Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pole 2016 - Creating a Psycho

It has come to my realization that, during times of prolonged stress, I put aside the things that bring me joy.. riding, creating, writing..  But, in truth, those are the things I should make more space for when I'm struggling to smile.  We should spend MORE time in with these things to remind ourselves that the struggle, stress, and depression are just a small part of the world we live in.  So, with that in mind, I'm challenging myself to make that time for myself to do that which I love.

With that being said, I've finally carved out these moments to tell the story of my Psycho. From dream to reality...

In June of last year, I heard the song "Psycho" by Muse on the radio and was instantly obsessed.  My first thought was "I will create a pole routine to this!".  Shortly after, I received an invite to perform on stage with the first ever Dolls on Parade at Mill City Nights in Downtown Mpls.  A paid gig! Are you shitting me?  Of course, I screamed YES and began the preparation.

As part of my process, I printed off the lyrics and began scribbling down my ideas.  What tricks do I love? Which ones am I close to getting, want to learn, fit the part, match the lyrics?  Pages and pages of scribbles, costumes and make-up saved on Pinterest, scouring YouTube videos for inspiration from other pole, ballet, and contemporary dancers.  Lucky for me, my dear friend Freaky is an AMAZING musician and tech genius and helped me cut the 5 minute song to just the length I needed (plus helped me cut all the 'fucks' out per comp guidelines)!

Come December, I began working on my choreography, training with the amazing Jamie Wagner and Abbey Eff.. two of my biggest inspirations and two amazing coaches I'm blessed to train with.  When it was finally time for the February 2016 show, I was nervous, excited, and so stoked to show an audience of 400+ what I'd created.

It was the most fearful I've been on stage yet.  Lucky for me, my straight jacket-wearing lil Psycho was twitchy and weird, so the hand tremors were lost in the dimly lit stage.  I hit all my tricks and musical cues.  I creeped a few people out as I crawled to the edge of the stage as the music waned.  It was a success!

Photos thanks to Lions Mane Photography!

My body, all bruised and sore from months of training, needed a brief break following the show, but I wasn't worried since we still had months before competition.

 After a couple weeks, I was back in the studio, working on fine tuning the Psycho I'd created.  She never had a name, but she was never innocent.  The story, stuck in a psych ward, shackled in a straight jacket, she fought off the memories of the monster that created the killer she was.  Until she broke free...

Before we made it to competition at the Central Pole Championships in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, we held three shows at our studio to prep the team for the stage.  In each show, I forced myself to try something new.  A new facial expression, hand movement or twitch of the foot.  Each show was different, but all amazing in their own right.  I was enjoying each moment of sharing my Psycho with the crowd, playing to the beat, PERFORMING.  It was exhilarating!

One of the greatest things that came from the Showcase performances was the feedback I received from our mock judges and my friends who came out to support us.  The biggest feedback I received was the power of my character, but most got a feeling of a zombie or a vampire...  not at all who I intended her to be.  Looking at the photos, I see what they saw.

So, with just weeks to go and my routine done, I switch to three weeks straight of character practise.  I would sit for an hour with my headphones in, the song blasting in my ears, staring at myself in the mirror and make faces to each moment or lyric.  I watched The Shining, studied Heath Ledger in Batman - Dark Knight.. I practiced my facial expressions in the car (probably creating utter fear in the drivers near me).. all in an attempt to recreate her before the big day.

Then, finally, it was here:  CPC 2016.  But for some reason, I still wanted more.  The night before comp began, Jay, Doreen, Itly and I went to dinner and talked about the competition to come.  Something Jay said to Itly (a first-timer) struck me.. "the audience isn't listening to each word of the song to see how you translate it"... and there it was.  There was one part of my routine that just didn't feel 100% natural to me because I was trying so hard to interpret the lyrics.  It was then that I decided that, during my performance, I was going to do something I am terrified to do even when alone... I was going to freestyle.

Sunday morning came fast, but I was calm as I ratted my hair beyond repair and blacked out my eyes.  Everything was packed, my headphones were on, and I said my goodbyes to Jay as I rode my bike from the hotel to the theater where I was set to perform.  "Don't change anything" he said.. I didn't listen.

Once I stepped behind the curtain a handful of minutes before performing, I caked myself in grip aide in some desperate attempt to stop sweating.  But I was ready.  I knew in my heart this was the last time me and my Psycho would come out to play.  The field of women I was competing against was fierce, and I just wanted to entertain the audience if nothing else.  I knew they were talented and strong, so I resolved myself to have the most fun I possibly could have on stage.  After eight months of planning for the 4 minutes I'd have on stage, I knew that if I achieved that goal of having the best time ever, it didn't matter where I placed.  

Here's the performance:

I did it... I had the most fun I'd ever had on stage!  I played, I freestyled, I made all my faces and creepy hands I'd practiced.  I'd crushed my goal and couldn't have been happier!  

Afterwards, we headed straight for food.  Starving and exhausted, we saddled up at a local restaurant with Jay, my coach Jamie, and teammates Doreen and Margie.  Sometime during the meal, Jamie leaned over and asked if I wanted to know my results.  I really didn't.  But, judging by the twinkle in her eye, I knew I had to look at the picture that lingered on the screen of her phone.  

2nd place!  2nd place in the Senior Level 3 division!  What the? How the?  I cried immediately... Yes, I cried.. but after 8 months and endless hours of preparation to achieve something you believed impossible, I didn't have any strength left to pretend it wasn't the greatest news I could have received.  Part of me was sad for it to be all over (and kinda hard to stop the facial expressions for a few weeks), but the other part of me was just so overjoyed with what I accomplished against my own doubts, the great performances by my entire team (who friggin dominated the stage!), not to mention all the fun that was had.

Of course, the greatest joy at looking back at this journey is holding my pride in myself close to heart as well as the gratitude for everyone who helped me get there.  My Dad and step mom, who came to see me perform for the first time during this prep - your support means more than you will ever know.  My mom, who cheered me on and spent her time caring for our lil fur baby as we ventured off to Chicago - thank you for being such a huge fan and super fur-grammy!  My team for helping provide feedback as I created my Psycho.. I couldn't have done it without you!  Abbey, for helping me explore my own weirdness, I will forever cherish all that you taught me and all the ways you inspire me!  Jamie... don't ever leave me!  You see right through my fears and hesitation and challenge me to be better.  Thank you for everything.

And Jay, my sweet, never faltering, never wavering, supportive beyond all things husband..  your love is a constant shield trying to protect me from myself. Your hugs make all things better.  And celebrating with you is the greatest joy in life!  

So happy to have moments like these to reminisce on,
Kristy "Once a Psycho" Kreme

Saturday, October 17, 2015

US National Pole Championships 2015 - #dreamfearlessly

It's interesting where life will take you when you try new things.  A year ago, I would have laughed in your face if you told me I'd compete in Pole Sport (aka pole dance in lay terms).  Ha!  But, as my adventures proved me wrong, I fell in love with pole and my competitive side couldn't say know to trying my first competition.

In May, I journeyed to Chicago with 17 other Dolls to take on our Central Region Pole Championships (CPC).  Like bicycle racing, there are multiple levels, and I entered at Level 1 (beginner).  The nerves were through the roof, but the experience was out of this world!  Much to my surprise, I finished first in the Level 1 Seniors for the Championship category!

At the same time as we were preparing for this competition, my training and practice began preparing me for the next level.  In the weeks following CPC, I had to make two decisions: 1) Do I go to Nationals in LA?, and 2) Do I level-up with my new found skills?  Heck, WHY NOT?!

So, with just a couple months to prepare, I hit the studio hard with Coach Jamie and my teammate Emily to take my routine to the next level.  I had to re-cut my music and make the song longer to fit Level 2, and I had to learn a whole lot of new tricks.  But, moving to Level 2 meant I got to invert!  Yeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!  We practiced up to six nights a week at the studio, often til 11:00pm or later, and my body took a toll.

With only 3 days til competition, I finally nailed all my tricks and I was ready for the next adventure.  Jamie and her mom, Emily, and I headed out to LA to take on the stage and have a good time.  When I got to the studio that morning, I knew this would be my last chance with this routine.. I focused on having as much fun as I could in the 3 minutes I had on stage, and meditated on becoming my character one last time.

As I moved across the stage, it was hard not to smile..  I knew I had to stay in character, but the energy coursing through my body was electric and I felt on top of the world!  As I moved through my last tricks into my finale, my heart was bursting with joy, and I cried with pure happiness when I met Jamie off stage after my exit.  I didn't care where I placed - I just knew I'd done the best I could have done.  And, as it seems I don't know myself as well as I should, I was surprised yet again to find myself on the podium... 2nd place at Nationals!!!

