Thursday, December 27, 2012

tikkun olam, again

I've written about this before, but I felt an internal desire to revisit it, so off I go.
this phrase has been placed before me twice in the past few days--first in a novel, and second by my step-father last evening--and I am taking that as a message.
I'd first encountered this phrase a few years back at the Jewish Community Center where I exercise, it was written in big block letters on a sign above a large bin meant to collect donated winterwear.
tikkun olam, hmm, to google I went for a definition.
and what I found felt like home:  repairing the world.
yep, this is one of my roles here, and apparently the Jewish faith insists that it's a role that belongs to all of us.
all of us.
whether it's smiling more, picking up garbage, lending a hand to a stranger, recycling, being frugal with limited resources, or simply being cognizant of your impact on others, we are expected to participate in acts of healing.
the inner frontier expresses it beautifully in the following paragraph:

Tikkun olam encompasses both the outer and the inner, both service to society by helping those in need and service to the Divine by liberating the spark within. As we are, the Divine spark lies hidden beneath our layers of egoistic self-centeredness. That spark is our conscience, through which the promptings of the Divine will flow toward us. By pursuing spiritual inner work to strengthen our soul and purify our heart, we grow more able to bear that spark without shattering, more willing to act on what we know to be right, less willing to act in harmful or grasping ways, and more able to notice the quiet presence of conscience beneath the din of our chattering minds and reactive emotions. The work of transformation, of building a soul, creates a proper vessel for the Divine spark, for our unique share of the Divine Will, returning that spark to the service of the One Who made it. By working to perfect ourselves, perfect our soul, and serve society, we each contribute in our own unique way to the perfecting of the world. This is our duty and our calling as human beings.

who among us is not in need of a little healing?  and a little inner work to find our most beautiful, divine selves at our core?
I plan to hold the concept of tikkun olam in my heart--and hopefully my consciousness--this coming year.  front and center.  
maybe I can find a little world to add to the handlebars on my bike.  because I'm quite certain that in some strange, quirky, perhaps as yet unknowable way, me riding my bike is part of my own personal path of tikkun olam.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

life without a yoga mat

my good friend and biking buddy bob is the one who--through modeling behavior--led me to yoga.
(I am grateful to bob for many things, but this is probably one of the most important.)
bob is going through a very stressful life phase right now, and, when I think about it, has probably been doing the same since I met him.  he holds an important position with our state, he is dealing with a severe illness in his family, and he has a new puppy:   he is a busy guy who never gets enough sleep.
but he always makes time for exercise, and he always makes time for yoga.  he knows that without the mental health benefits of yoga, and the physical (and mental) benefits of exercise, he will be completely unable to do what he must do each day.

I've not been doing well at fitting yoga classes into my life this past month, so what I've done instead is to do a 20-minute routine after my power camp class each wednesday.  I never remember to bring my mat in (it's in the back of my car), so sometimes I do my yoga in socks on the gym floor, and sometimes I do it barefoot in a carpeted room next to the spin room.
and this is what I've learned:  yoga is much more difficult when your hands are slipping.  I can't hold the asanas (positions) as long, nor as well.  my form is poor, my stretches more shallow.  I'm more timid, more careful, less confident.
there's a reason we use yoga mats.

so here's the carryover.  the takeaway.  the life lesson learned:
with the right tools, all projects are easier.

too many times in life I forget to grab my tools.  I don't take the time to go get them, they're lost or misplaced, it seems a burden to find them . . . whatever the reason, I proceed without them.  and the task doesn't go as well as it could.  it takes twice as long, or I ruin something in the process.  on the rare occasion I end up finding a new and better way to do something . . . but not very often.  usually I botch the job or get frustrated by my ineptitude, and--some span of time after beginning--go find the tool I should have gotten in the first place.

they made yoga mats for a reason.  and next wednesday, darn it, I'm going to take my mat with me.  I'm going to sail smoothly through my asanas, my hands firm upon the rubber mat, my form at its best, my confidence returned.  if you're going to do something, you might as well accept help from those who've gone before, who've already walked your path, who've already determined a better way.
I'm going to keep emulating bob, who does a little yoga in his closet each morning, who does a remarkable job of balancing what life's thrown at him, and who always remembers to bring his bike pump when he rides, and his mat when he goes to yoga.

Friday, December 7, 2012

this morning's power camp cycling coach made my day.  
it was about 5:50, nearing the end of class, when she began telling us a story about riding out in the middle of nowhere, all by herself.  she talked about how important her music was--love those ipods--and then she talked about stories she told herself and ways she keeps her mind occupied . . . and then she laughed and said,
I have fun in my head.

I immediately sat up taller, experiencing one of those cathartic moments of connection/validation/ah-ha-ness:  I, too, have fun in my head!
and at times I fear I'm the only one . . . now I know there's at least one other soul out there who does what I do.

I have fun in my head.
I make up stories, I ask questions of the universe.  I create mnemonics to help me remember things I want to write about.  I count things.  I think about all the things in the world I don't know the names of.  I answer questions that oprah asks me during my television interview.  I swoop and admire my own cornering.  I recite song lyrics, noticing just how many gaps in my memory of them exist.  I think about clouds; I laugh at myself.  I count some more, I make up a few more stories, and I plan my next food binge.
have fun

there is a circus in there, myriad characters battling for supremacy, dictators lecturing me, bystanders critiquing my appearance, my form, my thoughts.  there are constantly lists being created, thoughts being swirled, ideas marinating.  outcomes planned, activities rehearsed, humor being found.
and it's this last part, the humor, that keeps it bearable.  without the humor I would drown in the heaviness of what goes on in my head.  

so, thank God for humor, for lightheartedness, for silly jokes and the ability to laugh at oneself.  not only does it keep you sane on interminable bike rides in the middle of nowhere, it keeps you sane in this overwhelmingly complex and extraordinary thing we call life.

ps:  do you know what washes up on tiny beaches?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . microwaves.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

the mastery-confidence-joy cycle

when my children were small we had a grand collection of videos.  animated fairy tales, fables and stories were favorites, and often played on our television in the family room.  the swan princess fell somewhere in the top ten, and every time it played, I would smile when the song practice, practice, practice came on.  it became my standard response when any child would ask how I became so good at drawing straight lines, cutting out circles, baking perfect cookies, all of those things we parents do . . . practice, practice, practice.
I would sing it, the kids would cover their ears and say stop mom, I know.
then it became how do you ever get good at math?  how do I get better at piano?  how can I be better at lacrosse?  how will I ever learn to drive a  manual transmission?
practice, practice, practice.

and here's the thing:  we practice, we practice some more, we practice again and again and one day we realize that we have gained some bit of mastery.

