Saturday, July 31, 2010

I wasn't sure

but I did it.
it hurt.
I have been happy to sit and eat and revel in my cleanliness this evening, and that's about it.

perhaps I'll tell the whole story tomorrow, but for now I am just stating a fact:

I rode 108 miles today, with about 11,300' vertical gain, visiting the tops of four canyons ringing our valley, and I depleted myself.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

games I play, and the coyote

deer, dog, or mailbox?
top speed, low speed
heart rate push, or, why does this hurt so much?
count the cyclists
count the cars
count the friendly cyclists

these are all canyon games that I play with myself while riding.
deer, dog, or mailbox is one of my favorites, because I'm wrong as often as I'm right. I play this when I see something far up ahead, and can't make out exactly what it is due to dim morning light or pure distance. this morning one shape morphed from garbage can to mailbox to human in the span of about twenty pedal strokes.
top speed, low speed might seem self-explanatory, but the fun I have with it is that I set a speed, based on the prevailing wind, that I think I can hit as a top speed, and a speed I think I can hold as my bottom speed. this is a downhill game only. someday it might move into an uphill game as well, but not yet. this morning, with a mild-to-mid tailwind, my top speed was 35 and my low was 24 point something. I tried to hold it at 25, but failed, twice.
heart rate push, or why does this hurt so much is absolutely not my favorite game. it involves ~ duh ~ pushing really hard on a hill or rise in an attempt to hit a certain number. sometimes it's just to zone 4B, and sometimes it's all the way to zone 5, and once in a great, great while it will be to see just how far over my zone 5 number I can reach without exploding. I do not like this game. but I play it because it's good for me. like spinach. well, more like kale.
count the cyclists and count the cars are just as they say, except that sometimes I divide them into "uphill moving" and "downhill moving." and what usually happens to me is that somewhere along the way I get distracted and lose count, and disappoint myself. or I start adding together the "ups" and "downs" because I myself have changed from "up" to "down" and can't keep the two directions separated in my brain. see, nothing is as simple as it might appear to be.
count the friendly cyclists is a game that takes fewer fingers and toes. I accept head nods, finger lifts, hand flips, and entire arm waves, as well as smiles and actual verbal greetings.

there are more games in my repertoire, but I'll keep them to myself for now.

on to the coyote.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I'd seen a coyote in the canyon, and that he didn't seem too bothered by us humans. then I saw him (of course it's the same one!) again last week, running unexcitedly down the bike lane for miles (I saw him both ways I went). he has apparently been a topic of conversation among cyclists, as all of us who regularly ride the canyon have been seeing him.
I was thinking of him this morning, wondering how he's doing, what he's been up to, if he's miserable or quite content to hang out as he does, and then I rounded a corner and saw a dog running across the road a ways ahead of me. no, not a dog, my friend the coyote. he continued on down the road toward me, then past me not five feet to my left. I said good morning, and he focused on what was in front of him, giving me not even the smallest wave or bit of eye contact.
it was as if I didn't exist.
it's possible he's been taking lessons from the pro cyclists.

so now I'm thinking of a new game, temporarily named befriend the coyote. I'm quite certain that given enough time and my winning personality, I can get him to eventually acknowledge my existence.
I'd settle for a slight nod of his hairy brown head.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the orange vw pop-up van

I spent my early formative years in michigan and indiana, and my best friend in fifth grade was a girl names emily johnstone who lived a few blocks away from me in south bend, indiana.
she had two beautiful older sisters, some pet mice, and was going to be a veterinarian when she grew up. we would hang out as her mom watched jeopardy in the other room, sipping seven-up with a little grape koolaid mix stirred into it. we would create skits set to songs we'd play on the record player, most of them 45's we'd bought at ben franklin where you could buy everything from embroidery floss to greeting cards to penny candy to dishes.
the most memorable 45 to which we set a skit was Winchester Cathedral, and as I "google" this today I see that this song won the 1966 Grammy Award for 'Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Recording' . . . of course it was a good six years later I was lip-syncing into a hairbrush during our little performance.
you may wonder where in the world I'm headed, but just stick with me because I'm getting there.
emily johnstone is connected strongly to two things (and less strongly to hundreds of others) in my memory: Winchester Cathedral, and a pop-up volkswagen van.
her parents had a volkswagen van with a pop-up roof when we were great friends, and I spent more than a few nights sleeping in that van, up in the popped-up top where a bed lay, as the van sat in the johnstone's driveway. this was so cool; we were in heaven.
vw pop-up vans make me smile.

so yesterday morning as I was heading up emigration in the crisp and light-filled early hours, I rounded the big U turn away from the road to pinecrest, and glanced down the canyon to see what had been behind me for the past 35 minutes.
the sky was a pale morning blue, and the full moon hung heavy in the western sky, white-yellow and fat and happy. above and below it were thin strips of clouds, reaching south to north, and they were tinted pale lavender by the sunrise across the sky. my heart swelled and I thanked God I was out and about at that very moment.
I continued up, my smile hovering still, and approached the first little pullout where cars occasionally park. as I rounded the bend and the pullout came into sight, I saw that someone had parked there. not just anyone, but the owner of an orange, volkswagen, pop-up top van from a decade long past.
the top was popped, and as I quietly rode by I could see a body sleeping therein, and my grin grew so wide I almost hurt.

