Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mental Floss…..

The holidays are a really busy time of year. What with shopping, decorations, family visits, getting the house ready for the big family gathering, etc. Add to this the fact that the recent storms have increased my yard chores by ten fold and the to-do list can be a bit overwhelming. This combined with work, which right now is pretty crazy and stressful and you have the makings for a perfect storm in the mental meltdown department...

I recently read an article about the importance of flossing. As I understand it, bacteria get caught up in your teeth. This creates acid which then causes the enamel on your teeth to break and down and you end up with cavities and tartar buildup. This tartar in turn, allows the production of toxins that irritate your gums and can destroy your teeth.

Not a pretty picture right?? Well sometimes, I think we need to floss in other areas of our lives as well and for me a good hard bike ride is just the thing. Stress, anxiety, cranky bosses and the holiday rush can build up and produce toxins that flow into other areas of my life.

The symptoms of these toxins in my life manifest themselves in lots of different ways. I don’t sleep well, I’m irritable with people that don’t deserve it, I feel crummy and listless and I tend to eat...pretty much anything and everything in sight. Of course these symptoms in turn have results that in turn lead to more stress...

So, yesterday since the storm that was supposed to show up decided not to, I left work early to perform some routine maintenance on myself. I call it mental floss and I was way overdue.

There’s a great road not far from home that I really enjoy riding. Redwood Rd starts in Castro Valley and heads north up into the easy bay hills. I got to the parking lot at 3:20 and by 3:30 had the iPod on shuffle, was all geared up and leaving the parking lot. I’m not sure if it was the new bike, the music or me blowing off steam, but I felt great heading up the hill.

I haven’t been riding that much lately so I was obviously working hard and at times, I redlined, but it felt good. The harder I worked, the more I could feel the stress falling away. Every time I’d start to think about work, I’d just upshift stand up and hammer until I couldn’t breath. (flossing can be painful if you haven’t done it in a while)

Originally my goal was just a quick ride to the top of Redwood and back since I had chores at home that needed to get done. Once I got there though, the stuff at home didn’t seem as pressing. The bike felt great and was calling for more so I decided to go to the bottom of Pinehurst before turning around.

The backside of Redwood Rd is a fun, fast, swoopy downhill and although I’m old, fat and slow, I felt as if I was literally flying down the hills and carving the corners like one of those skinny little racer guys. The new bike disappeared beneath me as the music played in my ears and the curves came and went one after another. I could feel the plaque and toxins of life falling off me as if they couldn’t keep up.

Before long, I was reaching the bottom of the hill and although my original plan was to turn around, I decided at the last minute to just add the climb to the top of Pinehurst before getting home to those chores that suddenly seemed pretty insignificant.

I like the climb up Pinehurst. Mainly because it’s short and not too steep, but also because it’s really curvy and I can break it down into small sections and attack it one section at a time. Just as I made the turn, Stevie Ray Vaughn came on the iPod and it was perfect for this climb….before I knew it, the song had ended and I was at the turn around point.

At this point, any thoughts of chores or getting home were pretty much gone. I decided to try to get to the bottom of Pinehurst then turn around and head home. Of course once I got into the trees, it dawned on me that it was quickly getting dark and cold and I had better turn around. And, for once in my life I actually did the smart thing and did just that.

As I got back to the top of Pinehurst and began the descent back to Redwood Rd I realized if I didn’t hurry, I was going to be finishing the ride in the dark. Definitely a prospect I didn’t like.

With the music playing in my ears I kept the pace as high as I could all the way up Redwood Rd. I was definitely working harder than I intended today but it still felt good. The plaque was gone. The stress of work, the irritable boss, the chaos of the season all melted into the background as I concentrated on turning the cranks and beating the sunset.
Much more quickly than I expected, I was at the top of Redwood with just the downhill and one more little climb between me and the warmth of my truck.

As I started down the hill an old UFO song came on the iPod, Lights out in London, which I found very fitting since I was facing the same prospect. It was definitely
going to be close….

Going downhill is definitely an area where being a bigger guy has an advantage. So, shifting into the big ring, with the music helping me keep my cadence up I flew down Redwood Rd. past the golf course, up the last little climb and down to the truck...pulling in to the parking lot at 5:00 pm.

Total for the ride 22 miles and 1600ft of climbing...Flossing is good

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