Trail run training - stop and smell the pollen


An active life – it’s brought me adventure, uncontainable smiling, and peeks into intimate corners of the natural world. Whether it’s running for… forever, or biking through forests, or latching to mountainsides and rockwalls, or contorting into daily asanas, being physical consistently breaks myself and my world open to daylight.

So, dear Ladies (and Lady-lovers), I find myself yet again drawn to the rigors and release of training. I’ve decided to run my second 50k trail run in May (tips and insights from training to come!), it’s looking more and more likely I’ll be biking the entire Great Divide Trail and parts of the CDT this summer, and I’ve committed myself to 100 days of yoga practice.

This could, indeed, be permanent-hobble damaging and insane, as some friends have commented, but ruminating over my disconnect from the negative connotations of these feats led me to a very clear and important differentiation.

See, I’ve met the people who have mentalities so inflexible their bodies must bend (or break) to accommodate their goals. Top-o’-the-line gear, beep beeping watch alarms for perfected nutritional intake, finishing times cemented as “musts” rather than aims. This performance perfection mentality works for some, but for this Lady, just thinking about this level of obsession makes me exhausted.

I do physical things to let go – to stop clinging to life and it’s unfolding as if I have any control over it. Central to my training and my adventures is a clear and empty mind. I’m calling it the zen of endurance. When I run with my mind set on what I’ll have accomplished at mile 32, I’m living in mile 32. But what about mile 5? Mile 19? Or my nemesis – mile 23? If I reside in where I’ve yet to be, I fail to experience the beauty (and discomfort, and everything) of where I am. But where I’m heading doesn’t actually exist for me till I get there, and if I cannot learn to experience joy where I am, how will I ever be happy? I think this sums it up nicely:

Most music tries to control its circumstances, just as most of us do. But there’s another way to live. Accept indeterminacy as a principle, and you see your life in a new light, as a series of seemingly unrelated jewel-like stories within a dazzling setting of change and transformation. Recognize that you don’t know where you stand, and you will begin to watch where you put your feet. That’s when a path appears. – Kay Larson

I read that passage the day before I rode my bicycle from Seattle to Portland for the first time – my first ever century (100 miles)… times two. It proved apropos. I had arrived with a bicycle computer mounted upon my handlebars, my timing and pace monitoring providing me reliable belief in my ability to finish without collapse.

The next morning, as I set off in the middle of a sardined peloton before the world had awoken, I heard a kind of clink as I turned a sharp corner on rocky pavement. The shaking from the proliferative potholes loosened my computer and off it flew, never to be found. My plans were erased and the comfort of control had been ripped away – I was completely on my own.

And that’s the thing – I always was. I thought I needed those numbers, that I needed an outside gauge of my performance, but it was always up to me and my mind. I had to find peace in discomfort and strength in exhaustion. Only through enjoying individual moments could I lay them end-to-end till I reached 100 miles. This meant listening to my body more deeply than I ever had before, backing off when it hurt, laying into pedals when I felt strong, eating when I was getting weak, drinking when I felt parched – these things are never consistent from ride to ride, so why did I ever think I could time them based on some arbitrary understanding of supposed-to’s? As the saying goes, planning is essential – plans are useless.

Each run, each ride, each asana – none are ever repeated. You can run the same route 1000 times, but you’ll never experience this lap ever again, and you never have before. This inquisitive “beginners mind” (treating each experience – no matter how monotonous – as new) can upend your world. It has led me to experience a kind of moving meditation, experiencing anew each time I head out atop two wheels or two feet.

The zen of endurance has brought love to my imperfection, acceptance to a life not quite what I want it to be, appreciation of doing and NOT doing, and muscular thighs (#ladypower). I’ll never win an ultramarathon, I’ll never set world records, but my body feels amazing and I feel happy and connected. What more could a Lady ask for?

Keep riding and finding yourself (always), Ladies!


Photo courtesy of USA Today:


If you spend any time looking around your neighborhood or perusing any host of media outlets, it seems our world and cities are overflowing with despair, injustice, and intemperate holiday consumerism.

Police brutality, global climate change, declining biodiversity, rising inequity and injustice are scattered between “lowest prices of the season!” advertising. It can leave one feeling a wee mortal in the shadow of gargantuan global and societal ills.

Well, it seems, these issues are not a simple stack from which to extricate a particular layer; all of our problems are fundamentally related to one another, and knowing the basis and presence of a problem is indeed the first step in solving or improving it.

