Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, August 31, 2012

Davo's four by four Pancakes

Evo can get passionate about Pancakes. Did you notice I capitalized Pancakes? Talk about respect! I don't mean those fluffy flavorless sponges you get at Denny's. I mean hearty, stick to your ribs, feed a lumberjack he-man flapjacks. 

One of my fondest memories is making pancakes (or waffles) for my kids.   When they visit, I take most any opportunity to whip up some breakfast.  Scones, Pancakes, Waffles, and French Toast. Hottie prefers French Toast, so that is a frequent weekend treat for her.

I call these four by fours because you need to come up with four grains and four surprises. Feel free to change any of either four as you see fit.  These four happened to be in my cupboard so here they are.  The cakes were awesome.
Start with two unborn chickens. I know this really pisses off the right-to-lifers; but I don't even care anymore.  Use a whisk and whip them around for a minute or two.  It is time well invested.  While you're doing this, put your frying pan on and turn on the heat.  I usually set the oven timer to three minutes so I know when it is pre-heated.  Don't spray anything on the pan, or drop on some light olive oil  until you are ready to cook these.
Time to get down to bidness..
Once you have whipped up your two eggs, add
1/2 t salt
2T Oil or butter
2T Sugar (it makes them look good)
1.5 C Whole wheat flour
1/2 C Rolled oats
1.5T baking powder
2T Corn Grits
1/2 C White flour
2 C Milk
Mix until ALMOST mixed..
At this point you have fine pancakes. 
Here is what you do to make them AWESOME..
To the mixture add the final four..  This time around I added:
1 sliced Banana
1 handful of chocolate chips
2 T Flax Seeds
1 handful of pecans (crunched in my hand before dropped into the bowl)

Don't try and stir this with the whisk or you will be frustrated, use a big spoon.  

Time to be bold
Remember there is a reason they are called PANcakes.
When you see tiny bubbles it is time to flip it.  Feel free to take it off the stove to do this.  You may still slop a little on the side of the pan.  Welcome to the club.  It is a big club and we all smile.
Some say it is okay to throw out the first one.  There will be no throwing away these babies.

A word about ingredients.  I use BOB's RED MILL ingredients wherever I can. They have unsurpassed quality and you are supporting a good company to boot.  "BRM" supports Cyclocross.  What more do I need to say.  That's right nothing.  Shut up and make some pancakes !

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Guest Post Ironman Canada

This is an account by Feral Dave of his participation in last Sunday's Ironman Canada.

This year's Subaru Ironman Canada was the 30th anniversary of the event, which was the very first Ironman distance triathlon in North America and featured about 2700 participants from all over the world.    The Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim (3.8k), followed by a 112 mile bike ride (180k) and then a marathon  - 26.2 mile run (42.2k).  What makes it particularly difficult is the sheer amount of time involved and the requirement to run so far after your legs are spent from a very long and hilly bike ride.   

This year’s event was the final Ironman Canada before a new sponsor takes over with a new name so it was pretty special to participate in the last one.  I even stayed until the final participant crossed the finish line just seconds before the midnight cutoff.  It was pretty emotional for her and everyone there at the finish line.   We also were able to watch 82 year old Sister Madonna Buter complete the race to the roar of the crowd a short time before. She is the real Ironman!   Also participating in the race were Dick Ensslen, Ed Wong and Ed Russell (known as the "Dick Eds").   The Dick Eds have completed an amazing 29 consecutive Ironman Canada races.  While most of the participants looked like the very fit, low body fat athlete you might expect, many of the folks finishing towards the end were quite the opposite and looked like the "before" picture in a weight watchers commercial.  It was inspirational to see people push themselves for 15-17 hours and finish in the dark of night after the support staff and crowds along the route were long gone.   It proved to me that virtually anyone of sound mind and body can do this type of race if they put their mind to it.  (Evo comment: I think a sound mind PROHIBITS participation in these events)

The race took place in the Okanogan Valley, which features Lake Okanogan, Skaha Lake and surrounding towns.  It is an absolutely beautiful area, enveloped by mountains, scenic valleys, and a plethora of wineries and golf courses.  This is a "be back" kind of place, triathlon or no triathlon.  The people of Penticton are very friendly, extremely supportive and the race was very well run.   Thousands of fans were enthusiastically cheering along the course, which really helped spur us along. My parents and my Uncle Jon Lee and his spouse Lena were there to cheer me on, along with my fantastic coach Hallie Truswell and 20 members of the Pauole Sport Triathlon team from Seattle.  Unfortunately the Farrell clan from Seattle was unable to join, but they were there in spirit.   My main inspiration during the race was my cousin Monica, who passed away this past spring from cancer. Thinking of how tough she was throughout her struggles at the end of her life helped me push through some of the difficult parts (which were obviously nothing in comparison to hers).  

