Sweltering in the humid tropical heat (for Vermont) I’m catching up thinking about cooler times. Fargo setup for long winter rides, The Pugsley atop Smugglers Notch (I rode most of the way up VT 108), and an in town adventure with Greg to check out the Donahue Sea Caves.
We’ve been enjoying a Yuba Mundo as our new family ride since early spring. This bike is so much nicer for our use than the Burley trailer, which Ava has outgrown (in height!). Hoping to save some $$ and get some cargo bags this fall, and am patiently awaiting a stiffer fork (we’ve switched to disc brakes) from the Yuba folks.
Jen wandered into my office last week and said ‘We’re going to Jay Peak, I found a cottage to rent, water park tickets included. Pack your bike.’
We rented a slopeside / golf course side cottage for 2 nights at the main ski area. Played at the waterpark and ate way too much resort food. Jen got in a trail run, I got in a punishing bike ride.
I rode down from the lodge on VT 242, caught VT 101 and VT 100, and then picked up some side roads to intercept VT 58 and pass through Hazen’s Notch. I left early and had no luck on a Saturday morning finding an open cafe and coffee. I barely managed to make it back after ~38 miles on 2 water bottles and 3 clif bars. I bonked hard climbing the 7 miles up VT 242 from Montgomery.
It felt great to be out on the dirt, exploring a new (to me) area. Lots of cool roads in the NEK to explore… so I’ll have to get back. The bike and my legs felt off all day. I certainly don’t climb like a used to – the long dirt climb back to the cottage was pretty rough. Nothing in the tank, and my legs felt flat.
Some recent changes to the IF Ti Club Racer – moved from Campy 10spd Ergo levers to SRAM brake levers and 9spd bar ends. Using an XTR rapid rise derailer. Added the Cowbell 2 bar last fall, but only have a few rides on it – all things indicate this might be the bar I’ve been looking for. My Mavic Classics hub crapped out just as I got this re-build together… so I’m now awaiting a hub to rebuild my rear wheel. Hopefully I’ll have this bike on the road for the VT Lake 200/300k Brevet.
A few weeks before my father passed away he sent me the following images in an email, clarifying my recent blog postings. My first trike, a gift from my grandfather (dad’s dad).
And my first bike, complete with fenders, tassels, and training wheels. I don’t ever remember riding it without the training wheels though, as my brother and sisters all got the matching Sears blue bikes I noted in the first installment of this series.
Not so long ago a seed fell to the earth.
That seed sprouted, and was nurtured by a soft and unconditionally loving mother, and a strong, hardworking, sometimes stern, yet gentle father. Around it four other seeds began to grow, and a small grove grew up, each tree unique, with its own sense of humor, its own voice, its own roots and its own fruit.
Those tiny seeds, that started as mere sprouts, were loved and watered and fed and cared for. And that nurturing and love and caring left a mark on those sprouts as they journeyed upward toward the sun, extending their branches, reaching ever higher, while also growing strong and deep roots.
The oldest of those sprouts grew strong. It didn’t often speak, nor put on a display of pretty flowers, but it worked hard deepening its roots and strengthening its branches.
It learned from its siblings, and it learned from its parents. It took its father’s strength, its mother’s kindness, and its sisters sometimes mischievous personalities and folded them into its own bark. It was unique standing proud and strong, yet clearly a part of that little grove, and clearly part of the greater forest.
As that tree grew ever higher to the sky, and ever deeper into the earth it met another tree from a different grove, a different forest. Two seeds, into sprouts, into saplings and into trees, each unique and from different forests, yet clearly part of the greater world.
Those two trees became intertwined. A soft, gentle, and playful tree, intertwined with a strong, quiet and supporting tree. Their roots both deepened and pulled from their own grove, their own history, while their branches tickled each other high in the air.
Flowers and fruit from one, and strength and shade and protection from the other. Now intertwined with another.
Growing ever closer together.
Each brought their own roots, their own families, their own history, their own scars, their own celebrations, and their own traditions to each other.
They were so similar, and so very different.
But those two intertwined trees were best friends.
You’d rarely see them apart, always seemingly tickling the other or caring for a broken branch.
The roots of those intertwined trees grew ever deeper, and their limbs reached ever higher. And they too began to nurture a small grove. They cared for their grove in the same ways that their parents cared for them. Strong and firm, and full of unconditional love, with hugs from big branches that could swallow up a young sapling.
It wasn’t always easy.
Groves take a lot of work. Most of it hard, some of it unrewarding.
And young trees can have a mind of their own.
