Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Los Blueridges

Here’s a recap of my weekend. It involved me, a friend, and our road and mt. bikes, spent in the Blue Ridge mountains outside of Asheville:

Day 1: Mt. Bikes


Arrived in Asheville. Drove straight to trailhead. Managed to wrangle out the necessary bikes from the 5 stuffed in my car. C and I hit the trail, which began with a nice, not-so-gradual fire road climb that went up about 6 miles, before it ended in a hike-a-bike 1½ mile section that provided spectacular views of the mountain ranges. The Blue Ridge mountains really do have a blue hue—something about the air. I did manage to take some shots with my camera phone, but because I don’t know how to transfer those shots onto my computer, you’ll just have to believe me that we were really there.


We then hit the descent, which consisted of awesome rocky drop offs and lots of roots. C, being the more fearless one in our duo, was ahead of me on the trail, so I missed the spectacular spectacle of him launching off a cliff and tumbling 30 feet down an embankment, where a tree graciously stopped his fall. I whizzed right by, totally oblivious that he was amongst the trees below me, picking out branches from his back skin and attempting to locate his bike. He eventually caught up to me (I did stop to look for him at one point, but figured he just decided to carry on and not wait), and while we proceeded down one of the most kick-ass descents I’ve ever encountered, he peppered me with the tale of his mighty fall.

Almost 3 hours later, we reached my car, breathless and feeling alive and exhilarated. We made it back to the hotel and managed to pull ourselves together for a very tasty Asheville dinner.


Day 2: Road Bikes

We got an early start, and after winding through some traffic and busy roads for five or so miles, we finally hit some cool valleys and our first climb. It was quite steep, and I regrettably realized that my bike did not have the proper gear set-up for Asheville climbs. It does just find around the rolling hills of Greensboro, but 15% grades require a few more rings on the cassette. Anyhow, after winding through more valleys, avoiding some dogs, and dodging mountaineer southerners (they generally have few teeth and live in trailers), we hit what we were after: the 8-mile dirt climb.

It’s been about 2 ½ years since I climbed anything over 2 miles long, so the weekend’s mountains were a harsh wake-up call to my un-practiced legs. Long climbs used to be my Zen, my therapy, when I lived in SLO. There, I could ride out my door and be climbing within a matter of minutes, but my current living situation requires a long drive to hit any real mountains. Anyways, let’s just say that I was out of practice and felt a bit pathetic about my pace toward the end of the ascent.

The top of the climb spit us out onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we got our speed-fix on the descent. We turned off the Parkway and hit another dirt road, which was such a rush. I adore dirt-road descending on a road bike.




So today I’m back in the office, compare-pricing 12/27 cassettes online, and thinking that my next Asheville weekend will have to come very soon. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Different types of pain.


Some friends and I have begun doing an informal group road ride on Wednesday after work. Last night, there were seven of us, and we had time for an 1 ½ hammer-ish pace ride before the sun went down. For some strange reason, I don’t mind the pain that bike riding inflicts. I kind of enjoy it, actually. I love the feeling of barely hanging onto the wheel in front of me, teeth gritting as I search for that perfect angle that will block the wind enough to make it bearable. I love being able to stay with men who are much stronger than me on a run, but because of the physics of wind resistance, they can't drop me on a bike.  

Running, on the other hand, is a different beast all together. It took me a long time to fall in love with running. Trail running is now one of my all-time favorite activities, but it took me a long time to get there. It didn’t come easy, like biking. I avoid races, for the most part, because the pain makes me hyperventilate and drop F bombs left and right. I usually hate the experience.

I find it puzzling that the two activities conjure such different reactions from me: on a fast ride, I’m loving it—just eating up the whole experience. But usually, put me in the same oxygen debt/lactic acid position running, and I get really angry. I’m stubborn and competitive, so I won’t slow down, but I will find enough oxygen to curse at anyone close enough to be the target of my wrath.


Case in point: last week, I threw a bottle at my ex-boyfriend a friend of mine I was trail running with. He knows exactly how to piss me off, and one of his favorite tactics is to progressively ramp up the pace as the run continues. Then, he’ll tell me that we only have 1 mile left, when in fact, we have 3. So I dig deep and hang on, not letting him out of my sight, until I’m fuming pissed and hating his very core. On that particular run, when we finally reached the blessed end, I threw the bottle as hard as I could. I think he was expecting it, because he preemptively ducked.


I have never thrown bottles while on my bike. I have had slight breakdowns in racing, but I rarely experience sheer hatred or anger for people when I go into oxygen debt. It’s puzzling thing. Maybe it’s because you know that you’ll always get a break on the bike—the hill will end, the wind will shift, the dude at the front will eventually pull off, or a stop sign will magically appear. At some point, you’ll be soft pedaling and will recover enough to begin again. Running—not quite. Even when running downhill, you’re still working.


Anyhow, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve managed to have better relationships with my riding friends.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

5 months of suck.

Well, the weather tried to get nice. But stepping outside in today’s 40-degree drizzle shows that it tragically failed.


This past weekend was a delightful 80-ish degrees. I got really lost went on a long road ride with some friends, got a handsome sunburn on my arms and legs, threw open my apartment windows* to let in some much needed fresh air, and ate dinner, in the form of a bottle of wine, outside. For a brief 48 hours, I made up with North Carolina.


We’re sleeping in separate bedrooms, again. Which all but confirms why we really must call it quits and separate for good: For five months, I hate this state’s guts.** I hate its deciduous trees, I hate the cold, I hate being mocked with brief reminders of how humane warm weather is, and I hate how city planners don’t know what bike lanes are. I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve had on my 1.5 mile bike commute to work every day.


I’m quite convinced it’s impossible for a Californian to adapt to seasons and deciduous trees. Don’t laugh, but here’s my latest coping mechanism: It involves visualization, wine, and good music. I come home, turn off the lights, turn up my reggae/surfer/Jack Johnson-esque music, and lay on my couch with a glass of wine. I run through scenes in my mind: my favorite rides in SLO, oak trees, the Napa hills, and any other feel-good scenes from California that happen to flash through.


Then I feel sorry for everyone who lives here because they don’t know any better.  


I know this all sounds bizarre and/or straight-up pitiful, but it’s kind of working.




*For some reason, while writing that, I pictured Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. 

** I know that this is yet another bitter post. Truly sorry. Come mid-April, or so, you won't want to force feed me a bottle of Prozac after reading my blog.