Posts

Showing posts from June, 2015

Projectus Interruptus

It's been over two months since I hung up the Storck in frustration. It's still hanging there.

Last week I finally started moving towards resolving the situation. Instead of getting replacements for the fragile plastic and rubber cable grommets that came with the frame and were quickly destroyed as I struggled to route the internal cables, I ordered cable stops sets from '08 and '10 Trek Madones. During my cable fight, I realized that the stock ones were going to be destroyed eventually no matter how careful I was. It just wasn't a maintainable and sustainable design, and eventually parts were not going to be available.

I'm not sure this is going to work. It will likely take a little more grinding with the Dremel and drilling to get the parts to fit, but it shouldn't be rocket science. Famous last words.

At this point, I need to do something. The half-built bike is not doing me any good hanging on the ceiling, and I'd like to ride it sometime.

My garage is …

Narrowed Focus

OK, here's the fun part.

You're clinging to the wheel in front of you. Doing everything to stay in contact, because you know in the deepest parts of your soul that if a gap opens, you will never close it, and you will be adrift. That few inches of space is your whole purpose in life.

People wait their whole lives to see the scenery on either side of you, but you're too busy focusing on meaningless points up the road. You're hoping that by acknowledging them that they will somehow help you climb this hill. They don't, because they're inanimate objects like signposts and rocks. Selfish bastards.

You match cadence with the guy in front of you, promising yourself that every time their right foot comes down, your right foot will come down. That you won't stand unless they stand. That you will be every bit as strong as they are, even if you aren't.

The steady ache in your thighs keeps building. You know all you have to do to make it stop is to stop pedaling. Let …

Clean

I finished up a long, solid ride with lots of climbing. The legs felt empty when I got home. Empty of all of the shame, regret, sloth, and pork fat that shape my world.

My legs felt clean.

It's one of the things I love about cycling. When you put everything you have into a ride, what's left is stripped of all of the extraneous junk that sometimes accompanies the sport.

I pulled up to the garage and noticed the wife and kids weren't home, so I pulled out the race bikes and began to scrub. The layers of dust, sweat, and unidentifiable substances slowly stripped away, until they seemed almost as clean as my legs felt. The process left me with a feeling that I had accomplished something. That somehow I was ahead of the curve instead of constantly playing catch-up. It's a rare feeling for me, and I savored every moment.

Clean.

The post-ride shower removed the last vestiges of the previous four hours, and a few swipes with the razor cleared off the errant leg hairs I noticed dur…

Aftermath

It's been over a week since I got back from Fairbanks.

The fire that closed the Parks Highway and burned through the community of Willow is more or less under control, and while it's still burning there are other hot spots around the state that are keeping firefighters busy. My thoughts are with friends up there working to protect lives and property.

Hot (for Anchorage) temperatures have made training rides interesting for the last week, and I was glad Janice allowed me to back off and recover. It's started to cool off as the clouds roll in, so hopefully some solid rain will help with the firefighting efforts. It would be a nice change.

My TT bike and race bike are still sitting untouched in the garage, still coated in Denali Highway dust. I just haven't had the time or energy to clean them, so I will likely contract Ebola when I get around to it. Maybe tomorrow.

After a few days of limping around, my calf finally feels normal. A doctor I talked to said it was likely a sma…

Polluting the Pond- Tour of Fairbanks Part V (The Ugly)

Image
Before I go on, let me again state that this is not an attack on the organizers of the event. The amount of energy it takes to pull this off is staggering. The personalities, agencies, and red tape you have to deal with can be soul-sucking. The behind the scenes politics that the rest of us never see wear you down. The upside is the pride you feel in what you helped create. You deserve that feeling, because you worked hard for it. You created an outlet for others to live out their Walter Mitty fantasies in a healthy way. In today's world, that's a very good thing. You should be rewarded for your labor instead of having some fat internet blogger tell you the child you raised from an embryonic stage is ugly.

