Doing it all the hard way...

Monday, December 31, 2012

Wring out the (c)old..

After what seemed like weeks of darkness and rain, Hottie and I enjoyed a beautiful ride today.
After a bit of a break with "Chismus," grandkids, ham and the like, I've done a bit of riding to close out 2012.
Despite the chilly temps we were out Sunday.  Nothing says "skip the stripe," like fenders.  Nothing says "I'm considerate" like buddy flaps on those fenders..
The clouds hide the tall buildings of Bellevue, giving the horizon the appearance that we are looking at an island in the great lakes.  We did the usual loop, stopping only to check the mail a couple times. 
Coffee and baked goods helped get us back to operating temperatures....
Today Hottie and I snuck out for an end of year ride to celebrate the sun break !!  Tux needed a quick trip to the vet for some paw repair first thing this morning, otherwise it was a quiet day.
That is Mt. Baker in the background.  
Water, snow capped peaks, colds, and a ferry.  This is Washington in winter !
Because the rules tell us we are tough, I took this shot with my camera in "Rapha" mode- so those reading this might think the ride epic.

Speaking of epic; here are my numbers for 2012.  324 workouts.  8,604 kilometers of riding.  Just under a hundred thousand meters of climbing.  Don't ask what the picture above is, it was the best image I could find with 8,604 in it..

Let's all have a great 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cubic yards on Boxing day

Eleven yards of 5/8" minus gravel. Roughly 32,000 pounds of rock. One hundred and eleven wheelbarrow loads at about twenty-five shovel scoops per 'barrow load.

I awoke this morning somewhat overcome by the guilt of lounging around the last couple days.  This task took care of that. I'd write more, but my back hurts and I have to go to bed and cry right now.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Miracle !

My prose would only distract from the sense of wonder and awe(someness).



Monday, December 24, 2012

Man Day

Clayton is giving a thumbs up to baseball.
I had to pick up a couple stocking stuffers on Christmas Eve. I knew the mall would be bombed, so I arrived at eight in the morning when it was opening. I apologized to the clerk for having to work so early. She didn't seem to mind at all and informed me that Christmas Eve was "Man day."

I looked puzzled and she said Christmas Eve was the day all the procrastinating men filled the stores walking around like uninspired zombies.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Did I say that?

How wet was it?
It snowed here yesterday and bombed rain last night. This morning I left our house, or as the survivalists like to say, "our compound," in full rain armor. Booties, rain pants, jacket, gloves, beanie, neck gaitor, etc. It was wet and windy. There was standing water everywhere. My headlight illuminated the blowing rain. Water was pooling in the folds of my inadequate rain jacket. Despite being more than fourteen degrees warmer than yesterday, my arms felt cold. I am too self absorbed in the image of myself as a Belgian hardman to describe a twenty kilometer ride as "epic."

As I was less than two kilometers from my place of employment, I approached an intersection where another bike commuter was waiting for the light to turn green. The hard rain was being driven at a forty five degree angle by the wind. The other rider, a woman, was likewise adorned head to toe in foul weather gear.

I stopped for the light and there we stood like two crew members on an episode of "Deadliest Catch" being pelted by wind driven rain. When she turned to me I said it was a nice day for a ride. She laughed and asked if I rode every day.

I smiled and said, "I ride two or three days a week." I paused and then added, "unless the weather is bad."


Sunday, December 16, 2012

2012 Cyclocross end of season maintenance

The famous Velo Jaune. Just looking at it makes my quads hurt...

One short week after my last race of the year I fulfilled my promise and over a few evenings I performed my end of season maintenance. After a deep cleaning I pulled my seat post and set it aside to allow the interior of the frame to dry completely.

I pulled the crankset and checked inside the BB; water. Water sitting on grease isn't too bad. I wiped it out and using the proper tool I injected grease into the Chris King BB. Out oozed some black (but not rusty brown) grease. Out came the torque wrench and I put the cranks back on.

Pull the stem and fork and check the headset. Water sitting placidly on grease. I'm okay with that. I let it all dry and reassembled it with some fresh grease the next evening.

I then lubed the pedals and rear derailleur. A thick coat of Dumonde on the chain that I left on until next summer.

I was able to put away the orange machine with clear conscience.

Road racing in 2013? It could happen..

