Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

30-06 for 2011

The famous 30-06 cartridge has little to do with today's post. The point is I passed three thousand training miles last night on the commute home.

By the way, I caught up on my posting today.

Change, as seen through orange colored glasses

I had a repeat trip to southern California recently. The weird part of these trips is they visit the area where I spent the bulk of my childhood. The streets I drove are the same ones I pedaled on my bike riding to school thirty-five years ago. The hills that were tan with tall, dead grass eleven months of the year, are now covered with tile roofed houses and shopping malls.

After my business was completed I called the airline and could not secure an earlier flight, so I spent the afternoon driving down memory lane. My initial reaction was that so much had changed. Then I realized that a portion of the change was attributable to my having a different perspective than I did thirty years ago.

Yes there were houses and malls where there had been dirt fields. But the distance from my old house to my elementary school was unchanged, though it now seemed so much shorter. My old house also looked small. The yard where I played catch with my dad seemed tiny compared to my memory.

I awoke early enough to squeeze a in a run from the hotel prior to my morning meetings. The air was dry and the smell of the dirt evoked long dormant memories. Though the hour was early, the sun cut through the haze and I took the opportunity to take off my shirt (revealing my troglodyte-esque vitamin D deficient form). The warm air and sun on my body, the fine dust of the dirt trail and the absence of eye contact with others all told me I was back in SoCal.

My brother was born in California but now lives in North Carolina. When I told him I was headed down he confessed his longing for a Tommy burger. At Tommy’s they put chili on everything they make particularly the burgers and fries (along with cheese). It was in his honor that I stopped and partook at Tommy’s right across from the Busch brewery.

One sensation I did not expect was that when driving a particular street that featured a long gradual downhill I recalled running it often, and running it fast. Without a thought the car I was driving began going faster and I was once again a rail thin lad with long bouncing hair. I was tan and fast, pushing myself with images of glory in my head. I imagined myself striding longer and faster.

One of the people I interfaced with down there confided they had spent several years working two jobs so they could stay in the area. I moved away and have never looked back. I wondered if their sacrifice was worth it. I am convinced it was not. They may feel different and I wish them peace. While it is true happiness can’t buy you money, money can’t buy back time. The investment of hours spent just to keep up with the neighbors seems to me a fool’s errand.

How much of the perceived changes were in my head and how much was tangible? It is not the place it once was. I’m not the person I was either.

Aw shucks. Well, as a matter of fact..

But my waist is the same as it was in High School...
The other day someone was lamenting their chronological weight gain. They then asked me how I stayed so skinny. My first impulse was to deny being skinny, but I enjoyed the moniker so I let that slide. Then I was about to dismiss the comment with a reply to the effect of, “just lucky I guess,” when I decided to be honest. “I work like hell to keep my weight down,” I said out loud. I’ve ridden almost three thousand miles so far this year, and I say “no thank you,” a lot more than I want to.

When I was younger I ate breakfast from a cereal bowl that was the size of my head. I could kill a half gallon of ice cream by myself in a day or two. I would take two sandwiches in my lunch. When our group went out to dinner, we took our total number of guys, divided by two and ordered that many extra-large pizzas. Now I eat cereal out of a dish that probably holds little more than a half a cup. I still love dessert, but again the dishes are getting smaller and smaller. I weigh myself almost every day.

Sometimes I feel hungry and I tell myself that is okay. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not any kind of pillar of self-control. It is just that the bar for what I consider indulgence is so much lower than it used to be. Last winter when one of my teammates was trying to goad us into riding farther, his comments about being wussy, or being girly-men didn’t faze me in the least. But when he asked if I had been putting on weight (which was without basis, just another attempt to coax me to ride longer that day) he hit a nerve.

I think I train pretty hard. While I don’t live a life of self-denial and endless suffering, I do try to use some judgment on my diet.

What is stunning to me is that after doing all that, I still get my butt kicked by plenty of guys who are so much fitter than me. I suppose I could lose another ten pounds and train even more, but I’m not sure I am willing to pay that price.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I was able to name that sport in one note !

