Monday, December 14, 2015
2015 has been somewhat crazy. Selling and buying homes, moving several times, downsizing an entire life's worth of stuff, and all the stress of change has left me with a lack luster year of bike racing. Actually, not much passion on the bike at all. Yet riding a bike is still so important in many ways. Perhaps this was the long overdue break in racing that I have needed. Instead I have enjoyed soaking in the sun and and gazing over countless orange sunsets. All fine for now, but around each new bend lies a new possibility, and I can not say for sure exactly where my life will take me next. Today I am in Arizona.
Friday, September 11, 2015
...saying good bye to a house and an era.
... not sure what to hold on to.
... some stuff...
... came with us
... both old and new.
So, what’s up with pixy and her bike over the last few months? …. I have been trying to pack up and move 32 years of stuff as part of downsizing.
It is amazing what one person can accumulate over time. I never thought of myself as a hoarder, but over the years I have accumulated many things. Things that I saved, things that Art saved and things that family members thought we should save. It appeared that Art and I had saved more than two person's worth, and August was the final hour of the big move.
I am very grateful that our half move to Arizona got us started downsizing. Last year I cleaned out a bunch of closets and found homes for many items. Even with all of that, we had too much stuff. A few months of diligent downsizing and donating, we have finally arrived in our smaller home. I thought that leaving my old home would be painful, but it felt perfectly right.
The whole move has been draining and I wish I had exciting racing and biking to write about, but that is not the case. The bike has not been a priority, and at times I was not even enjoying the few times I rode my bike. After a few weeks with biking on the back burner, I am starting to come back around.
Friday I rode out to Ilgenstein look out and gazed out over the NYC skyline. It looked like a toy factory, in the distance beyond hills of green. I thought about how lucky I was to live and play in green hills, and how lucky I was to be able to step outside the toy factory and play in the green hills. ….I am a mountain biker after all.
Saturday, July 4, 2015
It had been years since I raced my single-speed. I’m not sure what happened, but about 7 years ago I took a long break from single-speed racing, and became very bonded with my gears, … all my gears. I had several attempts to get back out there and turn the holy one, but I never seemed to be able to motivate myself enough to go without.
Enter the Lewis Morris Race: which is not one of favorite race courses. The course is rolling, hilly, not very technical and a true fitness course. Not being in top form this year, I was not looking forward to facing my current shortcomings. I really wanted to add something into the mix to get me excited to race and light a spark. My weapon of choice was my steel single-speed. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions as heavy rains the night before the race and a light rain at my start, enhanced the challenge.
I had half a thought of bailing when I saw the rain at the race, but I really wanted to stretch my legs and ride as I was cooped up inside the house the day before. I was late getting to the race, so I had little warm up. When I race gears, I am super strict with warm up as a 50+ racer because it takes us elders a little longer to warm up, but this day I was a single-speeder and that meant I had no age. I was just a biker turning the perfect one, and would deal with no warm up.
This was my first attempt at 29er single-speeding, so I had done my research on the Sheldon Brown site to try and mimic the proper gearing and gain ratio. If you have not seen the Sheldon Brown site, you need to check it out. It is the ultimate in gearing geekyness.
The gear I chose caused me to fall off the back at the start, but as soon as the course tipped uphill, I took charge of setting my pace, which held well among the geared girls. I worked up to 2nd early on the first lap, and then fell back to third, where I would eventually finish. The rhythms of the single-speed are all to it’s own, and I knew not to pace myself with anyone else, yet I could see racers in front and behind, which is a good thing. My motivator was my lack of gears, and I was forced to suffer up each climb.
I checked off each climb in my mind on my last lap, and got complacent after the final climb as if I were done. The racer behind me bridged up and I was under pressure. Under geared for the final flat sprint to the finish line against a geared racer was a sure fail on my part. I had no choice but to push the limits of my comfort zone on the slippery turns and loose descents. Any place that was slightly up, I had to attack. What ever I did, it worked as I gained just enough to hold my 3rd place. It was a good day to be on a bike, and I suppose that is proof that my choice to race a single-speed was a good choice.
