Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Redwood Rd....One Long Measuring Stick....

This past Sunday I rode from Castro Valley, out through Redwood Rd and into the Oakland Hills.  Redwood Rd is a ride I've done a ton of times. (I would guess at least 50 probably even more)  It's one of the first real climbs I did after getting my road bike several years ago and has been sort of a benchmark for me ever since.

It's a two and a half mile climb from the golf course to the entrance to the campground. It's not brutally steep but it is a very good measuring stick by which to gauge my fitness level.  In the beginning, this was a 2 stop ride to the top meaning I couldn't do it without stopping twice to recover.  I've never had to stop on the way up since the first couple of times, but there have been varying levels of enjoyment/suffering throughout the years.

I've never been fast, but there have been times when I could do this in under 15 minutes and feel pretty good. There have been other times when it's taken me more than 20 minutes and I've arrived at the top spent and wishing I had rested part way up.

This past Sunday was one of the less enjoyable days...thankfully my GPS was home charging so I don't know how long it actually took me, but I do know when I got to the top, I was hurting and it was almost tomorrow....

The rest of the ride was pretty much more of the same.  Uphills that killed me and downhills that weren't quite long enough to recover.  I spent the day getting passed by everyone and the only person I actually passed was walking his dog up the street.

The bad news is that the ride was painful and I ended up actually cramping up towards the end.  The good news is that like a decrepit crack fiend, I have no-where to go from here but up....

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mental Health Day....

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in a while. I skipped church and went for a bike ride instead.
And I have to admit, I didn't even feel guilty about it.  The past few weeks have been crazy busy and my time in the saddle has not been at all what I hoped it would be when I made my resolution to ride more this year.

So, yesterday, instead of getting up early and going to church, I got up early, loaded up my ipod with a bunch of worship music and headed out into the hills to spend some time enjoying God's creation.  And it was awesome!

My fitness level is nowhere near where it should be so every climb was painful and every descent a chance to recover.  Unfortunately on the route I had chosen, the easy flat spinning portions were few and far between.

A long painful climb is a perfect opportunity to spend time inside my head thinking about life and how blessed I am.  Although I live in the city, I have, within a 10 minute drive, a myriad of opportunities to get out into the surrounding hills and enjoy His creation.  The roads that connect the cities of Hayward and Oakland are unlike either place. Where at both ends I have traffic, stoplights, gangs and end to end strip malls that look identical to every other one, the roads in between are populated by hills, narrow roads, redwood trees, eucalyptus groves, and an opportunity to avoid people and imagine I live somewhere idyllic.

Anyone that watches the news has an idea and an opinion of what Oakland is like.  And, unfortunately, a lot of those opinions are true for portions of the town.  What most people don't know is that the hills above Oakland are some of the more expensive and exclusive neighborhoods in the bay area.  The views alone guarantee that.

The weather on Sunday was absolutely perfect.  Clear and cool, but not as cold as it has been of late.  While the views from the top of Skyline are always good, there was a bit of wind on Saturday which ensured that come Sunday morning you could literally see for miles....Another great reason to live where I do...

After taking a few pictures, I put my earbud back in and enjoyed the rewards of the morning climbs.  Nice, long, fast downhills with absolutely no traffic....

Eventually, I made it back to the truck and feeling completely spent and blissfully happy enjoyed a Peet's coffee on the ride home while thinking again, how blessed I am to be able to miss church yet still have a morning enjoying God's goodness....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The New Year, A Time of for Reflection and Resolutions....

New Year's Day...a time of resolutions...new beginnings...a chance to look forward to see what the coming year holds for our lives. It's also a time to reflect on the previous year....

Today, several of my friends and I took a bike ride over the Golden Gate bridge and up into the Marin Headlands.  Once you cross the bridge, Conzelman Rd to the top is nice steady climb with amazing views.  It was also a great chance to spend some time inside my head reviewing the previous year.  Yes, there have been some challenges, but our lives have also been tremendously blessed.

Both of our daughters have grown into smart, beautiful, strong, independent women of faith.  Both my wife and I have good jobs, we live in a nice home and have food on our table.  Our health, while there have been some challenges, is good and we want for nothing.
Of course I don't want you to think I live in some sort of nirvana.  My job continues to be a struggle, but we haven't missed a payroll yet.  My wife lost both her father and her brother this year and she continues to struggle with her health, but overall, we still have more to be thankful for than not.

One of my favorite things about cycling, in addition to the fitness benefits, the places it takes me and the friends that I've made through it, is the ability to just check out during a nice long climb.  It seems that in a world where we're busy from the time we wake up until we go to bed at night, the ability to just zone out aand contemplate the world's problems is a rare thing.
 Eventually, the climb ended and with it the introspection. As I stopped looking inward and took note of my surroundings, I was once again driven to realize just how blessed I am.  It's the first day of January and I'm at the top of a hill, admiring an amazing view and hanging out with good friends. Life is definitely good!
New Year's is also a time of resolutions. Or in my case an opportunity to refocus on previously made resolutions. One thing I've found is that for me to have and enjoy some balance in my life I need to make sure I have healthy outlets.  In the past these have taken the form of running, working out and over the past few years cycling.  This year my new, revisited resolution is to ride more.  Lately, due to work and some family stuff, I've been lucky to get in one ride a week.

The result of this is that not only has my weight gone up and my fitness level down, my "balance" has been upset.  I've found that my normal positive disposition has soured slightly, my ability to see the silver lining has dimmed, and my ability to shrug off the small stuff has been diminished.

This year, I plan on getting that balance back. I "resolve" to ride or get some sort of exercise regularly and I resolve to reclaim my life from the evil forces of work and responsibility and spend more times in places like those in the photos from yesterday's ride.