Showing posts from August, 2011

Cycling and art

I view cycling as an extension of my creativity, a kind of art in motion. The whir of hubs, crunch of tires on dirt and rhythm of pedal strokes are music; the trickles of sweat and labored breaths are poetry, the flow of my legs and sway of my upper body a dance. I draw invisible patterns on the world with my movements — broad paint strokes on the strenuous climbs, staccato marks on technical trails and swooping pencil lines for ethereal descents. Every ride is a different kind of work, seen and known only by me, but I find this creative outlet immensely satisfying all the same. I return home and write paragraphs and process photos, but these are only reflections of the beautiful creation that I left outside.

It doesn't surprise me that a lot of creative types find their way to cycling, or maybe it's the other way around. I recently received an e-mail from A. Jeffrey Tomassetti, a 2011 Tour Divide finisher who lives in Florida, offering to send me one of his Tour Divide-inspir…

Crisis of confidence

I enjoyed my weekend despite the fact I wasn't perched on my bike in Washington state, ripping through a cloud of Capitol Forest dust. We took a trip to the city, met up with friends, went for a couple of runs, ate good food. I spent most of Friday glued to updates about the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, which, in case you haven't heard of that race, is generally considered the most competitive ultrarunning race in the world. I was embarrassingly unproductive for most of the day, then stayed awake much too late on Friday night hitting refresh on my Twitter feed. I did feel the 4.6 earthquake that struck south of San Jose at 12:15 Saturday morning, and was still awake at 1:30 a.m. PDT, about the time Geoff and Scott Jurek dropped out of the race. I admit I went to bed feeling bummed. I was really pulling for Geoff — for obvious reasons — as well as all of the other "local" (American) runners in France.

Since Friday there has been a lot of chatter about why so many Americ…

A time to run

Beat complained that I haven't updated my blog all week. One might think it's because I'm lacking bike inspiration, and that's part of it. But another is that I've recently launched into a new writing project that I actually feel both optimistic and excited about — the first of my many starts this summer that I'm convinced I'll not only finish, but finish relatively fast. Work has been going well but it's been a substantial creative drain. I feel like I don't have anything left for my regular assignments, let alone my blog. I've even lost my focus for picture taking. This week during my evening runs, I saw beautiful sunsets, a rattlesnake, a crazy suicidal rabbit and intriguing light over Steven's Creek Reservoir. Not once did I even attempt a snapshot, until today, when I realized that I hadn't take a photo all week, and probably should make at least one to go with the blog post I promised Beat I'd write.

I still haven't ridden …

Small victories

I returned from my Thursday run drenched in bliss, and a decent layer of sweat, after successfully executing my three-mile uphill run and three-mile downhill shuffle/hike with only a few encounters with the invisible searing knife of pain. I felt as satisfied as I often do after finishing a 50K, or a day-long bike ride, even though my accomplishment was comparatively small. When one's ability to move pain-free is taken away, even for a short time, and even by a relatively minor injury, every new movement suddenly feels like a gift.

Today I accomplished an even stronger run, covering seven miles with a consistent running stride and only walking a few of the steepest descents. Earlier this week, I struggled with the jarring impact of each step, which sent a stabbing sensation through my elbow that I referred to as "jiggly pain." That impact soreness has mostly abated and I can now run (slowly) without issue, although I'm certainly not out of the water yet. I was remind…


Today's my birthday I can't go for a bike ride Grateful all the same

August lost

On Monday evening, I attempted a four-mile hike. Using an ACE bandage, I created an elastic sling for my arm to aid in stability and suspension against each jarring step. I set off walking, fighting back the initial sharp releases of pain until the impact settled. The sun cast golden light on the hillside and it felt so wonderful to just be outside, focusing on breathing and movement again. For the past four days, my thoughts have largely drifted to stillness and pain. The truth of the matter is my arm hurt a lot, and every time I moved, it hurt even worse. But in stillness I could almost be free, almost.

I held my arm away from my body and pressed my wrist deep into the sling until my shoulder burned from the effort, but by doing so I could almost achieve stillness while moving. The gray pall of pain lifted and I started jogging up hill, drinking in the saturated colors of the evening. I reached the crest of my route and surveyed the sunlit valley below. It was so incredible, so beau…

I heart rangers — not so much the ER

It almost seems like it should be an exhilarating experience — catapulting through the air before diving into a spinning kaleidoscope of leaves, grass, gravel and sky — but reality always manages to hit me before the ground does.

"This is going to hurt."

I've been here before. More times than I'd be willing to admit in casual company, at least to people who can't see the scars on my legs and arms. I have what I consider an unfortunate combination of genetic traits — my dad's sense of adventure and my mom's sense of balance. Which means, sorry Mom, that I'm incurably clumsy but I don't have the good sense to pursue a more suitable hobby like knitting or reading books.

