Snow Day

Fifty seven degrees is a little on the cool side.  Especially inside.  That was the temperature in my house when I crawled out from under a mound of blankets and started to pull on layers for a Sunday morning ride.

Bike shorts, wool socks, sports bra, thermal top, jersey, fleece cycling pants, earwarmers, shoes, toe warmers, jacket, full fingered gloves, helmet, and glasses.  Between the gloves and the helmet I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  So I peeled it all off and a few minutes later jimmied it all on again.

After a pair of clementines and a tasty bowl of oatmeal, I stepped outside and watched my breath float away in great, pallid puffs.  It was going to be a cold one all right.

As I stood in my driveway waiting for Laura, the tiniest of snowflakes began to tumble down.  If I looked carefully enough I could see one every fifteen seconds or so.  Laura pulled up breathless and rosy cheeked and we set off for a long climb to Shasta Dam.

We cajoled our bikes along the frigid roads, the flakes falling in even sheets, resting on my handlebars, forming an icy crust on my bike computer.  We climbed closer to the Dam and snow began to settle in the crevices of the mountains.

The air smelled clean and big gulps of it seemed to eradicate life’s turmoils.  My toes were frozen statues.  My nose was a faucet.  And I was carefree.  Carefree as snow dusted my helmet and melted on my gloves.  I grinned and stuck out my tongue, catching snowflakes as I pedaled.  We passed a mother walking with her little girl.  The little girl had her tongue out, too, and we exchanged smiles.  Laura and I rode in an almost giddy state.  Every few seconds one of us would giggle or exclaim “This is so cool!”  We reached Shasta Dam and took a moment to snap photos.  As sweat and snow dampened our clothes, we began the decent home.  The cold was bitter against my teeth and unprotected face.  Ice crystals pricked my skin and my eyes welled up with tears.  I could say that the tears were from the cold, but in truth they were an unbidden response to the splendor of the snow.

The world doled out beauty today and I was fortunate enough to catch some of it on my tongue.

You Might Be A Cyclist If…

My friend, That Laura, the one who handed me my pride last weekend, sent me a whole bunch of “You Might Be a Cyclist If…” sayings.  I was home alone and they had me cackling all by my lonesome.  First of all, I love the author’s name.  Does it get any better than “Joe Metal Cowboy”.  Seriously, you can’t make stuff like that up.

