Showing posts from July, 2010

And then I forgot the name of the mountain

Expectations are an interesting thing. A collaboration of past experiences and future hopes, expectations cast such a strong light on the present that no single experience can really stand on its own. But when experience surpasses expectations, those "ah-ha" moments of discovery stand as singular mileposts on life's winding roads. Take moving to western Montana, for instance. A nice place, I expected, but certainly lacking in the varied terrain of Utah or the vast sweeping wilderness of Alaska. Then I came to Montana, and I saw great gray monoliths towering over the prairie, I watched bears amble through the spruce forest and I stood on the edge of rocky ridges overlooking vast tracts of rippled mountains. And I thought, "ah ha."

That simple realization that Montana is in fact an expansive, wild and beautiful place has been continuously jolted by six weeks' worth of small discoveries. And still, my expectations remain low. Take the Bitterroot Range. Straddli…

Into the taper

"Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself."

~ Robert M. Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

On Monday my lower body was mostly useless, blistered feet and fried quads, still cooked from a lot of walking downhill. I did my laundry and my dishes; I made me feel conventionally useful, but a little bit like I was somehow missing out. The sunset burned with deep summer intensity; I missed it in the way people often miss their spouses while they're away at work - it was out there, but not close in the way I was accustomed to. I watched it from my balcony, pleasant but distant, like calling on the phone …

Pictures of Glacier

Temperatures in Missoula this past weekend were forecasted to climb to nearly 100 degrees. My TransRockies partner, Keith, was planning to visit one of his friends in Kalispell, about two hours north of this insufferably hot place. I've been wanting to visit Glacier National Park, which I've never really explored beyond the Going-To-The-Sun road. These three factors sparked a fantastically fun weekend, the kind that leaves me with a loss for words and an excessive number of pictures to post on my blog.

Keith's friend is an ultrarunner named Danni, who works as an attorney for a firm in Kalispell. She used to be a lawyer for a high-powered firm in Chicago, with prestige, salary, and everything that goes with it. Then, one day about four years ago, she attended a "Woman-to-Woman" conference put on by her firm, where topics ranged from "What Not To Wear" (basically, the things she wore to work most every day) to "How to Balance Work and Family," w…

Christmas in July

I need to find an online photo workshop for "Taking Photographs with Your Limited Point-And-Shoot Camera While Trying To Keep Up With A Massive Peloton During A Group Mountain Bike Ride." It can be frustrating to watch compelling image after compelling image rip by you, only to whip out your camera and grab a blurry shot of half of somebody's butt. Fastermembers of Missoula's Thursday Night Riders simply blaze ahead and then wait at a strategic perch, capturing dynamic shots of a 21-rider paceline grinding up a smooth ribbon of singletrack.

The rest of us get rear shots. And a face-full of this grass that I am fairly certain I am highly allergic to. During my Friday Death Ride, I attributed my early bonk to overtraining, but now I'm wondering if part of it was allergies. John and I went whipping through a few miles of this stuff on Friday night, and shortly after that I began to feel like my entire head was slowly filling with warm ooze. Then again, on Thursday, a…

My new favorite trail

One of the best aspects about being new to a region is that sense of discovery in everything you do - like a trail was created just for you; like you invented that tricky traverse. Of course this is far from the case; these places have been explored again and again, by tourists and college kids and REAL Montanans, who are second only to Alaskans in their ability to view long-term residency as a quantifiable gauge of status. So everyone and their brother has been to this lookout or that trail. What matters is that you haven't. You wander these mountains with an explorer's eyes, and you still see the mystery and wonder that are too easily forgotten.

I've had a bit of a hard time recovering from Hell Week. I took Monday completely off, as planned, and then on Tuesday headed out for a mellow ride with the Dirt Girls. We rode the Ravine Trail loop, about 25 miles and 2,000 feet of climbing total. The Dirt Girls are known for their fun, social pace, so I felt discouraged by how c…

Hell week, finished

Last weekend, when I first formulated the idea to do one week of intensive time-in-the-saddle training, I knew I would either end up going pretty big this weekend - days six and seven - or do close to nothing at all. I even had a fairly ambitious out-and-back overnight ride tentatively planned. After Friday's big misadventure, I woke up too early Saturday morning with a throbbing dehydration hangover and not a single thing packed. I knew I was never going to make it happen. Instead, I spent the day doing a lot of neglected life maintenance. I even took my car into Jiffy Lube for the post-AK-drive Signature Service, and was conned into spending $121. Yeah, I'm one of those people. I can't even walk up to the free sample tables at Costco because I end up going home with one of those 174-packs of frozen taquitos that haunt me for months afterward. Every time I open the freezer, the giant frost-coated box taunts me with whispers of "what the hell were you thinking?" …

Hell week, day gone awry

We were 16 miles outside of town, rolling a flat, paved road as a stiff tailwind rushed us along, when I started to bonk.

"I thought you said this was going to be a short ride," I said to my co-worker, John, who had promised me one of those infamous "three-hour tours." We were more than an hour into it and we hadn't even hit the climb yet.

"Do you want to turn around?" he asked.

"Maybe," I said, sounding more irritable than I probably needed to. "I feel crappy."

"I didn't think you were such a wuss," he replied with a smile.

"That' a common misconception people have about me," I said. "I'm actually a huge wuss. Anyway, I need at least one easy day in Hell Week."

Still in heavy whine mode, I began to rattle off the symptoms I was feeling, all common signs of overtraining. "You know," John said, "what you're doing is probably not actually helping you much. In a way, it's prob…

Hell week, day four

How do you know you're in the middle of a good week of cycling? Well, for starters, you wake up in the morning and your legs are so stiff and heavy that you have to swing your whole body just to get out of bed. For breakfast, you eat a bowl of dry cereal mix — the dredges of three nearly empty boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats, Cheerios and Kix, no milk, because it's been a while since you've been grocery shopping. You take a shower and scrape off 10-hour-old grime you were too exhausted to deal with the night before. You sort through your nearly empty closet for something to wear to work, because it's been a while since you've done laundry. You get on your bike to commute two miles to work, and it almost hurts. No, scratch that. It hurts. Two miles. The morning air is already hot, the day already long.

At your office desk, you have to repeatedly shift your legs around when your ragged muscles start to ache. Lunch is the monthly all-staff barbecue. You look over your s…