Category Archives: road

Transportation as training: riding from SLO to LA in one day

Just showing that it was cold enough to wear gloves!

Last Tuesday evening, as I sat in a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and wrote about my train ride and upcoming bike ride from SLO to LA, I could feel the sickness I had been fighting for days creeping up. I was in denial, but by the time I met up with Mike at the train station I knew it was upon me.  As mentioned, I ate vegan Thai and even though I brought him some, we were still hungry enough for post-dinner burritos. Carb loading? Not that it did any good because at 5am I awoke with a very unhappy stomach. Let’s just say there was no carb loading happening. Yeah. And my throat hurt! When the alarm went off at 6am I didn’t want to go anywhere! Lacy’s sister Taylor awesomely had let us crash on her couches and was up doing work while Mike and I hid under the covers talking about how cold it was out.

Back at my favorite coffee shop by 7am, we discussed Egypt and what to call the pumpkin chocolate chip baked good we were both eating (muffin? cupcake? does it matter?) while time passed.  How’s that saying go? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a questionable baked good and procrastination? Cool.

 

Mike 'Grip it and Rip it' Szerszunowicz stoked on dirt

 

We rolled out of SLO in sub-40 temps, under a clear sky. Mike’s longest ride to date was our 12-hour hangout fest, the OC 200k. He’s signed up for the Death Valley double century at the end of the month and thought a 210-mile ride would be good training. Outside of Oceano (aren’t we at war with them?) we were turned away from the normal route due to construction and instead of back-tracking (I hate back-tracking!!) we cut through a farm, pictured above. Fun.  The area is somewhat familiar to me because I rode SF-LA in Sept and also rode the Solvang double century out here six years ago (Matt Provost on fixed and naked mile!!).

 

Every town should have a mural of its place in the world. I wonder how many miss that the negative space is California!

 

We rolled into Guadalupe, a tiny little town that I love. I must really love it because I took 60% of my photos here and only one afterward. Ha. It’s at this point in the trip we are definitely having fun, but getting nervous about the time. See, we had hoped to leave at 7am. We left at 8am. I thought it would take about 14 hours and it took over 16. Three hours is a big deal because it’s the difference between home at 10pm and home at 1am. The latter ended up not being that bad.

 

Tortilla room in Guadalupe!

 

Most of the time we spent just chatting away about riding, life and some upcoming events we both have. We set tiny goals. A quick break in Lompoc at the Fresh and Easy (free coffee!) and then a meal in Santa Barbara.  In SB we swung by our friend Jim’s new shop, Cranky’s, which may be the first time I have seen FBM bikes next to Colnagos. Then we ate burritos. Then it got colder and we were getting a little worried. It was after 5pm and we were a hundred miles from home. My sickness wasn’t killing me, but it had me feeling colder than usual. Luckily Mike was on it! He took some big pulls and really kept us moving quickly.

 

I think this is the climb out of Lompoc.

 

The sun set and we rolled south. Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, familiar, but far-from-home places. I’ve ridden out here plenty, including the LA-SB-LA back-to-back ride I did a few summers ago. How does one ride all day? It’s not much different than existing. You are just on your bike and in someways it is comforting because with every passing minute you are closer to your goal. It’s more tangible than many goals in life! It’s not a secret that 9-5 work in an office is scary to me. When I’m asked, what do you think about on these long rides I respond with the same question about what people think about all week at work.

 

'Red? Where the fuck did you get that banana?' RIP, Mitch Hedberg. Chart from the store in Guadalupe.

 

There’s this part of the PCH in Ventura County where you are back on the coast after some inland riding. It’s so beautiful. By now it’s late at night and the pressure to get home has been replaced with a feeling of privilege to be out where we are.  The sky was full of stars, the waves were crashing against the beach and there wasn’t a car on the road to ruin it. Stoked.

The route down the PCH past Mulholland Drive, Leo Carillo, Decker Canyon and other familiar, often-ridden spots is usually accompanied by a southerly wind. Not this night. We had a slight headwind most of the time, but it wasn’t a killer. We just couldn’t stop too long because we’d get cold! Before too long we had turned inland and were on the 15-mile home stretch through urban Los Angeles.  Sasha had just gotten home from Pure Luck and made us burritos which were quickly devoured. I was too cold and tired to shower and fell asleep shivering. Apparently I was also too tired to realize that the window next to my bed was wide open.

