25 June 2007

from the sofa to the saddle

before i met dan, ignorance was my bliss.

for all i knew, Gear was for garages and bikes were made for California cruisin' surfers and riding to Allison Holtkamp's house to play Barbies. i was first in line to tie streamers onto my handlebars, giddy for the neighborhood 4th of July parade (usually peddling my Bigwheel which can hardly be considered a bike). i had no idea then that i would eventually marry into a family not only obsessed with Gear in general, but largely proud of the fact that they do it all: bike, hike, raft, climb, ski, etc. if i were talking to a gear oriented audience i might throw out words i've learned since marrying in, such as: cycle, scramble, run rivers, repel, tele, etc. to further express my husband's rough & tough lifestyle.

little did i realize that i would someday seek out the type of boy who was daring, adventurous and outdoorsy. in high school i knew i did not want the typical pretty boy, smooth-talking jock. i wanted someone fearless, a mountain man of sorts. (i did go through a strange i want to marry a poet phase, which luckily ended shortly after the 9th grade.) though my plan to marry a ski bum was going to be tricky, since i am somewhat a poser myself. i am not the gung-ho, tanned, muscular, athletic GI Jane type i've always yearned to be. and as the years go by, i am embracing that fact. i am okay with my crafty self and thankfully dan is too.

little did i know that i would thoroughly enjoy being surrounded by in-laws who not only love Lance Armstrong, but have recorded the Tour de France for years, with or without him. all 50,000 hours of it, packs of men hunched over in the 'rider position' bopping slightly to and fro as the cameramen, strapped to the motorcycle (going to extreme measures) capture the very intense (and for the most part, boring) views of men cycling up & down the scenic hills of Europe. at first, i was dumbfounded. why oh why are they intrigued with this type of tv viewing?! and why, other than my newlywedded love, was i watching it alongside them? the corn was popped, the Dew was slushy cold, the lights low, the tv large.. it's like a gush of windy excitement all around me. (kind of how i picture the backstage at a high end Fashion Show.)

soon enough, (all trials do have their reward) i began to appreciate The Tour in a whole new way. Lance decided to date Sheryl Crow.. could it be?! could these two worlds be colliding?! could The Tour and Entertainment Tonight truly coincide?! the behind the scenes look into their homes and Lance's commercialized life and training whetted my appetite and i soon fell hard for this yellow shirted cocky son of a gun. i began to see what everyone was talking about. even if i was just watching the end of each stage to see which of Lance's kids were there or if Sheryl would burst into song. you see, i didn't have to turn into a complete Gear Head to appreciate the sights, the sounds, the gusts of The Tour.

another piece of the Tour which i especially love is when, during all this bopping on their bikes, pumping legs, a sudden reaction occurs. one of the pelliton (aka the cycling group in which riders pack tightly and ride together, within which could put me into cardiac arrest with the pressures to keep up or die) makes a faulty maneuver with a sudden smack to the pavement, taking the rest of the cycling dominoes with him. bikes & brilliantly toned bodies pile on top of each other on a little winding, quaint street in France and at home on the couch, i gasp, no not in delight, but at sheer excitement that the Tour is at stake, an anything-could-happen type gasp. and then i gasp again in utter amazement that the bruised and bloody bodies flop their legs over the saddles and ride like the wind to the finish, hoping perhaps at a chance for the best time in a stage award. (The Tour gives out more random awards than you can shake a stick at, for every stage, day, climb.. my favorite is the polka dot jersey, for obvious reasons.) if i were trying to impress anyone i would name the city, time, stage and year when Lance (proving his ultimate awesomeness) barely avoided one of these crash up cycle Derby's by skidding off the beaten path, over a field and skipping ahead, cutting a corner and saving himself. ooh, what a buzz cut, biking genius he is. these are the times i like to watch the Tour. sadly, you have to endure The Tour in full, to really catch this spontaneous bumper car like commotion. but still, if nothing else is on.. it's worth it.

no this family doesn't just watch for Lance. i might say they are old school. they know which jersey is which and what bike is what (how much it costs and if in their opinion it is the jam or not) and who sponsors who, etc. it gets a bit ridiculous. (but when i think about knowing which shoes are Carrie Bradshaw's favorites in season 5 & 6, i find myself realizing that i am not so different..)

once it opens up to Tour Season the family emails fire rapidly back and forth, debating which riders are using & abusing and which ones are clean, the who & what's of each stage, the rundown of Bob Roll's report. names like floyd, lance, basso & ulrich become tabletop and inbox regulars, while i would prefer the VH1 Behind the Tour version best. i would tell you when to set your tivos for the upcoming 2007 season, but i'll have to ask dan. i can barely keep up with who's on Oprah.

speaking of Oprah, dan & i did tune in when both Lance, his mother & Sheryl Crow were on (pre-breakup) and it was an adorable interview. the whole audience along with Oprah herself sported the yellow stretchy bracelets. of course, she even got to go biking with Lance. Oprah is one to 'milk it for all it's worth' and i say, more power to her. if you've got Lance on your show, you may as well go for a bike ride with him (later still, she featured his ex-wife on her show too, she can't show favorites. except that she totally does. we all know she loves her John Travolta, her Sydney & Mandela. Obama has had more than his fair share of airtime too. not to mention Gayle who we all know so well. she has attached herself to Oprah in a way that we all love Gayle or just wish we were her for a day. their relationship seems so unreal, yet fun and fabulous. it seems, from Oprah's perspective, that none of us can ever have a friendship quite as close as Oprah & Gayle. but i believe i do. too bad i don't have a national talk show to prove it. it's a strange phenomenon, Oprah & her Favorites..)

