Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Impromptu Update

Yesterday’s post was scheduled, so I didn’t need to crank out a weekend update.  But I had a decent weekend to update about, so I decided to plug it in today.
Saturday we slept in.  I rarely let myself sleep in, but the weather looked pissy, so I decided to let my body get more rest than usual.  After we got up and got going with some breakfast in our tummies I headed east toward Flat Holler for some trail work and flagging a new potential reroute for the CC land manager to look at.  If he okays it this reroute will be one of the most notorious mountain bike trails in Eastern Kentucky.  I promise!
So I hacked with a machete, tied flags, did some geotech, and cleared a bit of storm debris off the existing trail.  When I got back home we worked at cleaning up the house and yard for the rest of the day.  It’s needed it for a long time.  The basement recently flooded and I just had to drag some wet and damp stuff out for a future dump run.  We’ve still got a lot to do, but we also cleaned up outside the house and made some more specific interior and exterior home improvement plans.  We stopped just shy of heading off to the home improvement store.
Sunday morning we were on the Mountain Parkway headed to church in Lexington when Mandy said: “Oh no!” and began pulling onto the shoulder.  White smoke was rolling out from behind the car.  I checked the oil—it was full—when I saw oil on the road and the frame of the car.  My dad came and picked us up and offered to loan us his car.  But it was stressful and demoralizing to be down two cars and in two loaners.  Gump is out of commission right now as well, and may not be coming back any time soon.
We’re two months out from the influx of Magic Money from Mandy’s new job.  We’ve already spent it all five times over, but new things keep coming up that we can spend it on.  Like car repairs.  Or, as we’ve acknowledged, maybe now it’s finally time to invest in a car that doesn’t cost $2,000. 
When we got home, still unable to get ahold of a towing company, I said: “well, at least now I have time to get the yard mowed before the rains hit.” I began moving my mind in that direction.  I needed to change and go to the hardware store.  I had decided it was time to get a new blade for the mower.  I also needed to keep trying to get ahold of someone to go get the car off the side of the Parkway and figure out who we were going to get to look at the car.
“Y’know what…” Mandy said, looking up from her phone.  She had been googling various phrases intended to ease our suffering.  Towing.  New hybrid car.  Etc, etc. “…let’s get changed and head out to the woods and go hiking or something and forget about car repairs, student loans, this house, mowing the yard…we can deal with it all when we come back.”
And so we did.  I took her and the kids up to Flat Holler for the first time and they saw the mountain bike trail.  We hiked over to Flat Hollow Arch and they got to see it for the first time.  We ate sandwiches and snacks while the mosquitoes snacked on us, and then we headed back.  It was a good time with the family, and because the weather was so pleasant on Sunday we just kept commenting on what a fine time we were all having.
Boone: "It's a boom mike."
On the way home we swung by Ace and I got a mower blade.  We looked at a patio set with chairs and a small glass table, and because the chairs were so darn comfortable and the price was right we got two of the chairs and the table.
When we got home I mowed and Mandy cleaned up the carport and put the table together.  That afternoon we ate dinner sitting out in the cool air on our refreshingly uncluttered porch.  It was relaxing to know that a lot of work was behind us and that we had a few hours still to relax and enjoy the beautiful evening.  She and I agreed that despite the rough start to the day it had ended up being a rare one and memorable at that.
Despite having dad’s car I decided to ride my bike to work on Monday.  I got the Dogrunner all ready on Sunday night and went to bed with the mental preparation for a 45 mile commute. 
The magic of Sunday didn’t extend on into Monday.  I woke up half an hour before my alarm with stomach issues.  Thinking maybe I would be able to sort it out and get going a little early I was at first hopeful, but when I was ten minutes late getting out the door and still not feeling it I knew I should abort.  But I was determined to make the commute work.
Before I was even off of the creek more issues arose.  Remember two years ago how I had shifting issues on the Old Kentucky Home Tour?  No, well, that was on the old blog.  Two years.  It comes and goes, so it’s never been too pressing, but it seems like when the shifting issue does come back it really knocks me off my game.  When it’s damp or humid my rear derailer won’t shift up.  It shifts down just fine, but I can’t get it to go into higher gears.  I end up working the chain onto the middle rear cog and shifting between my chainrings which essentially turns my whippy sport-sport bike into a three speed.  And that’s no good on the rolling roads of the Bluegrass and the Cumberland Plateau.
Pilot View sunrise
So today I am going to get a set of cables and housings to replace the gummed up and corroded ones I’ve been ignoring for too long.  Low cost solution to a problem I apparently enjoyed suffering from…
I was slow going all the way to Winchester.  I felt sluggish.  My bad knee hurt.  My good knee protested.  It took two hours to go half way.  I absolutely did not want to get to work a half hour late when I left with enough time to get there a half hour early.  And when I turned onto Colby Road in Winchester I realized I was too late into the morning commute.  Colby and Todds Roads would be insane with Clark Countians speeding into LexVegas for the day.  I had missed my low volume window…
I called in sick for the day.  I sure felt beaten down at that point.  Then I commenced to crawling back home.  In the end I rode 60 miles.  I was exhausted and never really felt like I recovered by last evening.  Obviously I drove in to work today.
I really did enjoy riding the bike.  I just wish I had not been so stupidly stubborn in my maintenance schedule or lack thereof.
I want to write a post in the near future about what’s been up in the past two years with my apathy and lack of motivation in general. 
Last night we were under a tornado watch when a nasty thunderstorm blew up.  The house went dead and threw us into the dark as hail beat on our poor roof and winds tore leaves and branches from the trees in the yard.  Mandy herded the crew into the basement for five minutes of anxious waiting.  When the deluge subsided a bit I ran out and climbed up on the roof to replace the tarp that had blown off from its protective placement over a hole we need to have fixed. 
Then we took stock.  We lost the top of one of our trees and a bunch of branches came down.  Same with neighbors.  Creeks were all rockin' and rollin' and we decided when Tomahawk gets back from vacation we're either bribing him to help us to take the two gum trees down before they fall square on the house or we're hiring a stranger to do it.  While we have homeowners insurance I really don't want to deal with deadfall in the kitchen.
In the still and quiet after the storm I thought to myself that we truly are blessed, that no matter how bad things are we have it pretty good, and the things that get me down are really minor in the scheme of things.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Running on Faith: An Ultrarunning Update

