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Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Strangely Compelled

I have little to say.
Though I feel strangely compelled to say it.

There is something about having a blog and not writing regularly that plays at the conscience.

I guess I could say nothing about the fact that it is pouring down rain AGAIN...

Or, that my knee is rather sore, and making me nervous about my pending surgery and the New Years Day ride up Mt. Diablo in 4 days.

And so I'll also say nothing of the fact that my 13.1 mile (Half Marathon) run at 6:00 am this past Sunday morning went very well, and I'm excited about how great I felt on the home stretch. Of course I probably shouldn't leave that out, since that is about the only thing I have to say even distantly related to the primary content of this particular blog.
But I could leave it off and neglect to mention that I managed just over an 8.5 minute mile finishing in under 2 hours.

But since none of those are worth mention, a singular topic will suffice: The fact that I'm now sitting at home on a Tuesday evening with no compelling reason to do anything else. Not exactly astounding - but close. Having survived another festive barrage of holiday obligations, I am now pleasantly obliged to sit and do nothing. A dark, rainy, and cool winter evening is plenty of reason to sit listening to my daughter play belated Christmas carols on the piano with ice on my knee and no plans of moving any time soon. The bleak mid winter hasn't always been adequate to render me docile. But for tonight it has, and that is noteworthy.

I think I'll go brew some coffee and try not to look at my running shoes leering from beside the front door.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Miles in the Rain

Turned off the alarm clock and listened to what sounded like marbles pummeling the kitchen skylight.
Rolled out of bed to pull on running shorts and long sleeve jersey. I turned on the coffee and peeked out the window hoping to see some break in the clouds. ...Remembered it was too dark to see anything through the deluge and wandered back toward the coffee.
Shoes on, Camelback filled. 1/2 banana, 4 Tums, 1 Ibuprofen, and 2 cups of coffee down the hatch.
Still pouring.
Consider my options:
1. Run in the rain and get wet.
2. Put on a rain jacket and proceed to accomplish #1 anyway.
3. Crawl back in bed with my wife.
Still listening to the rain.
5:40 - 5:45
Conversation with self about priorities, dedication, and sanity.
Kiss my wife good-by and plunge out the door.

I was hoping for a long run this morning and a 5:30am start time was optimal. With a marathon on my tentative schedule for next year, I've decided to begin training early so as to cut my losses when I'm on crutches for a few weeks following a scheduled knee surgery. (More on that another time.)

Busy as an adjective referring to our family would be a laughable understatement, so I make time for workouts wherever I can. With church at 10:00am, Sunday mornings become a block of "free" time to get in a run. A meeting this morning at 9:00 pushed everything back.

Today's route would take me down to the marina, through the Shell refinery, and then across the Benicia Bridge and back. My guess was that it would be a 12 mile run and it ended up being 12.3.

It was very dark, and my dying LED's on the front of my running cap added little to the street lights. I hopped and hurdled rivulets and puddles for the first few miles, but eventually left the fancy footwork for the largest ones. Jersey, shorts, backpack, and skin were all completely soaked long before I crossed the railroad tracks into the marina.

The sea has an alluring call to me, and a run to the marina seems pointless if I don't fill my lungs with the breeze fresh off the water and smell the seaweed and salt marshes. The rain came down straight as an arrow this morning. No breeze except that created by my plodding 7mph. The water, black as ink, gently nudged the piers beneath a smothering canopy - vapor and liquid tenuously coupled by a streaming torrent.
A foot path parallels the road out of the marina and I followed it under the outstretched fingers of trees lobbing dollops of water onto my shoulders and head. Preoccupied, I failed to notice a lake across the path and would love a video of my attempt to keep water from pouring over the gunnels of my Reeboks. I learned I cannot dance, and even so, it was a waste of energy and motion with my socks already soaked - it made no difference.

Half way between the marina and the bridge the road divides into single lanes of 2 way traffic through the refinery. Footwork was the key, as often I had to cross the divider to avoid large lakes, oncoming 18 wheelers, and streams from sources obscured by the darkness and driving rain. One exceptionally large puddle obstructed my progress, even over the curb, so I waited for a pair of oncoming headlights to pass. Only as the headlights illuminated the full extent of the puddle and began to create a moving wall of water did I realize my peril. I turned and fled - no doubt, to the driver's delight in the surfing sedan.

Benicia Bridge - as viewed from Martinez

The arc of lights representing the 2 mile span of the Benicia Bridge was soon visible just beneath a charcoal sky so low that patches of clouds hung illuminated by the refineries, loading docks, and the Benicia Marina on the far side of the drink.

