Saturday, August 25, 2012

Money, Stress, Work, Money, Work, Stress...

It's all a big ball of worry for me at the moment.  With so many things in my life going on and so many wants needing to be addressed, it's difficult at times not to be stressed out.  Every part of it, though, is something that I do want and I do believe can be accomplished.  There's nothing that I see right now in my life as a burden, only as things that need to be addressed and things that need to be handled.  With any endeavor comes inevitable hardship, but it is in that hardship where we find the worth of our goals.

The weeks since I returned home have been busy.  I don't think I've sat down for more than ten minutes at a time (not including the five or so hours a night I've been able to sleep).  Anne came in a week after I arrived back in the States, and since, we've spent almost every waking hour doing something.  We've pursued the things we love, cycling, running (for her), and having fun, but it all takes its toll after a while.  You can't always be busy and you can't always be up on your feet.  Rest, just as in athletics, needs to have a place in your everyday life.

On the cycling side of things we've been riding the hell out of our bikes.  Well, more she has than I, but I've managed to get in some good rides too.  Seeing someone progress their skills on a mountain bike is something that gives me a great deal of pleasure.  No matter how much influence I've had on their learning, seeing them ride and get better hits a soft spot in my soul.  It brings me back to the time when I first started, with the wonder and excitement I got out of riding a bike on an uneven, unpaved, and rocky surface.  Feeling my tires eek out from underneath me ever so gently, listening to the crackle of organic matter beneath my tires, and narrowly slipping through tight trees on windy single track gave me such a buzz when I first began it's hard to describe.  I imagine Anne feels the same. There's something addictive about it.

I still, of course, get my kicks from those things, only now it's on to bigger obstacles and more technical challenges.  The same rocks and roots that gave me trouble when I began are now molehills.  Not that they're easy, but they've become routine.  The greatest part about mountain biking is that you can always push yourself that much further.  Cleared a rock garden that you couldn't?  Go and try that 4 foot drop that scared the piss out of you.  The 4 foot drop too easy?  Go and do a whip over that table top over there. Even for the best of riders, there's a nearly endless amount of envelope to push, you just have to be creative and willing to take the leap.  Whether you're a cross country rider or a hucking free rider, you'll find something somewhere that will continue to challenge you and continue to inspire you about riding your bike.

So today is another day of busy.  I've got errands to run, bikes to fix and build, and work to do.  Anne and I have got a trip scheduled tomorrow with a good friend of mine to ride, so of course we're looking forward to that.  One of my favorite things, again, about riding my bike, is the time that it allows you to spend with those people around you that matter.  Unlike riding on the road, being on a mountain bike in the woods can be an either truly solitude experience, or one shared with friends.  The best part, though, is that there are no other distractions to get in the way.  No cars are going to buzz you, and no traffic lights are going to force you to stop.  I'd mention that there are no potholes to look out for, but then, as mountain bikers, I'd assume we'd more than welcome the potholes (it's just those sissy roadies that hate them!).  In honesty though, there are few times in this crazy life when we can just tune out life, concentrate on what we're doing at the moment, and let things rip.  It would be a crime not to take advantage of the great times that we do have.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tough Goings

Without getting into too much detail, I had to make a really tough decision today.  Sure we all have to make them, day in and day out, but more often than not, they have to deal with things that are not of a personal nature.  So many times in my life, I've had to make work related decisions that, in the big picture, really have no bearing on my personal life.  The decision I made today, with someone I care about more than most things and people in my life, was a tough one.

It wasn't a life altering decision, or even one that would change much in terms of the path that we're both on, rather, it was just one of those "somebody had to make the call" type of decisions that come up from time to time.  At times, it's shitty to be the one that has to take charge and do things that might make the other person unhappy.  But, with foresight, such decisions can prove ultimately to be the ones that you look back at and realize, though at the time they may have sucked, in the end prove to be something that worked out quite well.  I have a feeling this will be one of them.

I realize that this post is all "mysterious".  I don't want to delve too much into it all, and in the end, it's probably boring to read.  There is a lot in life that's boring, plain, and just not exciting.  This is more than likely one of them.  No one ever said that love and relationships is easy.  I'm learning now why they're not.  It's work for sure, but with that work and determination and stubbornness can come great reward.  You've just got to stick with it, that's all.