I can’t wait until a better time to begin prep for my first 50k.  My strategy has been to drop thirty pounds before November and then do the Rough Trail 50k in my beloved Red River Gorge.  Since I’ve been shut out of the Rugged Red I had to find some replacement event to distract me from the negativity I want to let run rampant in that arena.
I’m sort of on track for losing the weight.  “Dry” I have hit my weekly 191 target weight.  But that was after a hot, hot ten mile trail run.  Later that day after a meal and fluid replenishment I was up to 194.  That’s still better than the 197 I was the day before and the 199 the night before that.  Up and down.  Sigh…
I was going to hold off on trailrunning very much.  I’d not been cycling at all (not true) and I figured I had time as long as I slowly ramped up my road miles.  Face it, it’s summer and I can’t put myself out on the hot asphalt for very long.  To get miles I need the shade of trees.  I need more motivation to get out.  And if being the subject of a deer fly smorgasbord isn’t just the ticket then I don’t know what is.
I also had signed up to “Trail Check” two five mile section of the Sheltowee Trace in the Red River Gorge for the STA.  Oops, I forgot! Was supposed to have in by the beginning of June.  It’s almost July.
The KY 15 to Red River section I could probably do from memory except for downed trees, but the Bison Way to Corner Ridge section is a bit fuzzier in my mind.  I ran the singletrack section early last year and I haven’t been on the Corner Ridge section in probably twenty years.
But stepping back a week or so…I was up in Flemingsburg for a meeting the week before last so I swung over to the Northern Terminus of the Sheltowee for my lunch time distraction.  I have to say, standing at the Northern Terminus for the first time reawakened possibilities, dreams, schemes, and maybe even a little fear.  I was standing at the beginning of a 300+ mile line across the earth.  Oh, to have the luxury…
Looking south on the Sheltowee Trace
I ran out and back only five miles.  It was hot that day.  And true to the rumors I’ve heard over the years the trail faded into overgrowth at one point.  I opted there to turn back.  It was a good moderate climb up to a long rolling ridge.  Just the right tonic for a weary soul.
Of course I fantasized about being on a thru-run—a FKT, a self-supported adventure—all the while I was running that day.  Soon.  Before I’m too beat up.
But anyway, I had a late meeting one night so I went early while it was fortuitously cool to avoid the worst of the heat and deer flies.  I parked at Bison Way Trailhead and struck out north with full confidence of running out five miles and having no choice but to retrace my steps back to the car.  There was no room for error.  No option but to keep going.  I like those situations.  It increases my focus.  It hones my bones.
Truth be told, something scares me about running more than a half marathon in the woods.  Can I pull it off?  I watch Al’s Strava and am amazed that a guy ten years older than me can run 20+ miles through the Gorge…and so fast. I look at other ultra-trailrunners and know that mentally I can accomplish what they do, but I haven’t so far been able to make my body go the distance.  Pain, weakness, fatigue…something always shuts me down.
I took a leap of faith the other day on the Sheltowee.   A few months ago I was comfortable going out and running 8-10 miles without much forethought.  In 2015 I’ve struggled to maintain a regular schedule of running even 4 miles every few days.  In the past few weeks I’ve focused more on cycling too, but since the weather has warmed I’ve not even settled into the regiment I thought I would have by now.
Ten miles went down fairly well.  At mile eight I started to wane.  I wasn’t hurt; I was just tired.  Of course I left the house with an apple and a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds in my belly.  I only carried two gels with me on the run.  Likely my performance failure was in fueling and not fitness.  I’m trying to drop some flab.  Cut me some slack!
The rest of the day I hobbled, but I wasn’t wrecked.  The next day I felt pretty good but still took a needed rest.  I’m not back to September 2014 running levels, but I’m not as far of as I thought I was.  I think I can strike back out to a half-marathon distance in short order.  If I keep it slow and steady…
I need to run some good base miles close to home (maybe in Dawn Patrol mode) to keep the pounds sliding off.  I really need to be ramping up my running miles and time in the gym.  I just can’t motivate myself to get into the gym, and I want to run the trails even when it’s not most efficient. 
What I would like to do is unhinge my mind to run distance with no thought for speed.  I know I push too hard at all the wrong times.  I let visions of Strava glory burn up all of my matches when I could go out for a long glide into the wide world.
Anyway, I still find the notion of taking off on some long journey on foot alluring in ways that nothing else is.  I’m not in shape but I have plans…big plans.

