Santos Vacation 2015

Oh gawd, it’s been forever since I posted something. Partially because of the trip I’m about to write up, and partially because I’ve been busy doing all sorts of random things with dogs and my car, which are both in various states of sickness.

If you’ve been reading along, you saw that I recently had to deal with Turbo, my 13 year old Belgian Malinois, nearly dying from side effects of the onset of heart failure. She’s stable and happy now, but the cost of emergency and follow-up care vaporized the budget I’d set aside in my mind for taking a foul weather-escaping trip to the Santos Trails in Florida. Then, Wednesday night last week, I was at my parents’ house when I mentioned how bad the weather was going to be (again) and, while I was glad Turbo was doing ok, I really needed some long training hours that I just wasn’t going to gut out in the slush here in Memphis.

My mom said she’d like to go to Florida. I took her up on it, and, early Friday morning, we were literally outrunning a sleet storm to get ourselves down to Ocala.


Saturday, I had to make morning trip to Target to cheaply replace the hydration pack I’d left at home (again).


Once I hit the trail, I rode out and back along some of the OMBA Epic Ride route. The best maps I’ve been able to find are on this page, though none of them show 100% of what’s there. I stopped along the way to visit folks racing the Santos 12 hour. I was slightly tempted to race, but glad decided to just go out and have fun instead. I found Dicky immediately following his discovery that he and his teammate were in a podium spot and actually had to concentrate on racing.

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I also saw some old school components


I quickly discovered that the trail was covered in a much-thicker-than-last-year layer of fallen live oak leaves.


They’re super slick, so the turns were occasionally treacherous. Live oak trees are some of the most beautiful living things on the planet, though, so they’re totally worth the leaf surfing. I sort of hate posting pictures of them, because a camera phone doesn’t come close to capturing their enormity.




By the time I made it back through the race course area, I was out of water. I stopped and wanted to beg for some in the pits, but everyone was somehow distracted by racing or partying, so I just took this picture and left.


I made it a point to reserve a nice room with a kitchen so that I could cook healthy meals for my mom and myself. Meal #1 was steak and broccoli (I added some bread toasted with olive oil for a few extra carbs).


Sunday’s adventure started with a little sightseeing. We drove west a ways and checked out the Gulf of Mexico.


Since I didn’t want to ride as long that day, I had my mom drop me off at the far west end of the trail system at the Pruitt trailhead. I found out from this scenic spot where the trailhead gets its name:



I had calculated that my ride would take around 3 hours, so I drew directions on a map for my mom and told her I’d be at the east end of the trail around 3:30. My plan was to have her pick me up at the Greenway Bikes shop. When I arrived, it was exactly 3:30, and I went inside to purchase a beer and sat around enjoying the sun and waiting on my mom.


My mom proceeded to get very lost while she tried to find the shop. The shop closed at 4, though one of the shop guys stuck around until 4:30 because he was trying to be nice. I shooed him off and found a shady spot. Around 5:something, the shop owner, Dano, pulled up. We chatted some, and he was nice, though, he asked me where I was from and where I was staying and why I was waiting around at least three different times. He offered to split a Victory V12 with me, so I didn’t stress his apparent lack of sobriety too hard.

My mom eventually found the shop. Dano was still there, and, in the course of his repeated asking of where are you from/where are you staying/where are you going to dinner tonight, my mom, being the proper Southern woman that she is, though obviously a little uncomfortable dealing with someone who was less than sober, asked him, “where are you from?” He replied back with a crude answer about his mother’s anatomy… to my sweet, proper, Southern, 70ish year-old mom.

Given the absolute absurdity of the situation, I found it to be pretty hilarious at the time, though, looking back, I somewhat regret not losing my shit with the dude and telling him to apologize for being an ass.

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Needless to say, if you’re at Santos, keep your moms away from Greenway Bikes.

At least the beer was good.


That night, we had chicken thighs and green beans with a spicy mustard & yogurt sauce (the sauce was my mom’s idea).


