Sunday, January 31, 2010

In memory, always.

John William Townsend 79, of Louisville, KY died
Saturday, January 31, 2004.

My grandfather beat the odds. He did not lose. The doctors originally told us, "maybe a year." Townsend's are stubborn--we never listen to doctors. It is our trademark and in true fashion my "pa-pa" fought his cancer as angry as a mule and as spiteful as a rattlesnake. He never believed he was going to die--not once did I hear him say that he was going to die from cancer. He always talked about when he was going to get better and sometimes we would catch ourselves believing this. The family knew what "stage four" meant. We knew anything after those initial twelve months was borrowed time...and I am thankful, if not, grateful, for each and every one of those "bonus" months.

My "pa-pa" was as country as a Cracker Barrel store. Born to farmers, raised in corn fields...his articulation lacked the education and diction of a Rhodes Scholar and yet there was nothing this man could not do with his hands. Traditional through his core, my grandfather did not yield to his word, did not steal or deceive others, and rarely held his opinions in. He told you the truth even if you did not want to hear it. Yet, beneath this gruff exterior was a man who would sneak pieces of candy in my hand as a young child and whisper, "You're grandpa's favorite", and wink as he pulled away.

There are those memories I hope never to the sounds of my grandfather sighing when he had stood too long bored with idle chatter of strangers, the stamping of his feet trying to rouse a dog, or his deep guttural laugh when he would tweak the cats tail causing it to hiss in hatred. I can tell you what he would order at Frisch's on a Sunday morning and exactly how he liked his coffee. I can tell you his favorite candy and how much he looked forward to it each Christmas. I can tell you about his love of gospel music. I can tell you I miss him...often.

Pa-pa was a rare breed of men that believed in a solid work ethic. On February 2, 2004, one of the coldest days of the year, we buried my grandfather. Oddly, what we thought was to be a small family funeral, turned into 50+ car parade with hundreds gathered in the funeral home. The director ran out of funeral flags and instructed us to "please use your flashers. It would seem that John has many people that want to see him off today". People I had never seen or met poured through the funeral parlor each sharing a story of how my grandfather had helped them in some way. A small frail lady talked of the groceries he would bring by her house after her husband died, while another stranger said my grandfather fixed his car on the side of the road one hot July afternoon after a chemo treatment. That entire morning was a sea of visitors coming to share my grandfather in ways I had never seen or known him. Complete strangers filled the room until it spilled out into the hall and we walked one last time with him in a procession across the city.

There are days when I have needed to hear my grandfathers advice or words so badly I can feel it and I try as hard as I can to imagine what he might say and what it might sound like. There are days I wonder if he was proud of his granddaughter, the one he took under his wing and treated like one of the boys. Thankfully, on that last day of his funeral, complete strangers insisted on meeting me, hugging me and they explained they recognized me from a photo my "pa-pa" carried with him throughout the neighborhood. The photo (pictured above) was one he would unfold from his Dickie work shirt when he wanted something to talk about. These strangers knew I graduated high school (something my pa-pa revered as an accomplishment as he only finished the 6th grade), they knew I went to college, where I worked and how I loved the outdoors. Most importantly, they told me how "pa-pa" was very proud of "his Missy" (family nickname). Always a reminder for me to never I said, Townsend's are the core.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm about an 8 on a scale of 1-10...

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is perhaps one of the most iconic fictional fables of multiple or split personality disorder known to man. By day a mild mannered Englishman roams his town and by night he is a gruesome prowler of innocent souls (if you have never read the book it is quite gruesome--pick up a copy for bathroom reading). This tale published in the late 1800’s is about a man, that in today’s time, we would simply refer to as an “asshole.” Behold, a new era of Jekyll & Hyde’s roaming the earth in spandex, ventilated coordinating helmets, and special socks. Cyclists are assholes. STOP right there! Before you send me a nasty email challenging me on this assertion and before you tell me how you cycle and you are NOT an asshole, continue reading, please. (Then, you can send me an email).

Off the bike, I, like most red-blooded Americans, work a normal typical, average 9-5 job. I walk into an office building complete with cubicles, sip poor quality coffee, chat with people and complete 8-10 required duties as assigned according to my job description. Sometimes I exert myself beyond the required 10 bullet points and do a little something extra only because by day, I am a nice person. I do not mind doing a little extra. I engage in office chatter about people’s families, their children, their pets, occasional work drama/ gossip, job goals and sometimes not-so-intriguing conversations about cable shows that have no bearing in my life. My office is tattered with pictures from a night out with the girls (so typical, right?), a foot race, and a few more photos from a trip out west. From, 9-5, I am a nice person….come on it, sit down and help yourself to a piece of my candy. Here! Take two pieces!

