A Slave to the Watch

The Garmin Fenix 7X- Taskmaster!!

I have always liked gizmos. I had Polar heart rate monitors for many years as well as sports watches and devices mounted to my bike to tell me my mileage. I regularly entered information into Velo-News logs about rides, who I rode with, maximum heart rates, and all kinds of information that was interesting to me as a weekend warrior. I had the first app on the I-phone for calculating vertical feet when skiing, and when the creators of Alpine Replay( the name of the app at the time) saw that my buddy Hutch and I had broken the one day record each for his app( 57,000 vertical feet in one day at Northstar at Tahoe), they texted me wanting to know more about us. I had a backup battery in my parka so as not to lose any data and to make sure I collected all the vertical from 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM that day. In any event, I have always liked these things and they have been of particular interest to me with their amazing technology.

So at the suggestion of my friend Mark ” the Shark” Sauers, I recently purchased a Garmin Fenix 7 X Sapphire watch. It was available on the Amazon Prime sale and I got a good deal on it. I had not purchased anything like this in a while and have been amazed at the data and information that it provides. I am only using a fraction of that data because I am not a real techie. But what I have discovered is very interesting but the watch is starting to make me feel bad. It is subtle in it’s insults and I am hoping that the information I entered as an aging athlete would have tempered it’s comments. But to no avail. This thing in a subtle way admonishes me, and I am starting to think it has a personality all of its own.

The Aging Athlete

To give you an example, it tells me I am a poor sleeper and I need to focus on getting better rest. I think I have had a decent nights sleep but I guess with the frequent trips to the bathroom as an older guy, it senses that I am not getting enough REM, and deep sleep. And it lectures me. ” Although you slept enough, your sleep was restless.” ” Try a white noise machine or earplugs.”

There is a measurement called load focus which tells me I am balanced based on my running Vo2 max trend. It tells me that my training load is sufficient to maintain fitness but I need to work out longer and more often to improve. WTH- I am riding four days a week on my mountain bike. I don’t race anymore and ride to ride again. I use my mountain bike for exercise. But this thing says I am loafing. Come on!!! Guys I went to high school with are coming home and getting a hot bath and watching Fox News. They have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel but my Garmin won’t give me any slack.

When I look at the training effect measurement after a two hour weekday ride, it says,” This activity enhanced your ability to maintain a moderate pace for a longer amount of time” ” You gained a slight anaerobic benefit from this activity” My heart was pounding at 169 beats per minute on many climbs. I would argue about the moderate pace. I thought it was a pretty good pace at close to 8.5 MPH moving average speed. Come on Garmin- I am an old dude. It did say I had 64 minutes of vigorous intensity and 22 minutes of moderate intensity, so what gives? I think it just likes to insult me.

This winter, it says that there are over 2000 ski areas mapped into the Garmin. So wherever I am , I should be able to map how many vertical feet I log without going to the standard I-Phone app for vertical feet. I wonder if it will tell me I am lazy or not making enough turns? How will it insult me on the slopes? The watch has an app that connects to on my I Phone called Garmin Connect. It takes the data from the watch and downloads it to the app. So both the watch and the app double team me. Admonishment from two sources.

The watch- motivating or insulting?

Speed, Timing, Heart Rate, Training Effect, Elevation, Nutrition and Hydration, Temperature MTB Dynamics, and Intensity Minutes. What did I do do deserve this? TMI if you ask me but I was the one who bought the watch. So buyer beware!! If you sale for one of these watches and you are an aging athlete like me, be ready to be humiliated by a device. I am sure in its own little way- it is trying to motivate me, but my giddup and go for a lot of these measurements has gone up and left. I just need the basics to give me the data on the rides or the slopes. I don’t need much more than that. But I will still look at the watch. Heck, I sleep with it to get the after hours measurements. It is part of me now. Thanks Shark!!! Thanks for reading.

The Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb

The beginning of fall at Mt. Washinton, NH.

So it’s a rainy day and I am surfing around You Tube and I happen to see Phil Gaimon’s coverage of the Mt. Washington Hill Climb. Phil is a former professional in road cycling and has raced all over the world. He now has a You Tube channel where he continues to chase records on STRAVA and tours the country riding in the most iconic places and chasing records for climbs. When I saw the coverage, it brought back memories of when my pals Eric Durfee, Jack McArdle and I did it back in the mid-80s. Eric, at the time was a Category 1-2 road cycling racer and extremely fit and ended up in the top 5 overall which was a huge accomplishment. Jack and I were not in that category but I recall being respectable at the finish.

A young Pat back in the day at the start in New Hampshire.