I've been riding in the rain and it sure is easy to clean off a bike when it is just water and grime. You don't need a spoon and toothbrush, just a hose and a rag and some lube. We rode in the rain today; it was no big deal.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What we will be riding in 2016.. Zipp, ENVE, HED, Neuvation, Reynolds, Cole, Mavic, Stan's, Continental, Vittoria

I can tell you what we will be riding on in 2016. There are trends that seem to be independent, but they will no doubt converge shortly. The future belongs to the companies that can get us there first.

Let's look at some seemingly independent trends in tires. First off, fat is where it is at. In Europe they have been on 25mm tires for years, scoffing at our obsession in the USA with 23mm wide tires. At first it was just the big guys, but by now you've read the facts on rolling resistance and stability on corners, and everyone is going for wider tires. 25 is the new 23.

The second trend is strikingly similar to the first; wider rims. 19mm is out, 22 and 23mm are coming in. For reasons I cannot fathom, nobody is offering an aluminum rim that I can lace to a Classic 32 hole Chris King hub. I'm thinking that the company that offers a wider version of the classic Mavic Open Pro or the DT Swiss RR 465 that is available in a variety of drillings will corner the market. Neuvation offers a 24 spoke rear wheel with a 23mm wide rim, but I haven't seen the rim offered as a standalone product.

The third trend is the move toward tubeless road wheels. It makes so much sense we wonder why it took so long. The only thing holding this back is that the rims that Stan makes are so prone to cracks it isn't funny. I know other companies are making tubeless wheels, but only Stan is betting his company on tubeless. The other thing holding us back is the complete lack of 25mm wide tubeless tires. Because of this, tubeless may be the future, but it sure isn't the present.

Cyclocross has a trend as well, Disc brakes. But wait, I want wider (22-23mm) tubular rims with discs. I know my current set up will be passé in just a season or two at most. Cyclocross is a bit of a wild hare anyway, so we'll just keep that discussion on the shelf for now.

Here in 2012 I don't want to find myself feeling like George Hincapie at Paris-Roubaix. George rode carbon wheels on the cobbles before almost anyone else. What did he get for his troubles? A broken wheel and another year spent thinking, "what if?" Then he rode a Trek bike with a carbon steerer only to come to the same conclusion (along with a broken clavicle). The idea was right; the technology just wasn't mature enough

I went through all the hassle of micro-dosing for this?

Here we are with some companies focusing on wider rims, some focusing on tubeless and some spending all their energy just copying each other. What we need is some forward thinking.

In 2016, or maybe before, there will be 23mm wide rims with 24, 28, 32, and 36 hole drilling that are tubeless ready, just waiting for any of the awesome selection of 25mm wide tubeless tires available from all the top tire manufacturers. When that happens I'll buy new wheels for Hottie and my road bikes. Until then I'll just watch those guys keep scratching their heads and wait until they get there.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

My newest fan

This is Clayton. He is my youngest grandson. He is just over three months old. Although he has never even been to Oregon, he knows his Cyclocross.....


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Training update December 2012

Last year was the first time I rode over 4,000 miles in a year. Since my foray into the nation of wine, cheese and heavenly cycling, I've been all metric. As often happens some milestones, oops, kilometerstones coincide and this is the case today. Over the weekend, on a casual ride with Hottie I passed 8,000 kilometers for the year. For my more imperially based acquaintances yesterday may have been a more understandable kilometerstone as I passed 5,000 miles for the year.

That is a lot of miles, eh?

I will provide an update at the end of the year. Not to get all Kent Peterson on you, but hey, just go out and ride.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Encore performance WA State CX 2012

Like a weight watcher at a donut shop I could not help myself.  It was a smorgasbord of MUD !
Oh yeah baby !!
This is when my cross bike is happiest !
After a week of rain that would have made Noah nervous, Hottie and I went to bed Saturday night listening to the rain trickling its way down the downspout near our bedroom.  During the night as I tossed and turned, I heard the reassuring sound of never ending rain.  The race would be a bog of pain. I couldn't say no.  Last week I thought I was done, but my power to resist was weak.
Nothing like mud to make your teeth look white !
Our team was a co-sponsor of the race which is a polite way of saying we were the race "bitches."  We arrived early and worked registration.  It was pretty much uneventful, aside from a couple overly exuberant parents who were registering their offspring. One mom, was trying to register her son to compete in the junior boys ages 10-12. Based on his birthday the lad was a nine year old.  She insisted he race "up" a category. Since this was a USA cycling state championship, I guessed, correctly, that racing "up" wasn't an option.  When I informed her that her son would be racing as a nine year old she took on a tone and told me the fruit of her womb had WON the 10-12 age group in both the Seattle Cyclocross and MFG series races.  What I would have like to have said was, "I don't care if your son is freakin' Eddy Merckx, he is nine years old and will race that way." What I did was smile and say, "I'm sorry, he will have to wait until next year to race as a ten year old."

