Tuesday, January 31, 2012

human frailty

I've been writing today about fallibility.
about how try as we might (or, sometimes the opposite, with no attempt at all) we often fail to be our best selves.

ok, and by our best selves I suppose I mean as members of the human race, not as intellectuals, as athletes, as scholars, or as whatever we claim to be professionally.
it's scary to be authentic, to dig deep down and come up with what truly matters in any given situation, and then act upon it in a loving way.
it's much easier to acquiesce, to pretend things don't matter, to decline invitations, to turn a blind eye, to withdraw into cocoons of solitude, to play whatever the roles are we've so well learned how to play.

as part of the research I'm doing for the book I'm working on I am reading a book by kay jamison called an unquiet mind. the subject is bipolar disorder, the author, one who suffers from it. she mentions a poem by robert lowell--famous american poet, also afflicted with bipolar disorder--and I share it below for its powerful last line:


But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?

(the poem is a reflection on the "confessional" school of poetry, the form of poetry which Lowell is often considered to be the founder of. I know, I ended my sentence with a preposition. bad girl.)

why is it so easy to pretend nothing happened?
why do we struggle with admitting our shortcomings, our faults, our errors?
in counseling school children I often worked to help them understand that by accepting responsibility we are empowered, strengthened, kept whole. this is so very hard for many of us to believe, harder still to understand, often impossible to practice.

we hold expectations of ourselves, of groups, of foundations and organizations that stifle humanity. we try so hard, we box ourselves in, our weaknesses explode, we fail.
not always.
but across our lives we can pinpoint the points of explosion, implosion, failure, and if we're unable, others will help do it for us. these occurances are inevitable, and as leonard cohen said, it's those cracks that let the light shine in.

not a one of us is perfect.
the very fact of being human fills one with frailty and the potential to err.
it isn't until we admit this, speak it out loud, that we can begin to heal, whether its within ourselves, or part of a larger healing, outside ourselves.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

lack of inspiration

it's about 41 degrees and just gray enough to keep the sun from shining through. the wind is from the northwest, not crazy, just everpresent and a little cold.

I was not the only one out on a bicycle today, but nobody looked particularly happy.
no great big grins.
but outside is still better than inside.

and because it was a little too cold I stayed flat(ish) in the city. no canyon climb today.
I asked the universe for inspiration. I hoped to see, smell, experience something that would be worth writing about here, and nothing happened. nothing came to me. nothing stirred me, inspired me, made me whoop with joy or frown in disgust. nothing clicked, nothing sparked, nothing jogged a memory cell or made a synapse fire.

my ride was as boring as today's sky, uninspiring, uneventful.

so I won't belabor the point, I will just, in conclusion, hope that for all our sakes, inspiration returns tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2012


it's friday.
and I've written before about power camp fridays, how they are usually recovery days that involve gerbil leg work.
today's workout:
15 minute warm up, zone 2, 95 rpm
15 minute zone 3A 110-115 rpm
15 minute zone 3A 115-120 rpm
5 minute zone 3A 120-125 rpm
10 minute cool down, zone 2, 95 rpm
then off to the weight room, pump a little iron, stretch a few bands, do some balancing acts on the bosu ball.

blah, blah, blah, my only real point in listing it is to let you know that the cadence requirement kept going up, and that it got ridiculously high.
biking buddy bob suggested that J.R. just made this workout up so that it would appear we were doing something when really it was just about recovery.
recovery that makes me sweat like crazy.

and that was the long segue just to get to the conversation of the morning.
often it's Trivia Fridays, like last week, when we learned the speed records for riding a bike downhill on snow.
today it was about quirks.
leslie is helping us get to know about each other by asking us to reveal a quirk about ourselves.
when she first mentioned the topic and that we would have to share a personal quirk, I laughed. I have so darn many I could probably share one a day for the rest of power camp.
and they are all harmless, just silly things that are probably more revealing than I want to think about.
so for now, I'll share some quirks that belong to others in the class:

  • I never let my gas tank go below half full

  • I can't stand to be sticky, I shower at least three times a day, more often in summer

  • I love stale Peeps, but they have to be yellow, chicks, and exactly three days' stale

