Monday, January 31, 2011

eminem, black eyed peas, and andrew lloyd webber

I've said it before, but it remains powerfully true: music makes my workouts.
makes them tolerable.
makes them, at times, even enjoyable.
make them, in moments, absolutely awesome.

I've known this, but I'm also able to rediscover it every so often. (I think that's one of the great joys of aging, right? you forget everything, and so you can be excited to find out these kinds of things over and over again.)
what happened for me is that the past few times I've run, I've so enjoyed the music on my ipod that I haven't wanted to take the earphones out of my ears and press the stop button when I've finished and returned home. which resulted in my actual enthusiasm to go for a run yesterday. woo-hoo, I thought, I get to listen to my music!

I have tricked myself into a difficult task by pairing it with a reward.

call me, once again, nothing but a pavlovian dog. geez.

I actually use this trick all the time, but it usually involves chocolate.
  • if I just finish this next chunk of work, I can have a piece of chocolate.
  • when I get the vacuuming done, I can have a chocolate.
  • after this next paragraph is written, I get chocolate.
  • when I get home from my bike ride . . .
you get it.

I know I'm not the only one who operates this way. life is full of "have to's" that go much better when paired with "like to's." and for the time being, my ipod full of a mix of my music/my kids' music/music that came from who knows where is exactly the incentive I need to get my nike frees on, get out the door, and go pound the pavement.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

carl sandburg

the fog comes
on little cat feet.

it sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

in ninth grade I memorized this poem, never dreaming that all these years later I'd be spending so much time in a fog.
I am possibly optimistic in calling this soup around us fog ~ some might call it smog, inversion, yucch, haze, film, gunk. the weather forecast is calling it widespread haze, patchy fog, and otherwise cloudy. covering all bases, aren't they?
I, nonetheless, am going to get on my bike and see if I can climb up above it all, find a clean and pristine world, remember what it's like to receive the reward of swooping down a curving road to the reservoir nestled in dell canyon's little cradle.
it's calling, and I can't seem to resist.
perhaps, by the time I reach the top of the hill, the cat will have lifted itself from its haunches and quietly moved on.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

round and round and round

tuesday's snow was perfect snowman-building snow. thick, wet, clumpy, the kind that lumps up all by itself and practically rolls itself into balls.
I almost built a snowman.

I received snowshoes for Christmas a couple years ago, and the first time I went out I had to stop on a virgin hillside, tip-toe (um-hm, sure) my way out a bit, and toss myself onto my back. I stretched my arms wide, and jumping-jacked my legs, and made myself a snow angel. I giggled and smiled up at the sky, and felt pure, fabulous, uninhibited joy. I was playing, I was connecting with that part of me that is so easily stifled by my mature and functional life.

shoveling snow on tuesday caused that little joyful part of me to tap on my heart and ask, please, can I come out and play?
serious me considered it, considered the shoveling I still had to finish, considered my tights and skirt and list of errands to accomplish before three o'clock, and told little joyful me, sorry, truly, but not today.

I was crushed. but I had things to do.

yesterday most of the snow in my yard gave in to the sun and dripping trees, slipping away into the grass. there's a bit left, not much, but possibly enough to fashion a small, say, snow bunny or something. playful me looks out the window and doesn't think twice, but is instantly up for it. why not?
boring old responsible me doesn't think I have enough time because I have to finish this post, clean the kitchen, get to an appointment, then fit in everything else like work and laundry and shuttling a child or two around.

I've never built a snow bunny.
I wonder if I know how.
hell's bells, joyful me knows.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

it's good to have a goal

so we know this coming saturday is the first event of the winter running series.
we know tomorrow is the sign-up cut off.
we also know that the prediction is for an inversion saturday.
and . . . we also know that the predicted high for saturday is about 44 degrees.

and what I know is that susan is feeling the need for a carrot.

I can't think too far out, because my life is a little wiggly right now and I need to stabilize a bit before I can make plans further than a week or two out. but I can think about this coming saturday, and 44 degrees is in my "tolerable" range for an outdoor bike ride . . .

