Wednesday, February 27, 2013

green lights

there are 9 traffic lights between the JCC (where I do my indoor cycling) and my house.
each day I drive home I keep track of how many greens, reds, and if-I-slow-down-enough-it-will-turn-green-before-I-get-there's I encounter.
a typical morning has a pattern of 5-3-1.
I count not because I'm neurotic, but because it gives me something to think about besides how tired, hungry, sweaty, or cold I am.  over the years, it's become a game of sorts, and I often make predictions of how many greens I will have.

yesterday morning I had 9 greens.   no kidding, all 9 lights were green for me.  that's a sign, she shouts!  woo hoo!  life is ready to go my way!

this morning I had 9 greens again.  this hasn't happened since . . . well, yesterday . . . but before that, I can't remember when.

there's something magical about green lights.  I can't be the only one who is so easily pleased by them:  to be told go ahead, go, all is well is an extraordinary thing in this life.  I can't help but be pleased and grateful each time one appears in my life, whether it's a traffic light, encouraging words from a mentor, an order for business, a request for my input.
or, possibly my favorite:  no cars at an intersection while I'm riding my bike.   I love knowing I can keep going, that I don't need to stop.  that the universe is (overtly and undeniably, even if momentarily) giving me the go-ahead, the green light, the message to continue.

green lights can be found everywhere, if you're looking for them.
hey, you just try to stop me now . . . can't be done,  I'm on a roll.

Monday, February 25, 2013

mill D, north fork

my left calf is sore, and I have a blister on the inside of my right foot just below the ankle.  my quads are a little tight, and my right shoulder is slowly making its way back to "normal," which means not-quite-right-but-not-too-out-of-whack.
I'm still hungrier than usual, and pedaling around and around on the spin bike this morning felt different than usual, not as comfortable, a little bit harder.
because I had a new adventure saturday.
I went back country skiing for the first time.
or perhaps I should say, I geared up and went with my friends who are back-country skiers, slowing them down, keeping them from a typical (more aggressive) ski day, and probably providing them with a few grins.

backstory:  I learned to ski when I was about 7.  (rope tows, T-bars, poms, the occasional big time chair lift, lace-up boots, yep, a long time ago.)  I skied consistently through perhaps 10th grade, then backed off to once in a while.  by the time I'd had my first 2 children I stopped skiing.  yep, that would be 18 years ago.
three years ago I took a snowboarding lesson;  other than that, my snow sports have been limited to snowshoeing and, um, snowshoeing.

back to now:  I decided it was time for an adventure.  I've been hearing bob's and andy's stories of back-country skiing for years (skins and solitude and snacking while sitting on rocks in the sun) and I decided it was time to give it a try.   I rented some AT (alpine touring) gear, and was out shoveling fresh snow off our sidewalks when bob and andy pulled in front of the house to pick me up.
skis, boots, poles, backpack (2 water bottles, snacks, extra warm layer, balaclava, thick mittens, etc etc) went into the car before me (thick wool socks, long biking wind-pants, shell pants, base layer, long-sleeve biking top, shell, hat, glasses) and we headed up into the blizzard.
yep, the blizzard.

I could give you a play-by-play, but rather than bore you that way let me just state the thought that kept running through my mind during those 4+ hours out on the hill:  what made me think I could do this?

and that, I suppose, is today's message.

years ago my son went on a trip with a friend and his family, and came home wearing a Wahoos Rafting t-shirt imprinted

You could go over the falls and die
You could slam against the rocks and die
You could get pinned under and die
OR You could stay home and Fall off the couch and Die

you might as well just get out there and give it a shot.
I haven't skiied in 18 years and I was scared at the top of our climb.  I'd been drilled in avalanche safety and was wearing a transceiver, and I was definitely in over my head with these two very-fit fantastic skiers who've done this hundreds of times.
but the option was to stay home and . . . well, sit on the couch.
just as no one lies on their deathbed saying I wish I'd spent more time working, I don't think anyone lies on their deathbed saying I wish I hadn't had so many adventures.  

