Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Recovery eating

It's now been three days since I finished RAWROD, and I am still hungry. Sunday I didn't eat too much, and I didn't really feel so much like eating, as I think my system was still recovering from the stress of Saturday's ride. Monday, I felt OK and even tried to ride my road bike. After 19 miles, though, I felt completely worked. And wanted to do nothing but eat for the rest of the day. Yesterday, it was the same story--I didn't even get out on a ride or any other exercise. I just wanted to eat.

I can tell I was not as fit as I should have been for a ride that big, because recovery seems to be taking a lot longer than it should. Reminds me of when I ran my first marathon--I didn't feel back to normal for three weeks.

Part of being hungry nonstop for three days has got to be my body telling me that it's trying to put the molecules back together but needs some raw materials to work with. Which is why I should be eating egg white omelettes, oatmeal, free range chicken breasts, broccoli, blueberries, and things like that. But I'm not. Not that I'm eating really bad stuff, but each of the last two nights--when I shouldn't have eaten anything except maybe a blueberry smoothie with protein powder--I've killed off the post-dinner evening cravings with ice cream.

Ice cream for the last two nights notwithstanding, I usually try to eat pretty healthy, which includes supplementing my diet with some of the nutrients it lacks. To the tune of 8 or 9 pills a day. I've read from multiple sources that fish oil is supposed to be one of these supplements. So a while ago, I bought some fish oil capsules and added them to my daily regimen.

Problem is, as good as fish oil is supposed to be for your heart, it's at least that bad for your mouth. It doesn't taste bad going down--in fact, it doesn't taste like anything except what you're drinking to swallow the capsules. But the flavor of the fish oil comes back up, repeatedly, for the rest of the day. The worst possible solution is to drink diet coke in order to get rid of the fish oil taste--it leads to a horrible drink-burp-gag cycle. Nasty. And since I'm not quite ready to give up the diet coke, the fish oil is going to have to go. I'm sure my body will figure out some way to recover from long rides without it.

Monday, April 28, 2008


On Saturday I rode the White Rim Trail for the first time as part of Kenny's annual RAWROD event. I love reading the descriptions for the trail and the inevitable references to doing it in one day, such as this nugget from "Most riders spend 3 or 4 days to ride this trail, spending the night at campgrounds. Two days = Monster. One day = Lunatic."

I hardly think of myself as a lunatic. And since, according to the BMI tables, I am overweight and have been for my entire life, I have a hard time thinking of anything I do on a bicycle as remarkable. But I guess most folks don't enjoy spending eleven or more hours in the saddle. I won't say that all eleven and a half hours were enjoyable, but most of them were. It was a great day. Not perfect, but I'll certainly be back next year.

Here's what went well:
  • The scenery: I love Southern Utah redrock country, and there is no better way to enjoy it than on a bicycle. At every turn I could look up to behold remarkable vistas unlike anything else in the world.
  • The people: the other riders were as good a group of people as one would ever want to spend a day with. I didn't have a designated group that I planned to ride with--I just rode at my pace and chatted with whoever happened to be near me at the moment. Without exception, they are people I would choose to ride with again.
  • 29er: the bike was comfortable to ride all day even without rear suspension, and the big wheels allowed me to ride through all the sand traps without dismounting.
  • Bratwurst: Kenny and Elden spent the evening cooking brats for dinner. I was concerned how my system would handle them the next day, but they tasted so good that I ate two. I had no problems from them during the ride, either.
  • The trail: White Rim is a good trail to do for an endurance ride. It's not so long or so steep that it made me really suffer, it was just fun riding with some good climbs and challenging descents spaced at just the right intervals along the way.
  • Miles 70-85: Like all big rides, I had my moments where I felt really strong and other moments where I felt lousy. Miles 70-85 stand out as a period during the ride where I didn't expect to be strong, but I was and just felt good.
  • My fitness: I was nervous coming into this that I didn't have the endurance miles for a ride like this; my longest ride since September of last year had been 45 miles, and that was on the road. My longest mountain bike ride ever was about 35 miles. I did OK, though. Lisa commented after 87 miles that I wasn't as chipper as I was at 30 miles, but about the only thing that was as potent at 87 miles as it was at the beginning of the ride was LJ's gas.
  • The support: Kenny's in-laws drove one vehicle, and LJ's friend Rob drove another, allowing us to refill with water and food and drop unnecessary clothing along the way. And they had smiles on their faces from bell to bell, as if we were doing them a favor by letting them watch us ride our bikes all day.
What didn't go so well:
  • The dust: I'm asthmatic but can usually keep things under control with use of an inhaler. The dust on White Rim is so fine and there is so much of it, though, that from about mile 60 on, I couldn't take a full breath without coughing. I sucked on the inhaler at every stop but never got my breathing back under control.
  • Pillows: the hardest thing for me about camping is not sleeping on the ground--it's sleeping on the ground without a proper pillow. Instead of one camp pillow, I should have brought two regular pillows.
  • Nutrition: I need to find something that I can eat after a few hours on the bike. I was pretty cooked by the end of the ride, but I'm pretty sure I would have done better had I eaten more during the day. I just get to a point where I can't get myself to choke down anything else, no matter what it is.
  • My drivetrain: early in the ride, we were riding on flat, fast roads, so I shifted into my big ring. When I hit a hill, I forgot I was in my big ring and shifted into my big cog. I cross-chained with a too-short chain and had nearly disastrous consequences. Fortunately, I didn't break the chain, and the bike still shifted OK. But it made funky noises whenever under load and made me nervous that it was going to break down for the next ten hours. I think next time I may try it on a single speed.
There's been a lot written about this ride, so I'll end my writeup at this point. Please take a look at the following, though, as others have told some great stories about the trip, including Kenny, Brad, and Adam time-trialing the trail the day before the group ride.

I'm sure there are others that I have missed, so leave a comment if there's an account you'd recommend. Either way you'll get a good feel for the event by reading these.

