Wednesday, June 29, 2011

the first of the season

I've been waiting, patiently, for the hummingbirds to arrive.
I thought they were late.
I thought perhaps that our wet, cold spring had slowed their arrival.
and then yesterday I saw my first hummingbird, hovering a few feet higher than my head, centered in the middle of the road, wings moving so quickly they appear to be where they're not.
I swear it smiled at me.

I looked back at previous posts to see what time of year the hummingbirds arrived in other years, and apparently the very end of june is the very beginning of hummingbird season in emigration canyon.
and it's always the same place I see them: just over 7 miles up, where the canyon is narrow and cool, where trees reach in yoga stretches across the road.

this morning I saw my second hummingbird of the season, or perhaps it was a second sighting of the first, as it was within 20 yards of where I saw one (it) yesterday. you may laugh, but hummingbirds are extremely intelligent, and it's said they remember every flower they have been to. so I will choose to believe (you know I like to make up my own stories about things) that this particular hummingbird likes some flowers in that vicinity, and is therefore around to greet me (okay, and a few other cyclists) while spending his or her time here in utah.

their hearts can beat up to 1260 times per minute, with a typical resting rate of 250.
their metabolism is roughly 100 times that of an elephant.
they are the only bird that can fly both forward and backward, and they can fly sideways and upside down.
they can drink from over 1000 flowers each day.

I did pull some facts, because I think they're fascinating, but ornithology is something I place in the same category with golf: Things I May Take Up When I'm a Bit Older.
for now I am happy to be cheered by the whirring wings and graceful profile of the hovering hummingbird, as I make my comparatively cumbersome way up the lane.

I'm glad it's hummingbird season, again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

the bad ass crew

last weekend was the MS fundraiser Best Dam Bike Ride in cache county, utah and various small idaho locales.
weather was perfect, the roads were as good as can be expected (yep, about a mile of smooth asphalt and 174 miles of chip seal in various states of repair), and the company, absolutely fabulous.
and because I'm tired and it's been one of those intense days of re-entry into motherhood/entrepreneurship/homeownership/etc. I am simply going to say that the team I ride with is a collection of incredibly terrific people. we are a social team who focus on fundraising for two local events (the Tour de Cure for diabetes, and the above-mentioned ride for multiple sclerosis), and we comprise males and females of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and vocations. the common threads seem to be a love of cycling, and--at least to my mind--a sense of humor. we seem to enjoy each other, the gathering, the riding, the events . . . and quite a few of my teammates are Dam Good Cyclists as well. we have licensed riders, and sunday riders, and everything in between.
I'm lucky enough to be able to hold on with the faster group on this kind of event, and it makes for one wild ride. the very best hold back so that those who are down a level or two can still hang in there, and we often form a double pace line of 20 or so that just powers down the road.

I didn't mean to ramble on.

I just wanted to say that these people are awesome.
organized by ann hoffman and steve dwyer, this is a team of compassionate, giving, welcoming people who are held together by pieces of rubber, a bit of carbon/aluminum/steel, some huge hearts, and the best looking team kits around.

thanks to all my bad ass friends for an awesome weekend.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

ivy league

because it's my birthday, I get to take the day off from thinking and being creative.

instead, I'm going to direct you to someone much more interesting than me.

I used to be able to---sort of---ride with her.
but not now. she is out of my league, in a league of her own, which we can call the ivy league.

visit her at:!/pages/Ivy-M-McIver/115651221844106

and be well!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

envisioning a future life

someday, someday. how many times do we begin a sentence this way, a sentence which conveys an image of what might, possibly, at some future time, be?

