Thursday, October 31

Too Good Not To Share

Bob Mionske hits it right on the head:

There’s Another Way

"You want to know what’s really tragic? We allow this [when  driver says 'I didn't see the cyclist' and it's simply called a tragic accident] to happen. We make excuses, and offer up empty condolences, and don’t hold negligent drivers accountable, all because we’re afraid that we, too, might be held accountable for not paying attention. For not watching where we are going. For fiddling with the stereo, or shaving, or texting, or just daydreaming while driving, and not seeing what we should have seen, had we only been paying attention."

In the Netherlands: "The greater responsibility for safety is placed upon the driver because the driver is operating the more dangerous vehicle."

Wednesday, October 30


I'm calling a temporary hiatus from the blog so I can focus on my book project in the coming weeks.  Check out the link to the right if you're interested in following my progress.  I may give periodic updates if there is anything relevant to report, otherwise I plan on focusing my creative energies on the book.

Last year I attempted to write a novel for NaNoWriMo.  The National Novel Writing Month challenge is to write a novel of 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.  NaNoWriMo defines novel as “a lengthy work of fiction,” but they’re pretty tolerant to other types of writing as long as you define your work as a novel and are writing.
Last year I took up the challenge and did well until Thanksgiving vacation when we visited Kentucky, and I had my interview for the position I’m in now.  After the chaos of that week had settled I realized I’d forgotten all about my story and the month was over.  I’ve never gone back to the story, partly because I lost steam and the last year has been ridiculously insane, and partly because as I got deeper into the story I felt like I could take it a different direction with even more success.  I just never got started on the rewrite.
I won’t be revisiting it in a couple of days.  My NaNoWriMo 2013 project is not a lengthy work of fiction.  It’s my story though.  It’s a story I’ve been writing for over three years.
The title is simply Leadville or Bust.
This is something I need to do.  My intent was to have a lot of this book written before I went to Colorado this past August.  I have stolen a lot of material from the blog and will be adapting it to the greater work.  When I got back to Kentucky from finishing the Leadville 100 I tried right away to crank out the book.  I told Mandy I needed to get it written as soon as possible.
It didn’t happen.  Life happened, and I trailed off in my efforts, and the book hit the floor.  A few weeks ago I panicked when I discovered I didn’t even really care.  I’d missed my window of opportunity.  I’d let too much time pass.  No, I was being melodramatic.
I’ve got some of the book roughed in.  I’m taking my “An Apprentice No More” post and adapting it as a full chapter near the end.  The chapter’s going to be a little deeper than the post.  
Technically I’m breaking NaNoWriMo rules by doing this, but I’m not writing this book to win NaNoWriMo.  I’m doing this as a part of NNWM because I had good success last year in getting a lot of material written each day.  I’m utilizing NNWM only because I need the motivation to write each day so I can make significant progress toward a completed rough draft.
As is evidenced in my period of ambivalence toward all things Leadville it seems as if my creative clock is ticking.  Apparently my mind has gone into full defense mode against a potential recurrence of any kind of Leadville obsession.  Yesterday as I was taking down some notes for this book I made the wistfulcomment that I’ll be 40 in 2014; what better chronological milestone than to get my Leadville belt buckle at 40 years old.
All along I’ve been insisting to myself and others that I’m done with the race for a while.  Maybe I’ll go back in a few years.  Maybe I won’t.  Whatever.  I have a feeling in January I may start selling plasma to come up with the entry fee.  

Tuesday, October 29

No More Long Lines At The Pump

This morning on my way in to work I was listening to NPR…
This is one of the perks of not being a full time bike commuter: I can listen to the news while I’m traveling to work.  That’s not justification enough to drive, but I gotta find the silver lining.
So this morning I was listening to NPR.  One year ago today Superstorm Sandy struck the eastern seaboard and wreaked nine million kinds of havoc.  The news story I zeroed in on was about how our fuel delivery system needs to be more resilient.  My kneejerk response was to shout at the radio: “It’s not always about putting gas in your car!!!”  Once I had my own car back under control and had ascertained that no other drivers had been harmed in the making of this blog post I gave the story a little more thought.
Conclusion?  It’s not always about putting gas in your car.
The 6 O’Clock news footage will always show long lines at the pump and suburbanites going all Mad Max on each other to fill up their thirsty SUVs, and to that end I would say we definitely need to focus less on our cars in times of crisis and worry more about health and well-being.  So what if you can’t get around as much as you want after a hurricane decimates your town?  You’ve got a grand excuse to just kick back and chill without running to the Quicki-Mart every fifteen minutes.
The story then mentioned fuel delivery to emergency service fleets, power to cell towers and things along those lines.  Okay, I can almost get on board with agreeing that prioritizing those items in a crisis and making the energy delivery to them more resilient, but…
Why don’t we also focus on creating resilience that does not involve fossil fuels?  Why does everything have to revolve around how we can get more dinosaur juice and wooly mammoth cookies to burn even when a huge wall of water wipes out the electrical grid?  Can’t we think of simpler and more reliable temporary measures that we don’t have to invest so much money and worry into?
What’s wrong with candles?  Having a good bike to get around?  How about cooking on a wood fire?
I was very concerned with my family’s resilience in the face of disaster when we lived in the Denver metro area.  Not long after we moved into our modest house in Arvada I took a long hard look around and realized we lived in a precarious place.  If the electrical grid went down we wouldn’t have survived long.  In densely populated suburbia there were few sources of water.  Natural and readily available fuels for heating, cooking and sanitation were scarce on the high plains.  
If a large scale disaster had happened, say a catastrophic flooding event, there would have been violent competition for resources. 
To me, resilience isn’t about demanding that the government can ensure the normal every day infrastructure, fuel, food and water delivery systems and sanitation removal systems will continue working without interruption, but that each household can fend for themselves for an undetermined amount of time…that each family or individual can adapt to change and employ their innate resourcefulness to survive and thrive in the face of disaster.
Resilience isn’t something you get from local government.  Local government can be resilient, but it cannot pass it on to you and me.  It’s time we began reshaping our expectations. It’s time we stopped thinking about how we can keep driving in a crisis and start focusing on how we can endure with joy.
We don’t all have to be doomsday preppers.  But resilience isn’t about maintaining an exaggerated standard of living at all costs.  It’s about thriving without relying too much on a system of support.

