Soul is soul

As a newbie to cycling I was first flabbergasted by the cost of a decent bicycle, my jaw dropped to my knees when I saw the price tag of the shiny Giant Rincon $350! For a bicycle? I did a double-take and then check to make sure it did not have some sort of motor or solar panel. Another thing that baffled me was the clout that a couple bike companies held, quite reminiscent of the car industry… There was the big 4: Specialized, Cannondale, Giant and Trek. There were people who harbored brand loyalties and the likes. Now after riding seriously for over 4 years ridint along on my shiny Specialized Tarmac SL2, a bike that costs more than a little over $350 I ruminate on the differences and nuances of bicycles.

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Some people stay old-school endearing the feel of steel… as the saying goes “Steel is Reel”, some the durability and maturity of Titanium and many the reliability, strength, rigidity and popularity of Aluminum and Carbon. I think about all this and wonder what is the anchor…the grounds of and for this feeling? Why do people develop an affinity for something as “trivial” as how they feel when they throw a leg over a particular bicycle a feeling of nostalgia transported of a place in time, a state of mind is reborn/relived. I am of the conviction that as relevant as other bits are“ it comes down to the frame. When you look at a bicycle, surprising enough the frame is usually the last thing that jumps at the uninitiated, the graphics on the wheels, the bartape/handle bar, saddle, groupset, paint color and the many other shiny bits call out for attention but the thing that holds them together, the thing that dictates the characteristic and personality of the bike… the thing that courts and cajoles the rider to fall in love with the bicycle is the humble frame.

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In life we very easily forget what our frame is, we forget our primary and true essence. It is not our body our flesh will pass away , muscles atrophy and joints become arthritic, it is not out vocation or jobs they come and go just like life, it is not even our hobbies and recreation or family or any of those things that brings us the most joy… Our frames are our souls. We are a living soul with a spirit living in a body, like our bicycles we bolt on all these fancy dazzling parts that make us shift smooth, makes us aerodynamic, it calls out and masquerades our flaws, defects to a significant extent our strengths.

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I have always had respect for riders who can afford a custom bikes even more for the builders who create these incredible works of functional art. Custom bike builders sit and find out what type of riding you want to do, get you proper measurements, fit the bike to you and not vise versa, most times opting for materials with immense longevity like Steel orTitanium tubes and even fusions of the all popular carbon to the aforementioned. Custom builders pay the most attention the soul of the bike, yes components could be used to modulate the primary characteristics of the phrase but it truly all starts and ends with it. I hope you custom fit my soul for eternity.

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PS: Images gleaned from http://redkiteprayer.com/2014/03/nahbs-14-part-iii/

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Garett County Gran Fondo 2013 Part II

This is my ride report from this ride in 2013 check out Part I

After making that turn things started to go downhill pretty quickly. I was loosing fluids way faster than i was replenishing them, I hung with the group comprising of Ed, Joe and the Tri team for most of this leg but  both quads were beginning to cramp severely. We come up on a detour giving the option so stay on blacktop  which was the official course or a 3 mile double track fire road detour saving about 3 miles, the group began to weigh their options: Stay on the black top and avoid a flat or go on the double track with the shorter distance, the question i was asking was “which option has less elevation gain”? Three of us choose to go off road and the rest continued on the road. The downside of riding a road bike on singletrack is the loss of traction when you climb standing this could be compared to having your scoop of ice cream fall off the cone, disappointing putting in all that work and loosing it to tire spins. I could not sit and pedal because my quads were cramping and I could not stand because my back wheel kept spinning out…quite frustrating. I got off and walked up half the climb.

Back on the road, it rurned into rolling hills, the type of rolling hills with more ups than downs. Usually this is the type of terrain in which I excel because I can gain good speed on the downhill and stand up and power over the rise, in this case however I was seriously hindered in the powering up department, any attempt at a quick out the saddle burst was met with quad cramps (more from the right than the left…tore my left ACL 6 years ago still favor my right and do the most work with my right). This section to reststop #4 should be coined the valley of heartbreak (its definitely no a valley though). It constantly had crests which you would expect some sort of downhill on the backside only to be greeted with another climb, my triceps and neck were now also cramping, I guess from supporting my body weight on the bars and holding my above average sized head. I was slowly getting in trouble and I knew it in economic terms this was becoming an unsustainable investment. I kept trying to drink and eat with no lasting benefit I had already used up my 2nd, 3rd and 4th wind, I was now in overtime and suffering bad!…