I love cornering.
I love being confident going into a curve, leaning into it, swooping around and down descents.  I am not the world's best corner-er, but I have mastered it for my level of cycling ability, and I love it.

I love writing and editing.  I love tinkering with words, fixing sentences, assessing and creating new ways to make something more readable.  I'm not the world's best editor or writer, but I'm pretty darn good and find great pleasure in both tasks . . . I've gained some mastery over the written word, and I love it.

when we gain this mastery, we feel confidence in our actions--whatever they might be--and what then trickles in is this delightful little thing called joy.
which doesn't arrive without that first event:  practice.
but once you reach that place where your lines are straight, your circle-cutting is smooth, your cookies turn out great, you can corner with confidence and edit succinctly . . . you realize the joy of mastery, the joy of confidence, the joy of doing something well.

practice, practice, practice.
and when mastery finally arrives, let the joy completely fill your being.
grin, laugh, shout, scream woo-hoo . . . and sing, if you want.  you've earned it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

the new toy

preface:  this is not about cycling.  (well, only a little, and only at the end.)

prologue:  I hate making coffee.  measuring grounds, filling the reservoir, all of it.  hate it.  but I like drinking coffee. there you go.

chapter one:
2 years ago I visited my brother and his family in texas.  they had a keurig coffee machine, and I fell in love with it.  I popped a pod in, pushed a button, and voila, had a cup of coffee.  sigh.  bliss.  I decided then and there that when I hit my stride, had enough money coming in to feel secure and comfortable, I would treat myself and buy such a machine.  it would be an indulgence, a luxury, a goal to shoot for and one day reward myself with.

chapter two:
I got married.  john drinks regular coffee, and I drink primarily decaf.  for the first 3 months of our married life we had 2 coffee pots on the counter . . . his and hers, regular and decaf.  in planning a kitchen remodel we considered a built-in, cup-at-a-time coffee maker (that housed both regular and decaf beans) to eliminate those 2 cumbersome machines.  boy are those things expensive.

chapter three:
someone suggested we try a keurig.

chapter four:
we bought a keurig, some decaf pods and some regular pods.  john brewed the first cup, sipped, smiled, and sighed in contentment.  I brewed a cup of decaf, sipped, smiled, and sighed in contentment.
we no longer had to fill our coffee machines the night before, we no longer had to guess how much coffee we wanted to drink before we drank it, we no longer needed two separate machines in the morning.  we learned we could have a cup of fresh, hot coffee in about 30 seconds.  we glowed.

chapter five:
I am now a happy camper, with one small not-too-expensive, neat machine on my counter, a happily caffeinated John and a happily not-too-caffeinated me.  we and our keurig plan to live harmoniously for the rest of our days.  or at least until they invent a new coffee-making method that improves upon the one-cup-at-a-time keurig.

some toys are worth every penny you pay for them.  my bike and my keurig top that list.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the last .1 percent

a while back (on my other blog) I wrote about the final mile.  about making it 999 miles, and feeling like the last mile in your effort to reach 1000 will possibly break you.
this was more about mental and life journeys than about real cycling . . . that is, until a climb I rode a week ago brought this sharply, clearly, fully in focus, right in front of me.

last week I was in maui (I know, not one bit of empathy out there from all y'all, that's okay), home of Haleakala.  the volcano.  my sweet john rented road bikes for us for the week so that I wouldn't go stir crazy and start chomping on or throwing things, and if you have the slightest idea of who I am, you'll figure out that I decided I had to ride my bike up haleakala.   john, willing knight, dropped me off at the ocean and I started pedaling up baldwin avenue toward the crater 35 miles ahead.  up.  up ahead.

I spent the first ten miles swiveling my head from right to left, up and around, amazed by the lush greenery surrounding me, the neat plantations, the old buildings, the low lying land off to my right.
while panting.
because the road was gently but consistently arching upward, with a gain of 500 feet in elevation every two miles or so.
about 10 miles into my ride I hit "the rodeo road"-- a cut-through that led me from olinda (which took over from baldwin avenue) to the haleakala highway-- a blessed down-and-up level half-mile stretch before the climb once again resumed.
at about 15 miles I hit the turn-off to the crater, where john had parked the car and started pedaling, elevation 3500 feet. and I kept climbing, john somewhere up there ahead of me.
I watched the painted messages on the side of the road ("breathe," and elevation numbers with every 500 feet gained), stopped when I needed to, sang praises for the visitor center (bathroom, water refills) at 7000 feet, and just kept pedaling up switchback after switchback after switchback.
when I reached the visitor center at the top, I saw a road stretching dramatically up to a smaller observation center higher up on a peak.
no, I thought, as I circled the parking lot, looking for john, for john's bike, for an excuse to stop.
no john, no bike, no excuse.
I headed up that last steep incline, gritting my teeth, telling myself I had enough left to get there.  after perhaps a quarter mile, I saw a cyclist waving at me from beside the road where it leveled off . . . it was a happy-to-be-there john.
and then I saw that the road hadn't yet ended . . .
there was one last extremely steep-looking climb to the round observation center on that little peak.
we sat and talked, we breathed, we drank water, we both looked at that last little climb and said, no.  our legs were fried, we were fried, and enough is enough.  we'd ridden 99.9 percent of it, and I was done.  done.  done.

then john looked at his garmin, which told him we were at an elevation of 9928'.
not the 10,000' we'd been promised.

we looked at the road up, looked at each other, and climbed back on our bikes for that last push.
as we crested the ridiculously steep little climb we saw the small wooden sign pounded into the volcanic rock on the right side of the road,  ELEV. 10,000 FEET.
we road on up to the lot, circled a time or two, and returned to the sign for a picture.

