Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I have ridden a little over a thousand miles so far this year. If my name was Fat Cyclist, I'd hold a contest and let all my thousands of readers guess exactly how many miles and I'd offer cool prizes as well. But I am not he.

I am Evo and I can offer no merchandise to my three readers. But I am guessing my readers can figure out how many miles I have ridden. Mine is the blog for the discerning readers. That is my story.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

South of Olympia looks kind of Belgium

Yeah; it rains here...

In the cycling world this is the time of year when all eyes are on the spring classics. Paris-Roubaix may be called the Hell of the North, but the true aficionados know that the hardmen of the Peloton look to the Belgium classics as the real tests.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen, known to us English speakers, as the Tour of Flanders, is the ultimate test. Combining distance, cobbles, numerous insanely steep hills (of cobblestones) and frequently cursed weather make for a race that honors not just the winners; but each finisher.

Evo was trying to channel their spirit as he pretended not to notice the hard rain on the drive down for the race that left from the Washington hamlet of Rochester. Hottie and Tux were demonstrating patience and kindness by leaving home in the darkness without complaint.

We found the race site. This was also a place on the edge of the earth. We parked, I signed the waiver, dropped off spare wheels and started getting ready. We took a quick look at the first hill. Despite setting the bike on the trainer, events conspired to prevent Evo from warming up at all. I was worried because my back had been tight for a couple days and my ambitious weight secession on Thursday didn’t help matters at all. It turns out I had good reason to be worried.

We rolled out at 9:25 on wet roads with light drizzle falling. The trick was to stay close enough to the wheel in front of you that the rooster tail of water hit your bike before getting high enough to get in your face. The first mile was neutralized and Evo called this his warm up. Evo was so wrong.

The course started with an all too short flat followed by a long hill that kicked up near the top before a twisty wet descent. Then we had ten miles of winding rollers before a second climb that led to some long zig zag roads that had less severe rollers before the finishing flat. Our race was two laps, which added up to forty-one miles.

On the first climb, my back was hurting, but I was still in the pack. At the top I relaxed for a moment drifted back. Soon we were on the descent which was fast, wet and twisty. We strung out single file and I was near the back. As we strung out, there were several gaps. At the bottom of the hill there was a ninety-degree right turn and the opportunists attacked. The gaps required those in the back fight to catch on. My back was barking and I wasn’t able to get back on.

Seven miles in and I had been dropped. As the WSBA reminds us, once you are dropped you’re not racing anymore, you are on a bike ride. If you catch your group again, you are racing, otherwise, have a good ride.

I soloed for 34 more miles. About thirty miles in, my back started to loosen up and I was able to get out of the saddle and put out some power. It felt good, but it was not much of a consolation. They run these races five minutes apart and we were the first of six “flights” to start. I had been passed by one of the flights at the beginning of the second lap and I kept plugging to avoid being caught by any more. Despite my tight back I kept a good pace and finished the day with an average speed over twenty miles an hour. My legs seemed good, but with a tight back I couldn’t match the big watt accelerations. I stayed in front of the other four races.

Cooked Evo..
At one point I took a squeeze of gel from my little flask. To close the flask, your generally push the cap into your hip to shut the pop up (like a water bottle) lid. I pushed it into my low back right over the jersey pocket where it would be going in a moment. It felt like a kidney punch and I recoiled from the pain. “THAT was stupid,” I said out loud although I was so very alone on the road.

The rain let up, and after I finished there were a few minutes of sunshine. The break was short-lived and soon a deluge of true Belgium proportions dumped rain. The afternoon racers were in for a tough day at the office.

After Hottie finished shooting the finishers from the other flights, we packed up, picked up my spare wheels and headed north. My back was still tight, but my legs weren’t too bad. We stopped for lunch, but I had no appetite. I stretched a few times before bed.

When Sunday dawned wet, I decided making chocolate chip banana pancakes seemed to be a better idea than riding with my team.

Oh yes, PANCAKES !!

I went for an easy ride with Hottie today. My back feels better. My legs feel like I took a day off yesterday. If I can get this back thing figured out, who knows what might happen…

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Extra A Team

Don't touch my red stapler

At one point upon the long and winding road of my professional life, I had a daily call with a customer that was in England. For us, it was the eight o’clock call; they called it the four o’clock call. The call was instituted because our cross communication was leading to confusion regarding schedules and priorities.

