Monday, August 31, 2009

me, myself, and I

isn't it funny how we talk about ourselves as if we are sometimes 2 different people?
this morning I had to kick myself out the door to go ride . . .
and other times, we speak as if our body is separate, somehow, from our "self":
oh, my body causes me such frustration! I hate my body, my body hurts . . .
who are we, really? are we the entire thing, are we truly just the spirit that resides within the form? are we our minds and spirit combined, are we just our souls, or are we all of that all rolled into one at times quite disjointed human?
perhaps our task here is to learn to become everything: the body, mind, spirit, soul, ego that blend together and form a symphony, each bit of us truly in harmony with the rest.
if so, our language needs an overhaul.
because I most definitely had to kick-pull-drag myself out the door this morning to get on my bike.
me wanted to stay here.
all of me.
except, apparently, a little teeny nagging piece of my ego-brain-mind-soul that knew a ride was an important part of my life plan.

I believe that a great skill we can all develop is to learn to become an observer of our own lives. this, of course, splits us again, separating our functioning, participating self from the wise, seer part of us. but when one develops the ability to do this, a wealth of strength is discovered.
the wise, eternal, divine if you will part of us can offer validation and compassion, if we will allow it to share its input.
I used to sit in a meditative place to pull away from my humanness and try to just be the observer of my life. by now it has become such a habit that I can become that observer just by thinking about it.
the observer is always kind, always empathetic. always patient and loving. and always able to impart the belief that all is well, and all will only get better if we keep trudging---and hopefully learning to flow---along our path.
this ability to separate out the wise me is one of the greatest gifts I've discovered, for it's like having a peaceful, loving mentor in my back pocket, always ready to support the person I am.

and I'm still not really sure who it was who kicked me out the door this morning. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the same one who told me to make chocolate chip cookies yesterday.
I just know that they're both pretty determined to get their way, and they're both watched over by someone who loves them a whole lot.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

the climb

there are times I sit here at the computer to write when I don't have a clear idea of what direction to go. should I stay with strict cycling stuff? tell you about my mechanical issues and heartrates and miles logged? or about the scenery and smells and fellow cyclists on the road? or my life that weaves in and around my cycling?
I could write about pedals today, but the only part of me that wants to is my guilt-throwing, bossy ego, not my heart or my soul or even my fingers.
so I'm listening to those more important pieces of me, and will put pedals on the back burner for now.

I had some time alone this afternoon, with a lot of hand-work to do: laundry folding and work-related things like opening small boxes, unwrapping items, cutting things, counting and other little semi-mindless tasks. so I searched through my television armoire for a movie to put on, something to keep me company.
there, staring at me, was the hannah montana movie.
yes, really.
I hesitated, but then thought, what the heck: now I can see what my girls have seen.

disney does a good job with these things: it was light and silly and fluffy and full of deep important messages, and at that crucial point I was crying.
yes, crying.
closer to sobbing.
I was glad to be home alone.

the point is, it hit home. and when miley cyrus sang her award-winning song, the climb, every word made sense and I cried harder.

so all I really want to do today is share the lyrics to this song, because I'm sure they hit home for more than just me.

I can almost see it
That dream I'm dreaming but
There's a voice inside my head sayin,
You'll never reach it,
Every step I'm taking,
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking but I
Got to keep trying
Got to keep my head held high

There's always going to be another mountain
I'm always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes I'm gonna to have to lose,
Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

The struggles I'm facing,
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes they knock me down but
No I'm not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm going to remember most yeah
Just got to keep going
And I,
I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on, cause

There's always going to be another mountain
I'm always going to want to make it move
Always going to be an uphill battle,
Sometimes I'm gonna to have to lose,
Ain't about how fast I get there,
Ain't about what's waiting on the other side
It's the climb

Saturday, August 29, 2009


synonyms for taper:
abate, bate, close, die away, die out, diminish, drain, dwindle (ooh I like that one), fade, lessen narrow, recede, reduce, rescind, subside, taper off, thin, thin out, wane, weaken, wind down.

I first heard the cycling-related expression "taper" two years ago. as you approach your event, you should begin tapering. you go google "cycling taper" and summarize the results for me, please.
everyone has a slightly (or hugely) different idea of how to taper.
and tapering for a time trial is different than tapering for a century, which is different than tapering for a 40K race which is different than for a crit.
and I have yet to find the perfect guidance for training for a 206 mile ride, let alone tapering for one.
this is when it would be great fun to have a coach.
some people do that: hire a coach.
my fear there, though, is that they would tell me what to do and when I did something different (like ate chocolate cake instead of broccoli) I would feel enormous guilt.
thus, I google and ask others and somehow create a game plan.
right now I am trying to formulate my game plan for the next 13 days.
it is all based on this tapering stage I'm now in, which I like to liken to the waning lunar stage.
I am like the waning moon: slowly changing and preparing for rebirth.

I just read some tapering advice this evening that suggests for the week before one's event one cuts their total miles by 2/3. since I've been averaging about 240 miles a week, that would mean I'd cut back to 80 for the week.
what would I do with all my spare time??
I'm not sure, but I'm thinking about giving it a shot.
this site suggests keeping intensity during intervals of the rides, but keeping the entire ride abbreviated.
that brought a smile to my face.
I think I can live with that.

but we'll see . . .

the sad thing is that it did not suggest that one stays in bed, or spends more time on the couch, or ~ saddest of all ~ that one eats more cookies in preparation for the event.
in fact, the terms "fresh vegetables" and "plants" keep cropping up in the dietary comments.

I suppose if I want to truly follow the waning moon path, I shouldn't be increasing my girth, should I? I will do my best to limit those cookies and that yummy chocolate cake I had last night.
I'll keep you posted on my success.

Friday, August 28, 2009

back on the (proverbial) horse

this is the way of cycling, the tao of cycling:
one just keeps getting back on the horse.
one just keeps those legs circling around and around, even though at times they may be making ellipses instead of pure circles. the key is to just keep going.

this morning I rode up emigration for the first early-morning time in 9 days. and it felt pretty grand to be back on that horse.
in those intervening 8 days I've had 2 (two!) pure rest days, 2 recovery ride days, 2 grinding rides from you-know-where, 1 evening ride, and one yoga-only day.
each one of those days has been important to my process: thought-out, necessary, and committed to because it was the right thing to do.
but I've missed my old horse, my emigration-in-the-early-morning ride.
missed it and not missed it, because of those 8 intervening days I was able to sleep in 4 times. ah, I do love sleep.
last night, the thought of getting up and out the door by 5:30 again was painful.
but it put me back into my rhythm, that rhythm where one knee rises as the other falls, training is over before the kids go to school, and my day starts with peace and stars and --- if I'm lucky --- moonlight.

the way of cycling is my way of being, as ingrained as my belief in the powers of love and harmony. and the key to cycling is truly to just keep pedaling.

