Monday, April 1, 2013

Tip this, Fat Man

Oh, Mr. Ignorant Fat Man, in your beige-ish Malibu of a few model years ago, headed West on Hwy H this past Easter Sunday, just East of the Hwy EE junction, with the likely-plump baby in the backseat's rear-facing car seat, oh how I hope you were truly amused...

I was 65 miles into an 80 mile bike ride, minding my own business, enjoying my out-in-the-country bliss of cranking away through a substantial right-to-left crosswind when you thought it most appropriate to try out Mater's "tractor tipping" approach on this unsuspecting cyclist.

You eased up on me pretty quiet, almost like your lardy-ness was tip-toe-ing on the tires just like good ol' Tow-mater in the scene above.  The anticipation and excitement of the moment must have been riveting in your nickel-sized brain.  I'd just noticed the sound of your WalMart tires when you sprung into action:  rolling up beside me, doing nearly the exact same speed, just out of my peripheral laid on that puzzy-azz horn with all your dough-ish bulk.

I was startled, to say the least.  Trying my best (and I'm thankfully pretty damn good at it) to hold my line, I looked to the left, ready to quickly identify issue, threat to my person, and what evasive actions I might be required to perform.  Alas, I found no danger, no issue...just your ugly, fat, balding mug with a shit-eating grin, your cellulite spilling over the consol to smother your ever-so-proud wife (I mean, holding her face in her hands while she shook her hanging head IS how she shows her pride, right?!?) while you held your sausage link thumbs-up in clear view of the passenger window.

What were you hoping & expecting me to do, exactly?  You may live in a Disney cartoon reality, but while I can pop a pretty mean wheelie, even on a road bike, it's not the usual response from a frightened-for-no-good-effing-reason cyclist.  What you didn't consider in your funnier-than-a-fat-man-trying-to-wipe moment of jest, however, is how easily that little prank could've gone seriously wrong.  Aforementioned right-to-left crosswind? Yeah, were I any more surprised & distracted, that 20+ mph North wind could've quickly put me on your hood, into the side of your car, or even under your front wheels.  Boy howdy!  Now THAT woulda been some funny shit, eh?  THAT woulda surely made Mrs. Ignorant Fat Man proud of you to a whole new level, don't ya think?  Well played Sir Six Chins, well played.

I really did then enjoy exchanging hand signals with you, but I refrained from using the finger you deserved - nothing but big smiles, return thumbs-up, and a genuine wave to "come on back, Mr. Ignorant Fat Man - let's have us a l'il chat." You didn't. Obviously intimidated by my still riding upright, lycra-clad, 165-ish pounds of intimidation. It's too bad. I really think that woulda been an equally entertaining episode for me.

I do hope you and yours enjoyed the Happiest of Easter, made even happier by your "bike tippin'" ploy.  No, no, really, it's now truly been my pleasure...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Leg bliss and the 5th dimension

I've been kinda quiet in the blog-land area of life, well, cuz I just ain't had too much worthy of (or appropriate for...?) sharing with the general public beyond my near-daily blips on Facebook.  Nothing that's been too inspirational, uniquely entertaining or incredibly useful - just life going on life's terms and me coming through it pretty damn well no matter how much I sometimes revolt.

In the last month or so, though, I've found myself stumbling back to a place I first accidentally discovered near the beginning of this 2012th year - a semi-euphoric state I like to call..."leg bliss".  I'll go ahead and claim this as my own original term, and maybe it is, but I doubt it's so original.  I mean, I didn't even attach this title to what I'm feeling until I lost it and got it back, but it does pretty exactly identify the wonderful space I find myself again savoring.

So...what the phug is"leg bliss"?  Quite simply it's when your legs just do whatever it is you want 'em to.  I, of course, mean this primarily with regards to bicycling, but that's just where I get it. You know, when you're on a ride and it doesn't seem to matter how fast, slow, long or difficult the ride gets you just keep going and enjoying cuz your legs don't care and keep moving you in whatever direction you desire?  That is leg bliss.  It's not just a matter of fitness, strength & speed, but a combination of miles/hours on the bike, you're overall serenity level, and where you set your expectations.

