Doing it all the hard way...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Coffee and Lies #18 Temptation

Evo fighting for the line
After my wonderful fourth place finish on Saturday I was entitled to an easy ride with the team on Sunday. There were a dozen boys in brown rolling along in an orderly peloton under threatening skies.
John was back from a vacation in France and was itching to ride fast. He would not be denied and when it came time to switch from conversational pace to survival of the fittest, he was off like his Seabiscuit nickname implies.
We all tried to restrain ourselves but soon McWoodie was ramping it up and for reasons I cannot explain, I jumped on his wheel. In no time there were twelve guys in three groups turning their heart rate dials to zone five.
I looked down and we were well over forty kilometers an hour and there were no signs of letting up. My legs had felt pretty good considering the sixty miles including warm up and cool down they had raced twenty one hours earlier. I could feel an increasing heaviness in my legs as the pace continued. If I had a lactic acid meter I am sure it would have been slowly climbing from the green to yellow to orange and finally into the red.
There were five of us in the front group and I could tell my time was running out. I took a medium pull and fought to catch back on. When my turn came again I took a shorter pull and caught on, but I knew this was it. When the next rider rotated back I waved him in and popped.
On the way back the typical scenario unfolded. We started social and after the downhill it ramped up ever so slowly. Twelve became ten and then seven and finally five and then the attacks came. John takes a flyer, then Dave and McWoodie won't let it slow down. I wanted to give Seabiscuit a lead out but my turn at the front came at the wrong time.
When the final climb came I downshifted and spun up the hill while the others fought it out for an imaginary prize.
After regrouping at the park we rolled back and I wondered what compulsion made a bunch of middle aged men push themselves so hard when several (including me) had good reasons to take it easy.
I am reminded of the golfer who tries to keep his swing clean and strike the ball without trying to crush it. It seems when you try to smash a golf ball your swing usually isn't straight and you end up mis-hitting the ball. So to this was supposed to be a recovery day for several of us, yet when it got going...we couldn't resist.
Self control isn't my strong suit.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Olympic View Road Race 2013 Report and Photos of all races I got 4th !!

First off; photos of all races can be found here: SpotShot

Second off: I got fourth !  Whoooo hooooo !!!

Evo sprinting to fourth!  Look at the fast guys BEHIND me !!
My mother; a.k.a. The Beast, returned from her southern exposure and joined our happy throng. Thus Hottie, Tux and I made four mammals in the war wagon as we journeyed down to Brady, Washington.  Where is Brady you may ask? Just go south to Olympia, take a right and go past the moss covered trailers and when you lose cell coverage; you're there !

A longer line at the port o toilets put some strain on the morning schedule, but nothing fatal.  The sky was threatening, but it was a weak threat. NOAA said 20% chance of .001 per hour and was a pretty good description of the weather. 

There were lots of familiar faces in the peloton this day.  I saw my usual Cyclocross friends: Francisco, Alex and Scott. I have made some new friends on the road circuit and exchanged words with Larry, Peter and some others.  Kenton and Kevin were out this day as well and everyone was in a good mood. It was over 50 degrees (10C) and dry, what more can you ask for (in the Northwest)?

We rolled out and it was pretty casual. We hit some rollers and there were some attacks that were caught pretty quickly. The result was kind of like Saturday morning intervals. Cruise, cruise, attack, push, relax, cruise, cruise, cruise and repeat.  I moved up to a peloton position in the 'teens and was fine with that. There were about seven each Cucia, Olympia, and Fischer guys and they marked each break.

There was a guy in a plaid jersey who was trying to get a break going and he jumped about every five minutes and got reeled in every time.  When he wasn't in the break he spent about a third of the time on the front of the peloton.  I thought we should tip him for all his hard work.

We ticked off the first lap and I was still feeling good. I tossed my first bottle to the side of the road just past the finish line and moved on the saddle around stretching my back and shoulders. 
Evo holding a spot 
On the second lap a break crept away with a Cucina guy and a Olympia guy and plaid man. Then a guy from Fischer joined and I realized this had the makings of a break that would be allowed to get away.  I was sitting about fifth in the peloton and I bridged up and was joined by Francisco (who should get a demerit for bad team tactics as he is also a Fischer guy). Then peloton didn't want us to go and soon we were once again among friends.  I felt strong and hadn't had to go too deep.

A few K's later Kenton took a flyer and nobody was interested in joining or chasing.  He built up a gap of one-hundred and fifty meters and he kept looking back. At first he was hoping to see a rider or two join and form a break, but after that didn't happen, he was looking back hoping to get caught so he could get his nose out of the wind. 
That is Kenton just behind my butt
The course was three 18 mile laps that went southwest to northeast. There was a wind from the southwest that increased each lap. On the second half of the second lap, the headwind made it so nobody wanted to be in front. We weren't doing trackstands or anything, but it wasn't straining the pack and my mind started to whir....

