Tuesday, December 31, 2013

stories on the eve of a new year

every morning on my way to class I pass a cyclist on the road.
he wears a backpack, has a bright headlight and a flashing rear light, and is out there at 4:55 a.m.
snow, ice, cold, fair weather:  he's there.
after we pass I watch him, in my rear view mirror, turn up a road that leads to the university of utah medical school, so I've made up a story that he's a dedicated student, a starving student, a student too poor to handle the expenses of a car.
I may be completely wrong:  he could just be a conservationist, all about keeping a small carbon footprint.
or maybe he's recovering from a devastating illness and believes the cycling is an important part of his healing process.
or maybe he just loves fresh air, knowing he'll be trapped in a building for the next ten hours.

probably, his story is nowhere near anything I've just written.

people have stories.  and behind them are the motivations, desires, dreams, compulsions, inspirations, incentives, all the forces that determine behavior.
the fifteen of us sitting on spin bikes this morning at 5:15 all walked in for different reasons and approached our efforts in different ways.
I might say I ride hard so I can eat more, but it's also about self-esteem, self-belief, a physical connection with my body, self-empowerment, adrenaline.  and likely, other motivations I myself might not even recognize.  I can only guess at the motivations behind the actions of the others in that room.

I love people's stories.  there's a local man who rides a bike on many of the same roads I do ~ I've seen him numerous times over the past 18 months or so.  the first time, he was coming down Big Mountain, quickly, as I was laboriously pedaling up, slowly.  I gave a finger wave and he returned it, and as soon as he was past me the picture in my brain told me he only had one leg.
yeah, right.
it's difficult to see someone who's passing you at 38 mph, and easy to assume you saw something you didn't.
the next time I saw him I realized the picture in my brain was accurate:  he has but one leg.
I've seen him a few dozen times now, and each time I am both awed and empowered.  this man is large-as-life proof that we have within us what's needed to overcome anything.  anything.
I don't know him at all, but he is a man with a story.
I want to know his story; I want to write his story.
not the details, not the surface of it, but the guts, the innerworkings.  the things that made him get on a bike and teach himself to pedal with only half of the team most of us have working for us.  to learn to stop and dismount, to get back on and go.
to push up steep hills, to risk fast descents.
something within this man has helped him be stronger and tougher than most anyone I know.

I don't know his motivations, and I'm not going to make them up, other than to acknowledge that something deeply powerful helped this man learn to ride when he had the option to not.

everyone has a story.
and the best stories aren't those that conclude in haste or with nothing but smiles all around.  the best stories have some grit, some pain, a bit of loss, a bunch of growth.
as we move into a new year, I wish for us all a deepening of our own stories, an appreciation of the stories that belong to others, and a continued curiosity of what's around the next bend.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

the little train who could

I've got it:  I've finally gotten back into the rhythm of cycling class on that "spin bike" with the uncomfortable saddle.
oh I miss my real bike and its saddle.

but it's good to be back in the groove, back to a place where the workouts are difficult and I survive them anyway.  sometimes I even kick their butts.
it's like reaching a tipping point:  I get to a point where I'm used to the bike, I can deal with the saddle, and I know that whatever workout is presented to me, I will complete it and live to tell.

often in life we're apprehensive about a task with which we're presented, and sometimes feelings of "I can't do this" bubble up.
and the only way those disappear is by completing that task, sometimes over and over again, to train your mind to believe you're capable.

and it hit me the other day that I've reached that point in my winter indoor training.  I know in my bones that I can do whatever I'm instructed to do each day.  though it's all about training the legs, the truth is, it's the training of the mind that's most important.

the best place is when you're the little train who began by saying, I think I can....   and gradually changed his words to I know I can.

I know I can.
you know you can.
now let's go do.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

trying softer

every time I don biking gear and hop on my bicycle, I expect my body to give me everything it has.
every time I walk in the workout room, pull on my bike shoes, and hop on the exercise bike, I expect my body to perform "as usual."
and when it's more difficult than usual, or I'm aching somewhere, or it just feels too hard, I tend to blame myself, heading to a place of "what's wrong with me?"
which isn't the most productive place to go.

some days are better than others;  some times we perform better than other times.
and some days we get caught in a negative mental loop that, instead of improving our experience, harms both our workout and ourselves, that place of "what's wrong with me?"

chances are, the answer to that question is, nothing!  maybe I could have used more sleep, better nutrition the day before, less stress at home, the mental boost of my favorite jersey that was, unfortunately, dirty.  but there isn't anything wrong with me; I'm just having a less-than-stellar performance day.

however, when we figure out that we're having one of those less-than days, we often beat up on ourselves, making it worse instead of better.  I did a little research about how to stop this negative mental loop, and found the following written by Dr. G of Competitive Advantage to be helpful to me:  when we start beating ourselves up for performing poorly, we often get sucked into a place of trying too hard.  The guidance below helps me stop the negativity, be a little gentler with myself, and ultimately and unexpectedly, perform better.

One of the biggest mental traps that athletes fall into is the “trying too hard” trap. Fueled by frustration or making the contest too important, trying too hard is a losing game. As a matter of fact, it’s the game of diminishing returns: The harder you try, the worse you’ll do! This is because trying too hard tightens your muscles up and absolutely kills your mechanics. Trying too hard gets you forcing things and peak performance always comes from being relaxed and “letting it happen.” Be alert inside to when you start pressing and trying to make something “big” happen. When you become aware of yourself trying too hard, quickly shift your focus of concentration away from the outcome or its importance to the task at hand. Remember you want to relax and try “softer,” not harder.

tomorrow morning I have a time trial, a 20-minute stretch at zone 5/ventricular threshold/a really hard place to be.  and no matter how I feel going into it, I am going to try, softly, to perform well.  awesomely.  strongly.  well.
I'll let you know how it goes.

*UPDATE december 19th after the time trial:   softer worked.  grin.
go give it a try!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

hard, harder, hardest

last saturday's 2-hour indoor cycling class was---in the words of a fellow classmate---brutal.
our instructor kept us in those barely-to-absolutely anaerobic heart rate zones for long stretches, and the room was heated by our 45 sweaty bodies to the point that I drank 4 entire water bottles during the workout.
when we were in the still-aerobic zone she talked about it being hard;
the first fully anaerobic zone she called harder;
the highest zone of all she called hardest.
pretty simple, easy to understand, but full of significance.

out there on the road, pedaling, we often get ourselves into the hard zone.  or even more often, the step right below hard, the uncomfortable zone.
it takes something---guts, courage, willpower, focus, determination---to get up into the harder zone.
and it takes even more to get yourself into the hardest zone.

life's amazingly similar.  we can live in uncomfortable and even hard, but harder and hardest take courage and determination:
making those phone calls you dread, performing tasks you know will challenge and discourage and possibly defeat you, getting yourself up on that ladder when you're afraid of heights, asking for something you know you might not receive.
and ~ ta-dah! ~ spending time in those hardest places, whether they be during exercise or during everyday life, is what makes us stronger beings.

this isn't the world's greatest insight---I'm pretty sure you already knew this---but we often forget to acknowledge our visits to difficult places, the dedication it takes, and the payoff in our own growth.

this morning's workout had us spend 15 minutes in harder.

and it was easier because, two days earlier, I'd  already spent a chunk of time in hardest.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

one little leaf

I rode this morning with a beautiful tailwind pushing me up the canyon.  the skies were unsettled and gray, letting sunshine through in moments of whim, and the temperature in shaded places was moistly cold, in the forties, sending the occasional shiver across my skin.  piles of leaves sat against the grasses that lined the road edges, brown and crisp, hovering together in packs created by earlier winds.  random leaves blew across the road before me and at times I could see tall grasses beside the road bend forward with the wind from behind.
I approached a large pile of leaves where, a few inches above the rest, a leaf was tossed and fluttered by the wind, wanting to be swept away, but tangled, somehow, and unable to leave its pile.  as I drew closer I could see that it was still attached to a tiny branch that had landed in the pile of leaves, and as I passed I could hear its frantic beating against the other leaves on its twig and against the twig itself.
the wind tried to take that leaf, but the leaf was caught, stuck, unable to blow free.

lately I've been thinking a great deal about change.  the book I'm writing is ostensibly about wolves, but in truth, it's more about humans and how we deal with change.  we, as a species, seem challenged by the changes that surround us and worm their way into our lives.  few of us welcome change, and even when we do welcome in a change we often find ways to sabotage or despair of it within a short amount of time.  many of us find a comfortable spot and want to stay there, whether it be in our opinions, our physical routines, or the way we move through the world.

today I was riding up toward big mountain.  I didn't know if the road would be clear all the way to the top, but I suspected most of the asphalt would be visible due to the warmish, dry weather we've had for the past two weeks.  I wasn't physically eager to ride all the way to the top, but was pulled by my emotions, wanting to ride up big mountain on december first, possibly the last time for the year as we're expecting a storm in two days.  as I neared the beginning of the climb, I thought about riding only until I encountered snow all the way across the road.  because of the switchbacks and the trees that shade portions of the road, there are usually snowy spots that cover stretches of road, which if one walks one's bike across, are only mild barriers on a mostly dry road.  I have always been one to walk my bike over snow if there's visible dry pavement on the other side.
today, though, I considered stopping and turning around the first time I encountered a snow-covered road.  some fellow cyclists have a rule that they never walk across snow to continue up a canyon:  it's their method of respecting the season.  today, I thought of this and decided it might be time for me to adopt their rule.

