My Summer Break

I’ve had four days of varied amount of outdoor experiences. I’ve taken time off from my usual routine of mixing work and the same old recreational routes to open myself up to what can best be described as microadventures, a term I credit to Alistair Humphries, author of one of my favorite books.

Both my sons Lincoln and Arlo are visiting for 5 days with their respective partners, Stephanie and Alanna.  I’m blessed with family members who are adventurous individuals, that are vigorous enough that they can engage in little excursions that pop up as possibilities.

On Thursday, Lincoln and I joined up with a half dozen or so of my mountain biking group, The Bubbas, for a rock and root punctuated couple of hours of pounding the meandering trails built on Ragged Mountain’s Snow Bowl recreation area.

We came, we mounted bikes, we survived!

 

Post Ride Recaps

On Thursday, Alanna, Stephanie, Lincoln, and I went 4.7 miles up Ragged Mountain, from the opposite side of the biking that Lincoln and I did the night before.

Up Ragged from Hope Street

This ascent is challenging as well with a relatively flat run at the beginning, with the trail turning much ore rocky and vertical.

Going up!

Stephanie and Alanna hiked strongly in the lead and went even a bit further than this map indicates, and actually made it to the Ragged’s summit tower.   Lincoln and I explored  this view when we hung out for a short while waiting for Steph and Alanna to come down from the actual summit.

Northwest view form Ragged ledges

Swimming and hanging at camp was a welcome break from the heat and humidity.

On Saturday, Lincoln and I went fishing.  In 2008, my friend Mike Gundel and I shared a canoe on our early season 8 day thru-paddle of  Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Check out that story and view photos here.  The theme of that adventure was, “The Russians are coming!”

Mike is a Maine Guide who specializes in fishing.  He was available on short notice and provided the canoes, rods, and tackle we needed to catch largemouth bass.  What are the chances that Mike chose to take us fishing on one of the bodies of water that are depicted in the Ragged ledge panorama depicted above ?

We met Mike at the put in at 7 AM, where the next four hours flew by as Mike guided us around the lake to where we actually caught fish!   I caught three fish, including a largemouth that was eyeballed in the 3.5 pound range.

 

Bang!

My 4 day run of fun included an outdoor wedding on the ocean shore in Tenants Harbor that took up Saturday after noon and late into the night.  Marcia and I made the wedding but had to pass on the revelry at the reception.

The next morning, folks were sleeping in. I decided to make the usual Bubba Church Sunday morning mountain bike ride,  again up Ragged Mountain with a different route than Thursday night’s ride. It was the most humidity I’ve ever remembered on a ride, some 96%.  I left the parking lot and went up 15 minutes before the rest of the group started and decided to keep going at one of the designated intersections, due to unrelenting assault by mosquitoes.  I tried to relay my plan via  text to one of the guys but my fingers, phone screen, and every piece of cloth that I had on my body, and even in the pockets of my day pack were saturated and I couldn’t make the screen respond to input.

I left them this message of sorts.   Uncle Tom is my rail name-  has been since 2007:

Trail talk

Just before I took off I heard bikes clattering and surging through the rocky, rooted trail and we all descended the ext downhill on the slops:  the G5 Connector, where I ended up flatting my rear tire.  After I put a tube in the tire, I put my air pump to the task but that  had to wait until I was able to reattach the pump’s air hose, which never happened before!

It’s been quite a different four days for me- this stretch this of mid-August microadventures- one that I’ll repeatedly appreciate as I fall under the spell of euphoric recall !

My 2018 Mileage Goals: MET ! YEAH !

Yesterday was one of my big days for 2018- the day when I finally  amassed 2000+ miles, balancing out half the miles on foot with the other half on one of my bikes.  Total hours spent hiking and biking was 506,  averaging one hour and 22 minutes a day.  I target about 75 minutes  of moderate to robust action a day.   If there are days where I am too tired to get out or I don’t feel up to it, I have to make up the time on another day, usually on the weekends.

Here are the Strava screenshots summarizing my achievements:

1,013 miles on foot
1,002 miles on a bicycle

Here’s a 2016 blog post about how I came to walk 1,000 miles in Maine a couple of years ago.

