Zen On Dirt


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Magnificent Moments

Jill said it best, “December is a cathartic month, because it’s the time of year most of us reflect on our experiences and accomplishments during the past twelve months. ”  I’ve been finding myself focusing a lot on the negative that occurred in 2012 and I don’t like it.  I like the idea of focusing on positives rather that negatives.  While 2012 had a copious amount of yucky in it for me, it also had an amazing amount of good.  Really good.  While I realize that I’ll most likely remember 2012 for the complete implosion that was my life, I also want to take a moment to celebrate the good that happened.  So in the spirit of magnificence, my Top Moments of 2012, in no particular order.

Arrowhead 135

6a00d8341cf72153ef016300a9f97a970d-800wiArrowhead was a funny little trip.  The race memorable because it’s definitely the hardest I’ve ever been able to push myself in a single day event.  I finished the thing with a completely empty tank, I couldn’t move for days afterwards.  But what was really neat about the Arrowhead was the preparation that went into it, the countless commutes down 135 in the freezing cold, gear collection and testing, finding another winter sport besides skiing in CB.  It became a fun project to learn how to deal with the cold.  And now I’m signed up for the Iditabike…yikes.

Seeking Joy

6a00d8341cf72153ef016764406262970b-800wiThere are people in this world who are really good at asking the hard questions, hard questions that you maybe don’t want to think about, let alone answer.  Beautywild is one of those women and we spent a glorious weekend together in Salida this spring, watching sunrises and sunsets, cooking over an open fire in a cast iron pot, riding trails, and talking about joy, love, and happiness.    The weekend shifted the kaleidoscope of my world view to where things became much more clear.

Stagecoach 400

6a00d8341cf72153ef01630509600e970d-800wiI had a pretty good spring trip planned that involved a lot of riding with Chris, a trip down to Gallup for Dawn to Dusk, a trip to SoCal for the Stagecoach 400, back to Fruita, and the 12-Hours of Mesa Verde.  Shit hit the fan about 3 hours into Dawn to Dusk and one could argue that things went pretty downhill after that.  But after some negotiation, and being the stubborn SOB that I can be sometimes, I headed out to SoCal by myself to race Stagecoach.  There are few races that I’ve executed with the grace that I pulled that one off with.  I’m proud of it.  Not only the race, but getting everything together for it, getting there, and getting home.  By myself.  Independently.  And having the time of my life.

St. George Pit Stop

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On my way back to CO from CA, I made a pit stop in St. George to visit the the Crackheads.  Still buzzing off of Stagecoach, I was somehow able to pull off a ride.  Anytime I get to ride with people who inspire me the way these two do, I feel pretty stinking lucky.

Annual Girls Trip to Fruita

6a00d8341cf72153ef01676668af4f970b-800wiPart bachelorette party, part luxury camping, part mojito drinking goodness, this girls trip is a highlight ever year.  I came into it pretty worked over from Stagecoach and had to bail on a couple of rides, but I love these ladies with all my heart and I hope this tradition continues on year after year.

Tour Divide: Chance Encounters

413716_10151213242380968_2124003593_oI was riding along, minding my own business, wondering how long it would take me to get to Steamboat when a truck passed me with a Waltworks on the back.  ‘I KNOW that bike!’ was my immediate reaction.  When Beautywild jumped out, I was thrilled.  It was a completely chance encounter as she was on a work trip and saw me pedaling down the highway. Then she took what is quite possibly my favorite photo of myself ever.  It was magic.

Tour Divide: Pie Town

6a00d8341cf72153ef01761667f8cd970c-800wiKey lime.  Enough said.

Tour Divide: The final mile

6a00d8341cf72153ef01774368e58f970d-800wiI can say with a fair amount of certainty that this was simultaneous the happiest and saddest I was on the Divide.  The completion of a dream.  The end of an adventure.

Girls in Durango

6a00d8341cf72153ef016768ae1a59970b-800wiSometime shortly after TD and before CTR, LW and Jj made it down to Durango and I couldn’t resist joining them to visit Cat.  We went on some fun rides, but it was much more of a weekend of spending time with amazing souls in an amazing place.

Scarps

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On one sunny morning, Scott and Chad, in full bromance mode, showed up to our campsite on Slate River wanting to ride Scarps.  I was more than happy to show them them way and after decking it fairly spectacularly on Gunsight Bridge, it turned into a magical ride climbing into the sky, dancing with wind wisps, and soaking in all that CeeBee had to offer.  It’s the single ride that really sticks out in my brain from CB this summer.

While I know the year technically isn’t over, it is the winter solstice, and I’m calling it good.  We’re moving back towards light after tomorrow and a whole new chapter of life is about to open up in a very short amount of time.

