Wednesday, May 18, 2016

One Thousand 13

As of today, I'm now at 1013 days in a row, riding a bicycle, outside.

Rain, snow, ice, wind, cold, warm, hot. These are just words and not the enemy. The only enemy to the task is apathy. It is so easy to postpone, delay, or avoid all together. It is hard to make the commitment, get ready, and get outside.

Once you are outside though, and on the bike, the rest is easy. I'm finding more and more often that some of my most rewarding rides are in some of the worst conditions. Just this past week in fact, a late day, heavy rain ride on muddy roads up over a mountain was just what I needed, literally putting a smile on my face.

Live your life every day, ride bikes, enjoy what you are given and take none of it for granted.

2016 Rasputitsa Recap

I know that this is a little late, and I'd said I was done with race reports, but I wanted to at least have some recount of this year's iteration of the Rasputitsa spring gravel road race, which took place in the Northeast Kingdom of VT a month or so back. Really, this isn't going to be as much a race report as it is going to be a synopsis of the event itself. At least that is the plan.

As everyone in the Northeast knows, the recent weather conditions have been abnormal to say the least. When the Rasputitsa was first conceived, the though was that the conditions would be as much a part of the race as the course and race itself. The race would become an individual battle as much or more between man, machine and the elements as man vs. man. The past first and second iteration of the race were more on par with that notion, making it a true tough but smart guys race. Tough in battling the elements but smart in equipment choice and preservation.

This year things were looking to be completely epic, with legendary mud and conditions to make note of. Exactly one week before we rode the course and the conditions were deplorable. It was below freezing and there was snow and mud, both of which froze to the bikes and rendered them useless in a short period of time. Equipment choice and close management and preservation of that equipment would have been crucial had the race been that day not to mention clothing choices for a long, sloppy, well below freezing race. I projected that had the race been one week earlier, the winning finish time would have been nearly an hour longer and the a solid half of the field would have run into mechanical issues caused by the frozen slop accumulation. Of those, many would not be equipped to deal with them and would have been walking. Of those, many would not be prepared for the weather once they were no longer generating heat from riding. They would have suffered and some would have been in trouble. In short, this was the race that I was hoping for, for selfish reasons of course the primary of which being that I excel in conditions like that. The pre ride that we did a week earlier was pretty taxing on my Bikeway Source provided Cannondale Synapse disc, which isn't designed to be a mud bike and as such has low mud clearance. When the mud, slush and grit accumulate and freeze, you only have a certain amount of time before you have to clear it out, otherwise things stop turning.

Seven days before
But that was not to be. The rain and snow ended, the sun came out, the wind blew and the temperatures rose quickly to well above normal. The unbelievable muddy roads dried. The mud ruts were smoothed by the graders and the one bastion of hope left, the Cyberia section of Kirby Mountain even dried out in literally a few days flat. That was good in that it meant I had a bike, my Synapse, which was perfectly designed for the conditions. That said, the race went from a race that plays to my strengths to a race that played to my weakness, big long hard fast climbs. As much as I like to climb, I'm not a true climber. One look at me is all that is needed to see that fact. Sure, I can fake it on the short punchy stuff but when it is a long steady grind and I am forced above threshold, time is ticking.

And so it was. I played it safe early and made it over the first series of climbs then went to the front and drove hard on the first descent to try and stay safe. That worked well but I used too much gas. Through the next sets of rollers I tried to conserve within the large, maybe 25 person front group. That in and of itself is telling as the race was only a few miles in and the nearly 700 starters had been whittled away to a small lead group of a couple dozen racers. By the next long, gradual climb I was starting to feel the strain but seemed comfortable enough, with the discomfort. At the top of Carter Road, the pace bumped and I spaced out, losing contact. I figured I could bridge the small gap on the descent but I couldn't, in fact, I was getting dropped. The pace down the somewhat sketchy rutted and steep race was insane and I was working way too hard, not recovering but digging deeper into the red such that when we started back up again the writing was on the wall.