I was stoked that I’d picked up a little vitamin D while I was out.


My third and final day was the long one. Since I’d stopped for photos and navigation on the previous days, I decided that I’d only stop once an hour for a food break (the Target pack didn’t have hip pockets, so I had to take it off of my back to get to my food). I rode to the far end of the trail system and back- approximately 32 miles out and 23 miles back. I did stop to take a look at this guy along the way:


I also stopped when I wrecked at mile 52.5 of 54.5. Leaf surfing is only one mph away from leaf teleporting. Back at the trailhead, I ate a snack and cooled off a bit. I still had a good bit of daylight, so I wanted to go back out and ride a lap of the Vortex Loop- the tech loop a couple of miles from the main trailhead.


While I was trying to figure out where the loop started, I met Tim, the owner of Spokes mobile bike shop. We chatted a bunch and he showed me a lap of the trail. I like the bermy fast stuff that makes up 98% of the trails at Santos, but the Vortex loop feels a little like Arkansas. Tim and I made a hot lap and headed back to the main trailhead. I ended up with nearly 6 hours of riding for the day… a great way to finish off the 3-day vacation.

Outside of Florida, the South wasn’t doing so well.


I wished that we could have stayed there way longer. The sun and opportinity to train hard on fun trails temporarily hoisted me up from my baseline of mild depression, so it was a mental vacation as much as it was a physical one.

The weather in Memphis is still pretty terrible (as it is most places that aren’t Florida). I’ve only ridden once since I came back, though I’ll probably hit the trainer this morning before going to an inversion workshop at Pike Yoga.

The light at the end of my cold, dark tunnel?


We’d originally discussed my Colorado sabbatical beginning the first week of April. However, Jon Davis (owner of 92Fifty), scheduled the 92Fifty Moab camp for March 26th-29th, and he wants me there A)because they need a mechanic to work on participant bikes, and B)it will give me a chance to meet and bond with the people who come to the shop most often.

That’s not to say it won’t be cold when we return to the mountains after camp, but the sun is bright there, so I don’t think it will be too bad.

Rides and Dog-Kid Problems

The thought of leaving a “new” trail unexplored was too much to bear, so on Wednesday, Matt and I met John on the Wolf River Trail and adventured our way back out to find the end of the Nutbush Highway (see previous posts). After some sidewalk riding and light bushwhacking, we did, indeed reach our goal.



(If you don’t recognize it, that’s the bridge that I was monkey-ing around on in my last post).

It seems as though the Nutbush Highway ends at JFK Park, though we didn’t fully explore all corners of possible exits because John needed to get going. One more trip may be in order. The woods along the Wolf River get severely squished near the next main road to the west, so it’s highly likely that we found what’s at least very close to the end.

Views from the ride back…




Matt and I dropped John off at his car and continued riding. The magic of the day continued when I found that my sample-size 4-pack of Gu Chomps was a 7-pack (I’d already eaten one when I realized my long-ride miracle and took the photo)


The goal of the day was to go longer than 4 hours, but be home by 5:30. Our adventure took us towards Grey’s Creek. The trail out that way in in great shape right now.


We ended up with a little over 5 hours, and celebrated with a trip to the Chinese Buffet. They’ve got a “Mongolian BBQ” station where you can get vegetables and meat cooked together while you wait, so it’s pretty great.

Then, things took an unexpected turn…

We came home and let the dogs out like normal. After they came back in, I immediately noticed that Turbo, my 13-year-old Belgian Malinois, was breathing funny and looked a little freaked out. My dog-mom intuition said that this was bad… real bad. Within a few minutes, we were at a nearby emergency/overnight clinic.

Turbo’s heart rate was in the 220-240bpm range (normal for a stressed out dog at the vet is around 140), an arrhythmia caused by a gross enlargement of the heart muscle. Also, the portion of her right lung that was weakened by her previous bout with pneumonia was collapsed. There was a very real chance that if they didn’t get her heart rate down and stable that she’d go into cardiac arrest. It was bad enough that the vet gave me the advanced directive paperwork to sign…that was tough.