I try to live my life as it's happening, being grateful for what is, celebrating the good that surrounds me and re-framing the not-so-good into better-than-it-might-be. I don't spend much time longing for things to be different.
nevertheless, there are times when I think about what might someday be.
what keeps this healthy, though, is that it's more about looking forward to another phase in life than it is wishing this one to be done.
got it?

like this: gosh I love having teenagers; they're so full of dreams and energy and thoughts and plans. but I'm also going to love it when they someday finish high school and college and settle down into their own lives . . .
or this: gosh it's great being an unknown author, because I don't have to deal with critics, reviewers, an unhappy publisher, or an agitated and impatient editor. but someday, when I'm published, I'm certainly going to enjoy the attention and royalty checks and validation.

so back to today.
today I rode my bike (surprise!), but in a manner I don't usually. biking buddy bill and I drove to within a few miles of the base of american fork canyon (5100'), then we parked and saddled up. we rode up the alpine loop, to the 8060' summit, then down to sundance (6100') ski resort. after a pause in the sun alongside the rushing creek, we rode back up and the down, down, down out of the canyon and to the car.
what's so different, you ask?
the difference today is that we simply rode the hills, and didn't tack on 40 or 50 miles around them.
this is rare.
and leads to my someday.

someday---a day I look forward to, without regretting my current days---I think I will ride 20 and 30 and 40 mile rides, and call it good.
I will park at the bottom of big climbs and simply bike up them then back down.
I will ride a loop and cut off the extra part so that it remains under 50 miles, instead of adding to reach 100.
I will ride 38 miles, like today, and be both pleased and satisfied.

although today I am pleased and satisfied, it has something to do with the fact that this weekend I'll be riding 175 miles.

someday, I'll be pleased and satisfied with a 38-miler being my toughest ride of the week.

I can see eyes rolling and words of disbelief forming inside minds, and my response is simply this:

hang around for another 20 years and just see.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

another anniversary

365 days ago I drank nothing after midnight, showed up in an office on the main floor at 9 am, handed over a thousand dollars as a down-payment, and was directed to a waiting room where I sat with two dozen others, waiting for my name to be called by a file-wielding, scrubs-clad worker bee. ten hours later, I left that building, groggy, nauseated, loopy, and titanium-enhanced.

to celebrate the fact that this event was now 365 days behind me, this morning I got on my bike and rode to paradise, with a little help from the incomparable van morrison.

the world is green and lush these days, coated with wildflowers dancing gently in the breeze, lifting their heads to the blue sky above. it's cool enough that the air tickles my skin and I'm grateful for the internal heat generated by the climb. when I reach the top of emigration and glance down to the reservoir I quickly look again: it isn't there. it is so smooth, so reflective that it appears the hillsides continue down deep, deep into a mirage of a verdant valley.
my heart soars.
I glide and swoop, pedaling to the still-locked gate that blocks the road up big mountain.
I've worn my ipod, and am listening to songs shuffling through in random order, everything from my daughters' taylor swift picks to the bare naked ladies to some guy I don't know singing about getting his dog back, his truck back, his first two jobs back, his wife back . . . all because he played a country song backward.
as I crest the top of little mountain again and begin my descent, I turn the volume up to compensate for the increased noise of the wind. after carving through the first switchback I realize I'm listening to van morrison, the third song of his I've heard on the ride. the tableau before me gradually shifts into one of my favorites: a green hillside dotted by only a few tiny roofs, a second ridge of mountain behind which is taller, browner, and holding on to rounded globs of snow here and there.

van sings, oh this must be what it's all about, this must be what paradise is like, so quiet in here, so peaceful in here . . .

it is paradise.

I am so grateful to be here that tears form, and a shiver runs across my body. through muscle and bone and skin, and titanium.

I, am one grateful human.

one long year, one quickly-passing year: I am so very grateful to be in one piece, to be able to pedal my legs around and round, to be able to drink in the astonishing beauty that surrounds us every day.

'nuf said.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

hogsback and henefer: whew and woo-hoo

the trip from salt lake to henefer and back seems to be a standard training ride for "serious" cyclists around here.
how would I define "serious" as used in this context?
determined, stubborn, indifferent to pain, slightly crazy, yep, words like that.

the round trip is about 80 miles, with perhaps around 7,000' of elevation gain: emigration, big mountain, hogsback (which is just a big darn silly hill out in the middle of nowhere you have to climb then descend: why do they do that?) . . . then everything again in the opposite direction. plenty climbing, plenty swooping, a tour alongside two reservoirs, and, yesterday, a chipper moose (my third of the week) trotting down the road in front of me on our way down from big mountain on the way home.

on the first leg of our ride I asked biking buddy bob if he ever got nervous before rides like this.