Half way into this section, I was pretty much walking up all the hills and riding down any negative slope. The funny thing is my legs still had some climbing in them but I was just tired, my muscles were not really doing all the work… my will was, I had to tell myself to keep going. I would tell myself to just keep spinning but the moment I looked up and saw what was ahead it zapped every motivation I had just conjured and I would have to dismount and walk. Even with all this walking, I was still catching the group after the downhills so I figured I was not doing so terribly. If I could just get to the rest stop, there are 2 more great climbs and I was home. Just then I started hearing this rattle from my drivetrain every time I went over some rough road like something was loose, I kept looking down trying to figure out what the problem was. Joe kept promising me we would get to a section from which it was a 7 mile decent to Westernport. We had some decent lenght decents but I mever really saw the 7 miles of downhill…Dang Liar..

We finally hit Westernport where I stopped at the Subway stumbled in and sign languaged for a Coke… Oh the best coke I had ever had reminded me of my Aunt Nneka’s roasted bush rabbit (dont as me why or Why). I hit the rest stop laid down and asked for the mechanic. The mechanic arrived and all i could see were the bike racks on his car and the empty backseat oh how i would love to rack my bike and SAG in but i cant, I had come too far.

After what seemed like forever, I hit the road with the mechanic claiming to have not found any issues. I started the long climb out of Westernport, It was a gradual climb which I just slowly churned out,I mean really slowly like I climb Tuscey way faster than that, Like 5mph slowly, I was in the greyzone (no one in front or behind. Having told my companions to go on without me, I rode for maybe 4 miles and could not take the gradual dessimation of my legs anymore, I got off and walked for maybe half a mile then got back on. At the top, I was happy to see Ed he had waited for me, he was also suffering but not nearly as badly as I was. We rode together for maybe 100yards and my respiratory system suddenly imploded, I was really dehydrated now walking in the sun that long and not drinking enough was catching up to me, it took so much to raise my bottle up to drink or even hold my head up Im sure I looked like the dejected prodigal son. I dismounted and walked some more.

I walked maybe 2 miles up the one switched back climb, every 5 mins I would get the urge to get back on the bike and pedal but I just could not bring myself to do it, people kept passing me. My only indication of how long the climb was the tree line on either sides of the road, I knew when I was at the same level as the highest trees I was at the top, I was walking so slowly my Garmin actually kept going into auto pause a setting I had to give an accurate average speed on group rides with a lot of breaks. After about 20 mins I reached the top, pulled out my silver bullet (no not a cell phone dufus!) I had 2 tablets of xtra strength Alieve, 2 jells and 4 Sport legs tablets, I downed all of them and drank some water, at this point I was becoming afraid of ODing (overdose) on salt tablets. This gave me some strenght and I hammered the road Randolph Jennings lake area. It was almost impossible to get over 19mph but I was moving and feeling better untill I randomly dropped the chain…Off the big ring I thought? I was like ohh well.

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I finally hit the last climb before the Kitsmiller Rest stop, I knew if I could make it to the top then suffer up the last climb I would be ok as I had already resolved to walk all the way up the ASCI hill, there’s no way I was making that one. I decided to walk a bit first, get my HR down and then ride up the rest. When I finally remounted, the first pedal dropped the chain off the small ring to the inside…hmmm. I dismounted reset the chain and tried again … the same thing. I thought maybe cable stretch went down to a smaller gear tried again… same thing. All this bending down to reset the chain was taking it out of me. I walked some more thinking I would try again in a not so steep section… well it just kept getting steeper. The first SAG pulls by and asks if I need SAGGED I said NO! I asked how many people were behind me and he said he did not know but not many, I kept going determined to finish this Damn thing and also vowing to never attempt it again. Another SAG came by and asked if I needed SAGGED I declined again though I could see his eyes were begging me to accept.

This part of the ride tested me to my core, every thing in me wanted to quit. Up till now I had not once looked at my Garmin for distance or elevation only time and speed, It was 5:30 and I had 30 miles to go, the road was empty and these cars kept buzzing me. thoughts of walking up into ELK Garden alone, at dark, with the Deliverance sound track being played on Banjos kept crossing my mind seems like all he other black riders were smart enough to know to do the Century, I guess if I’m captured I’ll tell them Im a decendant of the Hartfields who absconded to Africa during the Hartfield and McCoy wars… I attempted to climb again but my chain just was’nt staying on, I then attempted to climb in the big ring but my legs would not turn over so tall a gear. I keep walking just as the SAG comes back again. I ask him if he can give me a ride to the top of the climb, he declines claiming to only be able to SAG me to the next rest stop which I don’t understand since it was not a timed section, neither was this really a race so I told him I would keep walking. I asked how much longer on the climb and he said at least a mile. I watched the guy who had just passed me cramp and get off and start pushing, he also declined a SAG.