I was done, fading, losing the lead group. Worse, there was no secret stash of really nasty stuff up ahead that would re-shuffle the deck like Cyberia did last year. I watched the group pull away ahead as we climbed Victory Rd. I was now with a small group including James from the Tekne team. The climbs were putting the hurt on for sure but despite the earlier mishap on Carter Rd, I was descending well. Knowing the course is always a help. Just before the KoM I was caught by the group behind, which had a half dozen folks including all around great guy, John Funk. I really like racing with Funky as he is such a cycling icon. I have the utmost respect for him and I consider any day that I can ride with him, a good day.

Love this area
I sagged the rest of that section and kept at the front of the group on the descents. River Rd was sloppier than it had been a few days before as Victory had apparently graded the road. I tried my best to conserve energy on that stretch as did most everyone in the group, knowing all too well what was looming just ahead. We caught a few people who'd been spit out of the group ahead of us, which was now the chase group on the road chasing after the four leaders.

And then we made the corner off River Rd onto Victory Hill Rd and the final real climb started. this was the big one, a solid 3.5 miles with some good double digit percentage grades. The climb was hard but pretty steady. Things spread a bit on the steep sections but came back on the lesser grades until we hit the run in to the last section of the climb, a solid half mile with looser terrain and some steeps. Over the top I was back a bit but within sight. I was again shocked how fast people were descending what I knew was a nasty, rutted road. Folks were taking huge risks I just wasn't prepared to take. Not on that stuff and certainly not when I saw Jake Wells walking back up the hill toward me holding his likely broken collarbone. I chose to be safe and take my risks on the road descent, one that I know well and knew would be fast. It was fast in fact. Luckily I was, with a huge amount of luck, able to catch back up on. The group came back together after the Kirby town hall and stayed pretty much together along Ridge Rd.

Coming down out of Cyberia
Near the top of the last rise on Ridge Rd I pulled to the front, wanting to get into position for the descent on Ridge Rd that dropped you down to the hard left turn onto Brook Rd. Brook Rd is one of the last roads to get sunlight and tends to remain in pretty rough shape. There are a few blind corners and some rough road on the fast, fairly steep technical descent. I wanted to be at the front as I knew the road well and feared there may be casualties on the road. Turns out that we all made it through OK but there were indeed casualties on that road later in the day when a friend nailed a pothole, went over the bars near 30 mph and broke her nose, toe and neck. Luckily she was mostly OK and is recovering well with a full recovery expected shortly.

We all came back together for the final run in toward the finish. The last descent dropping back down into East Burke caused me the masters race last year when I let myself get pushed off line and crashed at the top. This year I wanted to be clearly first in so I attacked the group about 100 yards out, coming in hot. Unfortunately, I'm just not confident enough to risk dying down that rough chute at warp speed on a road bike. Though I was first in I got passed by three people in the group literally in the chute. I was awe struck that the bikes didn't explode given how much abuse they took. Still, I made it through toward the front of our small group, fourteenth place overall, the third logical group to finish and well out of any contention for a podium spot even in the master's race.

Cathy got the job done in the women's fat bike again
This wasn't the finish that I'd hoped for but I took it with a grain of optimism, that being the fact that the race was essentially a very hilly and dry road race. I'm not a particularly strong road racer and I'm not a particularly proficient climber when it comes to real climbing. I've also had some incidents recently including a couple of bad crashed last fall that have changed my perspective as to just what kinds of risks I am willing to take. Maybe that means I'm not cut out for racing bikes anymore, a possibility for sure. And I'm OK with that.

Did I mention that Cathy killed it, again this year in the women's fat bike category? She did and took about an hour off of her finish time from the previous year. She certainly seems to be carrying this team of recent. She also spent the day before with my mom making homemade donuts for the event. They were incredible and in fact, we just finished the last of them, which we'd had in the freezer. Many thanks for the efforts of both her and my mother, which were above and beyond. Both of my parents spent race day volunteering, perched at the base of the Cyberia section.

