Monday, January 31, 2011


Timing is everything.

On a recent flight, I was in the dreaded last priority seating to board the plane. Seat 29C, the back of the bus. The flight was full, the over head bins crammed to max capacity and my eyes and body groggy from a way too early wake up call. I see an empty seat in the back of the plane with my name on it. The guy sitting in the middle seat is wedged in there - and not because he is over weight by any means, but because he is a large man. Funny, the sardine section in the back of the plane uncomfortably seats anyone over 5'9". He's probably 6'4"?

Despite my weariness, we strike up a conversation. Turns out this guy could be my long lost brother. He works in a family run business, traveling North American installing telecommunication infrastructure. We're the exact same age. We're both middle children. We both tore our ACL's in high school, see the world through a glass half full perspective and pretty much hit it off. The topper though came when the flight attendant gets on the intercom and tells people that the seat belt sign is still illuminated for our "safety and comfort". His response? Why is everybody so concerned about our "safety and comfort?" Why are there so many rules? And rules on rules? And rules on top of rules on top of rules?

My eyes lit up, I looked right at him and asked, "you break the rules too?" Oh, yeah. Brother! It's so good to run into you!

Turns out in a world full of people, there are others out there who think like you, act like you, and break the rules too. The trick is just timing running into them. Good luck at your next project Nick!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


About two and a half years ago, my friend Adrian came over and cooked me a Hungarian dinner. It was shortly after Ryan had passed and I was still extremely numb. As we sat at my dining room table, Adrian's eyes glanced around and he innocently asked, "what are you going to do with all of this stuff?"

What was I going to do with all of that stuff?

At the time, I did nothing. I let it sit, accumulate dust and clutter my living space. I got so used to its presence and living amongst it that it was easy to ignore. Other things demanded my time - and I was happy to put dealing with "stuff" on the back burner. I also didn't have an ounce more of energy to put into simplifying things.

The orphan sock pile grew. The stacks of read Climbing, Bicycling and Rock & Ice magazines grew. The opening of my guest bedroom closet door meant taking your life into your hands with odds and ends flying out. My bookshelves were filled to the brim - and threatened to collapse under the weight of more stuff piled on top.

Yet I continued to ignore it. And it continued to grow.

Life on the road this past fall and early winter created a sense of clarity and wisdom. It felt great to travel light, bringing the minimal amount of stuff and ditching the rest. A light bulb went off - and when I finally got some down time at home this January, I knew it was time. I got rid of the orphans. I recycled the stacks of magazines. I sold things, I took piles and piles of things to goodwill. My rule of thumb? If I haven't touched it in the past six months, it's time to go. And if I had a house fire and everything burned to the ground - what things would I miss? That's what I kept.

After 10 years of living in my house, my bedroom is exactly how I want it. The walls don't have a single photo hanging from them. My closet only contains clothing I wear. My bedside table has the current book I'm reading, my journal, lamp and alarm clock. Nothing else. And it feels amazing.

This detachment from material possessions is a challenging but rewarding exercise in letting go of things and acceptance. I wonder if this personal growth and returning back to basics is part of the process - part of the healing. And boy, oh boy does it feel good.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Face plants are good for the soul

On Saturday, my Hagens Berman teammates Liz, Julie, Ali and I, headed up to the Mt. Baker ski area to access incredible back country skiing. We got an early start of 12:30pm, and proceeded to skin up near the Heather Meadows day lodge. The visibility was something to be desired - with white outs fading in and out of view. We skinned up (for those who aren't familiar - you put on a directional skin on the bottom of your ski, allowing you to hike uphill and not slip backward) for about an hour before stopping and eating a bite. Meanwhile, Mt. Baker faded in and out of breath taking view and reminding us that we are mere ants in the grand scheme of things.

After lunch, we skinned a little higher and then scouted the best line we could given the flat light. Liz opted for the straight down, aggressive line while the rest of us bailed and took the sissy way out. As soon as we traversed the sketchy part, the bowl opened up and had awesome powder turns. I went second, and as luck would have it, started windmilling, nearing staying up right and then took a dramatic face plant whilst giggling the entire way. I knew it was going to happen - it was just a matter of time. And still chuckling from my blunder, traveled about 10 more feet down, I ate it again. Thankfully the pow-pow provided a soft pillow and I was happy to refresh myself with some snow in my jacket, glasses, hat, and pants. Good times! I'm still laughing about it.

The truth of the matter is - face plants are good for the soul. And it also means I was trying hard. Ha!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A series of firsts.

Caution: this might spark a tear or two.

As the eve of the new year (2011) drew near, I regretted its promise of a new beginning. Truth be told, 2010 was unreal for me. I felt like I made some real progress not only in the cycling sphere, but also in my personal well being. I felt a huge momentum building, strength summoning and good karma building to unprecedented heights. How could I possibly beat that?

This morning, during my normal routine, a huge smile spread across my face with the realization that 2011 is indeed already better than 2010. Sure I haven't accomplished my cycling goals (yet!), but I realized more than anything it's your attitude that counts. You choose what attitude you have each day. And realizing this power and optimism is such a gift.