Hottie was forced to operate solo juggling camera, stool, umbrella and such as the sky alternated between damp, drizzle and downpour.  During a particularly heavy dump, I was glad I was working registration under a tent.

During a break I looked and saw the riders were finishing buried in mud. It was one of those surreal races where fast guys struggle to average eight miles an hour for complete laps.

I had contemplated taking it real easy and just rolling the race as if to honor a teammate who had died this year. Sadly, nobody died, so I had to think of another reason to ride slow.  I took a warm up lap and realized a person could not go "easy" on this course.  Anything less than full gas in mud sections would result in being overtaken by friction and stopping, perhaps never to be seen again....
Once again, facial contortions assist in bike handling !
A start on loose gravel that turned onto one of two paved sections. A long straight on asphalt followed by some intense braking then a log crossing that went well as long as you channeled your inner child and just went for it. If you over-thought it, you would biff.  Then onto the soul sucking grass.

How can I be working so hard and still going so slow?  It is the magic of mud! After a slalom and then a back and forth series of chicane turns you enter a bog and you had better have some speed going into it or you don't get out. Then through a slippery single track and onto the second (and last) bit of pave'. The pavement drops and then a wet, loose one eighty turn and you are on a run up with dry, clotty mud. Then when you would normally remount, the mud and grass combo was so gloppy there were footprints six inches deep. A bike tire sunk just as much.

The smorgasbord continued as you wove a path of pain through a grassy bog that was the cyclocross equivalent of a tractor pull.  Puddles, muddy sand sections and a spiral of death where you could make eye contact with those ahead of, and behind you.  Facial expressions were universally a combination of WTF and suffering.

By the time you encountered the barriers, you knew the end was near (nothing but mud and suffering between you and the line).  Finally one last bog, then a slippery corner and then some packed sand and finally a sharp corner on gravel (corners and gravel are a dangerous combination) that put you on the finishing straight.
For this race, they started the Cat 1/2 women ahead of us so we were catching them instead of them catching us !  If the grass behind looks fast; it isn't.  It is hell.

After my warm up I put on dry socks and pinned on my number. No skinsuit today.  I started near the back and we all knew we were in for some suffering. It was like volunteering for someone else's dental work.  I wasn't about to risk it on the pavement so I took it easy and then started moving up on the grass. It was a power course and I had some juice this day. We would be doing five laps. That meant I would be doing four assuming the single speeders caught me. Since the start order was shuffled (SS, W1/2, 45+3's, instead of SS, 45+3's, W1/2) we would be two minutes behind the Single speeders so I was confident we would be caught.

After two laps I got a shout out from the announcer that I was 23rd. I was chasing a guy named David who I had battled during the year. For atmospheric reasons I don't understand, and despite the fact it was about two in the afternoon, it got really dark. On the third lap we traded and then traded back. On the fourth lap I rode a section he chose to run and I had a gap. I realized we would not be caught by the single speeders and that we would get five full laps of pain.
The course was so nice, I wanted to take some home with me.
In the countless turns I could see he was still close. As we approached the run up I decided to push it and get a gap and hope to discourage him. I gassed it, got out of the saddle and got a little gap. I kept drilling it and the gap got bigger. On a corner I could see in his eyes he just wanted to be done. All I had to do was stay upright and I had him.

As I rounded the last corner the gap had grown and I was able to roll across the line and hear that I finished 17th.  I was on the lead lap, which in combination with my 17th was icing on the mud cake.  David, whom I had battled today, and all year came up covered wit mud and we shook hands.  We were done.
Belgian Thugs post-race.
Afterwards Hottie and I were both exhausted. Instead of the tired today, more work tomorrow feeling as if a dark cloud looms overhead, we had the satisfied feeling of having completed something hard.  2012 cyclocross is in the books.  It was fun.  Time to rest start building base for 2013....

Monday, November 26, 2012

CX 2012..... I hear the fat lady singing

My teammate and fellow Belgian Thug, Big John at the exact moment he realizes he can't fly.      
Can Hottie take good photos or what ?

Coffee in the morning; Cocaine afternoon..
   - Jackson Browne
Embrocation in the morning; Antibiotic cream afternoon....
   - Evo Davo
Check all the photos and see if you can figure what Evo did for the first time in a cross race.

