• Category Archives the sporting life
  • Biking, running, weights, yoga…

  • A Win Is A Win

    Remember how I said my only New Year’s resolution was to ride more this year? Well, procrastination FTW: I just got out for the first ride of the year today… Out along the towpath, taking pictures of old locks and industrial ruins. Cold but sunny, it was a pretty nice day for a ride, even though the ground was mushy in places and there were headwinds on the way home, and it felt really good to be riding.

    By the way, tomorrow is the big Chili Contest in Easton. I’ll be meeting Eric and his neighbor George there, and maybe Doug and Lori, and I expect to see a whole bunch of the old Easton crowd as well. I just may get up early and do a short run before going over, but as they say, we shall see.


  • Therefore Let It Be Resolved

    Well, the holidays are over, presents unwrapped, toasts drunk and the house guests have all gone home, now it’s time to assess the past year and plan for the coming one…

    I have only one resolution for 2017: I will ride my bike a lot more than I did last year. I mean, last year was kind of pathetic, even after accounting for my July mishap.

    monthly exercise column chart for 2016
    Here we see the ugly truth.

    I have to say though, that this is mileage, and miles don’t tell the whole story: my best and most enjoyable rides (other than June’s long Jim Thorpe solo ride) were those camping trips in Jim Thorpe and Bald Eagle, and the big Fall group MTB rides — and on those rides I mostly held my own, I was nowhere near as out of shape as I feared. (I won’t show it here, but I just looked it up, and my saddle time last year was almost double my 2015 and 2014 times. For what it’s worth…)

    Anyway, my resolution is to ride more.

    These aren’t resolutions, but here are some other things I want to be a part of my life in 2017:

    • Get a better grip on my finances
    • Pick up the cello again
    • Learn a few computer-assisted design things (mapping, 3D CAD, the web)
    • And finally, I want to find a niche in the gig economy, something to bring in some pin money

    I’m already on my way for all but the last, but for that one I’m still not sure what I might want to do or how to make it happen.


  • Winterizing

    I got in a towpath ride this afternoon, and one on Friday as well. Both of them were short versions — now that the day ends earlier, I really have to get myself out earlier in the day — and both of them involved at least a little bit of snow. I felt pretty good on each, not too cold except my face at the very start. It really feels like winter is here, and I think I’m ready.


  • That Fit Feeling

    We did a run this morning and some errands later, so there was no bike ride for me today — maybe tomorrow, when the weather will be better, if a bit colder than today. Meantime, we hit the weights yesterday, including squats…

    I woke up this morning sore, mostly my biceps and upper back: recovery, prostaglandins, the usual fallout I guess. I also have been finding myself needing a bit more sleep in general lately — I’ve also been a bit of a night owl recently though, and that may be why mornings are drifting later, but I suspect that it’s my typical reaction to heavier exercise: I need a lot more sleep.

    By the way, WXPN is playing their entire song library, from A to Z. They’re deep into the L’s right now, and I’m jamming out to Gary Wright’s “Love is Alive,” super loud — the truth is, I’ve had it cranked since “Louie Louie.” My soul’s like a wheel that’s turning…

    Now they’re playing “Love Is All Around” by the Troggs.


  • An Old Standard

    Here’s a little something about last Sunday’s ride:

    Me, Renee, Scott, and a few friends of Renee from the Poconos, good people and a good ride. We followed a pretty old-school route, except a few choices just towards the last singletrack. One take-away: dropping the seat while riding through the rock gardens made all the difference.

    I’ve been doing yoga, running, and lifting this week, but that was the last time I rode. It’s been cold and wet, but tomorrow may be nice.


  • Blast From The Past

    Among my more prized possessions is a book called Indian Paths of Pennsylvania, by Paul A. Wallace. I was struck by a sudden enthusiasm the other day, and wanted to take a look at something in it, but could not find the book — I tore the house apart but it was nowhere to be found. Along the way though, I did manage to run across one of my first MTB guide books, Joe Surkiewicz‘s The Mountain Biker’s Guide to Central Appalachia. This was a book that I got more than 20 years ago, one of several I bought in my early, “explorer” phase, long before GPS or online maps, and though I used it mainly for Pocahontas County (West Virginia), and Michaux State Forest here in PA, there were a few other trails and areas I checked out, including a ride I did once in Bald Eagle State Forest.

    This Bald Eagle ride started from a trailhead off of I-80, and I mean immediately off I-80, at an exit that ended with a Forest Service parking area. It was the strangest Interstate exit I’d ever seen. (I remember the author also found this “inexplicable” exit notable.) This odd trailhead actually was the only part of the ride that made an impression on me: although I had fun — and saw a bear up close too, which luckily ran from me because my brakes were so squeaky — I spent most of my time semi-lost, and the trails I saw really didn’t excite me. I never went back.

