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Showing posts from May, 2014

Beat's gadget genius

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I was laughing at the glut of gadgets for my mountain bike's dashboard, which include (but are not limited to) an odometer, a headlight, a rotating map holder (not pictured), a compass (also not pictured) and Beat's electronic cue-sheet gizmo. I find the cue-sheet gizmo immensely endearing, because of the thought and creativity that went into it. What it does is display turn-by-turn directions based on digitalized maps and distance readings from a magnet on the front wheel. So, without tapping into the Global Positioning System, it can alert me to upcoming turns as long as I'm on my intended course. It has buttons to reset and backtrack if I'm not. And it also features pre-programmed notes on the route (while nearing the top of Black Mountain on Thursday, it informed me that "Woot Woot" was coming up in 0.2 kilometers.) It's a fun device. Beat made it himself.

By made it himself, I mean that he compiled the various parts, soldered the circuit board, wrot…

Loaded down

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Days remaining to get ready for a ride across South Africa are dwindling, and I'm working on making final decisions about gear. This trip is particularly scary because mechanically, I'm virtually on my own. The Freedom Trail travels through rural and remote parts of South Africa, and bike shop availability is even more slim than it was on the Great Divide. As such, I'm bringing an entire mini-kit of spare parts that I can only hope I don't actually need to use, as I have low confidence in my own field repairs. (I get it, if you're going to be a cyclist, it pays to work on your own bikes. But trust me, you would not want to ride any bike that I took apart and put back together, and neither do I.)

So, top of my list, spare parts. Next on the list is gadgets. When a race organization explicitly forbids GPS, you need a lot of gadgets to make up for it: Odometer, spare odometer after mud inevitably kills the first one, spare magnets, compass, handlebar map holder, and …

Hot lips

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Have you ever had an extremely minor injury catch you off guard and take over your life for a few days? This was my week. I sunburned my lips. It happened during my long ride over Diablo and Hamilton on Saturday. I'm usually very meticulous with the lip and face sunscreen; I keep a stick of SPF 50 within reach at all times, and Saturday was not an exception. Maybe it was the wind and excessive licking or maybe I just lapsed from my burned-in (ha!) sunscreen habit, but I fried my lower lip.

On Sunday it hurt a little, but something erupted on Monday and it bubbled into a full oozing blister complete with frequent bleeding and intense pain. Symptoms also included difficulty eating, drinking coffee and all other liquids through a straw, inability to sleep at night because it felt like a hot iron was pressed against my mouth at all hours, and uncharacteristic reluctance to venture outside. I had absolutely zero interest in the hot sun and anything under it, but figured this wasn'…

Flow motion

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There are a lot of roads to nowhere; many are fun and scenic places to ride bikes. Rare, however, are the collision of factors that tiptoe toward a more transcendent experience. On this day: A cold northwest wind, much cooler than we anticipated for the East Bay in mid-May. A steep, rolling backroad cut high above a gorge, waiting for the canyon to come to it. A 146-mile day ride over two big mountains and the physical reactions associated with that effort. Mile 89 — the gorge rises to road level and suddenly we're wending along a trickle of a stream. The grade is just uphill enough to always have to work for it, to never coast, and the route begins to trend southeast. Crosswind becomes a tailwind; I spin the pedals harder until I feel no air at all. The wind and I are moving in the same direction at the same speed. Everything becomes silent; even bike vibrations quiet, as though the wheels have lifted off the pavement. I feel everything else more intensely — the tension and rele…

Adventures, with and without anchors

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This was an enjoyable but full week effort-wise. I'm hoping to pull a sort of "peak" week in two weeks, but this one will be hard to top — 28 hours, 29,178 feet climbing, 26.1 miles running and 214.2 miles cycling in all of five workouts. And yet the fun, beautiful and adventurous nature of those five workouts made them feel like no work at all — abundant playtime, tempered by above-average work productivity because I've more than satisfied my outdoor cravings and am grateful for the couch time. 
On Saturday Beat and I set out to run the Slate Creek Trail down to Portola Redwoods State Park. Portola is a place you can drive to, but we like to pretend it's only accessible by descending from the grassy spine of Long Ridge into the bowels of an ancient forest.

Portola is home to some Coast Redwoods that have seen some things in their time, including the decimation of most of their kin. A few big trees still stand, and it's always awe-inspiring to stand at the f…

What's next

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Wednesday was the target for a mid-week long ride — before I learned about the latest California heat wave that's making the rounds in weather news. High of 92 degrees, not so comfortable any time of year, but especially rough in the early season. Since I'm training to haul weight anyway, I figured I could go full-bore with the water — a gallon of liquid, half water and half solid ice, which would offer cold water access for the better part of a ten-hour day. Crowd-sourcing ideas on Twitter had netted a great route plan from a local road rider named Janeen. Road rides around here often fit in a unique space between true road cycling and mountain gravel grinding. This was that kind of route, bouncing along broken pavement and narrow backroads between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz.

Schulties Road was seemingly in the process of converting back to forest — badly eroded dirt with broken chunks of pavement and loose gravel. My mind hadn't made the conversion from mountain bike to r…