The leg bliss I enjoyed most of this spring (and eventually took for granted) lasted precisely until I expected it to continue and/or to deliver specific results - losing track of the exact core of the deal:  that it's based in enjoyment, not results.  It took an entire month off the bikes to even have a chance at it again.  It took getting my serenity back in the right place.  Most of all, though, it took some serious expectation house cleaning.  I'd lost track of the "what" and got my panties all wadded up about the "why".  Painful lesson - read back a few posts if you really need a re-visit...

Anyway, September has been a wonderful example of the renewed bliss-ness of my lower extremities.  From mellow rides with close friends to a high-tempo roadie 106 miler.  From accidental Strava "KOM" mountain bike rides that were more fun than anything to BMX practices & races with my 6 year old son.  From impromptu trials demo's to my first-ever cyclocross race just today - my legs are simply diggin' the jobs I continue to put in front of 'em.  More important, I'm attaching my enjoyment, happiness and satisfaction purely on the intangibles of the ride - not the results.

With today's endeavor into the mildly sick and twisted world of cyclocross, I now voluntarily practice 5 different varieties of 2-wheeled-ness that I can use to maintain this latest addiction:  road, mountain, trials, BMX and 'cross.  Wow...all different but all with the ability to get me "bliss'ed out" - effing cool, eh?  Hell, I even tried running this week (on purpose, without being chased or in danger! I know, right??!!) and I have to admit the legs seemed to adapt well to it...a sixth variety???  We'll see...

Right now my legs hurt, they are tired, but the body & soul as a whole are content.  That is "leg bliss", and since this is my 2nd go around there's a good chance I'll actually remember that this feeling IS the prize, the goal, and the best possible result.

Ride on.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I learned from a $100 T-shirt

I've typed, deleted and re-typed this latest entry multiple times as it seems I'm just looking for a crafty, creative way to voice this update from the Department of the Obvious.  Some way to express my last 8 weeks of self-sabotage in a way more entertaining venue than the simple truth - I stressed myself right out of the fun of riding and taking part in an epic ride/race that would've surely challenged me in a rewarding fashion.'s hard to be your own worst enemy.  I apparently have such a strong mind that I can drive my body to imitate symptoms of anemia, lactic acidosis, and/or some form of myopathy or even chronic fatigue.  Wow.  I really have to find a way to use this power for good and not evil, eh?

But instead, it took suffering through 35% of an Arkansas race my gut said I should've skipped, riding through the subsequent ailments that decision brought me, using another few weeks to suffer as I forced myself to ride when I knew I shouldn't, ignoring repeated, calm, sensible Big Worm advice of "you might be over-doing it - take it easy, relax, rest, and just ride when you feel like riding", and 3 vials of blood worth of medical testing to get me where I'm at.   Where I'm at is the happy owner if the $95.75 race t-shirt pictured above, included with the registration for a really tough race I signed up for 6 months ago under the honest and appropriate motivation of purely, "I wonder if I could do that???".  A race I didn't start because my mind had pushed my body to the point it pretty much stopped working.

What did I learn?  I can remove all the fun, enjoyment and reward from anything I make too important and take too seriously.  If anyone else put as much pressure on me as I put on myself, I'd have no option but to kick that sum-bitch's ass.  But, somewhere amongst all the fun of my first Felasco, first (and incredibly rewarding & enjoyable) 3 and 6 hour races, multiple 50 - 85 mile road & gravel rides, and numerous hours on the trail I lost sight of what I was enjoying and focused only on a "why" to do it.  Damn shame.

While exchanging Facebook banter with a friend in Boulder about all the symptoms and suffering I was experiencing a few weeks back, she offered her condolences, but more importantly included, "Perhaps there is some blessing disguised behind this." Yanno? I can really hate to be told shit like that when in the midst of stirring up a good pity-pot, but I'll be damned if she wasn't right.  Once I resigned to the fact I wouldn't/couldn't race, I instead started putting my efforts into the "where, what & when" of family activities to be enjoyed during our annual vacation in Colorado.

