Friday, December 31, 2010

what has been

this morning leslie, our spin instructor, said to us, I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not sorry to see this year end . . . I'm ready to say goodbye to 2010.

and I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't feel the same way.

no matter what a year brings my way, it brings crucial experiences---both joyful and otherwise---that work to shape me.

how could I wish that away?

2010 brought many things my way: big dramatic events, subtle shifts, and everything in between. fantastic new highs, new lows, emerging skills, remembrances.

new peaks conquered, a sinking into self, acknowledgements of strengths and desires. redemption. acceptance. forgiveness. grief. loss. letting go. limits raised, boundaries stretched.

validation handed to me, skills honed, connections formed and bonds tightened.

how could I be grateful that this has ended?

the past twelve months are part of who I now am, and I would be a less interesting, fulfilled, complex person without them.

I've had easier years, I've had smoother years, I've had years filled with greater prosperity.
but I cannot say that I've had better years.

I don't know what 2011 will bring my way. but I'm certain that it will be filled with activities I love, people I care deeply for, solitude, togetherness, snow, rain, sleet, cycling, running, yoga, tests and challenges, self analysis, growth, and much more that I have yet to contemplate.

may we all be presented in the coming months with just enough challenge to keep us alert, enough love to wrap us in its warm embrace, a little intrigue to keep us guessing, enough prosperity to meet our needs, and plenty swooping to fill our hearts with joy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

the greatest gift

what would we be without the amazing gift we have to reinvent ourselves?
a few different answers come to mind: stagnant, dull, tedious.
or, perhaps, wise, patient, deep.
if we are to burrow deeply within ourselves and focus upon one aspect, one persona, one set of likes and dislikes, are we susceptible to becoming linear and boring, or are we then able to test the depths of our reality and find a greater wisdom than most know?

I like to think we can deepen and enrich ourselves by examining our inner being while experimenting with different ways of interfacing with the outer world, other beings, nature itself.

and this is really all about the fact that it snowed yesterday, allowing me an exhilarating new experience and a joyful recognition of something different within and without of myself.

see, I was going to ride my bike. I'd heard the weather would be dry and in the upper forties, which is perfect december riding weather. I even planned a ride, and was waiting for john to arrive so that we could take off up the canyon.
when my phone rang and it was john calling from home, I was puzzled. and then when he asked what I was going to do, go to the gym, or just take the day off, I was baffled.
"well, it's been raining over here all day, just a little, but it's definitely coming down."
"it's gray all around here, but it's not raining," I replied firmly, as I pulled back the curtain and took a look at my patio. which had--uh oh--little wet spots all over it.
"oh," I said quietly. "oh, I guess, maybe, it is raining."
off went the biking clothes, and on came the running clothes.
this is why I took up running, so I could get outside and exercise when biking wasn't reasonable.
when I stepped out the door, I could see the raindrops. they were spaced quite far apart, and they had that fluffy texture to them that some people call snow.
so I took off around the corner and down the street, and went for a run.

and this is where reinvention (is that even a word? do we have to reinvent? isn't invention in and of itself the discovery of something new?) comes in to play: for years I have wanted to be a runner. I love the flexibility of it, the portability. you can travel just about anywhere and still go for a run, whereas it's just not that easy to go for a bike ride when you're away from home. I love the fact that it takes less time for a similar impact than biking. and I just plain old want to be one of those people who can run.
and here it is: I am a runner.
three months ago I wasn't, and now I am.
I am a runner! I shouted it yesterday, I threw my arms in the air and woo-hoo-ed. I watched the lawns slowly begin to turn white as I ran, I shook the wet snow from my hat and arms. I sang along to the music on my ipod, I sweated and shivered and kept placing one foot in front of the other.
I made first tracks.
the sidewalks began to fill in, and by my last mile I was listening to my shoes crunch the fresh snow, leaving my tracks down the middle of the sidewalk.
there was no one else out running in my little section of the world, and my footprints claimed the joy and glory of running in the snow for me alone.

I am always deeply me. I am grounded and committed, stable and full of gratitude.
but five years ago I wasn't a cyclist.
five months ago I wasn't a runner.
and who knows what I'll be able to add to my CV five months from now, five years from now.
I fell into cycling, never having had the "I want to be a cyclist" desire. I worked my way into running, however, after years of thinking "I want to be a runner." obviously both ways are effective, though the latter tends to be more empowering.
my mother is a pianist, extremely talented and capable of creating beauty which fills the air. a few years ago, she began painting, and now is creating beauty which sends a silent, visual message that is no less stunning. she's always been an artist, has been able to call herself that, but now she is a painter as well, and I think of her joy in being able to add that to her understanding and description of who she is.

I don't know what's next for me.
perhaps I'll fall into it, perhaps something will tuck itself under my skin and I'll begin to work my way toward incorporating it into my life. regardless of the method, I know I'll continue to be awed and grateful for that great gift of being able to become something slightly different than I once was.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


today I had a plan for what I was going to be writing about here.
it was about traditions, those special experiences and events that we repeat over time. how sometimes we begin something new, and enjoy incorporating that into the pattern of our life. how some things have been with us for years, some things our entire lives.
how stability, patterns, traditions, and even things and people who've been around longer than we have add certainty to our lives. how they ground us, make us feel a connection with something greater than we ourselves are.
how I think we humans are programmed to crave this connection. how we desire an attachment to that which is more significant than us, a higher power, a larger world, a greater expanse of time than that we've lived. how mountains and oceans, the milky way and the moon all provide this something that somehow centers us. how a building fifty years older than us can provide that same groundedness, how we learn to place ourselves in the world based on what surrounds us.
how traditions mold us, how traditions help us form a sense of who we are, and how rich it is to add a new tradition to your life.

but what happened, you see, is that I've run out of time, and won't be able to write about all of that. instead, as a result of adding a possible new tradition to my life, I've got to go scrub the salt and cinders off my bike.

merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


I found a way to attend yoga this morning, for which my body was exceedingly grateful.
at least I think it was.
it's hard to know, sometimes, exactly what one's body is telling one. it might be telling me thank you, I love you, you were so wise to get up and go to 6 am yoga, or instead it might be saying, I'm going to pretend I liked that but I much rather would have stayed in bed and slept a little longer . . .
those tight spots, tender spots, creaks and groans are sometimes hard to interpret.
but everyone says yoga is so good for you, so I'm going to assume my body is like most other bodies and that it somehow benefited from those asanas I forced it into earlier today.

there were three of us in class this morning: two who are gumby people, and me. and then the instructor herself, who is even more flexible than gumby, but who dislocated her shoulder recently (while skiing) and was thus restricted by a contraption which held her arm positioned carefully away from her body. whew. obviously I'm sorry for her injury and resultant pain and inconvenience, but I was relieved to not have to watch her do super-bendy, super-graceful yoga and demonstrate the monstrous difference between her abilities and mine.

and during this class, during an asana that pushed a few of my muscles, ligaments, and other inner-thingees just a millimeter or two (or five) past their comfort zones, our instructor brought up the concept of stasis. stasis, a state of static (nonmoving) balance or equilibrium.
I like this word, this concept.

at times during yoga class we are in stasis. we hold our pose, opposing forces in balance, keeping us from moving. our right arm stretches and pushes toward the front wall, our left does the same to the rear, our hips lean to the left and our thighs pull us back to the right: yoga is a study of oppositional energy that creates stasis.