The routine has become so entrenched in our weekends it happens almost without effort.  "What time do we need to leave in the morning?" Hottie asks dreading the answer. Whatever my reply, it is followed by a pause, a sigh and then she says, "okay."  Camera batteries are charged and lenses and umbrellas are packed and I stuff my bike clothes into a bag.

Well before the sun is up my alarm goes off and I brew up coffee and we chase it down with some corn grits.  I load up the war wagon and pretty much on time, we are off.  This morning took a little longer as I had to scrape the ice off the windshield.  Yep, as male cyclists say, "it was going to be a shrinker."

I knew exactly where I wanted to put up the tent and we got that prime spot.  There was thick milky fog and everything was wet or icy.  We had epic rains all week and the course was as muddy as promised.  For the first races there was a stretch of dry mud alternating with puddles. After three races it had turned into one long brown milkshake of mud.
If is was less grey and had whip cream on it you would be looking for a straw..
This course was similar to years past. A long flat start that takes you full speed into loose gravel (yeah, I know) that takes you into a one eighty turn for a steady uphill climb.  After the long grassy climb you snake, in typical Seattle Cyclocross fashion, back and forth, scrubbing speed into and accelerating out of one corner after another until you are dumped onto the course's marquee feature, the steep drop and hard right turn (with no let up on the slope) and a traversing off camber climb that then drops you down on the same steep grade a hundred meters further on. Then across a ditch and some rubble (the image that comes to your mind is accurate) and a run up that is really and claw up.
Clawing up the run up. The words of the day were "Toe Spikes".
After climbing the run up you had to either wade or hurdle a puddle and then a short slippery climb that punished those with bad tires or too much pressure. Your reward was being dropped into the milkshake mud avenue.  Exiting the bog you had a slippery downhill and soon you were on asphalt and churning out speed. Then onto the sand which the rain had packed into a very rideable single track. Finally a little mud to slow you down and a sharp turn before spilling onto the finishing straight of loose gravel.
Have you made your guess on what Evo did different this race ?
One of our team members was in contention for the 35 plus Cat 4's and suffered a horrible race. Three crashes and two mechanicals contributed to the mayhem. The look on his face told the story.  When it goes a little wrong, it often goes a lot wrong.  After a season of top five finishes he ended up 30th.

The fog was sticking around and I was putting on more and more layers.  I took some laps wearing full tights and rain pants on my bottom and a wicking long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, fleece jacket, team jacket and plastic rain jacket and a beanie and I did not overheat.  I did succeed in warming up.  We also had Mr. Heater working all day.

By race time the fog was gone and it was a tad warmer.  I applied some embrocation and chomped down some shot bloks.  My plea for some medical help earlier in the week had yielded some results and I was finally feeling better.  I tried to not think about the week I took off trying to recover...

McWoodie came to cheer us on and gladly collected clothing at the start allowing us to delay the chill as long as possible.  At the whistle I took off more aggressively than I have most of this season.  I fought for my spot and jumped ahead of El Jefe and took a deep breath as we approached the gravel.  I made the corner and took the right side while almost everyone else took the left. I gained a few spots and felt like I was racing again.

At this point I realized how much my head had been affected by my heath this season. In some races I just put in the effort and waited to be passed. This day I was pushing.  In the maze at the top I held my spot. I took the conservative, but smart, path and ran the downhill/uphill feature. I passed four riders on the first lap and felt good. I also took the left line on the run up and gained a spot there.

In the mud I applied my Portland experience and took the center line and did just fine.
At the starting line they told us probably five laps, but be prepared for six. After three laps I saw four to go.  Assuming the top single speeders caught me, that meant six laps for Evo. I kept churning. I wasn't too far behind Big John and El Jefe hadn't caught me yet. Some of the guys who had beat me for the first time at Woodland Park were behind me where I like to think they belong (in an elitist kind of way).

The laps stretched out and I was holding my ground. With one to go and deciding this was the last race for me, I was pushing and pushing hard.  The first couple single speeders caught me and I was keeping a good pace. I continued to run the down/up and then slide my back wheel on the following descent.

A spill on my next to last lap gave me some blood on my knee and put a smile on my face as I didn't loose a spot because I sprang up like I had planned the crash all along.

 Note the blood on the knee and mud on my backside
All too soon it was over and I was dropping my head and coasting.  In cleaning off the mud I felt like I had been deep fried as the mud was crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside.