In other news... I rode my bike today!  And I'll hopefully get to ride again tomorrow.  I got out to one of my former "favorite" trails, though now, after having ridden so much more and experienced so much more of what I actually like, it's just not the same.  The trails at East Setauket (where I rode today) are much more XC'ish than I like.  No rocks, little roots, and very few truly steep sections.  I realize, of course, that in order to get to many of what I like (see "rocks, roots, steepness") I've got to get off of Long Island.  Granted, we're not exactly at any sort of elevation here.  Thankfully, the ride to those types of things aren't exactly far.  My thoughts are to get to them sooner rather than later.

Otherwise things are moving along.  There are a lot of things going on on the "life" front of things, and I might be inclined to fill in some of the gaps here.  Much has changed in my life in the last 5 months, and much more will be changing in the future.  So many things, so little time, and so much to do!  Looking forward to it all, but just wanting to get moving.  Priorities have to be set, and goals have to be reached.  Best get to work!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I would say that I couldn't remember the last time I've been this busy, but that would be a lie.  It was yesterday.  And the day before.  And the day before that.  The past week has been one of the busiest in recent memory.  I've ridden my bike less and less over the days, spent more time up and around, and have found myself more tired from not sleeping than from exercise.  Not good.

The sole reason for all this, in my opinion, is a lack of organization and thought.  Lack of organization from the aspect of time management, and a lack of thought stemming from, surprise, surprise, NOT THINKING!  Not many things frustrate me more than lack of a good plan and lack of figuring something out from all angles.  It's important in life to disregard emotion at times, dealing straight with what's in front of you and letting the "feelings" stay off to the side for the time being.  Too much emotion takes away the effectiveness and efficiency of a plan.  You begin to act with your heart and not with your head, ending in, most times, a downward spiral and a failure to achieve what you set out to do from the beginning.  I believe this is true not only in athletics, but in life as a whole.

Many times I've faced this frustration this week, leading me to react, albeit not in the way I might have if I had not been so frustrated.  I suppose I let emotion dictate my reaction-something that I just finished saying I needed to take out of the equation in order to succeed.

This is all likely coming out as diarrhea of the keyboard, so I won't go much further into it.  I'm not exactly willing to let out all the details here, but it still helps to get things out on the screen.

Anyway, like I said, riding has been at a sincere minimum this week (possibly why I'm so frustrated in the first place).  I haven't been able to get out to any of my favorite spots, and I fear the summer is passing away quickly and the potential of good days and subsequent good rides is fast passing me by.  After not being able to ride what I wanted when I wanted for about 4 months, this extra lack of "fun" is really tearing me down.  I'm out of shape, with rusty skills, and an increasingly dusty bike.  When is this gonna end!!!???

On the positive side of things, work seems to be picking up and nearly all of the clients I left when I was away have returned.  You can't put a price on loyalty.  Just now I've got to make things happen more and more, allowing me the chance to get on the bike more and enjoy life a bit more than I have in the past week.  The time will come...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Busy Bees

Anne and I have been moving and shaking since she got in this past Tuesday.  Getting the apartment cleaned, sorting out a bike for her to race, and getting in rides have taken a big priority.  With me getting back into the swing of things at work and trying to get my business normal again, it's been even tougher to sit back and relax.  Then again, we're both young and the time to relax will come later.

This weekend we're headed up to New Paltz for Anne to compete in the Wildcat 100 mountain bike race.  It will be her first proper mountain bike race and should be a good experience.  Her background is in long distance triathlon so this should provide quite the challenge, but, riding with her the last few days, I've got to say that she should be well up for it.  The longer distance, endurance mountain bike races are really not all that technical, and given that she's got good handling skills on the bike already, I feel that this race will be more a test of fitness than skills.  She's coming off of doing Challenge Roth about a month ago, and is pretty healthy and fit.  While I'm confident she'll be just fine and wind up doing quite well, I'm more excited for her just because I know it will be a really fun experience.  Mixing things up (especially with mountain biking-the "real" sport-hahaha) is always something that's good.  If nothing else, it'll give her an opportunity to get her mind out of the "swim-bike-run" mode for just a bit and concentrate on something a little different.  It's still going to hurt like hell, make her tired, and test her meddle, so she should be right at home.

For me, being on the course and at the event will be fun.  I've never spectated a mountain bike race before (at least a 100 mile one), so this will be a new experience.  Though endurance racing is no longer something I like to do for myself, like watching Anne race triathlon, I'll just be pumped to be there supporting her.  And, being that it's a mountain bike race, there's bound to be plenty of beer there to help me pass the time.  I'll have my own bike there too, so being able to get out on the course to see her as well as have some fun of my own will be cool.

