Wednesday, February 29, 2012

laugh lines and quirks

today I held a headstand for just about my longest time ever, until I started thinking about how great I was doing.
then I lost my balance.

I touched my foot to the wall, then pulled back into balance, determined to focus on staying steady instead of congratulating myself for doing so well.
this worked better.

no matter how far we've come, how hard we've worked, how much we've learned, there is always more. always. at times I think I want to be done--be perfected, be enlightened, be at complete eternal peace--but then I remind myself of how boring that might be. (if not for me, certainly for everyone who knows me!)

complexity and imperfections are interesting: physical perfection is fleeting, mental milquetoast is boring, one who is completely predictable is, well, predictable. laugh lines and quirks are two of my favorite things in a person. I don't like to surround myself with people who always do what one might expect them to do.

some day I may be able to hold a headstand without wavering, for minutes at a time.
but there will always be other challenges, shortcomings, opportunities in my life.
I am destined to remain imperfect in this lifetime,
something I remind myself to be grateful for.

(and isn't this the perfect post for today: the year's quirky little day that proves the imperfection of our calendar? as one of my daughters said this morning: why do we need this day, anyway? it just makes my birthday one day further away.)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

illusions of control

a storm is moving in and the wind has been wicked this morning. but it was warm (ish), and I wanted to get a ride in before the snow came. so I rode, was buffeted, and laughed through my ride on this (as pooh would say) very blustery day.
after returning home, I began reading a copy of a speech someone had given, and she referred to brian andreas' story people, quoting him, and I'm passing it along now because it's just perfect for the day (and life):

If you hold on to the handle, she said, it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you.

time for a personal story. (as if everything I share here isn't?)
I am working on writing a book. it's big and glorious and scary and heart-wrenching and powerful. it has impacted me in myriad ways both large and small, and it's absorbed everything I have to give to it.
I've been working on this since last september, and it's coming along beautifully.

writing and posting here during these past months has at times been easy, and at times, terribly difficult and frustrating. I don't want to just post drivel, yet I don't always have much to say (between the fact that I can't ride outside very often and my head/heart/emotions are caught up in this other project), and I'm still trying to honor my commitment to posting on odd days; these all combine to leave me floundering.

because I like structure, and I don't want to give up this exercise completely, I've been wracking my brain to come up with a new posting schedule that will give me a little release, and keep me from posting worthless paragraphs and boring you to tears.

yesterday, in the nice warm shower after an awesome (not too windy) bike ride, I came up with my new plan. in honor of my incredible friend ivy, it's a prime plan:
for the next segment of time (until I change to a different plan) I will be posting on prime number days only.

it's a compromise between cutting back to once or twice a week, and staying with where I am now. it will give me a few extra days off, and it's something I can remember without having to look at a calendar.
woo hoo!

thanks, ivy, my prime number friend. ( I'm glad the months stop at 31 days, because when I go too much higher I really have to do some work to figure out if a number is prime or not. 1-31 is pretty easy.)

so . . . if all goes according to plan, this is the last posting on the 25th of a month that you'll see for quite some time.

at least that's my plan. but seeing as I'm not really in charge, I might let go of the handle and see where the wind takes me . . .
and then I suppose I'll see you when I see you.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

korkmaz git

life is not what I thought it would be. it's much more extreme.

it's louder, scarier, more brilliant, bigger, sunnier, brighter, cloudier. it's sadder, hotter, more gratifying, angrier, quieter, kinder, more violent, messier. it's excruciatingly painful, lopsided, vibrant, laconic, inexplicable, awesome, powerful, sweet, disarming, luminous, completely unpredictable, disheartening, humorous.

life is invigorating and exhausting: full of reasons to get up each morning, filled with reasons to collapse into bed at night and wish to never get out.

of everything life's presented me with, the most challenging for me has been overcoming fear. grief and loss are terribly difficult, but somehow I think fear is worse. they can all be debilitating, but with grief and loss I know that time--a great deal of time--and continuing to connect with joy will get me through them, eventually.

fear, on the other hand, demands action. time does nothing to dispel it, connecting with joy doesn't help, either. fear must be faced, acted upon, dealt with, or it will just keep hanging around, lying on your couch eating bon-bons, getting bigger and bigger.

