Isang's Blog/

{January 29, 2010}   Lost and Found

While I had planned on posting soon after last Sunday’s adventure, my time was spent more on planning for a new routine here in Guanajuato. I’ve decided to discontinue studying Spanish at Escuela Mexicana to increase my time at Buen Pastor with the girls and with the locals. Of course, Escuela Mexicana was amazing for bringing me up to speed on Basic Spanish. But I plateaued my last few days there, finding myself wanting to be more out in the city than in a classroom environment. I have to admit that I’ve been learning more Spanish from TV and con mi amigos on the bike team;). So, now with a new routine set up, I can finally relax on the hostal terrace and bring myself up to date.

Last Sunday was about 9 hour ride! It started off at 8 and ended around late 5 o’clock. I’ve grown to expect this length of time for Sunday adventures. I’ve also grown to expect amazing burritos at a pit stop. A few things I’ve learned to do so far on the road:

1. Carry more than one water bottle, and bring potassium sources for the long uphill treks.

2. When you hear a car from behind and you’re in the back, yell “¡Fierro!” = equivalent to describing an Iron thing coming your way 😉 It’s a team thing to do so the more fit cyclists in front of you don’t get creamed by Mexican drivers (they don’t always mind the rules of the road… it’s a cultural thing I understand, moving without concern of personal space).

3. Remember Dora in Finding Nemo who sang with Nemo’s Father “Just Keep Swimming”. Ok…on long uphill treks where there is no end in sight, just change the word Swimming to Biking. It works wonders during mental games.

4. It’s acceptable to pull over and admire the view. It’s also acceptable that if you see a Donkey, you can take a break from your bike and let the Donkey do the work!

5. Never underestimate the power of your body. I was on another long uphill trek and my legs and lungs were on fire. While it didn’t seem smart at first, I just let my mind go blank and my legs relax. Pretty much just stopped fighting with my limitations and let my body do the work. Turns out I still made it up the hill at the same pace even while relaxed and numb in the mind. ¡Que Bueno!

Having those lessons under the belt got me through half the ride quite well. Of course, if you are wondering why I titled this post as “Lost and Found”, it’s because the theme for the ride was in fact Lost and Found. All 12 of us got lost in the woods (found this out by almost cycling over the end of the ‘path’ into a deep ravine). Almost all of us lost our balance trying to navigate through unmarked terrain. A few of us lost our marbles after getting hit so many times by branches in the face. And ultimately I lost most of my energy trying to carry my bike on my shoulders as we hiked up a steep slope searching for clues of human activity. By the time we made it back to civilization (aka: burro trails), I could barely start pedaling save for using my feet to scoot me along.

Then of course is the Found part. After 2 hours we did eventually find our way to marked territory. I found the thrill of standing up on the bike as we zoomed down a long paved stretch of hill (try it with no hands! That’s a King of the World moment right there). We found a local tienda on the bottom con leche y naranjas, and took our time recuperating from the hard task of being lost in the woods. And with the sun going low behind the hills,  the most fabulous view of a lake bathed by sunset colors was found as we slowly rode down the mountain side. The beauty made us all stop and just stare for sometime. I swear after riding for that long you deserve to just stop and gawk at what you’re doing. This bike team has the most fabulous area to train in. I can only smile knowing Guanajuato is a lucky find for Biking Adventures.

I can feel my body slowly adjusting to this training regimen. This past week I experienced fatigue. Looking over my nutrition looks like I’ll have to go scouting again for nutrient sources. Broccoli and carrots have joined the list. Being I’m no longer in school I have more time to go over my plate (plato) entrees. We’re in the mountains again on Sunday, and I’ll be adding Wednesdays as well.

Right now I’m writing on top of the terrace at the hostal, watching a sunset in the making. There is one house on the top of the hill which is painted with a hot pink color that is standing out more with the suns glow. It’s the type of house that Barbie would love to occupy. Wonder how that type of color would fare off in a place like NYC :P. I wish those colors were everywhere in the world. It just makes things so cheery.

Going to enjoy some Mexican Hot Chocolate before Spinning Class. Gives me more energy ;).

{January 20, 2010}   I broke a nail!

