Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The calm before the storm

I'm sitting in the rental house right now in Redondo Beach, throwing distance from the Pacific Ocean. Everyone staying at the house, which appears to be growing by the minute, is gone watching the first day of competition at the track. I opted to chill and enjoy a little beach air and relaxation before being stuck in a fish bowl in Carson. We've put in a couple of efforts at the track the past couple of days and tomorrow will be day one of some serious pedaling. I'm looking forward to it and expressing 110% of my ability. Team Pursuit and scratch races kick off the extravaganza.

More to come...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Let the Countdown begin...

It seems like during the past week, every minute has been accounted for in the count down to departure for LA. Wheels have been glued, trued, and pumped. Bikes have been polished, tweaked and loved. Skin suits washed and kits selected. Meetings attended, food consumed, rest and recovery put in the utmost priority.

Not to mention all of the prep time that's been put in at the track. The hours of sweat, lung pumping, leg screaming pain is about to be put on display while pedaling circles on an indoor track. No head winds to contend with, no rain clouds to dodge. No 98" gears.

It's all coming to a head starting next Thursday with Team Pursuit kicking off the action. We're ready, that's for sure.

For the first time in awhile - I'm getting nervous. I feel more prepared than ever before and can't wait to see what happens!

And to sweeten the deal? I had a dream encounter with Ryan the other night. He gave me the biggest, warmest smile and I remember thinking what a beautiful man he is.

After Nationals, Chris and I are headed on a road trip - Yosemite bound! A great way to celebrate some down time. Looking at doing Snake Dike on Half Dome....

Monday, September 21, 2009

15 Seconds of Fame

Got a call Saturday morning from Sena, a friend of Jonah and Annie's. Sena's employer is looking for someone with toned, athletic legs to ride a bike and be showcased in some upcoming secretive project. All I had to do is show up for the interview wearing shorts and let them film me. Oh if I get the job it pays $1,000 for one full day.

Sena text me the address and Sunday after our track workout I headed to said address on Capital Hill. The receptionist buzzed me in and then had me fill out a form with basic information but also included agent name, height, weight, bust size, shoe size, etc etc. Oh and I can include a head shot if I brought one.

Head shot?

Um, the last head shot I had was in boxing when some 14 year old kid threw and landed a devastating blow to my nose and ego.

The holding area, where a dozen or so interviewees sat looking the part was interesting. Apparently the company had contacted 3 casting agencies as well as ran an add in Craig List to get more participants. They were flooded. I ended up waiting about 40 minutes while a steady and constant stream of applicants came through. Luckily I had a book and was more than happy to sit on my duff trying to recover from our 2k pursuit efforts.

Finally my time was up to walk downstairs and do the screening. And that's where I ran into Sena, frantically working away on their project. She apologized for the delay and then I sat on a bench while waiting for my 15 seconds of fame.

I got to run in place and have a guy video me from left to right, and then a back profile. Then I ran on a tread mill for 10 seconds. And then they put me on someone's clunky mountain bike attached to a trainer for another 10 seconds. It was weird.

Next time I'm making some stuff up on my fact sheet - such as an agent. I could have put anyone down - so why didn't I get creative? And head shot? Would my face book photo work? Hopefully my legs did the talking and we'll be called back for the second screening....

Friday, September 18, 2009

Heavy Night

Every year the Rock and Reel film selections is shown at the Neptune on 45th. A nice group of climbing friends get together and go to dinner at Cedars before and then walk down to the movie and follow it up with beers at a pub. Ryan used to refer to these films as "rock porn" and anxiously would await their debut.

So last night after dinner, we sat upstairs and I only made it through 1.5 of the first two films. The first was a feature on a soloist who recently completed half dome, a 2,000 foot wall of sheer granite in Yosemite Valley. It is hard to even comprehend the enormity of the wall - unless you see it in person. And this kid decided to do it without a rope. There were some difficult moments in the film and as the audience nervously laughed at some of the jokes about certain death, I couldn't help but wonder if they were laughing for having not experienced losing a loved one. I also thought to myself, okay Jen. This is as in your face about soloing as it's going to get. You can do this. And I stayed in my seat as the credits rolled.

