Pepper Palace: Your #1 Source for Awesome Sauce

Andrew arrived in Tucson just over a week ago. I was nervously primping (because even though he’s stuck with me for life, I don’t need to make him regret that decision) when my roommate asked, “Do you have any clothes that aren’t for cycling or the gym?”

No. I have mascara and sweatpants.

When he arrived, it was a whirlwind of activity for three straight days. I wanted to show him my favorite places around town (Stella Java, La Estrella Bakery, Mt. Lemmon, Time Market, Le Buzz…hmm, this list is rather food-heavy) and we also had to get all of the team bikes ready for camp. By “we”, I mean “Andrew” while I spectated and offered helpful suggestions like, “How’s my TT bike coming along? Will you be done soon? When can we go eat?”

And then in no time at all, we were driving with Julie in a caravan towards the Phoenix airport to collect our people and kick off team camp.

Pepper Palace took over a mansion just outside Scottsdale for the week. The house was awesome; brand new, massive, and full of perks like a pool table and an arcade. The only thing missing was a refrigerator large enough to hold the colossal load of team groceries. You could have fed a small country with the first grocery trip, and yet we were back at the store in a day. Because cyclists.

It wasn’t long before we’d exploded all over the house in a sea of red clothes, sparkling waters, hot sauces, and Gu products. Did you read the article about the chick who generated only enough trash to fill a mason jar over a period of two years? Yeah, that was not us. Taking out the accumulated trash yesterday required multiple trips by six people, one of whom (GOKES!) had to jump up and down atop the dumpster to get the lid closed enough to keep the coyotes out.

Camp itself was exhilarating and exhausting all at once. It’s hard to be constantly surrounded by so many people and so much energy; team camp is a crush of new everything, perpetual motion, and unending stimulation. Sometimes it felt like Andrew and I were just passing ships, crossing as I’d dash from one thing to the next while he raced around in the garage building bikes, adjusting bikes, doing everything bikes. Each day was jammed from morning until night with rides, team meals, team talks, and endless chatter and laughter.

And then, just as quickly as it started, it ended. I woke up at 4:35am today to drive Andrew to the airport and head to Tucson to live with a smaller group of teammates and race the Tucson Bicycle Classic.

Saying goodbye to so many people felt like a punch in the gut. It was wonderful to be surrounded by my team; I love each member and cannot wait to see what we accomplish this season by working together and how much fun we will have doing it. There was not a single person that stuck out as a bad fit (….wait, what’s that expression about how if you look around the room and can’t see the asshole, it’s you? Shit). I have never been more certain that a group of people were meant to be together and never more proud to be part of that group. And to be able to share that with Andrew was wonderful.

I hate goodbyes (and pre-dawn alarm clock settings) but optimistically this is just the beginning of something new. Andrew will be back in a little while, I’ll see all of the Peppers again in time, and there are a lot of snacks waiting in Tucson. Huge thanks to everyone who made this past week enjoyable – Sarah for building this team, Julie and Amy for their non-stop efforts to pull everything together, Nicky for being our new director, Andrew and Johs for being our tireless mechanics, Jay and O’Neill for their support, our sponsors for providing heaps of cool stuff, and my teammates for being the kind of people you can spend a week with and leave wanting more. It’s going to be a great year.

2015 Holy Shitballs!

Terzan surprised me with a gift in the mail and this is just one of many reasons as to why she is awesome.

2015 Cyclists at Stella

Yet another coffee shop ride in Tucson. Yes, that is an insole sitting on the table off to the right. Adam rolled up with it in his jersey pocket.

2015 Hardcore Atop Lemmon

Andrew had to do the iconic Mt. Lemmon climb as part of his visit to Tucson. When he got to the top, I was all, “Hooray! Let’s take a selfie! Look hardcore!!” And this is the result. I don’t think he actually tried to make a face.

2015 Drew and the Van

Andrew rocking the rental van. I was cranky that night, so he ate my discarded contact lenses while driving as part of a deal to cheer me up.

2015 Drew Breaking In My Bike

My new race bike on its inaugural ride…under Andrew’s butt.

2015 Drew in Saguaro

On a spin through the gorgeous Saguaro National Park. The desert is breathtaking.

2015 Dead Pig and Me

This was breathtaking, too. He was sleeping (forever) right on the side of the road in front of somebody’s house. So of course I had to take photos and then sing a song about it…

2015 Look! The Uhaul.!JPG

We were waiting on the side of the road for Julie when she pulled up with the Uhaul and a cup of coffee for me. Julie always has all of the everything I need.

2015 Road Trip to Camp

We are EFFING READY to get our team camp on.

2015 Us in AZ at Camp

We got to the team house before everybody else, so we ran around like children, played a game of pool, and explored the yard.

