Wednesday, August 24, 2011

thank you for the porcupine

thank you for the porcupine.
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 have run out of words.

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

God's presence on a hell ride

thank God it was beautiful.

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


it was dark when I left home this morning, my tail light flashing in red morse code, my front light casting a small cone of white into the gray before me.
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.
some did.
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

muddy bottom bracket!

I'm terribly excited, all because my bike has a muddy bottom bracket!
woo hoo!
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

lines drawn with invisible ink

each of these past few augusts I've had to look back at what I wrote the year before to see how I was feeling during this stage of my training.
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


today I rode 95 miles, from pinebrook up wolf creek pass and back. we were blessed with tailwinds for more of the ride than seems possible, and it was a stunningly beautiful day.
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

trees and forests

the trees are back!
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 forests.
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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I'm having one of those lost-in-the-wilderness days.
you know the kind, where you can't see the trees for the forest: there's just one great big gob of LIFE out there, one big ball made of 5000 rubber bands, one big overwhelming THING that I can't make enough sense out of.

I can't see any individual trees today; they are all blurring into a vast hillside of green.

the good news is this: I love green. I haven't given up hope, and that huge, overwhelming forest is at least made up of a color I find pleasing.
it just happens to be blurry, indistinct, fuzzy around the edges and, well, all across its expanse.

I think I'm spiraling. I've been here before. I've been in this place of vagueness, of blurred lines, of feeling as if I'm moving through life blindfolded with my hands stretched out before me seeking bark and limbs and leaves and encountering nothing but space, empty space.

in yoga this morning the instructor asked us to set the intention of lifting our hearts up, skyward, with each inhale, and of rooting down solidly and firmly with each exhale.
since I can't seem to orient myself horizontally---can't feel or smell or even see those trees---perhaps I am supposed to simply focus on my vertical alignment today. perhaps today I am to simply be a human, rooted in what is, lifting toward what frees us, fuels us, keeps us centered, that belief in a higher being.

the trees are there, I'm certain. some have been carved with my initials, maybe even lifetimes ago. I'll eventually find them, embrace them (tree hugger that I am), and move between them, moving even more deeply into the place I am meant to be.
someday, just not today.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

God's Blog, reproduced here for you

this came to me from my step-father, and it is so so so good (and much better than anything I thought about writing today: I rode around a lake yesterday, rode up a canyon today, blah blah blah) that I am sharing with all y'all. enjoy!

God’s Blog
by Paul Simms August 8, 2011

UPDATE: Pretty pleased with what I’ve come up with in just six days. Going to take tomorrow off. Feel free to check out what I’ve done so far. Suggestions and criticism (constructive, please!) more than welcome. God out.


Not sure who this is for. Seems like a fix for a problem that didn’t exist. Liked it better when the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep.

Going carbon-based for the life-forms seems a tad obvious, no?

The creeping things that creepeth over the earth are gross.

Not enough action. Needs more conflict. Maybe put in a whole bunch more people, limit the resources, and see if we can get some fights going. Give them different skin colors so they can tell each other apart.

Disagree with the haters out there who have a problem with man having dominion over the fish of the sea, the fowl of the air, the cattle of the earth, and so on. However, I do think it’s worth considering giving the fowl of the air dominion over the cattle of the earth, because it would be really funny to see, like, a wildebeest or whatever getting bossed around by a baby duck.

The “herb yielding seed” is a hella fresh move. 4:20!

Why are the creatures more or less symmetrical on a vertical axis but completely asymmetrical on a horizontal axis? It’s almost like You had a great idea but You didn’t have the balls to go all the way with it.

The dodo should just have a sign on him that says, “Please kill me.” Ridiculous.

Amoebas are too small to see. They should be at least the size of a plum.

Beta version was better. I thought the Adam-Steve dynamic was much more compelling than the Adam-Eve work-around You finally settled on.

I liked the old commenting format better, when you could get automatic alerts when someone replied to your comment. This new way, you have to click through three or four pages to see new comments, and they’re not even organized by threads. Until this is fixed, I’m afraid I won’t be checking in on Your creation.

One of them is going to eat something off that tree You told them not to touch.

Adam was obviously created somewhere else and then just put here. So, until I see some paperwork proving otherwise, I question the legitimacy of his dominion over any of this.

Why do they have to poop? Seems like there could have been a more elegant/family-friendly solution to the food-waste-disposal problem.