"Evo," I said to myself, "what are the likely race scenarios?" I thought that with the headwind on the last part of the laps, a breakaway on the last part of the last lap probably was not going to work.  It would either be a breakway on the first half of the last lap, or a bunch sprint. The only other option I could envision was an attack on a late hill that would string out and possibly split the pack (39 racers).  

What do all of these scenarios have in common? The best place to be for all of them is near the front. I determined to fight for position and race every remaining second.

There is a hairpin turn that launches a steep descent just over a mile from the finish.  The yellow sign said 10mph; it was that sharp! When the group passed this there was an attack on the first lap that took a lot of effort to pull back. I positioned myself well and on the second lap I didn't have to work as hard as others did. I smiled.

The third lap I was positioned top ten to fifteen and I drained my bottle and sucked down the last of my gel. The peloton was moving back and forth and I realized I didn't know if there were twenty guys or seventy guys behind me. I smiled as I realized it didn't matter. I stayed on guard to avoid being boxed in. 

Kevin threw in a surprise move up the right side with riders following him and suddenly I went from eighth to sixteenth place and I was anxious.  I knew we had a few miles left and I waited and pounced when there was an opening on a short, steep climb.  To my dismay; plaid man dropped back and said out loud that he was cooked. Lesson for plaid man; save your bullets!

As we approached the hairpin I was delighted and amazed at my position. There were close to forty guys who all wanted to hit the bottom of the hill in the top eight. I took a tight line that enabled me to get out of the saddle and accelerate sooner and get up more speed passing a couple guys who were still turning. 

We hit the bottom and we were flying. Less than a mile to the line and I had a good wheel to follow and I claimed the yellow line as my own. 

1K to go. The sign flew past and I didn't panic.  I could hear riders coming up behind us and we were filling up half the road.  This would be the sprint we all expected. "Please guys, no crashes," I thought to myself. There was a row of three in front and another row of three and I was half wheeling on the left side of them.  I wasn't sure if we would be getting the whole road at 200m or not and if we didn't, I was boxed in.

Just past the 200m sign and Evo is looking for a way through...
I saw the 200m sign and the guy I was half wheeling went left and I had to do the same or crash at 30mph.  Soon we were sprinting and I was looking for a lane. I had to wait a moment longer than I wanted and then I had an opening and I went.  I was digging and went past some guys pretty fast and looked to my left and to my right. There were three in front of me and I kept drilling it. The line came up and I took fourth. 
Blue guy first, Kenton (white top) second, the guy over his shoulder third, Evo fourth !
I tried to recall the sprint but it happened so fast that I am a little short on details. When I looked at the photos starting here then I got an idea of how it really played out. What I did know was I took fourth and I was stoked. 

Geoff and Evo sharing a post race moment (Geoff had a typically high finish)
I caught up with my friend Geoff (who is a great guy by the way) and when he asked how I did I could smile and say, "I got fourth."  THAT was awesome.

At first I felt almost guilty since I wasn't wiped out from two hours of hammering like I had been after the last few races.  Then I got to thinking; every one of those guys in my race knew it was coming down to a sprint finish and I managed to beat all but three of them.  Whoo Hoooo !!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Are the Seattle Mariners the west coast incarnation of the Chicago Cubs?

The Seattle Mariners
Single-handedly fighting to keep the color Teal relevant...

Just because it is April, don't think it is too early to give up on the Mariners.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Coffee and Lies #17 It happened at Camp !

Grandpa Evo and Clay-Baby sharing a moment
I am still recovering from the Ronde last weekend.  I spoke to my oldest son and daughter this week and they confirmed they felt tired for several days after I finished.  THAT is how hard it was; I went so hard my kids were tired.  I took it easy a couple days and then did some intervals on my morning commute on Tuesday. About ten in the morning my body said, "Watch it bonehead."  I took it easy on the way home and cut it back the rest of the week.

It bombed rain and that made cutting back a lot easier.  Still I was looking forward to some man time and so I made my way to the rendezvous on Capital Hill on Sunday morning. Despite a fast crowd we had a rather social ride.  The rain that had been relentless, relented, at least for a couple hours and we enjoyed a dryish ride.

