The rough stuff
I've had a trying week of working around a couple of minor medical maladies — unrelated to cycling and running, but a disconcertingly consistent source of fatigue and pain all the same. My mind is also swimming with seemingly dozens of project ideas that I am overanxious to dive into, and the result during my "workday" is near-constant distraction — I sit down neatly at 8 a.m. to start up one thing, only to jump to another, and then another, until suddenly I look up and it's inexplicably 4 p.m. and I wonder if I've actually done anything productive at all. One thing I am actually accomplishing is that I'm nearing completion of a Tour Divide manuscript I feel fairly good about. I still need to comb through it to incorporate a few more of my editor's very good ideas, flesh out a few areas and cull others, but it's close.
I've been mountain biking and running this week as well, but in shorter blocks of time with limited intensity. Thursday was the first day I felt healthy enough to embark on a longer ride, so I set out to find a trail near my house that I haven't yet tried, the Table Mountain Trail. Beat and I had tentative evening plans and I told him it would be "two, two and a half hours tops." About eight miles into Steven's Canyon I was hit with yet another medical malady — monthly hormone poisoning, which for me usually results in two or three hours of semi-debilitating waves of nausea. Bad timing. It wasn't terrible at first, so I pushed the cramps to the back of my mind and started up the singletrack.
The Table Mountain Trail is designated uphill-only to mountain bikes, which means unless I want to break a law, I'm committed as soon as I enter it. I should have known better when the first quarter mile involved a knee-deep creek crossing and a near-vertical push 100 feet up the muddy bank. But from the top of the bank, the root-clogged trail looked fairly rideable, so I continued. The steep trail only became more eroded as I climbed, until I was trying to keep my tires out of wheel-eating trenches as I mashed up a 15-percent grade on a trail surface about as wide as a pencil. All the while, the nausea kept hitting in blinding waves. Several times, I had to stop and take swift gulps of air to mitigate what felt like an urge to pass out. (Note: These episodes are normal for me but are so short-lived that they almost never hit when I'm working out. The strenuous nature of the trail also seemed to make it worse than usual.)
I walked and then trudged, and all the while the Table Mountain Trail just kept reaching for the sky. I don't know why I expected the trail to top out at 1,800 feet before veering onto the Saratoga Gap Trail, because that is not what happened. I continued to attempt riding the eroded mess between my nausea episodes, until I really did feel physically spent. I had no choice but to trudge up the trail as it rose to 2,600 feet. Two hours had already passed when I was only halfway around my loop on Skyline Boulevard. That's when the building thunderstorm finally opened up. A stiff wind drove the chill of the already 45-degree air (that's spring in California for you, I'm told. Eighty-six degrees one day and 45 the next.) Suddenly these harsh, tiny shards of hail started pelting from the sky. If I didn't know better I would have sworn it was sleet or freezing rain. Either way, it hurt. Stinging and cold. I was not happy. Not happy. I beat a quick retreat down the road.
Beat, who also has been sick all week (we think it's the infamous Fairbanks Plague that was going around up there) couldn't understand why I was so shattered when I walked in the door. "You were only out for three hours," he said. True, true. But sometimes you just need a really rough ride after a rough week to put things in perspective. I'll remind this to myself when I'm finally back to normal and the summer heat has returned. Being healthy in the sunshine really is pretty darn awesome.