Reality, check.

Well, I am sitting in our truck, on the side of the highway. I’ve run out of gas. And with the exception of the car-shaking-semi-trucks that pass me every so often, this situation is very much like the day I wrote my wedding vows. Which was also on the side of the road, in our truck, while waiting for help.

Today I’m waiting for my riding-buddy and dear friend, Jos, to arrive with a can of gasoline. And much like that day before my wedding, when I was stranded on the side of the road in rural Oregon, it’s the kind of thing that can really throw a wrench into your plans. Unexpectedly, an errand that was supposed to take a half hour is going to take 3. Or all the things you thought you’d get done before lunch are going to have to wait until after, or until tomorrow. And then, maybe you get grumpy or pissy or stressed, because now all this time is going to be wasted. And I should probably cancel that dinner with friends to make up for lost time. Or, how am I gonna get it all done?

When I’m mountain-biking, these moments usually come when I’m zipping down a hill, feeling the flow, hitting all the kickers, and then SMACK. I’m on the ground, knee sliced open, all bruised up. And I get up wondering – well shit, where the hell did that come from?

It’s easy to see these times as the abnormalities in life. When you get knocked off your bike and you didn’t even see it coming. And so it makes sense that we often do whatever it takes to avoid them. We plan and consider and then carefully guard whatever route we see in front of us. Because it’d be totally scary to ride a trail if you could never look ahead and see what twists and turns were coming!

The irony is, that when I’m in these very moments – little ones, like running out of gas, to big ones, like losing loved ones, that’s when I really understand that we never truly see the path ahead. I realize how normal it is to get knocked off routeAnd that even though this makes things more scary and harder to control – it’s reality, so I’m damn well gonna embrace it.

After all, that’s the only way you can fully appreciate seeing a friend, running down the side of a highway, gas can in hand, smile on her face, as she comes to help you out. Now that’s what I call a friggin’ knight in shining armor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Butts and Public Broadcasting.

Okay folks, we’re gonna talk about Dead Butt Syndrome. I can’t say for sure, but you probably have it and I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure I have it, too. I came to this realization when two of my favorite worlds converged – public broadcasting and biking.

Do you ever listen to OPB? If you don’t, you should. And if you do, then perhaps you’d recognize the dulcet tones of a Mister Casey Negreiff – Producer for Morning Edition (or the helluvastellar-journalist, Amelia Templeton, wife of Mr. Negreiff). Casey has to be at work really, really early in the morning. When most of us are logging some serious R.E.M.s, Casey is sitting down in front of a microphone where he’s expected to put together complete sentences using big words about complex topics. What he says will be broadcast all over Oregon and SW Washington and to anyone else in the world who streams the station digitally (which is a surprising number of people).

With a job like that you might think that Mister Negrieff would take it easy on himself, sleep in until the very last moment, then hop in his car and drive to work. But he doesn’t. Instead, he rolls out of bed and onto a bike. And when I first met Casey many years ago, he didn’t even own a car – which meant he biked to work 5 days a week, 12 months a year. Rain, shine, snow, ice, darkness. No other choice. No option to be late. Seconds count when you’re doing live radio.

So when Casey casually shared a bit of biking advice with me, I was all ears. Sometimes when I’m riding I try to focus on using different muscles. This sounds super nerdy, which is probably why I liked it and have continued to think about it all these years later.

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Two thumbs up for biking. Still standing after Lolo Pass.

As I can best recall, it’s the idea that sometimes you focus on your quads doing the brunt of the work, or your hammies, or your butt. Now Casey’s not a mountain biker, but he does do ridiculous long road rides like Portland to the Gorge via Lolo Pass. (I know, disgusting.) Still, we’re mountain-bikers not roadies. There’s no time to think about using different muscles when we’re trying to hit the skinnies and shred the gnar, yo!

Except those times when you’re not. And instead, you’re climbing and it feels like foreevvvver and you need something to distract from the misery. That’s a great time to do the Casey Method. Which is exactly what I was trying to do the other day on some horrible climb I’m sure I’d been coerced into, which is when I discovered something truly awful. I couldn’t use my butt muscles. No matter how hard I focused, they just wouldn’t engage. Which is ridiculous, because our glutes are all huge and meaty and seem like they should totally be our secret turbo-boosters on climbs (as I write that I find it hard to not picture myself riding up a hill with 2 flames coming off my ass – in a good way). 

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Climbing slickrock in Moab. No butt flames. Boo.

I made an offhand mention of this problem to Dr. Gerbi over at Hood River Chiropractic and she immediately responded “oh, yeah, Dead Butt Syndrome”. What?! Is it contagious? Curable? What am I up against? She went on to explain (in much more medical and smart-sounding terms than I’ll use here) that DBS is a silly name for a real thing, Lower Crossed Syndrome. Which is essentially a muscle imbalance where some of your muscles start doing too much of the work, resulting in other muscles saying sayonara baby! If you’re not using me, I’m clockin’ out! Before you know it, your hip-flexors are super tight, you’re walking ever-so slightly bent forward, your gut protrudes, your back hurts, and your butt won’t engage. Turns out it’s a pretty common problem among us ladies who’ve had kiddos (a natural next step following whacked out stomach muscles, crouched breast-feeding posture, toddler on hip etc.) But it’s also a common problem among folks who spend a lot of time sitting, at a desk, staring at a computer, like you’re probably doing right now.

