Wednesday, December 9, 2009

some thoughts about the perfect race


On Sunday we arrived at the oval around 7:15 filled with the usual pre-race anxiety. I was actually proud of Chris because the night before we left the mall early enough and at his direction to make it to bed by 9:30 PM so rising at 6:00AM was not early, and a 7:15 pre-warm-up call was not at all a bother. He had a big day of racing ahead of him, with LOTS of expectations. He was pumped after the previous day's PR's, the only thing that would make the weekend sweeter would be to shave another 2 seconds off his 500. I know, that seems like a tall order, but he felt like he didn't leave it all behind in the first one so 2 seconds was in his realm of possibilities, he envisioned it matter of fact. The perfect race happened twice that day, but not without some DRAMA.
Chris and I have had our battles this weekend, some of which left me simmering. Warm up was the first indication that this day was going to be no different. My new mantra as a coach is "if you don't have the time to dedicate to a proper warm-up and equipment check, then you don't have the time to skate, period" Chris argued with me about warming- up and quite frankly I had had it. Fast-forward, his 500 pair comes up, and he is focused. He has a clean start. Yes, the kid who usually wears the polka dotted NEON suit has managed to hold his cool to actually let the smoke appear from the gun before bolting off the line (and he was skating in an insignificant black suit incognito, BTW) . He is skating the outer. He had the fastest opener I have ever seen him skate and comes whipping around the turn only to be cut off at the crossover. I understand that the TV Broadcaster was commenting on how he should have been decisive and skated through making the other guy yield as he had the right of way but from my vantage point in the coaches box on the back stretch, had he done that they would have collided as that kid was oblivious to Chris's existence and drifted into him as Chris tried in vein to make a long crossover, holding his own track so that he could cross without interruption. Chris got clipped and had to stand-up and put on the brakes, blowing the race. The other kid was DQ'd and Chris was given a re-skate but ... he was spent. Chris was PISSED.
Right before the 1000 he blew up at me, to the point of me sitting on the fence about my on-ice participation in his up coming race. I got off the ice and waited until the pair before his to return. He needed my glasses and was in a panic that I was not on the ice. I handed them over and he detected my disgust. I told him not to focus on my emotions and to put his own into the ice, just then the whistle blows, he is called to the start. I skated over to the coaches box, and watch the absolutely most PERFECT start from behind. It was breath-taking. He was off and he was pushing that frustration into the ice. He skated to a 6 second PB and was stoked. It broke the ice, he was all smiles. The day, however was not over. He still had the 3000 to skate and this was truly the first time I had ever seen him skate against the clock. He took off, kept his pace right where he needed it to be, finishing 15 seconds faster that he did the last time he skated a 3000 on the Roseville Oval. Two nearly perfect races that have taught him one of the most important lessons to learn, focus really counts. Hopefully the confidence gained will guide his season. To see the results from the weekend

Saturday, December 5, 2009

its early...

Its early morning and I have butterflies in my stomach, for Chris and MK. I am hoping that the two of them accomplish everything they want to today. Skates sharpened, showered, coffee injested (though a stop at Carabou is still mandatory). Soon we will be off to warm-ups
In case you are watching the web-cast:

Chris- 500 -22nd pair
MK- 500- 15th pair

Chris - 1500 -1st pair- 1st quad
MK- 1500 -13th pair - 7th quad


OFF to the RACES!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Al's Breakfast




So we started out this morning at 3:30 AM. For some reason, this just seemed like it was too early to think, but we were off on our grand adventure anyway, leaving the pterodactyls behind, and the hubby, the number one son, and the cat...
Our first encounter was at the check in line. I checked in for my flight, tagged my bag and proceeded to check Chris in. We were running against the clock a bit and of course there has to be a snag. For some reason, even though I indicated Chris was checking a bag, I never got the prompt to pay for it. The woman working behind the counter was busy with a customer who decided in the height of the morning rush hour to BUY a TICKET that was extremely complicated. It was a full 20 minutes later before we saw the woman again who just tagged Chris's bag and told us where to deposit them (and told me not to ask any questions because she just might have to act on the response). OK free baggage for Chris...my anxiety is easing a bit.
We get through security and to the long awaited coffee...the guy working at this starbucks was seriously right out of BORAT (I woke right up thanks to his hysterically sunny disposition). As we were walking to the gate we actually encountered a Dunkin Doughnuts kiosk that was open for business, only the only thing it was serving was Coffee? This somehow made the giddiness of being tired come out. We laughed for a good 5 minutes over the prospect of a doughnut shop not having any doughnuts.
We had a nearly empty flight, which was uneventful. Upon arriving Chris fetched the bags while I tried to find a good place to eat breakfast- we were both STARVING. I somehow found myself in a conversation with a gentleman at the info booth who was trying to assure me that PERKINS was not a chain and neither was KEYS. We accepted his map and headed to get the car. Then we called Kenny for a DDD look-up. We ended up at this amazingly funny joint called Al's Breakfast. The food was outrageous and the ambience even more so. You see the place is basically a lunch counter, no tables, like someone shoved a boxcar diner in between two city buildings and didn't mind if it fit or not (the only thing that survived was the grill and the counter and stools). You walk in, squeeze behind the stools and move all the way to the back until there is a spot at the counter. If your party is larger than what opens up together they will make those sitting rearrange themselves to accomodate your party. The discussions at the counter were interesting and extremely intellectual, and the show behind the counter...well...I wish this was in my neighborhood, oh wait I would be there all the time which would have a multitude of consequences.
Well, off to skate...more later after the draw.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

AM___(cup, nervous, frustrated, tired)


So, its here, the first travel of the season. Its 9PM and I have been running around for the past two days packing and getting work done and packing and ...UGHH...I almost forgot______(to take the wheels off and put blades on, the jig, my meds, my wallet?) Sh**!!! my FN clap blade broke before I even get it mounted on the damn boot, (Dan to the rescue- lent me a pair), Chris's is missing a glove (how does that happen between the rink and the washing machine?). I dreamt last night some god awful dream where things were going so wrong and I couldn't figure out where I was. When I asked, the Dead started playing Broke-Down Palace ? This morning the first song that I heard when I turned on the radio at school was Broke-down Palace. IS SOMEONE TRYING TO TELL ME SOMETHING?

Forget the butterflies, I think I have pterodactyls in my stomach. Minnesota here we come!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I think I am too busy?

I am now in the mode that I need to get everything off my plate but I am realizing that I am so busy that the plate is overflowing. Breathing is taking a back seat lately. I am now in a frenzy to get studio work done. I assigned my students HW that involved them assigning me an assignment. The original thought was that it would challenge me to stretch in my studio practice. I am feeling like I bit off so much more than I bargained for. They assigned 13 portraits, one of each one of them in the way that I see them and in their typical medium. I have grande plans for this. My idea really has me RACING this morning, but as I embarked on my studio work this morning I realized that I am so not accomplished in graphite. Practice, practice, practice, but this deadline is looming (Jan 4th).
In anycase, I am blogging about that too because I don't have enough to do (actually, its because I am always asking them to show process and I want to model the behavior I am preaching). If you want to follow along (promise not to laugh).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

DEAR MR FANTASY...

