Monday, May 28, 2012

What's been happening lately

It's been a little longer that usual since my last post, but don't fear because I'll fill you in on every spine-tingling detail.

My latest camera stopped working a week or so ago, and I haven't replaced it yet.  I tried using a couple of other cameras that I had sitting around, but the results were pretty disappointing.  The first one didn't work at all any more, the second one was very blurry, and the third had some other quality issues with the images.  I also tried taking some pictures with my GoPro, but trying to get in a decent photo with the wide angle set-up isn't easy.  For example, here's a shot from up at the Fellows Riverside Gardens.

Kind of distorts the edges just a bit, huh?  Of course you can always crop the shot, but it gets old pretty quick when you have to crop every shot.  Here's one with the edge distortion removed.

With less photos to post I haven't felt much like spending a lot of time trying to get something online.  But I guess I've worked up enough of a backlog to get something typed up.

It's been 14 days since my last entry on May 14.  I've tried to keep up my 5 out of 7 riding schedule as much as possible. My MapMyRide workout log shows that for the first week I got in my five rides, with two days of singletrack - including a nice, big long ride at West Branch.  That week also included the normal bunch of yardwork and gardening, as well as a trail work day at Beaver Creek and a canoe ride on the Clarion River with my son.  So that was pretty much as good as I could have hoped.

This week was going pretty good, but the wife, son and I headed on over to the Allegheny National Forest for a camping trip.  We left just after lunch on Friday and found a great campsite back on Loleta Road, right on the banks of East Millstone Creek.  My brother and his kids came over for Saturday and Sunday, so there was a whole lot of fun being had by the young 'uns.  I missed riding on Friday and Sunday, but managed to get in a really great ride along the forest service roads and what I think might be abandoned logging roads from a hundred years ago.  Just spending the little bit of time that I had available riding out in the deep woods makes me want to get some real backwoods bikepacking in this summer.  With the research I've done to get my Allegheny National Forest mtb and bikepacking map started I've found some very interesting possibilities.

Nice lawn.
So this last week I only got in four days of riding, and there was no trail work.  But it's all good, since we don't really get very much family time together.  Kenny had a great time camping, and also really enjoyed spending some time with his two cousins.  And Matt took the three kids for a ride on the river in my canoe - the first paddle boat ride for his two.  So it turned out to be a great weekend even if it didn't revolve around mountain biking (who would have thought?)

I ended up the second week with a mountain bike ride with my brother out at West Branch this afternoon.  With it being Memorial Day I expected to see a big crowd of people out on the trails.  The marina beside the mountain bike parking lot was packed - there must have been a hundred trucks with boat trailers - but there were only a few cars in the mountain bike lot.  Maybe it was the 92 degree temps and muggy conditions that kept most people away, but we had a great ride on the rocky side of the trail.  I kind of pooped out on the second half of the ride (I forgot most of my water) and took a shortcut back to the car, but it was still a blast and I feel re-hydrated and happy this evening.

Back to work tomorrow morning, with a can't-miss deadline hovering over my head for the whole week.  But I'm going to try to get some saddle time tomorrow and aim for a singletrack ride after work on Wednesday.  Here's hoping for a tolerable week and a good weekend.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Imagine that

It seems that I'm back in the groove now, and managing to maintain a fairly steady ride schedule again.  Looking back into the recent past of three weeks ago, I find it difficult to explain why I was missing so many opportunities to get out and do something (like ride a bicycle maybe).  Motivation is such a tricky thing, involving mood, stress, scheduling, percieved versus actual results, etc.  Realizing that it is such an incredibly complex thing makes me doubt any sort of "motivational" expert right from the start.  How someone can think that they have the methods to overcome all those individual motivational roadblocks is beyond me.

In my twenties and thirties, after spending years making myself lift weights, I found my workout routines lasting for less time and my desire to exercise vanishing.  Then when I started paddling all the time I found it was a mildly good workout for my shoulders and upper body, and I would do it as often as I could.  Now that I've started riding mountain bikes the workout level has skyrocketed.  Since I enjoy it so much it never seems like a chore to get a workout in. 

So it seems obvious to me - if you want to be fit, find an exercise that you actually enjoy.  Not something that you can tolerate, or make yourself do twice a week.  Make it something that you really like, so much that you do it as often as possible.  So much that you'll gladly do other, not-so-fun exercise to make it easier to do the FUN stuff.  Amazingly simple, right?

Hogback Ridge, part of Lake County Metroparks

Actually, I'm afraid that is likely to be WRONG.  That is the kind of thinking that convinces those motivational speaker guys that they should go out and tell other people their brilliant ideas in order to make life perfect.  Upon further consideration it would seem that some people are not ever going to find something physical that they can truly enjoy.  For some people the cost of extended effort, physical fatigue and risk of injury will never be worth the adrenaline and accomplishment of any kind of intense physical activity, be it running, dance, karate, swimming or even mountain biking.  For these people, overcoming this particular motivational roadblock must be even more difficult.  I'd make a lousy motivational speaker I guess, because with only my one insight - I have no answers for the difficult questions.

