Saturday, February 28, 2009

brain freeze

I just got home from a glorious ride.
the skies are that blue that pulls you in so deeply, that stretches so far beyond our comprehension in a never ending echo of a summer day. sunlight spills onto everything, defining and illuminating and reflecting back to itself off the miles and miles of snow that still cover much of our land.
and the air is so very clean and fresh and . . . well, crisp.
okay, cold.
well, actually, freezing.
less than, truly.

it was 30 degrees when we started, and about 34 degrees when we got back.

it's never so bad on the way up; it's the way down that can kick your butt.

we rode up emigration, then down to the frozen reservoir, across to the east end of the reservoir and the locked gate at the base of the East Canyon (Big Mountain) climb. on the way back home, we paused at the emigration canyon summit to add our extra layers before the big downhill.
I already had my full booties and my skull cap on, so I just added my arm warmers and headband.
and wished I had brought a full face mask.

about a mile and a half into the downhill, my right nostril and my brain were just frozen. the wind was hitting us from the right side, and that side of my face paid the price.
it's just like eating those big spoonfuls of ice cream too quickly: my head was pounding in situational pain. I knew it would disappear as soon as I warmed back up, but in the midst of experiencing it I thought it might split my head in two.

then comes the dilemma: do you slow down, in hopes of lessening the intensity of the cold wind rushing against you? or do you go as fast as you can so that it will end sooner?

I played back and forth between the two possibilities, and neither seemed to solve my problem.

thank God it was a gorgeous day.

and now that I've showered and warmed my core and external temperatures back to those of living humans, I can relish the joy and thrill of the ride.

but I'm not in a rush to go pound down any ice cream.

Friday, February 27, 2009


I love to count.
you know this if you've read me very much.
I count trees on medians between the traffic lanes, I count chairs on porches. I count cyclists and cars and birds' nests and waves. I count churches and dogs and motorcycles and smiles.
there's rarely a point to my counting, other than to challenge my brain or take my mind off all of those things it likes to complain about.
I bring this up this morning because I found myself counting during spin class, and I counted the same thing I counted last friday morning, which was how many people were in class. and of what sex they were.
and both fridays have been the same:
one female instructor
seven males on spin bikes
one female on spin bike (me)

now this strikes me as decidedly odd.

I've often counted males and females during classes, comparing and contrasting the two, trying to place some importance on a preponderance of one or the other. during power camp I finally settled on there being a male-to-female ratio of approximately 2.5:1, and I came up with a number of different reasons why it would be that way: women have to be home in the morning to get their kids up and moving, while men are more apt to have the attitude "I'm going to work out so goodbye;" in general, more men are into cycling than women; the intense course schedule might attract men more than women, and so on.
I certainly don't know the truth.

but this 7 men 1 woman class situation intrigues me. what are the rest of the women doing on friday mornings? why don't they come to spin?
maybe it's the instructor: do men find her style more accessible/pleasing/appropriate/fitting than women do?
I am somewhat selective about who I'll take a class from, but I can't imagine what anyone could find offensive about the friday morning instructor: she's not overly gorgeous nor is she loud and obnoxious, she isn't unkind, and she leads a challenging workout but one can always work at whatever pace they want, as only the spinner themselves are in charge of their little resistance knob.
so . . .
I have no answers.
but I'm still intrigued.
and I'm sure I will be there next friday morning, eager to see if my count will hold, or if the universe will juggle things around and send me a few more female companions.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

the under-ten set

this morning I passed 3 kids in a group on the sidewalk, making their way to school. two were just walking the way grade school kids walk, talking and laughing and dragging their feet as if school would wait for them no matter when they got there.
the third kid, however, was bouncing along on his pogo stick.
a pogo stick.

do you remember how much energy it takes to move along on one of those?
this kid was grinning from ear to ear, his coat unzipped and flapping along with each resounding thump of rubber-covered stick on cement, and he looked completely content to be traveling by pogo stick while his buddies had to get there the old-fashioned way, by merely walking.

it made me smile.

yesterday morning at Ash Wednesday mass there was a small child in the pew in front of me, maybe two and a half, decidedly less than three. he had a knapsack with him, and his mom let him explore as needed, and in general he was a pretty compliant mass attendee.
inside that knapsack were a plastic baggie full (at the beginning of mass, anyway) of chocolate cereal balls, a travel-size container of hand wipes, and half a dozen small treasures. it was the way this small boy looked at his treasures that delighted me: he picked up first one, the another, and just stared deeply into the stories that came with them, and I could feel the electric energy of his little dreaming brain.
the first treasure he held was a small, plastic figurine from some movie or another, a pirate-y looking barrel of a dark-headed man, his overly muscled body bulging beneath his painted on blue jacket and knickers.
he stared at these items with fierce concentration, and I could almost hear the stories playing in his head, trying as I was to tap into that elusive, fleeting creative process that is a thirty-month-old brain.

I grinned.

there's a lot to be said for remembering the joys of childhood. to see the world again with those eyes is to open ourselves up to awe and joy, to inspiration and creativity, to wonder and power and confidence. when you're 7 you're not afraid to be the King of the Hill. you're not jaded by exposure to too many unique experiences. you're a lot more willing to be thrilled by bouncing a pogo stick or dreaming up lives for the plastic figurines you hold in your palm.

maybe one of the gifts of riding a bike is how it brings me some of those simple pleasures, those things that tether us to the depth and richness of our experience here.
on my bike I grin, I make up stories, and I am Queen of the Hill in my own little egocentric world.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


at what point does an acquaintance become a friend? where is that line? and is there some category that hovers between the two, that intersects like two overlapping sets in a Venn diagram?
I could put a large number of people into my intersection between the two: they are more than just acquaintances, but possibly not intimate enough to consider to be friends.
friend, to me, implies a certain level of liking, of trust, of respect. and these are difficult to form unless there have been exchanges of information and experience. and the liking, trust, and respect must flow both ways: to call someone a friend who doesn't reciprocate your feelings is a mis-use of the word friend.
however, acquaintance seems so distant: I have met hundreds of people who must remain in that category because our relationship has thus far been limited to an introduction (at the least) and minimal conversation (at the most). the word acquaintance implies a formality, a distance, a level far below that of friendship.
what about all of those people in the in-between category, the intersection of my Venn diagram? those whom I have met, exchanged some basic information with, see occasionally or even more regularly at school or exercise-related events, but have never socialized with outside of those events?
fri-quaintances. acquends.
if you have a better word, please let me know.