I was blessed with a happy childhood. we were fortunate, having always whatever it was we needed. not whatever we wanted, but those things that were necessary, along with splurges and surprises every so often. we were healthy, we did not struggle with great issues and challenges.
and so this pop-top van brought me nothing but happy, simple thoughts of a time in my life that everything was just fine.
emily, I hope you're riding a bike out there somewhere.
and mr. owner of the orange pop-top van, I wish you well, wherever your travels may take you.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

deuxième anniversaire heureux

I just this moment realized that I neglected to acknowledge my blogging anniversary, in fact, I let it slip right past me without noticing. this is not like me!
yes, I passed the two-year mark this week and this is cause for some reflection.
I began this project on July 19, 2008, having been struck by some kind of mental lightning bolt that told me it was the thing to do.
I love to write, I believe I am meant to write, and yet two years ago I felt I wasn't fulfilling my destiny in that arena. I had committed hundreds of thousands of words to paper over the years, yet I still had work to do, obviously, to make writing a more significant part of my life.
so I combined two things I love, and created this forum where I could share my thoughts about, regarding, and inspired by my cycling.
it has been a beautiful thing.
  • it has forced me to write on a regular basis, and we know the only way we truly get better at something is to do it often.
  • it has encouraged me to expand my vocabulary and experiment with different ways to express my thoughts and feelings.
  • it has allowed me to be vulnerable yet remain safely behind cyber walls (except for with those of you I have to see on a regular basis.)
  • it has held me accountable, guided my thoughts, and given me a forum for sharing thoughts about those things that are so very important to me.
  • and most interestingly, it has connected me with a project that offers me an opportunity to write my little heart out and get paid to do so. more about this at some point, but not yet.
  • it helps me to remember a beautiful soul who left this earth almost two years ago, the woman who inspired this creation, liz valentiner johnson.
so, a belated happy anniversary to me.
may we all be beginning a year full of dedication to and time spent with those activities we love.
in the spirit of the now-concluded tour de france, année heureuse à vous.

Friday, July 23, 2010

sunshine on my shoulder

thought chain early this morning, while descending from the little mountain summit and pondering what I might write about here today:

  • I'm heading into the first big turn coming down emigration, thinking that I have some friends who are quite cautious while descending, and some who descend with wild abandon, and some who fall into the between-land, descending with controlled, fluid speed.
  • next thought is about my shoulder, and how I want it to be all better and it's just not. things are progressing, healing, improving, but it is not all better.
  • then I'm thinking about the sun, which has barely crested the far hills in the east and is now dotting the lush, green, idyllic hills of pinecrest, far in front of me.
  • before I know it, sunshine on my shoulder has cobbled itself together in my brain, and I'm singing along with john denver.
  • which pulls me almost full circle, as this is a man who died taking the risk of flying his airplane, doing something he loved. perhaps he flew not with wild abandon, but with the understanding that risk surrounds much that involves love.
this is all pre-coffee, you understand.
and it all took place within a span of, oh, say thirty seconds.

thus it seems to me that today's message from the universe to susan must be about being willing to risk something you love to experience something you love. even the simple love of a beautiful, blooming flower involves the inherent (and seemingly inevitable) risk that you will lose that flower at the end of its life. it is always a risk to commit your love to something.
earlier this week one of my bad ass teammates was in a biking accident and is now in the hospital with a head injury. she's moved from ICU to a regular room, and all I really know is that she has a long recovery in front of her.
then again, another biking buddy has just undergone surgery to remove some abdominal tumors, and she has a reasonably long recovery in front of her.
certainly, one can be seriously injured while riding a bike.
but one can contract cancer, or ALS, or MS, or Alzheimer's, or any number of other traumatic and devastating illnesses, while sitting on a couch.

I'm not an adrenaline junkie, but I do feel a thrill when swooping down a hill in the cool air on a smooth road after I've just worked hard to climb to the top of that hill. (I am a bit more observant of what's on the road in front of me, now, and a bit more hesitant to trust anything but pavement under my wheel.) I certainly don't want my riding career or my life to end with a disastrous crash, but if I had never begun due to that fear, I would have missed uncountable hours of pure, gratifying, exultant, stunning pleasure.

therefore, I'll return to what I believe the world's message to me was this morning:
risk surrounds that which involves love.
and yet.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

waiting for wisdom

there are times when I know exactly what I want to do, and I plan it and then do it.
say, a bike ride up a particular canyon, or with a certain group of people.

other times I'm not sure, and I either A, end up not doing it because it never tipped the scale into "oh yes, I want to", or B, I experience a sudden spike in energy that gets me moving into doing whatever it might be.
this latter situation could happen on a day that could be a day off or could be a recovery ride day. I might get up early, sit and sip some coffee thinking how great it is to sit and sip coffee, thinking there's no way I'm going to go ride, and then within 15 minutes I decide a recovery ride would feel great and off I go.

and then there are those decisions about What To Do that are so big that I am immobilized.
I am currently embroiled in one of those. it involves making a decision between two events that are occurring on the same day in different states next month. the only way I can do both is through the cloning process, which to my understanding has not yet been perfected for humans.
there are pros and cons to doing each, and I do believe I would find great pleasure in doing either. if I choose the activity here in utah I'm more likely to be able to keep to my rigid training schedule, but if I choose the out-of-state activity I'm more likely to have a bit of a break (which They say is good for one).