I think I have a carrot.

of course right now it's snowing, has been for the past several hours, and I keep watching people turn on to my street and slide for a dozen feet or so before their vehicles correct themselves, and I'm just about to go shovel all of that snow from my sidewalks and driveway. an enjoyable outdoor bike ride seems pretty impossible at the moment; good thing we live in such a changeable place and that I have an imagination.

so . . . no long range goals for me, no commitments to any events, not even a single firm goal for the coming cycling season. no registrations completed, no reservations made, not a plan even penciled in on my calender.
but I have a little carrot.
and for now, a little carrot is at least something.
and perhaps another carrot will appear, soon, then another, and then the next right thing will appear, and then the next. then life will fill again, the snow will melt, the sun will shine, and everything will, once again, be right with the world.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


"Say not 'This is the truth' but 'So it seems to me to be as I now see the things I think I see.' "

ponder that for a moment.

I've been reading a book by John McPhee titled "Rising from the Plains." reducing it to its base components, it's a book about focus, understanding, commitment, and love. widening up a bit, it's a book about a geologist and the formation of our planet. widening the lens once more, it's a book about david love and wyoming, both of which I've fallen in love with.
this is how one can assess the power of a book: I am aching to move to wyoming and immerse myself in that wild and stimulating terrain, and I'm devastated that I will never be able to meet david love.

from the US Geological Survey:
J. David Love was born in 1913 in Wyoming where he grew up on the family ranch. The only time Dave left the state of Wyoming was to get a PhD from Yale University and then to spend four years working for Shell Oil Company in the mid-continent region. He returned to Wyoming in 1942, when he was hired by the USGS Mineral Deposits Branch. After 45 years with the USGS, primarily spent mapping Wyoming, he retired in 1987, but remained with the organization as a scientist emeritus.
One of his continuing interests through his career was the connection between geology and human health, for example, poisonous trace elements like selenium and molybdenum found in some soils. After he discovered uranium in Wyoming, he passed up an opportunity to capitalize financially and chose instead to remain with the USGS as a field geologist.
He received many rewards and honors, including the USGS Meritorious Service Award and the American Geological Institute's very first Legendary Geoscientist Award. John McPhee's book, "Rising From the Plains" (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 1986), is about Dave and the geology of Wyoming.
Both of Dr. Love's sons became geologists. David Love died in 2002 at the age of 89.

I actually feel that it was a mistake that I never met this man. that it should have happened at some point along the way: he speaks to me from mcphee's book in a powerful way. such as the quote with which I began this post, which love discovered in a book about the German Naval Officer's school in Kiel, which is his interpretation of what is etched above the school's doorway. this quote became dr. love's professional axiom, underlying his commitment to walk wyoming until he knew it.

truth. it's a flighty thing, it's a variable thing, it has six sides and at least that many interpretations. my truth is not necessarily that of anyone else, yet it makes it no less my truth.

what I know today, from my reactions while reading and marinating in mcphee's tale of david love and the wide expanse of land we call wyoming, is that one aspect of my truth involves time spent in wyoming, in the great swath that surrounds the tetons, what love calls the youngest of the rockies.
perhaps this is part of the reason lotoja has called to me all these years, ending as it does in that very spot.
hard to know.
but it's a good thing there are roads around there, and bike paths, because you know I wouldn't want to go there without my erstwhile two-wheeled companion.
and someday, using that incredibly handy tool we call hindsight, I might figure out just what it is about the jackson hole area that beckons me with it's long and persistent finger.

all I know today is that my truth, as I see it given what it is I think I see, includes a pining for a valley and a land not so very far from here. perhaps, one day, I'll go.

Friday, January 21, 2011

eight days

actually, it's seven.
I have seven days to make a decision about what will happen on the eighth.
well, really, it's only five, because if I'm going to do it correctly, I need to register ahead of time.

"it" is the winter running series that begins a week from tomorrow with a flat 5k out by the great salt lake. I know I can do that. but two weeks later is the 10k, and two weeks after that is the 15k which is so far from where I am as to be in a different hemisphere. so do I really need to fork over forty bucks to get a t-shirt and permission to try to kill myself?

