A few months ago I snapped the derailleur hanger on my Kona MTB in a near miss crash with another bike on a local singletrack. We both rounded a blind curve simultaneously, each launching into opposite sides of the trail to avoid a head-on hit. Somewhere in the mix I snapped my hanger off. Six miles of coasting and pushing home without a chain. Yay.
This was the impetus needed for my building my first clunker. For those not familiar with them, look into some MTB history. Alan Bonds’ Clunkers.net is a good place to start. An old black beach cruiser sitting in the yard for years got a quick makeover a few weeks ago. Removal of chain guard, kickstand, reflectors, and swept back cruiser bars. Installation of some 2.4 knobby tires and an old MTB riser bar. Done. I’m a big fan of the beater bike, the clunker, the scraper, the frankenbike, the daily workhorse of the average Jane or Joe. One must resist geeking out too hard on components when building a clunker; it would defeat the very nature of the beast.
The ensuing riding is the most fun I’ve had on a bike since…?
I attribute most of it to the coaster brake. “Stopping” is a very relative term when talking about a coaster. Slowing, sliding, drifting, and flat out panicking are more appropriate adjectives. Timing one’s pedal rotation in order to be able to brake is a bit tricky (read: fun) on technical stuff.
But with the relative lack of control comes the demand for a sort of flow that was immediately reminiscent of my early days of learning to ride a brakeless fixed gear in city traffic. Anticipating trouble, picking flowing lines, riding smarter. It also brings back fond memories of being ten years old and having neighborhood competitions to see who could lay down the longest skid mark on the sidewalk.
I just returned from what was supposed to be a ride to the trailhead for a trail run up the canyon. I locked up the bike, started to jog, and turned back for it after 100 yards, turning the afternoon into a 10 mile MTB ride instead.
Too much fun.
I hear there’s a local group sponsoring coaster brake only MTB races….
Breaking trail in fresh snow from Dawson Saddle to the summit with my good ol’ buddy Sr. Lopez. ~10 miles and 2500′ of gain, the “run” took a slightly unexpected turn and became a 6 hour postholing fest. A little gear testing was done, namely NRS Hydroskins as snow socks. I wore some lightweight Smartwool liners underneath and did relatively well given the time out there. A great day in the mountains.
*Disclaimer: I am not fast, nor do I claim I ever have been, though I am working on improving that.
Three miles behind me, I pull off of a short section of trail onto the 5K road loop that circles the Rose Bowl. Feeling good, I’m running a bit faster than my typical pace, weaving through and past the walkers and slower joggers, enjoying my music, taking in the night air. I appreciate road runs for the steadiness that they provide, to have the opportunity to not think about foot placement or hill climbs, but just settle into a fixed pace and my thoughts. About 800 meters into the 5K lap, I sense another runner closing on me very slowly; he was there for a while, but I was oblivious due to my headphones until a streetlight cast his shadow beside me.
Almost instinctively, I begin to pick up my pace just slightly enough to keep him behind me. For some reason I decide I shouldn’t let him pass.
He hangs on my heels to the left for about 30 seconds. And then I feel him making a surge, now running beside me with a comfortable distance between us.
Neither of us look at each other.
We hold the pace, now about 30 seconds per mile faster than when he first caught me.
I don’t know how far he’s already run, but we appear to be working about as hard as each other.
I reach down and cycle through my music to find a more upbeat song and pick up the pace slightly. He drops two steps back, realizes the change, and picks it up again, staying beside me.
After another 30 second eternity of running beside him, ignoring each other, he picks up the pace. I decide to let him go just a little bit, staying about one meter behind him, but matching the increased pace.
The race is on. How far, to where, on what terms…nobody knows. But there is no denying it is happening, despite the fact we still “ignore” each other by avoiding eye contact and hiding behind our headphones.
I decide to catch him and pass, but he stays with me. We are side by side again, engaged in our awkward dance. The walkers and other joggers we pass have no idea about the struggle lurking beneath the surface; we likely look like running partners.
We are now easily running two minutes faster than when he caught me, easily approaching my best 5K pace, if not faster. I’m starting to hurt, lungs and quads burning, but I’m still successful in making a conscious effort to relax my face, drop my shoulders, settle in. Fast, smooth, easy. One mile to go on our 5K lap, a turn is approaching. I decide that is where I’ll make my move. The road just around the turn begins a 400 meter gentle decline, followed by a 400 meter rolling hill, then flat again. I fall back on his heels for the last 200 meters leading into the turn.
A pause comes between songs and I can suddenly hear his labored breathing and the weight of his footstrikes. My timing is good; I’m not breathing or pounding nearly as hard and at this point I’m certain I have him. He’s getting stretched thin.
We hit the turn and I accelerate, this time with a more decisive kick, easily pulling away by 10 meters before he responds. He’s still there, matching my pace. I turn it up a little more and I can feel him fading.
I’m stuck now in a solitary world of burning, of wondering how long I can make this last before I blow up, betting everything that I can hold it just a little longer than he can. I try to relax but I’m beginning to strain. I can’t relax. I don’t want to look back. Just keep going.
We pass a light; his long shadow is completely absent beside me.
