Cyclical Sanity

Another cyclocross season in the books – thank God. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By that definition I would say racing cyclocross is certifiable. For those of you not familiar with this niche sport, allow me to provide a brief overview. Cyclocross is a form of racing in which you ride what looks like a rode bike around a variable terrain course that include dirt, mud, grass, sand, steep climbs, steep descents, stairs, lots of turns, and the occasional barrier or two. The objective is to complete as many laps as possible in a timed window- usually 40-60 minutes in length while jostling with other riders. The sport originated in Europe (See: Way pre-mountain bike era) as a way for road racers to train in the off season, is most popular in waffle-consuming countries, and takes place in the fall/winter timeframe. 

For those who have never raced cyclocross before the experience is, well…unique. Essentially you red-line for 45 minutes while trying to keep your eyes uncrossed so that you can finesse your bike around that off-camber sandtrap and keep it rubber side down. Once you look up and realize you made it all the way around the course, you get to do it again! And again, and again, and again, until you hear the sweet sound of the last lap bell. 

My description of course is somewhat embellished (not really) and there are many riders that have a much different experience – namely those who are actually fit and ride their bikes year round. You see cyclocross attracts a lot of road racers and cross-country mountain bike racers, both of whom prioritize training miles way more than I do. While I do mountain bike, I opt out of the heart-rate monitors and hardtails. Jealous? Yes, because these guys finish a lot faster than I do, which means they don’t have to suffer as long. I always make it a goal to finish on the lead lap, I have to admit that when I’m deep into lap five or six a small part of me hopes that the leaders come whizzing by so I can stop my free fall into the pain-cave.

It is the suffering that binds us together though, we racers of the insanity. Whether you are racing Cat 1s or stopping for beer hand-ups, cyclocross is a sport that forces you to find your limit. It is what is commonly known as type-II fun. The kind of fun you have during the post-race beer with friends laughing about the fifth time you fell or that hill you started to roll backwards on. It’s the type of fun where later you go through in your head and think about how you could have taken that turn better or how you ended up with course tape wrapped around your cassette (Most likely the turn you didn’t make). Cyclocross is the type of maddening fun that you not only do voluntarily, but decide its worth doing the next week and next season. 

Fear the Analog

Last year when I decided to finally upgrade my camera system I was really interested in going the mirrorless route. This had less to do with an insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest, but more size or the lack there of. As an outdoor photographer the less weight I have to lug around the better in my book. In addition to squeezing a full frame sensor in a compact body, my new camera has several features my previous did not. Features such as live view, Bluetooth enabled, and the ability to see adjustments in-camera as you make them are huge in terms of getting the specific shot you want with instant feedback. As someone who remembers shooting in the days of film, this condenses the photographic process time down to almost nothing.

About a year ago at a workshop I attended, one of the presenters talked about why he enjoys shooting film. As a disciple of the old ways (manual transmissions, telemark skiing, paper books, ect.) I connected with several points made about film; the way it requires you to slow down and be more intentional about each frame. Even the development process requires a great deal of patience and work to make your original vision come to life. I left the workshop inspired to go home, dust off the old N90, and reconnect with the world of film. To take it one step further I decided to go way analog and bought a 35mm prime lens with manual focus. Armed with my stripped down kit, rolls of film, and ideas for projects I was ready to create analog magic!

Okay, confession time - despite my excitement and eagerness to dive back into film, I find myself almost paralyzed with fear. What if the exposure is wrong? What if it is out of focus? I won’t know until it is too late!?! Like many things in life technology giveth and technology taketh away. Amazing how those things that enhance our abilities can also feel like dependencies. Now this isn’t to say I’ve gone full auto, I certainly am still very conscious about my settings before pressing the shutter release. But I also realize I’ve come to rely on things like in camera histograms to let me know if I have everything dialed. Film, as I am relearning strips all that away and causes you to not only slow down the process, but appreciate a major element of photography - luck or as I like to think of it trust.

In one of my favorite photography books – Mountain Light, the author Galen Rowell talks about luck less in the sense that a photographer is in the right place at the right time, but more in that it is the “special sauce” that brings together technical proficiency, photographic vision, and light to make a great photograph that is difficult to duplicate. It is trust (luck) that you’ve put in the pre-work and made the right technical choices to translate the scene in front of you into the photograph that you have envisioned. With digital photography you don’t need all that much trust because you can see it in front of you instantaneously and make adjustments before conditions change. Film, not so much. Shooting with film you won’t know if you got everything right until you get the negatives or really until you develop prints. 

So it is time to put my big boy photography pants on, load the film into my camera, dig deep into my technical memory bank, wait for the right light, and trust the process. I’ll let you know how it turns out – in a few weeks.


Dog, man’s best friend as the saying goes, evokes scenes well healed work dogs chasing cattle, or retrieving birds in the early morning light, exchanging slobbery face licks for ear rubs and a job well done. Dogs have always been great adventure companions and a good one seems almost required in today’s media driven outdoor industry. Scroll through the Gram and you’ll find countless photos of dogs in canoes on majestic lakes, mid-air gap jumpers pursuing their two wheeled owner, and drift boat navigators on point to find the next honey-hole.

I have a canine companion whose given name is Luna, but I’ve taken to calling her Shadow. Less because she’s a black lab and more to the fact that she is always by my side…or in my lap, or my face. Luna like all dogs I’ve had (and will ever have) is a rescue, which means she comes with her own peccadillos. Perhaps a bit of separation anxiety, her little face can always be seen in the window when I jump in the truck and laying on the couch blanket, pillows, ect. when I get home. She will routinely try to follow me into the bathroom and if I let her outside she’s glued to the door looking in as soon as I turn to walk away. 

Now, if there were auditions for adventure dog, I’m not quite sure Luna would get the part- though I recently discovered she has her own Instagram account (@lunathelunaticdoggie). Sure she likes to run outside like most dogs, but her preferred place on the trail is directly behind me usually just close enough to catch a heel to the face about every fifth stride. Stopping for water or to check the map while backpacking? Not a chance. Luna will whine until you start up the trail again. At bit of a princess, Luna doesn’t like laying in the dirt. Put her in the tent or the truck and the whining starts again. Apparently there is a two foot separation rule I keep forgetting about. The other day I went to load the dogs in the truck and before the tailgate was even a quarter of the way down she took a leap, belly flopped against the tailgate, fell onto the bike rack and floundered back to the ground like a fish out of water. Sorry Luna, I don’t think we’re getting sponsored.

But for all her foibles Luna is a great companion. Always stoked to see the leash come out of the closet, she’ll spin circles around the front yard when I unlock the truck. You have to love her enthusiasm. Unlike Quincy (other dog) and his hardwired prey drive, I know Luna will always stay close on the trail and is quick to return after short excursions to satisfy her primordial canine hunting urges. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing a happy little face greeting you at the door when you return home. Sure we won’t be featured on Pinkbike anytime soon, but at the end of a day in the outdoors there’s nothing like a cold beer and tired pup right by your side.

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