Someday Will Never Come

This week and next, as cyclists from all around the world converge on places like Astoria, Banff, Alta and Dublin to embark on journeys that will be life-defining, many folks sit at home and get ready for what I believe may be the greatest and slowest show on earth– dot watching!

With so many great races starting in the coming weeks, people are excited about it. And they should be. It is a blast to follow the dots and it can be very addicting. I have spent many hours hitting the refresh button over the past 4 years and I always look forward to “the season” of endurance racing.

That said, I had a bit of a wakeup call yesterday. One of those moments of clarity that we all have from time to time. Something that brings perspective to things. A friend of mine who I went to high school with lost his wife and I went to the funeral visitation.

As I stood in line at the funeral home waiting for my chance to give my condolences to my friend, I saw the pictures of his bride and the faces of the families and friends gathered together, many of them very young. You see, she was just 47 years young when she passed suddenly last week in their home.

Being someone that worked out religiously and was healthy, you would never have guessed that she would be someone to die at a young age, but death draws no quarter. Life is fragile and can change in an instant.

I realize that we have all been touched by death in some way. Deep down we know that this ride can end at any moment, but we refuse to dwell, which is healthy. However, maybe we should think about our own demise more often.

If you are reading this, one day you will die. It may be many years from now or it may be today. That said, can you give yourself one good reason not to do the things you dream of?

Some people are content to watch and have no desire to do one of these races. That is awesome! Carry forth!

On the other hand, if you are dot watching this year and dream of doing one of these crazy races, I challenge you to start making steps to fulfill your dreams. Waiting until you retire or until you have all your ducks in a row is in my opinion BS. Too many times I have seen people have plans and dreams that never come to fruition because they just kept putting things off and death caught up before they were ready. I guarantee you Denise wasn’t ready.

With that, I am making my own steps and leave tomorrow morning with my buddy Nathan to ride to his parents house in Ohio. It isn’t an impromptu trip, as we have been planning for this tour since last fall, but it will be a blast and something I will always remember.

I hope you make some real plans and not just “someday” wishes. Ride on friends!

All the Little Things

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

This morning as my wife and I got ready for the day, we chatted about our fitness pursuits. I was pumped that I just finished a 4 mile tempo run, fully spending myself in the process. She was talking about her own excursion where she walked 2 miles with a friend. In that, she mentioned how she always watches for pennies while she walks and picks them up. I have done that myself and find it fun to add the extra change to my coffee can in the closet. Her reasoning was different though and surprised me, as she often does.

“Picking up a penny is a reminder to me to find value in everything and everyone, no matter what their external value may appear to be. The homeless person, the drunk walking down the street, the poorly dressed, the outcasts, even the arrogant, all have value and I need to remember that I am in no position to discount their worth”

My wife is so compassionate to people. Many times I miss opportunities to express compassion to folks. Her words made me stop and think about my actions.

Those words also made me think of all the little things we pass by everyday. Not just discarded items on the sidewalk, but what about the flowers, the trees, the birds. We walk right past things everyday that have great worth, unintentionally refusing to take notice.

Today, I hope you will take notice. Look someone in the eye and smile. Do something kind for someone, especially if you think they don’t deserve it. Take just a moment to stop and “smell the roses”. Admire simple things in creation. A bug or a bird. Take in the day.

Everyone and everything has value. I hope that thought brings a smile to your face. Enjoy your day!

The Most Important Thing Not Talked About

It is May and very soon riders will begin their travels toward the start of races all around the world. The North Cape-Tarifa starts June 20th, the Trans Atlantic Way starts June 7thand Trans Am Bike Race fires off on June 2nd, just to name a few. Riders from all over the world have trained their bodies, refined gear choices and prepared their bikes for what will be amazing adventures and times they will never forget!

My personal experience has been limited to TABR15 and 16, but I know the elation and stress that one feels as they prepare for these races. You obsess about every detail and every gram of weight. You want it all to be perfect, which it won’t be, but that doesn’t dissuade you from making your race prep the most important thing in your life right now.

