Monday, July 27, 2015

Trail Report: Trail Building Escapades

There is so much I could say about this past weekend.  There is so much I shouldn’t say about this past weekend…and I’ve resolved to remain reticent on those things.  Instead, I think it makes sense to focus on the positive and look on down the path to a promising future.
Saturday was the 11th annual Johnny and Alex Trail Day put on by the Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition (RRGCC).  The moniker refers to John Bronaugh—a driving force behind early sport climbing promotion and development in the Red River Gorge—and his son Alex.  A few years ago John died of a heart attack and Alex died from injuries sustained in a car accident soon after.  The RRG climbing community honors the efforts of both John and Alex in advocating for the Red River Gorge by inviting people to come out in the woods once a year and building trails.
I was invited to work on the extension to the Flat Hollow mountain bike trail after expressing interest earlier in the year.  Currently Flat Hollow (pronounced “holler”) is 0.75 miles long and with a small section of gravel road makes a 0.85 mile loop.  In the same area there is a forgotten loop in Sore Heel Hollow that’s about a mile in length.  And there is a 0.75 mile out and back connector trail that is easy and fun.  Prior to this past weekend there was 2.5 miles of mountain bike trails on Coalition land.
Like I mentioned in my last post the next phase of development is to complete an out and back segment off of Flat Hollow to the spectacular arch deep in the drainage.  When finished the spur will be half a mile long.  Building from that it will be possible to continue an intermediate level trail around the drainage for 3+ miles of trail.  Down in the bottoms there is ample space for a mile loop of easy trail that will connect to a planned greater loop around the Bald Rock drainage of which Flat Hollow is a tributary.
Saturday my crew worked on the Flat Hollow extension.  We only managed a couple hundred feet of new trail, but we improved a couple of sections, including an unconsolidated landslide from earlier in the summer.  That spot will be a problem for years, but thankfully it’s only a couple dozen feet long.
The major positives from the weekend was coming away with a stronger resolve and sense of community after working with about ten people who are also passionate about outdoors and mountain biking.  Almost everyone that helped is or has been a rock climber as well so we weren’t pulling from the mountain biking community as much as I thought we would have to.
So going forward we have momentum to begin pushing the trail system out further and further from the center.  We have support from the RRGCC board of directors, and we have a growing base of human power and passion.  That right there is a good mix.

New trail...
A switchback.  You build this when a climbing turn or insloped turn is not appropriate.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