I often think of the song, dare you to move by switchfoot. perhaps it's the catchy tune, and perhaps it's the concept. I think of this song when I'm indecisive, when I am caught between shoulds and have-to's and wannas. when I'm in an uncomfortable, unproductive stasis. I dare myself to move one way or another, to make a choice, to accept what results from my movement.
and other times I sit in stasis. I stay there, knowing that all of the activity in the world won't change my fundamental truths. I stay there, knowing that inner tension holds me together, opposing forces cancel each other out, and that time spent as a human being is often the most important time I spend.

it's all about balance. balancing stasis and movement, dares and acceptance of what is. accepting that sometimes I need to swoop down hills after pedaling furiously up, and sometimes I need to hold myself quietly in tree pose, balancing on one leg, lifting my arms up to the sky. and letting the shoulds and could-haves drift slowly down and off my limbs until they rest upon the floor in their own states of (hopefully) permanent stasis.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

contre la montre

I read the other day that an acronym may only truly be called an acronym if the letters used in the acronym form a "word."
when I tried to research this, I found differing opinions on the subject.
and although I like to be correct, there are times when "correct" depends upon the judge. so in the case of those I will write about today, I am choosing not to call these abbreviations acronyms, though some would say they've earned that label.
today's subject is bicycling concepts referred to by abbreviations, letters representing each of their words. and I chose this subject because in class this morning we had a TT.
which stands for time trial.
a time trial is, to borrow someone else's (published by wikipedia) words, a road bicycle race in which cyclists race alone against the clock.
we weren't on bicycles, nor were we on the road, nor were we alone. we were twenty-five sweaty people on spin bikes in an air-conditioned room, each near the top of their heart-rate zones, each trying to produce an effort we might have had we been in a genuine time trial.

having this experience reaffirms my decision not to participate in genuine time trials.

other well-used non-acronyms in the cycling-training world are these:

VT: ventricular threshold. where your heart sits during a TT. not a place for the weak willed.
CP: creatine phosphate. when we do sprint work, we supposedly use this for energy. it's a chemistry thing.
LT: lactate threshold. a heartrate significantly lower than VT, where you leave aerobic land and transition to anaerobic land. a happy place to spend time, especially as compared to VT.

today we hung out at VT for twenty minutes, about fifteen minutes longer than I wanted to. okay, maybe twenty minutes longer than I wanted to. sometimes it's tolerable, sometimes it's not too bad, and sometimes it's just plain old difficult. today fell in the latter category for me.

the french call a time trial contre la montre, which translates as "against the watch." apropos, as I definitely felt that I was working against the watch this morning: it was not my friend. it was moving much more slowly than I was, and that hardly seemed fair.
however, there is one positive about these time trial experiences for me: after a TT, I feel on top of the world. I can do anything.
I have overcome any resistance, any doubt within. I have suffered, endured, conquered. I have pushed to my limit, and survived. I float for hours after, just me and my amazing self.
I pat myself on the back, I smile, and then eventually remember to humble myself, for just around the corner is the next contre la montre, the 25 minute version. which is followed by the 30 minute version. then the 35.

ah, c'est la vie.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

a right thing

the other day I had a conversation with a friend about doing the right thing.
already I must challenge this: is there ever just one "right" thing? perhaps I should change this to doing a right thing.
it just doesn't sound the same.
but this is the concept:
we go through life making decisions right and left. at most every juncture, we can choose this or that, a banana or an apple, to say yes or to say no, to nap or to go for a bike ride. more subtly, we can choose to be pleasant or rude, to be welcoming or abrupt, to be open or rigid. our entire persona, our presentation to the world, is based on conscious and subconscious decisions.
what child in our privileged society hasn't opened the refrigerator door and stood there, confounded by the almost overwhelming choice confronting him or her? and this choice is simply one of food, one of daily encounter and little import.
of greater significance are the decisions we make about how we wish to be in the world. will we contribute, or will we float? will we give, or will we take? will we strive to rise above the milieu, or will we settle for becoming an indeterminate part of the teeming mass?

many of us are either raised to be, or choose to become, one who is focused upon fulfilling his or her own needs and desires regardless of the cost to others. others give selflessly, negating their own needs and desires. and a great many of us fall somewhere in between, recognizing the impact of our decisions upon society ~ and the world ~ as a whole.
this is where the concept of doing a right thing enters.
it's impossible to exist upon this earth without creating some level of impact. we impact the physical earth, we impact each other. we are all connected at some level, and my choices ultimately impact the availability of resources for, the opportunities available for, and even the atmosphere surrounding, others who either walk beside me or follow in my wake.
it's difficult to use the utilitarian concept of the right thing being that which creates the greatest good for the greatest number to base each of our decisions upon. I, personally, can't always extrapolate and think that big. and so many of our decisions are mundane and meaningless when placed in this model. if I take I-15 versus I-80, will more benefit? if I buy two cantaloupes instead of one will someone have to do without? if I buy gas from this station instead of that am I promoting one company over another with possible negative consequences to the environment?
I can't go there.
instead, I operate with a more microcosmic view: how can I touch one person's life for the better? what can I do to be authentically me, to live life in an honest manner? how can I promote sincerity and kindness? how can I be an influence for good?

there is rarely a single right thing. there is, more frequently, a collection of authentic, well-intentioned actions that will move one (or the world) in a healthy direction. we can't always know what these responses and actions are until we've experimented, and often we don't know what a right thing was until after we've done it.
but there's not a much more fulfilling thing in life than to make a movement, take action, do something, and later come to understand that it was the exact right thing at the right time, and that it had a beautiful impact on another human being.

so I guess I'll just keep moving forward, trying to do right things as much as possible. trying to impact the world for good. touching lives here and there, acknowledging others, working a bit here and there on my carbon footprint. smiling at strangers, taking in my neighbor's garbage can on pickup day. hugging my kids, telling them I love them, teaching them to be brave and real. riding my bike when I can, smiling and waving at everyone I pass, working to pull each one of us a little more tightly into the interwoven collection of humans that together form a small piece of this beautiful, benevolent universe.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

december 17

when I was in seventh grade I had a crush on an older guy. his dad was the maintenance man at our school, and not only did these two share the same name, they shared the same birthday. which was december 17.
numbers, numbers, yep, these things just stick with me forever, because yes, this was about a third of a century ago. (okay, even longer than that, but I was trying to give an idea without getting caught up in being anally precise and accurate.)
for years and years I held december 17th as a special day in my heart. and then over time it faded, other important dates replaced it, and it eventually, gently settled back into just being another day of the year, one of many that have little attachments to people I've encountered during my life.
yesterday was december 17th, and not once did I think of this boy. nor did I think about posting here. I thought about work, my kids, tasks and chores that needed to be accomplished, how much I detested the morning spin class workout (fast fast fast legs spinning round and round and round), and the party I was going to attend that night.
it was a party full of friends and acquaintances from the past, many of whom I rarely see anymore. an eclectic mix, all bound by friendship with a loving, generous, deeply beautiful couple who were celebrating the husband's fiftieth birthday.
this is a ridiculous number of years to have lived, considering how young we all feel. I still remember being 12, I still remember the first crushes, first kisses, first devastations and losses as things didn't go the way I wanted them to. though they're all resolved and not issues I carry around with me, many feel like last week, last month, if not yesterday. ours pasts are no further away than quick trips to those banks of memory.
I was neither the youngest nor the oldest in the house last night, and to all appearances each one of us was in the process of living our best life, regardless of age. it's just a number, right? an acknowledgement of how long we've been on the planet, simply that.

I remember december 17 fondly. I loved this boy for a time, and I hope he celebrated his birthday yesterday surrounded by those he loves.
and maybe next december 17 I will not only remember him, but I'll remember my commitment to posting here.
however, they do say the memory is the first thing to go . . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

something out of very little

earlier today I placed an order online for a Christmas present for one of my children. at the end of the process, the order number came up, and I grinned when I read it:

I'm sure that most of you are unaffected by this number. but this number is all about me, and so I absolutely love it. I took it as a sign that I ordered the right thing at the right time.

see, I was born on the 25th day of the 6th month, in the year 1962.

twice a day (when I remember to) I look at the clock and smile, feel affirmed, have a mini celebration: yep, 6:25.

now I admit I'm a number geek who loves math, and you've read about my counting cyclists, cars, trucks, animals, just about everything I can think of while I'm riding. I watch my heart rate numbers every morning, I check my odometer for running paths when I'm driving. I count my cadence during power camp (only because they make me), I count reps in the weight room.
I memorize page numbers to return to when I put a book down for the evening. I make up wacky number stories when I put candles on my kids' birthday cakes.