Wow, it was so amazing, and I was overwhelmed with joy!  So much so, it has taken me nearly 2 months just to write about it.  But, once I received my video from Alloy Images, it brought that elation back in force!  It has been so fun to relieve those short minutes of my life..  all the countless hours, bruises, and bottles of Dry Hands... all for 3 minutes to shine.  I wouldn't have done it any other way.

Check it out!...

Next up, our student Halloween showcase "Dolls Must Die" next weekend, then "Dolls on Parade" in February.. I can't wait!  And all of this fun, these dreams, this happiness would not have been possible without the unending love and support of my hubby Jay, the tough love and unbelievable talent in my Coach Jamie, the laughter and making up moves with Emily, my family and friends for coming to our shows and cheering me along this journey, and for Chloe and her amazing creation of Dollhouse Pole Dance Studio!

High on Pole!
Kristy Kreme

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Overcoming Weakness and Fear

If  "Pain is weakness leaving the body", then I'm convinced that bruises must be fear leaving the body.

Now five months into pole dancing, I regularly find myself staring back at my coach or instructor like a deer in headlights as they demonstrate the next trick, spin, or climb... "I'm gonna kill myself trying that"...  But somehow, within the black-n-white-striped and purple walls of Dollhouse Studio, I find myself trying it before that thought takes purchase in my mind, crippling me from a new breakthrough before I even make an attempt.

And somewhere in that fear and disbelief, I continue to find a new strength and courage within myself I didn't know existed.  Or maybe just forgot was there.

I look back at my first three months - I was terrified to climb more than 7ft up the 15 ft+ poles in the studio.  It wasn't until my last week of Competition Bootcamp, end of January 2015, that I finally made it.  I didn't look down, I just gritted my teeth and dug deep into some fierce layer of determination, finding myself touching the beams at the top and gliding down with a cheshire smile stretched across my face.  Now I have to force myself from a full ascent to train for our 12 ft competition poles!

Now, as the tricks become more advanced, I'm forced to learn to ignore the fear, listen to Jamie or Chloe's voice, and TRUST that following their instructions will guide me safely into the move.  I almost laugh at myself as I'm contorted or dangling precariously, while some expletive escapes my lips in shock. "Holy $&%#"... or I return to earth needing immediate high fives and hugs to celebrate a moment's victory.  Turns out I don't have much of a poker face either... even as I complete the move, shock is pretty evident.

And the crazy thing about pole, is that it leaves it's imprint all over your body.  Long, lean legs.  Stronger arms and back muscles.  Sure, there's bruises all over my shins from trying to climb on my weak side or on my biceps from some crazy pit-hold .. raw skin on the top of my feet from practicing my Remi Sit.. bruises on my side from a Gemini or leg switches...

But most evident is the confidence I see as I walk straighter and taller.  My eye contact with others, even when dancing in my sports bra and shorts with strangers.  My husband constantly catching me on my tip toes - at the grocery store, doing the dishes, walking the dog.  And my movements as I dance getting larger, longer, and more expressive... dancing as if no one was watching.

On top of all the fear of learning something new or attempting something terrifying has been learning to overcome the fear of talking about it.  So much negative stigma surrounds the words "pole" and "dance" when combined, that I quickly find myself shy to share my love for such a sport. Afraid of what people will think or say.  But with every new trick I learn or personal struggle I overcome, I become more determined to share this passion with everyone.  I doubt my Dad yet truly understands, and my male coworkers are still in the dark, but nothing happens overnight.  (Heck, my Superman hasn't even really happened over 5 months!)

Until the world understands this sport and art form, I'll simply take pleasure into sharing with one person at a time and encouraging others to find their passions, no matter what they look like.

Facing my fears and finding new strengths,
Kristy Kreme

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Blurring the Lines Between Cross-Training and Competition

A few months ago, I was on the hunt for a new fitness routine to help me combat repetitive low back issues and a weak upper body.  Sure, hot yoga is great, but I next really had a major ache to go.. and lifting weights at the gym was something I left in high school.. so what next?

As anyone who's seen me at the end of a mtn or cx race knows, I'm not the most graceful of creatures.  But there's a part of me that has always loved to watch various forms of gymnastics and dance, fascinated by the amazing displays of strength and creative ways to move the body... a power I've envied for years as I'd watch performances and youtube vids galore.