and this all arises because of my somewhat-friend, dug.
I first became aware of dug in my power camp classes 2 years ago. since that time we have seen each other out on the road and in spin classes, and we can chat with each other about surface things like races and commuting and the weather, but it seems a bit of a stretch to call him my friend. I don't know his phone number or his address or his kids' names, although I do know what he does for a living and I've met his wife.
where do these people get categorized?
I'm thinking they just need that new category.

all of this to say that my friend dug referred to me the other day as someone who might fall into the "obsessed" category of people who cycle.
he was describing someone to me, said that this person rode a bike and was athletic and into activities like that, but that this person wasn't obsessed with it the way that some people were . . . and like I possibly was . . .

so I set dug straight.
I am not obsessed.
I walk the border between obsession and great like and fulfillment. I know I walk this border, and I do it carefully. some of my decisions and actions could be construed as those of one who is obsessed (or possessed), but the majority of my behaviors fall well on the other side of that boundary.
I told dug, I don't have to be obsessed. I'm in control, and can back off at will. I just appear to be obsessed at times.
I'm grinning. at myself.

this morning my ipod was dead, and I arrived at 5:45 to an empty, quiet spin room. I chose my bike and turned on the room's radio (weak, but better than silence) and started spinning and climbing and sweating. dug strode in at 6:05 and the instructor came at 6:10. I was working away by then, but only because I needed to stop at 6:50 in order to get home and do the morning-mom thing.
I'm not obsessed.
I'm just practical.

and a few other things.

the acquaintances, fri-quaintances and aquends might question certain things about me, but all of my true friends know pretty much exactly how I am.
and thank you God, they love me anyway.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the christening

with great gratitude and excitement
I invite you all to join in my celebration
of the
of my new bike.

february 24, 2009, at approximately 12:45 pm,
my new bike set out on its first grand adventure with yours truly in the navigator's seat.
as you know, it had been resting in my family room for the past 10 days, as I acclimated myself to its existence in my life. sunday evening it finally lost its protective tape, reclaimed its front wheel, received a set of pedals, and gained a few little gadgets that when added together and coerced into functioning properly, form a cyclometer.
yesterday it was 50+ degrees, mostly sunny, a perfect day to ride, and I had neither the energy, desire, nor time to take it out.
today, however, looked to be the best day of the week to ride: a predicted high of 53 degrees, partly cloudy, and only a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

during yoga this morning I had an attack of the "I can't"s, which was thoroughly depressing and debilitating. I think it began with my weak and wavering right leg, which did not want to support my body in a half-moon pose. somehow that transformed into "I can't ride a bike anymore: I'm incapable of even climbing up a canyon anymore and probably won't ever be able to complete a century again."
where does this come from??
I'm hoping it comes from a weakened emotional state, caused by a weakened physical state. you know, that under the weather thing. I'm still crawling out from under that, and I will thus attribute the attack of I cant's to my lack of perfect physical health.
because I know darn well I can climb a hill.
and complete a century.
and ride 200 miles in one day.
I can do anything.

especially with my new bike.
these are my "first ride" observations:

this bike comes with a built-in tailwind. woo hoo!
the top tube is lower, thus I have to stretch further down to reach my water bottles.
the drop bars are much closer to the handlebars, making it easier to use them, and much easier to brake while doing so.
the brakes are responsive! if I hadn't accidentally tested them and discovered that, I might have done an over-the-handlebars flip while using them coming downhill. thank you, universe.

it is a beautiful bike.

and when I say it was christened today, I mean it was christened. it received a beautiful cleansing from the rain that started two-thirds of the way into my ride.
the first drop hit me right in the mouth ( need I say more about the headwinds?) and I spat it right out, thinking, it's not bug season, what was that? the second one hit my glasses, and then I quickly lost track of which raindrop was hitting where as they pinged on my helmet and slapped my windjacket.
on the way up the canyon I had oh-so-carefully avoided every bit of wet pavement I could, trying to minimize the dirt, mud, and wet that might jump up and attack my bike.
on the way down, in the rainstorm, I laughed and pedaled as hard as I could through everything on the ground, knowing the only way I could avoid a mess was to call a friend to come get me. by the bottom of the canyon I was looking at the world through a hundred droplets on my glasses, and speckles of dirty water decorated every bit of my clothing.

and that bike flew.

it's a beautiful bike.

so I close with great gratitude and excitement, welcoming a new friend into my life. I promise to care for it with love and attention, to always treat it carefully and with respect, and to never forget the depth of my gratitude for its participation in my life.

Monday, February 23, 2009

standing on one's head

this morning I stood on my head for the longest time yet . . . my legs straight and (almost) unwavering, my core working at every moment to hold my body in alignment.
I am mastering a new skill, and this morning's experience was a gift, a sign that I am making progress.

I need these things in my life, the signs that my efforts are moving me in the right direction. feedback from the universe, if you will, that tells me there will be payoffs from my dedication and focus.
to continually work and not receive encouragement or at the minimum, some small indication that what you're doing is leading somewhere, is to live in an endless tunnel. we all need to see the light at the end, whether it be bright and strong or the tiniest pinprick. I can live with a pinprick for a long time.

which is what I've been doing with my headstands.
given, I don't practice them nearly as often as I could, but I have been focusing on core strength and stability for so long now, and throwing the headstands in when I remember to, and I am absolutely thrilled to have received some positive feedback today.
it makes me want to stand on my head again.
I can see the circle forming:
practice, receive reward, want to practice more, get better, receive more rewards, practice lots more . . .