fingers of snow stuck into and across the road half a dozen times before I came to the spot, a kilometer from the top, where snow covered the road for a good twelve or fifteen feet, after which bare asphalt was visible again.  I paused, and unclipped.  I stood there contemplating a change in how I approach snowy roads.  I decided that I might just adopt a new rule, a rule that respects the changing season.  I pulled on my wind jacket and changed into my lobster gloves, and turned around to ride back home.

some changes are easier than others.  the behavior I exhibited today speaks of a medium-size change, from crossing all barriers to reach a goal to revising a goal in flowing with what's presented to me.  it's something I've considered for some time---it's not a one time event.  I've pushed through obstacles and impediments for as long as I can remember, believing that honoring one's goal is important, and that if at all possible, it's good to push through those roadblocks that confront us.
today's acceptance of a snow-block--a physical representation of the word no--is new for me.
and I like it.
I like to think that I'm letting the natural world guide my behavior.  I'm ready for this change.

but many of us, in many situations, are like the leaf on that little twig.  we feel the change offering itself to us, we might even want to break free and follow it, but we're stuck, glued to whatever it is that holds us in place.  habit, complacency, fear, whatever it might be, we are unable to move along in a new direction.  a new direction in thought, in belief, in action: these are sometimes demanded of us by life, and the sooner we hop on board the better off we are.
to never change is to be static, to be unvarying, to be stalled.  and just as wolves are returning to our landscape here in the west after an absence of almost a century, newness beckons at us every day.  it is our task to listen and learn, to become more aware, and to adjust how we behave in the world.

like all of us, that leaf on that little twig will eventually become again a part of the earth.  but what if, before it did so, it was allowed to follow the wind and have a final, thrilling, unpredictable wild ride?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I have a friend who once spoke about working toward a goal and being so, so close, but still having to work through that final push to achievement . . . she described it as going 999 miles, and still having one mile left, the mile that feels unending, the mile where you consider chucking it all because you think you'll never really get there.

I bring this up today because this is my 999th post since beginning this blog back in 2008.  I've certainly come some distance during that time,  distance traveled in not only miles and years but in growth and awareness.

as I sit on the figurative eve of my 1000th post, I get to contemplate all those things.  I have come a long way, and it did take over 5 years to get here . . . luckily, I don't think the last mile will be my hardest.  but being here does offer time for reflection, which is something we all might benefit from doing more of.
often it feels like we're not moving in life, like we are in ruts or still so far from reaching our dreams that they seem impossible.  but I---as others---suggest that you reflect on where you were 5 years ago, what you were doing, what you focused on, and compare that with now.  have you learned?  grown?  changed in some positive way?  added variety or new challenges to your life?

we aren't meant to be static creatures.  we have amazing abilities to become stronger, wiser, kinder, better.  (and faster on a bike, too.)  all it takes is a little determination, some self-awareness, and a bit of tenacity.

so if you're in the midst of something, or even at the 999th mile toward something, be persistent.  don't give up.  keep on moving forward, and never ever ever release your dreams.  look back and see where you began, and give yourself credit for moving along, for all the progress you've made.  because you have.

we're all on the 999th mile toward something, and probably on the 500th mile toward something else.  we're often on the 31st mile, too.  so enjoy your journeys, and be grateful that you're able to take them.
use your mind, your body, your strengths and abilities, and keep striving toward those dreams and goals.
because someday you---and me, too---will be traveling along on that last mile and suddenly find ourselves hitting the 1000 mark.
which is when you start out on another first mile.
and then another.
and then, another.

Monday, November 18, 2013

when the bike lane needs a snowplow

when the bike lane needs a snowplow, it might be a good idea to stay home.
not ride.
not look outside and be swayed by the gorgeous blue sky.
not think about how you might enjoy a little exercise.
not look at the thermometer which hovers around 45.
not bundle up in long tights and three layers on top.
not put on a skull cap and your favorite new headband that has a happy jack skellington on it.
not pull on long-fingered gloves and stuff your lobster gloves in your back pocket.
not hope that your smartwool socks and toe covers will keep your feet warm.
not think that the canyon will be beautiful, all fresh and white, and that you want to see it.

when the bike lane needs a snowplow, and the rest of the road is still decorated with strips of mush and slushy runoff, frosted tire tracks and magic black ice wherever the hillside or trees shade the road with their mass, it might be a good idea to stay home.

but then you'd miss the sparkling white snow so thick and rich, the icy edges of what's begun to melt, the frosted shafts of golden grasses in the meadow.  the southern hillsides, dark and snowpacked, and the northern hillsides smiling back at them with their glistening melt.  the mirror-calm reservoir, reflecting blue sky and hillside white and brown, trees and shrub surrounded by white everywhere the eye can see.

you'd miss the thrill of riding so close to ice and snow that the cold leaps upon you, that your heart jumps throatward, that you have to lighten your grip on the handlebars and let the bike guide you safely through the edges of slush that sneak toward your tires in unexpected moments.

you'd be warm, you'd be safe, you'd never know about the wild ride being offered you just miles away.

you'd not be able to return sweaty and chilled, your feet degrees away from frozen, your fingers pink and red with cold, your lungs cleaned out and celebrating the experience.  you might not appreciate  your warm couch and blanket and book quite as much.

when the bike lane needs a snowplow, it might be a good idea to stay home.

or not.

Monday, November 11, 2013


my biking buddies define adventure in this way:    misery remembered in comfort.

and of course the most epic (meaning difficult, disastrous, wicked cold, wet, scary) rides are those that make the best stories, and the best memories, and become--in our minds--the very best adventures.
biking buddy bob, this weekend, declared our ride to be one step below an adventure.
I carefully placed it in the adventure category, hoping not to slip and fall as I did so.

salt lake city was gifted with a beautiful snowstorm earlier in the week, one that left inches on the valley floors and turned everything magically white for a day and a half.  then it melted, the creeks rose by inches, and the ground soaked moisture in with great gulps of relief.  by wednesday morning most of the snow was gone in our neighborhoods, and by friday, riding up emigration, there were just a few lingering chunks pushed outside the bike lane by snow plows, and shady stretches here and there that clung to icy snow perhaps half an inch thick.  back to fall, the temperatures hovered in the upper 50s and crept into the low 60s by saturday.

bob and I met at 11:30 saturday, and spent a few dozen words deciding where to ride, selecting millcreek canyon for its beauty, the fact that the upper half was gated the prior weekend and we would be riding without cars beside us, and the fact that neither of us had ridden there in a long time.
I think it will be colder than I want it to be, I said, to which bob replied, I know it will be colder than I want it to be.  we turned our bikes toward the canyon and pedaled away.
the lower half of the canyon allowed us sections of shade--brr--and sections lit by sun, but the effort needed to keep pedaling up up up kept us warm.  the gate, halfway up, was pulled shut and locked, and we skirted it over a bed of rocky leaves, following the path created by many before us.  trees hang heavily over that stretch of road, and we weren't 100 feet into it before snow and icy patches danced over the pavement.
ahh, this might not be so good for me, I thought.  I'm still cautious on my descents, and the thought of slipping and falling is so repellent it makes me quake.  but dry asphalt was available if you wiggled this way and that, and then suddenly there was a stretch completely free of snow, ice, and ambiguous surface.
so we kept riding.
we'd move from this side to that, searching for safe surface, and we kept finding it . . . until we didn't, where the road was covered with frozen slushy material that had been ridden over, tire tracks visible.  bob, in the lead, un-clipped and made his way through that ten-foot width, and I followed.
then we had road again, and then not.  after traversing the second time, we looked up the road and made our assessment:  we would ride to the top of the next rise, where the sun was shining, and see what it looked like from that vantage point.
the answer was, not very rideable.
so we ate our snacks while standing in the sun and adding our layers for the downhill.

the descent scared the whatever out of me:  between shaking with cold and experiencing terror over every patch of black that could be ice--let alone the true ice--I had an adventure riding down the canyon.

