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Saturday, December 31, 2011

flipping through the logbook

I was out riding yesterday afternoon with one of my regular ride partners and as it’s the end of the year we naturally fell into conversation about the past year in biking and our hopes for the next. A year is a long time, though, so I keep track of things of the bike and run nature in a logbook. Our conversation also touched on this. Is logging time and distance and experience a little neurotic, or a lot? Maybe. But this morning I was flipping through the logbook and I was reminded of some really great rides I’d taken over the year that I hadn’t exactly forgotten about but that I couldn’t just bring up in mind immediately when thinking back on the year.

Interestingly, I started the logbook to keep track of miles, and I still do use it for that purpose, but the smiles that came to my face this morning upon its review were the little notes I’d made next to the miles. Often they’re just a word or two but hold a lot of info. For example: “w/Dan, Masi, 2xLida” or “1st Brown, Mindful Mule [5 exclamation points above the word Brown]” or “T80, Devil’s Gate Trailhead, 3xLida.” These brief messages to myself bring back a rush of memory. And then some of them are a little too brief and I’m not quite sure at first what they mean. Like: “Verdugo.” And some of them I repeated far too often, like: “Pub72.”

As for the running, the notes are little more monotonous, but of course there were some great moments there too. So much of running takes place in the mind that it hardly seems to matter that I was on Arroyo Run #xx or whatever, but highlights include: “Hills w/Hil” and “Devil’s Gate Trail, Soggy Shoes” and “J-Rock, Arroyo” and “El Prieto, 11A, 1:10ish, Sun, 80degrees, Cotton” and “Devil’s Gate + El Prieto, 87degrees, clouds” and “sunset, warm” and “Malibu Creek + barefoot” and “Lasse Viren” and “w/Hil, LPAC to Salvia Canyon, ASU jelloshot tailgate” and “w/Hil, Bridge, cloud/drizzle, 56degrees” and “Orchard, sun, 60’s, solo” and “Arroyo Lunar Eclipse!”

The miles, while significant accomplishments, have less meaning than the notes, and probably create the heavier argument for neurosis. But I’m still going to keep track of them next year. It keeps me going – on track. And since we’re talking numbers, this year’s numbers were quite acceptable. Even though I’ve been sick a lot, including the last few weeks, I somehow managed to coast into second place overall mileage for both running and riding. I guess that speaks to going when you can and not worrying too much about when you can’t. I’m still chasing that perfect year of a 1:5 ratio. I came close this year; 1:4.7 ain’t bad (just add some zeros). But the goal for next year may be to log a little more of the details, the experiences. And maybe share some more of that here on the blog.

And as for blogging, well, it’s been an interesting year. I’ve found a few new blogger friends which has been quite nice and lost track of a few others which is a little sad in some cases but also natural, understandable – people drifting in and out of each other’s lives, coming and going, or just passing through.

Thanks to all of you blogger friends who’ve been a part of this strange little part of life/blog/experience.

See you next year…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

running to the moon

I woke up early this morning. The moon was calling to me. I’d read yesterday that there would be a lunar eclipse. A full one. A rare one. Called the “impossible eclipse” with the eclipsed moon sinking into one horizon while the sun crests the other. I knew it would be cold and dark out, though, so I lay in bed for a while content just knowing that the eclipse was happening out there somewhere – a cosmic giveaway of sorts. Maybe I’ll just peek out the window and see if it’s there, if there’s clouds, or what. It took a while to find the moon. At this time of year it sets behind a large tree across the ravine. (It might have been a ravine once. That’s what I call it – where I live – it’s spotted with houses now but the earthly geography is still there somewhere.) After checking a few windows I found it through the branches of that big fir tree. A dusty smudge of glowing rust with one little glint of moonlight rounding out the bottom. I was going to need to go out there. It was already setting behind the ridgeline but if I could get out of the ravine quickly enough I could get a clear view. But what does one wear to an early morning moonrun and how does one quickly piece together the appropriate pieces of clothing when he is still one half asleep and the other half still drunk? The answer, is simpler than I could immediately come up with but I got to it – one wears what they’d worn the night before. So I set out for the moonrun with a wool sweater and long canvas pants, fleece cap and “magic” gloves. (“Magic” gloves probably deserve a post of their own but for now just think thin gloves.) It was very quiet and dark and cool – about 40 degrees. And deserted – 6am on a Saturday morning in December is a great time to be out in the world – and in my delirious state I was thinking to myself, I should be going running every day this early – earlier, 4am! There were some thin clouds in the sky that were threatening to cancel the show. When I first found an open clearing to the western sky I couldn’t refind the moon. Had it already set? Did I really take that long trying to get out the door? I saw a guy with a big ol’ zoom lens or was it a telescope, so I knew I wasn’t too far behind but he seemed to be packing up. Where is the horizon the lowest? To the Arroyo! Of course – sit on the edge and watch the sun light up The Angels while the Impossible Moon sinks low. The clouds had started to thin a little more and I refound the moon. It was quite dim, as moons in the shadow of their planet tend to be I suppose. But it was there and still several notches above the now lower horizon line. Sitting meditation-like on the cold stone wall overlooking my Arroyo, cooling nicely from the run with still a big warmth, the glow slowly fading into clouds and atmosphere and shadow, the moon evaporating, Rocket Man playing in my head. See you again tonight, Moon.

Friday, December 9, 2011

currently reading

To a Mountain in Tibet
by Colin Thubron, 2011


The Edge of Physics: a journey to the earth’s extremes to unlock the secrets of the universe
by Anil Ananthaswamy, 2010

Monday, December 5, 2011

two snakes

I guess it’s snake season. Funny because just a few weeks ago I was mentioning to someone that we shouldn’t expect to see any snakes up on the trail since it’s winter and they’re less likely to be out. I’m not sure where I got that impression – probably because that’s likely the case in colder climes. But here in the San Gabriel Mountains, at least at this stage of early winter, there are snakes out. They’re moving pretty slow. It’s been fairly cold overnight in the mountains. Probably approaching freezing. I imagine it takes all morning lying in the sun to warm up.

I saw the first of these two snakes on the Mt. Wilson Trail above Sierra Madre. It was stretched out across the path, slowly ascending the mountain, straight up, no need for switchbacks. I stopped my own ascent of the mountain (using the switchbacks provided) to let snaky pass. He was in no hurry. I waited about 30 seconds until most of his length was in the low brush on the side of the trail and just his rattle was dangling over the edge of the trail. He was a good-sized snake – medium, I’d say – with several links on his rattle. I believe they get an extra link on their rattle for each year of life, or something like that. I didn’t feel like waiting forever, though, so I continued along within a few inches of his tail. It seemed safe as he was all stretched out in the opposite direction, seemingly in a difficult position to whip around and strike on a cold morning. I heard one little tat of his rattle as I passed. Just sort of a “hi.” Or maybe it wasn’t even that, but just some accidental rattle as he moved a little further – one shift, one settling.

There was also a couple of hikers waiting on the up-trail side of the snake. They were a little more tentative about passing Snake on the way down. Eventually they did. I was a little ways up the trail already but heard them screaming and running for about a hundred yards down the trail. I imagine they got a bit more of a rattle from him. And I don’t blame them for running and screaming – it is a very scary sound – triggering a deeper fear response than we’re generally accustomed to feeling in the urban world.

Another day – another snake – this time on the route to Brown Mountain. Again just stretched straight across the path. But not going anywhere this time. Just enjoying a morning sun in no hurry – and why should she be? This snake was a California Glossy(?)– not dangerous, as far as I believe/hope. After waiting the standard 30-second-snake-count, I proceeded, stepping right over her (bike shouldered). I didn’t want to disturb her morning sun but as I was half way over she slithered back around toward her tail. Oh well, sorry. Hope you got warm anyway.

Thanks for sharing the mountains with me, my snake friends.

Of note: Neither of these two snakes turned into sticks as so many of the snakes I encounter on the trail do.

Also of note: I’m no snake charmer and you shouldn’t listen to any of my advice about safely passing snakes in the wilderness.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Brunch Run unpopular

The first Brunch Run was unpopular. Total attendance was: one. At least it’s an easy record to break. Or maybe not so easy. Based on the moderate success the Brunch Ride has brought to Sunday mornings over the past several months, I figured to duplicate it on Saturday mornings with a Brunch Run. I didn’t promote it with that name. Even reading it now just makes me want to heave but the brunch aspect of it would certainly be lighter and after any of the running. I did invite several people though. And not just random people – obviously that would be a mistake. But people I’ve run with in the past already, some of them on a semi-regular basis, and the response was, well, lackluster. I heard back from about half of them. I’ll take the non-responses as, “I don’t even want to dignify that with a response.” Those that did respond were upbeat but cautious, not wanting to get in over their heads. I understand this. Running, I know, is a very personal thing and maybe doesn’t lend itself very well to regular social engagements. And maybe I chose the wrong venue for the run – up a steep mountain trail, The Mount Wilson Trail Race route. And, as it turned out, the day was cold and gloomy and threatening rain – none of which helped to bolster the number of runners. In fact, I think the weather was the real factor in scaring away the one other runner from the start – he called in “sick” ten minutes before.