I have been there and if I am honest with myself, I have to admit I loved that process more than just about anything I have ever done! It was such a thrill to submerse my entire being into preparing for the massive challenge that is TABR. All that preparation then turned to determination at the start of the race with my entire mind, body and soul funneled into one goal- to reach the finish.

At 2:58AM on June 29, 2016 I finished TABR. That was it. I was done.

At that moment, I began my recovery from TABR, which I believe has been more difficult than the preparation. I don’t mean physical recovery. That took a couple months and was expected. The larger, more difficult problem was the mental and emotional recovery from the race that I had NOT planned for at all and had no prior knowledge of the potential pitfalls of post event depression.

If you do some research on long distance hiking, you will find people talking about post hike depression or post trail depression. Why are people not talking about this for long bike rides? I do not know, but I am aware of some riders who have had similar issues.

What is post event depression?

From what I have been able to find, there is no clinical diagnosis for this condition, but it is certainly real and can affect anyone after a big event. In my obviously layman opinion, I think it could be classified as something similar to post-partum depression or PTSD. Frankly I have not experienced either of those, so maybe my analogy is off. I do know that it is certainly a multi-faceted puzzle, and the largest pieces revolve around hormone levels and a missing sense of identity.

When you pour yourself into an event of this sort, your identity changes. As you go through the race, the race is all you can think about. Once it is finished, you are a changed person. Spending the sort of time and energy that it takes to do an event like this changes the very fiber of your being and creates a new you. Your old identity is gone and you have to learn to deal with the new one.

Additionally, your body chemistry is completely jacked after these events. When the race is over, you have spent the last 3-4 weeks sleeping minimal hours per day, in every way exhausting your body, allowing yourself zero recovery, eating as much junk food as you can stuff in your mouth, building up huge amounts of adrenaline and dopamine…and then you just stop. Your metabolism is bonkers. Your body needs sleep, but you can’t seem to stay asleep for more than a few hours before waking up at a start, thinking you need to get on your bike and go at a dead run somewhere. Then a few weeks later, you can’t stay awake. You sleep 12 hours and it isn’t close to enough. Like a heroine addict your body craves the insane amounts of dopamine you had during the race, but it isn’t there (and shouldn’t be). Along with that, your cortisol and melatonin levels are out of whack and your brain doesn’t know how to deal with it all.

There are several things you can do to help guard against this. Some say to just sign up for another huge event. The fire you felt for your last event will be lit for a new one and your body will ride the massive swings in hormones along the way. That works for some and for a time, but it wasn’t a possibility for me. With limited funds and a family at home, I had to navigate things differently.

For me, I spent two full years dreaming, preparing, obsessing, failing (in 2015), re-preparing, re-obsessing and all but selling my soul to finish TABR. Over that time, preparing for the Trans Am became not just something that I was doing, but actually who I was.I lived life, went to work, spent time with family and friends, but TABR was always there. Once the race was over and I was back home, I had to learn to deal with life without the Trans Am. That was a challenge I didn’t know how to handle.

I found myself in a pretty deep funk, having difficulty being motivated to do my work, little to no desire to do things around the home and this created massive tension between my wife and I. About 6 months post-race, I sought counseling for marital issues, but soon realized with the help of my counselor that I was experiencing depression and my marital issues were just a symptom, not the cause. Fortunately, my wife was patient with me, and so was my employer. Things started coming around and I got well again. In an ironic twist of fate, one of the things I read about to deal with post event depression is to just wait. You will feel well not one second before you are ready to feel well.

All of that said, I hope that you folks who are racing events this year will take some time to think about how to deal with life after your race. It is a vital piece of your planning and as I am sure you have heard, failure to plan is planning to fail.

Below I have a few links about post trail depression that I hope will help. I am not a doctor of any sort, just a regular guy who likes to ride his bike, so read up on this for yourself and take my words with a grain of salt.

