Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Pushing it Past the Limit

Over the last few weeks I have been pushing the the edges on the mountain bike. I did a "mellow" intermediate ride at the Land Locked forest last Thursday and then did a "hard beginners" ride there tonight.
Land Locked is a great place to ride, but I learned that my fitness level is still pretty poor on both rides.
The Monday night beginners ride has been great at building up my skills. There was nothing at Land Locked that I could not handle. Although there is a lot more at Land Locked to play on than there is in Belmont. That part made me feel good.
The Monday night rides are also good for building fitness, but not enough to really build it up to the point needed to do long rides without a lot of stops.
Back in June when I was riding my road bike to work a couple of times a week, I probably had a pretty good base. Now, after a month of only riding once a week, my old body has lost all of that base.
On the Tuesday night ride, I was lucky enough to find a two women who were looking for a slower pace. It gassed me pretty good and my bike computer told me I was overreaching. I felt pretty OK afterwards though - aside from my normal "Oh my god I'm gonna have a heart attack" anxiety.
Tonight though, I had no such luck. The ride leaders did not set a hard pace and did a great job making sure everyone was doing OK. I was doing fine for most of the ride, or so I thought. I knew I was pushing myself, but not too hard. Then I hit the wall.... We did this section called the milk crate and I nearly keeled over. Then there was more uphills...
At one point I just had to get off the bike and just rest awhile. The ride leader was really great and stuck with me and helped me stay positive. Some how I got back on and hobbled back to the cars.
My bike computer told me I was overreaching and congratulated me a new max heart rate of 194... I'm 50 and 220-50 is definitely lower than 194.... I wasn't having chest pain or dizziness or any more than normal shortness of breath, but I was wiped.
Somehow, I managed to get the bike back on the roof and after a little rest drove home. I am still in the "Oh my god I'm gonna have a heart attack" phase, but without any real symptoms.
It is just one more reminder that I am getting older and need to remember my limits. Oh and that I should exercise more than once a week.....
Fortunately, I'm vacationing next week and cannot be lured back to Land Locked. I'd like to say I have learned my lesson, but it was a ton of fun.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Carter Notch Hut Hike

Once a year, we do one AMC White Mountain Hut. We started doing these hikes six years ago with the goal of having Kenzie and her Grandpa Bob hike into all of the AMC huts. The plan was to start easy and work our way to the harder huts as Kenzie got older and more capable. In our fantasy world, Grandpa Bob would not really age - or if he did he would still be able to tackle any mountain we could possibly throw at him.

Last year, we saw the first signs that he may not be able to complete all the huts. We hiked up to Greenleaf Hut on the Bridle Path and it was a bitch. Grandpa Bob did great, but it was a struggle. I actually think he managed the hike better than I did.
This year, we talked Grandpa Bob into doing Carter Notch Hut. It is a longer hike than the Bridle Path, but is not as steep. He seemed excited, but a few weeks before we were to leave he called and canceled. His depth perception and balance are not what he would like it to be. He is 81 after all.
So it was a bittersweet trip this year.
The grandparents did meet us at the trailhead and hiked about a mile in with us. Once it started getting steep and rocky, they turned around.
The hike to the hut is all up, but it a fairly gradual incline through a nice pine forest. The trail goes along a brook with some nice places to stop. We had lunch on some rocks on a water fall. There was not much in the way of views though. The tree cover was too thick.
Cater Notch Hut has the oldest hut structure still in use. The main lodge was built in 1914 and is still the central point of the hut. The bunk house and bathrooms are in separate buildings a short walk away. The bunk houses are relatively new and spacious. The main lodge, on the other hand is quite cozy.
Somehow Kenzie always manages to find someone her age to play with on these trips. This time it was two girls who were doing a day hike to the hut. The girls did a bunch of rock climbing and cave exploration in a near by feature called the Ramparts. The Ramparts looks is a giant bolder field that looks sort of like a giant baby left its legos just laying around. Then the girls went for a swim in the vernal pools near the hut.
After the girls left, it was time for dinner, the naturalist presentation, and bed. Hut dinners are always simple, but hearty affairs. This year it was Thanksgiving in August. I am always amazed that the cru can make such great meals in the middle of the mountains.
Kenzie got up bright and early to fill out her junior naturalist book so she could get her sixth straight patch. Fortunately, she was pretty quiet and I got to sleep until like 6:30. I was up early enough to hear the cru sing the wake up song. The two girls singing were the best I heard at a hut. They had the harmonies down.
Breakfast was oatmeal, bacon, and pancakes; just what one needs to fuel up for a longish hike.
The hike out was pretty chill. Save for the short climb out of the notch, it was all down. We stopped for a quick swim near the trailhead to cool down. The water was cold.
After our hike, Heather wanted to show us the Joe Dodge Lodge, the new Pinkham Notch Lodge, which she visited often when she was a kid. The new lodge is pretty posh. You still have to share communal bathrooms, but the sleeping areas looked very comfortable. The old lodge had a nice cafe where we got lunch. The sandwiches were top notch.
We will finish our mission of visiting each of the Huts with Kenzie, but it looks like we will not be doing them as we had hoped. Grandpa Bob wants us to keep doing it, and I'm sure he would love to be able to do it as well. Hopefully, he will still come and start the trails with us and we know he will always be with us in our hearts.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