The morning started out rather cool (in the 50’s) and stayed pretty much that way all the way through. I spent probably half an hour just figuring out what to wear, trying on various combinations of layering and figuring out how to carry it all up and down on the trail. Luckily, I’d gone through this whole process before I got the last minute cancellation because otherwise I might have dumped the whole thing, too, but as it was, I was all ready for liftoff so I figured I might as well stick with the plan.

Arriving in Sierra Madre (the town at the foot of the mountain trail) with Mindful Mule was a little different than what I’m accustomed to on Race day. On Mt. Wilson race day (still six months off) there is an excitement in the air, sponsor tents set up and a guy talking on a loudspeaker and runners, runners, runners. I remember the first time I ran that race. The first runner I chanced to see as I arrived was a guy probably about 50 years old with the most incredible jackrabbit legs I’ve ever seen. At that moment, I thought, Oh, these guys are real mountain runners. But on this day the crowd was much different, including mostly the sidewalk coffee drinkers and of course the local million-dollar-cycling peloton that makes a stop there every weekend morning. For a moment some of the cyclists looked my way thinking they were seeing one of their own, maybe even a new rider whom they could better, finally, and foster in their development and choices of gear. I’m a confusing thing. I guy pulls up to their ride area wearing a cycling cap and musette bag, semi-tights, fingerless gloves, yellow-tinted sport lenses and, from a distance, for a moment, it looks like I might just fit in, might be one of their crowd. But then, always, confusion sets in and their hope is shattered as they see the mid-nineties rigid mtb complete with full basket and… what’s that? a wool flannel shirt and old trail running shoes and… (gasp!) those fingerless gloves aren’t Pearl Izumi, they’re not even fingerless gloves, they’re gloves whose fingers have been worn through! Retreat!

And with that welcome, I ran off up the street to the trailhead. The trail, as usual, was perfect. It’s one of the nicest trails in the area – very well maintained. Actually the first two people I encountered were coming off the mountain with a McLeod and a few other trail-work-specific tools. Thanks for your efforts, guys. There had been some rain earlier or over night as the trail was damp. The good kind of damp. Not wet. Just perfect for super traction with no mud or dust. There were a lot of hikers up there. I was a bit surprised. I know it’s a very popular trail and it was Saturday, but I figured the weather would turn away some walkers as it had turned away some runners. Many of the hikers were well geared out with backpacks and walking sticks and boots and such as if on expedition. Fine by me, you know, Be Prepared really is a good motto. I’m glad to have them up there sharing the trail with me. Another runner I know seems a bit peeved by this style of hiker, calling them the “Everest Assault Team.” He complains that they’re always taking up too much of the trail and getting in his way as he’s time-trialing the mountain. Luckily, he’d been sick that morning.

It never did rain up there that morning. The last minute layering system seemed to work fairly well. The mussete bag wasn’t ideal for carrying the extra goodies but it worked, it did its job – I think I’ll try some other style of bag next time. As a trail run it was a huge success. I know that because I’m still having flashbacks from the mountain surroundings – visions, some might say. As a training run it was also a success. I know that because my legs are finally really sore. As an experimental run it was a success because I got to try out new outfits, reconfirm that bike commuting to a trail run on a Saturday morning is awesome fun and should be repeated endlessly. The solo aspect of it was fine – mountain runners will be by themselves a lot, even when starting with a group – and besides, I had some very deep thinking to do that day. As a Brunch Run it was… it was a start… inconclusive, let’s say.

Forecast for next Saturday, November 26: Sunny, 78 degrees…

Monday, November 14, 2011

the post we’ve been waiting for!

You can go home again. That’s what I realized today as, for the first time in 26 months, I rode the Upper Brown Mountain Road/trail all the way to the top. This trail ride had become an almost weekly pilgrimage for me until the Station Fire ripped over the mountains in late summer of 2009. I ended up riding the trail twice after the fire and before the area had been closed. The last time I rode it was September of 2009. It’s been closed ever since. Several months ago they, the Forest Service, did reopen lower sections of the trail which was great but it really didn’t fulfill my need, my desire. The Upper Brown Mtn trail (and it really is a trail now, there’s no way to drive a truck up this anymore) takes you much deeper into the soul of the mountains and it was great to reestablish connection. If I sound less than overwhelmingly ecstatic it’s only because I think I’m in shock and/or dreaming.

I left the house this morning with no clear destination in mind. Mainly I was just going out to complete some errands. I had a slight inkling that I could ride up the Arroyo to the trailhead just to say hello. But I was also kind of tired as I’ve sort of been crushing the running mileage lately. Plus there was that little Brunch Ride yesterday up into the depths of Sierra Madre – Mary’s Market. But it was a nice day and I had some time so why not go for a nice little bike ride on Mindful Mule?

Errands completed, I continued up to the trailhead where I was rather pissed off by the Forest Service’s decision to cap the drinking fountain! Yes, I know it’s been a little leaky lately, but if you’re going to take the time to cap it you might as well fix it. What are thirsty hikers supposed to drink out there!? Well, yes, there’s the stream, and it’s probably clean(?!), but not even I have taken that option (yet – although, I’m contemplating it. I bet it’s fine. I just don’t know how much giardia I’m willing to gamble with.) So there I was at the trailhead with Mindful Mule and about 5 ounces of water left in my bottle. Oh well, I thought, it’s not a very hot day. I’ll just ride up a little way and turn around when I’m out of water. Then I can easily refill down at the Rose Bowl. I knew I’d only go up about three miles from that point anyway because everything above that was closed as it had been for the last two years.

Of course, once you point Mindful Mule up that trail it’s a rare chance you’ll be able to get him to turn around, dehydrated rider be damned. I knew that and I was fine with that. This is a recurring theme with us. So up we went! As we approached the Saddle (the 3-way intersection with Upper Brown Mtn trail and the route over to Millard Campground) I started thinking, “You know, it’s Monday morning, there’s almost no one up here, why not just ride to the top? Fuck the closure! It’s been closed long enough. I’m not going to be hurting anything. I know I won’t be the first one to pass the closed sign.” But at that point I only had a couple sips of water left, so, while I liked my line of thinking, I realized that I could not go to the top until I came back with water and probably Humble Horse, anyway.

But I got to the Saddle and lo and behold there was no sign. The route to the top was open at long last! Well, open in a relative sense. It was open in the sense that the unawares bicycle rider had no reason, without prior knowledge, to suspect that any part of this trail was closed. So there I was, already with premeditated federal offense lingering on my handlebars, and no indication of any kind of closure to stop me from proceeding up to the top of the Brown Mtn trail, and well, what kind of goody-goody am I, presented with a chance like this, after over two years of mis-f.-management of the trail system… I was going – fuck dehydration! And, thank God for that genius hiker (we’ll call her a hiker rather than a mountain biker here because we don’t want to spread any more ill-feelings about bikes on trails even though it was undoubtedly a male mountain biker of some kind) who pulled the posted “trail closed for forest restoration” sign out of the middle of the trail and tossed it over the side of the mountain. Thank you! Why did that take so long!? At least, that’s how I imagine it all went down.

As soon as I rolled, unbelievingly, onto that trail I was home. “It feels so good to be home,” I literally said.

The condition of the trail was surprisingly good. Not much different than it had been right after the fires. A few more slides here and there but still mostly rideable. Changed, for sure, but still worth every pedal stroke to get back there. I kiss-waved and high-fived Oak Tree on the way up and then kiss-waved the peak of Brown Mountain rising high above the trail-top. Even standing at the top of the trail I couldn’t really believe this was all happening. I couldn’t absorb it. It’s not a place you can absorb in one pass. But, hopefully, that closed sign will stay good-and-lost and I’ll get another chance to absorb a little more real soon and then again and again and again and pretty soon my soul-bowl will be refilled with Brown magic for me and Mindful Mule to bring back down the mountain because that’s what you do “when you get to the top of the mountain,” as that saying goes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

currently reading

A Piano in The Pyrenees
by Tony Hawks, 2006


The Basque Country
by Paddy Woodworth, 2008


Wend Magazine
Volume 6, Issue 3, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lasse Viren