The pirate took forth on the day and managed to take second in the series and a ticket to race with the Cat 1/2's next year.  Big John had another mechanical and El Jefe never caught me so I was the top Thug for our team.  I took 24th out of 43 which I am counting as a victory and calling it a season.

We cheered on our teammate Hot Pants in the final race as we broke down the tent and packed up.  On our way home we were treated to a beautiful sunset.  I washed the bike and clothes in the dark.

Next week is the Washington State Championship and our team is one of the sponsors so I'll be there working.  There is an off chance I could ride so I didn't do my final bike cleaning and storage preparation.  I sure enjoy the shower when I get home.  I find blood in places and I have no idea how it got there. I did smear antibiotic cream on my knee, fingers and hip.  I didn't have a medal around my next, but I did enjoy this season.

I warmed up wearing shoe covers that were so tight I had to fight to get them on. They kept my feet so dry that for the first time ever, I raced in shoe covers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Into the sphincter of the storm

After a string of storms that deluged Seattle I awoke to find it wasn't raining for my bike commute. I departed in the dark and as the first strains of light illuminated the sky I noted a break in the clouds. I looked around and I was surrounded by clouds. The only clear spot was over me. As I rode in the opening grew smaller and smaller.

Had the opening closed like an eye, with two opposite side converging, I would have said I had ridden through the eye of the storm. This morning all sides closed in at once so the circle just shrank until it was gone and then sprinkles began to hit me in the parking lot.

I can draw no other conclusion other than to say I rode though the sphincter of the storm.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reality came a calling Woodland Park Race Report 2012 MFG #6

If you're been following my blog you know what I look like in a race.  I'm wearing the same brown skinsuit (or unitard as Hottie likes to say), I squint and my mouth gapes open. It is November so I'm also usually sporting some mud on my face and body.

Note the definition in my quad.  Impressed ?  Just wait....

My four trips in October left me staggering into the November races tired and not real sharp. I continued to fight off the sinus infection and some days I was ahead and some days I was behind.  I rode home from work Thursday and felt like I was watching the commute on TV, it felt unsettlingly surreal. Friday night I slept ten and a half hours. Saturday I added another nine plus.  I always have felt I could sleep off cancer if needed, yet Sunday morning I knew I was on borrowed time.

The sky was grey and the course tacky. Not enough for file treads, but the Grifo/Fango combo was well suited for the course.  I got my pressure dialed in and the course suited me.  I allowed myself a flicker of hope.  It was pretty darn cold so I dipped into the embrocation and sincerely believed the smell alone would give me superpowers.

I did my usual start near the back and then begin moving up.  I was starting to look ahead to see whom I could pick off. This could be a good race for me. El Jefe was ahead and moving up and I was passing the same guys a couple minutes later so I was starting to think big.

With three to go I passed the finish line and went to power up a short climb and my head started to throb.  I felt like I was riding good lines but the power wasn't there.  I tried to push, but my body complained. It wasn't the screaming that I pride myself on ignoring; it was a quiet voice that kind of asked how stupid did I want to be?

I hung on until the board said "All DONE" and perfectly executed a pathetic sprint and bike throw at the line for 32nd place.

After the race it started to rain and I changed clothes.

Tyler Farrar is a Tour de France stage winner from Wenatchee Washington who rides for Garmin. He winters in Seattle and he came out and raced with the Cat 1/2 riders.  In these races your starting position is determined by your standing in the series.  Since Tyler hadn't raced any previous races he didn't get a call up. The riders graciously parted and offered him a front row spot.

Tyler's specialty is sprinting and so we all expected him to take the hole shot.  By accident I was perfectly positioned to see his expression as the race started.  His legs may have been saying "I can beat Mark Cavendish," but his face was saying, "This is crazy fast on grass!"

Halfway through the first lap he was hanging on the back of a group of six.  His skinsuit looked flawless. No wrinkles, no flapping, no stretching, it looked perfect.  As the race wore on the riders strung out. Tyler looked like he was both having fun and working harder than he had planned.

He finished tenth on the day and a couple of the 35 plus Cat 1/2 guys caught him.  He was a class act and after the race I was heading to Hottie with some frites and Tyler was astride his bike talking with friends.  I thanked him for coming out and offered him a frite and he thanked me and took a fry.

I finished 32nd of 44 but based on who was around me I did poorly.

