Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, December 31, 2010

That is it for 2010

Highlights of 2010:

Hottie relaxing between races at the USGP in Portland.
Hottie got her life back. Her surgery in January was both horrific and wonderful. The road back was long and arduous. She worked hard and her recovery is at the extreme good end of the spectrum.

Zach found Julie. Well done for both of them.

Tim sporting the "recumbent"beard.
Tim is finding peace in independence. I expect he will soon figure that his life is his alone and that only he can choose what he brings to it.

RJ is one baby step away from a whole new world.

Live it. After debating, we took a vacation to Hawaii. I had airline miles and we got a deal on a condo through a friend; so we were able to travel fairly cheap. We researched and did our snorkeling on our own instead of paying for guided trips this saving even more money. While I do love my kids, this was a trip for just the two of us, and it was a blast.

We are social people. It was a joy to meet new friends and wonderful to share experiences with old ones.

Tux came to live with us.

I hit some goals. I wanted to average ten blog entries a month and here I am. I lost the ten pounds I have been chasing for years. I had focus in my training.

Bike Stuff:
I am learning about this training thing. I won’t change much for 2011, except for adding more core work. My four keys were recovery, strength, flexibility and intervals. I’m adding a fifth for 2011; CORE. All my races had one of two outcomes, either a sore back, or a top eight finish.

For those of you keeping track I had 3,903 miles, 266 workouts, totaling nearly 300 hours of effort. Sorry, I get a little compulsive about tracking stuff. I thought about going for a long ride today so I could hit 4,000 for the year. We decided to go and watch these guys instead...

No regrets !
Carbon wheels are impressive. A feller I know manufactures Nine G carbon wheels and had me test a set for Cyclocross. I thought I would break them, but they took all I could dish out. They dampen vibration, corner like a dream, kept mud from accumulating, and kept me going straight when it got ugly. They look so freakin’ fast, there is a significant bitchin factor as well.

Glasses all the time. This year I rode all my races with eye protection. When the rain came down and the sticky mud flew up they kept the mess out of my eyes. It is easier to see out of wet lenses than trying to race with mud in your eye.

Waterproof socks don’t work for Cyclocross. The water runs down your legs and into your socks. Your feet don’t care if the water enters your socks through the sides, or in from the top. It seems a better method is to just wear a second pair of socks so there isn’t much room for water to occupy.

Cycling caps are actually functional. Historically I had always worn ear bands and let the top of my noggin breathe. I picked up a team cap and I found them to be the hot ticket for keeping spray and rain out of my eyes and it also provided some needed warmth.

It is still just fun to ride a bike. After working toward goals in Cyclocross, it was pure pleasure to get back on the road with my mates. Hottie and I have also shared some rides of late, and that is a real treat.

I have high hopes for 2011. Let’s go.

Snowboarding 2010

I received an enticing email solicitation from Hank and decided to join him at Crystal Mountain. I have been pretty limited in my snowboarding recently and am determined to make a comeback this season. Hank is an absolute weather fiend and when he says it is the perfect opportunity, you had better believe him. The previous days had dumped plenty of new snow and the coming days promised sunshine and crowds. Wednesday offered cloudy skies, cold temperatures and perfect snow. We arrived early enough to get a primo parking spot in the free lot. Walking to the lodge served as our warm up. Ticketing was smooth and soon we were on a lift.

I am a tall camper and I have a long board. It features a Polynesian mask, which is consistent with the Bavarian theme of most ski lodges.

The face of snow ?
It was my first (and only) boarding trip of 2010, my first time to Crystal, as well as my first time with Hank. Hank took me straight to the steeps and the virgin snow. We got off one lift and took another to the top of the mountain. We proceeded to hit every diamond and double diamond run Hank could find; and he found them all. Temps were cold and there was some wind on the ridge. We traversed to find clean lines and proceeded to carve it up.

Despite some glimpses of blue, the clouds never gave up and by about 12:30 it was snowing lightly. We caught some lunch and returned to the slopes only to face white out conditions..

Time to get your chill on...

I found Crystal to be a wonderful mountain, and by staying on the upper slopes we avoided most of the crowds and never had to wait long in lift lines. The snow was about as perfect as you could wish for, and by the time we left most every patch of new snow had seen skiers and boarders. Stevens Pass is my usual haunt and I would say the mix of skiers to boarders there is two skiers to every three boarders. At Crystal it looked to be about three skiers to every one boarder. We knuckle draggers were clearly the minority.

As the witching hour approached, my legs were getting wobbly and I had reached my limit of yard sale head over tea kettle experiences. Hank deserves accolades for showing patience as I kept crashing and getting up, or he deserves punishment for trying to kill me on the steep cliffs and bowls of the mountain.

The war wagon cloaked in white at the end of a long day..

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The trip to Nationals another retro post

The trip down to Bend for Nats included every kind of weather you can imagine. We had rain off and on all through Washington. We zipped through Portland and when we turned off to head toward the cascades the sky turned dark once more. We passed through forests that were so dark I wondered if they had ever seen the sun. The greens were so dark, the color seemed a variant of brown. Rust and moss coated everything. What side of a tree does moss grow on? In the Northwest; the answer is, "the outside." In the spring, this area will have greens so bright they border on neon; but for now, the feel is that of a rotting corpse waiting to be buried by snow.