The last dose of irony and humility came on July 14th at 9:00am.  We'd built our trip around the Silver Rush 50, had the rental house in Leadville paid for, so, might as well pick up my race t-shirt and go and watch the start.  What I learned there was so basic, so elementary, so...obvious that it truly put chills up my spine - other than maybe 50-100 truly serious, hard-core racers, these were just 1,000 or so normal folks following through on their personal "I wonder if I could do that???" mission.  The very mission I somehow lost sight of.

Other than the temporary indications of pain and hard work, all the faces that passed by me on that (brutal!) starting hill appeared to be excited about the day.  Looking forward to the challenges ahead of them.  The chance to meet, reach or exceed some individual, personal goal.  Good for them.  And good for me to see and learn from...even if I did it the hard way.

I finally let myself off the hook.  I allowed myself to get back to just having fun instead of creating pressure to attain some result.  Who knew that a simple 9 mile train ride or an exploratory "mountain climb" with my boys would be as rewarding as they were?  I was able to enjoy the entire vacation with family and friends without concern for how sore, tired, or "behind training schedule" I was.  With the right mindset (i.e., that of 3 months ago), it would've all fit nicely into our vacation plans, but there was a blessing in it all - I'd put enough pressure & expectations on this race that had I taken part it would've ruined the rest of the trip.  That t-shirt was a bargain, all things considered.

Even better?  Somewhere around day 3 or 4 of our trip, nearly 3 weeks off the bikes, the "want to" started coming back.  You know, the "want to" - the only data that Garmin cannot collect for you.  The level of "I want to ride my bicycle" that is present before, during and after a simple bicycle ride.  Finally, I was missing my bicycles.  I wanted to just go for a ride, feel the breeze, enjoy the sweat, try to out-think a turn or obstacle in the trail and simply enjoy being in the quite world of pedal power.  I got that ride this morning and it was nice.  It was normal.  My legs worked just fine, like they haven't worked in over 2 months.  My mouth even did this weird smiled.

So, with that all-too-lengthy and several times way-too-painful learning behind me, I hope to return to just being a bike rider.  Maybe a bike rider with goals, but definitely one that doesn't take himself nor pay-for-participation events too serious to miss out on the fun.

Peace on dirt.

Note:  my apologies, gratitude and love for all the friends, family, Facebookers and Earthriders that have tolerated, supported, comforted and guided me throughout the last few months.  I think the ol' Tony is back - sorry for the deviation & drama.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I shoulda just made some Meth...

Some decisions truly seem to be no-brainers - the right choice is immediately obvious, at least so far as the immediate circumstance is concerned.  Like, when I found myself at the Pharmacy counter in the Manhattan, KS Walgreens Thursday evening:  "Sir, before I can sell you this Sudafed, can you sign here to confirm that this is only for medicinal purposes?" the nice Pharmacist asked me.  The pain and pressure trying to eject my eyeballs conferred ever-so-briefly with my nostrils that hadn't felt a breeze in days, who then checked with my eardrums feeling they were about to burst and all were in agreement that this tightly regulated medicine was my only hope of making through the next 24 - 36 hours.  "Oh, most certainly!!"  After a few days of head & chest cold, having just completed several hours of lifting/moving all of a close friend's possessions into a U-Haul, contemplating the next day's 8 hour drive to central Arkansas to take part in an eight-hour-plus mountain bike race on Saturday, there was no clearer "right answer".  Or...was there?  Enter Syllamo's Revenge.

There's surely more history to this event than I took the time to find out, but it was regarded as a regional, somewhat national, all-well-regarded "epic event" held in north-central Arkansas.  Held in the Midwest's "mountain range", there are two flavors to choose from:  the 50 mile Syllamo's Revenge and the Syllamo's 125 - "125" meaning 125 kilometers, or ~75 miles.  Given the geography, I knew that 50 miles was probably plenty, but that registration had, 75 miles it is!  Besides, I wasn't (yet?) into it for race results, but simply time in the saddle on tough trails.  If I felt 50 was enough, then bail on the last 25, DNF, talk smack and compare times with the other "real" 50 mile participants.  I kept it all in good perspective - this is just another ride that some folks will be racing, but the only person I'm competing with is me.  In continued preparation I kept to riding when/whatever I could - off-road, gravel, even almost-nearly-hangin' with the "A" group on a couple local road rides.  The more I rode, the more realistic it seemed that I could complete 75 miles of trail and reviewing last year's results had me (for no good reason other than creating a goal) telling myself that 8 hours was what I'd shoot for.

