Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Coffee and Lies #14

Kyson testing to see if the nutcracker's cookie was real or not.  It is made of wood.

Bike racing is fun. Bike racing is science. Bikes are big business. Bikes really don't matter much.

A couple of months ago Matthew was smiling and telling us about his ailing father and pursuing medical marijuana to help him out. A couple weeks ago he quietly said he couldn't make the race this past Saturday because he would be out of town for his father's memorial service.
Although Sam is occasionally bored by Matthew; Kevin listens intently
Matthew is a great guy. There are a lot of jerks that are great guys. Matthew is a great man. There aren't many great men. Matthew is one of them.  His father must have been proud.

IVRR Independence Valley Road Race Report 2013 with Photos

Spotshot Photos from all races can be found HERE !

Faster than some, slower than others..
While my earlier 2013 road exploits turned out to be somewhat social affairs, the Independence Valley Road Race (IVRR) was more of a soul searching pain cave experience.  Hottie and I stuck around and she photographed all the races. What we saw confirmed what I and the other riders I talked to confirmed. With the exception of the Men's open 4's, all the races splintered into small affairs with nowhere to hide. IVRR was a tough day at the office.

I learned something valuable at this race. What I learned is my head needs to think racing from the starting gun to the finish line. Forty three of us rolled out in my race. The day was sunny and I had bare legs (aside from the hair) and arm warmers which I shed on the first lap.  The course consisted of two twenty mile loops with two climbs each loop the balance flat to rolling.  As we hit the first climb I was well within myself and moved up. As we crested the hill I was at the back of the front pack and behind me the field was blown apart into ones and twos.
 I caught him on the hill and he would work with us on the flats until he disappeared. 
I relaxed as I felt I had made the cut.  I stayed in place on the false flat and then was on a wheel as we hit the downhill. The downhill run was a screaming affair where we went over sixty kilometers per hour (look it up). When I ride with my friends you don't try and move up on narrow twisty descents and my mind fell into social mode. I relaxed and allowed a bit of a gap to form. I wasn't racing, I was riding.  As we hit the bottom I closed the gap on the rider in front of me but he took the ninety degree corner wide and cut me off forcing me to brake (by the way the Cole pink pads are amazing, look for a review soon).  I was decelerating as he was accelerating to close the gap in front of him. He closed the gap and I didn't.  Then I soloed hard for ten minutes which hurt.

My second lesson is I should have soft pedaled and waited for a group. As it was when a group of six came up I was cooked from my solo effort and held on, but not for long.  I kept the group within sight but the gap was growing.  I caught my breath and worked on my pedal stroke (I pretend my feet don't weigh anything and work on circles) I hit the second hill and it seemed shorter than I recalled.  Near the top I caught one of the guys who had been dropped from the groups I lost contact with and we worked together on the downhill and flats.   We stuck together for a few minutes and then a group came up. As they came up on our left the second guy (Larry) said, "there's seven of us." The two of us latched on and we all talked about staying together.
On the second lap when we hit the first climb I easily moved ahead of the guys I was with and I wasn't digging deep at all. This reminded me that I should be with the riders who were ahead of me. On the other side of the first hill what had been nine was now five.  We took turns and a rider named Todd took some monster pulls. His pulls we both long and fast. On the second and final hill I once again stayed within myself and had a significant gap. We came together on the flats and still had eight miles to go (okay, I relented for the sake of the story).  Todd took another monster pull and then after I put my nose in the wind for a minute (I counted) when I rotated back there were only three of us.  Todd was blown.

We continued on and while I wasn't about to sprint for 30th place, one of the guys, (Larry) had largely sat on and I wasn't about to let him get in front of me. With 200m to go he moved up and without getting out of the saddle I "Cancellara'd" and just ramped it up and left him.  The third guy in our group, a Lakemont rider, had taken off out of the saddle a few seconds before and I in my mind I just wished him well.

I ended up 31st out of 43 (so I really would have been sprinting for 30th) which is my worst of 2013, but I knew I had worked hard and I finished which gave me the single point which was my minimum objective on the day.  Hottie kept reminding me that I had been sick and lost more than a week of training, but I should have done much better.