You Might Be A Cyclist If…
By Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie 2008
  • You might be a cyclist if you own more tights than a children’s theater performing Peter Pan. I own three pairs of tights and every season I pine for more.
  • You might be a cyclist if when styling professionals ask what product gets your hair to do that, you answer, “Helmet.” During long rides I get a strange mini version of Pippi Longstockings’ hair.  My pigtail sprouts defy gravity and somehow point straight up.  Pair that with the helmet stamp on my forehead and I’m a beauty!
  • You might be a cyclist if your spouse doesn’t complain about the snoring since being kicked awake by the sleep pedaling. Snoring and sleep pedaling are only two of the many perils of sharing a bed with me.  I talk, thrash around like a fish out of water, and stick my arms out Frankenstein style while sleeping.  Oh, and I sleep with my eyes open.  Terry often tries to talk to me, only to realize I am staring at him while sound asleep.  I think this is a great opportunity for him to talk sports to me.  I think I’m actually more interested in RBI’s, rushing yards, and shot percentages while I’m asleep.  Yes, I know those are from three different sports.  You’re lucky I didn’t throw a curling term in there.
  • You might be a cyclist if you don’t care that your cycling tan is so jarring that parents grab up their children when you enter the pool. My tan has faded a bit, but both Terry and I have such distinct tan lines that we tease each other about having a permanent pair of shorts on.  Not to mention the Mickey Mouse hand tan that develops each season.  Cycling is so sexy.
  • You might be a cyclist if you’ve heard the words “Just a friendly ride, no one gets dropped” while rapidly falling back in the pack. I am the back of the pack.  Someone has to come in last.  Aren’t you glad I’m willing to be the martyr?
  • You might be a cyclist if you’ve said the words “Just a friendly ride, no one gets dropped” while watching someone else rapidly fall back in the pack. Dare to dream.
  • You might be a cyclist if you have eaten pasta directly out of your front bag, while pedaling. Hold on while I add this to my list of goals for the season.
  • You might be a cyclist if your loved ones have assigned a separate hamper for your dirty bike clothes, and placed a hazmat label on it. No way are those clothes even allowed in the hamper.  They are on a strict straight to the washer regimen.  Terry and I have forgotten once or twice and after brewing for a day or two, the stench that rises up is unholy.
  • You might be a cyclist if you turn the air vents of your car to blow directly in your face, and imagine you’re on a bike ride. I haven’t done this, but I have found myself using hand signals and calling out warnings about holes or glass in the road.  I’ve also called out “On your left!” when passing another car.  I know, so nerdy.
  • You might be a cyclist if you can ID five brands and sixteen flavors of protein bars in a blind taste test, but on most long rides you would eat wet shoe leather, properly salted and containing a balance of electrolytes, of course. The people behind the Clif bars deserve some sort of medal.  Those things are still edible six months later.  And I think I have eaten wet shoe leather on long rides.
  • You might be a cyclist if you’ve contemplated grabbing seat posts, nudging longtime friends into ditches and macing their eyes with energy drinks to crest the hill first. I wouldn’t so much call it contemplating, more like laying awake at night and meticulously planning.
  • You might be a cyclist if you think you may have contracted a rare blood disorder… no, it’s just that you’ve turned into a late afternoon headwind. I can’t count how many times I’ve been absolutely convinced that my tires were flat or that I had become terminally ill in the last thirty seconds, only to find out that I am a sissy when riding into the wind.
  • You might be a cyclist if you learned a long time ago that it doesn’t matter how light or fast, just get on that bike. Only people who are light and fast think that light and fast don’t matter.  They matter to this girl.  They matter a LOT!


Dear Frank,

Dear Frank the Tank,

I know how excited you were to ride cyclocross on Sunday.  I was, too.  No, really, I was.  Ok, I’ll admit it, I was equal parts intimidated and excited, but my eagerness far outweighed my fear.  That’s why I pumped up your tires the night before and filled up a pair of water bottles.

You can hardly blame me for the fact that your back tire was flat AGAIN the next morning.  What were you doing that night anyway?  It is completely my fault that I didn’t have any spare tubes.  I looked on the cycling shelf AND in the cycling drawer.  Only tubes for The Rocket.  An egregious error on my part.

That’s why I called Sir Steve, Bike Mechanic Extraordinaire at an ungodly hour the morning of the race and asked him to send a spare tube with his wife, Amy.  C’mon, Frank, you’ve met Sir Steve many, many times.  He would never do you wrong.  No, I don’t think Sir Steve loves you more than I do.  Now you’re just being hurtful, Frank.

Once Amy arrived with the tube, I was excited to load you onto the car and get your tire changed at the track.  Yes, I know the drive was foggy and it was only thirty degrees out.  I should have covered your seat.  Again, another unforgivable error on my part.  No, I do not know what it’s like to have ice crystals freeze on my seat, thank you very much.

At the cyclocross track, you may remember that I lovingly took you off the roof rack and brushed the ice off of your handlebars, gears, and seat.  You might have noticed that Amy and I got straight to work changing your tire, a task both of us prefer to leave to Sir Steve.  Sadly, he was eating hot oatmeal far, far away at home with the kids.  Amy and I did our best.  In fact, Frank, you may recall us squealing with glee when we’d changed your tube and had you all put together again.  There may have even been a high five in there somewhere.  That’s how glad we were to have changed your tire all by ourselves.

Frank, I understand that you were bitter with cold, but your response was totally uncalled for.  As we grinned from ear to ear because of our triumphant tire change, you really didn’t have to hiss at us.  In fact, I’m not even sure it was a hiss.  You let out an exasperated “PSSSSSHHHHHH!” and your back tire began to shrivel.  What was that all about?  Seriously, we could have done without your attitude as we helplessly watched your back tire deflate itself.

So, I am very sorry that you had to watch from the roof rack as the other bikes zipped around the track without you.  Maybe next time you will hold your tongue and even a little air.  That is why I sent you on a short vacation to Sir Steve’s bike hospital.  He’s going to figure out what’s wrong and make you all better.

