Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tubulars

I started gluing up my tubular tires a few days ago. For those not familiar with tubular tires, instead of having a separate tire and tube that is easily repaired in the field (a clincher), the tube is sewn up inside the tire and then glued on the rim, making the simple flat repair process of a clincher a few magnitudes more difficult. Why would someone opt for a more difficult method? Partly because they ride smoother than a clincher tire. However, I prefer them for racing because the bicycle industry hasn't quite figured out how to make an affordable full-carbon clincher that won't delaminate and explode when you try to stop. Tubular wheels are a little more durable, and will allow you to travel 100' further down the hill before they explode.

The advantages don't stop there. As everyone knows, deep-section carbon rims are more aerodynamic than aluminum rims, and therefore more intimidating to the competition. So, to gain the psychological advantage and avoid having my wheels explode during technical descents, I spend hours every year gluing tubular tires to my collection of carbon wheels of questionable parentage.

It's an archaic art that I completely suck at.
 
I took the first set of tubulars I ever mounted into a bike shop and the tech looked them over, pried here and there, examined the large splatters of glue that ran over the brake tracks, and said, "well, at least they won't come off". You see, because the glue is the main thing that keeps the tire attached to the rim, I used a lot of it. "The bigger the blob, the better the job" was how we used criticize poor soldering skills back when I used to actually fix electronics instead of just throwing them away. Now I was exhibiting that same lack of skill in a new field. He was right, though. They didn't come off. It took me an hour at the end of the season to pry them off, destroying the expensive handmade tires in the process. It took even longer to clean up the dried glue boogers so I had a suitable surface to glue new tires on the next year.
 
I'm not much better at it now, but I do enjoy the process. It's like a badge of honor that I would take the time and trouble to half-ass the job. Each layer of glue that goes on is an investment in the season, a little prayer that I might catch a glimmer of a good result. I'll probably have glue residue on my hands for weeks.
 
I'll glue them as neatly as I can, hang them up to cure, and take them down for race day. Hopefully this year my prayers will be answered.
 
If not, I'll do it all over again next year.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I Suck At This Sport

Today I got a personal record on the Moose Run time trial course- by a whole second.

Wheee...
 
In preparation, I had ridden hard for most of the week until I didn't want to even look at a bike Friday. I was cooked. Then I shaved my legs and let my facial hair grow, to do my middle-aged, overweight, balding approximation of Fabian Cancellara. I brought out a new rear wheel and replaced the helmet that gives Sigourney Weaver nightmares with an aero road helmet.
 
I was ready for a sub-par effort, and had all of the excuses to back it up.
 
Then I showed up and they had replaced my beloved cracked and potholed road with fresh pavement and the weather was nice. Crap. I was going to have to try to do something.
 
I did everything wrong in terms of pacing. I caught other racers at the worst possible moments, and allowed them to determine how hard or easy I would go. I couldn't find a rhythm to save my life, and alternated blowing up and riding too easy for the majority of the course. It was a giant shit-show.
 
In the end, my best-ever time was stomped all over by people I used to beat regularly. Relatively speaking, I stunk up the place.
 
I'm not going to beat myself up about it too much, because the race doesn't matter. What does matter is I got a good workout after a long week of riding, simulating a stage race to a degree. I usually fade heavily as stage races progress, and putting this kind of effort in after that much riding is actually encouraging. At the very least, it's a step up from how poorly I did while on antibiotics.
 
I did get crushed by the dark Sith Lord, Bill Fleming, but teammate Craig Walker put in a really solid effort to ensure we kept the Evil Empire in check in our little corner of the result sheet.
 
Now I just have to lose 20 or so pounds in the next 2 weeks and I'll be ready for the real racing to start.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Evil Empire

Head down, drooling, and grinding into the wind along the highway, I was finishing up an interval as I came to the weigh station. For those of you who don't know what an interval is, it's basically pointlessly flailing around as hard as you for a specified amount of time. This is followed by Recovery, which involves trying to stuff lungs and other internal organs back down your throat. Then you repeat the process, with the intended goal being to improve your gut swallowing capacity. At least, that's how it works for me.
 
