Friday, June 27, 2008

Some people have no shame

I've given dug a hard time about the things he willingly shares in a public forum. He has responded by posting more such stories. But dug does so knowingly, and because there is humor in it. Others are wholly unaware that they are embarrassing themselves. For instance, Leonard Zinn posting a picture of that monstrosity he calls a bicycle, with the ridiculously long crank arms and untrimmed head tube, is tantamount to dug's father turning his back while wearing nothing but a jock strap.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Steel cut oats and blueberries

Lately, I've been trying to lose a little weight. Which has meant cutting out empty calories by avoiding sugar and fat, which also happen to be what make food taste good. When food doesn't taste good, I am less inclined to eat it, so it's actually working out OK.

My strategy is pretty simple. I eat when my body needs food the most: first thing in the morning, and before, during, and after a ride. The rest of the time, I eat as little as I can without passing out or throwing things for no apparent reason.

With my meal options limited to things with very little sugar and fat, for breakfast I have been eating steel cut oats with blueberries and a bit of either low-fat milk or soy milk. I'll add a pinch of salt and a dash of cinnamon, but no sugar, honey, or other sweetener. It's a filling, nutritious breakfast and a good source of energy to start the day.

I actually quite like oatmeal this way--regular old-fashioned oats, I mean. But I had heard people talk about steel cut oats, so I thought I'd give those a try. My wife bought a small bag, which I tried. She asked me how I liked them, and I said they were OK. I did not elaborate, and she dug no deeper. What I meant was "they're OK, but I don't see any advantage to eating these rather than regular oatmeal, and regular oatmeal tastes better." What she heard was "that's something mark likes for breakfast. He likes very few things for breakfast." So next time she went shopping, she bought a huge bag of steel cut oats.

I made steel cut oats a few more times, eventually using up what was in the initial bag. I thought I was done. Then I opened the pantry and noticed the huge bag in there. Now with the exception of buying bikes and skis and related items, I'm kind of a cheapskate. I have one of the most pathetic wardrobes you will ever see, and let's just say that my lunch choices are highly price elastic. So I wasn't about to throw the oats away in favor of the kind I like. Slowly but surely, I have been making my way through this bag of steel cut oats. This morning I realized that I am getting really close. I also realized that I AM SO SICK OF EATING STEEL CUT OATS.

But you get one guess as to what I'll be having for breakfast tomorrow. I can't wait to get this weight lost (3.5 kilos to go as of this morning) and be done with these oats. Because as soon as I am, I'm going back to the honey granola. Yum.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Takin' it easy

A few weeks ago, Troy and I were riding up Bogus Basin road. This was my first Bogus ride of the season, so I really didn't know what to expect. We agreed at the beginning that neither of us was in the mood to go hard, so we decided to take it easy and chat, at least for the first few miles until chit chat was no longer appealing.

I took it really easy on the lower stretches and even used my first gear (34x26 since I run a compact double and a SRAM cassette) when things got steep. I am usually feeling pretty cooked by the time I get to the national forest sign, as the steepest stretches of the climb come right before it. (For those that don't know, Bogus Basin road is a 16 mile road that climbs 3600 vertical feet with 172 turns from Boise to the Bogus Basin ski area in the mountains above town. The "first half" goes from the base to the National Forest sign, which is also the county line, and is actually more than halfway in both distance and vertical feet. Bogus "lite" or half-Bogus is local vernacular for climbing just to the sign and back.)

On this particular day, though, since I had taken it easy, I felt pretty good at the sign. Good enough that since Troy and I were no longer feeling chatty, I decided to go for it the rest of the way. I got to the top in 1:22, which is a decent enough time for the first go of the season. As it happens, however, it's also faster than where I was the end of last season. I realized that if I wasn't completely cooked early in the ride, I had something left to go fast at the end.

Today I did a half-bogus training ride. I decided to experiment and see how fast I could make it to the sign if I didn't worry about saving anything for the upper half. I was only one minute faster. Guess there's something to be said for takin' it easy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

What happened to our cold, wet spring?

Those of you who were aware of my plans for the weekend and who read last week's report from the previous weekend are probably expecting a lengthy treatise today. Sorry to disappoint, but seems like solo rides are much less eventful than with large groups.

My plan was to leave about 7:00 a.m. I didn't set my alarm and woke up at 8:00. Left the house about 8:40 and headed towards Bogus Basin. Lots of riders on Bogus--guess it's that time of year. Made it up Bogus in 1:22. Once again, took me 45 minutes to get to the sign, but I did from there to the top in 37.

From there I pedaled over to Hidden Springs, where my wife and kids met me with full bottles and some snacks. I took enough time to sit on the grass and have a bite to eat. Due to my late start, I also realized I wouldn't have time to complete the Emmett loop, so I decided to just ride from there to Horseshoe Bend and back.

The climb to Horseshoe Bend is tough but manageable with fresh legs. Not so much when you've already done Bogus and Hidden Springs. On the way up, the climb is broken up by a couple of flat sections that provide a chance to get the heart rate down and clear the lactic acid out of the legs. Once at the top, it's a five mile, 7% descent to the town of Horseshoe Bend. I hit 45 mph in the first stretch without even pedaling. I was really wishing I'd have left early, as I would have preferred to ride all the way to Emmett and over Old Freeze Out than to go back over that hill.

