Wednesday, September 30, 2009

inside not out

I didn't ride this morning.
I didn't go work out.
I didn't even sleep in.
I got up, pushed the button on the coffeemaker, and took my sweet time coming to life.

I watched the rain, what I could see under the downward glow of the streetlight near my window. I listened to the rain, slapping against my roof and hitting the pavement and loudly joining the flow of water rushing through the gutters.
I felt the cold air when I opened the door, and I sighed in pleasant acceptance of the fact that it was the kind of morning to luxuriate indoors and be grateful for roofs and blankets and hot coffee mugs.

it's clearing now, and 5:30 this morning seems so very, very long ago. I loved being trapped indoors, having my option to ride taken away from me.
for today, that is.
funny, isn't it, how a little taste of something is fine, but much more of it can irritate or upset us, even possibly sending us over the edge?
if it rained tomorrow and the next day and I was unable to ride outside for 3 or 4 days, I would turn grumpy and hold a little spot of miserable inside my heart.
but for today, and only today, I am quite pleased to have enjoyed the weather and cocooned myself a bit and spent my day on the inside looking out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I'd forgotten what this time of year is like.
our weather has been so very user-friendly lately that I've taken the ability to go ride every day for granted.
but this evening as I look at the weather forecast for the next week, I am thrown right back into the reality that today is just one single, solitary day away from october. and I should be thanking my lucky stars that I'm able to get out and ride at all, let alone ride in a sleeveless jersey and shorts.

alas, the sleeveless jersey has possibly had its last outing.

as I ponder the weather forecast and its implications for riding, other thoughts drift in and around. they have to do with work, household chores, my kids, and dreams and desires that have (gasp) nothing to do with cycling.
it's already begun, as I contemplate my day tomorrow: chances are it will be too wet to ride. I'm not ready to spend a morning in the gym, as that feels like a complete capitulation and I cannot go there yet. thus if it's too wet to ride and I'm too stubborn to go to the gym . . . why, my whole day opens up. a significant chunk of time has been freed which I can now use to, well, do one of a million different things. or three or four of the things on my to-do list, at a minimum.

however, my list of fall-rides-still-to-be-done hasn't been shrinking by much, and I am feeling the seasonal crunch. how can I possibly fit in all the rides I still want to do if it starts raining all the time? although those first snows of the season tend to cling to ground more than they do to asphalt, they still manage to snug the walls surrounding my riding windows.

the most wonderful thing about all of this, though, is that I am not in charge. I just get to respond to what happens outside. the fate of my day tomorrow lies in hands bigger, stronger, more capable, and infinitely wiser than mine; therefore, I can sleep without concern for the morrow because it will be what it will be, and I will gracefully accept the outcome.

as long as I get at least a dozen or so more beautiful riding days before october draws to a close.

Monday, September 28, 2009

my star valley secret

here's the secret I've been keeping since lotoja, 16 days ago. I haven't told anyone, not a soul.

liz joined me for a brief time, in a spot so close to the place she joined me last year that it's as good as one and the same.
it was at the bottom of the salt river pass, heading east, just as the land evens out and forms the great and grand star valley.
when she visits chills swamp my entire body and I have this compelling desire to look up, as if to find her face within the visible celestial landscape. she may have stayed just a minute or two, a quick peck on the cheek to bestow encouragement and grace. or perhaps she was with me longer, supporting me more than I knew.

both this year and last I was within miles of her husband, chris, when she visited me. this suggests to me that she is often with him, around him, surrounding him with love and compassion.

I am open to all beliefs, knowing that until something is proven absolutely impossible and false there is a strong chance that it is true. I am not some wacky new-age type goofball who lives on a different plane: I am as grounded---if not more so---as anyone. but I also believe that there is much, much more to our existences than any of us truly know. I can't see guides and ghosts, and I don't hear communications from beyond . . . but, at times, I feel the presence of someone or something who is not visible to my eyes. and sometimes I am able to put a name to that presence.
two weeks ago, it was liz.

I know that one of liz's favorite places on earth was storm mountain, up big cottonwood canyon here in salt lake. yesterday I rode past storm mountain twice, looking at the place she loved to climb and sit and look out over the stunning tableau in front of her. I did not feel her presence at all: no shivers, no chills, no pull of my eyes heavenward. I didn't expect to feel her, but I would have welcomed a visit had it occurred.
thus I know what I felt in star valley was different, was real, was a connection with a powerful being who just happens to no longer reside here on our earth.

that's my secret. which is no longer a secret.
spread it if you wish, or keep it to yourself: I've now given it up, given it wings, and plan to watch it soar away and work its own new magic.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

a toast to holly

to holly,
without whom I'm not sure I'd be where I am today.

to holly, who encouraged me to get on my bike.
who rode my first century (more accurately, my partial century) with me.
who always, when we rode together, pedaled slowly so that I could keep up.
who taught me that cyclists wore bike shorts and gloves.
whose easy-going attitude has always been a curiosity to me and an ideal to strive for.

to holly, who rides a beautiful yellow pinarello,
and without whom I might not have become the person I am, today.

thank you, holly,
and may all of your ups come with joyful, swooping, long and lasting downs.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

faith greater than pain

only in utah.
this is the first thing I thought.
I usually reserve that comment for ridiculously strait-laced, bigoted legislators and absurd liquor laws, but this morning's vision caused the phrase to emblazon itself across my mind,
only in utah.

however, I was wrong.

not only in utah, but in iowa, nebraska, and wyoming as well. throughout those states tens of thousands of people have seen during the past few months what I saw this morning: a tall, bearded man wearing clothes more common during the 19th century than now pulling a hand cart, a woman in pioneer garb by his side.
since June 9 of this year, Doc Cleland has been walking, pulling his handcart, on a trek reenacting what the Mormon pioneers did in the 1850's. a 1400 mile trek, sleeping in an 1850's tent and eating what the pioneers ate: no bike, no GUs, no power bars or gatorade, no soft hotel beds, no massages, no ipod.

today was the end of his trek, and I saw him about 8 miles from the end, and then again less than 3 miles from his destination, the This is the Place monument.
what an honor for me. he smiled and responded "hello" to my cheery hi!, and I had absolutely no idea what a remarkable man I had just passed.