I veered unsteadily as I completed the interval, quite certain nobody would be affected by my sketchy, oxygen-depleted riding. After all, I had just unleashed a sustained burst of nearly a hundred watts into the face of a howling wind, so there isn't anyone short of the Pro Tour that could come around that display of power.
 
That's when I heard a "hey!" and a rider swerved around me. I didn't recognize the rider's face through my sweat and snot-encrusted sunglasses, but I certainly recognized the kit. He was one of them, and I was bound by honor and canine instincts to give chase.
 
By them, I mean a Kaladi-Subway rider. There was a time a few years back that there were two teams in town. OK, three if you include PiP, but I wasn't a fan of their kit and that's always a primary concern when selecting a team. The first is my team, Speedway, and the other was Kaladi-Subway. As I mentioned in a previous post, I attempted to prostitute myself to both teams, and Speedway was the only one willing to hold their noses. I can't blame Kaladi for their decision, since they were primarily comprised of the fastest road racers in town and I didn't exactly fit that description. I didn't care who I rode for, because riding for a team and wearing their kit in our backwater racing league set you apart from the other overweight Walter Mittys. You were wearing stuff other people picked out for you. You had a cycling kit stylist.
 
Speedway is the name of one of the "serious enthusiast-level" bike shops in town, and was sponsored at the time by a local bar and a micro-brewery. Since then our title sponsor has changed to another micro-brewery/pizza joint. Kaladi-Subway was backed by a competing shop, Chain Reaction, and sponsored by a local coffee roaster and the sandwich chain. In retrospect, given my own preferences, my choice should have been a no-brainer. I spent and continue to spend money at every place that sells bike parts in town, so I have no prejudices there. I just like beer and pizza, and my matronly curves reflect that bias.
 
In the next couple years, the Chain Reaction guys opened a Trek store, which sponsored their own team. Eventually the fastest guys on Kaladi merged with PiP, resulting in the eye-scarring green and blue fish-scale kit of PiP-Chain Reaction. The development and less-dominant riders stayed with Kaladi-Subway. With three teams under essentially the same bike shop structure, the evil empire had risen and began to assert its authority.
 
Other teams, like Revolution Racing and Backcountry started popping up around this time, and soon my special underwear wasn't so unique anymore. However, on the road there wasn't a team in town that could match PiP-Chain Reaction. Speedway has always had a dirt bias once the trails dry out, so the evil empire pretty much cleans up in the higher-level road classes.
 
This year the Kaladi-Subway and Trek teams are merging, slightly contracting the empire. Since I'm not in the same time zone as any of the PiP-Chain Reaction riders, I focus all of my seething competitive hate on Kaladi-Subway.
 
Actually, some of the nicest guys racing are around here are storm troopers. All-around stand up guy Johnny Kay rides for them. One of the co-Dark Lords of the Sith, Bill Fleming is one of my favorite people to race with and one of the most positive advocates of cycling in all of its forms I've ever met. I also like that once in a while I can beat Bill across the line. Anyone that's at my level or slower is an asset to amateur racing, and everyone faster than me is a damn dirty doper. It's with that infallible logic firmly in hand that I stand by my characterization of the Empire as pure evil. It's science.
 
So, while other teams laugh at my single-minded determination to right imaginary wrongs, I continue to chase down those that once spurned my advances. My Kaladi-Subway shrine in the basement, papered with race result clippings and discarded Gu packets, is not a sign of an imbalanced mind but that of a healthy competitive spirit. While I haven't gotten the voodoo dolls' kit quite right so they will have the desired effect, I'm beginning to see marginal gains there. It's only a matter of time...
 
Beats actual training.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Nobody Asked Me To, But I'm Gonna Do It Anyway.

I've been reflecting a lot on Wanky's suggestions as my mind wanders during rides, partly because he hammered home a few points that should have been obvious to me, but mainly because they have been a cheap way to manufacture content. I'm using him like reality shows use the denizens of trailer parks.
 
