Sunday, April 29, 2012

the 3 percent

today's ride wore me out.
I didn't bonk, but I was depleted, slow, and spent for my last thirteen or so miles.
it could've been the climbing (up emigration, up big mountain, then down and up the back side of big mountain, up little mountain, then home), or it could've been the wind (crazy powerful), or it could've been the oatmeal I didn't eat before I left home.
but I think I might just blame it on the guy in the silver truck.

at a 4-way stop just a mile from home this morning, I hovered, waiting my turn as the person in the car to my right made a left hand turn.
then it was my turn to go straight.
but the silver truck behind mr. left-turning car ran the stop sign, turning his face to me (me!) as he passed in front of me, flipping me off, driving straight on down the road.
you did not just do that! were my words, a grin of incredulity on my face.
I was playing by the rules, I'm a nice person, he doesn't even know me!
yet he's pissed off enough to run a stop sign and flip me off just to make a point.

90% of motorists I encounter while cycling are kind, appropriate, even generous in their behaviors around me.
another 7% are turkeys, driving too close to me, pulling out in front of me, not signaling their intentions, roaring past with attitude.
then there are the 3% who hate me.
again, they don't know me, they don't care what I'm doing or how thoughtful and courteous I might be, they plain old hate me because I ride a bike.

I try to not think about these people.
I tell myself stories about them---their father just died, they're going through a divorce, they're in terrible pain and on the way to the hospital, they were raised by wolves---and then I send them lots of love and light.
I wish for them peace and joy, amazing success, love, prosperity, serenity.
for maybe if they were to have all those things they wouldn't need to feel (and act upon) this hate and direct it toward little old me.
and then I tell myself to stop thinking about them.

but today, I think Mr. Mean in his shiny silver truck stuck with me and made my legs tired, made me wimpy, made the wind whip around me more viciously than usual.

but he also made me resolve to be in the 90% in all situations. with cyclists, other motorists, with motorcyclists, with skateboarders.
with dog walkers, with stroller-pushers, with little old ladies who probably shouldn't still have licenses.
with runners and golfers crossing the road, with roller skiers and everyone else out there.
because we all share the same space, and it's a much more pleasant space when we all have just a little patience with each other.


Friday, April 27, 2012

cotton eye joe

I love stories.
and I am curious.
and my mind is always going, pondering, conjecturing, creating, supposing.

I have two daughters learning how to drive.
this allows for many great conversations, as well as observations of those who drive... well, we'll just say less well than others.
the other day someone sped past us at a good twenty miles over the speed limit, changing lanes constantly (and without blinkers) to find the fastest path.
"geez, what a stupid driver," my daughter said.
"I like to think there's a reason for that," I replied, "like his wife's in labor in the back seat and he's got to get her to the hospital."
"oh, right. or, he's just a stupid driver."

I like to make up stories that paint us all in the best light.
except not always when I'm biking.

here's the thing about biking: when you pass a cyclist---or get passed by a cyclist---you have no idea where they're coming from, where they're going, how long they've been riding, where they started, when they'll end, none of it.
you can guess by looking at how many water bottles they have, what they're wearing, and how much (and what) stuff is in their back pockets, but it's always conjecture.
you can't know.
so . . . you can't say
"oh, they're going so fast because they just started/they're doing sprints/they're almost home."
"they're going so slow because they've been out for five hours already and they're just finishing up."
"they probably got a ride to the middle of the hill so they could make it to the top without dying."
and on and on.

I can still make up stories---it's hard to make me stop---but I can't know if someone is on their first 5 miles or their last 5, if they're halfway through a seven-hour grind or halfway through a one-hour spin.
maybe it's a recovery day, and that's why they're going so slowly.
maybe they're doing sprints, and that's why they're inconsistent.
maybe they're having a great day, maybe it's a crappy day.
I can't know.

now the big ah-ha:
all of life is like this.

we can't know where someone has come from, where they're going, if it's a great day, if it's a cruddy one, if they're focused on a goal, if their mind is a hundred miles away. everyone out there is a cotton eye joe.
the best thing we can do is wish them well along their journey, offer them a little prayer of Godspeed, and dance, anyway.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


first early morning emigration canyon ride of the season . . .
woo hoo!!!
sixty degrees, riding in the slowly waking world, beginning in the dark and ending with red-pink clouds draping the eastern sky, first one to the top of the hill at 6:05, silvery gray reservoir, quiet, the rustle of a startled deer, just a few goosebumps here and there.


