Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, December 31, 2009

So long 2009

Digging deep in my suitcase of courage !!

2008 sucked see here ( if you care.

2009 was a lot better. Thanks to all who supported me, and there were plenty of you.

2010 can be super. I'll do my part. I get to move up a cat for Nats. Whoo Hoo.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Everybody else is doing it so why shouldn't I ? Or, what I learned about Cyclocross in 2009

If you look close you can see the "Chismis" lights on my bike

1 Tubies
Hank confided that when Russell Stevenson was teaching him about Cyclocross he said brakes and tires matter, everything else on your bike is secondary. In September when Sam and I were under the tutelage of our personal coach Ryan Trebon; I asked him about how to take corners faster, he smiled and said one word, “tubulars.” After Starcrossed, Kevin was jumping around like he was about to explode he was so excited about how his tubies had worked. He said he felt like he was cheating. He insisted I put his front wheel on my bike and ride around the field and see what it was like. I couldn’t get the tire to slip. It was simply amazing. I found some rims that were a steal and laced them to and old front hub and a used rear I picked up on eBay and after all of the research I could handle, I glued on some tires. Soon I was groovin’ on the tubies.’ They are the real deal. A couple riders on the team ride clinchers at 65 psi. and swear that is the way to go. They also think scars are cool.

2 Chatter
Yes Virginia, I finally understand chatter. Leonard Zinn waited until the last week of my season to explain the root cause of front brake chatter on cross bikes. I now realize all of the fixes that are cross folklore are really just ways to make your front brakes less effective thereby reducing chatter. If you want to kill chatter and have good brakes you need to not use your noodle. You need to use a travel agent and V-Brakes. The difference is amazing. Like the tubies, I feel like I’m cheating now. If you happen to have the stiffest front fork ever made, you can ignore this and enjoy your braking as it is today.

3 Hottie
Don’t think that listing her way down in third is a reflection of her influence. I raced in sixteen races in 2009 and she was there for all of them. Because she was photographing other races before and after mine, I would guess she photographed close to a hundred races. My Teammate John called her the hardest working photographer in the business. She is my biggest fan and I am darn lucky to have her on my side.

4 Training
I sure worked hard in 2009. I now look back and realize my training was incredibly counter-productive. I am just glad there isn’t anyone named Bif to give me a noogies and call me McFly. I have designed training plans for runners for thirty years. They all have hard days followed by easy days. To get better you increase the intensity of the hard days. In 2009 I tried to go hard all the time. I felt tired and kept pushing. I only rested when the wheels came off the bus which they did many times.

5 Focused Training
I read that someone had a power meter on a cross racer and the maximum length of a hard output in a race was 23 seconds. Cross is a series of bursts and rests (perhaps technical rests, but from a power perspective, rests none the less). If you want to be good at it you need to mimic these bursts in your training and when you have to put in a big effort in a race, console yourself that the push will be short in duration.

6 Team
It was sure fun to be on a team. I enjoyed training with the guys in the off season as well as having people root for me during the races. There were guys to swap stories and opinions with about course conditions, equipment and life. The discount on bike equipment and clothing was also pretty sweet. For Nationals a dozen of us made our way to Oregon and the camaraderie was wonderful.

7 Curtlo Frame
Carbon smarbon. Steel is so real. I loved the way it hooked up and was compliant and stiff at the same time. In Bend I rode where others slipped. When the pros were racing in Bend I noted all kinds of carbon frames slipping and sliding. That isn’t to say that steel or aluminum wouldn’t, but I know the carbon frames were several times the cost of the metal frames and while they were probably lighter, weight is a few rungs down on the list of important cross frame characteristics. I wanted to say I learned how to handle my cross bike in 2009, but the credit goes to the tubies and the Curtlo. I’ve got my frame, do you have yours ?

8 34 degrees
The first three months of 2009 the majority of the Sunday morning rides with the team were between 33 and 37 degrees. Through repeated trial and error I was able to perfect the ultimate outfit to combat that range of temperatures down to the Holy Grail of cold weather riding; gloves. Head to toe here is what worked best: Helmet, thick earband, optional thin skull cap, LS baselayer, thick jersey/jacket, vest, bibs, thermal tights, wool socks, shoes, toe covers and shoe covers. On the hands: liner gloves and Swix XC ski gloves.

9 Warming Up
I was resistant to using a trainer for some reason. When I did I was able to settle in to a fast pace in my races quicker. The race to the first corner seemed easier when I had warmed up on a trainer. If anyone thinks there is any point in the race more important than the first minute, let me know. I also received a monster jacket from work that has become my peel-it-off-at-the-last-minute-in-the-starting-grid jacket. It saved my shivering bacon in Bend.

10 Giving
Hottie saw dividends from her kindness on the photography end of the sport as her fans became her promoters. At a cold race this season as our juniors were shivering as their parents raced I dug out no less than three beanies to keep their heads warm. At Nationals Andrew battled hypothermia every day and he welcomed our propane heater with a level of gratitude usually reserved for those liberated from POW camps.

11 Pit Wheels
If you bring them, you better practice swapping them. That is all I am going to say about that.

12 Low Pressure Clinchers
This is the way to go if you want to visit the pits or end your day early.

13 Thirteen
If you get this number honor cycling tradition and pin it on upside down. The cycling Gods will show their gratitude.

14 Sunglasses
I had always avoided glasses because of my fear of fogging them up. I realized that because I don’t stop until the end, this isn’t actually a risk. Mud in my eyes in more than one race led me to try it in Bend. It worked. I guess that is why, like the trainer, everybody else does it. Duh !

15 Fun
I did the Single Speed World Championships in Portland, and the Clydesdale Championship of the Universe in Bend. Both were silly, and as much fun as a guy can have on a bike.

16 Oatmeal
Steel cut oats are so much better. Go ahead and add buttermilk. I know it sounds gross, but it is the best (don’t forget huge amounts of brown sugar of course).

17 2010
Look for Cyclocross to continue to explode. We are on the verge of reluctant acceptance in the cycling community and the sport is growing faster each year.

18 Lexicon growth
Heard this year relating to Cyclocross:
“I was praying for a mercy mechanical”
“I am groovin on the tubies”
“(There is a) Hurricane of pain heading for the finish line”
“I rode that corner with an outrigger”
“I was digging deep into my satchel of grimaces’”
“This was an expensive season for me”

19 Hot packs
Hot packs in my shoes made Bend tolerable for my feet.

20 Running on Ice
If you think you can carry your bike and run on ice, you’ll find yourself screwed.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

CX Nationals Day 4 the end

Can you say, 'INTENSE'

Hottie and I enjoyed just a bit of a lay in Sunday morning. When I went outside I was able to see the place in the daylight for the first time since arriving Wednesday night. We weren’t interested in seeing the collegiate races, so our objective was the women’s elite race at 11:15. We took our time and loaded the war wagon for the return trip, and left the condo for good.

We arrived in time to see Zach McDonald battling for the win in the collegiate race. It was perhaps the best race of the long weekend with the lead changing multiple times each lap and Zach sprinting from behind in the final straight to take the win by a bike length. The swag came out and Hottie and I collected our fair share. We staked out our spots for the elite women.

Katie Compton rode with precision and power. The day was sunny and the ice that I had battled for three races was replaced by mud and grass. Katie rode like she was on a rail and she is so smooth, it was like watching a clinic. The other riders were gunning for second place and the morning was exciting.

The men’s race was set to be a showdown with six men who each believed they would win the day. Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon both had multiple National CX titles and had been standouts all season long. Jeremy Powers had recently beaten them both in Portland and was in peak form. Todd Wells likewise was coming on strong in a late season surge. Jonathan Page had returned from Europe where he had recently collected a top ten finish and he was planning on earning his first star and stripes jersey. Olympian Adam Craig and Jamie Driscol had both been hot of late and so the front of the starting grid was the who’s who of American Cyclocross in 2009.