I am just a pavlovian dog.

who likes to stand on her head.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

thoughts at 10 pm

my thoughts at 10 pm are often quite similar to my 5:15 in the morning thoughts:
I am tired, and all I want to be is asleep.

it hasn't always been this way. I haven't ever been much of a night owl, but I used to last longer than I do these days.

it's been said that your body, given the opportunity, will sleep as long as it needs. I'm not sure about this: there are times when I've slept for 10 hours, then awakened groggy and tired. and often I wake up after 7 hours of sleep, my body restless and ready to get moving.

but what I really want to know is if other people go through what I go through. do they get tired, then keep going, then approach exhaustion, then finally collapse in bed? and do they get up in the morning, mentally kicking and screaming, begging to stay horizontal for just one more minute, two more, maybe another half hour? do they make deals with themselves, just to sleep a little, tiny bit longer?

I know there are people out there who watch late night television.
I don't even know who's on those talk shows any more.
jay leno? is he still doing that? and what about dave letterman? the other day I started thinking about arsenio hall: didn't he used to have a show?
I wonder if I'll ever even watch the 10 pm news again.

I've heard that people in new york watch their 11 pm news before heading to bed . . .

at my house we don't answer the phone after 9 pm, and everyone who knows me knows it's pretty pointless to try to communicate with me from about 8:45 on. by then I am focused on the "getting us all to bed" process (which includes the "getting everything ready for the morning" process, as well), and working to fit in (no more squeezing) just the tiniest amount of "down time" for me, when I sit and read and breathe deeply, calming myself after the activity thrown at me throughout the day.

I wonder what it would be like to live a calmer life, and I've decided it probably happens for those who don't have children in their homes.
but if I were one of those I think I'd probably stay up too late anyway, then get up screaming and kicking in the morning, trying to work a deal with myself that includes a little more sleep. I might not be quite as exhausted at night, though, so my 10 pm thoughts might not echo the 5:15 am ones.

I guess this means there will come a time in my life when things will shift and change. when I won't have quite so much to complain about, not nearly so many things to trip over as I walk through my house. I might not collapse into bed at night, and I might not even have to set the alarm for such an early hour.

then again, I may reach that point and decide I want to sign up for power camp again.
and set my alarm for 4:45 each weekday morning.
and go to bed at 9, exhausted, praying for sleep to come quickly so I can fit enough in before the shrilling alarm brings me back to life.

or I may just decide to sleep in, and enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

why I should ski

today I am going to be short and sweet (which I really am, anyway) because I am "under the weather." [please recall my earlier post where I described the origin of that phrase . . . if you don't remember, it's all about sailors on ships. and though I haven't been anywhere near a boat, raft, or ship, I am wanting to be cuddled safely below life's deck.]

bill took some pictures last sunday while he was skiing, and forwarded them to me the other day. I looked at them and thought to myself, I should be skiing.
I grew up skiing, beginning with a rope tow and poms and T-bars in the wilds of central Michigan. my dad was on the weekend ski patrol, and every saturday morning we would pile in the car with thermoses of coffee and hot chocolate, and drive for 2 hours to the ski resort. if my brother and I were lucky, at the end of the day we'd all go to the bar and I would be served a 7-Up in a tall, narrow frosted glass, and I would sip on this through a skinny straw and pretend I was just as cool and as important as all the grown-ups in their apres-ski sophistication. in between the hot chocolate and the 7-Up I could have frozen, done a cartwheel on skis, lost a ski once or twice in a fall, and believed my nose would break off from the cold, but the memory that remains is of joy and excitement.

so, the pictures above are two awesome reasons why I should be skiing again, and perhaps some other day I will provide my list of excuses as to why I'm not up there on the mountain.

Friday, February 20, 2009

shifting realities

this is my secret:
I have a new bike.

I am still in shock, and it's been sitting in my house for an entire week now.
I pass by it---handlebars still wrapped in plastic to protect the tape, front fork on the ground because the front wheel isn't attached---and it's as if it's just visiting, resting there, soon to be gone and off to someone else's house.

I was not planning to become the owner of a new bike, but the universe was doing it's little conspiring thing, and suddenly this beautiful piece of machinery appeared in my life.
ok, to be truthful, that version of the story does leave out a few small details, but it certainly encapsulates the theme quite well.

the entire truth is this:

thoughts about a new bike have been jostling around inside my head for many months now, and I've been open to ideas and information and even entertained a few thoughts about the kind of price range that would be appropriate. I read a review or two, and then decided the shopping process just incorporated absorbing TMI: too much information.

how could I ever really make a decision? there was too much to consider, and I just didn't have it in me to research this project the way it probably should be done.

then I met someone who has a friend who owns a bike shop. if you ever need a new bike, I can beat my friend up for you, get you a good deal. right, like I will ever NEED that new bike . . .

I filed that information away, for possible future reference.

and then a couple weeks ago I received an email from a friend who wrote, hey, want to sell your bike? I have a buyer for you . . .

truly, could the universe have spoken any more loudly than it did?

thus, I have a new bike, and my old bike is having it's little self tweaked in preparation for its movement to a new owner.

and this is why I am content to go to spin class and wait for spring to truly arrive before I ride outside: I'm afraid to take this beautiful new thing out into the real world.

it's gorgeous, it's clean, it's shiny, it's healthy.

I will make it dirty, marred and marked, and miserable.

I have some work to do, don't I?

I've been processing all of this for the past week, and I know that I will eventually make peace with the situation, and take this shiny new thing out to introduce it to my reality. which will become its new reality.

soon, perhaps.


once I get over the shock of having a new bike in my life.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


this morning burst into our valley full of sun and blindingly white hillsides, blue sky and a thick sliver of moon reluctant to give up its reign.
driving eastward I was filled with the feeling I experience when I ride in the young morning and glory in the beginning of day. I ached to be on my bike, back in the rhythm of those daily rides.

and then I took a deep breath (I do that a lot, don't I?), and exhaled some gratitude to be just where I am.

this is a lesson I'm learning: to accept the present.
and not only to accept it gracefully, but to learn from it.
it's one thing to say to myself, it's winter, darn it, I'll just have to work out inside until I can get back on my bike.
and it's quite different to say, it's winter, and I will embrace this time of increased indoor experiences and greater variety in my workouts, and my entire self will benefit from the change and the break from my narrowly focused summers.

