Friday, December 30, 2011

The Last Group Ride of 2011…..done solo…

I knew as soon as the emails started flying yesterday afternoon that I’d probably be riding alone last night. The excuses were flying fast and loose with pretty much everyone deciding they were too sick or too tired or too whatever….and that was ok with me.

There was no way that, after surviving Christmas and the week that followed, I was going to not ride. You see, riding for me is about so much more than exercise….for me, its therapy, anti-depressants, exercise, self esteem classes and anger management all rolled into one nice little ball of pain and suffering…..

As I arrived at the parking lot Jer and Bob were coming up the hill having just finished their loop. We also ran in to Raj who I haven’t seen in a while, but has been riding pretty regularly. After chatting a bit they went home and I headed out on the trail. The sun had gone down and the fog had rolled in, and although a bit damp, the weather was perfect for the base layer, long sleeve jersey and shorts I had on.

The first section, although not having any long climbs has a couple of short steep sections that got the legs warmed up and the heart pounding. It’s here that I check in for my appointment with the therapist. The short climbs allow me to focus on my stress, anger, anxiety, whatever and really try to kill myself in an effort to flush out the system. There’s no time for thinking or rationalizing…it’s just a brute force attack on my body to get the blood flowing….

Later as I start up Brandon, the therapy takes a different tack. It’s a long slow grind that allows me to push myself but also provides time to be a little more contemplative. I try to keep a pace that while keeping my heart rate up, also allows me to think about things and process all the crap that keeps bouncing around in my head. It’s actually a balancing act….too fast and hard and all I can think about is the pain, too slow and I feel like I’m wasting my time….

I arrive at the top of Brandon pretty well spent and ready to allow my heart to recover. It’s here that I usually begin actually enjoying the ride. Tonight, it’s here that I realize just how dark it is….and how alone I am….better reel in the attitude and slow things down a bit on the downhill….a crash out here would really ruin my evening.

I continue on through the ups and downs, passing lots of deer and an enormous owl, until eventually coming to a point where with the moon trying to peek out of the fog above me and the lake below me I pull over, turn off my light and let the quiet and the darkness envelope me. The sense of calm and quiet is almost overwhelming. Gone are the emotions, the frustrations and the stress of the week replaced instead by a feeling of contentment and thankfulness for the blessings in my life that allow me to get out on my bike on a fairly regular basis.

Eventually I mount back up, turn on my light and begin the rest of the ride. From here back, it will be about exercise, pushing my legs and my lungs to the point of failure in the hopes that this is making me stronger and faster, better able to keep up with the group on our next ride…..

As I eventually make it back to the marina, it dawns on me that I haven’t seen one other person the entire loop. This is strange as I always see other riders and/or hikers. Even the fishing docks normally busy in the evening with those that are still willing to exercise their right to go out and kill their dinner, are quiet tonight….it could be that it’s cold and damp and dark or it could be that the universe has decided that tonight, more so than most other nights, I needed to be alone…completely and totally alone as I swept out the cobwebs, crap and trash from the upstairs storage….

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good Bye 2011

As we come to the end of 2011 I was struck by the fact that for my family especially and for several of our close friends, this was kind of a rough year….

With the economy being what it is, some health challenges and some personal challenges, it’s easy to look back on 2011 and think that I’m not only glad it’s over, but hope that 2012 is much, much better.

To stop there though, would be a mistake. It’s easy to look back on a tough year and point out all of the issues, challenges, problems and negative things with which we’ve had to deal. If I spend just a little more time though, and really think about the year, it’s pretty darn easy to see that overall we truly have been blessed this past year as well.

Both my wife and I have been fairly healthy this year with no major illness, we both have stable jobs, our house, through dropping in value with the rest of the country isn’t so far upside down that we’re forced to move, both of my daughters have found good, decent paying jobs that they don’t hate, my youngest has started a new chapter in her life by moving out with a couple of her friends, my oldest has two amazing kids that we are blessed to spend a lot of time with, and although I haven’t ridden as much as I would have liked this past year, I still managed to get out at least once per week and most weeks it was twice.

The other point about making it through a challenging year is that you come out the other side better and stronger for having survived it. I know in our family each of us has had our faith tested and strengthened.
In the same way that fire purifies gold, the testing of our individual faiths has strengthened and deepened them.  My oldest, who had a very challenging year personally, has blossomed into a mighty woman of faith that not only knows that God loves her, but believes it and lives it at the very core of her being.  My youngest having seen not only her sister but one of her good friends struggle this year, has also not only been strengthened through the experience but has shown an amazing capacity for kindness, love and and support.
My wife and I similarly have learned that when the challenges seem to be too much, we can give the battle over to God and he will help us to get through it.