Darn, I said this wasn't going to be yet another, boring race report and guess what happened? Oh well. It was a great event and the good conditions, phenomenal and unheard of conditions, were indeed a treat for all. No hypothermia, frostbite. Still, wasn't that or the threat of that why we all signed up for the race in the first place? Nothing the promoters could have done on that front. This was all Mother Nature if not the bizarre, fickle weather patterns caused by the climate change we seem to be experiencing beyond the historic norm. Had the race literally been seven days earlier, everything would have been different, everything.

I'd also like to say how happy I am that the the event is being used to benefit the Little Bellas program, which is run by top professional athletes Lea and Sabra Davison, both VT natives. The program gets young girls into mountain biking through support, outreach and mentoring. Both Lea and Sabra beyond being incredible athletes, are true, genuine people who want to make a difference. In meeting them both I was abundantly impressed. They epitomize what it means to be a professional cyclist. I'd love to see more money go to programs like this, with local impact on every day young people, truly making a difference in their lives.

The old NEBC junior team
We have the ability, through the love and promotion of cycling, to give back by spreading that love to those who may otherwise overlook or abandon cycling. This is especially true in rural areas, like the NEK of VT, where that cycling related support, encouragement and mentoring is all but non-existent. Cycling is a tough sell in rural areas, especially among the poor. It's expensive, exclusionary and lets face it, not exactly mainstream. When rural kids hit high-school the bikes tend to be dropped in favor of motorized alternatives. I believe that this doesn't have to happen, by instilling a love of bikes through enablement, encouragement and mentoring, kids can embrace cycling as a life long sport. And from my perspective, that is the real goal here. Racing is nice and all but we have plenty of groups that promote bike racing among the over privileged. Cathy and I were fortunate to have started and run a junior team that enabled young kids to try a host of different cycling disciplines through crowd sourced parts and gear donations, which I built into a literal fleet of bikes. We got more than a half dozen kids to try MTB and cyclocross and more, helped instill cycling as a life long passion for all of them. These kids are now starting to graduate college and go out into the real world. I follow them and their cycling exploits with both honor and pride. I view this as one of the most important a relevant contributions I've made to cycling, far outweighing any race related accolade or achievement. I hope in the very near future to get something like this started in the NEK, and get rural kids like my younger self, or my nephew engaged in cycling, forever, and off the couch.

Stellar Sunday recovery ride
In terms of the event, I'd say things went pretty well. The organization, timing and results were flawless. The outdoor setup at the finish was spot on, especially given the gorgeous weather. The only thing that seemed to be lacking from events past was the food and drink situation. A single line to food handled one person at a time did not scale to over 700 people. Likewise with the only drinks available inside, at the bar, having to fight through the same narrow, choked entryway that those waiting up to 45 minutes for light food fare were standing in. Last year the drink sponsors wares, Woodchuck and Switchback, were dispensed outside making it easy to get to. This year with warm weather, I'd think the same would have been perfect. I'm guessing that some of the issues came simply from scale, the magnitude of the event. Dealing with nearly 700 people is a challenge.

Anyhow, another great event. what will next year bring? Who knows given the weather that we've seen. Hopefully we are back to more of a seasonal norm but we will have no choice but to take that which we are given.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Rasputitsa 2016 Course Recon - One Week Out

What a crazy spring it has been so far. The lack of winter was odd enough, in and of itself, but now we are getting a prolonged, nearly normal if not a bit on the cold side, spring. Strange new world in which we live and it's getting stranger by the day.

