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


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


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


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