Monday, March 30, 2009

R.I.P. Chelsea Chittenden Beavers

I was pregnant, tired, completely war torn and waiting tables as a second job; saving money for the eventual birth of my son. Chelsea was young, beautiful, and people were drawn to her like she had magnets in her heart. She came to work at the restaurant with her dear friend. They did everything together, and they both enjoyed confiding in me during our shifts after they'd been on some adventure together.

I was years their senior, and I think, they felt that anything they did, could never be as bad as some of my stories, and I never judged, so they told me another, and another. She never knew it, but she saved her best friend's job many times, as she ran circles around nearly everyone at work. They kept the lesser skilled, lesser dedicated friend around knowing full well that if she left, Chelsea would likely leave too.

She was dedicated, hard working, fun and beautiful.

One day, her best friend disappeared and I saw a different side of the bubbling, happy, beautiful blonde haired girl. Chelsea cried standing in the well as we both waited for drinks. She recounted their last conversation, their last argument, her friend not answering her phone.

She was shattered. Heartbroken. Alone.

Eventually, she'd pick up the pieces, make new friends, and I never heard what happened to the friend. After T was born the updates from Chelsea weren't as frequent. I'd still see her and ask to sit in her section whenever I went to that restaurant, but the day to day stories fell by the way side.

We both grew, moved on. But that same smile, charisma, charm; those caring questions, they never left.

And today, when I came to work, and made my way through my Monday morning email and Facebook rituals, I learned that Chelsea died. Since I'd last seen her, she'd gone from blonde to brunette, fallen in love, gotten married and was carrying her first child. A blood clot in her brain took her silently, and robbed her husband and her family in a quick instant of so many of their dreams.

She was due to have her first baby in October.

There are really no words to describe how unfair this is. How heartbroken her husband, family and closest girlfriends friends have to be for having lost this tiny bundle of energetic love; their first child, grandchild, her stalwart devotion. I also sit here with little else on my mind but the intrinsic knowledge that people do not recover from this type of loss.

They do not move on. They survive, maybe. But they are never, ever the same. They are not unlike anyone who came in this bright woman's shining path.

Forever changed. Forever better.
And yet...


Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Peeps

I just asked T if he knew what Peeps were, as I contemplated the food for a forthcoming social gathering/experiment.

His response:

"Yeah mama, like Pedro and Ryan are my peeps?"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Racing Season IS Here...And So Is SNOW!?!?

Racing season is upon us folks, and while we've done plenty of bragging about our 70 degree cloudless days, it will surely snow again, and for good measure, why not this weekend....because after all,this is Iowa.

How about this weekend?

That's right, the forecast calls for rain mixed with snow and ice for our big debut Sunday. It will be interesting to see how my bike works on steep descents with no brakes. But those are mere details. I am trying my best to focus on the positive; moreso than freezing my ass off, crashing or finishing DFL. Racing season means spending more time with these lovely ladies, and suffering along side them:

It means earning your post ride beers, in places like this:And most importantly, it means connecting with beautiful people like Gayle (below), more often than the typical once-a-year-at-Ragbrai. If there was ever a woman I met on a bike who is my sister from another mother, it is Gayle. I cannot wait to give her a big 'ole hug this weekend, swap some stories, introduce our children and share a couple beers. Together on bikes we are the perfect combination of "Sag-a-ga-wee-a" and overachiever. We are even more dangerous, however, when we are thinking about biking, but not biking.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Team Outing

The cycling crew got together at Jethro's last night and T came along to meet the team. He was on his best behavior and walked out fairly enamored by my teammates.

His words: "such a nice group of people mom, you should really feel great about that."

Jethro's is my new fave place: comes complete with waiters who make you laugh until you cry, an eclectic mix of clientele, the tastiest ribs ever, mouth watering brisket, damned good cornbread, gooey garlic mashed potatoes, a healthy beer selection, and EVERY SINGLE NCAA GAME televised.

Yes, we are in the Midwest, it is March Madness, and I could not be happier about the gluttony.

I COULD be happier about my child's new food budget (and shoe budget and pants budget, which are posts for other days) which seems to be eating larger and larger portions of my paycheck as T's self-described "growing worm" ravages its way through his quickly-approaching-my-size-body. My kid orders his steaks medium rare, extra sides of sausage and bacon whenever possible, and now this...full racks of ribs.