I wish each of you well and the very best of luck. Keep the rubber side down and remember…it is just a bike ride. 🙂

 

LIFE AFTER THE PCT: POST-HIKE DEPRESSION

https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/life-after-the-pct-post-hike-depression

 

5 Ways To Manage Post-Trail Depression

https://thetrek.co/5-ways-to-manage-post-trail-depression/

 

POST TRAIL DEPRESSION

Post Trail Depression

Book Review- The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

 

In my last post I told you guys how I had set my goals for the year and have big plans to make great strides in many facets of my life. I put as much trackable and numeric emphasis on my goals so I can keep an eye on things and watch my progress. This has already paid dividends as I meet my small goals each week, check them off and get to experience the gratification of making headway. It is great to see I am making progress!

I also asked you guys what inspires you and what you aspire to do this year. Scott Williams commented that he plans to be even more purposeful with his goals and actions in 2018, focusing his efforts in ways to help other people. I think that is fantastic! Making strides to be better in whatever area of life that you choose to advance is great. If you can tie that to your desire to work with or help someone, it gives you additional motivation to meet your goals and achieve your dreams. Good job Scott!

One of my goals this year is to be better read and I have made good on that by spending 30 minutes every day reading. I have chosen to make the subject matter of the books I read something that enriches me in some way. Thus far the books I have read have been non-fiction and would fall in the self-help category, but I am not opposed to fiction. As one of my very good friends put it eloquently, many times fiction is more real than non-fiction, offering timeless lessons. I couldn’t agree more. We will have to see what books end up on my nightstand over the course of the year. I will certainly keep you informed.

As of late, I am reading a book by Shawn Achor titled The Happiness Advantage. Shawn grew up in Waco, TX. As a young man and high school student, Shawn expected to stay in Texas and applied to Harvard on a dare. Much to his surprise he was accepted. Upon going to Harvard to study psychology, he fell in love with the campus and atmosphere. He did his undergraduate, then decided to stay for his graduate studies, taking on teaching duties to pay his way through. He also proctored young students and had the opportunity to help some 1600 young men and women as they navigated the waters of an institution that would give them an education few get to experience.

There are few places where the very best and brightest from around the world gather. Add in the ancient buildings and a deep history as an educational institution, Achor explains Harvard as being a very special place that reminded him of Hogwarts. One would think that this magical atmosphere would be an academic heaven of sorts, where young bright minds would not just go to learn, but flourish. The reality he found was that despite the one of a kind education experience and promise of high success that such a prestigious degree as one can earn at Harvard offers, many students find themselves struggling with depression.

Why would these kids be depressed? Imagine the competitive nature of an institution where everyone is from the top of his or her high school class. Imagine being THAT kid in high school- top of your class, excellent academic marks, great expectations of yourself and exceeding the expectations of faculty and family. Then transport that kid to the beginning of their freshman year at Harvard. Immediately 50% of all those 1%’ers are below average. After a lifetime of being at the top, these kids now have to learn to deal with emotions that they don’t know how to process.

Watching these great young minds deal with the rigors of a highly competitive environment in which everyone is the best, Achor wanted to make a difference. Why shouldn’t these kids be happy? That question fueled his research and subsequent work, propelling him to make the conclusion that the old adage of “work hard to succeed” is bunk. Maybe some of you are rolling your eyes at that. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, let me explain.

I was taught from a very young age that the key to success was hard work. Work hard and one day you will find that you succeed. This comes with the overlying idea that as that hard work pays off, you will be happy. What Achor’s research found was the opposite- happy people become successful people. Chase happiness and you will likely find success.

The book goes on to give some basic principles and ideas to put into action and work toward finding happiness in your life. I must say, I don’t feel like I am short on happiness in any way, but it is always a good idea to make strides at improvement. Currently I am only about half way through the book, but I am confident in my recommendation.  If you are looking for a good read, pick it up! You can get it on Amazon by clicking HERE.

This year I will be going through books and am always looking for suggestions. I read The Magic of Thinking Big earlier this year. Do you have any suggested reads? Comment below!!!