The police officer whose gun is all too at-the-ready in black and poor neighborhoods. The person in a car who lays on the horn behind a cyclist traveling at a speed they deem unacceptable. People walking in a distancing arch around the homeless. The indoctrinated evangelist in front of low-income women’s health centers, screaming of god’s love inbetween slurs and condemnations. The terrorist, the rapist, the animal abuser. They all view the object of their aggression and/or judgment as less-than. Other. We’ve labeled and identified and therefore ceased to see the life in front of us. Failing to take each experience and thing on their own merit, failing to view “other” as equally valuable and deserving of basic dignity and respect. You can ride your bike past the same stretch of scenery 100 times and every time is a different experience. But after that first ride, are we even looking anymore?

How often do we really SEE each other? See beyond labels and categories we’ve created in an act of abbreviation between recognized characteristics and our limited, individual understanding? How often do we genuinely ENGAGE with one another? So many structures are in place that breed loneliness and isolation and prejudice that basic interaction and physical sensation are anomalies that cause us discomfort. They become things we seek to avoid.

From couch to car to cubicle and back again. Placed into boxes that define us in limiting terms, but which make us significantly easier to target with holiday marketing campaigns. These physical and social barriers, from car-centric transportation to suburban housing to divisions of class and race, lend themselves to a sensation of suffocation, of searching and yearning for something that we cannot define.

We live with willful ignorance to avoid uncomfortable personal and societal truths and buy stuff we don’t need to feel connected to something, anything – only to be left alone and unfulfilled when the high of consumption inevitably wanes. The yearning for connection, belonging, and the sense that we’re genuinely included is a basic human tendency. We all experience it, we all need it to find sustainable happiness, and many roots of our culture place things, gates, and steel-boxes between us and connecting with nature and neighbor. 

Compassion requires stepping outside of your own circumstances to experience another’s, but when we’re boxed in literally and figuratively, it’s incredibly difficult to see anything beyond our own reflection. Think about it: what social problems DON’T arise from our lack of empathy? And since this is a uniting feature in the valid and vital issues we face, wouldn’t the cultivation of compassion in ourselves and our policies provide a foundation from which to address everything else?

Our internal structures shape how we treat one another, and our built environment influences interaction. Even something as basic as making eye contact on the street increases our happiness, sense of connection, and sense of value. Moving beyond highways and car-centric transportation can help improve mental health in sound reduction alone while removing walls of asphalt and pollution that segregate and separate communities. Police who regularly patrol a single community on foot might be more likely to see neighbors instead of potential criminals. Eliminating advertising in public spaces provides respite from the demands and detriments of unrelenting mental stimulation. Cities that cultivate compassion through community-shaped police policy, shared-space focused urban design, prioritized active and public transportation systems, accessible and well-funded education, and other community-centric policy can alleviate the symptoms we see superficially, including crime, police indifference and brutality, and economic decline. This is the city of the future. This is how we confront the issues that pile upon one another, leaving us feeling inadequate to address them.

Seeing this common thread is especially empowering in our daily lives. Every person you acknowledge, every story of racial indignity you refuse to ignore, every trip you take by bike, every local small business you patronize, is activism. Every seed of connection and love that you plant creates hope for future generations.

So go say hello to someone random, engage friends in discussions about race and injustice, ride your bike or walk for your errands, and keep looking for ways to promote love and compassion. Someone once said, “we’re all in this together”. That person spoke in clichés, but they also spoke truth. XOXO

The Triumphs (And Humiliations) of My First Ultramarathon

Allo, Ladies & Lady-lovers!

Check out my first article published over at 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 . . .


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.



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!




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 :)


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.


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.


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.


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 :)


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!).

Women's 100k 2014


There are myriad ways to run away from things.

Shut down emotionally, move to new cities every six months, speak appeasement rather than truth, silence an incoming call, leave an e-mail unopened, float along in just-comfortable-enough circumstances. Regardless the modus operandi, you find a way away from whatever it is that urges you to turn and run.

For a significant portion of my life, for a significant amount of reasons, I was the queen of running away. Switch majors, move to a new town, sink further into a not-quite-right relationship.

Risk of exposing whoever-it-is that I was – to myself and others – was quickly quashed in one way or another. And for a time, this pattern worked for me. It kept me comfortable, it prevented a rattling of cages I’d rather not open, and it allowed the conceptions of myself and my world created in the image of my parents and an ill-fitting hometown to remain intact.