I face little fears all the time, conquering them, squishing them under my boots. we all do. life is full of events, people, and situations that stir up little fears. they have to be faced. I don't like it, but I like the alternative even less.

so I've adopted this little saying, am tucking it under my arm and carrying it around with me: korkmaz git. translated from turkish, korkmaz git means he goes and is not afraid.*

I plan to keep going; I will not let me be afraid.

because life is too big, gorgeous, bountiful, vital, breathtaking, magical, stunning, astonishing, warm and ultimately, when you just keep going, gratifying.

korkmaz git.

I will if you will. well, actually, I will no matter what. join me.

*paulo coelho, aleph, 2011

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

happy pancake day

I love to learn new things. and as God and most all of you know, there are a billion or two things out there I don't know.

what I learned today, is that it's pancake day.
I learned this from lauren, our wee irish lass from Omagh who lived with us last july when one of my daughters participated in the ulster project.
from lauren's conversation with my daughter last night:

mm, pancake day, well, it's a day where everyone makes pancakes . . . oh, God, I can't believe you don't have it. that's so sad.

my daughter tells me about it, and I am compelled this morning to do a little googling to flesh out the story a bit. here's the scoop.

it's actually shrove tuesday today, the day before ash wednesday. for the catholic faith, ash wednesday is the beginning of lent, the season of fasting and preparation for the easter season.
and what catholic communities in many countries do on the day before lent begins is to eat pancakes, those treats made from sugar, flour, fat, eggs, all rich ingredients that are likely to be restricted during the lenten season.

wikipedia tells us that the word shrove is the past tense of the english verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by way of confession and doing penance, thus "shrovetide" is the name for the week leading up to the beginning of lent.

methinks we might be having pancakes for dinner tonight at our house, in honor of our friends across the pond.
what I also discover is that the irish aren't the only ones who traditionally eat pancakes today: canadians, the english, australians, new zealanders, phillipinos and germans also observe this event.

all in all, pancake tuesday sounds like something you might do before a good wednesday ride.
since tomorrow shows a predicted high of 54 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of precipitation, I think I'll experiment with pancakes as a form of carbo-loading.

happy pancake day to you all!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

february is not june

yesterday's power camp workout was the 'snowbird hill climb', our coach's indoor condensed version of the race up little cottonwood canyon held each august.

it consists of many 5 and 10 minute sections in zones 4A, 4B, and 5 (ventilatory threshold), and is just a darn hard workout. total heavy work time is probably about 45 minutes or so, which is certainly less time than it takes me to do the real climb.

yesterday was also a sunny, decently warm day.

indoor, outdoor, indoor, outdoor . . . hmmm . . .

I made up my own hill climb.

my plan was just to ride out to draper and back, a 40+ mile ride that would give me opportunity to push hard on a few short hills, trying to create some intense intervals to make up for what I'd be missing in the spin room (besides heat, loud pounding music, the smell of everyone's sweat, an uncomfortable saddle . . .)

it was 40 degrees when I began---with a predicted high of 47 or so---and I stuffed my wind jacket in my pocket in case I found myself brave enough to try a hill. I headed south.
as I approached millcreek canyon I thought about giving it a try.
and rode up to the locked gate where the snow begins covering the road.
woo hoo!
I floated down on adrenaline and headed south again, aiming for big cottonwood canyon, thinking I'd ride just up to storm mountain, one of my favorite places on earth.
up I went, chugging away, the sun shining down, the creek crashing and splashing, snow thick in shaded spots and barely existent on the south facing hills. some february in northern utah.
storm mountain welcomed me, then spit me forward and up---well, maybe I'll ride to the S-curve. my legs faltered and then caught, and I kept pedaling. I love the S-curve.
then the S-curve took me and propelled me up again---well, maybe I'll ride to another mile or so. then, maybe I'll ride to the flat section.
clouds started to paste a thin film over the sky and as I climbed up higher the air got cooler, and finally, at the end of the flat, I decided to turn around and head down. I ate the cookie I'd brought, I donned my wind jacket, turned up the volume on my ipod, and headed west, downhill, homeward.

this was a most glorious day.
I arrived home starving, my leg muscles tight and screaming at me, goosebumps coating my body, my face red with exertion.

woo hoo!

I kicked my own personal double half-canyon hill climb, spending a ridiculous amount of time in zone 5, feeling pretty darn great out there.
that being said, february is not june, and the truth is those 3.5 hours on the bike kicked my butt.
oh well.

the snow came last night, it's a beautiful white world out there today. no canyon climbs today, just a whole mess of gratitude for yesterday's perfection.