To Build a Trail

Just before Tackett left the Bluegrass State he walked me around the PMRP to see what work had been done and to talk about what he had intended to do.  We had just moved back to Kentucky from a stint in Colorado where I had become a rabid mountain biker.  I was somewhat enthused about moving back to my home area only to discover that since I last rode knobby tires on the Cumberland Plateau things had changed.
ATVs and ORVs had destroyed some of the prime off-road cycling in the area while the USFS had intentionally destroyed other parts.  There was little enjoyable real estate left to ride.  Most of the old rugged roads were nothing more than stinking cesspools of mudholes and hillclimbs left naked to the sky to erode and fester.
NOT a world class mountain bike trail
Cave Run had evolved into a cage fight between mountain bikers and equestrians with hikers and the federal land managers caught between.  Impotently managed, the area went from crown jewel of Kentucky mountain biking in the ‘90s to a wasteland of lost hopes and a black eye on the whole state.  Very recently that condition has changed.
Lo, one government shutdown I was able to ride some fine trails in my neck of the woods.  But that will never be a normal and routine experience; though it is another reason to go ahead and trigger the apocalypse.
Seeking out opportunities to ride I found that besides a forgotten loop down in the oil fields of Lee County the closest decent mountain biking to my home was 45 minutes away.  Public lands were overrun with anarchistic hordes of blatting motors.  The last, best hope was to try and find some benevolent private land owner friendly to the idea of mountain bike trails or turn to the RRGCC’s land.
A forgotten trail in Sore Heel
It took a while to settle back into life in Kentucky.  I went through some rough and dark patches.  I won’t lie and say I’m free of the dark clouds I tried to navigate through these past two years, but for the most part I think I’m in a place where I have more solid footing.  And so, after struggling with legions of demons I am finally to a place where I can look to creating something.
The land is a blank canvas.  I see trails everywhere.  It makes me think of when I was kid riding in my dad’s pickup truck along Turkey Knob at dusk, fireflies—lightnin’ bugs as they’re called around here—blurring over the river bottoms as we sped past…these days when I drive down wooded back roads I see imagined trails blurred beyond the canopy and columns of trees.  I look at a knob on the horizon and fantasize about a trail winding to its rounded peak.  I see long sinuous ridgelines and wonder how hard it would be to string a miles long trail along its crest.
I don’t want to be a trail builder.  It’s not trail building that fulfills me.  But much like the musician that doesn’t find the music they want to play, I have become the songwriter, I have become the author to stories I want to read.  Finding trail building opportunities is a means to an end where I get to ride my mountain bike off into a distant sunset.
This spring I finally decided I would focus my trail building schemes on Flat Holler.  Why waste my time on dimly lit cul-de-sacs?  The Climbers’ Coalition land is low hanging fruit.  They welcome mountain biking to their land.  Their mission is to promote and preserve human powered recreation.  Mountain biking is specifically listed amongst allowed activities in their mission.
I say “their,” I have been part of the Coalition on and off since darn near the beginning.  It’s “ours” really.  I feel like an outsider because I’ve been gone so long, but now I’m back.
Flat Holler Trail
Anyway, I can be at Flat Holler parking lot thirty minutes from my front door.  That’s driving.  Jeff has ridden out there from his house and hit what he calls “Tackett’s Loop.”  The only major hurdle to my developing Flat Holler is the Motherlode hill.  It’s a beast in a 2WD car.  Getting in is no problem, but much like the roach motel you may check in and not check back out.  But that’s okay.  It’s only half a mile extra.  I can hoof it in from the upper spillover lot to the lower trailhead in seven minutes.  It takes about twelve or so to hike back out.  So it’s an extra twenty minutes to park in a place where I know I won’t be stranded if a gully-worsher comes through and wipes out my means of egress.
After all that…the trail.
The land is steep.  It battles with water constantly.  And so any trails constructed must be sustainable.  There can be no shortcuts.  Doing it right is going to take time and patience.  And there is only the tiniest of mountain bike communities in the area.  Recruiting volunteers is going to be challenging.  My hope is that once there is enough mileage to start drawing mountain bikers from afar that because this is the Red River Gorge area it will be easier to recruit.  That is my hope.
I have co-opted the standard fare reasoning for my Quixotic mission: economic development, community health benefits, a benevolent streak to give back to the recreational community…but the truth is that I want more opportunities to ride.  If I could do that alone and keep the trails to myself I would.  But I can’t.
Saturday we have planned to cut about a tenth of a mile of new trail which will piece together a couple of sections of old logging roads to create a half mile spur trail off of the existing Flat Holler Trail.  The spur will provide access to the amazing Flat Hollow Arch and will be the next phase in a much longer intermediate loop trail around the Flat Hollow drainage.
But I think my next phase after the impending trail day this week will be to drop down into the bottoms and create a stellar beginner loop.  I want a beautiful and accessible ride that would be great to take new riders to and inspire them.  That’s going to be my initial project over the next year after we open up the arch spur.  This is my strategy to “lower the barriers to entry.”  That was my purpose in pushing the bike-ped plan for Powell County.  I think people would naturally ride, run, and walk if it were easier to take the first steps or pedal strokes.  I believe if there were purpose-built bike-optimized trails in the area geared for beginners then more people will take up mountain biking. 
I’ll keep tilting at this windmill.  It’s a selfish plight, I admit.  And so what if there are accidentally positive side effects?  I don’t mind sharing.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Go Big Limestone or Go Home

I did not notice the heat as I drove my trusty fat steed through the narrow corridor of green.  My teeth were only gritted because I was trying to smile and pick a line through the rocky trail at the same time.  I risked a glance over my shoulder between patches of bone-white limestone.  My minion was still back there somewhere, huffing and puffing, running sweep to our two man ride.

It was a great weekend for mountain biking in Eastern Kentucky.  Not to say that it was enjoyable riding conditions anywhere in the known universe here in the depths of July Hell.  No, I was involved in some pretty incredible networking and conversing about the future and culture of mountain biking in this corner of Appalachia. 

This past weekend was the Subaru-IMBA Trail Care Crew trail building school in Morehead.  Friday was the land manager/stakeholder presentation.  Lately, between the London Trail Town celebration and this trail building school I've been able to talk directly with some new USFS personnel and the outlook is fantastic.

Not that kind of safety meeting

We actually built some trail!
Eagle Lake, Morehead

Learning to use a clinometer
I took my, nephew Ty with me on Saturday.  After the morning classroom session we all headed out to MSU's Eagle Lake where we worked on a short section of easy trail.  We had a great time and learned a lot.  After we wrapped up Ty and I ran over to Big Limestone with our bikes.  I had promised him we'd ride before heading home. 

I wanted to take him out the Sheltowee along the ridge north of the lake.  We drove out Clack, turned on the road and drove out to the first singletrack reroute.  In short order we were pedaling through the lush jungle.  Ty took a tumble within sight of the car.  He dropped off a narrow bench and ended up at the bottom of a bank.  I had to chuckle, but he was fine.

Jeaph, Mitchum and I rode that segment last fall.  We got back on the gravel and rode further.  A new sign showed yet another reroute.  Ty was reluctant but I can't pass up a new trail.  The second diversion was the best singletrack we rode all day.  It had a nice interesting climb up from the doubletrack and then a fun techy section through some rocks.  We both enjoyed riding over the slickrock-esque natural limestone tread.