As we climbed we spotted patches of snow and then near the crest, it was snowing on us. We descended to the high desert and the sun pierced the clouds and we fumbled for our sunglasses.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Post-Festivus Let Down

Like a drunken sailor who has had several too many, our Festivus pole lists to the side, exhausted from the holiday merriment.

The fat man made it to the Evo household. We had family and friends and fiends over.

Though we tried to put on a good party, it wasn't enough to keep everyone's attention.

The Beast found something in her stocking. I like this photo because if you look closely, you will see Tux lurking in the background waiting for a food morsel to fall to the floor..

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Portland 2010 Retro post

Not Portland, but still Evo
Portland is always a blast. Portland has all of the hip that Seattle thinks it has, but Portland isn’t insecurely checking itself in the mirror like Seattle does. Hottie had some business in downtown Portland so we arrived late Friday. Just as I was thinking, “I could live in Portland,” I realized why the bike scene is so alive in P-town. The automobile traffic is horrific. Freeways were parking lots and downtown was crawling. I recalled the freedom of my bike commute days and the smug joy of sailing past stuck drivers. I’m hoping for a reprise of that in my life.

The big reason for our journey was Cyclocross and the USGP. It was the season finale for many on my team. I also got to meet blogging legend bikelovejones, who is as cool and sincere as one could imagine. I cheered her on in her race, and she cheered me in mine. We share the wonderment of late blooming masters racing in this bizarre sport of Cyclocross. Bikelovejones also mixes it up in short track mountain bike racing, which I shall admire from afar.

This year the Cyclocross season was backwards. The early season venues, chosen for their fragile susceptibility to wet weather, are traditionally dry races. In 2010, they were rainfests. We literally destroyed Beverly Park. The rains came early and they came with a vengeance. The late season races were cold, and only slightly wet. This made the season seem unusually long.

In keeping with the backwards year of 2010, the Portland race was DRY. The drive down to Portland was sunny. What the heck? There was a moment when I thought the trend of reversals might result in a high finish for me, but it was not to be.

My race started off poorly as something was caught somewhere in my drive train and I had horrible skipping as soon as I upshifted off the starting line. I spent the starting straight soft pedaling trying to figure out what was wrong trying not to lose too many places. The good news was whatever was causing the problem disappeared and I could apply power again; the bad news was I was in last place as we hit the mud. I worked up valiantly where I could. The course was a mix of everything. I kept it upright and had a fun, albeit non-stellar, race.

We had heard that because this wasn’t a Cross Crusade race, that Portland had withheld some of its Portlandness from the event. The crowds weren’t as big or loud as I’ve seen at PIR for past events (I’m thinking of the 2009 SSCXWC). It was still a fun time, and we’re glad we went.

We stuck around and Hottie shot the rest of the days races, including the pros. The women’s race was noteworthy in that there were such huge gaps between the first four riders that any one of them could have stopped and had a beer and resumed riding and not lost a place.

After making it home and beginning the clean up, I realized my racing kit was the cleanest it had been (before washing) all year. Who would have thought?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I will catch up soon..... I promise

Is this YOUR hat ?
In an effort not to get further behind, here is a post. We’re back. We are warm. We decorated the house so we’re no longer the neighborhood Scrooges. Tux welcomed us back and we have shared some fun times.

My mum had a surgery that resulted in her staying here past her usual return to California date of mid October. She hadn't planned this when she came up so she wasn't prepared for the Holiday season. I priced Festivus poles and we decided to surprise her with a tree. My oldest and his sweet wife joined Hottie, Tux and I as we descended on her place like a tornado.

We brought a tree, decorations, cocoa and music. She was so excited she later confided she couldn't go bed until almost midnight.

Tux getting some lovin'
With Cyclocross over, the Sunday morning rides have resumed. Despite the recent rain, I set the alarm and drove down in the pre-dawn darkness. Hank rolled up to greet me and when we spotted John’s lights weaving up the road, we had a quorum.

To the south I could see the end of the clouds. We had wet roads and dry skies. Fenders and lights were helpful.

It was fun to be riding road bikes again. We were kind to each other and respected the off-season. Yet we got rolling and it felt so good to be in a small paceline going 22 miles and hour on the rollers of Mercer Island.

Post ride we were joined by El jefe, Tim and Tom at the coffee shop. It was good to share a few minutes with these good men. It seems we are all recovering from an aliment or injury. No doubt we sounded like a bunch of old farts talking about our problems.

The afternoon was low key and Hottie captured some images of Tux that I have to share. I will be posting about our trip to Portland and more on Nationals.

Time for a long winters nap..

Saturday, December 11, 2010

2010 NATs day 3 (reported on day four)

Hard to believe there have been three days of 2020 Fuel riders pinning on numbers and letting it fly. Last evening it started to rain hard. As we went to bed we couldn’t help but wonder if Friday would be wet or frozen; would it rain or snow? Our speculation could not affect the outcome. We slept anyway.

The short days and cold temperatures make it hard to get out of bed. Eating our breakfast we watched heavy wet flakes fall and cover the ground. We dropped the photographer off and Brad and I made our way to the time trial course. Light rain greeted us.

