Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The curtain on summer is starting to close

My bike commuting has been interesting this summer.  There is enough light in June and July such that I don’t need my headlight for the ride in.  June is usually still a bit chilly so it isn’t until mid-July that I can ride in wearing short sleeves. When the calendar strikes August I have the weirdest situation where I can wear a short sleeve jersey but I need a headlight in the morning. 
At the Coffee and Lies ride this past Sunday KB asked me if we really had gone to Italy or if we all just shared the same cycling-based dream. I smiled and knew exactly what he meant.  Although I can remember it like it was yesterday, at times it seems like it was a hundred years ago.  Such is life.

After a solid month of morning temperatures between 58 and 61, earlier this week it was 53 when I got up.  “Is summer over?” I wondered. For my bike commute this week the sky was dark, cloudless and full of stars when I pulled out at 5:20 AM.  A long sleeve jersey was the wise choice.

Talk of football, Cyclocross and back to school signals the coming transition with an occasional golden leaf confirming the inevitable.  As an empty-nester I find myself reminded of my adolescence as fall approaches. 

When I was a teenager the end of summer signaled the impending start of cross country racing.  The start of school meant the start of intervals and after a summer that teetered on either side of a thousand miles of running my fitness was high and those intervals would sizzle.  I’ve always hated intervals but I have always been good at them and the results are undisputed. 
As a teen and young adult those hard efforts would trigger the production of lactic acid in my body during the workouts. Evidence of that was a metallic taste in my mouth and a burning in my lungs.  I can close my eyes and easily recall those sensations. When my eyes are closed I am seventeen years old.  When I open my eyes reality shocks me every time.

Now as a grandfather I find myself still doing intervals; this time on a bike. To my surprise the feelings are the same forty-some years later.  My lungs fighting for more air and my teeth hurting.  My chest pounding and a bit of lightheadedness.  Will I ever grow up?
 Everything looks worse in black and white......
At times I wonder if my life is so shallow that I somehow find purpose in the pain.  Do I have nothing more meaningful to do?  Am I just immersed in guilt and this hurt is my penance?  Have I made so many mistakes in life that I deserve this pain?  Am I bored and inflicting this on myself just appeases my ADD? Or worst of all; have I taken the Rapha psychobabble as gospel and ascribed a majestic nobility to the labor of pure suffering?  I don’t believe I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “Let’s go find some misery today.”  Yet I do take a perverse satisfaction in a hard workout. 
I have an interval workout that I can do on my bike commute home.  I use portions of a bike only trail as my interval sectors and the areas in between those which are open to traffic as my recovery.  Most of the sectors are STRAVA segments so I have a benchmark.  On one of those I’m seventh out of more than a thousand riders.  On another I’m second out of a thousand plus. It is amazing that I can train so hard and still race so poorly.

Luckily with age comes acceptance.  I figure it is probably like raising children. Once you figure it out, it is too late.  Lucky for me the habit of training has become so ingrained that I take pleasure in the process. 
Still, as the days get shorter and the nights grow colder, the summer that I waited all year for fades and I find myself experiencing a Pavlovian excitement that I cannot deny. The Winthrop Fondo and Cyclocross races fill the fall calendar. The prospect of crisp rides followed by snow, skiing and fatbiking excites me. 
My mountain biking takes on an urgency acknowledging the finite nature of the seasonal sport.  My casual shorts look worn, my sweaters look lonely.  Hottie is riding stronger each week.  Let’s go before summer is over.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The nicest bunch of guys that will kick your ass

Hey Mr. Bolt, just TRY and keep up with this guy....

The Methow was forecast to be scorching so we opted for a rare summer weekend on the west side.  Hottie and I had a great ride Saturday before our own temperatures got ugly.  

An invite for a longer Sunday ride in combination with the promise of cooler temperatures sounded like a good opportunity to log some miles with the Winthrop Fondo looming.

The tragedy of the day was a text from El Chefe’ that a work emergency had arisen and despite his plan to ride including preparatory Buttonhole swipeafication, he had to miss the day’s ride. 

Eight men in black and orange departed and headed south.   
 With Moonlight Burnside rumored to still be on vacation even those not in for the full Monty opted to continue south and skip Mercer Island. 

