Friday, September 26, 2008

Blue saddle

I'll be leaving Boise on Sunday night to head back to Utah. This time I'm not going for job interviews but to do a really small, really long charity ride. My brother's company, comprised mostly of rabid BYU fans (more on this later), decided they needed to take coach Bronco Mendenhall's challenge to be "fully invested" in BYU football.

As avid cyclists, they decided they would show their dedication by riding their bikes to an away game, in 2007 a 450 mile journey to UNLV. They figured that such a publicity stunt could help a good cause, so they used it to support Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Utah. The Blue Saddle/Garner Jensen Insurance charity bike ride was born.

This year's trip will be to Logan for the Utah State game. But riding from Provo to Logan wasn't challenging enough, so the route will go from Provo to Evanston to Bear Lake to Lava Hot Springs to Logan. About 360 miles total.

Since I don't have the old 9 to 5 cramping my style, I'm going to join them. It should be a fun time. I'll also put in a plug to help out Big Brothers/Big Sisters. It's a great cause that helps some wonderful kids who haven't been dealt the best hand. If you can spare a few bucks, please send something their way, or even go volunteer.

I'm looking forward to the trip, as I don't think I've ever ridden four high-mileage days back to back. Moreover, these guys are a fun crowd to hang out with. Case in point, Garn, the owner of the agency, attended the University of Utah in the early 80's, when Jim McMahon was the quarterback at BYU. As I recall the story, during the BYU/Utah game, Garn and his buddies, along with most of the other Utah fans, were heckling McMahon whenever he was nearby. McMahon's response as he walked off the field was to give them the bird. Garn thought it was hilarious and immediately switched his allegiance. He is now a longtime season ticket holder and Cougar Club member at BYU. Not to be confused with this Cougar Club, of which Garn is too old to be a member.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I read in the October issue of Skiing Magazine about Fred Syversen, a pro skier from Norway, who got off his line while filming in Switzerland. When he realized his error, rather than slow down and risk hitting a shark fin that would cause him to crash and fall off the 351 foot cliff he was skiing above, he decided to just send it at 50 mph and launch the cliff instead.

He thought he was going to die, but saw some snow below and landed there, wisely on his back to spread the impact across his body rather than taking it all in his legs and spine. Not only did he survive the fall, but after his friends dug him out four minutes later, he skied down to the helicopter, which took him to the hospital for observation.

I can't imagine the kind of stones it takes to make a conscious decision to launch a 351 foot cliff. The crazy thing is that afterwards, Fred didn't even want to take credit for his new world record, stating: "it doesn't count unless you stomp it." That's a far cry from Jamie Pierre, who landed on his head making his world record launch, but happily took credit for it anyway.

But that's not actually the kind of huevos I wanted to write about today. Instead, I wanted to mention my favorite preparation of huevos: rancheros.

Last year after Lotoja, we had breakfast at this little dive in Driggs, ID that served fantastic huevos rancheros. So of course this year we went back. But before I tell you about that, a quick tangent to set the stage:

Following Lotoja '07, we were looking for somewhere--anywhere--to eat where we could get in right away. We settled on the Village Inn simply because we had two hungry cyclists and four kids who had spent all day in the car, and it was the one restaurant in Jackson that didn't have a line out the door. When I got my mashed potatoes, about two bites into them, I noticed that the powder they were made out of had not been fully mixed or dissolved. So I flagged down the waitress and asked her if she could bring me some new potatoes. She brought back the new potatoes, but there was no gravy on them. When I brought this to her attention, she said that I had only told her I wanted new potatoes but had said nothing about the gravy. Not feeling particularly patient, I responded by saying, "Well what did you think I was going to do, scrape the gravy off of these ones? Of course I wanted gravy." She took them away and brought them back with gravy. Except it was brown gravy, which, as everyone knows, does NOT go with chicken fried steak. But she refused to walk by me again (I suspect the gravy "mistake" may have been intentional), knowing I would ask her to correct the error. Woeful as I was about what else may have ended up in the potatoes, I didn't eat them.

So began my history of wonderful table service when dining out after Lotoja.

In order to avoid similar inconveniences, this year we just ordered some pizza and picked it up on our way to the condo. Since nothing can go as it's supposed to, when we got to the condo, we discovered that one of the bedrooms had two twin beds instead of two queens like we expected. So we had to go through the hassle of calling property management after hours and getting them to switch rooms for us.

Once the room fiasco was resolved and we finally got to enjoy our pizza, I thought our troubles were over and was just looking forward to getting some sleep and enjoying huevos rancheros the next morning. I didn't sleep a wink. Finally at about 3:00 a.m. I took two Tylenol PM and laid in bed awake for another hour. I realized I was starving. I got up and ate two more pieces of pizza. At about 4:00 a.m., I went to sleep. And managed to stay that way off and on for another two hours or so.

By the time we got to the Buckaroo Bistro, I was really looking forward to breakfast and having something finally go right. We went in to sit down, and the waitress got after us for moving chairs to our table so we could all sit together. Instead, she wanted us to sit at separate tables, citing the need to be able to seat additional customers. I explained that it made no difference, since if some of us were sitting at the second table, she couldn't seat customers there anyway. She could not be convinced.

The huevos rancheros were still good, but I'm not looking forward to going back again.

I also realized that there was nothing magic about their huevos rancheros, so I've made my own at home. The first time I had the luxury of having leftover refried beans and mole amarillo to work with. I highly recommend this approach, as the mole amarillo pairs very nicely with eggs.

First I cooked some Mexican chorizo in a skillet. Once it was done, I drained almost all of the grease and then in the skillet warmed up a flour tortilla until it was lightly toasted. I folded the tortilla in half on a plate, topped it with refried beans and chorizo, fried two eggs over easy and placed them on next, then smothered the whole thing with mole amarillo. I then chopped some fresh onion and tomato and sprinkled that on, along with a light garnish of crema mexicana. It was nothing short of fabulous, and I will never yearn for anyone else's huevos rancheros again. They were so good, I didn't even think about getting a picture until they were half-eaten.