Monday, April 23, 2012


laurels are prickly, right?
that's why we don't rest on them.

quite a while back I worked as a buyer for nordstrom, where--as we used to say--you were only as good as yesterday's business. I found that attitude frustrating, because no matter how consistent my work efforts, my attention, and my commitment, I couldn't produce consistent increases in business. not all of the variable were in my control.
I had to learn to give myself my own kudos and not depend on external rewards, which is not a bad lesson to learn, but it is a challenging one.

back to laurels.
at nordstrom, you could never rest on them for long because before you knew it they were yanked out from under you.

now, cycling.
I'm talking little laurels here:
powering up a little incline, cresting a hill at powerful speed, passing someone who's riding hard and well... these kinds of little things that make you feel good.
and I let myself feel good--as it's happening--award myself a few laurels, and then keep going.
no resting.
because success comes when you keep going.
he who rests on his laurels will not only feel prickles, but will soon be passed.

smelling roses is awesome; resting at and appreciating the summit is key to keeping desire strong; acknowledging your efforts is vitally important.

but darn those laurel wreaths: they are designed to be just uncomfortable enough to challenge us onward.
no ouches for me . . . I'm still moving.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


I'm pretty sure I've written about bananas before. about how they're called the perfect snack: full of vitamins and minerals and energy, completely contained in their own hygienic package.
about how great they are for you when you're cycling: quick energy, lots of potassium.
about how that would be great if only I liked them.
about how I eat them anyway, while cycling, because they're so great.

but today I'm sharing a different banana story.

it's taoist; it's from alan watts' what is tao, and I find it a perfect fit for cycling-taoist-buddhist-zen-like me. and hopefully, for you, too.

a lot has been said about the process, the journey, the path to a destination.
that the important piece--the meaningful part, the beauty of it--is in this process, not in the end result.
that we often think we'll be happy when we reach a specific goal, but what we find is that the most meaningful aspects of reaching that goal were the experiences we had along the way.
alan uses a banana to describe this concept, and I love him for it:

...if we begin to think about our goals in life as destinations, as points to which we must arrive, this thinking begins to cut out all that makes a point worth having. It is as if instead of giving you a full banana to eat, I gave you just the two tiny ends of the banana--and that would not be, in any sense, a satisfactory meal.

although I love the top of the hill, it's the work, the scenery, the overcoming of doubt, the smells, the rush of wind, the smiles and waves from fellow travelers along the way, it's all of these things that bring me satisfaction, that make me appreciate my destination even more.
the ends of the bananas aren't so great: even to me, one who doesn't care for bananas, I realize that the best part of it is the middle, and that's the part I'm supposed to enjoy.

today as I pedal up a hill not only will I thank the earth for gently lifting me up higher and higher into the sky, I will appreciate every single bite of my banana.
and my journey.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


yesterday I pretended I was in ireland.
I knew it was wet out there, I knew it would continue to send moisture down, and I rode my bike anyway.
we're spoiled with sunshine and dry air, dry pavement, so many days with temperatures in the 40's and above.
many cyclists around the world don't have it this nice.
so yesterday I manned-up, pulled on long tights, slipped on a light rain jacket, and headed up the hill anyway.

one nice thing is that I didn't have to share the bike lanes with anybody else.
and it was refreshingly moist: my skin loved it.
and it helped me empathize with irish cyclists.

it rains, on average, 151-225 days a year in ireland, depending if you're on the drier east side, or the wetter west.
may and june are the sunniest months, when they average 5-6.5 hours of sunlight in a day.
irish skies are completely cloudy approximately half the time.

so yesterday, here, at 53 degrees and wet, was an awful lot like ireland is, frequently.

I looked for clovers, I tried to sing all the irish songs I know (basically, none), I kept my eye peeled for leprechauns, I filled my lungs with moist air and gave thanks that it's possible to ride a bike in the rain.
then I came home, checked the weather, and gave even greater thanks for the next week's local forecast:
sunny, warm, dry, absolute perfect riding weather.
guess I won't have to pretend I'm somewhere else next time I ride.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

another gift from a snowplow

the other day I read a beautiful thought about climbing.
it suggested that instead of moaning, panting, whining and suffering your way up a hill, you be grateful for the earth's gentle rise that moves you higher and higher until you are standing atop a peak, gazing down at the lower spot from which you came.

