Saturday, December 31, 2011
yes, I missed my bike.
yes, it's taken me a while to wrap my mind around all that is life.
and no, I'm not quite done with that.
but observer of tradition that I am, I determined I'd better post something here today, or forever hang my head in shame for not getting my act back together.
I don't have my act back together yet.
years ago I had a teacher who believed that there was no such thing as trying. you either do, or you don't. you don't try to do something, for in the very act of trying you are doing something, which means you've left the place of "try" and moved into the place of "do."
I mention this because I made a mental attempt last week to post something here. I told myself I tried. but I really didn't at all. I put a half-hearted attempt into three sentences in draft form, and then walked away. not only did I not do, my efforts barely qualified as trying.
so this is what's going on:
three and a half days after returning home from nepal, I had to do a time trial at power camp. twenty minutes at VT, zone 5, that "ow" place.
and it went extremely well.
I attended six days of power camp that first week back, caught up on all the work I had to do, shopped for christmas, baked and wrapped and vacuumed and delivered presents and shuttled kids to and from activities. I slept fairly well, I ate everything in sight, and it was clear that my physical body had returned.
the mental/emotional part of me must have gotten stuck somewhere over the atlantic ocean, because it's not quite back with me yet. I think it fell out of the plane and started swimming, and has maybe only now reached north carolina. then it will probably rent a bicycle and start pedaling this direction.
it might be here by the middle of january, if it works really hard.
I feel it every once in a while, I'm pretty sure it's out there somewhere. I'm almost certain it's heading home.
but it's not here yet.
I'm operating from some place that knows how to function, to perform, that place we call rote.
it knows how to do everything but be fully there.
I miss me!
I'm hoping I make it back to myself soon, because it's painfully obvious that I'm not all here.
so that's my story. it's terribly difficult to write and post here when the important parts of me are not here but are instead involved in some wacky kind of triathlon, trying to get back home to this now sugar-and-carbohydrate inflated body. (I'm hoping when all parts of me reunite the need for sugar will dissipate.)
I plan to ride my bike tomorrow. the forecast is for a sunny day with a high around 45. maybe if I pedal fast enough, and far enough, I'll be able to find part of myself somewhere out there.
and that will be my new year's goal: to find the rest of myself, somewhere out there.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
a friend found the above greeting and passed it along to me for my upcoming globe trot to nepal tomorrow (and the next day): it's meanings are good luck, good health, best wishes . . .
I offer the same to you all during these next few weeks, and if all goes well, I'll be back shortly before Christmas.
namaste, and salud!
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
my family drove everywhere for vacations while I was growing up, spending hours and hours in the monza, the blue station wagon, the snug little (fuel efficient) yellow rabbit. we would play the license plate game, word games, and that old standby, the I'm Going On A Trip and Taking My . . .
if you don't remember that one, the first person makes the statement then adds something that begins with the letter A. the next person repeats what the first one said, then adds something that begins with the letter B. the pattern continues, and halfway through the alphabet it gets a little more challenging to remember what everyone's items were.
if I were to play the I'm Going On A Trip game these last few years, my B item would always be a--oh big surprise--bicycle.
well, since I am now truly Going On A Trip (and for the first time in a long, long time, I won't be able to take my bicycle), I played the game with myself.
my list includes all sorts of fun, strange, unusual, and hopefully unnecessary items:
eye pencil (giggle)
go girl (check it out)
large ziploc bags (to pack stuff in)
neck pouch with slash-proof cord
open mind (so open, it's at risk of falling out)
quirky earrings that are bike chainrings with hearts in the middle
reading glasses (how embarrassing)
v-neck tee-shirt from the MS bike ride this year
xylophone (just to see if you're still with me)
yellow jelly beans in a bag with those of every other color, too
zithro (azithromycin, yes, I cheated)
and, unfortunately, about a hundred and five more things that I get to squeeze into my big-old bikeless backpack.
so, it's back to packing for me.
now where did those silly tweezers go? oh, and my mascara . . . and the straightening iron . . .
Sunday, November 27, 2011
it takes a village to raise a child.
well, I've figured out that it takes a village to send me to a village.
I leave four days from now on a journey to a small village in the base of the himalayas in nepal. it's been quite a process to get me to this point, and there's even more to happen before I walk onto the first plane.
and this has become quite clear: I have a village surrounding me.
from friends who have contemplated which book to loan me, to my kids' dad who is moving in to my house while I'm gone to keep things steady, to my girls who are going to keep my business running, to the friends who are lending me supplies, I am buoyed up by soul after soul.
a sleeping pad, a duffle, some stuff sacks, a headlamp, a kindle, a camera, some sleeping pills, some medicated ointment . . . my daughter's nalgene bottle . . . a digital voice recorder . . . all things loaned to me.
a set of tibetan prayer flags, and bracelets engraved with a buddhist prayer, om mani padme hum, for my girls to wear and connect with me while I'm gone: gifts from one who will stay here and support me from afar.
two days of labor, a gift from my mother, given to help me prepare a significant order to ship before I leave.
commitments from other friends who have said they will help in any way needed while I'm gone, just give their number to my girls and their dad.
I can feel this palpable sense of love and support with me now, before I've even packed my backpack, and I know it will travel with me across time zones and continents.
my job, then, will be to remember the village that's enabled me to visit kathmandu and points beyond, and carry that love with me into the village I will inhabit next week.
what if each one of us could feel, always, that we had a village surrounding and supporting us?
what if each one of us knew, with certainty, that we ourselves were part of a village that surrounded and supported others?
my guess is that we would all be one step closer to understanding what love truly is.
once again, namaste.
Friday, November 25, 2011
it started when I realized it hurt to swallow.
then I discovered my head hurt.
next I sniffled.
and came completely awake, stunned.
I was getting a cold.
correction: I'd gotten a cold.
it had me; it was wrapped all over me.
I don't do sick very well.
and here's perhaps where I should turn some spiritual wisdom upon myself:
what you resist, persists.
okay, I have a cold, it's the pits, I'm disappointed, and I'll take my tylenol and pray it goes away soon.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
well, me, of course, and so many other people I couldn't believe it. the canyon was crowded with smiling cyclists, and the people I rode with were having so much fun they said, let's ride to the gate, see if it's locked.
yep, it's locked.
there was some remaining snow directly under the gate, but the road beyond stretched pale gray and dry as far as we could see.
so it became, how about we ride a little further, maybe to where the creek crosses under the road.
yep, let's go.
well, maybe to the Quaking Asp. sign.
sure, why not.
not half a mile past the gate little mounds of icy snow sat on the road, here and there. and then the clumps stretched further in each direction, small puddles of meltage sitting between them. more and more snow sat on the road the further we went, and my heart just thumped happily away.
as the dry, clear road gave way to greater and greater swaths of snow, we moved forward slowly, picking and choosing our way through the white and gray maze.
tire tracks provided spots for our skinny tires, at times two feet wide and well melted, at times much narrower. stretches of road were dry, and great expanses were wet with run-off. on every dry spot I could see skinny tire tracks from those who had traveled upward before us.
I love that I'm not the only one who finds great pleasure in riding up to the snow.
or perhaps I project my pleasure on all the other cyclists . . . but it's hard to believe that anyone could ride up that gated, car-free, snowy length of road and not experience joy.
I assigned great delight to every one of those tire tracks as I watched them connect one damp spot of road with the next.
and there was a lot of delight, happiness, pleasure, and even bliss occurring in that space today. impermanence lay deep within every skinny tire track, yet even deeper lay the gift of joy that bubbled forth from each cyclist, joining the spirit of those who traveled before and those who have yet to travel, enriching the universe that surrounds us all.
Monday, November 21, 2011
I have indoor power camp classes every day anyway,
it's the season for contemplation and marination,
I have little inspiration bubbling up from within.
so it's back to music.
this morning I had the radio playing in my car, and I heard a song I hadn't heard in so many months I can't remember. I love this song: it captures what I believe, at times, is the essence of my life.
anyone who knows me well has probably heard me say I believe I'm from a different planet. that I somehow got sent here by mistake, and no one bothered to give me the rulebook.
so, yael naim wrote a song called New Soul, which was used in a macbook air laptop advertisement a few years back, that captures this concept beautifully. I'm sharing some of the lyrics with you here:
I'm a new soul
I came to this strange world
hoping I could learn a bit 'bout how to give and take.
but since I came here
felt the joy and the fear
finding myself making every possible mistake.
see I'm a young soul
in this very strange world
hoping I could learn a bit 'bout what is true and fake.
but why all this hate?
try to communicate
finding trust and love is not always easy to make
this is a happy end
cause you don't understand
everything you have done
why's everything so wrong
this is a happy end
come and give me your hand I'll take you far away . . .