So here we are, looking like a bunch of damn neanderthals as our sweet backsides waste away. It’s really so sad. And I’d like to tell you that I have the cure to Dead Butt Syndrome, but I’ve only just identified the problem in myself. So all I can do is wish you good health and good luck while I go donate to my local public broadcasting station and grapple with how to raise the dead.

UPDATE: 10/26/16 Nothing like a dead-butt to rally the troops. Check out this article just shared by the folks over at MTB Project. Apparently, dead butt can also affect our knees! Holy crap, that’s serious. Wake up your glutes, people! I’m doing the “fire-hydrant”as I type…

Dropper Seats & DIY Arm Warmers

This post is all about saving you money (and life).

As some of you may know (though don’t feel bad if you didn’t, cuz now you will) when you are about to ride a bunch of downhill on your mountain bike, it’s common practice to lower your seat. This is done for a handful of reasons that I’ll get into at another time – but trust me, it’s just better. When the downhill is done, you move your seat back up to your ‘normal’ riding height for climbing or cross-country riding. It’s way more comfy that way.

My first few years riding, I just opened my little quick-release lever on my seat post, pushed/pulled the seat to the right height, locked it back again and was on my way. No biggie, right? Totally. Which is why the first time someone told me about dropper-seats on mountain bikes I thought it sounded ree-diculous. (What’s a dropper seat? Well if you haven’t been to my handy-dandy-factually-questionable Glossary, you should pay it a visit. You’ll learn about everything from dropper seats to when it’s best to Ride the Lightning©.)

Okay, so Ridiculous Dropper Seats. Who needs em? They sound all fancy pants. They sound like something that would break easily. They clearly aren’t necessary since I’m already able to raise and lower my seat just fine. Another bike gadget that this pragmatic gal will pass on – thank you very much…

How wrong I was. Dropper seats are gonna save you money, and save your life.

Whoa, hold up – how does spending between $150-300+ (installation not even included!) on a stinkin’ seat post end up saving you money?! Here’s how. When you have to stop and adjust a seat by hand, sometimes you do it and sometimes you don’t. Which means not as much fun on the downhill, and (this is where the savings come in) doing a number on your knees by riding with a seat that’s too low for too long. Over time, that damage accumulates. Before you know it, you’re turning 40, 45, 50. You have regular appointments with a physical therapist. You’re buying neoprene sleeves to wear on your achy knees. You’re stocking up on Ibuprofen and drinking more beer to help ease the pain as you reminisce about the good ole’ days when your knees didn’t hurt after a ride. It’s all money down the drain, and it’s all because you wouldn’t invest in that damn dropper seat post. Not only that, you start adding up the seconds it’s taking you to adjust your seat manually – minutes if you have friends there heckling your analog ways – and you are literally losing bits of your life each and every time. You deserve better.

So next time you go to grab that quick-release lever, remind yourself that you’re worth it. Go get a dropper, save some money, and save some life.

And here’s a little bonus tidbit of goodness…

Now that you’re buying dropper seats, it means you’re probably also buying yourself expensive wool socks. And then, because you don’t have that many pairs of $20+ socks cuz that’s a lot of money for socks, you wear that one pair all. the. time.

And then, before you know it, that one pair gets a damn hole in the toe and you’re like, “What the hell, these are $22 socks! They should last forever!” And you feel like crap and can’t even imagine throwing them away, but you’re not gonna darn them anytime soon (do people still darn?) and so you think you’ve just poured money down the drain, but you haven’t!

Go grab a pair of scissors, snip off the toe, give those fancy wool socks new life and put em on your arms for chilly rides. Now you’ve got yourself some sweet, super fashionable, highly functional, bad-ass arm warmers! The heel of the sock even fits real nice on your elbow. And every time you look down at those cool sock arms as you push the button to lower your dropper seat you’ll feel proud.


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Reality

On Wednesday nights my sweet love and I have started getting a regular sitter to hang with the kiddos while we go on a date. We consider it cheap marriage therapy. Not long after we had our second kiddo, a friend gave me some great advice . She said that it’s important to have some “side-by-side time” before you have some “face-to-face time”. This epiphany occurred to her after she found herself going on post-kid dates with her hubby and sitting down to dinner, speechless. The pressure of the moment,  the desire to make adult conversation and not focus on the kids, was overwhelming. Instead of reviving their youthful love, they sat quietly across the table from each other, not quite able to get into the flow of their renewed, freedom. It freaked her out. Was their marriage failing? Doomed? Not meant to be? With a slight tweak of the night, going on a hike or bike or some sort of adventure together before dinner, they changed everything. That “side-by-side time” lubed the gears and got things moving by dinnertime.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the energy for that tonight. After hanging with my (amazing and energetic) kiddos today, I should want to hop on my bike to ride, but I felt exhausted and guilty that I wanted nothing else than a nap. I’m more of a morning exerciser. By 6pm I’ve got a pretty long list of reasons why I shouldn’t go sweat it out. So I talked us out of a ride (despite perfect weather and tacky trails) and instead we drank margaritas and beer, and ate Mexican food. Now I’m capping the night off with some Milk Duds and Sour Gummy Bears. Oh my.

