May 11, 2016

Just be.

In keeping with the "mini-post" theme, I'm blogging now about periods of time as opposed to distinct rides or events.  I'll have to see how long it lasts - my mood sometimes dictates this sort of thing, and lately the blank page has been a bit of a stumbling block.  It's not apathy, necessarily... maybe just a sense of reservation taking over the state where previously I've found myself needing pages and pages of brainspace to dump off load after load of mental baggage.  Lately, I find I'm more at-peace with myself, perhaps a bit more matter-of-fact when it comes to chronicling moments and, overall, less evocative.  Like the passing seasons, 'haps this is simply the phase of life upon which I'm standing.  It takes LESS retrospective thought to bolster these entries - which is not to suggest these emotions have become absent; no, more to suggest they are playing out in real time instead of on film.  During these rides of late I've noticed the camera doesn't come out as often, nor does the earbud.  Instead, I'm fully engaged in the activities themselves - and not AS many of them are running on replay in the days and weeks afterwards.  This shift, specifically, might help explain the absence of lengthy posts, certainly.  The lack of posts altogether has more to do with not having much to report since last August's 200k ride with Gary and Josh.  

Had it really been EIGHT months?  I had to count twice, but, yes.  From August 24th, 2015 until April 30th, 2016.  Yeah, that's eight months, alright.  Geeeez.  I'm certainly not proud of it - but, it's not the end of the world either... now that I've come to my senses, that is.  The path I'd been on until recently involved a long string of excuse manufacturing and external stress which not only knocked me off the R-12 routine, it nearly nixed my riding altogether.  I won't dive too deeply into numbers, but, I really fell off the wagon.  Commutes, rides around the block... hell, my total mileage from September to NOW?  I've had higher MONTHLY mileage numbers.  We all have our dips, I suppose - not quite ready to call it part of a larger mid-life "crisis", but, my falling off the wagon had a strong tinge of "I don't care what the consequences are", the same sort of vibe mid-40's American males experience when arriving home with the trite new motorcycles and/or sports cars.  

Now that I'm back with a 100k and a 200k for April bagged and tagged I'm beginning to feel a LOT more confident.  I've already developed a completely new ANTI-excuse whiteboard, with a full schedule of 100km and 200km goal checkboxes written out for the next year, amid other milestones for body weight, overall fitness & diet, and some trail-running goals thrown in for balance.  

Yeah - trail running.  After watching a very compelling documentary on The Barkley Marathons, I'm re-stoking the flames of personal goal-setting again for cycling AND foot activity.  We can't have all of our eggs in one basket, can we?  Do I have personal aspirations toward Barkley?  Ummmm, no.  Nothing realistic, anyhow - I'm not that kind of athlete.  


Tendering carefully here... this is YET ANOTHER unfolding chapter that closely resembles those of pages past, so I really do not want to commit to anything here.  I'm making a concerted effort to avoid loading myself up with artificial stress and negative motivations.  I'm keeping my cards much closer to the vest this round.  If I happen to actually train, achieve level, sign up, SHOW UP, and FINISH, then you'll likely read about or see pictures of it here.  No sense getting all RAH-RAH right now... not where, yeah ... "I'm back", but still don't have 1,000 miles logged for the year yet.  DREAMING big... but remaining realistic, focused, and sensible.  If nothing else - especially when compared to title cycling events like RAAM or RAW, hell... at least Barkley and ultra-running events of similar distance are CHEAP affairs.  I mean... who, on budget, can complain about that?  Even if I went NUTS and bought the running shoe equivalent of a Titanium Di2-equipped fully-custom and made-on-measure randonneuring bicycle, I'd only be out three hundred bucks.  That's still $300 for a pair of shoes but, by comparison?  There is a lot to like about trail running.    ... but, don't tell my KNEES that.  Yes, I'm being careful.  Always.  Cycling, running... hell, fishing... it's important for newbies not to bite off more than they can chew.  Duly noted.  

Methinks I should search the web and see if there's a RUSA-equivalent for long distance running.  That could be ... interesting.  100km on FOOT?  Shut your mouth.  I'm down.

(subsequently, the 'dude discovers a brave new world where "50km" is the benchmark, and 16-week training plans exist, along with advice for newbies articles and such... hehehehe)

But not this year, certainly.  Not at this weight, and not in these shoes.  

Where was I?  Oh, yeah... bicycling.  

