Monday, October 31, 2011

Emma Crawford Coffin Race

The two pooches are still adjusting to one another.

On Friday morning, I woke up to sunny blue skies (are you picking up on the recurring theme?) and a mission - to hike up Red Mountain. Why Red Mountain?  Legend has it Emma Crawford, a 19 year old in the 1890s, died of Tuberculosis was buried up at the top of the mountain. She had moved to Manitou Springs with her family as it was believed the clean mountain air and the natural water springs would cure her fatal disease. She survived a year in the mountains and met a railroad engineer who worked at Pikes Peak Cog Railroad. The two fell in love and were going to marry, except Emma passed away. Her dying wish was to be buried at the top of Red Mountain and her lover completed her request.
Her coffin was carried from town and hoisted up the steep trail and buried at the top of the mountain. Who knows her motivation, or her lovers for that matter, of why she would want to be buried up there since the top of red mountain is granular granite and somewhat unstable. Not to mention the serious burden of carrying a coffin to the summit of a mountain. Sometime later, after a serious storm, Emma's coffin was exposed and washed down the mountain. Her remains were found by two children playing in the creek below. They identified her and then reburied her in an unmarked grave in the local cemetery some years later. 
Red Mountain

From the summit of Red Mountain
It became crystal clear why someone would want to be buried on the summit of Red Mountain. The 360 degree view is breathtaking. With Pikes Peak keeping an eye on the town below, it seems like a perfect spot to spend eternity. But something about this mountain must be cursed. Not only did Emma's coffin wash down from the top, but a dance hall that was constructed as a tourist attraction, similar to the Incline, lasted less than two years. Both dogs were acting a little strange at the top too.
The only sign of something amiss, other than an abandoned foundation, was this dead tree - keeping a strange guard near the top.

Trees of this color are somewhat of an anomaly here. 

In honor of Emma Crawford and her unusual story, the city of Manitou Springs created a coffin race through the heart of town. (Just a small example of this towns flair.) Now in its 17th year, hundreds of people line the streets and watch as 50 teams race down Main, attempting to deliver their "Emma" to the line first. Of course the race is governed by a set of rules and competitors are not only judged by speed, but also by costume.
It was hard to see what exactly was happening with so many people there, but the people watching was just as enjoyable as the race itself! Yes, that's a coffin on a drag car chassis. Klassy. My question is - does this guy only drive it during Halloween? Or does he break it out on all special occasions?

Rushing at us at the speed of light, blurred by their flash of white and black polka dots, is the Dalmatian team with a bone coffin. Original, for sure! But the local fire department ruled the competition. I'm sure Emma would be proud. What a legacy, eh?

Oh, Manitou. I embrace you and all your weirdness. Well, almost all....

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Clearing After the Storm.

On Thursday morning, we woke up to blue bird sky and the first serious dusting of snow. It weighed down the tree branches that normally block views of Pikes Peak from the bedroom window. On the right you'll notice a railroad grade that cuts through the mountain - that's the infamous "Incline."
It is only a 20 minute walk through the heart of Manitou to get to the start of the Incline. Moonli came with me and stopped to smell the scents throughout the shopping district.
The trail starts at the beginning of the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. It's an old abandoned tourist attraction that gains 2,000 feet in 3/4 of a mile. It's a butt burner.
The views were stunning and Moonli had a ball for the first 1/4 mile.
The sun is trying its best to melt the fresh snow down the hill.
This pooch sure likes bounding down the trail!
Kind of icy in spots - but nothing the Yaktracks couldn't handle!

The views from the top are always stunning. It's also the perfect spot to catch your breath.
Porcupine covered snow drift.

Some people choose to hike back down the incline the same way they came up. But I prefer the Barr Trail, a 4 mile meandering mellow route. You can see Red Rocks in the distance.
Moonli was a little tuckered out after our hiking excursion. On tap for today: a summit of Red Mountain, which is perfectly timed with the 17th annual Emma Crawford's Coffin Races...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Introducing: Moonli.