Today was the usual Sunday morning ride with the team. With Cyclocross only weeks away, these rides will soon take a hiatus until the season is over. I arrived at the start unusually early today and thought I would ride over to Tim's place and then ride back with him. I was headed for his street and was passing the alley that his place backs to. I heard a "click" and knew in an instant it was Tim clipping in. I spun around and there was Tim rolling out of the alley onto the street.
This woman kind of looks like my mom in 1953
The ride had twelve riders which is more than normal, but we have had more. The ride was also super fast, which is predictable considering the time of year. Wick, Brad and Tim made sure the pace was toxic to all but the fittest. What was unusual was that all twelve of us made it all the way to the steep hill together. We averaged over 25 mph for this section and the route was rolling to hilly, and if we slowed to 24 mph, then Tim or Wick would jump back to front to keep the burners on high.

I made the final selection after the hill and survived the false flat that has claims riders every week. I held on for a couple more minutes and then gave up the ghost. I latched onto the second group a minute or two later. Brad was leading that group and that fact says it all. I held on and didn't even think about sprinting at the line. The remains of our group came across "the line" a little later and to say they looked haggard is being kind.

The return was more sociable and everyone was impressed we had hung together for so long while going so fast. Everyone was cooked from ripping on Mercer and we were glad to behave like gentlemen the rest of the way back.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Geek Test !

Never, ever, start a sentence with the phrase, "Did you see the Star Trek episode where..."
If someone ever asks you about a Star Trek episode, under no circumstances offer anything that could be construed as a positive answer. It is best to just walk away.

Friday, August 19, 2011

If you can't do the math, my girlfriend can

In 2011, Hottie and I have had a couple of interesting comments from people we know regarding our relationship. I am assuming it is just a coincidence but they both came at our local YMCA where we work out.
For those of you who imagine the YMCA as a gross place akin to your middle school gymnasium with the smell of mildew, you are so wrong. The Y here is Shoreline is clean, well equipped and staffed by energetic individuals who offer kind words at insanely early morning hours. While I am a fan, and I might break out in song about the "Y" I am not about to dress up AND sing like others have done..
Remember how shocked you were when you found out the Village People weren't straight ?
Looking at the picture now, I can see how easily we were confused....

Anyway the first comment was a couple months ago when the woman who works at the front desk told me my "Girlfriend" had said something funny when she left the gym a few minutes before me. I guess that since Hottie's last name is different than mine, she figured we were not married.
Oh well, maybe I'll grow a mustache and go for the total look..
Sleezy, yet cool in a kind of Zabriskie kind of way
Then today one of the instructors was talking with Hottie before spin class and made the correct assumption that I had been married before Hottie because he had seen photos of our grandson and looking at Hottie he said, "I can do the math."

So now I'm a cradle robber.
If money can't buy you love, why is he smiling?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Cross Camp 2011

Our bikes were flying. We had trouble keeping them on the ground.

Someone asked me how training camp was and I told them it was, “fast, fun, intense, relaxing and scary.”

We had the van loaded up and FUEL coffee in our cups and we were well on our way before eight Friday morning. We lamented that we were making the journey without one of our stalwarts, who had to stay to monitor a patient following surgery. If all went well, he would be joining the reinforcements coming over Saturday. We discussed the recent Tour de France in detail and speculated on all manner of cycling minutia. There was a light but persistent mist that didn’t let up until we were high in the Cascades. We expected, or rather hoped, it would be dry and sunny on the east side of the pass. We were right/lucky and it was nice.

On route to camp

One of our team members has a vacation home on the sunny side of the Cascades and when we rolled up, he stepped out to greet us. We unloaded the bikes and dropped our bags inside. We changed shoes and rode to the local general store and bought cold sandwiches, chips and drinks. After eating we returned and dressed for an afternoon ride.

With our cross bikes between our legs we hit the trail, and the sun felt wonderful on our arms. We had not yet seen summer in Seattle, so we soaked in the sunshine with the enthusiasm of a thirsty man drinking water. We started slowly and less than five minutes from the house, Matthew had our first flat. Changing out the tube like the seasoned veteran he is, we were soon on our way loving the single track trail. There were some small rollers that were fun to power up and then carry your speed over the top and down the far side. “Flat,” was yelled from behind. This time Sam was the victim. We all took the opportunity to add a few PSI to our tires. There would be two more flats on this Friday ride and we would refer to the ride distance as “a four flat ride.”

Sam led us in a rolling, rollicking rendition of "YMCA."

The trail had some rocks that necessitated backing off on the speed at times to avoid even more snakebites (pinch flats). When the trail was good we ramped up the speed and it was pure child-like fun. We were hot, but didn’t dare complain. We stopped by the house and grabbed thongs, suits and towels and pedaled up the road to a wide spot in the Methow River and jumped in.

