Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another great ride at Donaldson

I'm really loving these tuesday nights at Donaldson. Last week's ride was a really great time and this week's ride was just as good. I opted out of leading a ride tonight, but that changed somewhere along the way.

I started with the 19+ mph group 1b that was to be lead by Jill. Although I didn't cut this group down too bad, I did comment last week that they were becoming a
hammer group. Who'd have guessed that I was actually wrong about that ;).

We started out at a very brisk pace. I didn't get her name, but the lady up front leading the pack was definitely strong - she was up front with John and they were pulling that train at a breakneck pace! As we made our way down perimeter road, I commented to Jill "They're not afraid to set a strong pace are they?". She agreed it was a little fast, so I sprinted up to the front and asked them to pull it back a little. Even though we pulled the pace back, we were already at 19mph average speed before we turned off of Perimeter road.

Although I wasn't the ride leader, I tried to stay up front to assist in whatever way I could. We turned on to Griffen road, and they kept the pace high. They were great though, as soon as I requested a pull back, they complied. That gradual uphill along Griffin and past the plant is always a nice pull and those folks up front kept the pace. We were over 20mph already. I tried to hold the pace back a little in this early section as we generally increase the pace as the ride progresses.

It really was a great group tonight. Although we had some very strong people up front, we did a great job of re-grouping at the logical points. When we stopped at the intersection of Richey and Woodville roads, we had dropped some folks. Unfortunately, it appeared that we dropped our leader. I wasn't in the front of the pack when we got to this intersection, but when I did get up there, Bo had turned around looking for me as the leader. Since I'm not terribly shy these days, and since I had already been working as assistant leader, I stepped into the role.

Not that this group really needs a leader. I was surprised that as we continued along Woodville road, including the normal strong efforts going up the hill, our pace had dropped into the 19.7 range. A big part of this was because the excellent re-group efforts of those at the front of the peleton. Another full re-group at the intersection of Reedy Fork Road and we were on our way.

More strong efforts up the hill and along old hundred road kept us right in the 19.8-19.9mph range. I was feeling good, and I think those who were in the group were feeling good as well. We made the left turn onto Holly drive, and the pace kicked up another notch. I was glad to see the peleton (at least those in front of me) had stretched out into a single file line. This is much safer on that narrow twisty road. We had no traffic on the road, and of course there was the surge of addrenilin as we dropped through the roller-coaster ride that is the last 600 meters of Holly road. Great job on the re-group.

Again, this group surprised me as we headed up Reedy Fork Road. I thought it was going to be a hammerfest, but it was actually a great pace - lead once again by the woman who pulled the group so quickly at the beginning of the ride. I think I need to do better getting people's names....

By the time we pulled up to the stop sign at Michelin Road, I was showing an average pace of 19.9mph. Although Dan likes for this group to average just over 20mph, I think this group probably would have averaged a bit over 20 if we had not been so excellent in keeping the group together (read that as stopping at the stop signs!).

Even after we turned on to Perimeter road, the group stayed together. The pace didn't really change, although there was a small breakaway as they climbed the hill next to the golf course. I say they, because after doing my share of pulling along perimeter road, I pulled out and let the group go. I tried for a while to pull them back, but just didn't have it in me tonight. I finished out my ride at an easier pace.

Thanks to the volunteers who keep us organized on Tuesday nights, and thanks to my fellow riders for making each week such a great experience!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It was like coming home

Tuesday nights at Donaldson, a favorite of mine for sure. Although I missed last week for rain, I made it out this week. Matt, a friend of mine from work was coming out for the first time, so I told him I would stick with him through the ride. We talked about the different pace groups, and he decided on Group 2a (18-19mph pace).

As we were lining up for departure, I saw several of my friends out there. Bryant was there and we chatted - I told him I was going to ride the 2a group with my friend. Just about that time Bill called out for a ride leader and without hesitation, Bryant pointed right at me and said 'Here's your leader' (or something of the sort). Being a good sport, I accepted the nomination.

We departed with a much smaller group than I thought we would have. I started up front with Matt and we set a reasonable pace down Perimeter road, on to Antioch church road and then on to Michelin Road. As we turned on lost swamp, some other folks came up to the front.

Our average pace picked up quickly - We were over 18mph by the time we hit griffin mills road. I had to hold the front guys back a little along that stretch of road. Since we started out with a pretty good pace, it kind of went that way for most of the ride.