It was a very social group highlighted by a rare KB sighting.  Guy was also back from his European tour and the usual suspects were out as well. McWoodie, Big John, The Cheetah, Mr. T., Aaron and I were all in costume in addition to the riders mentioned earlier.

Thanks to the ability to download courses we followed the zigs and zags as McWoodie herded us onward toward Auburn.  We called out Hank and Einmotron by name as the route took one bizarre turn after another.  Most of us were looking forward to downloading the data later in the day to find out exactly where we were riding.  
Nearly ninety minutes into the ride five of our group turned around to meet domestic obligations.  They set off northward unsure of the route but hopeful that the sun would come out and if they kept the sun on their right side they would eventually find familiar scenery and make their way home.

At this point it was just me, McWoodie and Big John.  We were on a weird mixed use trail and the pace stayed mellow.   This could be fun I thought to myself.  We could catch up on recent events and bond emotionally whilst discussing candles and our deepest feelings.  Koom... Bye... Yah!

In no time we were back on roads and without a word we formed a paceline.  Because murderers are murderers the pace ratcheted up ever so slightly with each rotation.  The display I keep on my bike computer shows HR and cadence but not speed.  When I came to the front I checked my cadence and tried to keep it constant without shifting and watched my HR climb.  When it hit my self-imposed limit I rotated back.

This worked for a bit then my pulls got shorter and shorter. Finally I was dropping back and just taking the draft.  Finally I was popped off.  I could have held on but we weren’t even halfway through a planned hundred mile day and I was not about to explore Z5.

These murderers are, however, really nice guys and they soft pedaled until I caught up and we tried it again but this time they ramped it up more slowly. Wicked these men are. Following the only real climb of the ride we arrived at the Black Diamond Bakery.  
 The bakery is a popular destination both with bikers and non-bikers. The pastries weren’t bad but did not seem to justify the fifty miles we had ridden to get there.

The clouds were still thick and despite the hot temperatures of the previous day the morning was significantly cooler and I was chilled when we pulled out.  I recalled being cold when I had ridden this route with El Chefe’ one January day and that the rolling post-bakery route had warmed me that day.  I expected the same this day.

I noted that my Castelli gloves were soggy and wondered if any fingerless gloves can stay dry on a long ride. We made a couple of wrong turns only to have McWoodie correct us and get us back on the proper route. 

We turned onto what seemed to be the familiar winding of what I thought was Jones Road.  It turned out to be Maxwell Road pretending to be Jone Road. Then after the Hank-ish detour we were indeed on the actual Jones Road. 

On both of these roads McWoodie and Big John rode side by side and I just tried to hang on.  These roads are alternates to faster roads so they were light on traffic. There seemed to be a bit of an unspoken challenge going on between the two of them and I was happy to remain a witness and enjoy the draft.  Even in the draft I was working hard.  These guys are strong. 
As the donut induced sugar coma wore off I chomped on a bar and drank my skratch to ensure I would not bonk.  I checked the distance and the kilometers were ticking by.

As we returned via Renton we followed the pattern that has been established over years if not decades.  We rode around the airport side by side at a conversational pace.  Then when we got onto Rainier we lined up and slowly ramped it up. 

The sequence on Jones and Maxwell had me feeling strong and McWoodie and Big John feeling perhaps a bit worse for the effort.  On Pizza Hill I accelerated past Big John and McWoodie and McWoodie answered the call and rode next to me to the top.  He didn’t pass me though he could have dropped me in a second had he been so inclined but he wasn’t about to let me go solo.  "Get in line Davo," was the unspoken message.

Perhaps one of my favorite parts of a long ride is when you come up on other riders and you have a significant distance behind you and you just take it easy knowing your big work is behind you.  It is a chance to ride easy and savor the accomplishment of the days ride. I love that.

That didn’t happen this day.

Instead, with eighty miles in our legs we were taking hard pulls and flying along Lake Washington Boulevard. I’m hitting Zone 5 and my legs are past hurting, they are in shock asking what the hell is going on.
We are drilling it and with the end of the ride approaching there isn’t anything left to save it for. My quads hurt, my hamstrings hurt, my adductors are twitching and my right foot is barking as well.  My low back, ass and hip flexors have joined the pain party. Yet I’m still pushing. I am almost embarrassed to admit I am enjoying this. I am loving this. I am crazy. I am a maroon. I am not, however, the fastest maroon and after a while I am dropped. 