Monday, October 28

Not THAT Cane Creek

I can still remember riding in the seat on the back of my mom’s bike.  We lived on Cane Creek of the Red River in the late 1970s.  We owned a farm and grew tobacco and soybeans.  My dad worked at the Lexington-Bluegrass Army Depot in Avon through the day and my mom stayed home with me.  Except when we went visiting.
Sometimes we walked; sometimes we rode mom’s bike.  My maternal grandparents and family lived on the South Fork of the Red River.  It was about 7 miles from our house to Mamaw and Papaw’s place on High Rock Road.  They moved from that house to a place in town in (I think) 1979.  But every once in a while I ride past that old farm house on my way to High Rock or to ride with Jeff and it brings back a flood of memories.
I don’t get over to Cane Creek very often, and even when I do I rarely go past our old farm.  The Right Fork of Cane Creek essentially dead ends, and there is little reason for me to ever go that direction.  This past weekend I did ride up Cane Creek; first scouting for a passage up through Punkin Hollow (real name) at the head of the Right Fork over into Menifee County and access to the head of Spaas Creek and Hatton Ridge.  Turns out the old dirt road goes through someone’s yard.  I wasn’t too keen on pushing that situation.
Then Jeff and I rode up Cane Creek Mountain which is the stout little climb at the head of Lower Cane Creek (the left fork) before turning and riding back to town.  
First off, the entire Cane Creek drainage is fraught with canines.  Fraught.  Like, there’s a ton of them.  None seemed especially vicious, but having a full-grown Great Pyrenees chasing after you on your bike (and keeping up!) is a little disconcerting.  
While the Right Fork and Punkin Holler don’t really go anywhere—especially for those of the Fredly persuasion—they are rather nice roads to ride on.  There’s some nice new pavement in the area and it is quiet and scenic farm land.  And right now with the fall colors as a backdrop it was an especially enjoyable ride.  
I did see a couple of real jackasses in the area though.  Be forewarned.


Monday, October 21

Short Hiatus?

I’m going to be in Frankfort the rest of the week at grant administration training so I probably won’t have much time to blog.  And since I’ve not been riding much I’m kind of running out of material.  October is going to be a low, low mileage month for me.

I just wanted to let you know now so there is no fear that I’ve succumbed to the injuries I received in a bike crash I dreamed I was in last night.  What was really strange about the dream was that I kept comparing my dream crash to my real life crash on the railroad tracks in Golden back in 2010.

I’ve really been itching to do a short overnight bike tour the last week or so.  The cooler weather always gets me fired up to go camping, and I love Fall in Kentucky.  Friday night I stayed up late, and before going to bed I looked out and saw the moon bathing everything in its nearly full glow.  I almost loaded up a sleeping bag and my shelter and took off down the road.

I was afraid my family would freak out if they woke up and I was just gone.  It would have been easy enough though; to pedal fifteen or twenty miles to the National Forest and throw up a tent and sleep out under the night sky.  Maybe if I were just a little more brave I could just throw the sleeping bag out on the ground under the stars.

