June 15, 2015 § 2 Comments
Today was the hottest I’ve ever been.
43 miles round trip in what weather.com says “feels like 91,” bike -> hike -> boulder -> hike -> bike to Sourland Mountain. Sweaty sweaty bouldering, but there’s some really fun stuff up there. Definitely worth a day bouldering trip assuming I can figure out how to bike with a crash pad …
Spent about 10 minutes here Googling the symptoms of my three bug bites –
sharp pain transitioning into itchiness and a big bump, faded away in 5 minutes. Results inconclusive.
Boulder field heaven. You know, if heaven felt like hell.
Out of water and Gatorade, dripping sweat, 5 miles to go.
April 15, 2015 § 1 Comment
Recently dubbed (knighted? redesignated?) a national park, Pinnacles is a wee little thing in the valley with road access on the east and west and trail access all the way through. We did a whirlwind 40 hour exploration – drank many beers, climbed many feet, played many songs, and discovered just how out of climbing shape we were. Not a bad way to spend a birthday.
January 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
Now that my sister has gone off to Berkeley to set the curves in her math classes, my Dad has taken up outdoorsmanship full time… and IT. IS. AWESOME! Combine Asian thriftiness with the internet and a love for the outdoors and BOOM, I arrived home to find technical rain jackets, soft shells, a 15 degree rated sleeping bad and a top notch Thermarest. There’s really no better way to celebrate the holidays than some -12 degree father-daughter camping.
Right after this photo, my iPhone warned me that it was too damn hot and the phone was shutting off until it cooled down.
July 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
The wind is whipping sky-water parallel to the earth, if you can call it that. More of a slippery pinnacle, water on moss on rock, a chiseled crest, the highest point in Sierra de Luquillo. I can hear the whistling of the wind through the jungle, the wet crash of rain on my face and into my eardrums, and over it, the rumbling sound of my own voice yelling,
“THIS IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO LOOK DEATH RIGHT IN THE EYEBALLS AND POKE HIM IN THE FOREHEAD … NOT TODAY DEATH! NOT TODAY!”
June 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
The very nice thing about having the particular friends that I have is their willingness adventure.
Now, a 50 miler on a new route that ends in a hike is more of a wander for me at this point in life. I’ve plotted enough day and weekend trips to feel very comfortable on a bike headed somewhere that Google tells me is real. Look at map, pick out a green blotch, hit “Bike Directions.” For most people who don’t wander much, much less adventure, this is in their “pee-your-pants-zone.”
(Graphic expanded from this post.)
The life-side-effect of being used to working 80 hours a week for months talking to strangers about politics and money, is that most other things in life end up in the learning or comfort zone.
This is a long way of saying that wanders and adventures alike are more fun with friends.
Here’s our route – south and west through Hillsborough (which was, happily, absent of hills) to Sourland mountain. The day was calm and heat mild, with intermittent clouds overhead. Halfway through, we stopped at the Hillsborough Star Diner to hang out with the many families there for fathers day.
I’d only been to this mountain (more of a small hill really) in the winter and remembered a bunch of boulders, but couldn’t tell how clamor-friendly they were. We were pleasantly surprised to find 2-5 hold rocks all around the park. Here is Loren gliding on one of the boulders.
It takes more than trust in your body and an understanding of physics to climb things – it takes a bit of an adrenalin junkie, that nudging curiosity wondering “what does the world look like from over there?”, and the ability to look at the fear inside and climb whatever it is you intended to climb despite it.
The Fathers Day families were out fishing on a little lake, watching tiny blue gills swim in buckets before setting them free. It was a nice pause after all the activities of the day before traveling back home.
April 8, 2013 § 4 Comments
I watched a TED talk awhile ago by Andy Puddicombe about mindfullness, being present in the moment. You can watch the whole thing here. This guy got so stressed out that he quit his degree and went to the Himilayas to become a monk, so you know, he seems pretty trustworthy.
It’s … about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going, emotions coming and going without judgment, but with a relaxed, focused mind.
He challenges his listeners to remember the last time they sat and did nothing for 10 minutes – not waiting for a train or trying to fall asleep, not traveling somewhere or accidentally zoning out, but actually not intending to do anything, just pausing and watching the brain move. It was an interesting thought, and I definitely couldn’t remember the last time I actively did this (have I ever..?) so I decided to give it a try.
