Freakshow: Descending Mountains

Freakshow: Descending Mountains

Endless adventures, unlimited miles and climbing mountains.

Those are the reasons why I love cycling.

The mild seasons in Vancouver makes it such a great city for cyclists, which conveniently allows us to cycle all year round— I know I do and the hundreds of cyclists I ride by on my commute to work every day. Sometimes I count just for fun and I get up to at least a hundred cyclists even on cold, rainy days… that really makes me thrilled! On the days where I don’t hit 100, I’ll extend my route by a few blocks so I can ride by more cyclists… I think I may have an OCD cycling-problem or too much time on my hands…

With year round riding comes many dangers: trying to stay off the bike when you should probably think about cross-training or forcing yourself into recovery rides rather than fast centuries as the sun rises …or looking for tall mountains to climb in the morning fog before riding blissfully into the office. And then there are the physical dangers such as black ice during the icy winter months and the slippery cement paired with limited visibility in the pouring rain and fog. But that’s all child’s play.

The one thing I really despise about cycling is descending mountains in any season that’s not summer. Is it sad that my dream is to be able to climb mountains in the winter and then have a chauffeur to drive my bike and I down? I get anxious thinking about descending in the cold due to past experiences… but I find myself doing it over and over anyway. Our “real” summers in Vancouver last less then 3 months where we can comfortably ascend and descend our many local mountains in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey.

The rest of the year, don’t you dare forget your merino base layers and to stuff your jersey pockets with extra wind-blocking gloves, jackets, scarves, booties and whatever you can squeeze in there because you are definitely going to suffer (times a billion)!

I Fucking Love Fitness

My extra wind and water proof thermal jacket looks just as cute as my pink Rapha waterbottle!

Have you ever descended a mountain in a shit-storm of snow, rain and hail? The deceiving sun would keep you in the dark from freak storms that would suddenly roll in once you arrive at the top. The feeling of trepidation will undeniable when you realize the only way down is by bicycle so you have no choice but to suck it up and ride.

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.

The 15 minute descent will seem like an hour or two where the rain and worse, snow will feel a gazillion needles stabbing you in the face and any exposed skin, as if getting a full-body tattoo. Your extremities will be numb and you may have trouble shifting gears and braking as you meticulously try to hide your fingers behind your brake levers, to protect them against the wind. Your expression would be frozen in agony while trying to keep control of your bike descending at over 50km/hour, but your body is shivering uncontrollably and doesn’t seem to be cooperating. You will start to second-guess your limited vision as elements continue to force itself into your eyes.

First Seymour Climb of 2015

A typical early morning on Seymour blanketed with fog.

Yet, there is nowhere to go but down and the faster you go, the colder it gets as the wind slices through you. All there is left to do is dream about hot chocolate and to remind yourself, the faster you get to the bottom, the sooner it will be over. When you get to the bottom, your body will never seem to warm up and the only desire you will have left is to go home, peel off those wet socks and desperately find ways to warm up.

And once you are warmed up, you suddenly get that urge to jump back on your bike again.

Did I make it sound dramatic and terrible? BECAUSE IT IS! I feel like death every time and even on the days when I think I am prepared for descents, I will never be. I will ALWAYS be cold. The guys I ride with sometimes don’t get bothered by the cold and warm up really quickly and that makes me so envious …or they just don’t complain as much as I do. That is my experience anyway and I blame my low body-fat and the fact that my body takes forever to warm up (and too quick on cooling down).

I did my first real climb this year up Mount Seymour a few Tuesdays ago in the dark and cold morning and my lips were literally blue when I arrived at the office. Then I let my evil friend talk me into a spontaneous climb up Cypress Mountain after hitting up Lions Bay that weekend— prior to the ride, I was at home pondering if I should bring extra gear because Cypress was on the way and I just had a feeling! My instinct is rarely wrong but I always choose to dismiss it.

Yet at the end of the day, my friends and I have gone through this shit countless times yet we refuse to learn our lesson and will continue to spontaneously climb mountains even when a storm is forecasted that day …totally unprepared against the elements because we love riding so much. The pain is worth every second of the triumph and satisfaction we experience conquering mountains by bike.

Our problem is that we like to live in the moment. But I don’t think I’d change a thing.

    1 Comment

    On Intentions

    On Intentions

    Yesterday, I jumped out of bed and hopped on my bike, on route to Horseshoe Bay. As I was spinning up a hill on to work afterwards, there was a car behind me who I knew wanted to pass but couldn’t. When he finally had the chance to, he revved his engine and accelerated so quickly (that’s how you know they are angry) …only to have to stop a few meters away due to traffic.

    You have no idea how many nonsensical things I experience while riding my bike but I am grateful for the exposure because it reminds me to practice patience and not get angry over little things. These days when I ride, I don’t feel bad about holding up traffic when I don’t have a choice because I will at most extend their commute by a minute or two! Totally the end of the world. But when you are sitting inside your metal box fuming at other cars, cyclists and pedestrians, you are not thinking rationally.

