a differently colored card. so us non-Elites have a standard white card, while the Elites have these incredibly special light blue cards.
so now you can look around the room and see who's better than you.
oops, I mean, see whose Power To Weight ratio is higher than yours.

I can take it. I don't really want to have to work harder. and I know I'm not as strong as these people. it's really okay. I am happy to be an Expert. I don't even want to be an Elite when I grow up.

I might not have a blue card, but I do have a tiara (that was my prize for only missing one day of Power Camp the entire first season). no one can be the best at everything, and sometimes we just have to make the most of what it is we are good at. I happen to be good at commitment, follow-through, dependability, accuracy, reliability, math, and a few other things.
and since one of those other things I'm extremely good at is sitting on the couch and eating cookies, I think I'm headed there soon. you should see my bookmark: it's this little blue card, with rows of numbers across it . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

an ode to sweat

rivulets run down my face
drops trickle into my eye
solitary beads travel down my arm
and at my wrist let fly

to fall down three feet to the floor
where they drop onto the mat
and form a slowly spreading mass
that although dark stays flat.

the puddles form upon my skin
from collarbone to wrist,
I use my towel to wipe them off
but all those drops resist

my efforts to keep my skin dry
and smooth and so salt-free,
perspiration propagates fullspeed
and outsweats even me.

my hair turns dark
my clothes gain weight
I itch and scratch and glow
and pray that the spinning class soon ends
so home to the shower I may go.

I know I'll do this once again
and then once more and more
so all that's in may work its way out
and cleanse my every pore.

beware! you who may come to spin
I warn you now so know
that if you sit by me in class
you'll note my ample sweat flow.

yes I use deodorant
it doesn't seem to matter
we sweat, we glow, we spin, we drip
and never cease our chatter

I think it's to distract ourselves
from all the sweat pouring from us
or perhaps it's to keep our minds away
from those saddles that tend to numb us

regardless of our classroom tricks
we perspire and wipe it away,
and perform our rituals once again
when we return the following day.

oh sweat, oh you who cool us off
and keep our bodies steady,
perhaps you might slack off a bit . . .
oh fine, I'll keep my towel ready
to wipe and blot and soak it up
while still new droplets lurk,
while always being grateful for
the sweat, my reward for hard work.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I want to ride my bicycle...

the other day I took my car in for its annual inspection. as the shop I use is only about a mile from my house, I threw (gently placed) my bike in the back, and after I dropped the car off, got on my bike to ride it home.
first of all, I just had tennies on, and had to center those little round speedplay pedals under my big fat tennie treads. my next challenge was trying to pedal. I pressed down hard, the chain slipped and coughed and grabbed, then slipped and gagged, and I almost fell off my bike. and I couldn't remember how to shift.
I kid you not.
I looked on both handlebar hoods, desperately searching for a clue, and finally remembered, oh yes, it's on the right side, I think I'm supposed to push or click with either my middle finger, or maybe it's my index finger . . .
and then it all came back and I remembered that I always look down to my chain ring to see what ring I'm on: oh yes, big ring, no wonder I can barely pedal up the gently sloping asphalt . . .
halfway home I was panting, my heartrate soaring, and I began to get the hang of it again.
that's what 2 weeks off the bike did for me.

so my plan today is to remedy that distasteful situation.
I am going to ride my real bike on real roads in real, fresh (semi, as I live in the valley of inversions) air this afternoon. in the sunshine. with real wind to cool me, not fans.
I plan to enjoy it.
I plan to let my heartrate sit in whatever old zone it chooses to, and I plan to not count my cadence or watch the clock or try to determine how long I'm working in any particular zone. in other words, have an anti-power camp experience.
to allow me to remember what I like best about riding my bike: the freedom, the air, the experience of being out in the beauty of our natural world. the meditative repetitiveness of pedaling, the joy of just being, while being a vibrantly active participant in my own movement.

no big climbs to conquer today, no peaks to rest atop, just a long, steady ride at a pace that will allow me to enjoy my own existence.
and perhaps, as well, work off a few of those 2 million calories I snarfed down yesterday . . .

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


since my kids are out of school today for the holiday, this morning I didn't have to get up and go to class at 5:15, but I actually chose to, anyway.
for a few reasons:
one, I love getting it over with early in the day.
two, I'm still building this new habit, and constancy is the key to its successful development. (oh, pedantic me.)
three, and most importantly, I like hanging out with this wacky group of people.

a few months back, biking buddy andy asked me if I'd be doing power camp this winter. I shared all my reasons why not, and then waxed on a bit about how much better it would be, training-wise, if I did.
andy responded, hey, it's really all about the company, not the workouts.
and today I realized he is right.
however good this class is for my body, it is even better for my soul.

yesterday morning our instructor, L, was walking around the room during the mellow parts, asking each of us a fanciful, hypothetical, get-to-know-your-neighbor question. you know, like if you were given a million dollars, what's the first thing you would buy? or, if you were stranded on a desert island, what one accoutrement would you want with you? or, what is your one indulgence?
it was great fun watching people struggle to come up with answers, while internally trying to arrive at my own, as well. little bits of personal info were thrown in, too, as L introduced each person and told what she happened to know about them.
now everything in power camp is about timing, and L was doing her questioning during our "recovery" periods, 10-minute segments pocketed between the harder work efforts. as a result, she had to be reminded of the time once or twice, which caused a little good-natured ribbing.
this morning's instructor, B, had been in class yesterday, and L was in our class today, so B was going overboard in his punctuality, constantly announcing the remaining minutes before and during each segment of class. of course he let L know why he was doing this . . .

