Friday, December 3, 2010

Grow and Thrive

As I look back on this past year I know I have grown... and not in the uncomfortable... damn why don't these pants fit like they use to kind of way.  Well, mostly not in that kind of way.

I just had my one year anniversary of moving to Colorado.  My reasons for leaving Kentucky, while quite unpleasant, were exactly the motivation I needed to make a change.

This year I've been more homesick than I ever thought possible, more heart broken than anyone ever should be and more desperate than I ever want to be again.  I've also been higher than ever with my feet firmly planted on the ground... on a mountain, I've pushed myself harder than ever, been more inspired than ever and rode my bike further than ever before.  With so many recorded than-evers this year, I'm happy to be alive and sane.  My muscles have really gotten a workout, brain and heart included.

I know I've grown.  I'm stronger, more nimble and despite all the turmoil, happier than ever.

This year I've grown to be much more like the person I want to be than the person I wish I wasn't.  And if this is anything like training for a bike race its time a for a little plateau.  Its time to use my new muscles to live and breath and create.  Its time to thrive.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Crafting a Calendar

Since its a Mandatory Monday, the Monday before a holiday when no one wants to work but everyone has to, I decided it best if I start my day with a craft project.

I've been planning to buy a calendar, (hee, hee) but get so overwhelmed with the options. When I look for one it's as if I'm stuck in some torturous nursery rhyme... this one's too big, this one doesn't start until next year, this one's ugly, this one's too expensive... 

I WANT WHAT I WANT AND I WANT IT NOW... ooooh, look at the pretty glitter pens... and now you've lost me... time to exit the store empty handed once again.

Wait... I have paper and pens and markers and rulers and clips and rivets and tape and a hole punch and wire and a work table and stickers and 10 fingers and a creative brain.

Society has taught us that we have to spend money to solve a problem while my markers sit in a jar drying up, paper wrinkles and yellows, all left in a pile of "one day..."

I assemble my supplies feeling terribly defiant and self sufficient.  

NOVEMBER... although the month is almost over I have to make a page.  I need to write down the tasks for this day and the next day and the one after.  I've waited too long to compile this list of days and tasks.

I use a big fat black marker to form my rectangle... turn the perfectionist switch off, this is strictly utilitarian.  Its good to know that if I screw something up I can start all over, I can make more months, I can make more days, weeks and years.  I can start over whenever I want.

I begin to fill in the boxes, each day fitting in one two-and-a-half inch square.  Then I make more months, the connection between days and weeks and months becomes interesting to me.  Sometimes you wake up and it is a new week, sometimes a new month, sometimes both but always a NEW DAY that fits nicely into a little two-and-a-half inch square... on a calendar... on a wall.

Suddenly I feel like a beatnik and that maybe the big fat black marker has gone to my head.  Mandatory Monday.

I'm feeling nostalgic.  This has been a big year for me.  "30 days has September, April, June and November..."  I fill in the dates and remember the events, the people and the places.  I know that I will see many of them again in the coming year.

APRIL - where will Girl Bike Love be?  

The questions form and I'm overwhelmed.  I'm excited, I want to have a marathon of writing and riding and picture taking and riding and interviewing and the list goes on.  But that's why I have a calendar, a BIG calendar, because I look at the world of women's cycling and I know... THERE IS A LOT TO BE DONE.  Time to spread the Girl Bike Love far and wide.

Marking National Holidays

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yogurt Covered Pretzels Will Not Make Me Faster...

Riding my bike will make me faster... yogurt covered pretzels will not make me faster.  I keep repeating this to myself over and over again.  It's simple... don't eat the pretzels... ride the bike... GO FAST.  I could look back at that empty jar of yogurt covered pretzels and wonder which part of S-L-O-W did I not understand?  But I don't... I can't... I won't.  It's all about tomorrow.

I don't like the flavor of regret... it drags me down... like a rim wearing brake rub, cobble stone street or the ever regrettable clawlike tree limb, grabbing your brain bucket and ripping your head off like a screeching creature from dinosaurland.  OUCH... and yes, that really happened.

