Monday, May 30, 2011

Slightly off camber

Have you ever experienced a string of days that were just a little off-tilt? Call it getting up on the wrong side of the bed, for a weekend. A good weekend nonetheless, but, you know ...

Beat and I went out for a mountain bike ride on Friday evening. I have a favorite mountain bike loop from home, over Black Mountain and down Stevens Creek Canyon, that's 26 miles with 3,400 feet of climbing. I recently introduced Beat to this loop and he was excited to go back on Friday, but I just wasn't feeling it. I was weak, sluggish and struggling with the climb a lot more than normal. I self-prescribed "slight overtraining" and admitted I was glad I had a mellow weekend planned. My baby sister, Sara, was visiting from Huntington Beach, Calif., for Memorial Day. She's not what you'd call an outdoor type, so I figured our weekend activities wouldn't be all too active. But that didn't make the ten-mile climb any easier.

Finally at the top, Beat and I bundled up in several layers of warmers, hats and jackets as a cold wind blew along the ridge. We launched into the singletrack, and the rush of gravity and wind pumped new life into my tired legs. The feeling of well-being was extremely short-lived, however. I rounded the first curve at high speed and washed out both tires on the gravelly trail. I've rounded this same corner in this same way more than a dozen times, and it caught me so off guard that I didn't even put my arm out to catch myself. I just full-body slammed into a garden of small but pointy rocks and skidded several inches, slightly ripping my shorts as well as a decent amount of skin across my right leg. If I hadn't been wearing so many layers, I would have surely sustained more trail rash, but as it was, I was dust-covered and bleeding. Beat stopped just before the curve to find me staggering around in an effort to walk it off. When he asked what happened, all I could say was, "Crash ... hurts ... not hurt ... just impact ... hurts."

With an elbow, leg and confidence all badly bruised, I rode the brakes the rest of the way home.

My little sister is what you might call Bizarro Jill — on the outside, we share several common traits, but as far as personalities go we're the opposite in nearly every way. Sara is fashionable and outgoing, picky and a little high-strung. She dislikes seafood and actually most foods that I consider amazing. She also doesn't really like doing stuff outside, unless that stuff is shopping, going to the beach, or watching a concert.

I am on a constant if low-key crusade to get Sara hooked on cycling. Last spring I helped coerce her into buying a beach cruiser, which she sadly stopped riding after it got a flat tire. For her first visit to the South Bay area, I convinced her and her boyfriend to join me on a "mellow" bike path ride to Google headquarters and back, about 16 miles round trip. I set up Sara and Spencer on my and Beat's mountain bikes, and joined them on my fixie commuter. I adjusted the mountain bike's seat post for Sara but failed to shift the bike out of the gear it was in, which just happened to be the highest gear. See, when you ride a bike as much as I do, it stops occurring to you that functions like shifting and braking a bicycle aren't simply second nature to everyone. Sara's entire bike experiences basically amount to short rides on single-speed cruisers with coaster brakes. She mastered the mountain bike's brakes just fine, but she never shifted out of high gear.

Leading from the front, I didn't notice Sara mashing the pedals to get up the steeply inclined pedestrian bridges along Highway 85. About two miles from Google, she tweaked a muscle in her back, in a way that stopped her in her tracks. But Sara, being a Homer, only mentioned in passing that her back hurt and insisted she wanted to keep pedaling to Google. It wasn't until we were halfway up the viewpoint hill that I noticed Sara walking her bike, with a distinctly pain-stricken, arched-back chicken stride. I discovered the high-gear faux pas too late. She was in considerable pain. We called Beat for a rescue ride and Spencer and I raced the rain home — a hard effort that put him on the floor, too. Bad older sister, bad.

Luckily Sara's back injury didn't turn out to be too debilitating. Despite the stiff chicken walk, Sara still rallied for their planned trip to the city. Beat and I had a friend's wedding reception to attend in San Francisco. In my effort to purge belongings before I moved away from Alaska, I managed to unload nearly all of my formal clothing, and I don't own a single pair of stockings. (Somewhere in Utah, my mother is cringing right now.) I ended up wearing a business suit with a knee-length skirt, and below that was my lower-leg mountain bike trail rash in all of its scabbed glory. Beat said the wedding would be full of ultrarunners, so most of the guests would laugh it off, but I had to explain myself to more than a few commenters.

The wedding reception was held on a small "floating island" in San Francisco Bay called Forbes Island. It was a fun place and a beautiful reception, but I have a penchant for sea-sickness and Sunday was a particularly windy day in the harbor. I had a few moments early on where I was truly worried I might have to "feed the fishes" at my friends' wedding reception, but luckily a couple of glasses of ginger ale from the bar and a retreat to the lower deck set me straight.