We left the segment for the the gravel again, but shortly found another diversion on the opposite side.  And so we began "the fingers" along the ridge.  The finger trails are actually a separate trail from the Sheltowee.  The Trace sticks with the doubletrack and the new singletrack is trail #109 (Limestone Bike Trail).  I was eating it up while Ty was close to losing his lunch.  The new trails are still rough with tech cruxes from time to time.  It was hot as a Kentucky house in July with no AC (I know this first hand) and while the boy loves to ride and rides often he's not used to that kind of trail.

He soldiered on, but I could tell Ty had burned all of his matches.  He was done.  I kept reassuring him we were almost back to the doubletrack and could jet back to the car.

And we kept winding through the woods...

We only rode five and a half miles. It didn't seem like very much for me, but I had to keep reminding myself that the man-boy (twelve passing for sixteen) wasn't used to riding so far in such heat. We really should have opted not to ride. It was just too dang hot. Summer is in full force these days. Hot, humid, and relentless.

Whupped, and happy to see the car!
So we rode. The new trails on Big Limestone are a work in progress. Ty had a good time, but I did promise him a better experience next time. I had a blast, but then again, if its a new trail I can't pass it up and I'm going to be stoked no matter what kind of trail it is.

On Friday after the presentation I rode out of town on the advice of a local. I rode North Wilson to its end and then began an odd climb up out of the neighborhood. It was a stout climb—old school mtbing for sure—and gained the ridge and the old Sheltowee alignment. Then I plowed east on the ridge looking for the trail back down via Eagle Lake (where we had the outdoor portion of the class on Saturday) but somewhere in the sky above Morehead I took the wrong ridge. 

A long time went by and after a couple of hike-a-bikes and less than a couple of Sheltowee blazes I checked Google Maps. I was off course. So I backtracked and made my way down the new Sheltowee into town. Its brutal. I had to hike-a-bike some downhill. It was miserable, but I was happy to be on new trails.

That was really the theme of the weekend: new trails. Things are looking up in the Daniel Boone.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Love Your Neighbor

I’m not exactly sure how to approach this topic.  Suffice it to say I will probably not say all of this in the manner that I want to convey it.  I’m going to try my best.  This is definitely out of tone for this blog.  Be forewarned.
That flag does not represent a free spirit or some adorable rebellious nature.  And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if you somehow can tie that flag to your religious beliefs then you are possibly a closet KKK member.  And only if you’re trying to hide it.
The confederate flag has no part in modern society or politics.  It does not represent anything good, or profitable, or civil.
Civil…yeah, that flag came out of a war between the states in this country.  Southern apologists will say the issues were states’ rights.  But the right that the states wanted to reserve for themselves was that of legalized slavery.  We’re not talking about something as innocuous as the right for a state to set its own tax rates.  We’re talking about a whole culture wanting to justify and capitalize on the oppression and molestation of people stolen from their homes or born into a condition of slavery and forced into labor for the profit of their masters.
I don’t understand the emotional blindness of slavery.  I’m as lazy as the next person, but I can’t imagine owning another human being and compelling them under threat of violence to their person if they don’t do my bidding.  But slavery really wasn’t about lazy white people who were unwilling to work, now was it?  It was about greed.  It was about maximizing profit.  It was about wealth and power. 
There were people who considered themselves “good Christians” who owned slaves during that period of American history.  This would confuse me, except I see a lot of “good Christians” these days that adhere to all kinds of beliefs and practices that I’m sure Jesus doesn’t approve of.  And most of those practices and beliefs are rooted in greed and the lust for power. 
Racism is one of those things.  I remember as a kid being taught that interracial marriage was wrong.  I’m only 41 years old.  And I can’t remember who told me that or what the justification was, but I remember being told that. 
I grew up in a place that is almost 99% white.  There were two black kids in my high school.  I didn’t know either one of them.  I was twenty years old before I really knew and had friends who were non-white.  So I don’t buy the excuse that unfamiliarity breeds contempt.  I heard a lot of racist talk around me growing up, I was never around non-whites, and I didn’t become a racist.
One other thing I was taught as a child that affected my views on people who are different from me…love your neighbor as yourself.  Not familiar?  Let me share a passage from chapter 12 of the Gospel of Mark:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

