http://www.ravishly.com/2014/10/22/triumphs-and-humiliations-my-first-ultramarathon

The Triumphs (And Humiliations) of My First Ultramarathon

Allo, Ladies & Lady-lovers!

Check out my first article published over at Ravishly.com: an awesome website written by awesome Ladies! I’m so grateful to be able to contribute to the site, and look forward to sharing more of my awkwardness of living with everyone :)

So here it is – the embarrassment and joy I discovered while suffering through my first Ultra:

I couldn’t hold it anymore—I abandoned my modesty. The sheer discomfort of running with a sloshing bladder at its limits forced me to shelve my fear of an accidental poop-pee without toilet paper and with the added dicey-ness of wearing tiny, tiny shorts. I pulled to the side of the trail, dropped my now well-wedgied, miniscule shorts, and peed.

And kept peeing.

I cordially nodded to several passing runners whom I had now exposed myself to, and at that point, around 24 miles into my inaugural trail ultramarathon, the sweet relief of a finally empty bladder gave me much needed hope. “Maybe I can actually do this, maybe I’ll finish. That guy said it’s easier from here, so if I just shuffle on, I can do this!” 

That guy by the way? He lied. He fucking lied to me.

Going Beyond The Marathon

When you tell your friends and family that you’re running a marathon, it’s like it’s suddenly your birthday. There’s an outpouring of excitement, support and encouragement coupled with the “wow, I’m winded at 5 miles!” not-so-gentle questioning of the do-ability of what you’re about to undertake. But overall, it’s a party. Finish or not, you’re attempting a MARATHON! And that drive and dedication is something to be applauded and celebrated. 

But add a handful of miles to 26.2? Those miles are apparently crazy miles, since they push you past “admirable” and into “questionable judgment.” Even more so when you have residual injuries from being run over by a car.

You see, I was an athlete. I used to train for competition and times. I am now a past-tense athlete. I train for finishing and enjoying the journey. 

When you’re grateful for something as simple as working legs, it upends your perspective, making you more aware of the multitude of simple, ubiquitous blessings you’re lucky enough to enjoy every single day. I no longer compete with others or opinions or finish lines—I compete with myself. And I’ve found nothing as awe-awakening as carrying yourself, under your own strength, through every single moment of something you felt you “couldn’t” do.

I have shown myself, at moderate paces I’ve now mostly accepted, that limitations and doubt are stupid. If you take care of yourself, listen to your body and take your time, you’ll surprise yourself with what you can complete and overcome. 

So here I was, two emotion-releasing road marathons later, obsessively reading and re-reading the website for Trail Factor—a trail 50K in my hometown. One day on an impulse, I finally pulled the trigger: I paid the entry fee. Being a generally frugal person still digging out of the financial hole of medical bills and lost income, a non-refundable financial commitment was like signing in blood. There was no going back.

I started the training process I’d come to love and added in some wow-this-is-significantly-more-challenging trail jaunts. But as it does, life sometimes got in the way, and I’d only completed a long run of 20 miles prior to race day. That meant I’d have a full 11 miles of uncharted physical territory the day-of, plus a freshly acquired blister on the ball of my right foot.

On top of mileage and blister concerns, I learned that there was a four-hour cut-off at 19 miles—reach that distance by that time or they’d pull you from the course. With my pacing limitations, a time-based cut-off instilled in me a deep sense of doubt and inadequacy that was jittering through my whole body as I walked toward the white tents of the starting line.

I picked up my numbered bib, stocked up on gooey energy aids, taped my right foot, and waited, bouncing foot to foot with excitement and anxiety. There was no more thinking, no more preparing. This was it.

The Starting Line

The first lesson of ultramarathons—it’s not a marathon. 

I’m used to seeing people of all ages, abilities and gear quality in the starting corrals. These people were far more homogenous—thin, fit, focused and decked out in the finest sweat-wicking fabrics and split-monitoring wrist computers. When I started up conversations, there was far less “this is my first time” and far more “this is my training run for an upcoming 50 miler.” At first this was intimidating, then it was freeing—there was no keeping up with this crowd, which meant there was no pressure. Somebody has to be last, and if I made the looming 19-mile cut off, I’d happily take that spot! 

I started preparing myself. Snacks? Check. Water bottle belt filled with personalized, homemade energy drink? Check. IPod charged and stocked with inspirational tunes? Check. Foot blister taped and ready for a beating? Check.

My traditional mental techniques weren’t going to get me through the strains of 31 miles and 4,000-plus feet of elevation gain. I created a new mantra: “I’m just on my way to the start.” It was a phrase that resonated with me, encouraging a view of every moment and mile as a pressure-free, leisurely beginning. Stay present. Stay mindful. 

The atmosphere of the trail would prove solitary and free of bearings. There would be no markers, no encouraging crowds, only a handful of aid stations with varied spacing, and something I hadn’t really thought about—no port-a-potties. Perhaps if I had considered it sooner, I would have had time to get in line to empty my already noticeably-filled bladder prior to the start . . .