I noticed tuesday, during my 9 hours of riding with bill, that my legs went around many, many more times than his did.
now there are 3 reasons for this:
first, I have more low gears than he does, so during climbs I can gear down and spin around more than he can.
second, he is stronger than I am, so when he's riding beside me he can pedal, pedal, pedal then pause, and still stay next to me.
third, he is heavier than me, so on descents he can go faster and coast further than I can: I always have to start pedaling again before he does.

this is just a fact of cycling.

and it is also a fact of life: some of us have to do more pedaling than others.
because of circumstances, because of genetics. because of fate, destiny, karma, what have you: some of us just plain old have to pedal more.
that doesn't make anyone smarter or better or wiser: they are just different realities.

in the cycling reality, it's possible my knees tire before bill's do; perhaps they'll wear out sooner. or perhaps they will gain unknown strengths because of this reality.

I don't know.

what I do know is that my plan is to just keep moving forward. to keep pedaling, whether on my bike or off. and to always remember the sometimes subtle but always existent joys of hopping back on that horse.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

big yellow taxi

I've tried to write about this before, but I never feel that I've done an adequate job. therefore, I feel this desire to try again. and probably down the road, again.
it's this place of being where I feel so unscathed by life's tragedies that I have to brush aside the guilt that swims through my mind.
why am I so fortunate?
so healthy, so blessed, so very, very blessed?
I could have walked so many different paths in this life, and some I witness just seem so much more difficult and challenging than mine.
I'll return for a moment to adam, the wounded warrior I encountered on last saturday's ride. he has been through a version of hell, and after hearing his story and watching him climb on up the hill in front of us, bill and I sat for a moment in gratitude. (yes, while still pedaling up that hill.)
how dare we complain about the heat?
about discomfort?
about sore muscles or headaches?
here is someone---one of hundreds of thousands of people---who has lived a life of complete discomfort and suffered damage to his body in an effort to (I have to be careful here) support our nation's beliefs in right and wrong.

I live a sheltered, privileged life.
I get to go ride my bike in the morning, I can attend yoga classes to settle my mind and muscles.
I have a kitchen full of food and all the fresh water I need and a solid roof over my head.

I have friends with MS. I have a friend whose wife has ALS. I see people walking down the street who roll with the gait they've developed because one leg's growth was stunted. in my own business I work with a center for people with disabilities: adults who due to birth circumstances or genetics or accidents are unable to function well enough to have jobs in "the community" where most of us work and live and shop.

I want to live a long and healthy life. I want to age gracefully. I want to honor what I've been given by caring for myself. I never want to take even the tiniest aspect of my abundance for granted.

there's a song I love, have loved since the first time I heard it. written in 1970, it focuses on the seemingly eternal theme of taking things for granted. so I'll close with these lyrics, written by joni mitchell oh so long ago (though I must say that I now prefer the Counting Crows version with their "ooh...bop bop bop" addition):

don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone . . .

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

robert pirsig wisdom

"Mental reflection is so much more interesting than TV it's a shame more people don't switch over to it. They probably think what they hear is unimportant but it never is."

(Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974, italics added)

the trick, I believe, is learning how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
most of us --- from what I'm told --- have incredibly busy minds, which fill our lives with chatter, both good and bad. it's a skill to disentangle the negative, unhelpful pieces from those that are real and true, and it's a skill I have not yet mastered.
I know better, yet I still at times get sucked into that mire of negative ego-talk: you can't do this, you won't make it, nobody likes you, you stink, you're ugly and slow and never good enough and you most certainly can't ride up that big hill . . .
I listen politely, then take a deep breath and tell that part of my brain to be quiet.

and I work hard to fertilize the wheat. it likes to be listened to, and it likes to be acknowledged for its wisdom. I can feel its little chest puff up with pride each time I repeat the positive affirmations it strokes me with.
you can do it, you are on the right path, you're right where you're supposed to be, you can do this, you can climb any hill you choose to . . .

so I agree with mr. pirsig.
(primarily in that listening to/watching TV is not the best use of our time).
and perhaps that negative chaff is worthwhile, as it gives us something to overcome. keeps us on our toes. challenges us to prove it wrong.
I'm going to focus on a diet of wheat.
because it was wheat that got me through that 130 mile ride yesterday, and it will be wheat that gets me through whatever gets thrown my way.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

after the big ride

today's stats:

131 miles
10,700' elevation gain
9 hours riding time

and now, the best thing on earth, my favorite time of the whole training process, something I have earned and am so very grateful for . . .

it is time to taper.

woo hoo!

Monday, August 24, 2009

path of the warrior

okay, I'm joking when I call myself a warrior.
joking slightly less when I call myself a princess warrior.
being most honest when I call myself a barely-survived-it-almost-a-warrior-but-still-a-wannabe.
all right, I'm a warrior, but just by the skin of my teeth.
[an aside: I just looked up the origin of that phrase, which is biblical, and it's actually with the skin of my teeth, and we just take it to mean avoiding disaster/catastrophe/devastation by the very narrowest of margins. I know you knew that, but I was curious.]

it was a ride.
full of climbing up and sailing down, climbing back up and sailing (and braking) down, a bit of just over, more climbing, and then just grinding away at speeds close to zero, using just about every last ounce of stamina I had left in my salt covered body.
I was not a pretty sight by the end. and I didn't really care.

this is what gets me. I ride a lot. I ride hard rides. I've ridden a 206-mile course twice. I've climbed 10,000 feet during a 100-mile ride before, probably a handful of times or more. and at least two other times I have had to face a grueling 6-mile climb after riding over 100 miles.
so why was this thing so darn hard?
I don't know.
but I had to stop, two separate times, on that 6-mile climb up little cottonwood canyon. both times I knew I would continue, but I just needed to stop. both times I watched my heart rate drop a mere 30 beats and just sit there, refusing to budge off that shelf and settle lower.
I was not alone.
john describes it as carnage on the side of the road: cyclists stopped, standing, sitting, throwing up, walking their bikes, displaying pure misery with every facial muscle.
I am laughing as I type this, as I reflect on what drives us to do this to ourselves.

little cottonwood is a canyon I choose not to ride up very often. in fact, once a year is what I've done the past two years. this year I've already done it twice, and the experiences were so very different as to have happened to two different people. that's the difference between reaching the base with 15 miles under your belt in 63 degree weather, and arriving at the base after 90 significant miles in 95 degree weather.
that climb beat me up.

however, I now have an exclusive, personalized cycling cap to prove I did it (they sneakily handed them out at the end of the ride . . . ), and I will always wear a little internal patch that says "warrior", right next to my amazingly resilient heart.

kudos to everyone else who finished that ride, and to everyone who rode as long as they could, whether they pedaled their bike all the way to snowbird or not.
nothing ventured, nothing gained: every movement forward is a move in the right direction.

and in the words of the famous rick bennett, tour organizer,

Sunday, August 23, 2009

warrior gratitude

what I want to express today is gratitude.
I have so many things to be grateful for that I have trouble choosing a beginning spot.
I could start with cool weather and soft breezes and changing seasons.
or sincere friendships and children and supportive and loving parents.
or health and wellness and optimism.

at times it seems like pure chance, good luck, fortunate circumstances, great timing; at other times it seems to be the reward of hard work, dedication, fortitude, and vigilance.
whatever it may be, I believe I have an abundance of manna in my life.