The course was short with enough up and down to create some time gaps. We started out of a TT hut with a drop ramp and everything. After a hundred yard sprint out, another hundred yards back, then a final out followed by a series of tight turns with sand and/or ice if you went wide. Then you take a long descent where you forced yourself to lay off the brakes because every second counts. A loose turn and a long false flat then a wide turn and you approach the first real climb of the day. You have to focus to keep in the narrow path, as ice and snow on either side result in a significant penalty if you veer off the (literal word selection coming) beaten path. After you reach the top of the hill you drop down on an icy, rutted, bumpy section of road. Then a long steep run up that was wide and icy. My hobnails gripped well and I kept looking for the top. Another steep descent on a rutted icy trail that pours out into a loose right hander and the penultimate climb of the day. Knowing time was of the essence you poured it on and after you crest the hill you have the final downhill, which was fast and if you managed to avoid the ruts all was good. You know there is a final climb coming and you are in the drops trying to keep your eyes from crossing and then you see two orange barriers. If they weren’t orange you might have missed them as your vision is getting blurry. The final climb was steep and then a long hundred yards to the finish line. If you don’t think a hundred yards can feel long, you didn’t ride hard enough. I finished 36th and Brad finished 37th. That could be the highlight of my racing week..

Henry and Aidan raced this morning and did us proud. Henry had a battle with a hay bale and the way Henry tells it, it was a draw. Henry fought back and finished strong.

Local legend Logan Owen just destroyed the field and added another National Championship jersey to his closet.

The good weather (I’m grading on a scale) held again and the umbrella never left the car. Temps in the low to mid forties and cloudy skies were just fine compared to last year. Henry and his mum celebrated his stellar performance by going skiing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nationals 2010 day two

Busy days here in Bend. After I slept like a piece of furniture, it was time for Hottie and I to get moving. After brewing some coffee and eating our oats we were off to the races, literally.

After parking the first racer we saw was Brian Volkert who was battling it out in the 60-64 race. There were guys as old as 75 mixing it up. I was keen to check the course conditions as my race on Friday would be at this same early time so I heightened my powers of observation. Ice, mud, slippery grass, and rocks; this course has it all.

Tow of our juniors, Henry and Aidan had time trials today to determine their starting position for their age group championships on Friday. Henry is sitting 16th and is talking like a veteran. Catrena had TT’d yesterday and we saw her race this afternoon. She kept any trepidation she may have had well hidden. Her race was super competitive and she held her ground and brought honor to the brown kit.

Everyone's friend Cosmic Miller earned a top twenty finish in the masters 55-59 race. Some dude named Ned Overend took the rainbow jersey in that one.

Local hero Craig Ethridege flatted fifty meters past the pit on the first lap and called it done. Keri Studley had the best TT time of all the single speed women and she crashed out less than a minute into the race. She left holding her left shoulder. Bummer.

Brad arrived and was perhaps a bit awestruck by the spectacle that is Nationals. We are settled in and getting ready for our TT’s tomorrow.

Henry and Aidan race tomorrow. We haven’t hooked up with Keith yet. It stayed above 40 all day and we only had light sprinkles. It is raining now and we are hoping it does not freeze too hard.

Hottie is getting some great shots.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What is fast ?

Tux is so fast he doesn't touch the ground

Portland has always been slow and muddy. This weekend the USGP may not see rain. What would that be like ? Stay tuned. I cleaned the bike, put some glue where there were some gaps and I think I'm ready. I can't really get nervous as I usually get slaughtered in these races. Maybe my mojo will continue and I'll surprise some teammates. Maybe..

Monday, November 29, 2010

Series Final Monroe 2010 Race Report

Clawing my way past Francisco!

Lighting strikes a third time!

I’m not sure what is happening. I really, really want to figure it out, but I also don’t want to mess it up. I finished seventh in my race and an amazing fifth in the series. The final race counted for double points which helped my cause. The racer that has been my nemesis for the past two years, Francisco Pons, is a heck of a nice guy, and while I don’t mean him any ill, I was delighted to beat him for the first time all year. The last time I beat him was also by a single place at this same race last year.

I am scratching my head to understand why I am doing so well all of a sudden. Is it the intervals I have been doing for four months? Is it the weight training I have been doing for ten months? Am I suddenly getting better recovery? I am riding the same bike, with the same tires and the same everything. My two worst finishes this year were on my favorite courses. What the heck?

I am going totally geek trying to repeat the same magic. As one could guess, this is difficult when I can’t determine the source of my magic. I warmed up on a trainer before my first top ten finish, so you better believe I am now doing it before every race. I have been using the same water bottle for my pre-race drink for years for no particular reason. Of course the drink inside is the same as well. The only reason I don’t have lucky underwear is because this is cycling, and you don’t wear any underwear south of the border. There is a fine line between repetition and superstition. What am I doing and can I keep doing it?

At the start my left foot slipped out of my pedal, resulting in a pretty poor start. I guess four years is all I am going to get out of those cleats. I will change the cleats this week. Lucky for me there was a long wide path before the first hard turn so I was able to work my way back up to the top fifteen. After the first turn a long gradual uphill gave me a chance to move up to about eighth place. I lost a couple places as guys forced their way around me in a maze of grassy turns. When we hit the off camber from hell I dismounted early and ran past a couple riders who were struggling on the steep downhill. I lost a spot approaching the super steep run up. The run up was more of a vertical scramble on which most riders clawed their way up digging their free hand into the soft grassy muck. I took an open line and clawed past a rider. A greasy muddy section followed and then a section of gravel road followed by a paved portion and a monster puddle that gave everyone wet, cold feet. I held my spot past the finish line and then around a sandy field and back to the start line. After the first lap, the top nine riders had established a gap and I was the caboose of that train.