At the gun Jeremy Powers took off like a bat out of hell and pushed the first lap. Trebon and Johnson were about four seconds back and Wells, Page and Driscol about four more back. On the second lap J-Pow went down hard on Satan’s off camber (perhaps falling into the divot made my Evo’s big ass when he fell fifteen hours earlier). He was slow to get up and had to straighten his bars and when he remounted he had dropped to seventh or so.

Johnson pounced on Trebon to take the lead and looked like he was putting in a surge with all he had. Five seconds back Page and Wells were trading jabs and trying to catch the leading duo. Johnson grimaced as he wrestled his bike around the corners not letting up for a second. Trebon looked relaxed and appeared to be waiting to attack. At this point my money was on Ryan. I figured Johnson couldn’t keep up the intensity and Trebon would power away.

Lap after lap, Tim Johnson grimaced and gained a second or two while Ryan Trebon waited for an opportunity to unleash his power. As the laps wore on, the relentless effort of Tim Johnson added ever so slightly to the tiny gap until he had twenty seconds.

At the finish Johnson threw up his arms in victory. Trebon arrived moments later to rousing cheers for the local hero. After congratulating Johnson, Trebon’s first words were that he had ridden too conservatively. Page and Wells dueled to the line and J-Pow claimed fifth and the final podium spot.

Next Year...

We collected the propane heater from a grateful Andrew, let him download Hottie’s photos and we set off for home. We arrived late and I had to submit a report for work that went electronically just before midnight. I unloaded the wagon and left my packed bags downstairs.

I had exchanged some Pearl Izumi Thermal legwarmers I bought in Bend for a smaller size because they fell down so quick I was shocked. At home I tried on the smaller size (a large for those playing along at home) and they fell down before I left the room. Pearl, you make some great stuff, these legwarmers aren’t among them…

Hottie’s back was on fire and we were both staggeringly tired. Although our bags were not unpacked and there was bike work that still needed to be done we called our Nationals weekend done.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Championship of the Universe Race Report Day 3 CX Nats

The most wonderful thing about tiggers is this is the only one !

The long drive down, the late nights and two days of racing and photographing all day had taken their toll. We were tired when we got up Saturday. We had riders in the first two races of the day and I grabbed some hot Joe whilst Hottie began documenting the day in digital images.

Our local hero U23 stud Zach McDonald was set to contend in the U23 race. By now the combination of SLIGHTLY warmer temperatures and the course having been pummeled by a thousand racers riding lap after lap had made the course change again. Mud was starting to emerge and the possibility of a dry Sunday for the pros was contemplated.

Zach broke a wheel (a la Hincapie) and had to run to the pits and was essentially out of it a minute or two after starting. While he was able to pit and change bikes, he lost too much time and was playing the part of me and found himself the lantern rouge. He wisely chose to accept his lot and hold something out for the collegiate race on Sunday morning.

Hottie shot the races and I toted the gear and while we were tired, the prospect of my 9:00 PM race loomed over both of us like a dark cloud. After the last race we made our way back to our abode away from home and really just snacked on Spaghetti and Pizza leftovers. They were, however, good leftovers.

I took out the bike for a quick test ride to confirm the repaired tubie would hold air. All was good as I dressed for my race and loaded the orange machine into the wagon. I was sensing the temperature dropping fast. On the way to the race venue I watched the temperature drop from 31 to 27. Any hope of avoiding ice was gone. Hottie pleaded for me to be careful, or skip it all together.

John “The Destroyer” and I passed our tests and were admitted to the race. They were handing out bike lights and I gladly took one. It turned out to be quite the light and for the time being has suspended my longing for the light & motion 150.

The race director had encouraged creativity and we responded accordingly. I had lights on my bike and a cape on my shoulders. I took some laps on the icy course and warmed up. In fact, I kept riding just to fend off the cold as long as I could. When the chosen hour was almost upon us I noticed riders milling around a section of the course that was icy. Summoning my leadership skills I said, “follow me,” and they did. We lined up and my spot became the official start line.

I got a good start and was riding about sixth. Someone tried to pass me on the inside of a tight turn and bobbled and went down and the riders were stopped behind him. I took advantage of the new gap and was riding well. The crown was loud and large. Fans were spraying beer on riders on the off camber and big sweeper turn. I held my spot all through the first lap and rode up and down the icy hill of death on this first lap. I came down and sprinted on the pave’ and was still holding my top ten spot at the beginning of the second lap.

On the second lap as I approached Satan’s off camber I saw what looked like a cloud but turned out to be some kind of liquid spray. I rode the off camber as I had thirty times before on this long weekend of racing and my wheels shot out from under me on the ice that had formed from the frozen beer spray. I hit my right side hard and heard “The Destroyer” shout encouragement as he passed me. I quickly got up and my hobnails gripped and I was back on and chasing. I was a few places behind The Destroyer and I was looking for opportunities to pass. I was pretty fast over the barriers and aside from a bobble on a hairpin turn was riding well.

When I was approaching the icy hill of death I could see too many riders in front of me. I guessed there would be a bump, or dab, or something, and expected riders would soon be walking up the hill. I hit the bottom fast and saw my fears materialize. I dismounted quickly and ran, shouldering my bike. I passed some riders and was working my way back up. I was behind John as we hit Satan’s off camber for the third time. The Destroyer slid out and I rode around him to the raucous cheers of an inebriated crowd. John and I hung together the rest of the lap and picked off more riders. We both managed to ride up and down the icy hill of death and then we rode together on the pave as fans cheers us on in our matching costumes. On the fourth lap we both successfully navigated the off camber and after hitting the barriers a second apart, it was all over.

We were like rock stars as the crowd continued to cheer as we stood around in the frozen night air. The fans were shivering, only the riders were warm. I assume we collected top ten places, but alas, perhaps we will never know.

The race with hypothermia began shortly thereafter and we changed and returned home and showered. It was close to midnight when we called it a day. I prepared a story for Andrew and sent it off at an ungodly hour.

It had been a long season and I had been looking forward to reaching the point where I could say, “done.” Now that the moment had arrived, I kind of wanted it to go on a little longer.

We had decided to skip the next morning’s races and sleep in. I tiptoed into bed, closed my eyes, and I was out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CX Nationals Day 2

Friday dawned clear and slightly warmer. We had been fearful that it would again be a single digit morning for our juniors who would start the racing for the day at the painful hour of eight o’clock. Fourteen degrees had never felt so warm. The field was small in both dimensions as about a dozen seventy pound girls took off at the gun for the first race of the day. Our own Claire finished fifth and was able to stand on the podium and bring home a medal. Sadly there were some little league parents who were seeking vicarious glory at the expense of their frozen children. I am glad to say our team was encouraging to our young riders without instilling any fear, guilt, or unrealistic expectations.

The course had gotten worse and worse each lap during my race the afternoon before. I figured that since the conditions were changing all the time, I questioned if I should take a few practice laps during the open course period at noon, since my race was at 3:30. I decided the benefit of riding the course was eclipsed by the hassle of changing into riding clothes, then changing into warm clothes post ride and changing again for my race.

I warmed up on the trainer and felt ready to go. The sun was warming the day and I decided to wear knee warmers instead of full legs as I had the first day. I put on my huge jacket and took it off in the starting grid. I was 134th in my field of 150. I hooked my helmet camera to my stem and shot video of the first two laps. I was lined up behind George Jackson who won my category in the Seattle Cyclocross series.

At the gun I took off, but I knew there would be a cluster at the first turn and I would be walking, so my motivation to hurry up and get in line was poor. After the first turn I was still on George’s wheel and I thought that was pretty good. I stayed upright and was doing well. A little past the pits, I swung wide on a corner and found myself on a bad line, and lost some places. At a tight turn a hundred meters later a few riders went down and others were stalled behind the crash and I moved past them and held my position.

