The Joy of Pain by Chris Ramsey

My hands lift the magnesium powder gymnasts call “chalk” and rapidly rub it between them, making sure they are ghostly white in color. My coach comes over and tells me to make this routine my best, and if I fall, fall hard. He then proceeds to lift me to the bar where my ghostly white hands touch the cool steel. My mind goes blank and the problems that I have fade away. I am only thinking about the present, caught up in a moment. My legs signal the start of the routine. The judges’s pen is a weapon and my body is the target. Every time my body breaks form, it is a deduction. My one and only goal is to make sure I don’t give that pen a reason to move. Inevitably the pen moves. Gymnasts always chase perfection like little kids chasing dogs, always close but never quite there, this strive for perfection torments the majority but is home to few.

Gymnastics has been an integral part of my life ever since I was little. When I was in preschool there was a gym that would come by and teach gymnastics to us little uns. For some reason I was decent enough at it, that the people that were running it told my parents that I should do gymnastics. When I was six I joined Bitterroot Gymnastics where I currently train now. Gymnastics has stayed with me and become part of who I am. Sometimes I’ll be walking down a street and see a rock or a bench, and think to myself, “Hey, I bet I could pull a back full off of that”.

Currently I am a level 10, the highest level you can go. And I have paid with my blood, sweat and occasionally tears in order to attain it, not to mention the anxiety before meets and the hours of exertion and exhaustion in the gym. Gymnastics has given me more than physical strength and abilities. Because we are always trying to get better we learn newer and harder tricks. Sometimes these tricks are really complicated and scary. Your air sense has to be amazing and you have to feel where your body is in relation with the ground without actually seeing it. It is so easy to psyche yourself out. I’ve seen teammates after crashing just sit there and look at the high bar or floor for hours. Gymnastics has taught me that once you fall get immediately back up and try, try, try again. Overcoming fear is the key to success. Once you get over the fact that the outcome may be bad, you are truly free.

When all is said and done, I’m just a kid that has an outstanding passion for a sport that most people only forget until they see it on television during the Olympics. Few know what I do. Few realize what I give up. But the important thing is that I enjoy what I do.

Chris Ramsey – 2014

I am including this piece in my last post pre-TD-race. This piece was written by my baby and one of three reasons I am competing in this race. I have been reading these words since that terrible day. As goofy as Chris and his two older brothers are, they are also old souls and full of wisdom.They are so much wiser than their Mom. The Joy of Pain belongs to Chris and his gymnastics, it belongs to William and Keith and all the endeavors they have survived on the ranch and in life, and for me there is the pain I’m trying to channel into my bike riding and this TD race. There is no “Joy” in the pain of grief. Im frightened, scared and in pain. I do not want to let my three boys down. I want to be able to be as strong as they are…I want them to know how much I love them. I ride this race to help me heal and to learn. I ride this race for Chris, William and Keith. I will carry their spirit and strength with me.

So, the Tour Divide Race is finally here. I will drive to Banff Canada on Monday. The race will officially begin on June 9, 2017 at 8:00am. There will be a moment of silence for Mike Hall and I’m hoping that my family, friends and strangers alike will give my Chris a moment of silence too. I hope all who are following my blog will start the official dot watching on trackleaders.com/tourdivide17. My dot and face will be there. Send me your energy and good thoughts. Donate to my GoFundMe page.

ride-for-chris-and bitterroot-gym

IMG_0490.jpgMuch has happened in the last 53 days since my last post. I’ve survived 3 courses of antibiotics for walking pneumonia and bronchitis as a result of our Oregon rainy weather and my need to train in the elements. My training is not only about the miles of road beneath my bicycle tires, time spent in the saddle for my butt, but also for cold weather and/or element training. With the elements comes the chance of illness especially with my asthma. I think I’m finally cured.

Next on the agenda was a brief visit home to spend time with my sons and grand babies. This visit always helps to heal my spirit. My time spent with William and Keith is always entertaining…I get to spend my day following them around and they in turn get a little work out of their Mom and lots of entertainment.