I don't need to go on and on about this, so I will just take yesterday as a model for understanding the richness and bounty of my incredible life.

I had john who delivered me (and 2 friends) to the start of the 1000 warriors race in comfort and with a huge essence of loving support. he then devoted his day to meeting us at stops to make sure we were taken care of, and cheering us at the end as we graced the finish line with our (especially my) bedraggled appearances. this is a true and loving, dedicated friend.

I had the company of friends throughout the ride, for laughter and commiseration and modeling and entertainment. bill, especially, hung with me throughout the 2nd half of the ride when he easily could have taken off and finished well before I did. when I was struggling to keep moving forward (at 4.5 mph) up the final climb to snowbird, he was there with me, moral support oozing from every pore. these, too, are true and loving friends.

I rode through more than 90 miles of this amazing land we live in: around 2 reservoirs and up 2 glorious canyons, through forested land that stuns you with its depth and breadth, from the outskirts of park city through the sheer walls of provo canyon to the exposed traverse ridge to the base of one of our nation's most beautiful ski resorts. the beauty of this land is endless, varied, amazing and almost incomprehensible.

I finished without a single mechanical or physical problem. I used every ounce of grit I owned in doing so, but every ounce I needed was made available to me. my bike performed perfectly, and my body did exactly what I've been training it to do for all this time. internal reserves and external tools support me as well.

I met a wounded warrior along the way, who brought home the reality of the complicated world in which we live. this man has redefined his life in the past 3 years through therapy and biking. a marine, he was wounded when an explosive device detonated too close to his squad: as a result he has actual holes --- dead spots --- in his brain. stationed at Camp Lejeune in north carolina, he is used to riding a completely different terrain than yesterday's course, but nevertheless he was grinding away at our climbs and determined to conquer, again, whatever was placed in his path. countless others --- most of whom I will never know --- have put their lives at risk, throughout my life, to protect me. me.

a number of cyclists crashed yesterday: one whom I witnessed, many more whom I did not. 3 were injured critically, though all are expected to make complete recoveries without long-term damage. I am extremely relieved and grateful that these people will all, eventually, be okay. having ridden over 13,000 miles in my road biking career of the past 3 years, I am so grateful to have avoided any kind of serious injury. (road rash, small smears of blood and a mild concussion are absolutely nothing.) I must have a special angel taking care of me.
in truth, I do believe this, and I believe his name is joseph.

I could list another 500 things I'm grateful for, but that's between me and my God. each one of us has our own list, though we may share many of the same elements.
running through these examples brought to light through my experience yesterday is enough of an overview of my personal list.
take these 6 illustrations as my small offering of thanks and gratitude, and know that I wish for everyone's baskets to overflow as richly as mine does.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


today, august 22, 2009:

veni, vidi, vici.

that's it, and that's all.

insquequo cras.

Friday, August 21, 2009

latex gloves

yesterday I was with my oldest son at his physician's clinic, where he was having a procedure done. at the beginning of the process the doctor and the physician's assistant snapped on their little disposable latex gloves, and after they completed one section and moved on to the next, they took off their old gloves and snapped on new ones. they carefully rolled the un-clean ones down their fingers, trapping all yucchy stuff inside, and disposed of the old before pulling on the new.
there's just something terribly important about people who have to wear that kind of glove to do their work.

I felt just as important today when I took out a pair of disposable latex gloves and pulled them onto my own little hands this afternoon so I could perform a vital procedure. if you could have seen me, you'd of seen a big, self-satisfied grin on my face as they snapped into place. ah, I, too, am important and about to undertake a significant task.

the cleaning of my bike.
which usually leaves me in need of a shower, complete with three kinds of soap and a brillo pad.

last time I cleaned my bike I was hit with inspiration (after I was finished, of course). my hands were filthy, grease was embedded in the edges of my fingernails, and I knew I'd have to rub my hands raw in an effort to clean them. then inspiration hit: I had a small box of disposable latex gloves in my cupboard. duh! I could use them when I cleaned my bike!
which is what I did today.
which limited the mess to just speckles on my inner forearms (is there another name for those?) and insteps, from the toothbrush's flying grease missiles.

but the cool thing is that I felt like a professional.
a professional what, I have no idea.
but it was fun for a while. especially the snapping on and peeling off.

tomorrow I am off to ride the big warrior-fool ride: my post will be slight. look for the major update/recap on sunday, and have one!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

where I like to be

I have to keep pulling myself back into a place of peaceful serenity, a place of confidence and surety, where little spider touches and ghoul fingers of anxiety cannot touch me.
I'm pretty good at this trick. but those sticky fingers sometimes reach out and grab at me when I stop paying attention.
thus I must be vigilant in keeping my protective shield in place.
because I don't like living in a place of anxiety.
it makes me irritable.
no fun to be around.

so, you ask, what would I be anxious about?
organized rides.
big long tough rides.
time pressures to complete big, long, tough, organized rides.

ah, those that have kept up on my life know where this is headed: the big scary 1000 warrior (367 fools) ride is this saturday.
I know I can do this.
because I can do anything around here.
I won't do it in the least amount of time or with the most grace or in the best form, but I will do it.
I won't be the strongest climber or the fastest on the flats or the quickest descender, but I will complete this ride.
I may struggle and swear and sweat and want to quit, but I won't give up.

however, all of those above-mentioned things still cause anxiety in my mental system.
what if I can't keep up on the flats? what if my knees start hurting? what if I absolutely can't make it up that last hill? what if I have to concede defeat?
sticky, elongated, witchy, grabby fingers of doubt and (argh I hate this) fear.

there's a therapeutic process of cognitive reappraisal that is often used to deal with anxiety: one takes a fear (getting dropped while riding in a pace line on the flats), then looks at feared outcomes versus realistic outcomes. i.e. I will die versus I'll just have to find someone else to ride with, or ride alone for a while.
I can do this with each one of my (irrational) fears, and walk them all back down to the fact that I have always survived these rides, I am a strong, capable rider, I will survive this ride . . . and yet those fingers still scratch at the back of my neck when I let down my guard.

I know I've taken a big bite by committing to this ride.
but I also know I can chew it.
I can.
I will.

now make those skinny, clammy, cold, nasty fingers just go away and leave me alone.
I am wearing my superwoman shield, and intend to keep it pulled snugly around me until I reach snowbird saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


"Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep [pedal revolution] isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow.