As we neared our launch, the race organizers started shouting thanks to various people and groups. Nervous energy was buzzing all around me. Some people were smiling and bouncing excitedly, some staring blankly forward (likely arranging their mental game), others prepping their data recording, face down to their wrist monitors. We’d have to loop down a little further, the announcer said, to space out our starts because there were too many of us for the too-narrow entry point. This would add a tiny bit more distance. I tried not to think about it.

Then the countdown, then the launch, then the huddled bumbling and spreading out of the field, then . . . we were off and running. We were running an ultramarathon! 

 . . . and we were running really fast . . .

Hills, Broken Dreams, Bloody Footprints And Triumph

My assessment of the group turned out to be correct—most of these people were beasts. Our starting pace was blistering—literally. I felt my foot blister tugging precariously on the tape surrounding it. If the tape comes off, I thought, I’m screwed. I needed to slow down—to save my energy and my foot.  I started looking ahead for a wider section of trail where I could slow down without impeding the herd. 

I hopped and sidestepped roots and rocks, flowing speedily through the dense muteness of the woods. It was beautiful and it was incredibly fun. “I’m on my way to the start. I’m just on my way to the start.” I turned the corner of a switchback and a wider, mountainous stretch of trail presented itself. The realities of the enormous elevation gain I’d face throughout this morning began to sink in.

I pulled to the side and I climbed. And climbed. And climbed. How long is this first hill? How did I not notice this on the elevation maps of the course? Turns out it was around two miles—one of the longest hills of the day. It proved an appropriate intro to the suffering that was to come.

From the peak of that hill, the following miles blurred in hurried joy. My legs were fresh and my tape was holding. I smiled uncontrollably. I was going to do this! I was going to smoke that cut-off! I turned another corner to head into an incredibly steep descent near mile 10. I was going fast. I was going really fast. I was going too fast. 

I landed forcefully with my right foot and . . .

Rrrriiipp!

The tape protecting my sizeable blister caught my shoe and tore my foot wide open. The pain was incredible.

I could feel the warmth of pooling blood when I started an in-motion assessment of the situation. This hurt. It was going to hurt with every foot strike. Could I run 20-plus more miles like this? Would it lead to permanent damage? After some testing and gait adjustment, I decided it was safe to try. My music became distraction from the pain, and I soldiered on. With my now significantly slower pace, the thought of missing the time cut-off began to creep back in.

My throbbing, bleeding foot was one thing, but my bladder refused to be ignored. I kept seeing blissfully relieved runners emerge from the trees, but alas, I was not as skilled at finding a spot to call my Honey Bucket. I didn’t want to potentially poop in front of everyone, so I clenched and kept on running.

Who knows how many hobbly, full-bladdered miles later, after building a smoldering hatred for whoever designed this hilly course, I came to the base of yet another hill. A race volunteer was there to make sure I made the turn and we smiled at each other. 

What followed was the steepest, longest, dream-crusher of hills. I slowed to a walk and screamed with anger at the race organizers. What the hell is wrong with these people?! Did they enjoy torturing the participants? Why, why, WHY would you send us out here for a special loop just to add this hill?! 

Continuing to walk at the top of the hill, now deep in the woods with no sense of how far I had to go, I was very much alone, and I began to ugly-cry. My foot hurt and trailed bloody marks wherever I ran, I had unpleasantly discovered that the mouthpieces of my water bottles were filled with mold, the race organizers were assholes, and I was tired and needed to pee. I was done in every way a person can be done.

The hill had broken me, but it had done so in the middle of nowhere. Thank the Universe this was where I lost hope—it made it impossible to quit. There was no exit for miles, so I had no choice but to continue on. I took a deep breath, watched another suffering runner pass me by, then picked up my feet and shuffled forward. At least if I’m running, I thought, I’ll be able to quit sooner. 

But as I ran, I regained my resolve. I was OK. I was going to be OK. With all that had gone wrong, far more had gone right. This isn’t over until I say it is, and I believe in myself too much to just give up.

What felt like a long time later, I returned to the place where the volunteer stood. “Way to go!” he shouted, “You’re doing an awesome job!” His cheering lit a fire in my heart and washed away my residual doubt. I told him the hill had been rough, and he assured me it broke many people that day. “But don’t worry—it gets easier from here.” 

I asked him what mile I was at, and he informed me I was past mile 18. I’M GOING TO MAKE THE CUT-OFF! I’m going to finish this!

I hobbled past mile 19 with time to spare and hobbled on past mile 20 and mile 24. I had the glorious relief of (publicly) emptying my bladder, I hit and overcame more walls than I can count, I found a wonderful running partner for the final handful of miles, and I sprinted downhill to the smiles, cheers and satisfaction of the finish line.