and this morning, sitting in comfort, sipping coffee, I can recall the terror and call it, simply,
an adventure.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

cycling in new york

with a bike shop located a few blocks from our hotel, couriers flying by, regular commuters weaving between taxis and pedestrians, and bright blue Citi Bike rentals regularly floating past, I felt completely at home in new york this past weekend, although I don't know that I'd ever have the fearlessness necessary to ride my bike in that gargantuan, overpopulated city.
I love new york:  the sights, the scents, the masses of people who neither know nor care who I am, the shops, the cobblestone streets, the sirens and honks and flashing lights . . . and the people, the people of every shape and size, skin color and disposition.
and I was truly okay with not riding my bike.
I was with my daughter, and we walked and walked and walked, which is what one should do if one has a chance.  with so much to absorb, even walking is almost too fast.  signs, pedestrians, motorists, cyclists, buildings, dogs, store windows, street-side tables . . . in a car---even creeping along in traffic--- one misses too much of the experience.
but I loved the citi bike rentals.  
the city's program allows for anyone to rent these in 24-hour or 7-day increments, and for residents to rent these on an annual basis:  for $95 a year (plus taxes, of course), one is provided a key that allows access to bikes for up to 45 minutes at a time, any hour of the day or day of the year.  if the citi-bike locations happen to fit one's commuting pattern---and one were brave enough to deal with the weather and the traffic---one could have a pretty great way to get around, complete with basket on the front.  we even noticed many wide, green-surfaced bike lanes, all part of manhattan's efforts to provide an additional transportation method for getting around town, one that both encourages healthy activity and is carbon-footprint friendly.
had my daughter not had a sprained ankle and been wearing a walking boot, we would have hopped on bikes just to check it out.  however, it's awfully difficult to ride a bike with a big, fat boot on one foot.
so I'm not able to say that I biked in new york.
I may never be able to say that I biked in new york.
but I certainly enjoyed watching everyone else do it, their agility and adeptness in avoiding motor vehicles, and the strength and skill and smiles I got to see.

we have a bike-sharing program here in slc, as well, and I haven't tried it out either . . . maybe someday.  I'm supportive of any program that encourages people to pedal around on a bicycle, because I have this quirky belief that those who pedal smile more in life.
you're welcome to try to prove me wrong.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

it's good to have a goal

it's good to have goals.
some people give you all kinds of rules for your goals, such as that they be measurable, written down, specific, attainable, and that you can explain why the goal motivates you.
I find that when a goal is important enough to me, it's enough for me to hold it in my head (and heart) and quietly work toward it in the best way I know how.
I often set goals for riding miles each week, or to make it up a specific canyon so many times during the summer, or similar events.  and today, I reached a goal that I've had since oh, about august 27th.

after my accident last august, I was off my bike for 6 weeks.  many things change in 6 weeks, including  fitness level, ability, muscle strength, and endurance.  when I began biking again I constantly had to remind myself to be patient.  constantly.  
I wasn't very fast, and it didn't feel great.  in fact, it was hard and it hurt. (the muscles around my ribs and scapula lost most of their strength and have become the first place to ache as I ride.)   but I wanted to get back to what I knew I was capable of, I didn't want to let that crash take away everything I'd worked so hard for.
so I kept riding, trying to accept whatever I was able to do on each ride.  I obeyed my physical therapist and (mostly) rode only every other day.  I tried to add a few hikes on my off days.  I got a little faster, and I reached a point where I could ride for two hours without exhausting myself.

back before I could really get out and ride again I knew that--more than anything--I wanted to be able to ride up Big Mountain before the fall riding season ended.
none of my rides told me that I was ready for that.
the furthest I went was to the beginning of the switchbacks, which is about 2.25 miles from the top.
then last weekend I rode my mountain bike 4 days in a row, and did a strenuous hike as well . . . and I felt okay.

and today, today, I rode up big mountain.  without stopping.   woo hoo!
on august 25th I had two large-bore chest tubes removed, on august 26th I was discharged from the hospital, and today, october 27th, I rode from home to the top of big mountain and back.
I met my goal.

there've been many days I thought it wouldn't happen, or that it would take me forever and I'd have to keep stopping along the way.  I was never certain I'd make it, but I knew I would give my all to make it happen.

it's good to have goals.
it's awesome to accomplish your goals.
and it's especially good to keep a little woo hoo in your heart as you reflect upon what you've worked so hard to achieve.  so do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

four days three falls

I am not a mountain biker.
have I said that before?
some would tell me I need to change my thoughts and words to "I am a great mountain biker" and then I would become one . . . however, I believe in speaking the truth.
I am not a good mountain biker.  yet.

the white rim trail is a jeep road that takes one from the top of Canyonlands National Park down the side of the colorado river gorge--about 1500 feet down--where a trail winds along another "rim" another 700 feet or so above the river itself.  there are campsites along the trail---every 10 miles or so---and the campsites we had permits for were all in the first 30 miles of trail.  therefore, we did an "out and back," retracing our path on the final day for our exit.

during our descent down the gorge I squeezed my brakes so hard I thought my hands would give out, and I experienced more than a little bit of fear.  picture a road cut into the side of the grand canyon wall . . . this is how we descended.  thankfully the road isn't technical;  it's just darn steep.  I survived.
after we set up camp we went for an exploratory ride, searching for the "thelma and louise" jump-off spot, looking over cantilevered edges down into the winding river far, far below.  I kept up pretty well on the uphill, and got skunked on the downhill.  call me chicken:  I retain a bit of fear about falling.
funny, that.

the second day we rode to our next campsite, then went out on another exploratory ride, during which I encountered a slightly-too-technical-for-me uphill and . . .  I fell.  just a little fall, the kind that happen when you're barely moving and then all of the sudden you're no longer moving and gravity pulls you down.  of course it was onto my left side--the injured side--but I gained little more than a few scrapes and a lovely bruise on my left hip.  

that night I fell again, but it was only off my air mattress while I was trying to fall asleep.

the third day we hiked from the white rim trail to the top of the gorge, as a third of our party had to leave and this was the quickest way to get them back to their cars which were parked at the top.  again, picture a narrow trail cut into the side of a grand canyon wall . . . with thirteen of us hiking up it, the toughest (not me!) taking turns carrying the 5 mountain bikes that had to be hauled up. unbelievably tough, these friends of mine.

the final day I fell again.  squirrelly sand got me, sucked my tire in then sent me off the road . . . this time, however, I fell on my right side.  whew.  a little scrape, some sand in the mouth, another blow to the ego . . . but that was all.

so, four days, three falls.  I wasn't always comfortable on my bike this trip, in fact, a significant portion of the time I was anxious and even a bit afraid.  I didn't want to get hurt; I didn't want to fall.  but fall I did.

it's said that growth occurs only in the area outside our comfort zones.  neale donald walsch (conversations with God) goes so far as to say life begins at the end of your comfort zone.  

I have a long way to go to become a great mountain biker, and I might never get there.  but if I don't spend some time outside what is safe and comfortable, I'll never get one bit better.  just as babies fall hundreds of times before they become consistently stable walkers,  I guess I'll keep trying, risking, and occasionally, falling, as I continue my own growth through this life.

life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
yikes.  I'd better get moving.

Monday, October 14, 2013

the bonita

my cycling life began with a bonita.
white with blue trim, solid and sturdy, with shiny disc brakes, the novara bonita was the mountain bike I chose back in the spring of 2005, replacing the bike I'd had stolen out of my garage a few months earlier.
the bike that had been stolen was a mountain bike, and all I'd ridden as an adult were mountain bikes.
however, I lived in suburbia and needed to fit rides in between work, kid activities, and keeping my single-parent household functioning, so my rides started at my driveway and made loops that returned me home within 45 minutes or so.
then I moved closer into the city, and decided to get a little more serious about riding.
which led to more uphill, which led to the canyon that's mouth was 2 miles from me, emigration.
which eventually led to my purchase of a road bike.
cycling up the canyon on a road bike was much more freeing, and soon I discovered dozens of other routes that left from my driveway and returned me there, eventually.  I became a roadie.

the bonita stuck around, though, and I continued to ride it once a year, sometimes even twice.  I am not much of a mountain biker, having spent most of my time pedaling the bonita on roads instead of dirt.

where bonita and I will soon be
but now the bonita is getting ready for a trip, and I get to go with it.

this friday we leave for the white rim trail in canyonlands national park....and we'll be traveling with people who are expert campers and mountain bikers.  me and bonita will be trailing along behind, doing our best to hang in there and survive.  we've mountain biked a bit in the moab area, but never for four days straight, and never while camping.  I think we're both going to get dirty.

many of my friends enjoy mountain biking, primarily because it gets one away from houses and cars and out into nature.  I just need more confidence, and gosh darn it---confidence seems to come from experience!
the more I get out on those trails and ride that bike, the more comfortable I'll feel, and the better I'll be.  I'm afraid you can't learn to ride over rocks and tree roots until you actually get out there and ride over rocks and tree roots.  and sand.  and slick rock.
so we'll see what this coming weekend teaches me.
it may teach me that I enjoy mountain biking, that it's as great as being on my road bike.  it may teach me that I'm a better rider than I think.
or it could teach me that I could use some more practice.
or that road biking still has my heart.

bonita and I will be heading to the white rim trail with open minds, and a commitment to fun and adventure, no matter the speed or finesse.
and what matters most, as my mountain biking friend leslie says, is that we all
keep the rubber side down.

back at you next week, with tales, I'm certain!