Friday, June 26, 2015

(Not Really a) Rebel Yell

When I was a kid I had a rebel flag and I hung it in my bedroom window.  I was proud of being “southern” and Appalachian, and when I was very young I loved the Dukes of Hazzard.
I don’t know what ever happened to that flag.  At some point in my life it ceased to mean anything at all to me.  It had never been more than a colorful swath of cloth to me that was tied to a beloved TV show.  As I got older I just had no real interest in the flag anymore, just like I lost my interest in an unrealistic and (to my older self) un-entertaining show.
I had a novelty pirate flag too.  I think they both ended up in the same garbage bin.
Somewhere along the way I began to associate rebel flag stickers in the back windows of pickup trucks as a badge for redneckery.  Whatever that means.  When I met my wife’s transplanted family (they had migrated to Kentucky from Upstate New York) I realized that “redneck” wasn’t merely a southern demographic.  I also have never immediately associated “redneck” with “racists.”  I’m not saying there aren’t racists rednecks, but I don’t think the proud hillbilly culture owns the trademark on bigotry.  There are plenty of urban people, suburban people, and people from every other land use type in the land that are racist.
I don’t know that I’ve ever directly related the rebel flag with racism.  But then again, I’ve never really been the subject of racisms or been around too many overtly racists people.  I tend to relate it to people who need some kind of icon to latch onto to define their identity.  There are a lot of those out there: 13.1 stickers (how many twinkies I can eat after a half marathon), WWJD, My Degenerate Beat up Your Honor Student, I’m Ready for Hillary in 2016, Team Mitch, Hart ’84, or maybe My Karma Ran Over Your Dogma. 
All of those bumper sticker philosophies and political stances are silly.  In my eyes the rebel flag is just another asinine display of some vague world view.  It’s not like anyone ever walks up to some vehicle owner and strikes up a conversation about their bumper messages.  We really don’t talk enough.  We like to “share” and the internet has compounded and distributed the idiocy of bumper sticker world views to literally every corner of the world.  But “sharing” in this way is counterproductive.  It’s poisonous and divisive. 
I’ve been guilty of defending my whitehood by saying that there are black racists too.  I maintain this is true, but it doesn’t do anything for improving race relations.  To be perfectly honest, I really don’t have a lot of experience with people of other races.  I’ve mostly hung out with people who look and talk like me throughout my life.  It wasn’t so much by choice as by instinct.  Saying “there are black racists too” is instinct. 
It’s a way of responding to the notion that all white people are guilty of racism on some level, and that we have no business speaking about something we know nothing about.  I can say I have been a minority at times and know the feelings of conspicuousness that comes from being the only one of a certain skin color in the room.  I know racism goes beyond feeling conspicuous, but I know that I have valid opinions about racism.  I can see how damaging racism is and not agree with it.  If I can't have a valid opinion about racism then how can I be an ally in the fight against it?
I am not a racist.  That’s not to say I have perfect sensitivity for every demographic in the country or the world, but I am not intentional in my ignorance.  I grew up in a primarily white community.  I had few opportunities to get to know non-whites.  My children have had more non-white friends than I have.  I wanted them to get to know people with different backgrounds and to not feel conspicuous around them. 
Recently I was at the city park for a run.  A young lady I had never seen before was roller blading around the trail.  My daughter commented on her “skates” and we talked about the difference in roller blades and roller skates a little bit, and then Bean saw a friend and took of to go play.
On my next lap I came upon the roller blader stopped in the trail looking at some graffiti.  For years there has been a faded spray painted swastika.  Except...its backward. 
I slowed as I passed the young lady and said that it was shame, indicating the graffiti.  She responded:
“Don’t people know there are Jews around here?”
I did not.
“Whoever did that probably had no idea what they were doing.  They even got it wrong.”  I replied, and quickly added: “Not that they should have gotten it right!”
She went on to say how hateful it was, and I again suggested that it was probably stupid kids that didn’t understand the significance.  That doesn’t make it right, but it takes some of the menace out of it.  The signs pointed to painful ignorance.  The accompanying graffiti includes a twenty foot long cartoonish penis.
We chatted for a little while and I left feeling as if I hadn’t exactly allayed the young lady’s concerns.  She explained that she was Jewish and that she had plans to move to Israel.  I wasn’t really able to express my own disgust at the graffiti well.  And maybe my disgust is whitewashed and watered down.  I’ve seen that particular painted icon a million times while running around the half mile paved path at the park.  I don’t even notice it anymore.  It has no power over me or for me.  But I had long wished the city could have done more to obliterate it and the phallic trail art. 
I don’t know, before last week I hadn’t thought about the presence or absence of the confederate flag.  I say stop flying it over government buildings.  I say it should be removed from state flags.  Someone commented on facebook that it represents a country that attacked America.  I don’t think that’s entirely true, but in what universe does the losing side get to proudly display their flag all over the place?  If you think it’s your heritage then I think maybe you need to rethink your understanding of history.  States’ rights are one thing, but perpetuating a 150 year old campaign that was doomed to begin with is just plain silly. 
Can’t we have dialogue about states’ rights without dredging up a pretty deplorable chapter of our national history?  The primary “right” that the Southern states wanted to maintain was the right to determine if slavery would be legal within them.  Those that argue that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery are deflecting.  It most certainly was about slavery.
This is not an issue of abortion or gun control.  We’re talking about the oppression of a large group of people based on something they ultimately had no control over.  No one can choose their race.  And can we all agree that there is nothing inherently superior in any one race over any other?  It’s sad that there are still some people who can’t see that.  And some people who claim to be worshippers of the Creator of all races.  
I can’t control that I was born white, but I can control how I use my whiteness.  I can choose to live with respect for other people no matter their background.  I can see past skin color.  And I’m not even going to try and argue that I don’t see color.  We all do.  We all will forever.  But color is what makes us beautiful.  And white is a color too.  I think we need to stop thinking about light and dark colors.  There is a human soul and mind behind each color we see.  That’s truly all that matters. 
I think it’s time that the Confederacy finally goes away.  I think it’s time we recognize that the United States of American soundly defeated the Confederate States of America and we should stop allowing the flags of and monuments to the Confederacy to exist in this country. 
To do so in ignorance is no less damaging.  To do so willingly is absolutely deplorable and evil.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Perpetual Motion Machinations

