Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Waiting on the other shoe

Steven Wright says that he plans to live forever and he is quick to point out that so far, his plan is working.  It was in this spirit that we rode the Ephrata Fondo this past weekend.  Oddly enough that feeling continues.

One of the unspoken rules in cycling is that you don't talk about certain things during a ride for fear of jinxing the ride.  If someone says, "Hey I'm glad it isn't raining," the rest of the group gives the silent, dirty look trying to convey the message, "Don't say that."

Other statements that must be avoided include "Wow, nobody has had a flat tire the whole ride !!" and "I thought I was going to cramp on that climb."  

With so many things that could go wrong at any time we were hopeful, but did not speak of our apparent good fortune as we rode. We knew we had it going and just kept our heads down and did our job.

Only when we were within sight of the finish line did we dare to open it up and stop worrying. We finished strong and I felt good.  Really good.

After dinner and the drive home I still felt good.   The next day my legs felt a little tired but were not tender or even sore.  I also wasn't so hungry that I wanted to eat everything in sight.  Hmmmm.  This was nice but let's wait and see.

A hectic work week meant that if I was to squeeze in a bike commute it would be Tuesday or nothing.  I woke up, dressed and rolled out feeling okay.  On the way in I felt strong and wanted, oh how I wanted, to throw in some intervals.  
The parking lot of the Best Western was hopping before the Ephrata Fondo
I recalled last year when I felt strong after the Goldendale Fondo and I jumped back into intervals too quickly and I felt blown apart.  This year I exercised some restraint and kept it easy on the way in.  On the way home there was a wicked headwind so I had an extra reason to keep it real. 

Four days after the Fondo, I'm feeling pretty good.

There are a lot of things I'm worried about in advance of the Dolomites.  Base miles, core strength, weight, personal commitments are all part of the equation.  So far, so good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ephrata Fondo 2016 Just like it was supposed to be

A year ago our experience riding the Ephrata Fondo was essentially a Spatchcocking from Mother Nature.  They say Mother Nature is a Mother and they are right.  This time around we had near perfect conditions.  If you’re having a barbeque sunny and seventy is perfect.  If you are racing bikes then fifties and cloudy is perfect. To ask for anything more might appear ungrateful and result in a punishment similar to the wrath we experienced in 2015.

As it was, the day dawned with high clouds, a hint of a breeze and a start temperature trying to reach fifty degrees.  Clothing-wise, Rich was playing it safe but El Chefe and I opted to go with Belgian Knee Warmers and hope for the best.  The Peloton was almost giddy at the good weather and a little over two hundred optimistic riders headed into the hills northwest of Ephrata.

My initial optimism that the good weather would result in faster times was shattered as we hit the gravel.  Last year the rain had combined with the dust to firm up the gravel and this year the dry dust was a lubricant and on the first climb rear wheels were spinning out and fishtailing. 

El Chefe and I were riding together and had inadvertently started toward the back during the neutral roll out.  Now we found ourselves working past riders struggling on the gravel. Because we were still bunched there was a shortage of good lines and those lines had rows of sketchy riders.  Thus we had to burn some matches passing on loose gravel and working harder than we should have so early on. 

I had a pretty firm ride plan in my head which I had shared with El Chefe. The plan was to spend the day in Zone 2-3 and on the climbs maybe just touch Zone 4 but not dwell there.  The looseness of the gravel, the lack of good lines and having to pass when the opportunities presented themselves, challenged my plan.  All in all I did pretty well.

This first climb gained over a thousand feet so things sorted themselves out soon enough.   Like an ungrateful child we gave back all of the elevation we had just gained on a long paved downhill only to start climbing again.  I was on 28mm wide Sectours and as Rich said it was a good day not to be pushing too much rubba. 

This second climb started off paved and even though the grade and total elevation gain was almost identical to the first climb it felt almost effortless.  Almost at the top of the climb the road turned to gravel and we began to accelerate and pass riders again.   We caught Spinner John and exchanged some encouragement.

A ninety degree right turn and a slight downhill presented some of the most challenging gravel of the entire ride.  There were no good lines and the gravel was soft and everyone tested their level of comfort with fishtailing. I hoped Spinner John would back off here and a post-ride conversation confirmed he had indeed used the good judgment so rare among cyclists.

Soon the gravel firmed up and after some rollers that were tons of fun the road pitched down toward the Columbia.  I let the Boone fly knowing that El Chefe, who descends gravel like a Falcon, would catch me.  I passed bunches of riders who were exercising caution or were spent from the previous two climbs.

Sure enough with a “whoop” El Chefe was beside me and then in front of we.  We proceeded to pick off a few more groups of riders as we churned along.   Soon we passed the portal of the train tunnel and the river opened up in front of us.

Then we partook of the sandy Cyclocross diversion that I really don’t understand. It felt almost like some weird biathlon activity where you take a break from riding to juggle or perform a set of Thighmaster exercises. I’m on an 80 mile gravel ride in March so I really don’t have a high ground position to question anything.  Roll with it Davo…..

I felt a sprinkle of rain on my right leg and hoped it was an anomaly.  We hit the food stop and with German precision we completed our tasks and were soon rolling again.  We were chatting and riding side by side when three riders caught us and encouraged us to join them.

Another time, another place.  El Chefe pushing about 100mm of Rubba
“We’re all friends after the food stop,” was an oft repeated refrain and we joined in and a paceline was born.  Last year the headwind and rain in our faces had made this false flat climb up Palisade Canyon thirty kilometers of hell.  This year we enjoyed the beauty of the valley and we drilled it. STRAVA would later tell us our time was fifteen minutes faster than we did it in 2015. 