When the Helmet is a Good Idea

It was a beautiful day for a paddle and a perfect location.

The Westport boat ramp can be a bit of a PITA with the having to pay money and move cars into the overflow lot because kayaks don't need trailers, but it is the best point of entry for one of the most dynamic paddling locations in MA.

If you can catch it at the right time, the mouth of the Westport is a great place to play in standing waves and currents. Heading south from the mouth, you can find some great off shore rock features to play in and a little farther down you can find some great surf.

Anticipating a day of full contact playing, I launched wearing my helmet. I didn't want to be the only one left hanging on the sidelines when it got fun.

The currents at the mouth of the river were strong, but not at peak. The wind was blowing with the current, so it was flat. A few of the group tried to find something to play in to little avail. I decided to save my energy for more fun features further south.

The first feature we came to is known as the elevator. It is two rocks positioned roughly parallel to the coast and each other. The shorter of the two rocks is on the ocean side and the gap is just wide enough for two kayaks to fit through in a pinch.

Conditions around the feature were pretty calm, but there was enough action to play. We darted through the two different passages. We took turns holding our kayaks in positions near the rocks without crashing. It was a good time.

We moved on to a smaller rock formation that also offered some easy playing. Nothing that pushed the edge of the box, but enough to get a little adrenaline surge.

Just before lunch we found a nice off shore break for some surfing fun. Most of the group caught some nice rides.

I, on the other hand, was having a hard time finding my groove. I was either out of position, too late to get up to speed, too fast to get up to speed, or my stroke was uneven and I'd get turned before catching the line. It was frustrating. On the plus side, the Aries will surf on almost anything so the few little waves I did catch gave me nice rides.

By lunch, my helmet was starting to hurt my head. I was glad to swap it out for a regular hat for a little while.

When packing up from lunch for the return trip, I considered the tame conditions we had encountered in the morning and how comfortable I felt in my hat. I packed the helmet in the back hatch. I did consider stowing it in my cockpit just in case, but in the end I figured the chances of wanting access to the helmet were not worth the annoyance of having it bouncing around my feet.

After lunch we headed back over to the offshore break for some more surfing. The waves had moved a little closer to the rocks, but I found my surf mojo and caught a few nice rides. I just made sure to stay clear of the rocks.

From the surf, we returned to the smaller of the rock formations. The tide was lower, so it was more fun. I was bummed that I didn't have my helmet... There were some runs I decided against trying. However, I did take a few chances. It was hard to pass up.

We then returned to the elevator. It was here that I really missed my helmet. The feature had more power than was prudent to risk without head gear. I was the guy stuck on the sidelines watching others play. It was fun to watch, but I'm not really a spectator.

Gary gave us a master class in rough water boat handling. He parked himself in the center of the elevator and just bobbed up and down as the water tried to smash him into a big rock. It was a beautiful display of well placed draw strokes and hip control.

Getting back into the river was more challenging that anticipated. We expected that the current would be running up river, but instead it was still dumping water into the ocean. The water trying to force its way out of the river against the water trying to fill the river up created some nice swells and some tricky vortexes.

It was a fun challenge to slip in close to the knubble and make a tight shore hugging turn to stay out of the craziest parts of the confluence and boat traffic. Fortunately, the Aries was more than up to the challenge. I few well timed leans and hip bumps mixed with quick paddle strokes and the Aries can dance.

I had a long, great day, on the water. There was a plenty of play opportunities - but next time I'll make sure my helmet is not hiding in a hatch....