Back and forth I race between home and work, work and home.  My little brain is spinning like a flywheel as I keep forty-two irons in the fire.  I promise I’ve been trying to yank a few out and toss them aside (without starting some brushfire fairytale) in a desperate attempt to simplify.
It’s hard when I’ve got momentum going.  It’s hard to let that wheel run down.  I know that’s when the Dragon of Depression will reach out and clamp down on me with its poisonous fangs.  But as long as the wheel keeps spinning I outpace its efforts to take a bite of me.
So you see, Dear Readers, it’s better for me to tread the redline than sit in idle.  I can’t let the shadowy snake to wrap its scaly appendages around me.  I got to run.  I got to.
Anyway, in my efforts to outrun boredom, depression, and mundanity, I am also getting $#!+ done.  And that’s satisfying.  Not only am I struggling to self-medicate with movement therapy and constant distractions, but I’m also providing value and interjecting energy into the global system.  That makes me infinitely happy.  I’ve gone from a bad place (more than two years ago now) through some rough waters, and I think I’ve finally come through to the other shore. 
There are native shadows here that I’ll never fully escape, but for now I’m camped far out from that beachhead and it seems like a land of better opportunity.  I have to be careful still, and not tumble off some ledge into a pit.  Oh, and there are pits!
We took the kids to see Inside Out at the Drive-In last weekend.  Wow, what a deep movie!  It didn’t hit home until Silly Island fell into the Memory Dump.  Ack!  For a bright and colorful “kids’” movie that was a dark moment.  And when the imaginary friend sacrificed himself to save the rest of the mind? 
I made immediate connections to my own life.  I’ve lost islands in the past few years.  I’ve lost the comfort of naivety and the stability of tradition.  I proved to myself that you really can’t go back home again.  When Silly Island turned gray and began to fall apart I wondered how the filmmakers would bring it back.  And as a great wave of sadness hit me I realized that sometimes you never get it back.
In a way it was disappointing [SPOILER ALERT!] when Silly Island came back.  Not that I wanted Riley to lose her silly side forever, but it seemed too Hollywood for all of the positives to come back.  Reality is not so convenient. [</SPOILER ALERT]
I’ve learned the faint scent of an onset of depression.  I am more at peace with this underlying condition than I thought I ever could be.  I don’t delude myself into believing that I have it all under control, but being able to recognize it for what it is—being able to name the shadows that haint me—gives me a great deal of power in negotiating with the Dragon.  No bites today, if you please.
A few days ago I caught the briefest hint of that scent.  I worried that another bout of dragon rabies was coming on.  It passed like a dragon shaped cloud through a clear blue sky.  The shadow of it gave me a chill, but I was so caught up juggling white-hot irons I didn’t have a time to stop and pull on a sweater.  And it’s a good thing because it’s been hot as dragon far ‘round here these days.  And the wicked deer flies are out in the woods.
The moral of this fairy tale I guess is that keeping my mind and body occupied is key to keeping my sanity.  I (try not to) worry that if the shield breaks down there is nothing but a pit to fall into or a dragon to succumb to.  But I ain’t seen either one in a long time.  I’ll keep hunkered down behind this ol' coat of arms as long as I can.  I’ll keep frantically scrabbling to find things to toss out into the castle keep to distract Old Scaly from my true position.  I’m pretty crafty myself. 
I’m also learning all kinds of new tactics.  I have a lot of new shiny weapons to hurl at the beast.  Some I had all along, but just never took off the security packaging.  Like I could have shoplifted that sword.  Dingbats.
I haven’t been writing much lately.  That’s one of those tactics.  Writing is good and bad for me.  I articulate better.  But when I articulate I end up with a huge pile of grievances against the universe and I end up spending more time sorting through the pile unawares all the while the Dragon is breathing hot on the back of my neck.  I want to write, but I’m happier when I don’t extricate all of the negativity that’s lurking in my brain.
Someday I’ll have the luxury of focusing on what I want to write.  Today it’s not beneficial, so I won’t put so much energy into it.  I’m perfectly okay with that.  Simplifying.
The good things.  I know the tone is a bit gray here, and I don’t want to leave you with that. 
I am like water.  I find the cracks, the path of least resistance.  I freeze and boil.  I grind away.  I once wrote that I was like a boulder in the river, only worn away slowly, only solid in appearance on a human scale.  I don’t think I’m the boulder.  I think I’m the river.
I push forward relentlessly.  I will not be impounded.  Bring me your tires, bring me your appliances, bring me your silt…and I will inextricably push them toward the sea.  To subdue me you will have to invest a great deal more than it’s worth to do so.  I am contained by my banks, but I find a way to undercut them, to bypass them, and to subvert them at every turn.  You think you contain me, but I happily and anarchistically ignore your constraints.

I don't know, maybe I'm the boulder after all.  Obstinate in my anarchism.
I know simplifying is a good thing.  But I also know if I suddenly find myself without anything to do that my devious little mind will concoct some scheme to sacrifice itself to the dragon.  I can’t abide that. 
Lately I’ve groaned inwardly at myself as I voluntarily take on new schemes.  But then I laugh, toss aside the groaner, and go on.  I happily embrace this paradigm shift because I know in the long run it’s good for me.  I know if I can get a little further down the road I’ll have more breathing room.  Unless that’s just another self-delusion.  Maybe I’ll never get a chance to catch my breath.  Maybe with wiring like mine life just becomes a hamster wheel effort to escape the Dragon.
Well, heck far! I wasn’t going to end on a down note. 
It’s a good thing I like relentless forward motion. J

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pretty Good Week Except for the Stolen Gas, the Parking Ticket, and All the Dead Chickens

I was looking forward to the kids being out of school.  I figured life would slow down, we could relax and take it easy, and some aspects of life would just fade into the background and stop nagging like a mosquito in your ear.
But it’s not been all bad.  Life is pretty good for the time being.  Mandy was hired by the Powell County School District to fill a special ed position at Clay City Elementary.  That’s huge for us.  The entire fifteen years we’ve been married we have only both been employed with full time salaried positions for four months at the same time.  That was the four months after I started my job in Colorado before Mandy finished her previous teaching contract with Powell County Schools.  We’re not suddenly rich, but we’re suddenly less poor than we used to be, and poor in a way that’s tolerable and maybe even desirable.
Powell County Fiscal Court and the City Councils of Stanton and Clay City all three adopted the bike-ped plan.  That makes me happier than you can imagine.  A couple of years ago—heck, last year—I wouldn’t have dreamed that our small county would have such sweeping buy-in for a progressive bike ped plan.  And here we are.
I’ve also been working on a grant application for a new public river boat access at the Clay City Park.  If we get the grant that will help renew interest in the Red River, improve recreational access, and hopefully boost tourism in the long run. 