The climb up the south side of the bridge was slow and even a little eerie. Alone, with the exception of a few dozen cars only 10 feet and a guard rail away, I felt rather exposed and vulnerable a mere 140' above the water. By mid span a marked change had occurred with the sky fading slowly into a deep midnight blue. On the far side, I stopped long enough to retrieve the Power Bar from my backpack and stretch my calves. 1 minute later I was jogging down the hill toward Benicia, attempting to chew, swallow, and breath in the right order, and contemplating why I hadn't turned back across the bridge yet. Unwilling to descend too far into town, I turned back when the Power Bar was reduced to foil, and recognized just how steep the hill was that I had just run down. Stink.

Back across the bridge. Climbing south bound, my calf muscles initiated collective bargaining with my brain, and my wet feet also decided to take part in the labor dispute. This did make me wonder just how resilient the skin between my toes might be when completely soaked for well over an hour. No matter, I was still 2 1/2 miles from home, and walk or run, I only had 2 feet and 2 legs to get there. Back to work boys.

The final miles are always difficult. I'm convinced that my brain sabotages my effort on the home stretch by cutting back on the adrenaline, and other "happy chemicals" as it sees the end on the horizon. 2 miles or 12 miles it doesn't matter, the final stretch always hurts worse than the sum of the balance of the effort.

Home in 1 hour 45 minutes.

There is somewhat less pleasure derived from a hot shower when you've already been soaked for an hour and forty five minutes.

The whole run averaged 7 mph which is approx. an 8.5 minute mile. A marathon is 26.2 Miles. That means many more long runs ahead; a good thing. I enjoyed today's run more than any other solo run I can remember. The rain added a romantic melodramatic touch that merely adds to the allurement of my endurance sports.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh poor Christmas Tree

Tis' the season to be chopping.

And for what? For why?

Is it not lunacy to assault a healthy, young tree just reaching the glory of its youth, yank it from its moorings, and impel it to a service so ghastly unnatural?
See, here stands young fir - struggling to survive in a vast and brutal world of wind, ice, rain, and sun, remarkably resilient, handsome and proud.

See, here comes you - accelerated by stress, absent in mind and unwittingly conspiratorial in the pretense of holiday festivity.

An innocent falls to the ground.

With morbid ceremony it's strapped to the roof of your sedan, and what was once established and secure is now jostled and catapulted. No longer the wind gently caressing its boughs, or flexing its bark in a torrential storm. Rather now, a frightening gale assaults its skirts, or its crown, if by some merciful stroke it's strapped on head first.

The victim will now subsist on chlorinated tap water with a brew of chemicals designed to prolong the process of slow death. As if the Creator had not worked perfection, you will then bedeck it with bows or ribbons, and without exception, an array of gaudy lights - blinking in such random sequence that the subject appears always indecently clad.

Then Christmas being past, as if it had not served you well in your festive revelry, you reject it with disdain and abandon it to a troop of Boy Scouts - for what purpose only they know.

But don't be so self righteous and smug thinking of your plastic tree.

You are no better, yea, possibly worse. You give false hopes to the choppers who will insult, prod, and cajole our Creator's otherwise beautiful trees that may lack "perfect shape," or may be "too airy," or "too dense." Though insulted, these are the lucky ones. Though none is ever deemed perfect, the unlucky chosen are paraded before their 6', 7', and 8' "pre-lit" counterparts -- lopsided, flocked, and accoutered with a fishnet stocking without even the courtesy of a cardboard box to hide their shame, over the river and through the woods to a house of horrors inconceivable to so noble a creation.

You will call yourself festive for erecting such an atrocity. Yes, you'll likely even claim a moral high ground above those abstaining. But herein I admonish, and even boldly recommend a cessation of such unnatural acts. Is it not possible to spare such noble creations? I acknowledge it is not my place to change your mind or your customs, but at least for my part I choose to resist this annual slaughter.

I choose - to pout whenever my wife talks of "going to get the tree."
I choose - to lobby for the lesser of 2 evils - the 6' pre-lit version (That takes less than 2 minutes to set up and be done with my part of the activity).
I choose - when all else fails, to strap the tree on head first or lay it in the bed of my truck covered with a tarp.

With these thoughts in mind I've composed a eulogy in memory of the fallen.
Please pause for a moment of solemn silence before enjoying these verses.

T'was the Month Before Christmas

T'was the month before Christmas and all through the wood,
Wee creatures scurried madly, while timidly stood,

Stately stewards of the forest, gentle-hearted and grand,
Their progeny balanced in an urbanite's hand.

