I'm For Bikes!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pre-Turkey Day Rambles

I woke up at 5am from a VERY bad dream involving Riley pup. I won't go into detail (mainly because I can't remember most of it), but I got on the floor with Riley and apologized to her. She's laying on the couch with her head on my leg so I think she forgave me...

My 16 yr. old niece had her wisdom teeth out today. She's doing fine - luckily her surgery wasn't as traumatic as mine was - but she looks like a chipmunk. Kinda cute, except for the gauze stuffed in her mouth...

I got to spend time with my 5 yr. old niece today while her sister was in surgery. You're no one until you've been dissed by a 5 year old at IHOP. This was our conversation:

"Aunt Kat, my pancakes are sticky!"

"It's because of the syrup, Kacie."

"I know, but why did you put syrup on there?"

"Because you told me to."

(Heavy sigh) "Aunt Kat, I'm FIVE."

[No response to this. Can't beat that logic!]

I'm watching "Tootsie", one of my all-time favorite movies. I just love when Dustin Hoffman calls Dabney Coleman a "macho s***head". What a classic line.

My other favorite line is when the Tootsie character is talking to Jessica Lange's character about the lecherous doctor and says she's going to order electric cattle prods for all the nurses so they can "zap him in the badoobies". I can remember laughing my butt off when I heard that line for the first time.

My parents are coming into town tonight, along with my youngest brother, his wife, and their daughter (who is also 5. I'm going to be surrounded). I'm so excited! My family ROCKS!!

For a brief, insane moment I actually considered doing some Christmas shopping on Friday.

At this very moment, I have a Riley pup snuggled up on my left side and a Davidson cat on my right side. Yes, I'm happy.

I got a letter from Mark, one of my former students who just joined the Marine Corps. He's in training at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. I was thrilled to bits to get a letter from him and see how he's doing. Here's how much his letter meant to me - I actually wrote him back BY HAND on the same day. I can't remember the last time I sent anyone a hand-written anything.

It's going to be 92F tomorrow. ON THANKSGIVING DAY. That's just wrong.

I'm finally over my cold so I can start riding again. Yay!

I just registered for the Borderfest 5K. March 6, 2011, folks. It's official! Looks like I get to start running, too...

Enough rambling for now. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How Far Would YOU Go?

I've been watching a series on Planet Green called "Everest: Beyond The Limit". I'd seen it before on Discovery Channel and recently rediscovered it. As someone who has long been fascinated with Mt. Everest, I am absolutely enthralled with this show.

I knew what Mt. Everest was, but it wasn't until I read an article in Outside magazine about the fateful, tragic day in May of 1996 when 8 climbers were killed that I started doing some serious research into this incredible mountain. Wow. This is some crazy stuff.

I also read Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" about the above mentioned tragedy. I wasn't aware until after I had read it that the book created a lot of controversy and brought up questions about climbing ethics and whatnot amongst the climbing community. Well, to be fair, the questions were already there but this event triggered a lot more discussions about such things. Also, some of the family members of the people who were on the various expeditions that day disagreed with the author's perspective about what happened and it was interesting to read the different points of view.

A lot of people are angry and disappointed at how commercialized Everest has become. I don't really blame them. Every year, hundreds of people pay thousands of dollars to go there and try their hand at climbing to the roof of the world. Based on everything I've read, most of the people who go there to summit shouldn't be there to begin with. Apparently climbing Everest is a big business these days in spite of the danger, and it's no longer "pure" in the eyes of a lot of climbers. Putting inexperienced people up there in the death zone is a recipe for disaster. There have been many books written on the subject.

Do I want to go to Mt. Everest? Absolutely. Not to climb her, though. I'm no fool, and I know there's not much chance I would make it past base camp. My dream is to photograph a few weeks or months of life on Everest. Can you imagine? What an incredible experience that would be. If I could get to Everest and Antarctica before I die, I would die a happy woman indeed.

Watching the show on TV and seeing the breathtaking scenery is incredible. I'm envious of the people who get to be there to film it and live it. It's not all beauty and glory, though. There are a lot of bad things that can and do happen during a summit expedition, and one of tonight's episodes illustrated that.