Boone’s been at camp last week, and Tuesday night Mandy, Lily and I were in Lexington.  We stopped at Mellow Mushroom to have dinner.  I wasn’t thinking about the adorable fascist policy of parking enforcement by the University of Kentucky and we walked out to find a parking ticket on the windshield of the MBDV.
And when we got home we discovered two loose dogs and a slew of dead chickens.  The massacres just get more gruesome as the Naughty Dog perfects his psychotic craft.
Oh, and I didn’t even tell you about the stolen gas!
On Saturday I filled up the gas can with the intention of mowing the hayfield we call a lawn.  Five gallon can.  It cost about $12 to fill up.
Saturday afternoon someone knocked on our kitchen door and then ran off with the can.  The kids saw the perp.  The perp looked like my cousin’s baby daddy.  Baby Daddy told Mandy that it was some guy we’d never heard of when she knocked on their door Sunday afternoon.
The kids maintain that it was Baby Daddy who walked off with my gas can.  We’ve decided to chock it up for loss and count it as a lesson learned.  Gas, mower, tools, etc are all now locked up in the shed.  Our house doors are locked now.  It was a good wakeup call because for two years I’ve wondered when some pillhead associate of some of my family members would just walk in and take our stuff without asking.  Well, now we are taking precautions. [conversely, I spoke to Baby Daddy after writing that part and I'm pretty sure it wasn't him, and I talked to my cousin--or rather she stopped and talked to us, warning us that her dad was moving back in--and now I am pretty sure it was just more of the migrant criminal element. See next paragraph]
This morning I listened to a voicemail message from my Drunk Uncle.  We’ve been working with Drunk Uncle in his garden except for this last chaotic week.  He called to warn me about seeing needles along Chainringville Road.  That’s where Bean rides her bike.  I am not happy.  Like a rabid, angry, mother bear I am not happy.  It’s time to make known my distaste for the criminal element that speeds up and down the road by my house.
Over the weekend we paddled the Middle Gorge at Tomahawk’s behest.  I was unaware that in the twenty-some odd years that Mandy’s family has lived in Kentucky that they had never paddled the river.  Of course we now all want boats. 

This is kind of a rambling jive.  I wish I could get back to more thoughtful pieces on more concrete topics.  Hopefully soon I can wrangle my free range mind into submission long enough to crank out some quality writing.
Things are getting churned up in my brain.  That’s never a good sign.
Anyway, I have failed to get from 195 to 193.  In fact, I am as far from this week’s target as I was when I started.  Like I said, this past week man…



Monday, June 15, 2015

On Why Being a Weight Weenie is Just a Stupid Waste of Energy

In 2011 when I went shopping for a mountain bike suitable for taking to Leadville, Colorado to race I got into a protracted discussion with my good friend Richard at Arvada Bike about cost versus weight ratio.

I say Richard was a good friend because he was able to say in a frank but considerate manner: don't worry about the bike, just drop the weight from your own frame.

Instantly I saw he was right.  Long before I started down the path to Leadville I was carrying around the equivalent of a fat bike in weight on my body.  Instead of obsessing over 3x9 versus 1x11 to save a few grams, or carbon versus aluminum, I just needed to lay off the Ho-Hos.

And while I've not crammed a fistful of Ho-Hos in my mouth in probably twenty years or more I have found comparable caloric substitutes.  The logical approach would be to find the most durable bike with the least resistance to forward motion and just eat like a normal person.

Return of the PoCo Peloton

I'm down to 196 from 200 in two weeks.  My goal is to get down to 185 by July 15.  I think I might finally be on my way to componentry obsession.  Cause, y'know, once you hit your goal body weight there's nothing left to obsess over but your gear.

Nah, I don't plan on caring one whit about bike weight.  I see benefits of reducing drag, friction, and improving efficiency, but a heavy bike isn't going to hold me back.  I'm a mid-pack guy with the boat anchor I carry around my middle now.  Imagine how fast I'll be when I jettison all this blubbery ballast.

Saturday I was down that mere four pounds and was able to claim a slew of PRs and improve my leaderboard standing on a few local Strava Segments.  Most notably I had a PR on Sky Bridge Hill.

But in a twist of further misconception it is likely that PR is a direct result of improved technology.  Last time I rode the Gorge Loop I was still using my phone app to run Strava.  It was this past Christmas that I was bestowed my Garmin by that fat old saint.

I have to sigh loudly thinking about the ripple of implications that sends through my ego.  Except...it was a PR.  Better GPS tracking shows I'm faster than I thought I was.

Climbing Sky Bridge Hill inspired me.  Cobhill awaits out in the wilds of Estill County.  Harts Orchard lurks just right around the corner from my house.  As close as Furnace is I haven't been up it this year yet.

High Rock...oh, High Rock!