I take another deep breath as I write this.
this is new for me, this sense of relaxing into and welcoming an experience that isn't on the top of my wish list, this being grateful for what I don't think I want.

and it's all about an internal process, a slowing down, a greater patience with the world. it's acknowledging what is and not arguing with it.

I have many wants and desires, and plans and dreams and goals: acceptance of what is works differently in this arena, because I have some control over how I move forward or sideways or rest between movements. I can accept what is while still moving life toward my goal.
but when it comes to weather and the changing seasons, I am utterly without control. thus the lesson, the opportunity for me to stretch and grow.

there is more to this story, but it's still a secret . . .
perhaps tomorrow will be the day to release that one.

tonight I will go to sleep knowing that I will get up and go to indoor spin class, that on the way home I will delight in the lightening sky, and that I will be grateful for the slower pace that winter brings to me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

vernal desires

a list of things I'd like to do this spring:

really pay attention to the deciduous trees, watching buds unfurl and leaves journey from childhood to maturity.

go on walks on warm evenings when our city is moving through those magical twilight hours.

sleep out under the stars, cuddled in as many blankets as I need.

ride my bike up millcreek canyon, past the locked gate, as far as I can on the unplowed road until the snow completely blocks my path.

m a y b e go on a mountain bike ride on the bonneville trail on the northeast ridge of our valley, looking down over the city and breathing in gratitude and peace.

be patient.

ride my bike in moab before the heat takes over for the summer.

eat more fresh vegetables, as they (hopefully) start looking happier in the grocery store.

enjoy my children, taking deep breaths and utilizing my patience as they move through the challenges that spring tends to bring.

ride my bike up emigration and watch little dell reservoir go through the thawing process, bit by bit, until the last vestiges of ice linger only in the deep pockets of shoreline.

breathe deeply, regularly, often, and thank the universe for all the beautiful things it's bringing my way.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

delayed gratification

exercise is mostly about delayed gratification, I've decided.
obviously it incorporates discipline, determination, commitment, focus, and other such things, but perhaps the overriding theme is delay of gratification.

in grad school we studied many aspects of society, and one such area we delved into was the circumstances that led people to productive, successful lives versus lives of poverty and disappointment. obviously many factors play into this, including biology and physical environment, but one study pointed to the concept of delayed gratification as being a primary indicator of future "success."
in this study the experimenters took classrooms of young children, and offered them treats in the following manner: each child could have one marshmallow if they wanted to eat it right away, or each child could have two marshmallows if they would wait until they were told they could have them (typically about 15 minutes.) numerous variations on this kind of experiment have been tried over the past 30 or so years, and I'm not aware of any results that show a perfect positive correlation between delay of gratification at age 4 and "successful" lives as adults. however, this original study by Walter Mischel determined that there does exist
“a fundamental protective mechanism that shields individuals against the negative interpersonal and intrapsychic consequences of their chronic personal vulnerabilities. . . The protective mechanism studied was the ability to strategically control attention in the service of long-term goals.” (3, pp787-788).
so perhaps at best, the ability to delay one's gratification was found to be a protective mechanism which improves our life experience.
additional similar studies have connected the inability to delay gratification with poorer academic success, less positive overall functioning, and higher drug use. and it's nearly impossible to not grasp the long term affect of an inability to delay gratification on one's personal life: those who cannot exercise this kind of delay will logically have more interpersonal and financial issues.

back to the bike.
and exercise.
what I do in the spin room, the weight room, and even the yoga room is not usually about "pleasure at the moment."
it is all about
"pleasure later," another term for delayed gratification.
I know that when I hit the hills on my real bike I will be extremely glad I spent all those hours squatting and lifting and spinning and stretching.
gratification kicks in big time at the top of the hill.

by the way, I have a slice of chocolate cake stored in my freezer, waiting for that moment when I absolutely have to have a piece of chocolate cake. it's been there for about 6 weeks now, and if that doesn't prove I'm capable of delaying my gratification I don't know what would.

Monday, February 16, 2009

to lose one's head

I lost my head this morning.
I told myself it would be fun to do 2 spin classes, back to back.
or, as I found out when I got there, 2 hour-long classes with a 15-minute gap between them, during which I would of course stay on my bike, spinning away to my own little set of instructions.

I'm not sure what I was thinking.

actually, I know what I was thinking. I was thinking that I can easily do a 2-hour outdoor ride, so this shouldn't be a problem. as well, it was a perfect day to take advantage of the fact that I had very few "have-to's". a 2-hour class would fit perfectly into my day.
and most importantly, after this l o n g class I would be able to eat lots during the rest of the day.

I got there, I got started, and I fell into my usual trap: I think I'm going to work at a moderate pace, keeping my heartrate in a mid-range, knowing there will be plenty of work ahead of me; then I start going and just keep pushing a bigger gear and working harder and next thing I know I'm in zone 5 with sweat dripping off my eyebrows.
on a bike I seem to be an all or nothing girl. well, to be honest, I guess I'm just the "all" girl. I don't know how to do the "nothing."

during the first 45 minutes I kept telling myself, you can stop whenever you want to. you can just do the one class, you can do one and a half classes, you can stop at 90 minutes or 120 minutes . . . or you can go to the end. no pressure, no expectations, no commitment to anything necessary.
during the instructor-led stretches at the end of the first hour I kept spinning.
during the 15 minutes break between the 2 classes I kept spinning.
during the new instructor's warm-up I kept spinning.

and once I get involved in a class, my obsessive nature takes over and I become determined to finish the darn thing.

my legs ached. my lungs ached. my heart pounded away. a muscle in my left calf kept calling for help. I drank 2 1/2 bottles of water. I soaked a towel with my sweat.
and before I knew it, we had reached the final song.
which the instructor calls her"all out effort" song. you can probably deduce from the name what it is we do during that song.
it's brief; it's wicked.
we power up, we work, we stretch our limits, and then there's a 30-second reprieve before that final part.
that final work section is "only a little over a minute," and she tells us "you can do anything for only a little over a minute."
I grin at that.
and turn up the resistance and re-fire my leg muscles.