We arrive in Fifty-Six, AR Friday afternoon in time to grab the bikes outa the truck for a little course "recon" and other general touristy-type wandering.  I wanted to see the start - one mile of uphill double-track gravel at 11% grade.  I needed to ride up it once just to get a taste, or a visual, or a sensory impression of what the first of 75 miles was gonna feel like.  To the legs?  I gotta say, it didn't feel all that bad.  The lungs?  They seemed to be functioning as they should.  But...why do I seem to feel all parts of my body...jiggling with every rock, root or lump my tires touched?  Having been hitting the water bottle or Gatorade all day (all week, actually), why is my mouth/throat feeling like I just finished smokin' a bowl???

It hadn't yet "clicked" that the relief that 2 doses of the little magic pill had brought me would soon be my downfall, but I decided to only take 1/2 of one the night before the race - didn't want to risk any "post-med haze" come the 7am start time.  Another good night's rest and it was go time - light breakfast, more liquids, dress, stretch, spin around, and then at 7:00 sharp me and 150+ of like-minded lycra-clad souls were off with a bang:  nuts-ta-butts, elbow-to-elbow for a brutal first mile of just...hell, getting somehow sorted out by the time we reached single-track.

I got to the top breathing loudly (like, people were looking at me kinda funny sort of "loudly"), but feeling as good as Friday's pre-ride.  The single-track was plain yummy, albeit rocky, loose, and seemingly all up-hill.  I wasn't out to set any records, tried to get into my own pace, but making a point of being sure that anyone who I let pass me on a climb felt my knobbies rubbing theirs on the next downhill.  "Drink before you're thirsty, eat before you're hungry" kept ringing through my head, and I did just that...but...very early on, things just didn't feel....right.  My legs were dead.  I seemed to keep blindly staring at the trail instead of surveying it to find the next best line.  It was 59 degrees, but within just a couple miles I'd filled the pads of my helmet with sweat that was now splashing about my face on each rough(as all hell!) downhill.  I kept feeling like "surely, my legs will 'warm up' annnnnnny minute now...?"

By mile 5, a quick inventory of all systems told me rather bluntly that 75 miles was out of the question - focus on 50 - some thing's not quite right.  I'm not that sick.  I've prepared well.  I got a great night's sleep - why do I feel so entirely whooped already?  Next?  Somewhere around mile 10 I realized I was no longer sweating. all.  It was warming up quick, the trail damn-sure wasn't getting easier, my efforts remained the same, yet I had goosebumps all over me and only growing in actual size.

Between then and the first check-point (you get a different colored wristband as pictured above at each stop), the "oh hell no you're not gonna quit!  You're 15/50th's done with this mo-fo, and you're here to ride, dammit!" discussions were in full swing between my ringing ears as I re-filled bottle and inhaled a PB & J.  From there I started chastising the trail, out-loud, in as inappropriate verbiage I could muster as I watched my average speed steadily drop with each diminishing press of the pedals.  Mild panic-attacks would start to fester, thankfully interrupted by gnarly trail that demanded full attention.

Around mile 23 I reached the 2nd check-point and found my responses to the volunteers asking "how you doing, man?!?" involved way too many words, but none of them really clear to either of us.  I wanted to quit.  I mean, like, badly wanted to quit.  "You puss!  You're just about half way - suck it up, re-mount, re-lax, and keep moving" thoughts somehow won out over the "dude, swallow the pride and ask for a ride" chant growing louder and louder.  The next couple miles lasted forever.  We crossed a road shortly after 2nd check, and I stopped to ponder gambling which way might lead fastest to my truck.  More scared of being lost off the course than miserable on it, I continued on.  It took me an HOUR to cover the 25th mile.  Frequently stopping to second, third, 27th-guess my decision to leave the 2nd check, and/or my choice to continue on instead of hitch-hiking.