So the race. The second of the year. That’s not much racing. But maybe about the right amount. These things can get addictive, you know. It was a great time yesterday running out in Malibu and hanging out with all those running folks before and after and to be honest, there’s even something to be appreciated, now, in all that pre-race anxiety and difficulty sleeping the night before and trying to calculate in your head what time you think you can get even though you shouldn’t really care and you can’t possibly calculate it anyway because it’s not really a math problem but a trail run, it’s a moment out in the hills. But still you can plan a little and know to a reasonable degree your level of fitness and theoretical finish window. You can have some kind of game plan to fall back on so you don’t forget that part of the reason you’re out there is to race and not to just get caught up on recent times while chatting with an old friend that you brought. This is a race. It’s a classic, having been around since the seventies. So you think about Lasse Viren and you think about Prefontaine, too, because since you met them both in a movie there’s really no way to separate them in your head and they run alongside you through the race. You know you’re not trained for speed, that you only have one speed. You know that some of the people around you, that you’re racing against, well, they’ve got two speeds, at least. You know that because you’ve seen them run, seen them race. There’s no chance for a kick at the finish, it seems, but you can lean on it the whole way. Not blow your heart out or anything, just lean into it, keep focused on moving forward. Keep drinking, eat that gel thing. Even then you’re going to end up blowing your heart out by the end of the race anyway because it’s a pretty darn long way, and by then you just know that the runner with kick is coming up behind, you don’t dare to look back, though. That would be too hard to see, all hope would be lost, the push would be gone, they’d run right by. But nobody’s passing you. Keep leaning, leaning into the race, the pace, no time to do anything but go. Still, nobody’s passing you, in fact nobody’s passed you this whole time. There’s people up ahead, sure, but nobody’s passed you and nobody’s passing you and there’s the finish and you can feel the breath on the back of your neck. Don’t let them pass you at the line, nothing left to save, blow it out, blow it out. You look behind you and there’s nobody there. Immediately, the race is over. Obviously, having crossed the finish line, but also the race is over in your head, you’re not racing anymore. You’re just back in the runner-folks soup. So short. When will we race again? a little voice whispers…

Friday, October 28, 2011

forking update

So, let’s see, where did we leave off with the story about “Humble Horse’s” issue with the front suspension fork. Ah yes, it was September 30th. I know this because they (the bike shop) gave me a claim check for the fork and work with a date on it. They really shouldn’t date those things unless they’re going to be prompt and complete with their work because without that date I wouldn’t know/remember exactly how long they’d been dragging their feet, doing nothing. That was a Friday. They said they’d take a look at the fork. Maybe they could fix it or maybe they’d have to send it to the factory to get it fixed. The fork was slowly leaking air and had a sticky, uncooperative lockout switch.

The next day they left me a message telling me they couldn’t fix it and wanted to have me deal with getting in touch with the factory. When I called back they had come to their senses and offered to contact the company on my behalf and that they would send it in for repair and get back to me in a couple weeks when it was ready for pickup.

This isn’t a rush job of the utmost importance so I didn’t want to be calling in all the time and checking up on my fork. So I just let it go for a while hoping that they’d sent it in and it was being taken care of. Since they didn’t contact me that they weren’t going ahead with the plan it seemed reasonable to assume such was taking place.

A little side note here: This is not some unusual request to have a suspension fork serviced. In fact, it’s recommended that one services their fork once a year or so or after a certain number of miles. Probably too often as it’s rather expensive but, at any rate, something that all those MTB freaks out there must be doing on occasion.

So, three weeks later (more than a couple – I’m too nice) I called to inquire about the status of my fork. “Oh yeah, uh, the factory won’t take it ‘cause it’s out of warranty. We can’t fix the lockout but we can replace the seals. That might help with the air leak but really I’d suggest you invest in something newer.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll think about that, but in the meantime, replace the seals.”

Them: “Oh, well, we didn’t order your seals, so it will take another week to get them.”

Me: “Okay, fine.”

An hour later, I get another call back, from someone else at the bike store, “Yeah, we can’t do anything with your fork. I’ve got a telephone number for some guy out in Valencia, I think, that works on old stuff like this…” (just a reminder here, the fork is from 2004… seven years old.

So I went and picked up my fork. Thanks for nothing. I went to another bike shop because I figured, well, maybe there’s someone somewhere that is actually willing to turn a wrench. The second shop was much better. They still couldn’t/wouldn’t fix it and let me know that the factory couldn’t/wouldn’t either, but at least they told me this within a matter of a few hours rather than a few weeks. They also gave me the web address for a place in Idaho that fixes suspension forks. At least this referral was to an actual business as opposed to that “guy” and his garage – no offense to the guy, but it just seemed a little weird for a professional bike shop to be recommending some guy that likes to tinker on old shit in his garage.

The factory, Rock Shox, only works on forks that are less than three years old. That’s not cool. Especially since the bike shops can’t seem to do it either. I guess they just want you do get a new fork/bike every three years. Too much. I really don’t like the way this is going.

The business in Idaho seems reputable and I might send it in there. I’ve been thinking about this air leak for a while now, though, studying it in my head and I’m sorta convinced that the seals are semi-workable. I think it’s the valve that is leaking. I was thinking about how you can seal a tire from the inside with that green slime stuff. Maybe there’s a way to do that with the shock. Seal the seals and the valve from the inside.

The thing is, the fork’s been leaking for years. It’s only recently been losing air pressure more rapidly. And the lockout has never worked and yet I’ve enjoyed riding the bike. So if I could just get it like 20% better than it is it would probably be fine. I don’t need the whole thing overhauled or replaced. I just don’t want it too leak air. It can leak a little oil here and there – that’s okay. And as for the lockout I couldn’t really care, it’s fine.

So, thinking along the lines of slime, I filled the valve with oil – not even shock oil, but just whatever I had around, some Pedro’s chain oil – and then pumped it into the fork. I did this a few times. And it’s not leaking anymore. Fricking amazing, I say. Fricking amazing. This probably won’t last very long but at least it’s something worth test riding. Not everything has to be repaired to showroom quality spec’s, you know? FYI, bike shop people, sometimes we just want a minimalist quick fix that doesn’t involve buying a new 12 million dollar bike.

The fork is now holding 140 psi in positive and negative air chambers for days on end. One month wasted. + or - seventeen drops of oil. “Humble Horse” is reassembled and ready to test/ride.

Monday, October 24, 2011

restful mule

A quiet day today. Cloudy. Soft white-grey light reflected over everything. No place to go. No work to do. No run, either – resting for Sunday’s run. Just sitting at home tinkering around and listening to distant sounds. I might ride around a bit – cruise through Old Town while not so many people are around – pretend I’m in Portland…

Friday, October 21, 2011

currently reading

Running on Empty: an ultramarathoner’s story of love, loss, and record-setting run across America.
by Marshall Ulrich, 2011.

recycle cycle

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

okay, here i am

Running through the Arroyo the other day I heard these words in my head: okay, here i am. This type of moment seems to be a big part of why I run, and why I run in the Arroyo, and why I mostly run alone in the Arroyo.

(Of course, this can happen on rides, too. And it’s also a big part of why I ride and maybe what I was missing in the last ride/post.)

After a good long warm-up and settling-in period (I feel like I have to re-teach myself to run every time I go out – maybe a topic for another post) and lots of thoughts and some struggle… you find yourself moving through the arroyo, gliding along, traveling. It probably doesn’t need too much explanation – I wouldn’t want to jinx it. But there it is, here we are…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ride this PM? [message snippet]

Good riding with you yesterday. A bit of a different style then we normally ride together but a fun ride all the same. One that will be perfect when we're seventy. But we're not seventy yet and my riding seems to be slipping a bit. And/or I'm sick but what excuse is that? And/or I'm running too much (from the bike's perspective.) I think I need to get out and spin spin spin. All my rides lately have been "dirty" as opposed to "clean" in that they've not been good long sustained rides. Do you know what I mean? Anyway, soon, I want to put on my stretch suit and ride ride ride. Long and clean. Not super hills or traffic or stops. I want to get down in my time trial position and spin out all the cobwebs. Ride this pm?

Friday, October 14, 2011

currently reading

Breakfast with Buddha
by Roland Merullo, 2007

no hands

In the new world of sick hucks and flips and drops and grinds and all-what-not the kids break themselves up attempting these days, this video clip is rather refreshing and you can even try it at home, just not the last part. Thanks to Fyxo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

CicLAvia Brunch Ride

Over the weekend in downtown LA several miles of roads were closed to car traffic and specifically open to bikes and peds and skaters and lots of freaks for the third or forth time now over the last year or two – what we call CicLAvia – based on the original Ciclovia, which started in Bogota, Columbia and has been adopted in many cities around the world to promote healthy, active, and safe streets for the people. Ciclovia played a big role in improving all-around conditions in Bogota by giving people public space to enjoy and recreate and celebrate every weekend. And I think it will be great for LA (and all the other cities practicing) too. Right now LA is doing this a few times a year. It’s a lot of fun and should be experienced by all in the area.

The Brunch Ride, on a somewhat smaller scale, has a similar aim. Get people together on Sunday morning to go for a ride and grab some brunch somewhere we’ve never been before in the area, exploring new roads and people, and communities, and restaurants and such and such… The Brunch ride has been active for a few months now. We’ve been pretty good at aiming for every Sunday but miss a lot of dates but that’s okay. Like I said, we’re pretty small. I think our record attendance so far is 4. This time we had 3. I’m hoping to pump it up to 6+ some day so if you’re interested, please join us.