I stopped at the convenience store in town to fill my bottles, then turned around and went back the way I came. When I left the C-Store where my bike was in the shade, the temperature was 96 degrees. As I pedaled out onto the climb and was in full sun, the thermometer kept going up and up. I thought it would level out at 101 or 102, but it kept going all the way to 115. When I finally got to the top, I was cooked, literally and figuratively. And I still had to pedal about 17 miles to get home.

Final stats for the day were 96 miles, 7,678 feet of climbing, and six hour ride time. Can we get another one of those cold fronts, please?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Review of divers

Euro 2008 is in full swing. Which reminds me of a review I wrote during the World Cup in 2006. Thought I'd re-post it here just for fun, since nothing seems to have changed.

Review of Divers

I have never been a big fan of sports whose outcome is determined by subjective methods. There needs to be a scoreboard, a timer, a finish line, or some other objective method to determine the winner. Which is why diving, figure skating, freestyle skiing, and even freeride mountain biking (something I love to watch but not as a competition) have always struck me as more an exhibition than a sporting event. I appreciate and admire the athleticism that is involved in all of these "exhibitions," but I struggle with the notion of a panel of judges (subject to corruption, myopia, or perhaps just indigestion) determining a winner. Unless of course, I am the sole judge.

Given that divers are accustomed to having subjective judges review their performance, I thought I would offer them the refreshing opportunity to have an unbiased observer perform a head-to-head review of various divers.

Greg Louganis

Perhaps it was the unusual passion with which TV commentators described his physique, or possibly that horrifying incident when he smacked his head on the board, but for some reason Greg Louganis is the only Olympic diver that I know by name. Talented and accomplished, Greg was able to achieve a fairly significant amount of fame and glory from a fairly insignificant exhibition that only becomes semi-important to Americans every 4 years. For that, he deserves credit.

Greg gets 5 out of 6 (due to a mandatory one point deduction for always performing in a Speedo).

High Divers

Here we're talking the Acupulco variety from the Wide World of Sports of my youth. These folks take the antiseptic world of platform and springboard diving and do it in a far more scenic location and from a much taller platform. Fun to watch if I'm bored and flipping through the channels, but nothing I would ever use Tivo hard drive space for. I jumped off an 80 foot cliff at Lake Powell once. I went so far under water that sunlight no longer penetrated the depth. The only reason I was able to find my way to the surface was because one of those luminescent fish I thought only existed in "20.000 Leagues Under the Sea" swam by and I could see the bubbles rising towards the top. Of course it doesn't help that I float about as well as a chunk of limestone, but it was deep either way.

High diving requires more skill than BASE jumping, but it's much less risky. 8 out of 18, including mandatory one point deduction for performing in a Speedo.

Jacques Cousteau

The "other" diver people know by name. Certainly worthy of consideration given the impact he had on the world. From the environmental movement to science, Cousteau was a pioneer in many respects. He co-invented the "aqualung" and was the first to take color TV footage from undersea. Only one problem: he also performed in a Speedo.

85 out of 86.

Italian World Cup Team

I thought in this year's World Cup that FIFA was going to crack down on diving. Instead they have rewarded it. Witness Italy's advancement to the quarterfinals. The Italians take diving to a new level. Here I thought that in order to dive properly, one needed a body of water to dive into.

The Italians have proven me wrong.The drama, flair, and enthusiasm with which they dive are unparalleled. Their passion for hitting the turf belies the fact that they are tripping over mere blades of grass. I never knew that playing soccer at the most elite level required so little balance, and yet, to witness the Italian soccer team arbitrarily hit the deck makes one hope that the bar stools in Italy have seat belts. Perhaps there is a mighty wind that blows selectively and only hits Italian players. Perhaps the Italians' heads are made of iron and World Cup fields are located directly over magnetic forces like in the hatch from "Lost." I don't know. All I know is that even my toddler can keep his feet better than an Italian soccer player.

0 out of 11, and they don't even wear Speedos.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deep thoughts

I recently read that cognitive function increases during endurance exercise. Or in other words, riding a bike makes you smarter. At least for as long as you're riding the bike. This may explain why I often find myself thinking during a ride about things that are so out there that they surprise even me. Some of them are laughable, most of them forgettable, and a few are just so bizarre that I'm really not sure where they come from.

For instance, while I was riding yesterday, I started thinking about the difference between 26" and 29" wheels on a mountain bike. Which led me to think about the relationships between the wheel sizes, specifically calling to mind that pi is the ratio of a circle's diameter to its circumference. I then began to ponder pi and found myself wondering if there were some other world with its own unique system of mathematics where pi is an integer.

Like I said, not sure where that one came from or whether it proves an increase in cognitive function or just the opposite. But I do like pi.

What did you think I meant?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cyclist for rent

Warning: today's post is introspective and personal. If you don't care for that sort of thing, please read something funny instead.

So Monday was my five-year anniversary with my current employer. Hooray for me! As a thank you, I got a form letter from the CEO and a spot bonus that, after taxes, will almost buy a tank of gas. Not that I'm complaining--with the economy the way it is, I am grateful to be gainfully employed and to be able to provide for my family.

Of my MBA classmates, I can only think of a handful that are still with their first employer out of school. I have lasted twice and in some cases five times as long as most of them did with their first employer.