The time was upon them, they'd seen it before,
When tree choppers come in traditions of yore.

The finest among them would tremble and yaw
As the choppers assaulted with axe and with saw.

The wisest among them acknowledges its place,
A resource that benefits an inhuman race.

Begrudged though by some they know their station,
to warm and protect the rest of creation.

As timber or edifice great honor they'd know,
Or cabin or palace where children would grow.

The aged among them know the saw as a stage,
and the axe as finger on a life's next page.

The aged among them stand with no fear,
But remain yet perplexed when the youth disappear.

Chopper families will come with members aloof,
Then drive away arguing - young Fir on their roof.

The plight of the youngsters - now pondered anew,
Was assumed to be ill, but if only they knew:

If back in the forest the other Trees knew,
Of their young ones alight with red, green, and blue,

Of tinsel, candy canes, and more shamefully yet,
Smiling families in photos amongst branches set.

The same branches of those removed forcefully so,
From a family of Firs formed long ago.

What revolt would arise from so many Trees,
If such senseless traditions were revealed to these.

What fear might be levied upon humankind,
If the choppers would come again heeding no mind,

Entering the forest with axes and saws,
Unaware of an anger ragged and raw.

And into the Trees the choppers would go,
And never return - one way tracks in the snow.

Merry Christmas - To the little Trees.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Death Ride 2011 - Take 3

I'm officially signed up for the Tour of the California Alps Death Ride 2011
The ride date 6 months away, has been on my calendar for over a month, as has 10:00 am December 9, 2010 - the opening registration for the same event.

Vince, Kevin, Milt, Dianne, and Steve, all got signed up this morning also. We had touched base via email throughout the day to make sure everyone got in.

As always this pumps a little motivation into my system. Training begins.

For now training is mostly running, and frankly its closer to maintenance than training. I've been running about 8 miles down to and around the Martinez Marina and back. Takes me about an hour and I manage about once a week on either Saturday or Sunday early morning. In between there are the family walks, and periodic commute rides across town - oh yeah, and those 10+ mile hikes in the mud every couple of weeks. I think I will be a little more motivated now to brave the cold mornings and start up the 20 mile commutes to work at least once per week. The trick is making my schedule work with those rides. To pull it off, I have to be at the office at day's end, and then be able to start the day at the office the next morning - a little later than normal. With work so scattered right now facilitating that sequence, even once per week, is dicey.

It basically comes down to priorities. Now that I've spent $125 on a 129 mile ride with 15,000' of elevation gain, my priorities may be coming around.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wet and Wonderful

I went out and got my renovated bike dirty.
It poured rain Friday night and well into Saturday morning. Our weekly 10 mile Saturday morning hike was going to be wet - AGAIN!!
I was ok with wet, because I would be testing out the new ride and an inclement commute would give her an opportunity to show her true colors.

We had a great time.

I left the house at 6:05 am, with my headlights illuminating a steady drizzle. A pounding on the kitchen skylight had stopped just a few minutes shy of 6:00, so the roads were deep in puddles. A steady head wind began driving another deluge against me about the time I got lost in Pleasant Hill on a "short cut" to the canal trail and never yielded for the balance of 8 miles to the Relieze Valley entrance of Briones Regional park.

Pastor and Matt called around 6:30 - wondering if I was coming. I was, but that reminded me to begin rehearsing my list of excuses for being late - (Headwind, Got lost, Rain, Got up late -(possibly omit this if possible)).

I showed up relatively dry and completely intact. My new ride had served me very well, and the new fender had prevented the "skunk stripe" that would otherwise have graced my nether regions. That, plus the ensemble of rain and cold weather gear assembled over the past few years has come nearly to the point of making these rides enjoyable.

I switched to a rain jacket with a hood, stuffed the other in my backpack, and embarked on a muddy adventure with my fellow crazy persons.

After 35 minutes on the bike, and over 3 hours on muddy trails in the driving rain, the only wet clothing was my socks and shoes, and shorts - completely acceptable under the conditions. My windproof / waterproof gloves held out for over an hour, but finally succumbed somewhere in the vicinity of Briones Peak.

After a short ride to meet up with the girls for the afternoon events, my upper body was completely dry, in spite of some intense perspiring back on the trail.

The only notable shortcoming was my adaptation to the temperature. We hiked at temps hovering between 30 and 40 degrees, which meant depending on our rate of ascent or descent and current elevation I was either stripping off gear or shivering beneath it.

Science has nearly mastered the "keeps you dry - yet breathable" concept for rain gear. Now if it can just find the "keeps you warm, but cool" layer to add to it.

