Sunday, September 22, 2019

Rock (and not so much surf) Clinic

Osprey had an open spot on their Rock and Surf Clinic today and I had a free day to play. I figured a day of excellent coaching in the rocks and surf would be perfect.
I was a little bit sad to find out that Carl wasn't teaching, but he and Sam always hire the best coaches around. I was not worried about the quality of the instruction.
The coach was a little surprised to see that I showed up with an Ares for a rock class or that I would also bring a stick. He figured only fools would be looking to smack a glass boat into a rock.... What is an Ares for if not playing in rocks and surf - as long as you don't hit the rocks too hard. Besides, if I broke the pumpkin I could just leave it with Carl and he'd make it good as new - if not better.
It was a small class: just myself and one other paddler. The other guy was pretty new but could hold his own.
We took off from Sakonett and headed out past the point to the rock garden. The conditions were good for getting comfortable around the rocks. The water was pushy, but not so pushy that you couldn't get in close.
We spent the morning in the rocks getting pointers about technique and timing. My rotation was a little bit off. I could pay attention to what my feet are doing a little bit more. I could try a few different edging things. It was all good advice and minor tweaks. Exactly what I was looking for while also getting to play.
When it came time for surfing, we were out of luck. The conditions just were not happening. The waves were trickling up the beach. We did spend some time talking about boat positioning on waves to maintain control. Without practicing it, most of what was talked about flitted out of my head. I do remember that you want to stay in front of the wave so it doesn't trap your stern, but you can't stay too far ahead because then you won't get a push. Basically, I think the take away was that long boats are not great for surfing....
Fortunately for me, the Ares is not a very long boat.
On the way back to the out in we played in the rocks some more. Then we packed up headed back to the shop.
It was a great day on the water and I always recommend classes with Osprey. They have never let me down.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

What Have I Done?

It is sort of amazing how much I mange to actually do given the amount of panic and anxiety I inflict upon myself on a regular basis.
I think it is fairly well know that I am in near constant fear of having a heart attack. In fact, there have been several recent bike outings where I have been nearly paralyzed by the readings of my activity tracker. It says I did a strenuous workout, or that my heart rate strayed above the normal max rate for a male my age, and I seriously question my fitness to drive home without keeling over. Then I spend several days waiting to keel over. This is true even if I finish the ride feeling totally gassed or just moderately tired. I also worry about being poisoned by random toxins just free floating in the environment and an array of slowly developing chronic and totally deadly ailments (cancer, etc.). These are just on top of the standard daily anxieties caused by daily life and chronic low self-esteem.
The fears do not stay contained to my own body. I also spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about Bug's health. I'm pretty sure I woke up several times a night to check on her for her first two years of life because of SIDs. I still worry about her suffering a dry drowning incident after she goes swimming.
I do not share any of these fears with her. My anxieties have no place in the life of a child. I'm sure she will develop her own set of crazy.
This is a long intro to a very short story.....
Today was supposed to be a NEMBA kids ride and Bug really wanted to go because it was going to be her third ride - T-shirt!!! So we get up, see that it is a beautiful day, pack the truck up, and head out. The ride was in Ipswich which is about 40 minutes away, so we made sure we had plenty of time to get there.
When we arrive at the designated meeting spot, we discover a paucity of cars. There are maybe four cars in the lot and none of them have bikes on them. They belong to the group of people playing ball on the field.
Confused, I call Heather to see if she can check the NEMBA site. While I am calling, Bug hops out of the car and heads into the field to start doing cartwheels and other tricks.
It turns out that Ipswich was recently designated a high EEE area and that out of caution NEMBA cancelled the ride. H also tells me that they had done arial spraying and that the town had not really done much to curtail activities....
Now I have to do a quick risk assessment and figure out what Bug and I should do. My first thought is to head back to our area and find someplace near there to ride. But, she is already out of the car.... It is mid-morning and we have commercial strength bug spray and are wearing long sleeves and she has long pants on.... She really is not ready to get back in the car after spending nearly an hour driving and spend another hour in the car.... There are people out on the baseball diamond and a guy riding a horse... There is no standing water....
We decide that a short ride followed by ice cream is the plan.
The bike ride is short and reasonably fun. There do not seem to be any bugs.
The ice cream place serves good quality ice cream and has several customers and no bugs.
We get home and unpack the car and Bug starts itching the back of her leg.... She got bitten....
Since then, I spent a lot of energy worrying. I, of course, spent an inordinate amount of time on the internet researching EEE. It is apparently fairly rare in humans, and often does not cause much more than mild flu-like symptoms. Except for the cases where it doesn't and results in neurological damage or death.
Also, Ipswich was designated as a high EEE area not because anyone there had actually gotten EEE or because any birds or mosquitoes in in the area had tested positive for EEE, but because one person who had traveled through Ipswich had contracted it.
None of this is going to help me sleep or feel better about my decision this morning. It is going to be a long week. It can take up to ten days for symptoms to show..... It is more likely that I will get sick from lack of sleep and stress than that Bug will even get the sniffles. It is more likely that she will sprain or break something doing gymnastics or dance.
None of that matters because my anxiety and fear are not rational. I will, however, get through and not let her know because that is what needs to be done. Life goes on, bills get paid, children are loved and made to feel safe.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The Once and Future Level 5

