Saturday, June 25, 2011


I’ve been thinking a lot about “passion.” What is it that makes someone passionate? How do we increase passion? Why do we lose our passion? Who are the most passionate people we know? What are they passionate about, and why are they so passionate about it?

Some of the most passionate skiers I’ve met are people who came to the sport later in life. I don’t know if it’s about “making up for lost time”, or just trying to get better at a new sport, but a lot of people who started skiing in their 30s, 40s, or 50s are out there every time I’m at the mountain – learning, evolving, progressing. When they feel like they’ve gone as far as they can go, they take a lesson to try to move up to the next level. When they have an injury or a setback, they come back from it even stronger than before. They start out as non skiers, move on to become gapers, progress further to become average weekend warriors, and then start touching the higher echelons of the sport.

I feel like I’m going through this evolution with mountain biking. The first time we went, Ace and I looked at each other and said “Is this what mountain biking is like?” “It’s so hard!” “Why are we so bruised and broken?” But, for some reason, we kept at it. Now, I feel like I have really developed a "passion" for it. When I see a tough section, instead of looking at it with dread and despair, I see it as a challenge. I want to be good enough to ride it. I want to be stronger, too. Road bike rides have gone from a way to get exercise to mountain bike-specific muscle training. I’ve been reading books and watching instructional videos trying to refine technique.

But WHY? Why do some people develop a passion for something, and other people find it to be just another enjoyable activity? After our first ride, Ace and I could’ve just said “That was fun”, and relaxed for a couple of months – similar to the people who ski once or twice a year, put the skis away, and move on to other things. But we didn’t do that. We rode again later that week. And twice the next week. And three times the week after that. Now, we ride our mountain bikes every weekend and a couple of times during the week – just like skiing.

I was thinking about this when I read an article on the Independent Fabrication Custom Bicycles blog. After recounting a harrowing crash during a 214 km “Gentleman’s Race”, the author (“G.”) spends some time in a hospital and reflects on why people push themselves the way they do. What is it that drives people (especially those in the industry)?

In my career in the outdoor and bike industries I've observed two types of folks: those that are in the space, and those that are of the space. Those that are in the space are there because at one point they may have been active participants in the sport, or they may have just been intrigued by the equipment or allure of the sport overall, but for these folks it is just the way that they make their living, not the way that they live their life.

Those that are truly of the space are a different breed, and I would argue more successful for it. They are there because it is the way they choose to live their life, and the making a living part is a gift with purchase... the marriage of passion with purpose.

I may have reached the point where more often than not I am going to be the slow man, but I refuse to give up and just be in the space. If I don't actively participate, meaning if I don't actually ride, and try to ride as hard as I can, then I am not truly of the space. My purpose will lack passion, and I might as well go do something more lucrative.

And so, I will get back on the bike as soon as I can, albeit with a new helmet, and still unwilling to accept my role as the slow man.

To truly be “of the space”, you have to have passion. Drive. Desire. After 25 years of skiing, I still have that passion. I still pore over trip reports and watch ski movies (I even put one on the other day after I couldn’t find anything on television). I still get a rush on the first skiing day of the season. I still want to get better, go bigger, and push harder. When I get to a ski area, I not only want to be “of the space”, I want to start expanding to fill the space.

I was at Sugarloaf one day in 1999 or so and Jonny Moseley showed up, fresh from his gold in the 1998 Olympics. By the end of the day, almost every kid at the mountain from age 6-16 was skiing with him. Moseley in front, huge pack of kids behind him, huge group of parents behind them. It was great! Glen Plake gets the same kind of posse when he goes on his Down Home Tours. When you are truly “of the space”, it’s not only about personal growth and personal development; it’s about inspiring others to live the dream, too (whether through instruction, blogging, or just general radness).

Passion is a strange thing. It launches careers. It fuels relationships. It drives Mother Theresa, and it drives suicide bombers. It’s not a little flicker of interest. It’s not even a fire inside. It’s a full blown inferno that can’t be extinguished. But sometimes, it does get extinguished. How do we keep it up? If we have to be “of the space”, what happens when we no longer like the space we’re in? When we want to move on to a different space?

I guess I don’t have all the answers. I just know that if I ever had to quit skiing, I’d have a hard time figuring out what do with myself through the winter. There are certain feelings that you get when you’re skiing that you can’t get anywhere else. It makes me want to do whatever it takes to repeat those feelings. I don’t think the passion could ever just go away. I haven’t really developed that sense from mountain biking yet, so I guess I’m not as ultra-passionate about that.