I flew home late on Friday night from O'ahu. I got in around midnight to squeals from Makiah and a warm, happy home. On Saturday morning, I headed up to Denver to meet with the Pro Design Women's Cycling team for their annual meeting and ride. To say I was a little hung over from jet lag is an understatement. On Sunday morning, still groggy and still on Honolulu time, Benjamin mused over getting his dog, Moonli. His mom has been graciously watching him for the last year as he traveled 40 out of 52 weeks. I've heard so much about this dog dog dog and how much he misses him.

"Wait till you meet Moonli, Makiah! He snores, he runs into things, he uses the dog door! He gets cold easy, he's a big guy."

We had talked about getting him in December over the holidays. Don't get me wrong - Benjamin and Makiah get along great. But she's a girl dog and dainty. So when he asked if I would be game to make the drive to Indiana to pick him up, driving over 2200 miles and 30+ hours straight in the car, I agreed without hesitation.
We arrived near Indianapolis around 7am Monday morning. Moonli could barely contain himself. He was so excited! Makiah seemed to understand and accept Moonli, even though he was at least double her size, half her age and triple her energy. But they really didn't have a choice - for we had to get right back in the car and drive 17 hours back to Colorado. They got to share Moonli's dog bed and Makiah's back seat. She only squeaked once when he accidentally sat on her.

As the day wore on and the drive continued (Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas....) they got closer and closer to one another. Not once did they complain. Thank goodness!

You should have heard the giggles coming from our car as we bombed through the mid-west. When we finally turned off I-70 toward Colorado Springs, I got pretty excited. Excited for the joining of four worlds, excited for the memories to share, the laughs to be had and the big dog shit to pick up. Ha!
Yes, I did let him up on the bed the following day. He left little black hairs all over the white blanket. But he likes to snuggle and he melts into back rubs. Runs in the family.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bottling it up.

Picture this: you are at a new restaurant you've heard rave reviews about. Everything about the food, the service, and the atmosphere has you antsy to try it. You made a reservation a week in advance and are dressed for the occasion. As you walk into the place you notice a buzz as the smells from the kitchen start to intoxicate you.

You order a drink and it is a perfect balance of sweet, sour and alcohol. It goes down easy as you peruse the menu, tickled by the descriptions and excited for new taste combinations. The menu makes it hard to decide what to order with its carefully worded descriptions, and the waiter anticipates this, pointing you in the right direction.

As the food is delivered to your table from the kitchen, you begin to melt into the tastes and can't help but notice the passion someone has put into their cooking. Everything is cooked perfectly. Everything.

The portions are just right and the mouthful of melodies dance on your tongue. Dessert seals the deal and as you take that very last bite, you smile. Your belly is not overly full but slightly bulged, and the last bite lingers on your lips. You do the happy belly dance.

The feeling stays with you on the way home, as you get ready for bed and even remains in the morning. You are still thinking about that perfect meal, telling your friends about it, and sharing it with those you love.

That feeling, that contentment, that perfect balance of being full but not over the edge is how I feel about life right now. I'm bottling this feeling up by recording it, by savoring it, by appreciating it and by sharing it.

Yay for following your heart, taking big risks and following your passion!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Staying connected.

Anything is possible.

I use google reader to keep up with blogs of friends and inspirational people. It keeps all of my reading in one spot and came with a recommended reader section too. I only just discovered this feature, and I love it. It exposes me to a bunch of different blogs, ways of thinking, information, news and ways of looking at life. Recipes, travel, cycling, climbing, world news, Tosh.0.

I love it.

I mean, how else would you find out about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fad going on right now? Or read about the woman who discovered her second born child had down syndrome? It's inspiring and humbling and there's a place to share the stories that define us, strengthen us and earmark us for the challenges to come.

For as much as I like to write, I also love to read.

There's something about reading about other people's triumphs, failures and routines that makes me feel connected. I am connected to the 100 year old man who just completed his 8th marathon, shattering age category records and completing it in 8 hours. I am connected to the woman who takes fabulous photographs of her children, appreciates her friends and the millions of small things that make up her day. I am connected to the thousands of other widows out in the world, trying to make sense of the card they were dealt. I am connected to families dealing with dementia, addictions, and disease. I love the accompanying belly laughs, tears and AHA! moments.