The dissipating hurricane promised big conditions this weekend. To take advantage of the expected fun Tim M. posted two Level 5 paddles. One on Saturday in the Bay to experience big open ocean conditions. One on Sunday to experience big surf and big rock interfaces.

I was busy on Saturday, and H banned me from paddling in obviously life threatening conditions, so Sunday was my chance to get out.  Because it was a level 5 paddle, I made sure to e-mail Tim to make sure he felt comfortable with me participating and that my skills fit his plan. Whenever I plan on attending a level 5 paddle, I think it is important to check in with the coordinator before showing up. Level 5 paddles are usually where the serious paddlers in the group plan on paddling in serious conditions. It isn't an "I think I'm a pretty strong paddler and want to push the envelope" paddle; it is an "advanced" paddle.
After some e-mails, Tim and I agreed that based on the plan and the expected conditions, we were both comfortable with my participation. It might be on the outer edge of my range, but nothing that I could not handle. (Being an old and infrequent paddler has really narrowed my window....)
H and Bug planned on doing Newport while I paddled, so I had some company on the ride down and knew I could play hard without worrying about having energy for driving home.
I needn't have worried too much. Whatever conditions the passing hurricane threatened never appeared. The wind was calm and the swell small. We were still going to be able to find some places to play; the whole area is full of play spots.
What we found was mild at best. There were small waves interacting with rocks, but nothing too exciting. I was just happy to be on the water...
We did find some decent surfing near lunch. It was small surf, but big enough to ride. In the Aries, pretty much any bump in the water is big enough to ride...
After lunch, the wind started to pick up, so after a little more surfing we made a bee line home. We all took opportunities to find places that had interesting features. Mostly though it was just a pleasant paddle back into the harbor.
H and Bug showed up shortly after we returned. It was near perfect timing. Then we all headed to nice little farm stand/tea house for a post paddle snack.
What had been predicted to be a rollercoaster adrenaline rush turned into a relaxing day on the water and civilized tea. Is there any such thing as a bad day kayaking?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Land Locked Again