I mean, seriously. It’s June and I’m already watching ski movies . . . It’s going to be a long summer.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Last Chair: 6/24/11

No time to do this last week, but here's my roundup of the best tweets of the week.  You can follow me on Twitter @mattchuck2, or check out the feed on the right ------->

I liked this post that answers every bike forum post ever.  Speaking of biking, there's even more mountain biking trails in Wilmington.

I like gear lists, and posts about preparation.  Here's what goes into an epic Alaskan biking and packrafting trip. And here's how to prepare for a 500 mile race on the Colorado Trail.

Still some skiing trip reports rolling in to make me jealous.  Here's a blog post from Glacier National Park and a forum post from Colorado.

Video this week is from Ski the East, when they ripped some trails near Ascutney in Vermont (someplace I hope to Mountain Bike soon).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mountain Biking - Floodwood Pond Loop: 6/19/2011

We decided to take a weekend mountain biking trip to the Adirondacks. On Saturday, we went to Whiteface to do some downhill riding. There isn't really too much to say about it except that if we're going to be doing anymore of this, we're going to need the proper gear. That means pads, shoes, and new bikes. Our xc bikes are just not equipped for the big drops, huge boulders, and off camber root sections that are present on the upper part of the mountain. The bus-accessible lower mountain was okay, but at the end of the day, I didn't really want to do it anymore. I don't really think it's something I want to pursue anyway. A couple of people there looked like they got pretty hurt - and I like to save my injuries for ski season.

On Sunday, the plan was to ride the Deer Pond loop, using a different entrance (from the north, between the Fish Creek Campground and Rollins Pond Campground). But, after finding the trail with no problem, we rode nice doubletrack for a while and came out into a meadow that didn't seem to have any exit.

We kept following false paths that we thought would lead us to where we wanted to go, but they ended in dead ends (some more beautiful than others):

So, as a backup plan, we decided to just ride the Floodwood Loop, detailed here and mapped here.

Most of the riding was really sweet.  Flowing trails, not too many roots or rocks, pretty well marked (although we got sidetracked on canoe portage trails a couple of times).

It got a little muddy, and there were a couple of stream crossings that required getting off the bike, but the trail was really good all the way to Floodwood Road.

We didn't bring a map, so when we were on Floodwood Road, we debated just taking the road back to the Golf Course and riding back to the Lake House from there (an easy spin along dirt road and asphalt).  That seemed boring, though.  We saw the entrance to the other part of the trail and I knew that it was supposed to loop and bring us back to where we started, but it took a lot longer than we anticipated.  We kept thinking that stuff would start to look familiar soon, and it never did.  Also, this section (the eastern side of the loop) was a lot muddier than the other section - and looked less traveled (as in, one set of footprints and no bike tracks).  In addition, there were a couple of stream crossings that had been washed out, forcing us to walk over a couple of beaver dams.

Late in the trail (within the last mile), we actually debated going backwards, back across the beaver dams, and all the way back to the road, just so we didn't get even more lost than we already were (or thought that we were). But I rode a little further and started to hear cars, so I knew we were on the right track.  When I saw a sign for a portage to Fish Creek, we were golden.  We rode the last half mile into the campground, out the gate, and back to the house, where we had a few IPAs while we relaxed on the dock.

Mission Accomplished.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Trail Report: Irondequoit Bay Park West, Rochester, NY

I had some work to do in the Rochester area, so I booked a hotel near some bike trails, and wedged my bike into my tiny work car. After a day of driving all over the state, I got back to the hotel and got my biking gear on. The closest hotel I could find was 2.5 miles from the trailhead, so I got to ride around the streets of Rochester for a bit.

The shoulder was good the whole way, and the road riding was pretty easy (I still have my lightweight, low rolling resistance tires on from the Black Fly).  It had rained a little bit during the afternoon, but it was starting to dry out just as I left the hotel.  The entrance was tough to spot:

Here's a link to the trail map.  I came in from the Homewood Lane entrance and hopped on the "Blue" trail.  Once I got in the woods, everything was really well marked.

The singletrack was nice too.

Eventually I got into a nice stream.

I saw some fauna.

And flora.

I road the blue trail until I hit the red trail, I rode the red trail all the way around its loop, and then I played around on the orange and blue trails until I hit the road, the more official entrance off of Bay Front near a fish and game club.  There was even a map at this entrance.