But that’s the thing about avoiding reality and inconvenient truths: they don’t go away, and at some point you must choose to face them or cling ever-more-tightly to an inauthentic life. And living a life that isn’t your own? It’s a lonely existence. How can you really connect with anything if your can’t connect with yourself?

Well, at some point, I realized something was amiss. I couldn’t put it together, but I knew I needed something… an experience, an adventure, a break from my routine.

I never truly chose to face myself.

I just rode my bicycle 500 miles.


I still remember the 2×2 advertisement in Adirondack Sports & Fitness. I’d picked up the free local newspaper from a wire bin at a local eatery in upstate New York during year two of forcing myself through this-might-not-be-right nursing school. I’d seen several other ads for marathons, trail runs, even a 62 mile bike ride. “Those sound like a challenege, but I don’t know… They don’t seem like enough,” I remember feeling.

Enough of what? I don’t know. I just know that when I saw an ad on one of the final pages of the paper with a cartoon pig riding a bicycle for an event called “The Great Big FANY Ride”, I felt drawn to read more.

F-A-N-Y: Five hundred miles Across New York.

“FIVE HUNDRED miles? I can do that!”

Nevermind I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was a child, that I no longer owned one, that my fitness routine was primarily composed of napping, nor that the event was just over 2 months away. “I can do this. I need to do this.”  I felt empowered by the very idea of attempting something so epic – something so entirely outside of my comfort zone. Without further thought of what it meant, I decided right then I was going to do this ride, and that I would finish. I signed up and paid the entry fee that day.

Next step: buy a bike.


Fast forward a handful of years, and the bike – Lady Steed – that original bike that carried me through excitement, frustration, pain, sores in all sorts of areas, repair-caused pinch-flat embarrassment, joy, and every other imaginable emotion and sensation that unearths itself during the physical release of endurance events has now ridden roads and mountains throughout the country, including those original life-changing 500 across the beautiful state of New York, racking up mile upon mile upon mile of self-propelled experience.

What I learned during that ride and those that followed wasn’t immediately clear, but what you feel with complete clarity is a shift – something significant cracks open.

While I’m in the saddle, I feel a kind of freedom I’ve never known before. I can go anywhere, I can see any place. Boundaries of all kinds lose their solidity. If you put in the effort and, more importantly, really believe in yourself, all is possible. That feeling of self reliance, even in the beginning when it was mixed with a healthy dose of doubt, is incredibly liberating. It’s life changing.

And so, as the pieces have fallen into better fits and lessons have settled into place, I can now see that riding my bike, riding it for more miles than I knew I could, brought me a sense of self that I couldn’t access through habits and ways of living I’d previously relied upon.

I found myself by running away. By running away towards something.


And so we arrive at now, where I’ve dedicated a significant portion of my life to bringing other Women along on rides they never thought they could accomplish. To providing a safe and welcoming entry point to the awesomeness of disproving self-doubt.

This year was the second annual Women’s 100 – a metric century bike ride started by Rapha, the bicycle accessory company. Women all around the world join together in riding 100km the same day as a Tour de France stage of the same length (a race that still lacks Women riders). Rapha is awesome for bringing this ride into existence, but the ride feels somewhat inaccessible to Women entering the bike world – it’s more for Women already racing and riding hard in the high-end gear Rapha produces.

So while a ride has launched from the Rapha headquarters in my city each year (an awesome ride with awesome, fast, relatively experienced Ladies), I’ve led a separate ride for Women who would normally hear “62 miles” and laugh at the sheer implausability of traveling that distance utilizing anything but a car.

That implausibility isn’t really about the distance – it’s the disbelief that you can accomplish something like that, especially in your current noodly-legged state. But as I have shown myself, that doubt is baseless, and proving it so is a magical experience.

The ride took off this year from the same location as last year, Ristretto on Williams (a wonderful coffee shop and roastery), with myself and a handful of others – experienced and not. The majority of Ladies rode further than they ever had before, putting foot to pedal for an adventurous tour of swimming spots, farms, beer-on-tap cycle shops (thanks, Cycle PDX!), street mandalas, almost-there tea, and we-did-it drinks. Sometimes the miles passed without notice, riding abreast immersed in each other’s company. Sometimes the smallest hill felt like hell incarnate.

It was the littlest taste of how things like this, pushing yourself like this, can change everything if you let it. It was a taste of freedom and happiness and the rolling hills of life and love and recreating yourself. It was an experience, and one every Lady should have the chance to be a part of.

And so we will ride next year. By mountains, by cities, by cows and random scenery. We will ride for the try of it. We will ride for ourselves.

