"Freedom and responsibility we speak of easily, nearly always without recognition of the iron courage required to make them effective in our lives." j. glenn gray

Monday, January 26, 2009

Long Time Gone

Well, David Crosby, Stephen Stills & Graham Nash put it very nicely indeed, "been a long time gone." Funny how that just popped into my head. I really like that song too. Wow! From 1969! I was but a year old then. But, the time, it does go so very fast these days. The children are now teens and nearly self-sufficient, though they will argue to the contrary when desiring food, clean clothes and money. And with the school year half over, Fabian has come to realize his year in America is passing swiftly; too swiftly for his liking I believe. I'm afraid I have not been so diligent in maintaining my blog as I had intended when I started nearly one year ago.

OK. To date I have not been very true to my cycling passion over the past 6 months with only a few 20 to 30 mile rides to speak of and the couch steeling away the time. I have, however, purchased a new '09 Cannondale F-four 29er that I have been riding at Jack Brooks and Memorial Parks. It was my first trip out on the 29er that made me realize I had been riding the couch WAY too much these past few months. After the third climb I was humped over the handlebars on the side of the trail with my heart thundering in agony and my lungs screaming in retaliation. It was all I could do to squeak out, "good gods... gasp... I... puff puff... suck... gasp..." I am getting the swing of it though and seem to be accelerating toward some semblance of shape. I've crashed only twice and managed to do so gracefully and without throwing a rod or breaking anything necessary on either the bike or myself. I just keep telling myself that I don't have to be "fast" I just have to "be" and repeating the mantra "Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast."

On my second trip, as I was unloading my new steed, I was approached by a gentleman inquiring if I road often at Jack Brooks Park. He was an amiable fellow maybe ten or twelve years my elder sporting a pony tail and riding a really bad-ass, long-travel, full-suspension bike. I surprised myself with such honest replies as, "no" and "actually, I'm a roadie" and "this is only my second time out on this here new bike." To which I heard the quite amusing, all though wholly accurate and fortuitously telling reply of, "well, we won't hold that against you...welcome to the dark side!" Our conversation continued in a warm and welcoming fashion as he offered me a map of the park and went over a few rules. He then offered that maybe I would like to ride at Memorial Park where there were a larger offering of less technical trails so as not to seem overwhelming and, perhaps dampen my enthusiasm for my new found interest in mountain biking. I smiled, folded the map placing it carefully in my pocket, took his information under advisement and proceeded to head down the trail, across the bridge and about half way up the first hill for a grand total of about fifty yards. I pushed my bike up the very first hill...and the second...and the third! I was soggy with sweat, sucking wind and my chest felt as though an alien would jump out and scramble away any second. Whew! What a slam to the ol' ego, eh! Wow! I really suck! All I could think was, "what a dastardly and sinister man he was!" and "has he been reading my mail!?!" I felt like Heston at the end of Planet Of The Apes... "Damn you all to HELL!"

There are little customs that follow every sport; some from whatever, some for machismo and some for safety. Out on the trail you'll hear someone yell "rider" when they are approaching a blind turn or hill. Occasionally, you'll just hear bells jingling away as the rider got tired of yelling and figured, "what the hell, they work on bears." Well, I am quite certain that, with the constant flow of some very colorful explicatives emanating forth loudly from my mouth at every such turn and hill, there was no problem determining that someone was in fact there... ME!

I later found my way back to the "Playground," the "Cut Off" and the "Never Ending Trail" where I conquered some more bike handling skills and improved my outlook on the sport in general. Then I sped down the home stretch without setting down a foot and huffed it back to the jeep for a day well spent. I pondered the "Dark Side" comment and slugged back some Gatorade. It certainly was. I had just spent 3.5 hours beating the tar out of myself and my bike (and a few trees and shrubbery), cussing and swearing and yelling and kicking only to realize I had had fun and actually began looking forward to my next trip... Sinister!

I am planning for more road miles this year and intend on a good effort and lots of t-shirt rides. Perhaps my goal of 6,000 miles for 2009 is a bit high but, 125 miles per week is well within my range of ability. I would like to put 100 miles on the road bike and 25 on the mountain bike per week. It may be tough to put 25 miles on the MTB as it gets hotter and the foliage comes back. Guess I'll have to wing it. That, I don't believe, is too much to expect from myself. Now I simply need to "Just Do It."

Ride On!