On the second lap three riders pulled away and then the remaining riders began to string out as well. I passed a rider on the long starting straightaway and clung to Francisco Pons’ rear wheel. On the third lap I passed Pons on this same straightaway and hit the grassy turns with a small gap. By now we were picking our way through the lapped riders and that always gets weird. My gap continued to grow and looking behind Francisco I couldn’t see the next rider. Halfway through the fourth lap I saw a Cucina Cucina rider and tried to gain some ground. I bobbled the remount after the run up, and any hopes of closing the gap were gone. I went fast on the road and finished strong. I guessed I was seventh or eighth and for the first time all season, I was right.

After donning some dry clothes I discovered they were cooking burgers and dogs for anyone who wanted one. The simple joy of a naked burger on a naked bun was wonderful. I didn’t get any awards or win anything in the raffle but I was on cloud nine with my season. Later in the day one of my teammates won the New Belgium cruiser bike. He is a great guy and I am happy for him. He was one of the riders in our Peloton of Discovery trip in August.

The stars are aligning for Portland and Bend. My dear mum is sticking around through the holidays and has offered to hang at our place with Mr. T (Tux) during the USGP in Portland, and Nats in Bend. We have a place to stay in Bend. Last year Bend was hellishly cold and Hottie was in constant pain (despite a bevy of drugs) with her back one month away from fusion surgery. This year we won’t be rushed, it can’t be that cold again, and Hottie is healthy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sprinker Race Report 2010

I am going to need a bigger helmet

I will just jump to the happy ending. I took sixth. That is the highest finish I have ever had in a Seattle Cyclocross race. I had concluded my eighth place two weeks ago was a fluke because of the very unique course. If ever there is a race where you have to run and carry your bike the whole way, I expect I will do well in that. This season has also seen a higher than usual number of guys race once or twice and disappear, so there are a bunch of guys faster than me that don’t have as many season points because they have missed races. I was fifth in points going into this weekend’s race and I held my spot.

The day was freakishly cold for a Seattle Cyclocross race. Thirty-five degrees was as high as any racer saw the mercury on Sunday. We had some flurries at 9 and again at 2. Everyone was layered up, so I don’t think the temperature had much, if any effect on the finishing positions.

How it happened….
Feel free to skip this part, it won’t hurt my feelings.
It was decided to start the juniors ahead of us this week, so we weren’t the first to go at the whistle. We hit it 30 seconds after the juniors. At fifty yards I was in second place and when the turns started I was fifth. We had some furious passing and a couple crashes in the first two minutes so the first chance to look up and count bikes was about a quarter of the way into the first lap. I counted a breakaway of three, a lone rider, and I was at the back end of a foursome so I figured I was eighth.

I decided to try and hold my position. For the first time (and I don’t know why), I really viewed the course as a set of smaller distinct sections. Usually I think of a course as having two or three sections, but for some reason I viewed each corner as a section, each straight as a section and thought about how best to ride (or even race) each micro section.

I braked hard into the sharp corners and accelerated out. I attacked the hills and got out of the saddle often. On a long section of pavement I got in the drops and dropped down to a high gear. At the end of the second lap three guys passed me just past the finish line. I committed to hang on the back of the last rider or die trying. I held his wheel the whole third lap. I saw my nemeses, Francisco Pons on a corner just a few spots in front of me. Pons has been a consistent top five finisher and he looked to be having a bad race if he was back here by me.

Early on the final lap I pulled alongside the rider I had been following and outran him at the barriers. Then I pushed to get a gap. I held him off through the sand and after the run up I spied a rider in front of me who seemed to be fading. I dug deep and closed the gap. There was a long grass section that followed the outfield fence of a softball field, and I passed him and saw the third guy who had passed me ahead on the pavement. His kit told me he was one of the "Big" names in my category. There were 150 yards of pavement before a hard 90 plus degree turn then a final 100 yard sprint to the line on pavement. I passed this rider well before the turn and he didn’t respond. I took a line into the last corner like I owned the place. I was in the drops and out of the saddle sprinting toward the line. I could hear the announcer getting excited as the two riders behind me were racing each other and I didn’t want them to catch me in the process.

I figured I was around eleventh. The last time I thought I was eleventh I was in fact nineteenth. When the results were posted I was shocked to find I was sixth. Only 32 seconds behind the winner. Pons had a typical race and was in fact, second or third. I was delighted. I still am. I realized that my early count of riders in front of me must have included a few of the juniors. When I thought I was eighth I was probably in fact, fifth or so.

I am not sure what happened. If this sounds like I’m bragging, forgive me; I’m just so pleasantly surprised I can’t contain myself. And this is a time in my life where I needed some good news..

In case anyone is wondering if, like Lance Armstrong, I have my own photographer, yes I do. Hottie and I have a deal. She takes pictures of me when I race and I carry her gear, and when required her umbrella, when she shoots the other races. I think that is a different arrangement than Lance has with his photographer, but that is his business, not mine.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You can make anything with a computer and a printer

Just kidding.
Even Evo has limits...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Just one of many reasons I am going to hell

Hard to resist a handsome pup in uniform...
I've never parked in a handicap spot. I've never taken candy from a baby. My rule following mother has imbedded that German trait into my psyche. Yet every now and then, I color outside the lines. I try to see the big pictrue. I believe that if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around, it makes no noise. Are you noticing how hard I am working to justify my actions already?