I've known about this dilemma for weeks now, and I am giving myself until the end of this month to come to a decision. I know I won't be able to sit down with paper and pencil to hash it out, so I am waiting for the universe to float some wisdom down on me.
yep, I really am.
I am waiting for something, I don't know what, to help me with this decision. maybe it will be some kind of Sign, maybe it will just be a deepening feeling about which I'd rather do. maybe it will come in the form of words from a friend, perhaps I'll receive a written message or a lightening bolt of clarity.
I don't know.
I'm just sitting with it, waiting until it all becomes more clear and the decision feels right.
it's a luxury to be in a position where I have the time and patience to wait for the decision. I've given it up to the universe, as sometimes it's just best to do. as much as this decision affects me and my life, I feel like it's not completely up to me; input from outside of me is every bit as important as that from within.

I know which way I'm leaning, but it's not the most logical way to lean, and this is probably why I need universal support. if I lean so far that I fall into that choice, I will disappoint people, and I don't enjoy that piece of it.

so here I sit, waiting for wisdom.
which is sure to come, sooner or later, and is most likely to come as an epiphany as I'm sitting on my bike saddle, somewhere, after I've depleted all excess oxygen and my brain is a tabula rasa.
I'll be sure to let you know.

Monday, July 19, 2010

reconciling oneself

I fear my thoughts are leading me to become a broken record, one which is stuck on the refrain,
why am I doing this?

it happened to me yesterday when I was climbing the final mile to the top of big mountain.
and then a few more times over the next several hours before I was finally descending that same climb, heading toward home.

[let me give you a bit of history regarding big mountain, because I didn't realize this until just last month, and it's possible you don't know this. (it's also possible that you do, especially if you were a better Utah History or Geography student than I.)
background: I thought that little mountain and big mountain were just names us cyclists used to describe where we rode. how egocentric can I be? and where the heck did I go to school?
truth: pioneers 160 years ago called these places little mountain and big mountain. (I have been trying to research who gave them their names and when, and cannot find those answers. if you know, please let me know!)]

back to me: I cannot always reconcile myself with myself.

I love to be clean, to wear nice clothes, and to look, if not my best, at least good. I love comfortable temperatures, say sixty-five to about seventy-nine degrees. I love to curl up on my couch and read, and I love being productive whether it be working, writing, cleaning, or just in keeping on top of everyday life.

so why in God's name do I spend hours and hours each week sweating, straining, forcing my muscles and lungs to work lightyears beyond their comfort zones, getting dirty and looking like crap and hurting, hurting, aching, unable to talk because I can barely breathe? why do I do this?
rewards, yes, there are rewards. but honestly, truthfully, I'm not quite sure why I press so hard.
the answer doesn't take long to come to me:
yes I know why I do. it's because I can.
see, I've learned that I can do these things, and if I can, well then, why not?
(see reasons listed above, which I know you already know, because you're probably not as scary crazy as me.)

I keep doing this to myself.
in the past two and a half weeks since I've returned to riding post crash/surgical recovery, I have climbed the following hills and canyons:
american fork, mt. timpanogos side and from sundance up on the other side
little cottonwood, all the way to albion basin campground
big cottonwood
emigration, both sides
big mountain, both sides
morgan to east canyon dam
mountain dell to little dell
lamb's canyon
suncrest, both sides

in other words, just about everywhere along the wasatch front except city creek. (I'd better get there this week, hadn't I?)

now most of this has been in an effort to confirm for myself that I'm okay. that the nasty spill didn't hurt my strength or spirit. that I will not be defeated.
and the other piece of it is the big lotoja hanging out there: gotta keep moving forward, and forward draws me ever closer to the reason I train so hard all summer.

maybe next year I won't commit to lotoja.
maybe then I could ride less intensely, with less push.
maybe then I could stop asking myself why do I do this?

and then again, perhaps I will always be me: a woman who can't always reconcile herself with herself.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

am I there yet?

sometimes the urge to be there is stronger than the desire to actually get there.
I'm going to type that again, just to confirm and assure you I didn't make a mistake:
sometimes the urge to be there is stronger than the desire to actually get there.
and sometimes the desire to get there outweighs the other, and you keep on pedaling until you actually do get there.

this morning bill and I rode up little cottonwood. here's the thing about riding up little cottonwood: for some reason the first snowbird entry is often the stopping point for people riding up this canyon. no matter that the canyon continues on for two more miles, climbing up and up. the only reason I can dream up for this is that a couple of the cycling races I'm familiar with (snowbird hill climb, last year's 1000 warriors) end at that (or the second) snowbird entry.
the other possible reason for the premature stopping point, espoused by my biking buddy bob, is essentially that enough is enough.
but when one bikes up big cottonwood canyon one doesn't stop at solitude; one continues on to the bitter end, to brighton.
why does one stop at snowbird and not at alta?

bob's answer is excellent, but his advice was unheeded by us today. our bikes wavered not at the first snowbird entry, though our backs were aching and my ribs asked me, pleaded with me, really, to please just stop going uphill.
but I was feeling chipper enough to climb those last two miles, or so I thought until I kept on climbing those last two miles. what kept me going was the knowledge that the alta parking lot would soon be within sight, and I would soon be done. then I'd be able to pause, to breathe, to stretch my back, and to turn around and have a delightfully fast and easy downhill before my ride back across town and, possibly, a mid-afternoon nap.

