Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's a Wrap

I can tell you that I was NOT looking forward to the New Year last year. I wrapped up the year unhappy and uncertain. I can tell you this year is different. I am not the type of person who makes NewYears resolutions. If there are changes I need to make in life, I do not need a lunar calendar to mark them or list them out for the fridge. 2009 was full of plenty of accomplishments and failures that could not have been put on a simple check list. But here is a brief recap:


  • I have four words for you that I need you to repeat to yourself if you ever see me…NO MORE SHORT HAIR. Early in the year, I went and chopped off my hair and I mean CHOPPED IT OFF (about 7 inches). Now, most girls cut their hair off because of a boy or some horrible break-up….I was more curious to see what it would be like really short. Well, now I know and one year later, it is still not quite as long as I would like. Special notes to my close friends, if I EVER mention cutting my hair short again, you are to tackle me to the ground and beat me over the head until I change my mind. If that is too drastic just remind me how FAT my face looks and that should snap me back to reality real quick.
  • The year not only started off with bad hair days but also HORRIBLE weather. First we got snow, and I mean a lot of snow (the kind that people from Chicago talk about) but then the beautiful crisp white snow was covered in a layer of thick, cold ice. It added an extra full week off from work and that made fun times for sledding but most of the city was without power. I spent one morning cooking pancakes for 10 people in my small condo including a dog and two extra cats.

  • I dropped some serious money on a bike. I sat down and wrote a large check for a bike almost as a Valentines Day present to myself (nothing says love like a bike). I have not owned a road bike since I was 15 and without seeing the bike, riding it, or touching it, I bought a frame that I have absolutely NO regrets about. The entire process of choosing, buying, building, and caring for this bike have given me more education than a set of cycling encyclopedias (is there such a thing?). I cannot imagine all the time I have clocked in researching bikes but I promise you it is a daily fix now.

  • Speaking of Valentines Day. Few of my friends are into stuffed plush hearts and chocolate coated bobbles of love. Such discussion usually induces mock vomit sounds. So the ladies loaded up in the car to hit the gun range which actually was a farm in Waddy, Kentucky (yes, there is a place called Waddy). The afternoon was spent with a bottle of bourbon offered as payment to shoot some $60 worth of shells at a target that we nicknamed whatever "issue" was bothering us for the day. It is hard not to think of Charlie's Angels, although none of those ladies shot a shotgun with their feathered hair (wussies!).


  • With the onset of the bike came two new ideas. One….in the kitchen of a friends house over dinner while the frost was still on the trees outside, my friend and I decided that we were going to do a century ride even though my rode bike was not built and she had only put 100 miles total on her bike in two years. Looking back at that time, neither of us had ANY idea what we were getting ourselves into but we made the commitment to complete the Old Kentucky Home Tour (OKHT) over a peanut butter dessert "thingy" and never looked back. The second idea was the mere fact that I needed to get serious about my fitness and taking care of myself. I stopped drinking any soft drinks and cleaned the diet up quickly. The recent diagnosis of hypertenstion was definitely a motivator and a wake-up call to get serious about my body. The pay off has been a leaner and more energetic girl (is that even possible?). I still binge on McDonald’s French fries but I still rarely have a Coke. Progress is slow people!

Late May-through September-ish

  • With the decision to complete a century and only having three months to train, I poured myself into the bike for one of the BEST summers to date! The rides, the adventures, the pain was all worth it. Every ride, some new obstacle was overcome and although ALL of my spare time was spent spinning, it paid off in September. I met some amazing riders this summer and acquired a ride partner that really challenged me on all levels. It was a fun experience to be with your friends on a new level of suffering.

August 4th

  • While I thought the OKHT would be the one of the hardest challenges of year, instead I found another challenge as I watched my office flood one early Tuesday morning engulfing my car in five feet of sewage water. I learned a lesson in materialism. You cannot control the environment around you and when faced with raw sewage, rain, and being stranded in your own hometown, my car seemed a pretty insignificant loss. It was a minor setback but the first thing replaced was my bike helmet (lost in the trunk of the car). Afterall, with or without a car, training went on.