Some things that helped me meet my goals:

a)  I was injury free this year.  No crashes on my bike, where 95% of my bike miles are off road!  It is to the point now that if I get thrown off the bike, onto one of my bad shoulders, I’m a month off the bike.

b)  I was in good health all year, avoiding even a cold.

c)  I use a 2 minute daily heart rate variability measurement upon awakening every morning.  These days I’m using the Elite HRV App on my iPhone.  I’ve also switched from putting a cold heart rate chest strap to a CorSense heart rate variability sensor.

Here’s a blog post bout how I use the daily reading to gauge my recovery status, which guides how hard I plan to work out on any particular day.

d)  Get social.  According to Strava’s analysis of factors that contribute to increased time spent engaging in physical activity, there are just two factors that lead to increased activity and help athletes stay active longer: goal setting and working out with someone.  Read more about that here.

I’m strongly motivated by riding or hiking in a group.

Sunday morning with The Bubbas in the Woods.  A fine congregation !

Two to three times a week I ride with the Bubbas in the Woods, 33 members strong and riding year round on Midcoast Maine trails for the past 30+ years.

It’s pounding rain right now, with 2-3 ” predicted to wash away the foot of snow that has recently fallen here in the past week.  Maybe it will dry out enough so that I can fit in a ride in the woods Sunday morning.   I’m cruising into the last few days of 2018, feeling pretty smug but the way things turned out for me in 2018.

Consider getting friendly with a hiker or a hiker and give the 1,000 miles a year thing a go of it in 2018!

 

 

 

 

Slogging out Maine Miles in November

November is a tough month to ride a mountain bike in Maine.

Connector from Norton Pond to Megunticook Lake

I enjoy exiting my garage to ride single track, active as well as discontinued snowmobile trails, along the edges of fields, and up and over some ancient stone walls. What makes all of this tougher right now is deer hunting season, where Mainers deck themselves out in blaze orange, and hunt from dawn to dusk in the hopes of shooting a sizable deer, which can go a long way in filling up the freezer, mostly for venison stew. This year, rifle season runs from October 29 to November 24. Two more days are left. I stay out of the woods throughout November except for Sundays when there is no hunting allowed.

We had two  half foot snowfalls here this past week, making for good hunting conditions, due to the ability to track deer activity through the snow cover. The first soft snows are not so good for biking in the woods. The ground is barely frozen, and some  hunters get around in the woods on all terrain vehicles, heading in and out to their camps and tree stands on land they own or have permission to use and they rut up the back woods.

Rigger grinding through muck

With all the rain we’ve had this past month, riding off-road is mostly weaving in and out of ruts, seeking out solid sections of ground, and dodging black pools of questionable depths of icy water that has not yet frozen solid enough to ride over.

This calendar year, Stevie, one of the members of our loosely-knit mountain biking group dubbed The Bubbas, has been in hot pursuit of a major offload goal for any off-road rider- amassing 2,500 non-pavement miles in 2018. Stevie lives on the edge of The Rockland/Thomaston Bog and can, on any given day, crank out a 12 mile out and back route to put toward his lofty mileage goal. It’s also nice country in there, when it is not churned up  like it was today.

My Ice Cream Truck will follow Rigger left of this mess

Ten Bubbas, including two women, met at Stevie’s this past Suday morning, to stitch together a route, with Stevie’s first tracks as a guide all the way out to our eventual turn around point at Split Rock. With ten riders’ fat-tire tracks running back and forth within a foot wide width of trail, we were build up a packed track for some future rides.

I ride with clipped pedals in spring, summer, and fall, and switch to flat pedals and regular winter boots for the winter. They are a full size larger than I need, which allows me to insert chemical heat packs when it is below freezing out. After about a half hour of riding today, my left pedal broke apart, so I was forced to complete the ride on the slippery metal axle. It worked out, and I was repeatedly thankful that the axle held, and that I didn’t have to hike a bike miles back to the car.

Even with being careful in getting through the wetter sections, I did get one boot under water, and had a cold foot for the rest of the morning. I had good energy today, which was consistent with the results of  thoday’s  heart rate variability reading right after I woke up this morning. My mountain biking mileage goals are more moderate that Steve’s,  with just 1,000 for my year.