Saturday, June 08, 2019

It's Always the Wind

I'm not late when I get to the parking lot, but I'm not early enough that everyone should still have kayaks on their roofs either. I park and find everyone huddled on the beach in the more than light wind pondering if we should move to a more sheltered location. This is supposed to be a level 2 paddle...
We decide that we can paddle up the Bay and stay near the shore for protection.
Kayaks are unloaded.
Clothing choices are made. It is too nice for dry suits, although the water is still cool, but windy enough to warrant a paddle top...
By the time we are on the water, the wind has dissipated a bit. As we meander up north, deeper into the Bay there is enough of a breeze to keep me cool in my paddle top, but not enough to really notice.
This is fine by me. There are plenty of old friends to catch up with. I chat with Tim M. for a while; I chat with Carole for a while; I chat with Rick for a while; I chat with just about everyone for a while. It is nice to see everyone and do an analog Facebook timeline search.
The paddling is easy and rhythmic. When I'm not chatting, I focus on the rhythm and feel of my forward stroke; I try a few different types of maneuvering strokes; I get reacquainted with how the kayak feels when I shift my weight around.
Lunch at Rome Point was nice and sunny. Tim and I talked about how this was just about the perfect paddle to open the season. It was nice and relaxing, but I get restless. My opportunities for ocean play are limited and I often crave the more exciting paddles. Tim was right though a nice relaxing distance paddle was the best way to get a feel for the being back on the water. It also provided plenty of much needed social time and stress relief.
The paddle home was not quite as pleasant as the paddle to lunch, but it did offer new learning opportunities.
The wind we had hoped would push us home had died. I started getting a little toasty in my paddle jacket. Just a bit of paddle spray on a polypro jersey would have been heavenly.
I got to paddle with a fancy new bent shaft full carbon Lendal Kinetic XT. Tim wanted to have one of the newer paddlers try out a shorter paddle shaft and offered up my ancient Lendal spare. As part of the discussion about why I had a spoon for a spare and not another stick, I goaded Tim into trying out my stick.
I'm not sure who had the better go of it. I am pretty quick to adjust to a normal paddle, but the bent shaft was a little funky. The carbon paddle was a lot stiffer than my stick and over time I could feel the extra effort I was expending to dig through the water. On the flip side, the big scoop did mean I had a little more immediate power for crazy turning strokes and quicker acceleration.
Tim adjusted to the stick pretty quickly as well and found a nice rhythm to keep up his speed. He didn't seem to certain about his ability to do much more then paddle straight in calm water though.
The guy using my spare probably got the best of the switch. He got to use a much better paddle than he was originally using and one that was properly sized for he and his boat. He also didn't have to do a paradigm switch; he was going from scoop to scoop instead of scoop to stick.
Afterwards we all repaired to Fuel for some post paddle caffeine and more yakking.
Hopefully, I'll get back on the water again soon.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mountain Biking is Hard

Let's just be up front and say I don't always get the obvious..... I figured mountain biking would be just like road biking, but in the woods and sitting a little more upright. Actually, I thought it might even be a little bit easier than road biking; the big tires and plush shocks are super comfy and biking on those nice packed gravel rail trails and carriage paths with the family is pretty chill.
Imagine my shock when I went out on some of the single track trails behind my house and nearly keeled over. My first outing on the bike should have clued me in, but I figured it was just the mud and the lack of riding time.... Since then I've been out on the road bike a few times and the trails were pretty dry today.
The downhill parts of the trail were hard and terrifying. Trying to get the bike through two trees barely wide enough for the handle bars to fit through after taking a 85 degree switch back on a trail that drops off steeply on one side when you are going down a steep hill is hard. Keeping your feet on the peddles while bouncing over rocks and roots is hard.
The flat parts of the trail were marginally less scary, but more taxing. Getting whacked in the shins when your foot slips and you need to peddle because the back tire is caught on a rock hurts. Having the bike nearly stall out on you because the back tire doesn't roll over a rock and you suddenly have to peddle extra hard when you are in a cruising gear hurts. Peddling double time through a muddy patch is hard.
The uphills are hard on a road bike, but at least you can usually count on the road being straight and smooth. Navigating switchbacks without stalling is hard. Slipping in the mud is hard. Peddling over rocks and roots is hard. Keeping a steady pace when your feet keep bouncing off the peddles is hard. Not falling backwards when your front tire bounces off a rock and your back tire slides down the side of another rock is hard.
I went just over four miles on an easy/intermediate stretch of trails and it was one of the toughest bike rides of my life. According to my heart rate monitor, I was in zones 4 and five most of the time. My legs felt like goo, and were bleeding from a few spots where I got hit really hard with the peddles.
Don't get me wrong, it was a blast and I plan on keeping it up. In fact, aside from the pain and need for an immediate nap, it was one of the funnest and enjoyable rides I've had in a while. The thrills were nicely balanced with the peace of being in the woods.
I think I may need to get a little professional schooling, or at least a lot more practice, before I move onto any more intermediate trails.