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Base! How low can you go? Or, why you should ride brevets.

I like to boast that I don’t really follow a training plan, but that is only partially true.  I definitely do not have one of those blogs that list numbers and charts and all sorts of info that only a tiny tiny fraction of the world understands (I’m not a part of that percentage) and won’t turn this into  one.  Even if I do buy a heart monitor.  Or a GPS. But I do (attempt to!) follow the base-build-peak plan popularized by Joe Friel.

If you are one of the people who follow my site only for vegan nutrition stuff, I apologize. But I promise this post won’t be too techy!

Now I have a few complications with the base-build-peak plan. One is that I’m incredibly bad at planning more than a few months in advance. Another is that I tend to do really long events- longer than most people’s longest base-mileage rides.  Lastly, and related to the second point, is a little race called the Furnace Creek 508.  I’ve raced solo the previous three years and since it’s in October, it really screws with my ‘peak’.  Last year I never really peaked at all and I suffered for it.  This year I am not racing the 508 and am attempting a more normal schedule.

That means lots of winter miles! One fun way to get these miles is on brevets:  self-supported, long-distance rides.  There’s no support, only a route sheet, start time and ‘controls’ where you need to get your brevet card signed and/or a receipt to prove you were there.  I wrote a little about them and qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris last month. Since then I rode a 200k with Mike Sz in Orange County where we stopped for coffee and burritos and took 12 hours to finish, the Point Reyes 200k in SF, where I rode hard on a beautiful day and finished in under 8 hours. This past weekend I headed to San Diego to ride their club’s 300k.  My next post will be that story: experiencing all four seasons in one ride.

Brevets are randonneuring rides; each club usually does a series: 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k, all of which are approved by the national randonneuring group and are qualifications for the big one: 1200k.  Sound insane? It’s not. The routes are great, the time limits are healthy and the riders and organizers are often very inclusive.  I highly recommend you get out and ride one: official USA Randonneur calendar here or a California brevets schedule I made:

My approach for training is that it is much more than cardiovascular and muscular fitness. If that’s all it was, then I’d say stay home and ride your trainer for hours every day. But most people don’t quit events because they don’t have the fitness, they quit because they didn’t prepare mentally or something unexpected happened and they were unprepared. How do you know how much water to drink? You need to get out there and get dehydrated. And bonk. And yes, be miserable. On brevets there’s no aid stations to count down to. Only yourself and your ability to find food and water out in the world.  When you become dependent on yourself, you’ll be more prepared for any event you have planned in the future.

That 200k in SF? It was awesome. First off, I met the legendary ultra-runner Ann Trason (<–read this interview!), and was star struck. Yes, she was riding it. And it was a perfect day for cycling: favorable winds, sun all day and sleeves and vest temperatures. Nice to know I could concentrate and comfortably put out 125 miles in under 8 hours.  Last weekend’s 300k? The opposite. It’s going to get its own post because it was a wake-up call about all that can happen when on your bike all day…

Note that Spring is only 3.5 weeks away! I hope all of you, no matter what your interests are, are out there getting ready to do what you do. Remember, Demand the Impossible!

What I’m looking at today:

Banksy is in LA and killing it.

-My friend Dan Koeppel wrote about Andrew Skurka circling Alaska, 4679 miles, by foot, raft and skis in National Geographic.

A journalist called the Union-busting Wisconsin Governor and pretended to be David Koch to see what he had to say. I love a political prank!

-I also love quotes and here’s a collection on Vegan Activist.

How to make kale chips!

And since I referenced Public Enemy in the title, I’ll end with them:





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I've been in SF many times this year, but these last few days have
made me feel closer to it. Less of a visitor and more of a….part-
time resident? No, that's not it. Nowhere ever totally feels like home
for me, but the more time I spend in California all of it feels like
my home. Fuck a stupid north/south CA divide (everyone already knows
Northern CA is overrated), this whole place is my home.
On this trip I rode Paradise Loop, some roads from the Rough Riders
Rally and all around the city. I ate Chicago-style pizza and at a
vegan Mexican place. Visited a Buddhist monestary/farm where we swam
in a pond and played kickball. A sweet life it is.

Tomorrow I head south by bike with Jeff to LA, 450 miles in 3 days.
We're camping, but traveling very light- I've only a big seatbag and a
hydration pack. Laptop I needed here for work but didn't arrange to
mail? Check. Chocolate covered espresso beans? Check. Ready to start
teaching again Monday? Not quite.


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Adventure is contagious

My British friend Aidan, who was on my crew for the Norseman triathlon, sent me this email recently:

In a couple of weeks, Emily and I are setting off for New Zealand.
We’ve got a few weeks of touring around before she swims The Cook
Strait (weather permitting, somewhere between 20-26 February). It’s
going to be a good adventure, and on the way back we’re scheduled to
have a week in LA.

‘before she swims the Cook Strait’

Hard to wrap my mind around that. Emily has a blog where she discusses this with more detail. Honestly, I prefer reading the lead-up to the wrap-up. You feel the nervousness and excitement as someone attempts to write what they are feeling and are up against. Before my biggest events I always have a part of my brain that wants to fully retreat. ‘What the fuck are you doing? You can’t handle this! You’re in over your head!’. And then my ego has to step up and answer. My writing before events is a combination of these and can go either way depending on my mood when I sit down to type.

I’m so excited for her and trying to imagine swimming for that long. I searched for more info and came across Here’s my favorite part of the FAQ:

What is the most difficult part of the swim?
Getting across Cook Strait and finishing

Good to know.

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Slingshot Dakota

I draw so much energy from seeing people I care about do what they
love. Good friends Slingshot Dakota Thursday night at The Smell.

I hope you do too! That’s one of the main drives for me to write this blog: the motivation factor of shared energy and good stories. And with that I’m off for this evening’s adventures, on the third bike of the day (!).

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Like so many things in my life that I write about, DIY remains a constant struggle between who I am and who I want to be. I have plenty of reasons to reduce my consumption- mainly environmental and economical (personally and politically)- and like the great Charles Bukowski said, I hate being a buyer needing a seller. But I slack on the alternatives. I’m envious of both those who can purchase freely without hesitation and those who have a burning creativity inside that automatically translates into DIY. Me? I end up with piles of unsewn ripped jeans, socks years past their usefulness and anxiety over the few new things I actually have to go to the store and purchase for full price.

At our new house I finally got my room (somewhat) set up three weeks after moving in. I had searched for some furniture, but in not finding anything came up with this hanging system (my room doesn’t have a closet) and desk with stuff I found in the house.

The rack is straight bars slid into 1-inch forks and hung with hooks. The desk is a closet door balanced on a filing cabinet and crates. It’s somewhere between punk/DIY and ‘post-college’ chic. Most importantly it forced me to bridge the gap between what I want to see and what I do.

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The question is

What am I doing with my life that I don't mountain bike more often?

(Jack on a tech section of Gabrielino while Mike contemplates)


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