Category Archives: travel

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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Filed under public trans, road, tour, travel

The solution may be as simple as going from A to B

today I had the wonderful experience of  riding the train from Oakland to San Luis Obispo. I’m meeting up with my good friend Mike, who right now is on a train here from LA, and tomorrow morning we tackle the 200-mile ride back home.

My road bike dorkified with lights, fenders and giant seatbag

 

Travel in general, and trains specifically, are great for reflecting.  Staring off into the beautiful mountain ranges, with the sun in the background, I realized that 10 years ago I was living in Central America and planning for my first ever bike tour. I had just graduated college, was stoked on living life and had places to be.  So many new experiences were awaiting and I awoke every morning with an excitement for the future.

A lot of this excitement, in retrospect, comes from going. The simple act of getting from one place to another.  One of my best memories of Belize is the first view you have when you exit the airport. BAM! Another country. My first time in Latin America.  Ten years ago I also went to Chiapas for the first time and the bus ride through the mountains of Southern Mexico is still one of the most exciting things I have ever done.

 

Amtrak box I didn't have to pay for cause someone had left it! Just turn bars and wheel it in...

 

I don’t have a philosophy per se, but I did make the conscious effort about 10 years ago that my political focus was going to be food and transportation.  Why? Because everyone eats and everyone travels.  Both are inherent political acts (denying they are is political!).  And you know what? Both can be super fun! When my students complain about not having time to cook I ask them if they have time to spend with family. Or time to learn a valuable skill. If so, you have time to cook.  Recognizing that eating and traveling are political acts is one thing, making them fun and awesome is another.

So here I sit in my favorite coffee shop (which I have been to many times, though I often forget the name) 200 miles from home, stoked to ride back. Like my trips across the country, I’ve traveled the California coast by plane, bus, train, car and bike (would love to walk or kayak, get in touch if you’ve got ideas!).  Guess which is the most fun?

I get asked often to help people come up with training plans.  It’s hard for me because I hate exercise for the sake of exercise. I ran 10 miles last weekend in the Berkeley hills and I was struggling…then I realized I hadn’t run since the Calico 50k. Oops. I  had just forgotten to run.

 

My training advice is this:

Find physical activity you like.

Do it often.

Keep it fun.

Find unorthodox ways and places to do it.

Sign up for events that are over your head.

When it gets boring, find something else.

Now, unsurprisingly, I’m off to the local vegan Thai restaurant.  Whatever you are up to tomorrow, enjoy it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Burro Schmidt tunnel

The dirt road adventure to the tunnel

 

On our way out to the Ridgcrest 50k earlier this month we took a long-awaited detour to the Burro Schmidt tunnel. I’ve heard about this tunnel from Morgan probably every single time I’ve been out toward Death Valley. What’s the big deal? This guy named William Henry Schmidt, back in the early 1900’s, laid claim to some land with mining potential. There was a small problem though: A difficult to navigate ridge between his land and Mojave, where the local smelter was located. The solution? Dig a tunnel.

The view from Burro’s tiny house

He got started in 1906.  At first he hauled out the rock on his back. Then with a wheelbarrow. Eventually he built tracks and used a cart. And eventually there was no reason for the tunnel. But he kept digging. Almost entirely by hand.  He rarely used explosives and when he did they’d have such short fuses due to his frugality that he’d often be injured by the explosions.  The dude was notoriously cheap.  He patched his clothing with flour sacks (punk!).  This page estimates that he cooked 25,000 meals of pancakes and beans on his tiny stove.

Looking out the end of the 2000 meter (half mile!) tunnel

He dug for 34 years. Long after it was of any use.  He just became obsessed with the tunnel itself. And the digging. But he made it. The tunnel is straight for a long time and then takes a 90 degree right turn before reaching the other side. The view is outstanding. He never did haul anything through it, but he moved nearly 6,000 tons of rock. By himself.

