Doing it all the hard way...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mt. Pilchuck climb May 2008 trail conditions

Today was a deviation from the norm for me. My long lost son is in town for an all too short break between graduating from college (double major, Arabic studies and Russian Language) and his twelve month study abroad program. Before I go further I should clarify that I was twelve when my son was born because there is NO WAY I am old enough to have a son who is out of college.

So we took the day and hiked up to the top of Mt. Pilchuck in the Cascades. Because of snow the road was closed (by steel gate) at 1,400’, four plus miles from the actual trailhead. After heading out early, we parked at the Heather Lake trailhead and started hiking the bone dry and totally clear road. After about two miles the snow became solid and the downed trees thick enough that even I would have parked. After two hours of hiking we reached the outhouse buried in snow that told us we were at the Mt. Pilchuck proper trailhead.

I spent many years backpacking and mountaineering. In addition to taking my own kids, I have taken countless boy scouts and teenagers up mountains and rock faces. During those years I patched so many blistered feet I probably went through enough moleskin to recover a couch. For the first time I can remember, I had to deal with a blister on my own heel. Once my heel was ready, we pulled out the ice axes and slathered on more sunscreen. The only problem was we were now in the clouds and so visibility was very limited.

We began our journey up the mountain via the old ski runs. This is a pretty straight forward route when you can see. In the fog (clouds) we were unsure that we were on the right path. To my amazement we were never more than 50m off of the perfect line.

Zach did great on the steep stuff and seemed very comfortable with an ice axe. I must confess I love kicking steps under a blue sky. And at about 5,000’ the clouds thinned and we could see that not only were we on course, but we could see our target above us. So I got my blue sky.

Some exposed traversing and then some rock hopping and we were to the lookout. We had to unhook the huge shutters and prop one up with Zach’s ice axe and then unhook the door before going inside. According to the summit log we were the fourth party there in 2008, all in May.

We took off our shoes and wet socks and ate pumpkin scones, apples and energy bars and drank and drank. All too soon it was time and we put on fresh socks and took some pictures are then headed down.

The descent was fun and the snow perfect. Glissading down was such a rush. The long road back was hard, but our conversation made the time fly. We were even able to catch a ride with a Forest Service truck the last mile and a half.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ride Report 5-17-08 Mercer Island adventure

On Friday, I received a welcomed email from Le Cannonball arrived inviting me to join the happy throng of FSI riders for a Saturday ride. The chance to ride with my old mates was indeed attractive, so I decided to cancel breakfast with the governor and get some miles in.

Arriving at El Falcon’s place I spied a black bike leaning against a car in the driveway. It clearly was not the precious. The glossy black Rodriguez frame with black bars, black tires, and black components looked ready for the morning’s challenge. I imagined all that was needed for this black ship was a black flag featuring the skull and crossbones. Then the Pirate emerged from El Falcon’s house with a black skull wrap and I met El Falcon’s friend The Pirate. To our great dismay I learned Le Cannonball had decided either to wash his hair or pick up the results of his pap smear. This James Garnish-esque move will only be allowed this once.

Drying our tears we saddled up and headed over to McDiesel’s place to assemble the full compliment of riders. The unusually warm day allowed for the first morning ride without toe warmers and undershirt for 2008. The sun felt good and with some food in our pockets we were ready for a great ride.

Arriving at McDiesel’s place I spied a red white and blue Italian bike. This beauty was equipped with Italian components, an Italian saddle and looked ready to go. It turns out this bike is ridden by the Tennessee Volunteer (TV for short). For those of you who don’t know the quick action of the men from Tennessee helped fight off the British in the war of 1812, hence the nickname Tennessee Volunteers and with the accent and the red white and blue bike, this was an easy one. Welcome to the clan TV.

The roll down to Greenlake was a chance to get the legs warm and chat before we had to actually pedal. The long downhill of Wallingford provided postcard views of downtown and the space needle. The deep blue of lake union and the light blue of the sky behind the Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier in the distance foretold of a great ride. If Le Cannonball had been there it would have been just perfect. Guilt is a beautiful thing.

Soon we were heading east on the Burke-Gilman trail and into the UW campus. Heading south past Husky stadium I felt my rear tire wobble a little and discovered I had a flat. I had dropped back a few seconds from the group and the gates came down at the bridge at Montlake and I was split from the group. Looking for the team car and finding none I was forced to change my own tire. The price of my cycling mediocrity. I flipped my bike over and went to work. In a couple minutes I was back on my way and luckily the peloton had stopped at the Arboretum and we hooked up and started the long winding gradual climb up the narrow road.

To my amazement we just sailed up the climb and there were only some minor separations as El Falcon showed his fitness. The zigzag down to the lake was a pleasure and soon we were ripping along drafting behind the McDiesel turbine. The climb to the bridge at the west end of I-90 saw El Falcon and Crusher reap the benefits of some early season mileage, with the others not far behind.

The Pirate led the charge into a stiff headwind eastbound on the I-90 Bridge. As trucks stirred up the dust the peloton squinted and spit out the grit that pelted their faces.

Once on Mercer the riders kept a keen eye out for Trevor just in case they needed a friend as they circumnavigated the island nation. The riders took turns jockeying for position as McDiesel started in the back only to drive through with TV in tow. El Falcon took a bit of a flyer, but the merciless pack eventually swallowed him up at the south end of the island. The Pirate showed his strength as the group got a little too competitive considering it was made up of men who are old enough to know better.

Everyone was together as they hit the hill of truth and Crusher tagged onto El Falcon’s wheel. The two worked together on the banked roads on the east side of the island as they held a small gap over the rest of the field. Emerging from the fabled Forest of Mercer into the park of recovery the riders stopped for a short break. McDiesel was so spent he needed help unclipping.

Chewing on an assortment of flavorless energy foods, some of which looked like they had already been eaten and excreted, others that looked like children’s toys, the discussion turned to food. It was at this point that Crusher got all excited about sports nutrition and praised Accelerade for it’s ability to provide energy and fend off cramps. Avoid the lemon lime flavor !!! Likewise Nuun tablets are an excellent source of electrolytes on hot days. Since Crusher wouldn’t shut his pie hole he also said that Hammer Gel, taken from a flask (no messy wrappers and way cheaper) is great for long (century plus) rides.

Back on our saddles we made our way to the park on Mercer to refill our empty water bottles. Once topped off, and with the breeze at our backs we went west across I-90. On the bridge Crusher spotted Paul Kresback, a rival from the old fat man division of Seattle Cyclocross. Seeing that Paul was with his son, Crusher elected not to force him into the wall. The group then headed down to Seaward Park and again El Falcon showed his form and left the others in his wake. On the return trip it was again time to draft behind the McDiesel turbine and smoke everyone else on the return to Leschi.

Following tradition we stopped at this point to consume coffee and if this had not been the hottest day of the year by, like, twenty degrees, it would have been a good idea. The pirate was in need of some electrolytes and you just can’t get that from a cup of Joe.

On the way back TV showed the wisdom of a cycling veteran. They may award points on the early climbs, but on this final climb up from the lake, TV showed that he wasn’t just some poser with Italian kit, but had the legs of a hardman. McDiesel and Crusher were close behind and El Falcon was being a domestique for the Pirate.

The run down the Arboretum is always fun and this day was no different. As the group approached the Montlake bridge, the Pirate was cramping and in need of electrolytes. Just like a spoon isn’t a knife, there was nothing kind words can do when you need minerals. El Falcon promised to return with a vehicle, and the reduced group then rode solemnly through the UW campus. The early afternoon sun had caused the walkways to be packed with pedestrians and to go faster was inviting an accident.

Nearing Gasworks Park we were free of the foot traffic and could again stretch our legs. Turning onto Wallingford, McDiesel checked his suitcase of courage and found it was as empty as a French Laboratory’s promise of ethics. Waving goodbye he settled into a slower pace as he dreamed of his afternoon of hops therapy.

El Falcon, TV and Crusher plodded up the steady climb to Greenlake and then the steep climb up to the Irish Highlands.

In an effort to increase my numbers I have begun tracking my rides in kilometers. This day’s ride was 75K’s in 2:54 for an average of 26k/hr.

GC winner El Falcon (looking fit in real shorts now)
KOM TV - Hey, (welcome to the group)
Best TT rider McDiesel (Seeming pretty fit)
Best New Rider The Pirate (come back next time)
Maglia Nera Crusher (glad to be here)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More signs of Spring

Biking in Seattle on your lunch hour can be a challenge. It is actually usually dry enough, but you can't be sure of the weather so you pack all kinds of clothes in order to be prepared for the variable weather.

This past Monday was outstanding. You also get to enjoy our multifaceted relationship with water. Not only what falls from the sky, but the waterways that connect our lakes, rivers and the puget sound. The bike path shot is looking east, the boat shot is along the same path looking south across the water.
I did this ride solo and really took some time and enjoyed it. I pushed a here and there, was mellow when there was traffic and didn't max my heart rate so I was seeing stars and tasting metal. Very satisfying.
Hey there Mr. Summer...........I'm ready !

Yipee Cowboy up and fat tire fun

Hottie and I were married in Winthrop. We have bought a piece of land over there and will eventually build a cabin. We both love to mountain bike there. I think we are on a quest to stay in every hotel in the area. This was the third time we stayed at the Chewuch inn. Great breakfast and they put out cookies in the afternoon. Talk about reading my mind.

This past weekend was 49er days. Everyone puts on spurs and there is a parade that is pure Americana.

Enjoy some photos of our weekend. The rider is Hottie coming 'round the bend. The covered wagon needs no explaination. The other shot is the site of our future cabin and the view we will one day enjoy in our pajamas.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Still Alive Training is up 60%

What do you do when the measurements aren't good ? Change your methods ! Accordingly I have changed my cycling computers to record kilometers rather than miles. I have therefore raised my numbers 60% instantly !

As one gets older you find out these little tricks.