Which is not to say I haven't looked around. For a little over a year now, we have considered moving back to Utah to be closer to family and the many friends we have there. But when I stop to really ponder the implications of making such a move, I am always left with reservations. For instance:
  • We currently live on the best street in the world. Not quite as interesting as Dug's street, but there are lots of young kids for my children to play with, and it's a quiet cul-de-sac, so riding big wheels in the street is OK.
  • We have great friends. I never have to ride bikes or ski by myself unless I want to. They're the kind of guys to hook me up with deals on gear or help me out when I need it. My wife has a group she plays volleyball with every week. And my daughter has played soccer with the same girls for six seasons now. Good people all around.
  • We have great access to recreational opportunities. Skiing is an hour away and cheap, the foothills are full of MTB and hiking trails, and I can be on a quiet road for a road ride within 20 minutes in almost any direction.
  • My commute is negligible. It takes me 10 minutes to ride my bike from my house to the office. On the days I go to the office, that is. Sometimes I just work out of my house (like today).
So we have it pretty good where we are. Except that I don't particularly like my job. So I'm trying to figure out what to do.

One option is to relocate. This could be as simple as finding a job in Utah, which I've tried to do with only a modicum of effort over the last year. In all reality, though, I'm not interested in living anywhere but Boise or Salt Lake. Unless it was someplace really cool, like Spain. My company has an opening in Barcelona, and I'm scheduled for an interview next week. It was one of those things that I didn't really plan on, but it came up, so I thought I would see what happens.

The thing is, I don't know what I would do if I were offered the job. As I mentioned before, I have reservations about leaving where I am for Utah, which for all practical purposes, would offer everything I have here and some added benefits besides (like being three hours from Moab or 500 inches of annual snowfall, for instance). But it would be really, really cool to live in Europe for a while. Especially Spain.

Of course having an interview is a lot different from being offered the position, so at this point it's all speculation. But let's just say it were an option. If so, what would you do? Moreover, if you think I should stay in Boise or move to Salt Lake and you or someone you know wants to hire a guy who's an enthusiastic but not particularly talented skier and cyclist, but also has a MBA and knows a thing or two about finance, operations, and the Interweb, let me know that, too. Because the grass may not be greener, but I'm ready for some different grass.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Oh, the irony

So it looks to like the organizers of the Amgen Tour of California, AEG, have reached a promotional agreement with Amaury Sports Organization, the organizers of the Tour de France (as well as Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and Paris-Nice), wherein the two organizations will work together to promote one another's events. Separately, but of no less significance, Amgen has agreed to a three-year extension as title sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California.

Now I don't know about you, but does it strike anyone else as odd that Amgen, maker of Epogen and Aranesp, two leading brands of synthetic EPO, would be sponsoring a bike race? I mean really, what does Amgen stand to benefit from having their name plastered all over the event other than reminding the riders of what could make the difference between winning and getting dropped? I could see a brand like Coca-Cola, Nike, Gatorade, or even Verizon or Motorola as a sponsor here, but Amgen doesn't even sell consumer products, so what good is it to build brand recognition at a large, public event like the Tour of California?

Realistically, the target market for Amgen's products is physicians. After all, you're not supposed to be able to get Aranesp or any of Amgen's other products without a prescription. Except in Switzerland. Are there really that many physicians following the Tour of California that it's a good investment for Amgen to be the title sponsor? If there are that many docs watching, why isn't Serotta also a sponsor? How many non-cyclists do you know who actually watch bike races on TV or follow coverage on Velo News or similar? That's what I thought--you can't think of any. So the exposure a company gets from sponsoring a race is pretty much limited to the spectators whose town the race passes through and the cyclists following the event in the media. Amgen's sponsorship means one or more of three things is true: their marketing team is extraordinarily stupid (quite possible); way more oncologists and other physicians are following domestic cycling than I thought (probably not); or Amgen is unabashedly promoting its doping products to one of their target markets (you do the math).

Here's the thing--if ASO is so concerned about their image that they won't let Levi ride, or, more significantly, won't let Contador defend his title, why on earth are they climbing into bed with the manufacturer of doping products? This year's team Astana has almost nothing to do with last year's doping scandal-ridden team Astana other than the name. It makes no sense to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm no lover of Johan Bruyneel and whatever team he happens to be directing this year. But for ASO to be all self-righteous about who they will and won't let ride in Le Tour while gladly inking a sister-race deal with an event named for an EPO manufacturer smells kind of fishy to me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Carnage, mea culpa, and the vicissitudes of road riding

This weekend was a busy one on the local pavement. Friday was the Tour of Eagle criterium in downtown Eagle, and Saturday was the Bob LeBow century, my first road century for the year.

We've made watching the Tour of Eagle a family affair for as long as we've lived here, but this year we hired a sitter so my wife and I could enjoy the race unencumbered. This year was the first time that I have seriously considered racing, but my take on riding crits is that if they were available on Amazon, they'd be followed with "Customers who enjoy cat 4/5 crit racing also liked mixed martial arts and BASE jumping."

In other words, the idea of participating in the local race is nice, but my fear of hitting pavement and getting hurt far surpasses my desire to measure my speed and cornering ability against that of other 40 hour/week, not-as-lean-as-they-should-be, 30&40-somethings. It doesn't help that the tour of Eagle is on a really short circuit with tight corners bordered by benches, trees, and metal traffic barricades. No straw bails or anything else is put down to prevent riders from becoming cyclist kabob on sharp objects. I've never seen a cat 4/5 crit that didn't involve at least one crash, and this course just makes it that much worse. For the sadists in the audience, Friday night's race did not disappoint. (In case you're wondering, this is not a race report in the sense of providing play-by-play detail or a full results grid--I just watch to see if the people I know win or podium, which they didn't, and in hopes that the people who inevitably go down will be OK.)