I had been riding around for about an hour an a half at this point, so I thought I should start making my way back to the hotel.  I looked on the map and saw the green trail. It was really tough to find, and it wasn't marked out like the other trails, which led me to believe that it wasn't quite done yet.  If you look close in this picture, you can see the little orange flags that they used to mark the trail out.

After a technical start with roots, rocks, and stream crossings, this trail started getting really good.

Even if it wasn't completely done:

When I got back to the stream, I hopped back on the blue trail to start the trip back to the hotel.

On the way out, I got one more glimpse of that deer.  I might not be as good of a nature photographer as this guy, but at least I got the shot (albeit with my crappy point & shoot).

Back in the hotel, I figure my bike is safer in here than out in the car.

I generally don't enjoy riding alone (sort of like how I don't like skiing alone), but today was pretty fun.  I like exploring new areas, and it's good to have something to do instead of sitting around in my hotel room watching golf (although I didn't realize that Ozomatli was playing a concert for $2 in downtown Rochester - that might have been fun too).  If I have to do a lot of traveling this summer for work, I should always try to find a hotel with some riding nearby.  I generally feel much better about myself when I'm not being a fat slob, and I'm stoked to check out new riding spots.

And unlike skiing, it's free!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Black Fly Challenge 2011 - Race Report

I've never done a race report before because I don't race. Halfway through the 40-mile Black Fly Challenge, my legs tired, my face covered in mud, and sandy soil grinding at my nether regions, I remembered why. Racing is hard. Especially when you show up to race, and a drenching downpour is pounding at people's clothes, bikes, and psyches - reaffirming to the racers that this hard race would be downright brutal today.

Anyway, here are the pictures:

Nervous smiles at the start.  Are we really doing this?

The start was crowded.  And once we got onto the street, it was still crowded.  The course started with a pretty long downhill cruise through the town of Indian Lake.  It was hard to cruise at the speed that I wanted to go.  At one point, I had to hop up on the sidewalk to get around a few slower people (good thing I was on the full suspension 29er).  That was the last time I saw Ace (more to come on that later).  For the first half hour of riding (mostly roads), I averaged 17 miles per hour - pretty good for a mountain bike.  I probably could have gone faster, but I've got my bike set up as a 2x9 with a bashguard.  Anyway, the asphalt soon turned to this:

This is the only picture I took while riding for a couple of reasons.  One, this dirt road was no picnic.  Those tire marks are really just deep, water filled mud holes.  Riding through them, you don't know if the surface is firm and nice, soft and loose, or slippery and (nearly) unrideable.  I never knew if I would have enough traction to whip out the camera.  Two, sand was everywhere.  I was dirty, the water I was drinking was dirty, and the food I was eating was dirty.  It was not a good time to take out any electronics.  

Once we hit dirt (about 9 miles in), the race became a grind.  We wouldn't be back on asphalt for another 25 miles, so this was the situation that we had.  It wasn't particularly pretty, it was wet, and it was dirty.  The sand did a number on my drivetrain.  I had 3 instances of chainsuck, when I had to get off the bike and yank my chain back into the proper position.  Eventually, I started using water bottles from the aid stations to just wash my chainrings and cogs.  My strategy was to bomb the downhills (my strength), and just survive the uphills (my weakness).  This worked pretty well.  I had to walk a couple of the really hard hills, and I almost slid out on a downhill going around a flooded culvert, but I made a miraculous recovery to stay on my bike.

Eventually, I got back to the paved road, and into the town of Inlet.  The last couple of hills were brutal on my tired legs, but I was able to pass a couple of people on the final stretch of doubletrack (another one of my strengths).

It was a relief to finally see the finish line.

When I finally took my camera out, it was covered in sand and soaking wet.  I tried to clear it out the best I could, but some of the pictures I got after the race are pretty blurry.  Here's me after finishing:

And here's Ace coming across the line:

We had both wanted to finish in under 3 hours, but the conditions made that really difficult.  Maybe on a normal day when the dirt roads had not turned into a sandy, soupy mess it would have been possible, but not yesterday.  She was still pretty happy  at the end, though (or maniacal - couldn't tell):

We had wanted to stay pretty close together (I was actually carrying her spare tube and pump in case she got a flat), but the course didn't line up with our riding styles.  She's a monster on the climbs, and I made all my time on the downhills.  Even if we were in the same general area, we would've yo-yoed the whole course.  I felt kind of bad about leaving her, but I figured she'd be able to fend for herself - and she did, getting over a few chainsuck problems of her own, and dominating the other women in her area. 

