Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sunday Muddy Sunday…..

Ok, so my recent mt bike ride has nothing to do with political unrest, there were no soldiers shooting and although I probably have some U2 on my iPod somewhere, I’m not quite sure what the tie in here is…….except that I rode my bike on Sunday and ended up really muddy.

It seems like it’s been raining since beginning of time which pretty much sucks. Add to that the fact that I was dealing with a major Christmas toy, present, shopping and extended family hangover and you still end up with me….but a really cranky version of me.

I needed to get outside and burn off some energy. Originally the plan was to take the road bike out and get in some miles. Jerry and his neighbor Bob though, had an even better plan. They wanted to ride up the road to the top of the hill behind Cal State and then take the greenbelt trail back down.

I really like this route. It’s not a particularly difficult ride since all the uphill is on the road, but it’s a REALLY fun ride since the entire dirt portion is downhill, the trail tends to get very little traffic and there was a good chance we were going to get muddy. Yep, every time mud is involved in a ride, my inner child rears his head and screams like banshee at the top of his lungs.

And this ride disappoint him at all. The weather was clear, but cool. The traffic was light on the road portion and once we got to the dirt the fun really began. The trail was muddy but not really bad and the trail was empty. We ripped and we roared, my inner child and I. We slipped and slid on steep parts and around the corners, we motored up the climbs and over every little roller we tried our hardest to see if we could fly….

Eventually though, we came to the bottom and there was nothing left but a pretty good little climb back up to Jerry’s house…..all in all a great day and the perfect antidote to Christmas and rain overload……and way better than Irish revolts being put down with violence.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Exercising Our Demons….

I have to say, I actually really enjoy the holidays. Yes, the stress level is high, I hate shopping, I don’t like putting up the Christmas decorations, I don’t like wrapping presents, I don’t like assembling the fake tree with all of its million pieces, I don’t like going to the mall, I don’t like crowds, I could do without seeing most of the extended family and I don’t like the size of my Visa bill afterwards……but other than that I LOVE the holidays….

This year, in addition to all the normal holiday stuff, we can throw in family health challenges, issues our kids are dealing with, health issues with elder parents, financial challenges related to work circumstances and an almost insane amount of job stress and it’s like life is piling on layers and layers until I can’t even find my real self beneath it all.

I’m normally a pretty happy go lucky guy. I tend not to stress about stuff and I’m normally in a pretty good mood (despite what my daughters say) So, what to do….what to do…..well it’s pretty simple really…..whenever I feel like my internal stress thermostat is getting into the red zone, I just get on my bike and ride myself into an exercise induced coma…

Last Thursday night was our annual NiteDawgs Christmas ride and party. It had been raining all week, but thankfully, Wednesday and Thursday we supposed to be clear and dry….and they were for the first half of the ride anyway.

I still have the SS torn apart and really need to get it back together. In the meantime though, I’ve got the squishy bike totally dialed in now so as we started out on the 10 hills trail I just flipped the lever on the shock, downshifted and enjoyed a nice cushy spin up and down the hills.

I stood on the climbs since that’s what I’m used to, but I pretty much just let the bike do it’s thing as I felt the stress of the day falling off like melting ice from a warm rooftop. Every climb burned the life out of my legs and left more of the day on the trail behind me and every downhill ripped my life’s stress away and let it flutter into the wind behind me….

By the time we regrouped at the stone bridge I actually felt normal again. I was tired and muddy and happy to be alive. The climb out of the canyon only further wore out my legs and enhanced my feeling of well being.

Eventually, we made it back to the theater where we changed into less muddy clothes, enjoyed our Christmas celebration and the fellowship that comes from spending time with good friends…..this afterall, is what Christmas is supposed to be about.

Monday, December 13, 2010

And the Season Begins….

Last week Tuesday I took the day off and along with my buddy Chris and his buddy David, we headed to Sugar Bowl for a mid-week ski day.

The challenge in taking mid-week days is that you have to be somewhat flexible and really pay attention to the weather. For this reason, I’ve always been honest with my boss when taking ski days. It’s just too hard to call in sick, then change your mind and move the flu to the next day if a storm comes through.

We had planned it the week prior based on and it actually worked out perfectly, we had bluebird skies, they had received a few inches of new snow the evening before and we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves. I don’t think we ever got in a lift line with more than 1-2 people in front of us.

The tough part about such perfect days this early in the season is that I’m not in good enough shape to really take advantage of them. Every time we got into the heavy snow my legs started complaining so we stayed on the groomers. Even then, with no-one on the mountain and no-one in line we were burning up runs so fast my legs were pretty much toast by 2:00…

Chris’ knee seemed to be doing well, his buddy David was a crazy fast and crazy good skier so I was killing myself trying to keep up and was glad when they said they were done for the day and ready for a beer.

All in all we had a great day with good friends, great weather, good snow and no crowds…..I don’t know if I’ll ever ski another weekend again…
(note - I forgot my camera so all I have is this one cell phone picture)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Here We Go Again….