There are two kinds of regret... regret of action and regret of inaction.  I live in fear of the latter.  Rarely do I regret doing but I always regret not doing.  Sometimes this fear, of course... well... causes problems.  Some-times... I say and do things I shouldn't.  Hummm, yeah, about that.  I need a filter.  Hurry!  Someone give me a filter, unbleached please, all natural fibers... I'm del-i-cate.  Seriously... filter... STAT.  This snout needs a muzzle.  Some refer to it as a Tourette's... I call it impetuous sharing...

"... the inability to maintain one's thoughts and emotions within in the confines of the mental faculty causing a verbal spewage that although not innately harmful has been known to garner utter disbelief, gape mouthed stares and the occasional mother clasping the ears of child while fleeing in horrific fear of innocence bruising declarations."

Not believing in regret also means taking chances and being prepared for the consequences.  I'm no Evel Knievel or Stevil Knevil for that matter.  No question there.  But I do take chances, I like pedaling down mountains, taking each turn at increasing speeds, dropping bigger obstacles and riding harder everyday and I have even been known to eat candy off of the floor… LOOK OUT.  Without taking chances there is nothing new, there is no growth, there is no success, there is no winning, there is no fresh thought, there is no passion, there is no love, there is no exhilaration.  

And it is for these reasons that I have accepted an invitation to compete in the Bailey Hundo.  These opportunities don't come around often… opportunities to push yourself to do something beyond the realm of what is thought to be possible.

The Bailey Hundo is a 100 mile endurance mountain bike race in Bailey, Colorado.  The race course follows 40+ miles of glorious single track mingled with fire roads.  There is 14,000 ft. of climbing and it maintains an elevation between 6000 and 8600 ft.  The race is by invitation only and open to a mere 150 riders.  So far the roster is stacked with names like Dave Wiens, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Travis Brown and my good friends Tom Zirbel and the infamous Dejay Birtch.  Just typing these words makes my heart beat out of my chest, my stomach turn and my mind wander to race day. 

At the time of accepting the invitation I had never ridden more than 100 miles on or off road.  I had never spent more than 4 consecutive hours on any one of my bikes, I had never competed in an endurance race of any kind and I had never ridden a tandem.  But that was weeks ago, I've been busy.  And although this is a fund raiser and I knew that I needed to raise money… I was afraid to ask for it… afraid to completely commit… because there is that thing that I do… that impetuous sharing… that thing inside of me that makes me do and say things like committing to this race… the hardest thing I've ever done.  I mean what if my friends give money and I can't finish?  What if I'm in over my head?

But it isn't about me, if I win, place or even finish… its about raising money for Trips for Kids, giving underprivileged youth the opportunity to go mountain biking... sharing the thing that makes my life full and joyous and worth living every single day… the thing that makes my eyes sparkle, my brow unfurl and my stomach turn with excitement at the very thought of a day on the sweet single track.

So, I'm asking you to come along with me on my journey to finish this race and bring this irreplaceable joy to children who may never have this opportunity otherwise.  This is our chance to give the gift of cycling. 

Please visit my Bailey Hundo fundraising site and donate today.  And please follow me as I bring you up to date on the adventures that training for this race has brought me... thank you.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nice Try Wind

As the day begins and the weekend chores list themselves I sigh and start the coffee.  This is my day to play catch up, laundry, dishes, cleaning, blah.  The day tumbles on and I check the clock, time for laundry, laundry... LAUNDRY!  Mental check... grab the curtains, they must go.  As I take down the curtains, it hits me, wow... its nice out, the sky is bluer than expected and the sun isn't hiding behind snow clouds.  But it was suppose to be nasty today, plummeting temperatures, high winds and snowy conditions, oh, my!  I had already resigned myself to a late afternoon run.  Besides, today the laundry has to be done!  I head to the computer this time ignoring the clock and checking the temperature.  50.

Nice try Laundry.

I down a glass of water and peel a banana.  I look at the mess on the table with disdain and head for bike clothes.  Laundry day means crappy left over shorts, thread bare and lining the very bottom of the drawer.  You know the ones you don't want to be caught dead in.  Ugh.  I don the shorts.

Nice try shorts.

And as I ready myself, checking and double checking for my goods and gear, I'm thinking about my route.  This would be my first solo ride since moving to Colorado.  Whoa, I stop for a minute and think.  Surely it is underestimating to think I can count my significant solo rides with my fingers.  I've just never had a shortage of riding companions.  Hum.  And I don't yet really know all the roads... Hummm, this could almost be considered an adventure.  Time to get lost.

