Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oh the joys of summer in the northwest

I have been lax in my blogging, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been fun around here. It has been depressingly quiet in some ways, but Hottie and I have been able to enjoy some of this great Northwest summer. We are currently "enjoying" a preview of fall with rain and cooler temps, but the sun will come back again.

I read a great quote on someone else's blog (wow Davo, way to cite a source) which said, "if there isn't a picture, it didn't happen." As one who fluctuated between reading groups as a child, I like pictures. Here are some good ones. The one at the top is of the track races at Marymoor last Friday. Isn't that an awesome picture ?

Here is one of our adventure throught the tunnel at Snoqualime pass. The jackets (and herking lights) were a very smart move.

Here is Evo on a bridge on the Iron Horse Trail

Here the Hottie enjoys a PBJ with homemade apple butter at a rest stop on the Iron Horse Trail. I guess I should say a PBAB to be correct...

And here is a shot of a lantern Hottie has restored. I got to pick the colors on this one. Remember, orange is the next black!

Evo again, this time on top of Stadium High School. If you saw the movie, "Ten things I hate about you" then you saw this building as it was where the movie was filmed. At the end of the movie there is a band playing on the rood of the highest tower and that is where this shot was taken.

I guess maybe there is more to Evo than biking...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rapha Bike …A Tribute Project

Here she is looking out over Puget Sound
I can’t say the bike is done, as there are still some component upgrades that are waiting on the trickle down economics, but it is riding condition and I took her for a spin today. I had built this up as a single speed last fall and it felt amazingly secure in that mode. Then to my great amazement, I won a race and got some SRAM swag and so I was well on my way to making it a geared cross or commuter bike.
Feinte is French. Look it up.

I ended up commuting on the geared version and it proved worthy of the road and I have come to like the SRAM shifting. This summer, I decided to repaint my cross racing bike (pictures will come later, and it looks SWEET !) when that was done, I decided to tackle this as well. I wanted to do something different and I was unsure of the bike’s future. It could be a commuter bike again, my son might race ‘cross on it this season, or I might sell it. The bike still has an uncertain future, but I swiped the tires of my older son’s commuter bike (he has moved out of state, and with an uncertain return date, I thought I could take the liberty…).
I cut the bars. Note the subtle use of Pink from the front..

I wanted something dramatic, (if you are going to go to the trouble to strip, sand, and paint a bike you should do something bold) and settled on the Rapha idea. I thought the bike and Rapha represented the right mix of class, and the fine line between respecting the sport and not taking yourself too seriously.
Here is a close up of the downtube paint......

Rapha makes some great stuff. Wool is underutilized as a fabric in cycling and Rapha leverages this wonderful fabric (hey, I hear wool is the next polypropylene!) and their classic understated designs are beautiful. I also subscribe to the gentlemen’s ride philosophy. Riding should be challenging, enjoyable, but does not need to be flashy or loud and chest beating or constantly looking in the mirror or smelling your own breath is unnecessary. This seems to be the Rapha way. However, saying all that, $170 for a jersey; what is THAT? That dichotomy still isn’t reconciled in my head…..
Oh my, look at what happens when veen from the rear !!

This custom built ride is fully functional, and isn’t that what it is REALLY all about? Getting out there and riding should be the goal. All the bling on the bike, or wrapping your butt in European fabric only makes a fractional difference. I am sure that if I was decked out in my best kit riding my blinged-out Seven there are dozens of fast locals who could blow me off the road riding a Townie. The bike is a factor, but it pales in comparison to the person on the saddle.
I wanted this to appear black from almost every angle except from behind.

I did enjoy blowing past an uberfit fellow riding a Lemond on the climb up from Edmonds this morning. He eyed my bike and wondered what it was. Mission accomplished. By the way FEINTE is French.

Here is the build:
IBEX Cyclocross frame, size XL painted a dramatic black with custom decals
This frame has 135mm rear spacing for those of you playing along at home
Integrated FSA 1 1/8” headset
Steel fork of unknown heritage
Mavic CXP 33 hubs that I laced to XT hubs with DT Swiss DB 14/15 spokes. I love riding wheels I built myself
Easton 140mm stem
Cut Zepp 44ctc bars
Lots of bar tape
Carbon Fetish 27.2 Seatpost
Specialized Body Geometry saddle
SRAM Rival doubletap shifters
Rival RD
No FD at this time 38t in front
SRAM Chain
SRAM Cassette 11-26
Weird re-threaded 175mm Tandem cranks and cheap Shim.. BB (these will be upgraded)
Candy Pedals

If this ends up back in a commuter role, I’ll ugly it up with fenders and lights, but for now, it is happy just being in the stable.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Zoo Hill Ride Report August 10, 2008

It was this steep.....

