Sunday, March 1, 2015

1,000 Words

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They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Quite frankly, it would probably take me at least twice that to thoroughly explain this one, but I promise I'll try to keep it brief. This is a blog after all, not a novel, and no one really wants to really 1,000 words of my nonsense. Even I don't find myself that amusing. (Ok, maybe I do occasionally but I'll still try to keep it down.)

I'll start with who. That one is easy. That is me there dressed to rob banks....or go hunting....

Which leads to the what. I really wasn't robbing a bank or shooting stuff. I was riding my bike of course. Well, I mean obviously I wasn't riding right then, but I'd just finished riding in what were probably temps around zero degrees. It was a bit cold, in case you hadn't noticed.

When? Last Sunday, 2/22.

Where? Hillside Park Fatbike Fest.

Which of course gets us to why, which is where I'll have to try not to use my 1,000 words. Why exactly, was I dressed like this at a bike race? Let me try to explain. It was cold. Had I mentioned this? At the start line, I convinced my Partner in Crime (The PIC) to race two laps with me, even though it was her first fat bike race. This meant, of course, that I actually had to ride two laps in these crazy cold temps.

Normally two laps at Hillside wouldn't be that big of a deal, but when you choose to do it in zero-ish temps, things don't always work normally. For instance, less than an hour into the race, I managed to get my last sip of water before both my insulated bottle and my Camelbak (which was inside my jacket!) froze. Thankfully, The PIC's awesome hubby was out on the course in his sleeping bag and lawn chair and saved me from complete dehydration by supplying me with Chai tea and whiskey on lap two. (Never thought I'd use lawn chair, sleeping bag, Chai tea and whiskey in the same sentence.) However, despite how grateful I was for these treats, I was still forced to find alternate hydration by shoving snow in my face for the rest of the race. Again, this might not normally be that big of a deal, but it was so ridiculously cold that any snow that hit my face instead of my mouth immediately froze there, making some type of ice mask around my mouth.

Long story short, but the time I finished, my face was so numb I could barely talk and I sounded drunk, which I tried to explain to the awesome K Flanders at the finish as he fed me more whiskey. At some point I realized it was completely pointless to try to explain that I wasn't drunk while drinking whiskey so I gave up and went to the truck to change. Once there, I put on everything I could find, including my face mask and warmest hat. Then I went to the fire to beg The PIC not to hate me for talking her into this whole thing. She summed up the race nicely by explaining that she was questioning who she was on lap two. (I think that might mean she doesn't hate me, but I'm not sure. I guess we'll find out if she ever agrees to accompany me on an adventure again.)

Anyway, shortly after that conversation, The PIC and I got called up for our prizes and posed for pictures, after which I realized that I was still so cold I'd forgotten I was even wearing the mask. While I was making fun of myself for wearing it for the pictures, this lovely shot was taken and there you have it- my less than 1,000 word explanation for the creepy face mask.

Now, how many words do you think I might need to explain what J-Man is doing with the ketchup in this after-race party photo?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Merry Christentine's Day!

Since we celebrated Christmas in Costa Rica this year, we had to get creative on the gifts. Truth be told, I'd planned to give Big E all his gifts when we got home, but then I panicked on Christmas Eve and really wanted him to have something to open on the big day. I rummaged through my stuff to find something to wrap, came up with a Lake Superior magazine, put a note promising a fat-biking trip on the cover and WA-LA, instant last minute gift. Of course once we were home, we actually had to find a weekend we could both get away. Lucky for me it was Valentine's Day weekend so I somehow also managed to turn his Christmas present into a Valentine's Day present too. (Too bad his birthday is in June....)

With a little planning, I managed to find us a little cabin in the woods outside Marquette to add to the romanticness of the weekend. (Big E is pretending to gag right now.) We arrived to our romantic hideaway after a blizzard blew through on Thursday. Perfect timing for some fresh snow!
I gave it the thumbs up after I discovered I could ride my bike right off the front porch.
Friday proved to be a perfect day for riding. The ducks apparently thought it was a great day for swimming too.
 Of course we had some beautiful snowshoe groomed trails to ride, but that didn't stop us from exploring a bit off the beaten path.
We ended the day cheering on some sled dogs before the next blizzard rolled in.
We woke up to enough fresh snow and wind to delay our Saturday riding plans so we headed out for some snowshoeing. Or at least I thought we were going snowshoeing. Big E seemed to think we were going ice climbing.
 Of course, it would also not be a proper Big E adventure without a log crossing.
All of this adventuring of course made me very hungry for a picnic.
We did venture into town to test out the trails later in the day, but it turns out 40 mph winds and fresh snow make for a lot of push-a-bike.
(I swear I did actually RIDE that bike at some point.)