The lemon tree: very pretty. The lemon flower: sweet. But the fruit of the poor lemon? Impossible to eat. Is this a bug or a feature?

Unfocussed. Seems like a mishmash at best. You’ve got creatures that can speak but aren’t smart (parrots). Then, You’ve got creatures that are smart but can’t speak (dolphins, dogs, houseflies). Then, You’ve got man, who is smart and can speak but who can’t fly, breathe underwater, or unhinge his jaws to swallow large prey in one gulp. If it’s supposed to be chaos, then mission accomplished. But it seems more like laziness and bad planning.

If it’s not too late to make changes, in version 2.0 You should make water reflective, so the creatures have a way of seeing what they look like.

S*H*O*E*S!!! Manolo Jimmy Choo Vuitton Prada +++ All sizes Great deals Free shipping! @@@ []

Penguins are retarded. Their wings don’t work and their legs are too short. I guess they’re supposed to be cute in a “I liek to eat teh fishes” way, but it’s such obvious pandering to the lowest common denominator.

There’s imitation, and then there’s homage, and then there’s straight-up idea theft, which is what Your thing appears to be. Anyone who wants to check out the original should go to (And check it out soon, because I think they’re about to go behind a paywall.)

Putting boobs on the woman is sexist.

Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know where to start. So the man and his buddy the rib-thing have dominion over everything. They’re going to get pretty unbearable really fast. What You need to do is make them think that there were other, bigger, scarier creatures around a long time before them. I suggest dinosaurs. No need to actually create dinosaurs—just create some weird-ass dinosaur bones and skeletons and bury them in random locations. Man will dig them up eventually and think, What the f?

Epic fail.

Meh. ♦

Friday, August 5, 2011

cheap therapy

a while back I was talking with a friend about budget crunches.
about how things have been tight these past few years, and how I manage to pay for the important things, always. and how those important things get prioritized: the kids come first.
I wasn't quite moaning, nor whining, but I was sounding like a sad sack anyway, so I said, but I do manage to take care of me, too: I did buy myself a bike.

ah, cheap therapy, was the response, hitting the nail dead on the head.

if I divided the number of hours I've ridden into the dollar amount I've spent on my bike (even throwing in the cost of tubes, tires, cartridges, maintenance, and event entry fees), I think I"d come in somewhere around $1.50 an hour.

if I took snapshots of my mental health 5 years ago and today, and compared the two, I believe any trained therapist would acknowledge my progress.

where else can you get great, productive, calorie-burning, fresh air therapy for such a price? (please don't say running: been there, considered that, think it's great, would like to do it, maybe someday I'll try again . . .) I consider all biking expenses to be "health insurance" premiums, and I think this is a pretty good way to approach it.

yesterday john and I rode up big mountain early in the morning, drinking in the dark green hillsides, still lush with growth, the cold pockets in the shaded stretches, the bright sun in the blue sky, the peace, the quiet. I try to hold these moments, storing them inside, reconnecting with them later in my day when the world seems off kilter. I take myself up on the hillside, looking out across the valleys to the mountain ridge to the south, listening to bird chatter and chipmunk scamperings, feeling the chilly air before it's warmed, and I know that all will resolve itself, the world will eventually right itself, and I am as centered as any human has the right to be.

cheap therapy, yep. cheap but effective.
and the daily visits are just a bonus.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

the set of fresh hounds, part II

mike started us off, one of twelve cyclists in our starting pack, taking off at the horn, 9 am.
patty brought us home, 30 hours later, pedaling into henderson, nevada at 3 pm the next day.
in between came karl, john, susan, patty, and mike, in various couplings and trios.

the first relay for all of us, this was a wild experience. the entire ride was broken down into 30 segments, and each of us was assigned 6. but then some of us--ahem--rode additional legs, either to help pace our teammates, or for the sheer pleasure of it.
the legs averaged about an hour riding time: some closer to 45 minutes, some closer to 2 hours.
the timing chip went from bike to bike to bike, and we just kept pedaling south.
all day.
then all night.
and all morning.
until three.

jeb drove and was the best pit crew boss ever, full of encouragement, offers of ice water and supplies (as when I flew past him yelling "shot blocks at the next transition zone" and his quizzical expression told me he had no idea what I was talking about, but sure enough, I got a bag of them handed off to me at the next transition zone), and a master at moving bikes on and off the bike rack and tightening front wheels.
tony did great hand-offs from the vehicle as it passed us, and from the ground, running as we passed the transition zones; he updated our facebook page, and basically said "yes" to every request we threw his way.
we bonded, the 7 of us, in the way that people in challenging circumstances do. we were all in it together, and the only way out of it was through it.