Your baby looks like Honey Boo Boo.

Just like with Honey Boo Boo, some people like that sort of thing. I don't, so I'll explain why.

First and foremost, combining fields of widely differing capabilities is the gold-standard recipe for killing motivation for the back hal…

Polluting the Pond, Tour of Fairbanks Part IV (The Bad)

Image
There was a bit of an intentional gap between Part II and Part IV, because I wanted to make sure the message had the proper tone and wasn't a reflection of my personal pain and humiliation (like all of the other posts have been to this date). Hopefully this conveys where I stand on the parts of the Tour of Fairbanks that I didn't find so wonderful. While certain parts of this year's Tour of Fairbanks were right on target, I think the last two stages were far off the mark. I will admit up-front that my perception is likely affected by the fact I was riding hurt, but the way the packs were spread out across the landscape by the end. The strongest racers won, which is always the goal, but the remainder of the shattered pack limped in at increasingly large intervals. When you're a racer, new or experienced, this is never a motivating place to be. Course selection is a big part of the balance in creating a selective-yet-inclusive race that encourages racers of all ability l…

Polluting the Pond, Tour of Fairbanks Part III (The Good)

Image
 So, it's been a couple days since I got home. The back and legs are starting to heal. The sharp sense of personal outrage has dulled a bit. Perspective has started to set in.

My overall impression: I had fun with certain elements of this edition, but was not pleased with others.

That's not to say that it was all bad. There was a lot of good things happening during this stage race.

The biggest positive was the size of the women's field compared to previous years. It was awesome to see the women rival the size of the Men's field, and there were more than a few of them mixing it up day after day. This is a trend the vast majority of male racers would like to see continue. When there's more women racers, the differences between the really strong and less advanced don't seem so huge, because there's always somebody to race against near your level. It makes the whole experience better for everyone. Plus, women naturally look better in lycra than a bunch of overwei…

Polluting the Pond, Tour of Fairbanks Part II

So where was I?...

Ah yes, Day 3.

Saturday was a dual stage day, with the Stage 3 30K time trial in the morning and the Stage 4 road race in the afternoon. After semi-successful TT, I rested up to prepare for a road race that held a certain amount of dread for me. After 30 or so miles of lightly rolling terrain, the course tilted uphill and ended on Cleary Summit. This was the same summit that caused me to nearly black out in a pace line in the 2012 edition. Though I no longer view it as excessively steep or long, I knew the pack dynamics created by the presence of Open/Expert racers would make it a painful experience. The fact that it occurred on a double stage day just made it worse.

While Tyson avoided pushing the pace on the earlier sections of the course, other racers went up the road and the field was determined to bring them back each time. This kept the pace higher than a Masters-only field would have chosen. Once we were within a few miles of the intermediate sprint, I went to t…

Polluting the Pond, Tour of Fairbanks Part I

I just had a lower back spasm that nearly dropped me to the floor.

OK, I'm back.

The last few days I was in Fairbanks participating in the Tour of Fairbanks. My choice of the word "participating" was intentional. The experience was different from previous editions, and I'm not sure I enjoyed myself.

Before I go further, let me say that I'm hesitant to pee in our tiny road racing pond here in Alaska. We only have so many opportunities, and they rely on a handful of very dedicated and enthusiastic people (you know, idiots) to organize these events. The amount of energy it takes to marshal a bunch of type-A roadies through a single race, let alone a stage race, is staggering. Having been one of those idiots (in multiple leagues for multiple sports) that the entire organization relies on, I can say it can be extremely stressful and exhausting. It can also be an extremely rewarding experience. The last thing I want to do is make it more difficult to keep these events run…

It Depends

It never fails.

Every time I come in to work beat down from a recent race, someone will ask me how far we raced. When I answer, they usually leave completely unimpressed.

To be honest, 45 minutes plus 1 lap doesn't sound all that incredible. Ten miles doesn't sound that far. Even 50+ mile road races sound like a relaxing way to spend the afternoon.