Part of being President is having someone else carry your supplies

Nobody can style the team kit like the man we called "Flats."

Having the sun dry your skin in five minutes was a thrill we had forgotten in this summer-less summer.

We knew the stars were aligning when we enjoyed a tailwind all the way back. With man-like communication (almost none) we all pitched in and soon we had a salad, pizza and pasta salad for dinner. I brought some cookies Hottie had baked for us (is she cool or what?) and we savored some chocolate happiness after dinner.

Saturday brought the promise of a perfect day. Once again, with nary a word eggs and toast were cooking and soon we were seated outside eating and figuring out plans. We opted for a trail hike/run that took a lightly used foot trail that zigzagged straight up the south side of the valley. As we climbed the views just got better and better. A check of the watch told us we needed to turn around and after tightening my shoe laces we dropped back to the valley floor. As we turned toward the cabin we saw the Saturday reinforcements had arrived, and now we had ten middle aged bike riders.

We repeated the lunch at the general store and then we returned and dressed for the epic of the weekend.

Sometimes a "BEFORE" photo is a good reference point

This time we went down canyon and the single track trail swung back and forth and we challenged ourselves to go faster and faster. We were snaking back and forth upwards of twenty miles an hour. I found myself altering my position on the bike to increase my stability on the bike. My thoughts jumped back and forth between, “I can’t believe how fast we are taking these turns,” to “Wow, when I do THIS with my body weight, I feel almost…stable.” Brad had billed the weekend as “cross camp” and it was actually turning out that way.

Rolling on the road..

Instead of gravel made from rocks along this trail they have recycled glass that gets heated and turns into glass pellets. These beads are like rock gravel in every way including slowing you down like an anchor being dropped. If you get the light just right, they can look like a shooting star rooster tail, and it looks sooo awesome.

Preparing for track starts on the suspension bridge.

We crossed the road onto a jeep trail on the other side. We were riding on fire roads now and in addition to weaving back and forth, it climbed in chunks and we challenged ourselves to keep the pace high. Attack, turn, turn, attack, turn, turn power on; somehow we had a rhythm going and we were flying up these hills. It felt like we were on motorcycles. Our president misjudged a hill and went down hard; ending his day. That is all I’m going to say about that.

Our flow was interrupted as we collected a few more flats and then we stopped in town to buy some more tubes and Kevin needed more sealant for his tubeless tires as well. While we were stopped I downed two more bottles of nuun-enhanced water. The day was warm and we had lots of miles ahead of us.

Don't worry about how this looks. He's a doctor.

Just as we were ready to roll, Scott looked down to see that his rear tire had flatted just sitting there. It is difficult to maintain the fa├žade of being serious cyclists when you have this comedy of errors that we called the flat parade. Marc was nursing a sore back and el Hefe was out of commission so they abandoned in town.

The remaining eight climbed out of town on paved road and in four miles we turned off a spur and the climbing got serious fast. We were exposed, and the sun cooked us and I gave thanks for full zippers. The grade would let up to four and five percent and then return to double digit steepness. The pavement ended and still we climbed. I watched my GARMIN. It had read 2,150 when we turned off the road. My cross bike has a single 42 tooth ring on the front and my legs were working hard just to keep moving.

We passed 3,000 feet. Then we began to string out and at 3,600’ we regrouped. I drank the last of my water. After a short stretch with a mild grade it was full on once again. Everyone was hurting as the grade would not let up and when you blinked, the loose stuff caused you to spin out. It required concentration and suffering. Finally we topped out at the cattle grate at 4,750 Banker Pass.

With the climbing behind us we headed down toward water, food and showers. We had 2,900’ to drop and about a dozen miles before we could call it a day. The road down followed a river and we were in shade on loose gravel with intermittent washboard that left our teeth rattling.

We made the most out of the chance to get more flats and our tally ticked up and up. We would finish the day with nine flats spread out over 50 miles and almost 4,000 of climbing.

Dave and his back up singers

I felt great and my theory about mixing Hammer products with different products with simple sugars proved correct. Just like in Ghostbusters, don’t cross the streams.

When we finally spilled out onto the valley floor we turned west and rode like the hungry fools we were. When we got to Brad’s place Sam and Marc had been shopping and were preparing dinner.

Before I washed off my "tan."

We showered and gorged ourselves on pasta with bacon and cheese, hot dogs, a green salad, and the last of Hottie’s cookies. We all drank like fish. I had no less than six bottles of water after returning and finally felt hydrated about ten that night.