the sun tried to do us in, as did the aridity, sucking every molecule of moisture from our skin, our mouths, our eyes. the undulating rollers broke our hearts as they relentlessly rose and fell and rose again, and again.
some of us napped between riding legs better than others, and by about 24 hours into it we were all terribly sick of GU's, power bars, electrolyte drinks and other riding food. I started craving eggs: an egg mcmuffin loomed above me, fragrant and anything-but-prepackaged-energy-food.

jeb kept notes of what to do differently next year. add this to the list, add that.
I have only one note of what to do differently next year:
not sign up.

it was a grand adventure, a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I'm extremely glad I did it.
but I'm also happy to leave it in the past tense: I did it.
I'm good.

but the rest of you should absolutely get out there and give it a shot.
it's a great test of your stamina, and it gives you a terrific opportunity to bond with your own team, and others who are in the same darn boat.
I mean bike.

go for it!

Monday, August 1, 2011

the set of fresh hounds, part I

it's dark, dark as tar, and it reaches out as far as I can see, which isn't very far at all.

the air is cool, chilly, and the sweat I'm producing sits thickly on my torso and causes goosebumps to dance across my legs. I'm wearing ivy's super-reflect-y, bright orange, super-fast arm warmers, and I'm going to get to the top of this climb as quickly as I possibly can.

it's spooky, and for long stretches of time I'm the only one, anywhere, on this road. anyone human, that is, for the occasional rodent dashes across the asphalt, and one graceful deer has leapt from left to right in the far outer edge of the glow from my front light.

I'm somewhere near cedar breaks national monument, I'm somewhere between 9500 and 10,000 feet above sea level, and although it is quite possibly a beautiful place, all I see is a limited conical space of gray. when I turn to look behind me I see nothing but black.

I'm nearing the top (I can only tell by watching the mile markers: I've calculated from where I began and am counting them down, panting, eager for the end of up and the beginning of down) when I smell fire, and then see a faint orange glow. the tiny spot of orange becomes larger and larger, and soon I can almost discern bodies, and the outline of a camper behind. another orange glow dots the hillside far to my left, and another, further ahead, small and hopeful, warms my heart if not my legs.

I'm singing, almost to myself, but loud enough so that if anyone were near (hah) they would hear me. hallelujah, hallelujah. leonard cohen is getting me up this hill. I don't know all the lyrics, so I either fill in with words I like, words that have the right rhythm, or I la-la to fill in the spaces.

when the grade eases, and a faint, faint glow lies somewhere beyond the hills and clouds before me, I shiver, and sigh. I am so glad to be done with this climb. I pull on my gloves, and my teammates help me lift my reflective vest so that I can slip a wind jacket on beneath it. I decide I can live without the headband, and I push off with a cheery see ya soon! I have 7 or so miles to go, downhill, before I hand the timing chip off to karl.
there's a bit of flat I have to pedal through, then some down--only down, not wicked down--and suddenly I am shifting gears and my cadence is slowing and I am unbelievably pedaling back up a hill. no. no, no, no, this is not part of the plan.
I laugh and shake my head, no, no.
my legs yell at me and the hallelujah's have left my head, and finally I've crested whatever little bugger of a hill I've had to deal with, and I start down again. shift, shift, shift, my speed increases, and the cold night wind pushes against me. I'm slowing, impossibly slowing, and soon I'm shifting again and no, this can't be, oh, I am climbing again.
this one is shorter than the last, and soon I'm gliding down again.
a loud flapping noise is suddenly behind my left shoulder, and I turn my head, expecting to see a rider passing me, but it is only me, my jacket catching and releasing the wind.
jake is with me, and we have a conversation during the next five or so miles, talking about the dark, the cold air, the silence but for my jacket, the creatures that surround us, the angels above us, the friends waiting for us below, the love in our hearts, the joy of just being where we are.

we're somewhere past a third of the way to vegas, and I'm finishing up my second official leg. I've drawn this "king of the hill" leg up near cedar breaks, and I'm grateful. hallelujah, thank you leonard, this is a grand, beautiful experience. I'll be ready to hand my chip to the next hound, rest a bit, then hop back on the road again.
and sing, just a little, under my breath, words of thanks and praise.

relay, from relayen, middle english: set of fresh hounds