Sunday, February 1, 2015

Covered in White

I should be out with this crew right now!
We feel cold, but we don’t mind it, because we will not come to harm. And if we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn’t feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the Aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It’s worth being cold for that. 
~Philip Pullman, Northern Lights

I sit hear, on this first of February morning, nursing a slight hangover, and gazing out the window into a world of white.  I should be going through the process of layering synthetics and wool.  I should be riding towards downtown for more bike shenanigans with friends.  I should have gotten a fatbike last year so I could safely navigate multiple fresh inches of snow.  Instead, I find myself wallowing in good coffee and books.  Not all that bad, but not exactly what I wanted either.

Yesterday, at a bike gathering, a cycling friend told me he had been shocked to find out I didn't really like winter (he had read this in one of my older posts)--especially since I plan weekly winter rides.  Yesterday, while the temps were hovering around freezing, and we were able to ride with abandon, it was a bit easier to say "I didn't mind winter".  My reasons prior to today for not liking the burrowing months were the hassle of getting ready, the nagging soreness in the neck from shrugging against the cold and the lack of green.  Today, I could care less about all of that and I just really miss seeing my friends while riding.  In fact, as I sit here I realize that "off" feeling in my stomach really has nothing to do with what I drank last night, instead it is there because I'll have to go an entire week without seeing these fantastic folks.

It's funny how something so simple as good company can change your outlook entirely on weather.  You could say "misery loves company" but I'll be a bit more optimistic and use the Japanese proverb "one kind word can warm three winter months".  Thank you Sunday riding crew for not only getting me to enjoy the winter but making me pine for our weekly spins.

All dressed up and nowhere to go
photo by John D

Monday, January 26, 2015

A winter poem for my Sunday riding crew

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know. 
His house is in the village, though; 
He will not see me stopping here 
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 

My little horse must think it queer 
To stop without a farmhouse near 
Between the woods and frozen lake 
The darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake 
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound's the sweep 
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
-Robert Frost 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Do I want to practice Aikido or boxing?

When I was little, and through my teen years, I was considered a crusader.  My hands rarely unfurled from their fist like state and although I was never looking for a fight, if backed into any kind of corner, fight I would.  No, I wouldn't use my fists (or rarely), but I would throw my energy around and try to bury, whomever I considered to be my attacker, with words.  Some good and bad came from this way of living.  I honed my debating skills, I became confident, and I had passion.  I also burned myself out, alienated some friends and forgot how to be "soft" and pliable.

Over the past twenty years, I've been taking a slow yet steady path of change--partly unconscious but mostly conscious.  I learned that yes, I'm going to get hurt and yes, my body/mind/spirit is pliable and if trained correctly, can bounce back--after all, there is strength in flexibility.  This process of finding my inner softness has taught me so much about myself and others I wouldn't have it any other way.  I also consider myself a life long student and by no means see this as a linear journey.

My title of the post, comparing Aikido to boxing, comes in by how I want (notice I didn't say choose) to handle confrontation.  Although I have never practiced the physical form of Aikido, I love its philosophy:
One must first learn to control oneself before attempting to harmonize and control others. Without a good balance and control of oneself, one can neither avoid an attack nor apply an effective technique on others. It is through self-control that one can learn to enjoy a harmonious way of life.
Boxing, on the other hand, is once again stepping into someone with fists up.  When I first learned about Aikido, I though long and hard about the practice of stepping next to someone vs. into them and letting the attacker's energy/momentum work essentially against them.  First, it allows you to see their viewpoint, second it takes much less energy on my part to stop them (I'm referring to both of these things in the physical and mental way).

This entire post was inspired by a difficult test I received yesterday.  For the fifth time since I've been at my place of employment, I was questioned by one of my employers about my cycling habits.  I'll say "questioned" now but what it really felt like was an attack on the thing I cherish most in life.  Essentially I was told I shouldn't be out winter biking because it's too dangerous...wait for it...for the drivers.  Other comments that have been made to me by my superiors have been "well, let's hope you don't get hit" and "I hope you have good insurance".  I take these comments as being quite aggressive and my knee jerk reaction would be to verbally attack but I knew this was both a teaching moment for myself and for her.  I left the room and after thinking about the situation for a couple hours, decided to write a well thought out e-mail to her--trying my best to find a balance between clarity and non-aggressiveness while staying true to myself and my passion.

Did it work?  Who knows.  Other than writing this post and trying to problem solve a bit to prevent this from occurring so much--not just for myself, but for others, I keep this little zen story on loop in my mind:
Two monks were travelling from one monastery to another.. They were celibate monks, even not allowed a direct gaze at women. After long walk, they came to a river, which they had to cross. The river was flooded and there was no way that they would
get across without getting wet. One lady was also at the banks of river, wanting to cross.. Monks decided to cross the river by walking thorough the shallow part of the river, Since the lady also needed to get on the other bank, one of the monk without much ado, carried her on his shoulders, and soon they reached the other bank, where he set her down.. The lady went her way and the two monks continued their walk in silence. The other monk was really upset, finding the other monks act disturbing. As per their injunctions, they were not allowed to look at the woman, forget touching and the other monk carried her across the river!!
After some time the confused monk couldn't stand the thought and asked other monk? "We are not allowed to look at other women, not touch them.. but you carried a woman across the river?!" The other monk had a smile on his lips when he replied "I put her down when I crossed the river, are you still carrying her?!"

