Friday, July 12, 2013

Moving through the world

Sometimes Beat complains when I go too many days without updating my blog. I tell him I just want to avoid writing anything that sounds too defeatist or whiny. It's just been one of those weeks. Or months, I guess. Even at age 33 I find myself thinking things like, "I don't like July 2013. How many days until July is over?" As though the simple flip of a calendar page can turn everything around.

Not that I should complain. Work is going well — both Alaska newspapers and collaborative book projects (my own projects, sigh ... they need a boost. But it's hard to motivate toward creative projects when I'm feeling blue.) Beat is on fire at his job, and he's pumped about that. We have great adventures planned ... all the more reasons to count down the days in July. But I've been feeling frustrated about my physical state. My left knee continues to improve daily on an incremental basis, but the fact that it isn't 100 percent yet seems worrisome. I wonder if the bashing three weeks ago triggered some underlying overuse stuff. It feels a bit like chondromalacia, which gripped my right knee for years but strangely doesn't seem to crop up anymore. Maybe it's left knee's turn? I wonder.

Careful (perhaps arguably over careful) handling of this minor injury has limited what I can do outside, which also makes me feel a bit blue. I fight it, though. Motivation slips with my mood, but I get myself out there anyway even if I have to run easy, just so I can look at the world. Even when it's hot again and running feels like the last thing I want to do, I do it anyway. Inevitably, the simple act of going outside lifts me up. Yesterday I had to take my car in for service, and spent the two hours it took wandering the neighborhood — in the outskirts of San Jose. Pawn shops, car dealerships, and an outdoor mall. But the simple act of just walking around and observing the traffic of life had a positive effect on my mood; I was happier and more fired up for Beat's and my planned run in the evening. Staying on the move, looking at the world — that I think is my base motivation for nearly everything I do. I am just not wired to sit happily in one spot.

Our Wednesday run was relatively difficult (relative, that is, to my current abilities and perceived fitness, which is a disconcerting realization in itself.) So I decided to go for an easy road ride today, just up to the top of Steven's Creek Canyon and back. As I was pedaling up the canyon, a black truck with tape across one of the taillights buzzed me close, pulled into a pullout directly ahead, and turned around. I didn't think much of it until about a minute later, when the same truck buzzed me again, this time even closer. I could feel a whisk of forced air against my shoulder, and then I saw the driver waving his middle finger out the window. About a hundred meters ahead, he flipped another U-turn. At this point, I was frightened and wondering, "What's wrong with this guy that he's so angry at me?" I was just a solo cyclist, pedaling on the right edge of winding dead-end canyon road with a posted speed limit of 25 mph. And the next thought, "Well, here it is, the incident that's going to turn me off to road biking for another year. Who knows what he'll do when he turns around again?" And then, "What is he going to do? Why does he have to be so ragey? Why the hell do people hate cyclists so much? We cost them seconds of time and they respond with acts of terror."

After several more minutes he had not returned, but I was still frightened. Maybe he was waiting for me in a darker corner near the bottom of the canyon. I had no desire to turn around and find out, so even though I planned an easy out-and-back ride, I veered onto a spur road called Redwood Gulch, which climbs 1,000 feet in less than two miles. Some of the switchbacks are way too steep for my tender knee, but I figured a little knee pain was better than being assaulted.

The climb was strenuous and instead of feeling better at the top of Redwood Gulch, I just felt more upset about the incident, so I kept climbing. I pedaled a little bit harder to try to push out some of the anger. The knee pinched a bit but really, it's probably in better shape than I give it credit for. I climbed to the crest and turned onto Skyline Drive. There was still this irrational fear that this guy was back there somewhere, and I was not keen on turning around. I passed the Long Ridge trailhead, and even though it rightfully annoys Beat when I ride his nice carbon road bike on dirt, I decided I could use a brief off-pavement venture to relax at the overlook, away from cars.

Funny, but plowing those skinny tires through a thick layer of summer moondust on singletrack did wonders for my foul mood. It was kind of silly, kind of exciting, and required enough concentration to funnel my thoughts into the moment. Fifteen minutes later at the overlook, with the marine haze shrouding the golden hills, I was smiling again. I pedaled down Page Mill and turned a one-hour ride into something closer to three, but it was worth it.

It doesn't need to be much. I just like to get out there. At the base of my outdoor, endurance-focused lifestyle, that's really all it's about.