Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fear...or Lack Thereof

Early this summer, I was charged by my first brown bear. Julie, Tim, and I were riding down the South Rim Trail above Anchorage near sunset. I was in the lead and although I was making a lot of noise due to the overgrown trail, it is a very windy and fast trail and as I came around one of the corners, I saw a mass of brown fur in the trail, about 50 feet in front of me. As we had just passed a couple of hiker with dogs, my brain first processed this as a bunch of dogs in the trail. That did not last. The second pass revealed that this was a mamma brown bear with her back to me as she tried to usher her 2 yearling cubs off of the trail. Crap. I grabbed a handfull of brake, too much. Front wheel locked up and I went flying over the bars towards the bears and then wound up tangled up underneath the bike about 20 feet from them. Crap x4. This is where everything slowed down but still happened so fast that I have trouble reconstructing it, despite the 4 hours I spent lying awake dwelling on it that night. I'm trying to get out from under the bike and mamma bear turns around. She starts charging and I clearly remember clearly thinking "Ok, now this is really gonna happen" and started to go fetal. Then I somehow decided that I was not going to accept a mauling and remembered that is the last resort. I jumped up from under the bike and I think I might have actually roared at the bear. She stopped about 5-10 feet from me and turned around and followed her cubs off the trail and into the brush.

So after all this, the obvious question was, "Do you need some clean underwear?" Prior to this I would have thought the answer quite obvious. "Yes, please". Not the case at all. I was totally jacked up on a total adrenaline rush. I never understood these stories of people being confronted by bears and fighting them off or not realizing they'd been wounded until 10 minutes later. I had a tough time putting what I experience into words. Ok, so why the post now?

I found someone who has described it quite well. Most people in the mountaineering circles are familiar with Joe Simpson, a mountaineer who survived a broken leg and subsequent horrendous fall/crevass experience after his climbing partner was forced to cut the rope ebtween them and let him fall. He wrote a book about and there's a documentary, both called Touching the Void (insert joke here). He also wrote a sort of autobiography that covers all the times he almost died in the mountains before that event, all his friends that died in the mountains, and his recovery process. Towards the end, there is one passage that rang particulary true for and that brief 5-10 second slice:

"The future is simply a matter of fact, an emotionless reality - you will be dead - and that is that. Only the present, what is happening to you now at this very instant, concerns you. Because of this you are unable to extrapolate what the future will be like as a result of what is happening to you now. All you can do is experience the present, nothing more. Deprived of the ability to imagine the future, you are fearless; suddenly there is nothing to be scared about. You have no time to ponder on death's significance or fear what it may feel like. In the cataclysmic violence of the accident you lose not only the future but the past as well. You lose all possible reasons for fear.... Time is frozen for you into the present events and sensations, the knocks, and bmups from whiuch you can draw no emotional conclusions. I'm crashing. I'm falling fast. I'm about to die. This is it. In truth you have far too much on your mind for such frivolous luxuries as fear."

A bit more melodramatic then my experience but still, I could never have said it better. Replace the italicized text with She's charging. I'm going to get mauled. This is going to suck. A lot. and that is exactly where I was. Never scared, just this wierd heightened reality of the moment.

So yeah, Happy Holidays and stuff. Sorry Mom.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nu-Metal...What Went Wrong

This post was going to start off as something else end with a linked in video but grew into something else.

Nu-metal or rap-matel gets a bad rap, no pun intended. "Good" nu-metal honestly wasn't that bad. I'm talking Korn's first album, SOAD (I guess), early Mudvayne (not fan but respect it), Snot....well...there wasn't that much "good" nu-metal. Still, it had promise. That is, until something happened.

What was that something you ask? Or not b/c 99% of you have no interest in this subject. Well, I'll tell you anyway. That something was the song "I'm on the Outside" by Staind. Let me give you a little background on Staind. One day several years back, my buddy Greg Kendall called me and said "You gotta check out this song "Mudshovel" by this new band "Staind" and I did. And it rocked. Quite. Based on the strength of that song, I bought the album. Mistake, the rest of the album did not rock. It tried but failed. A year or so later, Mr Aaron Lewis from Staind did a live song called "I'm on the Outside" as a duet with a certain Mr. Fred Durst from Limp Bisquick. Slow, sensitve, catchy...everyone loved it, much like a Cyndi Lauper song except her songs were a bit faster paced. This song made Staind a lot of money and F#ck Durst even more money. All of a sudden, all these so called tortured, hard-core nu-metal bands saw where the money was at and went emo. Slipknot went on to release a whole album of "Wait and Bleed" clones (Iowa) that sucked and then the lead singer did a solo project (Stone Sour) that was just this side of maple syrup. Staind quickly pounced on the formula and added a studio version of their break through "I'm on the Outside" on their next album along with an equally accesible "It's Been Awhile". Mudvayne is still on the radio but there original sound is all but gone.

What brought this about you might ask if you're still reading. Good question. I was on my way home from a hockey game tonight and the Staind's Mudshovel song came on the radio. 10 or so years and that song still rocks. I will never not like that song and I couldn't help but still feel disappointed about what that all metamorphisized (yeah sp!) into.

This post brought to you by: HockeyMonkee -> DrunkeeMonkee -> MetalMonkee yeah, it's a progression.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Roadies...can we really call them that?

Today I showed up for yet another "mountain bike" race in Anchorage (Up and Over Challenge, Campbell Air Strip to Indian), only to find that almost all of the other participants were what we refer to as "roadies", bikers who compete in the expert class road bike races, but come out for a lot of the mountain bike races as well. You can always tell a roadie by their expensive carbon mountain bikes (which wouldn't last a week under my guidance), gaudy spandex uniforms, and anemic physiques...except for the tree-trunk legs of course. Further proof is provided once the race starts and the first techinical trail feature is encountered. A "roadie" will appear surprised by this sudden obstacle and usually fall right over, thus causing everyone behind them to dismount, gracefully or not so much.

Back to the race. I got out of the car at the trailhead this morning, took a look around and knew what the score was. I looked over at Julie and yelled "Last place! High Five!!" It turns out there were a few other mountain bikers in disguise so I finished like 11 out of 15 or something with a very respectable time of 2:27. I never did see those roadies again after the first 1.35 minutes of the race but whatever. It was a beautiful day and I had a (mostly) nice ride. The climb from Bivouac to Glen Alps (2000 ft) was a bit rough but after that it was pretty sweet.

The BikeMonkee shows some skin on Powerline Pass trail.

As for the title of the post, my question is this, how many more times do I have to have my ass handed to me in these races before accepting the fact that these "roadies" are in fact just really freakin' good bikers, mountain bike, road bike, it doesn't matter? Still, I'd love to see how they fare on a course that is even remotely technical. Unfortunately, there really aren't any technical trails in Anchorage, not like in UT or CO. Speaking of UT and CO, one more month before the trip to Moab and Fruita. Can't wait!

This post has been brought to you by: BikeMonkee