Doing it all the hard way...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Solvang Double Training Complete !

Went for a run in the early morning twilight in sub forty degree temperature this AM. The home front is secure and after provisions and supplies are loaded in the Pilot, we’ll call it a day. Eighty-six days into 2008 and over nine-hundred miles so far.

Let’s hope all the training in the rain while DREAMING of sunshine pays off. I really want to enjoy this ride and not make it a sufferfest. The thought of a ride without a cold weather induced runny nose sounds great.

The weather forecasts have been lowering the temperature a degree a day for the last four days. It has gone from 70 to 65 for Saturday and I am hoping to see the temp rise again, but we will see.

I recall before RAMROD in 2004 when I was sitting in a plane on the tarmac at a Midwest airport that had shut down because of a lightening storm. With fourteen hours until the start I was stranded a thousand miles away. Although I didn’t land at SEATAC until almost midnight I was in shape and had a wonderful RAMROD. Likewise I believe I am in shape without any injuries and that is better than any weather forecast. No sore back, no pulled muscles or saddle sores; I am counting my blessings.

Number one rule of travel: be flexible.

Off we go.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Make winter go away !

C'mon sun where are you !!!

Freaking freezing today. Walked the pups and had to dress like it was snowing. There are times when a ride in the crisp air is exciting, and times when you just want to hide from the cold that seeps into your bones. This windy cold just cuts me to the core. Tomorrow I ride and then pack it up and head for sunshine.
I'm giving old man winter my menacing look in hopes of scaring him off. Spring has sprung. The Groundhog said it. The equinox has passed. The bunny has come and gone. Time for sunshine.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Top Ten Item – Earband

I know biking is all about turning the pedals, but being comfortable makes life so much more pleasurable. Riding around Seattle you see riders out every weekend. I know other climates are harsher, but in those places most riders either take off the snowy months or log time on the trainer watching old TdF videos. Out here you can ride without too much hassle nearly every weekend.

When the situation calls for a shorter flat ride it is hard to beat the Sammamish River Trail. Part of the fun is to see what everyone is wearing. Riders in parkas with fur hoods (really), and people in shorts with bright red legs and grimaces. Headwear ranges from bald heads, to helmets, to beanies under, and over, helmets and everything in between.

It is here I feel compelled to share an insight bestowed upon me by the Hottie. Earbands rule! Not the polartec kind that the wind whistles through but either some windstopper variant, wool, or something like the Pearl Izumi Microsensor that wicks moisture away and cuts the wind.

An Earband and a vest add a huge temperature range to your outfit. While a beanie is great when it is really cold, once it warms up it takes up a lot of real estate in your jersey pocket. The earband keeps your ears warm (duh) and makes all but the coldest temperatures bearable without making your helmet too tight or any of the other problems associated with thick headgear.

As for today’s ride. A nice 35 with some power. I had missed some late February rides when tabulating my mileage, and my YTD mileage is actually now 909. The photo is of Lake Washington from the bike trail.

Baconfest 2008 – Almost on visual

March 29th is now showing up on long range weather forecasts. It looks to be a perfect day in and around Solvang. A busy few days and then we are off. The crappy weather continues and even my neighbor commented on how poor it has been. Here in the Northwest we are aching for spring to come.

Two or three more rides and then we pack and roll.

I’ve gotten the miles in and the strength has come late, but it has arrived. Usually I start strong and have to add the miles, but for the first time it was the reverse. Either way, glad I’m here…
I did my first ride without and earband on Saturday. I’m not saying it was warm, but it was the least cold it has been for a while and the bright yellow orb made an appearance.

I can almost hear the Bacon starting to sizzle as Betty the Beast prepares for Baconfest 2008 !

Friday, March 21, 2008

Firecats are go !! Lake Sammamish training ride

My first pic here shows the threatening skies that I actually welcome because it isn’t raining. The second pic is my shadow, which is rare here in the land of nearly perpetual cloud cover. And finally as the sun peaked out and blue sky was visible, I rejoiced and took the photo.

It remains butt cold here in Seattle atmo, and I am ready for a break. So forgive me if I didn’t hit the road at first light when the mercury registered a brisk 36 degrees. After some outstanding java and a bowl of mush I dressed and departed. Climbing the hill up to civilization my quads reminded me of hard rides earlier this week. Nothing like feeling sore four minutes into a four hour ride…..

