Administrivia

• One wonders. Is the recent uptick in readers explained by my heroic cycling exploits in the Eastern Sierras or is it just the inevitable effect of especially brilliant content (remember, italics denotes sarcasm) or was it the off-the-cuff decision to attach a racy snowboard picture to the “Educational Slowdown” post from a few weeks ago? Whatever. Welcome new readers.

• I’ve updated the front page by deleting the “About This Blog” tab. The little bit of text from that tab is now apart of the “First Time Here?” tab. I also condensed and updated the list of most popular posts. New and improved so please share away.

• I could use the help of regular readers. For the first time in awhile, I’ve worked through my queue of post topics/ideas and new ideas aren’t flowing as much as they might. Therefore, I’m wondering, what would you like me to write more about? Thanks in advance for any ideas, links to articles of interest, or questions you’d like to see me bat around. Absent much input, I’ll probably switch to posting twice weekly.

• I may be switching to a different template sometime soon. I want to add copyright protection and I need to switch from wordpress.com to a wordpress.org template to do so. I’m leaning towards “Linen”, but if you have a favorite wordpress.org template you think I should consider, hollah.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Great Forest Fires

I’ve always dug the New Testament epistle of James. Maybe it’s his straightforward writing style that even I can understand. Two recent stories made me think of Chapter 3 verses 3-5:

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

Story one involves Peter Alliss’s induction speech at the Golf Hall of Fame ceremony a few weeks ago in Flo Rida. Mrs. Weymouth, Alliss’s U.K. grade school teacher wrote on his final report card, “Peter has a brain, he’s just loathe to use it. . . . I fear for his future.” Alliss brought the house down by ending his speech by flipping Mrs. Weymouth the bird.

Story two is from the Johnny Carson documentary that aired a few weeks ago on PBS. Early in Carson’s career his mom took in a show. Notoriously mean, he asked what she thought afterwards. She replied something like, “That wasn’t funny. Jack Paar was way more funny.” Carson was crushed.

Has anyone ever captured the potential for harm that results from impulsive, hurtful comments as beautifully as James? All of us say things we regret. Slowing down, regularly centering oneself, praying or meditating, are probably the best ways to avoid saying mean-spirited, hurtful things that may very well spark great fires within the social networks of our lives.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Movie Review

I like the Christian Science Monitor’s movie reviews. Here’s a link to their review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (TBEMH) so you can compare and contrast theirs and mine. I won’t read theirs until completing mine.

This is going to be short because I don’t want to reveal too much about the plot and therefore ruin it for you.

Rare is the movie made for the 40+ crowd probably because seasoned citizens don’t go to as many movies as younger peeps so they’re riskier financial endeavors. For the sake of more diverse choices at the local cineplex, I hope TBEMH makes a lot of money.

I liked it, Betrothed liked it “a lot”. India is a country I’d like to visit and I’m a sucker for any film where I feel like I can even partly “experience” the subcontinent. The street scenes and soundtrack were good, but not on the level of Slumdog Millionaire or Monsoon Wedding, one of my favorite films.

All-star cast. Mostly believable story lines. It’s a film that mostly respects your intelligence. It’s not predictable, but a few Hollywood coincidences (e.g., running into one another in the chaotic city) detract a bit.

And if you’re like me, it will inspire you to think about the purposes of life and how you’d like to spend the last few chapters of it. How many films can you say that about? I’m just not sure it left that indelible a mark. While I recommend it, it’s not a film I’ll tell anyone in a few months that they “absolutely have to see.” That’s why I’m giving it a B+. Read the Monitor review, go see it yourself, and let me know what you think.

[Okay, I just skimmed the Monitor review. Two "B+'s" meaning they and I have what's know in assessment circles as "inter-rater reliability".]

Killer Climbs—The Conclusion

There’s one more ride on the itinerary for tomorrow, the last day, but only one of the four of us that are remaining want to do it. I’m going for a run before we head home since I have a total of zero miles so far this week. In the sport of triathlon you “ride for show and run for dough.”

Today’s ride was from Lone Pine through the Alabama Hills and up Horseshoe Meadow Road 24 miles and 6,500′ to the end at 9,900′. There’s some YouTube vids of the road if the pics intrigue you. A large percentage of Western/Cowboy movies were filmed in the Alabama Hills. I worried all day that a massive line of Indians were about to crest the mountains above us.

We left at 6 a.m. to avoid the heat. At the top I had ridden 28.3 miles in 3:10 for a 9.0 mph average. With the return, and a shortcut back to the hotel, I rode 51.4 miles, in 4:11, with 7,008′ of elevation. The descent was not for those afraid of heights. The drops were in the thousands of feet. Truth be told, I was a bit spooked at times. All in all, a very nice exclamation point to a great week of training. My inner voices, for a change, were relatively quiet.