At this point I had to be honest with myself, there is no finishing this ride without my small ring which had for what ever reason decided to keep bucking the chain. I had a couple conversations with myself..I said I would just set a target and tell myself if I could just pedal that far and when I got there move the target again…My brain was quick to point out that I could not really be stupid enough to try to trick my own self in this present situation was I. I agreed and scrapped that plan promptly. My brain then went on to rob it in by asking me why I thought I needed to do this stupid ride in the first place… For the millionth time it said YOU ARE NOT A CLIMBER! Accept it, embrace it, deal with it… like a child being chastised by his wise parent I concurred and vowed to stick with the century. The plan then was to get to KItzmiller and sadly SAG home. It took me about 45 minutes to get up that climb, I could hardly pedal down it. I was spent, my body, mind, soul, spirit were all totally broken. I reached the aid station and sat next to the guy who had a trash bag over him as well as a jacket and blanket, he was seriously dehydrated (he’s from DC)I chuckled a little when I saw him… not fair I know. His wife had just come to get him. I asked if I could get a ride and she happily obliged. For the first time that day I looked at my Garmin which said 99.75 miles…REAALLY!!? I considered pedaling around to even it up but the thought of sitting on that saddle was by now nauseating so I hit stop and held down Redet to save the data.

You know at the end of the day i am not sure what lesson to glean from this experience. I think what stands out the most is to know your limit, I’m am not certain I would have been able to finish barring any mechanicals, even if I would have I would have been utterly miserable, I truly feel the century is enough for me. I still do love the event, I think it is very well organized and will only grow. It is an awesome avenue for camaraderie and inspiration (Ellie, Sue, Donna, Paul definitely Denise)! I hope to be able to complete this race over and over again.
OK to be honest there is every chance I will attempt this again next year because my Ego is a tiny bit bigger than my Brain.

Much thanks to Donna for the hospitality and Gail for the company.

Peace and Speed

Garett County Gran Fondo 2013 Part I

I just finishd my third attempt of the Garrette county gran fondo. I am still working on that ride report but I’m just going to share my report from 2013.
Note: this was mainly written for members of an intimate bike club

So sometimes we face difficulties, sometimes physical many times mental. In some cases we feel close to our breaking point, close to our limit, to the point where there is no conceivable means of reprise or solace, the point where the only logical, the only feasible option is to throw our hands up and just give up. In this case there was always a way to quit, just stop pedaling but this test was not just physical or mental…it was both. I have seen some Discovery channel “I should not be alive” shows and it always struck me how emotional the survivors were when narrating their experience, retelling the saga was in essence reliving the experience I feel the same way. The Diabolical Double strips away layers of yourself; your muscles, your mind, your will and finally you are propelling your machine solely will power. To some the Gran Fondo was a mental challenge, a custom or a fun hard ride to this guy (me) it was a trial by fire… More accurately trial by elevation gained
Saddle up

The ride started with the customary evaluation of fellow riders and mandatory bike gawking/lusting. From my experience honed in stereotypes and an overactive imagination I scientifically deduced that this crowd today was mainly made of three groups: The Triathlete group most of whom had areo bars, deep rimmed wheels and bottle holders behind their saddle, half of them looked like misplaced models, junkies and jockeys the other looked like fit trim athletic folk. Then there was the mountain men, these people mostly weighed over 150 lbs, had hairy legs and looked as strong as an ox Morgantown like people…you could just tell they could climb. Finally, there was the adrenaline junkie or more appropriate the Lactic acid junkies: that’s the flat landers who choose to opt for the more subtle form of self mutilation to appease their sadistic desire for torture. In that mix also was me someone who was not quite sure why I was doing this. Last year I knew it was for the challenge and to see how much I could push myself, this year however with less than 1000 miles in my legs, 10 lbs heavier than last year and at least 40 hrs less sleep I was going to attempt to find that thin line that separates my desire from my will.