Thinking back on that day, it was a bluebird sunny one at the bottom of the mountain and as I recall it is about 7.6 miles to the top on a road that was part asphalt and part gravel and dirt. The road today is paved to the top but at the time, it was definitely a cyclo-cross tire on the rear wheel. A fairly large group at the time started together and people started to settle in for what was a grueling climb to the top of one of the highest mountains in the East – topping out around 6,000 feet. I recall settling in and at about the halfway mark( reported to me by a bystander), it was about 46 degrees and a heavy fog. Typical weather for Mt. Washington that can change rapidly at any moment. It was windy. The highest winds recorded on earth are at the top of Mt. Washington because of its location as the epicenter of weather patterns roaring across the US and Canada. My friend Jack was behind me and he reported later that he stopped several times to get a drink out of the rain barrels that were used to cool down radiators on the descent in a vehicle. Pretty nasty stuff but he was thirsty. LOL!! Coming into the upper sections, I was able to see the summit weather station and just kept my head down and grinding the gears to approach the last several switchbacks that were reported at a 20 percent gradient. Lots of people cheering us on as I struggled to finish upright and came in with a time of 1 hour and 25 minutes. Respectable for a guy from Pa. My pal Eric from Vermont was top 5 and he was a little over 1 hour and three minutes, just to give perspective. Don’t remember what Jack’s finishing time was, but he made it and immediately stripped down at the top to his Superman briefs which garnered laughs from the crowd as he shivered to change clothes in the parking lot and put on a wool hat and parka because it was 41 degrees and sleeting.

The course marked in red.
Todays racers finishing on the 20 percent paved grade.

The interesting thing is that there is a running race up Mt. Washington as well. The winning times for the bicycle race and the running race are within a minute of each other. Phil Gaimon’s winning time this year was 51.38 which was a record. Sure he had the advantage of paved roads all the way and also the good fortune of technology of light bike design, training improvements and nutritional expertise. But nonetheless, an excellent time, and speeds up that mountain are getting faster every year. Athletes today are just so much better. But back in the day, my buddy Eric made a statement. Today there are a lot of entrants with many of them making the top to the cheers of their friends and family in 2 hours, 3 hours, or whatever it takes. Many of them ride it just to see the scenery and to say that they finished. One guy rode up there this year on a unicycle. Amazing!

As we made our way back down the mountain in Helen Durfee’s van, we were amazed that we could not ride our bikes down the hill. Even with today’s disc brake technology, you would not want to negotiate that road on a bike downhill. Even many of the parade of cars descending the Auto Road have to stop to cool the brakes. It is that steep. So happy to have seen Phil’s recording of the 2022 event as it brought back many memories of an interesting day a long time ago in the White Mountains in early fall. Thanks for reading.

The Adventuremen

The Adventuremen plus Julie!!

Organized mountain bike rides are usually a lot of fun, especially when they are in the Laurel Highlands. Great trails, sunshine, beautiful state forest greenery, and challenging rock sections. But this day was special among the scores of organized rides at this time of year. http://www.adventuremen.org was the host with the founder Greg Nass at the helm. Adventuremen is an organization of Christian men who enjoy the outdoors together. The signature event is Adventurefest which is a camping event the weekend before Father’s Day. Great speakers, bonfires, mini-bike riding, fishing, Harley riding, mountain bike riding at Raystown, basketball, air cannons, drones, and a plethora of other activities that make the weekend a blast. The venue is at Agape Farm and I have posted on it before. Great group of guys and a great event. But Greg and I decided it was time to branch out from the fest and perhaps schedule some outside events like the ride at Laurel Mountain. It was special on many fronts.

Our fearless leader- Greg Nass.

First of all, my pal Jeff Chetlin came with his wife Julie- even though technically it is a men’s event. Julie rides the rocks better than anybody though, and she was a welcome addition. Jeff, as I have posted before, is returning from a stroke about a year ago and this was his first ride back on some technical trails. Our buddy Pete and Jeff rode together and it was amazing that Jeff has made the comeback due to a lot of hard work on his part and answered prayer. Julie rode the rocks with us. Jeff will ride them soon.

Next amazing story was my pal Tom Tiernan. He has come back twice from cancer and was in terrific shape. Tom pays a lot of attention to his fitness and it showed on the ride in the Laurels. He is an amazingly enthusiastic guy despite some pretty major health setbacks. He enjoys life and really likes mountain bike riding as well as road cycling. He is back and his health and fitness show it. And he talks the whole ride- can’t figure it out. He must have lungs of iron. He and I wouldn’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. LOL!!!

The group was rounded out by the dentists- Steve Gurtner, and his pals Brad and Sean. All great riders with whom I have ridden many times. Along with Steve’s son Dan who decided to ride with the old guys this day. Julie and Jeff were in the dental field as well and if any one of us had any issues with our teeth on the ride- well we were covered. Roger Evans brought his posse up from West Virginia. Roger and I ride at Adventurefest every year at Raystown and it was great to see him again. My pal Sandy McKee came along and all in all- 16 riders of different backgrounds, faiths, believers, non-believers, and general good guys all hooted and hollered as we left the parking lot after a thoughtful prayer by Greg asking for protection. Greg also asked for prayer requests which were numerous in coming.