I honestly didn't think I could make that last push, that last tenth of a mile, that last teeny little climb.
but I did.
we did.
and life is all the better for it.
nuf said.

Monday, October 22, 2012

finding your tribe

I've always had this thing about not fitting in.  I've never felt "normal," and have always wondered what it would be like to be like "everyone else."
I don't want to be different (though at times I've certainly wished to be so) because I'm pretty darn used to being me and would hate to have to adjust to being someone else, but I accepted years and years ago that I am simply different.
my friend kathryn, in talking about connecting with other people, uses an expression I love, finding your tribe.  I love believing that I have a tribe, that I come from a people like me, that I'm not alone.  somewhere out there--spread out, few and far between, wherever they are--my fellow tribe members exist, living their lives, possibly with a similar little ache deep within to find and connect with others of the same.

this is why I wave at all the other cyclists I see out there.

yep.  because I figure, at some level, these people are in my tribe.  for them to be out there, riding their bicycles up and down a canyon, they must feel a similar pull to the one I feel.  deep within their dna must be a similar coding to mine, one that says go out, be in nature, push your body, feel the power, the communion, the joy of it all.  
I feel this kinship, I acknowledge this similarity, I honor those common traits and desires and dreams we share, and I wave to them to say yes, I belong to your tribe.  

once back home and showered, dressed in street clothes, at work, we may have little in common.  we might be hard-pressed to find shared roots or paths.  but it's likely we will connect, always, in that desire to pedal, to climb, to be in the midst of trees and dirt and sky and wind.  fellow members of my cycling tribe will always receive a wave, a lifting and lowering of the head, a nod to the fact that we share a common thread that will always, forever, connect us in a way more beautiful than we'll ever now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

canyons and cookies

last saturday, for a number of unimportant reasons, I decided to ride up two canyons, first one, then another.
city creek became the first, and I wanted millcreek to be the second.  however, as the snow level was 8000', the sun was hiding itself behind a solid bank of gray clouds, and I got chilled descending city creek in the rain, I decided to save narrow, shaded, steep millcreek canyon for another day.  instead, emigration became canyon number two.
by the time I finished city creek, pedaled back across the northeastern foothills, said goodbye to john (who voted that one canyon was enough), and approached the mouth of emigration, I had warmed back up and wasn't ready to let my riding day be over.
but then something mysterious happened . . . about a mile up the canyon, the "Idonwanna"s hit.  Idonwanna be climbing this canyon, I'd rather be done.  I donwanna keep riding, I wanna go home.  my legs hurt, I'm tired, I donwanna.  
for a solid mile I tolerated my complaining self, trying to convince it that I was happy to just be outside, doing something.  suggesting to it that it should be grateful it's healthy enough to ride, that it should be grateful for decent riding weather, that it was really just a small chunk of the day.
I donwanna, my legs hurt, I donwanna go all the way up this stupid canyon.
then I tried bribery:  think of the yummy cookies waiting for you at home, remember you get to go out to dinner tonight.
I still donwanna.  pedal pedal pedal, heartrate climbing, pedal pedal pedal.
it took another two or three miles before I stopped complaining, whining, moaning to myself.  determination won, became stronger, and helped me reach the point where it became slightly more than just a challenge and slightly less than pure fun.  I kept pedaling.

so here's the thing.  it would have been so easy to not ride that second canyon.  first of all, to not even start it, and second, to have turned around a mile up when the Idonwanna's were screaming inside my head.  but I stuck it out, and reaped the rewards of the beautiful scenery, the joy of the descent, the extra eighty minutes of fresh fall air, and the extra cookies I got to eat when it was all over.  at the end, I couldn't stop thanking myself for being the jerk that wouldn't let me turn around.

stick-to-it-iveness doesn't come naturally;  it's something one cultivates.  it's a part of commitment and determination, of character.  it's what allows others to depend on you.
and it doesn't come easy.  I battle myself constantly, but have learned over all these many years on earth that I am a better person for not letting myself slide.
or rather, for only letting myself slide after I've climbed enough first.

so the moral of the story is this:  if you say you're going to climb two canyons, then climb two canyons.
and then enjoy your cookies.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

my armchair

it's possible that there is no better way to listen to andrea bocelli that to do so (via your ipod) while
riding a bicycle, cresting a hill, on a 67 degree day in october where not a single cloud dots the sky and the trees on the hillsides below are cinnamon and scarlet and ochre and fluttering their raiment for the world to see and hear.
quite possible.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

moving tops

yesterday in my writer's blog, susanimhoffbird, I wrote about the final mile (1 mile to go).
today I decided that what I wrote was wrong.

well, perhaps not wrong, but limited in scope.

what I wrote about was that last mile of any journey, how long and difficult it can feel, especially when you're uncertain of when it will really end.  but that it's vital, and beautiful, and I am the proud owner of a hot pink sign with big white letters stating "1 Mile to Go" and a sketch of a biking chick underneath.

today, while vigorously pedaling my bicycle up the last 25 feet before cresting little mountain, I was hit with the next understanding:  the top keeps moving.
peaks are reached and left behind, and new peaks arise in the distance.
as miley cyrus sings, it's not really about reaching the top, it's the climb.
it's the climb.
it's every one of those 1000 miles, it's the journey just completed, it's the journey yet to come.
just because I only have 1 mile to go on this path doesn't mean I'm done.
after this will come another.
then another.
and the last mile will appear in my life again and again.

I cried.
while pushing with everything I had as I reached the peak, while realizing this was by no means my last peak, while being hit (graced) with the understanding that climbing is what I do.  I seem to want to keep working, striving, pushing, ascending, looking for the next mountain out in the distance.

however, I also like descending, I also like knowing that those 1000 miles are behind me, that the peak is in my past, who I was, what I've accomplished and gained. therefore, I think today's insight was simply a reality check.  yes, I might be on the last mile, but it's not my first "last mile," and it's certainly not my last.  it's just one more leg of a lifetime's journey, one that will hopefully allow me a new view and a pause before I regroup and head for the next hill.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

just sayin'

you have your best shorts on, and your favorite jersey,
the skies are blue and the temperature is somewhere around 70 degrees,
you're feeling strong and fit,
you're heading up your most loved canyon, and
your ipod is sending your top-pick tunes into your left ear . . .

you should pack an extra water bottle.

just sayin'.