I don’t mean to get preachy--I’m really not good at being preachy...not effective anyway--but I can’t find a clause for slavery in that Second Greatest Command.  No one who loves someone else as they love themselves would hold the other person as a slave.  No sane person anyway.
There is no provision for racism either.  Or discrimination against homosexuals.  Or hatred for democrats.  Or road rage.  Or greed and lust for power.
I’ve been pondering the county clerks who are refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone in order to sidestep the law.  I wonder how many of those county clerks who cite religious beliefs as their rationale for not issuing marriage licenses to gay couples would fall into the category of “faithful Christian?”  Or perhaps many of them have been married and divorced multiple times.  Maybe they drink, and curse, and revel in evil deeds.  Maybe some of them don’t bother to crack a Bible or say a prayer unless there is mortal peril in their lives.  And yet they find the time to discriminate against one group of people and do it in the name of God.
That’s deplorable.  Hiding behind the God of love in their hate.
And I would argue that in most of the cases where county clerks are refusing to issue marriage licenses the reason is simply hate.  If those people understood scripture they would also realize they are subject to the law of the land.  They would understand that they should render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.  They would remember that God has ordained all leaders in government:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
That passage is from the book of Romans.  The Romans oppressed Christians.  They persecuted and killed them for sport.  And yet God spoke through divine inspiration and told Christians to subject themselves to the laws of the Romans.  American Christians have a very hard time living according to these principles.
Laws create order.  By flaunting laws you don’t agree with you are not making a statement but inciting chaos.  There is a process to change laws you don’t agree with.  That is the good and right way to change the world.  Rebellion and hatred are not.
Blindly waving a flag of hatred will not change the world for the better.  Making a stand to defend the confederate battle flag is dubious at best.  That’s building your house on the sand and not on a firm foundation.  It’s pointless.  It’s wrong.
And making a stand and refusing to issue marriage licenses to any and all of your constituents is also pointless and wrong.  It’s defying the authority ordained by God. 
There's nothing romantic and beautiful about hanging on to the darkest chapter of America's past.  It's time to let the flag go.  It's time to rally around the American flag and forget all other flags.  Maybe in taking that step we can begin to walk a path of unity and harmony.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Tracker Jacker Attack!

Last week I went out for another Sheltowee trail run.  I needed to scout my second section of the Trace for the 2015 Trail Check.  I chose two five mile sections.  And I figured the best way to do them was at least two separate trail runs. 
Week before last I knocked out the Bison Way to Corner Ridge section and surprised myself with a nearly off the couch effort.  I pounded out ten miles like I had been training for it. So I decided repeating that feat on the much more familiar and less remote KY 15 to KY 715 (Tunnel Ridge to Red River) section would be easy.
Wearing similar deer fly defensive garb I took off at an easy cadence from Pinch Em Tight trailhead off Tunnel Ridge Road.  It was in the 80s, threatening to rain, and the biting meanies were suspiciously absent as I was enveloped by the out of doors.
I kept my pace slow as I trundled out Pinch Em Tight Ridge.  The day before I had put forth a solid road effort at 10k.  According to Strava it was my third fastest 10k.  I managed just under an hour and the last mile and a half I was holding firm at a 170 bpm heartrate.  But it felt good.  I didn’t think I was too wrecked to do a longer trail run.
I love running that ridge.  From Buck Trail down into Chimney Top Creek the trail follows the Rugged Red course.  Without getting too deep into unpacking that snarl suffice it to say last summer I ran that section of trail more than a few times.  It was about this time last summer I got serious and started upping my trail miles too.
I debated running out to the end of the ridge and turning back with the intention of getting the lower section on another short run from the other end.  But when I got there I was ahead of schedule, no bities were afflicting me, and I was feeling good.  I let gravity pull me down into the cool shadows of Chimney Top Creek.
Last summer I always tried to ramp up my pace between the Sheltowee – Rough Trail intersection and the suspension bridge (swinging bridge) over Red River.  On the recent run I kept a modest pace.  While I wasn’t wrecked per se, I definitely am not in as good running shape as I was a year ago, and I did throw down six hard miles less than twenty four hours earlier.  My bad knee sings good.
That, and the section along the creek and the river was muckier than the other trails in the area.  I had to slow to get around most of the mudholes.  We’ve had rain lately.  The fact that 75% of the trail was nice and dry is testament to the trailbuilders’ skill.  Even the muddy sections weren’t that bad.  I managed to return home with mud only along the rands of my shoes. 