With serious wind and melting snow in the canyons my options are few.  I head North and then East.  I notice the riders are in short supply.  A fellow signal light cyclist comments on the wind.  He is heading in, enjoying the tailwind.  He smiles knowing I am choosing my fate.  Tailwind out, headwind in.  I smile back... I'm on an adventure.  I pedal on knowing that with each revolution my return trip will be that much harder. 

This road looks familiar, I turn South and am hit by my first serious starboard gusts.  I know you think you are something wind... you and your power... you and your blowy blow-ed windedness.  Not today.  Just because I am small, bike and body total weight less than 140 pounds wet, doesn't mean you can take me down, go ahead and try.

Nice try wind.

Mental check, if I remember correctly there are hills ahead.  More starboard gusts, bike at 45, leaning into the wind, I reach in my pocket and search for food.  I take a break by heading further East enjoying the tailwind, taking in fuel.  Now South again.  Starboard gusts, bike at 45 and I'm climbing. 

Nice try hill.

As I crest the hill it is time to face the headwind.  West is the only option.  The wind makes the descent feel like a climb.  The guy going up the hill with the tailwind is traveling faster than I am.  I want the speed so I pedal harder.  My face hurts and my eyes burn.  I push hard and tuck in. And as I approach the intersection I am faced with a choice, head in or head out?  My route is not planned, my decisions not thought out, my pace that of a snail and my face the location of a painful cell splitting ambush of wind and grit.  I smile and head out.

Nice try wind.

In a short time I find myself on a road I have only been on twice before, both times shared with a special friend of yore.  I pedal on, my soul shrinks and the clouds roll in.  I focus on the wheels, the pedals, the place where the tire meets the road.  Evil thoughts in... pedal, pedal, pedal... evil thoughts out.  I stop for more fuel.  The clouds and wind chill me to the bone.  The sun is no help.  I turn to head in.  I keep turning, make a loop and continue to head out. 

Nice try evil thoughts.

In a few short miles I realize my destination.  I am proud, I didn't know where I was going but now that I am here, I have made it.  I'm comfortable knowing I did more than I expected and start the trek home.  It is getting cold, the sun is hiding but my face wears a smile.
The path to home comes more quickly than expected and I skip it.  I've never gone this way, wonder where it leads... I get lost.  And without a thought I add another hour to my ride.  Now I am tired.
As I dismount I almost instantly begin to shiver.  I enter the house and a tornado of cycling gear ensues.   I head straight for the tub, recovery drink in hand.  I invent a new sport... tiny bathtub stretching.  I am chilled through my core and my muscles are weak but my soul, my heart and my mind are clear.  My brow is unfurled.   I look up at the slanted ceiling and I listen to the Black Keys through underwater ears.  I grin at the slanted ceiling...

Cyclist 1 Wind 0

Nice try wind.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Unfurling My Brow

As I sit here, brow furled, I wonder why my brow must always be furled.  Sometimes when my head hurts, I realize it is because my brow is furled, has likely been that way for sometime, gone unchecked - left furled.

I think too much, about things that matter, things that don't.  I over-analyze, I furl my brow.  I am confused by the words and actions of people, government, and religion.  I'll never understand a human's ability to hurt another human.  And although it is a naive morsel of my childhood ideology, I will always believe somewhere, somehow, that we are all innately good.

That is my right and that is why I ride my bike.  Because no matter how good people are there will always be pain, inflicted by the good people,  intentionally and unintentionally.  It is a tough pill to swallow, it weakens my smile and furls my brow.

The only time my brow isn't in danger of being furled is when I ride my bike, any one of them, for even a slow roll around the block.  One pedal stroke and my eyes brighten, the corners of my mouth turn up, my muscles engage, the freckles on my forehead find their way out the of the creases, my brow unfurls.

My brow unfurls because riding my bike makes me feel alive. It brightens my day and excites my mind.  It affords me the luxury of being outside when many are behind the window of a car.  It reminds me I won't melt, won't likely freeze and can easily come clean.

My brow unfurls because for a short time I believe there is an answer to the world's problems.  I imagine a world where everyone moves a little slower, smiles and waves because they want to, because they know their community, because they are a part of it, because they ride their bike in it.  I imagine a world of healthy, happy, powerful people.  I imagine a world with clean air and quiet bike paths.  And I imagine that it all starts with a few pedal strokes, my pedal strokes.