This Sunday’s Brunch ride took advantage of the CicLAvia route. We rode about 10 miles to the “Bicycle District” on the west border of Silver Lake right next to LA City College. The “Bicycle District” is a semi-informal distinction that has been gaining steam over the last few years. It’s basically a 50-yard stretch of road that includes the Bicycle Kitchen Co-op, a bike shop, and about a bike rack every 5 feet adding up to something like 40. I’m not a part of that scene but it does seem to be a scene there, a bike scene. I guess people meet there and rides start/end there, etc. The ice cream shop seems popular, too.

From there all the way down through neighborhoods and along parks and past historic buildings everything was closed, the roads that is, and tons of people were out riding them, probably like a hundred thousand people or more over the approximately seven mile stretch that we rode. It’s really fun to ride through downtown. Really awesome old buildings and nooks and crannies down there. And little shops and restaurants that you’d never knew existed if you didn’t hit the streets with your feets. Wish I could have gotten some better photos but it’s kinda hard from the bike and who wants to stop just to take a picture?

After a couple hours of riding we’d worked up a nice appetite and were ready for brunch. We call it brunch but really it could be lunch for some or breakfast or well even brunch – I guess that’s sorts the definition of brunch anyway but just didn’t want to be falsely advertising. We couldn’t really get our act/brains together about where to eat with so many possibilities so ended up with the classic spot, Philippe’s, just outside of Chinatown and Union (train) Station. Would you believe me if I told you they invented the French Dip Sandwich?! Any place with sawdust on the floor is okay in my book. I had a great slice of boysenberry pie to fuel our return trip back upstream to the hometown pub for an afternoon of endless beers and ice waters… That’s the Brunch Ride…

“Totally 80’s” says, "Try the pie at Philippe’s!"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lasse Viren brings old shoes back into the lineup

I found an old pair of trail running shoes in the closet. Found may be the wrong word. I’ve been aware of their presence there. The last time I wore them was for the Mount Wilson Race in 2008, the year I ran my fastest time (so far!) At that time I was still following the industry guidelines as to how frequently to retire your old shoes and “buy” new ones. How dumb could I have been? Even at that time they’d already been semi-retired, being used only occasionally. I’m not sure why I chose to race in them that day but I did and it went well. Now, after taking my last shoes to 1000 miles, I know a few more things about shoes and running. And I believe I can bring these back into my running shoe lineup for many more miles. My current running shoes are fine and good but they’re a little heavy and maybe better for training. Plus they’re road shoes so they’ve got a little less traction. The new/old pair is pretty light and they’ve been proven effective. They’re also a little on the tight side so I don’t think I’d want to wear them for longer than a couple hours – Adidas always run a little small and narrow. But for short to middle distance trail runs they could be just fine. And it just so happens that I’ve got a middle distance trail run coming up at the end of the month – Lasse Viren 20K. I just signed up for this race about a week ago after being reminded about it by one of my friends. I’ve never run this race before but have heard about it for years and have always wanted to run it. So the time has finally come. I don’t know too much about Lasse Viren, the man that the race is named after, other than that he was an Olympic middle distance runner in the early seventies from one of those Scandinavian countries. I only know him from the Prefontaine movies. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to link to Pre from this blog but look him up if you need to. Viren and Prefontaine raced against each other in the Olympics. Then in the late seventies, weirdly, a Finnish scultor/runner started this trail race in Malibu and named it after Viren for some reason and Viren actually raced in it at least once. So, back in the present, this is the 34th running of the race and I’ve got to go fast because there will be a couple people I know there and because well, it’s The Lasse Viren and he would want me to go fast. So that’s why I’ve been digging through my closet to find those magic shoes that once led me to a PR on Mt. Wilson. Plus these shoes! They look really cool! (And they fit in my toeclips!) And looking cool is cool. And part of the fun. They’ve got tons of tread left on them compared to the 1000-mile-shoes and the traction really is noticeably impressive. They’ve got 418 miles on them. Don’t ask me how I know that. I’m going to test run them tomorrow. This could change everything. Did I mention they look cool?!

I can’t wait to go running! Something is happening to me. Something has really shifted. I can’t wait to go running. I can’t wait to go running…

Thursday, October 6, 2011

encounter with crazy bike freak in dark alley

Last night, in a dark alley in Old Town, I encountered a bike freak. I had just stepped out of one of our fine local business establishments (cough72North) and was approaching my bicycle, Mindful Mule, who was hitched to a post in the alley. This guy rolls up on a mountain bike all crazy-eyed and wild-haired just itching to let out his day’s story. “Are you a biker?” he asks. Before I can think to answer he quickly sizes me up: already double pegged pants, a bike lock now in my hand, standing next to a fairly trick jalopy of a bike. “Dude, you’re a biker! Man! we just came down off Brown Mountain and El Prieto! It was fucking insane up there today!” He stoked.

“Uh, yeah, seriously, must’ve been pretty wet and dark up there,” I stammered. It had been raining all day. A lot. “How was it?” He’d already told me it was insane but I didn’t know what else to say and/or if I should run away from this guy – or if he was insane – he was pretty lit up in a number of ways – albeit, par for the course in that alley.

“Dude, we were tearing it up, up there. It was epic slashing around those curves and crashing through the creek. I totally ate shit, man. My handlebars were like bent sideways, man. I couldn’t even get them back straightened out. These things are tight! It’s hard enough riding El Pri normally but I had to ride the whole thing with my handlebars sideways…” I guess his story did go on.

“Yeah, turning right the whole way down,” I added. Nobody ever gets my jokes.

“Dude, but this bike is super awesome, man,” he continued. “Feel how light it is!” He lifted the bike up to me. I had one hand holding up Mindful Mule who was getting a little skittish at the commotion and trying to roll away. I reached over and held his bike up with my one free hand. It was pretty light.

“That’s pretty light,” I said.

“It’s Specialized!” he beamed, reading the brand of the bike off the downtube.

At that point another guy on a bike, an old girls-bike cruiser, rolled by and they seemed to know each other (as everyone in that alley seems to know each other.)

I started clicking on my lights and sneaking away, but before I could, Crazy Bike Freak noticed my helmet dangling from my handlebars and reminded me, “Don’t forget to put on your helmet.”

“Thanks, man,” I was catching his lingo (or do I always talk like that?) “Always gotta wear it…” He sped off before I could get going. Destination unknown. I don’t think he was wearing a helmet.

Kind of a weird and wacky interaction but I think he was pretty genuinely stoked and glad to be able to share his experience with some fellow bicycle-soul. I know where he’s coming from. It’s like a total reentry effect when you come into town after being up on the mountain. You feel like a ghost without anywhere to set aground. In his case, he may have actually been a ghost.

I rode home and, maybe having absorbed some of his stoke, really, really enjoyed the cold, dry, night air.

gone greased lightning

“I see you’ve gone all Greased Lightning in the garage,” Hil said the other day, referring to “Humble Horse” being disassembled and up on blocks like some greaser’s hot rod back in the fifties and/or Grease, the musical/film.

I finally took the front suspension fork in for service. None of my magic spells and/or prayers seemed to be solving the problem. But how are you supposed to store a bike with no fork? It’s a rather awkward collection of parts and pieces. Most people probably just take the whole bike into the shop and let them deal with storage. I can’t imagine how they do it either, though. There must be heaps of bikes back there somewhere waiting to be reassembled.

So after last month’s stutter steps, I decided to take the fork in to the shop and let them send it to the factory (Rock Shox) for a full-on overhaul. I talked to a different employee this time. He said they might be able to fix it themselves for about half what the factory charges but would look into it and keep me posted.

The next day I got a call from him saying that they couldn’t fix it themselves and doubted the factory would even have the parts to fix it anymore. (Mind you, this fork is not that ancient. A little old, maybe, but 2004 was really not that long ago was it?) At that point they hadn’t yet been able to reach Rock Shox on the phone yet to find anything out so we decided to wait to see what they had to say.

That was a few days ago and I haven’t heard anything back yet so I’m hoping that they got in touch with Rock Shox and they sent it in for repair and it will come back in another week or two and everything will be fine. On the other hand, the forks could have fallen through the cracks and been forgotten about and buried under that heap of parts and bikes in the back room.

We shall see. I’m already going through all the possible scenarios in my head of what I could do if they don’t get fixed. They all seem rather unappealing and/or expensive. So for now I’m keeping my fingers crossed for proper factory service…

Meanwhile, “Humble Horse” waits patiently up on blocks in the garage (amongst its own familiar heap of junk).

Have faith, my friend – we will ride again! Just keep dreaming deep of the top of Brown Mountain…

where the moto ends and the mule begins

Hayes Alley

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

save some for the fish

Or at least for January. This is the first real day of rain this season. We’ve had a couple little raindrop events over the past month but nothing measurable. It started raining at about six this morning, I think. At noon we had 1.5 inches of rain, by 3pm we were at 2.5 inches (6cm)! And then, well, that was about it.