I'm not alone, am I? obviously there are others here from distant planets as well.
maybe I'll meet you all on the road, biking, one day.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
I don't know if I'll make it,
but watch how good I'll fake it . . .
Thursday, November 17, 2011
it has little to do with cycling, unless you were to look back at the scandal caused by the women who first wore the split-skirted outfits that allowed them to ride a bicycle. if you were to look at that, then this would just flow right into it all.
my step-father recently sent me a copy of an article from the New Yorker about planned parenthood's history and present battle. it's lengthy. it shines a light on how very far we've come in understanding humanity. it showcases our progress, and our lack thereof. it highlights our fears, our lack of vision, our inability to see anything outside of what we choose to see.
and although I hold a position on abortion atop the fence, believing that it is at times necessary and always awful, what planned parenthood offers communities is much, much more. and there are times when a girl, a young woman, a female, needs a place to go for help.
so my conclusion is a simple one, and I phrase it in the form of a query:
what if we could remove all of the men from the discussion, the voting, the laws?
this removal is justified by the fact that not a single male could ever, ever, possibly comprehend what is involved. ever. no matter what they think or believe or feel.
perhaps then, and only then, could we come to fair and reasonable decisions that support life in all forms.
men, back off.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
my days of outdoor riding have been sharply curtailed by the 6-days a week power camp program that began yesterday. and yesterday, of course, was a beautiful, sunny, 57 degree fall day, when I should have been riding my bike.
instead, I spent an unfortunate hour on a spin bike and then 25 gloomy minutes in the weight room.
today, an hour and a half on the bike (yes, these seats are different than my real saddle and yes, I am in a state of transition and yes, I move around a lot because IT'S UNCOMFORTABLE) and then home, drenched with sweat and saddened by the entire process.
however, I'm sure it's good for me.
change is good.
and today's coach is new to our little community at the JCC, though an old friend of the power camp program. he was generous with tips and instruction, and darn it all, he made me work hard while I tried to emulate his impeccable standing form. transfer your weight from the down leg to the other at 5 o'clock, keeping your hips squared and centered. don't let your body weight shift, use your leg muscles.
oh my gosh.
I was dripping sweat, my legs were screaming at me, and the pitch black sky mocked me, real people throughout the world are still asleep right now . . .
my beautiful cycling fall is over.
change is good.
so they say.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
stay hungry, stay foolish.
may I always remember to do this, no matter how much planning I do and protection I wear.
no, it doesn't mean don't overeat.
no, it doesn't mean don't educate yourself.
instead, it means don't let yourself be satisfied with median fare, and never let yourself believe that you know all there is to know about anything: be open to knew thoughts, knowledge, beliefs.
in the tarot card deck, the card assigned the value zero is called The Fool. often called the card of infinite possibilities, it is described by the learntarot.com website in this way:
the Fool is a newborn - fresh, open and spontaneous. The figure on Card 0 has his arms flung wide, and his head held high. He is ready to embrace whatever comes his way, but he is also oblivious to the cliff edge he is about to cross. The Fool is unaware of the hardships he will face as he ventures out to learn the lessons of the world.
if we were aware of the hardships, difficulties, pain and sorrow ahead of us, we might all be immobilized. the fool carries with him a small bag which contains everything he will need along the way, and the fool moves forward with an open heart, trusting in the universe to provide him the experiences he needs and his own spirit to guide him through what lies ahead.
when we are willing to approach life from a position of being foolish, we are giving up our barriers and supports, masks and facades, and instead living from a place of vulnerability. this is when we say, I don't know, I don't have the answers, I may need help, I might need to learn how to see things differently.
I will move this way, take this class, open myself up to whatever comes, follow my intuition, and eventually, it will all make sense.
I will admit I don't know, I will let others share their wisdom with me, I will learn to see through eyes not my own.
most of us strive to be competent, experts in our fields, learned. excellent goals, all. but we can at the same time retain the spirit of the fool, being willing to admit our ignorance, being willing to take a chance on the unknown. expand ourselves, fail, lose. step off a cliff. experiment. climb out of our rut, no matter how successful we are within it, and stub our toes on the rocky hillsides that surround it.
I realize that I am just one of countless humans talking, writing, and thinking about steve jobs and the impact he had on our world. I am simply passing along--with commentary--words and thoughts he put out into the universe years ago. but this is how we operate, this is how we process and learn and grow. I don't profess to offer much original thought: the world ran out of that long, long ago.
but like all good marketing students, I know that we learn through repetition. so each time we hear that we should stay hungry, stay foolish, it builds upon the previous times we heard that, and eventually it impacts our beliefs and behavior.
give it a chance.
stay hungry, stay foolish.
the commencement address
Friday, November 11, 2011
I, myself, own not a single item made of corduroy, having gotten rid of the old and never quite been sold on the new.
and if you don't get it, think 11 11 11 and let your thoughts go crazy.
now on to my thoughts today.
they are about my whining the other day about city riding. yes, I whined. and when it got almost warm enough, I rode up the canyon to keep from going crazy with boredom.
yesterday was a little warmer, and today looks to be the same, so it's up, up again.
I think better when I get to go up, and I think less when I get to go up, and the combination of the two is just a gift. the project I'm currently involved in exists vaguely and nebulously in my mind: I can see the finished product, it has a title and a feeling and a wholeness to it, but I don't yet know how all the little parts are going to come together. I don't even know what all the little parts are yet. and in those infamous words from my box manufacturer's production man, sometimes you can't know.
I can't know yet how it will all come together, it's not time. I must be patient, I must let things come to me and work their way through me, and finally appear on paper. I can open myself up to it, ask for it, spend time thinking about it, but the deepest and most beautiful creative work occurs below the surface of my mind, bubbling up only when it's ready.
and mindlessly riding my bike is often the setup that allows this bursting forth from the surface.
17 miles into my ride yesterday I was struck by a lightening bolt. a metaphorical one, of course. it wasn't a Huge Thing, it was just a small piece that was exactly what I needed for the section I was working on. every time these things happen, I just grin and shake my head. you can't force it,
you can't wave a magic wand and be filled with inspiration.
all you can do is set the stage and be open to what comes to visit.
my stage just happens to be a canyon: lucky me.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I've been riding in the city because it's too darn cold to come down the canyons, and I am missing my uphill escapes.
I miss the quiet, the much reduced number of cars, the smells of trees and leaves and the occasional wood fire, the long continuous demand of the incline, the absence of stop lights, all of which allow me to escape to that meditative state I love.
city riding is full of stops and starts and vigilance, not too conducive to mental jaunts to distant shores.
however, as I'm currently in the process of trying to gear myself up for a ride a bit later, I thought I'd focus on the positive, and list a few excellent things about city riding. (I'm working hard, here, and I hope you appreciate how deep I've dug for some of these.)
- the smell of freshly baked bread as I pass Great Harvest
- the aroma of brewing coffee as I pass that strange hangout on 33rd and 20thmore street signs to read, offering words to sound out and play around with in my mind
- more people watching
- more opportunities--on residential streets--to ride dead smack in the middle of the road
- none of those awful, swooping, really fast descents that freeze your fingers and cheeks and chin
- more obstacles in the bike lanes and shoulders, allowing me to test my maneuvering skills
- more opportunities to study architecture and personal taste
- lots of opportunities to stop at rest at stoplight after stoplight after stoplight. m-hmm.
okay, that's it, I can't try any harder.
I miss my canyon, I crave the peace and calm of that routine, and the opportunity to numb my mind. decision time: will I go for numbing my entire body just to reap the reward of numbing my mind?
it's a tough call.
I'll let you know the decision.
Monday, November 7, 2011
until you put that human on a bike.
then human efficiency surpasses even that of the condor.
jobs went on to describe a computer as a bicycle for the mind, extolling the computer's virtues, capabilities, and life-changing offerings.
I think of a bike that way: full of virtues, capabilities, and life-changing offerings. does it make me more efficient? apparently.
do I really care about that? not so much: I am lucky enough to have a car for those times I truly need to get somewhere.
steve jobs started the discussion with efficiency but we all know he was about much, much more. he was about style, gracefulness, creativity, experiences, opportunities, thinking the unthinkable, achieving the unimaginable.