If I could have my choice of music to accompany this post that wouldn't get shut down it would be THAT Traffic song!
I was driving home last night from Walpole, it was about 8:30 when I hit Hartford, CT. I still had a 90 minute drive and I had a sleeping kid in the seat next to me. The station I was listening to on the radio was playing some incredible tunes. I started to get all nostalgic, thinking about my HS years, and all the trips to MA that I had made in that 4 years to "hang out" with Denise, Sean, Tim and Kevin. Sometimes I brought along my own friends, Annette, Kari, or Joanne, but most of the time I was by myself. We used to hang out at this burger place, car stereo blasting, eating French Fries, burgers and drinking coffee milk (which was a commodity to a NY'er)
I spent the day yesterday in Walpole at a speedskating meet. My oldest friend Denise joining me. Chris skated well, listening to his coach MOST of the time, which left him utterly exhausted. I marveled at how time seems to have stood still with Denise and I. There was this period of growth a few years ago that was awkward for us, but we survived it and seem to be closer than ever. I give her a tremendous amount of credit for being both patient and persistent.
With all this reminiscing and thoughts about persistence, I started to think about Chris's journey in this sport. There was a time that we were told to give it up more often than not. We were wasting our time and money. He would never amount to anything on the ice. (Dear Mr. Fantasy...something to make us all happy) I am so glad he stuck it out, the rewards of discipline will carry him through his life, besides, his face lights up when those laces are tightened and the steel starts to melt that ice. I see an athlete who has his sport in his soul, and that is all that matters.
A few days ago I was told that someone mistakenly thought my last post was sad. To those of you who thought that I want to assure you that is not at all the case. It was a healthy acknowledgment of my plate having way too much on it, which always seems to be my case, yet I almost never admit to. I'm actually pretty blessed with a great family and opportunities that allow me to be who I am. I couldn't imagine anything better.
I leave you with this final thought...do everything your care about from core of your being and happiness will most definitely find you! Off to find some solace in 17" of steel myself! (of course I am smiling!)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life is Definately in the Way; but somehow I am at peace with that?

About a month ago, I entered a blogging contest that would have had me going to the Olympics had I won. I know I write well, and I love to tell life stories, I thought this would be a grand adventure, right up my alley so to speak. I thought about what I had to do to stand above the crowd, strategized, and began the competition period by writing frequently. What I didn't anticipate is that life would somehow, suddenly, grind every once of spare energy and bit of time out of me. I found that I suddenly had no time for the basics, and blogging was cut out of the equation.
In the meantime, one of my REALLY good friends made it to the semi-finals. I have spent the past week in a state of both joy and jealousy. Kelly, if you read this I mean no offense by it. I am so happy for you. If someone has to win, I would hope it would be someone I know and I would be even more thrilled if it were a friend.
I think my feelings are generated from the competitive beginnings of our relationship. You see, Kelly and I met at a speedskating meet. It was her first and my first after a VERY long 22 year hiatus. We were both a bucket of nerves. When I think back to all the situations we have been in together since I know that for the purposes of this contest, she is definitely better suited than me. Yet there is a little piece of me that is so envious. (:0)
My life in that past few weeks has been in interesting range of experiences, from putting together a very strong and cohesive body of work that I heartbreakrokenly wished more of my friends and colleagues had gotten the chance to view, to preparing for an upcoming panel discussion at a conference, to running a coaching clinic for US Speedskating. I have also been writing letters and sending packages to women soldiers who are deployed in various branches of the military. Exercise has consisted of on ice work about 6-7 hours a week. I know that I have to step that up soon, and keep telling myself that the oval will be open shortly...yet I also know that this holiday week will have me in London chaperoning a trip. Damn, life looks like it plans on staying in the way for sometime. I think I am tired? Do I have time to be tired?

In your travels, I hope you can visit Kelly's blog http://momsgotblog.blogspot.com/ and then vote https://www.officewintergames.com/default.aspx . Another good friend who has made it to the student semi-finals of the same contest is Christi, and her blog can be found http://www.lakeplacidskater.blogspot.com/. Both would bring much character to the OLYMPIC experience.

I am off and running somewhere...in which direction am I expected again?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pondering Pandora's Box



My day started by having a very long conversation with Jon about training strategies. I need to think about my motivators and goals for the coming season. Riding across the country is just the icing on the cake. Training has been tough lately, too much life in the way, not enough motivation to put life aside when I am exhausted. We really hammered out the goals for the next event I have in mind. I plan on skating ice marathons this year. Matter of fact, I am passionate about rekindling this part of my life. The way I see it, skating will hold my leg strength and endurance for the heavy training I have to do in the spring and it will provide the change of pace to keep me going.

The next part of my day was spent at the funeral mass of Roseanne's father. While sitting in this place that used to be so familiar to me I found myself reflecting on the events that caused that door to shut. It was like meeting a long lost love in the street. You still feel something but you are thrust back into that confusion of everything that was wrong. This reflection was eventually reduced to forms and simple emotions. I found the thread for the next concentration of studio work. Ever wonder what the evils were in Pandora's Box?

On my way home from church, I scouted a route that I had planned to take today. It is a difficult route that has a bit of everything, several long and steep climbs, several miles of flats and lots of rolling; 100, Whitehall Corners, Moseman, Pines Bridge, Mahopac Ave, Granite Springs Rd...Of course we will throw in procrastination too.

So I embark on my ride. Why is it that I really look forward to riding, then procrastinate, then rework the root when I finally get underway? I must have argued about my choice of Moseman and Mahopac Aves since the climb on 100. I knew they were going to fry my legs, and after that little stunt yesterday chasing down Jon and sitting on his wheel before blowing by him, my legs were toast already. Today I did manage to convince myself that I needed to stay the course or my goals would be compromised. The ride was of no consequence, the hills hurt, but I expected that so somehow they weren't as bad as I thought they would be. The only real story to tell was that I managed to get scolded by a cop for riding on the road. Yes, you heard me right. I was threatened with a ticket if I didn't comply with his order to ride to the right of the rumble strip in the shoulder. Interestingly enough, there were cones set along the white line to provide a safe lane for pedestrians leaving Muscoot. He was there directing traffic. The pedestrian lane was chock full of people, had I traveled in it I risked hitting someone. So I jumped out of the cut in the rumble strip and rode at the extreme right of the lane of travel. I am still shaking my head about this encounter.

I did some reminiscing while riding. I found myself steeped in nostalgia while riding up Moseman Ave. For some reason I was pulled back to my Freshman year in HS when I spent the fall raking leaves with AFS. Funny, Roseanne's sister-in-law was instrumental in that club fundraiser. I also thought of how much that neighborhood had changed in the past 25 years. Its so built up and it looks like they leveled one whole side of the ridge to make a new development. As I pondered new construction in this market of the mini-mcmansion glut I wondered if that waste continues to be a contributing factor in our economic woes. We can't sell what is available so build new bigger, better, greener? This got me thinking about the recycling of a house. In the next few minutes I passed the homes of my children's friends that used to be the homes of my childhood friends. Then there were the couple of houses that used to be restaurants, then there was the house that used to be a a post-office then a candy store and now is a private home. I found myself drawn, almost too much, to looking for the ghosts of houses in the woods, the hermit caves, the root cellars, the hitching posts that have been repurposed as planters. All in all it was a fantastic day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

in full view of the ridge












Today dawned a lot earlier than I wanted it to, but it was manageable. We started the day in one of our old haunts, The Bakery in New Paltz. A bagel and coffee for the long haul, a pedal along the Shawangunk Wine Trail. I joined Alison, Jon and 18 others as we pedaled in full view of The Ridge (there is definitely some magnetism going on here). Kenny and Jon's wife Samantha patiently drove sag.

The weather was perfect, though a bit windy for my taste. You couldn't have asked for clearer skies, which were so important to the ambiance. There were so many photo opportunities, some we stopped for and some were passed over for more important things. At one point we lost our host, Jim and about 5 riders to a wrong turn. After that was settled we pounded out miles heading towards our third and final winery. OK it started as a friendly pace, then I decided to sit on Jon's wheel challenging him to flick me off. He somehow didn't take the hint to well, so I cranked past him and past the next rider. I was finally caught of course and hurled off the back. I felt like one of the people in the SOAP BOX DERBY RACE (Little Rascals). I still managed accolades from Alison who wanted to know just what got into me. The high five was so worth it!