I ran today and during the first quarter mile I thought I was a fool to even be attempting a run. my heartrate had jumped to my zone 5 number (on a slight descent, no less) and it hurt to breathe and my legs were complaining and blah blah blah . . .
and then it got better.
I actually hit a place today where everything felt pretty darn good, though I can't say I felt that elusive "runner's high" I've heard rumors about. I'm happy with pretty darn good, and I'm overwhelmingly grateful when that feeling sticks around for more than a few blocks.

but am I ready to go join a bunch of people who really run?
I don't know.
I'm sure there will be others like me there, beginners, wannabes, slow-pokes. people doing it to keep themselves on track, people pushing to achieve goals.
I'm such a loner, though, doing my own thing: I really don't need a piece of paper, a bib number, or anything commemorating my first official 5k. I can take my own word for having done that.
the bottom line, I think, is that I'm not yet certain that I care about making it much further than that. I don't see me ever doing a marathon; I don't even feel a pull to do a half-marathon. or a 15k. I might be giddy at the ability to call myself a runner, but I'm not really a runner runner.

then again, it's terribly difficult to predict the future.

I can't even predict what I'll be doing next wednesday as the deadline to sign up for this running series sticks its heels in . . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


capricorn is the sign of the goat, a determined climber.

many people in my life were born under this sign, and I send birthday wishes to both C and J today.... two pretty great goats. you are both loved.

I, being a cancer, have few things in common with capricorns, but the image of the goat resonates intensely within me . . . as you can probably imagine.

in one interpretation of the capricorn personality, it's said that the question for them is not "can I climb the mountain?" but instead, "which mountain shall I climb?"

I would take this one step further for myself and ask, "which mountain shall I climb first, and then which next, and then which one after that . . . ?"

I am a goat at heart, though I may scuttle sideways at times just like the crab I am. the goat's persistence, determination, and ability to get there are traits that just scream "susan."
today the thought of pedaling my bike up a mountain is pretty foreign. it's rained, sleeted, and snowed today, the clouds parting momentarily and occasionally to reveal sun and blue, then pulling back together and chilling my entire world. the gloves have been on today, then off, then on again, and for the brief moments that I thought january might tease me into crocus form I lit with hope. the sign alerting me that chains or snowtires were required to head up the canyon reminded me that it will be a while before I will choose which hill to climb first.
but choose I will, because the day will come when they spread again before me in an array of beauty, temptation, and challenge. and I will return to form choosing first one, then another, and once again become the goat who knows she will always, eventually, some day, reach the top.

Monday, January 17, 2011

who to be

it takes courage to be.
it takes greater courage to be who you really are.
it takes even greater courage to be who you are meant to be.
and perhaps, the greatest courage is needed by those who dare to be a fulfillment of who they're meant to be regardless of the resistance encountered.

years ago I was given a cookbook called Wild Women in the Kitchen. it is full of recipes and brief-brief bios of some Women Who Dared. I was looking at this cookbook the other day, reading these tidbits about women ranging from pocahontas to k.d. lang to M.F.K. Fisher thinking, wow, I wish I were one of these women.

I wish I had the guts to just do what I thought was right, regardless of what others thought.
I wish I had the courage to follow my heart and not always be logical, thoughtful, cautious.
I wish I had the strength to ignore the chafe, chaff, and ugliness thrown my way.
I wish I had just a little more courage along my path to becoming exactly who I'm meant to be.

I'm not there yet.
just as I can't yet run a 10k, or bike 330 miles in three days, or fold myself into perfect yoga pretzels, I am a Wild Woman work in progress.
I hope that I'll keep working on it. to keep taking baby steps toward being brave and true, toward being filled with conviction and certainty and courage.

we meet little resistance when we sit still: it is only when we swoop and soar and dare to push outward that we do so, and it is this that we must remember. growth is painful, progress comes at a price, and nothing beautiful is ever achieved easily.

and it is this that helps me remember who it is that I need to be.
as the words (of matthew kelly's) painted on my dining room wall remind me,
it is my job to help us all become the next best version of ourselves.
and I guess the only way to do this is to be the me I am meant to be.

