Monday, August 25, 2008

Well, it’s over….(the Olympics that is)

Last night they had the closing ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics. And, like the opening ceremony, it was pretty amazing.

I was saddened by the fact that they’re over for a couple of reasons. In addition to just loving the Olympics, I was thrilled that for 2 weeks now, there’s actually been something good to watch on TV. Don’t know about you, but I don’t want to watch someone survive, or that thinks they can dance or even wants to be the next top model. I am so tired of reality TV that I’ve pretty much given up on evening television. I’d rather read a book.

But, for the last 2 weeks I’ve enjoyed watching TV. There’s just something special about watching the best of the best compete for a medal. About seeing these athletes rise above everything and compete at the highest possible levels. It doesn’t even matter what sport they’re showing I’ve watched as much as I could. Gymnastics, women’s softball, freestyle wrestling, track, swimming, baseball, all of them…. (except maybe that dancing with the ribbon thing, that’s just silly)

The other thing that I love about the Olympics is that every 2 years, there’s a point in time where you can almost forget just how screwed up this world is... We put aside the differences, the politics and the distrust and we just compete. The athletes and the competition are able to take us out of our current lives and help us see something better.

As a kid I can remember the whole family watching the US hockey team beat the best in the world against all odds. I remember watching Sugar Ray Leonard, with a picture of his girlfriend taped to his shoe win a gold medal. I remember seeing the American gymnast Kerri Strug hurt her ankle on her next to last vault and still win a gold medal. And I can remember being so disappointed the when we boycotted…

This year was no different. The drama and the excitement as Phelps broke the record set by Mark Spitz so many years ago. (yep, I remember seeing that one too), the US swimming relay team winning on the last leg (after France had tallked so much crap), The US men's volleyball team winning after their coach's father in law was many amazing stories.

Of course it’s not all perfect. There were questions and concerns about Chinese gymnasts, scoring biases and questionable calls, but overall I loved it and can’t wait till 2012…..of course now that we’ve heard that China invested almost 40 BILLION dollars in this year’s Olympics, where does that set the bar for future countries???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How quickly it goes…..

Well, I haven’t been riding as much as I’d like lately and, due to some drive train issues on the SS, on the rides I have done, I’ve ridden the full suspension bike. This means that not only has my fitness suffered, but my skills on the rigid SS also suffered.

Well, thinking I had the issues on the SS all worked out, I decided to take it out and give it a go. I was supposed to meet a couple of my friends out at Lake Chabot to do the loop, but it didn’t work out so I ended up riding by myself. Which actually turned out to be a good thing as you’ll see later…

After being off the bike for a while, riding the SS for the first time was definitely different. And of course by different I mean HARD….. The climb up behind the golf course pretty nearly killed me. And it wasn’t just my legs. With the single speed you’re standing the entire time and as a result, my arms and shoulders were getting tired too.

The first benefit of riding alone is that the pace you choose is dependent solely on how you feel and has nothing to do with trying to keep up or stay with a group. Last night, that meant that I could take my time where I wanted and make time where I felt stronger. It also meant I didn’t stop at any of our usual rest points.

I didn’t have a watch but noted my start time and was hoping I’d be back in around 1:45. (my best time for this loop is a little under 1:30) I thought I was actually doing pretty well and was trying to make up as much time on the downhill and flats as I could knowing I was slow on the climbs.
Of course, having ridden the suspension bike mostly, my form was less smooth and more about point and shoot….plus I was tired….which meant that when I hit the bottom of one steep downhill I wasn’t back far enough, my arms weren’t relaxed enough and I hit it pretty firm (ok, hard)….which of course led to a nice loud bang from the front pinch flat…which of course led to a nice over the bars dismount….which of course led to a nice loud uuummmpphhh as I landed on my back…..
Luckily, even at my fastest, I’m pretty slow. So although the dismount probably would have rated at least a 9.5 scoring from the judges, I wasn’t hurt and popped back up like it never happened. (just in case anyone was around)
This is the other benefit to riding alone….no witnesses…no scars…..never happened…

After dusting myself off and getting off the side of the trail, changing my tube, pumping it back up (note to self – the little POS pump sucks, buy new pump) and getting on my way, I made it back to the truck in 1:48 which I thought was pretty darned good considering…..

Today although the back is a little stiff from the dismount, what really amazes me is how tired my legs are. I was actually tempted to work from downstairs just so I didn't have to climb the 16 steps to the second floor..... maybe I should trying riding a little more often so it doesn't feel like I'm always starting over....

Friday, August 15, 2008

It’s all about confidence….

I was thinking, during theRide this year, about how our confidence has a direct effect on our ability. Or should I say how our ability is affected by our confidence….
I haven’t been riding the motorcycle much this year since I’ve been spending most of my free time either doing chores or riding my bicycle.
Because of this, when we took off on Friday morning, my odometer had maybe 300 more miles than it did when I parked it at the end of last years theRide.
The result was that when we hit the twisty stuff on the first day, I had absolutely no confidence on the motorcycle.
Oh, I could ride the thing, but I was way off the pace and back at the end of the fast group….actually almost closer to the cruiser group than I was to the sportbike group.
That’s ok though, my goal every year is to enjoy myself and not doing anything stupid like die or get injured……or drop my bike in front of everyone when I forget to put my feet down.(yes, it’s happened)
Day 2 my confidence was growing. I started to get in the groove and although still not willing to go as fast as Scott and Dan, I was consistently up with the fast guys…..until that sharp left turn that totally scared the #$%* out of me and blew my confidence again.

Sunday I was definitely feeling the groove a little more and by the end of the day felt like I knew what I was doing and Monday was pretty comfortable except for a couple of blown corners where I forgot to keep my head up and ended up grabbing the brakes in mid-corner.