There were the normal zones where some of the stronger folks would get out front and push a little - the hill along Richey Road and then the hill on Woodville road. Thanks to everyone in the group. Both stop signs following those two areas were great re-grouping spots.

After the turn onto Reedy Fork, we had another little pace increase - along old hundred road. This is a great road with great visibility. Folks just like to turn it up through there I think. Another re-group and to let some cars pass at the stop sign. A brief soft pedal after the stop because we got split by some traffic crossing 418.

The pace was pretty much hanging right around 18.9 - 19.2mph. A little fast perhaps, but with the re-groups, I think we gave opportunity for folks to stick with the group. Another re-group as we crossed Reedy fork. At this intersection, we caught up with Dan and some of the ladies who had started with the 1b group. Apparently, that group is becoming the hammer group it was last year - I know Dan tried to keep it together, but strong wills and strong riders are tough to keep a handle on. The 1a group is nearly non-existent.

Then it was on to Holly Drive. This is an awesome road. Tuesday night, we came upon two cars heading in the opposite direction. Not fun for us or the cars, but everyone made it through cleanly.

Once we got on Reedy Fork for the ride back, the pace started to open up again. We stayed pretty cohesive up to about Garrison road - except for Tyler and Bryant. Those guys took off and stayed in front of the rest of us until we caught them right around Garrison Road. Matt was still with us although I could see that he was slightly off the pace as we approached and passed through Garrison road.
After Garrison Road, a small group splintered off the front and stayed up there till the end.

The rest of us continued along at a pretty good pace up to the Michelin Stop sign. If I recall, I had us clocked at about 19.1mph for an average speed. Just outside our target pace, but I think it was close enough.

On to Perimeter road and we opened it up a little. Eventually, I got out front for a while until a guy came around me to pull just past the golf course. He and I set a pretty good pace for a while, but I had to drop off. The rest of the crowd was only a couple bike lengths behind, so as soon as I dropped off the pace, they came flying by. I may have gotten my average pace up to 19.4mph by that time.

So, it really was a great ride for me. Leading that group, seeing the cooperation between the other riders in the group, the excellent comradery - it really felt as if I had returned home after being away (riding the 1b group) for so many weeks.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dexter the dog

So it's thursday, I haven't given an update on Dexter since Sunday! He's doing well. As I predicted, he did indeed trip over his own face while chasing the ball the other day. I nearly fell down I was laughing so hard!

I was a little concerned knowing he would be all alone while I was at work, but he seems to handle it just fine. I take him for a short walk when I awake in the morning, then another short walk when I get home from work. Usually another - maybe a little longer before bedtime.

After we do the after-work walk, I try to throw the ball with him for a while. He loves it of course! The gang told me he likes the empty milk cartons. I gave him one on his first day, but I think the newness of the place kept him from really enjoying it. I gave him another yesterday - WOW did he go crazy! He kicks it around like it's a soccer ball! He likes for me to chase him and try to take it away from him. Funny.

He's such a cool dog. He could almost convince me to get a dog of my own.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dexter and me - day 2

My second day as dog daddy. Dexter is still Dexter. He's a little like a teenager - all gangly and a little uncoordinated. This morning, I was throwing the ball for him (here's what I use) in the backyard. Quite funny. Every time, he runs so fast that he can't pick up the ball on the fly and has to turn around to go back for it. As he approaches the ball, he lowers his head with his jaws spread - ready to snatch the ball from the clutches of the grass (that needs to be cut by the way). When he is over the ball, I can see him reaching for the ball, but his body doesn't slow down at all. Sometimes I swear he is going to trip himself up with his own face! At least once he crashed into the fence (or the bush).

He's been playing with a tennis ball that once belonged to my cats. I say once belonged to them because he has definately made it his own. It was once a brand new tennis ball! At least he is a bit better than some dogs I have known...Dexter's tennis ball still holds air.

He's funny though - he'll grab on to the fuzz with his front teeth and shake the ball for all he's worth!

