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!