One of our clan was talking about an upcoming trip to a YMCA camp with his son.  I recalled some experiences with my children at camps. I shared the time one of the kids that was along had forgotten a toothbrush and I had brought a "still in the wrapper" spare.  I gave it to the kid and felt good about myself all week.  On the last day the kid gave me back the toothbrush. It was still in the wrapper, he hadn't used it.

Those camp days were tough on the adults. We had to be up before the kids, keep up with them all day long and then go to sleep after they gave up the ghost each night. I remember coming back to the office after being at camp all week and having a coworker ask if I felt refreshed after my vacation.

It was a challenge keeping up with my grandkids this Saturday.  I hope I'm ready for a sleepover.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ceramic Bearings vs. Loose Balls

Smoooooooth !

A couple years ago I purchased some Ceramic cartridge bearings like the one pictured above for my DT Swiss hubs on my road bike. I noticed post-Ronde, that they seemed a little rough. The replacements are cheap enough and for less than $20 I had new ones (for my front wheel) in my mailbox.

I pulled the old ones and put in the new ones. The wheel spins smooth as silk. That ceramic stuff sure seems nice.

The only wheel that spins smoother is the one on my rain bike. Those hubs are Campagnolo Chorus hubs with loose ball bearings that have been serviced no more than twice in the last fourteen years. I ride those all year long in the rain and snow. They are smooth and the wheel spins and spins and spins.

Whenever Velonews does a test on some smooth new ceramic wonder part such as crank sets, Ol' Lennard Zinn throws in one of his old Campy setups that is composed of steel and grease and that one wins hands down.

We sure do believe all of that marketing hype don't we?

I'm just sayin'


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ronde van Palouse 2013 Race Report and Photos

I only wanted a regular epic, not a biblical epic....
If you want to see race photos of everybody click here  for Spotshot photos !
 Yeah, a lot of it was like THIS  !
While I can't say my whole road racing season has been focused on this race, I will say it is the one I most looked forward to racing. I did this race two years ago and loved it so much I wanted to do it again.  Hottie and I made the trek to Spokane on Friday and drove the course scouting for photo spots. Although I recalled portions from two years ago; I was struck by the topography. It was like an Escher drawing. The loop course seemed to undulate uphill the whole way around. The weather reports had been varied ranging from ten percent chance of precipitation to seventy percent. It wasn't until the day before the race that the predictions finally converging on "epic."

With an eleven o'clock start there was no rush Saturday morning. After a rainy night and freezing temperatures, the sky looked promising at eight in the morning as we drove around Spokane seaching for breakfast. Puffy clouds in the distance and blue sky overhead; despite the stiff cool breeze, the sight raised my spirits.
Sunshine and false hopes !
When we made it to the race the clouds were gathering, but still my hopes were high. By the time I got dressed and on the trainer hope was lost and I donned my yellow (dark sky) glasses. The wind cut through to your core, but the numeric temperature was above freezing.
This ride was so hard the before picture is in black and white !!
Like a bunch of kids who knew they should know better, we prepared for our folly. Some on trainers, some riding the road and others just sitting in their cars working on their powers of denial. In desperation, riders stuffed bars into their mouths in hopes of laying up some stores of energy to fight off the elements and the exhaustion that would follow. As we rolled to the line a breeze from behind carried a dusting of snow and we let out a collective, "oh......crap."
Charging into insanity !
We rolled out with a tailwind and a smattering of snowflakes blowing in the thirty mile an hour gusts. Soon we were racing and in no time our race blew apart. Less than five miles in and it was every man for himself. The wind was coming from our left and I looked down and was looking at the left side of my skewer through the right side of my tilted wheel. I looked up and the riders were all leaning left as if they were turning to the left. We were in fact on a right hand bending section of road. I had to spit and the wind blew it all the way to Idaho before it hit the ground.
Down we go ! BTW, the hill on the other side makes you cry just looking at it..
When we finally made the turn at the north end of the course we were heading east with a tailwind. I looked down and I was going 51k per hour on a slight uphill pedaling with ease. I was part of a small group and we traded pulls after making another right turn and clawing back southward with the nasty wind coming from a west, southwest direction. We were all hurting, but there was no place to hide. The wind pushed us around like a football stiff arm. When we hit the gravel I was a bit behind the other two and started making up ground. A long stair step climb with loose gravel and a side wind that kept trying to move me around on the gravel.
Chose your line carefully !
In gravel you don't make any sudden moves and turning is done with extreme caution. A side wind was trying to push me sideways and my efforts to stay straight nearly violated the first part of the rule. I consider myself a good gravel rider and the strong wind made me nervous.
There was time for everyone to find their own personal purgatory!
After reaching the crest of the climb a short downhill leads to a sharp right hand turn that was a mix of deep loose gravel and soft mud. A short hill that would have been nothing if it weren't for the headwind that made it hard to keep a straight face. I was in a Galibier gear on a three percent grade and I was getting out of the saddle to keep my speed in double (mph) digits. This was the suffering we had been promised.

