2018 in Photos: Focus and Flame
Before 2018 slips completely into yesterday, I am sifting through my memories of the last 12 months. As regular readers will know, I have not blogged much this year, but I did keep on living life and taking photos here and there. While I’ve missed the writing, time away from the computer screen has been healthy.
As I look back on this year, I see that the pace of this year was accelerated for me, primarily due to work as well as Felkerino’s and my commitment to ride an August 1200K after several years of slacking with 600Ks as our longest distance. While these activities cut into opportunities to reflect as much as I tend to like to do, I still found way too much time to worry.
There is so much in life to worry about, and wow, can it be fatiguing. Worry also eats away at the potential for joy in everyday activities, so I was very lucky to have a partner who could help redirect my thoughts when I needed it, and bring me back to the present moment. Yoga was also helpful in this regard.
Overall, 2018 was a year lived with focus, particularly around work and bicycling. After our big ride in August, I put the brakes on riding, moved to a new position at work, and began running more. The changes have been rejuvenating, although the steady spill of energy for much of the year invigorated and challenged me.
The photos below encapsulate many memories of the last year, and I hope you enjoy them.
My daily commute took me along the Potomac River and by one of the most picturesque bridges in the city, Memorial Bridge. It always felt good to ride this section, going the opposite direction of all the people in their cars as I soaked in the river view to my left. This day fog was rolling off the river and shrouded the bridge. It was a sublime morning.
I began riding my Rawland dSogn to work around this time. The disc brakes made it ideal, as I had a couple of swift dowhills that benefitted from extra stopping power. Felkerino helpfully installed fenders and a rack on it, and off I went commuting.
The dSogn turned out to be a fabulous commuter. I paused to take a photo on this day because I felt so appreciative of this bike and my commute route into upper Northwest D.C., which covered a lot of residential area and avoided much of the dense mess of downtown traffic.
Felkerino suggested that we do a March bike tour, and we set out to ride from Los Angeles to Phoenix. We averaged 109 miles over five days to cover the full 545 miles. The warmth as well as the general ease of the terrain made the distance quite doable. The route was pretty, but involved quite a lot of highway – not my favorite – versus quiet back roads.
I took this photo on my birthday. We had stopped to eat lunch at the roadside – a sub sandwich we picked up at the grocery that morning. No shade in sight, nobody nearby. I munched on my sandwich and looked around, standing in wonder about being the age I was. I never imagined living this long. Rooted in the present, grateful for my life, I was content.
Brevet season went into high gear and Felkerino and I rode the Mother of All 300Ks with the D.C. Randonneurs. I love this course for so many reasons. This is the first 300K route I ever completed and it reminds me of when I was first starting out as a randonneuse. The steady dose of hills throughout requires concentration and thus doesn’t allow one to wallow in day-to-day worries. Quiet scenic roads offer a welcome reprieve from congested life in the city.
This photo is from Wolf Gap, a wooded climb that riders ascend soon after entering West Virginia. I cannot remember the riders’ names in this photo, but they are out of Baltimore and we saw and chatted with them a fair amount throughout the day.
Wolf Gap is such a satisfying climb. Long, not punishing, and we usually ride it when the sun is just making its full presence known. It’s one of those ascents that make me happy to be a bike rider – especially when the descent arrives.
The brevets continued into May, and this is a photo from one of the control stops that falls around mile 150 of the first day of our club’s 600K. It’s the less romantic side of randonneuring, which includes stopping at gas stations/convenience stores where we make do with many of the food options.
Randonneurs well know that efficiency is critical on long rides. As our friend Roger says, “You gotta take care of your business!” Time can easily get away from riders during brevets, especially as fatigue sets in. Time lost at convenience stores means time not moving, but these stops are also necessary because they fuel a person for the next section.
This was a great stop, though. After riding quite a while by ourselves, we met up with several riders here, and exchanged hellos and compared notes about our progress before continuing on. And of course, we tended to our randonneuring business, as you can see.
Felkerino and I explored several new-to-us roads this summer, one of them being this section of the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike that our buddy Eric is maneuvering through. I wrote about this ride in its own blog post here. It was a day that showed what can happen when you let time and conflicting priorities get the better of you.
It was also one of my favorite rides of the summer because it covered such a spectrum of terrain and emotions. Excitement at riding new places, anger about the truly deteriorated condition of the Abandoned Turnpike, frustration when we realized how behind schedule we were, unexpected glee at intersecting with a RAAM tandem team in the evening hours, and a real sense of accomplishment at the end for somehow making it through it all – still on speaking terms with each other, even. What a day.
Felkerino and I agreed to ride the Kit ‘n Kish 600K permanent as our final training ride for the Coulee Challenge 1200K. While at the time I thought it was overkill, as this is one grindy route, it ended up being just what I needed to toughen me up for our 1200K endeavor.
