Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Standing on the edge...

I'm standing on the edge of a canyon, weighed down by a suitcase clutched in my right hand. In it are all of my experiences: keys to my past, things that make me who I am and a foundation for what I want to become. I brought the bare minimum, open to learning more, ready for the challenge and curious what I'll throw out along the way.

The panoramic view excites me. There's so much to explore, so many things to encounter, so many experiences to be had. I'm committed to this journey. I'm ready to dig deep, excavate and put my heart and soul into this work. 

I take a deep breath and start to make my way down to the bottom of the canyon via a faint switch back trail. It's dusty and hard to maneuver with my suitcase, but I'm determined I may need some of its contents later.

Taken from http://mpeesel.com/randomness-on-the-trail/

What's the canyon you're standing on? What's your journey?

I just committed to writing my memoir in six months. And by committed, I mean I'm taking an intensive course that's going to challenge me in ways I never imagined. My goals are to complete 60,000 words of my story, my perspective on how grief is a gift. I'm ready to let my voice be heard. 

I'll share my insights along the way - from shitty first drafts to polished prose; to challenges and triumphs and those well timed aha's! Sit down and buckle up, this is sure to be a wild ride.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Academy's Apex

I struggled on the hill today up the Academy. Actually, I struggle every time I climb that hill. My legs felt like they were going to explode and the group just rode away like I was standing still. I contemplated turning around for a brief second and riding out the North Gate. No one would know except me.  I looked up the hill and saw other people struggling in the wind and thought this is making me stronger.

I may not be the fastest. I may not be the strongest. But today I brought my best. And that's all you can hope for.

I crested the hill happy I didn't quit, happy I struggled. If it were easy I wouldn't be doing it. I love the challenge. I love pushing myself to my physical and mental limits to learn how I can grow and go faster as a cyclist and as a person.

Plus, what goes up must come down. And I am addicted to speed. I love moving quickly through space and time, zooming downhill inches away from other riders and picking the right wheel and line to the sprint point. Balancing the fine line between risk and reward.

It's important to practice your strengths and your weaknesses. Lucky for me I got both on today's ride.

What moves you? What are your limits? When faced with struggles, do you embrace them or turn away? Where's your apex?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Notes

This short interlude brought to you by writing a novel in the month of November…. done and done!

A quick recap of what happened in the month of November:

Karissa and I decided to pair up for ParaCycling Track Nationals about 2 weeks prior. It took us a week to get her bike up and running so we did a total of 2 track sessions before heading to LA and won 3 national titles. Boom!

Benjamin was there with his Team Pursuit squad and got to witness it all. He may or may not have said, "I'd be okay if you never did that again!" after the tandem match sprints.

I am now a Level 1 USA Cycling Coach! Completed the course a few weeks ago and am stoked for the personal and professional development it brings. I have spots available for those interested.

I wrote 41,000 words. My goal was 50,000 but I lost steam in LA. Now that I know what it takes, I'll attempt it again next year. I did develop some great new writing habits - like spending 2 hours a day in front of the computer without connectivity. I highly recommend it if you've ever toyed with the idea of writing a novel.

My dad came out for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately they didn't get to meet my world traveler fiancé but soon enough!

Been reading a ton again - now that I have my evenings back from writing (though not for long. I committed to finishing my memoir in 6 months)… "Mindset" by Carol Dweck is really good. My library queue has "Good to Great," "Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul," "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook," and "How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chasing Tandem Dreams

My palms are sweaty and I'm thankful for long fingered gloves. The aero bars on the tandem are slick and any added moisture could cause big problems. I don't want to risk it.

We take to the track, winding up our speed to gradually enter the banked track on the back straight. Although I've done countless revolutions on the LA Velodrome, being out on a tandem is new. And frightening. I'm not just responsible for my own well being, I now guide my stoker through space and time. She follows my movements and cues, pedaling through the turns and holding on for dear life.

I relax. The bike tracks smoothly through the turns.

I've got this, I tell myself. I know she'll feel my hesitation, my twitches, my fears. When I relax the bike goes in the straight line. We wind up our speed at the top of the track, and I push back the reality of how far we would fall if something went wrong. Down we dive, taking a straight line from corner 4 into corner 1. Our speed increases like a mac truck, legs pumping like pistons as we tick off laps. I dial us onto the sprinters line, not moving outside even as the turns pull the bike up track. The black line is the shortest distance around the track and I am determined to stick to it and not stray.

I smile the more we practice. Moments come more and more frequently where I feel like I'm on the bike by myself. Our movements are synched up. We are strongly pushing 300 pounds through the air, chasing lap times and dreams.

I love chasing dreams.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How did you spend your weekend?

Spent the day with Benjamin up at Buffalo Creek, CO on our 29" mountain bikes. It was one of those perfect late fall days, where you could get away with no knee warmers and slip down arm warmers. The trails cross three wild fire scars from 1996, 2000 and 2001. The area is slowly and I mean slowly, renewing itself.

We stopped at the top of one of the first climbs and he looked at me, one leg unclipped as he balanced on his bike. "I love being able to share this with you."

My heart soared. "And I with you."

I am so thankful for the moments we spend together.

While waiting for some uphill traffic I snapped this photo. I love me some Colorado blue sky!

The single track is fantastic. Nothing crazy technical, except for the one downhill run we took were we had to hike a bike more than we rode it. Thankfully we intercepted some downhillers that were finishing the section we had just hiked up and told us to turn around.

You could easily spend a weekend up here, playing on single track and exploring the area, figuring out which trails link up the best with others. Summed up in one word? Gratitude.

Monday, October 28, 2013

All roads lead to Chinatown.

You wouldn't guess by looking at me, but Chinese/Hawaiian ancestry runs through my blood. It's on my mother's father's side of the family. Immigrants to Hawaii long ago and a blend with the locals, the family made its way by owning a full service laundry mat (well before washer and driers were invented) and some real estate. My two front teeth are scooped - a little trickle down affect of my asian blood. But then again, you couldn't tell by looking at me.

I joined my mom in Honolulu this week to clean out my grandmother's house. Gam, my grandmother, passed this last March at the ripe age of 96. She lived in Nu'uanu Pali, up the mountain from downtown Honolulu, the last stop before crossing over to Kailua side. Gam and my grandfather bought this brand new house in 1955. The covered car porch and gate has four Chinese emblems built in. I only just found out on this trip they mean happiness.

Happiness, indeed.

The house sold after 22 offers in a week. It is a gem. A nice big lot in the rain forest, just a few miles from downtown.