The West Virginia Boys and Pete.
Steve and Dan at Wolf Rocks- watching for rattlers.
Sandy taking a breather.

The cool thing about the outing was that even though it was sponsored by a faith based outdoor organization, there was nothing uncomfortable about it. Everyone, no matter if you have faith or no faith, likes to have a prayer said on their behalf. Greg handled it with grace and it was well received. The misnomer about a lot of Christian men is that they are extremists, right wing, condescending when nothing could be further than the truth. Real Christians recognize that they are sinners and in need of the Savior. There was no uncomfortable discussion, no shoving anything down anyone’s throat, just plain fun in the mountains on our bikes. Christian guys are not weirdos. Just come to Adventurefest and see for yourself. They know the good news of the Gospel and are willing to share it, only if asked. Just normal Joes like the most of us. No need to be intimidated by Christian men whose battle cry at the front of the pack was “Halle……….then the back of the pack responds ……..lujah.” And the whole group chuckles and keeps riding.

Mountain biking is a cool way to get 16 guys together and 1 cool lady for some exercise and fun in the woods, with some great dialog. People have issues, or have friends and family with issues, and no better people to discuss them with than the guys from Adventuremen at what they call ” Dirt Church.” I am happy to be associated with them and in fact Greg asked me to be on their board. I was truly honored. So guess what he gets out of me? An enthusiastic guy who organizes fun rides or as I call them Pleasant Pat Peddling. I am going to try to organize some more rides, hikes and even a ski day or 2. Check with me or http://www.adventuremen.org. Adventuremen on Facebook and Dirt Church on Facebook. If you have interest, join one of these FB groups and get all the latest information on rides and events. Greg, Shark, Pete and I invite everyone and it is amazing who God puts together. Normal people – mountain bike riders – in the woods, discussing life and its ups and downs, and how faith in the Lord can fuse it all together. Thanks for reading.

Rich Roll Rocks

Rich Roll- ultra distance athlete and successful Podcast host.

Last year, my friend Jeff Chetlin turned me on to a great podcast by Rich Roll. You can google him to find out all about his podcast and his amazing lifestyle change over the years. But suffice to say that he is impressive as is his list of guests on his daily podcast. I also read his book which is a good one too.

I have listened with great intent to his interviews with world class athletes like Lyndsey Vonn, Lance Armstrong, and Rebecca Rusch. Rich brings out the best in all of them by asking provocative questions and allowing them to expand during his usual 2 hour show. The interesting thing about world class athletes is their drive to which Rich is intimately familiar as he himself is a national class ultra athlete.

The Rich Roll Podcast

Rich is aging like many of us and it is interesting to hear his guests who speak on what it takes to stay healthy. I heard a Rich Roll podcast with Drs. Dean and Anne Ornish who spoke at length about plant based eating and how that lifestyle can be a “fountain of youth” for many of us. They also spoke about mitochondria health in our cells and as we age, how it is compromised. I first heard of NADs (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) and how we can refurbish our cells taking a product called Tru-Niagen. I take it every day because I believe that the science is there. Rich has varied guests in the medical field who talk about health in general but also as it relates to those of us who are trying to stay healthy through exercise as we age.

Rich on an ultra distance training run.

Recently Rich had Dr. Peter Attia as a guest who has worked with many world class athletes. The discussion centered around Zone 2 training. Now, as I listened, I thought back to where I had first heard that term. It was from the Heart Rate Monitor Book published by Sally Edwards in 1993. I had a monitor in those days and found the discussion on training in zones particularly enlightening. Sally Edwards as well as Dr. Attia find that training in Zone 2 which is basically a heart rate zone where you can exercise and still have a conversation, is the most beneficial. The heart rate zones are different based on the conditioning of the athlete, but the basic premise is not to always be in zone 4 or 5 which is aerobic to anaerobic in scale and often hampers one’s ability to be conditioned. He spoke about lactate levels which are blood lactate readings taken basically in a lab environment where an athlete’s blood is taken regularly during exercise to find the optimum level at which lactate levels begin to build in the muscles leading to lactic acid formation. If you can be aware of your levels, keep your heart rate in zone 2 and not go above your recommended levels, the training benefits are optimized. The discussion also included awareness of watts produced during exercise and the balance between watts and lactate levels. Watts seemed to be more pertinent in the discussion than heart rate but many casual athletes do not have a watt meter attached to their bike as world class cyclists do.

