Been Down So Gosh Darn Long, That It Looks Like Up To Me

By

Jason Harrod

 

Wow. I have been away for some time. I apologize. And for what it’s worth, it has not been a party. Life has handed me, well, lemons and while trying to make them into margaritas I have found myself slipping into a darkness I have only borne witness to once before. That time was no fun either. I have dragged my ass for long enough. I have let my riding slip away for long enough. I have stopped writing and reading for long enough. Don’t get me wrong, I did not quit life or let my family down, but I did quit me and let myself down. I have had enough. I found the cure to what was ailing me with a desire for change and the simple lifting of a leg. No, not that. Come on now. The leg I lifted was over the top tube of a mountain bike, and as hard as it was to get my rounder self rolling, pointing said mountain bike at some singletrack was a quick and potent cure for my malaise.

 

Singletrack can cure anything. Really. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. I dare you. Sure the first day or two was humbling as I had to find my rhythm, my focus, my line. But I did. In finding the aforementioned, I found myself as well. I am glad to be back.

 

I am blessed to live in an area where dirt and singletrack and good riding are as easy to find as my much more cavernous belly button. And I am blessed to have friends and family and people who support me. Did I mention singletrack? My recent dirty escapades have lit a proverbial fire under my ass; it has spilled over into all aspects of my life. I am writing again. I am reading more. I am spending more and better time with my family and friends. I have become more passionate about my coaching, about my diet, my sleeping habits. Simply put, getting back on the bike has completely and fully enhanced every aspect of my life.

 

I suppose if you are reading this I am preaching to the choir. But I was lost.   Now I am found.   Down no longer looks like up … to me. Rediscovering myself through the bike has been a truly enlightening and heart pounding experience. It’s all good. The path is clear, dusty and off camber at times, but clear. I have no choice but to follow.   Wanna come?

Holiday Chill By Jason Harrod

 

Holiday Chill

By

Jason Harrod

 

The weather in Northern California has been unusually chilly.  I mean we have been seeing temperatures in the low 20s in the early AM and then watching the mercury sleepily creep to the low to mid 40s … tops …  in the afternoon.  Brrrrr.  I have actually busted out the old Team Kiwi thermal vest and jacket just to keep the frosty temperatures at bay.   And speaking of the bay, the temps near the water have been warmer and, thus, have seen more of my MichelinMan ass of late as I attempt to find some form of fitness after letting myself go to pot this summer and fall.

tiburon

Holiday Chill By Jason Harrod

 

Getting back into shape is both a blessing and a bane.  The blessing you might ask?  Well, the focus and the drive and the discipline tend to carry over into the other aspects of my life, which is certainly a good thing.  The bane, well, that’s an easy one as well.  My bane is realizing that 365 days ago I was much more fit, much faster and a good 15 lbs lighter.  I can say with some certainty that I currently suck on a bicycle.  But, and there is always a but, that is changing directly.

 

I am back up to riding 4-5 days a week compared to 2 days a week just over a month ago.  The quality of my riding is somewhat lacking as my level of fitness is, well, not fit at all but the quantity of said riding is rising and I have begun to see some changes both in my output levels and my physique.  Wooohoooo.  Time for a beer.   Wait.  Not yet.  That is for after the ride.  And just one.  Well, maybe two.

 

The holiday season is always a difficult one for me.   I like food.  I like drink.  I like warm.  I also like riding a bicycle.   So my take on the holidays is this: eat, drink and be merry … just do those things after you have ridden your bicycle.  Pretty simple, methinks.  Now if only I could take my own advice.

 

Happy holidays, all.  Keep warm.  Enjoy yourself and your loved ones.  And don’t forget to ride your bicycle.

 

Best Wishes to You and Yours

The Quest for Singletrack

 

The Quest for Singletrack

By

Jason Harrod

I tend to swim against the current, always have and likely always will.  Sure, I get tired fighting the natural order, the cosmos, gravity, what have you.  But I imagine getting jostled along with the herd, trusting the front of the group to guide you safely to wherever it is they might be taking you, can be just as tiring as my method.  I suppose.  Well, for the first time in my life I have given in to the tide.  I am the flotsam and jetsam of the world in which I reside.  Simply put, cyclocross racing is on hold this season – for now at least – as my life has become cumbersome in a good, family kind of way.