I don't even know if steve jobs found pleasure riding a bicycle, but I like that he appreciated the efficient grace of a bicycle.
and if heaven is anything like my vision of it, steve jobs is up there right now, tooling around, swooping, discovering the pure pleasure of the perfect machine, riding his bike.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
some days I'm swamped with simply being a mom,
and some days,
riding has been great all week as I've fit in those hour or ninety minute rides.
but come this weekend, when I want to ride longer, what happens?
lyrics to that old byrds song (though I did just discover that pete seeger wrote and first recorded it) are strumming through my head, to everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn . . .
at the moment, looking out my window, I believe we have some seasonal confusion occurring. my majestic old trees are thick with leaves, many of them still green and only beginning to brown and curl at the edges. my maple has turned gold, but for some reason is reluctant to drop its decor. the others (lindens, maybe?) are rife with green, thick and heavy, drooping, now, under the weight of four inches of powdery snow.
to live in a place where the weather varied little would challenge me: as much as I love (love) to ride, my appreciation for it only grows when I am kept from it by seasonal disruptions. there is a time when fields should lie fallow.
these are difficult times to work through in life, frustrating times, times where emotions surge and our egoic mind tells us we are missing out/worthless/on the wrong path/confused.
stillness does not come easily to us, and none of us ever want to move in a direction that seems to be backwards from where we were.
but stillness is also a period of regrowth, of healing, of mending things we had no idea needed to be mended. just as our muscles strengthen during the rest cycle, and relationships strengthen after rupture and repair, our psyches themselves become stronger and richer when we allow ourselves to slow down, rest, and be still.
and simply be.
so, today I am enjoying the snow. I will putter around my house and dust when I want to, straighten as it calls to me, do laundry if I feel like it, and put pen to paper when so moved. I will not stress about my lack of exercise, and I will light candles in my rooms. I will breathe deeply and know that the snow has allowed my physical self and my internal self to have a break from routine and to relish the simply act of being.
(okay, but if the sun stays out and the roads dry up . . . hmm . . . )
Thursday, November 3, 2011
and what did I turn to but a column titled The Gift of Tennis. the author began by describing how happy he felt to pass by people jogging on treadmills---staring dead ahead, solemn, bored---and spinning maniacally on spin bikes---music pounding loudly while the instructor yells at them---and move on to the tennis court, the best place in the world to be.
we all find our favorite places, don't we?
and thank you, God, we don't all choose the same place, for then my bike lanes would be much too crowded.
every time I ride up emigration canyon I pass through a golf course and a set of tennis courts, the latter uncovered and open to the sun for five months, hidden under a huge white bubble the rest of the year.
I don't envy the golfers, but I do experience a twang of envy for those playing tennis. I do love tennis. and to be good at it would be a thrill. but it's hard to do by yourself, whenever you can fit it into your day, spontaneously.
some day I will play tennis again. the columnist pointed out its benefits: hand-eye coordination, strategic thinking, and---in his eyes, the best---the society surrounding the sport.
cycling does ask us to think strategically at times and to be coordinated (especially in pace lines), and to share ourselves with others . . . but, quite obviously, not to the same degree as tennis.
rushes are provided by both, fitness, joy, camaraderie.
and someday, perhaps, I'll add a smidgen of tennis back into my life.
but for now I'm happy to pass the bubble and inhale fresh, clean, crisp air, as the days draw me nearer and nearer to the stuffy, smelly, dreary spin room (which is thankfully blessed with a wall of windows that let me connect with the real world), where the music is loud and the instructors yell at us, and people walk by and think thank God I'm not in there but am heading to the tennis court, instead.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
I'm reading a book set in China during the cultural revolution of the mid twentieth century, in which a chicken wanders into a Chinese widow's home, immediately convincing the woman that it is really her husband, returning to her. she grooms the chicken, cares for it, engages in conversation with it, and is devastated when it disappears (and unbeknownst to her, gratefully, ends up in someone else's cooking pot).
my son jake died three months before his 19th birthday. on his birthday that year, a reasonably warm and wintry april 20th, I rode my bike up emigration, down to the reservoir, around the locked yellow gate and up toward big mountain as far as the road would allow. snow hunched deep and heavy in the shaded stretches as the elevation increased, and I was finally thwarted about halfway to the top. I paused and had a chat with his spirit, spread a few of his ashes, and created a new touchstone, a place of memory and meaning, by the side of the road and the spread of the hill.
on my way home from that ride I saw a moose, and immediately I thought of little joe, jake's twin.
I do not know why.
I sensed a message as well, one of comfort and confirmation, letting me know that it was okay to feel alone as I did, that those feelings were part of the natural rhythm of existence, and that they were truly nothing more than an illusion, anyway.
but now, when I see a moose anywhere within that area, I connect it with little joe and a message from what is most easily called the other side of the veil.
perhaps I make up these messages, or perhaps they are placed within my awareness only through a divine will.
I can't know.
yesterday, little joe visited again, strutting right in front of me, big and bold and fully in his young manhood. I had just left the top of emigration, heading down and toward home, when I rounded the second curve and saw a huge beast walking across the road. I braked 60 feet away, and the distance kept closing as he moved regally across the asphalt toward the hill on the right. at 30 feet he paused, and I decided I would be best off to simply stop, as he had to be a good 8 times bigger than me.
not a car around, not even another cyclist, it was just the two of us sharing this space.
I crept a little closer as he turned his head from side to side and then back to the hill in front of him and began his plodding, head thrusting climb up the hill. bushes bent for him, the ground held firm under his majestic hooves. his antlers were slender and spiky and rounded, and his entire body shouted power, ownership, possession. as he moved up the hillside I started to lose sight of him; he paused again near the top and I saw him through a screen of tall golden grass and shrub, then lost him over the ridge.
the grin didn't leave my face for ten miles, and still hasn't left my heart.
was it little joe? it doesn't matter. it's always little joe to me, and the message is always one of peace and certainty. of faith and patience. of being on the right track, of perseverance, of moving along, pausing, and moving along again.
Monday, October 31, 2011
I do live an amazingly beautiful life, but that is due, in part, to the fact that I am an ant.
long ago, aesop told a tale of a happy, songful grasshopper who spent his summer singing and enjoying the warm weather, and of an ant who spent his summer storing food for the winter. the grasshopper played, the ant worked. and lo, come winter, the grasshopper had nothing to eat, no stores to use, nothing to get him through the harsh and difficult season.
the ant, meanwhile, had set aside plenty to see him through, as he had worked all summer, planning for his future.
I tend to be an ant.
I am always doing today what might not need to be done until tomorrow. I like to be prepared; I like to be ahead of the game.
I like to fill my shelves with inventory long before the orders come.
so I work early in the morning and late at night and whenever my ant-ness makes me.
and then if the sun breaks out and warms the air I can hop on my bike and go enjoy it, riding, singing, playing in our big, beautiful world.
come to think of it,
perhaps I'm really a hybrid. an anthopper. a grant.
a happy, productive, farsighted, singing grant.
so there, aesop.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
it's old, I've told myself, so I shouldn't expect it to work perfectly.
well, that's how it's been, up until about two weeks ago.
at that magical time, I discovered that when I just lightly tapped the "turn off" button-that's-not-a-button, it turned right off.
and every time since, I've turned it off easily by just tapping that little button.
the roads I ride aren't always coated with smooth asphalt.
often it's chip seal, or worn chip seal (which is better than new), or some patched mess of various kinds of road surfacing. occasionally I cross cattle guards or railroad tracks. and there are always cracks, potholes, uneven surfaces, and what some call "road furniture," debris that could knock you over if it got you before you saw it.
I've learned, over time, that there's a point of perfect tension in my handlebar grip, a place where I'm holding on well enough, yet allowing space and opportunity for my bike to show me where it wants to go. too tight, and I throttle its efforts to move smoothly over bumps and holes, and too loose, I risk letting it get sucked into gouges and ridges and toss me over the handlebars.
a natural tendency---as I demonstrated with my ipod---is to try too hard, to press to firmly, to hold on with a near death grip.
my car is a wiggly little thing, and I've learned this with when moving over the metal bridge expansion grooves on a curve: when I grip the steering wheel too tightly, my car is thrown a bit with each one. when I find that perfect balance of tension, the car moves through them more smoothly. I give it a little space to do its job, while still performing my own.