After a long hiatus from single-speed racing, Lewis Morris was a perfect race to be reunited with the perfect one! I hope to do some more single-speeding in the near future.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
I’ve been back in New Jersey for weeks, and I hate to admit it, but I’ve been procrastinating about getting back out to race. I had a list of excuses, and I was all caught up in my excuses like the world revolved around me. Imagine that? In reality, we are just tiny fragments orbiting around the world, and it was time for me to take hold and jump on for the ride.
The week before Rumble in the Jungle race, I got a few good rides under my belt, and both my mind and body were beginning to feel better. I had some doubts that I could actually complete a 3 lap race, but I decided to race anyway. My thinking was that I could stop at any point, if I wanted to, and if I kept going I could either: do well, or gain some training saddle time. I really had nothing to lose by trying, and would gain nothing by not trying.
I signed up and was happy to see so many familiar faces at the race. The course was rocky, technical and wet from rain showers the night before. It was also humid, something I had not had much of in the last few months. I kind of dug the humidity. There was no doubt that there would be suffering of all types on the course, but I was relieved that it was wet because the slick conditions would most likely slow the racers down to “pixy” pace just to keep their bikes upright on the wet and now sweating rocks and roots. Other than one hot paced day lap in 24HOP, I had no intensity riding under my belt for 2015. Slow and techy was about all I had in me, ...or so I thought.
I previewed the start and knew what to expect with wet roots and rocks. I was confident that I could manage the handling part, yet I was uncertain with the race distance. I had a good start and was able to avoid being taken out by a miscue, and claim 2nd wheel. I struggled to keep contact on the first paved climb, but by the next single track I took the lead and was able to hold it to the end. I was chased some on the first lap, but I rode super clean and stayed off the front. The course did start to dry a bit and I was able to smooth things out some. …Well, as smooth as I can ride in Jungle, and I am sure some may argue that anyone can ride smooth in Jungle. It is a lumpy, jagged, rocky place.
I was very happy to finish three consistent laps, and surprised to win my race. The wet course was challenging, but I think that helped to keep my attention and keep me motivated. After 22 years of racing, a fitness course can get boring. So, a wet Jungle was a perfect first race back in NJ. I hope to be rocking more rocks soon!
Friday, May 1, 2015
Winter 2015 was awesome! It was filled with: warm days, lots of sunshine, new beginnings, concrete dust, big spiders, cactus needles embedded in my skin, flowers blooming, bees buzzing, star gazing, coyotes howling, snaking electrical wire, painting walls, and beautiful sunsets. Yeah, somewhere in there I rode my bike too.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
After 22 years of racing/training, I was feeling like I needed a break from my usual rituals. The move to Arizona has offered a nice change in pace. My focus on home renovations has been a welcomed change to the racing priorities that I have followed in the past. Riding never stops, it is more about attitude than anything else. I am trying to keep connected with my real riding roots and that is more about mountain biking itself than racing or training. I assume I will race again come May. I just do not want to think about it now.
Art is not necessarily in the same place. He met some people on a group ride and exchanged phone numbers for future rides. One of the riders asked Art to be on a team for 24 Hours of Old Pueblo. Art quickly declined because of home renovations and he was not sure if he wanted to take an entire weekend, day and night, to play in the dessert. This new friend was persistent by text, and in texting back to him, Art’s finger slipped and he hit the thumbs up emoticon. He went to erase and hit send by mistake. Before he could send off a corrected message, an excited reply came back assuming that Art was in for the race. At that point Art decided that it was fate and he would race on team ‘No Fork ‘n’ Brake”.
While I had no intensions of racing myself, the day before the race, one of Art’s team members became ill and backed out. Art was sick as well but still planned to race. I decided I would fill in as 5th person. I planned to camp at the race with Art anyway and we had no kitchen at home at that point, so camping actually sounded good.
