Sunday, February 27, 2005

Enchanted Forest

Enchantment After all the anxiety and stress of performing bellydance twice in as many nights, I decided today I would go for a bike ride. Fortunately, I was invited by Lynna and James and a couple of their friends to join them for a ride at Enchanted Forest this afternoon. Although the sky was grey and there was a chill in the air, this ride was exactly what I needed to restore my mind. James and Lynna were the ever patient helpers, teachers, coaches, cheerleaders and spotters for me, encouraging me to try some uphill log stacks that had previously intimidated me as well as helping me find rideable lines on the rooty uphills. I'm still a little uncertain on a lot of technical sections, due to this prolonged knee problem and the fact that I haven't been on my bike on any regular basis for a while during physical therapy. So of course, when I would get to a section that was very sketchy, I had that nagging worry of "Do I have enough power and strength to make it?" and "What if my knee starts hurting again?" So there were times that I stepped off the bike when I probably could have continued on, but James assured me that that was a normal mental response to injury, and that with time it would go away and I would regain the confidence that this injury has cost me at the moment. Despite those few hesitations, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and can hardly wait to get on the bike again and get back into the groove of regular riding. Of course, the forecast is for rain for the next couple of days...

Shimmy South With Aziza

Me And Aziza The first part of this weekend was totally involved with bellydancing. Friday night, after getting the thumbs up from the physical therapist (they have released me to every other week appointments now, and have placed an insert into my right biking shoe), I attended the opening hafla which hailed the arrival of Shimmy South with Aziza. My class performed a karsilima choreography, featuring solos and duos by roughly half the class (not my half, as I prefer at this stage in my dancing to still remain in the background). I was quite nervous as I had not really had much time rehearsing this particular choreography, but I trust that it went okay. Guess I'll find out for sure once the video is out! Then Saturday morning I attended the first half of the workshop taught by Aziza. What a personable and engaging instructor - she has the most amazing smile! Of course, after she had us shimmy for 21 straight minutes, I was beginning to wonder exactly what I had gotten myself into.....I made the decision to head back home after the first half of the workshop for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was to give my poor knee some rest. Also, as we were performing as background dancers for one of the professional troupes at Saturday night's performance, I felt more comfortable having more time to dress and prepare. We arrived back at the fairgrounds early at the request of the troupe in order to run through the choreograpy a couple of more times before performing. Finally, 7:30 arrived - showtime! The 15 of us who were the "caftan ladies" comprising the backdrop for the Belly Revelations troupe zilled and shimmied our way through the audience and up onto the stage. It was surprisingly exciting performing at a "real" show with an elevated stage (before I had only performed at student and more informal haflas). Of course, I won't deny that I was happy to just be one of the, as Jamie put it, "DooWap gals", and let the focus of the audience's attention remain on the primary troupe performing in front of us! And I have to admit that dancing to live drummers has a palpable life to it that no CD can mimic. I was glad to have gone on first, because that meant that for the remainder of the show, I could return to my front row seat to soak in and enjoy all the other performances, and there were some outstanding ones. One performance that comes to mind as particularly spellbinding was performed by the young Sarah of Blue Moon Bellydance, who performed an outstanding Tribal style scimitar solo using a live bladed (SHARP!) scimitar. She thrilled us with the most amazing flat backbends and spins, all while balancing the blade on her turban. I was totally mesmerized. And needless to say, Aziza dazzled us with three incredible cabaret performances, including the drum solo she taught during the workshop, earning herself a well deserved standing ovation. After gathering around to have the obligatory "performer photographs" taken, it was time to head home. I think I may sleep in tomorrow!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Finally…Progress!

Break Time Progress! Last night, with the permission of my physical therapist, I went for a bike ride on one of the more difficult and hilly trails in the area. I needed to exercise the dogs, who were getting stir crazy from lack of activity, and this is one of the few local trails where I can let them run off leash. However, I was a bit nervous as this particular trail is notorious for "triggering" my knee pain with its seemingly neverending ups and downs and tricky rooty sections. In light of this fact I decided that if necessary due to pain, I would just dismount and walk while the dogs ran around and played in the woods. I am happy to report though that during the ride, albeit a short one at only about 45 minutes, my knee felt fine. I did walk up some of the more treacherous hills, but was able to pedal faster and push harder on the climbs I did ride, obtaining significant power from both legs. But the best news came this morning, when I discovered that for the first time in months I was actually able to arise from a chair without having to use my hands and arms for support! Granted, I still had to lean forward a good deal more than a "normal" person would, but to finally be able to get out of a chair without having to support my weight on my arms was a huge breakthrough for me, and for the first time in a long while I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel with respect to my knee issues.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Women Rock

