Sep 5, 2017

Big news!

Happy to introduce you to Bindu! You can go straight to my profile page HERE. Please at least click on (but I hope you'll read) my first two itineraries.
And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know, either hear or through the contact details elsewhere on this blog.

Aug 21, 2017

Total Eclipse

"You're not the only one staring at the sun, afraid of what you'll find if you take a look inside... you're not the only one who's happy to go blind"-U2

The country is experiencing the eclipse right now, and I'm just not impressed.

Not by the natural event- I'm sure that's quite stirring. But by the ridiculous news coverage.  If you don't have something to say, then simply don't say it! How many words can you use to say "the moon is covering up the sun for a few minutes".

I just don't get these people who've traveled across the country to see it.  You've scheduled your whole vacation around 2 minutes of darkness?

It almost feels like the USA is discovering nature still exists. I wonder if this will convince anyone to take better care of it?

You know what I would love to see? Clouds of pollution block out the sight for a large group of people. Not because I want to ruin their joy, but because it would make a powerful statement they wouldn't soon forget.

But back to the news coverage- this is what happens when a 24 hour news cycle requires news all the time. Not that this is undeserving, but the media has gotten so used to it, that they'll milk this for all it's worth.

Aug 17, 2017

Stratham Hill Finale

A little tip- if you've just finished a bike race in heat, and are sweating your guts out, you probably shouldn't go directly to the free beer. And if you do, sybe steer clear of the one with the higher alcohol content.

For that matter, you might want to finish- or start- your recovery drink first.

For the final race of the stratham hill series,  my goal was top 10. At this point, I have no idea how I placed. I'm writing this in the car on the way home.

My strategy tonight was a return to the first race. This may seem a little stupid, based on my assessment of that race, but my reasoning was that I couldn't go any faster than I did last week, but I could do my best at the start and not just give up all the positions without even making them pass me. In theory I could start at the back and just go "my pace" and pass anyone slower than me. But psychology and the actual trail play their own parts. This is why when you pass someone you usually never see them again. But it's true in reverse too.

Tonight I tried to resist this and catch the geared rider with the fanny pack who rode the hill I walked.  But I never could. To my credit, I did catch sight of him on the final downhill. But he was just too far ahead.

Tonight was, for most of the race, a ride by myself.

Which is what I like best anyway.

Aug 16, 2017

Summer Series: Three

I've taken too long to write this report.

So this may not be chronologically accurate.

After the race, my wife gave me a bag of Haribo Rasperries. Greatest of candies. God bless you, Kath!
And she drove home.
And mixed my recovery drink.

I had to walk the last couple hills. I simply couldn't climb anymore. It was ridiculous. Makes no sense that a 5 mile race wears me out, while I regularly take rides during the rest of the week over 10 miles, and don't need to walk ANY hills. And oddly, that includes when I came to this very park to just ride, not race.

I know from experience that when you go over that edge, that anaerobic burnout, that time when you grunt up a climb instead of spinning up it, and are gasping for air at the top, you can't just quickly recover, as you might when you're simply tired. One reader responded that this was getting old. Not really. I've always found this to be true.

I believe the speed that happens naturally when you're chased comes from adrenaline. It gets you up the initial hills, in fact the big A lets you push further than you should. But when it runs out, it leaves you in that state that you can't quickly recover from. Kind of the same weary feeling you get when you feel that "fight or flight' moment, whether it's anger, fear, or whatever.

I was chasing a woman in a blue shirt for at least the first half of the loop, and caught up to her again and again- but couldn't pass her. Plus, I knew that if I did, she would then be RIGHT behind me. And as always, I was afraid when I slowed down, that I'd  be passed by everybody behind me. Especially when I had to walk the first (of many) hills. But then I looked back quickly, and realized that the reason they were behind me was that they needed to walk, too.

I also tried running this time, while pushing up a hill. So many people seem to have no problem doing this! I don't know if it's something to do with riding a singlespeed, or if I just wait too long to jump off, but once my feet leave the pedals, I'm walking. And not very fast, at that. Because, bike race. It's not like my legs haven't been busy. They come by the tired honestly.

Passed quite a few people on the wide, flat start. I mean never sure how to deal with that. If I'm ahead, then slow down, have I already beaten the others mentally? Or am I just piling rocks on a branch above my head that will later drop and hit me when I least expect it?

I also used a Camelbak, hoping the dramatic increase in water consumption would make me feel a lot better. Can't say that I noticed a difference, except that it was heavy and made my back sweaty.

And lastly, when you're exhausted from a 5 mile trail race, a gravel downhill that generates the highest speed of the entire course (21 mph) is not very helpful. Some might even call it dangerous!

This Thursday will be the last event of the series, and I'll try to be a little quicker with the report this time. Is love to get top 10, but I'm truly unsure if that's possible.