But of course, without the top you can't have any sides. It's the top that defines the sides. So on we go . . . "

robert pirsig, zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, 1974

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

catch up time

I feel the need to play catch up.
I've been writing about this and that and signs and rain, and not about some of the cycling experiences I've had, so here's an update for the past 4 rides:

saturday after waiting to ride:
the skies eventually cleared, and bill and I set out at noon for "at least a ride up emigration." well, the sun started pouring itself over every available surface and the pavement dried to dust and the temperature kept rising . . . at the top of big mountain, bill said, I'd like to at least ride down to the east canyon store . . . and thus we had a great 50-miler under beautiful, dry skies. at the top of big mountain we looked south and saw fresh snow on the mountain peaks: yes, on august 15th. wow.
it wan't quite the original plan, but this is what I learned about myself: the yes-no-rainy morning delay wreaks havoc with my desire to ride long and hard. I think it has to do with the fact that if I get up and go early enough, my brain doesn't have time enough to kick in with rationality that says "are you nuts?? who in their right mind would ever ride a bike that far?"

sunday, waiting until it warmed before I rode:
this ride was perfect. absolutely perfect. sunshine, warm and glorious, yet the air was cool and hinting of the coming season.
it was even perfect when I reached the top of the hill on wasatch just past the mouth of big cottonwood, and noticed my front tire was down to its last little gasps of air. ( ooh, I neglected to mention the flat tire the day before at the top of little mountain. that would be where I used my spare tube, and put the old, punctured tube in my pack. with the empty cylinder. guess where this story goes next.)
yep, no spare tube, and just a single cylinder of air. it hadn't been a blow-out, so I opted for pumping up. I'd ridden 10 miles: perhaps I could get another 10 miles out of it . . .
well, I got about 10, then filled up again. then rode to my friend's house.
he didn't have a spare tube, but ~ gracious guy he is ~ he lent me his wheel. ha!
didn't I say it was a perfect ride?

monday, recovery ride:
this is the lesson I learned: it's challenging to do a recovery ride in the dark. makes it really hard to read your heart rate monitor. perhaps for the rest of the season I should sleep in on recovery day (adding rest to that recovery process) and ride in the daylight.
ride in the daylight: what a concept.

tuesday, up emigration again:
cold, dark-ish, windy . . . and yes, it feels like home.

now you're updated, and I bid you adieu, or more hopefully, au revoir.

Monday, August 17, 2009


you know I like signs.
they make me giggle, and life is better with a few giggles in it.

last week I noticed ~ finally, as they've probably been this way for months or even years ~ that someone has added round red stickers atop the deer's noses on the "watch out for deer" signs along wasatch boulevard. yesterday I even noticed a white, round sticker in that same position, and figured it was red so far back that the sun has completely robbed all of the color from it.

I just love people with a sense of humor. fun humor, not sick or twisted or degrading or raunchy.
in fact, today on the radio I heard a joke I'll pass along to you. I've talked before about how I am the tortoise out there on the road (slow, steady, eventually getting there), so this one hit home:
what kind of phone does a turtle use?

a shell phone.
and his service provider is Sprint, of course.

okay, back to my favorite sign from yesterday's ride.
it was on a car, some kind of thing that looked like a PT cruiser, which was painted black and had this white sign on the doors and back window:

Paintless Dent Repair

now that I'm writing about it I don't get quite the same kick out of it as I did when I was oxygen starved, nutritionally depleted, and coasting down a hill . . . but even the memory of it makes me smile.

and I'll close with a dumb-blonde joke my kids told at dinner tonight:
a blonde is in a hardware store looking at a display of thermoses. she asks the salesman what a thermos does, and he replies,
it keeps cold things cold and hot things hot.
the blonde thinks this is just great, and buys one.
the next day she has it with her at work, and her boss walks by. he asks her what she's got in it, and she replies,
two popsicles and a cup of coffee.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

I tried really hard to put myself in a zen-like state as I was working on my bike this evening.
I almost succeeded.
in fact, I may have been there for a brief moment or two . . .

but the rest of the time I was sweating and trying not to swear.

because I really just don't like having to take care of my bike. I was thinking of those cyclists who race and whose bikes are just like family members to them, and how they probably love to take care of their machines. cleaning and lubing, tightening and loosening, changing out parts . . . all done with great love.
I am not there.
I am working on it.

all I had to do this evening was change out a tire. old front tire, 3500 miles on it, time to go.
the nice thing about old tires is that they come off and go onto the rim really easily.
guess what the bad thing about new tires is?
yep, they don't stretch quite as nicely.
in fact, they don't want to stretch much at all.
when I reached the near-final part of the process, fitting the second side of the tire into the rim, I hit that point where you take your tire lever and neatly flip the bead of the tire into the rim. I was down to about 10 inches that needed to be tucked in, where the tension is so high that each time I tucked the next inch of bead into the rim, the bead on the other end of that final 10 inches would pop right back out.
so I would do it again.
and again the other end would pop out.
I breathed deeply and felt zen-like, wiped sweat from my brow and, yep, went through the whole process again, watching my 10-inches just move further around the arc.
finally I determined that my method was flawed.
I tried for the middle point of the 10 inches, using my lever to try to flip that section up and into its future home.
no go.
I paused and reflected.
be one with the tire.
yeah, right.
I relaxed my shoulders, breathed deeply, and gently slipped the tire lever under one end of my 10-inch stretch and held it close to the rim while I took another lever and worked on the other end of the unseated bead, and voila: buddha slipped that tire right into place for me.

and the rest, as they say, is history.
my fresh new tire with its plump new tube is going to go for a ride in the morning.
and as much as I gripe about having to take care of my bike, there exists a tiny little spark inside me that bubbles into a warm glow each time I successfully complete one of those dreaded maintenance tasks.

chop wood, carry water, change tires.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

waiting to ride

it's 7:25 in the morning, and I'm sitting on the couch cradling my coffee mug between my hands, listening to the rain patter against the streets, and I see the world illuminated by a small bit of lightening, then hear the rolling rumble of thunder move across the valley.
I am waiting to ride.
the plan was to leave my house at 7 by automobile, driving up parley's canyon to today's starting point at pinebrook. but at 6:30 when the rain started in earnest here at my house, I grew concerned about the weather 1600 feet higher. a few phone calls later, and now the leave-salt-lake time has moved to 8 am.
the rain has slowed to somewhere between a mist and a drizzle, and I find myself in this narrow and slightly uncomfortable place called waiting to ride.

it does not look like a good day for a bike ride.
the skies are gray and heavy and serious, and the surfaces with which we've covered our section of earth range from damp to wet to waterlogged. the sun is far, far behind layers of moisture, and the air is thick with humidity and cool. each car that travels past my home sends sprays of water from every wheel, and I hear this more loudly than their engines, as I have trained my ears to listen for the sound of water on pavement: it is only when this sound disappears that I am willing to put my clean, dry, lovingly lubed bike out on the asphalt.