 

Plans and Goals for 2018

2017 was a great year. Good and bad happened, but I have to label it great. I didn’t reach all my fitness goals in the last year. In fact, I didn’t reach many of my goals, but I still choose to say it was a great year. I rode part of Tunnel Hill Trail with my wife in May, toured from Chicago to the Missouri boot heel on our way to Memphis with my friend Nathan in June and rode the length of Tunnel Hill both directions with Nathan in October. I had a DNF at the Ozark Trail 100 mile MTB race and stopped 6 hours into the Wolf Creek 12HR MTB race. I ended the year with 1661 miles of cycling, well short of the totals of any of the last 6 years since I started riding a bike.

There have been times that I have found myself feeling dissatisfied with 2017, but I am choosing to look at it as a year of rest, recovery and reflection. Miles and fitness were low, weight was high,  but I really enjoyed the times I spent on the bike. That is worth a ton. I also spent a lot of time focusing on family and relationships with friends, which made me happy. I went back to school. I got intentional about finding peace within myself and working to avoid some of the pitfalls that have traditionally led me to depressive episodes. Goals met or no, some great things happened in 2017.

On the down side, my biggest problem as I look back at 2017 was a lack of focus. My goals in the past have been somewhat ambiguous and general. Things like “lose weight”, “make better choices eating” and “increase savings” are nice statements, but without actionable items and specific, quantifiable marks, the objectives had no teeth. I didn’t have something to break down to the month or week, so I didn’t keep track of what I was doing. When I got to the end of the year, I looked back at my goals in my journal and realized that if those things were actually important to me, I needed to make some changes.

When goal setting for this year, I got numeric and, in some instances, a bit crazy with what I want to accomplish. For 2018 I am going for trackable items and the end targets are BIG!

I set specific goals for the amount of weight I want to lose and in what timeframe I want that to happen. I outlined exactly how many miles I would like to ride at a minimum and what events I plan to do. I set a goal to start a morning routine of exercise, meditation, reading and studying Spanish. I could go on, but I think you get the point. In 2018 I will be tracking my progress and making adjustments so that I reach my goals or adjust expectations as need be. Instead of stopping at the end of the year, looking back and wishing I had done different, I am going to make those small adjustments needed to stay on course (or adjustments to the course itself) all along the way.

So what has happened so far? I’ve been doing Couch to 5K three days a week and yoga twice a week. I am down 7.9 lbs and making healthier choices with my eating habits. I’ve meditated for 10 minutes 13 of the 18 days so far this month, read for 30 minutes 12 days and practiced Spanish for about 20 minutes the last 15 days in a row.

I have many other pieces of the puzzle of my life that I am working on this year as well. I will graduate with my associates degree in May and I have set some aggressive goals for my work and income. I have specific items planned for volunteering, teaching, improving our finances, family trips, home maintenance and plans for our future. With all that, I believe that 2018 will be a fantastic year!

Have you set any goals for the coming year? I know it is mid-January and most people have stopped talking about their resolutions, but it isn’t too late to dream about what you want for 2018, make plans and make it happen. In fact, now may be the perfect time to take specific steps to make your 2018 amazing. What inspires you? What do you aspire to do or be? Leave a comment and let’s chat about it!

Finishing 2017 Strong

As mentioned before, my days of late have been busy with work, school and renovations around the house. I haven’t made much, if any, time for cycling. That said, little points of interest have been poking me, prodding my sedentary self and giving me grand ideas for the coming months and year ahead.

After a conversation with a good friend the other day about goals achieved this year and other goals not so achieved, I have come to the determination that I want to get back on one wheel. Last Christmas my wife gave me a unicycle. I had wanted one for a long time and was excited to get out and give it a try, but I really didn’t know where to start. A quick google search led me to Mike Boyd’s Youtube channel. On his channel, called Learn Quick, he posts videos of his progress learning new skills. One of those was his unicycle video, which is truly brilliant and inspirational! I decided to not only use his tips to try to learn to ride the uni, but also video my progress.

Unfortunately, with only a couple sessions in the first two months of the year, I shelved the uni and haven’t touched it since. It sits in the corner, taunting me each time I notice it. The time has come to make good on my goal for the year. My plan is to recover my progress from earlier this year and learn to ride the uni before the end of 2017. That will require practice, but I’m confident I can make it happen.