On their end they would funnel and prioritize all of their needs and then relate them to us in the call. We worked off of an agenda that was sent just before the call. When one of their senior managers was out of the office, they would have someone stand in. We did the same. The calls usually had two or three on our end and three to six on their side.

At one point all of their senior guys were out and we were talking to the “stand ins.” To be perfectly honest these were the hard working guys who actually did the work, and we probably preferred these guys anyway.

In an attempt and cross cultural humor, and to try and praise the guys on the other end, we began referring to them as “The A team.” We did this both on and off the call and it seemed to be just fine.

We later came to find out that in England, there is the Varsity and the A Team. The US equivalent is the Junior Varsity. One step below the A Team is the Extra A Team.

Upon discovering our mistake we apologized and sought to mend international relations,

This has been on my mind this week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Listen young stunners

Listen young stunners;
wintertime is over.
-Head Like A Kite
Spring has sprung!

Yesterday Hottie and I put in nearly forty hilly miles around the north end of Lake Washington. I commented to Hottie that I had forgotten about my riding companion. When she looked confused, I informed her that I meant that dark silhouette on the ground that looks like a stretched version of me. I couldn’t remember when last I had seen my shadow while riding. The warmth of sunshine on my black clothing was wonderful.

This weekend was the first time this year I spotted people riding who were seriously underdressed. We saw guys with bright red legs wearing shorts and short-sleeved jerseys. We still saw the crowd of bundled riders on the trail. So far in 2011 the riders on the road were generally serious and prepared accordingly.

Hottie and I didn’t drink enough so the ride took more out of us than it should have. We indulged in a couple of Kidd Valley burgers post ride. While I love my vegetarian brothers and sisters, every now and then a burger just tastes so right that I feel like singing. Lucky for everyone who isn’t me, I didn’t.

Tux got a chance to get out and stretch his legs before we rode so he would be a little tired while we were out. He pulled the covers down on our bed so he could lay his furry rump on our sheets. In that blissful state, he snoozed the hours away.

Today I went for my usual team ride and that was fun. I pushed a couple hills and got comments on my strength. I am planning a race next weekend. Stay tuned !! Near the end of the ride John had some wheel wobble and later found out he had a spoke nipple pull out and it cracked his rear rim. John is a beast who can, and does, destroy bike equipment at will.

I love a good omen and after playing HLAK’s “Listen young Stunners” on the way to the hill for the ride. After coffee on our way back we passed Dave (The HLAK Man) and he wished us well.

I am ready for winter to be over. Bring on the warmth.

An afternoon visit from my daughter, her husband and the superstar..
Speaking of warmth. Here is a bonus shot of Kyson:

I hope I am not cheapening my blog using photos of dogs and babies..

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I guess I knew this was the plan.

You will have to fight me for these photos.

Like it or not, I passed along the wanderlust gene to my children. My oldest son has lived abroad off and on for the past several years. Every time he left, I took consolation that he would return in a known amount of time.

He got married last summer, and he and his bride are headed off to start a new job in Russia. He speaks fluent Russian and Arabic. He will be working at the US embassy and has a two-year assignment. If he knows more he either isn’t supposed to tell me, or he just decided not to.

After that who knows what or where he will be.

I hugged he and his wife goodbye today and as they walked away, the images you see at the top of this post are what filled my head.

My second son is still in Alaska on a search of his own. I have similar images of his childhood as I check the weather reports for Kodiak Island.

The grandpa thing is super cool, but that is really a part time gig. Ironic that the culmination of being a dad is letting them go. Hottie and I miss them already.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mason Lake Road Race 2011 Race Report

One cooked Evo.. If you look closely, you can see the crane is holding me up.
The plan had been to ride the Frostbite TT last week and race Mason Lake next weekend. Snow a week ago cancelled the TT, and the miracle we call sunshine made racing today an attractive option. John and Matthew were planning on racing this one as well, so I decided to pin on a number and mix it up.

