Monday, July 9, 2018

The Magic of Mid-night Madness


A night without sleep is a day added to your life.

                                                                            ---Master Chung



I got a new bike last month.  Really, it’s a new back-up bike.  A Pivot 429SL.  It seems as if, between the two of us, there is always a bike in the shop for something.  And since we both ride a medium, we have the luxury of sharing a back-up.




But - I keep shifting the darned thing down when I want to shift up.  And vice versa.  

It is frustrating that my subconscious brain insists on doing what my rational mind knows is simply a matter of clicking the opposite direction from what I am used to on the Cannondale.  

"I can switch it so that so that both bikes are the same," volunteers the always helpful Popeye. 

No doubt he thought I was just being stubborn when I said "No, thank you.  My brain needs the exercise."  

It's a small thing, I know, but I want my befuddled brain to adapt. Without practice, that which is difficult remains difficult.

(And wicked frustrating.)   


*****


It is 1:50 AM.  The alarm won't go off for ten more minutes, but I am wide awake.

My bike shorts and jersey are ready to go on the chair beside the bed.  You know it's early when your toothbrush is still wet from the night before. 

In the kitchen I hit the button on the coffeemaker.  No need for breakfast.  It feels as if dinner was only a minute ago.

I've always been a good sleeper.  Sleep-when-you-can was an essential skill back in the day, living on sailboats and merchant ships.  On the ship we called it "sleeping fast", the ability to grab sleep anywhere.  Any time there was an opportunity. 

Sleeping fast was a skill appreciated best as a flight attendant, though. Grabbing sleep for an hour, or a minute, eventually became easy stuff. Even on a hard plastic chair in the chaos of Concourse C.

It's been a long time since ATL, and a long time since I've been out of my comfort zone on sleep.  My current life is one of ease, in a house that never drags anchor, or lands in an unscheduled stop far from home.  This subconscious brain of mine cherishes good sleep, and takes good care of me.  I wind down at ten and wake up at six.  Day after day.  No questions asked.  No effort required.

But a week or two ago, some comments on the Singletrack Samurai facebook page raved about middle-of-the-night training.  And, just like a surprise jolt from shifting the bike in the wrong direction, suddenly here was a new challenge. 

Karlos A Rodriguez Bernart - in Alexandar Springs - June 25 at 6:53PM
When I'm prepping for a huge challenge it's important to ride at odd times.. we left the shop at 445 expecting to battle the heat.. instead...the weather was cool and downright chilly.. the forest teeming with wildlife and sounds.. it was a magical voyage

Bryan* I was totally expecting a lot of suck but that was one of the funnest and most enjoyable rides I've had in a long time!

Chad*  I love rolling out around 2:00am.  On my 200+ rides.

Vicky*  Sounds like a blast to me!  Wonder if I could get anyone to do this here?  (Midnight hash?  Scott*?  Kevin*?)

Kevin*  Let me know when and where.



Thank you, Karlos.  Some day you should meet Master Chung.

And thank you, Kevin, for the perfect response. 

Popeye sees the benefits immediately.  "That would be cool!"  I can't be sure, but I don't think he means the night-time temperature difference.

In a group email, I try to talk it up. 

It will be cool - literally!  No traffic!  No sunscreen!  I borrow the words of my co-hare, Cross: "It Will Be Glorious!"

And guess what.  It was all those things. 

3am.  We roll out, five riders, each sporting lumens enough to outshine any car on the road.  But - there aren't any cars on the road. 

Our tail lights blink red in a string up the bridge.  No one at all goes by on the Pineda.  A single, white pick-up passes on the five mile dash down Tropical Trail to Mathers Bridge.  Cars are zero to scarce for the entire first half of the ride.  

We cross the causeway, bomb the alleys, and cross US 1, not a car in sight. We cruise the trails in Wickham Park, then ride on to Lake Washington.  

At the lake, with 23 miles under our wheels, we stop to change out spent lights for spares, and have a snack at the end of the dark wooden pier.  I drop my unwrapped Larabar on the deck.  The guys are amazed when I automatically pick it up and throw it overboard with no regard for the five second rule. 

