I recently returned from my first trip to Kauai, which also happened to be my first non-climbing vacation ever as an adult. For those of you who have not been, it’s breathtaking. The landscape is straight out of Jurassic Park, literally, and the topography provides for some of the best hiking I have ever experienced. I broke my ankle this past fall and the hiking on Kauai more than made up for the break I had to take over the winter.
Waimea Canyon is home to my favorite hike I did on the island. It lives up it’s name as the “Grand Canyon” of the Pacific. The hike weaves around huge canyons with near vertical walls. Coming from the mountains of Yosemite, I am not used to the lush plant life that grows on the sides of the steep walls. But just like the Valley, waterfalls jettisoned out from the walls, making for some of the most spectacular views I’ve seen.
Climbers can, as a rule, break rules. We expand our youth, our shoulder stamina, and, most commonly, our seasons. How many people do you know who go crack climbing in shorts in January? Ice climbing in puff jackets in June? Sport climbing in bikinis February? Hyper-mobility and air travel lends itself to this, but so does the split personality of any excessive outdoorsy person.
I’m one of the worst offenders. To make it more interesting (read: personally challenging), I try to be prepared for any activity at any time. This works. Or it does until you have back surgery.
Two weeks ago, I packed up my rental apartment in North Conway, NH. I lovingly placed my monopoint crampons next to my leashless tools. I stuffed my ice climbing packs with every extra down/synthetic/wool/fleece layer I had. I took my boots and filled them with screws, and then nestled them into duffles. In the beginning, I held up each piece of gear as if honoring it before mashing it into a temporary resting place. I mourned that I would not use it for more than a half dozen months. And then I got a shooting pain down my right leg, stood up with the help of the wall and a chair, limped to my bed, and laid down.
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes another 1oo+ mile ride while serving as rolling mechanic for the Seattle Century…
So…for the second time in a month I decided to ride more than 100 miles with a backpack on (my Talon 11). I am a volunteer for Bikeworks in Seattle and I support them as a mechanic for both their Thursday Night Repair sessions and in the shop fixing up reclaimed bikes. I volunteered to help them at the Seattle Century as a ride mechanic, which meant I had to ride the full distance with enough tools to be capable of minor repairs.
Following the herd of cyclists on bikes in varying states of disrepair (it is really hard for me to ride in groups without cataloging repairs) I headed to meet the organizers and get my “official” ride gear. The tool bag that the organizer wanted me to carry lacked basic tools (chain tool, allen key, screwdriver) but had ten tires levers and tubes that were all pushing their useful life span; sweet. I always have to remember that I just need to take a deep breath! After I tactfully declined their tools and grabbed a couple of tubes I headed out the doors of the old hanger they were staging in and onto the road.
The first part of the ride was on a multi-use trail that has been paved since the mid-nineties. It is pretty impressive in its ability to allow cyclists and pedestrians a safe and effective route through the northern parts of Seattle and out to the edge of the urban strip of King County.
Arriving at the second rest stop we got a call that a rider needed a fifteen millimeter box end wrench about six miles up the road. In some weird peak of excitement that I was going to get to do something I said that I would be there in less than twenty-five minutes and took off down the road. I beat my own mark, amazingly, and helped a guy riding a fixie, fix his flat. I had an amazingly fast tube change and wheel re-centering in order to make sure I got on my way as quickly as possible. I saw him again a little later attempting to recover from what must have been an impossibly brutal downhill and wondered if anyone had explained freewheels to him.
Riding along one of the best sections of road in King County, I think that at least six people had flats in a short section while I was standing there. Every tire I worked on had at least one form of nail or pin in it. Some idiot local had seeded a long section of the road with enough hardware to make several riders’ days a little less enjoyable. Everyone laughed it off and attributed it to the ignorance of youth. I had fun and definitely earned my perks fixing bikes on the road there and at the next rest stop. I did some pretty major repairs for the sixty-mile mark of a century and wondered how these riders ever got bikes that were so completely untrustworthy.
Cruising across Lake Washington and up the lakeshore with my pack on I began to pass more and more people who were slogging out the last ten miles of their day. Encouraging words are always taken differently when you pass someone at the end of a century seeming nonchalant about the steep grade you are climbing up! A little more effort over the hills and I cruised down to the finish of my ride. Sponsored by Widmer and featuring a lot of grilled salmon the Seattle Century has to go down as one of the best-catered public rides I have ridden. I didn’t partake in much of the festivities because I still had to ride home but if I ride it next year I will make sure to clear my afternoon.
The Osprey Brand Team, a group of 10 ambassadors reporting from the field at consumer outdoor events across the country as well as reporting on adventures in their own neck of the woods, checks in with bike racer and brand team member, James Whitesides. Here James describes his recent 200+ mile ride from Seattle to Portland – the pain cave runs deep in this dude! Find out what it feels like before/during/after a ride of this magnitude…
After the 24hr race I had a huge motivation gap that really threatened to extend deep into the fall. So I decided to change the route everything was taking by riding to Portland on the 4th of July.
