Thursday, September 4, 2008

Unsettled Feelings, My Happy Button, and Anatomy of a Feed-Bag Hand-Off

I saw the first Maple start to change (pic left) up in Pinebrook last week, on 8/29. Since them a few more are peeping out, and soon a red-orange flash will sweep across the foothill-woodlands. I’ve been doing some research on leaf-color change in general, and in Maples specifically, and I’ve got a real interesting post brewing. But it won’t be happening this week. Here’s why:

Last Big Race

There’s a ton of stuff going on right now- at work and home. And Saturday is LOTOJA. This is my third LOTOJA, and I have the pre-race jitters. I’ve done great the last 2, and the pressure is on (from myself) to do better still. I’m in a tougher category than ever before- the Cat3/4 pack- racing with a group of 30+ outstanding riders. I don’t want to screw this up or flake or crash or mechanical. In addition, I have these additional stress factors happening this week, and between them and the race, I can’t be certain what’s really eating at me:

Various Issues

  1. General sadness, malaise/sadness over pending end of summer. Regret for all the things I didn’t get around to doing, seeing, blogging and/or learning about. General dread of short, cold, gray days…
  2. Behavioral issues with Twin A. We’ve always had some, but they’ve come to a head this week. I love my kids more than anything (even pines and Blue Flag) and thoughts that your kid is on the wrong path (probably way overblown) can just tie your head in knots.
  3. Various work stuff. Can’t get into (especially since I think about 3 of the 5 or so people who actually read this blog are coworkers) but it’s a factor. Some of this issue I’ve alluded to before, and no doubt will again…
  4. The vague unsettled feeling that my wife is mildly pissed off at me about something. This happens from time to time, and I’m never sure why… I’m so dialed in in so many areas of life- like the natural world, for example- and so utterly clueless in other areas of life- like why I pissed someone off- that these kind of slow-burn interactions are especially trying for me. And it’s kind of like a zit, or infected thorn, in that if I go digging in and trying to figure out exactly what it is, I’m more likely to make it worse than better…

So anyway, around noontime I was feeling pretty crappy. Here’s what happened that made me feel better.

At around 1:30, my friend and long-time co-worker- let’s call him “Jason” and I went out into the parking lot and practiced feed-bag hand-offs for LOTOJA. “Jason” is supporting me in the race for the 3rd year in a row, which means at specific points along the 206 mile-long course, he stands in a “Feed Zone” and hand me off a bag filled with water bottles, gels and food items for me to consume over the next 40 or 50 miles, until the next feed zone.

Tangent: “Jason” has been a friend and coworker for over 10 years. A Utah native, he’s one of those Utah Mormons who has all of the good stereotypical Utah Mormon qualities, and none of the bad. I’m fortunate to have worked with and befriended several “Jason”-type Utahns over the last decade-plus I’ve lived along the Wasatch Front, and it’s been one of the real pluses of living here.

How A Feed-Bag Hand-Off Works (Hopefully)

A feed bag hand-off is a little scary, and the likeliest place for a crash in a race of this type/length. It works like this:

Tangent: No, I'm not Japanese, and neither is "Jason". His wife is, which is how come he has a Japanese Flag lying around the house. (And no, his wife didn't have the flag around because she's like one of those 80-year old marooned soldiers on a Pacific Island who thinks the War is still going on- her brother brought it over for the Olympics...)

From the standpoint of the rider, it looks like this:

People all around, shouting, you’re zipping in at 10-15 mph (about ½ speed), one-handed, trying to snag a small strap, swing it over your head, get out of the throng without crashing and empty the contents of the bag into your jersey pockets (with 1 or 2 hands, depending on your coordination and courage) over the next 200 meters before ditching the bag.

I only use feed bags for LOTOJA, which means once a year, and as a result we always practice at the last minute.

We practiced the hand-off about 25 or so times, both left and right-hand sides, at increasing speeds up to about 17 mph, before going back in to the office. And when I sat down again at my desk, I realized something funny: I wasn’t sad or anxious or down anymore. I felt good, with the smooth feel of gliding on my bike and making the smooth hand-off still fresh in my mind. And that right there, is the best, strangest, most inexplicable and yet most fundamental thing about all this biking in my life that I’m always mentioning or alluding to or bragging about in this blog: it makes me feel good. It makes me happy. I don’t know why, but it does. It’s like I’ve found a “Happy” button in my life, and as long as I can push it (i.e. ride my bike) every day or so, everything seems OK.

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