The treatment plan was to stabilize and monitor her overnight so that the underlying cause of her issues could be determined. There are effective drug treatments for some dogs with heart disease. There are also some things that could have been going on- like a tumor, that aren’t treatable. We wouldn’t know until an ultrasound the next day.

I spent the next 18 hours or so periodically crying, hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst.

I finally heard back from the vet around 2:30pm yesterday, and he said that she was suffering from cardiac myopathy that was causing a cascade of things, one of them being the arrhythmia. The cause is generally unknown (“being old” is basically what it comes down to). The good part- as an otherwise healthy dog, she was a very good candidate for drug therapy, and, though this is eventually going to get worse and untreatable, until then, she’ll have a good quality of life. According to Dr. Abernathy, “If I didn’t have a stethoscope, I’d have no idea that she’s as sick as she is.”

I’m really happy that Turbo gets to stick around a little longer.


She almost immediately expressed her happiness with being back home by tearing in to a bag of oatmeal from the pantry while I was in the garage.


The overnight vet bills mean that I’m going to have to cancel my “Eff this weather, I’m going to Florida” trip that I was tentatively planning according to the forecast for next week:


I’m pretty OK with that, though.



A Week of Random Things

First things first… remember back in November when tendinitis put a halt to my winter running aspirations? Well, the patellofemoral pain never fully went away. Luckily, it didn’t really hurt when I rode, so I just kept waiting for it to go all the way away so that I could get back to my usual crosstraining with some weights, plyometrics, and kickboxing. When it wouldn’t leave, I finally went to Campbell Clinic and was put under the care of of PT who found a whole heard of trigger points in my left quadriceps. So, between using an anti-inflammatory cream, a knee brace, some manual therapy (basically the PT uses her thumbs to break the knots apart), dry needling, taping, and the foam roller at home, the trigger points and the pain have subsided drastically. I’ve been instructed to test it out this week with something that’d normally hurt, so I’m going to a kickboxing class this afternoon (includes a little running and some other ballistic-type movement that was keeping me from kickboxing before). Fingers crossed.


Along the lines of training, nothing of much interest is happening on the bike. It rained some, so I have stayed off the trails, which means I’ve been isolated to short “linking together little bits of gravel” rides or the trainer. If you haven’t followed along on Twitter and Instagram, Roommate/JRA Co-host Matt determined that when you ride the trainer and don’t post a picture on social media that God makes another armadillo. So, if you ride indoors, be sure to post a pic/video with the hashtag #onelessarmadillo.

In random “around my house” news, I installed two new valves and a new faucet in my kitchen last week. The old hot water valve was broken and a little leaky, and I decided I’d go ahead and replace the cold water valve while I was down there with the water turned off.

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I find plumbing to be very much like working on a bike with Campy. No one ever taught me specifically how to do it, but as long as you understand the basic mechanics and you have some decent instructions, it’s easy to figure out. My biggest issue was other residents of the house coming by and futzing with the new faucet parts while I was waist deep under the counter… No, I don’t know where that hose is going to go because A)I’m under the counter and can’t even see what hose you’re talking about, and B) STOP F*&#KING WITH IT.

They got the point pretty quickly, and the new stuff is pretty pimp.

Saturday, at the gym, Eric (Ingram’s Martial Arts) had invited a school from Arkansas to come and train with us. It was tons of fun, and I was thoroughly exhausted when we were finished.

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Bonus pics of Eric’s puppy Rory:

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Saturday night, I helped Matt build a ramp and did my best to relax and recover from the day’s activities:




Then there was the random impulse buy at Target the other day…

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He’s actually pretty OK with it. I can’t really lead him anywhere, but he seems to cautiously enjoy wandering around the back porch and using the house as a spot to scratch his face.