Finally, a special thank you to Kenny for organizing the whole thing and inviting me along, as well as to Kris for hauling my body, bike, and gear from Orem to Moab and back and for providing great company along the way. Also, thanks to my parents for spending the weekend with my three-year-old son (who I think had more fun than I did and was quite a bit more reluctant to come back home) and to my beautiful wife for letting me have the weekend away.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Paris-Roubaix Lunch Ride

It's spring. Which means that it's classics season, at least in Europe. Cycling fans are all too familiar with what the classics can do to both rider and bike. Below is a picture of George Hincapie from Paris-Roubaix a few years ago.

I was reminded that it's classics season during my lunch ride yesterday. It started out innocently enough. We'd had rain overnight, so the roads were still pretty wet. The sun was starting to poke through the clouds, though, and the temperature was reasonably warm, so I skipped the knee warmers and had nothing covering my legs but my bibs.

Our intended route was the Toppadadump out and back. Toppadadump got it's name because it's the road going up the hill that leads to the county landfill. (If the wind is coming from the wrong direction, this is not a pleasant ride from an olfactory standpoint.) It's a good lunch ride, as it's about 1000 feet of climbing and only 20 miles or so round trip from the office.

There's a core group of seven or eight of us who actually go on the lunch rides, but we never get more than four of us out at a time. Yesterday was just Ladd and me.

We got a bit wet from the roads before we even started climbing. Once the road tilted upward, we were greeted with a headwind. The wind was nothing more than annoying until the last quarter mile or so before the summit, at which point it brought with it first rain, switching almost immediately to hail. Ladd was on my wheel all the way to the top, so it took us about 30 seconds to regroup, catch our breath, and decide we wanted to head down, pronto.

Almost as soon as we started down, the weather got worse. Hail is bad enough, but when you're on a bike and going 30+ miles per hour, it can be downright painful. The hailstones had sharp corners, so every impact with my bare legs and face was painful. One hit my lip hard enough to draw blood.

As if fighting the hail wasn't bad enough, we also had wet roads to contend with, which made cornering and braking frightening. My hands got so wet and cold that my fingers were numb and I could barely grip the levers. Add into the mix the garbage trucks coming up and down the road, and you can understand why I was genuinely concerned for my safety most of the way down.

Once we got to the bottom, as quickly as the storm blew in, it was gone. The sun peaked out, things started to warm a bit, and we had a nice ride the rest of the way home. Except that we were filthy. I felt bad for Ladd, who was on his new bike that, as a rule, he doesn't ride in bad weather. When I got home and took my socks off, my wife took one look at my legs and started laughing. I usually get a couple of pretty stark tan lines at the bottom of my shorts and the top of my socks, but I've never had a dirt line quite like this before. I won't even tell you where else the dirt had accumulated.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Review of the Moab Diner

The following is a piece I submitted last year as a guest reviewer on the now-defunct random reviewer project. I'm still a little bummed that random reviewer didn't last, though it appears that reviews are still popping up from time to time here. Anyway, random reviewer had lost momentum before this ever got published, so I thought I'd post it on my own.

My motivation for posting it is that I leave tomorrow for Moab, Utah for my inaugural attempt at RAWROD--Ride Around White Rim in One Day. While certainly doing the ride is my primary motivation for making the trip, I will freely admit that while I am riding, some of my motivation to finish the ride will come from knowing I can go to the Moab Diner when I am done.

Review of the Moab Diner

You know that feeling you get when you put on a pair of pants, stick your hand in the pocket, and discover money in the pocket you didn’t realize was there? Well that’s the feeling I had on my last trip to Moab when I had lunch at the Moab Diner.

For years I have been traveling to Moab and only visiting the diner for ice cream. Specifically, strawberry malts. These are good strawberry malts, mind you, but I had no idea what else was in store. Until my last visit. Here are a few of my favorites.


The lowly cabbage is an unassuming vegetable capable of a remarkable variety of applications. It can be shredded over fish tacos or into posole. It can be made into sauerkraut and top a fine sausage. But certainly the most glorious end for a cabbage is to be turned into coleslaw. The Moab diner does this better than perhaps any place I have eaten, including my own kitchen. The cabbage is crisp, the dressing is creamy but not bland. The spices are vibrant but not overbearing. Indeed, all the ingredients come together in a harmonic blend of deliciousness.

Approximate number of minutes a 180 pound cyclist needs to ride to burn one serving of coleslaw: 12

Rating: pass the coleslaw

Strawberry malt:

There are certain foods that are simple yet delicious. They are neither fancy nor rare, just enjoyable. The Moab Diner’s strawberry malt is one of these foods. The hand-scooped strawberry ice cream is creamy. The berries are sweet and not too tart. It is blended such that there are no ice crystals. The malt is smooth without overpowering. And it’s served unabashedly in a 20 ounce cup. What more could anyone want, unless you’re on a diet?

Approximate number of minutes a 180 pound cyclist (because let’s face it, 150 pound cyclists don’t eat these things) needs to ride to burn one strawberry malt: 100

Rating: no wonder I’ve never lost weight on a Moab trip

Green Chili:

This is the Moab Diner’s signature item. Virtually everywhere you look is a mention of “best green chili in Utah.” What is green chili you ask? I don’t know, but it’s good. It’s not Hormel chili colored green. Nor is it chili verde. In fact, I wouldn’t really describe it as green, though it does have some green chiles in it. And it’s not really like chili, as there is no beef and no kidney beans. There are definitely beans of some sort in it, though, and who knows what else. Truth be told, I don’t really care what’s in it with as good as it tastes. I realize I am doing a lousy job describing it, so all I can do is encourage you to try it the way I did, on the:

Green Chili Cheeseburger:

This is a fairly straightforward cheeseburger, with a good quality meat patty, melted cheddar cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and oh yeah, Moab Diner green chili. I like cheeseburgers and have eaten some good ones over the years. But there’s something magic about the Moab Diner green chili. It turned a good cheeseburger into something absolutely spectacular.

