Monday, June 25, 2012

As RAGBRAI comes to a screeching halt....

So technically this ride across Iowa is anywhere from 450-500 miles, give or take. I think this year it’s 471. However, it’s clear to me that for some of us, it’s going to be a bit shorter. Make that a hell of a lot shorter.
As in, 460 miles shorter. Because this is what Orange City is doing, and that’s the first town on the route.

“The town is planning a mini Tulip Festival for RAGBRAIers with stands, Dutch costumes, entertainment, floats, photo ops, and other fun Orange City Tulip Fest activities.… The Mini Tulip Festival will feature Floats, Dutch Street Organ, Tulip Queen Court, Festezanger Singers, the Tulip Mural on side of Dove Christian Book, Dutch Dancers, and much more!

So what about food?  Local vendors will be selling famous Woudstra brats, poffertjes (which are little buttery Dutch pancakes), Dutch Fudge Puppies (chocolate covered Belgian waffles rolled in different toppings), breakfast pizza, Dutch Letter & Almond patty pastries, fruits and Dutch Oliebolen (small round, Dutch doughnuts).

The town is hoping to raise funds to refurbish their Dutch Street Organ and Windmill Park (where the activities will be held).”

Is there really any reason to go any further? By this point you’ve seen the cornfields, this cute bucolic little town, the blue skies, and now you’re stuffing yourselves with glorified donuts. And poffertjes and Dutch Fudge Puppies. What else is there?

The only reason I might perhaps possibly at some point venture on would be so that I could make it to Day 2 and Sac City:

“There will be so much food in Sac City to choice from including watermelon, turkey tenders, pork chops on a stick, bananas, cookies,  porkburgers, pies from the church ladies, ice cream, chocolate brownie sundaes, floats, grilled chicken, smoothies, bar-be-que pork, pizza, Bloody Marys, Lime-a-ritas, lots of beer and a lot more!

Neat places that riders should be sure to visit:
  • Sac City Museum complex – Home of the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball"

Lime-a ritas and the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball. I think that says all we need to know.

Sac City…… you complete me.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happiness revisited

I’m happy when I ride my bike.

Somehow, I had forgotten that.

Of course, it’s been a rather hectic past 6 months. I’ve been out to Portland a couple of times to visit my Cancerchick friend Kimmy, of the SFSPPP (Super Fucking Secret Portland Pattypan Posse), who had to start up treatment again because her bastard Stage 1 cancer spread to her bones. We’re all crushed by this, but we soldier on, because that’s what we’ve figured out has to be done.

Then my mom, of all people, rudely infiltrated our Pink Posse by getting her OWN breast cancer – and unlike me, who passed through treatment in a fuzzy happy haze (the bike crash/brain injury might have had something to do with that), mom has required some tending to, after her surgery and then her recent bout with diverticulitis. I think my mom missed out on the sturdy peasant stock gene that I got.

Then there have been awesome things which I’ll write more about later, like my most amazing birthday EVER in the history of the world, when the SFSPPP surprised me with a visit from KIM! Major excitement!

But the bottom line is that I know that most of you come here for my secrets to triathlon training, as well as cycling tips and other minutiae that will help one shave seconds off one’s race time.

(Quite frankly I have no idea why the hell you come here for that, but you do, so I accept it.)

And of course I follow the Ramping Up Principle in all things related to cycling, whereby one waits until time is a–ticking away before actually doing any serious training. So even though Ragbrai (aka Crazy Ass Bike Ride Across Iowa) has been getting closer, pshaw, I’ve been busy and it’s been WAY too early to train. Who does that, anyway, starts getting ready for such things months ahead of time?

I’ll tell you who – my friends Lauren and Mike, who I recruited to Team Sloth this year. For months now it’s been “Rode my bike today!” or “Getting up there in miles!” or “Hit those hills, getting tons of riding in!” or “Got a new saddle and pedals, ready to hit the road!” You see what I mean.

It’s kind of embarrassing. And very un-Team-Sloth-like.

Now me, on the other hand, I’ve been hewing to my time-tested training plan that has gotten me where I am today. Two months ago I took my bike in for a tune-up. Excellent, ready to go.

A month ago, when I was mom-sitting, I took my bike out to Huntley. Sweet, getting her in position.

Two weeks ago I brought out my shoes.

A week ago, I dusted off some water bottles, rummaged through gels, found my suntan lotion and chamois cream.

This past Friday was the big day – I set my alarm for 5AM, because I only like riding in the early morning. The alarm rang – I shut it off immediately.

Hell no I didn’t get up – who does that, at that crazy hour?

Saturday, I set my alarm again for the same ridiculous hour. This time however – and pay attention kids, because this is how proper Ramping Up is done – I actually got up eventually. Wondered if I remember how to ride a bike. Set out. Cursed the wind. Pulled over to ask someone fishing what he was catching. Stopped to pick some berries. Tried to save a wee turtle in the road, couldn’t tell if he was dead or not, because, you know, he’s a turtle. Belted out some tunes, hoping no one was behind me. Said hi to some cows. Admired the beautiful heron flying past up above. Peered into a creek for fish or turtles. Texted Melindy to tell her that forecasters suck, because they lied about the wind direction.

