If you're new to Cycling-Through, please take a second and read some of the "Posts of note" in the list to the right. Then, if you see others that you appreciate enough to recommend for that list, let me know.
Also, please feel free to comment - even anonymously if you must.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 30, 2012


With a modicum of timidity I launched toward the start of HOP yesterday morning.  I have been spending precious little time on the bike and my mid week ride around the Crocket Loop was a discouraging 63 minutes.  I have an unattained goal of 45 minutes with my fastest times in the mid 50 minute range.  The 63 wasn't easy.

So heading out to ride with 20 other race conditioned guys on a 54 mile circuit was psychologically daunting.  But they were mercifully moderate. The word "Tempo" kept popping up during the ride, and I relaxed just a little more each time I heard it. Riding 54 miles averaging 20 mph probably can't be considered exactly easy, but hiding away in the middle of a 20 soul peloton certainly makes it easier.

The promise of spectacularly clear skies and idyllic 70 degree temperatures brought out a fine group of well mannered cyclists.  For the first time in some time, the group really worked together, with us amateurs taking our short turns at the front and the real thoroughbreds pulling with remarkable restraint.  When the powerhouse cyclists decide to open the ball, it turns into a chaotic scramble for a convenient slipstream and the so called "slinky" effect easily rockets the less vigilant out the back of the group.  I've had my turn at success and failure on that slinky in the past, but our leaders omitted the chaos on this ride and offered sustained intensity instead.

A few weeks back I watched a cyclist cross wheels just ahead of me and leave a fair sample of DNA on the asphalt.  He rode away from the incident, sans half his shorts, but the rider directly behind him was left changing his tube and nervously riding on a tire scrubbed clear to the threads where he had locked it up to avoid dissecting our comrade.  That day the group chemistry was slanted toward chaos and chaos claimed a victim.  Those days stand in contrast to the more peaceful rides where we all work together and avoid the continual acceleration and deceleration of the slinky.

And all of that stands in stark contrast to last weekend.  Last Sunday morning my alarm roused me at 3:45am and I switched on the coffee pot at about 10 minutes before 4.  With water bottles filled on Saturday night, and lights, running shoes, and hat laid out by the door, I was pounding pavement by 4:15.  I knew I'd have the roads to myself, but wore my blindingly reflective illumiNite jersey nonetheless.  I carried a small flashlight which, once out of town, augmented the small light attached to the bill of my cap.

I then ran far out of town.  Nervous about attacking the remote trails with over 2 hours of darkness ahead of me, I pursued a 23 mile course which would take me primarily on roads. Once on the far side of Briones Regional I would briefly abandon pavement for packed earth - but only after the sun had illumined enough sky to distinguish a trail.  However, when my rural strip of asphalt winds through skyless forested canyons and I encounter the same deer, skunks, and turkeys as I might have seen in the park - it becomes dubious as to whether my choice to substitute the mountain lion risk with the drowsy motorist risk was truly a substitution or an addition.  I certainly pondered this as my pace was often accelerated by the snapping of twigs and the scattering of leaves.

I passed a small clearing where, frozen by a jostling spotlight, half a dozen eyes unblinkingly monitored my passing.  This proved to be a wary family of deer nested along a palisade of pines.  The light began to fail around mile 7 or 8 and I was reduced to momentary bursts aimed at an unidentified mass or unexpected noise.  The light on my cap was weakening too until I could clearly see only the area 5-6 feet ahead of me.  By this time I was running squarely down the middle of the road.  It seemed less than prudent to run alongside bushes and trees that all strangely resembled mountain lions and gargoyles. The cacophony and brilliance of a passing car so contrasted with the solitude that I feared surprise by motorist far less than surprise by wild beast.

I was not eaten or accosted by any beast.  And nearly as wonderful - it proved to be a tempo run.  With just under 3000' of elevation gain, the hills didn't dictate my pace, pain didn't dominate my thoughts, and I was thus able to enjoy the pace for the 3 hour and 23 minute duration..

It was by all measures one of my better runs.  I must admit however, that I later complained to my wife that I felt an irrational uneasiness about the run.  Such negative thoughts about a great run are not normal.  She played the part of shrink for a few minutes and explored my feeble psyche.  Some insightful probing finally established that I was concerned about having set an unrealistic expectation for future runs.  She promptly told me to get over it and went back to making dinner.

This morning I urged my recovering quadriceps up nearly 1800' of ascent during a quick half marathon before church.  They remembered yesterday's tempo.  And my unease did not go unfounded.  I had rather high expectations for this run, and frankly didn't meet them.  But then who (besides me) is keeping track of my expectations?  I rode 54 miles on my bike yesterday and then ran 13.1 miles at a sub 9 minute mile pace today.

Life could be worse.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Project

One quick run was all there was time for.  Sunday morning I met my long-time friend Ben for a 6:30am run.  We sweated in the warm damp air for 6 miles together – which I extended to 11 before ending up back at my parent’s home. 

Everyone here in California kept calling my family’s trip to South Carolina a vacation, and I just couldn’t seem to get them to understand that it would be anything but a vacation.  It was a good time – but it was no vacation. 