Now, this is a much higher figure/measurement than is being reported by the weather stations from various points around the area. They’re reporting mostly in the 1 to 2 inch range so far. I can’t explain the discrepancy. Do I live in some sort of hydrologic vortex? Perhaps – interestingly, the district of LA that’s just a few blocks away from me is called El Sereno. Which I’ve been led to believe means the dewy or foggy place in Spanish. And we do seem to get a lot of overnight-morning condensation/precipitation/dew relative to the surrounding area. I wonder how long it’s been called/considered El Sereno. Not the district so much (wiki says 1915 for that) but the land, the place.

One geographic explanation for this may be the presence of the “Monterey Hills” just to the west. (I don’t know what that entire hill-range is called, there’s a bunch of hills out there that seem like they’re probably all one related range. MH will do for now.) They’re not big, just like 400 feet above the surrounding area but maybe that’s just enough to bump those clouds up a little as they pass over causing them to cool and dump a little more of their rain-load than they would have otherwise, without the hills. It’s not much of a hypothesis to go on but I got nothing else.

So it’s looking like my predicted cold and snowy! winter right here in town might already being brewing. (Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that? I think it’s going to snow in LA this winter for the first time in a very long time. 1950’s?) I can’t wait to hear it, “Dude, it’s like totally snowing out there, man!” Of course, there’s nothing really unusual about getting this much rain. That’s just the way it rains here. A winter’s worth in several storms. And I can remember much bigger October rain events than this – 2004, anybody? But it sure feels like a lot since I was only expecting a few brief showers and we haven’t had any significant rainfall since (wow! just looked it up) the end of March, an entire equinox ago.

For the record, the average annual rainfall here in my backyard over the last seven years has been 69cm (27 inches). Median: (interestingly similar) 67cm. High: 144cm (04/05). Low 16cm (06/07). So, today we got about 9% of our annual average, 38% of low, 4% of high.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

over the sidewalk and through the arroyo and beyond

I’ve been doing a lot of running lately. Maybe because it’s fall and it’s a little cooler. Although, it was 90 over the weekend. Still, though, it’s cool around the edges. It doesn’t wake up to 90 and stay that way all day. Conversely, because it’s fall and still hot I think I’m trying to sneak in every last bit of summer heat that I can. I’ve found myself intentionally ignoring the cooler parts of the day and running right though the middle.

I was biking with a friend over the weekend. We were heading downstream on Arroyo Blvd which traces the eastern edge of the Arroyo proper but I still consider it a part of the Arroyo, you can still feel its presence strongly from the road. He asked me if I’d ever gone hiking in the arroyo (it sounded like he hadn’t). And, of course, I told him, yes, I go down there a lot, it’s really nice down there, totally worth checking it out. All true, except the hiking part, but I figure running, hiking, same-same.

But then I got to thinking, am I really that segmented in my life, in my contacts, friends, acquaintances, what have you, that someone I see regularly, a couple times a week, doesn’t know that I’m down in the arroyo, like, all-the-time… that it’s, like, one of the biggest parts of my life, that it’s a major source, home, power for my soul…? Maybe. Probably. I guess it just doesn’t come up in conversation for a couple reasons….

It’s hard to talk about running with people, especially non-runners. And it seems like almost everyone I know is a non-runner. Maybe they tend to see running as exercise, as working out, as hard work. I see it as moving, traveling through the arroyo, connecting with that lone stretch of natural earth. I can’t imagine life without running just like I can’t imagine life without coffee and margaritas (not together, although, hmm… a coffee margarita!)

And as far as the arroyo part is concerned, like I said, I’m always in the arroyo. Like, I mean, even when I’m drowning in a bar in Old Town, I’m conscious of the fact that the arroyo is sitting right there, waiting, longing even, for my return. When I’m running up the sidewalk I’m in the arroyo. I’m heading there, I’ll be there in 10 minutes, but I’m already there, I’m on the land, a side chute next to the arroyo, it’s just up this rise and down that gently sloping plain to its edge.

I guess it’s difficult to bridge that gap with blogging, too. I rarely tell anyone about my blog anymore because non-bloggers don’t seem to get it, either. So I only share the blog with other bloggers – they’re the only ones that understand how it works, that know it’s a place to connect. Here, on the blog, on my blog, I go on and on and on about whatever seems relevant to my concept of Mindful Mule – you know, that whole mantra of natural-bike-running-life or whatever. And I read plenty of blogs that aren’t remotely related to Mindful Mule but they have they’re place in my life, they make sense.

So if I can exist in the arroyo and on the sidewalk at the same time, maybe I can straddle other seemingly separate compartments in my life as well. I’m not going to start rattling off distances and split times and native flower bloom schedules and the newest XTR components news with the bagger at the checkout line or anything but I could probably push the outside of my envelope a little more into the main flow of things. Then, at least, I’ll get fewer perplexing questions like, Have you ever been down in the arroyo?

currently reading

The Unknown Tour de France: the many faces of the world’s biggest bicycle race.
by Les Woodland, 2000


Peloton Magazine, issue #6, 2011 (Move Press: South Pasadena, CA!)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

illegal parking?

Is it illegal to lock to a parking meter? For some reason I think it is but really seems quite logical to me and so I just might start it up.
"Mindful Mule", Fair Oaks Ave, Castle Green in background, Pasadena, Not TX.

start of the brunch ride

"Totally 80's", Lucky Baldwin's, Mercantile Place, Pasadena, CA

friendliest maragrita in town

Amigo's Restaurant, Pasadena, CA

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

rainbow tree

Christiansen Alley, Pasadena, CA.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

currently reading

Bikemonkey Magazine, Issue #13, 2011.

West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief
by Steven Kotler, 2006.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Humble Horse’s Dreaded Stable Stay Temporarily Averted

The mountain bike, goes by the name Humble Horse these days, has had some minor issues with the front suspension fork recently. It slowly loses air pressure. It’s not that big a deal so I’ve been reluctant to take it in to the shop – don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. I’ve been able to ride it still and the suspension still works but on the last ride it felt a little weird. And once your brain starts thinking something is weird there’s no stopping thinking about it and you’re just sure there’s a major problem that needs to be addressed even if when you get back from a mountain ride there’s still about 80% pressure in the shock.

My favorite bike shop in town is called Open Road. I like it because it’s a total disaster of a shop. Dan the Man and I call it Tornado Bike Shop because it always (for several years) looks like a tornado has just whipped through there and rearranged everything onto the floor in random groupings. That’s part of its allure, though – you feel like you’re in some bike nut’s garage – which you basically are. Steve, the owner, is pure bike nut in the best possible way. Once you get used to having your worldview shaken each time you enter his shop, and once you start to like it, even, you’ll be hooked, like me. It’s a one man, one store show. So I like to go there to shop super local.

That being said, I really hate going to bike shops to do anything but snoop around. I’ve only ever taken two bikes in for repairs in tens of thousands of miles. I like to tinker and adjust and fix things myself. But suspension I have no idea where to begin. I used to think that about adjusting the shifting, too, but now I’m pretty good at that so maybe there’s hope in the future for doing my own suspension work but for now my hand is forced.

So I went to Steve’s Tornado Shop. Within about 10 seconds he’d assessed my bicycle and my needs and told me he couldn’t help me and where I should go. Not where I could go! Not like, you can go to hell! But another local shop that he believed had the right tools for the job. He seems more geared up toward the world of road bikes. And that’s great and fine and I really knew that before I even went in but still wanted to give him first dibs. Anyway, a fine, sharp, trustworthy man and that’s why I go there and that why I like him.

I didn’t take his suggestion of the other shop but rode to one that’s more convenient to my regular haunts. The kid (25?) in there said they don’t work on shocks there anymore because they’re incapable – actually he left that last part out. They send the whole dang fork into RockShox (or wherever your fork was made) and they fix it there and send it back. That seems pretty lame. And it’s like $100 minimum and could be $200 depending. To this shop kids credit, he seemed to get my reluctance to not disassemble my mountain bike! and send it across the country (the globe?). Just as I was spinning my bike around to head out of the shop and pursue other options he stopped me and said he had an idea that might work – a quick fix. Now that’s the kind of kid I like! He grabbed a tool off the rack that looked like a little screwdriver – it was a valve-adjusting tool. I told him which valve was losing air and he spun it around a couple times and that was it. He said sometimes they just wriggle lose. Maybe that would help. Like I said though, it was a slow leak to begin with so I’m still not sure if that worked but it did convince my brain of success. It immediately felt and looked! better! I know, it’s impossible, but that’s brains for ya.

So, in the meantime, while we wait to find out if this simple, quick fix worked or not (and why wouldn’t he just have done that first, because I was just about to do the send it out thing) I’ve got another little piece of tweaker news about Humble Horse:

Something on the bike’s front end has been creaking for the duration of our time together – 4 years? Maybe 3? I’d pretty well narrowed it down to either the suspension fork or the stem. The stem has this fancy looking carbon window along either side. With all the talk of carbon fracturing and causing accidents it’s been a little unnerving to ride this stem around. But it does look really cool so I keep riding it. On the way home from the second bike shop today I was looking at the stem and the handlebars and thinking that maybe they’re a little too high. (I haven’t mentioned it here yet but I’ve pretty much lowered every single one of my bikes’ handlebars over the last few weeks. It’s part of my strict allegiance to the tenets of constant change.) So I flipped the stem over, upside down if you will, so that its angle was flat rather that skyward, lowering the bar an inch or so.