I am now back in Portland and trying to train with only 53 days left until the Tour Divide. Most of my training will be spent on Dirty Medicine. It is being rigged with my bags and added weight to help me prepare for the weight I will be carrying on the bike. Once Dirty Medicine is fully loaded with all my necessary bike packing gear for my 50 day bike ride I will share a few photos pre-Tour Divide. As for my beautiful Medicine…my clipless pedals were installed yesterday and I used my new official “Dominator” shoes (dun-dun-duuuuun). Rich and Demetri were kind enough to put me through my first lesson on the clipless pedals while my bike was attached to a bike trainer stand. That part of the training was easy peasy. Next, we moved outdoors and guess what…I didn’t fall!
Okay, I didn’t fall right away. I managed to follow all instructions like a good student including the lesson that Demetri shared about going to slowly up hill and crashing…I followed his instructions to the letter. Slowly and with confidence I pedaled up the hill and was about to come to a stop, my right foot was at it’s highest place on the pedal and I started to unclip, panicked and did a very graceful fall on to the grass next to the curb. The graceful part is a lie and Rich who was riding with me didn’t even laugh once. I merely got a “good job on the fall”. So, how does a 57 year old fall without hurting herself…okay I meant to say without hurting her pride? It happened! I used to tell Chris to shake it off and that is what I did…I am a bit disappointed that Rich didn’t get a photo for me to share with my sons…Oh yeah my sons…William said, “you must have fallen on your head” and Keith simply remarked, “Good job dumbass”. I love these boys…

Lastly, the GoFundMe page for Chris and my ride went live a few day ago and will be posted on Facebook. https://www.gofundme.com/ride-for-chris-bitterroot-gym
Please view this page, read and share with everyone you know. Chris is my son and Bitterroot was his gym, the gym where he trained and taught. I will always help to support this gym in any way I am able…this gym was Chris’ home away from home and his family. I am trying to bring the things Chris learned and taught into my preparation for the Tour Divide. What better way to honor my son than to use his life and teachings as a way for me to accomplish something for myself. I want to finish this journey and raise monies for Chris’ legacy. I want to finish the race as a more whole person and maybe not as bloody or in pain as I constantly feel these 614 days. Please please join me in my journey of healing and maintaining a legacy built by Chris and his continued support of Bitterroot Gymnastics.

561

Every morning I wake to a reality and hope that it is a dream. I see the face in this photo, then I see little Kohei’s face and I cry. The face I see in the photo will never change and the face I see in my mirror is 100 years older but in reality it is 561 days older. I’ve lived 561 days of tears, 561 days of a reality that I want to be a dream, 561 days of looking at Kohei and begging him to tell me what he witnessed, and 561 days without answers. I’m looking for a cure, the medicine or a magical healing from the 561 days.

How do I explain myself or try to understand this 561 days of hell. For the sake of my sanity I tried therapy and failed, my second attempt at therapy and two different group therapy sessions on grief were meant to show me coping technics, but ultimately I ran from them screaming because I’m still trying to face an absoluteness of 561 days without Chris.

Today is 561 days and again I wake…I look in the mirror and see a small but distinct change. It is not a change in my face, my mental health or my heart, but in my physical self.  So, as a 57 year old mother of three and Granny to five…I am seeing what riding my bike 6 days a week has done to my body. I’m physically stronger and I’m going to say this out loud…I have the beginning of a six pack (William and Keith I’m not talking about a keg either). The physical healing thing isn’t something I had contemplated in this journey. I knew I would need to be able to physically handle long durations of bike riding and I think I’m accomplishing that requirement. Being physically fit again, never entered my thought process because let’s face it…I’m still not in my right mind. Along with the bike riding I’ve also been doing a workout handwritten for me by my baby boy Chris. 561 days ago he hand wrote a six week “Fit Kit” for his Mom. 561 days isn’t exactly six weeks but it’s a start to me being physically fit…medicine which is necessary no matter how disagreeable.

 

How to ride a bike?