It’s amazing to me just how quickly this year has gone by….I know as we get older we all say that time just flies by but this year seems to have gone especially fast.
The upside to Summer and Fall whizzing by so quickly is that ski season is here and I love ski season. The downside is that just this week I registered for two rides for next season, the first of which is in March and is WAY beyond my current fitness level. The other is the Death Ride which is not only way above my fitness level, but is a ride I’ve attempted twice and failed to complete both times.

I’m not sure why I keep doing this. I tend to agree to things and then later wonder what the heck I was thinking….I was looking through last years posts and found the one about BHAGs and that’s pretty much my plan for this year as well.

I’ve got a couple major rides scheduled and will attempt to fill in the empty spaces with either training rides or organized rides that will hopefully get me to the point where it’s not a full year of suffering one ride after another.

For the most part, the rides I do are pretty easy. I try to stay within my comfort zone and not really work too hard.(it’s pretty much my mantra in all aspects of my life) This year though, I’ve got 3 rides that concern me. The first is in March and thanks to our “friends” Bob and Leticia several of us have signed up for the Hells Gate Hundred. (funny, these are the same people that got us to do the Medocino Monster last year, why do I even listen to their ideas?)

The Hells Gate Hundred is in Death Valley, is 100 miles and has 8500ft of climbing…..yeah, I know….idiot!

After the Hell’s Gate Hundred we have the Sea Otter Classic in mid-April. This is actually a fun one and the only actual “race” I do.  Like last year, I’ll do this on the single speed.  Unlike last year, they have no Cat 3 Single Speed division this year, so I’m in the Cat 2 category which doesn’t really mean much.  I’ll be getting my butt kicked in either category, the problem is that in Cat 2 the course is 20.2 miles instead of 13 or 14 miles that it was last year.  The last big ride I have scheduled is the Death Ride in July.  This ride just plain sucks and if I had actually finished one of the other two times I attempted it, I probably wouldn’t be doing it this year. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish and therefore am required to continue trying until I do.

The other challenge I’m having in thinking about next year is that my current level of fitness is probably the lowest it’s been, cycling-wise, in the past few years. I don’t think I’ve ridden my road bike more than 2-3 times since the Death Ride in July. I’ve been riding 1-2x per week most weeks, but it’s all been on the mt bike. The longest ride is probably the 40 miles we did in the rain in Lodi…I have been going to the gym though and doing some other stuff, but I’m definitely heading into winter this year in a very un-fit state….

Oh well, I guess since I've survived this long, it can't be that bad.....I mean afterall, what could possibly go wrong????

Monday, December 6, 2010

The competitors.….

I forgot my iPod!!!  I realized this as I got out of the truck Saturday morning in front of the 24hr fitness….this was the second time I had been here this week and I wasn’t really happy about it. Especially knowing I was going to have to endure an hour of house music when I’d much rather be out riding my bike on the trails listening to the leaves under my tires, the chirping of the birds, anything but house music....Unfortunately, between everything going on at work, the rain we’ve had and the early darkness of winter, it hasn’t worked out that way. I guess a couple of miles on the treadmill and some time with the weights is better than nothing….

I’ve resolved to try to stay in shape this winter. I’m not going to use the cold, the wet and the darkness as an excuse to slack off in the hopes that I can gain it all back come Spring because that’s getting harder and harder to do. As I’ve gotten older it seems like, not only do I have to work harder to stay at the same level of fitness, but time off affects me much more dramatically than it did when I was younger.

In addition, with my back acting up, and the doctors not having any solutions other than drugs, fitness is my only defense against immobility and constant pain….so here I am. It’s 7:00am on a Saturday morning and I’m on the treadmill lumbering along like an overweight gorilla, sucking in huge mouthfuls of stale inside air while the kid next to me runs like a rabbit, barely breaking a sweat and chatting up the girl in the too tight shorts wearing full makeup on his right…

That’s ok, this is what it’s all about right?….we suffer now so we can enjoy the rides, the ski days, the races and not suffer later….Right? Wrong! It’s totally wrong and it’s a lie….I’ll still suffer later, my legs will still ache and quiver from exhaustion on the last ski run of the day, my lungs will still burn and struggle for air on the last mile of the weekly ride or the last half of whatever stupid race I get talked into riding in….no matter how much I train or how much I suffer in preparation, it seems I still suffer later…..So why bother? Why not just sit on the couch and watch football all day instead of going for a ride or going for a run? Why not just relax and take it easy?

Because although, I’m going to suffer later, I’m hoping that I’m not suffering as much as my friends and that’s REALLY what it’s all about….keeping up with the fast guys on the last climb or beating the young guys to the bottom of the mountain, or getting to the end of a sprint and standing around waiting for the others to catch their breath while I'm making small talk. Telling them it’s no big deal when you all know it IS a big deal….it’s the only deal…..

As we get older there are no more playground bullies to stand up to, no more school sports activities to measure ourselves by, no more corner offices to strive for…..there are only our friends to compete with. Other old fat guys just like us fighting the same age related injuries and illness, the same too much work, too little training time schedules....these are our competitors, our friends. Most of who are just like us. They too want to be the first one up the climb or down the mountain or across the finish line…..and that’s why I’m here, at the gym running on a treadmill when hopefully my friends are still home warm in their beds…..

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

DATMBA 2010 – Joaquin Miller/Redwood Park adventure

Wow, 3 weeks since my last post…..sorry about that, this work crap is really starting to get in the way of my life….

Anyway, I got up Friday morning with a food hangover….you know how it is when you totally pig out the night before and then wake up starving….it’s like you stuff your stomach so much that it stretches and in the morning there’s this big empty spot waiting to be filled up again…

The girls had gotten up early to head out to join the insanity that was Black Friday. I was up a little later, but still early enough that the lawn was white with frost and the thermometer on the garage wall said 31 degrees…are we really riding in this weather?

After a bowl of cereal, putting on every piece of cold weather gear I own, loading up my stuff, filling the camelbak and heading out to pick up Tracy, it had warmed to a reasonable 36 degrees…..ok, this is nuts!

As the sun came up though, we could tell it was going to be a nice day. We pulled in to the parking lot for the dog park at Joaquin Miller and the others began arriving. Jack, Troy, Annie, John, Jerry, Nick, Chris, Evan…but no Xing…..where was he? It’s not that we necessarily needed him for the ride, but he promised to bring his amazing bbq ribs and that was one of the only reasons I even crawled out of my nice warm bed this morning.

Eventually though he pulled in and we prepared to take off. He later admitted he went by Office Max since they were having a great deal on memory cards…..whatever….he brought the ribs so all is forgiven…

Joaquin Miller starts with a nice downhill, then a little rolling but mostly level trail which leads you to what I found out is called 2 buck hill.

It's steeper than it looks

Evidently, in the group Chris rides with, everyone puts 2 bucks in the kitty and whoever actually makes the climb, wins the pot.
We didn’t do that and it’s a good thing…..everyone walked the hill, some even after multiple attempts…I on the other hand made a feeble effort, got a little ways up and promptly got off and walked. (a smart man knows his limitations and going uphill is definitely one of my limitations)

Once you get to the top of 2 buck hill, the trail wanders along the side of the canyon for quite a ways. Weaving in and out amongst the trees with gorgeous views of the City at several points.

Eventually it turns inland though and as we cross Skyline Bl it goes from Joaquin Miller over to Redwood regional park. One of the highlights of Redwood Regional is the a long steep downhill section where I was able to really appreciate the full suspension 29er. I had ridden this before on both a hardtail and my rigid single speed….and the full suspension is waaaaay more fun.

As the saying goes, what goes down must go back up, and for the next several miles you climb…..and climb….the first section is a long steep fire road that is so steep and had me spending so much time on the very nose of my seat that I really felt like my seat should buy me dinner…..(if you don’t get that joke, nevermind)

The rest of the climb isn’t too bad since the trail follows the edge of the canyon and rolls up and down all the while gaining elevation. The only downside is that this is a pretty busy area of the park, so you can’t really enjoy the downhill for fear of running over hikers, runners, kids, dogs, etc….

As we rolled into the parking lot on Skyline to regroup I decided to use the restroom…..sorry lady for walking in on you, but there’s a reason they put locks on doors in public restrooms….dang, who knew women could scream like that?

After regrouping we headed out on the west side of the park. The trails here are really nice and the area is very pretty, but you have to be careful of all the pedestrians…everyone was pleasant and the interactions were friendly. I can see though how the shared use issue could be a problem if you had riders that either weren’t paying attention or didn’t care and flew around the corners.

After coming back around to Skyline Bl you cross over back into Joaquin Miller Park and the fun begins in earnest. The next section, Big Trees Trail is fast swoopy downhill single track with very few other users….unfortunately it’s not a very long section and soon enough we were back on the Sunset Trail. Some of the group jumped on the road back to the cars, others took the Palos Colorado trail and some of us went back to go down 2 buck hill……which is MUCH more fun going down than up….

Nick heading into the woods

The last climb back up to the parking lot is actually a fairly steep rooty section and as I stood to climb over a root my front wheel came to a complete stop. Unfortunately the rest of me, my bike and my back wheel kept moving forward…..yep, a complete assoverteakettle endo within 20 yards of the parking lot. No injuries though and luckily enough, I don’t think anyone actually saw it happen.

Afterwards, we gathered for bbq ribs, brats, salad, pumpkin cheesecake and beers, telling lies to each other about how awesome we all were today…..another great DATMBA for the books. 14.8 miles and 2289 ft of climbing….man, it sure felt like more….