However, there was one inner convo that started with this question, “How can you provide your legion of readers a feel for what it’s like to climb these mothers?” Here’s what I came up with. Go to a fitness club or weight room with a leg press. Figure out your 85-90% max or what you can do about 12 times, working especially hard on the last four. For me it’s usually in the 180-200 pound vicinity. Then divide that weight in half and do slow reps for 30 minutes or divide it by two-thirds and do slow reps for an hour. Turn the heat way up, turn a fan on and don’t forget to wear a cycling helmet so you get a wee bit warmer. Now repeat six days in a row. Welcome to the team.

In related news, loosening my shoes and wrapping the damaged toe tightly with bandaids stemmed the damage I was doing to it on days one and two. Back is still fragile, but with some rest, it should be fine. After absorbing this intense segment of training, I will definitely graduate from “spring” to “summer” cycling shape. The next and final stage is “late summer” shape.

All in all, this past week of climbing was fun and a success. Thanks for coming along. We return to regular programming Monday.

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Killer Climbs—Day 5

From Big Pine. Up Onion Valley. And I mean “up”. No real warm up. 5,703′ of gain in just over 13 miles. The road goes from the valley way up into the Sierras where it dead ends at a campground where there are trailheads for wonderful High Sierra backpacking. I remembered the camera and the new hotel has beefier internet so pics below.

Day’s total—44.4 miles in 3:19 for an average of 13.4 and max of 46. Beautiful ride and scenery. The first half included some gentle turns, but we were mostly moving from the Valley floor into the mountains. The second half consisted of dramatic switchbacks that made for some of the most fun riding of the trip so far. Steep, but maybe I’m getting used to it, because I got into a bit of a rhythm.

Midway, at about 6,500′, I’d look up at 12-14,000 peaks and then scan down and see shimmering metal guardrails way up high and say to myself, “Damn, steady punishment ahead.” And yet, once up on the top half, it was very cool to look down and see where you’d come from, an extremely long, brown, serpentine snake of a road. And of course I looked for the other riders to see what kind of gap I had created.

The view, coupled with my gap, meant the days of self-flagellation were over. Instead, my head swelled to historic proportions. “Contador would need roided up steak to climb this mother.” “Landis would need ‘whiskey’”. “Armstrong would need a (Dr.) Ferrari.” “Look at that road down there and look at those specks chasing me. I’m doing it on King Sized PayDays. I am among the baddest of badasses.”

After resting by a small stream at the top, the descent was fun, but you could’ve easily killed yourself since guardrails were sporadic and the drop off was many hundreds of feet. Unlike Day 3, I didn’t want to die today. Also, the freeze cracks were wicked. Still, I noticed I did one five mile downhill segment in seven and a half minutes.

Once down, four of us decided to ride to our ultimate destination—Lone Pine, 16 miles away—once again, via Hwy 395. This is where things got a little weird. It was 91 degrees and so I assumed we’d work together to make the best time possible. Wrong, Larry must of lost patience, because he took off down the road, leaving Bill, Melody, and me to chase. Or so I thought. I said to myself, “Self, the three of us will reel him in within a few miles.” So I turned around to see if Bill and Melody were ready to ride the Ron-train for awhile and they were gone. Unbeknownst to me, they crossed the street for ice at a Chevron. So I was officially in “No Man’s Land”.

I said to myself, “Self, you’ve been climbing faster than Larry, so ride like you stole it and close the damn gap.” Great, I’ve just climbed 5,300′ and now I have to time trial across the Valley floor in 91 degrees. No problem because don’t forget, I’m among the baddest of badasses. Or so I thought.

Turns out Larry is more of a badass. I should have known that when I learned he also grew up in SoCal, but unlike me, his idea of a good time was bodysurfing the Wedge in Newport. That my friends earns one a lifetime Badass Card that you can whip out whenever someone is chasing from behind. Also worth mentioning, Larry is 62 years young. Also worth mentioning, Larry has a little rearview mirror on his shades.

Damn if he didn’t throw down an epic time trial effort. I have never chased anyone so long and been so exasperated that I couldn’t close the gap. The gap began at 30 seconds. I closed it to 24 once and it grew to as much as 38. We were literally riding the exact same speed for the entire sixteen miles. Once we pulled into the Best Western in Lone Pine, I was afraid he might say, “Yeah, I was wondering where you were. I decided to take it easy given the morning’s climb and the mid-day heat.” Instead, he saw me the whole time and just resolved not to get caught. Total props! He laughed at how intense our effort was and gave me a congratulatory fist pump. Hope I’m half the badass in 12 years.

Anybody know how many times a blogger can us the term “badass” in one post? I’m sure I’m over the limit. But I doubt anyone is going to restrict me, because today at least, I’m a badass.

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Killer Climbs—Day 4

Plan was to meet at 7:30a, drive 15 miles south to Big Pine, and then climb up to Glacier “Lodge”. A ten mile climb, how hard could that be?