Now Rich Roll even admitted during the interview that most people who exercise are not at the level at which lactate measurement is a consideration. Most of us can relate to heart rates that are in different zones and if we stick to training or exercising in zone 2 – the conversational zone, it will be more beneficial and also……..more enjoyable. Pain is not always gain.

Dr. Peter Attia- google him.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to me about the interview with Dr. Attia was the discussion on what goals we have as we age. Dr. Attia stated that as an aging athlete, we need to consider what we would like to do in our later years as octogenarians and above. Do we want to be able to get up off the floor without using our hands? Do we want to easily get up out of a chair? Do we still want to race? Do we want to ski? Do we want to have sex? All of these things are considerations and if we outline them, we can “back cast” to the present time and lead a life that will make those things possible barring any catastrophic health issues. Bottom line in the discussion for us mortals is just to keep moving. I always quote Scot Nichol of Ibis Bikes when I asked him how long we can ski and ride like we do. His standard answer is ” just keep doing it.” ” Don’t even think about it.”

If you get the chance, tune in to the Rich Roll Podcast. It can get technical but for most of us who exercise for health with our racing days behind us, his discussions with his guests are enlightening. I won’t be undergoing any lactate testing any time soon but I recently did get a Garmin Fenix sports watch that gives me way more information about my daily exercise and lifestyle than I could ever utilize. But it does give me some benchmarks that I can use as I “forecast” to the future and see how long I can keep doing the things that I like to do. Garmin, Rich Roll, and books like ” How Not to Die ” by Michael Greger M.D. keep me in the game. Friends do too and to have a group of people who have similar interests on the slopes and trails keep me motivated and engaged. Zone 2 keeps it fun too. Thanks for reading.

Taking a Flyer at Snowshoe

The Finish Line- Snowshoe, WVA World Cup Mountain Bike Race

” So Pete, what made us think we would escape the rain, roots and mud of riding in West Virginia?” I said this as my friend Pete Hilton and I made our way through the Backcountry Trails at Silver Creek right outside of Snowshoe Mountain Resort in West Virginia. We decided to take a flyer and go see the World Cup Cross Country Races and get a ride in too. We have a lot of experience over 30 years of riding mountain bikes in West Virginia for different events and unfortunately it rains most of the time. But somehow, that adds to the allure of the place and we kind of expect it. When we went to the Word Cup finals last year, it was a hot, sunny weekend. But that was a first. At the Wild 100s, the 24 Hour Races, the NORBA Nationals, the Fat Tire Festivals over the years- it always rained………….and that’s ok believe it or not.

Before the muddy mess.

So Pete picks me up at 4:00 AM and we take the drive to Snowshoe from Pittsburgh. About a 4 hour jaunt and when we get there, we get our tickets for the races and then head to Silver Creek. The long and the short of that is we got lost because I started out on the wrong trail. We had a long, rocky, climb and eventually ended up in the woods on a trail system that we had ridden before. Rooty, muddy , slimy and all around West Virginia treacherous snot fest. But we survived as usual and got back to the van and changed clothes and headed to the races. We met up with our Pittsburgh contingent and took in the expo area and saw a lot of the new bikes and equipment and also saw some of the racers who were warming up for the respective women’s and men’s cross country events.

U.S. Rider Kate Courtney warming up for the Scott Team

As we made our way to the start line and then to the course, it began to sprinkle and then about halfway through the women’s race, the skies opened up in true West Virginia fashion. We were positioned at this amazingly muddy and steep downhill and witnessed some of the most skillful bike handling you will ever see. Take the time to watch the races on Red Bull TV and you will see how difficult the course became and how well the women rode. My MVP for the day was Jolanda Neff of Switzerland who bombed down the muddy, slimy, rock infested descent and bridged to the lead group to finish on the podium. An amazing feat of fitness and skill was on display for all of us to see in a truly biblical, torrential downpour.

The first lap for the men .

The men were next and it seemed to be raining even harder as Hank, Samra, Pete and I hung out in the North Face Store just to stay a little dry although we were totally soaked. We welcomed people into the North Face Store jokingly hoping not to get thrown out. But eventually we made our way to the wicked fast start and eventually back to that treacherous downhill to see how the men handled it. Well, not only are the speeds higher than the women, but the fearless attacks in the torrent both on the climbs and on the descents were impressive.

Thomas Frischknecht- Former Olympic medalist and World Champion- manager of the Scott Team and a nicer guy you will not meet.

Although the weather was really foul, the amazing thing about the whole event is the people. First off, the fans are truly enthusiastic and no matter how badly they were soaked, their cheerful attitude and encouraging voices and cowbell rings, buoyed the riders on. The Red Bull TV people all comment on the enthusiastic fans at Snowshoe and it was on display even in the raging rainstorm.