As I said yesterday, I'm trying to keep him outside for a big part of the time he is here - he's use to it anyway. What he's not used to is being fenced in. It doesn't seem to bother him too much. As far as I can tell, he's getting out into the yard and exploring a little. Earlier today, I heard him bark a little (kind of a surprised bark). I looked out the window and there he was near the gate - being surprised by my neighbor's three cats. I'm not sure he really has a clue what to think about these little furry creatures. I'm pretty sure he knows what a squirrel is - he sees plenty of them at home, but what is a cat? He doesn't know what to do with them. And the cats...they do what cats do - look right at him like "what's thig big ole gangly kramer looking thing?". The cats know the fence is there so they're not too worried about him (of course, they're checking him out through the fence).

A little story that may not be suitable for the kids.....While we were playing ball today, he suddenly reverses course and walks over to the corner of one of my parking areas. In this particular spot, there is a lot of dirt that collects from when the rain washes the neighborhood - I get some pretty big puddles that deposit the residue from my driveway and ?? wherever. Well, all these neighborhood cats (mine included) are outdoor cats. A cat is a cat and you know they are going to use whatever facilities they can find. It just happens that all this dirt in the corner of my driveway is rather loosely packed and somewhat resembles a litter box.

Dexter makes a beeline for this corner of my driveway, drops the ball and picks up ...... something. At first I don't know what is going on, but then he turns around and has a choice morsel (read between the lines here...). Before I can tell him to drop it, it's gone. He looks at me with this huge satisfied look on his face. MMMMM nice little treat!

He was so proud of himself!

When he's not outside, usually he's about this close to me (I'm sitting in my desk chair as I am preparing this blog).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dexter and me

So, last night I picked up a little buddy from a friend's house. His name is Dexter and he is about 7 months old. My friends are going out of town for a few days, so they asked me to help out. Today (Saturday 13 June) was day one, and it has been pretty interesting.
I have two cats, so of course there are cat toys laying around the house. Dexter immediately took a liking to a golf ball. I don't know if I have ever seen under the dimpled cover of a golf ball, but he made short work of the cover and I saw a nice white rubber core underneath!

Speaking of cats, I don't know if he knows what he is seeing when he looks at them. He looks more anxious than hungry...

I tried to leave him outside most of the day. I thought he'd find a nice cool spot under my trailer out back, but alas, he stayed in the little screened porch most of the day. It gets warm in that spot, but I left him plenty of water....he'll figure out where to find a cool spot soon enough.

He's a wicked mellow dog. And, my friend's kids have got him trained to fetch and respond to some commands - come, sit, shake (although I am having trouble with that one so far).

I took him for an afternoon walk over at cleveland park today. As my friend told me, if you don't use the pinch collar, he'll pull. Who did I think I was, using my retractable leash and the 'regular' collar? Of course he pulled! Especially when he met up with another young dog and the two of them decided to play! I was glad I had the pinch collar with me. He's actually quite tame when you put that on him. Very little pulling.

When we got back from the park, it was time for dinner, so I heated up the leftovers from last night - soft tacos! Pretty tasty! Thanks Janet!
So dexter is pretty funny. He tends to follow me around the house most of the time when he is inside. A few minutes ago, I got up to grab my camera (about 6' away) and he got up to follow me. What a nutty dog!
I was sitting here at my computer a while ago, and he was standing in the hallway looking into my bedroom. Suddenly, I hear growling! What's going on I wonder? I mean one cat is outside, the other is in the living room on the cat condo. I walk into the bedroom, talking to him, trying to understand at what he is growling..... Turns out, it is the sheet on my bed, where it drapes over the footboard. I have a floor fan that is set on oscillating. As it oscillates, it hits the draped sheet, and makes it move around! I tried to show him it was nothing, but he kept staring at it like it was going to get him. Dogs are a trip.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

How can you pick one - when you love so many?

I mean, there are so many of them - they pull at your heart, causing you to experience the full range of emotions. Not all of them are the same - each one has their own personality. One will make you work harder than you ever have, another might just be for the thrill. Still another will make you question yourself - am I really good enough?

Some of them will break your bank, while others cost nearly nothing. For every one that is VERY high maintenance, there is another that is not. Sometimes, it seems there are too many, but each one wants more of you. Over time they become more and more demanding as your relationship grows and you become more comfortable with each other. You come to a point where every thought, every move is almost instinctual - the two of you moving in complete synchronicity. Creating a rhythm that leads you to an unbelievable - yet very natural high.