Once the whistle blew, it was off to 7 miles of downhill bliss. I hooked up with the senior citizens power rangers squad (Rick, Rich, Tony and Richard) who I rode with for maybe a mile then I figured I best leave these guys before the grade started moving in the positive direction so I let my breaks breath and was hitting 56mph in no time down the east side of ASCI. The temperature was already in the low 70s at 7:12am so I knew I was in for a long hot day. We hit a flat sections and I started enforcing the rules of discipline I had come up with: Don’t be too anxious to grab a wheel and drink both bottles between each rest stop. Once we hit the first climb White Rock all you could hear was the orchestra of people’s respiratory systems making the adjustment from coasting downhill to hitting a 7% grade. Today was going to be fun. Rick appears next to me and I stayed on his pace, we zig-zaged around slower riders and those who were clearly out of their comfort zone, maybe they mistook this for the seagull century or lost a bet. For me however , Clyds in the mountains…this is what its all about. We steadily pass people all the way to the summit, I looked down and smiled at my newly installed compact crank, one climb down 1000 more to go. It is mostly rolling hills all the way to the first rest stop.

Now. Down to Buisness!
After filling up my bottles, eating some pretzels, downing some endurolytes and socializing a but I hit the road again. The next climb Old Morgantown Road I knew starts almost immediately and was a long one. I knew it does not really let up until you cross the interstate and then it just turns into a long section of false flats. This section was the genesis of my demise last year and I was determined to ride smarter this time. We turned onto the climb and bid the power rangers adieu, settled into a nice cadence and tried to find a good rhythm. On this section last year it was still cool (mid sixties maybe) the sun was beginning to peek out and the mountain was covered in dew. It felt like we were climbing into the clouds. This time however it was already scorching hot, being that this was a very exposed climb and my skin color does not only cause everyone to assume I’m a Democrat but also tends to absorb more of the suns rays…I was already sweating a storm half way up the climb. This climb was littered with riders with bikes at various stages of disrepair from flat tires to busted derailers. I asked most if they were ok and if they needed anything. Random Thought: (the truth is that most times in these situations the helpee really doesn¡¦t want you talking to him as he is already peeved off by the mechanical and the helper still asks if he can render any help knowing full well that he really would rather continue with his ride undisturbed as well as conscious of the fact that there’s is a 95% chance the helpee will say “I’m ok thanks” I know people are just being courtsious but coming from someone who has been the helpee a lot don’t talk to me unless I ask for your help Sorry still amped from Saturday. Please always offer assistance especially if you are a TA (Trail Ambassador).
I submit the climb and start winding down to the next climb that ends at rest stop #2. I remember this exact place/time last year…the site of the first cramp. I’m trying to lie to myself but the fact is I’m beginning to feel the beginnings of some cramps in my right quad, not nearly as bad as last year but I definitely feel warning of what is to come. I chug some more Heed take a couple salt tablets, eat a banana and chant the phrase I came to repeat many times that day “At least I don’t feel as bad as I did at this point last year” the word YET! was apparently missing from that statement unbeknownst to me.

I spun up that climb and into the rest stop where I was met by many friendly faces. I saw John Waugaman, Less, Rick, Rich, Tony, Joes McCaude, and Garth your friendly neighborhood Strava segment stealer. While getting ready to hit the road again, a random lady came up to me and asked how I was doing, I held the conversation as I tried to figure out how I knew her. She saw the confusion in my eyes and went on to tell me she remembered me from rolling on the floor at the finish line last year and conveyed her sincere desire and heart felt request that I try not to traumatize her children who were there last year. I was embarrassed (my dad named me Mandela after a man who was popular for fighting for his people’s freedom at the cost of 27 years in prison but I am being remembered as the big black guy rolling in agony at the end of a bicycle ride). I promised her I would do my best and peddled into the beast to come… (Have to be a but dramatic)

My legs were feeling a lot better after some stretching, I had also hooked up with Ed and the local Tri team members, we hit Bowman and I was feeling strong, Joe told me Rick and Rich were just ahead and I could catch them if I tried, I told him I did not want to. The Bowman climb could be broken down into 3 sections each progressively steeper but shorter as you went. I easily crested the first section, then hit the second, the signage on the floor ironically brought a smile to my face because it was quite appropriate; it read SUFFERING with a forward pointing arrow. The next sign read AGONY then I heard music. I looked up and saw a van with what seemed like the WMW logo then I recognized the faces of Angels º, Kate was one of them, they encouraged me and I kept moving came up on Agony section which was about a 12% I believe, Ray was right there and encouraged me up. At the top, I ate a banana, took some more salt pile (probably number 10 by now) and drank some more. The next climb was Devils Half Acre which I took my time up and then Killer Miller¡K the beginning of the end. I felt like this would be a good time to pick my battle to I climbed off and walked the steepest section (less than 5 min walk). The course then continues to climb a bit then sharply drops into the 3rd rest stop.

