Ten minutes is a long time.

Ten minutes is a long time when you’re riding at threshold for the first time in a month.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my random acts of fitness may be all I can get out of myself for a few years. It’s not that I’m giving up, it’s more like I’m calming down.

It’s going to be ok.  I’m going to do my best and be good with it.

I’m also going to take more baths in the evening, read more literary journals, and drink more chamomile tea. But that’s besides the point.

***

Bend, Oregon is one of those towns that one is reluctant to compliment. You drive into Bend and the mountains assault you even as the dry desert air fills your lungs. The beauty is kind of obscene.  And then people are so nice it makes you feel guilty for every mean thought that’s ever entered your head.

So you’re sitting there staring up at a blue sky that really ought to not be so big (show off!) and someone brings you the most delicious beer in the world. A pretty girl walks by – the kind made of shiny rocks and rugged softness – and smiles at you.  Then a breeze.

You exhale and drink your extra-delicious beer and wonder what sort of anti-anxiety medication is being piped into the water because hot-damn if the entire population doesn’t look blissful.

***

Professional bike racers are an interesting breed. Intense with a kind of rabid, hungry look.  I constantly want to feed them but resist the urge to do so.  Journalistic distance, you know.

The Cascade Cycling Classic brought a whole crazy mob of really amazing legs and lungs to Oregon. Serious, Euro-pro type guys like Oscar Sevilla (who, I think, will always manage to look about 12 years old). Oscar dished out  pain in the mountains and the other Rock boys went on a leg-ripping spree for the rest of the race.

In the second stage, Oscar averaged 28 miles per hour. 28 miles per hour! On a stage with a mountaintop finish.

Seriously?

The peloton averaged well over 30pmh during the first hour of racing that day and Oregon-native Omer Kem called is “the second hardest day of racing in his career”. The remaining days followed suit.

From the back of a motorcyle, it’s easy to forget how much suffering is going on.  The racers are shiny and poker-faced, revealing nothing unless you catch them off-guard. I point a big 15-pound camera at them and try not to put my moto-driver out of balance while I crane backwards to catch a snot-blow or a grimace.

***

Newspapers are absolutely mind-blowing.

I never thought about it very hard before I guess – even though I grew up in a newsroom.  But the fact that a big (or even little) paper like that goes to print and appears early in the morning every single day? It’s outright madness.

I mean – who thought that would be a good business model? No wonder they’re in trouble…

When I write my columns, they get laid down on the page nearly two weeks in advance. Sometimes the paper comes out on Sunday and Sal throws it on the bed and I see something that I’d nearly forgotten writing. Magazines are even longer.

There’s all this time to edit and think and cut and obsess.

With the cycling stuff for the Sports section, I’d sometimes find myself at a 6:30pm podium ceremony roughing up the USAC Press Manager for a set of official results before running across the street to the coffee shop to write the day’s race recap. It was due at 8:00, which might not have been so bad, except that the SportsBase database for Nationals was completely scrambled, so I had to try to research every finisher’s team affiliation. Easy for pros, a little more complicated for 16-year-old juniors who’ve never been mentioned online before…

The nightly fire drill was nerve-wracking but intoxicating and I felt, for a moment, what my mother must have felt back when she was younger and journalism still seemed fun.  There was a sense of impossibility, which felt like a challenge, which duped me into pulling off minor miracles.

I called my mother one night and said, “Mom, I’m writing for Sports.”

She audibly spit out a little bit of her white wine and said, “HA!!!”

Mom never wrote for the Sports section.

***

I’ve never read a Steven King novel. Not one. It’s just not my thing. Popular fiction, horror stories, sci-fi. I’m sure it’s great, but I never got into it. They were always laying around the house because my dad read them.  As a child I recall being scared of the covers but not at all intrigued beyond that.

That said, when the man wrote a book on writing, I bought it without blinking.  And it was as good as you’d expect. An even tie, for me at least, with Anne Lammot’s “Bird by Bird”.

I read it every so often, but it had been a few years and I had the audiobook on my iPhone so I listened to most of it driving home from Bend.

He said, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” which surely has been said before, but it reminded me to thank my editors at the Oregonian. As a self-taught writer with no formal training, the whole editorial process has been new to me and King is correct. Editing is hard. Editing well is even harder.

Seth Prince and Laurie Robinson from the Oregonian have both been good to me.  Chapeau to both of them and thank you! (officially).

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5 comments

  1. Best part of it… watching Snarkypants wandering around muttering “deadline, deadline” and of course forgetting her bag with laptop in the middle of a shopping area. I did get compliments for wearing such a pretty bag around tho.

  2. everything you write is truly fun to read. thanks for doing such a great job covering the races in bend. we’ll find some mean people here before cross nats arrives.

  3. “There was a sense of impossibility, which felt like a challenge, which duped me into pulling off minor miracles.”

    This is pretty much how I work too, and also why my job is so rewarding.

  4. Guy Smith

    Awesome update, sorry so late with the response, you are a natural sports writer and have a true gift, your story lines put me in the setting, knowing Bend and these racers its like I`m there!

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