My brow unfurls because the rhythm of the rolling wheels accompanied by the knowledge that it is my power facilitating this motion takes my breath away.  I breath deep.  My body warms, my skin moistens and flushes, my heart pounds.  I push harder.  I breath deeper.  My mind is clear, I am powerful.  I keep pedaling.  I smile and look ahead.  I climb.  I explode my belly trying to pull in every last bit of breath.  I look ahead.  I try to catch the big kids.  I push with my legs and pull with my arms.  I breath deep.  I keep pedaling.  I look ahead.  I push harder.  I push with my legs and pull with my arms.  And everyday as I get a little closer, the big kids get a little bigger.

My brow unfurls because I ride my bike.

So this is why I share, with sincere intention, the gentle suggestion that you try pedaling a bike.  And if you catch me with my brow furled, don't ask of my concern, simply send me on my way, rolling on two wheels.   For it isn't the wind, the freezing cold, the road grit, or the weight of the pack on my back that will age me, but the infinitely deeper marks of my furlable brow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Altitude Attitude

This is going to be a tough one and with bourbon on the burner - er, well, stoking the burner - I'm sure to find my foot firmly lodged in my mouth in just a few short moments.  Please sit back and enjoy the progression from shoe to gaping face hole.

With the announcement of the 2013 CX Worlds being held in Louisville, Ky I feel that it is only fitting I claim my heritage.  I am from Kentucky, where the grass is blue, the hills roll and honey flavored bourbon drips from many a baby's bottle.  This spicy brown water courses through my veins, it's in my blood.  This is what we do.

Recently I moved to Boulder, CO with a job and a dream.  This Kentucky girl of many years was anxious for a change.  I didn't really know what I was getting into, but a very dear girlfriend and a dreamy biker boy both believed this was where I belonged.  Trusting them and my gut, out the door and straight to Boulder I went.

But REALLY, I had no idea what I was getting into.

I visited and read.  I knew the weather in Boulder was great... averaging 300+ sunny days a year and with just as many miles of bike lanes and paths, a surely healthy community.  I knew the majority of the populous owned at least one bicycle.  I knew about the beautiful mountains... kinda hard to miss.  I knew I had a great job and that there were almost as many coffee shops and breweries as residents... GOOD coffee shops and GOOD breweries.  Repeat... GOOD coffee, GOOD beer, GOOD biking.  And to state the obvious, bourbon is not in short supply.  How could I go wrong?

But still, I had no idea what I was getting into.  I mean it's the people that make a place and about the people of Boulder I had not a clue.

I had no idea that I would be befriended by and ride with the top cycling pros in the nation.  I had no idea I would easily park my car for days and even weeks at a time.  I had no idea I would race for a mountain bike team on a super sweet pimped out Yeti.  I had no idea I would enjoy the Boulder Creek Bike Path everyday, that everyone I met would know that Di2 is not a Star Wars character. 

I also had no idea that meeting a Boulder native or a person of color would be as rare as a mooing cow.  I had no idea the strain on my body would cause this 16 year vegetarian to have dreams of cheeseburgers and I certainly had no idea I would be at risk of developing...

ALTITUDE ATTITUDE... TUDE... Tude... tud...

Altitude Attitude is an affliction due to oxygen deprivation and Boulderesque privileges causes one's persona to take on a very unique combination of qualities.  This is a very real and very dangerous condition, one that currently 95,000 humans and approximately 25,000 canines are at serious risk of developing at this very moment. 