a camera truck was following him, and it wasn't until I came upon them again on my way down the canyon that I could see and read the large sticker on the rear of the truck, which read, faith greater than
faith greater than pain: I liked that.
I liked that a lot.
because it offers a fairly accurate description of how so many of us survive our undertakings: our faith is much stronger than the pain we endure. we believe that we will survive; we have faith that something greater than ourselves will pull us through whatever is placed, rolled, or thrown in our paths.
his faith may have a different cloak than my faith, and they may be of contrasting colors and opposing shapes, but both of our faiths are huge and unshakable, and have carried us through times of anguish and hurt and doubt. they are more alike than dissimilar, and not only are they huge and unshakable, they are ethereal and irrepressible.
his drove him to walk 1400 miles; mine drives me to ride until my heart wants to shatter and love regardless of outcome and spread seeds of gratitude throughout the world and write until I find a way to convey my faith in the glorious abundance of our universe and bring loving light to every dim and dark shadowy corner that tries to hide pain.

because faith will outlast pain when we give it the opportunity.

just ask doc.

Friday, September 25, 2009

a factoid

[I love that word, factoid. where in the world did it come from? it apparently first appeared in 1973, and perhaps that says enough.]

in the 13 days since lotoja, I have ridden 177 miles.
which is 85.9% of a lotoja.

in 13 days, I have done only 85.9% of what I did in one day.
that boggles my mind.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

canyon math

emigration canyon is a numerical mess.
it's giggle producing, actually, once you understand what's going on.
and it took me a while to understand what was going on.
it actually took a ride in the sunshine last week, and an extremely helpful sign at a construction site.

there is a house about halfway up the canyon that was, a year and a half year ago, bank-owned and forlorn. it looked as though the owners had added on to the house, then perhaps run out of money before they could finish the project. a new large attached garage was driveway-less, and there was no front yard or landscaping to speak of. the standard, black metal mailbox on a post by the road had stick-on numbers that read 4050.
then sometime during the early spring the For Sale sign disappeared and signs of life began to appear here and there. the driveway was poured; sod was laid. the windows were cleaned and blinds were hung. a few trees were planted; the house began to look like a home. before long it was clear that people were lovingly caring for this house. late in the summer an umbrella and outdoor furniture were visible atop the flat roofed garage, and about that same time I noticed that large, rectangular-backed, artistic house numbers had been hung over the garage door.
but something was funny about those numbers.
they didn't match the numbers on the mailbox.
it took a few daylight rides for this to sink in, and I kept thinking I was just confused.
then last wednesday I stared at the numbers as I rode past: 5548, and then the mailbox, 4050, just to imprint both in my brain.
I kept pedaling, thinking to myself that perhaps 5548 was a very meaningful number to this family, or maybe they were house numbers from their old beloved home, or maybe it was a combination of their birthdates, or . . .
it tickled the back of my brain for another hundred yards or so when a large piece of plywood, propped up on the left side of the road, caught my eye. someone had used spray paint to write the following on that board:
old 4353 n 5639

the road was being renumbered!

okay, who does this kind of a thing?
here's a perfectly good road with lots of excellent house numbers assigned to it that have existed this way for decades. now, all of the sudden, everyone has to change their house number.
I don't know.
but at the moment, some mailboxes have old numbers and some have new and I pity any stranger who tries to find an address they're unfamiliar with.
me, personally, I enjoy the chaos.
there's something wonderfully messy about it, this state of inbetween.
it could be that I love the surface confusion because I know it's temporary and explainable, as opposed to a situation that appears disorganized and cannot be readily explained.
because as much as I like to giggle, I am not big on messes.

emigration canyon road's great renumbering brings smiles to my being each time I ride past mailboxes with old, new, or both sets of numbers on them. I have empathy for those with carved stone and funky or original house number signs: I'm sure these will be difficult to replace.
but hopefully all homeowners will eventually find fitting representations of their new numbers, and we will all adjust and acclimate to the new paradigm.
and then it will all settle down, the giggles will recede, and someday, I'll barely remember this magical time when emigration canyon's numerical comedy brightened my rides.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

small things

this morning on my ride I wore new socks.
they are snug and the fabric is plump and cushiony in all the right places.
they felt good on my feet in my bike shoes with toe covers.

john bought them for me because I had bemoaned my favorite pair that was wearing out: they have a ribbed midsection for extra arch support and apparently my feet like that. so john went shopping and found me some super special socks with that same ribbed midsection, and last night I put them away in my closet and this morning I pulled out a pair and pulled them on my feet and sighed.

small things matter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

toe cover season

a few weeks ago someone said to me, gosh, it's starting to feel like fall.
I didn't think so. maybe a cooler than usual summer day, but not fall.

then the other day I was riding and someone pointed out how the trees were beginning to change color.
I thought to myself, well, not very many of them.

I've been in denial, and today, I finally acknowledged fall.

today I had a glorious ride. it was 50 chilly degrees when I started, yet the sky was true blue and the sun powered down over the eastern foothills, warming my body if not quite the air around it.
I rode up emigration, intending to take it easy. instead, the universe took it easy on me: there was no headwind coming down the canyon, in fact, the air was barely moving, just offering perhaps a mere shiver as it waited to be warmed by the sun.
this is a treat.
the shady spots were cold, and my kneecaps and cheekbones felt it most. yet the air was dry and clean and ripe with the pungency of fall: wood fires burning in fireplaces, damp and decaying leaves, and occasionally, someone's well-done toast all sent messages drifting toward me as I rode through the sun dappled canyon.
it is fully fall, and it was scrumptious to be wearing a jacket and toe covers and to be just on that narrow edge between chilly and cold.
I felt good today, capable and strong enough to be in charge of the hill, instead of the hill being in charge of me. I've been fearful I would never experience that feeling again . . .

so I think my toe covers are staying on the shoes, now, and I hope to revisit all my favorite peaks over the next month or so. I hope to do so leisurely, strongly, and with an expanded appreciation for just how fortunate I am to be doing so much of what I love to do.