The athletes, managers, and employees of the manufacturers at the booths are amazingly approachable and always happy to oblige with a picture or a discussion. There is something in the air at Snowshoe that makes it a great venue for mountain biking and mountain bike racing. People are friendly, and the visiting athletes from all over the world are always glad to come here. Even though it is quite remote, it is like a gem in the wilderness of West Virginia and the people of mountain biking make the venue even more special.

Don’ miss this bar b que – bottom of the mountain on the way out.

The Pittsburgh Contingent.

On our way out, Pete and I stopped at the Almost Heaven Smoke House at the bottom of the mountain on the way out to RT219. Great bar b que if you visit and the owners are hard working and friendly – typical of the locals of West Virginia who embrace the World Cup every year. I am hoping that the UCI always hosts the World Cup at Snowshoe and we can continue to see world class athletes show us all how it is done. Nothing like the races and nothing like the people of the mountain bike community.

We headed home after the men’s races were over and the four hour drive back seemed to fly by with our enthusiastic recounting of the events of the day. A long day for a couple of guys in their 60s but what the hell- go for it. Spending the weekend is the way to go, but Pete and I had other things that precluded that. But we made the effort, got a ride in, and saw some great racing in the wilds of West Virginia. It truly is ” Almost Heaven” even when it rains. Thanks for reading.

Final Images courtesy of Red Bull TV

PPP( Pat’s Pleasant Peddling)

With Hank and Samra- Wolf Rocks Overlook- Laurel Mountain, Pa.

So, when we pulled into the parking lot at Laurel Mountain, the snake hunters were getting ready with their long tongs, long pants and boots. We all chatted briefly and the conclusion was that there probably would not be much to look at because of the cool temperatures and cloudy conditions. This suited Samra just fine as she commented, ” I thought this was going to be a pleasant ride?” “If I see a rattlesnake, it is not going to be pleasant.” Hank and I chuckled as we explained that rattlesnakes are fairly docile. If you don’t mess with them, they won’t mess with you. Yes they are in the Laurels as well as black bear, but again- just leave them alone. We all were up for a pleasant ride and although Samra and Hank are in great shape, they were content to ride at my pleasant pace. I find that the older I get, the more I like ” pleasant rides.”

My mantra-LOL!!!!
Blooming Mountain Laurel

I am not in the “blast out of the parking lot at full speed” crowd anymore. I need to warm up. Probably a good half hour or more. I had my stint in bicycle racing for 25 years and although it was a lot of fun with it’s share of suffering, I am happy in these last several years to back off a little bit and enjoy the rides. See things like blooming mountain laurel instead of focusing on the guy or group ahead of me. Samra and Hank don’t like big groups and were perfectly happy to have me show them my favorite place to ride at a reasonable pace.

If you live in Western Pennsylvania or are thinking of visiting, the Laurel Mountains have some great options for hiking and mountain bike riding. The trails are well marked and can be found on Trailforks and MTB Project. Maps are also available at the DCNR office in Laughlintown at the bottom of the mountain on Rt. 30. I usually ride the trails up near Laurel Mountain State Park Ski Area. Even at a pleasant pace, there are challenging sections like Wolf Rocks and Spruce Run Trail into the Summit Trail. I still like the challenge of riding the rocks but they can be done at a pleasant pace and not necessarily race pace. They will work you and your suspension but definitely worth the effort. The view from the Wolf Rocks overlook is not to be missed as well. But be aware of the rocky overlook where above said rattlesnakes tend to sun themselves if not too many people are around. But if there are riders and hikers present, no worries at all.

I still have friends who are very skilled riders and like to push the pace. I admire them for their fitness and when I ride with them, I tend to go at my own pace and sometimes take short cuts in order to make the ride pleasant. They will push me oftentimes and I have to get out of my comfort zone, but more and more as they age, they appreciate the opportunity to sometimes ride the PPP pace. I think we still get a good workout and as I always say, ” nobody is going to the Olympics.”

The fall is coming.

Another good thing about the PPP pace is that it is good for some of my friends who have had some recent health setbacks. They are trying to work their way back and you don’t have to hammer all the time to get the benefits. In fact, it is amazing to me and to some of my pals, that if you back it off just a little bit, you don’t kill yourself and you have a lot of energy left to enjoy more of the ride. This weekend with Hank and Samra, we worked the rock sections but rode at the PPP and completed the whole enchilada of my Laurel Mountain ride and I did not collapse in the parking lot. I could have ridden more. My fitness at this time of year is best, but I think the pace of the PPP helps me and can help others too. I like to think of it as an aging guy’s program. Ride to ride another day.

So if you see me out there on the trails, or you want to ride with me, you will know that I will ride at a pace where I can talk to you. I am learning to listen more and I would like to hear more about you, than telling you about me and my worn out stories. The PPP is a fun mountain bike ride. You will always smile. Thanks for reading.

