Friday, March 19, 2010

A few of my favourite things

Thursday was the fourth night in a row that I had taken the Don for my commute to interim-home (being Michelle's place before completing our move tomorrow). She has been extremely accomodating of my commute extension through the trails and the numerous detours I have taken this week, so I really wanted to get home around 7 like I said I would.

Of course, being a beautiful day, everybody was out. I ran into Ryan S and Ross M as soon as I hit the ridge so we rode together west along the flats where I heard Paul hollering at me from the jumps. Told him I would be back, and I was after a full lap heading back up the ridge and down the flats again. Stopped in to say hi, and found him along with Lee D and RC Brian. Soon enough Rico and Jeremy S pulled up and then even Jeff M! Unfortunately I couldn't stay to chat long as it was 6:45 and I needed to get from the jumps to Davenport and Dupont stat. After carefully weighing the speed:fun ratios of all possible options I rode through Sun Valley to Bayview and Nesbitt and boogied through Rosedale to Mt. Pleasant. Found my trusty fence hole and hopped on the CP r.o.w. (right of way) for some gravel slog.

I didn't get very far, just across the bridge westbound (for the record, there is another ballasted full track-width to play on here...I'm not THAT stupid, don't you be either) when I heard the sporadic metallic vibrational noises that emit from the rails as a train is approaching. As their frequency increased I did the smart thing and got way off track as the locomotives approached. They weren't hauling too fast, maybe 40km/h, so after about 10 cars passed me by, I did the less smart thing and got back on my bike and decided to pace it down the track.

The right of way here varies from singletrack (much of it gravel), to wide open gravel sections, to gravel doubletrack, and so forth. Lacking a computer, I would estimate my speed at 30km/h give or take most of the time, which was at first a losing proposition. I watched the moving art show of graffiti covered boxcars pass by slowly at shoulder height, alternating glances with the path in front of me. Soon the gravel firmed up and the train slowed a little and I was able to pace it precisely, which is quite a rush. Kinda like riding in a peloton with Godzilla. A couple was standing on the double track and was kind enough to notice me coming and give me a whole lot of space as I came through, hauling-ass on a big adrenaline rush.

I was coming up quick on the Davenport bridge, and was saddened to realize that I would soon have to say goodbye to my new riding buddy. I think I was going too fast for it, as the train was clearly bonking and coming to a stop, albeit slowly. Hopped back into the real world through the LCBO lot, right around 7, and could not have been more satisfied with my speed:fun ratio.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Baby steps

Maybe riding really hard in January, taking a vacation until halfway through Feb, and doing very little riding since getting back was not the greatest way to come blazing on to the podium this spring. But things had to be done, things like looking for apartments (and starting innumerable stupid arguments with Michelle over insignificant details about said search/application process/apartment), working the bike show (and mega hours in the week leading up to it), and finally moving, a task which I have completed, which means the task is really probably only 30% complete as Michelle has a lot more stuff than I do. I am not complaining, as most of her stuff falls into the 'useful' category (furniture, dishes, etc) as opposed to the hundreds of pounds of bike mags circa 1994-2001 that I shuttled from my place yesterday. But I mean, come on, those were the glory years, I couldn't possibly be expected to throw out 8 years worth of re-worded maintenance and fitness tips and highly biased reviews of out-dated bicycles........could I?

Luckily my patient and understanding ladyfriend has not made any such request, and in any case I am digressing. I believe I was slowly trying to build a case for my own lack of fitness, hence giving myself a pre-fabricated excuse in the event of a terrible finish at an early season event. Or potentially even a mid or late season event, because, you know, it's really all about base miles.

And even this "break glass in case of emergency" excuse making was all just a vessel in which to unveil my MASTERPLAN, involving now living 12km from my place of work instead of a moderately uphill 800m, which was really not much of a commute at all. Now I have multiple route options beyond cutting through the schoolyard or not to shave off about 5 seconds. Now I can ride trails to work, or I can get kitted up like it is race day, because it will be when I sleep in and have to hammer that 12km in 20 minutes (I will fail, and probably be 10mins late).

So last night I didn't actually sleep at the new place, but Michelle's instead. Dropped the rental van off in the morning with my Stigmata in tow then got in a decent 90min boot before work. After work I decided to check the main trails in the Don out on the CX bike (not terrible, but not great). Totalled about 50km on the bike, at a mostly moderate pace. That's almost like base miles, right?

5 days a week of this and I might resemble myself last November by late April.



Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dreams are easily forgotten

So, those who know me well (or even those who just know me on facebook) are probably aware that I recently did something quite out of the ordinary (for me) and boarded a plane to a small tropical island to ride my bike and relax for a couple of weeks. This was mentioned in passing in my previous blog post (which mostly centered around a broken six year old bicycle part). Maybe the optimists among you thought that a more detailed summary of this trip might be forthcoming. Such a summary has been delivered to the 7 or so people I actually maintain verbal contact with in real life. But I feel like attempting to condense a 13-day journey into even a couple of thousand words on my blog would be doing a disservice to the experience, to the country of Jamaica, and to myself.

To the experience, because there is simply no way I could expand or condense all of my impressions and experiences into anything resembling a manageable, readable blog post.

To the country, because even if I could expand or condense all of my impressions and experiences into a blog post, for chrissakes I am a foreigner who spent less than two weeks there, approximately half of that in a tourist bubble and the other half under the careful guidance of some very experienced and knowledgable ex-pats with decades of experience living and riding there. I hardly 'discovered' Jamaica, and would probably make a fool of myself acting like I did.

And to myself, because I would have to write the damn thing.

So I will try to boil the essence of the entire trip down to one small, but touching event; a sensory experience that brought me back to one of my earliest childhood memories. And of course this early childhood memory, almost completely obliterated from my consciousness (saved by this trigger on a beautiful day, hours into an incredible ride, detouring to an isolated, hidden beach) came from Sesame Street:

As we were slogging our bikes through some increasingly sandy terrain, my friend Marshall from Toronto (and experienced Jamaica-phile) noticed that we had some company; a grizzled looking Rasta carrying a sack and wielding a machete. Had this been a couple days earlier I may have been perturbed by such a sight, as I was the first time we encountered a machete wielding local in the forest. But now I was a weathered veteran of this nation and realized that people don't walk around with 18" blades in the jungle because they mean to intimidate or harm foreigners on guided mountain bike trips, they walk around with 18" blades because they are in the freaking jungle.

Marshall introduced me to Bongo as we made our way toward a dilapidated old hut-structure just off of the beach. Here he produced a coconut from his sack, lopped off the top, and I looked on enviously as Marshall took down the water. Luckily one or both of them must have noticed the look on my face (it may have also been the look of dehydration and exhaustion) and I was soon offered a coconut of my own. I graciously accepted and snapped a pic of Bongo as he was taking the top off of mine:

Insert whatever cliche you like here about things that taste amazing or refreshing or revitalizing ("tasted better than Doritos at a Crank the Shield aid station" might be a good one), but more incredible was that the whole experience immediately transported me back 24 years in time. I was able to remember being four years old and wanting, yearning for, needing to have that coconut, imagining how good the milk must taste, and wondering how the hell that little kid was able to husk it on a wooden stake, especially after my parents gave in and bought me a rock hard coconut from a Cdn. grocery, then wrestled with it using a hammer and punch to extract a pittance of liquid from its belly.

I thought I was enjoying a coconut in 1986.

I know I experienced a coconut in 2010.

And I hope as my life goes on, I continue to realize and experience childhood dreams I long ago forgot I had.