there are two men who are good friends and power camp alumni, returning this year for their fourth session. they sit in the same place each morning, and for the past couple years have won the "cutest couple" award at the end-of-camp celebration.
one of them received the "if you were stranded on a desert island what's the one thing you'd want with you" question, and his response was Walmart.
it's amazing how witty people can be at 5:30 in the morning.
a few instructors work hard to bring good, clean jokes to share ( two guys walk into a bar. one turns to the other and says, you didn't see it either, did you?), or trivia questions, or other interesting stories that may or may not pertain to cycling life.

but what I like best is the banter that flows back and forth and around the room. people new to camp step into it quickly, and those who've been around a while get better and better at their gentle ribs and pokes. I daresay we all know each other more intimately than we even realize.
and what I like best is that we all are seeing each other sweaty, tired, and often, working to our capacity. it's difficult to put on an act when you're in that place.
and this creates a powerful bond.
one that allows banter to be compliments, and ribs to be salutes. one that makes it a lot more tolerable, and even acceptable, to get up at 4:40 in the morning.

Monday, November 23, 2009

decisions and routines

one of the first rules parenthood teaches you is that human beings like routines. we humans like patterns and predictability, we like knowing what comes next. we have a tendency to lean into our activities so far that we fall into habits, where we become comfortable and accustomed to the order.
this is not necessarily a negative.
my routines structure my life, and I find that the predictability eases my decision-making, which in turn eases my entire life.
and this is why the past two months have been challenging me: my routines get out of whack during spring and fall, when my rides are so weather dependent. thanks to the flexibility of my work, I can ride when the weather is best and work when it's rainy or bitterly cold or dark, or any combination of the three. but this adds uncertainty to my life, a variability, which leads to a sense of instability. and the need to make decisions.
freedom is liberating, but constancy is soothing.
and a reduced need to make decisions is absolutely divine.

my life has now returned to certainty. which results in fewer decisions to make.
every morning except saturday I now get up, pull my cycling clothes on and head off to class. mondays and fridays I go to the weight room after an hour of class and cycle through my weight room routine. wednesdays and sundays I blissfully get to go straight home. tuesdays and thursdays have a 90-minute class, after which I also trudge home.
and then I'm done for the day.
no wondering about and waiting for the weather.
no getting too busy and not finding time to ride.
no decision making at all.
because sometimes it's comforting to just flow, without too much thought, through our daily schedules. without too many decisions to make.

do you remember the line about starbucks in the movie You've Got Mail? Tom Hanks' character describes the coffee shop in this way: "The whole purpose of places like Starbuck's is for people with no decision making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee."

I like getting up at the same time every morning and heading off to a routine where my decisions are made for me.
and when I go to starbucks, I order a small cup of decaf.
because I'd just as soon not have to test my decision-making abilities any more than I have to.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

those who I know

the other day I realized that I know quite a few people.
and quite a few of those people I know are taking power camp this year.
quite a few more aren't, but I've been (pleasantly) surprised to see so many faces I know.
when I did this 3 years ago, I knew no one except a slight acquaintance who signed up, came half the time for the first half of the program, and then gradually disappeared.
of course many of the people I now know are those I met during that first year. but an interesting number aren't: they are people I know from other phases of my life, or that I have met through fellow cyclists.

my circle of acquaintances is widening. stretching. expanding . . . I visualize this elastic and liquid boundary that easily absorbs others of its same makeup. like a small puddle of water that moves toward a droplet of water then slurp! the droplet becomes one with the puddle, joining and mixing in to create a new body of water.
there was a time in my life where I didn't want any more friends. I felt I had enough: I was actually overwhelmed by how many friends and acquaintances were circulating through and around my life. we were constantly socializing, having people over, going places with others, talking, scheduling, gathering . . . I was filled, overflowing, unable to expand any further to accept anyone else.

I still have limits as to how many others I want or need to be in my inner circle, but I find that my outer circle can hold more than it has been able to, and it holds them differently than it used to. they are held more gently, viewed with more wonder and appreciation. perhaps this is aging. perhaps those others are becoming more important as kids grow and get closer to leaving home; perhaps they are viewed with more respect for the myriad and varied experiences they've all survived.
what I do know is that I value them all. the man whose name I used to hear on the Nordstrom paging system 25 years ago, the woman I've always admired since we worked across the aisle from each other those same 25 years ago, the woman I socialized with at various parties but never knew well, the woman who married my good high school friend.
the circle is widening yet drawing nearer, and its nebulous form is ever-shifting, gracefully allowing for ebbing and flowing and acceptance of those from the past as well as those from the future.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I promised scintillating, didn't I?
not titillating: get your mind out of the gutter.
scintillating, sparkling, brilliant . . . coruscating . . .

