Friday, March 30, 2012

Best kept secret.

The smell of a freshly baked pine forest intoxicates me during my morning hill repeats. I went without arm or knee warmers again and despite climbing into the hills and stayed warm, even on the descents.

It's one of those days here in Colorado where I pinch myself and wonder why I didn't make this move sooner. Holy shit this place is awesome in so many ways. I am a lucky, lucky girl.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Yesterday was my first day back at work at the market. Clumsy at first, I ran into things and struggled with task management and prioritizing. While taking some dishes to the sink, one of the chef's Larissa said to me, "I didn't know you were a professional cyclist. That is so cool!"

Normally I would down play things: No, I'm not a professional cyclist; I mean, er - I train just like a pro cyclist but I don't get paid; I have to pay for all of my own gear; excuse, excuse, excuse.

But this time, I decided to go against the norm.

Why yes, yes I am.

For once I didn't de-emphasize what I do. I didn't down play the hours I spend training, eating right, recovering, working to support my other "job." Because it dawned on me: I am a professional cyclist.

I may not be on a "Pro" team. I may not fly all over the world to compete (oh, wait a second...). But I train just as much, have access to the same resources, have set myself up to focus completely on my goal: becoming a PAID professional cyclist. Never mind that most women in the pro peloton probably make less than I do.

Say on average I train 15 hours a week for 48 weeks, roughly 720 hours a year. I've been training for 8 years straight now - 5,760 hours. (Holy shit that's a lot of saddle time!) Not to mention recovery time, riding in the rain/snow/wind/ice, body work, calories consumed, races completed, funky tan lines,  kilojoules burnt... coaches fees paid, entry fees, insurance, travel - I'd hate to tally how much I've spent on equipment alone. Bottom line: I'm invested and I'm committed.

So I'm claiming this title. And by doing so, by admitting to myself that I am a professional cyclist, let alone to someone else, gave me a new perspective. It opened my eyes. It put the power of labeling in my own hands and shifted the paradigm. If having someone else label you as a "pro" is all it takes via a piece of paper - then guess what: I wrote it down.

And you know what? That was liberating.

(Thank GOD not many people read this blog!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Uphill tailwinds

Bare with me as jet lag seems to be getting the better of me....

Looking out the airplane window, I shake my head and smile. For the first time in my life, I'm coming home to somewhere other than the Pacific Northwest. Somewhere other than green, gray and wet Seattle. I'm coming home to Colorado, with purple mountains and cloudless sky. To dry air and playful puppies. To a home that feels so right, and not one ounce of remorse or wishful thinking it were somewhere else. Somewhere drier/sunnier/mountainous/etc. I now call this place home and I love it here.

It certainly helps that spring has sprung and the weather has warmed up. All week we've been cloudless and in the low 70s. Arm warmers and knee warmers are left at home. Sunscreen covers all my exposed skin, yet I'm tanner now then in the late summer sun in Seattle.  It's March. My arm hairs are white, my hair blond, my smile permanent.

Never mind that it took me this long to get here. The point is that I am here. And I'm loving every minute of it.

Oh, and uphill tailwinds kick ass too.

Heart felt hugs

Sometimes words fail.

Sometimes they just don't do justice or substitute for a heart felt hug. Sometimes they just can't express your emotion, your worry, your love. They can't transfer that connection, that raw emotion, the roller coaster of life and the lessons it brings. I wish words or a hug would take pain away from someone I love, if only for a second, so they could breath.

God, this life. Sometimes I curse it. Sometimes it just plain sucks. Most times I love it.

But sometimes words just fail.


Ugh, this jet lag is rough. I thought I skated it as last night as I slept through the night. And I even stayed awake all day, somehow avoiding a nap. But now I'm wide awake at two am, tummy hungry for an Aussie timed dinner. Where's that Grand Hyatt happy hour when I need it? With it's amazing lox salmon, tasty appetizers and abundant beer? Or better yet, where's my big spoon?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Saddle time

With just over 350 km of riding for the week and two races under my belt so far, my tummy is starting to get hungry again. Today's venture was out to Humevale via Plenty Valley. The first part of the ride is situated in the suburbs of melbourne, but by about 15 km out, the population density decreased and the cattle dotted the landscape. It was nice to get out of the city. It was also a reminder of how serious fires are in heavily forested areas and that a careless toss of a cigarette butt can do massive destruction. In 2009 a bush fire desecrated the area. I was expecting a burn similar to what I have seen in Washington and California - one with what were once trees now matchsticks - but it was completely different than that. This fire wiped out all of the leaves, leaving the trees still standing and very much alive and growing. I had to take off my glasses to really see the impact at the top of the ridge. It looked like burnt kale.