I had obviously forgotten with whom I was riding.
because while my bike decided to stop there at the far end of the alta parking lot, bill's seemed to want to keep going. and what happens at the far end of the alta parking lot is that a packed dirt road takes off up the hillside, twisting and turning and reaching ever upward until three miles later one reaches the albion basin campground, with it's own little torturously ascending loop of campsites.
(by the way, here's an english lesson: tortuous indicates winding, crooked, full of twists and turns, while torturous means painful, characterized by suffering. I purposefully chose torturous to describe the tortuous loop we rode.)

yep, we visited, sat for a spell at, and refilled water bottles at the albion basin campground this morning.
which is a most beautiful place, a stunning place, truly, with meadows of wildflowers and a sweeping vista of majestically sharp-edged peaks, some still gripping tightly the remains of the winter's white coating.
we were not alone, but I didn't see any other skinny-tired people around, perhaps because most all of them choose to remain on pavement.
think paris-roubaix on an upward (then downward) slant.

the lesson of the day for me was simply this: for as many times on the way up the canyon I wished to be done climbing, my desire to eventually reach the top outweighed my desire to simply be there, and thus my pedals continued turning around and around, and around, and around.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

motivation: mia

I seem to have lost my motivation.
oh where, oh where could it be?
I tried to find it this morning in my favorite little canyon, and I only found a wee bit of it. say, ten percent. the rest is desperately missing, and I would dearly love to rediscover it.

a physician friend told me that it takes twice as long to regain fitness as it does to lose it: so my two-week bout of sloth and laziness has caused me to need four weeks of rebuilding. if this is true, I have another two weeks before I should be back to where I was a month ago, by which time it will have been six weeks. got it?
what this means, I suppose, is that I need to be patient. oh, that word. what this means is that I cannot yet expect to be where I was, or to feel normal, or to be making decisions from a place of complete health and wellness.
can you tell I'm trying to tell myself that it's okay that my motivation is out there somewhere beyond my grasp?
it's okay to still feel less-than, it's okay to be unexcited about strenuous rides, it's okay to want to baby my shoulder a bit, it's okay to be tired.
it's okay to wish I hadn't committed to lotoja.
it's okay to think I canyonot.

it is all okay, and it is all temporary. this is just a phase, one that could probably have been predicted. I will move through it, and move on to some other phase where hopefully my motivation has already escaped to, where it's waiting for me, taking a breather of its own, perhaps even a little nap.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

loops and hurdles

sunday I had an epic adventure.
as usual, it didn't really start out to be one.
the plan was aggressive; it would be my longest, toughest ride since the fateful crash. but it wasn't a 100-miler, and it wasn't a four-canyon challenge. it was just a significantly challenging ride that I was hoping I'd be able to complete.

bill has this thing about the alpine loop. he loves the topography, he loves the challenge of riding up to the summit, and he especially loves taking a break at sundance resort. if you're not familiar with this area, let me explain. first of all, my eyes are rolling as I type this: it's not a loop. to me, a loop is remarkably similar to a circle, where one ends at the same place one begins.
this loop starts in american fork canyon, and to be honest, I'm not sure where it ends, perhaps at the base of provo canyon? no one in their right mind would begin at the base of american fork canyon, drive (or ride) all the way up and then down provo canyon, then wind their way back through provo and pleasant grove and linden and all those other little places to end up back at the mouth of the canyon where they began; the first half is stunningly beautiful, and the second half would be like sightseeing in your own neighborhood.
no one in their right mind makes a literal loop of the alpine loop.
but I digress.
american fork canyon takes one up past the entrance to timpanogos cave (a national monument, so less) and then up (and I mean up) over a narrow summit and then down past sundance ski resort, down another handful of miles until one reaches provo canyon, which one can then take east toward heber or west toward provo city.
the summit is only 8060 feet, but the base of american fork canyon is 4566 feet, and the ten miles between the two progress upward almost relentlessly.
when one drops into sundance at 6100 feet, one on a journey like ours knows one must turn around and climb those nearly 2000 feet again.

bill said let's ride the alpine loop, and I took a deep breath and said, okay.
I called it an experiment, not knowing if I'd make it, partially because we planned to start in draper, thus climbing the suncrest hill both on the way to and on the way back from the canyon.

sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, and then the clouds moved in and the rain began. it wasn't a serious rain, though, and the clouds seemed to be collecting to the north. we were headed south: out of the rain.
for a while.
it first started raining on us near timpanogos cave, maybe ninety minutes into our ride. it wasn't enough to make us stop, and after a couple miles the sun came out to join the rain, and the whole world around us sparkled and glistened, from the gently rustling tree leaves to the damp and shiny granite walls to our left. soon it dried up and the heat poured back out. It didn't rain on us again until we'd reached the summit and started down toward sundance, as we wound our way through the twisting pavement cut through a seemingly endless aspen grove. this rain was a bit more insistent, and we finally had to take shelter under the eave of a road-hugging pine, and I was shivering in my sleeveless jersey and arm warmers.
when this happens I'm always torn between hurrying to my destination to get out of the weather and warm up, and going slowly so that I won't get too much colder. wet pavement plays into the possible-speed equation as well.
this time we waited until the rain lightened, then moved on down the next four miles.
at sundance we ate, I shivered and shook and finally warmed, we watched a brief but heavy deluge come and go, and eventually hit the road again.

our hour-long climb back up to the summit was dry, and the rain didn't catch us again until about a third of the way down american fork canyon. I had been noticing all the nice cars coming up who had their lights on--how thoughtful--and then I finally realized it was because they had come through a storm, which was just about to sideline me.
this time we huddled in the shelter of an outhouse roof, watching sheets of rain fall earthward.

the rain finally eased, and a tailwind pushed us out the bottom of the canyon, and then it was down to the final climb up over suncrest, a fast cruise down the other side, and then the last, flat leg back to the car.

bottom line: I survived. it was a mental hurdle for me to clear: a tough ride with many hours in the saddle (that would be over 5 and a half).
more important bottom line: my saddle parts hurt! this area is still in its retraining phase, as well.

so, epic. rain, thunder, sunshine, dense and rich forests, a splashing river, a sea of pine, clouds and shade and goosebumps and rest, sweat and exhaustion and no small amount of conquering whatever appeared before us.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I think I cannotyons

an organization called the Fourth Street Clinic here in salt lake works to end homelessness by providing comprehensive health care and support services to homeless Utahns. a non-profit organization, it has been in existence since 1988, currently serving about 6,000 clients each year.
one of my biking buddies is a doctor who volunteers his services there on a weekly basis and also sits on its board.
along with being an important resource to utahns who might otherwise go without medical, behavioral, and pharmaceutical assistance, the fourth street clinic is known in the cycling world here as the organization which sponsors a unique fund-raising event, the I-Think-I-Canyons ride.
this cleverly named event has been the source of many jokes amongst my biking friends over the past couple years, my favorite being from a friend who had spent entirely too much time away from his wife and son, biking, in the weeks leading up to the event. when queried via email if he might want to do this ride, his response was:

the ride is a killer, beginning on 3900 south and wasatch, heading out to 9800 south then up Little Cottonwood, down and north toward the next canyon, up Big Cottonwood, down and north to the next canyon, up Millcreek, down and north toward the final of the four canyons, Emigration, then back to the start at 3900 south.
total distance of 110 miles, total elevation gain around 12,000 feet.

I have done rides like this before. and I have been tempted to do this one: what an accomplishment! just to have done it would give me an extraordinary sense of personal power.
last summer bill and I attempted a 3-canyon ride on our own, our plan being to start with Millcreek, then riding up Big Cottonwood, then riding Little Cottonwood and returning home. unfortunately the weather wasn't compliant, and the sleet and cold that chilled us coming down Big Cottonwood combined with the wet-looking, grey clouds hanging over Little Cottonwood kept us from heading up that one: we turned north and rode up Emigration instead. so we did ride 3 canyons, just not the toughest 3.

as I said, I've been tempted to do this one, just to have done it. not because it would be fun. and a week ago, I began contemplating the training plan I'd need to put in place to be ready for the 4-canyon ride on July 31st. I'd have to be hauling my but up some canyons soon.

yesterday, however, I came to the sad realization that I didn't think I'd be able to do it. unless some miracle jumps into my life in the next two weeks, I don't think my body will be ready for that degree of torture. I decided this after riding up Millcreek then coming back and riding Emigration, down to Little Dell and back. these are the mildest two of the four canyons, and I was quite depleted on my ride up emigration.
it might just be that I need a bit more rebuilding of my strength.
thus my chant changed from I Think I Can-yons to I Think I Cannot-yons.
you need to understand how significant this is for me. I don't give up easily, and I certainly don't like to accept that I might not be tough enough for something. I am deeply saddened to think that I physically won't be able to master this event.
and there's absolutely no way I would give it a try, and bail out if I couldn't complete it. I just don't operate that way.

I don't like feeling like the little train that couldn't. for years I've been operating under the I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Know I Can philosophy, and this situation has just thrown a wrench into my system.

so I'm absorbing this, letting it sink it, accepting that life sometimes throws wrenches and curveballs and other assorted goodies our way.

but I would be accepting of a miracle, occurring sometime in the next two weeks, if the universe decides to send one my way.