I don't know when this will happen today.
apparently I have some confidence that the sprinkles will eventually stop, the standing water will be reabsorbed, and the long ride I have planned will happen.

there is an internal tug of war, of course, because to be forced not to ride is sometimes a desired outcome. I could read, I could sip more coffee. I could catch up on dusting and laundry. I could get some work done, I could take a nap. I could relax, I could enjoy being clean and comfortable instead of exerting every ounce of muscle fiber I own and sweating and freezing and experiencing all of those wonderful/terrible feelings that swell up during a long and challenging ride.

the misting drizzle continues, and it's now 7:37 am.
I am still waiting to ride.

Friday, August 14, 2009

the old snow basin road

this morning I had my first encounter with another magical route . . . which makes me just believe there will always be another road, somewhere, that will stun me with its beauty and quiet sense of untouched permanence.
I was in huntsville again, and started my ride from the base of the Old Snow Basin Road. this great road stretches up the hillside, winding and twisting and keeping itself just on the edge of tiring steepness, never once slipping over into the kinds of grades that exhaust.
it climbs and bends back upon itself just enough that you have no idea where you are, and finally reaches an apex where another road branches off and up to the right . . . which, of course, I had to explore. this road was Basinview Drive, and it pulled me up up up past its solitary home to the top where it rounded itself in a graceful, empty cul de sac where I took in great gulps of breath and expelled them loudly and thoroughly, before turning and changing through all of my gears to begin my descent.
I flew down the drive and back onto the main road, turning right and descending down into a fairyland hollow of a valley, winding down and in and finally leveling off amid a sea of trees clad with fluttering leaves. the road then started a gradual climb back up, and did so for a handful of miles, but as before, kept itself just on my favorite side of the border between a good challenge and a painful climb.
few cars passed me, and I was glorifyingly alone in this lush, green land of hillside and meadow and the sound of rushing water somewhere far below. far above and ahead I could see the mountain ridge that stands guard behind Snow Basin ski resort, and I inched closer and closer to its resolute height, the meters of asphalt slowing passing beneath my pedals.
before long the multi-national flags heralding the entrance to the resort appeared, and I began the brief climb up the road toward Trapper's Loop Road. headwinds decided to challenge me, pushing back at me with each turn of my pedal, and I laughed at its audacity. nothing could faze me: this ride was much too perfect.
soon the ascent ends and the descent begins, then there is just a small section of false flat before the big descent down trapper's loop begins in earnest. after a good hour of climbing through a magical fairyland, it's easy to feel one owns the road during a wide, sweeping, swooping downward rush.
I think I did.

were I to call huntsville home, I could easily become quite devoted to that route, possibly even (in a healthy way) addicted to it.
but seeing as I live far, far away, I will just have to add it to my memory bank of amazingly beautiful, enchanting, magical, perfect routes for me and ruby to ride.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


a human mind is a fascinating thing.
I know we use a mere percentage of our brain's capabilities, but most of the time I want to throw my arms up, wave them around and say no more! I can't hold any more information in my little brain!
yet I love to learn new things . . . so there must be a difference between information that is requested and desired, and information that is just available and (somehow) deemed superfluous by said brain's owner.
as an example, I love the night sky and its constellations and planets, and recently I was asked whether I would like to study astronomy and actually learn more about that system. I replied maybe later in life, when there's more room in my brain for that. right now it feels like my brain is constantly working with everything that's already stored there, taking in new information just as part of daily life, and as a result, working at full capacity.
which I know it's not.
but it feels like it is, so that is how I perceive my reality.
it's like exercising a muscle: you can only push so hard. you know it's possible that you could work harder, but you also know it's okay to stop before complete fatigue and exhaustion. not everything need be filled to its saturation point.
(so states the woman who wants to ride her bike 206 miles in one day. yes, I do recognize the irony.)

but back to my fascination with the way our minds work: this comes from observing the bike-related thoughts that have drifted through my mind this morning.
today is a self-imposed non-biking day.
fleeting thoughts have thus far included the following:
ooh, I could go for a little ride . . . no.
I don't need to. I can't. I shouldn't. I am supposed to rest.
but if I were to ride, where would I go?
where will I ride tomorrow?
what about saturday's ride: where, long far, with whom?
I need to clean my bike.
do I wish I were riding?
gosh it feels good to not ride.
tomorrow I'm going to wish it were today.
are my biking clothes clean and ready?
how many miles do I have up for the week, and where will I be by the end of the week?
is that enough? what about the following week?
should I train more aggressively?
maybe I'll open this month's Bicycling magazine and learn a few things.
do I need new pedals?
I wish the maintenance fairy would come clean my bike.
what I am going to blog about, since I'm not riding?
could I eat more if I'd gone for a ride this morning?
cookies are good on recovery days, right?

perhaps now you can see why there's no room in my brain for the names and positions of constellations and galaxies and planets . . .

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

sometimes God needs a cell phone

today I had a big ride planned: to snowbird and back. you go girl.
I planned to leave home about 6 am, and ride south on wasatch to the the mouth of the canyon (1 hour and 5 minutes or so) then up to snowbird (1 hour-ish) and then fly down the canyon (12-15 minutes) and ride back home (50 minutes or so).
you can guess from where the desire for this route came: the answer is, of course, my thwarted ride up little cottonwood last saturday. I was determined to get up to snowbird before the big 1000 warriors ride 10 days from now (when I will have to climb up there at the tail end of a 96 mile ride), and since I have kids returning to school next week, this is my last week of being able to take long morning rides.
therefore, little cottonwood was on my schedule today.
and this is the story of my morning:

I get up on time; I leisurely get myself ready. I am out the door just a minute or two ahead of schedule.
at the last moment I change my path from an easy right turn onto foothill to a straight-up-the-hill-to-wasatch route: it's one of those follow-the-green-lights decision. a little more climbing, and it might add a minute or two to my ride, but a more pleasant route over all.
wasatch soon comes to an end, and I ride foothill for a brief block or so until I reach the bike path over the freeways by the mouth of parley's canyon. it is the morning version of twilight: not yet daylight, but full enough of light that shapes, colors, and entities are recognizable though fuzzy as if you're looking through a vaselined camera lens.
on my first descent I pass three cyclists heading up, a guy and shortly after, two females. I continue down and am buffeted by the canyon winds as I start to ascend the climb up and over the next freeway.
then I see something strange: there is a large lump thirty or so feet in front of me, on the left side of the bike path. who could have left what there? as I get closer I see there is also a bike halfway off the path, and then there are 2 cyclists coming down the hill toward the lump, which is suddenly in my slowly-moving mind becoming a body.
we all leap off our bikes and exchange horror-stricken looks, as one of the guys says, I don't have my cell phone. the other guy shakes his head as well, and I frantically dig in my back pocket to grab mine, saying, I do. I look more closely at the body on the ground and see a small river of blood on the asphalt and say aloud, oh God.
I stare at my phone a moment, thinking, how do I dial 911 from my cell phone? is there some trick? do I have to add another number? I try it, simply 9-1-1 and the connection goes through, and I am suddenly making my first intentional 911 call of my life.
I am calm, as is the cyclist who has squatted down beside the body which I have now determined to be a small female. she moans and tries to turn herself out of the semi-fetal/prone position she is in, but the guy beside her tries to keep her stable. the second cyclist hovers and I tell him between bouts of conversation with the 911 operator that I think she may have friends ahead, perhaps even the red lights on the bike path bridge to the north might belong to them. he climbs on his bike and heads up to them, as the sky continues to slowly lighten.
she mumbles, she is scared and asking what day it is, then she is terrifyingly silent. the blood seems to have stopped flowing, and it all seems less impossible. her friends arrive, dismount and come over to join cyclist 1 by her side. one of them uses her phone to call the woman's husband, and keeps her free hand in contact with the woman's torso. I remain on the phone with the operator who has dispatched the paramedics. they first arrive at the south end of the bike path, and cyclist 2 rides up to tell them they'd reach her more easily from our north. they move their trucks with flashing lights and use their sirens while driving to the new location.
she is shaking with shock and the cold as the wind continues to whip us, and I've lent my jacket to cover her and I squat in an attempt to block some of the chilling wind.
the paramedics eventually wheel their gurney to our small grouping, and I am released from my phone call. she is still shaking, answering questions and continuing to question what day it is. she has no idea what happened, nor do we.
I gently remove my jacket as the paramedics move in, and I pick up her bloody glasses and hand them to her husband, who arrived shortly before the paramedics and is stoically evaluative and quietly calm.
I am done here, and move to my bike, pulling my jacket on as I have become chilled as well. I say goodbye to cyclists 1 and 2 and continue on my way up the hill, toward my chosen canyon for the day.

the universe and all its far-reaching fingers worked together to get me in that certain spot at that certain moment, cell phone available and ready for use.
I didn't save a life, there were no heroic measures called for or executed, but there was something serendipitous and perfect about my being where I was at the moment I was.

and little cottonwood waited for me, not bothered at all by my 25-minute delay. it sat there, granite walls solid as ever, patiently awaiting my pants and groans and eventually, my victorious rush of gratitude for having been safely delivered to my goal.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

how did I come to be this girl

first of all, I know that I am technically not a girl. I am well beyond girlhood. but ever since I was small, the word "woman" has meant to me serious, matronly, and older-than-I-ever-want-to-be. therefore I find it difficult to call myself a woman. ugh. so forgive me this quirk, if you will. I am thrilled to be female, and don't have a bit of a problem being 47, but the terms "woman" and "ma'am" just don't sit well with me.

second, I know that I've explained much of this before. if you've read my little intro to myself, I give a pretty good overview of how it happened. but I still catch myself by surprise sometimes, as I did this morning, taking my bike off the car and putting it on its stand. how did I come to be this person?

given those caveats, I don't want to so much explain it again; I more want to muse about the process and its impact on the fabric of who I am.
because it has become a significant part of who I am, and 3 years ago it was barely a handful of threads that draped themselves around me. through it all I have gained physical strength, both physical and mental endurance, courage, wisdom, patience, and an increased sense of capacity and resilience.
I have made new friends, and redefined "leisure activity" for myself.
I have watched the subtle changes in my musculature, and I have given up the need to always look good.
it began so simply: this is what I find fascinating. from simple exercise to a desire to reach every rideable peak around . . . it certainly didn't remain as simple exercise. it touched some core piece of me that latched onto the challenge, and the desire to achieve.
john was explaining to me the other day that he just didn't see what was fun about grinding away, riding up a steep hill, mile after mile.
it's not fun, I replied.
but there are aspects of it similar to any challenging workout, when you know your muscles are giving it their all and it's hard but they are capable and willing and it's almost a head game, all coming down to mind over matter.
and then you reach the top, and the sense of accomplishment overwhelms all pain and suffering. the reward is the peak, the summit, the knowledge that you got there through hard work, extreme efforts and, at times, sheer will. you and your body worked hand in hand, foot by foot, to reach a magnificent goal.
this feeling cannot be duplicated.

a few decades back one of the big phrases was to get a "natural high," as opposed to a drug-induced one. I know endorphins kick in at certain points during exercise, but the joy of being on top of a mountain pass that you have climbed to on your bicycle is an all-encompassing, long-lasting high that will never, ever be captured and cloned and made available in pill form.
you have to just go do it yourself.
live the actual experience.

and perhaps this is one of the greatest rewards I've earned through the biking process in my life: the lesson that I can choose my own pleasures and reap great joy from my own accomplishments.
I will never be the fastest, the strongest, the best at anything on a bicycle.
but I can be the fastest, strongest, best me on a bicycle, whenever I choose.

and I am darn pleased and mighty comfortable being this girl.

Monday, August 10, 2009

where I would fish if I had to fish fish

I met a new dam today.
it was totally unplanned (my visit to it, that is, not the dam itself), and one of those experiences that are completely unexpected gifts from out of the blue.

I had driven up to huntsville saturday evening and spent the last 2 nights there by pineview reservoir: a beautiful, waterside setting that makes you feel you could be beside any mountain lake in the world. the water shimmers and the mountains rise around it majestically and birds fly above and the sun sets peacefully . . . and you can ride your bike around it in as many different directions as there are spokes in a bike wheel.
this morning I headed east toward monte cristo, aiming for a 22-24 miler that would replicate my usual emigration canyon route. I knew the route would have more flat(ish) miles than usual, but lately I've been thinking I need to have more flat (ish) miles in my training plan as I need to get stronger on them.
it was cold (50ish) but the sun was all alone in its pure blue sky, and I headed east, straight at it, hoping to avoid shadows and shade.
the first 4 miles were the kind that cause you to question your decision to leave a nice warm home (with coffee and couches and books and blankets) and put yourself through physical torture. but what always happens when I find myself in this situation is that 2 things go through my mind: first, to turn around and get home with a whopping 6 miles for the day would be a complete embarrassment to myself, and, second, if I did that turn-around-and-go-home-thing I'd have to make up for it by giving up my next scheduled day off, because a 6-mile day might just as well be called a day off.
thus I forged forward.
and eventually stopped thinking about calling it quits.