    This incident reminded me of a great piece of advice a friend had just given me the night before:

    Instead of judging someone for their actions, reflect on the intent behind their actions. Why did they do it? What was their state of mind?

    Was the driver angry because of a cyclist holding him up on the road? Or was he really angry because of deeper issues such as work-related stress, an unhealthy lifestyle, body-image issues or just an unhappy life?

    Actions are naturally louder than words but we judge ourselves by our own intentions, so why should we be judging other’s by their behavior? If it’s negative, you’ll only get riled up but life is too short and extraordinary to be angry!

    When you start asking the questions behind the intent, you begin to develop a deeper insight of the situation, which will force you to become more compassionate and empathetic.

    When it comes to actions and intentions in other aspects of your life such as relationships, business and people you have to deal with in your daily life, start making an effort to be aware of the context behind what you see— speculate why that person did what they did or why something happened. You may be incorrect but you will come to a profound realization that there may be more underneath the surface. This increased clarity will calm you down, help you figure out the best solution for the situation and boost self-awareness so you will be able catch yourself if you ever find yourself caught in the some senseless situation.

    Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Jung

    Last time I drove a car, I followed a slow truck allllll the way to the border when I could’ve easily passed him and drove much faster. The “past me” (who use to drive a lot) would’ve been impatient and speeding all the way to my destination but that day, all I wanted to do was relax and listen to my music. It really feels great to slow down once in a while.

      0 Comment

      On Rain, Waterbottles and Cyclists.

      On Rain, Waterbottles and Cyclists.

      Spring is finally upon us, which also means grey skies and wet roads in Vancouver. But like I said, the gloomy days only make us appreciate our usual gorgeous sunny days a lot more! I can’t believe our abnormally warm winter passed by so quickly because my favorite thermal jackets are too warm for rides and it is still light out when I’m riding home from work. Oh the joy! Descending mountains are still a chilly problem though.

      Do you ride in the rain?

      I take the Wilier out for my long morning rides before work but it usually ends up pouring when it comes time to ride home in the evening. I don’t mind getting soaked but knowing I have to clean my bike afterwards is the only reason I despise it… and the feeling of wet socks… yuck!! When I ride my rain bike (the Cannondale), I sometimes never clean or even re-lubricate the chains afterwards. I’m so terrible, I know. But when you want to be lazy, you gotta be lazy.

      rainy days... go away | I Fucking Love FItness

      You know what else I despise about cycling?

      Washing water bottles after a ride! My friend taught me a trick: to put it in the freezer to prevent bacteria growth and take it out when you are ready to wash it.  You can soak it in water + detergent but it’s hard to rinse out completely, and you’ll probably get detergent-flavored water on your next ride. Delicious!

      Our rides tend to get extended which usually means getting home and starting a hectic post-ride routine so you won’t lose friends from being constantly late to engagements. My OCD-tendencies doesn’t help either because I need to do as much as I can and as fast as I can — showering, putting everything away (I hate mess), post-ride meal/snack, icing, stretching, foam-rolling, checking out the Strava stats… and then getting ready for whatever I have planned that evening. Washing water bottles is the last thing I need. Ugh.

      WIler + Rapha + I Fucking Love FItness

      These water bottles are so pretty but a pain in the arse!

      I’m all for cycling advocacy but what is wrong with commuting to work in lycra and a carbon road bike?

      I usually take my old bike but whenever I get a chance to do a long ride on a sunny morning, I’m going to take my fast bike out! Why would I spend so much money on a machine that gives me so much joy and let it sit around at home? She would get so lonely… poor thing.

      Like with everything else, the world generalizes cyclists. And then cyclists generalize cyclists. We have lycra-clad cyclists who tend to race on shared bike/pedestrian paths putting everyone’s lives in danger. Kids (I’m old now, okay) riding their bikes with their giant Beats on and not paying attention to the world around them. Hipsters weaving between cars in rush hour traffic on their fixies and completely disobeying traffic laws. People riding at night with absolutely NO lights and dressed in black… I’m totally not generalizing, I swear!

      But seriously, I’ve seen every single type of cyclist run red lights and stop signs, cut people off, scream at drivers… not ONE specific group. It’s just so natural in our human tendencies to make judgements. I admit, I totally judge. I hate entitled cyclists who run lights and have no respect for drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists. No, we are not better because we choose to ride our bikes— remind yourself you may occasionally drive or walk (gasp). However I don’t judge how fast or slow someone is riding, what kind of bike they are riding, what they are wearing or how many rules they are breaking (because I’m pretty sure I break 90% of them).

      I love reading articles about cycling (particularly in Vancouver) and I always get a good laugh reading the comments, which is a discussion I refuse to join. Topics including cycling and bike lanes are so controversial and there is no winning from any side because everyone is so passionate in their opinions. Wow, cycling is way up there now along with religion, politics, abortion and global warming. You gotta love it.

      But cycling is cycling and it makes me happy when I see others out on a bike— especially on rainy days. Ride bikes, people!! You won’t regret it.

        1 Comment