Christmas is almost here, Frank, and I know it’s your wish to get your wheels dirty at cyclocross.  I, too, hope that you’ll be up and running for the race later this month.  Maybe if you behave yourself Santa will even exchange your usual lump of coal for some shiny new tubes in your saddle pack.  Merry Christmas, Frank!



Hollow Legs

Saturday was my first road ride of the season.  I’m just going to cut to the chase and say I got my, uh, my, um, pride, yes let’s say pride, handed to me.  The morning of the ride I woke up extra early to prepare.  I put on layers of cycling clothing.  Then came the all important jersey selection.  I peered at the rainbow of jerseys stacked neatly in my cycling drawer.  (Yes, I have a cycling drawer in my dresser.  I also have a cycling drawer AND shelf in my garage.  It’s okay to be jealous.)  I decided to go with my favorite pink Fat Cyclist jersey.  It has FAT CYCLIST emblazoned across the back pockets.  Awesome.  I slipped on my jersey and then headed over to the mirror to tame the bedhead.  Irony stared back at me.

I’ve grown squidgy around the edges and there’s no hiding anything in Spandex.  I’ve got muffin top.  I’m too fat for my Fat Cyclist jersey.

Then me and the muffin top headed out to the garage to give The Rocket a little attention.  She was sleek as ever, bright pink wire casings looking all happy at me.  I gave her a little air in her tires.  By a little, I mean her tires were at 30 PSI and I had to pump fiercely to get them back up to 100 PSI.  As I was pumping, I noticed cobwebs laced in the spokes.

Muffin top?  Flat tires?  Cobwebs?  Had it really been that long?  Not good.  Not good at all.

My friend, That Laura, met me at my house and we headed out toward Millville Plains, my favorite place to ride.  On our way out there we saw some pretty cool things like a field full of itty bitty goats.  Then we saw buffalo.  Buffalo are so cool looking.  They are unimpressed by everything.  I tried to snap a shot of a buffalo right next to the fence, but as I got closer he moved away, no doubt freaked by my muffin top.  Sorry, buffalo.  Just a little ways beyond the buffalo we passed a manger scene.  It had Joseph.  It had a handful of animals.  It had Mary, but no Jesus.  This led me to wonder WWJD?  What was Jesus doing?

We continued on, That Laura speeding ahead of me and then graciously hanging back so I could catch up.  She could have totally stomped me and left me to my own devices to get home, but she didn’t, so that was nice.  The weather was perfect, sunny, crisp and with winds at about four miles per hour.  It doesn’t get better than that.  In Millville we stopped at the Post Office and scarfed down some snacks.  Well, I didn’t actually scarf.  What I thought was a whole Clif bar in my saddle pack was actually half of one I’d opened last season.  Clif bars are tasty, but this one had taken on the consistency of concrete.  Don’t get me wrong, I ate it.  It just took a long, long time, meaning That Laura had to wait for me.  Again.

We reached Millville Plains and I was loving the sweeping views.  That Laura raced ahead of me, and with the exception of one or two cars, it was blissful solitude.  The kind of solitude that quiets the mind and steadies the heart.  I was turning the cranks pretty slowly, but with snow-striped Lassen to my left, I didn’t care. I chugged along with a ridiculous grin on my face.  I love riding my bike.

That Laura had mapped out a thirty four mile ride for us.  I’d ridden most of the roads before and thirty four miles is usually a pretty easy ride for me.  Not Saturday.  At about mile 25, I got what I call hollow legs.  Hollow legs are when my legs start to ache, not muscle ache, not cramping, but a deep ache in my bones.  Each pedal stroke feels like my legs are empty aluminum cans, ready to crumple at the slightest strain.  I have ridden with hollow legs before, but usually at mile 75 or 80.  To be greeted with hollow legs at mile 25 was disheartening.