We arrived Friday and the place was jammed already. If you have not heard about 24HOP, it is a big deal in Tucson. It brings out close to 4000 people from all over the country to this desert campsite nick named “24 Hour Town”. Locals train all year in preparation for this event, and in the weeks prior, trails were real busy, as if everyone was out training. When driving on the highway the week before, I could see the town developing with campers in the distance.
It felt good to be going to a race and not really feel like I was racing, but just hanging out and supporting some fellow mountain bikers by filling a spot on a team. Art and I were the first from our team to arrive, and after Art bent his truck bumper in a ditch, we decided we went far enough, so that would be our campsite. We would face getting out on Sunday. We had a nice view, and it was close to a section of the course. One by one, we met our team as they arrived. Although the truck was comfy sleeping that night, 24 hour town was a party scene that night.
Marie was first in the start order and led us off with ¼ mile run lemans start. Imagine 500+ bikes lining a road and running ¼ mile and having to find your bike? It was crazy! Art took the next lap and I was able to figure out the logistics of how it all worked. Once unleashed on to the course myself, I could not believe how good I felt. I started passing people right away. Although I did not plan to race, I was racing. We all talked about the “The 3 Bitches” and some sketchy water bars. Apparently the “Bitches” were faster but not as fun as the bypass. I decided I would take the “Bitches” in daylight to check the water bars, and decide later what I would do at night.
On the first “Bitch” climb, I was given a “rider down” message from a marshal. On the third “Bitch” racers were stopped for 14 minutes while an injured rider was extracted by helicopter. I texted Art to let the team know that I would be 15 minutes behind schedule. As I was standing around at the top of the hill waiting, I noticed that the small group of 3 that I was riding with, had grown to nearly 50. When the race resumed, I was approaching the sketchy water bars in a pack of racers. I knew that wasn’t real safe, but luckily we all seemed to get through safely. I had a great lap that was much better than I expected. I rode the drop into the finish area and could hear Art cheering. I delivered my baton to my team leader, and went back to have dinner and wait for my night lap.
It was close to 10:30 when my night lap started. I don’t ride at night much. Actually, I don’t think I used my lights at all in the last 8 years. Yes, they worked, but were not as strong as what people use today, and I would be lucky if they lasted 2 hours. My 25 pound bike probably weighed 28 lbs with all the old school batteries. The first 15 minutes were pretty cool and then I took the “Bitches” and dragged my bike up each hill. I felt terrible, and quickly started to convince myself that I should not do any more night laps and maybe even quit racing altogether. Racing seemed tedious but I got around the 17 mile lap in just under 1:40.
I have a very short memory and by 5:00 am I was out for another lap. This time I decided not to push myself and take the bypass. It was wonderful! There were very few riders out on course and it was quite beautiful. The dead rat count was off the charts. It is amazing how many rats get run over on this one night a year. It makes you realize that the desert is indeed alive at night. As I started up the final climb, I noticed that it was getting light outside. I always dreamed of a daybreak lap and now I was here to experience it in the dessert. As I climbed, I heard the familiar “weet, weet” morning song of several curved bill thrashers. The desert seemed to glow. At that moment I understood what so many mountain bikers like about night riding and 24 hour racing. You just need step back for a moment and open your eyes. Racing can take you wonderful places if you let it. I rolled in to the tent for my last time to exchange the baton. It was good weekend of racing.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
SSAZ is a crazy cult-like gathering, something like “Burning Man”, or that was how it was explained to me. Single-speeders gather for a few days and what happens is a creation all unto itself. Art was on the unofficial roster, and while I had been invited, I declined due to a healing hamstring.
We rolled into the touristy town of Cave Creek and made ourselves at home at the Tumbleweed Hotel under the "Jesus Saves" sign. Eventually we strolled down to the bike shop for Art to pick up his packet and meet some of the family. I bought a beer and before my beer was finished, a few suckers were already out for the count … on the ground, literally. I’m sure it was a crazy night, but we decided to go to bed early and save our efforts for the next day.