Two creek crossing later I find myself tucking the front wheel in about 10 inches of water, then promptly losing my shit - to the tune of hucking the ol' GT about 20 feet downstream, loudly cursing its existence much to the amusement and/or concern of passing riders.  Now, I'm soaked, seemingly physically broken, and...sobbing...literally!  To the "I just wanna go home!" type tantrum of a pouting/scared/hurt little kid.  "OK, OK, jeeezuz, OK - it's time to quit.  Frankly, it might be about 2 hours past that time to what?"  I crawled out of the creek and started back-tracking to check-point 2, pausing at length when I came back to that paved road crossing.  With the help of Garmin, I picked a direction, not willing to ride another inch of single-track, and headed Southeast on the pavement.  I set a time limit to my pedalling and if I'd not reached something familiar by that time, I was gonna sit, sob, drink more fluids and wave down the next passing vehicle.

Thankfully, about 3 minutes prior to "thumbin' time", I came back to the 2nd check.  I rolled back in, a little over an hour since I was last there, already wearing that stop's wristband - folks noticed and I'm glad.  " OK?  Need some water?  How can we help?" shared a few nice volunteer-type folks.  Apparently my slurred responses (and goosebumps) spoke loudly to them and they pointed me to some folks heading back to the start/finish.  "Here's some ice in a wet towel and some cold water - have a seat".  "Oh, no, I'm just tired, I'm not hot at all" was my response.  "Umm...that's the problem - you're not even sweating, it's 90+ degrees, AND the skin on your legs look like sand-paper!"  I again, for some reason, offered additional explanation, "oh, I've had a head/chest cold all week, took some Sudafed the last couple days and was feeling better..." got interrupted about the time I got to "-dafed", as it was apparently world-wide common knowledge (except to me, of course, at the time I made said purchase at Walgreens) that any kind of "fed" would not only dry up my sinus, but also any and all of the hydration I tried to pack in as preparation or continue to ingest during the event.

I had mixed feelings of relief and complete idiocy on that ride from check 2 to my truck.  How did I not put 2 & 2 together?  How did I never connect the idea of "intentionally drying out parts of my body to relieve symptoms" with "this might have a real impact on my ability to take in/absorb/use fluids"...???  Seems so (pardon the Meth pun) crystal clear that my decision to still race when ill was only out-dumbed by then convincing myself that "just drink more" (another sort of "pun" aimed at those that know my whole drunk-a-logue) would surely overcome whatever impact some cold medicine might have on me.

All that to say...what seemed like a "no-brainer" decision really turned out to be exactly that, but not remotely in the way I thought it would be.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nothing at all to do with bicycles

Ah, Mother's Day.  The 2nd Sunday of May (well, as observed in the ol' U.S. of A. and many/most countries) has done come and went.  It was a beautiful, damn near perfect day here in Kansas City - cool morning in the upper 50's, light breeze, sunny with blue skies all day, reaching near 80 degrees before cooling down for the night.  I'm not sure what makes for a "perfect Mother's Day" because, well...I'm not a mother, never have been, and it's highly likely I never will be. 

Frankly, I am sure I've viewed it too much like some manufactured-for-commerce-holiday, like Black Friday or as I feel Valentine's Day has become, for a large portion of my life.  One that told me I had to spend some right amount of money and/or do something extra special each year that I would then feel compelled to out-do the next year in order to prove I actually appreciated the mothers of my world.  Looking at it like that, it's pretty easy to defend my stance...I suppose.  I most humbly have to admit, though, this type "rationale" that has supported so many of my opinions over the years is...once again...flat wrong.

Mother's Day was easy as a young kid - a day to make something for Mom to somehow try and ensure you stayed in her favor, regardless of all the trouble you had caused or were surely to create.  You had no real concept of appreciating your Mom - just how to try and keep on her good side, get what you wanted/needed from her, and move along with your kid-ly world business.

I'm sure in my late teens and 5 or 6 of my college years there wasn't a card I sent, definitely didn't make her anything, and probably a year or two that I didn't even pick up the phone.  It wasn't because I didn't "believe" in the holiday, had nothing to do with how much I truly love my mother, but simply that I had all my own uber-important life stuff to tend to and was sure there'd be other opportunities to do Mom Day right/better/something.