38 special is one of those american rock bands that had a handful of hits back in the '80s, and is still plugging along. their "hold on loosely" was a number one hit back in 1981 (!) and I think of that title frequently as I navigate through life, bike rides, car rides, ipod use.
as I began to write this today I pulled up the complete lyrics to the song, and was amazed by how well these words convey the truth of all sorts of relationships. and although the rhyme itself leaves something to be desired, this couplet sums it up beautifully:
your baby needs someone to believe in
and a whole lot of space to breathe in
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I could be experiencing my last year, everything winding down, the end terribly in sight. this could be it for me, and for all of my peers as well.
many of my friends, a good portion of my biking buddies, my brother and his wife, definitely my mom, her husband, my dads, their partners . . .
were we living in Mali, we would likely all be dead or rapidly approaching death.
the average life expectancy for males in Mali is 48, and for females is 49.
a while back I attended a fundraiser for an organization called Mali Rising.
this group, run by a man named Yeah Samake, focuses on increasing education for the children of their nation. they use funds to build schools, to train teachers, to expand educational opportunities for all children, especially girls. in many third world countries females come second to males when educational options are limited: Mali Rising is one of many organizations which are trying to change this practice.
Mali is a land-locked nation in northwestern africa, with the following statistics:
Population: 13 million
Area: 1.25 million sq km (482,077 sq miles)
Major languages: French, Bambara
Main exports: Cotton, gold, livestock
Annual per capita income: US $500
Economic base: Agriculture and fishing (80%), Industry and service (20%)
everything about me---from my home ownership to cycling to my graduate degree to the ease of my life---would not be, had I been born to a typical family in Mali.
I often express the fact that I'm glad I'm not in charge of the world, for I don't know what I'd do. I don't know how I'd solve its problems, structure its government, design its roads (except they'd all be fresh, smooth asphalt, of course). I am overwhelmed by the enormity of challenges presented, and although I excel at seeing the Big Picture, I am not always so good at envisioning solutions, let alone implementing them.
there is a line from a beatles song, we all want to change the world.
well, I would like to change the world.
I'd like the people of Mali to live longer, lose fewer children to preventable childhood diseases, be less poverty-stricken, have access to more support/food/clean water/job opportunities/education.
so that they all could, at least a half dozen times, feel the joy of riding a bike in the early morning when the world is fresh and new, and everything is possible.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
the following are not my words, but those of thomas moore. I think I'll adopt them, however, for I find them quite adaptable to bike rides, daily movement, relationships, and most every aspect of life:
the purpose of any meaningful journey is to become other than what we were.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
I don't own these.
I probably should own these.
If I owned these I could have worn them today.
I'd never even heard of these until last winter sometime when someone said, oh there goes a bunch of cyclists in their lobster gloves.
see, there is always, always something new to learn.
I rode to the top of lamb's canyon this morning, a chilly place to be, as narrow and shaded and high above sea level as it is. when we left home it was in the low 40's but the sun hung there in a cloudless sky, promising warmth and support along the way.
it was cold. and at times, downright freezing (that's the speeding downhill in the shade part).
and stunning, fabulous, amazing, unbelievable.
and steep, darn it.
the top is somewhere around 8200 feet, and the views are a gift from the mountain gods. many aspen have already shed their leaves, but a significant number are still clinging to their bright gold clothing. these dancing gold leaves bedeck slender white trunks which stand tall against a brilliant blue backdrop, and if you peer through them and out as far as you can see to the east, snowy tips of mountain peaks sit firmly to anchor the scene.
you can't see this from home.
or even on a drive, because the upper half of lamb's canyon is protected by a locked gate which only those of us on leg or bi-wheeled machines can easily skirt.
I had no lobster gloves on my hands, simply my basic fingerless nice-weather gloves.
lobster gloves would have kept me warmer, may have kept the circulation moving more freely.
but nothing could have increased my joy, my excitement, my gratitude for once again having made it to the top of a hill so I could reap the rich and almost inexplicably spectacular reward.
Friday, October 21, 2011
the first time I rode up (and I mean up) the back side of big mountain from east canyon resort, I had to stop 3 times to catch my breath and recommit myself to the climb.
the next time, I only had to stop twice.
and then I stopped once.
this climb was my nemesis, the one stretch of road out of all my usual rides that struck fear in my heart and exhaustion in my legs. as noted, it became more possible each time, but it remained my nemesis for years. it's only been in this last season that the climb up the back side of big mountain has slipped into the "challenging but not awful" category, and has faded into something less than it once was.
it is an opponent that, while not beaten, can at times be overcome.
I realized today that I've chosen a new nemesis.
or perhaps it's chosen me.
it's name is mariah, more commonly known as the wind. (and if you didn't get that, you are entirely too young.)
yep, the wind.
I don't stop when confronted with it, but I am easily disheartened and exhausted by it, and it has become the one thing I need to find a way to work through/combat/conquer/something.
I try not to hate things, I work hard on accepting what is, but I often come close to hating the wind.
I've conquered climbing hills: though it's challenging and outright hard, I know I can climb just about anything. I can handle the flats: I know my limits, I know that I'll always have to work harder than the guys, and I expect, at times, to fall off the back of a paceline. I can handle high heart rate stuff: I know I can recover, I know I won't die, I know it's all okay.
but the wind.
it beats me every time.
it is my new nemesis.
so my goal this coming year is to change this. to learn how to tweak my mental processes so that I'm not frustrated or overwhelmed. to learn how to pedal more strongly into a headwind. to learn how to tune out the sound, the pain, the reduction in speed. to become more confident and competent when confronted with wind in my face.
the greek gods believed in divine retribution for those who succumb to arrogance, and nemesis was the goddess of this act. the wind, mariah, is perhaps a manifestation of nemesis' caution thrown my way: just because you can climb a hill, manage your heartrate, recover easily, hold your own . . . doesn't mean you are a cycling goddess. not until you conquer the wind will you be allowed that title.
* good old wikipedia
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
I pedal up a little rise, the fourth one of the canyon, the one where my heart rate climbs significantly faster than I do. then the road eases, flattens, and I recover and take big, fulfilling breaths.
there's a cyclist ahead of me, a female, and since this is my first sight of her and we're almost five miles up, I know that I'm moving faster than she is and will soon pass her. as the distance between us decreases I can see more detail: she's a brunette, hair in a ponytail, trim, with an earphone cord snaking along her side and into a back pocket.
I'm almost upon her when I hear it.
she's singing. singing loudly, singing along with her ipod, singing like no one is listening.
singing like no one is listening.
I perk up, I grin, I say hi and she startles, then nods at me.
and keeps singing.
how cool is that?
it's my lesson for the day, possibly my lesson for the month.
if you're happy and you know it, sing out loud. sing like no one is listening.
I dare you.
Monday, October 17, 2011
there are few true passes that I climb around here, and guardsman is the sharpest, the highest (my garmin says 9533, but it's stated to be 9700' above sea level), the narrowest, dustiest, most invigorating and empowering of them all. the road from the big cottonwood canyon turnoff to the top---a mere three miles---is so painfully steep at times that I most always experience, at least once, a desire to vomit. yesterday it was right after the hairpin turn where the grade is somewhere around 16 percent and the road just sits there, taunting, unwilling to compromise and soften, just a bit. you're halfway, I told myself. the whole thing is only three miles, which, relatively, is absolutely nothing.
anyone can climb three miles.
I thought about turning around. I thought about stopping, just for a minute or two. and what kept me from that is the knowledge that I'd done it before, I'd survived, and I'd done it without stopping. if I had made it before, I could make it again.
I sat at the top, resting my bike against a rocky shale hillside then perching on the same tumbly rocks, sprigs of pungent sage fragrancing my little oasis. the pass rounds the hill, the road hugging snugly the hillside upon which I sat. a snow frosted mountain side faced me, its north-facing self protected from the melting power of the sun. the valley spread before me, ridges separating midway from park city from the snyderville basin. I can see bits of deer valley, I can see mechanical structures from the ski resort. I see the dirt road, pathways, little teeny cars in the distance, thousands of feet below me.
I chewed my s'mores protein bar (oh I love that marshmallowy stuff on top) and sipped my water, and thanked God for not letting me turn around a mile or three miles back.
I tend to ride here just once a year, in the fall, and each time I make my way up the hill I'm reminded why I don't do it more often.
and each time I sit at the top, I wonder why I don't do it more often.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
big mountain has a few curves, and four big switchbacks in the last two point something miles to the top. on the way up they provide relief, and oftentimes alternating headwinds and tailwinds with each change of direction.
on the way down, though, they provide opportunities for curve carving.
as I moved into the first one this morning, I thought about those possibly conflicting bits of advice: keep your eye on the ball, and look where you want to go.
so I kept my eyes on the road, and focused on that point, out in the distance, of where I wanted to be as I moved through the turn.
and I curved, carved, ended up exactly where I wanted to be.
the next switchback worked the same way.
but then on the third, I suddenly found myself moving too quickly, unable to brake enough, and moving so far into the lane that I crossed the double yellow line into the oncoming lane.
