Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Full spectrum riding

Note my "surprise" when I realize my stalker is following me.

Over the past week I have enjoyed:

Riding on my lunch hour
With Paulo. Amazing how few days we have been rained out.

Spin class
Riding indoors with an instructor and a bunch of people you only kind of know. It can be a lot of fun, but you are kind of at the mercy of the instructor and what he or she has planned. Trying to take it easy in spin class is like trying to eat just one chocolate chip cookie when they come out of the oven.

I thought I knew how to ride a bike until I got on my super cool new rollers. Whew, that was an adventure !! I enjoyed a Belgian cyclocross video I got from Kevin. The commentary is in Flemmish and it totally rocks. It is a good, though solitary workout, and my form is getting better.

Riding Solo
Around the north end of Lake Washington in the early morning. A beautiful sunrise.

Group Ride
Then I meet up with the team ride on the east end of Mercer and join them for a casual ride back. I felt pretty strong and it gave me just over 50 miles before ten in the morning.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is it okay to dream of summer?

Can't you just FEEL the sunshine on your back !!

A couple years ago I set my sights on a spring bike ride in California. The Solvang Double Century was my goal. As I logged training miles in the rain I entertained fantasies of riding past vineyards while the sunshine warmed my shoulders. While layering up for winter rides in Washington, I dreamed of riding with arms and legs exposed, glistening with the light sheen of sweat as I breathed in the fragrances of spring. As I refined my fender flaps, I knew these miles would allow me to enjoy the ride in California. During the long nights of winter I dreamed of sunny rides.

The later days of March were cold that year and we had a dusting of snow a few days before departing for California. Wisdom told me to pack arm and leg warmers, and while I didn’t wear them the entire ride, I was glad I brought them. The ride had periods of sunshine, but was generally cloudy. It was warmer than any ride in Washington in March and I counted it as a victory.

This year my target is the Davis Double Century. The ride is hillier than the Solvang double, but I don’t expect that to be a problem. This ride is in May and the Solvang ride was at the end of March. A friend who has done the Davis ride a few times was driving down and has managed to fill up his van with like minded OCD riders including myself. There are horror stories of riders climbing Resurrection hill 135 miles into the ride under blistering sun with temperatures over one hundred degrees. I don’t want to channel the spirit of Sam McGee, but frankly my dear, that sounds wonderful.

Buds !

This is always a fascinating time of year for me. When fall comes we are buried in Cyclocross as the leaves fall, and the grass stops growing. My T-shirts get pushed to the back of the closet and I start living in fleece. My prized beanie collection gets to work and the memories of summer fade into the shadows.

Sometime after Christmas I settle in to cold weather habitation. Summer is a long way off and the short, dark Northwest days force us inside. I ride with Paulo at lunch and my spin class is done before the sun comes up. Getting up in the dark is okay and driving to the gym in the dark isn’t so bad. Leaving the gym to head for the office when it is still dark is demoralizing. Leaving the office and walking to your car in the dark is likewise a reminder of the latitude. Whenever I ride I have three times as much laundry as I do after summer rides.

Then every year at about this time it happens. I notice that I drive to work without turning on my headlights. I see buds on the trees. We take Lily for a walk and I unzip my jacket because it is warming up. Birds are singing in the morning. I put on my sunglasses when I’m driving home after work. All of these things catch me unaware.

I look at the pictures in back issues of Velonews and riding in the sunshine looks so fun. I begin to realize the winter won’t last forever and that spring is knocking at the door. We will get more cold weather, but my mind can at least fathom the thought of summer.

What intrigues me is how much of a surprise it is to me when I make this sudden realization every single year.

We have barbequed every month since we got the grand machine, but over the winter it has clearly been by exception and we eat the resulting product indoors. When summer does come we will be living on the deck and enjoying everything I have forgotten about. On a warm July evening when we have had yet another great meal on the deck, my memories of this winter will be hidden beyond the long shadows.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February Sunshine !

Glorious sunshine in February usually means temperatures in the twenties. We have had a wonderfully warm winter and today was no exception. Temperatures in the upper fifties and clear skies. My plan was to put in a longer ride tomorrow in the early morning. With sunshine on my face I opted to go for a long one today. 58 miles around Lake Washington from the homestead, 2,800 feet of climbing and 17.4 mph average. The saddle was wonderful and will be the subject a future review.