My turnoff is coming; I start drifting across the street to where I’ll leave the loop.
Upon reaching the intersection I turn sharply left, affording me the ability to glance back over my shoulder.
He’s 400 meters back, stopped and doubled over at the side of the road.
I slowly jog up the side street until I know I’m well out of site, and then come to a staggering, knee-clutching stop. I fight hard, sucking desperately at the air to make my head stop spinning. Smiling. It was likely a 5K PR for me, all in the midst of what was to be an “easy” 9 mile run.
Perhaps it would’ve been nice to shake his hand in the end, to laugh it all off and break the tension, but this race was to live unspoken amongst strangers.
Went out for some peak bagging this morning, starting to prep for Zion.
Icehouse Canyon>>>Icehouse Saddle (7555′)>>>Cucamonga Peak (8859′)>>>Bighorn Peak (8441′) via XC east ridge>>>Ontario Peak (8693′)>>>Icehouse Saddle and return.
~16 miles, about 5000′ gain.
Monday: 5.3 easy trail
Tuesday: 4 easy trail
Thursday: 7 easy trail
Friday: 3.5 easy trail
Saturday: 4 backpacking
Sunday: 4 backpacking
Total: 27.8 miles
Good week. Not running on the weekend seemed to help my knee considerably; not feeling any tightness. Ran a 5K yesterday with no pain or issues, so the walking likely helped. Healing is coming along. A free pair of replacement New Balance MT110s came in the mail today, will break them in tonight.
I was eating vegan for a few days, fell off during backpacking this weekend, back on for two days now. I’m feeling good, trying new recipes, and raiding the local library for cookbooks. One of the greatest difficulties is simply changing the way I think about food and so many of the habits that surround it. Many of the go-to snacks and comfort meals I once grabbed for are gone. Rethinking shopping, trying to get a new sense of what basic ingredients to stock…all an adjustment. But I feel good, both mentally and physically.
While I’m certainly no Buddhist, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about compassion and appreciation for life in all forms as advocated in many Buddhist and Shinto traditions. While it may sound somewhat ridiculous, I’ve always felt a tinge of the monastic when vegan, due to the necessity of being present and avoiding mindless self-indulgence.
Reading Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island this morning I was struck by a verse in the poem “Spel [sic] Against Demons”:
…The stifling self-indulgence in anger in the name of
But I have to wonder: is it self-indulgence in anger or is our plight angry self-indulgence? Or do they feed each other?
The recent Grand Canyon R2R2R (which I somehow never put together a trip report for) left me with a bum knee due to ITB pain. I’ve been slowly building back up since then, showing great signs of progress; there’s always that fear that an injury will become something persistent- I know many a runner that have been taken out by this sort of thing. In the 4 weeks since the R2R2R, I’ve successively run (weekly) 1 mile, 6 miles, 13.5 miles, and now just finished a 34.5 mile week. Very satisfied with the progress, this week was quite a jump, but nothing that aggravated my knee. And surprisingly, all the running felt really easy (granted, I was keeping everything easy due to the knee).
So now plans are in the works for a ~48 mile Trans Zion Traverse this coming fall. As my knee is coming along nicely, I’m very confident about training for this one. The recent R2R2R taught me quite a bit and I’m feeling ready to step up to a different level of training and eating. I didn’t want to switch anything up going into the last run, but with that behind me, I’m ready to make some changes. I’m planning on going vegan (started a few days ago) for a stretch, so we’ll see how that goes. The next few weeks will just be some base building again, making sure my knee can handle it.
I want to return to a weekly training summary here. I log/graph miles on RunningAhead, but I’d like a place to express training progress/ideas.
5/7 thru 5/13:
M: 5K easy road
T: 2.4 easy road, 1 easy w/Sage
W: 4 easy trail, 1 easy w/Sage
F: 5 easy trail
S: 10 hike, 2900′
Su: 8 easy trail
Weekly total: 34.5 miles
I’ve had to cancel this trip a few years in a row now. First time due to getting permits for too early and the Sierra getting too much snow. Second time I cancelled due to a sprained wrist/elbow from skateboarding followed by a sinus infection. Hopefully, the third time works out better. I’ve yet to finalize dates or get permits, but here are initial plans.
JMT Fastpack, southbound, full trail (Happy Isles to Whitney Summit), ~211 miles. The plan is to try and come in under 7 days, with one resupply (likely at Muir Trail Ranch). So that means I need to average a little over 30 miles/day. Coming off what I hope will be one of my best ultrarunning seasons, I should be going into the Sierra well-conditioned. I’m running the Grand Canyon R2R2R in mid-April, followed by plans to run the Bishiop High Sierra 50 Mile in late May. That leaves most of June and July to train for the JMT, which I’ll likely do in late July.
Here’s my preliminary gearlist. I’ll borrow the GG Spinntwinn shelter from a buddy. The only things not included are axe and crampons- carrying them depends on when I go and what snow levels are, though I doubt they’ll be needed. Too bad I have to carry a bear canister, otherwise I’d be in the 7lb. base weight range.
Gearlist comments appreciated, though I don’t have too much flexibility as I’m trying not to buy any new gear this year.