I spent the next few days full-on sick, but am so glad this trip happened. I can’t recommend riding the California coast enough! Do it while you can. Before that California super storm comes and obliterates the whole state.

 

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Best of 2010: Party-Hustle-Pancakes-Zarathustra

I’m a little slow,  I admit it. While better bloggers were re-capping there ‘best of 2010′ I’m here doing it near mid-January. And, honestly, I hope to get them up before February! Such is life.  What I would like to re-cap here is how fantastically a few of us brought in Spring last year. It was a weekend that encompassed so many ideas and actions that are dear to me, that I look back and I cannot believe it all happened in a 24 hour period.  First I have to clarify that bicycling here in Los Angeles in amazing. I’m not just talking about the mountains and the beaches. While those are great, what makes bicycling here truly extraordinary is the potential of what can happen under the radar.  As cyclists in a car-oriented city we operate in the margins. And it’s great!

That weekend was the second annual Los Angeles Street Summit and I had been asked to be a part of it. I decided not to contribute directly, but how about the post-summit party? Most def. And we’ll call it the Party Summit!

What is a flier without an obscure reference? We poked fun at a certain LA DOT employee who used the term ‘infeasible’ to describe possible biking infrastructure on some LA roads in the LA Bike Plan.

 

We rented a space, organized food, set up Gold Sprints and started inviting folks. I’ve a foot in the advocacy world and also the social world here. I think they don’t know enough about each other, which is why we (the bike club Swarm!) organized the party. We also had already planned our bike race/stair-climb event (an AlleyCross CycloCat?), Thus Climbed Zarathustra (read about 2006 and 2008 races) for the following day. We knew it’d be a busy weekend.

 

 

But then a few weeks before these events our good friends from Wolf Pack Hustle told us about their insane idea for a bike race. So insane it was beautiful. See the Sunday after the summit was the LA Marathon. You know, where they close the roads so at 7am 25,000 runners can run through the streets (paying over $100 each!). They told us they were going to host an unofficial bike race on the course at 4am! No traffic. No lights. Unbelievable.

Our party ended about midnight. After cleaning the space we had only a few hours before the Wolf Pack Hustle race. Without anyone saying it, we knew our house would be a base. About a dozen of us rode from the party to our place thinking about how, in some ways, the night was just getting started. Some people slept a precious few hours. The rest of us ate tacos and drank coffee!

At about 4am we rolled the few miles to the start. The scene was unbelievable. The corner of Sunset Ave and Fountain Ave was filled with over 400 cyclists! Not just the corner, but the entire street. It was beautiful. Don from Wolf Pack Hustle had stayed at our house and was therefore late (hey, it’s how we roll!). We chat with people we know. Others had stayed up all night too. SO exciting. Kids are on carbon bikes with race kits and others  in cut-offs with no helmet on converted fixed gears.

 

I think this video really captures the race! And a few of us make appearances.

There’s no need to go into too many details of the race. I was in the front group with a few friends and about 12 other riders. We were the ones to alert the crews setting up that hundreds of cyclists would be descending on them. And to learn that not all the lights/roads were closed! It was fast. Really fast.  And SO fun.  The course was not easy to navigate and we ended up making some wrong turns and having to correct. We even opened a closed gate to get through the cemetery and stay on route. Near Santa Monica we caught a group that did not do this (I’m looking at you Mike Sz and Bryan Novelo!) and our pack doubled in size. It was foggy and cold as we neared the ocean.

How far to the finish? Which way do we turn? Working together was less readily happening as we approached the finish and everyone looked for an advantage. Metal hit metal and some folks went down hard at 25+ MPH (no one was hurt!). We were on edge.  At Ocean Ave the route was not marked and the way toward the finish was taped off. What to do?? A few went right through it, knocking down the traffic barriers and almost taking a few of us out. The group got split up and Jon the Roadie (a real Cat1 racer) easily won the sprint.

