Wednesday, April 25, 2012

R. Triplett Tribute #2

This is the fourth year since Ryan's passing. In commemoration of his being, I'm putting out a series of 5 tributes: a collection of short true stories of experiences we shared and in essence, give you a glimpse of his unforgettable character. With his 35th birthday coming up on June 5th, and going into the fifth year of his absence, I wanted the world know what a big impression he left on my life. 

#2 Cowboy Juice.

At 18 and 19 years old, Ryan and I had the world in front of us. A friend of a friend introduced us and although a few months passed between our initial meeting and our first date, our lives were forever altered by that encounter.

Living in Bellingham was the ideal setting to grow: small population, liberal thinking, great food and friends. It quickly became home. Since Ryan was born and raised here, he showed me his hometown as only a local native can. Everywhere we went he had been there or done that before or knew something about it, yet he always reserved passing judgement on a place - as though seeing it for the first time through my eyes. I fell in love with the damp forests, the cool chilly beaches and the incredible views of the San Juan Islands.

Soon enough, Ryan was ready to further explore the world at large. And to be honest, I was too. We started taking weekend trips East and North. To the East laid the beautiful Okanogan Valley: the US Alps; and to the north were the Canadian Rockies. For burgeoning climbers, we were in heaven.

We had barely enough cash for gas so most of explorations were by car and poached campsites. We got really good at finding spots, whipping out our tent and settling in for the night. I loved falling asleep in quiet surroundings, listening to Ryan's breath deepen and usually hearing the rain falling on our tent fly.

Every morning the mission remained the same: coffee. At first we were limited to the nearest gas station cup of Joe and due to its huge variance in crappy to pour it down the toilet, we invested in a French press. Camping took on a whole new dimension. Morning rituals changed. Ryan was the brew master and took great pride in making a thick, dark sludge cup of java. And every morning he'd proclaim: "That is one mean cup of cowboy juice." Smiling, teeth stained in black coffee and grounds stuck between his teeth.

To this day, thousands of cups later, I still drink my coffee black as night. I try to limit my sludge intake and remove the grounds - but not one drop of milk or sugar touches my cup, the only way proper way to drink cowboy juice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Voodoo Virgin Victory

A week and a half ago, Benjamin and I viewed the upcoming race calendar while he's in town. Our options included: a time trial in Denver, a mountain bike race in Pueblo, or couch surfing at the casa. Since we were surfing at said time of our conversation - and since he mentioned how long it has been since he raced and that Pueblo might be "fun" - I paid it forward and signed the both of us up for a 44 mile half marathon race.

He thought I was joking until he received the confirmation email in his inbox. Game on.

Break out those race wheels baby, it's time to do some suffering.

Saturday morning we woke at 5am to eat some food, pack the car and drive the hour south to the state park. We arrived with plenty of time to check in, get our calves marked and pick up our t-shirts. I did a little more warm up then Ben, and while riding up a hill a runner passing by asked if there was a century going on. (As evidenced from our number plates placed on the front of our bikes. Ha!)

Not knowing what to expect as far as performance goes, I signed up for the women's age category 30-39. They ended up grouping all of the women together, including the pros and started us directly behind the Clydesdale men. Guess what happened? We caught them going into the start of the single track. And then we proceeded to pass all of them. But passing there is sketchy - one wrong tire track will see you puncturing on a cactus or ankle deep in sandy dirt. Passing requires a massive power output for 5-15 seconds, depending on what you were pedaling through. But it was either pass or be passed. So be it.

All in all, I think I passed around 40 or so guys from various categories. And those little surges of high power outputs definitely took a toll. By the second lap of our 22 mile loop, I was cooked. Features I easily rolled over the first lap became major challenges and I found myself walking the bike on more than one occasion.

The only similarity between road and mountain is pushing your physical and mental limits. The technical skills are totally different. But your body still screams at you to stop torturing it. By the end I was pretty delirious and those internal conversations started to become vocalized.

"Come on muscles. I promise you'll get to rest when this is over. PUSH PUSH PUSH."

I think I was just as surprised as this dude I passed uphill when I uttered that out loud. Maybe he thought I was talking to him?

"Let's GO!"

"Water awaits you at the end."

Somehow those little mantras did the trick - as I pulled across the finish line with not a drop of water left in my camel back and only 4 minutes behind Benjamin. He started 2 minutes ahead of me, so yes, he won our competition. He was covered in dirt and salt from head to toe and "woohoo'd" as I crossed the finish line. Mr. "I'd get up but I'm one giant cramp." He rocked it.

We found out later that I actually won my age category and would have placed 5th in the Pro category. Sweetness.

But the sweetest thing? I have sweet ass arm tan lines now from missing some sunscreen on my right arm. Branded in Pueblo. BAM!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Market Time

I love how late it stays light. That means no rushing to and from work, trying to fit in 3+ hours on the bike before sundown. Now I can take my time and not worry about the temperature dropping suddenly and spin through the pine forests. They smell extra good lately.

The mountain goat stayed at home last weekend as the women's crit was so poorly attended they couldn't even hold the race. And due to the forecast on Sunday, the promoter put out the word that they were going to cancel the road portion too. So guess what that meant? Yep, more smiles on Captain Jacks. I love single track!!!

Next weekend is a TT called Haystack and since we have very few racing 1/2's this year on my team, Benjamin and I signed up for the Voodoo half marathon mountain bike race. 44 miles of shale single track down in Pueblo with 500 of our closest friends. I did one mountain bike race - the Wednesday World Championships at SeaTac several years ago. This time though I have a sick 29er and tubeless set up hard tail, which should make for some fast laps.

It's going to hurt.

I've also been working a ton, trying to get my $9/hour job to accumulate some money money in my account. Spain is in the near horizon... June is coming quick! A whole month in Mallorca. Yes, please.  I'm learning Spanish pronto! Andale! Andale!

And I figured out my Rosetta Stone headset does it - I'm just not pronouncing any words right. And FYI: yelling into the microphone doesn't help. Neither does saying it fast nor slow. I feel like an old dog learning new tricks. D'oh!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

R. Triplett Tribute #1

This is the fourth year since Ryan's passing. In commemoration of his being, I'm putting out a series of 5 tributes: a collection of short true stories of experiences we shared and in essence, give you a glimpse of his unforgettable character. With his 35th birthday coming up on June 5th, and going into the fifth year of his absence, I wanted the world know what a big impression he left on my life. 

#1 - The Weed Whacker. (2002)

Newly coined Seattle homeowners and in our young 20s, Ryan and I threw ourselves feet first into the perils of ownership. We quickly repainted the interior of the house from its pink hues into all the shades  Ralph Lauren paints had to offer: brick red kitchen, mustard yellow entry, navy blue living room, eggplant master bedroom, forest green bath and mauve spare bedroom.

Ryan didn't mind my wild color tastes for he grew up in a house full of color. He understood that colors reflect the way life should be lived: loud and bright.

As the days grew longer and the lawn began to grow unruly, we turned our energy outside. Unlike our college apartment days that either lacked yard or required a property management company, we had our own yard to manage. And in the Pacific Northwest, a neglected yard quickly becomes a rain forest.

One sunny spring day we decided to tackle the yard. I was cleaning a flower bed on the north side of the yard and Ryan was using the weed whacker on the south side. The origin of the weeder remains a mystery but we found it in the garage, gassed up and ready to go. Or so we thought.

Softly humming to myself I hear grunting in the front yard. The grunts turn into groans, the groans into expletives.

"JEN!!!! CAN YOU COME HERE????!!!!!!"

I tiptoe over to other side of the yard where Ryan is sweating profusely. He's trying to start the POS Weeder, pulling on the starter cord while on the ground, and as soon as he stands up it cuts out. He shows me this 3 more times before he just can't take it any more.


We go into the backyard and I can't help it, a giggle seeps out. Ryan goes into orbit.

"F*&K THIS THING!!!!!!"

And with that, he swings the weeder like a baseball bat into a fir tree, breaking it into two pieces. I die laughing. The weeder is now unusable - more so than before. Ryan feels better, but we still have an overgrown yard to tend.

Within a week we bought a new John Deere weeder and the old one remains in the garage. Ryan's temper would continue to flair up over the years and more household goods were broken.

Though I can't be sure if it was his anger that got better of him or my laughter that taunted him beyond return.

He had his revenge - when the tables turned and I had a little bout with the bi-fold doors in the entry way. But that's a story for another time.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A picture story

 We woke up to winds on Friday morning. I had the day off from work and other than completing my taxes, paperwork and laundry got to do a mountain bike ride. I was supposed to do openers in the form of hill repeats but when Benjamin said I could do a mountain bike ride instead, I jumped at the chance.

Keep in mind - this requires no extra work. I still kit up at home, pump my tires up, grab food, fill water bottles, etc. Except the single track is less than 2 miles from my house. The picture above is a good 15 minutes from my door. And it accesses some of the best single track I've ridden in my life. See those mountains in the distance? Yep, that's where today's adventure was taking me.
 iShuffle in ear, Eric Clapton singing the blues, I couldn't help but stop and marvel at the beauty. I really feel like I stole something today. Life shouldn't be this good. Scratch that: LIFE IS GOOD!!!
 And apparently the fitness is coming around, as those ass burner climbs are becoming easier. I contemplated doing more - but with racing this weekend, 3 hours on the mountain bike should be enough.
 This is right before my favorite of favorite sections - Buckhorn. I love that an hour of riding from my house brings me here - far away from the hustle and bustle of COS. This is my backyard. Ready for more climbing? Yes, please.
 I had to stop on the ridge - after 1,600 feet of elevation gain. It's not that I needed a break - but I wanted to stop and appreciate the beauty. Spring makes the greens glow and the recent rains mean tacky trails. The only regret I had was not sharing it with someone. That's not true - I got to share it with my steed. And I think my little pony was smiling just as much.
 If you come visit me in Colorado, I promise I will take you here. And you will be packing your things in Seattle and moving here. This trail was the tipping point for me - last July after an overbooked plane and credit vouchers offered, I couldn't believe my luck! You mean you'll pay me to stay here in Colorado one more day and ride my mountain bike? Twist my arm. And so Benjamin and I ventured here - Buckhorn trail to Captain Jacks and this did it - I made the move less than a month later.
 Most days I wonder what took me so long? Why didn't I make this move sooner? I love the sunshine, the natural beauty, the community and endless exploration. This is my home now. And I hope I get to share it with you, friends.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I'm summoning up my inner mountain goat for the upcoming hilly road race at the Air Force Academy this weekend. Add steep terrain, wind and altitude, and well you've got a girl who's praying for an all tendon and joints body (aka 30 pounds lighter).

But the impossible can become possible. And all you have to do is visualize it.

Thanks Laura for that little gem and big laugh this morning. If he can do it, I can do it!!!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lazy Eye

Lyrics to Lazy Eye :
I've been waiting
i've been waiting for this moment all my life
but it's not quite right

and this 'real'
it's impossible if possible
at who's blind word
so clear but so unheard

i've been waiting
i've been waiting for this silence all night long
it's just a matter of time

to appear sad
with the same 'ol decent lazy eye
fixed to rest on you
and freely so untrue

everyone's so intimately rearranged
everyone can focus clearly with such shine

everyone's so intimately rearranged
everyone can focus clearly with such shine

locked and loaded
still the same 'ol decent lazy eye
straight through your gaze
that's why i said i relate
i said we relate
it's so fun to relate

it's the room the sun and the sky
the room the sun and the sky

i've been waiting
i've been waiting for this moment...
I passed out by nine last night. Try as I may, I just couldn't keep my eyes open another minute longer while watching Lost. I woke up to a blank TV screen and Moonli snoring at my feet. Why fight it any longer? To bed I went.

The alarm went off at 6am this morning. I had company for today's monster ride. Lee graciously agreed to go but he could only join me if we left at the crack of dawn. We met at Starbucks at 7 and headed East, toward Kansas. My legs felt pretty loaded from the day before and upper body seriously fatigued.

The first hour flew by. That tailwind came in handy and we both felt the previous day's efforts, but still maintained a steady clip. And then we turned North into the headwind.

Not even eight minutes into the steady breeze, I thought: oh shit. I'm not going to make it another three hours. NO BITCHING! Keep your sniveling to yourself. He doesn't need to hear you whine! Suck it up!

"This headwind blows."

"Yeah, let's head East again."

And that's when our luck turned around. We flew out to Falcon, then turned south and had a massive tailwind. Suddenly those 3 hours seemed doable.

"I could go forever with a tailwind!"

And a few miles before our turnaround point, the winds shifted. We had a tailwind into Fountain and then a bigger one back into the Springs.

I was back home and on the couch, napping to Paris-Roubaix by noon. A perfect way to spend Easter Sunday if you ask me.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Eye on the prize: staying up right.

I knew better.

Biking, mountain or road, is similar to life - you look where you want to go. Not where you don't want to go.

One minute I was looking at the soft shoulder with deep sandy gravel, seeing someones bike tire lines run through them, next thing I know I'm off in the ditch, nearly endo-ing over my hoods. DOH!

Yep, you read that right. I took myself out today. Going up hill, slowly. In a ditch. And I was all by myself. Or, I should say no one was around me. A couple people saw it though.

Let me give this a little more context: today was the Boulder Roubaix. 56.1 miles, on 57% packed dirt roads, 43% pavement. Three laps on a course with tons of variety, making it fun and unpredictable. And bumpy. SUPER BUMPY. But I was ready. I borrowed Benjamin's Gator Skins (said with a redneck accent). 25cc - a nearly bomb proof weapon against pinch flatting reality. Yee haw!

The usual suspects showed up: a handful of pros, dozens of tough cookies and the rest of us. The pace at first was dreadfully slow, until we got about 4 miles out from the start/finish line on the first lap. Then the pace ramped up. Alison Powers threw a grenade down - attacking a minute after the feed zone and no one could react fast enough. Yours truly had a mouth full of honey stinger. CRAP! Hey, wait for me!!!

Chase, chase, chase. Uh oh, the rubber band snapped, hard. The ponies were galloping away from me. I put my head down, focused on catching them and I came within 100m. Then the rubber band recoiled. I suffered in no man's land for the next lap, completely alone. I could see a girl, just a little bit in front of me and focused on catching her. But try as I may, I couldn't close the gap. Who is this girl?!? And where did she gain this superpower?

I love my bike. I hate my bike. I love this race. I hate this race. You can't quit! Just quit! There are people behind you. Keep pushing. Those potholes! My back! Must. Keep. Going.... you paid money to do this - sucker!!!

And that's when it happened. A girl caught up to me from behind and we worked together for a few miles. I was staying close to her wheel, and that's when I noticed how much her bike shifted from side to side with every third pedal stroke. I lost my concentration, for a second. And when I regained it,  I saw the tracks through the dirt. Next thing I know I'm pedaling through ankle deep gravel. And another pony galloped away.

I pull my steed out of the gravel pit and notice two girls chasing and witness to the whole thing. All I can do is laugh at this point. I'm delirious from spending the last lap solo, and embarrassed at my jackassery. They laugh with me though, and not at me and we start working together. Next thing I know we're catching those dangling ponies and lassoing them into our group. Bike racing is so much more fun when you have company! We take turns at the front, being kind and steady to one another, giving my legs ample time to rest up for the final sprint. Not that it mattered - at that point we were trotting in for maybe top 20? But a sprint is a sprint - and I'll be damned if I wasn't going to make the most out of my ditch riding and come in last. I paid my dues to the gravel and dirt gods today.

All in all, a good day of racing. Humbled by the competition, the course and most importantly, the dirt. And I think I finally understand looking where I want to go, not where I don't want to go.That should come in handy in the future...

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Brooklyn Angel.

A magical man walked into the store earlier this evening. Wearing a Left Hand Brewery baseball cap, white beard and infectious smile we hit it off immediately.

He was after something sweet so I pointed him toward the Tortes, Cheesecakes and Mousse Bombs. I warned him: the bomb will knock his socks off, especially if he's a chocolate lover. Like a kid in a candy store, he took one right over to a table and opened it up.

I made him a fresh cup of coffee, frittered about with a few market chores and then joined him for one of the best conversations I've had with a customer.

Either he was buzzing from the chocolate or I was searching for company but we both engaged one another with one liners about the meaning of life, following your passion, eating well, moving to where you belong and getting rid of any jackasses in your life. At least 40 years separated us.

Turns out he's from Brooklyn. Moved out to Denver in the late 60s to get away from the sardine subway cans and dense population. He needed more space - more physical space to think and to be. His inlaws tried coming out but couldn't take the openness of Colorado - they prefer being confined to small space surrounded by people, conveniently fitting in a nice defined and jammed box. Whatever floats your boat. But we both winked at each other, knowingly, that we both have it figured out as far as we're concerned.

Wide open space. Lots of places to think. Lots of places to learn. Lots of things to listen to and be in harmony with. Mountains. Ah, mountains.

Part of life is figuring out what you want by finding out what you don't want. He didn't want to be stuck in a subway crammed face to face with perfect strangers day after day, night after night. I didn't want to be stuck with grey sky the rest of my life. You mean you can just up and change your reality? You bet.