I love the town of New Paltz and have been dying to get up there for over a year now.  Last year, when I was still racing, I wanted to do this particular race, but because of health reasons I had to give it a pass.  It'll be cool to see what I missed, but I'm sure that I won't actually miss it-riding that long and that far in the shape that I'm in now would suck more than having to swim in the Hudson for an Ironman two days after a sewage dump.  Not fun.

So today is going to be a little bit of a restful, get life stuff and errands done type of day before we head off early tomorrow morning to get up to the race site.  I'm hoping to get a good chance for Anne to pre-ride the course and get her bearings.  The opportunity to camp before the race was available, but given my experience with camping the night before a long race, I suggested we take a pass on that.  It's all well and good to be part of the atmosphere, but when you're out to do your best the following day, sleeping on the earth in a hot tent is not the way to go about it.  Anyway, this weekend should be lots of fun filled with lots of cool experiences and hopefully a new sport that Anne can get excited about.

Monday, August 6, 2012


I'm thinking about a lot right now, and I'm thankful for all of it.  I'm thankful for the many, many good things in my life, as well as the hardships.  I've learned a lot in my 31 years on this planet, and the cool thing is that I've still (hopefully) got a lot left to learn.  I've made a lot of mistakes, hurt a lot of feelings, and did some things that I look back and cringe when I think of what I've done.  There have been a lot of conquering moments, and a lot of disappointments.  I've got regrets about the past and I've got doubts about the future, but realistically speaking, who doesn't?  The bottom line is that this is my life and every minute of it has been worth living.  I've got scars and I've had heartache.  I've got smiles and I've known success.  The true value of what life is, in my eyes, can be quantified in the experiences we've had and what we've taken from them.  It's all a big roller coaster ride with the end coming sooner than any of us want to admit.  What we do while we're on board is our choice.  When it ends is someone else's.

Not quite sure why I'm writing this now.  I'm not on the verge of a mental breakthrough, or the downside of anything emotional. Just thoughts in my head that I wanted to get down somewhere, so why not here.

Today wasn't bad.  Still getting back to the realities of life being back home, riding my bike when I can, and getting back to "life as normal."  I'm slowly building back up my personal training business, though it isn't without stress.  Going away for 3 months was a big risk no matter how you cut it, and I'm more than thankful that all of my clients have held strong and given me some slack.  It's nice to know that in a job with absolutely no job security, you're fortunate to work with loyal people that enjoy the service you provide them.

As for the bike, I'm stoked beyond belief at riding right now.  I missed the fast and flowy local trails I ride, and the rocky, chunky, technical trails that I travel to.  I've never appreciated them more than now.  With that, as far as actual riding is concerned, I feel like a new rider.  Not in the sense that I've picked up my skill level or I've changed my riding style.  In a funny way, it just doesn't mean as much to me as it did.  That doesn't mean that it's still not my absolute favorite way to spend my free time, it's just to say that if it were suddenly taken away from me, I'd be alright.  If anything, being away and being forced to go without the type of riding that I enjoy has taught me more about myself than I could have imagined. I'm healthy, able, and have enough of a mind to enjoy a variety of different things.  In simple terms, I'm more of a complete, multi dimensional person now than I was 3 months ago.  Learning to step outside of the box you've painted yourself into is never an easy thing, but when you do learn and you do step away, it's worth it's weight in gold.  Learning to "do something else" and get away from the hobby/sport/activity/whatever that it is that holds your attention is probably the best thing I've done.

So, do I still love riding my mountain bike more than just about anything? Certainly.  But, if all goes wrong, can I live without it and still maintain my happiness?  Absolutely.  The important thing is to value yourself, and value what you've got.  If you're fortunate enough to peruse athletics, you're fortunate enough to find other things to be just as passionate about.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

When Old is New

Got out this morning and rode a trail that is one of my favorites in the entire world.  I haven't gotten out to ride it in probably over 4 months, and with being injured and then being away, I was dreaming about it for a while.  It's technical and resultantly slow in areas, but with so many natural features you could spend an entire day enjoying everything and still want for more when the sun goes down.

The trail itself is probably less than 15 miles long.  Might even be shorter than 10.  The fun factor is what keeps me coming back though, coupled with the fact that I don't think I've ever had a ride there where everything went perfectly well.  There's always a section I have trouble with, a crash, or simply a dab of the foot when trying a new line.

Most importantly, this particular trail is someplace I can go to completely punch out.  It's technical enough for that you can't possibly think of anything but what you're currently doing.  Any time I've ever thought about "life" stuff while riding there, I've crashed.  Plain and simple.