If I get out and ride some this afternoon, I might post again later this week about these:



I actually rode them once on the trail last week before the rain came in, but I want to get a little more time on them before I’m like, “OMG THESE ARE THE BEST WHEELS EVER”

New(ish) Car Time

Some people can’t stand to have a routine. I’m not one of those people. When I don’t have some sort of a reoccurring responsibility, I end up drifting and getting nothing done. So, the advent of yoga class at 10(ish) every morning, has been a good thing for me.

Lately, the trails have stayed pretty wet (or frozen, in the case of last week). It’s generally been cold and damp for a while. I’ve been able to ride my road bike with one or two friends over the past couple of months, but I’m basically done riding it alone for the foreseeable future. As a result, my strategy for training is to do intervals on the trainer three days a week and get over to Syllamo for longer/more challenging rides. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best I can make of my current situation.

I did make a break from my routine on Monday. For a while, I’ve wanted a different vehicle. The Element is practical in that it holds lots of stuff and is coated in rubber, but it’s basically a miniature cargo van, and drives accordingly. After perusing current and recent model vehicles with Ryan (he’s still shopping around for something to trade for his 2003 Escape), I came to realize that the trend of making everything larger and fancier (full of electronics and whatnot) really picked up after 2011ish (at least in the cars I’m interested in).

Monday morning, I decided I’d shop around to see what the internet had to offer. I’ve always been drawn to Subarus because of their all wheel drive and their tendency to last FOREVER. However, they’ve followed the pattern of making all the wagons SUV-sized over the most recent models. While I was shopping, I found that City Auto (a high-volume used car lot) had several older Subarus in stock. I was intrigued, and, after exchanging a few texts with Ryan to get a budget, I cleaned out the Element (just in case) and headed out to take a look.

Oh yeah, and it was about 40 and raining outside. Perfect.

When I started talking to a salesperson, he printed out Carfax reports for the cars I was interested in. My first pick was an Outback. However, the report showed that the majority of its 90k-something miles were in Pennsylvania. I immediately ruled that out for fear of salt-related rust and corrosion. The salesman suggested checking out a 2007 Impreza wagon that was on clearance (they actually had 2 of them- an automatic and a manual). It had 86k miles on it (that’s just getting warmed up in Subaru/Honda worlds… the Element turned over 130k the week before) and was slightly less cargo room than what I’d intended, but wasn’t dissimilar to what I had in the Honda Fit back in the day.

I didn’t want to admit it, but on the test drive, I fell for the all wheel drive at the first stoplight. Rain doesn’t matter.

So, after a brief and painless haggle, I was happy with what they offered for the Element trade (it was exactly the Blue Book price I’d researched given the high mileage, broken windshield, and lots of dirt and body scratches), and subsequently satisfied with the overall out-of-pocket expense as well (the car, tax, tag, their processing fee, etc). It ended up being right in line with what I’d seen them selling for privately and included a 1 month/1000 mile powertrain warranty, which is slightly more peace of mind with a used car. Knowing an exact budget and having an idea of the private cost of what you’re looking at ahead of time makes asking for exactly what you expect much easier.


After driving around in an Element for 5ish years, this thing feels like a race car. I’m likely to either get it stuck in mud or get a stern talking-to from a police officer at some point in the near future… especially since I’m heading over to Syllamo tomorrow morning for a big Trail Work day on Saturday.

Cresting the Hump

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I’m trying to maintain a balance of “awesome stuff” and “everyday life is a struggle.” It’s been a quiet handful of days since my last Arkansas adventure. Mostly because the weather has been cloudy and a consistent 40 something and either drizzling or 70-80% humidity. Also, the level of crazy expressed by drivers with the advent of the holiday season has reached a fever pitch. I can’t fully comprehend why people do this in the name of what’s supposed to be a religious holiday. Seriously… all the obligations, putting themselves in debt, under stress, and into fits of shopping and road rage, and seemingly losing sight of what it is they’re supposed to be celebrating in the first place. It’s nuttier than the amazing fruitcakes I baked last week.