  • I count everything

  • I have to leave an even dollar amount for a tip, can't leave any change

  • when I microwave something I never use the number 5

  • I have this thing for odd numbers, always choosing them when I can over an even number

  • I love stale gummy bears

  • I can't stand to have any hair touch my face when I sweat

  • my closet is organized by color and sleeve length

  • I have to touch the outside of an airplane before I'll get in it

  • I have to check twice or even three times to make sure I've locked the door behind me

now the nice thing about this is you see just how normal you really are, that everyone else is full of what we'll nicely call "quirks" too.
and okay, I did slip mine in there, and it doesn't stick out at all, does it?
I'm sure all y'alls would slip neatly inside this list, too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


power camp has taught me that my body can handle more than I think it can.
again and again.

life has taught me that my heart and soul can handle more than I think they can.
again and again.

of course naps, ugly dolls, chenille blankets, chocolate, coffee, and peanut butter all help.
as does the occasional mountain peak, ray of sunshine, hug, snowfall, full moon, amazing song, fabulous book . . .

Monday, January 23, 2012

creatine phosphate

most of our mondays in power camp are semi-recovery days. j.r.---program designer---arranges them to be either "speed" or "technique" workouts, which usually means higher cadences and lower resistances.
this morning was a speed workout, a lot of just spinning around, peppered with little events he calls CP jumps. creatine phosphate, if you care.

creatine phosphate shuttles high-energy phosphate from mitochondria to sites of muscle contraction. an energy-rich muscle has lots of creatine phosphate, whereas a fatigued muscle has little creatine phosphate, (mathews/van holde/ahern, 3rd ed.)
and when extra creatine is stored in the muscles, you have that extra energy backup which will help you work harder.

I tried to do some research into creatine phosphate training, and basically what I found is that most people try to increase their creatine with supplements rather than naturally. for those of us who desire a natural solution, I guess we get to do CP jumps.
all they are is a sudden, extremely fast spin-up, like a sprint, for ten seconds.
we do a half dozen of them, one each minute, then do nine more, the latter spaced sporadically throughout the next twenty minutes or so. ( this is an attempt to replicate an actual racing event, where at any moment a competitor can take off, sprinting away, requiring you to react quickly and jump along with him--or her.)

I suppose they're good for me.
but here's what I'm trying to analyze:
I much prefer the first six. during the next--sporadic--segment, all I want is for them to be over.
not sure if this ties into some kind of character flaw, but am thinking it might.
I just want them to be over. give me 15, one a minute, then let me be done.
is it that I don't like the anxiety of anticipation?
or I just don't like the workout and want it to end?
I hope it's the latter, but fear it has more to do with the former.

regardless, this creatine phosphate stuff seems to be a good thing to have, and I certainly hope that all of my CP jumps this power camp season have been helping me increase mine.
then I'll only have to work on my decreasing my resistance to the darn things.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


thursday was a time trial in class, so friday was a recovery day.
our friday coach likes to bring in trivia for us, as to alleviate the boredom of our 40-minute spin in 3A at 120 rpm, prefaced and followed by zone 2 spinning at only 95 rpm.

the subject of all trivia was cycling, and one segment of stats had to do with speed records.
I went to wikipedia this morning to get a copy of these to share here:

Name /Year /Speed /Type of record

Sam Whittingham 2009 133 km/h (83 mph) Flat surface, unpaced
Barbara Buatois 2010 121 km/h (75 mph) Flat surface, unpaced (woman)
Fred Rompelberg 1995 268 km/h (167 mph) Flat surface, motor-paced
Bruce Bursford 1996 334 km/h (208 mph) Riding on a roller
Markus Stöckl 2011 164.95 km/h (102.50 mph)Downhill on a volcano
Eric Barone 2002 172 km/h (107 mph) Downhill on a volcano, on a prototype
Markus Stöckl 2007 210.4 km/h (130.7 mph)Downhill on snow
Eric Barone 2000 222 km/h (138 mph) Downhill on snow, on a prototype

I draw your attention to the last two lines: Downhill on snow.

Downhill on snow.

What are these guys thinking????