 

In a nutshell: wife’s back in nursing school, I am on my 6th of 10 months coaching travel select softball, I am Mr. Mom-ing my son to water polo practice and all that leaves me generally lacking time.  I do get to ride.  Oh, there is always a little time to ride; I mean I am a bike rider.  It is just that my focus has gone from 60 minutes of suffer to 60 minutes of shred.  Instead of pyramid intervals and Tabatas I have been on a quest for singletrack.  The road bike is gathering dust in the cave.  The ‘cross bike gets love once a week.  The mountain bike, well, she and I are super tight right now, and we get out 3 or 4 days a week with the aim of riding as much of the narrow as possible, making use of any tiny window of time available.  At least I get to ride.  As we all know any ride is better than no ride at all.

[Read more...]

Tip Your Bike Mechanic

 

Tip Your Bike Mechanic

By

Jason Harrod

tipSome people have the time and the know-how and the tools and the, well, time to wrench on their own bikes.  Others, like me, are hacks and can find neither the time, nor keep up with the tools needed to perform even some of the simplest maintenance, and therefore must rely on the local bike shop to handle the upkeep of their whips.  This is a good thing, because without the local bike shop we would be hard pressed to manage even some of the simple fixes like flats or quieting that squeaky chain and replacing holey socks, or purchasing the always mandatory full-fingered gloves for some dirt riding after the trusty yellow lab has gotten a bit aggressive on the left one and left you with, well, one glove.  [Read more...]

It’s Broken

 

 

It’s Broken

By

Jason Harrod

Mount-Tamalpais

It’s Broken

A grip of my friends hit me up the other day to join them on a group mountain bike ride.  I, of course, accepted.  They said they would meet me at my pad in 30 minutes, so I headed out to the garage to ready my steed for the day’s adventure.  A tam dirt loop was the plan, Rock Springs descent on the docket; my favorite fire road of all time.  Now my mountain bike is a couple of years old.  And while I do not abuse my equipment, I do certainly use it.  And my mountain bike is a prime example.

 

I wiped down my chain and noticed that it was worn beyond healthy, decided it could handle one more ride.  And upon inspecting my chainrings, I noticed a few teeth that were chipped or in one case even missing, decided it could handle one more ride.  I pumped up my fork to the appropriate level, happy there was nothing wrong there.  My rear shock … the same.  I filled my water bottle and kitted up.

 

We hit the climb up Eldridge Grade and my finely tuned and kept equipment saw my chain wanting to jump into my spokes.  Nice.  Seriously time to tune that rig up.  I dropped it down the cog one and settled in without any further hassle.

[Read more...]

Tam Loop by Jason Harrod

 

 

Tam Loop

By

Jason Harrod

Tam Loop

Tam Loop

I really do live in cycling Nirvana.  There are so many options that it is really just plain silly: road or mountain, ‘cross or not, Tam or Tamarancho, West Marin or Sonoma county.  I could go on forever but won’t.  I thought since the kids racing in the Tour of California will be traipsing through my hood this week it would be a timely, well, time to pen a piece about one of my favorite road rides in the entire world.  I call it the Tam loop because in essence one loops around and over the entirety that is Mount Tam.

 

So, like I mentioned last week, I am indeed back on the bike.  Being back on the bike after a few weeks off means regaining lost form, losing gained fat pockets, suffering more where there was less suffering prior, and revisiting some of my favorite rides, rides I know like the back of my hand, to gauge my fitness and see how much work needs to be done.  Enter Tam loop.

 

Saturday morning – 9 AM.  The sun is up and there is a faint and gentle breeze.  The thermometer reads 68 degrees and I can see it will be a beautiful day.  I kit up and throw a leg over the road sled and head out to the sleepy, smoky little town of Fairfax.  Up we go.  Bolinas road.  I climb past famed trailheads, golf courses, the entrance that leads to the infamous Repack downhill.  I smile.  Not a car in sight.  As I crest the first climb and begin my descent to Alpine Dam, I can feel the temperature creeping higher, take a drink.  Twists and turns and smiles galore, and before I know it I find myself on top of the dam.  Time to fuel up for the next two climbs.  Pay Day and a banana?  Why not.