One of the climbing teams had just reached camp 4 (26,300 ft) and came across a dead body - one that had apparently only been there for a few days. It was partially buried in the snow and the face couldn't be seen, but it really brought home to the climbers (and me) how brutal Everest can be. It's not just the fact that the person died there, it's also the fact that the person will likely stay there forever unless the family chooses to pay for body removal and return home, if that's even deemed possible. There are many stories about climbers getting into trouble high on the mountain and being left for dead. It is said there are at least 120 bodies on Mt. Everest, and I'm not sure this figure includes the bodies of those who have fallen over the edge or into a crevasse and have not been found.

Wow. Wrap your mind around that one. You go to climb this legendary mountain, you end up dying, and you will most likely become part of the scenery.

One thing I learned about rescues on Everest (and other high mountains) is that they are just as dangerous for the rescuers and sometimes that means there IS no rescue. At some point, a climbing team may also have to make a tough decision - help with a rescue and risk losing their lives or their own chance to summit, or leave the injured/incapacitated person to fend for themselves, even knowing they will most likely die.

Check this out - it's part of a contract for an Everest Expedition company I found online:

Body Disposal/Repatriation Form

Climbing big mountains is inherently dangerous, and one of the potential situations best addressed before an expedition is what you would like done with your body, should you die in the mountains. If you die on a mountain on our trips we will do everything possible to assist in returning your body to the US. However there will be additional costs in doing this if it is possible. In many cases it may not be possible.

The US embassy or other foreign embassies will only assist in transporting your body back to the United States or other country once the body is back to the city where the embassy is located.

If you die on the mountain above 7800 meters ( 25,800 feet) your body will be left at that location.

If you die on the mountain above 5300 meters (17,500 feet) your body may be put in a crevasse and possibly marked with a rock cairn in a respectful manner by your expedition team members.

If you die lower on the mountain it might be possible to get your body down where it could be cremated by the locals. This will cost several thousand dollars including the cost of recovery labor, transport and body preparation, wood and appropriate donations to the local monastery. This cost is usually between $5,000.00 and $10,000.00. It will not be possible to bring your ashes home because of the cremation process.

If you die down lower on the mountain or on the trek to basecamp, it might be possible to get your body down for repatriation to your home country. If you elect repatriation of your body it would be via helicopter and would be quite complicated and expensive, in excess of $15,000 plus the cost of staff and might take several weeks.

No matter what altitude, if I die on the Mountain, I prefer to be:
Left on the Mountain: ___________________
Cremated by the locals: _________________
Repatriated: ___________________________

If I elect cremation or repatriation the following will pay for the costs for any election I have chosen. I also understand and agree that any costs shall be a lien against my estate and I authorize the trustee of any trust or the executor of my estate to pay for any such costs. If I elect cremation or repatriation the following will pay all costs incurred:

Life Insurance Policy:
Policy Number:
Additional comments:

Participant’s Signature: ______________________________________ Date:
Spouse’s Signature: _________________________________________ Date:

Wow. That's some heavy stuff right there. Talk about harsh reality.

I've been thinking about the subject of risk a lot lately, mainly due to things I've read about runners being attacked, cyclists being hit and injured or killed by careless drivers, etc. We have all read and posted stories about things like this, and yet that doesn't stop us from going out and doing what we love to do. It might alter the way we do things, but it doesn't stop us. It seems like most people whose blogs I read have incredible spouses/partners/families and friends who totally support what they do, which is awesome. Sometimes I wonder, though, if there's a limit to what we can ask our spouses/partners/families and friends to endure for the sake of us doing what we want to do or dream of doing.

We recently had a local cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver while on an early morning weekday ride. It was (is) a horrifying reality check to the local cycling and running community that these things can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time, and it caused a LOT of comment and controversy among cyclists and non-cyclists here. A friend of mine asked me a few days later if I was still cycling, and when I said yes he asked me how I could possibly continue cycling along our busy roads after what happened. I replied that, although I do my best to be as safe as I can and try to choose roads that have plenty of shoulder space, I don't go out being afraid I'm going to get hit. Of course I do everything I can to prevent it, but I can't stress about it or I'll spend all my time indoors on my spinner. Sorry, but that is NOT my idea of a great time.

He did get me thinking, though. How would my loved ones react if I were hurt or (knock on wood) killed while out riding my bike? Would they be angry with me for putting myself at risk, or would they understand that I was doing what I love to do and not hold it against me? I hope it would be the latter, but do I really have the right to put my loved ones through that? I have jokingly asked various people in my life what they would do if I told them I was going to Mt. Everest, and I've had responses varying from "That would be so cool!" to "Are you crazy? No way!" to "Well, I think you're insane but if that's what you want to do..."

