Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Drilling the Basics

     My whole life I have watched the years go by without paying much mind to making resolutions. I make goals for myself all year round and therefore making a goal at the end of one year or the beginning of the next seems a little redundant.

     That being said, 2015 was a hell of a year. It began with a break up, which put me on an internet dating site where I met my boyfriend Robert. He was the best part of 2015 and I predict he will also be at the top of 2016 too! (Stay tuned!) Perhaps the second best thing to happen to me in 2015 was finally going to acro classes and learning to flip around on someone's feet, or hands, or shoulders! I wrote about acro in April when boyfriend and I went to an acro class taught by my best friend and his fiance. That acro class was our second date and led to our first kiss. (Squeeeeeee!)

     I was lazy about acro until late this summer when I began going to acro Jams in Oakland. It was there I truly began to push myself to learn new things and challenge my body. My new friends have helped me so much. I learned so quickly I had the honor of making a video for Youtube with Vahid. In the process, I learned more about myself than I have in a long time. Now I am ready to make my first goal of 2016.
     This will seem strange but- I will not work on anything *new to me* for 30 days. It is back to basics for me! I can fumble my way through advanced poses and washing machines, but I am far from pretty when I do it. So my focus for the next 30 days will be to make perfect the most basic of moves. I am doing this for 3 reasons:
     1. To strengthen muscles I will need once I am ready to do more advanced moves.
     2. To create something not just cool, but beautiful.
     3. To be safe. This is the most important reason. I can be a bit fearless sometimes and lately I have found myself trying moves that put a lot of strain on my body. This is not safe. How could I possibly work on something with an advanced twist if I can't go smoothly between simple twists?

     I know drilling the basics is essential for any physically demanding sport. As you may know, playing soccer has been my life for 25 of 30 years. When I arrived on the pitch in high school, I was annoyed at how many hours we spent passing and dribbling the ball. Passing it to one another, off walls, through cones, around players. All I wanted to do as a forward was learn to do diving headers and shoot! When I began coaching at 19 I found an appreciation for drilling the basics. How could I possibly shoot the ball if I couldn't properly complete a pass? How could I expect my players to do a diving header when they had no idea how to head the ball in the first place- safely--- without diving!?
So at acro, how could I pop from Star to Bird if I can't get my body to twist and don't quite understand the dynamics of what I have to do?

     So, for the next 30 days, I will be asking my acro friends to do Ninja Star after Ninja Star, Tick Tock after Tick Tock, and Shoulder Stands in all variations. I will work on basic "L sits" and hand to hand practices on the floor. Most importantly, I will be focusing on my body, my safety and properly learning how to perform at a level that I can only achieve through knowing the most basic of moves.
I also will make it my goal to become a solid base for birds, bats and leaves to rest or hang on my feet. I believe the best bases are flyers too... and vice versa.

     I ask my acro friends to respect this decision. As fun as Whirly Gigs and pops from Star to Bird look, I have to protect my body. I hope you all choose or continue to do the same. Be safe.

     As a side note, I would like to take this opportunity to let all people new to acro know that I strongly recommend taking a few acro classes with certified teachers. TakeYoga in Allison Park has a great class taught by Becca Cutright and Darcy Lyle on Monday evenings. Yoga Love also has a class on Saturdays at 2:00 pm. Even if you think you know what you are doing, you don't.
I save my pennies and go to a class any chance I can. I really hope you choose to learn from people who really know what they are talking about.

Be safe, friends. See you at a Jam soon!


From my first acro jam in late July. (Poorly executed shoulder stand)
Photo by Robert Lee Bailey

Also from that first Jam
Photo by Robert Lee Bailey

My very first Star!
Photo by Robert Lee Bailey

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Making the Blues Look Easy

That's correct. This blog is becoming less about biking and more about trying something new as often as possible. Last night I found myself at Peter's Pub in Oakland. I know what you are thinking. "Why the heck would you ever go to Oakland to dance?" I will tell you I never would have. I went because I have always wanted to learn to dance. I recently met some people who dance quite well and quite often so we decided I should tag along and give it a try. I took my friend from work with me for moral support and so I wasn't the only one looking silly.

Turns out, if you dig the blues the place to be on Tuesday nights is Peter's Pub. Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I took the opportunity to learn some blues dancing. If you are interested in learning I would recommend the 8pm til 9pm hour where you can get a quick lesson before the real fun begins. At 9pm the music starts. It ends abruptly at midnight and you are awkwardly shooed onto the street- immediately.

