Friday, February 25, 2011

I Am An Athletic Supporter

And they're off! Austin Marathon Start. Go Erik, Go!

So, we just got back from Austin, TX (FABULOUS city, by the way) having traveled there this past weekend for the Austin Marathon. No, smart-asses, I didn't run it, my athletically-inclined husband did. Me? I just tagged along for the chance to experience a city I haven't seen before and get the hell out of Clovis for awhile. Oh, and to play my role as Athletic Supporter. Yea, there was that.

Taking my life in my hands to get this picture
Let me clarify this title. I'm going to start with what it is NOT. It is not "wake up at a leisurely hour, take a shower and feed yourself, then head downtown to grab a latte before the start of the event." It is not "pick a scenic and comfortable-for-the-temperature spot along the route, settle in and cheer as your designated athlete runs/cycles/kayaks/swims by". It is not "find a good spot at the finish line, get comfortable, gab with your friends or other cheerleaders near by and wait for your designated athlete to run/cycle/kayak/swim across the line". It is NOT "just cheerleader".

One of Erik's many sports.
Nope, being an Athletic Supporter is a whole different animal. What it IS is "being awakened before the crack of dawn by an over-anxious, amped-up person, frantically packing the car with sundry athletic bits and pieces, being rushed out the door without one or more of the following: breakfast, coffee, a shower and/or the chance to hit the bathroom, and a nervous adrenaline-fueled drive ending in an argument over the best place to park." It is "being pack mule, pit crew, shuttle van driver, first-aid station, race coordinator, transition set-up, food station, lost and found, and sport psychologist all at the same time". It is "being expected to be at the start to cheer and take pictures and still make it through crowds and closed streets to the transition area before the athlete to make sure all gear is set-up and waiting, then pick up all rapidly discarded items that are cast off as your designated athlete flies by, repeat (sometimes more than once), and make it to the finish line to once again cheer and take pictures". It is "lugging a 17 foot, 70 pound kayak half a mile as fast as your little legs can carry you and it, then somehow miraculously and with much swearing hoisting it onto the roof of a van, strapping it on and STILL managing to make it to the next leg in time" I'm still traumatized over that one, by the way. It is "being sports photographer while doing one or all of the above and STILL managing to stop and capture the requested "action" shots of your designated athlete and his competitors".

Transition at the Desert International Triathlon
My nemesis. The 17' kayak.
It is frustrating, stressful and sometimes painful. But it is also hugely satisfying. Take the Austin Marathon. Erik has trained so hard for it, through gale-force winds, negative degree temps, sun, rain, snow. He runs. He runs because, for him, it's more than just a way to get exercise, it's a crusade. He was bound and determined to beat a certain time. He knew the marathon course was going to be hilly and here in Clovis there's not an incline within 150 miles. It didn't deter him. He ran. Sometimes his running drove me crazy. Christmas Eve? Too bad, gotta get my miles in. Need help with the dogs? Too bad, gotta get my miles in. Still, most of the time, I admire his dedication to the cause, his drive, his athletic prowess. I don't quite get it, but I do admire it.

Austin Marathon bridge crossing. See? I made it.

But the morning of the marathon found me grumpy and chafing at the confines of my supporting role. Yes, he's worked so hard for this day but, damn it, all I really wanted to do was find a coffee house, grab a latte, and wander stress-free through the festive city, casually making my way to the finish line to cheer him on home. I just didn't want to be dragged kicking and screaming into the drama. Heck, I'm not running the race! Instead, I was rushed out the door at the crack of dawn, no coffee, no shower, no bathroom break, argued with over where to park the van, stressed out at having to rush to drop off his gear bag on 6th St and run to get to the start line at 16th. He's in running shorts and a tank top which weigh, hmm, a few ounces? Me? I've been outfitted with my marathon support gear: big camera to capture said "action" shots, bag containing chapstick, extra GU, wallet (that's 5 pounds, right there!), long lens for my camera, race map, pace card, keys to hotel and van, and I'm holding a water bottle and, at the moment, his gear bag. It's early, I'm tired and chilly and there are too many damn people looking at me and bumping into me. I'm worried that he hasn't had any time to warm up and my stress is fueled by his nervous orders to me. "Ok, so you're going to get pictures of me at the start, right? And then if you could get over to mile 8 to take pictures of me as I cross the bridge that would be great". (He has his own blog and all his athlete friends will be checking in to see the report. No pressure, though). "But just make sure you get back to the finish on time, ok?". Hrrmph, as if I ever let him down. I am now feeling quite resentful. I want a shower, I REALLY wanted to sleep in. I want a latte. But, frankly, it doesn't really matter what I want, now does it? I feel like bitch-slapping the next happy, endorphin-laden, lycra-encased freak that, in their pre-race haste to get to the starting line, bumps into me.