Send It

UCI World Cup Snowshoe- home of the “Senders”

So I go into Trail Flo Bikes the other day to pick up my mountain bike after a minor repair and after I say “thank you” for the quick service the owner, Tom Florcik, says to me- “send it.” I kind of chuckled because I always liked this expression of devil may care bravado. He basically was saying – ” take your bike Pat and go throw caution to the wind.” “Send it”.

Women’s UCI Downhill- Snowshoe, WVA

Now when you go to a World Cup mountain bike event, and watch the downhill, you see some real senders. They absolutely have no fear and go as fast as they possibly can to win. They stand in the starting gate and you hear their coaches and team mates say “send it” right before they launch into the course. If you have any thoughts of slowing down at any point, you are out of the top ten. Similarly, if you watch any of the Red Bull Rampage out in Utah- you see some amazing scenes of guys and gals riding impossibly steep descents complete with back flips off jumps. They send it for sure, again with no fear. Well, maybe a little bit in the starting gate, but for the most part, they are amped to compete.

Corbett’s Couloir- Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I can remember standing on the edge of Corbett’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, back in the day, and thinking of where I was going to slide in and make my first turn. Something in me said, ” send it” and I went for it in my own way. Today’s kids start roughly 100 yards above the couloir and do a back flip into the abyss in the Kings and Queens of Corbett’s much to my amazement. Their meaning of “send it” is much different than mine. Today- at my age, I like to ride to ride another day and also stay on the ground. Mountain biking is exercise for me and not hucking off some cliff or big rock outcrop. Skiing is making nice turns and staying on the ground as well. “Send it” is a relative term these days.

Looking down from the summit of Mammoth Mountain, California.

I like to think that occasionally I can rise to the occasion and be like Toby Keith when he says, ” I ain’t as good as I once was, but I am as good once as I ever was.” Nice thought but for the most part only dreaming. ” Send it” today has a much different meaning to me than what it means to today’s generation.

Attitude plays a big part too in “sending it.” Take Missy Giove here back in the day after her loss in the dual slalom at the NORBA Nationals in Snowshoe. I rode up the chairlift with her and she was quite engaging and talkative, but you could tell she was pissed that she lost. She then got off the chair and launched herself back down the course with the attitude of ” send it” in a much different meaning. Kind of funny – the crowd thought so too.

Missy the Missile

When I think of the term, ” send it”, it conjures up nerves. I think about getting out of your comfort zone and with a little bit of reckless abandon, you do something you might not ordinarily do . You have to get the negative ” what if” out of your head and think positive. That can have consequences or if you pull it off, it will have you ” smiling like a butcher’s dog.” Even though I am fairly conservative these days, there are the occasions when I will try something relatively imposing, but that is the rare occasion. Getting hurt takes a little more healing time and you have to face the reality that you are not 25 years old anymore. ” Send it” might be something relatively docile compared to the old days.

I do think there are ways though these days where you can ” send it” under different circumstances. For instance, my friends who live in Florida volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse. They live a comfortable life in Florida but when SP calls, they are deployed to some really needy places in the world. They probably think, ” ahh, do we really want to go?” But then they “send it” and off they go to places and people who really need their help. We can ” send it” the same way when we have a friend in need, a sick neighbor, someone who needs some comfort or friendship, maybe some help with something with which you really are not familiar but you are willing to go out on the limb to help. You think, ” ahh, not now. I really don’t feel like doing that.” But as you stare into the possibilities that it might not work out, or you will be ridiculed, or you maybe can’t quite pull off the task, you ” send it” and hopefully come out smiling like that butcher’s dog.

Another sender.

My mother always said that ” Happiness is like a perfume. You can’t sprinkle it on others without getting a little on yourself” You feel good when you are able to help someone. Maybe you don’t feel like doing it or getting involved? But you pick yourself up and go for it. It is usually worth the effort.

Most of us will never be like the Red Bull athlete, or the World Cup MTB downhiller, but in our own way we can ” send it”. Look for the opportunities, think about standing in that start line of life, not sure of what will come by throwing caution to the wind, and …………………………..” send it!” Thanks for reading.

Snowshoe title picture courtesy of Steve Gurtner

The Tour de Death

Make Chetlin Great Again- seen here on the right.

So in the continuing effort to MCGA( Make Chetlin Great Again) a couple of us got together the other evening and took Jeff for another mountain bike ride. He is making amazing progress after a stroke a year ago and soon will be back to full strength. So, after a rain storm, it was decided that the trails in Frick would be a little sloppy. So Jesse Seager, the restauranteur extraordinaire( go to Point Brugge in Pittsburgh to find out), Darryl Huber( uber athlete in from Colorado for a visit) and yours truly took to the roads of ………..a cemetery. We laughed and called it the Tour de Death but Jesse told us when the trails in Frick Park get too sloppy in the winter, he can get a good ten miles in on the mountain bike all along the roads that go through the cemetery.