The Dance:
It looks simple. It looks easy. Do not let them fool you. Pulsing to the music is not as easy as they make it look. In fact, I am convinced they were all using voodoo magic. I don't think they let newcomers in on it. It is a fairly easy thing to get used to until the person leading you decides to walk, spin and twirl you. Although by the end of the night I think my friend and I got the hang of it. Being there with a few guys who knew what they were doing was helpful.

The Rest:
I was feeling anxious that day. More than normal so I was looking forward to relaxing with friends, dancing and laughing. All those things happened however, I was not prepared for the amount of people (strangers) I would be dancing with and meeting and talking to. It was like nothing I have ever done before. I will warn you newbs- if you go Blues Dancing you'd better be ready to sance with everyone there. At least once. Even if their breath stinks and even if they talk too much. It seemed say "no" to a dance was not a thing. So be ready for that. In other words, do not go on a day you are feeling socially anxious.

My Experience:
I loved it! I would like dancing to be a little more up beat, so perhaps Blues isn't the best for me but the space was comfortable and the people were all very friendly! I recommend you all go try it and make sure you say, "Hello!" to all my new pals!


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Backpacking Adventures 101

I know, I know. I have been a bit lazy this year. My New Year's Resolution for next year will be to write to you more. You're welcome. You heard it here first. Not much has changed since April other than a BF and an amazing summer. I have gotten better at Acro (I did Acro with the first time back in April with BF), which is exciting, but it isn't what brought me here today.

I can now scratch Backpacking off my list of things I need to do. Although some might argue my bicycle trip to Ohiopyle 2 years ago was "backpacking", this trip had the required hiking aspect that the bicycle trip was missing. So, instead of riding 85 miles to camp for a night and ride home, we hiked 5 miles to camp and hiked 6 miles back home.

Day One:
Brutal. I was about 40 words away from, "Do we have to go?" when we pulled up to the trail head. We (Boyfriend and I) had just driven 3 hours northeast of Pittsburgh to the Allegheny National Forest. It was pouring rain. I know what you're thinking, but the air was 45 degrees and had a stiff breeze. I could handle it being cold or wet... but both was sure to kill me. Somehow we suited up and set off on foot to a campground I was sure did not exist. The hiking was a little difficult for me and my quads were surely burning. Once we got moving my core warmed up and I felt fine as far as temperature went. I remembered this rule from biking. (I think Vannevar shared it with me... thank you!) The most important part of biking in the snow or cold was to make sure your core was warm and the rest of you would follow.

The hardest part of the Morrison Trail on day one was crossing the streams. Even the smallest streams seemed a bit wide for my little legs from all the rainfall. Boyfriend helped me across each of them, careful not to fall in himself. I have to admit, I was skeptical of putting my feet into plastic zip lock freezer bags, but I am damn glad he made me. About 4 miles in the 5 miles trek the rain slowed enough that it was no longer making my cheeks wet and cold. When we reached the campsite around 5:30pm, the last thing I wanted to do was anything. I noticed I began to get cold very quickly once we stopped moving. With everything soaked around us we set up the tent and got things in order. Then we gathered sticks and anything that looked dead to make a fire. We wouldn't know until the next day neither of us actually expected to get a fire started. We did and it was warm.

The Night:
It was cold, but Boyfriend boiled some water and put it in a bottle for me to put in my sleeping bag. I did that and it was so warm at one point I kicked it further down the bag. We also each had a body warmed stuck to our chests. Another trick we tried was to put emergency blankets under our sleeping pads between us and the ground. I would say it worked. At no point did I think the ground was my source of coldness. My sleeping bag is rated to 25 degrees, so I mummied myself in and went to sleep.

Day Two:
Woke up to weather already warmer than the high from the previous day. Small bits of sun were shining on the reservoir so we got up around 9, made breakfast and packed everything back up. The little campground we were at was only $10.00 for the night and had a small hole- in- the- floor bathroom. The ladies room had a spider where your butt would go. (I blame Nate for saying I was going to get eaten by a spider.) Once we were packed and hydrated we set out on foot for the last 6 miles. This loop would take us back to the car. The temperature at this point was so nice neither of us put on any rain gear. In fact about 1.5 miles in we each started shedding clothes. Not for that reason, but because it was warm out and we were hot. Seriously, not for *that* reason. Sicko.

