Sunday, April 24, 2011

Good weekend

Ah, Easter weekend. When I was a kid, Easter always signaled the beginning of spring. I currently live in a place that seems to have no seasons, but that doesn't mean I can't wholeheartedly embrace spring all the same. Flowers are blooming in the roadsides, hillsides are green (I have heard there are times when they are not green) and temptations to overindulge are everywhere. I binged a bit this weekend. And I fully enjoyed it.

On Saturday morning I headed out to the East Bay area to go for a road ride with a guy I met at the "Ride the Divide" movie screening, Russ McBride. Russ is signed up to ride the Tour Divide northbound this June, and asked for a few hours of my time to ply me with questions about the route. We met up in Walnut Creek for a "Tour of Mount Diablo." I didn't quite know what that entailed before the ride, but it turned out to be a full circumnavigation of the mountain with a spur to climb to the 3,888-foot peak, for good measure.

Russ also decided to use our Divide-centered social ride to test out his new GPS that he plans to use in the race. This resulted in some interesting route-finding along the way.

But we had a really fantastic ride, even if the weather was gray and the views were marginal, the hillsides were green and Russ had a whole slew of his own interesting stories. He told me he planned to race the Tour Divide in 2009 (same year I did it) after wrapping up his dissertation at U.C. Berkeley (I didn't quite catch what he got his PhD in ... we were descending a long, fast hill at the time.) But then he contracted Mercury poisoning that stole his health, his ability to sleep, and finally his sanity for the better part of six months. His stories were absolutely horrifying. They made me never want to eat fish again (his doctor speculated he contracted his case from a broken dental filling.) He also used to paraglide until he watched a friend die. That's when he took up distance cycling, and now regularly participates in randonneuring — 200K, 400K and 600K brevets. Ever since I rode the Denali Classic last May (140 miles on dirt), I've become more fascinated with the challenge of traveling long distances on a bike in a single push. Basically bicycle touring without the camping. Skinny tires and ultralight road bikes make these kinds of distances actually feasible in my mind now, so while Russ was plying me for Tour Divide tips, I was asking him about the logistics of riding 600K without sleeping. Our ride ended with 74 miles and 7,228 feet of climbing. Map here.

In the evening, Beat and I went to San Francisco for a homemade pizza party with his friend Stephan, who lives in Noe Valley. It always fun for me to take trips to the city and meet the kinds of people who live in the city — a storyboard creator for Pixar and a fairly small-stature Asian Brit who was mugged by two large teenagers earlier in the week and actually fought them off before running away with the property they tried to steal. His story, made even better when told in a British accent, continued when the teenagers chased him down the street for several blocks until an off-duty firefighter got out of his car and wrestled them down. As he related this, the woman who works at Pixar rendered his tale in a humorous illustration. Yes, interesting people live in the city. They also make incredible pizza and I ate a lot.

Today we awoke late and went to Easter brunch at our friend Martina's house. Martina has a reputation for elaborate spreads and brunch did not disappoint — Veggie quiche, ham, five different kinds of bread, cheese, smoked salmon, a massive fruit salad (prepared by Steve) and apfelkuchen. I ate a lot, again. Then we socialized until 5:30. At 6, with the massive Easter meal mostly settled, I decided to go out for a "short" training run, but grabbed my headlamp "just in case I get stuck out." Thanks to the late hour (I thrive during evenings), I felt really great going uphill and wended my way to Black Mountain. I missed my connector trail on the way down and realized it about three quarters of a mile and 600 vertical feet too late. I was on a trail called "The Black Mountain Trail." I had never seen this trail before but I thought — well, this has to go somewhere.

In truth I hate not knowing exactly where I am or feeling lost in any way, but I also feel that I don't put myself in enough situations that scare me anymore. It's good to feel uncertain and somewhat fearful once in a while. I continued down the trail feeling quite strong. I'm generally a horrible downhill runner (refer to running crash two weeks ago.) But today despite fading light and generally uneasiness, my feet seemed light and fast and always landed exactly where I hoped they would. Uncharacteristically, I didn't feel like an awkward, flailing mess trying to lose elevation. I truly enjoyed every bit of that Black Mountain Trail, until I reached the place where it went, and a sign told me I was four miles farther from my end point than I hoped to be. I was already 11 miles into my run, with six more miles to go.

There was nothing I could do but click on the headlamp and keep running. I finally reached the main part of the Rancho San Antonio park, onto to be intercepted by a stern-looking ranger. He directed me to stand in the bright beam of his truck headlights while he interrogated me about why I was running through the park after dark. (Quite the infraction here, I learned. Yes, we're not in Montana any more.) I told him the truth — that I recently moved here and that I took a wrong turn at Black Mountain and ended up four miles farther than I hoped. I left out the part about it being somewhat intentional. I showed him my Alaska driver's license and tried to play the bewildered non-urban Alaskan card (this has gotten me out of a ticket before, in Salt Lake City, when I was driving a friend's truck too slow.) It seemed to work. He was quite friendly afterward, and only gave me a written warning, attached to his stern instructions that if I get caught out after dark again, I will be in big trouble. Sigh. Not in Alaska or Montana anymore.

But besides the ranger incident, I'm quite stoked about how good I felt during the run. 17 miles and 3,227 feet of climbing, one day after a big 74-mile, 7,000-foot-elevation-gain ride with a lot of indulgent eating in between. A good weekend all around.