When we got to the mini off camber I ran it and moved up some more places. I then bombed the cliff and was feeling pretty good. I held on up, across, down and back on to the mesa and passed some riders as we paralleled the pits. Sam was manning the pits and I appreciated his yelling on our behalf.

The fun part of the course allowed me to pass some more riders at the barriers and on the pave’. I rode the steep hill while others were forced to walk. This also gained me some places. I remounted and let it fly down the hill. I figured it was a bike with round wheels and if I just hung on and didn’t over think it the bike would do its thing and I would arrive at the bottom alright. This naïve approach worked fine for me.

Then I opened up on the approach to the finish line and tucked in front of another rider as we turned back onto the frozen stuff. The second lap was good and I passed some riders with power and at other times just by not going down. I was moving up on my teammate when I felt the horrible rumbling of a tubular going flat. I leaned way over the bars to take weight off my flat rear tire as I wasn’t too far from the pits. I entered the pits and tried to yell for Sam, but I was out of breath and my face was numb from the cold so my yell sounded more like a seal call.

Sam appeared and we had about the worst rear wheel change in the history of Cyclocross. I finally jumped on and was able to fly with the lack of traffic on the course. The lap times were quick and the size of the field meant I was already four minutes back on the first lap. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be lapped and subsequently pulled from the race. I rode hard and on an icy corner where my tubulars had afforded me decent traction earlier, my rear clincher slid out and I found myself running as my bike slid on the ice alongside me. I quickly grabbed my orange machine and chased for the pack. On the fun side of the course I was indeed caught and pulled as I crossed the line. I had started 134th and finished 93rd, so I passed a fair number of riders before my race was called. I had been riding with George, and I count that as good and I was rumored to have been catching Big John, so tick off another one in the good category.

Sam was apologetic about the horrid wheel exchange, but I was philosophical and said it would help me prepare for my Championship of the Universe race Saturday night. I put on my big jacket and rode my put wheels back to the war wagon.

In short order we were back at the condo and after a wonderful, but short, hot shower we were eating salad, bread and spaghetti. After dinner I managed, to my absolute surprise, to repair my punctured tubie. I then put lights on my bike in preparation for my final race of 2009, scheduled for Saturday night.

Despite the good company we were all tired and soon we fell into bed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CX Nationals Day 0 and Day 1

I am splitting my accounts into daily bits.

Day 0 and Day 1
On Wednesday the plan was to depart from my work at 2:00. Hottie and I pulled out at 3:00 under clear skies and freezing temperatures. As we crossed over the Cascades the sun moved from low in the southern sky to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and we enjoyed a cloudless starry night. Nineteen, fourteen, twelve, zero, and finally negative four, were the temperatures I called out as we continued to hit new lows while we drove through the inky darkness to Bend, Oregon for the National Championships.

We pulled into John “The Destroyer’s” condo a little past ten at night. John and Hank were quick to help unload the war wagon and soon I was sitting in the hot tub with a beanie keeping my hair from freezing.

Early Thursday morning John and I set off to set up the team tents. The outside temperate was -7 F. Dressed like Eskimos we were soon setting up in the site we had reserved amongst the pros and vendors. We picked up race packets and coffee and returned to the condo.

When we got back to the race venue our teammates were there and the tents were populated with propane heaters glowing a beautiful orange. By this time it had warmed to near 15 degrees. Because it was so cold I changed into a ton of cycling clothing with the urgency of a ten year old boy fidgeting in line for the bathroom after guzzling a half gallon of Mountain Dew.

The course was an icy nightmare and riders were dropping like there were trap doors on the course. On dry surfaces you fall when your momentum overcomes gravity and, like a falling tree, you tip over. On Ice it is like that falling tree has wheels on the bottom and the motion is straight down. The falls were fast and the ground was frozen so the falls hurt. Some sections had snow and could be navigated with some semblance of control. There were a couple spots that had been cleared of snow and although the grass was frozen solid, it seemed it could be ridden. There was ample profanity on the course and lap times were slow.

When it came time for my race I found myself in the middle of the pack and at the gun I took off like the rest of the lemmings. Someone went down on the ice in the first corner and after others fell on the pile up on as if it were a football fumble, the rest of us had to dismount and walk around the carnage. I felt like I was trying to get into Wal-Mart one second after the doors opened on Black Friday. Once I was able to get on and ride the race was almost fun. I was passing riders and getting passed as anything other than the single line was just crap.

Here is my description of the course:
We were staged at the end of a road and the first one hundred meters was only ridden at the start and then closed off for the remainder of the race. Another hundred meters of straight asphalt took us under the finishing banner and then we climbed up a short steep grassy hill to another tight ninety degree left hand turn. Then a long gradual descent on bumpy rutted ice and snow led to a sheet of ice where we (were supposed to) turn right and parallel the pits. Then a gradual right hander and a slight climb to an icy off camber that had a rider go down and break something on the first lap of my race. I had seen riders go down there on every practice lap I took, so I exercised a degree of caution. The course then zigzags around trees and finally emerges to run alongside a road before a series of tight turns and a wicked off camber that seemed to take riders down without rhyme or reason. I ran this section in my race and passed fallen riders, or those stuck behind fallen riders, each lap. Then we went down a drop off that made me want to close my eyes it was so steep. The more cautious riders actually walked downhill in three areas of the course and this was the first one. Then a steady climb where you wanted to apply power; but if you pedaled too hard, your back wheel would spin out and you found yourself going sideways if you were lucky, or going down on the ice if you were not. A steep drop into a series of horribly bumpy, icy S-curves and then a climb up to what we referred to as the mesa. You had to quickly get up speed and huck your bike up to get on top and then an icy left hander to test your balance. Then in twenty meters you hit a drop that had been snowy when I warmed up and was now an icy rut-fest. This drop scared me to death. If you managed to stay upright the drop itself gave you too much speed to make the icy one eighty that brought you back up on the mesa. There is nothing like braking AND turning on ice to make you question your motivation. Now we were on a gradual downhill that let you build up enough speed so that when you hit the left hander you could go down like a bowling pin. Getting back up you now had a long straight past the other side of the pits. A steady climb followed by some S turns takes you across the road and into the “technical” section of the course.

The “technical” section of the course is what the Clydesdale event was held on so the balance of this would be the description for that course. A bumpy descent on frozen grass was about the safest portion of the course (there were several serious crashed on the pavement) then you grabbed your brakes for a banked right hand turn. Winding around you reached the run up, which was a set of wooden stairs that had composite shingles on them so they had good traction the whole week. At this point you are parallel to, but heading in the opposite direction to, the finishing straight. The course then descends a wicked off camber that should have been guarded by a Troll as it took down random riders from ten year old girls to the man leading the pro race, Jeremy Powers. This off camber was as slippery as a moss covered rock except much harder. If you survived this you hit a sweeping banked corner that was a dream to ride in every condition. A one eighty turn up, then down, a hill followed by barriers that you hit at full speed. Full speed barriers are fun. In the Seattle series we always seemed to have barriers just past sharp turns to you seldom had much speed. After the barriers you had a snowy, icy series of one eighties and onto a short bit of pave. At times this pavement was icy and riders going down here collected some horrid road rash. Two tight turns brought you to a hill that could at times barely be ridden, and at times not at all. I rode it most of the time, but on early laps of my races one person having to dismount meant we all had to dismount. Your reward for reaching the top was a steep icy descent that many chose to walk even during the races. A hundred and fifty meters of pave brought you to a right turn onto the one hundred meter finishing straight.