It almost seems silly that this was one of the best times I had in 2010.  But it had all the right factors: bikes, racing, diy, free, friends, illegal, fast, adventurous and close to home. What more could you ask for? It was an absolutely exhilarating time and whenever I hear anything about the LA Marathon I don’t think about the three times I’ve run it, but about this race.  We hung at the finish, with the strange sensation of dripping sweat in the cold fog, till all of our friends came in.  Everyone was so stoked. We re-grouped and started the ride back home before they did the awards.

By now the sun is coming up and the cops are enforcing the closed course, kicking us off whenever we try to utilize the empty roads. We were all smiling about our experiences and enjoying the early sun that warmed us and the quiet city. We got home and decided to make pancakes. I was the most awake and least cold so I took control of the stove while others huddled in blankets on the kitchen floor. I’d pass down each pancake as it came off the grill and some were topped with peanut butter while others may have been topped with leftover icing from the cupcakes the night before….

I slept a few hours before heading to the Silver Lake dog park for the high noon start of Thus Climbed Zarathustra. Steevo, who was visiting from PA and came to the party but not the Marathon Crash Race, headed over with us (he also wrote about the state of cycling and riding in the Santa Monica mountains while he was here). It was a small group, but a whopping 5 of us did all three races in 16 hours: Gold Sprints, Marathon Crash Race and Thus Climbed Zarathustra and were all given prizes.  I cannot say that I enjoyed racing to and carrying my bike up 10 stairways (many with over 100 steps!) as much as I would have on some actual sleep, but I still had fun. After the race we chilled in the park and decided that dinner at the all-vegan, all-you-can-eat Happy Family was in order.  The best ending to one of the best 24 hours periods of 2010!

Another video

http://vimeo.com/10343137

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Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic

In April I rode the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic in East SD County. Back in January I was part of the pre-ride so I was really looking forward to this! It just so happened that the Rosarita-Ensenada party ride was happening the same weekend and my good friend Matthew was heading down there from LA on his fancy Rivendell.
I had to work till 5pm and then I loaded up my two-shoulder messenger bag with my bivy sac, sleeping bag and pad and everything I’d need for the weekend. Made my way to coastal Orange County in time to watch the sun set and was near the SD border by 10pm.

The awesome bike path before the military base or freeway dilemma

Our Swarm! jerseys say ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’ which I took straight from Hip Hop slang as applied to long-distance cycling. Matthew likes to say, ‘Can stop, will stop!’ when riding. I had hustled to do the first 77 miles miles in 5 hours, which is fun in my own way, but the next day we were leisurely. To say the least. I asked if we should stop and get some bars or bananas and he replied, ‘If we get hungry we’ll just find a taco truck.’ Awesome.

Done.

We chilled all through SD County, taking the beach options whenever possible. We arrived at a friend’s house in Ocean Beach, which is the exact stereotype of everything you think about Southern California- in the good way. We had been texting and when I asked about food he said, ‘There’s a liquor store near me that has great vegan food.’ Whaaaaa? Ends up Liticker’s Liquor has a full-on vegan menu with carne asada and seitan burritos. One of each, please.

We ate our tacos on his roof and watched the sun set. California, bro.

My friend Jeff had driven down after work and met up with us and after some dessert from the local co-op we set our alarm for 4am to head out to Pine Valley (Matthew and Craig were riding to the border a few hours later to meet the start of their ride). We had some disagreement over what time to leave. I wanted to sleep as late as possible and get there right as the last wave was ready to go, but Jeff, being older and wiser, suggested we not do that. Okay, okay.
Ends up I was right! We flew out there with no traffic and then sat in the car, in the dark, waiting for it to warm up. Went with the last wave…

 

Jeff killing it. Fourth fastest time of the day.

We rode in a good pack till the first climb picked up and then Jeff and some Cat-1 guy were off. I settled in with a triathlete who I spent most of the time trying to convince that iron-distance is the only way to go (you get your money’s worth!). Paced with a quiet guy from Arizona for awhile who really pushed me on the climbs. the course is three loops, all with the same aid station at the top of Mt Laguna and the same fast, awesome descent. Ran into a friend I had met at the AdventureCORPS Shasta cycling/yoga camp last summer. We rode together for awhile on the insanely steep last climb discussing art, girls, work and making it all fit. He said something that really stood out: ‘Work expands to fit the time allotted.’ That aids my procrastination tendency and I love it.