Down to the trail and the miles just start ticking by. A few minutes of the lightest sprinkles you can imagine and then back to grey and dry. Food and drink worked just fine as did the chamois cream (Bontrager’s recipe RULES).

A word or two about lip balm. I have tried them all and atmo Raining Rose is the best. They make all kinds of flavors and they are nice folks to boot. My son and I were stranded in Mammoth Lakes, California while his feet recovered from some blisters on our John Muir Trail hike. We got a free lip balm with our purchase at a store and later I tracked down the manufacturer on the web. I use the spearmint and it is the best stuff and it reminds me of that backpacking trip all these years later. It sticks on your lips without being bad (greasy or clumpy, or coming off too quick). Two more tid bits…. I keep mine in a sunglass chammy bag (Oakley if you are keeping score). It helps me find both of those items when I need them and I don’t lose either of them. Perfection.

I finished my ride with 62.15 miles which I am calling my metric century. This is my last long ride in prep for Solvang a week from tomorrow.

I don’t care if I suffer like a dog as long as I am not cold and damp. In fact, I may slow down just to spend more time riding in the warm sunshine. Well, probably not, but it is an idea.

821 miles so far in 2008.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Almost the last day of winter and finally some strength !!

Almost the last day of winter and finally some strength !!

After my last ride I was wondering about my strength. Despite climbing some steep hills and putting in a century a week or so ago, I have not felt strong since I stopped commuting. This isn’t to say I have not ridden fast, or far. I just have not felt like I had the horsepower to punch it when I needed it. Not quite like I was bonked, but I was riding with the caution you exercise in the first 25 of a 150 to 200 mile ride. You just don’t want to shoot your wad.

Today I finally felt some strength in my legs. When I hit hills on the ride today I didn’t have to choose between attacking and suffering or gearing down and doing a weenie climb; today I just rode it with power and cruised to the top. Likewise on the long flats of the Burke-Gilman trail I was able to push the pace and get some respectable K’s in.

Speaking of K’s I have often wondered about tracking all of my mileage in kilometers for a year. Or would I refer to it as tracking all of my kilometerage ? Too deep a thought for me.

I brought along my seldom used HRM and it seems to be working well. I tried my gel flask and after figuring that you had better keep it upside down in your jersey pocket (at least when it is 40 degrees outside) it also worked well. I also used my emergency expando-saddle bag and it performed commendably. I continue to work out the kinks for the Solvang ride.

Today’s photo was taken during my ride along Lake Washington on the Burke Gilman trail. If it isn’t sunny out it usually isn’t too crowded. And if you really want to hammer on your bike…..ride somewhere else.

Yet another image, this time of a kiteboarder out yesterday at Richmond Beach.
Let's put this winter to bed !

Monday, March 17, 2008

St Patrick’s Day ride 3-17-08

St Patrick’s Day ride 3-17-08

Although I think eight seconds has everything to do with Greg LeMond and little to do with male cows, we took in the PBR last night in Tacoma and that is my photo of the day (taken by Hottie).

I actually think Cyclocross is the toughest sport on dirt.

My battle for motivation, as I dream of sunshine and ride under dark skies, continues. The highly inaccurate Seattle weather forecast said rain, but dry pavement and minimal dark clouds told me it was time to squeeze in a quick hilly twenty. I took off with two LS jerseys and liner gloves under my Castelli gloves. Shifting smoothly, the Ti Flyer was working like a stealth lion I descended to Edmonds and climbed up to Perrinville before dropping to the waterfront by Meadowdale Park.

Turning at the gate I wisely elected not to climb the road of death (I can’t believe they pave something that steep and let people drive on it), and instead retraced my route back to the post office and then down to the Ferry.

I held my speed over eleven mph all the way up the climb and had some burn going by the time I hit 20th.

After returning to Bridgehouse, it began to rain and I felt my timing was impeccable.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

California Dreaming

More wet rides. I close my eyes and dream of California sunshine. Another ride where it didn’t rain on me, but wet roads made and fog chilled me to the core. My fingernails hurt it was so cold. I recall my first Century, The Wenatchee Apple Century in June 2001. I read all about how to wear camelbacks and prepare for the heat. I tossed a shirt and shorts in and drove over the Cascades for the ride. The next day it was cloudy and it rained hard. More than my bike was blue that day.

