Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cold news, hot news

Juxtaposition ?
First the cold news:
During lunch hour Tuesday I took the TT bike on a shakedown ride before the event this weekend. I'm glad I did as it needed some derailleur adjustment and I needed some more time in my "crouching tiger, hidden backache" position. When I rolled out, it was sunny and very chilly. After turning around on my out-and-back course, I spotted a few errant snowflakes blowing around, but nothing to get excited about. In a few short minutes big, wet flakes were coming down hard and were coating me like frosting. The combo of a time trial bike and snow just isn't something you see every day. Hottie and have been dreaming of hot weather, and were even planning a trip to a warmer place, but our invitation was suddenly withdrawn. We find ourselves feeling awkward, like a kid showing up at a ski slope in a swimsuit. But we will make the best of it I suppose.

The hot news:

Yes, I made this. I know, I know.
It has taken me a few years but I believe I have perfected scone baking. If the opportunity came up, I would enter my scones in a competition. I am grateful to my family for enduring the long road to success with the scones. In sharp contrast to my success with scones, I have had an equivalently extreme level of failure making bread. My failures have been so dramatic that many attempts went from oven to compost in a matter of seconds. Usually with a heavy thud; not traditionally associated with bread. I have also harbored a semi-secret desire to produce that holy grail of bread making, sourdough. After nearly two weeks of "grooming" (my word) my starter, I have had success with making sourdough. Last night, Hottie commented that a particular sample was the best bread I had ever made. Years and years ago a baseball player named Steve Garvey shared some insight into how he learned his backhand stroke in tennis. My bread success is similar.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I thought I was doing pretty well

A larger (and more moderate) group on a nicer day....
My training has been going better than expected. I am finding that core work was my missing link. I have an amazing habit of thinking any success is just a stepping stone to greater things and then overreaching. Following my Ergomania podium I had a sinus infection last week so I didn't ride much. As Saturday came around I felt pretty good and Hottie and I went for a ride. On Sunday I showed up for the team ride ready for action. Here comes the overreaching...

We rolled out a minute or two late with Hank "The Corner" Tim "Always Fast and my knee is healing so today I am going for it" Brad "The Beast" John "the machine" and little old me. I looked around and realized these were all fast guys. My only consolation was Tom "The Terminator" wasn't among us. After arriving on Mercer I was resolved to hang tough or die trying. About a quarter of the way we picked up Fred "Burn Your Legs Right Off" and after a moment or two of pleasantries the pace ratcheted up. I had made a real effort to relax while everyone greeted Fred, and I think it helped me. We were tickling 25 mph on the rolling winding road.

I found myself leading the paceline as we hit the one major climb and soon we were a tight pack. As we regrouped after the climb I took a spot at the back and hung on. I hung until about two miles from the official "unofficial finish line." I was behind John. John started twitching like Mark Renshaw looking for someone to head butt. Suddenly he attacked and Fred was on his wheel. Tim went around me and started to bridge up. It had taken all I had to hang on, so I let them go and dropped in behind Hank. After a minute or two I took a turn at the front and Hank and I worked to catch the leading trio.

With just over a hundred meters to go I tried to come around Hank and poured it on, but he held me off. We turned around and began to retrace our steps. Tom "The Terminator" was now with our little group. it turns out he had a flat and missed our start.

Having been deprived of the competitive counter-clockwise loop, Tom pushed the pace on the way back until the group splintered. I was first off the back and I was cooked. I wasn't dropping from 21 mph to 18, this was dropping from 23 to 14 mph, and the 14 hurt.

I had my buns handed to me on a platter....
On the final climb before leaving Mercer I spotted Hank coming back toward me and rode the hill with me. I didn't say a word, which actually was saying a lot. At the crest I finally said I was cooked. Hank confessed he too had been unceremoniously dropped and was spent as well. Once back across the bridge we regrouped for the final time. Without saying anything Hank or I led the rest of the ride keeping the pace moderate. Tom noted our slow pace on the return and asked if we were "phoning it in." "Yes we are," was my response in an authoritative tone.