I fear I will let you down again.

here is the truth: this week has taken its toll on me. ridiculously early morning awakenings, no increase in caffeine intake, too many sweets, kid things here and there and now over there as well, phone/email/fax, mental musings, and those never-ending errands, have all joined together to create a melting pot of too much.
well, too much to leave me time to ponder and create coruscatingly brilliant writings. scintillatingly stunning essays. sparkling, brilliant and witty prose.

instead, this is what I've been writing this week:
  • please excuse my daughter's absence from school as she . . .
  • please dismiss my son at 1:45 today for his appointment with the doctor . . .
  • enclosed please find your check for . . .
  • please accept my apology for taking so long to get this to you . . .
  • enclosed please find my daughter's application for your program . . .
  • yes, my son has my permission to be given the H1N1 shot . . .
and most significantly, I have been writing an X in the spot by my name each day this week in the power camp roster.

phone calls I've made this week:
  • to my son's doctors and school.
  • to my other son's bus company and nurse.
  • to my daughter's potential school.
  • to my other daughter's other potential school.
and a phone call every evening, to the 3rd district court to see if my number has been called to report for jury duty. thank goodness, the answer each evening has been no.

thoughts I've had this week:
  • I'd sure like a nap.
  • I wonder if more caffeine would help.
  • is it time for more ibuprofen yet?
  • I think maybe I'm caught up on everything. oops, never mind.
  • I wish I were riding my bike outside.
  • I don't care for the weight room.
  • gosh I ache.
  • am I really 3 years older than last time I did power camp?
  • is 7:30 too early to go to bed?
  • I'd sure like a nap.

so perhaps sparkling, witty musings will pour forth tomorrow.
because, you see, tomorrow I get to sleep in.
no alarm, no power camp, no weight room, just a leisurely arising whenever I darn well feel like it.

may you have the same.


yes, I know I blew it again.
this time I can blame it on power camp.
except that would be me not accepting personal responsibility.
I, me alone, forgetful me, just blew it.
so I promise to think of something absolutely scintillating and be back soon.

after my nap.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

power camp update

two days into power camp, I have the following information to report:

  • I am tired.
  • spin bike saddles are not like my favorite on-the-bike saddle. in other words: half of my class time has already been spent in, well, discomfort.
  • at least 37 of my muscles are screaming at me, as hitting the weight room is part of the program. I barely remembered how to use the free weights, and they've moved the machines around so that I didn't recognize half of them. what are lateral rows, anyway? and does anyone out there really like doing lunges? hard to imagine.
  • I am tired, and
  • that alarm at 4:40 has already become my enemy.

yes, two days into power camp.
and goodnight.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

imperfect offerings

one might not bicycle every day, but one can be every day. this one is about being.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

this stanza has been running through my head these past few days. I was first introduced to it at Liz Johnson's memorial service 15 months ago, when her sister read these words of Leonard Cohen's. perhaps they've been front and center because last night was a fundraiser for the company Chris Johnson directs, the company with which Liz was traveling when her life was so abruptly ended.
regardless, these words have been floating within me, and they jumped up, shouted, and rung vibrantly when two days ago I read the seven social sins once proclaimed as how not to be by mahatma gandhi:

wealth without work

pleasure without conscience

science without humanity

knowledge without character

politics without principle

commerce without morality

worship without sacrifice

bells rang and clattered and rejoiced when I read this, imperfect bells, all. we are all made with small cracks and slight imperfections, but we are also all given the ability to stretch beyond what we believe to be our limits. to live by simple truths, and to recognize the pulling power of guidance informed by wisdom, not ego. to seek and find those subtle and often invisible maps that delineate our paths, and to accept the challenge to be who we are meant to be.

what we are asked to do, more than any other thing, is to remove our bushel baskets and veils and masks and let our inner light flow forth and out and beyond. to listen to our inner truths and dig down deep within our souls to find the answers we seek. to proceed with courage and dignity and help others release their own versions of the same.

to ring our bells, to let light shine, to be blissfully imperfect and welcome the humility that comes with that realization.

to find our own way, guided by that crooked and sometimes fragile but always present light that slips in through our cracks.

I send much love with my friends who are boarding a plane tomorrow that will begin their journeys to nepal, to the visionary souls at Choice Humanitarian, and to Liz, who is watching over us all, smiling and gently, gently, prodding.

Friday, November 13, 2009

symphonies and silence

this morning:
alarm at 5:19 am.
out of bed at 5:22.
into bike shorts, top, heart monitor and socks by 5:27.
ipod out of charger and strapped on bicep by 5:29.
water bottle, bag with towel and shoes, car keys, license, phone: out the door by 5:33.
spin class season is officially here.

indoor workouts are the only time I use my ipod, and each fall I am once again grateful for that tiny little computerized music system.
there is something both soothing and exhilarating about having your own private stereo connected to your ears. you can be in your own world, having your own internal experience, and no one need know it or be bothered by it: what a gift our ipods give us.

what I lose, however, is my outdoor riding silence.
I know many cyclists (and joggers, runners, walkers) use their ipods while riding (jogging, running, walking) outside, but it doesn't work for me at this point. maybe someday. but for now, I love my ability to hear the universe speak to me, whether it's through nature's sounds, human voices, or mechanical beasts. I want to hear the wind and feral cats and scampering chipmunks. I want to hear crickets and barking dogs and my own heavy breathing.
and even more importantly, I need the opportunity to disappear within my own mind. it's challenging enough to do this in silence; given music, I will sing along and change the lyrics and think entirely too much about the first/last/best time I heard each song.
disappearing in my mind, that meditating thing, is a crucial part of my riding.
a friend reminded me of this today, of how my cycling sessions enable me to turn the thinking off for great chunks of time, chunks that I sometimes don't even realize I've had.
this is a gift.
I do not meditate well, sitting on my couch.
but sitting on that saddle, working at the point I can no longer keep and hold threads of thought, allows a certain slipping of consciousness that qualifies, at least in my book, as meditation.
and meditation allows a reordering of our internal selves that leads to peace and harmony.