So I raced this course lap after lap. I was in front of some riders with whom I had contested in the Seattle series. I felt pretty good about this. To my great horror the drop offs were getting worse and worse each lap. The technical sections provided recovery time between power sections so I could have ridden longer. The fear factor kicked in and when they shouted ‘all done’ as I crossed the line I was both sad to have the race over because I felt I had more in the tank, but thankful to be done with the downhills of death for the day.

I quickly put on a thick jacket and beanie as I tried to beat hypothermia that was trying to take over my bones. We packed up and headed for the condo. Later than night more of our team arrived and we had all the pizza we could handle as we swapped stories of our heroic exploits.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I’ve made the list and checked it twice. I tweak it almost every day. I’ve got all the tricks set for CX Nationals in Bend. Hobnail boots, check; De-Icing spray, check; hot packs to put in my shoes, check. Saint Bernard with embrocation….

The last minute running around has been a little hectic; but so far it has all gone according to plan. John is handling wardrobe, I got some spikes to anchor the tent in the permafrost. The bike is dialed in. Pit wheels are ready to go.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I slept in today

Some people think cyclocross is boring. Can you imagine ? Give this guy a cowbell and turn him loose..... I think this was one of Santa's helpers getting rested for the big night..

Friday, December 4, 2009

Curtlo CX frame review

Proud Evo with the orange machine

I was assessing my season and had come to the realization that my bike handling skills had gone from a D to a B. It was a long time coming. Then reluctantly I realized it wasn’t me, it was the bike.

In 2009 I was fortunate enough to upgrade to a Curtlo Steel CX frame. For a completely custom frame it was very affordable and it was built by a true veteran frame builder residing in the wilderness Nirvana of Winthrop, Washington.

My past CX riding had been on three different aluminum frames. I started on a Specialized CX frame with a Campy drive train. I later sold that frame and went to a Kona Jake the Snake. I added a carbon fork and although I painted the Jake and loved the way it looked, I was forever washing out the front wheel and it just didn’t seem to want to hook up when the terrain was rough. I picked up a spare Ibex CX frame which I built into a single speed, and despite the anonymity of the Ibex bike name, that frame (to me) handled the best of the three aluminum frames. The Ibex later evolved into a commuter bike for me.

My hope was that a custom steel bike would fit me better and provide a more compliant platform. I could not imagine being any happier with the results. I wanted a more upright riding position to improve handling and a slightly sloping top tube to give some clearance without looking like a step through frame. I was able to pick my color and discussed my desired ride characteristics at length with Doug Curtiss (The “Curt” in Curtlo).

I am big for a cyclist, but I am usually able to find a decent fit at the top end of most stock frame sizes. Lucky for me, I am not tall or wide enough that I need to shop for clothing in special stores. About the only real oddity is that I run 180 cranks when I can find them, and for my cross bike I haven’t found them.

When I first saw my CX frame, it was proud to be in my team color of “Eddy” orange and sported a tall head tube, which I had said was okay. The sizing was perfect and it made going from my road bike to my cross bike painless. I had asked for the holy grail of bike building, a compliant back end for traction and comfort, and stiff front triangle so when I applied the power it went into forward progress rather than frame flex. Once again, the Curtlo frame delivered. The elegant tubes were shaped to provide the stiffness I wanted and the seat stays are gently curved to enhance the compliance. The joints are beautiful and the simple lines give the bike a timeless look that speaks class.

I had won some SRAM swag at a race a while back and had set up my commuter with SRAM Rival controls and drive train. My oldest was riding that and when I was tuning it for him I was so impressed with the ergonomics I stripped off my Campagnolo Record right shifter (and Chubby left hand brake lever) and installed the SRAM shifters. They work like a dream with my Campy Chorus back end. I picked up a Dura Ace crankset (175) with worn out rings and painted it black and coupled that with a Chris King BB to complete my Rodney King (Can’t we all just get along?”) build.

The frame is able to handle the stiff crankset, yet I can stand up for anything loose without losing traction. I still have to keep it planted to maintain grip on slippery mud uphill’s. I can roll through corners faster and with much more control than any aluminum frame. I also haven’t washed out my front end once all year. It is light and agile and the angles are perfect for cross.

A few seasons ago the guy I always found myself battling in the final lap was a fellow named Steve. I would power past him on climbs and long straights only to have him squirt past me on technical sections. I was all muscle and he had the bike handling skills. Although I haven’t seen Steve for a couple years, this season I was the one with the bike handling skills and when I combined that with the power that I still have, I was pleased with the results. Part way through the season I also made the leap to tubular tires and that was also a huge improvement. Based on the time I rode on clinchers, I am convinced the frame was fully half the equation.

Evo flying atop the Orange flash !

There is more than a little Karma packed into the frame from its builder Doug Curtiss. While some proudly point to their carbon steeds that were made far away in smelly factories by people wearing (I hope) hairnets, goggles and breathing apparatus. I feel an eerie power from the Zen that went into metal tubes that were measured, cut, ground, shaped and welded by a man whom I have met and talked with. I know the bike was made in a place where the air is fresh and the snow piles high in winter. I am honored to ride the handiwork of the artisan who crafted my bike with the same skill that he used built bikes that were ridden in the Olympics and in races around the world.

This is an awesome ride !

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Say goodbye to Hollywood

Lights, camera, traction ! For what I sincerely expect will be the final time in 2009 I rolled out of my driveway a few minutes after five in the morning for a pre work training ride. The air was a brisk 34 degrees and my face felt like I had just splashed on a heaping helping of Old Spice for the first five minutes. The climb warmed me and soon only my eyes were cold.

The new batteries were a huge improvement to my feeble light, although I still yearn for the Light & Motion Stella 150N which strikes a good balance between cost and performance for my occasional pre dawn outings (and can be found on sale from time to time).

My purpose this morning was to just log some saddle time, burn calories and not go hard. I will confess I really enjoyed the last part. Especially since there was abundant frost on lawns, cars and the like, this was a day where not being in a rush was a much safer way to roll.

I am realizing that my training needs more contrast. I am riding a few days a week, but I haven’t really allowed myself many “easy” days. I need to make my hard days harder, and my easy days easier. I think I have inadvertently trained myself to go at 90% all the time.

When I left work last night the moon was rising in the east (where it usually does) and the sky was cloudless and the moon looked like a spotlight. This morning the moon was in the western sky and still as bright as ever. Even as I pulled into work this morning the moon had not yet set. It was a reminder of how short the days are now.

Next week I will be racing in Bend where it will be sunny and below freezing. While I spent all last winter perfecting the 35 degree ride, it will be colder in Bend, and I will be racing instead of just riding.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seattle CX Series Finale Monroe Race Report

I guess I thought it meant lungging..

With mixed emotions I bid farewell to my 2009 Washington State Cyclocross campaign. It was a great year and I truly enjoyed the camaraderie of being on a team. The foolish (and I would not pass up an opportunity to be foolish) among my team will be journeying to Bend, Oregon for the Cyclocross National Championships in December.

I raced in all of the 2009 Seattle Cyclocross races as well as the warm up races of Starcrossed, the Rad Racing GP, and the Labor Day flat tire fest. I am expecting that the scene in Bend will be worthy of a report or two and I am expecting an epic final chapter to my Cross Season saga. I will therefore end my ruminations about the season and confine the balance of my report to this race.

On a last minute whim, I decided to run a local neighborhood fun run on Thanksgiving morning. Perhaps a hundred runners set off in a light grey drizzle and Zach promptly bid me adieu and shot to the front of the parade. He would finish a very honorable third. I found myself moving up and to my amazement I think I collected what has become my race place, fifteenth. The large meal later that day was uneventful, and I went to bed only a little sore from my race.

