Friday, January 27, 2006

Searching for a Clue

Ever have one of those days where you can't figure out where the hell you're going? In life, I mean? (Yes, look out, this Existential Crisis is brought to you by the Institute for Shambling Through Life Without a Plan, also known as, The Marty School of Follow Your Bliss, Then Get Your Ass Lost.) I mean, seriously. It's like that funny sign I saw somewhere: "This life is only a test. If this were a real life, you'd be told where to go and what to do."

My friend Beth and I were talking about this the other night. Both of us have come a certain distance in our lives and now the progress seems to have ground to a halt. What's next? Beth has no love for her job, although she's very good at it and makes more money than I do in my so-called "fun, cool" job. I don't hate my job by any means, but I'm teetering on the crumbling cliffside of financial instability -- mainly because my salary, for all intents and purposes, is not increasing. I'm the dodo bird of journalism (pun not exactly intended, but I guess it's apt enough) because I actually prefer small-town reporting, and so I've never moved on to that big metro newspaper that would pay me a living wage. But by the same token, things in Boulder have gotten a bit stale for me, and I've lost the idealism that fueled my passion for visual reportage, back in the day. (That's a whole separate topic, there!) And now I've reached a level of stagnation, where I have no money to take any risks in my career without the specter of debt, and anyway, now the whole destination's gotten obscured.

I've always been a person who had strong ideas of what I wanted and went after them-- even if they were dumb ideas-- so this state of not-knowing is foreign and oppressive to me. I fumble about, thinking that moving elsewhere is the answer, or that wholesale career change is the answer, but I can't any concrete ideas about either one. So I periodically annoy whatever friends or boyfriends who are handy with my mental/emotional navel-gazing and tail-chasing. Then I give up and pursue other passions, while I wait for the light bulb to come on. Time passes, I finally notice it's still dark in here. Crap, what's up with that? I grope around for the light switch or something else as quick-fix, and discover that I still haven't the vaguest idea of how to solve my problem.

I've been doing some field research on other careers lately, but none of them really sound appealing either. Can't I just jump on my high-wheeler and ride off into the sunset??

I have to say in defense of my life, though,that none of it truly sucks. I have a really good time with the vast majority of it -- living simply, riding my bike, enjoying my friends and the great outdoors, with little pressure or stress. My job meets my basic needs and allows me six glorious weeks of vacation to immerse myself in the things I enjoy. But the lack of deeper meaning is an insidious beast, sneaking up on me in moments of weakness. Are our lives even SUPPOSED to have a so-called "higher meaning?" Sometimes I think that's a cruel joke to make ordinary people living ordinary lives feel shitty about themselves. Perhaps in reality, meaning is in the details of life; how you interact with the people you care about, how you perform small duties each day, whether you help or hurt the situations in your immediate influence, etc. Perhaps all this big-picture fixating just distracts us from the real stuff we should be doing on the small scale.

Hell if I know, huh?? Now I've just dragged you all into my philosophical spin cycle. There's no shame in using the sick bag. :-)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sorry About Your Penis

I can't take credit for that great quote... it comes from the unrivaled humor of my friend Akira Yasuda, trials and mountain biker extraordinaire.

But here's my contribution to the FUH2 movement of disgust and loathing of ostentatious consumerism and wastefulness:

Now, I know, this is the height of laziness, to shoot this without even getting out of my car, but to wax photo-jargony for a minute, I like the framing device of my own car window; plus, it gives the viewer the feeling of the H2 blotting out the very universe, as I felt when it pulled up next to me.

Dude. I REALLY am sorry about your little problem.

Monday, January 23, 2006

ASS - fault

Stop the presses! -- I actually did a road ride yesterday. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's snowing in Hell right now. Recent moisture and cold weather have rendered the trails unrideable, so I figured I'd succomb to my teammate Cindy's peer pressure to go on a road ride with her and some friends.

I rode out to Longmont to join them, since I was supposed to be doing a pretty long day, and on the way I encountered a guy changing a flat tire. I slowed down to make sure that he had everything he needed, and he totally recognized me. "Marty! How are you? What's up?" etc. True to form for me, I had NO IDEA who this guy was! He was in Louisville Cyclery clothes, but that didn't clue me in... and he was bundled up against the cold, which made it worse. I made the best small talk I could, then escaped as quickly as possible. He could probably tell with no trouble that I was totally clueless. God, I hate that!

When I got to Longmont, surviving the expected close encounters with penis-compensating rednecks in jacked-up pickups, I found the girls at the Dyslexia Cafe. (This coffee shop used to be called Gizzi's, and was a sponsor of our bike team. Now they're still a sponsor, but out of the blue they changed their name to Ziggi's. HUH??? I'm still waiting for an explanation on that one.)