I hit some congestion at the swinging bridge.  But I hit it just under an hour and 4.5 miles from the car.  I weaved through the large group that loitered on the bridge for photo ops and then with renewed energy (gel powered) I turned for the return trip to the car.
There’s something about reaching that turnaround point in a run, or bike ride, or long hike when you know you have to cover a certain amount of ground to be finished with the activity.  You may be enjoying each step along the way and not wanting it to end, or feeling too tired to take another step, or fighting cramps, the bonk, or mental breakdown.  But that moment is magical regardless of what other factors are affecting you at that time.
I think it’s that moment when all choice is gone.  You’ve gone far enough that you can’t decide to bail and cut it short.  You’ve committed to the full monty.  There is a sublime satisfaction at that point.  Any worry or stress regarding your ability to push on to the point of no return is gone.  You are in that moment already closer to the other side.
Half a mile into my return trip fire spread up my calf.
I yelped, hopped in the air, and looked down in time to see a brilliant yellow insect leave my leg and dart into the undergrowth.  A yellow jacket.  Or a tracker jacker.
I kept running, but I immediately took stock of my condition.  I glanced at my heartrate display.  It looked normal.  I backed off my pace and listened to my breathing, my sensory input, and toggled through vision, hearing, etc, etc to make sure my system wasn’t going to shut down.
In the past I have had serious reactions to stings.  My mother is deathly allergic to stinging insects.  My dad, on the other hand, once turned over one of Grandpa Chainring’s been hives and was stung all over his body and has no allergy.  My worst reaction was the time I was hiking in to Fortress Wall with a heavy climbing pack on a hot day and a bumblebee flew into my shirt and stung me on the sternum.
I almost passed out.
Lately I have thought about the eventuality of getting stung while out far from civilization and having a reaction.  I wondered if I had screwed myself not being prepared.  But would I really give myself an epi out alone in the woods?  I couldn’t spare much thought on regret at that point.  The work at hand was more pressing.  My body seemed to be fine, but my leg hurt like a fuddy duddy.  Oh my dogs it hurt!
I didn’t censor myself out in the woods so well.  I was four miles from the car with some tough climbing and a rolling ridgeline left to retrace.  I drank some water as I kept right on running.  There was nothing else to do.
I had hoped that I could up my pace along Chimney Top Creek, take it easy on the climb back to the ridge, and then bust hard back out to Tunnel Ridge.  The sting took some of the wind out of my sails.  I walked the climb.  I hadn’t intended to run it, but the choice was elusive.  I walked.
As soon as I could canter I was off along the ridge.  I love that section of Pinch Em Tight.  It’s nice and tight, a beautiful section of singletrack, and it’s relatively level once you get away from the big climb.  I upped my pace as much as I dared.  165 bpm.  And not soon after a peal of thunder rattled across the sky.  It was a sound akin to ice cracking under your feet on a frozen pond, but it was meaner.  The air was cooler.  The sky was darker.  I had two miles to go and I was beginning to feel the seven behind me.
In the last mile a few drops fell.  The darkness seeped out of the sky somewhat, and I never heard any more menacing thunder.  I shuffled over the last couple of deadfalls and saw my GPS had ticked “9:00.”  I stopped running and walked the last hundred yards.  I stretched quickly as a light rain fell.  And before I knew it I was back in the real world and racing away from those couple of hours of running therapy.  Despite the yellow jacket venom coursing through my veins I felt pretty good. 
Anaphylaxis never set in, and I have yet to turn into a were-bee.  Life is good.  Buzzbuzzbuzz.


