Showing posts from April, 2014

Practice makes perfect (fun)

There was a time when I called the training I did "practicing." Sometimes I think I should go back to that term. Athletic training implies all kinds of complex notions —specificity, scheduling, structure, repetition, targeting, nutrition, rigidity ... Practicing, on the other hand, is comparatively simple. You want to improve something? Practice that exact thing. You want it to become second nature? Practice more.

 My friend Leah paid me a nice compliment as we climbed out of Tennessee Valley in the Marin Headlands on Thursday evening. "You seem stronger," she said. "I feel stronger," I replied. The difference between now and any other time in the past year is now I'm spending more time really practicing on the bike — putting in long days, climbing lots, carrying big packs, and piggybacking on a solid winter running base with an activity that I'm naturally stronger at. I still run during the week — keeping a base at about 15-20 miles per week — …

Covering ground

When it comes to preparing for a long-distance bikepacking event or tour, long days in the saddle are a requisite part of physical and mental training. I'm not sure anyone has figured out an effective way around this yet — at least, not without significant butt, back, and leg pain. No matter how meticulously fine-tuned your machine of a body is, it still needs to adjust to being all hunched over and turning pedals continuously hour after long hour. But ... I've found ... eventually they do. And the results are wonderfully freeing. You find yourself thinking increasingly about "where can I ride today?" The sky (and daylight hours) are the limit! 
For obvious reasons of daylight hours ... and money ... relative proximity to where I reside is also a limit. But my goal for the next few weeks is to put in at least one, hopefully two longish rides every week, with a sub-goal to explore as many corners of the Santa Cruz Mountains as I can manage. I don't want to just r…

Lost. So lost.

I am working on improving my navigational skills. It is a terrifying prospect. In my early 20s, I leaned on friends to handle much of the route-finding on backpacking trips through Utah's canyon country. By my late 20s, I was leaning on GPS. I had my Atlas and USGS topographic maps to piece together mountain excursions in Juneau, bikepacking trips in Utah, and jeep road explorations in Montana — but GPS was always there to lend a friendly screen as I stared bewildered into the tree- or fog-obscured wilderness. Orienteering sounded to me like a not fun sport. Constant focus and translation of maps and non-specific gadgets like compasses and altimeters took away all of the fun of hiking. I like to just hike and look up. What's so wrong with that?

Lately I have been spending more time looking at maps and am beginning to read up on orienteering techniques. Completely unrelated to my map study, on Thursday I set up a plan to meet a friend in Berkeley in the late afternoon. In an e…

Weekend on the move

After several years of self-experimentation, if one were to ask me what I believe to be the best training for maximizing endurance, my answer would be back-to-back-(etc.) long days on the move, with little time for recovery in between. Doing so forces one to approach greater sustainability, while learning how to increase efficiency, more accurately interpret body signals, and build all those activity-specific slow-twitch muscles. I like to mix up my two main sports (trail running and cycling) in order to reduce repetitive motion, which, thanks to my shrinking violet attitude toward speed, has been the main catalyst of my own sports injuries over the years. (Actually, this is untrue. Clumsiness and crashing have been by far the main catalyst of my own sports injuries. Lack of natural coordination is one of the largest reasons why I have such aversion to speed.) I enjoy my cross-training volume method because it keeps me healthy for a fair number of ambitious goals while spending large…

Iditarod playlist

Someone recently asked me about the music I listened to during my recent races — an Iditarod playlist. Listening to music while exercising, training, or racing outdoors is a controversial subject. Some people are adamantly against it, and those who object to racing playlists often carry the assumptions that those who need music are emotionally weak, bored, or trying to drown out fatigue and pain. They accuse us of shutting out the world, but I don't see it that way at all. I don't use music to shut out experiences; I use it to enhance them. I connect with music much in the same way I connect with wilderness, and in my view, music and outdoor experiences intensify each other in equal parts. 
 I don't listen to music all of the time — perhaps not even most of the time during a multiday effort — but I still consider it a vital part of my experience. As such, I carried four iPod Shuffles for the 350-mile trek to McGrath, all loaded up with different playlists. There was one S…

Suddenly spring

Spring is my favorite time of year in California. In this region, spring actually spans February and March; by April it's the cusp of summer, with its heat and parched hills, face-stalking flies, dusty trails, stinging nettle and robust poison oak. But for now it is still spring, and returning from white winter to hills splashed in green has been refreshing.

 Less refreshing is re-acclimating to 80-degree temperatures, discovering that SPF 15 is no longer going to cut it, and sweaty chamois. But, Alaska adventures are over and it's time to look forward to the summer projects, put in more productive screen time, and get back out there in anticipation of the rest of 2014. I'll write soon about my summer plans, but let's just say there is a lot of mountain biking *and* mountain running in my near future. This is to be the year of "forever pace," a grand experiment and one that I'm pretty excited about.

 Trying to pull myself out of White Mountains 100 and …