Monday, September 10, 2012

the conspiring universe

sometimes everything just clicks.
mindset, physical body, weather, companions, traffic, wildly unpredictable elements . . . there are times when every aspect of your adventure moves so perfectly that you couldn't have planned it that way yourself.
I--oh lucky soul--had such a day last saturday.

lotoja is an event that I spend, oh, about nine months training for.
not everyone who participates in lotoja does this, but I do.
I train all winter to maintain a level of fitness, to keep my heart strong via interval work, and to keep that cycling form ingrained in my mind, muscles, and cellular memory.
then I begin the outside work as soon as weather semi-permits, and I build up over the summer until I reach that beautiful taper phase . . . then it's smooth sailing for about 2 months as I enjoy the strength and speed I've developed over the past 9 months.

lotoja is the peak experience, and if all goes well, proof of how hard you've worked.
it doesn't always turn out that way:  sometimes we have good days, sometimes not, no matter how much effort and planning has come beforehand.
but this year, the entire universe seems to have conspired to give me an incredible day.
I felt well, I rode well, I had great--although always changing--companions along the way, the weather was perfect, I had no mechanical issues, my support was awesome (thank you, as always, john) . . . and I rode faster than ever.

this is not to say it didn't hurt along the way, that I didn't wish it over at certain points, that I didn't feel like my heart and lungs and legs would all burst at one time or another.
it is not an easy ride.
but it was a great day, with a great result, and I am great-full and grateful.
and now, for the next two months while I'm at my most fit and least stressed . . .


Friday, September 7, 2012

if memory serves

well, it often doesn't.
memory is a prickly thing, quite arrogant, determined to show us only what it chooses to.
it colors itself, it deletes and distorts, and it seems to have but a solitary perspective.
it paints pictures that are unidimensional.
it embellishes.
it tells different stories at different times, and yet we tend to take it as gospel.
it creates for us pasts that we might wish had happened, or pasts that unsettle us and prohibit future growth.
it tells us things were bigger, taller, stronger, smaller, weaker, nonexistent, omnipotent.
it doesn't always serve us well.

I confuse one day with another, one hill with another, one ride with another.  I remember a sign, but think it was on a different street.  I remember a climb as being of a certain grade, and then find, the next time, it's not that way at all.

what brings this to mind is my upcoming 206-mile ride, lotoja.  I've ridden this route 5 times now.
the first time it was all new to me.
the second time a good 80 percent felt new to me:  I was astounded by how much I did not remember.
the third time much more was familiar, but many places weren't at all.
the last two times I've been surprised by how my memories of what was--and my expectations of what was to come--were not always accurate.

I suppose what we all need to understand is that our memories do serve:  they just happen to be self-serving and unique to us.  if we remember to let each have their own and not insist upon our own versions of what was, we should all be able to play nicely with each other.

Monday, September 3, 2012

the final five

millcreek canyon is not for wimps.  unless you're using someone else's engine, that is.
it's eight and a half miles of winding, narrow road that is at times unconscionably steep.
a scant half mile into the canyon the road turns up at a 9-10 percent grade for just long enough to make a cyclist question his decision to ride the canyon . . . then the road eases and begins a game that pulls said cyclist forward by tilting up, then relaxing, then testing, then easing, over and over in a way that lulls him into thinking he can do this, after all.
at porter fork the road tilts up so severely breath is robbed, and then the next quarter mile is pleasant enough to convince one to continue past the gate and up into the narrow upper half which is always shaded, green, cooler than the rest of the canyon by 5-15 degrees.
the next few miles have one awful stretch (elbow fork), one delightful flat bit, and one almost-awful stretch (alexander basin), mixed in with some tolerable and some breath-stealing moments.
and then comes the last mile.

I use the word "rise" to describe a short-ish uphill, usually a tenth of a mile or less.
the last mile contains 5 of these rises, all of them in the 11-20 percent grade range.  (or something like that: my garmin isn't quite accurate enough to pinpoint brief stretches like that.)
there's recovery time between each of these 5 rises, but not much.  I feel excitement to reach the first one--as it means I'm almost to the top--mixed with the dread of knowing how tough they are, each time I get there.
I count them down every time, too.
by the time I reach the last one I have little oxygen left, my heart is pumping madly, and my breath comes out louder than a harley, and I think to myself, one.  this is it, I'm done, I'm there, thank you God.

each canyon I ride has it's own unique signature.  emigration has the u-turn where the wind always changes direction, big cottonwood has its interminable last 3 miles above silver fork, little cottonwood its 3-mile grind to tanner's flats, city creek its rotary park signs for me to count, and millcreek, the final five.

hey, you've got to play some kind of mind games to keep from conceding to the pain.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

eating cake

last saturday biking buddy bob and I rode our bikes to sundance and back.
as we passed through a neighborhood on the southeastern foothills, bob said this is the 'let them eat cake' part of town.  communities set apart with guardhouses, four-story mansions on the hillside, private gated homes . . . this is an area of "haves".  or at the least, "hads."  homes built during the years of bigger is better, of if one is good three is what I'll have.
it's difficult to imagine what I'd do if I had oodles of money.
it's even more difficult to imagine being so out of touch with reality that I didn't know people in my own community were poverty-stricken and starving.

and this all began, today, because I decided to have cake for breakfast.  well, not really for breakfast, because I considered my wheat-toast-with-peanut-butter breakfast.  cake was more like a, um, post-breakfast snack.  then a pre-mid-morning snack.  and now it's my mid-morning snack.  soon it will be a before-lunch-snack.
perhaps it's time to stop eating cake.
I'm not quite sure what's going on for me today, but it's possibly connected to the fact that I'm in taper mode.
last saturday's ride to sundance and back (114 miles, 8 hours of saddle time, 10,300' of elevation gain) was my Big Final Ride of the training season leading up to lotoja.  once that peak is reached, I move into taper mode, where my miles-per-week are lessened, I try to rest more, I do more yoga.  the theory is that after one trains all summer, increasing the challenges to a peak, it's then time to cut back and rest up before the big event.
if I haven't trained hard enough yet, it's not going to happen in the last 10 days.
time to ease off.
relax a bit more.
and eat cake.
oops..... not sure about that last one, but I can't seem to convince myself that cake isn't part of the plan.
I hit taper time and think it's indulging time.
the right thing to do would be to eat more vegetables, dark leafy green things, protein, some fruit, drink lots of water.....
but I seem to want cake.