Friday, February 17, 2012

the past of least distance*

as tempting as it may be,


(unless you're like me and you're cooking, then absolutely go for it.)

*okay, I JUST noticed that this is not the title of this post: how did this happen? a mental tweak? a freudian slip? fingers not attached to my brain? someone else has access to my interface and revised it? the REAL title was supposed to be The Path of Least Resistance.
who changed it on me?? 2-19-12

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


there are 22 me's.

on some things we agree, on some things our opinions and truths vary dramatically, and on many things we debate, discuss, and negotiate our way to a middle ground.

all 22 of us felt fantastic about yesterday's time trial---after it was over. about 18 of us were confident going into it and performed well for all 25 minutes at VT (ventilatory threshold). 3 felt a little ill a few minutes before the starting bell but eventually came around, and 1 was resistant until the last five minutes, when she decided she'd like to keep going, at least another 5 minutes. she was outvoted.

a good 17 of us like protein and search it out, knowing it's important to this composite active body.

only about 4 of us like fruit.

all 22 like vegetables, but only about 2 are willing to do the the prep work of cleaning, cutting and preparing them.

all 22 love roasted root vegetables, but again, less than 5 are willing to work very hard for them.

20 love red wine, and about 15 know when enough is enough. maybe 16.

all 22 have sweet tooths bigger than their heads.

all 22 crave carbohydrates, all the time.

about 17 are supportive of power camp, but all 22 resent the alarm clock each weekday morning.

18 are patient. usually.

21 love a great book, about 5 will read a so-so book if there's nothing else around.

1 is politically aware. okay, maybe 2.

14 love being alone, six crave company, and the other 2 can't decide.

20 of us are fiercely independent, and 6 of us want nothing but to be taken care of. yes, I know the math doesn't work.

all 22 love dumb jokes, all 22 love to laugh, and about 2 are able to re-tell jokes.

I think 1 of us loves to spin her legs around like a gerbil, but the other 21 would rather do just about anything but.

19 of us want to grow old(er) gracefully, and the other 3 don't know what the big deal is about.

16 of us have been adamant about not doing lotoja again this year, while 6 have whittled away at them, saying well, what else are you going to do?

9 admit they might be in a rut, 9 don't want to think about it, and 4 worry about how that will change.

I'm pretty sure all 22 of us love coffee, with milk and some fake sugar.

21 of us are driven to write, while 1 only wants to nap all day. make that 20 and 2.

15 want to stop blogging because their minds are so full of other writing work, 5 think it's good practice and don't want to stop, 2 think it's not quite time to release this commitment for a reason they won't disclose. for some reason those latter 2 hold a lot of weight with everyone.

all 22 of us are tired of shuttling our daughters to and from school, sporting events, piano lessons, friends' houses, this practice, that practice, concerts, dances . . .

and, finally, on a typical nice day with no power camp, only 13 of us really want to go get on our bike. 5 can be convinced fairly easily, and the other 4 drag their feet.
but when we eventually pull it together and get out there and perch upon that saddle, pedaling away, it only takes one little swoopy hill to unite us in joy and whoops, where all 22 of us reconnect with our shadow and become entirely, blissfully complete.

(until 5 start complaining about their left quad, and 3 decide they're hungry, and 2 want the ipod, and 3 really wish they didn't have to go all the way to the top of the hill . . .
thank God we all come back together on the way back home, all 22 of us, who agree to eat something sweet the minute we walk in the door, and then, probably, have a nap.)

Monday, February 13, 2012

where to find me

oh thank you, God, I rode my bike outside and found myself again.

I don't know where I've been, but I found me, saturday, as I rode my bike to power camp class and back. a whopping 10.5 miles, but that wasn't the important part. the important part was being outside, being on my bike, pushing myself up those inclines and little hills, swooping on the slight declines and corners.

this is good.

this is where I am, and I just have to figure out a way to bike outside more often in the winter, because I really like it when I find myself.

it makes me think of peter pan, who lost his shadow and needed to have it re-attached to become complete again. the shadow me is always on a bike, and I must feel slightly lost without her.

thank God for my bike, for 55 degree february afternoons, for white-dusted foothills and the sun peeking through clouds.

hope you find you somewhere, always.