2015 Welcome to Camp!

No cacti were harmed in the shooting of this photo. My legs, however, thought the jumping felt like shit.

Jules and Me and That Paper Cow

Sweet paper mache cow decorations, dude.

2015 Team Camp

Getting ready to roll on day 1. Nothing moves more slowly than a full team of women trying to get out the door for the first time in new clothes on new bikes.

2015 Zanna and Beer

Terzan photobombing the team refreshments.

2015 Girls Night Out

Staying hydrated during our night out on the town. We were supposed to go salsa dancing after dinner, but in true cyclist form, we bailed on that plan and went to the grocery store instead.

2015 New Kit New Bike

New kit, new bike. I love this Scott!

2015 Rice Mask

Terzan made turkey lettuce rice wraps for dinner and then let me talk her into applying a rice wrap to her face for $5.

2015 Team Dinner

When we weren’t on bikes, we were gathered around this table inhaling food and sparkling waters.


PEPPERS! No, seriously, that spells PEPPERS! We spent 20 minutes in the sun trying to get it just right.

2015 Peppers on a Roll

Rocking and rolling. I love seeing our little red army.

2015 Hardstyle

We bring the hot sauce.

2015 Pepper Mojito Night

Mojito night! Terzan and I juiced roughly two dozen limes by hand, and then later learned that there was a juicer tucked away in the kitchen. SHITBALLS.

2015 Peppers Go Metal

The Peppers doing 80s rock style, with the notable exception of Amber in the back, who is just lurking.

2015 Us in AZ 1

Andrew. This doesn’t need a caption.

2015 Peppers 4Ever Yo

The Peppers. This doesn’t need a caption either.

Posted on in Cycling, Family, Friends, Life, Travel 1 Comment

PTSD from that time my parents tried to kill me with fish

About six weeks ago, my parents invited Andrew and me over for Sunday dinner. “I’m marinating hamburgers and a salmon burger for you,” my father said excitedly.

Then they cancelled a few hours before, because they do not love their only child.

Dinner was rescheduled for the following Sunday. “I’m still marinating those hamburgers,” my father said. “They’ll be so flavorful!”

We gathered for dinner; everybody ate their beef burgers while I had my salmon patty (which had been marinated and cooked separately). It was flavorful: brimming with the delicious flavor of fish. Nobody else tried the salmon.

The next evening, I started feeling badly. I crawled into bed early, hoping it would pass, but soon became horribly ill. To briefly and non-graphically summarize the subsequent five hours: I exploded and begged for death to come take me away. Andrew watched sympathetically, because marriage means you cannot run screaming when your spouse is disgusting.

Eventually we concluded that medical intervention was required. While I was a biohazard in motion, Andrew was kind enough to load me into the car without requiring that I climb into a trash bag first. Then we spent 8 hours in the emergency room. Apparently Virginia is not a Death with Dignity state, which is how I am still here writing this post today.

Thankfully the episode passed eventually and I recovered. When my father and I met for sushi (oh, the irony) a week later, we put the pieces together and discovered that the salmon burger was the culprit. Apparently the package of frozen burgers clearly says “DO NOT DEFROST” but my parents were like, hey, let’s not only defrost this bad boy, but leave it thawed for a week before feeding it to our kid. When I saw my mother the next day and mentioned that she tried to kill me with a fish patty, my usually doting mother replied, “Hm. Really? Hm. So anyway…”

I love you, Mom. And, Dad, that marinade was great. But next time, let’s do meatloaf.

So fast forward to yesterday, when my roommate joined Costco and brought home a huge bag of frozen salmon fillets. She excitedly offered to thaw a fillet for me and while my first instinct was to scream NO WAY, PLEASE DON’T KILL ME, I said sure, that sounds great, I have a few extra pounds that I can’t wait to crap out violently.

The fish was waiting for me in the refrigerator around dinnertime, but I couldn’t bring myself to commit. It wasn’t until after getting home from my Target date with Julie at 9pm (yes, that’s a thing, Target is wonderful) that I had to face the music and cook the salmon, or risk letting in sit in the fridge overnight and become rife with fatal diseases. The package said to bake it for 15-20 minutes, so I baked it for 35 minutes and then set it on fire for good measure.

Okay, not that last part, but only because it was late and I didn’t want to set the smoke alarm off. Once the salmon cooled from an internal temperature that rivaled the sun, I took a deep breath, ate half of it, and then waited. It has now been 24 hours and everything seems to be okay internally, so I just microwaved the other half (for so long that it partly exploded and partly caramelized) and ate it.

This is the definition of living on the edge.