Today I passed 700 miles for 2008. Not bad for me. Here is a photo taken by Hottie up in Skagit earlier this week. Flat light makes it a tough shot. These birds seem to love the weather. Lucky them.....
Sunshine, I want Sunshine !!!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

High Pass Challenge 2007 Ride Report Mt. St. Helens Washington

If the names don't make sense, don't worry.

I strongly recommend MAPQUEST, or even better, Microsoft Streets and Trips (which you purchase) for directions. I did not, however, use either of these elegant solutions, but instead gave Google Maps a try. As a result of my poor choice, when I came upon the large hairy troll blocking the bridge after a route than can easily be described as less than ideal, I was not surprised. After answering the requisite three questions I was allowed to complete my journey to the hamlet of Packwood. We all knew the ride would be challenging, but the fact that getting there and finding a meal proved as difficult as it did, made the ride seem even more daunting.

When Le Cannonball was asked by his food server if he preferred the meatloaf to the lasagna, he candidly replied that both were pretty bad. This did not appear to surprise the wait staff and the Packwood eatery. The town was full of nervous skinny guys driving cars with expensive bikes on roof racks.

I met up with Falcon and soon we got a phone call from the Uberman and his cheerful wife, Frances. We joked and shared stories about the town and tried to speculate what the next day would bring.

Well before dawn, the creatures in the hotel started stirring so sleep had become fitful by the time the alarm told Crusher and El Falcon it was time to get up (separate beds). It is worth noting that the two program managers had reserved a room fifty feet from the start while the engineers had waited (for final configuration ?) and had to get rooms that were some driving distance away…….

Just like wedding photos that are taken before the actual wedding ceremony, so too we posed for pictures in our fresh, (as yet) unbroken state. Once the final equipment choices were made and various prayers offered, we finally headed west and started our little epic.

It was so fitting that Uberman was wearing a loose fitting jacket that billowed out like a cape. Just as fitting was Cannonball taking to the front and leading us out in our opening miles. Everyone took a turn and soon we were flying at over twenty miles per hour and then it was time for the games to begin.

As we reached the town of Randle some other riders had latched on to our humble paceline. We crossed the flat valley floor and reached the forest. With only a brisk nineteen miles under our tires we saw our first climb as the road twisted and disappeared in the shade of the pine trees. Uberman either didn’t see the climb, or didn’t feel it, as everyone else slowed down; but he just kept flying. Cannonball realized the blue jacket he had been wearing was too warm and quickly pulled over to remove a layer. Crusher and Falcon decided some conservatism was in order and let those who were more fit, or more foolish, fly past. After reaching the top we were once again four and thus we rode to the first food stop.

Since this was a timed event we had a choice of lining up for the port a potties, or as William Shakespeare once said, “all the world is a bathroom” and watering the local foliage. After grabbing some food and filling our water bottles and mixing our respective magic potion drink mixes, we departed and the real climbing began. Nearly seven miles in dense forest and fourteen hundred feet of elevation later we reached another water stop.

At this rest stop Crusher reached into the suitcase of courage and passed out the strength to make it to the top. The road out of the rest stop actually steepened and Cannonball latched on to a female rider on a Softride bike. We all took note of Ian’s ability to stay motivated and hang on the tail of this steady rider. Before too long Uberman’s patience wore thin and he gradually pulled away. Again, Crusher and Falcon exercised good judgment and climbed steadily through the pack. We saw and passed some of those who had blown past us in their over eagerness on the first hill at 19 miles and now they were struggling up this sustained four thousand foot climb.

The forest was thick and so there were few views until we neared the top of the climb. The bikes we observed under other riders were a constant treat. We saw all manner of carbon wonderbikes, a plethora of titanium steeds, classic steel bikes, a handful of cyclocross bikes, a mountain bike or two, and to our amazement a mountain bike with full bulging panniers. The rider of this Clydesdale was wearing a smile that we could not even comprehend. We could only theorize that he was planning on camping at the top.

