You’re Vacationing All Wrong

Opines Richard A. Friedman, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“The truth is, when it comes to vacation, rest and relaxation aren’t just overrated. They might even work against the very things a trip is meant to cultivate: a mental reset, a sense of relaxation, happiness. A better vacation is one in which vigorous exercise features prominently. That way, you can take a break not just from work and routine life but also from the tyranny of self-absorption.”

Okay doc, what do you suggest then?

“Recently, a close friend and his wife invited my husband and me to join them on a cycling vacation. I was a bit nervous; I’m a serious swimmer but not an experienced cyclist. Riding 30 to 40 miles a day through Vancouver’s impressive hills for five days sounded like hard work, not pleasure. But by the end of our first day of riding, I was overtaken by euphoric calm.

The work of managing hills by bike has a special way of commanding your attention. I was so busy thinking about whether I could hold my pace for the next rise and how fast I could go downhill without wiping out that I had no time to think about myself. I started looking forward to getting up early and hitting the road. I took in the mountains and forests, dense with cedar and fir, but my focus was really on the bike and the road.”

But this entire Humble Blog is based on the need for more introspection. If everyone is just hammering up hills on two wheels, are we really better off?

“In fairness to the rest-and-relaxation lobby, some introspection is indeed good for you, and being able to tolerate idleness and boredom is a sign of psychological strength. I’m a clinical psychiatrist, and I know well that self-understanding is a cherished goal of therapy. But too much self-examination doesn’t make you happier or more enlightened. Besides, vacation is not the time to work on that skill. You can incorporate moments of idleness into your daily life if you want to get better at sitting with yourself, but vacation is a time for feeling good and escaping responsibilities, including the ones to yourself. Accordingly, you should do what makes you feel good, and that’s activity, not idleness.”

Got it.

As an endurance athlete, I’m keenly aware of how my brain waves fluctuate markedly during most workouts. If I’m going uphill and/or into the wind, my focus narrows a lot on the task at hand. If I’m descending and/or with the wind, my mind drifts to numerous other non-athletic things. I might even begin writing the next blog post.

All movement is good, but add some intensity in on occasion. Even on vacay.

The Hardest Thing

Fitness-wise.

If you’re a long-time reader of the humble blog; or happen to see my slender self; or follow me on Strava where I upload my swimming, cycling, and running workouts; you might assume I’ve got the fitness thing figured out. And maybe I do compared to the average 60 year old person residing in the not very fit (dis)United States.

But I don’t have it figured out. During the parts of the year when I’m not working, like now, I have too much time to think about working out. And sometimes thinking about working out ends with me bagging workouts.

When it comes to personal fitness, the one thing I find most difficult is designing a realistic “basic week” that’s challenging, but not so much so that I only check two-thirds of the boxes because then I feel badly about the one-third that remain unchecked. That one-third has a disproportionate negative influence on how I feel at week’s end.

This decidedly first world dilemma is complicated by my preference for cross-training. I like to swim, cycle, and run every week. I’ve added in a core workout and I’ve started to enjoy lifting weights. So that’s five things, meaning often, something has to give. Right now, because of the nice weather and friends who are cycling a lot, I’m taking time from swimming and running for the sake of cycling.

Another problem is that at my advanced age, it takes longer to recover from hard efforts. I haven’t been running as much lately probably because I’m beating myself up on the bike. I can do two workouts in a day, but only if both are shorter and/or easier than normal.

Tonight (Sunday), I planned the week. The odds are very good that my plan is too ambitious, and that despite closing all the rings on my Apple Watch (woopty doo), I won’t end up feeling much of a sense of accomplishment since I missed that run, didn’t swim at all, only lifted once, or didn’t ride as many miles as hoped for. Of course it’s silly, since I feel great and I’m healthy; and ultimately, that’s all that matters. But we’re all irrational in different ways.

Put most simply, by not planning realistically, I sabotage my feeling contented with my weekly efforts. Most frustratingIy, I don’t get why I understand the problem so clearly and still can’t seem to correct for it.

Tomorrow, I’m “supposed” to do a short run, swim, and lift weights. One or two out of three won’t be bad will it?

Inside The Peloton

You’re a huge cycling fan. Can’t get enough of the Tour de France. Like most professional cycling fans, you wonder what kind of convos the riders in the peloton have with one another. I’m happy to provide a little flavor flav from today’s stage.

Ron Roglic: On the way to the start today I almost got hit by a guy in a big truck with a bumper sticker that said, “We The People. . . are pissed.”

