Have you ever heard of a runner’s high? I have read about it, and I have run in the past but I never achieved such a state. But once in a while I experience complete bliss while riding my bike; my mind releases all of its inner constraints and I am allowed to be myself, to smell the moisture rising from the ground, to hear the wind in the popples, and see the world as it is meant to be seen. My morning ride the other day brought me to the realm and I feel that it may have changed me for the better.
A few months back when I was riding I popped in an earbud and queued up a back episode of Be Here Now from Ram Dass wherein he ends his lecture with a 20 minute meditation session. I set out from my house towards Goose Lake and settled into a gentle pace. The first 5 miles was pavement and the miles just seemed to melt away as Ram Dass discussed Breath and how we are Breath. It reminded me to focus on the preciousness and joy of such a simple thing, breathing. You see, I have been working on my spiritual path over the last few years. I have become obsessed with my earthly role and need to shed those beliefs and values. This obsession has driven me to chase silly shiny new things all of the time which in turn robs me of what it truly means to have a human experience. I have delved into Alan Watts, Ram Dass, and Guru Singh in an attempt to help me grow and learn. I highly recommend listening to works from these three thought-leaders when you are out on a long ride or run; I find that I am particularly receptive to their thought-provoking lectures while riding.
Anyway, as I hit the gravel on the way to Goose Lake I stopped the podcast and let the message sink in. Opening ourselves to other planes of reality on which we also exist. Dropping the “someone special” myths that we have all been tricked into focusing on. This means that we have to develop strategies to get into the mechanics of our minds. Trust me when I say that Ram Dass eloquently guides the listener through this process.
After spinning and ruminating on that message I reached Goose Lake. My intention for the morning was to zip out to the lake to do a mala meditation. This is a pretty normal ride for me; I see Goose Lake all of the time. But today something was different. As I sat and prepared for my meditation I heard the wind in the trees and I was struck with the realization that the wind has always been here. It has jostled through the trees from time immemorial. It struck me as a tangible connection to the prehistoric, the primordial. There is wisdom in that wind if you take the time to listen to it.
After my mala meditation I hopped back on the bike and fired up the podcast for the second half of the lecture which consisted of a semi-guided breath meditation. I have never listened to a guided meditation while on the bike before so I figured that this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. The session is very simple, and if you are new to meditation I recommend you try it out. It focuses on your breath; the rhythm, the feelings, slowing down to appreciate it, and above all other things shutting down the noise to be mindful of the simple sensation of breathing. Though simple in substance, I found the impact to be profound while riding. I was riding very familiar sandy two-tracks that I have ridden many many times however, as I focused on my breath I fixed my gaze at a vague point on the horizon and found myself just pedaling away without any thoughts. This was the freest that I have felt in a long time. I let go of so many inner knots and blockages and just rode my freaking bike. Nothing else mattered. I owed that 20 minutes to myself and I know that I emerged a better person. I must admit that this is practice is probably best done in a rural area where you are not subject to motorists, other cyclists, or trail users.
I rambled on for quite some time listening to the subtle cues of Ram Dass and popped back out onto the road shortly after the session ended. I felt renewed and inspired. This was first time that I have meditated on the bike in this fashion but it will not be the last. Ram Dass, Guru Singh, and Alan Watts all share a viewpoint of the world that places significant weight on the power of the individual to change their world and to reach higher planes of thought and existence. Their message has resonated with me lately.
Do you listen to any specific spiritual or inspirational podcasts while riding or running?
This is my breakup letter with legacy social media. I sit at my writing desk on the cusp of my birthday. I do not know whether we are celebrating another trip around the sun or the promise of the next trip. Either way, I will celebrate me. As a present to myself this year I have decided to finally get rid of my social media accounts. On my birthday I tend to make lists for the upcoming year and evaluate where I have come from the last. This year, while examining the last year, I noticed that I am wasting too much time looking into the lives of others online.
I have hoards of online acquaintances and very few real friends. In part I blame the fake sense of familiarity that is found on social media. I have a moment-to-moment accounting of almost everyone that I have ever come into contact with inside my pocket. This leads me to believe that I know these people and it also leads them to feel like they know me and what I am up to. It’s a lovely invention and it has made keeping in touch very easy. Unfortunately, now that there are so many people on each platform I find it overwhelming. People expect you to see their posts and engage with them. I have been an active participant since 2006 on Facebook. Fortunately for me it is finally time to call it quits.