So, in October, I finally put on my big girl pants and signed up for a aerial dance workshop to give it a go and I was instantly hooked!  I immediately signed up for a month-long beginner session to learn how to be an aerial dancer of my own.  Aerial dance?  You may know it better by the term Pole Dance ;)   Just, take away the removal of clothing and add in a ton more strength and contortion, and you'll get what it's about.

I've been studying at Dollhouse Pole Dance Studio now for three months and it's the first time since I bought my first bike that I've found something that I'm this obsessed about.  Feeling and watching the changes in my body is hard to believe sometimes... less back pain, stronger core, awesome increase in arm and leg strength, and touching my toes for the first time in years!  All that havoc I've caused in my body on the bike is finally starting to reverse (but there's still a LONG way to go)!

The interesting part happened right around the New Year...

I'd taken December off of racing bikes - the first month I hadn't raced in over three years!  I really tried to learn as much as I could in my pole classes with an insatiable hunger. When it came time to thinking about 2015 and the possible adventures that lie ahead, I just kept thinking of "If Nothing"... What if nothing stood in your way?  What awesome things would you do?

This lil bike racer signed up for her first Pole Sport Competition!  In January, bike racing turned into cross-training for my first pole competition in May, and the cross-training I'd been doing in dance turned into my new competitive sport.  I ramped up my training more than I ever thought I would... and I still wanted more!  For the first time in my competitive life, I've wanted to eat better and train harder.  Riding my bike for cardio, doing calisthenics for strength training, stretching regularly for the first time in my life, and taking Pole bootcamps and learning how to edit music.. and it all feels so natural.

I day dream about my routine, my costume, my make-up... I've sat on youtube for hours just trying to find new things for Coach Jamie to teach me.  And then I spend my Saturday's in the pole studio, followed by a couple hours on the LaMere

fat bikes with my hubby... so perfect!  Sure, I'm still racing, but from now til my first competition, it's not exactly what I'm training for.  But I'm sure loving learning something so challenging and exciting!  And heck, I gotta thank the bike for giving strong legs by which to hang upside down with!

my first Gemini!

One of the craziest lessons I've learned in this... I bruise more from pole dancing than I do mountain biking!  Maybe it's cuz we do things like holding your body weight with just your armit...

first time getting the Yogini!  (nice fat purple bruise in my armpit after this one)

It's interesting what phenomenal things you find when you follow your life's curiosities and try new things. I know I don't regret it, and I'm so excited to see what amazing things lie ahead in 2015!

Pole dreaming and bike ridin', 
Kristy Kreme

Monday, December 1, 2014

Huge Thanks for all our Holiday Heroes!

Saturday's weather could not have been better to create an amazing day for the 4th (kinda-annual) Cross for Tots.  The sun was bright, temps in the mid 30's, and a fresh layer of powdery snow covered the grounds at Moir Park in Bloomington.

With Penn Cycle at the helm, we had all the fun amenities you expect... great music, super fun and flowy course by Strese & Hwood, a heated chalet for registration and donations, plus the amazing volunteers that come with all of their events.

Riders came from as far away as Chicago to take on the course and show their support for Toys for Tots!  Whether it was with a fat bike, mtn bike or cx bike, racers had fun and raced hard to help make the holidays brighter for Twin Cities families.  We are still collecting Toys and Donations through this week at Hollywood Cycles in Minneapolis and at all Penn Cycle locations so you still have time to donate if you missed the race.

And the Team Relay was AWESOME!  We had so many fast and fun teams taking each other on.. always fun to watch how the lead changes with the equalizer-style event.  I lost my voice screaming for my teammates and friends alike.

But in the end, the huge pile of toys was the greatest reward for an event well done.  This is my favorite part of the holidays every year.. I can't wait to drop them off at the tent!

Thank you to Pat Sorenson and the whole team at Penn Cycle for saving this year's Cross for Tots and giving it life in Bloomington!  Thanks also to Dan & Jay for creating one bad a$$ cx course (I hope we can do it again next year!), thanks to all the volunteers who helped set up and tear down the course, and most importantly, HUGE thanks and hugs go out to all the racers, family and friends who came out to have fun and donated to Toys for Tots!  You are true Holiday Heroes to families in need, and you're all heroes to me!  Thank you so much for helping support our dream each year!

Wish you all the most magical, love-filled holiday!
Kristy Kreme

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cross for Tots - This Saturday!

While the fun things to write about never cease (good problem to have).. I can't resist the need to write about some fun that hasn't even happened yet!