They say the reason you beat your head against a wall is because it feels so good when you stop.

Time to face the 4th wall.

Aug 4, 2017

Summer Series: Two

I was obsessed all week on what I could do for this second race. Do I care about my placing? Not much. But last place? That stung a little. Especially since it happened not because I got a flat tire, but because I failed at fixing it.

So my plan heading into this was not go too hard, start at the back, and see what happens.

I got in the back row with two boys. We discussed Thrasher magazine, and how to tell the difference between steel and aluminum frames. But then I noticed a big ol' gap in the row in front of me. I had to take that. That's free spots, right? I wasn't sure, but I have enough racing instinct that I couldn't resist that.

The start led immediately into a fairly large climb. It was  gradual at first, at least until the tractionless, steep end. And then the rooty, rocky, singletrack started. I passed a few on the hill, a few more in that final steep section, including one fellow in yellow who immediately passed me back. We'd be pals for a good chunk of the race. 

As that all too short downhill finished, we started Long Hill, which is just like its name suggests, and Yellow let me know I could pass whenever I liked. I thanked him but declined, since I was breathing pretty hard as it was, and I was also enjoying letting him bounce off the rocks so that I could avoid them. Eventually, the trail opened up again, and I passed him. I set my sights on the high school kid in front of me with the squeaky suspension fork.

It was right around this time that the lockring from my (now removed) fixed cog unthreaded itself and began bouncing around on the axle. Perhaps this could've worked to my advantage. My bike may have sounded like it was falling apart (ding-dading-ding!) but I knew there was really nowhere for it to go, nothing to get tangled, so it didn't have much effect on me. 

I passed one of the kids, but I'd never even see the other. I didn't really see yellowman either, but he kept asking how far we'd gone-And I kept telling him I didn't know. Which was true. I knew the tough switchbacked and for me "hike-a-bike" section after the inexplicable USA Today newspaper box (in the woods) was coming soon. That would prove to be my lowest point (as I knew it would be when I first saw it ). Something about getting off and pushing the bike just doesn't work for me. You see some racers jog along happy as can be with their bikes, moving as fast as others who are riding. Not me. I mean to, but it never happens. If I'm off, I'm walking.

Somewhere around here, my left leg started threatening to cramp. It never really did (though it was still threatening even at work today), but I thought I'd better get some of the gatorade/water mix in my bottlle inside my body.

After that USA Today hill, I was ready for the lap to be over. Looking back at the first switchback, I'd seen people behind me, but perhaps they had the same reaction to the hill as me. I think yellow re-passed me here. Not sure. It wasn't a high point for me mentally.

After more hills (though nothing quite so soul-crushing), I finally made it onto the beautifully smooth singletrack that was last week's start. I tried to pedal as hard as I could, but I'm not sure that was very hard. Then I finally saw the Owl Babies storywalk. I love that story anyway, but last night it was even more pleasant. 

I came to the end of the dirt road I was on, and a volunteer kept telling me there was a turn.  Yes, I know, I wanted to say, I can see the 12" bright red arrow.  I've made it this far following nothing but arrows, haven't I? Also, there was no trail. At this point, we went across grass. NBD, but I was looking for a trail that would connect them, you know? I don't want to be accused of cheating and cutting the turn or something. I mumbled something to him about a trail.

When I saw the placard for "They flapped and they danced," I recited it out loud to myself from sheer joy at being almost finished. Also, I love that part. Then finally I saw my wife and daughter, and glanced down at the final book pages: "Why all the fuss? You knew I'd come back . . . " 

I crossed the line, leaned my bike on the nearest post, and headed for the bathroom.  I'd been keeping very hydrated. Afterward, Lucy ran to congratulate me. I was honestly scared she'd knock me down. I think I may have leaned into her just a bit so she'd hold me up. 

From there, everything's a bit of a sweaty blur. There was ice cream at one point. And a recovery drink. And Kathy drove home. Oh, and the girls checked the results, even though I'd planned on just waiting until later.  14th out of 23. 

That'll do, pig.  That'll do.

Aug 2, 2017

Summer Series: One

I'm in the best shape of my adult life. Cycling-wise, anyway. Not bragging, just looking at statistics, I've got less excuses than I have since age 18. So I thought I'd take advantage of this. I found a weekly race series that reminded me of the Onion River races I'd done in Montpelier in 2004. Ones that nearly killed me... but I look back on fondly.

At first, I thought I'd do the longer of the races. I can ride 10 miles! Then I realized (obsessively researched on Strava) who i'd be racing against, and lowered my sites.

 So, since I'd chosen to race the smaller five-mile race instead of the 10, I thought I might perhaps have a chance to be on the podium.

Oh, how deeply, deeply wrong I was. Deluded.

