Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Belgian Shower


Daylight is scarce these days and I’m usually at my desk before sunrise. Such is life close to the 48th parallel. I expected my commute to be chilly but dry and I dressed accordingly.  I arrived as expected and felt terrific. I plucked the expensive electronics off my bike and locked it up. 

In no time I was making my way to the showers carrying my shower supplies and work clothes, my bike shoes clomping on the hard floor. The space I will call a locker room for the sake of this story was one hundred percent empty this morning.  In June there are ten guys in there at this time of day.  Today it was all mine.

Following a routine that has become rote I soon stepped into the shower and swung the handle to ten o’clock.  There have been a couple times when I had to wait two or three minutes for the hot water to make it to the shower head from god-knows-where. I was glad when it warmed up quickly.

While I lack comprehensive data to prove my point, I am confident that in the winter my showers at work are a little warmer and last a little longer than in the summer. It is a brief moment to dwell on the good work of an hour plus of riding before work and think about the day ahead whilst I enjoy the warm water on my oft chilled toes.

I settled in and got straight to work getting Davo cleaned and lubed when I noticed the water didn’t feel as warm as it had a moment earlier. I turned the handle to eleven o’clock which is as warm as it gets and it didn’t get much warmer.  In fact, it kept on getting colder.

I am typically slow to accept change but the temperature of the water dictated prompt action.

With the urgency of a five year old boy that has to pee I hastened to finish as fast as I could. Soap suds were flying in the shower stall and I was rinsing and spinning and writhing as the water grew colder and colder.  With no forethought I heard myself utter a hushed profanity. 

Finally I shut it off with a definitive twist and grabbed my towel like it was a lifeline. I squeezed it in my hands as if I could somehow pump heat into it. The room wasn’t particularly warm and the water on my body was cold.  I dried off as quickly as I could and got dressed like I was in a race. 

Soon I was at my desk and seeking to find warmth through coffee consumption.  A few dozen ounces later I was still cold.  I dug my emergency sweater out of my drawer and by about two in the afternoon I was finally warm. 

I don’t know if I have become a wimp (perhaps I have always been a wimp and I just didn’t know it) or if I just forgot what cold feels like but this was the third time this season I’ve found myself cold and almost indignant about the discomfort.  The first was on 5130 with DG and the second was on a coffee and lies ride two weeks ago and today was numero tres. 

You can’t apply Rule #9 when it is in the shower. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Coffee and Lies # 205 Saturation action and reaction


Our winter has been unusually slow in arriving this year.  Most years you can calibrate your calendars because the first good frost hits Seattle on Halloween evening.  We are past Thanksgiving and we still haven’t had ice in the morning.

I am not complaining. In fact, this supports my winter training goal of not breaking any ribs. It has allowed some riding without yet having to dress like I am a scuba diver.  On a recent Coffee and Lies ride we faced rain and temperatures below 10C (50F for you old school laggards).

With the exception of Big John most of us were underdressed.  The rain went from light to heavy and the mild temperatures were our saving grace.  We were in the early stages of hypothermia but all was good and it looked like everything would be okay until one of our clan flatted. 
 Sooner or later we all get a chance to be "the guy with the flat tire"
Moonlight Burnside displayed either kindness or impatience and took charge and made quick work of the tube replacement.  In less than five minutes we were rolling again.  The problem was that those five minutes of inactivity, in the rain, were enough to get way behind the hypothermia power curve.

Before the flat tire triggered the stop my socks were wet.  My feet were still warm, but they were wet. After we stopped they were still wet but now they were cold. Water that had soaked into the Lycra that wrapped my shins was likewise chilled now.
El Chefe’ commented that his gloves had become useless bags of cold water. When we came to a short climb I refused to get out of the saddle for fear the rain would wet my saddle and then get my chamois wet.  Since my chamois was the only thing below my waist that was dry I stayed seated and just downshifted.

Though I knew hard pedaling would warm me up I was still inclined to hold my steady pace.  I’ve seldom done a good job at really taking it easy for an extended period and I am somewhat determined to keep the rest of 2016 Z1-2, Z3 max…..

Finally I settled in with Big John and El Jefe’ and we just platooned back. John remarked that we the three of us formed a grupetto that had a cumulative nineteen feet of handsome and we didn’t argue.  Flattery is rare at my age.
 Hey, we're ALL good looking.....
The prospect of hot coffee kept us smiling and soon we were getting close. There is a shortcut that takes a more direct route but involves a crazy steep climb. Nineteen feet of awesome turned sharply south and wrestled up the hill.  As a result of the climb when we rolled up to Fuel for our post-ride cup of Joe we were finally warm.

When I stood up after sharing coffee and lies there was a puddle below my chair and my wet gloves left a ghost print of dampness on the table.  I felt like one of the fabled soggy bottom boys.
After putting a towel on the driver’s seat I left the hill and returned home and spent a good long time enjoying a hot shower.  

A week later we assembled to do it again.  Predictably, this time we were dressed for battle. Some wore better, some wore thicker and others simply wore more layers to protect them from the elements. I was reminded of a ride in the spring of 2012 when Hank, who had missed the previous week’s ride looked us up and down and commented, “Man, it must have been really wet last week.” If you are going to have a reaction it might as well be an overreaction.

In the true spirit of the off season our jaunt around the island was a refreshingly leisurely-paced affair. We chatted and savored our man time.  Maintaining a modicum of movement through the dark days of winter will allow us to resume in earnest in the New Year without the awkwardness of having to get reacquainted with our saddles.

The seventeen months of 2016


In August of 2015 I was pulled into a critical project that was six months behind schedule with a targeted completion of September 2016. I spent the rest of 2015 working critical path issues tied to 2016 dates.  I became so focused on 2016 that it felt odd to write 2015. 
 Cold rides in early 2016....
When the calendar actually turned to 2016 I was engaged in building up my training focusing on two key dates.  The first was our east coast trip for Zach’s graduation and visiting family and the second was our Dolomite trip.  I had objectives to have accumulate a certain number of kilometers of riding before each.
After the Dolomites trip I kept riding bigly knowing I had the Winthrop Fondo looming on the horizon.  That Fondo and Cyclocross kept me doing intervals through the end of the summer. Football started, baseball ended and still I rode on. Check the schedule and follow the plan.
 Fondo till you die!
The traditional road racing season starts with the spring classics in March and ends when the leaves start to fall.  This results in a few months of buildup and five months of events. Cyclocross racers tend to start later and race into December. Because of the trips my training start lined up with road racers so I began logging miles in December of 2015 and extended all the way into November of this year.  The longer than usual training combined with my professional 2016 starting a few months early made this year feel super long.

The Woodland Park cross race has historically marked the end of my season and that was true again this year.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.  The point is, I’m done for 2016 and it feels like 2016 has already been sixteen months long.

After so many months of purposeful training the freedom to follow my whims is a treat.  I don’t want to imply that all my rides have been hard, or were less than fun but they were all part of a plan.  Plans have a purpose and fun along the way isn’t the plan. After a while you start to feel like a slave to the plan and crave freedom.
I’ve ridden over eight thousand kilometers since January 1st but I am not concerned with what my annual total will be.  I also have well over a hundred thousand meters of climbing but there is no need to get into the details even if they are awesome. The work is done and this is the time to relax and refresh.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Coffee and Lies # 203 Various Implements of Destruction


In this era of political disillusionment and propaganda overload many of us are seeking a new, or at least different, reality. An old acquaintance wrote a couple paragraphs encouraging everyone who was having trouble getting behind a candidate to instead get behind an issue and support that issue.  It is then up to you to determine if that meant voting for a specific candidate or taking other action.

I believe that in the end we vote with our wallets and our time.  Idle words do not impress.

This year I have attended a few trail building work parties sponsored by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. This last weekend I was again wielding my favorite implement of destruction (a Triangle Rogue Hoe in case you are keeping score at home).  Man, that thing is a weapon!
It is impressive what a handful of hacks can do in a few hours with some heavy hand tools and a little oversight.  By pure coincidence the work parties I have been involved with in 2016 have run the full range from cutting in a new trail to putting the finishing touches on the berms of banked corners. Seeing the full cycle of trail building in the woods has been enlightening.

I acknowledge there are multiple phases that precede the actual trail work ranging from scouting to permitting to planning.  My guess is that within those tasks is where the real work lies.

Like many good things I believe good people are the lubricant that makes the impossible happen. With time carved out of busy schedules and almost no money these good people borrow tools and machinery and cajole other good people and in the end they etch out progress.

I’ve spent the last couple years admiring those who unselfishly contribute their time and one of my goals going forward is to be one of them.

Won’t you join me?

I would encourage all of you to contribute some of your time, starting right here in 2016, to a good cause. You may find that like me your hands and back will be sore but your inner peace will far outweigh any discomfort.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Rapha Pro Team Rain Overshoes Review


The Jedi mind tricks in combination with hypnotic English grammar worked on me again and I picked up a pair of these when they were on clearance.  I had given them a try in some light rain and they performed well.  I had high hopes.

I have a pair of the Giro Blaze shoe covers that are stretchy and fit aero-snug and even breathe a little.  The fabric is similar to the Pearl Izumi AmFib shoe covers and keeps me pretty dry. The Giro covers aren’t hard core rain booties but they don’t claim to be. Still they are among the best.

Feral Dave and I have both made the near fatal mistake of wearing booties in the rain that weren’t targeted for the rain.  The results were predictably tragic.  Feral Dave’s experience has been immortalized amongst our team as a key component of the Medina Marge ride.
I put the Rapha booties to the test in some soggy commutes to and from work.  I double checked online to confirm if they were rated for rain.  Yep. “Rain” is right there in the name.   Ladies and gentlemen; rain booties these are not.

They are thin and have almost a colored condom feel to them. They shed water for a few minutes before wetting out. Then they take on a wet T-Shirt persona. Not good for anything other than looking at. 

If you wear booties in the rain year after year you learn to recognize when water comes in from the cuff, when it comes up from the sole, when it just trapped your sweat and when the rain water just leaks through.  On these, it just leaked through.  I guess that explains the grimaces you see on the faces of the riders pictured on the Rapha website.  Their feet are wet and cold.
They don’t get heavy from absorbing a lot of water and if the rain is light enough or the ride short enough these might be okay.  In less than an hour of light to medium rain these soaked through.

They score well on attributes like stretch, fit and good looks but if they are supposed to be rain booties and they won’t keep you dry does the rest really matter?  No it does not.

I will try to sell them on eBay or relegate them to aero bootie status.

One of five Evos.

Personal Politics


Fools follow.  Get out in front.

It is tragic the amount of energy we expend on the wrong things.  Based on history, my day to day life changes very little when one president takes over from another.  I expect the same this time around. 

We’ve thought each election held the future in the balance but the adage of the country being a big ship with a small rudder has proven true.  Yeah, yeah, this time is different.  Kind of funny that we said that four, eight, twelve and sixteen years ago.  We’re going to be just fine.  Nobody is moving to Canada.  We’ve heard that before as well.

Quit looking east to the Land of Oz.   Think I pulled that reference out of my ear?  Do your homework.   Step up your game.

Take all that energy you spent taking the bold stand of agreeing with everyone else on bathroom usage two thousand miles away and focus it on something, frankly anything closer to home. The truth is your opinion on that issue and most issues, no matter how eloquent or awesome it may be, doesn’t mean shit.  What does matter is what you do with your two hands.

There are donor supported programs that are effective at getting the homeless back into the workforce.  In fact, there are hundreds of worthwhile causes that could use your support. Consider writing a check.  There are countless other organizations that rely on volunteers ranging from animal rescue shelters to trail building to education to soup kitchens.  Consider giving your time.

You want a better country?  You want a better neighborhood?  Real change is not the result of which yahoo is in the oval office; it comes from honest concern and hard work.  Quit your bitching and get to it.  I promise you’ll feel better and the world will be better as well.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Coffee and Lies # 201 Into the slumbering forest


Circumstances offered up a late season get away with DG. The weather looked iffy at best but mental health status increased our flexibility regarding the weekend weather requirements.  At the agreed hour we loaded up and headed over Highway 20.

The colors had peaked days or weeks before and every leaf that could turn color had done so and all were on the decline.   The yellows and oranges were dull and tinted brown. Many leaves painted the ground like a soggy thanksgiving-themed quilt.

On the drive over as we approached Rainy Pass there was snow on the hills. At Washington Pass the snow on the sides of the road and thick fog surprised us and necessitated cutting our speed in half.  When we got below the fog the clouds overhead were thick and we would not see any blue sky the rest of the trip.

It was so quiet it almost felt like there was a mood of foreboding in the Methow. The snows are creeping down from the mountains. Fall has given way and the forest is just waiting for winter to move in. Though it hasn’t happened yet, the change is inevitable and it feels as though every living thing is braced, dreading the coming of winter.
There is a pronounced lull between summer and winter recreation and the seasonal tourists are back in the city watching football. Riding conditions aren’t ideal but the trails are deserted and for those willing to wear some extra layers and go a little slower you are rewarded with a unique though solitary experience.
On Saturday morning we checked every weather source known to us including looking up at the sky seeking a sign from God.  Expecting that rain would find us sooner or later we dressed accordingly and headed out.  Our confidence bolstered by the powers of Gabba we found a comfortable rhythm. Even with embrocation, my calves felt a twinge of cold. The sky was dark and the temperature was below forty.  Despite our selection of miracle clothing we were adding and shedding layers seeking a balance between sweating and being cold.
Veering off the Chewuch onto 5130 the road kicks up sharply.  The climb seemed harder than I expected but soon the grade lessened from eight percent to the steady two to three percent that we would be on for the next twenty five kilometers until the crazy steep climb at the end. 

The forest was dark, wet and silently waiting for winter.  We saw no deer or mammals or even birds.  There was no breeze. It was spooky quiet.  In the two hours we would spend on this gravel road we would see one truck.  We joked this was a great place and time of year to hide dead bodies. DG looked at me suspiciously.

I had checked the night before and found I had ridden this in back in July of 2015 and at that time the washboard was among the worst I had ever ridden.  Additionally on that ride the gravel was soft and slow.  This time the gravel was stable and faster but the washboard was still ridiculous.  It was so pronounced in spots that we pointed to it and commented.  It looked like waves of dirt frozen in time.  My bike had ejected a bottle when I rode this sixteen months ago and I confess I kept looking on the sides of the road hoping I might spot my long lost grey buddy. 
The floor of the valley we were riding went from narrow to wide and back again several times.  One minute the mountains crowded in upon us and the road and river were the only things splitting the two sides. At other times the valley floor was as wide as a farmer’s field.
The road went on forever.  After years of using a heart rate monitor I have gotten pretty good at guessing my heart rate for a given level of effort.  Based on my level of effort my heart rate should have been about 150.  It was over 160.  I wondered if I was getting sick or if it was the loose surface or perhaps the elevation. I couldn’t explain why my HR was so high.
The road wasn’t especially curvy and the undulations weren’t excessive. Even though it wasn’t technically challenging the washboard had us hunting back and forth trying to find a decent line which made it tough to grab a bottle or food with our gloves hands.

I finally called for a stop and we ate, drank and adjusted clothing.  After a couple minutes we set off again and felt measurably better.  The cumulative fatigue from the washboard and the effort required by our bodies to battle the uphill and cold was wearing us down.  

We had decided earlier that we would turn around when we encountered one of three things; the end of the road, snow on the road that made it unsafe or significant rain. We still had eight km to the end of the road and it started to rain. We kept riding.  Uphill.
As we climbed we inched closer and closer to the snow line.  The rain was still light and the uphill effort was keeping us warm.  We spotted patches of snow by the side of the road. Finally we reached the base of the final climb.  The road got rocky and steep.  We climbed the double digit grade and reached the Billy Goat Trailhead. No cars in the lot today.  There were patches of snow on the ground. 

We laughed that we had met all three of our “turn around” criteria at once.  We were at the road end, there was snow on the ground and the rain was picking up and there were flakes of snow mixed in with it.  Any one of those would have been enough to turn us around but having all three was ironic.
We were two and a half hours into our epic adventure. We had climbed over a thousand meters on gravel. This combined with keeping our bodies warm had burned a lot of calories. We ate and drank and took photos so that if anyone found our bodies they could look at the pictures and tell our next of kin that we were having fun right up until we died.
We put on rain jackets and in fact every piece of clothing we had in anticipation of the chilly descent. When we started to roll the surface was steep and rocky so we coasted braking frequently.  This was safe but it also didn’t generate any heat.  I gritted my teeth for an hour and a half of type-two fun.

There is just something about hypothermia isn’t there?  This wasn’t a situation where if we got a flat we would die, but if we had a mechanical I imagine one of us would work on the bike whilst the other did jumping jacks to stay warm.

After the steep part we were able to start pedaling on the sustained two to three percent downhill and that helped generate some heat.  Also the drop in elevation brought with it some warmer air which we noted with relief. 

Pushing the pace had the dual benefits of generating heat and shortening the time in the rain.  When we got back on the pavement the road still had potholes and rough spots that prevented pacelining.  The rain was softer now but the temperature was still cool.

We were cautious on the slick final portion of the descent back to the Chewuch.  We ate the rest of our food and I felt a sense of relief that we were in the home stretch.  I was tired, much more tired than I should have been.  As we went along the rollers that lead to Winthrop my HR stayed high. 

I didn’t think I was bonking and my brain searched for an explanation.  One month ago I had ridden for nine hours with three times the elevation gain and I had felt downright strong at the end.  Only later would I realize that this day I was a bit underdressed and that the energy to keep me warm had to come from somewhere. 

DG wasn’t in a hurry and we worked our way back to the cabin.  We joked that it only rained for the last three hours of our four plus hour ride. Mercifully, aside from the initial descent, it didn’t rain hard until we were back at the cabin.

That ride left a mark on both of us. 
We did what all good masochists would do and after a good night’s sleep we put on our costumes and did it again, this time on mountain bikes.
Our Sunday ride stayed closer to civilization and we only got some drizzle the last half hour of our ride. Our legs were tired but our spirits refreshed.   It was a blast.
I recall the words of Scott Z who pointed out that one man’s vacation is another man’s nightmare.  Experience has taught me that you can’t explain this kind of a weekend to most people.