My first road event, the Frostbite TT is only two weeks away. I guess I will keep the platter handy...

Friday, February 11, 2011

The sky was on FIRE

The other day an awesome combination of cloud level and time of day gave us an amazing spectacle. Dark clouds above and darkness below, but through the trees, a sunset that looked like fire in the sky.

Listen young stunners, wintertime isn't quite over, but the sky does look cool.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Saddle Summary

*** Cell phone picture ***
My mom had a knee replacement this past September. As part of her rehab she rode Hottie's old mountain bike on a trainer. She did make one small modification. I guess this just confirms that saddle preferences are subject to personal taste.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

You can do that ?

There have been a few times in my life when I have uttered these words in a tone of utter surprise. Other times, I’ve witnessed people saying it. At all times it evokes a smile.

This past week I had reason to remember my earliest recollection of saying it. I was at the house of my friend Scott Rosson. His mother was making pancakes for breakfast and she asked if I wanted chocolate chips in mine. “You can do that?” I said out loud. She did and I loved them. This past week I awoke with a serious hankering for some chocolate chip pancakes. They were great.

Our Sunday morning ride is pretty much a ritual. We ride the same course and we stop at the same places every week. One of our stops is just after we get onto Mercer Island. We regroup, shed layers and drink. There is nervousness at this stop because when we depart, the competitive part of our ride starts. One week I was feeling particularly spent and announced I was heading out on a solo break before the others, and asked the group to yell as they passed me. One of our slower riders sounded agitated and asked, “Hey, is that legal? I didn’t know you could do that” He quickly jumped on my wheel and we rode along for three our four minutes before the brown train swept pass us.

Murder's row preparing for the attack

Maybe you know this, maybe you don't. I bake. I bake some things very well. I am the Sconemaster. I’ll go toe to toe with anybody on scones. I have always struggled with bread. It goes flat. It starts out looking big and fluffy and collapses like a broken promise during the baking process.

Over the holidays I was making some Orange Knot Rolls and with everything else taking up oven space so I was forced to get creative. When it was time to put the dough in a warm place to rise I put the bowl of dough and a lit candle under a large pot. My son Zach commented, “you can do that?” The candle kept it warm and the rolls were a success. I tried bread one evening this week and used my candle trick and it worked. Good bread. I’m not the breadman yet, but it is a start.

A lit candle and covered bowl of dough

Then I cover it with a box to keep the heat in...

Ergomania Maybe I should learn how to row....

Cellphone pic of the spectacle
My Cyclocross team races for the three months of the Cyclocross season. For the other nine months we meet for a social ride on Sunday mornings. That isn’t to say the ride doesn’t often get competitive, but the thing I love about the Sunday rides is the social aspect. By the end of the cross season I find myself looking forward to the Sunday morning rides.

I asked Hank, one of my teammates, what he was doing in the off season. He replied that he had been doing a lot of indoor rowing. I was somewhat surprised that his emphasis was on rowing. I confided that my weight work twice a week contained four minutes of rowing. I told him how far I rowed in those four minutes and he said I should plan on competing in Ergomania. I asked what in the heck Ergomania was. It is an indoor rowing competition. Who would have thought?

Over the next three weeks I increased my rowing a minute a week. Hank continued to encourage (coerce) me to enter, and after sitting on the fence so long it was starting to get comfortable, I decided to try it.

I showed up at the appointed time and this was indeed a total Dorkfest. I spotted Hottie’s cousin Rick, who is an OCD bike rider and rower. Seeing him there confirmed my suspicion that this was a weird event. He was a rower who narrowly missed making an Olympic team once upon a time, and I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to hear that story one more time….

They had twenty rowing machines hooked up to computers and four projectors to show the “race” in real time. There were thirty plus rowing machines for warming up and cooling down on the opposite side of the room. There were five rows of chairs set up for family and “fans” to watch. You could buy T-shirts, food, and what not.

When my “heat” came up, we started and I quickly settled into a pace I thought was smart. Hank had told me that if I could finish in under seven minutes I would be in the mix for a podium position. The metric that you key off of is your pace for 500 meters. If I could row at 1:45 pace, that would give me a time of seven minutes.

