Triumph and Tragedy

Quick edit – if you’re reading this, you’re probably coming from fatty. When Caroline told me I’d been linked, I about crapped my pants. I love the fatcyclist blog, and was obviously overly excited to see fatty and the hammer at the race. To make it to the blog, well, my bike career is likely at its peak. And to think I’ve just started… efficiency! This post isn’t quite as fun, but the race reports and stories of romping around the midwest will continue soon enough.


We are going to make a series: “Kate and Caroline Adventures”. It will rival neature. (we have a lot of misadventures).

Remember how, oh, 2 weeks ago I said I was busy? I’ve been putting off so many things until ‘after my thesis’, which is obviously ‘when I’ll have time’. As it turns out, I had a LOT of those. My life post-defense has been, actually, pretty hectic. Mostly in a good way (Follow that link to see my recent interview in terrain… fairly intimidating and totally awesome. I suppose I’m an athlete now. Thanks Brad and Greg for all your hard work!).


Setting up ALL the foods before my defense… because nobody wants to think about partial differential equations on an empty stomach.

Before all the fun, however, I had to deal with some bad news… my grandmother actually passed away while she was in St. Louis for my defense. We went out for an awesome dinner Thursday night, but she had a heart attack in the middle of the night at didn’t regain consciousness. You might be saying – how did you ever defend your thesis? The answer is – my parents are very smart and strong, and told me just as much as I needed to hear. They picked me up for my defense and helped me set up food, saying only that grandma wasn’t feeling well, but she really wanted to be there. They also found out, approximately 20 minutes before my presentation, that my 17 year old cousin had committed suicide after struggling for months with unresolved health issues. My PSA is – check out POTS and dysautomnia. My incredibly smart (4.0 at MIT smart), athletic (crazy good gymnast, swimmer, and recently diver), and talented cousin was experiencing debilitating symptoms as her body shut down. She was basically told that the best treatment option was to wait and hope she outgrew it. I’m still struggling with this one. My grandmother, who I’ll miss dearly, had a full and fruitful life, and was able to go quickly… but it was still a shock to everyone.


We still managed a nice dinner to celebrate. Grandma would have been upset if we didn’t.

Without knowing the gravity of any of this, I successfully defended my thesis. My parents told me the news (all the news) afterwards, followed by some time spent in the hospital and lots of very difficult phone calls. The rest of my defense weekend was spent making travel plans, attempting to sort out feelings, and just cherishing moments with my parents and grandfather. Not to be totally defeated, we all got out to enjoy some unseasonably warm weather at Castlewood and enjoyed the fresh air and a break from the stuffy hotel room. Outdoor. Therapy.


Put the beer in one container. Put the beer in a more different container! Put some stuff in the beer. Take some stuff out of the beer! Do lots and lots of cleaning. <- brewing, in a nutshell.

Back to the fun stuff – I brewed a beer to clear out the rest of my supplies, and also to make an entry to the homebrew-off contest at Alpha Brewing Company (where I won a homebrew competition and, until recently, have been enjoying the spoils of lots of free beer). I generally make beer based on things I think would be fun, not really on any specific guidelines. So I doubt they’ll pick it to take to the Pro-Am contest, but hopefully at least it’ll be tasty!


Mmmm, spicy!

This round I made a ‘dirty chaIPA’: small amounts of darker chocolate malt and black roasted barley, plus chai spices (ginger, cinnamon, clove, orange peel, vanilla) and plenty of hops. Oh, and I added some lactose (milk sugar that yeast don’t eat, so it makes the final product sweeter and gives more body). Think a dash of cream in your chai, but it’s beer 🙂 It’s crazy how the smallest amounts of spice (literally, a clove or two) can change the whole characteristic of a 5 gallon batch of beer. I can’t wait to see how it turns out 😀


The beer lives in my basement right next to the rollers. So I can lovingly caress the carboy and whisper sweet nothings to it as it ferments (‘sweet little yeasties, you’re so beautiful’, ‘hey guys, get to work! I’m thirsty!’). It helps. It’s also roller motivation (kinda).

