Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Off to WORLDS !!!!

Hottie and a hot cup in the Seattle airport.

We will be in Louisville in a few hours.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The problem of the bike

Set up for touring. On the Oregon coast in 2010; my ride is in back.

CAUTION: This is a journey that goes well past the sarcastic barriers of Evo..

It began when I was a teenager with the realization that I could take apart a bicycle then put it back together and it still worked. It worked as well as it had before I had taken it apart. Actually it worked better because I had cleaned the parts and put in fresh grease. After I saw the jumbled pile of seemingly lost bicycle parts that had been a bicycle a few hours earlier sitting on my dad's garage floor I felt a momentary sense of panic. Then I managed to put those parts back into a working bike.


I suddenly felt a kind of omnipotence as I realized I had the power to transform that array of parts into a machine, a transportation tool, a working bicycle. I was hooked.


As I grew older my interest in bicycles was superseded by girls and music and then high school and college sports. I rode a bike for transportation in high school and college. The bike was little more than a tool during that time. After college somehow I no longer had a bicycle. I can't tell you what happened to it. I have had an emotional relationship with every bike I have owned so I know I wouldn't have just let it slip away. The relationship may or may not have been love, it was at a minimum; respect.


I did not grow up poor, but like many kids I always wanted more than I had. This led to my becoming "handy" at fixing, upgrading and making things work beyond their "relevant range." As if I had grown up in the depression, I also kept old parts "just in case." I dabbled in a variety of mechanical avenues that broadened my skills. My father bought a new dishwasher and when they told him installation was not included in the base price, he declared, "my son will do it." That weekend I learned that the fuse that controls the kitchen lights is not the same as the one that shuts off the power to the appliances.


Before long my world came to include children that all too soon grew into adults. The face I look at in the mirror acquired lines that were earned with years of joy as well as pain. Bicycles came and went. These bikes belonged to others in my family. When it was my turn to recall the freedom of riding, I rekindled not just the child in me as I rode, but my chance to again be a deity with the ability to work on and even create machines to serve their purpose.


I had raced a BMX bike when I was a kid and then competed in track and cross country in high school and college followed by a smattering of distance races after college. I eventually returned to bike racing as a forty five year old master. As far as racing went I was forty five years old, but I was no master. I soon was tweaking bikes to better meet their assigned objectives. I worked to make my bikes lighter or faster or sturdier depending on the bike and the purpose for which each machine was destined.


My racing career is about as undistinguished as one can imagine. I am a rather unremarkable man with minor successes and major shortcomings like everyone else. Compromise has come to rule my life and I seek to strike a balance that my heart and mind can both accept.


I have learned to appreciate quality wherever I can find it. I find in the problem of the bicycle, a unique opportunity to create something of quality; something perfect. My physical conditioning will never be perfect. I have made mistakes in life that can never be put right. I have let people down and sold my soul when it seemed there was no other choice. I can, however, assemble a bicycle that is perfectly fit for purpose.


When my human failings are bubbling over I often descend into my garage and with my dirty hands make a good bike better, or create a new ride from an assortment of "just in case" parts. It is this ability to be God-like in creating something perfect from an apparent chaos of parts that allows me to set aside my shortcomings if but for a moment. It may be my need to have a portion of authorship in my bikes that makes the thought of buying a new bike that you could just swing a leg over and ride away almost inconceivable in my mind. It may be I think myself unworthy, or the thought of just buying a complete new bike simply sounds too easy.


I see cyclocross races as a set of complex problems with many more variables than a road race. If you have a spare week, feel free to study up on cyclocross tire choices and be prepared to discuss it next week during the "Coffee and Lies" portion of our team ride. Oh, and regarding the subject of cyclocross brakes; you had better bring your "A" game if you want to engage in a dialogue on that subject.