Posted on in Family, Life, Travel 3 Comments

Reunited and it feels so good

Life here in Tucson is great! I’m just sitting here at the kitchen table, stress eating and waiting for the locksmith to arrive. My car keys are missing and after ransacking the house and dumpster diving the neighbor’s rolling trash can (try to look dignified while doing that), I’ve resorted to calling a professional. The $46 fee is spent at this point, so now I’m really hoping the keys are locked in the car. If not, I will be devastated that my keys are still missing because I will have no way to go buy the alcohol required to move past this.

Other than the obvious, things are good. I did the famous Shootout group ride on Saturday morning and while I wanted to die a million deaths during the ride, my first thought after it ended was that I couldn’t wait to do it again. Sunday was a sufferfest up Mt. Lemmon, noteworthy for the glorious moment around mile marker 9 when another cyclist called out, “I love your blog!” and for the fact that I neither cried nor panicked on the descent. It probably had something to do with the planned post-ride stop at Le Buzz; my subconscious was all, GET ME THE EFF OFF THIS MOUNTAIN AND TO THE COFFEE.

On Monday I drove back to Phoenix to do my time trial bike fit at Cyclologic. It felt like going home; I showed up in sweats, Steve brought me a cup of coffee, and I flopped onto the couch and started whining about being sore all over. Then I made it maybe an hour into the session before the snacks came out, and there was definitely a point where Steve had to tell me to put down the sandwich and get on the bike. In the end, we found a TT position that is as comfortable as one can be while hunched over a bicycle like an overeager frog. Steve probably really misses the quality time we spent together, but I’ll be back once more next week to flop all over the studio dramatically and talk about how my butt hurts.

Aside from training and the trip to Phoenix, things are pleasantly uneventful. The roommate and I spend 96% of our awake free time gathering, preparing, and consuming food and hot drinks. There is an overly sensitive smoke detector in the kitchen and I’ve learned that when it starts shrieking, that doesn’t mean the house is in flames; it merely means lunch is ready. This place is starting to feel like home, except that my dogs are a million miles away and nowhere will ever truly be home until it is covered in their fur. But this is a good place to be for now.

The locksmith just came and broke into the car, where I found the keys sitting in the trunk. Funny how a self-inflicted wound cost $46 and yet all I feel now is joy and relief. As my roommate put it, “Less than the cost of a night at the theater and probably feels even better.”

2015 Julie and Angry Grandma

Julie is adorable at Stella Java, but Angry Grandma does not approve.

2015 At Stella with Jules x 3

The more Julie, the merrier.

2015 The Shootout

We survived the Shootout, but thank god that guy in the back had the good sense to carry extra water.

2015 New Kits

Hooray for our new Sugoi team kits! Hooray for the end of labial abrasions!

2015 The Dinner

This is what I’ve had for dinner almost every night for the past two weeks, except that the pile gets bigger every day. A week from now, I’ll be serving dinner on a hubcap.

2015 Jules on the Ride

Riding with Julie makes everything more fun, even when there is a relentless headwind and a long uphill grind.

2015 Bike Food Fail

I had this brilliant idea to make mochi to eat during rides – tasty! cheap! easy to digest! – except that I ended up with golf ball-sized blobs of rock hard rice phlegm. They look terrible, but at least they taste…….terrible.

2015 Jules Wins The Ride

The crankier I got on the ride, the more cheerful Julie got. When we ended up adding an extra 10 miles to the trip home and I prepared to throw my bike into a ravine and punch squirrels, Julie bubbled over with joy.

2015 Drafting

I shamelessly hitched a ride on this guy’s wheel to get home after Julie turned off. Also, see that chick off to the right dressed like it’s snowing? It’s nearly 60 degrees. Tucson considers this to be cold.

Posted on in Cycling, Friends, Life, The Pets, Travel 2 Comments

You made my dreams come true so here are some nice socks

This trip has already been amazing – while I’ve written about many of the wonderful moments here, there is so much more that has been left unsaid. I feel like a different person than I was a month ago. Happier, lighter, more confident, more relaxed. I’ve met so many new people and dropped into so many different places and lives. It’s give me a chance to let go of many of the bad habits and dead weight I was carrying around at home. Instead of wishing my life were something bigger or feeling angry that it’s not more like I’d hoped, I’m getting the opportunity to make it everything I’ve ever wanted.

Holy shit, that feels good. I feel so lucky to have this be my life right now.

It’s not all luck, though. I have people – my parents, my coach, my friends and teammates – who are making this possible and being part of the experience in a way that makes it so much richer. There aren’t enough postcards or thank you notes to express how much I appreciate the love and support these people provide each day. When I’m homesick or uncertain, these people make those feelings disappear.

But none of this would even be possible without my husband. Without Andrew, I would still be at home watching the house, walking the dogs, and riding the trainer each day. Without Andrew, I would have to actually remember how long I like my crank arms and what tires I need. Without Andrew, I would not have the absolute certainty that wherever I go, regardless of distance or time, I am not alone. He drives me crazy sometimes and drinks too much soda and buys too much Rapha, but he is my person and has made it possible for me to live this dream. I will never be able to truly express how grateful I am for that…but I’m sure Rapha would be happy to help me try.