It's time for the dawn patrol to get serious.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On the Road (Bike) Again

Two nights ago I was going to head out for a ride.  Mandy was on her way home.  Did she want to go?  She did.
It felt good to be back on the road bike.  Last week I got back on, and it's been a good return.  It felt great to be pedaling north out of Stanton headed for the river.  Traffic ceased to exist when we turned off of KY 213 onto North Bend Road.  The short severe little climb fell easily behind us and then we were on easy rollers for miles.
It had been a hot day, but the relatively low humidity combined with a nice cyclist-powered breeze made for the most pleasant ride I’ve had in a while.  It didn’t hurt that I was with my favorite person in the entire universe.
The dogs lay sloth.  Must have been too hot for the ragamuffin crew that typically guard the second mile into North Bend.  They’ve never been too bad but barky nuts for sure.  We cruised past the cutover from our side of the valley back to Campton Road at Rosslyn for a few more miles deeper into the best riding around.  We cranked on toward Bowen as the air cooled more and the sun lay at an angle in the sky.
We talked, and alternately rode in silence, and we enjoyed the cool shade of big green trees overhanging the road as we sidled up to Cane Creek.  Coyly we meandered away from the stream back to the base of the ridge before coming in for a fast kiss as we blasted over the narrow bridge over the stream not named for a component manufacturer.  We left it for good and crossed over the Red at Bowen.
A semi carrying a large piece of farm equipment blocked the road.  The driver was in need of assistance from his handlers to make the steep, hard turn off of Campton Road onto 613.  We opted to cyclo-cross it up the steep bank behind the derelict corner store at the intersection, and were back on the bikes on the freshest pavement in Powell County before you could say “No Trespassing.”
The fun began.  We had been lusting after that sinuous black ribbon of asphalt and paint since we first saw it a couple of weeks ago.  “Got to go ride that!” we kept saying.  Or at least I did, and Mandy agreed.  There’s nothing like gliding along on top of freshly laid blacktop on a well-tuned road bike.  I guess I need to tune up our bikes.
On back through Rosslyn and into Stanton we flew.  Traffic was still fairly light as we passed the Drive-In (Bike-in) and into town.  Mandy took the lane passing “Airport.”  We cut in behind Billings and through the bank parking lot, paused with feet up at 213, and then we were on the home stretch.
Last night I presented the Powell County Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan to the Stanton City Council.  Another unanimous adoption.  Thank you very much; I am humbled by the applause in my head.  But it was good.  And the mayor asked me to tell the council about the boat access and park idea.  I’ll tell you about that later.
I tried to race home and catch Mandy and the kids before they left for Lily’s softball game in Wolfe County.  Just missed them!
Well, I guess all that was left was to celebrate the plan adoption with another bike ride.  I took off in a flurry to repeat the ride Mandy and I took the night before.
I went into full-on time trial mode.  I was going to try to do the 18.5 mile ride in an hour or less.  Doable…but did I have it in me, or did I need a few more rides under my bibs?
I tore out of Stanton at 22 mph.  I ramped it up across Morris Creek Bridge (future park) and didn’t slow as I turned onto the immediate climb of North Bend Road.  I kept hammering the pedals with nary a slack crankturn until I was nearly to the Rosslyn cutover.
I felt slower as I headed on toward Cane Creek and Bowen, but the Eppersons’ dogs got me spirited up again, and I dove into the green tunnel along the creek at a solid 24 mph and climbing.  As my legs loosened with the miles I could feel my pace climbing.  I checked my Garmin.  I ticked over from a 17 mph average to an 18 mph average.  Oh, we got this, Mabel! I thought.  From Bowen home is mostly flat.  The bump at Welch’s Cut gives me fits.  It’s NOTHING, yet it always causes me to downshift.  But then I crank it back up for the sprint into town.  
The only thing in my way of one hour glory was Steamshovel Hill.  Holy swearing cuss.
When I slowed to navigate through the bank lot I felt tightness clamp onto my thighs.  I didn’t have it in me for a PR on the stout little climb.  I was going to have to make up time on re-entry on the Hatton Creek side.
Yep, I was slow up the wall of Steamshovel.  I dipped into the well of my past cycling experiences with suffering and pushed it out over the top to keep the speed up.  I was racing the clock.  I had about two and a half minutes at the top of the 0.2 mile climb.  I laid the throttle wide open going over past the road department.  I passed the Koontz biker gang that’s been circling Hatton Creek lately on their single speeds.  My helmet’s off to them walking those bikes up Steamshovel!
With a mile to go I was a minute and a half from an hour and doing roughly 33,000 mph minus three zeros.  My heartrate was about 172 bpm according to my little wrist coach.  I pushed hard but hollow on the pedals as I crossed over the Mountain Parkway.  Taking advantage of the decline on the far side I knuckled up a few gears and got the sporty sport bike up to speed one last time for the day.
I stood up on the pedals for the last short, insignificant hill.  Two seconds later my computer and my Garmin ticked 1:00.  I was about a hundred yards from my driveway.
Technically it did not show 1:01 when I returned home. 
I’m resting today.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Step 1: How to Get a Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Adopted in Your Small Community