    Fast forward about 5-10 years, and I bought another MTB guide, this one of Pennsylvania, from local author Rob Ginieczki. It quickly became one of my favorite guide books, mainly because the author’s ideas about trail characteristics and quality closely matched my own. I trusted his assessments, and I made a point of checking out as many of his recommended rides as I could, including one he listed as “Cowbell Hollow” — a 29-mile loop starting from R.B. Winter State Park, over mixed jeep roads and singletrack, whose high points are Cowbell Hollow Trail and Top Mountain Trail. It is now one of my favorite “destination” rides, and for years I made a point of putting together a group ride there once or twice a year. (Unfortunately, I was not able to make it out to these two on my most recent visits, though I did get to discover a whole bunch of similarly awesome trails a bit further west.) One thing caught my eye though — every drive out to R.B. Winter, I’d go past what I could swear was that crazy exit on I-80, just east of the R.B. Winter exit.

    Fast forward another 10+ years to just the other day, when I unearthed that first guide book. Since we had been up in that part of the state recently, I immediately thought of that ride with the trailhead on I-80… I flipped open the guide, found the ride with the “inexplicable Interstate exit,” and the loop was basically Cowbell Hollow and Top Mountain Trail.

    Well I’ll be jiggered.


  • Ride Ride Ride

    I was sick last week, Wednesday and Thursday, and then Friday was a travel day — I camped out over the weekend, near R.B. Winter State Park, at the BEMBA “Jamboree” — but since then I…

    • rode 25 miles of Bald Eagle State Forest trails at the Jamboree on Saturday,
    • rode another (almost) 20 Jamboree miles on Sunday,
    • did a short Sals ride with Anne on Monday morning,
    • did another short Sals ride with Anne on Tuesday morning,
    • rode Lehigh with Rich and Greg on Tuesday afternoon (I got tired and bailed),
    • did Nox with Anne and Mike on Wednesday, and
    • rode Mauch Chunk Ridge — including Bob’s Option, for the first time in maybe 10 years — this morning.

    We caught some overnight rain at the Jamboree, but overall the weather has been sunny, especially down our way. This makes for beautiful riding days, but our local trails are starting to dry out, getting dusty and scrabbly and generally showing the strain. We have a few more days of sun before storms hit, but I’m feeling the strain myself, and tomorrow is a well-deserved rest day — I left my gym bag in the Mauch Chunk Lake parking lot; the boat rental people grabbed it for me so we’re going back up tomorrow to get it, and we’ll make lemonade from the situation by renting kayaks. Saturday we’ll ride out to the Velodrome and cheer Anne’s brother Joe at the first ‘cross race of the season.

    Colors are just on the verge of changing, and some leaves have already started to fall, and I just heard some geese, through the open window as they flew past. Autumn is about to drop.


  • A Grand Experiment

    I love my Garmin, but the  map it came with was horrible, so I replaced it with one from OpenStreetMap. (This is not news; I got the map years ago.) The process is tedious but pretty simple: there are sites you go to, and you pick what parts of the world you want a map of, then they do some data processing and email you to let you know when you can download your map file. The files are huge, like 3-4 GB for the one I got for North America, and they take a while to process and even longer to download. But once you have the file, you just put it on a micro-SD card, stick it in your GPS, and voilà — a much better map!

    Maybe it was the choice of map file I made back then, or maybe OpenStreetMap back then was less complete, but my map didn’t have many offroad trails. I didn’t feel the lack too sorely, since on most of my offroad rides I already know where I am, but after the last big ride — when I had become a bit lost — I looked at our path on the latest OpenStreetMap cycling map, and I saw all the trails through the strip mines — singletrack, jeep road and all. Boy, wouldn’t that have been nice to have on the ride! I also noticed that all the trails on Broad Mountain are now on the map, including the “secret singletrack.” I’ve done a couple of (road) rides recently, where I mapped out a course online and then downloaded it to the Garmin and used its routing features, “turn left onto Main Street in 100 yards” etc, to follow my course, and I thought that it would be a great thing to try routing with an offroad ride. The only thing I’d need would be routable trail maps…

    My understanding of the Garmin 810 is that multiple maps can be installed and enabled, and I’d been reading up on how to make the Garmin maps. (For years I thought it would be a cool project to make small custom maps of local trail systems, either standalone or as add-ons to a base map, but other than some re-purposing of GPX tracks I never really pursued it.) I didn’t feel like going through the process of downloading another huge (updated) map of North America from that map service again, but generating much smaller add-on maps myself, using OpenStreetMap data and the same software the original map service used, seemed to be fairly straightforward, and I could make a smaller updated file to add to my base map.

    So that’s exactly what I did: I downloaded the data for a region around Jim Thorpe and saved it on my machine, then ran a Java program called “mkgmap” to create the map file. Installed it on my Garmin, and voilà — the trails were there! I then created a course online, following some Broad Mountain trails I know well, and arranged to go riding with Rich B.

    Results were mixed. Our ride was great, but the downloaded route beeped an error message while loading and would not do any routing, though it would show the route on the map, and would indicate if we went off course. I got home and found that I’d compiled the map without routing capabilities, so I recompiled and reloaded my new map; it still awaits testing since I don’t get up to Jim Thorpe in a very regular basis.