Another fantastic bit of inspiration has come from my friend Janie Hayes and her blog of her Trans Am Bike Race 2017 adventure. Janie is truly an artist with words and will captivate you with her story. Despite knowing that I won’t be racing in 2018, by reading her posts, the question that has come up in my brain is, “could I give the Trans Am another go?” The answer is a resounding YES! I love the route and in many ways feel like I have unfinished business with the race. I am certainly proud of my 24 D 16H time in 2016, but my goals for that race were more ambitious. The thought of going back for another shot makes me excited and I found myself staring at spreadsheets last night until the wee hours, plotting what I would do if I toed the line again.

As I said, there won’t be any racing of the TABR/TD magnitude for me in 2018. That is, unless I would come across some sort of windfall that would make it feasible. I wouldn’t want to make a go at it without a completely funded budget for racing and with home projects and 2 kids in college, I don’t see it happening. There is, however, something that I could do.

Ever since my Trans Am tour in 2011, I have dreamed of writing a book. I have never considered myself a writer, but while blogging that trip, I had several people say they thought I should. I brushed it off, thinking that they must have poor taste. The fact is, I wasn’t confident in my writing and invalidated their responses because of my insecurities. Since then, I have taken some classes and the writing comes so easy to me. Add in that my class grades reflect the same positivity as my 2011 blog post praisers and I find myself more than intrigued.

I have spent some time brainstorming and writing around a couple of ideas. One in particular has me excited. I’m not certain how it will flesh out, but I anticipate maybe a road trip/cycling vacation with Jeneen in 2018 to do more research, capture photos and add in some stoke for the project. I’ll leave it at that for now, but I am SUPER excited about it!!!

As always, stay tuned. I will report my progress here and cannot wait to do so. First, I’m going to go show that unicycle who’s the boss!

The three amigos ride again!

Despite my lack of riding as of late and all the other responsibilities that have kept me out of the saddle, I came across a great opportunity to get out this morning and I just had to go. My friend Ben, who moved to Colorado this past summer, came back to spend a bit of time with family and wanted to get the old crew back together for a MTB ride at St Joe. I couldn’t pass it up!

The morning was a cool one with temps in the upper 30’s. Having not done any cool weather riding since last spring, I found it funny how I feel like I forget how to dress for temperatures. Last night, as I was getting my things together, I was uncertain what to wear. In the end, the base layer and leg warmers I chose were just right. I could have used some covers for my toes, but it was a short ride and I made it.

Ben, myself and our friend Lindell met at the Blankshire Trailhead. We said our hellos, got on our garb and hit the trail. Ben had his Weimaraner Toby along as well. We hit the paved path and took the first left on the MTB trail. I felt completely out of my element.

After having not ridden MTB much as of late, I was way out of practice. Add in that fall has fell, completely obscuring the trail with leaves and I was more than cautious. I babied the corners and was on high alert for big rocks. After an easy first couple miles, we got to the first of the climbs. St Joe doesn’t have anything too big, but I am so out of shape that I was winded quickly. Fortunately the guys stopped a few times and let me catch back on.

Once on the backside of the course, I started to get my mojo back a little. I wasn’t as puckered up on the downhills and that helped to keep momentum for the ups. The climbs still hurt. I have GOT to get back out on the bike more!

The original plan, according to the text thread, was to do two laps. When we got back to where we had started, I let the guys know I was going to be happy with just the one lap. They agreed that was all they wanted today as well and we headed back to the parking lot.

Overall it was a fantastic little morning ride. Only 7.2 slow miles, but it felt good to get back in the saddle and enjoy some time in the woods, especially with the old crew. Ben said he won’t be back for quite awhile, so I was glad I went. Good times!

There isn’t much savings in Daylight Savings Time

The nights are coming much more quickly these days and with it, they bring cooler temperatures. Sunsets before 4:45PM and sunrises dallying until near 7AM make for long, cold nights that plunge below freezing. I realize that is not much of a mark for some areas, but for us here in Southern Missouri, it is cold.

