Brain pace

October 10, 2012 § 8 Comments

I finished work in Santa Barbara today around 3:30 and figured that this would put me back in LA at just the wrong time, so rather than rush back to sit in traffic I tossed my briefcase in the car and took a walk.

Before I could toss the briefcase, though, I had to walk more than half a mile to where my car was parked. There was plenty of parking near Carrillo and Garden, but of late I’ve taken distance parking to a whole new level.

For example, rather than park near the courthouse in downtown LA, I’ll park a mile or so away and walk. It adds time, and it makes me all sweaty and greasy, but parking goes from $9 to free and you always get to see some interesting stuff and you get to run the gauntlet of street people. Plus, you get to learn a new set of city blocks every time you go downtown.

And it’s exercise, the old-fashioned way. On foot. The way nature meant for people to move.

Walk a mile in your own shoes

It’s funny how perfectly adapted our brains are to walking speed. You can see everything: The tiny edges of the grate holes in the street drains, the new plaster covering the old stone walls of the presidio, the steel interior of the crazy dude’s car that has anti-prison slogans painted on it, the details of the pine bark on the massive trees near the Santa Barbara Bowl, and of course the gruppo on the rusting MTB resting against an old barbecue grill on someone’s dilapidated porch.

Thoughts move more smoothly on foot, swirling over the knots and rocks and bumps that make up the problems in our lives, covering them up or dissolving them or wearing them down with the effortless force of the mind going at its most efficient speed, which is to say the contemplative one.

The eye and the mind coordinate naturally with your gait, which is the gait you were born with and will have all your life, the gait you acquired without a computerized fit or a coach or a hex wrench stuck in your back pocket for endless micro-adjustments on the fly. The motion? It’s yours. It’s perfect, and can’t be fixed.

Speed kills

Everything becomes a tunnel compared to walking. Whether you’re blasting on a motor, cruising at 65 in your car, pedaling at 20, or even running, your brain shifts from observation and reflection to data intake, predict the next point, react, and repeat. Ideas come briefly and are immediately swallowed up in the moment. If the speed is high enough, or the exertion intense enough, your brain switches to glide, a continual conveyor belt of motion and action almost wholly devoid of reflective thought.

It’s one reason that, after finishing a bike ride, we feel so clean and refreshed. Our brains have been put on pause.

While strolling, it occurred to me that…

  • It’s astonishing how many people use cycling to effectively cope with the strains, struggles, addictions, pain, loneliness, sickness, disappointment, and unhappiness in their lives. The act of riding a bike isn’t so much a gateway to happiness, it’s a gateway of happiness.
  • Who is Peter Gabriel? Should I Google him? He’s playing at the Santa Barbara Bowl tonight, so he’s either not very famous or past his prime. Or both.
  • Nothing is more fulfilling and happiness-inducing as the camaraderie on all of our rides, with people calling you by your name, and encouraging you, and even giving you a push when you need it.
  • Clodhopper may blab about every car he’s ever owned, may remind you in copious detail of every race he’s ever won, but if there’s a more generous friend in my life, I’m not sure who it is, because he gave me a half-gallon of his homemade spaghetti sauce last week. I’d give it its own blog, but how much more can you say about something than “foodgasm”? Oh, and that one other detail…he always, always, always goes to the front.
  • Newly-minted Cat 2 and Everest race winner Stathis the Wily Greek cadged 50,000 feet of total vertical last week. Radar Domes sit 1,500′ above sea level. Mt. Ventoux is 6,000′ above sea level. The Cornice at Mammoth is 11,000′ above sea level. Maybe you can comprehend Stathis’s feat. I can’t even wrap my head around it, much less my legs.
  • I’m now too injured to ride my bike thanks to the pulled muscle from last weekend’s ‘cross race. That’s only the fourth time in thirty years of cycling that a bike-related injury has kept me from riding. Obviously, I should do more ‘cross races to see if I can increase the number and severity of injuries.
  • Everyone says Santa Barbara is a really cool place. All I saw were restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and hippies in Range Rovers. It reminded me of downtown Austin with twice the class and three times the pretentiousness.

Boy, for a contemplative walk those are some pretty slim pickings. Can’t wait to go out and get on my bike again, and switch into glide.

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§ 8 Responses to Brain pace

  • billywayne says:

    If you grew up there, you would know how cool SB is … and how uncool LA is!! ;)
    Or maybe you needed to walk a hair slower …

    • Admin says:

      I’ve lived in lots of places where people tell you that you can only appreciate a place by growing up there, or where you can only really be considered local when you have grandparents in the cemetery. That’s usually shorthand for “Please leave, now.” Which is the antithesis of cool, and the abbreviation for “insular, self-centered, xenophobic, stuck on yourself, afraid of change, dislike of the wider world” and a host of other attributes that are usually masked with clothing labels and consumer goods labeled “cool.”

      I don’t know if LA is cool, but I know that I’m not, never have been, never will be. I also know that big cities are the cutting edge, whereas “cool” places like Austin (can’t speak for SB or Boulder, never having lived there) are more hype than reality…unless you’re really into the restaurant/bar/coffee house thing.

  • Albacore says:

    Next you’re going to write about how you have taken up running. You’ll be so ecstatic about the new zero drop wonder shoes you bought. You’ll revel about how you can buy 5 pairs of said shoes for the same price as the soon-to-be-outdated-upgraded-lightened sramano uber carbon gizmo.

    My vote is for the coolness of Austin. The incredible BBQ and the fact that I have family there (i.e. free lodging) ups its coolness quotient.

    I’m going to join in the rallying cries that you should write a book. If that doper in NY can do it. . . If nothing else print out a series of past blogs, staple them together, and hold the signing event at the CotKU.

    • Admin says:

      Nah, can’t run due to a funny foot that causes knee problems.

      Glad you like Austin. I hereby bequeath it to you, along with the cedar pollen, which, no matter what anyone says, is its chief defining characteristic. Stevie died so long ago he’s nothing but a memory and a statue. Will not…can not…argue the BBQ point. F. Weigl.

      I can’t write a book. I don’t have anything to say. But thanks for the props.

  • Rev says:

    2 questions…. you dont’ know who Peter Gabriel is??? and where the heck do you find free parking within a mile of LASC central??? that is all

    • Admin says:

      I Googled him. So now I can’t say I don’t know who he is.

      Heh, heh. Not sharing ALL my secrets…

      But I will share this gem if you practice at Central West on Commonwealth: Go straight up Commonwealth, over the little bump, and there’s plenty of free parking on both sides of the street, just after all the parking meters. Take note of street sweeping days, of course. It’s less than 1/4 mile from the courthouse door.

  • Totally agree with this post. We just spent a few days up in Leadville, CO, where the speed of life isn’t particular quick anyway. We didn’t have our bikes and spent the long weekend just walking around the town and absorbing the sites in a way that was so refreshing. I sometimes forget that quickly moving and motoring all the time doesn’t necessarily mean I’m thinking any faster or noticing any more – it just means I’m likely to have forgotten my purse, my shoes or the whole reason why I’m headed out the door.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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