Thursday, September 13, 2012

just sayin'

you have your best shorts on, and your favorite jersey,
the skies are blue and the temperature is somewhere around 70 degrees,
you're feeling strong and fit,
you're heading up your most loved canyon, and
your ipod is sending your top-pick tunes into your left ear . . .

you should pack an extra water bottle.

just sayin'.

Monday, September 10, 2012

the conspiring universe

sometimes everything just clicks.
mindset, physical body, weather, companions, traffic, wildly unpredictable elements . . . there are times when every aspect of your adventure moves so perfectly that you couldn't have planned it that way yourself.
I--oh lucky soul--had such a day last saturday.

lotoja is an event that I spend, oh, about nine months training for.
not everyone who participates in lotoja does this, but I do.
I train all winter to maintain a level of fitness, to keep my heart strong via interval work, and to keep that cycling form ingrained in my mind, muscles, and cellular memory.
then I begin the outside work as soon as weather semi-permits, and I build up over the summer until I reach that beautiful taper phase . . . then it's smooth sailing for about 2 months as I enjoy the strength and speed I've developed over the past 9 months.

lotoja is the peak experience, and if all goes well, proof of how hard you've worked.
it doesn't always turn out that way:  sometimes we have good days, sometimes not, no matter how much effort and planning has come beforehand.
but this year, the entire universe seems to have conspired to give me an incredible day.
I felt well, I rode well, I had great--although always changing--companions along the way, the weather was perfect, I had no mechanical issues, my support was awesome (thank you, as always, john) . . . and I rode faster than ever.

this is not to say it didn't hurt along the way, that I didn't wish it over at certain points, that I didn't feel like my heart and lungs and legs would all burst at one time or another.
it is not an easy ride.
but it was a great day, with a great result, and I am great-full and grateful.
and now, for the next two months while I'm at my most fit and least stressed . . .


Friday, September 7, 2012

if memory serves

well, it often doesn't.
memory is a prickly thing, quite arrogant, determined to show us only what it chooses to.
it colors itself, it deletes and distorts, and it seems to have but a solitary perspective.
it paints pictures that are unidimensional.
it embellishes.
it tells different stories at different times, and yet we tend to take it as gospel.
it creates for us pasts that we might wish had happened, or pasts that unsettle us and prohibit future growth.
it tells us things were bigger, taller, stronger, smaller, weaker, nonexistent, omnipotent.
it doesn't always serve us well.

I confuse one day with another, one hill with another, one ride with another.  I remember a sign, but think it was on a different street.  I remember a climb as being of a certain grade, and then find, the next time, it's not that way at all.

what brings this to mind is my upcoming 206-mile ride, lotoja.  I've ridden this route 5 times now.
the first time it was all new to me.
the second time a good 80 percent felt new to me:  I was astounded by how much I did not remember.
the third time much more was familiar, but many places weren't at all.
the last two times I've been surprised by how my memories of what was--and my expectations of what was to come--were not always accurate.

I suppose what we all need to understand is that our memories do serve:  they just happen to be self-serving and unique to us.  if we remember to let each have their own and not insist upon our own versions of what was, we should all be able to play nicely with each other.

Monday, September 3, 2012

the final five

millcreek canyon is not for wimps.  unless you're using someone else's engine, that is.
it's eight and a half miles of winding, narrow road that is at times unconscionably steep.
a scant half mile into the canyon the road turns up at a 9-10 percent grade for just long enough to make a cyclist question his decision to ride the canyon . . . then the road eases and begins a game that pulls said cyclist forward by tilting up, then relaxing, then testing, then easing, over and over in a way that lulls him into thinking he can do this, after all.
at porter fork the road tilts up so severely breath is robbed, and then the next quarter mile is pleasant enough to convince one to continue past the gate and up into the narrow upper half which is always shaded, green, cooler than the rest of the canyon by 5-15 degrees.
the next few miles have one awful stretch (elbow fork), one delightful flat bit, and one almost-awful stretch (alexander basin), mixed in with some tolerable and some breath-stealing moments.
and then comes the last mile.

I use the word "rise" to describe a short-ish uphill, usually a tenth of a mile or less.
the last mile contains 5 of these rises, all of them in the 11-20 percent grade range.  (or something like that: my garmin isn't quite accurate enough to pinpoint brief stretches like that.)
there's recovery time between each of these 5 rises, but not much.  I feel excitement to reach the first one--as it means I'm almost to the top--mixed with the dread of knowing how tough they are, each time I get there.
I count them down every time, too.
by the time I reach the last one I have little oxygen left, my heart is pumping madly, and my breath comes out louder than a harley, and I think to myself, one.  this is it, I'm done, I'm there, thank you God.

each canyon I ride has it's own unique signature.  emigration has the u-turn where the wind always changes direction, big cottonwood has its interminable last 3 miles above silver fork, little cottonwood its 3-mile grind to tanner's flats, city creek its rotary park signs for me to count, and millcreek, the final five.

hey, you've got to play some kind of mind games to keep from conceding to the pain.