But you could smell it, underneath the distinct smell of a eucalyptus trees. A faint scent, even though the forest and already begun the process of recovery. Almost like smelling a sweatshirt you wore to bonfire that no matter how many times you wash it, the musty fire smell is still there. That fire killed over 170 people, destroying houses and anything that stood in its way. It leapt from tree to tree, barreling down acre after acre of bush.

Instead of watch for deer signs, here there are signs for kangaroos and wallabies. As I zoomed back down the ridge, I hoped to see some wildlife but to no avail. Even when we went to a park in Dunboora, the Roos were hard to spot. They still provided some laughs though - tripoding with their massive tails, rabbit like hind legs and t-Rex upper arms (mainly used for scratching their bellies). As one mother scurried off, I caught glimpse of her joey tucked safely in her pouch.

Only a few days left in this cool part of the world. Big shout out to monique, Ewin and Amelie who are letting me stay at their house. It's so relaxing and fun to catch up with them. And it's been awesome to get to know the area by my favorite mode: biking. I love disconnecting from routine and seeing the world through a different lens.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Racing down under.

We raced to the are track, arriving minutes before registration closed and the racing began. My warmup consisted of a hot lap around the course, frantic number pinning and a mad dash to the restroom. Monique's last piece of advice before the start: stay with the belgian girls. Thankfully they wear an unmistakable light blue kit and in our field of 20, they were easy to spot. All of the girls also wore pink bandanas on their helmets so officials can sort out the results.

We tolled out, slow at first and nearly fell over once we hit the massive head wind on the back straight. The winds were high yeterday, which meant limiting your time in front as much as possible. So what did I do? Take as much wind as possible. Who is this yank?

Eager to get going, I picked us up a few clicks and that's when the attacks started coming. Guess what happened? Yep, my rubber band snapped. I watched helplessly as one of the belgian girls soloed off the front. Their timing was perfect and I rode back in with my tail between my legs. No worries though, there's another crit tonight on kew boulevard. I've already practiced patience in my head. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. And you can't rush or push the process. It will be what it will be.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The sky is occupied by gray, blue and light yellow as the sun rises over Melbourne. It is green here, humid with the heavy wet air. A small squeeze of the clouds results in a sudden torrent of rain. No wonder this city knows how to make a perfect cup of coffee. It makes the necessity of dodging downpours manic and no, I haven't seen a single umbrella.

The people are beautiful, smiling with their eyes. They dress well too, politely covering their feet and rarely showing excessive skin. Granted, we are in the downtown business district. I am thankful i threw in some sun dresses last minute.

Yesterday we dodged rain showers and explored the formula one track. Benjamin gave me a couple of little kid glances when we heard the unmistakable whine of their engines. It is awesome sharing this with him, seeing it through his eyes and seeing so many fans get giddy too. I am thankful for my upbringing - my daddy was a cadillac car salesman and his appreciation for cars a steady constant in my childhood. We watched porsches zoom by, rally cars and finally one lone Vodapone Mclarin fly by. I wasn't prepared for it's beauty, it's loud engine, the little kid it brought out in me. Why, hello car nerd. I commented to Benjamin that if I was very rich, I would have trouble not buying expensive fast cars....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Down under

The Yarra river spreads in front of us, along with train tracks, the station and in the distance, the ocean. The views west facing from the 28th floor of the hyatt made us both of our jaws drop when we first entered the room. 36 hours of travel and we are here, ready to explore the city that lays before us. Yes!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012


Countdown: t minus one hour till we are airborn over the pacific ocean. Ten hours of west coast sun, ocean and air and my hair and skin are happy and HUGE. We spent the day roaming around the concrete jungle, listening to the jams on 93.5 from back in the day and mean mobbin in one big ass suburban. Soooooo 1990. Thank god for airport lounges, premiere status, tooth brushes and wifi! Now if I could just time travel past the next 18 hours, I'd be stoked! G'day mate!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The pack

I know a long face when I see one and Moonli's tonight is no exception. But this time instead of Benjamin being the one to go on far away adventures, we both are. Down under to be exact. We planned a little vacation a few months ago using air miles and hotel travel points, and which just so happens to coincide with the opener for Formula One. Twist my arm, please.