I rolled up to El Falcon’s place under partly sunny skies. To be specific, it was clear to the north and solid clouds to the south. After the usual fiddling, we departed south past Greenlake. A sprinkle of climbing and then down to Lake Union and on to the UW and then we just flew up the Arboretum. The traditional S-curve descent and we were tooling along Lake Washington to meet Clifton “the” Beast and start the ride “proper.”

Clifton was his usual cheerful self and after some pleasantries, the three of us were underway. The climb up to the I-90 bridge let me know that the Beast was sandbagging as he stayed glued to El Falcon’s wheel.

El Falcon was open to riding with us mortals as his traditional Sunday morning ride with the HPC group skips one week and month, and this was the week. Ironic then that as we hit Mercer Island along came over a dozen riders on expensive bikes with matching red Cycle University jerseys. The sight of this fast wheeling clan caused me to question my own balance between my affiliation and autonomy needs. The Beast fell right in with these guys and we rode with them for the next eight miles. This was the second instance of The Beast’s story about lacking fitness not matching up with what we saw today.

Stopping at a park to top off bottles El Falcon downed some CERA while The Beast and Crusher elected to stay with the more traditional HGH and Testosterone. Then we retraced out route to the base of Zoo Hill. The climbing started in earnest and my faithful VDO cycle computer indicated the grade quickly hit double digits. Up and up we went, staying together as the road wound its way up through the forest. Slugs were on the road, and I ‘m not referring to any riders. Although our pace dropped to single digits we kept going higher. Soon enough the road straightened out, but the lack of switchbacks only meant we could see the climbs before us.

El Falcon stood up opened a gap and then Beast shook off a determined Crusher on the final climb that topped out at an elevation of over 1,140 feet, more than a thousand feet higher than the start of the climb. Everyone was able to find their limit today. In my head I could hear Paul Sherwin describing me as completely and utterly blown. The three tired souls crested the summit and began the short, but joyful descent. Despite his best efforts to tell a story of needing more miles, The Beast showed he has found his legs.

I noted that my Oakley M-Frames had sweat drops blurring my vision, none the less I made it down and after a brief water stop, we were again climbing, this time the Newport Country Club road and this time a rejuvenated Crusher was able to match pedal strokes with El Falcon, while Beast, took a more conservative, and no doubt -wiser, approach.

We then found our way back to Lake Washington and across Mercer. On the bridge we tagged onto the wheel of a rider who was determined to drop us. We were flying and when the bridge steepened, we kept flying hitting the top at seventenn mph. We soon dropped
down to Leschi for a well deserved break. From here The Beast decided he wanted to return home via Renton and went his own way to log some more miles.

On the way back to "Ch√Ęteau Falcon" the two of us really got it going up Wallingford and then again up 5th. We were able to keep it above about twelve mph on both steep climbs, so my quads would have that “special” feeling going down the stairs in my house all afternoon.

I had just over 58 total miles, 3:46 total time for an average pace of 15.4 and 4,060 total climbing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tolerance is overrated US Athletes in Beijing wearing masks

US Olympic athletes arrived in Beijing wearing masks to minimize the impact on their bodies of air pollution. These masks were provided to them by their respective sports governing bodies. Cyclists got theirs from USA Cycling, Track athletes from their organization, etc.

China invited the world to come and compete in their polluted city. Enter the athletes who have trained and monitored their training, food, and bodies for years, or decades in preparation for these events. Now when these athletes arrived the Chinese government was offended that some were wearing masks. Am I to understand that a nation that has a list of human rights violations as long as their own Great Wall is upset that people are acknowledging their horrid air pollution?

I consider my opinion more informed than most on this subject for two reasons, first, I grew up in Los Angeles competing in endurance sports high school and college, and I have been to Beijing and experienced the pollution first hand. I ran thousands of miles in smoggy Los Angeles and when there were smog alerts and we ran we felt it afterwards. The feeling in your chest was similar to having a chest infection and a burning in your throat was also unpleasant and there was a direct correlation between your symptoms and the severity of the smog and duration and intensity of your exertion.

