Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Miracles of Technology

Santa was good to me this year: a shiny new Garmin Edge 800 now sits perched on my stem. This little baby can do almost anything. Any data you can think of, it can display, however you want. On multiple pages. The touch screen works easily with thick gloves on. A swipe of the finger changes pages. It's a cinch to create a route on and upload it to the device, then just follow the color screen navigation around backroads in unexplored countryside, avoiding the worst traffic, and going new places.

Technology is amazing. It's a freaking miracle.

The more we have, the more we rely on it. And we forget what technology won't do: it won't do your homework for you. And it sure won't pedal your bike.

I uploaded a route yesterday that took me from SE PDX out to Gresham and then through Sunny Valley (hah - big lie) and back to the Springwater Corridor trail. 42.05 miles exactly, predicted by the Garmin. And since the weather was crap, I took the fixed gear. One great thing about GPS devices is that you just drop them onto any bike and away you go - no magnets, wheel size changes, just click and go.

So I did. And, 20 miles later, I realized the two failures of technology: it didn't tell me that I would be going over some short steep hills, it merely informed me, while I was climbing in my 44x16, that the pain I was feeling was inflicted by an 8% grade and that I was now 100m higher than I was 10 minutes ago. Great. I should have looked at an elevation profile before picking my bike. And no, the little miracle of technology wasn't going to help me schlep the bike over the hill. That job still belong to my legs.

I was blinded by technology. On the other hand, I knew exactly where my dry clothes were waiting.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Early Morning

I forget sometimes how much I enjoy being out the door in the dark, on the road before anyone else, and getting a ride in at the very start of the day. Last week I went down to Eugene for a couple of days to finish off some moving, and rode before dawn for a pair of peaceful 3-hr rides - just me and the wild turkeys - that put me home right about the time most people were starting their day, with time for a stop at Hideaway Bakery for a hunk of coffee cake and a large cup of java.

Monday, December 13, 2010

CX Nationals - the elites

Katie Compton is a bad-ass. She had a bad start, rode through everyone, and when she and Gould had a big gap on the rest of the world, she turned up the gas until Gould blew up. 7 in a row, done.

The men had a drag race on their hands. Watch Trebon toss the Rapha guy's bike at him after they all go down in a pile on the first lap.

And finally in the Baller category, how about this guy, who finished 7th in the Elite race while racing on a single speed?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dear Portland Drivers

Putting your cell phone in "Speaker" mode and holding it to your chin does not count as "hands-free".



PS this goes for the rest of the country as well.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's pretty when the rain stops

Looking south from the Steel bridge last week, at the start of what turned into a 5 1/4 hr ride.

Of course, this week, after a few days of liquid sunshine in 40F temperatures that made riding outside an act of lunacy, the rains stopped and the mercury went way south. Now it's 20F and Ben and I are about to attempt an outside ride. It's an act born of frustration, optimism, and maybe more than a little stubbornness. But at least it's not raining, right?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The chicken goes what? Cheep Cheep Cheep.

This just shouldn't happen. Something is seriously wrong with our educational system - not only did someone misspell "cheap" but a series of people failed to catch it in the production and delivery of some pretty basic marketing copy.

I know it's not directly related, but basic failures in English don't give me a whole lot of confidence in, say, the care in handling of my food. The only time I want to hear "Cheep" in relation to my chicken is while it's still kicking - and I prefer not to eat it with feathers on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Boom, Winter is here.

The lady B and I had a coffee date in Sellwood this afternoon so I decided to put that in the middle of a nice bike ride and show off some spandex to the customers at Marsee Baking. It took about 5 minutes for me to turn around, go back inside, and grab a heavier coat, tights, and second pair of DeFeet wool gloves. Holy Cold and Wet, Batman. 44F with solid rain and gusting winds is a whole new wardrobe and a world away from 44F and partly cloudy. Especially once the rain finally creeps under your jacket collar, down the back of your shorts, and through the seal at the top of your booties.

Riding in Portland itself is just not all that much fun. Sure, it's ranked as a great city for bicycling, and it is - a great city for bicycling. It's still a big city. And big city riding always kind of sucks, especially when the weather turns bad.

So today, when Trimet Bus #2833 pull a jack-ass-in-a-sportscar move and tried to pass me quickly on the left on Barbur drive and then cut across the bike lane to get to the right turn lane without waiting to be clear (or waiting 3 seconds for me to get far enough forward that he could cross safely behind me), after I spent hours pounded with rain and repeatedly forced out into traffic due to large wet leaf dumps in the bike lane, I threw up a hand and cursed city life.

There are two major threats to riding in SW PDX in the winter: drivers, and leaf piles. The drivers are what they are - most good, a few bad - and that's a constant. The leaf piles I just don't understand. It appears that the official road cleaning policy here is to let leaves and junk get good and soaked for a few weeks, and then hope that enough cars drive up and down the roads to cut a few nice tracks down the middle for traction. Combine that with vegetation so overgrown on all the road edges that most turns are completely blind, and you have an exercise in bike ninja skills just to get through some of the neighborhoods safely. Especially if some antsy driver behind you decides to floor it.