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Why having a cat makes cycling better and why I choose to ride with those who have pets

Be tough, yet gentle
Humble, yet bold
Swayed always
by beauty
and truth
-Bob Pieh

Yep, I've written so many posts where readers may say to themselves "what the f*ck does this have to do with cycling?"  This, for some, will most likely be another one of those posts.  For others, hopefully a smile comes across their face with recognition.

I have a cat.  I've always had a cat.  Even while I was traipsing around the the world I had a cat (my mom was nice enough to take care of it).  Each cat of mine has had its own distinct personality.  Each one has improved my life in more ways than I could ever count.  Okay, okay, I'm going to get to the cycling part.  So, these cats, believe it or not, have made cycling better for me.  Why you ask?  Or maybe you're just rolling your eyes.  Either way, here's the list:

1) They have taught me to see the world through new eyes and be in the moment.  Eyes which focus on anything that moves, be it a hawk or a vole.  My favorite thing about riding is watching for wildlife.

2)  They have taught me to follow sunbeams and store the warmth for cloudy days.

3)  They have taught me to really appreciate, if not obsess over food and always be an opportunist when food is around--let's just say there is a 10 or 20 second rule if food hits the ground after a long ride.

4)  They have taught me to be patient--with myself and with others.

5)  They have taught me to be curious which leads into finding damn fine riding spots as well as picnic spots.

6)  They have taught me to move gracefully and always land on my feet--or at least try to.

7)  And finally they have taught me to love and bask in love.  Love life, and love my friends and family.

Today, our Sunday riding group rode in honor of Lulu/Cinder and in honor of John, Lulu's partner in crime.  Although I have many friends without pets, and I think just as highly of them, there is something so special about those who let four legged furry creatures into their lives.  Here's to you Lulu, may your foodbowl be always full, may there be an endless supply of mice to chase, may the temperature always be above 50 degrees and may you always be with John.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A post that may make you huddle in a corner and whimper a bit

I considered--very briefly--doing this ride my friend put together.  Mind you this is the same friend who coined the term "bike fun".  I rode that day, just choosing to do a 50 miler on roads vs. 150 miler on mush.  I can easily say I made the correct choice...for myself anyway.  There is no shame in being hedonistic or an armchair follower.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Keep the Velodrome Alive!

***A week after I wrote this post, an article came out in the Star and Tribune stating the velodrome would not be saved.  This is a sad day.

I remember the year the velodrome in Blaine, MN was built.  My dad brought me up there to watch the weekly races.  I was in awe to say the least.  While admiring the shear beauty of the wooden track, he told me stories of racing the old cement velodrome which was left to crumble, weeds growing through the cracks.

Although I don't live in Minnesota anymore, and the closest velodrome to me is now in Kenosha, I still keep up with what's happening in the MN scene.  When I read Anna Schwinn's updates on the condition of the Blaine track, and that it may be shut down if funds couldn't be raised, I was deeply saddened.  You see velodromes are a completely different cycling beast.  Track racing isn't something which can be done anywhere like road, urban or mountain biking.  The different principals train cyclists for on-road experience, but the thrill of being in a race or watching a race can be found no other place.

If you live in or near the Twin Cities, I urge you to give this sport a try.  There are so many riders who are more than happy to teach newbies, and there are loaner bikes so you don't have to invest in a track bike right from the get go.  For the women out there, Anna has done such an amazing job with forming an all female team called Koochella.  She, along with other riders, have taken the fear out of trying this great sport and have made a very welcoming community to new women in the track scene.  Along with riding, Anna has also spearheaded fundraising parties and work parties to keep the velodrome alive.

Today, I was delighted to see this post regarding the what seemed to be imminent closure of the track:

Dear trackies, enthusiasts, and supporters:
Happy New Year! Thank you all for what you've done in support of our fundraising drive. Since Thanksgiving, y'all have donated, partied, liked, retweeted, shared, and connected us with people. All of this has reminded us how special the track cycling community is.
In this time, we here at FOVR-MN have been hard at work raising money, bringing in corporate sponsorships, and figuring out a plan to repair and open the NSC Velodrome in the spring.
We have great news:
1. We have raised enough funds for a capital repair to the NSC Velodrome.
2. We are working with NSC Staff and Board to secure full approval for the repair from the NSCF Board of Directors. It's not certain - but we're optimistic.
3. In addition to a regular 2015 season, we are planning some exciting high-calibre events: including a new format for the Fixed Gear Classic, and a team pursuit clinic run by a member of the US National Team. Stay tuned and get excited for these events!
4. It's not all peaches and cream. There will be an ongoing need to continue raising money to fund operations and programming. So please continue to connect us with sponsorship opportunities and please continue partying at fundraiser parties - like the series of Roller Races that are coming up.
We'll keep working on it and will update you as things progress. Thanks for all your support!

-All of us here at FOVR-MN

Let the celebration resume, but to keep this cheer going, consider donating either money or labor to keep this thing alive!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bike Fun

The edge, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.
-Hunter S. Thompson

One of the guys I ride with uses the term "bike fun" for anything that wouldn't be considered fun by normal cyclists.  I'm happy to say I ride with a bunch of really cool folks who are far from "normal" and make me seem less crazy when I propose rides in non-ideal conditions.  Not sure what I'd do without them!

Post Christmas ride
New Year's Ride!  photo by Darryl Jordon

The "bike fun" master himself

photo by John Mcneill