Hmm.  Perhaps another challenge for my subconscious brain?  Then again - nah.  This time my brain knows exactly what it's doing.  I've seen that deck in the daytime.

I try for a group selfie.  Another skill I find challenging for lack of practice. 

At 5 or so, we ride back the way we came, heading east in the dark. 

In one of the alleys in Eau Gallie, I either hit something, or something has come off my bike.  What feels like a slim metal rod hits my calf and falls away to the ground. 

The Cannondale misses a beat, the chain hitches up just for a second, then pedals smoothly.  Then hitches up again.  It will not pedal backward at all.  John and Greg stop with me to look for a source of hang-up in the rear drive train.  We see nothing.  But there is definitely something wrong.  Forward pedaling is not smooth, and getting to be more effort with each revolution. 

Still not a lot, but definitely more cars now.  And other bikes.  And runners on the bridge.  The world is waking up to it's Saturday.  There is a hint of sunrise in the beachside sky.

The bike is getting worse and I am a little worried I might damage it if I keep riding it like it is.  Popeye trades bikes with me and takes on the extra resistance of pedaling the last few miles toward home.  I am disappointed we won't get to cap off the ride with sunrise at the beach, but no one else seems to mind skipping the extra couple miles to take a direct route to the house.

The sun is full-up now.  Breakfast is over.  The guys have gone home to get on with their day.  Popeye is wisely napping, but I am wide awake.  The dishwasher is going, the bed is made, and I have fought the usual fight with blogspot to get this into a legible format.  I only have to wait for 9 o'clock so I can call the bike shop.

I feel like I should be getting dressed to go for my usual 10AM ride.  I actually feel like doing a 10AM ride.  The Pivot, in the garage, is ready to go.  I have to remind myself I've already had my fun for today, to keep typing instead.

Once again, Master Chung is right.  Like magic, I have added a day to my life.  

At the pier on Lake Washington. 
Greg, Popeye, Kevin, John, me.




Saturday, January 20, 2018

Tour de Felasco 2018 Enough at 50.


The Tour de Felasco was last week. 

In general it was a dismal affair, as it so often is, cold and long and lonely.  This year there was the added pleasure of long stretches of wild pig ruts.  Enough to convince me.  I didn't once consider shivering my way back over those pig ruts in reverse to make it a 65. 

Except for our bike group all gathering for a joyous cocktail hour back at the nice, warm hotel when it's over, San Felasco in January completely lived up to it's usual level of north Florida misery.  I guess that's the reason we go back year after year.  It feels so good when it's over?



Something for everyone.
Easy flats.



And pukey, after-lunch climbing.
OK, that was my own fault. 
I broke the first rule of Felasco. 
Don't eat the chili at the lunch stop.


Peter's been living in DC for a few years now. 
Check it out . 
40 degrees, short sleeves, and a big smile.





I realized I had taken very few picture throughout the day,
so toward the end I stopped three or four times, 
trying to catch a photo representative of the trail.
Along came Greg and Lora.  Perfect timing! 




Kinda rare to see a fat-tire tandem on trail. 
But a tandem fattie AND a Swamp Ape?




Glad I choose not to do the 100k. 
The shadows are already long by my 4pm finish.




The newly redesigned Cabot, aka Doubletree.
We miss the fireplace, the free cocktail hour, and our favorite old lady bartender!
By bringing our own cooler, we still don't pay for drinks, though.
(Showed them.)


Mike, Sean, Gobbler in flip flops, and Altar Boy.





Diane and John.  The selfie pros.



See you next year, Felasco?
Nah, don't think so!
(Well, maybe.)  




Saturday, March 18, 2017

The first ever, lumpy, bumpy, god-awful, totally awesome BINDeR 100k

It's a Thursday morning. 

Small Package waves and pulls his UPS truck into a side street.  I pedal up to the drivers side of the open panel truck so he doesn't have to get out.

"Still going to the Death Loop?" he asks.

"Yup, we're planning on it," I say.  "Even though my legs are still shot from the BINDeR."

"Mine too!"  He says with a grin.  "I don't know why I'm doing this!"

"Me either!"