While writing this post I decided why not show everyone I broke a nail? Two actually;)

It was more my pride then my already bruised leg that got hurt. Today Noa and I went off into the Panoramica, a beautiful long stretch of road surrounding the city. Tourists frequent it, cars less so. I warned him at the beginning of the ride that yesterday, I went to the gym and had some Spanish instructor take to being a bike Nazi during spinning class. My legs weren’t even recovered yet for the move from Casa Mexicana to Casa Bertha the next morning, a mere 3 minutes walk uphill with all my luggage. So, I threw it at him I wasn’t up for anything too difficult.

My Spanish has improved significantly, and so I got my point across. Of course, since Noa took it to heart to train me for this upcoming 3,000 mile ride, he still didn’t see eye to eye with me on what is fácil. We went a bit off road… actually way off road, onto a slim rocky path with burros poop and flowers (somehow the burros poop made the flowers even more beautiful…). Anyways, the slim rocky path got..slimmer, and the downhill became more…down. You know those moments where you go through something crazy but right before you go through with it someone says something you don’t understand in Spanish but then after the fact you learn that the phrase to describe the path is “For Professionals” in English. That’s why I bust out laughing after the fact of going through this path. Oh Noa, you have such faith in me:)

Today I learned two important lessons. Number 1, brake con los dos brakes. Not with one more than the other, and especially not with the front one. I learned this last time I rode steep paths…but it never hurts to learn again…my instinct is to brake when I see danger…in truth I should just accept I’m going fast and find another way to turn the curve.

Number 2, I learned that Number 1 will prevent having to relearn Number 2. When you fall, curve into the fall with your shoulder instead of reaching out. Kent told me that through e-mail and I was excited to apply it to the training runs. Of course, thinking you’ll change your instinct overnight just doesn’t happen. So I fell today, pretty hard. But it was worth it. I tore up my hip and gashed my right leg and hand. Got my first huge splinter (fell on rocks and branches) that I slowly got to pull out of the gash in my leg! But my motion of falling would have prevented some of the wounds if I curled in. Note taken, I can now see myself turning to the skies when I fall versus the ground.

Overall, it was a good bike ride. I was quite tired today, but the other days of workout have helped to make up for not going all out. When I’m in spinning class, all I can think about is going down a beautiful stretch of road somewhere in the middle of the US and coming upon some big hilly road, and knowing I can conquer it.

Efforts on the fundraising front have brought in some surprising developments. My research on Lung Disease in the US is now extended over to my mother’s homeland, the Philippines. It’s pretty ridiculous how many smoking related deaths occurred last year there. I’m strongly inclined to extend my efforts for raising awareness on smoking and lung disease in the Philippines. There is no national law preventing young people from purchasing cigarettes. It plays a strong factor for why 4 out of 10 Filipino youth (13-15 year olds), smoke cigarettes. Working on a few projects now to see how much noise we can make over this.

To sum it up, Guanajuato has made a place in my heart. I’m now volunteering at a nearby Shelter for girls/woman called Buen Pastor. I’m excited to begin working with Isabel, a 14 year old girl who has yet to learn to read and write in Spanish. When I arrived at Buen Pastor, I was drawn to how friendly and positive the atmosphere was. Much of my time in Guanajuato has been spent on sight seeing and adjusting to the culture. Now I look forward to spending it on providing resources for these young girls and the Sisters of Buen Pastor. The experience makes me feel at home here. Check out their website at

I’m going to apply bandages now to the knee again :). Hasta Luego!

{January 11, 2010}   Yo me arrastré…I crawled


Yesterday, por el Domingo, I went on my first mountain bike ride in Guanajuato.  Valo, an employee at the bike station, el me dijo que saldríamos en 8 por la mañana, (he told me we would leave at 8 in the morning) but in Guanajuato, being tarde, late, is actually quite common and ok. So there I sat until 8:30, and finally they all showed up (they as in 10 unexpected guys to accompany the bike ride). The youngest one, Noa, kept me company as the group prepared for the ride. A 17 year old mountain biker competitor, Noa told me that he was a champion in his age group.  “Soy un campeón” he said.   “Aww that’s great ,” I thought, “I’ll be taking a nice little tour with these boys”. Noa told me the route was muy fácil, very easy. Bueno! It was my first day anyways and I didn’t want to do anything to reckless or hard…….