my calf isn't as sore as it was yesterday, and my blister is healing.  my shoulder already feels better.
and nothing--nothing in the world--can match the feelings I'm left with after the experience:
the awe of having been in this spectacular place I couldn't have seen any other way,
the thrill of skiing (okay, snowplowing) down an untouched hillside of deep powder,
the gratification of efforting then achieving (as in the top of the hill),
the delight in knowing that I'm capable of doing more than I believed.
the bandaids, the sore muscles, the titanium plate, the blisters and bruises . . .  without them I would be less than who I am.  

sometimes you have to step outside your box and into someone else's adventure and make it your own. because I want to lie on my deathbed saying, I am grateful for all the thousands of adventures and experiences that came my way, every one of them. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

the snowbirds and I

I have to clean my bike today.
ruby is covered with dirt, mud, grime, salt, sand, and probably a few drips of electrolyte-spiked water.  I like to think she's as happy about it as I am, but then I like to assign human traits to my bicycle, a possibly questionable activity.
we traveled together yesterday to a spot higher than we've traveled in months, halfway up big cottonwood canyon to mile marker 10, elevation approximately 7100 feet.  in sunshine!  45 degrees!
pretty groovy for february 16.

I had planned to attend a 90-minute super-challenging spin class yesterday, but when the morning weather forecast shouted high of 45, sunshine, I changed my plans.  an outdoor ride was obviously indicated.  and since I was forgoing the super-challenging class (love to conquer those things), I knew my outdoor ride needed to be super-challenging as well.
so . . . no mere emigration canyon ride would do;  this required a longer ride and a steeper canyon.  after considering distance, sun v. shade, and my allotted time, I decided to head to big cottonwood and go halfway up.
and because I hadn't really planned this in advance, I hadn't scoped out the bike path to see if I'd be able to travel across the freeways on the east bench of the city or not:  the answer is not.  which I found out after I'd ridden to the start of the bike path:  this necessitated a trip back down (and I mean down) twenty blocks or so and then back up (and I mean up).  just a warm-up for the big climb.

not being certain of how clear the bike lanes were, I started up the canyon thinking I would turn around if the lanes were dangerously narrow or even absent.  I didn't want to stress out all of those motorists, make them have to share too much of their asphalt with me.
the lanes, though, were almost as wide as on a june morning, and I kept pedaling.  car traffic was plentiful, but everyone gave me enough room to wide berth, and I huffed and puffed my way up through storm mountain (ow) and then through the S curve (whee) and up through one of my favorite sections where the creek runs right next to the road.
the water is so clear, the creek thick with rounded snow globs sitting atop logs and rocks.  splashing and crashing its way downhill, the creek radiates joy and vibrancy.  it's beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

at the 10-mile marker I called it quits.  my time limit was shrinking and my fuel supply waning; my legs had been begging me to stop and turn around for miles.
so I stopped.  ate my granola bar.  pulled on my downhill garb.  looked at the snow, the pines, the water far down the hill in a crevasse; took a deep breath and released it.

then took off downhill, quaking in my booties every time a car whooshed past me in an obvious hurry to get down to the bottom of the hill.  I hugged the shoulder, staying as close to that white line as I could, wishing for just a little more patience from each motorist.  I know they don't expect cyclists up the canyon in february the way they do in june, but I'm pretty sure I have a right to some of that asphalt, too.
and the salt.  and the sand.  the grit and the grime and the mud.
which is where this all began.

I need to clean my bike today.  grin.  I am one lucky human.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I've been remiss:  I actualized my asphalt dream and rode my bike outside last week and haven't posted about it until now . . . my penance?  550 words on the topic.  see below.

it began as just a tiny thing, a niggle, nothing more.  I sipped my coffee and folded laundry, read a book, changed sheets on the bed.  it existed, but nothing about it impeded my activities.  at least not for the first hour.
then it grew.  I felt compelled to look outside (gray) and check the weather report (27 degrees) and the forecast (high in the low 30's, partly sunny).  I read a little more, finished my coffee, paced.  what began as a niggle was growing into an itch.
I again checked the weather report (27 degrees) and looked outside (gray).  the itch was changing into a  magnetic pull toward asphalt, possibly even toward emigration canyon.  but it was still cold, still gray.  so I read, did more laundry, moved a dust rag across a few surfaces.
then went downstairs to grab my cold-weather biking gear.
sorting through the bin, I pulled out my new-and-not-yet-used booties, my skull cap, a headband.  my lightweight full-finger gloves, and my lobster gloves.  from my closet I pulled tights, a base layer shirt, and my hot pink/black gore jacket.  smartwool socks.  an extra wind jacket for the way down (that is, if I decided to go up . . . )
the weather report told me it was now 28, and a peek out the window allowed a slivery glimpse of blue.
john went out to the garage to unearth ruby and dust her off for me;  I started getting dressed.