I was warned that at a certain part of this section of trail we would begin climbing up a steep hill that would never seem to end. Sure enough, the trail which had traversed the hillside for quite a while took a turn for straight up. It was steep and rugged terrain. Most of the time we were stepping on mossy stones or wet leaves. At one point I fell on the root of a tree. I was ok, but with as tired as I was, I noticed myself getting lazy. The second half of the trail was gorgeous though. It was cut through huge boulders and over tree roots. I enjoyed the apple trees and rhododendrons growing along the way.

Finally the steep trail ended and we continued along on even ground. The last mile or two were easy compared to the rest of the hike it was flat ground and the trail was easy to identify. We got to the car, sweaty and tired. Then we sang songs we heard on the radio the whole way home. The End.

Critters you ask? Why yes, we did see some critters. We saw the tiniest frog ever, a medium sized toad and a lot of chipmunks. Luckily we did not see a single bear or dear or wolverine.

I think this is long enough for tonight. If you get the chance to go on a backpacking trip, go. It is a great way to be sore and tired and have nothing but some muddy shoes and a couple photos to show for it- and that is awesome!

Fauna Violet
Day One just as the rain let up.
Day One: Rainy and Frozen! 
The view of the reservoir from our tent! The leaves are already changing! 
Proof we had a fire going! 
The terrain was awesome and pretty! 
Day Two had perfect 60 degree weather! No rain in sight! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

East End Brewing Keg Ride!

Yesterday was cold. It snowed here in Pittsburgh. That didn't stop 400 cyclists from participating in the East End Brewing Keg Ride! That is right, 400 people willingly showed up in 35 degree temperatures to ride in a circle (more on that later) and drink fabulous beer!

My ride started at the Panther Hollow Trail with my friend Brian, his father and friend Zack. From there we rode to East End Brewing. I noted the climb out of Panther Hollow is so much easier when it isn't 18 miles into your ride! Arriving at EEB a little before the crowd we were able to listen to the band who was playing and relax in the cold overcast morning air! Note: For the life of me I cannot find the name of the band who was playing. Please inform so I can give a nod!

This part of the day was very fun for me. This is the first ride I have been on since 2013 and I was able to see so many people that I missed from the community. It is a shame one person I respected took all this joy from me. I won't let that happen again! So, I tip my hat to those important cyclists who reminded me what it is all about!

Then after the kegs were strapped securely to the bikes we rode! The card they gave us in the beginning of the day suggested we were headed to Homestead and therefore, my group was prepared to go there.

Strapping the Keg to the Cargo Bike!

We made a quick stop to go single file through the Wheel Mill then stopped up the block to wait for everyone. Seeing the Wheel Mill was cool and made me wish I rode mountain bikes! The old location of EEB has since been demolished, but was only a block away. So while we waited there for everyone to go through the Wheel Mill, EEB poured out a little beer on the site to pay tribute to where it all started!

The former site of East End Brewing.
Then we were off, headed in a direction we all thought for sure was the Waterfront. It is amazing how many people will blindly follow 3 kegs on bikes to a destination unknown for the promise of beer! We wound through Squirrel Hill, Wilkinsburg, Frick Park and eventually found ourselves turned back around completely and headed back to East End Brewing! That's right folks! They tricked us! When we made it back to EEB and got inside we found the band warmly playing and beer flowing from all directions! Smiles were had by all and it was a great ride! After drinking our beer in our commemorative glasses my group headed to the Waterfront and I headed home.

Awesome friends, good cycling, great beer, big smiles. This is the way life should be. Plus or minus the beer... and cycling... and friends... er... uh.



Brian doesn't know how to smile. Apparently. 

Pedal Pale Ale Keg Ride, 2015 glass.

Eleven years of bicycle delivered beer

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Letting Go at AcroYoga!

     Guys and Gals! I know I usually bike, but last night I tried something completely new and different. AcroYoga. AcroYoga as the word suggests, combines Yoga with Acrobatics. This 2 (or more) person yoga allows you and a partner to trust, communicate and connect while making something beautiful (or in my case pitiful). I know, I know, "but Fauna, what does this have to do with us? We like to bike!"

     The answer is easy hypothetical question asker: You need to give this shit a try! We all know how good Yoga is for us. We hear about it everyday from our Yoga friends. However, we all have reasons for not going. Trust me friends, this is fun, ralaxing and worth it!