Okay, so why the recent gush?

This past weekend I visited my cabin in Mazama for the first time by myself, ever. It has taken me two plus years to summon up enough strength and energy to go out there solo. I've been out there, don't get me wrong. And I've created wonderful new memories spent skiing on world class cross country terrain, climbing at the North Cascades, pedaling up the highway and zooming down it. But I've always had someone accompany me. That is, until last weekend.

Driving up to Lost River past Goat Wall still pulls at my heart strings, but not with the ferocity it first did.

The day after Ryan died, I had to go into the cabin and collect his things. I took a mental picture of the way things were - and left his red coat hanging on a coat rack. It has remained there ever since. It's a reminder of the way things were and the man that once wore it. Yet, this past trip I decided it was time. It was time to move the painful visual reminder that does nothing to fill the empty gap in my heart that will always be there for him. Call it a sign of acceptance or a symbolic act of moving on in my life, but I moved it. And I cried my eyes out.

The next day it poured. 33 degrees and miserable. My cabin is small - roughly 12'x12'. I had watched all of my movies, wrote as much as I could, read, slept, ate - and got bored. Extremely bored. So I decided to pack up and drive home. I was fueled by the mission of repainting my bedroom. I have been thinking about it for months, possibly years? Who knows when you don't keep track of time sometimes. Yet the simple act of moving the coat started a momentum. That night I cleaned out my bedroom and prepped it for a new coat of paint.

I've been in a simplify stage in my life - if you haven't used it in 6 months, then it's time to pass it on. A lot of the things I've held onto since we first moved into the house ten years ago. Getting rid of things and releasing the material power they once held is an amazing feeling. Sometimes you have to clean out that emotional baggage as well.

Again, back to this morning. I suppose more than anything, I feel like a momentum has started. And it's building strength in many ways and my eyes are wide open to its experience.

I can change...

Alright, if you haven't bought the LCD Soundsystem album yet - here's one more that will convince you.

Again, listen to it really really loud.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


You know that training thing? That kept me busy for 20 hours a week, and then off my feet for the remainder? Turns out when you don't train that much you don't eat as much and you have A LOT more time on your hands. (Not to mention the grocery bill savings!)

And what do you do with that much more time on your hands? Tend to the normal stuff... find new iTunes, clean out your basement, wax skis, visit your cabin and do some updating, skate ski for 30k without stopping, oh and paint your bedroom while listening to said iTune updates REALLY REALLY loudly. No rest for the wicked, eh?

New favorites: LCD Soundsystem, Massive Attack, Adele, People Under the Stairs.

Oh but it feels good, really good to stop talking about something and just doing it. No more thinking, just implementation. Good bye dark purple bedroom. To think - Ryan and I painted it that color 10 years ago at 22... time for some updates, that's for sure. Plus what else am I supposed to do with all this energy and that many dark hours?

It sure did help to have two people. It takes me twice as long, but oddly I'm okay with that. Maybe those paint fumes are starting to get to me.

Turn it up.

And at about 3:10 or so into it, you'll find out why. :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stick with it - it starts to get good about a minute in...

Dog Dog Dog

On Monday night, I let Makiah lick up my salsa covered plate. She silently pleads to do the clean up, after every meal, by positioning herself in the kitchen so she doesn't appear to be blatantly begging, but close enough to remind me that she's there. I had just smacked down on some salsa covered portobello mushrooms and chuckled to myself as she started to realize what she had eaten was a tad spicy for her pallet.

Then later that night, 2 am to be exact, I woke up with her next to me, coughing up a storm, ready to wretch. Pay back for laughing at her salsa blunder, to be sure. I hustled her outside so my cleanup would be less - only to have her come back in and continue coughing. I called the vet the next day and set up an appointment for the following day. We're not talking a normal cough - this was a deep cough I hadn't heard before. Is she allergic to salsa?

She continued to hack sporadically throughout the day, but otherwise appeared fine.

That night, around 2am, her cough worsened as she coughed for a solid hour straight. Panicked, I called the ER vet up the street and decided to take her in. There was only one problem - it was snowing and the streets were covered in snow. So we walked up to the vet. Makiah happily bounded along - so I knew it probably wasn't something super serious.

The vet wanted me to do a slew of blood tests - ranging from $850 to $1,600. What?! For a cough? I started asking questions. Turns out the "tests" would not be able to further determine if she has kennel cough or not - but it will rule out cancer. And her white vs. red cell blood count. What the vet neglected to tell me where the symptoms of kennel cough, treatment, or other potential problems. Not once did she mention that congestive heart failure is another known result from coughing (something I knew from our old dog, Peaches the toy poodle). But she did explain to me that they do all of the blood testing in house and I'll know results within 35-45 minutes. How convenient.

I asked for some antibiotics and decided to follow up with my regular vet in a week if she doesn't show signs of improvement, still spending $270. As it turns out, Riley (Tom and Trish's dog) came down with the cough as well and they think they got it from a neighbor dog Riley and Makiah were playing with over the holidays.