as in everything, I'm once again confronted with trade-offs. I can have my own private symphony, or I can claim my silent chunks of meditation.
the best thing of all is that I have the desire and the time in my life for both.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


two weeks ago I pushed my way through and survived my VO2 sub-max test, a prerequisite for participation in power camp.
I do not like that thing.
as much as I try to talk myself out of it, I suffer from test anxiety, and all 3 times I've done this test I have had moments where my mind tells me I'm going to die.
yes, die.
now I know that this is ridiculous, but I cannot seem to stop the process.
all the positive affirmations and self-talk in the world cannot keep my mind from sending out death warnings.
you've got to stop, you can't do this, your heart is going to explode, ooh, we don't feel good . . .

sure enough, during my test 2 weeks ago I had my moment of panic. it happens when I hit a high heartrate (zone 4) for the first time during a workout. especially if I have to keep going higher and higher without being able to back off for a while before I do so. once I settle into those higher heart rates I can work there for literally hours; it's just that first time that sends me into a panic.

some day I plan to be different.

some day I plan to ace these tests.

because it's truly mind over matter, mental over physical. I have learned this lesson well, yet I still have internal battles within my mind. it's like there are two of me in there (oh, I am grinning at myself), each completely certain that they are on the right side of the war.
I am going to die!
no, I am fine--no one is dying on my watch!

no, I know best: I'm going to collapse and die right now, watch me!
no, I can do this, I am fine, I am fine.

regardless, I am beginning power camp in 5 days.
with a new set of numbers and zones: my examiner determined that my top zone is 5 beats lower than it was last time.
now I can either woo-hoo! about this as I won't need to work as hard, or I can stress about whether it's right or not and wonder if I'm slipping and losing strength and capacity.
my two of me are battling that one out as well.
relax, enjoy not working so hard, I'll be fine.
oh no, the whole program will be ineffective for me because my zones aren't quite right: I'll end up weaker than before; this is a disaster.

perhaps somewhere between now and five days from now I will come to some agreement with myself and meet somewhere in the middle. a compromise. a truce, an agreement that in return for giving up panic, we will work just exactly hard enough to be the best we we can be.

wish us luck.

Monday, November 9, 2009


yesterday I went mountain biking again. that makes twice in one year.
watch out world: I might be on my way to becoming a convert . . .

not likely.

I still stand by my statements after mountain biking the mid-mountain trail last year: I am too old for this, and too female. I am the slowest one on the trail, and I practically wear out a set of brake pads with each ride.
three or four times yesterday these thoughts moved through my mind: what in the world am I doing here? what made me think I could do this?
riding up (key word, up) dry creek, I hit a sharp turn that flowed into a steep grade, and I couldn't do it. off my bike I went, and up I started walking, pulling my bike alongside me. I could hear voices coming up the trail not too far behind, so I pulled off to the side when there was a small space so the upcoming bikers could pass me. the first guy made the turn and kept pedaling up, but the second guy couldn't do it, and had to dismount as I had.
we commiserated for a moment, and he commented on how hard it is to get going again on a steep hill.
that's a skill I haven't yet mastered, I said.
ha. I haven't even passed Steep Hill Starts 101, let alone graduated or worked toward my masters.

all of that just to lead you into a discussion of another skill I haven't yet mastered: the art of assessment. of assessing oneself.
I am not always right.

example: last saturday I woke up slowly, achingly, a little stuffy and not eager to do much of anything. this lasted through coffee and reading, through housework, and through my entire decision-making process around To Ride or Not To Ride.
it was one of those times I thought I might be better off staying off the bike. resting. letting my body recover from whatever was bugging it.
but I wasn't sure.
do I push through it and go ride?
or do I pamper myself and stay home, maybe sit on the sofa and eat bon-bons?
I had thoughts of riding up to brighton: was that too much? or would it be okay? or should I plan a tamer ride?
how do you know what's best?
because the weather was so perfect, I decided to ride; I compromised and planned to only go up big mountain instead of the more aggressive brighton climb.
and I had one of the best darn rides of the season.
I felt good, I felt strong, I felt powerful, and I set a new Personal Record.
go figure.
of course, it could have been the awesome tailwind and the caffeinated shot bloks . . .

I'm left to wonder, still, how one knows what is best for one. push? rest? push gently? eat bon-bons?

I'm sure I will master Understanding One's Body about the same time I master Steep Hill Starts.
in other words, I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

annual events

I have so many things to catch up on here: a two-week absence results in numerous unrecounted and un-documented experiences.
but since it's late and I've had a long week, I will give you an abbreviated version of my great ride two weeks ago today.
to begin with, it was a special occasion in that I dragged my mountain bike from the back of my garage, removed the spiderwebs and dust that coated it, pumped up its tires, and refilled its pack with a spare tube and a few dollars, but forgot the tire levers. (my pump is attached to the downtube, and always ready to go; no cartridges needed. only roadies use cartridges anyway, snooty sniff.)
I was heading out on my annual (as I laughingly call it) token mountain bike ride.
I hadn't ridden my poor, neglected mountain bike for 13 months, and it was time.

bill, kind soul that he is, agreed to ride with me, and suggested a nice, tame route that would keep me from stressing over its technical challenges and sheer drops. he said, why don't we ride from your house up millcreek to elbow fork, and take the pipeline trail down.
sure, I said.
now, just to clue you in, last time I rode a brief section of this trail I spent a fair bit of time hanging upside down (well, okay, in truth, just lying with my head pointed downhill and my legs and bike up above me) off the sloping side of the narrow trail, trying to decide how in the world I could get myself out of that predicament. I knew parts of this trail were a tad scary (as in, don't look down), but decided I could handle it.