... And the sooner the better - This weekend isn't looking too good either.

At least it will be warm.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Click on images for original sources

If I say "Revolution" something comes to your mind.
If like me you have southern roots, you might immediately think along the lines of a political movement or restructuring such as the French Revolution, the 13 Colonies and the Revolutionary War, or more to the point - the Revolutionary action of the Confederacy in response to the oppressions of the northern states.
Or if you happen to be less historically and politically minded and more scientifically so, you may launch immediately into thoughts of celestial bodies in perpetual motion on a timeless journey around a more or less tangible axis.

While both of the above concepts are key to my existence in this particular environment, society, and frankly, life in general - a microcosm of revolution has been in play over nearly a year for this cyclist. This far less grandiose turn of events comprises both concepts - the radical divergence from a previous course, and the rhythmic systematic rotation of elements around an axis.

What have I done?

Long story short...
About 15 years ago I spent just over $800 on a brand new purple and white Bridgestone RB2 road bike with clipless pedals and white handle bar tape. I installed a second water bottle cage, yellow handlebar tape, and a computer and rode the bike for several years over a thousand miles. Then for nearly 10 years during college, newly married life, and the birth of our first daughter the bike sat idle, though dry and pampered. I began to feel the need to exercise regularly and started running, whereupon I quickly gained stamina and an array of pulled muscles. To maintain my cardiovascular progress and ease the pain, I transitioned over to my long neglected friend.

I gained endurance and strength rapidly and was addicted even faster. 3 years passed as I rode a classic road bike, which drew accolades on nearly every ride. But I longed for something more contemporary and efficient. Alas a second daughter and the budget in general made that impossible.

I crashed on New Years Day 2010. My Bridgestone was unrideable, but within days, a friend put his second bike up for sale at a price I couldn't pass up. I had my new ride. But I also still had an old friend with great potential, battered though she was.

A revolution began.

The crash bent the front brakes and tweaked the fork and rear triangles. The first act was to get the bike capable of any reliable wheel revolutions at all. With help from my dad and a vice and some tentative twisting , I accomplished this task. Amazingly the wheels were still true and now spun like a dream.

Upon purchasing the Bridgestone I was a "hard core" roadie. I fancied myself a racer, and hoped to be mistaken for a professional.

This was not likely to have happened. What also was not likely, was any consideration along the lines of the conceptual revolution now occurring in this bike. At a time when I was opposed to even installing a saddle bag on the bike, I would have certainly been opposed to obnoxiously large 700 x 28 tires, lights, reversible platform / SPD pedals, and for goodness sake certainly not a rear fender.

Well that's exactly what happened, plus the addition of the "hipper than Santa Cruz" triathlon aero bars and "Tri" brake levers, new saddle, and reinstallation of the yellow bar tape. The best part is that the whole transformation cost me less than $75 out of pocket. This setup definitely gives a nod to the whole Santa Cruz / Berkeley "fixie" revolution taking place on college campuses. I couldn't bring myself to replace the 7 speed shimano cassette for a fixed gear though.

The fender is home made, so we'll see how long it lasts. The bracket is from a broken and abandoned headlamp, and the aluminum is formed from a street sign my company replaced. Seems quite sturdy, though time will tell.

I now have a commute bike which will bridge the gap between my road bike and mountain bike on more utilitarian rides. I suspect I even see another saddle bag in my near future.

Special thanks to Kipp for the gear and guidance.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A few nights in Solvang

Bec and I spent a few nights at a snug Bed and Breakfast in the middle of a "Danish" California town named Solvang. Solvang is tucked neatly off 101 in southern California, and evidently has beautiful weather in mid November. Incidentally it has also been a stop for the Tour of California bicycling race for several years and will be so again in 2011.

It was her idea to bring the bikes - really. I almost tried to talk her out of it, but decided to be genial and just go along.

We enjoyed many strange things like eating out, staying up late, sleeping late, and even periodically ignoring the cell phones.

Both of us have an appreciation for architecture and sent ourselves to school to learn the why and how behind these Nordic structures.

We only drove the car once in 3 days. Mostly we walked, but we also took the bikes out a few times.
We pedaled over to this coffee shop - which was run completely out of coffee?

So we found the back patio of this little bakery and drank their coffee.

We stayed out late.

Bec was game for a second ride, so we rode 5 miles up the valley to Los Olivos, a sleepy little wine town, and bought sandwiches at this little market.

