Saturday, April 13, 2013

Missing Out and Catching Up

I managed to miss the Grizzly Peak Trail Marathon.  How?  I waited until the last minute to register, and by the time I finally did, it had sold out.  Idiotic, I know.  I had been holding out since there was a chance I was going to go for a long hike the day before with a girl that I fancy, and I felt like running a marathon the next day would be a bad idea since I wouldn't have my fastest time.  By the time I came to my senses and realized, "So what?" it was too late.

And I wound up not getting invited on that hike anyway.

But if I were going to miss any marathon, I guess this would've been the best one, if only because I hadn't been taking it too seriously in the weeks building up.  I'd been slacking off on training and hadn't been eating right either.  Oh, sure, I went vegetarian and sober like always, but I was getting dessert more often than not.  In general, my heart just wasn't in it, and I didn't have that edge, or hunger, or grit, or whatever you wanna call it.  After four marathons in a span of six weeks, maybe taking a break wasn't such a bad idea.  Only thing is there's over a month between this last marathon and the next one, so if I'd just gotten through this one, I was due for a break anyhow.

OK, enough with dwelling on what didn't happen, or what should've happened instead.  As a wise man once said, "What should've happened did happen."

My weekend had suddenly gone from packed full of activity to a fresh slate with all kinds of possibilities.  And since I was a little burned out on running to begin with, I thought it was a good time to become re-acquainted with an old friend of mine: Bikes.

I hadn't been on a real mountain bike ride in months, and trail running had reminded me of how much I love getting out in the world.  Maybe it was time to get out the still-unnamed mountain bike and give it another shot.  I planned out a ridiculously long route entirely on trails I'd never ridden before.  93 miles in the wilderness.

Realizing that mountain bikes are slow going and I might need every minute of daylight I could get, I struck out early in the morning.  An hour and a half later, I had gone eight miles.
"That's it?!?"  I could hardly believe it.  I run faster.  A lot faster.  The plans were gonna have to change.

Turns out Fremont Older is a really hilly little park.  The thing I don't like about mountain biking, or at least what I don't like about the places you can do it in California, is that you're constantly either pedaling up a ridiculously steep hill or applying the brakes on the way down a ridiculously steep hill.  There's no cruising.  You never get in a groove.  And you can't even get the most out of the downhills you earn.  It's a frustrating experience, and it's hard for me to keep going for a long period of time.  That being said, apparently I'm good at it, because I was passing other mountain bikers left and right.

On my way out of the park, I was descending a long fire road, with plenty of twists and turns, but wide enough that you could still maintain some speed.  Coming around a corner, I came face-to-face with four deer.  They looked at me, alarmed, but not scared.  I looked at them.  They looked at each other.  I took a picture.  They finally got out of the way.  I coasted only a few more feet and looked up the hill.  They had barely moved off the trail and just watched me some more as they ate leaves.  I guess they're used to seeing mountain bikes.

Oh, and I saw a salamander too (or something).

I wound up doing only 18 miles within the park.  Not only was the lack of continuity already irritating me, but it's also clear that I'm not particularly skilled on a mountain bike yet.  It would probably be a good idea to get to know each of these parks on shorter rides first, before I string them together on a long epic ride, increasing the chances I'll make a mistake and hurt myself as I get more tired throughout the day.

As a side note, if that's as far as a guy like me can go before quitting, how far do the slower guys go?  Seems like buying a decent mountain bike, filling up a Camelbak, and taking the time to drive out to a county park is a lot of work for doing only a few miles.

By the time I got home, I wanted to log some more miles.  As hard as those uphills are, since you can only do it for so long before frustration sets in, I'm almost incapable of wearing myself out on a mountain bike.  After lunch, I took off for another 30 miles on some gravel trails along the bay near my work.  Nice views here and there.  Would be better without all the power lines, but what are ya gonna do.  Lots of wildflowers, one of the reasons spring is my favorite season, but I still haven't seen anything out here that compares to Texas bluebonnets.

And then on Sunday, I went for a long ride on Invictus.  While my "normal" weekend rides on Invicutus involve a long enough climb that my ears pop and the temperature changes, this was clearly the most drastic weather change due entirely to geography that I've ever seen.

As I started, it was a warm, sunny, clear day in Silicon Valley, hardly a cloud in the sky.  Once I got to the base of the hills, it was cloudy, but you could still see spots of blue between them every now and then.  Heading up the hill, it kept getting greyer, colder, and darker, until finally at the top of the hill, it started raining.  I was only sprinkled on for a little while, but the whole time I rode along Skyline (a road that follows a ridgeline), it stayed cold and dark, steadily getting foggier as well, until I started worrying about my safety.  I hadn't bothered bringing lights, but was fortunately wearing a bright red jersey.

Less than ten seconds after taking a right turn and starting down the hill, the fog lifted and you could see any distance in front of you, clear as day.  Five minutes down the hill, the sun was out.  Another five minutes later, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Wow.  My geography professors would've loved to see that.

So my weekend had nothing in common with what I'd planned.  No marathon.  No hike.  No short cute tango-dancing redhead.  I find it best to think of those situations as opportunities to try something else.  Much better than doing nothing at all.