I started out well enough. I got a place on the first row of the starting grid-think like a winner!-For the first short bit, I was in second place.  But then the people with gears started using them. Did I mention I also choose to ride my singlespeed without suspension?  So, yeah, they have a  bit of an advantage on a wide-open dirt road.

I was walking up more hills than I expected (perhaps because I'd  burnt all my matches too early) but generally doing OK. Then I got a flat tire. Not a huge deal,  but when you're only talking about a 5-mile race, there's not really time for that. Nevertheless, I didn't see that I had much choice, so I got out the new tube I carry, set the popped one aside, and set the little presta/schraeder adapter on the leaf-covered ground right in font of me. For some reason, my mini-pump (i?) cannot deal with presta. So I tried a few times to pump up the new tube. They weren't working very good, and more and more people passed me, including a little girl in what was surely her first race ever. I decided to try to ride on what air I'd managed to get in there. Nope. Not happening. Start walking. That was so tedious I decided I had to try again. Besides, my daughter was finally at a race. I couldn't come sadly walking into the finish! If I finished last, fine- but I was going to ride across that line!

Finally, I somehow got it (mostly) filled, and set out. Strangely, even with half the air pressure, it didn't go flat. Maybe I'd chosen poorly making the tires so hard?

I was DFL in my class. Dead freaking Last. But better DFL than DNF, right?

Tomorrow is #2, and I take on a whole new strategy. Start from the back, and pass anybody I can.

Jun 22, 2017

Mountaintop Experience

"Dada, you said if I wanted to turn around, I could."

"Yep, that's right."

"Well, I want to turn around."

"Not yet, just a little further."

This scenario replayed itself all the way up Mount Monadnock, and can you blame her? They say it's the most climbed mountain in the USA, but if you've climbed it, you know that doesn't mean it's easy. Far from it. This isn't hiking, it's rock scrambling, and plenty of it. Who could blame an 11-year-old for being a little unsure of herself? I've climbed it at least 5 times, and I wasn't sure about myself, let alone her.

Did I mention it was wet?  I didn't? Oh, yeah---every freaking unclimbable rock had a thin coating of mud. Also, without planning to, we climbed a lot of the way with a family where Mom was carrying a baby on her back. That's not humbling at all. The last time we climbed Monadnock, I did the same, so the irony was a little amusing. Or as amusing as anything is when you're sweating out every pore and trying to make it look easy so that your daughter doesn't lose what sliver of confidence she has that this is actually do-able for her.

She's always loved climbing rocks at the beach, so we thought maybe this would be perfect for her and her seemingly limitless energy. Turns out, there is in fact a limit, and it occurs about 35 minutes into rock climbing her way up a mountain.

I don't know if I pushed her too hard, because once I let her take a longer break and really catch her breath, she perked up quite a bit. Especially when we got up into the more stunted trees, and saw ravens and hawks flying above us.

I showed her the USGS seal, and we ate our celebratory sour gummi worms, once we reached the top. Have you climbed a real mountain before? Do you know how good those little candy critters were? Swear-word good, that's how.

But of course, climbing to the top is only half the battle (unless you're climbing Mt. Washington, then you just ride a train down). After reminding her that people would talk all her life about "mountain top experiences" and that this was in fact what they were talking about, we started down. Always a little regret at that point. Always a little trepidation as well, because unless this is your very first time, you know that [spoiler alert] the coming down is MUCH harder than going up.

In a way, it was torture (you know, the physical way), but in another sense, this was my true victory of father's day togetherness: Lucy refuses to even consider swearing, but even she said a few choice words before we got to the bottom.  In fact, just before the end, I believe she actually insulted and/or threatened the mountain itself:

"I hate you, you stupid mountain!"

(If you don't currently have a kid in elementary school, let me remind you that "stupid" is worse than a curse word for these kids). I told her I'd like to punch this stupid mountain in the face, except that surely it had a rock face and I'd be doing nothing but hurting my hand.

It was after one flat, relatively rock-free half-mile or so that we thought might possibly be the bottom, when another long stretch of steep rocks dropped beneath our boots. That's when my little princess let fly with a few words of her own. And our father's day togetherness reached its own summit.

"Yep, I know." I said and smiled.

"It's just... I'm not sure I can go any farther," she said.

"I know EXACTLY how you feel, believe me," I said. "I wish this was over. But it just isn't."

"I can't wait to get to the bottom, I'm going to drink so much water, right out of the gallon jug!" She replied.

She doesn't even drink out of cups without a lid very well, or at least very often.

But once the celebration of finally reaching cilivizashun civilization was over, and we'd discovered the gift shop was already closed, and we'd walked back to the car, I looked up to see the same girl holding a half-full gallon water jug above her head and chugging just like a lumberjack.

This was the greatest father's day ever.