Up early, we headed back down to the bike shop and the large family loaded their bikes into a Uhaul and climbed aboard buses, all to be delivered to the start. Those that did not fit into a bus, climbed into our van, sitting on top of viga beams that we purchased the day before. Eventually, 80 or so bikers with only their favorite gear were released into the desert. They were instructed to follow the blue and pink tape, some of which were tied to bottles of liquid refreshments and told to “have fun and don't be a dick!".
I took the van back to the finish and got on my bike at about the time the latter half of the riders were passing through the aid station. I jumped on course at that point and rode some fun trails, but lost my markers and tried to turn back. This happened quite a few times and eventually I did not really remember where I came from. I only had one beer the night before and now I was feeling a little concern for my partying family members that would be trying to find their way.
Luckily I spotted some riders and tried to follow them. They eventually dropped me, but at least I was back on course. If I followed the course, I would find my way back, or so I thought. So I latched on to another group and got dropped again, but they eventually got lost and I caught up. We did some figuring and managed to get back on course with only adding 5 miles and a giant climb. I was impressed with how the single-speeders did the climb, but I was very glad to have my gears at that point. We split up again and 21 miles later, I rolled in to the finish site to find out that Art had won as the first finisher. ....crazy awesome!
It was quite an epic adventure and I got to ride some new trails, many which were really fun. There were some great views, numerous water crossings and new friends along the way. It was a great day!
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I had visions of exploring some riding in Austin, but the weather turned to crap, and as soon as Art’s race was done we moved on out of town. That ended up being a good choice as Sunday’s Elite races got cancelled anyway. I do not care to comment on Nationals, but I am pretty glad we made the choice to get out of town and head to Arizona a few days early.
Friday we got a late start because it was raining and 34 degrees with chance of freezing roads. We drove all day to cross Texas. Texas is one big state and not much to see outside of open space, wind farms, and oil fields. As we approached El Paso, there was border control activity and abandoned cars with no wheels along the highway. We drove through the boarder town at sunset. The sky was painted in beautiful color, with the glimmering lights and smoke of refineries in the foreground. At the time, it seemed beautiful, and then in a blink Texas was gone.
By the next day, I was beginning to get down from the cold, dreary, cloudy weather. We forged ahead on our last days drive. Finally mountains appeared on the horizon, and I spotted a patch of blue sky ahead. About the same time as we crossed into Arizona, the sun came out. Close to a year in the works and finally the day was here that we would arrive at our new home. Visions of sunny days and riding in shorts and short sleeves would become a reality at last. We managed to get a ride on the trails before a beautiful sunset.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
New Years day 2015 was an exceptional day. Not only did it mark the start of a new year, but it marked the start of a new chapter of my life. Months of preparation, planning and packing, and now the departure day was finally here. Art and I both woke up 30 minutes before the alarm. Excited, we opted to get on the road early to start our journey. As I walked out the door, the cold 10 degree air smacked me in the face as if to confirm the purpose of the journey.
Our days drive went well, and every song that came on the radio seemed to have something to say about life. Maybe all songs say something to someone, but this day, my antenna was up and the words spoke to me clearly. Trucks came and went, and the van rocked in the truck wash with the rhythm of the road.
It was great to be reunited with family in North Carolina. However, it was disappointing to have it rain all 3 days of our visit. I knew there would be many sunny days ahead, so I tried my best to enjoy every drop of rain that came my way. The few days off the bike also allowed to make family time a priority. We ended up helping Art’s mom clean drawers in an old desk she wanted to give us for the Arizona house. In that desk we came across the letter that Art wrote to his Dad when he retired and moved to North Carolina 26 years ago. It was quite the perfect timing that Art was reunited with that letter on his own retirement journey. The desk that Art collected belonged to his great grandfather, who was a sea captain. It was used on voyages across the ocean. It was now packed between boxes and bikes on our pilgrimage across the country.
We drove down the mountain under a full moon, and as the Appalachian Mountains faded in the rear view, the horizon opened to the west. We drove 600 miles in a flat straight line until we turned off in Texas for our next stop: Cyclocross National Championships.