Besides making the bike look super hot and racy, it also gave me the opportunity to look inside the stem and investigate that creak. Why I’ve never done this I have no idea. That fancy little carbon fiber window doesn’t even go through to the inside of the stem. Its aluminum structure is uninterrupted along the inside of the tube. Okay, fine. Great. But also, printed inside the tube is the number 26.0. It’s a fucking road stem! MTB bars are 25.4 so the stem is too big for the bars and it’s been creaking all this time because it doesn’t quite fit right. Probably – still no test runs or anything but we’ll see soon enough. So, I happen to have had a little scrap of copper sheeting lying around for the past, oh I don’t know, 25 years! I think it’s left over from some grease monkey project I had going with some friend’s car back in high school. I cut out a stem-wide section of copper sheeting and installed in between the stem and the bar as a shim and hopefully that will solve another one of this bike’s longstanding dilemmas. There’s also a window on the front piece of this stem with no carbon, just an open hole so you can now see through to the copper, I think it looks pretty rad that way and will be a nice reminder of this project.

I’m not sure of the longevity of any of these fixes but at least Humble Horse didn’t yet have to spend the night away in anyone else’s stables.

a setback for the barefoot running movement

On the way home from a run through the arroyo the other day my left shoe was tap tap tapping along with each stride. This is a pretty common occurrence as little sticks and rocks and such often get wedged in between the lugs of the sole. (I wonder, do souls have lugs?) I didn’t feel like pulling out the offending stowaway so I just continued home. It wasn’t until the next day that I examined the sole of my shoe before a run to pick out any debris. (I actually had a great collection of these sticks and rocks and seeds that I’d brought home in my shoes until Hil finally made me throw them out. Now they’re part of the garden.) And right in the middle of the heel there was a stick wedged in. Not wedged so much as speared. Not even between the lugs but just right through the flat part of the sole. My fingers and hands happen to be pretty adept at holding on tight and tool-lessly turning, pulling, or otherwise wrangling tidbits away from their captors. If you ever can’t get a knot untied, come to me. But I couldn’t for the life of me move this stuck stick even a bit. I had to resort to pliers to get this spike out of my shoe – this one-inch wooden spike. Do you know what that would feel like going into your bare heel?!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I end up locking my bike to trees a lot. With the cable lock. U-lock won’t fit around most trees. Except those tiny little babies that get slammed into the sidewalk and neglected all to frequently and I’m usually worried about locking to them because I don’t want anyone to cut them down to get at my bike.

To lock your bike to a tree there’s really no other option but to become a treehugger. Partly because you’ve got to hold both ends of the lock and wrap your arms around the tree to connect them but also because you end up being pretty thankful that at least there’s enough trees around to lock a bike to even if there ain’t enough bike racks. So you like the tree for being there. And you like the tree for shading your bike. Bikes are tough, no doubt, but still no reason to leave it out in the sun baking the seat and cooking the odometer battery. You walk away from the treehugging exchange feeling better somehow – knowing that a tree is watching over your steed – and it’s always nice to get a hug – it makes you feel good – even if it’s from a tree – especially if it’s from a tree!

(Of note on the protecting the odometer battery: I’ve got a little reflective Velcro ankle strap that I never bother to wear anymore but I’ve still got it fastened to my bike (Le Mule) right up on the stem. I figure it occasionally still performs its duty there of flashing some light in some unsuspecting motorists eye. But on a hot sunny day when I’m parking the bike without the benefit of a huggable tree I just push that little anklet right up the stem and over the odometer to provide a little quick easy shade and hopefully prolong it’s life expectancy.)

Somewhere in my head I have the crazy idea that locking to a tree is illegal. And parking meters, too. I don’t know where I got this or if it’s true – it probably depends on the city but I tend to avoid the parking meters anyway because they’re generally not great to lock to unless you’ve got a really narrow u-lock that can’t lift over the meter indicator dome pay point thingy.

But I lock to trees. Arrest me if you must. I’m a treehugger. And I like it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

platform pedals

For about 25 years, since I first tried them, I’ve been pretty much addicted to toe clip pedals. Or clipless, whatever, as long as my foot is secured on there in some way I’m fine. Even Jill’s success in the endurance biking world with platform pedals hasn’t tempted me to try them. Now, however, I’m finally starting to crack. I’m thinking of going with platform pedals on Mindful Mule. In fact, they’re already on there right now. Just went on last night for the first time ever. I borrowed an old semi-broken pair that came off of Hil’s bike a few months ago. The reason I’m experimenting now is that I’ve got all these old running shoes that don’t really fit into the toe clips. And I figure I might as well wear those old running shoes around town even if they’re too dead to run in anymore – a retirement of sorts. I could even wear my hiking boots with platform pedals.

My first impression of the pedals last night was that they’re very light. Second impression was that I felt sort of like I was missing something when I rode away, like I was a little naked. Third, it felt less serious, more toy-ish – I felt more out of place riding in the street – why on earth would toe clips make me feel so secure and comfortable as if I was wearing a seatbelt or helmet or something? Fourth, when you come to a stop you can’t backpedal your pedal into place higher up on the crank arc. Fifth, strangely, I was less comfortable in track stand mode. Much of this will adjust with time, I presume.

I wouldn’t bother to change my pedals if it weren’t for the extra shoes thing but at the same time I don’t really think that toe clips or clipless pedals really make that much of a difference. Rivendell has a good article about this. I tend to like their thinking. Sometimes they take things a little too far but at least they’re worth the stance of devil’s advocate.

I’m tempted to get a good pair of platform pedals, big and wide and flat, but it’s probably too early in the experiment for that. I like the look of the Azonic Fusion and the Crank Brothers 5050.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

mules and men and mountains

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dark Brown

I was riding around in town this evening on Mindful Mule just after sunset/happy hour when I noticed the pink light from the sun still setting up on Brown Mountain. It looked incredible and I had no place else to be so I thought I’d head in that direction and see if maybe I could at least get a better view of the alpenglow or maybe even make the trailhead or up a ridge or two. I made it to the trailhead just before eight. It was getting dark but I didn’t have my lights turned on yet. There was a group of riders just coming off the trail and a few others trickling down a little further in. I rode up just a couple miles to a really nice “inspiration point” type spot overlooking the lights of LA. It was really pretty awesome. I don’t know what my problem is that I’ve never done that before. I should be up there at night, or at least dusk all the time. It was like 95 degrees today but at that hour after the sun had gone down it was quite nice riding. The way back down was a little trickier. I turned on my light for some of the rougher sections of the trail but kept it off for most of the descent to more fully experience the night. When I’m out on the trail during the day the snakes usually turn into sticks but tonight a stick turned into a snake – a good size friendly rattlesnake. A little later down the trail I also, weirdly, came across a large frog – um, okay – it’s different up there at night. It’s cool. I’m thinking there will have to be a full moon ride sometime soon. But who would go with me? On the way back into town I really wanted to share this experience with someone so I cruised around looking for people but realized Mindful Mule was just chasing the shadow of his long-lost brother.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

thou shalt not steal bicycles

My friend’s bike was stolen recently. Stolen! The bastard(s)! It was a cool bike – a fixie. It was parked and locked right outside of our local pub in the middle of a weekend day. So what if it was a cheap little lock. I can’t understand stealing someone’s bike. It’s the worst.

So now I’m feeling less ridiculous about using two locks lately. I mostly use two locks so that the bike is a little more stable at it’s rack. It makes it easy to lock both wheels and the frame. And it keeps the front wheel nice and straight so the bike looks sharp, not like it’s dangling and about to tip over.

I don’t think stolen bikes are recovered very often but maybe I should record my bikes’ serial numbers for the first time now, just for good luck. It seems like a bit of a pain, though. The numbers are mostly covered in greasy road grime so I’ll first have to clean them off. And then either get down underneath them somehow or turn them upside down. And then save the info somewhere. And then remember where I saved it. And then if something happens, have to deal with the cops that are like, ha ha, okay, sure, we’ll keep our eyes out for your bike, kid, ha ha.

How ‘bout if you just don’t steal my bike, okay?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Gaviota (or) The Seagull

Gaviota Beach is just outside of Santa Barbara. There’s a big train trestle there that at first seems a little strange to camp under but quickly grows on you as a nearly quaint historic feature of the landscape. The campground is pretty tight and parking lot-ish but serves well enough once you realize that you’re going to be out in the hills or the water or along the coastal road for much of the time or it will be dark and you’ll just be cooking s’mores and drinking red wine, eyes all skyward with the stars and the full moon rising.

Two quiet roads: one along the coast, one an inland valley leading to a trail that takes you up to some cool sandstone cave overlooks. Very nice routes but short. We ended up camped right next to another running couple which was kind of fun. They seemed pretty serious. One commented that she’d hoped she’d find more miles there. I thought there would be more trails, too. Good for a few miles though. We ran into each other a lot.