Approximate number of minutes a 180 pound cyclist needs to ride to burn one green chili cheeseburger with a side of fries: 140

Rating: absolutely worth it


I mentioned earlier that all I had ever really eaten at the Moab diner was the strawberry malt. Not really true, as one of my friends likes to eat a BLT with his strawberry malt and would often share. I’ve still never eaten a BLT of my own, but the half sandwiches I’ve been given here and there deserve mention. The bacon is special. Over at the Jailhouse Café (also in Moab), they make particular mention of their unique, meaty, extra thick, extra salty bacon. I’m pretty sure the diner’s BLT uses the same source. Make that bacon into a triple-decker sandwich with fresh tomatoes and lettuce, just enough mayonnaise, and bread toasted golden brown, and you’ve got something to look forward to as you pedal those last road miles back into town from the end of the Porcupine Rim trail.

Approximate number of minutes a 180 pound cyclist needs to ride to burn one BLT: however long it takes you to get back into town from Porc Rim is close enough.

Rating: you’ve earned it

Hot Fudge Shake Made With Chocolate Ice Cream:

Hot fudge shakes are good. So are chocolate shakes. But when the milkshakes are made with hand-dipped ice cream, you can get creative. So my wife ordered a hot fudge shake made with hand-dipped chocolate ice cream. The very next day my wife and I had an absolutely exquisite six course dinner at one of the finest restaurants in Salt Lake. But guess which dessert I was still thinking about a week later? Yep, the hot fudge chocolate shake was that good. If you like chocolate, I am pretty much convinced that you will never enjoy anything more, particularly if you’ve spent a good chunk of your day in the sweltering Utah desert before you eat it.

Approximate number of minutes a 180 pound cyclist needs to ride to burn one hot fudge chocolate shake: who cares?

Rating: worth getting fat over

Monday, April 21, 2008

Two-wheeled networking

On a lunch ride last week, one of the riders who joined our group looked really familiar to me, but I also knew I had never ridden with him before. So today I sent him an email and asked him if he ever lived in Minneapolis. Turns out he had, and the two of us had briefly worked together years ago. Now, the two of us live within a mile of each other and ride with some of the same people. Chances are good that we'd have never run into each other or remade that connection were it not for cycling.

I spent two years of my life and more money than I care to think about getting an advanced degree from a fairly reputable institution of higher learning. While the education has been valuable, presumably the greater value of such an endeavor comes from admission to the alumni network. I won't deny the benefit of these connections, but based on my experience from recently re-entering the job market, it seems that my network of cyclists and skiers has proven equally if not more worthwhile.

Case in point, the first contact that I made at one of the companies I am targeting was someone with whom I've connected because we're both cyclists and know some of the same people. Other contacts I've made within the company have also turned out to have a cycling connection. Either everyone who works there rides bikes, or cyclists seem inclined to help other cyclists out. Or maybe they're just looking for more people to join them on lunch rides.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Storage wax

Earlier this week I put storage wax on my beloved Legend Pros. I was a bit sad to know I would not be back out on these boards for another eight months or so, but that doesn't mean it's the end of ski season just yet. With the near-record snowpack in the mountains, there should be ample opportunities for spring skiing. Hence, my touring gear did not get the storage wax treatment, and I should get a few days in on my new boots.

My son's skis also avoided summer relegation, as he and I will be traveling to Utah next week and plan on getting in a half day skiing at Snowbird. With any luck, it will be T-shirt weather. If it were just me at the bird, the Dynastars would be the ride of choice, but when skiing with kids, touring gear is great because I can put the boots in walk mode and stand upright.

I quite like Dynastar Lange products for downhill skiing, which is why I was a bit embarrassed to see Ferrari co-branded Dynastar skis and Lange boots. Do people really think slapping a Ferrari logo on something besides an actual Ferrari makes it more desirable? I'd think both brands would worry about diluting their brand value with such a move, but apparently Ferrari are whoring themselves out to more than just the ski market. Maybe it's just me, but Dynastars and Colnagos tend to be at the upper end of the price spectrum in their respective markets, so if I'm going to drop the coin to buy either one, I sure don't want to come home with something that looks like a collabo gone bad.

Herro, is friday caturday?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Style man

Far and away my favorite feature of Bicycling magazine is "Style Man." If Bicycling were nothing more than a postcard mailed to my house each month with the Style Man column printed on it, it would be worth the price of the subscription.

As entertaining as the Style Man is on his own, the real gold is the combination of the January/February column and subsequent reader response, published in the May issue:

Q: When is it OK to ride a pink bike?

A: Yesterday.

Pink has its place in the stylish cyclist's life--but only for clothing details such as piping, stripes, highlights, stitching and liners, or as the name of the skanked-out but still somehow hot companion (male or female). When it comes to bikes, it's simple:
  • Black is the fastest color
  • White is even faster
  • Black and white is acceptable
  • Red or blue is not embarrassing
Nothing else works.

And here's the response, published without editing:

No were not

Is it okay to ride a pink bike (Style Man, Jan./Feb.)? Who are you to say what is right? If someone wants to ride a pink bike he should. I have a Tommasini Diamante with some pink on it and I get plenty of compliments. Your an idiot.

Mario De Simone, Brooklyn, NY

Thanks, Mario.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Which end of the continuum are you on?

Several years ago, I did a 50 mile backpacking trip where we followed part of the Pacific Crest Trail, then up to the summit of Mt. Whitney and out the Whitney Portal. While on the Pacific Crest Trail, we encountered a fair number of through hikers. Before the trip, we thought we were packing pretty light for four days in the wilderness, each of us carrying 40 pounds or so on our backs. The through hikers, however, taught us the true meaning of going light. Many of them had packs that, excluding food, weighed 9-10 pounds. In many cases, the 9-10 pounds included an ice axe--needed when descending the north facing aspects of certain passes. They also wore running shoes rather than hiking boots and typically ticked off 30 miles or more in a day.