Can you say "cooked?"

I was sore and it was comforting to see the others stretching and rubbing sore muscles and sucking down ibuprofen.

Each evening was filled with tire patching..

The effort of the day made sleep a welcome friend. After the dishes were done the conversation was short and we were soon horizontal.

I rose earlier than most and whipped out a double batch of competition scones. It may have been everyone was hungry, or far from civilization, or just kind, but the scones met with grand praise.

Can you believe we're doing it again ?

With mild trepidation, we donned our kits for the Sunday ride. We again headed east retracing the beginning of our epic the previous day. Despite sore legs and tired bones, after a social roll out, the pace ramped up to a furious pace on the single track.

Bee sting to the forehead

The uphill rollers were even faster today.

A bee tried to bite Matthew on the chest, but you can't bite through STEEL...

About ten miles in we took an alternate path and climbed some super steep loose trail that required skill just to stay upright. I leaned back to maintain traction as my quads screamed for a break.

At the bottom of the "plunge." Hmm, it even sounds steep..

The trail continued sharply up and if you stopped, you would be walking to the top. Finally the grade lessened and to a person we all blurted our joy at completing the climb.

The return was equally wild, but we had grown comfortable on our cross bikes at scary speeds. When we got to the house, we quickly packed and lashed the bikes for the return trip. To save time, we drove to the wide part of the river and washed the trail dirt from our bodies. We changed clothes in the woods and soon we were on our way home.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

RAMROD 2011 Ride Report

Hank and Evo in... Paradise

Self-serving preamble: When I do these long-winded reports of century plus rides, they are largely for my benefit and so I may touch on some minutia that may be better left unsaid in a more prose-driven medium.

This was my fifth or sixth RAMROD, but it was the first time I didn’t stay overnight in Enumclaw. In addition to saving a few bucks, I figured it would be just as dark in my bedroom at 3 as it would be in a hotel at 4:15. I was right.

Hotel room at 4:15 AM
My bedroom at 3:00 AM
(by the way, as my son Zach says, "All hotel rooms may look the same in the dark, but they don't all smell the same.")

I met Hank at his place and we quickly loaded my two bags and my bike in his car. One bag was for all my ride stuff (helmet, clothes, bar, bottles) and one for the post ride shower (towel, soap, shorts, etc.). The two bag system worked well. Another local rider was joining us and the three of us headed out with the slight hope of finding coffee.

Not a lot was open at 4 AM so we drove straight to the start. There also wasn’t much traffic at that hour, so the drive went pretty fast. Hank secured his favorite parking spot and in no time we were dressed and filling our jersey pockets for the miles ahead.

Fumble, fumble, fumble..

In an absolute fluke, we rolled out at the exact time we had planned to start, 5:45.

We settled into a paceline with some friends Hank knew including two tandems, and although the pace was slower than I would have liked, it was going to be a long day and I didn’t mind saving my bullets. To fend off the morning chill I had arm warmers and a throw away T-shirt over my jersey. To top off the look I had 98 cent cotton gardening gloves. While I may have looked like an idiot, if we came to a spot where we had to stop and pull weeds before continuing, who would be laughing then?

Go tandem go !

At the first rest stop, with 33 miles behind us, I folded the T-shirt and left it for an uncertain future. Leaving the rest stop Hank and I passed the tandems on a rolling uphill and despite not pushing the pace; we didn’t see them again until the rest stop just before the entrance, sixty miles into the ride. At that stop we ate and refilled bottles. I found a home for the cotton gloves and we pulled out with the tandems for the featured event of the day, the trip through the park.

Note the gloves on the saddle..

Entering the park.

As we passed through the entrance to the park, the tandems bid us adieu as we began the 3,500 foot climb to Paradise. Hank, Mark and I were ahead of our group and Hank pulled away. I couldn’t attack with a teammate in the break, so I hung with Mark until he decided to slow it down.

Up we go.

As we climbed up the canyon with the Nisqually River to our right I was still in my big ring and I was just blowing past riders. I wasn’t killing myself, but it was as if the other riders were stopped. In a short time I spotted Hank ahead and steadily closed the gap. I was warming up and rolled down my arm warmers. We chatted and I snapped some pictures. We took turns pulling and when I noticed I had gapped him, I backed off.