Starting out in fresh snow up top
This past Saturday, as in two days ago, Cathy and I were joined by our Coos Cycling Club friend Jeremiah for a recon ride of the complete Rasputitsa race loop. We decided to ride our Bikeway Source provided Cannondale Synapse carbon disc road bikes fitted with Clement X'Plor MSO 32c gravel tires, the bikes we'd been planning to race. As usual, we started the loop from our place, just a little more than a mile off the course at the bottom of the #Cyberia section, which is the ClassIV Victory Road over Kirby Mountain. We'd ridden that section just the previous day, so knew what to expect; mud and snow and really tough going.

We started out at a casual 10:15AM and at that point, the sun was up but the air temperature was still in the low 20's. Winter doesn't seem to be through with us just yet, though at this point in the year, the sun is certainly warm. Too warm in fact and quickly turns gravel road surfaces frozen tight from the cool night time temperatures into, well, slop.

Ridge Rd Kirby was in good shape thanks to the cold

The descent from the bottom of the #Cyberia section down to the Kirby Town Hall, a mile long double digit percent grade drop, was a bit sketchy as it was frozen and snow covered but not terrible. Luckily up at elevation things were still firm and it was still early enough that even Ridge Rd in Kirby was good and firm and we made out way toward East Burke on what is the end of the route, but for us was just the beginning. The descent down Brook Rd off from Ridge Rd was punctuated by frozen mud ruts and some snow cover in spots. That road is in a small river valley with dense tree growth on either side. It also faces west and this time of year, doesn't get much sunlight so is always in poor shape. It is also twisty with numerous blind corners so isn't the place to be a hero.

At this point we were still playing with good conditions and road surfaces that had yet to soften up much. The conditions down low, like on Mt Hunger Rd which is the final stretch before the drop down to the finish line was pretty dry in general and in good shape overall. This was mostly because it was still in the low twenties despite the forecast saying that we should get well above freezing on the day. there was virtually no snow on Belden Hill Rd, the drop down to the finish, but the road is washed in a number of spots and there was a little ice. Lose it here by riding over your ability and you will get a fun trip to the hospital I bet.
Starting to soften up a bit but nice views
And then we were through town and on the paved climb up Burke Hollow Rd, the start. That climb is way harder that it looks and people, myself included, have the tendency to go a little too hard on it. That decimates you for the upcoming rolling section of Darling Hill Rd which has three different punchy climbs on it, the third being the worst. Overdo on the paved start and miss the move and you could easily find yourself chasing for the next, oh lets say 30 miles. This section was still pretty good conditions wise though is bumpy and washboard.

The descent down West Darling Hill was fast but there were frozen ruts and chatter near the bottom. The road is one that can very easily get away from you. I have great respect for that descent. Bugbee Crossing Rd was much the same, firm still and in good shape at that point and with those conditions. In fact, even Brook Rd was pretty darn good though as we neared Carter Rd there started to be snow covering the road from the snow that fell the night before. This wasn't a problem at all as it meant that the road surface was still frozen. From Carter to Marshall Newland Rd conditions were firm and the descent, another tricky one, had frozen mud ruts, snow and generally aspects that required your attentiveness to navigate. The same with the descent down White School Rd. Firm and fast but rutted.

Back into the snow on Carter Rd
We then crossed RT114 and started what I assumed would be the section of the course with some very different conditions, the back side. Cathy wasn't feeling it at this point so decided to turn back rather than continue on past the point of no return. Jer and I continued and ventured up Victory Rd for the long multi mile climb that crested the course KoM and beyond to the height of the land. Conditions were still firm overall but the sun was starting to soften the bare gravel. Fortunately, much of the road was covered in snow, reflecting the sun and delaying the thaw. I absolutely adore riding snow covered gravel and both Jer and I were having a good time despite the steady upward trend. Truth be told, neither of us were out there killing it, that was not the goal. We knew there would be plenty of suffering to come, soon enough, so we chose to simply enjoy the weather and conditions that we were give.