Early on I checked my position in relation to those in my heat and I was disappointed to see I was near the back of the pack. I scanned over to the times (the paces for 500 meters) and I was on track, but a lot of guys were faster than my pace.

I watched my pace and kept to my plan. As the “race” progressed my place improved and I thought that more rowers would fade. I hit 1,000 meters in 3:26 which was right where I wanted to be. I was moving up. With 250 meters to go, I was a close fourth and I was gaining on the leaders. I pushed it and moved into, and finished, third. A Podium for Evo!

Hank, Clint (who won my division), and Davo
After the race I went to cool down on the “other” machines. Rick came over and congratulated me and gave me a sincere compliment. “Good job, if you learned how to row you could easily take ten seconds off your time.” He offered some pointers on technique. I listened and tried it while I was cooling down. It probably would make me faster. I'll try it this next week at the YMCA.

I picked up my ribbon and looked around at the spectacle that was Ergomania. I don’t know if I will ever do this, or anything like this again. But I did it.

I'm looking for a frame..

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Floyd, Lance et al; What does Evo think ?

Happier days ?
We just happened to be at the Tour of California last year when the avalanche of accusations from Floyd first surfaced. My dear mother, who is convinced Lance Armstrong walks on water, was gravely concerned. I’ve been following cycling long enough that doping accusations against Lance were nothing new.

I’m not a Lance worshiper, but I enjoyed Lance’s books as much as the next guy. While I could identify with the cycling, it was the descriptions of his periods of self-doubt following the cancer recovery that I felt made the first book worth reading.

Did Lance dope? I didn’t want to rush to judgment, especially when I wanted him to be clean, so I was slow to soak in the details of Floyd’s claims. In the months since, new details just keep coming. The rate of articles making ever-wilder claims has increased to an almost comical level.

The dark cloud over the 2010 TOC brought some rain.

For reasons I cannot explain, last night I read the entire Landis interview by Paul Kimmage. A few things stuck out immediately. There were some moral questions asked by Kimmage. “Would you steal to feed your family,” kind of stuff. The answers given by Landis did not seem consistent. I couldn’t figure out where he was coming from. I realize people have different motivations and individual definitions of right and wrong, but I couldn’t figure out Landis. I know enough about personality tests to know that if you aren’t telling the truth your answers don’t add up. This wasn’t enough for me to dismiss Landis’ claims, but it was time to go to bed, so I slept.

In the bright light of the new day something else seemed odd to me. Floyd said Lance did it, in fact the whole team did it, and the team Manager knew about it. He said the riders in the peloton talked about blood transfusions the way age group racers talk about chain lube and power bars. Floyd said that USA cycling was complicit with the doping. He also said the UCI, WADA, USADA and, as a matter of fact, EVERYONE was in on the deal. He named names. Names like Ochowicz, Verbruggen, Byrneel, Periero, Ferrari, and others.

It struck me as unrealistic that organizations that have been feuding for years about hundreds of issues large and small could somehow manage to keep doping a secret. This would be the biggest cover up since we faked landing on the moon in 1969. Just kidding, but it would take that kind of conspiracy to pull off what Floyd has proposed.

If Floyd’s claims are real, why hasn’t another rider come out and said, “yeah, it went down the way Floyd said it did?” There are enough retired riders who are confessed dopers that one or more could logically come forward and corroborate the story. The only people coming forward are former handymen and others with axes to grind. Confessed dopers like David Millar could say, “yep, that’s how we did it.” They haven’t. Why is that? If you buy the conspiracy thing, then it makes sense. I don’t.

Let me summarize my objections to Floyd’s claims:
1. Floyd isn’t believable – Just the one interview on it’s own makes me question him
2. Everybody was in on it ? Riders, teams, multiple governing organizations ?
3. Nobody from the peloton has validated the claims

If it comes out that Lance doped, I won’t have to question the meaning of life. I find it more plausible that Lance doped and nobody knew about it, than believing Lance doped and EVERYBODY knew about it.

Time to get my Groundhog day preparations in order.