Dennis Bernal: Biden supporter?

RR: Haha. Shit, don’t take your anger, or more likely victimhood, out on me.

DB: Maybe he’s more into bumper stickers than voting.

RR: Yeah. It’s not my fault he’s deplorable.

Central Oregon 385

I fibbed the timing of The Central Oregon 500 which was last week because when you’re a famous blogger you have to take your security carefully, or more accurately, your GalPal’s security.

Phil Mickelson has hired a full-time security guard for the U.S. Open this week because there’s a lot of scary mother (expletive-plural form) out there. That’s prob my next move. Consider submitting an application if you’re experienced kicking ass.

Monday—5 mile run, drive to Bend. Tuesday, McKenzie Pass, 100.5 miles. Wednesday, around Batchelor, 100.5 miles. Thursday, Crooked River Canyon, 104 miles. Friday, La Pine gravel solo with Lava Butte thrown in, 80 miles. Saturday, drive home/rest day.

When I got home I checked my training log to see what my longest cycling week was. . . 390. When you’re old and slow you can only set volume-based personal records so on Sunday I rode 22 miles to shatter the old record with a total of 407 miles.

The most memorable 20 miles were miles 65-85 on Day 1 atop McKenzie Pass and then down to the West Gate and back. I took off across the lava strewn plateau not knowing my posse had decided against it due to reports of snow and water on the road. Dodging large chunks of snow and crossing a lengthy 6-8″ river of water two times was a hoot. The world class scenery never disappoints either.

In sum, I rode well and had fun, but I’m ready for a return to the cross-training normal.

There was one unfortunate development. Due to a bad accident a few months ago, at times, I found myself thinking about what I was doing, instead of just reacting. Like an infielder who suddenly can’t make the throw to first base or the golfer who can’t make a short putt to save her life, I sometimes thought about what could go wrong. As a result, I had a death grip on the bars and didn’t descend as confidently or fast as normal. I hope I can shake that and return to riding less consciously.

As per usual, I was a little too zealous deleting the pictures I took, but here are a couple.

A Trail Run To Remember

I don’t write as much about my athletic exploits as I once did. Probably, as I fast approach my sixth decade, because I’m not competing anymore. I should probably stop referring to myself as a triathlete. Rest assured though, I’m still swimming, cycling, and running. And now that I’m healthier than a year ago, hitting it a little harder.

Take yesterday’s Capitol Forest run for example. Mid-day I started to think about doing the 13ish mile Mima Falls loop. The weather was ideal, 50 degrees, sunny, still. So I texted The Good Wife my route—Mima East, Mima West, McKenny, Campground—and probable timeline just in case I was mauled by a bear or something—and headed to the trailhead.

Cap Forest is LARGE and apart from my loop, I don’t know it well. I was never a Boy Scout, so I began the run with shit preparation. I suppose I get a few points for alerting the The Gal Pal of my plans, but I headed out at 2:45p without calories, phone, jacket, or a map of the forest. I was carrying 4 ounces of Gatorade.

After Mima Falls (mile 2), there’s a sign that says, “Steep, remote trails from this point.” It was a mix of slow running and hiking to the high point around mile 5+. I saw a fair number of people on the way to the falls, but afterwards NO ONE. I felt like I was the only person in the forest. Not even any animal life, no birds, no rodents, no nuthin’.

I was trying to keep my average pace under 10 minutes/mile and didn’t appreciate it when Siri would announce via my 🍎 watch , “Mile 6, total time 63 minutes, last mile, 10:21.” I was looking forward to the second half being much flatter and even losing the hard-earned earlier elevation.

At mile 8, I was feeling fatigued, walking every riser, but confident I could grind out the last 5. When suddenly I came to a supe-depressing sign, “Trail Closed—Falling Trees.” SHIT. I climbed over the signed fence wondering just how bad could it be. Only to find out 100 meters later that it couldn’t have been worse. I was met by several giant pines whose downed branches rose about 30 feet above like a green tsunami.

Wut do I do now? Travis would’ve known which fire trails to take back as a shortcut, keeping the distance to the planned 13, but I was without my wingman. The safest and only option I could think of was to back track the whole way.

I didn’t want to run 8.4 more miles, but that’s what I did. We’ll, kinda ran. More of a hike-run or run-hike. I didn’t enjoy the return because I was too busy calculating things. “Okay, at this pace, I get back right after sunset. If I slow too much, it will be dark, meaning cold and because the trail is muddy and rocky in places, footing will be dicey.” I had already rolled my ankle twice. I would’ve been in trouble if I had broken my ankle or gone down on some of the muddy descents. Needless to say I was solely focused on my pace and footing, pretty much blanking on the beautiful surroundings and sunset.