2012: It’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times.

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2013: Welcome to the Year of the Unicorn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Harsh Environments

Whenever I get ready to go on a trip, I begin obsessively checking the weather forecast.  I was highly alarmed when I checked the forecast for Tucson and saw a Hazardous Weather Warning: FROST!  I figured that I’d better go toughen up so I went in search of some HTFU points.

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I returned from what should have been a routine 3-hour ‘base’ ride completely cracked out of my skull.

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I swear, there’s something in the air around here.

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Or maybe it’s the bike.

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Maybe it’s just life.

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Maybe this is the new normal.  If it is, I dig it.


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Old Friends: The Hills of BoCo

My initial excuse to come back to Boulder in early October was to get some warm weather training and to race some ‘cross.  That quickly evolved into wanting to go back to school and then true reasons came out: I needed to roto-root my connection to the Universe, and to do that, I retreated to the one place that will always be a safe-haven for me.  Home.

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Places filled with love.

I don’t know what I was looking for, I just knew that the happiest I’d ever been was the summer I was living in Boulder, teaching, attending copious numbers of yoga classes each week, eating salads with my mom, and riding in the Boulder County hills.  I know that I can’t recreate the past, nor do I want to, but when everything went to shit, I reverted back to my base level: Do what you love.  Do what inspires you.  Go to the places that you hold dear to your heart. So I’ve spent the past three months climbing, descending, and climbing all the hills, that like good friends, have shaped me into who I am.  They’ve made me strong in the past, they’ll make me strong again.

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Always one fast ascent away from an amazing dinner.

They’re the good friends who won’t sugarcoat life for you and they hold memories of fast rides with friends, of death marches, of social rides sharing the latest gossip, of solo missions where the sole purpose was to drop the demons that chase.  Hills that held memories of boys who’d offered to take me to the Flagstaff House if I could beat them up them, memories of escort rides for the women of Lazy-Z, memories of Y-Riders taking us up the backside of Old Stage, and at 11 years old, having to stop and rest multiple times on the way up.  It’s been comforting to come back to these places and see them unchanged, the pothole on Lefthand that once left me with a double flat in sub-freezing temperatures is still there, Flagstaff hasn’t gotten any less steep, and Old Stage still isn’t easy, even with the tailwind that I was blessed with yesterday.

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I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes more times than I’ll admit on that last corner.

I was doing a set of intervals on Lefthand yesterday when I noticed a shift in my psyche.  Instead of thinking about the countless times I’ve ridden up that canyon in the past, I found myself thinking about the things that riding up the canyon, there and then, would allow me to do in the future. Each repeat was a step in a direction that I was excited about headed in.  Each gasping-for-breath, fighting-off-cramps, cross-eyed recovery was a reminder that showing up to each interval and giving it everything I had would ultimately lead to good.

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Nearly 20 years after my first ascent, it still strikes fear into my heart.

The past month has been all about looking forward, planning, plotting, scheming, all while being very presently rooted in the here and now, building the foundation, both mental and physical, that I hope will ultimately lead to great, beautiful things.

I piddle-peddled home over Old Stage when I was done, knowing that these hills will always be there for me, whether I need to spend some time pondering life, celebrating life, or very simply cranking out a set of intervals.  Some people climb mountains to be closer to the heavens, I climb them to be closer to myself.


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Magic in the cold

I stood in the kitchen this morning, hands wrapped around my second cup of coffee, staring at the thermometer:  30.2 degrees.  Tucsontucsontucson, I reminded myself.  The winter desert trip I’ve been telling myself to take for the past decade when I first learned that many cyclists made a yearly pilgrimage to the land of warmth, far from the snow and cold, or in this case, the cold.  I’d never had the motivation to make it happen.

I shook my head: AK is only going to be 70 degrees colder, I’d better get out and ride.  It’d be so much easier if the sun was out…  So I pulled on some layers, dressing these days has been a crapshoot, put on my warm gloves, put my even warmer ones along with my down jacket into my frame bag and pedaled up the bike path, fat tires whirling to the comforting rhythm that only four inch wide tires can create.

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As I turned the corner, heading south, the combination of mist, (relatively) early morning sun, and mountains set a magical tone.  There is adventure on the horizon, both immediate and distant, it seemed to say.  And then I climbed and slowly, because everything happens slowly on a fat bike, and the mist faded away leaving only a thin layer of moisture on the single wool layer I was wearing.  The sparkles that caught the light made me smile.