I will miss all of my online friends. Many people have liked my posts and pictures (for what that is worth) but now it is time for me to shift. That old legacy social media energy is getting stale and me right along with it. Time to pivot, shift, and generally become someone else. My newly found free time will be spent freeing my mind, focusing on creativity, fitness, homesteading, fishing, reading, and any other whim that strikes my fancy. I will be using this blog/site to randomly throw updates up. Don’t expect them to be regular at first. I understand that this process should be treated like an addiction detox and I will be treating it as such.
This will be a great journey. I look forward to connecting with you more often and in meaningful ways. Please, don’t be a stranger, drop me a line once in a while and I will be sure to do the same.
A sense of belonging
Every once in a while you wind up somewhere and you feel the natural pull of something greater than yourself. That feeling could be ancestral, from another lifetime, or something that you have hyped up in your own mind to a fever pitch. Regardless of where it comes from, I hope that you have experienced this at least once in your lifetime. I feel like I get this experience in a few new places each year. Usually it only happens in very specific place; it may be a panoramic vista, a mirror-flat lake, a gnarly old tree, or a cool stream. Regardless of where this happens I always try to pause and fully soak in that feeling. I always make note of these places and try to bring others to them to see if they too get the feels or if it is just me. I want to share that special with them. Sometimes that is my gauge as to whether or not they really get it. You know? The difference between, “welp, this place is neat, what’s next,” and “whoa…. (followed by either 1. prolonged silence while really taking in the situation, or 2. nearly out of control whooping and hootin’).” I tend to prefer folks that experience the latter (the whoopin’) but either reaction is correct.
I always try to fan the spark of curiosity and childlike splendor while outside but I find myself eliciting a bored reaction in between bouts of wonder. However, there is one place, one very large place, where I have a perma-grin and sensory overload: the Huron Mountains. Located northwest of Marquette and running right up to Lake Superior this region is truly something special. It is as close as I have been to the forest primeval; wild, peaceful, tough, beautiful, unforgiving, and raw. While I had driven through a few of the sparse main roads in this area looking for brook trout, it wasn’t until I starting “racing” The Crusher that I felt the true gravitas of this place.
The Crusher is a gravel cycling adventure put on by the non-profit, the 906 Adventure Team, that pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a gravel event. We ride through rivers, up sugar sand climbs, and bomb down truck trails completely unsupported with very limited resupply options. This is some of the best of Michigan. While I love participating in official Crusher events what I enjoy even more is the sense of belonging that I have found out in that area.
You know that feeling I talked about above? Well, for me it’s here. Like in that entire place. Every single inch of those maps above is a special place that brings out the best of me. While out riding this area I have seen moose, ran over sloppy wolf poo, bonked, triumphed, fallen into rivers, and made much personal growth. Since moving up here I have gone to the Hurons to get away and get into my own head.
I have ridden with, and made, many new friends there.
No matter how many times I go out there I will always be at awe when I enter the Mulligan Plains from either direction, sneaky views of the Big Lake through mottled and dappled trees, the mouth of the Huron River, chunking down rocky truck trails with a fully loaded bike, and the sounds of true wilderness while taking a break. This is where I belong; where civilization ends and the wild begins; where my soul lives.
Where I am at now
I think that I have put far too much thought into writing for this blog. My hopper of drafts is insanely full. I have spent countless hours writing, editing, prepping photos only to leave the post hanging in the nether region of the drafts folder. It’s probably due to some form of perfectionistic tendency which ultimately is rooted in the fear of being criticized for not adequately covering something. Well, no more! And yes, I realize that I have said that before. Ultimately, I still get stuck on the same hangups around putting a quality post together. But, I have been far too focused on the commercial side of blogging. Stuck on some goal of monetizing this outlet and in doing so I have stifled my ability to truly be creative. Things got really vanilla. Really PC. Really BORING.
So, here’s to me and the weird stuff that makes me uniquely me. Be prepared to see a shift in the blog. It will be outrageous at times, it will be raw, it will be personal; sometimes full of mind-numbing details about things you could care less about. I will be wrong. I will be loquacious. But my goal is to be me. My goal is to ditch the legacy social media garbage in favor of a more long-form genre where you will actually get to know me.
I will be mining the drafts folder to release some gems and also polish up some turds.
Won’t you come along with me?
What am I up to these days? Where do we go from here?