"nervous? no, not nervous. I might get anxious before a big organized ride, like the 1000 warriors, or lotoja, rides like that. rides like this today, I might have thoughts like 'I don't want to do this,' but it's not an anxious thing."

he nailed it. I had been trying to put descriptive words to what I'd been feeling earlier in the morning, and perhaps the most accurate word would be dread. as in, oh, this is going to hurt, I would rather stay home and eat bon-bons and life would be easier if I didn't like to ride my bike. wait, do I like to ride my bike? then why don't I want to go today? oh, that's right, because it's going to hurt . . .

the trip to henefer, standard summer ride for the serious training cyclist, is just not one of my favorites. I've only ridden it 3 or so times, and I have never loved it.

so yesterday I was experiencing some combined form of dread and anxiety, yet telling myself I had all day to do it and great company, and it would be just fine.

and it was. parts were less fun than others, but I survived it, it's behind me, and I have just jumped a mental hurdle: the first long, painful ride of the season to henefer.

it may not seem like so much, but for some reason, having this ride behind me is significant. perhaps it's like passing your first exam in a new course, or receiving your first--and favorable--review at a new job. surviving this ride is confirmation that my training has been good enough, and I'm on the right path.

it's a whew.

and a woo-hoo.

Friday, June 17, 2011

carving curves

you know how I feel about swooping.
and every good swoop has a bend to it . . . a gentle curve, a tighter turn, a switchback, an S curve.
and I like flying downhill around them: leaning into the curve, watching my speed, balancing my weight against the forces of gravity and its opposite.
what I like best is knowing my comfort zone, my limitations, just how fast I can go.
I know these things, and then I push them, just a bit.

I know I crashed a year ago. but it wasn't the result of a high-speed risk-taking maneuver. it was because of a weed.

and I am not reckless: I swoop with cautious abandon.

but I can't not do it: the thrill is too great.

today was a recovery ride day, and thank goodness the weather was absolutely perfect, because there were no thrilling swoops, no tight corners, no fun carving. my top speed was a whopping 26, my slowest about 10, and the most entertainment I had was dodging the plentiful potholes.
it was still a glorious ride, the sun shining and the temperature in the low 60's.
my legs spun round and round, I held back so that my heartrate stayed low (ish), and I just envisioned myself swooping.
tomorrow I'll swoop.
because a good, curving swoop makes up for cold weather, suffocatingly hot weather, even questionable company. a good, downhill curve adds flavor and excitement to a ride, and can counterbalance preoccupation, grumpiness, exhaustion.
a great, curving swoop is possibly even better than chocolate.

and carving a perfect curve on the way downhill is one of the best things you can experience on a bike. it might have something to do with how hard you worked to get to the top, but it also has everything to do with the rush of wind in your face, your perfectly balanced form, and the knowledge that you have defied gravity for even a brief span of time.

yep, possibly better than chocolate.
possibly tied with a fat slice of warm apple pie.
and I'll have to let you know if it's better than a huge slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting . . .


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


one year ago today, I hopped on my bike early in the morning, heading off to celebrate my Biking Anniversary by climbing up big cottonwood canyon to brighton ski resort, as I'd done the previous 3 years.
about seventeen minutes into my ride, I crashed, breaking my collar bone in two places, breaking a couple ribs, chipping my shoulder, and shredding my brand new bad ass team shorts.

today, I hopped on my bike early in the morning, heading off to celebrate my Biking Anniversary by climbing up big cottonwood canyon to brighton ski resort.
about seventeen minutes into my ride, I passed the spot where I had crashed, and I continued on, upright and solid, my collarbone still decorated with a titanium plate.

I'm big on anniversaries, on traditions, on celebrating (or at least acknowledging) the annual re-visiting of important dates. I hold most of these in my head (and that's why I forget them, sometimes), and most often celebrate them quietly, internally.
but this is a big one.
this changed my life.
it has helped me hold on, helped me clear my head, helped me escape, become healthier, meet new friends . . .
this is a huge anniversary for me.

so, since I rode a big hard ride this morning, and since it is such a special day, I will once again utilize those words of marie antoinette's that have been tweaked over time (and now by me):

let's go eat cake.