A while back we were at a soccer game. Our niece was playing and we were being good folks just being there. Tux was sleeping, on leash, on his bed at the side of the field. Hottie and I were sitting on lawn chairs. A more peaceful time with a dog in public is hard to imagine. We were told Tux couldn't be there unless he was a service dog and I had to take him out to the car. Tux whines in the car and gets nervous. I ended up walking him around the parking lot for the rest of the game. Shortly afterwards I did some research on service dogs. What I found surprised me, Now I'm paraphrasing here, but pretty much any dog the helps anybody qualifies as a service animal. No test, no certificate, no card for his wallet; just call him a service dog and you're in. Of course, you need one of the cool vests to get everyone else to believe.

Nine bucks later I ordered two patches off eBay and using some scrap fabric and a yard of webbing and two buckles, I made the cool vest you see here on Tux.

If you choose to be impressed that I made this, I'd appreciate it. If you wonder how I am planning to abuse this fraud; I haven't thought that far ahead. For now, we just have a tool that may help a nervous pup enjoy his life a little more. If the purpose of the vest is to help somebody, can that somebody be a Greyhound?

I figure that if I'm going to hell anyway, at least I help a puppy find a little more peace here on earth.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What a long week

A busy week of fighting to stay healthy while maintaining some hint of fitness has left me exhausted. I'm looking forward to some non Cyclocross this weekend. During a road ride on Thursday I was amazed at the power transfer on the road as compared to a slippery Cyclocross course.

Despite my apparent best efforts to the contrary, I am striving to live a well rounded life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Maris Farm Race Report 2010

Adapt or perish
-H.G. Wells

After off and on rain all day Saturday, and heavy rain overnight, we knew the course would be a mudfest. On the drive down, grey clouds alternated with patches of blue sky. I realized this could be a hopeful omen, or a sarcastic tease.

The course had two distinct parts. From the start you went on what started the day as grass, only to end up a greasy rutted mess. The course snaked up and down a grassy hill multiple times before a final run up brought you to a series of 180’s on the little plateau. We would go up a slope only to make a 180 degree turn and head down and to the right for a hard off camber straight up to another 180 turn. Later in the day these sections got chewed up and most could be almost ridden. For my race these uphill sections were absolutely unridable. Tall, matted grass with just enough mud to make the grass slickerier than oil on glass.

Davo riding in front of faster riders...
The second part of the course was a snaking route through a pumpkin field. This section had degrees of ridability. By the way I’m freaking out my spell check function with words like ”mudfest, slikerier and ridability.” Nearly everyone tried to ride when they should have just run. We are creatures of habit and are therefore slow to adapt. Having bikes clotted with an extra ten pounds of mud made shouldering tougher than usual. Those lithe little guys, who usually zip around me on tight corners, were clearly at a disadvantage as a thirty pound bike was proportionally much heavier for them than it was for me.

Our starting areas was a rutted, muddy bog and I told those around me on the front row (note how casually I slip that in, as if I start there all the time..) that I would start my race running and even told them where I would mount my bike. The other racers politely nodded but none decided to join me.

At the whistle I shot out carrying my bike and I remounted exactly where I said I would. The one non negotiable required to accelerate is traction; and those guys started with very little of that. Thus I had the hole shot. After a long grass straight where I dropped to about fifth we turned and then at the first climb those ahead of me tried to ride and they muscled it until, one by one, they all stalled and dismounted then starting their run from a standstill. I bailed early and ran myself into third and kept that position through the up and downs of the first lap. A couple guys caught me on the plateau and I was about fifth when we entered the pumpkin mud. Again I was quick to dismount while others fought with their bikes while going two miles an hour. Then a gravel road brought us back past the start line and we repeated the grassy section.

Each lap I would lose places on the flat sections only to run past those same guys in the mud or on a climb. On the last lap I held a racers wheel until the last run up and then I just pushed myself to get past him and threw my bike down for the remount and took off hard. I accelerated like we had practiced a few weeks ago only to jam on my brakes in the 180 corner and accelerate again. At one of the corners I could see I had built up a gap of a few seconds and I lined up for the last downhill corner carefully. This corner claimed many victims on Sunday. Then as I approached a sharp, steep uphill corner that I had not ridden well on any previous lap, I took a wider line and pushed hard through the climb and on to the finish line which was at the top of the course where it entered the pumpkin field.

Last lap and number 174 is in my sights...
I slumped over my bars and gasped for air. It had begun raining on the last lap and in a few minutes the downpour began. As I was wiping the mud from my legs Hottie came back to the car and grabbed an umbrella and returned to shoot the next race.

I finished in the top ten for the first time in years. I took 8th in my age group. I credit my head and not my legs for this one. I did well by riding (actually running) smart and adapting to a unique course. The leader in my group was moved up to a higher category, so that move, in combination with my high finish has me sitting 5th on points in the series. That means there are only four guys who have the unusual combination of being faster than me, and at the same time having no friends so they have lots of free time to make all the races. Kind of weird that I’m fifth with only one top ten finish, but I guess attendance really counts.

The bike worked well and while I would like to say the tires worked, they were so caked with mud that I really doubt any tread stuck through the mud on the tire to actually make contact with the mud we rode on. Maybe it was just some strange new mud cross pollination project.