I had the Seven out and it was singing it was so happy. The sunshine danced in my spokes, and I could hear the sweet sound of a clean chain flying through the gears. It was a great day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NBC Winter Olympic Coverage Sucks

I don't know a lot, but I can fake it with a TelePrompter. Is that okay ? Cool....

I am stepping onto my soap box and clearing my throat.
NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics is horrific!!

Delaying the broadcast so the west coast sees it three hours after the east coast sees it is absolutely stupid. An event that takes place less than two hundred miles away from my living room at 4 PM is shown on the east coast on a broadcast that starts at 8PM and we don’t get to see it until 8PM (at the earliest). So we have to wait so that the east coast can see it without interrupting Wheel of Fortune.

Then NBC mocks us in the ads for the Olympic coverage saying a particular event can be seen at 9PM ET. That ET just reminds us that while 9PM ET is 6PM local time here on the west coast, we’ll have to wait until 12PM ET to see it… It is said the delay is the cruelest form of torture.

When I turn on the TV to watch the Olympics I want to see the Olympics and not some talking suits. We all know these guys are reasonably knowledgeable about football, but are wide eyed and slack jawed when it comes to these “fringe” sports. When Bode Miller won his Bronze medal NBC showed us exactly six skiers taking their runs of less than two minutes each. There were seven guys before Bode and we didn’t get to see any of them. Tom Brokaw spent more time talking about what he thought about Bode than we got to actually see Bode and his competition skiing. Are we really so shallow that we need to spend all this time having football announcers explain what we are about to see? Are we so superficial that we would rather see these football announcers wearing camel hair coats sitting in front of a fire because the closest the women come to competing in bikinis is the female skaters wearing leotards?

The lead-ins the announcers give to the animated promos for the Dragon training movie are shameless and the fact that the suits don’t flinch just confirms their lot as soulless idiots.

Who bought off CBUT ? Normally we can check out the Canadian network and watch a much less bias and much broader coverage than NBC packages for US audiences. It was handy during the recent summer Olympics if you didn’t feel like seeing every game of every round of Women’s Beach Volleyball, and wanted to see more of the full spectrum of Olympic sports (including some where Americans don’t dominate). I bet that if the women cross country skiers wore bikinis NBC would be all over that. For reasons I can only imagine CBUT isn’t broadcasting the winter games and we are all the worse for it.

Did anyone else notice that the big military push in Afghanistan was timed so we would all be watching the Olympics on NBC (while wearing our powder blue Snuggies and eating fresh from the microwave Hot Pockets) and wouldn’t notice that our sons and brothers were dying in an escalating war? Talk about Wag The Dog…..

If you are really upset you can email NBC and then wait for your condescending pat on the head. “We appreciate your feedback. We do, however, choose to ignore it. In the meantime, you can watch classic episodes of Charles in Charge at”

The sad thing is, when I watch football and baseball I used to like listening to these guys. I know that the next season when I see them, I will have a sick feeling in my stomach and will change the channel to see what is on Fox.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Although nothing says love like Park Tool blue…..

I’ve got the Blues, The Park Tool Blues. Yippee !

It might amaze my readers (JP, Mom) to know that I try to draw a line between my personal life and this blog. I feel quite free to share my opinions and observations, but I seldom delve into my feelings and emotions, especially on personal matters. But I just can’t keep this to myself…

My sweet wife, Hottie, gave me a Park Tool truing stand for father’s day a few years ago and I was speechless. NOTE: This wasn’t some weenie stand, this was the same one the bike shops have. Since then, for almost every holiday there has been some small or large Park Tool blue tool adorned with a bow waiting for me. It doesn’t have to be big, but nothing says love like a blue Park Tool. Or so I thought…..

This Valentine’s Day I received a Park Tool magnetized Parts bowl filled with York Peppermint Patties. Had my day ended there I would have been happy. I soon received yet another gift, a pair of compression tights that I had been Jonesing for. I was delighted. I will be reporting on those in a future blog. This was a super Valentine’s Day and one to remember.