Then fast-forward a bit and seemingly-all-of-a-sudden, my wife is now also a mother.  As a father I found myself with a front-row seat to what is actually required to be a Mom, and more important, what's involved with being a really good one.  No matter how the division of labor is managed in the household, somehow it's always Mom who keeps it all in order, correctly pointed, coordinated, planned and cared for.  She's not only mothering my son (now two of 'em!), but both directly and indirectly helping me to continue to evolve as a father.  Yes, I'm already imagining the crap I'm gonna get if/when my wife reads this, but this shit is true, and it will only surprise & amuse her that I'm "saying it out loud"...

Anyway, through this "window seat to motherhood", you start seeing every mother around you in a different light.  No matter how "good" or "right" you think they're doing on the Mom Mission, you just can't help but finally understand a bit of what they're dealing with and admire some part of their being.  They're a mother, and that's a tough gig, plain & simple.

I'm pretty damn fortunate - I've known some fantastic mothers in my time.  I'm closely related to FIVE that I'd vote as world class, Top-Notch-Momma's, each a fantastic example of mother-ness in their own unique circumstance.  Add to that the "back-up" Mom's I had in high school, my next door neighbor, some of my closest friends and several co-workers, and there's plenty good reason for me to pause, at least for a moment on a single Sunday in May, and be somewhat in awe of what the day should/does truly represent.

Now, all that said, I will not try to say that I'm by any means a model of how "to do" Mother's Day, but I do truly hope to continue to love, learn and listen to all of the Mom's that I get to share my life with today.  At the very least, that "damn near perfect" day I spoke of earlier?  It was exactly that, and a day that I spent more-than-usual amounts of time being thankful for what day it was.  The only thing that'd made it truly "perfect" would be not having to explain just how long it took me to get there...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Must be the weather

Holy shiz-nit, it's been a while since I really let my fingers do the talking...I've just been too phuggin' busy with a lot of good stuff!  Spring 2012 has me all kinds of whacked out, and 94.73% in a good way.  So much going on, so much to do, work toward, enjoy and reflect on.  Yeah, something sure has "sprung".

April has just about blown through, but it's been packed with a lotta "firsts" (or "damn-near-firsts", and/or "first-in-a-really-freakin'-long-time"'s).  I started the month by taking my first-ever, solo "stay-cation".  It was "take a week off work to avoid quitting or getting fired" motivated, but what I actually got to do with the time made it worth a whole lot more.  I even created some goals, like:  ride a bicycle for 20 hours, do all of the school drop-offs/pick-ups of Da Boyz, knock out a buncha chores around the house, and...well, nap.  The idea behind those 9 days off really focused on giving attention to all (and only) the stuff I wanted to give attention to.  Mission accomplished in more ways than one, for sure.

The "20 hours in 7 days" idea launched on Sunday with my first-ever "gravel-grinder"...and "just" 82 miles of it.  A gravel-grinder is a clever way of saying "bicycle ride on gravel roads", and such rides were my motivation to recently purchase a cyclocross bike.  I jumped in with some hardcore dudes, but at the end of the day I was feeling proud, accomplished...and tired...and sunburned.  The normally-a-work-week kicked off with mowing, lawn chemicals, irrigation fine-tuning, and errands before another spin on the road bike.  Next day was several hours on the mountain bike capped on both ends with some fun with my sons.  Mid-way point of the week was very intense - very NAP intense.  Hey, I did say that napping was one of the goals!  83+ paved miles then on Thursday that started in mid-40 degree mist/rain and ended in 60 degree sun.  Friday included laundry, errands and a weird phone interview followed by some 'cross bike exploring and the usual Friday Family Movie Night.

Saturday was both a "first" and a "first-in-a-really-freakin'-long-time":  I took part in my first 3 hour mountain bike race, which was my first race since the calendar year started with a "2"!  As if I wasn't re-hooked on bikes enough this year, that 3h 3m of sufferin' sunk the barb even deeper (8th outa 24 results didn't hurt, either!).  It also allowed me to reach my stay-cation goal:  20h 02m, 279 miles composed of three different disciplines of pedal-power in seven calendar days. 