My very first bike was a gift from my GodFather for my Confirmation into the Catholic Church. Paul (my GodFather) went to a police auction and bought 3 bikes and completely restored them to like new condition. He brought them to Wyoming for my younger brothers Chris, Jamie and me as our Confirmation gifts. We were so excited and I had never owned something quite so cool, something that belonged to me and me alone. I’m not sure whatever happened to that bike. The next bike I remember was another gift from Jerry Ramsey. We were living in Missoula, MT and I used to ride my bike from Grant Creek into town for coffee or just where ever. The rides were just fun outings and nothing special.

Fast forward to today. I’m learning the basics…really. So many things that I didn’t know. Like how the exact fit of my bike frame to my body size makes a huge difference in my ride. I have no neck pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, back pain,  or knee pain.  But, let’s face it my butt pain was an entirely different issue I needed to conquer. Only time in the saddle would help heal that pain. I am currently riding 3 to 4 hours 6 days a week. I’m riding mainly flats with a few hills. The rides have been cold, freezing and mostly wet. The rain just won’t stop. So, a few days ago Team Medicine decided to give me a lesson and a push out of my comfort zone, we went for a team ride. My first question to them was, “Are you going to make me cry”? They promised they would be kind…and then we made our way to “Cemetery Hill” (my name for the hill), but it did go up hill into a cemetery.  I think they were trying to tell me something, if I didn’t make it up the hill it would be easy to do away with my body…a small push to the side of the road and a little fresh dirt kicked over me and my bike. Well, it took me four days to conquer “Cemetery Hill” and I’m waiting for my next lesson out of my comfort zone. I’m also learning about the equipment on my bike and becoming very familiar with it…which is preparing me for next week and my introduction to clipless pedals and new bike shoes. I will be calling this lesson “CRASHING 101 FOR BEGINNERS”.

Stories

Stories make up all of our lives, they are proof of the existence our past, present and future. The stories that we tell have taken root within our hearts, proof of an existence and our heart can continue on through a story.

My Mom reminded me of one such story at Christmas. When the Martinez children were very young, my Grandpa Fred hid our Christmas presents in a shed  and apparently being the naughty children we were…the presents were found early and unwrapped. The four older siblings received bicycles from our Grandpa and my two younger siblings received a wagon, all were very cool (the last two of our siblings were not yet conceived )…anyway, that left me, #5  child…I was given a stupid doll and her name was Deedee…ugh.  Apparently, Grandpa felt I was too small and it was unsafe for me to have a bicycle. I am still upset about not getting that bicycle and was not a big fan of DeeDee.  My next memorable story occurred as a passenger riding on the handlebars of my brother Ronnie’s bike. Ronnie was supposed head to the ranch to milk the cows and I wanted to go with him. For whatever reason Mom would not let me go with him…Ronnie of course did not want to  disappoint me and he scooped me up,  placed me in front of him on the handlebars of his bike and we were off. As we set off down the hill to the ranch my little foot got caught in the bike wheel/spokes. We knew we would be in trouble and so Ronnie took me all the way to the ranch and our Aunt Melva would bandage my right ankle. Because we were young my brother Ronnie and I thought we were safe and out of trouble, my Mom would never know that I had disobeyed her…of course Aunt Melva would call Mom to tell her I had been hurt and of course we were in trouble. I still carry that large scar on my right ankle, it is about the size of a silver dollar, but it is also a constant reminder of a great story I share with my brother Ronnie who is no longer with us.

These stories are just two examples of my exposure to bicycles at an early age. Now, I would like to say that this sparked something in me at a young age and that I’ve been an avid bike rider since childhood, sadly this is not the case. Like most people we learn to ride a bike and then play with riding a bike when we are kids. As adults bike riding for some becomes just a fun thing we do sometimes. And now this non-bike riding self thinks she’s going to compete in a 2745 mile race, unsupported, up and down mountains for 50 days.

  • Yes, I’ve committed to ride in the Tour Divide.  I’m gonna do that…
  • why…because it’s there…
  • why…because it’s hard-but not impossible…
  • why…because it will hurt, but it will never hurt the same way I’m hurting now
  • why…because being alone on a bike and being alone on a road in my head may be the thing that can help (not fix) , but help my pain.
  • why…because maybe I can use Pain to Heal Pain.