I had finished a long ride when this all took place so I did not feel out of place donning the tights. Hottie uncovered yet another gift. To my amazement, and complete surprise I looked in awestruck wonder at a set of Kreitler Rollers. Kreitler makes the finest rollers in the world. And these were the finest Rollers Kreitler makes. Included was the Killer Headwind attachment as well as a fork stand to maximize the roller’s usefulness. I was dumbfounded. I had only recently reluctantly concluded that I would never have a set of rollers, let alone a set of Kreitler rollers, let alone the 4.5 inch alloy ones. I realize my mum knows nothing about rollers, but Jonathan knows these rollers are the absolute schizzle.

I will need to scour the world to find good reasons not to be fast. I now have a reasonable alternative to riding in the rain as well. This was a pretty amazing day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Training 2010

Day two of the 2020 Training Camp in June 2009

I wanted to update all of my readers (Hey Mom, hey Jonathan) on my 2010 training. I built a chart for the year with each month having different percentages for different aspects of training. These included Strength, Recovery, Miles, Intervals, Flexibility, etc. The lower tier plan takes those priorities and translates them into weekly plans that tie to the plan and objectives for the month. January had a big emphasis on Recovery and although I had nineteen workouts I was pretty focused on taking the whole month easy. I didn’t burn it on my team rides and I was even subdued for spin class. I’m doing Yoga again and my resurgence therein has revealed how much my core has atrophied. I’m also running one day a week and that should help my bone density as well as my general fitness and cycling prowess. I believe my singular focus on cycling was bad for my overall fitness and therefore bad for my cycling. Isn’t Irony the best?

So far I’m not riding at all on Mondays and doing Yoga instead. This helps my recovery and when I ride Tuesday at lunch I’m fresh and ready to go. Wednesday is sleep in day, and I’ll ride during my lunch hour again on Thursdays. Friday is spin class and though it is so tempting to just drop the hammer and go for it, I’m showing hints of restraint. Saturday is at most a leisurely spin and usually a day of errands and chores. Sunday is my team ride and I will make that fit my schedule and not the reverse. I’ll begin putting in some strength training at the Y on Thursday mornings. I think having a day in the week when I do nothing is a big help, as is not spinning on Mondays.

So now you’ve read the overall objectives and a colorless report on what I’m doing. Is it working? I must confess; I feel really good. My energy level is better and I feel like I’m riding stronger. My back is as happy as it has been for a couple years and my eyelashes are fuller and thicker. Okay, I made up the part about my eyelashes. The message is I’m feeling pretty good.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bicycle Maintenance and the Zen thereof..

Style is in the eye of the beholder..

I find myself oscillating between the romantic and classical views of bicycling; ala “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” While I love the freedom of being “at one” with a bike and just spinning my legs as I journey along the roads (the romantic), I am also intrigued by the workings of the machine that converts my energy into forward progress (classical).

My daily goal is to have my bike de jour in such a state that I can forget about the complex workings and enjoy the simple joy of locomotion. One of the great pleasures a cyclist enjoys is to come to a short rise in the road and gently get out of the saddle and power up the short hill with no loss of momentum. The efficient transfer of power into motion gives a feeling of satisfaction that appeals to ones romantic and classical senses.

When the blissful marriage of man and machine is shattered by an unwelcomed creaking or clicking sound the romantic perspective is suspended and the classical mind begins to dissect the sound and undertake a search for the solution. My first instinct is to back off in the hope that the noise goes away. Then a few moments later I repeat the action that precipitated the sound. This could be getting out of the saddle or shifting into a particular gear, leaning the bike this way or that, or just applying maximum power. When the sound returns the feeling of dread settles in.

Basking in the glow of Carbon fiber...

Once the sound has repeated itself, I instinctively begin to baby the bicycle. I don’t pedal as hard. I don’t brake as late. I recall a passage in “The grapes of wrath” where Tom Joad is driving and is constantly employing all of his senses to monitor the function of the vehicle, which is on its last legs. While driving Tom was smelling for burning oil, listening for odd sounds from the engine, trying to sense unusual vibrations through the floorboards or seat that might signal any number of things. I recall my own brown Volkswagen bug that would leave a cloud of smoke when you floored it. Just the other day I found myself accelerating sharply and once all was under control in front of me I compulsively checked the rearview mirror for that cloud of smoke that hasn’t been there for thirty years.

My rain bike had developed a creak a couple weeks ago and I suspected the bottom bracket. I removed it, cleaned it, greased it, and reinstalled it using the proper torques. I then loosened and then tightened the headset. It still creaked. I concluded (though I was not confident in my diagnosis) that the sound was coming from the rear hub. I injected some grease into the hub’s grease ports (perhaps Jonathan Page or one of the many professional bike mechanics who follow my every word can deduce the type of hubs I have on my rain bike) but the sound persisted.