Hottie, Tux and I stuck around and as the mercury reached for, but didn't quite hit 70, it turned out to be a pretty fun day.
One of us is tired from racing and the other one gets to lay on the bed.....What is with THAT?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sequim Race Report and Photos #2 2013

More later, but for now photos of all races can be found here:  Spotshot

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Coffee and Lies #12 Winter never really says, "Goodbye"

Time to melt !
When winter comes you can point to a specific day. The first day you had to scrape your windshield, the first snow; there are a number of finite criteria that define the beginning of winter.  If it gets warm after that first cold snap, it is still winter.

The last winter storm never announces that it is the season finale.  Starting in late February, there are several weeks when another storm can happen and prolong the winter despite the opinion of a Pennsylvania rodent.

Here in Washington, after what seems like an eternity of highs in the forties, suddenly you see numbers that start with fives.   The days get longer (even more so with our new age "enhanced" daylight savings time) long before they get warmer.  It is still wet, so I'm wearing a rain jacket when I commute.

I see my warmer bike clothes moving to the back of my drawers before making the journey to the winter box. I notice my pile of warm riding gloves hasn't been disturbed in a couple weeks.  Is that it?

The calendar tells us spring arrives in the coming week.  I am excited for spring to arrive.  I just feel bad that winter left and I never had the chance to say farewell.

Friday, March 15, 2013


A younger and thicker Evo flatting at the back of a race
While some would like to say, "We make our own luck," experience says all kinds of factors play into it.  John told me I was skilled in moving up and avoiding the crashes that plagued the race last week.  It feels more like I was just lucky.  When KLM lost my luggage that was just plain bad luck. When the weather in France stayed perfect so I didn't need more clothing than I was able to scrounge, that was just plain good luck.
Not me !

I've had some good luck in my early season road foray and it would be easy to attribute that to more meaningful things like training and smart racing. In reality, it is just some good luck.

On Wednesday I started feeling really tired and left work early. I felt like I was getting sick and sure enough, a sore throat and head cold followed. I stayed home Thursday and Friday. It has been so long since I was sick enough to miss work, I can't recall the last time it happened. I usually trust in my ability to sleep off any ailment; but I am now drinking tea with honey (or, more accurately, honey that is diluted with tea) like it is going out of style.

No race for me this weekend.  I'll just be glad when I can swallow and not feel like I gargled with broken glass and chased it down with a cup of vinegar.

Since I've had so much good luck in my life, I can't complain when I get a sprinkling of bad now and again.  I guess I could, but really, it wouldn't get any traction...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mason Lake Road Race #2 2013 Race Report