"So, guess I'll see ya Sunday, then."

"Yup, see you there!"

I pedal away, shaking my head.  Why do we do this stuff?

I pedal home at a sedate pace.  My legs really don't have any snap today.  I had started out for Wickham Park but called it good enough by the time I got to the back alleys through Eau Gallie.  It's surprising because I rarely get sore and almost always recover from being tired with a single night's sleep.  Feeling that slightly whipped feeling four days after a ride is highly unusual.

By Friday, I get it.  It's a good old fashioned cold coming on.  Sneezes to start and then that thickheaded feeling on Saturday.  I had a cold last year, the first one in ten or fifteen years.  I guess I was expecting another ten or fifteen before the next one. I'm a little dismayed at  further ruin of my record, but not surprised.  Popeye came home from work with sneezes a week ago.  I only hope I can fight it off in 3 days like he did.      

And I probably could, if I were to stay home.  But the Death Loop is coming.  And who among us can resist a good Death Loop?  Not me.   

So, all week, I've been stubbornly trying to shake off what I assumed was the after effects of the BINDeR.    Turns out the BINDeR wasn't really to blame. 

But it was a completely reasonable mistake.    

The BINDeR 100k - a brand new ride with all the alluring ingredients for an off-road suffer-fest.

Weenie's been working on this one for awhile.  64 miles of cross country riding.  A series of trails through southern Brevard, into INDdian River county (BINDeR, get it?), and back again to Malabar in a wide loop.  100k.  Singletrack, doubletrack, some gravel is advertised.  No pavement. 


Weenie gives us the lowdown at the start.

We pretty much knew from the start it would be mostly god-awful, lumpy, bumpy, palmetto-root ridin'.  With a mix of sand, fences to climb, and maybe a shoe-sucking, goopy canal crossing or two for variety.  And we weren't wrong.     

Weenie's route began in Malabar.  Twists, turns, singletrack, then double.  Ever southward down toward the Grant landowners land grant.  Or some title like that.  Just try looking up landowners grant - in Grant.  Google seems confused.  And so am I.  There's sure a lot of information about land grants - for everywhere but Grant, Florida. 



Whatever.  There's a vast tract of scrub in southern Brevard County, down toward the C54 canal and the Sebastian River.  And you need to pass through a mind boggling maze of gates, trails, fire roads, and roller-chopped-to-prevent-fire roads, to get through it. 


Snack stop.


Some fence hopping.


Some of the more defined track.


Sign of civilization!


We wind our way southward through the scrub.  I am not watching the mileage.  But somehow, someway, after enduring a long, jaw rattling stretch of roller chopped trail, we pop out at, of all things, a welcome station, complete with restrooms and a screened in porch, on the gravel road along the north side of the C54 canal.





It's half way, and an excellent place for a lunch stop.  We spread out, sprawling across the porch chairs in the shade.  Peanut butter and jelly is the order of the day, with one notable exception.  Mark has a bona fide sub sandwich.  It's been in full view the entire time, riding enticingly in the pocket on his Camelbak.  It is the envy of nearly everyone.  Everyone but me.  I can barely choke down one PB and J, a nibble at a time.  I save my second one.  Maybe once we're done, I can eat it.  Not now, for sure.  That turns out to be a good thing.  There's about to be a change in plan.

Originally the 2nd half of the route was planned for trails to the west, through some place called the Stick Marsh, and then back north to Malabar.  But the stick marsh is on fire. Weenie decides the eastern route is more prudent.  There will be pavement after all.  And I am with some of the strongest fat-tire-on-pavement guys around.  Then again, if I get dropped, at least I know the road home. 

So our tour of the stick marsh will have to wait for next year.  We head east on the gravel road along the C-54 canal.  The dike is so high no water can be seen until we get to the spillway crossover.  We wait in the shade for the last few guys to catch up, and I stop in the middle to look at the canal.  It's big!  Yes, I've been here before, on a mid-summer hash last year.  But the only sight I cared to see on that 90 degree day was the cooler at the half way. 