At this stop I took my shoes off, doused myself with some water and laid down for 5 mins, I stood up to get a drink to returned to a gentleman who had been standing around before me had taken my spot in the shade. He apologized and offered to move but I told him it was ok, I was on my way out. I asked if he was continuing and he said he had reached his limit and was waiting for the SAG. I asked where he was not from and he said he was from New York City. I said this isn¡¦t no 5 Boroughs ride is it? He concurred with an exhausted smile. He said he had trained hard for this ride but Hill repeats is nothing compared to this monstrosity¡Kaint that the truth. We wished him luck and were off.

Downhill to the sign where life was about to change. At this junction the sign said left for 125 miles and right for 100. Ed asked what I wanted to do I said Left or bust… That my friends is where I crossed into the cave of agony¡K Part II coming up after my next round of therapy¡K
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The Cost of Awe

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Most people come to a point in their lives when they ask the universal question “What am I here for, What does my life mean, Is there more to life than this”? In a way these seem easy and expected akin to those teenagers ask about their bodies during puberty. They also seem easy because for most of us this stage of curiosity does not last. It is quickly stashed away by the buzz and routine of life, melancholic moments overshadowed by activities, laughter, routine,  they down into the background awaiting rekindling when life slowly drifts to sleep.
The harder and I dare say more important question is “Why do we do the things we do”, why do we stay in routines that have long lost their meaning, why chase a dead-end job or even worse ascend the corporate ladder that provides material wealth inversely proportional to the wealth of the heart? Cliché you say? How about why do you go out and run that 5miles even though today its stinking hot and you really did not feel like it, why still go to the gym when all your mind, muscles and adipose fat in unison yearn for a retreat on the couch glued to the tube? Why do you pedal up that climb doing intervals on your bike….

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Even the things we think are fun and we do for recreation often times turn into routine void of our first love and enthusiasm but we keep on doing it without thinking about… so apt to autopilot “it”…I think many a times we subconsciously deny ourselves the options of asking why, we feel the question  more than we think it but we fear to expose it to our consciousness… we fear to explore it for what answers might be buoyed to the surface.

Every once in a while we experience Awe for cheap… Get lost and end up on a beautiful scenic mountain road, hook a Rainbow Trout on the line, the first time we descend a 1000ft climb with a tailwind and no traffic, the first time we nab a PB on a 10K…. Obviously there is the price we pay in effort, resources, training, practice and the likes but that cost when compared to the result the first time is unequivocal, the awe factor far outweighs the cost. We are designed to be leaky vessels, God fills us up and we immediately start leaking, we have to continually return to be refilled, it might in some cases get easier to refill but we might start desiring a taste for something else. This is as true in our spiritual lives as our physical. That Job we were overjoyed to have starts becoming unfulfilling, yes we enjoy running a 10k but dang motivation is now at a premium, yes the view at the top of this climb is great but I do not feel like climbing….

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For us to really experience Awe, we constantly have to reevaluate routines and be brave the question why…why should I do this again… is it time  to initiate change? We have to be willing to put the effort in to earn the experience. We have to be willing to climb a different hill if the view is no longer enthralling, fish a different stream if the fish are no longer biting. We have to be willing to tarry and wait for God to reveal himself if we feel he has gone silent. As important as it is to ask the questions it is even more important to accept the answers, Oswald Chambers put it this way “we all have those times when there are no flashes of light and no apparent thrill of life, where  we  experience  nothing  but  the  daily  routine… The routine  of life  is actually God’s  way of  saving  us  between  our  times  of  great inspiration  which come  from  him.”