Once again my torturers show mercy (or a desire to make me hurt more) and soft pedal to let me catch up.  I get out of the saddle to close the gap and my quads feel like they have been beaten with a stick.  We regroup and ride the final kilometers together.

The most famous quote from Greg Lemond is in regard to training wherein he said, “It never gets easier, you just go faster.” As if to contradict this wisdom on the final climb back to our starting point it was indeed easier.  We weren’t going fast but I guess the fitness hangover from the Dolomites was still in effect and I was able to ride up hill and recover at the same time.

After parting I got to my car and put my bike in the back and took off my shoes.  I was sweaty and sticky and tired.  McWoodie called me on the phone and I was barely coherent.  My body knew I was done and was shutting down. It took longer than it should have for me to get headed home. 
Once home I cleaned up and put my clothes in the wash. Then I sat down in front of the TV and fell asleep. I take one or two naps a year.  This was one of them. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Coffee and Lies # 190 Varsity-level gravel

Following my return from the Dolomites I wisely took my time recovering.  Now with Cyclocross approaching as well as the Winthrop Fondo I realized I have let my fitness lag a bit too much.  To jump start me back into training I had planned a repeat of my StarvationMountain ride. 

Not only would I characterize the ride as epic but so, it seems, does STRAVA. My recollection was that this was a serious undertaking that was loose, hot, steep and dusty all at the most inopportune times.

I checked my ride history and this was a five and a half hour adventure with 2,000 meters of climbing.  When I did it two years ago I ran out of food and water and was absolutely shattered when I came rolling in with my tail between my legs.

This route has it all.  Remoteness, an unrelenting climb and the memory of hearing what I still believe was a bear just off the gravel road. It also is one of the most rewarding gravel rides and offers both type one and type two fun.

I gave this ride the respect it deserves and prepared accordingly.  Following my pre-ride breakfast of eggs and grits I saddled up and departed with five, count ‘em, five water bottles.  I carried a backpack with two bottles inside as well as two on my bike and one in my Fondo saddle bag.  I’ve lost bottles on rough gravel descents so I have begun using ski straps to keep the bottles on my bike from wandering.

I was rolling before 7:30 and for a few brief moments the air was cool on my arms.  I spotted the valley's balloon also greeting the day and took at as a positive sign.  Don't ask why, I just did.
Soon I was climbing up Bear Creek and watching the long shadows grow shorter.  Summer may be ending but it isn’t ending yet. My arms glistened with sweat and it wasn’t even eight o’clock yet. When the pavement ended I began the grind up Lester Road and picked lines on either side of the road to stay as shaded as possible. 
The summer rain storms made this and all of the roads on this day interesting.  There were many sections that were silty or sandy and it was easy to spin out.  On a long climb an often used technique is to alternate sitting and standing as you pedal.  With loose roads to avoid spinning out you are forced to sit or at least keep your weight waaay back when you stand which makes your legs scream. 
 Knowing what was ahead I couldn’t call this the first course or even the appetizer.  This was just a taste of what was coming.  I kept my HR under 160 and just treated it like another day at the gravel office.  I ate a TERD and drank some liquid.

After cresting at 1,000 meters at the top of Lester I made the rocky creek crossing and then descended the loose duff that had been bulldozed in place as an attempt to repair the damage of the flash floods that have slashed this narrow drainage multiple times since the fires of 2014.

As I descended toward Beaver Creek I stopped at the last stand of trees and took off my pack.  I shuffled bottles and put the empty one I had already consumed into the pack and put a fresh one on the bike.  I took a long drink from the remaining one that I would pick up on my return.  I then stashed the pack in the bushes and continued on with three full bottles and one and a half in my belly.

I rolled through the horse camp and made the left, uphill turn onto 4225.  I felt my left adductor spasm and I thought, “wholly shit, not already?” I attributed the near cramp to the long descent out of the saddle and prayed it would not return.

The deep valley gave me respite from the sunshine and the road was as good as I’ve seen it.  I was in a low gear with a good cadence and I kept an eye on my HR.  I looked down at my legs and asked them to get me to the top.