As the fruits of our climbing labor were realized, the forest opened up and we could enjoy some wonderful views of the valleys below us. Then with unexpected suddenness, we rounded a corner and we were in the blast zone. The contrast was stunning. From dense forest with extensive underbrush to scorched sand and dead grey snags. It was like riding on the moon. Thus we began the featured part of the ride as we followed the top of windy ridge for the next several miles. First we rode on the east side of the ridge, then on the west side and back and forth again and again. We quickly donned any clothing we had shed during the climb as the temperature dipped. At the top it was a brisk 37 degrees and Uberman was helping a poor soul with some bike repair when Flacon and Crusher rolled in. We had fifty three miles completed and sixty one to go. Luckily there was only a mild breeze and our greatest wish, that we remain dry, had been granted, so we did not complain (much).

Again, although the format of the ride necessitated we not waste time at this stop, the cold only hastened our desire to get moving and so we quickly started our return trip. Less than a minute out from the stop was saw a smiling Cannonball who was easy to spot with his blue jacket and red legs.

Although there was some climbing during the return trip along windy ridge the climbs were short and mixed in with fun downhill runs. As we returned to the forest we savored going down the four thousand foot descent we had labored up earlier in the day. The ducks and dives of the road down brought smiles to every rider. When we reached the final food stop eighty miles. As other riders rolled in they too had smiles that told of the fun descent they had just completed.

After warming up a bit as we topped our bottles and ate fruit and cookies, we departed for home. The ride went along a narrow road with no traffic and it rolled up and down, but not with the intensity of the earlier climbs of the day.

When we once again found ourselves on popular roads a final climb at ninety four miles Crusher popped off the back and Flacon sucked Uberman’s wheel for dear life. Cannonball was also coming in solo.

The final miles were almost like a victory lap, except for the roughness of the road. When we turned onto highway 12 after one hundred and seven miles we were greeted with a tailwind and sunshine.

Uberman and Falcon arrived in time for Gold medals and Crusher came just a few minutes behind, also for gold. Cannonball brought home a silver medal and looked strong as he crossed the line.

All were pleased with their rides. See you all in 2008.

Interurban Ride 3-12-08

In order to make other commitments work, I rode up to meet Hottie North of Seattle. I rode along the interurban in Snohomish County. It is a rather remarkable path. It (generally) follows an old train route from Everett to Seattle. In Snohomish County it roughly parallels I-5 but is unknown to most everyone who drives by it.

I wanted to log some miles and the day promised to be dry. What it was in fact was foggy and COLD. My fingers froze and that made for some uncomfortable miles. But they were miles so I’ll count it. I am attaching a photo taken by my phone on the interurban trail.

After hooking up with Hottie, we went to Skagit where she captured some fowl (digitally as it were).

39 miles today.

Monday, March 10, 2008

T-Shirts and Testosterone

My rant about macho bike rides…..

The California Death Ride, RAMROD, Copper Triangle, Torture Ten Thousand and Breathless Agony are just some of the plethora of bike rides that blur the line between enjoyment and masochism. These events are generally populated by middle aged men battling insecurity and hair loss who seek reassurance of their virility by completing these suffer-fests.

I confess that I ride some of these events, and tell myself that I am not one of these men. When you are driving on the freeway anyone faster than you is reckless, and anyone slower is just plain getting in the way. Likewise anyone slower on a bike is a hack, and anyone faster is compulsive; or so I tell myself. And as I mock these riders who take these things too seriously, it helps convince me I am not of their flock.

Let me paint the picture for you. Slender men in their forties and fifties with tan legs arrive the afternoon before these events wearing T-shirts boasting of other intimidating rides. Many of these guys know each other and they start asking about other macho rides. “Hey Frank, did you do the Baker Climb this year?” They all seem to be in their element, and few if any, have spouses with them. I took note of this and have taken it to heart.

While they are all smiles when talking to their acquaintances, these guys quickly show their true colors which are way too serious. Stern faces appear as they unload their gear and their precious bikes (and when I say precious, I am referring to precious in the Gollum sense of the word e.g. “don’t touches my precious carbon miracle”). Bikes worthy of any professional racer are wheeled into hotel rooms by these ride veterans. The latest carbon wonderbikes built out with the latest version of Campy Record or Dura-Ace. Wheels that cost more than my car are commonplace. Over their shoulder they wield bags filled with shoes, helmets, clothing and their particular drink mixes as well as assorted goos, creams, jellies and energy bars.