We arrived a bit late, about midway through the women's race. We didn't see the incident, but when we got there, one of the riders was limping around with road rash all up one side and a piece of bloody gauze where the skin on her hip used to be.

Next were the cat 4/5 men. As I watched the competitors line up, I of course sized up the competition, wondering how I would have measured up. Surprisingly, there was only one crash, and it was relatively mild. The group split a few laps in, and I entertained thoughts that I could have held onto the lead group. Didn't matter, though, because any delusions of crit racing that I may have entertained were soon to evaporate.

The masters 35+ and Cat 3 race was next. The cat 3's are experienced enough and the masters old enough that they try to avoid hurting one another during the race. We saw one relatively mild crash (we usually observe from the tightest corner where most of the crashes occur--I don't know what that says about me), but for the most part it was a civilized affair. Eric looked strong throughout but flatted on the second to last lap. Apparently there was one crash in the final turn before the bunch sprint for second place, but according to Eric, the guy had it coming, as he had been riding dangerously throughout. The bunch sprint was for second place because Brandon Archibald had lapped the main field for the win, and then casually mentioned when interviewed afterwards that he was riding the masters race as a warmup for his cat 1/2 race.

Speaking of the cat 1/2 race, I usually expect this to go alright, again, because these are experienced racers who don't want to hurt each other. The night got off to an auspicious start, though, because several riders went down in the very first turn. I thought this would get it out of their systems, but it turned out to just be foreshadowing. These guys were really flying, and it was late enough that the lights were on in the corners, and the straightaways were pretty dark. About a third of the way in, again in turn one, there was a big crash. I mean guys and bikes piled on top of each other big. It took a while to get sorted out, but everyone got up and seemed to be OK. The only real damage I noticed was that one of the guys was riding Zipp 808's and had folded the front one in half. That will only cost him about $1000 to replace. Ouch.

You'd think that would have been enough, but with just a couple laps to go and one of the Bob's riders well off the front, several more riders went down in turn one. This time it was really serious, though. The riders went through one more lap, with the officials warning that there was someone down in the corner and to take it slow. The officials should have stopped the race altogether, but they didn't, so the riders stopped it for them. Next time through, they all just sat up and quit riding.

As a result of the crash, Erik Slack of the Bob's team was on the pavement unconscious. I didn't see it happen, as we had moved over to the start/finish line to watch the sprint, but Ryan said that Erik went down, and then another rider hit him and ran over the back of his neck before being flipped up into a tree. It was without question the worst crash of any race I have attended. Erik was strapped to a backboard and taken to the hospital by ambulance, where he was diagnosed with a severe concussion (thanks to an anonymous reader for the update on Erik's condition).

After getting home late Friday night and going to bed even later (had to go through the pre-night ritual of organizing all my stuff, checking my bike, and laying out my clothing for the next day), I was up early Saturday morning to ride in the Bob LeBow century. Bob LeBow is one of the largest charity rides in the area, because it offers multiple distances (from 5 to 100 miles), excellent support, and is unbelievably cheap considering you get a nice schwag bag and lunch at the end.

Ladd had pulled together a good-sized group to ride the century, with several of the Team Reel Theatre riders, a couple of guys from Broken Spoke, and a few more orphans. Our goal was to start at the front and push the pace in order to get a sub-five hour finish. We had the right machine to reach this goal, but unfortunately, the cogs would get jammed, literally and figuratively, before we could make it happen.

The literal jamming occurred right at the beginning, while the police were escorting us from the start area out onto the course. We had to wind through quite a few different turns, so the police escort was nice because it stopped traffic and gave us something to follow. Unfortunately, the police didn't realize that escorted cyclists are a lot like lemmings, and we'll follow the motorcycle wherever it goes. So when the cops turned left onto a street in order to block traffic, we all turned left as well. We were supposed to have turned right. They yelled to us that we were all going the wrong way, so everyone instinctively grabbed their brakes. As everyone in front of me was slowing down, I thought I'd pull to the side and get out of the way. Unfortunately, Ladd was behind and to the left of me, so when I pulled left, I bumped his front wheel. He stuck out a foot and tried to save it, but someone hit him from behind, and it was all over at that point. It was a slow-speed fall, so Ladd was unhurt, but the guy behind him had a chainring puncture his forearm. The guy with the chainring puncture was on a tri bike with aero bars. I have no idea whether he was in the aero bars or not when the crash occurred, but why on earth are aero bars allowed in a large group ride?

We helped Ladd up and tried to get his bike situated. But it wasn't going to happen. I'm not sure if it was the hanger or the derailleur itself that bent, but his rear mech was jamming the chain into his cassette, and his rear wheel wouldn't turn. He was out of the ride. I felt awful--it was my stupid move turning without looking behind me that ultimately led to the crash. I thought about giving him my bike, but I ride a 51, and I don't think that would have been a good solution for him for a 100 mile charity ride.

So minus Ladd, the rest of us carried on, but we now had a huge gap to the main field. Fortunately, we also had a big motor, as Eric was not too gassed from the previous night's crit to give us a pull back onto the main field. Eric took the front, followed by Matt, Nate, then me. Troy and Todd were right behind me. Clint, Ryan, Andy, and Tom had already gone on ahead. We soon passed Clint and Ryan, and they didn't even try to latch on. When we were about 20 seconds behind the main field, Todd and Troy started flagging. I couldn't blame them. I was a passenger on the train, and I was still at threshold, drooling on my stem trying to keep up.