 I got nothing else.  Here are some photos:



Friday, October 18

The Danger In Loving Zombies

In most cyclo-centric blogerature the issue of motorists’ dehumanization of other road users due to the inherent anonymity of the windshield comes up from time to time.  I’m not here to refute the phenomenon.  I believe we as motorists become desensitized to the humanity all around us on the roads because we don’t see human forms; we see large rolling boxes of glass and steel/plastic traveling erratically at high rates of speed.
I think I recognized this phenomenon when I was still a teenager.  I remember writing in my journal that I found myself hating cars that represented certain people based on the way they were driven.  I can remember the event and the location where I began pondering this concept.  A fellow student at ole PCHS almost ran me out of the road near my house.  In my journal I wrote that I knew I didn’t hate the person, but I felt an extreme amount of hatred when I saw their car.  The combination of human and machine spawned anger and ill will.  But seeing the same person in the hallowed halls of learning the next day didn’t elicit the same response.
Behind the wheel we become dehumanized zombies ourselves.  We stop seeing life and see only asphalt, steel, and paint.  We chase after it slack-jawed with mindless focus on some dubious destination beyond the horizon which we stay in contact with via our cellular implants.
What I’d like to iterate—as observed on my drive in this morning—is that even the zombie moto-fascists out there are human.  Even the crazed soccer mom screaming simultaneously at you, the cyclist, and whomever is on the other end of her cell-phone umbilical is a human life worth preserving.  Really.
There have been times when someone has almost clipped me on my bike with their car only to come to a complete and casual stop at the next stop sign.  Of course I wanted to drag them out of the car and repeatedly slam their head into the curb.  The reason I didn’t is because I remembered that they were a human being and not some alien slug that had taken on the form of a car and was piloting it around my town while hunting for food to take back to Stavromula-Beta.
In the Car Vs. Bike diatribe it is imperative to remember that there is no “Us” Vs. “Them.” It’s all just us, humanity, trying to get around and go about our daily lives.  Cyclists can act reasonably (if sometimes mysteriously) and refrain from intentionally pissing off their fellow travelers, and motorists can stop acting all self-righteous and entitled and give way.  
C’mon, you’re able to travel 50 freakin’ miles in less than an hour and carry all your junk around with you!  Give the slower moving travelers a break and slow down, take a deep breath, and remember that even though you act like it you’re not a mindless zombie.
And so, if we were to look beyond the non-polarized glass between us we might just see something resembling a reflection of ourselves; not some hideous, flesh rotting walking corpse intent on eating our brains.  I wish I had a photo to go along with that imagery.

Thursday, October 17

Use The Road

Recently Bike Delaware asked DelDOT to simply use the W11-1  or the R4-11 signs as opposed to the W16-1P plaque that has been seen all over the land with increasing frequency.  

Or this:

Not this:
I must admit, as a former urban cyclist I’ve either heard first or second hand more than a few instances of motorists yelling at cyclists to “share the !@#$ road!”  This is interesting coming from a human being piloting (rather skillfully with one hand while having a cell phone glued to their ear) a large fast-moving vehicle and directed at another human being driving a small slow-moving frame of thin metal on two skinny wheels.  
I agree that the meaning is ambiguous and doesn’t support the motorists’ view that cyclists should just stay off the road altogether or the cyclists’ perception that the sign somehow protects them from negative vibes and/or fender-related contusions.  
Share the road signs don’t do much for me.  I was shocked to see them out on the rural roads around my hometown a few years ago, but they didn’t make me feel any safer.  Realistically I knew that the paucity of cyclists in my community was the real danger, and that increased presence of actual cyclists on the roads—not some sign that everyone ignores anyway—would be the path to true biketopia in Powell County, Kentucky.  We’re getting there.
At the time I didn’t realize that the signs were there because of the political influence of a single cyclist living in the county and that they hadn’t been put up as a result of the normal process which involves some fuzzy math and a loud local contingent.  And a dash of political influence.
My rural community had share the road signs years before Lexington.
Anyway, the signs do nothing for me.  They don’t make me feel safer and they don’t embolden me to hog the road.  When I hog the road it has nothing to do with a sign and everything to do with tactical maneuvering to control the space around me on the road for my own safety.  My brand of cyclo-anarchism isn’t about punishing motorists or fighting some ideological war, it’s about exercising my freedom to choose my mode of transportation and expecting a reasonable amount of respect as a user on the road.  I will shout at you if you threaten my safety.  Jane Jacobs told me it was okay.
believe…and have for a long time…that most (MOST) Americans do not take driving seriously enough.  We kill and maim with abandon and impunity.  “It was a tragic accident,” might be the quote by a law enforcement official when some oblivious driver plows over a toddler with their SUV.  No, it was no accident.  It was carelessness.  And it is an epidemic of tragic carelessness that we live with.
So when I read the most recent post by Rebel Metropolis (Hart Noecker) entitled: “It’s Time to Stop Sharing the Road”  I tried to read it objectively without succumbing to confirmation bias. I wanted to stand up and shout in unison “STOP SHARING THE ROAD!!!”  And maybe I will.  But first, my take on the whole issue.
Let me iterate this up front: if you break the law there are consequences.  How you choose to abide by the law is a personal choice.  I don’t mean you can apply situational ethics to your urges to murder your neighbor for throwing loud parties late into the night, but if you’re willing to accept the consequences of breaking a law then more power to you.  Where there is a major dysfunction is when the consequences are not severe enough.
If you’ve been reading BikeSnobNYC much lately you’re undoubtedly familiar with his ongoing rant against the NYPD’s failure to investigate and prosecute any level of vehicular assault.   First (not really) there was the cabbie that nearly killed and most definitely maimed a foreign tourist with his cab while in the midst of a road rage incident with a cyclist.  Of course most people wanted to vilify the cyclist, and he seemed like a scuzzy kind of guy, but it was obvious that the cabbie acted criminally and should have been prosecuted for attempted involuntary manslaughter at the very least (yes, I know that’s probably not legally possible).
Snob goes on to chronicle more and more events where motorists act with (what should be) criminal irresponsibility and get away often without even a slap on the wrist.  I’ll say it again: MOST AMERICANS DO NOT TAKE DRIVING SERIOUSLY ENOUGH.
I’m tired of hearing both cyclists and the general public insist that cyclists should obey all traffic laws because those laws are in place for everyone’s safety.  That’s a big ole stinking barrel of hogwash.  The glaring issue with the notion that traffic laws are for everyone’s safety is that they grant the people driving motor vehicles absolute power over the roadway and do little to protect vulnerable users.  Roads are for moving people; not cars.  The reality though is that regardless of what the laws of the land are and who abides by them or not you cannot bend or break the laws of physics.  
To Noecker’s point about commenters that state that “if a cyclist gets killed by a car, it was their own foolish fault for getting in the way” thereby showing they have no empathy it seems that since we’ll pretty much let anyone drive then a good number of sociopaths end up behind the wheel.  If you do a quick google search on “what percentage of the population are sociopaths” and scan the results it appears as if the best guess is about 3% of the population are sociopaths.  In the Denver metro area this would equal about 75,000 maniac drivers, including one former coworker.  In Powell County, Kentucky 3% is only 378 people.  I’m probably related to half of them.
The intentions of drivers are irrelevant.  I said that.  The outcome of a motorist versus cyclist collision rarely favors the cyclist.  Bumpers and fenders do not give way to flesh and bone.  For that reason I believe the cyclist should always ride to their own interests regardless of what the law mandates.  I’m not saying it’s safer for a cyclist to run a stop sign than not, but the geometrics and physics involved in most intersections directly relate to the motor vehicle and not to the bicycle.
What we need to do (somewhere for crying out loud) is to take every traffic law relating to bicycles and pedestrians and pitch them.  Then we start over with new laws that empower the most vulnerable users instead of marginalizing them and getting them out of the way of the car.  People drive because they feel like they have no other choices, and they feel this way because they (rightly so) fear the alternatives of trying to walk or bike on roads not welcoming to them.
The factors that keep us in our cars are legion; not least of all is the common necessity of living in one place and working far away.  We tend to choose this arrangement because the perception is that commuting by car is cheaper than trying to live near employment centers.  But this arrangement occurs too because employers locate in places where we don’t want to liveand that aren’t conducive to commuting to by any other means than an SOV.
Another factor that keeps us in our cars is laziness.  We’re only a couple of generations gone from a time when people had to use much more human energy to get things done in life, whether it be work, chores, or play.  We’re fat lazy slobs and we don’t care who knows it.    
I’m an unrepentant lane taker.  I’ll risk the wrath of the occasional sociopath to keep at bay the casual careless driver.  I know what I’m doing when I block traffic behind me until oncoming traffic has cleared so it’s safe to pass.  I know what I’m doing when I take a full lane going into a blind curve to prevent a motorist from endangering not only my life and theirs but the potential driver or cyclist coming the other way.
In the strictest sense I AM sharing the road…responsibly at that point…but the motorists that understand what I’m doing are few and far between.  And even if they’re tolerant they’re stillunlikely to apply what I’ve taught them further down the road when they encounter some other point of friction in the roadway.  
Recreationally I’ve favored mountain biking this past year because it keeps me off the road.  I’ve been lazy when it comes to using the bike for utility and transportation.  I’m hoping to change that trend.  And as far as anyone else on the road is concerned there should be no distinction between my recreational rides or my useful rides.  We don’t make those kinds of distinctions for motorists, and so also we shouldn’t assess intent for cyclists or pedestrians.
What I would like to say regarding Noecker’s assertion is this:  I plan on using the road like everyone else.  Sharing comes only as a matter of course, not as some kind of policy or ideology.  As humans we need to share space with other humans. But beyond that I don’t think we need to make distinctions.  
We must sculpt cultural attitudes of mutual respect, understanding, and patience.  We lack these.  We suffer from an epidemic of carelessness and thoughtlessness.  They cost us much when the alternatives could benefit us so much more.  We need to feed positive energy back into our social environment and stop insisting that every point of contention has to be an “us vs. them” war.
 ADDENDUM:  This is a great post on the Surly blog.

"To all the drivers out there I'd like to say stay off the hooch, put down the phone, slow down and start seeing the life over the bike and the destination."