I probably should have done this a while ago, but since this started as a digital replacement for my old My Little Pony diary (the deluxe sparkle edition), I never really had any idea of what I wanted it to be or what form it would take. I figure as long as my family's financial stability now relies solely on this blog, I might as well lay down some founding principals:
  1. This is all about me and my skewed take the world around me.
  2. If you're mentioned in a post or three, reflect long and hard on that first item.
  3. If you agree with me, that's nice. If you disagree with me, that's fine. It's a big interweb out there, and I'm sure you can find a viewpoint that conforms to your own. If you'd prefer to add comment to express your opinion, I'm good with that. As long as I find it semi-coherent and relatively well-reasoned (even if I don't agree with it), I'll publish it and try to respond in what I consider a coherent and well-reasoned manner. It may take me a couple days. Because of the nature of digital communications these days, I rarely fire off comments in anger. I've done it before, and I always regret it. I like debate, but I hate shouting matches. If you don't want to comment, approach me in another way. I can't fix (or dismiss) stuff that I don't know about.
  4. I don't go out and actively try to offend people. No, wait. Sometimes I offend people just to make myself giggle. As mentioned before, I'm a world-class douchebag, so the first item especially applies here.
  5. If I do offend you, you probably just made me giggle. All I ask is that you do what I do when I encounter something that offends or irritates me. I get on my bike, hammer out some intervals, scream profanities into the wind, and then try to reason out the other viewpoint when the endorphins kick in. Try it.
  6. I like people who ride bikes, except for those that I don't like. Riding a bike doesn't make you a wonderful person. I am a perfect example of this. Riding a bike adds a common point of reference for us, but that's about it. Even then we'll likely disagree about what "riding a bike" actually entails. Our personalities and perspectives won't suddenly mesh because of an exercised-induced endorphin high. That said, I do like the vast majority of people that race around in our little minnow pool. The others I try to keep my interactions with them civil and limited. We're out there to have fun, and I don't need the added drama in my life. Again, see item 1.
  7. Nobody appointed me chronicler of the South Central Alaska road racing scene. There are people who have much more experience and knowledge about the politics, characters, and dynamics of it that I ever will. Unfortunately, those people have lives and are therefore unable to waste any time on such a futile endeavor. My experience with bicycle road racing has a rich history dating all the way back to 2008. I know guys with inner tubes older than that. You get what you pay for, and as of this morning my accountant has had no problems dealing with a huge cash influx.
  8. The bottom line is that this is the internet, and nothing I write here matters. None of it. I'm not doing anything of substance in the world with this blog. If people read it, that's great. If people don't, that's OK too. I'll write it as long as I want to, and then I won't. There's no great story arc here. It's all just based on whatever random thought travels through my mind. View it through that lens, and refer back to item 1.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to completely disregard Wanky's Rules For Wealth Through Blogging, Part 2


This is part two of my rude dismissal of Wanky's suggestions. While the poor simpleton meant well, he didn't understand that all I was looking for was confirmation of my blogging superiority, utter capitulation, and an orderly surrendering of all subscribers, bots, and URL misdirects. As he couldn't comprehend the subtle nature of my hostile takeover, I am forced to use the blogging world's equivalent of the nuclear option. I'm going to be a meanie.

"Write about your friends. You build readership by making people want to read, first about themselves and then about other things. You will eventually lose all of your friends by writing about them of course, but by then you will have 20 or 30 loyal readers in Ireland and Mauritius, and even a subscriber or two. Yes, mom counts."
This may prove problematic, since as I generally abhor the concept of "people", making friends is somewhat difficult. One of the things I like about Alaska is that there are more moose than humans, and I really don't think much of moose either. Thus with few friends to alienate, and fewer still that ride bikes, my range of topics are pretty much limited to my favorite subject- me. I definitely do like me some me.
 
In my last post I did tread new ground by writing about Pete, but he'd have to catch me to beat me up for writing about him. I figured he needed the inspiration. Not many guys that I race against that are so slow that I'm willing to take that chance.
 
My folks have a lot of cats, and I think a lot of the blog's traffic is generated by their random keystrokes. I'll take it, since even the bots and Nigerian princes have moved onto more fertile pastures. I can't say I blame them.