I let Eric, Matt, and Nate go, and waited for Todd and Troy. Once they were back on, we pushed along at a slightly slower pace. We were all suffering, but I knew if we could push hard for another 2-3 minutes, we could get back in the large pack and have a chance to take a break.

Once we bridged, we were able to enjoy the relative comfort and ease of riding in a large group. Until the course turned, and we headed west. At the start, the wind was mild, but as the day warmed, the wind picked up, so we had a stiff headwind figuratively jamming our cogs for a good 50 miles or so. We tried to get a good paceline organized, but too many people didn't know how to rotate or weren't able to pull, so that soon disintegrated into what seemed like Matt alternating every other pull with whomever else happened to be on the front, often some of the larger Lost River guys who would carry a bit of momentum on the down side of a roller.

About 20 miles in, we came to a fairly short but very steep (12%+) descent that took us down to the shores of the Snake River. Having made that descent before, I knew better than to be in a large group on the way down. I made a move to get on the front of the peleton, and the rest of our group followed. As we flew down that hill, I was very glad not to have a bunch of other riders to share my line with. Without even thinking about it, I hit a new personal best for speed on a bicycle--52 mph. At the bottom of the hill is a 150 degree, off-camber turn, so we had to shut it down fast and hold on tight to make that corner. The stench of burning brakes was strong at the bottom of the hill.

The hill also served to split up the group, and we had a much smaller bunch from that point on. Those of us that remained continued to fight with the wind as we followed the Snake River through Marsing and Homedale. At the aid station in Marsing, I picked up a couple of hammer gels, one apple cinnamon flavor, one banana. The apple cinnamon was really good, but I don't know what I was thinking picking up the banana. I love bananas, including the wonderful variations on the theme such as banana bread and banana splits. So why is it that bananas can taste so good, yet nothing banana-flavored is even remotely palatable? I gagged the thing down because I knew I would bonk if I didn't, but I'll never touch that flavor again.

We continued up the river towards Nyssa, OR, but fortunately we were on the Oregon side of the river and got to enjoy the smooth asphalt roads. Last year, the wind was coming the other direction, and we made excellent time through this stretch with wind at our backs and nice smooth tarmac under our wheels. If I could have a choice, though, I'd take this year's conditions with the headwind early, so we could finish with a tailwind. That being said, miles 50-60 really hurt for some reason, and seemed to go by really slowly.

Mile 60 comes just before Nyssa, and with it an aid station and a change of direction. Changing directions meant favorable wind, and we took advantage of it. We made good time the rest of the way in, with the only problems coming from the Canyon County cobbles, the sharp, marble-sized gravel they use for the chip seal road surfaces. By mile 80 our legs were sore from fighting the wind early, and our backsides were sore from being bounced around on the chip seal. It was shortly after this time that we noticed that Nate and Todd had fallen off. But we didn't slow down--we figured they could make it in on their own.

The final aid station comes at mile 90. At that point, we could almost smell the food cooking at the finish line, so we quickly filled our bottles and headed on our way. Matt must have been really hungry, because he took off at about 27 mph. I was fighting hard but managed to catch onto the back. Troy saw us go and knew he wasn't going to make it, so we were now down to four with Eric, Matt, and one of the guys from Lost River.

As I mentioned earlier, this event draws a large crowd, as there are multiple distances. They stagger the starts so that everyone finishes about the same time for the big lunch at the end. We also all finish on the same road. The road was clogged with tandems, trailers, and mountain bikes, often riding four abreast. I'm not sure if the eastbound lane was officially closed to traffic or not, but there were several times when we had to creep into the other lane to get around the other riders.

We rolled through the finish with a total time of 5:30, and a ride time of 5:09. Not bad considering the wind and the crash slowed us down quite a bit. My wife and kids were there, but they had turned away right as I rolled through, so giving them a chance to see me cross the finish gave me one more reason to soft pedal back up the road to make sure Troy and Todd made it through OK. Troy was just a couple of minutes behind and in good shape, with Todd right behind him.

Back at the start/finish area, I went and found Ladd. He had called his wife and had her bring his cyclocross bike, and he rode the 35 mile course with her. I was glad that he was able to rescue something out of the day, considering all the effort he went to to organize the "team." He also acknowledged my role in the crash but refused to let me accept responsibility in any way, blaming the cops first and chalking it up to the inherent dangers of riding a bike. What a guy.

After a bite to eat and some time socializing with the many friends who were either riding or supporting their rider, I could feel the soreness creeping into my body. We decided to pack it up and head for home. I told my wife as we walked away that there was no way I had another 100 in me and would really need more training to be ready for Lotoja. She didn't seem to believe me. My 3 year old son fell asleep in the car on the way home, so I carried him into my bedroom, then took a shower and laid down next to him. I was very glad to be napping rather than riding 100 more.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Yeah, I know it's weird, but this is what I got for father's day this year--a couple of ice packs and a woman's razor. Such is the life of a cyclist. I'm constantly icing something, usually my bad knee. And rather than me being bugged when my wife dulls my razor shaving her legs, I'm usually the one dulling her razor shaving mine. In case you're wondering, these razors really are the best. No need for shaving cream--just get it wet and go.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Political dictionary

Political viewpoints amongst my friends and family run the gamut. Based on some recent exchanges I decided to organize everyone into a neat little hierarchy based on what information they choose to believe and using readily identifiable labels. My objective here is to offend everyone equally, so if you're not ticked off by the description applied to whichever label you identify with, please let me know. They're organized in alphabetical order so nobody can claim preferential treatment--like I said, I'm an equal opportunity offender.