I don't think I have anything else to say, except this: do you see a woman's speed record for bicycling downhill on snow?

point made.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


long chains of amino acids, or polypeptides, that are able to bind to the neuroreceptors in the brain and are capable of relieving pain in a manner similar to that of morphine. There are three major types of endorphins: beta-endorphins are found almost entirely in the pituitary gland, while enkephalins and dynorphins are both distributed throughout the nervous system. Scientists had suspected that analgesic opiates, such as morphine and heroin, worked effectively against pain because the body had receptors that were activated by such drugs. They reasoned that these receptors probably existed because the body itself had natural painkilling compounds that also bonded to those receptors. When scientists in the 1970s isolated a biochemical from a pituitary gland hormone that showed analgesic properties, Choh Li, a chemist from Berkeley, California, named it endorphin, meaning "the morphine within." Besides behaving as a pain reducer, endorphins are also thought to be connected to euphoric feelings, appetite modulation, and the release of sex hormones. Prolonged, continuous exercise contributes to an increased production of endorphins and, in some people, the subsequent "runner's high." (American Heritage Science Dictionary)

here's my thought.
the definition above states that the exercise must be prolonged and continuous to increase endorphin production . . . I'm thinking that one of my power camp classes might not be long enough, nor would a simple climb up to the top of emigration . . . yet I often feel this powerful sense of good (not sure if I can get to euphoria!) after a time trial like today's class, and at the top of hills.
so . . . might what I experience simply be a mental woo hoo--a sense of pride, accomplishment, proof of capability--and not a purely physiological event?
when I bike for hours and hours (certainly that qualifies for prolonged and continuous) I don't usually experience a state of euphoria (except, perhaps, for brief moments at the tops of hills).

just thinking.

years ago my sister-in-law asked me if I experienced a "runner's high" when cycling, and I said, no, not really. or if I do, it seems to always coincide nicely with a downhill swoosh . . .

so those are my thoughts about endorphins, sparked by today's time trial, which allowed me to experience--at its completion--a pretty darn great feeling, almost euphoric, mostly because I survived it, and even more so because

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

being a dull boy

okay, so I've been writing like crazy lately, and I am starting to feel a little bit like jack nicholson in the shining . . .

all work and no play . . .

I can't seem to stop myself, though, the computer draws me to it, it teases me, the word count piling numbers on top of numbers and leaping by great bounds, each day a new challenge to see how many words I can add to the total . . .
and there's my notebook, full of notes, jottings, thoughts, experiences, lists, all waiting to be poured into a computer file in some cohesive way . . .
I can't keep myself from opening the word file and plugging away, as much as it's turning me into some kind of a psychotic zombie.
I don't cook, I barely clean, I resist showering, I only do laundry because layering smelly clothes on top of a smelly body is gross, I don't call anyone, I barely pay attention to my children . . .

okay, I'm exaggerating. but I'm unwell.

I've been on this crazy writing binge for three weeks now, and biking buddy bob has been keeping tabs on me. last week he asked if I'd reached Jack Nicholson stage yet, and I laughingly said oh no, of course not.
this morning, I said I fear I'm there.

his prescription (he is a physician, you know): take 2 days off, and read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

eek! two days off???
I asked, can I just watch the movie?

sure, he said. then confirmed the 2-day part of the prescription.

I came home from class, made coffee, read a so-so book for a while, took a short nap, and kept myself away from the computer completely. had more coffee, toasted half a bagel and applied peanut butter, ate . . .
and turned the computer on.
checked email, blogger stats, played a coldplay song . . .
searched for the Hitchhiker movie, found it on youtube, started watching it . . .
then opened my word file.
argh! I cannot keep myself from it.

I am trying to. something has got to give, because I am a little nuts, and can't even think of anything to post here that has even the remotest connection to cycling.
unless you wanted to be clever and decide that---given everything I've shared about myself regarding cycling, and now about writing---I might be a bit confused about whether or not I have an addictive personality, and that I might be living in a state of denial.

whatever. I call it passion.

and thank God we're not snowed in.
in a monstrous hotel in remote colorado.
with a little boy on a tricycle . . .