 

Race Report: Big Bear 2×12 Part II

This is part II of the race we did last week, if you are late to the party checkout Part I here

it is funny how difficult it can sometimes be to rest when you are exhausted not sure what chemical malfunction of the body is responsible for that but I think Lactic acid, Adrenaline and Caffeine in unfriendly proportions might have something to do with it.  After my first lap, I soft pedaled to our basecamp and drank a Gatorade, coke, water, another Gatorade and another coke then laid down to take a nap but I guess the aroma emanating from me summoned this flesh eating flies to a feast. I aborted that plan and headed over to chat with Danny (a teammate in a different Duo who was recovering from his first effort also) and another racer evangelizing the benefits of Beet juice as a recovery beverage even offering us a trial to which we declined (don’t try something new on race day, definitely not half way into the race). All this while it never occurred to me that I did not note the time I got back in so I could not tell what time I should start heading back to the exchange tent to pick up from Ron.

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After reclining for about an hour, I refilled my bottle, lubed my chain just as Jason came in from his lab. He helped me fix my limit screw availing me with my bailout gear which I had avoided since my last mishap. On the issue of a bottle, It seems almost crazy to use a bottle and not a pack in such a technical course. It was also very difficult to drink, I thought of wearing a hydration pack but I do not see any of the cool guys use one so I decided to go with a bottle, well for one thing the trail was littered with bottles so I guess these guys are either pros who discard their bottles after drinking or were having trouble like me riding over baby-head sized rocks while trying to fit our bottles in the cage.up and headed to the exchange tent to look at the leaderboard where I discovered we had dropped to 2nd in our class. Usually the faster guy goes out first but in the case of the current leading team, their second guy was faster… A lot Faster…’ My first lap was done in 1:25 and this guy did it in 1:19, at this point this team was on their third lap and Ron was nowhere to be found. I was about to resign myself to the fact that he must have had a mechanical, a crash or both when he pulls in doing it in 1:30

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I headed out on my final lap feeling quite composed and cognizant of what was to come, I carefully threaded my way through pretty much all the rock gardens I had previously had trouble with. I passed 3 or 4 guys and 2 girls on the climbs and was feeling solid, I tried to go at a hair just below race pace but was brought to face the impotence of even my race pace when I got passed by a couple of the Expert class riders (those guys do not even coast, their cadence on the flats was higher than mine going downhill). Through the Pine section (a section of the trail that meanders through a grove of pine trees with the floor completely covered in pine needle giving it a cushiony feel). I get passed by a lady on a FS bike and in my head I make excuses why I am not that fast (her nice bike, her weight, her shaved legs etc.) The fact though is she was a far stronger rider than I am  but she was for me a rabbit to chase I knew I would not catch but I pushed to keep her in sight as long as I could (I didn’t last very long).

I got to the baby head monster down hill section and this was the beginning of the end. Prior to this section I was confident I was on a 1:17 pace but it just seemed like my body had taken such a beating from all the rocks it was difficult to flow through the trails, pick/hold lines or crank out any significant power. I was squeezing the break so hard down this DH section I had to stop and shake them out a little at the bottom. At one section, after I let go of the breaks, my fingers were locked in place and I could not relax them…I was thinking this must be how all this people with Arthritis feel.

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From mile 10 it was pretty much a climb in, I believe I officially bonked on this section, I kept praying and asking God to keep me from any mechanicals or crashes till the finish line, I definitely did not have the energy o will to deal with either.. It took everything in me not to get off and walk on the climb out, I totally fell off my original pace and thought I was going to finish in 1:40 if I were lucky…At this point, the 12 year old kid passed me and said…good job men (at least he didn’t call me big guy). I managed to crawl in in 1:30 five minutes slower than my first lap . Ron had a solid first lap but we were unable to dethrone the other team now, it was not even close, their fast guy did it in 1:15.

We were happy with 2nd place and figure even if we don’t race again this season we have earned it….

Race Report: Big Bear 2×12 Hazelton WV Part I

It seems there is something about competition that is quasi-primeval in humans, once there is more than one participant even the most mundane things intended to be leisurely or collaborative become competitions. This is evident in group rides, professional work where team members begin to compete and even sabotage, government…even church. Competition seems to be everywhere and it is GREAT! It incites passion, it kindles effort, it bids effort and provides motivation, I love to compete. The good thing however is that I believe I am a good sportsman andan awesome loser.

Having said that, since the arrival of Adaeze my competition itch has been competitive eating against myself (I always win) or largely ignored to the chagrin of the local bike shops (most of my bike racing comprise mainly of physical turmoil and mechanical mishap). Earlier this week I get a call from my buddy asking if I wanted to do the Big Bear 2×12 race: a relay race in WV where teams of 2 race 2 12 mile laps (Expert class races 3 laps) to which I said yes. Now I have been logging some decent miles this year though nothing like last year, I have also been on the mountainbike only 4 times this year so I figured this was going to be interesting.

