Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back to reality

This has been a strange process - trying to recover from last week. And I'm not talking about the 50-mile trek across Northern Utah, although there is some backlash there as well. But, no, Vegas and the way I felt there, and subsequently reacted while I was there, is still troubling me. By Thursday I was pressed against a hard edge of my personality. I was anxious, stressed, disconnected and really not myself. Now that I'm past it, and trying to pick up a few of the pieces, I'm still confused about why I reacted so badly. I think there is a lot to be said about sleeplessness and the mental turmoil that alone causes. But my experience there was somewhat enlightening - in showing me that I may not have as much control over my mental landscape as I'd like to believe.

Still, I am back, and I am fine, and hopefully not that much worse for the wear. A few of my co-workers think I went off the deep end with that 50-mile run, and that is perhaps a somewhat fair assessment. I came home Sunday and crashed hard. I was sick and non-functional on Monday. But after about 22 hours of sleep in 36 hours time, I felt almost completely normal. My friend Bill and I went out for a Tuesday night ride that we both intended to be "mellow." We ended up climbing 3,500 feet to a high ridge above town called University Beacon. We reached the top right at sunset. An steady 40 mph wind howled through the radio towers as we stood against the gale and talked for half an hour. It was one of those incredibly cathartic discussions where two people who don't know each other all that well realize they actually have a lot in common.

Then, suddenly it was dark. We rode a gravel road up, but Bill wanted to take the singletrack down. I switched on my meager headlight, having no idea what I was getting into, and launched in behind him. With a amber and orange sea of city lights spread out below us, I watched Bill's thin silhouette disappear over a horizon line like a roller coaster plunging into an abyss. Seconds later, my own wheel dipped into the headwall and plummeted toward city lights that were still thousands of feet below. I grabbed my brakes but it was too late. I was slipping, skidding down the steep gravel, wide-eyed and half-panicked as my locked-out wheels carried me toward certain doom. All I could see was the blurred sparkle of city lights. I felt like I was crash-landing a plane into Missoula. I braced for impact. The grade lessened and the wheels caught traction. I skidded to a stop. Bill was a few yards ahead, walking his bike. "Yeah, this trail kinda sucks at night," he said.

But it was a fun ride, and turned out to be fairly ambitious - nearly three hours of ride time, and for the most part I felt great despite everything last week. Today my friend Dave and I got together for a mellow hike. I wanted to test my progress on my right foot, which is still sore from running, but not to a level that I think I have plantar faciitis. Still, there is something weird with my arch. I can't quite pinpoint it. Bruise? Sore muscles or tendons? After about two miles it started to feel sore again, and then it began to tighten up. Luckily we kept the walk short. But it was a good reality check, because I was all set to start running again this weekend.

Instead, we came back early, where Dave set to fixing my Karate Monkey. I've wanted a singlespeed mountain bike for a while now, not even quite realizing that I had one all along - it just had too much crap stuck on it. Dave mentioned that singlespeed conversion is as easy as tearing all that crap off and adding a couple of rings. So we set to the project - or, I should say he set to the project. I stood there and tried to learn, I really tried. But teaching me bicycle mechanics is like trying to train a cat how to sit and stay. In theory, they should be smart enough, but in the end all they do is stare off into space and remain perpetually useless.

But Dave did good work, and now KiM is set up the way Surly intended - well, except for the Reba fork. But I'm excited to try out singlespeeding. I already got cold and bored while spinning the simplified bike slowly home, and I imagine I'll be redlined and walking on most of the climbing during my trail ride tomorrow, so I'm well on my way!


  1. Hi Jill

    I know the what it's like to change homes, we did it at the end of July. But what amazes me is the energy you have, if I have to post a letter and the post box is at the end of the road - normally I drive to it! I left our garage some time ago to buy some bread from the local shop - some friends/neighbours (English spelling with a u, asked where was I going and I said to buy some bread from the shop. Pnly one responded, but only to say in amazement - 'but it's only 100 metres?' Oh well I'm a non-walker I suppose! Still we get about - see my blogs Regards Patrick

  2. Dumb question, but I don't know enough to know the answer. What's the benefit/attraction of singlespeed?

    I feel for you with the Vegas trip. I'm sure it was total culture shock.

  3. Vegas to me is like a nightmare from some futuristic horror movie.

  4. I think you are going to love the single speed thing. Simplicity, ease of care and never worrying about being in the right gear again! Keep it up and looking foward to my new Adventure Cycling subscription!

  5. Congrats on your singlespeed conversion!

    If you find yourself spinning out a lot on flat sections (like roads to the trailhead), consider a 'dinglespeed' setup. I did this recently and it has made riding to the trails MUCH more enjoyable. And if setup right, you can manually switch the gears without moving the rear axle at all. Very 1910, but very awesome!

  6. @ Kate, SS is all about the simplicity of the ride. No need to think about what gear to be in, when to shift, etc. You simply go out and ride your heart out with everything you have. It's also nice that it's super quiet, lighter, and a lot less chance of having a mechanical.

  7. If it's any consolation, I had a similar reaction to Vegas. It's everything that's wrong with North American culture trapped in the desert. The place actually made me sick with the forced air and cigarette smoke. Blech.

  8. I've never been to Vegas and don't want to. To me, Vegas is anti everything I treasure in life and I agree w/ Canadian Roadie.

    Focus on money and things instead of peace of mind and hapiness from within.

    Towering lights and smoggy air instead of towering trees and fresh air.

    All you can eat buffets of processed foods loaded with fat and who knows what else instead of natural, delicious foods to nourish my body. etc.

    I would have freaked out too Jill and your 50 mile running was probably in a way running from what is wrong in our society as there is too much emphasis on things and over consumption. IMO, your mind is in the right place and you value the true good things in life so no worries.

  9. Find a PT or some such person who can show you how to tape your foot for pf. I couldn't believe how much it helped me! One day I was in pain and the next day I was out walking with no problem. Also - stretch and massage your calf. It is your calf and achilles tendon pulling on the back of your foot that is causing the shortening of your plantar fascia, hence the "weird" feeling. That is a very rough, non-tech description of how pf develops - I'm sure someone with more knowledge can give you a better idea of what's going on with your foot, but hopefully you won't need any more knowledge if it clears up quickly!

  10. I had posterior tibial tendinitis and it caused arch pain in one foot (and inner ankle pain in the other). Using that kinesio/KT tape was a great way to keep running while it healed.

  11. We are Not useless, merley bored. You are just jealous because we have tails.... Also you are wonderful. I love to read about all your adventures.

  12. I should have grabbed you on Thursday and snuck us out of Interbike for a while. I meant to stop by and say hello, but didn't want to come across as stalker-ish, and I got pretty busy over at the IMBA booth.

    I half expected to react to Vegas the way you did, but I guess I got lucky since I worked Dirt Demo and only had to endure one day indoors. Indoor Interbike is definitely worse.

    I seriously hate Vegas - I think it represents a lot of what's wrong with America. Admittedly, it was my disgust that enabled my pride to swell, especially when my dirty coworkers and I walked through the Venetian following Outdoor Demo. We were dirty, hauling dusty duffle bags and muddy bikes. We got looks of horror, and I knew all was right in my world, even if nothing was right in Vegas.

    Just look at it as re-affirmation that you're in the right place on the right path in life, I suppose.


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