Thursday, April 21, 2016


Barry-Roubaix 2016

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
-  The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, "Dune"

It's tough. You have to fight your way through loose gravel, deep sand, dust clouds that hang over the never-ending line of racers.  It will scare you. You might lose control of your bike. You will feel like you're going to slide out into thick gravel at the bottom of a fast descent and break something.

You'll swear you'll never do it again.

But then, with time and rehydration, you'll see things more clearly.

Like, how just being able to do this kind of thing is a privilege that few are granted. That life is either a daring adventure, or it's nothing. That, with a little practice and determination, this becomes less intimidating and a lot more fun.

Show a little grit. The object isn't to get to the finish line as fast as possible.

The object is to never arrive.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Farewell to Death Valley

We came here to ride long miles under a blazing sun, of course, knowing that any plans we made  would be at the mercy of natural forces. We started with our favorite and familiar routes. But even the sand dunes, which might not look any different than before, move and shift over time. The same holds true with what we think we know about this place: it never changes,  and yet it's always different. Death Valley is a mystery that can never be solved.

This time around, we finally figured out one stunningly simple and significant thing: unfavorable riding conditions gave us the opportunity to go do something else. They allowed us to explore this place more deeply. What did we learn? That after all these years, we've just barely scratched the surface.
Contemplating the 7%, 10-mile climb to Hell's Gate. Crosswinds gusting to 40+ mph.
Team Stelleri's desert debut!

I can't do this as well as Jill can. I think her arms are longer. 
Hiking in Mosaic Canyon

Angie, Ruler of Rhyolite!

Furnace Creek Ranch, at 190 feet below sea level
Mesquite Flats sand dunes
Not a bad place to steal a kiss!

A highlight of this trip: summiting Dante's View with Angie!

Another great day at Artist's Palette
Gower Gulch Loop Trail, at sunset. 
Angie waiting for the boys at the top of the first climb, Artist's (F**king) Drive
Snake bait!
Another point in the physical world that coincides with the Alternative Universe of Kymaerica. This one is in Rhyolite, NV.
Bourbon and ice. Jason's new cocktail: The Artist's Fucking Tailwheels!
Wind is good for something
Waiting for sunset on the Mesquite Sand Dunes
Flying, as the sun sets and the moon rises

Me and Dave at Zabriskie Point
Badwater salt pan

The superbloom
Gold rush

Night hike on Badwater salt pan. Pitch black, really stupid idea but we all survived. Most of us unscathed.

The End!

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Only Constant

"Today, I stare down the sun, look hard at the world and all I've done. Today, I bask in the sun, with all things glowing, everything I've done"
So many significant, direction-altering changes in the past year have knocked me a little off center. I know that that is what life does, but sometimes readjustment seems to take a long time.

I needed something familiar to help get me back to ground. For the past so-many years, spring has brought with it the opportunity to disappear into the desert. I've always found something there that completely recharges and inspires me. It's become a habit that is hard to argue with, and this year, it seems to be even more critical to my existence.

I can close my eyes and see the 190 stretched way, way out in front of me. I can feel the blast-furnace wind on my face, and taste the salty heat under a Badwater sun. There is some strange comfort in knowing the same ruthless challenges await, even though they will certainly be different.

This will likely be the last year that my friends and I journey to the low desert of Death Valley for springtime cycling. Many of our 'old-standby' friends, notably Jill and Tim, have already moved on. The world is simply too big, there are too many adventures waiting elsewhere. Already I have my sights set on some very different landscapes, and very soon I will be ready to step into more uncharted territory.

But first, I need to go back to start. I need to reconnect with whatever the thing is that gives me back my power, and I know I can find that in Death Valley.


Friday, March 11, 2016

What HOPE sounds like

Sometimes, I have so much going on in my head and in my life, that I don't know how I can even write about it. If I've been quiet here lately (and I have), that's why.

So I thought I might let other voices take over for me this time, voices that express exactly what I'm feeling, but that I couldn't possibly find the words for.