After brewing, I packed up all my ‘extra’ all grain brewing gear, along with the guitar and accordion, and just about ALL THE BIKE STUFF, to head out to Utah. Lots of driving later, I had my ass handed to me in the best way.


I left the little accordion at my parents’ house, but not before busting out the big accordion for show. It’s much more complicated and fancy.

But that’s not all! We’d originally planned to swing down to Arizona after the race, but I had to be on a plane Wednesday morning, and 6 hours of EXTRA driving wasn’t sounding very tempting at that point. So, we changed plans and just headed back I-70 for the 22-hour drive home.


My college friend David lives and breathes bikes at Velo + KC (click the picture for a link? Maybe?). It’s SO AWESOME with bikes and coffee and even some beer. He also brewed us some coffee and sent us along with some coffee for the final push back to St. Louis… exactly what we needed!

I flew out to Pennsylvania Wednesday for my grandma’s memorial, and nearly made it through my speech without breaking down. Nearly. While the circumstances were less than ideal, it was great to see my ‘eastern’ family (most of whom I haven’t seen in a really long time), including my cousin Jenny and her 3 kids, and my (great) aunt Nancy. We sorted through some things and had a lot of family meals together, remembering some of the many ways my grandma had shaped our family. It was just a short trip for the memorial, so we all piled back in the car around 5:30 AM Friday morning to head over to Pittsburgh for flights home.


NO, I’m not getting married. This is what my grandmother left me, and that’s where it fits. Mom told me to just wear it, so I’m just wearing it. Because I want to, and it’s pretty. Grandma would say – ‘don’t just leave it in the drawer’.

Or in my case, a flight to Kansas City… to be picked up by my teammates on their way to our first adventure race of the season, the Break Up AR in Kansas! Or so I thought… I made it to the airport way early (my brother had an earlier flight) but was told I would have to pay $75 to get on standby… even though there was space. So I waited and took my scheduled flight to Charlotte. The flight from Charlotte to KC, however, was delayed. And delayed. And delayed again. To the point where they started offering flight vouchers for all their overbooked seats… I was grouchy because there had been LITERALLY no downside to letting me on an earlier flight. US Airways, you kinda suck. With all the delays, my plans to meet up with my teammates got sketchier and sketchier. The guys (Nathan and Brian) were very optimistic, with all sorts of contingency plans in the works. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in airports fighting with airlines, and was really starting to think the flight would be canceled. I only hoped I’d still be able to grab a ride home from the KC airport. But then, the miraculous happened – a plane pulled up to the gate! They started putting people on the plane! And it flew to KC!


OMG. We’re getting on a plane!

And so, we raced. You can look forward to a race report later this week… but it was ‘surprisingly fun’ (according to my teammate Nathan). I can’t wait to see some of the thousands (!) of photos they took, which hopefully I’ll be able to share with you.


I confirmed it. It’s happening.

On opportunities and doors opening and closing and stuff like that – I was a little sad about not finishing True Grit, and subsequently not attempting the NUE series. But a while ago I had signed up and been placed on the waitlist for my first ultra, the White River 50. Well, lo and behold, when I got home Tuesday there was an email waiting in my inbox… I have a spot! So I’m going to try to run 50 miles in the mountains come July. I’m already freaking out. What have I done?!?

Finally, if you’re in St. Louis, I’m SERIOUS about rescheduling my thesis defense celebration party! Better late than never! I’ll be at three kings on the loop this Thursday (March 26th) from about 5:00 until the beer runs out. See you there!


This week I’m house/dog sitting George. He’s hilarious.


4 thoughts on “Triumph and Tragedy

    • George is absurd. We look so great in that photo because we’re oxygen deprived and happy to not be climbing anymore. But I agree, we look good 🙂

  1. I’m so sorry about your grandma and your cousin. Terrible news any time. My dad died of a heart attack, and it was super quick like that. Hard on us, but easier for him than a long, drawn-out process.

    And a 50-miler. Yikes. That’s one I’ll be happy to experience vicariously through you. 🙂

    • So sorry you had to go through that with your dad – definitely not fun.

      I’ve already started the pre-race panic for the 50 miler. Looked at aid stations and distances… it’s basically 2 big (2500 foot) climbs. Good thing I’ll be able to get in some mountain training before then!

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