All that said, the only cycling I have done as of late have been short trips on my towner bike to run errands, go to a friends house or meet a buddy for a beer. It is a slow time for riding, but I am ok with that. Other pieces of life have filled in the gaps.

After waiting far too long to do so, I have been working on the roof of our house. I’m doing a complete tear off and replacement, as well as replacing all the fascia boards. It is satisfying, but hard work, especially for a fella that spends his work days at a keyboard. Prior experience from days of yore gets called upon and I take my time. I am much slower roofing than I was at 19. I probably do better work though, as I am much more particular.

Another time sink as of late has been a personal endeavor. The reason I was roofing at the age of 19 was because I dropped out of college. After a tumultuous year at the University of Missouri- Columbia the year following high school, I came home and took a few classes at a local community college over the course of 3 semesters. Sadly, my heart wasn’t in it. Most of my classes I withdrew from and I did not pass the majority I kept. The frustrating part for my parents was that I certainly had the potential to do well, but the desire just wasn’t there. Even with the weight of disappointing my folks, I decided to scrap it all and went to work. What followed was a fast forward as I watched life start to unfold. Marriage, kids and life happened quickly. Before I knew it I had been out of school for 10 years and the thought of going back to college just didn’t seem like it was in the cards.

Suddenly around the holidays in 2001, I found myself unemployed due to a layoff. I decided to go for it and went back to that local community college. With life experience under my belt, school was easy and all my classes came up roses. I had a 4.0GPA on the classes I took and discovered I loved the challenge. As luck would have it however, I was called back from my layoff in the summer and school took a back seat once again.

Over the years that followed, I thought about going back many times, but I never got excited about it. This past spring, while having lunch with a friend, the subject came up. I said that getting my degree would be nice, but I wasn’t so sure at 45 that I wanted to go through the effort to make it happen. He encouraged me, I saw a spark of enthusiasm in myself and said I would look into it. Knowing this friend is the type of guy who will hold me to it, I decided I had better do more than just say I would call the school. I actually phoned the admissions office and asked to get a degree audit so I could find out how much I was short for my Associate of Arts. I was flabbergasted when I found I only needed 16 credit hours to get my two year degree.

The short version is that I went ahead and signed up for a couple classes to get things in motion. Now I am nearing the end of the semester and just wrapped up writing a research paper. Finals are approaching and I feel good about the prospects. I am only taking two classes, so the work load is minimal, but I am sitting on a 4.0GPA again. It feels good to be making strides at self improvement and doing well.

All that said, between work, school and family, my cycling has ebbed, but the saddle is certainly not forgotten. Soon enough I will be back at it and I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store.

Backpacking on Bell Mountain

As the racing season winds down for the year and seasons change, my cycling has dwindled to nearly nothing. Beyond the trip a few weeks ago with my buddy Nathan, I haven’t been on the bike at all, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been outside. This past weekend I headed out into the wild with a couple friends for a backpacking trip and it was fantastic!

I try to get out for some time in my hammock every year when things start to cool off. As the weather started to turn cooler, I was happy to get an email from a group of friends that I have backpacked with before. There are 11 of us on the email thread, but due to schedule conflicts only 3 of us could make it happen this time. Myself, Jason and Chad made plans to head to Bell Mountain Wilderness Area in Mark Twain National Forrest on Friday 11-3. The plan was to hike in Friday evening after dark and camp on top of Bell Mountain through Sunday morning.

I met the guys at the northern trail head right before dark. With daylight getting shorter every day, sunset was at 6:00PM on the nose. We signed in at the kiosk and hit the trail as the woods went dark. It wasn’t long at all before we had our headlamps on to illuminate the rocky trail.

The hike from the north trailhead to the top of Bell is only 4 miles total- 2.5 miles of spur trail from the trailhead to the main loop and 1.5 miles from the spur/loop intersection to the top of the mountain. Elevation gain is modest at 1500′, as you mostly walk along a ridge.