So the day ended with Pizza from Portofino's (yes we drove all the way home before eating). Anchovies and onions. OK this has a story to it too. I thought Kenny said he wanted anchovies, he said anything but... Nothing a bit of Hurricane Kitty couldn't fix. We ate dinner with Mikey, Lilly, and Justin. Chris was skating. Can you believe Mikey's girlfriend Lilly had never had a Sicilian slice (yes, that pie was plain cheese)? In a word, awesome.

Tomorrow? hmmm ride and slide!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

" but that is not why I called" I wanted to say yes it is but...






I'll leave my title at that today as I am betting that the "I don't read your blog" might not be so accurate either. I don't want to dwell on my hurt and disappointment just merely use it as a starting point to my day on the bike. You see, that phone call is what prompted the chain reaction that lead to procrastination that almost cost me my training time and what surprises me is that after I finally got off my butt and out the door and spent 2 hours on the bike I am still just as upset about the exchange.

So where did my adventure take me today? First I ended up at the Harvey School. I wanted to see a bit of Andrew's football game. It was awesome to watch someone you coach on the hamster wheel play an unrelated sport. Even with all that gear on I could still see similar kinetics.

After the game I headed on my way, up through Pound Ridge and back into Cross River eventually ending up on Bogtown Road. I actually left my house with plenty of daylight left, but took the light with me just in case. There was this voice inside of me that was yelling and I knew it could be one of those days like the days when Kenny used to have to fish me out of the pool or I would swim into oblivion. This was a wise decision as I ended my ride in complete darkness. I am amazed at that little headlight, its as if I have a car headlight on my bike, it is that bright. All the time I was riding I was trying to ride out of the hurt I was feeling. There is an importance to friendships, and sometimes taking them for granted eventually burns at both ends.

At one point there was a smell in the air that brought me back to that day, 4 years ago, when I rode CT in memory of Jimmy Arena. This caused my mind to wonder a bit, reminiscing the conditions of that day, and the sound of the birds singing to me when I was at my lowest point in that endeavor. Just then a hawk flew across my path. I am always in awe when this happens. On that note, Roseanne is coming along, though chemo is beating her up pretty badly. The saddest part is that her father, who was diagnosed with cancer a week after her surgery, passed away a few days ago. She didn't get to warn him that the chemo would knock him for a loop. Was this his way of getting her to think about other things than the discomfort? Life has a way of keeping things interesting to say the least. Take this as a segue-way to my choice of pictures today. This area is so steeped in American history. What were the lives of the people that lived in the houses that are nothing more than ghost foundations now? What did those houses look like? Were there kids? Was life hard? There were some pictures I wanted to get, but I was lost in deep thought when I passed those spots, that I simply forgot. On that note, in one shot there is a bit of hidden object going on, can you find them?

My training has taken a bumpy ride lately with teaching, after-school duties, taking care of my mom, and getting ready for a solo exhibition at St Mark's School. I think I'm even nursing a stress fracture. Maybe that is just in my head as I have just changed gears. I am riding less but skating more. I was worried about this until I got on my bike today and felt more fit than I have in a long time. I think the skating is helping the pedaling, though the cycling is not necessarily repaying the favor. Either way, I am enjoying myself and Ryan, if you are reading, Chris has me working out on the slideboard whenever I cannot get out on the road or the ice. Imagine one of your athletes coaching you, its the ultimate honor, especially when its your kid.

Completely unrelated, I did spend part of my ride today trying to figure out how to define my writing. There was no answer there but I guess I can keep that ball up in the air for a bit.

Monday, September 28, 2009

there is something about riding on a crisp fall day, on an oak lined street, with the wind...



showering acorns down like rain, at the rate of 5-10 pelts to the helmet a pedal stroke, of course we were headed up hill too. The ride was a really nice one. Justin and I just got out to enjoy what was left of the day before heading to the Bronx to brake fast. We pass this stream every time we ride this route and each time I think I should stop to take a picture as it is the one place that reminds me of when I was a young child, living in Golden, Colorado. It reminds me of the creek we used to play in. Kenny and I visited that place a few years ago, it was quite interesting to feel the very COLD water I used to splash in rush over my feet. I often wonder if that is why swimming in the ocean in northern Maine never bothered me. In any case, looking at the stream, I found myself wanting to be in the Rockies at this moment today. I think it was because I lost my father 27 years ago today. One of favorite memories of him was when we lived out west. To this day Colorado is etched deeply in my soul.

I spent my morning writing about my current work as an artist. I never get used to writing about work that I have poured my heart and soul into. Its as if I am trying to translate some great story into another language. I have command of the language, but still cannot find the words that are needed. This show is about conflicts and features a series of work that was difficult to contemplate much less sculpt. Details about the exhibition are coming soon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the mixed up adventures of the flea flicker

Oh wait a minute, I was the one flicked of the train but man did it take a while! I am so happy. We were cruising along at a good clip, I was hanging on and not for dear life either. I was flicked off because I lost my focus and didn't have it in me to jump back on for good.

My day was a whirlwind, I was running late this morning. I had a load in the kiln I thought would be done in time for me to unload so that I could glaze tonight, only to have it still be in a firing cycle, and me in a bit of a panic. I had lesson plans and materials to prepare for tomorrow. I also had plans to ride at 2:15. Oh, and I had to pick up Chris at 4 in Somers a 45 minute drive away.

So the kiln did not finish, the ride never happened and I decided it was high time I head back to New Paltz. It was, after-all Tuesday night. I met up with Jon and Dave for an evening of intervals and pace-line work. We started out by spinning up to Rosendale each of us taking a turn at pulling. For the first time this season I was hanging with the big boys and not dying, at least not immediately. It took being distracted by a car and simultaneously hitting a rise in the road to fall off for good. No worries, we were back in formation and trying to decide our plan in no time (meaning I may have fallen off but I never really lost contact). To think that I almost bagged this effort too as it took me over an hour to get home from work and I was running 10 minutes late to get to NP and knew I still needed gas. I am so glad I didn't miss that.

We eventually got down to business, we did sets of 2 minute intervals. The first set I did, I was without water (accidentally left it in the car) and my HR basically stayed at 173 for each effort, I was stunned that it recovered fully in time for the next effort (equal rest). The second set my HR stayed at 165 and recovered even faster. The efforts felt the same, though the second set felt more comfortable and I was able to stay closer to John and Dave (you guessed it it was a "throw mama from the train" experience).

So I learned that my fitness level has come up a great deal. This was a well timed lesson. Tomorrow, I am off to Elmira for my Uncle John's funeral. It will be a well accepted rest day!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

against instinct

My weekend plans were monkey-wrenched on Thursday afternoon. I was plunged into "what are we doing", "when are we going", "can I still go upstate?" The scenario played out with a waiting game for arrangements, which was fine, when all is said and done, I needed this weekend to sure up some obligations seeing that I will be out of town twice. Yesterday I spent 12 hours or so in my studio. I got a whole bunch of work done and after writing this, before I leave for Shelton, I will pack up my pots and get them ready to haul to the kiln.