I love to balance my checkbooks, personal and business.

I'm constantly noticing numbers, playing games with them, adding, multiplying, making more out of them than would otherwise be. nothing complicated, just observation and connection. and this makes me happy, which is what it's all about.

Monday, December 13, 2010


yesterday I escaped.
when the gray skies parted, the temperature climbed to 50, and a pure blue sky was revealed that held not a single puff of white cloud, I had no choice but to put the rest of my chores aside and throw on my biking gear and go.
toe covers, full gloves, skull cap under my helmet, two layers and a third for the way down, I pumped up my tires and off I went.
I had decided that the twenty mile ride to the top of emigration and back would be just perfect, and I set out pushing my muscles which have been slacking on a spin bike for much too long. heartrate soaring, I climbed and spun and gathered in lungful after lungful of fresh, clean, glorious air.
at the top of my favorite canyon, I drank in this tableau I so love, the snowy mountains ringing the south, the deep gray of the thick winter reservoir. and then something happened: I was pulled down, down the hill, down to the side of that reservoir. it was less a decision than a response to an internal signal, a tug of dna.
as I neared the bottom of the hill I was struck by a thought: the gate. I hadn't seen the gate in at least a month, the gate at the far end of the reservoir, the gate that closes the road up big mountain in the winter months. I had to ride to the gate, just to see it, to visit this old friend.
as soon as the peeling yellow paint of its round metal arms was in sight, I knew I wouldn't stop there, because asphalt stretched beyond. I could see it, gray stretches of worn and beloved pavement, snow-free and calling to me, teasing what must be cellular dna that knows this spot, this land, this experience.
I skirted the gate, one of many who take its message of deterrence to be only for others, not for someone like me. and asphalt stretched before me, calling me forward, teasing me with its wide and motor-free expanse. I rode on, and on, avoiding the occasional splotch of melting snow, the slick expanses of wet.
fingers of snow would reach out across the road, and then an arm or two. but there were enough tracks through them to allow my skinny tires to continue on. and then the occasional arm became a leg, and then torsos and bodies began to threaten. I wove as far as I could, until the melting snow became icy and committed to longer life, and my tires lost their gray road.

1.5 is the answer, 1.5 miles at 4:10 pm on sunday, december 12, 2010.

I.5 miles past the gate, three and a half miles further than I had any intention of riding yesterday. three and a half miles that had nothing to do with my mind and everything to do with something much deeper within.

I turned and rode back down to the gate, alongside the reservoir, back up little mountain and down emigration toward home. through rivulets of runoff that threw rooster tails up my back, between rocks and leaves and other bike lane debris, down a road that changed from sunny to shaded and back again, through air that was chillier than it had been an hour before. my legs were pedaling, but my heart was flying.

when I was a mile or two from home, I looked up to the sky and saw a flock of geese flying in their v-formation, their wings flapping majestically. peaceful, assured, confident, following their own cellular dna which will lead them to a place they call home.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

GAA and potatoes

once upon a time, back when I was in school, back when we carried hot potatoes in our coat pockets to keep our hands warm and we trudged five miles to school in the snow and ate our by-then cold potatoes for lunch . . .
yes, way back then there was this thing called GAA.
those initials stood for Girls Athletic Association, and it was what you joined if you wanted to do gymnastics, or volleyball, or ~ this was a stretch ~ girl's basketball.
a number of my friends participated in those sports, competing against the other schools in our region and state. I was more interested in drama, debate, music, and cheerleading, and it wasn't until my junior year that I joined our school's newly-established tennis team. which, as a co-ed team, never fell under the GAA umbrella.
as I said, this was all long ago and what seems like oh so far away . . .
and we females have come a long way, baby.

today I sat in the Spence Eccles Field House at the university of utah and watched two dozen female athletes hammer out a game of lacrosse, and was awed by their grace, speed, and prowess. (how often do I get to use words like prowess? I'm pretty excited to throw that in here.)
this current generation of high school-age female athletes is incredible. they've grown up having sports available to them, they've grown up participating in a variety of different athletic endeavors. because we live in salt lake city, many have grown up skiing and snowboarding, hiking and snowshoeing. they have never known a world where one had to join a Girls Athletic Association to play a sport.
and I had it better than those females in the generation before me.

I watch these teenage girls sweat, watch them wear uniforms ugly enough to dismay anyone with an ounce of fashion sense, watch them run and stretch and give their all. I see female bodies of every shape and size, and I cheer those girls who are a little thicker and still choose to play volleyball in those ridiculous spankies (you know, those things that barely cover their butts and are tighter than skin) the sport has adopted and required their players to wear.
I cheer them all; I am awed by these girls.
because they are so far ahead of me: it took me 44 years to find a sport I loved.

my son scoffs at girl's lacrosse, and I tell him he'll be lucky if he ever finds a girl to marry him.
I ask if he wants a girls who sits home and does needlework and bakes cookies? or one who is brave enough to discover the thrill of challenging your body, working with a team toward a goal, and daring ~ daring ~ to face the world sweaty, make-up free and in unflattering attire, (and who can still do needlework and bake cookies)?
I love that these girls know there is more to life than looking pretty.
and as much as I want to look like barbie when I ride my bike, I, too, know that there is more to life than being an ornament.

so here's to progress.
no more cold potatoes for lunch, no more GAA.
just healthy, active, courageous girls who dare to be all that they're capable of being.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

my friend Glade

I have three teenagers, two of whom are frequently in my car. they're fairly active, and they are, well, teenagers.
for a while there, this past month or so, I kept thinking, hmm, I'd better get an air freshener for my car, it's getting a little ripe in here. teenage bodies, sweaty feet, little car, windows always shut because it's cold outside . . .
two days ago as I was driving myself home from vampire class I realized it was me. me. what my sweaty body was adding to the car's aroma was much worse than what my kids might be adding.
I placed an air freshener inside my car that very day, and now I am a happy gal again.

sweating is normal, one of those messy facts of life. and I can scrub my body painfully clean, apply deodorant and antiperspirant and still become fragrant when I sweat. I know, it's the bacteria on our skin that cause the odor, not the sweat itself, but guess what? it really doesn't matter. when we sweat, we stink. even the best of us.
I wash my workout clothes in their own special "workout" detergent, guaranteed to get rid of that sweaty smell (a gift from john, hmm, I should ponder that) and still, on the way home from class in my car I can barely stand the smell of myself.
my daughter asks me not to hug her until I've taken a shower.

so, I bought my car an air freshener. and now I am much happier whenever I'm in it.
it's good to work out hard, but it's also good to be surrounded by air fragranced by something other than Eau de Sweat.
just ask my daughter.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

the bicycle surely

The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.
~Christopher Morley

I read this and was immediately filled with gratitude and validation. yes, yes it should be.
roller skates, skate boards, razors and pogo sticks are much too slow and unpredictable, and automobiles are much too enclosed and speedy. the bicycle falls right in between, allowing its guide time to gaze, to ponder, to absorb, and to marinate while keeping steadily upon one's way.
ruby is my muse, I suppose, if I were to choose one.

the spin bike, on the other hand, is not.
the spin bike might possibly be the vehicle of masochists and nutcases.

