Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No Microchip!

The Kitty update is that he does not have a microchip, so we are no closer to finding his original owner. Falling more and more in love with him every day...

Lister and Rimmer are still not happy about the whole situation.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Wonderland

Today I went snowshoeing in the Fells with Catherine and Rachel. It was unbelievably beautiful. All the trees were heavy with snow. It looked completely different than the week previous when we had been there with our cross bikes. In many places the path was overhung with crystalline tree branches and it made it difficult to recognize trails that should have been familiar.

We followed some cross country ski tracks off the trail into the woods, getting a little lost before finding ourselves on the mountain bike loop, and so we made our way to the reservoir. We spent a couple of moments in quiet reflection, then went on our way again.

It was a wonderful way to spend a snowy afternoon and definitely worth the effort it took driving (or in Rachel's case biking) there on the treacherous roads. We're really lucky to have a little piece of wilderness right in our backyards.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Found Kitten!

Thursday night G spotted a lost kitten wandering the streets of H20town. The poor little guy was skittish, cold, and very hungry. G asked me to come in the car with food and treats. I also brought a cat carrier, because it was too cold for the little guy to stay out overnight, especially with the storm coming.

I've never seen any creature gobble up food the way that kitten did. It was something to behold. He was thin, but not emaciated, yet it seemed as if he hadn't eaten for days. He sprinted to the treats and gobbled them up in a flash. I think I blinked and they were gone. It was amazing.

We brought him home and sequestered him in the spare bedroom. Our two cats are extremely suspicious and keep sniffing the air while giving us evil looks. They want to know what's behind that closed door.

Meanwhile, we're posting ads on the lost and found section of Craigslist and I've called and emailed the Watertown Animal Control Officer (although her voicemail says she's out of the office until January 5th, so I'm not sure how helpful that will be). G took these beauty shots and created a flyer to post in the neighborhood. Tomorrow we'll try to get him scanned for a microchip to see if we can locate his owner.

I have to say, though, he's an adorable kitten. He's unbelievably friendly and loving and I would love to keep him (but I'm sure that L&R would have something nasty to say about that development).

I guess we'll see what happens. If anyone has any other ideas on how to find the owner of a lost cat, please let me know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I've been to some really dark places inside myself over the last couple of weeks. I've been to the kind of soul-sucking and heart-destroying places where I never imagined I'd go. When you combine fear and paranoia with pain and despair and let them all dwell inside you together, it can shatter your will. No matter your resolve, no matter your principles. All gone in an instant when the darkness grips you and won't let go. It creeps up on you unnoticed and wraps itself around your insides as it begins to consume you. It laughs at your attempts at a normal life, friends, food, fun. It stops you in your tracks the minute you try to deny it's there and slams you to the floor, saying, "Hold on there! Did you forget? I'm still here and I'm not letting go. Did you actually think you were entitled to some fun? Oh no you don't! You're miserable, you're in pain, you're bereft and don't you go trying to forget. I'm here to keep you wallowing in despair until you become one with it, the darkness, the hollowness, the pain. I'll take you to a new place, somewhere you'd never go on your own. You might not like this new place after you've been there - you may feel regret and self-loathing, but don't think on that now! Focus instead on the pain you feel, the fear you feel, the paranoia and the deep despair... Do you feel it? Do you feel it?... Ah, good... now, come with me..."

But you know that it's wrong, you know that it's against all your principles, you know that you'll be hurting yourself if you go along with it, so you shove the darkness away, you reject it outright, and you go to the therapy, you take the yoga, you seek out your friends, and just when you think you've got it all under control, start believing that it's ok, that you've won... you relax and you let down your guard for just a second, because you're so tired of it all, and that's the instant that you hear it, the soft knocking at the door, and because you're weak, you open the door in spite of yourself, and there on the doorstep you see the darkness, with its twisted little grin, smirking at you and saying, "Hey there, remember me?"