Monday, September 21, 2009

is it 9 pm yet?

yesterday I rode my bike up the old snow basin road.
I had warmed up on the flats for 15 minutes, then turned ruby's nose up the hill and started my mid-range climb. (if I had my fully-functioning cyclometer back yet, I would be able to tell you exactly what the grades are on that climb, but no . . . blackburn is on my be-leary-of-doing-business-with list. yes, there's more to that story and yes, I'm sure I'll be sharing it here once I get over my extreme frustration and can settle down enough to tell the tale.)
15 minutes into the climb I had to stop.
the hill is not that steep.
I debated: do I accept my weakness today and turn around and go home, or do I fight through it and continue to the top? and then, once I get to the top, do I continue the battle and go on to snow basin, or do I turn back at that first summit and go home?
I clung to my bike, sweating and panting and trying to listen to all parts of me, and watched my heartrate drop 50 beats. as it sat in the high 120's I tried to decide what the right thing to do was.
you can probably guess what I did.
I pedaled on up that hill, of course. and at the top I paused for a mere moment before continuing upon my originally scheduled program: down over the ridge and then up the long climb up to snow basin, and on out to the highway and back down into huntsville.
I knew I wasn't feeling great, but I was caught in that place of uncertainty. am I well enough to push on? should I stop and give my body rest? what is best? what is needed?

when I finally returned home I showered, ate, and then napped. and ever since, I've been a slightly less than fully functioning human. I am doing what needs to be done, but I'm performing at about 70 percent, and I'd rather be napping.

I've seen a half dozen people on bikes today, and each time I have thought to myself, wow, wish I had the energy to be that person.
I'm laughing at myself, but it's true. it's as if my body has said un-uh, we are not going to play that game today. you can walk, you can sit, you can recline or I'll even let you drive a car, but you are not-not-not even going to consider hopping on that bike.

I think if I were to get on my bike and start pedaling up the street I'd fall over.

so, now that I've shared my latest musings I think I'll just keep slowly moving through my afternoon so that eventually I'll be able to climb into bed and tell the world goodnight.

is it 9 pm yet?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

absorbing and assimilating

certain experiences take a while to sink in.
and sometimes the messages we receive from the universe, strangers, friends, loved ones, and our own hearts, bodies and minds settle slowly into us, drifting and connecting and refiguring themselves until eventually, everything clicks and realization dawns.

I am in that phase where bits of awareness and facts and feelings are floating around within me, and I feel certain that, eventually, clicking will occur and I will experience some kind of epiphany that draws all together and provides some profound understanding.

of what, I don't really know.

but today as I look back at the past week, at last weekend, at all the effort and work and miles of pavement that were part of the preparation for last weekend, I realize that an enormous undertaking occurred. myriad scraps of life and asphalt piled together to create a journey that has not yet ended, but that had a grand leg performed 8 days ago.

it's mind boggling, actually, to look back at the past 3 years of my life, and track the journey.
where am I headed?
I don't really know.
but where I've been during these past 3 years is easily tracked, through my journals and calendars and training notes and bib numbers, through the scars left on my skin, through the bike shop receipts for tubes and tires and GUs and lights and gear, and through the spiderweb of friends and acquaintances and connections that have entered and decorated my existence.
given all this information, a wise person might be able to draw a trajectory and forecast the next sojourn of my life's path.
but as much as I think I'd like to possess that information, it seems that most of us are best off traveling forward without detailed road maps.
and perhaps paradoxically, we tend to be better off when we have a firm understanding of our history.

thus I'll move forward, as I always do, after having let the adventures of my recent past assimilate into my being. a little absorption, some reflection, and generous portions of space and time are on my agenda.

good thing all of that can be done while seated on a slowly but definitely forward-moving bicycle.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

an open letter to the lotoja organizers

dear guys,

let me begin by thanking you for your dedication to making the Lotoja event one of the most well organized races in our country. each year I've participated in this event I have been impressed with the attention you have given to every detail of the race, and even more importantly, your ability to clearly convey this information to all participants.
I am making a significant assumption now, but have confidence in my belief that the vast majority of us who have participated in your races during these past few years are thankful for your laudable commitment to thoroughness, accuracy, and precision.

given the above, I am reluctant to find fault with anything you've done. nevertheless, I was sorely disappointed by two aspects of this year's race, and feel I must share my disgruntledness if for no other reason than to help you improve future executions of your exemplary event.

first, I reluctantly find fault with the Green Team addition to this year's race. it was admirable of you all to point out the significant "carbon footprint" issue caused by the numerous support vehicles traveling from Logan to Jackson, and to offer a way for us to counterbalance this by purchasing carbon offsets. I thought this was an excellent idea, and was thrilled to make my small contribution. however, I saw nothing about the Green Team anywhere, anytime, except on the registration form and on your website. I didn't receive my support vehicle signage, nor the promised decal, nor the green wristband I was told I would be able to proudly wear on race day.
nor did I see decals, wristbands, or special signage on any other Lotoja participant.
what happened to the Green Team?

second, and much more importantly, what in the world am I supposed to do with that silly hanger? it doesn't even have a date on it: it looks like something I could have bought at the Lotoja store. I love my "sprockets" and was eager to earn one more: I cannot even begin to express my disappointment at receiving that ridiculous red hanger.
if enough of us banded together and approached you with a proposal to make us sprockets with 2009 on them, would you make them for us? I'd gladly return my hanger so you can sell it to someone else. I'd even pay for my sprocket. Please?

truly, guys, those are my only two complaints. it's even okay that you only had fruit and drinks at the first neutral support stop: these things happen.


PS: please let me know about the sprocket: I didn't even mention the timing chip problem and the non-working text message system, because these things happen. but it seems only fair that you could help us out with the silly hanger thing in return.

Friday, September 18, 2009


chapters end, scenes draw to a close.
and in books and movies, the transition is often nonexistent. the next chapter opens in a new location, at a new time, or with a different group of characters, and the story jumps forward.

then there's real life.
chapters end, scenes draw to a close, and then we wake up the next day just minutely moved from where we were the day before.
we take longer to adjust to changes; we go through transitions and spend time regrouping before we can be fully present, both feet on the floor, in our next scene.