Monday, June 13, 2011


there is a section of road in southern colorado that connects the little town of ouray with the road between silverton and durango. one climbs from ouray (elevation 7770') to red mountain pass (elevation 11,018') on the Million Dollar Highway, taking in views that are so stunning they almost cause one to stop pedaling and fall off the bike.

this area has been called the "gem of the rockies," and also the "little switzerland of america," due to it's alp-like formation. I wrote about it when I visited last year (135) and it has never left the little spot of my memory bank where it implanted itself.

certain terrains just make me think alpine, of the lofty mountains, the alps. these are often meadows dotted with wildflowers, thick and green and guarded by rocky, craggy peaks. perhaps this is all from watching the sound of music as a child . . . but when I encounter these landscapes, I think of swiss alps.

I rode through one yesterday.

and each time I ride through this winding, steadily climbing valley, I fall in love with it again. every canyon I ride has its own personality, and I am intensely grateful for the variety and the wonder that arises in each.

yesterday's ride was the old snow basin road, and though the asphalt has shifted and collapsed in a spot or two--one such shift making the road impassable by car--the surrounding hillsides are rounded, thick with growth, vibrant and vigorously alive.

a gift of our incredibly wet winter and spring: another closed road.

I didn't mind, at all, dismounting and walking my bike around the devastated road.

I loved the silence of just four wheels whirring, spokes cutting through air, gushing water deep down in the valley below, and birdsong, simply bird chatter, gracing the peaceful space surrounding us.

I've never visited switzerland. perhaps one day I will; perhaps it will never happen. but I have inhaled the scent of flowered meadows, I've stared in awe at sharply rising alps, I've pedaled my way up through verdant green hillsides. I've stood, surrounded by silence and peace, and felt the awe of being one small human in a landscape sculpted by the gods.

I'm good.

I've been blessed;

I'm good.

~photo taken on old snow basin road, rory wallwork, 2009

Saturday, June 11, 2011

you are my sunshine, my only sunshine . . .

okay, my super friend holly, who is most dedicated to being a bearer of light, has gone and done it.

she gave me an award, which means I have to respond and play a game, a blogging game. I don't know how to do this, so bear with me as I try to figure it out.
she ever-so-kindly nominated me (along with 9 or so others) for a Sunshine Award.
now I still don't really know much about this, but I have a hard time seeing something with that title being a bad thing. (unless, I suppose you consider sunburns and skin cancer, which I am not about to consider.)
so, holly, whose astute and flavorful A Life-Size Catholic Blog is always an informative delight, passed this honor to me, along with the work that comes with it.
so, susan, who writes and posts here as a way to force herself to practice her writing skills, is struggling to figure out how to play the game without playing the game.

first, I needed to understand what this award is.
googling (what would I do without google?) told me that this award is given to "those bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogging world."
then I tried researching the origin of this award, and the oldest citation I found was from january of 2010, and it was simply someone writing about receiving one. couldn't find anything about who started it. of course, I was only patient enough for a two-minute search.
next came paying attention to How To Play The Game. holly states the steps are thus:
acknowledge the presenter (done!), say something about yourself (like I don't do this constantly?), choose 10 other blogs to give the same award to (oh, oh, big problem here), then let those 10 blogs know you've awarded them with this highly coveted, prestigious award (same problem as the previous step: I don't know of 10 blogs.)

my next step involved deep contemplation: do I want to play this game, and if so, how can I realistically choose 10 blogs when I really don't know of more than about 2, and will elden at the Fat Cyclist blog think I'm weird if I give him the Sunshine Award?

this all erupted in my life yesterday, and I could hardly sleep at all last night.
so this morning I got up and went for a bike ride, hoping to clear my head and work out the problem.
then I went to the tennis court and hit (sometimes) and missed (more often) balls in a further effort to work out what I was going to do.

and now here I sit, knowing that all I really want to do is let holly know that she spreads more light and sunshine around (and knowledge and information, too), in a clever and genuine way, than any other ten people combined.

and that's my answer.