It was past 9pm in the office and I was (clearly) distracted anyhow, so I leaned back in my chair and stared at the ceiling … my brain zipped back and forth, to the work I had to do, the people in my life, the errands I needed to run… but instead of trying to control it or streamline the thought to a solution, I just looked at it, recognized it. Hey thought! Yup, you’ve got a lot of shit to do. Oh, you seem to be stressed about that. Yes, you should call that person at some point..A the end of the ten minutes, I had a feeling of “welp, those are all just things.” I had a far better understanding of what was actually dominating my brainspace and the new feeling that just existing, that’s it, was okay.
It’s tough in modern society not be distracted, much less actually mindful. I’m an action person – what’s the problem? What can I do to solve it? What can I do to maximize this time right now? – and the iPhone, laptop, and iPad Mini combination is downright lethal to mindfulness (not to mention the cars and people zipping by my office window and the people walking in and out of the office randomly demanding my time). Having a moment of decompression, not even the full 10 minutes, can put the stops on whatever anxiousness or stress I’m feeling and help to direct my energy more efficiently and with more forethought.
This of course, was like two months ago. Before my bike ride, I’d reverted almost wholly back to my not so natural, but definitely dominant fast-paced, phone-checking self.
Enter nine hours of biking, 5 hours of walking, and three of staring at a fire. Here’s a sample of what totally unrestricted brain meandering might read like:
Get the Cliff bar… got it. This is delicious. I should get a water bottle holder thing. Right on Yellowbrick, right on Yellowbrick, nope not Yellowbrick. [daydream about hammocks on the beach]. This would be a good teambuilding activity. We should do more team building. [brainstorm teambuilding activities]. I’m awesome. This is awesome! I wonder if I’m going to get a sunburn. Mental note to read about skin cancer rates. Mental notes to get more books about science.
It’s not a novel concept, but I was just zenning out the whole time. There was nothing I could do about anything work related, so I had no reason to check my e-mail. I still had cell service, but I ignored work texts and used my phone only for directions. I smiled at the sun. I cursed the wind. I slumped next the fire and had to make hard choices about which stick I was going to burn next and whether I’d be happier if I got up to pee now, or in ten minutes. Other than the few moments of annoyance about my 2nd flat tire, having to hop a fence on our hike, and crazy New Jersey drivers, it was an entire weekend of mindfulness. An entire weekend of recognizing what my brain was doing, of just being, because there was nothing else but to be.
Your eyeballs will be experiencing this and then some more stuff like this.
Here’s a snippet from the NYT on brain downtime:
The technology makes the tiniest windows of time entertaining, and potentially productive. But scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.
My bikeride was a lovely detour from this day to day distraction filled existence and I clearly need to go out and do that more often, but I also realized that I need to make room for more mindfulness in my daily routine too.
Two minutes per minute
Did I mention that the whole endeavor felt like it was forever? In a previous post I wondered at how many posts I could write about this one weekend bike trip, mostly as joke, but it did get me thinking – I had so many new experiences packed into a day and half that it felt like it could have been a week. Week long bike tours to new places feel like a month. It’s the stretching perception of time as your brain works hard to take in a new or novel experience. From NPR in an interview with Neuroscientist David Eagleman of Baylor College of Medicine:
“…when you drive to your new workplace for the first time and it seems to take a really long time to get there. But when you drive back and forth to your work every day after that, it takes no time at all, because you’re not really writing it down anymore. There’s nothing novel about it.”
That may be because the brain records new experiences — especially novel and exciting experiences — differently. This is even measurable. Eagleman’s lab has found that brains use more energy to represent a memory when the memory is novel.
And it’s true – there were times on my bikeride to Allaire when I thought “man, this flat is going to have me coming in at sunset, I’ve been biking forever!” but on the way back, I subconsciously logged landmarks and scenery, but mostly wasn’t paying as much attention and felt like the whole endeavor took about the right time.
When people say, “wow, I feel like college was just yesterday” or “man, that was a year ago? feels like yesterday” I usually think, “maybe you should go do something different.” I can’t remember the last time I felt that way. More often, I think “that felt like a trillion years ago, I can’t believe that was just last year!”
In the last nine years, I’ve moved 14 times (I count a move as living someplace for more than a month) and lived with 33 different people. I was terrified to make a three year commitment to a job because it meant I’d have to really challenge myself to keep trying new things, to keep confusing my brain’s perception of time so that when I’m 80, I feel like I’ve lived to 200.
Any new scenery is good scenery.
No turning back
Of course, it wasn’t all sunshine and peanuts at the ballgame – a lot of this weekend was downright hard. I hadn’t been on a fully loaded bike in awhile and spent the first ten miles freaking out about the chances of catching a pothole and a wayward breeze at the same time and being thrown into traffic. We got terribly lost on our hike, my ankle hurt like hell, and a member of our group was getting more surly at every mile. We couldn’t get the dog to swim across the river. I was starving and dirty and cold while I waited for my chili to heat up at camp. I was biking home trying to beat a rainstorm on day 2.