I'll never live in a ten-thousand-square-foot home on the hillside;  I'll never be an over-consumer.  I'll never forget that there are people who can't afford bread, let alone cake.

but I fear I'll always love cake just a little bit more than I should.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

diana, yoga goddess

it's my belief that we, as humans, aren't really sure how to be.
witness the unending shelves of "self-help" books that guide us through everything from childbirth to composting.
witness the unending laws that govern our daily activities, from driving a car (and riding a bicycle)* to how we marry and pass our worldly possessions on to others.
we listen to pastors, we attend cotillion.
we hire trainers and coaches and consultants and therapists.
we commit to diets and classes and training programs.
we turn to google with questions and take what we find as the truth.

some of us are experts in our own fields, and most all of us find patterns and programs that work for us.  we establish systems and frameworks, and choose guiding philosophies which help us navigate what the world throws our way each day.
we also become possessive of our ideas and beliefs about these structures, and sometimes even rigid.  we can begin to believe we know what's best for us, and become irritable when forced to do otherwise.  when the universe throws curve balls after we've planned on balls coming low and straight over the plate, we can become prickly.  we have our two hands placed firmly on our handlebars, gripping and steering.

this morning in yoga our towhead blonde bohemian instructor, diana, began a routine which I've become familiar with.  it's not a routine I enjoy.  it's one we do so often I am a bit bored with it--although it's challenging--and I was wanting something different.  I was resisting.  going along with it anyway, but inwardly entertaining a thought process which went like this,
oh no, not this again.  I want something different.  I think I should be working on different things, not these same old positions.  why can't we be doing something else? I need to be doing other moves . . .
and then, shazam!
like a knock on my skull, I remembered the age-old message of the universe:
we don't always know what's best for our own selves.

who I am to think that I know exactly what I need for my best growth, development, and richness of experience?
I think I want instant gratification and success, but is that what will serve me best in the long run?
why do I think I know what is best for me?
why don't I just relax into the fact that my job is simply to show up?

I decided to let diana be in charge of my yoga experience this morning.  maybe her asanas and movements were exactly what I needed.
I got myself to class, brought a mat and a willingness to do my best, and that's really all I needed to do.

there are so many options in our lives, so many opportunities, choices, decisions, paths.  and if we show up, enthusiastically, with a willing heart, most of these paths will lead us to the same place.  it doesn't always have to be "my way":  often the best experiences we have are those that we fell into, those that someone else planned, those that were the last thing on earth we thought we'd do.
we don't have to be in charge of everything.

let go and let God, they say.

this morning I let go and let diana, goddess of yoga, determine my path.
and it's been a darn good day.

so I guess the only thing I need to do is keep on letting go . . .  while keeping at least one hand (the hand which is willing to show up and do my best) on the handlebars.

* there is a law on the utah books that says a cyclist must ride with at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.  really.  yikes.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

not just a new chainring

this is a month of new additions for me.
I had a new chain, rear cassette, and middle ring put on my bike.  (sure shifts better now.)
and a new cable.
and I bought new footbeds for my biking shoes, too.
I'm thinking a new pair of bike shorts is due this month, as well.
oh, and I've added three new members to my household, and a new surname to my signature.
and a new blog.
let's see, is that all so far?  guess so.

sometimes we add things to our life because they're needed, sometimes because we want to, and sometimes, because we know it's the right thing to keep us headed on our path.

my drive train was worn and rife with noisy complaints . . . it was time to replace worn components.
the screws from my shoe cleats had dug permanent holes in my old footbeds . . . it was time for new ones.
as for the dog, the man, the man's son, and my new surname . . . I can simply say I wanted to, it's the right thing, and it's time.

that leaves the new blog, which is the right thing for me to do to keep me headed on my path . . . not my cycling path (which is pretty easy to stay on) but my writing path.  while the tao of cycling is a forum for both practicing the craft of writing and sharing my joys, trials, and understandings of the world, the new blog is a statement of who I am as a writer.  it holds excerpts of my written works and my "writer's cv," and will be a receptacle for brief essays and posts about my writing life.
my cycling life and writing life cross paths frequently, and when you visit my other blog you'll know it's still me typing away in both places.
so when you want to explore a bit, I'd love you to visit

as it takes a while to adjust to newness in one's life, I'm still on a restricted posting plan  .  .  .  don't give up on me.  I have faith that I'll figure out a way to keep everything moving and in balance, for as albert einstein stated,

life is like riding a bicycle.  to keep your balance you must keep moving. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012


two weeks ago I rode with a group of girls (okay, women) who are training for lotoja.  I've known a few of them for a while, but haven't ridden with them other than in big group rides with the bad ass team.  they are terrific people, and our support team was unbelievably awesome.  we started in preston, idaho (the site of the first lotoja rest stop), and rode all the way to afton, wyoming.
it was a great experience, made even better by the fact that it was something I don't usually do.  I ride by myself most of the time, and on my group rides it's mainly men who want to do the ridiculously long rides I do.  additionally, we drove two hours to the start and about three and a half hours back home, things I never (ever) do.
it was a grand day.
and these are a few of the things I learned:

  • the stretch of country between preston and afton is much greener in july than it is in september
  • riding this stretch in july was a great deal hotter than riding it in september
  • even though I've ridden this route 5 times, there were miles and miles I didn't remember at all
  • mindy is absolutely terrific and if I only knew an amazing 40-year-old lds man I'd connect them pronto
  • rosie, at 60+, has more energy than I think I've ever had, and I can only hope to be like her down the road
  • riding rollers with others puts the pressure on, and causes me to visit zone 5 almost every time
  • all of these women use (and swear by) sportslegs, doping tip number one
  • they also use (and swear by) optygen, doping tip number two