Monday, October 7, 2013

how to cure impatience

I've been walking more than usual lately.  the dog likes this, and for the first little while, I do, too.
and then I get antsy, I think I've walked much further than I have, and I'm ready to be done.
I'm impatient.

yesterday I tried to focus on being in the present moment.  this is something we're encouraged to do every minute of every day, but I usually find it difficult to accomplish.  as I type this I'm simultaneously thinking about what else I need to accomplish today, what my daughter is doing in the other room, what's for dinner, what time I need to leave for my appointment, and what I'm going to do with my hair.
so yesterday, while cycling, I decided to keep my focus on the beautiful day around me, the leaves, the air, the boundless sunshine, my body on my bike, my breathing . . . everything that was happening at the time.  thoughts of future events flitted in, of course (I wonder when I'll be ready to ride big mountain again, gosh I've got a lot of volleyball games to attend this coming week, wonder when I'll get my car's tires rotated, you know) but I gently ushered them right back out and pulled myself back to the road surface beneath my tires and the warm sunshine on my back.
I did pretty darn well.

I try this when I'm walking, but I just get antsy.  I want to be there already.  perhaps it's because I'm just so accustomed to moving at biking pace, not walking pace, where I'm used to things moving by more quickly and the tenths of miles ticking off much more rapidly.
from my short-lived attempt to become a runner, I know many distances around my neighborhood.  I live on the corner of a fairly large street, and know that it's exactly half a mile to the next fairly large street.   each cross street in between is somewhere between 1/20th and 1/10th of a mile.
I use this tool frequently when cycling:  oh, a mile is just twice the length of my "block."
if I'm climbing a steep hill, I'll pick a landmark up a ways, and tell myself that will be the next cross-street, and after I've hit 8 such milestones I'll have half a mile done.

it's not always easy to estimate distances, and there have been plenty times I've watched my little cyclometer, waiting for it to tick to the next 1/10th of a mile, knowing it's long past due.

this happens to me all the time when I'm walking:  I just know I've walked further than I think and for a longer period of time than I think.  sometimes I'll come home from a walk, knowing I've walked two miles . . . and only 25 minutes have passed.
I cannot walk a mile in 12.5 minutes.

and now you'd probably like me to tie my thoughts together, so here goes.
if I could learn to focus on the present moment, I could let go of my impatience, and then I wouldn't need to worry about how far I've gone, because I'd be enjoying it so much the miles (or tenths of miles) would just slip away under my feet.
there you go.

this is what I will focus on for the rest of the month:  being present to the degree that I forget my awareness of time and distance.
being present as a cure for impatience.  sounds like something worth trying,
and something I think the dog might like.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

sightings: sheep, racks and toes . . . and a girl on a bike

instead of continuing to moan about how  s l o w  my recovery seems to be and how  s l o w l y  I seem to be riding these days, I decided to share with you three of my favorite "sightings" in the past 48 hours.

first, on sunday john and I rode our mountain bikes on a dirt and gravel road in the uinta (which comes from a Ute Indian word meaning 'pine forest') national forest.  snow bunched in leafy spots and lined the shady edges of the road, and within half a mile of starting out we found ourselves riding through a sheep herd.  baaaa.  fat sheep, less bulky sheep, a few black sheep, lots of skittish sheep traveling our same direction, crossing the road and up along narrow paths, munching grasses alongside the road, running away from me every time I baaaa-ed back or said hello.  jumpy things, they are, and not terribly attractive, but quite fun to ride along with, watching them scurry away from my slowly moving big fat muddy tires.

second, this morning on my ride up emigration canyon a handful of motorcyclists passed me.  all were courteous, but one made me grin because he was carrying his mountain bike on a rack on the back of his motorcycle.  whee!

third, yesterday evening I watched as a large gentleman in his late sixties settled himself in the chair in the nail salon, slipped off his socks and shoes and rolled up his pantlegs, stepped his feet into the water-filled tub before his chair, and sat back to enjoy his pedicure.


sheep will be sheep--and I do find them quite humorous--and I love to see people doing what they love to do.  which means, I suppose, that if someone showed me a picture of myself riding up the canyon today, back tight, torso aching, sweating, moving all too slowly, I would have to say,
ah, there she goes, doing what she loves.
way to go, girl.

Monday, September 23, 2013

back in the saddle again

I rode up emigration canyon last saturday, not having done that for the past 43 days . . .
I missed it.
but I couldn't tell you how many things have changed in that environment, because I spent more than the usual amount of time watching the road in front of me.  big surprise, isn't it?

I've ridden my bike on the road three times now, since my "spill," and I find that I am cautious, slower, watching incessantly for anything that might make me unsteady, wobbly, or flat on the ground again.
I'm slow because I'm cautious, and I'm also slow because I'm not as fit as I was 7 weeks ago.

my first day on the bike outside I just rode around my neighborhood, 13 miles in total, neighborhood streets, not much traffic, not much up and down.  lots of looking at the road.
the next day I rode up emigration and to little dell reservoir, my favorite daily ride: it felt darn good.
the third day I rode up emigration again but had to stop once to stretch my back: it did not feel great.

each time I was glad to be back on my bike, loving the movement of air against my skin, the warmth of the sun and the chill in the shaded hollows, the smell of outdoors.  but I found myself, especially on my first ride up the canyon, focusing on my performance entirely too much.  gosh I'm slow, I usually do this faster, boy my heart rate is high, gosh I'm so much worse than I was, wow I'm slow.
I wanted to smack myself!
the healthy thought pattern would be:  wow, I'm back on my bike again so soon!  gosh, it's amazing how well I'm doing for not having ridden in 6 weeks!  wow, look how fast I'm going . . . yeah, this is hard, but of course it is!  I've been in the hospital!  my body's been through the wringer!  this is terrific, I'm awesome, wow this feels great!  I am so so grateful to be out here, riding again.

yep, that's what I should have been thinking.
so yesterday I worked on my thinking and thought better thoughts.

this is one of my challenges:  to be kind to myself, to not be so demanding, to be gentle with me.
I tend to forget this, and expect more of myself than is necessary and--at times--realistic.

so yesterday I started, and today I'm going to continue, being nice to myself and being grateful that I'm doing as well as I am.
being nice to myself, hmm.

maybe you should try being nice to yourself, too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

cycling to nowhere

after my crash, I went into the hospital, and my bike went to its own version of the hospital--the store where it was purchased--for a Crash Damage Assessment.
the bike had less wrong with it than I did, and managed to just need its front wheel trued, and a new left shifter.  it stayed at the shop for quite some time, though, and when it finally came home ten days ago I almost got teary looking at it.
last week it came inside the house and john set it up on a trainer so that I could spend some time getting used to being in the saddle again without all the stresses of actually being outside on the road.
the first day I spun for 30 minutes.
the next day, 45.
the third day, 60.
and I think that's my max, because the monotony is almost more than I can take:  one needs mental strength to pedal so hard for so long to go nowhere.
I sweat more inside, and I drink more inside, and I look around--most often, unsuccessfully--for distractions more when I'm inside.
I'm prepping, you see, because I have a goal.

a week ago I had a follow-up appointment with the trauma/general surgery clinic.  they took and examined a new chest xray, and proclaimed me sufficiently far enough along the healing path to be released from their care.  woo hoo!  and then I asked,
when can I get back on my bike?
the doctor looked at me, his face a cross between amazement and exasperation, and the resident next to him said,
most people don't ask that question.
well, I said.
six weeks, he said, we like you to have six weeks from the injury.

six weeks will be up this coming saturday, and as such, I am planning on an outing.  as in being outside, on my real bike, on the road, and as my mountain-biking friend says, rubber-side down.

I have quite a few feelings about being back outside on my bike.
I've missed it terribly:  the exercise, the challenge, the accomplishment, the beauty surrounding me, the fresh air, the solitude, the meditative time out in the natural world.
but I also know I don't ever want to crash like that again.  I don't want to go so far as to say I have fear, but I definitely will begin again with caution.
maybe a nice flat (flat-ish as there is nothing flat around here) ride.  I am not eager to descend quickly, and not even really eager to descend.
I'm sure I'll get over this, eventually, but I also hope to retain a bit of caution.  I never, ever, want to return to the emergency room due to an accident.

so, I'm practicing becoming steady and comfortable on my trainer-grounded bike, so that I can soon be on asphalt and chipseal again, spinning my legs around, breathing fresh air and listening to the great big world.
my bike's ready.
in 5 days, I will be, too.

Friday, September 6, 2013

logan to jackson by car

it's lotoja weekend.
in less than two hours I'll hop in the car and head off to logan, where we'll spend the night so as to be ready for the big lotoja start line early in the morning......
where I will wave my friends goodbye, hop back in the car, and be their support for the day.
this will be a new experience.