Monday, July 6, 2015

Speak the Truth

A friend said he would hold me accountable in reaching my weight goals.  He said he would publicly shame me if I didn’t reach those goals.  I agreed to this deal with the Devil because it was something I had never tried. 
I was doing okay.  For the past few weeks I was barely making my weekly goals.  Last week I reached 191, but only after depriving myself of fluids on a long run.  Not healthy.  And I wasn’t happy with seeing that number on the scale.  I don’t want to hurt myself to reach my fitness goals
And this is a fitness goal.  For me the primary goal is performance.  If I lose unnecessary weight then I’ll better enjoy running, cycling, rock climbing, sex, hiking, etc, etc.  It’s not as much about body image for me, though I can’t lie and say body image has nothing to do with it.
Quick sidebar: I was the skinny kid growing up.  I was the one that got picked on because I couldn’t fight back.  I had a bowl haircut, serial killer coke bottle glasses, frumpy clothes, and a skeletal musculature.  I had a brief window where I was a well-toned climbing bum, and then I went into full middle-aged plump out.  I’m not flabby fat, but I’m not longer that skinny kid, and I somehow missed ever being ripped.
The main thing is that I want to be fleeter of foot and faster on the bike.  I learned that I am, in fact, competitive, despite years of thinking I was not the least bit so.  I’m mainly competitive with myself.  I like PRs.  I like seeing what I can do.  But there’s a part of me that feels like I’ve missed out on winning in life.  I see the potential I had as a younger person and squandered.  I could have been a great runner or competitive cyclist.  I had a natural talent and didn’t realize it.
Now I fight the effects of twenty to thirty years of relative athletic laziness.  I’ve got a ghost army of bad habits and no good fitness base to work from…just some latent cycling conditioning. 
I will not meet my weight goal this week.  I needed to be at 189 to be on schedule and at last check I was at 196.  I’m not whining about that.  It is just what it is.
I know a few things for certain:
1) If I would focus on going to the gym and in intense general conditioning (with a focus on strengthening my core) I would see real gains.
2) If I would maintain control of my diet I would see significant progress.  The weight I have managed to lose came from weeks when I had much better control over what I was eating.
3) I do not possess the focus to be successful at #1 and #2 over a long period of time.
I appreciated that Kipp wanted to help me.  But I began dreading his responses to my weight updates.  I made herky jerky improvements from the beginning.  And I quickly realized that the agreed upon derision wasn’t effective.  It just pissed me off at him and did nothing to motivate me. 
What I’ve realized is that even amicable shaming isn’t a healthy tactic for someone who has struggled with self-confidence issues.  In me it triggers my passive-aggressive response.  It causes me to dig in my heels and rebel against whatever stressor is tormenting me.  So in turn I tend to make worse decisions about diet and exercise.
A few nights ago night I had an epiphany.  It should have been so clear to me.  The one thing I’ve always lacked is positive reinforcement; real, genuine, and meaningful positive encouragement.   
So instead of hearing: “Dude, if you don’t get it together you’re never going to climb hard” what I need to hear is “You can climb hard.”
Instead of hearing: “You have to decide if you’re going to be fat or be fit” I need to hear “You can be fit.”
I’ve always thought I didn’t need cheerleaders.  Maybe I’ve been wrong about that.  I think we all do.  I think I fail at being a cheerleader for those around me too. 
The best environment I’ve ever been in—a place where I’ve thrived—was the church we attended in Colorado.  Those people were positive and supportive like no other group I’ve been around.  Unfortunately the maelstrom of my life inhibited real growth in me while we were there.  I made progress.  I definitely stepped outside my comfort zone, but I didn’t truly reach my potential.  It was that damn job…it countered whatever good things were going on in my life and worked to keep me firmly mired.
My current job is the most positive position I’ve ever been in.  But with it come the burdens of corporate life: long commute, chained to a cubicle, industrial time, and so many other artificial expectations.  I play fast and loose with life these days.   I work hard to survive and keep myself sane.  That’s how I provide the most benefit to those who I am obligated to.
Kipp keeps saying “just speak plain truth to yourself and move on.”  As in, “I’d rather eat another piece of pizza than climb 5.13,” or “I’d rather drink this soda than run an ultra.”  It’s a good strategy.  When I have presence of mind to use that tool it works.  But I suffer from crippling impulsivity.  That is my plain truth.  I live in the moment.  It’s not by choice, it’s how my brain is wired to respond to the world.  I don’t want to be impulsive to this degree.
Focused on making the turn, not on my next meal...
I want to reach goals that take patience and effort to achieve because that shows that I am overcoming this malady I live with each day.  But I keep not overcoming it.  It takes all of my mental energy to keep it from overwhelming me.  There is usually very little mental currency left over to put toward some personal improvement or to attach to some dream rider.  And life goes on.  More days wasted as I flail to keep my head above water…
I don’t mean to wallow in this.  I’m trying to lay it out plain.  I’ve learned to cope.  For the most part I go with the flow.  I don’t fight it when I don’t have to.  It saves so much energy that way.  But the truth…the real, honest-to-God truth is that I’m not happy just keeping my head above water, but I’ve not yet learned how to thrive in my own skin.  I can survive, but this is not a level of survival I’m willing to accept.  I need to move beyond simply getting by.  I’m smarter than my wiring.  I’m better than this level of performance as a human being.
It’s not all about some arbitrary athletic goals.  The reasons I look to those goals are twofold.
1) They are quantifiable, (theoretically) obtainable, and they show me when I make progress, and
2) Movement therapy is crucial to satiating some of my demons.  I need proprioceptive stimulation to avoid needing chemical medications or some other kind of risk therapy.  It’s that simple.  Running, cycling, climbing, and other forms of bodily movement go a long way to keeping me sane and happy.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Two Fer: Updates on Utility Cycling and Life

I had intended to post this tomorrow (this week has been 75% scheduled posts that I wrote last week) but since most people who read this will be on vacation tomorrow...all three of you...I decided to bump it up a day.  Enjoy!

