winning the lotto

As a diehard believer in the power of postcards, I love getting real mail. For me, it's one of the best parts of Christmas; I am guaranteed a few real cards, complete with paper stamps and postmarks. Handwritten letters on real paper are the key to my heart. Call me materialistic, but packages will always be better than emails, texts, or even gchat. They are signs that someone cared enough about you to put something in a box, tape and address it, and then carry it to a post office. Even if you paid an Amazon employee to do all of the above.
I understand that this revelation of mine is nothing extraordinary. It's a happy event that occurs quite regularly in daily life. Sometimes, when you know mail is headed your way, it becomes something to look forward to, other than 5:01pm on Fridays. I could write a billion words about how real mail makes me feel, and you'd get it. Most people would.
There are no words, though, to accurately describe the feeling of complete, unconditional happiness when your favorite UCI WORLD TOUR PRO CYCLIST sends you something [priority!] in the mail.

A package from the Czech Republic, courtesy of the most amazing Adam Hansen, arrived last Thursday. I've had a stupid grin permanently on my face, since.
"What's your favorite color?" Adam had asked a few weeks ago, "I'll send you a t-shirt."
But what came with the perfectly fitting Hanseeno t-shirt, were Lotto socks, a Lotto cap, Lotto neckwarmer, and a Lotto jersey. I was sweating so much I had to shower 10 minutes after opening the package.

I didn't want to take the shirt or the jersey out of their plastic sleeves at first, but I eventually caved. Unfolded, the t-shirt has these great little details [the logo on the sleeve, and the "Hanseeno" down the side]. The geek in me loves the plastic toy-inspired design [what are those called, exactly?]. It's become my new favorite t-shirt.

As for the jersey, I'd secretly lusted after it on the Lotto-Belisol e-shop and had to take a better look. It's incredibly thin and light but super soft at the same time. It feels dead fucking sexy. [I have the sleeves tucked in here.]

And then I flipped it over, and noticed...

I almost screamed and passed out at the same time.
"Does it fit?" Adam later asked.
"I don't know, I'm going to frame it," I replied.
"No, wear it! I should send you an aero one...those are tiny!" He joked.

Yeah, I still haven't come to terms with the fact that this actually happened. But the jersey's still in my room so...I think it did.

......So, um, does the Universe make any more of these? Preferably very single and totally in love with me? Because I'm calling fucking dibs.
Adam, I owe you major hugz.

two bonsai girls and a few exceptional [rapha] gentlemen

I would have at least shaved my legs.
I would have at least shaved my legs, attempted to look a bit less tired, and washed my bike. I would have made some effort to seem more pro.
The thing was, it was supposed to be a chilled-out ride. Natsuki-san and I had made plans to do an easy ride up Onekan on Sunday [the rest of the Bonsai team were headed to Nagano for a monstrous ride], and I figured that despite being bloated and about 30 seconds away from getting my period, it would force me out the door and onto my bike. I mean, this was the bike ride equivalent of hanging out on a friend's couch, watching movies, and talking about boys while eating too many cookies, not dressing up and going out to be looked at by boys.

How wrong I was.
When I rolled into our meeting spot, I was informed that we were meeting people. It took a few seconds to sink in.
"So at the Rapha pop-up shop yesterday, I mentioned we were going to ride together, and then Ichifuru-san said he wanted to come, too, and then some other people said they might come..."
"Oh, okay, cool."
It took an hour to sort of sink in. At the convenience store meet-up spot, we coasted in and found the talented Yuji Yamada waiting for us, in full Rapha and a Superb cap. I assumed he was "some other people," but Natsuki-san was busy texting. "Yano-san said he just got up, I'm not sure what that means," she said.

Yano-san? The [No-No-] Notorious Y-N-O of Rapha Japan?
I'd actually met Daisuke Yano of Yastugatake Bicycle Studio and Rapha Japan back in February. Super chilled out and totally cool, he had been nice enough to invite me on a ride around Tokyo with TJ, which unfortunately got rained out. A little intimidated by the idea of actually riding with him, though, I had a casual hope that maybe "I just got up," meant "nah, I'm not going to make it this time."
I was totally wrong again. He rolled up with Ichifuru-san on a borrowed IF, both of them in Yatsugatake-Rapha gear. Everyone was impossibly slim and decked in Rapha. Natsuki-san and I had on Bonsai jerseys. I also had on Assos. FML.

It’s a sign of a good ride to come, and good riders, when things silently fall into place. Sandwiched between the Rapha [gentle]men, Natsuki-san and I surged up 10% climbs that topped out at 14, 15, and finally 18%. Through secluded roads too narrow to zig-zag up [trust me, when I hit that 18% wall, I really tried], the guys shimmy-ed up the inclines like they were 2% grades, while I grunted with effort like a constipated rhino.
The realization that it must have been incredibly easy for everyone else only came much later. Because these guys are strong. Given their Rapha affiliation, that shouldn't come as a surprise, but it's a strength that is, for lack of a better term, comfortable. Unasked, someone was always playing sag wagon by bringing up the rear, with none of the impatience that lets you know that a charity ride is exactly that. For the first time since flying back to Tokyo with a couple bikes in tow, I didn’t feel guilty riding with exceptionally strong, skilled cyclists.

As awesome as the riding was, I was more than ready to fill up on carbs and coffee by the time we pulled into the usual Starbucks. For some reason, at this point in time, I was caught on camera giving The Notorious YNO a look of horrified disgust. I honestly can’t remember what we were talking about, but this is possibly the best picture of me, ever.

And because Rapha was involved, it started to pour on the way back. Sucking a wheel felt like taking a shower, and my shoes became little bags of water. We beasted through, and despite the discomfort, I realized I hadn’t gotten this drenched on a ride in a long time. It actually felt kind of good.

The rain conveniently let up as we came back to the convenience store we had assembled at that morning. We said our thank yous and our goodbyes, and rolled our separate ways. Natsuki-san and I ended up spinning through downtown Tokyo to check out the Rapha weekend pop-up in our still-wet chamois shorts before heading home, tired but happy. It was one of the more unexpected of days, and definitely an amazing one.
I’m hoping that sometime soon, we’ll get to do it all over again.
[Big thanks to everyone that came out on Sunday! More pictures courtesy of Ichifuru-san, here.]

a PSA on VPL

Do you kit up in Lycra to ride your nifty carbon-fiber road bicycle? If you read this blog, you probably do. And if you're a serious road cyclist, you've probably gotten sucked into your fair share of pacelines with people that seem way more pro, and hoped they'd consider you worthy. But did you know that no matter how fast you can turn those pedals, you'll still belong to the seventh circle of Fred-dom if you're sporting some VPL over those chamois shorts? And that statistics show I am more likely to develop sympathy saddle sores when I realize that you've gone through the trouble of layering chamois shorts over tighty-whiteys/panties/thongs/anything other than a slather of Assos chamois cream?
Don't be that guy. Or girl. Look out for your own reputation and eliminate the on-bike VPL.
This public service announcement brought to you by