My Garmin eTrex30 GPS flubbed today so I copied  Rigger’s Strava feed to record those miles. I’m up to 919 miles of biking with just 81 more miles left to complete before New Year’s.  Those miles are much harder to snag in November !

Rigger on ice in The Bog (2014)

Another Crash

I had hit my chest, ribs, and shoulder hard as I ever did before. The sudden pain that I felt lying face down on the single track caused me to scream wordlessly several times. Blaine had been riding his bike just fifty feet ahead of me on Chris McKearney’s Trail in the Rockland Bog. Blaine backtracked to assist me as I laid face down moaning, and  encouraged me to collect myself and take time getting up. Everything had happened so fast. I recall two immediate thoughts: I didn’t hit my head and no bones seemed broken.

Mudded up Ice Cream Truck

I was apart from my Surly Ice Cream Truck so my winter boot cleats must of released upon impact.  Blaine remarked that the rubber o-ring on my Bluto fork indicated that it had compressed to maximum travel. I was a hurting unit.

The crash happened at the end of a Saturday morning ride, which was not my usual weekend mountain biking schedule. Normally, I ride at 9:30 every Sunday morning with The Bubbas-a tight group of bike nuts that have banded together to ride three times a week, year round, for the past couple decades or more.

I decided to ride with Blaine and Monica because a snowstorm was predicted for Saturday night into Sunday, with a range of 4-8 inches forecasted for the area. Even though I have five-inch-wide lugged Flowbeist/Dunderbeist tires on my bike, I’ve put in enough winter riding to know that 5 inches or more of fresh power might not be very pleasant to move through. Clear ground on Saturday was my choice.

Except that winter Midcoast Maine trails  can suck.

Landowner might be pissed

Most of the leaves that had fallen off the hardwood trees had been blown off the path. Wet (and slippery) bare roots were running across the ground, as were the rocks, ledges, the moss, slimy lichens, and the sticks and branches that fly up and can get jammed into the drive train. The usual stuff for this time of year.

I need to listen to the quiet tiny voice in my head that knows better than me when to back off. I ignored three quiet warnings yesterday.The first message came in the form of my Saturday morning heart rate variability (HRV) measurement. HRV is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. My iPhone holds the app, which links to a heart rate chest strap for a three minute collection of HRV data.

HRV screen

HRV is becoming a useful tool for not only tracking the training adaptation of athletes, but for gauging the body’s readiness for pushing or backing off the intensity of training sessions. Mine was down some 20 points from my usual status, indicating that it was sub-optimal, suggesting that I engage in a more moderate level of physical intensity for the day.

The second message that I ignored was contained in my morning iChing reading.

According to Bill Scheffel, ”The I Ching, arguably humanity’s oldest book, conveys a wisdom that requires no belief, is not part of any organized system or religion and comes to us as a kind of DNA of how we experience time and its events and ourselves as a unique matrix of energy.” My hexagram suggested that, “We are not meant to memorize a path then slavishly follow it.” Which leads to the last message I ignored.

Monica, Blaine, and I were resting a bit at the entrance to McKearney’s Loop on the way back to my car. I was sipping water from my Camelback when Monica said, “ I think I am going to pass. You guys can go and I’ll wait right here for you. I’m beat.” I was also fatigued at that point, at the end of a decent ride where my heart rate was at or above 145 beats per minute for 53% of the 7.7 mile ride.

So, a couple days after the crash  I’m here packing ice on my shoulder and ribs and intermittently dosing with ibuprofen. I’m hoping the throbbing will settle down for the holidays so that I can get back on the bike and share the local trails with my two sons, Lincoln and Arlo, who will be in from Montana and San Francisco for a bit.

It’s so hard for me to listen to inner counsel, but with 500 combined hours of biking and hiking in 2017 so far, and just one serious bike and one bad backing fall this calendar year I think I am not going to beat myself up too much about it. Even so, I am presently acutely aware that so much can happen in just one second.

I already have my New Year’s resolution ready to go. For insurance I plan to tell my hiking and biking buddies to remind about it.

Why is backing off so difficult ?

A Most Pleasant First Trail Ride on Mount Pleasant (2017 version)

The first 2017 group ride with The Bubba to the top of Mount Pleasant in the Warren/West Rockport area had it all- mud, ice, stream riding, and even more snow than expected.  The approach from Route 90 departed from the old parking lot at East Coast Rover’s now defunct location, newly recycled as another car/truck repair facility.  Thanks to Bubba management for gaining permission for us to park there after work hours.