We took our time and made the hike in about two hours. Once up top, we found a spot to camp and got setup. Being 8PM, we gathered some firewood and made use of the rock fire ring in our camp. Hanging around a campfire in the woods is a heavenly thing to do!

I went to my hammock fairly early (around 9:30), hoping to get some great rest. Going to bed so early meant that the night was a long one, but overall I slept ok. I just woke up a lot.   The wind had been gusty, which had led to my waking, but I rested well.

Saturday morning’s light exposed what was a completely socked in sky. The normal gorgeous view of the valley below was nothing but a mass of fog and mist. Visibility was likely about 100 yards. Oh well. We were in the woods enjoying nature and the view we got was perfectly fine.

The day was spent doing mostly nothing other than chores. First was breakfast and the morning routines. Then we moved camp to a little better spot about 50 yards away. The hope was the new spot was protected form the wind a bit better.

After moving camp, I needed to get water. The other two guys had brought 4 liters, but I only brought 2 liters. On Bell there is no water source, so I had to hike to get it. The choices were to stay on the Bell loop and hit Joe’s creek, which would be about 8 miles round trip or bushwhack off the East side of Bell to the creek in the valley. This is a much more rigorous way to go, but only about a mile one way. Since I had never been down the hard side, I decided to do that.

When at the top of Bell, the trial runs north/south along a ridge. We were at the high point and I assumed that if I hiked south along the ridge trail to a point where I was lower, then bushwhacked down the east slope, it would be less steep and thus easier. I did just that and was able to pick my way down through the trees, rocks and debris along the steep slope. It was quite a hike down, but I eventually made it. I filtered my water and then started the arduous task of bushwhacking back up the steep slope. It was a hard task, but it felt good to accomplish it.

Once back at the trail, I hiked the ridge back north to the high point. Due to my north/south part of the trip along the trail adding in mileage, I estimate I ended up with about 4 miles of walking, most of that being really rugged and steep. In the interest of economy, I probably would have been better off hiking the 8 miles to get water from Joe’s creek, but now I can say I have been down the other way.

When I got back, I was please to see that the other guys had gathered wood for the evening. I felt bad I hadn’t taken part in the exercise, but I was thankful they had. I made lunch, took a short nap and just hung out for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening, we all made our dinners and then worked together to get the damp wood going for an evening fire. Hanging out around the fire chatting and enjoying the woods was a great way to wrap up the day.

Once again, a bit after 9:00 I headed to my hammock. I was a bit concerned when I got there and saw that most everything was damp. The fog was so thick that water was condensing on every surface, even under the tarp. There wasn’t much I could do about it, so I crawled in and got ready for what I hoped would be a great sleep.

After just an hour or so, the wind started gusting erratically. It would go from nearly still, building to about 15 mph and then still again. The gusts were such a change from the still parts that it succeeded in waking me every time the wind blew. This made for a really, really long night. I didn’t sleep much and found myself so very tired when the sun finally came up.

Jason was already up when I rolled out and had gotten the fire going again. We hung out around the fire and had breakfast before going back to our individual sites to break down camp. Once we were packed up and the fire was extinguished, we started the hike back to our cars. The 4 miles back seemed much longer than it had on our way in Friday night.

Weekend trips like these are what I look forward to this time of year. The weather turns cooler, the bugs go away and sitting around a campfire just seems like the right thing to do. It is trips like this that make me dream of doing a long hike like the AT or PCT. The best part of it all is it helps me to take the time to “smell the roses”. I hope you will take the time to get out and enjoy nature this fall. It is a great way to slow down and get away from the hustle and bustle.

DNF’s, Dissapointments and Doing Things Differently

Over the course of the last month or so my experiences in cycling events have been… well, I’ll just say they have not been my best work. It started with the OT100MTB on a single speed, which ended with me spent at mile 37 and a DNF. The following weekend was the Wolf Creek 6HR/12HR race, put on by the team I am on, Team Noah. In short, I was signed up for the 12 hour race, raced single speed and was toast after 4 laps of the 10+ mile course. I got 42.5 miles out of those 4 laps and only about 6 hours. I threw up my white flag again and ended my day well short of what I wanted or expected.