The day whirled by - filled with bike racing up in Boulder and then some car travel back down to the springs. It's strange being in a new bike community and only knowing a few souls. But racing is racing as soon as that whistle blew I was in the mode. Things went okay - I remember how to push myself but I forgot to want the win. Unfortunately there's no excuse for that - so I must try harder next time. The first race of the season is over, and for that I'm thankful. And as soon as Pikes Peak came into view, I stopped beating myself up and a smile spread. That there is one purdy mountain.  Big picture: it's only a bike race.

Tomorrow begins a long day of travel - 32 hours to be exact. The dog sitter (Brian - thank you!) has been briefed, the bikes packed, the kits washed and I'm more than ready to hit the sheets.

I can't wait to explore that big ass island....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

On a roll

"Dude, you haven't stopped smiling this week," a friend quirked on the group ride today. No, no I haven't. I go to bed smiling and wake up smiling, everyday. I can't help it. The serious dose of vitamin D, surrounding myself with positive people, riding my bike a bazillion miles a day, and with spring well on its way - has that effect on me. I'm even smiling while I write this.

Oh, and it might have to do with the fact that Benjamin is home.

Bottom line though: being the master of your own destiny and setting your life up exactly how you want to live it is rad. I am a big advocate of figuring out what will make you happy and then striving for it. Want to write more? Do it. Want to start painting? Do it. Want to cook/laugh/run/play/explore/adventure/live? DO IT.  Life is too long not to. Got a new habit you'd like to form? A new spin on things? Well guess what? You can absolutely start working on what you want today. It's all about setting priorities. And figuring out what distractions or obstacles are in your way. Once you identify them you can start problem solving and figuring out ways to make them work. And then you can take action and empower yourself to do what ever it is you want to do.

Want to move to Colorado? Done.
Want to write a book? Working on it.
Want to stop biting your fingernails? Done.
Want to train full time and be the best cyclist you can be? Doing it.
Want to live life to the fullest? YES!

This week, I identified that I am ready to write more. I'm ready to explore the local mountains more. I'm ready to balance my life by being outdoors half of the day and feel the wind on my skin, the sun in my eyes and the beating of my heart. My short term distractions include cleaning off my kitchen table, setting a timer for housework, just saying no to Facebook and making writing a priority. And guess what? As soon as I did that cheesy grin of mine spread from ear to ear. I have more time to do the things I love and feel way more productive.

Don't beat yourself up though if something you want seems impossible to obtain. Or that maybe you tried to do something and failed. Sometimes you need those failures to help you pinpoint exactly what you want. Keep at it and start small. Next thing you know those cumulative changes will add up.  And when you take things into your own hands and be your own master, it opens you up to more possibilities..... (falling in love, buying a house, getting a cool job, traveling, etc.)

"You're always smiling," commented a customer in the Market last night. "It's infectious and makes everyone around you smile too."

Friday, March 09, 2012

You gotta know when to hold it, know when to fold it. Know when to walk away, know when to run.

It's funny how sometimes what you think is a perfect teaching opportunity becomes a lesson for yourself.

I should have kept my mouth shut. My intitial instinct of keeping my observations to myself was spot on. But no, I thought with the right approach, I would be able to help someone. Instead it back fired.

Saturday's group ride rolled out 20 guys strong, two ladies. A pretty typical scenario - and usually by the end of the ride the group shatters into smaller groups. Riding with the guys is awesome. I know they are pushing me harder then if I went solo and if it was an all women ride. Not to mention it's an awesome way to practice racing, positioning and setting up for the sprints. Positioning is so crucial from not only a horsepower standpoint, but also a cross/head/tailwind aspect that I am often thinking about where I am in the group ten steps ahead of the sprint or power climb. Some weeks I celebrate my success, some I fail, but I always come home and learn something new or affirm good habits.

Saturday was windy and cold. With a smaller pack and a few really strong guys, the pack shattered pretty quickly after the first sprint point. It was one of those days where I had my head down, concentrating on following the wheel in front of me thanks to a vicious cross wind, and next thing I know the pace lightened just enough for me to watch a lead group of 5 ride away, about 300 meters ahead. Shoot. Positioning.