Well, well, well, I’m back. I don’t have to say what’s been going on in my life that has kept me from writing. I could just say, “2020.” But honestly, other than the fear of contracting Covid-19, 2020 has actually been pretty darn good. It’s given me more time to focus, read, work from home, spend time with Chelsea, and ride my bike.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the way things used to be. You remember, back when they were normal. That was some stuff. I think that I’ve changed. My priorities are different, my views are more defined. I have more compassion and understanding for others as a result of the extra time that I’ve had to think. So, 2020 hasn’t been all that bad. It’s sort of been a good restart. Yes, I know I’m not the only one to say this but personally, I’ve turned a corner. I’ve grown disenchanted of traditional beliefs and the ascribed values that accompany them.
Because I’ve grown tired of consuming the negativity and seeing the awful I thought that I’d start using my blog as a place to share the happy and good that I see. To start putting joy into the world in hopes of brightening someone else’s day. My plan is to gradually leave the politically co-opted social media sphere and use the blog as a place to share. I’m not going to promote this at all this time around. No goal of this becoming a monetized side hustle. Just a place for honest, outside-focused, dirty fun! I may do race write ups, trip reports, gear reviews, recommend adventure spots, or just tell stories. I’ll probably also share too much.
So, here’s to a new beginning. Things are probably going to get worse in our country and world before they get better but at least we can spread some joy in the healthiest way possible. That’s the goal. Elevate the global joy, fun, and health level.
I hope that you join me on this journey.
This is the beginning of one of my favorite trails. On the Edge to East Woopidy. I’ve ridden it during the enduro stages during Experience the Keweenaw and Trails Fest but honestly my favorite time to ride it is midweek all by myself.
Ultimate Guide to Bonking on Your Next Race (You must try these)
I am not really into racing bikes. However, I sign up for quite a few different races because I think that they help provide structure to my riding. I am not into a rigorous detailed training schedule because, let’s be honest, this is bike riding not nuclear psychics. I ride bikes to be healthier and see the unique places where they take me.
Nonetheless, I still participate in races to gauge my fitness and ride new places. Honestly, I go to races with a desire to finish them in good shape and have enough energy to enjoy the after party. But you’ve undoubtedly seen a bonker: distant stare, delusional and often incoherent ramblings about how this has never happened on a training ride, bits of dried gu pukies on the chin, begging for the dregs at the bottom of your pack. It’s no fun bonking during a race. We have all been there. Some are more astute bonkers than others.
I’m Yonkers, and I have been in the dirt lab carefully testing various bonking strategies for years in an effort to keep you upright on race day. Having fallen victim to at least 4 of the strategies below I consider myself an expert in the field. I have lofty goals of seeing you all at the finish line. However, if you want to see what bonking feels like for yourself then do the following:
- Try something new on race day. There are two types of new things that you should try: new gear and a different fuel source.
- Gear: I highly suggest switching bike seats or handlebars, lacing up a new pair of shoes, and/or loading that new hydration backpack up to the zippers. Implementing these new pieces of gear will not feel quite right causing constant readjustments and discomfort. All of this extra unforeseen fatigue will bring you to your knees faster than stick in the spokes.
- You have trained for months at this point. You’ve ingested countless sport-specific snacks with varying degrees of success and indigestion. You’ve chosen the lesser of many evils: enough calories to keep you upright, some metallic “fruit” flavor which you just push down like a midwesterner’s emotions, and a sugar content that has no doubt created a strange stomach callous in order to keep it from ejecting. But in your race bag at packet pick up you have found a cure-all powder that just dissolves in your water bottle…. and look at the end of the expo line-up they have a tent. Why not go sniff around and see if this wonder dust is really all it’s cracked up to be. Turns out that you have no clue where the ingredients of your fuel are sourced from! Also the FDA has not validated any of the health claims of your fuel… Also the amount of sugar in your fuel is essentially high fructose corn syrup, you know that stuff you are eliminating from every single corner of your diet! Thank the endurance gods for sending this mystery powder charlatan to save your race day. Good news, buy 5 bags and the 6th is 25% off! Plus you get a free t-shirt (with a mail-in offer) AND you can put a sticker on your car or helmet AND if someone takes a picture of your sticker and submits it with their next qualifying order they get the 6th bag 50% off and you get a nice little commission which you can use towards your next qualifying order. KEWL so I guess I’m an influencer now!!!! BUY it; bottle it; slug it down at an alarming pace; puke it up an hour later; wish you had not filled all you bottles with it…
- Lie to yourself about your pace. See that racer at the start line? Yeah, you know them. You have seen them at the trailhead. Your Strava times are about equal on a few segments. You should line up next to them. You don’t want to start too far back in the cue and have to claw your way past the other weekend warriors to get to where you rightfully belong. Just push yourself, surely they can’t all keep the leadout pace up for the whole race, right? What’s that saying about burning matches?