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Icy Cross Riding, Nostalgia, & Remorse

I went for a cross ride in the Fells today with the hardcore regulars from the Tuesday rides. It was surprisingly icy, but so much fun! Clara & Patrick had studded ice tires and were frequently encouraged to ride through the ice so that the rest of us could hear the crunching sound. :-)

Unfortunately, my brakes weren't working very well and after we started hitting some of the singletrack, my hands were hurting to the point where I just couldn't pull the levers anymore. I guess I never really realized how much easier it is to brake on a mountain bike than a cross bike. Unfortunately I had to walk some stuff I would have much rather ridden, but since I really didn't want to end up with stitches or in a cast, it was probably the right choice. Going down steep rocky downhills in your drops (because it's the only way you can brake) is actually pretty scary!

We stopped at a clearing on a hill where there was a 3-4 story tower with a spiral staircase. We all walked up to the top to look at the view. You could see the city skyline from up there. It was beautiful. Here are some photos of our little group at the top of the tower.

After that, I started to recognize some of the trails from when G & I first started riding mountain bikes way, way, back in 1995 or something. It was an interesting experience. I remembered the trails from when I was first experimenting with riding off road. I also remember spending most of the time pushing my bike instead of riding it.

It's nice to see how far I've come. On a cross bike I was able to ride many of the trails that I used to have to walk on a mountain bike. I sort of see it as a metaphor for personal growth. I've come a long way since that time in my life. I've grown in a lot of ways, but I've also made a lot of mistakes. Being back in the Fells on those familiar trails made me feel sad for the good times that have passed. I was getting very misty with feelings of nostalgia during the ride, which pulled me away from my friends and into introspective reflection.

I cherish the memories of the life I used to lead. Those memories are all a part of what makes me who I am today. Making mistakes, learning from them, and moving forward while embracing that knowledge is what defines us as human beings.

People make mistakes all the time. They hurt people they love and betray their trust. I think it is vital for people to take responsibility for their actions. Nothing just "happens" by accident. People's actions or inactions cause things to happen. It's easy enough to apologize and say you're sorry. But it takes more than that to earn back trust. Oftentimes it needs explanations and answers, and at all times it requires the truth.

It also requires the ability to say that you will never make those mistakes again and that you will stop doing the thing/things that is/are hurting someone else. But beyond saying those things, it requires doing those things. Feelings of remorse only hurt yourself unless you can turn them into a positive change for someone else.

These are lessons I take to heart, because I need to learn from them as much as anyone else does. I can't expect anything of other people that I don't embody myself. I strive to be the person I aspire to, and I hope that each step that I take is getting me to that goal.

Friday, December 12, 2008

On the other hand...

I've always believed that change is a good thing. I never wanted to be in a job longer than two years. What a joke! I've been at the same company for over 10 years now. I've rationalized it by saying that 1) I've had at least 4 different job descriptions during this time and 2) it's actually been 3 different companies due to all the mergers and acquisitions... BUT... it's really still working at the same company, working with the same people, working in the same field with tiny reincarnations of my role that really don't amount to much in the scheme of things.

I was thinking a little more about the "You will move into a wonderful new home within a year" fortune. In some ways it wouldn't be such a bad thing to move to a new house in Boston. Moving away from Boston right now would be like running away from my problems to reinvent myself in a new town where no one knows me. That's incredibly appealing because it would be so easy to sweep all my troubles under the carpet, run like hell, and never look back.

It's infinitely more difficult to stand up to my problems, look them in the eye and fight them head on. There's nothing wrong with a change of scenery to inject some new possibilities into the mix, to put a different spin on things, and to get a breath of fresh air, but it doesn't have to come at the expense of losing the people I love and all the friends that I've made over the last 20 odd years of living in Boston.