After consuming some fabulous banana bread, we took some back roads north toward Mead, passing Cindy's Scenic Lake.

We made a detour to find some outdoor johns, but they were locked, which was annoying. After running out of ideas on how to write "These bathrooms should be open" in pee, we took a leak nearby. I recently learned that public urination is considered a sex crime... can you believe that?? That basically means that every runner, cyclist, triathlete, adventure racer, etc etc. in this town in a "pervert." Hmmm... okay, wait a minute... where is this line of thought going, again?

Anyway, I pulled out the camera again and got this response:

Nice. We made our way back to Longmont, and I persuaded Cindy to ride with me part of the way back to Boulder. I was pretty tapped by this point, entering hour number four on the bike, and she was kind enough to tow me all the way back, practically to my doorstep. And the gods must have truly been smiling on us, because a largish group of other riders passed us and were surprisingly friendly. I usually find many dedicated roadies to be snooty; they usually pass without deigning to even say "On your left." Maybe my name is written in large letters on my ass, because one of these riders recognized me, too... my acquaintence Chuck Coyle of the Vitamin Cottage team. He gave me a big wave as they passed.

I was very happy to get in nearly four hours of saddle time yesterday, and it was great to have some social miles with pals, but I still maintain that road riding is not for me. I feel that it has all the physical work with none of the mental/emotional rejuvenation that I get from mountain biking. I love to be in the woods, away from the noise and pollution of cars, where I can stop and hear nothing but the wind in the trees, and see wildlife, etc. etc. And of course I need the mental challenge of rocks and other terrain. Sitting on a bike on the road, pedaling like a robot with nothing else to do just leaves me feeling flat. But the beauty of cycling is that there's something for everyone. From road riding and it's various forms -- track racing, crit racing, road racing -- to mountain biking... trail riding, freeriding, downhilling... and all the more unusual things, like trials, dirt jumping, -- even mountain unicycling -- you just plain can't go wrong. That's what I love about this sport. There's always something new to try if you want to.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

One Speed is All You Need

I took a ride on my newly re-converted singlespeed yesterday.

The one gear makes the bike very light, quiet, and simple.

There are many mountain bikers out there, like Zack, who make riding tough terrain with one gear look ridiculously easy. After just cruising around some dirt paths yesterday on this, I really have to give them props. My trigger finger was twitching all over the place, looking for that nonexistent shift level to find another gear. A lot of the time I was either spinning out or bogging down, and my legs were always yearning for their optimal cadence, which I could rarely find. In the world of true mountain biking, singlespeeding really teaches you to refine your pedal stroke, preserve your momentum, and plan ahead. (You also need a very strong core and healthy knees!)

While I love how cool this bike is, I have come to the conclusion that I am not a skilled enough mountain biker to appreciate the extra challenges of the singlespeed. What I really love about my geared bike is it's Swiss Army Knife versatility. I can blaze along the road in my big ring to get to a trailhead, then creep up steep hills and technical sections in my granny gear. And for now, I definitely need all those options!! Perhaps when my skills have improved and I'm finding that things are feeling too easy, I'll revisit the unique experience of taking on every trail, whether smooth or rocky, with one gear. In the meantime, in the world of just getting around town, it's a fun toy to have!

However. In my current situation of two-job debt fighting, I'm pondering selling this bike, most likely by parting it out. I could definitely shorten the time I spend working two jobs, or else pad my savings account, by doing so. While I hate to part from any bicycle I own, especially since this one has an interesting history (it belonged to Allison Sydor, a professional Trek racer who was extremely successful), I rarely ride it. It's mostly a showpiece. And since it's a pretty high-end bike, although a bit older now, it really should belong to someone who will ride it, race it, love it the way I love my other mountain bike.

But you know me... I might give it a few more rides before I make up my mind. :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

And They Say Money Can't Buy Happiness

Well, folks, I'm going to do the best I can to keep up with my blog, but I've taken on a second job. I have some bills that need to be paid, and the Daily Camera isn't cutting it (surprise, surprise). I've had to start working the desk at my gym. It isn't hard work or anything, but I have to stand the entire time, and that's exhausting. Right now I'm having to work three 14-hour days in a row, and let me tell you, that's not working! My legs are about ready to seize up and fall off, and that's not even counting my actual cycling training. So I'm going to lose one of the gym shifts... that should help.