Needless to say (but I'm gonna say it anyway?) - for 9 days I was absolutely, positively living the dream.  I was a "kept man", a "stay-at-home, part-time Dad", a "spoiled rotten middle-aged kid" - call it what you want, but I'll bet you $1.00 of your money that you're envious!  Could I do that full time?  Hmmmm....oh HELL yes!!  Do I continue to contemplate doing just that and review the family budget and cash flow to see if it's actually possible?  For damn sure, I do!  But there's gotta be a middle ground there....somewhere...don't you think?  I gotta find it if there is.  Anyway, I've since returned to work, have gone two weeks without getting fired or quitting, and seem to somehow be enjoying my bike riding, my chores/responsibilities, and most of all my family just a little bit more than ever.  Seems the stay-cation did what I'd hoped, and then some...a lotta "some", actually.

A couplefew other things seem to have come into season along with the uber-green grass and 'bout-perfect weather.  First and foremost - my kids.  What the...???  Maybe all parents experience it, and if not I sure hope they get to, but my 5.5 & 6.5 year old boys somewhere in the last 20-30 days have turned some kinda corner.  They've always been great kids, but they've taken it to another level - with their growing affection for each other, their exponential growth in knowledge, reading, humor, and their ever-increasing size, strength and physical abilities.  My sons are just cooler than ever to hang out with!  I've loved 'em all along, I've even liked 'em almost all the time, but I find myself now nearly in awe.  This is exciting shit!  They're working their magic on evolving from little boys into little men and doing a fantastic job.  Being a Dad is cool...

So...1/3 of the way through Spring 2012 and everything I'd hoped to sprout is growing far better than I could've imagined (OK, including my apparent employment allergy....?!? Eh-hemmm).  My focus on bicycles is proving rather rewarding as I've now competed in 2 mountain bike races - the second being a 6 hour solo ride to 4th in class - and enjoying a level of fitness I've not known since my "I want to go to the '92 Olympics" era of the mid '80's!  I've registered for a 75 mile off-road race in May and feeling more and more confident in my chances of finishing (and growing conviction to "finish respectfully") the Silver Rush 50 in Leadville, CO in July.  I find myself being known now-a-days as "one of the fast guys" by the KC area bike folks - something I've never been before.  Oh, I've often been the "well, he does have some skills" guy, and for many years was known as the "pretty fast for a big guy" fella, but now at 41.8 years old, it seems I have finally arrived...ha ha.  Funny to say it that way...but I don't really care.

OK, well, that's about as much babble about nothing inparticular that I've got in me.  All that to simply say - working or not, I am living the dream and it seems to just keep getting better.

***  Special thanks to Big Worm and Big Jim for they're part in helping kick my latest bicycle era into high(er) gear as well as their continued input and advice on how to make the most of it  ***

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What's in a name...

It has been a looooooong time since I crashed on a bicycle.  I don't mean some slow/no-speed, no-brainer, spode type get off or shin shot that is instantly laugh-able even though it hurts a bit.  I mean the kind of crash that as soon as things start goin' south, life goes into slow-motion and you have time in the midst of it to distinctly say to yourself, "well, shit...this is not going to end well."  And to be more accurate, I could say it'd been a long time until, oh, about 9:45 this morning.

I enjoy a certain amount of confidence and even take a fair amount of pride in my bike handling skills.  Also, unless I'm on the trials bike or riding a wheelie, I much enjoy keeping my mountain bike tires on terra firma.  Sure, if there's a way to launch off a root or rock to avoid the next 2 or three, I'll do it, but generally any of my "air time" is with the sole purpose of finding the smoothest, quickest line on the trail.  Me and my 29er hard-tail bike ain't much for "hucking" nor search out the thrill of big drops, etc., or at least hadn't done so until last weekend.

2 hours into a nearly 4 hour ride I hooked up with some full-suspension bike riders for a pretty playful couple laps of an area trail that includes some 2 - 5 foot drops as alternate lines.  Lines that aren't any faster or more direct, really, but lines put in simply for the thrill of over-coming fear and lettin' fly.  I got a bit curious.  Curious enough that soon I found myself ready, willing and able to roll my skilled azz off anything those with shocks on both ends were willing to. FacePlant:
(***sorry, the only good pic I could find of it is copywrited, so, this is all I can give ya***)

FacePlant is the name of a section of this KC area trail.  Seems all trail sections have names - Rancho-d-lux, Nate's Section, 8 Pin, Marci's Playground, to name a few.  I really don't know that they have any meaning other than whatever was in the namer's mind at the time it was built.  FacePlant, though, was named for a very specific reason - you don't commit to the 4-ish foot drop of this cluster of rocks, you will end up on your face. 