Getting to the start was half the battle. I walked out to the hotel parking lot at 7:30:30 a.m. glistening from sunscreen with my gear bag on my shoulder only to see the van leaving. Okay, vehicle two, the rental SUV. Also gone. Okay, Alex’s car, there she goes heading south on 395. Bus left plain and simple. And it’s not like we’re always hyper-prompt. I felt like a Facebook investor, but knew what happened. Each driver just assumed I was in one of the other cars.

I knew exactly what would happen, and it did in fact go down exactly this way. They’d drive south (20 minutes), unload the bikes, see mine still in its stall, and then someone would say, “Where’s Ron?” At which point, they’d all have a good laugh at my expense. Fortunately, Double B returned for me about fifteen minutes before I told myself I would have to go for a run instead. Peterson said, “I asked if anyone wasn’t here and you didn’t say anything.” Now we’re overcompensating by doing double and triple head counts.

Another damn tough climb, 3,900′ in 10.5 miles. Official deets of the day—37 miles, 2:36 ride time, 14.2 mph average, 48 mph max again, and 4,298′ of total elevation. I rode from the start/finish, Big Pine, back into Bishop after we descended together. They thought I was crazy for doing that and I may be since I had a black jersey on and it was pushing 90. Hwy 395 has a great shoulder—wide, clean, and smooth—and the wind was helping so I made very good time. Picture the main character in Breaking Away sitting behind semis as the drivers signal 30, 40, 50. Well maybe I wasn’t going quite that fast.

Given the discombobulated start, I left my camera in the car at the start. That was a crying shame because the mountains, lake, stream, and trees at the top made for the most beautiful scene of the week. Alas, I leave you with another pic from earlier in the week.

Killer Climbs—Day 3

The numbers don’t do today’s ride justice—47.4 miles in 3:54 for a 12.1mph average. 6,726′ of elevation gained.

High desert, totally exposed, steep early and brutally so late. Toughest climb of my life and I was the first one up in our little posse which makes since sense I’m the youngest and thinest. I was delivering the mail during several stretches—swerving from one shoulder to the other as if putting mail in boxes on both sides of the street. Very lightly traveled road that dead ends at 10,000′ at the Ancient Bristle Pine Cone Forest—home of 7,000 year old trees, the oldest living ones in the world. At times, despite the very light traffic, I thought a car could come around the bend and pick me off while delivering mail on their rightful side of the road. Which prompted this dialogue:

Self1: You know, a car could be coming at any second and pick you off clean and simple.

Self2: If I’d die at impact, it might not be the worse outcome because I have no effin idea how far I am from the effin top. Anyways, the will is up to date. Betrothed is still a looker. She’ll be fine. (and with that assertion, my debt for a week away is paid)

Self1: Yeah, but what if the impact doesn’t kill you and you don’t die until being dragged several hundred yards down the mountain under the car’s front bumper.

Self2: That may be slightly less fun than continuing this god forsaken climb.

Mom, I apologize for using several words you wouldn’t have been proud of today. Fortunately though, no one was around to hear them. In fact, it was so quiet, I was taking my heart rate without leaving the handlebars. I was working so hard I could feel my pulsating head, and with the bike computer clock. . . 15 in 5 seconds, meaning 30 in 10, meaning 180. That was before I lost my ability to do basic math.

I’m eating like crazy and am still probably down a few lbs.

Tomorrow is an “easy” day. A 13-14 mile climb from Big Pine up to Glacier Lodge. Rumor has it somewhere between 3-4k of elevation. It’s supposed to be 95, but we’re starting early to avoid the worst of the heat.  Stay tuned, I will let you know how it goes.

 

Killer Climbs—Day Two

Subtitle—Voices.

Laying in bed last night, the voice was one of my internal ones, “You really should run before riding, just like yesterday. Don’t be a loser, get up and put one foot in front of the other.” To which another of my internal ones countered, “Yeah, but what about my trip motto, ‘train, don’t strain’?”

Whenever I go to bed unsure of whether to get up and run at 5:45 a.m., I sleep a little late, lay in bed, and kick myself throughout the day for what coulda and shoulda been. Those are the days everyone is out running just to remind me that I’m a lowlife. In short, I have to totally commit and visualize it before knocking off. Go to bed all Mitt Romney flip-floppy-like and forget about it.

The ride was straightforward, climb a highway for 25 miles to South Lake. Total elevation, 5,800′. Then descend eight miles to a fork and climb for five or six more miles to Lake Sabrina. Why? Because it’s there and we drove for 20 hours to get here.

There I was 16 miles in, working my ass off, when I shifted a couple gears before standing and relieving my back. The small-ring shifter cable snapped and I was stuck in one gear. Done for the day. Since the big-ring shifter still worked fine, I had two gears, neither which I could even remotely climb in. I descended back into town and found Aerohead, an amazing hole in the wall bike shop, where Brian was waiting to repair my injured steed.