Soon everyone, including myself is searching for a pasta dinner. Generally these events take place in small towns and the restaurant selection is limited. While these are open tables at Bar-B-Que Bobs, we are lined up like lemmings at Vinny’s Pizza and Pasta. With little else to do I observe the other riders.

I bought a bicycle in 2000. After competing in running events for thirty years, my knees finally won the argument and I bought the bike. Here in the Pacific Northwest the STP (Seattle To Portland) is the most popular cycling event by far. The un-timed event indeed travels from Seattle to Portland and the ride is two hundred miles, completed in either one or two days with eight thousand of your riding friends. Ask anyone in Western Washington to name two bike races and they will reply the Tour de France and the STP. You can correct them and tell then the STP isn’t a race, but they don’t really care anyway.

I trained that first year and rode the STP in a day as my first bike event. I spent the first 150 miles wondering if I would finish, or collapse in a heap by the side of the road. After a rest stop at 150 miles I realized I was going to make it and enjoyed the next 45 miles. The last five were less fun, but part of the price.

After completing the ride I realized the training rides were as much fun and the event. In fact, because I had been worried about being able to finish, I had not enjoyed the event as much as I should have.

About this time a friend of mine, with whom I trained occasionally, offered a profound insight. He was about thirty and would build his year around triathlon competitions. One day he realized he didn’t have any fun in his sports. If he didn’t set a PR on training run or ride, then he was disappointed and felt down. If he did set a PR then he was so wiped out, he was down as well. He took no joy from swimming, riding or running. I was reminded of a line from the movie “Field of Dreams” when the main character talks about how his father hounded him endlessly about baseball. He said, “Playing catch got to be like eating your vegetables.” For my friend Pete, swimming, riding and running were his daily brussel sprouts. At this time I had just taken up cycling and was tapering down my running. I was having so much fun learning about cycling. I was fascinated by the tradition, the equipment, the technique and the freedom that is cycling. I was like a kid in a candy store and he was the overweight diabetic in that same store.

So I learned about other events and did some centuries and had fun. I made a lot of mistakes and learned. Some friends encouraged me to sign up for RAMROD (Ride around Mt. Rainier in one day) in 2004 and I did. It is a chalenging154 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing as you circumnavigate Mt. Rainier. To train for it you ride up mountain passes. I enjoyed the training and the event was beautiful. Because the field is limited and the event takes place on a Thursday there is little traffic and you can really enjoy the tranquility of the forest and the mountain.

What I noticed during the ride was that with all the of the beauty surrounding us most riders were watching the wheel in front of them or checking their altimeters, cycle computers or HRMs, or just looking like they wanted this pain over with. I saw very few people actually enjoying themselves. At the food stops the same macho conversations were taking place. “Rick, I didn’t see you at the Torture Ten Thousand this year. What happened?”

Although I find differences that allow me to separate (in my mind) myself from these testosterone charged Type A’s, I continue to do some of these rides. As I contemplated why I do these I read an article where someone confessed his training method. He signs up for intimidating events and then fear motivates him to prepare to avoid humiliation or injury. My goal in these rides is to be fit enough that I can enjoy the ride. That usually means I need to be pretty fit. So I prepare (because I have to) and have fun (because I want to).

So if you do these rides, maybe I’ll see you. I will be the one smiling. If you pass me, I’ll be smiling. If I pass you, I’ll smile as I offer some encouraging words. These are generally beautiful rides and in addition to smiling, I’ll be looking around. I may even stop and take pictures, or take in the scenery. But I can assure you; I’ll be having fun.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Quiet Sunday 3-9-08

Preping for the Solvang Double Century at the end of the month. Got in my hundred miler on Wednesday when we had some rare sunshine here in Seattle. I rode out to North Bend via Lake Washington and Lake Samamish and Snoqualmie falls. My chammy cream is a wonder. I am using Keith Bontrager's formula and it is better than Assos or anything I have tried (Chammy Butt'er, Brave Soldier, Bag Balm, etc.).

Some intervals this week and core work and flexibility and I'll be a happy boy.