Here's the blow by blow on the individual legs of the event:

ironman-canada-swim-start.jpgSwim:  Unlike most triathlons that stage the start in a civilized way by age group, this was a mass start with all 2700 amateurs jumping in the water at 7AM and swarming out into Lake Okanogan like a giant school of salmon .... more like piranhas.   The picture of a prior year's event gives a good sense of what it was like.  After the start, I immediately tried to get to the outside of the mob and head out to the buoys. Unfortunately, there was no avoiding the crowds.   Swimmers were constantly jockeying for position and I could feel people clawing me and bumping into me and the churn of water from people kicking in front. It was difficult to see much and I had to remain calm and stifle the urge to panic. Fortunately I managed to avoid a thump in the head like the one that derailed one of my team mates, cracked his goggles and gave him a headache.  After a while things calmed down and I got into a good rhythm.   It felt fantastic to be out there after lots of rest and pre-race fueling, coupled with the exhilaration of starting the event after so many months of preparation.  Before I knew it (2.4 miles and 1 hour and 11 minutes later) I was heading out of water and up the beach and to the transition area where I was met by "strippers" ......  no, not scantily clad Canadian lasses, but wetsuit strippers. I went into the transition area, got into my bike gear, picked up my bike and was off.  

Bike:  As I mentally switched gears to the bike mode, I was hit by a rush of fresh air, a burst of sunshine and the sounds of throngs of people cheering us on as we headed out of town.  The first 35 miles of the race were downhill and downwind.  I was flying and enjoying the scenery of Skaha Lake, cooking along at 22-25 mph, seemingly effortlessly.   We went by vineyards, orchards, lakes and the town of Oliver, and into the town of Osoyoos on the Washington border.  We then turned into the  wind and up the road to Richter Pass.  This was a moderate 1,400 foot climb that didn't cause me much of an issue given my previous trip to the French Alps this summer.   After reaching the summit, I blasted down the other side of the mountain at speeds well above 40mph. Everything still felt great.  We then had a long stretch of rolling hills through farm lands and before I knew it, almost four hours on the bike had gone by and I was over 2/3 of the way through the course.   As I hammered through the rolling  hills, a pattern developed.  I would pass everyone going up hill and then people with aerodynamic race wheels would zip past me on the downhill.  I kept seeing the same racers over and over again.   On good advice, I rode to keep my heart rate in check and resisted the urge to go hard and "race others" who passed me.  I also made it a point to consistently and systematically take in fuel, ingesting a special sport drink mixture recommended by my coach and taking in over 2400 calories on the bike, along with liters of water and electrolytes.  The best part of the bike ride was the steep climb up to Yellow Lake at mile 94.  There were hundreds of people lined up on each side of the road cheering us on, Tour de France style.  They had funny signs, music and kept calling out my name (as it is printed just below our number).   All I could do was smile and laugh because I was having a blast.   Finally I reached the summit at mile 100 and thought …damn, I have gone a long ways ….. I am tired and I have 12 miles to bike and then a marathon yet to go.  I started to feel pretty cooked and the temperature was well into the 80’s and getting hotter.   Fortunately the final miles were mostly downhill and it gave me a chance to catch my breath and regroup as I headed back into town.  I was re-energized by the crowd as I made it back to the lake and transition area. 

Run:  The moment I had been waiting for (and also dreaded) had arrived. I changed into my running gear, quickly stretched and headed out of the transition out into the crowds.  The run had begun.  I was excited because I had completed the swim and bike faster than expected and the run is typically my best event of the three.  I was poised to have a great finish.   However, it’s hard to describe how hard it is to run after biking 112 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain.  Most of the muscles in my legs hurt and the ones that didn’t felt like Jell-O.    I tried to get in a rhythm, but it just didn’t seem right.  I saw my parents on the sidelines and that helped my mood, but it just seemed that I was in for a tough afternoon based on how I was feeling.   As I left town, I saw my coach Hallie who gave me some encouraging words, but then quickly the crowds diminished and the temperature started to rise.  It was getting late in the afternoon and the hottest part of the day, into the upper 80’s.  My stomach started to hurt and I felt nauseous. The “blazing saddles” effect kicked in as the massive amounts of sport drink and energy bars took its toll on my digestive system.  I pity the people behind me.  I started to feel severe pain in my right hip flexor and my
IMG_0016.jpghamstrings were hurting as well.  At this point, it was mile four and I had already hit the wall, something that usually doesn’t occur until mile 18-20 in a marathon.    I kept remembering the words my coach had told me “the Ironman really doesn’t begin until the second half of the marathon.”   I was thinking that if feel this lousy now, how am I going to feel at the 1/2 way point when the event "begins"?   I had no choice but to just kept going and stopped at every aid station, telling myself I would run until the ½ way point and then walk to the finish line.  It was all I could do to keep going mile after mile.   I drank only water for a while and took some ibuprofen that I carried with me, then started to feel better. At the ½ way point,  I picked up my “special needs bag” that was waiting for me and I asked a volunteer pin a picture of my cousin Monica on my chest and I was finally able to take in some food. From that point on, bystanders kept cheering us on and saying “do it for Monica”.   That really helped a tremendous amount and increased my resolve.   I decided not to walk like I had earlier thought and kept running, oblivious to pace, just wanting to get it over with.  Soon I hit mile 15, then 16, then 17 and I started to feel better for some reason. I was passing most athletes along the way at this time, most of whom were like walking wounded, quietly suffering through their own battles.  Some were slumped along the road with injuries or just too tired to carry on.  I saw two ambulances pass by me in the back half of the race.  As I hit mile 20, it was UPHILL for the next four miles and facing a headwind.  I was really not happy with the race director at this point.  The same place that made the first part of the bike leg so easy many hours before and was now coming back to bite me.  I pounded on, step after step with the pace and grace of Frankenstein and eventually found myself at mile 24.  Sheer adrenaline and the energy of the crowd carried me through to mile 25.  One more mile to go. The finish line was in sight and I could hear the sounds of the announcer.  Despite a cramp in my right hamstring I hobbled my way down the final stretch and jaunted through the finish shoot like a gazelle, finishing just before 7pm with a time of 11:53:46.  I heard the announcer say in a British accent, David Farrell from Seattle, you are an Ironman as I crossed the finish line banner.   