I finished in a time of 3:19:57, good enough for 5th in my division (30-39 beginneer), 107th overall (out of 344 finishers) and 55th out of the guys on mountain bikes.

Ace crossed the line in 3:39:11, finishing 1st in her division (20-29 beginner), 145th overall, and 3rd out of all girls on Mountain Bikes (including the expert and sport classifications above her). Pretty fantastic for her first race.

After a couple of beers, they did the awards, and Ace won a bike saddle:

We were able to score a ride on the shuttle bus back to Indian Lake (which was much less complicated than the car exchanging thing we had planned), and we made it back to our car around 5:30 or so.

It's tough to describe racing.  It feels like crap when you're doing it (the sand is everywhere).  And after it's over, the feeling is more of relief than accomplishment.  But I can see how it can be addicting.  I was only 3 minutes off of 3rd in my division (I would've gotten a prize), and if I applied myself, I know I could move up the ranks.  Ace is already at the top of the heap, and if she wanted to, she could actually do mountain bike races every weekend and start winning some money (the Expert division got checks - if Ace had been in that division, she would've gotten a second place check!).

But then you ask yourself if it's worth it.  Mountain bike trips are a lot of fun, and if we started doing them as "training rides" instead of adventures and sessions, I feel like they'd lose a lot of their appeal.  I can see doing races a couple of times a year, just as an experience (although we've decided that we want to choose races with more singletrack and less dirt road grinding).  But I don't like the idea of going to a different race every weekend, seeing the same people, doing the same courses year after year, and slogging through 3 hours of rainy suffering just to have some feeble accomplishment that nobody really cares about anyway.

I'd rather just ride for fun.  That way, when I'm hungry, tired, and covered in sand, I don't have to feel bad about quitting and having a beer.

UPDATE: After Surgery to my GPS unit, I can upload the route. Here it is:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Last Chair: 6/10/11

Okay, so I'm a day late. Here's my tweets for the week:

I like creative posts, like this post that tells you how much beer to give someone for doing you a solid in the outdoors (loaning a pair of skis, giving you a new tube for your bike, giving a ride to the trailhead, etc.). I also like good questions, like this one that asks what kind of ski snob you are.

Steve and Patrick skied Tuckerman Ravine. 'Nuff said.

The Tour Divide Race has started. Here's a post with some convenient links for following the action. And here's a post with an adventurous warm-up for the race (mountain biking the Oregon Trail). I've got a post coming up tomorrow on my own racing experience: The Black Fly Challenge from Indian Lake to Inlet.

The video this week is Kayaking the Zion Narrows in Utah. Fan-freakin'-tastic. Almost makes me want to take up a new sport. Almost.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tour de Cure - First Century Ride

After an unsuccessful try at 100 miles in the Tour de Cure last year (tire blowout + 5 tubes = only 63 miles), I had a score to settle with the course. The weather was much better than last year, and we started with smiles:

The first 25 miles went by super easy.  Sunny skies, in and out of different groups, and cruising at around 18 mph.

After the first rest station, where I pounded 3 cupcakes and an orange, we got a little lost.  The groups had split up, there was nobody in front of us, and we must have missed a turn.  Ace and I (plus another poor guy who followed us) started down some roads that didn't look too familiar (we had both ridden this section last year). I was able to guide us back on course using some side roads around Galway, and it turned out that we actually cut off a little of the course (about a mile and a half).

The middle 50 miles didn't feel so bad.  There were a couple of big hills, but they weren't so tough.  We stopped at another rest area for water.  I ate an energy muffin and a half PB&J Sandwich, plus I stuffed some cliff bars in my back pocket.  After around 70 miles we made the climb up to the Conklingville Dam.  This was probably the hardest climb of the day.  Here's Ace at the top:

It clouded up a little as we coasted down towards the Hadley Bow Bridge, but we were still feeling pretty good physically and mentally.