At least he has taste. Enjoy the weekend. We'll be watching hoops and comparing brackets if you need us.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tulsa Tales: Malcolm and Tim

When Malcolm and Tim showed up to ride with us, we thought they'd pull out a couple maps, send us in a particular direction, and go on their merry way.

Instead, these two strangers/friends dropped race entries, ditched their families, jobs, and spent three, long, and at times grueling days in the saddle with us. They cheered when we nailed a pace line, didn't seem to mind our bitching, were the first ones off their bikes when we had a mechanical, and especially quick with encouragement and gentle coaching. Their patience in explaining what was to come with each chunk of road was also invaluable, and I would guess, quite unlike riding with a bunch of dudes. They also took us out to dinner, opened their homes, introduced us to some of Tulsa's finest and even hauled us to a few bars.

On that last day our group split into two rides.

I followed the climbers for a hard left, despite all sorts of warning bells going off in my head, ass, and legs begging for a hard right. Within minutes we'd crested our first hill, settled into a false flat and a lively pace line. It was fast and I could barely hold on. Malcolm instructed me to hang in the back and suck up the love. I looked down, my spedometer read 31 mph. I held on. Then a break. I dropped. Pedaled hard up. Caught it. Then fell off the back again, and the rest of the group broke, then scampered up a 1.5 mile climb.

I have never wanted so badly to go all fetal and just die on my bike. I could not feel my hands or feet. My breath seemed to come from the top of my stomach, if you could even call my disgusting wheezes a breath. There was little I could do but drop it into an easier gear and spin. I am amazed, in hindsight that I stayed on my bike. It likely would have required too much effort to clip out. And so it went.

I pedaled.

I spun helplessly and steadily as the rest of the group scampered to the top, becoming smaller and smaller until I could not see them at all. I knew it was pointless and likely futile to try and catch them, but I also knew I needed to, eventually. My eyes watered over, my legs screamed, and I dry heaved off the side of my bike.

And then I noticed Malcolm. Slowly, drawing back. He waited until I'd caught my breath a bit, slid along beside me, took up my pace (read: damned SLOW) and started chatting. About Ragbrai. Des Moines. My son. His job. He did most of the talking. And then, gradually, when I was ready, he pulled me up that hill, and pushed me onto the back with the others. There were no words, just an occassional look over his shoulder to ensure I was still there. It was seamless. They never heard my heaves. He never said a word.

It is always on the bike that I feel the most vulnerable. It is also always on the bike that I feel strongest.

People like Malcolm and Tim, with whom you can bond in these moments of uncertainty, vulnerability, celebration and complete exhaustion, they make the adventure totally worthwhile.

It is no coincidence that I always seem to find these generous, wonderful souls...pedaling.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tulsa Tales Con't.

Here we all are as we are boarded and ready to leave our swanky Tulsa digs.

200 miles.
3 days.
Lots and lots of climbing.

And yes, we are most certainly dressed in matching shirts. Tulsa Tough shirts.

Soon you will learn more.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The full trip report forthcometh, in the meantime, meet Raymond. The day Keely and I met him he was being booted from the Tulsa YMCA. It was not clear how long he'd lived there, but he was looking this day, for a new home. One "complete with lots of silence, and Care Bears so I can align the zeros in my head, all in a row."

Raymond is a proud Korean Vet, in the process of writing his first book (about the homeless), where he hopes to pull together the common attributes of 1,000 of the colorful homeless folks he met during six years of self-induced homelessness along the east coast.

Raymond was also a self proclaimed "huge advocate" of reflectors and bike lights just like the ones he had on the planes he flew in Korea. We met him outside our Tulsa home one morning pre-ride. He stopped by again later that evening so we could see his (new/different than this) bike, all lit up, with a fancy 2x4 constructed trailer.
Raymond's motto, ask every person you see how they are doing.
When they respond and ask how HE'S doing, reply:
Oh, I'm getting older and uglier.
Aren't we all?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tulsa Tough

I've been in Tulsa at bike training camp with the team for three days. I am back and saddle sore but the legs feel amazingly good after pounding out 200 miles and some epic climbs.