The only problem is that we don't always have mole amarillo sitting around. In fact, we almost never have it around. So alternatives are necessary. Another option is to start with the tortilla and chorizo, as indicated previously, and then instead of refried beans, use some potatoes (baked potato, diced and fried in some of the chorizo grease). This time I topped it with sunny side up eggs, some of my canned homemade salsa, and a bit of crema.

I had this for breakfast yesterday. Given my druthers, I'll take the other version, but it was still very good.

My principal reason yesterday for departing from my normal breakfast routine of oatmeal with blueberries and soy milk is that it's about to become more than just a breakfast routine. You see, my daughter is at that age when pre-teen magazines and associated quizzes are all kinds of fun. Recently while taking one of the quizzes with her friends, the question was raised "if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?"

She told us what she and her friends had answered and posed the question to my wife and me. I smartly responded that I would eat oatmeal with blueberries and soy milk, and that while I may get sick of it, I could probably live indefinitely on such a diet and would likely be pretty healthy, more so than I am presently, if I did. So my wife threw down the gauntlet. Unable to turn down a challenge, I accepted. Beginning with today's evening meal, I will be living on nothing else for the next 72 hours.

Bear in mind that we're talking about old-fashioned rolled oats and not the icky steel cut kind. If it were steel cut we were talking about, I would have given up before I started.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beating the rush

It's September, but it's already snowed in some of the taller mountain ranges of the intermountain West. Not wanting to be caught unprepared, I took care of some equipment issues today.

Photo, taken today, courtesy of Chago, who is in Whistler, BC this week, attending the International Snow Science Workshop

First, I took my boots in and had the liners baked and molded. I only had a chance to use these boots once last season, and they were not particularly comfortable with unbaked liners. I'm excited to get them out a lot more this year, especially since I didn't buy a season pass and expect to be doing a lot more touring and less lift-served skiing.

I also took my touring skis in for a stone grind. De burring some of the rough edges had left my bases high, making it really hard to get the edges to bite. The last time I was out, it was downright scary, in fact.

While I was getting the liners baked, the tech mentioned that it was smart of me to come in this early to get the work done, as once the season gets into full swing, it's really frustrating for both shop and customer to have someone wanting work done that nobody has time to do because they are so busy helping customers buy things.

Except that I wasn't really intending to beat the rush. The reason I took my stuff in is because there's still snow in the hills from last season, and I intend to ski on it in the next few days. It looks like the Castle is still holding a stash, with snow apparently still in the Baldy Chutes as well. I could also hit the Sawtooth Range and probably find something without too much difficulty. If you've got the itch and want to join me (dug), let me know.

By the way, for those keeping score, this is the 100th post to my blog. Is there something I'm supposed to do to celebrate this milestone? Since I don't think I even have 100 readers, does it matter?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Excess baggage

Today marks three months since I left Dunder Mifflin. If someone offered to restore me to my old job, I would decline. To celebrate, I went out and rode my single speed for two hours on one of the climbier (is that a word?) routes around here. You see, I'm thinking about going all single speed all the time. Dug has been that way for a few years, and Rick has recently announced his intentions to ditch the geared bike altogether. Brad and Kenny are also single speed only guys, but they're genetic freaks, so they don't count.

What's the point of multiple gears if you can only ever use one at a time anyway? Moreover, what's the point of having a geared mountain bike if you don't ever ride it? There are only two trails that I ride my geared bike on anymore, and today I did one of them on the single. I had to get off and push a couple times, but my time for completing the circuit was still faster than on the geared bike. The other trail I have done on the single and swore afterwards I would never do it again, but that was early in the season when I wasn't as fit. I need to give it another try.

Monday, September 22, 2008

My absentmindedness, part 2

I've mentioned before that sometimes, OK, nearly every time, in the flurry of activity that is getting ready for a bike ride, or worse, a trip involving the bikes, that I am prone to forgetting something. Remarkably, my absentmindedness has never resulted in driving into the garage with bikes still on the roof, which will now undoubtedly happen this very afternoon. Anyway, try as I might, I don't always remember everything I should when I'm packing.

Last week's trip to Utah was no exception. Rachel was flying from Salt Lake to New York Thursday afternoon, so we had to leave early and did not have the luxury of spending a few minutes going through the (still mental) checklist, making sure things were done properly.

About 100 miles into the drive, my four-year-0ld indicated that he needed to go to the bathroom. Incidentally, he makes a verbal announcement, including details of the nature of his urge, every time he needs to go, whether we are in the car or not, even though he's perfectly capable of taking care of business himself when stopping the vehicle at an appropriate place is not a necessity.

In this situation "appropriate place" was defined as "South side of I-84 Eastbound, circa mile marker 150" because there were no towns, villages, rest areas, or even ranch exits within the three minutes or so we had between announcement and denouement. So I stopped the car, helped him out and into the weeds, where he of course bared his bottom (rather than just unzipping his fly) and provided the thirsty weeds with moisture and nutrients.

On the way back into the car, I checked the bikes on the hitch-mounted rack to make sure everything was still secure. The bikes were mounted securely to the rack. But upon inspecting the rack, I noticed that although it was inserted into the receiver as it should have been, the pin that should have been securing it there was evidently still in the garage at home. Oops.

Fortunately, the rack stayed put, preventing my bikes from becoming several thousand dollars worth of aluminum and carbon fiber shards scattered across the freeway. At the next town I stopped at an auto parts store, and for three dollars and eighty four cents was able to purchase peace of mind that I was somehow unable to find during the miles since the bathroom break.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clarks TT

I'm in Utah today and through the weekend. I've got a job interview lined up for tomorrow afternoon, but the important thing is I finally got a chance to do the Clark's TT. It was the first time I had ridden that trail, or rather the first time I'd ridden it knowing what it was--I rode it with Fatty a couple of years ago, but it was three days after he did the Kokopelli Trail Race, so the pace was pretty mellow. That time it was just part of a longer loop, so I didn't pay it any particular attention.

All I can say is that trail leaves no place to hide. I was on my single speed and kept waiting for a flat spot so I could sit down, but it never happened. I didn't have my HRM on, but I'm sure I was over 180 for at least eight minutes. I remember looking at my watch four minutes in, hoping it would be over soon. It was not encouraging to realize I was only about 1/3 of the way done. Anyway, I finished in 11:13. I was hoping for a sub-12, so I'm pretty happy with that time. Of course, now I want to go back for a sub 11.

After the ride, Kris and I tooled around on Ghost Falls and a few other trails. Nice time--it was fun to ride through the burned-over section, too. Big thanks to Kris for playing tour guide, since I'd have never even found Clark's without him.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If it ain't broke, fix it anyway

I'm really quite amazed at some of the "inventions" that people bring to market. So many things out there are solving problems that I didn't know I had.

Take the chainless bicycle, for instance. Did you know that the number one complaint people have about their bikes is chains and derailleurs? Wait--which is it, chains or derailleurs? Maybe they're complaints numbers one and two. Anyway, I had no idea of this. I thought that the principal complaint of most bicycle owners was that the stupid thing was sitting in the garage gathering dust, making it difficult to get the lawnmower out. Perhaps without the pesky chains and derailleurs most of these bicycles would do more than gather dust, and the neighbors would come bothering me, asking to use my floor pump, more than once a year.
At any rate, apparently there is a need to take the simple, efficient, and highly serviceable chain/derailleur setup and replace it with a shaft drive and internally-geared hub, neither of which is user-serviceable. Or bike shop-serviceable for that matter.

Evidently, this is a remarkable setup, as no less an expert on cycling matters than "Rain I." exclaimed: "The bike is amazing, and I love it. It is the best bike I have ever owned." After reading that testimonial, I know one thing for certain: Rain I. knows how to properly punctuate a compound sentence, correctly placing the comma before the conjunction.

Of course, this is not the only instance where someone has felt the bicycle chain, an innovation that has gone largely unchanged for nigh unto a century, was simply inadequate for the task. Kenny has a belt-driven single speed, which, according to Fatty, is pretty much like riding a chain-driven single speed, only a bit more quiet. Oh, and the belt drive requires a special frame that breaks apart at the rear dropouts. And the belt, made by the company that makes the special frame, is a bit too long for the special frame that they designed and made themselves, so it doesn't work quite as well as it should. But other than that, the belt is a significant improvement upon the temperamental and haphazardly reliable bicycle chain.

It's not as if the chain is the only part of the bike that's maligned for its simplicity and effectiveness. The saddle is another target of pseudo innovation that for no surprising reason doesn't seem to turn the status quo on its ear. All one has to do is thumb to the back of one of my favorite Rodale products to find ads extolling the virtues of noseless bicycle saddles, moon-shaped bicycle saddles, and other contraptions designed to make the ten miles people pedal their Huffys before tossing them in the rubbish bin just a bit more comfortable. The reality is that all they needed was a good pair of bib shorts and about two weeks of riding every day. And maybe some DZ Nuts if they're putting in a lot of miles, especially in hot weather. OK, and probably a bike that cost more than $79, so that it would actually work and be enjoyable to ride.

It's not like there isn't room for innovation and improvement in the world and even the bicycle industry. But you'd think that inventors would focus their energies on solving real problems that customers would actually spend money to fix.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

PSA: Get your 'cross on

Was asked to post the following by a fellow blogger. Would be great if some of the Boise gravity (dual slalom/4cross) and 'cross racers showed up.

Jeep 48STRAIGHT will hold an Open Qualifier in Utah for local professionals and semi-professionals, capped at 75 men and 25 women, will take place on Friday, Sept. 19. Additional details can be found at

Also of note for cycling fans is the addition of the 48STRAIGHT Cyclocross, presented by Scott USA, to the schedule. There will be two categories of racing, including the more advanced Group A with a 60-minute race and $400 guaranteed cash payout, and the more recreational Group B, with a 45-minute race and $250 guaranteed cash payout.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A pizza, a bucket of chicken, and about 700 diet cokes

Towards the end of SportsCenter on Friday night, Neil Everett and Scott Van Pelt were talking about the absurd number of MLB doubleheaders scheduled for Saturday and how hard it was going to be to cover that many games in addition to college football on Saturday's SportsCenter. Van Pelt said to Everett "that's your problem--at this point tomorrow, I'll be a pizza, a bucket of chicken, and about 700 diet cokes into my weekend." I thought, "holy crap, is this guy just going to sit on the couch and watch sports all weekend?" Well guess what I did. Yep, here are my thoughts on the weekend's action.
  • Blackburn Rovers 0-4 Arsenal: Expectations were officially raised for the Gunners' young winger, Theo Walcott, after his hat trick for England in midweek that effectively ended David Beckham's international career. Emmanuel Adebayor kindly took the pressure off of his young teammate by netting a hat trick of his own on Saturday. RVP also looked solid opening the scoring with a neat shot off the outside of his left foot. How can you watch Arsenal and wonder why it's called the beautiful game?
  • As coach of my kids' teams, I get a real kick out of American football coaches who really don't get real football. Case in point, during my nine-year-old daughter's game, our opponents had a free kick from well inside their own half. Most of the opposing team was well inside our half ready to receive the kick. I pushed all my girls up to midfield. When the opponents were called off sides, the coach protested by saying "but it was a direct kick!" So? Later in the game, they were awarded a penalty, and the girl who was fouled (outside the box, though she fell in, by the way) lined up to take the penalty. She clearly had no idea what she was doing, because she touched it once softly before taking a shot. The coach also had no idea that he could have someone else (more capable) take the penalty, and I certainly wasn't going to tell him. Unfortunately, the referee was equally clueless, because after the girl botched the first penalty attempt, he let her have another one.
  • BYU's performance against UCLA was the most perfectly-executed college football game I have ever seen. They did nothing wrong. The play calling was superb--Robert Anai beat Norm Chow at his own game. UCLA was even intimidated when attempting field goals. My only gripe: Max Hall tied the school record with seven touchdown passes early in the second half; why not leave him on one more series to get the record outright?
  • Michigan's performance against Notre Dame was yet another Wolverine game where I was left wanting. I'm all for giving Rich Rodriguez some time to let his system take root. I'm also willing to cut him some slack because Michigan lost all of its offensive weapons this year. But anytime you are throwing into the flats two downs out of three, there is something wrong with either the play calling or the offensive system in its entirety. RichRod's grade so far this year: D+. And every time Steve Threet takes a snap, I am left with that hollow, nervous feeling in my gut like when my one-year-old is standing at the top of a long flight of stairs. The lone bright spot was Sam McGuffie.
  • I can't decide which is better, a Michigan win or seeing Ohio State thoroughly embarrassed. Since Michigan didn't reward me on Saturday, I was at least happy to see the Buckeyes thrashed by USC. This game once again pointed to what a farce the BCS is. Utah beats Michigan, BYU beats Washington and destroys UCLA, then UNLV, a weak MWC team, beats Arizona State. Is there anyone with any degree of objectivity that thinks the BCS conferences are really better than the Mountain West? And this is coming from a Big Ten guy: I went to Michigan and was a season ticket holder while I was there.
  • The Colts' comeback against the Vikings was absolutely superb. Manning was obviously not 100%, and the Indy offensive line was a shadow of what they usually are. And yet they pulled off a brilliant rally in the fourth quarter. And of course, Vinatieri didn't miss with the pressure on.
  • Why on earth anyone at CBS would think that fans in Boise, ID would rather watch the Jets play the Patriots than watch the Broncos play the Chargers is beyond me. Thank goodness for Tivo and afternoon church, otherwise I would have been stuck watching the game live and wouldn't have been able to skip to the end of that snoozer before watching the fourth quarter of the Broncos and Chargers. So the Patriots won without Tom Brady. Big deal. They did that last week, too.
  • I was certainly glad to at least get the fourth quarter of the Broncos and Chargers. After building up an early lead, the Broncos seemed inclined to give it away. But Cutler and Brandon Marshall led a drive to score a touchdown and tie the game. Except Shanahan didn't play for the tie. That's what I love and hate about Shanahan--he's a riverboat gambler. He'll go for it on fourth in his own territory, and he'll go for two to win the game rather than following conventional wisdom when playing at home and take his chances on a coin flip. It was a brilliant finish.
  • Speaking of conventional wisdom, I can't stand it when sports casters say stupid things that are just plain wrong. Actually, I can stand it and kind of enjoy it, because then I make fun of them, even if it's only my wife listening. Case in point: on Sunday, the guys in the booth were talking about how Shanahan was going against the numbers by going for two and the victory rather than playing for the tie. Yes, he was going against conventional wisdom, but the numbers were actually on his side, or at least not against him. In the NFL, the success rate for two point conversions in 2007 was about 49.5%. Which means the expected outcome when going for two is to get 0.99 points. No place kicker is 100% accurate, but let's say just for grins--and because Matt Prater is so new to the league that he only has a handful of PAT attempts and is yet to miss--that he'll hit the PAT 99% of the time. By the numbers, there is no difference between going for two and going for one, it just becomes a judgment call on the coach's part as to whether he likes his chances in overtime or not.
  • The multitude of double-headers notwithstanding, I did not watch a single inning of baseball all weekend. I am glad to see that the Dodgers are looking more and more likely to make the playoffs, and we likely won't have to watch the Yankees in post-season play this year.
  • Speaking of not having to watch something, I really hate injuries and hate to see athletes get hurt. I've been there, I know how awful recovery can be and how in many cases you are never the same again. I would never wish an injury of any kind on anyone. But I have to admit that it was nice not having to watch Tom Brady, Michael Essien, or Shawn Merriman (a doper, by the way) this weekend. Or next, or the one after that, all season long.
  • I did not eat any chicken and had one piece of (frozen) pizza all weekend. I had one 32 oz diet coke on Saturday and a can of diet Dr. Pepper on Sunday. I did make some really great huevos rancheros on Saturday morning and canned 3 1/2 quarts of homemade salsa on Saturday night, though.
  • This weekend marks the first time this season that I have not ridden my bike for two weekends out of three. When I went camping two weeks ago, that was the first weekend I had missed all year (that's one of the things I love about cycling: it's rare that injuries force you to take time off). And now I've done it again. Is it snowing yet?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gimme some sugar

Looks like Rick S is making an attempt at kicking the diet coke habit. I tried that earlier this summer. It was a spectacular failure. Well, kind of. I'm not on the steady one 44 oz refill per day program (or on a really bad day a 44 oz + a can or two) that used to be my habit. But I'll have a 44 ouncer once or twice a week and a can about every other day in between.

Seems my problem is that I have some kind of oral fixation and have to be putting something in my mouth at all times. Perhaps it's my obsession with my weight, so nearly every day ends with a calorie deficit, and I'm constantly hungry. I know the best thing would be to just drink water all the time, but after about a half gallon, I get sick of that. If I'm not drinking diet coke, I'll eat something, usually something I shouldn't.

This morning was a particularly bad morning in that regard. When I woke up, I just didn't feel like eating oatmeal and blueberries (thankfully not steel cut oats anymore, just regular old-fashioned oatmeal), so I was looking around at what else to eat. Yesterday, my wife bought a box of Froot Loops for the kids. I couldn't resist. When I'd had a bowl of that, I still felt like I hadn't eaten anything. So I supplemented it with a bowl of grape nuts with yogurt and bananas.

Except it was fruit-flavored yogurt, which has almost as much sugar as the Froot Loops. As if that weren't enough, Rachel was working on a dessert for a dinner party we are doing tonight for one of our Lotoja donors, so I had to sample the warm soft chocolate cake with dulce de leche filling. I will probably have type 2 diabetes by later this afternoon. I wonder which is worst: eating that much sugar; drinking diet coke instead; or smoking cigarettes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Economics lessons and a year's supply of diet coke

When I was a student at BYU, the most valuable class I took was Economics 110. We didn't delve into advanced econometrics or even use any complex formulas, we just learned some valuable lessons, such as "there's no such thing as a free lunch" and that every activity we engage in has an opportunity cost. We also learned that economics affects human behavior and certain activities become more common when an incentive exists to perform them.

As much as I have enjoyed my summer off, there is an opportunity cost to it. Like a new bike frame or a pair of skis every week kind of opportunity cost. Or a year's supply of diet coke. Moreover, I would not have made nearly the progress I have in my job search without the benefit of networking and referrals.

Beginning today, I am running a contest. Actually, scratch that. It's not a contest. Let's call it an economics-based study in human behavior. In fact, I should contact the freakonomics guys and get them in on this. Anyway, here's the deal:

You provide me with a referral that leads to me accepting a job offer, and I'll buy you a year's supply of diet coke.*

*Year's supply of diet coke defined as one 24 can case per week for 52 weeks. And yes, I will actually deliver it to your house. Year's supply of diet coke can be substituted for something of comparable value, such as a new suspension fork for your MTB, a GPS, a pair of ski bindings, a night out for you and your special someone, a (1) pair of Assos bib shorts and a jar of chamois cream, etc. The better the job offer, the more latitude I'm willing to give on this.

I suspect that at this point you may be intrigued but have no idea how to proceed. After all, I don't even use my name on this blog, let alone tell you what I do for a living. In the spirit of enabling my research to proceed uninhibited, if you'd like to get a better idea what sorts of jobs I'm interested in and qualified for, look here.

If, based on what you've read about me, you think you have found a good fit, you can leave a comment or email me at skibikejunkie at gmail dot com with more information about the job and whom to contact. Your likelihood of success of course goes up if you know the hiring manager and want to hand deliver the resume along with a personal note, but I'll leave that up to you.

I'll track which leads came from which sources. When the search ends, I'll notify the recipient of the incentive. It's as simple as that. Well almost as simple as that. The job has to be in Utah or perhaps Boise or somewhere else where I really want to live. I'm not moving to Cleveland or Tulsa just so you can have free diet coke next year.

Now the fine print:

1. This economic incentive research is being run by me, at my discretion, and at my expense. That means I reserve the right to end it at any time, with or without notice, or even to change the rules. The contest will end on or before September 30, 2008. If I still don't have a job by then, I will be too poor to provide the agreed-upon incentive.
2. The incentives are retroactive. For instance, UTRider has already provided me with a really good lead. I also know he's in the market for a Reba fork. If I get the job, the fork's on me.
3. If you'd like to link to this contest from your blog, I haven't quite figured out how to reward the blogger that the lead comes from, nor am I even sure how to track it. Just know that if I can figure out that the lead came from your blog, I'll make it worth your while.
4. The contest is over when I accept a job offer, and the winner will be the person that referred me to the offer I accept. Even if I receive more than one offer, there will only be one winner. If more than one person refers me to the same opportunity, we'll do a tiebreaker or consult King Solomon regarding a just way to split the bounty.
5. I reserve the right not to accept any offer for any reason, for instance if the compensation isn't satisfactory, I don't like the boss, the company's long-term prospects don't look good, or any other reason. In other words, if you hook me up with a job offer at Burger King, don't think I'm going to give you diet coke. Unless the Burger King job is owning several franchises.
6. There are no contracts expressed or implied; I'm just trying to get more eyes and ears open for job opportunities that will pay me a fair salary and for which I am qualified.
7. The job does not have to be on the Wasatch Front, even though that's my preference, but it does have to be in a location I am happy with. Telecommute/virtual jobs are fine, as long as I get to choose where I live.

Review of DZ Nuts and a few other things

A while ago, Fatty did a satirical review of DZ Nuts. While I found the humor in it, I was actually hoping he would do a real review, because I was wondering about the stuff. You see, unlike Fatty, I get saddle sores and find myself at times in need of some relief.

For a long time, I used gold bond medicated body lotion, but any degree of inaccuracy in applying that stuff can prove quite costly.

Then I switched to Assos chamois cream. Assos chamois cream contains witch hazel, which is good for killing the microbes that cause itchy skin and infected saddle sores. It's also good at drying skin out. After a while, the skin over my sit bones got so dry that it cracked. Not such a good thing.

So when I first heard about DZ Nuts, I wanted to give it a try. But given that gold bond, at about $8.00 for a good sized bottle, works OK, while Assos, at $25 for a small jar, does not, I wasn't sure I wanted to lay down the cash. Fortunately for me, the good folks at DZ Nuts sent me some samples (along with some schwag that I'll be giving away for the Sidewinder TT). It probably doesn't hurt that the scientist who created DZ Nuts is a cyclist whose best friend and sister both happen to live in my neighborhood. Anyway, here are my impressions:
  • DZ Nuts is worth the price of admission just for the smell. I peeled back the foil seal, and it was like magic. I'm hoping they come out with DZ Nuts-scented air fresheners and candles. I would actually buy candles if they did.
  • I didn't get my shipment quite in time for Lotoja, so I can't tell you how it worked on a really long ride just yet. I can however tell you how it worked on what is perhaps a more telling ride: the first one after Lotoja. I was on my single speed, which has the least comfortable saddle of all my bikes. Didn't matter, because after applying the DZ Nuts, I didn't think about my soreness at all. Good stuff.
  • The other products I have tried provide short term relief from saddle sores, but don't offer a lot of protection while on the bike. DZ Nuts is described as "high viscosity." I will admit I don't really know that that means beyond having heard the word "viscosity" in motor oil commercials. Regardless, it seems to have more staying power and actually prevents chafing rather than just relieving it.
So that's about it. If it's worth a few pennies per ride to keep your taint happy, then get some DZ Nuts--you won't regret it. The folks behind the product are cool people and real cyclists created something that actually works.

Speaking of real cyclists who wanted something that works, I'll add a plug for Carbo Rocket as well. A while ago, someone asked me who my favorite cyclist was. I responded that I most admire guys like Brad and Kenny, who are ordinary guys with families and real jobs but who just love to ride bikes and do it well enough to win races once in a while. They're not doping to win, they're just having fun with a sport they are passionate about.
Brad also happens to have come up with the best sports drink on the market in Carbo Rocket. I stopped by SLC Bicycle two days before Lotoja to grab a can and it worked great throughout the race. No upset stomach, which is a first for me on a ride longer than eight hours. Actually, that's not quite true--I did get a bit of upset stomach when I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade from neutral support. I quickly tossed it and went with water until I got more Carbo Rocket at the next feed zone. Love the stuff and can't wait to try raspberry lemonade.

As great as Carbo Rocket is, it has to be supplemented with food on a ride as long as Lotoja. I found a program I was really happy with. For the first few hours until I got over Strawberry Summit, I just had one pack of Honey Stinger Chews per hour and Carbo Rocket (I didn't want to be trying to digest solid food on a climb that long). Thereafter, I alternated each hour between Honey Stinger Chews and my homemade energy bars. In Star Valley, I had a "lunch" of turkey and avocado wrapped in a tortilla, a can of Chicken and Stars soup, and a bottle of Coke.

My stomach felt fine all day, and I never bonked. The only problem I had was that I started to cramp a bit. I don't know if I should have had another can of soup or if it was because I didn't take a calcium supplement during the race. Either way, it was never more than a minor nuisance and certainly didn't affect my finish.

So anyway, this is stuff that works for me. Which doesn't mean it will work for you, but they are good products worth checking out. Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Sprint: Lotoja 2008 race report, part 2

If you didn't read yesterday's post, you may want to go back and do so before reading on.

My conditional goal for the race was to finish in under 11 hours. This goal was conditional because I know that the weather (Snotoja '05, for instance) or a mechanical can have a much bigger impact on my finish time than my preparation ever would. So I wasn't going to beat myself up if I came close and didn't get it due to circumstances beyond my control, including just plain old feeling like crap (which is how I felt for the three days leading up to the race).

By the time we were approaching Jackson, I knew we would finish well under 11 hours unless there was an absolute disaster. I also figured we were towards the front of our start group but knew there were at least two people and probably more already ahead of us that we would never catch.

When the group with Fast Friday in it caught us, I suspected by the way he was riding that he thought he was going to place higher than he was. Being pretty competitive myself, I didn't want him to beat me either. Besides, I was really hoping it would finish in a bunch sprint just because sprinting is fun.

For the first few miles that we rode together, Fast Friday and I both just played it pretty easy. We took our turns at the front, but neither of us went all out. When we turned the corner towards Teton Village, I could sense the nervousness. His pulls got shorter and shorter, so I kept mine short as well. While I was pulling, we caught another group with a tandem team in it, so I just pulled in behind them and figured I'd sit in the slipstream until Fast Friday made his move.

I knew he was going to make a move because he was riding with a friend who was part of a relay team, and they were chattering quite a bit (I don't think they knew I could hear them). I knew they didn't like their chances in a sprint. What they didn't think about was that Fast Friday was a good 10-20 pounds lighter than me, and yet I made it over the climbs ahead of him, so you do the math as to who would struggle to stay with whom on a flat breakaway.

I was secretly hoping that Fast Friday would try and break off the front and try to win it in a solo move, because I knew I could go with him and that it would wear him out and make it easier for me at the end. With about 3K to go, that's exactly what he did. Frankly, it was a disappointing effort. He took it from 21 or 22 mph all the way up to 26 or so. Like that was going to be hard to cover. I was right on his wheel the whole way--I think he peaked with maybe a four foot gap on me. He soon shut it down, so I did too.

Then he starts yelling at me to take a turn pulling. Um, you just attacked me, and now you want me to pull for you? No thanks, I'll just sit here on your wheel. So we waited: him frustrated with me; me, smug, knowing that winning this sprint was way more important to him than it was to me. It was going to be that much more fun to beat him.

With just less than 1K to go, all of a sudden I see a white jersey fly past me. It was Steve. I heard Fast Friday say "too early." I should have said "you're right" and let Steve win it. But I increased the pace. We caught Steve. Then with about 250 meters to go, Fast Friday starts to accelerate. I hit it and went for all I was worth. I have no idea how fast I was going, but at 50x13, I was spun out and wished I had grabbed my final two gears. I just kept going, hoping I would hold him off. I crossed the finish line without ever seeing him.

It was a fun way to finish the race with most of our group sprinting for the line. At the end, we were all smiles and high-fiving. All of us except Fast Friday, that is. I went up to shake his hand, and he refused, telling me I was a p__sy for refusing to pull and that the last eight miles I wasn't doing any work. I couldn't believe it. Neither of us was on the podium; we finished 9th and 10th in our group. And here he was all bitter as if I'd taken something that was rightfully his.

So I guess I'm a p__sy, and in a fair fight, Fast Friday would have won. Or maybe he's just bitter because even though he had the exact same bike team CSC rode to the yellow jersey, it wasn't enough to deliver him the Cat 5 tour-of-the-least-populated-state-in-the-nation result he was hoping for. He traveled a long way to do the race, so his ambitions must have been high. Perhaps next year, in addition to the Pro Tour bike, he can hire Cadel Evans to help him come up with excuses for losing to a clinically overweight asthmatic in mismatched team kit on an enthusiast-level bike.

As for me, finishing 49 minutes ahead of my goal and in the top 10 for my group was a dream. Last year, 10:11 would have been a winning time for Cat 5's. I was on top of the world and wanted to pinch myself to make sure the race really had gone that well. Had you told me earlier in the week that I would finish within an hour of the winner, I would have been ecstatic. Now that I've done it, I'm even more thrilled to know it happened. Having fun while doing it, spending time with my brother, and enjoying the rest of the weekend with the family just made it that much better.

Lotoja 2008 race report, part 1

I'll get this out of the way right up front--I am doing my race report in two parts. I am doing it this way for one reason and one reason alone: the final eight miles or so and the immediate aftermath when we crossed the finish line were so delicious that they merit their own post, which I will publish tomorrow.

A place for everything and everything in its place

As we headed to the staging area Saturday morning, I thought everything was in place and I was adequately prepared. We stayed at my Uncle's house in Nibley the night before the race. We certainly appreciated their hospitality, as finding lodging in Logan the night before can be a bit of a challenge. A couple of my brother's friends were without a place to stay until they found there was vacancy at the Anniversary Inn. When they checked in, the clerk could sense their uneasiness and told them "don't worry, most of the 'couples' I have checked in today have been groups of 2 or 3 men" [with shaved legs].

Our situation couldn't have been more convenient: my parents drove up early Saturday morning to pick us up, take us to the start area, and see us off (my mom would stay with us and help crew throughout the day). It was a cool morning, and of course I had some pre-race jitters, but I thought I had everything together. Until I realized I had forgotten my water bottles. If I only had to make it to Preston, this would not have been a big deal, but our plan was to use neutral support in Preston and have the girls provide our first resupply in Montpelier. No way I could make it 80 miles and over the biggest climb of the day with no bottles. So I called my wife and had her rush to the start area to bring me bottles. She was about 20 seconds too late.

Steve gave me one of his bottles, and we asked my dad if he would get the bottles from Rachel and drive up to Preston with them. He was kind enough to oblige. So off we went with our start group, the 5100's (Cat 5, annual license holder).

The neutral rollout is supposed to be 20 mph, but at one point we hit 27 mph. I was a bit nervous that this was going to be a hammerfest early, but once the police escort was gone, the pace was very mellow. Until I had to stop for a natural break. I went off the front a bit to give myself some room. As soon as I stopped, the field went by. And accelerated. Steve was still on the front trying to keep the pace down, but to no avail. I turned myself inside out trying to catch back on, but eventually I made it. The guy I had unknowingly pulled back to the group thanked me. I wish I'd have known he was back there so I could have asked him to take a turn. Shortly after my stop, we caught the Cat 4's, who had started three minutes ahead of us.

Just outside of Preston, Steve needed a break. Not wanting to risk having to wait in line at the feed zone, we stopped just outside of town and let the field go. We knew that the field would be fractured at the feed zone anyway, with some people grabbing a musette bag and not even stopping, and others taking their time. We stopped and got the bottles from my dad, filled them up, and went back on our way.

Cycling shoes do indeed fit in one's mouth

After Preston, we grabbed onto a smaller group of 15 or so and began making our way through the rollers before the big climb to Strawberry Summit. I was already a bit nervous that I'd spent too much energy too early trying to get back onto the group, so when we pushed it through the rollers and my heart rate was spiking often, I became even more anxious about how this might affect me later in the day. But it was important to have people to work with until the real climbing started, so we hung in there.

Once onto the actual climb up Strawberry (about 20 miles and 3,000 vertical feet), we settled into our own rhythm. Steve and I climb at about the same pace, so we had no trouble staying together and had two or three others with us most of the time.

We caught and passed quite a few riders on the way up, and we only had one group catch and pass us, so I was feeling good about our progress to that point. Near the top of the climb, I saw someone I didn't recognize at first but who had a bottle from Racer's Cycle Service. I said something about the bottle, and the rider looked up and said "hey, is that Mark?" It was Scott Harris, a great guy who has been super about helping me with my job search.

"Oh, hi Scott. I didn't expect to catch you on a climb." Doh. The guy was at the end of a long, painful climb. A climb I had just minutes before told my brother how much I hate. This guy has no reason in the world why he needs to help me find a job, yet he has. And that's what I said to him. Damage done, we kept moving and started our descent.

As much as the climb up Strawberry sucks, the descent is one of my favorites. It's not super steep, and with no tight corners, you can just tuck and go as fast as you can, without touching the brakes much at all.

Once we got down the real descent, we were onto the slightly downhill to rolling road into Montpelier. We got into a small group and were making good time when we got passed by a guy who looked to be in his 50's making even better time. We got on with him and started really moving. He would pull at close to 30 mph and rotate off. Someone else would pull at a slightly slower speed and maybe let another take a turn before this guy was back on the front. He had the worst B.O. of any cyclist I have ever drafted behind, but I didn't care. He was either tactically one of the worst riders ever or just had a gigantic engine and didn't care how much energy he was using because he knew he had more.

Either way we were going to be in Montpelier with under four hours elapsed time. I told Rachel to plan on 4:15 to 4:30. I wasn't worried, though, as we would pass a timing station outside of town that would send the girls a text message letting them know we were minutes away. When we pulled into the feed zone, lane 8 as agreed upon, nobody was there. I grabbed my phone and called Rachel. We were just about to leave and use neutral support when the girls came running up with our food. Jersey pockets full and new bottles in the cages, we were off again.

Did you check your brakes?

The section from Montpelier to Afton, WY is mostly either uphill or down, as it includes two more climbs, neither as long as Strawberry, but the second quite a bit steeper. We made good time over Geneva Summit and were heading up Salt River Pass, the steepest climb of the day, when Steve started falling off the back. I wasn't too concerned--we got split up on this climb last year, except it was me falling off. I got to the top and waited, and then we made the descent together. I found out afterwards that Steve was behind not so much because he was hurting, but because one of his brake pads was rubbing. Remind me to mess with his brakes next time we do a climb together.

Once again when we got off the principal descent, we had an older guy pass us going crazy fast on the flats. This one didn't stink but accelerated faster. Steve was right behind him and had to take up gap-closing duties every time this guy pulled. He was a relay rider and was only going as far as Afton, so he was willing to absolutely bury himself getting there.

We had a smooth transition in Afton, stopping only long enough to get what we needed (in my case, that included a can of chicken and stars soup, a turkey avocado wrap, and a bottle of coke) and get going again. We fell in with another rider just out of Afton and soon caught up with several more. Each time we caught a group, they would latch on, and soon we had 25-30 guys. This was so much better than last year, when it was just Steve and me with essentially no help all the way across Star Valley.