Our crew in the bright post-tunnel sun

So on one hand you have a guy who spent his life digging a tunnel to nowhere. On the other you have a man with a dream who woke up every day and worked to achieve it. And he hung out with two donkeys (hence the nickname Burro) and ate pancakes and beans for most meals. Not a bad life if you ask me!  Often what we do feels useless, but if we are driven to do it and we are doing it that is something in itself.  What is purposeful is subjective and the pick-axe is in our hands! Get digging.

Burro gave us a lot to think about camping that night and running 31 miles the next day (more photos)

 

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The New World of Ultra-Running: The Ridgecrest 50k

Do not wait until all the conditions are perfect for you to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect. -Some Inspirational/Spiritual Dude

My close friend Morgan decided at the turn-off to run the 50k instead of the 30k! Kick-ass attitude.Who needs training? Photos credit here.

I have a 50-email conversation in my inbox with the subject ‘2011 is to Ultra-Running What 2005 Was to Double Centuries’ and after racing the Ridgecrest 50k it has already begun! Two-hundred mile cycling events (calendar) were my introduction to paying for events and eventually racing. My double century tag has over 25 posts, including the 10 I rode in 2005. These rides were an opportunity for Morgan and I to travel around California, sleep in sketchy places and spend the day on our bikes. We got obsessed and by the end of the year he raced the Furnace Creek 508 solo! Fitting that we ran our first ultra-run together.

With my friend Catra in the tattooed division…

 

Pre-Race = Awesome

I talked our crew, 5 in our car plus a few others, into camping at Wagon Wheel, which is a free BLM campground on both the Furnace Creek 508 course and the Ridgecrest 50k course. Just a 20 minute drive to the race start! After checking in and seeing a few folks we actually knew (mostly from bike events!) we headed back to Wagon Wheel to cook. I love camp cooking. Maybe it’s all the bike touring I’ve done over the past 1o years (!), but there’s something about a meal in the open that rivals what most people, if they’re lucky, make at home. We had 3 stoves and 8 people and collectively and easily together made Spicy Peanut Sauce Ramen with Broccoli and Tofu. YUM. Favorite meal of all-time? We sat around the fire eating, talking and catching up. One of the best things about getting away is the time it opens up. Creates such great memories!

 

At our Wagon Wheel campsite.

 

Race morning

One of the bargains I made in picking the campground was that I’d get up earlier than everyone else and start the coffee. 5am alarm. BUT Maxwell, Mr. AdventureSNORE himself, beat me to it! Before my alarm went off I heard the familiar hum of an MSR stove heating water….score! Thanks Max! We (somehow) got to the start not only before everyone had left, but with enough time to eat and get properly prepared. And even get nervous! We found a few more Los Angeles cyclists also at their first run and got a group photo in.

 

Team Los Angeles Cyclists!

 

Race!

I was less nervous about this than a marathon. How is that possible if the distance is longer? Trail running. Low-key. Like a fast hike. Out in the world, exploring. I ran with Morgan and Jeff’s friend Hoffman for the first 15 miles! We’d jog, run some hills, walk some hills and generally take it easy and enjoying the world around us. More experience, less exercise (maybe this should be my tagline?)

 

Mandatory Couch Hang

I split from Morgan and Hoffman around mile 15 and was feeling really good. Running the hills. Though there’s one detail I just cannot write this report without mentioning. I really had to drop a deuce. The whole time. Yeah. I assumed there’d be porto-poties at the aid stations but I was wrong…Not fun. I thought I could hold it, but then on a long downhill…..I guess it could be worse……I made it off the trail at least! No mess. Phew. You know the Ice Cube verse about feeling ten pounds lighter? That was me.

Refreshed (in a way!) I got my pace back up and was holding ten-minute miles or so. Earlier a runner exuberantly told us that the last 5 miles were downhill. But he was obviously a runner because to a cyclist 5 miles of downhill on foot is not something to celebrate! I was struggling. And for the first time of the race I went awhile without seeing anyone. It was beautiful and I was taking my time descending. Then Catra and her boyfriend caught me! They had been so supportive of me the whole run and immediately said, ‘Stay with us! We’re going to finish under 6 hours!’ So I did. And we did! The last mile was (thankfully!) not downhill but ran around the parking lot before finishing in order for everyone to get a chance to see the condition you are in.