Sunday, January 15, 2012


yesterday the skies split wide open and let the sun pour over our valley, and many people went outside and played.
not me.
I thought about it, considered it, rejected it, mainly because of this pain-in-the-neck cold I have. it's actually a pain in the chest and throat every time I cough, and I decided the bundling up against the cold/sweating/freezing aspect of riding outside in 43 degree weather was probably not the best thing I could do for my body.
so instead I went to class.

I went early to get some good medium heart rate zone work in, which was a good thing because the class itself was a little shy on that.
the workout was, after a 15 minute warmup,
5 minutes in zone 4A (lactate threshold place) at a fast climbing pace (75 rpm)
4 minutes in zone 4B (halfway between lactate threshold and ventricular threshold), same pace but standing,
3 minutes zone 5 (VT), 85-90 rpm, seated
3 minutes recovery,

well .. .. .. when one works in zone 4B and above, it really helps to be able to breathe fully, easily, without restriction.
a chest cold can comprise one's breathing, just a bit.

4A was fine. and 4B was fine for the first two minutes, and then I found I couldn't pull breath into my lungs well, and I decided I was stupid--yes, stupid--to try to force it. so I backed down to 4A and stayed there until the zone 5 phase was over.

round two: 4A was fine. 4B was okay, and I found myself in zone 5 at least a quarter of the time. decided not to push to zone 5 for those 3 minutes, stayed in 4B. I'm not stupid.

round three: 4A was fine. 4B was fine. decided to go for zone 5. did it. don't want to discuss level of stupidity.

I think I was correct to stay indoors for my workout. but it was disheartening, especially as I watched cyclist after cyclist spin past my house all afternoon.
today is warmer, even, but windy and gray and I am not called at all to go tool around outside.

being sick sucks. there's no other conclusion to be drawn.
I sit inside, typing, writing away, being productive, but wishing the cough away.
sigh. maybe tomorrow I'll wake up healthy.
I wish the same for you, for us all, actually.


Friday, January 13, 2012

feed a fever, stuff a cold?

I have a cold.
I am pretty ticked off by the whole situation, because I don't think I deserved this, I have no idea where it came from, and I just darn well don't think it's fair.
it started last sunday with a cough deep down in my chest.
just a little cough, infrequently.
and day by day it's gradually grown bigger, more frequent, until now it is racking and terrifying.
it's picked up something new each day: neck ache, shoulder ache, head ache, stuffiness, tiredness, grumpiness (yes, I admit to this), sore throat, and these past few days, a voracious appetite.
what's up with that?
I can't stop eating.
partly because it feels good going down my scratchy icky throat, I realize this. but I've sent enough food down my esophagus to feed three of me during these past four days, and I keep finding myself searching out more.

when I was out of town last month and my kids' dad stayed here he rearranged some of my kitchen cupboards. this is his comment,"you have candy stashed everywhere!"

I used to.

it's all gone: I have tracked down and eaten every possible thing I can find. cookies, candy, treats, breakfast bars, bread, and this most dangerous concoction my children's ex-nanny made for them: peanut butter mixed with crumbled oreos and chocolate pieces. oh, goodness, that stuff is lethal. (okay the latter is not gone, and don't tell my daughter it's me who is stealing bites of it from her jar.)

I'm on day 6 here. it doesn't feel to me like it's leaving anytime soon, but it had better or I'll have to go shopping for new clothes.

that's all, gotta go, I feel a box of cereal calling me . . .

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


power camp has tough days, and not-so-tough days, yesterday falling into the former category and today the latter.
alpe d'huez was yesterday's theme: picture steep grades and competitive cyclists zipping past you up them.
spin-o-rama was today's theme: picture a gerbil on that neverending, incessant, monotonous, spinning wheel.