A) Tyler being a good sport.  B) LOOK AT THOSE FREAKIN' LEG MUSCLES !!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Feel free to call him Richard

But to me, the guy in the Bicycle Center kit (on the right) will always be known as Dick

George, the guy on the left, was running between the stairs and the logs (as was nearly everyone) and his back wheel accidentally hit the guy in the green kit. The guy on the right takes his revenge by..

Slamming his bike into George and pushing him into the log. George gets to ride to the hospital in an ambulance. Dude, I don't yet know your name. Even after I do, I'll call you Dick.

UPDATE: With the end of year bird eating holidays fast approaching, I have added a new word to the lexicon of Evo. This guy deserves to to Spatchcocked! Enough said......

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baby it's cold outside

Perhaps I exaggerate ?

Only days ago I was waxing poetic trying to decide how to describe the fallen leaves. In bright sunlight the colors filled the spectrum from golden to rust. Under grey skies and a dark attitude the colors ranged from vomit to yesterday's Raisin Bran.

Tuesday's morning commute was greeted by forty six degrees (or 11C for my metric minded friends). My return that evening was into a gale. This morning the gauge said thirty five (3C) when I stepped out into the starry darkness.

As I rode I noted the frost on rooftops, then the unmistakable sound of a woman scraping a windshield. Cars warming up in driveways while drivers waited patiently.

A neck gaitor and the usual warm duds made my ride pleasant, albeit slow. Cyclocross isn't over, but the slow base miles of winter aren't far off either. Besides, even after the most stressful day at work, by the time I'm home and greeted warmly by Hottie and Tux I'm feeling pretty good.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bike commuting...uphill both ways

Although I didn't have any barriers, I did have rain, wind, mud and an angry peloton on my way home...

My bike commute to work gains a little over two hundred meters. This time of year it is dark going in and dark coming home. My commute home has a hundred and twenty-five meters of climbing and those two hundred meters of descents. My times are usually about ten minutes faster coming home.

Yesterday we had a headwind and a hard rain. It felt uphill the whole way. After a frustrating day at the office, it took a long ride before Evo could be pleasant. Thank goodness for bikes..


Monday, November 5, 2012

Mud and Gherkins SCX #5 2012 Race Report Enumclaw

I'm not sure of his category, but he appears to be a National Champion, so you have to respect him!

After last weekend I had yet another freakin trip to Montreal.  As a Masters cyclist I realize I am the target demographic for ads for erectile disfunction, which in turn tell me that I have attained the age of making things happen.  I tried to make things happen by booking a mid day flight so I could sneak in a ride before strapping myself into a flying germ tube.  It sounded like a plan.

When I awoke Tuesday morning the rain wasn't quite inspiring me to build an Arc, but it was raining pretty hard.  Not be be denied I dressed and was off for some K's.  It felt good to be out and despite the deluge I had a nice ride.  A little more than an hour into it I ate a banana and turned around.  Despite starting a tad later and going a tad farther than a normally conservative Evo would have, I still figured I had plenty of time.  On the final climb I noticed my rear tire feeling a little squishy.

Like everyone else, I tried to convince myself that the tire had been this way and I had only recently realized it. I pushed my powers of denial as far as I could before stopping to meet reality head on.  A quick change and I was off again, later and dirtier, but fully inflated.

I got home, wiped down the chain and jumped in the shower.  I made my flight and I smiled as I settled into my seat with sixty K in my legs.

By the way, in Canada they have a different name for Starbucks, they call them "Tim Horton's."

The trip was uneventful and I made it home early Friday morning.

Saturday Hottie and I were able to sleep in and enjoy some of the best scones Evo has ever made. We took Tux to the beach and he showed me what real speed looks like.  The rain that had been here all week took only a short break.

Sunday dawned with big puddles and the promise of mud in Enumclaw.  Like last week, we squeezed Tux into the war wagon and made our way to the race.

As promised, the mud was present in a full variety of flavors.  Depending on the mud, sometimes it is wise to wear glasses and sometimes not. A few weeks ago at Sedro Woolley I elected not to wear glasses and I was puling grit (in ever decreasing size) out of my eyes for days.  That decision was based on the combination of mud on the ground and rain in the air.  The skies this day were grey, but no rain was falling so I opted to wear my glasses.
I guess contorting my face makes me LOOK faster.

After several warm up laps I had my tires and pressure dialed in.  I knew the course and was looking forward to the race. It was absurdly warm and as we waited at the start I noted riders wearing clothing for all conditions. Some had on short sleeved jerseys, some long sleeve and some were wearing arm warmers for the battle. Likewise on the legs.  Shorts, leg warmers, and knickers abounded as well.