Tuesday, October 15

Fast and Rough: A Trail Running Scheme

A coworker who is contemplating suicide by half marathon next year asked me how I felt the day after the run.  Before I could answer he changed his question to how I felt the same day but after the race.  Then he answered his own questions with a question:
“Probably shouldn’t make any plans, eh?”
It was the easiest bit of advice I’ve ever given.  And since it hadn’t really cost me anything I proceeded to elaborate.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t do any work on a ladder.  And I wouldn’t plan on doing any yard work, especially any work that might involve squatting and lifting.  Or laundry.  Definitely don’t do any laundry if your washer and dryer are in the basement.  Plan ahead so you won’t need to do any laundry the day of the race, or probably even the day after.”
As you can see, I’m something of an expert on half marathons now.  Bow to my expertise.
My fortieth year is winding down.  Hopefully I can look back on it and say that it was the year I totally went into midlife crisis mode and then things took an upturn after that.  I’ve participated in far too many organized events this past year.  Beginning on Thanksgiving Day of 2012 I have either ran or ridden in at least 8 organized events.  Too many.  Someone change the password on my account to something I can’t easily guess.
I’m planning two completely unofficial, unorganized, unsanctioned, unsavory running events in the coming months.  Again, Thanksgiving morning Mandy and I want to do a run.  So we’re planning on doing a 10k beginning at 9am at Fitchburg, Kentucky.  I’m calling it the Fitchburg Turkey Addicts 5 & 10k.  Both are out and back runs beginning and ending in the same place.  Running a 10k on Thanksgiving morning will totally justify the overeating that will ensue later in the day.
The second event is much more ambitious for me—but which I have been scheming for a few weeks now—and should ring in the New Year with a vengeance.  I’m calling it the Fast and Rough 25k.  I’ll be starting out from Martin’s Fork Trailhead just east of Nada Tunnel in the Red River Gorge and then running Rough Trail to its end and picking up Swift Camp Creek Trail on Sky Bridge Road and running it to its end at Rock Bridge Trailhead.  16+ miles.  You guessed it: suicide by trail run.
I will most likely run a solo bike shuttle unless my family all have the urge to come out and cheer me on.  But I’m not going to ask them to do that.  January 4 will probably be a tad chilly.  And someone will need to be able to do laundry later that day.  Or the next day.  I’m guessing.  But if my wife were to want to do the run with me...well, I'd pay someone to do the laundry that day.  Or get those kids to start earning their keep.
After that I don’t have any big events planned, but I think I will start working on some other grassroots cheap-and-fast type runs/rides.  And why not?  If no one goes along with me…so what?  I can do the rides regardless, and if some kind of dysfunctional social gathering occurs then all the better.  We’ve been talking about getting together a running club or biking club around home anyway.
Okay, I lied.  I just remembered that Joe Bowen is organizing a half marathon trail run in September of 2014.  It’s called The Rugged Red.  I want to do that.  And I’m definitely going to do the Sheltowee Challenge 50k next fall, but it hardly counts as an organized event.  Oh, and there’s the Natural Bridge 5k…geez, I have a problem.
Well, no, I really don’t.  Those three events are local, small, and they appeal to me because they’re local and small.  Joe’s Rugged Red might end up being big, but 2014 will be its first year.  
I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I need to go ride my bike.

Monday, October 14

Rode That Horse

But that's how it goes with runners: through pain, we find serenity.

The greater the agony, the greater our eventual absolution.

~ The Oatmeal 

The Post-Leadville half marathon training is over.  We're now in the Post-Iron Horse era of life.  

I had a post started that was the same as my usual fare.  And then this morning I totally and unexpectedly discovered The Oatmeal for the first time ever.  And there, on his front page, was the comic entitled “The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances” which I have quoted at the beginning of this post.

My coworker Betsy was the first place female runner at the Iron Horse.  She finished in just under 1:30.  I was like the 9 millionth male finisher.  I walked some.  In fact, I felt worse yesterday than I did through all of my training runs over the past ten weeks.  I cramped.  Didn’t cramp in the previous weeks.  My legs felt heavy and dead after 10 miles.  Hadn’t had that happen during any of my training runs.

I could say it was God’s way of telling me to check the day of the week next time I sign up for a big run/ride like that and not wait until two months before the event to realize I’ll have to skip church because the 13th is on a Sunday.
Anyway, being a bad example aside (it’s is just that easy to sweep it under the rug) I felt like I ran a relay with myself.  There were two mes out in Midway yesterday.  Double the forsaking.
Mile 6 was my fastest at 9:06.  I’ve had faster mile paces on shorter runs, but a 9-10 minute pace has been pretty consistent for me over the past few weeks.  The digi-board displayed 1:03 when I passed the halfway point.  I was feeling good, and seeing that time made me very hopeful that I might be able to bust 2 hours on my very first half marathon!
Mile 9 was almost two fully minutes slower.  I “ran” mile 11 in 11:40.  I went from a 9 minute mile to an almost 12 minute mile.  So what happened?
Right after I passed the halfway point my left calf started to cramp.  Before I reached the 7 mile mark it was full on seizing up.  By mile 9 my left thigh was cramping even as the calf was loosening again.  But then by mile 10 and the loosening of my thigh muscles my legs felt heavy and dead.  My right knee started to hurt like it never had.  It felt like bees were coating it and stinging it at their massed leisure.  I felt tired.  I wasn’t bonking, but bonking would have been a welcome relief at that point.
Speaking of nutrition…
“I’ve got to eat really well this week.”  That’s what I said to Mandy a week ago.  And I proceeded to eat junk, junk, and more junk.  There are reasons for this, none of which I feel necessary to throw out in my defense.  Suffice it to say I lost sight of the prize.  Combine that with the two final weeks of stalled training and you can see that I was setting myself up for a suffer-fest of epic portions…er, proportions.
The morning of was no better.  I choked down as much of a banana as I could manage.  I wasn’t nervous, just reacting negatively to the sensory assault that is eating a banana for me.  There was little in the house that I had the gumption to prepare for myself, and Mandy had decided not to eat, so I ate a crunchy granola Clif bar to chase my half a banana.  And that was all.
I had meant to bring a Clif Shot or two, but somewhere along the way I forgot to put them in my hydration pack.  Yeah, I ran with a bladder.  I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t want to carry my phone through the whole race but I did want a record of my first half marathon.  That seems a silly reason to carry a hydration pack, and I really had no other justification, but I’d been running with it on all my longer runs and I never really noticed it there so it didn’t seem like a bad decision.  And it wasn’t.
So I started the race as a strong, well-prepared, mentally strong endurance racer.  And at mile 6 I handed the baton off to the slobbish, lazy, self-destructive wannabe athlete and suffered for the next five miles.  But then on the way back as I climbed up the steepest hill on the course (none were as bad as Granny Moppet or Steamshovel) I found a little bit of reserve, the pain subsided just a tad, and the now worn down strong, well-prepared and mentally strong athlete took back over.  By then the damage had been done.
I couldn’t up my pace—even on the downhills—but I was determined to run the rest of the race.  You see…fatty had walked.  In all those weeks of training I only walked a few times, and usually it was a strategic resting tactic to get a bit of rest on a climb.  But during the Iron Horse fatso-slobbo took to walking whenever the pain got to be too much.  
And to get away from the run-walk-run-walk-run-walk participants.  That drove me nuts.  Especially the guy who sounded like a bull elephant in heat.  He just kept running past me and then slowing down until I passed him only to run past me again, all the while breathing like he was getting ready to explode.
On the second half of the race I was fairly certain I’d blown any chance of hitting my predicted 2:15 finish time.  I was fairly certain I wasn’t even going to make the 2:30 my family had predicted.  At one point—around mile 10—I wondered if I just started walking if I would be able to finish before getting pulled.  I held onto that thought for a mile or so until I decided to toss it.  I was in Midway to run.
By mile 11 I was passing no one and I felt like I was moving slower than a walking pace.  And it hurt.  So why not walk?  But I kept on running hoping the pain would wash away and the mental and physical tightness would loosen.
Mile 11 was my slowest, and most painful, but the long downhill toward town had begun.  Mile 12 was a little faster, and mile 13 was a little faster than that.  The spare change at the end I managed to run a 10:11 pace according to Strava.  And then I was done.
I came around the final corner with a couple hundred yards to go and saw the digi-board over the finish.  In shock I saw “2:14”…so I picked up my pace.
My chip time was 2:14:02.  I crossed the finish still under 2:15.  Unbelievable.

Tomahawk was helping with the medals at the finish.  I dropped off my pack and then went back to watch for Laurie and Mandy.  Laurie crossed with a chip time of 2:37:23.  She wanted to break the 2:40s and she did.  That was pretty awesome, even though she did hurl on the railroad tracks later.
Mandy called me from the course as she walked up a hill.  I was worried for a second, but she said she just wanted to see what my finishing time was.  She predicted she’d be coming in right at 3 hours and she did, and she ran strong over the finish.  I was so proud of her for sticking with this lo, these past few months!  For a first half marathon she did phenomenally well. I could see the emotion in her face that I felt after crossing the finish at Leadville.  Seeing that medal hanging around her neck makes me infinitely happy.
I told Tom I would never do one of these things again.  He said I’d forget in a couple of weeks.  He’s probably right.  Commiserating with Betsy and a couple other coworkers this morning I was already thinking I wanted to be running again and to not take a week off like I promised myself yesterday.  Then I came back to my desk and stumbled over that Oatmeal comic. Take a few minutes to read it.  I can relate to it much to well.
My next goal is pretty ambitious.  The Saturday after New Year’s I’m going to do a 16 mile trail run in the Gorge.  I’m going to begin at Martin’s Fork trailhead and run Rough Trail all the way to Swift Camp Creek Trail and finish on it at Rock Bridge.  It’s going to be hard.  It’s going to involve suffering no matter what kind of shape I’m in.  But I’m going to do it.  No entry fees.  No awards.  No crowds to cheer me on.  Just me, the trail, and the desire to make it happen.
After that I’ll have to reassess and come up with some new scheme, but the truth is I don’t think I’m going to keep doing the organized events…biking or running.  I’ll go and support Mandy, but I need to lay off of the for a fee activities for a good long while.  I’m not going to sign up for Leadville this year.  I may consider doing the Mohican again, but I’ve not decided.
I have confidence that I can come up with plenty of free schemes to keep my little self occupied for a couple of years.

Friday, October 11

Fun...But Useful

In advance—just wanted to apologize for…er, to you right –brained type people out there.  Due to the events that I am about to chronicle I delayed your blog-reading gratification til wa-ay late in the day. I knew I’d have something to write about it I waited until after my lunch time escapades.
I needed to go across town and pick up our packets for the Iron Horse.  I decided that was a perfect excuse for me to take the bike with me this morning (hidden away in the back seat or the car, NOT subjected to the indignity of being hauled on the trunk of it) and ride the newest section of Brighton.

The packet pickup was at Saul Good in Hamburg.  I rode over to Richmond Road, out to Hays, picked up the bike lanes there and rode over to Deer Haven and out to the eastern-most tip of the newest section of Brighton.  Then I turned and blazed west, a bullet toward the heart of the city, but was deflected by Man-O-War Boulevard.

I picked up the packets and then detoured slightly north to check out the Liberty Trail.  It’s nothing to write home about, but it is a fine trail that will hook up to a future phase of Brighton near Liberty Road.

I couldn’t help but think about seeing the Freedom Trail in downtown Lexington along this same rail corridor when I was a little kid.  Anyway…

I grabbed lunch nearby and then rode out Old Todds to Palumbo, crossed MOW again, and then followed Yorkshire to Squires and that got me somewhere in the neighborhood of the office once again.  All in all I rode about 15 miles and felt pretty darn good.  It was a great day to be outside.  I wish I’d just kept right on going…but alas!

Thursday, October 10

The Lone Commuter

 Being the self-centric cyclist that I am you might think this is another monotribe about my solo ramblings through the world.  Did he finally screw up the gumption to ride the 45 miles to work?!  
No, this isn't about me.
Meet Lori.  Lori is the lone bicycle commuter employed by my organization.  She rides every day and she's determined to ride year round.
Last spring I noticed a green cruiser bike propped against a tree out in the parking lot.  It didn't take long to figure out who was riding it.  Lori works in admin, and is maybe ten years older than me.  I would safely venture to say that she's not the typical bike commuter, but then again, who is?
I've had a few conversations with her, enough to learn that she's not a fair weather cyclist and that she sees the bike as a very practical mode of transportation.  She lives three miles from work, sticks to the sidewalk along Alumni, and will ride at lunch to run errands.
One morning as I drove in I saw her stopped along the sidewalk on Alumni pruning the overhanging hedges with hand pruners.  Iwas impressed and told her so.
"Well, I didn't think the city was ever going to do anything about it," was her response.
A couple of months ago the green cruiser was replaced with an older geared mountain bike.  She leans the bike against the treeunlocked, in all-weather—every day.  I take that back, I have seen her bike stored in the less used stairwell on rainy days.  That made me smile as I solved my rainy day storage problem the same way in Colorado; except mine went in the stairwell so as not to foul the carpet in my cubicle.
Lori inspires me to ponder commuting again myself.  The one way distance is prohibitive or I would have started doing it again long ago.  I think I need to bite the bullet and just do it one day.
I also feel the urge to advocate for better conditions for her.  A bike rack would be a great addition to our building.  Heck, thatmight even inspire me more to ride.  Covered bike parking would go a long way too.  And I have connections in the city to advocate some bike infrastructure development in our neighborhood.
Why have I been sitting on my hands this long?
Also, most days I see another bike commuter of a similar demographic profile as Lori riding northeast on Squires Road in Lexington.  I've seen her in all conditions: rain, darkness, heat, etc. and she seems to be of the same mindset.  I would guess this lady has been at it a bit longer than Lori and she has more commuter dedicated gear such as lights and fenders.
This is heartening, not just because it's more utilitarian cyclists on the road in Lexington, Kentucky but that the numbers aren't increasing just in the lycra-clad aggro young male cyclist population.  That's a positive sign of a healthy cycling environment.

Wednesday, October 9

To Switchback, Or Not To Switchback

Rideable backyard trails: 1.2 miles.

Loop: N/A


Potential rideable backyard trails: 3-4 miles (on a 30 acre tract)
My little trail building crew

Yesterday eve…last night…Dave followed me home and acted like he wanted to work on trails so I showed him the way out into the wild behind my house and he went crazy swinging a mattocks like a berzerker.  When he was done the woods looked like a gloriously amazing mountain bike park the likes of which the Red River Valley has never seen.