I realized at that point that I was in a different place on the efficiency-effectiveness continuum than I thought I was. Hiking boots, while effective at protecting my feet, were not efficient for hiking long distances. Tents, sleeping pads, and gas stoves--all built to be as lightweight as possible--were equally luxurious. It was a lesson I was reminded of when I built my single speed.

While out walking with my family the other day, however, I realized that as comparatively inefficient as things like gears and suspension forks may feel in certain company, I've never fully probed the effectiveness end of the continuum. During our walk, we saw a guy riding through the neighborhood on his bike. His bike had a baby seat--no big deal, those things are hard to take off. He was also wearing jeans, again not anything unusual for a neighborhood ride. But on his jeans, he had a belt. And on his belt, he had some pouches. Specifically, he had a pouch for a cell phone, one for a multi-tool, and another for a small flashlight. He also obviously worked where I do, as his employee badge was dangling from the belt. I'll gladly spot him the cell phone and the multi tool, but at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, I'm not sure what he thought he would need the flashlight or the badge for. At least he was prepared.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I think I know what Paul Jewell feels like

Paul Jewell is the manager of the relegated Premier League side Derby County. Jewell took over as manager in the fall after having resigned his post at Wigan Athletic at the end of last season. The reason I can relate to Jewell is because although he has had tremendous success in the lower divisions, specifically leading Wigan from League 2 all the way to the Premiership, he hasn't been able to accomplish much at Derby, with the team having won just a single match in 34 played this season.

Similarly, the girls team that I coach, which dominated their rec division in U7 and U8, has really struggled to find its groove since we've moved up both an age group and competition level to U10 Select. The first several games last year were on par with Derby taking on pretty much anyone in the top half of the Premiership. There were several games where I was just hoping to come away not being embarrassed too badly.

This year has gone a bit better so far, but we're still struggling at 0-2. In both of our matches, we have started out strong, with our defense playing quite well. But as the game wears on we seem unable to hold it together. I think a big part of that comes from having four new players on the team. Two of them are doing quite well, while the other two would have never made it through tryouts if I'd had any part of the process. It's a challenge as a coach, because on the one hand, it's youth sports and I feel like everyone needs to play a reasonable chunk of the game. On the other hand, it's hard to put the rest of the team in a position where their confidence gets destroyed because I need to get everyone on the field.

It was another bad week for the Gunners as well. I went into Sunday's match with high hopes that we could wrest three points and still make a run at the title, but it was not to be. It was really some bad luck as much as anything else. We should have been up one if not two goals at the half, but couldn't seem to get them to roll in. We finally got on the score sheet early in the second half and were unfortunate not to make it two after Rio Ferdinand very nearly conceded an own goal just minutes later. As has happened so many times lately, the lead didn't last, with Ronaldo scoring on an unnecessary penalty followed by Owen Hargreaves knocking in the winner on a stunning free kick.

It will be an interesting off season to say the least. Gilberto and Jens Lehmann, two mainstays of last year's squad, have seen very little time this season. I doubt either will stick around come summer. It's a shame, too. While Almunia is more consistent than Lehmann, the latter is a better playmaker and can make stops that Almunia can't. Gilberto has been the tougher of the two to watch, though, as he was clearly the best player on the squad last year with Henry injured for most of the season. He has been replaced this year by Mathieu Flamini, but as well as Flamini has played this season, Gilberto last year was much better than Flamini this year. I have to think that Gilberto would have stepped up and delivered once again had he been given the opportunity.

Wenger has indicated that he doesn't have plans to buy new players over the summer, however. This is consistent with his philosophy of developing young talent, which also seems to have influenced his decision to start Flamini and Almunia ahead of Gilberto and Lehmann for most of the season. Philosophically it's a question of whether it's more valuable to have an experienced player on the field or to give a young player experience that he can use in the future. My approach would be to try and win today without worrying so much about next season--in too many cases points get dropped because managers are so worried about future matches that they forget to take care of the one they're playing today. Wenger is as prone to this as anyone.

If I were in Wenger's shoes, the most poignant need I'd be looking to fill would be at central defense. Phillipe Senderos is a great guy--exactly the kind of team player every coach enjoys having on the squad. He tries harder than anyone on the pitch and is perfectly content sitting on the bench until called upon. Unfortunately, he plays for Arsenal, and the system requires speed in central defense. William Gallas is not slow by any means, but he's as slow as one can afford to be in that position, and he would not be nearly as effective were Kolo Toure not there to back him up.

There are two key things I don't understand about Wenger's approach to his defense: first, why not pick up Jonathan Woodgate when he was available in January? Second, with Bacary Sagna out with injury, why not move Emmanuel Eboue back to right back and keep Toure in central defense? Eboue was an outstanding right back all of last year--in fact, he was perhaps the perfect right back: always in the attack, yet fast enough to never get beat on the other end. Moving Toure over to right back has never made any sense especially given that Eboue is a better defender than midfielder and Theo Walcott is available for right wing.

The door remains open, however, for a limited amount of activity this summer. As Wenger said "if we can add one more body we will do so, not one in each department - just one experienced guy." Which leaves me wondering, who is this experienced guy that Wenger has his eye on?

$3.18 per pound

As I mentioned here, I am the proud owner of a $70 single speed mountain bike. I weighed it yesterday, and it tips the scales at 22 pounds. Which means it cost me $3.18 per pound.

Except that the $70 price tag is somewhat deceiving. I had an old mountain bike in my garage that I hadn't ridden in over a year. It was my first mountain bike that I purchased four years ago. I wasn't sure how much I was going to like the sport and didn't want to be into it too much money in case I didn't.

This bike saw duty as my everyday bike that first season, and given it's fairly basic component spec, many of the parts were tired and worn out. I'd had designs on turning it into a single speed for a while, and this year I put that plan into action. First I needed to find a proper fork. I wanted to go rigid but also needed something that would work with rim brakes since I didn't want to spring for a new wheel. Thanks to TGR, I had exactly what I wanted within a day of asking and for the bargain price of $25. I also needed a new bottom bracket ($25), brake pads ($10), and chain ($10), but after a quick trip to the LBS, I was ready to begin work.