When I go back and look at 2017, I had a similar experience in June when my friend Nathan and I attempted a tour from Chicago to Memphis. We did about 560 miles in 5 days and had a blast, but at the end of that fifth day we pulled up short and called an end to the ride. We were about 70 miles short of Memphis, but headwinds, heat and timeframe conspired to put us in a position that we felt we couldn’t finish. Since our wives were supposed to be meeting us in Memphis anyway, we had them pick us up on their way down the highway and we all went to Beale Street for a good time, despite coming up short on our ride.

I was really starting to get a bit of a complex in regard to cycling outings this year. It seemed I just couldn’t put a ride together that would end when I expected it to. After having a great 2016 with a Trans Iowa finish and a Trans Am Bike Race finish, I thought that maybe I had lost my mojo. Could I actually finish out a ride?

Next up was a trip that Nathan and I had planned for awhile. A couple months ago he came to me and asked if I knew of the Tunnel Hill Trail, a rails-to-trails project in Southern Illinois. I said of course I did. My wife and I had done her first bike-overnight on the THT back in May. Our plan had been to ride the whole thing, but there was flooding in the area at that time and parts of the south end of the trail were closed. I told him I would love a second shot at it, so we made plans to go. We decided on the weekend of October 21st.

This past weekend Nathan and I headed to the Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center, just west of Karnak, IL where you find the start of the trail. The weather Saturday was wonderful with highs in the 70’s and a good breeze out of the South under sunny skies. It was a great day to ride and we made good use of it, riding the 55 mile trail to its terminus in Eldorado, then heading back south 8 miles to Harrisburg where we had a reservation at the local Super 8. That evening we went to Morelo’s in downtown Harrisburg for dinner, drinks and had the fortune of getting to listen to a 3 piece band that was playing on the patio. It was a fine evening!

The next day we went back to the downtown district to have breakfast at The Burg, a local diner. While we were inside the skies opened up and the rain poured, making us feel like we might be in for a bit more of an adventure on our way back down the trail. Before we finished our breakfast, the rain slacked off to a sprinkle and then quit completely before we got out of town. We had a great ride down the gravel path back to the car and what would be my first finish of the year. Success!!!

It is nice to get a successful finish under my belt for 2017. Granted I didn’t have much planned this year and I have been especially lazy, not preparing like I should for rides. I deserved every incomplete ride I got this year. One thing it has done is make me want to double down and be ready for anything that I choose to do in 2018. It is so very disappointing when you realize you aren’t ready, but it is race or ride time and you just have to go anyway. I don’t want to feel that way in 2018.

That said, after much mulling and fretting, it is with disappointment that I say I will not be riding Tour Divide in 2018 as I had planned. I have plenty of time to get my body ready still, but my issues are gear and finances. With my daughter in college and my youngest son headed to college next fall, I don’t feel confident that I will be able to secure the money to fund a race like the Divide for next summer. In addition, as it stands now, I do not have a bike ready for the Divide and it doesn’t look like I will have the means to do so for awhile. When I do the Divide, I want to have my setup ready the fall before so I can train on it through the winter. Maybe next year.

On the bright side, I have decided to do some smaller stuff and get out of my comfort zone a bit. On Friday October 13th, registration opened up for Marji Gesick. MG is a 100 mile mountain bike race in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that does all it can to pummel those who choose to toe the line. To quote their website, “The Marji Gesick features 100-miles of rocks, roots, punchy climbs, jump lines, flow trails and soul crushing grinding that DNFs nearly 60% of the field each year.” Add on top that the course trends uphill the entire way and he race is 100% self-supported. What could go wrong with something like that?!?! 🙂

I signed up for Marji Gesick. The race is next September and I’m excited. It will be great to do a different event somewhere I have never ridden and push myself outside my comfort zone. Technical trail has not been my forte, but I will work on my skills and be ready. It is going to be fun!