Please pay attention to the warning signs listed below.  If you find yourself developing two or more of these traits during prolonged exposure in the Boulder Bubble seek mid-west flat land treatment immediately.  The symptoms are as follows:
  • reaching in your closet, randomly pulling out a garment and being 85% likely to find it labeled patagucci
  • using the terms gluten-free, paleo, octo-lacto, AND vegan to describe your belief system.
  • having two bars crossing the roof of your foreign engineered AWD vehicle supporting an aero-gear-geek-box, fork mounts and ski/board clamps and driving around with them all full, all the time
  • consulting with the Pharmica clerk about the telling state of your tongue, the implications of said state and which herbal suppliments would most effectively remedy your condition
  • adding a "Y" to the end of your first name and following it with "THE BODY"
  • seasonally changing your vocabulary to accommodate the terms used to describe the value of your mountain descent
  • sporting active wear on all occasions, unconsciously parading that just-engaged-in-intense-physical-activity-sans-perspiration look or the even more prominent ready-for-an-adventure-even-in-my-deepest-state-of-REM look
  • having a yoga mat or a yogi or both surgically attached to your being
  • concocting a super secret afternoon pick-me-up recipe consisting of espresso, fresh squeezed carrot juice, chain lube and locally grown tree bark
  • using the term embrocation to describe anything that comes in a tube and being compelled to apply liberally and with fervor to all parts of the body at least 4 times daily
  • spending an inordinate amount of time participating in extreme outdoor activities and spending an equally inordinate amount of money on gear for said activities only to become a jack of all extreme sports, master of none
  • showing signs of a serious television viewing deficit 
  • riding sans helmet since it's only a training ride and the woolen beanie in its place is sure to protect remaining brain cells (dwindling due to extreme noggin swelling and the ingestion of please GOD let them be undetectable substances)
PROGNOSIS:  Full body and daily routine scan reveals minor bruising to the knees due to a lack of surgically attached yoga mat, a severe tree bark deficiency and although high levels of fresh squeezed carrot juice have been detected, it is accompanied by a completely inexplicable LACK of two bars crossing the roof of patient's foreign engineered AWD vehicle. 

Closer scrutiny does reveal stories of an attempt to apply chamois creme, to the face, an affinity for down garments labeled Patagonia and traces of an herbal supplement found at the local Pharmica store.  Please be advised that patient remains at high risk of full blown Altitude Attitude but treatment is not currently recommended for fear there may be a repeat of severe side affects experienced the last time the patient was prematurely sent for mid-west flatland treatment - namely extreme lethargy, a touch of the Brown Water Flu, loss of The Lungs and an uninspired disposition.

Whew.  THAT was close, flatland treatment sucks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Deep Bruises and a PediCure

It's always the ones you least expect that hurt the most.  Sometimes you'll just be cruising along,  pedaling your heart out, feeling the groove, cutting through the day like a wavy carrot slicer and


you're on the ground wondering how your super sonic senses didn't see that tree. 

But this post really isn't about riding a bike, hitting a tree and getting hurt, it's about toenail polish and it's staying power.  Seriously.  I'm not the girl to get regular pedicures so it might not surprise you that one day I looked down and realized my ruby red toenail polish had begun to chip, badly in fact, becoming unsightly.  How did I let it get like this?

I was focused.  I was in the woods moving and grooving, going somewhere... FAST... pedal, pedal, pedal... REALLY FAST... ewe, look at those toes... pedal, pedal, pedal... TOO FAST... ahh, I'll get to it, open toe season is over... pedal, pedal, pedal... SMACK!

While I was looking down at my toes I hit a tree, a BIG tree, like a 200 year old Oak with a trunk the size of a house, smacked it like a bug on a windshield.  It would seem my super sonic senses didn't see it coming, or did they?  I guess sometimes there's no avoiding the tree.  And sometimes hitting the tree and getting banged up is better than the trail that lies ahead.  You may be asking "but what kind of an idiot wears open toed shoes mountain biking?"

So it is, and these are my toes with the reminder of the ruby red polish, faded and almost non-existent.  Today, I'll remove it.  It's time.  This poor polish has seen enough, it's time for a new color.

This polish has seen the demise of a four year relationship, the trials of splitting up a home and a business, job search and relocation, saying goodbye to the best thing I had ever helped build, my hometown, my friends, my family, the loss of a pet, a juicer, and a little bit of faith, a week and a half of close quarters with my father, a painful snowboarding accident and an even more painful haircut.  In the words of the Horse from Ren and Stimpy, "No Sir, don't like it."

This polish has also seen a short, steamy soul shaking love affair although inherently terminal, it's seen the power that comes from knowing that none of these things are any match for my strength, for my resourcefulness, for my creativity, for my ambition, for the love and support of my friends and family, the making of new friends and the relighting of a brilliantly burning happiness that has been dimmed for way, way too long. 

And the best part of the story is the bandages.  Ha, ha, I may be the only person to manage losing a pint of blood by nicking my toe during a pedicure... and sometimes the worst wounds are self inflicted.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.