I'm quite certain that christopher morley never, not once, sat upon the saddle of a spin bike and received inspiration. and I'm fairly certain that I have not received much ~ if any ~ inspiration while sitting on those terrible saddles in that loud and smelly room. inspiration to get back on a real bike, perhaps, but very little in the way of literary illumination.
and perhaps that's why I've been dredging the bottom of my creative pond to come up with things to write about lately. maybe I need to reconnect with my muse, feel the air against my skin again, watch the scenery float by instead of moving nowhere for hours and hours every week.

it will come, I will find a time and space to climb back onto ruby's pretty, white saddle, and pedal away, just me and the great big world around us. fresh air, trees, the wind, the winter sky, and an everchanging tableau before me.

perhaps it was while sitting on a bicycle seat that christopher morley formulated my closing quote. if so, I hope that he was on a country road, green trees shading him, slivers of sunlight peaking through and dappling the pavement beneath him. I hope he pedaled leisurely, I hope he felt the fresh air on his cheeks, I hope he heard birds singing and creatures rustling in the brush beside him. and I hope he had some sense of the joy, gratitude, and validation that people like me would, over the years and decades and hopefully far far into the future, find in his words.

whether you sit on a real saddle, a spin bike saddle, a chair lift, a wheelchair cushion, or a car seat, may these following words guide your travel through life:

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


today was almost nice enough to get on a bike and go ride outside.
and I was almost tempted to do so.
but there are times when "almost" just isn't enough.

many things in life can be good enough when they're almost there. "almost perfect" is usually perfect enough for me, and "almost ready" means it's close and will soon be. almost-calorie-free is okay by me, almost-at-my-target-weight is frequently just fine, and almost-naked is often better than the real thing.

but then there are those times when almost doesn't make it.
almost-awake isn't good enough for driving, neither is almost-sober.
almost made the cut-off, almost got there on time, and almost asked her out: these don't ever get you a prize.
and weather that's almost good enough to ride in, isn't.
and being almost tempted to go anyway doesn't get you on a bike.

so instead I watched the fog (or is it a smoggy inversion?) roll in, went to yoga, and firmly established the presence of the Christmas season here in my home.
the roads dried up a bit, the temperature hit 43 degrees, and that temptation swirled around the the floor but it never made it up to the part of me that makes decisions, and thus, today remains a day that I was almost tempted to experience a bike ride in almost-decent weather.

perhaps tomorrow the sun will break through the mist and truly shine, perhaps the temperature will reach 45 degrees, and perhaps I will be fully tempted to get on my bike and ride.
because almost, in this case, is just not good enough.

Friday, December 3, 2010

spinning wheels

one of the hardest things in the world to do is nothing.
we are a society of doers, a society populated with people who were raised to believe that do get somewhere, one must do something.
my grandfather was a child of the depression, one who as a teenager began working to support his family, one who believed strongly and firmly in the puritan work ethic. no surprise, this was passed down through the family to yours truly. I love to be productive, I love to accomplish things. I have been known to, on occasion in the middle of the day, add things I've already done to my "to do" list just so I could cross them off with all the others.
I am a creator, a builder, a producer, a doer.
in my business I take raw materials, build sets with them, and then ship them out the door.
in my writing, I take blank paper (or discs or drives or files) and a pen (or a keyboard) and bring into existence something that wasn't a short while before.
I keep track of sets sold, and I keep track of words and essays written.
I feel fabulous on a day I sell fifty sets or write 5000 words, regardless of anything else going on in my life.
I feel less fabulous on a day I sell nothing or write nothing, produce nothing, create nothing.
but I've come to accept the fact that these days exist, that this type of day is actually just as important as the ones full of production and creation. like the fallow lying fields, the days of busywork that leave me no further along in the book or leave my shelves just as full at dusk as at dawn are days that are vital to my movement along my path.
it just doesn't always feel like it.

this morning the "work" portion of our power camp workout was a forty-minute low-heartrate, high-cadence spin. our legs spun round and round ridiculously fast, and our hearts were told to hover in a non-intense zone.
it feels like a lot of doing nothing.
spinning our wheels, twiddling our thumbs, filling space between days of more aggressive sessions.
I didn't work my heart very hard, nor did my muscles stretch their limits. it wasn't a workout you could brag about, or write down and add to your "wow, look what I accomplished!' list.
it was spinning wheels, filling time, just one step above lying fallow.

I like being at the peak of the hill. I like being stretched to my limits, I like to be busy and to feel like a vital part of the world. I like the view from the summit.
however, some days I get to sit on a plateau. sit and spin my wheels. and accept the fact that some spinning is part of moving forward, whether it feels like it or not.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I experimented with a treadmill today, and I think the treadmill won.
tomorrow it's back to the spin bike, where I can return to my role as conquerer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells got it. he understood.
he obviously rode a bike.
because these words are his, and they help explain why I keep riding, and riding, and riding.

After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow. ~H.G. Wells,The Wheels of Chance

and this is probably impossible for one to understand until one gets on one's own bike, and realizes that karl kron also had it right, when in 1887 he said this:

All creatures who have ever walked have wished that they might fly. With highwheelers a flesh and blood man can hitch wings to his feet. ~Karl Kron, Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle

tricycle, highwheeler, carbon-fiber framed bicycle, it doesn't matter. they all provide wings and dreams, two things absolutely necessary for a vibrant, joyful life.
this is why I ride.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


a biking buddy asked me the other day who my favorite authors were.
it was as if the proverbial cat had taken my tongue: I couldn't come up with a response.
of course it was 5:30 in the morning and as usual, most oxygen in my system was rerouted from brain to leg muscles by our workout, but still, I was shocked by my inability to spew off a list of authors I love.
because there are many authors whose writing I love. too many, and this may have been part of my problem. I love many books by many different authors, and I must admit that my taste in fiction is a tad bit plebeian.
I love terrific mysteries; I love superb crime and murder and legal thrillers. I love great spy novels. I even love the occasional historic novel that is well enough written that I become lost in another era. a list of my favorite books would show my eclectic taste, and my appreciation for good storytellers whether they be writers of great literature or not.
I mentioned last month my struggle with William Faulkner, and I shamefully admit that many Great Writers are not on my personal list of Favorite Authors. I don't mind working for my reading pleasure, but when the scale tips from "work" into "struggle" I'm not likely to keep that author's name in my memory bank associated with the category Things I Love.
a list of some of my most treasured written works will be released here in the near future, but today I just want to share something I came upon in a book by william kent krueger, and author I quite enjoy.
mr. krueger's characters often live in minnesota, wisconsin, or the UP, and many have native american ancestors. though I can't say that I believe everything ever espoused by native american elders, they seem to have operated from a belief system that is more spiritual and more connected with our physical world than most others I've encountered. often, just to read quotes attributed to native american elders brings me peace and a sense of groundedness that resonates deep within.
so when the other day I read the following words that mr. krueger put in his character henry meloux's mouth, I knew I had to document and save them for the power of their impact upon me:

I think it is like this. The spirits shoot an arrow It is past us before we can see it clearly. But if we follow, eventually we come to the place where it has lodged. And we realize the arrow is not important. What is important is the place it has guided us to.
Heaven's Keep p.211 William Kent Krueger

many books have been arrows for me; many people have been arrows as well. sights, sounds, feelings, experiences, at times all of these have been arrows along my path. and the biggest arrow during these past four or so years of my life has been one with two wheels and a set of handlebars.
for some reason the spirit shot this into my life, and I have been following its path ever since. I know this, I understand this. I love my cycling, but I realize it's simply a means to an end.
and if I continue to play my cards right, I'm hoping it's a means that won't ever truly have to end, regardless of what place it guides me to.

I plan to keep reading until I'm too old to do so, for I never know until I finish a book exactly what treasures it will drop into my life.
and I plan to keep riding my bike until I'm too old to do so, for I never know until I start riding down the road exactly what treasures it will drop into my life.
but I am certain that both will continue to do so, as long as I give them the opportunity.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

missing ruby

I drove a stretch of road yesterday that I have ridden many times, and I felt a physical aching, a missing of my bike. my ruby. (she's a Specialized Ruby Expert, and although I do tend to call her a "her," I try to limit my anthropomorphizing to just that.)
and today a blizzard is coating our world in a thick, white, slippery blanket that will probably keep me off her for the next little while, so I am sure to experience another pang or two during the coming weeks.
it's okay. it's part of the program.
because, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated,

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.