As a racer and bike geek I thrive on working solutions to these problems. As a parent, husband, employee, citizen and human I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the challenges I face. Perhaps the simple truth is the only difference is that the bike problems are easier to solve. In a world that is becoming increasingly challenging, maybe that isn't all bad. We can all use some wins.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Coffee and Lies #5

First off, you will note there was no Coffee and Lies #4.  I rode with Hottie last week and skipped the team ride on Sunday.
Today we were kicking around the upcoming trip to Cyclocross worlds next week.  El Jefe, The Judge (a.k.a. Seabiscuit) and Peter Parker (a.k.a. The Pirate) will join Evo and Hottie in Louisville.  If you're wondering how I'm preparing you can check here.   My second son and his fiancee are in town and we went snowboarding this past week.  That was the second time in two weeks, which sounds like I go a lot.  To correct your misconception; it was also the second time in two years.

The freezing fog of the past ten days was followed by enough rain yesterday so Evo decided to ride indoors.  Although cloudy it was dry this morning and it was a blast to be out riding.

Bike racing involves the Pain Bank. If you want to do well it takes sacrifice. As KB wisely said, "it hurts when you made deposits into the pain bank and it hurts when you make withdrawals as well."  If you don't bother to suffer on your training rides then when you need to make a withdrawal, there is nothing there.  France didn't involve much suffering, it was just lots of miles.  Racing means going deep into the pain cave and you had better have the currency to pay the bills or you'll be watching the other riders getting smaller and smaller as they ride away.

 Evo is planning on dipping his toe into the pool of Washington road racing again in 2013.  Thus I am trying to log some miles and throw in some early season intensity. I even managed to hang on to the elite group that today consisted of Seabiscuit and McWoodie.  I noted my HR tickling the 178 limit and after the climb I was at 181 and I knew I was a ticking time bomb.  I popped, recovered and pushed again. On the way back I was pulling another rider who looked strong (McWoodie and Seabiscuit had pulled away by this point,).  We traded pulls and I was feeling cooked from my outbound effort. I took a longer than usual pull and when I pulled over, he was nowhere to be seen. I had inadvertently dropped him.  Rather than let up, I continued to drill and pushed up up the final hill.  I was spent but pleased to have made a deposit into the pain bank.  I figured my vision would return to normal sooner or later.

After crossing the bridge we kept it real and chatted on the way to where the coffee was waiting.  We enjoyed a cup and chatted. As we left FUEL the rain was starting to fall.  We were all chilled and the cold rain didn't help. I was glad to get into the war wagon and head home.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Foggy Mountain Ride Around

This is what a thug looks like when it is 1 degree C and foggy (and chewing a TERD)
A long chilly ride in the fog that was 0C (32F) when we started and 1C (34F) when we finished.  On my feet I had thick wool socks, a toe hot pack, my shoes, fleece toe covers, fleece shoe covers and rain covers.  Sounds pretty invincible doesn't it?  My feet got cold about half way into the 80k ride.  The good news is once you lose feeling, your feet aren't cold anymore.

In the afternoon Hottie and I were in the car and I had the temp turned up to 78 degrees and I was still cold.  This freezing weather has lost its novelty. 

On Thursday the temps were below freezing and the fog had frozen and it looked like sugar had been spilled on the ground. The surface wasn't white like snow, but it reflected my headlight like diamond dust or and handful of tossed sugar.  I slipped in a couple places, but the spots where I slipped were pretty predictable and I wasn't in danger of going down.

Speaking of sugar.. On last Sunday's birthday ride as we made our way over hill and dale in the park I saw a phenomenon that I had never seen before.  The grass and leaves had a gloss on them as if they were wet or had been shellacked.  As a tire rode over it, the coating, which was in fact ice, cracked leaving what looked like a path of sugar where the wheels traveled.   It was pretty cool.

The group that day was large and the ride today was just The Judge and me.  Others would go out later, but it was nice to ride with such a nice guy and share both kind words and cruel suffering.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hope is all we've got

"My name is hope; luck just ran out.."

- Carbon Leaf

These are the dark days of winter. The holidays are past and we only have spring to look forward to. When my alarm goes off it is dark. When I leave the house on my bike it is dark. When I get to work it is still as dark as midnight. I shower and dress and when it get to my desk there are hints of light outside. When I leave work to ride home it is again as dark as Ricky Gervais' humor.

Question: When is it warm and still below freezing?

Answer: When it is freezing, but still five degrees C warmer (nine degrees F) than it was two days ago!