The Benedum Crypt

The amazing thing is all of the famous people interred in this famous cemetery. Business leaders like Michael Benedum, Henry Clay Frick, Henry J Heinz, Senator John Heinz, Henry Hillman and Willard Rockwell. Entertainers like Erroll Garner and Walt Harper are also interred here along with Jock Sutherland – former Pitt football coach and Pie Traynor- hall of famer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the truly neat thing about cycling through the cemetery is the beauty of the place and the incredible mausoleums and crypts of some very famous families in the Pittsburgh area. It occurred to me that people really went into a thought process about their memorial places and what they wanted to leave behind as a memory and tribute to their lives here in the ‘burg. Jesse and Jeff, as locals, gave us a great tour and it was in no time at all that Jeff probably had the most mileage and time on the bike to date. Every ride gets better and better for this guy. It won’t be long until he is 100 percent full strength. Who ever thought that part of his rehabilitation would be laps through a famous cemetery?

No complaints from the customers here.
People are dying to get in.
Military Sections Too

As we peddled along, Jeff commented that among all the groups he is involved with- skiers, moto- cross riders, and snowmobilers, he seems to think that the mountain bike community is the best. More laughs, more genuine people, and one of the reasons he won’t move permanently to his other home in Bend, Oregon. He likes the mountain bike community in Pittsburgh, even if we do ride through cemeteries from time to time.

The cemetery makes you think a little as you go along as to what is really important in life. Jeff commented that as we get older, it is not about how fast we go on the trails, how many miles we did, or even where we rode. It is more about getting together and enjoying the great outdoors. It’s being with friends, talking and laughing, reminiscing, and in general enjoying each others company. It rained on us a little bit but as mountain bikers, we really don’t care. We enjoyed the ride, the company and the views.

So the next time you think that it is too muddy to ride, maybe think about your local boneyard. It is quiet, peaceful, and offers some dry riding in the worst of weather conditions – and no cars which is a bonus. Take a tip from Jesse and Jeff, go hit it and when the trails dry, you can tell some stories out there about how you saw Pie Traynor’s final resting place. Thanks for reading.

The Rails to Trails Diversion

A sunny start

So it’s Memorial Day weekend and Jan says to me, ” I would like to ride my bike.” A little unusual because she does not ride that much but enjoys it when in the mood. I suggested a rails to trails ride and since we were making the effort, why not drive a little bit to maybe one of the more scenic Rails to Trails in our area – the Butler-Freeport Trail. For those of you who are visiting Western Pa. and want a diversion from the really impressive mountain biking in these parts, the Butler Freeport Trail is a relaxing option. As you meander through quiet farmland and along gurgling streams that seem to sparkle in the sunlight, you are amazed at how relaxed it makes you feel. Rails to Trails are basically flat as they follow old railroad lines that have been converted to bike trails.

Unloading the rack.
So many farms along the way
Jan says I look like a police officer. LOL!!

The Butler Freeport Trail is not unlike the many rails to trails that are in our region. Very well maintained and really not that crowded even on a holiday weekend. Runners, walkers and hikers enjoy the trails but for the most part, most of the users are cyclists. Mountain bikes are a good choice but you see all kinds of clunkers out there as well as the increasingly popular E-Bikes. Unlike mountain biking in the woods, the rails to trails allow one to look around to take in the scenery. You can cruise at your own pace and not have to worry about trees, logs, rocks, stumps, etc. that make you focus on a typical mountain bike ride. Personally I like riding with my wife, but I also like riding at the relaxed scenic pace on rails to trails. It is a great diversion from my usual mountain bike rides on the rocky, rooty, hilly, trails of Western Pa.

The nice thing about making the effort to ride Butler-Freeport Trail is that when you are finished, there are many optional side things to do in Butler County. We always gravitate towards Freedom Farms who have a nice market, donut shop, and outdoor dining venue in an open barn. Freedom Farms specializes in fresh produce, and their own hormone free, grass fed beef, pork and chicken. If you grab their brochure, there are many events that take place on the farm all through the year. From farm to table dinners on specific Sundays during the year that are paired with beer tasting and wine tasting, to fall and Christmas activities that showcase the work of the farm in all seasons. The King Family owns 200 acres of farmland right near the Butler Freeport Trail that make up the Freedom Farms. They are a friendly, hard working family who take the time to stop and answer questions and show you around.

A stop at Freedom Farms is a must.

After picking up some produce and nice hanging baskets, we made our way to my standard stop at Hammer’s Frozen Custard. Now for those of you who have not sampled frozen custard like Janet, you are in for a real treat as no ice cream anywhere can beat frozen custard. So much so that we got a cone and then brought a quart home.