So, do I hope that 2012 is a better year than 2011? Absolutely!
Do I wish I hadn’t gone through the challenges we faced in 2011? Mostly.
Do I know that no matter what we’re faced with in the coming year that we’ll be able to get through it relying on God, our family and our friends? Without a doubt!

So, good riddance 2011 and Bring it On 2012…..we’re ready for whatever you throw at us…..
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

Friday, December 23, 2011

Diablo on the Dirt…..

Last Sunday after church, I talked Jerry and Paciano into joining me on an exploratory ride up Mt Diablo on the mountain bikes. I’ve ridden this mountain a bunch of times, but always on the road. And it’s always tough….

I knew that the trail version of this climb would be tough. My hope though was that with the lower gearing afforded by the mountain bike, it wouldn’t be quite as bad as the road bike with a compact double….(funny, as I type this I’m surprised it sounded so logical in my head)

We started at the Athenian school at the bottom of the hill and followed the road into the park. Just past the entrance to the park, the summit trail is just off the left side of the road. I assumed that we would be following a nice wide fireroad from here up the mountain. Boy was I wrong. The first section as you turn off the pavement is a fun, swoopy singletrack that weaves along the canyons for about a mile. It was a very pleasant surprise!
At the end of that though, you cross a bridge and turn on to a fireroad that goes up…..and up….and up some more……eventually popping out on pavement up near Rock City.
We did stop once on the way up to take pictures (not because my heart was going to explode or anything, just to take pictures) but other than that, it’s a tough upward slog which should pay off nicely when we come back down.

From just above Rock City you cross the road and get back on to the Summit trail and continue up. Nothing steep or crazy, but up, always up until we came to another scenic stop where you actually look down on Rock City and most of the bay area.

It was here that we decided to turn around. I was told (with the promise of death and dismemberment if I failed) that I had to be home by 4:30 in order to take the grandkids to the Zoo Lights and I wasn’t about to risk raising the ire of my wife, daughter and grandkids.

The benefit to all the climbing was that now and for the next 5 miles we could get away with pretty much not pedaling at all….and it was awesome! The fireroad is wide, offers lots of little bumps and ledges to get air if you’re in to that kind of thing and offers a great sightline so there’s very little fear of running in to a hiker or cyclist coming up the trail.

Sooner than I would have thought we were back at the wooden bridge where we crossed over to the singletrack back to the start. I had really enjoyed the singletrack section on the way up never really realizing that it was slightly uphill the whole way. It was only as I continued to need to use my brakes on the way out that I realized it was even more fun going this direction. The trail just swoops and swerves along the edge of the hillside following the contours of the canyon…’s like an E ticket ride at Disneyland (although hardly anyone even knows what that means anymore)

We arrived back at the parking lot grinning from ear to ear, tired but totally wishing we had time to go further and explore more of this amazing park.....a 10 mile ride wasn't nearly enough for a gorgeous Sunday afternoon, but it would have to do....I had grandkids that were expecting me....

Friday, December 16, 2011

Sunday afternoon ride...

The week before last I was thinking of exploring Mt Diablo's mountain bike trails. I've never ridden up there other than the road and am really curious about the trails.  Unfortunately, I fear my fitness is not at the same level as my curiosity so I decided to do the road bike instead.

I was able to con Jack and Lynn to join me in the "fun" and we agreed to meet at the bottom of the hill after I was done with church. Turns out the post-service socializing took longer than planned and I found myself running late. I texted both Jack and Lynn to let them know and Lynn agreed to wait. Jack said we could "catch him on the hill"

It was a gorgeous day for the first weekend in January. Clear and cool, but sunny. This made for nice weather riding up the hill with some amazing views of the bay. You could see San Francisco, one tower of the Golden Gate and Sutro Tower.

The fact that the weather was nice and the views were amazing did not in the least detract from the suffering I was experiencing though.  I have to admit, I'm at the heaviest I've been in a long time and I haven't been riding nearly as much. Both of these factors contributed to the level of suffering I was experiencing as we climbed the mountain....several times I pushed on the shift lever only to find I was already in the lowest possible gear....

Eventually, as Lynn and I got near the top, we saw Jack on his was down. So, no Jack, we will NOT "catch you on the hill" Amazingly enough, he agreed to turn around and head back to the summit with us. I guess he was feeling particularly fiesty and wanted the bonus miles.

As we reached Devil's Elbow and made the last push for the top, Lynn said she wasn't doing the driveway and I agreed, that I had had enough for one day.  When we made the last turn though she pulled over for the parking area and I just had to keep going. I don't think I can deal with riding all the way up there and not going to the summit.

