Thursday, September 29, 2011

crunchy leaves

the first crisp leaves of the season have begun spotting the bike lanes, dancing, skittering, leaping with the wind and, between gusts, coming to rest on the dry road. they crunch under my tires, brittle things that they are.

signs of the changing seasons, a symbol of the life--and death--cycle, an indication of what is yet to come, the quieting of spring and summer's riotous growth, the slowing of earth's proliferous period, the easing into winter and dormancy.

I like to view it as simply an outward manifestation of the inner process of growth.
without the shedding away, a new cycle is unable to begin. the tree remains strong, the tree continues to grow, its roots dig deeper and its limbs reach further skyward. it lets loose of what it no longer needs, and the colored leaves slip down, away, gone into what will become new earth.

the crunch is pleasing to my ears for some reason, and I do not weave my way between them but ride smoothly, straight, forward, smiling with each hearty crunch and smiling, as well, at the silence between.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I am riding stronger and better than ever right now.

I am riding less and getting more rest than ever right now.

do you think I should do the math??

Friday, September 23, 2011


if you know me well, you know that I need to write. it's part of what I'm meant to do here on earth, and I can't shake it off. I've tried: I've worked in retail, I've earned a MSW and been a counselor, I've owned a business in the wholesale industry, I've raised children . . . and through it all, something has continued to pull me to notepaper and pens, word processors, laptops, keyboards, pencils, scraps of paper. I cannot walk away from this.
so I keep writing, accepting little projects that occasionally come my way, creating my own new projects, starting this blog, beginning another project when the spirit moves me, and 15 months ago, finally saying "yes" to a big project that came my way.
that big project was a book that someone hired me to write.
completed last winter, we spent months trying to solicit an agent, then finally sent the manuscript directly to a publisher in june.

and this past monday I received an email from someone at the publishing company telling me that the first reviewer of my manuscript didn't want to put it down, and now it was in the hands of a second reviewer.

didn't want to put it down.

didn't want to put it down.

didn't want to put it down!!!

I had planned that day to be a day off the bike, a full recovery day for me. but late in the afternoon my quads were aching and that thing inside me that tells me to do things told me to go for a ride.
by the time I got out it was evening, and I grinned all the way up to the top of emigration. sunlight was fading fast, but I had to ride down to the reservoir, I had to share my good news with my favorite body of water.
all the intelligent cyclists had by then headed home, as the sun sunk low in the sky and shadows grew thick and voluminous.
and I rode down to the reservoir, shouting, as I swooped, they didn't want to put it down!
the water heard me, it swallowed my words, it pushed them to its shores, it echoed them back to me. they didn't want to put it down.

I was one of those unsafe riders on my way home, taillight blinking but lightless in front, shocking motorists with my sudden presence, scaring myself with my next-to-nothing vision.
but I had to shout. I had to sing it out, I had to share it with my world.

didn't want to put it down.

stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

kill ratio

my son is a gamer. luckily he manages to hold down a part-time job, go to school, and earn decent grades while being one.
my friend ivy is an incredible cycling machine and fabulous all-round athlete.

what they have in common---besides the fact that ivy's a pilot and my son would like to become one---is that they both talk about kill ratios.

I cannot speak to the gaming version, but in the cycling world it's just this silly little game we play when out riding . . . how many people we pass divided by how many pass us.

it makes me smile.

some days I have a positive (greater than 1) kill ratio; some days I don't. to be honest, most days it's not at the forefront of my brain.
but this morning I choose an excellent time of day to have a positive kill ratio: late mid morning. the serious guys are out early, lunchtime, and after work . . . often the late-mid-morning crowd is more female, more aged, and---dare I say it---more relaxed.
I passed the first person not quite 2 miles into my ride, starting me off in the positive.
the next two came in a lump about 3 miles later.
then one more.
and no one passed me: we're talking a 4:0 very positive ratio!

and then came sight of the next cyclist ahead of me, someone I was gradually approaching.
and I was flummoxed.

what I saw first was the trailer behind the bike, obviously carrying a small child. then I saw the woman riding the bike.
I wanted to give her all my kills, and slink back home, slacker that I was. how fast would I climb a canyon towing a trailer and toddler?? not very, methinks.

so I had to decide: do I count this as a kill?
maybe half a kill.
maybe it should be neutral.

maybe I should subtract one of my previous kills, in honor of her efforts.

I didn't resolve the issue on my ride: it actually caused me to stop playing the game.
in fact, maybe that should be my next training move: buy a trailer and start out just hauling the empty contraption around. then maybe I could borrow someone's small child. small being key.

or maybe I can just hope to not encounter her again on one of my rides.