I don't want my life to be turned upside down and inside out, but small points of change that aren't catastrophic could be a welcome impetus for personal growth. Getting stuck in a rut is a terrible thing. You don't realize you're in it until you're so deep that you can't see anything but the path trudging forward. You aren't aware that there could be some stairs off to the side of the rut (if you just bothered to look in that direction) that would lead you to being a better person. The kind of person that takes more notice of the people around them and gives assistance before it's asked, the sort of person that makes other people happy and listens with an open mind and an open heart. A person who leaves old resentments behind and works to forge new pathways to understanding those who are in pain and need to be tended. A person that actually does change when they want to change and who asks for help when they need it.

A person that someone else would want to love.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fortune Cookie

I went to lunch with ML today and we got fortune cookies afterward. I really like fortune cookies and usually the fortune is sort of generic and could apply to anyone, like "Good things will come your way" or "Something you lost will soon turn up."

The one I got today was rather specific. It said,
"You will move to a wonderful new home within the year."

I found it a bit ominous, actually...

Although... who wouldn't love to move into a "wonderful new home"? Isn't that the American Dream? A "new" home every 5 years? Or less?

I've lived in my townhouse for 10 years. It's the longest that I've ever lived in one home. When I was a kid, I lived in the same house from half of 5th through the end of 12th grade. I think that's only 6.5 years. Then early in my time of living and working in Boston I lived in an apartment in Malden for 7 years. That was about 5 years too long to live in Malden, but that's a different story.

This townhouse, though, hmm... I hadn't really realized how long it had been until recently. 10 years is quite some time, especially for someone with chronically itchy feet. I had lived in two different countries and went to three different schools by the age of 11. When I moved to Boston to go to university, I never dreamed I'd still be living here so many years later. Sometimes I wonder if moving back to Boston after living in London was a mistake. I wonder where I could have ended up if I had chosen a different path. Colorado? Oregon? Germany? Australia? Scotland?

It's hard to say, because it's not possible to turn back the clock and do it all over again.

And as much as I would love the opportunity to pick up my feet and head to a new life in a new place, I do still love my townhouse and my life here in Boston with all the friends I have made over the years here and all the people who I love... and I really don't want to be living in a "wonderful new home within the year."

It's a scary thought and I don't want to go there right now.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cold Weather Riding

I went out for a 2 hour ride today. It was my first real road ride after the cross season and also the first time I'd been out on the road with temperatures in the low 30s. I initially wasn't very enthusiastic about leaving the comfort of my nice warm home (and especially the soft couch I had sunken into after breakfast), but I put on a bunch of layers, stuffed toe warmers into my shoes, and off I went.

I was actually a little warmer than I had expected, which came as a pleasant surprise, but next time I should probably shed the sleeveless base layer. My training for the day was 1.5 - 2 hours of riding, including 2 x 5 minutes of LT, followed by 10 minutes of Tempo, and then repeating 2 x 5 minutes of LT. This was the first time I used the Power Tap for a workout on the road (I've only used it on the trainer up to now), and it was really tough to keep the numbers steady. In fact, I'd say that it was darn near impossible to keep the numbers steady. Every little fluctuation in the grade of the road resulted in either wildly high or ridiculously low wattage. I really struggled to keep it even and completely failed. I didn't fare very well keeping my cadence steady either, so I guess I have a lot to learn.

It's kind of fun to get home, download the data, and stare at the graphs for a while. I keep hoping that I will magically understand it all (osmosis would be nice), but I should really make an effort to learn about how it all works. I was happy to find that for my first two LT and my one Tempo intervals, I had actually nailed my average power and cadence to my targets! I had absolutely no idea that I was doing it right when I was out on the road. Unfortunately, my last two LT intervals ended up looking like Tempo - I guess I was tired. Two weeks off the bike, then a cross ride, then a couple of days off recovering from knee pain... well... I tried and came pretty close to getting it right.