Everyone who had ridden the course knew what was in store. On the starting line one rider summed it up best when he said, "The forecast calls for pain."

The start was on grass and only went thirty meters (are you noting my liberal use of the metric system? Viva la France!) and then a sweeping right hander and fifty meters more brought a one-eighty also to the right.  This was so much better than a longer straight where you could really be moving when you crashed...

We strung out and soon we were on the run up.  I usually do well on run ups but I didn't gain ground like I typically do. This was the biggest run up of the season and I was glad to reach the top every time. Following the climb we had single track where you held your spot and prayed nobody in front of you crashed.

Then we made our way down a slippery curvy downhill. This was the part of the course that separated the riders with awesome tires and brakes from those who were forced to rely only on talent, bike handling skills and training.  Evo stayed upright and let it fly. Then near the bottom I grabbed a handful every lap and then it was onto the mud museum.
Yeah, I'm tripoding, but I had just passed this poor guy and crashing would have been in poor taste.

First up was dry cloddy mud with deep tracks. Then a brief respite followed by marshy grassy mud bog that led to the Portland PIR-like slop that sucked your strength as your momentum died its slow death.  Then you hit some tacky cream cheese-like mud that let you get some traction without sinking too deep.

Then you hit a short grass section followed by a dicey loose uphill with babyheads and loose dirt leading to a sustained climb that drained the life out of your dying legs.  Once you're spent, how about a downhill slalom around trees to test your reflexes? Done !

Now onto an extended off camber that took down unsuspecting riders seemingly at random.  Then onto a short section of slick pave where you gained some speed only to scrub it as you entered the grassy chicane of pain.

When the going gets slick the slick get going !

The infield had a series of switchbacks that climbed and dropped up the side of a small rise no less than five times per lap. You could ride the first two (although even these claimed many a rider) and then the smart money was to dismount on the third unless you got a great line (more of a result of chance than skill) in which case you could ride one more before running. If you bogged and lost your momentum, you dismounted and started running. Accelerating from a stop in mud is as tough as it sounds.

I should have sprayed my frame with PAM !

After this they threw in four barriers followed my a long slog around the barns and then the return on the opposite side of the barns back to the starting line. Kind of a "who has any power left?" king of the mountain kind of game.

After the first lap I found myself ahead of El Jefe' and behind big John and I kept pushing. Traffic was thick as single speed riders were dropping (back) like flies and we were working our way through the pack.

I kept plugging away and I was moving up.  El Jefe nearly caught me and we hit some traffic and I took a crappy line and then a stall/crash split us and I went right and El Jefe went left. He was forced into a chain link fence which he hit making an awful sound. He dropped a chain, but said he was okay. I slogged onward and soon I had Spinner John in my sights.

In the words of the race announcer, this was a cyclocross race and not a pickle fight, so I drilled it. Spinner John had started a minute ahead of my in the single speed race and when I passed him he was his usual vocal self.  I let him know I was passing. "On your left, John," I said, trying not to gasp.  Then I could hear him for half a lap. "Damn....On your..Whoa...sorry..Oh crap!" I braced for the excuses that he would be offering after the race.

The laps ticked by and we battled on.  All too soon we finished the day and slumped over our bars.

Once again Tux was a wonder dog and we were glad he came along.

After a muddy epic I can't help but sing the praises for Lizardskins bar tape. It was sticky in the race and washed up clean as a whistle with water and a quick pass of the brush at days end. My eggbeater pedals are still the best. I passed a rider who was kicking his pedals to try and chase out some mud so he could clip in. "Crank Brothers" was all I said as I rode past.  Toe spikes were required this day.  My Limus tire kept me moving forward at all times.

With the end of daylight savings time I was cleaning my bike in my driveway in the dark. I lubed the chain and hung it back in the garage.  Cyclocross laundry followed (hose down the clothes in the driveway, then spray them with stain remover, into the wash with an extra rinse cycle and repeat individual steps as necessary) and then a welcomed hot shower.

The day was fun, and while Hottie and I are having fun, this has been a long season and we won't cry when the last race is done.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nine days four races sun rain grey mud

Cyclocross is Sarajevo ?
My Cyclocross odyssey fittingly began on the grounds of the former Washington State Mental Hospital outside of Sedro Woolley Washington.  The inmates patients cared for animals in between experiments (the hospital was a pioneer in lobotomies).  It looks and feels as creepy as a Stephen King novel.  It was fun racing there, but I wouldn't spend the night there for a million bucks.

