Wednesday, May 15, 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.