The “joy” of enduring became real with the relief of stopping, and my breaking created space for growth and connection beyond the limitations I’d created for myself. Feats like this aren’t remembered in their monstrous entirety; they, like life, are remembered in moments. Moments of happiness, moments of anticipation, moments of suffering and moments of hope. When I was finally finished, bleeding and bruised and smiling and now biblically-known to several participants, I found gratitude and happiness in all of the moments of my suffering, and I found myself.

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TRUSTING THE PATH

Adrift, Ladies.

Sometimes life’s circumstances leave us a solitary speck, waves carrying us on a whim whichever way they’re compelled. Not who-am-I aimless, not what-should-I-do-with-my-life confused & purposeless, not I-give-up helpless, but confined and rendered ineffective by forces beyond our control or understanding.

Continual purposeful paddling in opposition to these seemingly inescapable whirlpools can drain you emotionally and physically, and nothing makes your heart sink faster than looking up from your brow-sweaty efforts to see you’re still exactly where you started. You’ve tried different angles, different rhythms, different patterns, you’re dedicated and refuse to give up – but somehow these efforts have failed to culminate in meaningful progress – be it employment, artistic progression, physical feats, or other things you consider essential to living.

Sometimes life gives you lemons, and sometimes life gives you lemons, shits on them, and sets them ablaze on your doorstep.

Le sigh… what the f&*k is a Lady to do?

Rule #1 – breathe. Seriously, this isn’t an inauthentic om-ism – take a deep breath. In all likelihood you’ve been holding it in effort or huffing so shallowly your body’s been refused the physical release of a belly-filling breath. It’s simple, and it helps you connect with your body and your aliveness. This moment is a blessing many less-lucky would give anything for – never forget that. You are alive – you have the opportunity to weather this storm and come out the other end. Without that breath, we have nothing. That small but significant thing – opportunity/potential – breeds hope. Sometimes that’s all you’ll have, but it is something, and it is profound.

These consuming tides are what living is, and each one we survive breeds resiliency. While that doesn’t help you right now (it occasionally makes this Lady want to slap somebody – I’ll trade that resiliency for a break, please), it gives you context, and it can help you let go of what you have no control over.

And that is the key – this time, this frustrating, depressing time may not be immediately changeable. It’s all a part of the path of your life, the unfolding events that shape who you will become. Sometimes there is no clarity of where it is this route is taking you, but it is taking you somewhere – somewhere you cannot even imagine because it is somewhere you have yet to be. Are you going to exhaust yourself swimming upstream for the rest of your life, or can you let yourself be carried to a shore you’ve never known?

Circumstances cannot be addressed, but inner work and exploration can. Do something you enjoy, work on it every day, and put your work out there. Keep moving, stop fighting things you cannot change, and give yourself a break – you’re doing all you can and that is enough.

To Ladies & Lady-lovers feeling the exhaustion of stalled riding into headwinds: you are not alone and the winds will change eventually. They always do, even if it’s not as quickly as we’d like. Embrace the unfolding of your own path, no matter how slowly, and remember that the path is yours and yours alone – how beautiful it is that no one and nothing can take that entirely unique experience away from you.

I’ll be taking life’s steaming, lemony shit-pile and making it into compost. The seeds planted will bring harvest, and till then bike rides, art, tea, and ugly crying help ease the anxiety of waiting.

Keep riding, metaphor-ing, and trusting life, Ladies!

XOXO

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ARTICLES OF NOTE

Happy holiday Monday, Ladies & Lady-lovers!

Here’s your internet interestingness to launch an inquisitive week!

1) BRINGING BREAKFAST BACK

The food may be delicious (scrambles and benedicts and biscuits, oh my!), but I’d have to agree with this opinion piece from the NYTimes – the peaking popularity of wake-up-at-noon, binge-until-coma, peter-pan-non-adulthood brunch culture may finally be on its way out. The new fad in noshing? Good ol’ fashioned breakfast at early-enough hours that allow for a full day of adventure and living :)

2) REDUCE CAR LANES = CHEAP, LIFE-AND-LIMB SAVING, CONGESTION REDUCING SOLUTION

Three $500,000 (read: VERY CHEAP) road diets in Portland, OR have reduced crashes by 37%, traffic volumes by 6.41%, and speeds by 9.82%. Wow! As has been proven time and time again, reducing road size and improving two-wheeled and two-footed access reduces congestion and makes streets more livable – for everyone. Always nice to see more research bolstering the concepts!

3) THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION IS MULTI-MODAL

The culmination of a series from The Atlantic Cities, this article reviews the culmination of their research – cities are increasingly implementing multi-modal, active transportation systems. Looks like the end of the “cars for everything” era may finally be upon us, Ladies!

4) THE ORIGINS OF EBOLA – AN INTERVIEW WITH THE SCIENTIST WHO DISCOVERED IT

Who knew that a cooler with a broken vial of blood from a nun in the Congo would lead to the discovery of the incredibly virulent disease that the globe is facing today? An Interview with the original scientist behind the discovery is like reading the transcript to a terrifying film – mysterious death, unknown cause, sneaking samples away from government authorities for further testing, inoculating mice who seem initially seem fine, then one by one, start to die… very interesting context provided by this BBC interview.