In an effort to get at least some pedaling in, I convinced Big E to ride on the roads near our cabin, because biking out in the open in 40 mph winds is always fun, right?!
Good thing we had a nice, romantic cabin with a fireplace to warm up in!

Thankfully the trail-grooming fairies were out Sunday morning so we actually got to pedal a bit before heading home.

Of course, we had to make a couple of detours on the way back so Big E could share some of his past adventures....
Hope you all had a happy Valentine's Day!
(You can stop gagging now, Big E!)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Soft Skin and 70's Pants

It's hard to believe four years have gone by since we lost this lovely lady. For some reason, when I write about her, I'm always drawn to a picture of her around this age. I'm not sure why. I can't possibly actually remember her when I was this young. Maybe it's because when I look in the mirror I see a lot of what she looked like at this age. Or maybe it's because since I don't actually remember the moments from the photos they are less painful to see. Or maybe it's because I was young enough to get to go without pants while my poor sister was subjected to the worst 70's prints known to man. Or maybe it's because in these pictures she's always holding me, which is quite comforting. Even if, as is obvious in this photo, she's holding me back, there's something comforting in remembering that.

For me, one of the hardest things that has happened since she's been gone is to slowly lose memories. One day I realized I didn't remember the sound of her voice. Another day, I forgot how she smelled. I still remember how she felt though, which is maybe why I find comfort in these pictures. She always had a way of being able to hold on to me in a way that didn't smother me, a way of making sure I knew she wouldn't hold on too long or too hard. Maybe all along she was trying to teach me how to let go. Who knows? All I know is, I'm happy to have that memory of how she felt. (She had the softest skin on the planet, in case you were wondering.)

Thanks Mom, for knowing when to hold me back...and when to set me free...(and for not letting me knock over my big sister's blocks because she probably would've pummeled me).

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Muddy Bikes and Dirty Coochies

It's a good thing I like mud because this happened during the race on Saturday:
In my opinion, the picture doesn't even do the situation justice. Why, you ask? Let me give you a few reasons.
  • You can't smell me. That there mud was Minnesota River Bottoms mud, which I'm pretty sure is at least 50% poop. Once it's on your face, that's all you smell for hours. Once it's all over you, it's all anyone smells for hours. (Or days, as I later discovered.)
  • You can't see the inside of my mouth, which was caked in mud that smelled like poop, which means I'm a bit worried about having contracted Giardia. 
  • You can't see inside my shorts, which were so full of mud I felt like I was racing in a dirty diaper, which I basically was since the mud was mostly poop. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it I guess) none of this was actually my own poop. Either way, I'm quite certain my coochie has never been that dirty before (hold your jokes, perverts) so I'm worried about contracting both Giardia and a UTI.
  • You also can't see my bike, most specifically the brakes on my bike, which with 4 miles left to go in the race became so caked in mud they quit working completely. Of course I discovered this as I attempted to make the 180 degree turn to come back to the finish. As you can imagine, that turn didn't go all that well. Neither did any of the rest of them, for that matter. Turns out, with no brakes your only chance of stopping is to Flintstone it, which is kind of amusing the first two times you have to do it. Then you realize Fred Flintstone must've had knees and ankles of steel to pull that off.  Great, Giardia, UTI and arthritis.
  • You can't tell from the photo that, for some reason, despite my fear of disease contraction, I choose to hang out with some cool people for the next 6 hours instead of going home to shower. (Don't worry, I did at least put dry clothes on, but trust me, those clothes were only clean for about 2 minutes once my dirty body [especially my coochie] touched them.) At some point during our discussion, we added the chance of ring worm and tetanus to my growing list of concerns.
  • My ponytail is not visible in the photo.  Ever biked in the mud with ponytail hanging down your back? For those of you that haven't, I can assure you that more mud ends up here than anywhere else. If you leave it on there for 6 hours, the smell will settle in for days. I discovered this the hard way when Big E returned home the next day. By then, I'd already had a shower and a bath. As we sat together talking, he decided he should shower too because he could smell his stinky feet. Shortly after, when he was fresh and clean, he gave me a big, clean, nice smelling hug. At least I thought it smelled nice. It was at this point that he informed me that it wasn't his feet that smelled like dirty feet, but it was, in fact, my head. Right about then I added lice to my list of potential diseases.....and then I took another bath and vowed not to let him smell my coochie for a few days. 
Of course, it was all worth it for fun times in the mud, even if I do smell a little. (Let's just hope I don't get Giardia because then I'll really be stinky.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ice Cream in the Bathtub

