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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