September 12th

  • The morning of the OKHT, I woke up like I would for a foot race, early and nervous and hoping that coffee would jolt the system to do all activities (you know..."activities") before I was out on the course in the middle of nowhere. I was more worried I would forget something or neglect some vital part, that I nearly caused myself a full blown anxiety attack. Lee and I rode our own slow pace with only the goal to finish, but something happened along the way. WE HAD FUN! We laughed the whole ride and took turns poking fun at one another’s snot rockets. The last twenty miles were a struggle but not deterring. We finished and I have never enjoyed a bed so much as I did that night. I was more impressed that I was NOT that sore…no blisters, no wrecks, no injuries. When I rolled in Sunday, the best thing I could have seen were my mom and dad standing there…and yes, I cried, only because I was so tired.


  • Following the OKHT and now fully addicted to cycling, a few of us signed up for the Harvest Homecoming which is normally a rambling stroll through the foothills of Southern Indiana. It happened to be one of the coldest days of the year that morning. Again, my co-riders strapped warm weather gear and we still did the ride complete with an afternoon of pumpkin picking, sangria drinking, and the smells of fall allergies in the air. In a sense, it was the close of the cycling season....officially anyway (we still tried to sneak rides in until the time change).

November 30th

  • I turned 33 this fall…I am not sure where the years went, but they are gone. I feel 23 on most days but I know that this upcoming year is 34 and I admit, it freaks me out. There are so many things left to do on my life list ….somehow, 33-years have shot by and I am not sure how. I am not done yet. I am just getting warmed up people--stand back!


  • The year is done. It flew by so quickly. There have been so many changes, so many moments to try and recall. I like to think of the New Year as a clean slate or the "play" button on the reel of life. When done, we simply start all over. I wish I could make the best guess as to what will happen next but I do not know. I can make a few predictions. I do know that without my friends and family, I would not be where I am now...wherever that is. Bring on 2010....let's roll.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Say it with bike parts…

The holiday commercials showing this season might as well be draped in sugary maple syrup, candy coated dots, and whip cream. There is NOTHING more un-original than a couple sitting under a tree with some poor guy presenting a diamond crusted bobble to delight his lady. She always acts surprised when in fact, we all know she probably tore the page out of a catalogue and placed it inside his suit pocket. These commercials are the bane of my holiday television enjoyment, interrupting the merriment of The Grinch. I think it sets a standard that women are only impressed by expensive, diamond-studded gifts. (Note you rarely see a woman giving a guy anything…because that might be showcasing a partnership….and commercials would rather bore us with traditional gender roles). I digress.

Certainly, jewelry is something that has value both monetary and sentimental. Many women are HUGE fans of little black and blue boxes. Beyond jewelry and perhaps with MORE meaning are the many other gift ideas out there not causing mountains of debt and possible bankruptcy. There is something to be said when a friend or loved one takes the time to give a gift that has meaning and significance to the receiver. It would be ridiculous to give me Celine Dion tickets considering when I hear her music, I am sent into an unbelievable rage. This would only be entertaining if you would like to see me go into a childish tantrum with the theme music from the Titanic spewing in the background. It would be just as useless to give me candied walnuts considering they can cause death unless they have an eppy pen attached to the bow.

For women, like me, friends, family, acquaintances may be at a loss as to what to give. For the girl who is not impressed with clothing, furs, and jewels, what does that leave? I think it is OBVIOUS….BIKE PARTS….BIKE CLOTHES….BIKES. In terms of giving, they are the gifts that keep on giving…miles and miles down the road. For those that are cash strapped, considering the purchase of a $5000 bike frame may be overwhelming similar to selecting a piece of jewelry that you may have to finance for 64-months in order to take home. Thankfully, the best gifts are those little gifts that make the bike and the rider happy. Special note: Even if you think it is a stupid gift…the receiver does not, promise.

If, in fact, there were a commercial for such a gift…it might be a little something like this.

Cue the perfectly lit Christmas Tree, crackling fire roaring in the background

Enter 2 people

Soft music (Phish or Pink Floyd) (It’s a modern take, remember?)