I am regrouping.
my focus for the past few months has been (a bit too narrowly, albeit) on lotoja.
I laughed about it with other lotoja riding friends: we tend not to plan anything past the race date. it's like all of our thoughts and energy are engrossed in this one thing, and other plans just drift about, staying untethered until the lotoja date pulls itself nearer and nearer and finally crashes into us.
it's not that we don't participate in daily life, it's just that bigger things get put on hold. bigger things like what should I do with my life? should I get a new job? should I start that addition on my house now? or should I move? what fabulous plans can I create that will further my relationships, my career, my spiritual life . . .
such plans as these take energy and commitment and focus and thought. and when all of those vital pieces are wrapped up in achieving a different yet significant goal, we tend to put those thoughts and plans on the back burner.

and regrouping pulls them frontward.

so this week (after the first couple days of somnambulistic existence) I have been slowly gathering the farflung pieces of my life and reeling them gently and carefully back in. it's time to make decisions about how I move forward, it's time to put my creative cape back on. it's time to start sowing a few more seeds and reaping from the seeds I sowed in the past.

it's time to give ruby a little break.

wednesday morning I rode up emigration for the first time since lotoja. it was a windy day, and the headwinds didn't let up until the last mile and a half from the top. I had planned to ride easy, but found myself having to push and not being able to keep myself to a more leisurely pace. energy wasn't leaping from me, yet it felt good to ride.
a little part of me still wants to stick to my pre-montpelier plan of never riding my bike again, but I realized during wednesday's ride that I am not yet meant to get off my bike.
for whatever reason, riding is still an important part of my journey.
this hit me like a thunderbolt---a gentle one---the concept that it's not yet time to stop.

so I suppose I'll keep climbing hills and swooping down, visiting my favorite canyons and challenging myself with length and grade. but now there will be room for those other pieces of me as well. I will return to being a patchwork of all those different existences, not just a cyclist with a few squares of fabric hanging on by threads and flapping in my slipstream.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I am fortunate.
I have so many fans out there strewn across this land that their collective power is often the only thing keeping me walking steadily forward along my path.
I know this, and I thank them all from the very depths of my soul.
there's a concept I wrote about last year when discussing lotoja: you have to do this ride by yourself---no one can do it for you---but you also are never really alone while you're doing it.
a paradox, isn't it?
besides the obvious times when I was benefiting from someone else's draft, I was always drawing from a universal energy that rests inside me only because it was gifted by others.
the only kind of islands we are is the kind that connect below the water's surface, land formations spreading far and wide in support of the small isles that stretch skyward above the shoreline.
we are simply an archipelago, irrevocably woven together though we appear to stand alone.

part of my archipelago offered up some words of wisdom today, as I was bemoaning my disheartening ride last saturday and its seemingly far-reaching ramifications.
these words were written and voiced almost 100 years ago, long before anyone dreamed of riding a bike across 3 states in 1 day just because they could.
but these words support anyone who has ever dared reach further than they thought they could, who has ever pushed when they didn't quite believe it possible, who has ever tried and possibly succeeded but just as possibly failed.
and I pass these words along because we all need the support and encouragement that comes from interconnecting roots and shared foundations.
thanks john, and thanks, theodore:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena Speech" at the Sorbonne, Paris, France, April 23, 1910.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


this is a truth of american society:
friendships change when you go through a divorce.

people don't know what to do with us half-a-couple singles, or they get tired of being sympathetic, or perhaps they never liked us that well in the first place. whatever the situation, the result is the same: we get left out.
I think it happens to females more than males, but I can't prove it.
but what it does is leave us looking for new friendships, new ways to spend our time, new groups of people to develop relationships with.
for me, it has slowly but surely opened up the opportunity to build friendships with a quirky collection of other slightly-sick-and-twisted gluttons-for-punishment cycling people.

and this morning a series of emails were flying amongst this treasured group of mine. and they are just too good not to share, so here goes.

the players:
B, a physician in his 50's whose wife no longer rides but has supported him during his past 7 lotojas.
W, a professor who climbs every hill 2 times faster than me, whose wife runs and rides. she has not done lotoja . . . yet. they have a 10 year old son.
R, an incredibly fit cancer survivor in his early 40's, childless, engaged to J.
J, a petite fireball in her 30's who is one strong and cheerful rider, ready to tackle anything. engaged to R.
A, a physician just a few years older than me who can drop me on the flats but usually keeps me company climbing up hills. his wife doesn't ride, and he's been incredibly busy this past year with the h1n1 visitation.
S, that's me. you know all you need to know about me.

the situation: we all just rode lotoja 4 days ago. this involves 2 nights in hotels and basically 50+ hours away from home. not to mention the pre-training and the post-tired.
then, late last night, B sends an email out, wondering if anyone would like to ride this fundraising ride 3 days from now . . .

B: Anybody interested in a little more pain for a good cause? (then he includes a link to the website that describes the ride: our city's toughest 4 canyons, 110 miles, over 12,000 vertical gain.)

S: ARGH!!!!!

J: I saw this and I'm like...F*#$ it! Let's do it! We were both relieved when we realized that we'll be out of town for a wedding this weekend. Next year, let's plan on it!!

A: How about 1 canyon and a check????

W: ithinki'dbesingle

R: oh come on you can do it. I would do it if I was going to be home.

B: some very good replies - it was tough but the award goes to - W.

thus, I don't think you'll see a single one of us this saturday riding up and down the wasatch front's favorite canyons . . . not by ourselves nor in a merry band of biking buddies.

but it's fun to have my inbox fill up, and it's sure nice to have friends, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

lessons learned from logan on

these are a few of the things I learned last weekend, perhaps but not necessarily in order of importance:

if I lived in central-to-eastern wyoming I would not have to own a hair straightener.
on the way home the bike rack on top of our car came loose, and I stood outside for the 5-10 minutes it took john to fix it. I probably expended about 150 calories in those few minutes just by trying to remain upright, and my hair was whipped around so savagely that it lost every idea of ever having a curly thought.