The cog is part of the old cassette, and the chainring is also a legacy part from the original setup. I'm running 32x18, which seems about right for where I ride, though I may try and run 32x16 as the season goes along. I converted the freehub to single using the spacers out of my old cassette plus five more I got from a friend. I was exceptionally lucky in that 32x18 works without the need for a chain tensioner (albeit a bit tight initially). As my chain wears and elongates, I'll need to replace it to avoid dropping my chain. But single speed chains are all of $10, so I think I can live with doing that once or twice per year if it means avoiding the need for a singulator.

The frame, wheels, crank, saddle, seatpost, and brakes are all original from the bike. Bar and stem were hand-me-downs from my 29er, since I got a new bar/stem setup this year. The saddle you see in the picture weighs north of 400 grams and feels like I am sitting in a La-z-boy, so that will probably be replaced before too long. I may also spring for a new wheelset, since a friend's got an excess Bontrager Race set that is tubeless ready.

Even without these upgrades, though, the bike rides great. I took it out for its maiden voyage Friday morning. It was about 28 degrees at 6:15 a.m., and my fingers were numb within a couple of minutes, but it was still a ton of fun to get out. Reminds me of riding BMX as a kid--I never felt like I needed lower gears then, I just stood up and pushed harder. And I sure don't miss the extra four pounds I have to push up the hill on my geared 29er. We'll see if this does to my geared bike what having a 29er did to my full-suspension rig last year. (The full squishy was sold and used to purchase new skis several months ago.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Toys!

April is my birthday month. As my wife will tell you, though, I am very hard to shop for. Hard enough that my wish lists usually include make, model, size, color, and sometimes SKU. Nearly every spring I get the shopping bug, as there are all kinds of deals on ski gear, and I usually want some new bike stuff as well. Typically what I do is buy something, bring it home, and then tell my wife "thank you for the birthday present" that is from her and the kids but that I picked out and paid for myself.

This year is no exception, as this morning on steepandcheap, they had alpine touring boots at ridiculous prices. Like 67% off ridiculous. And not just any AT boots, but Scarpa Spirit 3's. They're dynafit compatible and lasted to fit my wide, high-arched feet. I bought two pair. I don't actually plan to keep both pair, but I wasn't sure on sizing, so I figured I'd get one of each to be safe. I can't wait. Going to have to do a spring tour next week just to check them out.

I have another quasi-new toy that I'll talk more about a little later. It's a single speed mountain bike, and it only cost me $70. Well, that's not entirely accurate, but I'll fill you in after I have a picture to post.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Best ski days 2008, part 2

Let's see, where did we leave off? I believe it was the last week of January where I had snow frozen to my face for more than 20 minutes after I got done skiing. Well just as it always happens, while things were going off in Idaho, they were REALLY going off in Utah. We're talking change-your-life-deep powder day after day. And fortunately for me, we had planned a trip to Utah for that weekend.

Friday, February 1st, according to the folks in the tram line, was the most epic day in the last 20 years at Snowbird. It must have been, because on Saturday, February 2nd, I was still getting face shots in Mineral Basin all morning long. And I didn't have to work too hard to get them. Saturday was a fantastic day not just because the snow was good, but because I was with my brother Josh, who, by virtue of being my brother, gets an exemption to the snowboarders are lame rule. We cranked out more than 20,000 vertical by 1:00 and had a great time.

The following Monday, I had plans to meet Dibs, a.k.a. skifishbum, up at Solitude to demo some Bro Models. Dibs warned me that they would probably close the canyon for avy control, so to head up early. I left my parents' house at 5:30 and drove my mom's Honda CRV up the canyon, which hadn't been cleared since the night before. I passed the howitzer on my way up and saw three different slides that had come down onto the road. Did I mention that mom's CRV doesn't have snow tires? Yeah, the drive up was a little sketchy, but worth it. Good thing I came up early, too, because they closed the canyon behind me.

I had breakfast at Soli and then Dibs and I grabbed first chair. Dibs has worked at Solitude for 11 years, so he knows where to go, and he knows the patrollers. We basically followed patrol around all day getting first tracks as soon as they opened things up. We made a short foray out one of the backcountry gates that did not appear to have been opened in the last week. The snow was bottomless. I didn't just need to wait for my skis to plane out before I could make another turn, they needed to plane out just so I could see something besides white. Unbelievable stuff all day long. And that closed canyon? Well, when it finally opened up around noon or so folks from the valley had given up on the day. Wouldn't have mattered anyway, because by mid afternoon, I was so tired from skiing fresh and booting to the more aesthetic lines that I was ready to call it a day. A very good day. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Bro Model skis. Fantastic--I'd like to get a pair as my touring setup. They are light, unbelievably damp, stable at speed, and float in the pow. What more could you want for a BC ski?

Unfortunately for me, after that last week in January and first week in February, the really deep snow was done for the season. Which is not to say my season was done. My three-year-old, David, continued to progress all year long. He sort of had a sense for when I wanted to go skiing, and as soon as he saw me put on my ski pants would always ask if he could come. How can you tell a three-year-old, "no, I'd rather ski by myself today?" He and I had some wonderful days with just the two of us but more often with his sister, Emily (at left), along as well.

One of the more memorable experiences with David came night skiing. All of my kids are very independent and don't like Dad getting in their way. Shortly after the "I goed fast all by myself" incident, David discovered that he could ride the magic carpet on the beginner hill all by himself as well. Much of our time this season was spent doing 50 vertical foot laps on the magic carpet with my role reduced pretty much to just watching my son and reminding him to make turns once in a while (he really likes the going fast part). One evening, after several laps on the chair plus several more on the magic carpet, I asked David if he was ready to be done for the night. He said he wanted to go in the lodge and have hot chocolate, which we did. After two sips of hot chocolate, he indicated he wanted to go back out and ski. So we headed out for more laps on the conveyer. Finally, at 9:45 p.m., the liftie told David "last ride." He was crushed that someone was going to make him quit skiing. And I had another very proud moment as a parent.

