Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Cowgirl Looks at 34...

About two months ago, I looked in the mirror and did not recognize the eyes that looked back at me. They lacked the reflection of the fire that burns in my soul. They lacked my fire for living consciously, living free, living adventurously and most importantly, living passionately.Gone was the twinkle representing my humor, mischief, adventure and youth. Then, to make a bad morning worse, the sunlight that peeped through the window to my left decided to position itself to perfectly highlight the two grey hairs framing my face.

This moment was going one of two ways---laughter or tears. Usually I would laugh at the fact that I have two grey hairs and people I know in their late twenties are salt and pepper already, throw my helmet on, clip in, and try to break a morning commuting land speed record. But instead I stared at my tired, frustrated eyes that were swollen with tears of sadness and emptiness.

And the arrows began to pierce---stop kidding yourself, unless a money tree appears, you will not be racing your bike this year...the concept of a bunch of "friends" trying to form a mountain biking team proved to be a complete joke...you should have took the team offer from Stans...you have no team, no money, and you are going to be late for the first of your two jobs which pay you shit...you don't know what you want to do with your education so you better just start pouring drinks again....

Ugh. Stop.

I dried my eyes, took my fake smile out of the cabinet and headed out into the Aurora jungle. I mashed the pedals as hard as I could, escaping into my mind and creating a fast and furious sprint for the finish of theWorld Cup. I grabbed a couple of gears and blew a stop sign...the harder I went and the more it hurt, the faster the frustration disappeared behind me. By the time I got to work, I was almost ready to deal with all the stressed out Aurora zombies possessing attention spans that rival a hyperactive child. I thought about how the bike shop job was where I was the happiest, and the people were pretty great. But, we all know what bike shops pay.....

I locked my bike up and said a small prayer in my thoughts as I opened the door, "God, help me figure this all out...somehow...someway...."

When I finally got home twelve hours later, grumpy and depressed, I began searching for jobs. For some reason, I typed in "horse" and a few hits for stall cleaners came up. Ugh. I closed my computer and trudged up the stairs, pillow-bound, dreading the sound of my alarm in the morning.

The spring wore on and things got better as the weather warmed up a little and I found that riding on the road was fun when you are on a 16-lb Specialized Venge. Brevets and centuries with 16k'of climbing filled the early spring until my weekends off suddenly disappeared.

Day after day after day of work blended into each other and I just finally went numb. Long hours, long commutes, unfulfilling conversations and interactions had me dreaming of Durango, the San Juans, the LaPlatas and all the trails, huts, summits and friends I missed. Every weekend night when I got home, I would look at race results until I couldn't take it anymore. I am a goer and a doer of epic proportions. I don't do well as a spectator. At all.

One night, again depressed and grouchy at the thought of another twelve hours working for peanuts, I dug up some old pictures, hoping they would make me smile instead of cry. I had seen them two million times, but this two million and first time started something moving in my soul.

First I found this one:

It was me and my brother, Brian circa 1988 in Dayville, OR at a team roping on my mom's old mare, Jazz. I laughed because this basically coins my personality and approach to existence still today.

Then this one:

This is my amazing mother, the strongest and most beautiful woman I know. Yes, folks, she was a champion cow rider long before I was ever around. It takes some serious courage, braveness, fortitude and a little bit of crazy to nod for that chute to open. I think that's why I laugh when she tells me she could never ride as far as I do on a bike. I call complete bullshit.

It made me think about the long line of female DNA that made me the way I am...passionate, wild, free, alive, sensitive....Sticking with my theme du jour of "philosofizing" (term credit Judd Rowher), I thought about how none of those things seemed very familiar to me anymore.

Next up:

Me and love of my life (no, not the guy!!), my bay horse, Page. There was a day when I thought of little else but heading a steer for a reeeeeally good heeler.

Look at how his ears are pinned back. He loved it as much as I did on some days....

Rodeos, team ropings, barrel racing, brandings were a way of life. A few reading this will know what the hell I am doing here...

I found one of me and an old friend I haven't seen or talked to in 15 years....

And I found this which brought back memories of living on the McKenzie river and floating it every evening with my friends Chris and Joe. They taught me how to bounce bait off the bottom and cast a fly rod. We pulled in so many chrome steelhead that summer. I looked at myself grinning ear to ear at the 15(!!) lb steelhead I fought for a good 40 minutes to land and wondered where that smile had gone to this spring?