The gravel and mud continued for another five miles all of it with a headwind that was like a punch in the face. Hottie was photographing and she said she didn't see anyone coasting the short downhill section as the headwind would stall them if they didn't keep pedaling.
Keep it moving !!
The mud and gravel road drops into a canyon and emerges with a steep loose climb that kept everyone guessing. The climb out of the canyon constituted the final kilometer of the course where we received the good news that we had two more laps before we would be done.

I had caught Dave from Methow and a local kid named Justin. I said, "let's work together," and both guys responded with affirmitive grunts and nods. We sped down a steep downhill and climbed up the far side and Dave was gone. I looked back and he was struggling. His body language said, "don't make eye contact with me."
Cooked Evo !!
As I looked ahead the rollers climbed and seemed to go on forever. It was like looking out at the ocean for the last wave; they just kept coming. You climbed a series of rollers only to reach the top and see another set that went even higher.
Go Evo Go !!
I worked with Justin and we were together when we made the right turn at the cemetery at the north end of the course, but soon he too dropped. I pushed on and caught and passed some other solo riders who looked like they wanted to be done or dead, and they didn't seem to have much of a preference.
The ride was billed as a tough one and at times I looked down to see if I had a flat or if I was riding on fly paper as it was so much harder than it was supposed to be. I know from my cyclocross and my morning commute that when I go through a short section of trail and your tires sink in soft dirt it is a strength draining feeling and when it ends I feel like I have been released from the death grip of mud.

Evo was pretty blown himself. I could feel I had some kind of Hammer Gel crust on the side of my mouth. I looked down and my dribbles from drinking or misfired snot rockets had picked up dust and were conspicuously visible. The cold and wind kept my nose running like a faucet. I had feeling in my feet, but it was a bit of a dull ache from the vibration both of the rural pave' and the rough gravel. My shoulders and hands were sore from the pounding.

I pushed hard through the mud and gravel section and soon passed the finish line and was onto my final lap. There was a sense of relief to be on the road. The stress of scanning the gravel for the best line not just to go faster, but to avoid a face plant takes a Zen-like focus that is mentally exhausting. I looked behind me on a long stretch of road and there was nobody to be seen. We were strung out. I soon noticed a rider up the road and worked to catch him. I caught and blew past the guy in a HSP kit and he looked and sounded shattered. Then I caught a rider about every five to eight minutes and that was motivating. The hills were such that if you could push the downhill and attack early on the uphill you could crest the roller with some speed. If you got behind the power curve you were in your small ring and big cog and wishing you could be home cutting your lawn or at the dentist getting a root canal.

We had little snow flurries on each of the three laps and the wind was relentless. My knees, feet and hands hurt. My low back was reminding me how old I am. I knew the end was coming and pushed into the headwind. I was catching riders faster and faster and they were going slower and slower. The guys at the traffic controls were shouting positive encouragement, but their words were carried away by the wind. I smiled and said, "thank you," but I doubt they could hear me either. I could not tell for sure if the riders I was catching were from my cat or one further up. I am reluctant to call it a death march, but they were all tired and wobbly.
Evo crosses the line, done for the day.  
By coincidence I passed six or so guys in the last kilometer. As riders crossed the line they weren't interested in taking a victory lap. Those whose significant other were at the finish line threw their spent bikes into their trucks, vans, or clipped them onto bike racks and they dropped their weary bones into the cars like a pile of dirty clothes.
After riding hard for the better part of three hours I wanted to ride easy for a few minutes and so I made my way the three miles to the school parking lot. I was cooked. I found Hottie and Tux and struggled to change my clothes. They offered up burritos and I made one and chomped it down.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blah, blah, blah 100th day of 2013

The wheels at the locks go round and round...
General updates..

I'm at 2,400 kilometers so far in 2013.  I continue to flirt with the fine line between being a well trained cyclist and being a quivering mass of tired old man.  One day I'm dreaming of eating a box of Oreo's and sleeping all day and the next day I'm strutting around looking for trouble.  I have been working on the intensity and taking the easy days easy. Yesterday I rode home into a headwind and still felt strong.  

I had a nice birthday. I'm excited to be a prime number again. Kind of weird as I age.  A bizarre mix of cherished memories, broken hearts, successes and shattered dreams.  I am so glad to have Hottie in my life. She makes our home a safe place for me to open my heart.  What more could you want?  Well, if you're a greedy, self-centered Neanderthal, you still want more. I am delighted Hottie is my wife because she gives me so much more.