I slept in Friday, but when I did decide to get up, my legs screamed at me. My quads, my hamstrings and my calves all felt like they had been beaten with metal pipes. I ran competitively in high school and college and despite thousands of miles of cycling, and limiting my runs to a short jaunt once or twice a month, I somehow still see myself as a runner. This perception may finally be changing as it took a concerted effort to get ready to ride Sunday. Massage (thank you Hottie), Aleve, hot showers and finally a visit to the Shoreline YMCA to soak in the hot tub Saturday evening, were all aimed at getting this broken rack of bones ready to go fast Sunday morning. I’m not sure which race or illness I am still recovering from; but I spent an amazing amount of my four day weekend sleeping. The slumber helped tremendously and I was able to suit up and complete my Cyclocross mission this past Sunday.

When I was loading the final provisions into the war wagon Sunday morning the only thing that really hurt was going down the stairs. Since the only running we normally do in Cyclocross is on level ground for barriers or uphill for run ups, I figured I was safe.

I was wrong yet again. The course had a downhill-off camber-uphill sequence that looked like it would be best to run it at least on the first lap in heavy traffic.

The start was the usual circus, and I gave up some spots only to gain them back quickly on the grassy turns. I had two guys that were near me in points, Bob from Old town whom I had just snagged last week at Sedro Woolley and Francisco who I had battled most of the year. Bob and I were separated by a single (drop the lowest race) point and whoever prevailed Sunday would prevail in the series. Up on “the grassy knoll” I was chasing Francisco and Bob was chasing me. I fought to keep a gap and whenever there were hairpins I could see my teammate Mike ahead and I was on Francisco’s wheel and Bob was behind me.

When we came to the downhill-off camber-uphill challenge, I knew it was going to be painful. This first lap as everyone bunched up and grabbed their brakes to creep down the steep loose hill under some semblance of control, I dismounted and blasted down, across, and up and passed four or more riders. The downhill hurt and a patient person could search and find my contorted face on Hottie’s smugmug site and laugh at my plight.

The loose corner was best negotiated with an outrigger..

As the race wore on, Bob lost contact and Francisco and I were closing in on Mike. With half a lap to go we had gapped any other riders in our category. I sat on Francisco’s wheel and, like a hungry cat, I waited to pounce. The downhill-off camber-uphill sequence went fine and I held off till the run up. I blitzed him by taking a steep line to the left that was more like climbing a ladder than stairs but it gave me the inside line as the course turned left. I muscled through the wet sand and deep mud had a good corner coming off the hill. I stomped it on the gravel road and took the pavement of the finishing straight really, really fast. I crossed the line and I’ll check the results to see what his time was. To my amazement I wasn’t as cooked as I have been after other races. Perhaps my tender legs had kept me under control?

Hottie continued to shoot the races and got some outstanding shots on the day. I collected some swag when they started tossing it to the crowd. While I may not be able to win many awards in Cyclocross races, if they gave away finishing positions based on how well one did on jump balls, or how well one could jump and collect swag when standing among women who average less than five and a half feet tall, I’d do okay.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Woolley Cross Race Report

Davo earning his spots !

In stark contrast to last week’s race that was so close we didn’t even need to get on the freeway, this week we headed out before dawn. Seven AM saw the war wagon on the road with Hottie and I armed for our respective battles. The grey sky looked foreboding and the cold rain was relentless. This was primo Cyclocross weather.

In every other season, my business travel has taken me away and I always missed a series race or two, this year I have been in every race. Consequently I have earned enough points to be in a good position on the call up list. In the past I was always glad just to get a call up, now I am in a prime position on the second row and that is about as good as I could hope. This pathetic shot at middle aged glory has kept me pushing hard and my patient Hottie has been fully supportive of my quest.

This past week I was again flirting with the fine line between training hard and killing myself. Friday I left work early because, despite my finely honed denial skills, I suspected I was getting the flu. A ton of sleep and a lazy Saturday later, I was feeling almost okay.

Spring in rural Washington is a festival of greens. The greens can be so bright they border on florescent. Conversely, the winters in the low lands are full of fields of matted green grass and stalks of brown weeds and the skeletal remains of blackberry bushes alive under dark skies. Fallen leaves form a layer of brown decaying slimy ooze that never ever dries.

We arrived at the venue to find abandoned drafty farm buildings and the green and brown foliage described above. Everything was wet and the rain just kept coming. I opted to walk some of the course under my trusty umbrella to prolong my dry state. I saw riders out on the course warming up wearing parkas with mud stripes up their backs. This was going to be a slop fest.

I dressed and added an extra layer to peel off before the start and rode my extra wheels way, way, way out to the pit at the far end of the course. I rode the course from the pits back to the starting area. For the first time all year, I didn’t even ride a full loop of the course. I wasn’t quite a hundred percent and the cold cut me to the bone.

At the start line I checked my front tire and it felt hard so I let out a few psi. Then I felt it again and it was softer than a sponge. Big problem and maybe two minutes till the whistle. Panic time. When I had first checked it I had been leaning on my handlebars so my weight on my front tire had made it seem harder than it was. A quick dash to the Kona tent and a friendly pump from a stranger had me race ready. I returned to the starting line and took my spot. I was chatting it up with a guy from Old Town Bikes and I took off my jacket, pants and beanie and tossed them aside. The rain had slowed and I was hoping it hold off. I was wrong.

At the whistle I got a good start and was happy with my position when a few heroes shot past. Forty five year olds dreaming of glory I suppose. On the sweeping right hand downhill we were still flying from the start and a pile up on the right side made my line on the left the only place to be. Three lanes of riders merging into one lane caused me to grab my brakes.

“Holy crap,” I thought as I squeezed my brakes and felt almost nothing. I had switched out my front brakes and put on some new pads. I had meant to ride the CX bike on Friday to break in the pads, but as I said earlier, I felt poorly Friday, so I didn’t ride. I had essentially no warm up today, so my brakes were getting broken in right now! Stoooopid, I thought to myself.

The double track road had some puddles and that just led to splashes. Then the road turned muddy with large car-sized puddles. Most riders were riding single file on some grass to the right of the road but a brave soul in front of me tore through the mud and I elected to do the same. This proved smart as I passed about five riders who had been forced to slow as they took the single line to the right of the bog.

I hit the barrier/run-up combo and moved up again. Some bumpy grass took us past the pits and then another speed draining bog had to be navigated before a slippery, but straight, downhill. Then we were churning up a slippery uphill that required you to sit to keep your back wheel from spinning out and then Batman, more barriers. Then we were on a long boggy mud fest that took herculean strength to keep your bike moving even in your lowest gear. Some elected to run this but running in mud takes a ton of energy and seemed to be slightly, if at all, faster. The end of the bog brought you to a gravel road.

Before you think we were riding on a gravel road I need to clarify that while it was kind of a road, and the surface was indeed gravel, it was deep, soft, easily displaced gravel that was akin to riding in soft sand. So while the gravel did serve to clean the mud from your tires like a rock tumbler, you were still working super hard and going super slow. After what seemed like an eternity, the road firmed up and soon you were in your highest gear flying toward the pits.

Some tricky turns on slippery grass brought you to a slip and slide descent on an S-curve trail with hill on your left and a cliff with blackberry bushes below it on the right. The climb out of this ravine was slimy and required lots of power to stay upright.

Sam at the bottom of the S-Curve downhill

A couple of grassy loops and then finally onto firm double track to head back to deep speed sucking grass just before the finishing straight.

This was a power course that had a few technical sections. The steep descents were generally handled at a cautious speed and the turns, with few exceptions, were sweepers that asked for power rather than bike handling skills.