I was very pleased with my ride today- the most successful technical excursion up and down Pleasant ever for me.

Very pleasant on top today.

Atlantic Ocean overlook

Not only did I clear the challenge of ascending Baby Head Hill, I was finally able to loft the front end of my Surly Ice Cream Truck up a pesky little ledge on the section from the Three Way op to the power line after the screaming descent off the summit.

Here is a video of the crew maintaining a controlled skid on the steep, rock-strewn line off the summit itself. 

Today, it might have even helped to have stable ice and refrozen snow smoothing out the trail a bit.  The Bubbas take climbing in stride- in fact if you can’t tolerate climbing forest trails in this part of Maine, you’ll stay home.  S

See?

Veloviewer/Strava connection of this ride

Most of the Bubbas carry folding saws in our packs.  We clear trails as we go, especially this time of year.

Craig Nelson and Nate sawing up fallen tree while John Anders supervises.

Later, we transitioned to riding up the stream that put us on the backside of the mountain just below the blueberry field that set us up for the finish of the ride.

This last wet climb set up a relatively long decent that was a fitting ending to a spring day blissfully absent of the impending blackflies, mosquitoes, and heat.

A most Pleasant morning was spent at my personal Sunday Church of Two Wheels.

Riding Ragged

“The graying of The Bubbas,”  is real.  Nate said it.

It was humid and the roots were just a bit slimy and slick, but it wasn’t a problem for nineteen Bubbas in The Woods this past Sunday morning.  We broke some kind of  record for attendance today with the help of additional folks like 73 year old Rhode Island Bruce pushing us along.

Our special guest today was Carol, who came up Massachusetts up to Midcoast Maine to “ride Bubba”  again. And here’s Carol herself, front and center as we celebrate her riding with us today.

Carol, front and center !
Carol, front and center !

We’ve been at if for decades, and with the advent of modern bike technology, there’s hardly a frame breaking all season. It’s even a rare event to even have “a mechanical” anymore.  Maybe a broken chain, or a flat, but that is about it.
We ride out of habit. We ride to rack up those Strava PR’s (Personal Records).

The Ride
The Ride

We ride to commiserate on the climbs.  We ride to get our weight down. We ride to sip beers tailgating in the parking lots. We ride to be with other riders.

I’m riding still because I can.

Fat Tire Bikes Are Not Just For Snow

I prefer to ride my fat tire bike right now, leaving my full suspension 29″  Santa Cruz Tallboy and my converted Diamondback Apex “road” bike in the garage.

Why?  Because each and every bike has a personality and a bike’s personality speaks to the rider in a special language.

Do read Rebecca Rusch’s one page submission from Dirt Rag #189, just like I did this fine Maine morning.

Illustration by Chris Escobar
Illustration by Chris Escobar

Here it is:  RUSCH JOB: ZEN AND THE ART OF FAT BIKING | Rebecca Rusch .” Fat biking is not a fad. It’s here to stay and has opened the doors to a whole new…”

While Rush’s article reflects her impressions of riding on snow, it captures the essence of moving through the wooded trails here in Midcoast Maine, anytime of year.  There a bit more calmness to “riding fat”, as The Bubbas call it.  For me, at my age and stage of life,  riding on 5 inch wide tires sporting 5 pounds of pressure at 5 mph is fine.  I’m riding difficult trail sections that were impossible for me to clear on 2″ tires.  I don’t steer and aim so much when riding fat.  I let the bike slide and hop a bit until it finds it’s own line.  It’s intuitive rather than calculated.  These same trails are seen differently.  I like to notice that.

It’s been hot and humid here, since I have returned from hiking the Portugese Camino this June.  It’s still cool out here at 6:45 AM on this fine summer day, and I’m free to enjoy it right now.

I’m heading out the door to swing my leg over my Surly Ice Cream Truck right now : out the door, over the hay fields, rocky streams, and onto the snowmobile trails that I keep open to ride up and around Moody Mountain.   I’m happy to be riding fat again this morning.

IMG_0013

 

Midcoast Maine Fat Biking: Ride Local, Ride Often !