5) THE “SOLITARY INTIMACY” OF READING & WRITING

From the article:

The object we call a book is not the real book, but its potential, like a musical score or seed. It exists fully only in the act of being read; and its real home is inside the head of the reader, where the symphony resounds, the seed germinates. A book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another… Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them… writing is speaking to no one, and even when you’re reading to a crowd, you’re still in that conversation with the absent, the faraway, the not-yet-born, the unknown and the long-gone for whom writers write, the crowd of the absent who hover all around the desk.”

Have a beautiful Indigenous People’s Day, and keep on riding and enjoying life, Ladies!

XOXO

hair for helmet

PREVENTING HELMET HAIR

Hello, Ladies & Lady-lovers! Welcome to Fall – brought to you by the flavor of pumpkin!

As leaves turn, dry, and drop and temperatures welcome warmer attire, a quintessential two-wheeled dilemma rears its disheveled head – helmet hair.

It’s a kind of sweaty smushing in the summer, a wild, woebegone wash in the winter, and a half-sweat half-frizz fro for the spring & fall. Regardless of your unique head-nest, helmet hair can impede the chicness of your cycling.

Reader @rebeccadbar inquired on twitter about dealing with the follicular disarray, so I thought I’d pass along some advice!

1) THE SCRUNCH & HAND-TEASE: Since the most common form of hair du helmet is a cemented hair encasement of your skull, this technique seeks to preserve body. Basically, you take the top half of your hair, twist it into a bun or pseudo-bun on the very apex of your head (no hair tie required!). You then place your helmet over the bun and ride, letting your hair down upon arrival. The raised bun keeps your roots upright and stops the squish. When you get there, use your hand – with fingers spread apart like you’re holding a large ball – to jush your mane from the roots, helping your ‘do fall back into place. If your hair is too short for a bun, just lift roots up and back pre helmet – it has the same effect.

2) TRY A HELMET-FRIENDLY TIE-BACK: Low ponytails and buns to the rescue! If your hair is long enough, you can give up the fight and just roll with the realities of wearing a helmet. Here are some options to try, and I’d add the loveliness of a side-swept braid to your arsenal if your hair is long enough.

3) HEADBANDS: These can look professional, stylish, sporty, or hippie-chic – le versatile! They also allow you to prop up the front portion of your hair upon arrival, helping to hide helmet effects. Check out Etsy for all sorts of options.

Keep riding and looking lovely, Ladies!

XOXO

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ARTICLES OF NOTE

A glorious smells-like-fall Monday to you, Ladies & Lady-lovers!

Here’s your internet interestingness to start the week with open and fascinated minds :)

1) IN INTERNATIONAL INTERESTINGNESS: SCOTLAND MIGHT LEAVE THE UK

Scotland may soon be fully independent – haggis and kilts for everyone! The link above explains what’s going on (note: according the the BBC…) and provides arguments for and against this historic vote.

2) THE GOVERNMENT WANTS YOU TO HELP HARNESS WAVE POWER

Got some innovative ideas and designs for wave power generators? Now’s your chance to change history! NASA and the DOE want to move us towards sustainable technology by cracking the code of wave power. One problem: they’re stuck. Much as the Arab Spring harnessed the power of the public via the internets, so, too is the government seeking new perspective by tapping ideas from any and everyone across the USA. They’ve provided open source software to measure the effectiveness of your designs, so if you’ve got a good idea, submit it! Some lovely open-source do-goodery for the environmental and Ladies everywhere.

3) E-BIKE CONVERSION KIT THAT PROVIDES ASSIST TUNED TO YOUR HEART-RATE (EXPLAINED TO OVERLY-DRAMATIC MUSIC)

Falco already provides some great and durable kits to convert your bike to a pedal-assisted e-bike, but their new design offers off-road capable, heart-rate controlled assist – new technology that sounds incredibly cool! Their kickstarter video explains the technology with the giggle-inducing bonus of background tunes appropriate for the lead-up to battle in LOTR or GOT. Seriously – who picked the music?

4) ADDING BIKE LANES REDUCES TRAFFIC DELAYS

Yep – building safer infrastructure for Ladies & Lady-lovers on two-wheels can actually IMPROVE congested roads, and now there are studies proving it. From the article:

Rather than increase delay for cars, the protected bike lanes on Columbus actually improved travel times in the corridor. According to city figures, the average car took about four-and-a-half minutes to go from 96th to 77th before the bike lanes were installed, and three minutes afterward—a 35 percent decrease in travel time. This was true even as total vehicle volume on the road remained pretty consistent. In simpler terms, everybody wins.