This is the part of the story where I get philosophical.  Feel free to skip ahead.  I’ve learned a lot from cycling.  For example, it really is all about the journey.  The destination is just icing on the cake.  Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s possible to cry and ride at the same time.  In fact, it’s quite rewarding, even invigorating at times. Fortunately, I had no need to cry on Saturday because the most important lesson I’ve learned on my bike is that my mind is stronger than my body.  Much stronger.  If I can convince myself to just keep pedaling circles, then I know I can ride beyond the pain.  Hollow legs are no match for a strong mind.  My body listens to my mind and my mind is one tough cookie.

After nine miles of mental fortitude, we were back home eating minty ice cream sandwiches.  I slumped on my couch for a few minutes until I was confident my legs could carry me to the bathroom.  I eased my salty, sweaty self into the shower.  My shower is about as big as a refrigerator.  Single occupancy only.  No tub.  No frills.  Not even room for big ideas.

As the scalding water ran down my head and turned my flesh pink, I sunk to the floor of my shower.  I closed my eyes and the water swirled in rivulets down my cheeks.  The water pounded my head and legs, massaging the aches away.  A singular thought rose from the steam.  I can’t wait to ride my bike again.

No Touching, Red Shorts!

The breeze was slight and the ocean was a blue blanket spread in front of me.  I was sprawled out in a lounge chair writing away on my laptop.  I was in the zone.  My fingers couldn’t keep up. Joggers and walkers sped around me like horses on a carousel, but I paid them no mind.  I was writing on a ship somewhere off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. It was blissful.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a speed walker heading my direction.  She was clad in a t-shirt and squat red shorts that, let’s say, didn’t suit her body type.  Earbuds tucked into her ears, she swung her arms vigorously to the beat.  As she passed me she looked my way and let out a disdainful “Tsk!” and kept on walking.  I looked around wondering what had warranted such a reaction.  I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.  Maybe it was a special exercise breathing thing.  Other than riding my bike, I’m not really up on fitness type things like breathing and fancy stuff like that.  I shrugged it off and continued typing.

The second time Red Shorts passed me she slowed, leaned down, slapped my ankle, and motored away.  Was there a bug on me?  Was my lounge chair in the middle of the walkway and I didn’t realize it?  Was this some sort of joke I wasn’t in on?  I so did not understand what was going on here, but I didn’t want to slip out of the ever shrinking writing zone, so dropped my head and tapped away on my keyboard.

When I saw Red Shorts making her third approach, I stopped typing ready to solve the mystery I like to call “What is your problem?”  She came in for a third pass.  This time she stopped and grabbed my ankle.  My mind quickly reverted back to my childhood, but before I could even force the words “Stranger danger!” out of my mouth, Red Shorts began to scold me.  With music blasting into her ears, her voice at a volume appropriate only for rock concerts, she said, “You’d better not be working.  You’re on vacation.”  I assured her that I was not working.  I was writing and I like to write.  Sometimes I even call myself a writer.  She said “You’re a writer?  Then that’s working and you shouldn’t work on vacation.”  I explained that my profession is teaching and that I write for pleasure.  This didn’t compute.  She continued barking at me.  “Well my daughter brought her laptop with her because she just started up a new business and has to check up on it.  She was on that internet so much that I had to hide her computer from her!”

While Red Shorts railed on her daughter, I tried to figure out how to flee the scene.  The woman was standing directly in front of my chair with a Vulcan death grip on my ankle.  What was that my kickboxing instructor used to tell me?  Was it jab the eyes first?  Or was it a finger in the windpipe?  Should I kick free first and then knee her in the stomach?  Darn it, I should have stuck with those classes!  As I was debating self-defense maneuvers, Red Shorts took a breath.  Aha!  My opportunity to escape!  I calmly assured her that I was not working, but that I appreciated her concern and I hoped she had a lovely cruise with her daughter.  She admonished, “I just don’t want you getting into bad habits like that when you’re young.”  Then she bustled on down the deck not to be seen again.

‘Bad habits like that’?  Did Red Shorts really just give me a lesson on bad habits?  She’s the one who violated my perfectly calm writing zone.  Want a bad habit to break?  How about not grabbing strangers?  Just a thought.  I was a little miffed at first, but then I realized Red Shorts would make a great little story.  I’m sure she’d be very pleased knowing she’s supporting my ‘bad habit’.