That’s reality for us everyday folks. An imperfect commitment to our passions. I have a ride planned for tomorrow morning at 6:45 am. Gross. I will curse myself in the morning – and be so glad I did it when I’m done. So consider this a little long-distance-interweb show of support from one to another. Do what you can, and don’t worry about it when you can’t. Tomorrow is a new day. Whew. I’m off to bed.

UPDATE: I made the ride. We did it. 6:45 am came a bit too quickly, but thanks to the support of some good girlfriends I was pedaling away by 7:10 and breathing that crisp fall air. I was greeted with a steaming morning latte (thanks Jos!) and a tupperware container bursting with moist carrot muffins (you’re a dream KK!). It’s easy to forget feeling sorta crappy when you get to start your morning with folks like that.

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So if last night was ‘reality’ then this morning should be ‘rebirth’. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but listen…when you’re draggin’, and wondering what the hell you’re doing, huffing up a hill on 2-wheels, and then you come around a corner and the morning sun trickles through the trees and lights your path just as your Endorphins (and that latte and muffin) finally kick in – you can’t help but feel that life is looking Pretty. Good. A simple, fresh start that gets things reset and ready so you can go after it again – whatever it is. Trust me on this one.

Learning to ride, no, really.

At a local trail, there is a curvy skinny made from a cut log. For 35 feet it winds around about 15 inches from top to ground. I had been riding for a year or so, but had never attempted to ride said skinny – that is, until a stinkin’ 8 year old (or so) rolled right up to it, zipped up on it, and rode it no problemo. I knew then and there I’d need to give it a try, bruised shins be damned, ego winning out…thank god I made it. And thank goodness for that darn kid.

I didn’t go on my first mountain bike ride until I was in my mid 20s. I didn’t even know the sport existed and the 2 rides I went on weren’t much fun. It took a re-introduction in my late-20s to make me fall in love with dirty singletrack. That’s why I’m particularly amazed to see our youngest, who’s just a wee past 1.5 years old, riding a strider bike, sans parent.

And then, to pull up to her tiny daycare (newborns to 4 year-olds), and see 3 other little bikes parked out front.

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I look forward to the day I can go on rides with my kiddos, and I wonder how long I have before they’ll be teaching me how to ride.

Notorious R.B.G.

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I recently got to go on what I think is my biggest mountain bike ride ever – 36 miles. I got to do it with a group of amazing gals, which got me to thinking, we should probably talk about badass chicks.

The Gorge is full of them. I’d never met women like this before. Now I know girls that do things like go on 50 mile runs (disgusting!) or talk about twin-tip skis (seriously, I had no idea what they were either.) I have a friend who was an Olympic athlete, another was a National Team kayaker. I know a fellow mom who can rip-roar a snowmobile through the backcountry then hike for miles like a goddamn mountain goat. And just a couple months ago, a chick buzzed by me on a trail, going uphill – and she was only 14 years old!

So while we’re talking about badass chicks, let’s talk about Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I’ve not met her personally, but I think she’s about 4 foot 3, 200 years old, and one seriously tough gal. She sure laid into Donald Trump, but we all know it takes more than a few saucy phrases to make you truly badass.

Did you know that she was only the 2nd female to be appointed to the Supreme Court? And that wasn’t until 1993! Holy smokes, ladies. And, she fought her way through Harvard Law School with just 8 other women, in a class of 500, becoming the 1st female member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review – all while the school’s Dean kept telling them they were taking the place of more qualified males. Boooo.

And if that wasn’t enough, while Ruth was going to law school she was also raising a child! And when her husband got cancer (he was also attending Harvard Law), she took care of their daughter, went to law school, AND took notes for her ailing husband, who went on to beat his cancer, and get a lawyer gig in New York City. Take that Dean-ie!

Still not convinced? Well how about the fact that she was tough enough to be friends with the late Justice Scalia – her ideological opposite? How many of us are friends with someone who’d make most of our other ‘normal’ friends want to vomit? Worried her advanced age has made her weak? Check out her workout program – it includes planks and 20 pushups. I haven’t done those since…

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So I’m officially adding the Notorious R.B.G. to my list of badass chicks (tangent: I find it hopeful that there’s a large enough cross-section of the general public who know both The Notorious B.I.G. and Justice Ginsburg to have had that meme take off). And, it’s because of her tenacity that we chose Ruth as the unofficial totem of our inaugural Epic Chicks Weekend Ride here in the Gorge (thanks ladies!…more to come on that).
See, I told you this blog was about mountain biking.