Showing posts from October, 2012

Go with the Flow

Shortly after I finished my Kokopelli Trail ride in Utah last weekend, I found myself in a position I land in frequently — trying to explain to skeptics what it is about long bike rides that I find so appealing. When attempting to verbally describe this concept while my mind is still fried from the physical demands of the ride, I often hem and haw and mutter buzz words such as "pretty" and "mountains." One non-cyclist friend speculated that she would become "crazy bored" on a six-hour solo ride; another mountain biker friend called this particular redrock canyon route "cheesy" because it lacked the necessary amount of adrenaline-pumping singletrack. "I can't really explain it," I finally concluded. "But long-distance rides are one of the few activities I can fully immerse myself in. Sometimes when I'm on my bike, I get so caught up in the movement that I let go of everything else; nothing else matters. It's liberating…

Love, Utah

Sunday afternoon after the half marathon, the California crew headed into Arches National Park to do some sightseeing. We decided to treat or tired legs to an easy walk, so Delicate Arch became the destination. At three miles with 500 feet of climbing, it's not nothing — but the rewards are much greater than your average three-mile hike. Despite all of my excursions into Southeastern Utah as a youth, I haven't ventured inside Arches National Park in many years, and have not hiked to Delicate Arch since I was a teenager.

Admittedly, visiting Delicate Arch is on the cheesy end of the outdoor activity spectrum. The iconic landmark has been so exploited to death that now it's most common to hear things like, "Wow, that's what's on the license plates!" from fellow hikers while standing in the presence of this wholly unique entrada sandstone formation. Still, being there made me feel like a little kid again. The weather was gorgeous and we sprinted out onto t…

The Other Half

When Monika started planning our big reunion in Moab, she centered it around a half marathon event, reasoning that a lot of us, herself included, were all into running now. Back in the D Street days, there was actually a whole group of runners that did not include Monika or me: Geoff, Bryan, Curt, Tricia, Anna, Micah ... But despite the appearance of converging interests, Monika hadn't convinced anyone from the original crew besides her own husband, Paul, and another friend, Kati, to sign up for the race this weekend.

Luckily she was bringing a large contingent of her own running friends from California. And just before the race, Geoff and Bryan's girlfriends, Corle and Monica, signed up as well. Then we learned there were a few extra bibs floating around. Kati's sister forgot to train, and Paul had injured his ankle and couldn't run. After some grappling it was decided that Jamie would run with Kati's sister's bib, and I was going to be Paul. Thankfully for m…

Strange steps take us back

I was just a hair over 19 years old when I decided I hadn’t made enough new friends during my first year in college, and opted to rectify that by joining the University of Utah’s environmentalist club, Terra Firma. Yeah, I wanted to save the environment, too, but I was working two part-time jobs to buy myself the luxury of not living at home, taking a full load of classes, and I had little time for extracurricular activities. So my primary motive was making friends, but when I walked into that first meeting full of young men with hairy faces and women in sun dresses, I had no concept of how deeply this single action would shape my future. 

I was just a hair over 22 years old, and had been out of school for more than a year, when I moved in with them. “They” were a loosely organized household of ten students, an unwieldy group stuffed two-plus to a bedroom in a small house in the Avenues of Salt Lake City. We called ourselves the “Terra Firma House,” and later the “D Street House.” We…

First (and only?) training ride

My friend Jan recently took a job at a small biotech company in Seattle, and is leaving the Bay area this Saturday (booo!) It's always a bummer to lose good riding partners, but the upside is that he wanted to squeeze in one last big ride during his last week in town. Great timing, because I needed to squeeze in a long training ride for the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow before taper time encroaches. I effectively haven't ridden a mountain bike more than a handful of times since mid-August. Training for a 25-hour solo that begins in seventeen days? No time to start like the present.

Jan mapped out a big loop of trails, fire roads, and pavement around the Marin Headlands. On paper, or original route looked ambitious — but even then I thought, "Yeah, we can knock this thing out in seven hours" and even made early dinner plans with a friend in San Francisco. Ha! I should know better by now. Of all of the regions where I've dabbled in longer distance riding, the California…

Winter of discontent

In late February 2013, Beat is going to load up his sled and set out from Knik Lake, Alaska, and walk toward Nome — 1,000 miles on the Iditarod Trail. For many reasons, such an ambitious undertaking is well beyond my scope right now, and yet the desire to find an Alaska adventure of my own burns deep. On the whole, I'm an adaptable person who could happily change a lot about my life — but, as of yet, I feel unwilling to let go of my annual winter "pilgrimages" through the wildernesses of the Far North. Why this particular activity has become so deeply woven through the fabric of who I am, is still a mystery to me. But a winter without Alaska is still as unthinkable to me as a summer without mountain biking. If I *had* to choose one to give up, well ... most of my biking friends would probably not be happy with my answer.

Happily, Beat's month-long commitment to Nome will likely give me a lot of time to work with in winter 2012-2013. Less happily, my usual, convenien…

Just because we can

I was under the influence of a "22-hours-of-driving-from-Grand-Canyon-to-Salt-Lake-to-Los-Altos" lag, and feeling disconcerted about the degree of difficulty I experienced during a 90-minute bike ride on Tuesday, when Beat turned to me and said "Horseshoe Lake 50K is this Saturday. Do you want to sign up?"

My mind initially cranked out a stream of logical reasoning. "The Bear 100 was just ten days ago. Grand Canyon was three days ago. You were already tired before all of that happened, and still have enough genuine fatigue that you can sleep like the dead through the night and still feel muddled and sleepy during the day. And despite what you might believe, you haven't even run that much lately. Everything you've done from UTMB on has pretty much been strenuous hiking. Plus, the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow is in three weeks, and the last thing you need to do is go for a long run. If anything you need to get that baby-soft butt onto a bike seat and crank o…

Palette of motion

My friend Jan offered two great suggestions for our morning ride today: Mountain biking along the sandy ridges above Pacifica, or road ride to the top of Mount Hamilton. At first, mountain biking seemed to be the clear choice. With the exception of two routine hill climbs near my house, I've been actively avoiding road biking since my friend Keith was hit by a motorcycle while we were riding in Yosemite National Park last May. It's not a fear or protest type of avoidance; I've ridden plenty of pavement on my mountain bike and commuter since then. It's just that much of my excitement for road riding tapered off when the harsher realities settled in. Put yourself on skinny tires and you're always at the mercy of vehicle traffic. There's no escaping it.

Still, I'd never ridden Mount Hamilton before. At 4,200 feet, it's the highest peak in the Bay area, accessed on a solid 18-mile road climb (and descent) with 4,300 feet of climbing (thanks to a couple of …

Still an incredible ditch

It's my favorite tradition — and a strong indicator of where my priorities fall. I've failed to go home for Christmas for six of the past seven years, but I never miss the annual autumn Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hike with my dad. 
This year was my seventh trip into the "big ditch," as my friend Dave calls the Colorado River gorge. My first rim-to-rim hike, back in October 2004, was such a daunting prospect that I was awake all night before the hike, nervous that I wouldn't find the strength to climb all the way out of the canyon. I'd done 6,000-foot climbs before that, but never at the end of a long day. My dad and I joined a large group at North Kaibab trailhead in predawn darkness. I remember thinking it was such an incredibly long way down; after fifteen miles, my legs were aching and we were still at the bottom of the canyon. Temperatures climbed over a hundred degrees as we plodded up the Bright Angel Trail. Some of our companions developed bloody nipples…