Today was all about getting back out there and seeing how I would react to A) being truly unfit for the first time in many years, and B) having to deal with a set of rusty skills that were in no way helped by the type of riding I did when I was away.

In the 3 months I was gone, the predominant trails available were downhill.  There was no lift service, and the single track was too steep to climb, so basically you're left with riding up dirt and paved road to a trail head that will lead you back down to where you started.  More on this later, but this particular aspect of the riding there was probably the biggest reason I wound up not riding much.  Anyhow, when you do nothing but downhill, you get used to picking lines that make use of the speed with which you're traveling.  I'm not saying that downhill riding is easier than any other type or riding, all I'm saying is that having speed and momentum on your side is a big advantage when it comes to blowing through a rock garden or clearing a jump.  When you don't have to pedal through tech, you tend to loose the feel of the trail and the power in your legs and upper body that it takes sometimes to get through different sections.

So, like I said, today was a day to test out the bike, test out the skills, and hope to God that I hadn't gotten too fat to ride the way I like to.  It was obvious from the start that I was rusty and obvious from the start that I came back a different rider than the one that left 3 months ago.  Nevertheless, as I rode more and more, remembering how things felt and what went where, I started going from huffing and puffing and being sketchy on every feature, to falling right back in line with where I was before I left.  In fact, I've returned a smoother and more graceful rider.  While I did get tired more quickly and while I didn't quite make and clear everything I tried, by the end of the ride, I felt that I was close, if not back to, the skill level I was at before I left.  It was truly like riding a bicycle: You never forget.

Going back to the riding I did while away, one of the biggest points of contention I had was with doing so much of my riding on roads, both paved and dirt, only to get a fraction of that time back on single track.  More often than not, I would spend over an hour climbing on road only to reach one or two kilometers of single track. To me, the math just didn't add up.  Here, depending on the trail, it's not uncommon to spend an entire ride in the woods, with natural features, not having to hit anything more than a bit of double track every once in a while.  I've been easily spoiled with such good trails and trail systems that I've become too much of a snob to ride the road.  Good or bad, it is what it is.  Part of how I get my fix is by being in the woods, enjoying nature and nothing but nature.  The last thing I want to see on any of my mountain bike rides is road, whether paved or dirt.

In the end, it was a good day and a great opportunity to get back to one of the trails I love.  I left, driving away with that familiar, shit-eating grin that I'd not had after a bike ride for quite some time.  Great to feel good about riding my bike once again.

Tomorrow is back to work, trying to sort out my clients, beg people to start training with me again, and get my apartment cleaned up-always have to make sure even the smallest bits of dirt are gone when entertaining a beautiful lady. :)

I may or may not ride tomorrow.  Yesterday's post was all about my decision to be in control of NOT being in control and I intend to keep things that way.  I think I'd like to ride, but the way things are looking at this point, it might not be a possibility.  And that's ok.  It'll almost be a bonus if I do get the change to get out tomorrow.  Either way, I will wind up doing some exercise.  And I honestly can't say that the gym and those damned kettle bells aren't calling my name right now.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Getting older, being lazy, or none of the above?

I'm not sure about the spot that I'm in currently regarding my competitive athletic career.  As I've mentioned here on my blog numerous times, I've been out of the competitive loop for about a year now.  In fact, the last race I did, The Wilderness 101, was a exactly a year and a week ago today.  In this time of non-competition, I've still ridden my bike nearly every day, exercised and stayed healthy.  Nothing mystifies me more than when an athlete stops competing and goes to mush almost over night.  I don't know if I'll ever compete again as seriously as I once did, but I do know that I will continue to be considerably fit no matter what life brings me.

So, today, in keeping with the habit of lifting more that I developed while overseas, I got back at it with a great kettle bell workout.  I've got a new appreciation for the types of things you can do with the bells,  and I've found more and more that they (and the movements involved) produce sheer strength and fitness that actually carries over to almost any activity.  As I learn more and more about them, I'm able to diversify my own workouts and focus on functional strength, the same I would use while on my mountain bike.

In addition, they're just plain fun.  I can remember the days of doing endless sets of bicep curls, bench press, triceps extensions, and the like.  I was building a body that was generally good at only doing those things.  With the types of things and focus that I now have as a result of using the kettle bells, I'm able to not only ride my bike more effectively, but work out in the yard more effectively, pick up any old heavy object more effectively, and just generally be more of a complete human being-not just an athlete doing exercises just for their one particular sport.