There are two different schools of thought among climbers, I've learned. There are many climbers who would - and have - continue on their summit bids in spite of being faced with someone in need of help. At a glance, this seems terribly inhumane, doesn't it? These climbers, however, are of the mind that if a person is going to attempt something so dangerous, they are clearly aware of the risks and must assume responsibility for them - even if it means dying. When you stop to consider that helping someone else could put the rescuer's life in jeopardy as well, does it make leaving someone to die any easier to swallow?

Other climbers feel it goes against everything they believe in to leave someone behind or refuse to help someone who is clearly in trouble, and will stop to help them regardless of the danger to themselves and regardless of whether it means their own summit attempt will end.

Using Mt. Everest is a bit of an extreme example, but can you see my point? It's an interesting dilemma. Where does the ultimate responsibility rest for the decisions we make regarding situations we may put ourselves into - with ourselves or with how our loved ones may feel about it? How much do we expect our loved ones to put up with?

How far would YOU go to do something you've always wanted to do, regardless of the danger?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trying New Things

Now that the LIVESTRONG and Texas Oncology rides are over and there are no other rides on the horizon, I've been thinking a lot about what to focus on next. Yes, I've decided to do LIVESTRONG again, but it's a whole year away and, as I discovered a while ago, that's too far away for me to be able to focus on it seriously.

It was actually my blog buddy KC who suggested that I find other events to focus on, and it worked. There's a website I check often that lists local running and biking events, and it's usually pretty up to date. I checked it today and was very sad to see that the next biking event isn't until April 30th. That's practically forever!

I started eyeing all of the upcoming running events and I thought, "Hmmm. Why not?"

First, I will just say flat out that I have NEVER been a runner. I was on my junior high track team in 7th and 8th grade, but I don't think I did much running. I'm not really sure exactly what I did, but I do remember having this awesome pair of multi-colored shorts I wore that made my coach laugh. At least, I think that's what she was laughing at...

Anyway...I've been reading a lot of running blogs lately and find myself really envying my fellow bloggers who are so passionate about running, whether they are exclusively runners or triathletes. I used to run a few years ago but I aggravated an old ankle injury and that's when I turned more to cycling. I can remember feeling SO GOOD after my runs and feeling so NOT GOOD when I had to stop because of injury. Now that my ankle issues seem to have gone away I'm thinking seriously about getting into running again.

All of the blogs I follow are wonderful and very inspirational; there have been a couple of folks who have written lately about how when they first started running even a mile seemed impossible, and now they're running marathons and Ironmans (Ironmen? What's proper here?). I really absorbed what they had to say and have decided that I want to be able to write, in a few months or whenever, that I once thought a 5K was beyond me but now a 10K is like a walk in the park. Okay, maybe not a walk in the park, but at least possible. I am, as ever, in complete awe of anyone who can run for miles on end and remain focused on their goal...I just hope I can find that same courage and determination within myself. I learned long ago that my mind is a dangerous thing...

I started the Couch to 5K program a few months ago and was really enjoying it, but life got in the way and I had to miss a few days so I decided to put it on the back burner. I'm thinkin' it's time to start up again and take advantage of some of these running events that are coming up.

I've got my sights set on one event in particular: the 1st Annual 2011 Run at Borderfest on March 6th.
Why this event? Well, I figure it will probably take me that long to get to the point where I can legitimately compete in something like this. I'm no fool - I know this will be a tough, gradual process (and one I've started before and not completed) and I want to make sure I do it right. Plus, with the next few months being my busiest at school and with graduate school starting Monday (yipe!), I know this is going to take a lot of heavy-duty commitment and time juggling.

So, this may be me someday soon:

Or not. But it's something to aim for, right?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Texas Oncology Breast Cancer Awareness Ride Report

I have one word to say about this ride.


Okay, I actually have a lot more words (and pictures), but that is what comes to mind first.

How cold, you ask? Well according to Sig it was 10 below. Yes indeed. 10 below HER COMFORT LEVEL!!

She's so cold she's turning blue! Oh wait...

Actually, it was 48.5F at start time, according to my bike computer. I realize that's not cold for some of you, but it's freakin' cold for us down here in South Texas. I actually wore long pants to ride in, and that's practically unheard of.