I can't have it all. I need to give, I need to rest, I need to expand my horizons and incorporate new experiences into my life. like a field lying fallow, we become more vital and vibrant by leaving the known and loved and exposing ourselves to challenges, that which is unfamiliar, and at times, repose.
snow is good for this.
tonight we have been warned to stay off the roads and cocoon ourselves in the safety of our own homes. the storm may dump half a dozen inches or more on my little house in the city, and maybe twice that on houses on the hill. when we wake tomorrow it may be to a soft, gentle, slow world.
I won't be able to take ruby out for a spin, and my morning workout has already been cancelled in anticipation of untravel-able roads. instead, I'll gain the beautifully peaceful feeling of being in my warm, safe home, where all is just as it should be.

and then maybe I'll go for a run.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


yesterday I took my nike frees out again for a run. okay, jog. it was gray and threatening and hovering around fifty degrees. the sky spit a few drops at me now and then, but the forecasted assault of rain and snow held off.
so my new shoes stayed white and pretty.
someday this will change.

last fall john bought me a new pair of cycling shoes. he took me shopping, I tried on pair after pair at store after store, and I finally settled on a pair of Mavics that were blinding white. white? pure, solid white? what were they thinking?
when I first wore them to spin class everyone (okay, a couple people) teased me about how pretty they were and how obviously un-used they were. then spring rolled around, and I started using my pretty white shoes on my real bike in the real world.
now they're somewhere between "dirty white" and "seriously gray."

this is bound to happen to my pretty frees, as well.

new is fun, new is a great treat, new makes you feel special. new makes you feel connected with our constantly-changing world, helps you feel part of the continual movement forward and upward. it makes you feel potent, participative, vibrant, connected.
yep, all of this just in a pair of new shoes.
they don't even have to be white.
they just have to be new, just for a little while, bringing back that feeling you had as a little kid, wearing your brand new whatevers that made you feel like the king of the world.
that's me in my pretty white frees, on top of the world, extraordinary, queen of

Friday, November 19, 2010


I haven't needed my alarm clock all week.
each night I've set it for 4:35 am before turning out the light and begging for sleep, and each morning I've woken sometime between 4:15 and 4:30, sighing as I looked at the time.
I've awakened somewhere between somewhat-alert and energetic, a bit closer to the former than the latter. but I haven't awakened exhausted and dreading movement out of bed and toward activity, which strikes me as something quite great.

perhaps I truly am becoming a vampire.

that's what they call us, "they" being the people who attend power camp and spin classes at normal times of the day.
that's what they call those of us who wake up well before dawn, get our workout in, then leave the facility well before sunrise.
vampires. I kind of like it.

it's been a week of adjustment. back to the weight room, back on the spin bike. various body parts have issued complaints, from quads to abs to my--um--saddle interface area. I'm missing my real bike with its real saddle and ability to move me through space and time.
I sigh a lot these days.
but it's not until my skin starts to lose color and my eyeteeth sharpen that you all should start to worry.
I do suggest stocking up on garlic, because I have another sixteen weeks of this, and can't predict what might happen . . .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


back to running.
it's been a week, and I promised myself I wouldn't let more than a week go by without running so that I wouldn't have to endure those muscular aches again.
so . . . I had to run this morning.
in my new shoes.

I went shoe shopping last week: I hauled myself up onto the treadmill at Salt Lake Running Company and modeled my running (jogging) style so that I could be fit in appropriate shoes. I was offered a selection to try, though none were as cute as I would've liked them to be. I tried on one pair, then another, and then I tried on a really ugly pair of black shoes with a turquoise swoosh. geez they were ugly.
but they felt good.
really good.
"do these come in another color? maybe with green on them?"
"let me see . . . well, here's a gray and white pair with a little light blue . . . "
sigh. (me)

I believe it was mick jagger who sang you can't always get what you want . . .
but I got what I needed.
and I ran (jogged) a whopping two miles in them today: a new record! what I ended up purchasing was a pair of Nike "Free" running shoes. this is what Nike has to say about them:

" . . . the Nike Free Run+. Its flexible design closely mimics the natural movement of your foot. And unlike a lot of regular running shoes, its flexibility provides a world of comfort on the run or while walking around.

Other features:

-More flex grooves promote an even more natural, barefoot-like stride.

-Increased support under the arch for improved stability.

-More cushioning for an exceptional ride.

-A completely new midsole design for a better fit.

-A precisely engineered upper for targeted support.

-Asymmetrical lacing for added comfort."

asymmetrical lacing for added comfort?? who came up with that?? this is an example of why I changed my major from advertising: it's all a bunch of hooey. asymmetrical lacing for added comfort. geez.

anyway, they felt great, and I ran (jogged) further than ever before. maybe nike will put me in a commercial . . . actually, I think I'll just keep hoping for a cuter pair, maybe with some green on them somewhere.

Monday, November 15, 2010

benefits of riding in the snow

two things come immediately to mind:
  • the dermabrasion for my face from the sleet on the downhill, and
  • the time and energy savings from not having to wave at any of those silly cyclists who expect you to wave back at them
now there are a few drawbacks, namely the wet feet (through neoprene booties and wool socks), the frozen fingers (which eventually thawed after 15 minutes in the HOT shower), and the fact that I had to clean my bike of all the wet, muddy yuck when the ride was over.
and, okay, it wasn't really snowing. it really never got much past an icy sleet.

it began as a gentle mist.
I left my house when the road was dry and the air was thick with hanging moisture. within a mile, the moisture began to break through the weight barrier and settle upon the world as a fine, ultralight, cool mist. I could see the cloud hanging over my canyon, and decided that I would ride until it became unbearable, then turn around and head south below the cloud line.
remember that story of how you can boil a frog? that if you put him in a pot of lukewarm water, then slowly, slowly turn the heat up he'll stay there, not figuring out that soon the water will reach a boiling temperature and he'll be . . . well, no longer living.
this is what the mist did to me yesterday.
all the way up the canyon it intensified, but at such a slow, gradual pace that it wasn't until I headed downhill that I realized the road was truly wet and what was coming at me was sleet. thus the dermabrasion. does it hurt in a spa or clinic? it sure hurt out on the road.
and the sole cyclist who was out while I was looked every bit as cold and wet as me, and the grins we exchanged were almost identical. there's just something inexplicable about the joy of riding your bike when everyone in their right mind is doing something else.

my uphill ride was quiet, my toes and fingers were warm, I was filled with peace and gratitude.
my downhill ride was wet and wicked, my body temperature dropped and my extremities clamored for crackling fires and down comforters, and I couldn't wait to get home.
but I returned home thrilled that I had left, that I had ridden, that I'd braved the elements and felt the joy of being at one with the world.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

what happens when I go away

today I drove across parts of wyoming. flat parts, hilly parts, windy parts. smooth asphalt, old and cracking asphalt, and test sections of slurry seal/chip seal/crack seal. (utah is not alone in proud ownership of crappy road surfaces.) I even drove a section of beautifully well packed dirt road.