I have never been a supplement-taker.  although there have been many times I've wished for a course of steroids, I've never taken more than ibuprofen, a vitamin D/calcium pill (when I remember), the occasional multi-vitamin (I know, bad, bad, bad), and an electrolyte capsule about once a year when I'm depleted and a friend offers one.
but the day after this group ride I went to REI and bought a bottle of sportslegs and a bottle of optygen.
I've been taking the optygen every day (as recommended), and the sportslegs each time I've gone on a ride longer than 35 miles.
and I think . . . it's possible . . . that they are making a difference.

sportslegs capsules essentially add lactic acid to your system, which has been determined to perform as a fuel for your mitochondria (the "energy factories" in muscle cells), according to research.  sportslegs sells itself as a tool to help you train harder and recover faster...  helping reduce the "burn" by priming your muscles with lactic acid, inducing them to produce less as you ride (or run, or climb, or whatever you do.)

optygen claims to increase exercise capacity and muscular strength, and of all the reviews I've read, my favorite states that all of optygen's ingredients are harmless to helpful, but none have been proven to boost performance. there are claims of increasing oxygen utilization, increasing the body's ability to adapt to high physical stress, increasing aerobic threshold, reducing lactic acid, and naturally increasing endurance. 

and more than one woman on my preston-to-afton ride swears by it.

so, for this month, I am a legal doper.
I'll probably finish my bottle of optygen and not replace it, but I might keep on with the sportslegs.  

I am feeling strong when I ride, and not feeling as depleted at the end of rides, or the day after a killer ride.  this could be a result of consistent, serious training, or it could be that training enhanced by a little calcium, magnesium, vitamin d, chromium, cordyceps cs4, rhodiola extract, and atpro matrix.....  
or a really good placebo effect.
if I think I can, I can . . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


I spend a lot of cycling time anticipating.
it's all part of the vigilance plan I use to keep myself alive:  constantly observing my environment, assessing obstacles and potentialities, and anticipating what other environmental participants might do next.  I watch what's around me, and if there's any chance it's a moving object I try to anticipate in which direction it might move and what that might mean for my own trajectory.
cars, trucks, deer, porcupines, squirrels, rabbits, snakes, runners, other cyclists, motorcycles, parked cars harboring bodies within, dogs on leashes, dogs not on leashes . . . and, this morning, the man out in the middle of emigration canyon road blowing the biggest soap bubbles I've ever seen.

I slept in this morning and didn't leave home until 5:30, so by the time I was heading down the canyon and back toward home it was a bit after 7 am.  I'd seen four deer, two of whom I braked for, and a few runners, a handful of cars and trucks, and a dozen cyclists.  no dogs, no early morning walkers, and as I rounded the big U-turn that sends the road back toward the city I sped up, pushing my legs faster and faster to take advantage of the decreasing grade and the gentle tailwind behind me.
not half a mile past the turn I noticed something strange in the middle of the road, something large and iridescent, shimmering and moving sideways and possibly connected by a long stick to the shirtless man standing five feet from the shoulder.
nothing in my memory bank shouted in recognition of itself, and I was completely perplexed until the man moved to the edge of the road as I drew closer and I could see the wet road, the large wand in his hand, and the bucket by his feet, at which time something in that memory bank shouted bubbles.

now, truly, I have no idea why a middle-aged man would be out in the street creating huge soap bubbles at 7 in the morning.
it was definitely a sight I was not prepared for, nothing I would usually anticipate as I headed down this quiet canyon road.  I smiled as I passed him; I'm still smiling as I type this.

eight days from now the tour of utah bicycling race will pass right before the spot this gentleman was decorating with shimmering and bursting bubbles:  maybe he was practicing his own unique welcome for them.
which leads me to wonder what these cyclists might think if they rounded the U-turn, headed down toward the city, and were quickly confronted with a shirtless middle-aged man waving huge soap bubbles in their direction.
forewarned is forearmed:  pass this along if you happen to know any of the riders so that they'll be prepared, just in case, to anticipate such a greeting.

I know that from now on, as I near that stretch of road, I will always anticipate a huge, shape-shifting iridescent bubble that I will quite likely never see again.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


it's been four years---quatre ans---since I created the tao of cycling and posted my first mini-essay.
although I've dropped back from posting daily to posting every other day, to posting only on prime numbered days (when I can figure that out), I've come to a fork in the road.
yep, one of my favorite pictures I dredged up from a past post.
the great thing about this kind of fork is that the tines are all leading to the same direction . . . they're just spaced slightly apart, and thus have parallel but slightly different trajectories.
it's time for me to move to a new tine for a span of time as my life adjusts itself around some fairly significant changes.
I'm really not a drone, but I do like depending on certain patterns, and setting expectations for my own behavior.  I like knowing that I will ride my bike 5-6 mornings a week, and that I will go to yoga at least once.  I've appreciated my commitment to this blog with its consistent posting "rules," and so as I let go of this a bit more, I am a bit bereft, thinking about how I will go forward.
if I'm not committed to posting daily, on odd days, on prime days, or ever . . . will I post?
will I feel a sense of freedom?
will I experience an increased desire to write and post?

sometimes when our "have to's" become "choose to's" we feel/think/behave differently in regards to them.
just knowing we have a choice in the matter can change our outlook.
I learned this years and years ago, when my oldest son was quite young.  his care demanded much from us physically and emotionally, and at times the weight was overwhelming.  one of our health care providers suggested, oh so gently, that we consider different ways of caring for him, one of which was that he live outside our home.  we did not make that choice, but just knowing we had options lightened our load.

so, I'll keep writing now and again, when I am inspired, when I experience the desire.  you will read me when you read me, and I hope the two come into a beautiful balance.
be well, and keep an eye out for forks in your own road.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

when the wind takes a breath

saturday's weather forecast was full of bluster:   windy, afternoon thunderstorms, an 80% chance of rain, likely to be heavy.
we planned a ride up a canyon, of course, and timed it so that we'd hit the top of the canyon right around noon.
need I say we got rained on?  
it started about halfway up---mile marker 8---big cottonwood canyon, the way it usually does:  a few drops, a splatter here and there, then a bit more consistently, until suddenly it's pelting your helmet and glasses and you are thoroughly wet. by mile marker 11 each pedal revolution was a squish and I had to shake my head regularly to throw pooling water off.  
silver fork lodge sits at mile marker 13:  our sopping group decided we could push on that far, then have a bite to eat and warm up before heading back down, forgoing our goal of riding all the way to brighton.
not too far past mile marker 12 the rain eased back a bit,
and while we were inside getting our water bottles filled---the restaurant was closed for a private wedding---the rain changed into a fine mist.
we voted to head up another mile and a half to solitude ski resort and find fare there . . . and before we were too far up the road the mist disappeared and we began to dry out.
all around us were clouds, thick, gray, heavy with moisture, below us all the way down the canyon and above us hanging thickly over the forested hillsides of brighton ski resort.
and we could feel the warmth of the sun as it heated the clouds and pressed down on us.