I prefer to work somewhere in between the two, which thankfully we usually do.

today during our 40-minute, 110-120 revolution-per-minute, zone 3A (fairly low) work segment, our coach, greer, walked around with the mirror.
our classroom has a few of these mirrors, the kind you can buy at home depot to attach to the inside of your closet door. tall and narrow in a white artificial wood frame, they have a simple cardboard backing and are lightweight. today greer picked the "skinny" mirror, my favorite, the one that takes about ten pounds off and reflects back a svelte, muscular image. yep, good times.

the purpose: to let us see our form as we ride, to catch wobbly or angled knees, misaligned feet, bouncing, pointed toes, rounded shoulders, all of those things we are reminded to correct. as well as allowing us to see ourselves, it gives the coach an opportunity to study our form and pick up on opportunities they might not see from their perch in front of the room.

when greer propped the mirror in front of me this morning, my first thought was oh thank you, it's the skinny mirror. I look great! (I'm grinning -- but I really do like the skinny mirror.)
then I focused on my form. knees look good, everything looks dead on, I don't see anything that obviously needs correction.
greer stood there, studying my legs, her eyes focused on my calves, my ankles, my feet. silence. then,
"are your ankles flexed?"
"ah, not sure exactly what you mean..."
"like are they tense? can you relax them? because what I see is a lot of tension there, like your calf muscles are bulging, more than they should be. can you relax your foot?"

okay, wow. this is the first time in my four years of power camp that anyone has ever said this to me, and I think she's dead on. anytime we have fast spinning workouts its my ankles and shins that give me the most grief.
why? because I always--fast or slow--work so so hard to drop my heel that I create unreasonable tension in my ankle. it's been drummed into my head to drop my heel, so (me being me) I am going to darn well be a good heel-dropper.

"I'm being really picky here," greer continues, "this is a really little thing."
but to me it's big, it's something I can work on, and maybe if I tweak this, these fast spinny days won't bother me so much. I concentrate on relaxing (imagine that), and know this is going to take a while to figure out. but I'm all over it, what a great insight.

and the moral of this story, as with so very many other stories in life, is that to perform best--to be your best--you must find that perfect balance between not enough, and too much.


Monday, January 9, 2012

brown stuff

with crumbly chopped up nuts on top.
and big fat macadamia nuts inside it.


this box of toffee has been sitting on my sideboard, staring me down, since Christmas, and it finally won yesterday.
I opened it.
I started eating it.
I didn't finish it--not yet--but I'm well on my way.

and unfortunately, yesterday was a day off for me, so I didn't even have a vigorous bike ride or run (ha) or snowshoe to blame my appetite on. not even a yoga class. I sat, I wrote, I sat, I ate. I ate some toffee.
I ate more toffee.

this morning the box is still there. my goal is to have it still be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next all the way to the weekend, but I'm not sure that will happen.

in the weight room after class today biking buddy bob told me about an article he'd read over the weekend about will power. he said the finding was that will power is finite.
"finite?" I asked. "I can't believe that--I see it as a character trait, something deep within you. I don't see that running out."
"I think the meaning was more that it can only go so far, such that if you use a lot for one area, you might not have as much for something else."
ah, I nodded my head. I get it.
I use all my will power to exercise and clean and work and care for my family, which leaves none left over for resisting toffee. yep, makes perfect sense.

and sometimes it's okay to use things up.
my friend holly posted in her blog yesterday an erma bombeck (gotta love her) quote that I plan to incorporate, with just one small tweak that you will notice below:

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent [or toffee] left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”

time for just one small bite, gotta go.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

white stuff

we woke up to snow this morning, our city covered with the thick, wet white stuff.
woo hoo!
as a cyclist I know I shouldn't be woo-hooing this, but as a complete human being, I am so excited I am almost jumping up and down.

  • first, it's beautiful. absolutely beautiful. fresh, clean, our world is the proverbial winter wonderland.

  • second, it's covering up all my ugly plant beds, my leaves, and my winter worn grass.

  • third, it kept me from having to go for an outdoor ride in 35 degree weather today.

  • fourth, our ski resorts have been in desperate need.

  • fifth, our land needs the moisture.

  • sixth, it is simply beautiful.

  • seventh, this means there's a chance I might be able to go snowshoeing sometime soon.