And I love stumbling over and over again on the simple fact that anything is possible. And it's nice knowing you are connected to it all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crazy for cocoa puffs

I'm all hopped up on Liliha Bakery world famous cream puff pastries sitting at a Starbucks in Manoa valley, waiting for my mom and grandmother to be transported from Queen's hospital to Manoa Cottages. This is the day we've all been waiting for and here's hoping it goes smoothly as possible.

We've been trying to get Gam out of the house she's lived in the past sixty years for several years now and it's been far from easy. In all honesty, she's been kept at home as long as possible by hiring outside help but she's managed to fire them all. She even fired her yard man when he raised his prices. Her reasoning? She'll buy her own lawn mower and do it herself! Can you imagine seeing a 95 year old woman pushing a lawn mower? Stranger things have happened, I'm sure.

There are times when she accepts she needs help and can no longer live at home alone and others when she absolutely refuses to cooperate, saying everyone is after her money. And it's hard, if not impossible to predict which one you're going to get.

Oh boy, the sweetness of the cocoa puff has worn off and the reality is settling in. Let's hope things go well....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Close to home.

With the world spinning madly on and bills need to be paid, mouths fed, peace to keep, daily routines to keep, just to scratch the surface, it's easy to ignore the long list of degenerative diseases that affect so many people until it hits close to home. 48 million adults from the Baby Boomer generation are reaching their later years and the chances of you knowing someone is increasing with each passing day.

But in our mad world, is there space for the elderly? Do we take the time to make contact with them, reach out and make a difference in their lives? Or is being old and the accompanying challenges shunned and pushed into a corner? Do we become too busy to call our grandparents and parents?

My grandmother has outlived the majority of her generation. She certainly outlived her 5 brothers and 5 sisters. She's outlived her friends, my other grandparents and even some of her grandchildren. Up until 2 weeks ago, she was living on her own in the house where she raised her children and grandkids, with familiar noises and sights reminding her where she is and slowing the stages of dementia.

But then she fell.

Thankfully she had her LifeLine on her and she was able to call for help. It saved her life. Thank you LifeLine.

It began slowly at first, this degenerative disease. Throughout my childhood, she would always mix up our names. Cappy, Kui, oh Jennifer! Since their were 5 Georges within our family, the guys had it easy. But when she started to forget them altogether, it was hard to deny that something serious was going on.

It begins to progress, this degenerative disease, manifesting in daily tasks. Where did I put my keys? Someone must have stollen them. They stop caring about what they look like, how they dress, and their hygene. Complicated tasks, such as taking a shower or making food become too big of an overwhelming burden. It becomes frustrating. Their mood is altered and swings greatly. Anger mounts.

The sweetest old lady on the block suddenly starts screaming and raging, only when asked why, she doesn't remember.

It starts progressing faster, this degenerative disease. Her memory has serious lapses. How did I get in this hospital? Have I been here a while? When am I going home? Patiently, I answer her questions for the 50th time, only to repeat them a moment later. She smiles sweetly, "you have great teeth!"

Then the aid delivers her next meal and she cringes, crying out loud about it. "I'm not hungry," she automatically responds. But what she meant to say is, "this is overwhelming." With so many choices on a plate, it's hard to swallow what to do. I carefully put some food in her mouth, she cries, and then chews. It takes her a while to swallow but I am patient. I know that I'm not ready to let her go yet. I'm not ready for this disease to take a firm footing in our lives.

I read that in the final stages she won't remember who I am or who she is. She won't be able to function on her own, won't be able to lift her hands to eat, let alone play rummy. She'll stop communicating, either unable to formulate words or say them. And eventually her throat will close up and she'll be unable to get any food down.

Yesterday she didn't remember who I was. Thankfully, she remembered my mom. And it took us a better part of an hour, but she ate her dinner.