This gym is a rebirth of the place where I've been working out since 1998, Boulder's Pulse Fitness Center. It was always a low-key place with a lot of endurance athletes and downtown professionals. Very few bodybuilders or poseurs. But then the owner of the Pulse decided to buy out another local gym, Body Balance, and combine the two into this completely new club, just built in December. It's a very nice facility, but it's hardly bigger than the old place, with nearly 500 more members added. Needless to say, it's annoyingly crowded, and more people are joining every day. I'm a bit worried. Plus, Body Balance was the place all the steroid-using, flex-in-front-of-the-mirror, "Oh my god, don't do any cardio exercise -- your muscles will shrink!", overbuilt and egotistical wanna-be bodybuilders worked out. They love to prance and grunt their way around the weight room in half-shirts and lycra shorts, a truly horrifying combination by most anyone's standards. And then the former Pulse members are a lot of lean, skinny runners and cyclists, calmly walking around doing low weights/high reps (oh, the horror!) in a t-shirt and shorts. So I think it's safe to say that these two groups of people are not sharing this small space very willingly. But, everyone hates change, and I think it will all work out in the end. In the meantime, it's fun to watch!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Oy vey!!

Today is a good day! First of all, I made a cool picture before 9am, which sets a good tone for the rest of the day:

Naomi Steinberg, a rabbi from Carlotta, Calif., performs her morning prayers on Wednesday at the Hotel Boulderado. Steinberg was one of about 180 rabbis, rabbinic pastors, and cantors who gathered in Boulder for the 8th Annual Ohalah Conference, a six-day event organized by Aleph: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal. Attendees came from all over the U.S., as well as Israel and Germany, and from all denominations of the Jewish faith. This is the 7th year the conference has been held in Boulder.

And then I got a call from my buddy Troy at the gym where I work out and teach spinning. He desperately needs someone to work the front desk, so voila! I have my part-time job. It doesn't pay that great for the first month, but it will get better after that; plus I can make commissions by selling things out of the "pro shop." This is great, because I was finding that right after Christmas is a tough time to find work. AND it ends the dilemma I was in about my gym membership. I had been warned that as only a substitute spin instructor (the gym bought another one and is under new management) I would have to start paying for my gym membership. Apparently, only the people who teach a class every week get a free membership. But now I've got all that worked out, and some dough coming in as well! I hope to have my moving/car/medical bills paid off by April or May. Come on universe, send some more freelance jobs my way so I can get out of debt even faster!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Quote of the Day

"If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough."

-- Mario Andretti

What Is UP With The Weekends???

Why do they go by so fast? It ain't right, I tell you.

I got up on Saturday and headed out on a long ride, looping around the Reservoir and headed up toward Heil Valley Ranch.

I had to stop to shoot a picture of the funky thistle-thingies out there:

It's just amazing how freakin' warm it was. Check out the short sleeves:

When I got up to Heil Valley Ranch, I ran into my teammate, Steve Held, and I gotta tell you, this makes the FOURTH time I've run into him on a trail in the past few weeks. This is either eerie coincidence, or Boulder County is in desperate need of some more trails. It's probably the latter. He thought it was pretty amazing, too, especially since the last time we bumped into each other, we saw no one else.

On the way back, the wind really started to kick up. It has been unrelentingly windy lately. Global warming is upon us!

Then on Sunday, Zack and I suited up to ride again, but some scary weather loomed over the Foothills, and we both lost interest. Plus we were sick of the damned wind. Zack is one of the few people who can make the old-school cycling cap look hot:

Friday, January 06, 2006

Tattooing Has Always Been Fashionable...

....for cattle, anyway.

This was my assignment this morning, and I got the urge to see this in black and white:

This ranch belongs to the Hogan brothers, one of whom was born right behind the spot where this photo was taken.

Living Vicariously

This time of year I tend to spend a lot of my down time at the computer, staring slack-jawed at other people's mountain biking photos. Most of them are from the "Passion" forum at This time of year, everyone does their "photo recap" of the previous year, and there were some nice ones. Some of them aren't great photographers, but I just get jazzed looking at all the cool locations.

I've been to Moab, of course, but check out this sweet-ass collage my friend Rich made:

I've been here, too... Commando Run in Vail, so this gives me a warm fuzzy:

This is Tsali, in the Smoky Mountains... I really want to go here, among a ton of other places:

This is in Idaho, where I've also been, but not to this spot... gorgeous!!

Arizona somewhere:

California somewhere... wish this shot had a cyclist in it:

No idea where this is, but I still wanna be there:

It's a beautiful day in January, but I always manage to still be wishing it's June. ;-)

Money, Tools and the Mysterious Heat

Serendipity strikes again! After I made it a goal to get out of debt, I got a call yesterday morning from Polaris Images in New York. They had a job that needed to be shot in Westminster (yes, I mean in Colorado) for the London Sunday Times. It was for a story about Tomboy Tools, a company out of Denver that makes tools for women... you know, like power drills that are smaller and lighter and ergonomically designed for smaller hands, etc. They sell them through "tool parties," like the old Tupperware parties, at people's homes. This company is expanding into the U.K., so this London paper wanted pictures from a tool party that was happening last night. Luckily I was free to do it, but it sure made for a long day, since I had to transmit the photos immediately afterward. I ended up working from 8am to 11pm... ugh! But I'll make about $400 once Polaris takes its cut, which is way better pay than I'm going to get at my second job.