I don't know, but it was such a different experience from the first two, scaring me a bit, reminding me that I'm not quite there yet. (you know, that infamous there, that place we'll all be when we can do everything as the experts do.)
did I shift my gaze too far down, too close, instead of looking further out? was I overconfident in my ability? I am not sure.
but for the rest of my descent I focused on that constantly moving spot in the distance where I eventually wanted to be.
peripheral vision kicks in and helps me scan for road debris, potholes, cracks in the surface, but my eyes stay softly focused down, down ahead, where I will momentarily be, always stretching just a bit further to my next future.
I hear wise words in the back of my brain, don't sweat the small stuff, don't focus on the details, keep your eye on your goal, don't be distracted by what are actually insignificant things along your path.
just keep looking ahead, stretching your way into your goal, your next position, your next best version of yourself, and carve your pathway there gently, with strength and wisdom and oh yes, just a bit of faith.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
receiving good news
standing at the top of the hill, looking out over the world
floating in warm, gentle water
having a surprise show up in your mailbox
being in love
being given a promotion
being surrounded by your very favorite people on earth
knowing you get to sleep in
actually being physically able to sleep in
nothing but green lights all the way home
swinging on a park swing
licking the brownie batter off the spoon
curling up on the couch with an incredible book and no time limit
yep, had one today, and loved every bit of it. didn't even mind its opposite on the way home . . .
well, not too much, anyway.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Sunday, October 9, 2011
by the time I passed it early this afternoon, its head had deserted its body, but a grin slowly snuck onto my face anyway.
after four days of cold and wet, the sun worked hard to reestablish its benevolence today, for which I'm exceedingly grateful. 44 degrees is just darn cold, and 48 degrees with lightly spitting rain isn't one bit better: my last 3 rides have been less than fabulously exhilarating.
snow chunks dot the side of the road up big mountain, and by the last mile snow is consistently visible on the hillsides beside you. it's surreal, it's shockingly out of place while completely familiar, and while my ipod is playing a song with the lyrics "summer is here" I am forcing myself to accept the fact that summer is decidedly over.
I'm not quite there yet.
Friday, October 7, 2011
two of us are from michigan, two have lost sons, one has lost a husband. five of us worked for the same company years ago, and four of us have children who have attended the same schools. two of us married boys they dated in high school, and one is currently dating a boy she went to the prom with. one just returned to college, three have graduate degrees, and between us we've given birth to nineteen children. one has a sister with addiction issues, and one has an ex-husband with addiction issues.
while we are all healthy, a few of us walk, a few run, a few own bikes, only one of us is as committed to cycling as I am. yep, that would be me.
one of us has a son who died of an oxycontin overdose five years ago.
his mother has fought for years now to spread the word about this dangerous drug, to warn others, and to have oxycontin banned.
so some of our conversations are about addiction.
and at brunch, it turned to other kinds of addictions, and suddenly I was addicted to cycling.
now, certainly, people can say that, think that, even believe that.
I can get defensive, I can agree with it, or I can try to put it in perspective by understanding their perspective as one who doesn't live inside my skin.
I begin with a definition of addiction. the following is the most relevant one I could find, as most definitions focus on the use of drugs or other habit forming, harmful substances:
a recurring compulsion by an individual to engage in some specific activity, despite harmful consequences, as deemed by the user themselves to their individual health, mental state, or social life. (the infamous wikipedia.)
so . . . compulsion? well, I do feel compelled to move. (I think we're supposed to do that. doctors tell us to, and God gave us all those muscles and capabilities for a reason.) I just happen to like to move on a bicycle as opposed to walking or running. but I also love my books and my couch.
harmful consequences? like . . .? a healthy heart? toned muscles? a boosted metabolism? not sure I can find a harmful consequence. I manage to balance responsibilities and social activities with my cycling. and my mental state is mostly improved by biking.
some say we get addicted to the endorphins, and push ourselves to keep experiencing that high.
well . . . I think I grew up learning that a "natural high" was what we were to reach for, to "get high on life" as opposed to alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, and on and on.
I've stated this before, and I still hold it to be true: I am not addicted to cycling, nor am I even obsessed with it. I am someone who finds peace, joy, and a way to be healthy, all on my bicycle.
and on those days (weeks) when the phone doesn't ring, the editors don't respond, and orders for my work are nonexistent, riding my bicycle is a way to keep my sanity.
I train hard for the events I choose to participate in, and I love feeling strong and capable, but the meditative aspect of cycling is probably the most important piece of all.
a beautiful bit of advice I once heard was this: don't explain, don't defend.
so to even write about this is difficult, as I don't want to be one who doth explain too much.
I am firmly committed to my mental health, to my physical health, to experiencing joy in our world, and to being a peaceful, loving, helpful member of our shared planet.
riding my bike dovetails perfectly with my goals, and for as long as it brings me health and joy, I will continue to hop on ruby and pedal away.
you can call it addiction if you'd like, or even obsession. but I know the truth about me, and I'm okay with it. I've got a fabulously healthy heart, and I've got my sanity.
works for me.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
it had just finished raining and the road was still wet. dark, shiny, water clinging to my tires.
occasionally I would come up to a dry spot, a stretch of road lit by sunshine, pavement just a touch higher and thus drained dry more quickly, or an area protected by overhanging trees, leaving the road surface pale and dry.
my bike steered itself toward each dry spot. as if on auto-pilot. the kind of movement you don't think about as it's happening: it just happens.
my question is this: which genetic code is it that draws me there? is it simply the move toward safety, knowing that dry surface is always safer than wet? or is it the desire to leave tracks, to mark that spot with my wet tire, to validate my presence, to boldly state "I was here"?
the first unconscious pull to the dry spot happened before I could think about it, catching me by surprise. as I reflected on it once past the spot, I came up with these two possible reasons for why I was drawn in that direction. in trying to determine which one is more likely the "correct" reason, I'm stymied. how can I really know?
I love making first tracks, marking my trail, validating my existence.
but I'm also reasonably cautious, eager to stay upright and unmarred.
I suppose that determining the True Reason my bike was guided to the dry pavement isn't necessary: it's enough to acknowledge that some of our decision making is guided by wisdom so deep within us that we won't ever detect its true origin.
and perhaps we don't need to, if we can simply learn to accept that the wisdom deep within our genes, our cellular structure, our unconscious, is ready to guide us along our path if we can only learn to let go and let it do so.
Monday, October 3, 2011
shannon mulder, one of my favorite power camp coaches (think Korn, raunchy jokes, drop your shoulders and consistently genuine enthusiasm) told us not to let up just because you've reached the top.
I simply describe it as don't stop pedaling as you crest, and this has been one of the best tricks in my little cycling bag.
many cyclists dread hills.
I don't; I rather like them.
I prefer them to the flat (ish) sections where men (and strong women) can outpower me significantly, where I usually find myself at the back of the pace line, heart pounding just below zone 5, trying to hang on until I eventually get dropped.
the hills are much better: the line splits up, everyone goes at their own pace, and I get there when I get there without that fear of falling off, being dropped, failing to hold on to the draft off someone's wheel.
and shannon taught me, that first year of power camp, always ride through the top of the hill because that's where people slack off. now I don't care too much what everyone else does, but this taught me a huge lesson that has benefited my training (and experiences) significantly. this is when I learned one of cycling great truisms:
you can always recover on the down.
since I don't race, it's really not about beating anyone else, being faster than anyone else, getting further down the hill before they do: it's about training your body that it can work just a little bit harder for just a few seconds longer, and then find its way to a resting place while coasting (or pedaling with much less intensity) downhill.
to stop at the top of the hill destroys my momentum. it's anticlimactic: I find myself so much more gleeful as I ride through the top and start the descent, grinning and relishing the joy of the much-deserved swoop. my heart will still be pounding as the grade slips into negative numbers, then gradually tick its way down to a hardly-working place as the scenery slips by.
I love this.
to be clear, there are definitely times when I stop at the top of a climb. brighton, alta (or albion basin), city creek, lamb's canyon, millcreek: when you reach these summits the road ends and it's time to savor your victory for a bit.
but on the climbs that are simply leading you to the next leg of your ride---whether they be 10-mile climbs or 1-mile rises---the trick of powering over the top and continuing on teaches you that you are tougher than you thought, more capable, stronger, and, I dare say, wiser.
the road will ease, you'll be given an opportunity to recover.
need I say this holds true in other aspects of life as well?
nope, didn't think so.
power on, don't stop when you reach the crest.
keep striving, keep reaching, give it a little more, and the rewards will shortly follow, when you can doubly enjoy your swoop.