I pushed on the steep stuff just to keep the pedals turning and passed about a half dozen folks walking. It was that steep! Keep in mind I’m still near the front third…

Post-ride meal included Filipino food again and vegan pizza!


Results and photos are up and worth perusing. Please note the 11 and 13 year old girls that did the same ride. For real. I also met Errin Vasquez, who I had chatted with on the internet previously. Also awesome.

We drove back to Ocean Beach in time for another Organic Athlete vegan potluck and decided to spend the night so I could go to the co-op for the 100th time on this trip. Breakfast!

When I was searching for something funny to link from Rivendell, I searched ‘Cult Bikes’ and it ends up that Robbie Morales, an old BMX friend, has a new company with this name. Here’s a great sampler video!

(maybe I should end all posts with a BMX or Hip Hop video?)

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Stairways to Heaven race Screening


Say what you will about ‘fixed gear culture’ and its obsession with filming itself. I agree. I read Bike Snob NYC too! But the kids behind this film are rather earnest and their intentions are good. I’ve seen parts of it and it’s definitely better than similar ones.
My bias may be that I won. I didn’t get most of the prizes (different kids put it on then made the film) because afterward was our annual Thanksgiving vegan potluck, Circle of Dead Pilgrims and I missed the drunken fixed gear freestyle fest where they were given out. Our dinner was Italian-themed, so it was probably worth it. Anyway, check out the screening if this sort of event interests you.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7858283&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=ffffff&fullscreen=1

Stairways to Heaven-Preview from The Bicinity on Vimeo.

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Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic Pre-ride

Our friend Chris from AdventureCORPS, besides putting on the Badwater Ultramarathon and the Furnace Creek 508 (which I’ve written about so often I made a 508 tab), puts on more accessible, less well-known events like the Death Valley CORPScamp and Hell’s Gate 100.

A new ride for 2010 is the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic (100 miles and 10,000ft elevation gain) in East San Diego County and back in November he invited a few of us out to pre-ride the course. There are meticulous details on the route, elevation and area on the site. My concern was that I was going to feel like I wasn’t getting anywhere by riding up to the same ridge three times. But I had never been to this part of California and was amazed and stoked on how beautiful and varying the terrain is and never felt that way.


This is looking back down the last climb. This was described as
‘Not like a real road, more like a fire road that has been paved.’

Some steep sections here. The course is entirely paved,
but on two of three climbs it looks like this.
Can you see Jack waving?

Chris’ photos from the day cover a much wider range of the area. Jack, Brian and I were trying to think of accurate descriptors for the area. Alpine desert? When you finally get to the ridge, the far side is open and vast and slightly desert-y, but you are in pine trees. California never quits. The descent was super fast and smooth. Riding with those two guys the descents are always a race of who can go fastest and use their brakes the least..

No true environmentalist travels w/o a foldable bowl and spork


The ride had roving support by Adobo Velo, a Filipino cycling club. They had been teasing us all day about not eating meat, then surprised us with some vegan adobo. I don’t think vegan balut exists yet, but maybe it won’t be too long since vegan veal is already a product. They were super fun. I want to try and jump on one of their club rides these days.

Some friends from the San Diego chapter of Organic Athlete were having a vegan potluck in Ocean Beach, so we made the drive over from Pine Valley (sort of) on our way back to Los Angeles. First we hit the co-op so as to not show up empty handed, then made our way to a vegan bakery for some sweet cinnamon rolls.

Yes, we ate twice before going to a potluck. That’s how vegan cyclists roll!

How fortunate are we to have been able to ride this and hang out with such great people? So fortunate that I’ve almost forgot about the 32 degree weather at the start and the flat I got in the first three miles. April will be warm and it’ll be great to push a little with 300 other riders out there.