Although disappointed by the answers the clinic provided, or didn't provide for that matter, I am thankful they were open in the middle of the night and within walking distance. But it's also a reminder that you have to be on your toes in all scenarios to avoid being taken advantage of! Sheesh!

Oh, and no more salsa for the dog dog dog.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Make it count.

Last Sunday I caught some amazing coverage of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City on Universal Sports. (This is one example of where social media kicks ass.... Joe Holmes tweeted about the awesome coverage and I in turn, tuned in.) The coverage focused on human interest stories that the games provide. A sure fire way to make the public believe in the beauty of the games and athletic perseverance, while overshadowing the obvious commercialism. But that's a topic for another day.

The story that really tugged on my heart strings was about Italian Nordic skier, Stefania Belmondo. She had won gold in the Albertville 30km Olympic game in 1992, had foot surgery that kept her from competing for four months and then came back ten years later to win gold in the 15km in Salt Lake City.

The coverage was riveting. Stefania was not favored in the 15km race. But she went head to head with Yuliya Chepalova of Russia and Kateřina Neumannová of Czechoslovakia. They were in the lead group, going up an incline, when Stefania broke her pole. Those who ski know that breaking a pole is like getting a flat. It can and usually ends your race. Luckily for Stefania, the French National coach saw what happened and handed her an extra pole. Never mind that it was way too tall for her. A few yards away, her coach handed her a pole that was the proper length and Stefania was seriously behind. She raced her brains out to rejoin the lead group. Heart pounding, legs throbbing, body and mind screaming at her to stop punishing her body, she continued. Anger fueled her super human drive. She was screaming at her competitors, something she admitted never having done before. The final kilometer came. She was with Yuliya of Russia and they had managed to gain a small gap on the lead group. It came down to a sprint, with Kateřina nipping on their heals but Stefania held onto her lead to win gold. She crossed the line foaming at the mouth yet jubilant at her unbelievable feat. What a victory. Talk about inspiration.

When asked if she wanted to be remembered for her two gold medals - one in Albertville and the other in Salt Lake, she said no. She would rather be remembered by giving her best in every effort.

Amen, sister. Amen.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back at it

This morning marked the first time I've been on my saddle since December 14. And it felt good. Really, really good. I happily spun along on the rollers, watching some infomercial about some fitness revolution on Universal Sports. Then an Aussie wake board tournament came on and I nearly pierced my palm again as I watched some dude eat it in the water while attempting some aerial feat.

Slowly but surely, I'm learning not to watch men spin around in circles while riding rollers - be that via ice skates or wake boards.

Got some upcoming plans to visit my cabin for the long weekend. Pretty stoked to head to the Methow and get some vitamin D!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

When it rains...

it snows heavily in the mountains. At least it did at the end of the week this week. Yahoooooooo for powder! Or pow pow. Makes me want to listen to this song over and over again, really, really LOUD!

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Readjustment back into life in Wallingford is taking a little while. I nearly cried the other day when the sun refused to come up before 8am, set by 4:40 and refused to clear the gray haze that shawled the city. I looked out my office window around noon, only to realize it was a shade or two lighter then it had been at 7am. Winter.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, no?

Yesterday my mom made a comment, what's wrong? And i relayed my let down of finally realizing that Seattle gets on average 61 sunny days a year, and rains on average 265. Yet I've lived in the pacific northwest all my life - from Eugene to Seattle, to Bellingham. And never before has the weather been a factor, or at least as prevalent. Thirty plus years of low vitamin d, high water tables, rain coats (true locals don't own umbrellas), muck boots and pasty, pale white skin. So why the sudden change?

Could it be I'm going through withdrawals of high intensity exercise? That i went from summer southern hemisphere to dead smack middle of winter in a twenty four hour travel period? Cry me a river, right?

But that all changed yesterday when i received an invite from my friend Jonah (mr. Soft ride) to go night skiing at alpental. I perked up, got giddy to push around some white fluff and checked the weather - a predicted five inches of freshies!!! I felt like i was 12 again.

Nevermind that as the day wore on, the temps at the pass increased. And that the "snow" had turned into rain. Adorned with gortex, a good attitude and an opportunity to move my body, I was practically singing in the rain on the soggy lift rides up. The snow was like over whipped mashed potatoes, easily pushed around and forgiving. Jonah, Orion and Matt were there to practice the gates for an upcoming beer race league. And I stood on the side of the hill and watched their first attempts at racing for time, shivering but cheering them on. It reminded me of my mom- who for two years in high school stood on the side of the hill cheering on my brother and I while we skied on the South Eugene high school ski team. What dedication!

That wet, cold encounter was all i needed though to embrace the winter here in the PNW. I was reminded that the only way to survive our cold, wet, sun absent winters is to get out in it and have fun. And singing in the rain helps a little too.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I know I shouldn't torture myself with this, but seriously I'm ready for a climate change.