I got a photo OP with one of the locals on our ride back home. According to a newspaper article the day before, this is a male out looking for some action. He just about got more than he bargained for as the cars breezed over him.

We came into a stiff crossing head wind as we rode down the valley toward home. I was impressed as Bec picked up drafting. It wasn't long before she was stuck like glue to my rear wheel coasting down the road while I hammered along braving a stiff breeze.

This is cycling country. I'm pretty sure my wife didn't have that in mind when she chose this as our 10th anniversary getaway, but I am pleased that she didn't cancel the reservations when she realized that it is.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Picture of Disappointment

The weather had been predicting rain for the entire weekend. I was thrilled. Pastor, Matt, and I had planned another 6:30 am hike in Briones, and I was hoping for some spectacularly nasty weather.

For goodness sake...
I get up in the dark and ride 6 miles to the park with lights to keep from getting plastered. We hike through the mud for upwards of 10 miles, climbing an average of 3000'. I ride the bike home.
...not even the faintest element of adventure to breach the placid surface on the sea of the routine. The least we could ask for is dumping rain.

We got none. A barely perceptible mist in the headlamps was the only meager meteorological nod toward augmenting our adventure. From the summit of Briones Peak we witnessed the next county getting deluged.

We got none. I sit here typing - dry, warm, caffeinated - post adventure. It's raining outside.

All was not lost. We were briefly witness to the eruption of Mt. Diablo. A providential parting of the heavens provided a strangely prosaic validation to a mountain lamentably victimized in its designation. In spite of the metaphoric austerity, we were all 3 taken aback by the momentary show of artistry. For-shame, We had naught but the cameras on our phones.

Oh, that You would rend the heavens!
That You would come down!
That the mountains might shake at Your presence—
2 As fire burns brushwood,
As fire causes water to boil—
To make Your name known to Your adversaries,
That the nations may tremble at Your presence!
3 When You did awesome things for which we did not look,
You came down,
The mountains shook at Your presence.
4 For since the beginning of the world
Menhave not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
Isaiah 64:1-4

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Recovery - Running - Rain

Another $30 co-pay bought me a few minutes with John P. Woll MD, who after studying my lackluster knee xrays declared that the only really good chance of mollifying the Pre-patellar Bursitis causing my knee to look like it swallowed a golf ball, was a simple outpatient surgical procedure. "We have an opening tomorrow if you're interested."

Sensing my hesitancy, he offered to drain the swelling again and let me think about it. Suddenly a needle in my knee was sounding profoundly cheery. I think there was only 1 needle this time, though I wasn't watching. He froze my knee at the injection point rather than sticking me with a small amount of anesthetic like the last guy. That worked for me, and I was up and walking out of the room behind him, rather lying slimy with sweat waiting for my blood pressure to come back up. Finally he wrapped the knee and told me to keep it so for 5 - 6 days encouraging the swelling to stay down. Dr. Woll still only offered me a 40% chance of it actually solving the problem.

It worked. Sort of.

I'm running again, and riding a little. Vince and I rode a short 50 mile loop last Saturday, and that, after having run about 5 hilly trail miles on Thursday afternoon. I had been drained earlier Thursday morning, so with my knee looking normal again, I was powerless against the urge to be back out in the open with my heart pounding and lungs burning. I had my brace on, and kept it wrapped as instructed for the majority of 6 days. I'm no longer bracing or wrapping the knee (I could hardly stand it, plus it made my lower leg swell if I didn't move around), but the knee swelling has still come and gone, though to a far lesser degree, over the course of the last week. I haven't eliminated surgery from my options though procrastination has been victorious so far. I guess winter is the best time to recover and I should get it on if I'm going to go there.

A few spitting rain drops were refreshing, though a poignant reminder that summer has surrendered to fall.

This Thursday I ran in the Martinez hills again - alone, with the first real storm front of fall 2010 moving in just a few thousand feet above the peaks I was crossing. 4.6 miles with 1000' of elevation gain was a good warm up to our family walk to Baskin Robbins. This was Becky and I's 10th anniversary celebration. We were doing it up big with 1 scoop apiece.
I had brought a plastic picnic table cloth to throw over Gianna in the jogging stroller just in case the sky opened up on us. The rest of us wore rain jackets that really only proved useful against a variant irrigation sprinkler half way home.
My 4.6 mile run, with a double loop around the high school track.