Speaking of conditions, I mentioned that we were starting to see some slop and also that we were still below freezing. Well yea, what that translated to was frozen crud, on the bikes, and the drive trains. Stuff was starting to pile up and tolerances were starting to get tight. We topped out on Victory Rd finally and savored the long, snow covered, rutted but incredibly fun descent down toward Granby. By the time we hit the town center and crossed the Moose River, turning onto River Rd, we'd lost the snow and started to pick up some melting and sloppy, soft surface. We also picked up two sets of other bike tracks, tracks that were very evident in the soft gravel. Immediately I started wondering who it could be and quickly wondered out loud if it could have been a mutual friend we'd invited on this ride but whom couldn't commit to the timing. Jeremiah wasn't convinced but I still suspected it was our friend Jamie who'd started his ride over in Lancaster.

River Rd was typical
And speaking of the Moose River, I'm reading a book about the timber harvest from the 1800's in Victory and Granby. It was large scale and there were numerous mills along the banks of the Moose. The Moose was used for log drives, to get timber from the Granby and Victory down to Concord and StJ and to market. There was even a railroad that made it's way up into the basin and beyond. There are many remnants of this era still present along the river in the form of footings and other concrete structures, though the true extent of the once thriving population are long gone, only a fading memory to very few in an area which is now, nearly devoid of human presence.

River Rd never ceases to deliver early season. It trends downhill all the way and should be a fast, easy ride but inevitably it is always muddy, washboard and soft and or there is a headwind. That day we had the former. Six miles of seemingly endless slogging through the squishy energy sucking mud, mud that also froze to the stays, the seat tube and the drivetrain, a drivetrain that quickly stopped working.

That was a problem
Tires and rims were rubbing on the gravel encrusted ice that literally polished moving parts clean and devoid of lubrication. Luckily I have internal cable routing and disc brakes on my Cannondale Synapse road bike, which meant no cables to freeze up rendering the shifting useless. However, the rear derailleur cage was literally, packed in and frozen solid. We spent some time chipping the frozen crud from the bikes before moving on toward Victory Hill Rd and the start of the real climbing. At the bottom of the climb we stopped again and extricated another batch of frozen crud from the bikes. We also lost the sets of tracks we'd been following as they continued South on River Rd. At that point I knew that it had to have been Jamie doing a route he and I had discussed a couple of weeks back.

And then we climbed, what seemed an endless climb up the soft grade of Victory Hill Rd, about a mile and a half steady climb up to Masten Rd, where the grade pitches up significantly leading up to the ClassIV seasonal Kirby Mountain Rd and #Cyberia. The approach is daunting. River Rd is always way harder than it should be, on paper. Then the first grade on Victory Hill Rd softens you up, the second pitch on Masten Rd puts a real sting in the legs and then when the real fun starts you are pretty well worked over having gone more than a few rounds already.

Slow and meticulous going in #Cyberia
Having ridden this section the night before, I knew what were in for. It wasn't going to be pretty. Snow covered with deep mud ruts with flowing slurry runoff. Because of the easy winter, the road over Kirby Mountain has been getting lots of traffic from both local residents and four wheel enthusiasts. The bottom half mile of the road was also used all winter for active logging. The net is that it is in pretty bad shape at present. In many places the frozen mud ruts are over a foot deep and a truck tire width wide (roughly a foot). You get in them and you can not get out. The center of the road is highly crowned and off camber and when covered in snow, is nearly impossibly to hold traction on. You just slide out. The section that was logged has some sticks and other debris embedded in the surface as well, just for added fun. To put it bluntly, this section is going to be challenging. Last weekend it was mostly frozen. We rode almost all of the way up but it was slow and methodical going in order to maintain traction and not slip out. If this stretch gets soft, it could be a mess.