Where did this carefree, happy, silly, honey-suckle laden girl go?

Was I really becoming one of the drones? One of the mice in the maze?

I laid flat on the floor and closed my eyes and talked to God again:

"I know I am not the same as I was a few years ago. None of us are. The world is drastically different, the pace is absolutely ridiculous and technology has created just as many problems (psychologically and relationally) as it has solved. I have learned so many life lessons about family, marriage, divorce, work, friends, expectations, goals and love and through all this I have become the woman lying on the floor in front of you. I have hurt people, been hurt, succeeded, failed, laughed, cried, bled, sweat, hated, loved, worked my fingers to the bone, been lazy, rich, poor, happy, sad, fully alive and almost dead..."

I paused as the tears began to drown me and I turned to my side and cried for a little while. As all tears do, mine stopped and I just began to quietly breathe and let my thoughts calm their furious pace.

Then one word came to me: Cowgirl.

I sat straight up.

I was born on a horse. I really only have one innate talent and that is riding. I don't have to practice or train or do intervals to ride a horse. My God-given movements are designed to complement the way a horse moves. I understand and anticipate what the horse is going to do. The irony is no one taught me that. I have no idea where it came from or if I acquired it. I continued with the realization that I never once swung a rope "like a girl." I rode and roped just as hard as the boys. I have no memory of fear when it comes to horses. The one natural, untrained, pure instinct I possess is the ability to ride a horse. I am a cowgirl. Undeniably. Unquestionably.

So why the hell was I denying myself of that lifestyle? And why have I seemed to forget who I am?

The answer is a (sometimes sad) but long and boring history of my life, and my "all-or-nothing" personality that can be my nemesis, but in the end, the practical answer is that it all boils down to the almighty dollar.

This literal "come to Jesus" talk that night set me into action. Somehow, someway, I told myself everyday, horses need to be a part of my life again. I knew there wasn't going to be a magical lamp with three wishes show up on my doorstep, so I began to scan for more horse related jobs.

Four days before my 34th birthday, I found it.

I am moving to Elizabeth, Colorado. A few storage tubs filled with my few material possessions and my bikes are waiting in a tiny cottage a few hundred feet from a barn filled with 25 horses. I get to put on gloves, throw hay into the truck, get all the grain ready and feed over 30 horses starting at 8am. Then I get to rake horseshit into piles to help the stall cleaner. Then I find the exercise list and start putting polo saddles and bridles on the first set of horses. Ride one, pony (lead) 2 or 3. Hope I have an exercise girl to help. Repeat until finished. Eat lunch. Get the lesson  horses ready for the students. Groom for polo games on weekends. Untack, feed.

Work day done.

But....what about the bike? What about racing? Well....I am out for this year. After a lot of thought and some tough decisions and sacrifices, I am going to use the rest of 2013 to train and set myself up financially to complete the Triple Crown in 2014 (AZT750, TD and CTR).

And watch out in 2014. Cowgirls ride bikes like wild horses (as you all have witnessed over the past three years).The farm sits in the middle of primo training roads. I have a passion again, a way to make my biking goal a reality and something more than the metro grind that kills my heart and robs my eyes of life, fire and their ever-present twinkle.This cowgirl needs to smell like sweaty horses for awhile. She needs to remember who she is and disappear into the rural Colorado land that borders the black forest and do what is natural and effortless and makes her happy....live simply, work hard, be outside, be on a horse everyday. Breathe the fresh cut grass. Ride in the rain. Listen to the horses chew their hay outside my window. Own a rope again. Learn polo this summer, learn the hunt this winter. Grow. Refocus. Return. Scoop horseshit. Clean dirt out from under my fingernails. Take my old dog down to the creek. Ride my mountain bike on the horsetrails in the back field. Ride the never-ending, forgotten, deserted, two lane roads on skinnies. Leave the mice and the maze, shed the negativity and stress. Put on my real smile.

Wake up and live.


  1. Hey this is your old friend Ken from Springfield , I was thinking about you the other day - and decided to look you up. I hope you are doing good - and I hope you remember me! Ps the pour house is still the same - lol

    1. Ken! Of course I remember. Send me an email at allthingsepic@gmail.com and let's catch up! Hope all is well in Oregon. Looking forward to hearing from you...