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Dont Get Fat ‘training camp’ Days 4 and 5 ahead

*Update for Day 5* Due to Angeles Crest still being closed we’re going to do a flat-ish 100 on PCH. Still meet at Cafe Tropical at 7, ride at 730. Route will be Sunset->Santa Monica blvd ->Federal->San Vicente->Ocean-> the nibble down to PCH->’the rock’->return. Eat at Carousel at Santa Monica and Normandie. I’m ready to fight mapmyride.com so no map! Westside meet-up can be the bathrooms/water at San Vicente/Ocean probably 9ish. Email bikeswarm on gmail if you’re trying to hop on and I’ll be sure to check it.

Michael riding up Epic-er road in
Glendale/La Canada with DTLA in background


Today we met at CycleWay Coffee in Hermon for some chillin and caffeine consumption, rode the hills of Mt Washington, South Pas and some other little-known roads and ate at Hugo’s tacos in Atwater, which included a damn hot habenero salsa. Map of the route for your riding pleasure. More photos and updates over at bikeswarm.org. Thanks to everyone who has come out!

Join us tomorrow:
Dec19 Sat-Meet at 7am for coffee at Peet’s on Larchmont, rolling at 730am to Palos Verdes for a 73-mile route to India Sweets and Spices on Venice Blvd. Here is roughly what the route will look like.

Battery covering 7 Seconds’ Young Till I Die for motivation:

http://www.youtube.com/v/hfuhWEda5NM&hl=en_US&fs=1&

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Don’t Get Fat ‘training camp’ Dec 16-20th

Update 2: Friday Day3 route. Ride to the ride from Sunset blvd and Griffith Park blvd (Silver Lake farmers market location) leaving at 730.

Update:
Day 1 route and join us for a 655-755am yoga class at Urth Yoga on 2809 W. Sunset Blvd. Indoor bike parking and $5 class and $1 mat rental!
Day 2 route

Join Swarm! as we drink coffee, ride in spandex and eat vegan food all over Los Angeles during a 5-day Don’t Get Fat ‘training camp’. Each day we’ll meet at a coffee shop, ride a great route and end at a vegan-friendly restaurant.

photo from AdventureCORPS

Dec16 Wed 8/830am- Intelligensia, riding Beachwood through the Hollywood Hills onto Mulholland (40 miles-route), eat at Flore

Dec17 Thur- 8/830am- Trails Cafe, riding Griffith and Elysian (40- route), eat at Pure Luck
Dec18 Fri- 8/830am- CycleWay Coffee, riding the hills of Mt Washington, South Pas and some other little-known roads (50), eat at Hugo’s tacos in Atwater
Dec19 Sat-7/730am- Peet’s on Larchmont, riding Palos Verdes with two options of difficulty (60/75), eating at India Sweets and Spices on Venice Blvd
Dec20 Sun-7/730am- Cafe Tropical, riding Big Tujunga, Angeles Forest/Crest. (75-100), eating at Carousel
(first time is coffee, second is rolling, estimated mileage in parentheses)

What should I bring?
Snacks, tube; the usual for a self-supported ride. Also money for coffee and food. On the longer rides we’ll have an additional stop for food and water.
Can I keep up?
If you do Wolf Pack Hustle, BiciKillers, Caturday Warriors or something similar, yes.
Will you wait up?
Probably. Though if you show up in jeans on a track bike, probably not. Unless you are Cole or some other monster then you’ll have to wait for us.
Do I have to do everything?
Hanging out is mandatory unless you can’t then that’s cool.
Does it cost anything?
The value of these rides is greater than money; we require your time and stokedness.
What are the percentages for the climbs and what wattage can I expect to put out per hour, on average?
These rides are probably not for you.
Who is putting this on?
A ‘bunch of fucking boring semi-employed geeks’ known as Swarm!. Questions? Get in touch at bikeswarm on gmail.
Swarm! events for 2010
Feb: Dan’s urban cyclocross race, I Got Fat training camp
March: Thus Climbed Zarathustra; Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer (5th year!)