Then sometime after work, put me on a bike….and well, like a fictional novel transformation I morph into an asshole. Right now, most of my rides are delegated to the park…the public park where EVERYONE in the city goes with their kids, dogs, strollers, skate boards, inline skates, and of course, bikes. I curse those that refuse to follow the rules. Whether is it the walker that insists on having a loud conversation about last night’s sexual encounter while refusing to move out of my way, the dog owner who looks around before walking off to leave behind a massive pile of steaming dog dung, or the “I CAN DO IT ALL POWER WALKING MOM” with the stroller, crying kids, and 2 dogs straying directly into my bike path, I find myself cursing them in distain and anger.

There have been verbal encounters including a lady who INSISTED on driving the wrong way on a one-way section of the park. Even after three pedestrians flagged her down, she continued on with her own kids in the backseat asking her to turn around. I was furious that day and I unloaded a slur of words that would have made a prison inmate blush and cry for his mom. Yet, another driver while on a ride, in a Dodge Charger, insisted on passing me while whistling and cat calling some graphic details of what he would like to do to my fine self. At the next stop sign, I found myself enraged that he just thought he could call out such things especially with children within earshot. When I tried to move him to an apology, he rolled up his window and bounded out of the park squealing his wheels to punctuate his masculinity.

It has NEVER been my intention to be rude or potentially abusive to park enthusiasts by any means. It is an issue of respect, safety, and general concern for others. I try and sometimes fail to be a quality cyclists obeying the laws, being considerate, avoiding crashes with canines, children, and the inline skate guy that comes down the hill backwards (uh, you might want to look behind you at some point). I expect that people, cars, and what have you will also show me the same respect and not try to run me over, slap my rear, or stand in my direct path. Honestly, descending a hill at 30mph, I cannot stop on a dime without ejecting myself into space and if you think I get angry when two dogs tied to a stroller walk in front of me, wait, until my mangled, gravel filled face recovers and finds you in the park….

Now you can say you are NOT this kind of person and in the fairness of science, I probably need to invent an asshole scale that would label the intensity of being an asshole on a bike (1 being a “mini asshole” and 10 being a “mammoth sphincter”). Admit it though, even if you only ride your cruiser bike to the farmer’s market for an organic brown egg omelet--- a car, a dog, or a child has jaunted out in front of you and you know it could have been prevented, if another person were paying better attention and being respectful. That scare of nearly sucking pavement made you mad. It’s okay, you do not have to say you are an asshole, you are obviously lower on the intensity scale, that’s all.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Added insecurity, it never ends...

I shook a client’s hand this morning and he said, “wow that is some callus you have there.” First, let’s state the obvious….YOU NEVER TELL A GIRL ABOUT HER CALLUS….REALLY….NEVER…EVEN IF MY ROUGH CALLUS SPLAYED OPEN YOUR HAND OR SEVERED YOUR FINGER….YOU DO NOT MENTION IT TO MY FACE (you might mention the separated digit, if only for the lawsuit). I sat through our meeting keeping my right hand slid beneath my cross legs constantly looking down at the callused skin on my thumb. I admit, it was obvious, it was a callus. I did not shake his hand when I left because I was afraid he would mention it again and well I am a girl and we freak about this stuff. (Note: not my hand pictured, ewww)

Girls, like myself, are OBSESSED with lotions, oils, and creams all to keep our skin youthful and soft. I pride myself on having soft hands. I manicure my nails sometimes twice a week! I check my yahoo mail for a Bath and Body coupons every week. Alas, as I am learning, the more time on the bike, the more calluses on your hands and yet another damn insecurity to keep track of. Obviously, the things below were just not enough to worry about…

1. Spandex: REALLY?!!! Do I even need to offer up an explanation? Spandex is the natural and possibly the ORIGINAL muffin top creator. There is the upper muffin where your stomach hangs over your shorts and there are the mini muffins where the shorts cut into your thighs creating “thigh puffs”. Guys normally develop very defined quads. Girls can develop them but then it throws our proportion out of shape and finding jeans to fit is a nightmare. Either way, you have to work up the courage to put on spandex or continuously work out to avoid “muffin popping.”

2. Helmet Hair: Ugh. Paul Mitchell needs to design products that will undo helmet hair or we need to add a hair brush to our multi-tools. By the time I stretch on a head band or buff, ride 40 miles, and return to my car, my hair looks like Gene Simmons running towards you. It’s not pretty and does not get any better with car windows down or continuous hand smoothing. Sometimes my pony tail holder will fall out which creates a Bell Helmet mullet….also NOT ATTRACTIVE. I carry hair rubber bands on my wrist when I ride for such emergencies.