I don't think my son goes through these mental gyrations while he's playing his games. however, I like my version of the game better because I really don't understand how to work those silly little controller thingees . . . it's much easier to ride a bicycle.
in fact, it's one of those things you never forget how to do, whether you ever pass anyone, get passed by others, or simply have an amazingly peaceful time all by yourself.

Monday, September 19, 2011

the Big Nasty

saturday I conquered the Big Nasty.
conquered, nailed, attacked, beat, kicked, trampled.
woo hoo!!!

okay, maybe you don't know what the Big Nasty is.
so it would be hard to be impressed, or to even understand my enthusiasm.

I'll help you out. the Big Nasty is a climb up the La Sal mountains outside of moab, utah, that has been given a bunch of cute names for many of its little phases. "3000 feet in 7 miles" is its claim, and it has been waving its little hand at me for about 4 years now. come and get me, it has whispered, and I've always found one excuse or another to avoid it.

until last saturday.

the day dawned wet and gloomy. rainy, gray, all of moab's red dirt washing over the roads and leaping to attach itself to any surface, carbon, nylon, wool, plastic. the rain pulled itself back into the heavy clouds by about half past seven, and shortly after that we set out, hoping to conquer the mountain before the predicted afternoon thundershowers showed up.

the ride begins with a slow, steady (depressingly false-flat like) climb to the base of the La Sal mountains at pack creek ranch. the headwind began about 2 miles in, and the rain joined it about 8 miles in. slogging away at the 3 percent grade, shivering, wondering when the 74 degree, sunny day was going to show up, we were extremely grateful to reach the beginning of the real climb when both the rain and the headwind disappeared.
instead, like magic, before us rose the Little Nasty.
it was nasty.
but brief---those 10-13% grades were just a tease during that short little climb.
next came Tom's Misery--another relatively brief ascent--and then came the Launch Pad (guess which way the slope leaned), before, finally, the Big Nasty itself.
it was nastier.
but it, too, ended, and I thought I'd survived it amazingly well, warming myself by the fire pit at the aid station at the top.
next came the downhill.
oops, no, not really.
we started down, and then suddenly we were going up again . . . then down then up, up, up . . . eventually climbing Heaven's Staircase, and finally reaching the real peak at Heaven's Overlook.
I love it when these climbs receive cute little names. mainly because it gives you something else to concentrate (hah! like I can concentrate with no oxygen!) on while you're convincing yourself 10 percent is not a big deal, nor is 12. or 13.

what I really want to share is that I conquered the darn thing last saturday.
so did a hundred and fifty other brave souls, many of whom haven't had nearly the coaching, training, and miles logged that I have.
we were all awesome.
we all conquered, kicked, trampled, beat, attacked, and nailed that darn thing.

and I hope every one who has ever done the same thing has the same little smile inside that I do, the one that hops up and down and giggles, I kicked the Big Nasty!
woo hoo!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

another open letter to those lotoja organizers

this was the 29th lotoja.
once again, I feel the need to share a few thoughts, no surprise there.

dear epic guys:
thanks for another grand event . . . I know you can't really take credit for the weather, but once again, I am excessively grateful for the mild temperatures and the absence of rain (and snow). your event gives us all the opportunity to push ourselves, to travel through beautiful country, and to spend time (all day) in a positive, energized environment full of support and enthusiasm.
however, I do have a comment or two about a few things . . .

check-in in logan: come on. that was ridiculous. you should have it nailed by now. to tell each rider---after they've shown their license and had their folder pulled---to step back and wait until their name is called, then to expect them to hover, then work their way around the crowd to the spot they're called to (25 minutes later) in the inner sanctum . . . just not efficient. you've done it better before.

volunteers: amazing. absolutely fabulous, terrific, helpful, kind, cheerful. how do you get them to do this?

award pick-up in teton village: see check-in comments. why did you stop just handing it to us as we crossed the line? don't we look like we've just ridden 200+ miles? and if not, just send the clean and happy looking people to the "possible impostors" booth. don't make us stand in another ridiculous line for twenty minutes. we're tired, cold, thirsty, nauseated, dizzy, achy . . . oh, maybe that was just me.

those mountain america water bottles: thanks, that was a nice sentiment. however, only people of a certain height can use these darn things. yes, those of us "shorter" people don't have enough room on our down tubes and seat tubes. embarrassing but true.

the girl-cut t-shirt: woo hoo!! thank you! I now own a lotoja t-shirt that I might wear! I have the other 4 t-shirts stacked in my closet, pristine, never worn. I've always said that when I'm a great-grandma I'll gather my progeny around and drag out these perfectly un-used t-shirts to talk about what I used to do in my younger and crazier years, and how these handsome men's t-shirts were just not my style, yet too precious to give away or do anything else with.

the mileage: I came up short this year. did I miss a turn? is my garmin not the same as yours? was the route really 2.6 miles short and you just didn't want to change your tag line? I am not complaining: I might not have made another 2.6 miles by the end . . .

and that's it.

oops, except this: thanks, once again, for keeping with the "sprocket" and not trying to give us hangers.



Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I just made Lotoja-Banana Bread:
this is what you do with all those leftover bruised and weary bananas that traveled from salt lake to logan to jackson to salt lake and look like it.

as I don't truly like bananas, I find it easy to hand this bread over to other people so I can concentrate on just eating chocolate and pastries.

I am not in charge

what would our worlds be like if we were in charge of our own paths?
I hesitate to even contemplate too deeply: to dig too far into this philosophical discussion makes my head spin.
would every ride be under clear skies with a seventy degree air temperature?
would there be smooth asphalt everywhere? (duh, yes.)
would opportunities present themselves to us regularly and gratifyingly?
would we always ride just the teeniest bit better than the time before?
would we always sleep well, would our stomachs never hurt, would we never cramp, would we always make good choices about fuel and hydration?

I am not in charge.
not of wind, nor of weather. not of other riders, automobiles, wildlife, rumble strips, or street sweepers.
there is so very little I'm in charge of it's almost frightening. we train, we try to rest, recover, fuel efficiently. but the gap between what I am in charge of and what, in reality, is, can only be closed and covered by that nebulous, intangible, seeping/growing/expansive thing called faith.

thanks to God, faith, oatmeal, bananas, john, bill, brad, michael, ivy, numerous unnamed souls, a deer, an elk, the snake river, mountain dew and swedish fish, I earned my 1000-mile award last saturday. (never mind the fact that they won't award it to me until next year: I know I earned it.)
I did what I could, and last friday I let everything go, embracing the fact that I was no longer in charge.
it's freeing, it's liberating.
you take ownership for your part, and let go of absolutely everything else, because it's simply not in your control.

now, if I can just remember to be this way all the time.
when participating in biking events, when simply riding, when parenting, while running my business, while navigating life.
I'm not in charge.
I'm simply responsible for doing my best, fueling and resting, and never ever letting go of that great big thing called faith.


Friday, September 9, 2011


walking across the REI parking lot yesterday I saw a big, bronze, mud-splattered truck in the parking lot. a company logo was plastered on the driver's door, the words Teton Whitewater prominent under an outline of mountain peaks.
a zig of excitement ran through me.
then a smile took over my face.
I was happy.

tomorrow is the Big Day, the day I spend entirely too much of my year training for, the day that sits in the back of my mind, always, the day that strikes fear in hearts across the nation. well, maybe not that last one.
tomorrow is lotoja, and I am not only ready to ride the thing, I am even a bit more excited than usual. and it's not just anxious excitement, it's even a bit of enthusiastic excitement.
the reason?
because I've told myself---and the world---that this will be my last one. that I'm ready to give it up, to create more balance in my life, to find a different way to spend big chunks of time on my weekends.
as a result, what has snuck into my cycling self is this nostalgically eager little girl who is ready to observe everything along the way, to memorize vistas and views and trees and coves, and to say a sweet goodbye to the path that has brought her oh so very far.

I have somehow, miraculously, gotten myself to a place of what will be will be. however the next day and a half unfold, all will be well. whether I ride incredibly well, fairly, or poorly, whether the sun shines or the wind howls, whether I sail through without a single mechanical issue or I don't (I can't bring myself to list any of those things that might but I still hope don't happen) . . . I will be fine.
I will have honored my path, this phase of my life, these amazing experiences of riding my bike from a small, university town in northern utah to the storied, resort village in a geographic hole in the middle of western wyoming.

I have let go the reins; I am not in charge.
I have done my part: I have trained and hydrated and figured out how to keep enough electrolytes floating around in my body. I have stretched and rested and pushed and sweat, I have breathed in and out, in and out, in and out.

now it's just up to the universe, to all of those forces and energies and desires swirling in elaborate, invisible patterns to give me the experience I need tomorrow.

I'd like a fast ride, I'd like a good ride, I'd like to do it without tears and swear words. I'd like to find myself full of patience and trust and---yep, you guessed it---faith.

so, my best to all of you in whatever endeavors fill your day tomorrow, saturday the 10th.
you know where I'll be, and you can have faith in your knowledge that regardless of what comes my way, I will be absolutely