And when you do, when you allow yourself to choose a life that you want to live, you really start living.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


"Attention has created the experience and, significantly, the self stored in your memory, but looking ahead, what you focus on from this moment will create the life and person yet to be. Since Sigmund Freud, psychology has mostly examined our pasts to explain and improve our lives. If you think in terms of the present and future instead, you might encounter an intuition lurking in the back of your mind, as it was in mine: if you could just stay focused on the right things, your life would stop feeling like a reaction to stuff that happens to you and become something that you create: not a series of accidents, but a work of art."

BAM. That little nugget of wisdom was on page 2 of "Rapt" by Winifred Gallagher. And you know what? She's right.

We are all the masters of our own destiny. Find yours.


I noticed her retro 80 yoga pants when she walked in the room: black bell bottoms with yellow and purple triangles down the sides.

"Check the pants!" Kelli giggled in response.

We set up our mats in the back of the room, closest to the door. Core Power likes to turn up the heat and humidity, conducive to large puddles of sweat gathering beneath you by the end of class. We were a few minutes early, so I laid down, closed my eyes and cleared my mind.

Once class started, I noticed a guy set his mat directly in front of mine, making it difficult to see myself in the mirror so I moved a few inches to the right. Triangle pants lead us through today's Core Fusion and our poses focused on balance, core and mindfulness.

I struggle to maintain a regular yoga practice. It's not that I don't like it - every time I show up to practice a huge smile passes across my face. I can sense the immediate benefits - from a mental standpoint to a physical sense the following day when my muscles feel good and open. But for some reason, it's hard to show up as little as once a week.

So to make up for that time away, today I was super charged. I concentrated during every pose, focusing on my breath and steady gaze in the mirror. No small task as the fella in front of me had a hard time balancing that day- falling out of the majority of the poses. Yet I found amongst the chaos, I could focus even more. This was my session, and nothing was going to stand in the way of me getting everything I wanted out of it.

"Nice focus, Jennifer."

Thanks, triangle pants.

That practice was on Monday. On tap for today was a 3 hour ride with 4 sets of 5 x minute 30 second super threshold intervals, and a minute recovery. I spun out to Kansas through Fort Carson and started my sets once out of the town of Fountain. They required focus - feeling the pressure on the pedals, focusing your gaze ahead and no where else. It's hard not to let the mind wander. But when something is border line painful, it's easy to focus on the task at hand. Eyes down the road, I imagined chasing down competitors, chasing down that finish line, giving it everything I had. Intervals whizzed by. Afterward I thought back to my yoga practice. How having a steady gaze and letting your body do the work and not judging things or letting thoughts interrupt your work is so important in sport, so important in life.

You never know when you'll need this kind of singular attention. But in sports it is a handy tool to have; a necessary tool to have. It puts off the reality of pain when following someones wheel; allows you to block out distractions; allows you to feel the physical sensations and lets your mind tell your body to push, harder, deeper, stronger.

I look forward to my next practice session and hopefully will make it a regular routine.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

I woke up at 2:30am unable to sleep any longer. I'm not sure if it is jet lag or stress or grief - but I was smacked sideways until 6am, my brain on overdrive and unable to calm down. Thoughts of Ryan came hard and swift that next thing I know my nose is drenching my pillow in snot, eyes puffy and swollen.

I'm beginning to think birthdays aren't really birthdays unless they come with tears.

I couldn't get him out of my head. But instead of fighting it, I've found to accept it. Tearfully remember the shape of his hands, the unmistakable and infectious grin, his laugh and the way we would often get each other so worked up we'd be crying we would laugh so hard.

For my 30th birthday we went skydiving. They had a video option and we paid the extra $50 to record our fall. As the plane circled the Skykomish sky up to 14,000 feet, he sang happy birthday to me. And I have it on film. That was the last birthday we celebrated together, alive.

And I know, deep down, that having him fill my thoughts is just his way of telling me that he's still here. He still cares for me. He will always be there. But damn it, I miss him.

I still had an awesome birthday. It's been four years and my crows feet are growing deeper - not just from age but from lots of laughs since then. Lots of good times had and memories created with old friends and new. I raced my bike and got on the podium, stuffed my face with sushi, laughed hard with friends and ate chocolate cake. Oh, and it was 80 degrees. Pretty sweet if you ask me.