I wanted to entitled this post “How to Get $#!+ Done!” but I also wanted to draw in those with softer sensibilities.  Now that you’re all here…let’s dance!
Last night I presented a draft Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan to the Fiscal Court of my home county.  The unanimously adopted it.  I am now a rock star.
Okay, back to reality.  They did approve it with a unanimous vote.  And I am a rock star. 
Ah, maybe I’ll get to the point eventually.  Still listening to the crowds cheer in my head.
To the point…
Here’s what I’ve learned in typical rambling Pavement’s Edge/Chainring fashion (hopefully not):
1) Identify your stakeholders first thing.  Get contact info for the affected elected bodies.  In my case it was two city councils and the fiscal court.  Notify them of all of your meetings, if possible address them prior to beginning the public input phase.  This is just good manners.  And it will win you more support.  I did not do this.  However, it wasn’t the end of the world.
2) Build interest before your public meetings.  Talk to people.  Have plenty of lead in time.  Get a notice in the local paper.  Have the local radio station announce your meetings as well.
3) Hold public meetings to gather input for your plan.  Planning documents should reflect the wants and needs of the community not your local Don Quixote.  I am the local Tilter-at-Windmills.  I realized it could not end up being the “Chris Chainring Plan.”  It barely made it out of that category, but it did.
4) Build education into your planning process.  In small rural communities few people are going to know what a bicycle boulevard is. Don’t talk over anyone’s head.  Choose your battles.  Don’t get hung up on getting a bike lane where one isn’t needed.
5) Keep it simple, stupid.  My home county has a population of 12,000 and change.  There’s no reason for it to have a bike-ped plan that looks like War and Peace.  With appendices and a map my final draft was 25 pages.  That was still too long, but it’ll work well for us for a few years.  My first draft was growing toward forty pages and I was looking for more stuff to plug into it.  Ugh.
6) Dazzle ‘em with photos, regional examples (does it really make sense to show a photo of a multiuse trail or bike lanes in Chicago when there are perfectly good examples two counties away?), and relatable issues.  I chose to focus on health and tourism benefits that could be achieved with the proposed bike-ped projects when I felt the transportation component was the most lacking.  It’s about telling a story people want to believe in.  If no one cares about the issue at hand, frame it in another light.  See #3.
7) Beg, borrow, and steal local talent.  Get other people involved who have the skills to do graphic design, maps, charts and graphs, and wordsmithing.  Each community has a wealth of talent hidden just beneath the surface.  By employing your friends and neighbors to help put the plan together you will also end up with more buy-in and a better product.

Basically you need to do the legwork up front.  Do your base study (demographics and current conditions) so you have talking points when you approach your stakeholders.  Have at least one good project idea to share and build on.  A short list of priorities that you see as an advocate really goes a long way in stimulating conversation. 
Once you have as many people on board as you can set up your public meetings.  Have at least two.  Make at least one informal where people can feel comfortable talking openly.  Print maps, have draft plans and pencils and markers handy.  Invite everyone to tear it up and give you harsh criticism.  They probably won’t.  Keep asking for the abuse you need to refine the document into a clear community vision.
Plan ahead of time to present to your affected elected bodies.  Get on the agenda.  Make sure members have copies to review.  Draft a resolution, or make sure a resolution gets drafted for the adoption of the plan by the body.  Be prepared to make changes and revisit the body the next month.  Announce on social media and in the local print media that you need support. For the plan.  Invite people to speak to the elected body on behalf of the plan.  Bring extra copies in case the elected officials come empty handed.
Have a simple map which aligns with your plan and proposed projects.  Don’t forget the map!

I am not an expert at this despite my job title.  I’m working at becoming an expert at writing bicycle & pedestrian plans, but I have a long way to go.  What I would advocate strongly is that having a bike-ped plan for your community is better than not having a bike-ped plan.  The simplest advice I can give is: get a lot of public input, document it, present it and ask for adoption, and revise if necessary.
The benfits?  Now we have a basis for dialogue and legitimacy for seeking funding and further public support.  This is not a comprehensive guide to getting a bike-ped plan adopted.  I just needed to add that.  Caveat Emptor.
Part 2 will be entitled: How to Get Your Bike-Ped Project Built.  I'll get back to you once I have more data.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Return of the Dawn Patrol

The Journey of a Thousand Miles

It’s not that big a deal.  I once rode my bike in the dark so often I actually have an old, used "to see" 250 lumen bike light that I felt wasn't strong enough.  These days I'm rockin' 700 lumens of real genius power.
And so I should have no excuse.  I've got the gear, and I've got the experience.  Why not get in some pre-work riding?  But I've lagged in the execution.  It’s taken a month since the cold weather and blistering darkness has gone to get my nappy butt out of bed and on the bike.
Thursday night I pumped up the tires on my sporty sport bike.  I laid out my kit, made a small pile of jersey pocket treats, and topped off my water bottle.  Then I thought better of it, dumped the bottle out, rinsed it with scalding hot water, and finally refilled it with cold.
I set my alarm for 4:50am and as I climbed in bed was pretty sure I'd end up killing the whole plan in the AM.  But, despite my fears, I managed to get up, get out, and pedal my bike toward Clay City in the pre-dawn darkness.
Oh yeah, part of my night-before prep work involved charging up The Lazer 2.0 and my rear blinky light.  First I had to find them.
Anyway, once I was cruising along the river at Turkey Knob I was glad to be on the road turning my crank.  And let's be honest, I was not cruising along at even a respectable clip.  Oh well.
The ride went well.  I cut it a little short only because of my unnaturally slow pace and because I didn't want to face the North Bend dog gauntlet in the dark.  And because I cut it short I was able to get out the door earlier than usual and even made it in early to work.
Dawn Patrol had been officially reinstated.

Three County Dawn Patrol
Since I was on a roll I got up early again on Saturday morning, though I slept in an hour longer than on Friday.  I headed out north along 213 toward Morris Creek "mountain" loaded with two water bottles, about 300 portable calories, and a spray can of Halt!
I stopped just before leaving town and posted to the Book of Face:

Dawn Patrol Report: Stanton is secure; moving on toward Montgomery County

In retrospect I realize I gave out too much info to potential hostiles, but I still felt good knowing I had swept the sleepy town successfully.