I passed the first cattle guard and had a couple shot bloks.  Then I crossed the second cattle guard and smiled as I knew the grade would let up for a couple hundred meters in a bit.  In fairly quick succession the road flattened out then picked up again as my eyes strained looking for the sign indicating the junction with 4230 was ahead.  It appeared and I braced myself. 

I’ve ridden 4230 twice and both times it started off as a steep pile of loose rocks.  The image in my mind was of me fighting just to keep momentum.  I drew a deep breath and veered left.

The surface here was better than it has ever been.  The rocks and dirt and rain had formed a solid roadway and aside from some sandy sections this lower portion was excellent.  The washboard was the only real problem. The Silver Bullet and I had ridden this part last year and I was looking forward to the views and the downhill that I knew was ahead.

The climb just kept going and time and again I was thinking it would top out around the next corner.  Each time I rounded a corner I could look ahead and see more road and the more road was all uphill.  Dang……

My memory of doing this with Barry was that the climb wasn’t too long but my memory can be unreliable.

Finally the road tipped downward ever so slightly and then I tried to keep some power going despite the road flattening out.  To my left the views opened up and I was glad to be out of the river valley of 4225 and ascending toward a ridgeline.  
Descending on gravel roads necessitates a Zen-like focus to read the best lines to avoid breaking a wheel on a rock or crashing because you hit loose sand or bounced off the road after skimming on wild washboard.  It was while I was in this zone that I noticed a couple pickup trucks and a camp below and to my left.  I noticed a man in his twenties walking shirtless.  “Mosquito bait,” I thought to myself as I flew past at 40k an hour.  I bet he was freaked out to see what looked like a road biker so far from a paved road.

The downhill was fun but short.  Soon I was back to climbing and hunting for the secret passage that takes me from 4230 to 4235 and the road to the top of Starvation Mountain.  When I reached the junction I stopped and moved the empty bottle to my Fondo pack and put a full one into the bottle cage.

In less than two minutes I resumed the climb.  This short section has historically been loose and rocky and was also as good as I’ve seen it.  I had to dodge some sandy sections but I was able to wrestle my way up.  The sun had climbed higher and I unzipped my jersey for the final push to the top. I had a bit over ten kilometers all of it uphill. 
I reached 4235 and turned left and chugged along.  Soon I was on the eastern side of the ridge and the sun had me as a target.  My heart rate was tickling Z4 but that was part of my plan.  

The road was getting bad now and there were deep ruts forcing me to ride the hump in the middle.  The grade was stiff and my surface options were deteriorating. Sandy, rocky, rutted, washboard and potholes all engaged my brain as I sought the lesser of all evils.

I hit a sandy section and my wheels sunk slowing me almost to a stop. My necessary reaction was to instantly triple my power output to keep moving.  My legs didn’t like this as the strain of nearly two hours of climbing was taking its toll. My mind recalled that as a child one of my great fears was quicksand.  As my tires found more traction I thought the words “quick” and “sand” should not be joined together.

I passed the area where I had heard the bear and I kept my eyes and ears tuned.  The vistas opened up on one side then the other. This part of the route climbs a ridge so the horizon you are constantly teased. 
This is my favorite part of the entire route.  It isn’t because it is easy but it is in fact a combination of polar opposites.  I am in the sunshine so it is warm. I am over six thousand feet above sea level so the air is a tad cooler which feels good. The views are terrific but the road surface is sketchy so I can’t gaze at the landscape for more than a second or two.  The air is thin and the grade is relentless.  The air is fresh and it is quiet. I am nearing my objective but I also know it in hiding behind the ridgeline.

Sweat drips onto my top tube and my legs are glistening.  My gloves are soaked and it feels like I am riding with a wet ravioli in the palm of each hand.  For the first time in forever I realize that my biceps and triceps are sore. 

After one more switchback the road points to Starvation Mountain. It has been hidden until now.  I can see two switchbacks cut into the mountainside.  My memory of the final push was that it was double digit steep and loose and then as now it was hot.

The grade let up for a minute and rather than drop down the cassette for a faster gear I just rolled and got ready for the final push.