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Now Big Bear lake trails is a super technical trail system stewed with drops, rock gardens and tight singletrack ideal for a full suspension MTB which I do not have of course, I have a Giant XTC 29er hardtail running a 1×9 drivetrain, everything else stock.

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The drive up there was uneventful… beautiful but uneventful, right before you cross into West Virginia, you could see the morning sun burning off all the fog creating almost a celestial backdrop. We picked up our registration packages and headed up to meet the rest of the team. Ron starts setting up while I relaxed and work on my tan, Next thing I hear is 15 MINS TO REACESTART…( our strategy was for me to start since I am the faster of the two of us and for Ron to keep us in a good position or at least slow the competition down by plugging up the trail). Ron’s advice as I headed to the start line was  Don’t start in the rear, be confident -go out strong so you  don’t get held up behind the slow guys… I should never have listened to that…

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The Prolog was up a gravel road climb for about a 0.7mile section, I settled in the middle of the pack and went out full-gas at the whistle. All classes started out together so as expected the experts pretty much disappeared once the whistle sounded while the fast sport guys started pulling away. I got to the position where I was just at the tail end of the fast guys and I figured this was where I wanted to be. My heart rate was pretty much at that point right before you consider going to the ED (I’m thinking cause you Ron for your terrible advice), we headed right into the singletrack and oh my was it a technical singletrack. I passed a couple people and ran into this rock gumbo of a technical section – of the 600 so miles I have ridden this year about 580 have been on the road coupled with the fact that I have never really been good at technical riding or line selection, I am more of a -point and shoot- kindda guy so my choice of gear (drivetrain) selection was less than perfect. I stalled on the first rock garden being in too tall a gear to power over the rocks, having too much air in my fork and tire hence a really rigid front end, I kept stalling on every technical section (there was a lot of them) having to dismount and walk around them, this resulted in my HR never quite dropping.  I kept getting passed all this while with people giving the customary “Are you ok”? salutation as they zoom by ( I truly wonder if they would really stop and help if I said I wasn’t, I’m not sure I would)

I stopped, took a deep breath and said to my self “Mandela get in a rhythm” so I got back on the bike and started slow like I usually do and originally planned to before sage Ron gave me his false oracle. At this point I could not see any other racers so I still had to remind myself this was a race and I needed to push. At about mile 6 I could see a group ahead, my legs were beginning to feel better so I cranked a little harder, dug a little deeper. I would close in on the group on the climbs but it seemed at the crest of every climb was a little technical rock arrangement designed just for me, I would stall me and they would get away from me but I will claw back to them on the climb (obviously we all must have been really slow if I was catching them on the climbs). On the climb I was the closest to them I hear this huge clank in my drive train, look down and my chain has shifted behind my cassette and lodged in there (limit screw adjustment), I yank on it a couple times then pull the wheel off and reseat the chain (this results in my being passed by another group of riders including a 12 year old yes 12 year old and he will pass me again but I am getting ahead of myself). I remount chase and quickly pass this group calling out “passing on the right/left” You know there should be a universal etiquette for passing during a MTB race, heck there could be one and I don’t know about it, it just seems like whenever I am trying to get out of the way of a faster rider or vise versa  we always end up trying to go on the same side resulting in both of us slamming on the breaks…

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The big downhill was next and being my Clydesdale self I bombed down if with a couple close calls, one time going off a drop, I could not decide if I wanted to air it out over the ledge or gingerly roll down it so gravity decided for me sending me in a sideways orientation- I am not sure how I saved that one. I crawled up the last 2 miles certain I was last by this time by the time I got there. The timing tent was at the buttom of this steep bridge which of course I was in the wrong gear when I got up to. I crawled to the top and gracelessly handed over my baton to Ron and apologized for my time… He said you did well we are leading. I had don’t it in a 1:25mins fastest in the Clydesdale class.