guess I'll go wipe off the eggs and tomatoes and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

l'alpe d'huez

there is a little mountain in a little ski resort in a little village in a mountain pasture in the central french alps, named l'alpe d'huez.
( that sentence feels like a set of those russian matryoshka dolls, the ones who nest inside each other and you discover them, one by one, until the tiniest one is revealed deep, deep within the fourth or fifth doll. )
shall I now invoke something spanish? or italian? or german?
no, I will return to france, to the famous l'alpe d'huez, key climb in the tour de france for decade after decade.
it's truly not that long of a climb at just under 14 kilometres, and as the alps go, it's not even that intensely difficult of a climb, holding an average grade of just under 8 percent. the fastest cyclists zip up it in less than forty minutes.
we won't discuss how long it would take me to climb that darn thing.
but I can tell you about how long it took me to complete the power camp version of the l'alpe d'huez climb: the same time it took everyone else, somewhere around an hour.

our power camp creator employs his sense of humor when naming some of our spin-bike experiences, and naming last tuesday's ride after this tour de france mountain stage is an example of such. a few times during the winter-long camp we are treated to these experiences where instead of systematic intervals to tackle we are given varying lengths in different high-intensity heartrate zones that when put together could simulate an actual climb.
we might spend 10 minutes just above lactate threshold, then five minutes in the zone above that, then three minutes in our top zone, before backing off for ten minutes a few beats below that, then heading back up to the top, then dropping back to lactate threshold for another 5 or 7 minutes . . . and then on and on.
and I actually like this kind of workout.
remember, I'm that workhorse that once warmed up, can work forever (not really) at a fairly intense level. (as long as I don't have to spin like a gerbil on amphetamines while doing so.) I'm a decent climber, mainly because I can work at those higher heartrates for quite some time.
I much prefer that kind of work to, say, sprinting, or yo-yo-ing back and forth from a recovery zone to the top zone 5 or 10 times.

what I need to work on, however, is the visualization. if I could learn to picture the mountain itself, to see the snow banked alongside the road, smell the green of spring beginning to peak its head through the remains of last year's growth, watch the sun bounce off the rock faces and feel its power soak into my skin, perhaps then I'd be better able to lose myself in the pleasure of the ride.
perhaps I need to take a trip to france.
to a specific place in france, to a mountain pasture in the central french alps where a little mountain sits in a little ski resort in a little village . . .
maybe I'll see you there.
or maybe I'll just see you in my visualization.
us and lance, powering around those switchbacks, muscles straining, climbing to the top . . .

maybe I'll just buy a poster.

or maybe I'll dream big, and start planning my trip to france.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I have a little itch.
it's one of those that is so small I can barely feel it, and it only catches my attention once in a while. I don't even need to scratch it yet, it's so small.
but it's there.

if I were to give it a name, it would be future activities.
specifically, cycling related activities.
like those events one signs up for then commits to (or vice versa), puts on one's calendar, and holds out there like a carrot on a stick.

I have no carrots, no sticks, and the barest inkling of an itch.

it's that time of year again when we all start thinking about what's in our future, what will entice us to stay committed to our cycling/running/skiing/swimming/whatever, and nothing is pulling me yet. I realize the addition of the word "yet" to the end of my sentence is indicative of my knowledge of myself . . . the day will come when the itch intensifies and I'll find myself signing up for an event.
but which event, where and when, I truly have no idea. the only thing I can say with complete certainty is that it will not --- will not --- be a triathlon.

between now and the day the itch grows so exquisite it absolutely must be scratched, I will listen to everyone else's plans, do a little research into new things I hear about, contemplate potentialities, and simply float in this lovely place of waiting for my future to reveal itself.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

to honor

today I pause.
today I refrain from writing about heartrates and muscles and zone 5 intervals.
I will not share a story of power camp or bad jokes or reflections at 5 in the morning.

today I'm simply pausing and honoring the changes a year can bring, honoring a life, honoring the physical absence of someone who will never truly be gone.