I was in wyoming to research the writing project I'm working on, the first time in about eighteen months I've been on a road trip where my bike didn't come along.
what did come with me was thoughts of riding my bike.
especially when I saw the stunning wind river range, all snow-capped and crusted, sugary peaks poking up into the clouds. I wonder if there are roads up in there you can bike on, ran the little thought stream in my mind. wouldn't that be cool.
later I turned off the highway onto a side road that took me to south pass city (nearly a ghost town) and atlantic city (not much better), then a dozen miles further to a small bridge over the sweetwater river. the road rose and dipped, curved and swooped for mile after mile, sitting atop a stretch of land between the wind river range and the oregon buttes, allowing one a view for miles and miles in every direction. this stretch of land contains what is called the south pass, a seemingly flat section of the continental divide where pioneers crossed the mountains on their treks to the west.
I drove hundreds of miles today, a round trip from salt lake and back. flying along at seventy five miles an hour, I couldn't help but compare my travel to that of the horse-riding pioneers, the handcart-pulling mormons who walked, and the modern-day masochists (like me) who ride their bikes on ridiculously lengthy routes.
I was grateful for the sturdy metal that encapsulated me, protecting me from wind, cold, snow, and muscle fatigue. I don't wish that I lived in a time of horse and wagon travel. and today I didn't want to be riding my bike across even a small strip of windy wyoming.
nonetheless, my mind is programmed to consider the possibilities, to think about what the hills might feel like, to imagine the smell of the sagebrush and pine, to feel the burn of the climb and the joy of the swoop. even the grit of the hardpack dirt and the vibration of the chip seal.
it's part of me, a part that's hard to turn off.
so it's just possible that someday you might read about my riding adventures in the wind river range.
or on the dirt road between atlantic and south pass cities.
because everywhere I go, the wind blows minuscule little seeds that attach themselves to me and find a way to grow into whisperings that remind me of all the miles and miles of roads I have yet to ride my bike on.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I had a VO2 max test today.
I almost didn't: part way into it I suffered one of those moments that threatened to turn into panic and I had to stop and regroup. I thought I'd moved past that, leapt that hurdle, taught myself that panic is all in my mind and completely unnecessary, but apparently I'm not quite there yet.

it began in the gargantuan lifetime fitness center in sandy, utah. I like to call myself a city girl, living in my little space on the fringes of salt lake, urban but not too urban that I don't have grass and trees. whatever I might desire is not too far away, and I love the eclectic feel of this mix of people, styles, and tastes that surround me.
then there's sandy, where too many people live. it's a big place, there are people and roads everywhere, and you can find whatever you might desire, you'll just have to find it in a superstore or a chain restaurant. or in the largest fitness center on earth, where I was this morning. I've never seen so many machines, or so many slender women with artificial---oops, back to my story.
my bike is loaded on the trainer, the watt meter attached, and I am given a neoprene mask to put on so that my exhalations can be measured and oxygen content assessed. I try not to freak out.
and I do a pretty good job for the first five minutes or so, and then I feel the anxiety rising. I push it down, and it pushes back. harder. I try to talk myself out of it, and it outshouts me. in mere moments I know I've lost the battle and I have to unrip the velcro and peel the mask from my face.
casey, patient test-giver, lets me spin for a while until I can get myself back under control and commit to trying again. I am not about to walk out of there a failure. I will get past this. just before I'm quite ready, I tell him I'm ready and let's do it again.
casey, kind and knowledgeable guy, eases me back into it and then starts taking me through the protocol at a quickened pace. we're moving up by watts produced, twenty at a time. we jump from sixty to eighty, then one hundred, then one-twenty. the speed of movement from each zone to the next doesn't allow my mind time to fixate on whether or not I'm going to die because I'm so focused on moving to the next level, and we out-smart my little panic-producing mind.
before I know it, I'm done, and on to the recovery phase. I like this phase. all tension off, spinning it out, breathing normally, knowing that the worst is over.

and then you get the results. fitness, awesome, recovery, fabulous. woo hoo! all these years of effort have truly paid off. I am strong, I have a great power-to-weight ratio, and my heart is one extremely healthy organ. (this is powerfully important to a girl whose grandmother died of heart disease. I am not going to go that way. I'll probably go slipping on a weed on a bike path.)
and then the bad news: I'm not doing so well at burning fat for fuel. in fact, I'm not doing well there at all. casey suggests the reason is probably too many aggressive workouts, and I grin. yep. casey then suggests I retrain my body to burn fat (which our body stores easily, which burns cleanly without side effects) instead of carbohydrate (which our body can't store much of, which doesn't burn as cleanly and which produces things like lactic acid). I can do this by adding more low-intensity workouts to my regimen.
which brings forth the discussion of base-building, which fall is supposed to be all about for us cyclists. we are supposed to be doing long, low intensity rides, which build this base, which gives us the fat-burning skill which will benefit us when we start working in the higher heart rates early next season.
they call these lsd rides: long, steady (or slow) distance.
for me, it has to be slow because I have to hold back so much to keep my heart rate low. casey tells me he puts a piece of tape over his speedometer when he does these rides so he can't stress about how very slow he has to go.

so this afternoon I braved the cold and went on a zone two ride. I spent an hour keeping my heart rate under 140 beats, and it was NOT EASY.
but I am a good student, and I will obey the rules. it helps when it's 37 degrees and snowing in the canyons . . . we'll see what happens when the sun's out, the temperature hits the upper 40's, and emigration's bike lanes are dry . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


  • some days I think I'll never ride my bike again.
  • there are moments when my knee aches so much I think I'll have to stop all activity.
  • at times I think I have lost all my fitness, my strength, my flexibility.
  • sometimes I think I absolutely cannot make it to the top of the hill, around the next corner, or into the next second holding a yoga asana.

what these all have in common is the fact that these are just thoughts. each sentence involved the words I think.
and they're not simply thoughts, they are thoughts that belong in the category of black/white thinking, where it's either or, one extreme or the other, no middle ground, no possibility of change.
we can call this catastrophic thinking.
it's not just a sore knee, it's a ruined knee that will never run or pedal a bicycle again.
it's not just that I'm tired, it's that there is absolutely nothing left in me at all, forever.
it's not just a bad day, it's that I will always feel this way from now on.

I don't have an anxiety disorder, I'm actually quite mentally stable. but I catch myself, frequently, slipping into this place where these little catastrophizing thoughts niggle their way into my mind and try to set up camp.
and what I'm trying to do about it is to teach myself about making it through until tomorrow, because tomorrow is always better. sometimes the next hour is even better. sometimes things can change in even less time than that.
and it's this reality that I try to hold on to. you'd think by now I'd understand it, having lived and experienced these situations for so many years. why is it still something I need to convince myself of? why do I still fall into that trap of catastrophizing?

I don't have an answer to that.
but I know that each time I push a little further than I think I can bear, each time I hold a pose longer than I want, each time I think I might explode and yet I don't, each of these experiences adds to that pile of validations or proof that my thinking is in err. so I keep pushing myself, I keep surviving, I keep getting up the next day and proving my egoic mind wrong.
you'd think it would, by now, just give up.
but apparently it's one tough son of a gun, so I keep battling away at it.

today I received an email from our bad ass cycling team captain, in which she said she's hung up her bike for the season. sometimes the thought of doing that is quite tempting, even when the roads are dry and the temperatures are in the fifties. but I've learned this about myself: as much as I think it's time for a break, as often as I think I'll never ride again, as frequently as I experience those "I can't do it" moments, I always, eventually, get back on the bike.
I always find myself eventually feeling better.
I always make it through the pose, even if I have to regroup for a moment.
I always rediscover my strength.
and I always, always, make it up the hill.

so there, mr. catastrophe.
go pick on someone else.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

riding north

today was an excellent day to ride north.
and not such a great day to ride south. unless, that is, one is desirous of a good training ride.

you should know by now that "training ride" is my euphemism for a ride that is full of misery. which for me usually involves wind.
today there was a wicked wind from the south. during the hours I was riding it was a fairly consistent 22-26 mph, with gust up to 34 or so mph. admittedly, it could have been worse. but it was just about at my outside limit of tolerable windy conditions.
not only is it more difficult to ride into the wind, it's just purely disappointing. as strong as you may think you are, that headwind is just out to prove you incorrect. it holds you back on what should be a lovely descent, and it slows your progress on flats and hills so devastatingly that no matter how hard you push, your speed is decreased to numbers you're embarrassed to experience.

