Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Checking out and not checking in...

Saturday, a day normally spent having coffee, doing chores and hopefully squeezing in a bike ride. Life was so structured before...well, just before.

This Saturday though, now that I live in the upside down world, things are different. I got up early, had coffee and a bowl of raisin bran to fuel the day, loaded up my bike and headed out. I don't need to tell anyone where I'm going or when I'll be back. I do as I please, when I please and how I please.....and it's weird not checking in with anyone.
I actually emailed the girls just so I feel like I'm still plugged in. (and just in case things go wrong and they have to come get me) It's all very strange but as I'm learning its my new normal.

I met my friend Lynn in Livermore and we rode out Mines Rd to the junction and back. It's about a 50 mile out and back with 4000ft of climbing and is a perfect ride for me as I continue my initiation into this weird place I now live. It's fairly tough, starting off with a long climb and it's lightly traveled which allows me to turn my thoughts inward.

My bike, always a trusty companion, has accepted its new role as full time therapist. It willingly accepts the abuse as I stand and hammer the pedals trying to drown out the thoughts in my head with the pounding of my heart and the loud ragged breath this type of effort produces.

Eventually, realizing there's no way I can keep burning matches at this rate for the entire day, I back off.  I sit, settle into what i hope is a nice smooth spin, letting my heart rate return to normal and dropping back so Lynn and I can chat as we climb.
We take it easy and talk for most of the ride out to the Junction where we sit in the sun and enjoy a gatorade while getting ready for the climb out. It's taken us about 2 hours to get to this point and I haven't fueled as well as I should have. Any nutrients from the raisin bran this morning are burned and gone and as I stood to make the last climb before the descent to the Junction I could feel the twinges of a cramp deep in my hamstring.

From the junction back to the top it's about 5 miles and by now the sun is out and it's pretty warm. Obviously not hot by Livermore standards, but I'm guessing it's almost 90 degrees with no shade and the heat coming off the road asphalt makes it feel much warmer.

As the climb begins both Lynn and I have gotten quiet and are focused on making smooth circles as we sit, sweat and focus on forward movement to the exclusion of all else. It's here that I want to be. Deep into the pain cave, all thoughts and focus directed only at moving my bike forward, thinking of absolutely nothing but making my legs turn and staring at the road ahead.

It's finally quiet now, both inside my head and outside in the empty canyons which surround me. The sound of skinny tires rolling on hot asphalt barely registering on a brain and a heart that has been too tortured and twisted for the past few weeks....this is the place I seek more and more frequently.  A place to hide out from the world...a place I can check out and escape.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Clicking in and checking out....

This is the end of week 3 living in the upside down world. It's all still pretty surreal. I find myself thinking of calling her or sending her a text which is what I normally did at least once per day...every day....for the last 32 years.

I've never been good at sitting still and that has only been exacerbated by the fact that now not only do I not want to sit still, I've been trying to avoid allowing my brain any downtime to sit and dwell. I know that's probably not healthy, and the "experts" all say it's better to let the emotions come and deal with them, but that's not how I'm wired. I stay busy...

One thing I've found that really seems to help is riding. Last Saturday a couple of us did a ride up Diablo to the junction, down the other side, through Concord, Walnut Creek and back to Danville. As we climbed Diablo, I was able to put the brain in neutral and focus on making my legs go around in circles.

It's amazingly therapeutic and as the road climbed I pushed harder and harder on the pedals forcing the pain out of my heart and into my lungs and quads. I focused even deeper pushing out the pain with each ragged breath and letting the tears flow, mixing with the sweat as it ran down my face.
Eventually, we reached the ranger station and as we stopped I could feel the flush leaving my legs as my heart rate settled and the endorphins began to flow into my system like a natural painkiller.

The downhill portion was another escape requiring total focus and balance. Tucking in to turns, avoiding the many bumps and potholes, the wind in my ears harmonizing with the worship music blaring through my ear buds allowing me to avoid any type of thought other than staying upright and on line.

Eventually we reached the canal path that takes us through town and back to Danville Rd where again, I was able to check out, make circles and take my brain offline. As the thoughts would begin to creep in I would push harder on the pedals trying to replace them with the pain and burning of my legs and several times I'd look up only to realize I had dropped the others at which point I'd have to sit up and soft pedal so we could regroup.

Later in the day as I reflected on the ride, I realized I was a less than ideal ride partner for the others since I was so focused on dealing with my own stuff, but that's the best part about riding with friends....they completely understand and don't mind.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Living in the upside down world...

There's no possible way this just happened....right? It must be a bad dream...I'm going to wake up and everything will be normal again.....right? Unfortunately, that's not the case.

So now, how do I move forward in this upside down world where everything I knew has changed so dramatically? Everything I worked for, every goal I had, every plan and dream has been flipped on it's head?