Shan, AM, and I sat in my car for a while waiting for things to get started - or warm up a little - then we got out and started putting our gear together. Yeah, it was chilly. I was beginning to regret wearing a sleeveless vest over my shirt, but was very glad I had my long pants. My feet were NOT happy, though. I may be investing in shoe covers and arm warmers in the near future. I completely forgot I had a LIVESTRONG ear warmer sitting in a drawer at home. Darn it.

We went over to the staging area to wait for the start and that's when Sig discovered something was wrong with her rear wheel. She said she could feel a tugging as we were walking the bikes over to the staging area, so I sent her over to Wally's (a local bike shop that had set up a support shop) to see if they could figure out the problem (I was watching AM's bike, because she had wisely gone inside the Texas Oncology building while I stood outside and shivered).

She came back, and the verdict was a slightly bent wheel. Double crap. We both stood and stared at it as though by staring we could fix it, and I asked Sig what the guys at Wally's had recommended. She said the guy she spoke to said she could probably finish the ride, but he couldn't guarantee how safe it would be. Trooper that she is, she decided to go for it. He had made some kind of adjustment to keep the rim from rubbing the brake pad so we figured it would be okay for 20 miles.

One of the anchormen from the local news stopped buy with a video camera and asked us a few questions. I was happy to be able to give a shout out to my friend Joyce, in whose honor I was riding. I'm taping the news tonight to see if we made the cut! Exciting!

The ride was about to start and naturally, I had to pee. Being cold didn't help, either, but there was no time so I took off with the rest of the bunch. The start wasn't terribly organized - everyone pretty much just took off once the opening ceremonies and speeches were done, but the local HOG Chapter (Harley Owners Group) led the way on their motorcycles and that was fun.

BOY, am I out of shape. I couldn't find a comfortable gear and my legs and feet were cold. My fingers were cold, too, but I could deal with that. I just wished I had taken some time to ride these past two weeks because I was hurtin' almost immediately. Being out of shape sucks.

Things got better as I warmed up, then Sig had a problem with her wheel and we stopped to fix it. She managed to adjust things so the wheel didn't rub and we kept on going. AM had dropped us long ago, but stopped at a rest stop to wait for us so it didn't take a very long time for us to catch up to her. Next thing I knew Sig was saying we were halfway done, and that gave me a little burst of energy. The three of us stopped to take a short break and eat some Sport Beans and Gu (both of which were very cold and hard to chew, but tasted soooo good), then off we went again.

The last 10 miles weren't as tough as the first until we got to the Hill from Hell (mentioned in a previous post), which is Sig's nemesis. I got up the hill and stopped at a red light, and when I turned around to check for Sig I was VERY happy to see she was riding up behind me! This is the same hill she had to walk up the last time we rode that way, so it was exciting to see her be able to ride it. Way to go, Sig!

The finish line was about two miles of flat road from the top of the hill so it didn't take us much longer to get there. As we were walking back to the car to put the bikes on the rack, we noticed a HUGE barbecue pit and two guys grilling hot dogs. My mouth immediately started watering and I realized how hungry I was at about the same time Sig said she was starving. We got the bikes all locked up and went over to where the hot dogs were being served. Some very nice folks from a local church were in charge of the food and had the hot dogs in buns and ready to go with all the trimmings, so we had ourselves a spot of lunch inside the building before taking off.

The hot dog dudes. Awesome.

On the way back to my house, we decided to stop in at the LBS and see what could be done about Sig's bike. I thought maybe it just needed to be put on a truing stand and aligned again.

Good thing I'm not a bike mechanic! As it turns out, the back hub is cracked and she (well, her bike) has two broken spokes. Yikes! It's just damn lucky her wheel didn't fall apart along the ride - that could've been really scary!

Broken hub

Broken spoke. Oops.

Anyway, she's going to look into ordering a new wheelset so that means she's off the bike until she takes care of that. Bummer. Glad she didn't end up getting hurt, though.

Here are some photos from the ride:

For Joyce, baby!

Riding in memory of his mom

AM finishing

Me finishing

Sig finishing

Overall, the ride itself was pretty good, what I could see of it through my watering eyes and runny nose. Well, I guess my runny nose didn't exactly affect my eyesight, but you know what I mean. I will definitely be doing it again next year!