But more importantly, I really enjoyed my ride! It's been a long time since I had a solo ride and it was really nice. I just sort of made up my route as I went along, and came back a different way. It was nice to just wing it without any real plan and to ride on some different roads for a change. I think I will have to do a little re-exploring of roads on the southern side of Route 2. It's too easy to fall into the pattern of Lexington, Concord, and Carlisle, on roads that, while extremely nice, are also entirely too familiar.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back on the Bike!

Tonight I went out for a night-time cross ride with the girls. It was so much fun to be back on the bike after two weeks off! I have to say, before the break I was a bit ambivalent about cycling, but last weekend I actually felt like I was in full withdrawal. I wanted to ride my bike so much, I could hardly stand it. I was very, very jealous of all the lucky souls I saw out there on the roads (or on their way to the woods). So tonight I finally got back out there - in the dark, in the cold, and in the mud. It was fantastic!

Yippee! I'm looking forward to the next ride... and the one after that... and the one after that... :-)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

I started re-reading Eat, Pray, Love. It's funny how things take on different meaning when you're in a different point in your life. Although I loved the book, the first time I read it, I thought that the author was whiny and self-indulgent. This time I find myself empathizing with her. It's a funny old life, innit?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Yoga and two weeks off the bike

When my coach told me to take two weeks off the bike, I thought he was crazy. I didn't want to have to take the bus to work every day and I didn't want to miss out on riding with my friends. But then I had some upheaval in my personal life that left me questioning my priorities, and it didn't seem like such a bad idea after all.

So I went back to yoga.

Wow, did I miss it. I can't believe that I gave up my regular yoga practice to race my bike. Don't get me wrong, I love bike racing and I'm certainly not ready to 'retire' yet, but I'm going to have to find a way to make yoga a weekly ritual (at the least) whille I train and race.

Bike racing is fun, but yoga grounds me. I feel it to the very core of my body, mind, and soul. It gives me peace.

It makes me feel connected - to myself and to the universe. It forces me to be in the present. I have no choice but to channel all of my focus on the perfection of whatever asana I am practicing and to let go of everything else.

It let's me simply be.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lowell Shedd Park Cyclocross Race

(All photos courtesy of Geoff Martin: &
Lowell was my last race of the year. I went into the race hoping to perform similarly to the previous week at Plymouth South, were my legs felt good and I enjoyed the technical stuff. Unfortunately, I miscalculated about the weather. When I left my house it was 60 degrees. I didn't realize how quickly the temperature was going to drop, and when I got to the venue it was pretty chilly. I hadn't brought knee warmers or my winter team jacket. All I had were arm warmers and a wind vest. Yikes! So I put those on and got out on the course as quickly as possible for a warmup and preview. Unfortunately there was a race on before mine, so I only had about 15 minutes for recon. I quickly realized that I was still VERY cold. I put some embrocation on my legs, but it was only for mild conditions, and I could barely feel it. I went to register, got pinned, chatted with teammates, and then went to continue warming up. The wind was so strong and so cold that I didn't ever really get properly warm. I was shivering when I lined up at the start and wasn't feeling too well.

I didn't get a good jump off the line and when we came around to the u-turn around the big tree, someone went down in the chaos, forcing me off my bike. I ran around the tree, then had issues getting back on my bike and clipped in. I slogged across the field and up the muddy incline, where I felt like the ground was sucking me down into it. When we got to the first run up, I tried to ride it because I was able to in the course preview, but my heart and lungs were about to burst and I just couldn't turn the pedals over. I had to get off and walk the rest of the incline. I did all right in the twisty sections, then fumbled my remount after the second run up. Coming into the mud, I decided to try to ride it. I have been practicing riding in mud recently, so thought, why not? I am proud to say that I rode the mud successfully! Of my 4 lap race, I only put a foot down one time in the muddy section. Needless to say, it was so nice that there were so many people there cheering. They seemed to give extra cheers and motivation to those of us who attempted to ride it. Personally, riding the mud was WAY faster then the folks that were running it, plus it was a lot more fun than trudging through mud up to your ankles. ;-)