I am learning. Like so many things, if experience came in a can you could buy it.  Reading about bike racing for a dozen years can't hurt, but it doesn't count for squat until you pin on a number and mix it up again and again and again.  Also to my amazement, all of my Cyclocross racing does not count for much aside from preparing you to suffer.  As Greg Lemond said about training and racing, It never gets easier, you just go faster."  In a race you are going to hurt. I know it sounds kind of stupid, but it is okay. 

I am planning on racing the Ronde van Palouse which is an awesome event in eastern Washington. Hottie and Tux are joining me and I'm actually really excited. I don't expect a high finish, but I am looking forward to enjoying a challenging event. 
The race is a mix of paved road and gravel that is modeled after the European cobbled classics. It forces one to seriously consider tires, rims, the bike you choose, and an assortment of other options that you don't have to think about for a typical road event. The course has hills that make you cry, wind that makes you feel weak and rough gravel roads that make you dirty and begs you to slow down.  

I have a few pieces of gear I am testing out so look for an avalanche of reviews starting soon.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Coffee and Lies #15

Matthew, KB and El Jefe in warmer times as part of the Peloton of Discovery
Unrelated Update:
A couple things from yesterday's race. The winds were crazy. Sometimes it was smart to be behind the rider in front of you. Sometimes an echelon was in order. I watched the rider in front of me. If I noticed the number on his right side was flapping and the one on the left wasn't moving at all, I moved to the left and listened. I've heard that the best draft is where it is quietest. I thought I was pretty smart.

The Ride:
It rained all night. It bombed. Hottie and I could hear the water rushing down the rain gutters all night long. "You're not going to still ride?" She asked sometime between midnight and five thirty in the morning.

There were four hearty souls all wearing Showers Pass rain jackets that rendezvoused for the weekly ride. KB's goal was a two hour ride, Evo's goal was to chase the lactic acid out of my race-weary legs. Big John may have had greater aspirations, but he is a social guy and was willing to go along with the crowd. Matthew was back in town and it was his birthday; this in combination with the slick roads kept our ride mellow.

We often tell people this is a social ride. It is a ride with three to four parts, one of the parts is the every man for himself throw down. No throw down today.  We just talked as our toes got cold.

Coffee and Lies:
KB threw down the plastic and we toasted Matthew's birthday with coffee that warmed our hands and bellies.

We were glad we rode. Although it rained every minute of the ride; this wasn't an epic that would be spoken of for months or years to come. It was a nice ride in wet conditions that allowed for some male bonding. KB talked about getting a new bike and we all weighed the options. While he conceded that carbon bikes may indeed be faster, there are things more important than going fast.

I asked the group for recommendations for next week's Ronde von Palouse. Should I opt for my tubulars or clinchers? KB had a quick and succinct answer, "It depends on how much you want to pay to fix the flat."  After leaving our sponsor's coffee shop KB made a quick trip home to grab a book he wanted to share.  

This afternoon I took off my tubulars and put on my clinchers. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Vance Creek Road Race 2013 Report Photos link

Photos from all races can be found here !

Note the mud specks on my face, the rain on my glasses, helmet and flying in the air.
When I'm hurting, this is how I smile.

I felt okay today; nothing was sore before the race.  It was supposed to rain, it did, that was okay. It was kind of fun.  Vance Creek was the first road race I ever did a few years ago.  There is one big hill and my first year I was thrown out the back like yesterday's oatmeal. The year I did it I hung on the hill for the first lap, and was victimized on the second lap.

Today I climbed with the group on the first three (of four) laps and then I was gapped on the descent and worked with a guy named Jason from Olympia Orthopedic (OO) and we closed to within about twenty seconds and then I was spent and Jason was able to bridge up.  When we made the turn for the final climb I was only down seventeen seconds.  I tried to close it, but could not.
Evo hanging with the lead dogs !!
I finished 11th and my time was a full five minutes ahead of the Masters 50+ winning time.  They did, however get rained on much harder than we did.  Maybe I'll get the nerve to race with those guys sometime..  Maybe.

Friday, April 5, 2013

I'm just a nice guy with a bad haircut now and then..

Grandpa Evo and Clay baby !

My barber is a nice guy. His haircuts are hit and miss. His claim to fame is that he was the only boxer from the USA who did NOT medal in the 1984 Olympics. He is a good natured guy who often says, "Hey, I took a few too many shots to the head. What's your excuse?"

I have reached a point in life where the occasional bad haircut isn't a big deal.

I'm just sayin'