Snow and mud ruts #Cyberia
As I mentioned, we made it up over though we had to pull over for a vehicle coming up behind us. Local traffic is going to be a problem as they need to keep moving so as not to get stuck. The road isn't wide enough to pass. More, there are literally two wheel tracks that they WILL_BE_IN. We will have to yield to traffic, there is no way around it. What that means is we will have to get off the bike and get in the ditch while they pass. They will not and can not get off the road for you so do not expect they will and if you push them into conflict, there will be conflict. The people going over that road are either going to be the really nice couple whose front yard you rode through on the way up, folks whom live there, off grid year round and use that road all year. It is their road really and we are guests so treat it as such. the other people you may run into driving over are the other locals and trust me, you do not want to push them as they would be happy to push back none of us need that. This challenge will be part of the race this year. If you see a vehicle coming, get off the bike and run up the ditch to get around it then continue on your way. It won't be any slower.

Couldn't get going again #Cyberia
If you let the bike get away from you on the descent, with the mud ruts we currently have, it will hurt you. Remember though that is there are people coming up behind you on that descent, don't block them. If you are in the rut, that's fine, you own it, but if you are walking three abreast, single up so others can get by. There is nothing worse than the self absorbed who are oblivious to others.

The descent down for us last Saturday was slow but incident free. As we got further down the snow tapered but the mud increased. We reached the bottom, pretty happy to be finished.

The Rasputitsa course is a stout route in any season but especially in the spring and winter. I knew that when I first suggested that particular route to Heidi and Anthony. One of the most appealing aspects of the back side of the course is literally, just how remote you are. For those who didn't look at the map, that is the only road. There are no short cuts, no cut through sections. Once you commit you are either going forward to the end or turning around and going back the way you came. There are no stores and phone service is spotty. It's as close to a wilderness area as we have in that general area, in fact, River Rd takes us right through Victory Basin WMA.

And for that reason, I love it.

My best word of advice is to be ready for everything as I believe, that is what we are going to get. There will certainly be some terrific gravel roads but I suspect there will also be some of the most horrendous conditions you can imagine. It may well be a race of equipment preservation, one where you must meter just how hard you push your bike as much as how hard you push yourself. We'll see, maybe it will all dry up. Maybe.

But I wouldn't count on it.


Friday, April 08, 2016

Race Reports

It's kind of funny that what started out as having primarily race report content, has moved completely away from that topic. I've though about and even starting drafting some race reports but then, for some reason or another, I loose interest.

I think that fact in and of itself, is telling. The overall fact that honestly, I'm losing interest in racing bikes. I still love riding bikes, as much if not more than ever, but it's changing. Cathy and I have now raced steadily at a fairly high and competitive level for over a decade straight. This will actually be the 11th season. We've had some great times, met and become friends with some incredible folks and ridden and raced in many areas of New England and the country that we otherwise would not have.

However, the desire is quickly fleeting. Maybe I've lost the killer instinct that I once had, the desire to compete as much for self validation as anything. I got a small taste of success and victory and wanted more and more. It fueled the fire for years leaving me looking for bigger challenges that brought the hope of bigger successes.

But some where along the line it became hollow. When put into perspective, the relevance of said victories in the obscure sport of cycling is little more than the medal you receive. Are you better for those victories?

And then one day it all changes, and you stop winning. That's when the thrashing starts, to regain something which you have grown accustom to having, something which you are, at that point anyhow, unable to regain. This continues for some time but without looking at the real why, the root cause, no amount of struggle will help fix it.

At some point once you have figured out the root cause, you come to the cross road. Are you willing or able to make the changes to get yourself back to where you once were? Are those changes realistic and can they be made? Will it even work regardless of the changes?

For me, as much as anything, it comes down to will. Sure, I need to work harder but I also need the mindset, the edge that makes me want to suffer, that makes me want to make others suffer. The gritty truth about success in physical competition is that you not only need to be a masochist and derive joy from pain, you also need to be a sadist and enjoy inflicting pain on others.