Emily, who turns 9 next week, also had a great year, but since it's her fourth year skiing, didn't show the dramatic improvement we saw from David. That being said, she discovered the joy of skiing with friends, even if they were all boys. Some good friends of ours have four boys, two older and two younger than Emily. When we skied with them, she was the center of attention. As a parent, it's hard to compete, but I did get her undivided attention on President's Day, when we had bluebird conditions, even if the snow was a bit icy. Before the day began, she asked "how long are we going to ski?" I told her "until you feel like going home." I had no idea that point would not come until we had logged over 15,000 vertical feet. It was a wonderful day for both of us.

Another great memory came skiing with one of my close friends and colleagues, David. David is from Spain but currently lives in the Bay Area. We used to work in the same area and in the process discovered that our kids are the same age and we share a lot of the same interests, including skiing and mountain biking. David was to be in Boise for several days of meetings and decided to come early in order to have some time to ski. David invited another colleague, Ken, a Dane who currently lives in Munich. I had a great time introducing two guys who learned to ski in Europe to the joys of skiing trees. We had about five inches of fresh snow that by my standards was very heavy and not that great, but it didn't matter. The three of us had an incredible time skiing fast, dodging trees, and trying to remember to slow down before hitting the cat track. Right. About that, well let's just say that visibility wasn't great that day, and I became well-acquainted with one of the cat tracks that bisects a nice tree run on the back side. Ken captured the moment for posterity and kindly shared it with others. David is standing to the right. For the record, I'd like to point out that the only reason David is standing is because he jumped to his feet as soon as Ken reached for the camera. Unfortunately, this is the only photo I have from this day, and actually the only photo I have of me "skiing" all year.

Most of my backcountry skiing this year has been done with Mitch. I've ridden bikes with Mitch's brother-in-law for a number of years, but when Mitch moved to Boise in the fall, it was a real bonus to me because I had an ideal backcountry ski partner. Specifically, he was available every time I called and happily does more than his fair share breaking trail. Last time we went out was to More's Mountain, Bogus Basin backcountry. My friend and colleague, Bob, joined us for the day. This is where we skied down.

And here's Mitch, skinning back up.

All in all, it's been a great season. I set my goal for 30 days on snow this year and got it. At least 10 of those were really good powder days. And at least 10 more were amazing days with my kids. All I lacked were days with my wife. With a baby at home, the times we could get a sitter and both of us ski together all day were few but worthwhile. And my lovely wife certainly deserves credit for letting me get out and ski so much. It's like the time I mentioned to someone that my wife and I go fly fishing together. His response was "are you planning to get a divorce?" No, we're not. And yeah, I got lucky.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

English footballers have diarrhea of the mouth

I know I'm supposed to be talking about the rest of my 2008 ski season right now, but this couldn't wait. If I were the manager of a Premier League team, I would not let any of my English-born players talk to the press. Seriously, in the years that I have followed English football, I am yet to hear an English player say something intelligent.

The latest comes from Joe Cole, a player whom I respect as an individual except for the fact that he plays for the most deplorable organization on the far side of the Atlantic from the New York Yankees. Today Cole, whose side yesterday managed to advance to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, is going off on how they should have already won the tournament. Really Joe? You should already have been crowned champions even though your team has never even made it to the finals? We all agree with you, Joe. Because everyone knows that losing in the semis is just as hard as winning the final. Except that you wouldn't even know what it's like to play in the final, would you?

In related news, my beloved Arsenal were knocked out of the tournament by perennial Champions League contenders Liverpool. I'm not going to whine about dodgy penalty calls or no calls or who outplayed whom. I'll simply give credit to Rafa Benitez for being a remarkable in-game tactician. I admire Arsene Wenger tremendously, and I do not believe he has a rival when it comes to identifying and developing talent. But Rafa is a better game manager .

At the start of the game, Liverpool could not contain Emmanuel Adebayor, and it looked like it would be a very lopsided affair. But after the first goal, Liverpool made some adjustments, and in the second half it was Arsenal who were back on their heels and who ultimately succumbed.

Finally, just a comment about Theo Walcott: the equalizer Arsenal scored in the 84th minute was all Theo. I couldn't tell on TV who had the ball, and at first I thought it was Fabregas. When Theo kicked the ball upfield and then started to run around his opponent, my first thought (thinking it was Fab) was "yeah, right." But he outran his mark to the ball (I realized at this point it was Theo, not Fab), and then beat three other defenders before making a perfect cross to set up the goal. I used to think Theo would never live up to expectations, but I am eating my words. Arsenal are a much better team with him on the field, and Gallas is a brilliant captain for knowing how to spur Theo to turn the corner on his performance.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Best ski days 2007-8 season, part 1

During a meeting with one of my colleagues yesterday, I realized that mentally I am not nearly as occupied with skiing like I was just a few weeks ago. Of course he wanted to talk about the important stuff before getting down to business, including a trip report from his spring break in Colorado. I felt a bit sheepish because skiing hadn't crossed my mind until he brought it up.

Ski season is not officially over, but night skiing has ended and soccer season has begun, which means not enough time to ski after work and every Saturday is bisected by a game. I hope to still get out for some backcountry, but I think lift-served is over with the exception of taking my son to Snowbird when we're in Utah later this month.

So I thought it would be a good time to do a retrospective on the season and talk (brag) about my favorite days this year.

Opening weekend was great, but the really good skiing didn't start until we went to Utah for the holidays. I had a couple of good days during the "planned" portion of our stay, but Sunday, Dec. 30th, when we were supposed to leave, a huge storm rolled in and made driving a bad idea. The two good things about this were that I got to stay and ski on the 31st, and the storm brought new snow with it. Curtis, Trent, and I headed up to Alta and enjoyed first tracks right under the lift until at least noon. When they opened up Catherine's area, we headed over there, but so did everybody else, so we had to hike to our stashes to find the goods. Would have been great had Greeley or the castle opened, but both looked like powderkegs ready to go at any moment, an opinion that was confirmed when we asked patrol if they'd be dropping the ropes.