     So I arrived last night at TakeYoga in Allison Park not knowing what to expect. Even as familiar faces arrived I felt more nervous. I have not done yoga in about 2 years and I certainly was never good at it to begin with! My best friend Mike and his sister Becca filtered into the tiny room and soon the room was filled with people of all ages, cultures, and a healthy mix of men and women. Leigh Ann taught the class and began by having everyone introduce themselves, say how long they have been doing Acro and if they were a base or flyer.

     As we went around the room the experience level ranged from "this is my first go at this" to "just over a year".

     The class was called "Back to Basics" which was a review for all the experienced Takeyogis but allowed the other new people and myself to work on very basic poses. The first pose was like the bunny hill at Seven Springs. It got you warmed up, but you couldn't stay there all day! As Becca did a plank on the floor, I went opposite her and planked by holding her ankles and placing my shins over her shoulders! Then we switched! I was amazed at how body placement easily made the person above you feel weightless!

     Then we moved into the real hard poses. (At least for me). I was paired up with 2 other first timers and Mike. Mike wasted no time. I was first up and it was my turn to fly. He and Leigh Ann demonstrated Bird. Bird looks like what you did with your parents when you were little. They push you into the air with their feet and hands. Then the person in the air squeezes their butt and lifts chest and legs into the air! Then we practiced taking away one foot, then placing it back. Then taking away the other foot. Working and communicating with your partner as you start to move through to poses is important. There is a lot of person to person contact and people can get hurt if you don't. This is why at TakeYoga they have a safe word, "Down." At any time, you can say the magic word, "Down" and the pose will be abandoned and the people in the pose will get down as safely and quickly as they can. '

After Bird pose was accomplished, Mike helped me into some sort of handstand thing while supporting me. I was wobbly and nervous to be upside down and then asked to trust and let go. It was hard for me to overcome the negative self talk of "You're going to die, You're going to crush this person under you"... which was on repeat in my head.

     Next up: Back Bird. For some reason, Back Bird made me feel pretty and powerful. This one is just like Bird but on your back in a back bend over the feet of your base instead of on your front hips. From Back Bird, people were encouraged to go into a handstand backwards which I was pretty uncomfortable with. I will admit, even though you are only a couple feet off the ground, it was be a little intimidating. It all came down to self- confidence. I am sure Mike could have supported me through the motions, but I learned an important lesson last night. I am capable of doing more than my self- confidence will allow me to. I definitely held back a little. Next time I will push myself to use positive self talk and trust myself and my base.

     The final move I learned was a combination of moving from Bird to Throne. Throne is just like it sounds. You place yourself in a sitting position on the top of the base's feet as if sitting on a throne! With the help of Mike being an awesome Base I was able to move into this position!
The entire night, Mike kept telling me to let go of hands and relax. Once I let go of hands and was able to relax, the pose felt natural and powerful.
I have known Mike for 15 years and the trust I have in him showed last night. Anything he told me to do, I did. Even when it didn't feel safe. I learned the most important lesson last night:

Sometimes when letting go doesn't feel safe... it is. As long as you have a stable Base and an open mind, anything can be done!

Fauna V.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


     48 degrees. My first ride of the year was on a beautiful 48 degree day here in Pittsburgh. I started my day with the gym where I had about 10 minutes of light cardio then worked on my triceps and chest. I went home, at some garbage and then decided it was a nice enough day to get out into the sunshine and ride my bicycle down the the History Center to check out Mister Rogers Neighborhood!

     The ride began in Millvale. Aside from the roads in Millvale being pothole stricken (much like the rest of the city), the ride was dry with very little traffic. It was 1 o'clock on a Monday, I wasn't really expecting much anyhow. As soon as I got toward Route 28, I had to detour around some road construction. Despite the nice new bike lane that was put in on the on ramp to the 40th street bridge, I took the sidewalk. It was my opinion I was much safer on the sidewalk across the bridge then I would have been if I took the bike lane. The bike lanes seems to dump cyclists right into the cross hairs of any motorist making a left onto the bridge. The cyclist begins left of the motorist then has to somehow cross in front of them in order to get onto the bridge. I took the sidewalk, like I always have and had no issues except an excess salt and muck left over from winter. 
Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood. My final destination.

     Getting onto Butler Street was like seeing an old friend. I love being in traffic. I pumped my legs hard and kept up with the cars taking the full lane until 30 somethingth Street when I made my right and jumped down onto Smallman Street. Smallman was a ghost town. I was passed by very few cars inbound however, I was went and I don't have fenders. My little butt was rather damp. There were also some potholes that took extra caution to get around without getting in the way of passing vehicles. I had no issue with any vehicles until Smallman gets narrow just before Lidia's in the Strip District and a Cadillac decided I had no right to be where I was (still taking the lane) and passed me dangerously close as I was bottle necked with no other choice but to be almost under him by jersey barriers. I averaged 10mph for 5 miles and it took me- you guessed it- 30 minutes! Not too bad for the first ride since September. 