Gaviota means seagull en espanol.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

of mules and men

Continuing along, again and again, the same dusty route through the Arroyo, the distances and exact details varying only somewhat, sometimes only to the top of the rise, sometimes through to the mountains. Each pathway has its rut, its groove, its channel, invisible to the eye but there in the geography of place and mind, slowly, steadily etched in from the experience of repetition, each foot placement still existing. The body remembers the route, digs in, knows how to solve the step patterns through the rocky places, where to coast and where to charge, how to turn off the mind, get through fatigue and dehydration, how to keep going, to work. It could keep going, could go double but for a deal made, a distance, a turn-around. After the turn it’s all reeled back, slowly, calculated, until home is sensed, it’s right up ahead, nothing left to save, legs unchecked, speed carries us home, back home to rest, to be done. But still a glint for the soul.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

currently reading

Islands in the Stream
by Ernest Hemingway, 1970

998 mile shoes

I’m just about there, to a thousand miles. Seems like the last hundred took a while. These have been very good shoes for me for thirteen months. I may just keep running in them for some time now. I’m still considering removing that plastic plate from under the arch. Not sure what that will do or if I can even remove it cleanly but seems like an interesting project/experiment and since the shoes are quite used by now I don’t feel so bad about destroying them. Except maybe for sentimental value which will probably wear off quickly and/or by the next time I take a pair of shoes to a thousand.

What have these shoes helped me to understand?

In the words of Fox Mulder, “Trust no one.” Especially anyone from the shoe industry when it comes to recommendations about how frequently to replace your running shoes. For a long time the general rule of thumb has been in the 300 to 500 mile range. But that’s really not as much as it sounds. 300 is like nothing. At that distance they’ll still have that new shoe smell unless you’ve been running through bogs or something.

You can’t trust the shoe to tell you how to run. You’ve got to run with right form and force those shoes to come along for the ride.

It’s totally okay to run through streams in your running shoes. They will dry and quick. You won’t ruin your shoes. And on hot days it’s actually quite refreshing.

Trust yourself (because you’re not no one). This is a tough one. Which part is the self and which part is the brainwash. But if your shoes are taking you places and you’re feeling generally good and you don’t quite yet have holes burned through the soles then you’re probably fine.

If Adidas used the same yellow sole material on the inside of the sole that they have on the outside these shoes would easily go 2000. The inside black and white section wore down much quicker. Maybe that’s a higher wear area but I’ve the impression that that was a softer material too – maybe for better “feel.”

It’s okay to run in regular/real running shoes even though there’s a big push right now toward barefoot-style shoes.

Running is a great way to experience the Arroyo.

I pay too close attention to the numbers.

I’m a runner, again, still…

Saturday, July 30, 2011

currently reading

It’s All About the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels
by Robert Penn, 2010

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

what next?

Another Le Tour de France has come and gone and it was great. I definitely OT’d (over Toured). By the end I was so stoked and exhausted at the same time I didn’t know what was up – total glue stick. I’m catching up on my sleep after three weeks of early mornings getting up to watch the live coverage.

Sunday afternoon I was sitting at the pub with the crew from our newly formed “Brunch Ride” and one of them asked, “what next?” He was asking about where we should ride next weekend but I took it as something deeper. That moment felt like a transition zone of sorts.

After our morning ride and brunch we’d dropped by the Angeles Crest 100 finish. We saw some of the runners finishing they’re trek through the mountains from Wrightwood. It was sort of a strange scene. Very calm and subdued and just a few dozen people hanging around. Even the clapping for the finishers was lackluster. I appreciate the efforts those runners had put in, not just during that race but everything leading up to it, too – all the years. But I have to say it did have a little bit of a depressing feel.

One of the local runners had finished about 6 hours earlier, before we got there. I assume he’d crashed out on the lawn in the park there to catch some fast rest. Maybe he had just woken up, I don’t know but I found it a little strange that he was still there. He lives just a few miles away and if it were me I think I’d want to go home to start the recovery. I understand the desire to commune with your fellow freaks but it just sort of stood out from my perspective as a little off because there really wasn’t much community there to connect with.

Maybe this had something to do with their new finish location in Loma Alta Park instead of down in the Arroyo. It felt very much removed from the mountains. The last mile or so of the race was on the road/sidewalk and it just looked crushing for the runners.

The next day I woke up with no idea what to do. No tour to watch. Should I run, should I ride, should I do both, should I rest, should I just go to the grocery store? Finally, after much confusion, I figured a restful ride around before getting to the store seemed appropriate.

So I got on the Mule and rode by the Rose Bowl and then up into La Canada and by then I was feeling pretty well warmed up and in the groove and started thinking about the section of the ride that we’d bypassed on the Brunch Ride the day before. Angeles Crest Highway was calling me. So I started up that mountain highway. I knew I wouldn’t get far as I was on my heaviest bike with no food and it was something like 87 degrees. I got about halfway to Mount Wilson and struggled to make the right decision to turn around, but did make the right decision to turn around and finish up the four-hour grocery ride.

That road is in perfect condition right now. It’s been closed for about a year or two because of fire and landslides but they’ve just got it all rebuilt and it’s like perfect black with bright white sidelines. A mountain dream road. Not to mention the mountains themselves. Really beautiful up there. Can’t wait to go back up prepared to go further.

So I guess that’s one thing that’s next. But really I’m wondering like when does this stop, where is the end game, what am I (and so many others) shooting for. I’m sort of on the verge, nibbling on this running and riding thing and I’ve felt for a long time that I was on the sane/balanced side of it. So I could continue along like this and that would be fine or I could slow down or I could speed up.

I think I’d like to go see what’s around that next bend, the next plateau. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe because the foundation has been built and I probably can.

But then I come across a quote in my running calendar that says, “Do not believe that it is very much of an advance to do the unnecessary three times as fast,” Peter Drucker. How that ended up as a motivational quote in a running calendar I’ll never know but I do think there’s a very important point/lesson there. And maybe it points to balance – “clean balance” could be a good mantra. You can run a million miles and where will it get you? You’ll have run a long way. And that’s great but don’t try to make it more than it is. If that’s your thing, great. Try not to let it take over your life, though. Because it’s also okay if you don’t run/ride a million miles. And anyway the important thing isn’t the miles but the experience. The “mountains and rivers without end…”

So… what next?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

where the streets are paved with leather

One of the items I see abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded out on the roads are those leather and canvas work gloves. Over the course of the last several years I must have seen hundreds of pairs. They generally look to be in pretty good condition, too. These gloves are pretty cheap to buy. Probably between $1 and $5 depending on the store and or sale that is going on. They’re good gloves. I’ve got a pair myself. I’ve had mine for probably three or four years and I’ve actually put them to some pretty good use.

It’s amazing that they’re so cheap given their durability and the seeming intricacy of their stitching. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t be able to sew together a pair in an entire day’s work. It makes me wonder if there is some sort of government subsidy program for work gloves. That would make a lot of sense to me, although I really doubt it’s the case. At any rate, even though they’re cheap, I’m surprised that people let them fly out of the back of their trucks so frequently – I suppose that’s what often happens. It must be a hassle to have to replace them all the time.

They do, however, make the streets nice and soft for running on. There’s a huge difference in cushioning when your feet land on a glove versus pavement. It’s really quite nice. So if we could just bump up those subsidies a little higher and let the gloves fall where they may (is that a phrase, no, I guess it’s more like “where the gloves come off” or something) then we could all run in the streets barefoot and never have to experience a hard landing or sharp piece of glass. Plus if you ever needed a pair of work gloves you could easily find them right there in the street, use them, then return them when you’re done. A fine system, I think.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I t’ought I taw a platyputh

I’m used to seeing snakes out on the trails. They almost always turn into sticks by the time I get up to them. But today I saw a platypus! And I was like OMFG, a platypus! I’ve never seen one of those down here in the arroyo before. Don’t they live like up in Alaska or something or like in a swamp or where do they live? It tried to be hiding behind a bush but oh no I saw you there. By the time I’d reached its location it had stealthily shape-shifted into a big stick with a flat end but I was wise to its shenanigans. This is what happens to your brain when you’ve been running to many miles down in the arroyo. You’ve pretty much memorized every single turn and bush and rock until you start creating new realities.

Monday, July 11, 2011

maiden voyage, NB 759

After much deliberation, I finally picked up a new pair of running shoes. Still planning to take the old ones to 1000 or more but thought it best to get started on breaking in a new pair for the future. Not that running shoes really need much or any break-in – they don’t. I guess it’s more the foot that needs to adapt to the form of the new shoe.

I’ve been looking at shoes online for a while. Mostly at Zombie Runner. But you can only learn so much about looking at shoes on a computer screen. Even though I’ve had a lot of luck in the past when buying online there is something just a lot more real about going to the store and getting those shoes in your hands. Well, on your feet, but hands seem to be important, too.