This morning Pastor, Matt, and I hiked from Old Briones Rd. around 6:30am. With 2 blinkeys and 2 headlights, I slogged along the soaked streets on my mountain bike to get there right on time - completely soaked - not from the drizzle, but from perspiration trapped inside my rain jacket. The high tech fabrics they make technical cycling gear from are designed to promote "breathing" and evaporation of the inevitable perspiration. The rain gear is supposed to allow water vapor (evaporating sweat) to exit whilst preventing rain from entering. Supposed to. I fear that I may be vaporizing more than it can handle. Fortunately everything else I wear is "quick dry" so about a mile down the trail I was reasonably comfortable. Then the trail began climbing - and the process started all over again.

I met these six guys on the trail and took their picture as they sorted out their route.

I'm still awaiting the tally of miles we covered, though my unofficial total comes to nearly 11 miles in 3.5 hours. We climbed at least 2000', but that is certainly conservative.

Another 6 miles on the bike brought me home to a warm (second) breakfast, and the water bottle of coffee, that I had forgotten on the kitchen table at 6:00 am. It warmed up just fine in the microwave.

I don't see sunshine in the forecast for at least 2 more days. I fear it is time to break out the cold and wet weather gear for good, or possibly just lay off and send the "ok I'll do it" email to Dr. Woll. I'll think about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

She Was Right Again

So I've had some weird swelling on my knee. A Kaiser doctor drained it for me (using 3 separate needles) over a week ago, and drained the vast majority of blood from my cranium at the same time. As I was watching exam room ceiling swim above me, I heard the doctor saying something about my pre-patellar bursitis possibly coming back if I didn't stop doing whatever had brought it on. I was still trying to figure out what I had done to "bring it on," as the main cause is supposedly spending time on your knees. I received no clear or likely causation from the doctor nor admonition regarding cycling or running.

I have a 9 month old and a 7 year old, so my time spent on hands and knees may have spiked a little recently, but still...

24 hours after having my knee drained into a syringe roughly the size of San Francisco Bay, my left knee was bulging again. After a week of hopeful procrastination I emailed my doctor, who immediately ordered x rays and scheduled me with an orthopedist.

A week and a half after the needles I showed up for the x rays. At check in the technician indicated that I still had an x ray pending for a wrist injury from several months back.

Oh yeah... My wrist injury from New Years Day (And re-injury on the Tahoe Flume trail in August)

I had called for that appointment to placate my wife back near the beginning of the year, but then conveniently never showed up. The technician behind the desk informed me that they could nuke both appendages for the price of one - and I just couldn't say no.

Just for the record: I don't like going into rooms that have warning signs and lights all over the outside of the door, and I don't like the fact that the x ray tech always dives behind a thick wall and a pane of glass, leaving me posed and exposed while crunching and sucking noises emit from far walls and nearby instruments in rapid succession.

She blasted my knees and wrist in impossible poses at various angles, and then sent me on my radioactive way.

I got a phone call from a doctor today. About my wrist? "It seems that sometime in the recent past you must have fractured the scaphoid bone in your wrist..."

Becky's gonna love this...

She literally punched me when I told her.

You can read about it here. It might as well be talking about me.

Hopefully I'll get some good news about my knee in the next week or so when I visit the next doctor. I'm backing off in the mean time. Not that I have much choice - remember that 9 month old and 7 year old...? Maybe I'll work in a commute ride just before my appointment so the doctor can really see it bulge.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Twice in as many "attempts" I've ridden up Mt. Diablo without summiting.

This is actually quite an achievement - not a failure. My poor beaten and burdened psyche is plagued with unreasonable and frequent obligations. Obligations self imposed. I'm often setting myself up with self directed phrases like "die trying" and "quitting is not an option." No doubt my wife could pontificate an opinion from her safe distance.

There was a point where I told myself I would never ride the mountain without forcing myself to go the distance. A rare occasion when I had a specific route planned and an extraordinarily good reason for skipping the summit, might be my only exception. Starting out with the thought of reaching the summit and not arriving was "not an option."

I've been commuting to and from work once a week for some time now after a sabbatical resulting from an overambitious schedule, the birth of our second daughter, and a myriad of additional excuses to stay off the bike at 5:30 am on a week day.

The route has been varied to add miles. Other opportunities to ride, run, or hike have been dwindling, so my return to commuting has become my singular athletic outlet. The score of miles each way isn't enough of an outlet, so I've been adding around 40 miles on the evening ride home to push the typical 20 closer to 60.

It's not really all that hard to accumulate 60 miles. There are great roads for cycling here in the Bay Area and a little creativity can map a route of just about any distance desired. From Richmond through Orinda and Moraga, and then over to Mt. Diablo and home makes a route almost exactly 60 miles. Well - if I don't summit and just ride to the Ranger Station and back down that is.

