xmlns:og>='http://ogp.me/ns#'> Pedals & Pencils: July 2009

July 28, 2009

The Auntie Diaries: A Day at the Park

It's no secret that I'm not cut from Mom fabric.  Motherhood isn't for me and nothing proves that like when my big brother's kids are in town.  I take each of the five of them on a special date.  My first date went like this:

12:00 Pick up 5 year old Kyleigh to go to Kids Kingdom.

12:14 Realize that when it is 112 degrees swings, slide, and tire swing sear through shorts when sat upon.  Climb around on jungle gym instead.

12:30 Follow Kyleigh over to the sprinkler area where she plays for a few minutes.

12:37 Sit with Kyleigh in the shade waiting for the water volcano to erupt.  Want to poke my eyes out after telling her over and over that the water volcano won't erupt until 1:00.  It's "Are we there yet?" times a thousand.

12:49 Tell weird babysitter guy with a toddler that perhaps he shouldn't set his cigarettes and lighter in the woodchips on the playground because, ya know, there are kids here and stuff.

12:51 Move away from weird babysitter guy who apparently took my scolding as an invitation for conversation.

1:00 Finally the volcano erupts.  Kyleigh is afraid to get near it.

1:02 Volcano stops and we sit in the shade waiting for the next eruption at 1:15.

1:15 This time Kyleigh runs for it, understanding that if she doesn't get to it ASAP, she'll miss out and will possibly shrivel up into a raisin if she doesn't get wet.

1:22 Introduce Kyleigh to a little girl from school.  They splash around like old friends.

1:30 Volcano erupts again and Kyleigh has wisely staked out the spot that gets the most water.  She guards her area fiercely and gets completely drenched.

1:40 Weird babysitter guy moves near my shady spot, bringing with him 2 other pock marked, skinny legged meth users.  One sits behind me, one to the side, and the other in front of me so that when they want to talk to each other they have to yell.  After being caught in the middle of yelling conversations about a festering rash, a stolen truck, and the (insert colorful word) government, I tell Kyleigh that after the next volcano eruption, we're going to get frozen yogurt.

1:47 Practically injure Kyleigh as I rub her dry with a towel, simultaneously pulling on her shorts and shirt.

1:48 Walk so briskly to the car that Kyleigh runs after me calling "Wait for me!  Wait for me!"

1:48 Think briefly about the Pirates of the Caribbean Code: If anyone falls behind, they're left behind.

1:49 Grab Kyleigh and hustle her to the car.

1:50 Peel out of the playground parking lot.

2:00 Sit happily in the clean, air conditioned yogurt shop.  Smile as Kyleigh tops her yogurt with gummy worms, gummy bears, chocolate chips, cherries, sprinkles, more sprinkles, and whatever else she pleases.

2:01 Smile even bigger at the mom who explains to her kid that he can't do the same thing because they only put healthy things in their bodies.

2:22 Kyleigh puts her sweaty, ice cream covered face up to mine and says "Thank you, Aunt Alicia."  She tops it off with an open mouthed kiss, leaving sprinkles on my lip.

July 27, 2009

Riding Bikes with My Brother

Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 5am.  Yes, it's still summer.  Yes, I set it for 5am on purpose.  Yes, I did the same thing again this morning.  On Saturday That Laura, my little brother Pete, and I headed out for a 17 mile jaunt along the river.  This morning, Pete and I did the same route again.  My brother has recently started cycling the two miles to work and back and when he expressed an interest in doing longer distances, I jumped on it.

I have a simple rule: If you like bikes, I like you.  If you ride a bicycle, or even its ugly cousin the unicycle, you pretty much have to be Satan for me not to like you.  I don't know much about bike parts and that kind of geekery, but I can talk to you about rides until your face falls off.

I already like my little brother, so I knew taking him on a bike ride would be great.  We rode along the Sacramento River when the air was still cool enough to send goosebumps skipping up my arms.  I know this trail like the back of my hand.  I've ridden it in the dark, knowing exactly where I was based on the rise and fall of the pavement beneath my tires and the black shadows of the trees around me.

Since this trail is an old friend, I chattered about bumps in the road, blind corners, the mint that grows here, the blackberries that grow there, the gravel that always gathers around this corner, the fence that marks the end of the hardest part of the hill and all the little details that I have learned about this trail over the last few years.

When Pete was 3 and I was 8, he used to copy what I said.  Not in that irritating way when someone instantly repeats you over and over.  Although he did that, too.  The copying I'm talking about was when I'd hear phrases I used come out of his little mouth within the context of normal conversation.

As we rode in the quiet of the morning, I heard Pete say some of the same things I've said on The Rocket.  It's so relaxing.  It's better with company. Of course, there were familiar utterances of another vein, too.  My butt hurts.  My legs are sore.  I wanted to get off and walk the hill, but I didn't let it beat me.

In a lot of ways, riding my bike with Pete feels like we're kids again.  Only better. When we were kids, we were just brother and sister.  Now we're friends and I can't wait to show him another one of my favorite rides next weekend.

July 16, 2009

Touched By the Devil & Other Stories from the Big Ride

Dear Friends & Family,

Another cycling season has come to an end.  The Livestrong ride in San Jose this weekend was uh...er...um... memorable, yes, memorable is a good way to put it.

  • 4 really cool prizes: The day before the ride, I picked up my registration packet and jersey number.  Your generous donations entitled me to a LiveStrong t-shirt, water bottle, hat and the highly coveted LiveStrong messenger bag.  I stuffed all my booty into my super awesome bag and strutted around the LiveStrong village, making sure that all the other participants took note of my bag.  As they were taking note of my bag, I took note of the fact that everyone except Terry and Nick (my other two Redding Fat Cyclist teammates) had shaved legs.  And everyone was unusually lithe and athletic.  Walking around amongst such freakishly fit people I came to the realization that although it was called a "ride", I had unknowingly entered a "race".  A bike "ride" and a bike "race" are two very different things, a fact that would become apparent the next day.

  • 1 amazing dinner: The night before the ride Terry, Nick and I were privileged to attend the fundraising banquet.  We were inspired by the speeches given by cancer survivors and enjoyed a night of meeting our teammates.  Team Fatty won two separate awards that night.  To begin with Elden "Fatty" Nelson won the individual messenger award.  He and his wife, Susan, made this video acceptance speech.  Thanks to you, Team Fatty also won the award for most funds raised.  You can see our team on stage as our captain, Matt, accepts the award and honors Elden and Susan as they fight cancer in a mighty way.  Elden is bald and our team donned bald caps to show our support.  It was a fantastic night and I was proud to be a part of Team Fatty.

  • 1 upset stomach: The morning of the ride, I woke up with a disgruntled stomach.  I chalked it up to nerves, ate some breakfast, and joined my team at the starting line.  As the top fundraising team, we began the race ride ahead of all of the other participants.  We were escorted by a police cruiser.  Well, the people who could keep up were escorted by a police cruiser.  Me and my knotty stomach were in the throng of all the other riders within minutes.  My stomach gurgled and churned for the first twenty miles.  At the first rest stop, I spent some quality time in the port-o-potty doing what my friend, Nate, calls "livin' the dream".  I was miserable, but when my stomach realized I wasn't quitting, it settled down.

  • 1 windy day: The wind that day was unholy.  I rode into a strong headwind and through wicked cross winds.  The wind was so powerful that rest stop snack tents were blowing over and garbage blew into my mouth as I rode.  Never was there even a hint of tailwind.  It was punishing and it remained that way the entire ride.

  • 1 friendly devil: About 25 miles in, I faced my first hill.  It was short and steep.  My legs cranked the pedals and my little heart hammered away.  I walked a portion of the hill and just as I was getting back on The Rocket to face the crest, I saw the devil.  Or at least a man dressed in a red devil suit.  He goes to The Tour of California and other bike races (again proof that I'd mistakenly entered a race) to cheer on the cyclists.  He stood there high-fiving riders as they topped the hill.  He must have seen me walking because when I came by, he placed both of his red painted hands squarely on my buns and gave me a push, calling out "That's what we call a European start."  Uh, then let me just say that Europeans are much friendlier than I'm accustomed to.

  • 1 enthusiastic flagger: This by far was the best staffed ride I've participated in.  Volunteers showed up in droves to work rest stops, flag riders in the right direction, drive SAG wagons, and perform a myriad of other tasks.  I gave one particular course flagger a good shock at around mile 40.  A left turn took riders to the 65 mile course.  Straight ahead led to the 100 mile course.  The flagger took one look at me and immediately started flagging me left.  I shook my head.  He flagged more vehemently.  I again shook my head.  He continued flagging and as I rode by, I yelled "I'm doing the century."  He shook his head and in one last ditch effort tried to flag me left.  I just smiled, well aware of the fact that I didn't look like any of the other people riding the century.