And with that, I leave you for the week, Ladies. The featured photo for this post shows the brave and wonderful Women who joined our ride this year. Thanks to everyone who came, and hopefully we’ll see you next year.


Here’s to riding! May you find the ride that changes your life – may you find a ride completely your own :)



Wreaths tacked upon doors, grills, and fenders. Lights stranded meticulously… or haphazardly. Seasonal dustings of warmth atop tops of trees and bushes; neighboring properties swallowed in blizzards of night-time fluorescence (and unfathomable utility bills).

Torrential breezes muffled-yet-audible near globes and larger-than-life-size rotund men in red suits, made more roly-poly in appearance with seams stretched taut, rhythmically rocking with each gust. These inflatable totems contain the “holiday spirit” much like our belts contain our widening ham/tofu/cookie-filled bellies – limits tested and eager to explode.

Walking and riding past each individual display, I can’t help but notice the variations on “holiday” each presents, and how they speak to the lives of the people within.

*A single strand thrown lopsidedly across an overgrown tree: 20-somethings sharing a home, “hey, we decorated!” attempt at creating a more adult home.

*A cascade of perfectly positioned lights from corner-to-corner and back again: wealthier couple with children whose father or mother has made this able-to-enact-whilst-watching-the-kids hobby a yearly tradition, expanding in exorbitance from year to year.

*A modest, imperfect wrapping of several trees and shrubs: 30-somethings, likely a couple, expressing their nostalgic holiday memories while creating new traditions of their own.

Of course this is assumption, but it’s fun to imagine. And all of this nuance, this imagining, these lovely displays soak in more fully when passing atop two-wheels (or two-feet). Taking time to notice. Taking time to absorb all the life, in all its displays, around us. Taking time… it’s something I do too rarely, and something we all need a bit more of.

I feel blessed to live in a place where I can walk (mostly) safely and ride (mostly) without fear, and to live surrounded by so many people who are so different, yet so open, so non-judgmental of the idiosynchronicity of others. Where you can embrace your quirks and uniqueness fully, and where you’re not only free of the pressures to be-as-you-should, you’re more respected for fully being whoever you really are.

There is so much to be grateful for so much of the time. And from this foundation of gratitude, I’d like to share 3 wishes I have this holiday season. Feel free to leave a comment with wishes of your own.

1) I wish our streets were safer. For everyone.

Morgan Maynard CookJoseph “Joey” Randall Ransly StoneViJay Dalton-Gibson. The list of victims goes on, and on, and on, and on. Every time it breaks my heart. Every time I think about the families left without loved ones during the holidays, left with empty chairs at the dinner table, and empty spots in circles gathered round roaring fires and festooned trees. Spots that will remain empty forever. A void that never stops feeling… empty.

My parents were nearly left with that void a year and a half ago when a careless driver ran a stop sign into a neighborhood greenway… into me.

We’ve learned to just accept this carnage and tragedy, at a rate of over 88 people killed per day (that’s about 4 deaths per minute), not to mention the enormous numbers of serious, life-long injuries. Why? Because we want to be able to travel when we want to, and most importantly, because we want to drive ourselves to the places we need to go (and in many places, because that is our only option). Equity in access to transit and safe biking and walking facilities is abominable, and more and more the ability to walk near your home is becoming a privilege.

Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Columbia, came to speak in Portland a little while ago, and I remember being taken aback by one particular statement he made: “cars kill people”.  “That’s a bit inflammatory,” I remember thinking. But overtime, the statement sunk in, and it became apparent that the sentiment wasn’t radical. It was truth.

If you are riding a bike, if you are walking, if you take a bus, if you take a train – all of these options contain a chance of death and injury to yourself and others (so does living). But walk into someone on a sidewalk, accidentally run into someone on your bike… the consequences of inevitable human error are far less disastrous when not backed by thousands of pounds of environment-muffling steel. 

We will always fail. We are human. But when we fail at 40mph, even at 20mph, in steel, people are far more likely to die, including people just engaging their legs as they’re intended (or those playing, as children often do, in their own front yard).

I still drive occasionally, and I grew up driving for nearly all of my trips. I know how hard it is to see the realities of something considered a touchstone of American life. An essential. The truth is uncomfortable, and it implicates us all: Every time we drive our car, we put other people and ourselves at risk. Not only due to crashes, but due to the pollution we cannot see that gives us and everyone living around us cancer, breathing ailments, and more.