Stevil Kinevil says it best in his recent post on All Hail the Black Market

Now that the “struggle” part is out of the way, on to the good stuff- I found some sanity in a new yoga studio that opened back just before Thanksgiving. Pike Yoga is just about perfect- a 10 minute drive from my house, and classes that work well with both my daily schedule and my training schedule (not everything is “level 8 kick-your-butt-vinyasa”). I’ve been going to yoga on most weekdays since they opened, and it’s definitely made a difference in both my physical and mental health.

I’ve also been having a great time learning the gi in jiu jitsu class. I’ve had a bunch of people ask if I want to fight again, and the answer is a definite yes. The biggest setback I’ve had in getting back to training is the nagging patellar tendinitis in my left knee brought on by my failed attempt at off-season running. It keeps rearing its ugly head every time I jump or bounce on my left leg… a movement that’s very necessary for right-leg kicking and any sort of plyometric conditioning.

The combination of yoga, jiujitsu, and getting in rides when I can is keeping me sane until I can get over the December 25th mountain and make it to the cabin, where I plan on cocooning myself in miles of rocks and woods and emerging a badass, fitter, tougher, and more skilled butterfly on the other side. I’ll probably go for a road ride with The Matts (McCulley and Robbins) tomorrow. It’ll be my 3rd one since having repeated scary driver run-ins just after my trip to Colorado in the summer (those basically brought back the post car-hit panic attacks that had become very few and far between). It makes a huge difference that I’ve got some good friends and a bike that I can’t help but fall in love with a little more every time I ride it.

Time to stand and hammer up the crux.

Change of Plans

Well, when I started my marathon training last month, I said that my main goal would be to increase my volume at just the right rate to both be prepared and uninjured. Saturday, I went out to the Wolf River trails (pretty flat, pretty smooth) to do my weekly “long run” of 13.5 miles. When I started warming up, my left ankle and knee were kinda achy, but it mostly went away after a mile or two. I finished my run, cooled down, and drove home, only to find that after sitting in the car for 5-10 minutes, the same slight pains I’d felt warming up were now nearly crippling.

I took a couple of days off, and now I can walk and go up stairs with no pain. However, running and going down stairs are left-side torture. At first, I was thinking it’d be a job for ibuprofen, ice, and KT Tape. However, once I started looking in to KT taping for medial ankle pain, I found out that the pain- likely caused by tibialis posterior tendinitis, wasn’t something I should be training through for something as un-serious as an offseason marathon.

Of course, I immediately took to becoming an internet expert on it.

The odd thing seems to be that, though one of my feet is slightly flatter than the other, the injury is not on the flat side (it’s usually associated with lots of overpronation & fallen arches). The good news is, mine is relatively minor at this point. I can still stand on my toes and balance on that foot. However, if I want it to go away, I need to not piss it off any more and do some rehab exercises… all of which I’m still too sore to do at this point, according to the instructions.

So, my marathon status is very unsure at this point. I’m basically going to be forced back on to the bike for any endurance exercise. That won’t be unbearable, except for the fact that it’s really freaking cold outside. Also, I’ve developed a nearly crippling fear of drivers. I have this terrible mental picture of how much people want to kill me when they see me riding a bike on the road. It’s terrifying. Cars are huge and terrifying, and the people who control them are totally tuned out and self absorbed. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it. For now, I’ll likely be taking the unfinished greenline to the nearby trail system in order to avoid nearly all roads.

In the meantime, I’m definitely getting the fight bug again. I ended up not going to the proposed grappling tournament over the weekend because of schedule conflicts with training buddies John and Aaron. Oh yeah, and it’s probably worth noting that a couple of weeks ago, the nice girl who gave me free rhinoplasy back in July won against her next opponent via first round TKO. She no longer has the losing record as she did when we’d first picked her as a potential opponent. I have to say… good work on her part. If you read the comments section on most of her old fight videos, there are some really mean people saying mean things about how she should just give it up. Ryan was at his Marx-Bensdorf team party Saturday and was asked by a couple of his teammates as to whether or not I’d fight again. Of course I will… why not?