Hosmer Pond Jan. 2015
Ian and Buck on Hosmer Pond-  Jan. 2015

The real deal is never the same as the ideal.
Take fat-tire bikes for example.

Advertised as the children of snowy Alaska’s Iditabkes, these newly minted cash cows of the shape-shifter bike industry have a magical draw when they are viewed in real life, as opposed to in magazine ads or Instagram photographs. Fatbiking in Alaska The bikes themselves are borderine cartoonish.

Hoar frost holds up the Pugsley
Hoar frost holds up the Pugsley

With blocky, simple frame lines, it’s the wheels, no – the tires themselves, ballooning out to five inches in width that elicit broad smiles, and then chuckles on first sight.  Then you eventually ride one, and that chuckle becomes a laugh and you are hooked.

Except you don’t float like “a magic carpet on wheels” over just any old snowscape.  Snows of up to a couple, three inches are not even worth discussing.  The bike goes. However, once the snow gets to be about 5” deep the magic of riding these chunkers fades and we enter the world of sweat, work, and subsequent exhaustion.

Pace line over Coleman Pond
Buck, Andre, and Erik riding over frozen Coleman Pond in 2015

At least it is possible to move with a fattie under you, but once you enter deeper snow this happens: you pedal and then experience the disappointment of being propelled forward for a meager distance. The promised magic morphs into a grunt.

Which is not generally a problem for me. I have the 100% package of the Polish suffering gene, which propels me well into longer periods of low level leg work.

A  friend of mine just bought a Surly Pugsley. He was surprisingly frustrated that it took hard work to pedal the thing in 5” of snow.

The winter track beneath a bike is best experienced when someone or something has packed puffy snow down.

Love that tractor!
Love that tractor tread!

The packing hierarchy goes like this, from best downward:  snowmobile, 4WD truck tread, ATV tread, snowshoe tracks, ski tracks, footprints, and the occasional winter game trail.

So, we pack our own trails to ride on the snow. Last Saturday, I spent the morning helping my next door neighbor Matt cut out an overgrown discontinued snow mobile trail.

Matt had a full compliment of gear, that we hauled into the woods for the morning:  chain saw, limb trimmer, axe, files, rope, even a stump vise.

Matt and the gear heading into the woods
Matt and the gear heading into the woods

Years ago, the winter landscape around this part of town was punctuated with the sounds of snowmobiles, day and night.  Not so much anymore.  Times have changed- the snows are often slim, and when there is snow on the ground, many of the locals pack up their sleds into enclosed trailers and head up north to Jackman or Rangeley to ride the snowmobile superhighways that make Quebec an easy haul.

So, we cut away a path for our bikes, and then walk them a bit , and then ride them some more until they are in a state where forward motion is not only possible, but productive.

The moral of this story is find some folks who do regularly ride winter trails where you live and make an effort  to contribute to packing a better path for those that will follow.

 Bubba ride from Jan. 2014
Bubba ride from Jan. 2014

Right now in Midcoast Maine, that’s the Rockland Bog.

Rockland Bog Trails from Bog. Rd.
Rockland Bog Trails from Bog. Rd.- Photo from John Anders

The network of trails at the bottom of the Rollins Road in Camden is now fast, but a bit icy at the start.

Snow Bowl lot to Rollins Rd. trails
Snow Bowl lot to Rollins Rd. trails – John Anders photo

Word has it that Camden Hills State Park is getting good and that Tanglewood 4H Camp is ridable but I plan to personally checked those out his week.

And then there’s this project I am working on with my nest door neighbor, Matt. Hopefully, we’ll turn that into something good.

Ride Local, Ride Often!

First Fat Ride in 2016

BubbasinBogTen riders set out the morning of January 1 to kick off the first day of The Bubbas’ 2016 mountain bike riding season.

Weather conditions from the top of the ground up were perfect for January: temps around freezing, sunny patches on the ground, blue skies, no wind. If you didn’t wear too much today, you would be warm and dry, without feeling too much like the rolly-polly Michelin man.

However, from the top of the snow down to muddy earth below, the conditions were not as good.

People hear about “snow bikes” running on 4-inch and even 5-inch wide low PSI pressure tires and assume that anytime there is snow on the ground you can get out there and have a magic floating experience. Not really.