 

Morgan’s boat shoes. Apparently the barefoot-like running shoes that cost $80 are a based on these $15 boat shoes. I’ll just say that as I write this weeks later his feet still hurt…

 

At the finish Sasha (ran the 30k- her first run race!), Max (volunteered), Jen from the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition (ran the 30k) and Jeff (first ultra, finished in just over 5 hours!) cheered me on.  I was tired and sore, but smiling and stoked. It was not a death march.

 

What I learned

1. Trail running involves serious hills- up and down! This is helpful, in my opinion. You use different muscles and it’s much less monotonous than a road run.

2. Train on hills! Duh. See above.  In ultra-cycling many people make the mistake of only doing super long rides. You have to strength train on hills. For running this means up AND down.

3. Know yourself. I know what my ‘forever’ pace is like and I rarely ran faster than that. The key to finishing your first long runs.

4. Start slow! Relax. It’s a long day. Unless you are trying to win, which in that case you shouldn’t be looking to me for advice.

5. Have fun. How do I get these events done? I know I’m out there because I want to be. Keep smiling.  Enjoy it the highs AND the lows.

 

What’s Next

January 16th Calico 50k . Another desert run. A training run for this:

February 12th Twin Peaks 50-miler. Nervous. 17,000 feet elevation gain in 50 miles. I’ve ridden much of this area when I raced the Vision Quest mountain bike race in 2009 and it turns out I actually ran some of it a few years ago.  The fear of this run is real and it’s been the kick in the butt I need to train a little harder.

 

Well, a 50k was a great last event for 2010. What a year! And 2011 looks to be something special.  Thanks for reading, happy holidays and good health to you!

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Filed under off-road, run, travel

Rainy Day Stokedness

There’s nothing better to do on a rainy day than to read about events you’ve done and that you want to do. Especially this time of year! It’s so important to reflect on the past in order to prepare for the future, no matter what your goals are. A post came through my Reader about the Norseman Triathlon in Norway and I was reminded of the race adventure in 2007 when I had the privilege of being in what they call the world’s hardest full-iron triathlon. I wrote about it here and here.

Norway = One of the most beautiful places in the world
Norwegians = Some of the friendliest people in the world

Doing like most people with some spare time on a rainy day (well, after I went on a 2.5hr run…), I perused youtube for videos of this kick-ass race and found some really great ones (keep in mind I think most race/adventure videos do a poor job of capturing the reality of this stuff, but these are actually really good!). The first is like an intro and the second is like a mini-doc….

 

 

I wish I could get out there again!! Plenty of closer adventures to be had…

What’s getting you stoked for 2011?

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Filed under travel, triathlon

Nutrition and transitioning

I spent last weekend and early this week at the American Dietetic Association’s annual conference in Boston where I facilitated a workshop on vegetarian nutrition. I usually don’t talk about my professional world here, but I’m in the process of transitioning to a new blog that combines both. Links for that coming soon, but I’ve already started using this: twitter.com/truelovehealth. One of my tweets included this photo of dietitians in line for free soda at the expo:

Yes, you read that correctly. Dietitians getting free soda at a nutrition conference. This is the world I work in. We have a long way to go. Fortunately my ‘Corporate influence = huge problem” post was picked up and re-tweeted by a number of people who feel similarly. The photo has been viewed nearly 600 times.
This is the sort of topic that makes me nervous professionally. Will this affect my work with the ADA? At the end of the conference they posted a thank you to all of the twitter users at the conference and my name was not listed….
Anyway. If you don’t stay true to your own ethics what are you left with?
Start following me on twitter for more.

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Filed under political, travel, vegan

Eat. Sleep. Read.

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