All in all, this town is great for commuting by bike - compared to other big cities. It's even great compared to most small cities outside of the PacNW since at least around here the idea of non-motorized transportation is taken seriously. It is also not fair to hold PDX to a Willamette Valley small town standard - you can't cram 2 1/4 million people into the Portland–Vancouver–Hillsboro Metro Area and expect Eugene-Springfield type traffic conditions. But still - I expect my taxes to buy me civilization. Roads swept clean every couple of weeks and safe, courteous public employees are pretty important parts of a civilized community, at least in my eye.

Keep it safe out there.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A milestone in PDX riding

I haven't gotten a flat in almost two weeks.

The last time I was in Eugene, I stopped by Paul's Bicycle Way of Life to see Matt and gripe about the excess of junk on big city roads, and turned me to some Bontrager Race All-Weather hardcase tires.

And... no flats since. This is a small miracle. For some reason I had seemed to pick up every staple, glass shard, and razor-sharp rock available and the recent rain hasn't helped much. Riding through Tigard, Beaverton, and this side of Portland has forced me onto heavier roads like Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy and Scholls Ferry, which inevitably have that triple-whammy, flat-inducing combination of "junk-pile" next to "wide-spacing-drain-cover-wheel-trap" with "soccer-mom-on-cell-phone-in-SUV-next-to-you". Multiple times per ride. So through the junk I go. Eventually it catches up to you.

It's almost enough to make me take up driving. Almost.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No English Majors Here!

I was just riding along, out by Sherwood, when some of the local farm marketing caught my eye. Drawn to local business, and especially food, the friendly signs drew my attention and soon got me excited. But any member of POEM would have soon been heartbroken...

Yes? Local? I like crafts. Especially local hand-made ones. The artsy kind. Go on...

Collectibles? How could I not like antiques? Maybe there is a rustic kitchen utensil for sale. Those are so cool! Tell me more!

Gift items? You sell more than apples at this farm? Yes? I can do my Christmas shopping early! Yes! Yes! I want to know!


Seriously people, what are our schools teaching these days? It's not THAT hard... .

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What women think

Like most good cyclists, certainly ones worth their shoe covers, I take to touting the health and environmental benefits of cycling to anyone who will listen. In particular, being a man who commutes (when appropriate) religiously by bike, I do my best to convince those who aren't yet annoyed with me that riding a bicycle to work is a noble and worthwhile endeavor. And, like most good women, certainly ones who try to keep men on bicycles around, the lady B. has gotten on board with the idea or will at least try to convince me that she's giving it her best shot. This, of course, just got me all enthused so I mapped out the "best" route to and from her job and convinced her to ride with the promise of an escort. In the rain. 11.5km. 45min either way. Traffic. And a steep stairstep climb known as Corbett St. Which, of course, seemed fine to me on my road bike. Without a daypack full of work clothes and rain gear.

What B. didn't know about our commute is that, like Mel Gibson in "What Women Want", I magically developed the powers to hear her thoughts in my head while she pedals her bike. You may call it reading body language or facial expressions but I really do hear the complete sentences, complete with tone of voice and and bad language. I recorded her thought monologue for the entire 45min. I present it to you here:

Look at these bike clothes.
Why do cyclists wear this stuff?
My shoes look pretty. I like white.
Oh I guess we are going now. It's cold out.
Are we there yet?
This is silly. But he looks so happy on his bike.
He should ride more, I like it when he is happy.
He should spend more time with me, I like it when he is happy.
That car is not a very pretty color.
I am hungry.
Are we there yet?
Do these pants make me look fat?
I like men in bike shorts.
Oh wait where did he go?
Oh good he is waiting for me at that light.
Maybe I had better ride quicker.
Why does he have to keep riding away? What is he doing?
Are we there yet?
Oh no this is the part where we have to go up that hill.
Which button do I push to go into my easy gear?
Nope, not that one.
OK that one.
Damnit why isn't he riding with me?
He looks so good in bike shorts.
I can't ride this hill.
This is ridiculous.
This is stupid.
I am hungry
OK now I am mad.
He should be riding with me.
Don't you dare push me I am going to make this on my own.
Go away.
Come back here.
I am going to walk now.
Say something sweet or else I will get mad.
Don't tell me I'm almost there I can damn well see for myself that I'm not.
I could have been sitting in a warm bus right now.
I think I am going anaerobic.
Does he do this every day?
This is a lot of bike riding. It's been like 20 minutes.
I bet he rides at least an hour a day. That seems like a lot.
Why did I have to date a cyclist?
These people are crazy.
I could have dated that Foosball player.
We could have spent evenings spinning plastic people around on sticks.
That sounds like fun.
It's freaking dark right now.
I can't even see his bike shorts.
I hope this light keeps working.
He had better appreciate me for commuting on my bike.
I am doing this for him.
He better cook dinner.
Oh good I made it to the top.
I wonder how many times I have to do this.
What did I sign myself up for?
Are we there yet?

Monday, October 25, 2010

PBR doesn't suck

Just to follow up on that last post - please note that PBR does NOT rank amongst the 50 worst beers in the world on - but Michelob Ultra, Coors Light, Bud Light, and other American faves do. Take THAT, rednecks - not only did hipsters steal your trucker caps but now their cheap working class beer outranks yours. Watch out - they are coming for your camo next. What'll you do then?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yep, I'm poor.

Not ashamed of it, either. Cut off the UPC code, sent a copy of the receipt, filled out the rebate tag. In the mail. The $4 I get back in 6-8 weeks should buy me another sixer of PBR right around Christmas.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ssshhh, I'm riding.

One of the quickest and simplest ways to get into halfway decent riding from where I'm at in Portland is to head out Scholls Ferry Rd towards Sherwood and get into the country roads away from the main arteries of north-south traffic between Beaverton, Tigard, Wilsonville, etc etc. It's a bit ugly, as most of the riding here is, for the first 30-40minutes while getting out of town, there's big intersections and stoplights at maddeningly close intervals. Once you get out, though, there's an OK network of roads to pick your way around on, if you figure out what goes where and how to avoid riding down the worst of the busy roads.

Even when you end up out of town, though, you realize that the definition of a "quiet road" changes dramatically depending on what your baseline expectation is. Nothing exemplifies that more than the a routine event on any longish bike ride: a sudden need to urinate and a desire to find a quiet spot to do so where you are unlikely to see a car while you take care of business. Now, around Eugene that's pretty much anywhere. You just pull off, take care of it, and 9 times out of 10 there's no car in sight when you start and none go by when you finish. Not so around here.

Last week I rode out and tried a few different loops before ending up going out to Sherwood and finding my way though the tiny downtown looking for a promising pavement upon which I could stand and admire the local greenery while contributing various salts and minerals to the soil. This was not an easy task. In slight desperation I ended up climbing Ladd Road and finding a little turn-off from there where I could relieve myself in peace, and while I stood and observed how the blackberries were unfortunately past their prime I had a sudden realization: I had found silence.

Yes, just after the top of this hill, far out of my way and nowhere near what would be considered a "short spin" from SW Portland, I had finally found silence on my ride. Not the absolute kind of silence, mind you, but the kind of silence that you get when all human noises are removed and just the normal sounds of a planet going about its business remain - wind, birds, etc. For two weeks I rode with the sound of cars in my ears, even on the quieter roads, for a car was seemingly always in sight if not actually passing me on these quiet "country roads". Everywhere seems close to some relatively major thoroughfare, and if you can't find the privacy to pee you certainly can't find relief from the noise of traffic either.

Even looking out from the top of a hill, on the quietest road I had ridden on in my short explorations, it is not possible to escape the feeling that my post was a mere oasis, and that any direction would inevitably drop me back into cars.

By contrast, I was lucky enough to do two shortish rides around the lower valley this weekend, one in Eugene and the other around Corvallis and Philomath. In Eugene, Azul and I went climbing in the south hills neighborhoods and found what would pass for supremely quiet roads up here. We did some loops I used for standard training when I was short on time - Timberline, McLean, Chambers, Lorane, Blanton, Crest, Willamette. No cars brushed me or flipped me off or tried to right hook in front of me. It was amazing. Then, riding on Willamette at about 50th St, I noticed something else that I hadn't experienced in two weeks: animals. Two nice bucks, one fat doe, and dozens of turkeys. We used to see animals on every ride in Eugene. The most I have seen here is roadkill squirrel carcasses, and the occasional suicidal live one.

On Sunday I explored some of the small roads through the hills near Corvallis and then ended up riding down Hwy 34 a ways to get some steady state in. Again, it was quiet. I saw a few cars but nothing you would call "traffic". They gave me lots of room - they had lots of it themselves. I saw more animals. I stopped and took a leak. No-one drove by and saw me. I saw some forest, some timber, farms with goats and squash and cabbage and not just big "Pumpkin Patch! Corn Maze!" signs. I saw back yards open to the road. I didn't get a flat. It was very, very nice.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lawyer Up!

There is a group ride on Mondays and Thursdays that leaves out of SW Broadway and Yamhill called "The Lawyer Ride". I think that's because it was started by R. Thomas, Esq, back in the day, but I suspect that a fair number of the gentlemen who show up are also in the legal business. I heard about the ride yesterday and went down to check it out this afternoon, having heard the ride described as a quick one.

First, I have to say that it's sweet to see a real group ride happening, an all-comers type of thing that leaves at 12:15 sharp and regroups when needed. It's a bit like a mini mid-week CSC ride, which is the weekend event down in EUG. And these guys don't mess around - there was some serious bike bling being ridden through PDX traffic this afternoon. Check out exhibit A:

Yep, that's a BMC "somethingorother-machine" in full race mode - Edge carbon wheels on DT 240s hubs (cost more than my whole bike collection), full SRAM Red including cassette, carbon SLR saddle, head to toe Rock Racing kit - I was very nearly intimidated.