And so with some minor variation, that has been my route twice and may end up being thus again. I didn't push for the top the first time because of dwindling daylight, and the second time was nothing more than I just wanted to go home. I knew I would have 60 miles and I was ready to be done. After all, a 20 mile ride in the dark was waiting for me the next morning.

I consider my choice to abandon a victory. That works for me. However, I'm afraid if I allow such excesses too many times, I may be forced to bolster my bravado with some random adventurous excess.

I must use caution.

Monday, September 20, 2010

USA Cycling Pro Championships

Tyler Phinney and race winner Ben King - Both likely to put USA in cycling news for years to come.

Sunday afternoon I was sewing a new scarf, balaclava, bandanna "thing" on my wife's ancient sewing machine when my mother called to let me know there was a big cycling race going on in Greenville.

I pulled up CyclingNews and found the live report of the race. I had just missed the end by a few minutes, but enjoyed reading the report "as it happened" anyway.

How many times have I ridden past that plane in Cleveland Park?

I grew up in Greenville, SC, know the roads they were riding, and visualized the 4, 22 mile laps as if I was there beside them. Indeed by the end of the ride report I was ready to jump on my bike and take a few spins up Paris Mt. myself. I could hear the crowds screaming as practically amateur Ben King crossed the finish line minutes ahead of the pro peloton. What a day for a young 21 year old racer. Seems he had already earned himself a spot on the newly formed Team Radio Shack. Think - Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, and Chris Horner as ride companions at 21 years young.

When I was 21 and in Greenville, there was only one thing on my mind. Her. The bike was a distant and shrinking 2nd. And rightly so.

I wish him well and will live that part of my life vicariously through guys like him.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Caution - Rattlesnake Under Bench

I sat waiting for Chris and his friend Brandon to show up at the North Gate entrance to Mt. Diablo watching the horses through a rail fence.

I had been riding laps on Walnut Ave, and North Gate Rd. since quarter after 4. Now 30 minutes later and 45 minutes late, Chris called to say he was 6 minutes away. I found a place for him to pull off the road and sat. I had 30 some odd miles behind me.

I had texted Chris earlier in the day to let him know I was heading for the mountain around 4:00 for some extra miles on my way home. Chris was game. Brandon, who never rides bikes was obliged to come along on a borrowed bike.

Brandon did outstanding for a newbie, and gave me a fresh perspective on the hills. Chris and I took turns pushing him up the steeper sections... Yow. The slow pace also gave rise to a series of sprint challenges raised by Chris. I'm incapable of declining. Chris is a good sprinter.

But that snake...
I needed to refill my water, so we dropped Brandon between the 1000' marker and Diablo Ranch, and headed for the Ranger Station at the junction. As I refilled, there was a commotion about a snake on the other side of the building. I wanted to see.

Everyone was looking at this...

So I looked under the bench...


I think ...

if I was the Park Ranger ...

I might have found a long stick.
...Run along now little buddy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bike - Hike - Bike

Saturday morning was supposed to be a Bridge to Bridge ride with "the old guys" who meet at 8am near Mt. Wanda. (They are all over 40 which is going to be "old" to me for at least 8 more years)

Other obligations loomed, so I ditched the old guys and biked to a hike along the Carquinez Strait at 6:00 am. I rode to our meeting spot with the lights on my mountain bike, since they were still mounted from my commute ride last week. (My previous ride home from work had taken me through some intense road construction on my usual route, so I wanted to avoid a spill while navigating back the next morning in the dark with 700 x 23 tires. Hence the lights on the MTB)

Matt passed me in his truck on the way there, but I believe I arrived right at 6:00am.
We hustled to the top of the ridge, so I could get some shots of the awakening delta and Diablo valley.

This shot seems to have jumped right out of the pages of a J. R. R. Tolkien novel.
I didn't realize Martinez looked so ominous in the early dawn.

I finished my morning by riding as hard as I could over the Benicia Bridge and back. Not much of a workout, but it burned. Home by 9:20am
12 miles on the bike - 8 miles hiking.

We might coordinate a similar adventure this Saturday, since I'm watching the girls while Bec has a ladies brunch. Briones at 6am anyone?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Taking it Slower

It's been pretty slow the last few weeks. At least when it comes to my cycling.

Spring and early summer were busy with training rides - getting in shape for the Death Ride, Santa Cruz Mts. Challenge, and just generally trying to get into the best shape I could. Since the end of the SCMC, I've laid off a little and focused on some other more domestic challenges.

Build shelves for Ella's school notebooks...

Clean up the flower beds, garden, and yard...