  • eighth, it makes me appreciate even more greatly my warm bed, soft couch, indoor heat.

that's enough, though if I worked at it I'm sure I could come up with several more.
back to my world-changing book, nestled securely and warmly as I am in my snug little home.
woo hoo!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

mirror, mirror, on my . . . floor

I broke a mirror this morning. and then knocked a glass of water over onto the counter, rug, floor, and my socks.
both before the clock turned 4:50.
most of my mornings go more smoothly, at least the segment of morning when no children are involved. this was was exceptionally different.

back to the mirror.
what's the first thing you think of when you hear about a broken mirror?
seven years of bad luck.
well, I've decided that my broken mirror is bringing the end to my past seven years of, at times, questionable "luck." I decided it was heralding in, with its tinkling, chiming sound as it splintered and its little pieces danced across the tile floor, a long and prosperous period of my life. I'll begin with seven years, and consider it renewable without need of future breakage.

sounds good to me.

I could also consider it an opportunity to let go of my limited vision of myself, to let go of who I might think I am. to not be held to what a traditional mirror reflects, but to acknowledge a deeper, inner core of who I am, which will never be captured by a simple hand held mirror. (coldplay's viva la vida is running through my head, be my mirror, my sword, my shield . . . and not for the first time, either.)

that sounds good, too.

think I'm set for the day.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


my first waking thought this morning, after I silenced the beeping alarm, was
this is ridiculous.
quickly followed by,
why am I doing this?

the answer came about seventy minutes later, well into my power camp class, after I'd hit zone 5 about five times:
because it starts my day off really well, and gosh, I feel great.

today's workout was one of those interval things, up to zone 5 for just a minute, then back down to a low intensity work level for three minutes, then repeat. nine more times.
these things aren't easy, but man oh man I feel great when it's all over. it is, more than anything else, that sense of mastery, of accomplishment, of pushing your limits and finding you are capable that makes me feel so great.

and my intention for this year--and the rest of my life--is to live more in that place of feeling capable, accomplished, and great.

in last saturday's yoga class our instructor, at the end of savasana, read to us from neale donald walsch's conversations with god. it was a brief passage about letting go of doubt, of fear, and celebrating who you are, living that being fully and beautifully, just as you were meant to do. every time I hear this I think yes, this is how I want to be.

  • every time I finish a time trial, hit zone 5 ten times, or ride powerfully up the canyon, I feel this.

  • every time I speak to my children from my heart, I feel this.

  • every time I dip deep into my internal river and find words, phrases, entire paragraphs that convey what I wish to convey, I feel this.

  • even when I successfully scrub a toilet, fold and replace laundry, and mop my floors, I feel this.
how do we live this all times and all ways? this is our challenge, our life challenge, and I will do my darnedest (I cannot simply try, can I?) to live it.

so off I go, returning to the manuscript I'm creating, next year's best-selling book that will change lives across the world.
and tomorrow morning I'll arise early once more, go spin my heart out and feel that powerful sense of accomplishment, then return home and dig into that manuscript again.
and again.
see ya on the best-seller's list!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

a year of moments

a year that begins with an outdoor ride in crisp, clean air under steadily blue skies has got to be a good one, right?

I think it does.

there are many reasons why I bike, but the one I contemplated most today is this: it's difficult to stress about anything going on (or not going on) in your life while you're riding a bike.
I see two main reasons for this:
first, I'm usually working too hard to have enough oxygen (thus brainpower) to think too greatly about anything besides what I'm doing, and
second, during the moments when I'm not working too hard I am too full of joy and gratitude for the experience to worry about any other little thing in my life.

steven lane taylor is the author of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and has a blog titled Living Life in the Divine Flow. he travels, speaking and conducting workshops on incorporating a healthy spirituality into daily life. in his new year's message this year he emphasizes the concept of living in the present moment: setting goals and then letting them go and living life in each moment it presents.
I was thinking about this today as I rode, realizing that biking is an excellent tool for keeping me in the moment. it's difficult to be anywhere else when you're working hard, watching for hazards, staying balanced and in good form, and enjoying the heck out of your experience out in this great, big, wonderful world.

so here's to a year of moments. a year filled with awareness. a year of joy, exuberance, flowing. a year of surrendering to what is, and accepting it as perfect. (yes, even every moment of my biking performance.)
here's to being grateful that we are given the moments we have, and for loving the hell out of all of them, whether we are tempted to label them good or bad or awful. they are what we have; they are all that we have.

here's to a year of moments: millions of them, all held together with a common theme of gratitude and my very favorite, knuckle worthy, never-to-be-forgotten concept,

namaste, always