Anyhow, after riding through the city’s streets, we were joined by other riders. The boys just called out when coming upon a turn and sure enough there were more riders speeding out between the cars, catching up with us as we passed. By the time we made it up the first hill near the Northern section of Guanajuato, I started to become a bit puzzled. The road didn’t go around the city, it just went straight to the mountains. Oh…ok, well time for an adventureJ. Todos los chicos told me that it was a very beautiful ride. So there I went…

Hour 2…I was crawling…literally…up the mountain. The altitude in Guanajuato is already 6,000 + ft, and here we were, biking the mountains towards Santa Rosa.  Much later on, after I made it back, I was told we biked up more than 2,000 m. Anyhow, to do the math, it tells me my lungs were not ready for that ordeal. Hour 2 and I was sometimes walking with the bike, sometimes on my knees to get over a major hill. My legs and arms were cramping, I got light headed at some parts, and I couldn’t really suck in air properly. Pero los chicos were incredible. Not only did they patiently wait for me to make each hill (slowly…very slowly), sometimes they sent one another down to push me up on my bike. Por ejemplo, we were at hour 3 into the mountains. Los chicos encouraged me to keep eating potassium while we biked. Noa, lalo o valo would come back on their bikes, yell “equipo” y “¡si! ¡Tu puedes!” and would somehow not only bike this steep hill, but push me on my bike to the next flat level.  What first caused me embarrassment soon became inspiration. No one spoke English, nor did they want too since earlier I said I needed to learn Spanish. Pero, I understood the basics of their conversations, and pretty much it’s a universal thing in the sports world “es importante que usted termine” it’s important that you finish. I didn’t know where the finish was, nor did I comprehend where we were until after, but I chose to kept going.

Aside from the pain and hardship of the ride, there was much to appreciate. Guanajuato was just one city we overlooked on our journey up. In the mountain community cerca de Santa Rosa, we stopped for supplies (aka burritos!) and Gatorade. It was beautiful. God I wish I brought my camera. We passed numerous lakes and through beautiful mountain forests. In Santa Rosa, the community roads were all cobblestone. Over them passed magnificent horses. After eating and getting stretched out by Lalo, we continued up the summit. One of the horses was trotting along near us and all of a sudden, un perro came running out barking and chasing it. Of course the boys got riled up and joined in the chase with their bikesJ.  Where they got that energy…well, it’s because I soon found out that 5 of them were professional competitors in Mexico. Bueno. It made sense after we reached the top of the mountain and they told me this. Easy for them is a century or more of bike mileage.  And easy for them is the way back down…

So I made it to the top. I already fell over twice because I found myself on rocky ground and couldn’t clip out fast enough from the pedals to save my balance (but every time I received applause lol). Es normale. Now was the time to have fun…going down incredibly steep slopes. Los chicos loved this part. They raced each other down narrow paths that I thought would only hold one, pushing each other playfully as they jumped over rocks and fallen branches. One small quiet boy accompanied me on the way down. I didn’t get the braking down right away, and so I kept sliding whenever I pulled on the brakes to stop going down to fast. He kept telling me, I think, to pull slightly on the brakes. Of course…being a beginner at this, I reacted differently to losing control over speed.

My best moment was going over the cliff, or by definition, a near vertical slope. We had to make a sharp right turn after picking up speed on one slope, and there were many rocks on the path. I pretty much panicked when I started going way too fast into the turn and so slammed on the back brake really hard. My back wheel skidded underneath me, I slowly lost balance and fell to the side. Unfortunately that all happened right at the cliff edge so I went over… Well, there was a steep slope, and there were branches and brush so I pretty much was hanging out on the edge caught in everything until the little boy came to grab me by the arm and pull me up, bike and all (I was stuck to the bike because of the clipless pedals).  Both of us laughing, he said again ¡cuidado¡, and we kept going. I know…this sport can appear pretty reckless, but the thrill is worth it.