 

 

Medicine

Medicine is the name of my bicycle…my very special bicycle. The process began with the search for the perfect place to purchase a bicycle. After viewing the site for Circa Cycles, I was convinced I had found the place that would create my bicycle.  My first meeting with Rich and Demetri was a good fit…which is funny because they spent that first meeting taking so many measurements of my body in order to start the build for my custom fitted bicycle.  I talked and they listened. They committed themselves as my bicycle makers and trainers/mentors and friends. The bicycle for me has become this emotional connection and a hope of healing. My vision of the bicycle started with a photo and words that I carry with me.  The name Medicine happened because the bicycle and the ride will be medicine for my body and soul. Medicine because a bicycle wheel can have 28 spokes and so does the BigHorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming.  The Bighorn Medicine Wheel was constructed by the Plains Natives some 500 plus years ago and it is considered a place for healing and a historical/archeological wonder…in my current head space all of this is significant. I would also name my second bicycle Dirty Medicine. Dirty Medicine, because it is the bicycle that will actually be doing the dirty work on the road challenge. Dirty Medicine will carry me miles and miles down the path of the Tour Divide challenge and my path of self prescribed healing.

[I think that in these times especially, but probably for all times, in the stories we tell or share we can only be guided by the heart – we cannot dictate or predict which stories will be “the ones.” All we can do is to remember and to tell with all our hearts, not hold anything back, because anything held back or not told cannot continue on with others.]

Leslie Marmon Silko & James Wright                                                                                                          The Delicacy and Strength of Lace (1986)

 

 

 

 

The Journey/LSRV

While William, Keith and Kirsten explained exactly what the Tour Divide challenge entailed…2745 miles down the backbone of the Rocky Mountains. The Great Divide (Continental Divide) is an underground race that follows the divide drainage from Banff, Canada and down the divide of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The journey ends in Antelope Wells, New Mexico at the Mexican border. Knowing the geography of Montana, Wyoming and northern Colorado and listening to the stories of the riders shared by Kirsten and my sons I was hooked. Their stories included following the riders via “Spot” and also, being able to meet and interact with the racers…these stories were inspiring and something I could not stop thinking about. You see, Kirsten meets and helps many of the riders in the TD because they must ride past her famous (maybe a little infamous) Brush Mountain Ranch in Colorado, just over the Wyoming border. This area in Wyoming and just over the border into Colorado is one of the main reasons for my infatuation. This area and to those people in the know…this is the Little Snake River Valley and my home. Home to my family and my two older sons and their families.

The Journey/blog

The decision for the journey began in Wyoming. I was having dinner and cocktails with two of my sons, their families and a good friend of theirs. With my sons there is always silliness and laughter, even in the most difficult of times, add alcohol and Ms. Kirsten to the mixture…I’ve committed myself to this thing that is so much bigger than anything I have ever done (with one exception). The journey begins with a little known underground race called the Tour Divide challenge.  My new friend Kirsten tells me that the night I heard about the race, I blurted out, “Oh, I’m gonna DO THAT!” She called me a “nutter” and exclaimed most people would just say “wow”!  So, here I am…Ive sent in my Letter of Intent and I’m training.

Why Train

Yes, I am in training and I have purchased a bike. My bike is a very special training bike. It was created with the help and encouragement of many people. I was advised that it would be best to have a bike custom measured and built for my specific body size. The actual measurements, drawings, graphics and final construction were done by two men. Two unique and amazing men who have become friends/trainers. I had no idea what was about to happen the day I walked into Circa Cycles. The course that was laid out for me and my current journey had been set into motion a few months earlier.

First blog post

The first week of January had snow, wind, rain and extreme cold…perfect conditions to start my outdoor training. Sister runs one mile and I must ride three. My total miles for the week were 115 and I missed my mark by 35 miles. I’m not disappointed, but I am surprised I made the 115 mark, given the new difficulties that I am confronting in my 20 digits and the general area of my bottom.