Showing posts from September, 2010

"Gears disability"

"Sorry for your gears disability," Bill said as he pulled up on his bike in front of my office. "Would it be better if I only rode in one gear?"

I looked down at my newly singlespeed-converted Karate Monkey. "Well, it couldn't hurt," I said. "At least then there's a chance I'll keep up with you on the road."

Bill observed my cadence as we pedaled down the street, then shifted his gears to match mine - 32x20. "This is pretty low," he observed.

"Tell me about it," I said. "It's downright tedious on flat pavement." We spun and spun and spun, until we hit hills that suddenly seemed to throw the pedals backward. I stood and strained and grunted and sometimes I made it, but sometimes I didn't. The ride hadn't even started yet.

At the trailhead, I made a point to remark to the other Thursday Night riders that I was singlespeeding today - not because I've suddenly become one of those boorish one-gear…

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 c…

The life of Geo

Today I took what feels like my last step away from my status as an Alaskan. I registered my car in the great state of Montana and acquired new license plates. The process was so painless it was almost surreal. I walked into a completely empty DMV, where six smiling employees all waved me over at the same time. I handed the smiliest guy my title and a check for $68, and five minutes later I had new plates, good for the next year.

The car also hits another milestone this month, in that I've owned it for 10 years. In October 2000 I paid the car's first owner $5,100 in cash for a 1996 Geo Prism. It had 29,000 miles, manual transmission, a tape deck stereo, no air conditioning, no power steering and a sweet tomato-red exterior that screamed "take me home!" Since then, Geo has set wheel in 29 states and six Canadian provinces. It's been smashed by a sycamore tree in New Jersey and broken into six times. It's climbed rugged jeep roads in southern Utah and plowed thr…

Living intensely

I fixed my thousand-yard stare on a radio tower, perched on a featureless mound of rock many miles across the sun-baked desert. The interstate rolled away at a rate of 80 mph, and still the gleaming tower lingered in a far distance that seemed to never grow closer.

"This is exactly what Badwater is like," said Evan, who this past summer paced the winner of the Badwater 135, a 135-mile ultramarathon through Death Valley. "You're just out in this flat, open desert. Tons of hours go by, and nothing changes."

"It looks beautiful right now," I said. I glanced in the side-view mirror to see if any traces of Las Vegas remained on the horizon ... the scorched pavement, the seizure-inducing lights, the belligerent crowds and the cigarette smog. Vegas had gotten under my skin in a way I couldn't even mitigate, let alone reverse. I was in Las Vegas for a trade show, putting in long hours of exhaustive socialization, soaking in the glistening edge of an indust…

Snow bikes in the desert

I am in Vegas for Interbike. Being surrounded by bicycles isn't a bad way to spend a week, but if I were to list my "10 places I'd be least likely to visit under my own free will," Vegas would be near the top. It's a terrible place. I'm sorry, it just is. Huge crowds ... smoke everywhere ... traffic ... no winter ... flashing lights ... casino mazes ... long lines ... strangers yelling at me ... too intimidated by yelling crowds to go out for simple evening runs after dinner ... unbearable heat ... everything costs a fortune ... no winter ...

I try to make the best of it by reminding myself that I'm here for Interbike, which is kind of cool. Today we attended the Dirt Demos, out at Boulder City. The high temperature was 102, with a constant 20 mph wind that steadily cranked up past 30 mph as the afternoon wore on. Shade is just a bad joke here in the sun-baked valley. I sucked down my two liters of water within about an hour and went on to down two big le…

Return to Mount Borah

I think everyone needs a nemesis mountain. A mountain that has gotten the better of you at some point ... a mountain that drug you down to the base of your weaknesses, scraped away the shallow facade of your identity and exposed those deeper cracks in your soul, the ones you hope you never have to peer into. But after this happens, and you survive it, you want to go back, again and again, just to see whether those cracks have filled in. For me, this mountain is Mount Borah.

It's the highest peak in Idaho. 12,662 feet. It used to be seven feet shorter, but in 1983 a powerful earthquake thrust this massive mound of rock even higher into the sky. I didn't mean for it to become my nemesis mountain. I discovered it by accident, in July 2001, as my friend and I were making our way home from a two-month road trip across America. While we were driving down Highway 93 in central Idaho, we came across a sign that said "Borah Peak Access Road." And in the way we made most of o…

Good ol' Monkey

I have a confession to make. I don’t really enjoy being the owner of five bicycles. They’re large. They’re cumbersome. They take up a lot of space in a one-bedroom apartment. And, most irksome of all, they all require a lot of maintenance. It’s like having five dogs, when really one is all the pet you need. Five will pull a sled more effectively than one — and my five bikes all have a particular function that I *Can Not Live Without.* But, like dogs, at home they just crowd you in and require a lot of care.

I own a touring bike that hasn’t been without some kind of mechanical problem since 2006. Right now, it has a broken brake lever, a sticky headset and both derailleurs in need of replacement. The broken brake lever prevents me from riding it, but I have been reluctant to pour any more money into new parts, because I just had a bunch of stuff repaired earlier this spring, and still more stuff before that, and I had the wheels rebuilt before that, and this was only a ~$500 bike to beg…

Evening ride

Sometimes I like to go for a solo ride. A purposeful solo ride. One where I’m all but certain to not see a single other human being, even by fluke or chance. Such was my mood Tuesday night. I had planned to join the Dirt Girls for their weekly singletrack jaunt, but my ankle was feeling extra tender and I was feeling extra de-motivated. I didn’t want to risk hike-a-bike or anything even steep enough to necessitate out-of-the-saddle pedaling. I opted for a quick trip to the store and maybe a logging road spin … something mellow but high in the mountains … above the flow of traffic and beyond the frenzy to capture every fleeting hour of the fading summer … somewhere alone.

I started at Snowbowl, ducked under the gate, and turned ginger rotations up the gravel road. The air at 5,000 feet was already steeped in the complex aroma of autumn — sweet with decaying leaves and berries, bitter with smoke and dust. I babied my ankle until I forgot about it, just as the grade steepened, and I rose …

The reality of running

My friend Danni turned me on to a blog called “Hyperbole and a Half,” where a cartoonist combines MS Paint-type drawings with witty commentary to describe real-world situations. There’s a particular post that cycles through my mind every time I embark on an adventure or workout, called “Expectations versus Reality.” “This discrepancy between the way I imagine things unfolding and how they actually happen is most dramatic when I overestimate my ability to perform a pointless feat of athleticism,” she writes.

So on Monday evening, I went for a run. I need to preface this story with a couple of qualifiers. First of all, I am purposely training to run right now. I have a couple of fall and winter goals that may include pacing an ultrarun if all goes well. So while there will still be much bike riding in my future, with the possible exception of riding Pugsley in the Susitna 100 and/or White Mountains 100, my winter events may center around running. Because of this, I feel strong motivation…