There is really nothing better than returning home to a flat car tire, a late night, early morning, but somehow feeling completely undeterred by these small details. It sure helps that the sun is out, the birds are singing and there are buds on my trees. Life is grand, endorphins are cool. Pictures and the low down are forthcoming. Spring has sprung.

I just need to remember my name and heal my arse.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


When it comes to cycling, I have been influenced by many. Of course, there is this guy, without whom, I would still be grinding and hammering and especially wimpy. He always thought I never listened when he spouted off suggestion after suggestion as I chased him around in all his single speeded glory, but I did. Even when he spouted off a bazillion instructions and suggestions after I'd told him I could only remember one thing at at time....I still listened. Learned.

Then there are these two pictured above, who I met through the former. Practically everyone in the bike-a-verse knows Cheever (the evil guy on the left), who runs this here place. He's batshit crazy, and I met him one Ragbrai way back when. Eventually he flipped me so much shit that we wrestled and when I pinned him those Evil folks promptly kidnapped me and claimed me as their own.

Then there is Roberto (the one who is adjusting his spine), who rarely utters a word, but it 110% badass. The guy rides a single speed mountain bike on Ragbrai every year, and we all still find ourselvees sucking his wheel. He's a machine, a computer geek and a tweaker. In the sense of tweaker that he'll often cock his head sideways somewhat like my dog, and lament that perhaps my seat post be a fraction of a fraction off, so we should stop so he could fix that right away. I met him the year he and the Viking rode their bikes from Bellingham, TO Ragbrai. He makes me laugh my ass off, has literally pushed me up more than one hill, and is a wonderful teacher. He taught me to climb. In more ways than one.

I just never knew, with all their talents, that these two could hula hoop. And THAT made my week.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Welcome to the Family B2

I often use this space to brag about my amazingly awesome friends. However, many times I feel like I do not have adequate words to do my friends or their stories justice so there are just as many times that I'll want to write a tribute, yet cannot come up with anything that accurately portrays their gift or the moment.

Long disclaimer aside, I have struggled for nearly two weeks trying to come up with a few words that are appropriate, adequate and somehow express the honor I felt when at around noon two weeks ago, when my friend K asked me to be present for the birth of her and B's son. I scampered around my office and then house like an idiot, throwing snacks, clothes and other essentials into a bag, made the trek south to the hospital and waited.

And waited.
And waited.

Finally, at around 2:05 a.m. little B2 made his grand and yet somewhat reluctant entrance into this bright, unforgiving world.

I could flood this space with a span of emotions and a recounting of all the little stories that came from the time shared that day. It was a range that went from ravenous hunger, silly laughter, nervous small-talk, to utter amazement, a fierce sense of calm, aerobic heart thumping nervousness, unparalleled bravery, unconditional love, terror, joy, pain, exhaustion and everything in between. But in the end, I cannot tell any of these stories because I keep coming back to this feeling deep in my guts that this whole experience, this whole gift that my friends gave me by their sharing of themselves and their moment, it is too sacred, too personal, and really just so much more than I could ever put into words.

That said, I have never felt more honored than I was to be asked to watch this little man, who I have been calling B2 (because of several uncanny characteristics that already make me think he'll be a small clone of his daddy/B1), make his grand entrance into our crazy, mixed up, beautiful lives. I will forever feel a fierce committment to protecting and caring for the little guy as I watch him grow, discover the world, skin his knees, and bonk his head.

To B&K: thank you seems so inadequate for this gift you gave of sharing your day and these moments. I am limited once again by words. The two of you have provided for me a calm, and respite, and refuge, and so many side splitting laughs during the past two years of uncertainty.

I know that I will never repay you, and yet, I'll continue to try. To B2: you have many wonderful and caring blood relatives to guide you on your way, but never underestimate the love your crazy aunt ali has for you. It already knows no bounds.

Friday, March 6, 2009

It's The Weekend, Go Ride Your Bike!

I have acquired a couple faithful Bellingham followers, so wanted to put in a quick plug for my boys from the 'Ham's Alleycat this weekend. It's the It's Your Birthday Allecat, and those who dress as clowns ride free. I am scared of clowns, and have to admit, that while I would love to partake in the Alleycat festivites promising free home brewed beer, a frame giveaway from Transition, amongst other cool schwag, I am scared to death of the thought of the three of these guys together in general, dressed as clowns, well it is almost too much to fathom.

