Zen On Dirt


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Return to the Pool

On May 14, 2001, I woke up at 4:22 in the morning, drank a cup of tea, ate a bar, and went to swim practice.  At precisely 5:00, I jumped in the pool and swam a two hour workout with the rest of my teammates.  When I left the pool area, I didn’t look back, knowing full on well I’d never step foot on that pool deck again.

I’d asked my coach the day before if I could have that afternoon practice off.  It was my new boyfriend’s birthday and I wanted to go out to dinner with him.  I offered to make up the practice on Saturday afternoon or Sunday. Coach told me, in no uncertain terms, no-way no-how.  Had other circumstances not been conspiring to make me consider leaving swimming (like the purchase of a both a road and a mountain bike) I would have said ‘Okay’, and skipped dinner.  As it stood, I left my bag of gear on the deck, and without telling anyone of my decision, never came back.

I’ve been in a pool twice since then.  Once for a birthday party, and once because I thought swimming would be good winter cross training for cycling.  I lasted about 500 yards before I got out and told myself to stop being stupid.

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Today, I went into the Rec Center and with a borrowed suit, cap, and goggles, swam for 45 minutes.  It all seemed vaguely familiar, yet completely alien.  I still had the same stroke count per lap, I still had the same bad habit of breathing into the walls, three dolphin kicks off each wall came back immediately, and sound of water hadn’t changed in 12 years.  Having to hold my breath felt foreign, the fact that I pretty stoked to be swimming 100’s (in yards) in 1:32 was humbling for someone who loved the set of 100×100 on 1:20 in a 25 meter pool.

But it felt so good to move.  After threatening improvement, the knee decided to take a few steps backwards in the past few days and I finally had an honest answer to LW’s question of: Do you need to take some time off the bike to let this heal?  She’d told me that swimming was a good option to keep my aerobic fitness up during time off the bike, I told her I’d rather get fat and out of shape than swim.  On day two off the bike, I started driving myself nuts.  On day three, I swam.

Maybe I’ll take up triathlon.

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Probably not…but I’m pretty close to pulling the trigger on a punch pass to the Rec Center.  Who’d have thunk I’d ever be this excited to swim again.

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And on the plus side, I got to take a shower, which for those of us living at a campground at the end of the road for a little while, is a pretty valuable bonus.

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Injury Silver Lining

I came off the AZT injured.

I didn’t really think much of it at the time…a sore knee. After 50-some odd hours of pedaling, joints are allowed to be sore.

Two weeks off the bike for ‘recovery’ had me forgetting about it.

A little hour spin reminded me it was there.  Riding some rocks told me something wasn’t quite right.  A day of chunk riding that involved downhill hike-a-bike ruined me.  I rode stuff simply because it hurt too bad to walk.  I fessed up to LW when I got home.

I’m hurt.

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She told me, ‘I told you so’ with regards to my blowing off quad/glute work in exchange for yoga all winter.  Then she told me that I probably needed another week of recovery anyhow.  She, again, was right.

I went through every range of emotions during the last two weeks.  The good, the bad, and the really ugly.  I threatened myself with retiring from bike racing.

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Today, I got the go-ahead to do a wicked hard set of intervals.  A workout that I normally despise.

Today, I loved every single pedal stroke.  I loved fighting the black dots clouding my vision for the last 10 seconds of each effort.  I relished the conscious effort to not puke on the side of the road when each one was done.

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Pre-injury, I was grumping out about ‘training’ this summer.  Maybe, once again, the Universe gave me exactly what I needed, it just wasn’t in the form that I was expecting.  Maybe I won’t retire from bike racing after all…I’ve got an abusive trail of a girlfriend who needs tending to.


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Right Place, Right Time

I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason.  Not really in the sense that the Universe has everything planned out, but that I really shouldn’t fret when things don’t go as I had imagined them going, because generally I either need to learn a lesson, or there is something bigger and better about to happen.