I started really feeling it in my legs around 80 miles in, right about the time I took this picture of Ace:

The last section would have been pretty easy riding on a normal day, but because I knew I was in the homestretch, every little roller of a hill felt like a beast of a mountain.  I kept looking as the odometer, and expecting it to say a higher number (preferably, a number really close to 100).  Eventually, I pounded the two cliff bars in my pocket, drank some water, and felt better about turning the cranks.  I crossed the finish line, rode around a little bit to make up for the section that we cut off when we got lost, and there it was:

Here's the complete route, including the slight detour when we got lost and additional riding at the end to make it an even 100:

I felt pretty good when I finished, and I feel pretty good today.  I think that, with proper fuel, water and energy, I could go even longer.  Not saying I want to do a RAAM or an Ironman anytime soon (I don't think I could possibly comprehend the idea of running a marathon right after I finished), but I think I could be persuaded to do another century in the fall . . . An off-road century, something like the White Rim in a day seems like it'd be fun.  For now, though, I'm going to have some leftover pizza and beer from last night's post ride celebration.  I bet it won't taste as good as it did yesterday.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Last Chair: 6/3/11

Okay, it's the time of week when I sum up the stuff I've been checking out on the internets.  The links appear in the feed on the right (when I'm not too lazy or busy to update it).  Here we go:

An important addition to my hot skier chick post last fall (brought to my attention by Patrick at Ski Mad World): Vanessa Aadland is now my favorite skier ever.  She just dropped a sick BN line, and wrote up the description.  Awesome.  Oh, and here's the picture (although if I had to nitpick, it looks like she could use a little bit more inside leg angulation):

People are still skiing.  This report from the Sierra Nevada and this report from Alaska were pretty sweet.

Gentlemanly Bike rides are in.  Here's a link to some Rapha Gentlemen, and here's a video brought to my attention by Biz at the Buffalo Dandy.  The blog is about men's fashion (so it might not really be what you're into), but it's pretty well done, and really well designed (Biz is an excellent Graphic Designer).

The Seersucker Social from Brandon Bloch on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kingdom Trails: Trip Report

Well, I don't really have too much to say about the Kingdom Trails, except for this: If you have never been, and you live in the East and ride bikes (any bikes - road, mountain, beach cruiser), you should definitely plan a trip. The trails aren't difficult (the hardest trail - Jaw - wasn't open). We were saying how the Black Trails there are easier than the Blue Trails at SMBA (which we rode today - getting completely wrecked by mosquitoes).

Our game plan for the first day (Saturday) was to mimic the day that Ace and I spent there last year. We rode our favorites from that day - Tap and Die, Webs, Old Webs (with an important stop at the cookie hut on top). In addition, we rode a bunch of trails that we never got to on the front side Pines, Cat Box Hill, Knob, Riverwood and Kitchel (which was a super cool downhill run with huge banked turns, airs, and drop offs) . All in all, we put in about 5 hours of climbing, cruising, coasting, and cookies.

The second day, we were not as pumped to get out there.  We had ridden hard all day (a lot harder than last year - extra people + better fitness = more saddle time).  Plus, the weather was kind of iffy (overcast with rumbles of thunder in the distance).  We talked about taking the day off, but we decided to press on - it was a good thing we did.  We rode Pound Cake all the way out to Coronary Bypass (not possible the first day because of an enormous group in front of us on Pound Cake).  After that, we did the Pastore Point loop, which made for some good photo ops above the river.

Then, after Webs, River Run, and a climb up the switchbacks of Old Webs, we took a much needed cookie break.

We cruised down the fun part of Old Webs after we heard how great Sidewinder was - from multiple people.   They were right.  It was my favorite trail of the day - a bigger scale version of Halfpipe at Pine Hill Park.  After the climb back up to the road (we finally figured out that we like climbing on singletrack a lot better than climbing on fire roads), we dropped back down the other side.

We were pretty beat after a nice singletrack run on Culvert Cut, so we cruised through Maple Tapping lines back to the top of Kitchel.  We were going to make one final epic helmet cam movie from the top, but my batteries died.  After some ice cream in town and a quick battery change, we fooled around on the pump track for a while, but our legs were pretty shot.

All in all, we did a little under 10 hours of riding for the two days, camped for 3 nights in a car trailer, ate 3 maple squares, 2 whoopie pies, garlic knots, pizza, quesadillas, and about 20 gu packets.  We had a fantastic time, and now have great stories to tell, and funny times to reference.  I've got one more video to share.  Nicely edited, more material, and music that hasn't been yanked - It was made by our friend Jared (the guy getting air in the first picture and getting whoopie pies in the "Market Cafe" picture). Enjoy: