Monday, December 26, 2011

Gracie's New Wheels

I'm gonna admit, I was a little wary when my Christmas gift came with the disclaimer, "You have to give part of this back." 

The wariness became complete confusion when I opened the bag and the first thing on top was a hole saw.....especially since up until that moment I had never seen a hole saw. The confusion didn't really subside when I pulled a punch out of the bag. I still had no idea what was going on. 

Of course then I saw the bright blue Surly rim strip and it all made sense. Gracie was getting some new wheels for Christmas! Better yet, I got to spend the whole day helping. (If you can call incessantly babbling while Santa did all the work helping.....)

We started off in my apartment, but after one hole we realized I'd never be able to walk barefoot in there again if we drilled 59 more.
So we moved Santa's workshop outside and hoped the neighbors didn't come home and want to park.
We finished wheel one in the daylight,
but then the drill needed to charge so poor Santa had to finish up in the dark. Good thing El Jefe gave me a headlamp for Christmas!
Gracie loves her new kicks! So do I since they make the bike feel 5 lbs lighter..... Now it will be easier to chase Santa around on his sleigh!

Don't worry- I gave the hole saw back and cleaned up the mess in the neighbor's parking spot....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

No Sled, No Problem

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” 
-Thornton Wilder

The holidays have been a little rough this year. There's been a lot of "new" in my life all at once. Not that new is a bad thing, but new anything is sort of like new jeans- it takes some time before they're comfortable. So while I'm breaking in and getting used to all the new, I find solace on the bike or running. This morning was no different. I headed out to practice some cyclocross skills. At some point I got distracted and just started playing around on my bike instead. Of course then I realized that there are a millions things in my life to smile about......

Friday, November 18, 2011


I've learned a little something about myself doing cyclocross.

What I lacked in coordination....

I make up for in persistence. 

Just when the bruises to my ego start to match the ones on my arms, legs and ass, I figure out how to do something new. That always makes it worth it. 

Live, Laugh Ride!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Go About Your Way

My dad sent me a copy of a sermon yesterday. He's done this before and while I always read them, I'm not necessarily always moved or inspired by them. This one got to me though. I'd just had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with a friend about people who "change the world" and how neither of us was particularly inspired to do this. Neither of us was quite sure how riding our bikes all the time was really changing anything.

So yesterday I got the sermon from dad's pastor, Stephen McConnell, and in the middle it said this:

Did you know that you have a way about you? For better or for worse, you have a way about you. And this way you have about you...tells people, whether you like it or not, what you think is most important. The things you say, the time you spend, the emails you write, the items you spend your money on, how you parent or don't parent, the way you relax- it all makes up your way. It's the one thing you cannot deny.

Did you you know that the thing that will most outlast you about your way.   Your way is the most lasting thing about you. For better or for worse. How you go about your life.

By your way you are making an indelible impression upon the lives that surround you.

So basically he's saying we all change the world, in some way.  Sure there are people who affect thousands of lives all at once by donating money or serving food to the homeless, but is that any more important than quietly changing the life of one friend by picking them up when they're down? Or is it any more important than putting a smile on a stranger's face because you took the time to talk to them while you waited in line at the grocery store?

So, to that friend who wondered if riding his bike so much really helped him changed the world, consider this...... You once picked me up at the airport in the middle of the night. The next morning when you found me in bed feeling sorry for myself, you rolled me up in the covers, dumped my ass on the floor and made me get up and start the day. You once went mountain biking with me in the rain. When I insisted on trying the same corner over and over, you stood there in the rain encouraging me. Later when I pretty much pitched a fit because I never got the corner, you somehow convinced me to suck it up and get back on the bike. Your way has slowly worn off on me and become part of my way. Because of that, I'm a little bit tougher, a lot more focused and much happier.

Any of you reading this have probably affected me with your way as well. For that I have to say thank you.

Now go about your way and enjoy the day.....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Every day I count wasted in which there has been no dancing.  Nietzsche

I'll admit I'm not that much of a dancer, (unless there's tequila involved) but I'm thinking Nietzsche didn't technically mean dancing. I'm thinking maybe I can interpret "dancing" as "celebrating life." To me, that means getting my butt off this chair and onto my bike because although it's only 35 degrees and I'm not all that motivated, I know I'll get to see something like this:

So I'm off to "dance" my way around a few lakes, up a few hills and through a few trees.....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How Old Are YOU?

El Jefe asked me this week if I felt 40. (I'm pretty sure this was supposed to be a prelude into a conversation about how my 16-year-old-boyish belching at work is inappropriate.) I said no, although I'm not sure if that's really true, because I don't really know what 40 is supposed to feel like. He got me thinking though, about what it is that keeps me feeling young. Right now, it's cyclocross racing because, really, who could feel old when they're riding their bike in circles in the dirt, jumping over stuff and running through sand. The only way it could get better would be if we could do it barefoot.

They even let us do fun stuff while the fast guys are racing, like hide money in beer cans to see if they try to pick it up while running up the hills. 

The answer to that is yes. It took awhile though to get someone to pull this one out of my hat.

The crowd tried to explain that I'd have better luck if I put the dollar somewhere else. I refused, saying, "If a guy is going to take a dollar out of my clothing, he has to at least look at my face." That's bullshit though. I just didn't want to admit that if I tried to put a dollar in my cleavage it would end up at my feet. (Sorry Pop- at least I did the respectable thing, even if it wasn't for the respectable reason.) 

That said, here's one of my favorite quotes. 

Youth is not a time of life, it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigour of the emotions....Youth means predominance of courage over timidity, of adventure over the love of ease....We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul....You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hopes, as old as your despair.    B. Ullman

Just think how young we'd all feel if everyday we let go of just a little bit of doubt, despair or fear and replaced it with a little hope.....

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's About Time!

My pop sent me an email saying he'd read my whole blog. Well then, I guess I'd better get on with it and write some more.

A quick run down on the summer:

1- I brought truth to the "If you ain't first you're last" theme of my last post by managing to somehow spend the entire summer alternating between first place and nearly last place in my races. Funny thing I realized- first and last don't really feel all that different if you put it all on the line.

2- I finished out the summer in the "chalet" in the woods and then moved to the city. The dichotomy that became my racing season also seemed to transfer over to my life....

3- I actually had a job this time when I moved, which is a step up from the last three moves. I did, however, sell all my furniture again. Don't worry- I kept the giraffe. My new boss, aka El Jefe, found it quite amusing that I arrived with a 6 foot tall giraffe and no furniture.

4- I proved, yet again, why owning a mini-van is so practical. All I own, including 6 bikes, made it to MN in one trip. I've also proven that the mini-van works quite well for weeding out men who care way too much about what a girl drives......  Hmmmm, maybe my dad gave me this van for a reason.....

So- after almost exactly a year in one of my favorite places on earth, I'm on to the next new adventure. My high school English teacher once told me that if you were truly adaptable you could live anywhere. Life is what you make it - so here's to making it one big adventure in Minneapolis.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

If You Ain't First You're Last!

I came in last in my first off-road duathlon. Really, I did. 

I was also first and second. 

Go ahead- try to figure that one out........

Ok, fine, I'll help you out. I won my age group. I was also the second woman. 

Unfortunately, there were only two of us. So I was last. 

Just in case you were wondering- coming in last is humbling even when there are only two people. 

I was going to give you my list of amazing excuses for not winning. Then I realized the things I was going to use for excuses were the reason I got my butt kicked in the first place. The fact of the matter is- I thought I was more amazing than I was. I thought I could go race my mountain bike for the first time on a trail I didn't know and actually win. I never considered that everyone else was going to ride faster. I wasn't mentally prepared to have grandpas (sorry all you fast g-pas out there) pass me. When they did- I didn't suck it up and ride faster. I slowed down and waited for the run because it's where I'm comfortable. 
Except running isn't so comfortable when you're trying to pass back the 100 people who just kicked your ass on the bike. Even if some of them are grandpas. And especially when you really have to pee.

After the race, I told my aunt this one was harder than the 50 miler. I know that's a bit of a stretch, because obviously the 50 miler was physically harder. This one was a mental battle though and those are harder to get past. If you're unhappy with how fast you run, it's pretty simple- you train harder. Unfortunately, emotions and thoughts are harder to train. Or at least I think they are, but maybe that's my problem........ 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


This is for D, because she thinks I don't blog anymore. Just for her, my longest post ever. Now send me some chocolate, woman!