My thought exactly. At the Austin Finish line.
But then it happens like it happens every time I tell myself that THIS time I will NOT get sucked in. He smiles at me with that goofy, excited, hopeful, expectant expression on that damn face of his and says those magic words, "Kiss me and wish me luck". I see the nerves, I see the hope and I see the need to have me...grumpy, rumpled me, as his supporter. Shit, here I go again. So I kiss him, and I wish him luck and I watch anxiously as he jets off to conquer his demons with the sparkle of the lights of the State Capitol shining down and the pink hope of a new day glowing softly on the horizon.  All that passion, all that drive, all that expectation....And I am resolved, once again, to slip into my supporting role and do my best not to let him down. Because, damn it, I AM an Athletic Supporter....and proud of it.

How can you say no to that face? At the start of the Austin Marathon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Some Red Velvet Lovin'

Ahhh, Valentine's Day...a celebration of love replete with wine, chocolate and flowers. It's no secret that I look forward to it every year since it really is my "get of of jail free" card to indulge in all of the aforementioned vices with complete and utter abandon. And let's not forget, it also allows me to indulge in another of my not-so-secret addictions...baking high caloric, and very much forbidden if I EVER want to fit into my bikini, treats. Seriously, I would love to track down whichever marketing guru came up with this concept and give them a big, fat, wet kiss on the mouth. I couldn't have dreamed up a better scam myself.
And this year, in honor of having spent the last half of the year in, or straddling, the south (North Carolina and Texas respectively), I decided to treat my honey to a little southern style lovin'...that's right, folks, the oh-so-lovely and much revered, Red Velvet Cake...with a twist. Since I'm working with an oven the size of a postage stamp, I decided to switch it up and do Red Velvet, CUPCAKE-STYLE (insert drawl here).

Like the big hair and pageant makeup of Texas, there is something charmingly sweet yet shocking about this unnaturally red batter that rises into this moist, cocoa-flavored scarlet star. Topped with the luscious, creamy, tangy frosting and accessorized with raspberries and chocolate, I felt liked I'd given life to the newest Dallas debutante. You just couldn't help but stare. I decided to call it my Shock and Awe campaign. And the hubby really was shocked and awed after months of living through the much-dreaded and long-lived baking ban.

As I pulled out my ill-treated and dusty Kitchen-Aid, the euphoria of climbing back into the baking saddle was a heady and seducing sensation. Now this is what I call love, people. Me, my Kitchen-Aid and all those lovely ingredients lined up like little soldiers just begging to be sifted, whipped and coaxed into a mouth-watering, irresistible, edible work of art. Oh, baby, how I've missed you!

And, lest we not forget the absolute beauty and fulfilment of my Shock and Awe campaign, the look on Erik's face as he sank his teeth into the lovely goodness of my humble offering and the giddy, love-filled, cream cheese smile he gave me as he savored the bite made me all the more grateful for the greedy capitalist that invented this glorious day. So, I say to hell with pretending to be immune to all of the pink and red trappings and gaudy, heart-shaped symbolism associated with this infamous holiday. I plan to strap my love-gun on my hip and wriggle into my "I'm a Valentine's Day Whore" t-shirt (pink with red hearts all over it) and proudly proclaim for all to hear, "LET THEM EAT CAKE! RED CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE HEARTS ON IT!"

Wishing you all a Happy Valentines Day, whether you're a believer or not!

And, Erik, so glad you're mine and I love you.....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Poor Me Sucks It Up

Angel of Santa Fe
I was sitting here with still frozen pipes and my "poor me" attitude firmly affixed, looking out at a cold and not-so-pretty view and longing for the end of this assignment so we could just move ON already. I'm tired of red dirt and dust that filters into every crevice, flat-as-a-pancake, sticker and cactus encrusted plains, the smell of cow manure and frigid, freeze-you-to-the-bone wind and I'm really sick of the name...Clovis. Really? With such poetic and intriguing names such as Ruidoso, Tucumcari, Santa Fe, Taos and the always fun, Albuquerque, surrounding you, the founding fathers of this little burg chose CLOVIS? Someone seriously needs a reality check.