Take this morning for instance. As we started the ride the air temperature rose above freezing. What was solid and grippy underneath before the sun did its thing started getting soft and mushy- the snow started loosening up. Translation–>I’m puting out twice as much physical effort to move through 4″ of snow that is loose than if it were packed and refrozen.

Here’s a video of one of our most excellent Bubba riders, Ian, making the Bog entrance segment look easy when it really wasn’t. Notice the sideways front end throw and the correction at 0:04.  Upper body  engagement is the hallmark difference between summer and winter riding in these parts.

Nowhere is the riding experience between a stationary bike (think Spinning) and riding outdoors on an actual trail so pronounced as it is under these conditions. The upper body and lower back are engaging repeatedly, in order for forward movement to occur.

Here’s some info about my personal experience today on my Strava. The distance/moving time/elevation/suffer score tells it all. Wearing a heart rate chest strap today, I was pleased to see that my average heart rate was close to 100 beats higher per minute for the whole ride than is my normal resting pulse rate. The 400 calorie measure was definitely an underestimate.      :

screenshot 10

I’ve ridden this loop over 100 times, and it still brings me great pleasure to move through these woods.

By the look on Blaine’s face,  he’s enjoying it as well.

Periennially photogenic Blaine.
Perennially photogenic Blaine.

The day was fun.  It was tougher than usual out there, but as someone says on every one of these rides, “It sure beats the couch.”

Here is Nate the Great heading out.

I’m definitely coming back here on Sunday, where we’ll see the benefit of 10 riders who took the time to pack a fast, solid track today.

Definitely a happy New Year.

Bubbas Riding The Bog – Dec. 26

Wierd warm weather brings me teetering to the cusp of 2016.
I can’t ever remember riding my mountain bike through the midcoast Maine woods and waters when it was this warm. It’s sweet calm today at fifty-seven degrees, windless, with blue skies.
I ride bikes with a regular dozen and a-half of local mountain bikers- The Bubbas.  We’ve been at it for thirty years, riding year round except for hard rain or most snowstorms.

This time of year, riding might involve the whole gamut of weather from dusty dry in the summer, to a winter like last when record breaking feet of snow made the snow-covered trail more difficult to move through.  In typical winters, multiple layers of lesser snowfalls thaw and refreeze, resulting in a much firmer tread underneath.

It’s my first pain free ride since October 6, the date of my first night ride of the cold season.  On that dark evening, I pulverized the skin of the top of my left shin when my bike threw me sideways while I was riding across a fairly shallow, but rocky stream. There was a loose layer of freshly fallen leaves obscuring the true nature of the nasty path underneath.

I learned two valuable lessons that next morning.
First, if you need to close a wound, you better get it stitched within an 8 hour window, a medical fact that least one emergency room doctor cited in his decision to leave my wound open. However, I was sent home with with enough really big band-aids, extra gauze, and enough leukotape to fill a paper bag. Second lesson: “Scabs that are really vast, deep, and wide may stick around for almost 3 months.”

There were six of us riding in the Rockland Bog today, with five of us on fat tire bikes and Buck on his 29er. My Surly Pugsley is grinding into its 6th season this spring, and churn it did today, through black pools of thick, cold water with various depths of mud underneath.  Here’s an example of a wet area here in The Bog.

At the end of this post, you’ll see this 100 foot bridge in action.

I kept the rubber on the ground today, and rode well enough to get my third best time heading up The Bog Road Climb.

Sometimes it’s wiser to walk than ride. Here’s Craig and Rigger walking a stream today.

Stream Crossing on The Highland in the Bog
Stream Crossing on The Highland in the Bog

On these group rides I often ride behind Rigger.

Rigger- ready, and in control.
Rigger- ready, and in control.

Rigger is known for steadily getting through mud, tough climbs, and impossibly rocky twists. He sometimes lifts his bike to fly when he launches off a ledge’s lip on a steep downhill.

Signing off with a video of Rigger and Craig riding that bridged section that Chris McKearney built so well.

Eight to twelve inches of snow is predicted tomorrow. While the terrain will be dramatically different in a whiter shad of pale, we’ll definitely be back at it again.   Soon, I hope.