Democrat: one who believes anything she sees on CNN, anything she hears on NPR news, and anything she reads in the New York Times or forwarded to her in email from another party member. Most favored the invasion of Iraq in 2003 but have since recanted that position and use their advanced degree in liberal arts or social sciences as a means to deflect criticism and construct an argument about how they were always opposed to the war.

Green Party: one who believes anything he sees while chained to a tree in a forest about to be logged, anything he hears while buying vegetable oil for his 1979 diesel VW rabbit, and anything he reads on the newsletter printed on the back of an old placemat at the store that sells recycled bicycles and bamboo clothing.

Independent: one who responds to the political emails from friends and acquaintances of any of the other parties with de-bunking responses linked to such unassailable sources as snopes and wikipedia and gets her news by listening to multiple outlets from right and left and choosing to believe the parts presented in the most logical rhetoric.

Libertarian: one who doesn't believe anything he sees or hears from any mainstream media source but who carefully logs into his webmail from an internet cafe to read the alternet list-serv and who listens to pirate radio while cleaning his guns and watering his marijuana garden. His favorite television program is typically Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, but only because of Richard Belzer.

Republican: one who believes anything he sees on Fox News Channel, anything he hears on Rush Limbaugh, anything he reads in the Wall Street Journal or forwarded to him in email from another party member, or anything negative written about any of the Clintons.

Socialist: one who can't afford radio, television, internet, or newspapers, but rereads second-hand copies of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels while waiting in line to pick up her welfare check and food stamps before returning home to her rent-controlled apartment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Eight kilos

Last week I started reading Lance Armstrong's War. For those not familiar with the book, it's essentially a play-by-play of the months leading up to and including the 2004 Tour, including profiles of all of the key contenders.

Aside from the fascinating look inside the pro peleton, for me the best part of the book has been to read about the training program Lance, and his trainer, Michele Ferrari, used to prepare. As an aside, most of us in the states who get our tour coverage via versus/OLN were under the impression that Chris Carmichael was the main dude when it came to Lance's training. Wrong. Lance is a co-owner of Carmichael Training Systems, and so has a vested interest in giving the impression that Carmichael deserves some credit for Lance's success. But it's pretty apparent reading this book, including comments from other Posties, that Ferrari is the man when it comes to Lance's training.

For me the true revelation in reading this has been that I am entirely too fat (those are not my feet, by the way--just some random picture from the web). I have no delusions of ever being pro-peleton skinny. I simply don't have the genetic makeup for it. But I could certainly shed quite a few pounds without ever missing them, and would probably get a bit faster in the process. According to Ferrari, for every kilogram of weight lost while maintaining the same wattage, Lance can climb 1.25% faster. Mathematically, this makes sense, because Lance started his 2004 training season at about 80kg, so losing one kilo is also 1.25% of his body weight. The mathematical corollary to this is that for every 1% of weight lost while maintaining the same wattage, a cyclist can climb 1% faster.

For the weight weenies out there, it doesn't matter if the weight comes off of body or bike, it's all the same. So unless you are skinny enough to race a grand tour (which I found out means that your cheeks are sunken, your upper arms are as delicate as a girl's wrist, and your skin is paper-thin with no fat underneath it, to the point that your kidneys, liver, and other organs start to become visible through the skin), forget dropping the coin to buy those carbon bottle cages, and just cut off your food supply instead. It's a lot cheaper, but perhaps not as fun to talk about and show your friends.

When I started reading the book last week, I weighed about 80kg. It was enough to scare me into not eating, and I set a goal to drop 8 kilos over the next 8 weeks. So far, I'm down 1.5 kilos. If I can drop eight kilos, I should be able to climb 10% faster. On a ride like Lotoja, where I spend a good 3 of the 11 or so hours climbing, that would take 20 minutes or so off of my time. Last year, we finished in 11:20, with a ride time of 10:40. If I can climb 20 minutes faster and spend 20 fewer minutes at the aid stations, that gives me a 20 minute fudge factor for less-favorable wind conditions or other problems but still getting a sub-11 finish. That would be quite nice.

Crap. Now I feel like the fat cyclist, obsessing over my weight and even telling you what it is AND publicly declaring my goal for my finish time in my biggest (and only) race of the year. At least I don't have nearly so many readers...

Monday, June 9, 2008


Last Tuesday night, I went to the Rush concert. I would have written about it sooner, but our seats were in direct line of fire of a speaker stack, and my ears only quit ringing on Sunday. I thought it best to wait until I was all the way done hearing the music before I write about it.

As concerts go it was pretty good. If you're a Rush fan, they're worth checking out. Musically, they're a talented bunch. As one would expect, Neil Peart, the drummer, did a solo that was nothing short of remarkable. It was on par with Axel Rose playing the piano, or Tom Scholz on the organ. It didn't provide the "I can't believe I just saw that" feeling of a U2 concert, but it was still an impressive show, especially considering these guys have been making music for as long as I've been alive.

Of course the real fun of going to a rock concert is the show within the show. So let's talk about that as well. I was actually a bit surprised at the low number of mullets, especially after my experience at the Australian Pink Floyd show at the same venue. But there were a few, as well as several hairstyles that had apparently been adapted from a mullet once the wearer decided to try and catch up with the times.