What SHOULD have been a 200k on a weekday a couple weeks ago turned into a bike trail meander and exploration day, instead.  Mentally, I apparently wasn't QUITE ready to be "back" yet.  Instead, I explored as much of the newly-expanded sections of the Indian Creek, Mill Creek, Blue River, Tomahawk, and Trolley Trail that I could string together, culminating in about 100km of traffic-free enjoyment and nature.  It wasn't a terribly warm day, and being a weekday, I had the place to myself, largely.  Here, near Blue River Road and ... somewhere... is a curious-looking "Swope Park era?" building... lake drain... heck, I don't know WHAT this thing is, or what it's for.  Neat. 
Rail trestle above and trail shelter below, and a LOT of very high water and flash flooding evidence from rains the previous week, here's a peek at a newly-paved (boo) section of the Blue River streamway in KCMO.  Only a couple miles farther, the trail drops back into screened limestone and gravel as they have yet to figure out how to keep pavement in place across a high-volume runoff channel.  For now, the aggregate surface is far easier and cheaper to maintain under such conditions.  Sadly, it was still far too muddy to attempt the Blue River singletrack - remember:  leave no trace.  
Smoothed by constant water flow, here's a small section of falls and riffles on Indian Creek, a bit downstream from Watt's Mill.  There are amazing outcroppings and steep dropoffs scarred by ages of fast, powerful flash flooding - something to which anyone living in the area of 103rd and Wornall will attest.

The token road-in-background selfie from Metcalf Road (old US 69 highway) near Aubry, KS.  It'd been so long since I'd taken a photo from the saddle, I'd practically forgotten how to frame these.  The clouds have long drifted east, and the rain with them - now, it's just doin' time with the requisite Kansas headwinds... which, this day, I got to enjoy in both directions.  Earning my first 200+km ride in eight months wasn't to be a cake walk.

Big, tall tree - Aubry, KS.

Sunset along the Kansas/Missouri border, with 20 miles to ride and a growing smile knowing that some terrific night-time miles and the challenge of the finishing hills lay ahead.  

Getting back into things wasn't to be easy.  Over the time off, I'd developed (again) several poor habits which tossed some unwanted body weight in my way (again).  Typical.  Working on that, but, for a while now my plans for faster 200ks are on-hold.  I'm okay with being a survivor for at least the first couple of these on the trip back to form -- BUT, I also signed up for a gravel race in Lincoln, NE. later this summer, so, I'm on a fast track.  The runs, walks, commutes and monthly 100km and 200km randos will definitely help me reach this goal, but the diet is back in-check as well.  After all, the exercise is really only 20% of the total package here.  Simply throwing miles at it will ONLY get me where Indurain ended up while trying to pursue a record sixth Tour de France.  He got ballsy, and after #5 put on a few kilos in the off season - his plan was simply to ride himself back to weight and form, and he instead ended up withdrawing from the race.  It's gotta be the total package.

(I thought you said you didn't want to talk about professional cycling??  Quiet, you people. LOL)

So, while I channel my strengths back toward good habits and strip the fenders and rear rack off the gravel bike to put it in "race mode" (like it'll matter, but hey - no excuses), I've taken to the Kale and Quinoa and protein shakes, upped my hydration routines and tossed in a lot of fresh fruit and other veggies.  Needless to say, after the winter of our discontent processed and refined sugars, I feel a LOT BETTER.  Weird how that works, eh? 

Right now, I'm really enjoying this journey.  Why did I wait so long?  Why did I think this was so hard?  

The knee tenderness from checking off the Border Patrol has faded, I've done a few big chain-ring hill sessions at 183rd and Lackman, and I'm pleased with the speed with which my baby steps are paying off.  I managed to climb all of the big hills between La Cygne and Pleasanton, out and back, without needing to get into my bailout gear on the rear cluster.  One cog away from it?  Sure... but, I never ran out of gear, and that's a big deal for me in general, even compared to when I'd been in top form.  Those hills have never been easy, but, the focus on off-bike strength training, core training, running... generally, just mixing it up ... has yielded some power improvements, which is nice.  Still, those climbs are a gruntfest - so, don't confuse my feeling of strength with anything resembling "speed".  STRONG climbing isn't always the same as smart climbing, either... just ask my knees, again ...but, It's a good feeling all the same.  The grunting and pushing on the steep stuff will eventually translate into an ability to carry a harder gear at a reasonable RPM for longer periods, also... so, while I'm still a gear-masher at heart, ultimately some tempo climbing at a good clip will be nice.  The base strength required to attain that, however.. that's what these earlier rides are for.  This is all theory - I could be wrong, and that's okay.  

Ride lots.  Repeat.

That's - apparently - all to report for now.  I've sat here for a few successive days, waiting for my fingers to begin flying across the keyboard - and it isn't happening.  That's okay . . . maybe not for this blog, but for me?  Yeah... I'm good.  

Time to go ride again... thanks for reading, and stay tuned.  
This slow but sure transition from 5,000-word epic to 140-character snippet on Twitter continues.  Trust me:  for all I've endured, for all I've typed, for all of the mental tangles I've slowly unwound here... this, perhaps, finally represents some relief wherein I can - at last - just BE.  

Thanks for reading...

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