Today the weather was gorgeous. I got myself back into that training groove by heading out on my bike, and despite not really wanting to be away from the MUD in my studio, I forced myself to get into it. Funny, I was grumbling about everything, route, length of time, my shorts, you name it, I had a problem with it. About 2 miles out I came to a intersection full of commotion. I was about to enter a race, the Westchester Toughman. This was so strange, as I didn't want to interfere yet I was determined to ride the route I had finally settled on. I picked up my cadence and held myself in the group. It was weird to have someone yell at me to hydrate and try to hand me gatorade as if I should be grateful for their presence. I just wanted to ride, not be accosted by a woman with an electrolyte fix. So I took evasive action and blew her off and hammered up the mile climb in front of me. I passed 6 guys on $10K+ bikes with the fashion to match and was passed by two twiggy girls who were only just behind me to begin with. I suck at climbing so this was thrilling! Over the top and down the other side, blowing by the two women and a few more guys I was wishing that I had actually done this race, even if it had been as a relay. I saw no other ATHENA classed women- though I am sure they were out there. I ambled along with them for about an hour and was really happy to nail 21 miles in that time and my HR was not even maxed out.

I finally decided to leave the comfort of blowing through intersections and having people cheer me on to get my workout done within the proper objectives. I doubled back towards the trail, and made my way up to Carmel from the crossing near 100 and 118. Let me tell you, racing was more comfortable than the obstacle course I had just gotten myself into. It was a crisp, clear, fall day in the 70's after 2 days of rain. You can only imagine what that next 15 miles looked like. I dodged kids, old men stopping in the middle of the trail, dogs of every kind, women swinging their arms, a group of 3 really overweight women on inlines. I don't want to sound derogatory here, I am very happy that they are out there giving it there all and having a blast exercising, and would love to see them join us on the ice, but when you are cruising along a a good clip and they are taking up the WHOLE trail and are very out of control and very off balance by the apparently heavy backpacks they were carrying, well, then you understand that the remark is just meant to be a descriptive one. I arrive in Yorktown and cross Hanover to my sister-in-law turning onto the trail for her run. I was perplexed in a way, I wanted to stay and chat, to turn around and head to her place to see my niece and nephew, to hang out. We talked for what seemed to a good amount of time and then parted ways. I reached Carmel in no time.

I turned right onto Fair Street and headed out towards the farms. I was headed down this hill in a pretty good amount of traffic not realizing how rough the road was until I hit a pothole with enough force to have my left hand have to grab onto my handlebars a lot tighter to stay balanced. I suddenly realized just how people manage to dump themselves end over end. I had inadvertently grabbed the front brake too and felt the rear wheel start to make it's climb up towards my hips. I am not sure what possessed me to go against my instincts here and let go of the break instead of grabbing ahold even tighter. I just learned a major lesson and knew it. There were not light-bulbs but fireworks going off in my head. Disaster averted, I decided at that point to slow things down and cruise home at a recovery pace. I had already put in about 40 miles so what was an easy 6 or so? Now, off to some quality ice time as a skater instead of a coach.

Rough schedule this week. Hope I can pull off a decent training week.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Running Late

I hate being late! I have always hated it. Being late causes PTS symptoms for me as I had to sit, sometimes for hours, waiting for my mother to come pick us up. It causes me a ton of stress now when getting 6 people out the door in time for anything almost never happens. I was reading my friend Matt's blog and felt I needed to respond to his question "Where were you when?"

That morning, I took Kenny's car to school. I was running late, the whole family was running late. Kenny put Chris on the bus and walked to the train. Chris's bus was late too and Kenny missed his usual train. This was one of those mornings that I hated dealing with. Everyone needed things at the last minute, homework signed, notes for things, lunch money, help finding shoes, and some random item that needed to be purchased from an obscure store but was volunteered and promised in good faith to a teacher but not disclosed until 5 minutes before departure. As I was driving to school I remember thinking that I should call Kenny and ask him if he wants to take his car into the city. I was late already so what would another 5 minutes be to turn around and switch cars, but I didn't.

I arrived at school and settled into a color theory lesson with sixth graders. It was somewhere in the middle of that lesson that I was interrupted by the principal who decided it was necessary to announce with a very monotone voice that there had been a plane crash into the towers. I remember thinking how surreal that announcement was. Surely she was talking about a small plane? I tried to call Kenny to see what was going on. No answer. The principal announced again that a second AIRLINER had crashed into the other tower...and I lost my composure. I needed to know that Kenny was not beneath the towers getting off the train. I called again, no answer.

At some point I was ushered into a small TV studio, I watched in horror as the towers collapsed. I distinctly remember just before this happened Katie Couric saying that people didn't seem to concerned on the ground, that traffic was still moving, people were still walking...I remember being nauseated, lightheaded, and needing to leave school. I called Kenny, no answer.

I left school and learned of the whole scope of the morning on the radio. I was scared. I thought we were going to be plunged into a war on our soil. I wanted my kids, and I wanted my husband, and I wanted to be together in one place.

I arrived home to the phone ringing, it was Andrea, an engineer at Kenny's firm. She wanted to tell me that she had managed to get a hold of Kenny and that he was OK. He never made it out of Grand Central. He had missed the last train downtown by minutes. He was trying to get home.

I called the HS that Justin was a Freshman at and let them know that his father was OK. They would happily relay that message. He had been watching this unfold too in his Social Studies class, sitting next to his best friend who found out that his father died by watching a TV broadcast in school. Justin was traumatized.

I called the other schools, all of which agreed to pass on the information if they needed to, they were much more guarded with the news. Dan and Mary came up and got me. We waited at they're house until Kenny made it home. Kenny finally made it home at 4 or so. Thank God we were running late that morning!

For the next 6 months, we dealt with Kenny being gone days at a time to help with the logistics of the clean-up and my brother and brother-in-law dealing with the 12-12 schedule and being on site to oversee the Con-Ed crews at Ground Zero. Not much was said...it is still painful to talk about.

The health problems have not surfaced, though to tell you the truth, they are always on the back burner. Kenny came down with pneumonia 2x in the 2 months following 9/11his doctor thought that he might have cancer. Thank God that it was just the exhaustion and stress that caused him to be run down and get sick. His health has been tracked.

If you really want to know how I feel about the experience, read Art Spiegelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" (Pantheon,2004) you will capture some of it. I remember last year getting into a conversation with my friend Arnie about the day, and hearing his story of having a 3rd grader in a lower Manhattan School, picking her up and walking home with the heat and the rumble of the collapse noticably at his back, the whole time trying to prevent his daughter from looking back. It still hurts.

So Kenny, I really do hope you enjoy that cigar today, I love you and would be lost without you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Threads

The word thread can refer to so many things, my head is swimming with this thought. I work hard at teaching, at my craft, at parenting, at being a spouse, at working out, at writing and of course at personal relationships. My thoughts wondered a bit regarding all those things today. I am drawn to three thoughts that have stayed fresh in my mind: 1. I kept trying to remind myself that I need to call Roseanne to see if she needed anything, 2. I had talked to my students about my friend Lovey, and how she felt I needed to have a gift of a book about the Tukilitt stone sculptures of the Arctic, and 3. my fascination with death.

Now I know what you are thinking about that last thought, but I found myself on two separate occasions today thinking in circles about death. After school, I left school for a ride, it was overcast and the wind was picking up, blowing off the water. The only reason I knew it was coming off the water was that I could smell the salt and the tide, one of those things I find extremely comforting. I kept wondering if I was going to be rained on, but it held out. I really didn't want to ride today. It took every stitch of my being to be anywhere away from my studio. I rode knowing that I didn't want to be bored. My bike took me in new directions in New Canaan and Darien this afternoon. I did not particularly care where I ended up, I was just trying to find new and interesting things to look at. I came across two old cemeteries and found myself wondering why I have found them so intriguing this summer. This was more than a ponder. It was really bothering me. Every single OLD cemetery I rode by this summer I found myself wondering about who the people were that were buried there. What was their life like? Today was not any different other than I had this thought that they were laughing at me, working so hard at something so trivial as if it were so important. I found that I was getting annoyed with that thought, as I knew I was doing this to help keep myself out of that pine box.