that saturday morning dawned cold and overcast, but not even the rain 2 miles from the mouth of millcreek deterred us. I was on a mission. this annual event was happening, no matter what.
rain came and went, and we plowed ahead.
then came the hail.

this is when I laugh.
during the past 3 years I have placed myself (yes, I take full accountability) in the craziest of situations, and have laughed at what mother nature has blessed me with. I cannot wait to tell my grandchildren stories of how I rode in thunderstorms and torrential rains and under moonlight and in the midst of hail storms. I have earned these memories and cherish them. (my son has a t-shirt that says something like this: you can fall off your raft and die, or you can stay home and fall off your couch and die. get off your couch! I love this shirt.)

the hail started reasonably. and then intensified. and started coming down so hard and fast that it hurt.
we pulled off the road and tried to burrow beneath overhanging trees, protecting half of our bodies and bikes from the white iceballs, and watched the road get covered by millions of small white bombs.
I giggled.
it slowed, and we climbed back on our bikes for the last half mile or so of pavement before the trail began.
in this pic, those white dots are hail balls, and if you look closely, you'll notice that the normally black asphalt is light gray, due to being covered with little white hail balls.

the trail was astounding. beautiful. wet. full of mud puddles and sopping leaves. dry in spots mysteriously covered by shadowy trees, and gutted and worn away in others. the trail hangs high on the mountainside for miles, as you gaze out hundreds of feet above the road, staring into deep and dense pine hillsides. I rode over hundreds of thousands of slippery leaves and spent more than a few minutes listening to kris kristofferson singing in my ear, when it's scary...... don't look down.

I ended the ride muddier than I've ever been in my life, I'm sure, and living an adrenaline high.
okay you mountain bikers, I get it.

but I'm not giving up my road bike.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


at the beginning of today's ride I knew the ride would be all about soaking in this amazing fall day:
65 degrees, blue skies, crisp fall leaves on the ground, the earthy scent of autumn everywhere.
I decided to ride as slowly as necessary to allow all of my senses to soak in every aspect of what will soon be a fading memory.
it was all about marinating myself in this unbelievably fragrant and beautiful gift of a day.
but apparently soaking and marinating weren't the only verbs on my plate today: I also spent quite a bit of time being buffeted, sand-blasted, and wind-whipped. yep. in fact, I believe I recorded my slowest speeds ever coming down emigration canyon, and that wind tried with all of its might to push me back up to the top.
which reminds me of aesop's fable of the sun and the wind, and their dispute about who was the stronger:
The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger.
Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun
said: "I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can
cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as
the stronger. You begin." So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and
the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler.
But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his
cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair.
Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the
traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.
today I think they were having the same dispute, but this time perhaps the agreement was just to prove strength by causing me to fear for my life.
the sun played its part by hiding behind some clouds, and the wind won, hands down.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


they say one sign of strength of character is owning up to your mistakes.
taking responsibility.
acknowledging your weaknesses and errors.

here goes: I blew it already.
I lay in bed last night, lightly reflecting on my day, when suddenly I realized that I hadn't posted anything here.
you know how I feel about honoring commitments: I was appalled at myself.
I thought about getting out of bed, turning the computer back on, and writing something quickly and posting it. just so I would honor that commitment I made.
but I couldn't do it.
primarily because my alarm was set for 5:13 and it was already after 9:30 . . . and I love and need those precious hours of sleep.
my alarm was set for 5:13 because I had a morning ride planned. yep, you bet, even in this cold.
because, you see, last year when the time change happened I was all geared up for a few more early morning rides in partial morning light, but the weather turned wet and bitterly cold and those morning rides never happened.
this year, I was determined to have at least one.
and then we had a full moon, to boot . . .
so I couldn't resist the pull of a moonlit ride that ushered in the early morning sunrise, even if it was not quite forty degrees.
and that, my friends, is the story of my non-posting odd day and my even-day post today.
as my kids would say, TMI, mom.

my hands have finally thawed, though my toes are still a bit frigid, and I have once again been filled with the confirmation that there is just no better way to start my day than a pre-dawn ride up emigration.

happy trails!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

some days are more odd than others

today I rode because it was too beautiful to not ride.
I didn't ride because I wanted to, or because I ate too many cookies yesterday, or because my training schedule demanded it.
it was purely because a sixty-degree, sunny, november day with nothing but painfully blue skies up above is too good to pass up.
big mountain called me, as it is close and demanding and when I finish that ride I feel like I've accomplished something significant. even on a too-beautiful-to-not-ride day I like to accomplish something significant.
and I had a new experience on this ride.
a few miles up emigration I was passed by two chatting women who breezed past me as though they were riding on a flat road. I was breathing heavily and my leg muscles burned, while their slender, sleek bodies floated by and their conversation filled the air.
a minute later I heard another bike approaching me from behind, and I steeled myself against that inner shame for being passed again, and turned my head to see another woman pulling alongside me. we exchanged hellos and I realized I knew her, saying "wendy? it's susan!"
she slowed a tad, I sped up a tad, and we rode hard and chatted for the next mile or two.
she was trailing the fast duo ahead, and I didn't help her gain any ground, but we got to catch up on each other's lives, as we hadn't seen each other in a good year or so.
wendy is one of those salt of the earth people. grounded, reasonable, focused on what matters, kind, humorous, loving. one of those people you know you can count on, someone who keeps her word, someone I keep in that little mental pocket of people who would help me if I ever really needed help.
she eventually pulled ahead of me, but the four of us leapfrogged a bit all of the way to the top of big mountain. there we all paused, downed a quick snack and some liquid, layered up for the cold downhill rush, then took off together.
and this is where I had my realization: I've never ridden with 3 other women before.
I watched them from my position in the rear, and felt this powerful, slightly odd, kinship with these women. they swooped down the winding road gracefully and a bit more cautiously than I'm used to, and I felt surrounded by this beautiful, feminine energy. from a woman I'd just met, another I've only been introduced to once or twice, and a woman I've known for years but never spent much time with.
okay, weird, I know.
but it felt really good.
and when the swooping ended and the road rose again, my leg muscles complained, just like they always do, and I was once again on a normal ride under an endless blue sky on a perfect fall day.