3. Jerseys: To augment the continuous embarrassment of the spandex shorts, there is also the jersey designed to fit tight, hug every curve, dent, or bend of your body. God forbid if you enjoyed yourself during the holidays and ate some of grandma’s best butter laden recipes. If the results will show up anywhere….it is IN YOUR JERSEY. A quick note, suck it in when you see a camera. Even if it is NOT pointed in your direction or you are not the subject being photographed…SUCK IT IN. Make it a Pavlov response. You will thank yourself later when you are Facebook stalking and catch yourself in the background of other pictures.

4. The Wrong “whatever”: There are a HOST of things that other riders will make fun of you for….ill fitted clothing, ill fitted bike, stupid socks, gel seats, the wrong energy drink, the wrong food, the wrong direction….WHATEVER. It is best just to be prepared.

5. Chain Ring marks: I rarely have these anymore…they are a greasy blackened tattoo s, easily identifying newer rider miles out. Sometimes they cannot be avoided and as you grow more comfortable on the bike, you stop acquiring these hard to rinse off markers.

6. Calluses: NOW I have to worry that my hands will become stone…the curse of Medusa minus all the lover drama and snake-hair, of course. Even with proper hydration, calluses are unavoidable. I have researched alternate greeting styles to possibly avoid any further embarrassment by clients but elbow rubbing and cheek kissing has never really caught on here in the states and I do not consider myself a trend setter.

Monday, January 25, 2010

42 and holding strong

Finally, Mother Nature, obviously reacting to her own guilt for the New Year starting off on the wrong FROZEN foot, offered an olive branch on Saturday….mild mid 50-degree temperatures. The sun was NOT part of this attempted peace treaty but plenty of low hanging clouds and light breeze made for a comfortable afternoon. I found myself completely tickled pink with a overshadowing of giddiness. I accepted this substandard attempt to lure me out on the bike with open arms and anxious legs. In my weather haze, I almost found myself forgiving Mother Nature understanding that winter is a part of a quad-seasonal package.

Until now, my winter rides have been frosty lessons in general human suffering. I was lucky to last 16-22 miles and normally found myself planted in my warm leather driver’s seat as soon as I possibly could get off the bike. The necessity for exercise, the desire for continued strength, and the need to keep the legs spinning has been the driving force to endure sub zero temps, cloudy, grey days and blistering windy hill descents. Saturday, was a rare and much appreciated treat that even without sun, anyone could appreciate.

The taunting and teasing of the approaching spring was amplified throughout Saturday. I stood outside briefly on Saturday morning to conclude that my long riding tights would remain hanging on a towel rack while the shorts were pulled out. I tried to ignore my ultra-white, semi-translucent legs but had there been a power outage, I believe my calves could have lit up the room with their iridescent glow. There was no need for the hot embrocation….the warm sufficed and it was nice to not have my ankles burning from the edge of my socks activating the lava-like lotion. Meanwhile, the ride took on a life of its own.

First, my legs warmed up fast…unlike cold rides where sometimes 12 or more miles are required to truly “warm” the legs up (if ever). In this case, I was warm 5 miles in. Second, my ride was flawless. The bike performed seamlessly…I was able to practice cornering techniques and get in some quality hill work. Third, there was little or no physical discomfort. I did not have to worry about freezing snot on my upper lip, my toes turning light blue, or my nose morphing into a bright red dot on my face (all of the above have occurred). If my body and schedule could have handled it, I would have ridden all day. Instead, I settled for a generous portion of the afternoon and I folded 42-miles under my belt—the longest ride of the year so far and one of the best.

I was prepared for body ache, pain, and general discomfort. However, I will note that the discomfort was at best, “mild” and the only real soreness was due to the lack of chamois butter applied to the “gentle” areas. I ignored my own rules of slathering, spackling, and globbing the emollient into all appropriate areas, therefore resulting in a John Wayne swagger up some deck stairs later that evening. I spent hours after going over the ride in my head, correcting things I would like to work on and imagining the next ride…the next good ride.

Note, today there are snowflakes landing on my windshield…

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It’s a simple rule-don’t poo your chamois

Runners have a fear. We are obsessed with poop. In fact, if you are above the realms of reading about bodily functions, then you may want to choose another blog to read because , in case you cannot tell now, this one is about number two. If you are a runner and you are preparing for a large race….a full or half marathon, you are as concerned with your bowels as you are about getting a black toenail, or passing the guy with sweaty back hair (trust me, you want around him as quickly as possible, it smells). As you train your body to endure long distances, you also train your bowels to contain themselves because when sheer exhaustion sets in, you are in trouble and your ability to control ANY bodily function becomes non-existent. It is not unusual to hear flatulence, see urine stained socks, or be hit with dribbling snot slinging from someone's chin. This is why there is such a looong line at the port-o-potties at races. We HAVE to make sure that everything is OUT. All systems are cleared for take off. This is why we do not consume a massive fiber filled breakfast…it will cause destruction of great magnitude later-- possibly out in the middle of nowhere. I presumed this was just a concern of my fellow runners and I prided myself that I have never “crapped” my pants while running (this doesn’t mean I have not thought about it or prayed not to….). I thought this fear, this reality, was reserved for this one sport until I heard a story about a bike race.