I finished with a racing heart, stretched, calmed down, and came home,

Sunday, February 15, 2009


it's easy to lose our focus.
distractions flutter by, right and left, and different options are incessantly sprinkling down into our lives. complications, diversions, and interruptions are constant companions on the road to a goal.
making it easy to lose focus.

our spin instructors frequently remind us to focus, and I have to reel my mind back in from one of the many places it likes to wander. I'm distracted by the view---those regal pines nearby and majestic mountains far to the west, and the miles and miles of blue sky and buildings between the two---and I'm distracted by thoughts of what my agenda for the day holds. or other thoughts. or ideas. or desires.
besides, there are times when focusing on your aching legs and overextended lungs is the last thing you want to do.

in the real world, focus is important too. I at times lose my focus, and I realized that during class this morning. it's so easy to get distracted by those little things coming at you, pulling you from what really matters.
for me it's like driving in the deep of night during a blizzard. there are other cars, lights beside and behind and in front of you. there might be ridges of slush and snow on the road, between lanes. your own dashboard is full of colored lights, glowing and providing information you may or may not need. and most distractedly, snowflakes shoot down from the sky by the thousands, dancing and mocking your eyes as you try to concentrate on the road in front of you.
the only way to survive this is to focus on that road in front of you, pushing the swirling snow and every other potential distraction into your peripheral vision. it is both a relaxing of your gaze and a tightening of your focus, and I find it to be the only way I can navigate my way out of such a storm.

life has its own storms, even when all seems calm and even positive. diversions throw themselves in front of you, and interruptions erupt on a regular basis. it's easy to become side-tracked, and to find yourself far from the destination you had chosen.

this morning I stared deeply into the pine trees on the far side of the jcc pool, and pulled my focus back together. I thought about what truly matters, what's most important to me, what I set my focus on a long time ago. I acknowledged the lights and snowflakes that were trying to distract me, and recommitted to my focus.

keep your eyes on the road in front of you, is what leslie tells us every friday morning during class.
and I will.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

heart day

it struck me this morning that what this web log is truly all about is heart.
heart work, that is.
thus, today seems appropriate for acknowledging and celebrating that fact.

this blog came about because I find such joy in cycling, such stimulation and such an opening up of my creative process when I ride. I needed a place to document my thoughts and ideas and observations, which ultimately come through my heart, the soulful part of my body. the thought may originate in my mind, but my heart works it over before it ends up here in print. everything I write here has been processed through my heart and is tweaked by what my heart tells me that day.

and of course, I write here about my heart, the muscle. how hard it works, how far I push it, and how grateful I am for its health and very existence. everything I write about my physical activities involve that incredible muscle, from gentle yoga to strenuous climbs that push me past what I thought were my limits.

therefore, today, valentine's day, just seems to be the perfect day to acknowledge the symbolic heart of my blog, which just happens to be, my heart.

love often, love deeply, love without reserve, and as leigh standley says, love imperfectly with great delight. \
happy valentine's day, with an extra special hug to Liz and all of those who love her.

Friday, February 13, 2009

touching greatness

why is it that when we have an experience with great art, soulful music, incredible athletic prowess, pure physical beauty, or some other such entity, our reaction is so intense?
my pulse can race, or my mind can go completely blank. sweat may break out on my skin, or my heart might swell and burn brightly in my chest. I may be stunned speechless.
regardless of which reactions I may have, they are intense and deep.

I think of time spent in museums in italy, staring at pieces of art that are almost inconceivable, yet obviously conceived beautifully and against the odds. sculptures: how does an artist uncover the hidden shape within a chunk of marble? intricately woven pictures that have depth and light and power.

brahms connects with my soul: the beautiful melodies and haunting harmonies send my soul to a peaceful place where there are no frustrations, no concerns, no have-to's. beethoven's symphonies: for each one of those instruments to interact so simply yet intimately with the others causes me to stew in wonderment of the amazing process of composing such a piece of music.

to watch an athlete at the peak of his or her power and performance, to see the flex of muscle and gleam of sweat, to gaze with awe at their exceptional ability to swoop, to soar, to run, to excel at whatever it is they attempt.

these moments we touch greatness, and they send shivers to my core. these are moments of intense vitality, when the life within me jumps and strains to reach the level of the lives lived by the authors of these great works or acts. the existence of these works of art or acts of agility proves to me that we all have access to greatness. within us, or without, we can still touch it and let it resonate with us. let it empower us to connect just a little more deeply with our own strength and power.
let those moments connect us with each other, with the intense, unlimited potential of being human.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

time management

sometimes I find myself wishing for time to move more quickly than it does.
for instance, during those terribly difficult drills on the bike, or during a warm-up on a cardio machine when I am pushing hard enough to sweat and yet the monotony of it makes me want to pull my hair out.
during those moments I have that desire for time to just zip past, instantly.
and the second I have those thoughts, I squelch them and say a quick little prayer of gratitude: I love my time here on earth, and don't ever want to wish even a minute of it away.

except those minutes when my heart is beating 187 times per minute and I'm dripping sweat and I'm hot and feel like my legs are going to fall off and my lungs may shatter.
those minutes are hard to embrace and be grateful for, and I must admit I count down those seconds with an intense desire for them to be gone.

on the whole, I want more minutes in my day. I have so many things to fit into my day, and additional things I want to add to my day. I am never bored: there are always a handful of things I'd like to do. I often look at the clock and wish I could slow its movements, push the hands back around.

all in all, I have a questionable relationship with time. I want more of it, I try never to wish it away---though I obviously sometimes do---and I almost always feel that it moves faster than I want. I think of the fact that I am 46 (eek!) years old: where have those 400,000 hours gone? (to be honest, I do know that in the past 2 1/2 years a good 700 or so hours have been spent sitting on a bike saddle. but the other 399,300 . . . ?)

so I will try, from this moment on, to take those pain-filled moments on the elliptical or in the spin bike saddle and embrace them. embrace the pounding heart and labored breath. embrace the leaden, fatigued muscles. embrace the feeling that I cannot survive another 5 seconds, let alone the full 60 demanded by the instructor. I know the moments will end---they will all end---and what I will be left with is just a shorter length of time to be on earth.

we'd all better dance while we can.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


every time you forgive, the universe changes;
every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes;
with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again.