Here's think to the results if you want more info (my bib # was  1452)

After a great time with family in Penticton and my parents at Harrison Hot Springs,  I headed back to Seattle for the real reward waiting at home. 

100_1586.JPG100_1557.JPGConclusion:  Most people consider this type of thing "crazy." Admittedly it's a bit kooky and requires intense discipline and a fair amount of sacrifice and training. Why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to this?   Mid-life Crisis? Perhaps, but the reward of setting a challenging goal and achieving it, as well as pushing yourself and finding out just how strong you are is very satisfying. The Pauole Sport team's motto proved to be true for me "you are stronger than you think you are" as well as the adage "pain is temporary, pride is forever."  Both of these applied to me Sunday and are applicable to any of life's challenges, whether self imposed or otherwise.  

Evo notes:
Like the cycling snobs that we are, we self-rightously dismiss and ignore anyone riding a Tri bike. You may think a TT bike is a Tri bike. Don't worry; many make that mistake. The tip off is the water bottles.  If you see multiple bottles behind the seat, or one of those phallic drinking tubes, it is a tri geek.  We sincerely love Feral Dave, and he rode with us in France (note the shout out in the write up).  In fact, more than once, when we finished a long day Dave went out for a run while the rest of us whimpered like starving orphans.  Dave worked hard for this.  Congratulations Dave.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lance Armstrong just because you're guilty doesn't mean it isn't a witch hunt

Lance leading at least one convicted doper..

If you are like me, all your friends and co-workers come to you for all things cycling. You are their de facto expert. "Hey, what about that Neil Armstrong guy who won those yellow shirts?"

In the cycling community there are opinions ranging from King Eddy Mercyx who wisely asked, "don't those tests count for anything?," to others who want him bankrupted for being a poor father. As for the logic based arguments I agree with both sides. I think he is guilty and I think it has been a witch hunt.

I am no Lance lover. My hero's don't ride bikes. My heroes did boring things like sell insurance and were guys who stayed out of the limelight.

If we define cheating as gaining an unfair advantage, then if everybody was doing it, don't single out one guy. Does that make it right? No way. But if you get pulled over for going 65 when the speed limit is 60 and you are third in a line of ten cars going the same speed, what is the first thing you're going to say to the police officer? You will admit to going 65, but so was everybody else.

If we look to the "Golden age" of cycling we have Fausto Coppi who some thing should be granted sainthood. He took amphetamines when he raced. He won the Tour de France. After he retired he was asked if he took "speed" and he said yes. Then they asked when he took it and he said "when it was necessary." Logically he was then asked when it was necessary, he said, "all the time." Are they stripping him of his title? No way.

Yeah, I know USADA doesn't have authority to strip results, but let's stay on point here. Although I will speculate that Pat McQuaid may just let it all die to keep his power base intact. Back to topic...

I looked up all of Lance's podiums. Dopers on the left side, dopers on the right side. Zulle Ulrich, Basso, all admitted dopers. Once again, I am not saying it is cool. I am a big "dopers suck" guy. I think witch hunts suck more.

It is easy to point a finger at Lance and call him a cheater. I am not one who can look back at my life under the harsh microscope of 2012 and find no faults. We all have made mistakes, we all have events we hope never to even think about, let alone talk about. For most of us we are lucky that loved ones forgive and accept us. One of the great things about life, whether you call it redemption, grace, forgiveness, or just forgetfulness; is that we don't have to endure reliving of most of our mistakes. I am willing to grant this guy the same peace.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Road ID product review

Sorry the words are a little smeared..

Some things just make sense. Wearing a helmet makes sense (though I oppose helmet laws as they limit freedom and tend to weaken the species). Wearing one of these makes sense as well. I can tell you that at a crash scene your mangled bike is tossed aside like dirty laundry, so all of the info in the world that is attached to your bike won't be noticed in time to be of any benefit to the urgent situation at hand.

If you are thinking that you always ride with your friends, I can tell you that I ride with the same guys every weekend and I would fail a test if asked to list all of their wives names. With a gun to my head I couldn't give you a single phone number to any of those wives, though I could name a few.

They come in an assortment of colors (with orange conspicuously missing from the options) and despite the overwhelming tendency to choose black for all bike accessories, I would recommend a different color. Any color that stands out is a good idea. Velcro adjustment means the fit will be as you like it.

In addition to the classic model I have pictured above, they offer different options. In my odd quest to own everything I purchased one that comes on a silicone band. It weighed less and I sported it all through France. On my recent day of cycling up the slopes of Mt. Rainier I lost it. I was pulling off my arm warmers after a descent and my guess is that the stretchy band came off with the arm warmer and was projected somewhere along the road down from Sunrise. Alas, it is gone forever, and so to is my recommendation for the bracelet version of Road ID. My time proven recommendation is for the Velcro version.