I did my first ultramarathon, 50 miles worth, a few weeks ago. I’d like to say the day was perfect, mostly because it ended perfectly. I thought I would finish and say, “I never want to do that again.” Instead, I finished and said, “I cannot wait to do that again.” I blocked out the uncomfortable parts, temporarily thinking the whole day felt amazing.

It wasn’t until the 14 hour drive home the next day that I thought back to the first 25 miles. Quite frankly, if I’m being honest, some of those miles sucked. The first few weren’t bad. In fact, I generally went through the motions of the first 14, probably because it was still before 8 am and I was half asleep. I do recall a guy at mile four, who was walking up a slight incline, saying as I ran by, “The race doesn’t start until mile 40.” I remember thinking that he had a point there, but at the same time wondering how much fun he could possibly have if he was this worried about mile 40 when we were only at mile 4.

Somewhere around mile 15 I rolled my ankle. Then I added a ½ mile to the day by venturing off course. Three or four miles later, when we’d been hiking, scrambling and trying to run uphill for what felt like hours, the guy in front of me must’ve sensed my frustration. He encouraged me, filling me in on a hint that the second half of this course was easier than the first. (This was only partly true, but I believed him so that’s what matters!) A few minutes later, we crested a hill and he said, “These are the best views you’ll get all day. Take it all in because this is why we are here.” We paused for a few moments simply to enjoy it.

A few miles later, we came to an aid station. I was still frustrated with my pace, but when a volunteer told me I was in 7th place, I was buoyed by the hope that I might be able to get into the top five. I refueled quickly and moved on.

A few miles later, I ran side by side with Alex, who I’d met early in the race. We started to chat. I laughed a few times and he pointed out that if I felt this good now, I was probably going to do really well. Right then, everything seemed to change. We ran together for a few miles, catching up to some other runners we’d been with earlier. When we ran by Scott, who’d been behind me when I rolled my ankle, he yelled, “This girl is one tough cookie,” and I was motivated even more. The group of us helped each other stay on course for a few more miles. As we approached the next aid station, I sensed the pace slowing and knew I had to keep moving on my own.

I came into the aid station before mile 28 feeling awesome. Volunteers filled my bottles, handed me my bag of supplies and helped me move on quickly. I was disappointed a mile later to discover I couldn’t stomach any solid food, but I kept up with Gu and water and decided not to worry. I moved through most of the next 5 or 6 miles alone. Eventually, I caught up to another woman. The chance to move up in place after hours alone lifted my spirits. I passed through the next aid station and another 5 or 6 miles in a groove. I felt good. I was smiling. I was confident.

When I got to the bag I had stashed at mile 40, I did the opposite of what I had planned. I thought I would get here and need food or new shoes or Bandaids. Although in hindsight I really could’ve used those bandaids, I really didn’t need a thing. So instead of taking anything out of the bag, I took my Fuelbelt off  and put it in. I realize this could’ve backfired. I could’ve gotten lost or hit the wall and been stuck walking for hours. At the time though all I could think was, “I’m ready to race and this thing is holding me back.” After all, there were two more aid stations and my stomach felt pretty full already.

The next 7 miles were not easy. The “easier” part of the second half of the race was over. Fortunately, my mind and body were, for the most part, fine with this. When I reached the aid station near mile 44, one of the volunteers commented that I must be having a good day to ditch my belt. A mile later, while scrambling up a steep gully, I passed another woman. When I reached the top, I thought I might get a nice easy run down the other side. I was disheartened when I discovered it would be one of the trickiest descents of the day. I remembered what Alex had told me earlier, that the girls at the front were incredibly good technical runners. I was worried that the one I’d just passed on the way up was one of those good technical runners and would pass me right back.

As I picked my way through the rocks on the way down, I started to talk to myself. Over and over, I kept saying the same thing. “I just want to run. I just want to run. I just want to run.” I was 46 miles in and all I wanted, more than anything, was to run. I didn’t want it to be over. I didn’t want anything to eat. I just simply wanted to run. I was tired of moving slow.