Wedding Day

Posted on in Cycling, Family, Life, Travel 1 Comment

In which we address labial abrasions

Monday morning after Valley of the Sun, I had a bike fit scheduled at Cyclologic in Scottsdale. My appointment was with Steve Merz, Lead Cycling Analyst, but Paraic McGlynn, founder and Chief Technologist, came in to provide input (and make dry, delightful comments like, “Hm. You have Bont-shaped feet.”). The session was awesome; they made a lot of adjustments that already feel like improvements. I also got to hear phrases like “bony protuberance” and “labial abrasion” all day, and the guys were polite enough to ignore my inability to stop giggling. We didn’t have time to start working on my TT fit, so I’m going back this upcoming Monday for another visit and to discuss the updated state of my bony protuberances.

I love elite athletics because instead of seeing the body as a thing about which to be shy and modest, it becomes merely a machine that we analyze and discuss openly. Having two men I met hours earlier talk about the chafed state of my girl parts should be awkward, except that by this point in my cycling career, it seems like talking about the weather.

Now I’m settled in Tucson for two weeks to train and eat tamales. I’m living with a retired psychiatrist, something I didn’t find out until we started talking my first night in her house. When she mentioned it, I thought, “okay, be cool, she is your roommate, not your MD,” and vowed to not bring up any of my issues. Then like 40 seconds later I was talking about feelings while thinking SHUTUPSHUTUP this poor lady does not want to psychoanalyze you in her kitchen at 9pm.

She’s been a great housemate; quiet and clean with a penchant for healthy eating that puts my habits to shame. She also recycles and composts, practices which bring into stark relief how much trash I actually generate in a day. I’m a tidy person by nature, so it’s not like I’m exploding all over her house, but the trash and dirty dish output has quadrupled since my arrival. Her regular dishes are also too small for the vast quantities of food I pack away in a single sitting, so I’ve taken to using her mixing bowls to eat my meals. She doesn’t bat an eye when I’m eating breakfast out of a bucket or flopping around on the floor doing corework in my snowman boxers, so this arrangement seems to be a success.

I’ve spent the past three days riding Mt. Lemmon, which is great for training and measuring the size of my penis against all of the other male cyclists on the mountain. Yesterday Coach Sue had me doing interval repeats from mile 0-5 of the climb, and on my first set, I passed a group of cyclists and collected three that sat on my wheel for an extended stretch. When I slowed for the rest between intervals, one of the men pulled around me and said, “Hang in there! Good job!” I didn’t have a hand free to punch him in the nuts, so I settled for saying “THANKS” and then promptly dropped him when the next interval started.

Pro tip, boys: try to keep your patronization in your pants.

The mountain is a beautiful place, both because of the scenery and because of what it allows you to find in yourself. There is no hiding on Mt. Lemmon; the grade is almost entirely uphill for 20-something miles. The suffering is lovely and every time you think that surely you cannot climb another foot, you do anyway. And by the time you finish descending the mountain, it seems like doing it all over again wouldn’t be that bad and possibly even fun.

It’s like all of bike racing rolled into one ride. Beautiful, painful, and an excellent excuse to eat everything ever.

2015 Cyclologic 1

The Cyclologic shop with a window into the fit studio.

2015 Cyclologic 2

Steve getting intimate with my bike in the fit studio.

2015 Cyclologic Bike Fit

Nothing makes me feel more like a misshapen troll than watching slow-motion videos of me riding.

2015 The Pelvis

Steve looked over while I was taking this picture and said, “You’re nose deep in a men’s pelvis. I have a woman’s pelvis if you want to act like a baby coming through the birth canal.” After that, he was my favorite.

2015 Mt Lemmon View 2

The beginning stretch of Mt. Lemmon.

2015 Mt Lemmon View 1

More Mt. Lemmon. If you look off to the right, that long ribbon of road is Catalina Highway, the access road between Tucson and Lemmon.

2015 Appropriate Signage

An appropriate sign, considering my continued proliferation of post-cold phlegm. The upside is that I have plenty of ammo with which to assault unsuspecting wheelsuckers.

2015 Cactus Revenge for Terzan

After my teammate Terzan was attacked by a cactus ball during a roadside peeing mishap, I sought revenge on her behalf.

2015 At The Bar

Julie had a brilliant idea for filling up this empty bar with me, me, and more me in a photo.

2015 Tan Lines

What good are early season tanlines if nobody back home is going to see them in the flesh until May, when everybody is already tan??

2015 ToC Promo Event

Julie went to the Tour of California team and route announcement event yesterday and stole the show with her charm and winning smile.

Posted on in Cycling, Life 4 Comments