from alan watts' what is tao?:
we speak of "the conquest of nature" . . . and of the "conquest" of great mountains like Everest. And one might very well ask us, "What on Earth is the matter with you? Why must you feel as if you are in a fight with your environment all the time? Aren't you grateful to the mountain that it lifted you up as you climbed to the top of it?"

ah. a much gentler way to approach those hills I so love, those canyons, those 9% grades. from now on I will let them lift me up.

unfortunately, the other day I neglected to remember this concept and I fought my way to the top of big mountain, sweating, breathing laboriously, wondering why my bike had so few gears.
when I reached the top, snow dusted mountain peaks visible miles and miles away, I expected to encounter the snowbank at the Morgan County sign, as I'd seen two weeks prior.
it was gone.
that three foot bank of snow was gone, and it was hard to imagine that it melted away during those fourteen days.
so I kept riding, slowly, having crested the peak and beginning to descend onto the back side of big mountain, wondering just how far I'd be able to go. had it really melted? or had the plow come through?
it was quickly apparent the snow mounds on either side of the road were sloped and obviously melting, and just as obviously pushed there, at some point, by a plow.

the hillsides are still thick with snow, shaded by the front of big mountain. the temperature dropped five degrees quickly, maybe ten, and I could feel cold radiating from the great piles of snow all around me. at times the road is narrower than a car lane, perhaps snow has slid across since the plow pushed its way through.
I traveled only to the end of the false summit, a mile and a half down, shivering and glorying in the thrill of being in this beautiful spot of earth I've never, ever seen blanketed with snow. less than a mile from the top is a sharply cut red earth hillside that you curve around, and it was still thick with snow: the deep rusty red earth, the milk-white snow, the rich green conifers, all deep and vibrant.

it's easy to think you've seen it all, you've been everywhere around, you've had every experience out there.
but it's never true.
the gift of the snowplow, this time, was obvious, and gratefully gathered to my heart.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

just sayin'

there are brand new, shiny, smooth, black stretches of asphalt beyond the locked gate heading up toward big mountain . . .

now, what did the snail say as it was riding on the turtle's back?


Friday, April 13, 2012

dolphins and intervals

we are frequently reminded in yoga to listen to our bodies and place them in positions that will stretch them only to the point they are ready to be taken: no further, no less.
it's not always easy to decide where this point is, where the line between good pain and bad pain lies.
a similar theme arises when one tries to decide on a workout routine:
how hard to push?
should I do intervals? if so, long ones or brief bursts?
how much recovery is needed?
am I working enough?
am I working too much?
we've all learned that muscles become stronger after they've been stressed and then allowed to rest/rebuild.
so obviously we need down time/recovery/rest.
but how to work them on the other days is always a difficult question to answer.

and it brings me to my annual quandary: do I keep riding up canyons because I enjoy the work, the effort, and the eventual sense of accomplishment and view? or do I incorporate more intervals, because they might make me a better rider?
it's not that I don't work hard riding up those canyons: it's possible I work too hard.

then there are the days you don't feel great: do you push through it? or back off and rest?

in dolphin pose do you welcome the pain? or say this is too much?
that's dolphin in the picture above; it doesn't look so bad, does it? let me tell you, it's one of the most difficult things I do in a yoga class. it hurts. it stresses my arm and shoulder muscles and I feel like I am no where close to holding it the way I should . . . and I am always terribly grateful and relieved when the instructor tells us to move our feet back, lift our forearms off the floor, and return to downward facing dog.

and in that paragraph above is a key to my puzzle: it is great to have an instructor.
someone trained, educated, experienced enough to suggest your pattern of movement;   the challenge is then just to adjust that pattern to your own unique self.

this own, unique self likes riding for the joy of riding, apparently more than she wants to become a better-faster-stronger rider. at least so far. we'll see what the summer brings, and I'll let you know if I add more dolphins and intervals to my life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

speak softly and jump

speak softly and jump.
those were my messages yesterday, provided to me by the benevolent and abundant universe.
I love them both.