Looking at my MapMyRide workout sheet for back to the last time I posted 11 days ago, it looks like I had a ride every day except for two, and one of those off days I did three hours of trail work as well as rototilling my Mom's garden.  Those nine ride days included five days of singletrack, and totalled out at around 90 miles.  With the local trails at West Branch State Park finally reopening (actually, reopening early this year), I've been able to head out there a couple of times and get in quick rides when I have only two hours or so of free time.  Plus I also got in a longer ride too, that surprisingly enough didn't even make me feel like I was going to die at the end.  Things bode well for an epic ride day in my near future - if I can just get everything to fall in place so that I can get four or so hours of free time...

A friend of mine from the rail trail.

I'm also back on the regular schedule for trail work.  This weekend we had a nice work day at North Road, maintaining the old trail and pushing on the new. Last weekend Eric and I got in a good day of work down at Beaver Creek, cutting in more bench on the hillside trail above the creek.  It's not exactly fast work, but it is rewarding to see such interesting new trail slowly emerging from the hillside.  We came across a section that was just full of big rocks, jumbled up on top of each other with little actual dirt between them - Eric called it the cannonball farm, and that summarized it nicely.  We took a bit of extra time and fashioned a rock roadway across the section, made of rocks up to about 250 pounds.  This should be a blast to ride, and even a nice surface for walkers.

Eric on the roadway at the cannonball farm.
I got out this evening for just over an hour on the singletrack at West Branch.  I had a great time, and even felt good on the hills.  I'm lucky.  I'm lucky  that though things may be stressful in the rest of my life, riding through the woods can bring me back to earth and put things in perspective.  I'm lucky that something as simple as biking can give me so much.  And I'm really lucky that my one insight into motivation actually applies to me.

Keep on riding folks.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Back at it again

Last week I confidently proclaimed that I would get my lazy butt off the couch during weekday evenings and make myself ride at least five days out of the next seven.  And that there is the whole problem with the internet - it's available to the public.  See, if I had been disgusted with myself and muttered under my breath "Hey slacker, you need to pry yourself out of that chair and ride your bike five days this week" - no one would have heard it, and then no one would know if I didn't actually do it.  But since I'm foolish enough to put it on my blog - which is available to the general public - it kind of puts it out there so that I at least feel obligated to do what I said.  So in one way - that of providing motivation - it's good.  But it also removes the easy way out, so that can be a problem.

I started out the week well, with a singletrack ride down at Beaver Creek.  It was just a short ride, since my weekday riding time is also short - but at least I spent an hour riding the dirt.  Then I set myself up for failure by not riding for the next two days, which meant I had to ride the next four days straight or not make my goal.  Way to plan out your week, Steve.

But there was a chance to pull it off, since I had the weekend available to fit the next two rides into.  I got in a ride on the rail trail on Saturday, which does count even though it's pretty boring.  Then on Sunday I got Diana to accompany me on a drive down to Beaver Creek, where I got in another short ride while she napped in the car at the campground.  So that was good - five days past with three rides down.  Still could work...

Beaver Creek State Park
Kenny went to his fifth grade camp for three days starting Monday, and Diana worked till late, so when I got home after work the house was empty.  That worked pretty well for me, as I quickly changed and headed out to ride around town for a while.  I've been more careful in picking my route lately, just hitting up the low-traffic suburban side streets and keeping away from congestion as much as possible.  But still it seems to me that I have to keep on my toes so much more in town than on singletrack.  You never know when some nut will reverse out of a driveway between two houses just as you're riding past.  Then it's up to YOU to stay out from under those wheels, even though the driver has the responsibility to check before pulling out.  Give me rocks and roots any day...

Tuesday would be the last day of my week long cycle.  When I got home from work I was thinking about a ride around the neighborhood for a little while, maybe even a ride out on the rail trail.  But my wife, who knows how much all this riding contributes to keeping my questionable sanity at least tolerable, suggested that I take the time to head on out to Moraine and get in some dirt riding before dark.  And with her encouragement I packed up food, gear and bike in record time and headed on over to ride.  And it was a great ride, too.  Not too long, but sometimes you don't need a lot to feel good.  I hit some of my favorite tech sections, including a stretch I call The Big Rock Downhill.  Here the trail leaves the ridgetop and heads down over a hundred feet to cross the tiny brook in the valley below.  And on the way the trail builders have routed it over about 6 or 7 really well built rock features, using the huge boulders littering the hillside to make an unbelievable challenging and fun route.  I've ridden each feature successfully, even making a no-dab ride from the top almost to the bottom before.  But on Tuesday I was clearing the rocks with a combination of technique and power, not the bounce-n-bash style that I usually display.  After clearing the third tough section in a row - and doing it RIGHT - I realized the groove I was in and just pushed it as far as I could take it.  Don't be fooled into thinking that I'm extreme mtb guru, but for a 49 year old with not so great breathing I was pretty satisfied.

Moraine mtb trailhead

So I did make the 5 out of 7 for that week, and I'm going to try again for this week.  I started writing this up on Thursday, and I've managed to get in an hour on the rail trail Wednesday and 10 laps around my block (7.5 miles with 400 feet of climbing) on Thursday.  That gives me hope that I've gotten past my latest motivation drought and will continue to push myself at the level that I expect.  And Kenny is back from his summer camp experience, where he had a good time with his fellow fifth grade lunatics.  I'm glad that he got to go, but I'm even gladder to have him back home.  He's wanting to go for a canoe trip this weekend, so it looks like I'll be checking some water levels for the local waterways.  Might be an excellent chance to get some paddling video on the GoPro!

This one is for Diana