I've been working on myself, trying to accept my feelings of sadness, disappointment, and loss over not being able to ride, while trying to induce feelings of enthusiasm to experience the other side of the race.
it's semi-working, and I haven't cried yet.  I'm hoping that when I get to logan, when I see all my friends and acquaintances and am amidst all the hoopla, I will buck up and just be grateful I'm walking and not in a wheelchair or something even worse.
it could be worse.

john has supported me during this race for three years, and he has always talked about enjoying the people, the enthusiasm, and the energy of the day:  how great it is to see riders tackling and accomplishing this big goal, and how the other people doing support are such good sports about everything.  I've said before that I think it's probably harder to do support than to ride:  we cyclists are in a hurry and often grumpy or stressed or just plain unhappy, and when it's all over, we're the ones who get the reward and those who supported us have to get by with just our "thank you's", when we remember to utter them.  it's a darn long day, either way.

so it's my turn to play support girl.  I think it's better than my just staying home, but I hope it doesn't wrench my heart too terribly.  my goal is to really focus on all the cyclists to see how they come to the feed zones, what they say and do, and what they're like when they leave:  this is something I don't generally get to do.  perhaps I will learn a thing or two.

it's an interesting experience to be injured and have to sit on the sidelines.  it's brought up many thoughts and feelings for me, and has plunked me in a strange place.  I miss cycling for the pure physical aspects of it, and I miss it for the gifts of being in nature and spaces of solitude that it gives me.  I am different these days, and the reasons are intermingled and complex:  the loss of what I mentioned above, the discomfort of broken and sliced parts of me still healing, and the mental work of trying to process everything I'm experiencing.
plus it would be really nice to sleep through a night again.

anyway, I'm off to logan.
I hope to see hundreds of grinning cyclists and happy supporters (at least at the beginning), and hope to see the same at the end of the day.
I'm sending out good vibes and energy for a terrific day for all . . .
myself included.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

broken wing, punctured lung

last time I whined about getting hurt when I fell on my bike.  (I didn't really fall off it, as I was still clipped in when I landed.)
I whined about broken ribs, my broken wing, my separated shoulder, blah blah blah.  it's hard to sleep, it's a pain, it keeps me from riding my bike . . . all of that.
and all of that was nothing---well, possibly not nothing---compared to what came next.
what came next was this:

12 days post accident I return to the orthopedic surgeon who fixed my clavicle (back in 2010) for a follow-up appointment, to have new xrays taken and to decide whether or not surgery could best fix my scapula.
we go over the xrays, and he shows us the CT scan taken right after my accident which is a mix of creepy and freaky.  we decide that the bony ridge of scapula that is dangling in a funny place in my back is harmless---at least at this point---and unless or until it bothers me, we are best off leaving it alone.
whew!  no surgery!

twenty minutes later I'm home, excited to start a load of laundry and do a little cleaning, ready to have the accident in the past and move forward.  I sip a cup of coffee and am putting clothes in the washer when I hear my phone ring.  never mind, can't get there fast enough, I ignore it. when I push the "start" button on the washing machine and then move to pick up my phone, I recognize the number as one from the orthopedic office.   no message.
while I'm pondering the phone rings again and it's my surgeon, who says,
in reviewing your films, I see that your left lung is at about half capacity.... I can't believe you're doing as well as you are, and can't believe I missed this while you were here.  will you please make your way to the emergency room?  we'll need to check your oxygen levels and maybe insert a chest tube . . . 

so off to the ER I went, and into the hospital I was admitted, and within a few hours I had two chest tubes inserted and oh my goodness I thought I hurt before . . .

I won't bore you with the next 4 days, and will just jump to returning home yesterday late afternoon.
home is a lovely place to be.
being free of chest-tubes is a lovely way to be.

a friend (?) today suggested that as we age, it takes longer to heal.  hmm.
all I know is that I've gone through many thoughts, feelings, and soul-searching self-questions about how much more pain I'm willing to endure, and at this point, that level is quite low.   quite low.

but as they say about childbirth . . . one tends to forget the pain and difficulty when love enters the equation.  today, it's hard to imagine that I'll ever ride faster than 10 mph on my bike, ever, again.
tomorrow that number might increase to 10.5 mph.
and soon it will likely slip up to say 12 or even 13.
but today, as I showered and re-bandaged the holes in the side of my body, I'm thinking 10 is okay.
and that walking is a lovely sport.

and that's really all I have to say.

Monday, August 19, 2013

take this broken wing

well, I crashed.

I was done with all that, had moved beyond, had already paid the admission price with previous spills.  knew what to look out for, knew to be vigilant and careful and observant and gently responsive.
and then came a descent, a right hand turn, some disguised gravel, a skid and overcorrection, and there I was, lying on the tarmac, still clipped in, my left side screaming underneath me, hearing myself say, shit, shit, shit, shit.

I've ridden close to 40,000 miles on my road bike(s), and by now, I know better.
I've broken my collarbone, chipped my shoulder, broken three ribs:  I know better.
I don't know how this really happened, but it did.

so, they helped me unclip from my bike, and took my helmet off and unloaded my back pockets of the jacket, banana, shot blocks and gu's.  they pumped an air splint around my left arm and loaded me in an ambulance and gave me zofran to ease my nausea.  and took me to the emergency room.
next came an overload of questions, x-rays, people in scrubs with ID's and beepers and that weird voice-thing, and the decision that I should be admitted.  my broken scapula, five broken ribs, and separated shoulder were causing my body enough grief that it was determined unsafe to send me home.


last time I crashed wasn't so bad.
this was worse.

somewhere along the way during those first few hours I heard someone say "your cycling season is over," and those words have been met by some fierce internal resistance by this woman.  yes, this accident happened four weeks before Lotoja, the event I work toward all season, scheduled september 7th this year.  I wasn't going to allow "can't do it" into my brain for a while, and even today, have trouble really incorporating that reality.
I'll be back on my bike by then...  I could at least ride for a while, go as far as I could . . .  
okay, not very realistic.  but heck, there's a lot of season left after Lotoja comes and goes.  september stretches on for weeks, and then october's the best riding month of all, and even november often offers a dozen great days of chilly air and clear blue skies.

today I sit in a place of acknowledging the incredible, immeasurable amount of pleasure cycling has given me, and giving tremendous thanks for the worlds opened up to me through the sport.  I love the me who blossomed on a bike saddle.
but I don't ever want to go through this again.  I hurt.  I look in the mirror and see someone I don't know.  nine days out, I am uncomfortable most all of the time and I can barely use my left arm.  I can walk--thank you, God--but most household tasks (never mind work related tasks) are difficult, draining, or impossible.  the good news is that each day brings improvement (as I told my biking buddy andy, improvements are incremental and imperceptible yet indisputable), and I'm confident that eventually, I will be fine.  memories will fade, and this time of intense anguish will soften around the edges and become something less than what it's been.

today I'm grateful I can use both hands to type.  I'm grateful my balance has returned and my intestinal system is returning to normal.  I'm grateful I have more energy today than yesterday.  I'm grateful what little road rash I had has faded, that no stitches were required, and that my helmet did its job perfectly.  I'm grateful for john being there that morning to take charge and support me, and for nursing me through those first cruddy days and on through to now.  I'm grateful for family and friends who have helped, comforted, empathized, loved.  I'm grateful for my mom, who has shown extraordinary restraint and wisdom by not shrieking at me "have you finally learned your lesson??  are you finally going to stop doing this?"
for the truth is that I've shrieked at myself enough during these past nine days.  and it doesn't do a whole lot of good.

in summary, crashing stinks.
and when I say I don't ever want to go through this again, I mean it.
but neither do I want to give up the joy, the swooping, the thrill, the satisfaction, the powerful gifts that cycling has given me.
so today I'll heal.  I'll focus on breathing deeply, being gentle, being grateful for all the good within and surrounding me.
someday in the not-too-distant future I'm sure I'll swing my leg over the bike and get back on the saddle.  I'll be cautious, I'll be vigilant.  I'll watch out for cars and bumps and gravel.  my first swoops will be mild, but I'm certain I will swoop.

because I love to swoop.

(take these broken wings, and learn to fly again, learn to live so free . . .  --lyrics, mr. mister, 1985)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

advice for riding into the wind

each early morning ride up emigration canyon gives me an opportunity to practice riding into a headwind.  some mornings are worse (or better) than others, and this morning the wind was consistently in my face for the first eight miles uphill.
I've written about wind before, about how it disheartens me, discourages me, wears me out.  I've worked on my attitude, I've worked to become more accepting of reality.  I've taught myself to call a windy ride a "great training ride," for that is the truth.
riding into the wind is difficult, requires more energy, and makes you a stronger rider.
however . . .
it can also drain you both mentally and physically.
I often think that there must be tips and techniques to use that might improve my performance:  are you supposed to get low, use a bigger gear, change your tempo?  I've never taken a cycling-into-the-wind class, and this morning I thought I would come home and do some research.

here are some of the best tips I found:

  • get down, lowering your upper body to as close to horizontal as possible.  think aero. 
  • gear down, releasing your body from grinding, changing to more of a spin.
  • don't be down:  riding into the wind is hard on everyone, and keeping a light & positive attitude is the best way to get through it.
  • pulling elbows in, thinking aerodynamics, is helpful.  and letting go of maintaining a consistent speed will help you relax.... acknowledge that it's difficult and be realistic about your speed goal.