Friday, July 9, 2010

5 grams, or less than 2/10 of an ounce

if you know much about cycling, you know that True Cyclists are concerned about weight. their own, of course, but even more often, the weight of the bicycle and everything on it. the water bottle cages, the wheel set, what one carries in their under-seat pack, one's shoes . . . the best cycling clothes are also made out of the lightest fabrics possible.
because it all matters---all matter matters---especially when one is climbing up a hill.
none of us want to drag any unnecessary weight.
in the early morning I judge the lightening sky to determine if I really have to put my front light on or not: it weighs a good 4 1/2 ounces. (never mind that I gained a pound from eating two slices of chocolate cake the night before.)

I laugh at myself about this, because for me, it all just boils down to those darn leg muscles. either they're going to get me up the hill or not, regardless of that extra 13 ounces I might be packing along from something or another.

and what stimulated these thoughts today is that it is fully hummingbird season in the canyons. yesterday and today they danced along with me as I pedaled up, flapping their wings so that all I saw was a blur. yesterday morning I saw eight or nine of them, or I saw the same one eight or nine times, I can't be sure. there have been times when I'm certain one is following me, playing with me, teasing me onward and upward.
I've learned that when they hover, they actually are flapping their wings in a different pattern, a figure-eight pattern, to stay in one place.
like I can tell.
I'm not sure why these creatures are so delightful to me. there are songbirds, there are more colorful birds, there are birds who dip and soar and float so beautifully through the air . . . why is it that hummingbirds seem so special to me? I think, perhaps, it's because they are the only ones who dance so close to me as I ride, who hover and play and seem to guide me up the hill.

and each one weighs less than the lightest water bottle cage you can buy. in fact, the titanium (ooh, shiver) water bottle cage that weighs a mere 28 grams still weighs more than five hummingbirds together.
to hold a hummingbird would be like holding a single piece of copy paper.
and just picture their activity, their flight, their beauty and grace.

this morning I heard at least a hundred different birds calling or singing, and I saw wrens and robins and one startlingly beautiful goldfinch, darting in front of and beside me. I saw just a few hummingbirds (or one, a few times), and I felt immense gratitude for their gift of flight, and for my gift of fancying them.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

a mini discussion of ribs

this is from one of my doctor friends:
one can displace bone callous in a healing rib (i.e. re-break the rib) with a hard sneeze.

guess what I did this morning?

I am at the low end of my recovery-chipperness. (i.e., I don't feel chipper at all.)
let me first state that I am extremely grateful my recovery has been moving so quickly and so well. and then I must state that I am tired of hurting and not being able to do what I would normally do. sleeping is getting better, but it's still challenging, and my pain level is always at the highest first thing in the morning. so I take my ibuprofen, and it lessens, and I go about my day. the clavicle only sends out little pain messages every so often, and I can actually go for hours, sometimes, without them.
the ribs have been great ~ except at night, when they're just annoying not awful ~ until the Big Sneeze this morning, when I guess I rebroke one.
now it hurts.

chipper me is in hiding for a while.
I am hoping to coax her back out with a cool and beautiful ride tomorrow morning, up her favorite canyon, at a slow and easy pace that is more about enjoyment than about fitness.

I'll let you know if I find her, hiding in the babbling creek or tucked behind a weeping willow, breathing in that moist and joyful early morning air, listening to the birds chatter, settling herself in, patiently, for the rest of her recovery process.

Monday, July 5, 2010


for posterity's sake, so I can, down the road, look back and have an accurate record of the details of my Big Crash, this is my timeline:

june 15, 6:35 am I set off for my Big Anniversary Ride up big cottonwood canyon
june 15, 6:49-ish I am tackled by a weed and thrown to the ground
june 15, 6:52-ish I am helped off my bike, out of my clips, and back up to vertical by a mysterious cyclist in a white and blue kit
june 15, 6:54-ish I begin walking back northward on the bike path, toward home and hospital
june 15th, 6:55-ish two cyclists heading south ask me if I'm ok, to which I reply "yes" and they respond "no, you're not." they walk me back to foothill and have a friend meet us there in his suburban; said friend then gives me a ride to the U of U ER. thank you kris, matt, and the nameless urologist.
june 15, the next few hours: I am admitted to ER and my bike stays in my room with me, I am assessed and have my jersey (carefully) removed, have xrays taken and am asked many questions including whether or not I do drugs or am pregnant. am eventually told I have a few broken ribs, a chipped acromion, and two breaks in my right clavicle. am then told I must wait for more docs to review xrays, and since they're in surgery, it might be a while. am given a shot of morphine and am allowed nothing to eat or drink, just in case. they are concerned about possible internal bleeding, and then decide to xray my right knee because it's a bit bloody. I now have a hospital gown on over my sports bra and bike shorts and am feeling terribly attractive. later comes the CT scan of my brain (I'm okay) and then they decide to admit me. I want a diet coke.
june 15, the next 11 or so hours: I have a room on the trauma/surgical floor where I am given an IV and more morphine, where I vomit, where I am visited by friends and my kids, where my mom sets up camp, where someone knocks on the door every twelve minutes. I'm given something to moisten my lips and I am visited by a fellow cyclist who's an orthopedic surgeon, who tells me all about how he could fix my clavicle. I vomit. after a few hours I no longer want a diet coke. they decide to keep me overnight, my mom brings me some pajama pants so I can change out of my bike shorts, and I am two degrees shy of completely miserable.
june 16, morning. I brush my teeth and am so very happy to have a clean mouth. they give me some jello and I eat a little, they bring me breakfast and I have two bites of blueberry pancakes, which look very good but don't seem to be able to get down my throat. I am discharged shortly before noon with a prescription of oxycodone and an appointment to see a surgeon the next day. I make john stop and get me a frosty from wendy's on the way home. I sit on the couch for a minute at home, have a bite or two of the frosty and a pill, and then I throw up. I go to bed.
june 16, afternoon and evening: I lie in bed, trying to be comfortable, then get up every few hours to either take a pill or to throw up. gee, this is fun.
june 17th, early morning: go see the surgeon who suggests that a titanium plate will help immensely in my healing process and long-term prognosis. he's cute, so I say okay.
june 17, rest of day: a blur of bed and couch and a decision to stop with the oxycodone because although I've stopped vomiting, I'm tired of feeling woozy and weird. switch to tylenol.
june 18: am able to read now, and I take a walk to my bank, as I can't drive my car. big ugly bump where my nice, smooth clavicle used to be. wish surgery could be today, but it has to wait until monday because the residents are graduating today. like they're more important than me?
june 19: quiet day, I spend most of it working gently and slowly on a photo album of my oldest son's picture. this project has been staring at me for almost 5 months, waiting for me to have some down time, which I now have. I can't work for too long at a time because, well, you can figure that out. a nap, some couch time, and a wish I could do more than I can.
june 20: more scrapbook work, naps, couch time, sighs. I stay up until 11, having something to eat and some tylenol because I have a midnight cut-off pre-surgery.
june 21, morning: okay, they said I could have water up until 7 am, so at 5 am I have half a glass of water with my tylenol. check-in time for surgery is 9:30, and john takes me and hangs out there with me. they take me away at 11:30, the anesthesiologist telling me he's going to put something in my IV so that I'll still be aware of everything, but I won't care . . .
june 21, afternoon: I next saw the clock at 1:30 pm, while listening to the nurse far, far away telling me to breathe, susan, take a deep breath. this went on for about the next 4 hours, until finally a nurse decided to put oxygen on me and let me take a nap. at 6:30 they started packing me up, deciding I was well enough to leave. another prescription for oxycodone, and I am on my way.
june 21, evening: I get home, eat a little applesauce, take a pill, and throw up. go to bed. I get up at eleven, take a pill, and go back to bed.
june 22, morning: wake up at 4:30 am, throw up. take a pill. wake up at 8 am, throw up. another pill and a little applesauce at 11 am, and it all stays down.
june 22, afternoon: in bed, pill every 4 hours or so, and by 7pm I am ready to eat half a bagel and three grapes. the vomiting is over, though I still carry a little plastic tub with me everywhere I go, just in case.
june 22, evening: bed, pill, bed, pill . . .
june 23: pill every 4 hours, I am groggy and weird and just able to eat applesauce, saltines, pieces of bagel, grapes. I lie in bed and wish the hour away, wish the day away.
june 24: decide it's time to give up oxycodone and switch to naproxen. a friend brings me lunch and I eat half a turkey and cranberry sandwich. this is progress. stomach is queasy all day and night, but I don't throw up.
june 25: stomach still uncomfortable, but am feeling more human. go for a walk, am able to read. give up on naproxen by end of day, switching to tylenol. sleep is difficult.
june 26: mope all day because my bad ass teammates and many friends are up in logan, riding the MS ride that I'd been planning to do. additional moping because the previous day was my birthday and I'm now officially a year older than I was. blah. highlight of day: I get to remove the surgical dressing! now I just have a criss-cross of surgi-strips decorating my right clavicle and shoulder. am still not sleeping well at night.
june 27: have now switched to ibuprofen every four hours, and am doing pretty well. get up at 4:40 and drive to hyrum, then drive up blacksmith fork canyon to volunteer my help at the Bad Ass-supported rest stop for the 2nd-day MS riders. chat with lots of people and try to reconcile the fact that I was supposed to be riding with the fact that I can't ride and that all is well either way. a challenge. spend 4 hours there and then drive home. am so depleted I can do nothing but lie on the couch and watch old dvd's I've seen at least a dozen times. finally go to bed at 8:30 pm and finally have a good night's sleep.
june 28: get up and go to 6 am spin class, just to see if my leg muscles still work. the answer: yes! my heart even seems to behave, and is willing to travel all over the map. I am careful with my right upper body, and leave sweaty and pretty happy. later that day I go to my favorite bike shop and buy a new helmet, because the next day will be two weeks since my crash, and I have it in my head that I might need to get back on my bike for at least a little spin . . .
june 29: I go for a whopping 6-mile ride on my real bike with my new helmet! I wear tennies instead of clipping in, because I'm not really confident in my balance and reaction time. all is well.
june 30: 6 am spin class again . . .
july 1: ride my real bike with new helmet and real cycling shoes, up emigration and back down and 20 miles was plenty, thank you. go to surgical follow-up appointment, where I am given permission to now raise my right arm above shoulder height (this has been my only restriction). he asks if I've been on my bike yet, and I respond, just twice . . . he tells me not to be sheepish, saying this is how you tell a real cyclist, if you tell them not to ride and they do it anyway. like a climber will go climb when you tell them no . . . he grins at me. then he says go ride.
july 2: I take the day off. I'm tired.
july 3: eighteen days and a few broken bones later, I finally celebrate my 4-year cycling anniversary up at the top of brighton. it was an okay climb, though my heart rate hovered in zone 5 for most of the climb. I hit a record heart rate on that last short, heart-breakingly steep section right before the top: 190. am down to ibuprofen just at night and in the morning. sleep is still difficult and I always wake up hurting.
but I am back on the bike, back to what I love, in an amazingly short period of time. many thanks to all of my friends and well-wishers, the cute doctor, an obviously loving God, and a benevolent universe.