(The Shack, William P. Young)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


if I were to search through my prior postings and take a count, I wonder how many times some form of the word "squeeze" would appear.
squeezing is something I do a lot of.
(today I experimented with squeezing into a new pair of jeans, but that's a different story.)
the kind of squeezing I'm writing about is where one takes a specific number of tasks, chores, and events, and squishes them into a day that is meant to hold a number somewhat smaller than the one you propose.
squeezing wears me out.
perhaps if I used different terminology I could train my brain to not be worn out by the experience.
perhaps, say, work. I could use the word, work, as in I'm sure I'll be able to work that into my day.
but that implies effort, work, difficulty, and might produce a negative feeling.
perhaps just the simple word fit. as in I can definitely fit that into my day.
better, as fit comes without that efforting connotation that work does. and it definitely loses the stress that comes with squeezing.

it's all a mind game, really, so if I can change my language I can probably ease my sense of being worn out by it all, right?
I often talk about squeezing a bike ride into my day, and the ride itself might be challenging, but it's not the part that tires me. it's everything else I have to do to make too many activities squeeze into one day.
however --- this is what I'm telling my brain right now --- if all I have to do is fit these things into my day, alongside my bike ride, I should be just fine. fitting is much less of an effort than squeezing, and markedly less than working.

so this is my plan. tomorrow, everything I choose to place on my agenda will fit smoothly into my waking hours, and I will never feel as though I'm squeezing too many things into too little time.
I am fit, and I can fit.
there you have it: my new approach to life.

I will keep you posted on my level of fitness.

Monday, February 9, 2009

on being scolded

I do not like to be scolded.
therefore, I scrubbed and scoured my bike before I took it to my favorite bike shop boy for its repair job.
I brought it into my kitchen, and half-heartedly spread a towel on the tile floor. half-heartedly because I wasn't too concerned about spilling on the tile: it would clean up just fine. I gathered a couple rags, a bowl of warm sudsy water, my degreaser and little plastic degreaser-machine, lubricant, and the blackened toothbrush I use for those tricky little spots.
plopped on the floor in front of my bike I set to work with the warm, soapy rag. yikes. I don't think there was a clean section of tube, gadget, cable, or even spoke, anywhere on that bike. and I'm just talking about surface dirt---mud---splatters from riding through puddles of melting snow.
as for real grit and grime, it was all wrapped around and clinging with a death grip to my chain and rings. ugh. I made a complete mess of my workspace, and my hands could easily be confused with those of a garage mechanic. still. 6 hours, 9 hand-washings, and 7 applications of lotion later, my fingernails remain rimmed in ghoulish black. as I predicted, the floor cleaned up just fine. my hands, however . . .
I knew there was a reason I didn't like cleaning my bike.

I think there should be bike-cleaning shops. I don't always need a tune-up; I just need the darn thing cleaned.
I think the reason there aren't bike-cleaning shops is that cleaning your bike is one of those things that true cyclists love doing. it's up there with subscibing to all the periodicals, hanging out in bike shops, oogling new toys, being a gearhead . . . I think those serious cyclists love cleaning their machines.

I wish I loved cleaning my machine.

I test rode a new bike the other day and I apologized for taking it outside where the roads were a little wet. the salesman (okay, the mountain biking dude who was working in the shop, helping me) shrugged it off as no big deal, but I was deeply reluctant to take this beautiful, shiny collection of chain and rings and cassette out into a world that would throw muck upon it. forget the gleam of the unmarred frame, the glistening seat post and front fork, the (what were they thinking?) white handlebar tape and saddle: it's the working parts that sparkle and glisten and are too pretty for me to even consider wanting to use.

but I love my bike, hammered rings and dented top tube and all. I appreciate all it's given me, and have nothing but admiration for its ability to take me everywhere it has --- and back home again. it's nicks and scrapes all come with memories, and it is probably even more beautiful than the shiny new things hanging out in the shops, waiting patiently for their own lives to begin.

it's like people, I suppose.
there are sure a lot of beautiful ones out there: young and fresh and unlined, trim and healthy and glowing. but I find that I like the ones with lines a little bit more. ones with more history, more experiences behind them, even a few scrapes and scars and dents.
they've been down the road, and come back, and have proven themselves.

like my bike.

now, if I could just learn to keep it clean because that's what it deserves, not just to avoid
being scolded.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

parallel universes

yesterday I had one of those experiences that's difficult to define.
for the last 2 summers I've spent hours riding my bike up Big Cottonwood canyon, grunting and grinding and sailing and soaring and there at the end, convincing my legs they can make that last little hill before my eyes sight the Brighton Store and my entire body quivers in excitement of being able to make that final, victorious "oh my God I made it" lap.
once last summer I rode to the top of Big Cottonwood, and then rode up Guardsmans Pass to that summit, looking over the valleys into the winding hills and canyons of midway and park city.
as a result, I am familiar with those roads, familiar in a biking way. familiar with the asphalt and the there-and-then-gone bike lanes, familiar with the deep S curve and the fluctuating grade and the sheer expanse of hillsides you see.
green hillsides.
trees and shrubbery and wild-growing weeds and aspen whose leaves quiver in the gentle summer breeze.
other cyclists, cars, the occasional deer or squirrel.
rocks and pines and, hidden far behind aspen and oak and space, a secret waterfall that sparkles in the sunlight.
this is the canyon I know and recognize.

yesterday I traveled the same road and met a new canyon.
we drove from the mouth of the canyon to the Guardsman turnoff, minuscule flakes floating randomly down from the clouds that hovered above. we took the snow-packed road as far as it went, until we reached a small parking lot where the metal gate closed the road to further traffic.
snow has been accumulating there since october, and we walked up a gradual slope and on to the top of the gate, crossing into the winter version of this canyon I thought I knew.
I kept thinking of riding the road that was now a good 4 or 5 or 6 feel below me, and it made my heart happy and my soul giggle.
we climbed and the sweat began to gather, and the late afternoon light slowly dimmed to an early evening glow. dr. seuss trees hugged the path, and silence sat upon us like a glorious mantle.
we stopped where park city resort throws up its boundaries, and sat until our fingers tingled then ached with cold. it had darkened further, and the quiet settled around us until we heard a marvelous moaning from across the valley, drifting cleanly over to us through the crisp air and open sky. moose? elk? frustrated ski patrolman at the end of a trying day?
it remains a mystery.
on the way down, we watched the lights of the groomers sweeping the slopes of Solitude, the rumble and whine of their engines reaching us as cleanly as the moaning moose call.