Things that once seemed so important now don't matter, plans and goals that were being worked on now seem trite, dreams that were meant for two suddenly seem empty and unimportant...what do we want has suddenly become what do I want? And to be honest.....I don't have a clue...

I've been told by everyone I talk to not to make any major decisions for a while and I get that. To be honest, making any decision right now is hard...nothing seems important and when I do make a decision, it changes fifteen times before I get there.

The world that once seemed solid and firm has been shaken and turned upside down....but as the psalmist said, The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

As we move forward as a family we'll cling to this. In a world where things shift and move and slip beneath our feet, we'll stand on this rock....and we'll cling to His promises...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

This sucks....but then it didn't....

It's raining, I'm a pretty hungover and the wind is picking up.....I paid money to do this???

It's Sunday morning and I'm with my brother, brother in law and sister in Chico for our annual bike ride. We've done this almost every year now for several years and it's always a fun weekend.

The weekend traditionally starts on Saturday with dinner and beers at one of Chico's many good restaurants. This time we started at the Beach Hut Deli enjoying a few of the local brews during happy hour. From there we moved to Woodstock's Pizza where the pizza was amazing but was only a detour,  barely slowing the ingestion of the fermented hops and barley. Note - Sierra's Torpedo Extra IPA is one of my current favorites.

We always end the evening staying up late and catching up on each other's lives, kids, etc and this year was no exception as we moved to a little restaurant near our motel for pie....thankfully beer doesn't go well with pie or I would have felt even worse.

Sunday morning, we were a little slow rolling out, but eventually Bob and I wandered around the corner to the local mini-mart for a jug of coffee and a was when the pastry hit bottom that I knew it was going to be a rough almost came back, but thankfully didn't. That and the headache led me to believe I might not actually survive the upcoming ride...

Eventually, we made it to the start area and well after most of the metric century riders but right in the midst of the family fun ride group so the first few miles were slow and easy as we cruised along the bike path dodging families and kids like a real life game of Frogger (you youngsters will just have to look that one up)

As we got to the first rest stop at mile 12 or something, I was ready to try food again and after a couple of tylenol was almost feeling human....until the rain started...

Thankfully the rain was just a drizzle and didn't last long and soon after we made a left and headed south it came to an end....but of course, having forsaken my vow of sobriety, my penance continued as a the next several miles would be directly into a headwind....yay, I love this biking crap!

Leaving the first rest stop we could tell we had missed the mass start for people doing the metric century and for the next couple of hours actually didn't see anyone else. It was really pretty nice riding the farm roads surrounding Chico with no car traffic and no other bikes or people to be seen.
My concern was that having gotten a late start and not riding at a very aggressive pace, we may actually miss the remainder of the rest stops and I didn't think there were any towns on our route for lunch or drinks until we got back in to Chico....thankfully that didn't turn out to be the case and we were able to hit every rest stop we needed.

Maureen and Craig turned off at about mile 15 since they still had to make it back to the start area, go get a load of firewood and then drive all the way back to Tahoe. Something they didn't want to do in the dark, in crummy weather, with a trailer full of firewood.

As Bob and I continued on, the headwind became either a tailwind or at worst a crosswind. This, combined with the fact that the sun came out (and my headache going away) actually made the second half of the ride really pleasant. Our pace didn't improve much since we were talking and had planned on making today a nice, easy ride, but my attitude improved dramatically and I was really thankful to be able to spend time on my bike and with my family....what could possibly be better than that?

As we cruised, the open farm lands and rice paddies turned into orchards and vineyards and just past the half way mark we merged with the riders that had done the full century so we had more and more people surrounding us as we rolled back into town.

The Wildflower is probably one of the best supported rides I've done and the post-ride meal didn't disappoint. Tri-tip and chicken, pasta, veggies and a delicious salad combined to make me one tired, fat and happy, no longer hungover survivor of another year's celebration of family and biking.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Metric this's gonna hurt

This weekend I'll be in Chico with my brother, sister and brother in law doing the metric century at the Chico Wildflower. As I looked at my GPS data for the past year, it's dawned on me that this is probably going to hurt.

I haven't ridden 60 miles at a stretch in over a year and although the route is flat and our pace will be relaxed, sitting on a bike for that long has associated aches and pains that go beyond just fitness. As anyone who has done a century will attest, you not only have to train your legs to pedal all day, but you have to build up the neck and shoulders and get your butt used to being in the saddle for that length of time.

I'm still riding once or twice a week, but I haven't been on the road bike much and most of my rides are 1-2 hours in length....I haven't spent all day in the saddle since last October when we did the Giro D Vino. Thankfully, both my sister and brother, whom I'm doing the ride with, are also lacking in saddle time.
My brother, surprisingly, has probably the most miles of the three of us going in to this.

This ride, though, will be a fun day no matter how painful it is. It's an annual tradition for us and although we're on bikes, spending the majority of a day together, cruising through beautiful countryside, is always a really fantastic time. Most of the riding takes place on farm and orchard roads with little traffic so we're able to chat and catch up on each other's lives often times pedaling 3 abreast with no one else around.

Adding to the suffering portion of the ride is the fact that we'll start the weekend with dinner (and refreshments) on Saturday night. In years past, this has proven to run late and if things stay true to form, will involve some of the regions more well known beverages 

All in all though this should be a great weekend. Any time I can get away for some quality time with my family, it's fantastic. To be doing it on a bike is even that much better....

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Don't We Do It In The Road....

Yep, that's a Beatles song. Although for me, it was a celebration of getting out on the skinny-tired bike last week Tuesday.  What made it even better was that I hadn't planned on being able to ride and had planned on suffering on the bike that goes nowhere.

Turns out, we weren't going to be watching the grandkids this week after all and when I mentioned to my better half that I was thinking of riding Diablo with the Tuesday group she encouraged me to do so. (evidently my lack of riding has affected my attitude a bit)

I didn't have a lot of time though so I was only able to go to the junction and back and not all the way to the summit. Yes, time was my issue, not my fitness..(that's my story...) I actually felt surprisingly good considering how little I've been riding and although I know I was slow, I was able to get my heart rate up and keep it there without blowing up. I think it helped knowing I was only going to the junction and didn't need to keep anything in the tank. It's just under 7 miles to the junction and I was pretty sure I could go fairly hard and not die in that distance. The nice part is the second half is all down hill.

It was a really nice night not too breezy which allowed for shorts and short sleeves the entire way up and back. Usually at this time of the year, I need a jacket for the downhill and sometimes even the climb. Last week was the exception.

We didn't see many riders on the way up which with the nice weather was a bit of a surprise. Just as we were commenting on it at the junction, a large group of at least 50+ riders came up the hill. Evidently it was a memorial ride for someone that had passed away and the group, although large, was pretty subdued and quiet.

As with any trip up the mountain, the downhill is my favorite part. Lynn and Chris decided to head up a bit further and Xing, like me had places to be so was heading down. The nice part about being closer to 200lbs  than I am to 150, is that the downhills are an area I can shine. Xing and Chris had pretty much dropped me right outta the gate on the climb, but on the downhill portion, I was the one waiting....evidently when you combine a large body of mass with a small amount of brain cells, you get a fast descending rider.

All in all, it was a great ride and my time although not my fastest, was decent for me and it was a great chance to get out, do some climbing, blow out the cobwebs and push my heart rate up for a while....
15 miles almost 1800ft of climbing...beautiful evening!!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Riding to Nowhere...

Once again, my post will start with excuses and lame attempts to justify my lack of fitness this year. Life continues to be busy and seems to either infringe on my riding opportunities or affect my attitude to the point that I don't want to ride.

I know a more determined or focused person would dig up the wherewithal to get the miles in somehow, but I've been struggling to find the time and when I do find the time, the motivation evades me. This week though, I'm recommitted. My buddy and his wife have been on some crazy cleansing diet and he's dropped enough weight over the last several weeks that I'm sincerely concerned about keeping up with him....evidently where my drive and focus fail, my competitiveness picks up.
Add to that another buddy's attempt this coming weekend to complete the Huracan 300 in FL and I've got enough peer pressure to pass for motivation. I'm determined to force myself to get some miles under my butt.

Still, life this week has prevented me from riding on the trails. Between work hours, evening meetings and babysitting the grandkids, the time just hasn't worked. Instead, I've been channeling this little sliver of motivation into the garage where I slave away on the spin bike, or as I refer to it the bike that goes nowhere.

I love riding my bike and the spin bike is a pretty decent workout when I can't get out. It provides a good sweat, you can crank up the tension to simulate hills or stand and hammer and you'd think with the music on and the sweat flowing I'd be happy to at least be doing this.....but the truth is, I hate it. I've had this thing for over a year and I can count on one hand the number of times I've ridden it. (Four times....and 3 of them are this week.)

I'm not sure what it is that drives me crazy on this thing, probably my inability to focus, or sit still (ADD much?) but every time I've ridden it, it's killed me. I figure it's been 30 minutes and look at the clock to find it's only been 10. I get bored easily and sitting in my garage, with no scenery and only the whirring of the pedals and flywheel providing a backbeat for whatever is playing on my ipod is more like torture than exercise. Granted I have some friends that would argue that exercise is more like torture than exercise no matter what form it takes.

Last night, in an attempt to distract myself I brought out my kindle. And that helped somewhat but even still, with the kindle, 45 minutes felt like hours. I've heard of spinervals and other dvd options and today on my lunch break I spent some time going through YouTube offerings. Maybe I'll give that a try and see if it helps.

I need to get out....see trees, suffer up climbs, enjoy some descents, blow out the cobwebs.....hopefully this weekend I can get some time in the saddle....