In other non-cycling, non-MMA news, I’m super excited that a yoga studio (Pike Yoga) opened not too far from me- less than a 15 minute drive. Their schedule is nice, and includes plenty of classes that are somewhat “easy,” which is nice when all of your other physical activity is “hard.”  They’re offering free yoga until Thanksgiving, too, so, for now, I’m going to take full advantage of it. I need both the physical benefits and the inner peace at this point.

Scratching the Itches

I keep getting this relentless itch. It happens every time I, for whatever reason, go out for a run or see one of my Facebook friends on some sort of trail running/ultramarathon adventure (especially local Billy Simpson– his post about Arkansas this morning is literally the thing that pushed me over the edge on this).

If you’ve been around since I started my blog, you might remember that my cycling addiction began when I was an avid trail runner (thanks to the Warthogs running group. If it weren’t for them, I probably would have never thrown a leg over a bike as an adult). I’ve run a handful of 50ks, trail marathons, and various other long-distance off road races. Running- especially trail running- is something I turn to when I need an off-season break but still want to stay very active. I thoroughly enjoyed all 5 runs I did in preparation for the USARA event (er, I probably should have done more than 5).

This fall, I’ve been unable to convince myself that I want to keep up with any sort of formal training that has to do with cyclocross. I’m missing most of the pretty small Memphis schedule of races (one race is the same day as the 12hr night nationals, and the other two are the same weekend as the Enduro clinic), and, with all of the late-season traveling I’ve done and still have ahead of me, I don’t feel like driving a metric crap-ton to race in Arkansas and Nashville. So, I’ve tentatively decided to do this: LoVit Trail Marathon at the beginning of December as a warm-up to this: Athens-Big Fork Trail Marathon in early January (I ran that one a long time ago, and it was, by far, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done on foot). Then, it will be back to my regularly scheduled regimen of bike training to get ready for the upcoming 2015 mountain bike season.

Not only do I feel the trail calling me, but my fear, anxiety, and growing dislike of riding on the road has really started to eat away at my soul. While I still plan on doing plenty of cycling during the time from the end of October (after Night Nationals) until the first week of January, focusing more on trail running through then will help me put off doing some the winter road miles I’m facing. And, yes… I’m serious when I say I’m going to wait to start marathon training until nearly the beginning of November for a marathon that’s on December 6th. Trust me… I’ve done this before. I have the base fitness- it’s just a matter of conditioning my body to take the impact of running in order to put that fitness to good use.



Vapor Trail Road Trip- #4

Since I left Crested Butte, I’ve had to dial the riding back a bit (actually, my last day in Butte was pretty laid back relative to the previous week’s rides). I’ve been hanging around at the 92fifty Cycles compound, going for quick rides in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, eating delicious home-cooked food, and spending free time laying in my bunk relaxing in the Elevated Legs (if that sounds like a good time to you, keep an eye on their website or give them a call, because it’s a service they’ll be offering to everyone in the future.


The riding right out their driveway is pretty amazing. I haven’t taken any pictures of it, but it’s a really cool mixture of technical and chunky rocks and smooth flowy stuff. Yesterday, Jon, Kyle, Debbie (a coaching client/customer of the shop), and I rode out to the park. Jon and Debbie split off to work on some skills, and Kyle and I played enduro for a while. Once we finished up, the grill was kicking and a bunch of friends came over for a Labor Day cookout.


They’re serious about their Coors around here.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty chilled out. I went for a walk around dusk (which included a hand-held pepper spray in case a mountain lion came after me), then we had a fire and smores.