What we were lacking in mullets, though, was more than made up for with tattoos. Perhaps tattoos are the new mullet. The "business up front, party in the back" attitude has been replaced with tattoos that may or may not be covered when one is dressed in business attire. In fact, upon entering the arena, I noticed a no-higher-than-expected frequency of low-cut shirts on the female attendees. I was amazed, however, that the first ten or so women in such attire all had tattoos on what would rightly be considered their breasts. Come on, of all the places to put a tattoo, that was the best you could come up with? Or perhaps reality lies closer to the more shocking corollary, specifically, that was the only place left.

Once we settled into our seats, we got to actually sit in them for about fifteen minutes or so before the show began. (Being old guys, Eric and I considered viewing the concert from a seated position as a good thing.) When the band began playing, everyone rose, and a seemingly nuclear familial unit a couple rows in front of us turned themselves into a fire hazard. Rather than standing in front of their seats like the rest of us, they stood in the stairway aisle adjacent to their seats. The woman/mother was the most enthusiastic, flashing the "rock on" sign and banging her nearly femulleted head with such vigor that there had to have been some stimulants at play. The older male/father and younger male/son of this group were also quite enthusiastic but exhibited their pleasure in a less typical fashion--they hugged several times during the show. On a handful of occasions, all three would embrace in a group hug, whose tightness hit an apex during the intro to "Tom Sawyer." More on this later.

This theme of female fanaticism for the band Rush was also displayed just a few seats over by two ladies attending the concert on a girls night out. There was enough resemblance to suggest they were sisters, but they also chose to enhance the similarity by wearing matching tour shirts. To get my sisters to attend a concert performed by an all-male band would require that one or more of the band members are gay.

The more typical female attendees were those accompanying their male dates, but even these elicited surprise. The most notable case was the attractive young lady accompanying the beer-bellied, balding, gray-haired guy a few rows behind us. Either she was a lot older than she looked, or he was absolutely filthy rich. Either way, he should have been flagged for "disproportionately hot girlfriend."

Another one I got a kick out of was the 17 year old with the anti-gravity devices attached to her chest. I'm assuming she was 17, because she and her date left mid-concert, shortly before 10:00 p.m. She must have an early curfew on school nights.

I do not, however, mean to imply that all the women were attractive. Not by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, either the skank wrangler had the night off or had passed out on the job.

Given my desire to sit down throughout the performance, I have no right to consider myself anything other than an old guy. But at a concert for a band that rose to prominence in the 70's and 80's, I'm still among the youngsters in the crowd. The funny thing is that a lot of the people didn't realize that they had gotten old, and were still acting and dressing like they would have had they seen Rush back in '82. One that comes to mind was the woman a row in front of us who was sporting a very professional, bookish-looking hairstyle with an equally sophisticated pair of glasses. And a halter top. That was a little incongruous.

The air guitar, the singing along, and all the other behavioral quirks of rock band wannabes also contributed to the entertainment value of the show within the show, but the climax had to have been about halfway through the second set when I turned to Eric and asked if I was the only one who thought it smelled as if someone had gone to the restroom and returned with the urinal cake in his pocket. Eric indicated that this was not an olfactory delusion and pointed behind us to where three rows by six seats were vacated, and one of the venue employees was busy spraying chemicals, sprinkling things on the ground, and otherwise sanitizing the recently unoccupied seating area. I'm sure someone was having a great time. But wouldn't it be cheaper to get roaring drunk and go see a cover band at some dive bar? I mean, if you're not going to remember the event anyway, might as well save some coin, right?

I guess it's a little cheap of me to poke fun at all those around me without poking a little fun at myself, but thankfully the band members were willing to take the high road when it comes to humor. They did so by introducing "Tom Sawyer" with the following. That and the song that followed were the high point of the evening. Especially since by then the urinal cake smell had dissipated.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Today's lunch ride got called off on account of rain. So I went to the gym instead. I haven't done any strength training for weeks and decided I was partly overdue, in no small part because of the way Ladd worked me over on Saturday. My knee was also pretty sore after playing soccer with the kids and some neighbors last night, so I figured I should go back to doing physical therapy again.

After I got done with the weights, I got on the habitrail -er- treadmill for a while. Nothing major, just five minutes of walking to warm up, twenty minutes of running, and five more minutes of walking to cool down. After I had been running for a whopping two minutes, I began looking at the clock, wondering when this torture session was going to end. It could not have helped that the guy on the habitrail next to me was breathing as if he were going to blow out his diaphragm, lungs, and trachea, along with all corresponding phlegm, with every breath.

I have seen this guy at the gym several times before. He has a hunched over posture and the upper-body development of an eleven year old girl. His legs are thin but as muscular as one would expect from a runner. When he runs on the treadmill, he keeps it cranked up to about a 10% incline. I have no doubts that he could outrun me on any course over any distance. But it doesn't change the fact that he looks and sounds awful. A lot of runners around here are really into the race to Robie Creek. I'm pretty sure this guy is focused on this race in the same way Gollum was focused on the one ring--to the point that his obsession has deformed his body.