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I had envisioned a relatively early departure for the desert on Thursday morning and an afternoon ride in Moab.  But then life happened and I’m not really sure what happened to the morning.  When we did finally hit the road, we still had stops to make at the post office, to drop a piece of cake and some shoes off for Jj, and then the required lunch stop in Glenwood for burritos.  Plus, we had minimal food and water loaded in the car, so a grocery stop also had to happen at some point in time.  Needless to say, we arrived in Fruita well after five.

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Camp here, ride here, make the push to Moab in the morning?  Not part of the plan, but why not?

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I schemed up an out-and-back on Western Rim, with the option of looping it with Kokopelli if our out-and-back alarms went off.  We put lights on bikes, a little bit of water in bottles, and pedaled down the road, already in the shade.  We expected to only get glimpses of the sun throughout the ride, but that was okay, we were in the desert, riding bikes, completely content with life.

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But then we went a little bit east, away from Westwater Mesa and the setting sun reappeared.  Golden hour.  Shadows long. We dropped into the Rim, following the contouring trail from the shaded eastern aspects to the glowing western aspects, continually expecting the sun to leave us for good.  But it never did, and after our turn around, the sky exploded.  I have no words.  Only pictures.

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Right place, right time? Or did the Universe really just put the show on, just for us?

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We rolled back, turning our lights on for the final 20 minutes.  Dinner was simple, as life seems to be when external distraction are removed, some heated up  soup.  Sleep was simple, an air mattress, yoga mat, sleeping bag, and a luxurious pillow.  The night sky filled with seven million stars. Beautifully simple, simply beautiful.


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Birthday Ride

I’m no good at birthdays.  I knew that when I left the house on Friday afternoon that I had no present for Scott’s birthday on Sunday.  Not even a card.  I was failing at traditional birthday celebrations.  Luckily, we’re not much for traditional anything and the day turned out absolutely delightfully.

It started with a visit to Patio Pancake in Salida after a night camping under ‘there’s a very significantly good chance it’s going to rain’ skies.  Bacon, eggs, and now they even have gluten-free pancakes.  Coffee.  Lots of diner coffee. While I do enjoy ‘quality’ coffee, there’s something to be said for the bottomless cup of joe in a big ceramic mug.

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And then down the road to meet the rest of the party at Kep’s house.  We rolled out six strong with Jj, Michelle, and Miff sometime just shy of nine, knowing that Kep needed to be back circa 11:30 for a 4-H air rifle tournament/meet/competition.  Our destination?  Vitamin B.

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I’d ridden Vitamin B years ago on my rigid singlespeed.  While Kep ‘rolls’ all the lines on the trail with his rigid singlespeed, I highly recommend a bigger bike.  But I distinctly remember thinking, ‘Jj would LOVE this ride!’ and so when I started thinking about where to take Scott in CO for a fitting B-day ride, I thought ‘Scott will LOVE that ride!’  Lots of tech.  Lots of rocks.  Lots of silliness.

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The level of riding that occurred over the next several hours was nothing short of mind blowing.  Kep rolled over nearly everything, only ending up on the ground once.  Jj proved that she’s back from surgery for good.  And Scott just made everything look so damn pretty and easy.

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I was in awe the entire time.

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It made me want to get better at riding over rocks.

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They were pretty much on crack the entire time.  It was fun to watch.  Completely cracked out on tech.

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Once back, Kep rolled out quickly, running only two hours late.  The girls piled back into their car for a return to Evergreen, and I suggested to Scott that we just get a snack at City Market before heading back to the front range to get some real food.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen him look so sad before.  No real food?  For reals?  So instead, we got some Mexican food in honor of Cinco de Mayo, which I have to admit, was way better than whatever we could have cooked up from the grocery store.

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Back in Boulder, we capped off what turned out to be a pretty amazing birthday in proper fashion: with a cake.  A peanut butter flourless chocolate cake to be exact.  I may have some sort of domestic goddess hiding in me after all!