The local BMX organization has decided to let folks race mountain bikes at their weekly events, so last Sunday Steve decided to try his hand at it. They ended up having four entrants in the mountain bike class. In the first moto, Steve came in second, then won the second moto, to finally go on and place first in the Final! I had gone out for a regular cross country mountain bike ride earlier in the day, and then came out to the BMX track that afternoon, just in time to get a few pictures of Steve racing, which was of course very exciting. However, equally as entertaining for me was seeing all the very tiny kids - they have 4-year-olds out there racing!!! - in their diminutive little motocross pants, looking like teency aliens in those gargantuan full-face helmets, some even already using clipless pedals, riding like miniature professionals around the track. And then I saw one of those very fast kids zipping across the finish line in first place with the #1 number plate on the front of what looked like a titanium BMX bike, pulling off that helmet to reveal.....a girl winning out of a class full of boys!!! Sometimes women just rock. :)

Monday, February 7, 2005

Puppy Kisses

Puppy Kisses I was sitting at my desk typing this morning (I'm fortunate enough to be able to work from home at the present time), generally feeling over-stressed, discouraged and basically just "wrung-out" due to a variety of family, job, and personal concerns, when I felt a gentle pressure on my forearm. I looked over to see a furry chin resting on my arm and a pair of the kindest, sweetest, most openly loving puppy eyes staring into mine. Upon gaining my attention, Spyder's tail began to wag, slowly at first, then more and more rapidly until his whole body began to quiver with that "play with me" tempo. I couldn't resist his invitation, so gently stroked his little face and head. Each time I pulled my hand away to resume typing, I was reminded that he was not finished being pat, and I would find either a paw on my arm, or have a little face thrust toward me, with a gentle "snappy mouth" play bite, like a rapid-fire cartoon version of "Alien". When asked "What do you want?", he sprang into the kitchen, pounced on his doggy coat, and ran back into my office, with as much of his jacket crammed into his mouth as possible. Once I put his coat on him and let him into the back yard to romp around and play, I realized that my stresses and worries were slowly melting away and all I could see was Spyder's happy tail waving in the morning sunshine.

Sunday, February 6, 2005

Fontana Icycle

Me And Steve We went up to Fontana Village in western North Carolina yesterday for the Icycle Race. Three members of my husband's new mountain bike team, Squirrelly Racing, entered the nighttime downhill event. As I'm still on the injured list due to my knee, I was not able to compete this time, so spent the evening trying to take photographs (although both cameras were unfortunately having malfunctions, or more likely operator error, so I wasn't terribly successful at that), and cheering on the Squirrelly contingency, as well as a couple of other friends who were competing. I had been watching the riders' lights cresting the ridge high above us where there was a gradual uphill on the course, and on seeing a set which appeared to be an HID helmet light and a halogen bar light (which is what my husband Steve was using) burst into view, I wondered if that might in fact be him. But I was utterly amazed at how fast that set of lights went by! Imagine my surprise when I saw that it was indeed Steve crossing the finish line, having passed the rider who had started a minute ahead of him! He and I were even more delightedly stunned to learn that after the first of two downhill runs, Steve was in second place in the Pro/Expert Men category, a mere 10 seconds behind local Pro, Chris Herndon, and was one of only two riders out of the large list of entries to have a time under 3 minutes after the first run! While the rest of us spectating huddled around the bonfire in an attempt to thaw our frozen hands and feet, most of the racers clambered back into the U-Haul truck after the first run for the shuttle back to the top of the course, which actually started this year at a point perhaps 1/4 mile lower than the old start we had used for this race in previous years, for their second run. Once again, we waited at the bottom near the finish line as rider after rider took their turn. It was very cool to see the riders' lights as they crested the ridgeline up above us, like giant fireflies glittering atop the mountain, only to disappear behind the ridge in a hard left hand turn, and finally bursting back into view on rounding the slope to drop into the tight switchbacks leading to the finish, just before diving into a sharp right-hander onto a wooden bridge which then jettisoned them up a slight incline to exit the trail. After the second run, there was just a twinge of disappointment on discovering that Steve's second place position had been reduced to third by the 1 second Kip Smith had managed to gain on him. We were both still elated with his finish, though, as Steve had managed to turn in two race runs that were only 1 second apart, a 2:59 and a 3:00 flat, with his fastest time (the one the placings were based on) being a mere 10 seconds behind the winner and 1 second behind second place, recorded by extremely talented and elite racers. It felt strange for me being at a race and not only not being able to compete but really not even able to ride at all, so I felt a bit out of sorts and more like an outsider looking in than a member of the race community as in previous years. This seemed compounded by the fact that many of my previous competitors were not in attendance at this event so there were many more unfamiliar faces than familiar ones, a situation I'm really not used to at a mountain bike race! But Steve's podium finish at his inaugural race on his new team did seem to be a nice silver lining to that minor issue, and I'm still hopeful that with time and therapy, I'll be back in the saddle again soon.