The fellas in our group were keen on chasing so a rotating echelon began. I did my share of work after recovering from the mole hill and observed the other riders in the group. Some guys were starting to fade, some dropped off the back, and one guy would pull through and steer all the way to the center line, then drift back to the white line. At first I thought it was fluke and then I watched him do it every other time he pulled through. I filed it away as we continued to chase and I positioned myself in our group so another rider was between him and I.

Final sprint to the turnaround, my legs cracked. A pack formed, picking up dropped riders along the way. And then I noticed said guy on the ride. (Enter in my conscience - I had a 50/50 chance of how this was going to go - I decided to go for it.) Rolling at a conversational pace, I asked, "Are you open to suggestions?" And he responded yes.

I proceeded to tell him what I observed and before I could get to the teaching aspect, things went from okay to worse. Another rider overheard me talking to him and added his input and the guy thought we were personally attacking him. Uh oh.

I thought I did the right thing. I asked first before offering feedback if he was open to it. Instead, he responded with, "Well I guess I'm not open to suggestions!"

So the lesson? Sometimes it's best to keep your mouth shut, even if you see room for improvement. Not everyone is open to change the way they do things. On the flip side, it's a reminder to be open to such things. To know that even if you are a master at something, there is always something new to learn. And personally I never want to stop learning.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Let's do this.

Spring is in the air. Not only is the temperature starting to warm up consistently, but things are starting to bud and growth is gaining momentum. My life feels spring like too. Winter hibernation is coming to an end, hours spent indoors, trainer rides and lots of projects complete, I'm ready to get back to writing. I'm ready to shed the cocoon of winter and bust out - setting new goals and tasks to accomplish. I'm putting down my library books and sharpening my pencil.

I feel more able and ready now to accomplish my goals than in January. I think someone should rethink that goal setting time and align it with the spring equinox. I bet more people would stick with their resolutions.

I'm ready to get back to what I love: writing. I want to get out in the woods on a daily basis. The mountains are calling my name and they are so close I could throw a rock and hit them.  It's time to get  my hands dirty with soil, playing with the dogs and exploring. It's time to remove the power from the daily distractions and spending more time doing the things I love.

Routines are hard to break. It is so easy to put things off and not make time for the things you love unless you are already in the habit. Take my kitchen table for example. While home alone, I let things pile up. And it's not that anything in that pile needs immediate attention yet it distracts me from getting things done. It creates clutter where I want clarity. It only took 3 minutes to clear the table off and put things away. But as soon as I did I felt instantly better. Silly, but it feels like I gained some of my own power back. That by a simple act of de-cluttering my kitchen table, I'm ready to make new habits and discard the ones that way me down.

It's the little baby steps that set you up for success when you're attempting long term goals. So clean off that "kitchen table" - figure out what you want to do with your day and get after it.

Next up: a hike up to Section 16.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Feeling Connected

You'd think buying a house, working a job just up the street, getting a library card, joining the local gym and going to the dog park would make me feel connected. Like I belong here. And they do, make no mistake. But for some reason today that connection - that sense of belonging and the head shaking reality that I created the life I wanted is right here, right now - hit me in full force.

I live in Colorado. A place I dreamed of living for over ten years. A place that every time I visited, I never wanted to leave. A place filled with natural beauty and enormous mountains. Where the sun shines 300 days a year.

As I rushed out the door this morning to my new teams' photo shoot at Porsche of Colorado Springs, I felt like my roots are no longer in the top soil - they are reaching deeper. I am reestablishing my sense of community. I belong to a collective group of woman who race their bikes, who base their vacations around race calendars around two wheeled adventures and who pursue this sport filled with struggles and triumphs and rare wins. And although our long term cycling goals may differ, we support one another in our pursuits.

The sun also joined us today and with promises of spring just around the corner, I was floating on cloud nine.

Riding and training has been my constant throughout my life the past 8 years. It fills my waking hours, my dreams and allowed me to travel. I've made life long friends from the sport and it has carried me through a range of emotions: happiness, sadness, grief, etc. It taught me how to deal with failures and successes. It carried me through the death of a loved one and in turn opened me up to meet a man of my dreams, Benjamin. I feel so lucky, so blessed, so stoked that my life is full and exceptional. And I smile knowing that all I had to do was dream it first.

And yes, the sun is an added bonus. YAY for no arm warmers today!