It’s probably not a surprise why my bike rides proceed at a glacial pace.

But all in all, it was a perfect day of glorious riding. Bike, how I’ve missed you. I won’t let it happen again, I promise.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

When a heart breaks

Angie died yesterday. She was 32. She wasn’t conscious there for the few days before the end, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t ugly before that. Because that’s what cancer is – it’s a cold, cruel, harsh motherfucker that shows no one any mercy. It’s Angie not being able to swallow for the last month or so, it’s Stacey’s brother Daniel not knowing who anyone is, it’s Catherine the world traveler waking up paralyzed, it’s Marie and Tink and Janet and Jennifer and DaNelle and Mandy, all here one day and gone the next.

It’s not some Terms of Endearment-esque bullshit of a soft exhalation of breath after profound last words, nor does it have anything to do with pink ribbons and fluff and feather boas and all the other crap that people think breast cancer in particular has come to mean. Yay yay rah rah aren’t we so curable? Clearly not.

To know Angie was to realize how damn funny she was, that dry sardonic wit that was as unique as she was. I found myself telling Angie that I hated her, jokingly, because she was funnier than me. Those who know me at all know that that’s one of the highest compliments I could ever pay someone.

While we all loved Angie, no one loved her more than Cori. I have many Cancerchick friends who I adore, but Cori, Melindy, and Kim, they’re my posse. I would do anything for them. And I know they feel the same. But even among the four of us, even as we all note that we share one brain (which, hmm, might explain a lot), there are those extra special bonds where you feel that you and that other person are twins separated at birth.  Angie was Cori’s person. So I’ll let Cori’s Facebook post explain who Angie was:

“I've had a few people message me and ask me how I think Angie wanted to be remembered. I don't know, we really never spoke about it other than my pledge to get her face and name tattooed across my back Sons of Anarchy style. (or should I say I threatened her with that. :) ). But if anyone knows Angie, they knew she loved animals. She had been a vegetarian since her early teens. She loved her cats Ty and Brat and I am comforted knowing she left the hospital albeit briefly to see them. She used to run up my stairs to visit the chinchillas first thing. I think she would have loved Pudgy more, but she openly admitted her jealous rivalry and she claimed he was my favorite child. 

I know that her friends from Canada Min and Nan would be better able to answer this question, but if I had to, I would say do something for the animals. She wasn't super vocal about it, but she loved animals, especially cats. I asked Dan if I could adopt a cat and name it Angie, he of course is being selfish and thinking nothing about himself and his stupid asthma and asked me not to. But he did donate to a local no kill cat shelter last night in her name.

The other reason people loved Angie so much is she was so incredibly accepting of anyone and respectful of their right to be accepted and happy. Her heart was so big and so full especially for the downtrodden. Angie believed whatever your beliefs were, religious, political, whatever, she was cool with it. She changed the whole way I look at the world. And i'm completely serious about that. I am a totally different person due to Angie. I would say, if you knew Angie and you loved her, than you loved her because she was wonderful and kind inside and out and loved everyone especially her 'homos' as she loved to call them. One of the last things she said to me was and I quote 'I love dykes'. Swear to God. If you loved Angie, be like Angie, accept everyone and play nice on the playground. I know I've been a happier person. WWAD. What would Angie Do? That's my mantra for life.”

Angie wouldn’t want us to light candles for her now – unless it was in the form of a huge bonfire sending a bunch of pink ribbons up in flames.  Because Angie was not at peace with all this – she was pissed off. If anyone could give cancer the middle finger, it was Angie. While I hate all the “fight” terminology associated with cancer, Angie was a fucking fighter, dammit. She was badass. Her evil sneaky sonofabitch cancer kept coming back, throwing all sorts of garbage at her: skin mets, then mets to the pleural lining, then to the brain, then liver. Every single time she said fuck you, and went off to seek other kinds of treatment, going from home in Montreal to New York, to Boston, to wherever there was a chance of a different treatment or a trial or anything at all. She was diagnosed right after she finished law school, and never got to practice law – but I know she would have been a badass lawyer too, because that’s how she was with everything she did.

I was looking through Angie’s Facebook pics, and came across one from her pre-cancer days, and my heart stopped for a second. That’s Angie? I stared at the picture for many moments trying to recognize her. Angie was always gorgeous, but here she radiated a beautiful vibrancy (even though she joked that she looked half-asleep), and had the world at her fingertips. Cancer took what it could, stole from Angie the life she should have had, but it never diminished her, not for a second.

"A million lights are dancing, and there you are, a shooting star." The world is worse off because she’s no longer here. We all are.

Angie went out a champ.