Yes, I myself have many mistresses. When I was in High School I met one of the lower maintenance ones. When my friends and I decided to join the army, I became a bit obsessed with running. My friends and I would get out as often as we could to test ourselves on two laps of Green Acres Lake back in my hometown (or closest thing I have to a hometown) of Clovis, NM. That distance was very close to an even 2 miles - the distance of the Army Physical Readiness Test. Those who know me today might not believe I could once run 6 minute miles for those two miles. While in the Army, this love affair continued - I could do those 6 minute miles for 3, maybe even 5 miles. Amazing when I think back on it now.

Another mistress of mine started before High School. She was one of the higher maintenance mistresses. My Dad taught me to ride a motorcycle when I was about 10. At the ripe age of 13, I had my first driver's license - I was legal to operate a motorcycle (100cc or less) on public roadways. When I entered the Army, I went through three mistresses - A dirt bike and a cruiser led me to purchase what became not only a mistress, but a way of life. That bike was a 1986 GSXR750. The first year for it to be sold in the US. I really became obsessed with that bike. I lived to ride that thing. I raced it a number of times at Seattle International Raceway. My last race at that venue put over 26 inches of scar tissue on my body. It also resulted in skin grafts in two locations. Talk about high maintenance!!

The love affair didn't end there. Of course, I got the repairs done, and she stayed with me for another 3+ years. Even after the crash, I swore I would be roadracing on a professional circuit after I ended my term of service. My life became all about motorcycles - they had really stolen my heart.

After seeing a little of the US (that's a subject for another blog), I ended up in Phoenix, Az where I attended Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. This mistress was looking to tie me down for the long run. I was pretty convinced she was the one. After finishing up at MMI, I moved to take a job in Los Angeles. While living there my friends and I would take a motorcycle ride almost every weekend. We'd sometimes put as much as 1500 miles on the bikes. It was a really fun time. However, I wasn't always true to her - I also started rock climbing and mountain biking.

I was a little torn between these two new interlopers and my 'true' love. I loved both riding and working on my motorcycle(s). Even after my GSXR 750 was stolen from me, I built (from 2 different bikes that had been totaled) a Yamaha FJ1200. This was a great bike as well, and I saw a lot of country on that machine. Unfortunately, the daily work of repairing other's motorcycles began to wear on my love. When the weekend came, I just wanted to get out and ride, soon, I was loading my bicycle, my climbing gear and my camping gear on my motorcycle and taking weekends for mountain biking and climbing, and not so much (motorcycle) riding.

In 1991, I fell for another mistress - this one I'm still involved with today - Engineering! I started back to school with the goal of a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Now it seemed I had too many! In 1993, I took a little trip (again, another blog...) to Alaska on my FJ1200. When I returned, I jumped into school more like full time, and I changed jobs to another motorcycle repair shop where I could work part time. I ended up (for various reasons) riding my bicycle between work, home and school more than my motorcycle. It seemed my passion for my motorcycle was waning.

To better convey what my motorcycle meant to me, when I moved to New York to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in January of 1995, I had not owned a car since 1986 when I sold my last car - a 1979 Fiat Spyder convertable. My first semester at RPI had me riding my mountain bike 3 miles to campus - sometimes in over a foot of snow! Needless to say, my FJ1200 (which I had put something on the order of 45,000 miles on) was parked at my Grandparents place, under a cover and rusting away (yikes!). It seemed my love affair with motorcycles had come to an end.

So I spent the next two years passionately involved with academia - engineering to be specific. She was a very demanding mistress. I worked hard for the 2.5 years it took me to get through the required courses and earn my degree (Magna Cum Laude thank you very much). I renewed my interest in SCUBA diving with the school's SCUBA club, and rode my mt. bike almost everywhere. And yes, I finally bought a car with my earnings from my summer job. I seemed to go through a period where my only real mistress was Engineering. Although, those summers on Cape Cod did introduce me to another mistress. Who knew the hold she would have on my heart.

College Graduation was a fulfilling experience. The hard work had paid off and I was on my way to a career in my chosen field. I moved to South Carolina and immediately this new mistress put her hooks in me. The Southeast is a paddler's paradise. I went through 3 whitewater kayaks before I found one I really liked. I spent almost every weekend on one of the local rivers. The mountain bike was used infrequently. Once again, I was having trouble deciding on which mistress to choose as 'the one'.