On Monday, Sara and Spencer headed home. Beat and I joined Steve for a "short, mellow" run in the East Bay area that turned into 12 miles up to Mission Peak, along the ridge to Monument Peak, and back. I felt much better after a relatively restful weekend, but once we started downhill my leg bruises started to bother me with increasing sensitivity, and I mostly limped down.

It was still a great weekend if slightly off camber. I'm hoping I can right myself this coming week.

Also, in anticipation of the new book release in a couple weeks, I'm still offering copies of my first book, "Ghost Trails" at a discounted price. I have a few signed paperback copies available for $12.95.

The digital eBook for your Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, smart phone or computer is available for the discounted price of $2.99 at this link.

Purchase the eBook direct from Amazon at this link.

Signed paperback copies of "Ghost Trails" are currently available for $12.95 plus shipping. Click the gold button for checkout.

Signed copy of "Ghost Trails"

I posted an excerpt from "Ghost Trails" below. This is all of Chapter 9, "Rainy Pass"


  1. Wish I could accomplish as much on "off-camber" weekends...
    Nice pics. Mission Peak is on my "list" for a future visit.

    BTW, I finally got a pair of those Hoka's, and, if I can somehow modify them to accommodate my very wide forefoot better, they just may save my running "career." I'll post more on them after more time with them, but they make are amazing in what they can do for those of us who can't run downhill comfortably anymore because of age/arthritis and/or who have "beat-up" legs from training/racing. Recovery runs, long endurance runs/ultraruns and downhills are where they really shine/will shine, for many people, I believe. We are all individuals (some of us seem to forget that with all of the fads/crazes that happen) so these shoes, as with anything, won't "work" for EVEYRONE, but there is no question that they have a very useful "place" in running. I do think that you are lucky to have found them relatively early in your rapid transition and adaptation to the very different biomechanics and physical demands of distance running as compared to cycling.
    Best wishes for the book and publishing venture.
    Have fun, Ann

  2. Everybody has 'off camber' days. Sorry about your crash though..THAT really hurts. I did a full-body slam crash LAST memorial day (it was that crash that motivated me to finally buy a SPOT unit). Had to ride the 14 miles of mostly downhill back to my car almost entirely 1-handed, bleeding from my knees, elbows and hips. And considering it was a brief moment of 1-handed steering that led to my crash, it was a very nervous descent for sure. (I repeated that ride this Mem. Day weekend: no crash this time, so I have wiped that particular slate clean).

    Just read your Excerpt from Ghost Trails (I have a signed copy and read it a few years back right after I got it). Now you've got me all jones'd to read the whole thing again. Gosh what an epic adventure! I can't fathom doing that. You are SO strong (mentally AND physically).

    And me a pack of the "Carmel Bites" from TJ's this weekend...they are disappearing rather quickly I must say, had to hide them from my wife (at her request) until I could bring them to work. Though I was a tiny bit disappointed in the size of the bag...I was expecting (hoping?) for much larger size. Oh just means I need to buy more than 1 bag next time.

  3. I love talking about any new scars or scrapes that I've gotten riding or running. Really, it's the only positive thing about hurting oneself.

    And if it makes your mom feel any better, I don't own a single pair of pantyhose or tights. Unless you count my running tights. :)

  4. If you ain't rubbin' you ain't racin'! Feel better soon.

  5. Smashwords has your new book listed now - is this in error?

  6. Hamish ...

    It's not an error. I uploaded the new book file to Smashwords as well so I could generate digital files for reviewers, and also to specifically format the text for Amazon and iPad. The book is going through one more copy edit so I don't consider that version final, which is why I haven't publicized it, but the eBook is available for purchase from Smashwords if you're interested.

  7. Jill, I've been reading your blog for years now and the ad for Ghost Trails needled me everytime, so today I bit the front tire and ordered it after reading the 'excerpt' posted here.
    Oh, sure you forgot to down shift the Element. I can 'see' you struttin about in an arched back chicken stride with your tucked in arms flappin like wings the next time you meet your sister. There's hope though...sounds like you guys may have her BF hooked.

  8. Hey, at least you got your sister outside on a bike. Amazing how two siblings could be so different. Power of choice.

    Just got my first MTB (26") and inevitably will fall victim to the occasional crash as well. For me tumbles always happen when I'm low on sleep; it just kills my balance. If you're lucky you get a couple of "warning shots" before you actually go down, so you can cool it before it happens. But not always.

  9. "When it's too tough for everyone else, it's just right for the Homer's" (In my best impression of Grandma Homer's voice)

    I am happy to report I am able to stand completely upright again, and my back is no longer in pain.

    This weekend turned into quite the comedy of errors, but I wouldn't have changed it for anything. Spencer and I had a blast, and I know we will laugh about everything that happened forever.

    Thanks again for letting us stay with you, now that we know how close it is, we will definitely be back!

  10. Wow, these are some great views in this photos, very very nice.


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