There was a lot more traffic than I expected along  213.  There's a big construction project at Columbia Gas and it must have been just the beginning of the workday.  Once I got past the Manly Truck Corral that was the construction parking lot things eased up.  I made the slow climb up the mountain knowing I was not going to be KOMming any segments.
I breathed a sigh of relief once I turned off of 213 onto Willoughby Town Road.  It was a pretty quiet ride after that.  Willoughby Town turns into Cream Alley Road.  It’s rolling farmland with hillbilly residential development—despite being in upscale Montgomery County.  I crossed KY 11 and turned onto freshly paved Nest Egg Road.  Nest Egg is of similar character to WT and CA except it slowly begins to change over to more open farmland with fewer fly-by-night subdivisions.
Somewhere along Nest Egg I found my legs and started to ramp up the pace.  I was halfway into a 32 mile ride and finally warmed up.  My expectations are all out of whack these days.
Sunrise on Willoughby Town
Anyway, I cruised across Old Indian Fields past Kiddville and crossed the new interchange on the Mountain Parkway for the second or third time on my bike.  Then I was at Goff’s Corner.  I realized I had forgotten to bring cash or I would have stopped for a quick bite at Goff’s Corner Market.  Alas.  I ate some Sports Beans and headed for home.
I managed to keep my speed above 20 mph for a long way and only slacked to 18-19 mph as I approached the intersection with KY 82.  Once I turned onto the banked overpass and was pointed directly like a missile at downtown Clay City I was back up to cruising speed and held it until I was in sight of me auld home lane.
I ended up averaging 15.6 mph, but the first half of my ride was a poor showing with only a 13 mph average that took a herculean effort to drag up.
It was a good ride, and I don’t truly care about averages.  The numbers are just proof I’ve stayed off the bike far too long.  My recent mountain biking has been good, but I’ve needed the dawn patrol opportunities and longer road miles to really get my stems back in shape.
West Bend, KY
I finished up with a post:
Dawn Patrol: mission complete

Please Don't Drop Out!
I got the family worked up to go try short track mountain bike racing.  I got an invite on the Book of Face to the last of the Easy Rider Short Track Series at Coldstream on Sunday afternoon.  We packed up the bikes, changes of clothes, and the nephew and headed off for church.  Afterward we fueled up before making our way out to the sunbaked savannah of northwestern Lexington.
Lily and Ty participated in the Kids’ race.  Against a kid on a Strider!  At least Ty didn’t come in last.
Kitted up and ready to go!

It's gettin' real now!

We were laughing too, Ty

He then wanted to do the Beginner race which bumped me into the Men’s Open because we had to share the OBS (Orange Blossom Specialized).  Since we were sharing I didn’t bother to wear a kit or even bring clipless pedals to swap to for my race.  I went in mountain bike shorts, a t-shirt, and my Keen sandals.
Did I mention that it was hot?
Ty bowed out after the first lap of his race.  Poor guy, he was wearing jeans and also fighting to propel the orange two-wheeled tank around the unnecessarily hilly course.
Then I was up.  I knew most of the other guys (and one of the two gals).  I knew they were at least semi-fast.  I also knew if I had The One and a proper aerodynamic kit, had shaved my legs and eaten a gel, that I might have been able to hang on as caboose to the crazy train that took off on the repurposed CX course.

Obligatory action sequence from my warmup lap.  It didn't help.
Notice I am in "casual kit"
I did hang on with Casey (who also has a son Boone that rides on a cargo bike) for about half the first lap, and then she slowly but surely walked away from me and never looked back.  I was the last male with one female (“Bev”) behind me.  She kept a respectable distance for the first lap and a half. I knew she was sparing my ego.  So I tried to show my appreciation by going as hard as my fat little legs would allow. 
Going into the second lap I kept looking back to see if she was gaining ground.  She hung on about as long as I hung with Casey, but then blazing (from the sun, not speed) across the flats the three of us spread out.
I’m pretty sure even though the spectators were all specks on the horizon they could probably hear my breathing across the prairie.  In my own ears it sounded like the dying labor pains of a mother elephant giving birth to octuplets.  It kind of felt like I was dragging herd of elephant newborns through the weeds as I tried in vain to close the comedic gap between the rest of the field and myself.
With a lap to go all I wanted was someone to take the cottonball out of my mouth.  My legs hurt.  My head was baking in the sun.  I missed my racy mountain bike.  Oh, I missed it so!  Still I cranked.
I heard over the bullhorn that I was making a strong finish as I “raced” across the flats along the Legacy Trail.  I think the announcer was just bored waiting on me and Bev.  I was determined not to get lapped.  And I kept praying silently to Bev: please don’t drop out!
I labored across the finish line to a smattering of cheers and applause.  I think everyone was ready to move on to the more exciting footrace that was about to begin.  Mandy walked up and congratulated me by announcing that she had forgotten we had a birthday party to get to back in Pee Oh Cee Oh.  I loaded up the bike as I struggled to regain normal breathing and bodily function, and after a quick round of goodbyes plopped in the car for a forty-five minute car ride to stiffen up.
It was a great time.  We all had a blast and can’t wait for 'cross season in the fall.
Yes, I said it.
I won't promise I'll remember sunscreen next time,
but I'll try my hardest

Don't want to leave this out.  Yesterday morning I was soooo close to my weekly goal of 197.  Scale said 197.8.  Right up until the race I was doing great.  Hadn't overeaten, had been moving all day, then I raced for almost 22 minutes.  At the birthday party I had a conservative plate of pizza, a can of Coke, and Mandy and I shared a slim slice of cake.

Just before bed I ate some watermelon and drank a couple of glasses of water.  I still woke up feeling parched.

I eagerly stepped onto the scale this morning: 202.  I growled menacingly and tried it again: 200.  A third time yielded another double century.

Pizza really is my kryptonite.  Or I'm retaining all of the water I drank after the race yesterday.  I know I didn't eat enough calories to gain over two pounds in twenty four hours.  There's more to this than calories in and calories out.  I did great all week and ended up weighing exactly the same.  I mean, I watched everything I ate.  I cut out 90% of my sugar intake and held my calories in check.  I upped my activity level considerably--especially in the past three days--and my reward is no change.

I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to lose even two pounds of the thirty I want to drop.  I'm not giving up.  Gym tonight.  And maybe in a day or so when my legs work normally again it's back to the bike and running.