The second film, the one that sent me running out - was a film that hit even closer to home. It was about a couple who were madly in love. The had climbed some of the coolest stuff on the planet. You could see their happiness in every photo you viewed of them. And then one day, while driving down a road in Utah, Stanley lost control of his car and did several flips. Roberta died in his arms. At this point, I'm sitting there pretty numb. But then it starts to talk about his personal journey through the vortex of grief and how he finally felt prepared three years later to travel to Patagonia and scatter her ashes as a means to close the circuit.

And that's when I went numbly into the bathroom and let out loud, long sobs. I live with grief every day. To see it up front and personal and a reminder of the pain? A little to close to home. It really hasn't been that long.

Lincoln and Jonah were there for me when I came out of the bathroom, ready to leave and get out of there. We had only watched 20 minutes of a 3 hour movie. Talk about good friends. And as we sat around the table at the pub, discussing how bizarre it was to see that film and how close to home it was - Ai came strolling in. Turns out she couldn't take it either. After a few minutes of talking about it, we started to gross each other out with rat stories, daddy poop stories (courtesy of Jonah and Lincoln) and travels.

It was a heavy night.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Staying busy

If I sit idle for too long, my brain starts to wander and the ever-present grief starts to wade back up to the surface. I've found the best thing to do is to stay busy. Apparently that need has amplified this week as I find some usually neglected house chores can be checked off my list. I mean seriously - who cleans their gutters BEFORE it starts raining? And getting the hot tub ready for the cold season? Trimming down the ivy hedge and taking out lots of Goodwill items?

I suppose it just goes to show I'm trying to actively deal with the grief then let it settle back in. Those days are unavoidable, to be sure. But I'm trying to save them for when the weather turns crappy.

After the big push for Nationals I'm really looking forward to doing some hikes, climbs and fishing. Fall is such a beautiful time of year to reconnect with family and friends - something I've certainly neglected doing the past several months.

It's also time to start planning some adventures and traveling to places. Anyone got any trip ideas coming up?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Last time before Nationals",

Jennie encourages me before my last set of VO2 efforts.

"Last chance to get strong."

And as I rode one of the most solid and consistent over-paced and over-geared efforts, I couldn't agree with her more. I'll try to paint the picture for you.

First you start the first lap from a medium paced roll and sprint up to get on top of the gear for the first lap. The second lap you're supposed to settle into a pace you can sustain for 4 more laps but they way I've been tackling them has been at light speed. That second lap can make or break the entire effort. Too fast and you fade hard in the end. Not fast enough and you try to make up the time in the proceeding laps. But since it's such a short effort (2k) it is critical you nail every aspect of the effort. And doing that at Marymoor can be a crap shoot. Some days are windy, some days are hot or cold and then there's the goose poop to contend with.

But today - well today was shocking. I went into the session calm and relaxed. I dialed in my food today and it showed. My times today were faster than our team pursuit efforts. I bettered my time from last week by over a second per lap.

It's definitely safe to say I'm ready for Nationals. The prep work is nearly complete and in two weeks we head down to LA to win a stars and bars jersey. I'm excited and stoked to express 150% of my ability.

As Jennie would say, "LOOK OUT!"

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

First Year.

Whew. What a weekend.

Through constant thoughts of Ryan, tears shed, laughter shared, food consumed, IPA's tipped - we all survived. Not only did we make it but we did so in style and celebrated the inspiring life of a man who touched so many lives and lives on in the spirit of many, many people. (And dogs too! (That was for Makiah, Riley Jean, Nissa, and Fay-dog.))

The anniversary date of Ryan's death has been looming on my mind for the past several months. As the world kept spinning, I found myself trying to figure out the best and appropriate way to commemorate him. I asked several people - blank looks. I turned to the Internet and surprisingly found little to no information on death ceremonies. Why is death so taboo? Especially in our culture? I mean it happens to everyone - so why don't we deal with it upfront more?

Needless to say, I was on my own.

Trish (Ryan's mom) has been feverishly working on a tribute art show for Bubba. Friday was the opening show at the Blue Horse Gallery. Up until that point I had only seen small thumbprints of the work. And when I walked into the room and my eyes settled on a 48" x 76" piece she did at the base of Goat Wall in such amazing detail and color with such emotion and love I started weeping. Weeping at viewing the pains that she has struggled with the past year since losing her son. Weeping that Molly lost her brother. Weeping that such a beautiful painting could make you almost fall to your knees in astonishment. And that was just the first painting.