Part II soon…

 

Let’s Go Outside Together Kido…

It felt like a swift jerk of the head, like a certain realization, an untangling of an enigma. The incredible vista spoke of how small I am in the scheme of things but also how much in the center of it I am, it was beauty so amazing so intoxicating it felt palpable, I could have sat there parked by the side of the road and drank of that beauty till dusk. I speak of the day I discovered my love for the outdoors, my love for the view you get from snow dusted peaks, the view of rolling hills, farm lands, meadows and bluffs, the nostalgic calm that comes from driving (preferably riding) 2 lane country roads where you see more animals than people: It was a fall day in late September and I was enroute to visit family in Baltimore, I had loathe this terrible former industrial city Cumberland in which I reside for its lack of infrastructure, lack of modern skyscrapers, busy downtowns, people bustling a city ablaze with life and activity so as I happily sped down the road anticipating my reunion with the concrete jungle I have for so long been used to and found synonymous with development and forward thinking. I got to a crest called Sidling Hill where the road had to be cut through the Appalachian mountain and “boy was that a view”! The view was so commanding I had to park my car on the side of the road step out and look, I thought to myself this is definitely magazine front page material. The orchestra of color; yellows, reds, amber, greens, ridges upon ridges casting successive shadows deepening the shade of blue on the mountains as far as the eye can see, the crisp cool breeze licking around the chicks and ears announcing the approach of winter and there in that awe I felt a bit of sadness. Why have I never noticed this before…Why have I never stopped to smell the roses?

The biggest thing my sister has tried to teach me with raising my now 11 month old daughter Adaeze (ZayZay) is “observe before you act”.

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As hard as this is to practice, I find that when outdoors I have no choice but to observe, the outdoors saturates the mind and senses with a barrage of activity that I can not anticipate or process for Adaeze this is because I am also doing the same thing she is doing “Processing”… that new sound, that flower, a black squirrel …. Hey Adaeze that is a Daisy (as she stands unassisted and oblivious to the fact that she is because she is so mentally engaged)… a Dandelion… that’s Yellow…say Y-e-l-l-o-w…Ops! I’m standing by myself and she quickly lowers her center of gravity by getting on her knees. Talking to her and teaching her when outdoors does not seem so awkward while outdoors, I don’t feel like I have to amuse her and make incomprehensible sounds just to make her laugh I feel I get empowered to speak to her like a being capable of on some level comprehending what I am saying.

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I think internally all humans are primed to have an affinity for freedom, admiration for something that is wild, something free, uninterrupted and uninhibited by human manipulation. I believe this is why nary a person could gaze into the wild canyon or a waterfall and not feel a sense of happiness, a sense of peace. In an infant I believe exists the intersection between purity and adventure, unmarred by the evil in this word and open to experiences, eager to learn, who better to teach than we parents what better to teach than those things we are passionate about. Adaeze is trying to walk now, she can stand unassisted and could take 2 steps before falling but if you hold her hand she can go all day I call this Assisted Walking (AW). When doing AW with her indoors she seems to exhibit a task oriented mindset… let’s get from the kitchen to the living room as fast as possible… on the other hand when outside every step seems more deliberate, looking at where she puts her feet, looks at where she puts het foot, study the kid next to the car… study that yellow car and how it differs from the silver one…. In her eyes I can see learning take place; I see mental calculation and acknowledgment of commons and constants… Those two must be the same thing, just a different color… that dog is alive like me just different… it’s not inanimate like that desk but it’s not alive like Dada or Mama or Tre…. she practices her pointing, a new skill she just learnt and that in a way seems like an invitation to me to come into her world and talk…. That ZayZay is an Oak Tree…That, that’s an Acorn….oh that one it’s a Squirrel.

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For a long time I felt the concessions I had to make after Adaeze came were great; loss or reduction from riding 5000miles a year to just 1000 (projected), fewer than 5 annual overnight back packing/skiing trip and loss of the weekend long runs. Now we do quick 10mile bike rides on the tow path with her watching life fly by in her bicycle trailer head crowned by oversize bike helmet, and run 5ks’ with her in the stroller looking up at me when the pace drops and me telling her “you can come push your chubby butt up this hill and let’s see how fast you go”.

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The latest adventure was a family hike up the Maryland Heights a trail in Harpers Ferry West Virginia with about 100ft elevation gain which I did with her on my shoulder going up and her asleep in my arms coming down (I forgot her backpack child carrier). On the drive back we stopped at the overlook and gazed on the awesomeness of Sliding hill the site of my first date with that gorgeous lady Mother Nature and I could sense an impartation a transfer of love, of desire, reverence and appreciation a handing down of passion.

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I never stopped to smell the roses because no one showed me how, is that not what parenting is about, leading, guiding, helping and doing better those things that our parents maybe did not do so great. Ultimately I feel in Nature/outdoors we hear and feel God.
Connect with your little trailblazer outdoors……

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