I am not a cat 5 guy. I am not even a guy.
each time they all whipped past me I felt sorrow, envy, and shame. until I finally accepted the inevitable. see above bolded statements.

ibuprofen helps.
I took some at montpelier, and when it kicked in life got better. then, of course, the question just became when can I have more? the answer was alpine, and it helped that time, as well. I wish I'd invented the darn stuff.

almost all riders drink coke and mountain dew at the last supported fuel stops.
this fact was told me by john, who observed just about every cyclist shouting where's my coke? mountain dew! now! or some variant of the aforementioned at the last 2 stops. can you say caffeine? can you say sugar? can you say please give me something that will help keep me going?

I am fallible.
I already knew this, so I suppose it was just reinforced. and this is a good lesson, I suppose, for any one of us to experience. in the end, this is how we gain strength, right?

surface tattoos fade, but true tattoos run deep.
this year the lotoja group gave each of us registered riders a "tat", a black ink lotoja cyclist stamped on the back of our calf. I registered early, thursday night before the saturday ride, and my cyclist was pretty well faded by the beginning of the ride.
as well, those times I've tattooed faith on my knuckles, it has faded fairly quickly.
but there may as well be a permanently inked cyclist on my calf, and a permanently inked faith on my knuckles, because they are both deep and true parts of me. sweat, showers, wind, pain, doubt, and fallibility do not erase them, though they may fade and become difficult to see with the naked, human eye.
the deep and true spiritual eye will always see them, however.
we all have our own permanent and true tattoos, and once we learn to truly incorporate (to take into the body) them, whether they are visible on the surface or not, out journeys ease, become simpler, and become more true.

may your tattoos fill you with joy, peace and a deeper understanding of yourself.

Monday, September 14, 2009

the 618 award

I am awarding myself another honor.
don't you just love how I do this for myself? I figure someone has to do it, and who else is going to do it for me? I know me best; I'll just create my own darn awards for myself.

years ago I was struggling to help my younger son be good. I can't remember all the details, but he was about 8 years old and going through one of those defiant phases. it's been drummed into my head that it's more effective to mold behavior through rewards than by punishment, so I created a program through which he could earn a trophy by being good.
there were certain things he could do to earn points (most of which centered around plain old compliance), and if he earned enough points within a certain time frame he would receive his prize.
I'm pretty sure I did every possible in setting up this program to ensure his victory, and today his gold trophy with a bee atop it (the Be-e Good Award) rests among all his other soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and piano trophies on his bedroom shelf.

rewards can help shape behavior.

thus I am giving myself one.
but I'm not exactly sure of the shape I want to move my behavior toward.
see, the award I'm giving myself is the 618 award.

the lotoja 1000 is an award given those who have completed the ride 5 times during the past 10 years. unfortunately, now that I've ridden 3 times I am 60 percent of the way toward this award . . . and who turns back at that point?
possibly me.
possibly many rational people.
but I'm not sure.
so by deciding to give myself the 618 award, I am either telling myself that 3 is enough, I deserve an award, I can quit now . . . or, I am giving myself encouragement to keep moving forward toward that larger goal.
I'm not exactly sure which way I want myself to be moving, at this point.
I do know that at 72 miles into the ride last saturday, these were the thoughts moving through my brain:
I am never doing this again.
I want to cry.
I am never going to ride my f$&*#@g bike again.

after my recovery ride this morning, I came inside and started typing away about my self-bestowed award.

and that says just about everything you need to know about me, doesn't it?

Friday, September 11, 2009

butterflies and frogs

at the bike shop wednesday I had a chat with my favorite bike shop boy about anxiety.
because, try as I might to keep them at bay, those silly butterflies and frogs continue to take up residence in my abdominal area before big rides.

favorite bike shop boy has been riding a bike seriously for over 25 years, and he told me he still gets anxious before big rides.
even if he's done them before and knows he can.
even if he's feeling fit and strong.
even if he knows better.


I have been polling people lately about their pre-ride anxiety. (bike shop boy is not my only subject.) and what I've found is that most people admit to experiencing some anxiety before big rides. it ranges from a little stress to bathroom-running moments, and is often wrapped up with excitement and enthusiasm, but I think it must happen to all of us.
yesterday I tried to relieve some of my jittery anxiety by having a pedicure. it made me sit still and calmly for 45 minutes, during which time I couldn't run to the pantry for cookies or wander, restless and lost, around the house. and what struck me as quite funny is that bill's sister was at the same spot, getting a pedicure, because she was waiting for news about a big deal she's been working on and she was trying to soothe her anxiety.
anyway, it makes me feel better to know that others experience the same thing I do. everyone seems to be so calm and collected, so prepared and on top of things: do we all exude this same illusion? inside, are we all jumbled up concoctions of butterflies and baby frogs?
I don't know.
but I do know that I am going to keep breathing, I'll probably tattoo faith on my knuckles again, and I'm going to keep marching forward until it's time to get on my bike and pedal the rest of the way.

oh, and I'll see you again on monday, as I am taking the weekend off!
happy cycling, gardening, walking, running, or whatever it is you do, and may your butterflies and teeny frogs be kind to you.
(I think they like cookies best, but will roll their eyes and settle for bananas because they know they're good for you.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I did my last interval today, which basically brought an end to my pre-lotoja training season this year.
3 minutes, fast and hard, and then it was all over.
just to be clear: I feel no sadness about this.

it's good to have a goal, a carrot hanging out there that lends focus and direction to your existence. some carrots are small, some are bigger. some are huge and way, way far away. sometimes you choose a carrot and see it in the distance, lit from within with this glow that reaches its light outward into most every aspect of your life.
and sometimes when you reach your carrot, you experience joy and exultation and a giddy sense of impotence . . . which can then fade into a sense of loss and disappointment. I reached it, I did it, and, well, so what? or, I reached it, I did it, and, well, look at all the other things I don't get to have now that I have this.
some goals, some carrots, exclude other opportunities, and as wonderful as they are to achieve/reach/gain, along with them can come a sense of loss. a period of slight disappointment and then readjustment.

I haven't yet felt that way about lotoja. both years I've been thrilled to have completed it, darn tired, a little sore, incredibly grateful for hot showers, and so very appreciative of lying horizontally on any old kind of bed. the next day I am glad it's over, happy that I made it, and ready to return to real life.
ready to have more time to devote to my (currently poor, neglected) yard, ready to be more spontaneous and less committed to a training schedule. ready to enjoy my fitness and ride more leisurely, enjoying the coolness and colorfulness of fall.