Crossing the Nisqually River

At 4,800’ the RAMROD officials stood at the junction shouting, “Right turn, right turn.” Hank and I continued on the gradual left and rode to Paradise, which is no longer on the official RAMROD course. I had harbored visions of having to hide my number and behave like a fugitive, but this was not the case. We caught and passed three other riders and took in amazing views of Rainier.

We stopped at the parking lot and snapped some pics. This detour added 650’ of climbing and a few miles.

Hank is glad to be at the high point.

The descent back to the road was a blast as it is a one way road and you can go apex to apex without fear of oncoming traffic. In no time we were at the next food stop and enjoying more food. We now had 90 miles and 6,500’ of climbing behind us.

Time to fly

My stomach was less than happy and my post ride analysis is that I mixed Hammer products (complex carbs – Maltodextrin) with other drinks (simple sugars) and the resulting combination was not good. I will put this to the test this weekend at our team training camp.

Leaving the food stop we had a short climb that is always confusing. If you expect the climb, then when you do it the climb ends fast and you think, “that was nothing.” If you discount the climb, then at some point you think to yourself, “is this ever going to end?” I was somewhere in between and thought, “that rise up ahead had better be the top.” It was.

The descent was a joy and my ride performed wonderfully. I felt like I could lean over until my handlebars would touch the pavement and not lose traction. There are three 180 degree turns and I just leaned into them and let it fly.

Note the car passing us. We tried to avoid having a "Hoogerland" experience.

I call this one thirty three point seven..

The route here goes north and climbs steadily. I felt strong, but a twinge in my left quad necessitated my letting Hank get away as I just kept it spinning. I unzipped my jersey (full zips are the absolute best) and continued passing riders. There is a water stop four or so miles from the top and on this hot afternoon I stopped and refilled as I was down to half a bottle.

Leaving the stop the road turns west and gets steep. Many riders were weaving as they tried to fight their way to the top of Cayuse Pass. I was surprised to see so many in death march mode. In theory, everyone who does this knows what they are getting into.

The turns near the top hide the actual summit until you are almost there, and everyone who rides up that road is looking for the top. At the top was another checkpoint and I didn’t even unclip. After hearing them call my number, I just rolled on down to the deli stop at 120 miles.

I know you aren't supposed to have port a potties in your pictures, but sometimes you are so glad to see them, they deserve some honor.

Here we ate sandwiches and chips, drank soda, sat down and waited for the rest of Hank’s friends to arrive. Hank and I had shared our undertraining woes and we were not looking forward to the final 33 miles. In addition to a nasty headwind, on our winter forays to Crystal Mountain we had seen huge potholes and cracks in the pavement that we had been dreading for many months.

As we rolled out the tandems took the front. Hank was right behind them, and I was two riders behind Hank. In no time we were going 25 miles an hour. Then the tandems switched and we kept the same speed. Nobody else pulled on the flats. When we hit an uphill Hank would break the wind for one tandem and I led the other. Then back into formation and we flew down the road.

We blasted past four riders from Byrne who jumped on. Ten miles later when we turned off highway 410 and soft pedaled for a moment the four took off without a word. A handful of other riders had also tagged on and they were thanking us as if we had saved their children from a fire. Hank and one of the tandems caught the Byrne riders and let them know a thank you was in order and what they had done wasn’t cool.

In no time we were on 456th and then making the left turn to the finish line. After showers and food we could once again pass as normal people. I burned 6,000 calories and climbed 10,000 feet.

This was a different RAMROD experience for me. First I didn’t have a lot of focused training for the event, just a decent base and our July 4th ride. Second I usually cook it the first 60, this time was really casual. Third, I usually climb better than most, creeping by slower riders and getting passed myself. This time we blasted past riders and nobody passed me on an uphill. What is with THAT ?, Fourth, the dreaded parts were easy. The long slog after the deli stop was easy. I remember the miles after the final descent from Mud Mountain dam feeling like forever. This time they were nothing. Fifth, I wasn’t sore afterwards. I wore compression tights for 28 hours after finishing, but I was able to trot up stairs, sit on an airplane etc. with almost no discomfort. I was more sore on Wednesday from my weight workout Monday than I was the day after RAMROD. Sixth, I didn’t overthink it.

Notes to self: Those Assos bibshorts cost a lot and are worth every penny. Don’t mix energy drinks. Arm warmers were nice. Take the little spray sunscreen next time. I think my pedals have reached the end of their life. Skip the hotel, dark is dark.