Doing it all the hard way...

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….