PS: nineteen years ago today at this exact time I welcomed my incredible son beau into the world . . . happy birthday, big guy!
Saturday, October 1, 2011
our team has a good hundred or so names on the roster, but group rides usually range from a fat handful to a few dozen at most. as members of this fundraising and social team, we're not all about riding at the same tempo, so many of us just do our own thing. we have team members who are licensed racers, and we have team members with MS and ALS who get there when they get there, and riders who slip in at just about every point of the continuum anchored by those extremes. so our groups often consist of people at different levels of skill and ability, and ann is terrific at herding us all in an appropriate way.
the article she found points out what often happens when groups of cyclists try to ride together, and it brings home some fundamental truths while offering hope for the future. you can access it by clicking on this link
the lost art of the group ride
the author makes a few excellent points, and at the end, provides a list of skills/knowledge that a cyclist should incorporate. he suggests each cyclist does best with a mentor, someone more experienced who is able to teach all of these skills and awarenesses.
I've had a few key mentors in my cycling life, and I've learned from them everything from how to lean into a curve on a descent to how to keep my helmet clean. without my biking buddies bob, andy, ivy, brad, bill, bill and patty I'd still be cycling in a less efficient and effective manner.
with a stinky helmet.
ann hoffman is another mentor, one who has instilled in me a desire to be an ambassador for cycling whenever I'm out, whether I'm wearing a Bad Ass jersey or not. she is the epitome of kindness, common sense, generosity, agility and grace on a bicycle, and I hold her up as one to strive to emulate.
so check out the article when you have time: it's full of reminders of how we can be our best selves while sitting on a bicycle saddle out in the real world.
(and on a side---but oh so wonderful---note, it's october 1, the trees are vibrantly outdoing each other, and it averaged 75 degrees on my 57-mile ride to east canyon reservoir and back . . . what more could one ask for?)
Thursday, September 29, 2011
signs of the changing seasons, a symbol of the life--and death--cycle, an indication of what is yet to come, the quieting of spring and summer's riotous growth, the slowing of earth's proliferous period, the easing into winter and dormancy.
I like to view it as simply an outward manifestation of the inner process of growth.
without the shedding away, a new cycle is unable to begin. the tree remains strong, the tree continues to grow, its roots dig deeper and its limbs reach further skyward. it lets loose of what it no longer needs, and the colored leaves slip down, away, gone into what will become new earth.
the crunch is pleasing to my ears for some reason, and I do not weave my way between them but ride smoothly, straight, forward, smiling with each hearty crunch and smiling, as well, at the silence between.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
so I keep writing, accepting little projects that occasionally come my way, creating my own new projects, starting this blog, beginning another project when the spirit moves me, and 15 months ago, finally saying "yes" to a big project that came my way.
that big project was a book that someone hired me to write.
completed last winter, we spent months trying to solicit an agent, then finally sent the manuscript directly to a publisher in june.
and this past monday I received an email from someone at the publishing company telling me that the first reviewer of my manuscript didn't want to put it down, and now it was in the hands of a second reviewer.
didn't want to put it down.
didn't want to put it down.
didn't want to put it down!!!
I had planned that day to be a day off the bike, a full recovery day for me. but late in the afternoon my quads were aching and that thing inside me that tells me to do things told me to go for a ride.
by the time I got out it was evening, and I grinned all the way up to the top of emigration. sunlight was fading fast, but I had to ride down to the reservoir, I had to share my good news with my favorite body of water.
all the intelligent cyclists had by then headed home, as the sun sunk low in the sky and shadows grew thick and voluminous.
and I rode down to the reservoir, shouting, as I swooped, they didn't want to put it down!
the water heard me, it swallowed my words, it pushed them to its shores, it echoed them back to me. they didn't want to put it down.
I was one of those unsafe riders on my way home, taillight blinking but lightless in front, shocking motorists with my sudden presence, scaring myself with my next-to-nothing vision.
but I had to shout. I had to sing it out, I had to share it with my world.
didn't want to put it down.
stay tuned . . .
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
my friend ivy is an incredible cycling machine and fabulous all-round athlete.
what they have in common---besides the fact that ivy's a pilot and my son would like to become one---is that they both talk about kill ratios.
I cannot speak to the gaming version, but in the cycling world it's just this silly little game we play when out riding . . . how many people we pass divided by how many pass us.
it makes me smile.
some days I have a positive (greater than 1) kill ratio; some days I don't. to be honest, most days it's not at the forefront of my brain.
but this morning I choose an excellent time of day to have a positive kill ratio: late mid morning. the serious guys are out early, lunchtime, and after work . . . often the late-mid-morning crowd is more female, more aged, and---dare I say it---more relaxed.
I passed the first person not quite 2 miles into my ride, starting me off in the positive.
the next two came in a lump about 3 miles later.
then one more.
and no one passed me: we're talking a 4:0 very positive ratio!
and then came sight of the next cyclist ahead of me, someone I was gradually approaching.
and I was flummoxed.
what I saw first was the trailer behind the bike, obviously carrying a small child. then I saw the woman riding the bike.
I wanted to give her all my kills, and slink back home, slacker that I was. how fast would I climb a canyon towing a trailer and toddler?? not very, methinks.
so I had to decide: do I count this as a kill?
maybe half a kill.
maybe it should be neutral.
maybe I should subtract one of my previous kills, in honor of her efforts.
I didn't resolve the issue on my ride: it actually caused me to stop playing the game.
in fact, maybe that should be my next training move: buy a trailer and start out just hauling the empty contraption around. then maybe I could borrow someone's small child. small being key.
or maybe I can just hope to not encounter her again on one of my rides.
I don't think my son goes through these mental gyrations while he's playing his games. however, I like my version of the game better because I really don't understand how to work those silly little controller thingees . . . it's much easier to ride a bicycle.
in fact, it's one of those things you never forget how to do, whether you ever pass anyone, get passed by others, or simply have an amazingly peaceful time all by yourself.
Monday, September 19, 2011
conquered, nailed, attacked, beat, kicked, trampled.
okay, maybe you don't know what the Big Nasty is.
so it would be hard to be impressed, or to even understand my enthusiasm.
I'll help you out. the Big Nasty is a climb up the La Sal mountains outside of moab, utah, that has been given a bunch of cute names for many of its little phases. "3000 feet in 7 miles" is its claim, and it has been waving its little hand at me for about 4 years now. come and get me, it has whispered, and I've always found one excuse or another to avoid it.
until last saturday.
the day dawned wet and gloomy. rainy, gray, all of moab's red dirt washing over the roads and leaping to attach itself to any surface, carbon, nylon, wool, plastic. the rain pulled itself back into the heavy clouds by about half past seven, and shortly after that we set out, hoping to conquer the mountain before the predicted afternoon thundershowers showed up.
the ride begins with a slow, steady (depressingly false-flat like) climb to the base of the La Sal mountains at pack creek ranch. the headwind began about 2 miles in, and the rain joined it about 8 miles in. slogging away at the 3 percent grade, shivering, wondering when the 74 degree, sunny day was going to show up, we were extremely grateful to reach the beginning of the real climb when both the rain and the headwind disappeared.
instead, like magic, before us rose the Little Nasty.
it was nasty.
but brief---those 10-13% grades were just a tease during that short little climb.
next came Tom's Misery--another relatively brief ascent--and then came the Launch Pad (guess which way the slope leaned), before, finally, the Big Nasty itself.
it was nastier.
but it, too, ended, and I thought I'd survived it amazingly well, warming myself by the fire pit at the aid station at the top.
next came the downhill.
oops, no, not really.
we started down, and then suddenly we were going up again . . . then down then up, up, up . . . eventually climbing Heaven's Staircase, and finally reaching the real peak at Heaven's Overlook.