Saturday, February 11, 2012


I am a girly girl.
I don't mind getting sweaty, dirty, grimy, gross, all in the pursuit of a great adventure, but man oh man do I love cleaning up afterward.
I love showers, I love the smell of my shampoo, I love smooth skin, I like my hair in control, I like me with a little makeup.
this is me: I really wanted to take my straightening iron to nepal, because I like my hair straight and smooth. I didn't take it, experimenting with how much of me is about my appearance. I missed it. I survived.

because I can handle myself gross, and I obviously am willing to go there frequently, but when I'm not disgustingly sweaty and dirty, I like to be well put together. and I don't really like my mind-of-its-own wavy hair.


while in nepal I met an eighteen-year-old intern with CHOICE humanitarian named kate who is just a totally amazing, beautiful person, without and within. not once did I see her worry about her hair, her face, her appearance. she is, of course, naturally stunning, but what comes through is an internal joy and acceptance that overpowers her physical beauty.
everyone loves her: the villagers, the CHOICE staff with whom she works, us expeditioners who were just there with her for a week, everyone. and the nepalis who know her call her--teasingly--nakkali.

nakkali is a nepali word which means pretty girl, fancy girl, a fashionable girl. one who cares about the flowers in her hair, her ribbons, her dress, one who likes nice things: all those things that kate is seemingly not.

I fear I am too much nakkali and not enough kate, but at this point, I don't know that I'm going to change very much. however, the awareness is there, this understanding that what kate has is so beautiful, so genuine, so authentic.
I am destined to just be both: a girly girl, and a sweaty, gross, happy, cyclist.
meshing them together is my goal, which (to look at all the pictures of me cycling) is just not always possible.

but kate reminds me of what's authentic and true, that what matters most is what's in our hearts. when our hearts are happy, we glow, no matter what our hair looks like.

namaste, and thanks, kate.

now I'm off to have my toenails done.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

summer plans

yesterday someone in power camp asked me what my summer plans were.
I could barely tell her what my plans were for today, for the rest of this week.
but this has been niggling at me a bit, because as I've told everyone and their dog, I am not doing lotoja this year.
yep, not.
I've done my five, I'm darn proud of myself, I'm happy with that, time for a break.
I'm not doing it this year.

well, not as of today.

last week someone mentioned putting a female team together, that she had a sponsor, that we could all do this, it would be fun . . .
I am resisting.

but this is what happens: if I don't sign up, don't plan to ride, what do I do? do I still do all those centuries, will I stop caring about how many miles I log each week? do I choose some other big ride as my goal, do I just start riding for fun, what happens to the susan who has done this for five years?
will I become someone else, a different person, where will I put my energy, my focus, my commitment, do I need therapy?

at this point I've committed to one ride, in durango, over memorial day weekend, the ironhorse classic.
that's it, no others, nada, no plans.
no plans.

which feels really strange . . . so I'm just sitting with it. it's early, it's only the beginning of february. I don't need to know what my summer will be like yet, I don't need to make plans, I have plenty of time.
so I'm sitting, waiting for inspiration, and will eventually fall off my fence and into one set of plans or another.
hey, lotoja registration is still two months away.

of course, I won't be signing up for that because I'm not doing it.
yep, not.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

on the road

so far, this best-version-of-me who I'm working on being in each moment

is more patient.
rolls her eyes less.
is more thoughtful.
says yes more often.
says no with great love.
is much more patient.
thinks first.
doesn't ask why quite so often.
is more grateful.
realizes there's all the time in the world, even when it doesn't seem that way.
keeps on doing crunches and ab work.
is calmer.
isn't as anxious.
still goes to power camp, still sweats, still works.
still reads, makes her bed, feeds the dog.
chops wood, carries water.
has no idea where she's found all this patience.

she still likes candy (cookies, cake, pie, chocolate) though, so I'm pretty sure it's still me.
just a slightly improved version of me, one which feels really good from the inside.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

the road

I'm trying something new.
so far, so good.

it's not about cycling, but I suppose it applies, as the goal is to apply it across the board, to all aspects, moments, and phases of life. and I suppose we could make it about cycling . . . why not?