I was in between my two teammates. Mike was a few places ahead of me and Dave a few seconds behind with an Old Town rider in between. About half way through the last lap the Old Town rider who I was talking to before the start passed me. I hung on his wheel and would not let go. I passed him on the long bog and he passed me back where the gravel road firmed up. I trailed him through the pits and down the slip and slide S curve. When the grassy turns dumped onto the double track I took the left lane after he took the right. I stood on the pedals and muscled past him. I could sense him giving up and kept the power on through the grassy bog and onto the finishing straight. I finished and rolled up to my teammate Mike who had finished eleventh.

I was fifteenth on the day and the final effort had taken whatever I had left right out of me. I slumped over my bars and fought to catch my breath. The fellow I beat congratulated me and we shook hands. Dave rolled up and was as spent as the rest of us. This was his first really muddy race and he had a look of astonishment. It is hard to believe grown men and women do this for fun. This was a good race and everyone was glad the suffering was over.

The cold rain had increased during the ride and most riders, including myself were sitting second in a race with hypothermia. I left my bike at the team tent and let my pit wheels enjoy the rain as I raced back to the wagon and stripped off the muddy layers. Shoes, gloves, jersey (with number – I’d unpin that at home) and finally knees and bibs all into the wet bag. Standing on a rubber mat with a small towel on top I wrestled dry socks onto my wet feet. I put on layer upon layer as well as my thick beanie and warm gloves. I looked around to see other riders performing their post race rituals. A woman had a blue tarp covering the entire back of the inside of her Subaru and she tossed her muddy bike, soiled clothes and everything else in a heap, apparently without care, no doubt intending to sort it out when she could feel her fingers. At the back of a pick up truck a woman handed her man a coffee thermos which he opened and poured the black contents over his feet to wash and warm them. The steam rising told me it was warm, the lack of screaming told me it wasn’t too hot.

I returned to help Hottie with her shooting by sheltering her with an umbrella as she did her magic. I am sitting eleventh in the series and will have a good position for the series finale next week.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sprinker - SSCXWC 2009 Doing the Double Cross The confidential report

Finally the race weather was cool enough to embrocate. After donning my long sleeve jersey for the first time this racing season and warming up I returned to the wagon and opened my precious jar of gooey heat. Slipping on a latex glove I took a finger full of the orange fire and smeared it on my exposed quads, knees and calves. The warming smell of Cyclocross wafted to my nose. The start at Sprinker seemed all too fast and sketchy for my conservative judgment. I hit the first corner about twenty-fifth and spent the rest of the race moving up. I was running just over thirty psi up front and about thirty-four in back. The tubies bit like vampires and I kept the rubber side down.

After a consistent, though unspectacular 15th place finish, I made my way to the war wagon. The intermittent rain had come and gone during my race. My bike had a thin, but thorough coating of mud and grass. I managed to get it secured for the remainder of the day’s travels, and changed into some dry duds. I found the superstar photographer and provided her minimal support as she shot it up for the next two races.

Although John “The Destroyer” McHale had offered to keep his bike a mono cog for an additional week and let me race that, I had opted to return Sam’s Kona to the mud from which it had originated. The decision turned out to be a lucky one as once again John proved himself the bicycle torture test. His herculean strength resulted in multiple mechanical failures on the varied course. How do you break a brake?

After the 11:15 race we sped to Taco del Mar and refueled our bodies for the remaining items on the agenda. Once we were heading south on I-5 the rain did exactly the opposite of what we had expected and got heavier and harder. Occasional glimpses of blue sky gave us fleeting moments of false hope. Speaking of hope, as the radio signal for the Sounders game faded, so did their playoff hopes. Three miles from the Columbia another deluge told us that while we would surely get wet, the racing in Portland would be epic. On the way down I had placed my gloves, which were wet from my race, over the defroster vents and flipped them every few minutes like pancakes to try and get them dry. On a whim, I had hung my long sleeved jersey on the back of my seat hoping it too might get dry.

We found a parking spot and walked toward the scene of the crime. The riders leaving from their Cross Crusade races looked like battle weary soldiers, covered with mud as if they had been swimming in it. More than one thousand mile stare from these broken souls told me all I needed to know about the course conditions. These spent men and women walked bikes with broken derailleurs, glopped so completely with mud that if someone walked past you with your bike, you wouldn’t recognize it.

We were greeted by the smell of barbeques and wood fires mixed with the scent of frites, waffles and hop beverages. I would say the scene was a circus needing only a juggler, but there was in fact, a woman dressed in black leather juggling torches. Bagpipes competed with several small stereo systems, but the drum corps provided the definitive backbeat for the afternoon festivities.

Battling sensory overload we made our way to secure my race number and get some finer points on the schedule for the race activities. Back at the war wagon I ducked under the tailgate as the rain kept coming and dug out clothes for my second race of the day. I was delighted to find my jersey had dried so the short sleeve jersey and arm warmers stayed clean in the bag. I put on clean bibs, knee warmers and undershirt. Sealskin waterproof socks were the ticket, although I put my 20/20 colors on over them. While image isn’t everything, it is something. Lastly I put Kevin’s super fro hair over my helmet as some level of costume was de’ rigueur for the day.

We lined up semi- Le Mans style. Those wearing thongs, skirts, tighty-whities, or shirtless were fighting off hypothermia waiting for the starting Whistle. I spotted Jenny in her 20/20 kit with an added fairy skirt for effect. She had a foot or so of course tape attached to her helmet to indicate she was one of the fairer gender riders. This seemed odd to me as NO amount of mud could result in the males who were cross dressing being mistaken for women.

The start had the expected chaos of two hundred and fifty riders squeezing onto a course that was ten feet wide. The run up was steep, crowded and slippery. Then we hit an off camber of oozing mud that I never figured out the best way to navigate. I ran it twice and rode it twice, each time convinced that what I had just done was wrong.

Quickly we were headed up a slippery hill that you just had to muscle/run/swim/slip/claw your way up and then your silent prayers were answered. After thinking, “enough slippery uphill,” you hit a downhill that you had to pedal to get moving. Though once moving, pedaling, braking or coasting had no effect on your speed as you slid down and onto pavement. Going fast felt strange and soon you were sliding down another steep off-camber and then pavement again. Then we did an infield loop where you could receive offers of bacon or beer while enjoying barriers. Finally we heading out to remote mud bogs alternated with sections of gravel road forcing an ever changing cadence. A hub deep one hundred meter pond provided the full spectrum experience.

Then returning to where you started you rode through the Thunderdome A monkey bar dome thirty feet high that would have made Buckminster Fuller proud. Swinging inside were cunning assassins trying to knock unlucky riders to the ground. Having climbed up the outside of the structure were screaming fans that kept up a raucous roar in the dome. After escaping the din you repeated the carnage of the lap described above until the day was done.

The costumes were plentiful, to the point where riders just wearing team uniforms looked out of place. Popes, Friars, Missionaries, Nuns, and Men dressed in Parochial school girl uniforms only added to the blasphemous atmosphere. Odd bikes, including a big wheel (I mean a really big wheel, 48” in diameter) and built for purpose tandems made it at least one lap. Those of us less encumbered, were able to enjoy multiple laps.

When the race officials finally shouted, “you’re done,” it was received with mixed emotions. The conditions of the course meant everyone had to work hard just to make it around. Costumes only added to the challenge. However, being part of the spectacle and having fans screaming for you, felt so good I was sad to see it end.

Sam’s bike was by now, unrecognizable. If not for Kevin’s “trolling” wig, my own sweet wife would have been unable to spot me. Back at the wagon, I hosed the bike and brushed off the globs. Laying down protection from the mud, I carefully put the bike INSIDE the car for what was to be a rainy drive home.

Then I peeled off sopping wet muddy layers and put on clean, dry clothes. My dirty clothes sack was bulging from two wet races. I splashed water on my face and wiped it (almost) clean. While the photographer edited photos on the Mac most of the way home I enjoyed the remnants of tingling warmth from the morning’s embrocation. I also smiled a weary smile, warmed by the memory of pulling off the long distance double cross.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yankee Fans raise your hands !