Instead, I crash. Some are more spectacular than others. And, in the long-time custom of incurably clumsy people, my hardest hits always find me at the most benign moments — like a wide gravel descent on the same trail I've ridden at least a couple dozen times, on a beautiful cal…

Book roundup

Summer Reading: Photo by Kris Molendyke, shamelessly lifted from Google+
I created a roundup of links of reviews for "Be Brave, Be Strong," mostly because I wanted to have them all in one place and a reference I can link in my sidebar. Sales were good in June and July and dropped off quite a bit in August, which I expected to happen once the "new release" wave leveled off. What's surprised me is that "Ghost Trails" sales have picked up quite a bit and the older book is now selling at nearly the level of the new book, thanks to Kindle sales. That at least has been a affirmation of so many indie authors' mantras that books are worthy projects because books are forever a source of income. The two together are at least keeping me in gas and groceries as I wrap up a few magazine articles and freelance newspaper columns that won't result in payments until months down the road.

Amid the few freelance assignments I've picked up, I have been working…

The virus effect

After several weeks of feeling weaker and less motivated than usual in my workouts, I was finally ready to admit that maybe I was experiencing my annual August slump that hit last year and 2008 and really dramatically in 2009 post-Tour-Divide. Yes, clearly I needed some kind of outside boost to lift me out of the gully, which appeared to happen Sunday when I pounded out one of my fastest Stevens Creek mountain bike loops. That evening, I felt the scratchy beginnings of a sore throat, congestion and a sinus headache. When I told Beat that I thought I was getting a cold, he suggested that my burst of energy could have been spurred by my immune system, putting up one last shock-and-awe bombardment of defense before the virus clamped down.

When I woke up, my throat was still sore and my nose was running, but the symptoms weren't really uncomfortable enough to justify putting off my planned long run, which I felt I needed to complete just to see if I stood any chance of finishing the 5…

Peeling off labels

The first five miles were so bike friendly that they could have been an attraction at Disneyland — smooth, swooping singletrack that plummeted from an arid grassy ridge into a green abyss of a canyon. At the bottom we discovered the opposite of friendly, a kind of bike purgatory where mountain bikers who overindulged in the sinful descent are forced to shoulder their bikes across a streambed of large jagged rocks for a seeming eternity. By the time Beat and I left the canyon and pushed our bikes up steep horse trails, rode along the searing rollercoaster of a ridge and returned to the car, 15 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing, three liters of water (one liter too few), and four and a half hours later, I had forgotten all about Disneyland. This loop in Henry Coe State Park came fairly well recommended but in my opinion was at least 50 percent unrideable (most of the uphill and flat sections were a bust.) "Singletrack obsession is such a sham," I grumbled to myself. "When am…

Goodbye to a good car

I called Cars for Breast Cancer at set up a pick-up time, tomorrow at 10, then began preparing for my 10-mile run. I planned to run straight from my apartment, but as I walked past my dust-covered car, I thought better of it. Geo, which has sat idle for nearly a month, at least deserved the dignity of one last ride. For everything Geo's given me, I owe it that much.

As Geo and I sputtered up the narrow switchbacks toward Skyline Drive, I reminisced about the good times. I remember the day we met, which was October 20, 2000. That date ended my long search for my ideal vehicle. As a poor new college grad, I was determined to avoid the clunker route, but I was also loathe to go into debt. I found the newest car I could afford with the cash I had on hand — a 1996 Geo Prism with 29,000 miles. The reason the car was so cheap was because its perks amounted to little more than an engine and wheels. It had a manual transmission, no power steering or really power anything, no air conditionin…

Climbing the unknown mountain

When I feel a need to reflect and reset, I like to go for long walks in the mountains. There are times when I'm seeking the mind-opening freedom of sweeping vistas, when even bicycles add an unwanted layer of complication, and I want to engage my body in the effort that never fails to ignite strong feelings of peace and well-being, the one thing I almost believe I could do forever — climb. Of course, every mountain has its top.

I admit I've been feeling a bit of unrest since the Tahoe Rim Trail 100. No matter how much I truly believe the journey is everything and the destination is only a very small part; and no matter how non-competitive I claim to be with others, I am actually very competitive with myself. I don't like to be defeated by myself. And my DNF in the TRT100 was most definitely a defeat. It caused me to question my abilities in everything involving trail running, in my capabilities to even engage in my big goals coming up at the end of the year and farther-reac…

Frustration and awe: The Zion Narrows

In my early 20s, I was a connoisseur of Zion National Park. I spent many weekends making the trip from Salt Lake City down to Southwestern Utah to hike in Kolob Canyon, or the Angel's Landing Trail, or the Subway. I once joined a large group of friends on a 55-mile backpacking trip from the northern edge of Kolob Canyon to the East Rim. Afterward, I looked at a map of the park and determined that I had traveled every single established (nontechnical) trail within the boundary of the national park — with the exception of the Narrows. A decade passed and I still had yet to knock that one off the list.

Of course, the Narrows are the most iconic part of Zion National Park, where the amber ribbon of the Virgin River flows through a thin slot between sheer sandstone cliffs. A somewhat difficult-to-acquire permit, not to mention a shuttle, is required to hike from top to bottom, which is the main reason I had never attempted it. When my dad scored one of these permits for Friday, July 29,…