5) DNA TESTING MEANS WE MAY FINALLY KNOW WHO JACK THE RIPPER WAS

It only took 126 years, but huzzah for closure! The info and process appears to be legitimate – testing of a shawl with both the blood of The Ripper’s victim and semen from the attacker – and has led to a 100% mitochondrial DNA match to a known suspect: Aaron Kosminski. I’ll still hold out on official declarations until I see this news re-printed by a source other than The Daily Mail…

6) THE VALUE OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP

C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves examines the different intimate bonds we form with one another, including what he considers the “rarest, least jealous, and most profound relation” – friendship. From the book & post:

In a circle of true Friends each man is simply what he is: stands for nothing but himself. No one cares twopence about anyone else’s family, profession, class, income, race, or previous history. Of course you will get to know about most of these in the end. But casually. They will come out bit by bit, to furnish an illustration or an analogy, to serve as pegs for an anecdote; never for their own sake. That is the kingliness of Friendship. We meet like sovereign princes of independent states, abroad, on neutral ground, freed from our contexts. This love (essentially) ignores not only our physical bodies but that whole embodiment which consists of our family, job, past and connections. At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague, or subordinate. Not among our Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.

 

Hence (if you will not misunderstand me) the exquisite arbitrariness and irresponsibility of this love. I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which gave value to survival.

Have a wondrous week, and as always, remember to enjoy the ride, Ladies :)

XOXO

Smallness

CONQUERING YOURSELF

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.   -Sir Edmund Hillary

Climbing mountains, whether on two feet or two wheels, is a feat of endurance and strength and pain and mental fortitude nearly incomparable to any other experience. When you take yourself, under your own power, to the top of something that looms over landscape and dominates skylines, it feels surreal. In fact, beyond a kind of intense happy, it doesn’t feel like anything until I’ve returned to earth and processed hours or days of trekking, memories now inextricably amalgamated.

In this quest for adventure in its highest form, many turn their thoughts to the mountain – a target they have overtaken, a landscape they have beaten in some self-imagined conquest.

After hiking the indescribably beautiful Kalalau trail on Kauai’i, I still remember the comment from my AirBnb host the morning after sleeping off the last 11 miles of up-and-overs. After commenting on a planned noodly-legged waterfall hike for the afternoon, he raised his hands and pulled his chin back in a hold-your-horses kind of way. “Well, don’t overdo it. I know how coming back from that trail you feel like superman, ya know, like the big man who conquered the Island.” No, you know, I didn’t know what he meant. If anything, hiking that trail left me in awe of the immensity and rawness of the Island and my comparative smallness in this world and this life. If rain had hit earlier in the day or while I was on exposed landslide areas, if the lightning that night had come ashore, if I had misplaced one step I might not have been standing on this guy’s stoop, sipping from a fresh coconut he had generously drilled open. Nature is a force we can never match – think otherwise and she stands to show you how wrong you are.

Hikes and summits like that, where you’re given moments of intimate exposure to the untouched wildness of this world and your own tenuous existence, they’ve never left me with the arrogance of domination – they’ve left me humbled. I overcome my own mental and physical resistance, I push beyond what I’ve known I could, I MacGyver oh-shit mountaineering and weather scenarios (and improvise upon realizing I’ve yet again forgotten to pack toilet paper), but all of these breakthroughs and accomplishments had more to do with me getting out of my own way – nature was just kind enough to hold off life-ending conditions until I could exit to civilization. It’s those moments where you realize you have absolutely no control… the weather or a downed tree or a dry water source or a bear could easily destroy best laid plans. All you can control are your movements and your focus, one moment at a time, particularly in places and slopes less conducive to survival. You have to live entirely and fully right now or living may no longer be an option.

This kind of mindfulness, as I was once told, is like being a duck in the vastness of the ocean – you cannot truly see anything but the crest of the nearest wave, you cannot feel anything but the rhythm of where you currently are, and who knows the immensity of what’s passing beneath you. Happiness comes from letting go of what you cannot see, paddling in whatever direction you wish, and learning to enjoy the ride. When I’ve crested the top of a mountain, much like most summits in life, all I can do is breathe it in and remind myself I’m only half way.

The quote from Sir Edmund Hillary is succinct and true – getting lost and getting high bring you face to face with the mountainous unexplored-self. Tallying peaks and elevation give you nothing but lists on paper that fade with time, but letting go and cracking yourself open can let in the beauty of this imperfect life in the very imperfect moment.

So what’s your mountain and what do you have to let go of to find the summit?

Keep climbing, climbing, climbing, Ladies :)

XOXO

Riding Coat

TRIED AND TRUE

Coats. Not just pretty, warm coats, but coats that move well, breathe well, and keep rain off well enough for riding year round. I wore my down puffy beneath a rainshell for years, but the look was… not ideal – Michelin Man-esque and more appropriate for backpacking than political hearings.

I posted a while back about gorgeous rain coats made by a lovely Lady in the UK – The Cambridge Raincoat Company. I still recommend these lovely threads, but I’m adding another option to the list.