     Bike parked and into the History Center I went with my good friend Steve. Steve and I have known one another for 15 years now so it was no wonder we had a blast. The Mister Rogers exhibit was underwhelming. I guess I expected more out of it than just a was figure of the guy and a couple small pieces of the set. At any rate, we took the 'Smart Steps' through all 6 floors of the museum and got all our stamps. When we returned to the bottom floor we claimed our prize at the museum shop- a pickle pin! The History Center is a lot of fun and if you haven't gone you should. I was very happy to get in for just $6.00 with my student ID.
Steve put his Pickle in his car. True Pittsburgh.
I wished they had the trolley wrapped around the castle. They didn't. However, they do have it on display.
     Steve drove me and my bike home, which I had mixed feelings about. I learned real quick when I didn't have a car to never to decline a ride home if it is offered! Happy Riding! 


Monday, March 2, 2015

Do The Work

 Eight weeks ago I made the choice to start going to the gym and if you follow me on any social media you know it has been working. I have noticed a common theme that comes up a lot at the gym; "Do the work." It is no secret that results don't come for those who slack off. My muscle definition is at a place I haven't seen in over 12 years. My endurance has reached a new high. The more sweat that drips down my face the closer I know I am to reaching my goal. Work is hard, but it pays off. This is not only true at the gym, but in the rest of your life as well.

    Would you like to better your life? I have news for you, you can but you are going to have to do the work. Last year I hit a low and decided to change my own life. I researched programs, applied to Universities, wrote essays and collected letters of recommendation in order to get into the school I chose. I got in but it doesn't stop there. I now have to work to get to my next goal. It isn't easy work because it requires loans, dedication and focus. However, if I never decided to do the work, I wouldn't have seen and won't see any results in my future. The work I would have been doing would not have yielded positive results. This is the part where I tell you there is a such thing as good-for-you work and shit work. Shit work yields misery, despair and hopelessness. Do not take shit work. Good work makes you feel...well, good! It makes your life better, helps you reach your goals and allows you to step back and say, "Damn, I worked hard for that."

    How would you like to feel better about yourself? I can tell you first hand it won't be easy, but you are going to have to do the work. Counseling is something that is good for everyone, not just the crazies. Everyone gets a little out of whack, sad, or downright depressed. Whether it is seasonal, situational or persistent, going to talk to a professional is not as taboo as it once was. I think the reason people choose not to seek help is because at the end of the day they are afraid to do the work. Therapy is hard work but the payoffs are worth it. It makes you feel good. Therapy is good, hard work.

    Do you have an excellent idea for a new start up company? Startups are a lot of work. There are plenty of people out there who can tell you that if they didn't get up everyday and do the work we wouldn't have companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Apple. How about companies like Google? Do you think Google became Google without doing the work? Now think of companies who no longer exist or are in danger of going under. How do you think they got that way? My best guess is a small part of it has to do with someone not doing the work to uncover [insert any part of maintaining a successful and changing business here]. Someone was riding high on the MySpace wagon when they should have been working. Is this making sense? I hope so.

    What does your retirement look like? How do you see yourself? How will you get there? I hope you get there by doing something you love to do. I hope at the end of your career you can look back and say, "All that hard work, overtime, effort and passion paid off. Look at where I am! Look at what I did! I feel good about this life! I worked so hard to get here today and damn, life is good!"

    So how about it? Are you ready to live your life? Are you ready to change your own life forever? Do you think you can do the work? If you could change one thing about yourself or your life, what would it be? Are you ready to do the work in order to change it? I bet you can. In fact, I know you can because I am doing it each and everyday. Sometimes the barbell is too heavy and I have to take a little bit of weight off. I don't mind those days because I know it means I think I am stronger than I am. On that day I feel stronger than I ever was and it gives me something to work toward. When I finally reach that new goal I subconsciously set for myself I will feel awesome. I will know all that sweat, effort, passion and work was paying off. So go for it. Do the work. See the changes. Just feel good doing it and if you fail, do it again until you reach that goal. Remember: Avoid shit work and I think you should be fine.

Cheers, ya bastards. (Aye, you didn't really think I could be lovey the whole way through, did you?)