Sometimes they forget that they are trees, flittering off trying to be birds.
Or they throw all of their fruit on the floor in a fit.
Or snap off their own branches.
Or carve things into their bark.
And they agitate and fight with and scratch and tickle and tease each other.
But they also love, and play, and share.
Those two intertwined trees nurtured those five saplings much as they were nurtured in life.
Those single seeds, intertwined with another, grew their own grove, their own part of the forest. A grove with a quirky mix of traits. Each different. And yet each clearly part of a larger whole. Each clearly like their mother and father. In different ways. And each growing into their own shape, with their own leaves and fruit.
Today, that grove has grown.
And it has become enmeshed and entangled into a much larger forest.
A forest of both friends and families.
Of visitors and of steadfast companions.
And in that forest there are trees of every size and shape.
Bearing fruit of every flavor.
And leaves of every color.
And bark from smooth to rough.
And branches that flit in the breeze and others that are strong in a storm.
That forest is here today.
To honor a sapling, that grew into a tree.
That entwined with another.
That always carried with him an inner and outer strength.
That had a deep love for his family.
And adoring love for his best friend and partner.
Today we honor a tree that is no longer growing, no longer a part of this world, but will for a long time stand strong and proud in our minds and our in hearts. And we will remember the tickles from his leaves. We will remember hiding under those strong branches in a storm. And climbing those same branches under the sun.
If you had asked me to describe my father last week I would have painted a picture of a small oak tree, playing in the forest with his family. Sometimes strong and stern, yet somehow always laughing and teasing and warm and welcome. If you were to ask me that today?
It has all changed.
I knew my father was a good man, with many friends.
But after yesterday, and after you, all the trees in this man’s forest came to honor him, I would have to change my description. I would have to say that my father, though quiet, and simple and strong, is not just a simple oak tree playing in the forest.
You have shown me that he is a giant among trees.
A giant among us.
He didn’t act like it.
He wasn’t proud.
He rarely talked about himself, or his dreams, fears, or worries.
He put his head down and did his job, as a son, as a husband, as a father, friend, brother, co-worker, and boss.
He quietly kept growing, deepening his roots and reaching those branches to the sky. For some of you he used his branches to work hard, even when it meant getting dirty. For others he used those same branches to comfort in a time of need, or to shelter from a storm. He used his deep roots to keep him grounded, to anchor him to his family and to his forest. He used his voice to guide. A voice that could be stern and strong, but most often filled with laughter. He brought all of those traits along as he went from seed to sapling to tree to the father of his own grove.
Thank you so much for being part of his forest.
Thank you so much for showing me what a giant tree my father had become.
Thank you so much for honoring him in life.
And thank you so much for honoring this new part of his journey.
You will be missed, but not forgotten.
I am thankful and proud that this seed that became me did not fall far from the tree.
Delivered February 14th, 2013.
Dad, you will be missed.
You taught me about tools.
You taught me about building and fixing things.
You taught me about working hard.
You showed me how to be a good man.
You showed me how to be a respectful partner.
You always put mom and us kids first.
You created such an amazing life for us.
You were a patient, playful grandpa.
You seemed to really be enjoying retirement.
You were so young.
I love you.
I’ve been rolling on Larry and Endo since December of 2010. I finally picked up some new sneakers for the Pugsley. A pair of 120tpi Nates. Front and rear will now have knobby treads and grippy rubber.
Larry and Endo have served me well. Endo is starting to show some minimal wear, but its just not up to the task of mixed conditions riding. Great for the beach or firm snow. Not so good in slop and snot and on wet rocks and roots. Larry is a decent tire on the front – but washes out in fluffy and soft snow. I’ll likely keep them around for summer, or add a Larry on the back when the weather is nice and dry. But I’m looking forward to some serious grip. And they’ll make me even slower than I already am… Resistance training comes included with these.
Been a long time since I have written those words. Dirty ride with Greg in Middlesex, VT. Mountain bikes, with studs. Dirt roads, some trail. Ice, mud, snow, hike a bike, slop on the way down when the temps warmed up. Just under 18 miles, with a claimed climbing of ~2750′ according to the online maps. Will have to run it through TopoFusion later. Pretty amazing scenery, and a convenient place for the two of us to meet at the Red Hen Bakery.
Some thoughts from the ride: I started keeping my kit ‘ready to go’ – so I’d always have the same things at the ready. While this has been working – I looked at the sky, at the road, and the temps as we were suiting up in the parking lot and decided to leave the camera in the car. I also figured we’d get up the first few climbs and decide to bomb back down – so I left extra calories with my kit bag. The first rule of bike club is: always take the larger camera. The second rule of bike club is: always take some extra food. The third rule of bike club is: always take the same kit, repeat and modify as needed.