Having said all that, I found the air in Beijing worse than any I had ever experienced by a huge magnitude. I was attending a conference in Beijing and knew probably three dozen people from different parts of the US who were also attending. Everyone I knew, and I mean everyone of them, had respiratory problems either during the three day conference, or were sick immediately upon their return with chest colds and missed one to two weeks from work. In my twenty years of travel this was the only trip where I did not work out at all. I also avoided stairs and would take escalators and elevators to avoid breathing deep. I recall landing in Tokyo on the return flight and once the cabin depressurized, I felt my symptoms go away almost instantly.

Back to the tolerance thing….

I am all for tact and diplomacy, but the truth is the truth. If the athletes were wearing the masks as a joke, I would heartily agree that would be in bad taste and contradictory to the Olympic spirit. These athletes were worried about their health, and with good reason. This is a remake of The Emperors new clothes. If we all pretend the air is okay, then it will be right ? The air is not okay. Maybe it isn’t the hanging death I experienced, but it isn’t some magical brown humidity. A North American mountain biker reported that after riding the Olympic course a few months ago, he doubled over vomiting because of the bad air pollution. If we jump on the oppressive Communist Government’s propaganda bandwagon we aren’t just being complacent, we are actively perpetuating the lie.

We are being taught look the other way when people are different than us. When a college student displayed erratic behavior everyone reserved judgment in the spirit of tolerance and diversity until that student picked up a handful of rifles and started killing people. Then with hands on our hips we collectively reflect on how we didn’t see it coming.

I love my fellow beings and respect and appreciate our differences. I also have a set of values that tells me certain things are wrong. I believe in the Olympic movement and think that setting aside our differences for a time is a good thing. Every effort should be made to keep protests and political demonstrations out of the games. However, I also believe suspending the truth should not be part of the equation.

Our country is fully supporting and attending the games. Our president is attending the opening ceremonies. We are not making a political statement. I can tell you the Chinese people have no trouble following the restrictions the government has put in place to cut the pollution. They do whatever their government tells them, without question, all the time. They believe everything their government tells them as well. The government says the air is okay, it must be so. The government says the Tiananmen Square protest involved only a dozen protestors, or it didn’t happen at al, and they believe it. And while I don’t think we should protest against the government, I don’t think we should be partners in crime either.

Monday, August 4, 2008

RAMROD 2008 Ride Report

Readers note: This is also a record for my benefit, so if I digress and make comments on equipment, training or food, it is for my future benefit.

El Falcon and I had only shared a couple of training rides this season; otherwise we had prepared independently from each other and trusted that our fitness would be sufficient not to disgrace ourselves for this event. A ride with the hills group had shown me I was strong enough on the hills, but lacked endurance as I was bonked near the end of that secession. Accordingly, I had gone on a 133 mile hilly loop a couple weeks before RAMROD and think that had a positive impact on my ride.

The days before the ride featured rain, sometimes heavy rains, so clothing and weather forecasts were definite topic of discussion and concern.

Seeking to avoid the rush hour traffic El Falcon and I had planned to rendezvous at his place and roll from there early enough to miss the afternoon escape from Seattle. I was comforted to see he too appeared over packed as the questionable weather necessitated additional clothing options.

An uneventful drive brought us to the packet pick up at the starting line, Enumclaw high school. The riders talked about bikes, the Tour de France and food, but everyone kept looking over their shoulders toward the clouds that hid Mount Rainer. As the clock approached five in the afternoon, the sun had finally broken though, but it had taken nearly all day to do so. The other OCD riders carried their packets back to their cars and went in search of pasta.

After getting our packets we drove to find our quarters for the night. There is always a scurry to reserve hotel rooms as soon as the results of the entry lottery are released and this year I was too slow and had to take what was available The room I had booked promised to be an “experience.” We found our motel and checked in. The owner and her daughter appeared to be either retired tag team wrestlers or former football linemen who had gained weight and taken up smoking since their playing days. Having already lowered our expectations, we took it all in good naturedly and loaded our gear into what El Falcon referred to from this point forward as “the honeymoon suite.”

The first time I did this ride I packed everything into a single bag and kept finding myself fishing for clothing, a gel packet, sunscreen, my riding gloves, etc. so I had taken to packing smaller bags. One bag for everything I would need at the hotel, another for the shower, a shopping bag for all the stuff I would put in my pockets and my water bottles. This system worked well, and I would do it again if needed.

We bid adieu to our chateau and struck out for our pre ride dinner. After eating we returned and fiddled with our gear, watched the Mariners lose again and got to sleep at a reasonable time.

In prior RAMROD years the weather had reached the mid eighties so in those years there was a strong incentive to start early so as to beat the heat going up Cayuse pass. This year the high might barely touch seventy degrees so we decided to sleep a little more and start later. After the alarm went off El Falcon opened the door and we noted the clear sky, dew on the car and cold temperature.

