Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Go Smack Talk a Mountain

Man, my mama musta screamed when she gave birth to me cuz I swear I was born with skis on my feet.

Today I cross-country skied for the first time in the mountains of Colorado. It kicked, it rocked, it glided and slided. We started on Greens - as in greenhorn, as in EZ, as in gently sloping lands. ZZZZ... We quickly realized that we were made of sterner stuff and progressed to Blues.

In the bag.

Here I stand poised to enter my first Black, the Disco Trail. And that's when I realized my mama's pain. Cuz shoot. I was born with these skis on my feet. I was John Travolta and Olivia Newton John rolled into one in my nice, tight, black pants. I discoed and dodged and twisted and turned and flew. I mighta even pressed my ski poles into service for that cute little pointing move.

And climb??

Mama-mia! What comes down must go up. But I didn't let that fog up my disco ball. I was the little engine that could and steamed up those hills.

All told, it took me three hours to break those mountains' backs. I left 'em consulting with Crayola, looking for more colors. I left 'em crying for their mamas - cuz they realized that they were born with just ski tracks at their feet.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happiness is...

1) The powder being DUMPED on Denver this morning. Skis, here I come! In this city of over half a million souls, I can snap on my skis outside my front door and be on a trail within 2 blocks. The snow makes me happy, but so does this city. Trails - and getting those half mill souls onto them - are a priority here.

2) Muscles that twitch and twitter with after-exercise elation when you pull on a shirt the next morning. Muscles that lift and twist and pull and pedal. I love the feel of mine when I'm working out. Strong, lithe, controlled, getting the job done. I love my body. I am so glad to have it back after the accident.

3) Light and lively arpeggios, fingers that fly up and down guitar strings while my body rocks and sways to the beat of my internal drum.

4) Creating, daydreaming, writing little ditties. I ride/ski/swim along, lost in my thoughts, amusing myself for hours on end. I like to amuse others. I spin outrageous yarns that tangle my nieces and nephews up in tickly giggles. I like to tease my brother - engage in a battle of wits that gets us both rocking.

5) Helping. My students. I am teaching them to read. To READ. I may be prejudiced here, but man, reading is the bomb. I am teaching them to laugh at books, to cry with books. We do it together. I fervently hope they will be lifelong readers and thinkers. I like to help my students' parents. A mom cried on my shoulder this week. She has been abandoned and needs to be needed, included. She needs a sense of belonging. I asked her to volunteer in my classroom starting next week. Opening my heart feels good.

6) Singing harmony with anyone, but especially with my niece. One snowy November day this year, she and I cracked that Rosetta Stone together for her. I picked and we played, played, played at it until midnight.

These are 6 things that make me happy. Thank you for the tag, Anne.

What makes you happy, you 6 Kreativ Bloggers?
(My apologies if you've done this already. The teacher in me says: Do it again! The humanist in me says: You can never have too much happiness. So there you go... do it again! :-))

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Wanna Eat

I wanna eat
turkey and stuffing
and mashed potatoes
and gravy
I wanna mound it on my plate
and moosh it all together
creating a wavy swirl

Then I wanna take a tractor load
of it and stuff it
in my mouth
making chipmunk cheeks
that are such a concoction
that even my mother
won't recognize it as her own cooking
In the spare space
I'll add the crowning touch
a splash of red ~
the cranberry sauce

I wanna get down and dirty
with a leg
and lick my fingers
I wanna pull the skin off
and dangle it over my mouth
and then drop it in
and gulp it
gnashing my teeth and
smearing my lips with its oiliness

I want pumpkin pie
with dollops of whipped topping
that I will mash down
with my fork
spooning and spreading
meticulously covering
inch of it

Then shovel-style,
I will fork it into my mouth
chewing with open
gulping, gasping,
swishing, swirling

And I wanna do this at night
at 10 PM after everyone has gone to bed
down in my mom's kitchen
so I don't have to do any of it delicately

Biking makes me really hungry.

1:22.32, 23 miles, 16.4 Avg. MPH

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Staring Problem

He's staring at me. Out of these vivid blue eyes encircled by wire-rimmed glasses. His arms are covered in light blond hair and there's a faded bluish tattoo on one forearm. He is short and muscular. And he is staring at me. He only sort of looks away when I catch him at it.

Unnerved, I shift slightly and continue the Ironman anecdote I am telling my friend out loud, all the while maintaining an internal dialogue. What is his deal? Am I looking that fine tonight in my cords and plain gray T-shirt? Hot on the heals of that comes: Is he wearing a ring?

Does he think he knows me? Is he a cross country parent? Is he going to come over here or just continue to stare?

We move over to supervise the theater entrance closest to the bathrooms. Minutes later I look up and my eyes collide with the vivid blue ones. He is milling outside the women's bathroom. Is it coincidence? Is he legit? Is his female inside?

I lose track of him in the busy-ness of the play.

Until now. Three days later I wake up remembering another set of blue eyes, wire-rimmed glasses, and hairy blond arms. I looked into those eyes and told them that they really needed lumbar support on these stretchers. They, for their part, assessed my vitals and told me I was going to be OK, would probably be home by lunchtime. The hairy blond hands cut off my bike clothes. He told me his name and that of his son, a student at my middle school. I knew the name but not the kid. I've subsequently forgotten the name, but I think I've solved my staring problem.

He was the EMT in the ambulance.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The number of minutes I anticipate it will take me to get home tonight.
The number of times I woke up last night.
38 times scared.
38 times excited. Anticipating.

I have a knot in my stomach.
It's called biking.
It's called commuting home.
I'll be on that road again.
Or not.
I have the bike map and might take a longer route home.
Or I might just get back on that horse and face my demons.
Ooh, that felt like gargling with ipecac.

Make me strong.
Make me brave.
Make me just do it
and revel in it
and come to that easy pass
with biking
where I don't even think about it
except to get the good shivers of anticipation.
Make me visualize today's Denver temps of 70s
and sun
riding toward those iridescent blue mountains
now topped with white...

76 minutes most-anticipated,
here I come.

Post script: It took me 80. And I wondered. Is this OK pain or the kind of after-a-serious-injury-needs-to-rest pain? But then... I neared home and the peace happened. The kind of peace that comes only from biking. Ahh...

Stats: 1:20.45, 21.47 miles, 15.9 Av

Monday, November 17, 2008


Stupid. They don't use words, but they say, "you're stupid." They snicker every time he answers a question. They roll their eyes, sigh, get impatient. He believes them. I almost begin to believe them. He is new to me. I wonder what he has done to earn this reputation, this reaction. I ache for him. Today he made a beautiful inference while we were reading in small group. They didn't hear it. I heard it. I told him I heard it.

Hear me: Stupid you are not, kid!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Birthday Gifts I Gave to Myself

Wednesday: Doctor's appointment. I think - hope - this will be my last one associated with the accident. The neurosurgeon gave me clearance to bend, lift, and twist to my heart's content. She did caution me against running or other high impact activities until January though.

Thursday: FLIP TURNS!!! I made all four 50s on 50 seconds. I am a swimmer again!

Friday: A new bike helmet - red, because that's the color my new tri bike is going to be. The trip to the bike shop also included me doing research on my next build. These guys tell me they can get the job done. I want it exactly like my old build, my beloved Serra, but have to change the color. And the name... Ideas?

Saturday: A day spent with some of my favorite people in the world doing an event that is yet to be revealed to me. I love surprises!

Sunday: The crowning glory on the day of my birthday -- my first ride. I have my ol' road bike all ready to go, just finished pumping up the tires, in fact. On Sunday, when Denver is slated for 65 degrees and sun, you will find me on the bike path...

Skip the candles; I already have all I could wish for.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

What You Don't Know About Me

What you don't know about me
is that
I can
You see the ache
the twisted knee
the bruised hip
the unbendable back

But I know better

In the pool
I am invincible
I am nearly myself again
I am myself minus flip turns,
the drive
the determination
the litheness
the piss & vinegar
are mine

I swim hard
I inhale,
sucking air
and unavoidably
am rewarded with a healthy swish of
stale chlorinated water
My epiglottis does its job
closing off my my trachea
In these timed 50s
I can't expend milliseconds expelling water
or swallow it
I must let it swill
I have a job to do
I have to keep moving

I fight hard and make the
4 x 50 on 60 seconds

These 50s that took me
75 seconds 2 weeks ago when
I first wet myself in the pool again
I am happy
the bar is being raised
I anticipate and dread
but make
the 4 x 50 on 55 seconds
and fight, fight, fight
for the 4 x 50 on 50 seconds

I make #1 with 2 seconds rest
I have 1 second to spare on #2
for #3 I am a second late
but I shove off anyway
knowing that
I can
I will
next time
or the time after that

In the pool
I am transformed
In the pool
I know
I feel
I anticipate
the big things
I am yet capable of...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Bump in the Road

I am going to climb 14ers again. I am going to run, swim, and yes, I am going to bike. But today, my endeavors look more like this:
1) Walk 1/2 hour (more of a shuffle)
2) Have doctor's appointment. He tells me I can get rid of both the knee brace and the back brace - as pain dictates.
3) Walk another 1/2 hour on the trail trying to retrain my left leg to bend.
4) Read or visit until it's time to nap again.

Sleep overtakes me these days. I understand that word really well since the accident. I don't have a naptime or a bedtime - they have me.

I am surprisingly OK with it. It feels right - it feels like my body is healing. Given the situation, I know that the more I rest, the quicker I'll heal. I have two fractures and one ligament tear, sundry bruises, and road rash. I know I can take the time I need. School has been awesome, family & friends supportive, and Sweet Sister, the only one out here in Colorado - has been a super-Sherpa. I can count on her.

From the moment I took her hand in the ER and continued to squeeze it, and she let me. I just couldn't breathe normally. I was too scared. The impact of the car and the coulda-beens until I dragged myself to the safety of the median played over in my mind. And wreaked havoc with my breathing.

I hated it. I hated the fact that I'd been hit. I hated the pain. I loathed having to miss school. I didn't want to worry Sweet Sister and everyone else. I instructed the man who called to "tell her I'm OK!" but I have never been as happy, relieved, safe, as when I saw her walk into that ER and let me clench her hand.

My bike. My beautiful, custom-built, fits-like-a-dream tri-bike. Is done. I can't have it at my house yet. The bike clothes - the ones they cut from my body - are stashed in a room. I'm not sure what to do with them. I can't get rid of them just yet, but neither do I seek their raggedy, streaked company.

I want to ride again.

That first night at the hospital, still in my bike shirt and sports bra with a hospital gown over it, Sweet Sister washed my face. She washed away the tears of the day, the grime from the accident - and the happy sweat that was underneath that.

It had been a happy ride. I left my house at 5:30 AM, lit up like a Christmas tree - I thought - and was out in the morning air. I never know whether I love the morning ride or the evening ride more. I could write soliloquies to both. This was my first ride to school from my new house, though I'd ridden the route home the three preceding afternoons. I wound my way through the state park, guided by my headlamp - and my ears.

Sometimes these dark rides are like playing hide-and-seek with an opponent who can't resist occasionally whistling out to you, whose playfulness eeks out in the gurgling sound of a stream that tells you definitively that you did just miss your turn from the park road back onto the trail because you know you never crossed a stream during the daylight rides. There were so few other people in the park that morning - and we would never know each other were we to meet again - because we were just blurs of reflective gear, headlamps, and "mornins" to each other. I always love these morning riders, runners, and walkers. We are kindred souls.

Never 100% sure that I'd made it onto the right path until I exited the park, I was happy that morning on Canine Road. When I came to its grooved, under-construction pavement, I knew I was a mile from my next bike path, the last quarter of this 20 mile bike commute.

I was sweating and I was thinking and I was anticipating. I was looking forward to school where I'd be team teaching an 8th grade math class first thing. I'd written story problems to review for their test and I couldn't wait to see the students' reactions when they heard their names in my goofy little stories. I'd also written one about my age in relation to that of my niece whose birthday was the next day. Then after school, I was to head to Sweet Sister's house - stopping en route only to purchase her a bike pump from the bike shop - for dinner and a visit with some fellow Midwesterners. I would walk the dogs on the open space, eat her cooking, and talk and laugh a blue streak as we watched the vice presidential debate. I love living this close to my sister.

So when I lay there screaming on the median, I was screaming for a lot of things - pain, fear and shock, yes - but disappointment and loss too.

I'm not screaming anymore. I've accepted. My body has set the terms of this recovery and I will oblige. I am told that I am healing quickly - that I am fortunate to be young, healthy, and strong. I believe that. I feel that. And I trust my body. It has led me to Ironman, helped me crest four of these Colorado 14ers (52 to go!), and taken me on countless other treks. It always delivers me from a frenzied or worried or careworn state to one of peace and inner calm. I will accommodate this body. I will let it recover and then I will let it carry me ... onward, upward, and inward.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ima Climba...

Enroute to Pike's Peak (elev. 14,110 feet) on Sunday, September 14, 2008 at approximately 8:00 AM.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Let Me Come In

It is the club to which
I most want to belong
More than I wanted to
be a 7th grade cheerleader
More than I wanted
braces in 8th
More even
than I wanted to
be an Ironman

It is epitomized by
people who qualify for Tri Nationals
Its members speed by me
on my bike commutes home
especially on the uphill - grr...

They eat nails for breakfast
and shit out steel tri bikes for lunch
Its archetype include those who unpuffingly
pass me on my way up Rabbit Ears Pass
They have the gall to say
"Welcome to paradise"
(Oh yes, I got my ass over that pass
but they got theirs over faster)

Their spandex is tighter
their hips are leaner
their machinery meaner

I wannabe
I wannabe
I wannabe
A Fitness Freak of Colorado

Affectionately (one of?) yours,

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Beat In Between

I pull up to the red light
rest my toe on the pavement
and it happens

The traffic stills
my breathing slackens
silence prevails
the morning stops
the eye amid a flurry hurry-cane

I'm no Joseph Campbell
and it's gone almost before I can register it
put my brain around it
but I have felt it
I'm no Joseph Campbell
but in that moment
that beat
I feel like
I have glimpsed
the divine

That moment of
no more than a beat
I know it was there

I savor it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

7 - 2 = 4??

I've forgotten how to subtract. Or something akin to it. I know this phenomenon. I've witnessed it in my students countless times when I introduce a complex new process, e.g. long division. Suddenly, kids who've been subtracting beautifully since the 2nd grade forget they ever even knew how. Their brain is spread too thin trying to grasp the whole divide, multiply, subtract, bring-it-down process of long division.

That is me in this new job. I've forgotten basic things. I am a space cadet, a walking hazard to the planet. I double book myself for meetings, I respond to parents in ways I've never responded before, I forget things. And I realize that it is happening and then second guess myself all the more. Eejah. It is horrible.

I know what it is - I am overwhelmed right now, my poor little neural energy tapped right out - but it doesn't help my feelings of utter inadequacy.

I benchmark this spot because I know that someday I will regain my old automaticity. I will get my groove back. I will be the teacher and reading specialist that I once was: organized, with-it, there for kids and parents and other teachers, a trusted resource. For now... 1+1 = 2, 2+2 =4.

I think.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Hair Smells Good

My hair smells good
I am just back from a hike
where all the spicy, sagey
plants of CO were on the bake

I have picked up their odor
integrated their roots
borrowed their sage-acity

I have met countless people these last two weeks
some kind
some curious
about me, about Wisconsin, about tris and running,
some self-absorbed
bridges that led only inward
Still others who have sniffed me out and tucked tail to run
They didn't like me
Others with stories bigger and longer and more interesting than mine

I have met countless people
I worked at their sides at our new school
I biked at their sides and
- on the hills -
at their backs (Gax!)
I hiked in their wake
talked and smiled and sifted and sorted
and absorbed this new place

I am here
pinching myself when the sight of the mountains
astonishes me yet again
gripping my handlebars a little tighter
when the Denver lights come into view
shaking my head to get a whiff of this
good-smelling hair.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

I Am Bike Commuter

It's not as if I didn't see the yellow light. I just knew better than to stop. I know this suburbia-land community well enough to know that at 5:30 AM, the roads are mine. All the mama-teachers, corporate daddies, and burbie-babies are still fast asleep or waking up to laidback cups of latté and ... other fru-fru stuff.

So it's not like I didn't see the light. I just knew better. I also knew that my ride to school is mostly uphill and I'd be damned if I was going to brake for a yellow (-ish, OK, more red by the second, shall we call it orange?) light when I have the only downhill of the ride. Also, it should be said that this was my first commute in the dark so far this year. The air was cool and moist and sweet and... sort of intoxicating. So I blew it. Blew right through that baby at 5:30 AM and fleetingly wondered out of my peripheral vision - out of my peripheral brain - if either of the two cars waiting at the cross streets were police vehicles.

One was. He pulled me over. On my bike. For running an orange light. And I told him the truth. "I'm high on the morning ride." I beamed at him. My face, my smile exuded all the happiness and joie de vivre you can squeeze out of a cool, moist, sweet, fast downhill in the morning. He understood, I think. He gave me a verbal warning. (My third traffic warning in 8 months; the other two were for speeding. In my car, silly! But I digress. Except I am sort of spotting a pattern here. Oops...) Funny thing is - I was almost happy to see him. Such beautiful rides and feelings should be shared with someone.

My little joyfest concluded, I continued on my merry way.

La-la-la-dee-lah. I'm goin' uphill, but's it's all good cuz life is good. The Denver lights are to my right, the mountains to my back. La-la-la-dee-lah.


Thumpity, thumpity, thump.

Wait. That sound is not a happy sound. I craned my neck down and back to view my rear tire. Flat. Dead as a doornail. Baaaad.

I pulled off onto the side of the road and quickly ascertained that I'd picked up a shard of some moron's glass bottle in my back tire. I carry an extra tube and tire for just such occasions. I whipped them out and changed my first tire of this commute year about halfway through my ride on the side of a getting-busier street with traffic zooming by me. There was no way I was getting that tire up to pressure with my telescoping pump, but I got it up to "rideable" and was back on my way in 15 minutes. Thinking: this would have to happen to me this first week of school when I'm trying to impress my 78 new colleagues and four new administrators. On the first day that I decide to retry the road route instead of the trail. On the first day that I got to wear my headlamp, reflective vest and flashy red tail light. Big, bad boo.

Unbelievably, I made it to school on time. Through orange lights, flashing reds & blues, and a tire change. Up, up with Type As! We leave early enough so that a typhoon wouldn't impinge on our punctuality.

After this morning's ride, I wear the badge. I am Bike Commuter. Hear me roar. See me soar.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chasin' Trail: Colorado & Mexico

Well, it took four hours and all the water I had, and my nether regions hurt, but I've found it. My bike commute route to school. Yesterday I did the first trial - a one-way trip that took me 1:10. I swore to my family that the way home from my new school was all downhill as speedy as it went. But I also went fast because I was nervous about the cars whizzing past me. So today I decided to try it round trip, looking for trail to circumvent the heavily-trafficked streets and highways of yesterday. I found about 2/3 trail on the way there and then on the way back looked even harder.

I can claim unmitigated success - providing I can piece the thing all together again. I was out there searching for four hours, but I predict that once I get it downpat, the commute will take me an hour and a half tops. And all but 10 minutes of that will be on trail.

I re-fell in love with Colorado today. Finding my way through this, figuring out how the paths connected - and the fact that there were bike paths to be found - was enchanting. And these are optimal bike paths - wide smooth concrete that threads its way along gulches (mostly dry this time of year), through neighborhood open spaces, and under the shade of the occasional willow tree. And they all hook up! Ahhh... a biker's dream.

Tomorrow takes me out into the wilderness for my first-ever solo backpacking trip. I have a long list of business I should be taking care of, but I see those mountains to the west and - just like that - they trump business for now. I'm only able to go for one night, but I'm thrilled to be trying this out. I have a couple of goals. My Albuquerque uncle boasted of a 29-pound pack while all the women in his hiking group had 40-pound packs. The gauntlet has been thrown. I would like to be able to send him an email evening the score. My other goal is to write. I'm back from a 2 week trip to Mexico that was HUGE. I haven't even begun to process it all. We set a breakneck pace of traveling and touring that took us:

  • through 15 Mexican and American states
  • across 5063 miles
  • to sea level at a Pacific coast beach
  • to 9000 feet at our highest mountain pass
  • to hell and back with each other; we laughed until our faces hurt and alternately, snapped at each other so that we left toothmarks
  • to Lake P√°tzcuaro, one of the world's highest lakes
  • past countless mudbrown, unappetizing rivers
  • to pyramids built by ancients
  • to resort hotels built by moderns
As you can see, I'm going to need a pretty thick journal. Maybe Albuquerque uncle will win the challenge after all. This time.

To New Friends

I have a newfound
named Cindy

I told her I'd be there the 20th
I arrived the 22nd
Called her at 9:30 PM
Proposed a run for 7 AM
the next morning
She batted not an eyelid

I gave her a bum steer on directions
She drove 45 minutes out of her way
She batted not an eyelid

We ran
We talked
We laughed

My newfound
is cool.

(My apologies for the blurry pic; we'll take a better one the next time I'm in Albuquerque!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Paradise Valley Tri Race Report

Hannah came out of the water even with me though I didn't know it until much later. I heard Mom yelling to Sam that he could be the first on the bike - get going. I didn't look at him yet either. Instead I was watching Strong Sister, willing her to hurry up and land her kayak so we could do the bike together. I wanted to be with someone, didn't know if I could do it alone.

You cruise along thinking it's all OK and then ten minutes before the race, your 26 year old nephew whom you love like a brother but haven't seen since Christmas asks you a simple question and you bust out in tears. Big juicy unstoppable ones. You apologize for the failure of the impermeable smile; you're just too comfortable with him to fake it. He, however, does not always expect strength and wraps you in an embrace, then walks you to the outhouse where he rips off a healthy dose of TP to mop up the tears and snot. You know you have to get it together, to swallow the lump in your throat so you can breathe around it, so you can gulp air - cuz the tri is starting.

Then you stand on the beach, having managed to breathe around the lump long enough to get you across the lake, all told 6 minutes, 49 seconds. You breathe around the lump but inside you still have the emptiness, the ache. You think to fill it with Strong Sister but she is taking too long and you're just standing there idle by your bike. So you hop on and push off through the gravel down the road, still not sure but going anyways, past Mom's house where the impulse to go inside, to curl up in the dark sanctuary of the basement is almost overpowering. But that would cause concern. So you do what you do best and just keep steppin' and think with each pedal stroke how much you appreciate the finite pain of tri.

Then you remember to look for Sam, the 16 year old who you should be reeling in, and you see him way ahead of you, turning onto the first paved part of the course and you half register that he is looking strong, has maintained the gap. However, he will surely tire when he hits the gravel again. Next thing you know you're wishing your mountain bike had aerobars so you lean forward on the handlebars and get sore forearms for your efforts. And now you don't see Sam at all but you're sure that he's just around the curve or over the hill cuz you're back on the gravel - and he must be tiring. You get to the last straight part of the course and spot him. He is two minutes ahead and you think, "Dang! Sixteen year old boys are fast on their bikes," and you start racing in earnest but it is too late. 47 minutes was not enough to catch him.

He has made it to the bike drop first and in case there is any doubt, your mom says, "Moriah and Kate are out ahead" and you catch yourself thinking "Ah heck, I can reel in a 14 year old and a 10 year old." You are half right.

Kate is in the bag within the first half mile, but Moriah, the real third leg of their relay team, is off in the distance. You don't see her until the last mile and you yell, "Go, Moriah! You're doing great, girlie!" She gives you a big goofy grin - and goes. And inside you turn up the heat because now she is in sight and you are hungry to win this thing free and clear. You pull up on her, you gain. Enough to round the curve right before the finish line and see her cross. Your run times out at 19:19, which is just about 20 seconds too late, but you hug those three teenagers anyways, those 2nd cousins who you now want for training partners.

You receive a bellyfull of smack talk all weekend about getting whooped by the kids - and you give back equal amounts. It is only three days later when you're out on the boat writing this race report on the inside flap of a National Geographic magazine that you wonder what's the line between distraction and actual enjoyment of the moment. And when are the big crocodile tears gonna crawl out of the sewer again. And then you realize that it doesn't matter, that it's all OK, that they'll come when there's a person you love around, someone who'll give you TP and a warm shoulder - and that life isn't for taking that seriously anyways. You wrap up this race report (total tri time 1:14), close up the National Geo, and dive into the lake.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Five Days Hiking

A strange blue light
weaves a spell around me
makes a click
makes a crunch
in this ol' granola soul

A strange blue light
wreathes around the mountains
draws me further
pulls me inward
pulls me upward
pulls me out

Out into the wilderness
up the peaks
across the ridges
I don't stop walking
I can't stop looking
could go forever
above the treeline
across June snowfields
surprising herds of elk
past glacial cirques
feeding rushing streams

This strange blue light
that bathes
rock-clad mountains
this granola soul


Monday, June 23, 2008

SWC Y Tri Race Report - Sprint

My only "official" tri of this season is done and done well. I pushed.

Having not ridden my race bike for the last two weeks, I rode to the race (about 3 miles) and re-acclimated to my pedals, clipping in and out of each pedal about a million times. Once those neurons were refired, I hit the beach, swimming an 8:32 warm-up. I ran through the swim-to-bike transition and mentally-rehearsed the changing of the clothes for T1.

Normally a bilateral breather, this habit disappears when I race. I breathe on my right side with every stroke. It just is. I felt smooth and fast. It seemed that all of my wheezing sessions with Coach were serving me well; I was wheezing with the best of them, but it felt like the right thing to be doing since I was racing. I wore my wetsuit and was glad - the water was "refreshing".
Swim time: 7:11

Woot! I ran fast past my cheering section and into the corral. I had a really good position for my bike and made the smoothest transition out of my wetsuit I've ever made. I learned to put it over my timing chip (duh!) so it slips off more easily. No problemo.
T1 time: 1:13

Onto the bike and speedy flat land for 14.5 miles. I was chugging air but didn't want to slow down at all. My mantra became, "I'll breathe when I'm dead." (The humor of the statement was not lost on me and my self-satisfaction with my own cleverness buoyed my spirits even more.) I passed a lot of people and was passed by one guy. (#185 - grr! I still remember his number.) I tried to stick with him for about 3 seconds and realized it was hopeless. He was fast.
Bike time: 39:23

This went OK. I fumbled when re-racking my bike a little bit and tangled my sunglass on my bike helmet when I removed it. I was quick getting into my running shoes but then in my nervousness and race-dizziness, I forgot where the exit to the run was. I had that panicky feeling and snapped my head in all directions looking for the exit while also trying to fasten my watch. Future plan: Run through T2 before the race! (Duh.)
T2 time: 0:38

I really love myself sometimes. (You may gag.) I raced this whole 3.7 miles even though there was no other racer in sight. It struck me as weird even as I was doing it. What compels you to breathe hard and push even when no one else is around? In my head, I was Ariel the mermaid singing, "I wanna be where the people are!" but I just kept chugging along, pushing, pushing, pushing. I knew I'd be pissed at myself afterwards if I left anything on the course. Plus, it just felt good to race. I was in the mood. It didn't always feel good, but it certainly felt right.

AND - I'm happy, happy, happy with the 7:31 pace I held up. I've been running 3 times a week for 30-45 minutes. I have done no speed work - in fact, I would call what I've been doing "SLOW" work. So 7:31s feel like a gift. And miracle of miracles, my knees don't hurt. My piriformis is a little tweaky, but I have a tennis ball for that!
Run time: 27:48

Post race - I had pain between my shoulder blades, piriformis, and a growling stomach - I haven't stopped eating since I crossed the line! ;-) but otherwise I am A-OK. It's all that good kind of pain, that it-feels-like-achievement kind of pain. I'll take it!

Awards ceremony - My brother and his 3 kids (ages 2-5) had come to watch the race. When I received my age group medal, they had to jog up to get it with me. Then they took turns all afternoon wearing "the gold". Some things are just better with kids. :-) When I'm old and crippled up, I hope to go places and cheer for them. Won't be nothing wrong with my teacher lungs!

Overall: I was very happy with this race. As mentioned, I was first in my AG. Official results can be found here. I was bib #192.

Total time: 1:16.11
Gender place: 2/74
(The #1 Female beat me by 4 minutes instead of like 30 seconds, thank gawd! She's 23 years old - she has a career ahead of her!)
One last thing: my finisher's photo a la Robby B.
Cheers, everyone!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where You'll Find Me

Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops

That's where you'll find me...

But just in case I'm not there, try one of the following places:
June 21 = My only official tri of 2008 -
South Wood County Y Tri
June 23 - July 2 = Moving my stuff to CO and doing some hiking. I'll miss WIBA. Have fun, everyone, and have a glass of Merlot for me.
July 2 - 11 = Wisconsin - 4th of July parties and last good-byes. My only other tri of the season will be my family's tri on July 5th. (Remember you're invited, JLT folks. Drop me an email if interested.)
July 11 - 27 = Mexico trip
July 27 for the duration = Back to CO to live!
August 1-2 = Wild West Relay - This will be a challenge; altitude, err - hillier - terrain, and on a team where the only person I know once pulled my hair so hard that I felt the need to pull it back into a pony tail and snip it off. Good times.

So that's where you'll find me. I'll check in here as frequently as I can, of course. Other notes of interest this AM...

12 minutes is what it takes me to warm up on the swim. I meant it when I said this would be a building season. I am gathering the data as we speak! I will use this little metric tomorrow morning before my tri. How nice to apply my learnin' right away.

'Fessin' up
Does anyone else make aeroplane noises as you're speeding down a hill and rounding a curve on your bike?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lesson Learned from my Paddle

He was scared. White-knuckling the sides of the kayak, screaming every time it dipped to the side, imploring me to keep the boat straight, to stay away from the side, to avoid branches and rocks.

I assured him. "What's the worst that can happen? If the kayak tips, you'll swim for the paddle, I'll swim for the boat. We'll meet up on the side and hop back in."

We'll just swim to the side and hop back in...

Happy ending for Nephew: By the end of the trip he was imploring me to hit the "big waves" as we went through the rapids. He even got to the point of throwing his arms up in the air, squealing with delight, as we swooped through the troughs. Go baby!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Time Trial

Sometimes I am scared shitless.
What am I thinking moving to a metropolitan area? I feel like I can't. Like I'll be swallowed whole, eaten alive. Lost. I'm scared about all the solitary decisions I'm making. I am deciding for myself. It's scary as all get out sometimes. I have never done this before. I never truly realized how much of a foundation my husband was.

Other times. I know it is possible. I trust myself. And I know that there are good people everywhere you go. There is lots of fresh air in CO. There are reading specialists, runners, triathletes, bikers... people like me. I have a job, I have my sister, I have a support network. I'll land on my feet...

Churning with these thoughts, I blow past the turn to meet up with my new-found (yep, just before the move) time trial group. I daydream way too much. Thankfully, a friend phones and pulls my head out of the clouds with solid directions. I arrive on time for the start.

Then I find myself out on the bike. Time trialing down a country road in the middle of nowhere-Wisconsin. Blazing away at the biker in front of me, burning my quads to stay on his wheel. Down that country road on a sunny night it comes to me that I should race. I should race and race and race. Because it boils me down to my essence. I can't help but race. I see him and I have to, have to - no questions asked - burn my lungs chasing him. It isn't a conscious choice. It just is. The drive takes over and I thrive. I come alive, more in tune with myself but paradoxically less self-obsessed than at any other time I draw breath.

And I'm drawing a lot. I heave. I pass him. He passes me. I pass him back. Finally he sling-shots ahead of me and I know that I will not catch him again. "Fucker," I say to myself (the potty mouth comes with the competition). To him, I say, "Nice ride."

On the ride home I think: this decision is easy. It is crying to be made. I know where I fit. I have looked around enough to know what I want and what I'm good at. Professionally, I am a middle school reading specialist. Period. It's where I fit. Athletically? I am a fighter, a warrior - a competitor. It's where I fit.

With my newfound insight, I wanna run out and register for every race and run, race hard. But. I have been working out, not training. There is a critical difference. Grr. Time will be a trial to impatient me.

I rein myself in and get reasonable. I plan. I have a rather large move to accomplish and lotso travel plans. This summer is booked. This will be a building season. I will continue to work out, and I will hone the vision. Gradually my workouts will give way to training as I decide what the big show will be.

I am ready for something big in '09. I am ready to focus, to look neither right nor left. Next year, I am going to do triathlon. After two rather lackadaisical seasons post-Ironman, I am ready to compete.

Tonight's total Time Trial including the ride to the rendezvous point and back lasted 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Its impact? Only time will tell.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Me-Me-Me Meme

Here are the rules.

If you’re tagged, you will find your name at the end of this post. You should then copy the rules (or your version of them), and the set of questions onto your blog post, provide your own answers, and then tag 5 new people.

Just to be sure that everyone tagged knows they have been invited to play, go to their blogs and leave them a special comment letting them know, and refer them to your blog for details.

Once the chosen have answered the questions on their own blog, they should come back to yours to tell you.

Here are my responses.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?
Diesel engines, concrete powder and tiled sidewalks. I was studying abroad in Spain and I'd run on the fringes of the city - in the new development. I still get a little heady when there's just the right concoction of construction smells in the air. I'm snapped back in time to those 30-45 minute Spain runs and my giddy feelings of excitement and curiosity and wonderment at the newness of it all. It was not about the running at all; rather running was my vehicle for exploration.

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?
My best and worst come from the same race. Great River Relay, August 2007. Here's the scoop.

Worst - My first leg of this race was projected to be a 58 minute, 7.4 mile deal. But, I got lost and turned it into a 2:24, 15 mile ordeal. Now, don't get me wrong - I am long-habituated to getting lost and don't mind a little extra mileage, but I had a team waiting for me, a next runner to tag. I also had to run two more legs of this thing, totaling another 12.6 miles. To say the least, I was anxious. To say the most, click here.

My second leg - aside from being pitch black (9:30 PM) - was an uneventful 8.2 miles.

Best - My third leg was a 4.4 mile shortie that I was projected to do in 36 minutes. I'd slept for four hours and was fresh as a daisy, ready to run. Until I got started, that is. My knees positively creaked. As I tossed my headlamp to my support van, I shouted, "Stick a fork in these legs - they're done!"

And then I heard the tap, tap, tap of footsteps behind me. Enter Bill. AKA Eye Candy. AKA the reason I run. (See #3 of this meme.) As he passed me, we exchanged greetings. I told him he looked strong, he claimed he wasn't, and that's where it could have ended.

But I didn't want it to. His gait was beautiful. I couldn't take my eyes off of him and that gorgeous, rhythmic stride. In order to keep him in my sights, I had to stick with him. So I did.

For the first two miles, I hung off his backside, about 5 strides back. Then I managed to pull even with him. Our vans were leap-frogging each other, offering us water, energy bars - and the berries. My very funny teammates were giving me a hard time. "Um, Teach, your run has been changed to a 7.2 miler."

"Ha. Funny guys," I commented to Bill, having already shared with him the trauma of my first leg. He mumbled something in reply, but I had inched ahead of him and took it to be filler so didn't ask for a repeat. When he pulled even with me again, we chatted a bit more. He was new to distance running, had been a sprinter. I couldn't sprint to save my life, but could run forever and a day -- good thing with my navigational abilities. Ha, ha. Yada, yada.

I checked my watch and registered 34 minutes and saw what I thought was the exchange point. I began to pour it on and encouraged Bill to stay with me, we were almost there!!! He again said something that I failed to hear, but hell if I was slowing down to ask for a repetition - my blood was up.

It was to stay up for another 20 minutes.

My funny guys hadn't been joking. My 4.4 mile route HAD been changed to a 7.2 miler. But I couldn't stop now because Bill was right on my tail. I could hear that insidious, rhythmic tap, tap, tapping at my back door - and nice as the view from behind had been, I wanted him to stay behind me now, dammit!

I had no energy to calculate distance at this point. I couldn't risk looking at my watch. I needed to concentrate, to live in that forward motion focal point in my head, right between my temples. All I registered was the pain in my chest, the ache in my quads - and the stronger will to stay ahead of Bill. He would pull even and we'd grunt encouragement at each other, but we both knew by now that this was a pissing match. Our vans and those supporting other runners did too. I fuzzily registered their presence and knew they were watching the whole thing unfold.

Now, I don't know about you, but I am an incurable show-off. Give me an audience and I will move mountains. Or just run pretty damn fast.

We reached the 1 mile to go signal and it was showtime. I hit my lap split and conjured energy. My forked-up legs, my guts, and my sleep-deprived brain all pitched in. To push me, to propel me forward. And then I saw the beautiful orange cones and flags of the exchange point. I saw that it was at the bottom of an incline and I cracked. A smile split across my face - or at least I pulled my lips back from my gaping, gasping hole of a mouth. I am good on the downhill.

I leg go of my legs, let them free fall, flapping down the hill, carrying me home. I snapped the relay bracelet on my friend's waiting wrist and turned around to watch Bill snap his partner. For the first time, we looked each other full in the face and shook hands, exchanging wide, sweaty, exhausted smiles. We were both breathing like freight trains but managed to gasp our congrats to each other and introductions to our respective teams. (My team then grabbed me for this commemorative photo.)

My best race? August 25, 2007 when Eye Candy Saved the Day
7.2 miles, 54.24 with a 6.31 last mile

3. Why do you run?
I think I've adequately spoken to this one already, no? ;-)

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?
Best: "Run like you mean it!"
To my cousin Dan at his first race last year. He followed it, smashing his predicted time into itsy-bitsy bits.
Worst: "I'm not sure our big-boned, voluptuous bodies are made for running marathons."
To my sister. Just to prove me wrong, she ran two marathons in her 40th year - and did quite well with them, to boot.

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.
All my life, I have been Type A, wound-too-tight-for-livin', driven. Last weekend someone called me laid back. LAID BACK?? That one's a surprise even to me.

I'm tagging 5 of my Wisconsin buds. Consider it my good-bye gift!
Rural Girl

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

View from a Hike in Colorado

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Views from a Kayak in Wisconsin

I went for a paddle with some friends.

Wave at the mirror, trees.

Shadows out the back way.
I took a detour on an impromptu, flood-created oxbow. As I came out, there were shadows.


The things I learned from my paddle...

Dive nosefirst into life. Let your puppy do so too - even if it means he's diving nosefirst into the smelliest, deadest thing in a 50-mile radius.

Be Stevie Nicks and sing for the things money can't buy. I sing for the way my paddle gives a little "kick" and shoves the water back just like my hand as it flexes at the wrist during my catch on the swim.

I sing for a superintendent who has the courage to live by her convictions - and who embraces me as I leave to do the same.

I sing for family and friends, and for all the places to love. Like kayak trips on Wisconsin rivers.

Endurance Events: Not Just for Triathletes Anymore

I slept for 12 hours yesterday. I was exhausted. Cindy hit the nail on the head with her comment; interviewing this last week was the Ironman of my professional world. It was a whirlwind. From Thursday, May 29th until Friday, June 6th my life consisted of phone calls, flights, and interviews. I had to be "on." And I was. Have you ever felt like you're a walking ball of electricity? I was crackling with ideas and teaching philosophy and kid stories. I was like a middle schooler on Mountain Dew. Buzz, buzz, buzz.

I still did workouts, but once I got the phone calls, I stopped chasing the odd minutes - or hours - that would bring me to my pre-ordained workout time. It simply was not possible. At one point, I'd driven 55 minutes to a trailhead, only to have my phone ring. "Since you're in town, would you be willing to interview at 1:00 today?" Instead of my planned 6-hour hike, I did a 45 minute run (starting elevation 7600 feet = huff and puff), and drove straight back home to get ready.

No one, of course, does this kind of electricity-hecticity alone; suffice it to say I have the best family, friends, and (*sniff*sniff*) set of colleagues a guy could want.

The job I've landed. Will rock. From the moment I saw the posting, I knew. It's me. It's part teaching, part teacher-leadership. I've been doing this kind of mix for the past five years in my current district. I'd been watching CO teaching postings since April (though I couldn't start applying until May because of the red tape in applying for my license - grrr) and I'd seen nothing like it. I was convinced that it did not exist in CO, so when I saw it, woof - my heart leapt. I immediately emailed my references and asked them to tweak my letters of recommendation for this job - THE job - as I referred to it. I wrote and re-wrote my cover letter, had my Sweet (smart, talented, beautiful) Sister help me revise it, and sent it off with fingers crossed.

I got the call May 29th, flew out May 31st, interviewed June 3 & 5, got the job June 6th. Smiles.

Mixed in were calls and an interview for another job - for which I can now cancel my 2nd interview, teaching, writing sub plans, working out, keeping family and friends posted, and ... woof, isn't that enough? I think I earned my Friday Night Freedom and Saturday Sleep.

But now. I have found the one. I will work with kids, I will research reading strategies and apply brain-based research in my classroom, I will team-teach with other professionals, I will analyze the needs of the teachers and the students, and I will be elbow-to-elbow, nose-to-nose with them becoming better teachers and readers.

I am happy about this position.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Night Freedom

I sigh and smile and shiver with anticipation of Friday night freedom. I feel good tonight. I am gainfully employed. I got the call today from CO-way that I am in like Flynn.

Just. Like. That. My very first cover letter was the one. Wow. My head is kind of spinning, yet I'm also calm, at peace. I've worked so hard, focused so much attention on this job search that it feels strangely empty to have it done. Yet satisfying.

And I wanted tonight for myself. I took it. Away from anyone else so I could just steep in my own self. Sometimes I get so busy and otherways-focused that I forget who I am. And I AM. That is enough for tonight.

You got a sliver of me because I feel the need to write. I can feel a pour coming on -- a volcanic eruption of Triteacher news and photos and blog commenting nonpareil!

... but it may have to wait until after Friday Night Freedom.
A good one to you.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Alive and Well in...


I flew out here for two interviews and have made a mini-vacation of it. It took the place of what was going to be my first triathlon on Sunday, but hey! - I will take it. I took a leap (quit my WI job) and now am seeing that there just might be a net in place to catch my fall after all.

I have been busy with work and play, but thought I'd do a quick post to let you all know that I am, indeed, alive and well. :-)

Oh, and I will post pictures and thoughts on this whole change process as soon as I can.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Y Factor

Alarm bells ring at 5 AM
Fingers fuzzily fumble for the snooze
But then relinquish the covers
Before the bell sings again

It is not bells to whom we reply
But rather it is…
The call of the Y

We shuffle through its doors
Mumble hellos through unbrushed teeth
Or maybe just nod
Clang our lockers
And done our battle gear
Uncombed hair
Is pulled back in pony tails
Tucked under swim caps
Plastered to our skulls

We commence
Sleepy brains count yards
And strokes
And strokes per x amount of yards
They count heartbeats and measure miles
And calculate minutes per mile
Slope-intercept form ready

We reach and we pull
We lengthen our stride
Extend our reach
We work and we sweat
All accompanied by
the heavy (morning) breath symphony

Sixty minutes and many heartbeats later
We reunite in the locker room
Gone are the trudging drones with messy hair
The Y has worked its magic
Our smiles are exuberant
Our bodies lithe
Our greetings and exchanges
Charged with the electricity of

We spring out through Y doors
In school clothes
In work suits
Our rouged cheeks and lips
Curled into satisfied smiles
That leak out
And meld with the sunshine

Cuz underneath it all
We carry the Y factor
We know the secret

Underneath it all
We are bone and tissue
well-toned muscle
chlorine-tinged skin
and steadily-beating heart.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Battle Hymn

I fly but with my wings tucked
my head cradled between them
sucking in my gut (as if)
tightening abs and ass
to minimize the drag

Even my lips are compressed
until I see
and feel
39 MPH

tinged with not a little fear
pries open my lips
unclenches my throat
and allows
Gillian Welch's Indian War Whoop
to escape from my mouth

The cry ricochets off the asphalt
is carried on the winds
all the way down the hill
into the surrounding ditches and woods
threading its way into the very fabric of the day
proclaiming that

feels good.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I fought her in fourth grade. She struggled with Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies and me. She stole things, she lied, she alienated her peers.

She stockpiled food. The granola bar and apple I’d give her for breakfast would later be spied in parts – pieces stashed in her locker, her coat pocket, her backpack, her desk. She came to school hungry. She came dirty, tired, cranky, and with toothaches. She in no way could be termed “ready to learn.”

I fed her, yes. I ignored her smell, yes. I gave her pencils and books, stickers and hugs. But make no mistake - I pushed her, yes. Sometimes to tears. She’d leave my room to go to the counselor, to cry. I begged the speech teacher to continue to see her, if only to give her a reprieve from me. To give her another outlet, someone who could be softer, who didn’t feel compelled to teach her, who didn’t see so clearly and believe so dearly that education was her only ticket out.

I fought her in fourth grade.

Now she is in eighth grade, her locker across from my room. She unfailingly greets me when we pass in the hallways, she has joined my book club. She confides in me about her period and boys, her sister, her grandma, and – once in a while – her dad.