Or something like that.

Actually, with a fresh set of eyes we saw a better possibility.  Dave pointed out my existing switchback scheme might just be unrideable and spied a line—steep it was—that would have a more grandiose radius versus the creased turns I was trying to cram onto the hillside.  His line will kick the can down the road of cutting the hanging deadfall and will be more interesting.

So there’s that.  The new line eliminates two turns and while it is steep it still looks rideable.  This is going to be a long term project for sure.  I’m hoping by the end of this month to be able to ride the loop.  

That does not mean I will have a perfect, smooth, finished trail; just a rideable loop.  Over time I can refine the trail into something truly great.

I mean, I can’t let Jeff have the best private mountain bike parkin Powell County.  I’ve got to be better than him at something besides eating cheeseburgers.  Maybe I'm also more competitive than him?  It's a talent I should look into developing.

This is the future of mountain biking.  No, not my secret little trail holler, but private land in the hands of mountain bikers.  Rock climbing has gone this route too.  

The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition owns 1,000 acres one county over.  Why couldn’t a mountain bike group organize and do the same?  The major difference is that the Red River Gorge is for climbers what a place like Moab is for mountain bikers.  For mountain bikers the Red is more like some country club that doesn’t allow bikers or scruffy bikers.  

The RRGCC formed with a huge support base and the financial power to buy land and manage it.  I don’t see the same thing happening with KyMBA any time soon.

It is possible though…

Tuesday, October 8

The Running Man

I am not giving up cycling.  I just thought I should put that out there in advance, so as not to cause a panic and a rush for the doors.  People get crushed that way.
I’ve become increasingly attentive to the prospect of running more to get in better shape.  Due to my advanced age and the literal decades of abuse I’ve heaped on my joints I have discovered that running on dirt is much easier on my stems than is running on asphalt or concrete.  I know, I know…riding a bike is easier than running on anything but bunny fur.  Refer back to the very first sentence in this post.
Anyway, I live near the Daniel Boone National Forest; specifically and nearestly to the Red River Gorge Geological Area.  The RRG has dozens of miles of trails of which I have hiked and ran relentlessly for over 20 years now.  Until recently my trail running has been limited to the Tunnel Ridge Road area and Whittleton Trail.  My earlier trail running exploits occurred when I lived in two different locations in Slade.  When I lived near Tunnel Ridge I ran there, most often out Auxier Ridge, and when I lived in Slade proper I most often ran Whittleton.  
One interesting (to me anyway) sidebar story was the time I biked from the business where I lived at the top of Slade Hill out Tunnel Ridge so I could run the Auxier Loop.  I locked the bike somewhere in the woods and did the run.  While I was out on the exposed ridge a storm blew in.  I had to hold out under a rock ledge for a while, but finally was able to get back to my bike and pedal back to the store where I discovered drifts of gumball-sized hail.  Providentially no hail fell where I was running.
I enjoyed running Whittleton Trail in rainy conditions.  It seems every time I ran there it was crazy muddy.  These days I think I’d be less likely to run in such condition to spare my ankles.  After my sprain back in the winter I’m much more cognizant (read: less stupid) about trail conditions and try to avoid surface situations that would cause me more grief and whining.
My thoughts of late turned to the possibility of mountain biking in the RRG if the Shutdown/Apocalypse were to trend on toward infinity.  I know, I KNOW…not a good example and technically still illegal.  I ran a few miles of the Sheltowee Trace recently, and as I ran I recognized that the same factors that drew me to mountain biking as a form of proprioceptive therapy also manifested when I ran on trails.  
In fact, the experience was so similar I found myself pondering hiking in with a chainsaw to clear some of the more obstructionist deadfalls along the way.  But the movement of pounding out a trail that has good flow came close to having the same benefit as riding a bike along a similar trail.  There was definitely a significant difference over just simply hiking a trail.
I’ve blathered on this long about this to say this: I fully intend to go back and revisit as many of the trails in the area as I can as a runner in the next 20 or so odd years of my life as I possibly can.  Outside the Gorge area where I can ride I will probably just keep cranking away.
So why running?  I was a cross country runner my freshman year of high school.  I romanticized it too much I guess, but I did enjoy running through the woods.  I think those times I ran trails in the late ‘90s I was probably more romanticizing the experience than truly taking advantage of it.  These days I need the physiological therapy and these trails are close by.  I’ve also discovered that running even on rough trails isn’t as bad as I had imagined it would be.  
I get bored on the road easily, and it does honestly bang up my knees to run on hard surfaces where running on dirt hasn’t yet. With this ongoing Shutdown/Apocalypse the temptation to go ride the excellent trails in the RRG has been overly strong.  I can legally run these trails for a new and novel experience where hiking them for me is just the same old same old.  Gives me a new lease on my lifestyle.