but, as with everything in life, there is a yin to the headwind's yang, and that would be the tailwind. and today my gift was that the first half of my ride was into the wind, so the second half was blessed with one of the strongest pushes I've ever had. I hit new personal land speed records for certain stretches of road, and was getting such a great boost from the wind that working in zone 4B was well worth it just to watch that mph number creep higher and higher.
and because I was in such a pleasured state on my return trip, I was able to let my mind drift into the more metaphysical concept of tailwinds.

earlier this morning I'd read a brief essay by steven taylor in which he discussed how we receive help from others in our quests and desirings and movements forward into that which we strive for. as the wind was so gently pushing me toward home, I thought about all the other tailwinds in our lives that help us toward our goals. I often speak about "the universe" listening to me, teaching me, guiding me, and the way the universe most often works is through other people. (though I believe it sometimes works through things such as weeds.) we might say it's a "situation" that benefits us or gives us that push, but the situation comes about only through the workings of other humans. therefore, all of the many tailwinds that help us navigate and stretch and grasp our next desires come from the strivings, the consideration, the help and the compassion of others. and none of us will ever know how much our own efforts toward our own quests become tailwinds for other people. how amazing and awesome is that?

riding north today was pure pleasure. I felt supported, my mission was eased, and I reached my goal in less time than ever before. I had to work hard heading south before I reaped my reward, but my reward was huge and fabulous and a reminder of the fact that whatever my dreams, my movements, my desires, I am not alone in bringing them to fruition.

Friday, November 5, 2010

time and money

the answer is:
if I had so much money I didn't know what to spend it on, and so much time I didn't know what to do with myself.

the question:
under what circumstances might I take paragliding lessons?

it was great fun!

it began with the meeting in the parking lot, on the north side of the point of the mountain, where a few dozen of us milled around and looked up to the ridge of the point. we could see a few bodies, and a big white truck moving along the ridge, first one direction and then the other. some gliders then appeared, floating, soaring, and ripping down from the top of the hill, legs dangling from their little seats, hands firmly gripping the cords.
I signed my life away and then climbed into the big white truck for the ride up to the top of the hill: this was the scariest part of all. if you've never been in a vehicle that is climbing such a steep hill that you see nothing but blue sky in front of the hood, well, you might want to try a ride like this. I learned that the ridge on top of the hill is just that: a narrow ridge. there is a point where the hillside drops off to the right and to the left, and you look out to the north and see the entire city spreading far, far, far below . . . this is not for the faint of heart.
getting hooked into my harness, putting on my helmet, waiting to get connected to my pilot, then leaning forward against the tremendous pressure of the wind catching our sail were the few, brief steps before I slowly ran off the edge of the hill and into the sky.
and flew.

we glided, swooped just a bit, and floated some two thousand feet off the ground, and it was as if time stood still. anything moving was so far away that it didn't matter, and time was just suspended up there between the gentle gusts of air. this lasted not nearly long enough, and then we were within shouting distance of the landing field. my pilot asked if I wanted the mellow landing, or the roller coaster.
which do you think I chose?
we whipped and rolled our way in, leaning to the left, to the right, to the left, and I watched the ground from every angle but--thankfully--upside down. within too few seconds we approached the field and my pilot told me to get ready to run.
I did, we did, and in much too short of a time my experience was completely over.

given enough money and too much time, I would own my own glider.

so I say.

in closing, I leave you with this little blurb from the Paraglide Washington website, found under their Frequently Asked Questions:

is paragliding safe? With proper training and equipment, paragliding is the safest of all forms of personal aviation. But like anything, you are responsible for making it as safe, or as dangerous you want it to be. You are more likely to get injured riding a bike (well, crashing a bike) than while paragliding.

need I say more??

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

the sky's the limit

how many times have you heard that phrase?
well, my question is, which part of the sky?
because it seems to me that the sky begins where earth leaves off, basically at our feet. and then it extends upward until . . . until when? it goes and goes and goes, the most expansive substance in our experience.
tomorrow afternoon I plan to experience a different part of the sky than I've ever known before: a part that is somewhere between the stuff by our feet and that which I've flown through in an airplane. a part that's not really near the earth at all, a part that I hope is thick enough to hold me up for at least a little while.

it's all because my family has a sense of humor.
I crashed on my bike ten days before my birthday, and what they gave me for a birthday present was a gift certificate to go paragliding.
yes, paragliding.
that's when you get attached to a big set of wings and jump off a mountainside, I believe.

I told them I needed to get through lotoja, and then I'd schedule my experience. well, it's that time, and I head up to that middle stretch of sky tomorrow afternoon. I get help, thank goodness: I'll actually be doing a tandem glide, with someone who knows what he's doing in charge of it all. and I'll learn what it's like to be somewhere in the midst of sky, no terra firma beneath my feet, no pedals clipped to my shoes, engaged in an entirely different kind of swooping than I'm used to.
and who knows, I might fall in love with a new kind of adventure, one where truly, the sky is the only limit.
I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, November 1, 2010

nowhere but there

it happened again today: I was doing my jogging thing and I became thoroughly, deeply, positively engrossed in the very moment I was living.
nothing past, nothing forward, nothing but the clear air and the movement of my legs, my feet connecting with the concrete beneath.
no worries about what happened or what's yet to come, what hasn't happened or what might.
this jogging thing is even better than cycling for being in the moment, at least for me at this stage in the game. ( this most likely occurs because my "jogging" takes away all my oxygen so quickly, and I have to stay focused to keep from following through on my desire to quit. )
regardless, I'm thrilled to have found a new way to be exactly where I am.
I still watch the time, I'm still glad when it's over, but while it's happening, I thoroughly enjoy that place of being nowhere but where I am, nowhere but where I'm apparently supposed to be.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

when the bike lane is full of leaves

occasionally you are forced to make choices.
sometimes we're able to slide by without, to let the river of life pull us gently with its flow. we rely on others' decisions and the onslaught of requirements and necessities to guide our daily actions.
but then moments interject when you must move this way or that, choose one path or another, make a conscious and firm decision about your next movement.

I have spent the past five weeks savoring each day, grasping onto the gift of dry pavement, clutching desperately every hour of sunlight and temperature above fifty degrees, knowing that it will soon come to an end.
we are now deeply entrenched in autumn, and evidence of this engagement is plentiful. snow lingers in crevasses on the south sides of hillsides, naked stalks of gray trees shiver on the slopes, leaves flutter and gather in great piles where the insistent wind follows its whim and pushes them, compacting their individuality into swirling masses of mayhem.
we exist in a brown sea, flashes of gold and copper lessening, the brilliant orange and vermilion fading and falling into heaps of matter thickening the carpet of the mountain floors.

riding emigration you reach a spot about five miles up where the bike lane is suddenly gone: it's covered by a thousand fallen gold leaves which have been soldered together by the past days' snows and rain. although the lane before this point has been dusted with the occasional leaf or rocks that have slid down the hillside and rolled to stopping points between the road's edge and that thick white line, there has always been visible asphalt upon which you can navigate the path of your skinny little tires.
until the blanket of leaves completely covers the lane.
and a decision must be made.
you could turn back. you could ride upon the likely slippery carpet. or you could swing wide, into the traffic lane, bypassing the section of golden surface.

there's really not much time to think about this, as it confronts you quickly and unexpectedly. but each potential decision involves risk and reward, and it's a skill to decide in mere seconds which response will be best.
to turn back gives you an immediate reward--a descent--but leaves you without an answer to what the top of the hill might bring.
to ride upon the wet leaves could bring you down, your wheel slipping out from under you, or could simply provide you a rush of adrenaline and victory if you remain upright and past it.
to swing wide into the traffic lane puts you at risk of negligent or uptight drivers who aren't able to find it within themselves to gracefully share the road, but can reward you with safe passage around the treacherous stretch.

the decision to be made here isn't earth shattering, it's barely significant. but it's one of those moments life presents us with where we can either thoughtfully react and analyze our options, or just move through without true consideration. what is astounding is that this assessment and analyzation can take place in split seconds, and is perhaps often not even acknowledged. to move through without true consideration takes even less time, and may perhaps signify an unconscious skill to which we all might aspire.