The weather turned warm.  Drunk Uncle called and asked if we were going to help with The Garden this year.  We said yes.  I took Bean and we rode down to pick up a bucket of potatoes to cut up for the next day’s planting.  On the way home the Cannonball X (CBX) spurted brake fluid out of the lever.
It didn’t take long for all of said fluid to have spurted free onto the ground.  Big heavy sighs ensued.  I don’t know jack about hydraulic brakes.  Well, I know a little, but I have no experience servicing them.  Oh, Da-ave!
So there it has sat for the rest of the summer, probably rusting up again in the damp of the Bike Cave.  So many grocery runs, so many park runs, town runs, dog runs…could have been pedaled out except for want of a working front brake the bike was lost.
The Training Partner has committed to fixing the recalcitrant component.  I just need to get it to him.  I know, what about the Ute?  We could have been shuttling garbage around with the Ute.  I don’t know, I got nothin’.
As I sit in my cubicle (er, home office) writing this there is an outfit of clothes hanging just out of my periphery.  I had fully intended to begin bike commuting one or two days a week.  Then wicked heat and nasty storms rolled in.  While I have the daylight, and ultimately the weather for it, I have just not been able to commit to the notion of doing it once.  Its forty-five miles one way.  That’s just not a reasonable bike commute on car-centric roads when it only costs about $6.00 a day to drive.  Convenience and distance have conspired to thwart my bike commuting dreams.
Part of the underlying problem is that Boone and Bean are too big to haul around now.  And Boone typically rebels against the threat of physical exertion of any intensity.  While Bean has a lot of short lived enthusiasm and interest in riding her bike all over creation, in practice taking her places by bicycle power has become difficult.  I need to make myself get over it and just commit to going places on the bikes.  It won’t be long before our little Bean will be outpacing us.  It’s a matter of time until she gets on a comparable bike and burns us off without breaking a sweat.
In my defense, I have been working very hard to change the culture, thinking and environment around utility cycling and recreational cycling in my home county.  While I’ve not been on the bike as much, I have been doing my part to make sure many more people in the future will be able to.  And my advocacy runs deep. 
Whereas in Colorado (uber-bike friendly state) I was unable to even move into a transportation position, much less a bike-ped oriented career, here in Kentucky I am working toward creating a bike-ped position to move into.  And I’m making strides.  And I’m actively doing the work now and not waiting for my dreams to sprout out of the seeds I’ve planted.  I’m getting $#!+ done.  And that’s enough for now.
We’ve (Mandy and I) talked about a few different paths for the future.  I’ll likely get into this more in my next post, but there are a few possibilities.
Initially we had planned on living in Lex Vegas when we left Colorado.  That’s not panned out.  It’s still a remote possibility, though I get nauseous when I think about living in the suburbs.
Then we have “The Ten Year Plan.”  Basically it is this: we sit tight for ten years, fix up the Money Pit, bide our time until the Kids have flown the coop (or been kicked out of the nest), and then invest in some land, a Tiny House, and a backyard garden.  This appeals on so many levels, but its contingent upon me being able to move away from my current job into a self-employed status.  It’s less certain, and right now harder to plan for.  Or maybe not. 
Recently we’ve talked a little about a modified ten year plan where we fix up the MP and move somewhat closer to my office.  This would make us a little more metropolitan, allow me a better shot of bike commuting, and keep us close to the psychological shelter of the familiar for me.  There are cons.  I’m not going into any such cons in this post.
I won’t say we’re invested in the community (Powell County) now, but in a sense we are.  We could pick up and leave, but I have some things I want to see through to their logical ends.  I have some projects.
It would be good for the kids to have some stability now too.  We’ve moved them around, bombarded them with perspective, and I think we owe them a little.  Boone is going to be 13 on his next birthday.  College is just around the corner. 
Having a reprieve from the stream of chaos we’ve been paddling the past few years would be good for all our souls.  If we can regroup and rebuild in the MP while Mandy and I both work then in the not-too-distant-future we’ll be able to afford a more simply lifestyle and be more resilient to boot.
Mandy is going to be teaching special education again.  I think this is going to be good for her.  She is well-suited for it.  She is good at it and does it for the right reasons.  She can make a difference.  Well, I intended for this to be a Utility Cycling Update with one more installment as a Life Update, but it looks like I’ve transitioned right into my next post without realizing it.
Could that be a sign?  Utility cycling is integral in our lives even when we’re not doing it as much as we’d like.  It affects our decisions.  Even if we don’t move toward more opportunities to choose the bike over the car the possibility drives the conversation and decision making. 
I wish I could have been chronicling the wild ride that has been the past two months.  Getting the bike-ped plan off the ground and adopted boosted my self-confidence more than I can express.  I feel confirmed 100% in my career choice.  I feel competent and effective.  I have rarely felt that way before.  In fact, the only time I can remember feeling that way was at the peak of our guided rock climbing stint.  And the fact that I haven’t been fantasizing about quitting my office job and going back to being a climbing bum is evidence to that.
Mandy once said that whatever I set my mind to I would get.  She said it in defeat in a tense conversation about my obsessive schemes.  But I think we both realized that I can use my powers for good.  I’ve been trying to do that, and replace my inwardly directed schemes and obsessions into public benefit and—hopefully—familial benefit.
This idea of selling my rural Eastern Kentucky community on the benefits of increased walking and biking opportunities might have been a tiny seed in my mind five or more years ago.  Even though it kept refusing to sprout I kept watering.  Kept waiting.  Kept watering.  Finally the fruit has started to grow.  And it looks like it could be a bumper crop. 
I need to see this through.  I’m not saying I’m not moving on until 30 miles of multiuse trails are built and there are bike lanes on Cat Creek, but I need to see results.  I think I will.
This gives me hope for my writing though.  If I can plow ahead and make good progress toward any and all of my dreams and goals then why not become a writer?  There is no reason.
The caveat to that is that right now I don’t know where I’ll find the time.  I’ll focus on what I can for now.  I’ll try to make the best of my career and to further my plans for world domination from the seat of a bicycle.  And when I finally reach that career nirvana where there’s nowhere else to go maybe I’ll take my writing seriously again. 
I’m almost too far down the road at this point to worry about this all being a fluke.  And I’m glad of that.  I need to leave that misleading road sign far behind.
Something else that bears mentioning: in less than a month Mandy and I will have our fifteenth wedding anniversary.  Way back at the dawn of time someone told us that the first fifteen were the hardest.  It was kind of in jest but maybe somewhat serious. Despite the crumbling of the relationship that brought us that potential "truth" we have always looked at the Big Fifteen as a milestone. 
In some ways I think that we've been through the worst of it anyway.  Maybe there will be unforeseen trials to come that will test our relationship.  But it's been these first fifteen that have prepared us for whatever lays ahead.  You only build endurance by...enduring.  Whatever trials may come we've laid the emotional and spiritual infrastructure to face it with resilience. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Millions of Miles of Mountain Bike Trails: A Mountain Bike Update