We can do so much better, and we owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, and our communities to try. Just try. What if we drove less? What if we spent less on roads for steel-boxes and more on education? What if more people could live longer and better because they added activity to their day during their commute? What if you could save your own life, your mother’s life, you friend’s life, a stranger’s life by taking an extra 5, 10, 20, 30 minutes to get to where you’re going? Wouldn’t that be time well spent? And what if our city policy prioritized equitable transit for all, with preference for expenditures based on greatest benefit to surrounding communities (walking first, transit second, bike facilities third, high-speed rail fourth, driving last)? It’s a lot of change, which is not and will not ever be well received at first, but more importantly it’s progress. For our health, our budgets, our happiness.

This holiday season, all I wish for are representatives WITH VISION, the kind who see the damage of a freeway running through downtown and stop saying “we have to account for SOV driving demand” and start asking “how can we eliminate the demand in the first place?”.

Most importantly, I wish for streets that unite us, where we can gather and see one another, and where we can live and commute without the daily reality of wondering whether or not we’ll make it home alive.

2) I wish I could remember how lucky I am. Everyday.

In the words of the venerable Kanye West, “time is the only luxury.”

My family. They’ve supported me through the hardest year of my life, they’ve frustrated me to no end, and they’ve given me love for being exactly as I am. How often do I forget how many people do not share this luxury? How many people wish they’d had the opportunities, support, and care that I have taken for granted?

How many people have no families to even have the option of going home to? And my dearest friends who have become my family out west… we all like to feel we could do it alone, but the reality is we can’t. I forget to open my eyes and see all the goodness in my life from time to time, and all I wish for this holiday season is to remember to see it more often.

Legs that (luckily) still work and take me where I’d like to go. A roof over my head and lovely people to share it with. The opportunity to educate myself everyday. Access to warm showers and heated rooms. Sidewalks and neighborhood greenways and transit that free me from the constraints of car travel. Amazing and not-so-amazing neighbors and strangers who smile at me for no reason, or say “hello” as they pass me by. There are so many things everyday that make life worth living and bring me happiness. Much as I savor my surroundings when pedaling past, it’s time I savored my living as it passes me by.

3) I wish that I could do more and be a more active part of improving the lives of everyone in my community.

Finding the time to volunteer, to push for change, to shape the world in my backyard. That time is there, and I often find a way to be involved. As I once heard a young poet say, “your observation becomes an obligation.” If I know it is wrong and I know it can change, then it is my duty to refuse to be silent. All I wish for this year is to continue that drive, not to give up because I am frustrated, and to keep trying to be the change I wish to see. I hope more of you will join me, and I hope we can all work together to create a better future for ourselves and future generations.

Have a wonderful holiday season, and as always, Ladies (and Lady-lovers): Remember to enjoy the ride.


Return to riding

Ahhh, scenery. One of many joyful jaunts atop two-wheels this summer!

Ahhh, scenery. One of many joyful jaunts atop two-wheels this summer!

Well hello, Ladies! Long-time no post!

Over here at TWAAL, we’ve had a summer packed with… well… everything, but as the crispness of mornings stirs memories of flaming foliage, cozy consuming sweaters, and 4pm sunsets, it’s finally time to settle into the grounding beauty of Fall.

Days get shorter, commutes get chillier, and tips for riding gracefully through the transition will be all up in this Lady’s posts! So will lovely gear suggestions, recipes to fuel your ride, livable streets news and commentary, ideas and wares for living simply, plus ideas for two-wheeled autumnal travel.

So Ladies – grab your skirts, tall socks, layering cardigan, beautiful boots, or whatever the fuck makes you smile while you pedal! It’s time for Fall riding.

Keep pedaling and enjoying life, Ladies! Looking forward to riding along with all of you :)



This Lady originally wrote this article for


They’re aggressive, sometimes dangerously so, and destroy our air quality, communities, and planet.

They’re in the way, run stop signs, and ride without regard for others on the road.

Regardless of which trench (or, god forbid, in the inhospitable in-between of No Man’s Land) you find yourself, you’re likely tired, frustrated, angry, and just looking to get home alive.

In the lengthy and unnecessary war between car drivers and bike commuters, no real progress has been made. It’s time to draw down forces and start working together towards a more prosperous future for everyone.


I often hear gripes from the bike community, admittedly at times my own, that car drivers are inconsiderate and dangerous. I have indeed been harassed on bike boulevards (streets supposedly dedicated to people on bikes), drivers laying on the horn and riding behind me for block after block, perhaps not realizing that their momentary expression of annoyance has permanently damaged my hearing. Or those, too many to count, on their cell phones, putting all road users at risk.

