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Showing posts from September, 2011

Redwoods road ride

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I didn't actually mean to binge on this much road biking this week. I blame jet lag, which wrestles me awake well before sunrise each morning, and a bit of writer's block, which makes me feel reluctant to return home to my computer. It's not that I'm necessarily stuck with my project, it's just that I've forgotten where I'm going with it. It's a bit frustrating, staring at blank screens, tapping out a few sentences and then erasing them. I want to reset my mind, and anyway I have that 25-hour bike race to train for. So I take to the road.

I winced as I placed my sore sit bones on the saddle this morning; of all the body parts that have fallen out of shape since my August bike crash, my suddenly sensitive butt is the most noticeable. I rode 40 miles and Monday and 45 yesterday, both with 4,000-plus feet of climbing, so I decided I'd take it easy today. I brought one water bottle and no food. The sun burned hot even at 8 a.m., foreshadowing the 95 de…

Back in the saddle

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Forty-six days. That's the amount of time that has passed since the last time I experienced a good, satisfying moment on a bike. Then it all came to a skidding halt on a bed of gravel and broken dreams. Forty-six days can be a long time.

There were a few rides at the four-week mark, right before I went to Europe. Three rides, actually. One was a commute, and two were short road rides on my mountain bike, because the front suspension helped protect my tender arm from the jarring pain of mildly bumpy pavement. During the second ride up Montebello Road, I lagged far behind Beat. When I finally wheezed my way to the top, where he had been waiting for more than five minutes, I announced that I was in the worst physical shape I had been in since the extended angry knee episode of 2007. Nothing felt right, everything felt hard, my arm hurt even though it seemed nearly healed, and frustrations about my abilities were mounting. I was teetering dangerously close to a fitness funk that threa…

Germany

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Beat and I have been spending a quiet recovery week at his mother's apartment in Bielefeld, Germany. We've both used the time to catch up on work. I had a difficult time focusing enough to complete much writing — my mind is still muddled with Italian mountains, Alaska winter dreams and borderline obsessions with cycling — but it's been a good week to catch up on bookkeeping and work on the tedious, hair-pulling process of updating my eBooks. In the near future my digital books should finally be well-formatted with plenty of photographs and will look awesome on iPad and pretty good on Kindle. I'm looking forward to this, but in the meantime I'm slogging through the ePub process and exchanging communications with a company in California that is nine hours off my current time. Yes, it has not been the most productive week, work-wise, but arguably more productive than my week in Italy. Arguably.

I'm excited to be in Germany and have tried to get out for explorations…

Switzerland: Hopp! Hopp!

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I admit I was surprised when Beat got out of bed at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. I expected him to pass out after his shower Saturday night and not wake up for days. Or maybe I was hoping for this. Either way, despite his apparent inability to walk without a pronounced limp, he was still all-in for the half marathon in Switzerland that afternoon.

We expected Steve and Harry to arrive in Courmayeur by early morning. But a results check revealed they were still about five hours away, so we had to roll away without seeing them finish. I drove through the seven-mile-long Mont Blanc tunnel, along the rough and narrow roads of France, around at least three dozen roundabouts (have I mentioned how much I miss traffic lights? Yes, I miss them), onto the smooth and narrow roads of Switzerland, and finally onto a real freeway while Beat drifted in and out of consciousness, but mostly out. We arrived at Beat's brother's farmhouse at 11 a.m., ate a quick brunch of fresh bread, cheese and local…

Italy, day nine

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Despite my inability to take care of it, my body showed surprising resilience to my demands of supporting Beat all night followed by hiking all day. But on Friday morning, that all came to a crashing halt, and I woke up feeling like someone injected liquid lead into my bloodstream during the night. I wasn't entirely surprised, given that I had climbed anywhere from 5,000 to 11,000 feet every day but one for the past eight days, endured hundreds of kilometers of stressful driving, slept an average of three hours a night, and fueled myself with a sporadic diet that contained about 90 percent simple carbohydrates. Still, I can't overemphasize how crappy I felt when Beat dialed in his daily dawn update to tell me he was starting up the final pass of the Tor des Geants. I mumbled that I would likely not get out of bed for the rest of the day. Of course, thanks to my extended bout of jet lag insomnia I couldn't sleep anyway, so I got up and cleaned the apartment, organized Beat&…

Italy, day eight

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The days were all starting to blur together, as were the names of the TDG life bases. I'd forgotten the name of this one within minutes after I arrived around 11 p.m. Like the other checkpoints, it was stashed in a quaint mountain town at the end of a long and winding canyon road. The white tent was wedged in a small plaza between several hotels, where street lights flickered in dull streaks of orange amid the race's overwhelming flood lights. I parked the car under the artificial midnight sun, read my Kindle, and eventually dozed off only to be awoken by Beat tapping on the window at 1:30 a.m.

It's an intriguing environment, these events where people from a multitude of different nationalities come and go in the night, but all share the common and often debilitating condition of being human. In places such as this I get the sense that there is no nationalism, no language barriers, only fragile biological beings trying to endure something quite difficult and painful. They h…

Italy, day seven

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After my ten-hour strenuous hike, having finally crawled into bed at 11 p.m., I was back up at 2 a.m. to begin the two-hour drive out to Gressoney. Timing Beat's checkpoint arrivals was a mystery wrapped in an enigma of guesswork. I at least had last year's splits to go on, and he was generally running similar times about three to six hours ahead of his 2010 pace. But timing Beat's exact arrival required exhausting margins. If I estimated he would arrive around 6 a.m., I really had to be at the checkpoint by 4, and not be terribly surprised when he didn't show up until 8. The Tor des Geants life bases were not exactly welcoming of crew members. We weren't even allowed inside the buildings unless our racers were physically there and a kind volunteer let us slip through the controls. I learned to get comfortable in my little rented Volkswagon compact, snacking on jam sandwiches and occasionally getting out of the car to jog a few blocks to stay warm, because gas is e…

Italy, day six

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On Tuesday I had a good block of daylight between my life base trips, so I decided to squeeze in my long hike for the week. I mapped a route following the Tor des Geants course backward to Col de Malatra, which is the last pass in the race, then crossing overland to complete a loop over two passes, for a total of three big climbs and a good chunk of distance. I slept late because, to be honest, sleep has been a rare commodity during this trip, as food has also been. The food is delicious when I can get it, but Italian culture is not conducive to an on-the-go lifestyle, with its mid-day store closures and complete lack of convenience stores and supermarkets. I often have a very difficult time acquiring food when I need it the most, and have taken to eating bread and jam sandwiches for more meals than I care to admit. At this point my stomach doesn't even really care about pizza and authentic pasta, it just wants calories. It's funny to come all the way to Italy and lose almost …

Italy, day five

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My fifth day in Italy was a challenge of coordination, as Martina and I both wanted to meet our men at the second life base in the skiing town of Cogne and also do a bit of hiking ourselves. I made my second attempt at navigating the roads of northern Italy, which has only been remotely possible thanks to a GPS device that Beat purchased during his last race in France. If it wasn't for GPS, I'd probably be driving in circles down in Torino at this point. I'm still learning to read traffic signs, none of the roads are marked, and even if they were, and every street has a name at least sixteen syllables long, beginning with Strada and continuing on for several seconds in GPS's soothing female voice. The most amazing thing about driving here is the A5 highway, which is mostly routed directly through the mountains in a series of tunnels. The mountain roads are all incredibly winding and narrow and barely squeeze between centuries-old stone buildings. Even the driving here …