Later, as I was reflecting about the conversation about the Tukiliit, I started to think about other Art Historical references I have used in my work that were similar to these sculptures. I found myself thinking about some research I had done on pilgrim flasks. I thought long and hard about their possible uses, which were mostly funerary from what I learned in grad school. This thought had me thinking about the Mid-East and the saturation of religion, wars, and death.

So why am I writing all this, because just as I was thinking that last thought Kenny called me to tell me that my Uncle John had passed away. This man meant so much to me growing up. He was the one brother that my father had that made the perfect mediator between a drunk and an adolescent. He understood that my father's drinking problem had so many facets to it, and that it affected so much more than his health. It affected his family. I loved all my father's siblings for many different reasons, but this was the one special reason I had for loving him. He understood that my brother and I were hurting.

I remember one time when I was about fourteen, he took me fishing. We stopped on the way to get corn, potatoes and the fixings for salad. He was so sure we would catch something but there was a package of hot dogs just in case. We did catch something, and he made such a big deal about it. We decided to spare the fish its life and made hot dogs instead.

When I got married, the whole family embraced my husband, but he was the only one who treated Kenny like he had been part of the family forever. To him, Kenny wasn't Jewish, he wasn't a kid that had kids, he was his was the love of his niece's life so therefore he was as important as she was. Kenny was so sad today when Jimmy called. When I told him that I feel like my dad died all over again, he acknowledged with "I know what you mean".

So as I sit here fighting back tears, thinking about life, I know that I am who I am today because I had someone like my uncle to see to it that my life had at least a little thread of normal whenever he saw me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Of Sound Mind



After such a beautiful weekend off, I felt as if I was right back in the swing of things today. Yes, I took all three days, which originally was not my intention. I had wanted to put in a good 5 hours on the bike yesterday, but I was sidelined by studio work. With an exhibition coming up in a few weeks, I really couldn't argue with myself. It was time well spent.

Today our faculty cycling club headed out for our weekly hour of bliss. I usually time trial on Tuesdays, but decided that this outing was too important to miss. It was a bit overcast but the perfect temperature. We decided to head towards the sound shore, Rowaton to be exact. What could be better than a dreamy ride along CT's Gold Coast, the architecture is just as exciting as the water views. As we cruised along the stress of the day just melted away. We covered just about 17 miles in that hour. It was one of the nicest rides I have done in a while. It was also great to be out with other people.

I hit the weight room after my spin. This was an all business venture. I was sufficiently warmed up, so I immediately set up the rack and proceeded to do my sets of Olympic lifts. I am amazed at the progression of strength at times. This is the venue where I feel like I can see my hard work paying off. Each time I increase the weight and find that I can still manage good form I find myself getting almost giddy over it. I know that it will eventually transfer to both the road and the ice but those gains, while there, are much more subtle, easy to miss if you aren't looking in the right place.

I am worried about my schedule over the next few weeks. I have so much on my plate. I guess that was why I hammered all summer, so that I would be a bit concerned about loosing workout time as meetings, and after school obligations, and studio work, and skating, and playing taxi-driver all come together in that 16 waking hours of a day. I know it will come together and providing that I remain persistent I know that in February, when I really need to concentrate on volume in the form of miles I will be able to handle the load.

Tomorrow, a two hour ride (hopefully 36-40 miles) after work. I had planned on riding in, but have too much to carry. I only pray that it remains dry so that I don't have to navigate the world in a deluge after a long day of teaching.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Dancing in the Dark

At 5:30 AM it is considerably dark outside, the purples and oranges just starting to peak out from behind the ink black hills and the indigo tree leaves are dripping with a silvery sheen. My desire to crawl back in side and under the covers is outweighed by the thrill of riding into this black hole. The call of this abyss is likened to a dance that I know I cannot sit out. Its invigorating. How cool is it to see the sun rise while you are on your bike and to have to eventually stop and switch out the lenses in the glasses, to feel the heat of the day waking up with the winds and see the moon going to sleep, to see animals grazing and to see the world finally stretch and yawn? My morning ride to school ROCKED!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Phishing

For the last few weeks I have been listening to quite a bit of that VT band, and really interested in their regrouping. For the past three weeks I have not wanted to ride a time trial for various reasons, mostly just because I knew it would hurt. I gave in all three times. The time I climbed Mohonk I had "Backwards Down the Number Line" stuck in my head. I think this had to do with the lyrics and hanging out so much this summer with Pete, one of my oldest and best friends. Tonight, I was thinking as I was driving home from work at 6PM that I had put in a very LONG day (I arrived at work at 7 AM). The thought of burying myself in ten miles of pavement was not making me bounce around anything. Then Phish comes on the radio, and I think of Pete and know that I have to ride. (Happy, happy oh my friend...)

So, I am get home and change into my gear in lightening speed and out the door I go. I nearly broadside a kid on a golf cart coming out of my driveway. I wanted to get this ride over with. I had exactly 40 minutes of good light left. The way I saw it I could knock out ten miles in about 30 minutes so that would leave me 10 minutes to spin out the last mile home. I head out around the reservoir hoping that I catch the two lights, I do, and cruise the next 7 miles like I was on fire. At the 5 mile mark a guy passes me in a pick-up truck and he slows down and stays just in front of me. At first this creeped me out, until I realized what he was doing. I start to feel like Dave in Breaking Away. The guy hung his hand out the window signaling that I was cruising the back stretch of the reservoir at 23 MPH.

As I rounded the last turn before the dam a guy passes me in a Black Pilot, something told me he was going to be less than forthright so I prepared myself to abort the cruise downhill if necessary. I was right, he passed me then slammed on his brakes. I saw back window coming up really quick and responded accordingly. I was a little disappointed to have to slow down as I was trying to break my own record and I only had a few minutes left to do so. I get threw the mess and the lights (green again) and make it back to my end point in 30:38. A full 2 minutes faster than I have ever done this course.

A note about the lights on the course. I had timed the course in two manners, one with the lights and one just the loop without them, just in case I had to abort things due to a red signal. Tomorrow, weight room.

Monday, August 31, 2009

School Dazed



Today was the first day of a 5AM morning knowing that on there was no time to dawdle, students would be waiting. I didn't ride to school, I drove, bike on board. After school I headed out with 3 teachers for our first of many weekly rides. We started an informal cycling club. It was so great to be out riding with people. The bulk of my summer riding has been done on my own.

I was forced to reminisce a ride that Jim and I took when I first started working in New Canaan. Jim was then my boss. I was in tremendously good shape when I started teaching there. I proposed a very hilly ride that I knew I had mastered at a decent pace (Southbury to Bantam Lake and back- climbing through Woodbridge and Roxbury to get there). That Sunday morning Jim and his friend Peter met me in Southbury and despite the weather forecast for intermittent showers, we went anyway (hmmm- seems to be a trend) . We laugh now, but as we neared the 1/2 way point in Bantam the temperature dropped to 36 degrees and that light rain changed to a moderately hefty mix of sleet and snow. We rode for quite a while in those conditions and as we turned for home on 202 found a doughnut shop where we stopped to warm up. We stayed there for hours drinking coffee and trying to dry our clothing with the restroom hand dryers. Eventually, we knew we had to get going. So we headed out, mostly DOWNHILL, to our cars. I remember trying so hard to stay out of Jim's rooster tail as the spray was making the weather that much harder to deal with. On the way back everyone got really quiet and sluggish. This was our hell on Everest minus the altitude. The last 5 miles being some of the scariest I have ever ridden. I envisioned the headline- NEW TEACHER KILLS HER BOSS WITH MIXED PRECIP RIDE. Thankfully, we got back to our cars without incident. I actually had anticipated being wet so I had clothes to change into. I drove home with the heat BLASTING only stopping for coffee at the drive through. I think I drained out hot water tank with one shower that evening.