Remove everything from the laundry room in order to extricate the stacked washer and dryer. Washer had gone kaput and needed new struts and springs. Remove everything again when the washing machine leaked... Call me if you want to know an appliance repair company NOT to use...

I'm also well into a new gate for the back yard. So far it has been completely free (If you don't count the blisters on my hands from the digging bar as being a cost) - using scraps and salvage from other fences and construction sites around the Bay Area. My employees typically don't see me sorting through the stuff that they haul back to the yard from their job sites

I had to draw the gates first so that Bec and I could decide how it would be designed. Nothing is as simple as it would seem around here.

Here is the concept... Bec wanted the solar lights on the outside posts. Bought them at Home Depot - $40 for the pair. At least we are able to be content with the lower lighting of solar - I really don't want to do the whole underground wiring, new breaker, conduit, realize you short circuited the laundry room thing.

The gates will come along soon - when I either collect enough material or break down and purchase a few 2x4's and fence boards. Then I'll stain it to match the rest of the fences.

But I have been riding some...

Chris and a new guy Nick were riding in Briones on Friday, so Vince and I joined for a few hours.
Vince has gotten stronger in the last few weeks. Seems he has met a girl that is stronger than he is... She beats him to the top of Briones regularly... Well, now he's pushing me. Somehow I think the off season isn't going to be so off.

Chris had just ridden up Mt. Tamalpai from San Francisco and had sent some pictures. I've posted a sampling of them below because I thought they were definitely worth sharing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tahoe - Rim Trail, Flume Trail

Lake Tahoe a seen from the Flume Trail

Congratulations to Jeremy for his first "Epic" Mountain Bike ride. 23 hard miles and 3300' of climbing at elevations above 7000', and over 8500' along the ridge. We rode sections of the Tahoe Rim trail and then created a loop around Lake Marlette by returning on the famed Flume Trail above the east shore of Lake Tahoe.

The XTERRA professional off road triathlon circuit had their Lake Tahoe race on Saturday too. We were able to see some of the last racers come through as they passed Lake Marlette, and I was actually able to ride with one of the guys and chat for a few minutes. We had been on our bikes approx. the same amount of time at that point.

I must say it was a little ego boosting to be riding up hills beside the racers walking their bikes. Granted, I hadn't just swam 300 odd meters in choppy water, and these guys and gals were the very back of the pack, and they still had 5k to run when they finished riding. But still, it was cool and makes me wonder what I could do with a lighter faster bike and a few competitive swimming lessons. I definitely had 5k left in me when we got off the bikes. Hmmm?

Looking east over Nevada

Next time we go - we camp overnight - or 2 nights possibly. I ended up driving a total of 14 hours in just over 24 hours to accommodate 6 hours on the bike. Bec, and the girls and I drove 2.5 hours to Lakeport Friday night, to spend a few fitful hours of sleep at our friends' home. (Actually she drove those 2.5 hours, while I napped and then read my latest novel out loud to the girls) By 4:35am Jeremy and I were heading toward Tahoe and on the bikes by 9:30am. That was reversed starting around 3:00 in the afternoon, putting the girls and I back in the Bay Area just before 11:00pm. Too much driving.

But it was worth it for our first shot at riding in this scenic area.

I think the last time I was this sore after a ride - was the last time I crashed. Yep. Did it again.
I attempted an ill conceived and ill fated superman stunt descending on the Rim Trail toward the north end of the Flume.
I do not fly well. I land worse.
My bike landed on me after I dove head first over the bars. I was sitting with my head swimming when Jeremy rolled up and accused me of staging a crash. I was still trying to get my wind back, so I just sat there with a stupid grin, mouthing unintelligible explanations with coughs and wheezes.

If nothing else Lake Tahoe makes a stellar backdrop for taking a moment to catch your breath.

I somehow managed to land squarely on my left pectoral and in spite of my last minute idiotic braking, landed on the very rock that had terrified my front wheel a mere fraction of a second before. I distinctly remember (during flight) thinking how tough it was going to be riding out of there with broken ribs.

No broken ribs, or any bones for that matter. (I don't think anyway - everything seems to hurt worse by the hour.) Fortunately my wrist had recovered 99% from the fall on New Years day, so it was ready to take another beating on the dirt to the right of the target rock. The left arm and hand are just fine, as they seem to know how to stay out of the way. Right knee has a small cut, really only worth mentioning because it was the only blood to be seen.

But, the "it hurts worst 2 days later" theory is all too true. Wow.

This route as recommended by my friend Vince was sublime, and I will do it again for sure.