I am not sure why I keep going back to Land Locked. It is just painful and a wee bit outside my newbie box. I am, however,  a glutton for punishment, a long time sufferer of stupid man syndrome, a pig headed fool who refuses to let a few trails in the woods defeat me, and a a typical example of masculine middle age misconception.
Anyway, Heather saw a post of the NEMBA FB page - I refuse to participate in FB's predatory business practices and general toxic void, but am glad to benefit from other's decision to do so - that there was going to be an "easy" ride at Land Locked. I was a little desperate for a ride - or really any outside adventure - so I jumped at the chance.
Aside from the fact that even an "easy" ride at Land Locked is on the very edge of my box, I also was not driving our tiny, deluding our selves into feeling better about driving a monster truck, non-toy transport capable, car. I "knew" that I could fit my bike with its giant 29" trail tires into the sloped back of a car that can barely fit four adults.... When reality hit, I discovered an old strap-on back rack that has been living in our garage, unused, for close to a decade. It was a sign... I could turn the Ionq into a toy carrier!!! It was a lose fit and one of the pads rested on some glass, and the top clips were secured under the glass lip of the hatch, but the bike held and I could get to the ride without going on the highway.
The ride started out great. The pace didn't seem too fast, the guy leading the ride had an inhaler.... Then came the rock wall. We were all warned about the wall. A few people walked the wall. I was going to conquer the wall.... It didn't look big. My front tired cleared it as planned; the back tire cleared it over my head. I'm not certain what happened, but the ground was pretty soft. Eyewitness accounts say that I was a little too far forward and that perhaps I didn't have enough momentum to keep the front tire moving after it hit the bottom of the drop on the back side of the wall....
This was 20 minutes into the ride and, aside from a little bit of pain where I jammed my hand into the ground, I was fine... No reason not to keep riding....
For a while the riding was great. The trails were flowing and I was in a groove. The pace seemed fast, but comfortable. I was shifting for the uphills with no problems, clearing obstacles like a pro, making tight turns, and nailing switchbacks. It was great fun.
About half way through the ride I did misjudge the distance between two trees and clipped one side of the handlebars. The unexpected turn a rapid deceleration was more embarrassing than painful.
Then we hit Milk Crate.... I was less pooped this time than last time, but it was still rough going. I made more of the gnarly turns and quick up downs. I'd say I managed to ride 90% - OK maybe 80% - of the trail without walking. There was one turn where I totally missed the line. I went too wide and couldn't easily make the turn, so I jammed my foot into the ground to force the bike back into the trail.... It hurt, but you don't need a heel to ride....
After Milk Crate, I thought we were done. I knew I was just about out of gas. I forgot that the only way back to the parking lot from the end of Milk Crate was across the Three Bridges.... The bridges themselves are not so bad - well except for the section where there is a very narrow passage between two trees in the gap between two of the bridges. It is really the hills that hurt. It was getting dark; I was feeling tired; I made the gap, but not on a line that I believed would get me across the last bridge.... So, I stopped and walked the bridge.
That was my breaking point. I was totally in my head at the bottom of a series of fairly steep climbs with some rough switchbacks and out of gas.... Fortunately, the sweep for the ride was patient and encouraging. I walked the first short climb and got back on the bike. I sucked wind the entire way up and out of the woods, but I made it - not certain that my heart was not going to just quit on me before I could get back to the parking lot for some pizza - but I made it.
The ride back to the cars was mostly down hill on mild terrain, so that was a nice chance to rest. When I got back to the cars, I had recovered a little. I had enough energy to eat some pizza and be social. Which was better than the last two times I had ridden Land Locked.... I was not certain that I hadn't done permanent damage to my heel, shoulder, or heart, but that didn't really matter. I improved and had fun doing it.
Maybe next time, I will find someone to go at my pace. Better yet, I'll just keep getting better....

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Kid's Ride 2

I cannot say enough good things about how NEMBA runs their Kid's Ride Series. The leaders are great. The encourage the kids to push themselves.
Today was Bug's second kid's ride. She wasn't really sure about going because she gets nervous riding with new people particularly when I am not right with her. The kid's rides are organized so that the kids ride in a group with the parents trailing, so essentially the kids are riding on their own. She was also a little worried that the trails would be too hard for her.
The ride was right by our house and we had already done a bunch of the trails, so that made her feel better. I also reminded her that if she goes on three rides, she gets a tee shirt.
We went out with the middle skilled group. The advanced group was mostly older kids who had been riding for a while and wanted to shred. The beginner group was for kids that had never mountain biked or were on balance bikes. The middle group was huge.
It didn't take long for our group to split into sub-groups. Just after leaving the main field in front of the community gardens there is a bridge. We had more than one rider become a walker. After the bridge, there was a small be steady incline that further broke the group down. In the end, I think our initial group split off into three groups.
After the sorting, our group picked up speed and headed out along the Greenway. The kids all did great. There was some walking here and there as we came upon obstacles or surprisingly steep inclines.
At stops, I checked in with Bug and she seemed to be enjoying herself. Her biggest worry was not that the trails were hard; she was more concerned that kids in front of her kept getting hung up on inclines and making her slow down....
We made a stop at the bump track. The kids enjoyed riding around the track, but no-one really got the idea of bumping around the track. I cannot bump around the whole track either. I still need to peddle to get around...
After the bump track we headed way out the Greenway. We went out past Avalon and Walnut Street to the long bridge that leads down to the soccer fields. It was as long and difficult as some of the adult beginner rides I've done this summer.
The thing I learned was that going slow requires a lot of skill. When I'm bombimg along the trail, momentum makes getting over things easier, it makes missed shifts a little less terrible, and it magically stabilizes the bike. Balancing and speed changes are a unique challenge.
Towards the end of the ride, a few of the younger kids started running out of steam. There was one boy who was a super trooper. He was ridding a 16" BMX rig with a single speed that looked like it weighed as much as he did. Going out he tried just about everything. On the way back he walked a lot more. He still gave everything the old college try, but he was fading. His persistence was impressive.
The enthusiasm of the kids and their excitement after conquering a challenge is great. I know Bug feels better about herself after completing a ride. Now she really wants that tee shirt....