best of all, I felt a desire to write about it.

so here I am, back, and with a new plan:
since I have my own quirky view of the world which I and some others consider to be, at times, a little odd, I have decided that for the next bit of time I will post on odd days. odd-numbered days of the month, as well as any additional days I consider to be odd enough to warrant a posting.
and there you have it.
the way of cycling is not always simple or predictable. or fun. however, I believe guidance is always given to those who seek it, and yesterday I was given some from a sign I saw while riding on the narrow track that leads up and over our freeways, connecting our north-eastern foothills with those more central and southern:

stay on path.


Thursday, October 15, 2009


I'm not always sure which phase I'm in: build-up, back-off, full-out train, push, rest, recovery, or something else. they all blur.
as well, I often just ride, without making my ride fit into how I should be training.
perhaps in my next life I'll be better about that.
for now, I just love to ride, and I love to ride certain places, and I go where I want when I can fit it into my schedule. this time of year it's emigration canyon 8 times out of 10, and I like to think I get a pretty challenging workout from the ride. there are rises and dips, and steeper long lasting sections, and plenty stretches that can be worked hard either going up or going down. unless I'm facing a ferocious headwind on the way up I can usually make my round trip in 90 minutes, which is a reasonable amount of time to carve from my day and devote to physical, mental, and spiritual health.
an emigration canyon ride can fit in a few different categories: build-up, full-out train, and push all can happen during that ride. back-off and recovery need a more mellow route. and rest, well, that would be the route that doesn't include my bike.

I've been thinking a great deal about recovery lately. I seem to need more of it than I want to need. I don't want to need recovery at all. that doesn't mean I don't want to have any of it: I very literally mean that I don't want to need it. I want to be supergirl; I want to be wonder woman. I want to be indefatigable.
and woefully, I am not.

it's not just that I need a recovery ride every week, it's also the feeling that I needed a recovery period after my season. say, a month or so. I tend to focus on something and work, work, work, and probably push just a little bit too far. that's when burnout sets in, and recovery time lengthens. supergirl could just keep going; I can't.
and when I hit the wall, I fall into the despairing self-talk that tells me I'll never be able to do it again. I'll never be that strong, I'll never feel that good, I'll never have the energy to tackle everything I've tackled in the past.
thankfully I have finally learned that this phase doesn't last: the energy, vitality, and desire always return.

after some recovery.

this isn't just about biking.
all things that we devote ourselves to have the tendency to eat up more of us than we planned. and often the best way to rediscover the fire is to have a bit of respite, a taste or two of recovery.
my yoga classes end with a few minutes of shavasana: corpse pose. we are asked to still the body but more importantly, still the mind. the purpose is to harmonize our energy, to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. it is a time when the intense practice of the prior 55 minutes is allowed to sink within and become a deeper part of our experience.

it's time for some tao of cycling shavasana.

for the past few months I've toyed with posting less often. if I cut back, would it be to 5 days a week? every other day? odd days? even days? every third day?
I've awaited inspiration, and it has yet to come.
but as of today, what I know is that I need some recovery.
my desire is to structure this, but since that concept hasn't yet revealed itself to me, I am letting myself flow into a recovery phase.
during the next week I will post when inspired, and not commit to posting at all.
so . . .
if you don't see anything new for a bit, know that I am in recovery, that I am resting in shavasana so that I can return fully awake, alive, energized, and in harmony.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

the final mile

why is the final mile of a climb always the most difficult?
is it because you know you're so close to the end that you start to realize how hard you've worked and how tired you are?
or is it because you feel the pull of the end, you start to envision it, and your body reacts by trying to act out what it will soon be doing?
or is it because the last mile is always the steepest?

big mountain is the starting point for a few significant running races, and thus there are distance markers painted in white on the road. they continue all the way down emigration canyon as well, and they are such a familiar part of the terrain that I know them all by heart.
it helps that they go in order, of course.
the first one that really jumps out at me as I'm riding up big mountain is the big "5k" that tells me I'm five kilometers from the top. this is when it starts to get serious. I'm usually grinding away in my lower gears, sailing along at an exciting 7 or 8 miles an hour. the marker, which I always convert in my mind to miles, is soon behind me and I can look forward to the next one, the big 3.
3 miles, that is.
[I really don't know why we get to jump back and forth between miles and kilometers: are we just trying to please everyone? I could handle strictly miles or only kilometers, and just do the math on my own. or maybe there is a reason, and it's written in that rulebook I haven't yet read.]
next comes 3k, then 2, then 2k, then 1.
and then about a mile later comes 1k.
at this point I am aching for the ride to be over, for a gentle downhill glide, for a bit of rest, for anything but the damn hill I'm on.
and then about a mile later comes 500m.
and then after another kilometer or so I see the 200m written in barely visible, weathered white paint.
and then after about a kilometer, I reach the summit.

you do the math.