I remembered a bit of the canyon from my ride there a few weeks back, and at about 7 miles up I thought I would be soon approaching the turn-off to a dam. perhaps that would be a good turn-around point, where I could head back down toward coffee.
within a mile or so I was there, and suddenly my bike was taking the turnoff to the right, heading toward causey dam.
funny how that sometimes happens.
the road pulled me along, up a couple fun little climbs, until I could see the sun reflecting off a few vehicles up atop what appeared to be the edge of the dam. well, you bet I was going to get up there, no matter what it took.
what it took was another mile or so and then a climb up a twisting, steep road that was mercifully not too long, and suddenly I was weaving my way through a pitted, gravelly road perched on the dam itself, with a shaded and snakey body of deep green water to my left. the hillsides were covered with trees of every pungent shade of foresty green you can imagine, and as I rode across the dam I looked up at a waning gibbous moon floating in that pure blue summer sky that tells you all is well with the world.
far below me a few fishing rafts floated on the water, and faint murmurs of conversation drifted my way. serenity, I thought to myself. this is the ultimate exemplification of serenity.
I breathed it in, rode along a joyfully easy upward swoop toward the end of the dam's eastern leg, and smiled my bliss back out to the world.
I had no idea when I started my ride this morning that I would end up making a new acquaintance. and perhaps those are some of the best experiences: the ones we just let happen.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

yes you can can

it began with a pedicure.

it'd been quite a while since I'd had one, and I finally fit one into my schedule thursday.

the first thing you get to do when you arrive at the salon is to choose your polish color from the two hundred or so they have displayed on the shelves. I looked for my current favorite, espresso yourself --- the one I have a bottle of at home for touch-ups --- and it was nowhere to be found. (this could be an entire post itself: this company has terribly creative names for its colors: everything from blue my mind to kinky in helsinki. this is my dream job: to spend my time and be paid to come up with names for nail polish colors.)

but since my favorite wasn't there, I had to choose a new color.

I pulled colors that fit my general criteria (deep, dark purples or reds or browns) off the shelf, considered them, looked at their names, and after much consideration finally choose an intense, glossy garnet with a name that fit my upcoming ride: yes I can-can.

yes, I can ride those can-yons. I can I can I can.
I can.

I had grand plans for yesterday.
big tough ride; big tough me.
3 canyons: millcreek, then big cottonwood, then (eek) little cottonwood.

the day dawned bright and crisp (cold) with a forecasted high of 72 degrees and a 50 percent chance of afternoon rain.
perfect day to head up a canyon or two. or three.
I considered it highly likely that we would be rained on at some point, and tucked my beautifully painted toenails into warm socks and put my toe-covers on my shoes. I wore arm warmers to start, and tucked a wind jacket and skull cap, 2 Gu's and a pack of shot blocks, four fig newtons and my cell phone into my remaining pockets and stash zones.
ready to roll.

millcreek was fairly easy.
as I've said before, it's all about mindset. if I was only going to ride up millcreek, it would have been a sufficiently challenging ride. but since I knew I had a lot more in front of me, it was just one leg of the journey.
the down was cold, even with every piece of extra clothing I layered upon my body.
after a refueling stop at the 7-11 (banana, water fill, bathroom break) we started up big cottonwood. I had stripped back down to jersey with arm warmers rolled down to my wrists.
this climb was like just every other time I've climbed big cottonwood: at times I think I can't do it, at certain spots I think it might be easier than last time, at other times I want to quit and turn around, and then I reach the top and am so damn happy and proud I could spit.
well, you know what I mean.
then we started down.
with every layer I possessed stuck to my sweaty-from-the-climb body, I was soon frozen and shaking with cold. this is trembling magnified: I was shaking so strongly I was worried about the stability of my bike on the road.
then came the rain.
it was that little spitty rain that stings as it slaps your skin and bites right through your goosebumps. it only lasted a few miles, but between the cold and the wet it was enough to dampen my spirits tremendously.
at the bottom of the canyon we looked back east and south to little cottonwood, and decided we would be crazy to attempt the climb up to snowbird. actually, we agreed that we could handle the ride up the hill --- if the rain wasn't too serious --- but that the descent would be pure misery.
I love to bike, I love to push myself, and I love to achieve my goals . . . but there are sometimes when the cost outweighs the benefit.
we headed north, deciding to make emigration our 3rd canyon of the day.
a definite disappointment, but probably the right decision.

the story ends with a 90 mile ride with 9500 feet of elevation gain: nothing to sneeze at.
but if you know me, you know that a climb up little cottonwood is in my future.
my near future.
because I am one stubborn, determined, particular, bull-headed, focused, driven, committed, slightly sick and twisted

see ya at snowbird.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

tan lines, updated

I have received a request to update my infamous "tan lines" artwork, as the season has deepened and my lines have made a few minor adjustments.
so here you are: the current susan with (fairly) accurate tan lines, with an enlargement of the hand detail.

I'm sure you're all jealous.

Friday, August 7, 2009

lunar stuff

wednesday morning at 5:37 the moon was hanging out in the lower western sky, 97% full, golden white and playing with the striated clouds surrounding it. it was close enough to the horizon to be distortedly huge, backlighting those clouds with a silver brilliance.
it was almost enough to make me stop my bike and stare.

but not quite.

I just kept my head turned to the west as I headed south, checking back frequently with the shadowed road in front of my wheel, praying for no unexpected debris in the bike lane.
it was stunning, a vision I can still conjure up in my full color imagination at will.

thursday morning the moon hung in a similar spot, but this time the clouds were thick and bumpy, and the color of the moon was milkier, softer, not as tinged with gold.

and this morning it was higher and whiter, every surface crystal clear and not a single cloud teasingly hovering nearby.

this month's full moon occurred thursday morning at 1:57, while I was ~ gratefully ~ sleeping.
at 6:30 this morning while I was atop little mountain, it looked every bit as full as the fullest moon I've ever seen, and its pearly gray contours twinkled from so very many, many miles away, drawing my eyes and, to be honest, my soul.

I am not alone in this, and am actually in quite esteemed company, born out by this statement attributed to mahatma gandhi:

"When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator"

we live in a world full of amazingly beautiful moments.

now about the visual trick the horizon plays on us, I found a great site that explains it fully and simply. if you so wish, you can get the entire story at

happy perusing, and I hope you get a glimpse of this moon tonight.

or early tomorrow morning,

on a bike ride.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

U words

undulate: to have a wavelike appearance or form.
ululate: to howl, wail, or lament loudly.

there are times when the undulations in the bike lanes make me want to ululate.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

riley, riley, riley

riley, riley, riley.
or, I should really be saying susan, susan, susan.
because as the quote states:
fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

yes, I'm referring to the Tour de Park City. which is the event whose finish line I am just about to cross in this picture.
first of all, the name. I should know better than to sign up for anything that takes the Tour de from the infamous Tour de France and slaps it in front of another environment. and then rides everywhere but that environment.
second, it was the first year of the event last year. one should always question participating in an event that has never before been held.
third, I rode this darn thing last year, had a pretty awful ride, and knew better than to repeat the experience.

but this is what happened: first, they changed the route so that the Big Climb was not as long and difficult as last year, and second, my team, the bad ass cycling team, was asked to provide riders that would perform as Ride Marshals for the event. ooh, doesn't that sound important? prestigious? super cool?
not really.
but at the last minute I decided that I would volunteer to be a Ride Marshal: it would be a way to get a tough, long ride in, I would get an almost-free admission, and if it so happened that they still needed a Marshal at what was close to the last minute, then I would accept it as fate, and ride the ride.
(yes, I was unwilling to pay full price to ride this ridiculous ride, but would do it for a deep discount. don't even ask me to explain that.)

it turns out they needed me, and I accepted my fate.
I trusted fully that riley, the event organizer, had learned from his myriad mistakes and their repercussions last year. I trusted that he would be better organized, more accurate, and completely dependable. in numerous emails he had sworn up and down that this year would be different. that he had changed things. that he had listened and learned and was fully prepared.

and I bought it.