It's all about intensity.

The people I work with all exercise to varying degrees. No fitness, no job. We live in a relatively active community (in our modern, obesity-prone society), but the majority would not work out to that level if they had the choice. With very few exceptions, most have never exerted themselves to the point of vomiting. They have no frame of reference. Their concept of hard is based on distance as the primary metric.

I've ridden a half mile and puked from the effort. I've ridden 100 miles and felt relatively fresh. I've ridden in races where the speed varied from conversational to bleeding out of yo…

Scratching an Itch

Nope, this isn't another post about road rash, although I could make it one if you'd prefer.

Rather, this is about consumerism, specifically as it relates to me and bikes.

When I found a crack in my rear carbon wheel, I contacted John Neugent to see if I could get a replacement rim. I also inquired idly about getting another rear wheel, just in case this happened again. Then I checked Amazon and eBay for other options. Then I did a Google search to see what the going rate was for various manufacturers and models. Then I checked various US and UK sites to see if there were any significant sales going on. The results were then cross-checked with various review sites and entered into a spreadsheet so that I could make an informed decision about a wheel I don't really need.

I have a set of Cane Creek carbon tubular wheels that are my race spares. I have a front Zipp 404 tubular for my TT bike that is a quick release away from being called into service. I have a Chinese carbon rea…

Bailing With a Colander

Just the other day there was another report of an old-fart racer that got busted for EPO. This one appears to be more of a triathlete than a cyclist, who was busted not through direct testing but through an investigation into his online supplier.

If you do a quick Google search for online suppliers of erythropoietin (EPO) or other performance-enhancing drugs (PED), there seems to be no end. Some of them are likely traps by USADA or other governmental agencies to catch idiots. Probably more than a few are scams that substitute bogus/dangerous substances for the real thing, since the site owners know that people that are already bending the rules are less likely to cry to the authorities when they're cheated. That still leaves a lot of "legitimate" venues out there for obtaining PEDs, and given there are so many sites operating, it certainly follows that there is the demand to support them.

My chosen sport-that-nobody-cares-about is less than a drop in the ocean that is the …

Controlling the Bodily Fluids

I was typing away at my computer when I first noticed it. I walked upstairs and mentioned it to my wife.

 "I wet my pants."

"You what?"

"I wet my pants."

She laughed at me. A cold, heartless laugh to match the cold, wet patch on my jeans. It's not a funny subject, the unintended release of bodily fluids. It can be quite traumatic in social situations.

The Tegaderm patch on my hip had been holding back whatever fluid was oozing out of my road rash, but it had finally reached its capacity. I hadn't bothered to drain out any of that stuff, since it was mostly clear and I figured it was probably better left in there. The fluid disagreed, and went about digging a tunnel hidden behind a Rita Hayworth poster. Once free of confinement, it made it's escape to my jeans, which apparently is like Zihuatanejofor road rash oozings.

"Gross", my sympathetic wife said.

I don't really care, since my rapidly advancing age and my various children have prog…

All My Fault

"Mike I'm in. I signed up today."

"Crap."

Beastmaster Markus is riding the Tour of Fairbanks. All 12' 4" and 155lbs (my rough guesstimate) of him is going to make my life that much more painful for four days. He can out-climb, out-time trial, and out-sprint me 99% of the time, and the other 1% is explained by freak weather phenomena and mechanicals.

He's just better than I am. He started racing decades before I did and obviously didn't waste his late 20s to mid-30s building a resume of cellulite and self-loathing. When we started racing together, I thought we were more or less on the same level. Then he found a whole universe of overdrive gears I didn't know existed. This seems to be happening to a lot of racers I used to consider my peers. One day they're wheezing alongside you, desperate to hang with the pack, and the next they're up the road calmly discussing the charcuterie at a local restaurant with the other members of the break…

Riding a Wave

It may sound an obvious statement, but when I feel like I'm riding well, I ride well. 