We rolled out of the starting gate sometime after five thirty wearing arm and leg warmers with food stuffed in our pockets and oatmeal in our bellies. El Falcon opted for a vest and I had on my ear band and we both had mistakenly decided to leave our toe covers in the car.

Starting slow we got warmed up about the same time and the chill of the morning hit us. The rural pastures had fog clinging to them and the morning sunlight was diffused by these low clouds. We picked up the pace over some small rollers and enjoyed the peace of the scene. The silence was broken by the occasional logging truck that would assert its dominance of the road and remind us that the laws of physics were not in our favor.

Every now and then we could glimpse Mt. Rainier over our left shoulders and when we first saw it ten miles into the ride, it was glowing pink. Then it appeared orange and finally white against a blue sky with bright white clouds.

New pave’ next to Lake Kapowsin was a pleasant surprise. A quality paceline came along and we jumped on. This group took us to Eatonville and the first water stop at 32 miles. This stop has been at a different location in this tiny hamlet every year I have done this ride (four) and this year the stop was right on the main street. When I say on the main street I mean on the street itself. I parked my bike on the curb and they had port-o-potties on the street and traffic cones blocking off one of the two lanes. Up the road were big parking lots and several areas that looked to be better locations for the stop, but I am sure there was a reason we were here.

I grabbed a scone and it was good. We topped our water bottles and took off. In warm years I would ditch disposable arm warmers here, but thus year we were still cold, so on we went.

The route went along some shady roads and that kept us quite cool. Pacelines formed, split and formed again. We faired fine as we gradually gained elevation and caught an occasional ray of sunshine. Soon we were making our way through Ashland and then the food stop at 58 miles. We ate cookies, fruit and filled our empty bottles and mixed our respective potions. I still think Accelerade is the miracle drink. We departed and entered the park. I remarked to El Falcon that the good news was we wouldn’t be cold too much longer; the bad news was the next paceline would be in sixty miles as the climbing had begun.

The gentle climb along the Nisqually along the shady forested road was pleasant. I tried in vain to photograph the occasional glimpses of the slopes of Rainier though the tree tops. We were passing people like crazy, but neither of us was in any difficulty; in fact it felt like a relaxed FSI lunchtime ride.

Through the trees I could see the river flowing through what looked like a two hundred yard wide path of destruction. The washout of a couple years ago was dramatic and resembled avalanche areas I have seen higher up in the mountains, but I have never seen mile after mile like the Nisqually river to my right.

We passed though Longmire and savored the view of the mountain. The grade increases at this point and our conversation quieted as we continued to work our way past other riders. Although I didn’t feel cold, we both kept our arm and leg warmers on and I could tell my feet were cold still. At 3,840’ we crossed the Nisqually river bridge and could look down the canyon we had just ridden up. We climbed strong and I slowed to take some photos and El Falcon gained some seconds.

As we approached the turn to Paradise, El Falcon stood and danced on the pedals while Crusher was content to sit and spin his way to the top. El Falcon opened a gap and held it. For reasons unknown to me, we did not get to go to Paradise, which truly disappointed me. We made our way to inspiration point where we took picture and finally, after seventy plus miles, took off our leg warmers. I removed my shoes and socks and tried to rub some blood into my stiff, icy toes.

We departed and El Flacon clung to a racing Crusher as we flew past Reflection Lake and then bombed down Stevens Canyon toward the food stop. Passing through two tunnels at between thirty and forty miles per hour we arrived at the food stop with over half of our miles behind us and only one big pass remaining.

Snacking on baked potatoes we took the chance to stretch and put on more sunscreen. Realizing we weren’t cold and that it felt pretty good to stop we were in no hurry to resume. Again we mixed our favorite drinks and I dropped in a nuun tablet for some added flavor and electrolytes. I had consumed some Hammer Gel on the ascent to Paradise and expected to have more on the climb up Cayuse. Reluctantly, we cinched up our suitcases in anticipation of the climb ahead, removed our arm warmers, then put sunscreen on our forearms and headed up the road to Backbone Ridge.

The climb felt good and the sunshine on our backs was welcome. My altimeter told me we would climb another three hundred feet than descend a thousand feet before starting the climb to Cayuse. The descent is a joy and the corners are banked and my Seven performed wonderfully. I leaned into the corners and the machine held its line perfectly. I felt like I could lean the bike over until the decals on the top tube touched the pavement and it could hold like it was on a rail.
After a thrilling descent we reached the bottom and turned left and headed north to greet the suffering that was waiting for us. For the first few miles the road gained altitude almost without noticing. We weren’t flying but the winding road didn’t seem that steep. Then the grade kicked up in earnest. There was road repair going on and we crossed stretches of gravel that ranged in length from fifty yards to a quarter mile. Feeling like we were climbing in the Giro we made our way along the loose stuff without complaining.