Bounty from Freedom Farms
So good!!!!!

I guess the point of all of this is advice to make a day of it. Take a nice relaxing ride in the country on a rails to trails, see the local spots and have a nice time of it with your significant other. I have vowed to take Jan to several more rails to trails systems and see the associated fun places to eat and shop along the way. For me, it is a nice diversion from the usual ride in the woods where at the end of the day you are exhausted and perspiring like you just jumped out of the shower. There are rails to trails systems everywhere, all over the country. Take the time to visit them, ride them, enjoy them and instead of always trying to beat your pal up a hill or beat your Strava time, relax and enjoy the ride. Thanks for reading.

Photos by Janet McCloskey.

The Trails Are For All of Us

Laguna Beach, Ca
State College, Pa.

So I was rocking down the trail the other day with a bunch of my pals in a tight line on our mountain bikes. As we rounded a corner, I was the last guy and I heard behind me,” You’re Welcome!!” Feeling like we had committed a transgression, I stopped, turned around and saw a woman hiker who obviously was not happy. I knew the guys would wait for me up ahead so I turned back to address the lady and say that we were sorry for not thanking her for moving off the trail to let us by. I explained that I did not see her as surely I would have thanked her per my custom with hikers and runners on the trail. I also told her I have a bell where if I see someone hiking or running or riding for that matter, I use it to give them a courteous notice that I was coming. This conversation with the disgruntled hiker was not cutting it as she said, ” Why do I have to always move for you guys?” I replied once again that I was sorry and apologized for the rest of our group. But it got me thinking. The trails are for all of us and we need to be courteous to all who use the trails, no matter what. Sure we were flying and everyone in our MTB group was working hard to keep the pace of the line. But, obviously this was not received well.

Fast forward, the other day, I was riding by myself in our local North Park trails, and came upon a woman and her family and three dogs. Two nicely behaved golden retrievers and a smaller dog who was quite young. I rang my bell, was courteous and thanked her for moving the dogs as I sped by but I could tell she was uncomfortable moving the dogs and trying to keep them off the trail to let me by.

Hiking in North Park- Pittsburgh , Pa

I did one more lap around and came upon them again and this time, I got off my bike, moved off the trail and said to them, ” Now it is your turn to pass” with a big smile on my face. She appreciated that and it kind of broke the ice a little bit and she explained that she had some difficulty with a mountain biker the other day. Seems like a guy came roaring by them and startled their little dog, who I found out was a rescue dog. The rider never said sorry or thank you for moving, just roared past her. The lady explained that after that event, the little dog was terrified of mountain bikes and asked if she could walk her past my bike to show her that all mountain bikers are not scary and rude. We exchanged further pleasantries and I went on my way feeling that perhaps I had diffused some hard feelings and maybe I helped show the lady and her family that all MTB riders are not the same. I told her in passing that we try to educate newer riders on the courtesies of the trail, but some people- just like on the the trails of life , are only thinking of themselves. More education is needed.

My family likes to hike too.

My wife and I are avid hikers too and I can certainly see the conflicts that take place from a hiker/runner perspective on the trails. I notice when riding sometimes that trail runners and hikers sometime take a more aggressive attitude when we are passing them on mountain bikes. But I get it. They probably have had similar experiences as my friend with the dogs. I see the disgruntled looks on their faces and my immediate reaction is ” Hey- I pay my taxes too!!!” But then I think, be courteous, ring your bell. Smile and thank them for moving. I always think that the best way to improve perception is to be polite, courteous, and respect others on the trails.

The other users that need a lot of respect are the horses and their riders. Our group makes a habit of getting off our bikes, standing well to the side of the trail, and greeting them in a friendly manner. Most of the equestrian types are nice and very thankful that we move. Horses are easily spooked and I am sure they have had their moments of nervousness with a group of mountain bike riders.

The last thing I am going to comment about here is trail work. If you are going to claim certain rights on trails and use them frequently, it might not be a bad idea to give a little sweat equity to http://www.trailpittsburgh.org if you live in the local area. There are opportunities for cyclists, runners, hikers, and equestrians to work together on trail projects. Not only does that improve our trail systems but it gives all of us users a chance to work together and talk about some things that maybe need resolved. If you are open enough to listen to concerns with other user groups, you will be more educated as to their issues and work to resolve them – one trail day session at a time.

Our group of courteous riders visiting Wild Wonderful West Virginia

These trail improvement organizations are everywhere and no matter where you live, you can get involved and maybe learn a little bit about other user groups. In my mind, trail use is a little bit of a microcosm of life in general. Interaction with people where courtesy wins the day. Shouldn’t that be the way we all behave as we move through life ? We all use the trails to get away from the stresses of daily life and to get some exercise in a great environment. The trails are for all of us. Thanks for reading.