Today was so different. The weather was perfect. The only thing I was trying to figure out was my pace and HR? The pace was low the HR was high. I had taken 3 days off this week, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and Friday was my adventures with a NANTUCKET pace. So, I ask? Lack of sleep, stress of a parent in the hospital, hormones, stress of the start of school, NEW TIRES? (Brontrager Race Lites with Kevlar- heavy with more tread than I have ridden in a long, long time- this is RACING RUBBER?) UGGH, makes me want to rethink tomorrow's TT as I felt like I ran into a wall.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Thars a hole in my bucket...


My name is not LIZA and I decided not to fix it either! I had less than optimal sleep last night, I was happy to be out on my bike at all. I decided it was a F*&k it day. Alison and Kelly in unison promptly tell me that my attitude its what is called a "Nantucket Day". We went out for a ride and I was so happy to have their company. My head was really not into anything at all. I had just come from the hospital, and while my mom looked so much better than the night before, I could not get the thoughts I had written about out of my head, matter of fact I have probably expanded upon them 100 fold. If I was by myself I probably would have ridden as hard and as long as I could have sustained, but somehow, with company decided that what I really needed was a day to forget about training and just ride for the sake of riding.
So what is a Nantucket day like, its daudling if you care to, talking while riding as if you were at home having coffee, lingering at a rest stop that you don't really need to begin with, and reflecting on a ghost bike that is on the side of the road like a makeshift shrine that marks a tragedy along a highway. Somehow, this ghost bike really stuck with me today. I pictured a spry young kid, half my age, loosing his life while doing what he enjoyed. I spoke at length with Kelly about it. Regardless of the bit of wallowing I seemed to be doing today, I needed this ride and the comradery that it offered. Kelly and Alison, thank you so much! Here is to IOWA

Thursday, August 27, 2009

inside out

So today I had planned on a weight room workout, this was going to be my initial experience in this training cycle with weights and I was excited to get that underway. Unfortunately, my day turned into a unexpected day off. My mom is in the hospital.
Before you get all uptight and nervous, don't. She is fine. She needed to have surgery to correct a problem, thats all. It wasn't elective but it wasn't emergency either. When I arrived at the hospital I expected to find her resting but alert. What I found was a woman in a tremendous amount of pain. Could this be my mother? I actually didn't recognize her. She is usually this very confident, very independent woman. The minister who has seen the good in some pretty ugly places in the world, sometimes even stuck in the line of fire. The thing is that Krisie Amanpour is someone my mom admires tremendously. To me, Krisie Amanpour has nothing on my mom. She goes into the line of fire because that is her job. My mom goes into the line of fire as a mission of her faith in humandkind (humanitarian). In anycase, tonight as I sat there quietly while my mom drifted in and out of consciousness, I realized that as much as my mom has always portrayed this ageless persona, she is getting old. Tonight was the first time I saw her age, and it saddened me a bit. I realized that I am at a place in my life where I need to start to let go of her a bit, not too unlike delivering my children to their independence, yet very different just the same. Its a celebration of our lives together, what is past, what is now, and what is yet to come.

Its the first time I have seen my mother as something other than this super human, pain in the ass, can leap tall buildings...heroine. Its the first time I realized that she is just human and this just floored me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

sunrise over MARTHA'S place

I got up this morning at 5AM so that I could have my gear together and be rolling at first light. As it happens, I cannot remember exactly if I have the necessary clothing and toiletries at work, I keep thinking I forgot something. So I load up my pack and contemplated putting coffee in one of my water bottles. I am out the door by 6:10 (10 minutes late). This means that I am RIDING to work rather than riding to work. My body feels pretty good actually, I am surprised. Could it be that last week was a light week so my physiological response to yesterday's time trial is not as dramatic? In any case, I am supposed to be spinning my way to work, in which most of the 25 miles is a climb to begin with, yet the first slight incline I hit my HR sky rockets to 176. Could it be that my body feels OK but really I haven't recovered? I was perplexed. With each progressive climb my HR continues to have a negative response (over 90%) and I am running out of gears and slowing way down. I am perplexed, not fully awake, just pedaling. I get over this rise and there between the trees is the most spectacular sunrise, of course it was over Martha's place. This got me to thinking, with all that this massive farm produces for her "LIVING" line, there has to be surplus? What happens to that surplus? Materialism sucked up my sunrise for a moment, then I decided to crop it out. This moment, after all was being enjoyed by me and most of my colleagues were not even on the the road yet, they are missing it, so is my family for that matter, and my friends. I had only one regret, I was too damn late to stop and document it.
This forces me to think about Andrew's FB comment the other day about a sunrise he saw that was too spectacular for words. Bill Daley had once told me to describe colors in jelly beans, tree bark, musical timbers, wine, and CRAYONS. This one was definitely Maze, Cornflower, Birch bark, and Pinot Noir mixed with licorice and vibrato. I still had well over 45 minutes left to think about it before having to engage in the wonders of educating.
So I arrived at school with exactly 7 minutes to spare, cleaned up, grabbed a cup of coffee, and pretended that my commute was mundane that was until I realized that I was so sore, tired, and extremely hungry. I had essentially ridden a TEMPO, thanks to that PACK on my back being like a weight vest. To think I had to do this all over again at 3PM? As the day rolled along to a close at school, I changed back into my chosen summer biking attire and headed home. Things were not as bad as I thought, my muscles welcomed being woken up again, though I developed an interesting case of saddle sores that caused every bump to be extremely painful.
Tomorrow? The pleasures of the weight room...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Trial


Yesterday my day on the bike was miserable, I think I was too caught up in Chicken Soup, the first day of school, and wallowing in my own soreness. I felt like my legs wanted to pedal, but wouldn't work the way I wanted them to. Needless to say, I had car troubles this morning so my weekly trip to New Paltz to time trial was DIVERTED and I was given a workout to do here at home. Spin to the Team in Training TT route on route 100 and ride the 4 mile course in both directions, do it early enough to beat rush hour so that a turn around could be made with less chance of interference with traffic. Then spin home. I timed things perfectly on many fronts!

First off I want to say that I wish people who drive cars were forced to ride a bike in heavy traffic before being given a license, then they would know that the reason a person riding a bike is not on the shoulder is because the shoulder is not safe, non-existent, etc. If there is a yield sign and a cyclist is in the lane with the right of way, guess what? They have the right of way. They would also understand that a person on two wheels going down a steep slope of over a mile can hit or exceed the HIGHWAY speed limit (55) and in my case, I have no qualms about exceeding that if the road surface is decent. In other words DON'T pull out of an intersection because me hitting you at 60 MPH is going to hurt and probably ruin your dinner and change our lives as we know it. OK, lecture over.

So I spin down to Whitehall Corners and set myself up for a sweet ride. I felt so much better than yesterday. I decided that since the course was marked in mile segments that I would watch my splits. it starts 3:16, 3:16, 3:16, 3:00, 2:56, 2:50, 2:50, 2:50 for a finish just over 24 minutes. After finishing I was not looking forward to climbing that hill back into town along a road with a narrow non-existent shoulder. I sucked it up and headed north, spinning away, and actually felt pretty good. As I crested the hill, I decided to scream down the other side. I was so in the mood to go fast. This is where I almost t-boned a guy pulling out of Plum Brook from the left, BEAT THE BIKER? He actually had to stay on the wrong side of the yellow line to avoid the collision.

I was so happy with my ride today, and was treated to arriving home to find Roseanne just getting in from her Chemo appointment. We talked, we laughed, we took a photo of her with her hair which she expects to loose within 2 weeks. Justin cooked us dinner (steak, mashed potatoes - made the way he learned to make them in OZ- no butter and milk but an egg instead, and an Israeli salad). When did he become such a good cook?