At mile 47, I grabbed a quick snack and drink, not willing to spend too much time for fear I’d be passed. The last 3 miles were mostly downhill with good footing and I finally got my chance. I got to run. They were my fastest three miles of the day. When I crossed under the tunnel not far from the finish, I knew I was almost done. I wanted to slow down so I could enjoy it just a little longer, but I couldn’t hold myself back. I kicked it in, just so I would know I gave it everything I had.  Minutes later, I could barely walk. Hours later, strangers had to help me on and off the shuttle bus to my car.

When I had time to reflect, I decided that I hope that my life takes a similar path to this race. I hope I have the foresight to find the balance between remembering I have a long life to live and enjoying the moment. I hope, when the tough times come, there’s someone there to remind me that at some point it will get easier. By all means, I hope everyone around me reminds me to stop once in awhile and enjoy the view. I do hope though, that I always have the confidence to venture off on my own when I need to. I hope that the second half is easier than the first, with a few challenges thrown in along the way. It never hurts to be kept on my toes. I hope that when I’m 80 percent through I’m still so ready to take it all on that I lighten my load, speed the heck up and beg for an open stretch on which to run. When I get it, I hope I remember to go right ahead and use up every little last bit of myself enjoying the homestretch.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


A half an hour earlier, I was sitting in that chair, painting that bookshelf. I went inside for a shower. I was standing in the kitchen making dinner when I heard something hit the side of the house. I looked out the window and the tree was on the ground two feet away. The other half of the trunk landed an inch from the front of my van.

Somedays are lucky.

Of course, I'm sure the landlord doesn't think it was his lucky day since now he has to fix the roof and the deck, but hey, it was mine so I'll just be thankful for that!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bed and Breakfast

Warning: There's  picture of a dead squirrel so be fairly warned before you scroll down!

Last night was my first night in the new place. I got a big dose of Northern MI kindness when the landlord offered to help me move my sofa, bed and Wally. At the moment that's all the furniture I own so moving wasn't really all that difficult. Although we did look a bit like Sanford and Son on the way to the

In case you were wondering, yes, that's a water-ski tow rope. Hey, whatever works.

I'll be honest, I liked this place so much when I first saw it, I didn't even really bother to check out the details. Thankfully there were no huge surprises. There's a bathroom. There's hot water. The best surprise, in fact, was this:

I'll never need to look for a bottle opener as long as I live here! I decided to call the place The Man-Chalet after I found it, because clearly a man remodeled this place. Or lived here before me. Or  both. 

Surprise number two came this morning. The sun woke me up, which is a good thing, because it meant  it was too quiet for anything else to wake me. I walked out on the front porch to find this:
I burst out laughing. The landlord has been telling me about this flying squirrel that was causing some ruckus up in the roof while he was fixing the place up. He was determined to catch the thing so it wouldn't run around in my roof all night. Of course he's been trying to catch it for weeks and it finally takes the bait on my first night! Poor little guy appeared to just sort of fly right into the trap. Good thing I've been well conditioned to tolerate rodents after my stint in the rat shack years ago:
Although I'll admit I'm sort of hoping we're done killing things on my front porch for awhile. I prefer bacon for breakfast, thank you. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Livin' the Dream

If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you. I came to live out loud. Emile Zola

Finding the words to start the blog back up again has been difficult. As most of you already know, my mom was hit by a truck and killed while riding her bike in January. I've done a lot of writing since then, but when it came to the blog, it was hard to find a way to go from a blog post that said, "I came to live out loud," to one where I write about my mom dying. 

I knew the words would come at some point and today they did. Most days I do pretty well, but today was a rough one. I spent the morning hitting up garage sales looking for furniture for my new place. From out of nowhere it hit me-  

My mom will never get to see my new place. 

A friend who lost her mom years ago told me that "firsts" will be the hardest. The first Mother's Day. The first Christmas. The first new anything. 

My tactic on the rare rough day is this: find a way, any way, to embrace the sadness, then let it go and move forward. Today my way was this: I remembered what my dad said about the day she died. He said she was singing while she got ready to ride her bike because she was so happy to go enjoy the sunny day. 

Simply put, she was living out loud. 

So, I'd better get on with it then and get back to some noisy living too. Next week, I move into this place:

Ski and run trails out the back door. A short walk to the beach. A bike path out front. When I sent a friend the pictures, his response was, "Living the dream." 

So here's to living the dream. Out loud.