I feel the same way about New Year's resolutions as I do about bucket list items. They should just be happening every day. That said, I saw a little something that inspired me to try to at least approach life a little differently this year. If you don't want to take the time to read that "little something," or just can't handle the 100+ f-bombs it contained, here's a little summary:

We all need to learn to let some shit go so we can care more about the shit that really matters. (You're welcome, Pop, for keeping it to two swear words instead of 100.)

I'll be the first to fess up- I let stupid crap bother me all the time. It bothers me that I let stupid crap bother me because it wastes time I could be spending being bothered by really important crap, like whether or not my light will make it through a night ride alone when it's so cold my phone could stop working at any moment.
It bothers me because it wastes time I could be exploring and meeting strangers who show me eagle's nests I didn't know were so close to home.
It bugs the crap out of me because sometimes I miss stuff like this because I'm worried about something that really doesn't matter:
It irks me because sometimes I spend time worrying what someone I barely know thinks and forget that cool people like this are the ones that matter.

(If Big E would quit fooling around long enough to sit still his picture would be here too....)

It bugs me because sometimes I worry about ridiculous crap like keeping the bathroom spotless and forget to enjoy a little treat while I warm up.

So, there you have it- as close to a New Year's resolution as I'll ever get. I'm going to give less of a crap. And more of a crap. At the same time. You get the drift. Hopefully. And if you don't, well, I don't really give a crap.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pura Vida

My New Year's resolution should probably be to blog more, considering my lack of posts in the last two months. We shall see..

Nevertheless, 2014 ended well with a trip to Costa Rica, living the "Pura Vida" as the Ticos call it. It was a week of sun, beaches (and matching swimsuits), wildlife, awesome people and of course, lots of good fun.

I'll admit to slacking on the photo taking. I pretty much stored the phone in a drawer and turned myself off for the week, which meant I rarely had a camera. I won't complain. Tuning out for a week and living in the moment isn't such a bad thing.

So, sorry for the lack of photos of monkeys, toucans and crocodiles. They are stored in my brain. I did, however, break out my camera on the last day to capture this guy on film.
He and his 100's of buddies kept Big E entertained while I played in the surf. Yes, that's right, we spent a week with monkeys and exotic birds and we were fascinated for an entire morning by crabs on the beach...

Another highlight of our trip was, of course, the mountain biking. It's not often you get to rip around on singletrack above the beach. Thankfully, my fear of crashing and falling off a cliff didn't stop me from chasing Big E around for a few hours.

Although I didn't get to dive in the sea in the middle of the ride, we did get to end at the beach with a nice dip in the waves.

In the end, we got used to Tico time (much like Cali time), Tico distance (never believe anyone when they say it's "just 100m down the road"), and amazing fresh food (I can still taste the ceviche).

Of course, as is the case on most short trips, we finally figured out our way around right before we left. Guess that means we'll have to go back....
We even found a picture of my "other boyfriend" in the airport in Liberia,,,,

Friday, November 7, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse Day 2

Waking up the day of an ultra marathon is always a bit of a rude awakening. For me, there is simply no way to wrap my head around running more than 30 miles. So I don't, at least during the training. I put in the work, but when the work is done I try not to talk about it. When I'm running I run. The rest of the time I think about anything else. Of course, on race day it all hits home. Once the alarm goes off it's hard to ignore that there will be some serious running done today.

Waking up last Saturday after riding 110 miles was no different, except the very first thing I did was test out my legs. Are they going to work today? Can I even walk? A bit of a daunting question to be asking yourself on a day you're hoping to run over 50 miles....

Thankfully I could walk. I covered myself with compression tights and socks anyway. I'd learned in training that the worst part of running on tired and sore legs is the jiggling. With that in mind. I was determined to stop any and all jiggling. Today there would be NO JIGGLING. Well, at least until I got hot. Then I'd have to ditch the tights and accept a little jiggle.