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It was a most spectacular weekend of riding and living.  Of laughing with the best of friends.  Of knowing that for the first time, our time together isn’t going to be measured in days until one of us have to go home.  Of knowing that the adventure is just starting.  That the terribly good ideas are just going to keep flowing.  And that’s exciting!


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Defining Moments

Hindsight is a funny thing.  We spend all this time thinking about defining moments in our lives, graduations, big purchases, big moves, big decisions, only to look back and realize that those had very little bearing on our overall life outcomes and it was some silly little conversation, chance encounter, or bike ride that would set the stage for major life changes years down the road.

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Back in 2011, Scott and I had a conversation like that on Facebook.  It went something along the lines of this:

Me: Are you in Salida for reals?

Scott: Yep.

Me: Cool.  It snowed in Crested Butte.  I want to ride and watch this movie showing over there. I’ll be there in two hours.

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And so on Scott’s second day in Colorado for 2011, I led a ride where we ‘climbed a while’, didn’t get rained on but did get snowed on, and then watched a movie behind Absolute Bikes that started an Airstream obsession that exists to this day.

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I didn’t think much of the ride at the time, besides that it was a lot of fun and I was pretty glad that Scott and I were still on talking terms after he nearly froze his Tucson-softened tail off in the snow.  But, with the hindsight of two years, it was the ride that started a real friendship, a summer of amazing riding, and one could argue, led, directly or indirectly, to our ride this Saturday.

Now, two years later, on Scott’s first day back to Colorado for the summer of 2013, we went back to do the same ride, under far different life circumstances.

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We rode North Backbone.  We climbed for a while.  And then we giggled our way down Cottonwood, taking some new trails back to town, new trails that I had ridden with Beautywild when she had proclaimed that we could fit everything we wanted in our lives between our thumbs and forefingers.  I couldn’t help thinking about much of the wisdom that Beautywild and I had discussed on those trails: That in the end, we can get everything that we want, it’ll just never show up in the way we expect it to.

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When the Beautywild speaks, one should probably listen.

And so it begins.  Summer 2013.  Ready, go.


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Non-attachment

So my bike got stolen yesterday.  My black Waltworks.  Tour Divide bike.  In broad daylight off of the CU campus.  I saw it when I left for lunch.  I said ‘Hi Pony!’  It was gone when I got off of work.  I’ve been told I shouldn’t ride a nice bike on campus because it’ll get stolen.  I feel like that’s saying that I shouldn’t walk around in the dark because I might get attacked and raped because I’m a girl.  I call bullshit on all of that. Be decent, fellow humans.

I hope Pony comes back.

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It got me thinking though, because I’ve slowly been working through my ‘stuff’ with the approach of summer and trying to practice non-attachement.  And I’ll admit, I’ve been struggling a little bit, especially with things of sentimental value.

So then I walk out to an empty bike rack yesterday and my stomach dropped.  Where’s my bike?!

But I’m also a big believer that everything happens for a reason.  I was lamenting that of all the things that I could have gotten stolen, why my bike?!  Why the thing that means to the most to me of all my physical belongings? That bike took me through the Tour Divide!

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But maybe that’s the lesson.  Anything else wouldn’t have been quite the strike to the gut.  Car stolen?  That’s what insurance is for.  Computer?  Pictures gone, and expensive, but replaceable.  Any of my other junk?  Not worth anything. But the bike…that hurts.  But…in the end, it’s just a ‘thing’.  A wonderful, amazing thing that I hope finds its way home, but holds no value in the light of good health, family, love, friends, and experiences.

Maybe this is the kick in the ass I need to get working on making a little project possible for 2014.  There’re a few big rides to be done, a cold one, a hot one, a really long one, and my favorite one of all.

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Ready, set, LIFE.  GO!

And I hope that whoever stole my bike doesn’t realize that the brakes need to be pumped to work, slices the rear tire with no sidewall left, and realizes that the fork doesn’t compress not because it’s locked out, but because it’s completely blown out.  And I hope they cross chain it with the medium cage derailleur on there and get the chain so stuck it has be broken to get it undone.  Only Ez can ride Ez bikes!