We've been cleaning out decades of treasures: wooden bowls, bone china from the kitchen cupboards, the occasional cockroach stuck to the cabinet floor, books filled with notes, old slides, ice picks, you name it. It's like living someone's life in reverse. You can tell a lot about someone by what they keep and what they don't have around. Old sewing machines from a time when if you wanted new clothes, you had to make them. Gam had every kind of twine you can imagine - old fishing line on a spool bigger than your thigh and small hemp that bound her boxes of Christmas ornaments. Dowels in every width and length, ready for any project she might think up.

We also had to sell her car: a 1996 Acura with less than 40,000 miles on it. We listed it on Craigslist and had a dozen responses in an hour. The couple that came up to Nu'uanu met us that afternoon. We could barely understand one another - their English was choppy and our Mandarin nonexistent. We managed to make plans to meet the following day at the DMV to transfer the title and then deliver the car to Milikini street. Mom had to get one of her trustee documents notarized and the wife drove her into Chinatown into some back street and had her climb four flights of stairs into some dark office. The notary didn't speak a lick of English and the entire transaction was completed in Chinese.

Business transaction complete, I followed my mom who followed the wife back through China Town. We drove past where my grandmother's funeral was, past the noodle shops, past the mauna pua factories. We could've taken a quicker, more direct route. But for this lady, all roads lead to Chinatown.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

GET A BIKE FIT.

We spent close to five hours working on my position on the bike. No leaf unturned, Colby methodically inspected every aspect of how I rode my bike. Cleat position in relation to how my feet function, handle bar position, hood position, saddle height, saddle position, the saddle itself, and attention toward my flexibility and mobility as an athlete. No leaf unturned.

The biggest transformation? Pelvic tilt. I had been sitting back in my saddle to protect my soft tissue. Now I'm sitting forward, and lengthening my spine which flattens my back out. I increased my stem length from a baby 80 mm to 110mm. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

I rode four hours the next day and felt amazing. No pain. No tightness. No foot pain or strain. Just put my head down and pounded out the miles. The sun definitely helped - and the fact we didn't have to wear arm warmers. It's so nice not having to think about what hurts or what you tolerate on the bike when you ride.

If you haven't had a proper bike fit - what are you waiting for? If you knew you could increase your comfort and power on the bike ten fold by spending some dollars on improving your position - then why haven't you? And if you want the best - Colby is fantastic.

After moving things around, I may or may not have said "Oh sheeeeiiiitttt. Those bizzos are in trouble."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One Word at a Time

Long tights, wool under layers, sunny skies, fallen leaves, miles of roads and lots of training... my morning ground ride leaves in an hour. Baby's in the Netherlands and I'm getting a laundry list of writing done. So far this morning: 1,000 words, and yes, I keep track. Each morning I wake up before it's light out, turn on my reading light and dive into a novel for an hour or so. Once my grumbling tummy can no longer be ignored, I head downstairs with a whining Makiah in tow. A scoop of kibble in her dog dish, a scoop of oatmeal and water in a pot and I sit down, scribbling down morning thoughts in my green journal. I read more while eating, filling my mind with words, noticing what works for some writers and what doesn't. (New pet peeve: when someone says something is indescribable. All I read is cop out! Come on, you have to have felt something. Tell us about it. Or at least try. That's your duty as a writer. Also note to self: never use that saying, even though I have. :))

After breakfast, I head upstairs and sit down, turn on some music and begin my morning writing. I tease and pull out prose. I don't judge it, I just get it out. Letting the muse inside transform the laptop before me. I watch as the word count creep up, pleased with my progress. If focused, I can squeeze out those 1,000 words in about an hour. Some of it's good, some of it mediocre. Regardless of its quality, it's a first draft and it's more important to get things out on paper than it is to critique. At least not right now.

Sometimes I sit, mind blank as I stare out the window watching the world spin by. Sometimes I type, unable to keep up with the thoughts in my head and transferring them to paper. Sometimes I weep, caught up in the memory of Ryan as memoirs require you to access your past, to drudge up long forgotten memories that were left quiet in the recess of your mind. It's hard work putting your memories down on paper and accurately describing what you know is true. But it is beyond rewarding.

Goal for next week: Chapter 8. Getting it done, one word at a time. Travel to Hawaii to pack up my grandmother's house. Spend quality time with my mom.

Reading: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes; The Writer Who Stayed by William Zinsser.
Just finished reading: On Writing by Stephen King; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Change

8:00am Saturday

8:22 am Saturday
I moved my writing desk. It used to face a periwinkle blue wall, devoid of distractions. But with November Novel Writing Month coming up, I thought it was time for change. Apparently the tree in our backyard thought so too. I watched the majority of these leaves fall in the span of twenty minutes. They fell to the ground like dandruff on a black sweater. 

And yesterday, as I sat at the kitchen table, I noticed a big fat squirrel perched on the wooden fence. Its cheeks were full and an extra layer of fat covered its body. It's going to be a crazy winter.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Musings


Thoughts from my journal:

Froze toes, ice cube legs, snow dusting the ground.
Cranked heater, warming soup, boiling water for tea.
Multiple layers: wools, down vest, leggings, wool socks - negated by wet hair.
Snow slowly floating down in large flakes - reaching the ground and dissolving.
Raspy cough: hard efforts with cold air created wheezes.
Upstairs shower dripping warm water, as Ben warms up.


Today: round two of let's get used to winter in October. On tap - a 3.5 hour ride.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tales from the Tandem

I rode the scooter to the Olympic Training Center, excited to meet some new para-cycling faces and see some familiar ones. I walked into the Gold room and was welcomed by a lot of smiling happy campers, ready to tackle a week of track racing. Behind me sat Jason, who after a few minutes of chatting told me I would be piloting him this week. Jason had lost his vision about 10 years before while serving in the Marine Corp overseas. Cycling gave him an outlet to feel the wind in his face, the burn in his lungs and legs and helped him lose weight. We agreed to meet the following morning and ride over to the track together.

New to tandem track riding, the rear drop outs and timing chain setup baffled me. Due to the chain length and the laborious process it took to change gears, we were restricted to our gear selection. Our choices for warmup were either really small, or really, really big. Thankfully Jason's coach Glen was available to help us with the gearing change outs.

Check out the picture to the left. Notice anything different? Yep, there's a second track chain running on the drive side. Due to the crazy amount of torque and force two people generate, the bike has rear drop out guides to prevent the rear wheel from slipping, especially during standing starts. The wheel never budged however, changing the gears meant adjusting 6 points of contact - two drop out screws, two set bolts, rear cog (with a lock ring - trust me, you need it) and of course the front chain ring. Add two people totaling around 350 pounds, and well, you've got a lot of faith in your equipment that things will go according to plan.

Day one we made sure the bike was functioning and that we could ride the track together with no issues. Andy had us do a flying 2k pursuit and flying kilo. It sure is nice having a strong engine behind you to get that puppy up to speed! We suffered in the last couple of laps during the pursuit, but definitely set our mark.