so, holly, another sunshine award back at 'ya. be well, continue your fight for good, and thanks for all of the love and light you spread around.
(and elden, you're way cool, too: if I were awarding sunshine awards I'd paste a big one right on top of your life.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

tooting someone's horn

I can change a flat tire, clean and lube my chain, change tires, check my brakes for clearance and remaining life, and clean my frame.
I'm not so good with cable tension, though my cute bike shop boy has shown me and explained how it works more than once.
I haven't yet attempted to re-tape my handlebars, and I stay far, far away from chain repairs.
I carry tire levers, a spare tube, two cartridges and a cartridge holder-thingee, a small amount of cash, and a teeny tube patch kit.
I don't carry a chain tool because I would have no idea what to do with it.

yesterday during my ride ruby would occasionally slip gears, jumping to a different gear when I had not asked her to do so. this is usually (in Susan's Bicycle Maintenance Book) an issue of cable length: some cable needs to be tightened or loosened. yep. it didn't happen too terribly often, though, and I just placed it in that awesome bin of information called To Deal With.
today, I set off for my ride and ruby had a hard time holding steadily in a gear, beginning with the first block. hmm. well, I decided, I would just stay in my baby gears, spin more, try not to put too much load on the darn girl, and maybe mess with the cables when I got home.
two miles later, pulled off to the side of emigration canyon road, I discovered the real problem: a bad link in my chain.
I don't mess with chains.
well, not much, and not well. I pushed the problem pin back in but the link still looked fat and distinctly different from its neighbors.
the next twenty feet up the road went smoothly but the twenty-first foot was a problem: the chain failed, locking up, stopping me instantly.

I caved. I smushed the pin back in and limped ruby back home. where I then placed her gently in my car and drove to the bike shop for help.

where Mike Hanseen, owner of Millcreek Bicycles, fixed my chain immediately and charged me less than the price of a Domino's pizza. (this happened after his shop tech suggested I leave it until tomorrow evening, my face fell, and I moaned, oh, I can't possibly live without my bike that long....)

mike just made a new friend. me.
I will tell every biking friend I have about what he did for me.
I will shop there.
I will buy unnecessary things, just to support this guy who went beyond what many would have done.
because he cared enough to make a ten-minute repair on the spot so that I could ride my bike

millcreek bicycles.
3969 south wasatch boulevard, slc, ut, 84124

ask for mike, tell him you made susan's day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

who would I be without my yoga mat?

yoga makes me a better person.
there's really not much more to say than that, but being me, I'll expound anyway:

it teaches you to breathe. deeply. consistently. through tension and difficulty and discomfort.
it teaches you to slow down and pay attention. always.
it teaches you that you are capable of more than you thought. if you stick to it.
it teaches you that good things come with effort. yep.
it teaches you to soften your gaze, to be less demanding of the world around you.
it teaches you to move through layers of sensation, relaxing into each before moving on.
it teaches you that a calm and steady core diminishes the tendency to overreact.
it teaches you that the goal is not "not to fall," but when you do fall, to fall with grace.
it teaches you that balance is a necessity. balance between effort and ease, balance between stress and peace, balance between your body and earth.

it strengthens your muscles. making them look prettier. okay, and function more effectively.
it adds flexibility to your joints. especially the ones that tighten from hours of running and cycling.
it changes you, it calms you, it eases your path through the world.
it helps you to understand and learn non-resistance.

and perhaps, most importantly, it reminds you that we all share a common divinity, a common spirituality, a common core and bond, which is acknowledged with a simple namaste murmured at the end of each class. that which is divine in me bows to that which is divine in you.

yoga makes me a better person. it hasn't made me a better person: this is a work in progress, a work that is never truly done. but every small movement forward---and yes, the occasional leap---make it all absolutely worthwhile.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

party at the top of the hill

it's arrived: biking season, when everyone starts pedaling up the canyons again, when the air feels great and the sun is making its presence known more consistently but not yet aggressively.
the time when I huff and puff my way up the canyon and just as I begin to crest that last little rounded hill I can see a cycling-gear-clad body standing by their bike, then another straddling their bike, then another and another . . . it's the party at the top of the hill.