I’m not racing this year.  Or, at least, I have no intentions of entering a mountain bike race this year.  I may do 12 Hours of Capital View.  I’m not planning to.
This year I want to drop weight, get healthy, and run my first true ultra.  Mountain biking can wait.  But it has value as a crossover training tool.  Some days it feels like the pounding of running, the heat of summer, and my own inherent sorryness put me on the bike over running.  The bike is my best go-to.  Mountain biking is my best therapy.

Proofing for the Mohican ended up being a disaster.  The bike is in recovery.  The Training Partner is coming through for me with some upgrades.  He’s saved my mountain biking behind a few times with his repository of all things MTB.  At the same time he’s building up for himself a Salsa Mariachi.  Hopefully I can be back on The One in a week or so.  I’ve dragged the OBS (Orange Blossom Specialized) out a couple of times.  But when Jeaph suggested I might tag along with him to Morehead this past Sunday to ride with some bigwheels there I bowed out gracefully.  No need to drag everyone down with the orange tank.
That’s okay, like I said; I’m looking more to running glory this year.  Cycling, particularly mountain biking, is good for me but I’m not focusing on it this year.  Except…
Yeah, well, okay, I have been all hot and heavy to get the Powell County Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan off the ground.  I’m working on getting a section of multiuse trail built in my hometown, and yes, I have been brokering a deal to get millions of miles of mountain bike trails built not too far away from home.
This year I’m definitely focused more on biking infrastructure whereas last year I was all about building up trailrunning as a major activity in the RRG area.  Joe ruined that.  I’ll be writing more about that in the not too far off future but don’t hold your breath.  I’d still like to see Slade or Stanton named the “Trailrunning Capital of Kentucky” but again, don’t hold your breath.  I believe a running/hiking retail outlet in the area could have a long life ahead of it were it to open now.  But I don’t have the savvy or the money to pull that one off.
A bike shop might still be five years out, but it’s coming.  I promise you that.
Before the Great Mohican Proofing Derailer Implosion I was on a roll (pun…intended) and starting to see mark-ed improvements in my technical mountain biking skills as well as my speed.  At the time I was still at my cruising weight.  That was before Kipp promised to shame me publicly if I didn’t reach a stated goal weight by a stated time.  It’s been a struggle, but I’ve been managing to stay on track if barely.  Crazy train and all…
It was a blow to be forcibly hiatused from mtbing.  I hold out hope that Dave will work his magic and once I get The One back I’ll be inspired.  And maybe the heat will have dissipated.
Back to those millions of miles…it’s true.  I’ve been working on a deal that will open up many beautiful wooded acres for nearly unrestrained trail building.  There will be little mountain bicycling for a while.  There is little there now and it’s going to take some work to get it off the ground.  I’m confident that this time next year I’ll be blathering continually about this new secret crag…er, trail system.  Likely in August I’ll gush forth with the scuttlebutt.
Just remember: Shackle Rod Trail.
Road riding has entered my periphery again.  My knees have been a little sing-songy of late so I’m hesitant to venture into the Powell County uplands.  I want to hit Furnace, Cobhill, State Rock, and High Rock. I did knock down a PR on Sky Bridge Hill not too long ago.  Maybe I need to dive back in like I have with trailrunning.  Why hold back?  I should drop everything RIGHT NOW and go do Cobhill.  Except, this is a scheduled post.  Likely I’m eating a bowl of oatmeal (not that one) and firing up the ol’ computing cubicle machine as this hits the interwebs.
I forgot that I like taking long road rides.  Heck, I’ve even convinced myself that riding at a more relaxed pace can be enjoyable too.  But riding fast is what it’s about for now.  Someday I’ll retire from that mentality.  
We figured out not too long ago that Boone is now big enough to ride Mandy’s road bike.  I’ve been thinking about taking him out for a low stress ride and see how he does and if he would like it.  When we went to the Easy Rider Short Track Series one of the organizers told Bean she could definitely excel at ‘cross.  So we’re thinking about taking her back in the fall and see if she likes it.  We’ll see.  Maybe we’ll all get hooked (refer to first sentence of post).
As I drop weight I will go after Strava KOMs.  I can’t help myself.  So I can’t promise that you won’t see the underpinning of my Strava obsession peeking through as the pounds just fall off of me.  Depending on how this ultrarunning thing goes I may or may not sign up for a mountain bike race next year.  I’m not finished with Leadville.  I need to go back for one more shot at a buckle.  And I really would like to give the Silver King a shot.  But that’s why the ultrarunning this year comes into play.
In the meantime I'm just going to ride when I can.