perhaps all the running, the pedaling, the rowing, the swimming, every bit of effort we all exert today may be considered to be a tribute to those who can no longer do those things. we all have people on our lists, and I send love to all who may also pause, today, and spend just a moment honoring an absence.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


in the most difficult of times, making it through to the end of the day can often be almost unbearable. it drains us, it takes every ounce of willpower we have to put each foot in front of the other and keep moving. our outlook bleak, our problems seemingly insurmountable, our energy wallowing in a depth that culls despair, we crawl in bed each night unable to imagine facing another day.
and then we wake, putting one foot and then the other on the floor, and we keep moving. it may simply be to repeat a day like the one before, or, there might be some incremental change that makes this day just a smidgen better than the one before. but the world remains unfriendly, barren, shallow.
then comes a day when, suddenly, it's different. we wake to find our circumstances have shifted during our sleep and what surrounds us is no longer cold and hostile, but is instead bright and clear, with possibilities peaking up their little heads like crocus shoots in the early days of march.

last night it snowed, and this morning our world here is refreshed and once again friendly. we've been living in a place of dreary and deadly polluted air pushed down upon us by an unkind pressure system. each day of the past six or so has let but occasional rays of sun shoot down, and the cold, heavy air has pressed us into a disgruntled submission as we listen to our health officials who encourage us not to breathe it in.
but this morning the snow blanket sat thick and rich, sparkling, teasing the sun, cajoling it into warming us and melting the communal frigidity with which we've been draped and enmeshed.

just as night brings us rest and relief that allow us to journey forward, nature does the same to our world, if only we can be patient. and wait to be refreshed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

a step back

we have to do this every once in a while.
step back, distance ourselves from whatever is going on internally, and make a naked assessment of where we are. (not an assessment of where we are, naked, that's an entirely different posting.)
without this ability to step away from where we currently sit, it's much too easy to get caught up in the seeming minuteness of our progress, and the disappointment in our speed of travel toward our destinations.

we can call this witnessing.
without witnessing, things don't always seem to have happened. whether our witness is internal or external, the very act of witnessing brings movement into awareness, validating its existence.

it's a skill to be able to step back from ourselves; it takes commitment and awareness and the ability to detach, something most of us find difficult. but it's crucial if we are to move forward healthily.

I have to pause and step outside myself in many arenas, and the causal factor is usually a feeling of disgruntledness. why aren't I better, why aren't I faster, why aren't I further along this path, why aren't I making more money, why am I still here, where I was a year ago . . . then I shake myself, take a deep breath, and step back.
and look where I used to be.
then give myself credit for forward movement.

as much as I think I'm more thoughtful and aware than this, there are still times where I expect instant gratification. okay, perhaps not instant, but say, within a short span of time. even if I only work on something occasionally or sporadically, I still expect visible changes. what I'm trying to teach myself is that baby steps are not only the best way to move forward with depth and certainty, but they just might be the only way. and what's best about them is that they work.

so when I take that step back and away, looking at susan from outside, I can see her strengths, her challenges, her very human-ness, and just how very far she's come. she may not be "there" yet, but as "there" seems to be a moving target for her, it's all good. she's moving. she's changing, growing, adding new skills to her repertoire, continuing to subtly reinvent herself.

and I bet that if you were willing to step away and assess, becoming a witness to your own self, you would find much of the same.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

tiddly winks

we have options, every day, about how we'll spend our time. there are so very many things I want to do ~ and only so much time and energy available ~ that I cannot do everything I wish to.
we all use some internal process to decide how to prioritize such lists, and while I love couch time with a book, that's not always the most fulfilling thing I do.
I love to be productive, to learn, to grow, to use my imagination and my creative threads. but it's obvious that I have other drives. and when I read the following quote earlier today, another little piece of who I am and how I operate clicked into place, for I think he touchs on something scarily true.

To be a cyclist is to be a student of cycling's core lies pain, hard and bitter as the pit inside a juicy peach. It doesn't matter if you're sprinting for an Olympic medal, a town sign, a trailhead, or the rest stop with the homemade brownies. If you never confront pain, you're missing the essence of the sport. Without pain, there's no adversity. Without adversity, no challenge. Without challenge, no improvement. No improvement, no sense of accomplishment and no deep-down joy. Might as well be playing Tiddly-Winks.
~ Scott Martin

there's nothing wrong with tiddly winks. it's just that I can't play them for too long ~ just as I can't sit on the couch and read for too long ~ before that peach pit tells me it wants to go play again.
someday I may move through this phase and enter a new one, one where I'm content to ride my cruiser to the store, to the library, to the park, only when the weather is lovely.
but for today it seems I have a tight relationship with pain, pain and it's compatriots adversity, challenge, improvement, accomplishment, and . . . eventually, inevitably, thankfully, joy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

and then . . .