So the rest of us can stab you in the heart..

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

EMP and the morning training ride

Locally EMP is the widely recognized term for Experience Music Project. EMP could be considered the coolest guitar collection ever, or kind of a huge, and really ugly Hard Rock Café that serves lousy food. Alas, I have digressed.

ECP is an acronym for Effective Candle Power a.k.a. Candelas; a measure of light intensity. My aviation career has allowed me to dabble in some weird corners of the technical universe and this bit of trivia was found in one such corner. This morning on my 32 mile ride that was finished before sunrise, the already pathetically flaccid headlight on my bike ate through its batteries and I had to strain to see what I was riding on/into. I was at this same time contemplating what unit of measure would be less than a single ECP? Less light than a single candle, that would have to be a match. So I figure my light (The WUSSY 1000) was putting out an estimated 1.5 EMP (Effective Match Power) on my ride this morning.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a good ride this morning. My light still sucks, but I figure I only have four or five more opportunities to be run over in the dark before the end of Cyclocross season. And once the season ends, I can’t imagine what would motivate me to get up at four something and log thirty to fifty miles in the dead dark of winter. My hope that my blog followers would vote at the 2009 annual Evo Davo fanfest to raise funds for a real light can be postponed until the days are long once again.


The little romance we were having with a mild fall has ended abruptly. The weekend started off very well, and there was sunshine Saturday. Despite the good weather, our list of accomplishments for Saturday was short.

With increased photographic ambitions, Hottie was loaded for bear Sunday morning. On the way to the race we scooped up my good friend Johnny B and were treated to an eastern sky that went from orange to pink before turning grey and threatening. I considered the fact that the sky matched our team’s accent colors a good omen. We had Betty the Beast with us and her cheering was a definite inspiration. I won’t go into much detail here, but suffice to say, that woman knows what to do with a cowbell.

I was a little rushed getting ready for the race, but I can’t say it mattered in the end. It was fun to see John with a number his back as well as my teammates all clustered together waiting for the start. I got a good start and the tubies were wondermus. The course suited me. There were four climbs; one long, steady and paved, two short, steep, grassy and bumpy, and one long and loose on gravel. In between those you tried to catch your breath and I even passed some on the downhills. Before you get excited, I was passed on the downhills as well. I passed people on the climbs every lap. I was glad to have good legs, as opposed to the meat sticks I was forced to spin last week.

On the last lap I was running out of gas, which I still attribute to my light training the previous two weeks. My two teammates passed me in unison and I hung onto Mike to finish 15th to his 14th. Another teammate collected a top ten finish. I can only suppose that with health, I could have joined in the top ten as well.

After the race I always wonder if I could have put out more effort. While I was riding back to the starting line to get my warm up jacket, I got out of the saddle for a little acceleration, and my quads clearly let me know they were angry with me. The pain told me loud and clear I should be happy with my race; and I am.

After Hottie snapped about a thousand more frames we went to her mom’s house where I first pulled down the awnings, then solved the Kohler puzzle, then installed new (old) sink fixtures. Finally after Hottie did some pruning in the rain, we finished the to-do list and returned home for photo editing and the remaining weekend chores that were awaiting our return.

The Beast follows the geese south for the winter this week, and we are left to endure the fun of winter in her absence. Those of us who remain will begin making plans for Bastille Day with The Beast.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Randonneuring is not for me

Evo blasting it on the cyclocross course !

Although I read the Randonneuring blogs with some interest, I have concluded it isn't for me. The factors that have drawn me to this conclusion are as follows:

  1. Although my teammates might disagree, I'm just not slow enough
  2. While I like wool, it is more of a plutonic relationship
  3. Warped self image aside, I'm not fat enough
  4. Despite my mother's life of trying, I can't endure bacon as well as I should
  5. Having climbed mountains and ridden passes, I'm not about to strap some big ass pack on my bike and fight gravity
  6. I just don't feel like giving some stuffed animal a perpetual ride on my bike
  7. Given the choice of carrying my own food and having someone else do it, I'm all about letting someone else get the glory
  8. Given the choice of carrying my shed layers or handing them to a loved one or support vehicle, once again I will share the load
  9. I think you wear mountain bike shoes when you mountain bike and road shoes when you ride on the road
  10. As discussed previously in this blog, my headlight is super wussy
Factors that made me think that maybe Rando was for me:
  1. I like wool
  2. I like oatmeal
  3. I like steel bikes
  4. I don't always have to go fast
  5. I like really long rides
  6. I do stupid things
There is more to cold than WOOL !!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Silver Lake Cyclocross SCX #3 2009

Evo hanging on in the sand...

After a week of battling the cold my father left me as a reminder of his visit; I pinned on my number and jumped into the Cyclocross fray. If there is something fun about riding in sand, I can't tell you what it is.

We had about a hundred yards of pave' before we were flailing in the lakeside dunes. The first lap looked like a YouTube crash video with guys splaying out in all directions when we hit the loose stuff. Crashes in front of me meant a long run for Evo. The beach seemed to go on for miles, and as the race wore on the pace slowed. The survivors then had a single file climb that was essentially neutralized because not only couldn't you pass, but as soon as one maroon dismounted, everyone behind that person had a similar fate. The north end of the course was twisty and gave a chance for recovery. Then a series of down and ups and back to the cursed sand "pit of despair."

A series of steep climbs on the south end of the course likewise had only sparse passing opportunities. I don't know how far up my cassette I got, but my 11 and 12 tooth cogs looked pretty clean when I was done. The only place to get up to speed was as we crossed the finish line each lap. Of all the courses I have done, this one had the most dismounts per lap.

My tubies were as advertised, though my legs were sluggish from the lack of working out this week. I can't say I was pleased with my placing, but when I crossed the line, I was spent.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Five days in October

The Romans put stone markers by the side of their roads at intervals so travelers could mark their progress. From this practice came the term “milestones.” This past week milestones were so plentiful I felt like I was skipping from one to the next without touching the ground.
On Saturday my sweet daughter got married.
On Sunday, Hottie who has been taking professional caliber photographs for years, found the venue to start making some actual cash !
On Monday, I called AAA (the auto club AAA, not the addiction folks AA) for the first time.
Tuesday my father showed none of the patience and wisdom one would expect of a 79 year old man, and was part of a group overpowering an unruly passenger on his commercial airline flight home (check the web on this one). Also on Tuesday, my dear mother broke free of the shackles that had bound her since the last millennium. She proceeded to toss her worn out rear view mirror in the garbage where it belonged, and started looking toward the future.
Today the course for the 2010 Tour de France was announced. See you on the Tormalet !

The only downside was amid this firestorm of events was the cold I caught from my visiting father. This is a small price to pay.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

3009 in 2009

In the pre dawn morning darkness, without any fanfare, I passed three thousand miles of riding for 2009. I do count miles on trainers and running miles so they aren’t all pure road riding miles, but they are all miles of calorie burning activity. When I entered the mileage for the day in my log I had 3009 miles.

For anyone with excessive spare time who follows this blog (and if you follow this blog, you have too much spare time) you may have noted my comments on my early morning rides this year beginning with commuting miles in the heart of winter and then fun pre work miles beginning in late May. Now it is dark and cold and these are pure training miles. When ‘Cross ends for 2009, so will these rides. In the meantime, I put on layers and continue my endless quest for the perfect glove for the given day. FYI; my trusty old PI full fingered gloves have a hole in the fingertip and I could feel that today.

About riding in the dark; Lights..