I did the entire ride on some licorice and my coffee and bagel from an hour before. Yes, we did less than 18 miles, but I was feeling it at the end.
Heading into my first fall in Vermont I had been reading about brevets and long distance cycling. There was something about riding incredibly long distances that had always intrigued me, and exploring under my own power has always felt like a part of who I am. Somehow I stumbled upon the Boston-Montreal-Boston website, and through various links and forums found RUSA. I wanted to be ready for the next season, so I became a member, and sought out some training books from the local bookstore. I even flirted with a big name online coaching system, paying for a 3 month subscription in the late summer. I did regular baseline time trials wearing my heart rate monitor up and down my road, took long endurance rides while targeting specific muscle groups and heart rates, and jumped on the recovery drink and energy food band wagon. After the Thanksgiving holiday that year I even dropped most meat from my diet, moving to a near vegetarian palette.
After sorting out the previously mentioned ‘bad idea dating’, I returned my attention to meditation, time on the bike, and stretching. As winter rolled in I set up my home office as a make shift bike studio. Bike stand, tools, and gear strewn everywhere, with my LeMond mounted in the trainer in the corner, desktop computer with music and speakers against the wall, and a small cabinet in front to place my laptop for movies. I would work in my office in town for most of the day, when the weather was accommodating I would ride home (downhill!), have a snack, read, and then ride inside. I kept up a simple heart rate training regime, focused mainly on base miles, listening to specific sets of music, or watching a movie I’d download to iTunes on the laptop before I left the office. I’d end the evening sitting to settle my mind, then drop off to sleep, often on my living room floor, tucked into my meditation cushions with a book left open and snuggled into a cozy blanket. I’d repeat this most of the winter, with the trainer rides getting progressively longer. Weekends were filled with hikes or outdoor activities, as much as possible.
At some point I started to get fussy with fit, so I would teak my position, record it on my digital camera, and then compare it to fit videos in the office the next day. I also purchased my second Brooks saddle. I bought a Ti railed Swallow, the narrowest and lightest they made at the time, for mounting to my carbon and steel go fast bike. I again fussed with position, and had to swap seat posts to something with more setback. In my search for the part I discovered Thomson components, and through a cascading series of internet wanders discovered whole nother world of high end bike parts – carbon wheels, featherlight brakes, ti-everything. Most out of my price (or use) league – but shining with that go-fast, top of the line, racer boy glow.
At the same time I rekindled some winter sports that I missed. I got out on my XC skis a bit, snow shoed when the snow was good and deep, and eventually took a telemark lesson that the West Hill Shop organized at the Brattleboro town ski hill. I was instantly hooked on the skiing, as it would blend nicely with my desire to explore under my own power. With a light gear setup one could get into the backcountry, do some moderate terrain both up and down – which was the original reason I had bought my bc xc skis back when I lived in the Rochester area. I learned over time though that turning on my long and skinny Karhu Pavos was something of a challenge – so I rented better gear for the lesson. Despite getting pretty sore from lots of stumbling and falling into the snow – I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and the following weekend took a lesson at Mad River Glen.
The lesson at Mad River Glen was an eye opener. Ungroomed snow (and ice), a quirky lodge and lifts, crap rental equipment, but a pretty incredible instructor. The lesson was labeled beginner, so we immediately took the lift to the top of the mountain, and began working our way back down. Snow (and the view) at the top was incredible – powder dolloped on trees, 8–12” of fresh snow under foot, and mild terrain to negotiate while learning how to turn on those slippery and long shoes. It wasn’t until about mid mountain that I knew I was in for a long day. The lower snow was pretty skied out, and there would be many areas of hard pack and ice. Not knowing the trails I’d follow my class trying to keep up – only to turn a corner and realize I was doing everything I could to keep and hold an edge into the snow. Despite my best intentions and focus on good technique there were many many wrecks that day. After about three runs with the class – and having watched a fellow student on really light metal edged nordic gear ski circles around me – I moved to the easy slopes to practice the basics. I left a bit discouraged, and physically wasted. After a long drive back to Putney I questioned my sanity in wanting to learn to ski. (This after snowboarding in high school…)
Back on the bike, as we hit mid winter I was logging my longest base mile trainer rides, typically an hour plus every other night, with a different pattern developed for each day. I’d religiously watch my heart rate monitor and try to stay in specific zones to further build a strong foundation for what I hoped would be a successful first brevet series. As those rides got longer, I started needing more options for entertainment while pedaling circles. On my days where I’d go ‘into the city’ (of Brattleboro) – I’d often shop at the coop and drop by the video store on my way home. I discovered the Bourne Identity series, revisited some Philip Glass movies, and did marathon sessions watching the Lord of the Rings movies. I had the Swallow broken in and ready for prime time in short order, and felt like I was well on my way to the best shape of my life. I was dropping weight slowly but surely into the high 180s, a number I hadn’t seen in a long long time, since I lived in NYC as a student.