If you have ever been to a bike race; mountain, cross, road, or crit, you know that the riders on the course are serious. There is teeth grinding, gut grunting, scab scratching, leg churning action at the finish line. If there is no gap between the leader and the pack, then action is guaranteed to erupt in the last few pedal strokes before the finish line. It is very similar and as exhilarating as a horse race minus the tiny men and whips (oh, and the horses). The battle to cross the line is often marred by bumping shoulders, cursing, and the true exertion of all that is human. Such was the case of the story that I heard about a racer who in his last few robust pedal strokes dug deep….so deep that he found all of his energy being forced into his legs and then, there, while many onlookers gazed at the line, he found his chamois full (poo). Luckily this was ONLY noticeable to him and while the riders were making there may to the podium, cracking open celebratory beers, he found himself undressing hastily in a port-o-let (ahh, nice). I was even shown the singlet, now many years old, cleaned of course, and while I do not shy away from many things, I found myself taking a step back from the aforementioned garment, realizing that I did not need an up close and personal inspection. I trust the story to be true. Who would make that kind of thing up? (and you are thinking, "who would share that story?"...what can I say, I know colorful people).

All of this being said, I have a NEW fear now. I felt the bike was a safe place to displace my marathon fears. I do not worry about black toe nails on the bike. I feel I have ensured minimal chafing through the continued use of skin soothing emollients. Not once, did I fret on the century ride that I might have explosive entrails. Somehow I found comfort in the acres of cow pastures that if nature called, I would find a secure hay bale or nicely placed ditch to “unload” my fear. But, racing is different…it brings out another personality, something inside…and quite literally, “something inside.” As I am outlining what my year is going to look like on the bike, contemplating racing, I thought my greatest concern would be the “right” training, improving my bike handling skills, or building endurance. Obviously, I now have to worry that in all this preparation, I once again have to endure long lines at the port-o-lets and make sure that all of my shorts are black. I have to worry that I may need to rely on my extreme flexibility to change out of my clothes in a coffin sized metal cantankerous fumed box. Note to self: BRING EXTRA CLOTHES. Second note to self: GET CAR WINDOWS TINTED.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My insurance will not pay for frostbite...

Um. I would first like to express my extreme discontent with this current winter “situation.” I live in what is supposedly known as the south but this can really cause a great argument amongst locals because it depends what you envision when you think about the south. If you are picturing antebellum pastel dresses, laced parasols, and women fainting with a long drawl on their words, that is NOT Louisville, Kentucky. We are more of a “hybrid” city with slow talkers (we have an accent, face it, deal with it) but our meals generally lack the large amounts of bacon fat that true southerners enjoy (true southern are envisioning that can on their stove of bacon grease used for seasoning of all meals right now). Our winters are normally mild…like generic salsa at a cheap Mexican restaurant…it’s ketchup with sugar and chunks of canned tomato—nothing too wild and exciting but you eat it anyway because you are hungry and it is free.

Well, edit that description because our norm has been turned into the habanera salsa complete with a warning on the label and the need for a glass of milk after. Here six days into the new decade, we got about 4-5 inches of snow (which is pretty) but more worrisome the mercury took a serious nose dive straight down to the floor. We have warnings on the news about the wind-chill (which is hovering around zero right now) and the threat of frostbite. For a cyclist, if the snow wasn’t bad enough to contend with, coming to grips that your bike and you may freeze stops you in your tracks.

Frostbite means you can flat out forget about getting on your bike and going outside. I mean, frostbite is a true bad ass (no tattoos needed). It can slow down your body including the function of your major organs, it can freeze your joints, your phalanges, and even your eyelashes. I just changed insurance providers and after reviewing the 102-page policy in size 6 font, I cannot find anything that affirms they will cover payment for frostbite but they will pay for my gastric bypass surgery.

I mean, there is little to do to pass my time. I can do a solid cardio workout, read, and watch bad movies. I have some serious respect for the temperature gauge especially when it cannot even get above zero. I will wait patiently for the snow to thaw and the temps to warm…so my legs can once again know the enjoyment of a ride.

Of course…I should have known, some people JUST CANNOT WAIT and THEY CANNOT RESPECT SUBZERO TEMPS…and they INSIST on being on the bike. They have to ONE UP those of us who refuse to freeze our eyelashes off for the enjoyment of a ride. Even MORE freaking amazing, they INSIST on multitasking. Thank you David Peterson (click and scroll down a bit--you will see it)….now I feel like a true failure. Obviously, HE has better insurance.