I was prepared to fulfill my commitment as a Ride Marshal (knowing the route, behaving appropriately and encouraging similar behavior in others, chastising those who peed by the side of the road, giving encouraging feedback to those who used the porta-potties, reminding all to ride no more than 2-abreast . . . ) and asked for a detailed map of the initial phase of the route, which had been slightly ambiguous when I'd viewed it on the website.

they were out of maps for the century route.

okay, fine. I had a general idea, and hoped for the best.
and the first 3 miles were fine, until we came to a possible turn. there were no signs, no markings on the road, and no person to point us one way or another. so some of us went one way, and most of us went the other.
three miles later we were in chaos again, splitting up all over the western hillside of Jeremy Ranch, having no idea where we were supposed to be or where we were headed. at one point I rode between a backhoe and a dumpster through a 6-foot-wide opening, thinking to myself, I'm sure riley didn't intend us to be going this way . . . and about a quarter mile later, there was a smiling volunteer pointing us to the right, to continue on our way. yikes.

things were fine again for awhile, until my riding partner, julie, and I decided to skip a water stop by Jordanelle reservoir because we didn't need it yet. julie had somehow obtained a map, which assured us there was a water stop in francis, at 25 miles.
hmm. the Jordanelle stop was 25 miles into the ride, and francis was still a good 7-9 miles away.
well, the map showed a water stop in francis, and I would just keep the faith. riley must have just added that extra one by Jordanelle because so many people complained of the lack of water last year.

13 miles later I was really wanting a water stop. I was limiting my sips to only enough water to coat my tongue, and rationing out my first (of only 2) GU I'd brought from home.
10 miles later I was climbing a hill from hell and down to a quarter of a water bottle and about the same amount of my second GU packet.
and I was cursing myself.
I knew better.

I'd gotten suckered again.

I made it to the top of the hill, where the rest stop was full of water and gatorade and vitamin water and power bars and oranges and bananas and . . . and I revived. while still kicking myself in the behind because I knew better than to believe riley's vague and inaccurate maps and promises.

susan, susan, susan.
will I do this ride again next year?
don't ask, because I fear the truth.

I finished the ride, I survived, I ended better than I had the year before, and I'm still smirking at myself for being a sucker.
shame on me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

the FOUBMID award

I won it today.
a self-bestowed award, of course, but an award nonetheless.
I still count them, even when I have to give them to myself: if I sat around waiting for the world to hand them out to me, I would be sitting around waiting most of my life.
nix that.

so I just jumped in there and gave myself the First One Up Big Mountain In Daylight award this morning, and I am darn pleased to own this one.
(I had to qualify this award with the "in daylight" appendage, because it's entirely possible someone could have snuck up and down the mountain in the dark without my knowledge. I'd feel terrible claiming an award I didn't truly win.)

a while back bill told me about sitting at the top of big mountain, eating breakfast, at 7:15 one morning (okay, "breakfast" consisted of a power bar and a few swigs from the gatorade-filled water bottle), and since that time I think I've held that in the back of my mind as an enviable experience. so last evening, when I was thinking about today's ride, I decided I had enough steam in me to get out early and get my butt up to the top of big mountain in time for my own little morning repast.

and I did.

thus at 7:10 this morning I crested the summit and dismounted, picking my way carefully across the gravelly lot and toward the bench that faces south-west-ish, looking out over the massive expanse of trees and hills and valleys and peaks.
I paused.
I sat, unwrapped my sweet-n-salty nut bar, and nibbled as I surveyed the peaceful kingdom that came with my award.
it echoed back to me pride and justice, strength and omnipotence, and a quiet self-knowledge that all is right in the world.

happy birthday, barack obama,
and happy award day, susan.
may we both have many happy returns.

Monday, August 3, 2009

asphalt artists, documented

I had a mission this morning.
it was recovery ride day, and I lay in bed last night thinking about the morning ride, chanting to myself, don't forget the camera.
I didn't forget the camera.
I had to rearrange my bike bag, though, putting my spare tube and cartridges in my little bento box up front, so that my not-so-petite camera could have the back bag to itself.
my mission: to document something I'd seen last week while I was riding.
or something I thought I'd seen while riding.
because this is what happens to me: I'll be riding along, looking around, here and there, taking it all in, and sometimes making up stories about what I saw. I'll have gone past something before it really registers, and next thing I know I'm questioning the veracity of my eye-mind connection. was that really a giant bug, or just a wrinkled candy wrapper? was that a bunny's tail, or just a torn piece of a plastic bag caught on a weed?
or last week's query:
were those letters written in the road with asphalt crack-repair goop or was that just my imagination?
today, I returned to that spot on 39th south to see if I had made it all up, or if I had really seen a word written in a thin black ribbon of shiny black repair goop.

my eyes did not lie, and my brain truly did comprehend the truth as I flew by this spot, and here, today, is proof that some people are absolutely artists with asphalt.
or at least with asphalt repair.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


this morning the air was cool, the sky held a few small clumps of clouds that sheltered the sun, and these are the images I want to share with you:

the late summer creek that has settled into a peaceful, quiet flow, the surface silent and smooth, with a slow-moving current visible beneath only when you look deeply and intently into the water.

big sister deer leading her little fawn brother across the road 15 feet in front of me: she looked both ways before crossing, then ran and leaped across the yellow guardrail, her little brother gracefully following suit. picture my grin, and the joy on the faces of the 2 cyclists coming downhill who paused to watch, as I did.

the glass-smooth reservoir, shifting from dark stormy blue to deep green, with narrow, etched furrows lying straight behind the two canoes moving sleekly across the surface.

hundreds and hundreds of cotton ball cloud puffs sprinkled liberally over the northeastern morning sky.

brown-eyed susans, lining the road by the thousands, their faces all turned to the east.

these alone were enough reason to ride today.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

pondering material

a point to ponder:

the most stunning, glorious sunrises always involve clouds.