Of course "well" is relative, but when I'm satisfied with how things are going, things generally go better. When I'm dissatisfied with how things are going, things tend to stay the same or get worse. It's something I've tried to control over the years, because I'd like to feel on top of my game all of the time. It doesn't work that way.

I've read book after book about how to manage the mental side of the game (in multiple sports), and none has ever clicked with me. I might not be at a point where I'm willing to internalize whatever it is that they're trying to say, or I might just be too lazy to accept that it's something unpleasant that I have to work at like VO2max intervals. Probably the latter.

At a certain point, nothing breeds success like success, however you define it. At a later point (at least for me), nothing breeds "meh" like s…

Pyrrhic Podium II

The hits just keep on coming.

I had forgotten about the race until I chanced upon a notification the day before. A little fun race around Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson whose participants vary from hardcore wannabes like me to the occasionally active on mountain bikes. Usually that all sorts itself out within the first 50 yards, and then the rest of the selection happens over the next 20 miles of the race.

Rain was in the forecast.

It was supposed to be a recovery day.

I signed up anyway.

As expected, we shed the vast majority of the field within seconds. Due to the flat nature of the first part of the course, the pack was larger than it normally is. Although I recognized a couple of the riders and recognized the obvious skills of a couple others, most of the riders were a big question mark for me. I should have paid better attention.

Once we got in the hillier section, a couple digs showed me who would be competitive, so I faded back to the pack and started rotating through the pace line.…

Pyrrhic Podium

King Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated the Romans at Heraclea and Asculum during the Pyrrhic War, but his army could not replace the casualties it incurred during the campaign. Thus, a "Pyrrhic victory" is one where the cost outweighs the benefits.

I managed to weasel my way onto the podium of the Spring Stage Race, but it didn't come cheap.

As I was preparing for the second stage, I noticed a crack in my rear wheel. Jagged and in the brake track, it immediately rendered the wheel useless. I had glued up the tubular the week prior, and spent a lot of time inspecting the wheel while removing excess glue, so this was completely new development. It didn't make me happy, given that I had less than 8 race days on the wheel, but there are worse ways to discover an equipment failure. Riding on an obviously compromised wheel was just not a risk I was willing to take. It was a small crack, and didn't go through all of the layers, but given the location of the crack and the fact th…

Risk vs Reward

Tonight a few of us rode around in circles for a while, some faster than others. Some much faster than others. That's pretty much my race report.

To be honest, I wasn't all there tonight. The Masters were mixed in with the really fast kids. Because our usual crit course is torn up for road work, we did a circuit around a local high school. One turn was a little tight for my comfort level, and the resulting bunching and accordion effect meant a sprint every time we exited that corner. I was holding fine in a tail-gunner position, even through I was having to sprint longer than I should have to latch back on. However, when we started bunching up in that tight corner and I almost ate it a couple times, I sat up a third of the way through the race and let the pack go. It wasn't worth it.

There were only four Masters in the race, and two had already dropped a few laps before. Markus hung with the pack the rest of the race, and he said he was shattered just trying to sit in. That …

Lucky Socks

Certain clothes make me want to ride harder. Team kit is the most obvious example, as I don't want to embarrass my team by appearing weak- even when I'm alone riding on a trainer in the garage. It's a mental trigger than I can't explain, but it works for me, so I just roll with it. Less-obvious inspirational items are my socks. I have a thing for Assos Spring/Fall socks, and I have a half dozen pairs. Over-priced and likely no better or worse than bargain bin socks, for some reason they provide a little lift. Again, I can't explain it, and I don't want to think too much about it lest I ruin the mojo.

This weekend was the annual Spring Stage Race, which is four races over 3 days. I usually do fairly well in it, because most riders are not on form yet and the points-based ranking system allows me to hide the fact that I can't climb and my TT skills are lacking. If the overall was based on cumulative time, I would be an epoch away from the podium. 


A mid-pack fi…