Today was another good taper day. It began with coffee and hanging on the porch with the animals-

Duke and Biscuit



Rocko (who has his own house)



And this little dude, who was making laps with his cheeks stuffed…


After another couple of hours in the park, I cleaned up, ate, and drove up to the shop to work on my bike. It needed some grease in the BB bearings (the ones that come stock in the Wheel Manufacturing adapter are apparently made in the same factory as Crank Brothers pedals). Also, the fork was giving me a rash. It wasn’t getting through all the travel (despite the air pressure being somewhat lower than what’s stated for my weight on the fork stanchion), and when I’d unweight the front wheel to get up obstacles, it’d make a “thunk” as it decompressed.

After the grease re-packing, I first checked the damper oil. The damper was warrantied by the shop a couple of months ago, and, turns out, only had 80mL of oil in the bath instead of 106mL. Once that was fixed, the thump was still there. I took the lowers off, and, while I couldn’t really measure what leaked out during the removal process, it did look more viscous than the 15wt that normally goes in there. Once it was back together, the thump seemed to be fixed. Tomorrow’s ride will tell for sure… I’ll be sure to find a hill that will (hopefully) utilize all of its travel.

Tuff Guy, Oxford

I only thought that it was time for the weather to start being not-as-ishtty. I know, it’s only February, but I was hoping that at least the overnight lows in the teens were in the past and daytime temps would be drifting up into the 40s and 50s instead of being stuck at 20 something. Alas… it’s 14, and there’s ice on the road right now. The whole city is shut down, so it’s likely that I’ll have photos of making my own fun today. We already talked about trying to start the scooter…

Anyway- I’ve been dealing with it. The motivation of having a good race two weeks ago fed in to the training I’ve done since then. I managed a 4 hour ride in the 30s, and some intervals in in the 40s. As an aside, before you comment about how cold it is where you live, just know that A)Ryan’s mom, who is from the U.P. of Michigan, and spends most of her days outdoors in all of her region’s weather, commented about how she couldn’t stay warm in the 40s here because of the humidity, and B) I’m cold here, so how cold you are in Minnesota doesn’t matter to me.

I digress. It was actually really nice on Saturday for a group ride (contrary to what some people put on social media, it was not a race) in Oxford, MS. Ryan went to Arkansas with his team for the Crosswinds Classic road race (I had a disappointing experience at that one last year). I had a long ride on my schedule for the day (a great follow-up to the 4 hours on Wednesday and 20 minute intervals on Friday), so Matt and I packed up early and drove down to the Clear Creek trails for the “Tuff Guy” ride- a 60 miler that left from the Clear Creek system, took roads/bike paths out to the Taylor Trail system, back on roads, then a lap of Clear Creek to finish.

Like I said, the weather was really nice- in the low 60s and sunny most of the day. When the ride started, it pretty quickly turned in to hammer time up the rollers between Clear Creek and the city of Oxford. Matt and I didn’t go totally apeshit like some people, and ended up somewhere behind two specific groups- the people going out hard and knowing that was ok for their abilities, and the people going out hard who were either going to make extended stops ahead/who were due to fall apart on the road back to Clear Creek. The latter of those two contained a few sketchballs (see footnote), so we didn’t mind backing off a bit as we were navigating the bike paths/streets of Oxford.

About an hour later, we reached the Taylor Trails. A lot of the group ahead of us had stopped at the trailhead, and were eating, changing, resting, etc. Matt and I rolled straight through since we had eaten/changed clothes on the way there. The next hour and a half were an exercise in not losing our minds looking for the end of what had to be the twistiest and most convoluted trail I’ve ever ridden for that length of time. I did my best to stay positive with happy thoughts about the view of the lake we passed a couple of times and how nice it was that we could play in the woods at almost any time because we don’t have any kids.

Eventually, the insanity was over, and we were back to the road to Clear Creek. We had to do some reverse-navigation, because the only signs out were the ones we’d used to get to where we’d already been. We did miss one turn and ended in a spot we knew from the drive in, so it wasn’t too hard to navigate back on to the correct route. The road back to Clear Creek is a long, straight drag. I kind of wanted to get it over with, so I pushed Matt to keep the pace strong and steady, and we traded pulls most of the way in. The result was passing by a lot of people who were not as motivated.