a friend of mine is reading the book Quiet, by susan cain. he suggests that maybe I wrote it, that susan cain is my alter ego, my nom de plume. I could only wish.
the subtitle of this book is "the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking." yes, believe it or not, I am an introvert, one who isn't afraid to share, but who is selective in the with whom, the when, the how.
I just watched susan cain's TED talk. if you've never listened to/watched a TED talk, you are missing a powerful form of communication, important and impactful "speeches" that are tight, targeted, terrific.
(one knows one has achieved something significant when one is asked to give a TED talk. this is who they look for:
THE INVENTOR ... sharing an innovation with world-changing potential
THE TEACHER ... sharing valuable knowledge in a memorable way to teenagers or adults
THE PRODIGY ... young talent ready to break out
THE ARTIST ... who can showcase their work in a compelling, new way
THE PERFORMER ... music, dance, comedy, drama ... or something entirely different
THE SAGE ... wisdom the world needs from those who have learned it the hard way
THE ENTHUSIAST ... with an infectious passion about a topic they can share
THE CHANGE AGENT ... helping shape the world's future with work that matters
THE STORYTELLER ... vivid, original, meaningful ... with a talent for connection
THE SPARK ... with a powerful idea worth spreading)

but back to speaking softly and jumping.
watch susan cain's TED talk. and woo-hoo for those of us who do best with space, solitude, nature, and a community to support it all. that's it for speaking softly.

now on to jumping.
my friend holly posted to her blog (a life size catholic blog) saturday about jumping.

of course it comes down to faith, trust in the universe, believing that you will be caught, held, collected, saved from potential disaster, death, ruin.

or as they say, if you're going to fail, fail big.

it's time again to jump.

I've been practicing little ones, here and there, and guess what? I've survived. I'm still here.

so onward, then, to longer jumps, higher jumps, scarier ones.

if not now, when?

what are we waiting for?

to feel stronger, to be more rested, to have a few more friends to back us up?

to have more gas in the car, more money in the bank, more toys in the garage?

to be more experienced, more knowledgeable, more practiced, a little bit older?

hell, we could wait forever.

so I'm jumping.

some of those jumps are big, some are little, some take little thought, some scare the bejeezes out of me. but I find I'm only scared for a minute. because once you take off, there's not a darn thing you can do about it but pray--have faith--trust--that your landing won't be too awful.

that it might even be gentle. or fun. or exhilarating.

or if nothing else, that you'll simply land in someplace a smidgen different from the place you took off.

which is often the only thing that really matters.

happy landings . . . and may we all discover a little new territory out there somewhere.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

the gift (?) of the snowplow

each of the past five springs I have ridden the road by little dell reservoir heading east, around the locked yellow gate, and up toward the summit of big mountain.
I like to keep track of how far one can ride on the road before snow blocks your path.
in early april one can often go a quarter mile, perhaps half a mile, past the gate before asphalt disappears.
by late april the road offers a path nearly two miles in, sometimes two and a half.
last year on may 15th one could only ride to a mile from the top before snow covered the road .  .  .  my first trip all the way up to the top of big mountain came on may 28th.

not so this year.
the gate is still locked, but a good two weeks ago the road up big mountain was plowed, and I made my first trip to the top last saturday, march 31st. 
a ride all the way up big cottonwood in march, a ride to the top of big mountain in march.
I'm worried about the next five months . . .

what happens when we rush the season like this?
do we burn out sooner?
or do we become better riders?
it will be different somehow, but how?

there is a season for everything, they say, so how are we to behave when our seasons are shortened or stretched, made radically different? 
farmers often suffer, their crops affected by drastic seasonal changes, wicked weather, early or late freezes.
what about us?

last saturday there were hundreds of cyclists on the road, a surprising number of them heading up to and coming down from big mountain as I was riding it.  at the top as I paused with my friends, staring at the bank of snow a plow had created exactly at the county line where "salt lake" meets "morgan," a young couple rode up, stopped, and commented that apparently they weren't going any further, since the back side (down into east canyon resort) hadn't been plowed and was thick with packed snow.
I kept my surprise to myself, thinking, oh my gosh, I'm not ready for that ride yet!  it's only march!  that's a june ride .  .  .

judicious, that's the word. 
we'll simply have to figure out how to be judicious this season, thoughtful, contained.  not rushing, not peaking early, just riding, enjoying, pushing a bit but not too much.

and I will pray that the snowplow leaves the back side of big mountain untouched for just a little while longer, say another month, five weeks, six weeks .  .  .  because as much as I will strive for judiciousness, there's this other thing pulling at me that I label childish enthusiasm, that often overpowers everything else and sends me up canyons, down canyons, and back up and down.  regardless of the season, only regarding the snow--or its absence--on the bike lane. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012


coleen paratore just published a novel that contains a theme of wearing your dream on your sleeve.
what would that do for us as a society?