We cross to the south side, where there's more gravel to grind before reaching the road.  Alongside one small canal, a man holds up an enormous bass while his wife takes a picture.  It's at least three feet long, with a mouth big enough to hold a cantaloupe.  I have never seen such a fish in my life. Why I didn't stop and take a picture, I can only attribute to herd mentality.  I have no wish to be left behind - at least not until we are back in the land of pavement, street signs, and Google maps.

And soon we are.  The final obstacle is a sissy looking, grassy-sided ditch to cross in the back of a residential neighborhood.  But the ditch is just a little too wide to jump.  The first two guys splash in over their ankles and I know we'll all be riding the last thirty miles with wet feet.  What I wasn't counting on was being the only one to step in a hole.  My left foot strikes on fairly firm bottom and is merely wet to the calf.  The right plunges down past my knee, into gluey muck. 

Gak!  The Keens - yes, with socks (hey, it was a chilly start) - are both coated in black, slimy goo by the time I crawl up the other side.  While the remaining few guys take their turn, I make an executive decision to remove my socks.  Inside out, they are size ten pockets of thick goo.  Now what?  I push them up under a nearby bush.  They were my favorite old XTerra socks, but they've done their duty now.  Although they probably deserved a better retirement.  I ease my bare feet back into the slimy Keens, and prepare for some fat tire pacelining.

It's been a while since ditching the road bike, but paceline etiquette comes back quickly.  Popeye leads out with a massive pull, then Pete takes over for another.  I take on the role of self appointed gatekeeper, letting in the lead guys as they drift back from a pull, and never taking a pull myself.  I have no illusion of hanging on to this group any other way.  Mentally, pacelining is a high-alert game of sucking wheel.  Physically, it's amazing how easy it is to hang at 20+ on a mountain bike, when you're mid-line with a dozen strong riders.

But easy or not, it's still a paceline.  If you aren't the lead dog, the view never changes.  There is a side-blur of mail boxes and horse pastures, and frequent peeks at the long stretch ahead.  But the crucial focus is on holding the perfect gap.  The rear wheel ahead spins relentlessly upward, just inches ahead of my downward spinning front wheel.  Falling off the pace may be undesirable, but touching wheels is far worse.   There is no time for sightseeing now. 

The final miles take forever.  Yet, they end too soon.  The lead guys sprint off the front for the last quarter mile.  I sit up and look back over my shoulder.  There are a couple riders way back there, but more than half the group is long gone.  

The rest is an easy glide to the parking lot.  Two bikes lay flat on the ground, riders alongside.  Popeye has the car doors flung open, all business, already scrubbing off.  Riders trickle in, in various stages of exuberance.  I might have heard someone throwing up. 

More riders arrive.  The coolers come out.  We toast to sand and roller-chopping.  To the worst god-awful trail through the scrub.  It is by far, the best 64 miles any of us have done all week.   

Most of our friends have brought real beer, but Popeye and I will have to wait for Malabar Mo's for that.  Meanwhile we make do with our cans of Coors Light.  It goes just fine with camelback-smashed PB and J.

So. 

Next week, the Death Loop. 

Next year, the Stick Marsh.  

And hopefully, a couple hundred god-awful, totally awesome rides in between. 
     

Friday, February 17, 2017

10, 100, 1000 resolutions. Or, why I quit the Beer Can Scramble.

February.  The month of abandoned resolutions.  

Is it just me?  I get tired of being resolved.  My brain rebels or just plain ignores the plan.  So, habit is usually my only hope.

Those resolutions we all made back on January 1st?  They are either habits by now - or they're not. 

I made a lot of resolutions this year.  A LOT of resolutions.

10, 100, and 1000.  My resolutions for 2017.

10 = pounds to lose.  (Duh, always that damned 10 pounds!)

100= miles per week on the bike

1000= 1000 NO's.  A little tougher to explain.  But basically, there are so many times when I regret saying yes.  Yes, to the Weasel in my head who begs for donuts or pizza.  Yes, to some stupid activity I don't really want to do.  Yes, to tolerating people whom I really can't tolerate.  So in a whole year?  A thousand no's seems about right to me!

But lets' start with the easy stuff.  Which is, of course, the bike. 

