I May Have Restarted Winter

Much of the US is currently experiencing what experts like to call “winter”. Cold temperatures, wind, and frozen precipitation known as “snow”. Much of the northern hemisphere is engulfed in this same phenomenon. The 2018 Olympics may go down as the coldest on record. Here in the west we have not seen this same weather pgisstriattern. Locally we saw one snowstorm on Christmas day… and nothing since. After writing this, I’m preparing to go play golf. In FEBURARY. I may or may not wear shorts.

I am a little worried that I may have inadvertently restarted winter though. Yesterday I washed and cleaned the truck and we all know what happens when you wash the car. I also took my mountain bike in to the shop. I went for a ride the other day (in FEBURARY) and had a minor issue with the front brakes rubbing.

The bro at the shop seemed like a good guy. He had all the lingo down. “Hey bruther, how ya doing?” “Ah, that’s just righteous dude!” “Oh, such a buzzkill when you can’t get your flow on.” I think I understood most of it. He seemed genuinely sad for me that my ride wasn’t working. He put my bike up on the stand and starting giving it the once over. Like a doctor doing a proctology exam he pushed and measured, occasionally shaking his head and muttering to himself. Finally he looked up with sad puppy dog eyes and said, “bro, you’ve got some stuff we need to take care of”.

I am such a sucker. You do not want me negotiating anything for you. Apparently I have issues with my forks, fork seals, drive train, pistons, pads, badly designed first generation brakes, chain stretch… my eyes glazed over at that point. My aggressive, no nonsense response was “uhm, ok”.

I suspect the only original thing I’ll get back is my seat. The shop called shortly after I got home and said they’d have to order parts. It’ll be next week before it’s ready. Did I want to take advantage of the 12 month no interest financing plan?

Wait a week to hit the trails again? No problem. Check the weather to ensure we can still ride and… cold and active weather pattern is developing for next week.

If you’re not a fan of winter, I’m sorry. I may have jinxed this early spring for you. I guess I’ll get the ski gear ready to go. Will probably have to take stuff in to the shop for a tune up. Wonder how much that will cost me?

Are You Hurt, Or Are You Injured?

Back in the Paleozoic era, I played Pop-Warner football. I remember one game when I got my “bell rung”. The sophisticated first aid of the time was smelling salts and some weird pushing on your diaphragm to get you to breathe again. Executed by “the coach” who had comprehensive medical training which consisted of watching M*A*S*H reruns. It was probably a pretty good concussion (which may explain that strange twitch I still have) since I didn’t remember much after that. What I do remember was coach asking if I was hurt, or injured? I said I didn’t know, so he sat me on the bench for a few plays. He came over and conducted a thorough neurological exam by asking if I felt ready to go back in. I must have said yes, ’cause I played the rest of the game.

pain.jpgTo this day, I’m still not entirely sure which is which. Do you go back in the game if you’re injured or hurt? I know that if there’s no pain, there’s no gain. Also, pain is just weakness leaving the body. So if I have pain someplace, I know it hurts but does it mean I’m injured? No, wait – I’m merely injured not hurt. But what if it ’tis only a flesh wound? I’m so confused.

What I do know is that these days something always hurts. The current inventory is as follows:

  • A shoulder that aches all the time from arthritis and a torn supraspinatus resulting from a mountain bike crash.
  • An acute elbow, epicondyle / tendon strain from the climbing gym.
  • A couple of wicked blisters from a several thousand feet of climbing in poorly fitting boots to get some backcountry turns in fresh powder.
  • An odd pain in the back of my knee that comes and goes. Probably a blood clot.
  • And worst of all… I stabbed the roof of my mouth eating Doritos. Those little bastards are sharp.

Anyone with more a few more brain cells than me would realize that at my age I should probably spend more time at the library rather than pretending father time doesn’t exist. Getting old sucks. I don’t remember having these issues when I was younger. We just went out and did things. No warm up. No stretching. No specialty hot-house yoga classes to focus our inner chi so we can properly concentrate on hydrating with our pomegranate energy drinks. We drank water. Or orange flavored Gatorade if you were lucky. We carried salt tablets when we went backpacking. I’m not sure what I was supposed to do with them, but I brought ’em every trip.

soccerbubbleApparently today kids can get a concussion simply riding their scooters into a strong headwind. It won’t be long before football disappears completely, replaced by hoards of young soccer players – encased head to toe in temperature controlled, memory foam suits and $2,000 cranial protective devices. Each player will be subjected to a 28 point neurological exam by the on-field physician and lawyer before being allowed to go home.