As I slowly circled the room, absorbing the enormity of her work while being intercepted by close friends and family, it re-affirmed that all this time I've been struggling, so has she. I feel like words don't do her art show justice. You have to see it in person. You must see it in person. The show will be up until September 25th.

That night we gathered across the street with dear friends and tipped several IPA's back. You could feel Ryan there - in his element around his friends and loved ones. We nearly shut the bar down.

Saturday morning was a little fuzzy so the drive East over Highway 20 was a little rough. Not to mention we had 3 adults in my Golf with way too much gear, food and dog. The plan was to convene with several friends at 20 Skyline in Mazama and hang out. We hung out at Lincoln, Shelley, Jonah and Annie's rental just down the development and simply enjoyed each others company. They had rented the same cabin 2 years prior on the same weekend- and it was the perfect gathering place. Especially considering the cold fall weather encompassing all of the valley.

By Sunday, more and more people had showed up. By Monday morning, Trish, Tom, Dave, Kristin and Heidi showed up. We had 20 or so people in all. Amazing that all these people would take time out of their busy lives to celebrate Ryan. Just shows what kind of guy he was and who he attracted.

Both nights I had trouble sleeping. Grief was ripping through my body. I'd try to sleep and couldn't stop thinking about him. All of the memories I have with him suddenly flooded my brain. It was as though my brain decided to start taking inventory of our life together. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and it took me a couple of hours to fall back asleep. By Monday morning, I was fried. But I was also ready.

Close to 11 am, we all convened at the parking area for Goat Wall and started the strenuous hike up to the base of Prime Rib, the climb Ryan was on. It was hard. Several times I had to stop just to collect myself from sobbing. Everyone took their time getting up to the ledge at the base. Trish and Tom were the last to arrive. Tom read a poem written for Trish that was read at the art show. And then I brought out Ryan's ashes. We passed them around for everyone to get a handful of. To feel him one last time in our hands. And then we released them at the same time.

Although I cried A LOT that day, after ward and during - once I had scattered his ashes at the base of the climb surrounded by our dear friends and family - I felt at peace. I know I still have grief to go through and there will be bumps and setbacks in the road, to make it to the first year mark and have everything come together was perfect. I guess then I realized some things you shouldn't plan for - and that dealing with death is very personal and individual but it certainly helps to share experiences with loved ones. Thank you to each and everyone of you who have helped me in the journey to get to this point - you all mean so much to me.

So if you haven't already - make sure that you drink an IPA soon in honor of Ryan and living life to the fullest. Rest in peace Bubba. I love you.

Friday, September 04, 2009

And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly.

Our senses, restored, never to be the same whisper to us.

They existed. They existed.

We can be. Be and be better.

For they existed.

- Maya Angelo

Thursday, September 03, 2009

This is just way too funny not to re-post. As seen on the American Alpine Institute Blog. Make sure you watch the videos in order...

Captain Kirk likes to climb mountains.

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie starts with Captain Kirk most of the way up a free solo ascent of El Capitan. Of course, Spock has to mess things up by showing up in his jet boots.

We've posted this clip in the past, but we've never had William Shatner's commentary on the scene before. It's pretty funny. William Shatner is clearly not a climber.

So before we look at Mr. Shatner's comments on climbing, we have the scene from Star Trek V to refresh your memories:

This is the clip where William Shatner explains that mountain climbers like to hug and make love to the mountain:

And this is the remix of the clip fashioned as a musical.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009


We planted two Filbert trees in our front yard several years ago. They were a gift from Tom and Trish - a couple of starters from their beautiful tree. We planted them on either side of the front yard.

A couple of years have passed and one tree is quite large - even producing nuts this year. The other tree is withering and nearly dead. This last year it really took a turn for the worse and I can't help but draw parallels between our two lives.

Tomorrow is our 8th wedding anniversary. This is the song we danced to so blissfully at our larger than expected wedding. And listening to it now rips my heart in half. I didn't think it was possible to miss someone this much.

Every time I listen to it, it transports me into your arms on our wedding day. By your side.

10 pounds for $10 - organic peaches at QFC. They're the size of my head and they're amazing!