Competitors have emerged, but Road ID has some great commercials and appears to be a socially responsible company that supports our sport, so even Evo doesn't mind paying retail for these. I bought one for my mom (I did not opt for the DNR line in the text) and Hottie sports one as well.

I suggest you keep it where you will remember to use it. Stuck on your helmet or somewhere that you will trip on it is a good idea. It does no good stuck in your saddle bag or draped on your handlebar.

Good product, good company and practical.

Five of five Evos.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lights on for safety 2012

As the evening air now has a hint of crispness, the mornings have more than a hint of darkness. This morning they sky had and abundance of God's light diffuser and the sun was coming up later than yesterday. This is a pattern than has been repeating since late June. It was time to start my morning commutes with the aid of my headlight.
With Cyclocross season just around a loose gravel corner, I am doing intervals and increasing my intensity in general. As McWoodie says, "every ride now is either a recovery ride, or a hard ride." With intervals you are generally either going hard or recovering from the hard effort and dreading preparing for the next hard effort.

As I careen down the back streets of Snohomish county on my way to work I am a plethora of rolling contradictions. I have bike bags full of clothes and my lunch (and sometimes my computer), yet I am speeding along at full gas somewhere between twenty-five and thirty miles an hour. I have on a team kit, yet there is what appears to be a miner's headlamp on my helmet. My loaded bike looks like I am a refugee, yet I am pedaling like I am being chased by the police. Am I a commuter or a racer? Yep, it's Evo rolling down the street. Then when I have completed my duties in the pain cave, I roll along slowly like a beaten warrior. I get passed by another bike commuter whom I flew past a week ago. Perplexities abound.

My preparations for Cyclocross seem to be going well. How do I know you ask? After our Sunday morning throw down, I hurt everywhere. I see my statement has flummoxed you. Allow me to explain. In kind of the same way much of Christianity has the apparently contradictory view that God I everywhere, and nowhere at the same time (If God is he in my diet coke, and thus did I just take communion when I gulped a swig?) so too is my pain. If I hurt somewhere; my lower back, my hamstrings, or my quads, then I have a weakness I need to address. If I hurt everywhere with the same level of discomfort, then my training is going just fine.

Here is how it went down Sunday: Ten of us rolled out and we were a dozen strong when we arrived on Mercer Island. My goal was to make it to the climb with the lead group. We paused and shed arm warmers and with little more than a wink and a nod, it was on.

John was off the front from the start but was soft pedaling and soon we were in formation. McWoodie would have none of it and pressed on the uphill. I was purposely positioned near the front and I held Big John's wheel like it was my precious. I held my spot and we climbed at a ferocious pace. I worked on my circular pedal stroke and breathed deep.

By the time we finished the initial climb our group was down from twelve to eight. We rotated through once and after McWoodie's second pull It was John's turn for pull number two and he attacked out of the saddle. I was on his wheel so I jumped out of the saddle and chased. I closed the gap and a minute later the lead group was only four and Evo was still in the mix. I looked at my computer and we were going fifty kilometers and hour. John and McWoodie traded pulls and Michael and I just hung on.

As we approached the climb I was sitting second wheel to John. McWoodie came around and Michael moved up on the right. Without a word, wink, or nod we were sprinting to the top of the hill. This hill was my goal and I cranked and got a gap. My quads were screaming but I was faking deafness and drove to the top.

I waved as the charging trio shot past and I soft pedaled as my heart rate dropped back to a number that would allow normal vision.

On the return Matthew and I were leading a double pace line as Hank asked us not to pull off, so we brought the group back almost the whole way. I did dig once again on the final climb and when I reached the top my legs were quivering. My work was done. How spent were we? On the I-90 bridge nobody attacked, we just cruised to the lid.

Every year about this time, I think I have mastered the magic formula and I set my Cyclocross expectations nice and high, only to be humbled in the first race.

That is all I'm going to say about that...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Light & Motion Stella 300 Review

While some my opt for the bar mount, I prefer the light on my helmet. I will explain later.
A year and a half ago I received a Light & Motion Stella 300 bike light for a holiday a couple days after the winter solstice. Prior to that, I had used a number of lights powered by two to four AA batteries.  Some were better than others, but I always longed for something stronger. I have backpacked for decades and have used a variety of headlamps and my perspectives and understanding of what does and doesn't matter is based therein.

Commuter lights have TWO functions. The first objective is so others can see you, the second is to help you see. A headlight has the burden of both.
The light comes with a plethora of mounting options. Handlebars, helmet, your naked head; all are covered.  Once in place a single switch mounted on top of the light is all you need.  I stow the battery pack in a jersey pocket and I forget about it.  Light & Motion started by making lights for scuba, so they know a thing or two about how to do waterproof.

The beam is not adjustable and at first this bugged me. Most backpacking headlamps can be adjusted so I figured this should do the same. When I talked to the L&M rep at a race in Oregon he said the beam is "engineered."  Since I work with customers myself, I translated that phrase to mean, "It is what it is."  Well, what the beam just excellent.  It has the proper amount of diffusion and the beam isn't too wide, isn't too narrow, the center is brighter than the sides, but there is no hot spot that hides things.  In short, the beam is perfect.