Next, I have to say that these guys are a little bit crazy. The "route" is a climb up out of town at a chatty pace and then two laps around some road, I think Fairmount or Fairview or something, followed by a ~4-5min climb. They regroup after each lap and before the climb. The laps are, basically, sketchy. It's blind corners, some double-apexes, have leaves and stuff on the roads, and are tight. They start out in a double paceline and then sort of race it in the second half. The twists and turns are such, though, that it's not really possible to drill it full gas. You kind of have to float through and someone eventually just gaps people off to get off the front. I did a lot of jumping and braking as I constantly came into the turns too hot for my comfort. It was fun, but I wouldn't do it in the rain.

After the ride Ben and I rode back to NE so I could borrow his PowerTap hub tool and replace the batteries in my unit, then I rode down to SE to see if I could figure out a better route from there to here - SW, by Alpenrose - for potential commuting. I rode the three routes that seem to be feasible. They all have a certain suck-factor.

As before, getting from Sellwood to SW is not very fun. There just doesn't appear to be a good way to do it. Any way you go is uphill for a good chunk, which is fine since that's a problem of geography more than anything. I went through the cemetary off of Hwy 43, which was pretty, but requires crossing heavy traffic once and the gates close between dusk and 8am. No dice. Going up Corbett is about the best way from a traffic perspective, but it has 20%+ grades. Not fun on a commute, if you have a pack, rain clothes, and a 39t small ring. Then I went and figured the way back if I take Barbur, which isn't awesome either because of the heavy duty traffic, despite the apparent status of Barbur as a main cycling thoroughfare from downtown to SW. And, of course, while grunting up the hills to get to Barbur heading home, I flatted. Thanks, PDX.

I took the wheel off, inserted my spare tube, tried to pump and found the valve stem just a hair short to properly seal on the frame pump as the DT RR1.2 rims are a few mm's too tall. Great. So I pulled that tube out, sat with my $1.99 patch kit and an extra handful of minutes of my time, and patched the original rubber. Not so happy.

I finally made it back on the Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, and TT'ed back towards the house. Speeding home on the slight downhill at about 30mph, I passed that most ignoble of all PDX commuters, the hipster on the fixed gear. This one at least had a front brake, I noticed as I went around. He was certainly giving it though, apparently in a bit of a hurry. And passing this creature triggered its competitive instinct has he (unbeknownst to me at the time) gave chase. Hipster took the lead for good when, as I stopped at a traffic light, he flew through the intersection's red light about 15s later and very nearly painted the front of a school bus a brand new color. Way to represent the cycling community.

That dude should come on the lawyer ride this Thursday. He's going to want one if I see him between now and then, because I might be tempted to U-lock his skinny jeans to his frame, and his frame to the nearest water tower.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dear Google: I can't do that.

I know the bicycling directions are in Beta, but really? Straight through houses?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


The first rides from the new base of operations (right around the corner from Alpenrose Velodrome) have been ... less than satisfactory.

Monday's ride consisted of exploring SW PDX/Tigard/Beaverton and inadvertently doing big loops as I dropped onto the occasional terrifying road when, say, a bike lane suddenly stopped on a blind downhill single lane turn and I found myself committed to the flow of traffic. Or when I somehow wound up in downtown, and had to alternate bike lanes and full-traffic lanes, at the start of rush hour, to get my butt back home. In the last 7 years, since I first moved to Eugene, I could count on one hand the number of rides where I returned more stressed out and pissed off than when I left - Monday was one of them.

Tuesday was another.

I took a good look at Google Maps before heading out, with the intent of riding out to Forest Grove, which really looked like it should have been 20 miles out, 20 back, and maybe 5 miles of loop out there to see the town a bit. So I followed the main roads that appeared to be safe, and despite a fair amount of traffic actually made it out OK... eventually. Not only is there more traffic at any one time than I would see in my neck of Eugene on any day, except maybe if I tried to ride West 11th, but the scale of things meant that all of those stoplights, stop signs, and general traffic-related events took a hefty chunk out of the ride. That, and of course the inevitable massive-staple-to-the-tire routine that happens when you ride on crap roads for miles and miles.

I'm sure there's a better way out West, on back roads and such. But it's not intuitive and getting lost can put a serious dent in your afternoon.

Eventually I got out and decided that 90min was more than enough in one direction and that I needed to head back. I ran into a kind professor from Pacific University who was commuting home and took me on some back roads to drop me off on Hwy 47 back towards Hillsboro.

This was the part of the ride where, for 20 minutes or so, I got up some false hope about finding nice quiet roads to train on, relatively safe from cars, with blackberries and apple trees and green grass waving in the wind. Sure, 10 of those 20 minutes we rode around a big cloud of smoke emanating from a burning vineyard, but that's just a sure sign of being in the countryside. Right?

So, I headed back. Which turned into a complete crap-show. A wrong turn, dwindling day-light, and general frustration landed me in the town of Farmington, where my cell phone, my sister, and Google Maps informed me that I had gone the wrong way down Farmington Rd for several miles and had overshot my turn to home a long ways back. I headed back, lights now flashing, until the vanishing bike lanes and heavy traffic had me pull over and call for a ride home. Departure time: 2:30. Return time: 7:15. Total ride time (while moving): 3:40. Stoppage time: stupid. Plus, I had meant to have dinner on the table by 6:30 - which meant I wasn't the only grumpy one, and rightfully so.

So I think that I need a GPS. Well, I need the $450 that an Edge 800 would cost, more specifically. ANT+ reception of my PowerTap and touch-screen color mapping? Yes please. Maps and a good sense of N-S-E-W orientation just aren't going to cut it out here. I'll need some actual direction, and a reference for when I am looking for shortcuts or the quickest way home.

The disheartening first rides were saved when former Whitman rider / Rubicon-Orbea fast man / next year's neo pro / Quadzilla / bad-ass Ben Chaddock took the lead and we rode from his place in the Rose Quarter out past Troutdale, on old Hwy 30 up and up and up until we sat somewhere high above the gorge where, finally, it seemed like we had gone for a real bike ride and not just a glorified urban commute.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On the road

From boingboing. Fitting, since I traded the former for the latter this month and indeed grew fatter and poorer. It's about time to embrace my inner urban cyclist and don the plad uniform of Oregon bicyclists and get my butt moving again, if only to and from the coffee shops.

August is gone, in a whirlwind of motion and motors. All the gradual house-sorting and purging accelerated into a mania as we packed up and moved out mid-month when I got a lease signed on it starting September 1. A planned trip to Yellowstone and a two-week road trip brought the move-out deadline closer than anticipated but in the end it was good to get all that done with and hit the road, with no bikes in tow, to explore the west.

You can put all romanticism aside in the mental imagery of cruising the West in a sedan full of camping gear and home-made venison jerky. The reality is that there is a stark contrast between the idyllic imagination of Western history with cowpokes, Native Americans, bison, grizzlies, etc and the beat-up pick-ups that spit black smoke in the back country, the sprawling strip malls, obese travelers and fast food-joints, land abuse and tourist trap towns. Then there's the fact that life in the Old West never was as glamorous as our collective memory would have it. It's always been a dirty, mean, hardscrabble place to scratch a living from dry land far from major routes of commodity transportation. Nowadays there's a lot of signs for Meth treatment, tired towns clinging to existence more out of habit than practicality, and agribusiness overpowering the smaller operations to bring us cheap food-like products to our pervasive super-stores.

But once you get beyond the human condition in the Old West, a road trip is undeniably an enthralling experience. Yellowstone hot springs, Teton mountains, Sawtooth mountains, all amazing sights. The best part of the whole trip came after leaving the traffic jam and display of human mental debilitation that was Yellowstone National Park, when camping was no more complicated than turning off on a random road headed towards public land and driving until an amazing campsite appeared, usually by a small stream or in a clearing with a view of the local geography. Just being a few minutes off of the main road meant that anything from moose to mule deer and quail would saunter by the site in the late morning and early evening, sometimes stopping long enough to eye the campfire suspiciously before strolling off.

Crossing back into Oregon still felt like a relief. Going over Santiam Pass in the rain was like coming home, leaving the dust and sunburns behind it's time to get urban again and get life, part II, underway. Now I just need a job.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Being done

Cascade was unspectacular. Perhaps the 20hrs of riding the week before were too much, perhaps I just peaked somewhere on the Thursday Nighter that week and my body shut down. Who knows. At any rate, it was fun lining up to an NRC race and stressful as hell in some parts, but it sure opened the eyes to the differences between "elite", "really elite", and "totally pro" levels of riding. It was awesome and I'm thankful to Rubicon for giving me the chance to ride. I flatted out 22k into the first climb up Bachelor on the Friday stage, and didn't get myself off the road quickly enough and got a slow wheel change, involving a broken skewer, a poorly fitting wheel, and general chaos and bad luck. In the ensuing 117km I failed to catch back up to the UHC driven Pro/1 field (imagine that). Time cut, and fined by some dumbass official for imaginary drafting and "mixing in" with the women's breakaway (neither of which was possible, I was well behind their cars plus out in the other lane the whole time), so it was a miserable day. So it goes.

Saturday I just did a slow 3hr ride and watched the crit, then hung up the bike for four days. When finally I got back on the bike, debating my racing options for the rest of the summer, I realized that my body was pretty much shut down. It's been a long time without a real break from either racing or training, and the whole body felt heavy and tired. The power is still there, but the good feelings just aren't.