This coming Saturday is my FAVORITE cyclocross race of the year - Cross for Tots!!!  It's our fourth year in action and it's gonna be bigger than ever!

Brought to you by the awesome team at Penn Cycle and Fitness, Hollywood Cycles, Girl Fiend Cycling Team, Team Hollywood Cycles (*THC), and the best volunteers in town.  Prizes, races for all skill levels, plus a Team Relay..

... and all proceeds go to the Twin Cities Toys for Tots!! Yes, please!

This is the best event to come play, race, watch, and donate.  Be a Holiday Hero by helping make the holidays brighter for families in your community.


Check out all the details and fun at one or all of these resources:

Please come check it out!  Our goal is to raise $2000+ and collect more than 300 toys.  YOU can be a Holiday Hero and help make it happen.

Feeling the excitement,
Kristy Kreme

Monday, October 27, 2014

No Rock.. just straight up 'Roll'tober

The excitement of 'Rock'tober this year truly missed the boat with a disappointing lack of good music in Minneapolis this month.  Typically, we get out for a concert every week in Rocktober, but this year we scowered every inch of the City Pages often, desperate to find some band that we could enjoy in a dark, seedy, cramped venue.  Nothing. Nada. Zilch!

But, there was TONS to do when it came to bikes!  From amazing evening rides under beautiful canapoies of firey leaves, cool air commutes, and fast racin', there's been shortage of miles of smiles. 

We started Rolltober up in Cable, WI to celebrate our friends' wedding, complete with pre-wedding group rides along the gravel roads and Seeley Pass.  The temps were cool with a light rain, but we couldn't resist the mountain bikes in the woods on the eve of their wedding.  Mid-ride, the rain turned over into huge, fluffy snow flakes that coated the fall leaves on the side of the trail and made the ride seem almost magical.  It set the mood for a full weekend of celebrating true love, enjoying the Northwoods, and loving the ride.

The following weekend kept the love alive and growing as Jay and I celebrated our 6th year of marriage!  The traditional gift is Candy or Iron.. WTF?  Jay surprised me at Bandit CX on the night of our anniversary by taking me into the woods to our meet spot where some friends mingled about, waiting for the ride to begin.  There, leaning against a tree was a super sweet LaMere CX bike, done up with hot pink Donkey Label tires...'who's bike is that? It's HOT!'... 'It's yours', he said... double WTF?  He had built up my parts from my old cx bike on a brand new frame and decked it out in all hot pink, black, and white!  Pair that with a king size Kit Kat bar and you've got yourself the sweetest anniversary gift ever!

My husband often out does me elaborate gift giving, but this year I think I did okay.  He'd been borrowing Freaky's 1980's Ram Van "Rambling Fever" for a week or two, trying it out as a new race/travel vehicle and working every angle to get me to say okay to buying it.  So, after weeks of pretending I hated it, I gave him a bag filled with delicious chocolates and a picture frame at the bottom of us and the van...

With a poem that read:
Roses are red,
Candy is sweet.
Which Iron horse
Would make your stable complete?

He wasn't confident at first, but he soon realized I was saying 'yes' to him again, this time for the van.  Ahhh, all the new adventures we've yet to find!

And since, we've enjoyed checking out new trails at Theo Wirth (my new favorite!!), evening River Bottom rides with friends, and the final Mtn Bike race of the season down in Red Wing.  With yellow leaves falling like snowflakes on the course, it was an amazing end to the season, making it shockingly aware that I've already missed most of the CX season this year.  Jay's been rippin' it up, but I've been a lil late to jump in with both feet, but I think this weekend finally sealed it...

The course was amazingly fast with perfect off-camber sections in every part of the course, combined with natural berms and lots of room for recovery.  I tried to keep myself reined in and not blow up in a hole-shot move, but I got to the front on the first major curve in the course.  I kept the pace up, but allowed my heart rate to come down, waiting for someone to attack before we hit the first off camber section, but no one came.  So I attacked myself and tried to drop the field in the section that became my favorite over the course of the day.  It worked!  I stayed on the gas lap after lap, not letting myself settle in or catch my breath, forcing myself to go faster when I could.  And I held it for the win!  It was so awesome!

This fall has truly been amazing!  I hope these cool night rides and warm afternoon races don't end for a LONG time because this has been one of the most beautiful autumns yet!  Sure, I've got a HOT new thermal skinsuit from Podiumwear (yet to be revealed), but I can keeps these temps as long as possible.

Rollin' through fall,
Kristy Kreme