Technically, it isn't that difficult - it's not a matter of speed, or impending danger, really - but you gotta mean it.  This ain't a half-ass gig.  The first few times I did it I was pleasantly surprised to confirm this, finding it only necessary to relax, maintain trail speed, and shift your weight back a bit.  I must've done it close to a dozen times last weekend, much to my own enjoyment and even some notoriety as "the guy on the hard-tail did it?!!??"  I still in no way consider myself one who seeks out such things or cares to do anything bigger, badder, whatever-er, but proud that I showed FacePlant just whatizzup.

This morning's goal/plan was to simply ride steady for 3+ hours.  I wasn't there to hammer.  I also wasn't there to look for the next "big thing" to conquer.  I was just there to put time on some tough trail into my body, pure and simple.  Of course, with last weekend's "awakening", I didn't always take the smoothest, fastest, most-direct lines, either.  First time to/through the FacePlant section I did exactly what I'd done before - just rolled up, relaxed, dropped off, and kept on a rolling.   About an hour later I came to this section again with legs/body all warmed up, riding a good-but-notably-faster-than-first-lap pace.  Time came to choose which line to take - off or around the FacePlant drop - and I didn't think twice about sticking to the same line I'd ridden the first go 'round.

The moment my front wheel left that clump of rocks, though, I realized I should've chosen more wisely.  Just after the usual landing area, the trail bends to the right.  Not instantly, but definitely goes a direction that is not exactly "in line" with the take-off of that lovely rock.  "Shit!  I should've slowed down just a bit and/or aimed a bit more to the right" sped through my head before the slow-motion "uh oh" self-comentary noted earlier kicked in.  That slo-mo self-comentary, though, was dead-on.

I'd landed a good 3-4 feet further from the rock, and past the intended transition, than I had in any previous attempts, front tire meeting the softer, damper dirt just to the left of the trail.  Bottom-out fork?  Check.  Front tire "pushing" as it tries to grab hold?  Check.  Trail continuing to curve to the right without me?  Check.  While a major "whoops", it seemed for just a split second I was gonna get by with just a humbling low-side...until that "pushing" front tire reached a just-big-enough rock to stop its search for traction, but not my forward momentum.  Oh, that tire damn sure stopped, hard enough that 6 inches of the tire bead got pulled out, but me and the rest of the bike weren't hardly even slowed up.

It gets a bit fuzzy and painful from there, but as me and the rest of the bike got flipped over the stopped front wheel, it really was like being grabbed by the ankles and being swung over some one's head and toward the ground where I landed on my....wait for it.....wait for it.....face.  Yup, while it was thankfully on dirt and not one of the area's gazillion rocks, the left side of my face felt like the unlucky side of a rubber-band snapping.  I damn sure pinched my legs, skinned my shins/calves, and thoroughly soiled all my clothes in the rolling exit from the bike that followed, but my focus was stuck on "I can't effing believe I just did a of a phugging rock they named 'FacePlant'".

I then gathered myself, did a quick check of body & bike inventory and eased on back about a mile to my truck and supplies/tools therein.  It took about 15 or so minutes to straighten out the bike and stop some bleeding, but nothing on me or bike was serious.  The largest discomfort was the result of the substantial blow to my ego.  The goal remained un-satisfied, though - I still needed at least another 90 minute of riding, and I headed back to the trail to get it.  It included a good dose of "the hair of the dog that bit me"...yeah...I once again picked the same line at FacePlant - just rolled up, relaxed, dropped off, and kept on a rolling.  Other than that earlier substantial mis-judgement, it was a fantastic ride...

I do have to say, though, that I am terribly grateful that the section named "Jaw Breaker" was ridden several times without any similar name-sake type repercussions.