Charging the battery pack is easy enough. The cord disconnects from the battery pack with a "pop."  The pop is actually more of a burp and it tells you this seal is water tight.
Battery pack connected to the light.
If you don't want to carry the battery pack in your jersey, you can hook it to your helmet or your bike frame. The hardware to do so is included in the box.
This is my set up. Light, battery pack, and charger. 
How does it work in the dark ?
The beam is great and is plenty bright. I love the fact that I can turn my head to flash my light at a car pulling out of a driveway. Since it is dark, we can't make eye contact, so blinding the driver is the next best thing.  I am able to see the road and to see stuff on the road like potholes or nails. This distinction is key. If the beam is too dim, or has a hot spot; you might miss a pothole and get a pinch flat or worse.

You can toggle through two beam intensities as well as flashing, so you can determine your battery life.  The battery life is excellent and it there is some battery life management so the beam is full power right up until it goes black. Which brings me to the only downside of the light. You have no warning before it goes black. And once you go black, you never go back. So until you charge it, you're dark. Because I use it for bike commutes on a pretty regular schedule, I am able to simply adjust my charging plans accordingly.  The downside is if I forget, there is no warning, and it goes dark.

When you plug in the charger, you get a red light and when it is charged it goes green.  If you complete your charge and unhook everything and then plug it right back in, it will show red (though not for too long) so you can't use the charger as an indication of battery level.

Customer service isn't stellar as I have sent in emails with questions that remain unanswered. Not even the, "we received your question," email.  This is amazing to me.

If you can live with these constraints, and I can, this is an awesome light. I no longer hanker for more lumens, this has all I need. The light is rugged and weatherproof. I don't even look at new offerings. Kind of like the idea that once you're married, you stop looking.  As far as lights go, I'm taken.

Four of five Evos.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Welcome to our neighborhood

This is my wife a.k.a. Hottie. I love her a lot. Even more than I thought I did.
I try to follow the unwritten rules when I blog. Maybe they aren't actually blogging rules, but just good taste, or perhaps an understanding of the boundaries between us humans. I try to share things I've learned about bikes, life, and this world we live in. You can search my archives and you won't come across blogs with titles like, "My Colonoscopy, the inside story," nor will you find pictures with captions like, "Can anyone identify this thing growing between my toes."

On rare occasions I feel compelled to share something personal usually because the emotional impact is so staggering that I can't keep it inside.

Something I did NOT plan to share was that Hottie had surgery on her fibula this past Monday. She has been home elevating and icing. While I had a pretty routine knee surgery in January (I'm not even sure I shared that) Hottie's was pretty serious. They had to take out some crap from a surgery six years ago and there was a potential for nerve damage. Leave it to Evo and my gallows humor to call Hottie "Deadfoot" for the one day she couldn't move her foot. So far it seems the surgery was a success.

As you may recall we have a remodel of our bathroom that is almost complete, with just the "come backs" to take care of. One other bit of trivia is that our neighbors sold their house and since it closed almost two months ago there has been a parade of trucks as the carpet was replaced, appliances upgraded, and other goings on, but nobody moved in until two days ago.

This afternoon Hottie is limping around the house and has a visitor looking at a portion of the remodel. She hears the front door open and assumes she hadn't closed it all the way when she let in her guest. As she approaches the door, standing in the open doorway is a six foot, two hundred pound guy in his early twenties dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. For a moment she thinks it is one of the crew that had been working on our remodel. Then Hottie realizes she has never seen this guy and she tries to push him out of the doorway and close the door. He grabs her arm and his fingernails cut into Hotties forearm and she starts bleeding. (Yes, this is some serious shit at Casa de Evo) She tried to free herself and he didn't want to let go. She finally twisted free and the intruder went into our living room and picked up one of Hottie's crutches.

As Hottie is trying to figure out what to do, there is a knock at the door and Hottie opens it (what the hell else could happen, right?) These is a woman who said she is his caretaker and she is here to get the guy out of our house. The guy lays down on the couch and picks up a pillow and he tries to eat it. Hottie's guest is freaking out and the woman can't get the guy to leave, and Hottie is bleeding. Tux, by the way, is wagging his tail because he thinks it is a party!

By now Hottie has realized something isn't normal with this guy (he is autistic) and she also realized she is bleeding all over the floor and the situation isn't under control (he won't leave). Hottie calls 911. In minutes there are policemen, paramedics (policy when there is blood, not Hottie's call) and the woman, who is the guy's caregiver has managed to get him out of the house.

And thus, Hottie met one of our new neighbors.

As amusing as this story is, I still would not have shared this, but for the emotional adventure I experienced. While any blog is essentially all about the author, my emotions are insignificant compared to the trauma Hottie went though.

Hottie lost some skin and has bandages on her arm (to match her leg) and although her arm was strained I expect no permenent physical damage. Hottie had the option to press charges, but didn't think that was the right path. We have a special needs niece and Hottie showed compassion to this situation. Less than an hour later the guy's dad knocks on the door and falls all over himself apologizing. Thus, Hottie met another of our new neighbors. Hottie expresses essentially, "I'll give you one, but only one and this was it."