It is hard to see someone who you've known all you life and who you love so much deteriorate slowly right before your eyes. It is hard to face this degenerative disease in the face as it unfolds. But I'd much rather face it than push it into a corner.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Small comforts

I woke up in the middle of the night to the pounding rain. It was trying to come in the windows and doors, trying to soak everything in the house. I smile at the sound of its familiarity. Nu'uanu sits in a tropical rain forest and even Seattle's rain torrents can't hold a candle to these incessant downpours. Even with a wake up, I smile. Being at my grandmother's house on O'ahu is like being swaddled in a blankie. I know the creaks, moans and smells of this house like none other. I am happy to be here, despite the ups and downs of Gam's moods. One day she's in a great mood, smiling, cracking jokes and laughing and even eating her meals without too much protest. But the next a complete refusal to cooperate, bossing, not eating and sour puss. Yet she still insists on talking about sex. Oh, Gam!  We played cards yesterday, on one of her better days. Dementia may have taken parts of her memory away but she is still a card shark. The cards are well worn, bent length wise so her gnarled hands can easily grasp them. She has to use her left hand as her right one is clumsy, riddled with arthritis. We play rummy, like we always do, and she sticks me with two aces in my hand when she goes out. She doesn't remember my name today. But she does tell the aides that the secret to staying young is to like men. She says it defiantly, trying to get a raise out of them, hoping that if she says just the right thing they might spring her from this joint so she can go home. But she can't go home. The sad truth is that a 95 year old woman is incapable of taking care of herself. Trying to do so is what got her into this pickle in the first place.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mindset Change.

Fat-tober* has now become Fit-tober.

Why Fat-tober* in the first place? Because Nationals are done and gone and this is usually the best time of the year to take a month off from a grueling cycling workout schedule. It's an opportunity to press the reset button, both in mind and body. It's time to relax diligent eating habits, frantic heart rate monitoring, geek-ed out speed-o downloads, and planning your life around workouts, etc. Just think of how much time I won't be spending on doing laundry! (2x a day cycling chamois adds up, yo!)

Instead, you should kick up your feet, sip some beer, and bake buckeyes.

Wait a minute! When it is so hard to drop those extra pounds during the regular season, why not keep them off in the off season?

Hence, Fit-tober.

I'm so one dimensional with cycling. It's the only exercise I do during the season. Sure I may throw some dumb bells around on occasion, but getting outside and doing other things I love is easily shrugged off. What about hiking? Climbing? Trail running? Yoga? Skiing? Ah, skiing.

Now is the time to dive back into those other sports I enjoy.

So, without further adieu, I deem October a month of trying something different to get my heart rate up. I will avoid the mixing bowl, baking sheets, etc. and instead break out the climbing shoes, running shorts and fanny pack. My tires will deflate in the bike room and I'll dust off my other gear that has been sitting there since last October. Oh, and maybe I'll wax my skis. Keystone is scheduled to open November 4! And it was snowing on Vail Pass last night on my drive home.

Something tells me I may be missing in the point.....

(The real problem behind binge eating cookies and sweets is that I can't stop from eating them. Especially if they're in the house. I have zero will power. Zero. That batch of amazing Carrot Cake Cookies were gone in one day. ONE DAY! Thanks Michelle, for making it a small batch. Yikes! Oh, and the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake? Gone in four days. A WHOLE CAKE!!!)

*The term Fat-tober was first uttered from the lips of Beth Newell after her double National title wins in the Omnium and Points race. Fit-tober is alllllll me.

Home, or at least for a day.

I feel drunk today.

Thankfully it's from a lack of oxygen of driving from sea level to 6500 feet in a day. I left LA at 8am yesterday and drove straight through, getting home just past midnight. 1,073 miles total, three and a half tanks of gas. No wonder I feel like a train wreck. I'm home for a couple of days before taking off again, this time to visit with my 95 years young grandmother.

I talked to her yesterday on the phone and she sounded little and far away. Getting some one-on-one time with her is priceless. Of course the first question she asked me, "how's your love life?" I told her I'd fill her in on all the juicy details once I get there.