The next weekend was my first backcountry day. We went up to Idaho City and enjoyed untouched fall line skiing in knee-deep snow. Unfortunately, we didn't really know our way around well enough (which is probably why it was untouched), and ended up with a long traverse followed by a longer boot pack to get out. Still absolutely worth it, and the cardio workout I'm sure did me some good.

January was a really fantastic month for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, it snowed. A lot. My most memorable 24 hours were night skiing on a Tuesday and finding fresh until they kicked us out for the night. It snowed all while we were there, and the wind was blowing, so I knew the snow would be redeposited all night. I went in to work early the next day, got some stuff done and then left at 8:30 a.m. Made it to the mountain almost in time for first chair, but school had been canceled due to the snow, so all the students and teachers that couldn't make it to school somehow managed to drive the 16 miles and 3,000 vertical feet from the valley up to the mountain. Didn't matter because it was going off for as long as I could stay. I found a stash right where the wind had put all the snow the night before, it was knee to waist deep, and nobody was touching it. I had so many face shots and so much time in the white room that the snow was sticking to anything it could. This photo was taken 20 minutes after my last run of the day, and you can see how much snow was sticking to me. Note that the only reason I'm not smiling is because I was concentrating too intently on taking a self-portrait. I did not stop smiling the rest of the day.

January was also great because it was a breakthrough time for my son's skiing (he's three years old). When we started the year, he was pretty tentative and wanted me to hold on to him the entire time. The best I could do was ski ahead of him a bit and then have him ski to me. While trying to do this, he skied right past me and down to the bottom of the hill, where he crashed in a heap. I was mortified and thought for sure that was the end of our day. Instead, as soon as I got to him and helped him up, he proudly exclaimed "daddy, I goed fast all by myself!" As a parent, that is one of my proudest moments.

I knew it was a good ski season before I started writing about it, but I didn't realize it would take so much space to write about, even just the "good parts" version. So I'll pick this up tomorrow and tell you about the truly epic day at Solitude, introducing a couple of Euros to tree skiing, and seeing a disappointed three year old when the lifty told him "last run."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A matter of degrees

My ride on Friday didn't turn out quite the way I wanted it to. The lunch ride was nice, but a bit shorter than I expected. Got back to work and ended up spending a bigger chunk of my afternoon tying up loose ends, even though I worked late the night before and came in early in hopes of having most of the afternoon free. I didn't have time to do my T-max intervals, and when I finally was ready to head out for the MTB ride, I was greeted with two flat tires. This did not surprise me, as the last time I rode my mountain bike, we ended up on an unfamiliar trail that was littered with goatheads. What did surprise me was how long it took me to change tubes and get the tires rideable again. I only had one spare 29er tube, so I had to patch the other one. Twice. And it was still leaking during the ride. And yes, I know that you can run a 26" tube in a 29er wheel, which is what I had in my front wheel before, but the 26" spare tube that I had also had a hole in it.

All this work changing tires got me thinking that it's time to go tubeless on the 29er. I have ridden tubeless tires on my mountain bike three of the last four seasons, with last season being the exception. It was always my intention to run my 29er tubeless, but when I built it up, I didn't want to hassle with the extra effort of tubeless conversion, so I rode it with tubes thinking I'd switch once I got a flat. I rode the entire season without a single flat. But my karma caught up to me on Wednesday, as those goatheads took out both tubes in a big way.

As I am inclined to do, I spent some of the time on my bike thinking--nay--philosophizing about tubeless. I got thinking of the other advantages of tubeless tires besides flat resistance. On a 29er, the extra rubber for the larger tube is actually a material amount of rotational weight. I'm not at all a weight weenie, but at the same time, if I can make things lighter where I'll notice the difference, I will. Taking the tubes out of my 29er will certainly reduce weight, and the tube I am eliminating is 10% heavier to begin with. 10% when it comes to rotational weight reduction is a big deal.

This may not seem at all related, but over the weekend, I spent some time watching the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Twice a year, the church broadcasts its global meetings for all the members, and anyone else who's interested for that matter, to watch or listen to. In some areas, including all of Utah and much of the rest of the Intermountain West, these broadcasts are available on local television and radio. One of the talks that I found particularly memorable was given by Dieter Uchtdorf, a member of the church's presiding council and a former commercial airline pilot in Germany. He told the story of a flight departed from New Zealand in 1979 and expected to be a sightseeing flight of Antarctica. Before the flight departed, someone mistakenly changed the flight path coordinates by just two degrees. As a result, when the flight reached Antarctica, the plane was some 28 miles off course from where the pilots thought they were. To enable the passengers to have the sightseeing experience intended, the pilots dropped to a lower altitude. Unbeknownst to those on board, they were directly in the path of Mt. Erebus. Due to overcast skies and the snow-covered slopes, the pilots were unable to see the volcano until it was too late. All 257 on board were killed.

The tragedy of flight 910 was used to illustrate the danger of being just a few degrees off from our intended course. Whether in life, religion, business, or sport it seems as if it's these small differences that truly matter. We've all seen sports matches won and lost by the narrowest margins and in the closing seconds. For a publicly traded company both missing and exceeding earnings expectations by two cents per share is a big deal.

And so it is with our personal dealings. How much of a difference does it make to hit the snooze bar twice? If you're like me, it could mean getting up 20 minutes later and not having enough time for a workout in the morning. Missing the morning workout could mean missing the only chance to workout all day. A few days like that each week, and the training goal is off track. Being off track for a training goal could lead to giving up altogether, and you see where it could go from there.