Plus, I figure why not check in with the local running community of customers and employees at Run With Us on Lake. Support local business.

I’m also trying to support my local countrymen by buying shoes (and other stuff) made here in the USA. This seems like a good thing. I hope it doesn’t sound odd to you. Sometimes I feel like a little more national pride could be a good thing for us, Americans.

So the choice was New Balance, 759 road shoe. Many of my miles are on dirt these days but I don’t find it helpful to have trail shoes – road shoes seem simpler. Less is more, to a point. Of course, there are sometimes advantages to trail shoes, but mostly in more steep trail like conditions compared to the flat arroyo that I frequent. And, yes, some road shoes can be over built, too. Many probably are. These, seem pretty mild, though. Hoping so, anyway.

Amazingly, I found these on the clearance table even though they’re the current model and just what I was looking for anyway and exactly my size. I took this as a sign from god to get them on my feet right away.

I took them out for their first run this morning. Just an easy road hills run with Hil. They felt good. I’ll have to be careful to maintain my foot form in these for a while though because they’re more forgiving than my current/old shoes. So I could fall into bad habits again. I think this is why so many runners have foot and leg injuries. The new squishy shoes allow them to run incorrectly for long periods of time without the runner noticing. Then after putting a few hundred miles on the shoes they get a little stiffer and less spongy and the foot starts to absorb the road/surface energy more intensely through improper form, foot fall.

Good luck, shoes. Long may you run…

Saturday, July 9, 2011

quiet arroyo repetition (and) how blogging motivates

I went out for an arroyo run on Friday evening. It was cooling down from about an 85 degree day. It dropped down to about 75 by the end of the run. Still pretty warm but felt nice in the shady sections. I hadn’t been out there in the evening for a while. The arroyo smells different in the evening after a hot day. More pungent after a days worth of algae? growth – whatever that slimy green stuff in the still water is. But it was nice. Very few people out. Everyone was already at happy hour I guess. Very quiet.

The run itself was a bit of a slog though. I felt pretty wrecked afterward. Every joint in my body ached. I’m not sure why that would be, except that it was the end of a hot week and the end of a hot day and I’m just coming of a quick recovery period so I hadn’t gone on a long run in two weeks.

When I woke up this morning I was just planning to take it easy, maybe do an easy three. But I got a little motivation from Catra (thank you, maybe Mt.D in 2012) so I thought I’d do an arroyo repeat.

I felt a lot better running this morning. A lot of other runners out to share the experience with. All my aches had worked themselves out overnight. And I ended up running about 10 minutes faster than the night before. About three hours of total running for 20 miles in 17hours. This is the kind of repetition that I believe to be quite good for endurance. Not a bad happy hour after all.

Friday, July 8, 2011

twice a year helmet adjustment

It’s amazing that it takes me this long into the year to finally abandon my wool cap from the regular reserve gear on the bike. It’s been off the bike for only a few weeks now. In my defense, sometimes, even when it’s 90 degrees in the day, it gets a little chilly at night and it’s nice, if unnecessary, to have a little coziness.

But in order to wear the cozy cap you’ve got to adjust the helmet to a slightly larger size. Last night I was bombing down the hill late in the evening wearing a t-shirt and shorts and sandals: therefore it is summer. My helmet was lifting off with the wind of the descent so I stopped to tighten up the headband at the next stoplight. Underway again, it felt good to have a well-fitted helmet.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

currently reading

Norman Clyde: Legendary Mountaineer of California’s Sierra Nevada
by Robert C. Pavlik, 2008

Pathway in the Sky: The Story of the John Muir Trail
by Hal Roth, 1965

Saturday, July 2, 2011

No Sleep ‘til Paris

It’s 5am. Do you know where the Yellow Jersey is?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

shoe life 900 [message snippet]

My running shoes are still "only" at 900 miles. They're starting to show some wear on the sole. More wear than my shoes usually have when I retire them. In the past my shoes have tended to look almost brand new when they get retired - even after 600 miles, my standard retirement age. I'm wearing a pair right now that has 600 miles on them. They look great. They even smell great! So now I'm thinking should I ransack my closet and bring those shoes out of retirement? Put another 400 miles on all my old runners. Why don't I just buy a new pair of shoes? Am I a cheap bastard? Or do I just not want to buy another god damn product from over seas. New Balance has several models that are made here in the USofA. But I don't want to buy those either – yet. Not when I potentially have a few thousand useful miles left just sitting around in my closet. How do you decide when the time is right to retire your shoes?


I'm more concerned with long distance transportation of those shoes (eco impact) then who makes them. It seems like with something as basic to our lives as shoes, though, that every region should be making their own and supporting local economies. Although, I do like your idea of fair trade shoes. I'm still planning to get to 1000 on the current shoes. Then I'm going to do some shoe-surgery and get them ready for the next 1000. I'm going to take off that plastic plate on the arch of the sole and see what happens. I think that thing is just getting in the way. Hope we can run together soon.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The French Are Coming!

Well, yes, there’s Le Tour de France that starts this weekend(!), but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’ve stopped for two cyclists with flat tires in the last two weeks. Both of them have been walking their bikes along the side of the road – presumably intending to walk all the way home, which is to say, wherever they’re staying. Amazingly, both of these cyclists were French! I mean, what are the odds of that? And they both had nearly brand new bikes. Maybe I’ve got the wrong idea about the French because of Le Tour, I mean it can’t be that everyone over there is a bike nut, but still I was a little surprised by either their inability or their lack of appropriate tools to fix their flats. They both tried to help as I helped them but… well, sometimes two’s a crowd.

On a more personal and/or psychological and/or spiritual note, I have to say that both times I was rather reluctant to stop and help. Does that make me a bad person? Today I was like, oh god, another flat tire walker! And I rode by, but then I realized that was a dick move so I returned. I guess I figure that if you’re already walking your bike then you’ve made the decision that it’s probably just easier to walk it home because you’re close and don’t want to deal with the side of the road, would just rather fix it at home with a beer within reach.

Funny thing though, I was just before I saw this cyclist thinking about the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and how a certain one of my friends could probably benefit from reading it. In the book, Siddhartha learns that he can sit, he can fast, and he can wait.

As I was passing this flat-tired-cyclist I was like man it’s hot and I’m hungry and I’m tired from all that work. But then I was like OK, I can wait, I can fast. It can wait. The universe will not be thrown off kilter. No place else to be. So I turned around and we patched the tube. Hopefully that patch holds forever.

So I think I passed the test today and that other day with that other Frenchy. I didn’t get an A today, though. Or that other day for that matter. I think to get an A you’ve got to lose the reluctance and you’ve got to stop on the first pass. I’ll give myself a C. C+, okay.

Now my hands smell like vulcanizing fluid and/or inner tube rubber. That stuff is hard to wash off.

Ceci n’est pas une pneumatique plat…

Vive le France!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

currently reading

Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide
by Jill Homer, 2011

On-hours on Brown Mountain (post 499)

So I rode up to the trailhead on Saturday morning and as expected there were a lot of people up there on the mountain. The parking lot was over flowing down the street. But no worries for me, I just locked up to a telephone pole guy wire and went for a run up El Prieto – the nice shaded singletrack trail in the area.

I may not have the technical riding skills to do that trail justice on a bike (I had to hike-a-bike too much a couple weeks ago) but it’s sweet for running. And when you’re on foot you’ve got right of way over all the mtn bikers coming down the trail so the crowds don’t matter. Although, I try to be friendly and let them keep their momentum when the circumstances work out for it or if they look friendly or make an effort to recognize that I’m there. Sometimes, though, when they don’t seem to understand the rights-of-way up there I get right in their way and make sure they understand them. Because I’m a mtn biker too and I want to make sure that they don’t fuck up our trail use privileges.

I’m not such a fan of having El Prieto open for bikes, actually. It’s a very narrow trail. And more significantly it’s sort of a delicate area and some of the mtn bikers thrash it up. Others are considerate of the trail and its users though so it’s kind of a tough call.

It was a great run. I’m really getting used to the whole splash through the little creeks thing. It took me a long time to finally get this but it really is so much better to just run on through rather than prancing and balancing around on rocks and logs and then falling in anyway. And on this trail at this time of year the water is very low (mostly ankle deep) so often times your footfall splashes the water to the side just long enough so that you don’t even get wet.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

light smog

For the first time in a while I’ve been noticing the smog. It’s only mildly annoying at this point. Generally, for such a big urban area with a history of smog problems, the smog here is not bad. It used to be terrible back when I was a kid and through a lot of work we cleaned it up pretty nicely. But there’s still smog of course. Maybe it’s something I just need to re-acclimate to at the beginning of every summer. Or maybe it’s getting worse again.

The title of this post works out to be a double entendre. I think the type of smog I’m experiencing right now is photochemical smog created by the interaction between certain air pollutants and sunlight. And with these longer days around the solstice I guess we’re getting more smog producing hours. Something like that, or not.

I should probably move to someplace nice and clean and lovely. But, Brown Mountain! Oh yeah, and Lineage Dance!