The first switchback wasn’t bad and I thought I might get lucky.  Then the road started to look like a fresh avalanche. Big rocks strewn on loose sand with ruts on a twelve percent incline.  You can’t spin this stuff or take it easy or watch your heart rate.  You either attack it or walk it or turn around. 

I let out a primal yell and powered up. Momentum was essential and painful. I was in Z5 which was what I expected for this part of the ride.  My legs were letting out their own yells with my hamstrings and adductors twinging as I followed the road around the last right hand turn. 

My goal had been to make it to the top from the junction of Beaver Creek and 4225 in less than two hours and ten minutes.  That would take fifteen minutes off of my previous time.  As I finally reached the summit I figured I had achieved my goal.  I would later find my time was 2:06 and it was a KOM.  

Bike and cement thing
At the top I dismounted and leaned my bike on one side of some cement thing and I sat down on the other.  I took off my shoes and poured out some bits of gravel. I ate a bar and drank some.  I took my time catching my breath.

Had been a chair available, I would still be there.  As it was the stark contrast between the focused effort of the past three hours and the sudden stillness was almost disconcerting.  The cement I was sitting on wasn’t getting any more comfortable so after just a couple minutes I zipped up my jersey and pointed the B2 Bomber toward the cabin.
Gravel descents aren’t your mother’s downhills.

In five minutes I was threading my way down the loose rutted nightmare that I had just come up.  Perhaps I had been hypoxic on the way up as the road was so rough I actually stopped and looked behind me and marveled that I had climbed that monster. 
I snapped a couple pics now and again as the views were staggering.

When the road permitted I could open up and my speeds exceeded forty kilometers per hour.  I passed the top part of the secret passage and continued on 4235.  This was the route I had done with The Silver Bullet. 

I rounded a corner and the road kicked up again.  WTF? I didn’t remember this.  Okay……..

Small ring in front, big ring in back.  Up I go again.  More.  More.  More.  Come on now….

Finally I can see a ridgeline approaching and I smile as the road finally points down.  I’m on NF42 headed toward Loup Loup.  The road is rough and I’m again zigging and zagging avoiding rocks. 
I spot the curve that signals the junction of 42 and 4225.  I’m as good as home now.  The road conditions are good again and I am feeling strong.  I go ahead and pedal hard in the big ring.  Zipping along I sit when the road conditions allow and hover over the seat when I must. 

I pass the 4230 junction at 40kph.  Then I roll over the second cattle guard.  I’m in my Zen state focused on avoiding rocks and sand as the shadows are still over the left side of the road. I’m flying and this is fun.  My arms ache.

Up ahead on the right side of the road I see an odd colored rock the size of a trash can.  It was flesh colored so for a second I wondered if it might be a person. At the same instant I confirmed it was indeed a rock there was a commotion to my left.

I looked left and a huge brown bear was running alongside me on the edge of the road. He dove through a gap in the trees and went downhill.  This was no cub. The butt I saw running away from me was four feet across and going fast. The bear was the size of a refrigerator and just as graceful as he mowed down bushes and small trees crashing downhill.  We were both scared and going fast. 
 Not a bear but still cute
My mind was blown and I tried to string together words in my mind to find my thoughts. I have always wanted to see a bear while on a gravel ride.  It was only now that I realized that what I really wanted was to see a bear BEFORE it saw me.

Soon I was climbing Lester from the east side and when I reached my stashed backpack I pulled out the water bottle and drank half of it before finishing the climb. It was one in the afternoon and the sun was blazing on the exposed climb.

I shifted into autopilot and checked the Garmin and with 2,000 meters of climbing done I knew I didn’t have much more to reach the top.  I walked across the rocks at the top and then let it fly down the dirt.  When I was finally back on pavement I sat up and gave my aching arms a break.

After cutting through Bitterbrush I was back at the Cabin and drinking some chocolate milk. It was a great ride and it was great to be done.
No shame
I splurged and had a burger and corn for dinner. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Coffee and Lies # 188 Breakaways do succeed….in pain

Prepare to cry!
With summer vacations peaking there were but a half dozen of the black and orange men rolling this past weekend.  Most of us still have some significant Dolomite fitness in our legs so every week is another chapter in the book of leg breaker throw downs. 

I had reason to believe that there were some tired legs in the group which I thought could lead to a more social ride.  When Moonlight Burnside rolled up in all of his deep dish carbon glory my hopes were squashed like a late inning Mariner lead.

I often channel my inner Jens Voigt and try and animate rides for entertainment value.   Sometimes my actions lead to levity and the group takes a kinder, gentler pace.  This was my secret hope this overcast morning.

In a hushed voice I said to El Chefe’, “Let’s see if this works”  I rolled forward and pointed to Moonlight’s rear wheel and said, “It looks like there is a crack in the carbon right by the spoke nipple.”

As Moonlight and the rest of the group all leaned toward his rear wheel with eyes open wide I took off down the road unnoticed.  Just for fun I got down in the drops and pushed the pace. 

Typically a move like this, first pioneered by Scott Zorn, gets caught within a minute or two.  
As the climb started I downshifted and kept a good cadence and felt my legs strain as I kept the power high. I felt like I was putting out some big watts but I expected I would back off any second when the fast guys caught me and then ride the rest of the way with the group that had tired legs when they caught me.

I maintained a pretty hard effort and reached the top of the hill and I was still alone.  I was in a moderately aero position and although my legs were starting to burn I kept pushing.  They had to be coming up fast and I didn’t want to give up too early.

The road bobbed and weaved back and forth with nearly constant little rollers that gave me a reason to click up or down a gear.  I was nearly pegged and was wondering where the hell the fast guys were.  I knew I couldn’t keep this up much longer but it was fun to be out front.

I was able to choose good lines and the island was unusually quiet traffic-wise so now and then I could take the whole lane on a left hand corner.  My legs were growing increasingly upset with me as the duration of my folly kept increasing.  It was now well over ten minutes and I was still a lone man settled deep in my pain cave.

I focused on relaxing my shoulders, using my hip flexors and keeping a smooth pedal stroke.  The focus may have helped me go faster or it may have only been a distraction that kept me from dwelling on the fire burning in my quads and hamstrings.

By now I wasn’t sure if the group behind me was singing camp songs, the victims of a horrible accident or about to catch me at any moment.  This ride had now evolved into a threshold test and I was determined to drive on until I was caught or whatever.  I say whatever because I was getting hypoxic so my ability to reason was compromised thus my mental options were limited.

I began to contemplate how I would approach the one hill on the loop as it was fast approaching.  If I attacked the hill I would blow up and if I took it easy I would squander my hard effort.  As I was pondering this question I felt a hand on my back as the boys finally caught me.  
They were a sleek paceline of OCD middle aged fellows in perfectly matched kits.  I tagged onto the back and tried to recover ahead of the climb. 

A smarter rider might have employed the technique known as the “sprinter’s fade.”  That is where you start a climb in the front of a group and then finish the climb in the back of the group.  You are still in contact therefore you can latch onto the paceline and the draft can save you as you recover.

Instead I was at the back at the base o fthe climb and when the paceline blew apart our group of six was splintered and El Chefe’ and I were left chasing Coz whilst Moonlight, McWoodie and El Jefe’ were growing smaller and smaller up the road.

What is the point of having a maximum heart rate if you don’t reach it every now and then?

El Chefe was spitting lactic acid and laughed at his promise to keep the ride limited to Z2 or below.   We finished the loop in TTT mode.

We turned around and all too quickly it was on for round two.  This time El Jefe’ was the instigator and soon we were flying northbound on the west side of the island. 

At first I thought McWoodie was keeping Moonlight pinned in so he couldn’t rotate back forcing Moonlight to tire and possibly avoiding a shootout.  That option faded and we rotated through and I took my turn in the wind. 

When McWoodie and then Moonlight came to the front it ramped up and then up again and finally it was all on.  We were going faster and faster and I kept upshifting even though we were going slightly uphill.  I was running out of high end gears and we were going crazy fast.  
One of the ways I know I’m nearing my limit is when instead of my quads or calves hurting everything from my toes to my shoulder blades starts to burn. I was still feeling the burn from my solo effort thirty minutes earlier and wondered how long I could keep this up. 

