Friday, November 26, 2010

November Singletrack

I put in an honest eight at work on Thanksgiving Day, getting out of the office at 2:30p. Working on Thanksgiving is one of the best days of the year because all of a sudden everyone is so goddamn happy. Garbage disposal stuck? No problem – fix it Friday! You can’t get your favorite game on TV because the channel is out? No problem – there are plenty of games to watch this weekend! I think that family time cures a lot of ailments in the first 24 hours, but after that, it causes more than it cures.

Regardless, it was a good start to the day, but the best was yet to come. It was 23 degrees when I got home, but the sun was shining. I costumed-up, grabbed the singlespeed, and hit the snow covered singletrack for a pre-meal ride. The window of opportunity to ride snow covered trails is so small…..but when you have ½” – 1” of snow cover, cold air, and warm sun – it’s optimal. Great traction, no sloppy slush, and where the hell is everyone? Inside, by their fireplaces and/or stuffing their faces, I take it. Cutting corners hard, climbing with snow flying off the tread, occasionally hitting a clear spot of tacky dirt where my speed would quickly double. Great. Fun. Smiling from ear to ear.

Mmmm, we had baked turkey fillets, roasted root vegetables including rutabagas, turnips, and sweet potatoes with a nice side salad. Pumpkin pie followed with a fookin’ pound of homemade whipped cream. That’s as good as it gets, aside from the fact that by little blondie was in Phoenix.

The good news is that I get to leave work on Friday around 2p, and I’m headed down to get her for a weekend soccer tournament. 65 degrees, sun, and four games +1 if they get into the finals on Sunday morning. Yeah buddy – I’m ready to go and it’s only 8:57a.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Flagstaff Athletes

If you ask anyone who plays any sport out here if they have been training and/or staying in shape, you always and I repeat ALWAYS get the same answer: “Not really, every now and then, but I’m not competing or anything”. The following weekend after your discussion, said person climbs the podium at nearly any event they enter.

Bring up the subject of their most recent ride or run, and you often her terms like ‘vert’ (vertical feet climbed), and other asinine stats that originate from their stem or wrist mounted Garmin. For example: “We hit the summit of Agassiz, dropped back down, and looped the west side of Elden just to reach an even 25. It was 6+ vert with a max 12% grade in 3:40. We’re gonna’ go rim to rim to rim at the Grand Canyon next weekend, you want in?”

Do I want in – are you fucking kidding me?

This is a classic way for Flagstaff athletes to finish their story for two reasons. 1) There are enough people in town who could do that workout at the required pace, so they are serious when they ask if you want to join…..and 2) It’s their way of staying humble - because even though they are aware that running rim to rim to rim is stupid-hard, they also know that there are 100+ people in town that could kick their ass on that route. There is always somebody who can beat your best.

I’m not an athlete by our local definition because I can’t hold a candle to the fast people in town. However, I have fallen into this trap myself. Posting words about elevation gained and lost on rides as if flatlanders would ooooohhhh and aaaahhhhh nodding their heads in amazement, or talking about dangerous exposure points that are “easy if you know the line”. Passing on a 3-hour Sunday ride in favor of a 5 hour marathon because “I need the miles”. Is this an ‘Out West’ thing similar to the way the athletes talk in Durango, Bend, SLC, and Vail? I think it is, and I think a lot of people move out west to experience BIG. Big mountains, rivers, trails, storms, and powder. I love big too, I’m just now figuring out I don’t have to talk quite…. so……big.

So today, I got outside early, just as the sun began to think about coming up. I was chasing the warmth as the rays met the treetops and slowly made their way down to me – on two wheels – on the ground. I stripped off a layer and made my way through the singletrack route. A half dozen deer left me in their dust, and I couldn’t help but notice just how cumbersome I must have looked to them; dodging, dropping off of, and climbing over rocks along a strip of trail when they could bound across the earth in any direction over any terrain. As I headed home, it felt warm. Work was looming, but anytime I can get out and play before work, well, I’m a pretty good boy the rest of the day.

See what I mean? I could have been in NC, MN, AZ, or eastern Kansas. It’s about the ride for me, and that’s what imma’ focus on. I’ll leave the stats to the fast guys.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

burnt down to the coals

I was on my way to the hot tub this morning. It was still dark out, and as I made my way through the living room I could see my old girl Jamocha was walking around in anticipation of her breakfast. 15 years, and she’s skipped one meal. I gave her a mulligan on that one since it was post-surgery.