At the race, I lined up with the other four girls who'd ridden 100 miles or more the day before. We were all hoping to run over 50 miles (we had to finish 8 laps to qualify for the Hall of Fame, which was about 52 miles) today. My goal, after watching her fluid stride on the LeMans start to the bike the day before, was to stay behind Fleet Feet. I know a good runner when I see one. I also know I don't need to race one in mile one of an ultra. So, Fleet Feet and I ran together from the start. I thought this was all fun and games. We were making friends and maybe we'd run together all day......

That was, until mile four when she said, "Well, you have a nice day!" and scampered off like we were running a 10k.

At the end of lap one, I made a quick pit stop and was quickly joined by Big Wheels, who'd pushed me for many laps on the bike the day before. I was happy to have someone to chat with again. I knew there would be plenty of solo time later. By the middle of lap two, I'd moved slightly ahead and that solo time had come.
Photo by Wes Peck
We started lap three this way, Fleet Feet, then me, then Big Wheels. Halfway through this lap, I had company again, this time from Video Guy, who'd stalked Zilla and I the day before hoping for good footage. When he asked about riding an extra lap the day before, I responded, for some ridiculous reason with, "Yes, I did and I'll run an extra lap today if I have to."

I have absolutely no idea why I decided to smack talk to the video camera less than three hours into a 12 hour race. The second it left my mouth I realized how ridiculous this was. The second it left my mouth I also realized this:

If I came through 8 laps with time to run one more lap and I still hadn't caught Fleet Feet, I would have to back that smack up by running one more lap. 

What had I done?

Photo by Wes Peck

The next five laps are pretty much a blur. I had to ditch the tights after lap three. I crossed paths with Fleet Feet on lap seven and discovered she was 10 minutes ahead. I pushed a bit to see if I could close the gap. When I realized that wouldn't happen, I just hoped I would finish lap eight in 10:15. I was hoping Fleet would stop after lap eight. If she did and I left myself 1:45 for the last lap, I knew I could savor it a bit, not have to rush and still take the win.
Photo by Wes Peck
I came through lap eight in 10:44. The race director gave me a high five, congratulating me on making the Undead Hall of Fame. As he did, the following conversation ensued:

Me: I'm doing one more lap.

Him: You're kidding.

Me: It's a twelve hour race right?

Him: Yes.

Me: Then I have time.

(Or least this is how I remember that conversation. However, since I'd just run 52 miles, I was probably delirious. In which case, I'm not sure if any of the rest of what I say here will be completely correct either, because I was probably delirious from then on.)

Lap nine was run in the dark. To be honest, I really just focused on keeping my shit together. I wanted that lap. I knew it might put me ahead. So I just kept moving.  I tried to savor each bit, reminding myself that this was the last time I'd run that section. With a mile to go, the course exited the woods onto a prairie. When I looked up I saw what my sister and I always called a "fingernail moon" and I remembered something I'd told myself for motivation earlier- that today I had the chance to run for 12 hours. Tomorrow it would be back to life, to work, to everyday worries, but today, today I would get to run for 12 hours. I'd hoped to use as much of it as possible, to squeak every last little bit out of myself. With just a mile to go and the moon to help light the way, I knew I'd done that.

I crossed the line in 11:51, with just nine minutes to spare. The photographer sat next to the line. I turned to him said what had been lingering in the back of my mind that entire lap.

"Please tell me she did not run another lap."

When he assured me that no, Fleet had not run one more lap, I walked into to warm lodge, confident I'd won. The race director was there, to shake my hand again, to congratulate me on my

second place.

Keep in mind here I'd just run over 58 miles. I'd run the last 6.5 thinking I might win if I could just reach the line. For one glorious minute I'd thought I had won.

Needless to say, there was a brief moment of disappointment when I realized that, on the start line I'd completely ignored the fact that this was more than just a race among the girls who'd ridden the day before. I'd failed to take notice of the other women who'd shown up to see how far they could run in 12 hours. One of those women not only ran faster than me, she also ran farther.

Of course, that disappointment was short lived. I'd still moved up into second by running that extra lap and even if I hadn't, the extra hour and thirty-some minutes to savor the day were worth it. 

As I attempted to move through the motions of post-race and discovered I could barely change my own clothes (I was literally naked in the bathroom, contemplating how I was going to get my pants on, when they started awards), I realized I'd literally left nearly every ounce of myself out on the course. On any race day, could I really ask for more?
Photo by Wes Peck
Well, except to live forever in the Undead Hall of Fame and make it into the race video.

Video by Caleb Kobilansky