My parent’s new house had a carport laundry room incompatible with Mom’s developing Parkinson’s, so several months ago we began laying out plans to move a wall, raise the floor, and thereby incorporate the laundry room into the rest of the house. 

In a word, the project was a success.  My brother-in-law Rich, 2 friends from my formative years: Josh and Ben, my dad, and even Ben’s sister Sarah put in countless hours over the 8 days we worked on the project.  Mom even got in on the action the day before we left by installing cover plates on the plugs and switches.  We decided that it was physical therapy for her  – which had perilous probability of transitioning to shock therapy. 

No single work day was less than 10 hours long, with the average closer to 12 hours, culminating in a 15 hour marathon on our last day.  Ben and I jetted out in the dark on that last evening to pick up lumber for the entry deck and get away from Lowes before they closed.  I suspect the neighbors were on the phone with the sheriff as Rich, Dad, and I finally cut the last pieces around 11:30pm.  Eat dinner, pack the tools, shower, and set the alarm for 4:45am in order to make our flight home from Charlotte. 

A notable exception was Sunday, which was my “rest” day.  I woke at 5:30, pulled on running shoes after a cup of coffee, and plunged out into the damp blackness wishing it would rain.  The rain would have pushed the humidity up from 95% to 100%, but at least it would be refreshing instead of the stagnant cling that my scant clothing assumed within minutes.  I met Ben at mile 3, and we reminisced down vaguely familiar cycling routes from many years ago.  After 6 miles of rolling hills, I left him to get his family ready for church, and I finished the loop back to my parent’s house.  I showered and joined the Sunday morning rush for church.
Sunday afternoon was highlighted by southern BBQ at a local haunt, finishing drywall, and a “candid” family picture event.  I’m no fan of family pictures, but this was pretty close to worst case possible scenario.  We had 8 adults, 6 children under 10 years old – each with abbreviated naps, 1 very patient photographer, and a half billion mosquitos.  If our photographer managed to frame a single shot through the haze of bug repellent without at least one person swatting mosquitos or screaming (The screaming was mostly done by adults) it was a miracle.  My wife and oldest daughter are spectacularly affected by the South Carolina state Vector, and were both dressed to hide the optimum number of welts, irrespective of coordinating colors.  My wife was sporting 2 bites on her jaw – disconcertingly suggestive of a domestic violence incident.  By the time we were done, domestic counseling wouldn’t have been out of the question.  Monday was back to work.

And, no construction project can be complete without a few hours in a spider infested crawlspace.  Our plans of installing the HVAC “down the road” came to a screeching halt when the inspector quizzed us Thursday morning about our intentions for the heating and air on his first visit.  Whereas I had intended to just “rough in” a vent that they could open up at a later date, I was now crawling around under the house choosing which duct to tie into.  The laundry is conveniently located at the furthest point from the crawlspace access – a short 2 minute slithering crawl through dead arthropods, 5o years-worth of fireplace ashes filtered down through the floor, and ubiquitous fiberglass insulation.  A typical late afternoon run to Lowes accumulated for us the necessary supplies, and I dove under the house again to finish the task just before dinner. I cut into a 6” branch line and wrestled my “T” into place.  “Hey, send down one end of the flex duct,” I called out from my lair.  Silence.  I was either being ignored, or had not been heard.  I repeated my request, but as the words were still vapor in my larynx, a dawning was occurring in my understanding.  They couldn’t find the duct that we had picked up at Lowes.  I vainly grasped at recollection which didn’t exist.  My mind’s eye could see my brother-in-law hauling the box through the plumbing department, and I vaguely recalled it again somewhere in the vicinity of lumber, but somehow not in the back of Ben’s truck. 

With our rough inspections occurring the next morning, dad made trip 34 of 378 to Lowes for that wayward flexible duct.  Back under the house, I lay on a blue tarp with my head resting on a scrap of 2x4 realizing that the now sagging duct would never pass inspection.  The only good option was to crawl back out and find some sort of strap.  In turning around I rested my hand on a rat’s nest of old tie wire.  Hello. That will do the trick.  So I tied up the duct and thrust the live end under the new addition.  Now, to haul myself and all my stuff out.  With my hands full I eyed Ben’s tarp and considered it a reasonable sacrifice in order to avoid a return trip.  Again twisting around to head for the exit my foot met resistance and I found it securely duct taped to a corner of the tarp.  Hello.  That’ll work.  So I crawled out into the starlight with a large blue tarp hot on my trail. God in his beautiful heaven knew I needed a break.  The next morning we passed all of our rough inspections and were given the green light to get it done. 

And for all intents and purposes we did:  The bright orange paint, the cabinets, the mop sink that nearly cost me my sanity on that last marathon evening, and finally the wooden deck and steps.
Mom and Dad’s appreciation was palpable, and I understand the sentiment.  But truly I wouldn’t have had it any other way.  My sisters who live local are a solace to me as Mom bravely confronts Parkinson’s.  So, I was honored to do this small thing for my parents who continue to be our heroes.

Thanks to Ben, Josh, Rich, Sarah, and all those who donated tools and labor, and most of all -  the cooks who kept us fueled and functioning.  

The adults weren't the only ones exhausted after a long week.  G made it  to Dallas -  and then crashed.