I'm going to work on adopting these tips into my riding repertoire, but
wisdom gained from all my experience tells me this:  the best advice of all is simply to trust yourself.
trust that you're working hard, trust that when it's difficult you will do the right thing.  trust that you are capable.  trust that when you feel like you're working as hard and well as you can... you are.
have faith and trust in yourself.

wind is an excellent training tool, and it works best when you remember to relax.
trust, and relax.

tomorrow morning I promise to focus on being aero, spinning, relaxing, and trusting that I'm working exactly as hard as I need to be.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

out and back versus the loop

I can't speak for other cyclists, but as one who rides regularly, the route is always something to contemplate, evaluate, discuss, plan, tweak, moan about, and/or change along the way.
I ride a lot of "out and back" routes which are pretty much what the title says:  you ride to a certain point where you turn around and head the same way home.
I ride fewer "loops," where you start out and basically make a big oval, rectangle, or squiggly circle and end up back where you started.
when I ride more than one canyon in a day, it's still usually an out-and-back, just one with a side-step.

I spent this past weekend in wyoming, in the teton wilderness, staying with a friend who's a rancher.
of course I brought my bike.
his spread is up the gros ventre valley, about half an hour from the closest thing to a town, and the last five miles to his place is a dirt and gravel road, about as dusty as anything you've ever imagined as being the driest, dustiest thing around.
deciding that one long-ish ride on saturday would be enough--seeing as the point was to visit the ranch--I drove from the cabin to the beginning of the dirt and gravel road, parked, and pedaled away.
I'd calculated that if I rode into jackson hole and around the hill to wilson, then turned around and came back the same way, I'd be somewhere around 45-48 miles.  I had to hurry back home to go for a horse ride, so I settled on that out-and-back.
but then that thing happened that sometimes happens to cyclists when they're out riding:  I considered a different route.  well, I thought, since I'm over here in wilson, what if I cycled up the road past teton village and the ski resort, and stayed on moose-wilson road all the way to moose?
then I could hop on 89 and take my turnoff, head back to the car, making a big loop instead of the boring old out-and-back.
so I rode up to the grand teton national park entrance, paid my fee, and rode to moose.
this 8-mile stretch of road is beautiful, windy, twisting, shaded, up and down, and not always in the best of shape.  riding this road a few years back gave me my first experience with a sign warning of "frost heaves," which has become one of my favorite descriptive terms for unsettled road.
as I was nearing moose, I ran a few calculations in my head, having realized that I'd overshot my distance goal, and would be ending with closer to 65 miles than my anticipated just-under-fifty.
here's the thing:  once you make a decision like I had made, there's no better way home than forward.  I was further away than I wanted to be, with no available shortcut.  it was too late to shorten my route by turning back, and I was just plain-and-simple, committed.

it was windy, and getting hotter by the quarter hour.  heading back along 89 the road is exposed and, mmm, not terribly exciting, kind of like a false flat where you think you should be traveling much faster than you are, and the hills in the distance seem to pull closer so so slowly you think you're underwater.
anyway, by the time I reached my car I was spent and out of water.
it was an hour later than I'd planned.
I pulled into the campground around the corner from where I'd parked and filled up my water bottle, turned up the air conditioning, and settled in for my bumpy gravelly ride back to the ranch.

ah, the temptation of a loop.  oh, the freedom to change your mind when you're riding.  beautiful things, but not always in my best interest, as I learned last saturday in the beautiful jackson hole.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

searching for epiphanies

you might consider this a follow-up to imperceptible and incremental . . .  the concepts are connected in my mind, at least, and hopefully by the end of this, yours as well.

I love a challenge.  I love to stretch and grow and push just a little bit further than I've been before.  I like to learn new things.  I love to incorporate new knowledge, to take it in, absorb it, make it a part of who I am, adjusting myself just a little bit with that process.  this applies to Big Things like taking a class or taking on a new project I've never before done, and Little Things, like learning a new fact about an old friend, or looking up a word in the dictionary to find it has a meaning different from what I knew.
even this morning, watching the sky change from dawn to daylight, seeing a few pink clouds high up in a sky of blue with fluffy white clouds, changed me.  I now hold a new vision, a new memory of sunrise, in my mind, which forever adjusts the me I was before that sunrise.
it's possible to walk through the world without paying attention.  but life is ever so much better when you learn how to be aware.
of yourself, of others, of the environment surrounding you.  of sunrises and breezes and critters that scamper through shrubs.  of what other people say and do.
maybe not of the media.
aware of your body and how it functions, when it feels best and worst, and how it's different when you stretch it, gently.

and here's the tie-in to imperceptible and incremental:  being aware brings you subtle gifts.  rarely do we receive Lightning Bolt Thoughts or Observations;  more often it's a small understanding or recognition that clicks or simply brings a smile to your face.

I've spent plenty time searching for epiphanies.  I want the next "ah-ha" or a Lightning Bold Realization.  I want to cry Eureka! or discover something never before understood.  (especially when it's time to write a new blog post . . . after writing 982 posts on this site I beg the universe for new, creative, enlightening thoughts to share with you all.)
and this is what I've learned:  epiphanies do happen, but not on my schedule.  they come when they come, and my job is to be open to listening, observing, and absorbing the message.  they often come in little teeny things, and only occasionally in anything large.  sometimes I have to dig for them, and separate the epiphany from the chaff.
and just like the imperceptible, incremental change that moves us forward, these small, seemingly insignificant little awarenesses do the same.  with each new awareness we shift and grow, moving further along our path.

you can live your life planted firmly in what you know and what's comfortable.  you can refuse to accept new information, you can stay exactly where you are forever;  this is a choice that is yours alone.

but if you decide you want to step forward, to see what might happen with a little bit of change, the world will open itself up for you.  it's when you decide to become more aware that you fall in love with what's truly available for you.  it will teach you patience, though, because there are few Lightening Bolt  Thoughts along the way.  more often you get pink-tinged clouds and solitary dragonflies, the occasional iridescent-winged hummingbird.
but stick with it.  it's worth it.  because when you add up each little piece, each cloud and bird and owl and smile and hug and intimate conversation, you suddenly have a world of delight.
one crescent moon at a time, you will imperceptibly and incrementally move toward what, in hindsight, will be the greatest epiphany of your life.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

incremental and imperceptible

yesterday evening john and I attended an outdoor dinner function that began at 5 pm.
at 5 pm it was 100 degrees.
the function was in someone's backyard, and they'd set up huge table umbrellas to block the sun, but there were gaps between umbrellas and as the sun moved, stripes of sunlight moved across people's faces and bodies.
one woman kept getting caught in those strips of sunlight, which she tolerated with a cheerfulness I could only imagine:  I was dripping sweat and drinking glass after glass of water, remaining overheated and somewhere between uncomfortable and miserable.
a bit later the sun had dropped lower and the air seemed just a little less full of heat.  the sunlight-striped woman commented, "I feel just a teeny bit less hot, like this much," as she held her thumb and index finger next to each other, with room for not even a piece of paper to slip through.
we all laughed.

this morning on my bike I began thinking about change.
I'm a better rider than I was seven years ago when I began cycling, but the process has been so slow, the increments of movement so slender, that I couldn't begin to tell you how it happened.  it's as if each time I rode I got a half a piece of paper better---which sounds negligible---but after 150 times on the bike, that stack of paper is a good half-inch thick.

as with most things in life, change--movement, progress--is slow.  with many things we are excessively grateful it's this way (say, aging, watching your children grow up and move on, having your hair turn gray, and so on).  yet sometimes we're impatient.  we want it now.  we want to work at it and then reap the reward, not work on it for 5 years and THEN reap the reward.
but it just doesn't work that way.
it comes slowly, it comes in little incremental changes so slight they're usually imperceptible.
it usually happens that when we master a new skill we don't even realize it's been mastered until we're on to the next challenge.
it's the rare person whose hair turns gray overnight:  it's the even more rare person who moves from "not able to do it" to "doing it well" in a single day.

so each day I go out and get on my bike.  some days I push hard, some days I'm grateful to reach the top of the hill without collapsing.  some days I take on huge challenges and some days are recovery days.  I'm unable to see myself improving.  and even more importantly, I will someday reach a point where I will no longer improve but will start to lose strength and endurance.  and luckily, that process will be incremental, too, with changes so subtle as to be almost imperceptible.

life moves in both directions, and we're simply here to do our best, as often as we can possibly do it.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

double triple, or the hexa

let me tell you about the double triple.  we could call it the hexa, but for some reason double-triple sounds more fun, and is actually the official name, anyway.  hexa would just be my own little nickname, and it just isn't as cute or as fun to say.
if you're confused, I apologize, and I'll stop now and get to the point.

there's a well-known and popular ride in colorado called the triple bypass.  it's been around for 25 years now, and draws approximately 3500 riders.
the ride begins in evergreen (elevation approx 7800') and goes up and over 3 mountain passes---juniper (11,140'), loveland (11,990'), and vail (10,560'), with nice big valleys between the 3.  the ride ends in avon, colorado, with a total elevation gain for the ride of about 11,000 feet.

and then because that isn't enough, some people turn around the next day and ride back to the start in evergreen, up and over those same 3 passes, another 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

one way is a triple bypass; both ways is the double triple bypass.

at a party last january a group of my biking friends decided it would be fun to register for the double-triple bypass, and john went along with the flow and signed us up . . . I've spent the past 5 months knowing that come july 13-14 I was going to be riding the toughest thing I'd ever done.
finally, about a month ago, I started visualizing myself at the end  (woo hoo!!), congratulating myself for having completed the hardest back-to-back rides of my life.  and somehow, this got me through, and last sunday at 3:35 pm I was DONE!

let me tell you more about the double triple.
it's hard.
it's very hard.
I've never ridden so much at those kind of altitudes, and I think this makes a significant difference.  in utah, the highest peaks I hit are around 9,000 feet, which means the bulk of my riding is well below that.  in colorado, we were never lower than 7500 feet, and spent about 70 miles (each day) above 9000 feet.
muscles just don't work the same way at those higher elevations.
nor do brains.

in addition, most of the people who ride this ride are quite fit, and I was humbled time and again.  I have never been passed by so many people.

oh, but it's beautiful.  beautiful.

and I'm done.  I'm not fully recovered yet, but I am done.  I've completed the toughest thing I've ever done on a bicycle, and I am so very, very thrilled that it is now behind me.

woo hoo!!

maybe next january you'll want to sign up for the double triple bypass.  hey, it's beautiful.