If Bellingham is too far for you to go on a whim, there is always the Dirty RR. So get out your cross or mountain bike and prepare to schlog through the elements and some gravel. By the looks of the weather forecast, it'll be dirty and wet. Rumor has it that a few of my girls will be trailbound from Orlando's to the Cumming tap in search of the great Rassy's crew, to heckle and throw beer cans as they pass. Should make for a fun day.

Or, you could join me Sunday at CrossFit for another ass whopping/fundamentals class. The options are truly endless...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cross Fit THIS!

I finally acquiesed and went to my friend Leigh Ann's Cross Fit gym last night. I did the "free trial" workout, knowing full well:

1. She would kick my ass (she has been kicking it since, oh third or fourth grade in various sports endeavors).

2. I would likely get sucked into this whole progam and "join up."

I was successful on both counts. My quads were so sore this a.m. that I had to sit down and "take a break" as I descended MY OWN STAIRS.

I thought I was in shape? Apparently not! My only regret is that I did not try this sooner. I am now close to racing season and would really like to have a couple months of this under my belt already. But I procrastinate and I really loved my kickboxing and it was so very hard to bid that workout adieu for a bit. Nonetheless, I am super pumped to see how these workouts improve my explosive power on the bike.
Give me two months....

I Locked My Keys In The "Car"

I locked my keys in my car this a.m. I called my super hero daddy-o, who quickly appeared with his jimmy from his coppin' days, one of his buddies, the big ass orange truck they drive. I was on the phone when they arrived at my office; and they were successful at their break in with liketdy split speed; and of course the alarm went off. He hurries in to my office to find me, and eventually we were all three rustling around the car looking endlessly for my keys, horn blasting, the entire office looking out the windows, surely thinking WTF?.....only to find that the KEYS WERE ON THE ROOF THE ENTIRE TIME.

And of course, I was not quick enough to say:
"Oh here they are on the floorboard."

I instead, blurt out:
"OMG, dumbass of the year. They are ON THE ROOF!"

At which point my dad said a few swear words, and his buddy nearly fell out of his truck in laughter. Awesome.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Brr...It's Ass Biting Cold. I'll Go Ride My Bike Now

This whole racing thing is changing me. Already. Sure, I have heard people lament about "roadie" culture and such, the stereotypes of riding and upwards of 20 hours a week during the off season, talking endlessly about splits, raw food diets, abstaining from alcohol and the like, well knowing me to be me, I just never really believed I'd fall into the deep torrid hole.

And then there was yesterday, where I found myself riding around in circle after circle at Des Moines' Water Works Park, on my bike. It was 13 degrees and windy.

Yes, you read this correctly. 13. Degrees.

Allow me to assure you, it was damned cold for this weiner. And while I did have along some kick ass Cabella's camo hunting gloves that Ben borrowed me (complete with a trigger cut out in the index finger region), I did most definitely NOT have booties. My feet were frozen solid stubs of worthlessness but a few minutes into this adventure.

Nonetheless, I am happy to report, that the brave men who assisted our team in this training adventure were just that, brave. We did not crash a one of them. And by god, I even had FUN. I learned a helluva a lot to boot.
I have not stopped sneezing since, although I have regained most of the feeling in my feet. And I am still trying to discern if this very achy feeling deep in my lungs is because I bestowed upon my lungs permanent frostbite, or if this is the natural feeling that comes after getting your ass whooped so hard doing chases that you nearly barf and wheeze your head off.

Either way, I am ready for more.

The whole experience reminded me of the day, not more than four years ago, when my Bellingham man turned to me one rainy, shitty, grey Bellingham day and declared:

"You know, you're going to have to learn to ride in the weather if you ever want to be any good."

I looked at him with one eye evilly squinted and shot him daggers.

And then I sweetly replied with a shit eating grin, "oh? maybe I don't want to be any good."

And he responded, "Yes you do. I know you."

I did not ride that day. To prove a point. Or something like that.

Hindsight's always 20/20.