Thursday, May 16, 2013

Over the slump?

Recovery is a difficult equation to solve. For most of April I felt blah. I had a difficult time with regular running routes, acquired hints of a minor injury, took it sort of easy but not really, and then ran a fifty-mile trail race. And this week, ever since the morning after the fifty miler, I've felt great. Minimal soreness, no new aching in the shin, and an abundance of energy. It seems all it takes is one fun endurance adventure to reset my psyche — "Oh, right, we really enjoy this stuff. We're not tired, not tired at all. Carry on, body." And my body, since it's way stronger than my mind regardless of what my egotistical mind likes to think, just shrugs and says, "Oh, okay." And off we go.

I have continued to take it easy for the sake of my shin. There's also the matter that I am decidedly in taper mode now. I have one more long run this weekend and then I have to focus on being prepared for the Bryce 100 on May 31. There was a miniature scandal this week when the race director decided to reroute the course to hit more singletrack and more scenic areas around Bryce Canyon. After measuring the new course with his GPS, he shifted the elevation profile from 14,000 feet to 26,000 feet climbing — a *significant* difference. Panic ensued. And just as I and other participants were coming to terms with the change and getting excited about the climby new course, the RD returned with an "oops, my bad, I had some other people analyze it with mapping software and there's only 18,500 feet of climbing." So ... who knows? In a way, it doesn't matter. I've attempted hundreds with 2,000 feet of climbing and 18,000 feet of climbing and 23,000 feet of climbing and they were all really, really hard. Usually climby courses work out in my favor, because I'm a much stronger hiker than runner.

But I had a great run today. Headed out at 1 p.m. and it was actually somewhat cool, about 75 degrees. I kept my effort level just below "zone out" (when I am working too hard to think about anything) and wrapped up 9 miles and 1,800 feet of climbing in 1:29. Then I saw an e-mail from my friend Leah about going riding in the evening at Skeggs. Sure, why not?

Every time I ride at Skeggs, I wonder why I don't spend more time there. It's beautiful, steep, often misty and damp from coastal fog, and full of flowing singletrack. But then I come to a technical section like this and narrowly avert disaster doing something silly. I am starting to come to terms with the reality that I am not hard-wired for technical mountain biking. I've always felt a disconnect with my sense of balance (i.e. clumsiness) and these movements don't come naturally to me. It would take a lot of practice to gain the proficiency I need. Technical running trips me up too, but at least at running speeds, when I fall (frequently), I just get banged up. When I make a mistake at mountain biking speed, (less frequent) falls have sent me to the hospital. Leah disagrees with my assessment and thinks I just need more practice.

But we had a great ride. Some of the climbing sections put me deep into the red zone, so when I checked my GPS, I was surprised to see that our route was only 9 miles with 1:48 riding time. It did have 2,300 feet of climbing, and a decent amount of downtime (while I played with my new camera.) Still, it makes me smile that I was able to run 9 miles faster than I could ride 9 miles today, and the ride felt considerably harder. Maybe Leah is right that I don't practice mountain biking often enough.

But yes, I received a new camera yesterday. Beat gave it to me as a surprise, for no real occasion — so it was a very nice surprise. It's a Sony Nex-5R. I've been using a Sony Nex-3 as my primary camera for three years now, and have been really pleased with it. Although it doesn't come on all my adventures, it has taken its fair share of abuse in the past three years. I've used it in dust storms and rainy days and temperatures down to 25 below. But it's not one of those tough cameras — it's a medium-sized point-and-shoot with several near-DSLR capabilities, and interchangeable lenses. The Nex series is a good choice for anyone who wants some of the features of a DSLR without the expense or bulk. It's been a great camera for me.

I'm still getting used to the Nex-5R so I didn't necessarily have it on the best settings for my "shoot" this evening. I also couldn't figure out the macro settings, so you don't get to see a picture of the cool wasp exoskeleton that Leah and I found. But I had fun playing with my new camera today, and hope it will see its fair share of adventures.

Looking back toward Skyline Ridge and Skeggs during the drive home. You can see all that fog we were riding around in. It was decidedly cool — around 50 degrees with some fierce winds — and felt wonderful. A great day for a 9-miler-times-two run and ride. 


  1. I don't believe I have ever commented on your blog but I've been reading for several years. The mention of your new camera piqued my interest, as I've been considering a Sony NEX and just rented a NEX-6 for a few days last week to try out.

    Out of curiosity, what lens do you use with it?

  2. Tech mtb riding doesn't fall into the old saying - "Just like riding a bicycle." The ability (for me, anyway) diminishes after only a few weeks of not riding tech trails and I'm once again picking my way down drops and tight hilly switchbacks like I've never been on a bike before (to the amusement of other mtb-ers and my complete embarrassment).

    As for the bryce elevation, they'd have to drop you down a 2 mile deep cave to get 26k out of a course in that area.

    Great photos - makes me want to get out for a trail ride today.

  3. Footfeathers, I never believed the 26k for a second :) Particularly along canyons traditional GPS measurement errors can translate into huge elevation changes which aren't real ... 26k would be like Wasatch. That said, Jill would do fine in any case :)

    As for the Nex, we have a few lenses. Size really matters a lot to us, so I got the new 16-50mm zoom lens, which is quite decent in terms of quality for its small size. Previously the original 16mm Pancake lens has done us great service, despite it's often bemoaned quality issues. I also have a Sigma 19mm lens, which is larger but really sharp and very reasonably priced. If you feel nostalgic the Sony works well with manual focus Leica M mount lenses via adapter.