 

Up to Ridgecrest Drive.  Two-point-one miles of redwood lined, twisty and scenic climbing.  So sweet.  The shade is welcomed.  I can taste the fecund smells of foliage as I breathe deeply trying to find the second chamber of my lungs, that deep breath I possess when fitness is in the house.  I cannot find it this day – maybe next time.  I see the sign.  I am now on Bolinas Ridge.  Time to hit the Seven Sisters.

 

Wide open and hot the serpentine humps come at me one at a time – seven in all.  I sweat and the horse flies rally together to get their pound of flesh.  I hate horse flies, but they sure like me.  I look to my right and check the surf at Stinson and Bolinas beaches.  I can see the fog hanging right on the coastline, that cool coastal breath ringing the mountain like a frothy tutu.  Ah, the top.  The climbing is done and done.  A drink.  Descent.

Dropping Tam when you know the road is somewhat akin to slot car racing.  Outside of the one sharp right hander that I nearly high-sided on and flew into oncoming traffic, I slithered down the mountain without mishap and wearing a certain kind of eating grin.  I roll into Mill Valley and almost have to stop at the 2 AM club for a beer after such an excellent ride … but don’t.  There are still some miles to cover to home, miles where I will contemplate my fitness and what I need to do to get to where I need to be.

 

Rides like that, rides that I know, rides that flow, rides that show … me exactly where I stand and what needs to be done will be in my future and are exactly the types of rides I need right now.  And that ride, Tam Loop, showed me that there is a lot of room for improvement, improvement that will come with a few more rides and a few more Tam loops, but it sure was fun.

 

 

Just About That Time of Year By Jason Harrod

Just About That Time of Year  By  Jason Harrod

Just About That Time of Year
By
Jason Harrod

Just About That Time of Year

By

Jason Harrod

The sun is shining, the weather warm and dry, and I can smell that aerosol perfumery that is sunscreen.  Life is good in Norcal.  As I sit her penning this fine mess of an article it has dawned on me that it’s just about that time of year to dust of the ‘cross bike, scrabble together an early season training program of sorts and get my body on track back to racing shape – if that’s what one can call it.

 

Luckily, I have kept the training program the manager from my old Team Wheelsmith days put together for me.  Man, that cat was magic.  He was the strongest rider, the strongest rider who spent fewer hours on the bike than anyone I knew or know, for that matter.  I reiterate – a magician.  The program is so simple that even though I have the old beer coaster he wrote it on in my possession, I really don’t need to look at it to remember the plant to a T.  But, and there is always a but, I just finished writing it up and printed out three copies; one for my day planner, one for the refrigerator and one for the door to the bike cave, just so I have to think as little as possible.  Now, I could divulge my program in full transparency but that seems a little over the top.  What I will do is suggest the parameters in as vague a way as possible: there are 2 easy/off days, 2 speed work/interval days, 1 tempo day, 1 long smile and spin day, and 1 complete day of rest.  Pretty simple, no?  I agree. [Read more...]

In the Time of Sickness and Avocados

 

In the Time of Sickness and Avocados

By

Jason Harrod

In the Time of Sickness and Avocados

In the Time of Sickness and Avocados

I have been sick for a few days; really sick.  The nasty kind of sick where the stuff coming out of me is the same consistency at both ends.  Gross sick.  I feel like hell.  So sick I haven’t even been able to ride the bike, and I am the kind of dude that usually rides through the sickness, sweats out the nasty bugs.  Not so with this illness.  The silver lining in this mess, you may ask?  If there is one.  Well, all I can come up with is the fact that I have shed about 10lbs.   And the timing is actually pretty good.

 

You see, I have embarked upon a new sort of diet, for me anyway, a “clean eating diet”, over the past 30 days.  It is a sort of Paleo, hunter gatherer, themed, high protein, nut and berry kind of thingy.  I have been eating healthy fats like avocados, walnuts, olive oil, and in doing so have witnessed my body composition change dramatically.  I am not a skinny kid to begin with.  I am no ectomorph.  I am more of a mesomorph.  On a ride last week I mentioned that I needed to drop about 10lbs. and the cat next to asked what I weighed.  He was surprised to hear that my 5’10” frame was carrying 180lbs.  He thought I looked more like 165 lbs., which happens to be about as low as I can go and remain healthy and strong.  So it caught me off guard a bit that this diet has seen me go up in weight, instead of down.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not getting fat, just gaining weight in places I usually don’t; a whole body rounding type of gain.  This sickness, though, has allowed me to shed the needed ten and, I am hoping, none of the recent strength gains that have come with the new way of eating.  In addition to the weight loss, I did sleep a total of 21 hours yesterday, so I have that going for me which is nice.  Rest is a good thing even if it is mandated by a sickness of body.