We were steadily passing people and the road was silent. No more friendly conversation, just huffing and puffing. Kind words offered while passing usually only brought grunts in reply. Once again, El Falcon stood and gained some time and held it. Crusher wasn’t blown, just being more conservative for the time being.

Shortly after the cycle computer ticked past one hundred miles we reached a water stop and topped our bottles for the final miles of the climb. Although we had some cloud cover on the lower slopes, now it was all sunshine as we found ourselves in our lowest gears. A particularly long stretch of construction had traffic control and we had to stop while opposing traffic passed. When we started out again, Crusher and El Falcon were quickly among the elite riders. Reaching deep in our suitcases we found the courage to continue up and reached the top together in fine form.

Knowing that food and drink was only minutes away, we sped down to the Crystal Mountain turn off and the infamous “deli-stop.” Sandwiches made to order, and a can of soda tasted wonderful. We found two folding chairs and sat down assuming if someone else wanted these seats they would kick us out. El Falcon confided that any fantasy’s he held about quitting his job and becoming a tour rider were squashed on the climb up Cayuse. “I’ve never gone so slow, for so long,” a weary El Falcon confessed. Although sitting was wonderful, being done sounded even better, so after emptying the balance of our drink mixes into our bottles and consuming any other magic elixirs, we set out.

Once we left the deli stop the headwind was typically fierce and we traded leads waiting to catch a paceline to take to the finish. Finally two guys in matching team kits came along and we tagged on. The first guy peeled off and latched onto my wheel. The other guy kept going and El Falcon was on his wheel and I was right behind. A minute later I checked and nobody was behind me. Then I saw the fellow who had been there leading a paceline with several of his teammates followed by a rag tag bunch hanging on for dear life. El Falcon and I grabbed onto the back of this train.

Almost at once I sensed something was wrong. On our own we had been near twenty miles an hour and when we were with the other two we were twenty three mph. Now we were about twenty one and the guys in front of us were racing, braking, swerving and making me nervous. The uniformed riders didn’t seem concerned about holding a steady pace and those following only exacerbated the accordion effect. It was as if the riders had learned about pace lines after reading a single work of fiction that mentioned them in passing.

With one hundred and twenty miles in our legs and the headwind blasting us if we got out of line, we reluctantly held on. I watched the fellow in front of me (who was riding a bike with a rack on the back, cantilever brakes and a reflector the size of a small pizza) grab his water bottle and fumble with the nozzle. I was constantly looking for my out; where I would go when he dropped the bottle or touched wheels with the guy in front of him. When he went fishing for something in his jersey pocket he swerved and I just gave him even more room. Recalling seeing riders in other years with scrapes and torn clothing I knew the likelihood of being involved in a crash was higher than I wanted. When we hit a slow section I told El Falcon that when the route turned on Mud Mountain road I was going to take off to avoid being in the rolling circus that this paceline was.

Finally the turn came and true to my word I went off on my breakaway. I looked over my shoulder and no Falcon. I saw the paceline had reformed and not wanting to follow the clowns down the zig-zag descent over rough pavement, I kept going hard. Making the turn I was greeted by new pavement. I took the corners hard and was down on the flats by the time the peloton caught me. El Falcon was sitting fifth in line and I forced my way in behind him. Then to my horror, upon catching me, the pack slowed and according to my speedometer, we were going slower than when I was riding solo. These guys should be flogged with chain whips.

Content to hold my position near the front of this crazy parade, we made our way back to the finish. We crossed the line with exactly 150.00 miles on the machine and eight hours and fifty six minutes was the time. We finished the day with an average speed of 16.8 mph with 9,062 feet of climbing.

After locking the bikes we showered, ate, drank and made our way back home. Somewhere south of Renton it began to rain. I assumed the rain would pass, but it did not. By the time I got home, it was raining hard and I was glad we didn’t have to face that during our ride.

I slept like a baby; that is, I woke up every two hours and cried. Actually, neither El Falcon nor I reported being too sore the next day. That isn’t to say we were ready to do it again, but the pain is so quickly forgotten isn’t it ?

I truly enjoyed riding with Lindsay and he was not just a fit rider, but a good friend and considerate riding companion.