Monday, July 8, 2013

the art of not listening to yourself

sunday morning I awakened tired.  I sat on my couch sipping coffee thinking that I was exhausted and my knees ached and I would probably never ride a bike again.  or at least not that day.
halfway through my cup of coffee I started thinking about what time I might leave, and what route I would take, and if my legs would make it.

and then I got on my bike.

I rode up emigration and down to the reservoir, then started up big mountain.  it wasn't until I had about 15 miles in that I finally decided I was capable of riding, that I was actually going to make it to my destination and back home.

the entire first 15 miles were a battle between competing thoughts:  I can do this, I will do this, I am fine . . . and there's no way, I'm not going to make it, I should turn around now.

to be honest, those latter little thoughts pop into my head just about every ride.  they begin while I'm sitting on the couch contemplating a ride, and they niggle away at me until I'm well, well into a ride.  and what I've learned is that I simply can't give in to them.
that's all there is to it.
if I gave in to all of the "I can't, I don't wanna, it's too hard" thoughts that pepper my mind, I would never do anything challenging.  because they are always there.

therefor, I call it the art of not listening to yourself.
the art come in with the separation of empowering thoughts from those that disempower and turn us into couch potatoes.  the art is in choosing to pay attention to thoughts of how you truly want to be, what you truly want, who you are deep down in beneath all of the muck that we collect as we move throughout the community, state, world.

I work hard not to listen to the "no way" thoughts.
and my new trick is to do what coaches and trainers have been telling athletes to do for decades:
visualize yourself at the finish line.
I picture myself throwing my arms up in exultation, looking and feeling thrilled and awesome, tucking one more success under my proverbial belt.  I visualize myself feeling great, not dragging myself over that end point.  I visualize myself ending with gusto.
and it seems to work.

so I'm continuing to strengthen my art.  I am not perfect, but I'm tired of those "I can't, I donwanna, it's too hard, I'm not good enough" thoughts.  it's time to move onward.  I am capable, I am strong, I can do whatever I set my mind to.
life is not long enough to waste any time on negativity.

so join me in visualizing the end results.  bravo!  brava!  woo hoo!!

Monday, July 1, 2013

the bear I didn't see this morning

halfway up the canyon this morning I saw a deer in the road not far before me.  I slowed down, and it stared at me, watching me approach.  then it glanced to my left and I looked there, too, up the hillside to where two more deer stood watching the tableau.  then the deer in front of me trotted over to her friends--one of them a spike, it's velvet antlers still stick-straight and seven or eight inches tall--and I bid them a quiet good morning before slowly pedaling off.
what a great beginning to a day.  it makes up for the headwind, the tired and grumpy muscles, the sweat, the gnats that crash into my eyes and cheeks and mouth.
when I turn around at the reservoir, the headwind becomes a tailwind, and the rest of the ride ranges from less-difficult-than-the-first-half to pure joy and fun.
on the way down from the summit I told myself that if I saw biking buddy bob coming up the hill I would turn around and ride back up to the top with him (I know his schedule, and knew that I would encounter him within the next mile or so).  so when his bright light alerted me to his presence I slowed, turned around, and rode back up to the top with him.
at the top, a gentlemen I see regularly was resting, and the three of us exchanged good mornings, and then he said,
"did you see the bear?"
excuse me?  the what??
"there was a bear down below, oh, about half a mile past the fire station."

I began mentally composing today's blog post, titling it "the bear I didn't see this morning."
how could I have missed out on seeing a BEAR?  unreal.  I look everywhere, I'm pretty vigilant about critters . . . oh, I was devastated.  he got to see a bear; I didn't.  sigh.

so bob and I began our descent, mostly riding side by side, talking, hoping against hope for a safe-and-non-threatening bear encounter.
we were chatting about his wedding anniversary and this and that, keeping an eye out for lumbering quadrupeds, when all of the sudden a lumbering brown quadruped startled and ran, not 8 feet from us, along the side of the road, turning into the space between two homes.
a bear!!!
I saw a bear this morning on my bike ride!  holy toledo.
not a cub, I'd say the bear was twice the size of a saint bernard, brown with lighter shading on its withers, not at all winter-fat but leaner, athletic looking.

so, end of story:  I got to see the bear I didn't think I was going to get to see this morning, after never even considering that I might see a bear while riding my bike in emigration canyon.

woo hoo! how lucky can I be?!


Monday, June 24, 2013


I like going fast.
I like going downhill.
I like going downhill.....fast.
but not too fast.

there's a big fat line between fast and too fast, and sometimes I misjudge just how fat that line is.  I'll be heading downhill feeling completely competent and safe and squarely on that fat line, and then all of the sudden I realize I'm no longer on the line but over its edge into the not-quite-safe place.
sometimes the result is a squeeze of the brakes and a resulting quiver or shudder:  not a fun feeling.
occasionally the result is a squash of the brakes and a squealing slide:  a scary experience.

the toltec are an ancient population who lived in mexico, a people full of wisdom and experience.  they passed down an oral history, which has been documented in bits and pieces by people over time, perhaps the most well-known being miguel ruiz with his book about the four agreements.  (these are powerful tools and guidelines I use--when I'm strong and thoughtful about it--in living my life:  be impeccable with your word, do not make assumptions, always do your best, and do not take anything personally.  awesome guides for a peaceful life.)
another toltec teaching, however, has to do with the angel of death.  please know that this is my interpretation of what I've heard, which may not tell quite the same story as an authentic toltec teacher might.  I look at it this way:  until we learn to release the fear of death, our lives will be constricted by it.    the angel of death, in their teachings, is always on your shoulder.  at any moment she can take away everything you've earned, learned, and been given throughout your life.  and until we accept her presence, we operate from a place of fear.  once we realize we have no control over her, we are released, and become free.
I also like to interpret the angel of death a little bit differently.  I see her, by reminding us to release fear, as an inspiration to introduce more challenges into our lives.  she tells us that fear of death is pointless and even harmful, but I think she also suggests to us that we live life most fully when we dare to be a little bit on the edge.
to speak our truths when we're not sure of the outcome, to risk reputation and security when we are following our dream, to dare to walk a different path than those walked by people around us, to go a little bit faster, downhill, than we necessarily feel comfortable with.
earlier this month I was traveling with a couple I barely knew, and I found myself making a statement that surprised--and pleased--me with its assertion of my truth:  I am finding myself so often outside my comfort zone, that it's becoming comfortable to be there.

woo hoo!  what if this were everyone's goal in life?
what a brave and exhilarated population we would be!

that angel of death helps remind me about the power of adrenaline.  adrenaline revives, it exhilarates, it motivates.  it challenges, it changes.  it refreshes and renews and reminds us that life is completely what we make of it.
you don't have to go downhill super fast--or even fast--if that doesn't work for you.
but I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone again and again, with a toe, with a foot, with your entire body.  check in with your angel.  be brave.  give her a chance to have a little fun with you.
be safe, but get out there and press your limits just a bit, now and again, and think of me . . . because I'll be doing the same.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

speaking of discipline

I have been slacking on my posting.