After getting up at a ridiculous hour (considering the time change) and driving out just past the edge of civilization AGAIN; it was good to see Big John's familiar smiling face. On the drive to the start we had driven through off and on sprinkles and the sky looked like it held a smidgen of moisture. Temps were in the upper thirties and expected to climb. NOAA had promised no rain until eleven, and then only a 20% chance. We were in for a dry race.
Hottie and Tux went up the road to set up for race photography while John and I roared in place on our trainers. Soon it was showtime and the Twin Towers of Brown Power made our way to the line. As seventy six riders rolled out it began to rain. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot as we in the Aviation industry like to say. As we opened up the pace the rain increased and you had to choose between drafting and getting water up your nose or moving aside and working harder. Three miles in there was a crash on the white line and as I rode past there were two riders down and one had a painful grimace that was not because of frustration. This was going to be a white knuckle ride.
John's yellow helmet was highly visible from behind, which was excellent, because that is where I was in relation to John. John did a commendable job of letting others do the work on the first two laps. John earned the nickname Seabiscuit for his habit of never letting anyone go. My limited race experience with John is does as much work as the entire peloton in bringing back breaks. If there was a George Bailey jersey, John would live in it. My back was unexplainably tight so I was just trying to hang on the back. On the third lap a solo break got a gap but the poor fellow ran out of gas and we pulled him back early on the fourth lap. The rain kept coming and we were all soaked.
The trade off today was that when we were on the wider road with good pavement, it was wetter because the surface was smoother. On the rough chip seal the spaces between the rocks held the water and the road seemed dryer. I could feel the cold water running down my exposed shins. My toes were wet and after the race I would discover I had failed to tape over the cooling vents in the soles of my shoes. They did their job, my feet did not overheat !! This oversight has since been addressed.
I wanted to move up and try and help John but after last week everyone that hadn't been dropped wanted to move up as well. To my amazement I was only a few riders in back of John as we turned onto the rough stuff six miles from the finish. John was sitting top eight and although my back was sore my legs had some go left in them.
Last week the pace had slowed at this point and we rode four wide on the narrow road as if the leaders had locked arms. This week some kind souls upped the pace which shed a few of the riders more suited to the tug of war competition. Although I was grabbing my brakes more than I wanted, it was better than the neutralized lead of we had last week.
With a few K's to go riders were jockeying for spots and I was down in the drops holding my line with an attitude. A rider came up next to me from behind and I felt his hood hit my forearm. I thought, "that was close, he'll back off." I was wrong, he bumped me twice more before I moved over and closed the door. I figured i was doing him a favor. We were bumping shoulders and bars and the wet pave' made it risky to blink. I caught up to John who was looking uneasy at the chaos.
Behind John there was the sound of bumping bikes followed by profanity and the sound of crashing bikes. "Don't look back" I thought selfishly. After riding next to him for a minute I moved up and hoped John would take my wheel. I was of course assuming he was able to read my mind and expected he would be right behind me. With about two K's to go I was able to work up on the right side without having to dodge mailboxes. With one K I was sitting about fifteenth and when everyone got cautious on a swooping downhill turn I moved up and claimed the right side as my own and when we hit the finishing straight (400M) I was top ten.

I didn't need to change my line and when the sprint started early I accelerated and felt okay. I was moving up and began having dreams of a good finish. It seemed too easy and my lactic acid and HR were nanoseconds from spiking. Soon there was a tornado to my left and instead of thinking, "I'm moving up," I was thinking, "I'm getting dusted." In contrast to last week where I wanted a hundred meters more, today the line was a hundred meters too far.
Amazing to think that when you race for 75 kilometers, that those last hundred meters would be so hard. I was out of the saddle, but my sore back (freakin psoas muscles) and total exhaustion kept me from hitting top speed.
I held on enough for a top twenty placing of nineteenth and Big John sprinted to sixteenth. There were sixty-six finishers and ten DNF's. I went on the USA cycling website and noted that last week I was the top CAT 5 (read Newbie) in the race. This week I was the number two guy and number three was twenty seventh and that was it in the top thirty.
While the race didn't give John much of a chance to show his strength, it was a race and it is early season and neither of us got hurt.
Full race photos can be found here:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Geek test Bike geek, that is...

There is a joke among Engineers that the way you pass the Engineering geek test is by starting a sentence, "Do you remember the Star Trek episode where..." Among cyclists there is a similar credo wherein your actions or words betray any presence of coolness and reveal you as a dyed-in-the-lycra bike geek.

If you meet any of these criteria you are a bike geek:

You cut off the ends of the bolts that hold on your water bottle cages to save weight.

You discuss distances using kilometers.

When someone mentions the word, "chamois" you are not thinking about waxing your car.

If you own a gram scale and keep it in your garage, you are a bike geek.

If you have ever referred to a shade of blue as, "Park Tool" blue.

If you can convert your tire pressure into "bars."

If you reverence all things Belgian.

If you have ever joined a conversation about expensive Italian shoes and then had to concede that your expensive Italian shoes have buckles on the sides and cleats on the bottom....geek!

When someone points out your farmers tan you are flattered.

If someone mentions "The King" and you know the King's first name is Eddy, you are correct.

When a cowboy talks about eight seconds and your first thought is Greg LeMond.

You get teased for not shaving your legs.

Your training log contain pivot tables.

The only way your friends find out you are on vacation is based on your Strava updates.