The funny thing is that it’s totally a mental thing. The motorcycle hasn’t changed, if anything with all the work I did this year, she’s better prepped than previous years. The science of a motorcycle taking a corner hasn’t changed, as a matter of fact, I’m not a good enough rider at my best to even get anywhere near the limits when I corner on that bike.
It’s all about confidence. On the corners where I feel confident I lean her over and she goes. On others, I chicken out, grab a handful of brake and she stands up and doesn’t want to turn.
I’ve got to believe that it’s not really the speed so much as the familiarity with the bike. After all, I’ve come down Mt Hamilton on my road bike with skinny tires and no suspension much faster than I did on Friday on my motorcycle with the nice fat tires and the suspension. And believe me, crashing on the road bike with the little plastic helmet and my lycra on would hurt a heck of a lot worse than with my full face helmet and armored jacket and pants.

So, the question is do I try to ride more and become more comfortable with the speed or, do I just slow down, get a cruiser and ride with that group?????

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What an awesome theRide!

No, it’s not a typo, it’s the official name of the annual motorcycle ride a bunch of us do every year. And while it seems the group changes from year to year based on who can and can’t make it and whether or not there are any new people, it’s been pretty much the same core group for 4 years now.

This year, as in years past, we try to find roads we’ve not done and explore areas we’ve never been. The funny thing this year was, we were never more than a couple hours from home.
As a matter of fact on Friday, when we finally stopped for lunch, I called my wife and told her I was at Alice’s. Her first question was why it took us most of the day to get to a place 30 minutes from home……she just doesn’t understand….
We ended up Friday in Monterey, had dinner at what turned out to be a great little Italian restaurant and retired to the motel parking lot for cigars and Patron – I almost felt bad for the other people trying to sleep in the motel.

Saturday, we headed out. Our final goal for the day would be the Holiday Inn in Atascadero. Again, we took backroads and secondary roads which were wonderful. There was that one time coming up over the hill to find that the road made a hard left…..probably should have been going a little slower on that one.
Saturday night, after a swim and hot tub, was spent at Outlaws card room and restaurant which turned out to be much better than I expected. That will teach me to pre-judge. Other than a nice midnight hike looking for the lost penguin, it was a perfect day.
Here’s a tip. If you’re ever in Atascadero and want a tattoo, the parlor (yes, there’s only one) closes at 8pm, but there’s a pretty decent bar right next door so your walk won’t be a total waste.

Sunday, we headed out to explore the roads east of Atascadero with a goal of Ojai for lunch. The roads were fantastic, the weather was fantastic, the lunch was fantastic….pretty much a fantastic day. (ok, so I need some new adjectives) Hwy 33 is probably one of the nicer roads I’ve ever ridden. It was…........wait for it…................fantastic!!!
Sunday night, the group split, with some going back to Outlaws and others of us ordering in pizza and hanging out in the lobby of the motel watching the Olympics.

Monday, the last day of the ride was to be a fairly short day. We’d be taking Hwys 41, 46 and 25, to Hollister where we’d check out the Corbin factory and Wizards cafĂ© for lunch.
The weather was much warmer, but the roads were great and traffic was pretty much non-existent. Ray and I went on ahead so we could get some photos of the others as they rode by.
It worked fine except that when he and I got back on our bikes to catch up, a Sheriff pulled out and followed us for about a half hour…..which obviously means we had to obey the speed limit…..not something we had really paid any attention to all weekend.
The Corbin factory was cool and lunch was good. Afterwards we said our goodbyes, promised we’d ride together more than once a year as we always do and headed our separate ways.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Night photography is fun…..

My oldest daughter and I have been taking a photography class one night a week at the local rec. dept. And, although it’s only served to reinforce the fact that I’m not smart enough for the camera I have, it’s been a lot of fun.
Last week we worked on night photography which was actually very cool.
I had no idea how we were supposed to take pictures, at night, without the use of a flash.

Well, it turns out that exposing the picture longer, which is completely different than exposing yourself (that's downright weird....and illegal), actually makes for some really cool night pictures.

It turns out that fiddling with all those little tiny buttons, in the dark of night while trying to take pictures was one of the more challenging parts of the evening. Thank goodness my daughter with her better eyesight, bigger brain and smaller fingers was there to take care of that portion.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A different kind of ride….

This coming weekend we’ll be going on the annual 4 day ride. In years past we’ve gone up the coast, through the sierras, into Oregon or down and around the central valley….This year, we’ll be heading down the coast.
Oh yeah, and lest you think I’m super-human, I should probably explain that this is on motorcycles.

Every year for the past several years now, a bunch of friends and I have taken 4 days and explored this amazing state we live in. We’ve dabbled in adjoining states, but the majority of the miles have all been within the boundaries of California.
It’s amazing to me the diversity we have here in CA. On one ride the year before last we left the northern coast at 9:00am in fog and drizzle and two hours later were coming down out of the Trinity mountains into 100 degree weather.

A year or so before that we were at the base of Mt Whitney in the morning, the highest peak in the contiguous United States which is only 75 miles from the lowest point in the US…..crazy

This year, we’ll be heading south. The funny part is we’ll be riding on motorcycles some of my favorite bicycle roads. Skyline Bl is just gorgeous in San Mateo County. Pescadero Creek Rd is one of my all time favorites, and Hwy 1 is just a beautiful ride no matter what you’re on.

So, for 4 days, I’ll be off the bicycle and on the motorcycle. Going faster will require no more effort than turning the right wrist a little further. Going uphill no longer requires strong lungs and legs…..catching up to someone ahead of you pretty much only requires thinking about it. It should definitely be fun.