So Friday night saw me frantically loading the Talon 11 up with some clothes (not enough for a cold Monday), tools and tubes (I never needed them), and lots of supplements. I woke to an early alarm on Saturday and somehow managed to dress, drink a cup of coffee, pump up my tires, and double check my preparations well before my departure alarm went off. Then I started the long haul south. Two weeks before I had mapped out the entire 206.12 mile route on my computer from my house to my sisters with a couple of deviations from the normal “flat” course the STP takes. With a punch of my Garmin’s button I was rolling.
Riding road you know takes a lot of fun out of a ride and the first twenty-five miles were dull. They would have been really dull except that I didn’t have to stop once while I was still riding in familiar territory. Some fluke of light timing and the lack of any cars on the road made it really easy to cruise through the twilight into dawn and then full sun. The north flanks of Mount Rainier were bright in the south by the time I reached mile 40 and the day was already starting to warm up. I cruised through a couple of little towns that I would have had no other reason to be in except that they were on my route and made the little climb out of Puyallup and started to get hungry. I stopped in Yelm and grabbed an amazingly quick breakfast of buckwheat pancakes and bacon (mmm…bacon) that would keep me filled for a long time. The terrain got a little more interesting when entered rolling roads in dry pine forests just as I ticked through 70 miles.
Oddly enough, mile 80 to mile 90 is a little fuzzy. I’m pretty sure I hit the north end of Centralia and rode through town but I’m not sure. I do remember the 100 mile mark on Centralia Alpha Rd. Perfect pavement in the middle of nowhere with a great two and a half mile climb and large trees. This road took me up to the last views I would get of Rainier and led me to the Jackson Highway and straight into the teeth of the dark place that is bonking. Right as the ride was entering some of the best roads I had a pretty serious conversation about where the nearest highway exit was. I could call here, still have the longest ride of my year under my belt (112 miles), and be showered and drinking beer by 2:30 pm. But I decided that I would tap into my Hammer Perpetum and see what happened. Half a bottle and a little stretching and wouldn’t you know it, I was fine. Not fine as in perfectly rested, but I was going to keep on going. I rode gingerly at first but as I crossed I-5 at the 120 mile mark I was back to full speed.
A quick stop for essential travel items (water, pizza pockets, and snickers bars) and broke up the mental monotony with a view of how everyone else was traveling. I was actually feeling O.K. I was going as fast as I had gone at eight in the morning and there were no real signs that my legs couldn’t make it all the way. Unfortunately this was when I had to begin the pep-talk to the rest of the body.
I had to convince my arms and wrists that the three positions I had available were fine, my skin that putting more lotion on wasn’t the answer, and the undercarriage need special convincing that the saddle was just fine. I followed the twists of the Cowlitz river south in increasingly unbearable heat and crossed the Columbia just as I started to really feel how warm it was. However, the bridge into Oregon meant I only had to make it another 48 miles.
My mantra became focused on doing the math of averages. “Let’s see, if I do 15 miles an hour I get there in two and a half, if I do 16 then I get there in two and change…” on and on it went. I had been dreaming about the tailwind down the Columbia all day and I got it just as I crossed the 30 to go mark.
Ten miles later, things began to unravel. First and foremost I couldn’t stay in one position for more than twenty seconds. My brain was on overdrive and I could feel everything in my body. Then my sister called and I knew that it was over: “Hey, do you want me to come pick you up?”….”Uh, yeah”…”Where are you”…”Uh, I’m the only guy riding south in the middle of the afternoon on Hwy. 30, I think you’ll find me” (close approximation). I was done with the ride fifteen miles from Portland.
As I dug through my pack a half an hour later to get dressed I realized that I didn’t feel all that bad. I had managed to ride from Seattle to just short of Portland by myself carrying all my gear! I hadn’t noticed my little pack unless I pulled it up to high on my back and I hadn’t had a single flat or mechanical. I could have done the ride with way less on my back. I’m glad I had all the extra stuff and the space, but next time I think I will try and get it into 11 liters and maybe I’ll pack all the right stuff. I don’t think I can ride that route again, but it has me thinking that I might tackle some other big rides in the near future. Thanks for reading!
Skate skiing requires technique, some semblance of a V02 max, and a very high sense of fashion….
The Seattle Post Intelligencer shed the light on the origin of skate skiing (it was not Bill Koch, ps… ). Originated by ancient Scandinavian hunters, the marathon skate (what we call skate skiing today) is a technique in which the skier steps out of the ski track with his or her dominant leg and ski, kicking diagonally for propulsion. The other ski is simply used to glide on.
Aerobic-oriented peeps usually gravitate toward skate skiing, which explains why the sales of Nordic equipment have never been anything but declining among NASCAR fans; recession or not.
How aerobic is it? World champion and Olympian Bjørn Dæhlie has the world record for the highest score of a VO2 max test, 96 ml/kg/min. The test was taken when Bjørn was out of season. Therefore it’s very likely that he could pass the 100 ml/kg/min score if the test was taken mid-season (this fact courtesy of Wikipedia).
Another great aspect to Nordic skiing? It enables you to eat more food! The Talon 11 pictured here contains a fresh baguette torn in half, a bottle of Pinot Noir, a straw, as well as some brie….