In 1999, I had an opportunity to make a move to Utah (staying with the same company) to be a Field Engineer. Utah is a beautiful place - so much open country. Having lived so many years in the SW (NM, Az, Ca), I really love the desert southwest. But Utah also had the awesome alpine geography of the Wasatch and Uintah ranges. What's a man to do with so much opportunity?

What I ended up doing, was falling for a long forgotten mistress - 4 wheelin. Since I was a kid, I had a subscription to the different 4wd magazines. I wanted a Jeep badly, but always saw it as a luxury as it really isn't a practical vehicle. After much research (and knowing I had a company vehicle for my daily driver), I bought a used 1997 wrangler - and proceeded to dump more than it's purchase cost in modifications into it. I dubbed her BlackSheep - a tribute to the platoon I served with in the Military.

It was bad. I even sold my FJ1200 (which was pretty much ready to ride after I had cleaned her up from the time spent under the cover at the Cape) to pay for Jeep parts. I took her to Moab probably a dozen times the first year I had her. She really put her hooks in me. For several years, it was me and my Jeep. Yes, the mountain bike would get out here and there, and I was still running, but the Jeep had my heart. I even started climbing again shortly before I moved back to South Carolina in 2005, but the Jeep really is what was doing it for me.

Knowing I was moving back to SC, I even got my whitewater boats out again - first time in almost 5 years...who would have thought they would sit in my basement for almost the entire time I was in Utah? After having a string of 14 consecutive weekends on the rivers of the SE before moving to Utah??

I would have thought being back in the SE would re-kindle my love of the river, but it didn't materialize. Yes, I've been back out on the water several times, but nothing like before. I bought a new mountain bike shortly after moving back - the technology had changed drastically since my last mt bike purchase (which of course I do still have that vintage 1991 Nishiki Alien).

The mountain bike started playing a bigger role in my life. I was out on the trails several times per week. In 2007, I entered for the first time an off-road triathlon. That got me more serious about running, and especially trail running. It also required the use of a flatwater kayak - so now I have one of those.

Last year (june, 2008), due to a foot injury, I purchased a road bike. This was meant to supplement my mountain biking so I wouldn't get bored with riding the same places (like that could happen right?). In 2008, I put 1500 miles on my mountain bike and 1100 miles on my road bike. You'd think the trend would continue. Strangely enough, as of today (June 2009), I have something just over 1000 miles on my road bike (since Jan 1 of this year), and less than 200 on my mountain bike. Which mistress am I serving now??

In the end, I guess you have to follow your heart. What I've learned is that no matter what, I'll never be a one sport person. I may have my periods of single - sportedness (is that a word?), but given time it will change. I'm ok with that. Many people I know go through life with a single love and stick with it. I admire these people. They are the ones at the front of the pack for their chosen activity. I guess I'll just have to accept that I will never be an expert in any one sport - I'll just have to keep serving all of my many mistresses.

In fact, today I went for a great hike.....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How do I break writer's block?

Ha! you thought I'd have some secret recipe for getting out of a writing rut? Sorry, don't have any special advice. After my little blog about my personal assault on Mt. Mitchell, I was having a little trouble finding some inspiration. Leave it to a group of cyclists to help me find some. I did have a great ride tonight at Donaldson. I volunteered to lead the 1b group (19+mph group ride). It was a lot of fun. I can say the group was quite strong tonight.

We left the assembly area with about 60 bikes or so. I think we finished with about 35-40. Yes, we did drop some folks, but I feel like we did a pretty good job of giving folks a chance to stay with the group. We started with a good warmup pace, but by about mile 8 we were above the 19mph mark. Of course it just climbed from there.

I 'led' the group from the back for a while - that's how strong the group was. The folks up front doing the pulling were really rocking it out. I felt good enough towards the back, and did get back up front as we came up Reedy fork road and on to Michelin Road.

Once again, it was the ride around Perimeter road that drove the average speed up by a bit. I think I had us around 19.8mph when we came onto Perimeter road. The group hammered pretty well, and actually stayed quite cohesive for a while. I took a little lead near the golf course, but I knew there was others out there stronger than I, so I let them have the front instead of pushing myself over the edge.

It was a great feeling to be flying around Perimeter with the group tonight. Thanks to everyone who I met tonight and to those who took their turn out front. Also, thanks to those who helped keep the group together by calling for soft pedals and stops at the stop signs. This is what it really is all about!