Next Sunday Seattle Cyclocross takes a break. There is a MFG race if I can’t figure out something better to do. Perhaps I’ll ride the Baconator SS again. A week away from cross might be a nice break. But cross is so cool….

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What ? Is it me ?

So Hottie and I love someone who has always seemed a little....on edge. This person seemed to worry about everything. Although we all worry somewhat, we don't make it our life's vocation. I don't know another soul who obsesses over such minutia, studying labels, owner's manuals, warranties, even reading the fine print of insurance policies. You may think nobody has time to do all this. Yes they do. It just takes the time most folks would spend having fun.

Just like many sad people let food become their best friend, some people make having things "in order" their best friend. Once again, to the exclusion of fun, friends and family.

A unusual chain of events led to an opportunity to try some medications that might help.

They did. Birds were chirping, angels singing; it was a Julie Andrews "Sound of Music" moment. It made that much of a difference. This person was happier than we have ever seen her. Her doctor made the same comment. She had a chance...

Hey, this happiness thing isn't all bad..

If we learned anything from Forrest Gump it is that we go to where we are comfortable. Jenny went back to Greenbow. Hard to believe, but some successful athletes miss having conflict and end up throwing away fame and fortune and end up in jail. So too has our loved one. I guess she missed worrying and fretting. Her face is wrinkled and tense and she has stopped noticing the wonderful world around her.

I'm Happy, I'm Happy, Damn it, I'm Happy

So after complaining about non existent symptoms, she talked the doctor into phasing out her medications. I feel like I am watching the end of the movie "Awakenings" with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. The difference is that in the movie the character didn't want to regress and go backward.

Oh, it is amazing the things we can talk ourselves into..

Could I be any cooler ? I didn't think so....

Friday, November 5, 2010

Leaf blowers

Here, you deal with my crap !

Nothing epitomizes modern narcissism quite like leaf blowers. Just starting one up, tells your neighbors I’m making a loud obnoxious noise and I don’t care how it affects you. Then when you (or your paid servant) actually use the smoke belching contraption, instead of gathering up the mess in your yard, you simply push it into someone else’s yard. If you blow the leaves into the street you are just teeing it up for Mother Nature to blow it into your neighbors’ yard. If your neighbor took a shovel and scooped up a big dog turd and flung it on your porch I would think that would a pretty clear violation of our social mores. Organic matter that falls from trees seems more acceptable than the organic matter that falls from the south end of our pets; yet the outcome is the same, “here, you deal with my crap.”

The whole concept of downstream users seems pretty simple to me. How we can push off our messes onto others without blinking is beyond my comprehension. We need to consider that we are all in this together. If you can’t consider others, then just consider me. Thanks.

Race Report Steilacoom 2010

I can see my shadow. Six more weeks of cyclocross ?
We Cyclocrossers like miserable conditions. But to be completely honest, we like it to be somewhat of an exception. Typically seasons start with races in the sunshine and each race the air gets cooler, leaves get brighter and the ground gets wetter. The conditions worsen each week until the lunacy of racing in the mud, wind and rain combine with a season of fatigue, injury, illness and equipment issues to reach a welcomed season ending finale in December.

This year the first race was held in a tropical downpour and every race this season has been a soggy two part event. First is the race to the finish line, the second, and simulations race, is a competition with hypothermia. Battling the cold seems to take an even harder toll on the body. After watching the rain bomb us on Saturday, I was not excited about racing Sunday.

Getting up and brewing coffee and Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats which are awesome with brown sugar and buttermilk, yes buttermilk (forgive the shameless plug for one of the sponsors of our racing series) before dawn I noted our deck was wet. As the light grew in the east, I saw a partly clear sky with friendly clouds. The day turned out to be bright and that was the perfect antidote for my mid season blues.

Since my last two races were on my single speed it took me a few minutes to get used to shifting again. The course was a power course with a long gradual uphill and plenty of grass. Since it was Halloween, I was in the spirit.

I typically get a good start and fade after the first lap. I got my call up to the front row; which is still a thrill, and took my spot. I hit the first corner in the middle of a 55 person pack and then a series of switchback corners on grass gave me no chance to pass. If I could get around one guy, there was another rider next to him in the line I would have used to pass. We then hit the dirt in a line and I moved up a couple spots. A sharp and loose left hand turn signaled the beginning of the climbing. The curvy path was a little wider than singletrack with only one sharp corner; it ascended to the top of the course. I flew past people. I hit the top in much better position and spent the rest of the race moving past people. I thought I finished about 13th, but in fact ended up 19th. I guess the real fast guys just rode off the front and I didn’t see them at all. It was a nice course with four distinct sections so mentally you couldn’t get too far ahead of yourself.

My bike collected some wet mud, but I ended up fairly clean. After washing my face off I went to help Hottie photograph the other races. Since it was sunny I didn’t need to carry an umbrella, so I just carried her bag. She never opened it, so I have no idea what was in it.

I’m still 8th in points in the series, so I should enjoy one more week on the front row. After this weekend there is a break in the series so I can regroup for the final push of the last two Seattle races, Portland and Bend.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Boot Dryer DIY

UGLY, but fully functional
For almost nothing I made a boot dryer. I bought a bathroom ceiling fan for $13 and used wood from a drawer. I cut off the cord from something that went into the trash and found some PVC pipe and I was in business.

This is the fan unit. I mounted it to a two by four and mounted that into the drawer.