that last mile lasts forever, and it's relentless.
it's not just the last mile up big mountain, either. it can be the last mile up millcreek, or city creek, or big cottonwood, or any mountain I choose to climb.
metaphorical mountains, as well.
is it that we've worked so hard for so long, and still aren't there?
is it that the entire road has been littered with potholes and obstacles and challenges?
is it that it's truly steeper at the end, the final test?

all I know is that the last mile is part of something much larger and longer than a mere 5280 feet.
and it's okay to be tired, to go slowly, and to feel as though it will never end.
to watch the markers change from 2 to 1 to 1/2 to 1/5, and know that you still have to pedal.
because as long as you keep pedaling, it will eventually be whittled down to less than zero.

and then you can swoop.

which could never happen if you gave up at some point along the way, if you gave into your mind's math instead of the actual numbers painted on the road.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

walking the dog

I've been holding a vision of a woman I saw the other day, walking her dog.
I was riding my bike and I caught a brief glimpse of her off to my right. she was taller and slender, well but casually dressed, holding a leash on the end of which was a large, sedately strolling dog. the two of them both strolled, actually, looking relaxed yet energetic, and decidedly peaceful.
walking is good for one, I've heard.

my friend holly is a cyclist and runner, and she found that she didn't lose the weight she wanted until she slowed down and started walking.

oprah touts walking.

I have this dream that someday I will slow down and begin walking.
stop pushing so hard, stop trying to climb every hill and peak I see or hear about. just walk, walk the dog, and go to yoga.
so I can be like the dog-walker I passed the other day. serene and clean. not covered in sweat with salt streaks on her cheeks and dirt caked to her shins. no chain marks on her calves.
I could walk, and not have to wear beanies that make me look like an androgynous cyborg, or padded shorts that enlarge and emphasize my rear while sporting tight strips of elastic that cut into the chubbiest parts of my thighs.

I could walk, and look better while doing it.
my heart would still be happy.
my dog would be happy.

I might not be able to experience the thrill of swooping, but I'm sure I would discover other joys. I would see things I don't take the time to notice now. I wouldn't earn any more Queen of the Hill prizes, but I'm sure I would find other things to give myself awards for.

I would slow down, breathe more deeply.
and walk.

oh all right, and perhaps I've just have a cruiser or a fixie so I can still climb up little hills and inclines so that I don't completely forget what it's like to swoop.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I went to yoga this evening and my yogi guru sam was teaching.

one of these two following things is true:

people look different in the evening than they do at 6 in the morning, or

sam got his lip pierced.

regardless, he closed class again with this deeply important phrase that I have to share again because it will always be worth repeating:

we see things not as they are, but as we are.

now re-read what I wrote above, and make your own decision about when it was that sam got his lip pierced.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

heading south

I had planned to do a long ride today, just because it's fall and the snow hasn't covered us yet and it should be a beautiful time to ride.
but after yesterday's cold and gloomy-sky ride, all I could think about was the desire to not be cold today.
I awoke to the sound of car tires on wet pavement, and a part of me just smiled and curled up more tightly. ahh, can't ride in the rain . . .
of course when I looked outside I could see that it had finished raining, and all a serious cyclist needed to do was wait a bit for the pavement to dry.

I had to force myself out the door today, and I headed south with bill. canyons seemed too iffy for the warm-weather gal I was impersonating, so we settled on a ride to draper. wasatch boulevard carves a pleasant path across the eastern foothills to sandy, then there are just a few little jogs that keep one fairly close to the foothills the rest of the way to the big Chevron station at the base of Traverse Ridge Road.
now anyone who's anyone in the salt lake valley cycling world knows where Traverse Ridge Road leads. I know it, bill knows it, and its vibes started pricking their way through my layers of gear as soon as I was within 5 miles of the road. come, they said. come on, keep riding, come further, yes, come, come . . . you must be tired of this boring ride out south, you must be ready for the crowning achievement I can offer you . . .
Traverse Ridge Road leads up (very up, sometimes with a 10% grade up) to a development called Suncrest. this summit can shake fear into a cyclist early in the spring, bring one to gasping lungs and burning thighs come summer, and sucker one up come fall when said cyclist has the (sometimes false) confidence that they can handle the climb.
I started it resolute.
it was there in front of me: I was going to climb the damn thing. I knew the grade hadn't lessened in the past 2 months, and that it was going to hurt as much as it ever did. I could only hope that it didn't hurt more.
what I can say about this climb is that it has one of the most graceful, hill-hugging, sweepingly curved roads I have ever ridden upon. I love to see the arc of the rising road from below, then slowly make my way up and watch the curve bend back upon itself widely, gently, oh so gracefully.
it almost makes the pain tolerable.

the miles heading back north disappear much more quickly than those out south, save for a few climbs, and the "back to the barn" energy always helps me cover the final miles eagerly and relatively rapidly.
because I know that among other things, what waits for me at home is that soft couch with two warm blankets and a welcoming pillow.
and a warm shower.
and my favorite yellow, orange and red striped pajama pants.

oh, and perhaps a cookie or two.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

today's best thing

one hard climb up big mountain under gray and gloomy skies.
fifty degree weather.
a cold and hard downhill into the wind.
freezing hands and nose.
one tired being.

