Monday, December 24, 2012

Grand Canyon for Christmas

I chose to spend my winter holiday in the Grand Canyon this year.

It's not that I'm 'anti-Christmas'. It's true that I hate commercialism, shopping, and the unfettered stupidity of the poor saps that line up outside of Wal-Mart three days before Thanksgiving so they can get that one thing their kids want that will finally create love and harmony at home.

And I'm not really fond of the impossible family expectations and obligations, and all the guilt and hurt that is dragged out every year at the same time as the plastic trees and gaudy ornaments.

But the worst of it for me is the religiosity: it gets harder and harder for me to buy all that 'reason for the season' crap when reality clearly sends a different message.  It's beyond surreal.

So I chose to run away and hide, I guess - something that anyone who knows me well shouldn't really be too surprised about. And I chose to run to the one place that I would say clearly and profoundly calls to my soul (if I were to actually have one).

Something about standing on the rim of this ancient and ever-changing chasm, listening to the wind whip around the rock walls, is deeply moving to me. It's being able to witness the awesomeness of the natural way of things - not the power of some god who requires my fear and obedience and ability to ass-kiss my way into some perceived eternal favor. I reserve my respect for the one thing I know to be beautiful and inspiring and life-giving, and at the same time powerful and unforgiving and cruel.

Mid-winter, for us Northern Hemispherians, always was about descending into deep darkness and cold stillness. It was about going underground for a while, back to where we could reconnect with the wild part of ourselves that followed the rhythms of the natural world.  And when the sun returned - and it always did - we'd have a big party. That's the reason for the season.

I think modern man suffers from a shortage of this connected-ness with nature. I think it's because we're so distracted by our manmade things (and our manmade mythology) to see that we're missing something important here. And I also think that we sometimes have to move far off our own beaten paths in order to find our way.

There's a wildness about the Canyon that touches some sort of wild place in me. I need to come back here every once in a while just to reconnect with that, just to remember that it's still there.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I was facing down a 2 1/2 hour training ride, and I had a choice: ride inside on the trainer, or outside in a steady, cold rain.

I have to tell you, I'm not one of those people that can ride inside while watching a movie. Movies that are 2 1/2 hours long tend to bore me even when I'm not using them as a mental distraction. And there's something about riding my bike on a trainer for so long that doesn't appeal to my ass.

The indoor option was becoming less and less attractive.

But, outside, the rain wasn't becoming any less determined. I knew I couldn't wait for it to let up. It wasn't going to let up.

A cyclocross teammate introduced me to the term HTFU (Harden the F**k Up). It's delivered in response to an expressed aversion to less-than-ideal riding conditions. As I was looking out the front door, watching the rain not stopping, it was all I could think of, until it became my mantra. Something in my brain switched to autopilot, and I stopped thinking about how unpleasant it looked outside. I got my rain gear.

I look forward to hard interval training, and hill climbs, and spin-ups. I don't have the same enthusiasm for HTFU training, but I know it's working. It's getting easier for me to stop thinking about what I have to do, and just do it.

I'll need this kind of determination for winter snow bike rides, for Barry Roubaix, for whatever crap Mother Nature has in store for me this year at the Spring Century in Death Valley (that bitch as always full of surprises).

Except for my numb hands* and cold feet**, the ride really wasn't all that miserable. In fact, it was 2 1/2 hours of solitude that I couldn't have found anywhere else.

I have another long ride planned for tomorrow. I hope it rains.

*I've since learned that nitrile gloves inside my lobster claw mittens solve this problem.
** Shoe covers, duh!