I am in fact glad it is cold because when it is this cold it doesn't rain. Trading the wet for the cold only means a different jacket in the morning commute. Even long base miles involve some pain as the cold cuts through your layers.

Paying bills and bringing home work from the office doesn't do much to bring sunshine into my world.

Yesterday I was wondering if it would ever be warm and sunny again. As a diversion I started entering the sunrise and set times for each week from a website to get an idea how much longer I could get along sans sunscreen. As I began entering sunrise times that were earlier and sunset times that were later, I began to cheer up.

If I had to live like this all year I would no doubt enlist the help of alcohol to help lighten my mood. Alas, I shall rely on my old friend hope. While I do know it will be warm and sunny come July, I am like the starving man who is promised food at a later date; I am still hungry.

My hope is that sunshine and warmth come soon.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Coffee and Lies #3

With the temperature at -5 (Celsius of course, that's 23F for the luddites and laggards), there was no fooling around this day!  The Belgian Thugs were LOOKING for trouble

Our team has a tradition of celebrating Kevin's birthday by doing a ride that coincides with his age. Last year we rode 56 miles in the rain as the temperatures hovered in the upper thirties.  It was miserable. Kevin led us in France last summer when we made the pledge to go all metric all the time. The plan was to do 57k if it was raining, 57 miles if it was dry. Since we have trouble going slow as a group, when it became clear our day would start and end below freezing, we opted for 57 minutes of cyclocross practice in a nearby park. 
The morning was cold and we were layered up.  
Despite riding laps and laps, we never stopped to shed layers.
We had ELEVEN of the usual suspects turn out.  Note the goalkeeper gloves!
Kevin had sent an email last week asking for RSVP's and shoe size so he would know how many cupcakes to order. I'm not explaining his logic, I'm just telling you what the email said.

On Saturday he sent out the update containing the change in plans due to the freezing temperatures. He said we would ride laps for 57 minutes and then share, "Coffee and Lies."  This phrase was almost as memorable as his musing: "what part of that is the downhill?" 

Since this was the third team ride of 2013, I'm dubbing my weekly ride reports "Coffee and Lies" and the number corresponds to the rides starting this year.  

Kevin appeared and handed out party favors. The party favors were brown Smartwool Phd. socks and everyone smiled and gladly accepted the kind offerings from the birthday boy.
 We gathered at FUEL Coffee, one of our team's sponsors.  
If this reminds you of "The Last Supper" then either Tim or Matthew must be Jesus !
We discussed the CX National Championship races scheduled for later in the day.  Local hero Zach McDonald would take second in the ELITEs as Jonathan Page earned his redemption with a fourth Men's Elite National Champion Jersey.  A sincere congratulations to Mr. Page as his leap of faith was rewarded. Way to go Jonathan!

Our weekly rides are typically polite, but usually include a throw down or two; the agenda this day was an exception.  Not wanting to risk a crash on icy roads, and willing to take a moment to honor one of our own, this day we welcomed the completely social respite from the typically hard workout.

Joe Friel says we should have a plan. When the roads are icy, or when you get a better offer, that is when you should feel free to change the plan.  That is the lesson for Coffee and Lies #3.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Getting my Belgium on !!

The commute today was wet and windy.  Really wet, really windy.  We cyclists idolize the Belgian hardmen who train with total disregard to the nasty weather.  I think that after the ride today I can apply for dual citizenship.  Believe it or not, I was glad I was out.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year, new plan

Matthew chugging along on our New Year's day team ride
January 1 saw three hearty souls brave the 32 degree weather for a seventy kilometer spin around the south end of Lake Washington.  As our wind-numbed faces struggled to speak clearly, one of us pointed out that all three of us grew up in Southern California.  Trivia for sure as we could find no deeper meaning from that tidbit. 

I'm not one for resolutions.  If I come up with a good idea; rather than hold off until I get a new calendar, I just put it into practice.  I have a good idea and the plan is underway.

I sincerely enjoyed my low key season.  I have enjoyed logging in some slower miles and having fries without too much guilt. 

My training will have one focus for 2013.  Intensity.  Go fast, or go slow.  Nothing in between.