Cookie saying, “nuh-uh, you’re going to have to find another way
home on this little bushwhack of yours.”
The great thing about overnight bikerides? By the time it starts getting hard, it’s too late to turn back. It’s just you, your troubles, and your brain. Between the three of you, you have to figure out how to react to the situation because quittin’ aint’ an option.
It’s these moments that remind me that any thought that isn’t “this is how I’m going to fix it,” or “whatever, I’d rather be happy!” is useless.
So after my second flat, I just sat down and read my book in the sun until I felt like moving on. Whatever, I’d rather be happy!
Me, my brain, and my troubles sitting down to read about germs
and eat a Cliff Builder bar.
Bottom line: The whole weekend was a wonderful reminder and testament to what our brains can do if we give them the time to do it.
April 2, 2013 § 9 Comments
This weekend was spring! Like for real – so much so that I got a sunburn all over my face. It was awesome! I had been thinking about a weekend overnight bike trip for a few weeks and decided to take this one to bike from Somerset, New Jersey to Allaire State Park. My brain is packed full of thoughts on the experience (if one half hour run = one post, than how many posts does a 30 hour trip warrant? I guess we’ll see!)
Today’s thought: I’m getting old and my body just doesn’t do what it used to.
I know, I know, I’m just turning 26 this month – I’ve got years of living ahead of me if luck is with me, right? Probably true. But the ongoing theme of this year continues: I am not, unfortunately, invincible.
For years, I’ve been able to go hard – like really hard – hike miles, bike for hours, drink for days, wake up the next day, rinse and repeat with feeling tired as the only ramification. I read training schedules that warned about the dangers of overexerting and “listening to your body” and wondered at what they were talking about. What’s overtrainig? Is that like, when I feel extra tired? I figured that stuff didn’t apply to me and just tried whatever seemed awesome.
Fast forward six years – same mindset, different body. Last Wednesday, I ran the farthest I’ve run in awhile (maybe ever) and ended it feeling great. A little tingle in my inner ankle, but for once my lungs didn’t feel like exploding at the end of it and I felt like I could go even further. A breakthrough! I was going into the weekend feeling strong, thinking nothing of the ankle twinge.
Friday night, I packed up my panniers and got ready for the ride. I pound out 50 miles at 9 miles an hour (7 miles on a flat on account of having already used my spare tire on the first flat I got) and get to camp feeling exhausted, but pretty good. A couple of folks came down from north Jersey/NY to join me in an afternoon hike and that’s when the trouble started…
We decided to just go do some good ol’ fashioned bushwacking and wander a bit in the woods – it was all good and fun until we couldn’t find a clear path back to the campground (thank god for Google maps on iPhones for general location identification). Four hours and probably 10 miles later, my ankle was sore at every step and bruised/tender to the touch to boot. I walked in some cold rivers and streams to cool it down and popped some Ibuprofen, but there wasn’t much else I could do – I had biked out to the woods and had to get myself back the next day.
Saturday night Peeburr. Kickin’ and a gougin’ in the mud and the blood and the beer, as they say.
I got lost and added another 10 miles and some serious climbing to my route on the way back, and by the last ten miles I could feel my ankle somethin’ serious and my IT band was acting up too. I thought “Whats happening?? I didn’t run into anything or fall or get attacked by bears…! Why??”
I brought the problem to my almost-doctor friend, Ben, his blog here, and here’s what he said:
“What happens is that when you over-exert yourself, the muscles become exhausted and in order to move, the joint puts more and more of the impact into the ligament or tendon (which is what attaches the muscle to the bone where its anchored), but because those aren’t supposed to be weight bearing, you can develop tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon) and as you keep working on it, it builds up scar tissue which is brittle and even less elastic and forgiving than the original tendon/ligament. Really what you need is to stay off of it as much as humanly possible for at least two weeks, and then really slowly introduce dorky-looking physical therapy exercises to build up the muscle mass around it so that you don’t continue to aggravate it. There’s no ‘cure’ except for keeping muscle mass around it to protect it. A little biking is probably fine in a week, but nothing over 20 miles.”
Needless to say, it’s not much better today and my ankle is now on a strict R.I.C.E. diet. Dammit age! I lost so much stupid over the last 6 years, but I was hoping I’d keep the resiliency.
Alright, alright. I’m done complaining. Time for a beer.