Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nicaragua


This will be a very short post--I'm way behind on projects right now, but I wanted to share a few pictures from my recent trip to Nicaragua. I'll post more after I get my camera cord (left it in SLO, bummer).

One of my nonprofit clients, Operation Mercy Ministries, has a robust humanitarian program in various locations surrounding Managua. I went down with a team (including my dad--that's us in the top picture) to volunteer. Our activities included handing out over 500 Christmas presents to needy children, visiting various feeding sites for children, going to a hospital, and visiting families who live at the city dump.



My company is about to launch OMM's website, so I got some much-needed material for the site. Being able to work with such an organization is a true blessing and privilege. Seeing firsthand the love and appreciation people poured out was achingly rich. I was reminded, once again, that we here may be wealthy with material things, but love and compassion are the true possessions that matter.

Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 06, 2010

A wee bit off course.

This past Saturday, I ran a 35k trail race in Woodside. There were some positives and negatives about this experience. As I sit here typing, the fact that my legs are continuously shooting up shards of searing pain keeps me coming back to the negative, but I'll try to pull out the positives too.

Let me start off with a comparison of the course maps. This is the official course map--the trails I was supposed to be on.






Okay, stay with me here. It's a bit confusing. At least, I was confused. Top that off with low blood sugar and tired legs, and I was REALLY confused. But then again, navigation was never my strong point.

So my course was the pink-green-pink loop. Little streamers in the trees were supposed to indicate what trail I needed to be on. So going out--easy--just follow the herd of runners. The green part was straightforward--out and back. No problems there. But THEN, this pink section again. So I, mistakenly, followed the pink streamers going back, not realizing that I was supposed to be following DIFFERENT pink streamers. I was alone by this point (well, I was following the second-placed woman, but she got lost too and took a turn heading back up the hill--we never saw each other again).

This is what I ran:


This is taken from my Garmin, post-race. If you compare it to the top map, I was a WEE-BIT off course coming back--it was apparently supposed to be some kind of loop. I'm still not sure what I did or how I ended back at the finish.

I started to get worried when I was completely on my own at mile 18--like--not even a sign of other runners. Then, I hit mile 22, which was supposed to be the end of the race, and I was still out (slightly bonking, mind you), in the middle of the forest. I tried dutifully locating those pesky pink streamers, and managed to locate the finish, but when I came in the opposite direction that other runners were finishing, I realized that I may have veered slightly off course.

The only positive to come out of tacking on an extra mile, phenomenally bonking, and running for almost 4 hours, is that I did not throw my shoes at the race directors or cry. I'm still so impressed that I held myself together.

Another little "oops" by the race directors? The course map said the elevation gain was 3000 feet. And what did Garmin have to say about that? Try 5000 feet. I am still absolutely thrashed.

HOWEVER. The trails were magnificently, and I mean magnificently beautiful. I dodged banana slugs and deer and wound through towering redwoods and a palatial canopy. The climbs and descents were endlessly long and character-testing.

I find myself actually looking forward to a road race next--I think I'm much less apt to get lost.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Thanksgiving Travel.


I just returned from the long Thanksgiving journey. Like millions of Americans, my Thanksgivings consist of out-of-state travel.

For the last five years or so, my family has faithfully gathered at my sister's, in Eugene. For all of us, save my brother, who also lives in Oregon, we find ourselves driving, flying, or taking the train long distances.
We could, perhaps, find a more "neutral" spot to meet--so we all travel equal distances, but we've settled on my sister's place as the spot, so we dutifully go.

I had a long time to think this trip, as I took the train. It's a full day and full night trip from SLO, but such a lovely, relaxing way to travel.

I got to thinking how modern Thanksgiving is emblematic of American culture and family. We are a culture that craves distance and seeks new ties elsewhere. I bet we are one of the few cultures in the world that views staying in one's hometown as a stigma.

Not that I'm complaining.

I love that we have this freedom and yearning to start anywhere. We don't feel burdened by "having" to stay in our comfortable environment. Our elderly population is probably not the better for this trend, as we tend to abandon them in rest homes or spots where others will take care of them.
But for the rest of us, we are very unattached, and it's fairly easy to slough off any guilt that accompanies leaving one's relatives behind to live in a spot that offers more opportunity.

That's why I love Thanksgiving. We clog the airports, roads, and railways so we can traverse thousands of miles to simply share one meal together. Some complain, many dread it and find excuses not to go, and others look forward to the one time they see their family all year.

I'm in the camp that appreciates the holiday, the effort. It's symbolic that when families here gather, we must travel great distances to do so. It's this act, I believe, that breeds appreciation for the holiday and the meaning behind it. Despite the high cost of airline travel, the annoyance of standing in airport lines or waiting in traffic, the tradition endures. It's certainly not about the turkey.

It's hard not to feel grateful after you've arrived. You sit jostled by strangers for hours on end, or trapped in a car with family, and you finally reach the destination. It's warm. Loud. The kitchen smells like pie and spices. Someone hands you a glass of wine or beer.

Each family brings its baggage or burdens or tales of appreciation to the table. Regardless of where one stands, it's hard not to sit together and reflect. Thanks-giving. Give Thanks. You made it.

If you have family close by, and don't have to travel, I wonder if the holiday is as meaningful? If you just drive down the street, and the whole family is there--which means you probably see them frequently--do you derive the same level of satisfaction--do you dip into the same deep well of gratitude?

My theory is that we keep the tradition alive because we've dispersed ourselves far and wide. We relish in the complaining. We enjoy the effort it takes so we can gather and counteract the grumbling with appreciation.

I don't mind the distance we have to go. Each mile makes the effort that much more worth it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

When we depart on our separate journeys

Perhaps we can track our progress
together. Emerge through this forest, dear one,
mostly unscathed. I did not know what
love was when I "loved" you. I learn now.

Love releases jealousy. Love does not bear intolerance.

I see through your dark eyes, black iris, white
on the side. Beyond your exterior, and down past
the hallway of your ego, I have glimpsed your
fear.
The utter fragility that pulses and drove you back.
You could not look me in the eyes when we made love. I could not bear your barriers.
We could not form words or even shout our pain.
Yet we are better for it.
Complexity is our hallmark. And we recognized a
shared need to grow.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Morning Ride, Madonna Mt. and Locovore

This morning, my dear friend Yukie and I woke up early and did a quick lap around Madonna mt. It was dark when we started, and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise. The pic doesn't quite capture how stunning those red clouds were, but you get the idea.



Madonna mt.? It's practically in my backyard. That's right. BECAUSE I LIVE DOWNTOWN. See, I'm urban now, but in SLO, urban means you have a giant, kick-ass singletrack-laden mountain jutting out from downtown.

Urban means I walk everywhere. Meeting with my restaurant client? Oh yeah, I stroll over. It's not even worth my time getting my commuter bike out because they're just that close.

Post office? Block away. Sports store? Half block. Same goes for coffee shops, banks, clothing, the SLO County Bike Kitchen, pretty much everything you can imagine is just a few blocks from my door.

And the best part? The famous SLO Thursday Farmers' Market. If you've never been to this town, okay. Wait. If you've never been to this town, first of all, it's pretty much the top #1 place you have to see before you die, so you should definitely come. Anyhow, Farmers is every Thursday evening, and we're treated to a cornucopia of fresh, sustainably grown produce, sold directly from the farmers. Thousands--and that's no exaggeration--of people flood the main downtown street every Thursday, and people clamber and stand in line to buy that amazing, local produce.



A mix of factors lately have influenced my own locovore lifestyle. I've been a big believer in eating whole food, like real, not stuffed with additives food, for years now. Michael Pollan is my author-hero. This summer, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by another one of my favs, Barbara Kingsolver, and I was reminded of how I need to focus on local as much as I do on food that's not stuffed with corn syrup.

Living here on the Central Coast, especially, you have NO EXCUSE not to eat locally. There are no fewer than 3 farmers' markets, every week, just in the city of SLO. That doesn't even count the surrounding beach towns. And, with our amazing climate, we're treated to a variety of crops, year round. We don't have to sustain ourselves on canned goods through the winter if we want to truly eat local.

This past spring/summer, while living in the suburbs (which is another blog post--maybe I'll call it "How suburbs are choking us off from community") I had some land to work with. The roommates and I planted a big garden, which I was all excited about at first, until I realized that I'm not really the gardening, nurturing type of person. It was a spectacular Garden of Failure. I can't grow tomatoes for the same reason I could never be a mother. Nurture gene? Not in my DNA.

But that doesn't mean I'm plum out of luck as a locovore. I'm definitely in the "support your local farmer camp," not the "grow all of your own food!" camp. And I'm totally okay with that.

Every time I go to farmers and fill my bag with the season's bounty, I feel this amazing sense of connectedness and pleasure. I am so blessed to be able to stroll down the street and support a local farmer. My diet is rich with the best fruits of the land, and I save money by not driving to a supermarket and paying a premium for packaged lettuce or produce that's been trucked in and stored in warehouses.

I can currently live entirely off of my purchases from Farmers. I buy enough to feed me for the week--I even get my eggs from a local vendor. The only purchase I have to make at a store is soymilk and coffee. Still trying to figure out that one ... I can buy locally roasted coffee, but the milk part is trickier.

My next step will be joining one of the numerous CSAs in town (Community Supported Agriculture, for those of you not familiar). I'm currently in the process of setting up one of my clients as a CSA farmer, so I would like to try the experience out myself.

If we all attempt to be just a little more connected, to be a little more aware, we will make a difference. Support your local small businesses. Choose to live in the center of the community, not boxed away in a housing development. Find out where your farmers' markets are. Connect.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Beater Bash.

Okay, peeps, just got to share these pics with you really quick. I don't have time for a full-on post, because I'm an IMPORTANT BUSINESS OWNER and all, but this past weekend, a somewhat rowdy and dysfunctional group of us got blasted and bombed the most beater bikes you can imagine down a technical trail. In costumes. With beer taped to our bikes. It was phenomenally funny. I was a superhero. I saved the world wearing a red cape. The fact that you're still breathing? YOU'RE WELCOME. It's tough work, saving the world and all, but somebody has to do it. Enjoy the pics.







Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Launched.


WOW. Okay, so I've been a little MIA when it comes to blogging. I have a legitimate excuse: In the last three weeks, I have:
  1. Started a business.
  2. Rounded up six clients.
  3. Worked all weekend, every weekend.
  4. Worked late into every evening.
  5. Secured a KICK-ASS APARTMENT, in downtown SLO. Will be moving on Monday.
  6. Conducted a focus group and have launched two brands.
  7. Launched a website for a client.
  8. Developed my own branding and business plan. Website in the works.
  9. Have still managed to ride/run every day. Clocking 12 hours a week, yo.
  10. Have found supreme fulfillment in new profession. A.K.A. BUSINESS OWNER.
Did I mention I've probably showered four times in the past three weeks and my room is an effin' disaster? Oh, and dating, or men crossing my mind? NOT ON THE PRIORITY LIST. But I have cool business cards coming!

Basically, my life has re-shuffled in prioritizing. I will admit, though, some things are falling way off the radar. It's the Vuelta de Espana, for example. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO'S WINNING. No time to peruse VeloNews! And my daily NYTimes online fix? OUT THE WINDOW. Bummer.

However, I have never felt more fulfilled in my vocation. Oh! Some background on all this business talk, because I probably lost you all way early.

So I started a business. Point #1, above. What kind of business? A marketing business. I'm on my own. No more agency minion-idom! I now choose who my clients are, and I choose which brands are worth investing in. My business model focuses on small businesses, start-ups, and green/sustainable businesses. Because I don't have the agency overhead, I can offer kick-ass marketing/strategy services for half the cost. I have enough industry contacts to outsource media and design to freelancers. So far, it's been wildly successful. I haven't had time to breathe, really.

Every day, since I've started this venture, I have felt incredibly blessed. Truly. Deeply. I'm working, for example, with a sustainable farm. I'm hooking them up so they can be a CSA (community supported agriculture) product. I'm advertising and educating their story--namely, 100% grass-fed beef is HEALTHY. It rocks. It's good for you, it's good for the environment. I'm immersed in my most favorite topic, every day, and I'm using all of those agency skills I picked up for a good cause. No more Hot Pockets! I'm embarrassed to say I actually worked on that brand. I no longer work on brands that go against everything I believe in.

I'm blessed every day by the connections I'm making, by the brands I'm linking together, and by the difference my work is making. I'm overwhelmed, at times, by the amount of work I've taken on, at once (ADD says--DO IT ALL NOW!), but I'm learning to take a deep breath and slow down.

It's a wild ride. But I feel found. After all of the craziness and seemingly nonsensical paths my last 10 years have taken, I finally feel clarity and peace. I love being on my own. I love operating my own business, and I'm so grateful I can put my skills and experiences to good.

Blogging may be a bit sporadic, but I'll try. Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 20, 2010

SF, The City.



So after spending way too many months of my life in the greater Los Angeles basin, I vowed to never, ever contemplate living in an area where concrete overruled open space. The thought of anything south of SLO absolutely repulsed me. COUNTRY! WIDE-OPEN SPACES! COWS! PLEASE! pretty much became my mantra.
I haven’t spent any appreciable amount of time in the City since 2005, when I went up with some friends to watch a bike race. In the last five years, a lot has happened in my life. I’ve moved to the East Coast. And back. I’ve visited a lot more cities. I’ve had a lot more life experiences. I’ve realized I suffer (not always—it ROCKS when I’m mt. biking) from ADD. My life these past five years has been a variegated mix of new places, experiences, loves, heartbreaks, and general mishaps. So I saw this beautiful Northern California city in a different light this time.
I stayed with a close friend, who used to live in SLO. She, too, is a self-described “country girl.” Raised in Mendocino, she had some definite trepidation about moving to the City, but she’s adjusting well. She, too, is quite enamored with mt. biking, and she showed me, to my surprise, how amazingly close really good mt. biking is to the city. So we spent the weekend riding our bikes, sampling wonderful, organic, locally produced food, and touring the unique neighborhoods. The summer fog ensconced the mornings, and we were treated to sailboats on the bay, crispy brown hills in the distance, and the iconic Golden Gate near her neighborhood.
One of my favorite things about Northern California and SF is this deep appreciation for local food. Locovores are more common than vegetarians. People expect to find 100% grass-fed meats in their corner grocery. Sonoma County is close by, and people know that their dairy, wines, and meat don’t have to be trucked in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. It is refreshing to feel connected to the land even when you are surrounded by concrete.
To me, SF feels more like a cluster of various villages. Each has its own personality and flavor, and every neighborhood wears a distinct cloak of community. It is compact and succinct, and for someone like me, who is very wary of feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, SF radiates union.
I have this unique history with the City, too, which is part of the draw for me. My dad’s dad, and his dad, and probably his dad too (I don’t remember how many generations they go back in the city), were contractors in the city. They helped build it. We have roots there.
Right now, I really like the idea of roots and identity. I guess that’s part of stepping into my 30s. I want to feel connected, instead of displaced and adventurous. I want to know that my food was produced locally. I want to ensure I’m making sustainable choices with my shopping, transportation, and lifestyle. I’m suddenly okay with stillness and less activity. I’m learning to slow down. I’m appreciating where I’m from and whom I’m around, which is probably a big reason why my trip to the city felt like going home, in a way.

Ray, Wine.


Ray LaMontagne just released his latest album, “God Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise.” It is red wine. His music, to me, is always red wine. I hear it, and I basically run to the nearest grocery store to buy a bottle so I can listen and absorb his artistry.
His newest creation is less belty than his previous albums. His lyrics are even more contemplative, and his band mixes in some old-time country twang to some of the tracks. Listen to “New York City’s Killing Me” and you just might realize, as I have, that it’s one of the more catchy songs you’ll ever hear.
His two break-up songs, “Are we Really Through” and “This Love is Over” are utterly raw and heartbreaking and full. Do not listen to this album while you’re riding your bike or trying to exert energy in any form. You will swerve off the road, sit in a ditch, and most definitely wish you had a bottle of red wine in your water bottle cage. Techno would have been a better choice for said activity. Or reggaeton.
But if you want to spend your evenings immersed in soulful crooning and your mornings with a somewhat regrettable wine headache, then Ray’s album is for you. I’ve mapped out my next week to be filled with the above activities. It happens every time Ray releases an album: I listen to it incessantly until my head and liver and heart are crying “Mercy! woman! get a life!” And then I’m forced to hit shuffle, instead of “artists/Ray LaMontagne” on my iPod.
But I still have a full week to enjoy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The debate. THE DEBATE. Stage 15


So the blogs, the Tweets, the postings are BLOWING UP over the whole "should Contador have waited?" controversy. I can't not blog about this.

So, to bring you up to speed, in case you have a busy day job and have other things to do than watch the Tour at work and discuss it and blog about it until you're blue in the face--here's a very quick synopsis. Another big day in the Pyrenees. Hors cat├ęgorie climb at the very end, followed by a stage-finish descent. Breakaway has almost a 10-minute lead on the field until Voeckler (one of my favorite riders, BTW: still picture him, jersey un-zipped, tongue hanging out, desperately holding onto the yellow jersey back in 2004) launches and manages to stay ahead of the field on the latter half of the climb. But not that his brilliant stage win is going to get much attention, when the GLADIATORS, who, just yesterday, were trackstanding during their dual (who DOES THAT on a hotly contested mt. finish, anyways? Actually, I confess I'm slightly jealous, because even on a proper fixed-gear I still can't trackstand, but anyways) decide they're going to race turning the pedals today, or so it seemed, until Schleck had that unfortunate incident called dropping-your-chain.

I'm assuming it was one of those occasions where the chain was so dropped he couldn't jam it into the big ring and get it back on--if he doesn't know how to do that, he fully deserves losing 39 seconds. But anyhow, he drops his chain, right after a big attack, that, seemingly, Contador wasn't responding to. Wait. Back up. So he attacks. Everyone watching is going "Finally! Here's the BIG ATTACK. If Frank were not convening from his collarbone being broken in three places, it would have been even BIGGER." And Contador? He's a bit behind! It's getting so damn exciting. And Vino! Holy shit! The dude is STILL up there responding, even after his stage win and basically daily breakaway attempts. But then, but then, something happens. Schleck is sliding backwards! Then he's off his bike! And everyone watching is screaming "Put it in the big ring! It will go back on! You don't have to dismount to fix this problem!" But he doesn't hear us. Contador, Sanchez, and Menchov don't scream "put it in the big ring!" They attack.

And that's it. Basically--Schleck's stage--and who knows? Tour? fate was sealed right then and there. Contador, Menchov, and Sanchez absolutely bury it and descend brilliantly. Schleck and Belgian's new hero (hint: his last name does not rhyme with "Moonen") chase in vain. Schleck is no longer the Bearer of the Maillot Jaune.

Back to the controversy. People are being so harsh about all of this. "It's un-sportsman like!" "Contatador should feel ashamed wearing that jersey!" and on and on. My two cents? IT'S BIKE RACING, PEOPLE. I can't tell you how many races I lost places and places in the standings because some chick didn't understand you can just put it in the big ring when you drop your chain, or when a girl went to grab a feed and in the process took out half the peloton. Did the girls in the front wait? NO. It's a RACE. Mechanicals happen. And I aplogize if I'm being a little excessive with my ALL-CAPS usage right now. I've had a bit of wine, and I'm feeling very impassioned about this whole debate.

Perhaps, too, my mt. biking as of late has had some influence. In a mt. bike race, you carry your own tubes, pump, tire levers, Cliff Bars, tampons, whatever ... If you flat out there, no team car is going to get your back. Mechanicals, as unfortunate as they are, are part of racing. Road racers, of course, are so pampered because if a team car doesn't have their ass, a Mavic neutral support vehicle does--yes, mechanicals happen, but you will never see a lycra-clad kid with arms skinnier than mine changing his own flat tire on the side of the road.

And need I remind us all of how Schleck got those 30 seconds to begin with? THE COBBLES. The cobbles were so damn entertaining because there were punctures and crashes and hedges and Belgian ditches and at the end of the day, you didn't hear riders say "BUT HE DIDN'T WAIT FOR ME!"

I'm sure all of this renewed "anger in the belly" that Schleck is claiming to have will transpire into some very entertaining trackstanding racing the next few days in the mountains.

To close, I just have to share with you my most favorite-ever quote ever, EVER by Phil and Paul. I believe Paul can take the credit for this one. As Schleck was furiously drilling it, trying to catch back up after his unfortunate mechanical incident, Paul says "and he just passed Armstrong as if Armstrong were standing still!"

Whoa. If that is not poetic justice. Well said, Paul. Well said.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tour, Gladiators, NINJAS

OKAY. So all of this awesome stuff is unfolding in the TOUR right now, and I really want to tell you all about it, but it's been one of those weeks where I've been watching the Tour in-between meetings, and sometimes during meetings, and I've been practicing my NINJA moves, and I had to bust out four loaves of bread for a dinner party, and I have to keep up my mt. biking skills, and somewhere in all of that, I also have to get in at least nine hours of sleep a night so I can function properly. BUT, I'm on vacation next week, so I will have time to do some serious Tour analyzing, which is important and good. Here's a quick preview: Contador and Schleck have been engaging in a very gladiator-type battle on each mountain, and Vino, somehow, seems to get in a breakaway, pretty much every day, and Lance? He's pretty much a totally pathetic loser. He's not even helping his teammates out. But we'll get into all of that detail later. For now, as I mentioned, I've had to do some Ninja stuff as of late, so here are some pics for you from the Little 500, which BTW, us Ninjas took 3rd place in. Although that's just what people think. What actually happened was we WON, but because we were invisible and stealth most of the time, people didn't realize how many laps we actually did.















Monday, July 12, 2010

The King Falls.

Angry Lance.



Defeated, not-as-angry Lance.



WOW. Sunday’s stage. Was. Amazing.

The typical antics played out through most of the beginning as the breakaway attempted to get out and stick—which they did, for a good portion, but the race took a surprising turn before the big climbs even hit. Armstrong took out most of his team in an unfortunate turn of luck, as he apparently rolled a tire on a turn. It took him and his teammates a while to catch back up to the GC group, even though the GC group restrained themselves from a full-out attack. Still, though, the effort taxed him, and he never quite recovered.

The story from this stage was not that Astana and Sky absolutely punished and drilled the last two climbs, splitting the field and swiping Pain and Anguish on every rider’s face (though Astana certainly did send a message that they aren’t a small team around a big rider, didn’t they?)—no, the real story was the Fall of the King.

Predicable jostling and testing played out by the GC guys, and those who managed to stay in the select group sent a very clear message. Wiggins (until the last part, that is), Evans, Basso, Schleck, Contador, Leipheimer, Sanchez, Kreuziger, and oh my god—did you see how Contador’s teammate, Navarro, absolutely wrung everyone out? Anyhow, these boys made a statement that they’re all on good climbing form right now. It was a bit of a surprise that Contador couldn’t respond to Schleck’s final attack, but that could be a sign of some wisdom finally settling into the brain folds of the springy Spaniard. Or he was just tired.

Anyhow. Back to the story. Livestrong Armstrong. If you compare his reaction from his crashe(es) yesterday to the ’03 Tour—remember that? When he got taken out by a fan’s musette, then pulled out of his pedal and smashed the family jewels jewel on the top tube—he was an absolute ball of anger, and it radiated from every pore on his body. He fought and contorted his body back up that mountain, taking back minutes to catch up and pass Ullrich and Hamilton. He was a warrior. And we loved him for it—despite his cockiness and brashness, America still loved him. But yesterday, it was as though the fire was quenched. You could see it in the resignation in his face—he was pissed—really pissed, but he didn’t have that desire to knock his body into submission and make it keep fighting. It was sad to see his bad, horrific luck, but even sadder to see him Give Up.

What is American cycling without Lance’s anger? His anger, his fight, have catapulted the sport and words like “peloton” into mainstream vocabulary. Riders like Leipheimer, Hincapie, Zabriskie--they’re strong boys, for sure, but they aren’t entertaining enough because they’re just not pissed off. We like them because they’re nice and they’re strong, yet they don’t conjure up “wow.” Anger has an upside, I guess.

But the Tour’s not over. Indeed, it’s just been week 1 of Le Thrilling Tour. Lance, graciously, has stepped up to the domestique plate for Leipheimer, so we’ll see how that plays out.

Perhaps Leipheimer will be pissed about a sunburned scalp—something! We need some anger to fuel that peloton these next few weeks.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sprinters. Breakaways. Flat normal stages.



Not much to report for the last 3 days of racing. Typical ho-hum-dee-dum flat stages of breakaways getting caught somewhere in the 3k-6k range. Cav finally pulled out two wins--wept on the podium. That was ... well, I'm sure everyone cleared their throats a bit as they saw that one.




Tomorrow, MOUNTAINS. Oh yes, the first day in the mountains. In between doing a 4-hr mt. ride with my friends, and celebrating MY 30th BIRTHDAY, I'll be salivating on my laptop keyboard as I watch the very-cool Versus On-Demand feed to see Contador dish out some DOLOR.




p.s.


I've included a token picture of Cancellara. You're welcome.



Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Crashes, Cobbles: A Tale of Luck




So in case you've missed the past three days of the TdF, it can best be summarized thus: CRASHES, CRASHES, COBBLES.

Really. I just completely gave it away--sorry, I should have prefaced the beginning of this post with "spoiler alert!"

Yesterday, Stage 2, some rain later in the stage turned the Cat 3 descents into an ice rink, and after a Stage 1 day, marred by jittery cyclists shoving their carbon into each other, dogs, and ditches, the riders were starting to get a little pissed about constantly hitting the pavement, so Cancellara, being ever the leader, enforced a gentleman's agreement to protest the unsafe roads, thus barring a sprint.

The first week of the Tour is always sprinkled with flying 130 pound men in the air being catapulted off by fellow riders who are jockeying for position--but this year has been almost comical in the number of crashes. Paul and Phil aren't even breaking their stories about such- and-such castle's history from the 13th century to comment on a crash. Overheard: And now panning down we see, whoops, well, there goes an Italian in the ditch, so as I was saying, Paul, the Lords of Belgium's second most wealthy family owned this castle back in the 1500s, oh mercy, whoops a daisy! There goes a Frenchman crossing wheels with a Spaniard--and look at all that blood! As I was saying, the family sold it...

Almost every rider today showed up at the line today with white bandages and netting decorating their elbows and knees. You can bet those without said bandages were the first to be pushed in a ditch once those Belgian roads narrowed. That's just how cycling goes in Belgium.

And then the cobbles on today's race, Paris Roubaix, Stage 3 and the carnage. Basically, once Frank Schleck hit the deck, which is such a shame, it was an absolute chaotic battlefield of dust, flats, more crashes, and riders turning themselves inside out to chase back. Mass confusion ensued as Armstrong and Contador switched leads in their respective chase 2 and 3 groups, which were hunting the "national champions" chase 1 that included Cancellara, Andy Schleck, Cadel, and Hushovd--to no avail. It was a pleasant surprise to see some significant time gaps open up between the leaders in week 1 of racing--a week that's typically a rather predictable mix of breakaways getting caught just in time so the sprinters can pump their fists in the air.



Armstrong, in a post-race interview today, flashed some welcome humility about the reality of cobbles. He admitted he wasn't prepared for how hard the peloton drilled it, and that it was a day where he got nailed.



And that's the beauty of the cobbles: They don't care if a rider has a body fat of 3%, whether a rider has a phenomenal sprint, or can beat every other man in a time trial. The cobbles are a great leveler in that regard. There's already fierce debate heating up about the "unfairness" of cobbles in TdF--it's not a Classics race, after all.



But the Tour, ultimately, is about racing and drama and strength and luck. The cobbles don't take favorites. To see featherweights like Contador and Andy Schelck succeed today proves that. The cobbles favor luck.
And Cancellara.

Friday, July 02, 2010

THE TOUR!! ONLINE!! FINALLY!!


Hi Joanna, Thanks for signing up for the Versus Tour Tracker. The Tour de France begins July 3rd and now you won't miss a minute of the live action in HD. Log into the Tour Tracker beginning July 3rd: http://tracker.versus.com/ The Tour Tracker is as close to the Tour de France without a passport. 23 Days. 21 Stages. 3,600 kilometers. All at your fingertips. Thanks again, Versus http://tracker.versus.com/


Thank you for your order!
Order Information
Merchant:Versus Tour de France Online



INTERNET: DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS????

It means that the eccentric cycling universe, most of whom are not into TV, and/or don't have cable, will now have a new way to watch the Tour! No more endless Internet surfing looking for ways to poach Europe's online coverage! No more sitting in bars and trying to fight for Versus coverage against people who want to watch baseball!
I have spent the last FIVE SUMMERS fruitlessly wandering around during the whole month of July trying to find a place to watch the Tour every night. Wait, take that back--I believe in '07 I went to my office every night and watched it there. Anyways, July is my favorite month, because of the Tour, but it's also my most frustrating because I have yet managed to find perfectly accessible Tour coverage ON DEMAND.

Thank god Versus finally got with the Internet TV program and is offering it online. That was the best $30 I ever spent.

July. Ahhhhh. This will be a good one, indeed.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fat Freddy’s DROPS It

Not just once, but twice. Actually, they’ve been dropping it all over California, but I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing two of their shows, this past Sunday, and again last night.

Fat Freddy’s, if you’ve never heard them, can best be described as a “fusion” band. I hesitate to use that term, because, at least for me, “fusion” evokes something along the lines of a rice bowl blended with Southwestern-chicken-meets-wasabi salmon, topped with a jicama-lavender dressing, served out of some strip mall joint where the very un-gourmet establishment is attempting to be all cutting-edge Top-Chef creative, but ends up producing over-fused bowls served by some indignant teenager behind the counter. Anyways, the Fat Freddy’s Fusion is a much more palatable blend—actually, more than palatable; these New Zealanders absolutely kill it live.

How to describe? Seven piece band. Trumpet player, sax player, and trombone. DJ mixing their beats on the spot into an electronic-reggae amalgam, followed by a keyboard player, guitarist, and topped by a Lenny Kravitz-esque looking singer with a very non-Lenny falsetto. Joe Dukie, said singer and my new lust, has this buttery soul-thing going, and when he pauses in between sets to ask the audience if we’re having fun, his New Zealand accent just about brings you to your knees. At least that’s been my experience the past two shows.

Anyhow, the gang and I have been positively dying to see FFD live, and when we heard they were coming to California, we started clearing our calendars months in advance. But of course they sold out immediately in both LA and SF. Then, this funny thing happened: This past Sunday, our very own Avila Beach had an all-day Reggae music festival going, and do you know who happened to be headlining? Fat Freddy’s Drop. So, like a bunch of teenage kids fawning over the Beatles, circa 1960s, we lined up way early, suffered through some less talented reggae acts, and then swarmed the stage when FFD hit it.

And oh my god. Did they. They extended each song into 10-15 minute, there’s that word again, fusion jams, and we danced and shook and screamed and were just so bloody happy. The guys on the horns would take their beats up into this jazz-esque, kinda-ska crescendo, and Joe Dukie would pop in with his buttery-soul voice, and then the whole song would cascade into this electronica rhythm that left you swaying and swooning and looking at each other going OH MY GOD—do you hear what they’re doing? Being that we’re all very familiar with their music, listening to them stretch it and re-package the beats and then re-mix it was all just so blissful.

The show, unfortunately, was way too short, and after screaming until we were hoarse and still not getting an encore, we madly looked up their next show on our phones. Amazingly, they added another show in LA, and IT WASN'T SOLD OUT, so we decided on the spot we would be road-tripping it to LA on Thursday.

They played in this very cool Hollywood-venue called The Music Box. A DJ opened, and killed it with his mix of electronic/reggaeton/cumbia loveliness, you know, to get us warmed up, and then FFD came out and played such a long set that the whole audience was left exhausted and exhilarated and awed. Their inside show was very different from the outdoor Avila experience—I think the venue had a lot to do with it. Each song stretched and built and came down and rose up again, and was layered and blended into something that I can only describe as a musical experience that was absolutely fulfilling. Listening to them made me feel like my heart was breaking and being put back together again, more whole than the first time.

I’m including a YouTube video link. See them live. And tell Joe Dukie to marry me.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Scoreboard: Me, 0. Mt. biking: 3



It's generally easy to tell when I've been mountain biking a lot--one look at my legs, and you can quickly surmise that I'm not currently in a trail running or road biking phase. For example,






That occurred yesterday. What is that, you ask? MY ROTOR. IT BRANDED MY LEG. Kids, when it's 90 out, and you've just ended a very long descent, and you decide to straddle the back of your bike as you raise your seat back up, STOP AND THINK. Rotors get very, very, very hot. This nice little reminder, will, unfortunately, be with me for a very long time.


But mt. biking kicks my ass in other ways, too. It's kinda like a one-two punch that way. Prior to scalding my leg on my rotor, I was at the top of a tricky section, one that has lots of big rock drop offs, and I've been doing pretty well on this section lately, so I guess you could say I was feeling rather confident. Not so! says mt. biking. BAM. Endo. Before I had time to congratulate myself on clearing the section, I was sprawled face-first in the dirt, on lots of big rocks, mind you, and my bike was dangling upside down in some manzanita a few yards up the hill. My hip and shoulder took that one.





My legs are so SEXY right now. I didn't bother to post the bruises up and down my shins, the ubiquitous poison oak that's pretty much decided to stay permanently around my ankles, or the bruises on my arms and hands.

Let's just say I haven't been strutting around in dresses lately.

But you know what? As soon as my very bruised thigh muscle heals enough to bend properly, I will be right back up on those rocks.

But I'll mind the rotor.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Prefumo canyon, morning visit

Stubborn fog clings in the oaks
Verdant, deep green circles the valley and chokes out the drying grass on steep slopes.
Contrast
life-seeking leaves and grass that grew and gave up
parched mixes into veritable shades of browns and greens, dotting the hills.
Mountains, ancient and rocky, fight for higher air, beating up against each other, reaching upward.
A new valley now. Thick apple orchards swimming together in one whole piece.
New fruit waits for autumn hands to come,
to grasp and pull the sweet globes. Sticky juice prepares to run down chins.
Fog lifts as the valley winds south. Salty air smacks into the rich fruit-infused layer
and the dry grass gives off its unmistakable perfume.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's the Tour of California, and I'm not blogging about it.


Well, life seems to repeat itself, doesn't it? It's the Tour of California, and once again, I find myself without adequate Versus coverage to watch the race, and I also find myself madly trolling for men in the peloton who may have Versus coverage and who don't mind if I flirt with them to get me my TV-coverage fix. I NEED TO BLOG ABOUT IT. IT'S IMPORTANT. So far, I have some leads, but haven't yet found a couch on which to watch the race. It's only a week race--I need to act quickly.


One thing I will say: Ol' California--you threw a wrench into the race organizer's plans by letting some rain slip into the May forecast, didn't ya? Anomalous weather, for sures--but, at least the directors can take comfort in the fact that it's POURING at the Giro, so next year, ToC organizers can advertise it as the "drier" May race.


In other news, it's also my yearly bike shuffle time. I've been in this pattern lately of selling off bikes/frames once a year so I can upgrade for lighter carbon-y goods. The older and slower I get, the more I need to compensate by spending money to save grams, right? My latest purchase? A CARBON BLUR XC. Oh, yes, I did.


Orbea and Juliana frame will be financing this latest purchase. I now have a 23lb full-suspension bike--and if I upgrade the pedals and headtube, I can probably get it into the 22 lb range. If anyone wants to contribute to my "new brakes fund" (my 30th birthday is coming up, yo), I may break into the 21 lb range.


Watch out, spindly-legged college racers. You may be young and ripped, but I'm older and have more CARBON.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Big Sur Weekend and that pesky poison oak

So because SLO, in all of its perfection, isn't gorgeous enough already, a large group of us headed up to Big Sur, 70 miles north, for some camping.


This, friends, is Big Sur (and also some really bad photography. This is a WRITING blog, okay?):







Rugged coastline, mountains next to the sea that jut up 2,000 feet (or so) into the air, redwoods, and stunning beaches. For 50 miles. Oh, and no development, whatsoever. It's a special place.


The occasion was my good friend Chris's birthday. So Friday night, we packed up our various bikes, surfboards, food, beer, and camping supplies and caravaned up the coast.


Saturday started off with a 12-mile climb up Nacimento-Ferguson road. Most of us were on mt. bikes, so we rode down a "trail" that was sort of a trail. Picture riding down a very steep grassy mountain that feeds straight into the ocean. That was the top of the descent. Then we hit the "singletrack" section, which obviously isn't ridden enough, because it was quite overgrown with poison oak (do you see where I'm going with this?) and branches. But it was FUN. And because most of us believe we're invincible while on a mt. bike, we rode straight through it. When we got back to the campsite, our invincibility cloaks wore off, and we madly scrambled for Tecnu and water to scrub our poison-oak covered EVERYTHING. Annnd, it didn't work so well. But seriously, that descent was worth it. It's not every day you get to ride down a mountain that feeds you straight into the ocean.


We watched the guys hit their surf session after the ride:







On Sunday, Yukie and I decided since the boys were hungover and didn't bring their road bikes, they should drive home and we would ride. We enjoyed a stunning coastal jaunt, peppered (mostly) by a tailwind. Five hours later, we arrived in SLO.


It was a massively fun weekend. It was Big Sur.

Monday, April 12, 2010

29



I know I keep alluding to this whole "29" thing in my posts as of late (I'm not referring to 29er mt bikes, all you like-minded geeks out there--this happens to be the actual age of 29), which since I'm still 29, I have every right to do. If I were 30, or 28, and constantly hammering on the topic, you would have every right to delete my blog from your favorites tab (ahem that's where it lives, right?). I digress. Let me return.


Twenty nine is a lifestage, a typical dark period where otherwise happy-g0-lucky twenty-somethings suddenly find themselves in a fast tailspin going "holy shit! holy shit! holy shit!" A seemingly normal decade is bookended by a year where you decide you're a failure, your life has amounted to nothing, and basically, your good years are behind you, so really, what's there to look forward to? You remember, quite fondly, those early years in your twenties when you actually believed you showed potential and wouldn't end up back in your hometown pregnant and living in a trailer. You believed in yourself back then, and you sometimes even caught yourself thinking you had brains and talent.


Now, 29. You've become deluded by the cost/trade off of a career for a fairly boring existence. The drudgery of life has opened its door and you find yourself inside and unable to see forward or backward. Suddenly the thought of making more money has no appeal to you because you realize you'll just end up buying things you have no time to enjoy. Mostly, at 29, you are forced to confront questions and choices: Do you know what your priorities are, and if you discover them, will you follow?


Now, I realize, I can be quite self-centered, and rightly so at this stage of my life--I have no husband, no kids, no big responsibilities. I relish in my "me" universe. I assure you, though, this Crisis of '29 is not just unique to me, born out of a self-identity crisis from a person who's too absorbed-in-self. Anecdotally, it's TOTALLY TRUE. Lately, I've been informally polling all of my 29-year-old friends, and sure enough! They're all going through very similar "what the F#*& ??" moments right now. We're all questioning, examining, and mostly, wading through it.


At the beginning of this lovely year (on my calendar, that was last July), I had no clue what I wanted. I thought staying on the same career path and living in a warm climate would hold the secrets to my happiness. So I moved to Orange County because it satisfied both of the above and waited. And waited. And cried, a lot. And basically, over the course of this year here, I've gotten up close and personal with my priorities.


What I've learned at 29

By Joanna


1. Where you live matters.

2. Home is a real place now. Live in a place where you have a history and friends. Don't be arbitrary or take this choice lightly.

3. Money is not as important as freedom. Make enough to be comfortable, but ideally, find a job that affords you intellectual stimulation and freedom.

4. You're no longer as flexible as you were at 25. That's a good thing. You're at that point in your life where you don't have to be a gypsy. You're not a failure if you live where you're most comfortable. Nor does that make you dull. See # 2 above.

5. At this point, you should have accomplished enough in your job to where you can make better demands about how you work. You're no longer a minion. Embrace it and ask wisely.

6. Be grateful and appreciative, even though it seems like things aren't going to turn around. They will. Be grateful and appreciative.

7. Find a coping strategy to get you through the dark days. Poetry is one lovely option. Find a way to creatively express yourself.

8. Give yourself more credit than you deserve. Don't believe everything your head tells you.



In other news, Cancellara: YOU'RE A GOD. Paris Roubaix and Flanders?


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Free.

I haven't posted in a while--deliberately, perhaps. Sometimes when you're trying to hold the pieces together, and prevent your threads from unraveling, it's easy to neglect things such as writing.

I'm not really in the mood for a long drawn-out recap of the past few months, but I'm pleased to say that right now, I feel at peace. Spring is here, both literally and figuratively, and it's refreshing to see fresh buds and green grass. Spring air has a certain richness to it--I think it's the scent of new life fighting for the sun. Even in a place with a warm winter climate, the spring season has a different light.

I haven't disguised at all that the past year has been challenging for me. Circumstantial, certainly, but I've also learned, firsthand, that the age of 29 is a peculiar lifestage period that forces you to question and simultaneously regret every decision you've ever made--unnecessarily, it turns out. It's a dark year, a long winter. Even though I'm still very much 29, I feel that I'm finally emerging. A switch was flipped, at some point during these past two months, and I feel more clarity about where I am. I know, now, it's going to be okay.

In early March, I tried quitting my job, but I told them I'd still work remotely for them until they found someone to replace me. Laptop in hand, I took off for North Carolina for a few weeks so I could sort things out. Subconsciously I realized that before I could move forward, I needed to understand whether I had made the right choice by leaving last May. I never felt at peace with the decision, and the fact that I took a job in Southern California, a place I don't care for at all, only served to confuse me more. To stick a cherry on top of the whole melting mess, C and I never resolved whether our relationship could still be viable. I needed to understand my choices by going back to the beginning.

North Carolina is a lovely place. I have great friendships there, and I grew up there, a lot. It was a period of my life I needed to have, but being back there reminded me why I left--it wasn't home, and I couldn't fully be me, there. Being with C, in that context, held me together for a while, but a person cannot be your home.

I left very much at peace.

Working remotely, it turns out, works. My company was pleased with the job I was doing, and I was pleased that I wasn't living off of my savings, so after some further negotiations with them, they've agreed to let me continue. I'll live in San Luis Obispo, (WAIT--DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST WROTE THERE?) ahem, I'LL LIVE IN SAN LUIS OBISPO, and come down to the office here every other week for a few days. To top things off, I don't have to sit in a cubicle for 10 hours a day. I can work in my pajamas, in a kitchen, on the patio, in a coffee shop--do you see a pattern here? I suddenly have freedom. Amazingly, I like my job again. I've realized it's really not the work that bores me, it's the whole sitting-in-a-cubicle and feeling-like-a-rat-on-the-wheel part. I'm amazingly productive when I can sit in my own environment. Even better, I negotiated to be paid hourly, instead of a salary, so I'm much less inclined to procrastinate or waste time. I want to work so I can be done and enjoy my day.

And now? I'm relieved. I'm understanding the last months here with more clarity. As much as I hated living here, it turned out to be a good thing. I now have the opportunity to work from home--something I've always wanted to do. I'm very pleased I can still work for the same company--it's not my ideal job, in terms of working for something that improves the world--but I like who I work with, and I respect the quality of our work. Better still, I now have more free time to volunteer and work for causes I do believe in. So I'm quite okay with the arrangement. Yes, I'm quite okay.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Paolo


Check this guy out, Paolo Nutini. His music is Catchy As Hell.


GOOD.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Resolutions

I know it's a little late in the game to be posting my New Year's resolutions--but, as I was doing my sit-ups this evening I had this epiphany that I had not yet made my NYRs public. And sometimes, for these types of things, it helps to declare them.

Well, I have a few. Quit smoking! Lose weight!* No, not this year. Actually, one of my resolutions is to be more careful. Less sloppy, you know? I tend to be a bit, shall we say, careless, in pretty much every facet of my life. I kind of float along, and most of the time, things work out. I rarely obsess over details, and I hardly think about the consequences. I am the antithesis of a worrier or someone who could make their living as an accountant. I've had periods of my life where I've cleaned up my act, but my current stage is best described as "not caring."

However, in my current profession, it helps to care. I manage client accounts, and teams of people, and along with that responsibility comes effing details. And, worse, consequences. So, because I've realized it would behoove me to not assume so much at my job, and maybe, just maybe, think through each step a little bit more, I've made that a New Year's resolution this year.

Secondly, I've resolved to get out of Orange County and Southern California. This is not California, BTW. Southern California might as well be its own country, with its own people and lifestyle, and culture and way of living. When I decided to move back to California last year, I should have been more specific. Hence, Resolution #1 (see above). Think through things.

It's not a resolution, but in an effort to keep my head above water, in my current dark spiral,** I've vowed to be more positive about my life. I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs about my distaste for this part of California, but really, that would be dwelling on the negative. So I'll stick to my positive disposition, however feigned at times, and not go into all of the specifics about this place they call Orange County.

Anyhow, what was this post supposed to be about? Oh, yes. Resolutions. Well, I'm renewing another resolution I had last year, so that's positive, right? Last year, I vowed to do sit-ups multiple times during the week, and for the most part, I stuck with it. So, I thought, that would be a good one to renew. I think having a stronger core helps my mountain biking, and it's nice to have some tonage in that white space of a stomach I have, so I'll place a renewed stamp on it and call it resolution #3.



* Don't have a heart attack, mom. I don't smoke, so I don't have a resolution saying I should quit.

** Well, that too is another post. I'll get to that one later on. Preferably when I'm in my "not sobbing" stage. Here's a preview: Age 29. The Lost Year. (Thanks go out to my sister for naming this life-stage crisis. It's nice to have a name for things sometimes.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What happens when you cross Wilco and The Grateful Dead.


You get Tea Leaf Green. They're a San Francisco band, and they've been around for a while, but because in addition to shunning the latest fashions (you will never see my ass squeezed into a pair of skinny jeans--they don't look flattering on anyone. I don't care how nice your body is), I'm also oblivious to many great bands and social trends. So I apologize if you all are reading this and going, "you're just now discovering Tea Leaf Green?"
By the way, they're better than the smoothie version of The Dead and Wilco. But you'll see what I mean when you listen to them--same essence. Real fruit.
I recommend you start out with the song, "Flippin' the Bird" to sample their sound. If you like, keep going--their stuff just keeps getting better.


Anyhow, if you want to preview TLG before plunking down $10 on iTunes, you can listen to their full album free on http://www.lala.com/. All you do is sign up for an account, browse the music you want, and add it to your queue. They let you listen to 25 songs free. You're welcome.


Now go to LaLa and discover Tea Leaf Green.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The E.F.H.* Training Camp Week











My company most generously gave us a full week-and-a-half off of paid vacation for the Christmas/New Year's holiday. Annnnnd I went to SLO. Guess who joined me? C, from N.C. Remember him? He's kind of like bath-shower mold--he never quite goes away.** Anyhow, that's such a long story that I probably don't have enough storage space on this blog to go into it, so I won't.

So, because mt. biking and living with my parents seem to be the big themes in my life right now, we spent 6 awesome days mt. biking on the rocky-rockiness of the SLO trails. Mr. N.C. was quite surprised that it was possible to be riding up mountains, while staring at the blindingly-sparkling ocean. He loved it. I loved it. And amazingly, the two most accident-prone people on the planet didn't crash--not once. Which was a fortuitous happening, because C just had his nose re-built by a surgeon after suffering ill-effects from an unfortunate incident this past summer, whereby he introduced his face to a guard rail during a road ride. I was most pleased he didn't undo the effects of his facial surgery.
For New Years? We went to bed at 8:30. Caveat: We rode 3 big mts. on a 5 1/2 hour ride. (In those pics? We're not being nerds. Our hand signals display which mt. we were on.) We were a bit worn-out.

The only mishap, really, was my run-in with poison oak. Lots of poison oak. My legs currently resemble something similar to cottage cheese and cotton candy. The welts are that attractive. I spent a few uncomfortable moments today at the office trying not to conspicuously scratch my ass and calves.

C, in addition to his suitcase, also took home my our dog. Wow. That was an emotional event. I was crying two days before they even loaded up on the plane. I find it interesting how I'm typically the type of person who will cry, maybe, once a year. But if something happens to my dog? I turn into a total girl.

* We christened our week the Every F#*^#% Hill week, because that's what we rode.
** Ha ha. JOKING. I love that man.