- Skip aid stations. Those people there relying on the good of others and the questionable fuel choices they are offering are lessers. They haven’t taken the time to hone their nutrition needs. And besides, altering your caloric intake method would be akin to running gas station fuel into a highly-tuned race car… Wait… how many energy gels do you have left taped to your toptube?
Feel free to try any of the above at home, but for pete’s sake, don’t try them on race day.
I would love to hear your bonk recipes or stories.
C.S. Lewis wrote that “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
I hear the opposite from people all of the time. To tell you the truth, nothing is more upsetting to me than someone with a ‘woe is me’ mentality griping about how downtrodden they are and how “this is just how things are when you get to a certain age.” This reserved-to-mediocrity mindset is fatal and altogether false. I challenge those stuck is this sort of a rut to shake it off and try something new!
The end of the year season is an important time to reflect and plan. While you are setting your intentions for 2020 make sure that some of your plans including learning and trying new things. You’ll be surprised where this may lead you. Develop that business plan and get to work; sign up for a race and start sweating; collect your ideas and put pen to paper on that novel.
I regularly ride my bike down two tracks and snowmobile trails without knowing where I will end up and this has taught me that you are never too far down one path to turn around and try another. Remember that.
So, set those new year intentions and plow ahead. You’ve got this.
A Weekend Warrior’s Lament
The stack of files is towering over my head and my desk chair is really cramping my style on this particular morning. My back and shoulders are super uncomfortable under my pressed white shirt and my tie is cutting off the circulation to my brain. You see, I’ve spent the weekend surfing, riding/racing bikes, and/or fishing. Oh bliss of bliss; having a life full of passions that involve entanglement with the natural world in ways that encourage mastery and conquest while never ceasing to remind you that you are only a mortal. The weekends come and I try my hardest to be wild and rad; to escape, and yet here I sit on an ever widening rear end; back to the grind.
Seventy-two hours ago the texts started rolling in: “4 hours until go time!” “Finally getting out of here!” Pictures of gear jammed into vehicles, grocery cart of weekend fuel, and trail maps blow up all of the phones on the group chat.
The stoke is high. Cars start pulling up and we can all feel the week’s stresses start to ebb away. Crack a beer, eat a coma-inducing meal, more maps, youtube slopestyle videos on the projector, finalize plans, water, bed.
Fourty-eight hours ago we debated the merits of a light breakfast during gear checks and coffee. Toys in tow we head to the trailhead and strap up and prepare to let loose.
It’s go time, the moment that everyone has been waiting for all week. Sure each and everyone of us puts in a few after work laps of some sort but this is the chance to shine. This is the opportunity to not be overworked or crunched for time. Today is the day where we can play ’til our hearts are content. We shred all the gnar; seek out the secret trout spot; and maybe if the wind is right we catch a wave or two.
Twenty-four hours ago I cheerfully whipped up a camp style breakfast of churro crepes and eggs while my wife and friends played with Copper; everyone anxious for one last late morning session.
We all knew what was coming the next day so we pushed ourselves one last time. But Sunday rides are sad. Not like pointless sad, you know? But everyone plays it safe. We make loose plans for the next round of awesomeness (at an undetermined future date), and ease back to the tame, civilized, version of ourselves.
Monday: The lunch hour comes and goes and still my bike rests in the back of my car. Another training opportunity squandered. On top of the missed ride I also smashed a fistful of redvines and another cup of office coffee. Refined sugar and caffeine: great fuel for the after work ride which will serve as a release and reminder of what I am and what I could be.
So what do I do? Well, I certainly don’t quit my day job because no one is going to pay to support a middle of the road weekend warrior’s pursuit of action-adventure sports mediocrity. (If you are willing to do this, and why wouldn’t you be, please slide into my DMs and we can talk).
That leaves one real option: keep giving it hell. We’re not called weekend warriors for nothing. Not only do we train and strain for age group podiums, Strava KOMs, and the well-deserved beer and burritos which follow, but we also have to crush a full-on work week on top of it all.
So instead of a lament, let’s hear a battle cry from all of the weekend warriors out there. Get out there and do your thang you well-adjusted, slightly above-average doers!