and that's more than anyone ever needed to know about my broken-clavicle experience.
but now I have lived it, it's been documented, and I can release it into the past.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

the chinese fortune

a month or so ago I cracked open a fortune cookie, pulled out the skinny little paper and read,
you will be showered by good luck before your next birthday.
seeing as my birthday was only a few weeks ahead, I was quite excited. this was finally one of those fortunes you could prove to either be a correct prediction or a bunch of hooey.
I was hoping for the former.

I am an optimist, I am always hopeful. every time I open a fortune cookie and read something good about myself or my future, I believe it. I wouldn't consider myself superstitious, I just believe that there aren't many accidents in life, that coincidences really aren't, and that serendipity loves to dance around, teasing us with her playfulness.

thus I haven't been surprised as I've tallied up my list of how I've been showered with good luck in the weeks leading up to my birthday:

  • I've been given a (paid) writing assignment
  • I've been invited to go do things with new people
  • two saving angels rescued me after I crashed, calling a friend to take me to the ER
  • I met a cute doctor (okay, he's married and a decade younger than me, but still)
  • people have brought dinner to my home, twice
  • john lent me his smooth, automatic-shifting car so I could drive
  • someone sent me flowers
  • someone brought me lunch and lent me their i-pad to play with for a couple days
  • I have at least one hundred cheery orange day lilies blooming in my yard
  • I found a great sale at one of my favorite clothing stores
  • my mom baked me peach pie for my birthday
  • someone left a gently tied bundle of fresh lavender on my doorstep
  • I've received no less than three exquisite, small boxes of (yummy) chocolate
  • I've been gifted with cards, texts, phone calls, emails, presents, hugs, and heartfelt wishes on my birthday
  • my son has been mowing the lawn for me because I can't (woo hoo!)
  • and to top it all off, I have a brand new, beautiful piece of titanium decorating my clavicle, with a possible airport security release card in my future!

that skinny little piece of shiny paper with 11 magical words on it was thus proven to be an accurate predictor of my future.
and I think I might just keep it around, and apply it toward my next birthday as well.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

homing pigeon

after attending two spin classes this week and going for a whopping 6-mile ride on my bike two days ago, I decided to try a real ride this morning. my 6-mile ride was done in tennies because I didn't feel ready to be clipped into my pedals, not being certain of my stability.
my surgical site is healing well, and I'm able to do most everything except lift my right arm above shoulder height (doctor's orders). but I've been nervous about asking too much from that section of my body, not wanting to overtax or stress anything that's still involved in healing itself.
my ride of two days ago was just enough: I felt a little soreness in the shoulder area afterward, but it just felt like it had been used, not abused. I tried not to put much weight onto that arm, staying out of my aggressive mode. (yes, I have a little one.)
I had an offer to join a couple people this morning at 5:45 for a ride up emigration, to which I had replied are you kidding? are you trying to kill me?
instead, I slept in a bit, pulled on my biking gear and cycling shoes, clipped in, and rode up emigration.

can you feel my eyeballs rolling?

my research tells me that no one truly understands how homing or carrier pigeons do what they do. that it could have something to do with magnetic fields, or possibly the spatial distribution of atmospheric odors, or some "map and compass" system that involves the sun. a number of theories exist, and the only known fact is that these pigeons continue to find their way home one way or another. their desire and drive to return to the familiar and comfortable is embedded deep within their dna, and not much thwarts them in their quests.

my bike, this morning, played the role of carrier pigeon. ruby wasn't carrying a message to anyone, though, she was carrying me to a familiar destination which appears to be something of a second home to me. I left my driveway uncertain of my path (only that it would be gentle and I would be careful and cautious), and found that I couldn't stop my chariot from turning right onto Logan, turning left on 23rd, crossing Foothill, turning right onto Beacon, left on Wasatch . . . and following what was known, what was familiar, up to the top of little mountain summit.

I survived: I was cognizant of every little rock/pebble/twig/piece of flotsam in my path, and I slowed more than usual around downhill curves. my shoulder felt relatively fine, and my leg muscles complained very little. on the way uphill I was concerned about going downhill, wondering if I would throw caution like a cape around my body. the answer was that I did, and I feel that cape, but it is ultralight and super thin, and it didn't hinder me much at all.

the canyon hasn't changed too much in two weeks, and it's unique position relative to the sun, the electromagnetic field, and olfactory markers enabled me to find it quite easily, honing in on the place that makes me feel, well, at home.