Anyway, back to my run. I don't know why it is that running for twenty minutes seems so tortuous. I am no stranger to running--I've done a couple marathons, a handful of half-marathons (including the Race to Robie Creek so I could see what all the fuss was about), and a number of shorter events. The thing is, I don't know how I did it. I guess a big part of it is that I was running outside rather than in the gym. And the motivation for whatever event I was training for had to have helped. Yet I still don't see myself ever going back to being a runner.

Unfortunately, my physical therapist told me about five months ago that I needed to be running once in a while to get my knee back in shape. I think the pain I suffered from the pickup soccer game is an indication that she's right and I've been a slacker. Guess I'll have to experiment with the ipod and other distraction methods to get me through a weekly run. Maybe I'll get lucky and it will help me lose some weight, since the bike's certainly not making a difference in that regard.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Deceptive rides

Bike Race:
1. Any occasion on which two or more cyclists--typically, but not always, of comparable ability--are riding on the same course at the same time. All riders need not be aware that the ride is competitive for it to be a race.

Ladd and I met up Saturday morning for what would ordinarily be a fairly easy 70 miler. The first 10 miles or so we didn't even bother trying to get in a paceline; we just rode side by side, chatting, discussing the Giro, and not really pushing it too hard.

Once we got to the first of the two climbs, we settled into a rhythm, and I pulled up the first pitch. I felt fairly strong and left it in the big ring as we made our way up a moderate hill. Towards the top, Ladd made the comment that we were really moving. I looked at my heart rate monitor: 178. Yeah, I was going too hard, so I backed it off a bit.

Ladd took the lead, but didn't back it off as much as I'd have liked. He opened up a small gap, which I was content to let him have. There's a false flat before the final three mile pitch, where we regrouped, caught our breath, and agreed that neither of us was looking forward to finishing the climb.

Which is not to say that we took it easy. Ladd continued pushing the pace and opened up another gap. He runs a standard double crank, while I've got a compact. So when it got steep and he was out of the saddle, I was just spinning in an easy gear. I gradually started reeling him back in. Towards the top, I could tell we were both hurting, so I decided to try and pull in front. I accelerated and moved past him. I expected he'd let me go considering we still had another 50 miles to ride, but instead he latched onto my wheel. I accelerated again hoping to drop him. He stayed on. Finally, I shifted up two gears, got out of the saddle, and attacked, hoping to win the imaginary King of the Mountain points at the top. He tried to follow, but had nothing left. Unfortunately, neither did I, and after about ten cranks, I sat back down. I looked at my heart rate monitor: 192. Tactically speaking, this was not my best move.

Fortunately we had a five mile descent on which to rest our legs and spin out the lactic acid. Would have been nice to have a five mile descent that finished at my driveway, but instead it finished in the Payette River Canyon, which meant a moderate but consistent headwind for the next 25 miles.

We put our heads down and pushed through the canyon, without saying much for the first ten miles or so. I was starting to fade and needed to eat something, so I sat up and reached for my jersey pocket. A few weeks back, Fatty wrote about the "best jersey pocket food ever." I'll admit that I've never actually tried it as he recommends--plain avocado on white bread--mostly because we almost never have white bread in the house. But I did have my variation on this theme with me today: turkey, avocado, and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla. Without having tried the original, I cannot categorically state that mine is better, but I've got to think that a flour tortilla is better than bread just because of the squish factor.

I've been experimenting with on-bike food lately to try and get a better understanding of what my body can tolerate on long rides. I know from experience that I cannot tolerate straight energy food for more than a few hours. I get to the point where I know I need to eat, but I just can't get myself to eat any more. I'm trying to figure out whether if I eat normal food as much as possible during the first hours of the ride, my stomach will better tolerate gels and blocks later in the ride.

So far, I've found three things that I tolerate well: turkey & avocado wraps (I can take or leave the cheese part, avocado must be salted), fruit (apples and bananas, though these are best picked up from an aid station and eaten immediately), and coca-cola (in the water bottle, on the rocks). I'll continue playing around with this, particularly as my rides get longer in preparation for Lotoja. One thing I know for certain I will be skipping is Red Bull. Unless I feel like I'm going to die. Even then, I'd rather just have a coke.

With a turkey-avocado wrap and some coca-cola in my belly (Ladd had some concoction he described as being similar to vanilla cake batter), we were ready to get back to business and push until we got to Emmett where we could stop and refill our bottles.

I'm always delighted to visit a convenience store and encounter happy, helpful clerks that don't laugh at my lycra. Usually if I smile and ask politely, they're glad to let us have free water and ice. In this case, I grabbed a bottle of coke as well. And Ladd learned when purchasing his peanut nut roll that you CAN use a debit card for a purchase of 53 cents.

One good climb and 22 miles to go with full bottles and stretched-out legs is a good feeling. Ladd wasn't willing to let me take it easy on the climb up Old Freeze Out, though. Had he not been in front, I may not have noticed the large snake sunning itself directly in our path. From the top of the last climb, it's just a flat to rolling grind back home. Usually at this point, I can smell the barn and have some extra snap in my legs trying to get the ride over with. On this occasion, however, we could smell the barn and then some, as our course took us past about 160 acres of feedlot, directly upwind.

The last ten miles after the feedlot seemed to go by quickly, though I was surprised how tired my legs were. I thought for sure that having already done a century on my mountain bike that riding 70 road miles would be a piece of cake. I was wrong. I went way too hard on that first climb and blew a lot of my reserves. By the time I rolled into my driveway, I had logged a little over 70 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing. Not really that big of a deal, yet all I had left was two servings of over-cooked leg from the Bonketeria.