Person One: I hope this doesn’t suck
(handing person two a bag)

Person Two: How could it?

Person One: Because you may think it is weird
(meanwhile person two begins taking out the tissue paper, looking down into the bag)

Person Two: OH….a Chris King bottom bracket and red Hudz…you shouldn’t have—they are PERFECT!

Person One: Wipes brow with sweat rag

Going Pro

Being a beginner on the bike can at times be multiple lessons in humility as you are often reminded of your place in the pack. If you show up to a group ride in a set of flat pedals, worn out cotton North Face shirt, and a Huffy bike…do not expect anyone to acknowledge you or even take your seriously. From the time you start on the bike, you work to become a better rider and understand a very complex sport. This requires lessons in things you already thought you knew, again and again.

Most new riders start in the spring and summer. These early months establish your skills but it is the winter months that define your dedication. Real cyclists ride no matter what the weather (usually). The most obvious obtrusion to winter riding is the dipping mercury. It slows the muscles down. Ten minute warm-ups turn into an hour, if at all. I believed, as most novice likely do, that this was another one of those aspects that I was suppose to “suck up” and “deal with.”

Rewind to mid-September and on the second morning of the inaugural century ride, I came across a rider sporting the most polished and shiniest legs known to man. They did not look “human” but more “ken-doll.” Most male cyclist shave their legs and honestly, you do get used to seeing it. You fight off jealousy if their legs are smoother than yours. However, this set of cycling sticks were not only hairless, they were darn near glossy. My sarcasm has been known to get the best me and I recently learned that not only did I inquire about the “shine” through the internal dialogue in my head but some of my thoughts spilled out of my filter-less mouth (sarcastic tone intact). I believe I asked, “what’s up with the shiny legs?”

Fast forward to the early throws of winter and while acknowledging that my small legs do not like the cold, I was asked about what kind of emboracation I was using. I like to pride myself on a vast and growing vocabulary but I still had to ask, “what’s embrocation” and I received the logical response, “embrocation is pro.” Lacking the full explanation, I had to inquire further.

The best way to describe embrocation is a lotion, lubricant, emollient that stimulates your muscles and skin….creating a warm sensation…the same as when you swirl a bunch of red hots in your mouth. However, this is worked into your legs, causing a near perfect reflective sheen (the explanation of the glossy, shiny ken doll “like” legs). I admit my skepticism…even after the creator of the jar I was purchasing took 30-minutes of his life to explain the advantages and the appropriate application process (also indicating that my jar was 93% vegan…not sure what the other 7% is). So, I sauntered home with a jar of brightly colored gunk to slather my legs up, carefully trying to remember all the specific details I had been given: (I should have taken notes)

Important details to remember:

1. Apply more than one coat

2. Let it completely dry

3. Apply an oil over it

4. Do not shower with a loofa after

5. Do not use the embrocation as lubricant for anything else (really? Did I HAVE to be told that?)

6. Avoid touching any other mucus membranes on your body

7. Enjoy it!

With both legs covered, dried, oiled and repeated, I went out for a brisk thirty-degree-ish ride. I was sold less than 10-miles in. Winter rides usually extend my warm-ups to 30 or 45 minutes…but thanks to my evergreen scented legs (yes, evergreen), I was warm quickly and consistently. The ride was smooth and I was able to concentrate on the things that matter versus fighting frostbite.

The after ride shower, which is always a welcome ritual, was disrupted by the fact that water “activates” the embrocation a little more. Like match sticks, I found my legs literally catching fire even without the use of the loofa (I can only imagine how bad it would be had I infused my body wash, loofa, and scrubbing action together). I could have roasted marshmallows with my knee caps or seared steaks with my thighs (of which the guy at the bike shop did not warn me about).

While I appreciate such an appropriate invention, more importantly, this is one of those little details that puts me further up the experience chain. It is similar to the day you cycle off your flat pedals or actually learn what a hub is. Honestly, I am pretty far from ever reaching pro but I like the chase. That’s what it is about anyway.*

*What’s next? Booties? Probaby not.