My right foot hit a warm pile of Labrador-made soft serve. I put my other foot down, and hit another. Thankfully, I have heels and they got me to the bathtub without further incident. That was a faster wake-up than I needed. 10 minutes later the pooch was chowin’ breakfast and I was in the hot tub lookin’ at stars and shit.

The fire inside of me has burnt down to coals. No riding. No running. If it weren’t for pull-ups and body weight exercises, I’d be classified as a typical sedentary American. Work has been steady and good in a lot of ways because we’re on a successful run, and my little bean Lyza B has kept me running with her homework/club soccer/social life. At the end of every day, its 9:45pm – Lyza is asleep, the dogs are asleep, and I’ve got a warm house and a book…..and that feels fortunate and fine.

I’m not sure what it will take to stoke the fire inside. Racing bikes feels like a shell of what it meant in early October. Skiing and Boarding are on my mind but it’ll be a while before opening day. The short days are here for 3 months, and it just feels right to take advantage of the down time and have an inward look at just what the fuck is important to me – besides the obvious.

Underneath the barely glowing embers, I still have a bonfire of passion for riding on two wheels. The bikes will be on the rack waiting for me in January when it’s colder than cold, and I do look forward to suffering on cold training days. The pain of underperforming in April always wins over a warm house and a book in January. Yup, it’ll be there when I’m ready.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fat Man's Pass

Saturday morning I set out alone, and rolled into the garage at almost 3 hours on the nose. It felt like I was in slow motion, just climbing steady with no energy to speed it up, and little ambition to spark the energy. Groves of yellow aspen appeared at various points, and I found some fresh singletrack that was in the process of being built. Love it. After 2 hours and 15 minutes of climbing, it was time to get some payback, and I made sure to draw out that process with some more down than up rollers, followed by a plunge back to the hovel on Cedar Ave. Well done. I spent the whole time thinking about things going on with me and around me, and not once was I able to let it go. Fuck I hate that. In hindsight, it was probably a male therapy session, because guys don’t talk very well to therapists – at least this one doesn’t. The trees and the wind said I was a’ight, so I believed ‘em.

This morning I woke up leisurely after putting in a full day at the office on Sunday. I had a 9am ride booked with Wilkens, and he showed up with his road bike. We got our signals mixed up, and so we high tailed it back to his house to get his phat tire rig. Hey, given a choice on a cool fall day, I’m riding the woods EVERY TIME. Fuckin’ skinny tires don’t stand a chance when the singletrack is tacky.

We bolted into the forest to get outta’ the wind, and I led CW across the technical side of Mt. Elden. This portion of trail isn’t ridden all that much because of the steps/drops/loose granite, and sharp high desert cactus shit all over the place. In my world, it’s a blast and CW was right there with me as probably my only riding buddy who likes risking his body and beating his bike up. We opted for Fat Man’s Pass which includes a 10 minute hike-a-bike section that then leads to the holy grail. 1.5 miles of downhill that looks flat out unrideable, and you best be slithery ‘cause you won’t fit through many of the downhill chutes. It’s white knuckle fun, and worst case scenario is you stack it, fall 4-5 feet into Prickly Pear cactus, some sharp Manzanita tree branches, or you get all raspberried on granite boulders. The point of all this fun you ask?….for 2.5 hours I didn’t even think about work/family/life and the ride?….as my buddy JK loves to say when he sees a hot Hopi woman: “phenomenal”. You’re God damn right it was, the blood on my knee was phenomenal. The two sets of hikers who asked us if we were crazy – phenomenal. The clear blue sky – phenomenal, and the fact that I could get out and do this on a Monday, well that was worth every hour I put in on Sunday - phenomenal. It was all just so freakin' phenomenal.

CW was beat to shit by the end. Not physically, just mentally. It’s tiring riding that stuff, and I think he’s got a lot on his plate too as he’s considering relocating the fam to California for better employment. That’s a lot to think about, and I’m afraid his Monday ride was like my Saturday ride. We’ll get after it again on Wednesday and I have a feeling we’ll both be in the right place. We have a race in a month, and beer/food is on the line as a side bet against another duo. We’ll be ready, or, we’ll be full and drunk, or all three.