Slightly less expensive, designed and founded in Portland, OR, made from recycled and low-impact materials, I’ve found the perfect go-to coat for just about everything! And after extended experience with their product and stellar customer service, I’m officially offering my pick for the top two-wheeled commute-coat maker: Nau!

The designs and details are spot on, clean, and sophisticated, the inner lining is luxuriously soft, and the coat cleans (& stays clean) easily. Style AND practicality – a lovely combination! And huge kudos for an oversized collar that seconds as a face warmer & wind shield – an easy single handed, one-button conversion while riding. I’m currently loving the Shroud of Purrin Trench, with added length to keep my thighs dry but enough stretch to prevent hinderance to leg movement. It isn’t fully waterproof – just resistant – but it holds up to year-round Portland-misting, light rain, and dries pretty quickly after downpours.

I encourage you to buy from and support this awesome, USA based company. Yes, they manufacture outside of the US, but they’re transparent about it and have standards far beyond most apparel producers. I buy USA made, particularly locally made, whenever possible. This is one instance where their ethical and environmental standards coupled with a commitment to headquarters in the USA made the purchase alright with my standards. I still hope for USA manufacturing in their future, and encourage you to send along a give-us-a-USA-made-option request to them, too!

The cost is moderate for a coat that lasts years (my first Nau coat is still in excellent condition after wearing it, sweating in it, and testing its limits nearly daily for almost 3 years), but you can also best your they-still-have-my-size luck and reap major savings from their yearly sale, which usually happens at the beginning of the summer.

For a full-on raincoat, check out Cambridge. For your everything-else coat? Nau’s the way to go.

Keep riding beautifully & comfortably, Ladies!

XOXO

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ARTICLES OF NOTE

Allo, lovelies!

Here’s your Monday interestingness for the last week of August. Filled with bikes, gear fixing, bikes, coconut fig popsicle, and creativity:

 

1) HOW TO GET LAWMAKERS TO PRIORITIZE BIKE SAFETY OVER PARKING

Apparently context matters. A successful example out of Montreal shows that calculating the potential number of spots in relation to ALL area parking when proposing a conversion to safer bicycle lanes helped lawmakers, residents, and businesses understand how small of a percentage was actually being converted – and how underutilized parking is in general.

2) BACKPACKING DIY: HOW TO FIX A BROKEN ZIPPER

Finally! My rain jacket can be re-used! Here’s a great DIY from Backpacker Magazine with tips and needed tools to fix your wonky or broken zipper. May your sleeping bags, tents, and all other zipper-joined materials be useable once again!

3) MORE PEOPLE BIKING TO WORK IN A RURAL COUNTY? AWESOME!

Yet again, my birth state continues to make glorious progress! I grew up near Harford County, MD, and can confirm it’s a place where most homes are ranked “car dependent” on WalkScore.com, making sidewalks a fantasy, let alone infrastructure for people on bicycles. UNTIL NOW! More people are riding these country roads and not just weekend warriors – work commuting atop two-wheels is on the rise! Let’s see what happens, but if it continues to get better, this area could set a national example for other, more rural places (like Washington County, OR) where people on bicycles have traditionally been considered an out-of-place rarity & nuisance.

4) BICYCLE FRIENDLY BUSINESS DISTRICTS IN NYC!

5) MMMM… CHAI SPICED, COCONUT FIG POPSICLES (GF & VEGAN)

Figs are ripening, it’s f*&king hot outside, and coconut milk is delicious! Check out this awesome, simple summer recipe that’s sure to please friends, loved ones, and your mouth.

6) HOW TO BOOST CREATIVITY WITH AN IDEAL DAILY ROUTINE

Trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to get some writing or creative work done? “The Psychology of Writing” by Ronald T. Kellogg offers insight into how our environment shapes our productiveness, what details detract from the process, and how important a daily routine can be. A few snippets from the post:

Kellogg reviews a vast body of research to extract a few notable findings. Among them is the role of background noise, which seems to fall on a bell curve of fecundity: High-intensity noise that exceeds 95 decibels disrupts performance on complex tasks but improves it on simple, boring tasks — noise tends to raise arousal level, which can be useful when trying to stay alert during mindless and monotonous work, but can agitate you out of creative flow when immersed in the kind of work that requires deliberate, reflective thought.

 

…But the key psychological function of  [dedicated] environments isn’t so much superstitious ritualization — an effort to summon the muse through the elaborate juju of putting everything in its right place — as cognitive cueing. Kellogg considers the usefulness of a special space used solely for writing, which cultivates an “environment that cues the desired behavior”

 

…This strategy is rather similar to the one most often recommended for treating insomnia — instituting a regular bedtime and using the bedroom as a space dedicated solely to sleep, in order to optimize the brain’s ability to enter rest mode upon going to bed and cue that behavior each night just by entering that environment.

 

And Kellogg’s insight into the usefulness of cultivating a productive morning:

 

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until morning when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that.”

 

Well, I’ve filled my creative space for morning and am off for the day!