Or the driver who followed me for an entire mile, pulled up alongside riding slowly with his window rolled down, yelling expletives, taunting me, and threatening my life for no reason at all. Some of these interactions have made me deathly afraid, and these sorts of actions are completely inexcusable, but I’ve had just as many drivers stop to let me cross a busy street, smile and wave, pull over to apologize for almost hitting me (she was so sweet), or do nothing at all except drive the speed limit and pass me when it is safe.

I love to ride my bike. It is safer than most believe, it costs the city less in upkeep costs (so more of our taxes can go to schools, paving roads, etc.), I actually meet and interact with neighbors and strangers along my ride, plus I save lot of money every year. Not to mention I save myself years, and everyone else money, in healthcare costs by staying active. I’m no better than anyone else, nor am I worse. I’m just a person who happens to love riding my bike. I’m glad I can choose to do so, and hope more of my community members will choose to ride along, too.



Yes, cars break down roads faster than bikes and they pollute our air and water with some pretty nasty carcinogens, not to mention the detriment to the cohesiveness of communities that lie along busy roads and highways (they’re linked to increased crime, too). But in many communities, we’ve left people with almost no option but to get around by car. In fact I was a car driver until the last few years, my Ex-Husband, a dear friend and wonderful person, drives a car to get to his job where no public transit or bike lanes go, and my parents, also lovely and caring, drive, too.

Does that fact that they drive a car in a culture where most activities for the past 50 years centered around cheap oil make them bad people? Why wouldn’t one try to have understanding for people forced to pay extra thousands of dollars a year to sit in polluted air?

Bike commuting is incredibly enjoyable, and it is a failing of our government to not provide safe routes that are available to everyone in all of our communities, but since the 1950’s our government has invested in unsustainable expanses of highway and suburban development while dismantling and defunding public transit, all of which normalizes and encourages driving for trips that the automobile is not best suited.

Driving as primary transit has come about through a combination of cultural norms, government inaction, short-sighted planning, and lack of understanding of personal responsibility/impact, and that’s my point: If you live in East Portland, of course you drive your car. You likely can’t even walk your child to school, since your neighborhood probably doesn’t even have sidewalks.

And waiting behind a cyclist when you commute to work downtown, after driving that expanse because there is no other feasible option… I can understand your frustration. Violence and aggression are never justified, but frustration? Who wouldn’t feel it. In fact our roads aren’t streets anymore; their design feeds into the perceived but inappropriate unwelcomeness of people on bicycles.

And yes, some cyclists blatantly run stop signs, which is not OK (I generally end up with a rolling stop, and I think most car drivers, if honest, do, too.), but just as many and more, myself included, follow posted traffic signs. And all of us, regardless of mode, make mistakes.

Streets used to be designed for horses. Then some were designed for bikes. Then public transit. Then cars. In the last iteration, room for all other modes was wiped clean, in fact sidewalks were reduced in size to make way for parking, making it less hospitable to exercise your innate proclivities to WALK. A driver’s natural tendency to see the bike as unwelcome and out of place? It’s rooted in our poorly planned and usually myopic street design.


People on bikes are obnoxious vagrants who don’t pay their fair share. People in cars are dangerous jerks who ruin everything wonderful about our communities.

The truth is that at these extremes, we lose sight of each other. Our anger and fear and frustration have prevented us from seeing another human being, now merely a projection of past grievances and caricature rooted in daily emotional fluctuations. Take away the car, take away the bike, and you have two members of the shared community just trying to get home alive and unmaimed.

Better options, better quality of life for everyone. It's time to work together.

Better options, better quality of life for everyone. It’s time to work together.

I believe that we all want the same thing: a transportation system that is speedy and efficient, doesn’t cost too much to maintain, and gives us the opportunity to enjoy our commutes and communities. Realistically, our current system is unaffordable, and it will take people thinking beyond the car for the majority of trips, especially inner city travel, to create transportation budgets that are financially sustainable (and happen to promote public health, the local economy, and environmental protection).

But for right now, let’s rise above the few things that separate us and see our commonality. Put aside your frustrations and anger and be kind to each other out there. Drivers: try taking one or two trips a week by foot or by bike (like to the store or taking your kids to school) and be patient with pedalers and pedestrians. Cyclists: ride respectfully and respond with kindness, not anger.

I’m ready for an era of peace and prosperity, and I think Oregon is, too.