"The gold standard for blogging success if Eben Weiss, a hostile, sarcastic, cynical wanker who, despite multiple books, a regularly insulting column in Bicycling, and thousands of readers, still has a day job. Of course the moose-Iditarod-grizzly bear angle, or the cycling-in-a-salmon-run approach may hit a bigger chord than the urban struggles of snobbish biking in NYC, but if you do have a day job, hang onto it at least for the next month or two. I understand that park benches in Anchorage are only really good to sleep on about three weeks out of the year."I find it hard to believe that Bike Snob NYC doesn't make something in the mid nine figures from his blog-related activities. The guy lives in New York City. That alone disproves your assertifications about his financial status. Like you and your hobby law firm, he probably fills his non-snob time puttering around his brain surgery practice. To assume otherwise would shatter my carefully-crafted financial plans.
 
While it's true people from elsewhere seem to be interested in "Alaska", I'm not a Palin or a self-styled "rugged survivalist". I find life here vastly more interesting than NYC (or any other large metropolitan area), but the reality of swatting hordes of mosquitoes the size of Vespas away from your face while you warm up on a trainer in preparation to ride around in circles may not provide the thrilling content some people crave. I may need to embellish my descriptions somewhat.

"Repurpose random emails. When someone emails you something, copy and paste it into your blog. It saves mental effort, and with a bit of fakery you can usually turn it into a nice placeholder, especially for Saturday or Sunday morning when you’re in a hurry to go do the group ride and don’t have time to write because you forgot to check your tires the night before (the rear is flat), all of your bibs have poop stains and are in the dirty heap, your cleat has come loose and you can’t find the right sized hex key, you haven’t mixed any EPO and electrolyte yet, and you only have five minutes to get out the door and make the eight-minute pedal to the start."
I'm shocked. I find the use of people's correspondence as cheap filler material for blog entries highly offensive. It's plainly obvious why I paid such little heed to your suggestions, as they were obviously crafted to derail my plans for blogging domination. Plans, by the way, my infant son has described as "migle flimf dada boom". You can't argue with that.
 
But enough about you. Let's hear more about me...

Monday, May 18, 2015

My Buddy

There's a guy I ride with now and again, and over the years he's been someone to look up to, a performance touchstone, and a cautionary tale for me. Let's just call him Pete, because that's his name.
 
I first met Pete when I started racing. At the time, he was at the top of the heap of the lowest level class of our podunk road racing league. Since I was right at the bottom of that class, being on his level was all I aspired to. The higher classes were just on another planet for a obese, middle-aged bike flogger like me. Pete was also welcoming to the new guy, mostly because I was no threat to his domination of kiddie pool.
 
The more I shed weight and raced that year, the more I found I was able to hang with the big kids. Like most new racers, my biggest asset was my ability to diesel. I could grind at a meager pace for a long time. I couldn't climb. I couldn't sprint. I had no tactical sense whatsoever. I'd just ride as hard as I could and eventually some of the weaker riders would fall away. By the time the season's apex point hit at the Tour of Anchorage (TOA), I was feeling good about my chances of not being the Lanterne Rouge.
 
When the dust cleared, I ended up on the 3rd step of the podium. Pete was there at the top, minutes ahead of me and holding a one-way ticket to the next class. Since we never had any real upgrade/downgrade guidelines other than winning your class at the TOA, I was fine sandbagging for another year and building my store of glories that I would need to rely on during the years of failures ahead. I was a little intimidated by the next class, and was dipping Pete into the pool of sharks to see how the water was.
 
The next year Pete mixed up it with the big boys while I continued relying on my diesel. He got stronger while I rode like a triathlete. However, he showed me that I wouldn't get completely destroyed when I made the jump. This was fortunate, because with a class win in the TOA that year (entirely based on meager TT skills), I had my own ticket to the bigs. Now and then during that season, Pete and I would get together and ride. He was playing the bachelor, and had a pretty much open schedule and time to train. He'd stomp me up climbs and generally reinforce the status quo between us, but I was starting to narrow the gap.
 