The Tuesday crit has grown, it seems, over the years, and we now get a regular ~30 guys lining up and on a good night the wind blows hard from the North-West so that splits happen, breaks go, and pegging the pace in the gutter on the home stretch can do a good job of putting the hurt on the unwitting racers and set up a nice counter attack for a long breakaway. It's generally fun, and I love to race it hard. The more laps the better, but this week was only 30 laps and no-one gets sufficiently tired in 30 laps for the hammering to really split things up. I raced with less enthusiasm than normal and when the 3-lap-to-go flyer got brought back, I sat up on the back. My training journal entry for Tuesday reads "crit night. kind of dumb." And that's it.

Yesterday I almost didn't do the Thursday Nighter. But I rolled out anyways and couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to try and race it, or follow wheels and see what happened in the sprint. We started slowly and made it up over Welders as a group at the fairly pedestrian average of around 35kmph for those first 15 minutes, picking up on the hill but just bumming around until then. Right after the backside of that a little group went and I made the split second decision to jump on it, and away we went: Mark C, Rob, AP, Billy, and myself. A group that, if we put out heads down, should by all measure be able to ride clean away from the regular group. And that's what we eventually did, rolling 45kmph for the rest of the ride, though AP turned off at Briggs (resting for the State RR). My whole body felt like crap though the power was easy enough. I started with 20-25s pulls then started doing 45s turns, and as we picked up the speed in the last 25min or so we left the main group far, far behind. My breathing was easy, there was no pain, just Watts. Nothing happened. We kept turning and Sprinter's Hill felt like a cruise. Rob led it out at about 48kmph and ramped it up to 53 before the sprint, and I hit 62kmph coming from third wheel to take my first, and probably last, Thursday Nighter of the year.

It felt easy, I won a sprint (!!! - though that was possibly the best group of non-sprinters I could have asked for), and the form is definitely there. But form is fickle, and as any cyclist knows, sometimes very fleeting. Form seems to reside all through your body, from muscles to the nervous system and into the psyche of the cyclist. Some days the muscles are primed but the messages to go don't seem to get through from your brain stem, and some days your brain isn't in the right place to want to go. I cruised up McBeth and down Fox Hollow after the ride and stayed in the little ring all through town, feeling not tired but kind of empty. Not the usual post-ride kind of empty either, as I was hydrated and fed and well awake. Just the kind of empty where bikes took a backseat to the rest of life, as I thought about housework and job applications and my impending move up to Portland. When the garage door opened I looked at an empty hook on the ceiling and almost hung the race bike up on it.

It's been a few days now, and I haven't felt like riding yet. I did weed the yard and drifted the McKenzie with Matt to toss leech patterns at stubborn steelhead. In another month I'll be stalking birds and getting excited about my big game tags. Sometime in October I'll want to train again, but until then, I'm merely another recreational cyclist out for a spin once or twice a week when I feel like it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Delta, Weekend, Cascade

That's how July ends.

Delta was fast. Ben snagged the prologue win over Svein Tuft by a fraction of a second and made everyone sit up and pay attention to the reason the Kiwis call him "Quadzilla"! My own time was 10s slower, which would have been 23rd - but for my dumb-ass letting myself get flustered and missing my start time by a couple of seconds to be given a 20s penalty. Not that it was going to matter as GC wasn't my job, but still - total Cat 5 move. Next start time is getting sharpied onto my hand, my top tube, my helmet, and maybe my water bottles.

The crit averaged 30.5mph which is 3mph faster than any other race I've done, and while I wasn't physically in trouble I was simply stuck in the field. No moving. Fitness was not the issue, but skill - how to move through a field that is screaming down the straights at 32-33mph consistently and raging through tight corners. Hats off to the boys in yellow who took cash and contested all night. Not much help was I.

The road race, 140k of it, was different. We did 4 laps of a circuit in North Delta then did a longish windy transfer over to 10 laps of an 8k finishing circuit in Tsawwassen. Quinn attacked at the flag drop, and I followed the next move that bridged up to his little group and thus Rubicon had 2 men in the main move of the day, which was 10 total. Quinn sat on for the most part and I just rolled through, keeping it going and letting Quinn rest his legs for the pain that was to come later. My chain began to fall apart with 3-4 laps to go though so I had to pull over in the feed zone and go find a chain tool in the team trailer (took my chain apart with no tool - three of four corners where the pins pressed in to one link were cracked and gone), and ended up riding in alone one lap down, while Quinn did his job and broke up the break so that it would get caught and the three sprinters we had in the field could take their shot at the line. However, Zac Bell rolled out of our break and hung on to win by a couple of seconds, but we still put Ben in 5th on GC and all in all had a good day. I had awesome legs and did a good ride, which was redemption for sucking in the other two events. Motoring is what I do, and it's good to be able to put that skill to use for a specific job to help a great team do their jobs - which is to make us all look good, raise awareness for LiveSTRONG, and get kissed by the pretty ladies who think we are fast.

So now, with 19hrs stacked into the early part of this week, I'm hoping the legs come around again since Tuesday evening will mark the start of my first-ever NRC race, and what a start it is: The Cascade Cycling Classic, which pretty much looks like the most brutal race I would ever dream of starting. Cruise on over to the CCC website and take a look at that stage information - it's ugly. Only the crit shows any flat ground. Suffering is the name of the game, and when the Pro's are throwing down I'm going to be waiting for the calls of "gruppetto!" after I do my job and bring bottles to our GC guys in the 95F heat for as long as I can. I just hope this race is civil.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Life is good, life is... ridiculous

Nationals hosed my legs for a couple of days. I think the heat drained all the minerals out of my body and there was a bone-deep kind of ache going on long after the rest of me felt pretty all-right. Still I tapped out 19hrs, the most stress of which was loaded into a few solid rides built around the Thursday Nighter and then later the Firecracker Crit on the 4th.

I rolled home after the crit and parked the bike, scoured the fridge quickly for some grub, and hopped into the shower. Ten minutes later I got out and smelled a faint smoke/burnt rubber kind of smell, which was really weird, but people barbeque this time of year so I wasn't too worried. I checked that I hadn't somehow turned on the stove or that the electric kettle wasn't somehow cooked out. Nope, all good. Then, standing in my towel, I noticed a bunch of cars parked out in front of the house and so I took a little peek out the window to see what was going on. And what was going on was some serious 4th of July action: flags, smoke, firemen, chainsaws, crowds, and very nearly a cooked dog as the house across the street and one-over was literally on fire:

Yep, in the short time between me getting home and getting out of the shower, the fence next to that house had caught fire (guess is that a firework landed in the bark-o-mulch) and completely burned down while catching the house itself on fire, and the fire department showed up and cut holes into the roof which let out the more enormous plume of grey and brown smoke. They stripped the siding off one side, rescued the dog, sprayed water 60ft into the air as they hosed down the rafters, and generally put on a good show. This was far better than the evening fireworks at Alton Baker, although much scarier to think that it could have just as easily been the house next door to me, or for that matter, mine.

Tuesday I had an interview in PDX and spent the whole day up there visiting family after business was taken care of and also decided to stay and cut my teeth on my first ever trip to PIR for the Tuesday night series. The crits in Eugene are 25-30miles and 15-30 guys, this was 40 miles and 75 riders on a windy night and a twisty race track. I got there late (Portland traffic = suck) and got almost zero warmup. We rolled out slowly so I attacked the first time down the back straightaway. Rubicon's Taylor came up, then eventually Austin, Roman, and Ben C making 3 yellow riders, Austin and me. And we went 46kmph for almost the first half hour, and Taylor eventually had enough, then Ben, and Roman Austin and I kept the pace up all the way to the end. We put 3 minutes onto the field and had them in our sights on the home stretch. Awesome. I don't know if the field have ever been lapped at PIR but I think it needs to be done - that would mean gaining 4 minutes in 40 miles. We were ridiculous. I bombed the sprint but ended up 2nd due to the strange points thing - not having realized all along that we were getting points (3 deep) on the bell laps. Oops! Not like I would have wanted to be losing sprints to Roman every couple of laps anyways. It worked out. Hella fun. And made my butt super sore from going hard on no warmup.

Thursday morning I drove back up to Portland to meet up with the yellow squad and take a trip up to Vancouver, BC as a guest to race the Tour de Delta with them, part of the remnants of BC SuperWeek. We've been put up in host housing and I have had the distinct pleasure of listening to a bunch of Kiwis make fun of Canadian accents - which means I have no idea what they are saying but it sounds funny as hell.

Delta is a short 3k prologue, a crit, and a 160k windy hard road race. Sounds great, right? Right. Except that we found out this morning that the crit is in fact the Canadian National Championships. WHAT?! Well that just upped the ante - especially since Ben, our Canuck, is now completely jacked on the crit. Oh, lord. This is going to be harder than I expected, and I expected it to be hard. I had figured I could survive the crit and hopefully help the boys do some good in the RR, but since this is a sprinting type of team this crit is now the Real Deal. And I am afraid that I am going to Suck. Well, I'm strong enough to come through OK, but a National level crit is not exactly the kind of thing where I am going to do much good. So we will see. I skipped the US Natz crit on purpose, and now am entered to the Canadian Natz crit on accident. Hah, the irony of that.

Well, at least I got to wear a clean new pair of shorts and if I can do any good at all, even for one lap, it will be worth it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

70 miles of glory...

Then, 11 miles of hanging on, and 19 miles of dragging to finish.

The early break went at the gun. I was in it. Kennett, Reeb and I took off, were joined by 9 more after a half lap, but then it got all weird and people were sitting in, not working, etc etc. Maybe 5 guys were consistently turning. On the second time through the feedzone four of us just rolled off... and we ended up out there for 70 miles, 4 1/2 laps, pushing and pushing and baking in the sun. Like I said to my very surprised support crew (i.e. family and lady) in the feedzone on the first lap - "why the hell not?". I went to Nationals and raced my bike ... and it was awesome.

The race, in images:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Elite Nationals Week

In the spirit of racing 100 miles around the Aubrey Butte course in Bend and getting my arse handed to me Sunday, I concluded a 23hr, 604km training week that involved the season's first McKenzie Pass with Dad (not a hard day, but a long one), four days of 4+hrs in a row, close to 20,000 ft of climbing, an "off" day working and visiting in Portland, and of course getting soaking wet in ridiculous late-June rain at the start of a long ride on three occasions.

The human body is a strange machine. Mine responds really well to volume, when I have the time to do it. My longest week in the last month - maybe more - was 15 1/2hrs. Add half-again as much and I am flying at the end of it. During Sunday's ride, wrapping up my biggest week since spring break, I still managed a solid 20min TT effort (in full rain gear) in the aero bars kicking along at my best-ever Coburg TT power but 10bpm lower HR - and the legs felt good. It's coming around.

Wednesday I took off for the east side of the hills with bikes, camping gear, and a very rough gameplan for hitting up Nationals and enjoying the hell out of Bend. After a good night's sleep in an actual bed, thanks to some generous parents of a friend of a very nice lady, I went on over and got my butt kicked against the best amateur TT'ers in the country on the Skyliner++ course - 12k from the start to the turn on Skyliner, 56x11 style descent, then a 10k lollipop loop on a hard rolling course that killed me. Starting first in the Elite Men's group, I opened the steady state motor and did a strong climb and descent but suffered like a dog trying to punch those rolling climbs and keep speed down the back sides. Fun stuff.

Thursday night we drove out Hwy 242 and camped under the stars with a big-ass campfire and wicked good campfire pasta - garlic, salami, tomato sauce, whole wheal spaghetti. And a bottle of wine. Can't beat it.

Friday morning, back up the pass - from the snow gate. In the sun. loosened up the legs and grinned the whole way up.

Friday night I avoided the mayhem of the Elite crits downtown and instead sat in the grass reading my Michener and watching the NWX crit - a great race since they make a real block party of it and there's a good crowd that you can really work and put on a show for. Feeling good, I decided to do the 8pm 1/2 race since it was a small group and a nice course, I could make it what I wanted and not blow my legs up but keep them fresh. I rode up to the break, took 3 of 5 primes in the race (first went to a 2man break early, last went to the pack), and just drove the break most of the race since Broadband had 3 guys in it who were determined not to do anything, Sagebrush had 2 and only 1 working, and I would always rather drive it than get caught. I turned the screws, had fun, and came out ahead on the day (money back, massage, beer and pint glasses - love small local races). The finale was predicable, but I got the announcers and the crowd going by playing the showman, taking primes, and generally riding aggressively. That's always fun.

One more day to sit in a coffee shop, watch the US-Ghana game with Lenny later this morning, ride a loop of the Road Race course, then line up and get my butt kicked by the Elite Men, the real Cat 1's in this country, around a tough hilly course. But I should get a pretty good tan.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Off, Monkey, Off

And USA Cycling approved the upgrade today. HUGE sigh of relief. Followed by immediate ordering of a new race license, and registration for Elite Nationals in Bend.

Cat 5 to Cat 1, before I turned 30, with 3 actual years of good training (2007 after I quit coaching until now). That feels good. So good.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And then it left again

The Tuesday Night Crit, for the second week in a row, turned into a soaking wet ride. This week some 31 guys showed up in the 1/2/3 training race and we went 44kmph for 50min in pouring rain under black skies. It was windy enough that on the headwind stretch I was seeing 400W get me 39-40kmph and nothing stuck for all that long. McK and I had a nice go of it for maybe 1/4 of the race.

Wednesday was looking promising in the morning and the ride to and from campus was warm, humid, and generally promising for a dry ride. So, of course, I procrastinated - and while the TT bike and I rode 5 minute intervals up and down Fir Butte, the wind kicking around from all sides like a gang of pre-schoolers in a group tantrum, the western sky turned completely white. It was one of those walls of water that comes down in fine, dense drops, penetrating every seam and crack in the raingear. A literal wall of water. I watched it approach over the course of an hour or so, each time I completed an interval I debated running from the storm to go finish on the home trainer, and each time I decided "No, I'm still OK". And I was still OK all the way through - until of course suddenly I wasn't.

Starting the last interval, headed south, the big car-wash in the sky opened up and before I had finished the 5 min rain had snuck under the collar of my jacket and by the time I got back to the end of the Amazon bike path - not more than three miles away - every item of clothing was waterlogged.

So, for the second day in a row, I got home and stood in front of the washing machine in my garage, stripping naked to throw 20lbs of soaking wet apparel into the "delicates" cycle.

This Is Not OK.

It's June. I know the rain is "warm". But there shouldn't be any rain to begin with. This is our three months of glorious dry warmth, being eaten away by more penetrating precipitation than we see on any given day in January. It is almost summer. Sunshine is not liquid, and if this crap doesn't stop I am seriously tempted to hang up the wheels until it does, because I am done.