if we could see what each other's dreams are, would we be more helpful? kinder? more willing to consider ways we could impact their journeys? would we be more apt to go out of our way, lend support, become a part of others' lives?
and would we be awed, amazed, inspired?
invigorated, rejuvenated, enlightened?

might we recognize kindred spirits?

what if we read each other's arms everyday, and started believing in everyone?

what would it be like if we each found the courage to share our dreams? it would be like wearing your heart on your sleeve, exposing yourself, daring to be real in front of friends and strangers alike.
my sleeves would state, be a published, prosperous, prolific author, and follow my path without fear, and be the mom my children need me to be. and one other thing I'm not brave enough to put out here and now--would I be brave enough to wear it on my sleeve?

I'd like to think so.

especially if everyone else was doing the same thing.

lightbulb! a custom t-shirt company, dream-sleeves, who will do this for us. you walk in, tell them your dreams, they print it on the sleeves, and off you go. (tattoos aren't practical, because dreams transmogrify, change, are met and released, become different versions of themselves.) maybe we start with one or two days a month, "sleeve days," where everyone wears their t-shirts. then maybe we get brave and make it a weekly thing.

or maybe we just use sharpies and write on our skin, freshening the marker if we haven't yet reached our dream, letting it fade as we formulate the next one . . . that's it. I have "faith" written on my knuckles with sharpie, why not write my dream on my arm?

next time you see a cyclist out on the road with sharpie up and down her left arm, that will be me.

it would be great if you'd do the same, so I won't feel so all alone.

*dreamsleeves, by coleen paratore, scholastic press, ages 10-adult. Set in coleen's hometown of troy, NY, circa 1970, it is the fictional story of a resilient girl named aislinn (irish for “dream”) o’neill who

believes if you have a dream you should wear it on your sleeve for the world to see.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I found my perfect new sunglasses and I'm sooooo excited!!
I am gorgeous, thinner, taller, a better cyclist, and can do handstands in them!

well, not really.
but they're cool, and I'm so very excited to have some new glasses.
woo hoo!

sometimes the smallest things can bring the largest grins to our faces,
n'est-ce pas?

the two minute rule

you can do anything for two minutes.

how many times have you heard that? I hear it frequently, in power camp, when a coach is trying to convince us that zone 5 isn't that bad.
we hear it when we only have to visit zone 5 for two minutes (eight times, of course),
we hear it when we've been in zone 5 for 18 minutes and only have 2 more minutes to go.
it's an oft-repeated phrase, one I'd almost come to believe.

and then came yoga.

where there are hundreds of things I cannot do for two minutes.

some things I can only do for about 10 seconds, or maybe 5. (can you say dolphin pose? wheel?)
some things I can possibly do for one minute, but there are numerous--uncountable--things I cannot do for two.

yesterday's power camp workout was 6 intervals in zone 5 for five minutes each, with two minutes of recovery in between each interval.
two minutes is not a lot of recovery, but it's better than one.
I can recover for two minutes.

and some day, I'd like to be able to hold a headstand for two minutes.
because just as in cycling, much of it is mind over matter. it's convincing your mind that your body is capable.
it's not giving in.
it's working through the trembling, the shaking, the point of collapse, and coming out on the other side.

maybe someday I truly will be able to do anything for two minutes.
never give up the dream.
(and there will be more about dreams next post.)

namaste, and perhaps you should start timing yourself.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I need some new sunglasses

today I think I'll go to REI.
I lost my good riding glasses in nepal last december and I need new ones. I'm thinking about the conversation I'll have with the salesperson; it might go something like this:

"excuse me, I'm looking for some sunglasses, could you help me?
I ride a bike; I ride a lot.
I really like the photochromic lenses, the ones that change as the daylight changes, because sometimes I start riding early in the morning when it's still kind of dark, then keep going all day.
it's really nice to have the lenses adjust.
I've had the kind that come with exchangeable lenses, but I'm not going to carry extra lenses with me while I ride--changing them out while I'm on the road--so I'd really prefer the photochromic ones, if you have any.
other than that, I really don't care too much what they look like.
oh, and I almost forgot, what's most important, they need to make me look really good.
beautiful, really.
and thinner.
oh, and taller.
do you think you can help me?
oh, they're right over there?
and they'll do all those things for me?
I'll take two.
make that three.
or, actually, I'll take them all, no need for anyone else to have sunglasses like these."