I have actually surprised myself with the depth of my self-pity. Though some of our assignments haven't been in the best of locations, I've always enjoyed the experience and the thrill of exploring a brand new corner of my world. Not quite sure why this one has worked me over so badly but, as I listened to that voice in my head bitch and complain and go on and on about how miserable she is, I decided enough was enough and it was time to pull up my bootstraps and focus on the really amazing and beautiful spots we've discovered while cooling our heels in Clovis, NM.

So, without further ado, here is a glimpse into our world and an "Up yours!" to that whiny voice inside my head:
Santa Fe Overpass
Desert Landscape near Santa Fe
Camel Rock
Erik and Chloe stretching their legs in Palo Duro Canyon, TX
Palo Duro Canyon, TX
Pot-bellied stove in Lincoln, NM
Mission in Lincoln, NM
Defense turret in Lincoln, NM
Grandparents farmhouse, Circleback, TX
Last sunset of 2010

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Deep Freeze

Frozen Window
It was minus 25 degrees this morning. And I live in a motorhome. I really feel it’s about time to rethink my life.

Really, if I wanted to live through temps like this, I could have gone home to Montana and at least had the pleasure of beautiful scenery, things to do and friends and family to shack up with.

To say I’m cold is an understatement. My poor dogs won’t even go outside voluntarily, their paws freezing within minutes. I’ve resorted to carrying a bath towel when we head outside so that when the doggie dance of trying to get frozen paws out of contact with frigid ground begins, I can rush over and offer a brief respite by throwing the towel on the ground and letting then stand on it like a barefoot child on a hot, sandy beach.

Chloe huddled in her blankets
Between the necessary but dreaded dog walks, my day consists of huddling under my down blanket, only surfacing to heat up tea or re-cover a shivering dog.  I finally had to give up on my daily ritual of vacuuming up dog hair and dusting down surfaces as my space heater and microwave are running on overtime. Heck, maybe the extra hair will give us another layer of insulation. I can only hope.

I watch the winter storm warnings flash across the tv screen telling us to take shelter, cover skin and avoid staying outside for longer than 30 minutes at a time. I watch the forecasts with bated breath wondering when this deep freeze will come to an end…and wondering if I’m going to cave before it does and finally drag my frozen extremities and canine companions to the nearest hotel in hopes of finding a hot, hot shower and warm toes.

Ugly grey sweats, down booties and dog hair
For now, though, I’m hunkered down, encased in layers and layers of high-tech thermal sportswear topped by the ugliest grey sweat pants you will ever see with my feet covered by my down, campsite booties and strands of errant dog hair sprinkled about like sequins. And with all this down time on my hands, I decided to teach myself to knit. It’s not pretty but if I keep the down blanket pulled up over my head, my fingers stay warm enough to work my way through the stitches and the bright green yarn reminds me of spring. Oh man, I can’t wait until spring!

Doesn't that green remind you of spring?
Erik came home from work last night and said disgustedly, “You know, this time last year we were in Palm Springs.” Oh, lordy, I just wanted to cry. I remember Palm Springs and, even better, Ventura and the beach and warm sand and dolphins swimming and hot sunshine and…hold on, I’m getting myself worked up. But we’re not in Palm Springs. For better or worse, we picked Clovis, NM to winter in so here we sit, frozen inside our little ice-cube of a motorhome.

But, then I think, honestly, who am I to complain? Yes, this sucks. It really, REALLY sucks BUT we are so lucky that we have the option of choosing. I wonder how many people are stuck right where they are with no hope of choosing something different? How many people here in Clovis are shivering right along with us but, for them, this is it? In a month or two, we get to move on but this is their reality. Erik and I are so darn blessed that we have a choice. We can choose where we go and where we spend our time on earth. So, yes, next time we will probably choose Southern California beaches or desert over the New Mexican plains for winter. And maybe I’ll choose the hotel over freezing my ass off tonight but, for now, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and pull the down blanket over my head and toast to the fact that we have choices and, like it or not, we chose this crazy, surprising, wonderful, lonely, frustrating, unbelievable gypsy life. So raise your glasses, friends, and let's drink to choices!

I choose this!


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