Anyhow, here's one of the women from the party:

This girl was really funny. When she was told that the drill could be used on masonry, concrete, etc., she asked, "Will it go through bone?"

So after busting my ass all day, I got home and found that my tempermental thermostat was on the blink again, and my house was 80 degrees. I threw open all the windows, but the heat kept cranking, and I could barely sleep from being too warm. But I have no idea how to make the heat shut off!! I turned the thermostat all the way down, but that does nothing at all. Thank god I don't pay for the heat, but it's wasteful nonetheless. Plus it's totally annoying to have a down comforter on your bed when your house is 80 degrees. Grrrr. I always get pissy after a bad night's sleep.

The good news is that the weather is supposed to be great this weekend! I'm long overdue to put in some long slow miles on the bike (as opposed to the long, high-intensity miles I put in during the Moab trip last week), so that's my goal for the weekend.

Zack and I weren't feeling the photo vibe in Moab, so the few pictures we shot are pretty lame. I'll try to get one or two up here soon, though.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hyperspace Exits

I think I just flew through it. It's called "the Holidays." Damn!

Zack and I hung out in Denver with my family for Christmas, which was fun -- we played Trivial Pursuit and had dinner at The Fort, where all the waiters wear Western clothes and serve you big slabs of meat. The best part of the day, though, was this:

"Luke... I am your father." Yes, my brother and I are Star Wars geeks. We're of that generation, you know.

And after we finally got over all the cool buzzy/whooshy noises it makes, we had to mess around:

Sweet!! (Zack's a good sport.)

I hate New Year's Eve, mostly because I don't drink, and I have fairly low tolerance for drunk people. So I just spent a couple of hours at a mellow party, and went home long before midnight. I had to work New Year's Day, anyway, shooting the stupid Polar Bear Plunge, where a bunch of people jump into the frigid water of the Boulder Reservoir. I guess they think they're staring the new year by doing something "really daring!" Wow!! I sure hope the rest of your year is a hell of a lot more exciting than this, folks. You'll have to forgive my sarcasm... this is one of those events I can't stand to see anymore after 10 years at the Daily Camera.

Four students from Longmont High School, from left, Alex Zuelke, Dan Moulton, Joe Diefenbach, and Mike Best, leap into the Boulder Reservoir on Sunday as part of the Polar Bear Plunge, a benefit for the Longmont Humane Society.

Thankfully, the next assignment was cooler -- the Japanese New Year.

Hiroki Miyake, left, uses a big wooden mallet to pound sticky rice into a smooth paste as part of the Mochitsuki ceremony Sunday at the Japanese New Year celebration on the Pearl Street Mall. The rice ceremony is a tradition in Japan, where its stretchy consistency symbolizes long life and brings good luck to those who eat it. At right is Tak Nagatani.

Yumi Sueyoshi, right, and her husband, Taka, left, play Taiko drums as part of the Japanese New Year celebration Sunday on the Pearl Street Mall.

This was much more fun to watch, and since I wasn't hung over, I thought the drums sounded pretty damn cool.

Anyhow, 2006 is upon us, and since I'm notorious for just living in the moment, I figured I had better make some goals for the year:

1. Have a fantastic year of mtn bike riding and racing. Stay uninjured!!
2. Get out of debt and put more money in savings.
3. Buy a condo or find housing I want to stay in more than one year at a time.
4. Make some real progress toward solving my career dilemma.
5. Work on making more meaningful friendships.

I know, you're aren't supposed to have more than about three goals at a time, but I've got a whole year to work on these things, right? ;-)

Here are some things I learned last year:

1. Nothing matters more than your health. Coming back after a horrible back injury to place 4th in the local mtb race series felt really, really good.
2. Getting abruptly dumped by the love of your life really hurts. But as long as you can ride, it's truly okay.
3. Grab life by the handlebars, and be sure that you're the one steering it.
4. Ride somewhere new as often as possible.
5. Let your legs do the talking, not your mouth.
6. Trust that you can ride obstacles that scare you.
7. A life without regular riding partners is a bummer.

In '06 I'm sure I'll learn a bunch of things I'm not even aware of yet, but I'm hoping to:

1. Clean a local tough trail all in one go
2. Travel to awesome riding destinations
3. Win a race in my category and upgrade
4. Create that group of rock-solid riding peeps that I've been looking for
5. Regain my faith in the world of relationships -- cheeseball, but true!

I hope the new year is a banner one of all of you as well!