I miss the days of feeling young and invincible. Of not walking my bike around an obstacle but instead thinking, “I bet I could jump that. What could possibly go wrong?” You’re not going to get any extra credit points for meeting your maker with zero scars. Besides, what’s a few concussions here and there? I don’t drool that much. Now, where did I leave my car keys? I’m out of Doritos.bigwheel


I Ride A Pink Bike

Yesterday I was able to go on a mountain bike ride for the first time in months. Way up here in the frozen north, winter tends to interrupt such activities. Ok, not exactly frozen… we get snow a couple of times a winter. But it does get cold which makes my nose run. Perhaps growing up in a temperate climate has diluted my hearty Swedish genes somewhat?  Anyway, the point is that the trails get too muddy to ride if you’re the responsible type.  Since I’m a rule follower I did my part and sat in a chair for three months, moving as little as possible.

Shockingly, this did terrible things to my once meager fitness level.  And as I near the half-century mark, nothing depresses me more than people older than me who are in better shape.  So of course, there I was on my first real ride in months, huffing, puffing, wheezing like an old inner tube with a leak as I climbed up a trail I flew up last summer.  And by flew I mean I rode it without stopping.  And once outrode a twelve-year-old girl to the top (a high point in my career).  Struggling with my climb I heard bikes coming up behind me.  I did what comes naturally and pretended to have a mechanical issue so I could stop and let them by.

Three old coots (at least ten years older than me) went by at near race speed, carrying on a conversation, going uphill faster than I normally go down. A devastating blow to my already fragile ego.  Once they were gone I climbed back on the bike and slogged my way up. And sure enough as I got towards the top, the three old dudes were up there stopped and chatting away.  With the last hundred yards in full view of my audience, I pushed myself to the red zone.  A tactical mistake, as once you’re in the red zone you need oxygen… and it’s really hard to suck in your gut and pretend you’re not breathing hard when your brain is screaming for O2.  I think I got a little light-headed at that point.

After giving the traditional ‘bro nod and “hey, ‘sup?” (also known as the urban white dude greeting), I made some lame comment about taking too much time off during the offseason.  The obvious leader of this group of geriatric fitness freaks looked at me and actually said something very profound.  “Well”, he said, “nothings free. You gotta earn your beers.”  With that they mounted up, said have a good ride, and off they went.

I spent the rest of my ride thinking about what this Bodhi Zafa of cycling had told me.  He’s right.  Earn your beers (or chips ‘n salsa, cake, or tasty Cheez It’s snack treats) by going out and playing hard.  I used to do that. We all did when we were younger.  Why do we stop?  How did “working out” become a chore that had to be done rather than something fun we did?bike

A hundred years ago I used to be that way. It was hard to get me off my bike back then.  I must have had an attachment to it, as twenty-  eight years later I still ride that same bike on my daily commute.  A 1985 Miyata 912.  A reasonably high-end bike at the time.  It saw a little racing and a lot of road miles.  And yes, it had a black and pink paint scheme.  Super popular for the eighties.  Not so much for a number of years.  Now… I get a lot of compliments on it.  What was old is new again.

Today is another beautiful day.  Time to go out and earn a few beers.

Hurtling Down The Mountain

I honestly think I could have won medals in the downhill. Maybe not gold, but I’d definitely have been on the podium.  When it comes to skiing, I am a Norse god. I am the very definition of fluid, harmony, and grace in motion.  That is, as long as I’m on a groomed run named after either a bunny or a Disney character. And, if you squint and ignore the 12 year olds flying past me.  I am the original rock star of the groomed intermediate trails.

If you’ve ever hit the slopes you recognize that coolness factor some people exude.  Those people who have the right gear, not too flashy, simple and comfortable looking.  They never look cold or too hot, smothered in 20 layers of Walmart fleece.  They never slip while slogging through an icy parking lot in ill-fitting boots.  They ski fast and with a simple fluidity, skis close together, with an easy rhythm in any terrain. You hear them talking about runs you’ve never heard of, backcountry excursions, and levels of vertical that are vertigo inducing.

I am not one of those people.  My gear never really works.  My skis are of an “old school” vintage.  In the cold my nose runs with a disturbing volume.  I am either cold or sweating like I just ran a marathon.  My legs lack the strength to go down a long run in one shot.  I wear ill-fitting goggles I stole from my wife.  My gloves are from Costco and my jacket was manufactured before the current crop of high schoolers were born.  My poles are so old I honestly don’t remember where I got them.  They may be rentals that never got returned.

When faced with terrain that tips more towards the vertical, my fluid, carving turns instantly become an awkward snow plow.  Bumps and moguls?  Only if you want to see a grown man cry.  Deep powder?  I have lost skis and spent thirty minutes trying to extricate myself from deep holes, only to repeat it fifty yards further down.  Chairlifts?  Yes, I have fallen off.  I have run into trees, trail markers, other skiers, and a chairlift.  I have fallen on flat cat tracks, in front of the lodge, in the parking lot, and while putting my skis on.