not every day is a good day.
this is reality.
I can pretend that I feel great every day, conquer mountains before each sunset, exude strength and stability and power with each new sunrise.
but at times days sneak in ~ like today ~ that could be placed on the far left of a gradually rising bell curve of days.
it began with too little sleep and a pre-dawn alarm. it proceeded through one of those power camp classes that make my legs go around like a little gerbil for much too long. it followed me down to the weight room where 12 pounds felt like 20 and my legs argued with me about why they should even hold me up, let alone hold me up and down while squatting and lunging. I finally sat on a big ball, legs splayed, and sighed.
at home I played mom and refrained from making (thus drinking) coffee and made three lunches and two breakfasts (I have one semi-independent teenager who can pour her own cereal, thank the Lord). I chewed through a dried out cereal bar, and drank a glass of green smoothie, shooshed my adolescents out the door and retired to the couch.
after a bit of quiet time on the couch, I ~ because I am a runner ~ went for a run.
and this is when it became clear that I was just not having a great day.
my ankle ached. then my left arch. then my gut. then my left glute, then my diaphragm, then my collarbone. then my neck.
then I felt good for about a quarter of a mile . . . and then I had to stop and walk.
it was one of the worst runs I've ever had and I finally had to accept that it just wasn't a great day.
perhaps I'm not really a runner at all.
not every day gets to be a great day. we ebb and flow, and can be grateful if the bulk of our days sit somewhere in the apex of that bell curve. there are great days when we feel when we can conquer it all, and good days when we know we can handle whatever comes our way.
and occasionally, there are days like mine today when we should probably just be glad we're moving at all.
tomorrow I hope for a day a little to the right of the apex. but I'll take what comes, because I know that it's all temporary, that my performance will wax and wane, and that what really matters is much, much deeper than what appears on the surface, and more eternal than a 35 minute athletic display.
perhaps I am still a runner.
and perhaps, more importantly, it ultimately doesn't matter.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

on a day like today

holly sent me an email yesterday with a link to, where I could register for the 33rd annual 30 k running series here in slc.
I snickered, rolled my eyes, grimaced, groaned . . . and eventually pulled up the site to see what it was all about.
running, obviously, you're thinking.
well, yes, but just how intense would this running be? is my question, while I continue holding the position that I'm not doing this, nuh-uh.
the answer is three events, beginning late january and ending late february, commencing with a 5 k, progressing to a 10 k, and ending with a 15 k.

okay, I'd like to be able to do this.
I think.

holly holds a goal of running the boston marathon; I don't. however, you know how I feel about being able to include "runner" in my understanding of myself.
and then I have thoughts along this line: why do I need to join an organized event like this ~ why can't I just set myself the goal and do it on my own?
which I could do; so could holly.
however, there's something about having an inescapable time/date/place that you've committed to that keeps you from changing your mind/backing out/conveniently forgetting your goal. a little bit of enforced commitment-keeping.

I haven't committed yet. haven't pushed that button, am still contemplating.
the sun has broken through the clouds, breaking them apart and pushing them to the peripheral aspects of the great blue sky above me. it's bitterly cold out, but the snow sparkles mischievously and is beginning to melt in small spots atop the salt-streaked asphalt. I've watched a handful of runners stride past, white fogs of breath expelled and dispersed within nanoseconds. the day is so shiny and bright it seems to hold a promise for the future, a commitment of its own to health and prosperity, stability and certainty.
the mountains rise tall and resolute, the sun behaves as it always does, constant and faithful though we cannot always tell it is there. today it rules the sky in glory and brings hope to those of us who've been huddling under the gray cloak that has hidden the sun from us for what seems so long.

another runner comes down the street, her big black dog bounding by her side, nose quivering and flanks shining. she places her feet firmly on the road, her stride confident and her cheeks red beneath her tasselled hat. I'm certain she could run a 5 k. or a 10 k. maybe even a 15 k.

on a day like today, most anything seems possible.