  • 2 circling buzzards: What would a ride be without at least one bird story?  As I was still chuckling at the dumbfounded flagger, 2 buzzards circled overhead.  2 skinny cyclists came from behind and rode next to me for a few minutes.  They commented on the buzzards.  I replied that I was moving so slowly that the buzzards thought I was dead.  They laughed, made a remark about how funny Team Fatty is, and then left me in the dust with the birds.

  • 3 times I walked The Rocket: I walked portions of 2 small hills and at mile 7o faced a 12-18% climb.  I pedaled until my little heart began to actually ache.  I got off my bike and walked up the hill.  Nick was with me and we clomped along in our bike shoes, pausing every few steps to rest.  We waved off about 10 SAG wagons, insisting that we were fine, absolutely fine.  We took off our cycling shoes and huffed up the hill in our socks.  It seemed logical at the time, okay?  "No, really, we're fine." we'd pant at each SAG wagon.  The hill was only 1.9 miles and we were sure the top was near.  My heart ached and even squeaked, but we plodded on.  Then we came upon another Team Fatty cyclist getting into a SAG wagon.  We asked how much further to the top.  "Oh about another mile and a half.  Then you go downhill and then back up the steepest pitch."  the SAG lady chirped.  My head drooped.  I couldn't walk another mile and a half.  My heart physically couldn't do it.  I fought back hot tears, overcome by shame.  Then in the midst of my pity party, I thought of Susan.  Susan who has strength in ways that I will never comprehend.  Susan who graciously accepts help for tasks like getting out of bed and getting dressed.  Part of strength is knowing when to accept help.  I swallowed my pride and rode in the SAG wagon to the top of the hill.

  • 1 tweet from Lance Armstrong: At around mile 85, another cyclist told me Lance Armstrong had twittered a message to all the San Jose cyclists.  This is a direct quote: "Thanks 2 everyone in San Jose 4 the Livestrong Challenge! I was there last year and the course kicked my @$$!!! Appreciate all the support!!"  What!?!  Lance Armstrong had a tough time on this ride?  I couldn't help but wonder what the heck I, a big, wimpy, wannabe cyclist, was doing on a ride like this.

  • 14 bottles of water/Gatorade: People often ask about what I consume on rides like these.  On this particular ride I drank 14 bottles of water and/or lemon lime Gatorade.  I ate 1 1/4 pb& j, 2 bananas, 3 handfuls of gummy bears, 1 slice of peach, 1 handful of grapes, and 1 Clif bar.  After the ride I ate dinner.  Twice.

  • 90 miles: The course was actually only 95 miles long and after 5 miles in the SAG wagon, I rode a total of 90 miles at an average speed of 12.5 miles per hour.  I was disappointed with my mileage and my speed, but it turns out those things aren't what this ride was about.

  • 22 donors: Thank you Amy & Steve P., Anita J., Carmen L., Chris F., Christine W., Debbie S., Janet M., Janice L., Jean P., Jeff W., Jill L., Jill S., Katie G., Katie L., Kyra M., Nancy C., Nancy W., North Valley Bank, Peter K., Sara S., Sue H., Tiffany D., Tracy H. and Youth to Youth International.  Your support and generosity made it all worthwhile.

  • $1, 790: I'm grateful to know people who eagerly help others in need.  I'm honored to call you friends.

  • 9 hours: After starting the ride at the front of the pack Terry and I finished almost dead last 9 hours later.  After gripping my handlebars into the unforgiving wind, I'd lost feeling in 4 of my fingers.  My face stung with the combination of salty sweat and windburn.  My heart labored over ever beat.  It was the most grueling day on a bike I've ever experienced.

  • 4 days later: Four days have passed since the ride.  My windburned face is a peeling mess.  My heart is steady again.  I have feeling in 9 fingers and am hopeful that the last one will soon follow suit.  I mentioned earlier that this ride wasn't about miles or speed.  I think Winston Churchhill sums it up best, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Thanks for giving from your heart and making my life that much richer.