It was great getting some sun and warmth this past week after Nationals in the concrete jungle. To top it all off, on Saturday we went to Six Flags at Magic Mountain. They had a ride called X2 that we waited 90 minutes for and scared me senseless. Actually, I couldn't stop screaming in fright the entire time. And the photo afterward was priceless. Thank goodness they're like a million dollars to purchase so the evidence will be forgotten and discarded. I'm still laughing at how petrified I was on that ride - and I can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Rain Day

I'm on my second cup of java for the morning and I'm blaming the steady drizzle outside for that one. As I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) this morning on my way to a coffee shop, I thought to myself how little I miss the rain. I mean, it's only been a month and a half and at this point it's safe to say I only want to see rain in the form of snow. Bring on the fresh powder!

I know, I know. Colorado has already softened me.

Speaking of the cold months ahead, I've heard a couple of people getting stoked about winter.... seven weeks until opening day at Beaver Creek, Keystone is rumored to open in a month, mountains are being dusted with white stuff and my giddy factor has increased substantially in the past few days. I've also received two separate heli-tour trips in the Canadian Rockies in the last two days. I LOVE SKIING!!!!

I also think that's a sign that I should take some time off the bike.

I'm itching for some mountain time..... I suppose I'll have to get my fix in the form of MAGIC MOUNTAIN. Yep, world class roller coasters here I come!

Now, how about that third cup of joe....

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I'd like to thank the following people who contributed to my successes this past week....

To all the athletes who have helped pushed me throughout the years....Thank you for providing hard core competition and never easing up. For pushing boundaries, giving it everything and then laughing about our close calls and competitive spirits. For ripping each others legs off in the name of sport and balancing it with humbleness. Don't worry - I'll keep pushing you too!

Laura Todd - for helping my realize just how strong my spirit and passion is, to follow my intuition and guts and become the person I want to be. You are the master of your own destiny - and sometimes you need a little nudge as a reminder.

Jeff Pyatt - for believing in track cycling and garnering support for Northwest athletes. Your constant support both as a leader and friend has been the back bone of what I do - thank you!

My mom - for helping my dreams come true and telling me I'm nuts in a loving kind of way. I couldn't do this without you.

The Marymoor Velodrome Association - for providing a steady platform for racing throughout the past six years since I joined the community. This organization does great work and I'm proud to say I am part of it.

Broadmark Capital Cycling Team - for providing a means to race my bike and rip my own legs off. Thank you to all of the sponsors and contributors both on the bike and off to make this team what it is today. I am very fortunate to be a part of this team.

Benjamin Sharp - for being the best coach an athlete could ask for and for being a rock in my foundation. I can't say enough - and I will gladly bake you chocolate cakes for life.

And to my friends and family who have sent me encouragement throughout the years by either watching me race, sending emails, texts or cards and expressing kudos - your support means the world to me. Thank you for believing in me and nudging me when needed.

Oh - and to my readers - thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Winning second.

It all came down to the last sprint of the last race. A 2011 Women's Madison national title laid in the balance. Val and I timed our exchange perfectly, putting me for the final sprint with 1.5 laps to go.

I thought I had it.

I gave it everything I had left. I sprinted my legs off and came up inches short, if that.

I knew immediately. There was no question if I had won or lost. I had lost. The titled slipped through my fingers. And the next opportunity? 365 days from now.

I hung my head low, like a dog being sent to the dog house. Replaying over and over those precious final seconds in my head. Did I give it everything? Yes. Did I hesitate? No. Was I tired? Absolutely, but that didn't prevent me from giving it absolutely everything I had left.

But today, that wasn't good enough.

If you think of the greatest sporting moments, when it comes down to the wire - when there's only one winner and a loser, well that one will go down in my personal memory banks to fuel my fire in the season to come, in the long preparation to build up for next year.

In all honesty, I wonder if things were different. What if we had won it? Would I walk away from track racing? Now I'm hungrier for it than ever before. To have something so close be so close you can smell it, taste it, feel it......

Those moments are why I love sport. For all the times you fail, for all the times it stings from being so close.... those are the moments that make amazing individuals. Winning is the easy part. Losing takes more strength.