As we drove north for the Saturday race the skies were so dark it was scary.  We arrived to find damp ground and a cool welcoming vibe. The race "Woolley Cross" is part of the Cascade Cross series and was a fun, informal day of racing.
The course featured long (3.4K) laps on a mix of speed sucking grass and soft gravel.  There was one switchback on the whole course.  I think the laps included three, no maybe four zip codes.  This was the only cyclocross course where I should have worn my RoadID.  I think I saw a polar bear near the run up.
Evo loving the mud in the hinterlands of Sedro Woolley
I had to race as a 40+ master.  It gave me a chance to mix it up with a few of the guys I raced with back when I first started.  I beat them, which made me happy.  By the last lap we were so strung out I considered stopping and asking directions to make sure I was still on course.
The next day dawned with the best light Hottie had seen in years at a Cyclocross race.
I felt pretty good the second day of the weekend. Legs not fresh, but not hurting either.
Racing through "the crack"
I was worried the course would be a flat grass crit. The MFG race had a creative mix of pavement, grassy chicanes and two sustained power climbs and a loose gravel downhill.  On the first lap I felt my right quad bark, and in true Jens-like fashion, I ignored my legs.  I kept El Jefe in my sight as the laps ticked by.  He slowly pulled away but I was finding other riders to chase.  I would pass riders on the climbs and power sections and try to hang on during the technical sections.
Evo cresting the climb and claiming another victim
The day was long as Hottie and I stayed for the last race. The team broke down the tent and it was laid beside the war wagon awaiting loading.  I was happy with my race as I felt stronger each lap.  It made for a long weekend.

After the only regular work week of October (business travel has been killing me) we were back racing on Saturday at the MFG race at Marymoor.  It was bombing rain and we were promised a muddy party.
The sharp eye will note the MUD on my bike.
The rain reminded me of some things I had almost forgotten.  How exhilarating it is to have your back wheel sliding around "hook and ladder" style, how slow you can go when pushing hard on level ground and how useless your brakes can be when wet.  The race was a combination of tractor pull mud sections and and endless selection of greasy off camber sections. "Low pressure" was the phrase whispered between friends.
Out of the mud mines and into your dreams !  The Three Mudsketers !
I busted out the embrocation and the smell of cyclocross was in the air.  In the starting straight a rider in front of me went sideways and although he kept it upright, I was nervous. I was  cautious and near the back and then I started moving up as we strung out.  I settled in and looked ahead on a switchback laden section for El Jefe, and spotted him behind me. The laps ticked on and I kept my gap on him.  It wasn't my plan or ambition to beat him, but I was ahead and wanted to stay there.

On the fourth lap a rider went down in front of me on a short climb and I had to dab and claw the last bit. Then, because I was still huffing from the climb I tried to ride a section I had run (very successfully) on earlier laps. I slid around and lost momentum.  Then on an endless off camber I ran outrigger style (shoe unclipped) and slid off the other side. When I finally got going after a sharp turn I noted my huge gap on El Jefe was down to almost nothing. I got out of the saddle and cranked.  To my surprise I had some power and held my spot.

The final chapter in my epic was the 2012 version of Seattle Cyclocross at Sprinker park. Sprinker has always been good to me and I was up for a fine finale to our race fest. We brought Tux and hoped for good weather.
The announcer gave me some shout outs as "head-wound guy"
I was distracted before my race and didn't ride a full lap of warmup.  I rode a couple sections, but my haste would cost me.  On the first lap I was caught off guard by a couple new twists as compared to the courses of prior years.  The grass was fairly tacky and then you hit a slippery off camber and all bets are off. Then we hit a section that was new in this year's edition that had some loose loamy dirt in an "S" curve that caused me to stop cold to avoid going off course. 

A long power section that allowed me to open up was welcome and the laps started ticking past. I didn't have a ton of power and the course had a herd of short power sections followed by tight corners so your efforts to generate speed were all capped with hard braking.   I was glad to see the words, "You are DONE" on the lap board.  Tux was so well behaved it is hard to relate. When he was on leash on the course he didn't react to the cowbells or riders.  When it was time to sit in the car during my race he settled in like he had been looking forward to the break.  What a pup!
Tux was looking for a place to donate his "sample"
When the racing was done on Sunday I had over fifty miles of twisty turning races in nine days.  Hottie had a few thousand pictures up on Smugmug and there was plenty of laundry and one dirty bike.