it felt like the eye of the storm:  all of us safe and warm, riding up the road, having survived the tempest below and slowly approaching the tempest above.
a breath, a break, a chance to revive and prepare for what was yet to come.

yesterday I rode up emigration into a typical headwind, hearing the whistle in my helmet and the gentle roar against my ears.
and then I didn't.
all was quiet, for a moment, and I looked about in wonder at the absence of sound.
a pause,
an intake of breath
before the wind blew once again.

a pause.  an inhalation.  the eye of the storm.  an oasis.
if life were nothing but a constant uphill, a never-ending rainstorm, a perpetual struggle, an unvarying path, we would all find our journeys to be more difficult.
I need pauses.  change.  variety.
I need to inhale deeply, then exhale down to my core, then breathe again.

the eye of our storm opened widely enough for me to get home saturday without another drenching.
and the pause while yesterday's wind took a breath gave me strength to batten down for its next exhalation.

a pause.  an inhalation.  eyes of storms, oases, refuge, respite:  opportunities to reconnect with the core of courage and strength that lies somewhere deep within, always waiting, knowing that eventually the world must inhale.

Friday, July 13, 2012

on saddles, on a saddle

saddles have been on my mind lately.
it started a few weeks ago when I rode from huntsville up east to monte cristo.
the monte cristo range is a 30-mile stretch, part of the larger wasatch mountain range.  highway 39 runs through it, and peaks at mt. mckinnon, 9081 feet above sea level.  it's about a 25-mile ride from huntsville to the top . . . or, well, that's what today's post is all about.
because each time I've ridden up this road I've thought I've reached the top.
until this last ride, when I realized I'd never before made it all the way through the top.

sometimes cyclists (and, admittedly, other humans as well) will talk about a false summit.  this can be either a decline or a leveling off after a high point on a climb--where you think you've reached the summit--which then turns into a further ascent.
the mt. nebo road has about 5 heart-breaking false summits:  upon reaching each one, you coast down its backside and lose just about everything you gained climbing its front, before doing the exact same thing again, and again.
the back side of big mountain has one that thrills me each time I reach it because (1) I need the break, and (2) it tells me I'm almost done with the climb.

monte cristo, however, has what I have decided to call a saddle.  it stretches for a few miles at the top, and it rolls and bit up, a bit down, a bit straight across.  you never feel as though there's a single, specific spot called the summit.  it's just an elongated saddle.
saddles are fine with me:  after all that work of getting up there, it's okay to have little climbs, little descents, and periods of relatively flat.

so I'd been thinking about saddles.
and then john noticed that my bike saddle was looking awfully worn, with a small spot where the top layer had actually peeled off.
how many miles do you think you've ridden on this saddle?
um, gee, let me think (my eyes roll up to the ceiling as I calculate), um, maybe 20,000 or so?
john bought me a new saddle.

and then I started wondering just how long a saddle should last.
a quick internet search told me that it can be calculated in hours spent riding (duh, darn good way to look at it!), and that 400-600 hours is a good maximum.
mine's had a good 1300 hours.
you can also go with a general 10,000 miles, 15,000 miles, or whatever number of miles someone throws out.
or, my favorite advice, ride a saddle until you start getting sores.

I have a new saddle.
it's firmer than my old one, and it's cleaner than my old one.  it's prettier.  you can still read the words "body geometry" printed on it.
there are no scratches on it, no scuff marks, no dings or darkening of the surface, anywhere.

wanna guess how long that will last?
not long, as I keep piling the miles on, climbing hills, reaching summits, and viewing the world from mountain-top saddles.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

nothing worth saying

I have nothing worth saying today.
it's hot,
I'm tired,
I'm tired of being hot.
I'm certain I'm not alone.
I'm tired,
it's hot,
I have nothing more to say today.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

the other problem with riding your bike all night long

is the recovery.

especially for us ahem older folk.  I am no longer 20, 30, or even 40.  or in my late forties.
I've finally hit that point where I can start blaming everything on how old I am.
my eyes are going,
it takes longer to recover from everything,
I need more naps.
I can't ride as fast,
I need help with housework,
reaching for things and bending are much more difficult.
um, let's see what else.
I've got to go to bed earlier,
I need more chocolate cake.

the day after the ride-all-night-ride I took 4 naps, and was so-so-so grateful to finally collapse in bed at 10:45 that night.
then I was grateful to collapse in bed the next night.
and I experienced that same gratitude last night.......
I'm already thinking about how excited I am to be going to bed in a few hours.

yep, I'm old.

gonna ride slower, gonna take longer to recover.
gonna take more naps, eat more chocolate cake, ask for more help.

there are obviously a few benefits of getting older .  .  .  I've heard one of those benefits is wisdom, but apparently---from observing that I committed to and actually followed through with riding my bike all night long---I haven't quite mastered that one yet.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

little towns that begin with e

out in the wilds of western wyoming is a little tiny town named etna.
it's on highway 89, close to the western border, about halfway north and halfway south.
etna lies near the north point of a forty-five mile stretch of land called star valley, and when you reach etna, you know you will soon be reaching the end of the valley.
when you've been riding your bike for hours and hours, have ridden up hills and down, and have spent the last two hours in the crosswinds of star valley, etna is one of the most beautiful sights on earth.

it was during my second lotoja that I came to appreciate etna.
for some reason, that little hamlet had stuck in my mind from the previous year's ride, it's small green sign stuck on a post beside the road, etna, pop. 124.
I'd battled my way through the winds of star valley and finally had some indication that it was coming to a close.  I pedaled through etna, then before I knew it, I was in alpine. I was finished with star valley, and I had a mere 47 miles left to ride before my long long day on the bike was over.
etna was my turning point, and each year since that first, I've smiled over that little green sign and been grateful that I was as far along as I was.