Tomorrow? As my family gets to sleep in I will be up at the crack of dawn pedaling to work (25 miles each way). Be sure to remember my lecture if you pass me along the road at 6AM.

Monday, August 24, 2009

chicken soup

My friend Rosanne started chemo today. I made a pot of chicken soup. After all she should have only good things for her body and soul after spending a day poisoning it. This is just middle of the beginning of what promises to be a long journey. My friend started menopause abruptly a four weeks ago after learning she had ovarian cancer, that was the true launching point. I should have made soup then too, but it was too bloody hot.

I think my soul needed soup today, out there on the road. It was supposed to be a long easy effort but my muscles were screaming and I found myself thinking about a comment Darra Torres made in her book, "why is it that 25 seconds of all out effort require four days recovery?" Summer is over for me. My schedule changes tomorrow. My heart is torn by everything that is going on around me and through me. I think I need soup for my soul. I am so ready to go back. I am exhausted enough to be numb; bone tired, brain tired. I managed a ride today, short on time and effort. I wonder if its just a matter of mental stress that is zapping my energy. I am in need of nourishment but am clueless about how to get what I need.

My friend started chemo today and I am too spent to wrap my head around it.

A trip to The Magic Garden














My training has taken on this character that is akin to chaos being at war with zen and attempting to fight to the death. Zen always wins without any sort of struggle, complete confidence is all it takes. The interesting part is that I know in my heart Zen will win, and I do listen and absorb lessons like a sponge soaking up a flood, but not without bitching about it. When I found myself confused about my training plan on Saturday evening, I was prompted to review my goals, given 2 choices, both work, but one is far superior. I am also given the rational behind both then left to ponder them for a bit. When I have decided on the option of my choice, Zen comes back in and offers another nugget, that forces my hand in the most fitting direction in relation to my goals. On Saturday night there was a discussion about the limited training time I would have on Sunday, something hard will probably be better suited to my goals: interval sets, hill repeats or time trial. After discussing the rationale for each he left the conversation wonder and a banter ensue. Just as I was about to let him know my plans Zen then asked if I knew of an 18 mile route and offers me that carrot that is so essential to my personality, RIDE IT IN AN HOUR!
So I set out at 7AM to ride my 18 mile route with one objective, being back in 60 minutes or less. I pummeled out the first 6 miles in 18 minutes. I was psyched until I realized my route had one MAJOR flaw in it, TRAFFIC LIGHTS, and a great deal of them (8). In the next two miles I hit four RED lights, all major intersections, all demanding that I pay attention and be law abiding. This was slowing me down big time. I make a left down route 100 and hammer out another 5 miles in 17 minutes. I was motoring, that was until I hit another RED light, for this one however, I sat and sat and sat for what seemed like an eternity. There was a cop sitting at this corner poised to meet quotas and a truck behind me trying to give me a wide berth. The only problem is that this intersection has a weight sensor that trips the light. The truck was not anywhere near it. I decided to move over to the shoulder, as if I was going to check on something on my bike, the truck driver finally gets antsy enough to move closer to the light, and it finally changed. I now have sat long enough for my HR to fully recover and I have about 150 feet before I have to start hammering out a mile climb. The CLOCK IS STILL TICKING! 5 miles, three traffic lights, 2 major climbs and only 16.5 minutes left to go. Only one light was GREEN, both climbs sucked up a bunch of time and energy, and 16.5 minutes became 24.5. I missed my goal by 8 minutes. I was wiped out and all I managed despite the my furious pace on the flats was 18 miles @ 16 MPH. Zen was very matter of fact about the choice of route, I could have stopped the clock at the lights, but recovery at each light also compromises the intensity so therefore avoid them and that was ALL he said. The unspoken lesson: this was not an IDEAL route.
Friday I dropped Mikey off at school, I think it hasn't fully hit me yet. I am sure it hasn't, actually and while I listened to the endless thunder on Saturday I eventually planted myself in front of my potters wheel and just threw, slipping into oblivion. Yesterday the reasoning for my limited training time was that Anna too was headed back to school (Temple U, Philadelphia). Besides having to move her into her new apartment, which is a 3 floor walk up and visiting IKEA for a bed frame, which turns out to be a design explosion in my head, I have plans of my own for this visit to the "City of Brotherly Love". I needed to see some ART which, by the way, is easy in this city. Public displays of expression are all over the place. There was however, a stipulation to my desires. The works had to be something that needed no explanation just pure contemplation...CHAOS meets ZEN... there was only one place in Phili that would satisfy my cravings, the Magic Garden (Isaiah Zagar's place). We walked around, not speaking much, immersed in the changes of texture and detail, completely satiated. I am now so excited about the upcoming year.
We ended our day with dinner at the Standard Tap before heading back to help Anna with a few last tasks in her new place. We finally said our good-byes and headed north, battling traffic and arriving home just exhausted enough to fall asleep as soon as the lights were out. This morning, Zen is calling for a long effort on the bike...and aero bars...and I am chaotically trying to meet those goals and visit my studio goals too, as there is another battle raging in my head thanks to my dose of the expressive thoughts of others.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Adventures in MUD

So it thundered ALL day today and my 40 mile adventure plans did not pan out. No bother, I needed a day in the studio anyway as well as to acknowledge the simple fact that I am exhausted and could use the rest. No sleep again last night, thanks to the weather and an electrical explosion nearby that has us wondering at 3AM if our own house was on fire (the oven and one ceiling fan fried).

My day in the studio, started with the reading of a book my friend Lovey sent me from her travels home called Tukililt, The Stone People Who Live in the Wind (Hallendy, 2009) It is a book about the stone sculptures found in the Arctic. What I found myself doing was sketching and pondering how many times I have come across similar sculptures or petroglyphs. I reflect on my face pots and feel the need to move forward in a new direction, which for me is revisiting a previous thread of thought. I say this with a show on the front burner, and firing deadlines fast approaching. So, with Castle Point in mind, I am hurling myself off that proverbial cliff and hope that my work will serve as a belay.

I write this covered in clay and excited as I have been about studio work as I have been about physical challenges. I know that the time has finally come to strike that balance between work and working out. Summer has come to a screeching halt despite the temps and life returns to a schedule. Todays adventures in mud made me feel better about that reality.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Castle Point







I don't know why I am having such pangs for that ridge but I found myself up there again today, by myself no less. I wasn't particularly nervous about mtn biking alone, aside from the cliff edges, the carriage trails aren't particularly technical. Don't get me wrong, there are a few spots that were dicey but I just focused and held my line. I was riding along side the cliff edge, climbing the ridge towards Castle Point, and I see this hawk so close soaring along the edge, swooping into the scrub trees, and gliding again. At first it looked as she was protecting a nest that I was perilously close to, and I got a bit nervous that she was going to dive bomb my head any second. As I got closer I realized that she was catching an air current. She was so close I could have knocked her out of the sky.

As I got closer to Castle Point, it appeared that the weather was going to change. I started to think that I might very well be out on the exposed ridge in a thunderstorm. I stopped long enough to grab a few pics, some hikers even took one of me at Castle Point you can see Awosting in the background. The storm never materialized. Coming down from the escarpment, I was thinking about the time I skied undercliff this winter, and how nervous I was about loosing my footing and being flung into midair, yet how inspired I was by its beauty. I guess I had the same thought about the bike in a sense as there were some technical spots where rocks were really loose and riding over them was like hitting a slide. Overall though, this was a fun ride, lots of great views, lunch at the beach and swimming in two lakes (Minnewaska and Awosting). My only wish was that I could have shared it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mountain REST Road



The key word here to focus on is REST, which is not in any equation of tonight's time trial attempt. The course (8 miles) starts out flat, then pitches sharply up Dug Road, decends a bit then hits the monster, chew you up, spit you out, 2 mile climb before ending at the bridge in front of the entrance to the Mohonk Mtn House. It was 95 degrees at the start.
I had several epiphanies tonight. I realized that even after a couple of days of really pour sleep and 3 days off the bike, my legs felt really good. Rich also worked on my hip for an hour this morning, which felt as if it had a full range of motion for the first time in years. Spending 5 hours up at Minnewaska, hanging out with Pete, while really relaxing, was somewhat taxing, the sun and the water made my more tired. Pizza, while usually a really good fuel, doesn't do so well under anaerobic conditions.