when I hopped on my bike it was 29 degrees and my back pockets were filled with a skull cap, my lobster gloves, and the wind jacket.  I clipped in and pedaled (and actually moved forward! whee! those of you who've been spinning indoors will relate to my exhilaration at forward movement), and then turned and pedaled myself back to my front door where I unclipped, went inside and grabbed a neck gator (for the way down, that is, if I decided to go up . . . )

I went up.  how could I not?  it looked more blue that direction than any other, and I thought it might even be warmer with the elevation gain that would send me up above the inversion.
the road was dry (mostly), the air was clear, the sun shone enough that I could see my shadow for clumps of minutes at a time, my heart was pounding with effort (and joy), and I felt like I was home.
I love riding my bike on asphalt.
when I reached the top of the canyon I layered on everything I'd brought in my back pockets (skull cap, gator, lobster gloves, wind jacket), and rode down little mountain to the little dell reservoir, then over to the locked gate where the road up big mountain is piled with 2 - 3 feet of snow.  I turned, looking at the frozen white reservoir and the huge blue sky, and took a few deep breaths.  then I climbed back up to the top, and rode my bike home.

these are the times you feel vibrantly alive, connected, at peace with the world, fulfilled, complete.

sometimes the best things begin with the tiniest little niggle which grows into an itch, then a pull, then a demand that leads to a dream come true.

Friday, February 1, 2013

asphalt dreams

I'm trying to remember what it feels like to ride my bike.
since last november 12th I've attended 66 indoor sweaty spinning (grinding, grunting, groaning) sessions, and ridden outside only 4 times.
the last time I rode outside was almost 9 weeks ago, and my bike has been resting, dejectedly, against my garage wall since that day.  sigh.

during these winter weeks I've been paying close attention to all of the bicycling commuters I see out on the roads:  some of these people are almost impossibly committed to their programs.  we've had mornings of 10 degrees, of 8 and 5 and even a few at 0.  we've had mornings where neither road nor sidewalk is plowed and the snow sits 6 inches thick.  we've had mornings where there is nothing even close to a bike lane or a shoulder and there's barely enough room for two cars to pass by each other.  it's been icy, slushy, frozen, snow-packed, glacial.  and the intrepid cyclists pedal on.
my guess is that there's a thrill in it, somewhere, that must outweigh the drudgery and difficulty.
some are likely so determined to honor their commuting commitment they will put up with whatever they have to;  some may have no other acceptable form of transportation.  some might not have licenses or own cars, like my bike shop boy jared.
but some, I believe, like the challenge.
they like overcoming what the world decides to throw at them.  they know they can tough it out; they get a kick out of the adrenaline spikes as they slip, slide, overpower the impossible.  they are fueled by the satisfaction of reaching their destination via a path full of mental and physical challenge.
and maybe, just maybe, they like the quiet inside their skull caps and neck gators and face masks and helmets as they pedal their fat tires through mute piles of fresh white snow.

I'm not this tough.
my joke is that I commute to work, getting up early in the morning for my 23-mile ride before settling into my work day at home.  but I don't do this during the nasty weather, the extreme cold, the wet, the snow and sleet and hail and ice.
and I intensely admire those who do.  my jaw dropped as I watched a cyclist come spinning down our street two mornings this week when I didn't want to let my daughters even take a car out on the terrible roads.

today the roads are wet, drenched with meltage from four days of snow earlier in the week.  it's warm enough for a chilly ride, but the water is keeping me from feeling excitement about hopping on ruby and heading out and about.  I'm dreaming of asphalt--dry, smooth, dark--and accepting the fact that I'm not quite tough enough to go out there and take it the way it is.