I suppose where I'm going with all of this is in the last sentence I just wrote.  Being a "complete human being" is something that, I believe, has been developed as a concept in my head as I've gotten older and more mentally mature.  When you're competing at a high level in any sport, you become consumed by it, taking all of your attention and all of your efforts to be the best that you can be.  I don't care who you are, when you're trying to be the absolute best at whatever it is you do, you have to be this way.  And, if you're not this way and you're still successful, you're a freak!  Of course I mean this all in the best and more respectful of ways, I'm only trying to convey the point that to be the best you need to engulf yourself in your sport.

For me, no matter what sport I played, I was always in it with everything I had.  I was the kid that slept with his hockey skates on; the kid that put oil in his baseball glove, wrapped it with a rubber band and put it under his pillow; and, I was the kid that woke up at 2am to head to the ice rink to get in 4 hours of practice before school.  I was never the "best" but I was good.  I was the best that I could have ever been, and I like to think that no matter what sport I attempted, I sold out for it.

At this point of my life, I'm entering a bit of a different mode.  I'm now more concerned with having fun.  I'm concerned with enjoying the time I spend doing what I'm doing, and getting a positive boost both mentally and physically because of it.  The aspect of serious competition, to me, was fun for a while, but when it became anything but that, I knew it was time to move on.

In all of this, the point is that getting older has not made me want to stop competing (in the traditional, "my body ain't what it used to be" sense), and being lazy isn't the answer either.  For me, the change in my view of what competing means to me has changed as a result of just wanting to smile, wanting to be fee, and wanting to allow the holistic aspects of what I do to shine through.  I don't want to stick to a schedule and I don't want to expect a certain outcome because of the schedule that has been adhered to.

I believe some people come to exercise (and endurance sports in particular) out of the need for control in their lives.  It's obvious that they can control their workouts and training sessions, and because of that and the fact that they may not be able to control other aspects in their lives, they become addicted to it.  It turns out in the end to be more of an enjoyment of being able to keep an aspect of their lives under their thumbs than being able to actually excel at their given sport.  They'll deny it, but an objective look at their lives would reveal it as clear as day from night.

I'm a control freak too.  The only difference between the control I seek now and the control I sought then is my new desire to control being out of control.  Let me explain.  When I was so dead set on competing and doing my best at all the sports I played, it was the obvious case of what I just explained in the last paragraph.  Now, differently, I want to have the control in my life to say, "I don't need  to go for that ride today, so I won't."  Instead, I want to say, "I don't need  to go for that ride today, but I love riding my bike and today is nice, so I'll ride."  It's all about not feeling the guilt, and it's all about doing what feels right.  There's probably no worse feeling than the guilt you get when you skip a workout that's on your schedule.  Nobody needs that in this life.  You should not feel bad for missing something that you do out of what should be nothing but pure enjoyment.  Life is simply too short.

So today, like yesterday, the day before, and the weeks and months before that, I trained what I wanted to train how I wanted to train.  No plan, no rhyme, and no reason.  Just move, enjoy it, and feel better for it at the end.  Simple.  Tomorrow will be more of the same.  I'll let life and my own "human development" develop my next competition.

Friday, August 3, 2012


Worked, ran errands, and rode my bike.  Why the hell do I NOT have a beer in my hand right now?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's been a loooong time...

...since I've even thought about posting an entry here.  I've been away for a while, and in that time I managed to keep a journal that I had intended to publish upon completion, but I'm having second thoughts.  It was nice to keep my thoughts to myself and my keyboard.  It allowed me personal time where I could work out and manage my thoughts without the worry of having to completely explain and communicate what I was trying to say.  I strongly suggest everyone does it.
Anyway, I have neglected this blog to the point where I'm sure my very few readers have all but given up on it.  Sorry 'bout that.  I am, though, toying with the idea of starting a new and different blog from this one.  It would contain most of my thoughts and descriptions of my days (like this one), but I feel like the freshness of it all might inspire me more.  I had originally started this blog as a triathlete, then an XC mountain biker, and then as a All-Mountain/Downhill mountain biker.  I've progressed in my personal life so much in that time, it's not really about just the riding anymore.  Being that this blog was all about that, it kind of seems fitting to start with a fresh, blank page.
I haven't decided what I want the new blog to be, so I won't describe anything much deeper than I just want to start something new, incorporating all aspects of my life.  I'll keep this one, updating from time to time, but my major focus will likely be elsewhere.  I'll post a link up if and when I get it going.  For now, it's time to unpack, go for a ride, drink a whole lot of beer, and get back into the swing of things.  Peace...