You love the smell of Embrocation in the morning.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mason Lake Road Race #1 Report 2013

Evo mixing it up on the road !!

Despite the early hour Hottie and I were pretty efficient at getting ready and we rolled out before six thirty.   It was a long drive, but the pretty sky and dryish roads made the journey pleasant.  The race is out in the middle of nowhere, and I was surprised I recognized a handful of landmarks from the last time I did this race in 2011.

We got a spot and soon I was chomping my Nutella slathered bagel and sitting on my bike warming up on the trainer.  My friend Tom was the chief judge.   That would come into play later..

Just before the start they announced that there would be a post race clinic for any Cat 5's that wanted to get a few tips on their race from some coaches who were going to watch the race from the lead car.  As we rolled out the first couple K's were neutralized until we got to the wide road.  The lead car slowed and accelerated such that I thought they should offer a lead car driving clinic after the race.

The race was four loops of a 20k circuit. I started near the back and noted there were at least fifty riders in the field.  On the first climb I moved up to the middle and there were some accelerations that I had to put out some effort to cover.  This was racing and every time I race on the road I am shocked at how frequently and how hard I find myself grabbing my brakes.  This accordion action increases the further back you are in the peloton. 

The course was about 40% on a nice wide road with excellent pavement and a couple long slight climbs.  The last 60% was narrow rough roads with slight turns and small rollers.  We passed the first lap and I felt okay. I was drinking and slurping my hammer gel, not when I wanted to, but when I could. 

The second lap was much like the first; unexplained accelerations and braking. I was feeling pretty good and when I was about a third of the way back in the pack a break had a tiny gap up front.  The mix of riders was like a rainbow coalition from each of the big teams. There was a Tacoma Bike rider, a Cucina guy, and Apex rider and finally a rider clad Olympia Orthopedic rider.  The front of the peloton was populated with these teams and nobody was willing to chase.  We crossed the line with two to go and the break had a hundred meters.

The peloton was happy to let the gap grow and I found myself moving to the front.  It just sort of happened.  I took my turn with my nose in the wind and then drifted back to third in line as we hit the rough pavement on lap three.  There were two slalom riders with me and I figured they might try and get away so I stuck with them.  Soon a rider I know named Paul jumped in, joined by an Apex rider and the five of us were working the front. It felt like a Mercer Island ride until I looked back and there were forty guys following us.  We crossed the line with one to go and I was feeling strong, although my back was a little tight.  I had spent a lot of time in the drops and I am the biggest fan of compact bars ever.

On the final lap I allowed myself to move back when we were on the wide road and catch some draft in prep for the final few k's.  This turned out to be dumb. On the chipseal part everyone was trying to move up and it was freakin congested. As a big rider I always like to find other big guys to get behind.  Actually, I think all riders look for someone big to get behind. I was behind an Olympia orthopedic rider and he hit his brakes so hard his back wheel came off the ground and went sideways. He managed to stay upright and because it happened so fast I didn’t have time to crap in my bibshorts. Two guys to my right touched wheels and I heard the sick sound of two tire treads rubbing. There were audible sighs of relief as they also kept the rubber on the road.  Things were getting "twitchy."

I was channelling my inner McHale and felt stronger than the pace we were going.  I battled to move up but was sitting only about 30th with 1k to go. There was a sweeping downhill that people had taken very carefully and I figured when we hit that in the final “k” I could move up when others backed off.  

Sure enough people coasted and spread out and I filled one gap after another and when we hit the 200m to go I had all the horsepower I could want, but I was just fighting to find openings.  I was moving up and found a spot gap and went for it. I ended up tenth in the sprint and fifteenth on the day.

I didn't feel any difficulty the last two laps and wondered if that is what it is like to be Tim Wood.  Next time I will make sure and get in a better position when we hit the chipseal on the last lap.
Evo is looking old and somber today...
The race was intense and Hottie was so busy shooting photos she didn’t see me and was worried I had crashed.  She was super relieved to see me at the finish.  I was glad to see her and get a post race kiss.