I rode around the leaves. ( I seem to have an issue these days with riding on top of slippery substances. terra firma is my friend; weeds and wet leaves are possibly not. ) but at the moment of decision I realized that every option presented me had repercussions, and that by choosing one I was eliminating all others. it was over in seconds, it was not to be revisited until the next time I ride that stretch of road.
sometimes we flow, following the path life puts before us, and sometimes we make small decisions that tweak our path, and often, it's difficult to tell the difference.

Friday, October 29, 2010

cinderella story

I am having a cinderella moment.
in the past few days a deer has run in front of my bike, and a weasel has popped his little head and body in my path. teeny little fruit flies keep swirling around me, and today while I rode, little birds followed me and chirped and sang the entire time.

I feel like cinderella in her pretty blue dress, surrounded by adoring critters.

another way to look at things:
I live in utah and it's fall, I ride in a canyon where I often see critters.
the other day I threw out a rotting red onion that was hanging out in my kitchen.
and it's just possible that my bike has a little squeak.


I would love it if I could ride my bike and look like a princess while doing it. you know, perfect makeup, clean and sweat-free hair, a beautiful dress that flatters instead of those abhorrent bike shorts, soft lighting and gentle music instead of squint-inducing sunlight and car horns.
I wouldn't even mind being surrounded by adoring critters.

but my reality, I fear, lies in the third paragraph above.
now I have a plan for the fruit flies, but the bike squeak has me stumped. it's one of those "now you hear it now you don't" utterances, and since it was chilly this morning and I had my headband on, all sounds were muffled and I don't really know where it was coming from.
and here is one of susan's little secrets: I don't really like to work too hard at anything.
for me to figure out what's wrong with my bike will take time, patience, and effort. I'll have to ride it around, trying to replicate today's situation, hoping the same sound will be produced. then I'll have to focus my hearing and determine where the squeak is coming from. then I'll have to use what little I know, and try to connect a moving part with the sound.
all of this just so I can take it in to my bike boy and say,
"it's making this squeaky sound sometimes, but not always, and I think it's coming from this little place but I can't really tell and can you figure it out because I can't?"

sounds a bit like a cinderella might, doesn't it?
all I need now are a few little mice to run around and help me do the sewing, and I'll have it made.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

in motion

something mysterious happens when you're outdoors engaged in exercise.
it doesn't usually happen within the first five minutes, and not even within the first ten or so. it happens a little further into it, when you "hit your stride" or otherwise start clicking along, and you suddenly realize that you are engaged, engrossed, at one with the activity.
and then this mysterious process kicks in, this process that removes your concerns, your worries, your frustrations, your desire to control uncontrollable outcomes. it picks them off, one by one, and drops them along the way, lightening your very being.

it's possible that this mysterious process involves the shortage of oxygen available to fuel your thinking/worrying/complaining brain, but I like to think it's a bit deeper than that. I like to think that it's simply--and significantly--your true self that is allowed to come forward when you're removed from the cocoon of work/family/home/have-to's and you are focused only upon the very moment you are living. and I believe this happens easiest and best when you're exercising outdoors, in the real and natural world.

I was wogging today (I'm up to 1.5 miles without stopping: only 24.7 more and I'm ready for a marathon!) when I realized I was so caught up in the clear, cold air, the melting snow dripping from trees, the blue sky peeking through the cloud pillows, and the beauty of the snow-covered mountains in the distance that I couldn't even bring a worry to the forefront of my mind. a concern danced through but it couldn't take hold: my mind refused to let it. another tried, then another, and they all were forced to concede defeat because I was too engrossed in the physical activity in which I was engaged. there was not a speck of room for all that other superfluous crud that always tries to hold me hostage.

and this is why I love cycling, and what I'm learning to love about my almost-running. these both take me away from everything that tries to pin me down, stress me, convince me I am wrong or inferior or neglectful. those little negativities just can't cling to me when I'm in motion.

whether it's 5 mph cycling up a canyon, 40 mph flying down a hill, or 6 mph (my top speed!) jogging around the block, it's movement that repels concerns and grief. it's mental health work.
it's a good thing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

not a cycling day

no cycling in my life today; instead, I went to sundance ski resort and sat, shivering, in a tent while snow blew down and around for hours. I was almost as cold as I've been on a few of my bike rides this season . . . but this time I was wearing a thin silk dress, hose, and heels.
and I was waiting, sitting and waiting, for the weather to behave. and then for my turn in the hair and make-up trailer. and then to be shuttled to the shooting location. and then to be told what to do.
because today I sacrificed a bike ride (well, okay, it was snowing anyway) and instead was an (unpaid) extra in a film being shot here in utah. it came about through a friend of a friend, and although I don't consider myself starstruck, there's something almost seductive about an offer to be involved in the making of a movie.
it's common knowledge that movie production involves a great deal of down time.
my step-father once described the job of an anesthesiologist as being 99% boredom and 1% terror. I wouldn't describe out moments of activity today as terror, but the 99% boredom is fairly accurate.
so let me just give a plug for the film:
a movie about a dog who both holds a marriage together and accomplishes a number of other amazing feats while on the run, this movie, Darling Companion, has star power. dianne wiest, richard jenkins, elizabeth moss, keven kline, sam shepard, and diane keaton all have significant roles, and today I hung out with all of them but sam, shivering in the same fresh and freezing air. I think this will be a great movie: watch for it in 2012!

and now I sit here in thick warm socks and pajama pants, almost returned to a normal body temperature after being home about 90 minutes. just like after a few bike rides I've been on.
and as experiences go, this one fits in the "glad I did it but don't want to repeat it" category. just like a few bike rides I've been on.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

along the way

dave shields in his book The Race tells of his fourteen-year-old character's ride up the south side of boulder mountain, starting from his home in hanksville, utah. the opening scene of the book has his character crashing near the top, splitting his knee open, blood everywhere and bone exposed.

when I first tried to read this book I stopped right then. put the book down. and didn't pick it up again for about a year.

it was too visceral, and there wasn't enough else pulling me through that part to keep going.

I eventually went back to the book, though, and skimmed the gross parts about muscle and bone and enjoyed the story.

two years ago I was visiting torrey, utah, and attempted to ride up boulder mountain from the north side. neglecting to do my research ahead of time, I ended up out of water and food an unknown distance from the top, and didn't dare keep going, and turned back around.

this morning I was again in torrey, this time armed with research, plenty water, and a pocketful of bananas and Gu's.

and a determination to get to the summit of boulder mountain.

no crashes, no blood, and no turning around.

boulder mountain is in part of the Dixie National Forest, in an area I like to call mid-south-central utah. and it's really just one more hill to climb in susan's book of life. I made it, I scaled the summit today, and what I learned is that the section I rode two years ago was the best part of the climb. it's the prettiest section, the most colorful, and it culminates in a "scenic overlook" spot that is one of the most stunning around.
from this spot you look out over mesas and buttes and snow-capped mountains--the henry's--far, far in the distance. red rock and purple, bone and gray and seven shades of rosy pink blend in this stunning expanse of varied topography. on a clear day, it's said you can see a hundred and fifty miles, which is enough to almost boggle the mind. trees, reservoirs, valleys, gulches, passes, almost every kind of geological structure you can imagine ~ these all stretch out away, fading gently into the horizon, gradually slipping into a hundred shades of blue and gray.

so today's lesson is this: it is good to have a goal, and it's good to achieve your goal, but it's also true that sometimes the most wonderful things in life are found along the way to achieving your goal.