I am an absolute "turn the other cheek" kind of guy. I probably put up with more than I should. Yet when Hottie was attacked, I experienced emotions I didn't know I had. I didn't want to hurt or punish the autistic kid in any way, but autistic or not, he overpowered my wife and hurt her. We aren't going anywhere and he just moved in next door. I felt helpless and angry at that helplessness.

I recall when someone broke into my truck and stole my speakers back in 1982. I felt violated. Now that I have some perspective on life, what a dick I was to feel violated that my stupid truck was broken into. Evo is about evolution. Nobody has ever asked what the Evo stands for and I just told the world. I'm a better person now than I was then. Yet the emotions I felt today were totally primal. I have only felt them once before and that was when my youngest son was robbed. That was years ago and I still can't drive by that spot without getting a knot in my stomach.

I'll try and digest this and share some insights when I have figured it out. Clearly that has not happened yet.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fizik Kurve Bull Review

Sitting pretty..

First off; let me say this, about that...

It is my opinion that there is a significant percentage of riders who can ride and be happy on any saddle. Conversely there is a percentage of the riding population (significant only if you are included therein) that will never find saddle happiness.

For the rest of us, I am going to go out on a limb and say that you could probably satisfy 98% of that group with confining their choices to four or five saddles. I won't list the five saddles here, in part because I expect you could come up with a nearly infinite combination of saddles to make up a stable of five saddles that would satisfy ninety nine percent of all riders. I will say Fizik has the right idea of forcing all saddles into one of three categories. Their concept of Arione, Antres, and Aliante being the three column headers is a fine place to start.

The two extremes in saddles are the rail (think Fizik Arione...flat as a rail) and those that are hammock-like (or curvy as I like to say). The hammock refers to the curved shape, not the suspension. With these data points on either end of the spectrum, there are a zillion options between the extremes.

The variables at play are the curve nose to tail (as seen from the side), the amount of curve or shape as viewed from the top, the amount and firmness of padding and any dynamic properties such as suspension and flex. Width and length also come into play here.

Now; on to the review...

Fizik offers three models of the Kurve that correspond to their Arione, Antares and Aliante. I selected the Bull which is most like the Aliante which I love. Despite my openly professed love for the Aliante, I had a recurring hot spot and wondered if the Kurve could be as comfortable as the Aliante but without the hot spot.

Out of the box (and it is an intimidatingly slick looking box) the saddle seems all business. Thick rails wrapped in carbon fiber support and dampen the ride. It looks a little too Star Trek for my taste, but I would ride a pink saddle if it made a difference.

On the bike I had to modify the seat post clamp to allow the thicker rails to seat properly. I set it up with a level and in the end, that position seemed just fine for me.

There isn't a lot of padding on this saddle as it relies on suspension flex for some of the comfort. The suspension is reminiscent of a leather saddle such as a Brooks or Selle Anatomica. One can flex the sides squeezing it with your fingers and as you pedal the sides flex so the saddle rides "narrower" than it appears. The nose is flat and if you scoot forward there is a wider section that supports you when you are "on the rivet" literally.

Knowing that there was some "suspension" I was worried the saddle might not feel stable. It seems counterintuitive at first, but because of the double hammock effect (shape and suspension) you are in fact "settled in" and thus more secure and the saddle provides and excellent platform for power pedaling. A common limitation of most hammock saddles is that there is a single position where you are comfortable. While this saddle definitely has a sweet spot, when you slide forward for that red zone effort, the nose is supportive and it works just fine.

The big question for me was the hot spot. How would the saddle deal with friction? When a saddle has soft padding the friction from pedaling is increased. How is the Kurve? Perfect. It flexes as you ride and the minimal padding feels plush. I rode it up to and all around France with nary a care.

Did the saddle live up to the hype? Did it warrant the hefty price tag? Would it find a permanent spot on my road bike? Yes, yes, yes.

Five of five Evos.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Squeaks, Creaks and Clicks Oh My

 Riding in the Northwest year round means something is covering my ears the majority of the year. Although we are toasty now, I remember how naked I feel every year when spring comes and I leave on a ride without anything on my head but a helmet. When I have a beanie or earband under my helmet I don't notice the little clicks and creaks that come from nowhere. Perhaps to compensate for that; when the climate is fair I am hyper alert. Some recent sounds that have been identified revealed my heightened state of awareness.

Before France I noted a squeaking on steady climbs. It seemed to come from my front wheel. To make an embarrassing story shorter, it was my gloves squealing on my new bar tape.

Last week I noted a quiet click with each pedal revolution. I suspected my left pedal which I had recently torn down, lubed the internals, and put all back together. I unclipped and pedaled with just my right foot. The clicking persisted. I checked the chainring bolts when I got to work. All good there. On the way home on a quiet stretch I noted it sounded more like a soft scraping sound. The chain cleared everything, so I wasn't sure what was going on. When I got home I put it up on the stand and slowly turned the cranks. The crankarm brushed the cable cap that came out of the front derailleur. I bent the wire back and the sound was gone. I slapped the side of my head with the appropriate gesture.

On a quick ride the weekend I heard what seemed like my rim was rubbing against the brake pad. I stopped and spun my wheels one at a time. Nothing. I clipped in and rolled on. Voom......voom.......voom. I stopped. I had picked up some sticky stuff and that had picked up a patch of dirt. When the dirt made contact with the pavement there was a hint of a sound. I shook my head and rode on.