Last night I found a loose nut on the rear hub and tightened it as appropriate. Today as I rode, I was finally able to give my classical side the day off and enjoy a low key recovery spin. I threw in a couple bursts just because I could, and my bike was as silent as a stone and as solid as a rock.

If is isn't raining, it will be soon....

Today’s ride was much more typical of February. It was 42 degrees and raining. I was prepared; having cleaned my bike and lubed the chain with a lube from Pedro’s that was aimed at wet weather riding. To my great dismay, when I finished my ride my chain was black as if it had been lubed with 10/40w oil. I don’t mean the golden liquid you pour into your engine. I mean the black gloppy stuff that comes out of your engine three, five or eight thousand miles after it went in. I wiped down my chain. Although the rag was dirtier, the chain appeared no cleaner. Why, why do I stray from Pro Link Gold ?
I was, as always, glad to have ridden.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I rode in SHORTS yesterday

Although these are my bony knees as photographed in September; aside from the color, they look the same.

The warmest Seattle January on record has given way to a February that isn't too bad either. Paolo and I were able to ride again on Thursday. When the sun was shining Saturday I had to hop on the Ti miracle and go for a spin. I was able to go with shorts and a long sleeve jersey. I enjoyed another dry one today. Life is good.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Groundhog Day 2010

Meat vs. Digestion....... Let the games begin !!

I’ll try not to make this a “Dear Diary” post. But I will try to make it fun reading.
I spent some time in Ohio this week on business. We didn’t touch the big cities like Cleveland, Columbus or Cincinnati; we were deep in the state. We were in towns that heralded themselves as gateways to things only slightly less obscure. It felt like the trip was the great irony festival of this young 2010. I think the current recession hit these folks back in the 1960’s, and never left. As we drove past vast silent dead fields with row upon row of dirty brown stubble from harvested corn stalks, I though how some of the tiny towns we passed were just like the corn; dead, but for lack of being acted upon, still standing. (Irony #1)

We travelled for a meeting that was scheduled for February 2nd; Groundhog Day. We were meeting with a supplier whom we have been having trouble with for many months. Our weekly phone calls had fallen into a pattern of broken promises and repetitive excuses. We had nicknamed the weekly conference calls the “Groundhog Day” calls after the Bill Murray movie where he relives the same day over and over. (Irony # 2) The fact that this meeting was on Groundhog Day was too funny. (Irony #3) The people were nice, salt of the earth and all that. I felt cynical finding fault with the place and the people. As I thought about how I would hate to live in these places, I quietly imagined these people all going home and putting on their scarlet Snuggies and watching Wheel of Fortune. I must, however, confess I was born in Ohio and my roots go back to towns you have never heard of, nor will you ever hear of. (Irony #4)

Our hotel had no workout room and the staff were, to a person, significantly overweight. (Irony # 5) The cookies that appeared in the cookie jar at the front counter were wonderful. Never get recipes from parents with skinny kids.

Our meals were predictably Midwestern in nature. As my friend Erik had advised before the trip; “be prepared for the meat coma.” Sure enough, if I had opted to select the sausage at breakfast and the ham offered at lunch and then the pork on the dinner menu I could have eaten pig for every meal in the state that is round on the ends and hi in the middle. Had I dined in the manner that many residents appear to enjoy, and opted to go big at every meal I could have my middle be round like the ends of the state name. (Irony # 6) I watched my first episode of South Park in the hotel room my last night in Ohio. The topic was in predictably bad taste, but in keeping with the theme of the trip, was amazingly apropos. (You’ll have to trust me on this one, Irony #7)

Like dental work and bad gas, this trip did pass. As I was squeezed into seat 24F on my return trip I took note that the combination of sleeping with your mouth open on an airplane and aisle seating make a combination that is amusing to everyone who remains awake. (Irony #8) The smart thing if you sleep on planes as I do is to get a window seat and keep the view of your extensive dental work limited to those in your row.

My return was greeted with rain and a smiling and recovering Hottie. We took care of some errands and life returned to what we have come to consider normal. I resumed my workouts and proceeded to exercise the demons from my body.