Last Cyclocross season I tested some carbon wheels for a friend and when he gave them to me there were some road tires on them that I pulled off and hung in the garage. A week ago, I took those old tires and glued them back on the same wheels and I had a set of road tubies and 50mm carbon rims. I pulled the pads off my cross bike and I was set.

I decided to race on my blue Curtlo and I stripped off the lights, saddlebag etc. and it sure looked fast. I put in a good week of training and things seemed to be coming together.

The alarm went off at a horrible time and Hottie, Tux and I were on the road just past six thirty. Tux, once again proving himself to be the wondpup settled down and wasn’t a problem the whole day.

Tux and Sophie
I will paraphrase the directions to the race:
Drive to Tacoma, turn right, follow the road until you reach somewhere, and then turn left. Follow the road until you arrive at nowhere and take a right. After going four miles past anything at all, take a left and ascend the hill and follow the road until you see the sign for the bike race.

It would be presumptuous of me to say that the locals probably give directions that contained phrases like, “when you get to the holler, you done gone too far.” I will, however, say that this was a remote location.

I signed the waiver, showed my license and chewed my Nutella slathered bagel and made my way back to the car. The morning was cold, but the pave was dry. I looked around and just like most races I ride, there were some guys that looked fast. Unlike most races I ride, they all looked fast.

We rolled out and the yellow line rule, combined with the narrow road and sandy micro-shoulder, made picking a good line critical. Five minutes into the race the first breakaway took off. Three guys got fifty yards and my teammate John, chased them down. Our peloton was tight and I was near the back, but I stayed attentive.

For me road racing is managing a series of opposites. Try to go fast, but try to conserve energy. Constantly be attentive, but try to relax. Don’t take your hand off the bars, but eat and drink as needed. Be nice to your fellow riders, but watch out for yourself.

I watched one breakaway after another go and get reeled in. I grimaced as my teammate John did as much work as everyone else put together in bringing back the attacks. Although he is an absolute beast of a rider, he got the George Bailey award for doing the most selfless work.

The race was four laps of a twelve mile circuit around a lake. I started with two bottles of energy drink and a refillable tube of gel. I consumed everything pretty much as I should have. To my amazement, I was still in the pack at the start of the last lap. After a few twitchy breakaway attempts on the final lap, the pace ticked up and our peloton went from short and fat to long and skinny. Since I was still in the mix, I decided to try and move up to help my teammate John. After we made a sharp turn I knew we had about six miles to go, I battled hard and jumped into every opening. There was bumping going on and I realized my hards were tired from gripping the bars too tight.

With less than three to go we came upon some riders who had been dropped by their race in front of us. They were spent and almost wobbly as as approached. As our fast group passed these riders it disrupted the peloton formation. I took the opportunities that came along to move up and found myself in the top twelve. We passed the one-kilometer to go sign, and after a short, steep and loose downhill I was still up there. John was on the far left and I was stuck on the far right. I saw an opening and took it. I pushed to get in front of a rider and when I did I found myself in front of everybody. I powered through the next corner and saw the 200 meters to go sign about fifty meters ahead. I wondered why these guys weren’t blowing past me. I kept going and saw Tom Wick, a race official who rides with us on Sunday mornings, standing at the 200m sign. His jaw dropped as I passed him. He did not expect to see me. Heck, I didn't expect to see me. While I know 200 meters is about 200 meters in length, it looked like a mile. The people looked lat the finish line ike ants in the distance.

While this isn't Tom, but is in fact Kyson, the expression is the same
I tried to ramp up the power and it was like I was flooring a ’66 Volkswagen, there simply was no power. It took all I had to keep upright and rolling. I crossed the line and looked at the heart rate monitor I had strapped to my handlebar. 186 beats per minute is a record for me.

I finished 23rd in the bunch sprint. John took 12th. We averaged 22.5 miles an hour and I was as happy as I could be with the result. I felt like a bike racer. I don’t know that I have ever felt that before. I usually feel like a bike rider who is dressed up in a bike racer's clothes.

I am reminded of what my good friend Kevin told me. A little success can be the worst thing; you try and build on it and you blow up. If this turns out to be the highlight of my limited road racing career; that is okay. Today I was a bike racer.

Today, like everyday since January, I was also a grandfather. My daughter and her family live about an hour north of nowhere. We had to visit..