This girl I fought in fourth grade. I think she knows. I pushed her, yes. I ignored her smell, yes. I even fed her. But what I really wanted all this time was to nourish her.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I Did That Thang

I did that thang
where you get on your bike
and you ride somewhere
just cuz you're back
from where you've eaten Mom's cooking
all weekend
and then she packed
homemade cheesecake
for you
and 15 of your closest friends
and somehow it ended up on the front seat
and by the time you get home
you realize that you are fortunate that friendship is not based on your ability to deliver the cheesecake and know that 15 friends will be none the wiser
but you also know that you need to get on that bike
going somewhere
cuz it's sunny out today not to mention 23 degrees warmer than yesterday
so you go do that thang
where you get on your bike
and you take the first road that catches your fancy and ride it
up, up, up this one goes
past frogs rrreee-rrreee-rrreee ing
paralleling a crane for half a mile
flying side-by-side
twin stretched necks
hers long and graceful
culminating in a beak
yours stretched and musclely
culminating in aerobar tips
The road T's and you choose into the wind
while she keeps flying straight
and you're on your own
just you and the thoughts of the weekend
the relay run
the family
the strong-willed women who lunched together and laughed at themselves until interrupted by the family men who crashed the party wearing robes
begging for kisses (the loudest was my dad)

And then you think of nothing
just wear that goofy grin
and soak it all in-in
a peaceful spot
a staying spot
a sunny spot without
and in

I did that thang
where I got on my bike
and went somewhere

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Study in Contrasts

Did you ever notice that you can especially appreciate feeling good after a period of feeling downright crappy? I can finally smile today. I've made headway in so many arenas of my life this week (paper blizzard nearly managed on the job front, moving plan taking shape, spring weather finally starting).

This study in contrasts would be well-illustrated by a pair of rides I did this week. Check it out...

Tuesday night's ride home: 1:54, 13.7 MPH Average.
There was a KILLER headwind that hurt even as a crosswind. Think frontal attack for 20 miles interspersed with 5 miles of lateral attack. I know two languages and exhausted my swear words in both. At one point, I was pedaling downhill and topped out at 14 MPH.


Wednesday's ride to school: 1:20, 19.5 MPH Average.
That killer headwind stuck around to become a killer tailwind. Woot!

I smiled on Wednesday morning for oh, approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Teacher is Taut

Methodical and patient. That is how I have to be right now.

I calmly focus first on getting that ineffable feel of "tautness" in the water. Like my body is corkscrewing tightly around the axis of my torso. It takes time. The first 200 warm-up is spent achieving that feeling – just the right amount of stretch, reach, and time spent on my side before I begin the slow rotation back to my other side. I put a dipstick in – I count my stroke for a length to see how I'm progressing. Eighteen is good enough, 17 is better, 16 means it's a really good day in the water.

Next I focus on the catch. I follow each arm through the full motion of scraping the rim of the big bowl in front of me. I keep my elbow high. Again, I know I've achieved success by the "feel" of it. My biceps and triceps let me know when I'm pulling all of the water I should be.

This time, the woman in the next lane will serve as my measuring tool. She is fast. I don't know her, but my eyes nearly bugged out of their goggles when she sped by me on my warm-up. She has been interesting to watch. She races to the end of the lane, touches - and while her head is out of the water, makes a giant breathing sound that I've only heard before in the spouts of whales. Then she dives back under for another kickin' 25. I have taken note and have been working up to this part of the workout. The part where I'll match myself with her.

My torso elongates, my arms pull, sweep, grab every drop of water they can. She beats me to the end, but my flip turn pulls me even with her. My flip turns make it possible for me to stay with her for 200 yards.

My flip turns. I taught myself them in a hotel pool when I was first starting triathlon. We were on a family vacation and I ditched everyone for the day to stay in the pool. Over and over I somersaulted, getting water up my nose, getting dizzy, going into the flip too early and having my feet completely miss the wall… until finally, at 4:00 that afternoon, I proudly ran to my family and dragged them poolside to watch me flip.

As I've swum this week, I have reflected on this little swimming empire I've built. It has taken nine years of practice. Of being methodical and patient. The tautness, the confidence in the water has been taught, worked for, hard-won. I didn't learn everything new in one day – or even one week.

I can't meet all of the challenges of my future at the precise moment when I'm strong enough and have enough energy for them. Instead I'm finding that I have to be steady. Patient. Methodical. I have to get water up my nose sometimes and wait interminably (it seems) for that ineffable feeling of tautness. I have to wait for all of my various forms to be returned, for my stinkin' paperwork to be processed, for the schools to call me for interviews. (I have already woken up in the wee hours tingling with the electricity of ideas for what to say in my interviews. I know - really sexy, but hey, that's where I'm at.) And then I'll have to wait for word on whether or not I have the teaching job. That's a lot of waiting.

Deep, whale-like exhalation.

And I remind myself: Rome wasn't built in a day. My swimming empire was not built in a day. My Colorado future will take time too.

Under the water I go again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Get It While You Can

I took these immortal words of Janis Joplin to heart today and hopped on my bike. This week Wisconsin has been defined by 38 degrees and definite rain. But for a few brief, elusive moments this afternoon, the rain stopped and the temp crept up over 40. The stars really were aligned as I was done with school (but, as you'll see, not done with kids) which meant .... bike time!

I hopped on Serra and headed south, knowing that the wind was out of the southwest. It is ALWAYS best to get the wind out of the way first. Today was no exception. I rode the side streets to get out of town and then had a country road all but to myself. Flooded fields and big wet trees surrounded me. I went out 10 miles and turned around to cruise home with that wind at my back. I felt gooood.

The raindrops caught me at the turn-around but fortunately they weren't the driving torrent that we'd been experiencing. Just enough drippies to get my jacket good and wet.

Enter the children. Apparently I'm good for a laugh. Coming back into town, I rode past a gaggle of tween boys who were congregating outside of the cinema. Two of them giggled and waved, yelling "Hi!"

Oh my, did they bust a gut when I gave them an effusive wave and yelled, "Well, helloooooo!" (I get like that on my bike. Smiling at everybody, yelling, loving the world.)

I guess they thought they were laughing at me with my biker outfit of spandex pants, blue jacket, helmet and geeky blue glasses, but guess what - I laughed right along with them.

yelled "hi" to the next set of teenagers walking down the sidewalk - just for good measure. (FYI: They just stared at me. Quintessential teenagers, these.)

At home, I swapped out bikes to head to the grocery store. (Why the bike swap? Because I didn't have my bike lock and -- well, obviously, my MTB is expendable. Serra? Over my dripping wet, dead, spandex-clad body!) I scooted to the grocery store for some supper fixins and there was taken to kindergarten.

"Oh look! Does she ride her bike in the rain, Mommy?" was squealed loudly as I entered the store. Geez, it wasn't like it was pouring or anything. And, contrary to some of my students' beliefs, I do not melt in the rain. Little Girl with Big Mouth got a smile too.

The numbers for today: Biked 1:09, 20.6 miles, Av 17.8 MPH, Grades encountered = K-12

Plus plenty o' smiles and pride for getting it while I could.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mile High Memories

L: My first day ever skiing in the mountains. My smile here is all bravado; I am quaking in my boots. I'd just wiped out in a big, bad way - see the snow packed into the zipper of my ski pants. I picked myself up and made it to the bottom of that run though. FYI for the numbers folks: our last run took 16 minutes, 28 seconds. Now that's skiing.

Above R: My recovery meal and compensation for having to sit with frozen corn on my knee the whole next day.

Falcon rests in the open space that adjoins my sister's backyard. These open spaces were built for drainage, I am told, but for the fresh air fiends of Colorado - and their visiting siblings - they are an escape to the wild.

Laced with running trails and arroyos, dotted with prairie dog communities and a favorite haunt for coyotes, the open space drew me out of the house every day. Denver and the mountains serve as
a backdrop.

Chatfield Reservoir as seen from Plymouth Mountain. I hadn't taken my camera on the bike ride I'd inadvertently ended up doing around the reservoir three days prior to this so I was absolutely thrilled to get a view of it on my hike. In the foreground is aptly-named Dinosaur Ridge, another hike that is on my to-do list.

Anytime you can wear shorts in snow, you're in my kind of country. Two runners - they had to be Bubba-like crazies (read ultra-runners) looped by me twice on this hike. They were attired in singlets and running shorts. I felt over-dressed and under-trained.

Two of the best hiking companions
you ever will come across. They were rocking the car with snores by the time I finished using the restroom at the end of our hike.