I suppose I could call this cross-training, but I'd rather just call it a miraculous visit to a parallel universe which exists 6 months away from the cycling universe I usually inhabit.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


I resist breathing.
breathing in a pattern, that is: breathing differently than I naturally and involuntarily do.
thus yoga and meditation practices challenge me.

the other night I was participating in a "guided meditation," and it began with instructions regarding our breaths. argh.
in yoga the other morning the instructor --- as always --- repeats and repeats the fact that we if we lose our breathing pattern, we may as well stop the physical activity: it's all about the breath. argh.

why in the world would this be so hard for me? what could possibly be wrong with breathing differently/in a specific pattern/with certain movements? is it just my stubborn nature popping up again?
how can it be such a challenge?
and why do I resist it?

I'm trying to understand my breath, my lungs, my heartrate, and how the process truly works. because I seem to have a little issue.
when I've taken the VO2 sub-max tests I've taken, I reach a semi-panic state. when I'm working hard and breathing hard and my heartrate gets high --- especially for the first time in the day --- I can feel a sense of panic start to envelop me. so I apply the mental tricks to calm myself down, but it's not always easy. the panic seems to be coming from my fear that I cannot pull in enough air, that I won't be able to breathe.
[sometimes during x-rays when they tell you not to breathe while they capture the image, I barely make it, and what could that possibly be, 15 seconds??]

I have an issue with breathing.
whether it be that I'm breathing more intensely than I want to, or that I'm doing it in a different way than I normally do, I seem to have a problem.
I suppose I now get to add this to my list of "things for susan to work on this year."
and maybe a year from now I will have mentally conquered my resistance to and fear of breathing in uncomfortable ways.
I've already begun, haven't I, by acknowledging I have an issue:

my name is susan, and I am a problem-breather.

Friday, February 6, 2009

shopping around

I test rode a new bike this morning.
I felt almost guilty, a little disloyal, for even thinking about a different bike.
my cannondale has been my friend for 28 beautiful months, and has put up with a great deal of questionable behavior on my part during that time. can I truly cast it aside someday?
this is my dilemma.
I am a pretty loyal person, have always been. perhaps it goes hand in hand with the commitment thing: I'm not flighty, I don't jump ship easily, and I tend to stick with things that treat me well in return.
but I also like change. I like newness, I like variety, I often crave new experiences and modifications to what already exists.
therein lies the rub . . .

what is it that tips us over the edge from one way of doing things, to another?
it must be the result of a cost-benefit analysis; that's the only logical answer, right?
we assess what's good and bad about our current situation, then predict what will happen if we were to make the change. what will we give up, and what will we gain? and what will the cost be, financial or otherwise?
we weigh those options, and then --- if you're me --- you close your eyes and jump.

this is how I bought my cannondale 28 months ago. I took a good look at how much I was riding, what kind of riding it was, and what the riding was doing for me physically and emotionally. then I considered what I would lose: mainly the comfort level I had with my current bike and how it operated, and a chunk of cash.
I weighed, then closed my eyes and jumped.
and have never regretted it.

today as I consider a new bike, I have to think back on the cannondale purchase experience. I was nervous, I was entering a new unknown (to me) world, and it was a serious financial commitment. and I have never, not even for a minute, experienced remorse.

riding this new bike down the street I thought, it will be hard to let my old bike go.
but I think I was wrong.
I believe if I make this new purchase, I will always be glad I did so. I will be just as I have been with the cannondale: never regretting, at all.

however, I am still wobbling. yes, no, yes, no. maybe I should look around more; maybe I want a different color. will it really be that much different and is it worth the investment?

what I know for sure is that pretty soon I will have to close my eyes and jump, one way or the other.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

mysteries, part II

I spoke with liz yesterday.
spoke may not be the right word, as it leads one to think that a conversation was verbalized, and only a few words truly were spoken, and only by me.
nonetheless, a conversation took place.

I had been thinking about a friend of liz's, which led me to think of liz, and I decided it was time for a chat.
so I initiated the chat.
while I was cycling up the canyon.
I'm not much for conversation while I'm huffing and puffing my way up a hill, so I basically just asked her what she could share with me. she responded immediately, saying
be yellow.

yep, be yellow.

now, do I know what this means? not exactly. it wasn't like "be a yellow," as in those color-personality tests, where you are told you are either a yellow, a blue, a red, or a white, or a something.
it wasn't that at all.
it was just, be yellow.
she repeated it, as well.

it could have meant be bright, sunny, cheerful, positive, uplifting . . . all of the possibilities that come with the color yellow.
or it could have meant to be true to whoever I am, the inner, cheerful place in me.
or perhaps it's in secret Liz-code, and has some meaning I don't know at all.
I am choosing the first option, with a little bit of the last one thrown in as well.
I believe those who are up there guiding us like to have a little fun with us as they do so.

then I asked her about all of the people she left behind here, all of us who knew her in some small or great way. I asked how she felt about their struggles to go on without her, and what could make it better for them.
she gave me an answer by metaphor.
she told me that it was like someone who had been momentarily blinded by a brilliant flash of light: for a brief time there is total disorientation, a complete loss, an ungrounding. the person cannot see, and will struggle to come to grips with a world they no longer have a hold on. they may become dizzy, they may lose their footing, they may have a moment of panic.
but gradually their eyes adjust, and shapes begin to reform into familiar objects. before long, vision has been restored, and the person can once again navigate their way in the world.
this is what it's like for those who I left behind, she let me know.
and they are relearning to see, and discovering again the depth and beauty of their world, with or without me in it.

she smiles with her whole heart, and although she understands the pain of those who love her, she knows that all is well and will continue to move toward a beautiful equilibrium.