As I suffered up the driveway I thought about stopping several times. I didn't though. I once walked up the last section and coming over the top to see everyone watching you walk up the hill pushing your bike is something I don't want to do again....

The views from the top were just as amazing as they had been all the way up the hill.  You could see Antioch and the Delta to the northeast and as far as Livermore and beyond to the southeast.


Although the cool and sunny weather had been perfect for the climb, the ride down was freezing... we actually stopped a couple of times, supposedly so I could take pictures, but more so I could thaw out my fingers....
Overall an absolutely beautiful day with incredible views, good friends and lots of suffering.....a perfect ride!

Monday, December 5, 2011

DATMBA 2011...

Every year for the past 6-7 years a group of us has done what we call the DATMBA (day-after-thanksgiving-mt-bike-adventure)

It started in 2004 with a crazy idea and two friends with bad judgment. It was pouring down rain and we ended up walking more than riding because the mud clogged up our cantilever brakes so bad the wheels wouldn’t turn….

From there, it’s been an annual tradition and although I don’t think it’s ever actually rained like that again, each ride brings with it, its own memories. We did Henry Coe one year when we rode across frozen puddles in the morning and were down to short sleeves by the end of the day...we did Demo where I crashed and fractured my elbow… Mt Tam where Chris, on his single speed with panniers brought an entire feast, including tablecloth and pie, Joaquin Miller where Tracy broke 3 forks trying to get one bite of pie into his mouth and this year we did China Camp…..

If you’ve never ridden China Camp, you should. It’s got a lot to offer. Although, I’ve heard its best avoided on the weekend when it can be pretty crowded. There’s a good mix of easy fire road, singletrack, some good climbs, some technical sections and even a fairly long steep paved section that will send SSers into the pain cave for a bit…

As Jerry and I started planning this and sending out the emails, we weren’t sure how many of us there would be this year. As late as Thursday morning, it looked like it would be 3…maybe 4 at the most. By Thursday evening though, we were up to about 10. Evidently people started feeling guilty about those extras pieces of pumpkin pie and wanted to try to burn them off.

The morning of, we were up to an even dozen riders with clear skies and mild temps expected for the day as we started out. A few miles we were stopped by a couple of different problems…..Bob had a new bike and was having some rear shock issues and Troy in an attempt to climb a ridiculously steep section had broken his chain….he’s claiming too much torque from his quads, I’m leaning towards old chain or bad maintenance….
Those issues resolved, we continued on up the hill. Most of the trails in China Camp are fairly wide for singletrack and the technical level is low. There is one section though where you’re riding on a pretty narrow uphill on the edge of a ravine with roots and rocks jutting here and there trying to throw you off your line.

On the SS, it’s just a matter of momentum. As long as I could keep the pace up and keep the legs pumping, things went well. There were a couple of sections though where I almost stalled out and at one point I had a pedal strike that threatened to send me off my line and over the edge. I made it though as did everyone in the lead group. We reassembled at the next intersection waited for the others to catch up…..and waited….and waited…..

Finally Troy and I decided to head back down and check on them. Several turns down the trail we came across Bob, Jerry, Brig, Pam and Angel walking up the path. Jerry was muddy pretty much head to toe and explained that his front wheel had slid off a rock, hit the wooden border to the trail and caused him to high-side over the edge sliding waaaaay down the ravine before he could stop.

Thankfully he wasn’t too badly injured but had lost his glasses and his knee was tweaked from trying to stop his slide.

As we all got back up to the regrouping spot, we decided that Nick and Troy would lead the rest of the group on the remainder of the ride and Jerry, Bob, Angel and I would head back via the shortest route possible with Jerry either coasting or walking his bike. His knee was definitely swelling up and pedaling was out of the question.

Eventually, we made it back to the parking area where the gang was gathered waiting to see what the plan was. Jerry having taken a couple of Tylenol, was actually feeling pretty ok so the normal post ride BBQ and beverages commenced.

It wasn’t till I was home later, having cleaned and lubed the bikes, showered and relaxing on the couch that it really dawned on me just how badly things could have ended. We’re actually lucky it was wet and muddy as he slid down the hill instead of tumbling. We’re lucky he only tweaked his knee and didn’t break any bones and we’re lucky that we were in a group. If someone had gone off the trail without anyone seeing it, they’d probably still be down there.

Overall, this was yet another memorable DATMBA with good friends, good weather and luckily for us, a good result to what could have been a bad situation...
I guess Oscar Wilde said it best when he said….Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.