Disclaimer: This post may not be compatible with your attention span. That said, I encourage you to challenge your inner goldfish and read on!
Update: My, how the pendulum seems to swing. At this time two years ago, a very sweet (but temporary) deal with the weather gods had us Pacific Northwesterners (and Canadian Southwesterners) indulging in one of the mildest "winter" seasons in memory. At the time it was hard for me to resist a smug "you're welcome" to everyone I passed on the trail in their short sleeves and tinted lenses. Now in March, only just emerging from a handful of "sunny, mild days" since October, incessant snow, slushy mud, and barely enough neoprene and wool to make riding worth it, I'm glad that I wasn't too boastful. As with all good arrangements, however, the ever-intended balance is running its course.
Typical trail surface in Bellingham this off season...
In fact...some days this off season, the skiing on the trails has been better than the riding...while the bike riders may have suffered, the poor skiers and snowboarders finally got their fix!
Brief Background: What does all of this mean, you ask?! And who is to blame?! Well, for those of you familiar with this narrative, you may recall that back in December 2014 I made a special deal with the architects of the elements: the weather gods granted two years of warmer-than-normal winters as a trade for the wind energy projects that I helped develop during my seven years as an employee of the Friends Of The Atmosphere industry [read: utility scale wind and solar energy development]. The warm weather supported training for an international tour with the Spandex Circus [read: professional mountain bike racing and the mountain bike World Cup]. Then, after two years, it would be time to rebalance and recalibrate, to "get back to work", "limit ink in the passport", etc. It would also be time to replenish the water table with, you guessed it: more frost, ice, snow and rain.
Some Explanation: While it has seemed like a "bad" winter, it's all part of a larger scheme. And after two easy winters, we Cascadians may have been getting pretty soft here at 48.7°N. The weather roller coaster is not just a result of my little arrangement, for there is exceptional weather occurring in other places, too. For example, the Aussies had to cancel their DH National Championships this weekend on account of summer rain!
In general, the global council of weather gods is not communicating well amongst themselves. They're confused. Some are angry with having to deal with us millenials' self absorbed approach to the world, like adjusting the weather for bicycle racing, or at scientists creating a breach of natural selection (which used to be mainly the job of the weather). The weather gods are also struggling with how to hold a civil court amongst themselves. Like us, they have become technologically interconnected on the one hand, yet isolated in their own meteorological echo chambers on the other. And to make matters worse, this guy "Izzy" (below, Aztec god for frost, resides in what is now called Mexico) has really been acting out this year after hearing there might be a wall put up between his home and his favorite riding spot in the Cascadia Zone. He is now keen on bringing the winter and the rain further south to make more loam.
Given the maturation of mountain biking as a sport and industry, I look forward to the increased emphasis on adventure and lifestyle rather than representing the sport exclusively as a spandex-clad racer. The evolution feels good. That said, I still plan to compete and perform at a very high level! As I grow with the sport, I feel there is a deeper expression to be practiced, from personal time spent in the outdoors, to community involvement and promoting health and recreation, to channeling creativity through mediums of physical endurance, writing, photography, and outdoor exploration. The bike is the brush, the outdoors the canvas.
Mountain biking (PC: top Blake Jorgenson, middle Sarah Paxson, bottom Blake Jorgenson)
More good days working with this motley crew, the Kona Adventure Team (l-r: Cory Wallace, me, Kris Sneddon, Barry Wicks; PC: Patrick Means).
Bike Racing (XC, marathon, cyclocross, enduro, etc; PC top to bottom: top Diane Paxson, middle Dennis Crane, bottom Dave Silver)
Getting Back to Work, Starting My Own Business: And yes, the winter has also been a queue to hunker down and get back to my workingman racer program. Over the years, I have felt most fulfilled while racing and working full time (like any normal person), so I am excited to be working on a new project alongside cycling. But this time it's not a corporate job, it's my own business!
In 2016 I started a sole proprietor LLC in order to do freelance consulting work for renewable energy developers. At the time I also had an inkling that I'd want to do some form of "bike consulting". In the fall, I had the opportunity to co-design and teach a 6-week strength and conditioning course with my wife at her physical therapy clinic, CorePhysio. It was such a rewarding experience that it had me consider applying my other professional background (my unaccredited PhD in cycling), so I decided to develop my credentials for doing “human energy” consulting, i.e. coaching! Thus, I spent the winter working on my "alphabet soup" for health and fitness: a CSCS certification from the NSCA, coaching license, studying physiology, earning a wilderness first response (WFR) certificate, and building my general small business knowhow. I've been learning a lot and it has been very fun.
My coaching service is called Peak Energy Performance, and in the coming months and years I look forward to working with clients to help them become healthier, stronger and happier doing the things they love, like riding bikes! With coaching, the combination of people interaction, education, creativity and data analysis is great for me, and it opens up possibilities for contributing to the local community and public health which I feel increasingly passionate about. I have a small group of coaching clients so far, and eventually am excited to see if I can grow this little side project into a bigger resource for the community and my career alike.
Running back to my past or toward my future? (PC: Sarah Paxson)
New Adventures: Understanding that the coming coldness of winter would be an opportunity for recalibration and rebalance, my wife and I embarked on a small journey of our own to really find out what that meant. In the autumn before winter's arrival, we travelled to the land of frost, glaciers and mountains (Alaska!) to get in touch with ourselves, feel small in nature, and think about our futures together. We crossed iceberg lakes and glaciers, climbed up and over mountains, walked under the frosty full moon and watched lots of sunsets. Among the many things we learned, one was a lesson from the cold weather gods, a reminder on the meaning of winter which I had forgotten since getting to know Robert Frost in Vermont: that the cold and winter is the usher of life, clearing the way for new things to emerge. And since I've heard that all good episodes are supposed to end with a cliffhanger, I'll maintain the suspense and just say there is a new and very exciting chapter to this adventure due to arrive this summer!
Thanks for reading...