I love it when these climbs receive cute little names. mainly because it gives you something else to concentrate (hah! like I can concentrate with no oxygen!) on while you're convincing yourself 10 percent is not a big deal, nor is 12. or 13.
what I really want to share is that I conquered the darn thing last saturday.
so did a hundred and fifty other brave souls, many of whom haven't had nearly the coaching, training, and miles logged that I have.
we were all awesome.
we all conquered, kicked, trampled, beat, attacked, and nailed that darn thing.
and I hope every one who has ever done the same thing has the same little smile inside that I do, the one that hops up and down and giggles, I kicked the Big Nasty!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
once again, I feel the need to share a few thoughts, no surprise there.
dear epic guys:
thanks for another grand event . . . I know you can't really take credit for the weather, but once again, I am excessively grateful for the mild temperatures and the absence of rain (and snow). your event gives us all the opportunity to push ourselves, to travel through beautiful country, and to spend time (all day) in a positive, energized environment full of support and enthusiasm.
however, I do have a comment or two about a few things . . .
check-in in logan: come on. that was ridiculous. you should have it nailed by now. to tell each rider---after they've shown their license and had their folder pulled---to step back and wait until their name is called, then to expect them to hover, then work their way around the crowd to the spot they're called to (25 minutes later) in the inner sanctum . . . just not efficient. you've done it better before.
volunteers: amazing. absolutely fabulous, terrific, helpful, kind, cheerful. how do you get them to do this?
award pick-up in teton village: see check-in comments. why did you stop just handing it to us as we crossed the line? don't we look like we've just ridden 200+ miles? and if not, just send the clean and happy looking people to the "possible impostors" booth. don't make us stand in another ridiculous line for twenty minutes. we're tired, cold, thirsty, nauseated, dizzy, achy . . . oh, maybe that was just me.
those mountain america water bottles: thanks, that was a nice sentiment. however, only people of a certain height can use these darn things. yes, those of us "shorter" people don't have enough room on our down tubes and seat tubes. embarrassing but true.
the girl-cut t-shirt: woo hoo!! thank you! I now own a lotoja t-shirt that I might wear! I have the other 4 t-shirts stacked in my closet, pristine, never worn. I've always said that when I'm a great-grandma I'll gather my progeny around and drag out these perfectly un-used t-shirts to talk about what I used to do in my younger and crazier years, and how these handsome men's t-shirts were just not my style, yet too precious to give away or do anything else with.
the mileage: I came up short this year. did I miss a turn? is my garmin not the same as yours? was the route really 2.6 miles short and you just didn't want to change your tag line? I am not complaining: I might not have made another 2.6 miles by the end . . .
and that's it.
oops, except this: thanks, once again, for keeping with the "sprocket" and not trying to give us hangers.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
this is what you do with all those leftover bruised and weary bananas that traveled from salt lake to logan to jackson to salt lake and look like it.
as I don't truly like bananas, I find it easy to hand this bread over to other people so I can concentrate on just eating chocolate and pastries.
I hesitate to even contemplate too deeply: to dig too far into this philosophical discussion makes my head spin.
would every ride be under clear skies with a seventy degree air temperature?
would there be smooth asphalt everywhere? (duh, yes.)
would opportunities present themselves to us regularly and gratifyingly?
would we always ride just the teeniest bit better than the time before?
would we always sleep well, would our stomachs never hurt, would we never cramp, would we always make good choices about fuel and hydration?
I am not in charge.
not of wind, nor of weather. not of other riders, automobiles, wildlife, rumble strips, or street sweepers.
there is so very little I'm in charge of it's almost frightening. we train, we try to rest, recover, fuel efficiently. but the gap between what I am in charge of and what, in reality, is, can only be closed and covered by that nebulous, intangible, seeping/growing/expansive thing called faith.
thanks to God, faith, oatmeal, bananas, john, bill, brad, michael, ivy, numerous unnamed souls, a deer, an elk, the snake river, mountain dew and swedish fish, I earned my 1000-mile award last saturday. (never mind the fact that they won't award it to me until next year: I know I earned it.)
I did what I could, and last friday I let everything go, embracing the fact that I was no longer in charge.
it's freeing, it's liberating.
you take ownership for your part, and let go of absolutely everything else, because it's simply not in your control.
now, if I can just remember to be this way all the time.
when participating in biking events, when simply riding, when parenting, while running my business, while navigating life.
I'm not in charge.
I'm simply responsible for doing my best, fueling and resting, and never ever letting go of that great big thing called faith.
Friday, September 9, 2011
a zig of excitement ran through me.
then a smile took over my face.
I was happy.
tomorrow is the Big Day, the day I spend entirely too much of my year training for, the day that sits in the back of my mind, always, the day that strikes fear in hearts across the nation. well, maybe not that last one.
tomorrow is lotoja, and I am not only ready to ride the thing, I am even a bit more excited than usual. and it's not just anxious excitement, it's even a bit of enthusiastic excitement.
because I've told myself---and the world---that this will be my last one. that I'm ready to give it up, to create more balance in my life, to find a different way to spend big chunks of time on my weekends.
as a result, what has snuck into my cycling self is this nostalgically eager little girl who is ready to observe everything along the way, to memorize vistas and views and trees and coves, and to say a sweet goodbye to the path that has brought her oh so very far.
I have somehow, miraculously, gotten myself to a place of what will be will be. however the next day and a half unfold, all will be well. whether I ride incredibly well, fairly, or poorly, whether the sun shines or the wind howls, whether I sail through without a single mechanical issue or I don't (I can't bring myself to list any of those things that might but I still hope don't happen) . . . I will be fine.
I will have honored my path, this phase of my life, these amazing experiences of riding my bike from a small, university town in northern utah to the storied, resort village in a geographic hole in the middle of western wyoming.
I have let go the reins; I am not in charge.
I have done my part: I have trained and hydrated and figured out how to keep enough electrolytes floating around in my body. I have stretched and rested and pushed and sweat, I have breathed in and out, in and out, in and out.
now it's just up to the universe, to all of those forces and energies and desires swirling in elaborate, invisible patterns to give me the experience I need tomorrow.
I'd like a fast ride, I'd like a good ride, I'd like to do it without tears and swear words. I'd like to find myself full of patience and trust and---yep, you guessed it---faith.
so, my best to all of you in whatever endeavors fill your day tomorrow, saturday the 10th.
you know where I'll be, and you can have faith in your knowledge that regardless of what comes my way, I will be absolutely
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
how often do you get to say that, and mean it?
as I was pedaling in the dark this morning, I was bemoaning the fact that I don't think I've seen as much wildlife as usual this biking season. not once have I seen a coyote, no foxes or cute little fox kits, no raccoons, no porcupines (the one dead porcupine I saw a few weeks ago does not count.) I've seen deer, fairly regularly, but I have been a bit disappointed in the overall variety of critters presenting themselves to me.
I had to leave super early this morning to be back before my daughter left for school, and I scheduled it so that I'd have time to ride to the reservoir and back, but just barely. I considered only riding to the top of little mountain, but then decided I'd rather forgo that extra 11 minutes of sleep and go all the way down to the water.
it was a good ride, quite dark, with the sky just beginning to lighten my last mile and a half to the top. when I began my swooping descent to the reservoir, the world was lit with that beautiful, soft light that comes before the sun actually shows its vibrant face. ever observant, my eyes raked the road, the edges of the road that blend into hillside, and the hillsides themselves, searching for evidence of others beginning their own days.
and there it was.
waddling, low to the ground, its body thick and pokey: my first porcupine of the season! across the road to my left, its butt was wiggling as it moved down the uneven ground beside the asphalt.
when will I learn?
all things in time: patience, susan, patience.
but thank you, anyway, God, for the porcupine. it made my day.
ps: I know I said I was taking a break, but when one receives such an Obvious Message from the universe, one is obligated to share it.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I ride; I see, feel, absorb, glory in, and melt into the world around me. but lately I come home and effort intensely to pull words out of space and subconscious to place here, and still find myself short.
I'm reading a fabulous book called the social animal, by david brooks, and I want to share two passages relevant to today's theme:
"The key factor separating geniuses from the merely accomplished is not a divine spark. Instead, what really matters is the ability to get better and better gradually over time. As K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University has demonstrated, it's deliberate practice. Top performers spend more hours (many more hours) religiously honing their craft. As Ericsson has noted, top performers devote five times more hours to become great than the average performers devote to becoming competent." (p. 136)
"As Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania has argued, people who succeed tend to find one goal in the distant future and then chase it through thick and thin. People who flit from one interest to another are much, much less likely to excel at any of them. School asks students to be good at a range of subjects, but life asks people to find one passion that they will follow forever." (p.177)
I take these bits of information in, I sit with them, I let them marinate.
I am all about honing my craft, working to become better, committing to practice, growth, learning, improving. that is why this blog exists.
but here is where I will insert a bit of wisdom I've learned from cycling: we only grow stronger through rest and recovery.
when we work our muscles with intense effort, we actually create microscopic tears in the small fibers that make up the muscle and the connective tissues. this results in a chain of events that leave our bodies in need of rest to rebuild and refuel, leading to eventual strengthening of said muscles.
it's time for a bit of rest and recovery for my writing self, so that I can return stronger, better, wiser, more committed to honing my craft so that I can follow the one passion that sings to me the siren's song.
off for a bit of mental electrolytes, some soul GU, a resting of my writing muscles propped high above my heart. rest, recovery, pampering, fuel.
see ya on the flip side: I'm sure it won't be too very long, because a passion is a passion. a passion doesn't fade away or disappear, but remains simply the beacon that draws us forward throughout our lives.
be back soon,
Sunday, August 21, 2011
I mean that literally; I was thanking God for the beauty surrounding me, primarily because that beauty was the only thing keeping me going.
pedaling up, forever up, american fork canyon, you can take a stretch of road called the Alpine Loop. the base of the canyon is approximately a mile above sea level (5280' for those of you who've forgotten your equivalents), and the summit of the Alpine Loop is just over 8000 feet.
by the time we reached that summit we had about 5o miles in, and I had used up every electrolyte stored anywhere in my body. biking buddy bob (a physician, no less) said, you don't look good.
I didn't feel good.
in fact, I felt awful. I felt worse than I've ever felt on a ride: dizzy, dripping with sweat, pale, a bit nauseated . . . and it kept getting worse as I stood there, straddling my bike, trying to recover. I finally had to sit down, and eventually I could feel stability (and blood) return.
the next 6 miles were downhill, to sundance ski resort, where we split a sandwich and I downed a powerade and found myself returning to life.
the alpine loop is unbelievably beautiful. in fact, I've placed this picture here to save me the proverbial (and woefully insufficient) thousand words.
and the conifers, the aspen, the trickling stream, the steep granite hillsides, the view of stunning mount timpenogos, are what combined to help me survive the ride from hell.
by the time I made it home, 110 miles, 10,800' elevation gain, 8.5 hours riding time behind me, I felt like I'd survived the most intense (possibly the most intensely insane) thing I'd ever done. I'd been craving a chocolate milkshake for the past 20 miles, and settled for icy chocolate milk, feeling it flush my body with cool hope of recovery.
I promise to never, ever, again undertake a ride longer than 30 miles without electrolytes in my bottle.
and I promise to always, always, to bring God with me on every single ride.
Friday, August 19, 2011
we are slightly less than a week out from a full moon, and it is waning into less than half of its circular self. the moon was hanging more west than east, more south than north, most of the time somewhere behind my right shoulder.
I glanced back to see it about four miles into my ride, and was instantly washed with a memory of moonlit rides, how beautiful and joyful they were. I clicked my front light off, hoping moonlight would spill before me to illuminate my path.
but not much.
dawn was close and the moon was far, and I kept my light off to determine just how well my eyes would operate in the faint light surrounding me. I could see well enough to get by, and the joy it brought to my heart was worth every skip of fear. a half mile after I went dark I saw a shape of some kind, possibly, in the bike lane twenty yards in front of me, and it remained motionless as I drew closer, sharpening slowly into a form that became a deer. I pedaled softly, approaching, then turned my light back on as it jumped across the road and up the hillside. did I want it to know I was a cyclist? did I think turning my light on would impact its thought process?
I turned my light off, and continued up the canyon in the slowly brightening dark, feeling rather than seeing the particles of air release their dark grasp.
E.L. Doctorow has compared aspects of life to driving a car at night (which I will compare to riding a bicycle in the early early morning):
You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
and with that thought, I bid you happy trails, whether you have a little or a whole lot of light.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
I received this news yesterday, and it brightened my day as sun will after a day of gloomy rain.
all I have to do now is have it fixed, which is minor. it's the diagnosis that made my day.
why, you ask?
simply this: it's an excuse for why it's been harder than usual to pedal my darn bike (the treatment for my "muddy bottom bracket" is simply to clean it, relubricate it, and get those crank arms moving smoothly and easily again.)
this is a huge woo hoo! it's not all about me, my tired legs, my weak heart, my wimpy self. it's also about the bike!
how often in life do we try to sort through "our stuff" versus "someone else's stuff" or "the universe's stuff"? speaking for myself but believing I can't be alone in this, the answer is frequently.
is the traffic worse than usual today, are other drivers unusually impatient, or is it just me?
my kid and I are in an argument, and I'm certain I'm right but . . .
that person was so rude to me! or am I just hypersensitive today?
life is so, so difficult . . . or is it just a bad day . . . or do I need to make some changes?
gosh I'm having a hard time cycling up this hill today: is it the wind, the wheaties, my legs, or--please, please-- the bike?
if we're aware, we are constantly presented with opportunities to assess ourselves. we compare today's behavior/thoughts/actions/abilities with those from our past and those we hold as ideals, and rate ourselves. yep, I'm doing pretty well, or nope, could've handled that one better, or hmm, guess I'm having an off-day.
it's this cycle of awareness and assessment that keeps us growing, learning, striving, reaching for that next best version of ourselves.
but sometimes it's extremely difficult to filter out everything that doesn't belong to us.
it's hard to always know whose stuff is whose: it takes a brave, aware person to work through and come to an understanding of their own place in this often messy world.
thus ruby went to the bike shop late this morning, to get her stuff back together so that I don't confuse mine with hers.
when I next go for a ride, I'll have a more clear vision of what's mine, and what's not.
at least on the bike.
Monday, August 15, 2011
I feel the need to do that today, to see if I felt as concerned as I do today.
last week I was feeling pretty good about my riding, my strength, my overall ability.
this past weekend, not so much.
I've noticed over the past month that it seems to be taking my heartrate longer to recover from intense riding events.
it began with the IThinkICanyons (you know, 110 miles, 12,000' vertical gain, 4 canyons): for the next four or five days my heartrate wouldn't climb up to its usual place, staying anywhere from 4-10 beats below.
then I noticed the same issue after my next weekend's big ride, then the next, then the next.
two days ago I rode long and fairly hard (95 miles, 6100' gain), and experienced some nausea/dizziness on the big climb portion. then yesterday after 35 medium-hard miles I started up little cottonwood canyon, and did not have a great climb. I was, however, able to get my heartrate up to its high spot. but I felt like crap.
and that brings me to today, feeling unsure of what to do. do I take a recovery day? or do I take the day off? do I try to dig a little deeper into understanding the nauseated/dizzy experience? do I cut back a bit, or do I push through it?
I'm not suffering a mental burnout as I sometimes do, but it's possible that my body is trying to tell me something.
yesterday I watched the tour of utah professional cyclists finish their 100-mile stage, climbing little cottonwood canyon to snowbird. a small few of them cracked smiles as they passed us a mile and a half from the end, and we watched individual riders have water thrown on them, have donuts handed to them, and receive running pushes from well-wishers. most looked hot, exhausted, and ready to be done with the suffering.
which is encouraging, because I often look (and feel) that way at the end of my long rides/hard climbs.
a line exists somewhere between "enough" and "too much," and I think its drawn in invisible ink. perhaps if I owned spy goggles I could find it more easily . . . but since I don't, I suppose I will resort to a little meditation, a little inner focus, a little more intensive listening to my own body's communication with me.
recovery, rest, recovery, rest . . . some water, some good food, a lot of sleep . . .
it all sounds good to me.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
that's all I need say about biking.
what I really want to pass along is that I was pleasantly caught by someone else's words today, and I want to pass them along:
anything you do from the soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world. Anything. You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity, can caue to be set in motion . . . Mend the part of the world that is within your reach.
-clarissa pinkola estes
let's all go mend.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
they cropped up everywhere yesterday, shouting here I am! see me! I'm right here!
they dotted my path, they took root right in front of me.
they made themselves known.
the day before I had whined about not being able to see them.
what I really meant, if you haven't already figured it out, is that I couldn't determine what my next right step was.
I could see the whole great big forest, the best of what's out there waiting for me, the contentment, the results, the kudos, the validation, the launching of children and projects and new creative endeavors.
but I couldn't see the next right step.
so, yesterday, those darn trees cropped up everywhere:
daughter 1 to the doctor, to piano, and on another doctor's schedule for next week.
daughter 2 to a hair appointment, to volleyball tryouts, and to the concert downtown last night.
appointments made for me.
communication with a vendor in india, trying to rectify a boo-boo.
an inspiration for a new item I can sell that will make use of already-owned inventory.
another appointment made, a lunch date requested, another lunch date made.
I know I'm supposed to focus on my human being-ness, but for some reason the human doing-ness feels better.
I tackled each project that planted itself in front of me yesterday, and by moving through each one of those "next right steps" I found myself further along the road, moving toward that great big green forest.
I like seeing trees.
and maybe that's the way it's supposed to be: that we learn to see the beauty of each individual tree, and, as well, the glorious collection that forms the forest.