The next three laps were pretty uneventful. I found myself in no man's land. Couldn't see anyone ahead or behind, and I suppose that made me lose some motivation. Also, my legs just wouldn't go. Every time I finished a technical section and knew that I had to sprint out of a corner, or push as hard as I could on the track, I just couldn't do it. Nothing there. It was disappointing, to say the least. On my third lap at one point where the course doubled back on itself, I saw the person behind me getting lapped by the leader. Although they were a long, long way away, I decided then and there that I didn't want to get lapped at my last race! So I picked it up a bit and was never really in any danger of getting lapped. I completed my last lap pretty slowly but satisfied that I hadn't been lapped and reveling in the mud riding.

I look forward to a nice rest and an active winter of fun cross training (mountain biking, xc skiing, swimming, snowboarding, show shoeing, yoga) and getting out on the bike whenever I can.

Here's to a great road and cross season in 2009!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Plymouth South Race Report

Well, it was nice to finish in the top 10 instead of 40 something (or 50 something)! Granted this was a Cat 4 only race and there were only 17 competitors... but still... it felt good. It was fun to hear Geoff and Cathy R shouting "you're in the top 10!" as I came by them - I think it inspired me to keep going faster than I might have otherwise. Thanks for the encouragement!

When I previewed the course the first time I was a little scared about how slippery it seemed. Everything was still wet from the last couple of days of rain, and there were lots of tight twisty corners. There were also quite a few short power climbs, which was interesting. On the second warm-up lap I started to loosen up a bit and found I could take the corners tighter and faster. The third time, I only practiced the technical sections and was happy to be able to ride up all the hills. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do that in the race or not, but wanted to give it a shot.

On the start line, I stood next to Leah, who was really, really nervous. I tried to "talk her down", but I don't think it had much effect, sadly. However, she rallied enough to grab the hole shot at the start. I think she held it for half of the first lap - that was cool!
The first off-road section of hairpins was carnage as expected. I think I managed to get around a few people here. Then I passed a few in the sand, and the first power climb, which I could ride. Coming onto the flat grass section, I drafted Emily C. and then passed her on the dirt. I don't know when she passed me back though - the results have her finishing ahead of me. I made it just to the top of the climb by the football stands, but was forced to dismount by other riders in the way. I think I passed someone at the barriers, and then going down the slippery tight turn before the finish, I saw Leah wipe out (oh no!) but was able to get around her without going down myself. The next lap I don't remember so well. I think I might have gotten passed by Rebekah and Alison on the flat bits during this lap, but not sure. I rode all the climbs again (well, except for the one after the stadium with the tires - I never did get that one right).

Janet L and I duked it out a little bit playing leapfrog.
On the
last lap I was following Janet after she passed me at the barriers (need to get better at this!), planning to stay on her wheel and then sprint it out for the finish, but she took the super muddy corner at a bad angle for me, and my back wheel slid out and I nearly went down, but instead went off the course (flags, not tape, luckily) and then got back on track, but had lost her wheel. I just didn't have enough oomph to catch her before the finish. Oh well. All in all a great race for me since I actually passed a lot of people instead of the other way around. Hooray for the technical sections! :-) I ended up in 10th place, according to the results they posted at the race, but they still have not posted the results up on BikeReg, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book review

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was a little difficult to read, but very intriguing. I felt that I learned a lot about the history of the Dominican Republic during the course of reading the book, which I enjoyed. My difficulty came from the copious use of Spanish slang. There were many sentences in the book that I did not understand. There were also many references to role playing games, Lord of the Rings, and science fiction, most of which I did understand, but I think it would make it more difficult for someone who is not as familiar with that sort of thing. Very interesting plot, though. I was never really sure where it was going to go.

View all my reviews.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Welcome to my new blog

Well if my mom (who's in her 70s) can have a blog, then so can I! I wonder what I shall write about...