I am slowing down in my older and wiser years.  Just riding my full suspension around for fun.  No road bike.  No pacelines.  No Ironman.  No regrets.

Guessing I did about 5500 miles (street and trail) on my mtn bike last year.  So, a resolution of 100 miles per week should be pretty easy.  Just shoot for a ride every day.  Something will come up - guaranteed - once or twice a week.  But five remaining rides of various lengths should add up to more than enough. 

No particular plan, of course, not training for anything, certainly not racing any more.  And having Strava makes keeping track a breeze.  Besides it's good to have some goals - even general - non specific - sissy retirement goals.  Like 100 miles per week.  

Just a day at a time, doing something you like.  The easiest kind of habit there is.

The other two, not quite as automatic.  And no easy, peasey Strava to help me out.

For the 10 pounds, I keep my own logbook.  Most days anyway.  So, most days it's not all that hard to stay on track.

But then, there are those stubborn, fighting-back-every-step-of-the-way, brain wrenching NO's. 

The hardest thing so far this year was to step away from The Beer Can Scramble. 

It's been about four weeks now.  I don't miss the sameness of riding Turkey Creek - the exact same 10 mile trail - in the exact same direction - every single Tuesday night.  But I do wonder what I might be missing when it comes to the beer-after portion of the ride. 

Of course I have always wondered that.  

The guys have their kitchen passes and stay for dinner and beyond.  My self imposed kitchen duties demand that I get myself home to my husband and put some dinner on the table by 9pm.  So about 20 minutes of socializing is realistically all I'm missing anyway.  Yet, it's still requires some self-pep-talking not to wonder what I'm missing every Tuesday. 

But that's how it is with NO's.  Always evaluating.  Weighing the costs.  Social and otherwise. 

Saying NO habitually would be just as short sighted as saying yes habitually.  Which means that saying NO can not be left to the luxury of habit.  Which makes it hard work for the lazy, rebellious chunk of my brain that so often rules my head.

So - the 10 pounds?  Yes. I. Can. Make. Eating. Less. Food. A. Habit.  (Eventually.)

100 miles a week?  Absolutely.  Habit already.  

1000 NO's?  Much tougher. 

Got a start, though. 

One down.  999 to go.



 


 



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Riding in Secret. Scouting trail for the Full Moon Hash.

My very first job - after babysitter - was kitchen worker.  My ride to work was a bulky blue Schwinn that was my sister's before it was mine. 

There were fewer No Trespassing signs back then, but I met my share of dead ends checking for shortcuts between home and the back door of the village diner where I leaned my unlocked bike every morning at 6.

Some things change.  Some things don't.

Strava in privacy mode.  I duck behind the strip mall.  Looks pretty promising.  There's a long skinny strip of grass between the long shabby building and a long skinny fence.  At the very end I can just make out an open gate.  The bike rolls through a narrow stream of cloudy water seeping from the back of the 24 hour laundrymat.  Hmm, a little closer and I can tell that, yes, past the gate hanging open, there's a walkway leading to the right.  

I roll right up to the gate before the No Trespassing sign is actually visible.

"Dead end," someone chuckles behind me.    

Two young guys are schlepping paint cans out the open back door of the soon-to-be out of business hardware.

The guys don't seem a bit surprised to see a middle aged woman on a full suspension Lefty fetched up at the end of their particular back alley.  Or even surprised that I add my laughter to theirs. 

"Yep, another one," I say.   As if I do this sort of thing all day long.  (Which sometimes I do, but usually just for an hour or so at a time.)

This is Florida.  It is not safe to ignore No Trespassing signs, but I am curious.  "So, where's the passage go?" 

"There's like, a patio back there.  Total dead end."  And I know a kindred spirit.  Of course he's checked.

We all check.  Shortcutting kitchen workers, teenage hardware employees, and of course, suburban hashers looking for new trail.  There is just no passing by a double track, back alley, or hole in a fence without taking a second look.

What I am hoping to find is a way to come out far enough down the block to be out of sight of a possible halfway stop across the street.  Oh well, the answer is not here.

Today, my local quick suburban route of about 15 miles has yielded 3 surprises.  I've ridden this way dozens of times, so you'd think surprises would be, well, surprising.  But no, there's always something new if you're really looking.