El Chefe’ who had gone long the day before shot off his flare gun and dropped back when his heart rate caught and passed his power output.  Moonlight finally pulled off and El Jefe’ took up the charge with a vengeance.  In the moment of disorganization Coz then pulled his ripcord and swerved off and waved us through.  McWoodie dropped back pretending to form a chase group but then powered up and started up and pulled away from me but a gap had formed and I could not close it.  McWoodie bridged up and then Moonlight, El Jefe and he drove on as I looked for the team car in hopes of getting a pair of fresh legs.

El Chefe’ and Coz and I formed a grupetto of broken men.  On the climb up to the bridge we waved at Moonlight who was now headed home and we said kind things as we silently cursed him. The five survivors reassembled in the park and crossed the bridge together. 
One of the hot topics (pun coming) these days is the use of spicy concoctions as a remedy for cramps. I didn’t see anyone take a swig but there was a bottle of hot sauce on the table when we partook of coffee and lies following the ride.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stars beginning to fade as I lead the parade

I have been enjoying a rare run of sleeveless bicycle commutes. It is a treat to wake up and check the outside temperature and confirm it is within a couple of degrees of sixty.  It makes everything so simple.  Bibs, liner, jersey, socks, shoes, go.  

Just so we are all on the same page, go means I’m on the road a bit before 5:30 AM.

Since we excel at normalizing everything it has taken my past two commutes to realize the sunrise is getting later and a headlight will be required soon. Very soon.

Slapping a headlight on my helmet doesn’t create an emotion.  Having to admit that the door is starting to close on summer, however, makes me sad. 

 Pausing for a bite before we fly down Buck Mountain
The end of summer has historically been an exciting time for me.  In my youth it signaled the return to school and resuming of athletic competition.  In those days it was Cross Country and Track.  The chance to get some payoff for the hard training I did in the summer was exciting.  In my middle age that competition has been Cyclocross and my heart still gets atwitter with anticipation.  

There is plenty of summer left and there is much I still want to do. 

RAMROD 2016 Ride Report - Guest Post

In 2016 McWoodie Honored the black and orange in the fabled NW classic.  
This is his report:
Let the games begin!!
Following the advice of Hank “I’ve only done RAMROD 17 times and would do it again if I could use an oar” a.k.a. The Coroner.... Mike, Steve and I had a prompt (yet slightly painful) departure at 4:15am with a goal of getting to the start line in Enumclaw around 5:30-5:50 (“before all the fast guys have left” said Hank).  En route to Enumclaw, I shared two RAMROD rules with RAMROD virgin Steve: “don’t have your nose in the wind for more than a minute, and be sure to be in a large group after the last food stop.”  More on this later…

True to Hank’s words, we rolled through the starting line at 5:45am along with two fast looking Audi riders.  Looks did not deceive, and it turns out the Audi team has their own version of Big John.  The larger of the two guys proceeded to take 5 minute 25mph pulls and the second guy would occasionally come around him to take his own pull.  It took them about 45 minutes to get smart and finally accept the offers from us to do some work and the 5 of us worked well together, flying past many groups who had rolled earlier.  A good sized train eventually formed behind us, but we kept rotating through with just the 5 of us to keep things safe (at least for us).  Right before the Eatonville food stop we were joined by a guy named Josh who was riding strong and joined our rotation. 

At Eatonville, the Audi guys found 7-8 of their teammates and it looked it might be a little while before they got the group momentum to roll, so after saying “thanks”, Steve, Mike, Josh and I got back on the road.  On the first small climb out of Eatonville, Josh and I started to pull away from Mike and Steve.  I let Josh go off ahead and drifted back to Mike and Steve, where Mike proceeded to implore me to go off ahead.  Accepting the reality that we may actually all be happier that way, I bridged back up to Josh and we got to chatting.  I learned he had quite the road racing season this year, though he’d never ridden RAMROD.  Hmmm, this could get interesting.  Riding towards the park entrance, we wound up in a paceline with 6 other guys.  Which then became 5… then 4… then 3…  and by the time we rolled into the food stop at mile 56 it was just me and Josh again, though we weren’t going all that hard.....  
 Tell me when it just starts to tickle.......
We grabbed food and drink.  Just as Josh and I were getting ready to leave, Mike and Steve rolled in on the heels of a nice train of the Audi guys.  We chatted for a bit (they seemed to be doing well) and I headed off towards the park with Josh to start the climb up to Paradise.  We set a pretty steady pace.  Occasionally Josh was going harder than I wanted to (I didn’t want to leave Zone 2) so I would drift back onto his wheel for a bit before coming back for some side-by-side conversation.  It seemed like we were at the top in no time.  
The descent into Box Canyon was fun and fast.  I really felt the Dolomites descending form and was taking the sweeping turns at close to full speed and pedaling hard on the straight aways to build max speed.  Seemed like I barely touched my brakes.  Rolling into the food stop, I felt a slight cramp twinge and thought “that’s weird, never gotten cramps before on a descent – maybe I shouldn’t have been having quite so much fun”, so made sure to do a little stretching while wolfing down chocolate croissants and fruit – and pounded a teaspoon of salt that was there for the potatoes.  Couldn’t hurt.  Threw an extra banana in my pocket for good measure too.

 Climb McWoodie, Climb!  
I climb so well they gave me this stupid shirt....
Soon after leaving the food stop, the trouble began.  We were at mile 88 and I started to feel cramps simultaneously in both adductors and called out to Josh who was pulling to stop for a second.  I did a bit of stretching and pondered what the remaining 65 miles were going to be like.  We started riding again, dropping the pace, but within 5 minutes I cramped again.  Not sure what was going to be in store for me for the rest of the day, I told him to go on ahead.  Ate the extra banana and did some more stretching, then set out at a pretty easy pace.  At this point, I was in clear violation of Rule #1: “no nose in the wind for more than a minute”, finding myself riding solo all the way out of the park and up towards Cayuse pass.  I was able to gradually lift the pace and went back to a Zone 2 effort up the climb.  All on my own, I eventually started to catch and pass riders, but was trying to keep things easy to keep the cramping at bay.  
 Squashing Cramps is a lot like Squishing Gramps
I caught back up to Josh at about mile 104 (right at the water stop).  He was starting to feel the distance and I left him to ride at his own pace to the top of Cayuse feeling glad we had talked earlier about “sometimes it’s harder to ride slower with others”.  I waited for him at Cayuse for about 5-10 min.  When he still had not arrived when a strong looking group started to descend, I elected to join them.  Two cars being too cautious about passing cyclists took a little fun out of the descent (I wound up passing one of them on a straighter section), but the speed was fast with no use of the brakes until hitting the deli stop at Crystal Mountain.
The usual deli-stop feeding frenzy ensued.  Josh rejoined and we sat in the shade with the other group eating for a while.  We seemed to be out ahead of a lot of people.  I kept looking around for others to roll in so we could have a nice big train into the headwinds along 410, but few were arriving.  After a bit too much sitting around, Josh and I decided it was time to get moving even if it meant going out on our own (a clear Rule #2 violation).  

Fortunately, the headwinds on 410 weren’t too bad and we had a good pace going.  We caught a solo rider who joined us and rode with him until Josh got a flat.  We stopped to change the flat (the other guy kept going), and about half way through the process, magically as if out of the woods, a woman materialized with a floor pump and offers of food and water.  Gotta love the supportive spouses of RAMROD riders.   Just as the flat was fixed, a big train of riders came past so we jumped on our bikes and jumped on the train.  Although the train was going a little slower than we were on our own, we were doing a ton less work which was definitely welcome at this point.

We turned off of 410 towards Mud Mountain road.  Josh got another well-timed flat as the large group seemed to be gearing up towards a sketchy Cat 6 sprint to the finish.  So, we stopped and patched that (as my new spare tube had a puncture -argh!), then ripped down Mud Mountain road and rolled into the finish.  Cold drinks, ice cream, a rinse off with a hose, and a lounge chair in the shade were perfect.  Mike and Steve rolled in about 1:45 later.  As mandated by tradition, we grabbed dinner at Hank’s favorite Enumclaw Mexican restaurant and headed home at 6pm with zero traffic.
My numbers: Elapsed time: 9:05.  Rolling time: 7:51.  Average speed 19.5mph.  Number of rules violated: 2.  Max Avg Power (20 min): 244W (low end of Zone 3).  Distance 153 miles. Elevation gain 9.259.  Garmin thinks it was a 5297 calorie day.  Time to start eating, again…

Thanks to McWoodie for sharing.  He shared an earlier ride here.