Enjoy the blooms and flavors and scents of the height of summer, and keep on pedaling, Ladies!

XOXO

Last Child in the Woods

BOOK OF THE MONTH

Hey Ladies & Lady-Lovers! I’ve been doing quite a bit of technical reading as of late due to thesis research requirements, but I’m finding time to check out fascinating and engaging reads as my weight-luxury on the trails (along with tea/coffee).

And so, as my giddiness for particular books increases, I thought I’d pass along a book I’m loving each month.

As we head towards September, I’ll pass along a well-written, well researched, interestingness-loaded non-fiction read: Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Having kids? Already have kids? Don’t want kids, but want confirmation that your backyard-fort-building and tech-lite childhood was better than modern iphone-facebook-zombie childhood? Just want to learn some cool stuff about the effects of being in nature? Then read this book!

Louv compiles research and accessible theory to explain why exposure to nature is integral to our mental and physical health, particularly for kids. He reviews ADHD, our overuse of medication, and how nature can serve as an effective cure for our frazzled selves. A little from the book:

“Our brains are set up for an agrarian, nature-oriented existence that came into focus five thousand years ago… neurologically, human beings haven’t caught up with today’s overstimulating environment… we know this anecdotally, though we can’t prove it yet.”

New studies may offer that proof… In 1890, James described two kinds of attention: directed attention and fascination (i.e., involuntary attention). In the early 1970’s, the Kaplans began a nine-year study for the U.S. Forest Service. They followed participants in an Outward Bound-like wilderness program, which took people into the wilds for two weeks. During these treks and afterward, subjects reported experiencing a sense of peace and an ability to think more clearly; they also reported that just being in nature was more restorative than the physically challenging activities… for which such programs are mainly known. The positive effect of what the Kaplans came to call “the restorative environment” was vastly greater than [researchers] expected it to be.

“If you can find an environment where the attention is automatic, you allow directed attention to rest. And that means an environment that’s strong on fascination.” The fascination factor associated with nature is restorative, and it helps relieve people from directed-attention fatigue.

Very cool, very interesting, and super informative. Nature makes you feel good – now you can learn why.

Enjoy the reads, buy from a local bookstore, and keep on pedaling, Ladies!

XOXO

mountain bike oregon

ADVENTURE AT MOUNTAIN BIKE OREGON

Hello Ladies & Lady-Lovers! I’m back and refreshed after tagging along on Mountain Bike Oregon this past weekend.

An aside: As someone relatively new to mountain biking, I have to encourage Ladies a little hesitant to ride off-road to push past fear and give it a try. Meandering through the forest on two wheels feels like moving meditation, and the sights you’d otherwise not see, and animals that cross your path, make the experience magical. Handling comes with time and miles, and till you’re ready for root drops and rougher terrain, there are tons of beginner and intermediate trails to choose from.

So as I sit sipping my morning caffeinated beverage (these guys are some of the best coffee roasters in PDX) reflecting on three days of camping and beautiful riding in the mountains around Oakridge, OR, I find I’m left with three lessons:

1) To improve handling, LET GO

2) Talk to strangers

2) Gin is not an appropriate sports beverage

As a Lady only recently dipping a toe into the MTB world, I was excited to expand my skill set on some of the gorgeous central Oregon trails I’ve heard so much about. I watched videos, read reviews, and made a mental list of which rides I’d be giving a go. I’m currently training for an amazing adventure tentatively scheduled for next spring (stay tuned…) for which I not only need to hone my off-roading skills, but need to purchase a well-fitting, trek-specific mountain bike.

Mountain Bike Oregon includes shuttles to the top of trails, a beer (& hopped cider!) garden, meals included, and what I needed most: access to demo bikes. I’ve only ridden an older steel Schwinn mtb named Bumblebee, who handles quite wonderfully, but I needed to get a feel for rides beyond what I’ve tried. Gearing? Wheel size? Never-ending, not-necessarily-needed accoutrements? I had no clue what worked for me, and I hoped this trip would give me a better idea. Oh, and the ability to improve my steeper, cliff-edged, curving, root-dropping, sketchier descents which I heretofore tended to hike-a-bike through.

The trip was phenomenal, it was an adventure, and all but one goal was attained. I feel fulfilled, and I can’t wait to head back out there to ride some more.

LET GO

Having been lucky enough to have raced a wee bit of Portland cyclocross (thanks to the urging of a phenomenal friend and a group of absolutely wonderful people. I suck, by the way, but it’s really fun!), I had previously learned, with eyes wide and stomach in mouth, that the sketchiest of descents requires release – you have to stare down impending-maiming, take a deep breath, go relatively limp, shift your weight back, and just go for it. The slower you go, the more you try to brake, the more you hold on, the more likely you are to flip head-over-handlebars or crash in other equally damaging ways. Trust your bike, it will ride over most rocks and roots and mud if you keep your speed. Slow down and you’ll fail to gain needed momentum to overtake obstacles. It feels similar to technique for effectively skiing moguls.

