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Thursday, February 22, 2018

a little bit at a time

Sometimes little pieces of conversations linger in our minds. Mottos, mantras, advice - call them what you will. I've had some of these lodged in my head for decades. They surface once in a while. Bits and epiphanies on our longer challenges...

I wonder if the people who spoke these words remember them. If they still hold onto them all these years later as I do or if the words were left where they were spoken - unnoticed and discarded moments of genius...

One of these moments goes back twenty years, more or less exactly. There was a guy going about his work - unloading or loading a truck (it's endlessly one or the other, right?) - and a passerby commented, as they strangely often do, saying something like, "Big job today, eh?!" Our truck guy responded sagely, as if he'd always thought of it this way, "a little bit at a time..." 

And of course! I mean, how else?! You can't unload it all at once! And even if you could there's another ton to load right back up... And then there's tomorrow and the next day and on... 

Another moment that's been surfacing for me recently is from about ten years ago (probably not exactly!). A brief acquaintance of mine was discussing the methodical approach of a good welder. He used a certain phrase to describe the process. It's probably a phrase well used in the welding trade but it was the first and only time I've heard it: "Laying down nickels." He could have said dimes or quarters, I don't remember, but the point is he was talking about one weld about the size of a coin. One coin at a time... a little overlapping the last one... patiently laying down perfect quality nickel-sezied welds... all the way down the line... over and over and over again. No rush. You've got all day... and tomorrow and on... A little bit at a time... 

Just like each step, each stride, each pedal stroke. You can't get there in one giant leap! And you shouldn't even try. It will probably take you longer and lead to injury. Quick steps. Low gears. Again and again... All the way down the line... 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

darkness

The days have been getting longer now for about a month. I can almost get home in the evening without lights on the bike. But not quite. And anyway, it's probably better to overlap significantly into the various shades of dusk. The dream world, however, seems to lag behind a bit - still hung up on darkness. The other night I was riding my bike in darkness, in dream. Isn't it nice to get those extra miles in! I was riding up Arroyo Blvd. A route I take frequently. It's a nice windy road with older homes on the east and the Arroyo Seco natural area and wash to the west. Always, it seems, as I come around one particular bend in the road there is a car parked on the right side which forces me further left into the lane. I usually anticipate this. And it wouldn't be a problem except that, well, you know, why do so many cars take this route? And this night, this dream, was no exception. I rolled around the bend through the darkness, drifting left to move around the parked car. That was when I noticed I'd forgotten my light. I didn't see the beam reflecting off the car. Interesting that we otherwise hardly need lights at night, if we could always be riding alone out there on the streets. And it was then that I heard the sound of two other cyclists overtaking me to my left. I gave a quick wave of the hand which was illuminated in their headlights. They didn't seem to mind that I had no light, understanding that, well, who needs one, if we have the road to ourselves... As they passed I also realized that I'd forgotten my helmet. (At least I had my pants!) And it was fine. Out on a bike in the cool darkness... 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

kefir

For any of us pursuing endurance activities, there's no doubt we've already heard about the benefits to recovery of consuming a certain amount of protein within a half hour or so after any physical endeavor. There's probably some very specific information out there detailing the number of grams that should be consumed within a given number of minutes and what source those grams should come from, etc. For those of us that are trying not to take things to too crazy a degree but want to get some benefit from the studies, I'd say a good middle ground is: have some protein after your run (ride, whatever). In the course of watching various Tours de France and marathons on television I've inevitably been exposed to that commercial featuring that latest triathlon champion coming in from what is presumably some tropical island to island swim and proceeding directly to the business of chugging a bottle of chocolate milk. Apparently it has all the essential nutritional elements needed for optimal recovery from your workout. Primarily, presumably, protein. So, again, in my meager attempt to follow along withe the basic ideals of endurance enhancing nutrition, I've come to emulate this tri hero... in my own way, of course. Somehow, chocolate milk sounds a bit, how should I saw this, un-refreshing. And there must be a lot of sugar in there that might not be necessary for all of us. But, and assuming you've already read the title of this post, this won't come as a surprise, I've discovered that kefir, that drinkable hippy yogurt that I recall from my youth in the seventies, is a great and delicious and easy way to get those several grams of protein. The idea being something like, let your body cool down a bit and then sip some water, probably take a shower and then grab that big bottle out of the fridge and take a swig or two - yes! right from the bottle! Why not? And a bottle will go for a whole bunch of swigs so it could easily last a week or so. The flavored varieties tend to be fruity and refreshing, although, then you're dealing with added sugars again, so I've weened myself down to plain - you get used to it. And even start to believe the claim on the back of the bottle that, indeed, kefir is "The Champagne of Dairy... "

Thursday, August 24, 2017

the coldest ride I ever spent

There's something to that old saying about California... and even though I don't live in San Francisco—rather further south—I often find that the coldest ride of the year, or walk for that matter, is an evening in late summer. I guess because when it's in the mid-80s during the day one doesn't think to bring along a sweater. But then you stay out a little later than planned and suddenly the sun has dropped far below the ridge and the breeze has picked up and miles to go before we sleep... And maybe the body isn't quite acclimatized to the light chill, having fought hard all summer to relearn how to shed any and all extra heat... and then you start shivering and you're even out of practice at that so it just runs on uncontrollably and then you're cold.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Art of Crashing

Start by getting a nice long warmup ride so you’re relaxed and comfortable on the bike. Find a wide shaded street with an ever so gentle downgrade - an un-false flat, if you will. Shift into the big ring and find an easy cadence, turning a cog somewhere in the middle range. Don’t rush. Your front tire will be thrown out by a small bump in the road, presumably a tree root pushing up the asphalt. The rear tire will follow and buck the bike up into the air. This will happen fast—without opportunity to make any adjustments or corrections. You’ll try but won’t quite be able to piece together this sequence of events later. There will be a sensation of rolling, tumbling along the ground. Curled up in a heap in the gutter, you’ll think, “Oh no.” Are you okay? Are you okay? I don’t know. Can I help you up? Uh, just a sec. Am I okay? I don’t know. How did I get so dirty? Thanks for stopping. Where’s my bike? It’s way over there—I saw it flipping through the air! Are you okay? It looks like your derailleur is toast. Are you okay? I don’t know. I think so… Drink that last sip of water. Straighten the handlebars. Just get on the bike. Get to that park. Get some water. Wash off the blood and dirt. Soft, soft, soft pedal home. Just get home. Just seven miles. Just get home…