this is it, simply, in two axioms:

expect nothing
trust life

in my incorporation of these (incorporate, literally, to take into one's body) I find myself releasing the hope for outcomes, instead, focusing on being my very best me in each moment. these past seven or so weeks since my return from nepal have been very strange for me, and I've often found myself in a place of "not knowing." when confronted with situations I find perplexing, uncomfortable, anxiety-provoking, I have found myself frustrated or indecisive or---possibly worse---disconnected.
and with these two brief statements, four small words, I find myself relaxing and drawing back from this place of "ick" into a place of "ah."
okay, this is only my second day, but the sense of relief is significant. I am simply focused on being my best with each conversation, each encounter, each decision, each action, and letting life itself figure out the rest. (of course I forgive myself when I err, because the act of forgiveness is always a sign of one's being one's best self.)

okay, now let's apply this to cycling.
expect nothing: always bring your own water, your own food, your own electrolytes, your own extra clothing. be prepared. have money, have tubes and cartridges, have your road ID, have sunscreen.
yep, that works pretty well.

trust life: what goes up comes down, so enjoy your swoop after your climb; your body wants to live, and will take just about every healthy challenge you throw its way so don't wimp out; when you fall, someone will eventually help you get up; if you keep smiling and waving, someone will eventually return these efforts.
yep, that works pretty well, too.

expect nothing,
trust life.

because it's truly all about the process, not the result, as brilliantly illustrated by cycling:

it's the road there, not the destination.

Friday, February 3, 2012

end of the blahg

a friend of mine, the other day, commented that they had been reading my blahg . . .
which made me smile, while internally wincing.

I'd better get gruntled quickly, hadn't I?

well here goes.

our biking buddies brad and ivy moved to seattle last november, breaking off little corners of all our hearts. they were in town last weekend and we gathered for dinner--fourteen of us, a goofy collection of souls--and I think part of my malaise has to do with the fact that they were brilliantly here and now woefully gone.

the crew who gathered comprised
a plane salesman (girl)
a computer guy
1 entrepreneur
1 nurse
1 writer and small business owner (me!)
2 geologists, one of whom works in academia and one in the real world with environmental issues
1 PhD who has just begun medical school
1 strikingly lovely bulgarian grad student
1 environmental attorney who loves to rock climb
1 professor in the school of business

3 physicians (who can be, if you don't know this, a little bit lovably geeky)

the interests of this combined group skip and scatter about, jumping around the globe and covering many sports, most outside activities known to man, myriad intellectual pursuits, fabulous authors, independent and big screen movies, bacteria, viruses, and raising chickens.

if only our 2 biologist friends had been there, we could have widened the interest range to include worms and axons and plant toxins.

two days ago our temporarily-based-in-seattle (hint hint) friends posted a short video on facebook; ivy the cinematographer, brad the actor. brad was riding his bike around their living and dining rooms and kitchen, while ivy provided the dialogue which was to the tune of "we're adults, look at us, brad is riding his bike in the house, yes, we can do this because we have a big enough house and we're adults."

I miss them.

and my point today is simply this: we are not only what we eat, we are who we choose to spend time with. the people we love, the people we choose to be with, they are part of us, they fuel us, they may at times reflect portions of ourselves (and that is why we're drawn to them) but they also, at times, provide what we ourselves don't have.

I've never ridden my bike in the house. and now I don't have to, because I can live vicariously through the brad-and-ivy show.

and I'm a better person for it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

on being gruntled

He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.

P. G. Wodehouse, 1938, The Code of the Woosters

I am not disgruntled.
but I'm not exactly gruntled, either.

the word disgruntled has been in use since the 1600's, but it wasn't until about 1926 that someone decided there should be a "gruntled" to contrast it. this is--in my opinion--one of those words that just doesn't quite work. gruntled does not sound at all like being in good humor, which is what it is supposed to represent. it sounds more like rooting around, grunting, being annoyed . . . rather like being disgruntled, I suppose.

regardless, I am not exactly gruntled.
maybe it's the continuously gray skyed dry and monotonous "winter" we're experiencing, maybe it's that I'm tired of being cold. maybe it's the third phase of power camp where excitement (and attendance by others) has waned and the work load is heavy, maybe it's that aspects of my work life seem to have stagnated, maybe it's that I haven't been up enough canyons. maybe it's a combination of all of these things, with dashes and pinches of others as well.

and thus I sit here somewhere between disgruntled and gruntled, waiting for little miracles to tip me into gruntledom.

hope you're on the gruntled side today, and I hope to join you there shortly.