Open HERE with the volume turned up. Close your eyes, and listen.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

All the reasons to love the Chilly WIlly

The Chilly Willy duathlon has become one of my favorite races. Here's why:

The 'Snowbird' thing
OK, the so-called 'Sunshine State' doesn't always live up to its name. We had one washout rainy day while we were in the Tampa area, a city that boasts 361 days of sunshine a year. Lucky us! And the hellacious wind patterns make for some interesting challenges, both on the race course and when you're trying to set your towel down on the beach. First world problems.

The Gulf Coast
Sea life, including dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Crazy cool bird watching. Fresh grouper. White, sandy beaches covered with cool shells, sand dollars, horseshoe crabs, coral - I even found a mermaid's purse. It may not have been any warmer here than it was in Ohio the weekend of the race, but I'll bet nobody back home was lulled to sleep by the crashing surf. Just saying'.

Outspokin Bicycles
We rent TT bikes from Val Tavenese's high end bike and multisport shop. Last year, I raced on a Cervelo. This year, it was a Quintana Roo. There's no reason to haul your own bike on a plane (or ship it) with a bike selection like this. The staff at Outspokin does a bike fit, too. We used the shop in Clearwater, which is en route from the Tampa airport to where we stayed in Treasure Island.

The Chilly Willy race course
The entire race takes place within the pristine Fort de Soto park. The run takes you along the beach. The cycling is on a fast, flat road closed to traffic. The entire length of the ride course yields a grand total of 3 feet of elevation gain.

The Competitors
The Chilly Willy is the largest duathlon in Florida, attracting some of the best duathletes in the southeastern US. The competition can be fierce, but this is also a race that attracts racers at all levels. Kind of like the Twinsburg Duathlon, for those of us who know and love that race here in Ohio. I like being able to race against a new field of competitors, and having to be in top form in early February adds a much-needed motivational component to indoor workouts.

The Race Organizers
Fred Rzymek, with support from his twin brother Mickey (RD Extraordinaire here in NEOhio). These guys are a class act, and this event is well-run:  huge volunteer support, great sponsorship, plenty of food and drink at the finish. Packet pick-up is at a fun outdoor adventure store called Bill Jackson's. This race is all about having a good time.

Me and Dave and a couple of killer rental bikes!

The beach is covered in shells
Oysters at Guppy's on the Beach!
Cool stuff on the beach

The running part of the Duathlon

Mickey and Fred
Gotta love the Gulf Coast!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Hibernation for Type A's

Re-thinking this hibernation thing.

I'm actually grateful that I live in a climate that supports a forced but temporary dormancy.  I'm sure that somewhere in my future, I'll likely pull up stakes and head to a more balmy environment. And once I get there,  I will likely burn myself out in a hurry for the lack of natural forces as potent as winter weather to stop me from doing so. Downtime is necessary.

But I have goals, you know, and early races looming on my immediate horizon. And, lately, those races haven't been very effective in motivating me to suffer on the indoor trainer. So how do I satisfy my desire to hibernate without turning into a huge, noncompetitive slug? That's a dilemma, but I think I figured out how to relax my standards a little so as to at least give the impression that I'm hibernating. A little.

Here's the plan:

  1. Do something physically challenging, but not the usual workouts and, preferably, non-competitive
  2. Watch football the rest of the afternoon (i.e. hibernate)
And so, today, I ran my first long-distance trail run, thus accomplishing the first part of the plan. And then I watched NFL Championship playoffs all afternoon. It was perfect. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dead of Winter

Every year at this time, I desperately want to hibernate. It's a deeply ingrained, instinctive carry-over from some primitive past.

I don't want to wake up in total darkness. I don't want to go out in the cold. I want to succumb to the bone-deep tiredness that sets in early in the evening, because there's not enough heat or sunlight to power my depleted energy stores.

Is it OK to back off a little? Do I need to try to force myself to plow through these days full bore, like I do in the summertime (because I want to be full bore in the summertime)?

Can't I just cut myself a little slack? It's cold, it's dark. The warm indoors beckons. A glass or two of a smoky cabernet in front of a roaring fire as the snow falls softly outside: is that too much to ask?