I'm pretty certain that any weight savings I get from tubeless tires will never make any meaningful difference. I don't have any plans to race my mountain bike this year, and even if I did, I don't have any delusions of winning. But I am planning on two trips to Moab this spring, including an all-day sufferfest riding the entire White Rim Trail in one day. Who knows, maybe the energy saved by not accelerating those 29er tubes up the climbs will be the difference between keeping up with the group and dying in the desert. I kinda doubt it, but you never know.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

T-max intervals

Three weeks ago I started doing T-max intervals. I read about these a few months ago in Bicycling magazine, the one I bought off the newsstand because it had Fatty's "win" jersey on the cover. As usual, the training/fitness/weight loss tip in this issue was a blatant, bald-faced lie. That's the thing I love about Rodale publications (publishers of Bicycling, Runners World, Mountain Bike, and Prevention, among others)--they suck you in with these fantastic, too-good-to-be-true cover headlines that inevitably turn out to be at the least hyperbole and more often complete and total fabrications.

When I was running marathons, I subscribed to Runner's World and would always get sucked in with "Lose 10 pounds this week" or "Melt fat and get faster in your sleep" or "How overweight Americans like you with mediocre genetics and who only run so they can eat more pizza can beat the Kenyans in next month's 10,000 meter world championships." I'm sure Rodale's research indicates that fantastic headlines like these sell magazines, and that the stupid readers like me are gullible enough to fall for it month after month.

So when I read about T-max intervals, and that I could "develop blow-their-legs-off power" in one hour, even if it was "one brutal, agonizing, endless hour of astounding misery and pain," I was all for it. Yet again it was a trademark Rodale whopper. It doesn't take one hour, it takes at least two one hour sessions per week for five consecutive weeks. Big difference, especially when we're talking about a "brutal, agonizing, endless hour of astounding misery and pain." And while I'm being picky, it's actually more like 75 minutes if you include adequate time for warmup and cool down.

Despite whatever truth in advertising contentions I may have with Rodale Press, I still gave these T-max intervals a try. I've been doing them indoors partly because the weather is still unpredictable outside and partly because it's a lot easier for me to set the resistance appropriately and time the interval accurately on a stationary bike. I have not yet thrown up or even had to gag it back. But they are hard. Hard enough that I was scheduled to do them on Tuesday and skipped the workout entirely. Tuesday was crazy busy at work, and the first chance I had to break away was at 8:00 p.m. At that point I was too tired and skipped it. I figured I'd make it up Wednesday but decided to go mountain biking after work instead. Which means that today's Thursday, and I'm still supposed to squeeze in two of these workouts this week, with at least one rest day in between. Except that it's now 10:13 p.m., and once again, I can't muster the motivation to go to the gym and straddle the stationary bike for an hour.

So here I am stuck between my own laziness and ambition. I'm convinced these things work. After only two weeks, I am hanging with people that were dropping me last year. And I did not exactly train very hard during the winter. I want to do them, I really do. But they are hard. There is nothing fun about them. And as I make up excuses not to do them I am tormented by guilt, or at least the feeling that I'm shortchanging myself on my goals for the year.

So here's my plan: tomorrow's Friday, and my afternoon is open. I've got plans for a road ride at lunch, so I'll follow that with my T-max interval session indoors. Doing T-max right after a fairly hard ride will make up for skipping the earlier session in the week, right? Then, after work, I'll ride mountain bikes. This way I get lots of time in the saddle, which I need to get ready for RAWROD. And I get my training in to make up for being busy at work and using that as an excuse to be lazy on the bike this week. And then since I'll have done essentially three rides in one day, I'll have the family meet me at Highlands Hollow, and I'll cap it all off with a smoke house burger and copious amounts of diet coke. The smoke house burger will turn what would otherwise be a good day for training and weight loss into a good day for training.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lotoja registration

Last year was my first time riding Lotoja. I rode with my brother, and our wives drove support vehicles for us, with kids in tow. Inasmuch as 206 miles and 11 hours in the saddle all at once can be fun, we had a really great time. Such a good time, in fact, that I have been thinking about doing it again pretty much ever since. Which is why I've been watching the website to make sure I don't miss registration day--last year's race field was full in less than a day, so I want to make sure I register as soon as it opens.

I checked the website last night and felt like a 6 year old T-baller trying to hit Josh Beckett. The registration process this year has completely changed. Instead of registering on a first-come, first-served basis until the field is full as has been done in years past, this year's race will be filled on a priority basis, with category winners and multi-year veterans getting guaranteed entry, followed by three out of last five riders, then two-out-of-last-three riders. One-time riders and first timers are at the bottom of the totem pole. And we're expected to be fighting for only 33% of the total spots. My chances of getting in are based on a lottery that is likely to be oversold. So much for my plan to get up early on registration day. Yuck.

Of course, my mind immediately turned to how I could circumvent the system to ensure I get in. There's got to be some brute force method that is certain to land me a race number. But before I spill my guts about all the diabolical means I contrived to race this race no matter what, I think I'll just fill out the forms and register just like everyone else. Then I'll keep my fingers crossed that the lottery works out in my favor. Maybe I should register with the name of one of those lucky people who always seems to be winning drawings. Perhaps I should register more than once with various assumed names. Seems like Powerball is always won by a group of people, so why not a race entry lottery?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

New battle wagon

At some point during the winter, I realized that I was spending a lot of money on gas when I went skiing. I noticed the same thing last summer driving back and forth to the trailhead for MTB rides but avoided that in large part by just riding my road bike instead. As fuel prices inched above $3.00/gallon, the poor fuel economy in my pickup became more and more painful. So I decided that as much as I liked my truck, it was no longer the ideal vehicle to have as a daily driver and conveyance to and from the mountains.

Yesterday I picked up a Subaru Legacy. The funny thing is that we used to have a Subaru Outback. In fact, when we bought the 4Runner for my wife, I debated whether to keep the Subaru or my Tundra. In hindsight, I should have kept the Subaru. At least I still have the roof rack from my old Subaru, so equipping this one for hauling bikes won't cost me anything.

I admit I'll miss having the truck. But I won't miss putting gas in it. And the subbie should do just as well getting me back and forth from the ski hill. I'll have to find some time to ski this week just so I can test it out.