A little Colorado color framed by a picnic shelter. I love all the neutral, earth tones used in the architecture in the state. The outdoors is embraced.

I think I'm gonna like it there...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Good Kid

I've been a good kid since my confession on Tuesday night. I shut down the Pringles factory, limited myself to ONE glass of the sweet red stuff, and have had salads for supper. You guys really do it for me.

I've even been working out. I did a sunlit run with the Weimaraner in my life yesterday evening - 30.32 with 3 hills AND I did a bike/swim brick tonight.

Tonight's numbers:
Biked 25 miles, 1:18 (Or thereabouts; someone forgot to turn on her bike computer at the start!)
Swam 53.32

I biked to my pooltown tonight and jumped right into a master's swim class. I'd been expecting to swim alone, but Coach welcomed me to his new class - pointed to a lane and told me to "speed them up." It was awesome. I know how to swim. It made me reflect on how far I've come. Three years ago, I would have been intimidated by that situation. Tonight I did it without thinking twice. I jumped in, introduced myself, made fast friends, and shared the lead appropriately as we figured out our relative speeds. I'm so calm in the water. It feels natural. Even when I was choking on water on our fast set, I knew to trust myself, to finish out the count and clear my throat on the breath. It sounds impossible when you think about it; it's a do kind of thing, the kind of thing that comes automatically after years of practice. The kind of thing I appreciate at a time like this when I'm more aware and reflective.

On the move: I've been getting the job done on finding my CO job - or at least getting the license. I sent more faxes yesterday than I've sent in the rest of my life cumulatively. And I've started to say some of the sweetest good-byes ever. There have been tears, but they've been shared tears, mutual admiration tears - the kind of tears that mean we're going to keep in touch even though we're 1022 miles apart. I've been collecting letters of recommendation too, and if that doesn't make a guy's head swell, I don't know what will. I haven't told a ton of people - and those I have are sworn to secrecy - but I know. It's changed me. I am more appreciative and more aware of everything as I go through my day. My days here are numbered and I'm going to make each one of them count.

My life is good.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Killin' It

Someone recently sent me an email hoping I was out there "killin' it". Hoo boy, do I wish! I shoulda posted about 5 days ago when I was EXCITED about this process I'm undertaking. Before I actually started the WORK associated with this process I'm undertaking.

Deep breath. And I'll cut all the subterfuge.

I'm moving.

To Colorado.

Like muchos miles away from po-dunk village, Wisconsin. And man, I am excited. But sheesh, the process of becoming a teacher in Colorado is kicking my ass. There is red tape like you wouldn't believe. They want fingerprints on a specially-coded CBI (yep, that's Colorado Bureau of Investigation) card, administrator-signed statements from every school district in which you've worked, a note from your mother and her 50 last contacts in the medical profession, your college transcripts AND a special form signed by the "Certification Officer" of said college... OK, maybe one of those was an exaggeration, but they seriously want a lot of stuff. No one ever said that being a teacher was easy!

And that's just how I apply for the teaching license. I haven't even begun the job applications yet. I got shut down on those on the second question: "When do you anticipate receiving your Colorado Teaching License?" So I thought I'd better apply for that first.

But. I AM excited. I've made this decision and feel good about it. Some day I'll even post pics of what I'm so excited about. That place is beautiful, folks. I think of Colorado and I think of mountains and sunshine. Mmmm...

I think of Colorado Teaching License and I think of M&Ms, Merlot, and triple-fatty food. I am doing some serious bribing of myself these days.

So. Killin' it? Not so much. Or maybe I'm just not "out there" killin' it - I'm in here, coating some arteries, killin' some serious brain cells, and cutting a lot of red tape with BLACK INK ONLY.

An auspicious beginning, no?

Dedication to F-R-E-E

F ollow a train of thought from engine to caboose
R un in the rain
E nergy to dance, to sing, to play guitar (Na, na, na - hear J. Mellencamp)
E mpathy to reach out to others who might benefit from the hard-won wisdom of experience

I erect this monument to F-R-E-E. I am getting there. From The Moments to actual minutes now. Woot!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Heat Seeker

If I weren't cold, I would do it.
If it weren't another slate gray sky, I'd be on it.
My bike sits in the garage, loaded and ready.
I sit on the couch, snuggled in and sipping coffee.

If the coffee weren't so warm and tasty,
If I didn't have to do laundry and to start a job search,
If I just could read the rest of my book
when I returned,
then I'd be right on that bike.

If the concert hadn't been so good last night,
If the fiddle hadn't pulled my heart out
through the tips of my nipples,
If I hadn't waltzed with the banjo and the guitar,
In concert
synchronized souls
Then I wouldn't have to savor it
and instead
I'd get out on my bike.

- Beat -

If I could erase the memory of THAT hill
the one that kicks my ass every year
then my heart wouldn't jump
I wouldn't hear my adrenaline say
You have demons to conquer, TT
even today on a cold,
slate gray,
post-concert day.

But -
I do remember
My heart does jump
I do have demons
I do want to engage them...

Can't touch this fire -
See you on that hill.

*Edit: I fought the hill and... who won? Well, let's just call it a draw. :-)
Biked 1:48.07, 30.6 miles, Avg. 17 MPH

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Biked 25.5 miles in 1:26.01 in sun, wind, and 46°.
Avg. = 17.7 MPH

The love affair begins anew. Anticipate long, besotted essays devoted to my Serra, shown here in his photo shoot at Waterford.

Quite a hottie, no?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Woman in Wind

It is a windy day
geese cartwheel
across a slate gray sky
like so many bed sheets flapping
in a line-drying frenzy

This almost-violent playfulness
strikes a answering chord in me
In this
my inaugural run of the 2008 season
my feet pound up the hill
I am going too fast
A glance at my heart rate monitor
confirms the call
to bridle my enthusiasm
to rein in this wind
to take my time

I do.

I feel my feet upon this path
hear the dying crunch of this snow's
final days
control my slip across snowmobile-packed ice.

In the woods
I even stop and gaze
at the trees waving their branches
and touch my hand to the warmth
by the kiss of the wind
on each of my cheeks

The speed of the wind
the careening of the geese
are now in sharp contrast with me
The centered one
Centered in my shoes and in my knees
This run brings a resurgence of joy
of peace
of exhilaration
of springtime in Wisconsin.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Reality, Frozen

I sit the day after skiing with a bag of frozen corn on my knee. I am ticked at myself for falling, ticked at myself for having to challenge myself on my first day of skiing in the mountains. More than anything though, I am utterly disappointed that my actions are resulting in me sitting at home cozied up with frozen corn and One Hundred Years of Solitude. I should be in Boulder hiking with my cousin and then finding out all about the Boulder Cruiser rides he's been raving about in his emails to me. He has intrigued me with teasers such as:

  • How do you feel about drinking and riding?
  • Silly attired is encouraged.
  • Bring an overnight bag just in case you feel like letting loose a little.

But here I sit
feeling like sh-t
with frozen corn
on a swollen knee
writing crappy poet-ry,
Poor ME.

And then I realize that it will happen. That I will return to Colorado and visit my cousin in Boulder. I realize that I trust my judgment on my knee, that I made the right call today. That sane people just don't push an injury the day after it occurs. That my gut-reading of my body and reason need to prevail over my passion, whim, and curiosity sometimes.

And then I believe. I know to my toes that my knee will heal, that I'll make the right decisions to encourage its healing and that someday... I will ride again. Someday I will be out in this Colorado sun and wind, and it will carry me. I'll wear a costume to make Steve in a Speedo proud, to represent for us Midwesterners, to cruise the bike-friendly streets of Boulder. My spirit will fly...

The chill in my knee pulls my head out of the clouds, the ache in my butt from sitting all day says, "Hey girlie, you're here!" I pop another ibuprofen and...


Cuz for today, it's corn for me folks.