Day two we got the bike ready to go for the group warm up. We did 20 minutes at the stayers line and then dropped down into the sprinters lane to do the final 10 laps of warmup. We had just accelerated and got to the front of the group when BAM! Our rear tire blew off the rim. We were coming out of corner 2, thankfully down near the apron.

"Oh shit, oh shit," was all I could say.

Jason started fishtailing behind me and all I could think was, I don't want him to land on top of me. Hold it upright!

"Oh shit," he said in response.

Some how, some way we were able to hold it upright and came to a perfect 10 dismount exiting corner four, landing on our feet and not on the pavement. PHEW!

Jason called my piloting baptism by fire.

Day three we completed a warmup behind a motorcycle and things went smoothly. Andy had us practice standing starts to work on technique and get coached on areas where we can improve. Jason had practiced them with his other track pilot so he was familiar with the movement and how to get out of the saddle. I have done several hundred starts on my single track bike, but experiencing them on the track tandem was a first.

"5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1!" Andy shouted as he released us from the sprinters lane.

The bike lumbered forward and I looked down to what was right in front of me. We wiggled onto the apron as I struggled to keep us on the track and moving forward. I giggled uncontrollably as Jason's movements felt like a monkey humping me from behind. I couldn't get out of the saddle, unsure of this new position and feeling his hot breath on my back.

"Why are you laughing?" Jason asked.

"It's not you, it's me! It just felt really, really weird," I said unable to quiet my giggles.

I couldn't tell him what it really felt like, at least not yet. Sure we had gone through a rear tire blow out and we quickly getting to know one another, but I didn't feel comfortable telling him that I was laughing because I pictured in my head that this is how monkey's do it. Because my saddle height was lower than his other pilot, it caused his bars to be further down and therefore threw his weight further forward. It really wasn't his fault - he was just doing what he had to do to get us moving. Later that day, I admitted that it felt like a monkey hump and we laughed for a good 5 minutes straight.

"If you can pilot me, you can pilot anyone," Jason said.

Our technique improved substantially and by the last day of camp, we laid down a 2:25 pursuit, besting our time by 8 seconds. Our kilo time also improved to a 1:07, three seconds better than just a few days prior. One thing is for sure, I love piloting a tandem. It is awesome to help someone else feel the joy of riding when they otherwise couldn't. Even if that means experiencing the occasional monkey hump.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Clear as mud.

How much are you willing to compromise to make something work? 


A recent honest question caused somewhat of a shit storm. I asked it out of genuine curiosity. And it triggered the person whose ears it fell on. The response came in spurts: how could you even ask? Crying, blaming, screaming and then eventually silence.

How much are you willing to compromise to make something work?


Once the silence was broken, a slur of accusations erupted out. In order to make this work I was being demanded to compromise my integrity, my honesty and who I am. Veiled in threats, shame, tears and emotions it came out in a circular and incoherent pattern. This is after I had apologized for asking the question in which I did. But I would not apologize for asking it. It still hadn't been answered. It was an honest, simple question.

How much are you willing to compromise to make something work?


It happened so fast and quickly, that I thank my lucky stars and intuition that I kept my wits about me and didn't agree to anything I would regret. Fifty-five minutes passed in a blink of an eye.


How much are you willing to compromise to make something work?


At this point, I was willing to let the answer to the question slide. Even though it would be nice to know the answer. But I was paying a tall price in order to find out. And the answer really didn't matter. We all own our truths.


How much are you willing to compromise to make something work?


Unwilling to move forward, she stayed in her perspective and I stayed in mine. She wanted me to step into hers, absorb it, own it, live it breath it. And I refused. That's not my job, nor my burden. I am willing to move on, to recognize each of our positions and come to some sort of reconciliation. But when it became obvious she only saw it one way, I called it.

Do you want to work it out or dissolve it?


Her answer was clear as mud when she hung up on me.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Rest in Peace, Amy Dombroski

I was sitting down on a curb, looking up at Pikes Peak with the sun on my face while waiting for Durner to show up to pack up the tandem. I sat stunned as Twitter had just announced the loss of Amy Dombroski.

I first encountered Amy when she showed up in Colorado Springs for a cross race last fall. It was hard to miss her - she had a Subaru wrapped with her name on it and looked like the real deal. When I saw her in person, I was shocked with how little she was. (I'm somewhat Amazon, okay?)

Earlier this summer, I raced in Laramie, Wyoming along side Amy. We started chatting during the 10 mile roll out to the infamous hill and quickly swapped cycling stories. She was just starting her season and getting some intensity in for a nice cross season overseas. Dressed in her Belgium team clothing, cycling visor, and shiny Oakley glasses, I remember looking over and seeing a big smile stretched across her face. I told her about my piloting experiences and she laughed along. I wished her the best of luck in the coming season knowing the looming hill would shoot me out of the back like a canon.

A few months later, I was racing in Canada at the ParaCycling World championships. The hotel we stayed at also housed the Belgium, Swedish and British Cycling teams. During one of our team training rides, a Belgium coach came up to me and we started talking. He asked where I was from and I proudly responded Colorado.

"Do you know Amy Dombroski?"

"Yes! I met her this summer. She's great!"

"She stays with my family when she's training in Belgium," he said. I could tell by his smile Amy held a special place in his heart. It was nice knowing that thousands of miles away, Amy linked two strangers by way of her infectious smile.

And now the news of Amy's death hits hard. She was doing what she loved, living the dream and making it count. I feel so fortunate for having known her, even though our encounters were brief. My heart goes out to those who are now mourning her loss. Thank you, Amy, for being you.


(Photo from CyclingNews.com)



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Counting for distraction

The seasons are shifting in Colorado. The days are warm, kissing my exposed skin as I ride, and drying out the saturated landscape. And the nights are getting cooler, requiring another blanket on the bed or Benjamin to stay super close, or even better - both.

Today was one of those long rides that seemed to never end. Into a strong headwind we pedaled, heading west on Squirrel Creek Road. You could see Pikes Peak and no matter how many rollers we summited, it still seemed so very far away. We had long since stopped talking. Or maybe someone was talking - but I couldn't hear them over the wind.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10

I started counting to distract myself from thinking how bad this hurts, how good it would feel to pull over, how far we had yet to ride, what was I thinking coming out here to Hanover in Kansas land? The mind likes to play tricks on you when you're doing some difficult.


1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10

The counting helped. It kept those demons at bay. It kept that little devil of self-doubt that creeps up on your shoulder from taking over.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 

Will this ever stop? I know, wind - shift! 