sometimes the best thing in the entire world is a soft couch, a pillow, two blankets, and the time to take a nap.
deep sigh, contented smile.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too

my children used to love watching Winnie the Pooh movies. my second son, especially, loved Pooh. and Tigger, too, of course. and all the rest.
we owned a few of these movies, and must have rented others, but the only title that remains in my mind is Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.
as you can probably imagine, every time I ride in powerful wind I think of how blustery it is, which in turn makes me think of Winnie the Pooh.
I often wonder what life would be like if my mind wasn't so ridiculously busy making esoteric connections like that.
now what leaps to mind is the fact that one man created a quite successful little book off of connections like the above, and you can find his book in stores just about everywhere: just ask for benjamin hoff's best-selling book, and the bookseller will hand you The Tao of Pooh.

back to my topic.
today was one of those days that are so full of wind you wonder what could possibly be up. a number of times as I was heading up the canyon there were leaves acting bewildered by the confusing gusts, dancing forward then to the left then to the right, before they flipped around and headed back down.
I felt for them, but thought perhaps it might be fun to dance around like that, pulled by the wind.

then I headed down.
the uphill tailwind was of course my downhill headwind, but I was prepared for that and didn't mind too much.
but then the universe decided to give me a sense of what it was like to be a leaf.
a huge crosswind nailed me, then whirled around and whipped me from the opposite side, before disappearing and reappearing as a headwind.
I barely remained upright, emitting a swear word and feeling my heart drop into my toe-cover wearing shoes.

my blustery day then settled back down into gusty headwinds and less creative crosswinds, and I thought again of Pooh, who would have consoled me with the reminder that what is, is.

but Pooh, Piglet, and even Rabbit would have considered today to be a Very Blusterous Day.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


stress manifests itself differently in different people. tight shoulders, tense neck muscles, back pain, nervous spasms . . .
I get a twitchy eyelid.
my right eyelid has been twitching this week. and then my left joined in today.
it only happens once in a while, maybe 8 or 10 times a day, and it doesn't last long. just long enough to remind me that something's a bit off, that something is bothering me.
I don't know what it is; I often don't know.
but apparently my body is reacting as if a stressor exists in my life.

I was thinking about this as I was riding today underneath an alternately dark and pleasant sky. thick gray clouds hung about, leaving plentiful blue sky visible, and the clouds moved constantly across the sky so that I would cast a shadow for mere moments before it disappeared, leaving me in the windy cold.
the clouds to the northeast, up ahead of me, loomed dark and heavy, and the word portentous leapt to mind.
my right eyelid twitched, and I immediately connected the clouds, my twitch, and the word portentous to whatever it is that must be causing me stress: there was a portentous feeling hanging over me.

not necessarily a good thing. so I tried to trick myself by running through a list of other words, attempting to take my mind off the thought of something portentous confronting me.
hemophiliac, ethereal, esoteric, parsimonious, pusillanimous, gargantuan, geometrical, ephemeral . . . all this during oxygen depletion, no less. I kept repeating every word I could thing of, using them as shields to protect me from fixating on the word portentous and bringing doom and gloom to my future.

my left eyelid twitched.

and I gave up the word game, as rain sprinkled my jersey, my helmet, and the asphalt in front of me. the clouds let go a bit of their heaviness, and I decided to do the same.

haven't had an eyelid twitch in a good 5 hours now.

aeonian, mythical, gelatinous, gossamer, extraordinary, onomatopoeia, genuflect, titillate . . .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Day planners became a big thing about 20 years ago. at that point in my life I was working for a large, soon-to-be national retailer, and they sent us through a management seminar based on organizing your life with a Personal Resource System. PRS. we were given these beautiful leather planners, replete with dividers and sections and page after page that we were to fill out and use to keep track of every aspect of our lives.
I write this with tongue in cheek, and probably sound derisive, but that seminar provided one of those pivotal life moments for me.
goal setting was the hot thing in management those days, and we were asked to set goals for each of 7 aspects of our lives: work, financial, physical, emotional, family, social, and spiritual. I found that I could do this relatively easily for 6 of the categories.
but the remaining category challenged me. I struggled to harmonize where I was currently with what my true goal was: they did not seem to mesh. and of all things, that category was work.
this led to enlightenment. I obviously needed to rethink my career, and possibly move toward a path that was a better fit for who I was.

I believe in setting goals, and striving to reach them.
but I don't always write them down, and I find that I can even be relatively wimpy about them. it's as though I fear committing to them because . . . why?
this is the truth, as far as I can figure out: I am afraid that I won't reach them, and then I'll be devastated.
and never try again.

geez, I don't seem to have much faith in myself, do I?
I do know better. I won't give up, just because I don't reach a goal. but I am more encouraged by the times I hope for a good outcome and receive one, than by shooting a little too high and missing. the trick, I suppose, is in learning how to set goals that are perfectly aligned with the slightest stretch in your abilities.

sometimes what I truly desire--my loftiest goals--seems too much. too big. too impossible. too far from where I am. is it humility that keeps me from shouting them from rooftops and letting the world know what I want?
or is it fear of appearing greedy and/or ridiculous for wanting too much?
or, perhaps, I've realized that the goals most essential to my life aren't easily quantified and will not confine themselves to dates and measurements and timelines. these goals include such achievements as to be at peace, to live a life that is filled with harmony, to exude compassion and acceptance, and to help my children grow roots and wings.
everything else is just a decoration.
not that I don't like decorations: I do.
finishing a bike race, moving to a new home, buying a new car, making a certain income, producing a specific number of widgits ~ these are all decorations, all things that are worth setting goals for and about. riding a certain number of miles each week, practicing a little yoga each day, remembering to always have my reusable grocery bags in the car . . .

so for some things I set goals, and let other things flow and happen when they are meant to.
it doesn't mean I'm not working toward what I want; it just means that I acknowledge that I'm not always in control of where my life is supposed to flow.