In the off-season (that I like to call ski season), I fielded our impressive resumes around to every team in town. Both of them. While one delivered a clear, "not only no, but..." answer to my persistent pestering, the Speedway team took us on- probably as comedic relief. Their willingness to laugh at our ineptitude over the years has earned my undying gratitude. I also hired Janice Tower as my coach, figuring she could help me fill all those winter hours that I had previously reserved for Twinkie eating. Pete continued with his off-season program of spin classes at the base gym ("ok, visualize the hill and crank up the tension...").
 
When the season rolled around, I actually placed well in the early-season races. Most of this I attribute to the other racers following my Twinkie training plan and then slowly riding into shape. I was faster than Pete, but I figured it was because I invested the GNP of several small Central American countries into my carbon collection. Our rides usually ended up with us taking turns making the other suffer. Neither one of us sniffed the podium of the TOA that year, but we did fairly well in a handful of lesser races. By lesser, I mean fields that could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. Still, we were hanging in there and filling out the field.
 
Around this time Pete started attacking at odd times. Since our racing class utilized highly- sophisticated racing tactics at the time, every breakaway was immediately chased down- no matter how likely it was to succeed. If I tried to calm the field and convinced a few guys to let him hang in the wind, the rest would immediately take up the chase and drag the field along, closing that 5 second gap he had worked so hard to open. Pete was racing, and the rest of us were just riding tempo and letting time trials and hill climbs determine the outcome. I don't think he ever succeeded in opening a break, but he tried. Usually races were decided by the fastest guys grinding away from the pack as everyone flailed in their wake, rather than any one explosive effort to open a gap. I cautioned him to conserve his energy for later in the race, as he was starting to finish further and further back, but Pete would attack in the early parts of the race before he eventually blew up and went out the back.
 
Since I was slowly getting the upper hand in our balance of power and because I loaned him a bike when his broke, I started to refer to Pete as my personal domestique. I explained to Pete that he was required to shield me from the wind and fetch me water bottles from Bjarne back in the team car. Post-races massages were negotiable. The reality of our arrangement turned out to be that Pete attacked and I ended up chasing him down so I could chastise him. In retrospect, it beats the tedium of riding tempo until another sprint finish where I finish 4th.
 
Then Pete's wife moved up to Alaska, and his available time for road miles took a significant hit. His midsection also took a hit, judging by the swelling that occurred once his wife started cooking for him. Poor guy. Then the former empty-nester's granddaughter moved in for an extended stay, and suddenly Pete wasn't training or racing so much anymore. I thought he would have been terribly depressed about the rotten hand life had dealt him, but for some reason the guy actually seems happy. This led me to a hypothesis that wives and children lead to early-onset Alzheimer’s. I back up this theory with my own weight gain and performance drop as family responsibilities increased. I'm hoping rich donors will fund my study, thus enabling me to buy more carbon before I forget why I want it in the first place.
 
Saturday Pete and I rode together for the first time in a while. Now it was me soft-pedaling or waiting at the tops of climbs, which does wonders for my ego and perception that the half-hearted training attempts of this winter were starting to bear fruit. Boosting my fragile ego is an absolutely critical responsibility for any domestique, so I guess I should call any perceived debt square between us.
 
Maybe I won't chase him down and berate him this year, and let the slobbering masses do my dirty work for me. I probably should, because eventually he'll start stomping on me again and right the balance of power.
 
I need to stay on his good side or I'll end up his domestique, and massages might not be negotiable.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Glorious

Today the sun is shining, the winds are calm (for a change), the temperature is going to be a balmy 60F (hey, it's Anchorage in May). It's just about as nice as you could expect for this time of year.
 
I'm not riding.
 
Today I'm not going to get on my bike. I may wash it, because it's pretty filthy and the chances for contracting a rare African sleeping disease from the congealed gunk on the frame are 50/50. It's time to thank it for putting up with the abuse I've hurled its direction over the last couple weeks. It can't be easy supporting the flailing, wheezing, and ultimately unsatisfying efforts of a fat old guy way past his prime. It's like being a groupie at a Meatloaf concert.
 
Instead, I have a full day of the meaningless nothing most people call life planned. No grunting my way up a hill or dodging traffic as I try to finish off one more interval. Not even a leisurely ride to loosen up the legs.
 
It's going to be glorious.