As is often the case with a group that large, there were several strong guys and a lot of wheelsuckers. One guy in particular would pull for maybe five seconds at a time before rotating off. I finally asked him as he fell back immediately after the guy in front of him whether he ever pulled for more than five seconds. Of course there were a lot of guys who never even took a turn at the front and got a free ride at an average speed of 23 mph all the way to Alpine.

Is it a tailwind or not?

The feed zone in Alpine marks the beginning of Snake River Canyon, which usually also means a brisk tailwind. At this point all the energy spent keeping the paceline together heading into Afton had taken its toll on Steve. Not to mention I think his nutrition program had let him down.

We started up the canyon and soon consolidated into a good-sized group. Six or seven of the guys on the front really wanted to push the pace. I could tell Steve didn't feel up to trying to hang with them, so we let them go and stayed with a smaller group. We made decent time up the canyon and made it to the final feed zone without much suffering. I was going to just grab a bottle handup and keep rolling, but Steve needed to get food, so I stopped with him. He and I only get to ride together a handful of times a year, so shaving a couple minutes off of what was already going to be a time I would be very happy with or gaining a couple of places in the Cat 5 standings that nobody would ever care about but me was not worth it. Besides, who's to say that I wouldn't get cramps or have a blowout or broken chain in the final 26 miles and want some help finishing the ride.

I couldn't tell which way the wind would be blowing once we got out of the canyon, but I was hopeful it would be at our backs. I couldn't have been more wrong. The wind was about 15 mph and right in our teeth. It was just the two of us for about eight or ten miles. We were still making good time, and I thought we were towards the front of our pack, but I knew we had let two guys from our start group go in the canyon and at the feed zone. When another group pulled up behind us with about 16 miles to go and I saw a 5100's number on one of the frames, I didn't want to let anyone else get in front of us.

We were all tired at this point but still took turns on the front. I was taking shorter turns than I typically would but timed them and was on the front 40 seconds to a minute at a time--about right for a group that size if everyone who can is doing their share. Or at least that's what I thought. I also could tell that the other 5100's rider, a guy in Fast Friday team kit, did not want me to finish in front of him.

So here I am, figuratively hanging from the cliff, with Fast Friday breathing down my neck. If you want to know how it turns out, tune in tomorrow. I will tell you today that we all finished in a time of 10 hours 11 minutes. I will not say how many seconds, but if you want a spoiler, I'm sure you can find it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


This morning I finished getting my bike ready for Lotoja. Two new tires (Michelin Pro 3 Race, in case you're wondering), which I am a bit nervous about since that's the same tire I sliced open ten days ago. Installed the new chain even though the old one was not even showing 0.75% wear even with 2500 miles on it. Cleaned everything up, including removing the cranks to get the gunk out of the bottom bracket area and apply some fresh lube.

On Monday I found my arm warmers and yesterday I remembered the place that was going to be easy for me to remember where I put the batteries to my HRM, so I don't even need to spend my time looking for misplaced items.

Now all I have to do is wait. Today is a rest day, so I'm not even going to go out and ride. Thankfully I at least had a job interview this morning to give me something to think about besides not riding my bike.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Black gnats

I have caught more fish on a size 16 black gnat than on any other fly pattern. They have not been the largest fish I have caught. And with the exception of a particularly feisty rainbow on the Gallatin River, they have not been the most memorable fish I have caught. But in terms of sheer quantity, the black gnat has long been my most productive pattern.

My semi-scientific research seems to bear this out, as I usually will fish two flies at a time just to see which is more attractive. My go to kit on high-elevation lakes, where catching large numbers of small fish is very easy, is a black gnat coupled with whatever else I see flying around, usually a mosquito. The black gnat is almost always what the vast majority of fish will strike.

This last weekend at Josephus Lake was no exception. We wanted to spend the weekend seeing someplace we had never been before. Based on how much my son enjoyed fishing earlier in the week, we decided camping somewhere near an alpine lake would be a good choice. So on Friday afternoon, we packed up and headed to the area bordering the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in the lower 48 states.

We made our camp a couple of miles down the road from Josephus Lake. It was a terrific site, with level spots to pitch tents and a nice log bench near the fire ring. Notwithstanding the lack of water and restroom facilities, primitive camping is a great joy. Our kids get a real kick out of being in the outdoors, especially since they pretty much have free rein to get as dirty as they want.

On Saturday morning, we made breakfast, broke camp, and drove up to the lake. When we got there, we were glad to have camped elsewhere. There are three sites at the lake, but there were at least eight vehicles crowded into them.

We found a spot on the shore and got flies onto the water. Within minutes we had a strike. It was exceptionally small, so I reeled it in quickly and released it. Moments later I had another fish on, so I let my daughter land this one. Next fish I gave my son a chance to land one with the fly rod.

After that I tried to let my daughter hook the fish and land it on her own, but she lacks the experience to mend line and recognize when to set the hook, so she missed the strikes that she had and I had to take over again.

Children's attention spans being what they are, they were ready to do something else within an hour. So we went back to the car, made some lunch, and then ventured off up the trail into the wilderness area. Our youngest had been sleeping in the car while we fished, and mom was catching some Z's when she wasn't taking pictures, but we all went off on the hike together.

It was a beautiful trail, and we had it almost to ourselves. I really started to wonder why I commit so many of my Saturdays to long bike rides and coaching soccer games, because camping and fishing in the mountains is far more rejuvenating than suffering through a long ride in 100 degree heat or screaming my lungs out on the sideline of a soccer field.

The nice thing about a long weekend is that I can have my cake and eat it too. Monday I rode up Bogus Basin Road for one last training climb before Lotoja. Plus I had to do something to burn off the fried chicken and waffles that I ate for dinner on Sunday (wonder if Rachel will blog about that meal). Monday afternoon, we had friends over and grilled bratwurst. (Can you tell by what I'm eating that I'm finally down to my goal weight? It won't last long if I keep this up.) All in all it was a nearly perfect long weekend.