I survived the return, arriving at the car a little past sunset. Weirdly, in the last few miles I came across two different pairs of mountain bikers and one young female runner heading outbound into the dark. She smiled and waved at me like it was no big deal, “I trail run in the forest, in the dark, by myself, all the time.”

Adventurers often say a good plan should make you nervous about whether you can pull it off or not. My plan didn’t make me nervous, but the unexpected tweak most definitely did. I felt vulnerable in the middle of the forest, by myself, very late in the day, far from civilization.

Thankfully though I survived to swim, cycle, and run another day, or God willing, decade.

For those keeping score at home, 16.8 miles, average pace 10:38, total elevation, 1,975’.

Netflix’s ‘The Harder They Fall’

Real cyclists Zwift. In contrast, I soft-pedal while watching Netflix.

Full disclosure. In keeping with the times, an unnecessarily, over-the-top amount of gun violence. If you can stomach that, a great cast, the best ‘Western’ movie soundtrack of all-time, and a really excellent ending. Not proud of the fact that I stomached the gun violence.

Kharma’s A Bitch (E)

In case you don’t listen to hip-hop, (E) signifies “explicit” so if profanity offends you, move on to your next favorite blog. You’ve been warned.

Wednesday night broke perfect for a shortish ride before the ever earlier sunset. No sunscreen required, a tinge of fall in the air, I decided to weave my way around North Olympia with its blessed absence of stop lights. Twenty five miles, zero stoplights, put that in your pipe and smoke it you sad sack urbanities.

To the guy on East Bay Drive with the big ass battery pack who passed me like I was standing still, fuck you and your cheater bike. I’m sure it felt good to whizz pass my sad sack human powered self, just like it feels good to cheat on your tax return. Electric bikes are fine for the elderly, the impaired, anyone with swollen balls, but you looked like a perfectly able middle aged dude, so fuck you.

Fast forward five miles. Starting to pick up speed on Lemon Rd thanks to what’s now a tailwind, when lo and behold, I notice someone on my wheel. I nod hello and Eric pulls aside me in his vintage 1992 Lemond “steel is real” steed. And like two testosterone addled MAMILS (middle aged men in lycra) we hit Lemon street HARD. Eric no doubt thinking about my carbon fiber frame and electronic shifting exactly like I thought about Mr. Battery’s bike. “Fuck you Mr. Modern Technology,” he seemed to say with each pedal stroke.

Which, of course, I wholeheartedly deserved. At least I pay all of my taxes.

Forgive Me, For I Have Sinned

On Sunday I was fine cycling up Mount Saint Helen’s until I wasn’t. My legs mutinied during the last few miles before the top, cramping so badly that any pedaling was tough. Five salt tablets, gels packed with more sodium, a protein bar, and four bottles of gatorade weren’t enough when the cramping went from bad to worse on the return. 

From the top of the volcano you descend very quickly for about 6 miles and then climb about 8 more before descending another 23 to the start (74 miles total, 6,900′ of elevation). For the first time in 15-20 years I had to stop on a mountain climb about 3-4 miles from the last top at Elk Rock. I found some shade on the other side of Spirit Hwy and attempted to sit down on the shoulder and I don’t know what, stretch I guess. Problem was my knees wouldn’t bend so I basically fell over while holding my bike which end up resting on my shoulder and neck. 

A car stopped. It was the Park Ranger/Angel who topped off our water bottles at the closed Visitor’s Center at the top 45 minutes earlier. “Are you alright?!” “Yes,” I lied, “but I have 3-4 miles to go to meet up with my friends and I’m a little worried they’re gonna wonder what happened to me.” He took off and informed them that I was near dead on the shoulder 3.5 miles below, but would be along eventually. 

Time will tell what the Cosmos will extract from me for lying to the best Park Ranger ever. In my defense, he was driving a Honda Civic, so it wasn’t like he could transport Blanca and me to the top of the climb. He did ask if I had water though and although I had one bottle left at that point, it was dumb (even by my standards) not to take him up on the offer of more. 

Without my friends shepherding me down the mountain, I would’ve been in trouble because I would’ve been in the hot sun another 20 minutes without enough liquid. Pro-tip, if you ever SLAM into the wall on your bike in the mountains, do it in the company of Mark, Allen, and Dennis. 

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How many salt tablets does a guy need to take?