This technique was never more apparent than on my trips through North Fork, an intermediate Oakridge trail, where the let-go approach sort of reversed itself. This lesson on descents is now ingrained in my muscle fibers, but I never knew that CLIMBING applied the same concept until I rode parts of this trail. Overtaking a bolder on an uphill? Relax and keep pedaling, and for gods sake, follow through. You’ve grunted your front tire up and over – good for you! But you have an entire second tire that needs to clear the rock. This is where the gearing on the Niner bike I demoed became essential. Keep the gearing low, release your fear and hesitation, and just keep pedaling. NO MATTER WHAT. My only crashes this weekend? T-tipping over (and down a small cliff) as I failed to get my back tire up and over something large, all because I hesitated out of fear that I wouldn’t make it.

And so the lesson that applies not only to riding, but to almost everything in life – relax, believe in yourself, and move towards what makes you afraid. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try, and you’ll never expand your world and yourself if you don’t loosen your grip.

TALK TO STRANGERS

Stranger danger! We’re molded by our culture to be afraid of, well, everything outside of our immediate family and friends and gated neighborhoods. But this is a large part of the beauty of traveling and exploring by yourself – you’re FORCED to interact with people you don’t know. And guess what was reinforced for me this weekend? Most people are good and respond to openness and kindness. This opening to the unknown is what I like to call “adventure”, whether it’s in the kitchen, on a trail, or in social interaction. This is what makes life fascinating and engaging and growth-producing throughout the years you’re lucky enough to have. If you were raised in a bubble-wrap-suburban childhood like myself, openness takes time and mindful practice to cultivate. But it’s worth it – it will change nearly everything about your life.

I encountered some absolutely lovely people that made this trip for me. Some from Oakridge (make sure to check out the amazing Ladies working over at Lion Mountain Bakery if you’re in town), some from California, some from Portland, some originally from New Zealand & the UK, some from Australia (and yes, the rivalry between the two is more than Flight of The Concords fodder), and all from varied backgrounds and age groups.

I owe it all to volunteering (the Nossa Familia coffee family is molto bene – check out their brews if you get the chance) and to accidentally hanging my hammock within the camp of a group of guys that welcomed me into their chats and beer garden jaunts when I wasn’t being anti-social with my reading and napping (the latter mostly due to gin…). They made me laugh, their personalities and guitar collections blew me away, and I truly hope to stay in touch with them. My weekend wouldn’t have been the greatness it was without all of these people, and I wouldn’t have met any of them if I hadn’t exited my comfort zone of solitude to talk to people I didn’t know.

GIN IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE SPORTS BEVERAGE 

And finally, to the lesson of re-learning lessons. I spent most of my college years as a partier (and high school for that matter). I got great grades, I overachieved, and I got completely blitzed most nights of the week. Life, as it turns out, is more of an un-doing than a becoming – you have to work diligently to un-become the person your hometown, your family, and everyone but yourself has shaped you into. To really know yourself, to really be yourself, you have to figure that shit out on your own by forcing yourself outside of situations and places you’re comfortable in.

The process is particularly challenging if you grew up contorted – creating a habit out of forcing yourself into boxes that were ill-fitting at best. Long ago I acknowledged that I don’t like getting wasted – I’m so much happier taking all of that in moderation, waking up with the sunrise, and getting out to do something physical in the outdoors. Occasional partying? Sure. But on the whole, it’s just not who I am anymore – it was never who I was.

And so I reminded myself of that with gin and delicious cider this past weekend, as did many other painfully hung over riders. Chatting and hanging out with people was amazing! Drinking far too much was not, and was entirely my fault. I should know my limits by now… but once you’ve had a drink it seems like more and more of a good idea to keep on drinking, and old patterns reappear. If I had paced myself and been an adult, I wouldn’t have had the worst hangover I’ve had in a long time (I also could have avoided nearly falling asleep on a bathroom floor and being helped back to my campsite, which in my drunkenness I couldn’t find, by a good Lady Samaritan).

Yah, I embarrassed myself. But I had a great time with my campmates, reminded myself of my priorities, and ensured that I will never again forget the late-onset-drunkenness of gin. Next time I’ll make the same decisions – minus a handful of drinks.

Riding is magical, Oakridge trails are glorious, and people are pretty awesome. This experience was great and I’m on my way to getting a great mountain bike so I can continue to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors in new and sometimes-challenging ways. More than anything, this trip reinforced my gratitude. Gratitude for a working body, the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have, and the adventures I have yet to experience.

So get out there, Ladies & Lady-lovers! Adventure awaits, and nobody can find it but you :)

XOXO

PS- The links above have more about the trails in Oakridge. If you missed MBO, head out on your own! The West Fir Lodge is a great B&B at the trail head, or you can head 30 miles down the road to Waldo Lake for camping and a 22 mile, easy-intermediate mtb loop with gorgeous views (plus kayaking!).