An interview w/ Lance in the glory days from Outside ca. 2005 .

all this to say, that after 5 years of being married, i have learned a lot from these beloved Gear Snobs. i have learned to break out of the box. dan does what he loves and he doesn't care if it fits into a category or not. i realize i do not have to give up on my dreams either. i can participate in athletic events without being the sculpted hard core type, i can be a crafty non-scrapper, i can love Oprah and despise Gayle, i can shop at cheap stores and still be fashionable, i can watch ET and the Tour de France in one sitting, i can discover anthropologie finds at the D.I. i can have wimpy, little arms and still be strong.

In honor of completing my third athletic event this year, i share a few tried & true tips to get you other amateurs pumped.

Amateur Cycling Tips from a well-bred Poser
01. drink fluids & carbo load (beforehand, during & afterwards).
this could be reason in itself to participate in an athletic event. pound all the good carbs you can. yes, this means the white stuff. get it into your body without an ounce of guilt.
02. stretch at every rest stop.
while stretching is important, so is loading your pockets with the free goodies. they are piled high & deep. this is a racer's paradise & those Snickers Marathon Bars don't come cheap, so stock up while you can.
03. chew bubble gum on the hills.
this one comes from sarah, who (thankfully) passed me a piece of watermelon hubba bubba right before heading up a hill. she said, 'chew, sing & blow bubbles. the hill will be over in no time.'
04. zip your jersey up. even if it's hot pink with flames.
not to name names, but a not-so-distant pal of mine attempted to stay cool while simultaneously sporting the sick Lounge Singer Look, riding with his chest exposed while biking 100 miles. it came back to sting him, literally. a hornet buzzed right in and got caught in his shirt. he was stung 6 times. shockingly, he stayed on the saddle, peddled calmly and finished in no time, without complaint.
05. enjoy the scenery.
not to sound cliche, but this one is for reals. biking alongside the elements is an extraordinary feeling. the scenery floats past in one long panorama and it can literally take your breath away. but to remain safe, continue to breathe and feel proud of yourself once you reach the finish line.


I'm A said...

I loved this post and GOOD FOR YOU! What an awesome accomplishment!

celeste said...

Love the post! Matt and I are also addicted to the Tour. I can't wait.

Quelly said...

I love that it is not yet the end of June and you have already completed your 3rd athletic event this year.
Tough and crafty - what a combination!

jamieanne said...

Sometimes I wish I were friends with Bob Roll. Not in the Oprah and Gayle way, just in the buddy kind of way. That would be cool.

mary plus vince said...

High Five Marta!

What a year for you! Keep it up! :D

You rock my socks!

Anonymous said...

Mart -

I'm glad that you've come love the Tour enough to blog about it. All this time I thought you've been watching simply because Bob Roll and Phil Liggett are so hot . BTW - I heard that Team CSC just signed Billy Bush to be their lead rider. Looks like the Tour and Entertainment Tonight are colliding after all.

Don't forget www.letour.fr for all the latest updates! July 7 is the big day.

love.boxes said...

It's so lovely when you marry someone and they open another world to your view...

love the bubblegum tip the best.. don't chew with your mouth open though.. ya know .. bugs.

Travelin'Oma said...

Are you linked to Bicycle.com? I got out my yellow jersey just to finish this post! It's awesome!

Dansie Family said...

i know exactly where you are coming from marta. when i married into the family, i loved the outdoors, but never in the extreme gear snobbish sort of way the dansies do. i also can't wait for the tour. we actually upgrade our cable for the month so we can spend hours every night in front of the tube. at least the rest of summer tv isn't worth watching right.

now i just need to get my fantasy team ready.

vive le tour.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, how fabulous!

Cycling has a cult following - you know it or you don't...

I'm voting for alex schleck (if I spelled that right) in everything though, regardless of what he races.

When I see him on TV my friends and I all coo "oh alex!"

It's pathetic...

Jake said...

wow...you really have come a long way! what a cool new hobby and family tradition...way to go on the saddle, girlfriend!

mama jo said...

you are so impressive...you are a girl that does it all...keep it up...you are woman!

sulu-design said...

I love this post. I live this post. I swear, if I were a writer like you, I could have penned this post. Ditto to everything you said. Does your husband watch bike races on You Tube? And do you have to bend over and squint at the screen to watch an amazing climb by Lance? Does your husband yell out random Italian phrases, immitating bike race commentators, while watching the Giro? I feel I've got a kindred spirit out there. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

bluebird said...

marta it's official. you are totally my hero.

summer said...

ever since i started reading your blog, i have a new appreciation for adventures like cycling & marathons & hikes.
i love this.i love that i'm starting to get interested.
i love that i think about actually trying some "gear" escapades. (and buying some new gear, of course)
maybe sometime i will get up enough courage to just do it. it sounds thrilling.
thanks for your "amateur" (or maybe not-so-amateur anymore) advice, marta!

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