    Meantime, I thought I’d make a similar map for the trails at Lake Nockamixon, since I did have immediate plans to ride there. I drew up a course to follow (which worked fine), and compiled a map of the Nockamixon area, but this new map would not display on, or even be recognized by, my GPS. I tried making a few other maps, but the only one that ever worked was the original Jim Thorpe one, and I have no idea why. I eventually got so frustrated that I went out and bought a new micro-SD card, and re-downloaded the map of North America, a process that took about six hours (though I wasn’t actually present for most of it).

    My next offroad ride will include a test of the trail routing capability of my new map. It better work.

    (Just as an aside: my resting heart rate this morning was 49 BPM.)


  • Jim Thorpe: A Sunday Ride

    I carpooled up with Renee E yesterday, and we met Hope M at the small parking area where Flagstaff Road meets Lentz Trail Highway. The plan, at Hope’s suggestion, was to ride “Twin Peaks” — a pretty old-school name for an old-school ride, basically up Flagstaff to do Mauch Chunk Ridge, then into Summit Hill to pick up the singletrack through the old strip mines on Pisgah Mountain. I think Hope wanted to see what the old trails looked like, or even of they were still there. Her use of the term “Twin Peaks” told me she was familiar with the area as it was Back In The Day, but I don’t think Renee had ever been on Mauch Chunk Ridge, though she’d been on rides through the strip mines.

    (I’d been in the strippings on Pisgah, or at least portions of it, as recently as this year, and had done the full ride at least once last summer, but it has been years, possibly as many as 10 years, since I’d been on Mauch Chunk Ridge. Much of the area where the singletrack used to be has come under multiple attempts at development — someone bulldozing a bit and trying to sell lots before shutting down operations — so it was likely that the most interesting parts were long gone.)

    Anyway, here was our ride:

    We had a good ride, and it was a lot of fun with a few adventurous parts, but I’ll say it now: Mauch Chunk Ridge, the ride, no longer exists in the form we used to know. It was hard to look at what had been done: forest turned into “scenic overlook” meadows, old singletrack trails buldozed into wide walking paths… I remember so many good times up there, with people who are now long gone from my life, and even from this world; I prefer the unspoilt memories, and don’t think I ever need go up there again.

    We skipped Bob’s Option and continued on the fire road at the top of the ridge to the end, and descended (or tried to) via the powerline trail, and from there we took the road into Summit Hill  and picked up the singletrack behind the cemetery. We actually took the Rim rather than the Ridge Trail, then ended up on a much-damaged Green Blaze Trail (ATV’s). From that point on, we were relying on my trail expertise…

    I eventually made a wrong turn and got us lost, but kept my mouth shut about it, and fortunately we were soon back in familiar territory. Good thing too, because it was raining pretty hard by this point. Down the hill to the Switchback, over the cave crossing, and back to the cars for a total of almost five hours, and almost 25 miles.

    This was a fun ride, the woods were beautiful, and Renee and Hope are both great company on a bike ride, but in the end I’d have to characterize this one as “bittersweet.”

    UPDATE: I looked through my GPS tracks, and the last time I rode Green Blaze was the spring of 2011, the time with Anne when we rode among the mountain laurel and the locust brood. Five years… it seems like yesterday. How long since Mauch Chunk Ridge? My GPS records only go back to 2009, and there’s nothing. I’m fairly sure I rode it at the last Mountain Bike Weekend in 2005, so that’s probably my last time up there.


  • Leg (and Bike) Update

    So as a follow-up: I managed to not only have my knee banged up from cycling, but I also managed to walk into a gas meter at the sidewalk just outside a house. I kicked it, hard, at shin-level… It hurt worse than the knee, and eventually became infected. The knee suffered a torn meniscus by the way, which needed to have fluid drained and a cortisone shot; the shin needed antibiotics and an ultrasound at the hospital, to check for blood clots (there were none). Really, a banner week for me.

    The shin is pretty much healed at this point though, and the infection is gone, and the knee is also feeling better: I have much less trouble walking, and — when I haven’t been on my feet too long — stairs are not a problem. Luckily, the orthopedist told me that cycling is good for it, so I’ve been doing a lot of “knee rehab” on the towpath, getting more and more used to the new bike. I also set the seat height and position better, and put on a slightly longer stem, and the bike now feels much more comfortable, and rides much better. I took it out Sunday for some time at Jacobsburg, and it quickly became awesome.

    I tried running yesterday. Verdict: nope. Too much pain, and the knee stayed painful for quite a while afterward. Luckily, I was meeting Rich B at Jacobsburg, and my only way to get there was to ride — I ended up doing about 38 miles total. Knee feels great today, though the rest of me needed a two-hour nap yesterday when I got home. I’ll be going down the towpath to Easton this afternoon, for some Delaware Canal volunteer work, so I think I’ll be getting in some more “rehab.”

    And just to throw it out there: I haven’t weighed myself in a while, but I was 177.5# and 11% body fat yesterday, 20-25 pounds lighter than in January, and the first time below 180 in years.