We rode an abbreviated version of this route years ago, and I distinctly remembered the difficulty of Blacklog Mountain Road – long and unrelentingly steep. The climbs were still as sharp as in my memory, but I had forgotten the beautiful quiet that also accompanies this route. You can really absorb yourself into this ride. It’s just you, your bike, and the lush sloping green enveloping you from all sides.
This photo is of the beginning of Blacklog Mountain Road, before it becomes too steep to do anything but breathe and pedal. I appreciated how the mileage was marked so precisely. I didn’t bother to verify the distance, but I will say that once again, this climb did not disappoint in its dificulty.
In mid-August, Felkerino and I packed up our bike and flew to Minnesota for the Coulee Challenge 1200K. Having not ridden a 1200K since 2012, we both wondered what the ride held in store for us.
It was somewhat of a relief to start pedaling after months of preparation, and to stop pondering how we would do. The ride ended up unfolding as a series of four day rides, and that worked well for us. The support was fantastic, our riding companions were all extremely competent, and our bodies endured the stress of the event well. The weather cooperated, and with the exception of a loose coupler and a bearing issue in our rear hub, we had a seamless ride.
The photo above is from the final day of the event. We were riding in Minnesota after riding through the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. The terrain was just letting up and the sun was rising into the morning sky. The fields of Minnesota felt familiar, yet distinct to the part of the Midwest that I call home.
At this moment, I began to feel confident that we would finish and I was supremely happy by how well Felkerino and I had worked together to execute our 1200K plan. All our practice was paying off, and I was so thankful for our good luck on this ride.
Just under four weeks after finishing the Coulee Challenge, I padded my two feet along the C&O Canal for the Adebe Bikila International Peace Day Marathon. It’s quite a long title, I know. In retrospect, I don’t think doing this run made much sense, as I was seriously undertrained and it plunged me further into a fatigued state.
However, I was seized by a fear of not being able to run these kinds of distances as I age. I also did not want a year to pass in which I did not run a marathon so I biked my butt over to the start and ran/walked my way through the 26.2-mile course.
It was actually a nice day for running – a bit dreary and humid with some cooling rain in the middle. The C&O was quieter than normal due to the gray skies. I took this photo at the end of the run as I changed back into my cycling shoes for the ride home.
Afterward, I had mixed feelings about muscling out a marathon largely on grit and experience. Yeah, it’s doable, but there are better (and smarter) ways to approach these things.
October is the season for coffeeneuring and it’s also a time for doing fun activities like the Philly Bike Expo! The Expo has become a superb mix of checking out vendors and chatting with bike friends throughout the region, and I just love going and packing in as much bikes bikes bikes as I can over two days.
Felkerino and I park outside Philadelphia and ride 25 miles into the city so we do not have to worry about a vehicle downtown. By October I had largely flamed out on riding, but our ride in and out of Philadelphia made me think that I would get that flame back soon enough. The route is almost entirely multi-use trail, and the trail is generally wider than what we have in D.C. This photo of Felkerino is from just inside the city, as we pedaled the final miles to our hotel. The picturesque views as we sidle along the water and under the bridges mean we’re almost there.
I managed a trip home to Iowa after confounding my own plans to go the previous month. This photo is from my first day of running there, a frigidly beautiful day in the teens.
My part of Iowa is fairly flat, checkered with fields and roads laid out in grids. I used to think my hometown was so dull, but when I go back the time flies by and I can’t wait to go outside and explore the parts of it that I took for granted as a kid.
Additionally, after months of wondering where my running mojo went and feeling meh, I rediscovered it. After months of plodding, my feet felt light. The running flame rekindled in November and it felt amazing.
I rode 6,600 miles in the first eight months out of the year, and a mere 800 in the last four. That’s not a bad number, but it’s certainly a drop-off from the previous months of cycling.
Right now the chain on my trusty Rawland needs lube, and my bike tires need air. But my feet are still moving thanks to my newfound enjoyment of running… and walking, too, for that matter. I had forgotten how good it feels to stretch out the legs through a walk around town.
Back to the running, though. What a treat it has been. I have run 620 miles this year, with just under 400 of them coming in the last four months. This photo is from a run earlier this week. Temps climbed into the fifties and I decided to run home after taking the Metro to a spot outside of town. The total distance was 15 miles, which for some is not a lot, but for me it was a victory after so many months of not feeling inspired or strong. Running can put me in such a peaceful head space and finally I am achieving that again when I do it.
I think the goal for next year is going to be figuring out if and how to balance the bicycling with running. Felkerino and I hope to do more big rides together next year, but I’m also treasuring my time on two feet so I plan to continue that. And maybe by doing both in a more planful and balanced way I will avoid the flame-outs I experienced this year.
That said, I have to give Felkerino another shout-out. Thanks to our partnership I have challenged myself and grown in ways I never imagined. He is always planning the next adventure and manages to keep moving optimistically forward even when life seems uncertain. It’s a good way to live.