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 

Pikes Peak is getting closer... so is the mini-mart with Mexican Coco Cola's and Snicker bars. Just make it that far, body, and I promise you I will stop. And I promise I will buy all of the girls sugar to get us home.. it's the least I could do after bringing them out here.

 

Friday, September 06, 2013

Remembering Ryan

**The following events happened exactly 5 years ago. Tip back an IPA tonight in memory of a man who is gone but will never be forgotten. What you are about to read is an excerpt from my book, "Leaping into Lovers Lane."



The hike up to the base of Goat Wall left him wiping his brow. The load in his backpack was much lighter this time since he wasn't burdened with the weight of climbing hardware. He had only brought his climbing harness, shoes, rope and a few karabiners for the rappel descent. Still, the twenty-minute steep approach was not for the faint of heart, nor the out of shape.
After removing his backpack, a gentle September breeze swept up from the Methow Valley and flapped his sweat-drenched T-shirt away from his skin. Lost River flowed three hundred feet below on the valley floor, twisting and turning its way through sparsely populated Mazama, Washington, located on the North Eastern flanks of the Cascade Mountains, emptying into the Columbia River and hundreds of miles away into the Pacific Ocean. The sights and sounds of the Methow Valley filled his senses as the sun kissed him.
Makiah, our twenty-five-pound miniature Australian Shepherd, was panting too.  The big steps he had to take during the scramble up in the talus field were enormous leaps for her. Yet he didn’t need to assist her, she had made it up on her own. He’d contemplating shaving her fur - especially since she was miserable in the late season summer heat. But fall was just around the corner and she'd be more than a little humiliated without her signature shaggy coat.
Squinting up at the rock, he quickly found his rock-climbing route, Prime Rib on Goat Wall. Rated a moderate sport climb, where metal bolts are drilled into the rock face, the climb gains a total of 650 feet. He knew exactly where it started since he had researched the climb quite a bit. That morning he had spoken with Brian Burdo, who had developed a lot of the sport climbs in the Mazama and surrounding area, including Prime Rib, and received a first hand account of what to expect on each portion of the climb. He was so confident in his choice of climb that day that he left the climbing guidebook back at his one room rustic cabin about a mile up Lost River road. He was, after all, an expert and experienced climber, rope or no rope.

Climbing suited his athletic and compact frame. His strong, muscular hands could cling onto the smallest rock features while his body contorted sideways. He could flex his core so tightly it would momentarily suspend him, weightless on the rock. Not only was he built for rock climbing, but also his pain threshold and ability to transcend through discomfort allowed him to push the limits.

Pushing his limit happened every time he encountered rock. Each and every time he approached rock he would show up ready to improve his climbing through sheer grit, determination and hard work. It provided a portal to his nirvana: improving himself through climbing.

His confidence had grown as he gained experience climbing in countless regions around the world. Over ten years of practice, rocks had become extensions of his body. Everything in his life revolved around climbing. All vacations were at climbing destinations; he frequented climbing forums and all of his friends were climbers. He lived, breathed, and slept climbing.  He would climb with such passion and become so obsessed with what he was doing, that in those moments, nothing else mattered.

Armed with information on what to expect on the Prime Rib route, and knowledge that the climb was rated well within his ability, he decided to climb without a partner and the added protection of using a rope to ascend.

He set his backpack down, pulled out his climbing harness, shoes, rope, and chalk bag, and took a big swig of water. Sitting down on a flat rock, he took off his approach shoes and carefully slipped on his tight climbing shoes.
"You stay here, Makiah."
He didn't even bother to tie her up. He didn't need to. Makiah was well trained and did as she was told. Plus she rarely wandered and always stayed within earshot. He stashed his backpack near the base of the climb and left Makiah with some water. He slung a seventy-meter rope over his shoulder, crisscrossing it around his chest, and secured it with a series of climber knots so it wouldn't impede his ascent. He planned on using the rope to descend. He chalked up his hands and with that he started to climb up the loose adventure route. This was it, one last climb before heading home to Seattle after spending a week in Mazama. One final climb to top a fun filled week full of recreation in the Pacific Northwest.
Makiah watched as her owner started the ascent up Goat Wall, and once he was out of sight she dug herself a comfortable spot to wait and keep careful guard over her owner’s backpack.
She was the last being to see him alive.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

All you have to do is pick the day

A friends profound six year old painted a 3' canvass with the words, "All you have to do is pick the day." It hangs boldly in their living room as a reminder that if there's a life out there you long for, then pick the day.

Really. It is that simple.

As it would turn out, both parents had lifelong dreams of taking their kids abroad. They wanted to provide them with a South American experience and get off the grid. They wanted to leave behind the stress of the city, the constant whirl of texts, emails and play dates so they could show their kids they live what they teach them.

This past spring they picked the day. They are going to Argentina. They let their employers know, arranged for house renters, took care of the necessary details and are living the life of their dreams. They picked the day and stuck to it.

If there are things you long for in life: painting, writing, moving to a sunny spot with mountains, reaching for the stars, starting a business, moving to Argentina, getting married, etc. All you have to do is pick the day.

The choice is yours. So what are you waiting for?


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Daring Greatly

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."

- Theodore Roosevelt's "Citizenship in a Republic."

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I could taste it.

The one water bottle rule didn't work today. You know, the one I told you about before. Some coach told my friend Tela Crane that she could be pissed/upset/sad/mad/frustrated about the outcome of a race for one water bottle's worth. After sucking down its contents, you chalk up those feelings to experience. You sit back, and say to yourself, hot damn. I got to do what I love today. And sure it didn't pan out as hoped. But it paned out.

A champion is not someone who wins all the time. Sure, that helps. But a true champion is someone who learns from their mistakes and sees them as opportunities to improve.

Tandem racing is a trip. It's all about tactics, and figuring out the momentum game. Picking the right line, the right wheel and staying out of harms way. Just like racing the single bike. But the speeds are higher on the descents, the cornering that much more exaggerated and the accelerations slow. It's also way more fun because it's a new challenge. And I get to share it with a blind athlete, Shawn.

We came in 6th today. I was racing aggressively for 3rd place since the break up the road had the first two podium spots. We were chasing hard to bridge and overcome the Polish. Going into the steep descent and right hand turn, I told Shawn to hold on. We FLEW through the last corner, easily hitting 40 mph. Then came the curb. Up we went, through a family on the sidewalk and almost t-boning a 4 year old on a bike. We lost our momentum. The Polish were gone and the Great Britain Team and other USA team came by. We pushed, we pulled, we put everything we had into it, but our chance was gone. DAMN!

To be so close to a podium. To taste it, smell it, feel it. To be SO CLOSE!!! I would be lying if I didn't say I wasn't disappointed. That I'm going to just chalk this one up to experience.