Sometimes you can listen too much. In a month I'll be riding with my headlight on and a beanie on my noggin in the morning. Although I am sad to see summer end, I won't be haunted by tiny sounds.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cyclocross preseason training August 2012

Evo suffering on the SS pit bike last year.

The transition from amazing base (France trip training and France itself) to race ready is proving more awkward than I expected. I found the abundance of miles did improve my pedal stroke. Upon my return I felt like my legs were putting out power on every degree of my 360 degree pedal stroke. It was a weird sensation. Instead of pumping the pedals I felt like I was applying power using a throttle. In the weeks since returning this sensation has diminished, but I am now more conscience of my stroke and try to work on it on my rides.

My first dedicated interval session was a reintroduction to pain. Quads burning, lungs on fire; my body telling me to slow down. Without stepping on Jen Voigt, I am getting better at telling my legs to shut up. Despite letting my legs know there was no mercy coming from the engine room, they kept yelling louder and louder.

The payoff was almost immediate. I am stunned at the (perceived) increase in power. I feel faster on the hills and my ability to sustain an effort in an uncomfortable zone is dramatically improved. My knees are a little sore at the increase in intensity and my quads and hamstrings are likewise whining and tender. I am stretching for survival and leg rubs from Hottie are saving my life.

Strava may be an evil influence and while I can totally accept the argument that there are now no easy days (because every segment is a race), the ability to compare my performance on repeated segments is valuable. What is impressive is on a climb where I recently posted a PR, the effort was significantly less than my pervious best where I was struggling. On my PR climb, I had the feeling of, "I'm at the top already," instead of wondering if it would ever end.

Weight training is still important, but my focus, at least now, is intervals and stretching. So far, so good.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mavic clothing review arm and knee warmers and Relax jersey

When I found myself underdressed in France I stopped at the local Velo shop and found Mavic products were widely available. Having no clothing from the long time component manufacturer, I picked up some items and put them to task.

The short version is they were all winners. But who wants the short version?

I tried on a size large but didn't want it in black. The person at the shop came up with a medium in white, which, to my amazement, fit just fine. The jersey met my first requirement for a serious jersey, a full zipper. As a bonus, it has the best zipper pull I've ever used. Fit is very important and these have vegan arms (no sausages) and there is a high collar which I really like. I think a high collar gives a jersey a wider temperature range.

The jersey features a selection of fabrics. Mesh armpits vent just fine. The front provided great wind p rotection and breathability.

Subtle zippered pocket and the sweet zipper pull.

The pockets are deep enough and held everything they needed to. There is a weird 3/4 pocket on the left side in addition to the regular pocket which was great for wrappers and cleat covers. This has a small bonus zippered pocket for keys etc. I always think that is a cool feature, yet I can assure you I have never zipped a key in a short sleeve jersey. I will count it as a positive for this review..

Another positive feature was the jersey was way cheaper than anything offered by Assos.

Mavic makes some fine knee warmers as well.

The first test, and failure means game over, is do they stay up? These do. The color is a not quite black, a dark charcoal grey. The little piping and yellow highlights seemed alright in France and have come to grow on me. They are an ideal weight, keeping your knees warm without binding or bunching. They stuff into a pocket just fine. They manage moisture well and the final test, they bounce back for the next ride. Some arm or leg warmers are stretched out after a ride and must be washed or they are like yesterday's socks, droopy and saggy. If I peel off warmers early on a ride before I have sweated in them, I'd like to get another ride out of them before washing. These babies report for work the next day ready for duty.

Both the knee warmers and the arm warmers have a unique elastic on the upper ends. A lighter mesh with Mavic "M" printed in a rubbery material. The end result is a sleeker feeling and sleeker looking end of garment. I am not a fan or doubling the material and then sewing in a thick stripe of elastic and rubber. The resulting tourniquet may be what we are all used to, but this is an excellent alternative.

The arm warmers story is a near repeat of the knee warmers. They stay up, otherwise they don't even make it to the drawer, let alone on a ride. A good weight, long enough, cool accents and the neat mesh on the upper arm. High points on breathability, moisture management, the stuff factor and can be worn a few rides between washing.

Bottom line: affordable, top of the line quality, durable, high performance... Hey, I'm rambling.

Five of five Evos.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Giro Factor Review

Yep; this is what they look like

After finally admitting my feet weren't happy in their road shoes, I started looking for replacements. After reading all I could find, I tried the Giro Factor and was a fan from the start.

First off, they are light. You can't help but notice that even my 46.5's were light. They come in black, which is required. I don't care how "pro" white is, I live and ride twelve months a year in Seattle. Black it is. They come in white and red for those less conservative than Evo in their cycling attire. Good luck; God love you, enjoy your white shoes...

Despite being Giro's second tier shoe, they come with excellent insoles. The arch support can be tuned via three different sized supports. I have ridden them with the supplied insoles and super feet insoles and they both worked fine. In comparison, the insoles supplied with Sidi shoes are rumored to be made from the same cardboard as the boxes the shoes come in. (Isn't it nice I don't depend on sales of equipment and can say it like it is...)The toe box is tall enough, yet looks svelte. They close via two Velcro straps and a buckle. The center strap is offset (the purpose is lost on me, but they felt fine) and the buckle is very nice. It can be worked with numb hands and stiff fingers. I found the buckles superior to the Sidi buckles that get finicky when dirty or when being operated with cold hands.