love, love deeply, let losses come as they will, and forever
be yellow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

mysteries, part I

I visited my favorite place on earth today.
just saying that makes my heart swell.
I am so fortunate that I am able to do this, and I know that being able to do so places me in a relatively small, select group of people.
I decided to show you a picture of this spot so you can possibly relate a little more to my discussions: this is an aerial photo of Little Dell reservoir, and you can see part of the road I ride directly to the north of the water.
I had hoped to find a more current picture, but you will just have to envision the changes winter have brought to this spot.
today the western end of the reservoir is completely white, blanketed in solid white snow. as is the eastern.
but the space in the middle is still in that fragile state between liquid and solid, where crystals hang in a slow-moving existence, connecting with each other and slowly, oh so slowly, building new worlds.
a crack lies deep in this slushy no-man's-land, crossing from north to south, and the entire middle space has been decorated with those mysterious swirls that make me think of mold spores and amoeba.
I want to understand the process of freezing, and why these swirls develop, but I don't want to work too hard to reach that understanding. I recognize that half of what I love about the swirls is their very mystery.

which segues nicely into the rest of my topic: the enticement and intriguing nature of a good mystery.
my mystery today --- besides swirl development --- is that my odometer reading jumped by 25 miles since saturday's ride, without me having ridden my bike.
I mentioned that I rode in colorado on saturday: I had taken my front wheel off for the car trip, and just put the wheel back on my bike today. I clicked my cyclometer to "trip" so I could clear the mileage from saturday's ride, and it read 60.3 miles.
I did not ride 60 miles on saturday.
I rode 35.
did someone sneak into the garage, take my bike for a ride, then replace it (removing the wheel again) without my knowledge?
my total odometer reading was also increased by 25 miles, to 9032 instead of the 9007 it should have been.
how did this happen?

I have no idea.

no idea.

if you know, please tell me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

new terrain

outdoor ride last saturday! woo-hoo!
temperature in the mid forties, sunshine blaring down, and you know I want to be out there riding.
the only difference was that I wasn't in utah.
I was in a little old place called grand junction, in the beautiful state of colorado.
and it was there that I passed another milestone:
I hit the big 9000.
and took a moment to celebrate on a street called Pricilla's Way, out in the middle of somewhere, colorado.
it was one of those rides that I always wish I could experience around here, and just cannot. the roads were long and built of flat sections, false flats, and gently rolling pieces with fun little rises and quick little drops. and most importantly, very few stoplights or cars.

I think about living in different places, and how I would feel about the biking. saturday's ride was similar to what I could do if I lived in, say, Logan. or perhaps some other big, wide, under-populated valley. living where I do, I have become a canyon rider. I rarely just stay in the city, and when I do, I still ride the eastern bench that climbs and drops somewhat significantly. I get to choose which canyon to climb, based on my feelings each day.
what if I lived in, say, Iowa? or Nebraska? would I have started biking? and if so, would I have worked on speed instead of the strength needed to climb? how would I be the same, and how would I be different?

which leads me to a place of gratitude once again:
I am so grateful to be where I am. thanks to my parents who moved me out to utah all those years ago. thanks to my career and decision path that took me away but brought me back. thanks to the confluence of events and experiences that have me so well planted, exactly where I am.

saturday's ride was glorious. fresh air, beautiful scenery, great company, and as challenging as I wanted it to be. I hit my milestone, I experienced some new terrain, and I was able to spend 2 hours doing something I truly love.

for that, today, I am purely grateful.

Monday, February 2, 2009

how to be

do you ever wonder how you came to be the way you are?
or just how different your way is from everybody else's way, or if deep inside they feel all the same feelings you feel?
or do you just operate by being who you are, and not even think about other ways?

our society seems to be into self-improvement: huge sections are devoted to this in all the bookstores, and frequently the best-seller lists are heavily populated with books that will help us improve one aspect of our life or another. how to be more assertive, persuasive, healthy, positive, successful, friendly, amorous . . .
I tend to think I'm pretty okay the way I am. I know I'm not the easiest person to deal with, for I guard my inner self pretty well, giving it plenty of space. it is sacred to me, and it's not a place for everyone to be, nor is it a space that I want to expose to the world. one has to earn their way in there.
you, dear reader, have earned your way in by being willing to plow through what I have to say. to read my writing is to venture into my sacred space. it may be that I can allow you in this way because it's one-sided: you can't easily argue or provide unwanted (by me) feedback. you just have to accept what you read, then either toss it out or be marinated in it for a while, or some combination of the two. you can agree or disagree or accept or not accept: whatever you do with it now becomes your issue and not mine.
I don't want to be in a position where I feel I have to defend myself. I know my strengths, my depth, and what I am capable of thinking, feeling, and experiencing. I know that I waver between being protected and not: it is difficult for me to walk in this world completely bare, without some slim layer of protection. a large, iridescent bubble, surrounding me and my heart from the harshness of the world and the knife it can press against my skin.

when I first started riding I wore teva sandals on my feet and nothing on my head. I felt the air rush through my hair and toes, and I gloried in the feel.
within a few months I had been beaten into submission and began wearing a helmet. then came the cycling shoes, and I sacrificed the heavenly rush of air to safety, practicality, and enhanced performance.
soon after, I had my first spectacular crash. skin was scraped from my body, I bruised my entire left side, and I cracked my helmet. and I thanked God I hadn't cracked my skull.

there is wisdom in wearing a little bit of armor as we go about our encounters with the world. I don't enjoy wearing my helmet --- I'd rather be free of it --- but the possible consequence of going without is just not worth it. I'd love to wiggle my toes again in the warm summer air, but I've sacrificed that for improved technique and power.
so there are trade-offs. but I've learned that to walk my path without the bubble leaves me too exposed and vulnerable. and the pain I experience as a result cuts so deeply that I struggle to breathe.
just as you wouldn't leave an orchid on your front porch throughout the winter, I will not leave myself bare to the elements that swirl throughout the world.
I leave my beautiful bubble behind when I know, deep in my soul, that it's safe to do so.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

fresh air

I read this today in a book by minette walters:

some wounds need fresh air to heal.

I'm not really sure I need to say any more, except perhaps that I believe this to be absolutely, completely, entirely, wholly true.