In the darkness, these rides are experiments in sensory deprivation. I suffer from light envy, but the price tag scares me away every time. Thus I ride with my feeble pale beam giving me cryptic hints of what lies ahead. When I am climbing at ten miles an hour the beam is fine, if not slightly forward of my relevant field of view. When I am churning on the Sammamish River Trail at twenty miles an hour in the darkness, the light only serves to let me know where the bushes are, and by determining where they are not, I am able to deduce where the trail is. The light doesn’t pick up the bumps, holes, and encroaching roots on the paved trail, so the unseen terrain throws me around. I label the bone jarring as ‘cross training, and thus justify the jostling. On the descents at thirty miles an hour the light is pitiful and I find myself contemplating my mortality every time. This morning I decided to purchase a ROAD ID so they can identify my broken body.

When I encounter other riders on the trail they are nearly all commuters who have amazing bright lights that blind me. As I see spots and struggle to stay upright and on the trail, I am reminded of a boyhood experience when my father took me to a college baseball field. The field was huge compared to my little league field and from home plate I couldn’t even throw the ball to the outfield grass on the fly. I realized I was a boy on a field made for men. That same feeling of inferiority hit me hard as I found myself passing rider after rider going the opposite direction with their laser beam lights virtually warming the asphalt as they passed. Meanwhile, I became aware I was defiling the bike trail with my wussy light. I felt inclined to apologize to the manly (and womanly) early morning hard core riders. I was glad when I was able to turn off the trail and make my way home on the less travelled side streets.

My level of interest when I awake for these early morning forays varies greatly. Today I was actually eager to go. Without fail when I finish every one of these I am energized and feel alive and grateful for the gift of the ride.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Trivia: Can you identify the National Champion who is fixing her chain ?

Building a bike can be a special experience. Getting the components installed and tuned so they function together in such a way that they almost become invisible. The rider is able to shift through gears, stopping and accelerating without having to give the mechanics a thought. The bike becomes an extension of the rider; efficiently translating energy into motion.

The individual parts, or components, usually fit together with little difficulty and the actual build can become fairly methodical. The resulting product works well, but because that is what was expected, there is not much of a thrill.

Then there is wheel building.

When I was first getting starting in cycling my friend Felix told me that building wheels was where the real fun was. Although I valued his opinion greatly, I generally dismissed this statement. However, I do still remember that he said it, so I must have given it minimal consideration.

In the past few years I have built a number of wheels and I find it a magical experience every time. You take a hoop, a hub, and a handful of flimsy wires and you make sturdy wheels that you, or someone, puts their faith and trust in. This isn’t like trusting someone to pay you back five bucks you loaned them. If a wheel fails there is no happy ending. A wheel failure won’t happen at six miles an hour meandering on a bike path. It will happen at thirty miles per hour as you’re leaning over taking a corner, or when you are braking hard. Wheels ONLY fail at the worst possible moments. This is what is at stake and why wheel building is not something to be taken lightly.

At first you feel like a kid trying to carry too many things as the spokes flail in the hub while you start lacing them into the rim. When you have finally put all of the spokes in, but not tightened them, the spokes seem like shiny noodles. It looks like a wheel, but the spokes billow out, the graceful arcs like long blades of grass bending in the wind. At this point you can’t believe this tumbleweed of wire will ever evolve into something sturdy and safe.

Then with the patience of an artist, I begin tightening the spokes. While this is kind of a science, a mechanical operation to an outside observer, it feels like art. In my mind, a piece of art must be balanced. I seek that same balance for obvious reasons. I tighten the spokes and then make the wheel round. I then set out to make it straight. Then I tighten it more. I repeat this process as often as needed and feel no hurry. I am in a Zen like state and time stands still. I can’t say it is a spiritual experience, but to see the transformation feels like magic.

I have always enjoyed working with my hands. When I was in my early teens, my shop teacher at school told me I should think about woodworking as a career. When I finally pronounce the wheel “done” I am again that happy child eager to show off my bird house or cutting board. I call in family members and show them my pride and joy as the wheels spins silently in my Park Truing Stand. There it is, Shiny as a new penny, straight as an arrow, strong as steel, light as a feather and as ready for action as a groom on his honeymoon.

Now, on to the gluing of the tubular….

Monday, September 28, 2009

Series Race Number One 2009 Evergreen HS


After a season of mediocre category three finishes, I elected to drop back to my old Category four 45plus race. When last Davo had raced Cat 4 I was a consistent top ten finisher and I wasn’t as dedicated a trainer as I have been the last couple years. My early forays into the Cat 3 were met with success.

As I lined up this morning, I found answers to some of my lingering questions. The reason I had been moving back in the Cat 3 races was the same reason I wasn’t out of place back in the Cat 4’s. I suck (just kidding). All of the categories have become bigger and more competitive. The fist two rows of the Cat 4 were not only all team riders; these were a pack of forty-five year old (plus) physical specimens. There were some newbies in the crowd, but the group of 45 plus was fifty riders thick and those guys were at the back of the starting pack.

The thirty-five plus group started a minute in front of us and they quickly spread out. When the whistle blew, I dug in and found myself in the top twenty. As soon as we hit the rough stuff, I recognized a familiar sound. I hadn’t removed my freaking saddlebag. I go to amazing lengths to lighten my race bike and I’m carrying a tube, a tool and a pump.

I worked to float over the rough stuff and lean over to take the corners tighter. Recalling my collegiate running career, this course was particularly well suited to a good runner. We were catching the back of the 35’s on the first run up and passing them became part of the challenge for the rest of the day. The first time we hit a short sandy hill the pack blew up and I was off (the bike) and running (literally). I was able to ride it the other three times and thanks to my steel frame and low pressure I was able to stand the whole way the last time and keep the wheels digging.

I could hear my teammates cheering me on and it really made a difference. I truly appreciated it. Thanks mates.

The course had a pair of downhill sections with switchbacks the required great navigational care. It was not unlike a downhill slalom with the riders shooting the gates. I jokingly referred to this part of the course as the neutralized zone and there was no chance to pass.

I put Ryan Trebon’s advice about just staying relaxed when you hit the barriers and found myself passing riders and I can’t say why. I didn’t really pick it up and I didn’t notice them stopping for beer or anything, but I moved up each time.

The last lap I was forcing myself to maintain focus and keep the bear off my back. A lapped rider on a tight corner worked to my advantage and I kept digging to get a gap on a rider who had been chasing my wheel.

As I closed in on the finish line I was juggling the various ride aspects. Stay loose, pedal hard, lean and steer with my shoulders, keep the weight back on the downhills. Pick the smart line, but don’t give any room on the inside. At this stage of the race, as Yogi might say, half of your performance is ninety percent mental. I think that nobody is going to pass me near the end, and in fact, I am a great finisher. This may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that is just fine.

I held off the guy who was chasing me and finished strong. I slumped over the bars and rolled around the track. I was toast. There wasn’t anything I left on the course today and when my body had screamed for me to slow down, my brain, my ego, my inner beast, or just my stupidity shouted down my body and I pushed on. In many endurance events there is a choice to soft pedal or cruise for a while, and catch your breath or just not suffer for a little, or a long while. Today I was pleased that when it really hurt, I kept going and didn’t give in. I don’t know the results yet, but I’m scoring it a win today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I stole one !

I had about three hours of work related phone calls this past weekend. It made a big dent in my racing schedule (more on that in another post). So when the forecast said 85 degrees for the first day of fall, I didn't feel too much shame taking a long lunch and riding down to the waters edge. A few moments on google maps and a wander down the aisles of my memory library and I thought I could make it here and back without raising eyebrows.

I put my blackberry in my back pocket and made my way here. Sleeveless jersey was the attire for the day and plenty of drink was smart as well. I had been on the beachfront street before on some Cascade Bicycle Club ride once or twice before. On those rides Hottie and I were bundled in cold weather gear. This sunny day was a complete bonus and on this first day of fall I do feel like I stole a day of summer from somewhere.