After a quick stop at the car, we went out for our Clear Creek lap to finish the course. It’s got a few nice, flowy sections, so it was a nice change of pace from the previous trail. About an hour in, someplace within a mile or two of the end of the course, we reached a “T” intersection where all the markings were torn down. In the woods to our left was a “Wrong Way” sign. My gut feeling was that we should go that way, but the sign on the ground in that general direction made me doubt myself. The trail to the right looked more broken in, and both directions were covered in tire tracks, so we were stumped. What I WAS pretty sure of was if we chose the wrong direction, that we’d end up riding backwards towards an intersection we’d passed miles before, and would add an unwanted chunk of miles to the ride. So, we bushwhacked a short distance up the nearby ridge to the road and went back to the car (later I found that my hunches were both correct).

It’s ok, I got my 5 hours worth of riding, and was ready to eat and get back to the house and lay on the recliner the rest of the day. As an added bonus, I picked up a few extra freckles and a decent start to my tan lines.
Five hours closer to being a little faster.


Footnote- sketchballs are a very general term to cover the handful of riders who scare, vex, or otherwise annoy anyone who is well-versed in riding with a group. Symptoms include excessive swerving (like, the act of breathing makes you swerve  several inches left and right, while something more involved, like grabbing a water bottle, results in several feet of lateral displacement), inability to maintain a steady effort (including, but not limited to, hammering halfway into a hill, realizing he/she is over his head, then suddenly dumping into an easy gear), passing in a dangerous manner (either over the yellow line or off the pavement on the right side of the road (saw both of those at this ride), overlapping wheels, etc.

Another Love

Since I’m still a little sick, there’s not a lot of excitement going on for blogging purposes. I feel the need to take this time to profess my love of something else besides bikes, punching stuff, and my dogs… Cooking. Alongside various cartoons and the “drama” of  WWF shows, I used to watch all of the PBS cooking programs when I was a kid, and when a Blockbuster opened near me, I probably rented the same Julia Child cooking video at least 20 times. So, without really knowing it, I learned the basics at an early age.

I’ll start by letting you in on a really great recipe I’ve cooked at least 3 times in the last month. It’s braised beef short ribs, and it is one of the greatest combinations of flavor and texture in all of my culinary experiences. I found this recipe on a page called the Pioneer Woman Cooks a few weeks ago when I somewhat spontaneously decided that I wanted to expand my cooking expertise to slightly less obvious cuts of meat: Braised Beef Short Ribs.  Out of all the ones I looked at, this one seemed incredibly simple (from ingredients out to putting it in the oven is ~30 minutes), and used just a few ingredients, all readily available at most grocery stores (I stick to grass fed beef and nitrate-free bacon or pancetta, so I end up buying those things at Whole Foods). Oh yeah, I also leave out the “roll the ribs in flour” step, and I don’t think they’re any worse for it…


(No, smartass, the ant trap in the background isn’t grass-fed)

Last night I cooked up a mess of those and tried rainbow chard for the first time


In sticking with my “simple” motto, I just chopped it up and sauteed it with butter, garlic, salt, and pepper. It was OK, but I’m gonna try something else next time… according to Matt, the stems taste too much like beets.

Here’s a typical breakfast frittata that is excellent following a hard morning workout:


It’s simple, too… just saute whatever you want in your frittata, then pour it in to three scrambled up eggs with salt & pepper. Let it cook on the stove for a minute, then pop it in the over under the broiler for a minute to cook the top.

If you’re looking for the Ronda Rousey of fiber-containing dishes, try this: kale salad

Here’s something else I want to try to make, if only for the name…


I’m always looking for something new to cook… especially in the “slightly less popular cuts of meat” and “greens & vegetables” categories. So, if anyone out there has suggestions (or if you want to come over for dinner sometime), drop a comment below.