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The higher I went, the bigger the view got, and the more my dying camera battery protested the cold.  ‘Just one more picture,’ I begged it each time I pulled it out, eventually resorting to storing it at skin level to try to eek out a few more seconds of battery life for the next corner which absolutely begged for a photo.  ‘This is magic, and I didn’t have the foresight to plug the damn battery in last night.  Good work team.’

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It was quiet, an early Sunday morning in Sunshine Canyon.  The burned trees, the missing houses, still gives the area a sad feeling.  Total destruction.  Some were quick to rebuild.  Other lots just sit.  Lives changed.  For the better?  For worse?  Maybe just different.  Maybe we should just stop trying to label everything as good and bad.  Sometimes I think uphill is good.  Sometimes I think its bad.  Maybe I should just accept it for what it is: Uphill.

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But today, uphill felt good.  Giddy good.  Cracked out good.  I can do anything good.  I like this feeling.


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Facing Fears

I have a habit of pushing things to the absolute limit.  Whether they be physical, emotional, or some combination of the two, I will take things to the most extreme limit possible.  Sometimes things bend, other times things break.  The bendy ones are the best.  I’m not sure if this habit is a healthy one, sometimes I wonder if I’d be better off being more ‘normal’, whatever that means, and then quickly dismiss that as silly, because I know as well as the next person that I would become a miserable mess of a human being if I ever tried to rein myself in.

IMG_3637All in.  All the time.  Regardless of how scary it is.  And right now I’m scared, for in 73 days, I’m going to find myself on a start line in Knik, AK with 350 miles of snow ahead of me and a bike between my legs.  Sounds completely rational, eh?  And for the first time, I am honest to goodness, terrified of a bike event.  Sure, I was worried about lightning on the CTR.  Grizzlies and rednecks caused me some consternation on Tour Divide.  But this is the first time I’ve legitimately scared.to.death.

But at the same time, I’m fascinated.  I’m fascinated by the ‘Final Frontier’.  I look at pictures of the AK Range in complete awe.  While I’ve accepted the fact that I most likely will never make a home in the bi-polar state of perma-sunshine or perma-darkness (that darkness thing is hard for those of us who are solar powered), it calls to me, even if just for a visit.  Even if just for 350 miles across frozen rivers and mountains.  And then for a pizza and beer at the Moose Tooth in Anchorage.

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It seems to be an event that gets into peoples’ blood.  It has an amazingly high rate of repeat offenders.  This intrigues me.  Why wouldn’t once be enough?  What calls people back?  I want to experience this.  I want to see the northern lights, I want to feel what it feels like to ride in -40, I want to find out what ‘it’ is about the event.  I know what it is about CTR.  I deeply know what it is about TD.  And now the ITI.

I’m scared.  I’m fascinated.  It’s time to go all in.


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Getting ‘It’

Yesterday in yoga, the lovely Amy spent some time talking about getting ‘it’.  I smiled at the idea.  My getting ‘it’ has turned into embracing not getting ‘it’, and being okay with that.  I don’t understand why things happen the way they do, but as part of my practice of analyzing less and feeling more, I’m starting to feel like I don’t always have to get ‘it’.

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Wouldn’t getting ‘it’ take all the fun out of searching for ‘it’?  Wouldn’t it take all the mystery, adventure, and unknown out of our daily existence?  Would that suck as much as I think it would?

I can’t explain why I enjoy yoga.  I can’t explain why I enjoy riding my bike for seven hours through the cold, wind, and snow.  I can’t explain why a cup of tea before bed soothes my soul.  I just know, I feel, that it does.

I don’t know where my current life trajectory is going to take me, but I know it feels good.  Is that enough?  I think so.  Maybe I don’t have to get ‘it’.  I just have to feel ‘it’.  And enjoy every second of it that I can.


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Flow Charts

At some point of time, I started to get my life back together.  I can actually pin-point the exact time and location: the day after I first temporarily came back to Boulder, on the dirt road on the east side of Boulder Rez, looking out over the water at Green Mountain, Bear Peak, Sanitas…Boulder.  Home.  It was then that I set the intention of moving forward, embracing what I was good at and loved doing.  So I made myself a little flow chart: If this happens, I’ll do this, that and the other.  Or, if this doesn’t happen, well, I’ll figure it out then.

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Honestly, I didn’t know what I was going to do if it fell through.  I figured that if I whole heartedly believed it would happen, it would.

 

Yesterday, I got home from my ride and opened my email.  There it was, the email I’d been impatiently waiting for: You have an excellent job for the spring that not only are you good at, but will let you ride, let you teach, and let you save up some money.  The endorphin buzz combined with the news sent excitement levels beyond what I can even begin to describe.

 

Step #1: Complete.  Here’s to moving forward.

 

When you ask, when you believe, the Universe listens.