We pedaled to the start, I was lagging behind a bit, but I just decided to increase my cadence (spin) and found that I caught up easily. I still had to pee. When we started, every tree was covered with Poison Ivy , so I decided to hang up the stump queen act and tough it out. Ok we start, 5 miles flat, several things I noticed in that 15 minutes. I was caught much later tonight, last week on this course it was 4:38 with 30 second interval starts, tonight, it was 7:58 with my start being a minute and the rest 30 seconds (same amount of people). I was excited about that. I hit the first climb at the 15 minute mark (5 miles) and managed to climb well at first holding off going anaerobic until the really steep part, which then I buried my heart rate to the point of feeling like I was going to pass out. Jon had gotten a flat so at the top of the climb I stopped to give him my supplies (really I was trying to get my HR to recover a bit- sorry Jon, I did want to help too). I got a stern "you still have some climbing to do so get out of here..." only to loose my chain in front of an old cemetery 3 times after hitting that climb. I get myself underway and it was grueling, at one point right before the preserve, where it gets really steep my dinner decided to make an exceptional and forceful exit, the only problem was that I was clipped in and could not unclip under that pressure so rather than hurl while pedaling and risk a crash I made the split second decision to turn around, unclip, leave my mark and then continue up the hill. OK, I know you are all thinking this is a race against the clock and...
I had a number in my head that was very conservative, given the heat, knowing that course, and given my ability. I only wanted to make the bridge in an hour. I made it in 55 minutes. It was slow, it was grueling, it was my 110% without passing out. The only thing I would have changed about tonight's ride was my sunglass lenses. I had to descend without glasses, and between the bugs and the dust, I had to take that fairly slow too.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On Happiness...and being competitive

I have always been a competitive person, even if the only competition I allow myself to experience is with myself. I strive to do everything not to WIN, but to the BEST of my ability, anything short of 100% is not acceptable. I am very unhappy when I have not put in that effort, and yet I wonder am I happy when I do strive for the top? I have to say, that I think that this drive is part of my nature, my personality, my being, its who I am, and it has nothing to do with happiness. As I read this article "Are You Happy Now?" (Winter, Utne Reader, Oct 2009) I am trying to analyze my own thoughts about happiness or pleasurable, positive emotions.
I think about how, as a teacher, I am often forced to make the best of a great deal of situations. Getting young adults to see the big picture is a required task, and as a professional, whether teaching or coaching, I try to instill a positive motivating outlook on those I interact with. I ask myself, as I read this article however, do I apply this to my own life? I can be by far one of the most intensely critical people on the planet, especially of myself. This morning I found myself in a state of self- pity, frustrated about my battle with a number on the scale, despite everyone around me telling me that I look like have lost weight. I wallowed for about 5 or 10 minutes in private, only to be discovered by Kenny, who reminded me that I was happy to be doing all the hard work I was doing. I found myself lifting my own attitude by chalking things up to being exhausted. Being positive in the face of adversity, maybe this is becoming second nature, or maybe its all part of being a dreamer?
My parents always encouraged us to dream big, you can achieve anything that you can imagine, as long as you are willing to put in the work behind it. I have always seen myself as truly open-minded. I tend to look at life from every angle and see GRANDE possibilities. As I read though I realize that I can also be too intense for my own good as well. Managing emotions boils down to balance. Seeing the big picture often produces and sustains positive emotions for a greater period of time. Narrowing the focus produces more destructively critical emotions (negative). The key is to teach oneself to widen the scope when the blues invade. According to this article, the balance of positive:negative should be 3:1, but ideally 5:1, 6:1, or even as high as 11:1 is best. Feeling content in life is based upon this ratio as well as your outlook on your worthiness to society, are you learning, growing, and contributing? If this is the measure of true happiness, then I can say unequivocally, that yes I am happy. I am recharged by every challenge I take on, every lesson I learn, every contribution I make. I am enlightened by being part of the GLOBAL community. That drive is essential to who I am, and possibly something I learned early in my life as a survival skill growing up as the child of an alcoholic.
Increasing positive outlooks happens not only when you acknowledge others but when you help grow the community (think holistically here) and acknowledge your own kindness. The key is self- efficacy. With this said I find myself returning to the necessity of the big picture and why I keep returning to talking about my plans and the process behind achieving those goals.
I reflect back to a few summers ago when I took a graduate course on building self esteem and positive outcomes in students. The text was a book called Positive Coaching (Thompson, 1995). What I learned was the self advocacy goes a very long way in creating a positive outcome. Not to be selfish or anything, but there is some truth to taking care of oneself first. Creating ownership of emotions is a key to successful outcome. I am told by many that this is the foundation of achieving those pipe dreams and the processes that go along with it. This is the foundation to being successfully competitive.
Where am I going with this? I am not sure, I guess I am really trying to convince my friends that tell me I am an inspiration that training and riding across the country for a charitable cause is not inspiring stuff. This journey is as simple in believing you can do it and acting upon it, without worrying about the overall outcome (flying by the seat of your pants and worrying about the details later). What is important is that I tried, it made me feel good about myself, which in turn made me a happier person. The hope is that this happiness will be contagious and I will be inspiring others to go out and do the same. Think globally, even in terms of your own being. Its healthy!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Awosting, FINALLY!!!






Kenny and I had a few hours to kill this morning while waiting for my mother who was dropping off Chris and Mikey in New Paltz. We decided to hit up the Bakery for breakfast to go and head up to Awosting. For those of you who do not know about Awostingits one of the "sky" lakes in the Gunks. It is about 4 miles from the parking lot to the beach, and because of this it was the best place to swim when I was in college as there was hardly anyone there. This was prior to the ridge being accessible by mtn bikes. Awosting is a beautiful place, and unfortunately has lost something now that it is a short ride on a carriage road. (We overheard someone mutter how they wouldn't be caught dead walking out as it was too far just to take a swim)

Our trip basically consisted of walking out, taking a five minute dip, and then walking back. It was really hard to leave once we got there, but at least we got there this summer. We hiked as quickly as we could in both directions, as we were pressed for time. What was supposed to be a leisurely workout day was indeed a workout. I chose to carry a camelback today, the 100 oz one. I was surprised at just how heavy that pack was, and thought about how I used to ride all over creation with that thing filled to the gills with water, bike gear, food, a first-aid kit, etc. Today I felt like I was wearing a weight vest as I walked and all I had was a 5"x12" camp towel, 100 oz of water, cell phone, wallet, 1/2 cup of granola, and a sketchbook. As Kenny and I walked we talked a great deal about the area, and our love of it. We talked about our kids, its still so hard to believe how old they are already. I can't believe we are dropping Mikey off at school this week. It went by so fast. We also talked a great deal about Milwaukee. We are so excited about going out for the Trials in October. We even planned a trip to Madison for the rest day so that Chris can look at the University of Wisconsin. THIS WAS THE PERFECT HIKE. I only wish we could have spent the day at the lake.

OH- one more thought... if you know know what kind of flowers the white ones are can you please let me know. We both noticed how fragrant they are. It was kind of a gardenia, jasmine smell.