The three devils climb was looser than last year but also seemed tamer than my memory expected.  With the major climbs behind us I reveled in how strong I felt.  I couldn’t help but credit my long rides with some increased fitness. 

We gained elevation with each set of rollers and soon the road pointed down sharply toward the hamlet of Ephrata.  Despite the hours of riding in our legs we now smelled the barn and opened up on the descent.   El Chefe and I passed each other then we took turns pulling all the way to the finish.  

After crossing the line we made our way to the car and it started to rain.  We thought of Rich who was still out on the course.  Luckily the rain stopped as quickly as it started and all was good.  We both felt strong and were elated that the good weather had held.

Before long El Chefe, Rich and I were all slouched in a booth in a local Mexican Restaurant trying to replenish ourselves.  Rich filled us in on his adventure and we told him about our day.  We were all pleased with our rides and the drive home was all smiles.  After the smack down of last year we were all glad to have less drama this time around.

My lessons learned this time around were twofold. First, the reapplication of chamois cream half way though was a slick idea (use a pun, go to jail) and Secondly it confirmed my perception that I definitely prefer dry over biblical rain.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Black and White

The snow is melting in the Methow. Under cloudy skies everything looks black or white; the sky takes care of all the shades in between. My task is to get in some saddle time. 28mm wide Sectours look as thin as razor blades after a winter of fat biking.

Skiers have had a long season. Locals can wait a couple days and savor some excellent conditions. On this less than ideal day the roads and snow trails are almost deserted. I ride the secondary roads until the pave is overtaken with snow and I wisely turn around. The I head up NF 37 retracing a portion of the Winthrop Fondo.

Speaking of Fondos...... The Gravel Fondo season gets underway next weekend. Right now the forecast is for warm and dry. Of course we shall see but it affords at least a few days hope that the biblical misery of last year won't be repeated.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Follow me

My bike commute has covered the same roads for the last five years.  My curious nature has led me to explore dozens of variations over that time.  I remember when I first rode the route I had to scrawl out the turns on a make shift Que-sheet. 

On one of my early forays I purposely rode into a dead end because I thought there was a bike friendly escape.  My recollection of that particular adventure was that I was looking into a dark abyss that seemed to go nowhere.   I turned around and stuck to the proven route.

This morning I caught sight of another bike commuter in the pre-dawn darkness.  Actually I only saw his red blinky about 200 meters ahead of me.  He was going the same way I was so I found myself compelled to close the gap.

As we approached the intersection where I turn right every time I watched for him to turn so I could count the seconds until I passed the same point to get an idea of how soon I would catch him.  He went straight right past the DEAD END sign.  This was the route I had deemed impassable five years earlier.  Whisky Tango Foxtrot.

Although it was totally dark I followed his blinking red light.  He went down a gravel path and through an opening in a metal fence.  I followed and threaded my bike through the opening.  It reminded me of the fences around schools and parks that are designed so you can’t go barreling through.  An opening and then a mini fence overlapping the opening.
I continued and there was a baseball field to one side and a football field on the other.   Above the fields on a hill were well lit buildings.  They were big brick buildings.  This was either a business campus or a school.  The sports fields told me it was a school.  I followed a service road up and around the buildings.  I was thinking I was home free when my headlight picked up a chain stretched across the road just in time for me to swerve onto the grass avoiding a head over heels adventure.

Soon I was back onto public roads and I rejoicing that I had found a new route through one of the few spots that didn’t seem to have any variations.

I wish I could replay what I saw or thought I saw five years before.  I didn’t see the rider after I passed the first gate.  If I see him I will thank him.
You're welcome Davo !

Sunday, March 6, 2016

El Jefe's Birthday Ride

We marked El Jefe's birthday the way we acknowledge every event; we went for a ride.
I won't say how old he is but we went 50 miles.
We went fast, slow, uphill and down.  We climbed and descended. 
It rained, it snowed (not really) the wind blew.  There was even sunshine.
 We gathered at Fuel Coffee for some post ride refreshment with a hint of merriment.
Having reached a certain station in life we strive to live each day with grace and dignity.
High Five Pie is how we celebrated the big day.  Apple of course !!
When it is time to party, Einmotron has more than a few tricks up his Gabba sleeve.....

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Fifty shades of the grey market

As some of you may know I have several friends in the medical profession.  In casual conversation a few months back we touched on the grey market of organ harvesting. It was quite the discussion with lots of viewpoints.    

As you know it is perfectly acceptable to donate an organ to a relative.  If you cross the compatibility threshold you can donate to a friend and everyone cheers you on.  But donate to someone who is willing to pay for an organ and suddenly everyone gets excited about the loss of your organ. 

The war wagon has been on its last legs and the conversation on organ harvesting got me curious.  A few discrete phone calls to one of my medical friends and I was undergoing all expense paid blood tests. 

My blood type is nothing special but when they found a match that person was pretty excited about my left kidney.  In the business world they call a person with that level of excitement "motivated."   His need was more urgent than my need for money so I was able to be slightly coy and we ended up finding an arrangement that was mutually beneficial. 

I was able to get some time off of work and the surgery went well.  There was a bonus if my kidney and the recipient "hit it off."

The final payment was received yesterday and our days in the war wagon are numbered.  

I test drove a car the other day and the salesman tried to highlight the lumbar support but it pushed against the incision and I let out an F-bomb.  He was trying to make a sale so he let it pass but I still feel bad about it.  

Where there is a will there is a way.   The only issue is no coffee for a while..........