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New Moon Century

My friend, housemate and co-conspirator in many adventures, Sasha, organized a century ride on Sunday Oct 18th: the New Moon Century. It was in the beautiful Santa Monica mountains and utilizes many of the terrific roads on the Mulholland Challenge and the Different Spokes Century (which incidentally is the first bike ride I ever paid for AND where I learned about double centuries way back in 2004). All of the proceeds go to an anti-hunger organization and Sea Shepherd!


Sasha is one of those people that when she gets a good idea, she just plows forward and learns as she goes. I could learn something from her, as I tend to over-think and over-organize before even getting started. It was all a little chaotic, but the best things in life usually are. We had a great team putting this on, including a SAG vehicle driven by Janet Christiansen, who finished Race Across America this year.

About 75 people rode one of the three options- 36, 62 and 100 miles. Outstanding considering the narrow focus: kosher! vegan!

Lunch stop volunteers and riders
For Jacob and Mike, sitting on the left, it was their first century


I helped at the lunch stop and had the honor of explaining to people what the hell tofurky and vegenaise are. Some were not interested and it was funny to watch them make a tomato, avocado, mustard sandwich, which is what I have to do when it’s real deli meat. But most people did try and seemed to enjoy it.

I had a fantastic time hanging out at Peter Strauss Ranch in the Santa Monica mountains and helping people accomplish something as demanding as a century. Putting on and helping at events can be as rewarding (and tiring!) as actually doing them. I also got to meet some new people, including a vegan cardiologist who I had only communicated with via the internets. She has a write-up on her great blog.

Thanks to the groups who helped out: Orange 20 Bikes, Clif bar, Tofurky and others:

Mandatory vegan restaurant hang-out post-ride:
Vinh Loi Tofu

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Gibraltar Loop from Mesa Ln in Santa Barbara

Went on a little day trip to beautiful Santa Barbara for some road riding: Gibraltar Loop from Mesa Ln. Unlike my last trip to Santa Barbara, I was with others and we all piled in a car and drove up. Finally able to hang out with Alex, Ron and Ilya, who I have only ridden with occasionally or not at all.

Mountain, ocean, you know.

Not sure how Ron got these colors with his iPhone


After a mechanical and some other delays (if you count coffee as a delay, I count it as a necessity), it was pretty warm for the 9-mile climb. Some sections hit 14 or so percent (or so claim those with the GPS devices rattling off numbers). I was missing having that 27 on my cassette.

This lower area had been hit by a recent fire, but there were finally pines near the top

Sweet descent

On Painted Cave Rd back to SB

Alex has some friends with a house/property above the beach.
This is the view from the hot tub platform!
Watching dogs play on the beach has to be one of the most
smile-inducing activities in the world.

Nice to get out of my normal routine and do this. Other surprises: opportunity for a post-ride outdoor shower on above mentioned property. Also being the only vegan and saying, ‘Yeah I can eat anywhere don’t worry about it’ and ending up at a brew pub with very few options (the beans had meat in them!?).
Thanks Alex for planning the route, Ron for driving/taking photos/drinking excessive amounts of coffee and Ilya for keeping us entertained.

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Mt Shasta CORPScamp

In late July I made the journey to Northern California for CORPScamp Shasta, 5 days of cycling and yoga, hosted by AdventureCORPS. Chris and Elizabeth were fantastic hosts: each night after riding and doing yoga there was either a group meal with delicious vegan options or a film.

Mt Shasta hanging out in the clouds above 14,000 ft.

Each morning we’d meet up, do some stretching and head out for a 50-90 mile ride. My goal was to swim every day. On Thursday’s ride I submerged myself in some cold snow run-off:

On the way back from McCloud there was a bonus climb on an unmaintained road above Mt. Shasta city:

On Friday we rode up to Mumbo summit, which is on the Mt Shasta super century that we’d ride on Sunday. The bonus climb this day went up to Castle Lake:

I jumped into water that was slightly warmer than the day before and swam about 500 yards out to a big rock in the middle. Exhilarating! A rock in the middle of a lake in the mountains is a great place to reflect (what’s important to you? Being in open water in the summer ranks high on my list!).

Sunday was the Mt Shasta Super Century, which I posted about previously, but I only mentioned the food :)

I’m fortunate to have these opportunities in my life and the health and capacity to take advantage of them. Are you?

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