"There's a shorter way past the soccer field, but I'm not sure they always leave the gates open," I told my co-hares last Sunday as we scouted trail.  Mental note: check later when I happen to be nearer the other end of the block. 

So, my second surprise of the day is a good one.  Not only is the gate in question hanging open in the middle of a weekday, but there is an enormous gap in the fence not far away.  As for No Trespassing signs.  Not a single one.  Yes!

I continue riding, with no intention of further scouting, just the need for an hour's worth of miles.  But something unusual for our flat suburban neighborhood catches my eye.  Clouds of black smoke billowing up a few blocks from the beach.  It could be one of the countless shoe-box houses in this town... or, oh no.  It could be the tiniest patch of wooded park in the county.  

Sure enough, the one and only patch of wooded singletrack in town, a postage stamp sized patch of woods behind the public library is on fire. Not just smoldering, but really on fire. Flames shoot straight up from the cabbage palms next to the parking lot.  Black smoke billows skyward while county workers watch from their white pick up.  Caution tape is warped across the road out of the park, which also happens to be my route home.

I roll up to the truck.  If you are simply curious - and nice - nearly all public workers are more than willing to answer questions.  

Down comes the window obligingly.  Controlled burn? Downed power line?  Arson?  I'm just curious!

This time the answer is controlled burn.  Supposed to be done a month ago. 

Beats crazies in the neighborhood.  I guess.  The result is the same, though.  Another bit of shiggy (hasher speak for off road trail) gone for now.  Hopefully in a month it will be passible again.  We'll see.  Meantime, not a bad idea to scout some bypasses as soon as it all cools down. 

Meantime, the fire may be just getting started, but the day is getting on.
 
Fortunately there are other exits for someone looking to elude a bunch of caution tape and just get on home. 

At least there are if you're on a bike.  And you know where there's a hole in the fence.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Full moon hash...  Feb 11, 2017


Waiting for the hounds to arrive.
Hares re-upping flour at LongDoggers halfway.



Hounds begin to arrive at halfway.



Hounds begin to arrive for slam bang beach bonfire ending.



The Santa Cruz, my ex-bike.
Finger owns Flash now. 
And definitely dresses him better!



Down-downs under the full moon.



Swing Low.
   



* If the idea of a hares and hounds sort of bike chase appeals to you (and you're over 21), check Bikehash.com.  


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

San Felasco - dim skies - dark mood - wet shoes - poor signage. Wah wah wah. Oh well. And on-on.

Any day on the bike is a good day!  Even this one.  I guess.  Which started with promise, at least.

I know.  Wah wah wah.  So just get over it, right?  This is mountain biking.  It's not supposed to be comfortable! 

Discomfort, ok fine.  I am used to that.  Being duped by poor signage.  Not once but three times.  Now that I resent.

Which resulted in getting miles off course.  Then a couple knee deep water crossings and an uphill run at puke hill to get back on.  Then being spat at (or maybe it was supposed to be a raspberry?) from guys I thought were friends.  Really, is it a competition here?  With the likes of me?  Passing the old lady all by herself with only her wet feet - and the echo of your raspberry - for company.  How cool are you?

Anyway, I admit to having a less than fun day, ya know?  Which is unfortunate, because the Tour De Felasco comes but once a year.  

There is one real benefit from bailing on the metric century and only doing fifty miles, though.  Something I have never before accomplished. 

I was back ahead of the fast guys and actually got in while there was still some pizza left.  A first!!!


Popeye with some of the guys at the start.
Spitter not shown.

Felasco has it's own version of gloomy beauty.





So.  On to happier days. 

Like our Sunday stop at Santos for a quick run at Nalys and Ern N Burn on the way home.

Sunnier day.  Sunnier mood.  Serious swooping. 

And no spitters in sight. 

Worth the trip right there.












Last but not least.  Scoring a pink beer at WOB after with the last of the weekend's die hards...  

Yup.  All better now. 

Bad day?  What bad day?






The Magic of Mid-night Madness

A night without sleep is a day added to your life.                                                                             ---Maste...