Next week we have another opportunity. The stakes are higher - a world championship title is on the line. More opportunity to live and grow. And bottom line: more bike racing!!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

9 Tips to Going Pro

Tip #1 - Stop dabbling as an amateur. If you really want to be pro you've got to look it, think it, feel it and act it.

Tip #2 - Don't accept excuses from yourself. Get up everyday and do exactly what will make you a professional. Forget that weekend warrior stuff - a pro is someone who takes themselves seriously.

Tip #3 - Change your perspective! The biggest difference between being a pro and an amateur lies within your mind. Commit to yourself and take it seriously.

Tip #4 - Get the right gear and a great coach. Whether that be a business coach, writing coach, cycling coach or underwater basket weaver. You deserve the best! Look right and feel right.

Tip #5 - Take ownership of your gifts and believe in yourself. You can do it! You are on this planet for a reason and make a difference for other people. Express yourself!

Tip #6 - Commit to what you want to be, even when the going gets tough. Breakthroughs will happen but you must first persevere through adversity.

Tip #7 - Create a practice and dedicate yourself. Practice makes perfect. So perfect practicing.

Tip #8 - Watch out for saboteurs! Those people or little voices of self doubt can creep up on you. Stay strong and align yourself with supporters.

Tip #9 - Be your own creator. Ah, there grasshopper, lies the key.



Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Making Gains

I sometimes wonder if I was in Shawn's shoes and couldn't see what terrain was ahead, if that would help. Think about it - you would never know how big a hill or an obstacle was unless you had experienced it before and you wouldn't psyche yourself out as a result. I'm sure my eyes have conditioned my mind, especially when it comes to long, steep hills. You see them coming, you know it's going to hurt and if your legs are tired or your mind is ready to play tricks on you, well then - you suffer before the climb even begins.

But if you couldn't see - all you could do is feel...

Talk about living in the moment. All you know is what you're experiencing right then and there. You couldn't see to judge something, you could only live it.

We suffered on some hills today. And then we suffered some more. I tell Shawn we're approaching a hill and then try to estimate how many seconds or minutes to the top so she knows how long to push. It's her way of seeing what's coming. I don't tell her how much it's going to hurt or if my legs are screaming - no way. Instead I tell her how well we are doing, how much we're fighting and to stand and eventually sit. Focusing on the positive and keeping a good attitude does wonders for getting up hills as quickly as possible, even if you feel slow as dirt.

We put a big deposit in the bank for the upcoming World Championships held at the end of this month. And although the altitude was a little bit of a culprit today, we still made some excellent progress.

And then we got to test and see what our maximum power is on the bike. Ouchie!

Monday, July 29, 2013

How to get your best power numbers ever.

I could see the thunderstorm in the distance. The sky touched the ground in dark purple and grey as a crooked flash of lightening sliced through the undefined clouds. The wind was still at my back, making my pedaling easier but bringing me closer to the storm.

I saw the landmark cell tower in the distance, summoning me to turn east. I kept glancing at the 20 mile wide storm cell, willing it to head north. Follow the wind, I thought.

Follow the wind.

And it got closer, and closer. I could feel the electricity in the air on my face. It brought moisture and panic, all at once. My mind started racing as the wind shifted dramatically. A cool stiff gust pushed south, directly in my path.

I kept riding.

What if I ride through the middle of that?
What if I get struck by lightening?
What if? What if? WHAT IF?!?

A flash illuminates the sky. I'm still listening to my iPod and I miss hearing the thunder. I can't count the seconds between the strike and the boom. I feel it though. Its hiss is on my right shoulder, the boom surrounding me in all directions. The sky overhead looks like a deep skin bruise full of yellow, purple, blue and blood.

There's no where to hide. There's nothing for miles. And there's no traffic on this desolate road.

I ride faster than I have ever ridden before. I don't look at my power meter, I ignore my screaming body. I put my head down, tucking into an aero position and ride like my life depends on it. I ride through the wind, outpacing the storm by only a few miles per hour. If I can just make it to town, everything will be okay.

I have enough sense to capture this moment. If I just make it to town, I'll have another tool to draw upon when I'm training and racing - one that taps into the most basic survival instinct.

I keep pushing and pushing and then the rain starts, slowly at first. Could that be my own sweat? I look down at my top tube and see that it's wet. I increase my pace, and keep my eyes on town. It's getting closer as the drops grow bigger.

If I can just make it to town....

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Holding Hands

A weekend of firsts....

Friday night Benjamin and I headed to the track for some racing. Earlier in the day I received a text from Maddie saying that Cari was running a Madison clinic for interested ladies and asked if I would be interested in helping out.

"OF COURSE!!!" was my response.

I love the Madison! Better yet, I love sharing and teaching others something I feel passionate about: holding hands and going fast as humanly possible.

What is a Madison? Why it's a disguised track points race. One where you and your partner dosey doe while other teams are doing the same on a bike with no brakes. It's wild, it's hard, it's dangerous. It's AMAZING.

Pat McDonough set up an exhibition women's Madison night and the ladies rallied. We had 10 women show up, ready to give it a whirl. Cari paired the experienced racers with the non in a 20 lap non-competitive first ever Colorado Springs 7/11 Velodrome Women's Madison! I had the honor of flinging Amanda Cyr into the race while she shot putted me into the corners. We had a blast!

I am so excited about this. And even more thrilled to be a part of a new movement, again. (I might have had a little something to do with the Madison scene at Marymoor. :))

Afterward, Ben and I got to hold hands in the men's 50 lap Madison. Around and around we went, going blow for blow with Jo and her partner Dave, Sarah and Cari and then getting lapped multiple times by Colby and Jake. I will say this: the competition in Colorado is the best in the country.

And
I have the best partner in the Universe.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Winning in Life

I've composed over ten blog entries in my mind over the past couple of weeks. They come to me when I'm just about to start an interval or go uphill. They get lost during the exertion, only to be forgotten hours later when I have the time and brain power to get them down on paper.

Life is full of cycles. The warmth of summer lingers, as do late season races and goals. Except this year is different. I'm not going to Master or Elite Track Nationals. This year all of my hard work and dedication, intervals, sacrifices, perseverance and grit paid off: Shawn and I will be racing at the ParaCycling world championships.

Ten years of work and now a career defining opportunity is on my doorstep. I am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity. And I'm thrilled knowing I have the huge support of my community, family and friends behind me. When I stand on top of the podium, know that I'm thinking of all those moments, big and small, that have brought me to this moment, this now.

A quick visit home last weekend helped me realize just how much I love my life now. I love where I live, in these purple mountains. I love the sunshine that shines brightly everyday. I love that Benjamin and I are growing older together. I love that as I type, Moonli lays snoring a few feet away, my loyal office companion, while Makiah lays on her bed in the other bedroom. I am feeling lucky, lucky indeed.

From ProVelo Passion Image by Mary Topping.
Taken from the DailyCamera.com Photo by Cliff Grassmick
Love, your newly crowned Colorado State Crit Champion. BOOM!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Taking Stock

What really matters:

Enjoying this moment, right here, right now.

Being grateful for life's opportunities.

Letting those I love know it in so many different ways.

Never giving up.

Looking at the sunniest of sunny sides.

Exploring, playing and in search of adventures.

Laughing, heartily.

Celebrating!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

How Failure Helps You Win.

"Failure is the key to success, each mistake teaches us something."

That was my mantra during several moments of todays' race. Not that I was throwing in the towel by any means. Even after having a strange mechanical where our brakes engaged and felt like someone threw on the emergency brake, seeing the pack get a little too far away and then chasing with everything we had, every ounce of fiber, as the men's and two women's tandems went up the road. But we just couldn't close the gap, and they galloped away. The National Championship Title just rode away.

This can't be happening, I thought. Oh shit, Shawn. I'm so sorry.

My mind turned a switch. It went from savvy, confident racer to being off the back. My heart grew heavy, my demeanor changed. Shawn could feel it, she told me afterward. I knew the exact moment it happened. That little voice of self doubt creeped in... and I tried pushing it out. I tried shutting it down. Tried telling it to "SHUT UP LEGS!" But the move went up the road. And my head hung heavy.

Tandem racing is unlike any other thing I've done athletically. It pushes you in so many ways. It demands strength, skill, speed, legs, grit and hard work. It requires 100% trust in your partner. It's an equal effort, we both want it bad so we train hard to get there. Individually, I work on all of those things. I practice and cycle, go to sleep and then repeat. My life is built around doing just that. So when you're tested, truly tested to the core and that foundation gets raddled by a poor performance, it makes you think. It makes you re-evaluate things. It makes you try to figure out what, when, why and how.

Regardless of what exactly happened today, I know I have some things to work on. Yes, I would have loved for a perfect performance today, especially for us and for Shawn. I would have loved to be zipping up that National Championship jersey up to our chinney chin chins. I would love to be looking at Shawn while standing atop the podium and celebrating our success. But today was not the day.

Today was not the day.

But tomorrow is another opportunity, another chance to get stronger. We have a world championship to crush. That will be our day.


(PS - We did get selected the world championship team yesterday!!!)

Friday, July 05, 2013

Team Shawnifer Updates

Greetings from Waterloo, Wisconsin!

It's the day after the 26.5 km time trial, in the early morning hours, watching the Tour and doing a little catch up and all things outside of the cycling world. Well, the world outside of my own little cycling universe. Funny how it tends to consume everything. And by everything I mean every waking moment is centered around being on the bike or being off the bike and making the most of recovery time, especially in the summer time.

We had a great ride yesterday. The ten days Shawn spent with me in Colorado Springs was time well spent. We dialed in our standing sprints, our accelerations and momentum carried over the hills and cornering. We still have more work to do - but are off to an exciting and excellent start. 38 minutes 3.5 seconds of putting pain in the back seat and saying yes to pushing through the rolling farm hills of Wisconsin.

We'll find out by 2pm central time today the world championship selection for late August. If selected, we'll get more and more time together on the bike for training camps in preparation for our debut in Quebec.

In the meantime we're trying to find funding to purchase our own racing tandem, which will replace the American Blind Association's stars and bars loaner we have been super lucky to start on. Cycling is a crazy expensive sport.

We're working on PR and getting a website up and going. If you would like to contribute to our quest toward world domination (website design, donation ideas, fundraising, creative housing ideas, etc), please contact me! It takes a village....

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Updates

Two weeks!!! It's already been two weeks since my last entry?

Here's a quick recap on what's been happening:
Shawn and I got 3rd in a world cup! You read that right. We are officially on Team USA and International Medalists. Boom!

A super duper long travel day home. For some reason it feels harder coming back to the US then leaving. 24 hours of travel left me a little tired.

Racing Dead Dog in Laramie, Wyoming - sucked some wind and came in quite a bit of time down from the winner. Next day: the crit and time trial. Went for and won a $190 prime (which was more than the overall for the Stage Race win) and had a great break through in the time trial. Let's just say I figured out a new protocol to follow during the race and it is MONEY. It is on.

The past week Shawn's been here training at altitude. We've put quite a bit of time in together on the tandem and made some HUGE improvements.  Standing starts, sprints, time trial efforts, pushing through the heat, just to name a few. We're really looking forward to Nationals next week and racing to our potential.

What's next? Well the World Championship selection is based off of the time trial results and we should  know what's happening by July 5th. Here's to super fast legs and setting a new course record!

In the meantime... I fell back in love with track racing. Had a sweet night out at the track yesterday duking it out with Katie Compton and Missy Erickson. Though the women's scene is small, it is strong. Add a few more people in the mix and we have a pretty sweet field! I'm registered for Master Nationals in Indy.... and thinking about Marymoor GP. Kind of depends on what happens with the worlds selection.... will keep you all updated!

Till then, keep on keeping on.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pre-flight Arousal

I have goosebumps and feel like I could jump out of my skin right now.

In a few short hours, Shawn and I will be in the starting house, ready to take flight on a flat 22km time trial course in Segovia, Spain. I'm trying to contain myself, trying to not expend too much energy and channel all of that energy into going FAST. BUT I'M HAVING A HARD TIME!!!!!!!

To have put so much time and energy into something: the hundreds of training hours, the mental fortitude, the collective moments of pushing through the pain cave, the I can't's turned into I CAN, the emotional and physical breakthroughs. And now we get to perform. We get to take everything we've trained so hard for and race against the clock.

I am so grateful for this. To be living my life to the fullest. To take this opportunity and make the most out of it. I'm crying tears of joy.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Thank yous

Happiness is receiving two hand written thank you notes in the mail in the same day saying you've had a positive impact on someone's life.

And it also serves as a reminder that going out of your way to say thank you goes a long way.



Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Creating change.

"I see what you're saying. That you're looking at his death as a gift. And that brings up the urgency of our limited time on Earth and the preciousness of life."

"Exactly."

"That's so different then what I've read out there."

"I know. That's why I'm driven to write it. I want to start a different conversation."


A change agent is an event, organization, material thing, or more usually, a person that acts as a catalyst  for change.

"The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts." - Malcom Gladwell

5 characteristics of successful change agents: Clear vision, patient yet persistent, asks tough questions, knowledgable and leads by example and has strong relationships built on trust. 

Check, check, check, check and check. 

Get ready world - things are going to change. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Chapter Three - Urgency excerpt


(A little teaser for my regulars. Thank you all for being patient while I work on my book. Regular blog posts will resume.... eventually.)

Still in my shin-height nightgown and before drinking black coffee, I pulled the drawstring cord to open the horizontal oak blinds. Light beamed into my eggplant purple bedroom, illuminating dust balls. We painted this room seven years ago, together. I look down to the dirty hamper directly beneath the window and focus on the backpack that has been sitting there for three weeks. The time feels right. This is one of the baby steps I have to take. I take a big breath of air, mustering up the courage to open the grey Deuter pack and go through the contents inside.

The pack smells of dirt, metal and sweat, Ryan’s sweat. I sit down cross-legged on the floor, take another deep breath and make sure I want to do this now. It’s only been three weeks and yet it’s already been three weeks. I’m thankful someone hasn’t written a manual on the proper timing for going through someone’s belongings after they die. I am ready now but that could change in a heartbeat. I sit up tall and start carefully at the top of the pack, locking each moment of discovery deep in my memory banks. In order for this to feel right I want to remember everything, down to the finest detail. I am looking for clues, anything that would tell me why Ryan died. I wanted an explanation or a reason. Something that would make me feel better.

In the top lid of the pack are tools of the trade: two drill bits, a wrench on a piece of bright orange cordlet and a sandwich bag full of gymnastic block chalk. No obvious clues there. Each item is a sign of his commitment to the sport. They are just objects with no attached meaning. They do nothing to soothe my sadness and broken heart.

I sit up tall again, folding down the lid and opening the drawstring for the main compartment. I catch a whiff of something rotten. Something smells like it’s been left in a hot car too long. Tears stream down my face, dripping onto my nightgown. 

Inside of a lunch size brown paper bag is a soggy peanut butter and honey sandwich and red apple. The apple is soft to the touch and needs to be thrown out. Taking this step and acknowledging the passage of time that all organic matter decomposes, I close my eyes. I long for what might have been.  Seeing his lunch confirms what I knew all along: this was an accident. Ryan had full intention of coming home after his climb.

Underneath the brown bag was a blue PowerAid and reused Gatorade bottle nearly full of water. Both were missing small sips. His last sips. I opened the lid and went to put my lips where his had been and couldn’t sit up any longer. My body started shaking as it built up deep sobs. Why? Why Ryan?

Several minutes pass. I try breathing through my stuffy nose, congested with snot. I rub my temples, trying to relieve sinus pressure. If I finish going through the pack now, I will be done. One more step, complete. I glance again at the brown bag, ready to move on.

In the bottom of the bag are his hiking shoes with the laces removed. When Ryan’s body had been discovered, Kevin had used the laces as a leash for Makiah. Tucked into his shoes were balled up black Cane Creek cycling socks with a faint sour foot smell.

Sad yet thankful I finished the job, I sigh. I didn’t find the clues I was looking for.  

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Coal Miners Repeat!

Seeing one lap to go surprised me. Where did the time go? I was on the front, getting ready for any late race attacks and had my nose out in the wind much more than I should have.

The late race attack comes up the left hand side of the road and the group chases hard. I take several hard power pedal strokes to maintain my speed and then relax settling into the draft in front of me, knowing we still have plenty of time. We're roughly 4km to the finish line.

The last few kilometers are all about staying in position and not falling for any accelerations that might zap the legs for the final sprint. It's also an exercise of patience and trusting your teammate to do what we had talked about prior to the race. You're trying to conserve and be ready to pounce, like a tiger on its prey.

Heather takes the lead going into the second to last corner, accelerating hard making a couple of riders anxious. There's a little reshuffling in the position but I maintain my spot. We make the final left hand turn with Heather still in the lead and I'm sitting fourth wheel. Kori is up out of the saddle along the right side of the road - the best place to be with the wind. Her move is early but I would be foolish not to follow it. We still have 400 meters to the finish line and Christa accelerates as well, coming on the inside of Kori. I know the move is now or never.

Up out of the saddle, all of my power pounds on the pedals, carrying me past Kori and Chritsa. We still have 150 meters to go, and that was everything I have. I hear the crowd from the sidelines and think I hear a rider approaching. I look under my right arm, then glance over my left shoulder. I've created a nice gap and no one is contesting me so I raise my arms high and proud in a V for victory.

The euphoria stays with me for two seconds and then exhaustion takes over. I slump over, surprised by the first win of the year. Tickled that everything went according to plan. Stoked that my teammate did exactly what we had talked about and I was able to deliver a win for the team.  I can't wait to repay the favor!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Oh the places you can go...

These are a few of my favorite things...

Pikes Peak Highway. 14,114 feet. All reachable by bike.


Rock landscapes that should be on the moon. All observed with my own two eyes.


What they say is true, you know.


What goes up, must come down. And that's the best part. At least according to this tall girl.

Some adventures are closer to home than others. The one above is 20 minutes from home up an old gold mining road. I am that lucky.


And today's reminder? We're back in fire season. This is what's left from the Waldo Canyon fire. Tomorrow - more adventures through burn areas.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Temptation

With a strong smell of spring, Benjamin and I zoomed down the Falcon Trail in the Air Force Academy around 6pm last night. Dodging thundershowers and racing daylight, I had one of those "I love it here" rides. And by here, I mean where I am both physically and mentally. I love following Benjamin's quick descents on his mountain bike, love zooming through the forest and over rocky trail sections. Love that my life is what it is and appreciative of so much abundance. And I love that my legs felt amazing, ready for the meandering challenge.

The smells were incredible. An earthy scent: dust, pine needles, green blades of grass, and peppered with small rain drops. I breathed deeply in, thankful for the opportunity to be playing in its presence, full grin on my face as we flew down the trail. Yes, I sang the whole way.

"Who are you talking to?" Benjamin asked at one point.

"Nobody! Just singing!" ZOOM down the trail, booming out the chorus to New Order's song Temptation. Benjamin added the lyrics.

"Up, down, turn around
Please don't let me hit the ground
Tonight I think I'll walk alone
I'll find my soul as I go home"



Colorado rain is much different than Washington's. It comes in small spurts and the drops are like fine needles, barely touching the skin. In the high desert, the rain is welcome. It's the greenest I have ever seen it here, thanks to the nightly thundershowers. Funny though, if you were to visit from Seattle, you'd wonder why everything looks brown.

Spring is late. Much later than last year. We are just now hitting temperatures in the 70's. The snow is melting off the surrounding fourteeners and the river and stream banks are bulging. Our street is lined with bright green bulbs, providing shade and color.

Somedays just leave you thankful. Thankful for everything in your life, in this moment, in this lifetime in this Universe. Come visit me in Colorado and I'll take you on those trials so you can feel it too.  Singing is mandatory.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Signs from another dimension....

Days of the week are flying by. The weeks are screaming by too. And we're nearly half way through May? It's not that I mind, not at all. More than anything I notice how different my routine is.

The world keeps spinning madly on. Fingers fly over the keyboard, communicating with my beloved community right next door and thousands of miles away. Getting things done here there and everywhere. My book is one of my main focuses right now so I charge ahead. (Oh just wait! It's going to be good. Really, really good.)

And then it hits me. A Radiohead song sends me back in time, back to a place that I haven't been in a while. One where I feel alone and the waves of loss wash over me. A lump builds in my throat. My shaggy dog whines from the other room to comfort me. I guess that sob was out loud. Or maybe she's just hungry.

If you've ever lost someone close to you, you know what I mean. If you haven't you will eventually.

It's not that I haven't created a new wonderful life. One that I am thankful for each and every day. I wouldn't trade my life for anything. It really is beautiful, unique and full of abundance.

It's just that sometimes it still hits me without warning. A song, a smell, a taste, a sign that from another dimension letting me know that he thinks about me and misses me too.

Sigh.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A breather from diving deep...

Reconstructing past painful events is hard work. I'm diving deep into when I first understood Ryan died and the events surrounding it. It's like an injured limb that will never be the same after its trauma. Certain weather agitates it, leaving you achey and remembering what it was like before. Before the loss, before the hurt, before the circle of life. 

Except I know I'm stronger. I know I'm wiser. I know I wouldn't trade what happened to me for any one else's life, but that still doesn't make it any easier at times.

Why do I go there? Especially if it's so painful? Because I know deep in my core that it will help heal me. And even better - it could help someone else going through a similar experience.

So here's to facing your worst fears and turning them into beautiful stories.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tandem Racing is AWESOME.

Written somewhere in the air closer to the Washington Dulles Airport in route to Denver...

The pre-race jitters hit me hard. Heartbeat racing, anxious stomach swirling, and the inability to make a decision. Yet underneath it all - excitement. I tell Shawn that I'm excited and aroused by what's to come. It's her first race so she asks why and I respond because this is a new type of race and I love a new challenge. That and I truly love racing bicycles.

The race is hot from the start. As hot as getting 300 pounds up to speed can be. We lug and heft our body weight quickly, positioning ourselves in the top two around the first one hundred eighty degree turn. I take the corner with no fear and absolutely zero hesitation. Upon exit I tell Shawn to stand and in one fluid motion we're up together winding the tandem back up to speed. We're on the Kiwi's wheel, zooming down the tailwind descent, having enough momentum to pass them and be the first to navigate around the round-about. I take it at full speed, angling and cutting it close to the curb, which puts a gap between us and the chasing teams.

The Kiwi's catch us and accelerate, being the first through a shallow left hand turn and accelerate hard over a small hump of a hill. We fly down hill, gaining speed into the bottom left hand corner. Positioned in second, we take the inside line and lean hard, angling the bike at forty five degrees. I'm focused on the race, not hearing or sensing Shawn's glee as the ground zooms by. The Kiwi's still on the offense, surge on the next hill. Their practiced teamwork seamless and impressive. But the new girls on the block, with two weeks of training and growing engines, are not to be discounted. We came to play. We match the Kiwi's speed while keeping careful watch on the other tandems.

Mackenzie and Kara are the only two brave enough to attack and get a gap on the descent. The tandem teams look at one another, no one keen to initiate the chase. Mackenzie and Kara quickly gain a fifteen second advantage. Coming into the hill, the Kiwi's surge again and we close the gap as we quickly catch Mackenzie and Kara. No one counters until we come to the two backside steep hills. The Kiwi's throw an attack again this time followed by Debbie and Karissa, testing their legs and muscling a big gear. I watch them muscle uphill as Shawn and I delicately spin 100 rpm to their 60 rpm, saving our muscles from early fatigue.

The Kiwi's are trying again to gain a gap and we've already dropped the weakest tandem. My heart is beating hard, lungs thankful for the extra sea-level oxygen. We power up the hill and I make note of the weaker tandems, already showing kings in their armor this early in the game.

Shawn is matching my power, spinning smoothly, face buried in my ass. She doesn't ask what's going on, she just pedals. The surging continues but our light gear and ability to accelerate continue to play in our favor. Her sonar hearing assists as she tells me which side approaching tandems are coming, their movements and creaking bikes announcing the galloping elephants.

We start creating intentional gaps, spinning and accelerating and cornering quickly causing other teams to surge and close the gap. Every move is playing out to my expectations. I'm having a blast, cautious yet giddy at playing different cards with the other teams. It reminds me of track racing and how just out of sheer joy and fun, I'm able to push that much harder. Coupled with the added benefit of partnering with Shawn, and I'm digging into a new level of disassociation. One where I can hover over the pain in my searing lungs, lactic-acid building legs, pushing beyond what my brain communicates to my body. The euphoria is intoxicating. The first lap was hard, but we stuck with the group and I'm encouraged and start observing where to make the final sprint to the finish line.

Mackenzie and Kara attack again, gaining a minute fifteen seconds while the rest of the teams play cat and mouse, waiting for the Kiwi's to try another breakaway. Every move is quickly absorbed and the Kiwi's call a truce and pedal to the back of the group. The next lap is slow and the Kiwi's summon the other teams to work together and catch the break. We quickly reel Mackenzie and Kara back in and they have a hard time staying with us when we absorb them.

Benjamin is standing on the sidelines, coaching me, telling me to feather the gear and spin up the hills, to get off the front but stay attentive to positioning. I start calculating who has anything left in the spring. Lisa and Rachael had muscled up the hills, putting a strain on their muscles. Debbie and Karissa put in a lot of energy when chasing down Mackenzie and Kara. The Kiwi's are the biggest threat. Coming into the last corner, I know this is it.

We're through the left hand turn followed by a sweeping right hand. From the sideline, Benjamin reminds at me to be patient. It's a long uphill headwind sprint from the feed zone. The Kiwi's initiate and we jump on their wheel, easing into their draft. At 150 meters to go, we surge making an attempt to come around the hard charging Kiwi's. We don't stand, mainly because I'm not confident and that lack of extra zip puts us in a respectable second.

I tell Shawn we just got second and she screams in excitement, grabbing my waist and thrilled with our success. I'm tickled as we let our accomplishment hit us in waves. The new kids on the block with a pinto stars and bars bike just made a major statement.

That night we recalled the race from our different perspectives. Shawn, verbalizing her excitement trust my every move. She trusted my tactics, my racing prowess. I told her how synched we were and how much I enjoyed racing with her.



We just received word that in a little over a month, Shawn and I will be representing the United States at a world cup in Italy. Look out world!