I began this blog almost five--gulp--years ago as a tool for practicing my writing skills.
over time I've posted 991 unique and varied blurbs and essays (and the occasional quote belonging to someone else), beginning daily and slowly working my way down to where I now sit, in the place of posting only on occasion.

though the world can easily live without my posts, it doesn't feel good to me.  get in or get out, don't stick a toe tentatively in the water:  be there, or don't.  half-hearted commitments feel . . . not great.
therefore, I made a new commitment with myself the other morning as I was riding up my canyon, thinking about all those things I might or might not want to write about.  I like to have plans, commitments, schedules:  these aids help me be impeccable with my word (thank you, miguel ruiz) and be in integrity.

personal responsibility is sorely lacking in our world, the key to successful community, and a tenet of my life philosophy.

all of this just to let you--and me--know that my new commitment is to post here weekly, each monday or tuesday, come what may.  oh, caveat:   I am allowed to post more frequently, if inspired.  grin.

they say when you set goals you should write them down and share them with others:  check mark.
see ya next week.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

a narrow strip of weathered asphalt

once upon a time emigration canyon road was paved with smooth, shiny, black asphalt.  poured thick and hot, it was rolled into a flat and even surface and care, motorcycles, and bikes began rolling over it with speed and ease.  then the seasons changed; air and ground heating and cooling, snow falling and freezing, plows scraping, snow melting, sun beating.  one day the sun rose over a road cracked and worn, pitted and bumpy.
the powers that be gathered in a room in a building miles and miles away, scrutinizing numbers, plotting futures, and decided that the road would receive a new surface, but this time, one of something called chip seal.  chip seal, a lesser cousin of asphalt, is not smooth.  chip seal consists of an asphalt binder, applied to existing pavement, topped with a layer of aggregate chips, then rolled . . . with the goal of embedding all those little (and not-so-little) aggregate chips into the binder and creating something similar to smooth road surface.
chip seal is what a governmental agency does to roads when they decide they cannot afford asphalt.
I've bemoaned chip seal before; I will certainly do it again.  if anything on your bike isn't attached and screwed down tightly (like a front light), chip seal will let you know about it.  my hands sometimes go numb from all the vibrations.  chip seal is not my buddy.
this morning's story isn't completely about chip seal, but now that you know about b u m p y chip seal you might have greater understanding of the personal quirk I will now share.

emigration canyon road--as I stated above--was once entirely paved with asphalt.  when they decided to apply chip seal to the surface, they skipped a few sections.  the lowest mile or so is chip seal-free, and there are another few stretches without it.  in addition, the chip-seal applications, at times, don't quite make it all the way across the bike lane/shoulder out to the edge.
there's a particular spot about 2.5 miles up where a beautiful, newly poured asphalt pullout juts out to the right.  and then when that ends, a length of road exists where the chip seal is one to three feet shy of the road's edge.
I always swing out into the pullout apron because it is bump-free and lovely, and then I ride the old-asphalt narrows to avoid the chip seal.  it lasts 12 yards or so, but the first couple yards are extremely narrow, probably less than a foot wide.
during the winter when I ride the canyon this strip of old asphalt is covered with snow, affording me no opportunity to ride it.  but as spring commences, the snow pulls back and it is once again revealed.
finally, to the point!
in april, it's hard to ride this little strip.
by may, I'm getting a little better.
when june rolls around, I'm pretty confident of riding it easily, without bumping into the chip-seal edge that could grab my tire and, at a minimum, unsettle me, at the end of the spectrum, send my sprawling.
this morning I nailed the transition beautifully, no question, confident, smooth.

practice is a beautiful thing.  well, practice (committed, disciplined practice) is actually a lot of work.  but the result of practice is awesome.  it is confidence, certainty, improvement.  it is mastery.  and if you never truly practice something, you will never know the joy---yes, complete and utter joy---of doing something well.
whatever it might be.
for me, this morning, it was being balanced on a narrow width of asphalt:  talk about quirky.  but it's something I challenge myself with each time, just like my hands-free riding on beacon drive (with which I'm also growing more confident.)

never stop growing.  never stop learning.  never stop challenging yourself to be just a little bit better tomorrow than you were today.  because this is the secret to life.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

it's a beautiful day

it's my friend holly who first suggested early-morning workouts, and although she followed a schedule of 3-4 times a week, leaving home around 6am, I somehow discovered that what worked best (?) for me was 6 times a week, leaving home around 5.

and it's that beautiful time of the year when it's dark at 5 but lightening by 5:30, with fully bright skies  shortly after 6.  the air is filled with bird chatter, the world is fragrant with green growth, and critters scamper through the underbrush on either side of the road.  yellow daisies have burst forth on hillsides, and it's just a darn amazing time of year for us early rising cyclists and runners.

at the mouth of the canyon I look before and behind me, my eyes searching out other headlights and taillights, and it's a rare morning I see either.  monday morning a cyclist passed me about 5 miles up, but for most of my upward climbs I am alone, absorbing, thinking, glorying in it all.
this morning I passed a cyclist at---interestingly---about that same 5-mile-up spot, and as I pulled alongside him I noticed his graying hair and the upward lift of the corners of his lips.
good morning, I said, smiling.
it's a beautiful day, isn't it?  he said.
oh yeah, I returned, pedaling, grinning.

and therein lies the gist of this post.
I limited myself; he didn't.
I tend to say, it's a beautiful morning, isn't it?
he said, it's a beautiful day.

he didn't stop at the present moment:  he carried the beauty forward, he projected, he determined, he chose.  his day was beautiful.

and thus I've resolved to start thinking like him.  those incredibly beautiful mornings I'm fortunate enough to participate in are not simply mornings.  they are the beginning of days, and they will no longer be segmented for me.  I will acknowledge them as entire days, carrying the joy and wonder with me, not letting that early morning experience escape, become lost, get left behind as the hours move forward.

it's a beautiful day, isn't it?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I own the world

today's thought, as I crested the back side of big mountain and the panorama spread before me was filled with snow-tipped mountain peaks, greening valleys, trees galore and an endless blue sky, began with my thinking "I own the world."
this sounds selfish and egotistical, doesn't it?  a little greedy.
I don't mean it that way, that's just the first way it comes to mind.  when I revise it in an attempt to gain greater accuracy, it changes to "I'm on top of the world."
which, if you take literally, isn't accurate at all.
so I keep trying to make my meaning more clear:  "I am so amazingly happy to be where I am right now, having accomplished what I just did, and I just feel in complete harmony with this glorious world."
too verbose.
"I love this world."
"I am one with everything in the universe."
"I just climbed both sides of this big stinking hill and I'm thrilled to be done and see the view from up here."

this is what was moving through my mind as I began the downhill coast, and I never did come up with the perfect statement.   because it's all those things:  the sense of accomplishment, the relief that the hardest work is over, the incredible view, my effort that earned that view, the fact that I'm out in this stunningly beautiful world and breathing pine-scented air, the deeply spiritual connection I have with being in the natural world.

it's why I ride, it's what keeps me getting on my bike again and again, it's why I work hard when I ride:
because I love that feeling that causes that phrase to bubble up in my mind, I own the world.  
it's possible, I guess, in my own little unselfish way, I do.

Monday, April 15, 2013

a better version of bad

I've been meaning to address this for over a month---in fact, ever since greg commented that I should be riding my bike, not riding in my car to an indoor spin-bike workout---and am finally getting to it.  tardily.  but some things are difficult to think through and incorporate (take into the body), and this is one of them.

recently I read a book title cradle to cradle, by a chemist-and-architect writing duo.  the proposals laid forth in this book regard re-envisioning the way we do . . . well . . . just about everything.  how we design machines and consumer goods and packaging, how we live, how we travel, how we design our lives.  the book challenges the way we think about what we do, and it significantly challenges the status quo.
the authors suggest that we stop going along with "the way things have always been done," and re-think things from the ground up.  from the cradle . . . creating items---homes---businesses---methods---that are well-designed enough that when we're 'done' with them they can be reformed into something else . . . returning to the cradle again.
this means instead of just designing a plastic bottle that can be recycled into something less, we design a plastic bottle that will decompose back into the soil, releasing seeds that will grow into a plant.  or that we design manufacturing processes that instead of creating byproducts that are biohazards, create byproducts that benefit the environment.
it takes a wide open mind, it takes removal of all the walls and boxes within which we often think and live.
the authors suggest it's possible.
and by tackling these projects, ideas, goods, methods, systems, we can create a place where what we do/eat/recycle/throw away/make is actually good and of benefit to the environment, instead of what we now have, which is a place where we who try to be good are really only being less bad.

it's not a good feeling to know that you are being only a better version of bad.
we are incredibly wasteful as a society, and I try to be an efficient, thoughtful consumer:  I arrange errands in groups so to minimize my driving, I recycle as many things as our city offers bins for, I am constantly turning unneeded lights off in my home, I try to water my lawn as little as necessary and consider water needs when choosing new plants, I always take reusable bags to the grocery store.  I sometimes ride my bike for errands where I don't have to carry much.  I collect fruit and vegetable peelings for compost.  I don't like purchasing goods which are over-packaged, but I find it hard to completely avoid. and I am making such a teeny tiny dent in our consumption-based society that it probably doesn't even matter.
I am less bad than I could be.

as a society I'd like us to be less wasteful and more appreciative of what we have.  I'd like to use less gas and create less pollution.  I'd like a smaller carbon footprint. and I am by no means alone.

for those of us who feel caught in this giant system and unable to do much about it, we might just have to suffer through those feelings for a while longer, until more powerful people are willing to get on board and make a few changes.  until then, I suppose I'll keep doing my little things while continuing to consider better ways to operate.
and I'll try to feel better about simply being a better version of bad.