I look forward to saturday evening, completion of the event, and movement forward into a new phase. it's been an excellent journey working toward this carrot, but it will be just as excellent to put it in my back pocket and move on to whatever comes next.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


some people believe that the universe provides them direction and guidance through signs.
some people believe that there are no coincidences.
some people believe in a curious mixture of free will and fate and destiny: that we have choices, but that certain people are going to show up in our lives one way or another.

I believe that there's much more going on in this universe than any one human can truly understand, and that kierkegaard got it right when he stated that life can only be understood backwards.

and I also believe that, at times, signs are planted in our paths to give us nudges, encouragement, and validation.
unfortunately, our daily lives are also full of meaningless and contradictory signs; the trick is differentiating between the two.

this morning I was mentally wrestling with my off-again on-again desire to take action instead of just letting things "flow." I don't like sitting in murky water that is possibly stagnant, and sometimes it feels like my river slows to these swampy places instead of bouncing and bubbling on down its path. I was thinking about whether or not certain things in my life just had to go, or if they were just in dormant, resting places waiting to soon blossom.
as I walked out of a building and toward my car, a man was backing his car up, almost directly into the space I was walking through. his license plate was personalized, and it read

yep. it sure did.
I smiled, and took it in.
and what it meant to me was that it wasn't time to make a decision about anything . . . that I need to stick with my river, as slowly moving as it seems to be.

later, during this same outing (which had as its main task a trip to the bike shop for a new chain, pre-lotoja prep), I was feeling some pre-lotoja anxiety. I know better, but sometimes our bodies just act out whatever our minds wrestle with. I've been stressing just a bit about the first leg of the ride, the portion from Logan to Preston, Idaho. we are released in groups of 50 or so, and for the past 2 years I've ridden this leg in a pelaton.
now pelatons are great---they get you there quickly---but they're also scary. you are riding wheel-to-wheel with a bunch of people you don't know, and you're riding fast. at times I struggle to keep up, and at times my heart is in my throat I'm so scared. the tiniest thing can go wrong and take down a handful of riders. when I find myself in a pelaton like this I constantly have to reassure myself that I'm okay, it will be okay, all is okay.
while my heart sits right there in my throat.
this is the most stressful part of the entire ride for me, and my heartrate sits up high for most of the leg.

back to this afternoon. I was on my way home, my happily chained ruby in the back of the car, when I pulled up behind a Mercury stopped at the red light in front of us. the car had a license plate holder that read
Preston Ford Mercury
Preston Idaho

I smiled.
how many cars in salt lake city have any kind of signs on them that say preston, idaho?
that was a sign to me, a sign that I'm going to make it to preston just fine next saturday morning.

I suppose I could take it as a sign that I should use a car to get me to preston, but I prefer to take it as a little supportive nudge that says, yes, you are going there, and yes, you're going to be just fine.
carry on.
flow on, even though it might not feel like a flow at all.
flow on, and
have faith.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

3 x 3, ibuprofen, and face cream

today was a 3x3 day.
3 intervals, each 3 minutes long.
mission accomplished, and looking forward to tomorrow's 2 intervals.

two! only two!

this means the big day is creeping nearer.
today I set out GUs and shot blocks, beginning my packing for the event. tomorrow I'll get out the water bottles, and sort goodies into bags so that my support team (that would be john) will know exactly what to bring me at each rest stop.
I'll probably also start pulling all my cold-weather gear (arm and leg warmers, full gloves, skull cap, jacket, toe covers, and whatever else I dig up) and extra bike supplies (tire, tubes, cartridges) and packing them in a bag.
tomorrow I also take my pretty black ruby in for a new chain: this one has over 4000 miles on it, so I think a change-out is wise. prophylactics, you know.
which reminds me, got to pack the ibuprofen, too.

my clothes for saturday night and sunday are usually the very last thing I think about. everything else is so much more important that I have, in the past, neglected to bring everything I need. both years I've started to get dressed sunday morning, looked into my bag, and thought, what in the world was I thinking?

you know what I was thinking. electrolytes, calories, body temperature, bike maintenance . . . survival.
real-world clothing, shampoo, and face cream are just minor aspects of life at this point.

come next sunday, though, I hope that they will begin to matter again.

Monday, September 7, 2009

a bike is a bike is a bike . . . well, maybe not

I have a new neighbor, and she rides a bike.
she rides quite a few bikes, actually.
and she rides them hard and for a long time.
this brings a smile to my lips.

I'll call her H, to protect her identity. H races mountain bikes, for fun. eeek.
last saturday she participated in a race called the Park City Point 2 Point. this was a mountain biking endurance race, and she was one of 7 women who started it, one of 6 who finished it. this was a 75 mile single track course, with an elevation gain of about 14,000 feet.
I have a burning question here: how do you pass someone on a single track race like this?
H rode this thing in 11:42, which is just slightly less than my lotoja time. I cannot imagine being on a mountain bike on a grueling ride like that for almost 12 hours.
she spent yesterday in bed.
big grin.
but today she was walking and talking about it, and even dared to venture that some day she'll look back on it and say it was fun.
that came up because she rode lotoja last year, and commented, that was fun.
I didn't ask her what her lotoja time was, because I didn't want to feel bad for being so slow.
then she went on to tell me that she's only been biking about 3 years (ooh, some sense of deja vu kicked in), and that she has attended the same power camp I have.

she told me she noticed, when she was first in the process of selecting and buying the house across the street from me, that I had bikes in my garage. it's that kinship thing I've written about before, the me-too internal grin that starts growing when you see someone else who owns the toys you own.

H has one more big race for the season, coming up in 2 weeks. it's in Durango, and her description of this race gave me some insight into just how crazy the mountain biking community is. it's called the Single Speed World Championships, and each year this thing is hosted in the community from which the previous year's winner hails.
so if the winner is from Germany, you gear up from a trip to Germany the next year. if he's from Canada, everyone heads to Canada the following year. okay . . .
and you can only ride a single speed bike.
and they don't reveal the course until you're there and ready to go.
and they do things like make you stop along the route, dismount, and perform some kind of dance or song in front of a panel of judges. your score matters and is factored into the tabulations which determine the winners.
and this is, of course, a multi-day event, with bands like The Soft Hands and The Tunnel and Black Market Electric performing in the evenings.
oh, and there's a coloring contest, too.
okay . . .
and you thought us roadies were an odd bunch.