I have teenagers. which means if one of them is home, music is playing in my house. one of the current favorites is by All Time Low, with a chorus that states, everybody knows there's a party at the end of the world.
catchy tune. catchy phrase.
and now I sing to myself, everybody knows there's a party at the top of the hill.

sometimes there are a dozen, bikes leaning against the battered guard rail, people clustered in threes and fours, all in differing stages of rest/recovery/refueling/connecting. some moving onward to the next hill, some heading back down, some depleted, some barely beginning to warm up for their longer journey.

and we all climbed the hill, pushing our bodies and bikes up, up this reasonable grade, up toward the place the party gathers, the peak, the summit, the goal.
it's an accomplishment.
greater for some than for others: huge in significance for the first-timer, merely one leg of a longer ride for someone training for an event, just a quick sprint for a professional cyclist.
it remains, however, the top of a hill.

today I rode up big cottonwood canyon.
and I didn't make it to the party.
a rarity for me, I made it perhaps 10,000 feet short of the top before my body said nope, no more today. I rested at the second solitude ski resort entrance, lying on my back on the top of a concrete retaining wall, soaking in the sun, letting my aching muscles--from shoulders and arms and upper back to quads and hamstrings--quiver in the delight of non-movement. I was done.
no party at the top of the hill, but my own little private party acknowledging that sometimes it's okay to say enough.
there will be another day, I will feel stronger on a different day.

the party at the top of the hill will always exist, no matter who is there, no matter which hill, no matter figurative or literal.
there is always a party at the top of the hill.

Friday, June 3, 2011

joy, doubled

I caught a little blurb on television the other day, someone talking about how to live a fulfilling life. there were a handful of things to do, but one of them was a suggestion to find one thing each day that brings you joy, then to write about it and talk about it.

such a simple thing to do, and something that is made possible for me by my cycling: every day I ride (which is almost every day) I find myriad things that bring me joy, from the movement from "argh, I can't do this today" to its slow release and change into "oh, this feels great," from the red tailed hawks to the scampering chipmunks, from the cool breeze to the warm sun to the gushing, rushing creek.

joy is everywhere, and to acknowledge it is to increase it.

there it went!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

following the street sweeper

first of all, I understand they're not really sweepers. they're probably called "cleaners," and I think they have a series of brushes under them that kind of scour the road, and then pick up what's pick-up-able.

but my romantic soul is pleased by the term "street sweeper," and not so pleased by the term "street cleaner." thus, sweeper.

second, they are a lovely thing.
I lived for many, many years on a street that never saw or felt a street sweeper. when I moved into "the city" itself, I found that we receive many such services that weren't available out in the burbs. having someone come by and remove all the rubble and gunk from the gutters by one's curbs is a beautiful thing.

what's even more wonderful is when they remove all the rubble and gunk from the bike lanes.
this is a lovely, beautiful, fantastic gift.
my gratitude for the service provided is huge.
however . . . the other day I was riding up emigration, noticing how nice and clean the bike lane was, when I saw dust and dirt being whipped into the air by the wind. funny, it didn't feel that windy: I decided it must have just been a gust. a little micro burst. a little micro burst that kept whipping dirt and dust into the air.

as I rounded a bend, and then another, I realized that the immense, slow-moving street sweeping machine was up ahead, visible through the dust storm it was busily creating. and I seemed to be pedaling just a bit faster than the machine was moving, drawing closer and closer to the swirling sediment.

decision time: could I move fast enough to pass it, or was I doomed to sit behind it, drinking in the dust? the clean, debris-free lane was fabulous, but the dirt kicked up into the air was miserable. I put on the speed, lungs aching, quads screaming, and swooped up ahead into clean air. and rocks, gravel, cinders, salt, twigs, bug carcasses and other unidentifiable debris under my wheels.

friendships are like following street sweepers. there are benefits--significant ones--and sometimes, a little mess and discomfort. I'm terribly grateful for street sweepers, but there are moments when being around them is painful, uncomfortable, okay, even miserable.

but the joy they bring into my life is real: they smooth my way, they allow me to widen my path and be more carefree. I can be less vigilant, I am gleeful in the freedom to ride without fear of flatting on glass shards, or sliding on debris, or bumping over rocks.

friends smooth my way, introduce me to wider paths, share my glee and fearlessness, supporting who I am and where I wish to go. and at times they throw dust up, complicating my experience, demanding more from me than I may feel able to give.

I'll keep the street sweeper, anyday, and my friendships, too. the benefits far, far outweigh the drawbacks. and it's okay to take a little dirt in the air when a smoother ride is the end result.