The last 20 miles went smooth. You know in the E.T. movie where the boys on bikes are getting chased by the cops over the dirt hills and through the neighborhood? Imagine that scene but with a bit more nature and no cops. These boys were racing each other down the big dirt roads and jumping over the banks. How they do that… I guess I’m going to learn since they keep saying “tu aprendarás”. They dodged cows in the road, even slapped them in passing. I had only one incident in where I almost hit a dog, but in slamming the back brake again managed to do a 180 and ended up close enough to pet it. I yelled out to the Mexican family “me gusta tu perro” and quickly biked away from their angry gazes lol. Getting back into the city, we hung onto trucks, rode behind cars and dodged people. I felt like a rebel making all this ruckus.  We made it back to the starting point and I got slaps on the back…cien miles!! Como? In broken English, “We were 100 miles…vas a dormir bueno”…oh…wow…yupJ

So here I am today, kind of house ridden. When I walk, I look like a penguin, and making it up and down the stairs is quite difficult. Two big bumps on my legs, cuts on my arm, and one great adventure down in Guanajuato. In class people kept asking how and where I did it. From there I made some new bike companions since they too want to try going out of the city with their bikes. Bueno. Necesito dormir ahora but glad I could get this out of my system before passing out. I’ll definitely be ready for road biking after this experience. ¡Hasta luego!

{January 7, 2010}   Llegué…y hay una fiesta!

Well after all day travel here I am! Guanajuato does not go easy on the colors. As you can see in the picture, my room is incredibly bright and cheery. It’s hard to sleep right now with all that is going on outside. And I choose not to sleep because it’s all to amazing. There are quite a few europeans staying at this hostel. Everyone has been helpful, and they choose to speak only in Spanish. That will be very helpful down the road if I’m continuously challenged. Bags settled, computer set up, and tada! They have very good internet, courtesy of the hostel. I guess it’s the school across the way that has so so internet connection. Anyhow so much easier now to connect my happenings here 🙂

Tuve hambre and so I explored the nearby alley ways. Guanajuato…well I’m going to explain more about it down the road. But its freaking beautiful! Imagine the alley ways in the Harry Potter films, with all the wizardry stores. Now add on splashes of bright color, Christmas lights and floral and there you have it…my surrounding area. To get to Guanajuato we had to go under these incredibly long narrow tunnels. It reminded me of the dwarves mine in Lord of the Rings The Fellowship (video nerd I know:P). Then because there is little access for cars in the city itself, we set out on foot to get to the hostel. From there, everything is walking. Up stairs, down hills, through small tunnels. I found myself in a plaza decorated with flowers, christmas lights and surrounded by trees. Pictures to come! I’m too eager to explore, but we start early in the morning with classes. A ocho y media. Pues, necesito dormir ahora. Mañana, voy a la escuela mexicana. Pase buen noche!

{January 6, 2010}   Journey into Mexico

Guanajuato here I come! This past week has been quite a send off. Winery/brewery trips, 20 + miles with an awesome training partner named Kent, sunsets galore, and so much more!

One of my luckiest moments so far aside from receiving help with the bike and gear was telling people at my mom’s work (she just retired! Go Mom!) about my bike ride. Word got around within the hour I was there and Kent, my mom’s co-worker, wanted to find out more about it. Kent is quite experienced in the bike world. Having done competitive mountain and road biking for a long time, he’s knowledgeable about long distance biking. He offered to help me out and we did a 20 + route together last Sunday. While I wanted to throw up after making it up the first hill, Kent’s enthusiasm and encouragement made the ride quite fabulous :). I look forward to training again with him in April. It will be a world of help to have him show me the ropes.

Now for this Mexico trip, there’s a problem with the new bike. Of course, I expected a challenge. This one is just a matter of time. There is an embargo on bikes for the airline I’m taking that ends on January 15th. I leave tomorrow. After receiving more help from Coates Cyclery in packing the bike (Thanks Coates Cyclery!!), we found out that even the shipping options to my area in Mexico were unaffordable. So, my options are…#1, take the bike to the airport regardless and haggle with the clerks with my parents waiting in the background in case I fail. #2: Do this whole 3 months training trip Rocky style. Lift oil barrels, punch hanging meat, rent a mountain bike from the bike station I was supposed to train with, and just find loads of stairs to run up on. I have a feeling option 2 is going to happen. Obviously it will if option 1 fails. Either way, this training will happen.

The bronchitis has subsided (I’m never going to take breathing for granted again), so I’m set for intense workouts. Guanajuato will have spring like weather, highs in the 60’s for January, and warming as we go. I’ll make this happen. It’s just a matter of confidence. Wish me luck! While I have internet, word has it that it may be limited. I’ll update as much as I can!

et cetera