I am thinking that my new neighbor is just a tad bit more adventurous than I.

but who knows . . . maybe she'll sway me and next thing you know, I might be writing about how much I love my mountain bike . . . and my new eyebrow piercing . . . and a band called The Tunnel . . .

Sunday, September 6, 2009

chewing on intervals

a truth about me:
I am quite disciplined, but I only commit to being disciplined about something after I am sure that I can fulfill the requirement necessitated by that discipline.

in other words, I only commit to doing what I'm certain I can do.

and if I bite off too big of a chunk, having misjudged my capacity, I chew that damn thing anyway, because I said I would.

I bring this up because I have committed to a tapering philosophy and plan for this week that centers on intervals.
now I know that intervals are the big thing, how everyone trains, the only way to get better, blah blah blah.
however, I find them difficult to incorporate into most rides I do, and so my attitude is that all rides I do have intervals: they're just not precisely the kind you would want to graph and use as a model. I always work for segments of time above lactate threshold level, and I always have periods of recovery. sounds like interval work to me.

but this year, while scouting the internet for a tapering plan, I came across the following, and decided to adopt it for my final pre-lotoja week:

• Reduce your mileage. Although you want to continue riding, you need to cut mileage
substantially to get a tapering effect. About 7 days before your important event, cut your average mileage by about two thirds. So, if you’ve been averaging 200 miles per week, slice it
to 65-70. (I LIKE THIS PART.)
• Continue interval-type training. (CONTINUE??) But reduce the number of intervals each day. Here’s how the week before your event might look. After warming up for about 15 minutes, follow this procedure:
Day 7 5x3 minutes at slightly above lactate threshold
Day 6 4x3 minutes at slightly above lactate threshold
Day 5 3x3 minutes at slightly above lactate threshold
Day 4 2x3 minutes, fast
Day 3 1x3 minutes, really fast
Day 2 Day off or light pedaling for 30-60 minutes
Day 1 Event
This tapering protocol reduces your overall workload because of the drastic mileage decrease.
You have more time to recover and less strain on your legs.
But the intervals guarantee that you retain the muscle enzymes that help you process lactate.
The fast riding also means that your neuromuscular system will be accustomed to going fast
when you ask it to during the event.
This type of taper works because it combines rest with intensity. It allows recovery but encourages speed.
(from a march 2003 post by fubar5)

so today I did my 5-interval Day 7 drill. I even used a watch. I played the game.
I experimented with doing intervals on a hill, and found it challenging, because the recovery phase is hard to hold steady (going downhill put it too low, while just going slower led me to a point where the bike wanted to fall over and my heartrate was still too high). luckily I had flatlands aplenty, and could hit my other intervals more easily.

tomorrow will be Day 6. I'm not sure yet where I will ride, but I know I'll perform my interval work as required.
because I bit, and now I'm chewing.
and looking forward to Day 2, and then the completion of Day 1, and then . . .
Day 0, on which I'm sure the intervals are all about eating, drinking, and sleeping.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

even bananas get road rash

today I was in 2 races.
and in a lot of rain.

this morning was the salt lake 1/2 marathon, and once again, I was riding up emigration while the runners were coming down. in the rain. it sprinkled on us, then it poured on us. I shook my head like a dog and water flew in all directions. rain collected into large droplets then dripped from my bare arms down to the ground, or to my legs, whichever it reached first.

during the last mile and a half to the summit the rain lessened and lightened and actually ceased. for a while. and then it sprinkled a bit. then stopped.

heading up toward big mountain, I was suddenly passed by a cyclist with a race number on his back.
and then another one.
zip zip.
this, of course, set my curious mind afire. what race could this be? where are they headed? where are they coming from?
then there was a long pause before another racer zipped past.
this was the strangest race I'd seen. usually guys would come past in packs or at least twos and threes..... these guys were coming just one at a time.
and they kept coming.
I would hear heavy breathing (barely being able to separate it from my own labored breath), then the whir of tires on pavement, then the next one would be past me.

part of my query was answered when I reached the top of big mountain and saw a good twenty-five cyclists hanging around: the race stopped here.
the next part of my question was answered when I rode down to mountain dell golf course and saw there the start of both the 1/2 marathon and the bike race.
and I fully understood the situation after I googled bike race september 5 utah and found that it was an individual time trial Climber's Trophy sponsored by the UCA.

ah. I love answers.

I received another answer today, as well. I hadn't asked the question, but sometimes the universe just gives us answers, knowing better than we do exactly what our needs are.
and today the universe decided that I needed to learn about road rash.
this is how it came about:
I was riding down little mountain, 11 miles into my ride, when I felt a small change in the way my back pocket felt while at the same time hearing a small clunking sound. it took twenty feet or so for me to connect the two things, then I reached around to feel my back pocket. the phone was still there, heavy at the bottom, but the long slender banana I had placed there an hour before was decidedly gone.
I slowed, then turned and headed back up the hill to where the banana had jumped ship, and sure enough, there it was, lying alone and despondent near the edge of the bike lane.
I pulled up next to it, reached down to grab it and argh! it had suffered an injury!
there was a good 3-inch-long section of road rash, the skin looking like someone had taken a grater to it. empathy welled, and I gently tried to assess the extent of the injuries. bruises, definitely, especially along the length of the road rash. another bruise was already apparent near the top.
I pealed the thing as carefully as I could, and realized that a good third of that banana had turned to mush.
so I ate the good part, threw the mushy part away, and giggled about the lessons life sometimes hands us.