Then I drilled the holes for the PVC and glued them in place with gorilla glue

Tux made sure I did a quality job....
Then I used some bathroom caulk and sealed around the PVC.
I used wood from the bottom of another drawer and sealed it off.
After last week's SSCXWC, it got put to the test.

What is good about this is there is NO heat, so you can leave it on overnight and not cook anything. It was cheap, it is quiet enough and by plugging, or opening the tops, you can dry one to five pairs of boots/gloves, etc..

The price of victory

My one and only Podium finish...

In my life, certain stories have so clearly captured an issue for me that they have become part of my mindset. As someone who has been on every side of competition; when I heard the following story told in the first person, I knew I would not forget it.

I grew up in a small town and our high school competed against other small town schools. I was the star pitcher on our school’s baseball team. Most teams including ours, had few if any substitutes on the bench. One game the other school had ten players in uniform, but one was acting as the bat boy and appeared to have no plans to enter the game. An outfielder on the other team sprained his ankle in the last inning and they substituted this player in for him. The other fielders shifted as if this player wasn’t there. After three outs they came in for their final at bat.

We had a big lead and I was pitching well. With two outs the bat boy came to the plate. I could tell he was nervous and I wanted to get one more strike out to beat my previous best. I threw a fastball and he stepped toward third base as if getting out of the way and the pitch. The pitch was called strike one. Another fastball had the same result. I knew if I threw him a curve he would step out of the way and the pitch would curve over the plate for the third strike. His teammates shouted encouragement him to swing and hang in there.

I threw the curve and he fell to the ground in fear. The ball arced in for the third strike. As I was about to begin my personal celebration I saw the batter sitting in the dirt with his shoulders slumped over, crying. His teammates were approaching him to try and console him. I had set my record; we had won the game. Baseball and winning just never meant as much to me after that.

That story struck me as I had seldom considered the price of victory. I had let my children win when we would race to the car; but aside from that, I had not entertained the concept of sacrifice in competition. We all do things for the greater good. We recycle, we make charitable contributions, we open doors for strangers, but these things really cost us little.

At what point do we yield our egos and/or our personal financial gain for a greater good? When does the responsibility we bear as leaders, or just as equals, mean we put the needs of others before ourselves. I have always felt that when I held leadership positions in companies that I had a duty to make money for the owners, but that I also had a duty to provide opportunities to those who worked for me. I felt this two edged sword was part of the burden of management and I have always willingly accepted it.

Nobody believes more in a capitalistic society where hard work is rewarded more than me. However, I believe that anyone who does not understand and seriously weigh the impact of their actions on others is unfit and undeserving of leadership.

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

For now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cyclocross Equipment Failure

Short version: After the SSCXWC the bottom bracket on my single speed will turn no more.

Excessive pontification version:
For much of my life I made do with second rate stuff; actually, third rate stuff. When other kids rode Schwinn Stingrays, I had a purple bike from Montgomery Ward (I split the head tube landing off a jump). When other kids got Levi’s I had jeans from JC Penney that were made of polyester so they never faded. I remember rubbing the knees of my pants on the sidewalk trying to get them to fade. Not only did they never fade, my mother put patches on the knees.

As a teenager my fancy turned to backpacking and my dear mother taught me to sew and I began making some of my own gear. My stuff was ugly, but marginally functional. My father was, and remains, mechanically inept. Aside from an ancient hammer, a ten pound crescent wrench and two screw drivers, we had no tools. I’m not sure I ever saw my dad use the crescent wrench.

As I grew older I continued to scrounge equipment and make do with what I could afford. There were some areas where I refused to compromise. Rock climbing ropes were first quality and I cared for them and made them last. I didn’t have fancy cams, but made do with 1970 era stoppers and the like.

In my adult life, my bike equipment has been mid to upper end stuff. My wonderful wife has bestowed Park tools on me for birthdays and holidays. With better tools I have been able to maintain our bikes without spending a lot of money at bike shops.

This is my sixth season of Cyclocross. I have crashed and flatted and had all of the typical experiences. I haven’t had the broken derailleur or shifters that make us all cringe when we see them. Hank, my fellow equipment-o-phile broke his derailleur and his hanger a couple of races ago.

After SSCXWC I was cleaning my bike and the pedals were really hard to turn; as if there was too much preload. So much of my learning has been by trial and error that I assumed it was my mistake and removed the subject BB only to find it was frozen solid. I pried off the seal and the bearings appeared to be welded in place. No amount of solvent could remedy the situation. Although I didn’t check the time, I pronounced it dead at the scene.

I had a choice between ordering another crappy bottom bracket, or for 30% more, getting a bombproof one at cost through our sponsor bike shop. This will be my first, and I expect my last bike, where my BB retails for more than I paid for the frame.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I hope it is "Other."

I went to look up something on my blog while at work today and here is what greeted me.

Blocked Website
Your access to the website
was blocked for the following reason: Blocked Reason:
Content Analysis Category: Hate, Other

Monday, October 18, 2010

Silver Lake Race Report 2010

2009 Silver Lake.... Same sand, different year.

Aside from some pathetic yoga on Monday after the brutal race on October 10th, I didn’t work out all week. I felt beat up and sick so taking the time off, made the most sense.

Sunday morning the air was crisp and there was frost on the grass. Tux was anxious as I ate my oatmeal; he wanted to come, but this wasn’t the week to bring him. I made my way to Silver Lake with SFW following me.