My sanity check from downhill skiing was short lived, as a college friend was going to be in town while his wife taught at a workshop in Western MA, and he wanted to know if I would be up for a Friday of snowboarding. I had learned to ride (poorly) in high school, having saved up paper route money to buy a Burton board and boots to take down our itty bitty little ski hill. It had been a long time since I strapped on a board, but I jumped right back in and made arrangements for us to go to Stratton. Not an hour after getting excited about playing in the snow with a college friend, my brother called from NYC and wanted to know if he could come up and ski that same weekend – he’d arrive by Amtrak late Friday and would leave on Monday. He skied in high school – the two of us would take the family car out to Boston Mills and Branywine for night skiing or on the weekends. I offered up my room for him and his girlfriend, and would be their taxi service to and from the train.
Friday I rented a board and spent the day with Tim, who never having been on his snowboard outside of Ohio and western NY, was simply amazed at the snow, and the length of the runs. Getting off the mid mountain lift, and being a bit in early morning flurries and clouds, he thought we had topped out. It wasn’t until I took him up the gondola that he realized just how big (compared to our midwest experience growing up) the mountain was. For the better part of the morning we floated on fresh snow, and later carved turns on long cruisers. Somehow I felt great after a full day on the slopes. Legs were a bit sore, but overall I confirmed that all my core work and endurance riding was starting to show benefits.
Saturday with my brother in town was a blur of hanging out in Burlington, and Sunday brought a huge powder day. As we left BTV that evening the snow started falling, and 3 hours of sketchy driving later returning to Putney we had 8” on the ground. We got to the mountain early and probably had a foot of fresh snow to play in. I was on a West Hill Shop tele setup, and my brother and girlfriend were on rented alpine skis. I found that my confidence went up quite a bit skiing in the fresh snow, and I slipped into a good rhythm practicing my turns, as well as chasing my brother all over the mountain. By the end of the weekend I was exhausted – but we managed to squeeze a half day pass into Monday, before they returned to NYC via Amtrak.
I returned to my monk like life – work, ride, work, ride, repeat. And I began venturing out for long winter rides when the conditions would allow. The LeMond would be the bike of choice, as I was trying to log as many miles on it as I could before the Brevet season started.
As spring arrived I had developed a great friendship with the owners of the West Hill Shop, Putney’s world renowned bike shop. I managed to get recruited to help with the Putney Bike Club, and before long I was organizing meetings, helping to set the upcoming ride calendar, and getting a simple blog online. I’d often ride down from my office in town, snag lunch at the Coop, and spend my lunch time sitting in the shop hanging out. I also got to test my early season legs on some group rides – where I was promptly dropped on the climbs, but had good fun being out with a group, and getting a taste of riding that wasn’t in my apartment.
I started to ramp up my utility mileage, and realized I wanted (needed) a run about for town and errands. Having my office in town, just 2 miles away, and nearly everything that I needed for day to day existence right in town, I opted for a single speed. I had the shop order me a Redline 925, and I set it up single speed. I used the bike for office runs, lunch errands, trips to the post office, and short spins down my dirt road. I eventually picked up a Brooks saddle for it, and swapped the stock bars for a Nitto Mustache, which had a much nicer bend.
On the weekends, and a day a week I’d leave the office early, I’d be found on a long loop ride on the LeMond. I often rode with clip on fenders, so my ‘go fast bike’ now had a leather saddle and rain protection. And occasionally an Ortlieb bar bag strapped to it, or a cue sheet flapping from the bars.
Somewhere along the way, I started to take seriously the fatigue I was feeling. I had been trying to rest and recover more, but I wasn’t seeing any gains from upping my intensity, and it felt like I just hit a wall with my training. My thyroid was the first suspect, so we checked all the levels and things looked good. After some blood work my doctor informed me that I was severely anemic… something he wanted to confirm with a follow up a few weeks after moving back to an omnivorous diet, being sure to eat plenty of read meat, and starting iron supplements. The follow up showed virtually no improvement.
To be continued…