Friday, September 4, 2009

golden orbs

last night I saw the moon peeking through the trees around my house. it was sitting to my south and slightly west, and it was lit so brightly the beams shot straight through the greenery to my doorstep.
this morning at 5 I saw that same moon, only it had changed from brilliant white to a creamier white with a golden glow.
and by the time I was heading downhill from the top of Little Mountain, staring from my hilltop perch out over the western sky, that same moon was huge and low and yellow gold.

when I started up the canyon I thought there was a car somewhere far behind me, its headlights giving a gentle illumination to the space around and ground in front of me. after a few moments of silence ~ no noise indicating an approaching engine ~ and a quick glimpse behind me, I realized it was the moon, sending its filtered light serenely down to earth.
I felt its company the entire ride, its tranquil presence just there, like a cherished companion.
further up the canyon, where the road turns back on itself and the narrowness gives way to open space and glimpses of the city far below, I turned off my light and glided quietly uphill under misty moonlight.

fires throughout our western states have covered our land with air full of smoky particles that give a hazy appearance to everything. as the sky lightened this morning and the mountain silhouettes became visible everything still remained lightly shrouded, as though behind a finely meshed screen.
flaming sunsets and golden moons result from these late season fires, and it's just one more indication that we are in summer's death spiral, soon to flow effortlessly into the exuberant and lavish fall we utahns are so fortunate to experience each year.

ps: we're already more than 6 hours into this month's full moon . . . don't miss it!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

periods of adjustment

it's that time again, that time of adjusting.
adjusting schedules and routines and ways of being.
a time of acclimation to a new pattern.
which always throws me a little out of kilter.
I walk around the house feeling out of sorts, but can't really place my mental finger on any single reason.
I jump from project to project, leaving things half-done and returning to them only after I've completed 3 other things.
I ask the same questions over and over, and don't listen to the answer.
I don't want to talk on the phone.
my body is alternately jumpy and exhausted.
I feel unsettled and slightly askew, and that peaceful, calm feelings eludes me no matter what I do.

yes, it's the week before lotoja.

I've settled into my taper, but find that I'm not settled at all. I am caught somewhere between wanting to sleep 15 hours a day and feeling the pull to jump on my bike and ride 60-70-80 miles.
I've been icing my knees (no, that does not mean putting chocolate frosting on them and decorating) and trying to be kind to my body.
I ate a banana yesterday.
I had tuna fish for lunch twice this week.
I am drinking as much water as I remember to.

and I'm working on my mental adjustment to this new season, where the intense training is past and I am at the peak of my cycling ability this year. when, once lotoja is over, I will ride where I want and enjoy the leaves and gentle cool air of fall. when the push is over, and when life enters a new phase called fall.
but for now I'm in that wiggly place, where I feel like a Frenchman dropped in the middle of Italy. we might use the same currency, and our languages may have the same roots, but all of the nuances are different.
I'll adjust, things will settle, and life will once again feel comfortable and sturdy.
but for today, I'll just embrace this wiggly place because it is exactly where I am, and to pretend I'm someplace different would be pointless.

I'll just keep my wiggles on the inside, and keep those tires steady on that smooth and far-reaching asphalt path that leads from my door to who knows where.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

dark morning

this morning I was making lists as I rode up the canyon, in the dark, by myself but not in the least by myself.
there were millions ~ yes, millions ~ of crickets singing their love songs, and there were creatures rustling in the foliage beside the road. I saw the shadow of a startled deer, caught in an oncoming car's headlights, and I saw a waddling porcupine-ish animal a bare 4 feet from my wheel. birds hid in the darkness, tossing out brief songs and calls as I made my way up the canyon under the starred but moonless sky.
my lists were about things like cars heading up the canyon (1) and down (10). about cars parked at the top (2 the first time I reached the summit, 3 by the time I had ridden down to the gate and back up to the summit again), runners (3), and number of times cars dimmed their lights for me (3).

I was easily spooked this morning, as I haven't quite adjusted to the depth of darkness that has suddenly become the early morning norm. shadowy things beside the road would move as I passed, and strange shapes loomed behind trees and garages and cars.
one house, situated across the road from a rocky hillside, sends a powerful porch light out and through the gap in trees so that it hits that hillside: as I rode past I could watch my shadow self silhouetted against the wall of rock (was that me? possibly I? or just myself?) pedaling up the road, legs circling round and round, and round again before it all disappeared back into the thick and near-silent dark.

just a mile or two further up the road I hit a spot where houses are set far back, and scrub oak and dense foliage line the road. all of a sudden I heard a loud whirring noise that startled me, and I nervously looked all around to see what could be nearby or approaching from which direction. from out of nowhere suddenly appeared a ghost-like shape of a body on a bicycle, speeding down the other side of the road, lightless, spookily, the whizzing disappearing as abruptly as it had appeared.
I don't think he heard my exclamation, which bubbled from me out of pure shock, and was some messy conglomeration of consonants and vowels, never to be found in a dictionary, possibly only discoverable in susan's own thesaurus, under cripes!

my sleep last night had been spotty and broken, so I had left home at 5:15, a bit earlier than usual. but soon the days will shorten even more, and I will both leave and return home in the dark, and batteries will last fewer rides. for I believe in lights ~ both front and back ~ so that my solitary headlight will warn others before I go whizzing past them, down the hill, in the deep dense dark of the beginning of the day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

the ends of everything

today is one of those days.
you know the ones, where nothing is outrageously wrong but nothing is perfectly right, either. little things eat away at the day, and nothing much is accomplished. it's hot, but not unbearably hot enough to blame for the lethargy hanging around. the mail brings junk and more junk and nothing friendly or financially exciting. friends and family ask for favors ~ again, nothing large or difficult ~ and every errand takes just 5 minutes longer than planned.
kids complain and want more than they have, and you are giving all that you have to give, and stretch as you might, the ends of everything just don't quite make it to the middle.

I started today with yoga: shouldn't it be a great day?

my head hurts and my belly is complaining and I want to go live on a ranch in wyoming where the wind blows and I can lock myself inside and stare out at a great big expanse of land for hours on end.
until it's time to get back on my bike, and I will then wish to be in calm salt lake city where the wind is kinder and gentler and where the mountains that rim the urban sprawl provide shelter from all of the busy realities of the valley floor.

tomorrow I'd better go for a ride. and perhaps, then, the ends of everything will become a little more supple and elastic and find a way to meet back in the middle.