Most amazing shop experience evah. Brian had to work really hard to get the cable out and said I was almost “Completely f-ed.” Then he heard the deep squeaking noise my headset/bars have been making and said “That’s heinous.” Is that brilliant or what? Line of the day. He broke everything down, headset, fork, bars, pulled the steerer tube out and inspected it for cracks, cleaned and lubed everything and put it all back together. A craftsman. Total cost of everything, $17.69. Un-f-ing believable.

Returned to the hotel where the bed whispered, “Just lay down. Enjoy the piece and quiet of an empty room. Kick on the tube, watch some basketball, some golf, chilax.” The shower shouted, “Just hop in! Let me wash away your sunscreen, dust, dirt, salt, and fatigue. It will feel really good, promise.” I thought to myself, “Dammit, shut up! I should ride another two hours or maybe I should run.” Then the shower and bed teamed up. “Just hop in and then lay down.”

Character building run—totally exposed to the sun, warm, at elevation, partly uphill. Felt decent through 10 and like complete shit at 11. The days deets—30 mile ride in 2:04 for a 14.7mph average. 3,146′ of elevation, and a measly max of 42. 13.1 mile run in 1:47. 691′ of elevation, 8:08 pace, but don’t be fooled, I completely unraveled and entered “stick a fork in me” territory at 12. Stomach cramps prompted walking breaks.

A final voice. Again one of my own internal ones. “Who are you trying to fool? Can’t even ride for two hours and run for two, what makes you think you can ride for six and run for four? Why did you even sign up to go long? Moron. Poser. Sorry excuse of a triathlete.”

Too bad it’s not, swim, cycle, self flagellate.

Killer Climbs—Day One

Ran 7 miles before a breakfast of oatmeal, cereal, multiple English muffins with pb and honey, yogurt, juice and green tea. May have been a personal record for windiest run ever. Ran mostly into the wind for the first half which is like eating your vegetables first. My grandfather always ate his dessert first because “what if I die mid-meal”. Maybe tomorrow, in Grandpa Dana’s honor, I’ll start out with the wind.

The inaugural Killer Climb was excellent. An “A-” due to a black and blue big toe which my running posse will delight in. I don’t know why, but since suffering a previous cycling shoe injury, they think I’m a little soft. It could present troubles. Here are the day’s deets—60.3 miles in 4:10 for a 14.4 mph average. 6,195′ of climbing including riding to the end of the highest paved road in the Golden State. Maximum speed on the descent, 48.1mph, which ties my personal record. Don’t tell the Girls Club, but I will be breaking 50mph on this trip. Each year, from now on—strike that, until I die engaged in this activity in a few years—I will “descend my age”. 4,129 calories which I look forward to replacing shortly.

Rider of the day—my brother, a Southern California fixed gear cycling legend in his own mind, who was nowhere to be found. Silly me, with our physical proximity, I was sure he’d be man enough to join us.

10,300′ up in the Eastern Sierras

Self portrait

Killer Climbs—The Prelude

Totally whipped after the first two days of the Killer Climbs Eastern Sierra bike trip I’ll be blogging for the next week. And I haven’t even turned the pedals once.

Long, long car trip complicated by our vehicle quitting near the top of Mt. Ashland just south of Ashland, Oregon. There are eleven of us from Olympia on the 20+ person trip. Three of us were in SJ’s SUV, two in a large van with ten bikes, five flew via L.A. and Mammoth, and one drove solo with her bike. SJ, M, and I were saved by Gary, a good friend of S’s from previous trips and an Ashland resident and fellow participant on this trip. At 5pm Wednesday, Gary, after a long day of dentistry, picked us up, fed us, housed us, and then Thursday morning we piled into his Suburban, with two of his Ashland friends. That’s after we hooked up a trailer to the Suburban for our overflowing gear. We’ll pick up our SUV in Ashland on the way home next Friday (crankshaft position sensor).

I’m really looking forward to riding tomorrow after sitting in a car for two solid days. Back is a little iffy as a result of folding into cars and my too heavy duffle, but I should be okay. The three Ashlanders are apparently crazy strong so it will be fun to be pushed. The key for me will easing in. I’ve never rode seven days in a row, let alone serious up hill at crazy elevation.

We have a group meeting tomorrow in Bishop at 8:30a.m. and then drive something like 20 miles to the start of our first ride. I think I can handle 20 miles in the ‘burban, but no more. In other news, there’s a 97% solar eclipse here for seven minutes beginning Sunday at 5:43pm.

Good times.

[I'm having a real hard time uploading pics with my weak hotel wireless signal. I'll keep trying. Check back.]

Mascot–Now resting quietly at Medford Mercedes dealership