two days ago I wrote that I was hopping on my bike to ride all night long . . . and I'd let you know how it went.
so, here goes:
the first 24 miles were awesome...flat, fast, the adrenaline coursing.
the next 28 miles stunk.
the 20 miles following that were pretty darn great...gotta love a tailwind.
the next 3 were not as much fun.
then came about 15 mellow miles.
during the next mile I encountered a runaway skateboard and almost crashed: adrenaline rushed for about 5 minutes.
and the last 2.5 miles were spent wishing I was done, knowing that it was just around the corner, wanting it over.

the 28 stinky miles were on the western side of the great salt lake, into the wind, rolling then gently climbing one of those false flats that even in the dark depresses you.  the scenery is bleak (even in the dark), the vegetation sparse, not a house or building in sight for mile after mile after mile.
you know it will end--eventually--but you can't imagine ever really getting there.
each revolution of the wheel brings you closer only to another rise in the road, another expanse of barren  sand, another dead grouse by the side of the pathway.
at the end of this long, lonely, depressing, difficult ride lies a teeny, tiny town with a shuttered convenience store and a dusty post office .  .  .
population 256.
another bereft burg at the end of a windblown road.

I finished the night ride at 4 am, having survived the adventure quite well.
it's the recovery that bites.

and the path to elberta.

if I ever am given the opportunity to name a town, I'm pretty darn sure I won't pick a name that begins with the letter e.

off to take a nap,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

sleep envy

all I have to say today is this:
in 5.5 hours I'll be getting on my bike and starting a 100-mile ride around utah lake.

that would be a 10 pm start.

I have nothing more to say about that today, but I'm sure I'll have a great deal to say about it the next time I post.
enjoy your sleep tonight .  .  . I'll be envying you.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

peat and repeat

I have a friend who ran in a 100-mile trail race, which is just a repulsive thought to me.
what made it sound even worse was the route:  it was a 20-mile loop, done 5 times.
I am not one who loves repeating laps.
I shudder at the thought, actually, fearing the probable boredom.
once I rode emigration canyon to the top twice in a row because I was with people who were on call and thus couldn't be more than twenty minutes away from the valley just in case .  .  .  it wasn't awful, but I experienced a vague sense of dis-ease the second time up:  repeating the same course just felt wrong.
that was the only time I'd done cycling laps, until yesterday.

but yesterday was different.
yesterday was the last day of the season to ride the upper half of millcreek canyon without cars.

millcreek canyon is gated halfway up from november 1 to june 30, allowing only hikers, cyclists, skiers, and snowshoers past the locked gate during those 8 months.  the road above the gate is narrow and winding, intensely steep in sections, and lined with thick, green vegetation.  it's cool, water streams alongside the road, and trees and sheer hillsides shade the bending, seemingly meandering asphalt.
in it's 8.5 miles one gains almost 2700 feet of elevation, with grades that range from zero percent (for a few glorious moments) to 13-15 percent (for a few heartbreaking stretches), depending upon whose toy is computing the grade.  a glorious descent is the reward for reaching the top.

so yesterday morning I rode it twice:  once by myself, early, in the cool of the morning, then a couple hours later with friends.
need I say that I rode a bit more quickly the first time?  an hour seven minutes the first time; an hour sixteen minutes two hours later.
but it was strikingly beautiful both times, and I made the most of the last day behind the locked gate.

sometimes it's okay to do laps, and repeat yourself.

Friday, June 29, 2012

the garmin edge 500

last june for my birthday john gave me a toy.
a garmin edge 500, with which I can track all pertinent information as I ride my bike around the state.
after a ride I can simply twist it free of its holder, bring it in to my computer, hook it up, and download my stats.
I've gotten into the habit of doing this after each ride:  it's information I look at briefly, contrast with what I can remember of previous rides, use to form an assessment of my performance, and promptly forget.
but it's sure fun to look at for that sixty seconds.
below is what last saturday's ride looks like.
what it can't tell you, though, is how I suffered at the (almost) end of this ride, how I dismounted at 62 miles and stood over my bike, heaving as I tried to calm myself.  how I stood there, bent over the frame, for a good five minutes, unable to lift my head, move, take a drink (not that there was anything left in my water bottle), or move.  how it was probably another five minutes before I could walk twenty feet to a table, start to drink some water, then finally eat a granola bar.
okay, it was hot, okay, the three bottles of water I drank were apparently not enough.
okay, I worked hard, but geez.... I've never had a reaction like that before.
I've bonked before: this wasn't a bonk.  this was probably some version of heat exhaustion.
it was the pits.
but back to the garmin.
this little toy is just my best biking friend:  patient, full of information, dependable, truthful, and always ready to go on a ride.
just look at how much information it provides me!
now if it could only carry extra water for me.
and maybe a granola bar or two.

Distance:64.94 mi
Avg Speed:15.2 mph
Elevation Gain:4,534 ft
Calories:1,638 C
Avg Temperature:90.7 °F
Moving Time:4:13:50
Elapsed Time:5:21:08
Avg Speed:15.2 mph
Avg Moving Speed:15.4 mph
Max Speed:39.0 mph
Elevation Gain:4,534 ft
Elevation Loss:4,528 ft
Min Elevation:5,011 ft
Max Elevation:9,049 ft
Heart Rate
Avg HR:162 bpm
Max HR:183 bpm
% of Max
Avg Temperature:90.7 °F
Min Temperature:77.0 °F
Max Temperature:104.0 °F

5 miles10 km
© 2012 NAVTEQ© 2012 Microsoft Corporation


41:4001:23:2002:05:0002:46:4003:28:2004:10:00061218243036Speed (mph)


1020304050604,9005,6006,3007,0007,7008,4009,100Elevation (ft)
Heart Rate


41:4001:23:2002:05:0002:46:4003:28:2004:10:00100120140160180Heart Rate (bpm)


41:4001:23:2002:05:0002:46:4003:28:2004:10:0060708090100110Temperature (°F)Temperature:93.2 °FTime: 02:16:14 h:m:s
Temperature (°F)