Fit is personal and these fit my pods. No heel slip, the straps were not at either end of the spectrum. No slipping in the shoe. I rode these up to, and all around, France without a care. My feet did get hot when it was ninety degrees and I was out of the saddle racing uphill for a couple hours. What do you expect? I have worn these with thick wool socks and thin cool max socks. They fit. They adjust. They rock.

The sole is carbon and the weight (or lack thereof) of the whole shoe is noticeable on the bike. They spin up fast and while I don't want to open the whole rotating weight debate, lighter is lighter.

My sole complaint (pun intended) is that the heel tread isn't replaceable. I have worn it down and will be wearing into the carbon soon if I don't put on some shoe goo or something. Sidi sells replacements for theirs, but not so Giro. What is a boy to do?

They aren't cheap, but they go on every ride. Save money elsewhere if you must. Three color options to satisfy every ego level. Comfort every mile and apparent durability (heel tread issue aside) make these winners.

Four of five Evos.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Nuun Electrolyte Drink Review

I have had challenges with cramps during long rides over the years. In my training for my France epic, I kept something in my bottles at all times. When KLM lost my luggage, they also lost my nuun.  Another member of our band of merry men and I looked in more than one bike shop in France looking for nuun.

The stuff goes down easy, it comes in a variety of flavors that are pleasing to the palate. nuun contains electrolytes and the company is cool.  My only gripe is the tubes are more than you need for a ride and carrying the tablets in a ziplock looks very Fred-like. I sadly employ a competitor's shorter tube that holds eight or so tablets.

I give nuun FIVE of five Evos!

Better than a horn Chain-L lube review

I am trying out Chain-L lube on the chain of my commuter bike. So far I like it. It stays on and keeps the chain quiet. Water seems to have little effect. It isn't the cleanest and it goes on like honey. I don't dare hang it in the garage above Hottie's car after I lube it. I lube it, wipe it, ride it and then wipe it and hang it. I used it through the wet winter and it has proven to be a fine product. More on that in a future post.

While it was sitting awaiting the post lube ride to work a drop must have fallen on the brake track on the rear rim. As I was descending I tapped my brakes and my rear wheel made a sound much like a ferret in a blender (without the blender sound). I won't answer any questions as to how I know what sound a ferret makes when it is in a blender, suffice to say, it was a squeal and it was really, really loud.

Later on my ride the sound caused a guy to drop his keys as he was opening his car door when I slowed approaching an intersection. The sound was so loud it was not a "hey, I wonder what that sound is?" look. It was a "What the hell is that? Is that beast going to try and kill me?" look.

It is worth noting that this is the first commute I can recall where I left the house wearing a short sleeve jersey and had nothing on my arms (except muscles and hair)...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lopez Island ride with Hottie

Once or twice a year Hottie and I head north and ride around Lopez Island in the San Juans.  This looked to be the warmest weekend of the year and the stars aligned.
We made the long drive to Anacortes and made surprising time. It was warm early so there was no need for vests or arm warmers (Hottie does sport some arm "covers" to keep the sun off her limbs).  We had full bottles and some TERD bars to keep us moving.
Evo trying to look non threatening.  
They let the cyclists on the ferry first and let us secure our bikes before loading the cars.  For some it turned into a game of, "I can put my bike higher than you can."
Our sweet rides secured with a complex knot. 
Hottie enjoying the ride across the water toward Lopez.
When the ferry arrives, the cyclists get off first.  They herd us into this holding area where Hottie waits with sixty other bikers for all the cars to get off.  It seems like a hassle, but you don't get run over by rushing automobiles, so it is a fair deal.
After a "wake up climb" and less than ten minutes from the ferry terminal, you know why you came.
After riding along the coast we turned inland and began a long gradual climb. I looked behind us expecting to see the other sixty cyclists chasing, but alas, Hottie was setting a tempo nobody could match.  We were alone on a perfect day.

Hottie tops out on the steepest hill with double digit grade.  The shade was welcome. 
Just a perfect day.  This was Outer Bay at the southern end of the island. 
Sweet !!
Heading back from Outer Bay we enjoyed the cool breeze off the water.
We were getting hungry and it was about lunchtime, so we cranked it toward town (town may be a bit of a stretch).  Being creatures of habit, we ate at our usual spot and I swore never to go there again.
With full bellies we rode to the ferry and they announced the 2:40 ferry would be an hour to an hour and a half late.  We rode back toward town in the afternoon heat and opted to crash at Odlin park where we chased everyone out so we could have this cabana to ourselves.
Hottie presiding over "our" rest area.  
We returned to the terminal and it turned out the ferry hadn't even left yet, and we wouldn't be departing until 5:40, three hours later than planned.  On the bright side, it wasn't cold, so we didn't freeze. On the downside, it was warm and our soggy pants and dried sweat didn't make the time go any faster.  First rule of travel? Be flexible.  We chilled and went with the flow.
I'd follow that ponytail anywhere.   We made it home by nine.  A long day, but a nice day.
This is NOT how you are supposed to wear your gloves.