The early sun created a misty fog that gave the lake a surreal look. The ground was dry and if it weren’t for the sand it would have been a fast course.

Course description:
Crossing the start/finish line you are on the only flat pavement on the whole course. After only about ten rods in distance you are on sand. Riders would invariably try to ride the sand and in two to ten seconds the riders would be churning and wrestling their bikes to stay upright and keep moving forward. With rare exception, everyone would eventually grind (perfect word usage) to a stop and bail and run. The sand went on for about ¾ furlong which wouldn’t be bad except it was sand, so it took forever to run. I run better than most, so I generally made up ground here.

After the sand you had twenty yards before a sharp left hand turn took you to an uphill that had a barrier at the bottom (what idiot thought that was a good idea?). Up and over the barrier and then about one chain later you have a loose climb that you don’t stand a chance of riding up because it is too close to the barrier you just went over. In theory with a perfect remount and lots of power applied instantly it could happen. After ascending the loose run up, you mount up and begin a gradual climb on singletrack. Then a series of tight twisty turns where I did better than in years past thanks to tubies and Sam teaching us about cornering. This emerges onto a gravel road that starts flat and then turns sharply downhill. Then a sharp ninty-plus degree right hand turn onto a short, super steep loose trail and more tight turns including downhill off camber devil turns followed by short, but really steep climbs. Then seventy meters of pavement brings you back onto a sand section which can be ridden by about half the riders. You are trying to float effortlessly over the sand and put our mega watts of power at the same time. The best way to describe it is to imagine applying power through the full cycle of the pedal stroke avoiding the bobbing of only applying power on the down stroke.

After riding the sand you hit a patch of harder stuff followed by sand that 90% had to run. Then you emerge onto a super steep climb that takes you directly to the top of the park with only one short off camber respite from the double digit grade gravel and grass climb. When you get here you are absolutely gassed. Then a series of downhill, off camber turn, stupid steep uphill short flat to the next downhill, repeat turns. The downhills give you a moment to catch your breath and then another series of tight switchbacks lets you practice your tight turning skills. This final series seems about half a league long.

After crossing the start finish line, the sand looms ahead like a debt that cannot be escaped.

I got the call up to the first row. This was the first time I have been in the first row as a result of call ups. For reasons I don’t fully understand our first lap was in fact a half lap with a detour that took us through the first fifty meters of sand and then turned around and caught the end of the sand section on the last half of the lap. To my udder amazement I got the hole shot as we hit the sand. While all are equal in the sand, some are more equal than others. I soon was about tenth as we started riding the menacing hills. Out of the saddle I fought to hold my position and improve it when I could. I did okay on the steep downs and ups and was still about tenth as we hit the sand on the second lap. I rode most of the sand on the second lap and when I bailed I was able to keep my momentum up and moved up a bit through the sand. I tried to climb the loose stuff past the barrier and piled into the ivy. I lost a couple spots but then passed some who had just passed me. The Curtlo was awesome and went where I pointed it. I was a little too cautious and people would catch me on downhills, but I powered back on the climbs and flats. I felt whipped on the third lap, but pushed it on my final lap. I felt I was able to ride the tight stuff better by keeping my outside pedal weighted and just going for it.

I crossed the line 14th which is my season best among a field of 48 finishers. Unlike last week, I was able to speak after finishing. Last week I just wanted to climb into a warm dry sleeping bag and close my eyes. This week I found some post race food and put on some dry clothes and prepared to double up and do the single speed race.

I had changed out my front ring from a 34 to a 38 last week. Kevin was running a 38-20 and said it was the set up to have on this course. My 38-16 was clearly too high and this wasn’t the course to go high. I will revert back tonight. The single speed category is largely young studs that could mix it up with the CAT 1/2 guys. I feel every one of my fiddy years when I line up with those lads.

I rightfully start at the back of the SS race and as we hit the sand ten seconds after the start the carnage exploded in front of me. Sand, arms, feet, and wheels were flying everywhere. I bailed quickly and ran through the Omaha Beach scene and was “not last” as I like to say. The climbs were almost, but not quite, impossible in my high gear, and I held my own through the turns. I moved up a few places among the rear of the SS field and was passed by a couple of the CAT 1/2 Women. The 45+ Master 3 Men were likewise catching me after my ninety second lead was squandered by my slow pace. I took a tumble in the sand and managed to scrape my elbow, but I quickly got up and kept plugging. The sand was beginning to lose its luster and although I continued to do okay, the day was wearing on me. On the third of six laps, at the run up I got someone’s brake hood shoved into my right kidney. Since your power comes from your low back something that rarely enters into a Cyclocross racers mind darted into my stream of thought; reason. I began hoping for a “mercy” mechanical.

As I crossed the start/finish line I looked ahead at the sand section. It looked a mile long. I coasted into the sand and shouldered my bike. I already had a top fifteen finish on the day and was still recovering. My low back hurt where I got jabbed and I was tired. I decided that was enough for one day.

I brushed the sand off my elbow and noticed I was bleeding. My hip had also taken the classic bruise/scrape that is the “I fell on my side during a Cyclocross race today” badge of courage.

I cheered on my teammates and when the race was over I packed and headed home. I was tired, bruised and bloody. By the way, Tux was totally fascinated by my elbow smelling like blood. It was a good day and I am looking forward to the SSCXWC race next week.