    To be quite honest lens quality isn't nearly as important for a non-pro photographer as the magazines make it seem. As our friend Dan Bailey said - good light always beats good equipment. Jill took a lot of awesome photos with a waterproof point and shoot, and those cameras have horrible quality! Noone is looking at pixels, particularly not if you look at pics on a computer ...

    What I like about the nex is that they take very good pics in the default settings - good dynamic range and low light sensitivity lets you recover a lot of shots that would otherwise have been lost. When you're out and about you don't always have time for the perfect composition. Also the NEX is great to use one-handed while biking (yikes) due to the design of the case. And if you want to have more control, you can. As opposed to most reviews, I actually don't mind the menu system at all. And they're quite snappy and don't frustrate you when taking photos. That's one reason for example I wouldn't have considered the original Fuji X100.

    That said, I think the new crop of micro 3/4 (like the Olympus pen series) should be equally great and might appeal to you more if you like more traditional controls. The lens selection for the m34 series is huge, and the lenses can be smaller. Just at the time we got the original NEX m34 wasn't as far advanced yet.

    One thing to ponder is that if you get a camera that's too "nice" you might not take it when you really should (like bad weather etc). My Nex-7 is staying at home far too often ... But that of course depends on how you use them.

  4. To Jill: on the picture of your bike on Resolution trail (or it it Manzanita?), your fork seems to be locked out? I find suspension settings quite important on technical terrain and have to adjust it based on what trails I ride.

    To Beat: I have the EPM-1 and find it way too big and cumbersome settings wise for bringing on bike rides. I love the camera for hikes though. I use the kit 14-42 lens, but I was thinking about a pancake (20/1.7 lumix?) which would make it smaller and more ready to use on a bike. I was not sure about the wide angle but the low light we have here in the rain forest would justify it.

  5. Jan, you're right. I noticed my fork was locked out after the half-crash and adjusted it. But the half crash happened because I picked a bad line. I was looking at this narrow opening I wanted to slip through, and still managed to pilot the front wheel directly into the front of a larger rock without pulling up. Nearly endoed but I caught it and sort of tumbled sideways. I swear I was looking at the line I wanted to take, and still steered into an obstacle. Sigh. I don't think suspension settings would have had much effect on that situation.

  6. Friday and Saturday you guys have a chance to see the best cyclists in the world at the Amgen Tour of Cali. Today the 20 mile Time Trial up near Calero COunty Park, and Saturday a 91 mile road race finishing on top of your own Mt. Diablo. The last few miles could be epic. Check out their times up the Mt. Diablo climb and compare them to your own PR.....

  7. I'd love to watch the Amgen Tour go by, but I always find myself wishing it would go somewhere closer to my neighborhood that didn't involve fighting traffic. No big plans for Saturday, though, so it's something to consider.

    I can't imagine how fast they can motor up that climb, but your comment piqued my curiosity and I looked up my own on Strava. I think I've only climbed the direct route up Diablo once, with my friend Keith last May in my usual dawdling fashion. 1:36. The QOM is 1:07 and the KOM is 46:23! Hee hee.

  8. The Mt. Diablo stage would be a good chance for a big party - bring the beer, costumes optional. Be interesting to see if they can beat 46:23 at the end of a 91 mile stage. My bet - they handily beat the existing record. PEDs or no PEDs, those guys are from another planet.

  9. Appropos of nothing, as cyclists thought you might get a kick out of this:!/media/set/?set=a.10151643560722340.1073741835.161582827339&type=1

  10. Off topic: is it intentional that we need to log in to Wordpress in order to leave a comment on Half Past Done?

    I wanted to comment on the failed bike expeditions to Antartica so will do so here where it's easy:

    If winds are such a problem, would a recumbent bike help?

  11. Malva — thanks. Half Past Done was getting horribly spammed and I was trying to adjust the comment settings. I changed them again so hopefully it works now? If you try to comment again, please let me know how it works for you.

    As to the Antarctica problem, Eric Larsen himself said that he believed his bike just needed to be more aerodynamic, and was going to work on testing different bike profiles. I'm dubious. I've pedaled into 50-60 mph headwinds with a pannier-loaded bike on pavement (Nebraska) and I remember churning as hard as I could to continue forward motion downhill. When I got off my bike on the slight inclines, I noticed I was able to push my bike faster than I could ride it, with less effort. (Odometer readings, I remember 2.5-3mph versus 2mph or lower.) The same goes for climbing steep hills or riding soft snow or sand — pushing is often faster and easier than riding. Without having researched the science behind it, I do wonder if there's a threshold of wind and surface resistance where wheels will always been less efficient that more anchored forms of locomotion, such as skis with skins or feet. And how often is this threshold is surpassed in Antarctic conditions? It would be an interesting study.

  12. A new camera - nice! Beat's description of the NEX series and your experience with one explain why I bought the NEX3 just before coming to California. I would have ,happily gone for the 5 but price was a big factor for me and the 3 was in the right range. I agree that the menu doesn't bother me and so far I have been pretty happy with mine (although I do want to pick up a smaller lens for portability).

    That ride looks super fun! And I'm glad to hear your body is feeling better.


Feedback is always appreciated!