Anyhow, I'm not sure where I am right now. We've been doing hard weekly road rides and there have been some glimpses of hope. The VOMAR ride last week, which isn't a race though it is, didn't go as well as I'd hoped. Still, given some of the challenges such as a cold that has settled hard in my lungs and won't seem to dissipate and completely frozen hands early on and course conditions that didn't suit my strengths, it wasn't all bad.

We'll see. Maybe I'll get super psyched for racing soon. Or maybe there will just be lots of epic ride reports in my future. One way or the other, I'll still be riding bikes.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Nine Hundred 71 Days

I keep saying that I'm going to stop, that I can stop any time that I want, maybe tomorrow, but not today. Compulsion, addiction.

Late last year I said at the end of the year. Early this year I said after 1500 days of pedaling a bicycle straight (which included riding on the indoor trainer at times for the first year and a half). lately I've been saying the goal is 1000 days in a row of riding a bicycle outdoors in New England, which it would seem is 29 days from today. During the winters, most of that time has been in Northern New England be it Western Maine or the Northeast kingdom of VT.

Riding outside every day, in every type of weather condition imaginable has taught me one simple lesson, the hardest part is always just getting out the door. Once you are on the bike and riding, it's all the same, all so very simple; just you and the bike. And of course whatever conditions you are dealing with be that snow, ice, rain or all of the above.

Some times you have to work at it a bit, in order to be safe, and choose your ride time and location wisely. For me though, I usually ride at the same time every day, logical after work around 5:30PM. In the winter that means it's cold and dark but that consistency gives me some semblance of familiarity, and peace.

The ride has become a daily ritual, almost a spiritual event at times, sure to happen as sure as waking on the day or going to sleep at the end. I won't lie, there are many days when the ride feels like drudgery, like a chore that simply has to be taken care of for the day, like cleaning out the kitten's litter box. I'm an excellent litter scooper and attack it like a science. It is, after all, my job. Everyone has to have a job and as I find myself lacking in gainful employ, I've adopted that as one of my few regular vocations, along with grocery shopping. It's just what I do.

And so I ride. In the back of my mind, as much because I can as I want to. My health is good so why waste perfectly good days without a physical celebration of that fact, a fact that we can not, must not, take for granted. One day that will change, whether we are present to recognize it or not.

So, as the brief sunshine is blotted by the clouds and impending rain, I look out knowing that I should get out and ride now all the while knowing that I'll probably just wait until the evening, and the pouring rain. Maybe I've become oblivious to the conditions, numbed to them, a slave to the inevitable ride that will happen, regardless. Maybe the conditions reinforce the memory of the ride which could all too easily slip away in the annals of the log, not even a memory.

Some times the most memorable rides, the ones you look most fondly and vividly back upon are the most  grim and grizzly. The late December 2015 NEK 50 mile 34 degree pouring rain ride is one of those that I will recall forever. The February 2015 nine hour 60 mile fat bike loop through remote wilderness which degraded into a slog through loose powder is another. The same fat bike loop the year before in reverse which two of us pushed each other hard to complete in only seven  hours is another. The 80 mile ride from Twin Mountain over Crawford up Bear Notch (in the snow and ice), over the Kanc and up through the bike path in Franconia Notch (also in snow and ice) and all on road bikes, with road shoes, is another. Too many to list but so many fond memories to cherish. Memories of actions through which we are self defined, or at least, I am.

In fact, a quick mental list of my all time most memorable rides includes epic rides that all had epic tales of suffering and misery. What does that tell us? I suspect we as humans are wired that way, to remember the bad as life lessons. Now what does that tell you, when those like me look fondly back at those events and worse, seek to emulate them moving forward. Gluttons? Masochists?

I choose to think of people like this as life adventurers. The road less chosen is where it's at. Life is about loops and not out and backs. Never take the same old path you've chosen before if you are presented with a new one to explore. You never know what may be down that path and you may be missing something, incredible, revealed by simply making the choice.

Ride on. Live life. #RideOutside365