Why would I continue to subject myself to such abuse?  Because I love the sport.  I plan on skiing until the doctors tell me I can no longer continue for fear of permanent damage to my ego.  Or until it becomes a risk to my fledgling mountain bike racing career.

Harvey Bear Photos

A few photos from the most recent mountain bike ride at Harvey Bear county park. It’s an interesting park in the south bay I never knew existed until we moved out to Morgan Hill. It seems to be primarily used by equestrians and cows. I’d classify it as more of a fitness ride on the bike. A good mix of hills and some fun downhill. Worth a visit on a bike or hike.

Ode To Cows

With your rough coat protecting you from the elements, saliva slowly drips from your cow lips.

I try to slip past without disturbing your cud, changing gears to power over the rough trail, deep divots from your hooves, standing on the muddy trail. How I love your vacant stare, steaming piles, dung shaped like frisbees, rib eye and filets, hamburger.

Calves in the spring are frisky and curious, cute eyelashes, running in the fields, speckled coats of every color. Leather jackets size forty-two long, perfect for a night on the town.

Porcine may be the ruler of barbecue, chickens are the king of breakfast supplies and spicy wings, but the bovine gives us calcium and work gloves, giardia is really just a weight loss method. Cruel? Cows are stupid, uncooperative, inconvenient, ill-tempered creatures. They get what they deserve.  A steak is what I crave.

Yo, Pay Attention

So I’m out on a mountain bike ride yesterday. A good climb up and over a ridgeline that drops down into a valley. At about the halfway point it’s fairly isolated. Probably six miles from the parking lot. Singletrack and semi-wooded. Later in the day and the sun is dropping below the ridge and shadows are creeping in. Zipping along having a blast I spotted a hiker up ahead on the trail. Female, young-ish, alone. I slowed down, skidded my tires a bit, cleared my throat, tried to make some noise so I wouldn’t startle her. Clearly she didn’t hear me, so at about 20 yards I said “good afternoon – coming around on your left”.

This poor girl jumped about 5 feet and looked like someone just set a firecracker off at her feet. I’d clearly scared the hell out of her. She wasn’t wearing headphones or talking on the phone. Just meandering along in her own world, completely oblivious to everything around her. It amazes me how clueless people can be. I have no problem with doing stuff solo, but for gods sake have a little situational awareness! I’m certainly not advocating that folks need to practice military type tactics when hiking or jogging, but take a second and think about your situation. Look behind you from time to time, don’t wear headphones if you’re alone in an isolated area, look around the parking lot before you walk to your car, etc…

I love seeing people getting outside and enjoying nature. Everyone should take a risk once in a while and get of the paved walking path at the neighborhood park. Head out somewhere away from people. We’ve become a society too conditioned to everything being sanitized and safe. Just be aware of your current situation and what’s around you. Besides, when you’re paying attention you have a better chance of spotting wildlife.

I, of course, am a hyper-vigilant person. For a very good reason. Snakes. I’m petrified of ’em. I spend my biking and hiking time avoiding sticks and shadows, convinced it’s a snake. I pull my earbuds out for much of the time when I’m running for fear of not hearing the rattle of the giant fifteen foot diamondback waiting for me around the corner. The worse part of my fear is that I’m a frigg’n snake magnet for some reason. They’re usually just garter snakes, but I’m convinced those are just the advanced scouts for the bigger snakes.

Sigh… it’s exhausting being me sometimes.

 

See You At The Top

Endurance activities are a funny thing. Of course conditioning and training play a big part, but for me the mental aspect is almost more important. A week or so ago I was doing a mountain bike ride that’s pretty much a four mile climb straight up. As you get near the top there’s a really steep climb. Lung searing, legs burning, I might barf sort of a hill. At the top of that climb, with almost no break, is another even steeper, longer hill.

When I rode this last time I made it up the first hill. Still completely anaerobic, gasping for air I started up the second. About a third of the way I glanced up towards the top. When I saw how much further I had to go I could feel a wave of defeat flow over me. I just knew I’d never make it to the top. With a bunch of people watching I stopped. Doing the equivalent of the walk of shame, I had to push my bike the rest of the way up the hill.

Fast forward to yesterday when I did the same ride. I felt great the entire way up. When it came to the two final hills I already knew I’d be able to clean both of ’em. Sure enough I rode up them with ease and even managed to chat with someone on the trail on the way up. How did I do that? My conditioning couldn’t have improved that much in a week. Same bike, same weather conditions, same breakfast. There’s something about a positive mental attitude that does wonders for performance. Now, if I could just figure out how to have that same attitude every day!