[Read more...]

Join a Local Club

 

Join a Local Club

By

Jason Harrod

Join a Local Club

Join a Local Club

I am a sort of soul rider.  A solo rider.  A lone wolf, as it were.  This fact is not truly by choice.  I enjoy riding with others.  In fact, sometimes I long for a voice other than the ones rattling around in my head.  I have people I ride with but my work schedule is such that my free time to ride is in smack dab in the middle of the afternoon when 99.99% of the masses are still at work.  Yes, I get up very early, dark early, and I am home from my place of employ when the sun is still high in the sky.  In fact, I usually beat my kids home from school.  But as I am sure you can imagine there are not a lot of people around to ride at 2:00 in the afternoon.  The racer contingency has already been out – hopefully.  Joe and Jane 9-to-5er are likely staring out of their office window wishing they were me.  And I am kitting up and sliding out the door for a solo sojourn.  Now don’t get me wrong.   I love a good solo ride, too.  No one shows up late.  Or has to stop and pee every 10 minutes.  There are no curfews other than my own.  And there are only the rides I want to do.  But, seriously, sometimes a little company is a blessing.  So I joined a cycling club.  Marin Velo Club to be exact.

 

[Read more...]

Cross Pollination

bee

Cross Pollination

By

Jason Harrod

I don’t know about you but I am a friggin’ magnet for honey bees.  They find me like I have some kind of StingMePlease GPS implanted in my body … or maybe it is something I emit when I perspire, a bee pheromone so to speak.  Whichever the cause, the effect is a painful one.  In all honesty I get stung about 20 times a year.  I just guess it is a good thing I am not allergic; if something good can be gleaned from getting stung a gazillion times.

 

Last week in NorCal we were blessed with some Spring time weather: sunny, 70’s, a slight breeze.  I took full advantage of said sunshine, and used a couple of my vacation days, to put in a mini training camp of my own.  Let’s call it ‘Old Fat Guy Who Thinks He Can Ride’ camp.  Whatever the inspiration and motivation, I did get five solid days of 50 plus mile road rides in, it felt good to be that kind of tired.  Back to the honey bees.

 

So there I was J.R.A. – just riding along – and whack.  One of those drones gets sucked right into a helmet vent.  How do I know?  Trust me, I am a seasoned veteran.  I am that guy you see out on the road, cruising along, who all of a sudden locks up his rear brakes, skids to a stop, starts waving his hands about him like a airport traffic guy or some sort of deranged Ninja fighting invisible foe, rips off his helmet and starts frantically trying to get what appear to be a million imaginary bugs out of his hair.  Yes, that is me.  That is my M.O.  Having looked like a Neanderthal on more than 10 occasions from taking a honey bee to the head, rear end first, I now try to avoid getting stung at all cost.  So there I was J.R.A. – just riding along – and whack.   And I’m flapping and freaking and ripping off my glasses and helmet all for … false alarm.  Dang cricket.  And back to spinning.  I mean this now, not two minutes later … whack.  Right in the vent, and this time I can hear the buzzing, almost feel that dudes little fuzzy feet on my bald spot and then, BAM.  Stung right on the top of the head.  The swelling is immediate.  I can feel the chinstrap on my helmet tighten and constrict around my throat as the swelling on the top of my head acts like a hydraulic jack, quickly rising and lifting my helmet off my head.  I remove my lid and feel around for the stinger.  All clean.  I rub the wound and the pain itches like crazy.  Oh well, back to the ride.  I near the first of many climbs and unzip my jersey to allow cooling, the breeze to ruffle the bear-like fur of my chest and … BAM.  Another one of those suckers slides right into my jersey opening and around the back and WHACK – second sting in five minutes.  Dang it.

 

Now most rational people might have turned around and gone home at this point.  Not me.  I like the ride too much.  These bees are a problem for me … for sure.  I decided to employ science to determine the reason I am so attractive to the Apis mellifera.  And honestly, I have nothing.  Well, not nothing, but nothing scientific.  The reason these little critters adore me so can be only of two reasons.  They either love my navy, yellow and white kit … or they love the way I stink.

 

More of his columns here: