Saturday, March 31, 2012


taste cannot possibly be universal.

there are simply too many of us, too many differences between us, too much genetic variety. how could we possibly all be drawn to the same things?

yet it is common knowledge that we all are attracted by certain forms of design, specific dimensions, color combinations, and so on.

which all leads me to wonder how some cycling jerseys and team kits ever make it past the drawing board.


I saw a cyclist on the road yesterday wearing a team kit that just amazes me every time I see it (and I've seen these kits entirely too many times out there, meaning, I've seen them more than once). yep, the one in the picture above: people actually wear this out on the road.

I kid you not.

do they really think this is a good looking kit?? who designed it, who voted yes, and how many of them shudder and release their own sense of self when they put it on? no one---no one---looks good in this kit. they all look like they're wearing a child's halloween costume.

then there are white shorts. again, what are they thinking? there are zillions of colors out there: pick one! do not choose white shorts for a team kit. do not do it. a portion of the shorts can be white, but please, please, not the entire thing.

the best looking team kit I've seen lately is that of the barbacoa team: either they have the best looking men on their team, or it's a darn attractive kit. everyone wearing this kit looks good. (and one thing I've learned over the years is that most men---oh, so sorry---look more attractive when they're covered in helmet/glasses/etc out there on the road. when I see the lines of men checking in at events, in street clothes, they look like a bunch of ordinary people. cycling gear works for men like the Superman cape does. )

to return to my thesis, it is understandable that we are all pleased in different ways by different combinations of color, design, and thank God for this, as it brings a delightful variety to all of our experiences.

but then there are ford pintos, mullets, and brown/blue striped cycling team kits.

with my sincere apologies to the X-men cycling team members---who are probably wonderful people---I hope the next version of your team kit is, um, different. maybe call the barbacoa guys, they seem to have it nailed.

Friday, March 30, 2012


while waiting at a stoplight yesterday, one foot unclipped, patiently watching the cross traffic, a car pulled up next to me.
it was a bright, shiny red VW bug, with those great big black false eyelashes curling and sticking out above its headlights.
there was a vase attached to the dashboard with a flower in it, and the license plate was

how could I not be, after seeing that?

may you find joy today, if not at a stoplight, somewhere else, and may it stick with you for quite some time.
I know I will---whenever I think of that car---remember that joy can be found in big places, in tiny little spots, everywhere, whenever I'm willing to look for it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


it's that time of year again when I need to dig down deep and find, within, some patience.

like most everything in life, cycling is cyclical. (that makes me smile.)
every spring when the weather turns nice we ride, we ride more, we ride longer and longer, we ride harder, and guess what? we get better.

and then the season ends, we back off, we ride less, we ride shorter, we go indoors and do intervals, our total saddle time is cut by up to half.

winter happens,
spring appears,
and the cycling cycle begins again.

last weekend gave us 2 incredible days in the the 70's, and of course, most of us who love to ride hit the road. the cycling cycle has begun again.
which is the reason I need to dig deep and find the patience to let myself build back up to the place I was last fall.

saturday some biking buddies and I rode up to brighton, and it was hard-hard-hard. I was at the top end of my anaerobic zone (okay, ventilary threshold) for a good half of the ride, which means only slightly less than an hour. this is a ridiculous place to spend an hour, and it hurt. but if I'd gone any slower I would've fallen over sideways.

not really, but I was the tail end of the 5 of us, and I didn't like it. I had to at least keep number 4 in sight.

so instead of being frustrated, I need to be patient.
I need to remember that it's only march; I need to remember that the first big climb of the season is always painful, difficult, ridiculously high heart rate the entire time. I need to remember that this is only a phase; I need to remember that this will change.

patience with myself.
faith in myself.
trusting that I will work through this and get better.

there is a time to sow, a time to reap. a time to lay fallow, a time to be fertile. a time to read on the couch, a time to work. a time to spin indoors, a time to remember the delight of outdoors. a time to eat, a time to relax, a time to be grateful, and my favorite,
a time to dance.

spring brings the cycling cycle back to the time for patience, faith, and trust.

because the thing about cycles is that they're cyclical, predictable, faithful, dependable; and if they move quickly enough, they create this really cool thing I call


see you out there!

Friday, March 23, 2012

saddle time

last saturday, on a blustery wind-whipped day, I spent three hours on an indoor spin bike in a room with thirty other like-minded people.

it was the culmination of our 17-week winter "power camp," three fun-filled hours on questionable saddles, with loud blaring music, plenty of challenging intervals, and a small feast. yep, bagels, oranges, bananas, pretzels, and . . . girl scout cookies. water, too, of course, all served to us as we pedaled away, minute after minute after hour after hour.

and I really don't have too much to say about it, other than I feel obligated to mention the fact that a bunch of us nuts did it.
and as my daughters would say,
who does that?

probably not that many people.

now, 3 hours outside in the saddle, on our real bikes: no problem.

it's no problem because---as I experienced on yesterday's (outdoor) ride---the scenery changes. there are road hazards to avoid, little hills to sprint up and swoop down, chirping birds and the occasional barking dog. the air changes, too: a quick flash of cigarette smoke from the open windows of the car that just passed, the smell of coffee as I pass a hangout, a waft of baking bread. mulch, freshly trimmed grass, wood smoke from a fireplace.
just being in the sun-warmed air makes my heart sing, whether pedaling or not, pushing up a hill or not, swooping, or not.

but decision making is personal.
what works for one doesn't always work for another.
judgment is pointless, and thank God we're not all the same for as I've said many times, I don't really want the bike lanes to become any more crowded.

who does that?
I do. I do many things, I enjoy them, I'm grateful for them. I make choices---gosh are we ever lucky to be able to make choices---and I'm grateful for opportunities to choose one thing over another.
and I'm especially grateful for my saddle, my real saddle, when I get to sit on it out in the real world under a sunny sky.

Monday, March 19, 2012


ah. it just sounds good.
the word is smooth, fast, it pulls you along with it.

I came across this word yesterday in a book describing a swimming scene, "he moved into her slipstream, following her in the narrow lane," and I immediately felt the protective cushion of air, the lightening of the workload that I feel when I've moved into the slipstream of a cyclist in front of me.
it's like a tailwind: a magical push or pull that makes life dramatically better.

that might sound over the top, but the impact of these things---a cyclist in front of me, a tailwind behind---is powerful. it's said that drafting another cyclist cuts your workload by 20 percent or so, and a good tailwind could certainly do the same. 20 percent is significant.
but of possibly even greater importance, the slipstream and the tailwind give you a partner out there.
someone on your side.
someone (or thing) helping you out, sharing the work, partnering up with you.

this is the beautiful thing about partnership: you get to be each other's slipstreams. one buoys the other up, one clears the path for the other, one gives a push or a pull. the sense of shared purpose, task, duty, or even fun enhances the experience for both.
the one in the lead can feel proud, generous, strong, while the one behind is able to feel gratitude, admiration of the other, appreciation, perhaps relief.

life is filled with opportunities to provide slipstreams for others.
last night I was that for my daughter through listening, providing options, offering assistance.
often you can create a slipstream simply by smiling, by holding a door open, by accepting someone into your awareness.
you can be a tailwind by providing tools and backing away. by teaching and then letting go. by holding on until its time to give one last push, then release your grip.

slipstreams and tailwinds.
they are beautiful things, and today, I am going to remind myself to be one or the other, all day long. it might be interesting to see what would happen if we all did.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

to orbit the earth

a favorite song of mine is 2000 miles.
a favorite number of mine is 13.
and if you multiply the two together, you'll get close to the number of miles I've ridden on the road in the past 5 years.

contemplating this, I could go many different directions.
such as, wow, that's coast to coast almost 9 times.
or, hmm, that's about 1700 hours in the saddle, or about 350 hours each year.
or, gee, that's about 18 tires I've worn through.

or this: that's somewhere around $12,000 in therapy I've saved myself.


let's see, what else could this represent,
200 books I didn't have time to read
5 pair of cleats I've had to replace
more tire tubes than I care to think about
10 bottles of chain cleaner
4 bottles of lubricant
at least 200 sunrises I've watched near the top of emigration canyon

and this: my total outdoor miles ridden in 5 years is approximately the distance of a space shuttle orbit around the earth (at an altitude of about 200 miles).
which takes 90 minutes.

this last comparison is quite irrelevant, but fun.
next time I ride, I'll think about the fact that I'm on my second orbit around the earth's circumference.
tee hee.

ps: can you tell I did a 3-hour ride on a spin bike this afternoon? interesting where one's mind will go in such a situation . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

pale blue dot

my stepfather passed this along to me the other day, and I found it beautiful.
and wise.
thus I'm sending it along, because I want more of us to operate from a belief system like mr. sagan's.
and, of course, because whatever other forms of life exist out there--wherever they may be--I like to think they understand the joy of riding a bicycle.

In 1977, the Voyagers 1 and 2 spacecrafts were launched, their primary mission to explore Jupiter and Saturn. They completed that part of their mission successfully in 1979 and 1980. They were sent on to explore further reaches in our solar system and reached Neptune 10 years later in 1990. At that time, after pictures were taken of Neptune were taken, Nasa ordered that Voyager's cameras be turned off to conserve energy. Carl Sagan begged for one more picture. He asked that the cameras be turned around, and take a picture backwards, towards Earth. After a tricky maneuver to turn the spacecraft around, the picture was taken. Amazingly, Earth was captured as a pale blue dot lurking in a sun beam. To understand how small Earth was in the picture, consider the following. It is routine now for digital cameras' sensors to be 18 megapixels - that's 18 million pixels in a picture. The diameter of the the Earth in the picture Voyager took, spanned just over one tenth of one pixel.
Sagan was inspired to write the following about this picture. His words continue to resonate today -

"We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known."

—carl sagan, pale blue dot: a vision of the human future in space

Sunday, March 11, 2012

roof rack

one late summer day last year I needed to spend some time in thought.

I drove my zippy little car up the canyon I know best through cycling, down to little dell reservoir, and paid $5 to drive to the parking lot by the dam end of the reservoir, where I got out from behind the wheel and walked, sandals flopping, down to the edge of the water.

once there I took off my shoes and waded in where the water was clear, balancing carefully on the small, slippery rocks. I stood, water lapping against my calves, and stared at the dam, the hillside surrounding the reservoir, the sky, the occasional ripple of a curious fish.

a couple with two young children were pulling their canoe out of the water, everyone's pants rolled to mid calf, everyone a bit bedraggled as families with little children usually are.

as I stood there, watching the clouds, a woman walked down the concrete path from the parking lot carrying a small blue kayak perfectly balanced on her head, her left arm raised and lightly touching the blue molded resin. I watched her walk to the water's edge, set her kayak down, then wade out, climb aboard, and set off across the water.
it struck me: this is what I need to do.

I need to get myself a tiny little kayak and bring it here to this beautiful spot of the world, and paddle off in peace. when I need to clear my head, when I need solitude, when I need restoration. I could just paddle around this small reservoir---it's calm, safe, limited, contained---that would still allow me to feel the soothing motion of the water, the power of my own pulls, the serenity of the quiet oasis so few people visit.

I'm sure they sell a roof rack for a mini that will hold a small kayak.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

about dragons and possibilities

ursula le guin has written millions of words on paper, on a computer, maybe on a laptop, arranging them in sentences and paragraphs that have captivated millions of readers across nations and decades.
from children's books to poetry to critical essays to fantasy novels, ursula le guin is prolific and imaginative, dreaming up characters and circumstances far beyond what I can ever imagine myself doing. she is wise, witty, creative, an icon.
my biking buddy bob suggested I might enjoy reading one of her essays, titled why americans are afraid of dragons.
so I did.
the essay is, in essence, about our inability to be brave enough to consider possibilities foreign to us, outside our circles of comfort and knowledge and ability.

I would love to be so creative as to dream up funny little gnomes and hobbits and dragon creatures, place them in unusual situations, and tell the stories. but I don't know that I have this in me. I can make up numerous things, people, experiences, situations, but they all seem quite plebeian when compared to harry potter, vampire love triangles, and sword toting fairies.
I don't think I could even tell a good pirate story.
so I've decided that I should experiment, try to write something completely impossible according to our known rules of existence. I think it will be quite difficult.

but---ah ha---difficult is the realm in which possibility exists.

just like pushing myself to zone 5, like doing those last 20 crunches when my abs are already on fire, like making those phone calls I so don't want to make, like striking up a conversation with someone I don't know, like registering for an event that will push me harder than ever before:
being outside a comfort zone, stretching, exposing vulnerabilities, these are what provide opportunities for those amazing little things called possibilities to sneak their little toes and fingers into our lives.

so, next time I sit down to write something, it is going to be like nothing I've ever written. it will be full of impossibilities (according to newton and einstein) and possibilities, and it will probably unleash some aspect of myself I have yet to meet.

possibilities is my new favorite word.

Monday, March 5, 2012

one step closer

some days it feels as though you're not getting anywhere.
you wake up in the same room, follow the same exercise routine, push the same button on the coffeemaker. have the same breakfast, make the same lunch, go through the familiar routine in the shower.
work, face the same issues, make similar phone calls, have conversations you've had again and again.
and all of this can happen, daily, while you're working on changing big things in your life. incremental changes that slowly--hopefully--build upon themselves, moving you ever so minutely each day to a place that will, someday, be quite different.

I have a daughter who has been working to lose weight. since last august she has lost over thirty pounds, and she's looking fantastic. she's losing it at a rate of about 5 pounds a month, which is a healthy, consistent pace, but one that is imperceptible on a daily basis.
yet where she is today is dramatically different than where she was 6 months ago.

we forget to give ourselves credit for this kind of movement as we're working our way through it. it's hard: today looks no different than yesterday. it's easy to get caught in the mind game of I'm not getting anywhere, especially when today feels no different than yesterday.

my other daughter is a twilight fan, loves the books, loves the movies. I fell in love with a song a few weeks ago that---unbeknownst to me---is featured in breaking dawn, part I. other than that, I love the song. a refrain from this song, which is called a thousand years, is this:
one step closer.

I'm hanging my hat on this these days.
I can't see or even at times feel any movement, yet I have to keep believing that I am moving,
one step forward, one step at a time, one step closer. I am going to get there, because these small, incremental steps are going to, eventually, get me somewhere.
and today, I am one step closer than I was yesterday.

I'll let you know when I can see the peak, and for now, I am going to keep reminding myself that yes, truly, I am one step closer.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

life cycles

the power camp workout today was a series of 30-second efforts in zone 5, sprints, painful things.
there were 3 minutes of recovery between them, which were blissful minutes, fully enjoyed and appreciated.
at the end of each sprint I felt awful, and three minutes later, I was fine to go again.

life is like this.
a series of sprints---intense, challenging, sometimes breathtaking, sometimes painful---bracketed with periods of recovery.
and as brutal or difficult some of the sprints might be, it's the recovery phases that are often more exacting.
it's easy to love the highs, the intensity, the adrenaline, being challenged, being asked to step up and be our best, performing well, feeling a sense of accomplishment.
recovery, on the other hand, can be slow, can feel stagnant, can ask us to---argh---be patient, have faith. they say we only build strength during periods of recovery.

what life gives us is a balance of both, though it might not always feel that way. there are times when I feel I've been sprinting for much too long, and times when a lengthy recovery lulls me into despondency. patience, balance, faith.

today reminded me that life is full of opportunities for sprints, and full of opportunities for recovery. and although I like to think I'm in charge, I am apparently not.
it's like the universe is this great cosmic power camp coach, continuously demanding sprints, then forcing recovery. in an often random pattern, without prior notice, spontaneously.

I've been through a big sprint these last two months, and I'm suffering my way through a recovery week now, trying to dig up patience and faith, aching for a new sprint.
which will inevitably come, and I guess my job is to make the most of this recovery so that I'm ready.
for the next sprint.
any time now.
bring it on.
I'm going to be completely ready.
let's go.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

led zeppelin

bruno mars just doesn't cut it.
led zeppelin does.
as does the who, AC/DC, maybe some david bowie.
something loud, bangy, heavy drums, angry music.
this is what works when you have to crank your heartrate up to zone 5.

power camp coach leslie--she of trivia and wearing her clothes inside out by mistake--tends to play music from the hard rock era, many songs I've never heard before, most of them songs I wouldn't choose to listen to if given the option.
yesterday, she played this assortment of songs that included pop, things my girls might listen to, bruno mars.
and then she asked us to work in zone 4.

admittedly, zone 4 is not as tough as zone 5, but it's still challenging, and bruno mars just wasn't cutting it.

I love music, I love what it does for my mood, my energy, my outlook. chris martin and coldplay do something magical for my creative zone, and jewel confirms my experiences on earth. the black eyed peas often make me want to dance, van morrison helps me clean my house. too many artists to name send me into melancholic, romantic, dreamy places, and the bare naked ladies always make me grin.
if you've paid attention, you know that my fantasy is to one day be a back-up singer for a band.
I love music.

and in the spin room, during a hard workout, I even like that hard rock type of stuff I would never, ever ordinarily listen to, because it somehow numbs my mind to the pain of the body.
I don't know how it works, but music plays with our brains in beautiful, surprising and gratifying ways, and life without music would be . . . well,
lonely, dry, flat, unfathomable.
and I would sing in my head, quietly, off tune, praying for something to kick in and get me through zone 5.

thank God for led zeppelin, the who, AC/DC, korn.
and van morrison, eva cassidy, matt kearney, coldplay, jewel, josh groban, the beatles, shawn colvin, brahms, debussy, tchaikovsky, saint saens . . .